Saturday, January 30, 2010

Waiting for bad

This morning's unexpected snow reminded me of one anticipated snowstorm years ago which never came. The salt truck was parked at the rest area between Carmi and Crossville waiting ... just waiting ... waiting for bad weather which never came.

Some of us live our lives just like that, waiting for bad stuff which never comes. We worry that we could become ill; we could lose our job; we could lose our marriage.

We could, we could, we could.

But maybe, we won't. Maybe it just won't snow that day, but like the man in the salt truck, we are so focused on waiting for the bad, we fail to see the beauty happening all around us. That day turned out to be a lovely day. Every day is a lovely day for those who have learned to give worry no more time than it deserves.

I have found comfort lately trusting in "the plan." Life is tough, tougher than I can figure out at times. It's in those times, I've learned, to quit trying to steer the boat. Sometimes you are just supposed to enjoy the ride and leave the details to the One who knows the plan, the One who designed the plan.

When life just doesn't make sense, quit trying to make it have sense.

Trust that when the pieces are all fit together, a beautiful picture will emerge.

One of my favorite books is When God Winks by Squire Rushnell. I encourage you to read it. I quote from it: "Our view of life is limited. We go from day to day, looking at one puzzle piece at a time. But there is another perspective. While we are trying to make sense out of one odd-looking piece after another, we can take comfort knowing that all of the pieces do fit into a plan that could only have been created by a higher power. Only when we near the finish and begin to attain a more global perspective does the whole composition have clarity."

Photo credit: Judy Mae Bingman

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If you never came back home

My sister left her house in early August 2008. She never came home.
What we had hoped would be a short hospital stay turned into a three-month journey from which she didn't return.

After her death, we went to the house to gather things for the funeral and there, at her piano, right where she had left it, was her church hymnal opened to the song "Victory in Jesus."

I played that song this morning at worship services at Wabash Christian Retirement Center, and I couldn't help but think what people would find in my life if this day I didn't return home.
What would be open on my piano?

"Victory in Jesus" was a statement of how Brenda lived her life. She was confident of her eternal home, impatient with those who courted anything except a righteous lifestyle, and faithful in her service to others in need.

What would my statement be?

My little sister and I have an agreement that if anything happens to either one of us, the other will go to her house to "clean up" things before anyone finds the less-than-desirable elements of our life we keep hidden from the rest of the world.

Perhaps it's time, though, for each of us to begin living our life as if we weren't coming home; as if what we said that day would be the last thing people remembered of us.

What song will you be singing when you sing the last time?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It comes down to faith

No doubt there will be much debate over the movie "The Book of Eli." For my family, it inspired many questions about just what we believe and how we respond to those who believe differently.

The star of the movie is Eli (ya think short for Elijah?) who has spent the past 30 winters (after war destroyed most of the world) listening to a voice guide him . . . guide him first to the last remaining Bible in the world, then guide him "west" where The Book would be safe and used for good by the good. His biggest challenge comes from a  man who wants to use the knowledge of The Book for personal gain and power (like that hasn't happened before).

There are great moments in this movie. Some will go unnoticed by the unknowing.
  • When asked if The Book would save the world, Eli stated some believed The Book is what caused the final war.
  • Early in the movie, Eli stayed hidden while a person is attacked and killed. "Stay on the path; this doesn't concern you," he mumbled to himself. Later, he confessed his mistake and admitted he got so wound up protecting The Book, he forgot to live by what The Book taught: "to care for others more than ourselves." How often could we say that of ourselves?
  • I won't spoil the movie for you, but it was touching to see at the end a copy of the Bible placed in the last remaining library between a copy of the Torah and a copy of the Quran.

Throughout the movie, Eli performs amazing feats of physical strength which become even more unbelievable with the revelation at the end of the movie. "How could he . . . " we heard from movie-goers as they left the theater. It is the same thing repeated by unbelievers --"How could God . . ."

Faith. The movie comes down to faith, just like your personal beliefs come down to faith, and that's why some people just won't "get" this movie. One reviewer stated the movie "stretches believability," but isn't that what faith must do? Faith is one step past what we see and what we know.

How do we know? We don't. We simply have faith.
"Show me proof," some may demand, but we have none. We believe in a God who wants us to believe in Him without promise of proof. On the ride home, Jenny said she once explained it to a friend: "If there were proof, everyone would believe."

Faith is not knowing; it's simply believing and that's a tough story for some to accept. Do I know there is a heaven? No, but in faith I believe it to be true. Do I know there is a God? No, but in faith I believe Him to be true.

I don't have all the answers, and thus, some of what I believe may be wrong. I'll take that chance and, like Eli, let my faith carry me through the journey.

Photo credit: Wil Bingman, The National Cathedral

Friday, January 15, 2010

Living a life triumphantly unnoticed

I've struggled what to blog to note Wil's 18th birthday. I want a story that is uniquely Wil. As most moms have learned, you can raise your kids exactly alike; yet they still turn out to be different. So it has been with my two kids, and it seemed that what came easily for Jen, Wil sometimes struggled with. I recall vividly the night of Jen's eighth grade sports night where she came home loaded down with awards. It was the same day Wil found out he didn't make the cut for Little League (or one of those competitive baseball divisions). Still, as Jenny's biggest fan, he hid any disappointment he might have felt as he supported her triumphs.

I believe that is one of Wil's most endearing qualities; to be comfortable in his own skin, to not need fuss or attention or recognition, to work with no thought of reward. To be a Michael Collins.

In 1969, the Columbia Missourian newspaper interviewed Michael Collins, the third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, after their historic trip to the moon.

"While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.

"His great achievement -- his fondest hope -- is to be triumphantly unnoticed."

It is easy to become discouraged when the lion's share of the attention falls on one or two. Some folks seem made for attention. They thrive on it, work better in the midst of it. But all the attention in the world wouldn't have helped Neil Armstrong get back to earth if Michael Collins had decided to grab a little attention of his own and fly on home without him.

We need the Michael Collins in this world.

We need the Neil Armstrong's too, but too often, while the Armstrong's are retelling their stories to whomever will listen, the Collins' of the world are still out there plugging along, doing their work, "triumphantly unnoticed."

Sometimes we forget that.
Sometimes we forget how important the little things we do are to people. I teach nutrition to children every Wednesday and Thursday, and every time I walk into their classroom, little children run up, hug my belly and tell me how happy they are to see me.

Am I changing the world? No.
Am I changing theirs? Yes, and you can bet they change mine every Wednesday and Thursday.

I'll never be famous.
I will never be Neil Armstrong, and that's okay.

Wil's choice to join the military is just another example of the way he's lived his life all along, but his unselfish actions will never go unnoticed by his loving mother.  There is no greater compliment I hear than when people say "Wil's a good kid."

Happy Birthday to my Good Kid!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A salute to Gumby, unsung hero

At Christmas, Wil lamented that I never read to him as a child. I was shocked and hurt. No one likes to have their motherhood challenged. I remember spending hours talking with the children before bedtime. It was after reading today's obituary of Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, that I realized why Wil doesn't remembered having books read to him. It's because instead of reading books, I made up stories, new and different adventures each night.

That's what Art Clokey did with his children, and the stories he told them became many of the 233 adventures of Gumby we enjoyed on television.

Childhood lost. I was Gumby for Halloween when I was six. My sister was the beautiful bride. Since this picture, my sister has been a bride three times. Me, well, there are days I certainly feel like Gumby.

To me, Gumby was the ultimate defender of the little guy. says that Gumby's focus was on doing "what is right and good. Because of his faith in following his heart, everything always works out for him in the end, whether that means a triumph or learning a lesson."

Gumby was a hero. Heroes, they're the people who made us who we are today. They may be the leader we patterned our lives after, the beacon who steered us to our career, the spiritual leader who crafted our moral inner self, or the cheerleader who never gave up on us.

Heroes. If there are fewer today than in our younger days, it is only because we have demanded too much from them. We have come to expect perfection, not only from our heroes, but from our business associates, our political leaders, our neighbors, our teachers, our friends, ourselves.

Maybe the problem in today's world is you can literally find out just about everything there is to know about a person. Knowing everything includes knowing the less than hero-like qualities in each of us. We all have them, so the longer you look, the more you know and the less heroic they become.

The ordination ceremony in the United Methodist Church used to (and maybe still does) include a question to all incoming preachers: "Are you striving for perfection?" One year, a preacher-to-be replied, "No," to which the bishop responded, "I didn't say 'are you going to reach perfection,' but, 'Are you striving for it?'"

True heroes strive for perfection, acknowledge they'll never reach it and forgive others when they fall short of it.

True heroes act like Gumby. Rest in peace Art Clokey.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Promises to myself

The new year is always a good time for resolutions. I prefer to call them promises, promises I make to myself. Unlike many, though, my promises have remained the same for years, and I use the new year to remind me to be more kind to myself. Here they are if you also need reminding as well.

I will not let small, simple minds make me doubt my own worth or capabilties
I will not look to others for my strength.
I will not allow the size of my worries to determine the depth of my joys.
I will not throw away my belief in the goodness of humankind because of the cruelty of a few humans.
I will not expect miracles, but I will accept them.
I will not expect my children to act, think, respond or love like adults.
I will not cry in sorrow, only for joy.
I will not try to get even; who wants to be equal to an idiot.
I will not allow money to dictate my decisions.
I will not allow my problems to be an excuse for not helping others.

I will look upon the morning sunrise as if it were the last one I'd see for eternity.
I will believe in fairness, knowing it rarely, if ever, happens.
I will remind myself how lucky I am to have children who wear jeans to church (because at least they're going), who leave dirty clothes on the floor (because at least they came home that night) and who tell me I'm not being fair (because at least they asked for permission first).

I will do without and realize how much better I am without it.
I will marvel at how the world works and chuckle at those who think they discovered why.
I will remind my children that perfection is not their mother's desire.

And, I will look at this list whenever the world causes me to forget.

Photo credit: Jenny Mae Bingman

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going nowhere fast

I visited my sister in northern Illinois, and it didn't take me long to remember what driving in the city was like. The children and I were taking a leisurely pace, looking here and there.

The people behind us were not interested in anything except getting around us. One after another, they whipped around us, hurrying, it seemed, to merely beat us to the next stop light.

They were working so hard at getting nowhere.

Later I tried to make a left-hand turn out of the grocery store parking lot and cross four lanes of traffic. I couldn't. While I waited, drivers behind me honked their horns, impatient with my patience.

So, instead of going left (the direction I wanted to go), I had to turn right and drive in the wrong direction until I found another stop light where I could turn left, find another parking lot, turn around and head back to the light. Only then could I finally go the direction I wanted to go.

We laughed about how much time we wasted going the wrong way . . . and how long it took us to get right back where we started.

Another life lesson--it's hard to cross traffic.

It's hard to be an individual and ignore the honking from behind while you wait for your moment to cross. It's easier to give up all together and go the other way, the wrong way. Only trouble is, some of us never turn around. Years slip into the next and you're still heading in the wrong direction.

If you ever hope to get to where you really want to be, ignore the well-intentioned "honks" of your friends and family who try to tell you what you should or shouldn't do or how you should or shouldn't feel. Only you know the direction you want to go, and only you know when it's safe to cross.

When the moment's just right, floor it. Don't think . . . you've thought long enough. Don't worry . . . you know the way is clear. Don't give up . . . it's worth the effort.

Go the direction you were born to go.

photo credit: Picture Perfect Photography

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In search of one moment in time

 Photo by Wil Bingman 

"At what point will I be content?" my dearest friend asked.

We talked about dreams and plans and fate and dumb luck, all the while wondering when each of us would be able to say, "This is where I want to be."

Maybe we're reaching for something we'll never achieve. Maybe we're never meant to be totally content. Maybe it's that unsettled feeling which keeps us striving each day; maybe that's what makes us get out of bed each morning and do it all one more time, a little better than the day before.

Or, maybe, contentment comes from making the most of where we are that day. Maybe that peace we're looking for is what we feel each night before we drift to sleep when we realize we lived the day the best we could. It may not have been great, may not have even been good, but it was our best effort.

Or, maybe, if we're lucky, there will be a point where everything lines up; where good is good and always good and always right there at your side.

I hope.
A firefighter from the Champaign, IL area spoke at a state 4-H awards ceremony and he said it much better than I ever could. "We are all moving toward that one moment in time where you're more than you thought you could ever be."

That's what I want. I want to be more than I ever thought I could be, and, more importantly, recognize the moment when I get there.

I want more contentment than I ever thought I would have.
I want to love more than I ever thought I could and be loved more than I ever dreamed possible.
I want more laughter than tears.
I want comfort without extravagance.
I want more friendships than one lifetime can fill.

In "The Bridges of Madison County," Clint Eastwood turned to the woman he loved and said, "It just seems like everything I've done up to this point in my life has led me here." That was his "one moment."

I wait for that one moment in time when I say "here is where I wanted to be; here is where I was meant to be; here is where I feel content; here is the place where all the twists of my life have taken me . . .  and it is a good place to be."