Tag Archives: Faith

The Boot…and Our Life “Boot”

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The well-worn boot had settled into an artistic display with layers of cobwebs connecting it to a nearby picture and walls. How long had it been on the shelf of the Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst station, established in 1853? Cobwebs stretched from the boot to a poster dated 1964. Really? It had to only have been “growing” for fifty-one years of the drinking station’s one hundred sixty two year history!

A brown broken bottle sat beside it, grey with years of undisturbed dust coating it. How long had this little display been uninterrupted? With customers in and out of the business for year after year, with the tables and bar regularly wiped clean. The cobwebs been left to grow and build upon each other. How had it been viewed but never disturbed? When someone set that boot on the shelf did they know that it would sit undisturbed for over fifty years?

Who had worn that boot? Who worked hard to purchase what were perhaps their only new shoes in life? Boots that spent hours in the dust and heat of the nearby ranches? Where was its mate? What boots had followed for that cowboy; and were they as comfortable? How had that one lone boot ended up as part of a display in a western bar? And one that wasn’t a traditional cowboy boot?

How often do we leave parts of our lives, hearts, and relationships on the shelf for years without attention? How often do we become separated by those who seemed to be the other shoe? How many people have had to learn to live with one boot – symbolically in life? How many lives have been re-purposed from a hard working ranch boot to a display in a bar? That seems to be a pretty dramatic re-purpose, in my opinion.

Like that old, frozen-in-time boot, how many parts of life do we leave on the shelf for later? How often do we postpone change; avoid things that need attention; procrastinate reading a book – but instead choose to spend our time on meaningless activities? (TV or Candy Crush)

How often do we leave our relationship with God on the shelf? How often do we say, “Someday I will get around to spending more time with God and more time in His word? But tonight I’m too tired and I’ll be too rushed in the morning.”

How often do we live in our own boot without recognizing that God is in a perfectly matched boot right at our side?

On the other hand, how often do we leave things on the shelf to accumulate dust and cobwebs when they are past their useful life? What is a useful life? When should we let go of things in our lives that we continue to cling to?

The dusty boot on the shelf gave me quite a few things to think about. . . how about you? It raised more questions than it provided answers. I’ll keep pondering.

The Identity Crisis of Blogging: What is our purpose?

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How does a blog (technically the blogger) identify its audience? When is the target scope too broad or too narrow? How does each blog find its audience in the blogosphere? Some are by writers who write for other writers. Some are specific to a disease, a cause, or a population. Some are content-driven based on the mood of the writer. Some are inspirational with the blogger sharing a bit of wisdom and an observation about the world or their beliefs. I have two blogs and guest post on TheBlogPile each month. Sometimes I take a moment – or five – to think about what and why I am writing.

The first blog I established was www.smilingagainbook.com. When publishing a book, I learned the importance of social media. I learned that I needed to establish a “platform” for book exposure. So, when my book, Smiling Again: Coming Back to Life and Faith After Brain Surgery, was published, I became a reluctant blogger. Of course, it isn’t popular to write entry after entry that says “buy my book,” so I had to figure out why anyone would want to read anything I wrote. At first it was short little blips from my book, or a few lines of what I had experienced. However, after posting for a while I have established loyal readers in the Acoustic neuroma brain tumor world. I’ve found my posts keep getting longer and longer. I feel that, for this blog I have found my voice even though technically I’m breaking blog length rules. I know my purpose is contributing to the acoustic neuroma community.

My entries have gotten numerous comments from people who seemed to really benefit from what I wrote. Really? I’m blown away that anyone wants to read my writing, let alone what I, at times, consider redundant points. However, the brain tumor club welcomes unwilling members daily. There, unfortunately, is a continual flow of newly diagnosed people with questions. There are also recently treated and longtime survivors with chronic health issues. I’m not fixing anything in anyone’s life, but I’m giving people a feeling of not being alone on a tough journey.

Occasionally, people will take a bit of exception to the focus of one of my posts. It has been pointed out that what I write about isn’t limited to one type of brain tumor patient, or even to brain tumors at all. While I agree, does that mean that I should broaden my writing to more general health and life issues? My decision has been no, and hope that anyone who finds my blog and benefits from it will return regardless of their situation. If someone buys a book, that’s great, but that’s a one-time purchase. What I have gained is more than a book sale, but a connection with another person in this very impersonal and electronic world.

My second blog is www.sallystap.com, a blog I established to be “non-brain tumor stuff.” Well, okay, that is pretty broad! I write observations about life. I write about my faith in God on this more personal blog. I am not disciplined about new posts because I write when I feel like it, which is never a good deadline to give a writer. At the same time, I wonder who will find it, benefit, and why. What is my purpose in building a readership? I could say future books, but it’s actually my desire for community. When someone reads something that I wrote and gives me feedback, it makes me feel connected. If someone says, “You wrote what I feel but haven’t ever been able to put words into,” I feel accomplished. What will my voice be on this blog? Only time will tell what my purpose is with this blog.

TheBlogPile, which this post was actually written for, is “An anthology blog of Christian authors.” Several individuals post monthly, unless a month slips by here or there. We have been discussing the readership of this blog and are trying to determine a direction. Are we writing to promote writing? Are we writing to share our Christian beliefs? Or are we writing something in the hopes it will draw people to our individual blogs? We have Christian in the title but have agreed we don’t want to sound preachy – which is a word that I’m continually struggling with when determining what and how to write. What is our purpose? Which direction should we take if any different from the current one?

In the blog world we measure success by the number of subscribers and frequency of comments. There are statistics that tell us how many times a page was clicked. We get caught up in questions of value and purpose. We get more spam comments that need to be discarded than valid ones. We are willing to sort through the junk to get a few gems and affirmation back. Comments that tell us what we are writing is making a difference for even one person.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the definition of “success” as a blogger, I focus more on our purpose in life. We are here to honor God and to seek his wisdom. We are here to commune with each other and not to count statistics.

God is the blogger of the universe. He knows each one of us. He is focused on an individual relationship with each “reader.” I’m guessing he isn’t checking statistics. He’s measuring the closeness with which we hold our beliefs. He is not measuring how many trials we each face, but how we traverse them. He isn’t measuring the number of worries we have, but how well we hand them over to Him. Can you imagine how many “spam” prayers He gets? He listens for our individual heartfelt voice in the crowd, ready to make a difference in our lives.

NOTE: THEBLOGPILE is currently on hiatus, so I’ve moved the posts to here.

Fear

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Laguna Beach, California

Some people like the charge they get from a “good” horror movie or scary Halloween costume. I am not one of them. Others love the thrill of a roller coaster. No, not that either. After going on numerous rides with my daughters years ago, one day I decided that it wasn’t a good thrill that I got when my stomach flipped while rapidly dropping dramatic distances. That was my last roller coaster ride. Whether you are a thrill seeker or a find life itself enough of a thrill, it’s okay.

Fear can be lighthearted fear at Halloween but also heart wrenching from life events. Fear fills our minds instantly and churns our insides when we get a hint that something is wrong. Fear triggers our autonomic nervous system – what controls our bodies below the level of consciousness. This effects our heart rate, breathing, digestion and even perspiration. Autonomic functions are involuntary but work with voluntary control in the somatic nervous system.

That was technical and I don’t fully understand what I just said. However, it means is that we are frustratingly not totally in control when facing fear. We each experience fear in our individual way, even when faced with the same situation. For some that means dry humor. For others it means prayer and meditation. For some it means curling up in a ball and for others it’s angry screaming.

Fear can take over our bodies such that we spend energy trying to control our physical reactions. We try to not shake, or cry, or stammer, but it happens. We may want to speak but words do not come. Everyone is different, but we all fight a balance of voluntary and involuntary when facing fear. Ranging from controlled worry to the desire to escape our bodies, fear is jarring.

I’ve faced fear in my life. As a kid I was cautiously fearful at Halloween. As an adult, I’ve experienced fear that was physically debilitating. What I learned is that when all is taken away, it is myself and God. I had to choose between the option of trusting my faith in God or giving in to theories of randomness.

I chose faith. Prayer calms me. Asking for guidance from God lightens the weight of my burden. I stepped out in faith believing verses like “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV) and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Only when I learned to accept that I’m truly not alone was I able to gain the gift of living and not fearing. Only with the gift of hindsight have I been able to see that I’ve never been alone.

Ghosts and goblins are not for me, but I’ll help with the Halloween candy. . .

Tokens – Saint Christopher

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St. Christopher

Next to my lovely South Pacific pearl and Mayan coin hangs another medallion.  On an adventure to Italy, I visited Rome.  While I’m not Catholic, I couldn’t pass up a chance to visit the Vatican. I walked on uneven cobblestones and marveled at the uniqueness of the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.  The buildings were large and old. Inside, the buildings varied from newly renovated and extravagant to old and decaying.

It took persistence to see the Vatican.  I visited it on three separate days.  It reminded me of the persistence that I need to have in my relationship with God.  On day one, I saw the outside, and didn’t want to wait in line to go inside.  I reveled at the outside architecture without stepping inside.

On day two, I decided that I needed to wait in line, but it was a Wednesday, which is the day that Pope Benedict XVI had a service.  I watched the pomp and circumstance as the service began and the stage filled with priests in black with red sashes.  Then, in glowing white, the Pope sat in the middle of the stage.  Several people spoke and then the Pope began his sermon.  I couldn’t understand him because he was so far away and speaking Italian.  However, it was a fascinating experience.  I learned that on “Pope” days, nobody is allowed inside. So I wandered across the street and meandered through the hectic streets of Rome.  I sat outside a small café and ate pizza margarita with slices of egg and ham.  I savored my Coca-Cola after slowly pouring from the little bottle into a small glass.

I wandered through some little shops and in one a collection of small medallions caught my eye.  I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper who spoke broken English.  We had an awkward but fun conversation as we struggled to understand each other.  I told her that I wanted a medallion to add to my chain and gestured to my chain around my neck that held a token from Mexico.  She pointed to St Christopher, and explained that he is the saint of travel.

“Well, that sounds appropriate, so I’ll take it!”  I added the medallion to my chain and continued with my exploration of Rome, always careful to keep track of where I turned or stopped so I could return to my hotel safely.

On day three, my persistence paid off.  I was able to take a tour inside the buildings and marvel at the architecture and huge cathedral and buildings.  The Sistine Chapel was large and filled with people from wall to wall.  I was disappointed that instead of quiet reflection, I was surrounded by a noisy mob taking nonstop pictures despite a strong warning that no flash pictures are allowed. It was a warning that couldn’t possibly be enforced with the number of people packed in and passing through the holy chapel.  I wish I could have visited it alone to spend time in prayer and reflection.  I noted the parallel of the need for hectic lives to slow down and the irreverent crowd hurrying for a snapshot of the beautiful ceiling of history without pause to consider each colorful drawing’s story.

After getting home with my new medallion, I did some research on St. Christopher.  He is viewed as a saint of protection, particularly for protection during travel and long voyages. He was 7.5 feet tall, and was searching for the greatest King there was.  When he saw a human king show fear for the Devil, he turned to the Devil as the greatest.  However, he then learned that the Devil fears Christ, and turned to Christ.  He dedicated his life to honoring Christ and ended up helping people cross a dangerous river as his service to the Lord.  He once carried a young baby, who turned out to be Jesus, as heavy as the world.  Struggling, he finally made it through the rushing water to the other side.  His story reminds us that as Jesus carries the weight of the world, Christ is carrying me through life.

Tokens – My Mayan pendant

 

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I will continue to share the tokens that I treasure in the order acquired.  Prior to the imperfect pearl came two others.  The first was a Mayan token from Mexico that I had no idea would become the first of a collection.  I love to have reminders of my travels but never want to find room in my luggage.  I’ve found that gathering little tokens provides a reminder requiring little space.

A few years ago, I went on vacation with a longtime friend.  We had held each other up through some tough, emotional times.  We had a lot of fun shopping, traveling, and even had dogs that were best friends.  Life was always an adventure filled with laughter and camaraderie.

This particular trip took us to Mexico.  One day, we visited some ancient Mayan ruins where we climbed partway up a very steep and tall set of steps. Giving up about halfway, we sat and looked out over the jungle that had overgrown remnants of a civilization. We wandered through pockets of the ancient civilization, spread through an overgrown jungle, following paths carved out for tourists.

Upon returning to our hotel, a small silver coin with Mayan symbols caught my eye in the window of the gift shop.  I bought the token and have since worn it on a chain around my neck.  It reminds me of the preciousness of life and how time moves on, leaving whole civilizations behind. It emphasizes that nothing here on earth is forever. It also reminds me of the strength and fragility of friendship as I recall laughing throughout the trip with my friend.  A friend who, like past civilizations, has moved on in life. There are times, when we lose touch with friends, not deliberately or through conflict, but because of life changes.

In contrast, the small, round, Mayan token reminds me of constancy when I think of how God has been there for all civilizations. God’s view is better than ours, and he’s seen everything.  He sees where my life will lead and will be there with me.  God is constancy even as life is not.

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