Tuesday, November 28, 2017

have you been visited by an inconvenient stranger?

There is a story of a woman who was at a well, drawing water. No one else was there, she had the place all to herself. Suddenly there was a visit from an inconvenient stranger, One who knew all about her past. The reason she was there all alone initially was because of her shame at what she had done. She was tired of being belittled, ridiculed and humiliated. Yet when this Person came and asked her for water, she seemed confused. The fact that instead of ridiculing her or judging her, He offered compassion, was something not to be believed. The fact also that He was a Jew and she, Samaritan, simply blew her mind. Number one, men did not just talk to women, that was not allowed. The fact that He was Jewish made it doubly so. And still, the fact that He offered His words as a sense of direction and not of condemnation meant that she should take His words seriously. (see John 4:4-26).  

 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

And she did.

How many of us had a visit by an inconvenient stranger? How many of us took to heart the situation at hand...or were we too busy with our i-Pads, i-Phones, video games...did we pass that person on the street, in the guise of a homeless person? Was it because someone was a drug addict...an alcoholic...that we just didn't care-or chose not to? Was it a pesky neighbor we tend to ignore...or the elderly person ahead of us at the store, "wasting our time" as they counted out all the change they may have had to buy that loaf of bread?

Are we inconvenienced when the news comes on, news that tells us yet another bomb blast ripped through some country far away...or even a tragedy closer to home...does that rattle your senses anymore--or have we grown so complacent that it just does not matter anymore?

Say those words: an inconvenient stranger. How does a stranger become a friend? Why, it's simple! It happens when YOU invite that person into your heart and home. It is so easy at this time of year to write a check to a charity, isn't it? "There!" you announce as you seal the envelope. "Now I can rest easy, those kids with cancer will have the best of everything!" Or those homeless puppies...or that child in the foreign country who looks as if he is starving...the list is endless. To justify that you have done something so wonderful because you signed a check does NOT justify, really, that you have dome anything more than salve your mind. The burdens are still there. And as the Inconvenient Stranger knows, unless you put forth the sincere effort into anything, you really have done nothing at all.

The Inconvenient Stranger, if you haven't guessed by now, is Jesus. Jesus can read our hearts. Our hearts that are restless until they rest in Him--or should be. Our hearts that will not allow us to sleep, knowing that while our closets are full, someone is going without a warm coat. Someone is not getting that wonderful smile. Someone is bereft of a hug, a kind word...someone lacks a place to sleep. Someone lacks food to eat.

That Inconvenient Stranger...are you feeling guilty yet? Just as Ebeneezer Scrooge realized in the Christmas tale, unless you are physically doing something for someone to ease their burdens you really haven't done anything at all. Scrooge realized that while, yes, he did provide a job for Bob Crachit, what was lacking was sufficient income or time to enjoy a family, which were the more important things that counting cash.

Next time you are feeling inconvenienced, ask yourself why. What guilt is niggling at you to re-focus your energy and time to something that matters more?
As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once observed, "I am but a little pencil in the Hand of God."

three gifts of Christmas....

 As we gear up for the holidays ahead, grief becomes very apparent for those who have lost loved ones. It can be yesterday, last month, last year....grief has no time limits and the pain can still hurt. I was reading an article that said what may help in the grieving process are three things: one, to say, "I'm sorry" to the one who left you. "I'm sorry for what we did, or didn't do...I'm sorry for the plans that went unmade, the words we did not get to say," etc. 

The second is "I forgive you." "I forgive you for leaving me so soon. I forgive you for whatever we did or said that hurt the other. i forgive you because forgiving is the way to heal the breach."

And the last is: "I love you." No matter if your relationship was the best, the worst or somewhere in between, those words seal the fact that what was done has been done. There is now no going back, no do-overs. Make peace with your past. "I'm sorry, I forgive you, I love you." Words I said to my very hurtful mother so many years ago as she lay dying in her bed. Words I never thought I would find myself saying, in fact, freed me from the horrors that I lived through with her. 

And of course, from dear ones, too that have left me..."I love you."

Just something to ponder as you write those cards and wrap those gifts. Sometimes, the best gift we can give to one another is the gifts of love and forgiveness...and peace.

Monday, November 20, 2017

footprints and snowflakes

photo courtesy of Martha Gallo, a participant on the "Godwinkers" Facebook page.

When I first met the man who is now my husband, I was impressed by many things: his compassion and thoughtfulness towards me, but also his thought processes in general. He has a very poetic way of looking at things.
I had settled my mind on probably being single for the rest of my life. After having been in a very sad marriage for 25 years and then, two failed relationships as well as seeing what was "out there" in the dating world, I was scared of either falling into the same old sad trap again...or...being single.
I chose single.
It was on a very bitter cold day in January in Minnesota (think minus 20 degrees!) that I was perusing the Craigslist site. In truth, I had never heard of Craigslist and curiosity led me there. I was shocked at what I found on the dating portion of it: men who were out to 'have a 'good time' and not caring whose life they ruined while doing it. Finally, I'd had enough! I was going to send a nasty reply to one ad that literally said he would take on all comers, married or not! He had lost all of his savings due to a former girlfriend who'd stolen it when she moved out. He was angry. He was bitter. And he wanted the world to know about it.
Then "something" told me to not hit 'send' on that one...to maybe see it a different way. I thought I was going nuts, but listened to that small voice of reason. Instead, in the e-mail, I asked him jokingly why he wanted a married woman when he could have me, as I was divorced and available. Available? Didn't I tell myself that I was done with this, that I wasn't going to settle anymore for anyone? I hit 'send,' expecting nothing more.

He wrote back.

Then I replied back.

He wrote back again.

His first reply was an apology. He wasn't really looking for a married woman, as he knew that would cause a lot of heartache for all involved. He merely was seeking ...what?

People who post ads on dating sites are seeking something, be it an answer to a primitive force, a friend, sex or a lifetime partner. He'd been a bachelor for twenty plus years. He'd been dumped on a lot. And as I got to know him, I wondered just why his life was the way it was. In one of his replies, sent the day after our first face to face meeting, he wrote this:

  "I started reading the internet and happened upon a bunch of psychology and mind articles dealing with emotions and thought processes and the like. Very interesting stuff, for the most part. So I spent a while reading through a bunch of them. The mind is a very interesting thing and can be confusing to me. At least mine is!! Why do I bore you with this useless information, you may be wondering? Well, because you got my mind running in 9 different directions at once! Something only a woman is capable of, I believe!
As I watched the snow fall yesterday, one thought that crossed through my head that sort of stuck out, was that of the 876 Gajillion (to the power of 800 gajillion times 9) flakes that were falling, it is said that no 2 are alike. Then I thought, surely in all that there has to be at least one matching pair? Is it possible that you and I could be that one matching pair? Which lead to another long series of thoughts!"

That was almost nine years ago. There are times when I ponder on the whole scenario of how we were brought together. Of that small "Voice" that whispered to me to see it another way and of how I listened, even when my mere human mind could not comprehend why! That small Voice, who I know was God's voice, was leading me down a path that, to this day, has brought me so much happiness. It takes faith to believe that, when all is falling apart, that God is working behind the scenes to make it all right. It also takes Faith to believe that when a prayer uttered isn't answered in the way that you asked, that it is because God sees the future and knows just what is a better solution for you.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you Hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11.

We can only see in hindsight. Hindsight is always 20/20. But we also need to have the foresight to know that when we don't always get what we want, that we will receive something. We need to understand that God is in control and when we turn a situation over to Him, that we let go of the wheel and let God do the driving. Many people have a hard time grasping this. "Why does God allow pain?" they ask. "Why didn't He see that I needed my mom/friend/ husband more?" "Why can't I find a job?" "Why...why...why?"

I have been the recipient of so much pain in my life. If you have been following my blogs, you know about the child abuse, the spousal abuse, the health issues, and much more. In all of it, I can look back and see the why and how of it all. If not for adversity, I would not be who I am today.

 Think about it: I could have had all of my wishes handed to me, just like that <snaps fingers>. But then, who would I be? Probably a simple weakling. For those who have had everything granted to them, are they any happier? Can they withstand the storms of life when they finally do hit...and believe me, they DO hit hard, like a hurricane force.

Be open to possibilities. Just as there CAN be two identical snowflakes...so there are always answers to life's problems. You just need to Believe...have Hope...Faith...and in retrospect, just as the poem reassures us, God was carrying us all throughout our trials of life.

Friday, November 3, 2017

what path are YOU on?

A few days ago, I had to take a short journey about ten miles from my house to do a cleaning project for someone. It was a blustery, end of October day, with occasional snow showers that just seemed to make things seem even more bleak than it was.

As I pulled into the long, gravel driveway, I took note of how stark the countryside was. This is in the middle of the Minnesota prairie. With the exception of a few trees to the north of the house which gave a windbreak of sorts, there was nothing as far as the eye could see. No buildings, no trees, just endless miles of farm fields.

I felt so alone in that windswept place.

For many of us, our lives can be just like this. You go along, living out your days like a summer afternoon when all of a sudden, from out of nowhere comes a vast emptiness that just seems to swallow you up whole. You can visualize the sound of the wind as it sweeps and pounds against the windows of your soul. There is nothing around you for miles. You feel so alone. Not even prayer seems to be of any help in all of this.

Lately I have made decisions, then broken them and made some more, all to relieve the discomfort of my soul. I have prayed to God for direction. I have taken what I thought was a for sure path, only to realize that I was at a dead end. Time to turn around and take a different course. After awhile, I began to doubt even myself. Where am I? I miss where I've been, yet I wouldn't go back there, not for anything. I have zero clue what's ahead, so I am reluctant to make a commitment to that as well.

I am sure that for Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph, it was the same. They were exiles in their own land after Jesus' birth, due to King Herod's jealousy of the news of a "new King." For two years, they wandered in unknown lands. All they had to rely on was God's direction.

God's direction. When all we have is that and Faith, I know it sounds confusing...how does one know they are doing the "right thing" if all they have to go on is a "feeling" or a thought to "go here!" or "stop and pause awhile there!"
Maybe a few comments from those who have "been there" will help:

"What I learn in over 60 years is that: (1) women are driven by emotions (just us and is wrong); (2) life is full of tests, and when you fail one you will get a harder one...so on and so forth, until you do it right; (3) never run away from something or take short cuts - it will come back to haunt you; (4) there are "stages" in life, and everyone is different - as you age understand much better than before; (5) NEVER give up on your goals, dreams; (6) whomever in not in the same page with you is not worth it or not for you - and - here comes the # 1 "emotions" that we hardly can or want to control...this is when we go in a different direction. My opinion and honestly, what me and my husband did from the beginning." ~Rodica Z.

"In life, you will realize that there is a role for everyone to meet...some times, will test you and sometimes will love you and test you...but no matter how sad and no matter what happens..the important are the ones who are truly brings out the best in you...they are rare and amazing people who remind you why it's worth it..." ~Elena P.

"I honestly don't think I would have appreciated the greater things in my life, had I not walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil, for my Lord is with always and encircles me with his love !" ~Barbara C.

I like Barbara's comment the best: walking through the valley of the shadow...it doesn't have to be as dire as death, just the shadow alone can be monumental in itself! But if we keep God on our side, like the sun, he will keep us warm, He will guide us to verdant pastures where once more we will see just where we've been as well as where we are headed.

"No doubt. And at times a dire situation can rocket us toward an even unimagined better place!" ~Kelly R.

GPS...God's Positioning System...putting us where we need to be, even when we can't understand it ourselves!