Disobedience & Detonation

Last night, my family and I watched a speech by a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer who lost his eyesight in an explosion in Afghanistan. He told the story of a man who, rather than precisely walking in the exact same footsteps as the bomb expert in front of him, chose to take just a few steps to the right — to the path of less resistance. He was thrown by an exploding bomb, and the man following him immediately lost both of his legs in the blast. As the officer went to assist the wounded, a separate bomb exploded underneath him and he was blinded by the shrapnel. Even as I write this, I am reminded that my disobedience and desire to follow my own path does not only cost me, but also those around me.

This morning as I was reading a C.S. Lewis book, these words spoke to me:

“Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.” Mere Christianity, p. 197

When I disobey (most notably the Lord) — or even if I’m “just” being lazy — it will cost me and those close to me — and the consequences could be severe. Those are sobering words. I think that we tend to think we live in a vacuum — that our choices are only our choices, and we are the only ones who suffer when we misstep. Sadly, that is not the case. Our disobedience (“failure to follow rules, commands, etc.”) can bring about a detonation (“the action of causing a bomb or explosive device to explode.”)

Here’s a prayer for us:

Lord, thank You for another day of life. Like following a bomb expert one step at a time across a mine field, may I obey You and put my feet exactly as You do. Please help me to discern and understand just the next step. You have promised that your Word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Help me to follow you today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The great news is that there can still be beauty from ashes. Without totally spoiling the story, I encourage you to research Lieutenant Brad Snyder or purchase his book (which I have not yet read but hope to):  Fire in My Eyes: An American Warrior’s Journey from Being Blinded on the Battlefield to Gold Medal Victory.

In case I don’t have a chance to blog again before Christmas, may the joys of the season be with you and your loved ones. He is Immanuel — God with us!

Until next time,

Lisa Toth

Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

Advertisements

“Love Your Neighbor; Know Your Neighbor”

In the wake of the Vegas shooting on Sunday night that left 59 dead and more than 500 wounded, I’ve been mulling over these thoughts. Where were the neighbors? Why didn’t anybody say something when this deranged loner was stockpiling weapons? Surely somebody, and presumably several somebodies, saw something.

​It’s the same thought I have when I hear about human trafficking –- and right in my own neighborhood. How can somebody keep a precious woman, child, or even multiple children, a “secret” in our society of cell phones, cameras, travel, etc.? I digress slightly here, but I thank God for the Uber driver and the flight attendant who were recent heroes by “blowing the whistle” for two frightened, young women who turned out to be the victims of human trafficking – and were RESCUED because two people, in the regular course of their day, saw something out of the ordinary and said something.

Where were those people in the life of this demented lunatic, who went on a shooting spree from his luxury condo 32 floors up in Vegas on Sunday night?!? I am not looking to the government to further regulate how, what, or where I can buy (although I don’t see the need for any private citizen to be permitted to own a high-capacity assault rifle, but that’s a discussion for another day). I am asking, “Where are the people– maybe just one or two – who noticed or suspected this person was acting strangely and that perhaps somebody should follow up with him?”  Would it be you? Could it be me?

​On behalf of the 59 dead and more than 500 wounded in Vegas, and the countless other victims or potential victims who are living even today in your neighborhood and mine, I beg of you –- if you see something, say something. To fully love your neighbor, you have to actually know your neighbor. Eyes open. Look up from your phone and your own set of circumstances (preaching to myself here, too) and ENGAGE in the lives of those around you. Somebody’s life could depend on it, and that’s no joke.

wp-1507200952567.jpeg

Thank you for taking the time to read this through. Let’s now go out and DO – truly loving our neighbor by being engaged in the lives of those around us.

Until next time,

Lisa Toth

 

The Gift of Time

My hubby and I are staying for a few days with a dear family member while his wife is getting a much-needed break and attending their grandson’s wedding several hours away. Our loved one is on oxygen and generally in pain, so he was unable to make the trip at this time.  (I’m not sharing his name here out of respect for him in this season of life. Let’s call him Joe.)

As the three of us were sitting at breakfast this morning, Joe thanked us profusely for being here, but then he also apologized several times for “not having anything to give us” in return.  It was then that I realized he was giving us one of the most precious gifts:  the gift of time. We are so grateful for these days with him as we become increasingly aware that he will not be with us forever. Additionally, in the usual busy-ness of our lives at home, I seldom allow myself time to just sit and read, write, and reflect as I’ve had the opportunity to do here. There is always “just one more load of laundry,” “just one more ‘quick’ phone call to make or ‘quick’ email to respond to,” or “just one more _______” to do and then I’ll sit down.

What a valuable commodity this time has been with our loved one! Fewer screens. More face-to-face time. Less harried conversations. More quiet. Less distracting “static.” More real-time connections.

So, how about you? When was the last time you gave “the gift of time” to your spouse? Your teen? A neighbor? God?

Can I challenge you to carve out three hours (random number) this week — all at once or split up over a few different people — to give the gift of time? You’ll be glad that you did, and can I just say — it will truly be a “win-win.”

I’ll close with a few of the wise words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes on a photo from a recent vacation:

IMG_7236

Go enjoy some healing, laughing, and maybe even some dancing time!

Lisa

Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

Thank You, Ella Fitzgerald!

 

“Our dreams predate us.
They were born long before we were.
Our dreams postdate us.
They make a difference long after we are gone.”

Chase the Lion
by Mark Batterson

We are grateful for the musicians who have gone before…. My mom’s dad was a jazz musician, who paid his way through the University of Delaware’s engineering program by playing at the “Black Cat” in Wilmington, Delaware. My dad played the alto saxophone with his own band (“The Melody Makers’) during high school and as he worked his way through undergraduate school at Indiana University in Bloomington. My husband’s family is also full of talented musicians. Many seeds have been sown — for generations — and we continue to reap a beautiful harvest.

As I prepare to travel tomorrow to the 100th birthday celebration for Ella Fitzgerald in her hometown of Newport News, Virginia, I pause to thank all of those who have gone before — including Ella herself! Imagine for a moment the hurdles she faced — being a woman and African-American — growing up in Virginia (and later NY) in the 1920’s, ’30’s, ’40’s, etc.  Wow!!!

And tomorrow, my son who is a freshman majoring in jazz studies at Christopher Newport University, will have the privilege of playing in a centennial celebration for the amazing “Queen of Jazz.”  As an added bonus, I have the privilege of attending with my 86-year-old jazz-lovin’ dad, and my 16-year-old musician daughter.  (My older son is also a musician and plays the bass guitar in a band at his college.)  The legacy continues….

Thank you to the many 17311135_903903329752879_3601419121342567457_owho have gone before us and paved the way. Thank you to all current musicians, and their myriad of teachers and mentors. May your music and your dreams continue to “make a difference long after we are gone.”

Remember. Celebrate! Trust.

Until next time,

Lisa

P.S.  Below is just a sampling of the numerous achievements of Ella Fitzgerald, “The First Lady of Song”:

The lovely Ella Fitzgerald

  • 1958 – became the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award
  • Won 13 total Grammys
  • Recorded more than 200 albums throughout her career
  • Sold more than 40 million albums
  • 1972 – one of the first Super Bowl halftime show performers (instead of a marching band)
  • 1987 – awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Ronald Reagan
  • 1992 – awarded America’s highest non-military honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President George H.W. Bush
  • 2007 – the USPS issued an Ella Fitzgerald Commemorative Stamp

CELEBRATE: God’s Amazing Provision

I am in awe, and need to write this down as there’s a good chance I’ll need to read it again tomorrow, or next week, or next month, when I will likely face another big financial challenge. God has come through again, and while this shouldn’t surprise me, somehow it does because it’s so BIG.

If you’ve followed my blog thus far, you know that my two oldest kids are in college. One is a junior and the other is a freshman. At the beginning of the school year, I had no idea how we were going to make it through both semesters without somebody taking out some loans. Both guys had worked hard, saved their money (and so had we, as best we could), and earned significant scholarships, but the numbers just weren’t “adding up” — at least every way that I could figure.

However, yesterday it was confirmed by both colleges that we will make it through the spring semesters — debt-free! I am still in shock. In August, the numbers definitely didn’t add up. I knew we could make it through the fall, between what all of us collectively had in the bank, but I had NO idea how we could pay through the spring. There were so many ups and downs:  an unexpected late scholarship came through — yay! A student’s car died in December and had to be replaced — boo! We were able to take a mini-vacation to Nashville as a family — yay!  One of our cars needed $2,200 in repairs while we were there — boo! We would be getting a big tax refund — yay! A document came in the mail one day later that reduced our refund by $1,100 — boo!

And yet, after calling both the business offices and financial aid offices for the colleges yesterday, it was confirmed that we have made our last spring tuition payment for our freshman, and there is just one more payment due for our junior. God has pulled through again! Amazing!

Before you check out, discouraged perhaps that this may not happen for you, let me please encourage you that God is faithful, and no respecter of persons. (See Acts 10:34-35.) Believe me, we have made our share of financial mistakes. Big ones. Investment properties gone sour. Cashing out 401K money earlier than we should have because we were feeling desperate, and therefore, paying a big penalty. A number of “lemon” cars that cost an arm and a leg just to keep on “hospice care” until we could get a more reliable vehicle. And yes, there were consequences and heartaches for each one of those poor decisions….

We have learned a ton through those choices, and continue to learn that while there is grace and mercy, there still are often unwelcome repercussions. However, times like yesterday remind me that God is faithful — even when I mess up. And that is true for you, too!

In what areas do you need to trust Him? Finances? A lost or wayward child or other loved one? Healing, when the doctors have no more answers?

Here’s a Scripture promise and then a quick prayer:

“Trust in the Lord and do good;

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord;

And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,

Trust also in Him, and He will do it.”  (Psalm 37:3-5 NASB)

Lord, thanks that You are always faithful — even when we are not. Please help us to trust in You and to cultivate — or “feed securely” — on Your faithfulness. As we delight in You and commit our way to You, we choose to place our trust in You, because You are trustworthy. Thank You for Your amazing track record. Please encourage each reader, and help us to be an encouragement to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Until next time,

Lisa T.

Remember. Celebrate. Trust!

photostudio_1469519321740

Beverly, WV

Remember: Empathy

Empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy says, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Empathy says, “I feel some of the incredible pain you’re feeling.”

This past week, our youth group at church began a 30-day journey/quest to live differently — by working through a daily devotional, making a variety of personal sacrifices to raise money for those in need, and participating in some “empathy challenges.” This journey is timely, as I know that there are people around the globe engaging in an assortment of “denials of self” during this Lenten season.

For the first week, our students were challenged to take at least one cold shower and sleep on the floor for at least one night. I thought that those were great ideas for our middle-to-upper class kids, who, like me, live in comfortable homes with ample, hot running water and probably sleep in snug, soft beds every night. I took a cold shower the next morning and — wow! — that was my fastest shower ever, I’m pretty sure! As I stepped onto my tiled bathroom floor and wrapped myself in a warm, clean towel, the empathy challenge ended fairly abruptly, but for those previous few minutes, I had had a small taste of what a majority of the world experiences regularly — if they even get to bathe that day at all. Small challenge — big dividend.

Empathy is something that I was taught at a young age, and something that I pray about often — asking God to “break my heart for what breaks His” (to quote Hillsong’s “Hosanna”). I remember my mom sharing the following story with me. (She is, by the way, one of the most empathetic and “heart-for-others” persons I have ever met.)

My parents were divorced when I was very young. During one of the weekends that my older brother and I were with my dad, we got snowed in for several extra days. My mom was feeling very sad and lonely, but she told me that she drove to the local veterans’ hospital to visit with those in far more severe circumstances. She recounted asking one man, who had lost both arms serving our country, if she could get anything for him? He replied that all he wanted was “a Philly cheesesteak” because the hospital food was disgusting. She left to buy him one downtown (we lived in DC at the time), returned, and fed it to him bit by bit. Later, as she was leaving, the amazed nurse told her that that man had not eaten anything in two weeks, and they had been force-feeding him. That story came rushing back to me this week as we were learning about empathy….

How about you? Are you not only “rejoicing with those who rejoice” (which sometimes has its own challenges) but also “weeping with those who weep”? (Romans 12:15) If only we would lift up our eyes or open our ears, we would see and hear that we are surrounded by people needing empathy — and hope.

Here are a few suggestions — by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, please feel free to share more ideas in the comments, or discuss other empathy ideas with friends and family in your spheres of influence.  But let’s not just talk — let’s do!

  • Babysit for a single parent so that he or she can get a much-needed break.
  • Sit for a few hours with someone with dementia — showing genuine interest in what’s being said (sometimes repeatedly).
  • If you’re handy, offer 2-3 hours of your time to repair things for someone who doesn’t have the means to repay you.
  • Spend time with an elderly person, a teenager, or someone who lives alone, and truly listen to their stories.
  • Volunteer in your local community or go on an international missions’ trip.
  • Visit a prison, nursing home, homeless shelter, or hospital — somewhere out of your comfort zone.

As you do something for someone else, you will find that your own concerns lessen. Empathy is a great “cure” for some depression — as you get outside of yourself and your own “navel-gazing” — as they say. While making yourself feel better is certainly NOT the goal, it does create a “win-win” as you serve others in their time of need.

God said it best in Isaiah 58:10-11 ~

“And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.

“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  

As I close this post on empathy, I am reminded that today marks the five-year anniversary of the sudden passing of my dear friend John, who was also the wonderful husband of my former college roommate. He collapsed while on a spring break run through the college campus where he was a law professor, leaving behind his beautiful wife and four amazing kids…. I invite you to follow Maria’s faith journey at https://mariacarroll.blog.  She’s a phenomenal writer, and an inspiration.

Until next time! Go and “give yourself”!

Lisa Toth

Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

 

The Girl on the Bicycle

It was a sunny, crisp morning — not too hot and not too cold. My mixed rescue dog, Simon, and I had just enjoyed a long walk in the woods and I was feeling pretty relaxed. As we ascended the path up and out of the trees, I noticed the dog across the street, but I did NOT notice the girl on the bicycle coming towards us on the left, barreling down the hill on our very same sidewalk. Simon went ballistic — barking, growling, lunging — but thankfully, I was able to grab his collar just in time. Crisis barely averted…. Whew! We all had just had our aerobic exercise for the day!

So, what the heck? Why did my normally-calm-and-generally-friendly dog suddenly go nuts? Well, about seven years ago, when Simon was just a puppy, we were all outside enjoying a beautiful summer day in the cul-de-sac. Kids were playing in front of the house, and I was chatting with the neighbors. Simon was secured loosely to a line on the front lawn when, all of a sudden, two girls rode their bikes on the sidewalk right in front of our house. As Simon tried to chase the first one, the second bike hit him in a split second and he yelped. We had him checked out and he was fine, but he has never forgiven, nor forgotten, “the girl on the bicycle.”

As this scenario almost played out again this week, it got me thinking. What are triggers like that in MY life — that in an instant cause me to go from calm and peaceful to ballistic, as I remember a painful event in my past? No amount of logic, love or cajoling seems to be able to erase that memory from Simon’s psyche….

How about you? What are those memories or situations that cause you to “bark and growl” — practically barring your teeth — possibly just moments after a time of tranquility?  A few of mine are injustices (perceived or real), the exploitation of women and children, and the remembrance  of (or actually running into) a few people who have deeply wounded some of my dear friends or family. I know that I need to forgive them….

Let me say a quick prayer for us:

Lord, You know our hearts. You know that there are areas of hurt and even injustices that we just can’t seem to forget. Please heal our hearts, renew our minds, and help us to forgive those who have hurt us or our loved ones. Nothing is hidden from Your sight. Please help us to trust You to “right the wrongs” (in Your timing — not necessarily ours). In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Until next time —

Remember God’s faithfulness.  Celebrate life and your loved ones.  Trust Him — Who sees all and knows all.

Lisa T.

P.S. ~ If you have time, click on the link below to be encouraged by the song, “It Is Well” by Kristene DiMarco. Powerful.

It is Well – Kristene DiMarco