Spirit Category


Meaning

Meaning

At the end of March, I became a PASS (Providing Academic and Self Esteem Support) volunteer for two students at Charles Town Middle School in Jefferson County, WV. This was an opportunity that I had talked about with a friend before retiring a year ago, but I wasn’t able to attend the training until after the first of this year.

After discussion with the school guidance counselor and gaining permission from each student’s guardian, I began meeting with them individually in the school building once a week for forty minutes beginning in April. I was fortunate to have taught each of these students while still employed at CTMS so the “icebreaking” had already been done for us.

As with any middle schooler, getting them to talk about school (or anything else for that matter) can be challenging. I just tried to be present and open to whatever arose in our conversations. Sometimes we played Scrabble, Yahtze, or the card game War, but their favorite seemed to be Uno.

I was told, and knew from my past experience as their teacher, that their private/home lives were difficult and challenging to say the least. But you would have never known that if you saw us giggling uncontrollably while playing Uno.

With the school year ending, last Tuesday was my last time within the program to meet with the seventh grader and my last time permanently with the eighth grader—the PASS program is not in place in the high school where this student will attend.

As I walked to the parking lot feeling kind of blue, I thought “did I really make any kind of a difference in this student’s life?”

Between this student’s absences and my late start, we only met five or six times—a total of maybe four hours—240 minutes—14,400 seconds in a lifetime full of disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment.

What difference could I have possibly made?

Little did I know that God would answer that question at church on Sunday . . .

“There are going to be times when we don’t know if we are making a difference.”

. . . said my pastor in his message. He was preaching on 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, particularly verse 58, “So, my dear brothers, stand firm and immovable, always doing the Lord’s work as vigorously as you can, knowing that united with the Lord your efforts are not in vain.”

A friend recommended the book It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst to me and the following quote seems to get at the heart of what Paul is saying to the Corinthians and what my Pastor was saying on Sunday. “Understand that no time showing up and bringing compassion to another human is ever a waste of time. Rather, it’s our chance to bring context, purpose, and meaning to all of life.”

That’s it, isn’t it? The meaning, the difference we make in another’s life, is in the here and now trusting God with the outcome. “For we live by trust, not by what we see,” 2 Corinthians 5:7 because what we “see is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18.

“I have done what was mine to do; now you go and do what is yours to do.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Trust, go, do!

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.

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

Trust

Trust

This morning, as I do most mornings, I was praying . . . giving thanks and praise, confessing, petitioning for my loved ones—family and friends—casting my cares, and pleading for help. I was particularly troubled about a situation in my life and I implored God, in regards to this circumstance,How do I do this?”

When I finished, I closed my journal and opened my Bible to the book of John, where I am currently reading. My Spirit quickened as I read verses 28 and 29 of chapter six:

So they said to him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?” Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust in the one he sent.”

I knew immediately that was God’s answer to me—not a head knowledge, not a heart knowledge . . . but a Heart knowing . . . an intimate Oneness . . . a Holy and Sacred encounter.

“. . . trust in the one he sent.”

Here was yet again another opportunity, in a lifetime of events, to Trust . . .

. . . like when my six-week-old son was rolled into surgery for pyloric stenosis; or when the same son developed a hemangioma the size of a lemon under his ear at six months of age; how about when he was 18-months old and had surgery after aspirating a partially chewed peanut . . .

. . . or the time when riding in an ambulance with him (yes, the same son) because his epiglottis was so swollen the EMT thought he might have to perform a tracheotomy; there’s also the time he fell asleep at the wheel of a car and had an accident (from which everyone miraculously walked away whole and healthy) . . .

. . . or maybe when he went to South Korea for a little over two years to teach English.

That was just one son, I have two others! PLENTY of opportunities to trust God—to trust in the One He sent! With all of that practice you would think I would know the answer to “how do I do this?” by now.

Even so, I still ask and in His infinite Mercy and Grace, He holds me in Love patiently reminding me one more time, “Trust Me. I’ve got this.”

When I was a young girl, I played the piano for our Sunday School opening. A favorite, “Trust and Obey” by John H Sammis, appears to have become my life’s theme song (verse two seems especially apropos).

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Or if you prefer . . .

“Write all that worries you on a piece of parchment; offer it to God . . . And turn all that frightens you into holy incense, ash.” Hafiz

Trust Him . . . whatever it is . . . He’s got it!

Surprised by Grief

Surprised by Grief

Grief took me by surprise . . .

“My heart is filled with overwhelming thoughts and feelings this morning, Abba, thoughts of love and thoughts of sadness . . . I need you desperately, yet I know I won’t do what you tell me to do . . . I don’t know, LORD, I feel so angry, so pissed off . . . this house, I think it was the right house, but I miss the other house so much—in a way I feel like I’ve left my mother behind . . . you better pull me out of this funk . . . I can’t do it . . . when all is said and done, I’d like to say ‘I trust you,’ I’m just not sure I do . . .”

During a more lucid moment hours before her death my mother said, “I wish we could all go together.” The three of us had done so many things together over the years, from many memorable vacations and cross-country trips to day in day out living—just the three of us living life together. So, of course, she would want us to die together.

I thought at first this was her desire because she would miss us.

Finally, here at the end of her life, she was thinking about herself. She very rarely ever thought of her own wants and desires; she was and still is the least selfish person I have ever known, always putting my father’s and mine wishes and necessities before her own. No form of conditioning made her this way. This selflessness came purely from a heart full of gratitude for all that God had given her.

I was wrong.

Dad and I were still first in her thoughts. Her final wish for us to go together was because she knew how deeply we would miss her and it was her greatest yearning to save us from this staggering pain.

“How can you be so sure?”

Because prior to and until her final breath, she begged and pleaded repeatedly with “Mary” saying over and over again, “why; why not; why can’t they?” I just know!

Almost three years have passed since she moved on and the magnitude of the grief returned almost full force these last couple of weeks. Why?

Two life changes very close together . . . retirement and moving. One of my very wise daughter’s-in-love said that moving would make her death seem more permanent.

She was right and yet just knowing that makes my mother’s aliveness more real and available.

Grief is like a kaleidoscope. The pain fractures Light into unimaginable patterns of deep hope, profound awareness, and intense insights.

As far as not being sure I could trust God . . . I trusted Him with my doubts and that’s all He needed.

Antithesis

Antithesis

Exodus 33:11 states, “ADONAI would speak to Moshe face to face as a man speaks to his friend. Then he would return to camp, but the young man who was his assistant, Y’hoshua the son of Nun, never left the inside of the tent.” (The Complete Jewish Study Bible)

When we step away from believing in the illusion—what some may call unbelief—because we have stepped too far into the world possibly or whatever our circumstances—there is a feeling of elation because we are like Moshe and Y’hoshua—face to face with God.

I felt this one morning as I was praying about a situation and when I stepped away from what I believed about it, God was pleased. I felt His overwhelming pleasure and well-being. I like how a poem by Hafiz, “An Astronomical Question” puts it.

What
Would
Happen if God leaned down
And gave you a full wet
Kiss?
Hafiz
Doesn’t mind answering astronomical questions
Like that:
Reciting all day, inebriated,
Rogue-poems
Like
This.

This is the point of the parable of the Prodigal Son—the Father who is so excited to see you no matter what you have done or not done–He runs and hugs you and plants a “full wet kiss” on your cheek. I cry happy tears (my unspoken, inebriated, rogue poems) because in my own growing up years and even into adulthood, God was this stern, angry old man waiting to punish me and that is the antithesis of His essence. As I cry, I release the conditioning that brought about this illusory persona of God.

I long to be like Y’hoshua and never leave the inside of the tent of my God and Savior. This is my fervent prayer.