Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

"No ESL class on Sunday the 21st."

"Miss Teachah, why please?"

"We will be having another Pot Luck dinner", I glance at Divine, "Remember when you made Fru Fru for everyone?" She had made a traditional African bread of water and corn flour for the last dinner.

Everyone excitedly nodded,"Ah, the time we all eat together?"

"Yes, only this time, it will be a Thanksgiving celebration for the church."

Whispers, questions in Swahili to eachother. "Are we not thankful the other dinners?"

Okay, how to explain an American holiday to people from Rwanda, Congo and Burundi. I take out my trusty white board and dry marker. Lord, guide my hands.

I draw a shape as best I can, then another. "This is America. This is England" I draw a tiny sailboat. "English people sail to America, but they bring not good food with them. Soon, they are like people of Darfur." I draw a sad face with tears to murmers of, "Ahh..."

"The native people of America, teach the English people to plant corn and make corn flour. They teach them to fish and kill turkeys. The English people are happy and ask the native people to eat with them and give thanks." I have drawn many smiley faces around a table.

I think about Thanksgiving, and soon Christmas and realize how much I take for granted. These people are grateful for every meal. Many of them have known hunger for years, and what I am discribing to them must seem so unreal.

To them, hunger in a refugee camp is not big news. So why shouldn't the English people have been hungry when they got off the sailing ship? Not that unusual to them.

But now, "Teachah, if the English are new people, who were the old people who lived here?"

How do I tell victims of civil war that the native people lived here for always then the English (the German, the French, etc.), came and accepted the help of the native people, then stole all that they had?

I think we will just talk about turkey and pumpkin pie today while I pray for wisdom to tell them the other story about the native people.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Suffering Servants

Years ago, I watched a video about the life of Mother Teresa. I am not Catholic, but there were certain scenes that absolutely blew me away. I feel a need to share them today. One scene is for the church, the other is for someone I love.

Mother Teresa was in a small convent, and had to go through the city outside the walls to get to the market or to the trains to visit missions outside of the city. One day as she waited for a train, In the midst of crowds of people pressing against her, she saw an old man lying on the ground. In that city at that time, there was nothing unusual about an old man lying on the ground; probably dying, but on this day, something happened.

The old man made eye contact with the tiny nun and beckoned her to come closer. When she did, he said, "I thirst." In the old man, she saw Christ, and from that moment, she saw Christ in every person lying on the streets of Calcutta, and in every person who was suffering or dying. Her mission became to care for them as she would have for Christ. Just imagine if the Church began to look at people in pain as they would look at Christ in pain. That's what He would have done.

The second scene. A young woman came to help at the hospital that Mother Teresa had started. She wasn't a nun, and may not have been Catholic (the story never indicated that part). She spent her days joyfully scrubbing, singing, and caring for the poorest of India's poor. One day, she collapsed. Mother Teresa called the Dr. The cause was never disclosed, but the young woman was very ill and had to go back to her home in England to take care of herself. Her heart was broken because she had so loved helping others.

Mother Teresa talked the young woman into going home, resting, and caring for herself, and gave her a different kind of ministry. She asked the woman to begin an intercessory prayer group of Suffering Servants from around the world. Her reasoning was that these people living with pain and profound sorrow, knew a little about Christ's suffering. They became and remain, a vital part of the ministry that she established.

Sometimes, in your pain and sorrow and frustration, maybe you need to understand that there are Suffering Servants in your own circle of family and friends. Maybe God strategically places them within your access for times like these. Now, all you have to reach out. You are already in their prayers.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Birthday Memories

My daughter was born on September 4, 1976 in Montgomery, WV. Today, she would be 34 years old.

When parents lose a child, they are tortured by "Why?" Years ago, when God restored my sanity, He removed that word from my heart and mind forever.

I have healed, I have new loves in my life in my grandchildren. I have seen my son become a man that I am very proud of, married to a woman I would have chosen for him.

My health is better than it was years ago. My addictions of alcohol and cigarettes are gone. My sorrow is gone, but, sometimes a little sad is okay.

Today, my beautiful daughter would be 34 years old.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hissy Fit Time

I went to Walmart a couple of weeks ago, and had one of 'those' moments. Those are the moments when you are caught between "Should I keep my mouth shut?" "Should I ignore the whole situation?" "Should I pitch a good one?" I chose the latter.

I was near the dairy case looking at dates on yogurt for my grand-daughter when I heard someone say, "Where are the eggs?" I glanced toward the voice, and saw a large very light Caucasian man looking at a smaller Oriental looking man. He repeated himself to the smaller man, "I said, where are the eggs?" The smaller man said something in another language, smiled, shook his head and put his arms out helplessly in a gesture that said to me, I'm sorry, but I don't understand you.

At that point, I could feel the man's embarrassment, and turned to the larger man and said, "They're in the case right behind you." After thanking me, he started ranting about "those damn foreigners! Can't even speak the language. I bet he uses food stamps and lives off the government."

After almost a year of being out of work and living off a $700.00 social security check, I have had to use food stamps. I have had to 'live off the government' for a time. How dare this man, who knew nothing about the man shopping assume so much about him?

I felt it necessary to ask the man if his parents spoke English when they got here. He assured me that they were Americans from Missouri. I then felt it necessary to tell him that my relatives spoke German, Swiss and French when they got here. I felt it necessary to tell him that the only native language in America was Crow, Navajo, Cherokee, Mohawk, etc. I felt it necessary to tell him that the only people speaking English when my family got here were the soldiers sent by King George III to claim America for England.

Thoroughly ashamed at myself, I just turned and walked away. He just stood there with his mouth open. As I finished shopping, a phrase kept going through my head, 'If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

God spoke to me through my pastor. We have a large African population attending our church. He told me that it had been on his heart to see about starting an ESL, English as a Second Language program at our church. He asked if I would be interested in checking it out.

I did, and soon hope to be a part of the solution.

The Bible says to "Be angry and sin not." I got angry, and my attitude was sin. I hope that next time, I can give a little Oriental man the tools to say, "It's right behind you."

Friday, April 23, 2010


I don’t remember how old I was, only that I was very small.

I lived in Nevada City, in northern California with my parents. People who live very close to what is known as a tourist attraction seldom see them. We were getting ready to move to the southern part of the state, and my parents wanted to visit the Sequoia Forrest one more time.

We walked the forest of ancient trees. At some point, my parents stopped to admire a particularly large tree, and I kept walking. Suddenly I just stopped. There was no sound. I don’t mean that it was still or very quiet, but that there was no sound. No birds chirped, no leaves rustled, no car sounds; just absolute silence.

I was too little to say what I felt, but I remember. What I felt that was reverence. I felt awe. I felt what Moses must have felt at the Burning Bush. I felt the presence of God.

I remember my parents coming to me and asking what was wrong. Evidently I was just standing there sobbing. I could only tell them that I heard God.

Life happened. My parents divorced. My mom died. I was sent to live with relatives in Pennsylvania. I survived many troubled years. I married and had children. I divorced, and one day I stood beside a hospital bed as my youngest child died.

I entered a dark place; a place that I pray that those that I love never see. I came out of that place to a new life where there was and continues to be light and goodness.

For reasons that I have never even tried to understand, I was compelled to search the scriptures. As I have discovered my own quiet place, my own peace and healing, I am even more sure that as a tiny child, I stood in the presence of God.

In the Bible, in I Kings, chapters 18 and 19, Elijah had just stood and with the help of God, defeated 450 priests of Baal, but he was still afraid and confused. An angel sent him to a high place and told him to wait, that the Lord was about to pass by. He went and stood on the mountain in a cave and there a mighty wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and rocks, but the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in the fire. Then The Bible says, “And after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””(I Kings 19:11-12 - The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha-Augmented Third Edition)

Some time later, I read Habakkuk, and again, found the silence. Habakkuk was a Hebrew prophet who is believed to have lived in the late part of the seventh century, BC. The first two chapters of Habakkuk could have been copied from this morning’s newspaper. He talks about cities and nations who destroy without mercy. He talks about those who ‘load yourselves with goods taken in Pledge’, and “Will not your own creditors suddenly rise and those who make you tremble wake up?” After telling his people what they are bringing on themselves, he just stops and says, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”(Habakkuk 2:20)

No sermon here today, just a little comment on the first time I knew that there was truly a God, in the silence of an ancient forest. The real joy has been learning to bring that silent place of awe to my own soul.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is There A God?

I am cheating a little here. This is my response to a question posed by a friend of mine who has a blog.

In the blog, there is a video by someone 'acting' Satan, who wants to know how anyone can believe in God.

My father was a structural engineer and an architect. I learned two faith lessons from him, although he never made any effort to teach me about anything spiritual.

If you were to deliver a load of wood, wire, pipes, glass, etc. to a building site, you would have a pile of building supplies. Before you can build a complete and sustainable building, you need an architect with a working plan of how to use those supplies.

The first thing the building would need would be a strong, unmovable foundation. You would need a foundation capable of supporting the structure to be erected.

A dear friend of mine, a brilliant man, is also an atheist. He says, “Why would any even half intelligent person believe in an invisible being who does magic tricks?”

Thinking of the Architect of the cosmos, the unmovable foundation of my faith; how could I not believe in God?

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Friday, January 29, 2010


Anyone who writes has a day when there are no words; when you can’t think of the first letter to put on a piece of paper (or your computer screen). On those dry days, I do one of several things.

1) I call a friend, and sometimes in the course of a conversation, something wakes my muse.
2) I read; usually my Bible, sometimes something completely secular, and a word hits the trigger of my creativity.
3) Finally, I put music in my CD player and just listen, forgetting all about writing until something happens as it did today.

I am listening to a one song CD by Tim McGraw. The song is called, “Live Like You Were Dying” and my ‘muse’ woke up and woke my fingers. These are the words to his song;

He said, “I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me,
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime,
And I spent most of the next day, looking at the x-rays
And talking ‘bout the options, talking ‘bout time sweet time.

And I asked him when it sunk in
That this might really be the real end.
“How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?” He said,

“I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing;
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”
And he said, “Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.”

He said, “I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all of a sudden going fishin’ wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.

“And I finally read the good book and I took a good long hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again…and then

I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.
And he said, “Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.”

Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity to think of what you did with it…
What you did with it…What did I do with it?

I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,
And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.
And he said, “Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.”

In the book that came with the CD, McGraw said it wasn’t about his dad who recently passed away, but about times that all of us get to a time when we think, “What if...”

I have had that chance two times.

The first time was in Intensive Care as I watched my daughter slip away. I didn’t know what to do or what to say, so I spent those few precious days saying, “I love you”, over and over. I learned to never let her brother leave the house, or hang up the phone without saying, “I love you.” I greet my grandchildren with “I love you”, and I say goodbye to them the same way. I learned that in life, the only really important thing we can give… is the knowledge that we have loved another person completely and unconditionally.

Like McGraw’s song, I even came to a place where “I gave forgiveness I’d been denying” and I learned something. When you really hate another person, the only person you truly harm is yourself. They go on with their life, and you are the person stuck in the darkness. On the day I said, “I forgive you,” my whole world changed. For the first time in almost five years, I looked at the sky and saw blue and not shades of gray. I looked in the mirror and didn’t even recognize the person who smiled back at me. I stepped out of hell that day into life again. The power of forgiveness can only be called Supernatural, and I believe is a gift from God Almighty.

The second time was when I was in Cardiac Intensive Care, but as a patient. I was very ill, and after all the tests were in, came to a place where I was ready for death. I made my peace with God, I knew that my soul was right in the eyes of Eternity, and then (like an earlier Blog), ‘God interrupted”.

I was at peace and ready to say goodbye to my son, when he came to see me before surgery and told me that his grandmother had just died an hour earlier. There was no way I could let him remember a day when he lost both his mom and his grandmother.

It seems almost funny now, but I remember offering a quick prayer, “Whoa Lord. I can’t come to You today. I need to come through this surgery alive.” As He has too many times, God listened and honored my prayer.

So I lived, and I did some things I wanted to do. I went to the West Virginia Writer’s Contest, twice, and won prizes both times. I started submitting my writing on a monthly basis and seeing some success. I made it a point to spend time with my son and with friends instead of isolating myself. I let go of the pain of my daughter’s death, and instead concentrated on the joy of my son’s life.

I went to his wedding and watched as he and a lovely young woman said their vows and entered into a new chapter of their lives. She already had two little girls, and I joyfully accepted the idea of becoming a grandma. Last year, a little girl with soft wisps of hair entered my life, and this year, a little boy with a head full of bright red hair, and I am grandma to both of them. God has brought treasures into my life, but as I listened to the song my Tim McGraw, I know I still haven’t lived life fully.

As I heard, “I went sky diving, and rocky mountain climbing, and did two point seven seconds on a bull names Fumanchu”, I was acutely aware that I still have things to do. I have a ‘bucket list’ that I haven’t even started yet. I smile today as I think, yep; it’s time to start living like I was dying.