Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Card-Carrying Bag Lady

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I’m not a bag lady. I’m not. But I could be mistaken for one. Especially since I’m sixty years old, ride the bus and carry bags. Big Bags. Bags full of things like rocks, sticks, and empty cans- all stuff I use in my classroom.
People glance at me sideways, then up and down. They think, “She’s dressed kinda nice for a bag lady, but her hair and clod-hopper walking shoes are a dead give-away, not to mention the tin cans in her bag. I want to say, “Hey! I’m a teacher; I have a life.”
Unfortunately, I also have a mouse. Sometimes he rides the bus with me. Well WHAT?! I should leave him to die of malnutrition in the classroom over the long week-end? A fellow bus-rider once asked me in a lilting voice, “Ahhh…and is this your little friend?” I said, “Well, umm…yes- mine and the students in my classroom.” Later, she asked the whereabouts of a certain shop. I explained the route, and as she stepped off the bus, she thanked me. I smiled back, “Oh don’t thank me- my mouse gave me directions.”
So that’s about three strikes right there, and now this:
But let me back up. Forty-three years ago, when I was new believer, I’d forget to pray. I’d spend days trying to figure things out with no success and then remember, “Oh-wait, I can ask the Lord about this.” (I’d wrestled with the issue of whether something was too small to pray about, until someone wisely pointed out, “If it’s big enough to worry about, it’s big enough to pray about). But the actual talking to God thing was hard to remember. I mean I can’t actually see Him sitting across from me drinking his coffee, so I just have to take His Word for it (NEVER will I leave you, NEVER will I forsake you). It was such a discipline, praying. One that took years to cultivate.
But now, things are sort of reversed. My days seem more like one long prayer, with life interspersed. It starts in the morning with something very liturgical like, “Lord, please help me get out of bed. Thank you.” It continues while I’m looking in the mirror, “Oh and Lord- thank you for a new day. You have my permission to Do Something in me, because well- I’m pretty sure if you don’t, it’s not gonna get done”. And then I see a Facebook status from a tatted-up teen with an unnatural affinity for four-letter words, and I say, “Lord, wash away all this poor girl’s pain- and while you’re at it, wash her mouth out with soap.” And so it goes.
This is a problem. It’s a problem because I forget to carry on these conversations IN MY HEAD. Yesterday, I walked to the bus stop and the very moment I got there, a beautiful young woman from Iraq smiled and in broken English (is there any other kind? I mean, what other language has a phonetic rule called the “no reason e” as in come, silent b [comb] and silent p and s [corps of engineers]?) she told me she liked my hair and that she used to do hair in Iraq, but can’t anymore because she has a nerve disease throughout her body which especially affects the right side of her face and so she has to take a bunch of pills and take the bus once a week to see her doctor which is where she is going right now.
She actually said it that fast.
Then I heard Someone Else I’d been talking to say, “Pray for her.” Well, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that He usually has something up His sleeve when He asks me to pray for a complete stranger in front of a handful of other complete strangers, so I said very quietly to Him, “Boy this better be good…” and asked the woman if I could pray for her and she said yes, and so I touched her cheek and prayed for her to be healed, and she thanked me profusely and asked me to pray for her mother still in Iraq who is in danger because of the war. So I gave her my card and told her to please call and let me know how she’s doing.
But wait- it gets worse…
Now I’m walking to my transfer bus and I’m still praying for the woman and her mother, neither of whom are in the vicinity and I’m suddenly aware that other people who ARE in the vicinity, can hear me. There I am with my chunky walking shoes, my bags, and talking to- “Yeah, right- she’s talking to GOD”.
So if someone tells you about this bag lady at the bus stop, please tell them that, in spite of appearances, I just happen to have a life: A prayer life.
And a pet mouse named Ralph S.
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thes. 5:17-19

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High Flight

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Our seven-year-old Annie Rose was learning to ride a bike. Struggling to stay sunny-side up, she’d weave between trees and parked cars like a drunken sailor as I shouted, “Look OUT! Don’t run over Mr. Rude’s leaf pile!” (A coveted landmark of our neighborhood.) and, “Pedal faster!” Of course, to her little mind, if she couldn’t control the bike going slowly, how could the answer be, “Pedal faster!”? But she obeyed, and it worked.
This epic screen classic plays in my mind: Anna stays upright the length of one block and back. She dismounts starry-eyed, like an astronaut returning from the moon, waving to her cheering crowd of one. Together we ride to the park. She pedals her little Kermit the Frog legs to break the sound barrier. Her blond curls, an aerial banner proclaiming, “Land of the free! Home of the brave!” Her face radiates joy and amazement at doing the undoable; she’s discovered what aviator John Gillespie Magee meant when He penned these words:
“…I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the silver skies…”
There is an Annie Sensation that occurs in the spiritual realm. That glorious freedom: running in obedience to God. David says to the Lord in Psalm 119:32,
“I run in the paths of Your commands, for You have broadened my understanding.” Sometimes I think, “How can I run in His paths when I can’t even walk in my own?” But when I trust that He knows even more than stuff like “pedal faster”, and I do what He says in His Word- not partially, but wholly- He broadens my understanding to the aerial view, and I “slip the surely bonds of earth…”; the surely bonds of self.
A true Free Spirit is one led by the Holy Spirit. And like the writer of “High Flight”…
“… I Put out my hand and touch the face of God.”*

* Read the poem and the story behind the writing of “High Flight” by aviator John Gillespie Magee. It’s a great depiction of our life in Christ.

Make it a Double

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I call it my $400 glass of water. When I first moved to this high desert, I didn’t know anything about dehydration. That first year I experienced fatigue, dizziness, headaches, rapid heartbeat, and low blood pressure. I thought maybe I just needed more sleep, less stress, more food, or some sort of heart medication. Finally one day, I ended up in the emergency room where I was given water, instructions on how to prevent dehydration, and a $400 bill. So now I’m diligent to keep a glass filled by the sink, but even so, I have to remind myself it’s not enough to have the water sitting there, I have to actually drink it.
I’m unaware of my spiritual dehydration sometimes, too. The symptoms are there- confusion, heart issues, anxiety- I think I need less stress, more answers, problems fixed, or for you to just go away (don’t take it personally). But Jesus said,
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” (John 7:37)
The Bible says Jesus stood and spoke this in a loud voice.
Thank God He speaks loud enough to be heard above the voices in my head, frantically running the numbers, scrambling for answers, saying “Too much to do! You don’t have time for this!” But Jesus stands above it all, holding out an ice-cold glass of the Way, the Truth, and the Life- which, if I’d just stop the frenetic search for a way out, a true solution, and an easier life- I might discover the real Pause that Refreshes covers it all. He did the hard work, all I need to do is open and swallow. It’s sure beats a trip to the emergency room for heart trouble.
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen and you will find life.” Isaiah 55:1-3
Now if I’ll just remember that a Bible on the sink is not the same as a drink…

Let’s Talk Trash

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I clean out my car on Sunday mornings before church, gathering up the stuff that accumulates throughout the week: gum wrappers, apple cores, water bottles and the like. Recently, I headed from the parking lot into church with my Bible in one hand and the week’s trash in the other, greeting people along the way until I noticed curious eyes smiling at the “trash purse” dangling from my arm. I sheepishly placed my garbage in the church’s can and sighed, mentally chiding myself for being so uncouth. As I closed the lid, it occurred to me that this is a visual of what happens in the spiritual realm when I come to Christ in the mornings to read the Bible and pray. I wish I could say I approach the throne of God in my Sunday Best, but there’s no such thing. I’m just- well, trashy little me. The five loaves and two fish I offer Jesus is nothing more than moldy heels and fish heads as I come yawning with morning teeth and hair, coaxing my eyes open with a fresh brew of coffee. To attempt to clean up my act before coming to Him would be the equivalent of spraying a can of Febreeze over the city dump.
Jesus doesn’t expect more than our very worst. His invitation states, “Come as you are.”
In brief (s), “Come as you.” As someone so aptly said, “Who will be you, if you won’t be you?” (okay, perhaps that’s the butchered version, but you get my point). Just Come. He greets you with open arms. And when He eyes what you’re holding behind your back, He smiles and says, “Here- let me take out your trash.”
1 Samuel 2:8 He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets the among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the LORD’s and He has set the world in order.