30 September 2008
The good thing about being up at this time is it is easier to focus on what is important in your life. The last few years I have found the early morning hours to be great for spending time with the Lord. Four thirty in the morning finds very little else to do. So once again I pull out my prayer journal wondering what God is going to teach me this morning.
I can add thanks for restored power for my favorite family here in Houston. Seventeen days without power with three young girls makes for many adventures. They have weathered well and had some good times along the way. I know I certainly enjoyed having them spend the night here.
I was checking in on a few other friends last night when I heard a rather unusual story. A pastor and his wife were both out of town in two different cities for conferences when Ike hit. They did not make it home until Monday after the storm. They had heard from neighbors all about the destruction on their block. Not sure of what they would find at their own home, they prayed that God would use whatever happened to them for His glory. When they pulled up to the house they were relieved to see everything looked pretty much intact. A few trees toppled and the roof looked a little funky, but no major damage. As they walked around the house and opened the gate to check out the back of the house they got a huge surprise. Their entire back yard was covered in oranges and grapefruits. Shay told me it was completely filled and you could see no grass. In checking all around them they could find no one with fruit trees and no way to explain where it had all come from. By that point many in their neighborhood were running low on food supplies so the pastor had everyone over. They gathered in his back yard and thanked God for supplying the bountiful harvest. My friend quipped that this must be some kind of modern day manna. They still haven't figured out how they came to have a yard full of citrus and are content with the answer that God provides. I think this will become one of my favorite storm stories.
As I work my way down my prayer list I feel the love I have for everyone on it. I feel so blessed to have so many people in my life I can pray for. As is always the case, prayer is more about changing me than anything else. I awakened in pain and feeling resentful for it's waking me. Now I am feeling loved and lucky for having so many people in my life I care about.
Thankful for a God who can change my heart and resting in His love,
28 September 2008
One day at work this week I was having a particularly rough day. I knew it was going to be so when I fell twice in the shower while getting ready for work. I took some time after the shower to ask God to give me the joy I should feel for the day He had given me. Often I am on my knees asking God to gift me a spirit of rejoicing I just cannot muster on my own. A friend asked me how I was doing. Knowing he cares to hear the truth and not forced "fine" I told him it was a difficult day but that we both would get through it well. He then said " It may be difficult but you are still smiling." I told him that my smile was truly a gift from God as I could not find it in myself that morning. I said the good thing about belonging to God was that He did not expect me to be what I wasn't but was willing to gift me what I needed to be what He wanted.
Later in the week I found myself with another trying day. I have been experiencing random muscle spasms and twitching of late and it was fairly pronounced on Thursday. I was frustrated by how it was affecting my work and concerned about what it might mean to the ongoing changes that make up my altering state of health. I took a few moments to have a sit down in the break room to center my heart. At that point late in the day I was all out of a joyful spirit and asked God to help me to remember His love for me no matter what comes my way.
A dear friend inquired about what was going on. I shared my frustration with her amidst some gentle tears and deep sighs. She and I know that we cannot control what comes our way but we can choose how we are going to respond. She also has had some difficult moments in her life where we have prayed together for us to remember to seek God's bottomless reservoir of grace to gift us what we lack. The great thing is we do not feel the need to pretend to each other that we are anything but what we are. We are flawed women seeking to live for God's glory and encourage each other along the way. Praying together is the best time two friends can share. You cannot help but be your true self at God's altar. Having a friend who knows exactly who you are and is your friend in spite of it is a priceless gift.
We sat together for a long time and she listened so lovingly as I poured out all the opportunities for praise I was still feeling disquieted about. Many years ago we decided to refer to difficulties as opportunities for praise. We hoped that by recognizing a positive change can come negative situation it would help us to remember that God uses our entire lives to draw us closer to Him.
I shared with her the lingering sense of failure I felt after the Hurricane. While I am so grateful to have been able to open my tiny apartment to so many people there is one thing from the past two weeks that still causes me to feel like I have failed. There is someone close to me who has known me for years. After seeing my life from a close perspective she still does not recognize that my helping others after the storm was not an extraordinary thing but something that every believer is called to do. I feel as if I have failed to show her how God expects us to loves others. With so many years invested in this relationship I wonder if I have even made a difference in her life. I know in my head that God calls me to obedience and I should leave the results for Him. My heart is having a difficult time with this lesson. I asked my prayer partner to pray I would let go of this feeling of failure and remember to trust God's plan for everything in my life.
Knowing me as she does she asked if there was anything else I had not yet surrendered to the Lord. I confessed I was also feeling disappointed about having to miss a conference I really wanted to attend this coming weekend. Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church is hosting a Renovaré conference titled "Life with God: Celebrating Lifelong Discipleship". I have read and received much from the presenters who are coming.
When I got the email telling me of the upcoming event I pulled out the calendar to see how I could work it in. I work part-time in retail and have to request time off at least a month in advance. In order to take a weekend day off I have to find someone with my skill level to cover my shift. As a part timer I do get some vacation time but I have already allocated those days off to go home for a few days before Thanksgiving. To attend this conference I would lose two days of pay and have to come up with the registration fee as well. After praying about attending I felt comfortable making the commitment to it.
As is readily apparent much has changed in the six weeks since I made the decision to attend. Ike came to Houston. What was going to be a stretch for my normal budget is now impossible. While several people have stepped forward to help, everything I have is going toward paying the bills and hopefully to restock both the pantry and the medicine cabinet. I told her I felt so shallow to be whining about missing an extracurricular activity when so many are without homes. Things are tight but there is a roof over my head. God has really blessed me and I am grateful for it and the opportunity to share it with my neighbors these past two weeks. I have asked God to use Friday and Saturday as special days for Him. After all, I have the time off I should do something good with it!
Here's where it all comes together to be woven into a needed life lesson.
I have been in Second Corinthians for my quiet time this week. I know you have already read much but I want to share with you a few verses from the Fourth chapter.
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!
Verses 1-2, and 5-12 from The Message
As God has so often done He led me to church today to hear His Words. Once again God had Doug reaffirm the lessons He has been teaching me. His sermon today was all about letting go of the masks we might hide behind to be our true selves. Coincidences are to be cherished. A few years ago Mike Fry got me to read When God Winks. It taught me God used what I thought were coincidences were actually times He was winking at me. I remember how loved I used to feel when my Grumpdaddy used to wink at me. He would catch my eye from across the room or dinner table and wink. To this day I associate a wink with unconditional love.
So everything of late has worked together to convince me I am at my best when I come to God at my worst and let Him work in me. After all, if I wear a mask I won't be able to see God winking at me.
Glad to be winked at,
P.S. My Grumpdaddy was my mother's father. My attempts at Granddaddy failed and all of my little sisters were stuck with the name I had given him. When I was a little girl and he used to hold me I thought that it was what it must be like to be hugged by God. That's why his winks always made me feel so loved.
27 September 2008
23 September 2008
I knew that Sam had been through a trying time as his job kept him in Galveston to ride out the storm on the island. He is such a kindhearted and gentle man. It was hard to hear that he had been in harm's way. So when I saw him in the store it was with much joy that I hugged him so hard had he been a teddy bear he would have no stuffing left!
Seeing them both made today such a blessing that I don't regret all the time spent stuck in traffic on the way to and from work. Hugging friends makes anything a joy!
Happy for friends who are safe,
19 September 2008
Christ Has No Body
By St. Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless men now.
This week in Houston there has been ample opportunity for everyone to live this poem. It has been a real treat to catch up with friends after the storm and hear all the great stories of love being shown all over the city. One friend rounded up others to help pull up carpet. Another gathered all the thawing food in the neighborhood and cooked up a meal for an impromptu block party. More than once I have heard of someone checking on an elderly neighbor and then either staying with them or taking them into their home. I am not the only one with neighbors streaming in and out to shower, use the computer or charge phones. I have three friends who have done the same. One of my friends took me out to lunch; knowing I have been feeding others she bought extra food for me to bring home to share. Her husband has been standing in lines to get food, water and ice for his neighbors. Over and over you hear stories of people stepping up to do whatever they can to help someone in need. I think when all is said and done this week will go down in history as one of Houston's finest moments.
So blessed to be part of the blessing,
15 September 2008
While we could many of us kept in touch through Facebook and Twitter. This confirmed in a real way what a vital role social networking sites can provide. We encouraged one another. It lessened for many the isolation a storm like Ike can bring. It was fun to see how friends all over town were weathering the storm. A misery shared is a misery lessened.
After the initial storm had passed it was such a joy to be out of the apartment. My heart was so happy to see so many of the neighbors come together to clean up the storm damage. One of my neighbors is a sweet lady who had just gotten home from the hospital last week. Even though she herself had a middle of the night ambulance ride just a few days prior, she waded through ankle deep water to check on an older neighbor. Her girls joined the group of us cleaning up debris. We ranged in age from the sixties to young children. Everybody pitched in!
As I was walking the rest of the property in the afternoon it was great to see how everyone was sharing their resources. People shared water and food. Generators were in courtyards with plugs leading to several apartments. I was helping a neighbor pry open her gate so she could get back in to check her home when several young men came by and gave us a hand. Perhaps the best thing the power outage brought was forcing everyone out to sit on their porches and patios. We got to know each other better and it can't help but to make people feel more friendly toward each other.
As I got to spend more time with neighbors today I began to feel a deep sorrow for the people who chose to stay in their apartments. God gifted all of us with an opportunity to love our neighbors in a tangible way. They threw away His gift by insulating themselves from the life taking place in the courtyards all over the property. For them the past week will always be primarily remembered as how they survived the storm. How sad that they could not see the gift they were given.
Like anything in life, we have no real control in what comes our way. Our control is in how we respond to it.
Thankful for so many new friends,
10 September 2008
Instead I am going to share with you something I read yesterday which has confirmed a life decision made recently. I spent some time this spring re-evaluating where I have invested myself. I seriously considered moving back to West Texas. I have family there and with my physical limitations increasing I considered how much easier life would be with help at the ready. That is not to imply that help is not available here, it's just easier when it's family.
One thing that has always had me reluctant to return to the area is the leaving of my church here. I love my church because I feel they understand the burden I feel upon me to share God's love with everyone I meet. There are some good churches in West Texas but I just don't feel as much ease there as I do here. I did get a glimmer of a common goal when I went to a Christmas Eve service with my parents. They had installed a new pastor and he seemed to feel the same need I feel to inspire the people in the pews to action. Their youth group was raising money for a trip by selling t-shirts with this message. On the front it said "Frozen Chosen" and on the back it said "Thaw Out." This gave me hope for any future move to San Angelo.
I have lived in Houston for 18 years now and feel totally at home here. More importantly I have invested myself in friendships with many from differing faith walks. I have Buddhist, Islamic, Shinto, Jewish and atheistic friends who count me as their Christian friend. In some cases I am their only Christian friend. God has really blessed my life by giving me the opportunity to love these people the way my Christ loves them. In my current neighborhood more that half of my neighbors do not go to church. I have a fantastic opportunity to share His love right outside my doorstep. Yes, you can share your love on the front stoop. Just wait until the cool part of the day.
So the question I was pondering earlier this year became "Why should I move?" instead of "Should I move?" Yesterday's Wizard of ID strip brought home the need to share the Kingdom of Heaven wherever you are.
08 September 2008
When I woke on Sunday I discovered the little tickle in my throat and occasional sneeze of the night before had blossomed into a right nice cold. I found myself seven minutes late to church. As is often the story, the parking lot was full with the only places open in the far ends. I debated staying or going and staying won out. As I was getting out of the car I had a moment of dizziness which caused me to smack my head on the car door. I sat back down to wait out the dizziness and ease the throbbing in my brain. By the time things were on a more even keel it was 11:30. I am totally comfortable with being a little late and making my way down front where you can always find a seat. Even I however gave pause at being a half hour late. I decided I would catch the sermon on-line later and took my Bible and Zune to head to a park. It was a beautiful day and very easy to see the wonder of God's creation all around me. God is marvelous and used the silences between sneezes to give me peace and comfort. I headed home feeling my soul at ease.
I made a big pot of chicken soup to ward off all the nasty little viruses trying to have a party in my body. I make a great Cold Killer Chicken Soup. As a consistent life pro-lifer I make an exception for organisms attacking me. I had already eaten a bowlful of this wonderful elixir and reasoned another half serving would be a good medicinal dose. I was picking up the pot when I lost my grip and it all went falling to the floor. My relief at seeing the pot land right-side up was quickly replaced with surprise as the soup came flying out and hit me full in the face.
Those of you who know me will not find the next part of the story at all unusual. I fell to the floor with the most serious case of the giggles you have ever heard. Honestly, I know my soup is good for a body but have never applied it externally before. The kitchen and I both needed some good scrubbing.
When I woke up this morning I discovered a benefit to the small fiasco that was yesterday. My skin is so soft today. I may have to investigate the moisturizing qualities of chicken soup.
03 September 2008
- Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
- Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple.
I have also learned that many of the problems that have found me in my life can be answered by simply trusting God has a plan for me.
- The more that you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
- Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It is not.
Simply knowing that the world has many problems and talking about them is not enough. To care connotes taking action. Another flair I have states "One person can
Having learned many things from Dr Suess I leave you with this thought.
You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.