Spin it!


“Consider it a sheer gift…when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” James 1:2 MSG

When I worked as a staff writer in a senator’s office I learned that every story has a unique spin. Think of a little league pitcher and the spin he gives the baseball. Or a pool shark’s magic with the cue ball.

The right slant makes all the difference.

In psychologist lingo, it’s called reframing and works this way: You buy a painting you admire, such a bargain you couldn’t resist. Only one minor problem, it’s in the most gaudy, ugly frame that doesn’t show off the artwork, plus it clashes with your décor. You regret the money you spent, but wait—there’s a way to save the situation. In your resourcefulness, you truck yourself over to the frame shop and swap it out for one much more complimentary. Voila! The colors pop now, the picture comes alive, and there is new life on our wall.

Bingo—if the picture is not so pretty, the answer is to slap a new frame around it. See it in a different light. Some of our greatest blessings come disguised as bummers. Give it a new spin and see opportunities instead of problems. Find the flip side of your flops, the silver lining in each cloud, a gift shining in the darkness that you never expected.

The Lord may choose what we go through, but we choose how we go through it. For years I blamed my messed up childhood for all the bad choices I made, and I thought “if only….” Now I see my childhood through a different light. If I hadn’t been a lonely only, if I had a cheerful household full of happy siblings I’d never have spent so much time reading classic books, creating scripts from my favorite novels, writing endless stories. I’m way too social, but God knew me, and he used this painful time to make me the writer I am. I’ve reframed that experience, and it’s made all the difference.

It’s not often easy to put a new spin on our pain and suffering, but eventually we see the hidden gem in every difficult situation.

Joy is truly a choice, the frame through which we choose to view our world and all that’s in it.


Serendipity & God-Colored Glasses

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Our attitudes are constantly bombarded, as we wrestle with our problems, as we watch the news and balance our checkbook. I suffer from stinking thinking, and it’s my constant challenge to refocus and renew my mind. I call it attitude maintenance. It’s like brushing our teeth, you can ignore a rotten attitue for a day or two, but let it go too long and—well you get the idea.

What if we change our thought patterns to view our circumstances in a brand new way? Make a choice not to dwell in the dark shadows, but scan the horizon until we find the one bright spot. One of my favorite props is a giant yellow magnifying glass. It sits on a shelf in my office to remind me to magnify the good that’s going on, not the bad. When I start to dwell on an irritation, I can just move my magnifying glass until I see something to be glad about. An instant lift in my spirits. Try it…

Transforming the mind doesn’t magically happen. It’s something we practice until it becomes routine. When we chew gum we don’t have to think about each jaw movement. When riding a bicycle, the knack comes back with a few turns around the block because we already struggled through the learning curve. Looking at life through God colored glasses allows us to see the serendipity in every moment.

Author Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity from a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, formerly Sri Lanka. As the princes lightheartedly traveled from kingdom to kingdom, they made remarkable discoveries—lucky finds—they were not in quest of.

Serendipity is a whimsical way of looking at life, being delighted by the unexpected, enhanced by new insights and surprise touches from God. What if we went about our day expecting serendipity? Even the sound of the word has a touch of magic in it.

Take this thought: Savor the serendipity. Don’t try and understand the mystery of life before embracing every moment.

Re-directing Our Dipsticks

Seventy-five percent of all medical visits are stress related? How can that be? “Stress and its sister diseases actually change the shape of our blood cells,” the article stated.” Pictures showed “normal happy” blood cells compared to “sick, distorted” blood cells. Not a pretty sight, be glad you missed it.

Today’s ailments include migraines, muscle tension, heart attack, high blood pressure, insomnia, ulcers, and auto-immune disease where the body goes berserk and attacks itself. That’s the diagnosis the doctor dumped on me on me a few years back that launched my pity party. I envisioned hoards of rebel blood cells plundering my poor body.

Suddenly, my joint aches took center stage. I whined about the pain, having to change my diet and alter my lifestyle. My selfish spirit expected God to say, “Poor thing, let’s make her better.” Zap, cured. Whining did the Israelites no good after their Exodus from Egypt; it only irked God, so they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

A bad attitude can be our Achilles heel. Remember him, the reluctant warrior who fought in the Trojan War? As a baby, his mother dipped him in a river’s magic water to protect him from harm. But to get the little guy out of the water, mom had to hold on to his heel, allowing one vulnerable spot where he was never safe from attack.

What’s your Achilles heel? Mine is all in my head. It’s called stinking thinking and it happens when I use circumstances as dip sticks to measure joy and contentment.

Take this thought: We are never defeated by circumstances, but by our view of them. Let’s re-direct our dipsticks.

“Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things….and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

We Are What We Think

My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices, my body will also rest secure. Psalm 16:9

My friend Jeanne is irrepressibly effervescent. She has a built-in “cheer level.” Sometimes her life looks like the cartoon where the Roadrunner gets crushed, flattened and blown up by Wile E. Coyote, but always bounces back. This girl is emotionally spring-loaded. Sometimes I —secretly—long to poison her petunias.
Some of us aren’t genetically wired for this. We carry our jarful of dreams, then—splat—we hit some bad patches, the glass breaks, our dreams spill out. We get duped into the Humpty Dumpty mindset: this is my cracked cup and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put it back together again.

So we sing, it’s my party, and I’ll whine if I want to. Some of us mentally stick out our tongue to show the world—and God—we’ll do it our way, so there.

Whining is simply “protesting in a childish manner.” When Jesus says we should come to him as little children, it doesn’t mean grumbling and bellyaching. At the core of whining is a demanding spirit, a sense of entitlement. When do I get my rewards for my good deeds, my long suffering, my faithfulness?

Entitlement and joy can’t co-exist. It’s mission impossible. Trust me on this one.

My grandma always chirped: you are what you think. It’s so simple, so basic. Our life is what our thoughts make it. If we want to take this life and love it, let’s not waste time pondering why we don’t, but how we can.

Take this thought: The great blessings in life are present in your thoughts today.

Life is a banquet


When God has an object lesson for me, he’ll send it right through the Panasonic. One night a good while back I was in a blue mood, so I flip the classic movie channel, and there is Auntie Mame. Rosalind Russell plays a whacky, free-spirited woman trying to rescue her orphaned nephew from the stuffed shirts who control of his estate.

It’s impossible to nap through this flick. God’s message was as plain as the plaid on my Lazyboy™ recliner, in the scene where Mame talks with her secretary. “Agnes, you’ve been taking my dictations for weeks and you haven’t gotten the message of my book. Live!”

“Live?” says poor Agnes with a blank stare. “Yes,” Mame replies. “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

When I replay the scene on my DVR, a blinding flash of Technicolor brings a spiritual epiphany. (Moses had his burning bush, but movie milestones are just as dramatic.) Agnes responds, “I see what she’s been living, and what I’ve been missing.”

Wow. Yes, life is a banquet, and we should all be feasting, not fasting from the joy and contentment God promises. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) And Proverbs says the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (15:15) Shall we make a pact to be more like Mame, a gal who savors each moment and lives life to the full? Jesus came for this very reason.

I’m game if you are. Pass the Cherries Jubilee.

****Take this thought: Life is not found anywhere else but in the present moment. Live to the hilt right where you are, right now.

Saved by the Sermon

Saved by the Sermon

Years ago I heard a sermon on discovering God’s will and took it to heart. When I fell into infatuation with an old flame from high school it saved me from disaster. Strolling down memory lane “Vince” and I reached out to each other to recapture our innocence. We sought to relive an uncomplicated time in our lives—BFC—before foolish choices. We both married young and experienced painful divorces.

For a while it felt like God’s perfect plan. Romantic nights, old movies we both loved, dancing to the classic oldies, long telephone conversations with the thrill we felt as teens.

After a few months I wondered: Do I marry him or not? He’s crazy about me and though he hasn’t been a Christian long, he seems to love you Lord. I quizzed myself just as the sermon directed: Have you checked God’s word? Yes, it’s not really applicable here as we’re both Christians. Would you feel right asking God to bless it? Yes indeed. Could you thank him for it? You bet, I’ve been single 8 years! Would it be a stumbling block to others? No, I don’t think so. Do the circumstances line up? I met him again through my daughter. How’s that for an unexpected open door? Have you sought Godly counsel or advice, those who have a track record of experience, with no personal stake in your decision? Oops, not really. Only my best friend who is a bit colored blind when it comes to red flags. She thinks he’s quite the hunk. We are attending a pre-marriage group right now at his church, but nobody knows either of us there. Maybe I should consult with someone else, someone with a gift of discernment, who can give me the straight scoop.

Would the decision be to God’s glory? Now that’s a hard one. I would hope so. I want a good Christian marriage after all. Will your decision or actions bring you closer to God or pull you farther away? Now we’re getting into the sticky stuff. Vince and I do disagree on some practical issues like money and debt. And I’m trying to grow him up in the faith real fast buying books and tapes for him, which he thanks me for.

Well, In thinking it over, I’m more concerned with his spiritual growth than my own right now. And he’s pressing for marriage, to set a date soon, because “It’s better to marry than to burn with passion.” I have become the moral compass in our relationship which I must admit is not too much fun.

Have you sought the Lord about it? M’mm, not in the way I should.

And last: Do you have a sense of peace? Not really, there’s a check in my spirit, and I’m trying to pretend it is just the jitters, trying to convince myself he just needs to feel secure and he’ll stop hanging on so tight and pressuring me.

I couldn’t escape the truth. We had gone ahead of God and were not ready to be engaged. After explaining the reasons I wanted to take a step back, Vince peered at me. “You are not listening and following God’s will. He told me we are to be together.”

But he hasn’t told me.

Our disagreements led to a bitter break-up. I saw sides to Vince that were masked during the rose-colored glass courtship. Weeks later, after the pain of missing him—and his attention— lessened, I trusted that God was saving me for something far better, for my good and his ultimate glory.

Vince never spoke to me again.

Asking the right questions and heeding my heart’s reply served me well. When Carl came along two years later, our relationship passed the test.

One of biggest barriers to discovering God’s best, is impatience. Since the beginning when we were driven out of paradise we get antsy in God’s waiting room. In our quick-fix drive-thru microwave society, waiting is almost a lost art. When God doesn’t move fast enough to suit our needs or delays his directives after we labor in prayer we get weary and seize control. I can’t just sit here. I have to make something happen to change this situation.

I have to move this relationship along. I’m not getting any younger Lord.

“To lose patience,” said Gandhi, “is to lose the battle.”

or a miPatience rates high as a remedy for the yet unsolved dilemmas in life. When in doubt, wait it out. “The testing of your faith produces endurance, but endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

God will make the most of your waiting time, preparing and molding you into the person you need to be, whether it’s for marriage or ministry.

Adapted from Unshakeable; The Steadfast Heart of Obedience, 2005

Midnight Sun Smorgasbord

We just returned from Scandinavia. Here are my musings:

Somebody once said that travel whirls you around and turns you upside down, often right at the gate. We arrive early at the airport, wheeling our smartly-packed carry-ons, only to hear “indefinite delay, storms in Minneapolis,” a reminder: we are not in control. We’re re-directed, re-routed, but eventually reach the Twin Cities. Before leaving the U.S. we must alert the airport transfer company in Russia of the glitch. The internet machine gulps our $10, but freezes at sending the email. Glitches require quick, creative thinking; we scour the airport for somebody surfing the net, smiling at the sound of “No problem,” as a young man comes to our aid. Weary, we arrive late night in Russia to an apartment not quite like the photos. The word “luxury” must have gotten lost in translation. Tired and cranky, we wonder what idiots would book a WALKING TOUR the first morning.
Like zombies we follow Nicolai through Peter the Great’s planned city. It dazzles the eye. I imagine Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky strolling along the canals for inspiration. Our first lunch: a yummy blini, a Russian pancake. Nicolai says we bunk in a building once owned by the general who pushed back Napoleon. Now trudging up three flights of dingy old stairs at the Kutuzova Embankment seems like a pilgrimage.
Major language barriers, like menus, the Metro, buying bus/train tickets for Catherine’s Palace at Pushkin) require calling forth your child side; pointing to pictures, talking with your hands. I call up my rusty Russian: plenty of peshalzta (thank yous) and dosveydanya (goodbyes). Most people visit St. Petersburg via a cruise, so the Crumps and Colemans puff up with pride that we conquered it on our own.
In Stockholm we sleep in trendy Sodermalm, an island south of city center where tourists are few. Our host welcomes us, takes our cash, hands over keys and instructions in perfect English. The apartment is clean, cozy, Swedishly efficient. Better yet, only 3900 Kroners a night, $83 each couple. The 8th floor deck lets us gaze on a busy plaza filled with café’s, overflowing with energetic youth. With our 3-day Tunnelbana pass, we explore the city by subway, most enchanted by the Vasa Ship Museum. The warship sank just minutes into her maiden voyage in 1628. (Oops, too top heavy) She lay in the harbor, forgotten until 1959. Her salvage story is worth the price of admission.

In Scandinavia, you pay a few kroners to use the “water closet.” At first it’s annoying to hand tokens to a toilet caretaker, until you realize this probably helps support her family. Paying for potty is part of the culture; you appreciate and adapt.

We try adapting, on the overnight train to Copenhagen, but a couchette for four proves a bit too cozy for comfort. Next time we’ll splurge on private compartments. We settle into our spacious flat near the Royal Castle, and do the smart thing; buy the hop-on-hop-off bus pass. Then track down a store that sells RELIEF, shoe inserts for the girls’ throbbing feet. The guys prefer to suffer in silence.

We train to Roskilde and feast on a generous lunch on a cobblestone street then hit The Viking Ship Museum. What? The Vikings weren’t just primitive plunderers, but seafaring explorers? So much for my Nordic education, gleaned from seeing half-brothers Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis feud to the death over Janet Leigh, in Technicolor.

After cruising to Norway, we take the scenic train ride from Oslo where every turn reveals a new feast for the eyes. The Flam railway, one of the steepest inclines in the world, keeps you wide-eyed and open-jawed at one dramatic waterfall after another. It’s raining the day we sail the fjords, but we shrug off disappointment. There’s beauty in a smoky mist dancing on the mountains.
A taste of Scandinavia nudges us to scale down and simplify. A smorgasbord trip, but none of it is a blur. No “must see” list, no expectations, except for glitches. They come with travel. Being whirled around and turned upside down makes me more flexible. When I’m over the jet leg, I’m game for another tumble.

Check out my monthly travel column at: senioronline.org

Fusty old books

Fusty is a word. Fusty and musty share space in my synonym finder. Now, if I can only recall the word during my next cut-throat Scrabble game. Old books do something to me, the way they feel and smell. I inherited a box of old books from my parents via my writer-grandmother; Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a first edition copy of Ben Hur-The Tale of Christ, Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad dated 1899, a collection of poems by Robert Browning.  The books don’t sit in airtight boxes for protecton; they’re out in the open where I can enjoy their mystery.

Who owned these books? How many homes and hands did they travel through? What impact did these classics have on the readers?  One thing I do know, my fusties won’t be donated to any eager book collectors in my lifetime. I can imagine my daughters someday tossing them on the giveaway pile because this author’s offspring never acquired the “awe” for books. Raised on a ranch, they were too busy grooming 4-H animals to sit and savor words like Mom did. Being a lonely-only child, books were my pals helping me escape to another world. They spoke to me in the secret place in my soul where I searched for meaning.

Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also the Bible says.  The books we collect define us. If you want to know someone in a hurry, peruse her bookshelf and you’ll find what are her interests, passions, and value system.

What do my fusty old books say about me? That I’m stuck in the past? No,but I have a passion for history that grows as I age. I want to embrace each moment of life in this crazy modern culture with a respect for our rich past and the invaluable lessons it will teach us.