Monday, May 14, 2018

All There


Sometimes you invite folks into your life or into your thoughts or your space and really can’t remember how they got there.

I saw her headed to the bathroom.  I remember thinking she did not look well.  By the time she reappeared, everyone had deplaned, that is everyone that was not going on to Chicago.  Me, her and about a half dozen other folks. 

Inadvertently I had blocked the aisle.  Standing and stretching, it had been a long day and now another three hours on the plane.  She was speaking into my neck when I flew around and found her.

She was loud.  I am not fond of loud.

“You waiting for the bathroom?”  she spoke-shouted.  “No, just stretching,” and as if I meant it, I said, “How are you?” Not one half second passed for her to say, “Absolutely terrible.”

Because we were now incredibly close together, I felt I couldn’t let her pass without at least a question, a word, a hug, something.

I went for, “What can I do for you?”

First there was air sickness:  I did move to a safer distance with that one. Then she explained she was travelling for a funeral.  She didn’t truly want to be on three flights to get there, but she had done it and without wavering she added,  “for her friend.”  This woman who I had momentarily cast as loud and perhaps nauseous was truly a brave, compassionate soul.

I applauded her. 

Jim Elliot said, “wherever you are, be all there.”
You see, I didn’t really want to be in the isle.  I really was not excited about chatting with my elderly friend for the entire plane to hear.  But missing her moxy would have been a mistake.  She encouraged me in ways she could have never known. 

I was tired, but my destination was home and family and love and rest.Her destination, as some twenty years my senior, was alongside a friend and a casket.Life is a bottle to be poured out; we always have the choice to taste the sweet in the bitter.

There is always joy in the midst if we choose to be “all there.”  If we choose to see,  to hear, to be present. 

I told my new friend to be brave.  I told her how much I admired her.  And I offered her my peppermint stick, a gift from my baby daughter for her motion sickness. 

I struggle with still sickness -  looking beyond what is in front of me.

“All there,” it is the act of being aware of Him.  It is being brave in the face of whatever we are facing.  It is knowing the joy, the true heaven- sent joy, is realizing He is there, even if we don’t want to be.

Monday, May 7, 2018

One Year Ago

I was holding his hand exactly one year ago today.  I sat next to his bed.  I remember how my heart was breaking.  It felt as if it was dripping out slowly, one tear into another.  Just four weeks had passed since Easter.

We had all been together.  Daddy and the rest of us.  He told me then he had not been feeling well.  Never did I imagine just a few short weeks later I would hold his hand as we waited together for Jesus to come.

It has made me think long and hard about journeys.  The ones we take in the heart.  Truly the ones that matter most.  The ones that perhaps we don’t plan or purpose. The ones that are begun by the Finisher.

He … the great punctuation of life.

Truly nothing has meaning without Him.  He puts an exclamation point on the simple.  I love that about Him.

The most ordinary life becomes extraordinary in the hands of Holy.
I want to wake and remember that when life is overwhelming;  we serve the overcomer.

I want to live forgiven and I pray I forge joy. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Painted Heart

This ‘loving people’ thing?
  We all want to do it.  We are all called to do it.  We have the best mentor, leader, teacher there ever was and ever will be. I am all in,  almost all of the time.

You see I try and predict the moments and measure my success. But fortunately for the entire human race; I cannot read the mind of God and He works outside the bonds of time and space and my schedule.
Therefore, He grabs minutes where I least expect and are less than planned.

I forget every single opportunity is a holy opportunity and every single person is a God built person, including the guy that took my candy.

This was one of those times I almost missed Him.  I truly hope He is not counting as I am in the thousands now for missed opportunities.

We sat down at a musical.  I was so looking forward to this.  I had no children in this production and no tuxedo to find and no call time to worry about and no treats to bring.  It was glorious.

Honestly my only worry was falling asleep.  I tend to do that in dark rooms these days.  But I came prepared, I had a full bag of suck on candy.  It never disappoints.  I opened it up wide and watched how my new neighbor, who I had technically never met, reached in.

I realized one bag of candy probably looked a bit too much for one person;  perhaps he was doing me a favor?  I will admit I had to adjust. I can believe a God who fits into a universe.  I rarely look for Him between theater seats. 

You see it is not just our actions.  It is our reactions.  It is not just our words; it is our wonder.  Finding Him where and when we were not looking.  This was not some weirdo taking my candy.  This was one of His looking for conversation…  and candy.

We had a lovely discussion.  We talked about who we would be looking for on stage.  The “talented kids of today” as we dubbed them. It was grand.

I never delivered the gospel.  I have no idea if the candy man was a believer;  but I felt closer to Jesus by embracing kindness while someone was close to me. I don’t look at the Gospels and see complicated;  I see compassion.

People don’t remember our words;   they remember what and who they felt around us.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Crates

The man said they were cherry crates and I believed him.  Stamped on dozens of boards was the name of the farm where they had once been well used.  I wondered how many millions of cherries had been carried in boxes that now lay as boards.

We snatched them up.  Sold in bundles we had a treasure trove of wood to paint and upcycle.  We were in the crafting mood preparing for a fund raiser of hand made and well loved.

Neither of us are painters, but with a glue gun in hand, we went to work.  We have laughed till we cried reviewing each other triumphs and failures.

I have always wanted to paint.  I have always wanted to sing.  The fact remains I stink at both.

There is something profoundly satisfying in taking something out of the garage or basement, something hidden in a corner and seeing it become something more than it was.  Sometimes beautiful.

Isn’t this the very business Jesus is in?

I have never felt particularly great at anything.  I have seen great.  I live with great.  My husband is crazy talented.  And I have a tribe of talented children.
 I sit on the side of this pool and watch them.  It’s glorious.

I look at them and know the depth with which God has filled them;  He has also given to me.  I just have to figure out where and how.  The journey is in finding the joy.  The places He has equipped us.  He says in Hebrews, “He equips us for doing His will…”

As long as I have known Jesus, I have never known Him to be stingy.  By all accounts when He fills and gives and pours, He does it with a wide overflowing pitcher into the cup of grace.

We are equipped.

We are the strong wood with which He builds.  We are the ones that carry the message.  We are the reflectors of the brilliant message of salvation.

I am convinced for the thousand times I have gotten this wrong, the one more terrible thing I could is to not try.  To stay in the shadow with dust collecting on my heart.

I may not shout it, but I am going to do my level best to live it.

This joy, this joy that comes from knowing Jesus.  I want it to bubble up and over when times are blissfully good and when every ounce of me wants to quit.

He remakes, He refines, He redeems.  Taking the ugly and forging beautiful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Oven

This old oven.  It has seen us through thousands of meals.  The upper one still working like a workhorse, but the lower; it had started to let me down. 

We had literally two hundred folks for dinner and the bottom oven burned my potatoes. It was set at a warm at 200 degrees but decided to bake at 500. 

Ever since then I have kind of frowned at that oven.  Ever since then I have used it sparingly and cautiously.  In reality, it has become more of a cabinet than a cooker.

We plan to fix it, one day, probably when all the other stuff is fixed that drives me crazier. So, I ignored it.  I ignored it until the stinking little light just wouldn’t shut off. It seemed to tease me that it was still alive in all its erroneous splendor.

I remembered why the light was on.  After another party where it was no help to me, I shoved a pan inside, a pan that had not been scrubbed.  It was the holding area until I could get that chore done.  But this I recalled now with the oven light gleaming on it was a huge pan that had held a banquet of chicken.

Somehow not quite fitting in the oven, it held the door open enough to trigger the light. I would be lying if I said I addressed the problem quickly.

I came to think of the light as a reminder of things to do.  Pans to wash…

Finally, early one morning, I opened the problem oven and I found the over tall pan.  I slammed it into the sink to tell it exactly what I thought of it advertising my ineffectual house cleaning.

I cleaned it and put what my daddy would call, the “dad gum” pan away. To my surprise…………. the light was still on.  And I will admit one turned on in my head as well.  I believe I heard a choir sing, “FINALLY.”

I strolled over and pushed the little button that said, Light. 
To my delight the light turned off.

I try hard not to spiritualize my stupidity but in this case, as the light went off, it was as if every little problem I struggle with on a moment by moment basis lined up like little soldiers waging the battles I have grown so accustomed to.

I wondered just how many could be shut off.  Ones named fear.  Ones named control.  Ones named pride and ones named perfection.

They keep me up.  They steal my joy.  They blind me to what God is doing every day all around me. They cause me to see through a lens that is both unspiritual and completely self-focused.

The shutting off is not a onetime event.  It is a deliberate prayerful task of submitting, surrendering and seeing.  Seeing not with earthly eyes but spiritual ones.
Eyes that embrace the great truth of a great God that loves me and cares for me and carries me. The One that in every way lights my path. And the One that that grieves when I hold my own and usurp Him. 

He waits like a gentleman holding the door to something better.  Bidding me to walk through and blessing me in the process. Shutting off is not shutting down, it is not turning on but turning towards freedom.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Snark Attack!

The kids gather around the table like a Norman Rockwell painting. I can tell you why the man chose to paint.  You could never really hear what’s coming off those lips.

I envy him.

They sit down to feast.  For a moment I think it’s my cooking but in reality, they feast on each other.
We have a word for it,  snarkasm.

My boys are so fond of it, they could be professionals and are self-described, “snarkastic.”

It’s a scary, possibly sinful blend of sarcasm and snark.
The oldest starts.  He calls the brother a name and then like dominos they fall  into the one-upmanship that is snarkasm.

They pull it all out and lay it on the table.

Their dad and I can barely catch a breath defending this one roaring and that one retorting.

Like mama used to say, “it’s all fun, until someone gets hurt.”  And they did. The jabs went a little too far and finally someone bled.  You see it in the silent tears.  Stopping in the laughter; we all now sit quiet.

Words can build cathedrals of hope and promise, but even quicker they can destroy hearts and healthy esteem.

The daddy and I reel them in and ask they start building each other back up.  We want one thing positive out of each mouth about at least one sibling.  The snarkers fall silent.

The eldest takes charge and builds his compliment with enough humor to almost drown it but still manages to float long enough to please.

The next one goes and the next.  But one, one lone soul at the table, the one that had shed a few tears cannot muster a word. That is the power of words.  If you fill a mind with enough negative, the heart becomes mute.

The tribe sees this.  They rally around the now silent child.  They repair and recite all the positives they know and had chosen not to say.
I get it.

I can find a hundred blessings in a single day if I choose to look, but blindness often takes the first turn. 

It is that one worry, that one irritating out of control situation, the child that keeps me up at night, the one thing I can’t get done; blind, deaf and dumb to all He has done; all He has said and all He has promised.

Isn’t it these very things, these things that make us feel small that should cause us to crave big, to forget the lack and remember the fulfillment and the Fulfiller.

The One that allowed our lack or our doubt or our short gives us the appetite for abundance.

We look into ourselves, when our focus should be our Savior. We run for the gap;  I need to run to the gap filler. He fills and satisfies and overflows us with grace.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Seeing Clear

The little girl comes home and tells me someone told her she comes from a bad country.

A bad country.

A country defined bad in the eyes of a child because it is labeled non-Christian.

How does a mama respond? I try to hide my bear claws and the temptation to say this proclaimer of bad was “bad” himself.  I resist showing her the headlines revealing to her the bad in this, her adopted country.

I can get sick over racism, so much of which I do not understand. White, churched and suburban.  I am na├»ve.  I am sheltered.  I am blind. I was raised by parents whose response to Civil rights was to teach us to “not see color.”

Oh, that it was so easy.
If we were not meant to see color, God would not have revealed them. Each color, each race, each religion, each philosophy embraces their own  tears and traditions.  I need to see.

How do I explain something I can barely understand myself?

Difference is not bad. 

The devil, he is the inventor and deliverer of bad.
He is the one that blinds our eyes to the value of people no matter their origin.  He is the voice that speaks untruths when misunderstandings come. He is the fear monger and the terrorist.

What do I tell my child?

I show her the Church.

I show her a God that created all colors and skins and faces.  I show her a God so full of love, He lights a fire for Himself in the darkest spaces.

I show her God’s people who need to respond in prayer and love even when bad chokes the desire for charity out of our very hearts.

I show her a Jesus that stopped for the unclean, the diseased the foreigner and tell her that is who we need to be, not because of who they are or are not, but because of who He is.

He placed value in each of us when He breathed life into lungs, we must find value therefore in the perceived bad, the good, the holy, unholy, clean and unclean.


Being indifferent to difference is not the answer.  Being obedient.  Being lovely.  Speaking truth is the beginning.  Opening ears is the method.  Extending hands is the ministry.