Lead Me Beside Still Waters—Please!

I like to think that, though I am not necessarily athletic in a sporty kind of way, I am fit and coordinated enough to do physical activities. I say this knowing that I blew out my right knee by attempting to leap up on a 4-foot pillar, broke my arm by tripping over a water hose while roller skating and my Portland to Coast Walking team came in dead last (more than once!). So it seems I may not have a good sense of reality in this department.

My father lived to be three 3 weeks shy of his 99th birthday and my 93-year-old mother is physically going strong, so I come from good genes. Maybe if American Ninja Warrior had been around when I was younger I could have been a contender (and given Jesse Flex Labreck a run for the title of most buzzers hit by a woman). But I’m sure that idea makes those of you who know me roll your eyes a little.

I was in thin in the 1980’s when Jane Fonda made it big with her aerobics workout video empire. I had a closet full of colorful leotards and faithfully made it to the gym most days after work. That kept me in great shape. Then, a few years into it, my attendance started to drop off a bit. I slowly noticed my clothes getting tight. EEK! At that age though it was very easy to get back in shape with just a few visits with Jane or my local gym for a sweaty aerobics class. That cycle continued for a couple of decades. Then my fifties hit, and I couldn’t seem to lose the tight clothes feeling. So, I just bought a bigger size. And then another bigger size. And then another until I found myself eating cookies and crying while watching The Biggest Loser.

Last Saturday a friend and I (my Dear Dawn) took a 3-hour Kayak tour around Fidalgo Island (home of my beautiful Anacortes). I chuckle now thinking that it was a 3-hour tour just like the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. And for a while there Dawn and I thought we might end up being Ginger and Mary Ann (you can decide who was who). But our tour guide, Alex, seemed much better qualified than Gilligan and the Skipper.

I had taken the same tour several summers ago and did just fine so I wasn’t worried. But that tour was in the summer (and I was a few pounds lighter) and this tour was on a cold, windy October day. We were one of three sets of tandem kayaks led by a single kayak leader. We floated gracefully through the marina, but when we hit the channel leading over to Barrows Island the strong winds hit. It was at that moment I really regretted getting rid of my Jane Fonda videos, because being in better shape would have come in very handy.

The person in the back of a tandem sea kayak has the honor of steering. It is a contraption using your feet so I gave that job to Dawn (because she trips less than I do). She couldn’t see very well so I, ever so politely, would holler LEFT or RIGHT as needed. (I told her the PLEASE was implied.) We managed to keep up with the other boats, though in last place of course (in honor of my PTC team) and made it over to Barrows. The water between the two islands was much calmer and I thought the tough part was over. Surely the wind would be moving in our favor going the other direction (wrong). Rounding the tip of Barrows, the wind slammed in our faces again. It seemed much harder, but it may have been that I was just more tired.

I noticed we were going in the other direction as our tour group, so I hollered LEFT. LEFT!! LEFT!!!! Dawn informed me that the steering wasn’t working, and hollering LEFT wasn’t helping. So instead, I hollered ALEX! ALEX!!! ALEX!!! Then Dawn informed me there was no way she could hear me so hollering ALEX wasn’t helping either. I couldn’t stand the thought of heading the wrong direction only to have to retrace that area to get back to where we were supposed to be. Suddenly, as if angels from heaven, two nice looking young men kayaked up to us and saved the day. By the time Alex realized the two old broads on her tour needed rescuing, and made it over to us, our two handsome helpers had repaired the broken foot-steering-thingy and we were good to go. Alex announced the water was extremely rough (like we needed telling) and to just put our heads down and go. And go we did.

What was supposed to be a 3-hour tour took a tad bit longer, but we eventually made it back. The entire time three things kept running through my head. One, I hope Dawn doesn’t hate me for suggesting we Kayak in October. Two, if only I was a few pounds lighter. And three, Lord Jesus give me the strength I need to do this!!!!! He of course did because he always does. And plus, Dawn could never hate me. As for the few pounds, well I’m working on that.

As a Christian who has made it to sixty-one years old, I know to ask God for help. I also know He will help, but I need to take some proactive steps of faith. I used to think that just praying made things happen, and it is a vital first step. God wants that intimate communication and communion with Him. But it’s through the time spent with Him (prior to kayaking emergencies) that He’s able to remind us the steps to take when we need it. There are those times, after praying, that we sit back and watch God work. But there are also times when, through our praying, God shows us proactive steps to take.

So back to the gale force winds kayak trip. I kept saying, “Lord, help me” and I knew He would, but what was my role? I’m a musician so the paddling of the Kayak took on a rhythmic cadence. Every time the right side of the paddle went in the water I’d say, “God is good” and then breathe when the left side entered the water. The next time I said, “Jesus is Lord” and then breathe when the left side entered again. Then, “The Holy Spirit comforts and guides” followed by a breath. I just kept repeating that over and over as the rhythm of the paddling took on a meditative motion. Those three phrases just happen to be how I begin most of my prayer and Bible study times, so it was a natural transition into saving me from the embarrassment of being towed back to the marina.

Once we were home the weather report was issuing a small craft warning because of gale force winds. I gotta say I was a bit more impressed with myself and Dawn once we heard that. And Alex said we killed it. So, there’s that.

Psalm 23, that famous Psalm, was my reward at the end of that trip. My shepherd led me to still waters. We will often find ourselves in rough waters, sometimes by our doing and sometimes by no fault of our own. I guess being out on the rough Puget Sound waters in gale force winds in October was my own fault, but it is what I’ve learned when I’m by still waters that helped me get back to safety. I could have spent the struggle swearing and being mad and frustrated. Instead, I chose to proactively turn to God for help. Saying, Lord Jesus help me, was the first step. Then he showed me my next steps.

God doesn’t need our help to save us, but does desire us to learn and grow in difficult situations. If he just miraculously intervened each time we asked we’d be stuck in our childish ways. Our faith grows when we’re challenged. If we build our relationship with the Lord while we are by the still waters, then, when the rough seas come, the Holy Spirit will reveal His rescue plan. And our faith will be even stronger for the next rough patch.

I am so glad God is in control and that I’ve lived long enough to see it in action many, many times. I want to encourage you to endure through the end of your rough waters. If God had sent a lifeboat instead of those two handsome young men to help us, it would have robbed us of our victory in that ever so difficult paddle back to the marina. And if felt so good to have done just that.

…God is Good…Breathe…Jesus is Lord…Breathe…The Holy Spirit comforts and guides…Breathe…

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Would You Rather…

I enjoy posing “Would you Rather” questions to my students in order to get to know them better. Last November I was presented with a real life would you rather question. A couple of days after the election with claims of election fraud swirling, I received a Facebook message from a friend asking everyone to stand with President Trump. I simply responded “I voted for Biden.” She asked me why. I politely responded, “Because he was my choice for president.” Not wanting to get into a political discussion over FB messenger I hoped that would be it. She responded to me, thinking she was responding to another friend who said Trump was a horrible human being. Though I shouldn’t have been the recipient of that message, it did allow me to read her thought process. Her thought was this, though Trump may have “character flaws” she would rather have him run the country because at least he was doing a great job for us. She compared it to having a surgeon that may make you uncomfortable if you’re alone with him in an elevator, but if at least he’s a brilliant surgeon wouldn’t you rather he be the one performing your operation. I didn’t respond, but if I had it would have gone like this…

Say your son had a teacher in high school that EVERYONE knew was cheating on his wife, allowed athletes to skate by in his class, was inappropriate with his female students, kept his student class fees for himself, made fun of the special needs students in school, charged for good grades, and openly showed favoritism to some students while ignoring others. Though you thought he was a “horrible human being” your son admired him and wanted to emulate him thinking he was the best teacher ever. Would you be willing to overlook that teacher’s character flaws knowing your son looked up to him, just because he was doing a good job teaching your son academics?

One of my education professors in college overheard me say I could never be a doctor because I wouldn’t want to hold someone’s life in my hands. He stopped the pre-class discussion to remind us to never underestimate the power you have over your students’ lives. We not only speak into them academically, but socially and emotionally as well. Teachers and leaders are an example of how to treat people, how to succeed without running over others, how to play fair and share, how to get along and solve issues, how to be the best they can be, among so many other things. We influence them in ways we may never know. Think back to the teachers you had growing up. I’m sure you have memories both positive and negative.

So to my friend, no I wouldn’t want a surgeon who makes me feel creepy when I’m alone with him being the one operating on me. What if one of those “character flaws” distracts him during my surgery. Say he was out late drinking the night before and isn’t totally present while I’m under his knife. What if he is using shortcuts during the procedure, or worse yet, what if I don’t even need the surgery, but he’s performing it anyway so he can make more money.

I have to say I want both. I want a president that of course will have flaws, because we all do. Flaws make us human. But I want someone who acknowledges his flaws and works on them to become a better person. Not someone who thinks he is impervious to flaws and only notices them in others. I also want someone with enough knowledge of how our constitution works, how to get along with both sides of the aisle, and knows what makes America Great. Making America Great is not just knowing we have civil liberties and rights. That’s just what makes America. What makes America GREAT is having those rights and behaving responsibly with them; thinking of others as we make decisions on what we say or how we act and treat others.

Let’s all pray for a peaceful transition come January 20.

This blog was not set up to be political, but my last couple of posts have been. My apologies. I’ve debated with myself as to whether or not I should post this, but here it is. And I’m done now. Back to sharing my single life stuff 🙂

You can’t leave messages here, but feel free to comment on the Facebook post. Thank you!

Inappropriate Prop

And your point is?

In spite of my love for alliteration, this “inappropriate prop” photo of the leader of our country holding up God’s word is absolutely ridiculous and pathetic. And sad. And frustrating. That book is holy to me. Sacred. I read it everyday (most every). I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how I like the convenience of the Bible on my phone, but prefer having the actual book in my hands so I can write in it and highlight it. Then I can look back over passages I’ve read and be reminded of how those words saw me through difficult and even happy times.

So I would ask the man in the picture holding up this Book of Books, what scripture does he turn to when he needs wisdom? Guidance? Strength? What are some of his favorite passages he reads to begin his day? End his day? In which of God’s words to us in that Holy Book does he find Hope? What page does he turn to, to find the words of Jesus showing him how to live? How to treat people? What story does he read to learn empathy? Compassion? Understanding?

Here are some of the passages from this beloved book I turn to:

When I begin my day:

Psalm 5in the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you…let us who take refuge in You be glad…spread Your protection over us…

Matthew 6do not worry about your life…seek first His kingdom…do not worry about tomorrow…

When I’m scared:

Psalm 121…my help comes from the Lord…the Lord watches over you…He will watch over your coming and going…

Psalm 62…find rest, O my soul, in God alone…I will not be shaken…God is our refuge

Zephaniah…seek the Lord…wait for Him…He does not fail…He is mighty to save…He will quiet you with His love…

When life is hard:

John 16…He will guide you into all truth…in this world you will have trouble…but I have overcome the world…

Habbakkuk 3…though the olive crop fails…the fields produce no food…no sheep…no cattle…yet I will rejoice in the Lord…He enables me to go on the heights

When I need guidance in the face of injustice:

Micah 6:8…He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

II Chronicles 7:14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…turn from evil ways…I will forgive them and heal their land…

Proverbs 3…do not forget my teaching…let love and faithfulness never leave you…trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…acknowledge Him…do not be wise in your own eyes…fear the Lord…honor the Lord…

When I need my 92 year old mother to have a good night’s rest:

Psalm 86…guard my life for I am devoted to You…You are my God…listen to my cry for mercy…there is none like You…great is Your love toward me…You have helped me and comforted me…

Now I know I am sounding a wee bit arrogant, but (and I know when you say “but” it negates everything before it…BUT) if you’re going to hold up a Bible, God’s word, The Holy Scriptures, then you’d better at least be holding up your own Bible and not just “A Bible” (in case a reporter happens to ask you). And if you want to be associated with the teachings of the Bible please at least know what that book says and apply it to your life (especially if you’re going to break up a group of peaceful protestors to get to a church, that you don’t even attend, for a photo op).

I’ll stop being an arrogant putz now and leave you with thoughts from one of my favorite passages of the Bible. My Bible. God’s words to me.

Psalm 27…The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?…One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to see Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock…wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord…

Question: What are some of your favorite Bible passages?

(I can’t take responses here, but please feel free to comment on the Facebook post. Thanks!)

Single Social Distancing

“We’re All in This Together”

Is it just me or does anyone else want to bust out their best HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL dance moves when you hear a newscaster or public service announcement say, “We’re all in this together.” (I taught junior high music when these movies were popular and my students told me I reminded them of Ms. Darbus. Not sure it was a compliment.)

During this time of social distancing due to COVID-19 you hear all different kinds of reactions to staying home. Introverts say they’ve been preparing for this their entire lives. Extroverts are going crazy. Memes tell us folks will either come out of isolation with the cleanest house ever and down 20 pounds or an overweight alcoholic with a deep indentation of their butt on their favorite chair. Which are you?

Being the extroverted introvert that I am, I’m doing fine. My “demented” mother keeps my sister and I entertained. Each day when she wakes up she gets to learn about the virus all over again. I’m not sure she really gets it. But do any of us? Lots of uncharted experiences out there.

If this had happened a few years ago I would have been living by myself and not with my mother and sister. I keep wondering how I would be doing if I really was isolated. I think I would be fine for a while. I’ve lived alone most of my life so I think I’d be okay, until one day I’d wake up, mid-pandemic, and it would hit me—I’m alone. Single. Siiiinglllllle.

Does this time of social distancing exaggerate that point for you? Probably. It does for me. Especially when you see silly Facebook posts that say how busy maternity wards will be 9 months from now. I do think that would be a much more fun way to pass the time than organizing your closets. But also just another reminder that I don’t have a snuggle partner.

Dear Single Friends, you are not alone. You are not. Reach out to folks via social media or even an old fashioned telephone call. If you’re shy, get over it and reach out. Someone may be needing interaction as much as you, but are afraid to initiate it. Be that for them! You can do it.

So everyone, let’s join that cute Zac Efron and remember we’re all in this together. Hmmm, Zac Efron, such a cutie. Social distancing with him would be much more fun than with my mom and sister. But I do love them and am grateful for their presence in my life. Especially now.

Take care and remember …come on now sing it…We’re All in This Together!!!!!

See Yourself Through God’s Eyes

The group minus two.

It was the day after Friday the 13th, in the middle of a pandemic and during a snowstorm.  Other than that, last Saturday morning 17 of us had a great time together discussing what God thinks of us.

Sweet friends.

Mom and daugther.

We ranged from college women in their early 20’s to women in their 60’s. Some never married. Others divorced or widowed.  All there for one purpose. To find out for the first time, or remind themselves again, who they are in Jesus; who and what God made them to be.

The traits list we made taken from scripture.

We belong and are chosen, loved, graced-filled, created for a purpose, free, refined, more than conquerors, heirs, rescued, set apart, made new, saved, God’s dwelling place, protected, brave, light, wonderfully made and known before we were born, precious, honored, pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, perplexed but not in despair, struck down but not destroyed, and we have a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Among other things.

Discussion Circles.

It was inspiring and encouraging to see the different ages and stages of women sharing together. We are all important and have a role no matter our circumstances. When you’re young you may think you have nothing to contribute. Or if you’re older you may think your time has come and gone. That is not how God sees us. But if we don’t know Him it won’t matter what He thinks of us, has planned for us or who we are in Him.  Because we won’t know. Until we spend time with God in His word we have no idea who we are to Him or for Him.

Working on our positive statements to keep us focused on how God sees us and helps us.

I hope you take the time to know Him. It is worth it.

Finding Your Identity in Jesus

All the Single Ladies, All the Single Ladies.

Happy Valentines Day!

Valentine’s Day may be rough for some single women.  If it is, then please don’t stay home with a bowl of ice cream watching the Hallmark Channel!!

Gunne Sax dresses were oh so very popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. I rocked several of them during those years.

I broke up with my boyfriend in high school right before the Senior Ball. Instead of spending that evening home alone moping, a bunch of other “dateless” girlfriends and I bought prom dresses (since it was the ’70’s of course they were “Gunne Sax”), went out to dinner and had a great time together.  It was what we call a “rotic” evening–Romantic without the man.

And if a constant stream of “rotic” weekends is getting you down, then please consider joining a bunch of fabulous single ladies on Saturday, March 14th, 9:00-noon, getting to know our true wonderful selves in Jesus.

Click on the link below, register and we’ll see you there!

XO!!!!

Dana Brown Speaker