Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memory


Memorial Day is a holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. Who do you hold in your memory among this group?

My great uncle, Terry Fisher, was KIA in WWI. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. No living members of my family ever got to meet him but I imagine that my grandfather, who was his younger brother, carried his legacy in his heart. Thankfully, all others from our family and circle of friends returned from their time of military service. They did not all return without scars, especially mental marks.

During the time of the Vietnam conflict, I was very anti war. Honestly, this attitude has not changed much over time, seeing lives lost without achieving goals. Thankfully the draft has been banished during our lifetime.

Even though I identify more as a "dove" rather than a "hawk", I still believe in supporting those who choose to serve our country in this method and those who gave of themselves without having the choice. A Vietnam vet who is a member of my church is organizing an event to send care packages to service members. This is a possible way to honor the memory of those who lost their lives for our safety and peace. We contributed Keurig coffee cups. If you would like to contribute to this activity in our community, here is a link to the list of requested items:

http://www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org/10664/event/event_id/479807/Support-Our-Troops-with-Care-Packages

Thanks for your time to read and reflect on the meaning of this holiday. If you would like to contribute, contact me & I can pick up locally or you can bring to church office by June 4th.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Word


Wait!

Hahaha, while I had just started typing this title, a pop up screen appeared on my computer with the dashed circle churning and the words, “Please wait” encouraging me to do a Windows update.  Do we always notice the “wait” messages in life? Do we cancel the prompt as I just did with Windows? Isn’t waiting against the American lifestyle?  Remember Burgess Meredith’s famous line from Rocky, “What are we waitin’ for?”
 

What ARE we waiting for?  A graduation, a wedding, a birth, a check, a trip, a raise, a healing ,a Powerball win, a break in the clouds, a sign in the stars…and what do we do WHILE we wait?

Back in January my pastors had been preaching on spirituals disciplines. Ewww, no one appreciates the word, dis-ci-pline.  But I listened.  And some ideas stuck with me.  One of the topics was meditation.  I had tried it before, never settling in to feeling right with the practice.  Always getting distracted, abandoning my set aside time.  Pastor John simply described some of his own & some of his known methods – use a candle, focus on a word or a scripture or a song.  A friend brought me a simple prayer candle from a church of healing in south Texas,  The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan, Del Valle National Shrine.  She had paid a visit there with her father to give thanks for her own successful surgery, taking along a prayer card from me containing requests for my own healing and others. 

This candle became a useful object in my quest to meditate.  As I stared into the changing color glow of the lit wick I would think through Bible passages that I knew by heart – the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the 2 greatest commandments, Genesis 1:1.  Word by word.  Mixing in lyrics from hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy or How Great Thou Art.

Pastor Cindy had spoken in her sermon about spiritual journaling - writing down points of gratitude, questions, experiences, prayer list.  And here’s the kicker.  She asked God for a word!  A word of direction, guidance, comfort, etc.  I wanted that too but was terrified to ask.  What if it didn’t work for me?  Maybe I wasn’t worthy to receive a message from God.  Because, you know, Cindy is a pastor and is paid to receive and dish out these direct messages.  But I am just a regular person.  Would God send me a word?

It happened!  Every time I meditate and ask for a word, I am given one.  The latest word given was one I didn’t want – Wait! So what is that supposed to mean?  Wait a little longer for health to be restored.  Wait for the day to see my grandchildren again. Wait for the freedom to travel.  Wait to be able to drink at a celebration.  Wait, in this season of waiting, for the next stage of my life.  What is that next stage going to look like? And how do I even know that this is the word God wants me to know?  How do I assure that my puny brain did not just think this up myself?

One of my favorite contemporary writers, Margaret Feinberg, writes this on a recent blog post:  4 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Think You Hear From God.  1.  Does what I hear line up with scripture? 2.  Does what I hear line up with wise council?  3.  Does what I hear leave me with a sense of peace?  4.  Is what I hear blanketed in love?  Great.  Now all my questions meet more questions.  She wrote a whole book called Sacred Echoes.  In this she tells that God repeats himself to us.  When we doubt with, “no that can’t be”, he tells us again through a different source. 

So after my confrontation with the word, “Wait”, these are the repeated messages that came to me.  I did not seek them out.  They found me anyway.

In my devotional reading of Jesus Calling was this Bible verse:  But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.  Micah 7:7

My email inbox had a daily posting from Max Lucado:  To walk in the Spirit, respond to the promptings God gives you!  Don’t sense any nudging?  Just be patient and wait.  Jesus told his disciples “wait for the gift my Father promised – the Holy Spirit”.  Acts 1:4-5

A letter received from Linda, my supported orphan in Kenya, referenced these verses, Psalms 62:5-6, For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

Another subscription blog appears in my inbox, Pearls of Promise, containing these words:  Waiting for his direction is one of the most difficult things God asks us to do, but there are blessings.

The next Sunday’s sermon was about the day of Pentecost where all the disciples were gathered together again following Jesus’ command to wait for the gift. This gift of the spirit did come to them as promised, causing them awe and wonder beyond what they could have imagined.
 

So in this season of waiting – for health, for energy, for birth of next grandchild, for travel, for celebrations – I prompt myself to be aware of moments of grace that will suck my breath away as I whisper, “Wow”!

 

 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Arguments and Answers

Who argues with God?  Archie Bunker would judge me harshly because after all, "God is God!"  I am not proud of my admission but maybe it, at least, shows that we are in frequent communication.  That's what He wants, right?  Praise is known to be preferred in building this relationship rather than the whining, questioning, ignoring, distracting that too often comes from me.  Possibly I have missed out on some remarkable revelations due to my teenage like attitude.  FOMO, my loss!

There were some other well known characters in the history of time who have demoed my same humanity.  Remember the guy named Moses?  In Exodus Chapters 3-4 we find an account of a conversation between God and Moses.  God gives him a detailed description of how He plans to get his people, the oppressed Jewish tribe, out of slavery in Egypt.  Moses argues, "What if they don't believe me?"  Then God performs miraculous signs using Moses' shepherding staff. Moses' response is, " Pardon me, but I have never been good at speaking in front of people." (I bet a lot of us have used that one!). God reminds him who made the human mouths and promises to help him.  But Moses persists (can you believe he is still arguing with the supreme authority?) and asks him to please send someone else.  The audacity of this man!  As my grandmother would say, "Well I never!"  We all know how that story played out.  God will get his work done regardless of our human failings.  Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.



Remember Abraham's wife, Sarah?  How she laughed at God's messengers telling of her upcoming pregnancy at 90 years old?  Then God asked why she was laughing and she lied about it! "I wasn't laughing..."  Genesis 17-18 oh really!

Then there was a man named Jonah who was chosen to warn the people of Nineveh to turn from their evil ways.  We all know how he tried to run from this calling and ended up in the belly of a whale.  But that's not all the story.  Afterward Jonah did follow directions and give his speech in the wanton city and the people had a change of heart.  Good news, they repented and God decided to show mercy and forgive them, not sending calamity to the city as originally planned.  Guess who was then sulking about this plan of doom not being carried out?  Jonah was arguing with God about his compassion.  The nerve of this guy! Was Jonah disbarred from the kingdom? Well no. God gently guided him back to right thinking through the image of a plant that had grown at Jonah's sulking shelter. Check out this story in the Old Testament book of Jonah.

Fast forward to 2015-16.  There is this retired school teacher, a happy grandma who lives in Grapevine TX.  Part of her regular life is prayer, Bible study, devotional reading to kick start the days, along with good strong coffee.  Sometimes she doesn't particularly like what she reads, so it is put out of mind and replaced with distracting activity - household chores, TV, books, hanging out with people, etc., etc.  But the still, small voice does not leave her alone.

What I was trying to ignore was Jesus' message in Luke 14.  He was having dinner in the house of a prominent person (a Pharisee) and in watching the way guests chose their places at the banquet table he made it a teachable moment. The parable of the wedding feast urges people to go against the common custom of choosing the best seat possible, nearest to the hosts.  Jesus says in this context, "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." A message repeated many times throughout his ministry.

Jesus also goes on to challenge his host to reconsider who he invites when he plans a luncheon or dinner.  He tells him to skip inviting his friends, family and rich neighbors in favor of new guests - the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.  Even though those people could not pay, he would be blessed.  Wow.  How do I do that?

We have a particular event at church that I like called The Well.  It is a catered dinner for women that includes an inspirational speaker.  I have enjoyed bringing friends to attend with me.  When I was working I used to pay for a whole table and invite people - some paid for themselves and other let me bestow a gift.  Since I retired, my budget changed and during that same time the fee for these women's banquets went up, so before inviting people I started limiting who I called according to who I thought could afford to pay.  I know it says to bring in the poor but the only poor people I knew in my vicinity were ones who did not speak English well enough to relate to the speakers.  I argued with God that I did not know the right "poor" women to invite. "IF you really mean this parable message THEN show me !"

More wow.  The next week I went to my regular Thursday Bible study group settling in at my regular spot at the table.  Looking down to place my purse on the floor by my chair, then looking up to see two women who had filled the empty seats on either side of me.  I knew them both.  I knew the events of their lives that had worn in their wrinkles and colored their heads gray.  I had visited at their separate apartments, witnessed their separate lives.  By standards of many who live in north Tarrant county, they are poor. They don't regularly come to the Thursday morning Bible study but happenings in their lives made them show up that day.  I almost lost my breath!  Like Sarah, I almost laughed out loud at hearing/seeing God's message loud and clear! And they speak English!

We have not yet attended The Well together.  My treatments fall on the same day, limiting my participation in the women's dinner, one of them has dialysis on Thursdays and the other works the night shift.  It's going on tonight and I'm home resting, reflecting and writing instead of sharing the meal, socializing and listening to the speaker. The two of them have their own health issues that rule their calendars, and housing issues that trouble their minds, and family issues that twist their hearts - so it's not the literal banquet that is now my conviction.  Friendship relationships have developed with these two special women.  They have been prioritized in prayer, they have been moved to a "place of honor" in my list of people to call and regularly check in on their lives and their needs.  I am showered with hugs when I see them in person.  They call me out when they spot me at church and in places in the community.  They remind me constantly that they are praying for ME!  I am humbled to know them even better now and claim them as true friends. In our country of affluence they are poor, but they are rich in matters of faith and they are sharing that with me. I am blessed.

Did God get angry with my arguments?  No.  He was good and gentle and kind and patient with me.  He answered my demands with an "Alright, there it is!" in a way that I recognized the message.  God is so personal.  If you haven't' already, I challenge you to ask him a challenging question.  Go ahead and argue if you feel the urge. Can't wait to hear YOUR stories!

Btw, this is not my only argument with God.  Part 2 to come later...

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 They destroy arguments and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God.

James 4:1-2
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (NIV)


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A New Book, An Old Story



Critics voices have swarmed and buzzed over the most anticipated book, Go Set a Watchman. Some were disappointed that the story line did not match perfectly with its prize winning companion, To Kill a Mockingbird; its hero, Atticus, showed unexpected flaws. Some people, supposedly close to Ms. Nelle Harper Lee, thought that it should never have even been published, claiming that the loss of her sister, her protector, had opened her up to manipulation by a new lawyer and a new editor. Having heard stories and witnessed some personal events related to influencing elders, helps me understand both sides of these concerns.  Sometimes well meaning relatives or friends who try to be gatekeepers for the aging ones seem to actually stifle their choices of activities they love, foods they like and times when they simply want to rest; sometimes these same trusted people misuse or misdirect the aging ones' money to fund their own desires.  In the case of Ms. Lee, I hope that did not happen.  For my own personal edification, I am so glad the book was published.  Her unedited voice from long ago spoke to me.  It seemed a gutsy, off the cuff tale of her life as it was and had been; an outcry on the role of women and the place of African Americans in her time.  Her time overlapped strangely with my time.


Go Set a Watchman was written around the time of my birth and first years, mid fifties, and was not published until 2015, the year I turned 60. It's the story of Scout as a grown up, it's the story of Susan Kohn Green as a child.  Monroeville AL I have never seen, but Ms. Lee's description and my own imagination tells me it was very much like Royse City TX in that era - just a small East Texas town of cotton farmers vaguely connected to the big city of Dallas before I-30 was constructed.  I was a child of privilege - not by wealth but by being known through family ties and by being white.

"Isn't that Beau and Sue Ann's little girl? Bally's grand daughter?  Pack's grand daughter? Hooker's niece? Smiley's niece? (the men carried lifelong nicknames that would confuse ancestry.com researchers) Usuallly traveling in the company of relatives to stores on Main St., to church on Sunday (mostly Baptist but sometimes Methodist with the Fisher side of the tree), to visit friends of the adults - I received doting attention.  People praised me for being smart or cute or sweet or for being created as the spittin' image of my mom (she was very popular).  They served me treats like fresh picked peaches, watermelon, blackberries or rice with butter and sugar, cold biscuits or that kind of homemade sherbet ice cream made in aluminum ice trays. I was allowed to play with their little porcelain nick nacks arranged on tatted doilies - figures of Victorian people, animals and shoes.  I could touch the pianos and press on electric organs. 

The town and times were safe. It was a normal occurrence to walk across the street to my friend's house or catty corner to play in another neighbor's yard (we loved Mr. Carr's smokehouse, wagon parked under the weeping willow and corn field). I could go around the corner on my own to play at a favorite location, "The Big Tree", or go a little further down this street to my grandparents' house to help mix up cornbread or have a treat of coke float or Juicy Fruit gum.  When you are a child, you think as a child and you think that everyone else lives just like you.

One day when I was in the company of my childhood best friend (words were spelled out in those days, BFF had not been invented), we decided to take a walk and explore the destination of a dirt road that ran next to Mr. Carr's field. We walked past black folk picking cotton in a field, past an old abandoned shack ready to fall down at the next windstorm and came out on pavement that was a street we recognized. No problem. We knew the way home.  When views of our houses appeared, we knew there WAS a problem. Our moms were in the front yards looking upset. They greeted us with frantic hugs but boy were we in trouble! I may have even received a swift swat on the bottom, don't exactly remember. There were stern discussions of our boundaries and "asking permission".  Even though we were allowed to roam, we had to learn the "understood" rules that accompanied freedom.

Like all southern towns of the 50's, Royse City was segregated, the black folk (called N#%$ by most towns people) lived in their own neighborhood across the railroad tracks. They had their own houses, their own church, their own school. As a child I thought like a child and I thought everybody lived as they did by choice. The only black person I knew by name was Gussie, the woman who came to help us out when my baby sister was born.  She was nice, I liked her.

During these pre-school days of my childhood (I didn't actually go to pre-school, these were simply developmental years before moving to the Dallas suburb of Carrollton where I started school in first grade), there were many occasions where adults gathered and children ran underfoot. White noise (pun intended) is expected to pass over the heads of kids, but not always, not mine. People would be sitting balanced in metal lawn chairs in a back yard passing bowls of homemade ice ream and chatting into the dark.  Sometimes the idle gossip would gain intensity as someone would audaciously accuse The Catholics or the NAACP of some shenanigans.  Too young to know fully, but the tone and some words caught in my innocence and twisted my heart.  God had set a watchman in me.  A conscience was being born to guide me through life.  I was too young to know, but there was a spirit telling me that something was off kilter in my perfect world.

Thankfully, my soul was spared some of the wrenching anguish of Jean Louise (Scout) in her adult sized eye opening moments. My little ears never heard the voices of my heroes, my mama and daddy, in the questionable utterances; they have remained my models of greatness throughout my whole life, even though I know they must carry their own human flaws.  The white noise remains unnamed but I know it had to come from neighbors and relatives, people we loved.  People who must be forgiven. Maybe I should actually be thankful for them, for stirring my childhood awakening to grow the seed of justice.

On a few recent visits back to this once hometown to attend funerals, I noted changes to the once Negro community that clustered near the cemetery. Newer houses appeared and the "Colored School" had been remodeled and revamped into a special district alternative learning center named after a man who had been my parents' teacher and principal. The black dirt cotton fields are being covered by new affordable housing developments touting the pleasures of country living.  Hopefully prejudices have dissipated and mutual respect prevails in the growing little city of the new millennium. 

Many people and events have continued to teach me about how to live my life on this earth, relating to others in our world.  Jesus' words and actions are the ultimate model.  The Golden Rule.  The Beatitudes.  The Sermon on the Mount. The Lord's Prayer.  The Great Commission. 

My Watchman is set.

Isaiah 21:6
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

Thank you, Dear God, for giving Harper Lee to our world, whose iconic, influential words shaped her readers. Thank you for my friends and family who love to read and discuss favorite books. Thank you for teachers who taught us how to read and question and explore. Thank you for Pastor John who delivered a Sunday sermon on Go Set a Watchman giving light to eternal insights. Thank you for your eternal grace toward us. Amen.

Go to Audio Podcast

Sermon by John Mollet


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poetry


She Walks in Beauty

BY LORD BYRON (GEORGE GORDON)
She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.


One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!



Simply just being - together. Slight winds wafted through pool side wisteria, while we sat waiting, watching, listening.  Watching the dynamic tension of circling hawk suppressing neighborhood birdsong, listening for the punchlines of silly priest jokes, waiting for the just right moment to fill our plates of shared friends' foods bounty. These are the moments to remember, being in the presence of people with good humor, good hearts.
.
In her coughing, slightly tipsy voice she confessed an uncanny obsession. Lord Byron's poem kept coming to her consciousness in some connection to me. "She walks in beauty..." From depths of memory I could complete the next line. Darrell and I sang this together in high school choir, an acapella performance, led by a man we loved and revered, blended with other voices still innocent of adulthood. She blamed her Irish roots of mysterious intuition and I accepted the mystery, a gift.

There must have been a hasty, college kid review written for Lord Byron's poetry in my earlier years, English Lit, UNT, circa 1970's.  Here is my current reflection:
She walks in beauty....beautiful words, beautiful imagery....on the surface it describes a
woman who possesses both outer and inner beauty...a worthy, far reaching, timeless theme, something you and I and others aspire to be. 

On a personal level, I notice the particular contrasts between light and dark. I'm borrowing phrases from a book I'm reading by Sue Monk Kidd (Traveling with Pomegranates) to describe my reaction, "The irony is that I had to go on an elaborate journey to figure this out.  So much of my growing older seems to be about paradoxes.  The reconciliation of opposites.  The bringing to balance."                                                                              

So I view my darkness as disease and the light as goodness, blessings that surround me.  In the darkness, "the cloudless climes"  obstructions/distractions from daily life fall away and I am given clarity to see all the goodness, "the starry skies".  So I have been "mellowed" to see "tender light"  that might ordinarily have gone unnoticed in "gaudy day", or normal activity.  So I notice all the good that people carry in them and care to share - bringing flowers, replanting dead pots, baking blueberry muffins, book shopping, destination driving, sending cards, encouraging messages, simply just being - together.  Besides the goodness in people, there is also evident innate purity in nature for those who observe - flourishing plants, effects of powerful floods, circling hawks, birdsong restored, light effects at certain times of day and night, chameleon geckoes, mama ducks and their babies, squirlish antics, and more.

Ironic that being in a shade greater of darkness and a ray less of light, keeps a balance that reveals nameless grace.  The goodness is there in the smiles and kindnesses of friends, family and even strangers.  So in my inner dwelling place there is a fullness of good thoughts, comfort, love, peace in my heart.  Would I know this so deeply without "the night"? I love this poem and I'm glad she brought it out of my distant past into my present. Remembering the scripture that was read by Ashley at her father, Don Bigbie's funeral, the one shared in letters between Don and a friend Mark.  It has stayed with me as a God sent message, coming at me repeatedly from various places. The poem carries the same message.

2 Corinthians 12:9New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Deep thoughts by Susan Green. On Gilda Radner's birthday.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Caring

Pray for one another

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (‭James‬ ‭5‬:‭13-16‬ KJV)



Unexpected phone calls and emails from people in our church's Kenya village make my heart sing and my face smile. If you happen to make a connection with this village, there is no going back to who you were before, no forgetting! Adopting an orphan, feeding children from the street, supporting medical services or evangelists who travel to remote areas, meeting with African church representatives who visit our community or joining a mission trip which travels to Meru - however you are lead to put action into your attitude of caring, you will be blessed. Over and over. Again.
 

Lawrence Mathieu is a lovely man of faith who works in a school in Kenya. He has a passion for loving Christ and serving others. He has visited us in Grapevine and hosted us in Africa. Last fall he happened to send an email of greetings and questions. His questions of "how are you?" were answered with concerns for my mother. A general health check up had revealed a problem, irregular heart beat. Several procedures were tried to get it back in rhythm but so far nothing had worked. She had been feeling "really tired". He promised that he and his family would pray for my mother. Follow up emails occurred with more greetings and questions, "how is your mother?", "we are lifting her up in prayer". Although with aging, human bodies show effects of stress, my mother's new doctor was able to find a medication and dosage to reset her heart at a good pace. My heart was amazed and encouraged that wonderful people on the other side of our globe were caring and praying for someone so dear to me.

 
 
 
Travel to Kenya is not required to make a caring connection. Hundreds of people in our own congregation will reach out and care for you. Prayers overlap, Bibles are open, acts of service welcome volunteers, classes challenge and inform, joint worship inspires - Kum ba yah, My friend; kum ba yah, my Lord!

Dear Lord,
We recognize you as The Father of all. We thank you for connecting us as one big family and we thank you for being All-knowing and All-caring. Help us to follow your commandments and model the life of your son. Thank you for the joy that is found in caring for one another. Let us honor you in every day, Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

JOY!


Lessons from a Two Year Old

Matthew 18:10 See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.

Lay down, you need to get some rest.  Keller was not agreeing with my talk about nap time.  Chattering away about the planned excursion on the Polar Express Grapevine Christmas train, he tossed and turned, flipped and scrunched.  Come on now, let’s be quiet and sleep a little while.  “No, Ma.  I’m not tired and I have options!”  My giggles would not suppress.  Oh, what are your options?  “Well, I can get down this way or I can get down that way!”  The ends of the daybed were open where the middle was blocked by his safety rail.  The option exercised was the one closest to the door where we escaped to play until time for the train ride.

Whether you are a toddler or a senior citizen, you DO have options!

Lately I have been plagued with hyper sensitivity.  Why does the world have to be so cruel?  Why do people I know have to be so mean, so rude?  D wisely advises to not let things bother me, but I do.  My brain is wired to rethink, rehash, relive – wondering, questioning, analyzing incidents. To. Death. 

So what are my options?

If I were Taylor Swift, I would vent by writing a song.  Mean: 

You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again
Got me feeling like I'm nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I'm wounded
You picking on the weaker man

You can take me down with just one single blow
But you don't know, what you don't know...

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don't already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out 'cause I'll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
'Cause you can't lead me down that road
And you don't know, what you don't know...

If I were Edvard Munch, I would create an expressive painting of The Scream.

Since I am me, I have to turn to the inspired words of books and speakers to guide me. The theme that has been coming to me from words of wisdom is JOY!  From my current read, the Lessons of Saint Francis, I find that a common occurrence in our modern era with people who lived in the 1200s is darkness and bad news.  Francis warned his students that dejection could “generate an abiding rust in the heart”.  Remember the tin man; I don’t want my heart to be ruined by rust!  Francis went on to caution the friars that Satan sought to exaggerate even the slightest wrongs into full- fledged crises.  “The devil exults when he can extinguish or even impede the devotion and joy brought about by pure prayer or other good works in the heart of God’s servant…it would be very easy for the devil to take the slightest thing and turn it into an ever heavier burden.” (when I first was writing this post and came to this quote about the devil, my computer mysteriously shut down and I lost everything I had written- damn the devil!- it completely creeped me out but I took a break and came back – there!) Just manually saved.  Precaution.

Francis was not denying the reality of bad news, he was instead encouraging his people to avoid dwelling on sadness and cynicism that could block out the light of God and the light of love.

 http://www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org/10664/blogentry/entry_id/430037/The-Birth-of-Joy

During my break from the devil, I listened to an advent sermon podcast by Cindy Ryan, speaking about the pink advent candle of Joy. I had heard it back in December but it seemed like good timing to hear it again.  She talked about Joy as being out of place in our world of craziness and pain.  Joy is a supernatural gift from God.  It can be found in sunny days in January, cloud formations, sunsets, butterflies, hugs, smiles, toasts, wildlife spottings, FB posts, innocent words of little children, books, songs, art – it’s all around.  Just look.




 

 

In the recent sports world wrapped up in football mania, one commentator spoke about his time under the coaching leadership of Bill Parcells.  Preparing his team for playoffs, film would be viewed of various players while mistakes were pointed out.  The coach would say, “Don’t be that guy!”  I have been too aware of those who criticize, exclude, shun, ignore, hate, lie – it’s not pretty.  So the option I choose is – don’t be that guy.

A quote from Mr. Rogers comes to mind, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.””

For me (and maybe for you), choices are in how to respond to people/events that bring you down.  I can carry hurt, I can avoid situations, I can grow thicker skin, I can retaliate – or I can look for the good in the midst of all the messiness.  When I look for the good, I see it is so many times stronger than the bad.  There is the joy!

Philippians 4:8  Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.