Friday, December 30, 2011

Love Your Enemies

People say we travel a lot.  I guess that's true.  Today I am in Fairfax Virginia.  On Wednesday I'll be in Connecticut.  Thursday I'll be in New Jersey.  Back home in Tennessee on Sunday.  This fall I've been to both coasts seeing the Empire state and the Golden Gate bridge in the span of one week. I've been to Florida and Atlanta twice.  Are you tired?  I'm not. I love it. I think it is the Viking in me. 

I love to meet people. I got to know the wife of one of my husband's colleagues.  We talked and shopped til we dropped in San Francisco.  It was a wonderful day.  I hope I see her again.  I think we'd be good friends.

Last night, as we exhaustedly checked into our hotel, I met someone new. I guess a five minute conversation doesn't really qualify as meeting someone but he will stay in my thoughts for a long time.  No I haven't become star struck rather the mother instinct took hold.  Tall, thin, blonde,with an infectious smile, dressed in a red bellman jacket, he quickly grabbed my bags.  All were loaded on the luggage rack in seconds.  It was Christmas. A good tip was a must.  
Cheap, we usually take care of our own bags.  I got change before we left.  Five seemed an appropriate tip.  The smile and the Merry Christmas after a long day was worth at least that.
He told us he was from Russia.  Beaming he told us that he lived near by, was here as an intern for a year. With great pride he said he rode his bicycle to work. With some lament he share this was his first Christmas without snow. To him the weather was spring like. I smiled. I wanted to give him Christmas cookies and adopt him. 

My husband and I chatted about how nice the young man was; we hoped his stay here would be pleasant. We hoped he wouldn't be beaten up by life too badly and that his excitement for life will not diminish. 

As we wound down the day, sitting on the couch, we stumbled on the documentary Strangers No More about a school in Tel-Aviv for refugees. Lovingly children of every color were taught Hebrew and helped to overcome the trials and horrors that their young lives had already known. Children who watched a parent killed, thrust into a new land, a new culture, we're being transformed by love and acceptance into children with hope and laughter. In awe I watched a young Jewish teacher embrace like a mother a tall black Sudanese boy named Mohammed. The boy told his teacher that she was his mother. There were no barriers to love. There were color differences, religious differences and all manner of cultural barriers but humanity and love overcame them all.
A teacher, a Jew, said she was living the Bible. God had called them, selected them, to be a special people. She had no choice but to love and care for these children.  She said as a Jew she must remember when her people were refugees, slaves, or in exile.  Her words were the most eloquent Christmas sermon.

I thought of Jesus.  I thought of the young woman and her husband, exhausted travelers on a night in Bethlehem. Born during Roman occupation and oppression, my Savior and Lord was born a refugee.  Jesus told us to receive the outcast. Perhaps that is the message of Christmas.  Perhaps that is how we will have Peace on Earth - one smile, one hug, and loving acceptance.  I think I will find the young Russian and practice Peace with a smile and a tin of cookies. 

The next night I did deliver a tin of cookies. It was good for my soul

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trust and Obey

In 800 yards, turn right.
At the end of the road, turn left on to garbled street.
Go 300 feet and turn around.

A GPS is a wonderful thing and it is persistent.  It never relents.  It never listens to our rationale that we think this is a better route. 

This weekend, we were on a quest to find a cul-de-sac on the outskirts of the small town of Thomasville NC.  We missed the GPS instructions to take the exit.  Without missing a beat, the GPS rerouted.  At first it tried to get us to turn around, then it planned another route.

Sometimes when following a GPS you see a “sign” – the sign seems to contradict the GPS.  Such was the case on Saturday.  We saw the sign for Thomasville – we looked at each other.  I said, “It’s your choice, you are the one who is driving.”  He followed the sign.

The GPS persisted.  We kept going ignoring what the GPS was telling us.

Soon we realized that we were far off course.

We had not listened to the GPS and yet the GPS never relented.  It kept rerouting and got us to our destination.  I thought to myself, we go our own way and yet the GPS is faithful to bring us to our destination.
I thought about the time I preached just such a sermon.  It was another time we didn’t listen to the GPS.  I preached how the Holy Spirit is always there to guide us.  We may not listen but once we do listen, we get to our destination.

A few years later, with cap and gown on, I listened to the speaker at my Trevecca graduation.  She had the same message.  She hadn’t heard my sermon but she preached it fairly well.  Now the Lord brought me back to that message.

The signs don’t look like you are going in the right direction.  There are signs that say it’s time to exit.   We take the exit, and realize it’s not the right exit.  How wonderful that the Holy Spirit knows where your destination (destiny) is and can get you there no matter how many times you think you are lost.  All you have to do is listen and follow or put another way – Trust and Obey.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Heart Sick

You ever hear the expression, "Well, I'm just going to take my marbles and go home."  I feel a lot like that a lot of the time.  While people usually think that person who wants to "pick up their marbles and go" is a bit of a spoiled brat.  You know, the one who always wants their way-doesn't like to share, always wants the power and to be in charge.  It's easy to think that.  We all know those type of people.

I don't need to have my way all the time.  In fact, I rarely get my way.  I tend to be the one who is most willing to give in - to say okay, that's fine.  Most of the passion has been sucked out of me in life so it's become easy to acquiesce.  I like being in charge but I don't have to be.  That assessment of why I want to "pick up my marbles and go" has nothing to do with having power.

But I do want to pick them up and go.  I want to retreat from conflict.  I want an end to frustration.  I want to be able to contribute and share.  In the end, I really want the gift I have to offer - my marbles - to be received.  I have good marbles :).

Seriously, I do have good marbles.  I have good ideas.  I am not always wrong.  I sometimes am right and even brilliant in my ideas.  But if your marbles, your ideas, are constantly rebuffed, they go back in your bag and you emotional retreat to home.

I've retreated so many times that I find myself socially awkward at times.  Of late I've been out some, met new people, been to new place, and yet, unlike the vibrant person who could thrive in almost any situation, I'm quiet and withdrawn.  I am so afraid of being hurt and rejected.  So many times my marbles, my life, my gifts, my offerings are rejected that I don't offer them like I used to... that's sad.  Because what I have to offer is good and could benefit a group, a team, a partner, and yes, even the world.

I watched Patch Adams the other night.  I wondered how he got that way... oh the movie shows the mental ward and makes allusions to it being a transformative time.  And yet it had to be deeper.  Was he just wired that way?  When he was being formed was their some happy gene that got over developed?  And why is it that some dreamers can make their dreams happen and others can't?  And its not all hard work - I know plenty of people with good dreams, great dreams, who work hard and never get a break.  Those I was with talked about how they wanted to be "excessively happy" like Patch.  I thought to myself, "I would too but..." there is always a but - this time the but was 'it will never happen.'

I don't think you can will it to happen either.  People tell me I can chose how I feel.  I can't.  I'm sorry but if that works for you, awesome!  But I just can't - I've been around the block way too long.  I've seen so many hopes, dreams, and ambitions collapse.  I've had to take my marbles home not because I was in a snit but because they (and I) weren't wanted in the game.

Interesting thing, I'm still polishing my marbles. I'm still in school.  I'm still working to have the credentials to be better at what I do... While this program doesn't challenge me, gives me lots of busy work and frustration, and is redundant - I'm still there.  Why?  Because somewhere in the darkest depths of my soul I really believe that God put this desire in me.  I believe that I do have something to offer.  I still believe that I can contribute and help other people.  For me, I had hoped the degree would open doors of service - give me that credibility that has alluded me in spite of my wonderful amazing marbles - my gifts, ideas, and brain.

This morning I had a talk with God.  I've had this talk before.  I told Him I wish I hadn't been born smart.  I said "Why God did you give me these"marbles" if there is no one who will play with me? Why God did you give me this brain if it will soon wither away in old age without being able to use it for your glory and for the Kingdom of God?  Why did you give me the ability to preach and teach - and I'm good at it, I really am - if no pulpit or classroom will have me?"

My heart hurts.  My marbles are back in my bag for now.  I'll take them out and polish them as I wind down a horrible semester.  I'll lick my wounds and hope they heal.  I'll gain new scars in the battle.  I'll do my best to stay on my feet.  And once again, hoping against hope - I'll hope that God has something better around the corner.  That maybe, just maybe, there is a game of marbles that is just waiting for my marbles to show up.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick - my heart is sick.