Belongings · Celine Dion · Christian · Contentment · Generosity · Meditation · Musings · Wants/Needs

II. The Shepherd and WiFi – A Meditation on Psalm 23 (v. 1b)

I Shall Not Want –  Of Eunice and Celine.

(To lack nothing. To have everything one needs.)

I have a million-dollar wardrobe. It is a ridiculous collection of almost everything that I’ve laid my eyes on earth that’s taken my breath away. It’s not tons and tons. But it’s quite a bit (eyes averted…). It’s almost embarrassing. Almost.

I have clothes, and shoes, and jewelry that make my heart dance for joy.  In my defense, I grew up with 5 women in the house and had thousands of very fashion-conscious relatives and neighbors. We loved dressing up. We all loved it with all our hearts. I  blogged about that in this post a couple of years ago https://tribalminded.com/2017/04/11/the-unravelling/.

“Do you know what you’re looking for?” a friendly store attendant might ask me while I’m browsing the shelves at a store. “Nope, but I’ll know it when I see it,” I respond briskly. Here I am, shopping, with earnest and intention – for nothing! I just need to buy something. Anything. What is that gaping hole within me, yawning for stuff?

It reminds me of this fabulous clip:

Because I have everything I want  (other that the living arrangement pictured below, and zero debt) it is easy for me to say with the psalmist, ‘I shall not want.’ It’s clothing and accessories for me. I won’t even get into my gardening habit. These are some the things that make me happy, that fulfill me. It might be tools for you, or gadgets, crafts and art supplies, properties, or… Is it relationships? Experiences? Education and knowledge?  The pursuit of great health? If only… – fill in your own gaps. You know what it is that you could always use just one, or another one, or a little or much more of. I posit that all these amazing, scintillating, wonderful, pursuit-worthy elements, in and of themselves, will be disappointing, at best, for they cannot fill the hole in our hearts.

lakefront

Our town is home to an interesting homeless man with an amazing story.  Tom pushes a shopping cart. Sometimes 2 or 4 shopping carts. They are full to overflowing of miscellaneous items: branches, carvings, used left-over food boxes, suitcases, sleeping bags, books, potting containers,etc. He hobbles along all over town and pushes first one a few feet, then another. Mid-afternoon he takes a nap and has a fancy coffee. A day-long caravan of, in my mind, not really going anywhere, and that with a lot of cargo! I could shake my head and sigh at the ravages of mental illness. But ultimately, that is me. I just have a bigger shopping cart and it doesn’t have wheels.

One one end of the wealth spectrum is Tom. There is also Eunice. When I was a child, she came to our farm from time to time to work. she had a kind, shy smile. Mum saved tasks for her to do. She had 2 children and had recently had a 3rd. I enjoyed visiting with and helping her while she worked. We did laundry by hand and she handed me small items to wash. She left me a little room in the sudsy basin. Looking back, I must confess I really was no help. The hot mid-morning sun felt good against our backs and I can still smell the Sunlight Soap she used to bathe. She worked fastidiously, humming under her breath, and if I knew the song I hummed along.

“Not too much soap,” she chided me gently. “The water doesn’t have to be running the whole time.”  I nodded my consent and looked up to her face for approval but, as she was bent over and her blouse sagging low, my attention was grabbed and drawn in by the sight of her very emaciated breasts. I gawked at the pronounced blood vessels criss-crossing them. They were empty sacks, dangling straight down off her chest. They looked like Popsicle wrappers vacuum-sucked dry by a thirsty child mid-summer, with a scant rivulet or two left to extract. 

My heart broke as my little brain thought, ‘But she has a baby… What will the baby drink?’

So forget about me saying, ‘I shall not want’.  Life on this earth was hard on her. She ate one meal a day so her children could eat. They lived in a tiny one-room shack made from wood she’d scrounged around. The walls had many holes. The large ones were sealed with cardboard. Could Eunice say “I shall not want?’

On the other end of the spectrum is Celine Dion, one of my favorite singers. At the 6-9 minute mark of the funny clip below, she confesses she has a lot of shoes (eyes averted). James Corden chose to give away several of them to strangers on the street. Most took them and some said no – the epitome of ‘I don’t need anything.’ Watch her reactions.

We know very well that there are rich people who are constantly in want, and others who ‘do not want.’ There are poor people who constantly want, and poor people who want not. I aim to strip my heart of unhealthy attachments to things, people, and experiences. The secret, my friends is contentment. May we strive to be “content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (1)

Be content  and marvel at where you are and what you have. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (2)

Here are 2 practical ways we can foster contentment and glorify the Shepherd. First, be thankful. This is our modern day sacrifice: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (3)  And again, “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me.” (4) “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (5)

Share with others.  “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (6) “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (7) “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (8)

No matter where we fall on the wealth spectrum, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (9)

It was King David who wrote the lyrics “The Lord is my ra’ah, my Shephard, I shall not want.” I love the man’s heart. Towards the end of his reign, he took up and contributed to an offering to build a magnificent temple for God. He summarized the privilege with this beautiful prayer:   “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.  Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (10)

Prayer: Lord, if everything comes from you, and I have you, I have everything! Please give me heart of contentment. Amen.

______________________________________

Image retrieved on 5/21/19 from:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&authuser=0&biw=1366&bih=625&tbm=isch&sa= 1&ei=2nDlXPe3MYed5gLzo4KQBA&q=cabin+on+a+lake&oq=cabin+on+a+lake&gs_l=img.3..0l4j0i5i30j0i24l5.50176.50517..53381…0.0..0.149.557.0j4……1….1..gws-wiz-img.T7EgbE Bb6 UA #imgrc=g4XWWJVbh9xGWM:\

The Jerk video retrieved on 5/21/19 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2X3vVMdh-s

Celine Dion video retrieved  on 5/21/19 from https://youtu.be/dsUURLFnr9k

  1. Philipians 4:11b-13
  2. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  3. Psalm 50:14, 15
  4. Psalm 50:23a
  5. Hebrews 12:28
  6. Hebrews 13:16
  7. Proverbs 19:17
  8. Luke 12:33-34
  9. 2 Peter 1:3-4
  10. 1 Chronicles 29:14-18

 

Blessings · Body of Christ · Christian · Fellowship · Meditation · Musings · Oxytocin · Relationships · Unity

I. The Shepherd and WiFi – A meditation on Psalm 23

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake. I take several very deep breathes to relax my body and mind, hoping to drift back to sweet slumber. But I can tell I won’t soon be falling asleep. I’m learning to tune in to when He wants a hang out with me. I open the eyes of my heart. I look up and our eyes lock. I smile knowingly. I love these times. I should have known He would be waiting. He wants to take a meditation walk. I choose a familiar passage. Do come with us…

shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd (1) 

One.

Not one lord among many – but THE Lord. Singular. His name in the Hebrew is the formidable Tetragrammaton – YHWH. The name is deemed so sacred it is not to be pronounced. One of its vocalizations is Yahweh. Yahweh was then Latinized and became Jehova, a commonly used proper name of God. Another title used by the Jews is Adonai, my Lord. Yahweh is derived from hayah which simply means to be or to exist. Thus, He calls Himself I Am.

Jesus boldly made this defiant, ground-shaking statement to the established spiritual leaders of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM! (2) ”  In so doing, He signed His own death sentence by declaring Himself God, equal to Jehovah.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (3) .”

That one, and not another, is my ra’ah, my shepherd. My personal shepherd. He belongs to me and I to Him. We recognize each other. Call to mind the anxiety of being alone in a crowd and the antipode – the powerful feeling of being in a crowd and sighting someone you recognize!  My shepherd and I have fellowship with each other – a symbolic and practical unity characterized by a tight bond of belonging and incredible intimacy. 

We evoke oxytocin release in each other. We are so one that we are identified with each other. We resonate with each other. We understand each other, though He boggles me. He is my guide, my protector, my defender, my provider, my healer, my keeper and sustainer, my owner. He receives me, waits for me, fights for me, tends me, listens to me, nurtures me, comforts me, grooms and enjoys me. I was wired for Him and we are in phase, on the same frequency.

A shepherd is a professional. He knows His job. He is all about sheep. He thinks sheep, eats sheep, sleeps sheep so to speak. He is watchful and tender and  would die for his sheep – my shepherd did die for His sheep. He put His money where His mouth was:  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (5) I have learned to trust Him. It is like needing a brain surgeon and finding myself in the office of a renowned and experienced one who was confident about taking on my case. I would automatically and gratefully trust him.

Yet what does a sheep know? The shepherd must initiate and sustain this relationship. No matter how smart I am, I am just a sheep. I know not much, just that I am loved and that I belong. I know to follow Him. I must remember every minute that I am not my shepherd nor anyone else’s, other than a young child under my care. I can be a model sheep to other sheep but I am no shepherd. My job is to point all others to Him.

I love the words “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (6).

He is no real shepherd who only owns one sheep. Mine owns multitudes and of many shades and stripes. He places me among them for my benefit and that of the fold. I am not an only child. I am not a lone-ranger. I am part of a family. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God(7).”

 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ(8).” How, you ask? It is nothing short of a mystery! “The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus(9).” (emphases mine)

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (10).” When I traveled to the United States for college, my wise parents gave me many treasures but one stands out: “Find God’s people!”

I belong as tightly as a building stone in a wall among other stones.” “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (11) .”  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (12) .” If others are suffering and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd. If others are rejoicing and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd.

celtic

Triquetra Heart-knot

To a hostile group of accusing Jews Jesus said, “But you do not believe , because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one (4) .” Much like a Celtic knot, this is a “relationship of oneness”- they in each other, I in them, them in me, me in the body – it’s enough to make my head spin!

My shepherd is the head of the body, the church – innumerable believers, past, present, and future. Nor is He at risk of fading out like a trend. The irritated Jewish leaders tried to silence the apostles after Christ’s ascension.  “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothingbut if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and flogged them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (13).”

This same good news that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace (14) .

In my meditation, I only got a couple of verses into this amazing Psalm, yet it lasted hours. I’m delighted to bring you along through my writing. I think this part is the longest because He was laying a foundation of understanding in my heart. When I walked into church later this morning, Mike was teaching on fellowship – the unity between God and His church, and between sheep among each other. So bleet little sheep. Relax into your “sheephood” and relish your ra’ah.

References:

Unless otherwise noted, all references are from the NIV

  1. Psalm 23:1a
  2. John 8:58
  3. Colossians 1:15-20
  4. John 10: 26-30
  5. John 10:11
  6. Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
  7. John 1:12
  8. 1 Corinthians 12:12
  9. Ephesians 4:4
  10. Ephesians 2:19-22
  11. Romans 12: 4, 5
  12. 1 Corinthians 12:26
  13. Acts 5: 34-42
  14. Colossians 1: 6 (NLT)

Sheep and shepherd image retrieved from:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJy4uzqKjiAhXnxFQKHZOzCS4QMwiLASgxMDE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbeingfreenow.blog%2F2017%2F08%2F31%2Fdaily-inspiration-august-31st%2F&psig=AOvVaw0RhpWdKvbUkgILeZ0Txsz2&ust=1558380099411747&ictx=3&uact=3

Triquetra heart-knot image retrieved from:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Triquetra-heart-knot.svg

Christian · Intimacy · Personal Growth · Relationships

Deep Waters

depths

Have you ever said or done something in the spur of the moment and thought, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

The other day I sat with a brilliant group of people I love and discussed this wonderful proverb: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5.

In it, “purposes” pertains to plans.  Anatomically, the heart refers to the “hollow, pump-like organ of blood circulation, composed mainly of rhythmically contractile smooth muscle, located in the chest…”. In many ancient cultures, including the Hebrews, the heart refers to the very soul of who we are. It also refers to our will – our inclinations and our appetites; as well as our emotions; and our understanding.

Is it fair to state that the purposes of a persons heart are as deep, mysterious, and unsearchable as ‘waters’? I emphatically say, “Yes!” The fish is the last to see the water. My own heart can be  enigmatic even to me. What a graphic metaphor! Deep waters conjure up images of the unknown, of wrinkled creatures with savage fangs lurking for a killing. Many a relationship has gone sour at the unleashing of this monster in a partner who, at first blush, seemed as attractive as gentle pool on a hot day. Unfortunately too many are foolhardy enough to plunge into deep waters without the skills to navigate them.

There is nothing like a relationship, on any level, let alone an intimate one, to bring out the purposes of ones heart. Being herd creatures, we long to know and to be known. (https://thukumainen.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/meant-to-belong-to-a-herd/) How difficult this is when we harbor recesses of ourselves that even we don’t know! If we think it is easy to understand people, we are wrong. Even people we have known for decades are still capable of surprising us. Even when we’ve heard all their stories and know “all about them”.

We all harbor things in our hearts that no one else knows – positive and negative. Those may be fears, dreams, resentments, habits, past actions, and various other aspects of who we are. These  are borne in the deep dark recesses of our hearts and are sometimes invisible even to the bearer. We guard them carefully there and they are well trained in not surfacing. We consciously and unconsciously feed them and tend to them. We know how to quell them when they thrash about wildly in the murky depths.

This arduous internal work is attained while externally we look rather well put together. My sister in law tells me of Sheila at her work who regularly breaks down and cries “the ugly cry. ” Full out loud and dramatic – in a professional workplace surrounded by hundreds of people. That’s messed up. We recoil at people who fall apart in our presence. We need them to contain themselves, or keep it together. We don’t have to be as theatrical as Sheila either. Meanwhile the monster grows and grows in the dark.

Intimacy is “a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of” another person. Blessed and few are  relationships where people are on the road to being completely known and completely knowing the other person. This can take a lifetime. Many of us have felt the thrill of sharing our hearts with another and still being loved and accepted. I would define intimacy as the gift of being with “one who has insight” to draw out the purposes of our hearts. This can be God, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or any other significant other. 

May we aspire to have the insight (skill, intelligence, understanding) to effectively navigate and draw out the purposes of the hearts of those we are blessed to have in our lives. That involves time, active listening, investing in people, compassion, and grace. We must hold each other’s hearts gently. May we have the courage to help them sight, catch, land, and slay their monsters. May we row them along in their dreams and aspirations. May we dare

 

 

Bibliography:

  1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heart?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intimacy?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/blush/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/invisible/

 

African · Christian · Faith · Kenyan · Kikuyu · Legacy · Musings · Poetry

Ngauga

Ngarana Tata Wangarî wa Magû,

Augire atîrî,

“Angîkorwo ndûrî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûrî.

Angîkorwo ndûi Jesu,

Ndûri kîrîa ûî.”

Naniî ngauga,

“Angîkorwo nîûrî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûtarî.

Angîkorwo nîûî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûtoî.”

(Calling all Kikuyus: It is lamentable that many Kikuyu are unable to read in their native tongue. I aim to increase Kikuyu readership by composing, inspiring and collecting new, provocative works in that beautiful language. Wangari wa Ngara)

image

Mûbete: A young Kikuyu woman in traditional garb.

(Image from https://mukuyu.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/wpid-wp-1422208502982.jpeg?w=630 Retrieved 3/14/18)

 

Aging · Anxiety · Christian · Death · Family · Health · Heaven · Relationships · sad · Short story · Summer

Grief Gauntlet

Free stock photo of night, dark, halloween, horror

Today marks the end of my annual grief gauntlet.

It starts subtly enough with the passing of summer, my favorite season. The weather gets cooler and the days shorter. Then I know it’s time to get my game face on. On September 29th five years ago, my sister passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 49. October 13th grandma passed away from Congestive Heart Failure. October 20th is my sister’s birthday. October 22nd is my deceased brother’s birthday. October 26th 2014 my mum passed away from a massive heart attack.

So it is that the end of September feels like diving into murky turbulent waters and that I have to wait till the end of October to exhale. I experience a profusion of emotions, some at the same time. They vary from a punch-in-the-gut breathlessness to exhilarating hope, and a million in between.

I thank God for His ministry of comfort to me without which I would be a wreck. It continues to blow my mind that the Holy Spirit is called our Comforter. He personally attends to healing our broken hearts. He prepares us, buffers us, and endows us with grace to endure the pain. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He then continues to shield and teach us about our hope in eternity. This is not a wishful thought but a certain expectation that we will see our loved ones again, whole and restored. We will also see our beloved Jesus face to face.

Death is our final enemy 1 Cor 15:26. And it is a formidable enemy indeed. He strikes a terrible blow. But after we have overcome that, if we know and loved Jesus, we will never die again and pass from death to life.

Receiving news of a family members death is surreal to say the least. If you’ve never had to endure it, let me tell you that nothing can prepare you. It sucks like crazy. But One stands with you. That’s the best you can hope for. If you are in the thick of it, He stands with you still. In many, many, many days it will get a little better. Then a little more. The sun will shine again.

To read through mum’s medical report on her final day, I am further saddened that we as a family had not made the necessary steps to protect her in the even of flat-lining. I thank God for the crash team that rushed to her side to help her. Yet they were at it far too long and I hate to think of her beholding her Savior yet being surrounded by experts attempting to jolt her back to life. Not necessary. We, especially as believers, must take steps towards believing that we have a fabulous place we are going and to do what we can to eradicate unnecessary medical heroics. Though she’d had a rough last year and we were devastated by the thought of letting her go, so we didn’t plan on what the end would look like. Please take the time to talk with those you love about what you’d like and what they’d like. Better yet, write it down.

So I look outside at this fantastical fall we are having and feel ready to exhale. I thank my spiritual family for their priceless support through prayer and other gestures of love. I’m so honored to walk this road with you and can’t wait to be finally home forever.

Mum, Irene, Mick… plus all others who have gone before us, we’ll see you all very soon.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/surreal/

photo retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/night-dark-halloween-horror-782/ on 10/26/2017

Anxiety · Christian · culture · Family · Kids · mothers · Musings · Parenting · Relationships · sad · Single mother · Single parenting · Spiritual

I Don’t Need You

Image result for LOVE public domain

“How do you do it?” her new friend gasped incredulously. My kid sister Jackie was at a children’s birthday party and had just shared that she was a single mum.

She got this reaction almost every time.

This time an extraordinary sense of ownership welled inside her. “I do it just fine with the Lord.” She knew this wasn’t a fashionable statement but it slipped right out of her mouth before she could stop it. She felt strangely galvanized inside and her chest puffed out slightly.

Kayla was seven now. She was the hardest yet the best thing that had ever happened to Jackie. Kayla’s dad walked out on them when she was about two. To be honest, Jackie can’t imagine what life would be like with him around. My heart warms every time I observe these two for any length of time and I marvel at what a fool he was to have walked out on this.

I love the amazing and simple life they’ve created for themselves. Jackie works a few days a week as a therapist. She walks Kayla to school in the mornings and they chat about wanting a cat, the naughty boys at school, anxiety about going to the doctor for shots, and everything in between.

Especially earlier on, Jackie’s life was peppered with regrets wishing life had played out differently. She’d known all along he wasn’t great marriage material but had mercurial hopes of some future together. News of Kayla’s very presence in the universe had rocked Jackie’s world and filled her with dread. This was not her plan. She could terminate the pregnancy and continue her life like nothing had ever happened. No one would ever need to know.

I distinctly remember her phone call to me shortly after she found out. I was crestfallen and lost for words to respond to her announcement. We had an unspoken pact that we’d save ourselves for marriage. I couldn’t imagine the angst this was causing her. She was the youngest of  seven siblings and with humility, boldness, and dignity, she called every member of our family to tell them. She called her pastor and told him. She went before her church and told them. She was embraced with the associated grief and swallowed up with love and acceptance. She was overwhelmed with the love of God’s family. I couldn’t have been more proud of her, worlds away. It tore me up that I couldn’t even hug her or hold her beautiful face.

I ate up pictures she sent of herself as her bump progressed. She was gorgeous. And afraid. And sad. And excited. And oh, so remorseful. This was not what she wanted…

The first year was a blur. She had a horrendous birthing experience. Then Kayla had to go to her dad’s house for visits every other weekend. How Jackie dreaded that. She sent her off with instructions to him. And clothes. And food. “Here’s some pain medicine, she’s teething so she needs it every 3 hours. And don’t forget to use the barrier cream. She had a terrible rash last time.”

He was a man of very few words but was he even listening? She paced her house the whole time her baby was gone. She cried herself to sleep and awoke ten times before morning dawned. Why wasn’t he answering his phone? Was he with his drinking buddies again? She was ready to pull her hair.

Jackie would sob with relief when they finally got back. She kissed her chubby cheeks with a million teary kisses and held her close, thinking her heart would burst. She hated that, subconsciously, she would start the dreaded countdown till Kayla would leave again. Within a few months Kayla would actually cry for him when he dropped her off. Jackie didn’t know what to do with that. Fortunately, she was easy to redirect. Still, with consternation, she would open the diaper bag and find that things she’d carefully packed away and given instructions on, were untouched. It made her want to shake him.

And then one day he fell off the face of the earth. No call, no words, no goodbye. She heard that he had left the country and wasn’t coming back. She wanted to dance with glee. Then a new grief hit her: the loss of a dream. That can strangle one as mercilessly as the death of a loved one.

She ploughed through the banal experience of child-raising. It was peppered with constant reminders that she was alone. There were more blatant aspects like buying a piece of property and building a home: every signing appointment, every minute detail regarding the home – from qualifying for a loan to choosing counter tops, roofing, doorknobs, lighting, flooring. It would have been so helpful to have someone to run decisions by.

They talked about him now and again. Kayla asked where he was and when he’d be coming back. She asked if it was anything she had done. She wondered if he thought of them. “Will I be the only girl in the world without a daddy?” She would sob and disconsolately throw herself on her bed. Jackie answered her questions gently, thoughtfully, honestly.

She perpetually found herself having to explain, in one circle or another, that he wasn’t in the picture. Always, an awkward silence ensued along with an attempt on her part or the other person’s to recover some semblance of dignity.

Jackie snapped back to attention as the herd of screaming party goers stampeded into the room to open presents and sing Happy Birthday. She smiled through the whole affair as, almost beholding on a screen, she reviewed how good God had been to her despite immense hardships. He had seen her through. And that beautifully!

He HAD met her every need. He had helped her overcome the poignancy of her wants that He didn’t fulfill. He had housed them, healed them, provided for them. He had protected them, comforted them, delighted them. God had done more than Kayla’s dad could ever have done had he stayed in the picture. Of course she longed for a physical consort, a life partner. Someone to laugh with and encourage her. Someone to help her discipline and train this handful of a child.

But she solidly learned that she had all that and more. All her fountains were in Him, Psalm 87:7. He was a fountain of constant cleansing; a fountain of refreshment that slaked her every thirst; He astounded her when He thundered like the Niagara with power in her life; He delighted her when He filled her and her daughter with levity and delight in life.

She determined that she would raise her daughter to know that she had a Father who loved her more than anything. She had an identity and a family. She was whole and lovable, incredibly made, wanted and chosen before she was delicately knit together in her mother’s womb. She was pursued and desired, cared for, and delighted in just as she is.

Always. Tenaciously. Unconditionally. Loyally.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/loyal/

Anxiety · Authority · Christian · Cows · Daughters · Death · Faith · Farming · Fear · Health · horror · Humor · Maturity · Mishaps · mothers · Spiritual

If You Believe

black cow

If you know anything me, it’s my feelings about cows. You can find contributing factors here: https://thukumainen.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/wild-about-cows/. And to think I am married to a man who calls himself a rancher. Very sad. I posted that blog a year ago and my feelings haven’t changed much.

Shortly after that, Emma who’d grown up on a dairy farm shared how she was washing dishes in the sink one sunny day while her kids played outside. She was watching them dreamily in the sand pit through the open kitchen window. She’d just picked up the last glass from the warm sudsy water when she heard a sickening bellow. She looked up to behold her 3 year old daughter sitting on the bottom rung of a gate to the field while one of their massive bulls came bounding across the field. “Oh God,” she moaned gripping the side of the sink. There was no way she could even set that glass down before the bull got to her baby, let alone get out there to rescue her.

In slow motion, it seemed, little Layla hopped off the gate she was sitting on and authoritatively stuck a stubby little hand straight out in front of her and yelled, “You stop!”

The colossal brown bull skidded to a screeching halt not five feet from Layla. He lowered his immense head and pounded the dry ground. He seemed to be reconsidering his actions. His responding moo projected slime all over the place. “No! Bad cow!” commanded the little girl, leaning her stern face forward, hands akimbo, and stomping her miniature pink cowboy boot in defiance.

That bull lowered his gargantuan head repentantly, sniffed at the dirt, and slowly turned  away.

Emma hadn’t heard the glass shatter, muffled by the soapy water, as she tore through the door.  She ran pell-mell to her baby in the field, tripping over broken branches while her apron fluttered like a flag in the wind. She grabbed her like she would never let go, sobbing fitfully.

“Mama sad?” asked Layla quizzically placing dirty little hands on her mother’s tear-stained face.

“No, baby. Mama’s very happy.”

__________________________________________

This week I have encountered many people who are going through various degrees of apprehension for one reason or another. It has astounded me, I don’t remember it being this unbridled, almost epidemic. Many posts I’ve visited have entailed details from anxiety-ridden writers expressing hopelessness about the world’s plight and our leaders’ wanton disregard for us. Sitting in prayer groups, I’ve prayed for people dealing with fears of flying, fears they can’t put their fingers on, and fear of the future.

It seems we are being pummeled by angst and asphyxiated under its weight.

Are we paying too much attention to current events? More importantly are we basing all our trust and hope on the shifting sands of circumstances? Are we listening too closely to the primal internal voices that are gifts for our survival, but which we have amplified with the megaphone of attention?

The resulting degree of stress is ravaging our health, our wellness, and our souls. It exudes from our every pore so that we contaminate people around us. It’s affecting our children and grandchildren and shortchanging any chance for joy and a vibrant life. It grows like a cancer and stifles our very lives.

Can we, like little Layla stand up to these demons and gain control of ourselves and our reactions to our stressors. We can drop and allow them to trample us mercilessly and fling us up in the air. We can turn and run like lightning with the massive bulls in hot pursuit. Or we can stick our little hands out in their face and scream “STOP!”

This lion must find a heart.

See that day, Emma learned and then taught me about authority that is vested within us. It is the authority of a thirty-pounder against a thousand-pounder. Within me is mastery and dominion over my reactions to circumstances. But I must learn to wield it. It is a spiritual weapon that I can brandish to quell the enemies of my soul.

Jesus died that I might have life, and life abundantly. Peace and His presence are two things He has assured me He will never withdraw from me. Hope and joy are mine to enjoy despite the worst possible circumstances in life. Otherwise what is our faith for? I’ve tried many others and they are all sinking sands. He alone has seen me, and countless others over the ages, through thick and thin VALIANTLY. His are promises that we will not be shaken if we stand upon the Rock that He is.

If you don’t know Jesus, He is a simple invitation away. All you have to do is believe He is the son of God who died to save you and who came back to life so YOU might have life. His presence in your life is the authority to speak over your perspective on life’s circumstances and command your fears to be still.

Here’s a great truth: You can’t think two thoughts at the same time. And tough times call for soul talk.  In 1752, Katharina A. von Schlegel penned “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.” What a great mantra. It has amazing words. Enjoy Kari Jobe’s rendition of it.

Ages before, King David said, “Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God,” Psalm 42:11. Sometimes I say, a thousand times, “I trust you Lord, I trust you Lord.” I’ll sing a song or meditate on and recount a piece of scripture. Scream it if you need to or just think it, though your knees are knocking.

And should the circumstances do you in, you have a blessed promised eternity awaiting you. One of complete rest and bliss in His presence. Death will be your final enemy and you WILL overcome it victoriously. You can’t lose!!

So put your hands on your little hips and stomp those sparkly cowgirl boots. Silence that bellowing bull and speak your truth!

Image retrieved on 10/9/17 from https://i.pinimg.com/564x/09/3f/5b/093f5b9a471196711493b2115f47cd8c.jpg

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/believe/

Christian · culture · Faith · Humor · language · Mishaps · We've All Done It

Burying the Cat I

JD is sitting on my porch at dusk and my husband and I are howling with laughter. I only catch half of what he is saying. I miss the second half of what he is saying because of his exaggerated Mexican accent, and the other half because he won’t pause for his audience to recover from laughing. Wait how many halves was that?

Anyway, he sets his Modelo down, which is his signature gesture for another good story; all before we even catch a breath and recover from the last one.

He’s been in the States for many years but loves nothing more than telling tales about growing up in Mexico or his experiences in the States. He’s an amazing landscapist with many clients who love him and have used his services for as long as he can remember.

About 5 years ago he was sitting in church trying to keep his stomach from growling. He folds over, bear-hugging his abdomen and trying to be inconspicuous. See, it’s a tenuous task finding the position that settles a sonorous gut. The louder it is, the longer it takes the priest to wrap things up. Just when you think you have it under control, you move a millimeter too far to the right which makes the entire intestinal tract trumpet like a dying elephant.

People beside you shift uncomfortably and clear their throats as though that’s any help. The teenagers in the pew behind him started snickering and couldn’t stop. The young mum in front of him turned around dramatically and, glared at him while smacking her gum. As though THAT was any help. “So sorry,” he mumbled, making the sign of the cross and trying to look anywhere but at her. Of course he was sitting in the middle of the pew and would have had to disrupt 30 people to get up. He closed his eyes tightly and prayed that the Living God would slay him. Or slay all these gringos around him. Something. Anything.

Presently the system settled down and he leaned back with tentative relief, grateful that no one was going to have to be slayed. He leaned back on the blue metal chair on my porch and took a swig of his Modelo. He set it back down on the concrete and lunged forward to continue his story.

“Then, I’m sitting there when the rosary starts and my phone begins to vibrate. Holy chit!” He muttered under his breath and instinctively grabbed his stomach then realized that was the wrong number. He went for his left front pocket, shooting his leg out like a viper, and swatted at his phone as if to kill it. The whole pew was vibrating and he noticed several people also going for their pockets. But his zipper was vibrating too so he knew he was the culprit. He finally smacked the right button and it stopped.

He stared forward, now cross-eyed, his heart racing. He could see a blurred priest gesturing, “In the name of the Padre, and the Madre,..” and the phone started to vibrate again. “Hijo de…” he started to mumble, his chest heaving and his hands now so shaky they couldn’t find his pocket.

Bubble Yum in front of him whirled around and said, “Oh my gosh!”

“So sorry.” He repeatedly automatically, beads of sweat and blood falling from his face as he stopped the phone. He grasped his rosary trying to keep up with everyone else. “Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.” Just before he said Amen, his stomach AND his phone went off at the same time and he didn’t know which one to go for first.

He would have launched his phone through the opened stained glass windows onto on-coming traffic if he could reach it for all his fumbling. Or at this irritating woman in front of him who was still glaring icily at him.

By the time he finishes this story he is writhing on the little blue chair that’s threatening to fold on him.  His right knee is on the floor and his left leg is jutted in front of him as he reenacts his desperate attempt to reach  his  phone. The husband and I are wiping tears from our eyes and trying to catch our breath as he reaches under the chair for his Modelo and drains its contents.

“That’s why I don’t go to church anymore, man.” He concludes as he pulls himself back onto the folding chair and grabs another beer.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/launch/

Christian · Faith · Joy · Money · Spiritual

High on Life

Cece had just come into a large sum of money from a house sale. She was excited to pay off an large loan she had. At the title company she opted for collecting the money by check instead of a direct deposit. When it came she did a happy dance, fondled it in her hands and thanked God for that blessing. She’d never held so much money before. She couldn’t get to the bank that day and didn’t make it in till the following week.

She actually forgot it was in her purse till 5 days later.

It was spring and the sun was shining with all its might but only warming things up to 60 degrees. That was much better than the 40’s and 50’s from the previous days. It put a pep in her step and she welled up with  anticipation of the many tasks she had to do. She was learning to weld and was delighted by the prospect of things to create. Life was beautiful and every day exciting.

A smiling bank teller waved Cece to her station. “How are you doing?”

“Fantastic. I’m having a great day,” said Cece.

They chatted for a while. “Do you want a balance?”, the teller asked as they were wrapping up.

She said she did and then stuffed the receipt and her wallet into her purse. She started to walk away.

The teller said, “I’d be having a fantastic day if I had this!”

Cece looked to see what she was waving. It was the check. She walked away, a wry smile on her face. Her heart suddenly felt heavy. She didn’t think that’s why she was having a great day. She’d learned a long time ago that her happiness came from the Lord regardless of what she had. Some of her greatest joys came when she had woefully little. She was extremely grateful for the money but she’d barely get to enjoy it. It was going to pay off a debt. That would be a huge burden off her shoulders. She hated being in debt.

She was truly sad that the teller thought she was happy because she had come into a wad of money. She remembered some of her favorite pieces of scripture: “Lord, do not give me too little lest I steal and dishonor your name, nor too much lest I forget you.” “All my fountains are in you.” ‘Not my wallet, not my circumstances, you alone,’ she thought.

As she slid into her car seat she contemplated the richness of her faith. The heaviness lifted and was replaced by an overwhelming joy that couldn’t be added to by a check, no matter how many zeros were on it. She was so grateful for a soul set free and the abundant blessings bestowed on her that her heart felt it would swell in volume and burst within her!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/volume/