Category Archives: Lifestyle

‘Doodling along’ much like literary stream of conscience

I like color and design.  I am not particularly good at it, but I like it.  There is something pleasing about seeing a design come together and then adding in the color.

Growing up, I used to draw these random patterns and then color them. And for some reason I really liked colored pencils rather than crayons or markers.  (Of course markers came later in life.)

Oddly, now I find doodling with words as you may have guessed with the blog’s title of ‘Susandoodles.’  Using words can sometimes be challenging as the idea just escapes capture.  One can sit down with a pencil and doodle until something develops, but words do not always do that.

Maybe that is one of the reasons I used stream of conscience writing exercises in my classroom.  I would have students just start writing whatever came into their mind and I would time them.  They earned points based on how many words or lines they could fill in the time allowed.

So today, I am word doodling.  My last two weeks have been overflowing with new ideas, continued Bible study, presentations and training.  

I have covered Song of Solomon, finished the gospel of John, and now starting I and II Samuel and Ephesians.  

And I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation by Sue Nilson Kibby on her specialty, breakthrough prayer.  Inspiring.

The truth is that I feel like I am filled to the brim and overflowing with ideas about how God is alive in our lives each and every day, every hour, every moment.  We literally doodle our thoughts into a prayer life with God and we may not even consciously realize how close he is.

The one hiccup in my conscious awareness of God’s presence in my life is hearing God speaking to me.

Really the hiccup is that I get so busy with my earthly life that I do not allow quiet time to listen to God.  Why can’t I accept what I hear as God really talking to me?

I suspect the problem is trusting what I hear.  Even though prayer can become a 24-hour, 7-days a week process, we forget that God is listening at all times.  He knows our thoughts.

Does that mean that when we have bad thoughts, mean thoughts, or angry thoughts that those are prayers that God hears, too?  Hmmm.  

And that is what happens when my word doodling or stream of conscious style of writing takes me to a conundrum.  Prayer is conversing with God.  And I must now take all that I read, study and learn; and work consciously to develop my prayer life to be more effective.

See, word doodling/stream of consciousness sometimes is necessary to sort out what all is flooding the brain.  The next few weeks I have much to do.  We are beginning a new small group ministry, First Conversations, at church, I have my personal Bible study to complete, and more.

Prayer is essential, and I invite you to join me as I journey through the various readings and conversations as I work to improve my own prayer practices.

Please join me in prayer:

Lord, guide me with my words.

Lord, may my words be your words.

Lord, let others hear you through the words I doodle.

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Jumbled thoughts . . .

I finished reading C. S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity.  Maybe that is why I am struggling with jumbled thoughts.  I know it was a good thing to have read the book, but I am simply can’t seem to find the words to speak about it.

Of course, I am continuing to read the Bible through that year-long plan that incorporates an Old Testament reading with a New Testament reading. And that plan has me reading Ezekiel and John, the gospel of John.  And all adds up to jumbled thoughts.

Therefore, I am going to just share some of these thoughts in a “stream of consciousness” format.  I know it is not the wisest way to communicate ideas, but today it makes sense to me.

Yesterday, I visited with a nurse at a long-term facility and was moved by her testimony.  How easy was it for her to share her passion for Christ, and how it affected her daily life. 

As she shared some of her evidence of God’s work in God’s time, I found myself lifted up.  There are times I worry that I cannot be effective in the lives of those I love using prayer and modeling, but she shared her understanding:

“The Lord strips away everything from those who just cannot believe or live in a Christ-like manner in order for them to learn how to trust God.”

Wow!  As much as I read, study and observe, I never considered that stripping away everything from someone may indeed by God’s way of getting their attention and then to build up the relationship with them, bringing them back to God.

I shared with her that I had read Mere Christianity  and The Chronicles of Narnia.  She had not, but she knew of a school that was established based on these books.  Amazing. I have thought so much how using these books to teach young people about faith, and here I learned was a private school based on them.

C.S. Lewis has left us so many words to read and to dwell upon. The book Mere Christianityis a publication based on radio broadcasts during World War II in England.  Consider the setting to which he refers to in the book: the proximity of battling Hitler, answering the call to serve in combat leading to a likelihood of death, and the threat, imminent threat, to one’s own home or property.

Lewis said he did not believe, but then came to believe.  He speaks to others who do not believe in hopes of explaining some of the truths.  He talks to those who see life in concrete terms, through scientific lenses, and the cold reality of war.  And the result is a common sense argument for life with God/Christ at the center.

A few weeks ago, I shared that I feel I have failed to ‘teach’ my own children how to live a Christ-centered life in a direct, honest, and disciplined manner.  I also have not done my best to testify about my faith to others that I meet along the way. 

This week, I did share my testimony; but only because the listener shared hers.  

This week, I continue to follow the discipline of study scripture.

This week, I week I pray that I am modeling the very commandment that guides my daily life in a way that speaks volumes:

Love one another as you want to be loved.

Or in a slightly different way, using Jesus’s words in the gospel of John:

Love one another as I have loved you.

Think about those two different ways of saying the same commandment. My jumbled thoughts are just the way our lives are.  We live jumbled lives, but if we keep Christ at the center and remain faithful, we always seem to end up unjumbled.

Please join in prayer:  

Father God,

The days are filled with jumbled thoughts,

     with jumbled calendars,

     with jumbled relationships.

We turn to you for the words we need

      to unjumble our lives.

The ideas that are shared between one another,

     from the books we read, and

     from the scripture you provide;

Serve as guidance for us in doing all that we can

     to love one another

     as you loved us.  

In the name of you, the Father, the Son,

     and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

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Time to study and for life, too

Making the commitment to read the entire Bible in the year was a goal I had long put off doing.  I have read and studied the Bible, but to follow a specific published reading plan and stick to it!

Well, here fall is upon us and I am still on schedule.  I am nearing the end of my third journal, and I cannot remember how many pencils I have used up (prefer mechanical so really, that means leads).  

Each day, I am reminded how much I do not know.  I also discover that the particular plan that I am using is answering questions that have plagued me for years.  

And as you may remember from previous blogs, that I have been reading additional books, including C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Right now, I am also reading another Lewis book, Mere Christianity.  And I assure you that all this is intersecting and confirming what I know about God and faith—and life as a Christian today.

Today’s world complicates our lives by the pressure to be ‘successful’ and that is based on an American culture that measures success by consumerism. What car does one drive?  How upscale is the house?  How big is the wardrobe?  How high up the corporate ladder has one risen?  And I could go on.

That brings me back to the title:  Time to study and for life?  What do I mean?  In our world today, we have shifted our priorities based on the hours in the day, the days in the week, and weeks in the month.  Not to mention that we race from one commercial season to the next—forget the seasonal shifts or the Christian seasons that even served as a base for what has become commercial, i.e. Halloween, Christmas, Easter.

My decision to invest in the Bible reading plan meant I had to make time to study.  My approach has been to use the Wesley Study Bible that includes study notes, introductions to each book, Wesleyan Life Application Topics, and Wesleyan Core Terms. And that means reading the scripture is more a research project, and the time I use is almost 1-1.5 hours each day.

This challenges the time for daily life.  I do not believe I could have made this time investment without life forces changing my daily schedule.  When I was teaching, the time schedule had to focus on the job expectations. Add to that the time to manage a family, the household chores, and so much more.  

Our culture, which originated on the premise that religious freedom is a human right, has evolved into a culture that seems to do everything it can to shove one’s faith life out of the first priority position.  

We do not even make it a priority to teach, model how to maintain our faith practices within our own families.  At least I feel like I failed that too.

Instead, I went to school, I took jobs, I raised a family, and I continued to be a Methodist.  I used time for life first, then read a devotional with what little time was leftover.

Today, I have altered my time priorities.  I get up early and study before I worry about starting the day.  I look ahead at the calendar and if something in real life demands a shift in my study plan, I develop a plan to accommodate the study time I need.  Do I ever wish I had adjusted my time priorities years ago!

My point is that the more I study, the more I see life through Christ’s eyes.  I am convinced that living in today’s world is greatly improved when I look at it through Christ’s eyes and then determine what I can do through John Wesley’s filter of doing all that I can for all that I can in any way that I can for as long as I can. 

And how I wish I could have impressed that concept to my family and on to my students, but I suppose modeling the Christian life is what I must do now.  My real-life time is more focused on God, now; but my real life continues to evolve.  Hopefully my real-time life reflects my passion for God and his Son Jesus Christ and how it effects my daily life.

Please join me in prayer:

Dear God,

Please accept my apology for taking so long

     to value Bible study time.  

Continue to fill me with understanding 

     as I read and study your words.

Guide me in using your words to share

Bible study

     the wonder of a Christ-filled life.  Amen

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Praying the Psalms VII + final: Throughout it all, praise the Lord

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and what echoes in my ears:

     This is the day that the Lord has made;
         let us rejoice and be glad in it. (NRSV)

These words come from Psalm 118:24 and have been part of my life as long as I can remember, whether it was from my mom’s mouth or from a pastor’s, these words seem to express the joy I feel for the world which surrounds me.

As I finished reading and studying the Psalms this past week, I found that my thoughts and my mood just seemed to soar as I read through the final ones.  I cannot imagine ending these weeks of study and not want to express myself in a joyful manner.

Turns out according to the Wesley Study Bible, the final (of five) books in Psalms are filled with psalms of praise.  That piece of information made me stop to think. So much of the Old Testament seems filled with despair, and yet in the hymnal of the ancient Israelites, the emphasis is on praising God.

Placing this into the 21stcentury world, I think we need to remember this too.  Despite everything that circulates in the media and all the horrendous news that seems to open each newscast (and just an aside, my first degree is in journalism, BJ’76 from MU) so I tend to be a “newsaholic.”  Still, I delight on the day the Lord has made.For me, praying the psalms includes always praising God for some element of the day whether it is a personal relationship that brings me joy, whether it is the love from my pets, whether it is a warm embrace, or something 

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Praying the Psalms VI: Remember those camp songs?

Growing up I was in 4-H and UMYF.  In both of these groups, we learned camp songs.  Interestingly these songs were basically the same.  

You may remember them:  

  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,
  • Tell Me Why
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Kookaburra
  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
  • Kumbaya

And I know there are so many more.

We sang these when we were in fellowship with others.  They were feel good songs, and we sang them loudly.  We did not care if we were in tune or not. We just joined together without any reserve.

The psalms I assigned for the past several days were ““Songs of Ascent”” and some of them were very short, only a few lines long.  These songs were sung by the pilgrims, the faithful while they journeyed to the temple up Mount Zion.

The “Songs of Ascent” are Psalms 120-134.  The songs are full of praise, and many share a sense of unity in the deliverance from enemies and hardships.  

But as I read them I can certainly ‘hear’ the people joining in singing robustly as they make the trip together just like a group of youngster sitting around a campfire.

The two images of groups singing popular songs once again points out that the words in the Bible are just as timely today as they were in ancient times.  We are no different.  We need to join together in praise and worship.  We need God in our lives just as much now as ever.

My argument, then, is to read the “Songs of Ascent” and consider how the same gongs apply to our lives today.  For me, I found these psalms uplifting and all too often we forget that our prayers can be thankful and joyful.  Prayers do not always have to be repentance and supplication.

As I look back over these psalms that I have just completed studying, I can identify some of the key verses that speak to me.  Praying the psalms includes sharing these words:

  • Ps. 120: Deliver me, O Lord,

                                    from lying lips,

                                    from deceitful tongue.  . . . 

                            I am for peace;

                                    but when I speak,

                                    they are for war.

  • Ps. 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills—

                                    From where will my help come?

                            My help comes from the Lord,

                                    who made heaven and earth.  . . . 

                            The Lord will keep

                                    your going out and your coming in

                                    from this time on and forevermore.

  • Ps.122: For the sake of my relatives and friends

                                    I will say, “Peace be within you.”

  • Ps. 123: Our help is in the name of the Lord,

                                    Who made heaven and earth.

  • Ps. 130: But there is forgiveness with you,

                                    So that you may be revered.

                             I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

                                    And in his word I hope  . . .

                             . . . hope in the Lord!

                                    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

                                    and with him is great power to redeem.

  • Ps. 131: . . . hope in the Lord  . . .
  • Ps. 133: How very good and pleasant it is

                                    When kindred live together in unity!

In closing the “Songs of Ascent” discussion, there are two thoughts. One is that Psalm 132 seems more prophetic as it includes the prophecy that God promised that a king or anointed one will lead the Jewish, i.e. faithful people.  This is a prophecy of Jesus Christ.  I find the words interesting in relation to the story we now know and is shared in the New Testament, but it does not read like the other “Songs of Ascent.”

To close the discussion there is one more thought.  The excepts shared in this posting can be separate prayers, but they can also be inspirational statements.  One final psalm is Psalm 134, and as short as it is, it can be used as a prayer of benediction.  Please join me:

Ps. 134:  Praise in the Night

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

    Who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place

    And bless the Lord.

May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,

    Bless you from Zion.

And as you move through the coming days, let your heart be filled with gladness and may the camp songs of your memory fill you with joy.

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Praying the Psalms V: Pleas and Praise apply today

Life just keeps us hopping, doesn’t it?  Even though we can establish a daily routine and settle into a comfortable pace, surprises develop.

Certainly the wreck, now over four weeks ago, was a surprise and life suddenly forced a change to daily routines.  But, the days keep moving forward and new routines are established.

In the midst of all the doctor’s visits, nature handed a little more excitement.  We had a major windstorm in our community that caused major tree damage. Our own huge silver maple last some branches, but no significant damage.

Just as the cleanup continues around town, another surprise storm blew through yesterday, too. Fortunately the damage was minimal compared to a week ago.  Still, all these storms do create a sense of unrest in our lives.

How does this fit in with “praying the psalms”?

I trust that I am not stretching an idea too much, but I really am discovering just how much the ancient psalms still fit into our 21stcentury lives.

Regardless of the calendar year, life happens.  As I studied literature during my college years, I had one idea drilled into me: great literature is timeless.  

The Bible is literature and it is timeless.

I know that some may be offended or take issue that I boil down the holy words, the holy scripture, the sacred writings into one term, literature, but . . . the words still make sense today, in our global, 21stcentury, technology filled, science-explained world.

So I return to the psalms. There are 150 psalms and we all know there are more than 150 days in our lives, so reading through them does take time. 

But by reading them and studying them in context, by the audience, and through the additional filter of continuing history, the pleas and the praise sung by these words continue to meet the needs of all humans today.

Sitting and reviewing my notes, I can find so many excerpts from the psalms that I have read these past few weeks (and still have almost 50 to go) that make so much sense for my daily prayers.  I find it difficult to open the Bible and determine which fits today.  

Today, though, the morning is fresh, the rainclouds are gone, the coolness of an early fall, and the sounds of kids waiting for the school bus grace my senses.  Today, no pleas just praise.  

Psalms 100has long been a familiar litany for me, and today I abbreviate it:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

     Worship the Lord with gladness;

     come into his presence with singing.  . . .

For the Lord is good;

     His steadfast love endures forever,

     and his faithfulness to all generations.  –Amen.

May these words lift your hearts and bring you joy.  And in the words of Psalm 121, a benediction is found at its conclusion:

The Lord will keep

     your going out and your coming in

     from this time on and forevermore.

Thank you for all the prayers and the support you provide my husband and myself, but also for all the others for whom you pray.

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Praying the psalms III: . . . no such thing as a coincidence

Mom said, “There is no such thing as a coincidence, it is a Godincidence.”

Sadly today, I do not remember the exact circumstance when my mom told me this, but these words have echoed in my mind time and time again. These words have guided me in times that others would just toss off as a coincidence.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page (pardon the cliché), look at the definition of coincidence:

From Dictionary.com:  a striking occurrence of two or more events at 

one time apparently by mere chance

From Merriam-Wesbster.com:

the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection

From Google search engine:

the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection

From urbandictionary.com

1.  Noteworthy event of having the exact change during small cash transactions.

2.  A compartmentalized serendipity formed by an underlying synchronicity

3.  Something that arises from two or more original ideas being related

I apologize.  I am fascinated by the variety of options available when googling a term or topic on line.  The Urban Dictionary, of course, popped up something surprising in the first definition, but the other two add different perceptions to the word coincidencethat may flavor this particular essay.

Here is what happened this week that has lead to this consideration of Godincidenceversus coincidence.  On the way to have my husband’s MRI after a serious dump truck accident, I grabbed a book to read:  Debbie Macomber’s If Not for You.

I first read one of Macomber’s books a few weeks ago and enjoyed it.  I knew she was known for knitting and writing, what I thought were romance novels, but then I discovered this year that she is a contributor for Guidepostswhich is my nightly quick devotional I have used for years.

I decided to give her a read and see if it offered me light, enjoyable, recreational reading.  Soon I was binge reading the book.  I could not stop reading it and I felt refreshed when it was finished.

Therefore, sitting and waiting, I opened up the second book.  In no time, I was hooked.  But more than that, I was hearing Mom’s words in my head—there is no such thing as a coincidence, it is a Godincidence.

Reading the prologue, something I learned while attending the Course of Study, I discovered that the book’s premise or setting begins almost immediately with a terrible accident.

Interesting.  Here I was sitting and waiting for a diagnostic procedure due to an accident. Even more so, the accident was eerily similar—except the one we were dealing with was a truck not a car accident.

So I read on.  Almost immediately I was binge reading again, and then I hit Chapter 6.  While the main female character is in the hospital, she asks the male character to pick up her Bible and read her something from Psalms.

To make the story shorter, he had no idea even where Psalms was in the Bible, but she directed him with the age old directions, “Open the book to the middle and you should be in Psalms.”  (p. 63)

And so begins Sam’s introduction to the Bible.  He lands on Psalms 5 which I am inserting from BibleGateway.com from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message:

Psalm 5: A David psalm

1-3 Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
my groans and cries?
    King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
    you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
    I lay out the pieces of my life
    on your altar
    and watch for fire to descend.

4-6 You don’t socialize with Wicked,
    or invite Evil over as your houseguest.
Hot-Air-Boaster collapses in front of you;
    you shake your head over Mischief-Maker.
God destroys Lie-Speaker;
    Blood-Thirsty and Truth-Bender disgust you.

7-8 And here I am, your invited guest—
    it’s incredible!
I enter your house; here I am,
    prostrate in your inner sanctum,
Waiting for directions
    to get me safely through enemy lines.

9-10 Every word they speak is a land mine;
    their lungs breathe out poison gas.
Their throats are gaping graves,
    their tongues slick as mudslides.
Pile on the guilt, God!
    Let their so-called wisdom wreck them.
Kick them out! They’ve had their chance.

11-12 But you’ll welcome us with open arms
    when we run for cover to you.
Let the party last all night!
    Stand guard over our celebration.
You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers,
    for decking us out in delight.

                                                      —The Message

Beth, the main character, finds relief from her pain and falls asleep. Meanwhile, Sam starts exploring the Bible. 

Godincidence 1:  Psalm 5 had a descriptor which seemed to connect that particular psalm to the situation at hand:  Give heed to my words, O Lord, Consider my groaning.  Remember, she was in extreme pain.

How many times do we face a life challenge and have no idea where to turn? We may seek professional help as an accident forces us to do with the injuries that occur.  We may be struggling with a crisis at work and we look for specialists to help fix it.

Life is like that.  One challenge after another.  For those with a strong faith system, the tendency is to shrug our shoulders, attack the problem, and push through it.  We sometimes forget to include God through prayer.

“Praying the psalms” is again a technique that is often overlooked. Even Macomber included “praying the psalms” in her story and introduced Sam to the Bible while healing Beth lying in pain.

Godincidence 2:  Here my husband’s own confronted me groaning resulting from the accident and the book I picked spoke to me.  Was this not a message that I should be praying the psalms, too?

Life is filled with godincidencesand we often overlook them.  Is this not the Holy Spirit speaking to us?  

Please join in praying Psalm 5 with me (these are the NLT version of the first and last stanza)O Lord, hear me as I pray;
    pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
    for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.

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