Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Faith In the Invisible
Awhile ago, I was on my way home on the freeway and got caught in construction. One lane traffic slowed me down for about six miles. Ahead of me in bumper to bumper traffic was a huge vehicle carrying new cars . A white car was aimed right at my windshield the whole way. I had to have faith in that little chain (only as good as its weakest link,) holding that white car. Though the chain was invisible, I had faith. A non-believer might credit the chain. My faith was rather in an invisible God who loves me, called me and told me He had a purpose for my life. Soon the construction ended and I went around the problem and sailed home.
Friday, June 25, 2010
In 2004, I went to New York City on a missions trip to NYSUM: New York School of Urban Ministries. This is my story:
The first thing you learn on a NYSUM trip, is that nothing happens the way you think it will. It changes the meaning of the word “fun.” It shows (and you may be surprised at this) that you do have a heart. And you learn that New York is quite a city and people are wonderful everywhere, whether in the city or country.
I was used to the eating style of retreats and expected three square meals a day, right in order. I soon adjusted and learned the meaning of flexibility. How good soup tastes when you are really hungry. Sometimes we worked into the afternoon and got our meal on the road. The soup kitchens we ministered in were delightful places. Tables were covered with crisp white paper. One place had flower centerpieces and decorations hanging from the ceilings. Kitchens were staffed with cheerful volunteers who came every day, not just once a year.
It was such a joy to serve the people and they enjoyed our skits and listened to the messages.
At one ministry, we made a human chain and hauled groceries in bags from the basement to the main floor. I had the turn in the stairs, so I reached down and lifted up over my head in passing off the bags. Only a little soreness resulted in the morning. In fact, I had more energy at the end of the trip than I did at the beginning.
The hospitals were wonderful. Sometimes it was hard to communicate because the person was unable to speak or didn’t speak English. The universal language of love took care of those small problems. Working with children at a cerebral palsy facility showed how much a song, a little touch or smile meant.
Working with the homeless was a completely new experience. At night, we searched the parks, streets and corners. Going out in teams of two with a watcher, we were able to get down and minister. We gave gifts, and prayed and I sang s little song to one man about the Father’s love. Such a moment!
We dressed up as clowns for a ministry in a park and went on a bus, a bus full of clowns. We got lost and spent the time waving to passers by. I didn’t want to be a clown, but God said I was already a “fool for Christ,” so I might as well. You get lots of stares, waves, and the occasional “too cool for clowns” look. We walked about eight blocks as clowns. By this time my face was itchy, but I was more comfortable in my gear, as long as I was with the other “little fools.” At the park, I was privileged to paint little faces, pray, and leave a blessing.
The ministries themselves were so varied and enjoyable. We also had plenty of fellowship. Some of the guys were so funny I nearly burst a seam. The girls and I had a nice “sleepover” one evening, as we laughed so hard about a certain toy that would keep going off.
We had a glorious day off doing touristy things – seeing the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Central Park, and my two favorite, Ground Zero, and Ellis Island.
We saw Times Square lit up at night on one of our little runs to a ministry. We heard a saxophone wail in Greenwich Village late at night. We “surfed the subways,” holding on to a pole for balance when there were no seats, or just for fun. It’s just something you will never forget.
As we went through the week, I had a bit of stress. We were very busy, usually doing two ministries a day. Emotions of every sort bombarded me, but I loved this trip. My fellow travelers were wonderful. Maybe I was open. Maybe my heart was ready, or maybe this happens every year at NYSUM. All I know is, I lift my heart in a little soup kitchen in New York City among the people God loves.
On June 19 of this year, my church put on a free meal for the city of Romeo. We were so excited about the ability to greet our neighbors and meet some needs Not very many people showed up. Those who did were fed and ministered to. We are not going to give up because we are certain there are still many needs to be met. That's where our heart is and it is worth the extra effort.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Father's Day Fun
This Father's Day we went to our oldest son's condo for our meal. My second son and grandson arrived in their way cool Detroit Tigers baseball caps. I heard they were a big hit at Home Depot. My older son Joe, got new bookshelves which you can see in the picture. He has been collecting hardbound books, mostly classics and they look great. He and his wife Sandra made such unusual dishes as couscous salad and two different dips to go with fresh veggies. Joe did the pork on the grill and Sandra did broccoli in a skillet. She cooked it lightly with olive oil. I love cauliflower so even though I vowed never to eat broccoli, I tried it. It was pretty good. Just the right crunch. I was thrilled because I do want to eat better. I felt like I was a judge on Iron Cher, saying things like, "um, I like the way the mango enhances the smoky flavor of the pork." It was all a new adventure and I loved it. Then we had peanut butter chocolate homemade ice cream. You can't beat that. And all of my loved ones were there, even my new son-in- law to be. It was a rare treat and the stories I did tell were ones they encouraged. I did pretty well. My husband got a gift certificate to a golf store and a fuzzy loving cup. It was a great day. Hope yours was swell, too.
Friday, June 18, 2010
The Shadow Box
A shadow box is a deep container rimmed with warm wood and topped with sparkling clear glass. Into this box are placed treasures. If my father’s life were to be represented by a shadow box, it would contain a hand carved elf, a blue ribbon rosette, a black hockey skate, and a few beechnuts.
My father was a simple farm boy from Virginia who did well after the war and became an educated man. He moved to Ohio and got a job as a junior high school wood shop teacher. He was so skilled at woodworking that he could be called a master craftsman. He taught himself woodcarving using tools from a special carving shop in Frankenmuth, Michigan. I asked him to carve an elf for me. He finally finished this five- year project. Not content to give me just anything, he perfected the features and carving and rounded the body just so.
Later in life, Dad took up gardening. He learned to grow show mums by tricking them with shadings and by babying each bloom. He won so many blue ribbons at a garden show in Mansfield, Ohio that he went on to Columbus and won awards there also. The rosette stands for either best of show or sweepstakes. A sweepstakes winner has the most awards at any given show. My dad has many such rosettes.
He was active in other ways, and was still in good physical condition until his last year at age 92. He was a gym teacher at one time and I learned to do a handspring by placing my hands on his knees as he lay on the floor. I flipped right over him onto my feet, right there in the living room.
My father had the energy and fitness to swim a pool length while in his sixties and seventies. Another activity he participated in was ice-skating. He donned those black hockey skates and we skated on a frozen pond near our house. At night, the lights flooded the lake and he skated around all the people, getting his exercise while my friends and I tried to skate backwards or play crack the whip. As we rode home, his cheeks were pink and he looked invigorated.
The beechnuts in the box are special because they stand for our times together. Nearly every fall, we would go for a walk in my grandmother’s woods and collect treasures: colored maple leaves, acorns, buckeyes, and beechnuts. The little beechnuts are good to eat and their memory lingers in my mind.
Sometimes on our walks, Dad would explain things to me such as how the fungus grew on trees or why the well water smelled like sulfur. One year, we experienced a majestic moment together as a shaft of sunlight pierced the wood’s darkness and butterflies danced on an old leveled stump. These memories deserve a place in the memory box.
Look now into the box. The elf and the rosette reveal my father’s valuable qualities of experience, dedication and excellence. The skate indicates his endurance. Most important to me are the beechnuts. They unveil the secret that the heart of the country boy remains pure and true.
Happy Father's Day to all of you Dads out there. You deserve much praise and acclaim!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I have just finished reading The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien again. It takes place in a wonderful place called Middle-earth. Besides having unusual creatures such as Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Ents, etc., there is sheer beauty dealing with heraldry, brave soldiers and many "walking tours" through the book. There is so much lush scenery described that it makes one pant to see it all. And what could be more homey and wonderful than The Shire?
Another great imagined land is Narnia whose Chronicles by C.S. Lewis take 7 books to fully explore. It also includes mythical creatures and has great beauty in the deserts, woods, lakes and even white winter of the stories.
In Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, there is a place called Neverland. Peter and Wendy have made it their home through most of the book. There are lagoons, secret hideaways underground, and a pirate ship. Oh, to leave that tall window and fly away to such a fantastic place.
Then there is Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, where Alice experiences one strange happening after another. There are witty incidents at every turn and funny creatures galore.
I have always liked these books ever since I first read them (and I read them over and over.) I also enjoy the movies and plays that have been produced from them. I wonder why I am so drawn to imaginary lands. Some of these stories have deep meanings. Some seem to be just silly or fun. Still, it is the places I can't get to that make me yearn to go.
Do you have a favorite imaginary world? Can you tell me why you like it best? I love all of mine. Because they are so different, I can't pick just one.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Behold The Golfer
He has an important job to do. He must have vision and determination. He is out to drive a ball a long way and eventually have it end up at a designated destination – the hole.
For this he needs special clothing. His helmet is a jaunty golf hat. He needs to be shod with shoes that give him grip and traction so he doesn’t slip on the way.
He needs a breastplate, an argyle vest will do. His armor is bag of tools of the trade and his sword, a dandy golf club gleaming in the sun.
It’s important for our golfer to have a caddy, a sort of mentor who helps him make wise decisions. God can take over this role. He knows the course very well. He sent His Son to master it. He carries the bag and the baggage if the golfer will let him. The caddy wants the golfer to focus on the game plan.
Now the golfer is ready and the first thing he needs to do is address the ball. He is acknowledging the course of action. He takes a practice swing. He wants to make sure he knows the plan. He needs a driver. He can’t do the job alone. His head is down. He has a single eye. Then he hits the ball and follows through. That is where the golfer can win or lose. If he doesn’t follow through, the whole shot could be wasted. The ball has loft and flies straight down the fairway. Our golfer doesn’t want the ball to go into the rough. If he gets in the sand trap, he needs to use a wedge. That means pressure. It’s better to stay on the fairway. To stay out of the woods, the golfer can ask advice from the caddy.
Now he’s going to chip on the green. He needs loft. This is not the time to be rolling in the dirt. Now our golfer is on the green! Just when he thinks he’s almost home, the rules change. He uses a putter. Boy it seems slow up here. He messes up as if he were a beginner. It’s only when he looks back down the fairway that he sees how far he’s come. He can’t even see the T.
The golfer should relax and realize that if he weren’t doing well, he wouldn’t be on the green. He needs to let the caddy help him. He looks at all the angles, even if it means getting down and dirty. Wasn’t it glorious teeing off? No matter, he has a job to finish.
The golfer can’t afford a false move now. He doesn’t want to roll backwards. He must move purposefully forward in the direction of the goal. Small movements are important now. The goal is in sight. He is nervous, but the caddy is smiling. Someone raises the flag. The moment has come. He pops it in the hole. Victory! And that’s par for the course of life.
Friday, June 4, 2010
What Would They Do?
I don't know how much attention this story is getting outside of Detroit. We here, were all talking about it yesterday. Some were angry. Many were just glad that the "robbed" pitcher and the manager acted like such gentlemen. I am happy about that. Everyone is sad. Even the Cleveland Indians, the opponents, seemed sad. And now it is decided that there will be no reversal of the call.
There was a time when Roger Maris' home run record had an asterisk on it because the season then was longer that the one where the first record stood. The asterisk has since been removed, but not in Roger's lifetime. I hope that if they ever do give Armando the game, he will live to see it.
Now I have a question for all of my friends who write romances. Certainly some of your characters are sports fans. No? Are you sure? If this scenario happened to their beloved team, what would they do? Would they write a letter to the editor? Would they be happy for the great game and forget it, or somewhere in between? I don't want to know what you think about this situation this time. What would your characters think? Have fun with this.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Trading Stamps and Love Languages
Now the trading stamps mentioned in the book goes like this. When your spouse does something "bad," you stick a few trading stamps in the book. It wouldn't be nice to yell at him for that one thing. The next time he bugs you, you put in a few more stamps. When the book is full and your temper is over the top, you throw the book at him and let him have it. That's the way not to do it. No, if your spouse does something to grieve you, tell him gently while it is on your mind. If you can't do that, determine to tear it up in your mind and never bring it up again. No collecting stamps. At least that's the way the lesson goes.
My daughter was using a different theme: love languages. There are several: touch, doing special things, gifts, extra time, saying nice things, and others. She was telling me it's important to reach your husband with his own love language. Let's say you love to be held and touched, but your husband loves to have you spend lots of time with him. Then extra loving touches won't make him feel special. You need to quit reading and just be there. And what if you do all of that and your husband doesn't do the thing you need? You just do it anyway. Perhaps if you asked, he might. He might not know how important it is to you. Or he could forget and need to be reminded. Or, maybe he just can't seem to do it. Some kinds of love language are harder for one person than for another. Don't know your spouse's language? Ask or think deeply about it.
One thing I know. If just one person throws away the trading stamps and uses the correct language, the marriage has a huge chance of success. I am sorry for the times I have failed in any of these areas. This is the one place, more than any other, where I want to get it right.
Here's hoping you get spoken to in your special language today.