Tag Archives: love

You Can Turn Water Into Wine

Standard
There has been a lot of discussion about refugees in the news of late and a dialog of fear often accompanies the conversation. There are dire situations around the world that result in people being displaced from their homeland due to wars, persecution or natural disasters.  This officially makes the people involved, refugees–in pursuit of refuge.  This can happen in a land far away or in your own community. It’s not new news, but it appears to be happening with greater frequency and is a popular topic.
We often think of refugees as foreigners- perhaps from the middle east. However, I find there are also local people who have become displaced  for any number of similar reasons- the spouse that raises a hand as a solution, the family whose home was struck by a tornado,  the couple living on the financial edge at the brink of disaster, the “outsider”
who isn’t like us in one way or another and their life is made a living hell.
Refugees are near and far.  Any fear we muster pales in comparison to what someone being displaced must feel.
042012survivors.jpg
When I grew up there were two young girls who joined our school mid-year.  They were from Cambodia.  Speaking absolutely no English they were integrated into my fourth grade class.  Thankfully they were fairly well accepted and we oblivious girls tried to make them feel welcome.  We had no idea about their nightmares,  or the devastating sights they must have seen in their homeland.  We rode our bikes, played with our dolls, ran outside for freeze tag and kick ball without a second thought.  Refugees were fairly unusual in our middle class, suburban neighborhood at the time.
imgres.jpg
In a completely different situation I recall two siblings temporarily staying with my family because their father was dealing with mental illness.  I remember driving down a busy avenue looking out the back window with fear their dad might come after us.  I couldn’t have imagined what was going on inside our friends.  I selfishly harbored a high level of anxiety -probably not thinking twice about how they must have felt.
11521043484_7714483e1e_k-1.jpg
Not too long ago a woman from Iran spoke in the church about the growing population of Christians in her homeland.  We saw images of hundreds of people being Baptized and heard amazing stories of people coming to know Jesus.  Talk about fear,  this woman’s  life is in constant danger.  She and her family have been imprisoned and threatened over what they are doing.  Yet, she has the passion and calling to continue with her efforts as a Christian converting Christians in a land of few Christians. Photos cannot be shown for her protection. Worth noting is the extreme danger she is under and the strength of her convictions.
Most are familiar with stories of families in World War II who hid persecuted men, women and children from the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi regime.  The fear of being discovered and sent to a concentration camp- how could they face each day?  Underlying thoughts of fear and trepidation must have engulfed them.
andfghne-frank-row-rex.jpg
While we, in our warm homes with stocked refrigerators, scan our tech devices for funny photos and celebrity tweets, have we considered the desperate situation that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are facing each day?  It’s easy to forget the tent dwellers thousands of miles away as we cozy up to our memory foam mattress.
ct-france-refugees-huppke-20151118.jpg
There’s another refugee story, from the middle east, involving a couple who needed a place to rest following a long journey.  The woman was going to have a child soon.  There wasn’t a great place for them to stay because there were already so many people in the area. I can’t say with certainty what their accommodations ended up being, but I have read that  the setting was not ideal.  After the baby was born he was placed in a feeding trough for horses and cattle.
Jesus Christ birth.jpg
The birth went well, but not too long after, the family had to uproot themselves and go from their homeland to a foreign land.   They had to hide from a horrible king whose mission was to find this particular baby and kill him.  The family became refugees. They somehow survived the journey to the far off land and maintained an existence there until they could safely return to their homeland. The baby was not harmed.
You might be familiar with this family too.  In fact, we just celebrated the occasion of their baby’s birth…Christmas.  The baby’s name was Jesus and he, along with Mary and Joseph, lived as refugees until they could be safe.
With all of these stories it becomes evident that, aside from having amazing perseverance and determination,  there were people who surrounded the victims to help them and provide as they could.  Though not every story has a happy ending, during the time of refuge these people were cared for.  I imagine the love shown through small gestures to the refugees was worth more to them than the effect that any amount of money could provide.
When I look at today’s refugee crises around the world I ask what can be done to help?  What better place to look than the Bible?  There are stories of refugees from just about the beginning of time.  We are given clear direction on how to care for them.
Feed the hungry,
Give drink to the thirsty,
Provide rooms for the homeless,
Offer clothing for warmth,
Visit the sick and imprisoned.
Beitragsbild-Refugees-Welcome-750x563.jpg
Every time you do this for one of Jesus’ children, and we are all Jesus’ children, it is like you are doing it for him.  I don’t want to carry that burden because it’s simply not the right thing to do.
Without regard to where you stand politically, we are called to take care of all people. Politics get in the way and delay taking action.  The week I heard the Iranian woman share her journey to Christianity the following was said:
People who think do not change the world.
People who act change the world.
People who think and act change the world forever.
When you do what Jesus tells you to do, water will turn to wine.
Write a check, provide food, purchase or donate clothing, make yourself available, extend a welcome, cook a meal, say hello or offer a smile.  Help turn water into wine.
There are many organizations who provide aid to refugees.  One that I put my trust in is Lutheran World Relief  –  http://lwr.org/

Europe and the Syrian Refugee & Migrant Crisis

Wellwishers offer warm clothing to Syrians after they arrived on a train from Budapest's Keleti station at the railway station of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, early morning September 6, 2015.
Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach, courtesy of Trust.org

 

AS THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA CONTINUES, the number of civilian casualties, internally displaced people and refugees continues to grow. According to UNHCR, 11.6 million people are in need of assistance, 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria and over 3.9 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and countries in North Africa.

LWR’s Response

  • Supporting ACT Alliance members in providing humanitarian support. ACT members are providing hygiene items, winter coats and blankets, emergency shelter and psychosocial support in Hungary, Serbia and Greece.
  • We are in contact with the ACT Alliance to determine additional needs on the ground. We will continue to channel our support to the refugee crisis through the ACT Alliance to ensure a well-coordinated response.
  • Lutheran World Relief is shipping Mission Quilts, Baby Care Kits and Personal Care Kits to Serbia to distribute to refugees and migrants. Since October 2012, LWR has provided $7.05 MILLION in assistance to Syrian refugees, reaching more than 235,912 BENEFICIARIES.

YOU CAN HELP

  • Give to the Crisis in Syria fund. Your cash donations will support the response of our partners in the ACT Alliance.
  • Make Quilts and Kits. Donating Quilts and Kits helps ensure we have an adequate supply to send around the world to partners who request them, as well as in response to emergencies.
  • Pray for the people affected by this crisis and the humanitarian aid staff working to reach them.

All you need is hugs…

Standard

Free_hugsHugs may not be all we need in reality, but they can sure make a difference in your life.  I know two people who are without a doubt the best huggers in the world.  When they hug you it makes you feel like the most loved and secure person ever. Growing up, my family was pretty conservative with hugs. Over time new people would become members of our family and through them we were taught the way a hug can make your feel.  It’s been an irreplaceable gift.

i’ve recently gotten to know a married couple where one of the spouses has Alzheimer’s Disease. She can be funny and silly and frankly not make a lot of sense.  However, she has an amazing way of communicating that is easily understood. She hugs. If she wants to hug you, watch out!  Ann walks up to strangers and tells them they look like they need a hug and out go her arms. She doesn’t think twice about it.

Recently Ann and her husband went on a vacation to Colorado.  As Ann’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, her “filters” have weakened.  We received a note from Ann’s husband about their experience.  I’d like to share it.

“I wanted to share a great story about Ann that has taught me a lot and that we can all learn an important life lesson from.  As many of you know, Ann’s “filters” in life have been lessoned quite a bit the past several years from her disease.  She loves to walk up to people she does not know and offer random words of affirmation, encouragement and hugs.  Her favorite “targets” are young moms with kids and elderly women.  Recently Ann was shopping with our daughter in law and randomly went up to a lady, got her attention, and with a big smile looked her in the eye and told her how beautiful she was.  Ann reached out and they hugged for a long time.  The lady was quite emotional and said, “ I am 84 years old and I really needed this today.”

I have been with Ann when she has done this literally 100’s of times these past several years. I have never, never, seen Ann get a negative response.  Many are taken back at first, but they always seem to quickly warm up to her.  Sometimes she tells them her story about her health.

I was thinking about Ann’s lack of filters and wondered about the filters in my life and all of ours that keeps us from treating others in a similar manner every time we walk out the door. Filters of feeling too busy in life to take time to care, filters of fear of rejection, filters or fears of being vulnerable,  filters of being afraid of what others will think about us when they observe us, filters of not wanting to get involved in people’s lives we don’t know.

Ann has been unable to be involved in much formal ministry work these past couple of years because of her disease.  I think God is using her in an amazing way in people’s lives by her random acts of affirmation, encouragement, kindness, and lots of hugs.  Sure it can feel uncomfortable for those of us with her at times, but then again, WWJD.  I know it has stretched me in my life in the way I have been interacting with people more openly these past couple of years.”

The note continued on further, but the best part is what I shared above.  I have been a recipient of Ann’s hugs.  They do wonders.  While I do not wish Alzheimer’s on anyone, there is goodness that has come from the ugliness of this disease.  I hope in my life it doesn’t take something tragic to make me earnestly strive to help another person feel better.  Imagine the impact we could have on each other by saying , “You are beautiful!” and extending your arms to hug.

I can’t say I’m ready to completely release my inhibitions, but perhaps I can start with a smile, or a hello.   Maybe Ann’s experience will help me to lighten up.  I hope so,
because it would make a world of difference.

All we need is hugs…and more Anns.

dog_hug_cat

Whose God is He Anyway?

Standard

The first time I heard this unconventional song (see below for video)  it took time to process.  It had me thinking, and I had to take a step back and examine myself- my beliefs. Did I believe what I thought I believed?  Was what I believed right? Was God the God of thieves, whores, pedophiles even?  Isn’t this truth?  Why was I rethinking it?   I wanted to believe my God was also “their” God, but was I able to get beyond the “want” to the certainty of it?

When you read about the underbelly of society in the Bible the words used aren’t quite as direct as in this day and age.  They don’t feel like “pedophiles” and “whores”.  These are more uncomfortable to me.  Was I judging?  I don’t believe in judging…do I?

Biblically, sin is sin.  It’s hard to discern from reading the Bible that one sin is worse than another- except disavowing God. The consequences of sins vary greatly which may make us think some are worse than others. I have to admit at this point we may not agree. It’s challenging to fathom speaking poorly about someone behind their back is as bad as a sexual sin.  I kind of reconcile that dealing with our sin is God’s responsibility when it is all said and done.  It’s not that I don’t have to worry about my sins or those of anyone else.  There are things, though, I/we just can’t fathom here on earth.  I trust that God is omnipotent and takes care of it in His amazing way(s).   All things… work together for good… to them that love the Lord… and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Though I didn’t recognize I had issue with this, there was something nudging me as I listened to Kees Kraayenoord’s song.  I had to reconcile myself to the idea that the God I love and who loves me, is the same God who loves people who do despicable things. My God is everyone’s God.  He isn’t just here for me.  He’s not just mine.  He isn’t the God for only those who do good or live in a way that is pleasing to me.  He is the God of/for everyone…the worst of the worst and the best of the best.  He is the God of the Moon and the Stars and I come to Him.

People do unspeakable things.  I don’t agree with the choices everyone featured in this song makes.  I don’t agree with all the choices I make.  I have awaken to the notion there is one God and He is the God of all.  He loves us all.  His forgiveness is accessible to all.

Don’t watch this for the visuals or video dynamics.  You will be disappointed.  Watch and hear this for the words it expresses.

Completely thought provoking.

He tried, but he couldn’t do it…

Standard

I was trained early about weekly church attendance.  If I had been born on a Saturday, my mom probably would have had me in church the next morning.  She would have looked great in her hospital gown topped off with some sort of amazing wool felt hat she made, her Sunday purse (I can still see her making the “switch out” on her bed), and girdle -the sixties version of Spanx.  

We would have attended the early service.  Not quite clear why my parents couldn’t wrap their heads around 11:00 church.   My family has always been one of the few families in the neighborhood awake at the crack of dawn on a day when most were trying to get a few extra hours of sleep because they had no responsibilities for the day. 

Admittedly, there is a compelling reason to make the effort to attend church on Sunday.  Not everyone gets it.  My parents made sure I did.  As I got older, I tried other routines on occasion, but somehow, in time, I would always be drawn back to being in a house of worship on Sunday morning celebrating the goodness of our God.  I have to add, I easily wrapped my head around the 11:00 service.  I guess it was my ultimate form of rebellion against my parents.

Now I’m the mom of a family. I’m not quite as committed as my mom was to making sure we walked through the church doors at every opportunity they were open.  However, I am/we are regular attenders and church is a priority in my life.

A few Sundays back the weather was horrible.  We made the decision to stay home from church.  I got this brilliant idea to try something I had never ever tried before in my home.  I actually had to build up my courage to even allow the words to roll from my lips.  We were going to try having a family devotion at our kitchen table in place of the church service we were missing. While attending church is something my family is very familiar with, having church in our home was waaaaayyyyy out there.

Earlier, I received a newsletter that included spiritual activities for the family to do in order to reinforce their Christian walk.  This was going to be our guide and would help take a bit of the fear out of the equation.   Since this was my idea, and very foreign to my family, I was going to be the leader.  I said upfront I knew this was unusual and we might feel awkward, but I felt it was important to live our lives, in faith, out from under the bushel.  

I babbled out some sort of prayer asking God to be present in our worship and to lead us through the time.  I must not have said quite the right words as it soon became obvious that the devil thought he was invited as well.  We started with two of the activities suggested in the newsletter and then got to the heart of the matter.  Along the way my husband was very tolerant of the experience, but my daughter could not have wanted to be further away.  You could tell she was mentally counting down the time to when she could get the ipad into her hands to play some silly gorilla game.  It was frustrating, but I decided to push on through it.

Now we are at the core message of our devotion and guided to a reading in the Bible from the book of Zephaniah.  This is not a book of the Bible I’m very familiar with.  I probably couldn’t spell the name if it wasn’t right in front of me.  The message was about how God uses discipline in relation to his beloved people of Israel who were rebelling against Him.  Zoom forward a few thousand years and this very situation was happening at my kitchen table.  My daughter was yawning, tapping her fingers, sighing- generally making it obvious she wanted no part of this experience.

I asked her to read the suggested passage from the Bible thinking at least she will get involved.  I couldn’t see him, but the devil must have been sitting there with a giant grin across his face.  Zephaniah 1:4-6– the gist is God is recognizing His people are complacent, worshipping false gods, thinking God wouldn’t do anything about their sin.   My daughter is rolling her eyes, mumbling the words, being dramatic about the imposition that this entire experience is having on her life.  I can feel the devil just laughing at us.

My husband erupts in frustration about the way my daughter is behaving.  They get into verbal arm wrestling competition and neither of them is giving up.  I’m trying to get focus back on the readings.  I realize I’m witnessing the live action version of the story from the Bible- everyone rebelling, behaving in ways that are contrary to God’s plan.  Tears are streaming down my face. I was losing the battle.  My daughter was completely wrong in her behavior.  My husband responded in a reasonable way and as a father would.  I felt the moment was in slow motion and it lasted forever.  This devotion was going, was gone, down the toilet. 

My daughter gets sent off to her room.  My husband is bringing down his blood pressure.  I’m holding the Bible realizing the devil won this round.  I read the next selection from Zephaniah (3:14-17) to myself: 

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

He will quiet you by his love.  He is in our midst.  He has cleared away my enemies.  The devil tried, but he couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t going to give up.  My husband came down from his mountain of anger.  My daughter knew she had been wrong.  They talked it out in time.  Peace and calm was restored to my family.  

I haven’t suggested a family devotion since that time.  We did return to church the next Sunday.  My daughter still rolls her eyes and shows her obvious disinterest at times.  My husband gets frustrated and they get into power battles.   I get involved as needed to bring reason.  Just to be clear, on any given day, my husband and I switch roles about who is going to battle against the pre-teen ninja that enters into our house from time to time.  I don’t want to paint the picture that I’m consistently at ease with what goes on at our kitchen table.  It’s definitely not that way.

What is that way is that I really believe the devil saw an opportunity in our lives and took a hold of it. He knew I was uncomfortable about doing this devotion thing, that I might falter, that I might back down and crawl to a corner.  He tried to prevail.  He used my weakness and my family.  

What he didn’t count on was the commitment I have to God, who I know is with me at all times.  Who I know loves me and my family. Who I know takes care of us no matter what.  He didn’t count on the strong gene pool that came from my parents and their parents before,  who committed their lives to their faith and teaching their children about Jesus by living their lives as they do and did.    He didn’t count on a Mother and Father who made sure their children were in church every Sunday of their young lives at 8:30 in the morning while the rest of the world slept.  

As I look back I realize the direct correlation to building my faith and standing up to the devil’s ways. If I am weak in faith that makes the devil strong over me. But, he can’t be stronger than God. The other day I heard a comment about people thinking God and the devil were on equal plateaus- enemies of equal strength.  It was pointed out,  God created this being, who chose by his own accord, to turn away from God.  He has nothing on God so he nothing on me.  

Set your alarms-I’ll see you in church in the morning…at 11:00. 

 

“Mommitude”

Standard

Years before I had my daughter I questioned if I could really ever be a good mom.  I had an amazing example to follow in my life and I just didn’t know if I could be on par with that.  As a young adult I saw wonderful examples of motherhood surrounding me and it was intimidating.  I really figured I’d mess it up so it was better not to play in that game.  Admittedly, there was a selfish angle to putting off the thought of motherhood, but ultimately it really came down to the question of whether or not I could be good enough. I loved kids. People would tell me I would make a good mom.  Yet I doubted.  

Image

In 2002 I learned I was going to be put to the test; and in 2003 the final exam began.  It’s an exam I believe you take in parts and as I understand it, you never really complete it.  I’ve gotten through the initial phase, I believe. My child is still alive, has a relatively good self image and doesn’t appear to have any permanent damage that I can see- at least thus far.  

Today I experienced an impromptu “pop” quiz and I learned I have developed some “Mommitude” over time. There’s still room for improvement, but the oral exam of this day went pretty well.  I have a certain level of pride about that, but mostly I am humbled (as I should be). I am humbled that God put a life into my world that I am to foster along, provide and care for, guide through tough times, celebrate with, and at some point let loose on the world hopefully making it a better place to be.  

I’m getting way ahead of myself though.  

Image

For months my 10 year old daughter was focused on getting her ears pierced. I thought she was too young to be responsible, but after lots of discussion, my husband’s agreement, and her persuasiveness, I decided it would be o.k. to do.  I timed it all so that her ears would get well-adjusted to the foreign objects punctured into each lobe in time for us to give her new earrings for Christmas.  

As we ventured off to the mall to get the procedure done there was a sense of anxiousness in the air. It seemed fairly normal.  As we hustled down the corridor to get to the piercing shop butterflies in my daughter’s stomach were noted.  Reasonable to me.  We go through the experience of selecting the perfect pair of starter earrings, having her ears swabbed and marked, and getting the little bear to hold onto for security (not sure if that’s for the child or the parent, but in our case the child held it).

The first earring was injected.  We got through it.  The second earring was inserted and my daughter had an odd look on her face. Within seconds her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out.  Thankfully she was sitting and I caught her right away.  That part of the test was awful.  My fear level was at the max, but I got into action and took the typical steps to try and bring consciousness back.  All the while I was reciting what I had learned in first-aid:  if the face is red raise the head-if the face is pale raise the tail.  By the time I got to figuring the rhyme out, my daughter was coming to.   I clearly recall her expression and her asking why are you saying my name like that- what happened?

It was a great story to share and my daughter seemed to enjoy the attention this little incident brought.  She did a great job caring for her ears and avoided those nasty infections that I experienced when I was a kid (where was hand sanitizer then?).  It didn’t take long before talk of wearing new earrings.  I explained we had to wait.  We had to be patient.  Christmas was coming etc. etc.  And indeed, Christmas came and my daughter was generously treated to new earrings by several family members.

Enthusiastically we tried a brand new set.  The nerves mounted again.  I advised about breathing this time…like remember to do it.  I pulled out the original earrings.  The response was, Mom I’m woozy.  Here we go again I thought.  However, I talked her through it and we were able to get two new earrings inserted.  Perhaps she was being a little dramatic when she asked to have help sitting down and for some water.  However, she did seem a little pale.  That moment passed and the new earrings looked great.  The test was going pretty well now.

Time to change the earrings again.  She wanted help.  We took out the current studs.  She was getting a little uptight. We decided to wait a day.  We tried again.  Out with the alcohol, washing our hands and picking the pair to wear. Drama sets in.  Mom, I feel like I did when I got my ears pierced.  I need to sit down.  Can you get me a glass of water?  I don’t feel good.  O.k. I’m ready.  No, wait, wait.  O.k. I’m ready.  Breathe.  In through the nose out through the mouth.  O.k. ready?  Ready.  No wait!  O.k. try one, but if I say stop…stop.  

I got the earring to the hole and my daughter’s pupils started changing.  I stopped.  Are you o.k.?  Let’s try this sitting down.  Let’s try this standing up.  Let’s try this with you sitting on the counter.  You want to sit on the floor?  O.k.  Let me get you more water.  I ultimately say, I’m not sure you can handle this.  She says, you are right, Mom.  I don’t think I can handle this either.  Her response made me laugh a little.  

Let’s try again.  If I say stop…I know, I know, if you say stop I will stop.  O.k. Ouch, ouch, ouch, stop. ( I barely got the earring tip near the hole).   Mom, I think we need to try this tomorrow.  O.k. it’s not a problem.  We’ll try it when you are ready.  Will my holes close?  I don’t think they close that quickly, but if we wait too long that could be an issue.  

 

Tears well in eyes.  I ask what’s going on.  She doesn’t want the holes to close up, but she can’t stomach having earrings put in. She is frustrated.  She is failing (in her mind).  This is when, like the exposing of a super-power, I develop my “Mommitude”.  We discuss what’s going on and how she’s feeling.  I throw out a few adjectives and she begins to cry real tears.  I know she is feeling she has let herself down and maybe me.  I reassure that whether or not a person has earrings doesn’t make the person any better or worse. I love her whether she decorates herself or not.  It’s not a big deal if she chooses not to wear earrings.  She tried and whatever she wants at this point is fine. Now I’m stroking her hair, talking softly and she’s leaning into me.  It’s a comfortable position I remember when she fell and bumped herself as a toddler.  Though now, the stakes are getting higher.

Image

She gets even more emotional when she says people got her all these earrings for Christmas and she can’t wear them.  She is concerned about how they would feel.  This might have been the first time I saw my little girl express a mature and authentic concern for how someone else feels.  Now I’m choked up.  I explained again she was loved and no one would care how long it took her  to wear the earrings they gave her or if she ever wore them.   Gifts are given from the heart.  I was being the gift of motherhood at that very moment.

As for the heart, genuine feelings were exuding from hers.  I could feel her sadness in my heart as well.  I pulled her closer and we shared some memories about how I used to do that when she was much smaller.  She grabbed me tighter.  More conversation about what’s important and what’s not in life.  As I held her close I tried to say the right things at the appropriate times and let there be silence when that was needed as well.  I felt my Mommitude expand.  After a little time things were getting back to normal and the earring incident was long gone.

Image

These pop quizzes are challenging.  What’s the right thing to say?  Will I screw it up? I know this is the first of many experiences where she will need to hold me tight, where I will stroke her hair and talk about feelings, where I’ll reinforce she is special no matter what the circumstance.  I’m honored that I am the person taking part in these tests.  As I tilted my head to rest on top of hers I thanked God for the opportunity to be a mom- to be her mom.  I expressed my gratitude for being put to the test and saying things I didn’t regret.  You never know what might come out of my mouth the next time.  For now, I’ll take this experience as a true gift and I’ll keep sharpening up my Mommitude for the tests to come.  I have a feeling there will be many more “pop” quizzes ahead.  

 

A Chapter Closed-at least for now.

Standard

Image

Today a chapter in my book of life closed-temporarily.  Someone who I’ve become friends with over the years succumbed to the pressure of cancer and she has moved from her life on earth to her eternal life in Heaven.  Sweet Kathleen fought a courageous battle. The odds were against her.  Sadly, dear loved ones, including a husband and two children, are facing one of the toughest nights of their lives right now.

I knew Kathleen was coming close to the end of her life among us.  Two days ago I saw two deer in the neighbor’s front yard while I was taking a walk.  My thoughts went to Kathleen immediately. I wondered if her time had come.  It made me think of Psalm 42.  It wasn’t time yet.

Today I walked again and the cloud formation above me was shaped as a beautiful cross.  I wondered again.  How is Kathleen?  Hours later I learned from a friend she had passed.  

I had to attend a meeting following the notice and my thoughts were sad; my heart aching for Kathleen’s family.  I entered the meeting place and went to the open chair at the table.  As I began to sit I noticed something on the chair.  It was the metal heart shown at the top of this message.  I have no idea why it was there, but it made me think of God’s deep, wide and everlasting love.  He will not leave us not forget us. 

I didn’t have a chance to speak to Kathleen directly before she died.  Her husband and children wouldn’t know me very well, but I knew of her pride of them.  I would want them to know Kathleen touched my life in a beautiful way.  She made me smile and laugh.  She was a lovely woman.  She was part of a chapter in my life and I was blessed to know her.

 

Psalm 42- The Living Bible

42 As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him? 3 Day and night I weep for his help, and all the while my enemies taunt me. “Where is this God of yours?” they scoff.

4-5 Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.[a]

6 Yet I am standing here depressed and gloomy, but I will meditate upon your kindness to this lovely land where the Jordan River flows and where Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar stand. 7 All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract.[b]

8 Yet day by day the Lord also pours out his steadfast love upon me, and through the night I sing his songs and pray to God who gives me life.

9 “O God my Rock,” I cry, “why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer these attacks from my enemies?” 10 Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, “Where is that God of yours?” 11 But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!

 

 

What’s love got to do with it?

Standard

ImageToday’s entry is going to get twisty-turny in where we end up here so come along for the ride.  This has been a tough week.  I can sum up how things have been going by two events that I experienced yesterday and another from earlier in the week.  

I was in my car trying to eat something for lunch and get back to my job in a reasonable amount of time.  Admittedly I was driving and eating at the same time which was probably not the best choice.  Further, I made the poor decision of choosing to eat from a container of cole slaw that came with the basically average fried chicken meal not meeting my expectations.  

I got the brilliant idea to put a plastic bag on my lap to hold the fold up cardboard box that my meal was presented in.  I opened the coleslaw and was pretty much savoring it when I realized my pants and “sitting area” were getting a cool sensation that didn’t feel normal.  I turned off the road to investigate what was going on and I found that juice from the coleslaw container was seeping out and running down my leg to my buttocks.  My pants soaked up the liquid like a dry sponge.   I got back to work, rushed to the bathroom, took off my pants and doused them with water.  Thankfully, I found a blow dryer to absorb most of the water and uncomfortably headed back to my work space.  For about an hour I felt like I was sitting in a wet bathing suit.  I laughed about the incident with my colleague and filed it in my mental cabinet under lessons to learn.  

Later in the day I picked up my daughter.  I parked and went to meet her.  As I got closer I realized my right sandal was sticking to the ground with a greater connection to the cement than the left one.  Yes, I had stepped in gum and there was a nice clump of grass attached to it.   Again to a bathroom to try and clean up the mess I had gotten myself into.  It was gross and disgusting.

Earlier in the week as I walked my dog a neighbor’s pet ran out to let my dog know who was chief.  He showed his teeth and took a patch of fur from my dog’s curly locks.  There was no yiping involved so I assume in doggie communication some restraint was shown by the big bad dog that chased after mine and he was basically saying let it be known, I’m the boss.  After I gave the attacking dog my best Cesar Milan “ch” and then sternly said no, the dog cowered a bit and went back to his home.  My dog went about her merry way.  The joke of it is my dog just wants to have fun.  She’s not looking to be boss of anything.  I guess the approaching dog just needed to make sure of that. 

Those silly incidents sum up the week I’ve had in all areas of my life.  And I’ve been questioning a lot.  Not about cole slaw and gum- why God why?  No, those types of situations just demonstrate the craziness that surrounds me- often because of my own poor choices.  Sometimes to no fault of my own.  They make the tougher life issues palatable in some way perhaps?  Maybe they just put a real spin on how I sometimes take my life issues too seriously.  

At work I’ve been battling against the forces of non-sensical decision making and it’s tiring.  I question back and forth is it maybe me that’s not making sense?  Can a system invented by so many well meaning and smart people be so off course? 

I listen to the rantings on radio programs about what political view is right and why the other party is so wrong.  I hear stories in the daily news about current events that involve one group of the masses vying to get a first look at the new born future King of England and another group trying to make sense out of a devastating life altering event that has people greatly divided and arguing over racism and gun laws.

Locally, a family man went out for a run the other evening and didn’t come back.  A search party has been looking for three days.  He was finally found, dead, by a construction worker who was working in the area.  There may be foul play and there may not be.  It has not been determined yet.  Whatever the outcome, the lives of so many people are impacted by this devastating turn of events.  

Image

How does God maintain all of this?  How does he watch over it all?  What does He choose to be involved in and what does He watch from afar?  How does He say I need to let my people handle this on their own and how does He live with the poor choices people make when He chooses to step back and let them happen?  Is my current life struggle really important to Him?  Should I just handle it on my own and not involve Him? 

I try to humanize God because it’s what I can relate to.  I know we are made in His image so that leads me to take a literal view and assume that what I feel He feels.  

And there’s Jesus.  The way He managed life on earth day to day is beyond my scope of understanding.  I know the frustration of being surrounded by a dozen people with varying skill levels and opinions and trying to get them all to work toward the same common goal.  He’s the epitome of delegation and finesse.  And I need to study that more.  

He didn’t care about being popular.  He cared about doing what was right.  He cared about people – especially people no one else cared about- and didn’t pay mind to what anyone else thought of Him and His actions.

Are my issues important in light of all that is happening around me?  Is my pain insignificant in a world where people are giving up their lives for important causes, where people hunger and thirst, where types of people are treated abominably?

Once again, I have forgotten He is God.  He created the heavens, earth, stars, moon, sun, water, vegetation, animals, oceans and people. That should be enough to recognize His power and ability as well as making creative solutions.

ImageIn the Bible it says to imitate God (Eph 5)- live a life of love.  What’s love? Patience, kindess, not envious or boastful.  It’s not rude or selfish.  Love makes anger come slowly and it doesn’t keep track of what someone did wrong. It doesn’t delight in evil and loves truth.  Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

This makes me wonder if a lot of things that I think are important God is simply not concerned with because it’s not about love.  I’m probably due for a priority check.  If I wrote down the things that drove me crazy this week would they really be that important?  More important, did I show love this week?  Did I experience love this week?  Did I give love away?  Maybe love is the issue I should check myself on regularly.  

I cannot understand why people hate people who are not like themselves.  I can’t understand why a good friend would succomb to a terrible illness.  I can’t understand why people I work with can’t recognize the challenges they feed into with their choices.  I can’t understand why my husband and I can feel completely opposite on a current event issue.  Hey, I can’t understand why another dog isn’t nice to my dog.  I can’t understand why my daughter wants to have a lunch box of a certain style because a popular girl has one.  

Image

I can understand love.  I get what it means to be patient, kind, not envious or proud.  I know how to do that.  I get slowness to anger, not being boastful, trust and perseverance.  These are things I can work on.  I probably need a list near me to remind myself, but I can address each of my daily issues in light of love and maybe feel different about my life.  I’m going to put it to the test.  Hopefully I’ll have good news to report next time I write.  

If I fail, and it’s likely I’ll have a bit of failure along the way, I’ll remember sitting in cole slaw sauce and walking on a chunk of furry gum.   Then maybe I’ll look at myself in the mirror and say, “ch” the Cesar Milan way.  Most importantly, I’ll push to remember love and what it  means.  That God loves us which means all of those characteristics that define love, define God. 

There are just some unanswerable questions in life that we don’t understand.  He does.  What I constantly remind myself is that life on this earth is not what it’s all about.  We are here for a temporary purpose.  It’s what’s on the other side that is the long run and what we hope for in Christ Jesus.

Love has a lot to do with it, but it’s Jesus’ love, and not our own that has made the difference.  That’s what love has to do with it. 

 

Image