Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Am Scared

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. 
This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. 
Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: 
Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, 
and guard against corruption from the godless world.
James 1:26-27 (Message)

"There's a situation, sir, across the sea..."

The man looked up from his computer screen, eyes tired behind the horn-rimmed glasses, the ones his wife insisted he wear. He rubbed them wearily.

"What situation?"

"People, sir. They're washing up."

"Washing up? What do you mean, washing up? Washing clothes? Quitting their jobs? Cleaning themselves?"

"No, sir, they're coming onto shore in boats and rafts. Even innertubes, sir. They have no papers. They have no money. Mostly women and children, sir. They have no food."

The man took the glasses off, holding them carefully by the expensive frame, and sat back in his chair to get a better view of his visitor.

"Across the sea, you say? How is this our business?" He was annoyed. So many issues, so little time. Interruptions and distractions. 

Pinching the bridge of his nose where the glasses usually rested, his eye caught movement on the television screen in the waiting room outside of his office. Past his visitor. Rude of him, really, to look past the other man, but the image, in focus now, compelled him. Ragged people, eyes too big for their heads, tent camps and fences. Refugees. 

The news agencies were all over the situation. The one across the sea. Not here. Funny to be told about it and see it, almost simultaneously. Not here. Not our problem.

"How is this our business?" He asked the question again, but even as he asked, he waved his hand dismissively at the screen in the other room. His visitor blinked at the gesture and turned to see the news report. A long moment passed before he turned back, tears in his eyes.

"We should help, sir. They need..."

Interrupting, the man behind the computer replaced his glasses and looked back at the screen.

"Not today. Not our problem. Not our mess."


"I'm scared."

"Me too."

Tuesday school, her daughter jokingly called it. Tuesday morning Women's Bible Study class. They were studying the Old Testament - all of the good kings and bad kings - all of the judges and heroes. They were at the years of captivity, Babylon, and the worshipping of idols and the killing of babies. Horrible things. Unbelievable things. 

But the conversation today was not about scripture; it was about the terrible events on the news. Shootings. Bombings. Terror. And the refugee crisis in Syria, home of ISIS, the worst of the offenders. Horrible things. Unbelievable things. Scary things.

"Did you hear the President's speech? About Syria and the refugees? He wants to let 10,000 more come over here."

"Ten thousand? That's more than our whole town! We only top out at a little over seven. Thousand. And that's counting every, single man, woman, and child. And probably a few hound dogs..." With a little smile. To lighten up the situation. "Aren't we already doing enough? Remember when we started the backpack program for the kids? Twenty. We wanted to feed twenty. Now it's up over three hundred."

"And the Peace meals. Don't forget those."

"Ten thousand. Imagine. I read about it on Facebook the other day - one of those newsfeed articles. There are millions coming over the borders over there. With just the clothes on their backs. Because their homes are gone - they've been bombed. And the men are coming in - taking girls, taking women, taking boys." Tears threatened to overflow the dam of eyelash and mascara.

"I say we need to take care of our own. Right here. I mean, what if some of those terrorists sneaks into the group the President is talking about? It's just not smart to take that kind of chance - like inviting those people right into our own backyard... It scares me.

"Me too."


"What do you see?"

"I see postings, left and right, for and against, controversy and agreement. Heated, argumentative, pleading, and divisive."

"Good. Social media is an excellent tool for stirring up. What do you hear?"

"Fear. Whispers in the dark, heads in the sand, voices of avoidance. I hear thoughts: not me, not here, and let someone else."

"Ah... wonderful. Our plan is working. Can you feel it?"

"I feel terror."

"Yes. Can you smell it?"

"I smell Death."

"Yes. The end is near - our long-awaited victory. Yes."

Heavenly Father, 
I can only imagine the power for good 
that would be released into this world if 
we followed your Son - 

Love the Lord, your God, and Love one another. 

Help us to be united in these two. 
Grant us wisdom to see through curtains of controversy - strengthen us to glorify you. 
And Father, walk beside the homeless, the hungry, and the broken - 
comfort them, heal them, give them hope,
And help us to help them. 

In the holy name of your Son, Jesus, 

Linking with Unite, #TellHisStory

Friday, November 20, 2015

Old School - Dwell

It's Five-Minute Friday - when a community of writers take on a one-word prompt, set a timer, and go for broke. Kate has given us the word "dwell".  The link will take you to the link-up where you are invited to read and comment -- 


He looked up from the table with one of those smiles of his, flash of white teeth that lit up the room. How could I be offended at the question; sincerity combined with a devilish sense of humor --

"What's the difference, M'am, between old-fashioned, old-school, and traditional?"

I have to say, the M'am gets me. Even though I realize it's a sign of respect, it makes me feel old. M'am. Ergh... I AM old - compared to this soldier. Compared to this young man from the Ivory Coast who is attending class to become more fluent in English. Already highly educated, his question makes me smile.

Guilty. Some of our class discussions have been about education, and politics, and language in general. Comparative discussions -- country to country and era to era. I've mentioned being old-fashioned and now I'm being held accountable.

"What do you think the difference is?"

"Old fashioned is outdated. Old school is wanting things to be the way they were. And traditional is how it was always done. M'am." Eyes crinkled at the corners with the smile.

Bingo! My smile as wide as his, I acknowledge the differences. Small and huge. And we agree that when I call myself old-fashioned, what I really mean is old-school. Truth, I like that. I like that he understands the difference - his language skills are on point. And I like the idea of being old school. It makes me feel like I've matured. Like I can still accept change, but evaluated change. Like there's hope for this old lady yet...

Dwell feels old-school to me. It's rarely used in common language - street language - casual conversation. It's more formal. Like M'am. Respectful. And biblical, Old-Testament biblical.

AND STOP -- But I can't finish without the rest of the story....

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the word 'dwell' is found 474 times in Bible. Over 400 are found in the Old Testament translated from nine Hebrew verbs. Old school. Abide. Sit. Live. Inhabit.

And now, one of my favorite verses from Psalm 23. See, after David travels to green pastures and still waters, after he walks through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with his God, after he is presented with favor in the face of his enemies, he gushes...

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 
and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6 (ESV)

And now, here's my old-school thinking... There are letters within the verse that allow substitution. I like the options (see - I'm not old-fashioned, I really CAN handle variety...) 

"Only goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life, 
and I shall return to dwell in the House of the Lord for length of days."

Heavenly Father, 
Grant that I return to dwell in your House 
where only goodness and steadfast love reign. 
Always and forever, 
for length of days.
In Jesus name,

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Untie the Love

As the Father has loved me, 
so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, 
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be full.

John 15:9-11 (ESV)

"How do you take the prayers out?" Little fingers winding in and through the knots. Never still, head tilted, eyes wide with wonder, Charli had just heard the story of this quilt, this prayer quilt, of how the knots were tied with prayers.

Knots tied with love. Old, gnarled fingers on hands stiff with arthritis and ropy with veins. Young, supple fingers on smooth-skinned hands. Working hands, hard with callouses tied knots. Surgeon's hands, pastor's hands, teachers and musicians. The congregation gathered around this quilt, praying over the knots. Praying for the man who would receive it. Praying strength and comfort, praying forgiveness and grace, praying wisdom. For him, for his family, for his doctors and the medical team.

To little Charli Grace, it must seem like a wonderful gift - each knot a prayer - like a wish, a blanketful of wishes, like lighting advent candles, like opening a series of birthday presents, like Christmas morning - all of these prayers tied up in the quilt, all of these prayers laying over her Grandpa's lap.

Sweet smile, innocence in blond curls and china-blue eyes. "How do you take the prayers out of the knots?"

Because she realizes the prayers are the important part. The part to be unwrapped. The gift. Precious and holy.

I want to take the prayers out of the knots in all of the prayer quilts of this world.

I want the prayers for comfort and healing and strength and wisdom, for forgiveness and grace, for families and doctors and medical teams to stretch from here to Paris, from Paris to Syria, and Kenya, to Russia, to North Korea, to India. To the United States.

I want the prayers to grow like a vine, a wild, beautiful vine, that winds around and upholds the lost, the hopeless, the grief-stricken, the desperate, the lonely. 

I want the prayers to rain down on hubris and greed, on fear and ashamed, on selfish, on self-loathing. Rain down and melt down. Healing rain.

I want the prayers to heal the sick, help the poor, adopt the orphans, build houses for the homeless, find homes for refugees. 

I want to unknot peace, and kindness in this broken world.

I want.

Jesus said "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Love and pray.

Love and pray. Precious and holy.

I want to untie the love in this world - the action of love - of loving one another as Jesus loved us. He died for us. 

Can't we untie the love?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Peace in the Valley

Well, I'm tired and weary
But I must toil on

I held my uncle's hand across the top of his bedsheets. His fingernails, still slightly long, cut square across the tips of yellowed, papery-skin fingers. Cool to the touch in the half-light of his room.

Visiting time had been extended for us. For the family who flew, who drove, who came to be with him.

"He doesn't have much time."

Till the Lord, comes and calls me,
Calls me away, oh yeah.

His lips moved with the lyrics. No voice. The voice that used to call me in from fishing, that used to tease about card-playing, that used to tell stories of the old days -- that voice was buried somewhere in the pneumonia that gripped his chest. But his lips moved with the lyrics. And I felt him squeeze my hand.

Where the morning is bright
And the lamb is the light
And the night, 
The night is as fair as the day.

Family was gathered around his bedside. Gathered to offer strength and comfort. To pray. To visit with this, the oldest brother of seven. Some waited in the harsh light of the reception area. Some were on their knees in the chapel. I felt the closeness and company of all of them, and wished I could have come sooner.

There will be peace in the valley
For me, some day
There will be peace in the valley
For me, Oh Lord, I pray

No more sadness
No sorrow
Oh Lordy, no troubles, I see
There will be peace, in the valley, for me.

Tears. Mine silently sliding and falling at the side of his bed.  His shone like still waters on his cheeks, head propped on the pillow. His eyes were closed, but the lips kept moving. Kept singing. Kept yearning. I could feel the yearning.

No Valley of the Shadow of Death - this, but the Valley of Green Pastures and Still Waters. A Valley of Peace.

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Isaiah 55:1 (ESV)

My Uncle Norman died December 25, 2002. A son, a brother, a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he received the best Christmas present ever and entered heaven to be with Jesus. Today is Five-Minute Friday. The prompt is 'weary'.

Side Note: I wrote this story in a much longer version a couple of years ago - I think it does my Uncle more justice than the five minutes here. If you're interested, the link is Peace in the Valley.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Sierra, showing off some dance moves....

...praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
Psalm 149:3-4 (NIV)

Maybe it's part of being a mom. I'm just not as interested in my own affairs, as I am in figuring out and enjoying my daughter. Or my husband. Or my dogs. Or just about anyone else who wanders into the orbits of our family solar system... yes, it's Five-Minute Friday and whatever comes into my brain is getting typed and sent out. Eeek!

It's true, though. I honestly am finding other people to be oh-so-fascinating. Maybe it's not motherhood, just a level of maturity... Yes, I can discuss an endless list of 'doings' and 'activities' - but they only touch the surface of this dance we call life.

Dance - it's the word of the day. It makes me smile. Images of my daughter, faithfully executing dance moves in front of the Wii - controller in hand, or tucked inside her zumba belt, riding out the dance on her hips. "It's my favorite", she laughs, as she follows song after song.

They are all her favorite. I've said it before - she's an equal-opportunity-type girl and this is a lesson she's taught me. It's not necessary to prioritize. How freeing is that? When everything brings joy?

I remember thinking of love as an unquantifiable. If you love, you love completely. You can't give just a little bit of love. It's an all or nothing kind of thing. Untouchable. Abstract.

Until you see it in action.

"Remain in my love." 

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

"My peace I give you."

What wonderful gifts!

What a life we live!

David danced his joy in front of God and his people. He danced out of sheer exuberance and into praise. I don't know how coordinated he actually was - my husband is also a warrior who doesn't necessarily 'dance' - my inclination is that David, dancing with all his might, probably looked a little awkward - at least in Michal's eyes. Michal who judged, right?

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord!" I was given the gift of grace when trying to keep up with a first reading of new music in the middle of a choir of music majors. Ergh! Notes, rhythm, words. How in the world did they get all three on the first go-round? The book says 'make a joyful noise - it doesn't say you have to sing it perfectly' - Grace. From the gentleman sitting next to me.

The point? I believe we were made to celebrate. To celebrate God, to celebrate life, to celebrate each other. We have options. We can stand on the sidelines and judge, or we can participate.

Wholeheartedly. Whole body - whole voice - with complete love, complete joy, and complete peace.

Everything can be our favorite.