Sunday, August 21, 2016

Be Ready for the Unexpected


A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. It was early, so there weren't many other diners there yet. We were having a good time, although I don't remember what we were talking about other than my grandson and her great-niece & nephew! (It's all about the babies!)

A woman had come in the front door, also with a friend; they were behind me so I didn't see them at first. This woman walked past us to go to the restroom and my friend commented to me on her perfume - it was a very nice light, fresh scent. This woman was probably a little younger than us, tall, very well put together, dressed in the African style (I don't know the name for what she was wearing); she walked a little slowly to the back of the restaurant.

As she walked by to return to her table, my friend stopped her to compliment her perfume. That started our conversation. "That's a lovely scent - it was like a breath of fresh air when you walked by." An opening, an invitation to share a little, an unexpected interaction. My friend, who is very perceptive, sensed that there was some pain, some unhappiness, something not light & fresh in this woman's life and took the risk to ask. We learned that she needed a knee replacement and had just gotten approval for the surgery. She was in pain, and was also very concerned about her recovery. Her home has stairs, so she wouldn't be able to go home right away; she would need some help when she returned home; and so very important to her, she didn't know what she would do with her little dogs while she was in the hospital.

My friend reached out her hand to this woman, asked her name, and asked if we could pray for her, "We're big pray-ers," my friend said. Sherll said, yes and my friend offered a prayer for her pain, her healing, her peace. I offered a solution for her "babies" while she recuperated, a place to turn.

God spoke in that restaurant... spoke to all three of us and joined us in that moment. Perception to see the need, confidence to reach out in Gods' name,  and God worked in that moment. I will likely never see Sherll again, I won't know the outcome of her surgery. But I continue to pray for her. I know that she was brought before God that evening, as were we, and that all three of us walk closer with God because of that moment. Because we listened...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Give, give, give



Recently I noticed that the lemon tree in my yard had an abundance of lemons that had fallen to the ground and even more still on the tree. This in itself is unexpected because we do nothing to help this tree along. The sprinklers don’t reach it, we don’t water, no fertilizer, nothing. Yet, here were all the lemons. So I collected the ones from the ground; most of them were too far gone to be useful. Then I took a basket and picked the ripe ones (that I could reach) from the tree. And, just in time because my bottle of non-concentrated lemon juice was almost empty. The lemons look so pretty in my blue bowl. And I was thankful for the bounty.

I started thinking about a lemon. If you bite into it like an orange, whoa doggie!! That is sure sour! Oh my gosh… can you say pucker up and spit it out? And you might be tempted to ask, “What were you thinking God?” Yet, when we squeeze a bit of lemon on a salad or in a glass of water; use it to cook some seafood or chicken, the beauty of a lemon shines through. It adds some freshness to the food and some brightness. There is a sweet side to the lemons after all.

Then I read Monday’s Gospel reading, Matthew 19:21
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”

Whoa doggie!! This is a lemon of a Gospel – it left a bit of a sour taste with me and certainly made me pucker up & want to spit it out (reject it). And say, “What were you thinking, Jesus? Sell all my possessions, give the money to the poor! I’m not sure I want to do that; I’m not ready to do that. But I want to come with you.”

Jonathan Erdman, who is writing the meditations for Forward Day by Day this month, made sense of this for me. “It was not too late for the young man, and it is never too late for you or me-new choices will come along for all of us. Fail and try again. Seize each opportunity. Learn, grow and keep moving. We must be patient with ourselves, for we are not on our own; we are following Jesus.”  This might not be an all or nothing choice. 

Like squeezing the lemon, maybe I can add some brightness and freshness to my life story. I can give freely of what I have – my time, my talents, my money, my possessions, my love. When I give of myself I temper the sourness of the lemon and brighten someone else’s day. Whether I’m serving at church, offering a shoulder to a friend, donating to the battered woman’s shelter, taking photos, writing this blog… I’m giving of my possessions & myself to others. I’m walking with Jesus, seizing any opportunity to learn & grow & give. So, if life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade… give, give, give and you will find the flavor and brightness Jesus has to offer. 

Visit Forward Day By Day for meditations on the scriptures here: Forward Day by Day.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Informal?? God still shows up



This afternoon I had the great pleasure of attending an informal organ program put on by the American Guild of Organists, Toledo Chapter; but it wasn't really informal at all. The organists were performing on the Toledo Museum of Art’s Historic Skinner Organ, in the fabulous Peristyle. My Aunt Margaret (who, by the way is 99 years old!) is a member of the Guild, and has performed on the Skinner Organ many times through the years. I’m visiting her for a few days and this concert was just one of the items on the “Things To Do” lists she had ready. Of course I jumped at the chance to attend a concert in the Peristyle to hear this organ.

My Aunt said that there may only be one or two organists, or more, she just didn’t know. The organists from the Guild could sign up to participate and play an instrument that is normally unavailable to them. We were please to find there were six organists on the program! And it was a varied program, from Gershwin to Bach to Sousa to Grieg, and other composers I wasn’t familiar with.

It was a wonderful concert!! All the organists played beautifully and the sound was sooo lovely. And then, partway through the performance I felt the warmth that I’ve come to know means that the Holy Spirit is moving around (all those flames, you know!) and yet again I knew that we were all in the presence of God. I don’t know if anyone else felt it, but I did. The entire program was but one moment in time, shared by the organists who offered their gifts and the 80 or so of us in the audience offering our ears and our hearts. Presented in the universal language of music we all heard & understood. We were together in those moments, and they will never be again. It was a special time, shared by strangers. But that is what God does… we are brought together, share an experience, and go our different ways; yet we are all touched by those moments and are not the same as when we walked in the door. What a wonderful outcome on a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sing a New Song in the Morning


The other morning I woke up before the alarm clock - for God sent me a living, singing alarm. There was a bird outside the open doors, singing away in joy for the dawn of a new day. Her song was beautiful and so joyful. And why not be joyful? The new day had come, the light followed the darkness, the world was waking to all the possibilities.

And I woke with the bird song in my heart and thankfulness to God for this day he has given me. A day where I can try (again) to live the life I am called to live. A day when I can let the past go and move forward. And this Hymn came to mind immediately. I sang this for years before I truly understood that in each new day, each new morning, God is there; with his love and his grace. All we need to do is to listen... and walk with Him.

New every morning is the love
our waking and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought. 

New mercies each returning day,
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hope of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes will lovelier be
as more of heaven in each we see;
some softening gleam of love and prayer
shall dawn on every cross and care.

The trivial round, the common task, 
will furnish all we need to ask;
room to deny ourselves: a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love,
fit us for perfect rest above; 
and help us this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray. 

     John Keble (1822)

I look forward to what this, and every day, will bring. I can only hope and pray for another glimpse of God in the little (or big) things.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Of Dog & Woman



I spent Monday afternoon with a friend who runs a kennel & doggie day-care. I went bearing lunch and pie (!!) and my little guy. He got to run with the pack while we humans had lunch and talked, laughed, shot photos, shared hopes & dreams. And, did I mention we ate pie?

She is a good soul, my friend. Full of fun, laughter, compassion, questions, disappointments, and love. She has built a business, a life for herself that (now) primarily revolves around dogs. Watching her yesterday, with the 15 or so canines around her, I see God at work. She tends to them with such care. She loves each one and gives each one attention; she is mindful of their needs and will put one away for a nap when he gets a bit overwhelmed. She watches the big ones to be sure they aren't intimidating the littles; she moves groups around so they can all play with ones they get along with. She is quick to scoop one up to snuggle with her; she tells another to "stop it." When we sit at the table for lunch, we are surrounded - not with begging dogs, but with dogs who settle down for a bit of a rest, knowing that she has stopped in her day to rest over lunch. One dog is curled at my feet, three on the sofas, one in the chair, one on a bed, two under the sideboard - we were surrounded. She tends to me as well, asking questions about the tales I share; giving me her insight; helping me to, perhaps, see things in a different light. She brings her grace & compassion to everything... and the fun!

As we were together with the dogs, she surrounds them, and me, with her love and care. Much as God surrounds us as his children. He loves each of us and gives us each attention. He is mindful of our needs, He gives us rest when we need it, He keeps us safe from the prowling, roaring lion who looks for someone to devour (paraphrased 1Peter 5:8 NIV), He holds us close, he sometimes tells us to "stop it." As a child of God, I am surrounded by His love all day, every day... and I choose to listen.

Maybe God can speak to us through a good slice of pie; but I know He speaks to us in the everyday relationships between human & human, human & animal, and animal & animal. How has God spoken to you?

God speaks in the little things
listen... & walk with him in the everyday

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Are you listening?



Last Sunday I was sitting in the congregation at church (I'm usually with the choir but we had Sunday off). The service started off as usual, but part way through I knew that God was in the house (as the saying goes). I felt it. I KNEW it.

And then I SAW it... Jesus' love in full bloom. Coming back from communion, one of the men, a younger African American, was helping an older White female to return to her seat. He was holding her hand & arm, and they were walking with a little bit of boogie in their step and smiles on their faces. Don was playing an improvisation on "O Happy Day" on the piano. All I could focus on were their hands - younger & older; male & female; black & white - together. Inspired. Happy. Loved... Jesus in action. God was speaking that day. He touched my soul and brought me to tears.

I believe with my whole heart and soul that God is with us everyday and in our everyday. I have experienced Jesus in my life, including in church last Sunday. Are YOU listening? Is there room for God in YOUR everyday?

God speaks in the Little Things
listen... & walk with Him in the everyday