Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This is how I see it...

 When our son was in preschool, he had problems with another child.  One day after school, as I was driving David home, he told me that he had reported this child to the teacher on the playground for something the kid said.
    I asked him what the teacher said and he replied earnestly, "She said that we all love each other at school."  Then he added in all seriousness, "But I don't think that's happened yet..."
    Bullies have always been around.  You can find them in the Bible and in all the ensuing writings that span the centuries since  Goliath and Samson first made the Gideons of the world cringe.
    And every family has their stories of how someone in the family dealt with the neighborhood (or school) bully.  My adopted "father," Cecil, was born in 1918 and grew up on a farm in Hazen, Arkansas.  When he was in the first grade, three  older school boys grabbed  him after school and rolled him around in the grass until his clothes were stained.  By the time he got home, he was late for chores and headed for a "whipping" for making more work for his mamma.
   After several recurrences of this - getting rolled in the grass, coming home dirty and late, and getting corporal punishment, he finally told his dad what was happening.  His father told him that the next time those boys grabbed him, to "shinny up one like he was a tree" and "grab hold" of the big kid's ear with his teeth and hold on for dear life.   Cecil did that and after the big kid got through hopping around and yelling and finally managed to get Cecil detached from his ear, he said that those boys became his best friends.
   One other story that Cecil recounted concerned two teen-age boys who had been threatening each other until it had reached the point where they  had a court date to deal with the issue. Unfortunately, the visiting judge was late on the day court would be held so after the families gathered for basically nothing, the sheriff decided to take care of things.  He  drew a big circle in the dirt and then  told the boys to get inside  the circle and "go at it".  The boys fought it out and when they were finished, the sheriff asked them if they were satisfied. They said they were and left friends again.
   Whether those were sound psychological ways to deal with bullies, I don't know.  All I know is that they worked.
   Today there is a huge cry about making schools a "culture of love" where bullying is a thing of the past.  It sounds good.  But the bottom line is that bullies exist everywhere - in the office, in the family, in the neighborhood, in college offices, in the supermarket.  I've even encountered them at yard sales, of all places.  And honestly, even in churches, although not many in that setting thankfully.
   What I'm saying is that while it sounds nice to talk about eradicating bullying from schools and teaching everyone to love, it's not going to happen.  As long as bullies exist, bullying will exist.   Most people can be taught to love others (or at least pretend to accept others). Some, however,  cannot.
   And I guess what I'm really saying is that the tragedy that happened at Chardon High in Ohio yesterday is not the fault of the school and definitely not the fault of the victims. It's not even clear that bullying was involved in the shooting that occurred early Monday morning. But what if that was the reason?
    Bottom line:   bullying is never a justification for cold-blooded murder.
   Tonight, there are three families who are still coming to grips with the fact that they sent their sons to school for a normal day and now... they will never see those kids again here on earth.
   My sympathy is with those families. Completely.
  Yet, as I read comments posted by other members of our society, I see sympathy for the shooter and a desire to place blame on the schools for not teaching kids to "love" each other.
  I don't know why the shooter was enrolled in an  alternative school. But I know you don't get sent to alternative schools for being good.   And I don't know why he walked into the cafeteria yesterday and gunned down 5 teenagers who were just eating breakfast and minding their own business.
   But I know this: there is no justification for what he did.
   And the blame is his.
   Praying for Chardon High and for the families of the five victims.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bending Low for Love...

     When I am sick, I go back to my favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Suffice it to say that in the last week, I've watched the A & E version once (6 hours of it!) and am getting ready to re-watch it.  In addition to that, I have read 90% of the novel.  Bottom line: I've been sick....
     My antibiotic runs out tomorrow and I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon with my doctor.. again...  This time a week and a half ago, I had no idea that I would soon be coughing and hacking my way through life, taking antihistamines, antibiotics, vitamins, cough medicine, and also dragging tissue around with me like it was pure gold.
     Basically my priorities changed suddenly and my world narrowed dramatically.
     The hardest thing in all of this, honestly, has been to accept it and give thanks, without worrying where it all might lead.

     I'm an Olympic worrier.  When I have bronchitis that hangs on, I worry about it going into pneumonia (which has happened to me before).  While I'm normally not too enamored of my appearance, when I see my blood-shot eyes in the mirror and notice how red my face looks when I'm trying hard to cough and breathe at the same time, I have to wonder what my husband sees in me and I feel anxiety about that.  And when, after a particularly bad coughing fit, I find myself breathing hard as if I've been running a marathon, I wonder how long my body is going to keep on ticking...  Surely the warranty must be pretty dog-eared and faded by now...
     Yet the Bible says to give thanks in all things.  All things...
     And the Bible says that God works all things to our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose.
     And the Bible says that it is appointed for us once to die and it goes on to say that even before we were born, He knew all of our days beforehand. In other words, our job is to trust Him and live for Him.  His job is to monitor our span of life and bring us safely Home when it is the right time.
    Meanwhile, there is a celestial love story going on.  One  that is far greater than the aristocratic Mr. Darcy, humbling himself beyond anyone's wildest dreams, forcing himself to go into the slums of London to hunt down a man he despises in order to use his own money to bribe that man into marrying a woman who is equally despicable.
    But, for the love of a woman, a woman who has actually spurned him in no uncertain terms, Mr. Darcy does all this and more.
    I love the irony in the novel  but I think the love story speaks to the depths of humanity.  Whether we admit it or not, most of us want someone to love us like that.  Someone who is infinitely desirable, far above us in life,  but who moves Heaven and earth, not just for anyone, but for us.
    This morning, when I was the sickest I've been throughout this week-long inconvenience of sinus drainage and such, I found myself going through the house, searching for lozenges or anything that would alleviate my ear and throat pain and as I went through the house, I found myself from time to time whispering, "Help me."
   And Someone did.
   I guess I'm just saying, there is a far greater love story, a universal one; in fact, an eternal one, that far eclipses the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth.
   When God sent His Son to win our souls, He literally moved Heaven and Earth to do it.
   And even when we are at our worst, this is something to be thankful for.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

     Tonight a very courageous follower of  Isa Jesus  has been once again sentenced to die simply because He has accepted God's love, God's provision for His sin, and He wants to follow God no matter where it leads.
     Sometimes a person may sacrifice himself in order to try to gain something, to get something for his family or even for himself in life after death.
     This is not the case for Pastor Yousef.  He  is willing to sacrifice himself because he has already found something.   Something so precious that, although he wants to live for his family, still, he would rather die than give up what he has found.
     What has he already received  that is worth losing everything for?
      It is the very real love of God.
      Isa Jesus said that if anyone wanted to know if His words were from God or not, then simply listen to them and put them into practice. After doing this for a while,  a person will know for sure if His words are simply the teachings of man or if they are truly the teachings of God Himself.
     If they are just man's words, then they should not be followed. If they are God's teachings, then they should.
    In the New Testament, the Injil, the book of John, is a good place to start for anyone who would like to understand why Pastor Yousef, who loves life and who loves his family, still, cannot turn his back on a great and holy God who loves him deeply and has forgiven him completely.

Monday, February 20, 2012

cough medicine musings...

    Phil has had bronchitis for a week and I've had it since Thursday night.  I can't even begin to tell you some of the strange musings that have gone through my mind.  What I can tell you is that the Rich Mullin's song with the refrain, "Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are," is so true. (And I know he wasn't writing about bronchitis but still... we are not as strong as we think we are... and in our house this week, it just took one little bacteria to prove that to both Phil and I.)
   Both of us, unknown to the other, actually reached the place during the worst of the illness where we felt that we were not going to make it, literally.  We've both had pneumonia in the past but I don't remember feeling as hopeless as I have this time around with a lesser disease.  Maybe it's our age. Maybe it's that I actually felt hopeless before but  because of the passing of time, I've just forgotten how far I bottomed out back then.  At any rate, this time around, mortality seemed all too real to me and to Phil as well.
   I also thought about friends of ours who have chronic lung disease and in particular, about one person from our Sunday School class who died of lung cancer.  I remember when I told him that we were praying for healing and how he responded, "Well, that's on my list. But it's not very high on the list..."  He went on to say that when the doctor told him he had lung cancer that had metastasized, he responded with, "Well, I can get excited about Heaven...."  I remembered how he used to have to leave the Sunday School classroom when he'd have a coughing fit.. but how he kept coming whenever his health allowed.  I was impressed by his example. But I also realized this week that I'm not where he was.  The bottom line is that I would like to continue living on this earth for a while longer and I'd like for all my friends to do the same.
   But the main thing I realized was how fragile we are.  A week ago last Saturday, our lives were "normal" and if you had told either of us that within a few days, we'd both be coughing our guts out and wondering if we'd survive this relatively minor illness, we wouldn't have believed it. Neither of us would have believed it.  Yet, that is exactly what happened.  We are frail even though we are wonderfully made.
   I also realized that nothing is so humbling as disease.  Appearance??  Out the window...  The  least of my concerns.  Breathing quickly takes precedence over make-up and blow dryers.
   Intelligence?  Right behind make-up and blow dryers...  One night at 3 in the morning, I was sitting in the bathroom trying to cough without disturbing Phil and my blood-shot eyes focused on  a bag of "discreet bladder protection pads" that I had in a prominent place.  The bag was folded a little in on itself and honest to goodness, I read  this on the side of the bag:  "ladder protection" in all seriousness and sat there for about 30 seconds trying to figure out what it meant...  :-) It probably took me a full minute to realize that the "b" from "bladder" was missing...  Phil and I can laugh about it now but at the time, I wondered if I was not only losing my lung capacity but my mental capacity as well!  (Now I will never be able to look at that bag without thinking, "ladder protection"...)
   Niceness?  Also out the window... Right behind make-up, blow dryers and intelligence..  I had to bite my tongue to keep from biting Phil's head off (he was starting to feel better when I was hitting the throes of the bronchitis).  Nothing the guy did really pleased me although I managed to express my thanks anyway.  It wasn't until last night that I could really think about all the things he did for me: bringing me cranberry slushies from Sonic, heating up chicken soup for me, washing the clothes, and, perhaps the greatest sign of true love of all - the poor man actually sat down  and watched six hours (yes.. six! Hours!) of the A & E production of Pride and Prejudice with me.   Surely there is no greater love.. :)
   As I have started to come out of this (and hopefully will continue to improve) I realize I have much to be grateful for: being able to take a hot shower whenever I wanted to, being able to go to the clinic without any problems, having canned soup at my disposal, having a warm bed and central heat, not having to worry about being absent from a job, having a husband who was willing to care for me and who could actually say, "I love you"and sound like he meant it when I felt like a cross between Attila the Hun and Dracula... The list goes on and on.
   Well, I think I've shot my bolt of energy for the day...
    I'm not sure that there is any point to these cough medicine musings other than the fact that I am acutely aware today  that we are, truly, not as strong as we think we are.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's!

 I love my husband and he loves me. Often, we look at each other and say, "I don't think anyone else could have lived with me this long and still be in love with me!"  We both have our idiosyncrasies and we know it.  Over the years, we have laughed together, prayed together, cried together, parented together,  worked together, celebrated together, and even gone out into the backyard to square off with water pistols when the tension was getting to us.  (Our neighbors loved that coping mechanism and got to the place where they would bring out the lawn chairs to watch:) As Valentine's Day rolls around, we have a lot of memories but for some reason, this one stands out, proving that not only do opposites attract, but that real marriages don't look like the stuff that goes on most hearts and flowers greeting cards...:)
      In June of 2008, our son was scheduled for an early ACT exam on a Saturday morning.  For the  two days before that, my husband had had increasing pain with an abscessed tooth. In fact, he had gone to the dentist and been placed on an antibiotic and a pain killer.  What none of us knew was that the antibiotic wasn't effective against the infection he had.  The pain killer masked the pain on Thursday so we thought he was getting better. But on Friday, the pain began to build until by 8:00 p.m., I was begging Phil to call the dentist and not wait until 1 in the morning, at which time I figured we'd have to make a run to the emergency room. He didn't want to bother the dentist, however, and said he could handle the pain. Famous last words:)
     At midnight, he was in agony and  sure enough, I soon found myself driving him up  University Avenue towards a local hospital. The weather was about to turn nasty and as we drove towards one very high  hill, I saw something I had never seen before - lighting came straight down in two columns from the sky to the top of that hill. It looked like two gigantic fluorescent tubes side-by-side.  I am terrified of lightening storms and tornadoes so you can imagine how I felt when I saw that.  At first, I was in shock, thinking, "Okay. Lightening doesn't do stuff like that. It must have been a trick of my imagination..."  But even so, I white-knuckled the steering wheel and began to silently pray that we would  get to the ER before Armageddon broke loose... Which, thankfully, we did.
   When we got to the ER, however, we discovered that A) the whole area was being remodeled and B) no one cared that we were there.  We found a book to sign but no one talked to us, questioned us, gave us the time of day, or even glanced our way.  For 45 minutes.    At that point, Phil, who was in excruciating pain, asked me to drive him to another hospital.  He knew from watching the t.v. in the lobby that a super cell storm was right over us, literally, but he was in so much pain, he didn't really think about it.
   Until I started driving us off the ER parking lot.  Before we even got to University Avenue, I was cringing over the steering wheel, my eyes barely positioned to see above it, babbling, "Oh, God! Help us!!  Please, help us!!!" All this while lightening lit up the entire area where we were about every 30 to 40 seconds.  I was no longer seeing a fluorescent light off in the distance, instead I felt I was sitting right smack dab in the middle of one and I was terrified.
Nighttime thunderstorm
    In the middle of my cringing, crying, and somewhat erratic driving, my husband spoke calmly but firmly.
    "Cathy, turn left onto University."
    "But.. but.. the hospital is the other way...  Oh God, pleeeassse don't let us die out here!!!"
    "Cathy, it's okay...  Just turn the car... left.. that's it.  And watch out for the divider in the middle of the high way.  Good. You missed it. You are doing fine. Now... Just ease into the far lane and... turn off at the first parking lot you see."
    "But you are in pain and..."  Lightening illuminated the interior of the car completely.  I shut my eyes and yelled.  Literally.  Momentarily.  When I opened them again, my foot was shaking against the gas peddle.  "But..but... can you drive??"
    Phil answered firmly.  "Yes, I can drive. I feel fine.  Just ease over into that furniture store parking lot. That's really good. You're doing good.  Now... watch out for the yellow parking space divider.  That's good. Now put it in park and put on the brake. Okay...  I'm going to count to three and then we're both going to jump out and run to the other side of the car so we can swap places. Ready? "
     He did and we did. But even though we ran like maniacs around the front of the vehicle, by the time we jumped into our respective places and slammed  the doors shut, we were both soaked to the skin with water running in rivulets off of us and literally pooling up on the floorboards.
    At that point, I curled up into a ball on my seat, trying to make myself as small a target as possible, with my face pressed against my knees and my hands covering my head.  As Phil  steered us down the road, I  alternated between crying, praying out loud and sneaking peeks at Phil to make sure  he was not being incapacitated by pain. Every so often, guilt would take precedence over  terror and  I  would blurt out how sorry I was that he was in pain and yet he was having to drive. Each time he assured me he was fine.
     I only looked at the road twice on that crazy ride home and both times I saw signs of flash flooding on the road ahead. The second time, we were still about a mile from our house and I could see the water was pretty deep just in front of us. I fearfully asked Phil if it was deep enough to cause our brakes to go out. He calmly told me that would not be a problem. (He also wisely refrained from telling me the water was deep enough to cause the engine to stall out on us and that if it did stall, there was nothing we could do - we'd just have to wait it out...).
    We finally got home about 2 in the morning, looking like water rats on a bad day.  We fell into bed but it took me a while to calm down before I could sleep. Phil, however, went to sleep right away. I'm sure he was exhausted but I was still seeing flashes of lightening every time I closed my eyes. I wondered if this was what it was like to have LSD go bad on you... If so, I was truly thankful I'd never touched the stuff.
   I woke up early the next morning to the sound of Phil softly saying, "Thank you, Jesus.  Praise God... Thank you."  Phil is pretty quiet and this is not typical for either of  us.  Especially in the morning.   I opened my blood-shot eyes and gave him a reptilian stare.  He was happy!  At 6 in the morning, after the worst night of my life, he was literally full of praise.
   When he saw that I was awake, he became animated.  "Cathy!  Do you realize that I have had no pain medicine for hours??? You know I didn't take any before we went to the hospital because I thought they would give me some.  And then they didn't do anything for me but  still,  I slept soundly from 2 in the morning until now!!! With no pain!!! Thank you, Lord,  for helping me!!"
    He told me his tooth was just beginning to hurt a little bit but that he'd had no pain from the time he started driving us home until  well after the alarm went off that morning.
    As he was lying there, filled with gratitude, I have to admit, I was lying there thinking that if he ever ignored my advice again and dragged me out at 1 in the morning for an ER run in the middle of a super cell storm, I would rearrange his innards.  Honestly, those were the exact words going through my mind.  Fortunately, I had enough self-control not to say them.  (If any person should have been so misguided as to ever put me on a pedestal, this story should take care of that mistake... :-)
    Phil began to experience some mild pain again before I left to take David to the school for his ACT test.  WE were both tired and had little to say to each other as we went through the drive-through to get caffeine - and lots of it...
   The only thing I really remember saying to David was that if his dad ever put me through another night like that, he, David,  would be short a parent.  The only thing I remember him saying was that he hated ACT tests and would be glad when this one was over.  As far as I can recall, the rest of the ride transpired in silence.
    Although Phil came through as a trooper and got us home through that super cell, no small feat with a gibbering wife practically curled up on the floor board, we were headed for round 2 as his pain continued to build that Saturday.  He still didn't want to bother the dentist  so this time  I went out to the car to run an errand and as soon as I got in the car, I called the dentist, babbled about our awful and unproductive experience the night before and asked the dentist to help us but not to let my husband know I had called him. I normally don't do anything behind my husband's back but I have to admit I was desperate not to repeat the scene from the night before.
   I hadn't made it to the store when my husband called me on my cell phone and said, "Dr. So-and-So is so nice!  Here it is late Saturday afternoon, his day off, and he called me just to check on me and see how I'm doing..."  He then  asked me to pick up a prescription the dentist had called in for him, which I was more than happy to do.  Later on that evening, I told him that our dentist truly was an awesome guy but that he'd also gotten a heads-up from me.
  I enjoy the atmosphere of  hearts and flowers  on  Valentine's day.  But I prefer  the real thing and it's been my experience that most of the advertising on this day has little, if anything, to do with the real warp and woof of married life.
  I love my husband.  He is truly, a steely-eyed missile man when it comes to  super cells and hysterical wives. He loves me too. I'm the one who knows when to call the dentist. Together, we make a great team.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Of birds and donkeys....

     A couple of nights ago, this verse caught my attention: Psalms 32:8 (Complete Jewish Bible).  It goes like this, "I will instruct and teach you in this way that you are to go; I will give you counsel; my eyes will be watching you."
    As I read this, I thought, "Who wouldn't want instruction from God Himself?"  
   Then I thought about the last part, "My eyes will be watching you..."  In our society, those words can be kind of creepy.  But I don't think the Psalmist meant it that way.  Instead, I think he meant God would watch over us the way a parent does when he sends a child on an errand.  It seems to fit the context here:  I will instruct you and teach you... My eyes will be watching you...
  I thought about when David was younger and I might send him across the street to take something to the neighbor's house.  Because he was small, I would stand in the door way and my eyes would be watching him the whole time, making sure that he crossed the street safely, ready to run to his defense should the neighbor's dog scare him, etc.
  But then another example came to mind, a more serious one.
  About 6 years ago, we had a neighbor who was always slightly drunk in the evenings and who would pass out about 8 or 9 p.m.  I don't know how to say this in a nicer way - basically he was a mellow drunk and even though he was easy to get along with when he was sober, he became even more laid back as he tossed back one beer after another.  It was really a sad situation because the man was  tenderhearted, extremely smart, and very gifted. He could grow any type of flower and landscaped his yard beautifully but then when the flowers came up, he neglected them and they died quickly.  He came over to our house once, half-drunk and even in his inebriated state, he played Chopin from memory on our piano and it sounded wonderful.  His life was a mass of contradictions but in the end, alcoholism won out over all his giftedness.
   This man had a 12-year-old son and the son was passed back and forth between foster care, grandmother, mother, and dad.  The mother also had an alcohol problem although the last I heard, she won her battle by sticking with AA and had gotten an associates degree in middle age, a major accomplishment.
   At any rate, during one period when the boy was with his father, things changed suddenly. One night the boy, Michael (not his real name), came running over to our house, wide-eyed and breathless, saying, "My dad is mean. Real mean. I'm not kidding. I gotta hide." It was early June and we'd had our door open for the evening breeze so Michael just ran straight into our house and didn't stop until he was in our son's closet with the door closed.
  We didn't know it at the time but Michael was taking pills twice a day for ADHD until the dad started giving Michael one pill and taking the other one himself. Needless to say, this was not a good combination. Practically speaking, it meant that when the dad should have been falling off  to sleep, he became wired and hostile instead.
  After Michael ran into our house, the dad came over to our fence, asking for his son. By that time, he was relatively calm, saying over and over again  that the boy should come home so he wouldn't be a nuisance to us. I pretty much  kept apologizing for having promised Michael that he could spend the night without consulting the dad first and as I went on talking about how both boys would be disappointed if Michael couldn't stay, the dad gave in.
  This went on every night for a couple of weeks and on most of those evenings, by the time the father got around to coming to our house to ask for his son, he was okay to talk to and Michael got to stay without any problem. One night however, the dad was loud and belligerent  when he came to the fence. I went out to meet him, praying as I went, not knowing what else to do.  (The child had told us what was going on but insisted he would not tell authorities because he would never get his dad into trouble. He really loved his dad and during the day, his dad was sober).  This night, the dad demanded Michael, insisting that he was a lazy brat who needed to work his butt off, do his chores,  and learn some manners, etc.  The father's words were slurred but he was pretty steady on his feet and I had no idea where our conversation would end up.
   Basically I used my nicest voice and just told the dad that I was so sorry but I had already put the boys to working on chores in our house - he would argue and I would just keep on  explaining how hard Michael was working  and how much David needed his help getting his room cleaned up, vacuuming, etc.    We batted this back and forth for a while but then the dad suddenly caved in and agreed that Michael could stay one more night.
  Eventually the whole thing came to a head on Father's Day, unfortunately. Because at that time the father forced his son to go home  with him that night, even though the boy was sick and had been lying on our couch, throwing up. Bottom line: the dad had used up all of Michael's prescription and he didn't want us to know that there was no evening pill to give the child.  So he dragged Michael home against our protests.  Before we could call the authorities, the boy broke away from his dad, came back to our house and used our phone to call his mom.  At that time, she had entered AA, was sober,  and was able to come and get him.  A scene ensued between the mom and dad - a shouting match really. But  Michael was in the back seat of the car throughout that scene, no one actually came to blows, and within a few minutes, the mom was able to drive off with the boy and he was able to live with her.
   You may be wondering what this has to do with Ps. 32:8 and God keeping His eyes on us.
   Back to that evening when Michael's dad was pretty belligerent and I was praying the whole time I was talking to him;  one reason I had the courage to go out and talk to the dad was because I knew  my husband had slipped out onto the carport and was standing in the shadows watching everything, ready to move at the slightest sign that I might be in trouble.  I knew the dad could go ballistic but I also knew that Phil  was serious about defending me and also very capable of doing it.  At the same time, as long as the dad didn't make a move toward me and my words still had a chance of getting through to him,  I knew Phil would  watch and wait and pray for a peaceful resolution.
   I was nervous talking to the dad that night, but nothing like I would have been if I hadn't known that Phil's eyes were on me the whole time.
   Sometimes God sends us along paths that are complicated and maybe scary to us. The Psalmist goes on to say  that we shouldn't act like a mule who has to have a bit and bridle to make it obey.  Mules balk because they are scared or because they think they have a better plan than their owners. Sometimes I do the same:)

   Still,  God is our father and He  knows we feel uneasy or even at times  want to  "put our ears back" and say "No way am I gonna do that! You've got to be kidding!!".  That's why He gives us instruction and promises to keep on counseling us as we go forward. And then, on top of that, He assures us  that His eyes will never leave us the whole time we are talking  to that unknown neighbor or walking  into that hospital room with a bouquet of flowers held in clammy hands, not sure what we will see, or standing up in a civic group to voice an unpopular opinion.  We are His hands and feet and the truth is: He has a deep love for even "the least of these"; yes, even  for a dad who has a drinking problem and  a young son who loves him.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This is the deal...

     I really can't apologize anymore for falling in love with Katie Davis's book.  I know the book is nothing compared to the Scripture -that's not even an issue for me.  At the same time, I know God is blessing me through the recounting of stories which graphically show   how God has used one simple, basically untrained  person to work in a profound way in Uganda.  I know that Satan won't like this and I pray every day now that God will protect Katie, her children and the ministry and keep them all close to His heart, Scripturally  grounded as they are now, and also keep them as unscarred as possible as they fight this important battle for the lives of  victims of extreme poverty. I know there are many Katies out there on the front lines and I thank God for this. I know that, still, we need more.
    Undeniably, every time I pick up this book and re-read something, God speaks to my own heart.
    However, make no mistake:  He doesn't impress upon me that I'm supposed to be another Katie.
    What He does impress on me  is the fact that I can start off my day the way she often does -  by asking God to lead me to some person He wants to help, to someone who is on His heart for that day, that hour, etc.  Katie freely acknowledges that she cannot fix Uganda and that just the needs around her in her own village are often overwhelming. But that God has shown her that all He asks of her is to  move forward and deal with one person at a time , making herself readily available to be His hands, His feet, and His heart, to move as He prompts her to reach out to this child or this mom or this addict or this very ill grandmother, knowing that He loves each one deeply and desires an intimate relationship with them all.
   Again, I can't go to Uganda and I have never had a heart for young children the way she does.  When she was 12, she wanted to be another Mother Teresa. When I was 12, I started writing my first mystery novel.  I'm sure you can see a difference there... :)
   Over the years, I have found that God, for whatever reason, has also given me a heart for people who need encouragement or who need His mercy in their lives.  The gifts He has given me,however,  are far short of spectacular; they are actually very simple and humdrum. I can't do blood and infected wounds or handle tons of hungry people  or whatever...I can take a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to someone who is sick. (If I don't like them, I can actually cook for them.. not kidding!  Cooking is not my thing... So I always pick up prepared food or "cook" frozen casseroles from Sam's.  It always seems to work...:)
   I can also write encouraging notes or e-mails.  And I, like Tim Allen in the first Santa Clause movie, seem to attract people. In the movie, kids recognize he is Santa Claus and at ball games, line up to tell him what they want for Christmas. People don't line up to talk to me but maybe because I have a generic, non-threatening face, sometimes a total  stranger will pour out their heart to me in the most unlikely  places - the women's locker room at the Y or  in a line at the grocery store.When this happens - and it doesn't happen often -  I just listen and tell them I'll pray for them.  Once in a great while, I'll get up enough courage to pray with them.  But that's basically it.  They go their way and I go mine and  I never see them again.  Still, on the rare occasions when this happens,  I am encouraged because I know God brought us together for a reason.
   Since I've been re-reading Katie's book, I've started off a few  days by  asking God to lead me to whomever is on His heart, whomever He wants to touch that day through me.  On at least two occasions, I have seen clear evidence that, against all logic, He has led me to the right person at the right time.  What I say to them or do for them is like a band-aid on a broken leg, maybe.  Bottom line:  there's nothing I can say or do that will fix their problems just as I cannot fix my own.
    But the very fact that He leads me to someone who is hurting when I have no idea what is going on with them and in one case, didn't even know the person's name, let alone their circumstances, - that fact alone awes me. It shows me that A) He is real and He does answer prayer, even orchestrating things in a way that no one else could do.    And B) although I really can't do much for the person He leads me to, I can know for sure that that person is on His mind.  The Bible says in many places that God takes note of the distress of His children. And truly, He does.
   The deal is: I want them to see Jesus and I want them to see whatever I say or do as evidence that He is reaching out to them, that He is entering into their suffering, as Katie would say, and that He is actively working on their behalf.
   And I want to see Jesus too.
   And when I pray this prayer and He sees fit to answer it, I do get to see Him.
   And I can only trust and pray that they get to see Him too and that I don't get in the way of that.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My turn...

     I've had a super-easy day. So far I've not had to cook:)  Instead, I could just reach into the refrigerator and get food already prepared.  My electricity  blinked out a few times earlier in the week due to a weird wind and rain storm that came up suddenly but the outage was so instantaneous that the only hardship it caused was to make us reboot the computer :)
    We are often stunned now when we fill up the car but still, we can afford it and I've been able to take my niece to school this week every day, go to West Little Rock to shop several times and go to my old stomping grounds of Benton.  So although it seems to take a lot more to fill the tank these days, it hasn't slowed me down much if any.
    I've been cleaning out our spare room (sort of... sigh...)  and so far I have a couple of boxes of old clothes to give away.  Honestly, culling out those few items didn't make much of a dent in what we had...  Basically, we are blessed.
   But that's not what this blog is about.  It's about some women in Uganda (no, I won't mention the book Kisses from Katie again.. promise ;)  - a group of women from a slum village who also happen to be refugees from Northern Uganda/Southern Sudan. They are despised by the other tribes and villages around them.  However, Amazima Ministries has started an industry - a women's beading group - and the ministry buys these necklaces and then sells them.
   This is huge.  In a village where most don't have enough food or a bed to sleep on, let alone extra clothes or electricity, most of the women make their living by prostitution, by scavenging among the garbage for scrap metal, or by making home brew to sell. Katie said that one mother would take the home brewed mash that she could not sell and give it to her children, making them drunk so that they would forget their hunger.
   That's mind-boggling to me.
   At any rate, Katie has formed a beading group and in order to participate, each woman has to agree to give up the three traditional ways of sustaining life in this village.  The women take recycled paper and fold it into traditional African beads. Then these "beads" are coated to stiffen them and make them shine.  The native beads are interspersed with glass beads.
   It takes quite a while for the women to make them and each Friday, they have a Bible study time and then Katie pays the women for their necklaces. And then she takes the women  to the bank where they put half their money  in savings and they keep half to live on for the rest of the week.
   The necklaces are then sold here in the states, shipping from Tennessee.
   They cost 19.95 plus shipping.
   Today, even though our time zones are different, I'm thinking about these precious women who spent their Friday beading, praying, studying the Word and laughing a lot, I'm sure.  Or maybe singing a lot. Or maybe both.  Because God has given them hope and with hope, comes laughter and singing, don't you think?
   Just knowing what God is doing in the lives of my sisters in Christ way across the ocean - just thinking about that  has blessed me today.  And so now I need to bless them, I think.
   How about you?