He’s somebody’s son

Stories are powerful.  People relate to them easily.  I have found that people remember stories far more than just stating a bunch of facts.  Jesus used this same method, often speaking in parables to the people of his time.  It was about something real in their life.  This is who Jesus was and is.  He cared about people’s needs.  He responded first to their basic human needs before reaching out to their hearts.  Jesus understood.  Even today, it is still the same.

The following story is not a particularly happy story of miracles or hope, but it is that of the basic human need inside all of us.  One may think this could never happen to me, and I hope it never does, but we are all much closer than we think.  One wrong turn, one bad decision in our youth, a childhood beyond our control, could all take us there, could all be us…

I have been traveling the same path for years now, driving south on the interstate into the city, everyday from 9 to 5.  It can be monotonous – the same direction, the same lanes on the highway, the same billboards.  Except for a new building here or there, not much changes in my one-hour commute.  But one day on my regular early-morning drive, I saw something that stood out from the ordinary.  I don’t know his name but he started showing up at the corner of an intersection about five or six years ago.  What made him different from the other homeless people I have seen was his youth.  He looked to be in his early twenties – so young – and if cleaned up a little, could have been quite handsome.  He had a strong, angular face and piercing eyes, and his body appeared strong but thin.  I was driving through the college part of town when I first saw him, and wondered if he had once been a student there and perhaps had lost his way in the world.  Surely someone cares about this young, handsome man, I thought with a whisper of a prayer.

As time went by, I continued to see him every few weeks and always around the same place.  Sometimes he would look happy, almost in a childlike way, and other times he looked like he was barely hanging on.  Over time, I could see the physical deterioration in his face, weathered and beaten beyond his young years, yet a shallow image of his youth was still there.  It tugged on my heart, and I began saying a little prayer for him each time I saw him.  I would search for him on my way home to see if he was ok, just as I would have done for my own son.  Sometimes it would be months in between these visits.  Then he would appear again, and I was never quite sure if I should be relieved at seeing him.  It meant he was still alive, but it also meant he was not being helped.  As a female I knew it was not a good idea for me to get out of my car and help him, so I continued to pray that God would send someone.  After all, he was somebody’s son.  No matter what had happened in his life, there was a moment in time when he came into this world with a mom, bringing all the hope and promise of a new life.  He was once a child like you and I were.

I saw him again the other day after a long lapse.  My commute had changed and I no longer got the chance to check on him as often.  He looks older now, but he still hangs around the same place.  Curiously, there are no homeless shelters in the area where he chooses to walk around, and I have never seen him ask for handouts or carry any bags with him.  Today, I pray that God sends a special angel to comfort him, whatever he may need.  Everybody should have at least one person praying for them.  We are all somebody’s son or daughter.

On this cold and rainy morning, I am grateful for my warm, comfortable home.  I have enough food to eat, my family is safe, and my health is well.  I have no want for anything more.  The only thing that would fill my soul more completely would be to help others to have these very same things.

young person

 little feet

Don’t kick against the goads

Paul to King Agrippa in Rome:

Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? – Acts 26:8

I love the character of Paul in the 1st century.  He was bold yet humble.  He walked the talk.  He didn’t waiver, not once.  He knew his job, and he wasn’t afraid to change when he first found out he was wrong on that fateful road to Damascus.

“Saul, Saul, Why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So I said, Who are you, Lord, and He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” – Acts 26:14-15.

What a strange thing for Jesus to say.. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.  I had to look at this statement a little further.  An ox goad is a stick with a point of iron on its tip, which is used to guide the animals.  Sometimes the animals would rebel and try to kick the goad, which would result in it being driven further into their flesh.  In other words, it is harder on us when we rebel, and useless.

I love to read just about anything, and the book of Acts is one of the most fascinating, exciting, and historical books I have read.  Luke the physician, the author of Acts, follows Paul around Rome, Ephesus, Jerusalem and the world, and intellectually records many of his travels.  It is equivalent to our modern day interview.  And Paul, like Jesus’ words, is succinct and to the point, to the heart of the matter.

As the imprisoned Paul states his case at his trial, the governor Festus says with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” – Acts 26:24.  Dr. Luke captures this both humorous and personal detail.  Then Paul goes on to quite eloquently tell his story.  At the end, Agrippa says to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” – Acts 26:28.  How is that for a last quote?

So, today, I reflect on all these words from Paul, and marvel at such a wonderful God, the amazing story of our written history, and the hope that Jesus gave to such a man like Paul.
little feet

paul travels     paul and luke

A Letter to my friend’s daughters

Dear Mary and Theresa,
I knew your Daddy best when we were both in 4th grade together and were neighbors.  He lived in a small, white one-story house beyond my back yard in Tennessee.  I had just moved to town and he was one of the first friends I met.  He was always friendly like that, even at a young age.  I remember we would take turns trying to jump off the roof of his
one-story house onto the grass below, until we would eventually get in trouble for it.  He was braver than I, and he must have been practicing even back then for the time when he would eventually join the Navy Search and Rescue team and jump out of helicopters into the ocean below.  Your Dad moved away from that house soon after, but I never forgot that time in my childhood and I sometimes still drive by that little white house and smile when I return home for a visit.  Maybe you can see it someday if you haven’t already. 

Your Daddy had a special gift.  I lost track of him in my later growing up years, but had reconnected with him in the last few years through Facebook.  He had a special way of always encouraging everyone and just appreciated and loved life!  I never saw him without a smile.  Many people do not achieve that in their entire lifetime.  And he was most proud of both of you.  His strong and encouraging spirit will always be with you both, cheering you on, just like he always did.  And you can be most proud of him too! 

For those of us who enjoyed his Facebook postings of both of you, we would love to continue seeing your pictures and hearing about your activities as you grow up!  May God bless you both.  

Romans 12:6-8
We each have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

smile

little feet

Teacups and Rocks

A small, intricate shelf sits just inside the front door of my house.  I call it my teacup shelf.  It is a narrow shelf with five levels, and filled with all sorts of varied teacups I have collected or received over the years.  Some of them are old, some new, some are sentimental, and some are just for fun.  Most of the teacups resemble a familiar English rose pattern found in almost any roadside antique store.  None would seem too priceless, except for maybe one.  And that is where my story begins.

Prominently displayed in the center of the top shelf is a fragile and chipped teacup.  It is not of the normal teacup fanfare.  The light grey cup looks almost translucent when held up to the light.  It is made from a thin bone china and has an Asian-themed dragon carved around the outside of the cup.  Looking inside, there is a 19th century English woman’s face at the bottom of the cup.  I have browsed many antique stores over the years, always searching for a similar type cup, hoping to discover its history and where it came from.  I have never found anything else like it.  The cup has always held a certain mystery to me, ever since it came into my possession as a child.  Its mystery and uniqueness is not only from the design of the teacup itself, but in how I came to own it all those years ago.

“I thought of you when I saw this, so I bought it for you,” my grandfather said to me as child when he handed me the teacup.  I am not exactly sure how he acquired it, but it was probably from one of his many excursions to the flea markets or garage sales.  My grandfather was not a man of many words.  He had a quiet presence, always working in his garden or tinkering with something.  All I remember that day are those simple words he said when he handed me the treasure, “I thought of you when I saw this…”  The teacup was beautiful and unique and very fragile.  I, on the other hand, was a plain-looking nine-year-old girl with curly, frizzy hair, and I did not see anything beautiful or unique about me.  Yet, here I stood holding this magnificent and precious teacup in my hands, which had reminded someone of me.  My mind raced.  I tried to imagine what far-off land it must have come from, and who the mysterious lady was at the bottom of the cup.  It was priceless and valuable in my mind.  It was also very fragile.

Perhaps this is where my fascination for teacups began over the years.  I am grown now and have moved away, and those days from long-ago have mostly been forgotten.  Yet, the teacup moved with me everywhere I went.  It was always displayed on a shelf among all my other belongings.  When I got married, the teacup came with me.  Soon after, when we bought our first house, the teacup moved too.  I was not even aware that it had stayed with me all these years until one day there was an accident.  With all the moves and changes that life can bring, my teacup had been broken.  It shattered into many pieces on the floor.  It did not look like it could ever be restored.  Tears came as I cried and knelt down to carefully scoop up all the pieces.  I am not sure if I was crying over the broken teacup or because I had been so clumsy.  Life was busy at that time, so I gathered up the pieces in a small box and put the box back on the shelf, not knowing what to do with it but not wanting to part with it either.

A few years later when things had settled down a little, I once again took the box off the shelf.  I carefully glued each piece back together, holding one piece at a time until it was set.  It felt good to put it back together, to make it complete again.  A few pieces were missing on the brim of the cup, but I did not mind.  I put the chipped side of the teacup toward the back of the shelf and happily displayed it.  From a distance, the cracks were not too noticeable.  It was only up close that one could see the imperfection.

The teacup is over 30 years old now, at least from the time I have owned it as a young girl.  It is probably the only possession of mine that has been with me almost my entire life.  I even had a special shelf built for it and all the other teacups I have collected since that time.  Each one is beautiful and fragile, and has its own place on the shelf.  Yet in the last few years, things have taken another turn and the contents of the shelf began to change.

Life has become certain, more confident, and a little more weathered.  I am no longer that fragile little girl, and I have a child of my own now.  Since then, a different item has started to gain some space on my teacup shelf.  It all began when my son and I started collecting rocks during one of our adventures together.  We started with a few beautiful crystal rocks from a school field trip.  Next, we added rocks of all colors – blues, greens, pinks, and ambers.  Over time, we collected lava rocks from far-away beaches, and salt rocks from the desert floor.  Each one is unique and beautiful, and yet still as mysteriously made as my dragon teacup from years ago.  But unlike the teacups, the rocks are sturdier and cannot be broken.

I still cling to the fragile teacups at times, but I now have many strong and beautiful rocks to display as well.  The fragile times seem less.  As my son grows, he will have his own challenges in life.  I try to help him find his own strength and confidence, and to reveal the hidden beauty and mystery in life that is not always evident on the surface.

Grandpa, thank you for your kind words to a frightened little girl all those years ago.  We may not always know just how much of an impact our small words and actions can mean to someone, but they can carry us through a lifetime.  My wish is that we will all have our own teacups and rocks to share with others and to keep in our own lives.

SAMSUNG

Time

For this one hour, I leave behind my daily tasks and break away for a lunchtime run.  For one precious hour, I forget about the morning rush and all the undone work I’ve left back at my desk.  I don’t think about the afternoon’s conference calls and meetings, or even the things I have to do this weekend.  Almost instinctively, I select Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising (2002) for my run today.  He created this album right after 9/11.  I leave the tightly secured boundary of my headquarters building (a change resulting from 9/11) and go for a run in the streets below. 

For this moment in time, this one precious moment, I soak in the warm sunshine and zigzag my way through the busy city streets.  I notice there are less car horns honking today, and a few more waves and smiles from strangers and friends.  Today, we are all on the same side.  We all want good over evil.

I’m reminded of a story I recently heard from a conversation with a famous journalist of the “greatest generation”.  He tells about a certain time in 1966.  A popular magazine produced a cover that simply stated “Is God Dead?”.  In the unrest of the 1960’s, not unlike today, it sometimes seemed so.  The title caused much uproar, and the author of the article got a chance to interview the Reverend Billy Graham shortly afterwards and asked him the famous question.  

“Mr. Graham, Is God dead?”
In a quiet, calm voice, Billy Graham responded, “Oh no, he’s not dead.” 
The author pushed a little further, “How do you know that sir?”
“Because I talked to Him this morning,”  Mr. Graham responded.

So as I finish my run, I am thankful that I have this one precious moment in time.  I have my health, my family is well, and my soul is settled.  I was able to put on my running shoes one more time this morning and run, something that has sustained me for much of my life.  And someday, in Heaven, I’m certain there will be a huge musical jam session!  I can’t wait to see who is there.  Maybe God will even let me sing, just once.
little feet

…in remembrance of Sandy Hook, Boston, and West, Texas

the rising
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i-fiRgbpr4