Inspiration Category


Extending Your Heart

Extending Your Heart

I woke up this morning with a feeling of anticipation and expectancy, “I wonder what will happen today for me to write about.”

I was not disappointed. God was prepared!

One of my other volunteer gigs is as a Read Aloud Volunteer in Berkeley County Public Schools.

My grown sons will tell you that I love to read aloud.

Reading aloud to them is one of our keepsake memories. From the time they were little up until they were in high school, I read to them. Sometimes on the steps leading into the interior of our home, sometimes at the breakfast table, sometimes at bedtime—age appropriate fiction or nonfiction, devotionals, and even books about relationships (as they got older)—we did a lot of reading.

I know my father will appreciate this post because as a child I did NOT like to read and he frequently “nagged” me to do so. He is a voracious reader and probably couldn’t understand why he had a daughter that was not—I’m sure he was worried as well.

That all changed for me when in seventh grade I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I could not put it down! It was and still is a favorite book. Later my father got me hooked on historical fiction with a set of westerns known as the Wagons West Series by Dana Fuller Ross.

As a teacher, I did read aloud in my classroom, even when I taught Science; so, when I saw this opportunity on social media searching for volunteers, I jumped at the chance. This activity also gave me additional time to spend with my 8-year-old granddaughter in her third-grade classroom.

Today was my last weekly visit.  When I finished, each student brought me a hand-made thank you note which was unexpected and joyfully received. Before leaving the parking lot, I read them all.

I was deeply touched by their sincere wishes of thanks, but one in particular was especially inspirational. The following is as she wrote it:

Dear – reader
Thank you for comeing here and to respect our school. We will all miss you and dont forget that we will always be with you. Your the best reader in the world

Did you see it?

“dont forget that we will always be with you.”

Isn’t that amazing? Because it is so true!

I wonder if Jesus had this in mind when he sent out his disciples two by two to “proclaim the kingdom of God.”  I wonder if this how the disciples felt when they returned “with joy.”

The gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus saying, “And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.”

So, go forth, extend your heart and let others “always be with you.” You won’t regret it!

Experience

Experience

“…I had an experience, I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it. But everything that I know as a human being, everything I am, tells me that it was real. I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe and humility, and the hope but…that continues to be my wish.”  Dr. Eleanor Arroway, “Contact” 1997

Carved Images

Carved Images

Sometimes I just want to yell at the top of my lungs, “Stop the madness!” STOP THE MADNESS!! STOP!!! THE!!! MADNESS!!! I want to get off this crazy ride!

I can’t stand watching the news. To be honest, I don’t know who to believe any more concerning any news stories—particularly political ones; and the sniping and nastiness that occurs on social media makes my heart hurt. Blacks hating whites, whites hating blacks; gay, straight, and transgender hatred; Democrats against Republicans against Socialists and vice versa; sexism; pro-life versus pro-choice; this label against that label . . . and on and on and on. The whole world feels like it is spinning out of control.

Where did all the love go?

But then I read a chapter or verse in the Bible that strikes a chord within, have a WOW moment and Peace returns.

I was reading in Deuteronomy this morning, one of my favorite books in the Bible. Oh, I might as well confess, any book in the Bible that I’m reading at the time is my favorite book. By the time I’ve read through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers into Deuteronomy, I am so awestruck by Moses–he’s become my best friend–(spoiler alert) that I cry when he dies at the end without getting to enter the Promised Land.

Anyway . . . what inspired me this day were verses out of chapters three, four and five where Moses is retelling the Exodus story—a review and summary, so to speak, of their (the Israelites) journey thus far. What follows are the verses that caught my attention:

You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain; and the mountain blazed with fire to the heart of heaven, with darkness, clouds and thick mist. Then ADONAI spoke to you out of the fire! You heard the sound of words but saw no shape, there was only a voice . . . do not become corrupt and make yourselves a carved image having the shape of any figure—not a representation of a human being, male or female . . .Watch out for yourselves, so that you won’t forget the covenant of ADONAI your God, which he made with you, and make yourself a carved image, a representation of anything forbidden to you by ADONAI your God . . . You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline . . .

Why is God so concerned with his people making carved images?

Then it hit me . . .because WE are the image of God!

My pastor said, “this image—humankind—testifies that God is here!”  He went so far as to say that being the image of God is a “calling.”

Do you hear it?

John Newton’s words in the hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” declares it so beautifully, “God, whose word cannot be broken, formed thee for His own abode.”

My pastor was cultivating this with his message Sunday entitled “Image Sharing.” He challenged us by saying that we re-present God by the way we live and act; would someone looking at us say, “now there is what God looks like.” He closed with a story that ended with, “if God is bigger than we are and God lives in all of us, shouldn’t He show through?”

Does He?

All the labels that we thrust upon ourselves and others are “carved images” that only serve to separate us from each other and from God.

If you aren’t a Christian or don’t believe in God, then allow the words of Rumi to en-lighten your hearing and seeing.

When someone criticizes or disagrees
with you, a small amount of hatred
and antagonism is born in your heart.
If you do not squash that out
at once,
it might grow into a snake,
or even a dragon.

Letters

Letters

I just finished reading Betty White’s 2011 book entitled If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t). In the last chapter “I’m Eighty-Nine?” she writes about aging, death and dying. One sentence on the page imaginatively captured my attention.

“If you’ve ever lost a loved one or witnessed it, you can’t help but see that the body is an envelope for the letter.  WOW, “the body is an envelope for the letter.”

Curiously and with apprehension I began to wonder “what kind of letter am I writing?”

But before I thought about the answer, I pondered the many different letter formats—for which the internet has a host of answers. Among them were: Formal and Informal; Business and Professional; and Personal.

Broken down in those categories are (in no particular order): Sales Letters, Complaint Letters, Inquiry Letters, Letters of Recommendation, Acknowledgement Letters, Information Letters, Cover Letters, Job Offer Letters, Letters of Resignation, Thank You Letters, Reference Letters, Introduction Letters, Sales Letters, Letters of Invitation, Letters of Support, Good-Bye Letters, just to name a few (sounds a bit like a Dr. Seuss book).

Thinking back on my life I remember many of the letters I’ve written.

My mother told me, when I was a child, she would give my gifts away if I didn’t write Thank You notes. To this day I continue to write Thank You Letters, although not because I have to but because I want to sincerely express my appreciation and gratitude. When I retired, I wrote a Letter of Resignation—with my own words, not a format letter. Unfortunately, I have written my fair share of Apology Letters–my emotions overwhelm me and I speak or act without thinking; a friend in high school use to say “open foot, insert mouth.” I’m surprised I don’t have “athlete’s tongue.” I have written several Letters of Recommendations for beloveds seeking employment or much deserved awards.

There are others on the list I have written and some that are not such as Letters of Judgement, written with a bad attitude; Letters of Complaint written in my journal to God; Letters of Lies written with poor choices.

The internet even gives advice on how to write a letter, “If you need to write some formal letter, you should follow the pattern” (Zain Agu) of which many are scripted and outlined on any of a thousand (more?) sites. Of personal letters, one website advised “the writer is free to express his or her thoughts or feelings in any manner.”

This advice took my train of thought to Saul of Tarsus also known as Paul the Apostle and his Letters of Instruction to the Churches of Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and Thessalonica; and his personal letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

Did he follow a pattern or freely express his thoughts and emotions? I’m inclined to think both or neither depending on the interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting of faults and training in right living.” (That in itself could be the subject of a future posting.)

And yet, here I am still wondering what kind of letter my life is writing.

My pastor, in a recent sermon, said we are all a work in progress. I’ve heard this before and find it very comforting and encouraging especially in light of the drafts and sloppy copies my life has written.

I hope–in spite of incorrect spelling and punctuation, poor grammar, run-on sentences and sentence fragments—in the end when the envelope is sealed and ready to mail, mine is a Love Letter–a Grace-filled Love letter, to and from and for His glory.

Until then, my letter is a work in progress.

Circumstances

Circumstances

February 5, 2019, according to the Chinese calendar, begins the Year of the Pig; it is also the year of my 60th birthday. As I contemplate what could be a significant milestone, I remember a time in my life when just reaching the age of 40 felt urgent.

My sons were young and I worried about dying before they could take care of themselves. “If I can just reach 40, I know they’ll be ok.” There was no cause for concern, I was just young, lacking wisdom and understanding. Blessedly to say, I made it and then some. The last 20 years have brought God’s gracious lovingkindness in infinite ways.

His gracious mercy has gloriously shined in numerous holiday celebrations; birthdays of family and friends; high school graduations; college graduations (one being my own at the age of 41); full recovery from several minor health concerns; the weddings of my three sons to beautiful, intelligent, kind and caring women; the births of four healthy grandchildren; fun-filled vacations; witnessing the transition of my mother from this life to the next and surviving the grief; the privilege and honor of serving 1700 plus students and having them in turn touch my life in miraculous ways; losing beloved friends but making new ones; reconnecting with distant family members; funerals; baptisms; moving; retiring and on and on—all notable touchstones of God’s truth love and beauty.

Implied within those highlights, however, are the not-so-noteworthy, perhaps mundane activities of day to day life—reading a book, cooking a meal, washing dishes, cleaning house, washing clothes, buying groceries, caring for an ill family member, etc. My mother set an excellent example of how these daily circumstances can be and are meditations to the Father; testimony to the Christ within and around us.

Sometimes His truth, beauty and love are lit in an even more subtle light. Her upper jaw was toothless save two, one on either side. He was jobless and they were homeless; however, when this young husband asked for some peanuts for his bride, there was a beautiful tender loving intonation in his voice that spoke volumes of God’s Grace and Presence.

I was reminded of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, “… I have learned to be content regardless of circumstances. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have more than enough—in everything and in every way I have learned the secret of being full and being hungry, of having abundance and being in need. I can do all things through him who gives me the power.”

In whatever my circumstances of the last 60 years, God’s truth, beauty and love were there, even if I wasn’t aware of Him just as He is for the homeless couple, just as He is for you. Paul assures us that we, in Christ, can be fully conscious of His abundant mercy, grace, Love and peace no matter what our circumstances may be now and ever.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” Let this be your resolve for the new year.