Change is uncomfortable; but necessary

praying together one Our small group has been meeting together far longer than when my Beloved and I joined. They tell the story of a morning when one of the men was out walking and his neighbor's cat was out? Was lost? Something. The cat was the catalyst for the men's encounter that brought them and their families together for what turned in to seventeen years!
"You and your wife come over and have coffee next Tuesday night," the walker said to the cat owner. They met and discovered they had much in common, including their church home. Let's invite some others. They did. By the time my husband and I came to their church about 5 years ago, the group had grown profoundly into 13 couples.
Over the years, the couples had seen one another through a daughter's brain surgery; parents' illnesses and passing away; rebellious sons; job searching; retirement anxiety and questions; moving away. Through all the issues of life we came together to pray. Our hearts, so knitted together under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ's profound love, submitted to Him each and every Tuesday evening, knowing deep deep down that He was hearing. He was seeing. He was loving. And He was moving. And oh, how beautiful to watch Him work! It was glorious! To witness the healing of her daughters brain surgery; she, who is now mother of 5! To look around the crowded room of family and life long friends and see 11 completely new friends at my father's memorial service! Friends who had never met my father! Still profoundly moved at their heart and presence! To hear that their 30+ something year old son, who struggled for years to find a job was now not only gainfully employed but praised by his boss! Only God.
Lately, though, it seems that our group has had several move on to other groups within the church. Another couple moved to another town. Logical reason for leaving our group. But several others have moved on for what? Other ministries. And few new folks have come into our group.
Funny. This new season is groaning with questions. Are we still a group? What is God doing? Are we asking God that question or are we just getting irritated that folks are leaving our group? They're all great couples. Salt of the earth. Still very involved in other areas of the Body.
Change. Uncomfortable. Inevitable. Necessary.
Like pruning. When I get the garden clippers I'm quite deadly. As I was clipping the browned rose blooms, I got a bit hasty. Yep. Clipped a bud with two new buds yet to open. Bill noticed and grimaced. Pay attention, he said with his face. Oops. I brought the bud inside and stuck it in the middle of the carnations. It opened beautifully.
change- life is beautiful
What’s next for our group? Prayer. We meet and pray and discuss the question. What does God have for our group who have met for so many years? Personally, if they asked me, since we are in the midst of those retiring years, wouldn’t it be great to see the Lord bring in some young couples to our group to pray with? To encourage. To let them know that through their life issues, our God is with them. Seeing. Hearing. Loving. And yes, moving. And watch what God does to this next generation. For yes, though change is surely uncomfortable, it is so necessary for growth. I don’t really want to “die on the vine.” I want to be nipped and moved so I can bloom somewhere else! For my Lord!
Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace!
change - open arms

Eyes to see

homeless woman eyes

There she was.
Leaning on her cane, looking directly at me.
“Help me,” she seemed to be saying desperately.
I saw her. Her sunburned face.
Auburn hair in dire need of a shampoo and conditioner.
The traffic light changed. I had to move on.
Down deep in the recesses of my heart she knitted herself to me.
I wanted to reach out to her.
To give her a meal, some shampoo, a bus ticket to a shelter.

Eyes to see,
Leah said to me.
So many folks have no idea
that there are even people standing on the street
begging for a few dollars
so they can eat,
much less seeing some of these are women!

Five dollar gift cards to the local fast food;
New underwear from the Dollar Store;
Toiletries collected from a stay at the hotel
Or from the half-off bin at Target.
A Gideon New Testament.
Some baby wipes and chapstick.
Put them in the gallon zip lock bag.
Take them to the street where Dr. Mosely preaches
On Sunday afternoons.
After the service, we offer a meal and a bag of toiletries.

Prayers. Hugs. A look into their eyes to say,
“I care. I see you. You are real.
You are loved.”
“You have done what you could,” said Jesus,
And that’s enough.

Jesus saw individuals.
Not categories.
He saw the one woman with the issue of blood.
He saw the one Centurion who sought after Him.
He touched the one blind man.
Looking directly into his eyes
And had compassion on him.

Categories are safe.
But inhumane.
Categories keep one from seeing the people
That God wants you to see and touch
And tell them of Him.
Removing the categories requires faith
And risk.
Trust.
And great reward.

See.
See into their eyes.
Feel what they are feeling.
And then they will no longer be a
homeless person with no face or history.
They’ll be someone who needs your care and
Your word from Jesus. “I love you.”
“I died for you.”

Mark 14:1-9

out of the silence……..

chldren dancing ten I have this friend who called me while I was on the way to the library to pick up yet another audio book. My friend whom I really don’t know as intimately as I would like called out of the blue. She said, “So I saw your email and it seems you’re in a bind. I want to help you.” Out of the silence. I had not heard from anyone else. I had emailed one or two others. I had sought the counsel of two. “Just run with it,” one of them said. “It’ll all work out,” said another. I wanted it to work out. My way. The way of all my friends coming over and my NOT having to attend the meeting. NOT having to even call in on a phone conference.

It got complicated. While on the phone to my friend my phone, on its own, with its own plan, calls the head of the board and he  says, “Would you please send out an email to all the board calling for a face to face meeting this weekend.” A face to face. At the same time as the gathering of friends in my home. My heart sags. Why all on the same night? Yes, I could say, and it would be quite true, I have a prior commitment. But this guy has stirred the waters this week. And so has God. Yep. God brought a whole family of children to Children’s Church this Sunday. And……they’ve been raised in a church from wherever they came from. One of the little girls, the one in fifth grade, knew “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And kept going for a few more verses. She had heard of some of the books of the Bible. She knew some church songs. This was so encouraging since all of our kids haven’t been to a church unless they have been to our fledgling little Children’s Church that meets each week at 3:00 in the afternoon.IMG_0996

My friend texted me, after I lost her call to the Board member guy, that she was going out for dinner. Would I call later? Later came. “I insist on having the ladies come to my house that night,” she said. I caved. yes. Thank you. I really need to be at this Board meeting. Too much going on for me to hear later second hand. Thank you. How does one thank someone so gracious? Flowers? A card? Both? Nothing? I told her I cherished her friendship. And I do. And not because of this. But because this for her is the norm. Giving. Calling and asking how she can help. And meaning it. She’s Christ Jesus in the flesh. Her hands are open wide and her smile is broad.  You shine for your Lord, Precious Friend. Thank you!

Freeing

birds flying free  There’s a freedom I really haven’t experienced in so very long until about 2 months ago. That’s when I finally decided to stand up to those dark, long-held grudges and anger toward some relatives. Down on my knees at the foot of my red recliner I cried and asked the Lord to forgive me for holding on so long and not forgiving and moving on to love unconditionally. I asked Him to  take away all that junk in my dark soul and then almost immediately,  like years of wax built up in my ears, finally being pulled out I heard the sound! Oh the sound of relief!  Of music! Truly! Of freedom, as the flight of the birds winging gracefully over the highways. Far above and out of reach of the chaos.

I know the freedom now  and what it means to just LET IT GO! I got on my bicycle and rode down the track – my get-a-way retreat. And my heart soared for love of my precious family who so long ago “meant well” when one sweet relative asked me if there was anything she could do for me when I came home from having given birth to our first-born. Came home with empty arms as he was so early. Well, I stammered, running through my muddled mind, “some diapers”? After all, I hadn’t thought to purchase diapers six weeks early. “Well, you can get those at the store,” was her not so warm reply. Well, then. Yes, I thought. So, what were you thinking to do for me, then? I mean, okay. I’ll go to the store. Thanks for your offer “to help.” And never again, did I ask her for help. But I had held on to the hurt……and other things from time to time. Those memories are now scattered in the air.

The proof. Thanksgiving Day at my brother and sister-in-law’s lovely home on the other side of town. The usual family. The usual spread of delicious home-made dishes atop the usual lovely table decor. Gone, though, was the usual grudge and inner resistance to totally love from the depths of my soul. The love for my family – all of them – this year was deeply genuine. I love them. Each of them and harbor absolutely no animosity, jealousy, ugly guilt. Nothing. Is this then, truly the love of Jesus from me to them? Oh, how light and joyous I felt all day and into the evening. Was it the letting go? It was. It was also the confessing and leaving that hurt right at my Savior’s feet. Sigh. Yes.flying birds

But there was still some deep down pain inside coming from something or someone else. My precious cousin and college girlfriend. There was that time when we were close. Weren’t we? I mean, I remember each of them on an occasion saying, “Best friends forever!” Being the Amelia Bedelia minded, I took that literally. Forever. Always. But, like mine, their lives are so busy in their far away towns with their own families.

Why have I held on to the expectation that they write???? That they call and just say hello? I don’t know!! Is it because it’s not a two-way street? And I’m tired of always initiating?  Do I particularly enjoy this feeling of gravel in the pit of my stomach? This “I’m owning this relationship and you’re not and I want you to and it’s painful and still why don’t you write. Was it something I said? I feel so INSECURE about our , well, is this still a relationship? Has it truly gone sour?”

I stood in the middle of my den and out loud proclaimed, “I let you go, sweet cousin. I let you go, sweet girlfriend from so long ago.” Go. Be free. And I will too. You who are so very far away from me and seem to choose to be. You who have so much on your plate. Always have. Always will. but no where on your plate is there room for me. It’s all okay now.  I let you go and I will clean out my belly of hurt, emptiness over a lost whatever this was and like you, move on. Oh, I’m still here. In the same house I’ve lived in for the past 18 years. Going nowhere soon. You have my address and phone. But you no longer have my heart. If you never bother to call it’s okay. If you don’t ever text or email, no problem. May the Lord continue to take good care of you and your family. Love you. Bye.

I do have some very precious friends right here in front of me and I know now that the enemy of my soul has been successful in making me feel less content, less fulfilled because two very precious folks are not in the forefront of my life right now.  Their presence in my life was rich and I am grateful for what we had. But now I choose to focus on the friends I have here. In my life right now. I choose to encourage them. Love on them. Treasure them as they are but having held too tightly before, I know now to always, always hold my friends loosely. With air to breathe. With freedom to come and go and be real and up close and far away and to know that from me, it’s okay.

bird in handRecently, in prayer group, some were discussing some long-ago friends who had been a part of the group (long before we came in) and had moved on. But there had been some small degree of dissension.  You know, one quipped, we can be Believers and not all agree on everything and it will be okay! Consider Paul and Barnabus; Paul and John Mark, I responded. Not even the early Christians got along with one another! We’re all human, she returned. And we’re going to have some strife and struggles along the way or, we’re going to move away from some friendships and that’s okay, too. We’ll all sit at the feet of our Savior one day! And then, it won’t matter anymore if we got along on the earth or not!

Holding tightly to anything will bring hurt and a stabbing pain. Open the hand and the joy will be everlasting! Because of the first Love. His love. Deep inside, wanting to be free and expressive. Loving this flight! I believe it’s time to take another ride down the track by the gully!

May you go out with JOY and be led forth in His PEACE!

Looking closely

Collections. We all have them of various sorts – dolls, figurines, antiques, china, etc.  I collect Nativity scenes. Well, not intentionally. Years ago, Mother gave me our first nativity scene, the one she bought when I was a baby that she placed under the Christmas tree every year. Then, when I returned to teaching, she gave it to me to bring to my classroom and show the children around Christmas time. Ooooh, the children would gasp when they saw it the first time. I have one like this under our tree, some would say. More would say, what is that, as they would pick up one of the characters and look at it more closely.

About 18 years ago,  Mother and Daddy were on another cruise that took them to Russia. Mother found several stackable dolls and gave me a stackable doll nativity set. Oh, how I loved this quaint little set with all the small pieces. I would also take it to school to show the children, a little more cautious with it since it had such tiny pieces. The baby Jesus was noIMG_20131223_142038 bigger than a child’s finger!

On yet another trip to Israel, she brought home an olive wood carved nativity set that she used for awhile then passed on to me several years ago.

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My son Philip gave me a beautiful nativity set for Christmas a few yeas ago and it sits on our coffee table in the den in front of everyone.

 

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This year, I brought the old well-worn nativity set home from school for good. As I unfolded each piece from its sixty year old tissue paper and place it in the little stable, I held the pieces in my hand a little longer, staring at their faces. I hadn’t ever taken the time to do that – at least, not in a very long while. I got my camera and began taking pictures of the nativity scene on the mantle – up close pictures and after they were downloaded on the computer their faces were even more clear and almost alive.

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I picked up Mary and held her for a long time. Dressed simply, as a young peasant girl, her eyes barely open, as if looking down at the baby in the manger. What was she thinking? Her long fingered hands draped across her chest. Can it be, she’s thinking, that this is truly the son of God, as told me by that angel  nine months ago? Oh, Jehovah, what a responsibility. I will need you to help me raise him. Look at how tiny he is! Yes, look. Take a long look at the faces of the figurines in the nativity set. What are they each thinking – this moment in time when a baby is born in a rude old stable in a crowded little obscure town to poor traveling peasants from a long ways away, on this untimely journey just to obey the foreign government. Because of an angel, a dream, a star, the folks in the stable got it. They each knew – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the Wise Men had all been forewarned that they were about to witness a miracle, the fulfilling of a long awaited prophecy – the coming Messiah, who would save His people. So, perhaps what each were thinking was, “I am part of an historical event! How will God use a baby to save His people?” Joseph, now the protector of this baby – not his, was to get his directives from yet another dream; the shepherds were so excited that they told their families; the Wise Men received direction from a dream, and Mary. Mary kept all these events in her heart. She marveled at how God was moving in her midst, as she kept trusting.    IMG_20131223_155431

May we ponder, be alert for His directives in our lives, and trust. Keep trusting in this blessed Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace.

Those Thanksgivings We Remember

new orleans trip 011 Sometimes the school district declared a week long Thanksgiving Holiday. Other times, in their desire to keep kids in school even when they and the teachers were mentally tasting the turkey and playing in the leaves, they’d make us all miserable by having us come to school on Monday and Tuesday of the week of Thanksgiving! I’m sure some kid learned something and maybe one or two teachers were happier in their classroom than at home in their footies! Not me. We looked forward to that week long holiday at the end of November as a time to GET AWAY! Yep. Well, of course, we didn’t go out of town EVERY year at Thanksgiving. We enjoyed many a meal around the family table with Grandpa and Memom, my brother and his family. (Oh, I’m speaking of those Thanksgivings of recent past as parents of our own kids who enjoyed some years with just our own foursome family off somewhere in the hinterlands.) As a child, yes, Thanksgiving was a sacred time at home around the table of our parents and the holy of holiest football games – the tea-sippers of Texas vs the Aggies. Dad was usually seen wearing his traditional orange polo and slacks. Mom would beam at him. After all, she was the one who not only bought the shirt but laid it out for Dad to wear that morning! She always claimed he was color-blind.

Not too many years ago, on the day following Thanksgiving,  the four of us packed up the van and loaded our bikes onto the bike rack on the back and headed out for the six long hour drive to New Orleans.  We had also heard it was going to be a cold one the next day. No kidding! The following morning we awoke to 28 degrees of brilliant sunshine! We donned everything we could find: scarves, hats, gloves, sweatshirts, more socks, you name it. We each resembled bulging overstuffed forgotten turkeys. We drove to the public park just outside of town at the foot of the levee and unloaded our bikes. Burrrr! It was quite nippy! What on earth are we doing? We nearly forgot about the cold after we walked our bikes to the top of the levee and saw…….oh what a beautiful sight! The very MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI RIVER flowing right there in front of us! We rode slow – I did, taking in the sights on either side of the asphalt running track atop the levee. It was an amazing glorious bright sunny crisp cold day and we had 12 miles to enjoy it before riding straight into Audubon Park.new orleans trip 038

Once in the park Beloved and I found a park bench on which to sit and view the pond with its fountain in the middle. After resting just a moment or so, we mounted our bikes and headed for the lovely well planned zoo! The elephants were hilarious and delighted all of us onlookers ! We stayed for about 2 hours before getting on our bikes and heading back down the levee. No, it wasn’t as much fun. Okay. We were hungry and we had now seen the Mississippi and the lovely homes and it was time to eat! We spotted a sports bar/café at the foot of the levee midway along the ride so we turned down the hill and parked and ate. Huge delicious hamburgers. Oh how we all enjoyed the rest and the food! When it was time to head for the van, oh my goodness, we had truly over rested! Can one do that? Yes! Those last six miles were the worst.

Eventually we each found the van and loaded the bike on the back and tumbled in ready for a nap at the hotel. I will long remember that delightful trip to New Orleans and the scenic ride atop the levee. The four of us cycling together in a straight line alongside the Mississippi one side and lovely homes on the other.  What is my take away? Watching my sons as they enjoyed one another along the ride, at the sports bar chowing down on their huge hamburgers, laughing and teasing one another. I’ll remember watching them ride around the park together while Beloved and I sat at the park bench, resting. And of course, our reactions to all the “interesting” folks out on Bourbon street that night when we went to hear the New Orleans Jazz Band. And seeing our eldest drive us home that long stretch through Louisania with all our nine million fellow Texans that Sunday evening.  Lasting loving memories. Savored over time.  This Thanksgiving, as we gather around the table with extended family we can recall the Thanksgiving trip to NOLA  and laugh at all the memories as we share them with others. I’m thankful. Thankful to the Lord, for His provision of my husband, two sons, jobs which help fund such a great trip, and the health to enjoy them more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!new orleans trip 059