Thursday, November 14, 2019

What Does Jesus Look Like?

When my children were growing up I used to sometimes sit with them and watch Mr. Rogers.While many were making fun of this man because of his low key and simple manner I found that many times he was speaking to my inner child. His words were healing. 

I watched (alone) his show talking about divorce and sobbed finally allowing the long gone four year old me to feel the weight of my father leaving. 

This man never spoke with words about God but he carried with him always the fragrance of Christ. 

When my oldest daughter Gretchen at two years old started experiencing very frightening nightmares about a vicious dog.These dreams continued for three nights with her waking with blood curtailing screams. On the 4th night we included prayers before bed asking God to help her to sleep peacefully. And she did. But a few nights later she tiptoed into my room and announced that she had another dream. My spirit sank until she said "No. It was good. This time Jesus came and He let me pet the scary dog." Then she returned to her bed and went back to sleep. The next morning we talked more about her dream. I asked her "What did Jesus look like?" and without missing a beat she said "He looked like Mr. Rogers." 

Let us all live lives of kindness that even a two year old will see Jesus in us. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thirty Days of Gratitude- Shane

This morning when I woke up and looked on my weather app  to see that the temperature was a chilly 46 degrees and sunny. My first thought was "What a great running day! I wish I had signed up for the half marathon today!" I still surprise myself with these crazy thoughts.
I knew right away that I wanted to post on Face Book a 30 days of gratitude that I was thankful to be able to run.
As the day continued that thought kind of evolved and grew and took on a completely new element. I began to think about the people that I had connected with because of the running and the sense of belonging and purpose and understanding that I now had with these people.and how grateful I am for them.
 I think of my daughter Gretchen and the first time that she and her running partner Brandi ran ten miles. It blew my mind that that was even a thing. Like "Who runs ten miles??" And then my other daughter Melody ran a marathon. That's like a crazy long way to run! But she had. It really was a thing.
I thought of Calavina and how I ran my first 5K with her. I thought of my running partner Pat and all the miles and stories we have shared.
I thought of my pastor Frank running that first time on a dare. Barefoot. In the dark. Running that mile even faster than Brandi because he is competitive and was not going to let his sister beat him.
I thought of Sarah and her infamous speed work that we all dreaded. Sarah always with a smile and positive words of encouragement.
Then I thought of Shane. When I started running at age 57 he owed and operated the local running store. Of course I was not a 'real runner'. But I did know that maybe I should trade in my sandals for actual running shoes. Shane did not make me feel like a 'lesser than' because I was old or out of shape or slow. He hosted group runs each week that allowed me to spend time with lots of runners.
I was slowly be melded into this community or subculture of people.
Runners have their own lingo, their own costume and customs . They talk about things that are generally not discussed with others without any shyness or hesitation.  ("Did you poop this morning?"is not an unusual questions among runners espically on a race day.) But I digress....
This is really about a post about gratitude. This is a post to say that I am grateful for Shane Miles.
He has taught we a lot about running and given me the courage to actually say that I am a runner. He has also demonstrated to me and to the world that running is not always about running only.  Running is about having the courage, the fortitude, the strength and the guts to keep on going even when everything inside you says  you can't continue.
Shane is a fast runner. Stage four colon cancer has slowed him down. Ever time Shane goes for a run his example is telling me "Don't be afraid to do hard things." I have watched as this disease has progressed . Shane has run with chemo dripping in his veins. He was run with a colostomy bag. He has run with physical conditions that would take most people out of the race. In fact...they never would have signed up.
Shane has been open and candid about his struggles with this disease. He has not allowed a shroud of secrecy give more power to the cancer.
Life is about running the race or dropping out of the race. It is about allowing or not allowing difficulties to overtake us.
When you run a race each mile has it's own personality. Elevation, temperature, humility, dew point and  hydration are all factors in the run. But the one thing that will ruin a run every single time is mindset. If you say" I can't." Then you can't. If you say "This is too hard." Then it will be too hard. If you say " I could never do that." Then you never will.
Shane has to choose every signal day how he will manage the new day. I too need to decide how I will live my life today. Will I walk when I can not run? Will I crawl when I can not walk? Will I push on through the hard miles or will I choose to quit.

Thank you Shane for the lessons I am learning  as I watch you run.
I continue to pray for you as you navigate  this difficult season.Thank you for inspiring us all. And teaching is that to be a runner is not about what you do but about who you are.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Do Not Fret

October 10, 2019

Do Not Fret

As I sit on my front porch and write this, I am reminded of the Bible verse that says that the birds of the field do not worry because God has supplied all they need.
They do not worry. But they do work. They cannot sit on a branch and expect food to come to them. They have times of plenty when the feeder is full or the summer seeds abound but also times of scarcity. When the snow falls. When ice forms on the surface of the water. Much more work and energy are required to sustain them during these times.
Birds can be fearful of something new. When I hold out my hand offering the choice seeds it will take time for them to know that I will not harm them. After just one bird learns to trust my hand others will follow knowing that this choice seed is so easily available.
At the same time, I am so encouraged and even joyful when these tender creatures approach me. I want so much for them to come near to me and finally to be comfortable in my presence. I know I can not nor would I want to force this.
So it is with our Father. He holds out His hand with the choicest of blessings. He will not force us to come and eat from His hand. He will delight in us coming near. He will be joyful in sitting with us and feeding us the very thing we desire and need.
He will continue to extend His hand to us patiently waiting for us to abandon fear and embrace trust.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to my hometown of Southampton, NY. While   there I walked in a wild life park with my niece Trina. She brought with her the ‘choice’ bird seed and as we walked the birds came and ate from our upturned palms. Since coming home, I have spent a good deal of time on my front porch with the choice seed in my hand reached out softly beckoning the chickadees to come. They chirp to me and hop on near by branches but they are not yet ready to fully trust me. But I will continue to offer.
While I sit, I also recognize that at the same time I am desiring these birds to come that in that time I am also coming closer to my Father. I am coming to eat from His hand. I am delighting in the choicest of blessings and He is delighting in me coming to Him.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Nearly a decade ago I began writing this blog. As with many things in my life I was strong for a while but then slowly, carelessly I gave in to my undisciplined life and rarely thought about the writings I penned over the years.
The other day one of blog posts showed up in my Face Book time line. I went back to the post and realized that the words I had written where strangely familiar and at the same time as if I were reading them for the first time. I also realized that when I write I am writing to find some truths or answers or insights for my own understanding. I write to sort out out my thoughts, my fears, my doubts and to give voice to my gratitude. My blogs stand as a memorial to things that God has brought me through. I write so I don't forget.
So tonight I set forth my plan. I will take the time to be quite enough to write. I will write for me. I will also write for my grandchildren. I'm excited to be approaching another birthday...this will give me more purpose.
Grandmother's Heartbeat I look forward to spending time with you.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Fragrance of Christ

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

I have many thoughts about these verses. I see a much bigger picture than what is shared in this short passage. It could read "Days before Jesus was crucified Jesus came to Bethany. " Or "While Jesus was visiting with the once dead now alive Lazarus..." Really, for those of us who have been Christians for any length of time it is so easy to quickly read familiar passages and not absorb the impact of what they say. For me the thing I keep coming back to it the fragrance. " and the house was filled with the fragrance".

I am a big user or essential oils, I use them for  nontoxic house cleaning. I use them in my shampoo and I diffuse the air. I use them to replace most commercial personal products. I use them in toothpaste and to ward off germs and bugs and to treat  sore muscles, head aches, head lice and sleeplessness. I have some oils of the more common variety that while still very beneficial such as lemon or lavender.   I have some that are much more valuable such as frankincense and myrrh.  Some have sweet aromas and some have very woody or even pungent fragrances. All of this oil come from the essential or life blood part of the plant. The oils I use are without any syntactic additives making them honest and real, a true representation of the plant from which they were harvested. (Hear me out. This is not a sales pitch.)

One thing is certain. People I encounter know I am an essential oil person. I do talk about oils for certain but even more it's the fragrances talk for themselves. Some people are attracted to the fragrances some are offended or  even repelled. Either way there is always some reaction. 
People at church will hug me and comment on the oil. Many times they will walk into a room for come down the hall and comment that they knew I was near by the fragrance. Because it is so part of my regular life I don't even notice the smell. Often, very often, people will come to me and ask questions about the oils and I am always happy to share with them. Some will tell me they hate patchouli or they love patchouli. Some will accept without reservation the benefits of the oils and some will utterly reject the concept as fad or irreverent.

Can you see where I am going with this?

When Mary anointed Jesus with oil the whole room was filled with the scent. Jesus Himself carried the scent on His body. When He walked through the streets people could smell the sweet aroma. Jesus Himself stated that this was the anointing of His body for burial. The fragrance of His anointing stayed with Him. He is referred to as "the anointed One". 
But here is what I am really 'chewing on': Mary. The sister of Lazarus. When she wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair she carried in her body his anointing. She carried with her the very precious fragrance of Jesus. When she walked through the crowds they could would know that she had been with Him. She would be a reminder to them of Him. 
So I'm thinking ever deeper here. Essential oils are very powerful and are actually rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. So also the anointing of Jesus is not a surface thing only. This anointing of Christ goes beyond our minds and intellect and becomes in essence the very life blood that keeps us alive and pumps our very hearts. 
Just as there are cheap oils that have synthetic additives so there are 'cheap' counterfeits in the holy anointing world. There are teachings that leave out the life blood that are void of the Holy and living Spirit of God. Teaching that may smell pleasant but have no power to heal. There are teachings that start our smelling sweet and turn rancid in time. Sunday, some days believers are not authentic.  The Word says "You will know them by their fruit." Without the life blood there is no life. There is no fruit.
If we are to carry the fragrance of Christ it must be the costly expensive fragrance. The fragrance of the arrest, the beating, the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus. To carry His anointing we must be willing to live as He did. As the oil was poured out so must we be poured out. 
It's expensive.
 Some people will reject it.
Some people will be repulsed by it.
Like Judas some will think the cost is too high.
It's not about smelling good.
It's about honoring Jesus. 
It's about carrying His fragrance. It's about others knowing as soon as they walk in the room they they are with someone who has been in the presence of Jesus.
I want to carry that fragrance. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Dance Teacher (and the Lesser)

When the children start  back to school it seems to always be a time of reflection for me. For most people I think. We remember shopping for new shoes and buying a lunch box. We remember the boxes of 8 brand new crayola crayons and the three ring binders.(They were only blue then.) There was a little hint of autumn coming in as we packed away our lazy summer days. There was always the excitement about meeting your new teacher and the hope that she would like you. For me there was also the fear. The fear that came knowing that I was a 'Lesser'.
Today it was like the perfect storm. Everything lined up in my day in such a way that all at once I was back there. Earlier today, Shane, the owner of the local running store wrote a post about runners and how they perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others. This is in part his post (Shane Miles, Roanoke Island Running Company):
...Secondly! When you are proclaiming how much you don't look like a runner.. It's incredibly insulting to those who ARE your size and even bigger that have made a decision to get healthy and turn their life around. There are men and woman your exact size that beat the streets everyday and yes they ARE runners and to me they look like runners too! All you need to do is stand at the finish line of a marathon to realize just how much of a runner you DO look like as all shapes and sizes of athletes cross the finish line, without excuse of what they they Do or DO NOT look like, to accomplish something great! I've personally been passed, on more than one occasion, by women old enough to be my grandmother... at mile 23, okay! That's called "Dropping the excuses and going after goals" despite any weight, age or other self doubting self talk! So, I really do not care if you run or not, that's your choice.. But PLEASE.. Stop going around telling people you do not "look" like a runner!

It zapped me.I am that runner who doesn't feel they look (or run) like a runner.

The next event in my perfect storm was when my dear friend a public school teacher shared with me how she had to write up a child in school today because they were not wearing the proper shirt for dress code in her school.

My final 'blow' came in teaching the children in my Kidz Source class the 139th Psalm. 

These three things lined up on the same day when there was already nostalgia playing in messed with my emotions pretty badly.

When Shane wrote his post I thought of the many times I have criticized myself about my running. On one hand I am pretty excited that I can run. On the other hand I find myself daily comparing myself to 'real runners'. You know..the ones that look pretty even when they sweat. The ones that can run less than 10 minute miles who get up at 0 dark thirty and never miss a session. The ones who run 50 miles and run big hills. You know the 'real' runners. And they always have great legs.
As a child the most athletic thing I ever did was play tag in the backyard with my cousins. I was not even very good at jump rope. I was pigeon toed and somewhat knock keened. I had to wear special shoes.I was teased by the other children who got to wear saddle shoes with their school uniform while I wore big clunky orthopedic shoes. I was not a runner. I was always 'less' good at any type of physical activities than my peers. I was a I was less fast, less coordinated, less talented. I was "lesser" then and it carried over to today 50 years later when I still consider myself less of a runner than my peers. That in spite of the fact that I am nearly 60 and have run more than 10 miles in one session and run 3-7 miles three to four times a week.  Shane's words were encouraging and also challenging  to me. 

When my teacher friend spoke of her student instantly I was back in Catholic school wearing those orthopedic shoes. The principle of the school pulled me out of line on the way to a whole school assembly and in front of everyone pointed out my non-regulation, non-uniform shoes. Again I was 'the lesser'. She continued to have me turn around in front of her as she inspected the rest of me and found a small L shaped tear in the back of my green plaid hand-me-down uniform.I hung my head in shame. In knew I was different..and not quite as good as my peers.  I was the 'lesser' because I had less money than my peers who wore new uniforms with no rips or tears. Tonight  I had to wonder did my friend's student feel like a 'lesser'. It moved me to tears.

I lived my life knowing I was less. Honestly I did not expect more. I was less smart, less athletic, less rich, less educated, less pretty I knew my place and while I may have sometimes been embarrassed by it I accepted that I really couldn't expect any better. I still find that I make excuses for other people when they treat me like a 'lesser'. I don't generally get angry.I rather expect it.

The third event in my perfect storm  was the thing that wrecked me.I was  teaching the children Psalm 139. You know the one." I thank you Lord that  I am wonderfully and fearfully made."  "You knew me when you knitted me together in my mother's womb." So here I am telling these children about the amazing love that God has for them. I am telling them that God choose for each of them to be exactly as they are. I am telling them that God does not make junk and they need to never compare themselves in their strength or weakness to anyone else. And as I am telling them this God is speaking to me. God is telling me that I never was a 'lesser'. He is telling me that I always was enough. He is telling me that I am enough.He is telling me that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. And He reminded me of the ballet teacher.

I was maybe second grade. She taught ballet at the Watermill Community House. I think it was Saturday afternoons. She had us line up and one by one move the length of the shinny wooden floor to show off our beautiful ballet moves. It wasn't until many years later that I realized that she made up a move (and had the whole class do it) for my sake. Pointing my feet outward was difficult So she had all the other little girls point their toes inward (pigeon toed)  and walk the length of the floor. I did it the very best and she praised me highly For that one moment I was no longer a 'lesser'. For that one moment I was just as good if not a little better than my peers. That one moment has stuck with me for over fifty years. 

I write tonight to help me sort out some of this myself but also to encourage you to be that ballet teacher.To encourage me to be that ballet teacher. 'Lessers" are all around us.  They might look like runners (or not). They might look like students with the wrong color shirt. They might be that kid with the clunky shoes or the hand me down clothes.They might be that kid who acts out or that runner who can't call herself a runner.  (It might be you!) But each of us has the power to touch the heart of a child who needs to know that they are in fact "Wonderfully and fearfully made." Each of us need to be reminded that "God does not make junk." Jesus tells us "Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me." The least of these..the lessers.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Resurrection Day

No doubt you have heard the story of the resurrection of Jesus countless times. In Sunday School, in Children's church, in Bible Study and from the countless pulpits that preach the sermon year after year as Christian's gather to celebrate what we have come in our culture to call Easter. This blog is not about that day. This is about the day when Jesus came alive to me. I felt prompted to write this to honor those who seemingly unknowingly but very naturally changed the course of my life as a child. I say seemingly unknowingly because we were not in a classroom or in a church but what they shared came during normal activities and they just shared what was part of who they were. 

I was raised in the Catholic church and attended a Catholic school. We went through all the classes and learned to parrot the correct answers to any given question. Then it was time for the sacraments. Of course we had all been baptized as infants. That was the first sacrament. The second was Holy Confession. The mystery of that small dimly lit confessional box caused awe and fear in this seven year old girl. I admit now that many (most) times that I visited that box and shared my 'sins' with the priest I made them up. The hard part was trying to get just the right mix of sins as to not appear to self righteous and not being so bad I would be called out. But it was in relation to my First Confession that a spark of resurrection life was quickened in me.

It was a typical Sunday afternoon. We were having dinner at Grandma Muller's house. Grandpa was in the living room with the rest of the family as Grandma and I finished cleaning up in the kitchen. She was washing the dishes and I was drying. She was talking about my upcoming confession and asked me if I could say the Act of Contrition. I said I could and she asked me to say it.
"Oh my God I am heartly sorry for having offended thee. And I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because they have offended thee my God who are all worthy and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to confess my sins do penance  and to amend my life. Amen" 
Grandma was very impressed and then asked something that no one had ever asked before. "Do you know what that means?". Sadly with all the instruction I had received I had no idea. So Grandma took that prayer and line by line explained what true confession meant. In that conversation was born in me the desire to please God with more than my words.

Fast forward. I am about ten. I am in the backseat of Aunt Bam's car. My mother's youngest sister often took me under her wing and included me in family activities while my mom worked. She was the scary aunt because she was strict but she was also the loving and fun aunt. (Actually....I think perhaps I am just like her in many ways :) . I think  my cousins Karen and Steven were in the car too. We were passing the Water Mill windmill headed east on Sunrise Highway. Like the death of JFK and the first man in orbit, the death of John Lennon and the attack on 9/11 this moment is forever etched in my memory. 
I am not sure how it came up but Aunt Bam said that Jesus would one day return to earth. This was mind blowing to me! I remember the excitement I felt in hearing this new thing! I hung on every word as she explained the rapture and the 1000 year reign of Christ. This was truly the day that Jesus came alive to me. 

Years would pass before I fully embraced Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But  both Grandma Muller and Aunt Bam were the first people who put flesh on Jesus for me in a way that I could carry Him with with for the rest of my life. 

While I do not practice Catholicism I do embrace some of the early teaching at my grandmother's side. I want to daily confess to my Jesus that I am sorry for having offended Him. I now hold to the teaching that I do not have to dread hell for myself because Jesus has once for all paid the penalty for my sin. I do not go to a priest but to Jesus the High Priest. 

And more now than ever I look forward to the return of Jesus. That longing that was born in me through the words of my aunt has only intensified. I see how the world is changing. I read in The Word of God to expect these things. I expect the state of the world to continue to grow worse. I am not a 'dooms day' person. I am a 'second coming' day person. I know now that  when people try to remove the Christian faith from all public venues that this is part of it. Jesus told us this would happen. Our faith will grow because of this. We are not being persecuted (yet) in the United States for our faith. We are being shaken awake by those who do not yet know the real live Jesus. Our faith is being tested.Faith that cant be tested is faith that cant be trusted. (-Greg Laurie)  We must live for Him now and be prepared to die for Him later should it come to that. But unless we have those 'resurrection' moments in our live Jesus will only be words in a book and lessons we need to memorize. 

I am writing this to encourage you if you are a "Grandma Muller" or an "Aunt Bam". Live your life in a way that other around you will be able to look back and pin point the moment that Jesus came alive to them. Take captive every opportunity to stir into flame the moments you are given. 
If you need  a 'resurrection' moment in your life..I challenge  you to allow a simple childlike faith to be born in your heart that  you may truly, honestly, meekly say "God show me." He will. He will send you a "Grandma Muller" or perhaps a "Aunt Bam". He is faithful. He will do it. Don't try to grasp it with your mind. Embrace Him with your heart.