Monday, February 25, 2013

The Social Network

Why does everyone on Facebook look like they’re having such a great life, filled with LITERALLY thousands of friends, updates of the latest trip they’ve taken, or a picture of the last gourmet meal they’ve eaten. Beautiful family photos, videos, lots of one-upmanship…… The Social Network.

I remember when people didn’t have hundreds, even thousands, of friends, when people actually picked up a phone and spoke to you, no texting, no status updates or I or anyone need to know you’re at a sports event or a concert, or worse, Target?

Alas, that will not be the case, as Facebook has replaced so much personal interaction and allowed us to present ourselves in the loveliest of lights, photoshopping our lives,  not completely truthful, maybe? It’s encouraged our society to parade our experiences, escapades, flaunt our resources, purchases, our academic prowess, and all our brilliant ideals and beliefs………..spin city…….I’m guilty of it as much as you are.

I ashamed to say I even enjoy the rants people put on their wall. The smart-alecky, stinging quotes from themselves or from hip, sarcastic websites. I also enjoy the sad, heartwrenching, romantic quotes, vidoes. Sentimental fool, I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I AM NOT BASHING the social network. It can obviously bring The Word, joy, comfort and connection to many lonely, Lord-loved starved people. Hey, I was one of those people most of my life!

However, while having a conversation recently with a friend about the challenges of living with our young adult children, she exclaimed, “but you and your girls look so happy on Facebook!” Wow, that got me thinking about how tricky the social network REALLY is. I just chuckled and replied, “you’re seeing a snapshot, not the whole picture”…it’s like seeing the scene from The Godfather when Michael Corleone is kissing his brother Freddie, you might think from that particular shot they are a happy couple,  just two guys who love each other…certainly not the whole picture. Not the true picture. 

Luckily, I eventually snap out of it, get off the computer, and read the Bible. No Spin City in the Bible. 1PETER 24: “ ALL MEN ARE LIKE GRASS, AND ALL THEIR GLORY IS LIKE THE FLOWERS OF THE FIELD; THE GRASS WITHERS AND THE FLOWERS FALL, BUT WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER”.

Truth and Righteousness abound, salvation and love is flaunted, not resort trips and fancy dinners, concerts or sporting events.
Boasting in the Bible does abound as well, 2CORINTHIANS 12-5: I WILL BOAST ABOUT A MAN LIKE THAT, BUT I WILL NOT BOAST ABOUT MYSELF, EXCEPT ABOUT MY WEAKNESSES. Boast in my weakness. Oh how I love that line, as I have so many weaknesses. That’s my kind of boasting!

I think my next FB status update there will be no spin city: I didn’t go anywhere, I’m not buying anything, the food I am eating is not fancy enough to plop on Instagram, but hey, I am alive, God loves me (and you too)……….nice.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Standing in Awe of God

I have refrained from writing the past couple of days as I am still lenting on vanity.
I cannot think of anything to write that is not vain unless it comes from God. All my thoughts and words seem self-serving and shallow.
I read Ecclesiastes 5-2: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on Earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
Enough said.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Here He Comes To Save The Day.......

Vanity, thy name is (insert name here)....

Lent is the time for sacrifice. I've decided to give up my vanity for Lent. Did I say it was gonna be easy?

Vanity is the single most trajectory leading to sin. Vanity's lover and best friend, Pride, assist perfectly in their common goal--sin.

I am vain. You are probably too. Ok, sure you're not, uhumm, never underestimate the power of denial #americanbeauty. I can't think of one person, other than Mother Teresa, that I know of, that is not vain. Completely humble. Ok, maybe Pastor Harry Pressley, (I listen to The Shepherd's Heart on 90.5 fm) Nonetheless, I am not just the "do I look attractive" vain, but the real vain. Ego-driven, highly sensitive, slightly, ok, a little more than slightly paranoid. I want to be original, but I want people to like me and fit in which is motivated by vanity.

The tears are vanity.

Seeking approval from others is vanity.

Annoyance with others is vanity. Liking others is vanity.

Distrust in others is vanity. Trusting others can also be vanity.

Self-idolaty is vanity.

Competition is vanity.

Jealously is vanity. At this point, is there any characteristic of humans that does not begin with vanity??

Recently, my youngest daughter's Facebook status stated: "money is the root of all evil". To which I commented, "no vanity is. trust me on this one." Trust me.

How do you get rid of vanity?  This is where Grace, only God's Grace has to step in and save the day!!! When I feel God's Grace, and yes I do actually feel it, then I feel void of vanity. When I give gratitude, to the One who Gives It All, then I feel void of vanity. When I feel empathy for someone or for many, then I feel void of vanity.

Problem is, doesn't seem to last very long.

Our culture, our world says is this affecting ME?

God is teaching me, to think how is this affecting Him? Glorifying Him? How is my behavior, or my words, affecting others?

Here He Comes To Save The Day....and He Ain't Mighty Mouse. But He sure is Almighty.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Perks of being a Single Wallflower

About 4 years ago, I was a single wallflower. Didn’t fit in. No boyfriend. No bars, no clubs, no internet dating websites to meet a boyfriend. Just a single, divorced 40-something, which on paper, sounds pretty grim, by today’s dating statistics.
But you know what? I didn’t mind, not one bit.
Not at all. Never. Ever. Really.
After being married for 18 years, I had had enough of companionship. I was married for over 18 years (21 total years of togetherness) and being alone for the first time since 1981, was well, not lonely. I felt no stigma not having a boyfriend, no awkwardness when I attended weddings alone. None of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. For the first time in 20 plus years, I HAD CONTROL OF THE REMOTE! ARE YOU HEARING ME PEOPLE, CONTROL OF THE REMOTE! No football, no baseball, no hockey, no 610 WIP radio shows while driving, no newspapers scattered throughout the house. And ohmyword: no pay per view boxing. Yeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssssss.
Got to cook what I wanted for dinner, got to listen to The Bangles while driving, got to watch Martha Stewart, yipppppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Babble on the phone with my gal pals, wander around stores without a guy looking bored and impatient with me and waiting for me to leave. Ahhhh. 
Of course, while thoroughly enjoying my singleness, I did have to raise 3 daughters, which by the way worked out perfectly, as they weren’t toddlers, they did not read newspapers, and never insisted on listening to 610 WIP while driving. Nice.
So singles, enjoy this autonomous time, this lovely season of not having to confer with a counterpart, just have fun! 
And remember, this may be the only time you’re ever gonna get the remote.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My love letter to Ann Voskamp

I am writing a love letter to Ann Voskamp. I know what you're thinking.... no I don't and nor do I care. I am still writing it. 

Dear Ann,

A year ago January, I was so anxious and panicked and distraught about so many things in my life, I started waking at 4:00 am, every morning. I could not sleep. No pill could help me sleep through the night. I would wake in a panic, and so as I would not disturb my then fiance, I would go downstairs, to my daughter Rebecca's bedroom, sit by the heater and think. Sometimes, lots of times, I would call my best friend, and we would talk for two hours, 'cause that's what best friends do. They listen, and talk to you even in the earliest of mornings.  

One morning I was so upset, with so many things I knelt at the end of Rebecca's bed, (oh did I mention she's away at college and hasn't slept in her bed in almost 4 years), anyway, I knelt and started to pray. I haven't prayed in this child-like manner since I was a child. I felt like George Bailey, just talking to God, pleading for His help. I was so lost.

I don't why but I glanced at Rebecca's bookcase, it had so many religious books on the shelves. At least 4 different Bibles. All types of Christian literature, I did not know then who these authors were, Max Lucado, Tim Keller, Jon Courson, whoever, but I pulled a book out randomly. No thought whatsoever. It had a beautiful picture of a young girl's hands holding a bird's nest with two robin's eggs. That book was 1000 Gifts, written by you, Ann Voskamp. 

The hand written inscription was not meant for Rebecca but for our mutual friend, Jess, a woman I adore, and the inscription Jess' friend had written, intrigued me so much I started reading 1000 Gifts.
Well, it changed my life. At first I admit, your style of writing, poetic prose, different and liquid and a little hard to digest. No self-deprecating jokes, no sarcastic, wry quips. Just unabashed love. Wow. What was I reading? A biography, a memoir, fiction, it didn't matter, 'cause I couldn't stop reading it.  You, Ann Voskamp, brought me to God. Actually, God came and clumped me on the head through your words.

I tried telling my friends about it, and well, last year, the book hadn't blown up yet. It was on the New York Times' Bestseller List, and still everyone I told, they hadn't heard of it.  I would email sentences to my daughters, paragraphs even, I was so moved. I even emailed my Pastor, so engorged with the passion of this book and my newfound passion and love for God, I was gonna teach him somethin'.

Delusion and inspiration walk a paralled path. 

But Ann Voskamp, thank you. Thank you for getting me through last winter, this winter, and  those lonely moments in work, when tears began to run down my cheeks, I would pick up your book and start reading. And I would pick up my steno pad and start writing. All the little things I am so grateful for. Grateful to Him. Grateful to you.

I try to live by "Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle".  And in fact, I count you Ann, as one of my 1000 gifts. 

Love, Maria.

Ann's website:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

I have seen this twisted, interesting, 'first of it's kind' low-budget, independent film years ago and it freaked me out a little. The movie's got it all: marriage, adultery, possessiveness, rage, and a media staple in 1989, the videotape, aka, the camcorder. Oh, and of course one of my favorite actors, James Spader. (he really plays a great creep, spot on).. The characters are self serving and not really likable. 

I am now reading Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. (Nice segway, right?) Or rather, my husband is reading it aloud, one or two pages a night, so we can both experience it. And I like to hear him read aloud. Or 'out loud' as we say in Philly, I am from Philly so I can say either. 

Anyways, I gotta lotta work to do.

Yes I already knew marriage was hard. Trust me I knew and know how hard navigating a successful, intact marriage can be. Especially if you and your spouse are not on the same wave length when it comes to spirituality, family, money, and possessions. Slippery slope. Already went down that slope, and I got the t-shirt.

Now I am learning (in reference to marriage) what Jesus says in Matthew 16:25: "Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it". 

Tim Keller states, "Paul applies this principle to marriage. Seek to serve one another rather than to be happy, and you will find a new and deeper happiness.......It is because marriage is 'instituted by God'." Ah, Tim, you and your words. Gold.

But, still, I gotta lotta work to do. I want to seek to serve my husband, but, I am an opinionated, impatient, and many times, domineering...ummmmm...(I'd rather use the term: proactive) woman. I thought that's what he loved about me!! Detail-oriented, a bit of a perfectionist. Whatever. I need to learn to love to serve. Serve my spouse. Not just dinner, not just laundry but serving his spirit, his masculinity, his character. I forget, I may mouth a little white lie to get out of something. I get so wrapped in what needs to be done with every day stuff, I miss opportunities to serve him. Or do I deliberately avoid opportunities to serve him? Truth. 

I forget and miss opportunities to serve Him as well. I let days slip by, moments when I could be serving Him, His Greatness. I get wrapped up in the everyday. I forget He is the Giver of Every Day. 

So as I keep reading The Meaning of Marriage, I am going to make a concerted effort to serve him. My husband. And Him, my Creator. I want to love to serve. 

Spoiler Alert: Sex, Lies and Videotape does not have a happy ending. But you already knew that. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Changes......turn and face the strain.

Whoever said, change is good, probably didn't have to change much.

My car is broken down. It can't be fixed. I love my car. It's a bruised, battered, 2005 Hyundai Sonata. I bought it new when I moved into this house. After my divorce. After split-levels and minivans, after swim clubs, after homebound with my babies for 10 years, after trips to Disneyland, dinners with in-laws, life with someone for 21 years and then: change. Realizing your marriage is ending. Because you're ending it. It's broken down. It can't be fixed.

Now I waited about 11 years to remarry. I didn't rush out and sign a new lease;  I didn't want to. No way!! Never marrying again. Had to figure out what I wanted. What was best for these precious, fragile, girlies. My robin eggs. They needed nurturing. So I waited.

And waited, and waited.

I am so resistant to change. Still am. When my girls begged me to go to a particular church service, "sizzling summer" it was called actually, oh how I hated it!! Especially the singing!! Ahhhhhhhh what kind of music is this??? I was so resistant to God, to worship music, it's funny to think that now I am the one buying the J.J. Heller and Chris Tomlin cds. Don't get me wrong, I will always love me some 80's music, a girl still needs to hear The Talking Heads once in awhile. But I've changed. As much as I didn't want to, it wasn't up to me. It was up to Him. 

The Change to Him was Good.

The changes to everything else, well sometimes good, and yet, sometimes I resist and my temper gets the best of me and don't want anything to change! My adult temper tantrum begins. Ugly.

Then I read Scripture, shut up and start thinking how He's thinking about me, and how silly I must look over resistance to change. Some changes are obedience to Him in disguise. 

The only thing we can count on is God's Love, and change.

Oh and let's not forget. Cars breaking down. That ain't never gonna change. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gonna Raise My Ebenezer. Rock Needed.

When I hear Chris Rice singing "Come Thou Fount", which by the way due to some glitch in my brain, once I hear a song I am attracted to, I keep playing it and playing it over and over, I can't get it out of my head. My poor children at one point were unfortunately unwittingly forced to listen to Hoopastank's "The Reason"....way beyond the legal limit. (years ago...divorce you know..)  Anyhow,  I realize my entire biography is contained in the hymn, "Come Thou Fount".

Oh how daily I am that debtor, that sinner,  I am constrained to be....Oh how I know I am proned to wander from the God I love. I wander to the land of Pinterest, I wander to the land of analyzing others. I wander to the calling out the hypocrisy of others, even what I call the "anti-christian Christian".  They wear their Christianity on the outside, but they really don't live it. And in the end I am the sinner. I don't live it. I am put off, annoyed or resentful. Well, just read the lyrics folks,  I AM THE DEBTOR.

I looked up what an ebenezer was, and according to my credulous sources, (some obscure internet website) it's a rock Samuel erected in God's honor. It's a declaration of stating I am redoing my life following God. I like it. People put rocks on their coffee table just to raise their ebenezer. Nice home decor statement. But I want that so desperately. I want to re-do the decor of my dark sided heart/soul. No more resentment, no more analyzing, just lovely founts of every blessing.

Here's my heart, o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above, here's my heart, o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. 

Whoever wrote this, knows me too well. Smart man.

Right Back Atcha

Why do I subconsciously love to throw things back?  What I mean to say is, why do I love to remind my husband and children of all the glorious things I have done for them when they've disappointed me or upset me. Why? I swear to myself every time I do it, it will be the last time and then festering starts leading to brew, and voila! I throw it back, I projectile vomit words that sting the other person, remind them of the time they screwed up and I overlooked it, or when I saved them from some impending disaster. Or I fixed it. As if.

As if my reminding them of all their little flaws and mishaps really shapes them into better people. As if my part in helping them correct some horrid circumstance entitles me to scold and mold them into what I want. Remembering their mistakes.

Thank God, and seriously, thank God, He does not play throw back. I screw up, I ask for forgiveness, He forgives and FORGETS. God doesn't throw it back in my face.  He moves on. He loves me so much, there is so much unconditional love for me, He forgives and forgets.

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I WILL NOT REMEMBER YOUR SINS." (Isaiah 43:25)

"For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

"'For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.'” (Hebrews 8:12)