Simple Questions Only

Sally cat

Phylis wouldn’t stop at one question. There would be follow up after follow up, her interest in people was astounding. I don’t remember her specific questions but I know she knows all about my life and I know a lot about hers.

We met when she was our children’s fifth grade teacher. Curiosity and teaching are the perfect blend. How does one teach without first asking questions?

Our friendship developed and has continued over years and moves, through life changes and grief, both hers and mine. We never stopped asking each other the simple questions about life.

I’m not a dreamer, you see. It’s far too impractical and risky. Dreaming isn’t safe. Dreaming follows curiosity so I’ve never fancied myself a curious person either. Only curious in the way a mama wants to know why her four-year-old son suddenly got quiet. Or why she hasn’t heard his teenaged self come home yet. Some might be so bold as to call that nosy. I call it good parenting.

There’s the curious and the nosy with me falling in the latter category. Who, what, where and why are what I want to know. The answers to those aren’t always what I want to hear but fear doesn’t make me shy away from asking.

Don’t fret, the story continues over at Cara Meredith’s where I’m guest posting today. Won’t you hop over and join me at Cara’s?

Children change things

It was during my first pregnancy that mama told me. On one of our monthly long distance phone calls toward the end of my pregnancy mama said, “Your dad and I never argued until we had kids.” There wasn’t much else she needed to say. I understood. Of course, we would be different.

Children change things.

All the books and doctors and mama words are just that: words. You listen kindly, you laugh at the right spots and raise your eyebrows in concern when they talk of sleepless nights and toss it all aside for happier thoughts of rocking your contented little one.

A few years later and you’ve collected your own stories of sleepless nights, during and after pregnancy. You give the first time mom-to-be a knowing smile as mentally you pat her head and think, “Oh child, you have no idea and wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Because yes, children change everything.

One child changed our lives from impulsive movie going to planned nights out and schedules for just about everything.

Our children changed what I thought about education, specifically theirs. It changed the food we ate and when we ate. Our mornings and evenings were changed by their sleep schedules. Holidays were brought more into focus as we planned ahead for where and who we’d spend them with.

The biggest change children brought about was internal. The love that swells inside at their first solo in the school Christmas pageant or their first track meet. The flutters you get with them when they get their drivers license or  looking at colleges several hours away.

Children Change Things

We are celebrating the birth of a baby who changed his parents life like our children changed ours. But this baby, this baby changed the world. His birth sent a schism in the political scene and among the religious right. Before he cut his teeth rulers were fearful of this rumored newborn King. Fearful they would be overthrown.

This baby grew and as he did he changed the lives of common men and outcast women. He kept company with cheaters and thieves. He ignored the Jewish law in favor of grace and compassion.

Two thousand plus years later this child become man is still changing the hearts of men and women. His ways seem contrary to many of the religious folk and he continues to favor the poor and rejected over the pretty and popular. His kingdom is an upside down one with the first coming last and the least being favored.

Then and now, this child changes things. Have you allowed him to change you?

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

O Holy Night

Linking up at Holley Gerth’s with Coffee For Your Heart

Out of Sorts

Moving around as much as my family did wasn’t my choice. Kids are along for the ride as parents decide such things, at least in my time it was that way. It can take some time to figure out the benefits of packing up and leaving Florida to Utah, especially when it’s in the December. Six months later you move back to Florida but the right coast this time and then to Texas and so on throughout my growing-up years.

You learn the vernacular of Baltimore does not include y’all but leans more to ‘youse’ and in Utah they it’s not skipping class but sloughing.

Granny would sometimes use the word puny when she wasn’t feeling ‘up to snuff’ and sometimes, ‘out of sorts’ is the perfect description to feeling a bit ‘off’.

In Sarah Bessey’s latest book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith,  the title reveals her out of sort-ness isn’t a physical one but spiritual.

I’ve read Sarah’s blog for a few years, finding her writing style relatable even though she’s younger than my daughter and her life in Canada speaks of more differences in our lifestyle. Her words aren’t written for a select group but she opens her heart to write the words she has carefully considered and wrestled with in prayer and contemplation.

Sarah is a seeker. A believer. A self-described happy-clappy charismatic drawn to following Christ rather than a denomination. This book is about that journey.

She is brave recounting the time she pulled away from church at the same time her husband was the Youth Pastor. I smile thinking how that would play out in our denomination; a pastor who’s spouse wanted nothing to do with church.

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“Whether it’s in our relationship with God or with our own families, at some point we find that it is time to sort. It’s time to figure out what we need to keep, what we need to toss,

and what we need to reclaim.”

Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith.

Even in her time of being ‘out of sorts‘ with church, Sarah doesn’t bash the institution or its people. Rather, she searches deeper for where it is God calls her in the midst her uncertainty.

“I will always pray as if this one thing is true: God is for us. And it’s worthwhile to keep knocking. That’s all I know about faith for sure.”

For the sake of full disclosure, I received an advance copy of this book which releases Tuesday, November 3, as part of the launch team. I agreed to give only my honest opinion about the book.

As I read page after page, I found myself in her words, feeling that ‘not quite there’ feeling about some of the words we say or how we look at this or that. I’ve looked at the limitation rather than the freedom and through her story I see a bit of my reflection. I find myself saying, “me too” chapter after chapter.

Sarah put words to my feelings and assured me, it’s going to be okay. Nothing has been lost, only revealed, reclaimed, and found anew.

Day 15 – Ordinary beauty of signs

Have you ridden in a car without air-conditioning? Or driven a stick-shift?

I expect the latter more than the first unless you live in Alaska or the Great Northwest.

When I was dating Henry, his car didn’t have air because he bought it in North Carolina and compared to south Florida, well, I guess things were different then. It was also the last car we owned with vinyl seats and no a/c as husband and wife. Just sayin’ 😉

Those were the cars of my childhood and road trips were traveled on stretches of highways lined with billboards and cows and crops. Without technology to entertain my brother and me, daddy relied on  alphabet and counting games.

The alphabet game was played by first choosing which side of the road would be yours. Then you collected letters, in order, from the billboards on your side of the road. First one to complete the alphabet won.

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pumpkin patch sign

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Two Georges sign

I doubt that had anything to do with my affinity for signs. The older and simpler the better.

I have photos of hand lettered poster board signs on road side stands, painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, a ragged piece of wood with faded letters. We saw a simple piece of 2×4 painted white with JESUS SAVES in red letters nailed to a tree on a very winding stretch of road in the mountains of North Carolina. Some signs are gone before I can grab the camera.

There is something about the order of text that appeals to my visual appetite. More, perhaps, are the words that call to action, to do something: Stop. Look. Watch. Taste. Or the words of proclamation and announcement like: JESUS SAVES

These are messages stated clearly, simply, speaking to the audience at large not knowing if or who will respond.

Is this not the way Jesus calls to us? Clearly? “Come to me”

Simply? “I will give you rest.”

His words, offered in a variety of translations to make clear to all. His words, offered in red letters to single them out. His words a sign, a call to action.

His words calling and giving woven together, his words written in red on a rugged piece of wood, now written on my heart.

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An introduction

#write31days

It was my husbands good looks that first turned my head. On the volleyball court at camp and a couple of years later as I drove by the church offices where he was mowing the lawn.

We’ve both changed a lot in the years we’ve been together. As it says in the bible, “beauty fades like the wildflowers in the field” (Isaiah 40:6b) and we’ve changed inside and out.

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birthday party weekend

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playing hands

time with Christabel 803

I like pretty things. But there is a more ordinary beauty I overlook: my grandmother’s tattered bible or the granddaughter with a pile of colored chalk drawing her masterpiece on the porch. This is the beauty that surrounds us but gets pushed aside by the headlines of the day. This is the beauty that requires intention on our part.

I’m participating in write31days this month and I’ve chosen Ordinary Beauty as the topic. I want to notice what I’ve stopped seeing because it’s always there. I want to slow down to see what I rush past. I want to listen for beauty and capture all its forms. I want to share that beauty with you because we all could use a little more pretty in our day.

What’s your ordinary beauty today?

Let Your work of love be on display for all Your servants;

    let Your children see Your majesty. And then

let the beauty and grace of the Lord—our God—rest upon us

    and bring success to all we do; yes, bring success to all we do!

Psalm 90:16-17 the Voice

The prayers of strangers

It wasn’t the typical Sunday morning but I’m not quite sure what typical means some days. My sister was visiting and going with us to chapel service, her first in the recovery community.  Hudson was leaving town immediately following the service and before I walked out of our house I had a message from a friend in another town asking our men to pray for JW.

As I set up the computer for the media another message flashed across my screen: please pray for JR’s wife and then the needs of another not asking for prayer but I knew it was needed.

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prayer

Every week there are those sitting in silence, doubting prayer, wondering why theirs wasn’t answered or if they should even ask for prayer. We’ve all trivialized our problems because those of another sounds greater. We’ve sulked because we’re still waiting for the last 10 prayers to be answered and now we aren’t even sure we believe.

It stays in my mind, this woman of the faith who has never met one of the men she has asked to pray. She knows of their brokeness, of the reasons they’ve had to put humility aside and walk through our doors. She’s heard me tell the stories and these are the ones she wants to pray, for one they don’t know either.

My faith is shallow and impatient. It doesn’t wait long and its doubt comes quick. My faith reaches to people I know, I’ve seen their lives and heard their hearts and maybe, maybe, I’ll whisper my need to them.

I know these men and I know God and I know the broken are just the ones God uses to crash my arrogance and pride. I know he hears the hearts of those whose hearts beat for Him and nothing beats louder than a heart needing to be made new.

We prayed for the known and the unknown. Some are praying still. I don’t understand the mystery of prayer. I’m not too good at it, at least the way it seems it should be done. I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope I’m wrong that it needs to be always done on my knees in a quiet room with no distractions and no less than 10 minutes, preferably 15 minutes. Doesn’t that sound right?

You thank and praise, which seem the same to me but I heard someone say they’re different and you should include both in your prayers.

You admit and request and you wrap it all in gratitude and that I know it right because how can I not be grateful to the One who somehow holds it all.

Mostly I pray in spurts. In the moment as it comes to me like seeing a request on Facebook and sometimes I touch the screen and say a prayer. I know I’ll forget if I don’t say it just then.

I pray with my eyes open a lot because I’m driving or at my desk or someone comes to mind while I’m cooking. It always too little  but God isn’t the one measuring prayers by word count or eyes closed.

I don’t know why she asked a group of strangers, men with addiction problems, to pray for her friend. I do know God has heard their prayers. I know her faith in God is why she asked and not her faith in people. I know her faith has helped strengthen mine.

 

Where Kindness Leads

Moving as much as we have, much was lost. Or tossed, or given away. Most of it just stuff but time reminds me of the photo’s  dad had that didn’t end up with me or my brother. I’m surprised there are a  few cherished things that found their way to our home.

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mamas songbook songbook note

The books and bibles are well-worn and today I finally glued the spine back to one of the family bibles and a songbook given to mama. Kind words were written inside from the giver and I was quickly reminded of the kindnesses that have spread across generations.

Notes written in books, a delicate handkerchief from a pastor’s wife when I was a teenager, funny pictures with friends who could bring out silliness in me. I wondered if I’ve been as kind in return.

me and Suzi

I thought I had the correct change when I walked in to get a soda. But I’d mistaken a penny for a dime, plunked the money and drink on the counter and said, “I’m short a dime and going to the car to get it.” Walking back in, a young man walking out said “I gave her the dime”. Kindness from a stranger.

I am moved by kindness. The simple gesture of a coworker offering to walk me to my car when night has come, someone holding the door open, these ordinary everyday acts, I don’t want to miss the grace of giving and accepting.

My mind goes to the gentle rhythm of a melody from long ago….

It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord

Knowing that you love us no matter what we do

Makes us want to love you too.    – Your Kindness Leslie Phillips

“His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Romans 2:4b TLB

The rest of the verse is hard. It talks about our stubbornness and our refusal to turn from our sin, from our own desires rather than His. The verses talk about his judgement that will come. But, God wants to move us with his kindness, His benevolent patience.

God, help me to be moved by your kindness, swayed to put your ways above mine. With each kindness shown me by a stranger may I see your face, your hands, your grace. Forgive my stubbornness. May my heart be turned to you.

The scary and the safe

The message was about running away from God.

Claire’s post in SheLovesMagazine was about hiding from God.

Two days, two words about God and our inclination to hide from him, to run away when he calls.

Like children when they know they’ve been caught, Adam and Eve hid from God when they went against his will. Their Creator who walked with them in the evening, who had fellowship with them and loved them and only wanted their best, they thought they could hide from him. He had created the very place they called home and all the hiding places were his but shame blinds us.

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God told Jonah to go to a specific place and preach to them, to tell them they needed to change their ways. Jonah didn’t want to go. He didn’t like the people either, or he didn’t like their ways and he especially didn’t want to be the one to tell them they needed to clean up their act. And he didn’t have social media to contend with!

Centuries later we find ourselves hiding from our past, our mistakes, our failures, our embarrassments. We run from things we’ve never known like acceptance and grace. Those things that are synonymous with God’s love.

When I am caught in that knowing there is no where I can hide, I feel scared. Even in the face of Love I cower and drop my head in sorrow. I am caught in this tension of fearful and safe. Scared of being known for what I really am. A wayward child who daily takes back her will knowing wilfulness has only led to frustration and disappointment at best.

As children we hid to escape punishment or angering or disappointing a parent. It seems those are the same reasons we hide today. Even from God.

But how can I disappointment the One who already knows? The One who knit me together in my mother’s womb, who knows the spot where the mole use to be and real color of my hair.

I want the day to come where fear doesn’t cloud my thinking and my longing for Love’s safety is my first instinct. God’s grace is waiting.

Earth crammed with heaven?

It’s an old joke daddy loved telling his aunt. The joke about St. Peter giving a newcomer a tour of heaven and as they passed this one area, St. Peter says, “shhh, they’re Church of Christ and they think they’re the only ones here.”

Daddy’s eyes sparkled with mischievous fun telling his Church of Christ aunt this joke more time than she would have cared to hear it. Him a preacher in a different denomination, him a believer heaven would be filled with believers not denominations.

Before you get all up in arms about Church of Christ beliefs, I’m not up on their doctrine and know that in any given denomination there are many different tenants taken to heart. This isn’t about that.

This is about a book title I saw: Earth Crammed With Heaven by Elizabeth Dryer.

This is about the beauty of those turn of words and the possibility that earth could ever possibly be filled with heaven.

But what if our view of heaven is a place with rooms like the old joke suggests?

There’s the post-modern wing with Rob Bell and Brian McLaren readers. The stadium sized area for praise and worship lovers and the acoustically formed concert hall for those preferring the old hymns.

Surely there’s an incense filled area with icons and candles and there must be a street corner somewhere, gold-paved of course, for the likes of William Booth and the Sally bandsmen.

This is ridiculous, of course. Except, except sometimes we live like this. We live thinking more about being right than right living and we make no room in our lives for those different from us.

So if earth were crammed with heaven? This is the only quote I’ve seen from the book, the one that is resting on my mind today:

“In a profound way, our intentionality is a key ingredient determining whether we notice God everywhere or only in church or only in suffering or nowhere. It all depends on how we choose to fashion our world.” Elizabeth Dryer

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Bethany Children's Home 2399

 

 

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It was a question asked when I was in Haiti two years ago. Where did you see God today? And what Ms Dryer says requires intention.

It seems natural to see God in church or while we’re doing churchy things. But if we believe God is all around us, are we looking for him everywhere?

We often mention seeing God in nature but do we see him in spider webs as much as we see him in sunsets? In gnarled roots as much as swaying Palm trees?

I need a redirection, a realignment of my eyes and my views to see a God I believe created the universe. The God who loves the one struggling with faith as much as he loves Billy Graham. 

This is what keeps me in awe with the only One whose love is without conditions or boundaries. He alone gives hope for an earth being crammed with heaven.

 

Five-Minute Friday {when}

When will you be home?

When can you call?

When will you grow up?

When will the pain stop?

When will my prayers be answered?

When do we need to leave?

When do you get the test results?

When are you going to change?

When am I going to change?

And Van Morrison sings the words, “when will I ever learn to trust in God?”

The numbers on the clock seem to creep at an agonizingly slow pace when we ask, when? 

“When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”

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That’s his favorite verse of the old hymn we sing every week at the close of our community worship.

It’s a progression like those good old hymns are. Theology set to music and words we sing as a sending out of these men who have asked, “when will I stop the cycle of addiction, of abuse?”

The first line reminds us of this amazing grace that make the blind see in that metaphorical way. Make us see, Lord, make us see your love for us.

We sing on and the pause comes, the pause before the last verse when he says, This is my favorite. I want to see you there, singing into eternity, singing praise to God.

When we see God, acknowledge his presence and claim that He Is God, when we love him and accept his love for us, when can be now.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a host of word-hungry, flash mob loving bloggers writing furiously for 5 minutes on the word Kate provides. Stop by Kate’s and join the party.