The Walking Wounded

I was on my way to work this morning and noticed a man coming toward me on the sidewalk. He walked with a slow gate and was limping a bit. As I looked closer, I saw a brace on his left leg. It seems he had a knee injury. As we greeted one another, I was reminded of the number of (what I call) the “walking wounded” in our churches today. Those who are grieving or hungry or unemployed or divorced or have been chastised by some well meaning Christian…or…or…well…you get my point.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in our church today are also limping through life, in a spiritual sense.  So many people attend church and carry deep hurts and wounds and yet they feel they need to put on that happy perky Christian face so they appear to have (as they have been told by the church)  “enough faith” or “a confident trust” or “true depth of Spirit.”

What a disservice we do as Christians when we ask how someone is (in church) and they respond with a curt “fine.” Yet, we never pay attention to how the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ who is supposed to reside in Christians) may be prompting us to use our gift of mercy, or encouragement or discernment or better yet…the gift of healing!

Now some folks reading my comments here might think it’s time to buy me one of those white jackets with the sleeves that tie in the back. But quite frankly, I’m serious.

If Jesus is our model (if you are a professed Christian) then why is it that we have fallen so short in the church today, of following His ways? Why is it that we put on a happy, perky Christian “face” (façade) when the truth is…we may not be so happy? Why is it that so many of our fellow church members are willing to settle for woundedness? (ours AND perhaps theirs!) Is it because they don’t know how to deal with the wounds? Is it because they are trying to be politically correct and mind their own business? Is it because self pride tells them they don’t need God and they can handle their problems on their own?

Who knows?

My point is, if we are truly following the way of Christ and developing as disciples of Christ, then we should be using our gifts to help others. If we have been given (by God) the gift of mercy, shouldn’t we be giving a cup of coffee to a homeless person in our neighborhood ourselves instead of writing a check to a long distant mission a safe 6,000 miles away? (aka sanitized giving) If we have been given the gift of discernment and a heart for justice shouldn’t we be able to tell when corporations are cheating their investors and say something about it? Or are we so convinced that the little guy (or gal) can’t do anything about the BIG guy (corporate America) (The story of David and Goliath might be a good read right about now!) that we have somehow lost our courage to speak up when we see our own employers cheating or telling a lie?

I debated about quoting scripture in only my second blog entry, but the point is valid. Revelations 3:15 in reference to the Church in Laodicea says. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

God’s point here is that He is not impressed with the lukewarm church…the church that doesn’t take a commitment to Christ seriously. What are we (each) willing to give up for the sake of Christ? There will come a time in the future, when we are asked to give up far more than we may realize for the sake of our faith. Are we ready for that task? Are we up for the challenge? Trust me, lukewarm won’t cut it during such times.

The Message Bible reference to this scripture states the point a bit more simply: “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot-far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stagnant.”

Personally, I think it’s time for the church to move away from stagnant and seek the living water. It’s time for the church  to find refreshment by welcoming the Holy Spirit into worship. When we count the number of minutes our services are supposed to last, or we make sure we don’t choose the wrong hymn because the wealthy church going doctor might not put as much in the offering plate (because he hates that song!)…we’re doing it wrong! We have, as church, missed the mark. We are wallowing in stagnant waters.

It took courage for Jesus to turn over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. It most likely took courage for Jesus to ask the Samaritan woman for a drink of water (since Jews were to avoid Samaritans like the plague!)

If Jesus is our true model, isn’t it time to ramp up on the courage? It takes courage today to expose our wounds, to welcome the stranger, the divorced, the homeless, the destitute into our pretty pristine church buildings. It takes courage to tell our boss no when s/he asks us to falsify the data on a report. It takes courage to speak up for children who are being abused. The bottom line is, it takes courage to be a TRUE Christian!

It takes courage to admit that some folks who have never set foot in a church really have a greater anointing and show deeper love than many “Christians” warming the pews on Sundays. I’ve known (and experienced) so called “Christians” (see me making air quotes as I type this!) who (for the sake of the law of Christ) have inflicted far more wounds than offered healings…and that my friends, is not okay!  (And yes, I include myself in this accusation as well.) I am grateful to be able to turn around and go a new direction (the definition of repent by the way)  and I pray the same for our churches.

It should be our purpose to HEAL those who come to church, not create more “walking wounded.”  As members of the TRUE Church, we should do what Jesus commanded us to do. “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

I really would like some fresh water in our churches. You know, that “living water” that Jesus told the Samaritan woman about.  I’m tired of the stagnant…politically correct, let’s not rock the boat, don’t stir the (stagnant) waters church.

I suppose saying all of this takes a little courage. It’s not much, but it’s a start for this reluctant prophet.

More courage and Living water to each of you!

Peace,

Cindy

Advertisements
Posted in Spiritual Life | 2 Comments

The Balancing Act

Dear Friends,

I told myself I was going to be more committed to my writing this year. In fact, I’ve said I will start my book. I’ve been wanting to write my book and now is as good a time as any. Maybe that is how I will find even more balance in life. We shall see. 🙂

Why the topic of balance? Given the beginning  of the Trump administration, or perhaps the soon to be end of this administration, I think many people are in need of balance these days. We have been pushed to a new twilight zone. (For you younger folks, “The Twilight Zone” was a television show when I was a kid. I hope you will forgive me for the antiquated reference.

We are bombarded daily by the insanity of the actions taken by a power hungry “leader” and we feel like our heads are spinning or about to burst! Perhaps like me, you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of petitions, protests, facebook posts, tweets and news headlines. Doom and gloom came along with this leader, much like the proverbial black cloud.

So, how do we balance? First, I believe it’s important to recognize that when we are immersed in the muck and mire (overshadowed by the black cloud) we may begin to experience secondary post traumatic stress disorder. (Yes, that’s a real thing. Please research it for more information.)

I have found some balance by doing the following. I’m not suggesting you find balance in the same way, but it might give you an idea of what I’m doing for the sake of my own sanity. Here are some steps I have taken that have started me on the path to balance. Feel free to use them or create your own to reach balance in your life.

  • I’ve made a note of 3 to 4 groups that I am intent on following or hearing from either by email or on Facebook. These are news and organization sites that I know are accurate and not “fake” news. I have unsubscribed to all others.
  • I check the petitions I am willing to sign. If the petition is simply a way for a random candidate to increase their donor list, I’m more careful about signing.
  • I stick to organizations and petitions that I am passionate about. For example, I am concerned about what will happen to people re: healthcare. I’m also concerned about the disenfranchised and vulnerable. (Someone asked me  if I included Democrats in this category. Ha!) I have unsubscribed from all other lists and sites.
  • I select a time or allow a specific amount of time to read updates on actions taken and to contact my representatives in Washington. I make donations to organizations fighting for causes I’m passionate about. For balance here, I ALSO write to thank representatives of Congress who are showing a backbone and standing up to injustice and abuse.
  • I spend time on Facebook posting about  political areas I’m concerned about, but I also post videos of puppies, babies, otters, nature and other cute or fun things.
  • Most important, I allow time in my week for worshipping God, reading scripture and participating in fellowship with other believers.
  • I spend time visiting with friends, those who are sick and taking care of my grandchildren. ALL of these things are life-giving for me.

Are you currently spending too much time in the muck and mire? Where do you need or want to make changes so that your life is more balanced?

I’m committed to standing in the light. I will not allow fear or hate get me down or abusive individuals to discourage me. I don’t allow bullying by anyone, including facebook posts or presidents or emperors as the case may be.  I am committed to doing all that I can through my writing to encourage you and uplift you. Yes, I have my own opinions, but I’m not forcing you to read these articles. They are an invitation. I hope the rhetorical questions I’ve asked here might help you restore balance in your life and bring a renewed sense of hope and light in your life.

Blessings,

Cindy

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not Just a Party Girl

I’ve never been fond of parties, you know…the kind with a lot of people. That’s mostly because I’m an introvert by nature. But today, those parties are not the kind I’m referring to. The kind I’m referring to here, are political parties. I’m sure many of you are already reaching for the delete button…but hear me out please. I know you are weary of this election coverage. To be honest, I am too.

This year’s election is the first one in my lifetime, when I have been genuinely scared about the potential outcome. This is the first time in all the years that I was eligible to vote, that I have observed a political candidate encouraging hate, anger and outright assault of those with a different point of view.

So what’s happening? Where have we totally missed it, that we as Americans can’t see that a choice to love and accept, is better than a choice to hate and ostracize? Where have we as Americans gone wrong that so many people have chosen the road of discrimination, anger and hate?

I said before, and I’ll say it again. As a Christian, I can’t support a person for President of the United States who uses his platform to encourage the masses to assault and/or threaten others who think differently, or choose to vote for a different candidate. I will not support someone who puts down those who are vulnerable…the disabled or physically challenged for example. As both a Christian and a woman, I will not be voting for someone who has already indicated by his behavior and actions, that he certainly won’t be representing me or many of my friends.

There is a month left of this nauseating election. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of hearing (and seeing) the results of hate, discrimination and the abusive words and actions of someone running for president who claims to be perfect…yet isn’t.
For me, the bottom line is that a vote for one candidate is a vote to condone all the types of behaviors that I strive NOT to participate in as a Christian (note: I said, strive) At least the other candidate has said she believes this country needs more kindness and compassion. Now, I grant you…she is not perfect. But here’s the crux of it all, she does not claim to be perfect. In fact, she has actually used the phrase, “I was wrong…or I made a mistake.”

On the other hand, the candidate who tears people down so he can step on them, does claim to be perfect. THAT is what scares me most of all! Rather than admit a mistake, he blames someone else. He is never wrong…he makes no mistakes…he is, in his eyes, the epitome of perfection.

So I’m not focusing on Republican or Democratic party politics or any of their scare tactics regarding what rights we might lose. I will vote for the candidate who will bring out the best in all of us as Americans. I will vote for the candidate I believe will give us the best hope of helping all of us…help our neighbor. That is after all, in my opinion, what makes us great as Americans.

History has taught us the dangers of following someone out of sheer loyalty, regardless of his hate for a particular race of people or his own desire to have a nation be perfect just like him. The damage there…is beyond words, and we would do well to stop and reflect on how history could easily repeat itself if our vote is a vote for party loyalty only.

Historically, we are also, “One nation under God.” Maybe that is a part of history we could embrace again if we vote with the idea that “perfection” belongs to no one…but God.

I am an American, and you can be sure that I will be voting. I believe we can yet again, be One Nation under God because God is neither Republican nor Democrat. Nope! This reluctant prophet isn’t going to be just a party girl…and she’s kind of hoping for the sake of our nation, that you won’t be either.

Posted in Life, Spiritual Life, The Power of One | Leave a comment

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

I realized this year, that our three year old granddaughter has been exposed to the world in ways I was not quite ready for. However, her parents are prepared and have done an excellent job of teaching her how to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. They are teaching and modeling Love.

Most of this teaching and guidance has to do with compassion and how to get along with others. When our sweet granddaughter came home with “play” that involved the word “killing,” my daughter quickly redirected her. My daughter let her know that we don’t use that word. Killing after all, is a serious thing. Yet, from another child at her preschool, she had learned something other than what her parents were trying to teach her.

Not every household has the same level of care and compassion for others. Not every parent puts the time or energy into teaching their children more peaceful ways of being in the world. When our granddaughter told her daddy about someone at school who did something she didn’t like, he asked her, “What do you think you can do about that?” She answered, “I can tell her I don’t like that and ask her to please not do it.” In that moment, he was also teaching her how to solve her own problem rather than solving it for her. I knew by observing both of these “teaching moments” that our granddaughter was going to do just fine in life. I am proud of her parents and of our granddaughter.

And a little child shall lead them.

All it took was one question equivalent to “How do you think you can solve that problem in your life?” And this little child had the answer! Of course, it probably took several dedicated lessons on the part of her parents to teach her this appropriate response and action…but keep in mind, she is only three years old! This is the power of just ONE family…teaching their child how to “be” with others. They are setting the foundation for her future in school and her future workplace. Both are often places where bullies rule and compassion is rare. But the power of one, can make an amazing difference!

Oh to see the world through the fresh eyes of a small child! I’m afraid we have each “missed the mark” (aka sinned). We have somehow lost our target, our sight…our vision. We don’t have eyes that see. Somewhere along the way, we have spent less time teaching and practicing compassion and more time competing with or stepping on someone else to get ahead. And yes, this reluctant prophet includes the church when I write this.

Where did we go wrong to find our country and world in its current condition? Where did we (each) somehow “miss the mark” when it comes to getting along with others? And for the church I ask, how did the Christian church become lukewarm or dumb down the Gospel to the point of shoving the Holy Spirit into a corner of the room? We have missed the mark and in so doing, we have missed the living message of loving God and others and showing compassion to those who need it most.

Our priorities have shifted and we need a “re-direct” much like what my daughter did when she helped our granddaughter understand that “killing” is not play.
We need to make room for love and teach those around us what that looks like. And yes, I’ll say it…the church, in order to turn around and go a new direction, needs to make room for the Holy Spirit. We need to be less concerned about time limits on worship, planned programs and getting home on time for the afternoon football game on Sunday and more concerned about what God is trying to say to ALL of us. We need to have eyes to see and ears to hear.

God is speaking to the sleeping Giant. It may be a faint whisper of “Turn around, go a new direction…or maybe the whisper is simply saying, “Stop judging and condemning…just Love them home again.”

Do you have eyes to see and ears to hear?  Never under-estimate the power of One!

And a little child shall lead them.

Posted in The Power of One | Leave a comment

The power of one random act

The topic of the “power of one” has been on my mind recently. I have seen more than one face book post by an individual who was able to make a difference, simply by taking one step to help one person. Let’s face it, our country is in desperate need (socially and spiritually) of random acts of kindness. Such acts through the power of one, can make a world of difference.

I’ve mentioned before that my goal is (an ongoing goal I might add!) to get my garage organized. My husband says I am determined to park the car in the garage while he says that garages are for storing stuff. I’ve made several trips to the Good Will and continue to do so. I have also gotten rid of things I’ve had forever that serve no real purpose anymore. I am noticing however, that more of the stuff is related to babies and toddlers. Of course I love every part of my life as a Grandma to babies and toddlers! And so, that brings me back to the “power of one.”

A former co-worker called me and told me that a friend of hers is a new mother of a three month old baby and the family did not have a washing machine. She told me the mother was washing all of their clothes by hand! Now I’ve seen the loads of wash my own daughter does almost daily with her 3 year old and 6 month old. So, my heart jumped when Tracy asked if I still had a washer in my garage that I wanted to donate. Bottom line, they are scheduled to pick it up today! Praise God! Now all I have to do is clean off the stuff that has been placed on top of the washing machine! (I think my husband is beginning to win this storage vs car game we are playing.) 🙂

So how about you? What is the one thing in your house or garage that you could give one person to make their day or life a little brighter? I suspect you will be able to bless at least one person or group of people through the “power of one.” Let’s each make a difference with one random act of kindness…pass it on!

Posted in The Power of One | Leave a comment

Despair is a Victory for Hate

A face book friend posted Steven Colbert’s response to the horrific massacre of 49 people in Orlando. Because of this awful massacre and the current state of our world, I have found myself in a place of despair and that is why Colbert’s words stood out for me. Colbert said, “Despair is a victory for hate.” Those words reverberated within me today.

I guess I had been feeling a sense of despair for some time and the horrific killings in Orlando brought up more than I realized. I have been grieving and am currently “stuck” in the anger phase of the grief process. What brought my despair to the surface however, were the words of an irresponsible church leader who “claimed” to speak for Christians. He spoke in his church in Sacramento on Sunday morning only hours after the massacre and spewed words filled with hate, evil and lies. He suggested more people like this (Gays etc.) should be killed!

Oh, he tried to back paddle (much like Donald Trump) when he was caught on video spewing his evil venom. He tried to excuse his behavior and beliefs and blame someone else for twisting his words (the media) but it is all recorded on video. There is no clearer evidence of his twisted agenda than his own words laid bare. Of course he uses bits and pieces of scripture to justify his cause, without even considering how his message of hate would be received by a hurting community. Let me be clear…this man does not offer a message of God’s love and healing, but rather…a perverted message of hate and violence. And he certainly doesn’t speak for most of the Christians I know! The media didn’t help my state of despair when they titled the story of this venomous man with “The Christian response to the massacre in Orlando.” And THAT is when my own despair screamed out, “No! It is not the Christian response!”

I admit the energy behind my despair carries a bit of baggage. I recently shared with another friend, that my reaction on this topic is a bit loaded given my own treatment in recent years by church leaders. Suffice it to say, I’ve been lied to and thrown under a bus by more than one pastor or “Christian leader,” so you will have to excuse my gut reaction in some of what I share on this topic. But there is a bottom line. And that line is: Do not assume to speak for me or represent me in leadership if you “claim” to be a Christian and your actions say otherwise!

I’m not perfect, far from it in fact! I know however, when someone is not telling the truth or hiding behind excuses or misusing scripture for their own personal agenda. This same pastor who spewed venom and encouraged more death and destruction had the audacity to say, “I’m sure some people will be upset by my words and will leave…but I will have some who will want to follow me.” Do you see it? “Follow ME!” He has an agenda and that is to have a following for HIMSELF. Ego of any church leader, is nothing more than an acronym for
Edging God Out!

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the church is made up of broken, wounded people. But when such people are led by one person with a twisted theology or way of being…then we are in the danger zone folks! The broken and wounded don’t know any other way to believe than what they are told. They are easily swayed by hateful propaganda. We see evidence of this every day during this current political campaign! It is when a “leader” (church or otherwise) insights hate and hateful response from the people, that we are no longer in the danger zone…we are beyond it! Suddenly, we are in the midst of destruction without even realizing how quickly we got there!

So, once again I find myself on my soap box on the topic of how the church does damage in today’s world often times, because of misguided leaders who follow their ego and seek self-preservation above all else. Oh what a different world we would live in if such leaders led from the heart of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ…who is Love.

So, I will hold on by the tips of my fingernails to God and the Good News. I won’t despair. I will keep on keeping on. I will be sure to let that pastor know that he does NOT speak for true Christians. If I were able to join the protest of his church this next Sunday, I would. For now, I will express my frustration here in my blog and will add my name to the face book page protesting his church and hateful actions. Even more importantly, I will reach out in love to those who have yet again been emotionally and spiritually wounded by the church because of a foolish leader. What I haven’t done yet, is send this pastor the scriptural reminder from 2 Peter2:1-3. Perhaps I’m headed under another bus. So be it! I am starting to get used to the tire marks by now. 🙂

Posted in Spiritual Life | Leave a comment

Creating Time & Space

I hope you have had an opportunity to practice the “Power of One” this past week. I know it has helped me considerably to focus on at least ONE positive visit or connection of some kind. Every day we read the news and can easily feel discouraged. But I want to reassure you that the power of just ONE person can change our world…even if it is by changing one person’s outlook on life because we took the time to listen to them and share compassion.

The challenge for many of us though, is how do we find the time to commit to such change? There is much to be done and if you are like me, every minute seems to fill up quickly…especially if there is a vacuum of open space. My time gets sucked right up! Can any of you relate to this problem? 🙂

So how DO we create space so we can focus on the power of one? The same principle applies here, and that is, again…the power of one! Here is an example: For THIS week, I would like to encourage you to find ONE drawer, cupboard, closet or space in your garage that you will clean out. It helps to keep an ongoing “give away box” close by, so anything you want to donate can be placed in the box. I keep a box in my garage and when it is full, I put it in my trunk and take it to the local goodwill or other donation center.

After a period of time of committing to “just one” drawer or closet or desk or area of the garage to “clean up” (per week, or day etc.) you will find that your life will automatically create the space to put the “power of one” into practice. You will be able to spend a bit more time with your family or visit someone in the hospital or write that letter of encouragement or sign that petition for justice.

Care to join me this week? Be careful not to become overwhelmed. Remember, just ONE drawer, desk, cupboard, area of the garage etc. and then pat yourself on the back for “creating time and space” simply by applying the power of one! 😉

Peace,
Cindy

Posted in The Power of One | Tagged | Leave a comment

Roses on the wall

There is a scene from one of my favorite movies that reminds me of my dear friend. I won’t mention her name here for the sake of her privacy. A little history will help paint a picture of our friendship. I met her about 36 years ago. Our children (now grown with their own children) were just toddlers and each of us had yet to have our second child. We babysat for each other when our youngest children were born. Employment of our husbands took us in different directions until we re-united again when she moved back to California. Although we had not been close during those, what I call “the lost years,” we somehow managed to start mid-sentence yet again when she returned to the west coast. We had one of those friendships created from the interwoven fabric of our lives.

Some years ago, she was diagnosed with early onset Parkinsons. I had the honor of being able to stay with her for a few years to help with her general caretaking. We got along fairly well, except she would turn the AC on the coldest setting in the summertime and would wear sleeveless tops and shorts. I on the other hand, could be found in head to toe sweats and fuzzy slippers (in 90 degree heat outside!) just to keep warm in her home in the summer. I teasingly referred to her home as “the meat locker.” And in return, she bought me a bright pink fuzzy pajama set and jokingly said I looked like a giant pink bunny when I wore it in the middle of July.

Again, time passed. I remarried and moved out of town, but remained her friend. Slowly, the Parkinsons has taken more of a toll on her than any of her family or friends were prepared for. I know I wasn’t prepared! She is now in a nursing home in the town I live in. And so every time I visit her, I see the roses on the walls of the nursing home.

The movie scene I am referring to, is from the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes” with Kathy Bates. In one scene, her character happily walks into the room of the nursing home with a boquet of flowers to give to her friend. Her mood changes and she is shocked to find the nurse tearing off the paper roses her friend had glued to the wall to remind her of her garden back home. The nurse tells her the woman who lived there had passed away. Of course, Ms. Bates’ character breaks down and tries to take the roses back and put them on the wall again as she grieves over the death of her friend. Fortunately, it is only a mistake in communication and she discovers her friend is still alive and has taken a cab back to her old home.

I suppose I will be the only one to understand the irony here. My friend is certainly alive…well, sort of. Some days when I visit her, she is clear and coherent. Then there are days like today, when she is convinced she has bought a house somewhere and that the TV crews have been there to record the story. And then there is the baby she is supposed to be taking care of and somewhere in the mix of all of it is a scary dream about beheadings.

And so I pray for courage and strength for both of us. On days like today, I can do little more than help her practice the breathing exercises we used to do when she would grow anxious or fearful. I can hold her hand and listen to her “stories” and not try to convince her that what she is telling me isn’t real. To her, all of it is very real! The deterioration of the mind is part of the Parkinsons. The ravages of the disease itself, in combination with the medications, creates a hell on earth for my dear friend.

And then there are other days when she is more like the friend I’ve always known. On those days, we laugh about our beach trips and shopping excursions or share pictures and stories of our grandchildren. Those are the days I tell myself everything will be okay. And so I go back to visit her again. Sometimes my friend is there and sometimes…she just isn’t. And every time I visit…I see the roses on the wall.

Posted in Life | Leave a comment

An Easter Thank you

She had been looking everywhere…yet he was nowhere to be found. Perhaps the beautiful music is where he is. Certainly he will be there in the midst of that glorious sound! The walls echoed with the music. She stood only for a moment in the doorway and heard someone inside say He had risen. What are they saying? Risen? He’s alive? Then she heard it…weeping. An older woman was weeping on the steps just outside. The young woman turned and walked slowly toward the older woman and sat down quietly beside her. “What’s wrong? Can I do something to help?” “No my dear, my husband died six months ago and I just can’t go in there alone today.” “That’s okay…let me sit with you and hold your hand for a bit.” She waited quietly as the old woman sat in silence, wiping her tears and clinging to the young woman’s hand.

Carefully the young woman asked the old woman, “Tell me…have you heard about this one who has risen and is alive? I can’t seem to find Him. I’ve looked everywhere, but I don’t know where he is. The old woman’s eyes glistened with tears as she squeezed her young friend’s hand and softly replied, “Oh dear girl…He is right here!”

The noise of the cart caused them both to look up toward the man who was pushing it along the sidewalk. He stopped every few minutes to catch his breath and lean for a long while on the cart as he looked at both of them with a hard scowl. He appeared to be bracing himself for a nasty remark from these two women sitting in their fancy clothes on the steps. He stared at them as if to say, “What are YOU looking at…ain’t ya never seen a homeless man before?”

The older woman straightened a bit sensing her young friend’s attention shift. “It’s okay honey,” she said as she stood up and turned to go inside the building, “I’m better now, thank you!” The young woman gave her a hug and then turned back toward the street to the homeless man. He was still staring and scowling at her, his eyes now on the crumpled bag in her hand. She carefully approached him and asked, “Are you hungry? I haven’t eaten my breakfast bagel yet, please…take it.” He looked at her suspiciously and asked, “Lady, why are you giving me your food?” “Well, I’ve been a bit distracted this morning so I haven’t eaten my breakfast yet. I’ve been looking for the one who has risen and is now alive, but I have been unable to find him.” By now, the homeless man had already gobbled down half the bagel and with his mouth full, mumbled through a toothless grin, “Lady…he is right here, right now…thanks for the bagel!” and with more energy, he kept pushing his cart down the sidewalk.

She was still standing in the middle of the sidewalk watching the homeless man disappear around the corner when she was startled by a voice behind her, “Excuse me.” She turned around and saw a mother with a stroller and a toddler walking beside her. They were politely waiting for her to move so they could continue on their walk. The toddler held a basket filled with eggs and a chocolate bunny with the ears bitten off. The young woman smiled at the toddler and memories of her own childhood egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. “Are you okay?” the mother asked. “You seem a bit lost.” “Well, I am I guess…I’m looking for someone.”
“Whooooo?” the toddler asked, sounding very much like a baby owl. “I’m looking for the one who is risen and is supposed to be here…alive…now” her voice trailing off. “I know where He isthhh!” the child said with excitement. “You do? Where?”

The mother smiled as her toddler took a few steps toward the young woman and waved her little hand to encourage her to come closer. The young woman bent down close to the toddler. The little child reached out and placed her tiny warm hand over the young woman’s heart. “He isthhh RIGHT HERE!” she exclaimed with a lisp as she continued to pat the young woman’s heart. The child’s curly brown hair bounced across her face as she wiped chocolate from her mouth with her other hand. The young woman stood up slowly and barely whispered, “Thank you.” The toddler giggled and waved a good-bye.

And then, there it was…a warm sense of peace washed over the young woman as she heard a voice say, “You are welcome…and thank YOU…for you are indeed proof…that I AM alive!”

Posted in Spiritual Life | Leave a comment

Push Mower Prayers

Several years ago, I purchased a push mower to mow the lawn of a small house we were using for our homeless ministry. I LOVED mowing that little lawn, not because I am (as some would say) a masochist, but because it gave me an opportunity to pray.

Few people understood my choice of a push mower over an electric or gas mower, and even more folks tried to convince me to use a leaf blower instead of sweeping with a broom. What they may not have known, is this was my way of praying for the ministry, our homeless guests and our volunteers. It was during these prayer times that I would often fuss at God about comfortable Christians who couldn’t be bothered by homeless individuals, or the business owner who proudly announced that she had removed a faucet from her business so “the homeless” couldn’t wash their hands or get a drink of water. I am quite certain the lawn was much shorter on the days I offered these prayers of lament!

Now that I am semi-retired, I still use a push mower and a broom. As I was sweeping and praying this morning (and cringing at the neighbor’s leaf blower at the same time) I reflected upon how much I miss serving our homeless guests. My favorite time of ministry were the days I would make “grace cakes” (pancakes made with love) and when I would sweep the porch and pray for our guests before we opened the doors. There were rules though, and serving food was really not allowed because we did not have a commercial kitchen. I bent the rules on the days we made “grace cakes” by referring to our homeless guests as “friends” in our “home away from homelessness.” On those days I would quietly smile and ponder all the times that Jesus was really a “rule breaker.” 😉

This morning’s prayers were another lament. “What good am I doing now Lord? How am I being of service?” Just as I was considering this and waiting upon God for a response, one of those “friends” (former homeless guest) stopped by my home to pick up some oranges and lemons. She had several items in her car that she needed to store somewhere. It is ironic (thank you God) that my other project for my day off, was to begin cleaning out an increasingly cluttered garage. God seemed to tap me on the shoulder with the answer to my prayers. I could store some of her items in my garage!

My friend had far more grace than I would have at such a time in life. She was preparing to go to the oncologist for a follow up to her previous cancer diagnosis and her beloved grandmother had also just passed away. Needless to say, she was on shaky ground both physically and emotionally. She told me that she had inherited her grandmother’s items and she did not want them to get lost or stolen if something happened. Her voice trailed off and she paused for a long while before she told me that she had hoped to sell some of the items because she would probably need the money for her chemo treatments. She also needed a ride to her doctor’s appointment next week because she had been feeling too sick to drive that far.

“What good am I doing Lord?” There was the answer…standing right there in front of me with pure blue eyes now filled with tears. “I can store your items and I will do what I can to try to raise some funds for your medical treatment…and yes, I will take you to the doctor next week because that is my day off.”

Her relief and gratitude was evident as she took a slow deep breath. She quickly turned to a cherished and worn cardboard box in the back of her car. As she carefully handed me the box, she said, “I want you to have these porcelain dolls for your grandbabies. Who knows, maybe some day they will be of real value and your grandchildren can afford to buy a house to live in.”

I lifted the cover of the box and ran my finger along the porcelain features of the doll’s sweet face and I thought of my three granddaughters. I had known my friend for almost sixteen years and all she ever really wanted was a house to live in. Even in this time of deep grief and personal need, my friend was thinking of someone else. Grace. She was filled to the brim with what I was longing for. We hugged and I let her know what time I would pick her up for her appointment next week.

“How am I being of service?” I’m letting go. I’m letting go of the need to have a tidy garage, I’m letting go of the concern that I am not of service in my semi-retired state. I am letting go of any fear I have about my own health because my friend reminded me with a broad smile that even if she dies…she knows for sure where she is headed.”

For twelve years I worked in a ministry that was part of my DNA. I served our homeless guests in a variety of ways and loved every minute of it. I was in fact, as one pastor reminded me, a “back yard missionary.”

Today, as I mow my lawn with my push mower and sweep up the grass, I am reminded in prayer that I can still be of service because I am an “every day missionary.” God will still use me every single day…I just need to pray my push mower prayer, “Here I am Lord.”

Posted in Spiritual Life | Leave a comment

Not an audience

The choir director’s words startled me out of my caffeine lacking coma. “I don’t think the audience would like that hymn.” Who was she talking about? What audience? I wondered. Ohhhh, the congregation!

There it was again. The veiled (or maybe not so veiled) reference to the church congregation as pew fodder. Pew fodder are folks who just “sit and listen” to the assigned pastor’s message and motivational music and then continue to do nothing with it. They go to the building called “church” every Sunday and return home unchanged, not moving…not acting like the church was truly meant to be.

Church was never meant to be a “place” but rather, Jesus manifest. The church is in fact, the Holy Spirit moving in and among the people and doing what the Gospel asks of us. Each person IS the church. Together as one Body, we are called to be church. We are each called to ministry or mission and to have our spiritual gifts nurtured and brought forth.

I can’t help but wonder how many gifts of the Spirit are sitting wrapped and unopened by church leadership today because the people on the opposite side of the pulpit are disguised as pew fodder. What is keeping today’s church stuck and focused only on wondering where future members will come from, how they will pay for the church mortgage or continue to pay the salary for the pastor and other assigned staff members?

And so the reluctant prophet in me steps forward. Some years ago, I made a suggestion to our homeless ministry nonprofit board president. The topic of T-shirts for our volunteers was brought up. I balked at the idea. Why do we need to be “different” than our homeless guests? Ultimately, my only suggestion was to print a simple statement on the front of the T-shirt that said, “Jesus has left the building…” and on the back of the shirt, “and gone out into the streets.” I was emphatically told that I might offend a church partner if we did that so my idea was tossed. (sigh) She and I both knew it would not be the first time I had offended church leadership. I was also told that in my communications, I could not write the word “sigh” when I was trying to make a point. (For the record, I have retired from that particular ministry.) 🙂

So yes, I will offend some church leadership folks with this posting, but that is not my intent. I simply want to call the question and rhetorically ask the leadership if they are truly focused on drawing out the spiritual gifts in their church members. Are they leading the church as it was meant to be…which is drawing on the spiritual gifts of the people and not focusing on a building or program or simply providing a “show” for an audience?

It is painful for me to hear stories of corporate churches that can’t allow a sermon to go beyond the carefully programmed 27 minutes because their members might think church has lasted too long. I wonder, if the Holy Spirit were to become most powerful at 28 minutes, what would happen? Or worse yet, for a church leader to remove a homeless person because they are disrupting the “audience” with their mental illness. (Insert another audible “sigh” here please) Is it possible that someone in the congregation has the gift of healing and might be called to help that homeless individual find peace at minute 28? Will they ever know? Probably not. Bottom line, the people in a building called church are not an “audience” to entertain. Rather, they are the Body of Christ called to use their spiritual gifts to serve in our hurting world. The role of any church leader is to draw out and nurture those gifts in their congregation members.

I suspect there are many church leaders wringing their hands as to why people who come in the front door of their building, often just as quickly go out the back door.” Perhaps by calling the question here, they will begin to realize that the dying of today’s more corporate model church is really a seed falling into the ground…only to be resurrected into new life. We can always hope and pray this is so. At least that’s what this reluctant prophet is doing.

Cindy

Posted in Spiritual Life | Leave a comment