Been a while since I last checked in. Spent all of July creating a monster. The kid and grand spent the month with me. I kept a fairly regular work schedule and they putzed around town. Putzed, that is, until the grand pulled out a deck of cards and challenged me to a game of War. Some of you know that game. It can go on and on. I declined, offering to teach him Rummy instead. Oh my word! I taught him how to shuffle and deal. The first 6 or so hands that we played ...with him, the kid and I sacrificed points so the grand could learn the game. Too much fun! There was one complete game in which he beat good old Grams 640 to 570. I think the game was rigged in his favor...just saying. A monster was created.
It was good to have family in town. I hated that I broke my foot while they were here. That put a crimp in their vacation. They were really troopers! Even the grand held my hands as I stepped up onto or down from curbs. And a broken foot never interferes with going to movies, watching trampoline escapades or playing cards. It's about making the most of the situation and being family.
I am blessed to have two families...the first, one that I gave birth to. The second...one that I was baptized into. My Christian family means the world to me. I am blessed with love, fellowship, laughter and peace. There are days and events that can be a little difficult, but that's even in the best of families. Like many birth families, my baptized family gathers regularly for a meal. No skimping on bread and wine! We tell stories about family events and next of kin. We gather every Sunday and on some Wednesdays, too.
The greatest thing about my baptized family is that it's not impeded by geography, ethnicity, language, or even gender. My baptized family goes by many names...some end in "ist," "an," and "cal." But all of my family shares one great surname...Christian. And the coolest thing is...everybody's welcome!!!
So, come on over. We'll get together this Sunday, say around 10:30, have a meal, tell some stories, and maybe around noon have a treat and play a hand of Rummy.
"I've been in a very dark place," she said. "I don't ever want to go back." Indeed. This friend of nearly 7 years has walked through the valley of the shadow, and she had gone to war with evil. "You did know that L has died." It was more of a deep question than a statement of fact. I thought of all the Ls I've ever known. I've kept in touch with them...all but one. "You mean your L?" The answer was affirmative. L had died suddenly, tragically, in public . My friend had watched her die.
Death is not a new enemy to my friend. She has lost many people. Three years ago to the day, she lost her husband. Cancer. She's lost friends and family...at least for a bit as they fought their own battles with depression. She's even gone to war with that evil herself.
She faces new valleys...selling her home, waiting for a new place to be built. She's not too old, but certainly not young. She's had to come to grips with her reality: the home she and her husband shared is too much for her. So, now she waits. The nights are still empty. She fills her days the best she can. The shadows of uncertainty lurk around her.
My friend has an extensive family and a large network of folks who love her. I don't worry about her as much as I used to. Seeing her, listening to her, has eased that. I don't think she'll every really go back to that dark place. Yes, she will walk through other valleys where the shadow of death lives. But she is a Christian. Her faith, though shaken, remains strong. She does not fear evil. Christ has conquered death. Life eternal is a promise. Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest." My friend knows this. And she rests in our Lord.
Ever see one of those cartoons in which one of the characters gets knocked on the head, stumbles around a bit, and stars encircle his noggin? Well. I'm here to tell you that you can and do see stars if you hit your head just right!
I was 9 or 10 when I got my first bike. It was a 26 inch Schwen. It wasn't the Cadillac model, you had to pedal backwards to stop. Every evening, my dad taught me to ride that bike. He would run along beside me, holding onto the seat as I l learned to balance. One day, le let go and low and behold, I was riding on my own.
I was restricted, at first, to riding around my house. I always had to stay in view of my parents. Then, one glorious day, I was given permission to ride around my block. I had arrived!
I took off that evening, relishing my freedom. When I was half way around the block, I got a brilliant idea! What would it look like if I drove looking at where I'd been? So, I turned around to watch! I distinctly remember looking over my left shoulder...when BAMB! I was seeing stars. My hands had followed my head, and I ended up driving off off the road. I have no memory of hitting the mailbox; no memory of knocking it off the post. But I do remember seeing stars! I do remember the look on my dad's face when he came to get me...a mixture of concern and anger. I do remember that I lost the privilege of riding for a week or so.
In Luke's Gospel, Jesus clearly says that he who sets his hand to the plow and then looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God. Now, back in those times, a man plowed his field under his own power. If he were wealthy enough, he had an animal pull the plow. But, in any case, he needed to keep his furrows straight, and did that by focusing on a distant object. If he turned his head to look back, his hands would follow his head, and he'd make a mess of his field.
Jesus' point in his story is that we must always look ahead. Our present and future are what matter. The past, the old self and that way of life, are behind us. What lies ahead is the Kingdom of God! Looking back at our past draws us off course, and, quite frequently, we slam ur spiritual heads and see stars. We also quite frequently make a mess of our field...our current state of affaird.
Thankfully, we have a heavenly Father who comes to us (God is always the subject of our verbs) with love and concern. My earthly father became angry with me because he thought I had better sense. He got mad because he had to repair the mailbox. He got mad because he didn't quite know how to love and, yet, forgive. My heavenly Father is different. His Son, Jesus, comes to my aid. He lifts me up and sets me back to plow his field. He will soon be sowing seeds. Soon, the harvest will be plentiful. I will be changed from the one who no longer needs to plow. Jesus promises that the harvest is plentiful, but the Labour are frew.
Dear God, Thank you for the gift of your Son. Thank you for remembering the gift of Salvation. As we finish plowing the field, keep us ever mindful of keeping our eyes on the future. Thank you for keeping ours on you. Amen.
I met him on a Monday...late in the afternoon. He had sought me out. He needed...help, advice, direction...solace...something. He was young, married, the father of two children. He was tall and slim, his upper body covered with tattoos. Whoever had done the work on him was quite skilled. The pictures and lettering were clean and artfully done.
He cried, uncontrollably. He had acted badly. His wife was in a shelter, his children removed from him. There was a restrai...ning order and a hearing. Pain killers and alcchol...he shared with me the story of his addictions.
He had been in NA. He was a member of a large, non-denominational church. He hadn't been to either for a while. And he had come into my office needing...
We talked, he and I, for about 45 minutes. It slowly dawned on me. What he needed was absolution. He had confessed his sins, now he needed the love of God.
We talked a lot about the reality of the demon called addiction. We talked about the song the demon sings just when you want to get clean and you are talking the talk. It's the walking the walk that's so hard. We talked about what he was facing, legally. We talked about his sins.
He said he didn't know what to do. He had a place to stay, a car and funds. He had food, shelter and clothing. He also had remorse and fear. He was at his wit's end.
I told him he had two four letter words in front of him: time and walk. He needed to live out the time of his restraining order. He needed to walk the walk of getting back into NA. He had come into my office. He needed to know that he wasn't alone. He needed to know that God loved him.
I absolved this young man of his sins. We held hands as we prayed...the smell of alcohol strong on his breath. "You are forgiven, " I told him. "Now, go and sin no more. And get back to..." and I named his church. And i invited him to come back to us. When he left my office, he was much calmer.
I don't know why he chose my office rather than an office in his home church. I don't know if he will get back into a 12 step program, if he and his wife will be reunited, if his restraining order will be lifted. I don't know about his children.
I don't know if I'll ever see him again. I just know that the Spirit of God directed him into a place in which he could feel safe. I was given the gift of listening to him, and loving him as a brother in Christ.
When he left my office, his crying had ceased. This young man, this addict who had lost his temper and become violent; this young man who was facing the loss of everything he held dear was absolved. He found grace; not mine, but God's. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with him...and with you. Amen.
Two women entered my life a few weeks ago. I knew then it was going to be a good thing, and today I found out why! Jeri and Ginger are wonderful women of God, very creative, and absolutely lovers of children. Today was the first day of VBS (Vacation Bible School) that's a joint venture with Beauvoir United Methodist Church. Wow! What a great morning!
Beauvoir is hosting this year, and the two ladies made the morning seamless. Children from two churches came together to... learn, to do arts and crafts, science lessons, and to eat and play. And they didn't care a twit about denomination. They were God's children participating in God's Kingdom.
Ahhh. That'll preach! Jesus said, "Let the children come to me." it's a shame that we have to grow up. It's a shame that doctrine and dogmatics get in the way of being children of God. I like to think that heaven isn't segregated by denominations. Maybe I'm wrong, but the Bible speaks of a time when every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. The Scripture does speak of denominations, it simply says "every."
I love kids. I love grownups, too. I especially love it when we gather around God's word for community. I had a great time at VBS today
Thanks, ladies. Thanks Wes and Urs, Betty and Holly, Tim, Judy and Carol for being extra hands in the Kingdom of God. Blessed be!