Friday, October 16, 2015

what do you worry about?




Worry. It is said that worry can take years from your life. It can literally take inches as well. In my family, I am the shortest...yes...THE shortest-- because in all of my growing up years...I worried.
We were very poor. This was back before the Food Stamp program and all of the other social programs that we have in place today. Dad was a barber when the Beatles set foot in America, pretty much putting an end to short hair cuts! So...I worried whenever I heard him balance the checkbook as he'd wonder where the money was coming from. "Will we lose our house?" I'd ask. "Not unless your mother would quit spending money faster than I can  make it!" he'd gruffly reply. And my mom could spend money! Thus...I worried.

We moved ten times in my first seventeen years. Ten times. I didn't mind it when I was younger- to me, it was a chance to meet new people and live in other houses. By the time I had reached high school, however, this moving stuff was getting out of hand! Thus, I worried...about making new friends, about fitting in, about lots of things.

Got married too young...and worried. Had kids...after trying for almost eight years with no success (more worry!) I suddenly had four children in five years. Now I worried about how I would be as a mom, what if "something" happened and we'd be either homeless, jobless or something else. Although none of that ever came to fruition....I still worried. Though God was always there for me in all of my travails, I would worry about "what if someday He forgets about me? Then what?"

I am now in my early 50's and I admit...I still am a worrier. My husband makes fun of me. He says that if ever I'd NOT have something to worry about is the day I'll roll over and die.

I tell myself that all I need to do is to let go and let God. That when God closes a door, He always opens a window. People ask me where I'll be in five years. "Five years?" I ask, "why, in only one year my life could change just like that!"(snaps fingers) and it has been known to do that.

How about you? Do you worry? Do you lay awake at night and fret? Is a five year plan beyond the scope of reality for you?

When my husband lost his job about two years ago, I thought he'd get another just like that (snaps fingers). It didn't happen. It took a lot of patience and ingenuity to get where we are today...it also took about eight months, but when it all came together, it happened just like...that! (snaps fingers).

Jesus is not a magician. He does not just snap His fingers to make life easier for us. Even in His own life, He prayed...and waited...and asked. But He also told His followers, "ask and ye shall receive!" There have been many times when I have knocked...and waited for that proverbial door to open. Again though, remember, that when God CLOSES a door, He opens a window, So, though I knocked, it turned out that I was knocking on the wrong door, on the one that had closed. I should have looked for that open window instead! I remember that as I knocked...I would cry out of frustration. I would beg, plead and cajole and yes, I admit, I made a few bargains. What we need to realize is that God does not bargain. He gives and will give freely when the time is right....when He sees that all the pieces will fit into place, only then will He welcome us in!

All we need to do is to approach Him with prayer and supplication. "Ask and ye shall receive!" If He feeds the birds, how much more will He give to you!"

Learn from me...don't be such a worrier! I could have been at least five foot ten inches tall, just like the rest of my family. Instead, I am five foot three --on a good day!
"Give your cares to God...for He cares for you!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

have you seen an angel lately?






I have noticed that whenever I do book signings, I seem to have more "power" when I am standing behind my table as opposed to standing in front of it. It is as if that table gives me a sense of security- I have built my "wall" and as long as others are on the other side of it, all the better. It was true in high school speech classes as well, as long as I had that podium, I could tackle any subject with ease. Without that podium, I was a bowl of Jell-o in an earthquake!

At my last book signing, however, there was a gal who came to my table. She said she had been "looking for me," as she had a message she wanted to tell me. As soon as I heard it, I stepped out from behind that table and embraced her in a wonderful hug. By letting down my guard, I could sense her words and feelings that much better. We became one in thought and feeling, even if just for those few precious moments. When she left, I once more resumed my post.

Why is it that we feel we need to build barriers in order to feel "safe?" Our barriers are not always a table, sometimes it can also be barriers between those with money and those who do not. We choose to live in towns and neighborhoods with like minded people. We hang out with those who say what we want to hear, who believe what we believe. We feel uncomfortable if we are asked to be with another who is of a different race, a different country, or even different religious beliefs. More wars have been fought because of a difference of opinion, either politically or religiously, than for any other reason.

When Jesus was doing His ministry, He walked among those who made others feel uncomfortable. He taught about Jews getting along with Samaritans, about fathers and their wayward sons, about women in general. He ate with tax collectors! He had women friends! He healed SINNERS, for heaven's sake! He forgave sins on the Sabbath and didn't condemn a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. How positively scandalous!

If Jesus could do all of that--then what the heck is wrong with each one of us? I am just as guilty as you are! There are times when I see a person of a different race in my neighborhood and, for a fleeting moment, wonder "what is he doing here?" Is this true of you: do you hear about immigrants on the news and sometimes cringe? While it is true that we all were immigrants at some time, we seem to forget that even during His life, Jesus was also an immigrant as He moved from place to place. Was He welcomed? Not always.

Let's challenge ourselves. Pay attention to what happens around you and to your own thoughts as well. When you see a homeless person, do you curl your lip and walk on by? When you are confronted by alcoholism, do you turn away? When a new person comes into your midst, do you act as if you don't wish to know them?

We are all travelers in this miserable place called earth. It is miserable for one reason and one reason only: because we refuse to recognize Christ in all we meet. We don't want to be bothered by the effort it would take to get to know another. We don't want to give up our comfort zone to someone else. We step behind a table of our own making and dare anyone to cross. We put up fences in our backyards, in our communities, in our countries. We demand visas to all who dare to enter. We click the lock on our soul and pocket the key.

In some instances, we make damn sure we go so far as to lose that key, so that we will never be bothered with it again.

Hebrews 13:1-3 admonishes us this:  "Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.…"

Hmmm...entertaining angels unawares. If an angel crossed your path, would you know it? Would you recognize one if you saw one?

Well, that person you just ignored, the one you drove past, the one you kept your head down for or looked away from....
that was an angel.
How do you feel now?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

onto what soil have YOU been planted?




This past Spring, when the days became longer, warmer and sunnier, I itched to begin my flower gardens. I visited nurseries and picked out plants that were sturdy and strong, bought special soil and large enough pots, planted them and stood back to admire my process. In a way, I understood how God must have felt when, on the sixth day, He surveyed all He had done and found it to be good.
So did I.

Several weeks later, it was warm enough to plant things in the ground. I again bought sturdy tomato plants, vibrant cucumber plants and bell pepper plants, put them into my garden whose soil I had mixed compost that I had been adding to since the previous year. I was confident when I tossed out my flower seeds that it would all grow well.
And it did.

By mid May, I noticed something unusual: the marigolds that I had purchased from the nursery were wilting, dying off and not looking too good. I gave them water, they had sun, they had this great soil that I spent big bucks on...and yet---I noticed that where I had tossed seeds, the plants were doing SO MUCH BETTER! I have a small plot that I call the Butterfly Garden. This is where the bright, showy flowers go that will attract butterflies all summer long. I had saved marigold seeds from the previous year's plants and just scattered them there. But the seeds were now in  different places where I did NOT put them. I think the birds probably "helped," because I now had tiny plants in my rock garden and in several small cracks of the sidewalk, including alongside the house where I had sprayed a chemical to keep water from seeping into my basement. In fact, all summer those plants grew...and thrived- under the worst circumstances while the plants in my fancy, expensive pots were languishing!

In life, it is the same with certain people. Some go through the worst circumstances and come out so much stronger for it. Strife makes them stronger, challenges makes them better, while others see a hurdle and crumble and falter.

When I lived for awhile in California, I would go with my dad on drives up the Pacific coast. There were trees that clung to the sides of cliffs and thrived. The same was true of my drives through the mountains; again trees were clinging to whatever little ground they had on the mountainside.

We need to be like that. Don't tell me it  can't be done...it has been proven in life...what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

Say that again: whatever does NOT kill you will make you stronger!

Very few people get out of life unscathed. Many of us bear scars from past abuses, alcoholism, addictions and more. Illnesses take a toll, yet we get back up and keep fighting. Accidents, job losses, any and all ills of society can either make or break us. I think of the Holocaust survivors, of what they had seen and felt and how they survived. Of how veterans from past wars also saw much and went on in life. I also think of those for whom life brings them to their knees.

May God be with you all who have issues that need tissues...may you find comfort and peace. May you become like the flowers who grew in the cracks of my sidewalks, who became lush despite living on the edge. May you find your peace.
Amen.