Pain and Suffering [Susan Isham]

Greetings! This is a post I wrote more than 2 years ago over on my friend Brian’s blog. It sums up what’s on my heart today. Hug your loved ones today while you can.

Brian Jane's Blog.

So there I was, minding my own business, reading along in my daily devotional when – bam! – it hit me. I did not agree with the conclusions drawn by Joseph Prince about the scriptures.

I should mention this is not the first time Pastor Prince and I have disagreed. Oh no. I started this devotional with Zac back in February (yes, I am a slacker) so we could read on our own and discuss what was said, get deeper into topics of faith. So far, he’s managed to be wrong at least 2 other times. Joseph Prince, that is.

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A Dirty Word

It's in us.

It’s in us.

I’ve been thinking about sin and death today.

Yay!  You say sarcastically.  Way to be upbeat! Light Friday reading.

And you’d be right.  Sin and death aren’t happy topics.  In our culture, sin has become a dirty word.  But they do come up over time.  If you have a conscience at all, you will run into it.  It will flog you.  Sin can be intentional or unintentional, willful or not.  You will let yourself down.  You will hurt people by things you say or do, and vice versa.  People you know and love will die during your stay here. Eventually, you will join them.  Welcome to life. L’chaim!

My friend Brian wrote a thought-provoking blog today. He’s such a good writer anyway, but his written thoughts sort it all in digestible pieces.  You can read it here.  I’d like to use his ideas as a jumping-off point.

He outlines the way to become a Christian with three main points.  I like three points because of the Trinity (three parts of the Godhead), three days for Jesus to experience death and resurrection and three points make a sermon. So there!

The first step to salvation is:

A)  Admit you’re a sinner.  Okay, no sweat.  I have probably committed most of the 7 deadly sins in one way or another, not to mention broken a few commandments.  I don’t say that lightly.  It’s simply part of living with an imperfect nature.   Like the time I made fun of a cross-eyed girl who lived in our neighborhood…and her dad heard me.  Yeah.  My sin found me out right quick that time.  My sins – your sin – separate us from God (Romans 3:23).

B) Believe that Jesus is God. Kind of a strange idea, actually.  I mean, isn’t God the only God?  The Trinity remains a mystery. I don’t fully comprehend it. It’s always been interesting to me – and wonderful – that God would send a perfect replacement to die for me:  His only son.  Animal sacrifices never really got it done anyway; they provided a stopgap measure until Jesus came along (Hebrews 10).  Only a sinless one could take our sin from us.

Right here, you might say, This is a bloody religion. Yes.  But we don’t realize how much our sin keeps us from God.  We reap death from it.  Eternal damnation and division from God. That’s how bad it is.

C) Confess Jesus is Lord.  Stating it aloud with witnesses present is a start.  It’s living under His rule, day by day. It becomes joyful submission as His will for our life unfolds.  He has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11).

As I’ve aged, I realized “born again” looks different on each of us.  It’s less about the “don’ts” and more about the “do’s”.  Our unique imago dei means we walk out our salvation (with fear and trembling) down different avenues.  Sure, we may look good on the outside to others, but appearing holy will never wash with God.

Why in the world did God even do this?  Why not leave human beings alone?  They’re certainly messed up.  Look at our world today, plagued by, well, plagues, famine,  and wars.  Why not wash His hands of the entire kit and caboodle?  Deists think He did that long ago.

Relationship.  He wants us to be near Him.  He made us for it.  He loves us.  Giving us free will meant we could choose to love Him.  I know.  Honestly, free will seems like a mixed blessing. I think of it like giving a little boy a gun:  “Here, Timmy. Got ya something special! Please read the instruction manual, or you’ll shoot yer eye out.” Robotic humanity would have been so much easier on us all.

Today, though, I’m grateful I get to choose.


If Music Be the Food of Love…

Sorry the video is so poor.  Her rich voice and the stellar acoustics brought the song to life for me.

I had a rehearsal today for a song I will play on Saturday.  A church friend and I were asked to do a flute and piano duet for the women’s retreat coming up this weekend.  To be clear:  I’ll be on flute.  We settled on a hymn everyone knows and got down to it.  I like playing but I haven’t played in months.  It just doesn’t come up.

She and I talked about what arrangement we wanted and how to make it flow.  We practiced a bit.  Then we started talking.  Can two women, left to their own devices, do anything else?

She shared with me about her early experiences around music.  She took piano lessons for several years as a child.  All her siblings did.  She learned some accordion, too, and clarinet.

“I never did it to become a concert pianist,” she stated.  “I simply did it for my own enjoyment.”

And, dear readers, that’s what’s missing for me.  I don’t really enjoy playing anymore.  Sure, certain notes sound clear and pure from my instrument.  They have a certain quality of tone.  Yet music used to feed me and keep me sane in a way that’s hard to explain.  I don’t need it anymore.  I still enjoy it, of course.  I love to sing praise songs, but generally those songs are simpler in structure and straightforward in execution.    They have to be for everyone to be able to engage in worship without having  a trained voice.

Some of my earliest memories contain music.  I’ve been captivated by its beauty, won over by its fluid melodies.  For the most part, songs without words don’t get much love in this country.  I’ve included a few samples most will recognize below.

The can-can…

I remember trying to learn “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin on the piano.  Never managed it.

Frankly, I like “Fall” of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons better.  But to each his/her own.

And for the truly bombastic…

Now in my 5th decade (yikes!), I’m coming to terms with the fact that there are many seasons in our lives.  What feeds us and sustains us now may not later. I find at this point I’m more attached to words than music.  The text of Purcell’s song (at the top of the page) is a quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before...

The arts have a unique integration.  Often one bleeds  into another, words inspiring songs which inspire art, and vice versa. In this way, our life’s creative works live on forever.

I understand a little how Duke Orsino feels.  I’m a bit sad about the loss of musical passion in my own life, thinking of all the time and effort I’ve invested over the years.  But it’s okay. We keep on changing and growing, and hopefully learning, as we mature. Nothing’s ever wasted.

Done with D.J.

Candace Bure on the far right as D.J. Tanner.

Candace Bure on the far right as D.J. Tanner.

I’m going to be controversial here.  You may not agree with me and you may not like me much after you read this.  Bear with me.

I like Candace Cameron Bure.  I really do.  I loved her as D.J. Tanner on “Full House”.  As a big sister myself, I understood where she was coming from. She’s shared her struggles with weight and self-esteem. In the past, I’ve enjoyed reading interviews about her.  She seems down-to-earth and real about her faith.

But this DWTS (Dancing with the Stars) modesty issue is ridiculous.  Modesty, it seems, is still a hot topic.

Why do Christians on TV  insist on talk, talk, talking about their faith?  Christians would be better at making a stand if they put on excellence in all they do  instead of pontificating. Wouldn’t it be more effective if she simply showed her faith by being loving, kind and a diligent dance partner?

If you’re a believer and you felt that strongly about your attire, why would you even participate in “Dancing with the Stars”?  Just for publicity?  If you want to continue to be modest in your roles as a wife and mother, why even attempt such a feat?   The cost of being an adult female working in Hollywood usually includes a heavy measure of sexy.  And dancing with another man who isn’t your husband, being flirty with him to convey a feeling or story through dance, his hands going, uh, wherever, comes across as modest behavior?

I think this is the scripture Cameron’s hanging her hat on:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. – I Timothy 2:9

Frankly, it’s a rather vague scripture. Paul was trying to guide Gentile believers into a standard of Christian purity. These folks had no concept of how to live as Christians.  Bill Gothard has a portion of his ministry focused on this – “no dangly earrings” among many other clothing prohibitions.  According to this scriptural definition, though, only Pentecostal Holiness, Catholic nuns and the Amish model true modesty.  My husband argues nuns garner attention simply because of how they’re dressed.  They stand out a mile. Again, we find ourselves back to phrases such as “decent and appropriate clothing”…which means what? Who gets to be the arbiter of modesty?  Not me!

I’m going out on a limb here and say if you’re a person of faith, you have to earn the right to be heard.  Some of you may say Candace has paid her dues.  She’s been on TV and under the media microscope.  I agree.  Within reason.  But if you’re trying to “not draw attention to” yourself, this isn’t the way to do it.  The focus has become all about her and not about Christian modesty.

It seems Mrs. Bure glossed over this next part of the scripture, I Timothy 2:10:  For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

Anyway, who decides who’s a role model?  Role models just *are*. The best ones don’t even mention it. They simply live their convictions. Isn’t that what it’s all about, in the end?  You will know them by their fruit.  Talking isn’t getting it done.  However, I’ve heard good reports of her on that front.  She genuinely does care about people.  I’m glad to hear it. But all the making a statement stuff detracts from the real issue of living for Christ.





Today’s blog post is just for fun.  Because thedancingrunner asked me to…

1: What are you wearing?
Hot pink t-shirt with white polka dots, green velour pants, black sparkly hoodie, Christmas socks and slippers.  Don’t judge!  This is temporary.  I’m dressed for the cats right now.  They’re just glad I’m wearing something.
2: Ever been in love?
Yup 🙂
3: Ever had a terrible breakup?
Aren’t all breakups terrible?
4: How tall are you?
5’1 (ish)
5: How much do you weigh?
Uh, you first.
6: Any tattoos?
7: Any piercings?
Just one in each ear.  Seemed more symmetrical that way.
8: OTP?
One true pairing:  sea and sun.  Ah…
9: Favorite show?
Either CSI or The Good Wife.
10: Favorite bands?
Don’t have one. Head bands?
11: Something you miss?
Firefly.  Sigh.
12: Favorite song?
Too many.
13: How old are you?
14: Zodiac sign?
15: Quality you look for in a partner?
What kind of partner?  Funny you should ask…square dancing is all about coordination and bounce. So, those for sure.
16: Favorite Quote?
Jeremiah 29:11 –  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
17: Favorite actor?
Jason Bateman.  Nathan Fillion. Morgan Freeman. Steve Carell. Again with the only choose one!
18: Favorite color?
Red, pink, purple, turquoise…
19: Loud music or soft?
Depends on the mood.
20: Where do you go when you’re sad?
To a quiet place. Sometimes I’ll run.  Sometimes I”ll clean.
21: How long does it take you to shower?
10 minutes.
22: How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Around a half hour.  I don’t like to spend too much time.  I want to get on with it.
23: Ever been in a physical fight?
Not since my brother got taller than me.
24: Turn on?
Sense of humor.
25: Turn off?
Smugness or arrogance.
26: The reason I started blogging?
I love to write.  I process things this way.
27: Fears?
Plummeting sports.
28: Last thing that made you cry?
God’s spirit moving during Sunday worship.
29: Last time you said you loved someone?
This morning.
30: Meaning behind your blog name?
My sisters have many, many nicknames for me. This is one of the socially acceptable ones.
31: Last book you read?
Heartburn by Nora Ephron.
32: The book you’re currently reading?
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines. Well, I *have* it.  Haven’t actually cracked it open yet.
33: Last show you watched?
Drop Dead Diva.
34: Last person you talked to?
Zac, jacked-into-the-Matrix-boy.
35: The relationship between you and the person you last texted?
A great long-distance friend.
36: Favorite food?
Pizza.  Licorice.  Dark chocolate.  Coffee.  Only one?!
37: Place you want to visit?
Anyplace sunny and warm.  Seriously.
38: Last place you were?
In the kitchen.
39: Do you have a crush?
I have Orange Crush in the kitchen.  Want some?
40: Last time you kissed someone?
This morning 🙂
41: Last time you were insulted?
Directly or indirectly?
42: Favorite flavor of sweet?
Chocolate or mango.
43: What instruments do you play?
Flute, a little piano.  Wait. Not  like a calliope.  I know very little piano.
44: Favorite piece of jewelry?
My wedding ring.
45: Last sport you played?
Running.  But I played it alone, so not sure if it counts.
46: Last song you sang?

47: Favorite chat up line?
“Are you Finnish?”
48: Have you ever used it?
It’s been used on me 😉
49: Last time you hung out with anyone?
Yesterday.  And last night, and this morning.  Let’s face facts, folks:  I’m never alone.
50: Who should answer these questions next?
Anyone reading this. Blog it or put it in the comments, please 🙂

Micromanage Vue

Another lovely spring day here.  I’ll take 200 more, thank you.

Pepper-car is still in the shop.  I don’t mind driving the rollerskate/banana around.  It’s the perfect size for me. In fact, I finally had to put more gas in it today. We got it with a half tank last Tuesday.

First, the low fuel light came on last night as we were driving to a family birthday party.  I thought, Okay.  I still have 1/4 tank, right?  I can read (enormous) gauges right in front of me.  Shouldn’t that pan out to at least 10-15 more miles?

Then this morning, the light came on again.  This time, just a picture of a gas pump.  Ruh-roh.  I got it.  You need gas, like, now.  I dropped Ruby off at school and drove up to the gas station.  I practically filled it on $20.  That’s a 6-gallon tank for you.  Reminded me of my old VW bug.

Meanwhile, I called the body shop this afternoon to check on my car repairs.

“Hi, I was calling about the status of my car?”

He knew who I was right away.  Is that a good thing?

“Oh right, the Vue.  I’m still working on it.”

Obviously.  Or was I that obnoxious that he knew my voice?

“I ordered a part from Saturn.  I need a flare so I can get this back panel straightened out.  I can’t go any further.  The auto parts guys said I should have it in the morning.  They’re pretty reliable.  So…maybe…Thursday?”

Thursday is generally the worst day of the workweek for us to accomplish errands, other than Wednesdays.  Our insurance company insists we *must* return the rental the same day our car is finished.  They will not pay for any extra days of slacking.

“Uh, okay.”  I tried to sound upbeat.  What else could I do?

“I’m really sorry,” the fixer said.  He sounded chagrined.

Then I felt bad.

“No, it’s not your fault.  I know you’re doing the best you can.  I’m sure it’ll be great.  We have a rental, so we’re all set.  You do what you need to do.”

He suggested I call back tomorrow and check on the status of the part.  Do I sound like I need to micromanage?  Cause I truly don’t.  This is one area where I know nothing.  I’m perfectly content to let others do the disassembling  and reassembling of damaged vehicles.

I had an old boss who tried to manage my every move.

“Susan, did you call about that package?” He paced back and forth in front of my desk, a picture of anxiety.

“Yes, Bob.  It hasn’t gone out yet.”  I smiled, trying to be kind.  In the interest of posterity, I most likely did grit my teeth.

“Well…when it gets here, you get it to me right away, okay?  It’s important.”

“I will.”

We had a conference call on it and everything, including instructions to at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to receive it properly.

Said package never arrived. I went on to a mandatory morning  meeting and other duties.

In fact, said package went to the wrong address entirely and somehow got blamed on me, despite giving out perfectly correct instructions on our address, etc.  The package held bid documents for a possible new project with Bonneville Dam.  We never bid on it.  Turned out to be a good thing, as we hadn’t the manpower or space to house it anyway.  Caught a little bit of heck in the crossfire.

Folks, micromanaging doesn’t work.  It only frustrates those who try to assist you and makes you a little bit crazier.

Never try to teach a pig to sing;  it wastes your time and annoys the pig.  – Mark Twain

Follow instructions.  Fill the gas tank if you need to. Do your part of the process. But don’t hover. Let the little piggie be. It’s okay to allow others shine to in their areas of expertise.  Pay them well.  Compliment and encourage them.  They deserve it.  They have a skill or ability you don’t, and it’s useful in this world.



First Fly


I saw my first fly trapped in the house today.  I’m sure it won’t be the last.  However, I believe it merits a verse of its own.

First fly of the year
Spirals, swoops and dives.  From here
You look like freedom.

I read about cities of refuge in the book of Joshua today.  I know the haiku seems unrelated, but stay with me.

Joshua 20 outlines the parameters for cities of refuge.  If you’ve read this book before, you know Joshua set up cities of refuge for people to flee to when they accidentally murdered someone.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Now tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed Moses. Anyone who kills another person accidentally and unintentionally can run to one of these cities; they will be places of refuge from relatives seeking revenge for the person who was killed.

“Upon reaching one of these cities, the one who caused the death will appear before the elders at the city gate and present his case. They must allow him to enter the city and give him a place to live among them. If the relatives of the victim come to avenge the killing, the leaders must not release the slayer to them, for he killed the other person unintentionally and without previous hostility. But the slayer must stay in that city and be tried by the local assembly, which will render a judgment. And he must continue to live in that city until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the accident. After that, he is free to return to his own home in the town from which he fled.” – Joshua 20:1-6

I always liked this idea.  But accidental killing, I must admit, is a foreign concept to me.  But it wouldn’t be to the Israelites.  They killed and grew their own food.  They worked with sharp objects on a regular basis.  They used slingshots and bows and arrows.  We don’t.  Well, *I* don’t.  I get my meat at the supermarket.  Or a from a guy in a van.  Whatever.

So you accidentally decapitate your neighbor.  You know your neighbor has 3 brothers who will be after you in a heartbeat, seeking retribution. You must away.  Now.  (Insert Christopher Cross song here). You have three choices on each side of the Jordan, three on the east bank and three on the west bank. You present your case upon your arrival to the new city.  No hiding out, no fugitive status here .  You will be tried there. No matter if you come up guilty, you have protection.  Essentially, you’re under town arrest.  You can’t leave.  You’re like the fly in my poem.  You can fly only so high and so far until you hit a wall…or a window.  Once the high priest who was in office at the time dies, you can return to your home town.  The high priest’s death, in effect, exonerates you.

I like this because everything is out in the open.  I don’t suppose the folks who lived in those towns appreciated the idea of possible man-slaughterers living among them.  “Not in my backyard!” comes to mind.  But the mercy of God shows up here. I’m hoping the people in each of these towns learned to have some, too.  I’m afraid I have no pity for our fly.

I think about our high priest, Jesus.  He died to cover our sins.  His death frees us from living under the arrest of our own sin-tax.  The wages of sin is death.  Now we can live free forever.  And we can tell the world about this.

But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. – Hebrews 10:12