24 November 2008
First, what an amazing thing to be able to be there to support my friend Melvin and his family in their time of need. While I feel like I didn't "do" anything while I was I there, I was told several times how important it was that I cared enough to show my support in such a physical, tangible way. Well, I believe Melvin would do the same for me if the situation was reversed...but even if he wouldn't, I am glad that I was able to be there with him and for him in his time of loss. And while I didn't really know Michael (I mean, who has time for your friend's younger siblings when you are growing up?), hearing the testimonies and tributes of the men and women who gathered to pass tribute to his life was amazing. When attending services like this one, I always wonder what will be said of me when it is my time to die. Nice things, I pray, but in order to ensure that, I have to live my life in such a way that those are the memories that people will have when I am gone. Yeah, I need to start working on that!
Then, I was blessed to be able to attend the church that I attended as a teenager and where I was first baptized into the Adventist faith. What a blessing to see old friends who are still actively involved in the church (although it is very interesting to see my contemporaries holding the offices that our parents held when I attended!) I am so glad that my friends are holding on to their faith and to the Hand of God decades later. Amen!
Saturday evening I was able to spend time with a high school classmate who reached out to me five years ago with an amazing story that I cannot share here, but suffice it to say, from that story, we have developed a friendship that has only been nurtured by phone calls and emails for five years. Saturday evening, we were able to sit down, face to face, and break bread together at Cheesecake Factory. I love stuff like that.
And then Sunday before I left to fly home, I was able to spend time with a couple who sowed kindness, love and friendship into my brother and I at a time when we needed it desperately. They provide a refuge from the madness that was our home environment at the time and, for years later, were a source of encouragement, friendship and parenting for my brother after I was long gone to Atlanta and my mother had followed me south. What a blessing to be able to visit with them and tell them "thank you" for what they did for us. And finally, I was able to spend time with two other high school classmates and share stories about our joy at being alive at such a time as this - more good food - Thai food!, yum! - fellowship and conversation before one of them drove me to the airport and I flew home.
It was a packed weekend - and now I have to unpack one suitcase and immediately begin packing it again as I am flying away to Mexico on Saturday for a week's vacation with my godsister - don't be jealous! I'll think of you often as I sit on the beach and drink various and sundry drinks brought to me by gorgeous Mexican men...hahaha. I am glad I had all the experiences I had this weekend. I am glad I am home safely.
When will I visit New York again...? Have no idea, but the memories of this visit will long remain with me. I pray you had a great weekend as well - wherever you are, whatever you did.
20 November 2008
So, today I want to talk about "storehouses". Malachi 3:10 states, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (New International Version) I am sure you are familiar with that text - you are beaten about the head with it every time there is an offering plate passed in church, and the indication is that if you don't give your money to the church, you are not being faithful in your stewardship. I have recently begun to question/have a problem with that philosophy. While I agree that it is our duty as members of a church to support the church, I wonder if the "storehouse" can be something other than the physical building in which I may go to worship. Could the "storehouse" be the friend who is jobless and needs assistance putting food on the table? Could the "storehouse" be the single mother who has unexpected car troubles and needs gas or repair money? Aren't we also admonished, as Christians, to do unto the "least of these" when we see someone in need?
A situation recently occurred in my life where I was impressed that I needed to help someone in need in a very meaningful, tangible, sacrificial way. And the only way to do this was to use the money I had designated for my tithes and offerings. I had two conversations with two women who I consider to be spiritual giants and well grounded in Scripture. Both of them encouraged me to follow the unction of the Holy Spirit and to sow into this person's life with the money. So, I wrote the check, prayed over it and put it in the mail. A few days later, I had the opportunity to speak with the person who I sent the check and he told me the following story:
Times had been hard for his family. It seemed like time they got through one crisis, another would arise. The most recent mishap was that his wife's car had some major repair issues. The first mechanic they took the car to told them that it would be $500 to repair the car. They did not have $500 - in fact, all they had was $180. They took the car to a friend who worked in a car repair shop who told them, I'll do it at my employee discount and it will only cost you $275. Not knowing where they would get the extra money, they stepped out on faith and told him to go ahead and repair the car. When he got home from the repair shop, he checked the mail and there was my check which was sufficient for him to get the car repaired! God is good! Not only was this person blessed to get his car repaired, but God (I believed) blessed me by telling me this story and letting me know that He used me as a conduit of His blessings! What an honor!
And I could go on about how I have been blessed this month - in tangible, financial, spiritual -"save me from myself" - ways...but that should be the subject of another blog...or two.
All I want to say is, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit...you will be blessed for it and not only will your "storehouse" overflow, but so will the storehouse of others.
Be blessed - and I look forward to the next 100 blogs, don't you? (smile)
19 November 2008
Ok, those of you who know me well are like, "YOU, not be in contact with someone for a decade of time! You are ALWAYS in contact with EVERYBODY!" Yeah, I know...hard to believe. I still have address books with peoples' contact information from high school and that's been over 25 years ago. But the situation with my mom and stepfather, and consequently my relationship with my stepsister and stepbrother, is complicated. Without going into family history and skeletons and ... mess, suffice it to say, our parents' breakup and divorce was not amicable and when you are children/young adults - you take your parent's side...no matter what...and that is the way it was...and is. And I honor and respect that.
However, about six months ago, I was impressed to pray for Nicki and Todd. Every morning. "And bless Nicki and Todd, wherever they are." Every morning. Even as our parents recently headed to court to hash out a property settlement agreement that was 20 years in the making - and a lot of old feelings (read: negative) about my stepfather resurfaced - I still prayed. Every morning. And God answered my prayer with a friend request on Facebook from a name I didn't recognize and a picture too small to verify if it was indeed the woman I had been praying for. (did I mention: I was praying for her every morning?)
We haven't talked yet. I gave her my cell phone number and I hope she will call me. So we can talk and catch up. I didn't have a sister growing up - never really wanted one. She never had one either - until our parents married in February 1978, and we were "forced" into each other's lives. We had fun, as only children can have. We had conflicts, as only children can have. We had the whole "jockeying" for position that siblings have. But, when I think of her (and Todd), it is always with fondness. When I think of how their mother, Toni, included me and my brother Kevin in activities and events, it makes me smile - because she didn't have to do it, but she did. She was very kind to us...even when we probably didn't deserve her kindness.
Reunions can be difficult - especially when time has passed and people have grown up, apart and away from each other, but I am praying that this reunion will be wonderful and that a new, mature friendship and "sisterhood" can be forged. I hope that being in contact with her will help me get in contact with my "other brother" Todd. That would be great. I'm praying to that end. Won't you pray with me?
18 November 2008
One of the reasons I picked this bed & breakfast for my "in town getaway" was the advertisement for the room, which included an in-room fireplace, veranda and whirlpool jacuzzi tub! Woo hoo...yeah, I took advantage of NONE of those amenities! It was too cool to sit out on the veranda - although I did walk out there to take this picture (hahaha). I was out too late both evenings to start the fire - I have this thing about not going to bed while there is a live fire burning...I know, you have the fireplace guard and you can be safe, but I ain't going to bed while there are open flames burning...call me crazy if you want to...And even though I kept saying, "I should start the water in the Jacuzzi and go swim in it for a minute (it was HUGE!)", that never happened either. I kept putting it off and off and then, voila! the time for my retreat was over and it was time to return home to reality.
It got me to thinking though. One of my favorite Adventist writers, Ellen G. White, talks about how when we get to heaven, God will reveal to us a storehouse of blessings that we did not receive because we didn't ask for them or, we didn't tap into them when we had the opportunity. How stupid of it was for me NOT to take advantage of the very things I went to the B&B to take advantage of. Now, don't get me wrong - I have a very enjoyable, relaxing time - it just could have been better. I have a wonderful life now - but it could be better if I would just lay hold of, take claim of the blessings God just has waiting for me if I would just ask. What about you? What blessings are you not laying claim to? Wouldn't today be a good day to start?
13 November 2008
Now, I am sure that if I got those lyrics wrong someone will correct me! hahaha. That's ok. I can take it. Tomorrow will be the 44th anniversary of my birth - also known as a birthday. Wow. 44! I don't feel 44, and if you say I look that old, you ain't really my friend. (fake stamp of the foot on the ground.)
Birthdays always make me stop, look around and reflect...mainly on the goodness of the Lord. When you calculate it out, I have been alive for more than 16,000 days! Another WOW. It makes me think and wonder: how many of those days have I totally wasted? How many of those will be remembered forever? How many of those days were spent being mean to someone who truly needed kindness - or being kind to someone just because? Looking back, how many people did I love truly - and did I tell them somewhere along the way? How many flowers did I not stop to smell - or give - or receive graciously? I think the answers are more positive than negative. I mean, there is a reason I claim the moniker "God's Favorite Child." (smile)
Already the cards and gifts have started coming in. Shout out to my dad (and stepmother) for the beautiful musical water globe that encases a cross with the Serenity Prayer engraved on it and plays the "other version" of Amazing Grace. (Lyrics: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound; That saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; Was blind but now I see). [I know a LOT of song lyrics!] Shout out to my mom who bought me the lovely gown I was wearing in the picture posted with the last note "Transformation" - I got LOTS of compliments on it - in person and online. That was "grace" - and amazing.
But, birthdays have never been about the gifts for me. To put it bluntly, I have enough "stuff." I have enough bath stuff and candles and books and stationary and music and movies and ... well, you get the picture. Last year, I sent out the email blast to my friends saying, "don't spend your money on a gift - let's spend some time together and make a memory instead" - and that's what some of them did and what a great year I've just had as a result. That's "grace" in another form as well, and just as (if not more) appreciated than something that is used quickly and/or soon forgotten. It is always nice to be remembered on November 14th, don't get me wrong - but it's truly not about the gifts.
Grace = unmerited favor. I am so glad that God has blessed me with it for the last 16,000+ days. I am glad that He loves me...in spite of myself. And I look forward to the next 365 days He has planned for me. Full of His love, GRACE and mercy.
11 November 2008
And then I thought about this: when I truly gave my heart to Christ, did people notice? Was the transformation as obvious as when I cut my hair this past weekend? Did people (want to) say, "Wow, you are so much nicer, kinder, sweeter, (insert your favorite Christian attribute here)"? I don't know. I don't remember. But I hope so. Because that is really the ONLY transformation that really matters - the transformation of our characters to be more like Him and to reflect Him. Just something to think about.
05 November 2008
03 November 2008
The story is told of two gentlemen from Rhode Island who visit Georgia for the very first time. They come to Atlanta to attend a business meeting and as they get up in the morning, they decide to go to a local restaurant and order breakfast. After perusing the menu, they decide to order chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. The waitress takes their order and within minutes comes back to the table with chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee...and a bowl of white, creamy stuff with a big ole pat of butter swimming in the middle. Well, these two gentlemen from Rhode Island who have never been to Georgia before turn to the waitress and say, "Ma'am, what is that? We ordered chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee." And the waitress says, "Well, sirs, them's grits." "Grits?! We don't want any grits. We didn't order 'em, we don't want 'em, and we will not pay for them." "Well sirs, you in the South now and you don't have to order 'em, you don't have to want 'em and you don't have to pay for 'em - but you gets 'em with your meal."
Grits are sort of like grace, which is defined as "unmerited favor". We didn't ask for it, we surely don't deserve it, we may not even want it - but with Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, we all get it. We are all given the gift of grace.
The pastor went on and gave another example - one we all have probably experienced...the speeding ticket that you deserved but didn't get because the police officer showed mercy and grace. When I went to visit my cousin Kelly and her family in Washington DC for the 4th of July holiday, I experienced this. I was headed back to the airport to catch my flight back to Atlanta and I pulled off the highway to get Starbucks and gas so I could return the rental car with a full tank of gas. Not familiar with the area, I was ZOOMING down this windy road when I saw the cop sitting off to the right. Yeah, I was busted BIG TIME! He pulled me over (into a gas station) and you know the drill: "Miss, do you know why I pulled you over?" "Yes, sir." "You were doing 45 in a 25 zone...I'll be back." Well, I got on the phone and was complaining to my mother, "You will not believe what is happening to me...I cannot believe I got pulled over...I don't even know this area, I didn't see a sign..." (you know the drill.) Anyway, I'd just said to my mother, "Well, he's coming back to ruin my day" when the officer (who overheard me say that) said, "No. I see from the registration papers in the car that you are visiting the area, so I am just going to give you a warning. Be safe and have a good flight back to Georgia." GRACE!!!
Three things immediately happen when you are given grace like that: 1) you immediately fall under the law. You best believe I did not go above 25 mph until I got on the expressway and then I stayed within the speed limit until I got back to the car rental plaza at BWI Airport; 2) you immediately feel joy; and 3) you cannot wait to tell somebody about how you were delivered. That is the way we, as Christians, should be when we experience the joy of salvation and the receive the gift of grace from the Lord.
So whether you like the grits story or the speeding ticket story as an illustration of God's love and grace - I hope you will experience the joy of grace for yourself and that you will share it with others whenever, however you can.
And then, throughout the day - no matter what time I looked at the clock, it was 1:00 in the afternoon - or so it seemed. Time just did not move! It was dark at 6:00p, so that threw me even more off whack - and in an effort to "reset" my internal clock, I forced myself to stay up until the new "11:00 p.m." (which in reality was midnight), only to be wide awake again at 3:00a! The LED display on my clock just mocked me as I lay there trying to go back to sleep. I finally just got up, did my devotional study, got on the computer (yes, I was on Facebook before 4:00a! There is just something wrong with that on so many levels!) - only to get sleepy as my alarm went off. Of course since I'd already done everything I normally do in the morning, I had to pitter patter around for an hour before finally leaving to catch my bus to work. And you know by 3:00p this afternoon, all I will want to do is put my head on my desk, close my eyes and take a nap. Think my bosses will go for that? Yeah, I don't think so either.
Maybe it won't be too bad.