February 28, 2006

A Day with God

Posted in hope, reflection at 4:33 pm by jimazing


One of the things I have learned about me is that I need time alone regularly. Another that is closely related is that I need time alone with God for an extended period. Occasionally, I have taken a day off from work just to go hiking and commune with my Creator. Every time I have done it, I knew that I need to do that more often. A couple of weeks ago, I was reviewing my goals for 2006. One of them was to get away with God four times during the year. It occurred to me that the best way to make that happen was to get it on the calendar. So I requested four days vacation from work spaced about 3 months apart. The first of those four days was today.

First thing this morning, Jeanie and I made the effort to start fulfilling another goal for this year. That goal was to get our financial house in better order. So, we met with a financial advisor.

I hate dealing with money. I hate budgeting. I hate paying bills. I don't even keep track of pay days. To prove it, when I was sharing this with Tim (the counselor), I told him that I don't even know when I get paid. Jeanie said, "You got paid today." It is certainly not because I am rich. I have just figured out that if I work at my job, they will pay me and Jeanie will make sure the bills get paid. Then I don't have to think about it. As much as I love to do everything for myself, money tasks are not high on my list of things to do.

Even though I hate dealing with money (myself), I recognize that we need an objective person (who likes dealing with money) to let us know how we are doing. He will use sophisticated tools (that I don't care to learn about) to project how we will do in the future if we keep doing what we are doing. He will make suggestions based on our goals to help us get where we want to be. Sounds like a great idea to me.

…Back to my day. After taking Jeanie home, I headed to the Ribbon Walk for the afternoon. If you live near Charlotte, NC and you haven't gone to the Ribbon Walk, you should check it out. It is a small forest with trails and lakes right in the town of Derita. They have a special place called the Treasure Tree Grove, where several huge 150-200 years old beech trees grow. What a lovely place. I sat on the benches there for a long time; journaling and praying and reading and journaling and praying some more. God met me there and it was sweet.

I took my journal out there and the first thing I wrote was an "agenda". I have a very short memory and I tend to go off on tangents with my thoughts. I used this list to help keep me on track. One huge prayer was heavy on my heart, but there were a lot of other pressing issues. Each time I thought of something, I added it to the list. One by one, I went through each item on the list in prayer.

I believe that God is real and that a relationship to Him is much more than a religious ritual. After walking with him for most of my life, I forget that others might not understand that. When I pray, I am spending time with the Creator of the Universe! That is unbelievably awesome! How could I be so presumptuous that He would have time for me? And yet, somehow He does. He hears my cries and today He even reminded me of some things I had left off of my list! Go figure.

I feel refreshed and renewed. I feel like He heard me and that He cares enough to answer my prayers. Not because I am anyone special. Anything special about me is from Him. It is only because He chooses to let me talk to Him and be real with Him.

I take my hard questions to Him. Did I get all the answers? No, but I got some of them. Will I do it again? I can hardly wait for May 30th!

February 5, 2006

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Posted in travel at 11:17 am by jimazing

This was the theme Jeanie and I chose for our first cruise. We just returned yesterday and I can sum up my feelings by saying, “If you have never been on a cruise… try it.” This is Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. It was great to just be able to wander around the ship and find out what was what. Eat when we wanted to without worrying about paying for it. Live music throughout the ship. Few rules and few decisions to make. We could just let go and not worry about what will happen next. The crew addressed all of our questions in plenty of time to get where we needed to be with what we needed to have.On Tuesday, for our first excursion, we took a trip in a glass bottom boat out to a live coral reef to see the fishies. Here we are out on the front of the boat. That bridge like thingy sticking out of the boat probably has a name, but I don’t know what it is. Standing out there, the wind was blowing in our face, the boat was bouncing in the waves and we were going pretty fast.

On Wednesday, we toured the ancient Mayan City called Tulum. This site is right on the Caribbean Sea and the water was gorgeous. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t walk in or climb the stairs of the buildings. They roped everything off to preserve it.

The view of the Caribbean from the cliff at Tulum took our breath away. The water was so clear and so green. Other places it was deep blue.

We walked down some stairs to the beach and waded in the water. I built a drip sandcastle. The sand was very different than what I’m used to. It was less gritty and kinda mushy. The predominant mineral in the area is limestone and I could feel the limestone in the sand.

On the way back to the ship, we shopped in Cozumel. The merchants there were really pushy. They would call out to us to come “spend our last money” in their shops. One of the funniest lines that we heard over and over was “almost free”. At least it would have been funny if they hadn’t meant it. Neither of us care if we ever return there.

Thursday’s adventure was a zipline through the jungle followed by tubing through a cave in Belize. Belize was formerly a British colony and won its independence in 1981, so the native language, surprisingly to us, is English. We rode in a tour bus about 35 miles from the city to the location of the Arial Trek. This trip was along their major East/West highway, which was not much wider than the street our house was on. I was fine with the bus passing cars… even the dump truck. When it started to pass another tour bus, I got scared. Fortunately, he gave up trying. The aerial trek was an absolute blast! They had towers in the trees as high as 40 feet above the ground with cables stretched between them. After we were strapped into harnesses, we walked up the trail to the first tower, which was on the side of a hill. The first run was pretty tame to get us used to the equipment. After that, we were flying high! This photo is Jeanie finishing the longest run. She was terrified and couldn’t wait for it to end. I was terrified and thrilled too, but I can hardly wait for the next opportunity to do it again.

The workers all wore shirts that said on the back, “When was the last time, you did something for the first time?” We both loved the motto so much we each bought a shirt and adopted this as the theme for our cruise. We did so many firsts on this trip. Even the cruise itself was a first.

After the aerial trek, we had a good lunch and hiked to the other side of a hill where we got setup for cave tubing. We took a short hike around to the other side of a hill and jumped into the cold river into our tubes. The water carried us into the cave, which was completely dark except for the lights we had strapped on our heads. At first, Jeanie and I got swept off the wrong way and went through a bit of a drama getting back on course. Our guide, Leroy, was a champ at saving us and straightening us out. I really enjoyed him. He has a great outlook on life. As we floated through the cave, he was singing “Don’t worry, Be Happy”

Back on the ship that night after dinner, the dining staff all danced through the dining room. This is me doing the Macarena with our waiter, Kirat and our dining companion, Rich. Rich and his wife, Theresa were assigned to our table each night and we enjoyed getting to know them. As veteran cruisers, they gave us lots of tips. Rich taught me to order everything you want when the waiter comes. He said, “They only take your order once, so order everything you want at that time. Two or three appetizers and even two meals. Try it all.” I took his advice and had some excellent food. The ship also had a buffet, but I didn’t like the atmosphere as much.It was too much like being at the feeding trough.

Yet another first for Jim was climbing the wall. At the stern of the ship (that’s the back to those of you who have never been on a ship ) was the rock climbing wall. I had never done anything like that and wasn’t sure I could do it. The guy that went before me gave up about half way, so I was even less sure when I started. About half way, I saw why he gave up. The handholds got smaller and further apart. I stopped, tried a few different positions and finally got past it. At the top, I rang the bell and looked back for this final photo by Jeanie.

It is great to be home, but I wish the house would stop moving. I still feel the swaying just like I did on the ship. Mostly the ship felt still, but one night in particular, it was moving a lot and the wooden hangers in the closet were clacking together. It sounded like bones from a skeleton. I just lay in the bed and thought about getting rocked like a baby in the cradle, while the skeletons danced in the closet.

Would I do it again? I can hardly wait!