Saturday, November 22, 2014

Solitude


Solitude. It's not a word I use - or experience - much.  As a wife and mother, I always seem to be on the go. With people. I'm always on a mission. To take someone somewhere. To pick someone up. To to help with this. To hurry up. To get this done. To check behind someone... Rarely I am alone.

There is always noise.  Drumming. Music. Television. Barking. Text dings. Sports Talk Radio. "Mom!" Cars... Rarely it is quiet.

There's always something running around in my head. The grocery list. Did I check the calendar? The boys' schedules? Prescriptions to pick up. How do I fix supper when no one is at home the same time? Jackson's shirt needs ironing for chapel -TODAY! I really need to call my mother. Organizing Thanksgving plans.  What is wrong with our country??? I really need to take these clothes to ACTS. Did I word that text correctly? Why won't Mike's legs stop cramping up every night? I need to lose weight. I should call my sister. OMG, the outside plants! Why can't the boys put their clothes in the hamper? This rug really needs cleaning. Why does that person feel the need to tell me what I should do? Christmas cards!... Rarely I feel calm.

I find the older I get, the more alone time I need. I crave. To just be. To listen to the quiet. To be thankful. To rest in the calm He is providing.  Curled up on the sofa on a Saturday morning before the rest of the house wakes up. With coffee. With one of my weekly Proverbs31 devotions that I missed one weekday morning. And this month's "Southern Living". And Maggie.

It does my heart and soul good. It gives it a much needed rest. Because just now, my youngest came in, asking for chocolate chip pancakes.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welcome to the Gothic Interfaith Community Center


When coming back to my blog, I didn't really have an idea of what it was going to become, or what I WANTED it to become.  But I'm realizing that this outlet is allowing me to share - in my writing - what I might not be able to convey as eloquently in an everyday conversation.  I'm always the one who wishes in hindsight that I had said things differently or more passionately or with more conviction.

I've heard today that the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has created quite a stir in both the conservative and more inclusive sets of Christians. (And I have dear family members who are passionately in both camps.)  The National Cathedral is part of the Episcopal church (of which I was raised) and (in my opinion) has been increasingly involved in more political activism than transforming lives through Christ.

The big controversy that has ensued was a Muslim prayer service that was held this past Friday in the Cathedral.  My initial response was one of little surprise.  

According to the National Cathedral's 36 page Strategic Plan, here is the ONLY PLACE in their Mission Statement that Jesus Christ is mentioned: Washington National Cathedral was established to hold a special role in the nation’s life and continues to answer that call. As it does so it commits to the ancient vision, fervently proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels, of a building open to all who seek a place of prayer and barred to no particular religious tradition or sect.  Call me ignorant, but I can't think of anywhere in the Bible where He invited Roman pantheists to hang out with Him and worship their gods.

It appears that the Cathedral has changed its course and has become more of a "gothic interfaith community center". So the concerns of Franklin Graham are really of no consequence:  "It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins.  Jesus was clear when He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).”

I truly don't have a problem with interfaith gatherings. I believe all are created by God. I love learning about other's traditions and how they connect to my own.  And I have friends of many faiths.  When they have sacred holidays, I joyfully wish them a "Happy ....." By the same token, they wish me a Merry Christmas or ask me how my Easter was. There is a mutual respect for each others' faith - whether or not we share it.  But it is reported that Muslim prayer carpets were laid out inside the cathedral facing east, towards Mecca, for the prayer service. They were also to the side of the sanctuary (as reported by Voice of America, the Washington Post, and other news outlets) so that worshippers would not see the crosses or Christian icons, because “Muslims are not supposed to pray in view of sacred symbols alien to their faith.”  Why? Why? Why would a church want to host a prayer service where they have to hide the cross?  That would be like me asking my friend if I could celebrate Holy Communion in her temple - but please remove the Torah.

My concern is that political correctness (and please don't confuse that with Christian love and charity) overshadows our call to follow Christ as our Lord and Savior.  And to host Muslim prayer service to Allah in a church of believers (what is Biblically called the bride of Christ), basically tells our Christian faith, "Hey, I need a little break from this relationship."

And I'm not willing to be on a "break".

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Visiting Hours in Heaven

I was thinking this morning, that it was only one week ago that we had the "historic" snow of November 1, 2014.  I wondered if I would even remember it next year and thought how I don't even record many events on my calendar anymore as Facebook seems to serve as a virtual scrapbook of all important happenings in our lives.

I was in the shower (of all places) as these musings occurred and my mind was immediately taken back to my Muz.  As my uncle mentioned in the homily he preached at her memorial, she would have written *SNOW!* in all caps in her calendar.  It would have been an exciting day.  She would have called us all to make sure that we looked outside.  (Embarrassingly enough, we either would have let the voicemail pick up or we would answer more out of obligation than anything else.) Everything with Muz was that way. There was anticipation that something wonderful was going to happen - no matter how insignificant the moment seemed to those around her.

And it was as I was standing there - in the shower - that I really cried for the first time in three years over the death of my grandmother.  The water poured over me as I shook, my face in my hands.  I thought of all that has happened since October 7, 2011.  Little insignificant things in the whole scheme of life:  Mike and I giving our testimony, Sumter getting glasses, Jackson changing schools, my "haven" (a new room off our bedroom just for me), Sumter playing on drumline, Jackson's three-pointers in his basketball games, Maggie, Sumter's baptism, Jackson's braces, my new Explorer.  She hasn't been here.  And she would have seen these insignificant events, instead, with such anticipation and excitement and joy.  But she hasn't been here.  I can't even tell her about them.  And that makes me so sad.

It's strange how when someone dies, all the things that made you completely crazy just don't matter anymore.  Because she really did know how to drive all of us crazy with her warped sense of reality sometimes.  She could do and say the most "out there" things. (No, she didn't have dimentia or Alzheimers.). Things that would make us shake our heads.  Things that could hurt our feelings. Things that she thought were perfectly logical and appropriate, but were completely out of the realm of reality.

But that doesn't matter anymore, because I know where she I right now. And I'm not being all cliché.  I really do know where she is.  She was not perfect.  I just know where she is because of her faith.  A faith and relationship with Christ that really didn't blossom until she was about 70-years-old.  It was around that time that she was born-again (even though she would never use that term).  So even though I miss her incredibly.... and even though I wept this morning, I know where she is.

But still...


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Visions of Snow

                   

Today the unthinkable happened: it snowed.  No, it didn't stick.  No snowmen were made.  No snowballs were thrown.  But it did snow.  And what a way to wake up this morning:  beautiful big flakes quietly and deliberately falling from a gray sky. Facebook was abuzzing.  Pictures were shared, with some areas to the northeast of us having a bit of accumulation. Folks were amazed and bemused that we would see the white stuff in South Carolina on the first day of November. 

Fast forward to this afternoon. We received some bad news. A major setback. Mike was beside himself with anxiety and frustration. He was in a bad place. And there was nothing I could do.  I felt helpless - just as he was. And then I happened to see my Proverbs 31 devotion from yesterday.  It said to pray like everything depends on God. Of course know that.  But do I do it?  Was I doing it right now? Obviously, the answer was a humble and uncomfortable No.

So I stopped what I was doing, right then and there. "Heavenly Father," I closed my eyes and prayed. "We need you right now. Things are not good at all right now.  I pray that you will take away the despair and anxiety from my husband.  I ask that, in its place, you pour down your hope and promise that you will take care of him. We need you right now." As I was praying this over and over, I kept having visions of the gently falling snow from earlier today.  But why? Why did that vision continue throughout my prayer?  It was calming - and claiming me. I felt a peace wash over my troubled spirit.  

And then it hit me.  It was not snow that was gently falling.  It was manna. Manna! God's promise to the Israelites was that He would provide for their every need.  It was manna. God's promise to us that He would provide for our every need. Wow. 

Like the Israelites, what we are going through right now will not be over quickly.  It will take some time.  And at times, we will struggle.  But I will remember the manna, and I know that He will provide. And we will be alright.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Gaffe and the Aftermath

Anyone can make a gaffe, a slip of the tongue, and unintended mispronunciation. And I don't have a problem with that.  I don't look for hidden agendas.  I don't look for subconscious meanings and intentions.  Goodness gracious, I am Queen Foot-in-Mouth. I say the wrong thing all. the. time.

But what I've recently read about my state's challenger for governor is enough to make me incredibly upset and physically ill. This YouTube video has been making the rounds. In it, he accidentally uses the word "whore" instead of "her" in talking about the incumbent, Nikki Haley.  Now some may argue that it was intentional or characteristic or not surprising (given their intense acrimony against his party).

However, what he said (or mis-said) is not what infuriates me.  It was a mistake.  It could have been an accident.  My shock and frustration comes from what happens a few seconds later.  How I wish he had stopped, horrified at his slip-up and admonished those around him who were enjoying and reveling in it.  But he laughs. Giggles. Shares a wide smile. Points and encourages the audience to continue their applause. He enjoys the limelight and levity that calling a woman - even by mistake - a whore can give him and his agenda.  And given all the jovial camaraderie he is sharing with those around him, one might stereotypically guess that he was in a room full of members of the Old Boy network.  But no, you can see women in the video. What?  Women?  Laughing along at one of their own being called (even by a slip of the tongue) one of the worst words you can call a woman?

I have tried to read as much as I could to see what people's reaction was to this bit of news.  Sadly, there isn't much for me to read.  There hasn't been much of a reaction. And it makes me extremely sad.  The only person who seems to care is Ann Romney, who spoke to CNN.

Where ARE OUR voices?  Why don't we care?  I feel that many women today get so caught up in  political and "justice" issues that they overlook the day to day, personal experiences that are truly a war on women.  Because that is where the war is: in the snide comments, the laughing and revelry of belittling women, the treating them as objects.  I could go on and on.

Yes, we all make mistakes.  But it is what we do with them that really matters.  Do we use them to change and make the world around us a little better?  Or do we relish them and perpetuate the ills that hurt others?  Why is it such a conundrum?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Giving Thanks - Part 2



As I began and continued writing this blog three years ago, I only measured how much it was being read by the comments that were posted. And oh, how my self-worth as a blogger was dependent on those comments. I was much like the teenage girls who check to see how many "likes" or followers they have on Instagram.  It was only a week ago (yes, I am slow) that I discovered the Blogger Stats page on my dashboard. Oh, there are the real numbers. Well then.

And it was on that stats page that I realized more and more people are reading my Giving Thanks - Part 1 post.  That was my very last post in 2011 - with no Part 2!  I had promised to tell of "...how God's hand was such a part of those few days from October 4th through the 7th. Days that could possibly only be described by someone as a nightmare. Yet there were so many glimpses of His presence, His Holy Spirit moving among us, His unexpected - and unexplained - gifts and blessing."


And I fell short and broke my promise.  (Now this post is pretty graphic, but I feel it needs to be told so that you can understand the magnitude of how I feel the glimpses of God were so evident.)


After my father-in-law's funeral on October 7, 2011, my parents, grandmother and two sons left for my parents' home a little over an hour away.  My husband and I waved goodbye and went back to his mother's to decompress. Around an hour later, we received a call from my brother-in-law that there had been a terrible one-car accident.  A tire had blown and my parents' SUV had flipped three times.


Herein lies the first blessing.  My sister and brother-in-law had left the funeral before my parents. They stopped at a convenience store and, therefore, ended up behind them and drove up on the wreck site.  They were the first on the scene.   Somehow, Sumter was able to get out of his seatbelt and crawl out of one of the broken windows.  They saw him standing on the side of the interstate beside the overturned SUV.  My sister was immediately able to comfort Sumter as well as assess the situation.  (She works as a physical therapist in the trauma unit.). Do I believe God had a hand in them being the first on the scene?  Absolutely, I do.


But no such luck for Jackson.  He was still trapped inside, eyes squeezed shut to block out the blood-soaked view of my mother, but not the sound of the moans of both my parents.  My grandmother was halfway thrown from the vehicle and her leg was on his shoulder.  His seatbelt was stuck and he couldn't get out.


But herein lies the second blessing.  Jackson tells us that he didn't get out by himself.  He says an African-American man with dreadlocks and a Yankees baseball cap came up to the SUV and asked, "Hey, buddy.  Can you get out?"  (This was a man he says he saw just moments before the accident in a green car.  He says the man smiled and waved to him as he drove by.)  Jackson told him that he couldn't.  The man got box cutters, cut the seatbelt and helped him climb out.  Jackson swears this happened.  He can describe the man and his voice.  But no one else saw or talked to this man.  We've asked my sister and brother-in-law.  We've asked other witnesses. We've asked the highway patrol. We've even seen photos.  There were no African-Americans in any of the photographs.  No green car anywhere near the site.  That's crazy, we thought.  This was a wreck that made the AP news wire and was even on the evening news in other parts of the country.  This was a wreck that held up traffic for many miles and hours.  No one just leaves the scene of a wreck of that magnitude.  No one... but an angel.  And we hold on to that truth. Do I believe God had a hand in that deadlocked angel in a Yankees cap?  Absolutely, I do.


Both of my parents were airlifted to the trauma center where my sister works.  Sumter and Jackson were both banged up pretty badly and were taken to the same hospital, but they were ok.  I found this out from my brother-in-law's phone call.  But as many times I asked, he wouldn't say anything about my grandmother.  I don't know whether it was because he didn't want to tell me on the phone or because he alone had just witnessed her last moments alive.


And herein lies the last blessing I will share.  My sweet Muz was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown halfway out of the SUV.  I still don't know all of the details of how she was found by my brother-in-law in relation to the vehicle.  I'm not sure I want to know.  What I do know is that she was pinned.  She was breathing. Her eyes were closed.  Her body was in shock. But her last moments were with my brother-in-law holding her head and praying over her.  And then she died.  How beautiful is that?  After something so violent and sudden, to have your granddaughter's husband, a Godly, faithful man who loves you and you love back, usher you out of your life on here on earth to your eternal life in heaven.  Do I believe God had a hand in that?  Absolutely, I do.


So there they are.  The glimpses of God and His involvement in even the most tragic circumstances in our lives.  The reminders that He is in control.  The promises that He will bless even the most painful
and incomprehensible times.  And for these I am grateful.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What more was there to know?

I was all ready to rant. I was irritated and angry at the news - both from the left and right. I was doing research and was ready to write - and rant. And I did. I wrote about bias and opinions and agendas. I ranted for quite a long time. And then I stopped and read it. Ugh. Usually, writing makes me feel better. But this did not. It was rambling. It was quite unsatisfactory.

And my mind kept coming back to an article I read during my "research". It was an Op-Ed piece from the Huffington Post by Shane Windmeyer, the Executive Director of Campus Pride and (past) vocal protestor of Chick-fil-a over comments made by Dan Cathy, CEO. In Windmeyer's own words, "...the whole nation was aware that Dan was 'guilty as charged' in his support of a 'biblical definition' of marriage. What more was there to know?"

What more was there to know? That is the question so many of us have when we read something on Facebook or Twitter, or watch a segment on our morning news show of choice. We read or hear what we want to read or hear. Our mind is made up almost instantly. We form passionate opinions based on Tweets and sound bites. We are sucked in and we regurgitate with relish.

But there is so much more to know. In the article "Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-a", Windmeyer tells how he received a phone call from Cathy during the height of the protests and, over time, the two developed a friendship and respect for the other. When I read this, I was blown away. (Take a few minutes and read it for yourself.) Here were two men of decidedly different views, belief systems and experiences. How easy would it have been for them to smear each other and continue to polarize an already divisive - and newsworthy - issue. But their perspectives - and therefore, lives - were changed because they asked What more was there to know?

Can you imagine what our lives might be like if we all asked that question? How broken relationships could be mended? How much more compassionate we could be with those around us? How much more respectful and understanding we could be with people whom we disagree? How our lives might be changed? How others lives might be changed?

So ask yourself What more was there to know?