Category Archives: Country Ripples

Reflective, inspirational thoughts.

Unrealistic Expectations=Burdens I’m Not Supposed to Bear

Last summer I realized Abby, the Companion Cat for our household, was declining in health. I took her to the vet’s at least a couple different times, and did what I could. After awhile I thought, “This is a fight I can’t win”.

As I look back on that time I wonder why I ever got on that train of thought. First of all, it made the situation too dramatic. Secondly, it put too much pressure on me. It wasn’t a “fight”—and as far as “winning”—did I actually think if Abby pulled through, she would never die? That’s ridiculous. Animals live, but eventually they die. We’ve had several cats, and a few dogs, and over the years, they all died.

I suppose the reason I got onto that train was my anxiety over my mother’s health. After years of enjoying good health, my mother encountered various problems. My anxiety over that revved up considerably and influenced my thought processes concerning Abby.

Abby died and my mother is having on-again, off-again health problems. Most days she does well, but other days, not so well. I started to board that thought train again, but remembered words the Lord gave me a couple years ago during another time of anxiety revolving around her care, “Her times are in My hands”.

Reflecting on this takes the pressure off me. Yes, I am responsible for helping my mother and showing her love. No, I am not expected to “win” any “fight”. There is no “fight” to “win”. There is just living with her and treating her as Jesus would were He here physically. The Lord is ultimately in control—of her times and mine.

A few Scriptures to consider: Ps. 104: 29, 30; Ps. 31:15; Ps. 139:15,16

©P. Booher

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The Human Cost of Drawing Conclusions from Watching the News

During the Vietnam War, the evening tv news played a huge part in how people thought about the war and the soldiers fighting in the war. Coverage of atrocities such as the My Lai Massacre affected the way veterans were treated when they came home. Many were spat upon, and called names. Most veterans did not participate in such horrible events, but they were treated as though they did.

A few years ago, a man who had served in the war came through my register line. He had a “Vietnam War Veteran” hat on. I thanked him for his service. He told me when he came home from the war, people didn’t thank him for his service. Instead, they asked him how many babies he killed, how many women he killed, how many children he killed. The pain he still carried inside was evident in his voice when he said, “I didn’t kill any babies. I didn’t kill anybody. But that’s all people asked about.”

To me, this man’s heart-felt pain illustrates the danger we fall into when we stereotype people from watching the news media. We see events on the news in which a certain group of people are prominently featured, and we stamp everyone who belongs to that group—political parties, practitioners of faith beliefs, or whoever—as having the same beliefs, thoughts, and actions as the people in the news. But each person is an individual, and while a person may share most of the beliefs of the particular group, that doesn’t mean the person is in total agreement.

Consider this: when we open our mouths but have closed minds behind them, our words can hurt deeply, as my conversation with the veteran showed. Our words not only hurt the receiver, they hurt us, because we give up the chance to learn something or to extend grace, if not understanding.

Scriptures to consider: James 1:19, 20, Ephesians 4:29

©P. Booher

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Don’t Judge Me; I Won’t Judge You

Please don’t judge me. You don’t know my background, my particular inner battles. You don’t know what support I’ve had, whether little or much. You don’t know as much about me as you think you do.

For that matter, I don’t know as much about you as I think I do. I really don’t know much at all. I know maybe a tenth about you—and that’s what’s on the surface.

We are all different; we all have our own inner struggles. We keep some things private, even from loved ones. There are some things that still hurt too much or are too embarrassing to share with someone else, unless it’s with the dog or cat.

There is much we assume about each other, but we do so without knowing the accuracy of our assumptions. We jump to conclusions and find there’s no net underneath!

So, please don’t judge me; I won’t judge you. Simply come alongside me and walk with me for a little while.

©P. Booher

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What Didn’t Happen–A Different Kind of Blessing

I usually think of blessings as the kind I can see—the kind that happened. Recently I experienced the kind of blessings which are in the “what could have happened, but didn’t” category. This was during a stretch of time in which my mother went to the emergency room twice in a week, and my car went to the garage.

One day while driving up a long hill, the car started to jerk underneath. I thought, Is that the transmission or the gas feed? The only way it didn’t jerk was if I really gave it the gas or if it shifted. I didn’t drive it often until I could get the vehicle looked at, but one time I did drive it was to take my mother to the ER—then drive it home at night when the hospital kept my mother for observation, a round trip of about thirty miles, which included many hills. After taking it to a mechanic, I found out the car needed the transmission flushed.

The blessings contained in my “car drama” include:

  1. the car didn’t break down on the road (very important, especially when taking my mother of advanced age to the hospital, and when driving at night)
  2. no prolonged damage to the transmission
  3. no damage to the engine (what affects the transmission can easily affect the engine)
  4. people—a neighbor and then a relative—who when needed, were willing to help me out by taking me to the hospital to pick my mother up and by taking me to the service shop to pick up the car
  5. at first, the service shop couldn’t get the transmission lines to hold the fluid. Believe it or not, I emailed friends and requested prayer for that specific situation. Later on, believe it or not, the shop called and said the pressure was holding; the car was ready for pick up. I choose to believe prayer made the difference—why else would the situation change??

Other blessings were that my mother did not have any strokes. Instead, she had what is called “vasovagal episodes”, which were scary enough to me, but were not strokes. Another blessing is the caring and thoughtfulness shown by the nurses and staff at the hospital to both my mother and me. A visiting nurse came the other day and gave me tips on how to help my mother. She told me that if my mother has another episode like that, I can call any time and a visiting nurse will come, check my mother, do blood work, take it to the lab, and contact my mother’s doctor. We wouldn’t have to go to the ER. Finally, while sitting at home waiting for the call to pick up my car, I started counting the number of family and friends who would be willing to help me out with a ride. The number was higher than I thought; I have more support than first realized.  When I told that to my pastor’s wife, she remarked that was evidence God was standing by me in my troubles. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

While I didn’t want these troubles to happen, I found out when they do, blessings show up right there in the midst of them. It isn’t all bad news. That’s important for me to remember.

©P. Booher

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God Can Use Anything He Chooses

Years ago I attended a church whose minister didn’t think people should read novels and short stories because they weren’t true. Since I loved reading short stories and novels, I was surprised; I saw nothing wrong with them!

While there are particular genres of novels I’m not interested in reading, I don’t see anything wrong in reading fictional pieces. I believe God can use fiction to reveal truth. For me, it’s often easier to accept a truth when it’s presented in fiction; I discover it for myself. I experienced this afresh not long ago after I finished reading a mystery.

One of the characters in the mystery, a model wanting to get rid of competition, reaped what she sowed. She made lipstick and poisoned a tube, intending it to be used by another model. Instead, in an ironic twist, the makeup artist inadvertently used the poisoned tube on her, and she collapsed and died on the runway.

After I finished the book I realized that particular part of the plot illustrated verses in the Bible which speak of wicked people falling on their swords. “The wicked draw the sword…to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts,…” Psalm 37:14, 15 (NIV) Since the novel was not sold as a Christian novel, I’m guessing (although I have no way of knowing for sure) the author didn’t realize the Biblical lesson underlying it, but it was there.

Yes, the novel was the result of the author’s imagination, and was not true. It didn’t happen in real life. But it did reveal a portion of God’s truth. The people who plot to do harm to others end up paying for it, one way or another.

To me this shows God can use anything He wants to, whether it is “Christian” or not, to broadcast truth He wants people to know. He is not limited by labels.

©P. Booher

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Friday “Walks”–Everybody Is A Somebody to God

Photo Credit: P. Booher

The world loves “somebodies”. People aspire to be “somebody”. Somebodies have money, good looks, power, influence. Somebodies are looked up to, sought after, recognized. If you are a somebody, you’re important. You are worth knowing. If you are not a somebody–well, you’re not important. So says the world.

Guess Who says differently? God does, that’s Who. 

The world and God look at things in two different ways. One arena where this is evident is in the importance of the individual. The world thinks individuals are important if they have money, if they perform well and have a lot of achievements. If they have good looks, so much the better. God thinks individuals are important because He loves them. They are made in His image.

God loves not just the strong, the healthy, the athletic, the president of a company. God loves the 40-year-old woman or man with the mind of an 18-month-old who requires 24/7 care. God loves the baby aborted. God loves the once productive person who is now in the tangled web of drug addiction. God loves the elderly woman or man who can’t hear well, can’t get the right words out, and whose days of being productive on a job are only memories. God loves the woman or man putting in long hours on a production line, serving food in a restaurant, or stocking shelves in a store. The person works hard, but still struggles to make ends meet.

I am thankful a person doesn’t have to do anything to be important and valuable in God’s eyes. The things which make a person important in the world’s eyes can change quickly. Those things—money, performance, achievements, and looks—are only temporary, anyway. But what makes a person important to God will never change.

Consider some Scriptures: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:7, 21, Psalm 139:13-18, Matthew 3:17 (Note: God said this about Jesus before Jesus began His ministry.)

©P. Booher

 

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God, Chronic Pain, and Me

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) (This verse restates the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 31:6)

Several years ago a physical therapist, following an examination, told me I could have spinal stenosis. About three years ago my left knee complained loudly, and after a couple doctor’s visits I was diagnosed with poly-arthritis in multiple sites. Depression jumped on the bandwagon, as I wrote about here.

When I first read the above Scripture, it sounded like marriage vows. The difference is that although a husband or wife may leave the spouse, God says He will never leave. While I’ve never been married, the above verse gives me comfort in my struggles with chronic pain. I am limited in what pain-killers I can use. When my back starts hurting, or my knee or my wrist start complaining, it’s not long before I get grumpy, irritable, anxious, and depressed. When you throw in that some days my pain is all I can think of, and other days I hardly notice it, and I can’t predict when days will be good or not good—well, that would put stress on any marriage. But God stands by me, nevertheless. I may not be as sensitive to His Presence as I should be, but all I have to do is read the above verse to realize He isn’t going anywhere. He is not going to leave me, even if I am so grumpy I could bite my own head off, let alone anyone else’s! 🙂

It may be that part of God’s faithfulness is realizing blessings hidden in chronic pain. “Blessings???” you say. “How can there be blessings in something so painful, so unpredictable?” Consider these:

  1. Chronic pain forces me to look at Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for me as the source of my feelings of self-worth. I sure can’t get it from the amount of work I get done, because there are days when I can’t do much!
  2. I am gaining empathy for other people, who are in pain, depressed, or anxious. I know what it’s like, and it’s hard.
  3. It forces me to be glad for the small amount I can get done—if my right wrist is bothering me (I’m right-handed), instead of a complete letter to a friend, maybe I get three paragraphs written. Instead of an hour or two on the computer, maybe I can get fifteen or twenty minutes in.
  4. This goes along with #1 and #3: it’s an effective way of wearing down perfectionism: I’m hurting too much physically to beat myself up emotionally or mentally.

So, yes, there are blessings even in something so unwanted as chronic pain. I think the greatest blessing of all is simply knowing God’s faithfulness in the middle of it all.

Another Scripture to consider is: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35, 37, 38

©P. Booher

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The Good and the Bad of Judgment

The word “judgment” often carries negative connotations, but being judged can be useful.

Consider a writer sitting in a critique group. The writer gives a piece to the members. Suppose the writer hears a comment such as, “Your main character is too bland for readers to care about. He needs to take a stand or risk something.” The member who made that comment is making a judgment, giving criticism with an eye to improvement. The writer may not like that comment, but wants the piece to be as good as possible before submitting it for possible publication, so the judgment is helpful.

Now think of someone who hears from a person who is an authority figure—whether parent, teacher, or boss—”You’re lazy. You’ll never get anywhere in this world.” Judgment is wielded in this instance as a put-down. No guidance is given for improvement. This example doesn’t even provide motivation for improvement. This is judgment gone bad. I would go so far as to say it’s cruel.

What’s the difference between the two? To me, it’s the motive behind the words. In the first example, the motive is a desire to help another see what can be improved. In the second, the motive is to make the authority figure feel better at the expense of the person being judged.

All this makes me wonder: what kind of judgments do I give? Are they helpful—the kind I want to receive? Or are they cruel—the kind that would make me cringe if I was on the receiving end?

©P. Booher

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Friday “Walks”–In All Things, Give Thanks

Photo Credit: P. Booher

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

I believe when I do this, there is a benefit on the other side—perhaps material, but for sure spiritual. I am obeying God, and obedience always brings blessing.

If I can give thanks to God in the circumstance, it hasn’t overpowered me, and it won’t, because I am giving it to God. God has the answer figured out; I just need to trust Him for it.

©P. Booher

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A Victory Over Perfectionism

Since childhood I’ve had a perfectionistic mindset. I regret the day I picked that up. It provokes much needless anxiety.

But one day last summer I came across a technique to use against my enemy. Oddly enough it occurred when arthritis flared up during a humid, rainy spell, and I didn’t feel strong enough to fight against anything, let alone a dug-in mindset. My right hand and left knee complained loudly. A couple other body parts, in sympathy, felt tender/achy too. This, plus other concerns, upped my stress levels.

In search of something to take my mind off my achiness, I fell back on the childhood activity of coloring. The day before I’d bought an 8-pack of jumbo crayons, which are easier to handle when arthritis bothers my fingers. I took the crayons and a coloring book of nature scenes, put a bag of ice on my cranky knee, and settled back on the couch. I prayed to God about my anxiety and started coloring.

I discovered not only was I losing the stress but I was also gaining over perfectionism. In prior times, perfectionism would have demanded I use the “proper” colors, color within the lines, and generally destroyed my peace of mind. What was different that day last summer? I was able to keep my main objective in mind. What was that? To reduce stress and get my mind off my sore knee. As long as I did that, I was happy. I accomplished my objective and perfectionism took a back seat and shut up.

©P. Booher

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