Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daybook . . .

What does it mean to be discontent?
To be restless? Jealous or envious? Bitter or complaining? Ungrateful?
Probably it's a nasty brew of all of the above.
How can we be content when all around us we see things we want to do, to be, to have – and we can't, or we aren't, or we don't?
Contentment calls us to satisfaction with what we have and with what we are – but we are hardly ever satisfied. How do we keep from wanting what we don't have or can't get?
It is possible for us to see something we want and don't have, and still be content by turning our longing into positive action toward a goal.
But discontent isn't interested in working toward a goal. Discontent is only satisfied with sighing, envy, and a subtle sense of entitlement.
I should have a bigger house, I think. And probably a nicer car, and maybe a cleaning lady. And why are my kids so whiny? Kathy's kids don't whine. They should appreciate everything I do for them. I've practically given up everything fun to be their mom, so why don't they show a little more respect?
I tend to fall into discontent when I'm tired or overwhelmed. Self-pity can play a part, but probably ingratitude is the thing that pitches me into discontent most quickly.
When I fail to keep track of good things in my life by thanking God for them, I tend to take them for granted. I'm tempted to dismiss their significance. Even things I just knew would make me happy forever pale relatively quickly!
I allow myself to complain about things instead of evaluating them fairly and trying to improve them. Or I refuse to make changes God is calling me to make – and the price for my disobedience is a restlessness that gives birth to discontent.
I need a measure of maturity to be content: I need to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice – be happy for friends who enjoy more than I have. I need to be able to cultivate a thankful heart. I need to give up the expectations or desires that God asks me to give up. I need to take responsibility for choices I've made without complaining about the parts that are harder than I expected.
In return I experience the peace that comes with contentment.
This morning I was catching up on some correspondence when the doorbell rang. Meg was barking ferociously and dancing around the front door, so I hurried to see who was there.
Two women – one older, tired looking in the heat; one very young, really a child – were waiting. The older woman carried a briefcase, and when I opened the door she smiled a big smile and launched into her speech about how the Creator had made everything good and lovely, and wouldn't I like to read more about it in The Watchtower magazines she wanted to share with me.
I wasn't rude to her, but neither was I kind. I didn't offer her a cup of cold water, even though it is hot already outside, and humid. I missed an opportunity to smile at her and affirm that God is a good God, even though we disagree on so many other issues of doctrine.
I wasn't rude to her, but neither was I kind, and now I am sorry for it.
I was talking with someone else this morning who told me of a conversation with a loved one who blames God for everything bad that is happening in the world today.
I wonder, does he also thank God and give Him credit for everything good ?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Appliance Musings

It was the refrigerator that started it this time.
We bought a new refrigerator from Sears several weeks ago. We're pleased with it; it keeps our food at the correct temperature and it looks good, too.
The problem isn't the refrigerator; it's the warranty – or rather, the fact that we didn't purchase one.
We almost never pay for an extended warranty. Call us gamblers – we just don't buy them.
This must be hard for Sears to believe, because they keep on calling. The latest call came just this morning as I was elbow deep in a closet putting things away, when the phone rang.
“Hello, may I speak to John Shoo – Sur- Shur -”
“John isn't here. May I ask who is calling?” I said.
“Oh, hello. Is this Mrs. Shoo – Sur – Shur “
“This is Mrs. Schurter,” I said.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Sur-ter,” he said in broken English. “I'm calling today to ask how you like that nice new refrigerator you recently purchased from Sears.”
“I like it very much,” I said, and sighed, knowing what was coming next.
Sure enough, the next thing my caller wanted to know was “Do you know you can still purchase an extended warranty?“
Before he could finish I said – as politely as I could - “Yes, I know about the extended warranty; I think you're the fifty-ninth person to call me to ask if I want one. We still haven't changed our minds about buying it, but thank you for the offer.”
(Fifty nine might have been a slight exaggeration, but not by much.)
“Oh, dear,” he said. “It is a wonderful deal. I'm sorry you don't wish to purchase it. I'll try to make sure no one else calls, though.”
“That would be great,” I said, thinking I might be willing to pay him if he could stop the warranty sales calls.
I wonder how much less our new refrigerator might have cost if Sears wasn't supporting such a large warranty sales staff . . .


Speaking of our new refrigerator, we've got all the magnets, cartoons, and advertising/special offer/pizza coupons attached to the front and sides, so now it looks like our own.
Why do we do that? Why can't we just leave the refrigerator – at least the outside of it – in pristine, unadorned condition?
Why do we feel the need to turn the refrigerator into a family billboard?
When I think of what I should take off, though, I'm stumped.
Certainly not the photographs of people I love – although I'm picky about which photographs I put on the refrigerator; they tend to fall off and tear or get dirty, so I don't put up too many photos.
Certainly not the magnets that remind me of vacations we've taken or that have some connection to people I love, or the cartoons that make me laugh inside every time I see them.
Certainly not the telephone numbers of local restaurants or pizza coupons – how would we eat?
And certainly not the cards that say things I want to remember, like “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Grandma Schurter didn't put too much on her refrigerator, at least not when they lived out on the farm. Her kitchen was long and narrow, with several big windows that let in a lot of light. The ceiling was high; the cabinets were tall, and everything was arranged efficiently. Grandma used colorful contact paper to protect the wall over the sink and stove, and to add a pretty touch to the work space where she regularly turned out pies, cinnamon rolls, and dinners.
What she did have was index cards with pithy sayings or Scripture verses she'd written out, taped to the space between the sink and the windows that looked out on the back yard and the fields beyond.
Your dad has often said that Grandma didn't have to say much; she just changed those index cards as needed. Whatever they said always seemed to speak to what was happening at the time.
Some of you have some of those cards; I think Amy has a framed set of them. I don't know if Grandma kept them and rotated them, or if she wrote them out as they came to mind. Someone found some of them, though, and thought they would be good to keep.
I'm glad Grandma found such a creative way to keep good words in front of her family, and that those good words did the work they were meant to do.
Maybe the refrigerator doesn't look so bad, after all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


There was a piece on tonight's NBC Nightly News about how much people are willing to spend on their pet's health care.
I wanted to cover Meg's ears during the debate.
Meg is our golden retriever. She has been part of our family for the past eight or so years. I'm pretty sure she thinks she is one of our children.
This would be because she is the last one home. All of our human kids have places of their own now; Meg is the one who is still here, waiting to welcome them all home again.
Which she does, with great joy. When she hears a car on the drive, she wakes up, goes to the door, then turns around to go get a gift for the new arrival. Socks, bones, small toys one of the grandkids left lying around – she doesn't care what, so long as she has something to offer someone at the door. Her tail wags, her face smiles – she knows how to welcome someone home.
With dog wisdom, Meg teaches me a lot about what it means to love, to welcome, to trust. She is patient with our busyness, although occasionally we rate her cold shoulder. She is curious, eager to sniff out whatever is just around the corner. She is gentle, curling herself around our infant grandchildren, just in case they might need protection. She listens, without condemnation or criticism.
When it storms, she's right there with me in the basement, and when the sun shines she waits by the window, hoping for a trip to the backyard.
Do you suppose angels ever take the form of golden retrievers?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ordinary Time

This is “ordinary time.”
Who knew ordinary time had a liturgical season all its own? It makes sense, though, since we spend so much of our lives in “ordinary time.”
Maybe the reason we don't pay much attention to this season is it doesn't have great music like Christmas or Easter. What hymns or spiritual songs remind you of “ordinary time?”
How about “He Leadeth Me” or perhaps my favorite “Be Thou My Vision” - those songs certainly speak to the every-dailiness of our faith.
Instead of Christmas candles, ordinary time is illuminated by early light and summer sun, or by lightning bugs and moonlight. Instead of oratorios, ordinary time is lived out to the music of daily life, the rhythm of laundry, cooking, errands, and gardening.
It's the pleasures – and difficulties – of finding joy in one another and in the ordinary things of life.
Sometimes we take ordinary days for granted: familiar pleasures, the repetition of happy routines, the comfort of being close to well loved people and places.
But it is in “ordinary time” that we begin to understand what life is for, and how good it can be – not always easy, not always exciting, but always filled with quiet joy and love for those who take time to see life for what it is.
It is in “ordinary time” that we learn to live.