Facing the Unknown…enticing, yet Frightening

As I drove to work one cold, foggy morning, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the road disappearing behind me.  I literally stopped in my tire tracks.

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Facing the future…enticing, yet frightening.

 

Here was the perfect picture of the beginning of a New Year…walking into the unknown.  It can be so enticing, beautiful–and yet frightening.  To me, anyway!

Especially as I age, marching even further past the ‘back side of fifty’ (as I like to call it).  Quite honestly, there are a lot of changes I really don’t like.

     But if I embrace the “not so good”, along the with the good–and don’t try to face things by myself–then walking through the fog, I find you can actually see one step at a time.

And I suppose that is all one really needs.

Just Grateful: New Year’s Bread–learning from the Homeless

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Since New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday this year—and a very COLD one for North Carolina—I found myself being truly grateful for my HOT coffee this morning as I prepared bags of goodies to pass out to the homeless and displaced folks who would be at the downtown church fellowship I was headed to later in the day.

As I worked I thought of the friends we had made in the few months we had begun helping there…  First, we met Al—I remembered how he wouldn’t even lift his head off the table that first week. But when I started taking him coffee and granola bars from the kitchen area, he slowly began talking to us.  Still looks tired now,  but brighter in the eyes.  He’s in and out of the shelter, making it a day at a time he says.

And there’s D…Every week he’s there like clock work–rides the bus from several miles away where he lives in a tent– just to come to ‘Homeless church,” see everyone and get a meal.  He told me his story one day–how he started drinking after he was in his 40’s (due to some bad events)—and surprise, turned out he couldn’t “drink just one” and wound up losing his job, then his apartment….  You know the rest of the story.   Now he does odd jobs and can buy his own basic supplies, but hasn’t quite licked the habit.  Though he was jumping for joy last week when he was dry 7 days in a row.   First time in years he said. And he was still smiling this morning–tho as he put it–it was “awfully hard to crawl out of that sleeping bag when my phone said 20 degrees outside!”

Then  there is joyful, young Joe–who preaches to me and keeps me encouraged. His faith is way beyond my level.  I personally think he is Michael come down in African-American garb. And oh,  there’s Mike–serious and steady–always cleaning for us, before and after services; and long, lanky Johnny—who reads everything, and talks to the people we can’t see–but to us, too–always politely.

And the occasional women and children who look tired but grateful for a meal, a chair, and someone to share a word with.  Or perhaps a song and a prayer.  Either way it adds up to one thing we all need for each New Year:  Hope.

It might be as simple as the hope for daily bread, or the hope that someone cares. I know I’m learning to be more grateful for the bread on my plate and the people I love.

 

*Names changed to protect personal privacy

 

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Display Your 2017 Favorites

This was a wonderful Photo challenge as I had a unique year–getting to revisit the Rockies in Colorado with my husband –to reminisce on our first trip there as a very young couple 30+ years ago…plus a trip home to the valley in Tennessee where I spent my teen years collecting memories.  It is still true that a picture is worth a 1000 words…

Special places–full of memories of special people.

 

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

 

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I thought this rooster perched so boldly atop this post was an apt symbol for our “Ascend” theme this week–especially since he and I were both UP for an early start in the morning fog!   I was driving by on my way to work and saw a horse I wanted to photograph and, oh well–the rooster took over the photo shoot.

 

Sexual Misconduct: Condemnation vs. Consequences

“If he’s guilty, I hope they throw the book at him,” I heard the voice in my head           spout off–in response to hearing the news that North Carolina NFL Panther’s owner, Jerry Richardson, was yet another person of influence being accused of “misconduct in the workplace.”

Alas, my own thoughts were what shook me. Warning me I needed a wake-up call. Warning me we as a people were getting weary of the “good fight.”

Guilty or not, what right did I have to wish he would get “the book thrown at him”?  How many times did I stand guilty of some type of misconduct–before God—or my spouse, or a friend/co-worker—and pray I WOULDN’T  get the “book” thrown at me? You know–hoping for MERCY?

 

Don’t’ get me wrong…I sincerely believe any type of abuse or harassment/sexual misconduct needs to be addressed head on and not swept under the rug–and let the chips fall.  If you have broken the law–and harmed others in the process–then you may need to be prosecuted and jobs lost, so that relationships and families are protected. I have worked as a counselor and seen the victims who have faced years on the other side of the fence, believe me.  It’s a long climb back over–all because someone chose to abuse power.

But my thoughts were inflammatory and a bit self-righteous. Was I concerned for the welfare of everyone involved? Not really—not at first. So maybe it would do us well to pause and ask:  is condemnation and punishment the goal –or is what we really want appropriate consequences for the actions that harmed others–that might lead to change?

Maybe, just maybe, we can use a little more empathy for the struggle we ALL face every day; I mean who of us would want his life portrayed as an open book for everyone to read?

As these lyrics from the song “Good Fight” by Anthem Lights so clearly say:

We hop in that ring with
Ourselves everyday
We fight,
Fight that good, good fight…

We win some
We lose some
And some get away
We’re perfect
We’re broken
That’s just how we’re made.

“…let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”  (John 8:7)   –Jesus

Click the link below for a great upbeat song…

“Good Fight” lyric video, by Anthem Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Post on Blogging from The Little Mermaid

Eureka! I’ve finally discovered the secret to blogging success! The good news is that I can’t wait to share the magic potion with all of you! Whoot! Ready? Let’s get started… What is ‘blogging success’ at the outset? Is it something achievable? Is it quantifiable? For me, a successful blog is one that is loved […]

via Propelling Your Blog As The Next Hot Ticket Item — The Little Mermaid

Christmas Journeys: The UNexpected and Fumes of Faith

Thinking about Christmas journeys this year. They do seem fitting —as the First Christmas was a journey…quite the journey as it turned out—an unexpected trip, with a long detour to Egypt! And I doubt Mary and Joseph packed much on that donkey, you know?

The UNexpected.  That part of the journey intrigues me.  Mary and Joseph’s story is famous—and they seem to pass the “test of faith” so well—trusting God with that very thing I dislike: the UNexpected.  Some of us handle it better than others, but if honest–most of us struggle with it.

What got me thinking this way was my literal Christmas journey this year, because mine came early.  It came early because things have c-h-a-n-g-e-d in recent years…sigh.  I’m not a fan of change.  (I vividly recall being in the 4th grade and wishing I could stay there forever). But, my visit home turned out great.

For one thing, I got to see special people— old friends that haven’t changed.  Being able to sidle up to a table at the coffee shop and chat with a real friend about real things, like we never missed a beat…that’s saying something.  Some-thing.  You can’t define it—you just thank God for it.

And then there’s family with no drama. Just simple living and simple get-togethers—accepting each other and trying to be kind. Aware of oversights, yes, but carrying on, doing our best to love each other well. And that’s it. That’s what makes a visit great!

But aah…that was in between the journeys. This post is more about the journey.  There’s where I learned something.   Very interesting.   Did not intend to.

But you know how God is, right?  UN-predictable.  Yep.  So, God, being how He is, chooses to teach me a Christmas lesson while ON my journey–probably because I prayed a nice prayer about learning something from the Christmas season.  Be warned—those kinds of prayers will probably NOT get answered sitting safely on a church pew.  Just say’in.

Well anyway, the journey to TN started out smoothly.  Left NC early, Dunkin’s coffee and donut stashed away and headed down I-40 West by 6:15 AM, ahead of the morning rush hour. Cruising in my little 6-speed Mazda-3. Keeping alert with the always cheerful Bobby Bones morning show: “Tell Me Something Good!” Then some James Taylor, praise CD’s, Classical, Christian mix, talk radio–I really like variety!

Kind of like my rambling writing.

But somewhere between Asheville and Hickory it happened.  All I remember is that I checked my gas and said to myself, “Self, you better pull off at the next exit, or you will be ‘Dust in the wind.’” I noticed that would be in about 10 miles or so.  Meanwhile I decided to call a TN friend and set up a time to meet…

Big mistake.  We started talking—and I mean talking. I figured we’d say “OK, see you on Thursday…” and then hang up. But, NOoooo…we got into sticky life issues– and next thing you know I was WAY past the exit!

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My husband will tell you I cannot do two things at once—no, not even talk and drive. Not even talk and cook (but let’s not go there).   And he is right–sadly. But back to the saga…

By the time I hung up, my nice little digital gas mileage reader told me I had “0” miles left before I ran out of gas.  ZERO, big, fat ZERO! not 2, or 3…which would have been bad enough!  And the big red “E” (for EMPTY) was on to alert me I was in big RED trouble.

Problem is I had no idea how long that “0” had been on my dash! (You know, how much “grace space” was there–for emergencies–and ADD blondes?).

Needless to say I felt like an idiot. And a scared one at that. (And who cares about Idiot Status at a time like this?)  So I did what all blonde idiots with masters degrees do.  I raised my right hand toward heaven and began to pray out loud.  OH YES. I mean Jehoshaphat kind of stuff (see 2 Chronicles 20).

Because: A: I was driving (somehow) alone, in the mountains, with zero gas left                                    B: The next sign indicated the nearest exit was 6 miles                                                                 C: I saw brake lights ahead—I kid you not—there was a traffic jam                                           D: I had to pee

Thank God—we were going down hill!  For the first mile or two.  I put it in neutral and coasted; but then the jam!  Now I really had to pee.  I don’t think I had been this scared in LONG time. Bc now if I had to pull over it would be VERY AWKWARD and hard to wait for help because of the jam (plus, there were no bushes to hide behind, in case I did have to pee—argh!)

I was still praying aloud while trying not to look at the dash (right—good luck with that!)   I had to idle, move a tiny bit, and then gas it—at least 5-6 minutes of this.   Finally, just as I thought all was lost, the jam began to clear! I crept along, one mile, then another…shifting gears, praying, and biting my lip. Then—the Exit sign! One more mile.

Holding my breath, I headed up hill now and off the ramp, idled at the light, made a left, and YES! I could have danced into that dinky old gas mart and kissed the attendant! Praise the Lord! Those were some Fumes of Faith right there, buddy.  But skip the kiss—I had to pee!

And so, that was my excitement for the journey A.  On the way home, Journey B, everything went fine–apparently.  I drove 600 miles to the door of my husband’s work site, where we agreed to meet and head out to supper. I ran in, greeted him, and then as we came out to leave he stops and says, “What’s that funny noise?”

Turns out my right front tire was hissing– going flat.  Can you believe it?  All those miles and the tire goes flat after I get to the parking lot at the end of the journey. A tiny piece of metal embedded in there.  Good grief.

I’m thinking maybe, just maybe I had an angel with me this journey. It IS close to Christmas.  I’m not kidding, you know. Because after that flat tire I remembered something.  Just another prayer I prayed, at the stop sign in my neighborhood–where I paused briefly.  (Not my usual routine).  Normally I just pray as I hit the Interstate, but this time I felt prompted to stop and pray this:                                        20171208_212501(0).jpg

 

“O Lord, You…know everything about me. You see me when I travel and when I rest           at home. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my                head.” (Psalm 139:1-5)

Looking at life as a Journey in faith has helped me–even before this latest “incident” that reminded me how little control I really have.  But this taught me to trust a bit more–like that couple on the first Christmas.  Mary and Joseph traveling, traveling, traveling on a donkey.  Poor Mary.  Her journey must have been quite uncomfortable, don’t you think?

And as I mentioned earlier—she and Joseph really seem like pros at handling the UNexpected.  First, she was pregnant for crying outloud.  (Couldn’t’ she just have let Joseph go and “represent” them?)  And it didn’t go easy or “turn out all right” by our standards… I mean, she had to stay outside in a little cave-like stable and give birth with no mom, Aunt Susie, or anyone she knew, to help her!

Because of course, if God could send angels, shepherds, and a special star….He  could have provided Mary a decent bed to sleep in that night. But that right there is just the unpredictable nature of God—how He performs a miracle to show us His glory–and right alongside His glory–He allows us to experience the ordinary brokenness of this world.  Just ask Paul the Apostle, who later sat and suffered in some of the darkest dungeons—and yet he, too, saw wondrous miracles and proclaimed that Christ loved him deeply.

I guess it all boils down to the whole Christmas event—not just the journey.  Remember what the angel said the shepherds?    “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today…” (Luke 2:11)      Jesus came into the midst of our darkness and brought Light–forgiveness and hope.

No, He didn’t push DELETE and restore the world to a new Garden of Eden, or override our humanness and right every wrong instantaneously, like we think He should have (or do we? since none of us is really pure).  We are broken. Every last one of us.                  But, He took on flesh and became the Remedy.

And that is why despite our longing for all things to be made whole now—we can still taste the goodness of His mercy and wait with joy for the Christ child to return as King.

 

Serene: Weekly Photo Challenge

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     A front porch swing is like the door to the wardrobe in CS Lewis’s wonderful story: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…. for if one can sit in it and swing, even if only for a moment–Time stands still–and the feeling of being a child again may come sweeping  in and envelope your soul…if you let it.

          And along with it–the serenity of being carefree and full of trust, content to swing–                                          swing in the sun–and wait for what the morrow brings…                                   quietly and gently returns.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child                 will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17 –Jesus)

 

Mercy

Daily Prompt: Mercy

Ahh…to simply say the word aloud–there is nothing else like it.  And what good fortune to have such a perfect daily prompt from WordPress for Thanksgiving Eve!           So yes, MERCY…

     If there were nothing to be thankful for but Mercy, then there would be everything to be thankful for.

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” –Jesus  (Matt. 5:7)                                   

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