Faithful Friend–Gone But Not Forgotten

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Sometime back in the 1990s (it’s been at least 15 years), I developed a relationship that I thought would last forever.  We’ve had our ups and downs–sometimes I wanted to throw in the towel and see if I could find a better, more progressive friend; but all in all, I’d like to think the relationship has been beneficial.

Today, that relationship I thought indestructible, ended.  Somehow, I will mourn the loss and move on.  I will develop another relationship, but will never forget all the years with that special one–my first one.

My kids have thought I needed a new friend for a long time.  My friend didn’t keep up with the times and continued to lag behind most.  I didn’t mind and defended our relationship fiercely.

My friend, you served me well, and I will cherish the memories.

Goodbye dear old flip-top cell phone.

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Are We There Yet?

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My daughter and I took a road trip to Phoenix to take care of my parents’ cats and house while they went to Texas for my aunt’s funeral.  With a 12 hour drive from our house to theirs, we had lots of time to sing to Billy Joel and Beach Boys (my contributions) and Ke$ha (her contribution).  Calm moments brought out worship songs.  With boredom, we raided the food sack for trail mix, granola bars, jerky and potato chips.  A lot of nothingness greets us on I-40 through New Mexico and northern Arizona.  The scenery carried so many dust storms that my eyes burned.  Beautiful silhouettes greeted us once we hit the Arizona mountains at twilight.

Somewhere around hour 7, both of us whined, “Why is it taking so looonnnggg?!”

Sometimes, I feel like my life’s journey is trapped in a car on a road trip.  Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where it’s hard to remember the hopeful excitement at the start of the journey and much too soon to think about journey’s end, I wonder, “How much further, Lord?  When will I see some of the results for which I thought I labored long and hard?”  Oh, I linger some places, see His hand at work and experience great joy.  But, eventually, I have to get back in my soul’s car and sojourn to unexpected locales as I find my way home to the Father’s heart.

Jud and I experienced a traumatic church situation that ended about 6 years ago.  Our spiritual road trip has taken us from valleys of desolation to God’s mountaintop of grace.  Yet, the pilgrimage is ongoing and, once again, I’m asking, “Why is it taking so looonnnggg?!”  Just when I think my heart is healed, a tried-to-forget memory invades the present and I have to get in the car of my soul to wander to more depths.  Right now, I face one of those desolate times.  I have a routine in preparing for a road trip:  I paint my toenails a favorite shade, pick out favorite music and get some fun snacks to make the long hours go by faster.  In preparing for this spiritual road trip, I’ve got some favorite worship music, some favorite Bible stories and I’ve painted my toenails a color called “Are We There Yet?”  I know some of the spiritual scenery may burn my eyes with tears and the road may not offer a variety of beautiful things to see; but I also know that a destination will emerge and God will carve out a place to ‘restore my soul.’

Holy Spirit, I trust that You know where we’re going and how to get there.

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Snow Days and Poptarts

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Growing up in Phoenix, we didn’t get days off due to weather.  There were no ‘snow days’ or, in our case, ‘heat days.’  I do remember once in high school there was an infestation of scorpions and when a nest fell out of the ceiling in one of the halls, we got a day off while the exterminators…well…exterminated…the problem.  At that same high school, classes continued as normal while police investigated a murder in our parking lot.  I’m not kidding.  The case remains unsolved, although we all believe her boyfriend did it.

Nothing canceled our schools (if administrators don’t deem a murder sufficient reason, did we really think ANYTHING was worthy?!).  So, now that we live in Colorado, I’m all for celebrating the ‘snow days.’  I look forward to them as much as my kiddos do!  We have Poptarts on hand and it’s a laze-around-in-your-jammies day.  Usually someone puts on a favorite movie we haven’t seen in a long time.  A time to read, a time to nap, a time to enjoy, a time to breathe and de-stress.  It feels like a ‘free’ day.  Last week, we had a ‘snow day.’  Actually, a blizzard warning (Colorado springtime fascinates me).  The night before, as schools began to cancel and the news crawled information at the bottom of the television screen, I realized we didn’t have Poptarts.  Not acceptable.  So, braving the wind and icy sleet (the snow hadn’t started yet), I went to the store to stock up on ‘snow day’ foods.  My theory is that if we have Poptarts on hand, the school district is more likely to call a ‘snow day.’  It worked.  At 6am the house was quiet at an hour that usually sees flurries of activity as we start our days.  Instead, the wind howled and I got to enjoy some quiet in my ‘nook’ in my room before starting some of those indoor chores that I’d neglected for awhile.

Sometimes we need spiritual ‘snow days.’  Days to do nothing but bask in God’s presence.  Days to focus on our souls and our spirits.  Days that feel a little guilty-pleasure, but have God’s sanction.  Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31, NIV).   Jesus understood the need for time away.  I’ve loved the passages where he goes to the ‘lonely places’ to spend time with God.  In our American, frenzied culture, we value productivity and success.  Perhaps our definition of ‘productive’ and ‘success’ keep us from enjoying just ‘being’ with God.  So, today, I’m calling a spiritual ‘snow day.’  I will eat a Poptart (frosted cherry….), read some of the life of Jesus and bask in the glow that I am God’s creation and He wants to spend some time with me.

 

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Paths of Righteousness

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Recently, some friends accused me of compromising the gospel because of how I relate to people’s experiences and their stories.  I don’t often call-out ‘sin’ in people’s lives, but instead, I walk with them and offer counsel as they ask.  My philosophy is that I earn the right to speak into their lives as they see I sincerely care for them and am on their side.  Psalm 23 resonates on many levels for me.   “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) is my favorite line.  Do you see its beauty?  Paths.  Plural.  More than one.  In my belief system, for me, there is only one way to God and that is believing Jesus.  BUT, that’s not the sum of the beautiful, wondrous story of salvation.  So much more awaits us as we journey into oneness with each other and with God.  No one story will look alike.  Snowflakes, all of us, unique and yet appearing the same on the surface.  Yet, no one path contains the full mystery of God’s grace, God’s righteousness, God’s kingdom!  Many paths lead us to Jesus.

Sometimes I want my path to be the path where everyone finds God’s glorious treasures.  Surely, my tailor-made blessings from God would fit anyone.  How many of us have seen The Grand Canyon and gasped at its breathtaking grandeur?  I talked with a long-time family friend who visited that majestic tapestry of God’s handiwork and thought, “Eh, it’s just a big hole in the ground.”  Seriously?!  Someone experienced that divine creation differently than I do?!  A neighbor of my parents is an entomologist.  She has bug specimens all over her house (EEEEWWWWW!!).  Now, I have three kryptonite-level phobias.  Fear of bugs tops that list.  I even created a theology, of sorts, about bugs–they are a result of The Fall and epitomize sin entering the world.  They are NOT found in heaven (and we need to be quite clear on that point–except maybe butterflies, fireflies and ladybugs).  However, the neighbor sees God in the world of bugs and can actually worship Him in thinking about their creation.  Puzzling to me, but it’s not my path.  Could paths leading to our heart’s refinement be just as diverse?  Could God actually use His gift of mercy in me to lead someone else on a path to His righteousness which wouldn’t be found by overt ‘evangelism’?  Am I willing to admit that my ‘witness’ is flawed and not a one-size-fits-all for God to use in everyone’s life?

A few weeks ago, I went to a store looking for some art supplies for my son to finish his art project.  Because the store is large and poorly laid out (or brilliantly laid out to get people to buy more–depends on perspective), I traversed for 15 minutes before giving up and finding an employee to ask directions.  While the woman answered my question, she seemed to have a heavy heart.  I asked her if she was okay before going on with my agenda.  Her son, a security guard for an apartment complex in a rough part of town, had been shot early that morning and the store wouldn’t let her leave work.  Thankfully, the bullet hit his bullet-proof vest; but, naturally, the woman wanted to see her son.  After empathizing with her for about 10 minutes, I hurried to finish my original art supply errand.  Driving home, the shame began to creep up behind me.  I should have prayed with her.  I should have mentioned Jesus.  I should have witnessed more…better…overtly.  That evening, still beating myself up for missing an evangelism opportunity once again, I believe God spoke peace into my spirit.  She needed to vent and process.  She needed someone to enter her world of concern and worry.  She needed someone to soothe her soul in that moment.  In that moment, my gifting became God’s presence for her.  In that moment, God met her.  If God needs her to hear more overt evangelism, He’ll send someone else down her path.  Someone He’s trained with that gift.

What if God wants me to just lay the groundwork for another to ‘harvest’?  What if a person needs to learn to trust in the unconditional love of God before he or she can hear correction?  What if someone’s perceived ‘sin’ by us is not God’s definition of ‘sin’ or biggest concern in that person’s life?  Can we hear Jesus’ words to Peter when he hears what his future will hold and asks Jesus about John’s future, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  As for you, follow Me.”  (John 21:22)  Are we willing to follow where we see or hear Jesus leading us regardless of how someone else’s path looks or to whom another is called to minister?

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It’s The Small Things

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Coffee with friends.  Diet lemonade from Chick-fil-A.  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Cary Grant movies.  When life throws me a curve ball, these things give me comfort and make me believe that I can make it through almost anything.  As I write, there is a bag of Reese’s Mini Eggs that I just bought at the store for 50% off in the Easter clearance.  I’ve eaten 5 today and feel at peace with the world….

In my stocking at Christmas last year, Jud gave me 10 miniature Christmas-themed (on the bottles) bubbles.  As I blew bubbles to my heart’s content in our family room (and at my kids) and squealed with delight, our kids, a little horrified, asked, “Dad, why would you give her bubbles?!”  Jud just smiled contentedly and replied, “Look at her.”

The Peanuts clock that plays Christmas tunes on each hour just ‘chimed.’  I didn’t remember it until I put away all the Christmas decorations around January 1st.  Since I didn’t get to enjoy it during the holidays, I put batteries in it and set it up in my bedroom.  In February, my daughter rushed in my room and panic-stricken asked, “Do you hear that?!  Is it real?!  I’ve been hearing music for a week and I don’t know where it’s coming from!!”  We laughed (me laughing so hard I cried) when I showed her the clock.  Yes, I know it’s April; but I plan on keeping the clock around until it stops making me smile (or until Jud can’t stand it anymore).

Jesus told us to look to the small things–sparrows, lilies, birds, finding lost things, mustard seeds–and let them build our faith, build our joy.  He told stories like the one about the talents.  He said that if we are faithful with a little, God will trust us with more.  Then he says, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Hiking with Jud, laughing with my kids, cleaning while listening to Beach Boys, sharing with friends what God seems to be doing in our lives, mocking news items with friends that have the same sense of humor that I do all invigorate my heart and soul.  Sometimes, I forget how the little things in life recharge my psyche.  God seems to have built in ways for us to enter His joy today; we just have to look for Him in the everyday.

It’s the small things that make life not just bearable, but joyful.  I hope you find that joy revealed in your life today.  As for me, I think I’ll go get a diet lemonade and see if my son and Jud will watch Grimm (a favorite show) with me.  Life is good!

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