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The mountaintop and the valley, all in a day’s work……. Yesterday’s work ‘high’? Receiving an an annual evaluation from my supervisor that could not have been better. Yesterday’s work ‘low’? Receiving a very sincere and serious complaint from someone that her coffee mug was “stolen” from the break room, causing her to ask “Can’t we DO something ABOUT this?” , in the same tone that most people would reserve for oh, let’s see – maybe for conversations about starving children or homelessness. In my work, I often encounter the flip side of some very good people. And sometimes the contrast is a bit much to take.

I used to have this little saying stuck to my fridge: A woman with many children was asked which one she loved the most. Her reply? “Whoever needs me most at the moment”. It’s a struggle for me to think of the person behaving selfishly as a child of God who is most in need of Him at that moment, but I know it’s true.

Then to make the connection that I am the conduit He has chosen for His love to THAT person who I only want to get away from………well, it’s startling when I realize that responsibility, and it doesn’t surprise me any less no matter how many times it hits me. Because I don’t have that kind of grace to extend. But He does. And so I accept and extend it from Him to that other person. Because in the end, the evaluation I want is “well done, good and faithful servant”.

Like most everyone, I have not always gotten exactly what I wanted in life. Of the things I had any control over, I’m at maybe 75%. Which isn’t bad. I’ve noticed lately that the things that haven’t turned out the way I wanted have a strange way of becoming easier to accept as I get older. I wonder if that is because I am wiser with experience, or if it is because I am more tired with a little age, and don’t have the energy to protest? Either way, it’s a blessing. God’s novocaine – acceptance.

It can still be hard at times. In situations with family, work, church, I want to tell people what to do and have them do it and see that I was right. But for the most part, I am aware that I did a thorough enough job of expressing my opinion so that there is no confusion on either of our parts about what I would prefer. It is not a matter of repeated telling; it is a matter of the choices of individuals and loving them enough to continue loving when the choice differs from mine. Not easy; but it helps that I am beckoned: Come to me all ye who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Not “go to them”, but “come to Me”. That is acceptance, rest, peace.

I couldn’t have brought myself here today. I’m so depressed.  It can’t be a good time to try a new church. But my husband is ready and has been so good to me while I’ve been down….and this may help me focus outside myself. So I try to sink down into the bright red pew chair in the small chapel. Ahh, small churches – I’m hiding in plain sight.

A woman asks “Have you ever participated in this kind of service before? Let me show you……here’s what you do…”  She has one of those smiles that make you think she didn’t wait until she got here this morning to start worshipping. Looking into  her eyes is like getting a sneak preview of what’s coming.

A processional with lots of little and big children. An ironic thing often happens when I am really broken; beauty becomes much more visible. These children – they are glowing. The priest is praying for them, touching their heads, smiling at them like he is the father of them all and he truly loves each one.  Hmmm. This high church thing…..maybe I understand a bit. He represents The Father. I think about how these children will have this impression and carry it into adulthood.  He looks like this is the best time he’s had all week, loving on these children.  Well. Am I the best part of God’s week?

Liturgy, kneeling benches, a sweet quick little chime. This is good. I am too weak to participate on my own motivation and energy, but I can read responsively, I can listen, I can kneel. This structured service helps me redirect. It is a relief to say more to Him than “God, help me”, and to remember how big He is.

A sermon, and a surprise. The priest interjects something into the flow of this highly structured service.  God has told him someone is depressed and needs prayer. I want to shout “It’s me! It’s me! Everyone else can go home now because this is for me!” My husband has obviously been listening to the sermon  – he whips out his hanky and shoves it at me as fast as he can. He knows how I needed to hear this.

God has my attention. The priest rebukes this depression. He rebukes? I didn’t know a priest would rebuke.  His words are startling in the personal intimacy they convey from God. I can’t even hear much of the rest of the sermon because in my head I am bowing in worship of a God who brought me to a strange place to hear a stranger give me words from His lips. The hanky is wet with comfort.

Communion time. People seem eager to get to the altar. There are things going on behind there….these priests, they have a lot of steps to remember, and it fascinates me. I thought it would feel like ceremony, but instead I am caught up in their actions. 

I kneel to receive communion, at home on my knees in a place I’ve never been. Mystery. I almost don’t want to leave.  Some sit in the front and receive prayer from the priests and a few women whose compassion is tangible. There is no hurry.  I know I could go up there, though a stranger, and receive healing. But I’m afraid; I don’t know if I can handle so much powerful love directed at me in a place that I don’t know. Even so, witnessing something so genuine gives me hope.

A recessional, and I leave. It is hard to talk on the walk home.  I didn’t expect this experience. The following Sunday, I feel well enough to return all alone. God is love; so are His people. Amen.

It started when I found the chicken breasts were $5.99/lb. Chicken………not steak………..chicken! At the low end grocery store.

Then my car wouldn’t start.

While waiting for a jump start, I watched a woman park in a handicapped space without a handicap placard.

After my car was jumped off and running I pulled out into traffic and up to the red light.

And I heard the woman in the car next to mine blow her horn long and loudly at the driver in front of her – the light changed, but he chose not to pull out in front of the firetruck racing through the intersection with sirens blaring.

My glass was definitely half empty and had a hole in the bottom.

I could have been thankful that I was able to buy the chicken breasts, that I’m not handicapped and in need of the spot that was taken, that my husband was able to jump start my car, that the firetruck wasn’t going to MY house and that I wasn’t in the passenger seat of the woman blowing her horn. But I wasn’t.

Good thing it’s the end of November, because I can tell I’m due a ‘Thanksgiving’.

The Daughter Who Keeps Me Humble recently brought up a story from the past that didn’t make me feel especially good. She has a way of doing that. It’s a gift. I think it started when she was 4 and, having seen way too many t.v. commercials, asked me why I didn’t go on NutriSystem and get skinny?

So she says to me, “Hey mom – remember that time you went with some other people from our church to protest the opening of an Adult Store and you all walked in a circle around the building and prayed? Well, me and my friends drove by there the other day on our way to the beach and I told them about you doing that. And they thought is was SO FUNNY! One of them said ‘I bet God let that store go ahead and open because one of those Christians in that circle was secretly a fan of porn, and GOD KNEW IT.'”

Ouch. I told you she was talented. And she wasn’t even trying…………..this was just casual, friendly talk. I smiled a bit and chuckled with her…..and realized once again how far the gap is between how I perceive what I do in God’s name and how others perceive it.

I participated in that little Jericho walk about 8 years ago. I don’t think I would now, even before hearing my daughter’s take on it. I’ve just changed my ideas a bit about effectively living for Christ in this crazy world. About being an alien here. About longing for home and daring to hope God would let me bring someone along with me who might not have gone otherwise.

I won’t lie – it hurt to hear her mock a piece of my journey, and especially to know that she did it  publicly. I  carried her butt to Sunday School and VBS and youth group outings and I followed Swindoll’s parenting series and I wrote out a recommended prayer using Scripture and replacing all the “he’s” with her name. I did all THAT and even made her go back and change clothes for church and remember her Bible and gave her offering money, yet today she is so far away from it all that it appears ridiculous to her and every person with whom she has surrounded herself.

But, I take comfort in knowing she is on her own journey with God. All of us travelers sometimes look back  and see ourselves in an awkward period. There are times in our journeys that we are all back in middle school and our hair is stringy,our teeth uneven and our mamas dressed us funny. But someone loved us even then.  I have awkward periods, too. I know He chuckles a bit as He sees my attempts at fitting in and being on His team and trying to please Him. Even if He’d just preferred we spent an hour in silence listening to Him or playing music instead of slapping on sunscreen and a hat and blowing our trumpets. We survive no less His.

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GREAT QUOTES THOUGHT STREAM

"A biography of any literary person ought to deal at length with what he read and when, for in some sense, 'we are what we read.'" --Joseph Epstein, quoted in Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf ******************************************
June 2017
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