A strategy for success… greed and the Good Life

I am pleased to welcome back my lovely husband with another chronicle of thoughts concerning candy crush and all things philosophy.  For those of you who may not play this game that tends to suck in anyone who tries it for the first time, I apologize if this is gibberish.  Stay tuned for recipes and other thoughts this weekend. ~Joanna

The Candy Crush Chronicles

candy crush picI am presently concerned with Greed, The Game and the Good Life.  Much has been made over the years as to the source of happiness.  I have yet to meet a single soul who desired to be miserable.  So to this end, let me assume that all sensible people want, at their core, to be happy and I will add, there is no shortage of people willing to suggest how this should happen.  Plato and the Greeks called the greatest goal one could achieve, the Good life.  Cicero referred to it as, the Summum Bonum. Boethius says, “it is what all men want… the supreme good, the one that leaves room for no others, for if there were anything further to want it could not be the highest good” (The Consolation of Philosophy). Could this good that Boethius speaks of be attained in this life?  Many think not, for how could one attain perfect happiness.  For our purposes however let’s assume that there are indeed some perfections, I will call these transcendentals, in the world that humanity can and indeed grasp (of these goodness, truth and beauty are most widely known).

Let’s begin with a thought experiment.  Say you were out, walking your dog when you stumbled upon an old tin can.  To your astonishment, within its confines was rare coinage said to be worth up to 10 million dollars.  What would you do with this sum and why?  One scenario may sound something like this: I bought a nice house.  And why?  To be in a better neighborhood, so my family will be safer, so they could enjoy more opportunities, have a better chance of succeeding in this game we call life by meeting the right friends, having the right influences, attending the right school and so on and so on.  In the end, it all boils down to one underlying principle that I submit is happiness.  You are probably saying at this point, what does this have to do with Candy Crush?

Plenty, I surmise, especially if you are like the kid in a candy store and because there is nothing more damaging to a batch of candy then the toxicity of greed.  Greed begets selfish desire.  It says, “I will have at all costs.” In it’s prodigious consumption, it will never be satisfied.  It is the antithesis to the Good Life.  I suggest an ulterior strategy to The Game (this principle also applies to life).  This hard truth that I am proposing is not for the faint of heart but says, “It is better to give than to receive.”  For all intents and purposes, you must be willing to sacrifice, give something up, empty in order to be filled.  This is the greatest indicator of one’s love, no better legacy to leave than the relinquishing of one’s self for another.  And why not, isn’t this the underlying characteristic of all great men?  Yet, there is another deeper mystery that takes place, a divine reversal if you will.  Andrew Peterson says it best in his song, Lay Me Down.

So when you lay me down to die
I’ll miss my boys, I’ll miss my girls
Lay me down and let me say goodbye to this world
You can lay me anywhere
But just remember this
When you lay me down to die
You lay me down to live

As far as The Game is concerned one application should suffice.  There is one item any serious candy crusher is after, it is the infamous color bomb or, as we like to call it, “the disco ball.”  If this is your desire, and I can’t think why it wouldn’t be, then you must scheme, plot and strategize how to acquire it.  But once you succeed in this endeavor you have embraced our fundamental principle.  Stripes and wrappers become dispensable, there is no other way I can see it, unless by happenstance.  And it may come to this, but I wouldn’t count on it.  The Game is sacrifice and sacrifice is The Game.  Think about it.  The modus operandi of The Game is to get rid of candy.  Some neophytes are content with three candies, some may stumble onto four or the occasional wrapped ones, but nothing compares to five even with the inevitable sacrifice it produces. 

In life the things most valued are the things, which you believe bring the most joy.  Whether I esteem wealth, power, or pleasure these things will never fully satisfy because they feed on greed and not sacrifice.  In the end, they just become dull idols that I worship.  We are all destined to worship.  It is unavoidable not to worship something, so why not choose to worship the one who offers everlasting joy, the one who also buys into our principle and empties Himself.  With arms outstretched, he offers for the taking not only the highest good, the Summum Bonum, but the real secret to success, sacrifice.

May your gaming be profitable and your sacrifice plenty

~By David Euans

 

All In the Day of a Mom

earthworm

Somewhere in between the meat and dairy rows at the grocery my little man blurts it out:

“Mom, if you just eat worms would you live?”

And I’m stunned speechless. Where in the world do our little people get these thoughts? I suppose I should by round three already expect these sorts of odd questions, but until I can consult google or my philosophical husband or the kind reader who will inform, the answer is “I don’t know.”

And that my friend is that and nothing more.  I think I’ll eat another gingerbread cookie fresh from the oven and ponder this question further…

A Hot Mess

I’ve always said I was a hot mess and my husband blushingly smiled as I poked him into admitting it the other night (and the amazing thing he still loves me anyways). Yeah I’m the one with hairs hanging from moles I’ve forgot to pluck until they’re long enough to spy without magnifying glasses. The one who throws checkbooks away with the mail flyers and texts the wrong people strange messages. Who exasperates my kids with far too many lectures, cringes at the thought of playing Legos (working through this one currently), cries at the drop of a hat and is distressed that grey (gasp) hair is beginning to fill in at the crown of my head. So I must admit I was pretty relieved when I read this today:

“Use all your skill to put me together, I wait to see your finished product.” Psalm 25:21

Sighing sweet surrender over here in the mountains tonight cause I know it’s gonna take everything He’s got to do something amazing with me. So glad I’m a work in progress because tonight I just feel like a weary pilgrim scrimping by. Maybe a sign like “CAUTION GOD WORKING” wouldn’t be such a bad thing to wear…or the lens by which to view all the others in my life who are in a hot mess too. All I know is patience is being grown as I wait for this Artist to complete His masterpiece…and He’s got a LONG way to go and I don’t want to wait another day, but I will.

Row Row Row Your Boat

row boatHe stands there humble before us weary souls needing any kind of hope someone can drop in our bucket on Sunday meeting, and it’s what he says next that I cannot get out of my bones.  How faith is a lot like getting in a row boat.  You have to face the opposite direction you’re going if you’re to move anywhere.  Seeing is believing and we must keep our eyes on what He has already brought us through if there’s gonna be any courage to leap into the unknown.  And just like ripples on water leave a trail, writing down God’s goodness reminds us He is faithful and He is with us and even in the darkest night of rowing and wrestling with fears and thinking that it’s never going to end we can come back to the anchor that He is there all along calming the incensed storm, making roads through red seas. And this week with fevers raging and pain ravaging I’ve preached this to myself at sun rising and sun setting, because one can get so worn that you just can’t take the step of faith into the next moment…the next hour…and please, don’t mention tomorrow.

It was a hot summer lemonade kind of day when my sis handed me a book a few years ago. I was at a desperate place for Hope and feeling like it was never coming.  I flopped on the couch to read a page written by this lovely farm girl Ann Voskamp and found myself weeping and not stopping for hours but taking the dare to start counting One Thousand Gifts because I had lived in the desert for too long and swallowed the lie that I couldn’t live fully right where I was. I began slowly unwrapping joy in the mundane, in the trials, in the life I was rushing through in my futile attempts to a better place all the while missing so much of what God had given.

And what I learned that summer of ’11, is that this brain is a leaky sieve that will forever forget unless I stop to say thanks, stilling this restless wandering heart with the greatness of God. Because it’s not that God has changed or isn’t present when I’m facing the impossible or the common or the ugly, it’s that I’ve forgotten to look for Him.  The fog and the waves and the noise distracts and it’s when I turn to look where I’m going instead of keeping my back to the wind that the boat rocks and my eyes are on what He has yet to reveal instead of on what He has already done. And I’m paralyzed with fear, hopelessness, defeat, discouragement.

There once was a people like me who watched with their own eyes our miracle wonder-working God throwing Jordan’s waters into heaps.  And it would make you think that being at an event like that would sear the brain so one could never not remember, and yet God comprehends our human condition well enough to know we need something visual, something concrete or we will forget when the next test comes along and He knew their test was right around the corner. A scary one involving possible bloody battle with BIG people and He saw them shaking in their boots. So he parts the water again (the first time it was the Red Sea, this time it’s the Jordan river) and tells Joshua to send someone from each tribe down to the place in the Jordan where they had come and bring a stone with them back to where they will spend the night so they will remember and tell their children and their children’s children about our great God who makes a way through deep waters. I can see them trudging there and back, stones burdening shoulders and them tossing twelve boulders down among circled wagons for the night because it’s bound to get dark and night will come and yet there in the black are these forms not going anywhere, memorials of who God is. What he did, what He’ll do again.

Spending the long night somewhere? Uncertain of what the next moment holds? Wondering if you can hold out for one more sunrise? Perhaps we both need to climb back into our row boats, pick up the oars with our back to the wind and storm, nestle deep into the arms of the One holding us guiding each row and turn our faces resolutely towards the one thing we know….His faithfulness. Let’s go back to the Jordan rivers of our lives and gather some stones.

Lesson from Tulips

I tripped into work early when I was just a young’un before babes and baking took up waking hours, for weddings won’t wait and a bride can’t do without flowers and these bouquets needed adjusting. I smile for there they are, pink tulips stretching bright faces above all the other blooms as if to say “I’m still here alive and well and you can’t stop me from springing taller”.  Never fearing they’ve been cut from their source of life…all the while they’re dying they still keep growing. And it’s enough to drive a florist to her knees all this constant tweaking, but me I’m grinning ear to ear and talking to each one as I pull ’em back down again. Maybe that’s why I love tulips more than any other bloom you’ll bring me.  They are this enigma of the flower world because nothing can stop them until the last petal falls.  They’ll keep on transforming, changing because no matter where you place them or how you’ve shaped them they find a way to surprise. These blossoms always outgrow the vessel in their stretching towards the light.

Years later they still make me smile and I find myself tripping to the grocery for a friend having an ‘I can’t do this anymore kind of day’ and I know just the thing for her….for me. And these red tulips all cheer and jollity dance in the light as I pull them together in bouquets and the note that’s penned is as much for this weary soul as for her, reminders that we, my friends, are unique, beautiful, chosen, FORGIVEN…and nothing on this sometimes seemingly God forsaken earth can separate us from His Love no matter the trial or the test weighing hard.

There’s not much left of them a week later but I’m still finding myself sprinting down stairs just to see for myself these twins in red forever reaching out. And I’m beaming over morning coffee as these two are standing taller than the day before with a mind all their own and I want to be them.  I don’t want to ever stop growing up, enlarging out, unfurling myself until the final moment I cross to glory. And there’s beauty in all this growing and it’s messy and uncomfortable too because it’s easier to choose the familiar path, but it’s the flourishing life I want; the life of resilience, of perseverance. I want to be the soul who bounces back and bravely believes. Who looks at life through the lens of a challenge not a crisis. Who at the very core of herself resounds with this:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” ~James 1:2-4

So my friend, go out there…grab some tulips and like them BLOOM! Stretch for the light.  There’s beauty in all this growing, in all this reaching all the way till glory.

tulips

You Don’t Have To Be Big

I stumble across this story and my heart skips a beat and the eyes leak and I wonder when did I gulp down the lie that I have to be big to be noticed, write a book or a hit song, get married, have babies, be the most beautiful, act on some phony stage, find a successful career (all the while saving the world or at least the orphans in it), live until I’m 90…or whatever it is we fill in the blank….before the sum of me totals something of value? That I don’t count until I’ve been counted by the best there is out there? That the difference I long to make in the world has to do with something I do instead of something I am?

And somewhere in the middle of all this jumbled up mess I’ve forgotten that Someone happens to know just how many hairs there are on my head. That I am this wonderfully created, mysterious and beautiful masterpiece knit together piece by piece before anyone ever laid eyes on me and this Person, this God, knew in advance all my failures and stumbles and “picking back up agains” and chose to love me anyways. And it is He who says I am amazing not because of MY story but because of HIS story that He is writing on the pages of my life. A story that will live on beyond to tell of the awesome fame of our Great God. AND I DON’T WANT TO MISS IT trying to write it on my own.

No, what I really want is to be like baby Zion who enters and leaves this world not trying to perform his way to love, but nestled snug in the arms of a Saviour satisfied with me because I AM a child of the King.

Being the Moon

I step to the mirror and this woman staring back is someone I barely know…I barely love. She’s the new one moved in last month who flies off the handle at the toaster not working and the tears over homework and her hand shakes and her insides quiver and this craving for food to satisfy the adrenaline pumping through veins is insatiable and I just want to crawl away to my monastery (wherever that may be) and hide for the next eight months of treatment on this miracle yet cursed drug we call prednisone. But it’s the confused gaze from little ones that makes this heart break in two and the conversations that go something like this:

Help Girl: “Mom why is your nose running?” Me: “Because I’m crying.” Help Girl: “Why are you crying?” Me: “Because this medicine is making me crazy.” Help Girl: “I thought you liked crazy?” Me: “I do when it’s crazy fun and not crazy sad or crazy angry.” Help Girl: “Well just tell your body not to cry!”…..and I wish it were all as simple as that.

The inner dialogue doesn’t quiet.  Who are you really? Will anyone still love you in nine months? Will you be able to love yourself, or forgive yourself, and be loved in return? Ahhh, nine months.  I’ve been through nine months of growing and stretching broad three times over to discover that change can be what widens the heart.  So what is it that keeps me from embracing it this time around? Sure, there won’t be a fuzzy headed sweet smelling infant to clutch at the end, but it’s either grow a new person in this space of time or whither and shrivel to bitterness and anger. It’s a choice.  Everyday is a choice to wake up and face the raging inner battle that says I am not enough, I am not lovable, I am not all that while being willing to embrace, believe, experience, when all else screams otherwise, that He is enough, He loves me first, He is ALL THAT and more and in Him I can do all things and whatever comes my way I can know there will be joy!

I walk by the mirror and it takes me by surprise, again, this face gaping round. The doctors said it would happen a phenomena called “moon face” as steroids redistribute fat in the body.  I had hoped to be the exception and yet here I stand with all the classic symptoms glaring.  I’ve been through years of shrinking where illness sloughed pounds off the body and I thought I would fade into non-existence and I was scared, and now I’m scared as I fumble to fully love the woman in transformation once again because you can hide a lot but you cannot hide your face…it is who you are and too often by what you are known.

The last rays of sunset stream through windows, clouds all pink flit through skies grey and I wonder about the sun setting and the moon rising.  The moon in all it’s glory reflecting only the light from the sun.  Could it be that the next nine months are about transformation as I ascertain what it is for me to reflect the Son? Humbling myself enough to admit that it isn’t all about me? That it’s not how I shine but how He shines in me? Could I believe that change is beautiful because He is beautiful and the work He is doing in me far outweighs the physical alterations? Am I willing to be the moon reflecting all He is to a world peering in? To embrace and not discard or shame my face but allow it to embody a reminder of who I am and who He is and what I am not without Him? Because if I am to see the face of God, to be the face of God, to this wounded and bleeding world I cannot stay the same.  There must be metamorphosis.

I pull on my coat to step out into the night these hands slowly uncurling, unfurling, stretching wide to grasp how deep, how vast this Love’s lavished and I walk by the mirror, frown turned smiling for this moon face…could it be that it’s shining?

full-moon-worm-moon-008

I’m Sorry….These Are Delicious!

Chocolate mini muffinsSo sometimes you just want something you can eat and not feel guilty about and know that every little bite is full of wholesome goodness.  These delightful little chocolate puffs were inspired from a recipe I found here and I modified it to suit what I had in my pantry.  It turned out to be the perfect Saturday night treat and just enough left for a Sunday morning run and go breakfast.  I plan on making a jar of these to have handy on the counter when this crazy prednisone body goes nuts for something tasty this week.  The silky smooth texture is to die for and worth celebrating every small sojourn this life can hold (just don’t tell your friends or family it’s made with beans until after they’ve had their fill). Enjoy! And let me know what you think….

       CHOCOLATE MINI-MUFFIN BITES

  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 TBL coconut oil
  • 4 TBL whole rolled oats
  • 5 TBL sugar

Process everything in a food processor for 3-5 minutes or until completely smooth. Then, pour into a well-greased mini muffin pan (filling it 2/3 full), and bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes.

Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting

  • 2 TBL butter
  • 1 1/2 TBL cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 TBL buttermilk

Bring to boil while stirring in sauce pan.  Take off heat and add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Stir and chill for 15 min. until set.  Stir again and lightly frost muffins.

For Days When the Hampster Gets Stuck in the Stove

Some days miracles happen and the hamster doesn’t fling herself in the ball down a flight of stairs and we make it to the bus with seconds to spare instead of waving down Miss Mary to stop and everyone eats the oatmeal with yummy sighs and shouts of thanks mom and not one peep is heard when hair is brushed and tied up.  Others…well other days like today the hamster escapes the cage (when she should be sleeping and after little man assured me he was her brother’s keeper *just in case* as I shower), ends up inside..YES INSIDE the stove *somehow* and refuses, or forgets or just plain wants to chew on metal all the while earning nuts and peanut butter as a bribe to draw her out, then dashing to the farthest depths of the dark to hide until we take apart the stove to rescue the booger. AND we put the stove back together to find at dinner time, no less, (thank God for microwaves and leftovers…the kind of prayers being hollered out today) that none of the burner’s igniters work and yep! That’s now top of the list for tomorrow. Ahhhhhhh, someone please tell me to breathe, or laugh or shout or whatever it will be that brings a sort of sanity to this all mixed up day.

Then there’s the six allergy shots and an extra hour of waiting in the doctor’s office because they were running behind and I was running behind trying to coax a crazy hamster to play hide and seek another day and in another place, so grocery shopping was crossed from this already messy list and I’m just trying to figure out how lunch will be squeezed into the few remaining seconds before new piano students arrive.  And in a blink this neatly planned day has become convoluted and tangled and I’m a bedraggled, frazzled bundle of exhaustion before the clock strikes 5. Anyone hear me? Anyone there in the same spot today?

What else is one to do but drop to knees and from an honest heart cry to the One who saves? Who hears? Who sees all of me, all of THIS for as Amy Carmichael said “He is first and He is last, and we are gathered up between, as in great arms of eternal lovingkindness” and there is nothing like a cry from a child to bring our Father running for to him it’s a beautiful hallelujah this broken spirit. It’s ironic because we think that what he wants is us going through the motions doing our best to please, attempting a performance without flaws when what it takes is pride that is fractured, that says we aren’t all this, we can’t do it all and then…only then do we learn God-worship for “heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice” Ps 51:17 (The Message)

It’s been a messy day. And you know what? Life is messy always has been always will be. But our God is a God who descends into our crazy world and brings Love.  No day is in too big a shamble for redemption for the bigger the mess the greater the Love.  So breathe… heat up the leftovers and pour yourself a cup warm.  It’s all going to be ok because in the end Love wins the day.