Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I was recently challenged to "write 350 words about a sibling."  Here is my answer to the challenge, coming in at exactly 350 words of fictional siblingdom.  (Sorry chick, no kind words about you today.  And none for the brother unit either).

“What can I prepare for you today?”

The barrista looked familiar, uncannily so.  Her voice too.  She looked at me just as intently.  We must have been staring at each other; a voice behind me grumped, “Lady, hurry up and order.  You’re not the only one in line, you know.”

“Um, I’ll have a vanilla latte.  Large.”  She rang up my order and I stepped aside to the pick-up counter.  I continued to watch, and she glanced at  me as she went on with her duties.  Could she?  Naahh …  Here?  

My drink was ready, and I decided to stick around a bit.  Today’s staff meeting would have to start without me.
Four years old is too young to lose your family.  My mother and Dad split up when I was very young.  Life as a mistress to a Wall Street day-trader pulled at her heart more than her own two children.  Daddy’s heart was so shattered that he could not cope with one daughter in first grade and me so wide-eyed in the world.  He left the city with my sister Rachel.  She was 6 at the time.  I was left to live with my Robert, my Daddy’s brother.  I found my maternal parent unit a while back on Facebook, but could not bring myself to contact her.  Turns out, she has a second family of her own.  It would be many years before I could use the word “forgive” as something I would do for either parent.   But not a day has gone by since the day four-year-old me cried endlessly over my world being torn apart.
Could my world change over a vanilla latte?  Butterflies in my stomach described the beautiful hope, but the rushing in my stomach was much more intense.

I studied her every move.  I know I recognize her!  Does she know me?  Remember me?  Would she accept me?

Finally, a break in the activity.  Rag in hand to wipe the tables, she works her way in my direction.  And the recognition slams me.  She’s my half-sister, my mother’s daughter.

Can I accept her?


Sunday, November 20, 2016

God's iPad

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. -- John 14:16-17 NLT

It's been some time since I last publicly splashed in the ponder.  A lot of life has happened since my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I survived (obviously), and survived beautifully.  God worked gloriously in my illness, even allowing me to not need my final chemotherapy treatment!  The only lingering side effect of my treatment is numbness and occasional razor-sharp pains in my toes.  Other than that, I feel great, my blood work is well within acceptable ranges, and the doctors are very pleased with my progress.  

And, I have decided to begin blogging again, picking up where "Mary from the Prairie" left off. Topical blogging.  Pick a prompt, and see how God shows up.

It is not always easy to sit before a blank screen with fingertips on the keyboard, and have something profound appear.  So I asked my friend Great Scott to help out.  

"Tell me, Great Scott, what is the first item to your right?"
"My laptop computer."
"Okay. That will be my topic.  Laptop computer."
"I can't wait to see the content."
"Neither can I!"

I have been thinking of what my Christmas gift to myself will be this year.  After pondering between things for my apartment, a vacation getaway, season tickets to the theatre, and the like, I am leaning toward an iPad or something similar. Why? I enjoy the portability of projects I am working on. Emails and related documents and spreadsheets, sharing on social media, and the like will not require me to be tied down to a desk. There is nothing wrong with my aging laptop. Considering it also doubles as my desktop, the lappy is still a very valuable tool.  I will not abandon lappy.  Not yet. But adding the dimension of convenience with an iPad (or something similar) would make it nice to not have to carry my big ol' heavy(ish) and big(ish) laptop computer when I want to work on something away from home.  

If my laptop computer is my home base for extracurricular emails, documents, spreadsheets, and social media, then (work with me in the pondering, guys) we could see the local church as our home base for spiritual task-handling.  It is our center for worship, Biblical teaching, prayer support, outreach to the needy in the community.  There is great value in having a home base for these things, and congregations should not abandon the home church. It's what churches do, and do very well.

But here's a lightbulb over the head ... You don't have to be at church to do the things you do at church! You don't have to take the chapel and its rows of pews and lecterns and altar and all, and pull it behind your blue chevy. That is because as Christians we have received the Helper promised by Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit, to enable us to carry out in obedience what Jesus taught his followers while he was on earth. 

We can raise our voices and hands in worship outside of church.  We are not confined to a sanctuary to lift requests and praise and confession and thanksgiving to our Creator. Bibles can be opened at home, in the waiting room, on the bus. Helping needy can be face-to-face, taking the time to hear someone's story, which is much more powerful than tossing a few bucks in the plate for the special offering. 

My analogy of our Christian walk going from laptop computer to iPad is not a perfect one.  But during my illness I experienced first-hand people using their "spiritual iPads" to help me. ME!  

I experienced strangers stopping to pray for me, on the street, while I was waiting for my ride.
I experienced people stepping forward to meet my needs, by bringing meals, walking me to my car, calling to remind me to drink water.
I experienced people worshipping God, praising Him with every small victory I had.
I experienced people taking the time to help me feel dignified, even somewhat normal, by taking me out to a meal or a movie.

I experienced the dimension of others utilizing God's iPad, when they could have opted to stay with the laptop. 

Whether I actually do decide my gift to myself will be an iPad or something else remains to be seen. In the mean time I want to be directed by the Holy Spirit to be God's iPad to the others I encounter. 

God's grace

(this entry was originally posted June 18, 2014, at another blog site.)

Life took an unexpected turn … I’m now the lady with cancer.  

I’m still sister/daughter/niece/aunt/friend/colleague.  And now it’s different.

I started chemo. Therefore, I receive attention I didn’t get before.  

I accept I have to slow down. A week ago I would take a book to Starbucks on a whim, and sip iced coffee for hours. I would spend time shopping for shoes, going from store to store, and end up not finding what I want. This week, I do my shopping in bed, online, with a bottle of water at my side. Getting out of bed means, well, getting out of bed. As much as I want my “last week” life, the vise grip pain in my legs, feet, tips of my toes, convinces me the Starbucks and mall shopping is so-last-week.

I find myself dependent on others for tasks that only a week ago I was able to do on my own. It’s humbling in ways, and in other ways, well, I can get kind of used to someone else taking out the garbage and carting the laundry up and down the stairs.

People don’t want to see me suffer, and rallying behind me is what they do in their helplessness because they can’t take away the disease. 

“People want to help. Let them.”

Do I “deserve” their help? No, to “deserve” something implies there was a scorecard of some sort being kept. As far as I can tell, the offers are gestures to help me to do what I can’t do on my own. These offers are called “grace” – a gift I do not deserve. 

In the process of wrapping my mind around the words “We found cancer cells” I had this feeling that because my body was damaged, I had somehow failed. Sure, there were risk factors I could have handled differently, but I knew the cancer was not “caused” by me. I find it far-fetched that anyone would place blame on me for having this disease. It’s not as though it was a lung disease caused by chronic heavy exposure to carcinogens.  The type of cancer I have could happen to any woman who breathes air, drinks water, and eats food. But I decided to pursue the thought.  What IF someone were to place blame on me for something I did or failed to do? Immediately my mind went to the scriptures:

As (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3 ESV)

Come again? My disease that is not my fault has a purpose? And it’s for God’s work to be displayed? 

My world had been upended in recent days, so I decided to accept this in faith. Cancer, so the works of God might be displayed. OK, let’s see what happens when God shows up …

There is an often used saying, “By the grace of God.” When you take the time to ponder, I mean really ponder this saying, it can be a bit mind-blowing. God is God – all-knowing, all-powerful, almighty. He has a high standard for His people to live up to. It’s laid out in the Ten Commandments. There’s not anyone who hasn’t broken at least one of them. I’d be the first to admit I’ve broken more than one in the same act. If grace is “an undeserved gift” why would a God who demands perfection offer it to people who are expected to live up to that standard but miserably fail? We can’t make the mark of perfection on our own. Why would a holy and perfect God bother to help us?

The word “sin” means “to miss the mark.” Love covers a multitude of sin, bridges the gap between our missed targets and God’s mark of perfection. There is no way we can cover that divide on our own. Grace is unmerited favor; an undeserved gift.  Among God’s greatest works is the gift of grace. God is love. God showed His love for us in that while we were sinners – are sinners – Christ died on the cross to bridge that gap for us. If that isn’t grace, I don’t know what is.


“People want to help. Let them help.” Friends do that. It’s their gift of grace, to bridge the gap between what I can do on my own, and the mark that is expected of me. They cannot extend the same grace that God offers, but they can in their own way allow God to show works of grace through them. And I cannot thank them enough.