Daisies

Daisies

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Waiting and watching


And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  ~ Anaïs Nin

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to garden.  To get my hands in the dirt and work the soil. I often enjoy the benefits of my labor with pretty posies in my front and back yard. 


I had a beautiful rose bush that I planted at my house right after I bought it and moved in about 13 year ago.  I hand picked it for its color and fragrance.  I wish I could convey to you how much I loved this rose bush. 


It was bright and so delightfully sweet smelling.  
Then, about 11 years after being planted and producing the most luscious blooms I’ve ever seen, it struggled to come back after a harsh winter.  A winter that brought with it several days of below zero temps and wind chill.  I babied it, but no matter what I did, the struggling small stems that came from the ground would turn black and die off.  One year after this, I faced the fact that it was gone and not coming back.  Again, anyone who knows me, knows that I am fiercely loyal and have a hard time giving up on anything……Alas.  I knew it was time.  I got out my shovel and spent loads of time digging up the huge root out of the ground and threw it away.  It was completely dead. 

Then, last year…..I saw small sprouts coming up from the ground.  I was SO EXCITED!   It appeared that it had regenerated itself, most likely, from a small piece of root I missed while digging it up.  I decided to show some TLC to the young one all summer long.  There were no blooms, but I was hopeful that it would only be a matter of time.  I was willing to wait for the next season.   I cut it back in the late fall, and was sure within a matter of months, I would have new rose buds.  

So…I waited, and I watched.  And sure enough, I saw lots of tightly wrapped rose buds beginning to form as the spring time wore on.  Then, I saw one beginning to pop.  I thought…hmmm…..that looks a little different than it did before.  So, I thought, I would wait to see what I had. 

I’ll tell you what I had!  I had a completely different rose bush!  I went from a beautiful coral tea rose that had layers and layers of folds…… to this dark pink bloom with very little to it.  


Let me tell you, I wasn’t exactly happy once the shock wore off.  I was very confused, and to be honest, a little upset.  It wasn’t the same.  It was completely different! 


Boy, God sure has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?  A friend said I might have had a hybrid rosebush and this might be one of the original grafted strands that it started out as.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that God has spoken to me through this bush.  It wasn’t burning like when He spoke to Moses long ago, but every time I come home or leave, I can’t help but see the bush.  And just like that bush, I most certainly am not the same person that I was long ago.  And I am willing to bet that neither are you! 

Think of Job.  He lost so much, WITH God’s approval.  He was tested in a mighty way.  He lost his children, his family, his animals, and with that, his riches……even his wife told him to curse God and die!  Regardless, he stated that the Lord had given….and that the Lord had taken away……blessed be HIS name!  (Job 1:21).  That takes incredible strength and I admire it.  Later on, his friends were trying to tell him that he had done something wrong and that God was cursing him because of it.  Job replied to them that “though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).  Again, wow!  It’s like Job completely had his rose bush of life uprooted and tossed into the flames.  And if you read the entire book, in the end, he is blessed for his faithfulness to God.  He was given a new ‘rose bush,’  more children, riches, etc.  

Sometimes all has to be stripped away to get back to our original, yet, totally different state.  It's not exactly going back to what we were, and it is certainly not returning to what we once had, but it is getting back to what you started out with, in a whole new way.  

He does the same with us.  We may lose those that we love.  Our bodies will betray us, and perhaps doctors will not be able to give us either the answers we want or any answers at all.  Our situations and circumstances of life will change.  In the process, we change. 

I don’t have all of the answers, but I know the One who does.  Just like chaff blows in the wind, leaving the precious wheat kernel behind, we need to let our chaff blow away as well.  Sometimes, we hold on too tightly to the things He wants us to let go of.  Things that are done….Things that will not or cannot change.  Things best left to blow away, instead of being grasped.    



He has given all to us, and He has the right to allow it to be taken away.  He is both the Giver and the Gift.  Let us not forget the greatest thing that He gave us was Himself.  We are given many good things in this life, but He needs to be our #1 treasure.  

I am confused as to why awful things happen, but the only simple explanation I can come up with is that we live in a fallen world where things will go horribly and tragically wrong at times.  This does not mean that He does not care.  In fact, you might wonder, how could God say that He loves you when horrible things happen?  It is true, though.  He loves you with all that He’s got, and that’s an awful lot!  He loves us enough to let us go through the refining process, through pain and confusion.  I believe that when we weep, He weeps too.  


In Luke 22:31, Jesus told His disciple that Satan had asked to sift the disciples just as wheat is sifted.  If you are not aware, there is a great thrashing that takes place in this process!  In this life, we can expect to be sifted……thrashed.......tested. 

I am positive that you all have had a thrashing of your own in your lives.  Just like plants that have been through a storm, our stems bend, break off, and we might grow a little crooked afterwards.  

Today, I'm reminded of one of my 'thrashings.' This day marks a 10 year anniversary of losing a special family that I was friends with.  I have a lot of anniversaries and days that I wish would not roll around each year because of different significant memories that come up with each of those days.  It’s learning to go on….to find a new normal.  To make peace with the fact that it will never be as it once was.  The fact that we are still here reminds me that we all have a purpose in our existence.  It's about choosing to let go, to move on in Hope.  Hope ~ not just for a meaningful existence with great joy ~ but also a hope that we will be made completely new again in His presence some day.  Let's look for joy in this season, while we patiently wait for the next.  What a day that will be! 



Sunday, January 17, 2016

First


God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him ~ John Piper

I love being outside.  Especially on days like these last few nights.  There seems to be a hallowed hush when it is cold.  Watching the pups sit and watch the sky, listening to the snow crunch under our feet as we quietly walk along, seeing my breath as I breathe in and out, and listening….to the silence.  I truly savor and soak in the sacredness of these moments.  In these bits of time, I ask my Creator the mysteries of life and thank Him for choosing to be with me despite my faults.

As I stood outside in the frosty stillness, my mind took me to this past weekend.  Yesterday, I got into my car and was praying, please let me and my car, Blue Belle, get to our destination in one piece.  Over night, the temperature had drastically dropped and the rain had turned to ice and the roads were not the best.  To me, it wasn’t just about arriving to my destination, but I was praying for a safe journey on the way. 

I couldn’t help but think how much this is like our lives.  My ultimate destination is to get to Heaven, to see Jesus, but He wants us to take care on our journey until we finally get there one day.   Yep, I’m going to mess up. I do every day!  Ugh.  How I WISH I could learn to keep my mouth shut more!  Think before I speak, be more patient with myself, with those around me…..take care of the one earthly journey that we are given.  Love more, because our days are growing shorter and shorter.  Getting to the destination is important, but how I get there, needs to be equally just as important. 

Living in this flesh takes a lot of work at times.  It would be wishful thinking to say that I always use the perfect words, have the patience of Mother Teresa, react flawlessly when there are ripples and bumps that form in my road of life.......The truth is, we will get frustrated with each other.  We won’t always be happy with our lives.  We will wish for better times.  Our bodies will turn on us and give aches and pains that doctors cannot always help or explain.  Others will disappoint us, and yes, we will fail others.  We’re human and that makes us completely capable of messing up royally.

Tonight as I sat outside, I asked for clarity to it all, once again, as I always do.  And once again, He brought me back to my center…….Jesus.  He absolutely, unequivocally, must be my first thought in all things. He has to be my First Love, my everything.  He is not something I need to work into my life, but something that must be at the center of all. He’s not a cliché or a good luck charm.  Having Him requires that we give up everything, and in exchange, gain everything by being in Him and of Him. 


When He is put first, I will be more careful with my words.  When He has first place, I will do my best to take care of myself.  When He is my all, I will care for those around me.  So many things fall into place when He becomes the foundation of all we do, say, think, and feel.  

It’s easy to forget these lessons in the midst of our days, so I’m asking Him to help me simplify the minutes I've been given.  Life gets crazy very quickly!  Words are said in impatient moments, mistakes are made...people are hurt.  In our quest to be heard, others are silenced......Let's slow down and take care on our journey.  We've been given one life to live.  And at times, it might feel like a nutty soap opera, but with Him, it will be much richer and fuller than we could have ever imagined.

Help me to realize what I already have in You, and help me to want no more than You.  Open our eyes.  We want to see you. First. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sometimes.....

Sometimes……


TO BE GRATEFUL for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.” 
 ~
Brennan Manning

There’s a saying going around:  Sometimes you win, and sometimes…..you learn.  Sometimes you feel like a superhero at the top of your game, swinging high in the trees.  However, sometimes…..you have fallen off your swing, and your knees are all skinned up and bleeding. 

Back ……..and forth…….

                                 Back ……....................and forth…….......

Back ……..

                                ……and…….

                                                                             forth…….

I look outside my front window and I see the leaves on my tree changing from one season to the next.  The leaves, once green, are now a yellowy brown hue and will soon fall to the ground and blow away.  There will be winter; and then in the spring, little buds will form and be blooming in no time. 

Life changes.  You change.  For better or worse, it happens.  What direction will we choose to take? Where will we go? Where will we allow ourselves to float to?  

I remember being the young 20 something…..I love people, and to hear about their stories….I love rejoicing when they rejoice, but inevitably, I would listen to the hard parts of their journey and try to be helpful and positive.  I would have something to say that would begin with something like, “well, at least…..”  Yes, there is a time and place for the ‘at least’ conversation, but sometimes…..I think we just move there a little too quickly.  We want to fix things fast and let people move on.  The need for instant gratification makes us want to always live ‘on the bright side’ of things and deny that sometimes we need to dwell in the gray a little bit longer than we would like to.  Just like babies have to learn how to crawl before they walk, in hard times, we need to learn to rock back and forth until we are strong enough to stand on our own.

The challenge for me and many of us is to learn how to be happy with those that are happy, and, when needed…..to learn how to sit with those in the dark and hold their hands, until they can feel and see the light again.  I’ve been on both sides.  I’ve sat in the dark with others, and I’ve had others sit in the dark with me.  Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that He is God.” How many of us are willing to do that?  Sticking with the process where we learn to say that it is well with our souls, even when things are not well in our lives….that is a difficult thing indeed, but oh so worth it.

I’ve learned that sometimes life just happens and you have to roll with it.  And when your wheel is stuck and you can’t roll anywhere, sometimes the best thing is not to look for the quick and easy way out, but to learn to let it rain, then feel the sun on your face, and grow where you are until you are strong enough to continue on the path.

 I stumbled across a very cool analogy that went with a chapel lesson I gave to my munchkins this week, and it really spoke to me.  It’s a Japanese term called “kintsukuroi,” which basically is to repair broken pottery with gold and silver lacquer and that it is more beautiful after it was broken because of how it was repaired.  



When something is broken, all is not lost.  Even though life will never be as it was, He can make something beautiful out of what we think is a crumbled state.  He can put us back together, fill in the cracks with His best gold and silver and make us even better than before. Trust Him with your broken shards…..let Him put you back together with His best.  You won’t be as before, but there are pieces and fragments and He can and will make you beautiful again.  Ask Him to help you be patient in the process.

Close your eyes.  Blink a few times…..take a deep breath, and appreciate the moment you are in.  Whatever that moment is, learn to say thanks that He is sharing it with you.  An old church song, "He Is Here," by Kirk Talley goes through my brain when I think of it ~ "He is here is hallelujah, He is here, amen, He is here, holy holy, I will bless His name again. He is here, listen closely, hear Him calling out your name. He is here, you can touch Him, you will never be the same."  I believe that with all my heart.  Whether you are winning, or learning those hard lessons, which in my opinion, is really winning, just keep swinging, keep pumping those legs, because “sometimes” does not mean “forever,” and this too will eventually pass.



Monday, June 1, 2015

No Turning Back






“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” 
 
Henri J.M. Nouwen

Tonight, I am traveling a road I wish I never had to go down.  This time 9 years ago in 2006, this is the last night a family took their last breaths on earth.  I didn’t find out that night, but was awakened by a friend early the next morning.  While I slept in peace, my friends passed from one life to another.  Another tragic reminder we live in a very fallen and imperfect world. 

Death.  It changes you.  You are never the same once you experience it.  I often like to share with others how my Shepherd kids have changed me for the better.  But when I come to these Shepherd friends’ story, it leaves me with an ache I know will go with me to the grave.  If you are like me, there are many aches we will carry with certain names attached.  Aches you might ‘forget’ about for awhile.  Until you hear a phrase, smell a certain scent, or have a certain date roll upon you and there you are again, just like it happened in that moment, even though it has been almost a decade away. 

So, is the answer to never open ourselves up to others again?  To cut ourselves off?  To put the walls up?  If we never love, then we never really have to experience the searing pain of loss when it comes upon us.  But is that how we were meant to live?  REALLY live?  Nope.  Not at all.  We were meant to love, to live fully, to laugh, to cry in all of life’s moments.  We are not journeying alone.  My Heavenly Father never said he would shield us from pain or the hurts of this life.  But He did promise we would not have to walk it alone.  I am thankful for that.  I am also thankful for those He sends to walk this earth with us.  I am glad I'm not alone in this.

Today, I share that Alberto, David….their family….taught me that it’s okay to look back….to remember.  But to also press on.  That old song plays in my head, “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.  No turning back.”  Let’s not turn back friends.  Let’s keep moving forward. 

For those of you in my Shepherd family that knew these dear friends, let’s remember the good things about them today,  and smile, and remember their LIFE and their JOY…….and choose to remember He has given us many more families to love.  Keep going. Don’t stop. Ever.



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In the Twinkling.....






“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn't know, I held opportunity.

~Hazel Lee

            “In the twinkling of an eye…..”  Aaahhhh…….I’ve held many moments in my hands and they have seemingly slipped by.  It is one thing to dwell on the past, however, it’s important to not let those who have gone on be forgotten.  Never forget.  It truly is more than just a common slogan.  Choosing to remember those that have traveled from one life to another.  Holding on.  Letting go.  We need to do a little of both……and both are equally difficult to do.

      I’m rambling all over the place tonight and choosing not to really edit this….so bear with me!  I have been known by my friends to be somewhat of a pack rat….a hoarder.  No, not to the extent I need to go on a television show for an intervention, but there is something about each thing that has come into my possession. They are linked to those who gave it to me, or used those things at one time.  A time that might have seemed simpler, yet really wasn’t. 

      I’ve said ‘so long’ to many friends and family along these 39 years of mine.  Instead of burying the memories of long ago, I let them linger in my every day life.  It is a fine line between continuously grieving and honoring one’s life.  A reminder of the brevity of life, this wondrous gift we’ve been given on this earth for only a certain amount of time. 

      I guess I am particularly nostalgic today because it is a day a small friend should have been celebrating his birthday.  He hasn’t had a birthday on this earth since 2005 because someone took his life in the summer of 2006.  Those who knew him, knew his smile and his zest for life…and FOOD!  He loved to eat!  His life goes on in another world, but I miss him being here with us.  It’s a reminder we need to love and cherish those around us as much as we can while we still have the opportunity.  Life is short.  And yet…..it never ends.  I’m thankful my heart is safe in my Creator’s hands.  I’m thankful He is patient as I struggle with the Why’s.  I’m thankful He is big enough to handle my sorrows.  I’m thankful this little guy is sitting in His lap tonight celebrating his birthday in Heaven. I’m thankful life goes on and I will be reunited with those that have passed on.  

       Christmas is a time that is often difficult to get through for many of us, including myself.  Celebrating my Lord’s birth gets wound and tangled in the web of the memories and the pain….pain in losing my sister many years ago, a time for others to remember their loved ones that are no longer able to grace us with their physical presence.  It’s ok to remember…but not to get stuck in the pain.  So, we move on….yet we hold on….and choose to remember and be inspired by those who made a difference in our lives.   And who’s made the biggest difference in my life?  Jesus.  He not only passed through this life, he died, and he rose again, never to die again.  That is the hope I live with.  He helps me go on.  He can help you too.  You never get ‘over’ these things.  But, with His help, He helps you move through them.  It’s a process.

       So, it’s not necessarily holding on to the past, but it is choosing to remember those that shared our lives for a mere breadth of a second.  Acknowledging they made an impact, and they were loved.  Let them still teach us today.  If you listen closely, you can still hear them.  Don’t shut them out, don’t pretend they never existed, just to shield yourself from the pain.  Open the flood gates, and if you cry, you cry.  It means you’re alive.  Embrace it.

“There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.” 
~ Brennan Manning


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Choking

Choking



As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others -- and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.” 
 Brennan Manning, Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

“To choke.”  Its definition includes words such as inability to breathe, airway becoming obstructed, movement becoming restricted or impossible….

  My mother did the Heimlich maneuver on me many years ago after she saw I was choking on a piece of a Twizzler.  That was a scary moment indeed! She and my sister, Leslie, were in the kitchen with their backs to me; we had all been laughing about something and then I started choking on the candy in my mouth.  I began to stomp my feet and bang on the table with my hands because I could not make any noise with my voice.  My mother turned around and quickly leapt into action and saved my life. 

Today, not only this story comes to mind when I hear the word, but daily as I walk through my many flower beds.  I keep an eye out for those pesky weeds that love to creep silently along the stems of the fragile flowers growing.  They grow by the dozens and are quite crafty and seem to know exactly which direction to grow.  I’ve seen a small weedy vine trail along for a few feet before reaching a certain bush or flower.  Then it grows up the stem and gently, at first, wraps itself around the stem until it grows all the way up around the flower at the top.  Over time, if not noticed, it will choke the life out of the flower and kill it altogether, then move on to the next victim.   I was looking at my Clematis recently and starting noticing that there was a slight difference in the color and shape of the leaves and vine growing there.  Besides the original plant, there was also a giant weed and it was choking the life out of the real plant!  It was very deceiving.  It was also very difficult to remove; difficult to tell the difference between the real plant and the weed.  I wondered at times if I was ripping part of my real Clematis away instead of the weed.  I remained hopeful as I tore most of it away and decided to start with just a few tendrils at the bottom that I knew were authentic.  I would rather start over fresh, instead of end up with a trellis of weeds later.   

I can’t help but see the spiritual parallels here.  There are many things creeping along and wrapping themselves around us, just waiting to control and choke the life out of us.  Those things can even be good things!  There has to be a balance sought in how we choose to spend our time.  I find myself continually in rebellion to the things that seem to keep me in chaos.  These are good things that I am doing, things that are helpful, things that benefit those around me, they are also things that could easily consume me and eventually choke the life out of me.  This is not the abundant life we were called to live.  There has to be courage to say “no”… even to good things.  Continually being in motion…..this cannot possibly benefit anyone in the long run.  There has to be time to examine our hearts, what we are doing, why we are doing it.  There is only one me, there is only one life on this Earth that I have been given.

Ephesians 5:15-17New International Version (NIV)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Oh how I wish I could say I have perfected this!  But I’m going to be real with you.  I struggle with finding balance.  I struggle with always wanting to finish everything perfectly, getting all the ducks lined up, getting the details straight.  Not just for the sake of the work itself, I see the purpose behind it.  I care deeply about what I do.  I also miss out on other things because I get wrapped up so much in the details.  I’ve been praying more on this subject.  Or should I say, He’s been bringing it more to my attention.  When I get super busy, I lose out on the relationships around me, and frankly, I lose out on the relationship that my Father longs to have with me.  No one wins here.  Not one.  I get tired, I get cranky, I start looking at things in the wrong way, getting too critical, etc etc etc.  The list goes on and on.  Then when my guard is down, boom, something happens, and the negative self talk begins.  Instead of knowing and believing who I am in Christ, I am confused and tired.  Has this happened to anyone else?  I need to keep working for my Lord, yes, but I also need to not forget that I want to know Him personally, and He wants to know me too. 

 Sometimes it takes stomping feet and banging on tables to get our attention, to bring us back to where we need to be. Weeds will silently climb around our lives and begin to get a grip on us and before we know it, we feel paralyzed and out of breath.  It will be difficult to tell who you really are in Christ.   The imposter is very eloquent in his ways, in deceiving you; making us feel inadequate, useless, worn.  You begin to lose just pieces of yourself at first, then yourself entirely.  Just as my Mom quickly moved to action, our Abba is quick to take action when we ask for His help. He furiously longs for us to seek Him first, talk to Him first before we allow the deluge of details to take over in each of our days. 

Yes, we are to do good while we can do it.  Yes, we are called to love our neighbors.  Yes, we are called to be servants to our fellow human beings, as well as take care of our animals around us.  But we also are called to be in communion with our First Love, our Creator, our Savior. 

So, yes.  I rebel the whirl wind that swirls around me.  I love what I do, I love my community, but I must love my Lord first and take time to savor my time with Him, then I can serve those around me even better.

There will always be something out there that needs to be done.  Someday, I will stand in front of the One who made me and account for my time.  I pray that it will show well served.  I also pray that the person standing in front of me will not be a Beautiful Stranger, but Someone I have been cultivating a relationship with my entire life. Someone that says, “Welcome Home,” instead of “I don’t know who you are.”  I want to be consumed by Him first.  Everything else second.  It just makes sense.  It moves me from the thought of just doing good things, to more of who Christ is transforming me to be.  It is a much more authentic way of being. 


So today, I am not advocating selfishness, but I am advocating self care.  Do a spiritual check.  You are the only one who can do it for you.  Are you choking?  Do you feel like you can’t breathe?  Are you consumed with the things going on around you….even good things?  Take time to find some balance.  Reconnect with the One who has your personal best at heart.  Proclaim the Light, live in the Light.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Have We Become?

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ~ Thomas Merton

I was awake early this morning with many tasks to complete.  I received a text from a new friend concerned because she had heard there had been a shooting with fatalities on my street.  I had not heard of this.  I was outside reading her text; my street and neighborhood were quiet, and the only action I had seen were buses traveling to pick up children who were anxious for school to be over, and adults who were heading to work.  As for me, I had been kneeling quietly at my tree in my front yard pulling weeds away that had overgrown my flowers.  As I pulled the tattered gloves off of my hands, I noticed there were three fingers that were covered and embedded in mud.  Yep, you guessed it.  There were three holes I had noticed earlier in the fingers of the garments.  I quickly checked the text from my friend and then looked up a local news station on my phone as I sat on the step outside.  I pulled up the story she was referring to and shook my head.  It wasn't even 9 AM and yet more lives lost in our city due to more violence.  I quickly responded to her text and assured her that the shooting was not on my block, but several blocks north of me, so far up that I could not see or hear any of the emergency personnel working.  I thanked her for caring enough to check on me and she responded by saying she felt bad for starting my day off with negativity.  I could only respond that my day started off early with pup kisses and that now I knew what God wanted me to pray for that day.  She responded back with a prayer request for her.  What a privilege for someone I barely know to ask me to pray for them! 

How dismal we can be sometimes in our outlook. Just like those three fingers that were muddied from the holes in my glove, sometimes we get holes in our souls.  We allow the negativity to seep in and muddy us on the inside, tainting our vision and our view.  Instead, we should allow it to point us back to our Father for direction.  Yep, still working on this one too….big time!

I loved listening to the music of DC Talk growing up.  Ok, who am I fooling?  I still love it, even though those artists have since split and formed other groups of their own.  They had a song called, “What Have We Become?”  I made the mistake of looking at the Facebook comments under the article about the murders this morning, and I found myself asking that same question.  People are so quick to judge and blame and that is a HUGE source of irritation to me.  There is definitely a time and place to evaluate and break things down, so we can improve our processes in different areas, but we can go too far in the fault finding.  OK, my soapbox speech for the day is….drum roll please……. The answers do not lie solely in gun control debates, or in pointing fingers of city leaders not doing enough, or even in the seemingly crime ridden areas of our city.  While conversations about these topics are all good and do need to be discussed, we need to look closer, we need to look deeper…..not at just what is happening around us and how others are responding to it…….but taking a good look at ourselves.  Why do we always expect someone else to be the problem solvers in our society?  

Where do we place our hope?  Instead of pointing fingers and expecting others to solve our problems, why can't the change start with us….one person at a time?  What kind of neighbor are we?  Are we invested in our fellow human beings?  A great example is last night when my car failed to start several times at a park with my pups.  A few young men stopped to help me out (yes, I do realize how old I sound in wording it like that), and didn't leave until friends had arrived to help me out.  I gave them a huge thanks.  It planted a tiny hope that kindness still existed among strangers. 

It seems simple, really, but we live in a day where we are so individualized, that we hardly stop to speak to other people any more….use common courtesy with strangers, like please and thank you.  I stayed outside intentionally this morning to say good morning to the men who picked up my trash and hauled it away.  I also intentionally told them thank you and that I hoped their day was starting off right.  You know what they told me?  They said it already had because someone went out of their way to thank them.  One person at a time….you never know the difference you can make in someone’s day by stopping and being intentional with them. 

        Of course, I am not asking people to go out and do things outside of the realm of safety with people we do not know…..but will say that I dare you today to go out of your way for someone.  I have the hope of Christ in me.  Isn't it about time that others noticed?  Do you have that same hope?  If they can't see the difference in me, then I am a very poor ambassador indeed for the First Love of my life.  It’s time to stop expecting everyone else to do it all for us.  Time to step it up….time to back up our words with action.  If we truly love our Lord, then we are called to love our neighbors too.  ALL of them.  All of the time.  Nope, I’ve not perfected it either, I’ve got a long ways to go, but that doesn't mean I should just sit back and cast blame when things go wrong in my city and community.  It means, where have we gone wrong?  What have we become?  What does God want us to become?  What will it take for us to get there?  Take the first step, do something today, even if it’s giving a smile, a handshake, a thanks, a prayer.  We’ve got our work cut out for us.

We're called to be salt and light by the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I'll leave you with HIS words today.  Let yourself be loved today by the Giver of Life....then pass it on.  (I added the bold and caps for emphasis): 

13 YOU ARE the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 YOU ARE the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-16