Meditations 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!

Hugs

Hugs

Among my many nick names acquired over the years—Frinkerdinker, Fry-Dinger (my maiden name is Fridinger), Mario (I’ve been known to exceed the speed limit when driving), Smiles, Shuffles (from dragging my feet in basketball practice), Rebel, and recently Soul Sister—the most endearing and longest lasting is Nutty Hugger.

This moniker was bestowed upon me 25 years ago during the teaming process for an Emmaus weekend (a three-day spiritual retreat) by a dear, dear friend. Forming an instant connection, we bonded over the healing power of hugs and are known to family and friends as the Nutty Huggers—or NH for short (NH1 for me and NH2 for her).

As the name implies, I just love to give and receive hugs–for me a natural and compassionate response. I am aware, though, that there are some folks that don’t want to be hugged and I respect their personal space.

She entered the food bank with what seemed the weight of the world on her shoulders. Although she was very polite, as I went through the list of questions, the cloud over her head appeared grayer and grayer. We prepared her order and since the cart was rather full, we offered to help her load it into her car.

Once finished, this gentle soul gave me and my coworker THE-BEST-HUG. One of the things that made this particular hug so special was I wasn’t expecting it.

I didn’t realize until after she left how cloudy my own heart had been feeling and how much her hug ministered to me.

That’s the thing isn’t it? We just don’t know what challenge or heartbreak someone may be experiencing. Sometimes we don’t even understand the grief, sorrow or anguish of our own heart which is really the remarkable experience of a simple hug . . .

. . . two hearts, meeting as one in pure honor, love and awareness.

Dill

Dill

Late 20’s maybe early 30’s, ginger hair, 5’ 6”, slender and sinewy build, multiple tattoos on his face and arms, numerous piercings with earplugs (the ones that stretch ear lobes, not the ones that dampen sound)—he was my cashier at W-Mart.

While I waited, I marveled at the strategy . . . ingenuity . . . thought process (unsure of the right word) regarding the designs and placements of all his colorful and creative tats. I thought about the cultural acceptance of tattoos now versus when I was growing up. To be honest, I was surprised to see someone as covered with tats as he was at a register and wondered about store policy concerning the visibility of an employee’s ink art.

What do I have in common with this young man? What can I say to him to make a meaningful connection? Will he even respond?

When it was finally my turn, he rang up my purchases very quickly and double bagged some of the heavier items. I commented on how fast he scanned and bagged my items and thanked him for his swift professionalism.

“I learned how to do this in three days,” he exclaimed proudly. “I worked in the back for five years and learned this in three days.”

“Wow, that’s a big change. You’re doing a really great job.”

He smiled and wished me a good night as he handed me my receipt. I wished him the same—an exchange that didn’t last more than a few minutes at best, but left me feeling joyful and grateful. I hope it did the same for him.

“Get Together” by the Youngbloods best expresses how my heart felt as I placed my purchases in my truck and headed home.

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

I said, come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Right now
Right now

Come on people . . . let’s do this . . . now is the time.

Contrast

Contrast

On the steps of the grand staircase of the main dining room aboard the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship is a statue of a woman dressed as if stepping out of the roaring 20’s. Artfully attired in chic elegance, the bronze beauty appears as a symbol of sophistication and class.

During my first evening meal as her guest, I began to think about Downton Abbey—”a British historical period drama television series set in the early 20th century,” a seeming contrast between the lives of the wealthy and the lives of those in service to them.

I’ll admit I felt a bit ashamed. What right did I have to enjoy this vacation? Was I really deserving of the luxuries this sculpture represented? What brought on this crisis of conscious?

After having a lengthy and meaningful conversation with Fathul, our assistant waiter, at breakfast the next morning, I wondered if the burnished figurine might represent something far more significant than temporary affluence and fame.

Fathul explained how he had signed a contract to work for six and a half months aboard the ship, with two months off at the end of that time period when he will return to Indonesia for a brief respite with his family.

He went on to say he left home because his father was ill and unable to work. “I’ll work, Papa,” he humbly expressed as he described leaving a wife and one-year-old daughter behind. Modern technology allows him to facetime with his family regularly after his 11-hour shifts—five in the morning with a lunch break and six in the evening.

Later, in a quiet and reflective mood, I watched as men and women from 50 different countries contentedly worked in one accord with honor, dignity, and great joy.

Hmmm . . . the effigy of worldliness began to turn my thinking upside down.  What was I thinking?  That the employees were marginalized and that I was somehow better than them?  Good grief!  How presumptuous and arrogant!

The next evening, Ramraj, our waiter (from Mauritius), said:

“I believe in God. I don’t always go to temple or church, but I work hard and that is my prayer to God.”

WOW, could I really say the same? That my life is a prayer to God?

Colossians 3:17 says it this way:

That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

I had never seen Christ so clearly then at that very moment!

With my serving of humble pie, for the remainder of the cruise I gave thanks for the vastness of God’s mercy, grace and love so evident in His glorious creation and in His beautiful children.

Thank you, Ramraj.

*A special thank you to my Soul Sister, Minta, for suggesting the statue as the image for this post.

In Him

In Him

“I could be homeless here.”

I overheard this statement while sitting on the beach at Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda.

Yes, the setting was breathtaking—nay awe inspiring . . . pale-pink, silky sand . . . turquoise and aqua shades of ocean water . . . diamond blue sky . . . puffy white cumulous clouds languidly suspended . . . gleaming sunshine.

I, too, could imagine myself homeless here in this brief instant of seeming perfection.

However, in the face of the harsh realities of homelessness, this statement sounded glib and thoughtless.

Perhaps he, like me, was offering it up as praise in thanks for God’s abundance, in a setting of abundance and from a perspective of abundance.

Could there be something deeper and more meaningful in this garden-of-eden frame of mind? What lesson could be learned from what appears as uninformed, unrealistic idealism?

We came into this world with nothing and will leave with nothing. Yet many of us (myself included) sometimes live as if all the possessions we collect along the way are more important than the souls with whom we share the journey.

I had missed my regular Wednesday of volunteering at the foodbank one week. Upon my return, Ricky—a JCCM regular, greeted me with a delighted, “Hi stranger.”

I felt over the moon! I had been accepted into the tribe and felt a part of something much larger, grander and elegant than all my worldly goods combined; more beautiful than Xanadu.

If this is homelessness . . . living now, seeing Christ, knowing we are all in this together, trusting the Divine, then I can live here, where my heart is, in Him.

He is Here

He is Here

Chapter twelve in the Gospel of John, verses 12 through 26, tells the story of what is known in Christianity as Palm Sunday, describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem six days before Passover. Three different responses and expectations are noted in this text, those of the Jews, the Pharisees and the Greeks (God-loving gentiles).

The Jews were expecting a national deliverer, one who would overthrow Roman authority; they loved what they thought Jesus could do for them.

Zealots for religious orthodoxy, jealous of Jesus and in direct competition with him—the Pharisees feared they would lose their power over the people.

Concerned for their safety and full of questions, the Greeks just wanted to see Jesus.

“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’”

Seeing Jesus . . . I had just such an opportunity this past Wednesday at the Jefferson County Community Ministry food bank.

Since activities had slowed down, I was sitting at the desk reading, when a young lady entered with her yellow form to receive food. After a friendly greeting, I began asking the required intake questions:

“Do you have any food allergies that you know of?”

“No.”

“Do you have access to a stove or microwave for cooking?”

“Yes.”

“Do you . . .”

The young lady jumped in . . .

“Wait a minute. I think I know you. Didn’t you use to be a teacher?”

“Yes.”

“Are you Mrs. Spurlock?”

As I looked at her more closely and then at her name on the form, I remembered her.

Here He was standing before me; I had not recognized Him thirteen years ago in a school classroom.

I lovingly grabbed her hand and told her how very sorry I was that she found herself in these unfortunate circumstances. As I finished the intake questions, she told me a few short details of her life; not much—she had always been a quiet and reserved student.

When her order was ready, I gave her a hug and she went on her way.

“I just want to help people” . . . my heart’s desire in volunteering . . .

. . . in doing so, I keep discovering, over and over, He is here.

He is here, Hallelujah. He is here, Amen.
He is here, Holy, Holy. I will bless His name again.
He is here, listen closely. Hear him calling out your name.
He is here, you can touch him. You will never be the same.

Kirk Talley