Heathens

 

This is posted for the  Write31days challenge.

Help Frog

It’s 6:00 pm. I’m tired.  I’ve just left work.  Speeding out of the parking lot to get to my home, my sanctuary I remember…

No food.  Got to make a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home.

While in the store and trying to remember if there are eggs in the refrigerator, I hear this scream.

A woman is running toward me, arms flailing, screaming at the top of her lungs and crying, “Oh, my God, my purse! Where’s my purse?”

Like a freeze mob, strangers in the grocery store stop and look around to locate the scream. Then within seconds like Clark Kent to Superman these grocery store heathens become helpers.  Some become investigators asking her questions about her purse, others runners, sprinting to the parking lot to search carts, some reporters explaining to the security officer and store manager the facts as they knew them and another a confidant that listened as she lamented, “My life is in that purse.”

superboy

After a few frantic moments the purse was found. Another stranger placed it in the lost and found and her “life” was returned. Nothing was stolen. Afterwards, someone said,  “She was going to give me a heart attack. I was so worried.”

Wait, what just happened here? What turned grocery-store shoppers into super heros? The complacent into caregivers? Strangers into servants?  Heathens into helpers.

Compassion. It focuses you on more important things, things greater than self.

Before her scream, we were all dragging ourselves into the grocery store to get Hamburger Helper. Before her scream, we were listening to the voices in our head, wallowing in our own anxious thoughts.   Before her scream, we were scattered. Afterwards, focused. Before, self-absorbed.  Afterwards, listeners.  Before face-to-iPhone.  Afterwards, face-to-face.

I am grateful to God for changing my focus from myself to others, to serving.  I could keep up acts of service while serving the green beans at dinner tonight. I could make the dinner experience more delicious by focusing a little less on myself, and a little more on family and friends. I could become focused, attentive, listening, face-to-face instead of face-to-iPhone.  I could keep it going, giving and receiving His compassion.

“I have called you friends.” Jesus in John 15:15

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Ghandi

“If You Are Going Out of Business Take Your Sign Down”

“If you are going out of business take your sign down,” my mother says, irritated about her treatment at a locally-owned restaurant.  Customers are treated like an afterthought at best and an annoyance at worst. This treatment begins as soon as you enter.  No one greets you.  There are people in aprons (called “aproned-ones” in this article since “server” wouldn’t be an accurate description), walking around but none of them actually acknowledge you.  Occasionally food is placed on a shelf from the cook and carried to a customer, but that doesn’t happen as often as you would think it would, given the number of customers.  So there are long waits between when food is ordered and when it arrives at the table of the hungry patron.   Every time a plate is set on that little ledge a customer hopefully looks to see if it’s their meal.  Frustration builds as the clock ticks.

Some haven’t placed their order and are now trying all methods within their power to get attention and a glass of water without being rude.   This includes glaring, raising their hands as though in school, half sitting, half standing, frowning and sighing loudly, while the aproned-ones walk by looking straight ahead, avoiding eye contact at any cost.

The cook puts the food on the shelf from the kitchen for the aproned-ones to take to the customers.  Since you don’t see servers getting the food quickly, you wonder how long that plate has been sitting on that lonely ledge.

As you stand at the door you wait with anticipation for someone to greet you and tell you what to do.   You wonder if you should just sit down, but are you supposed to wait to be seated like the sign says?  If you wait you might not ever get someone to come ever.  Anxiety.

Closed sign.png

You smell the food, you see the cooks and servers and the people eating but, everyone from server to cashier to the owner seem to have forgotten something….

that they are running a business and businesses have customers. I have walked outside of a place of business, looked up at at the sign – to see if it actually said “open for business.”  For some businesses instead of being greeted by “may I help you?’  employees are working on something and when they do acknowledge you it’s more like  “what do you want, I’m busy” than  “may I help you?”   Doesn’t a business serve customers?  Doesn’t a business have something of value for others? Doesn’t a business have a purpose?

Owning a business can be difficult.  Some sole proprietorships make a lot of money, some not so much.  And for some small businesses, including restaurants, there’s a lot of competition. The leader has to think of ways to get and keep customers in order to stay in business.  But one thing is for sure, ignoring them won’t keep them.

And business is about relationships.  No relationship, no business.  If you’re going out of business, in other words, don’t want a relationship and the responsibility of serving others,  take your sign down.

Some would say life is relationship.  Mama said this, “Your relationship to God is your most important relationship.”

And she wasn’t talking about rituals, e.g. going to church, giving to a charity, even reading The Bible can just be “putting up a sign” if your heart isn’t in it.  You’re just going through the motions.

Ever felt like that with your relationship to God?  That you were just going through the rituals and that you really didn’t mean it?  That means somewhere there was a disconnection from Him, because He’s right there.  He’s never left you.  And in fact wants to have a relationship with you.

No need in just going through the motions if you want to have a relationship with Him.  Just ask Him, kneel if you’d like and say, “Lord, I want to be your follower, to know you.  Show me the way to go.  I submit my life to you.  Believe that He loves you, cares about you and wants to have a relationship with you.

Later, Hater, While I Eat My Now & Laters, Drink Your Haterade, While I Drink My Kool aid, and make mine fruit punch

This blog post is for the Write 31 days challenge, “Messages from Mama” series.

Haters, Now & Laters and Koolaid are all a part of my childhood.

Now & Later is the name of a candy that comes in little individually wrapped squares, then sold in a row sealed in plastic, in flavors like grape, lemon, banana. Unbeknownst to my mother,  with my $1.00 allowance I filled my brown bag from the convenience store with Now & Later packs, Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans and other sundry, sugary items that resulted in thousands of dollars in dental bills later.

nowandlaters

“Hater” and “Hater-ade” are recent urban terms for an old experience.  “Hater” is someone who is jealous or hates you.  Used in a sentence, “The “Hater” should go drink her “Hater-ade,” like someone would chug down Gatorade.

Haters, Now & Laters and Koolaid are all a part of my childhood.

As a child, I had a “friend,” well at least someone who I thought was my friend.  We were like, well “peas and carrots.”  She was popular and I really wasn’t, and she liked me.  We would hold hands, go over each other’s houses, even our dolls were friends.

Day30 Frank Sinatra

We made cakes in our Easy Bake Oven. But, then one day, she just turned.  Instead of walking to school together, she walked past me – didn’t speak.  I thought maybe she didn’t see me.  But after school, she walked out with two more girls and right past me.  After a few days I was able to catch her alone and asked why.  She just laughed. our friendship was over.

“Well, I don’t know what happened, honey but sometimes people are jealous. Even hate you when you haven’t done anything to them,” Mama said while I cried at our kitchen table the place where my mother fed us physical and spiritual food.

Big tear drops falling on the table, “Jealous? Hate Me? Why? I couldn’t accept this from a friend who ate grape Now & Laters with me when I did nothing to her.

“There was a child in the Bible named Joseph who was the son of Jacob who had brothers who hated him and yet he did nothing to them either,” Mama continues while she stirs the cup of sugar, fruit punch Koolaid, water and ice in the glass pitcher.  One day he told them about a dream, that he didn’t interpret at the time, but his brothers knew it spoke of Joseph’s future.   They hated him for his dream. So, you know what they did?”

fruit punchMama consoles while she pours me a cup of fruit punch and makes me a sandwich, “They sold him into slavery. His own brothers were jealous.  According to historians, he was just 17 years old.”

Hater’s drinking a lot of haterade.

Perplexed I say, “His brothers didn’t like him, but he didn’t do anything to them!”

Mama again, “That’s right.   So you can be the gift of God you are, loved by God Himself and still be hated by others for no reason. But God was still with Joseph.  Although he was a slave, he ended up in the palace, reporting to the head man, Potiphar.  Whatever Joseph did, he did it well.

And Potiphar favored Joseph.  But some favor is not so good, because he was also favored by Potiphar’s wife.    She tried to trick him into doing the wrong thing, but he wouldn’t. Joseph was fine, like that little boy you like in school. You know?  So, she lied on him to her husband. Joseph, due to no fault of his own, goes from the palace to  prison.

Joseph suffered but then, but God…

Even in prison he became like a prison warden because along with being fine, he was also smart.

The dream gift God gave him that originally got him into slavery, later got him out of prison.  While in prison he interpreted a prisoner’s dream.  That prisoner was released and became a servant of the king.  Years later, when the King had a disturbing dream that couldn’t be interpreted, the prisoner-turned-servant remembered that there was a Dream Interpreter in prison, Joseph. Joseph interpreted the king’s dream and in one interaction, one moment, he went from prison to the palace again.  Joseph prospered and he blessed others to prosper – running things, getting married, living his life, like it’s golden.

That’s not where the story ends.  Joseph’s brothers, the same ones who sold him into slavery, ended up having to ask him for food. they ran out of food in their city and had to go to the city where Joseph ruled.  Yes, the same ones who enslaved him, Joseph now had the authority to enslave.

But he didn’t. And Joseph wasn’t perfect, he played around, scared them a little when they came to him for food.  They didn’t recognize him because the last time they saw him, he was a runt.  But when they faced him he was a fine, multi-lingual, sharp-dressed CEO.  He could have harmed, but he blessed them instead, giving them food and money.

But, baby girl, this is what I want you to know from this whole story.  Even if people hate you, God loves you.  And even though dreams are deferred, keep dreaming. And even though people harm you, if at all possible, bless them.  And even though family relationships are broken, they can be restored.  And even though you’ve experienced rejection, you can be healed.  And even in adversity, you can be excellent. And even though you suffer, you can say like,  Joseph, ‘God has made me to forget my suffering.’  None of that mattered to Joseph in the end.  Only love remained.

You Meant Evil, God Meant it for good. Genesis 50-20

Dear Reader, thank you for reading this blog post. Please comment, like or follow below. Blessings to you. Gwennie

 

 

Dorothy Richards, Happy Birthday & Transition Day, Oct 15

 

 

10: The Number of Times I Wanted to Avoid Something Today

“You can only lose if you quit.”  Mama This Message is For You

Today at least 10 times, I’ve wanted to avoid something.

First, it was daylight. My husband had already faced the inevitable but I was basking in the luscious depth of the dark giving way to dawn and enjoying just a few more deep breaths, laying in my bed before the startling noise of the alarm let me know, for sure, that resistance was futile. No more escaping the daylight, get up.

Then I wanted to avoid that all too important decision that comes around every Sunday morning, “Should I go to church?”  There is so much to do that hasn’t been done – housework, bills to pay, calls to make, cook, etc., etc., etc. Oh no, that doggone list again.  Maybe I should just escape to a desert island or something.

Fight or FlightThen, there was avoiding going into the grocery store. First, I’m wanting to escape from how much everything costs and then from waiting in that deli line, because it’s almost always long and the Chief Deli Specialist (just made up this name for the much-admired person behind the deli counter) is always busy trying to manage that long counter top that displays those delectable dishes, and the hungry customers who want to make sure that even though there is no official line that the Specialist knows who is next.

My next thing to avoid was doing anything mechanical.  I was not made with that gene so even simple tasks trigger my escape mechanism.   So, my bathtub drain was clogging up.  That meant getting a Phillips, finding and unscrewing the screw on the bathtub stopper. Now, yall, this is really two “avoids” in one.  First,  that whole mechanical thinking thing and then removing the hair that was causing the clog without gagging. Yuck!

And right now you are experiencing one of the other things I sometimes avoid, writing.  Sometimes the words just don’t come out.  It’s like they are hiding in some dark basement in my mind.  “Come out, I command you,” doesn’t work.  Yet, writing for me is something I’ve done since the 4th grade and when I don’t write, something, then I just run into myself and my gnawing urges to write.   Lord Byrum set me free when I discovered his quote, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”  This was a phenomenon I couldn’t explain for years.  If I avoid writing or expressing the message within, I succumb to unhealthy habits such as overeating or anxiety.

Mama said, “You can only lose if you quit,” when pursuing those things that are most important in life – those things that are purposeful, meaningful, fulfilling for you, your deepest heart’s desires.    She said this to me once about one of my desires and right now, I don’t remember which one it was.  It could have been getting my undergraduate degree, finding a job I enjoyed, finding a loving relationship or it could have been mastering my negative thinking.

When she said, “Don’t quit,” she was really talking about don’t lose hope.  “Things happen in this life, Gwen, but the Lord said to me, ‘Your faith will outlast your storm.'”  She would know having gone through many storms, she was the encourager to those who were without hope that the God of Heaven and earth gives victories.

Dear one reading this, as another coach of mine said, ‘It is human to run. Just know what you’re running from and to.” It doesn’t do any good to keep running from yourself.  If you have a dream, ask God for wisdom for the next steps.  Sometimes, dreams are just that and they need to be surrendered on the altar of your heart.  Sometimes those dreams are resurrected and other times they are to be left there in God’s hands for something greater.  This isn’t quitting or running when you surrender it.  It simply means that God is birthing in you a greater vision.  Then, there are other times when you are moving in the direction of that dream and that dream is delayed.  But delay doesn’t mean “no.”  There are so many who had dreams that were delayed – Abraham, Joseph, David even Jesus’ Fulfillment and Resurrection happened after 33 years of walking this earth.  But change does come and will come.  For in due season you shall reap if you faint not.  Of this truth, I am a living witness.

The only way through some things is through. He is with us.Day14 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it-

 

The Bible-Mobile

“Aw!  You are stepping on me!” I said to the blonde-curly-headed boy whose hair was in my face and whose feet were on my toes as he sat on the only available space left in my mother’s car, the floor.

Like that old Volkswagen Beetle challenge, Mama stuffed kids in her car any way she could. (This was before seat belt laws.)   Her green and white Buick Skylark, just an ordinary  vehicle was transformed into “the Bible Mobile” every Saturday at 11:30 am as it transported kids from the inner-city to our church across town for Saturday Bible class.
“Yall ready to go?” said my Mama as she picked up that last child for church.

My mother, Dorothy, taught children’s church for 40+ years.  She was strong, bold, wonderfully capable of declaring what she believed about God and life.  She was inspirational and many times commanded the attention of hundreds, likely thousands of children over the years between ages 6 – 12 with her vivid stories.

One story she told was about apples – Seedy, Saucy and Sweet.  Seedy was small and had too many seeds.   Saucy was bruised and mushy.   But Sweet was just right.  Each one of the apples was used to explain how people are.

Someone like the Seedy apple is hardened by life. Saucy people are disappointed and have lost their enthusiasm for life.   Sweet apple people are filled with the spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering.  They are used by God to sweeten the lives of others.  Living life to the fullest is being a sweet apple.

These simple truths still live in my heart today and I believe in the hearts of many other children who were my mother’s Saturday Bible School students.   I am thanking God for a Sweet Mama!  Apple.pngDorothy Richards, transitioned from this life October 15, 2016.

 

 

 

“God Gives Husbands” – Yellow Suspenders Part 2

My mother migrated from Mississippi as a 19-year old girl, looking for a new start.

Affectionately called “Dot,” bowed her head while on a train migrating that was heading for Indianapolis.  She prayed to the Lord to keep her from going astray.  She asked for a husband.  She had what she called an “open vision” of a man in yellow suspenders.

She went on with her life.  Worked at a bar, washing dishes, waitressing, busting tables. She entered through the backdoor – was not allowed to enter through the front and was warned not to do so.  She was able to make phone calls at the payphone if necessary.  She worked long hours and talking about having ten cents left at end of the week.  She was grateful because she was able to pay for her basic needs and still have a little left.

It wasn’t all work.  She enjoyed church, and teaching at Sunday school.

And there were picnics.  Sitting in the warm sun, eating good fall-off-the-bone ribs with cole slaw and good conversation with friends and family.

A man approached my mother during this p

Man praying

icnic.   He was about the same age she was, six feet tall, brown-skinned, nicely dressed.  He began talking to her in his very quiet way.  And she listened.  He says to her, “I think we should go get ice cream.” She agrees. They start a courtship. That man was my father.

It was a “coincidence” that my mother met my father there.  They didn’t know each other and my mother could have turned him away since she didn’t know him.  But she didn’t.  Because I believe her intuition or her spirit, knew what was happening.

Later, the prayer she prayed and the vision she had of the man in the yellow suspenders came back to her.

And what was my father wearing when they met? Yellow suspenders. They were together for 60+ years.

My mother once said, “I know that God gives husbands.”

God answers prayer.  My mother’s prayer was:

  • specific
  • sincere
  • intentional
  • and then she surrendered that prayer to God.

Has God ever answered your prayer?

 

A Prayer for Las Vegas

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

I am interrupting the next post on  “Yellow Suspenders.”  My heart is so heavy for the tragedy in Las Vegas.  One of my mother’s favorite scriptures was, Psalms 46:1,  which is about God being our refuge and  present in trouble.

Notice that at the end of Psalms 46:1 is the phrase  “in trouble.”  Sometimes when things happen, we ask, “Where is God?”  He’s in the trouble.

Notice what that scripture doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say, “God is with us and therefore we have no trouble.”  Since the disconnection from God, man has experienced trouble.

But we can also feel God in the trouble.   He’s working in our hearts when we feel sorrow for strangers.  When we look at the death and injured count we weep, our hearts absolutely ache. We are all connected and we feel sad for the victims’ and their families.  We weep with them that weep.

We hear God when commentators, comedians, celebrities lift their voices, like a cosmic choir pleading with us to pray.

We see God in  the absolute random acts of kindness, people who literally carried bodies out of harms way and into hospitals via pick up truck in one case.  We are all witnesses that “God was in the midst of her.” Psalms 46:5.

We have friends in Las Vegas.  We were relieved to hear when we called, “We are okay.”

But so many heard something different today.  They heard that a loved one was hurt or killed.

I know people say, “where is your God?”  He’s right here.

I can’t explain the “why’s” of this tragedy.  We now only know the “what’s” and we may never know fully know the “whys.”

We can pray.

To everyone who is reading this post I’m praying for you too.  Will you pray with me?

“Dear Lord, we acknowledge You in our lives. We thank you for another day.  Another chance to live for you.

We pray for the people who were injured in Las Vegas. We ask you to heal and comfort them.  We pray for the healthcare workers who are attending to them.  Give them wisdom to serve those who are injured.  We pray for the families who were impacted.  Lord give them peace, comfort and wisdom during this time of distress.  Give them help in this trouble – the help they need.  Let them know you are there.

Lord, I pray for the one who is reading this.  May they be encouraged and uplifted knowing that in this moment,  “You are our refuge and strength.” Amen.

Shalom to you my friend.