Archive | January 2016

Nostalgia

A young woman recently reminded her friends on social media that years ago here in San Antonio, Texas we used to call Frost Bank to get the time and temperature.  That Kitchen phonebefore this information was at our fingertips 24/7 on our cell phones.

It was probably one of the first times I remember my mom letting me use the house phone to make a call.  You remember what a house phone is don’t you?  It was that rectangular thing in the kitchen mounted on the wall. It had buttons with numbers and a long stretchy, curly cord so that you could sit on the floor in the hallway for privacy.

210-226-3232 Frost Bank Time set us all straight on the clock and weather.   This was vital to keeping synchronized time on our wind up watches and preventing hair frizzies when we got caught in the rain without an umbrella.  And it was just plain fun.

The thing is, until my friend mentioned this bit of nostalgia, I had forgotten.

It’s true, the world must move forward.  Things change.  What’s old is new.  Some things must go by the wayside with time, but I am the girl who prefers books to electronic readers.  Analog to digital.  Trains to planes.  Theatres to Netflix.  Wrapping paper to gift bags. Trails to treadmills.  I want a gift at Christmas, not a gift card.  I am elated to get a handwritten letter in the mail.  I think every kid should learn cursive writing if only to sign his name.  And everybody should bake at leas
t one cake in their lifetime that is not from a mix.  How many of you has sifted flour?

There are few things more reassuring than a lovingly and meticulously assembled scrapbook or a memory laden stack of black and white family photos.  It beats the heck out of 4,000 pictures on your phone or in a cloud somewhere that you will never see again.

Web searches have made us lazy. Auto correct has created a generation of bad spellers. We have smart phones, smart TVs, smart ovens and even smart dryers.  We don’t need to pay attention because we can rewind or start over.  If we are bored, we fast forward.  We don’t have to get up, we have remotes. All physical activity can be tracked, analyzed and recorded by a magical band on our wrist.

I am, however, thankful for my car’s global positioning system.  Folded road maps are just plain evil.  Calculators are good.  Printers and copy machines are good.  Does anyone remember carbon paper and mimeograph ink?  Debit cards reign supreme over checks. Direct deposit is a lifesaver.

The most popular stocking stuffers last Christmas were those pricey but intricately drawn adult coloring books.  Families all over America actually sat down across from one another, at a table, with a box of crayons and talked while they colored and sipped on hot chocolate.  I have just discovered that there is an IPad version of these coloring books.

Why?  Seriously, why?

I guess my point is that time marches on, change is constant and in most cases, that is a good thing.   The cautionary tale, however, is to not forget what was.  There may still be some worth in it if only to make you smile.

I smiled today when I remembered the automated voice at the end of the phone of my childhood telling me it was 12:47 p.m. and that it would be a sunny and warm 87 degrees all afternoon.

 

 

Shoes

Toms shoes

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of a man healed by Jesus who had been set upon by a legion of demons.  The man had suffered an agonizing existence.  He lived naked and among the dead.  Given to fits and violent tantrums, he could not be restrained, even with chains.  When the man heard that the Lord was coming, he ran to meet him and begged for help.  

 Jesus commanded the demons to leave and cast them into herd of pigs nearby who in turn, raced to the edge of a steep cliff and fell to their deaths.   When the people of the village came to see what had happened, the man was sitting fully clothed and in his right mind.  Everyone was amazed.

 The healed man was so grateful, he immediately pleaded with the Lord to let him leave his home and join Jesus and the disciples in their travels.   But Jesus gently refused him, saying “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

 

A few days ago, I was making room in my garage for more stuff.  I reached up to retrieve my travel backpack stored on the top shelf.  There was something in it, and I brought it down to see what.

“Oh, there they are! I was wondering where they went!”  I said to no one but my cat, who was “helping” me. I smiled.  And yes, there they were, wrapped in a cloth, the shoes I wore all over the bush, villages and towns of Burkina Faso, Africa last summer. The soles were still caked with the rich red clay from a land more than four thousand miles and two time zones away.

Once a cute and might I say, quite expensive pair of canvas slip-on shoes, they had lost their shape and most of their color.  I had worn them every day I was in Africa, sloshing around in the mud.  It was the rainy season in Burkina, a time of year no one complains about because eleven months of blistering heat and drought will surely follow.

And I had worn the shoes home and tucked them away in my backpack.

I wondered why.   Why hadn’t I left them behind?  I guessed I just wasn’t ready to let go.  Africa left a mark on my heart.  A deep appreciation and a fondness for the lessons she taught me will remain  for the rest of my life.

They say mission trips change you.  I can safely say they, whoever they are, speak truth.  We in the mechanized, technology crazed, excess driven Western world can never know or understand Africa until we see her with our own eyes.

For fourteen days I was moved by the desperate need all around me; intrigued by the simplicity of lives lived; honored by the hospitality and captivated by the faces of the children in Burkina, the fourth poorest nation in the world.  I knew I would see my own world much differently from now on.

I wanted to stay.  I wanted to do whatever I could to help.  I wanted to share the gospel.  I wanted to serve. I wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

But I had to go home.

So, I thought about the man who had been healed by the Lord, freed from the evil that held him and the chains that bound him.   I thought about the charge that Jesus had given him.  Was I really much different from the man?  Evil had once held me; chains had bound me.  I had been healed.  Jesus had shown me grace, mercy and love.

“Go to your home.  Tell them about the mercy I have shown you,” Jesus said.

It was clear I had already brought home some of Africa on soles of my shoes. Over massive seas and sprawling continents, I had carried a tangible piece of her beauty with every step.

Perhaps, my unexpected find that day in my garage was a reminder to share the stories.  We use words like “amazing” and “life-changing” when asked about mission trips.  That’s just not enough.  I think Jesus wants us to tell stories about the grace and mercy he has shown us.

So what stories shall I tell?

The story of the little girl carrying a baby on her back, picking up loose gravel along the road?  She will sell whatever she finds at market.

The  elderly widows who stoop to pick up dropped kernels of gifted corn?  No one cares for them.  They survive any way they can.  Nothing must be wasted, not even a kernel of corn.

The story of a man whose smile nearly covers his broad face and how he regularly welcomes visitors into his home, a clay hut deep in the bush?  How he does so with the hospitality and grace of a Southern gentleman, serving up glass after glass of sweet tea brewed over an open fire?

The story of a woman who after long hours of labor in a bush clinic and the subsequent birth of twin girls, called us to her bedside, and smiled entreating us, strangers, to name her newborns?

The story of an entire village who came out to greet us with song and dance gloriously happy and oh so thankful for the wells that would bring clean water to their village for the first time in five years?  No more brown, diseased filled water.  No more long treks to gather water from a neighboring village.

The story of orphans with bare feet, torn clothes and runny noses waiting patiently in line for a meal?  And how when they are served  a mound of plain rice on a large metal platter, they sit on the ground filling their bellies with dirty handfuls of whatever they can grab?  It would be their only meal of the day.

All these stories and more need to be told.

So come along with me as I shake the dust from my shoes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishy

firehouse

When the siren sounds at Firehouse 19 and Paramedic Scott is called out to an emergency, he never knows what he and his partner will encounter when they answer that call.  A twenty-two year veteran of the Houston Fire Department, my brother works in one of the most poverty stricken and crime ridden neighborhoods in the city.  He has told me stories that have shaken my faith in humanity and yet others that have restored it.   Unspeakable abuse and senseless violence thrive in the poverty that exists in the 5th Ward.

He has regaled me with stories about everything from delivering babies with a host of neighbors looking on to tackling a gunshot victim who ran across the yard despite a bullet in his forehead.  Drugged and diseased prostitutes who propositioned him and homeless men who just needed a meal and a bed for the night.

But the stories about the children are more than horrific. They are heartbreaking.

Five year olds whose innocence is lost forever.  Ten year olds, malnourished and weary, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and a baby sister on their hips.   Teens who are lost in a fog of insecurity, desperate to fill the emptiness and take their own lives.

These stories hit you like a fist to the gut and make you question everything you believe in.  It changes a person.  It has changed him.  His views are harsher.  His trust and tolerance has waned.  Still one of the best men I know, kind and caring, intuitive and generous he loves his job and his family.

But these horrors lay heavily on his heart.

That’s why I was so taken aback today when I watched as he held his eight year old’s hand, standing over the grave of her goldfish who had just passed on.  Savannah was almost inconsolable but so was her daddy.  He was weeping.  It made no sense to me that a man who sees the worst human nature has to offer every single day on duty would be affected so heavily by such a loss.

And then I realized, his tears were not for “Fishy” but for his daughter and her devastation.  Her little heart was broken for the first time.  A tiny part of her would never be the same.  My brother knew his child’s pain, her loss like only a father can.  He was shedding the tears of compassion.

It got me thinking about our heavenly father and how he must weep for us when we are hurting.

The Bible tells us that God calls us his sons and daughters. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!  And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

His Word goes on to say that we are of great value to Him, each one of us!  No matter how small.   No matter what we have or haven’t done.  No matter how trivial or insignificant we consider our needs to be.  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:26

Our heavenly father is so much more than a King who sits on a throne overseeing His creation.

He is the daddy who laughs when he pushes us on the swing.  He is the daddy who cares enough to blow on our macaroni and cheese so that it doesn’t burn our mouths.  He is the ever vigilant daddy who reminds us to brush our teeth.  He is the doting daddy who takes hundreds of pictures at our dance recitals.

And he is the daddy who holds our hand as we say good bye to a friend.  He dries our tears.  He wraps us in his arms.

He loves us.

fishy

Imprint

perfect

The painters removed the lattice work and tossed it on the trash heap at the curb.  This afternoon, the tired walls of my condo would receive a fresh coat of paint.  What remained, however, almost like a shadow, was the detailed outline of what had been in place for so long.  The sun had faded the exterior paint but not the part covered by the garden trellis and climbing vines that held it in place.

It was an imprint, an exact copy of what was.  And it was actually kind of pretty.  I knew the life of this particular visual was only temporary but it got me thinking about imprints.  Whether a shadow on a wall, a scar on delicate skin, dimples in a carpet or scratches on an antique table, the imprint is real.  It makes its mark. It changes things if only for a minute or two.  Yet the change could be lasting, a kind of legacy.

I thought about the moments that have imprinted my life over the years like the first time I saw a Shakespearean play in London, a modern performance of Coriolanus.   I can still feel the heat as motorcycles roared onto the stage from behind the curtain.  I can still see long haired, rough looking actors in leather jackets and heavy boots as they emerge from the smoke and fog.   I can still hear the thunderous applause and enthusiastic cheers from the audience.  And I can still taste the seed planted in my being that night, a seed that would grow into a deep, insatiable love of both theatre and words.

I thought about the people who have imprinted my life like the teacher who recognized my love of writing, challenged me to hone my skills and then trusted me to develop a creative writing magazine.   Or years later, my own student who said I had made such a difference in her life that she would aspire to be “somebody’s somebody” as I had been hers.

I thought about the places that left an imprint on my heart.  Africa.  The wide open plains seen from the window of a crowded airplane, seamless borders, no evidence of civilization, just pristine land, golden.  And the village clinic in the bush, a sad place frozen in time.  The smell of sickness, primitive equipment, dusty floors and desperate eyes.  Or the shady grove that served as covering for a newly planted church and a congregation of hundreds.  Nothing more than trees and sand yet the sound of rejoicing filled the air like a cathedral choir.

Most importantly though I thought about the imprint that lives and breathes in my soul because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.  It’s a sacred, spiritual imprint that has brought countless moments of grace, mercy and joy.  A forever imprint because it has taken me to places of inspiration I never imagined.  A forever imprint because it brought people in my life who share my faith and make me a better person.

So as I open the door to 2016 and gaze upon my world I seek to not only be the recipient of imprints but I pray to be the one who imprints others.  Just as the sun left a lattice work mark on my wall, I want to let the Son shine through me and leave a mark.

My word is IMPRINT. best