Tag: Hope

To walk into the bedroom of our 10-year old granddaughter is to be on sensory overload. Her room is littered, I mean arrnged, with stuffed animals, clothes, shoes, dolls, Legos, more clothes and shoes, drawings, papers, books….did I say clothes?

It takes a lot of coaxing to get her to clean out what she doesn’t need.

I know the differenc between need and want but it’s still something I struggle with myself at times.

Writer, Emily Freeman, recently talked about the essentials. That’s a word with weight. It means absolutely necessary; extremely important.  It’s a word that needs more than a 10-year old maturity to understand. American Girl dolls are essential to her like health insurance is to us. (Oh for the days of childhood!)

Our retirment date is growing closer each day. Two years from now. Lord willing, we will be in another city, another house, another life. Even now, I am considering what our needs will be. The obvious ones are easy. We will need furnishings for the house. We’ve lived in furnished parsonages the past 23 years so this is a big thing. We will need to learn when the garbage is picked up and become familiar with new street names and directions.

But what is essential?

That’s not easy to answer a year and a half away. So I turn that question, as Emily did, to today. In this time of year that schedules get packed and to-do lists get longer, what is essential?

The answer is harder than it sounds. It may vary day to day. Can it even be answered for more than one day at a time?

Today, it’s essential I go to my dental appointment. It’s part of health/self-care. It’s essential that I eat and more beneficial if I eat nutriously.

Our basic human needs are just that: needs. And they are essential.

What is absolutely necessary, extrememly important to me is to know I am loved. To know I have hope. That’s what I desperately need and what I have in Jesus.

 

Most Friday’s I link up with other writers for Five-Minute Friday a 5-minute free write prompt. And most weeks I take more than 5 minutes. Sorry, not sorry.

 

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faith family Five-Minute Friday hope


You’ve heard deaths from drug overdose are rising at alarming rates. These are our statistics. This is our county.

The sad reality of recovery is that even those who’ve experienced a year or more of sobriety relapse and sometimes, it’s fatal.

*Scott finished the program and left on his own. He came back earlier this year when a good friend of his, another graduate, was beaten to death in an alley known for drug deals and use.

*Roger came back for his third time. He had done well. He’d kept the same job over a year. But he’d left the principles of recovery and, as so many do, was doing it on his own. Then he and his girlfriend overdosed. He was resuscitated with Narcon but she couldn’t be revived.

Last year we noticed the rise in fatal overdoses from men who’d been in our program. The recovery community is close and word spreads quickly about relapses and ODs.

As the year came to a close we printed photos of those lost to addiction and put it on the Christmas tree in our chapel. It was a time of deep sorrow looking at the faces of men, some barely 30, lost to what many don’t see as a disease.

Earlier this year we attended Mike’s funeral. He was several years in recovery. Mike counted being part of his grandchildren’s life as one of his greatest gifts of recovery. He was in his late 50’s at the time of his death, a death contributed to from what is commonly referred to as wet brain. It’s a type of dementia caused by long-term alcoholism. The medical name is Wernicke-Korsakoff.

Whether it’s long-term or immediate death from substance abuse, friends, and family are left to mourn their loss.

Pat is 3rd from left

Alex in back

There’s a David Crowder song that makes me think of Pat. And it’s hard to get Alex’s dimples out of my mind. Some days I forget we won’t see them again. But the sting of death returns and my smile turns sour. Too young. Too soon. Too sad.

It’s tempting to think about the maybes and what ifs. If we’d kept him on restriction or maybe we missed something.

We could never continue in this ministry if we allowed those false thoughts to take space in our minds. Each person is responsible for their own recovery.

Good love has boundaries. But it’s grace is without limits. Perfect love, God’s love,

Perfect love, God’s love, is beyond our understanding. It’s a love that never fails.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38-30 the Message

grace hope recovery

The two men taking up our Sunday offering aren’t elders or deacons. They aren’t pastors or teachers. One of them probably doesn’t know the bible is divided into Old and New Testaments.

He is the young one. The other man is at the tail end of the baby boom generation. John’s shirt sleeves are rolled up revealing his tattooed forearm.

They move up and down the aisles passing the plate, sometimes pausing to make change. There have been times in both of their lives they wouldn’t be trusted with money and I don’t think this is lost on them.

A band has formed among this group of addicts and alcoholics. It probably started on the smoke deck, one musician finding others. Or maybe in the dining room or when one heard another picking on an acoustic guitar in the chapel. They’re metalheads and rockers and have known little of church and its music, new or old. The first song they played on Sunday was the closest they could find to what they thought would fit in church. The amps and distortion turned up as the lead sang out, “Oooh-oh-oh, heaven let your light shine down”. (Shine Down, by rock group Collective Soul.)

They’ve played Knocking on Heaven’s Door and Tears In Heaven and some original songs they’ve written with words leaning more toward a Saving God.

We’ve been in this area of ministry 13 years and I never tire of hearing them encourage one another. It never gets old seeing their comfort in this gathering for worship that in a traditional setting can easily become rehearsed. I think some may not know what a testimony is when we have this time of sharing but they’ll stand and offer from an honest place both struggles and triumphs.

Though scripture is read, prayers prayed, hymns sung and testimonies shared, there is no official membership in this church. Some who have completed this 6-month program come back to worship with us. They come back to encourage others and strengthen their souls. They come back as one beggar showing another where the bread is. That is the membership required for this fellowship of the broken.

You can read the rest as I join with Lesley at Life in the Spacious Place, sharing God’s redemptive work. 

 

hope recovery The Church

A friend sent me a free trial of one of the food services. They sent us all the ingredients and recipes for three lovely meals for my husband and I. All I had to do was prepare it. The first recipe included a clove of garlic and called for a mortar and pestle. What? Why would I have a mortar and pestle?

Another recipe called for lemon zest which meant grating the peel of the lemon that had been sent with the food. The only grater I have is the big kind and that wasn’t going to work. And why would they want me to grate a lemon when you can buy perfectly good lemon zest in the store?

The recipes were tasty, but I’m not into that much preparation. The garlic clove they wanted me to mash was to make pesto. Another ingredient easy to buy already made. This was getting just silly.

The songs we sang in Sunday School made it sound simple. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. Jesus loves the little children….ALL the children of the world. We sang about a wee little man who climbed a tree and little boy named David who was a sharp shooter with a slingshot. The songs had happy endings. Jesus loves us. He protects us. He comes to be with us.

Do you see the trend? I’m skeptical of things labeled easy, but I’m fond of an easier way.

I want faith to be as easy as it felt when I was a kid. It seemed prayer was the magic answer but it’s not working anymore and I’m asking, what’s changed?

As Christians, we like to talk about the success and not the failures. The safety and not the risk. When we say our prayers were answered, what we really mean is we got the answer we wanted.

We’ve been good at proclaiming that believing in Jesus as your Savior will keep you from eternal hell but we don’t say you may go through your own hell on earth first.

We have enjoyed decades of Christianity being embraced in this country. Of families attending church together more Sundays than not. Now we’re wearing a badge of entitlement expecting this easy faith to continue.

Faith is risky.

Martin Luther King, Jr. described faith as “taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.

We’ve prayed for marriages to be saved that weren’t. We’ve prayed for people to be healed of cancer, of addiction, of depression and they weren’t. We’ve prayed for the pregnancy to go full term or for the the waiting to conceive. Again and again our prayers seemed to fall silent.

We’ve prayed for our will not His.

Faith is the opposite of knowing and yet it is believing.

This is the faith I don’t like, the one I wrestle with. These are the words that get stuck, not wanting to come out but the only words that bring real peace: Thy will be done.

I haven’t said those words much lately. Instead, I’ve had a pity party for the faith that once looked so simple. Refusing to believe the words are still simple to think but saying them, meaning them, requires letting go of my will.

I know faith is risky. Help me believe anyway.
I know the unknown is scary, uncertain. Help me trust anyway.
Help me embrace a faith that doesn’t always make sense; a faith that holds more risks and isn’t safe.
Help me embrace your will, accepting it as a pathway to peace.

faith hope

There was a moment the world seemed to feel bigger and smaller at the same time. Bigger, in that we seemed to be on our own, our great big country with its big ideas and advancements enjoying the American dream. Smaller, in that we didn’t have immediate access to the rest of the world.

Technology changed that. Reporters appear on screen live from Russia offering commentary on our recent election. Sporting events are telecast in real time from all parts of the world. Social media allows me to see instant posts from friends in Peru and Malawi. Our world has shrunk. At times it feels crowded and we wonder how anyone will notice the difference we hope to make.

Dawn on Marco Island

We were walking the beach at Marco Island. The sand stretches out far and is packed down as we walk with flip-flops protecting tender toes from the millions of shells. We spotted a dolphin slicing through the waters without a ripple. We saw a huge flock of terns ? performing flight maneuvers. And then we saw this large sprawling branch with shells hanging on it. We paused in our walk to take a closer look. A woman approached us and told us to take a marker and write something. There were other shells on the sand with holes in the top so we could hang them on a branch.

My sister-in-law was writing her word on the shell while I examined the others. An older couple came over to see what was going on. We’re just writing words to lift spirits, we told them.  We didn’t know why others wrote on the shells. Some were names of people others were  symbols like XO.

It was so simple; this tumbled piece broken from something larger fashioned to hold sun-washed shells with words that made us smile. A small thing that could bring about a moment of peace, a smile, prayer. A little thing meant to bring joy.

News reporters weren’t there to cover this. It’s not a video that will go viral. The woman didn’t have a banner for a cause and she wasn’t asking for donations. We didn’t have to sign up or leave an email address or zip code. She was doing a small thing in a few square feet of a vast beach. She wasn’t discouraged by her smallness. She did one small thing with great purpose.

It’s a simple story, but most of us live simple lives. And we can do simple things, with great purpose, to share the message of hope.

Is there a small thing that is bringing you great joy?

Do not slack in your faithfulness and hard work. Let your spirit be on fire, bubbling up and boiling over, as you serve the Lord. 12 Do not forget to rejoice, for hope is always just around the corner. Hold up through the hard times that are coming, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and home to others. Romans 12:11-13 the Voice

faith grace hope

It was the faith we held in common that had me say yes when he asked me out. That, and his undeniable good looks. As I look back, that may have held an edge for my 19-year-old self.

Henry

We’d both grown up as pastor’s kids in the same denomination. We knew the life, the traditions, we believed.

This was enough common ground to explore a future. It was enough to say yes when he proposed and this faith has kept me saying yes to him.

The blush of youth hid our differences and made everything seem possible. The energy spent on babies and schedules and schools and church and more and more of life kept us clinging to this faith that was the one constant in our growing family.

You blink your eyes and they are grown and have their own families and the spaces between exposes our differences. The ones that have been there all along but we were too busy to notice.

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Henry Deb on rock3

How he can let his car get to fumes before filling the tank and how I’m eyeing the gauge when it says 70 miles left.

How he’s asleep seconds after his head hits the pillow, any pillow, and I can’t seem to find the off switch for my mind.

He’s easy going and mild-mannered (except when watching football) and I’m not.

Some days these difference stand up and shout right at me and I marvel that somehow, it works.

Could it be this faith we share, the common beliefs we hold, the traditions we’ve clung to, the same God we trust, is this what holds and sustains us?

Yes, a definite yes. But it’s also learning that our individual differences are more important than us being the same. Some days it’s hard. The days I just want to him talk and he’s exhausted from answering questions and making decisions, yeah, those days aren’t my favorite. But I am learning to make space for that because these differences are what make us who we are. They are what make us laugh with each other. They’re what make us understand grace and our need to give it to each other as God gives it to us.

It seems we are each at our best when we mesh our common bonds with our differences. My hopes are that our country will learn this too.

faith family Five-Minute Friday

“There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool” Fountain of Sorrow, Jackson Browne

Lake Junaluska

Lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow, New Oxford American Dictionary

It must have been after the third or fourth death this year that the word lament became cemented in my thoughts. The word stayed with me as if I were wearing it. It fit heavy like a winter coat only it couldn’t be taken off with the change of season because we were living in the season of loss.

They were family, friends and co-workers….some living long and well and others taken early; some through the course of sickness or disease and others through tragic circumstances.

I didn’t know the numbers would continue to climb, that there’d be more young ones to die as there would be ones old enough to be their parents and grandparents.

I only knew this was a season of lament.

It didn’t matter if we knew the person many years or a few months, if they died peacefully or tragically, each loss added to the weight bearing heavy on our hearts.

I was telling a friend about Alex’s dimples. They were deep enough to swim in when he smiled and he always had a smile to share on his young, almost 30-year-old face. I was angry with another life stolen from overdose but I thought of his smile, of his struggle with recovery and lament started to mingle with gratitude.

Not even two weeks later it would be John, 63 and an example of service through his volunteer work. He knew the road of addiction being in recovery 30 years. John went to all the old rock-n-roll concerts that came to town. He told me he’d seen them all in the 70’s but couldn’t remember them so he was going again.

This tall man looked like health but had serious issues that kept him from driving and working full time. So when he could, he used his time to volunteer. He went in for a serious surgery and from there went straight to heaven. It was John’s deeply held faith that moved him to volunteer, to fight for the underdog. And again, my lament is mingled with gratitude for his life touching mine and so many others.

smoky mountains

Junaluska cross

Grief comes hard and feels lonely and I feel like these Jackson Browne lyrics describe me most days lately. Even with the spark of gratitude my heart feels the sorrow. That’s the thing about feeling; you can’t only feel the joy and not the sorrow. They are mixed together like the bitter with the sweet.

It’s this time of year both of my in-law’s were promoted to glory and in between, a dear uncle. This time of year many of us think about the loved ones who won’t be around the Thanksgiving table, the place that will sit empty Christmas Eve. Our hearts are pools of sorrow because we have known the sweetness of love.

I’m finding gratitude in the sorrow. The tears that puddle in my eyes may be bittersweet but sweet none the less. They are sweet because my life has been touched by grace, shaped by love from a merciful God who brings hope, even in our lament.

“You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough.”

Psalm 30:11-12 the Message

faith hope

Mama in church
We said our earthly goodbye earlier this year. But she had been gone a long time. Our grief began eight years before Mama died.

She was the last parent I had. Daddy died too early and now she was dying a slow death before our eyes. Nancy Reagan called Alzheimer’s the “long goodbye”.

They say there are times you’ll never forget: your wedding day, the birth of your children, those landmark events in life.

But she did. She forgot the times, the milestones, and the memories. She forgot she was a pastor, forgot my dad and forgot me.

Alzheimer’s does that. It robs those things you’ve tucked away in your memory, the moments you whisper to another, “We’ll never forget this day”.

We never imagined it would happen to this vibrant woman. We didn’t know she wouldn’t remember her three children or her eight grandchildren. We didn’t know her memory would crumble into pieces of our past.

I’m over at The Mudroom today, sharing a story about hope that’s found when memory is lost. Won’t you join me?

faith family hope

Rio Olympics

We found our spaces on the sectional in the living room. The five of us spanning three generations going from a comfortable recline to leaning forward, voices calling out, “GO! GO! GO!” as if the swimmers could hear our chants. Sometimes our voices erupted in cheers and other times the descending sounds of “oooohhhhh”.

When the cyclist struck the curb,biking flying in the air as she tumbled from of her bike and landed in a crumpled heap on the ground, we let out a collective moan and sat in silence a moment before we quietly started talking about how serious this looked. She wasn’t “our” athlete we were cheering. I didn’t even know what country she represented but we all were captured in the moment, united in our hopes she wasn’t seriously injured.

In the victories, defeats, amusement and concerns we are pulling together.

olympic-rings

Do you find this true in your family or with your friends? Are you watching together or recounting the highlights with your co-workers the next day?

At times this year, it has felt like our world was pulling apart. Politicians are focusing on our differences as they yell across the aisle and television screens at each other.

We want special privileges for this group and that. Special needs aren’t only reserved for physical or mental challenges but gender and faith, rich and poor. Because you live here and not there or you’re over this age.  There’s an exemption for this and an excuse for that.

We have labeled ourselves with so many diagnoses and designations that we are no longer seen. We are hidden by these descriptors.

The Olympics reminds us we are united. We watch the stories of the athletes, we see the different lives they’ve come from but we put these differences aside because we know for these two-weeks we are all one. We will cheer for people whose names we don’t know until they’re flashed on the screen. We will watch events we have no interest in but they are our fellow countrymen and we are for them. And being for them doesn’t mean we hate those from other countries.

We needed this Olympics, in the middle of a tragic summer and divisive political season. We needed to be reminded of the commonality we share as Americans. as humans as citizens of the world. We needed to have reason to cheer and celebrate.

It would be nice to end this with how Christ Jesus unites us. (Ephesians 2:12-14) But we aren’t united in our beliefs or our faith. Even in this arena barbs are hurled at opposing views. We can pick a good fight, alright.

So I’ll take this couple of weeks when it seems like we’re all on the same side. When our voices sound as if we’re cheering for the same team. I’ll take this moment when we put our differences behind us and peel off the labels that separate us. For the moment, we’re united. Maybe we can get to like this. Maybe we can learn not to wait 4 four years to pull together again.

faith family hope

sunrise in our neighborhood

The quiet calm of our neighborhood in the early morning
The sun peeking over the palms
The mist hanging above the green of the ball field

Happy

The emails from friends far away
The text from family
The voice of a friend

Happy

The ocean lapping around my ankles
The umbrella shielding us from the sun
The rain that will blow hard and green our yards
The thunder that will remind me of summer storms of my childhood

Happy

ocean

A1A at the Atlantic Ocean
A1A at the Atlantic Ocean

lily S and kk happy

We know happiness because we’ve been touched by sadness. One making possible the other and both reminding us we are made to feel. In both emotions I celebrate the feeling rather than numbing.

Sitting on the front porch with family
Giggles from our granddaughter
watching birds flutter on the feeder

Happy

I read one time that happiness is a choice and I believe that. Some days it’s a hard choice and some days I make the wrong choice. We have had a lot of sadness lately. Untimely and tragic deaths, quarrels and hurt feelings…these have left me with the sting of sadness and rightfully so. There will be other times when happiness is the right choice. Even challenging times where I can still choose happy over anger.

Today is new and unknown.
The sun brings promise even as laundry whirls in the washer and errands run.

Maybe the unknown is the best time to choose happy. To ready our smile and set our eyes with an expectation of good to be found. To get away from the news and remember today is a gift.

In this moment I have, I’m choosing happy. Maybe my choice will be contagious because I believe happy spills over to those around us.

Linking up with Kate Motaung at Five-Minute Friday

family Five-Minute Friday hope