Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wake up, Mr. Harris!

Elyce Feliz, photo
"I'm glad you stopped by," the man said, attempting a welcoming smile. "I didn't want to get out of bed this morning."

Shuffling over to the stove, he put the kettle on for some tea. I moved aside old mail and papers to place a vase of fresh lilacs on his table. His skin was pale, dry and translucent. The raggedy sweatshirt emphasized his worn, stooped shoulders. 

We sat on a bench under his mulberry tree and he told me his troubles with sleeping, depression and boredom with life. The fresh air was a treat after the stale odors of the house.

I had suggested on my last visit that he go to church and out to a restaurant during the weekend. 

"I decided to have a quiet weekend," he explained.  "It was a bad decision. I got pretty down and disappointed in myself. It doesn't take a whole weekend to rest up from doing nothing. I'll go out next weekend and find something interesting to do."

"Next weekend?" I objected. "Do something today."

He chuckled reluctantly. "Like what?"

Our neighborhood was waking up around us. We were entertained by children playing at the bus stop. Birdsong filled the air in the tree above us and squirrels were scampering up and down the trees. The sun was beginning to shine and the gray clouds were rolling away.

"Wake up, Mr. Harris," I urged as he followed me back into the kitchen. "God gave you today for a reason. Don't you want to find out what it is?"

I opened his windows to let fresh spring breezes waft in while he put on his walking shoes and combed his hair.

Walking through the neighborhood, he started a grocery list. He had once enjoyed cooking and would make a favorite recipe. "Oh, and I will pick up some of that newfangled almond milk I saw advertised. Craziest thing I ever heard. Must come from nutty cows," he laughed.

His dusty bread machine came off the shelf in his garage. A list of books he might enjoy from the library was jotted down on a note pad. He debated between Oreos and Fig Newtons, then decided he would bake his own cookies."

As I was leaving, he saluted me with his bottle of water and zipped up the front steps to "shower, shave and do a bit of spiffing". 

I know 'tis but a Dream, yet feel more anguish
Than if 'twere Truth. It has often been so:
Must I die under it?  Is no one near?
Will no one hear these stifled groans and wake me?
           ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Dandelion for Johnathan

"Oh, what a bright, cheery flower!" Johnathan thinks as he toddles across the yard. "I think I will pick it up and hold it."

His little legs squat and he reaches for a dandelion. The dandelion resists. Pudgy awkward fingers struggle again to grasp it, to pull harder. Still the dandelion remains firmly planted. He tries again and again with no success.

Our morning journey zigzags through dandelions and honeysuckle, over the hills and valleys of the yard.  He discovers rocks to carry, bugs to follow, sticks to swing and lilacs to smell. 

He follows a dried leaf blowing through the air. When the merry little breezes allow it to fall to the ground, Johnathan picks it up. It is a lesser prize, but at least it's something. 

Small arms lift the dried leaf toward the heavens. He babbles words up into the sky that I don't understand, but surely he is discussing his leaf with The Creator.

He drops the dried leaf and plops down among the golden dandelions. He slowly reaches toward a bright, golden dandelion and plucks it from the ground. 

Johnathan grins and lifts his treasure to the sky so God can see it. Then he stands up and looks at me. He smiles sweetly and gives away his treasure to me. 

There is a God who sees you and He is not silent.

Ask. And it will be given to you. Seek. And you will find. Knock. And the door will be opened for you. 

See also Following Nathanael, about Johnathan's big brother

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sarah's Freedom

Photo by Fernando Silvera
"Guilt is not a feeling. You are guilty or you are not guilty. Either way you can live a grace-filled life."

I scattered the word seeds onto the hard fallow ground of the women prisoners.

The Holy Spirit had these women in the palm of His hand and they were listening with a depth of hope I had seldom witnessed in my years of teaching.

Tears of hope began to soak wearied faces as I began to explain. "If you are guilty then you can be forgiven," I told them softly.  "If you are not guilty then you can stop beating yourself up."

Guilt shackles us whether we dwell in a cottage, an apartment or a prison. For years, even decades, many Christian women suffer under a burden of sin already forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. Their prison doors have been unlocked. Freedom from guilt has been bought by the redeeming blood of Christ's sacrifice.

Sarah is leaving prison this morning. She has been given her freedom because her debt has been paid. It is a freedom that has come after unimaginable sacrifice. She carries with her the scars of guilt for her wrong deeds as well as the scars of wrong deeds done to her.

Sarah could choose to remain shackled in chains even though she has been offered freedom. But, why would she do that?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Happy Kitchen

My preschooler left the house one morning with his backpack, ran around the yard, then knocked on the front door. When I opened it, he grinned and handed me a bouquet of our recently planted tulips. He had decided a bouquet would "cheer me up and make the kitchen happy".

I hadn't realized we needed cheering up that ordinary morning. Breakfast preparations were started and the laundry was sloshing in the washer. Several items were already checked off my to-do list. I thought we were doing fine.

We juggle a dozen sticks of fire, plug a hundred dike holes and find ourselves so easily pulled from project to project, moment to moment. But, a child does not notice productivity. A child noticed that when I wasn't sparkling on an ordinary day, neither was the kitchen.

Through practice one learns to maintain a clean sink, uncluttered floors and sparkling counter tops. Pretty flowers or interesting rocks can grace even the most humble of tables. A diligent, disciplined woman who keeps watch over her home learns good stewardship of her time, energy and resources.

But cleaning up messes is one of the trade-offs for loving your family and celebrating life. Throw in a side order of ministries, career and soccer, and a tidy kitchen can be cluttered repeatedly by nightfall.

A clean kitchen is not the goal. God calls us to continually have a gladsome heart, to be a woman filled with praises, walking in joy regardless of sleepless nights, broken hearts and work stresses.

That table with fresh flowers, fresh strawberries and fresh muffins?  That's just one of the surprises God tucks into the corners of ordinary days to keep a busy mom going.

Train yourself for the purpose of godliness. Pursue a peaceful home. Dance joyfully through chaos. Hug those precious children. Keep planting your tulips.

The heart of your home is not your kitchen, it's you.

See also Making of a Woman