Friday, May 22, 2015

Sloppy Wet Kisses

Some things just help us feel good. Some things make us feel special and loved.  It can be little things to some; big things to others.  But there's something about the things that make us feel loved.  For some it's a bright sunny morning. The breeze that makes trees sway.  The chill on a spring morning.  The damp feeling on our skin after sitting on the shore for a while.  Walks by the sea.  Walks in the woods.  High mountain peaks.  Benches on city parks.  Famous paintings.  A child's scribbles.  Phone conversations with distant loved ones.  A brief text with three simple words... I love you. The feeling is the same, but what does it look like for you?

My friend shared with me that her recently adopted daughter woke up this morning with a new found desire to express herself.  And so this little one planted big open-mouth wet kisses on her over and over again.  I could just imagine her too.  She is just a toddler and hasn't even been here in the states one full month yet.  So she's transitioning and getting acclimated with what is now her home and family.  To say it hasn't been easy is an understatement.  So the fact that today she woke up to plant sloppy wet kisses on  her mommy's face, makes for a good day!  
I got to spend time with my own daughter today doing something that feels special to the both of us.  We drove out to one of my favorite places for breakfast and simply sat together and enjoyed what we like to call intricate foods.  The background music in the quiet relaxed atmosphere, the large cup of decaf sprinkled with cinnamon served with tasty quiche, the pleasant service, the fresh lavender flowers on the table, the curious paintings on the wall, the vast variety of cookies and pastries inside the glass case, the homey feeling we get every time we go there, just gives us a good feeling inside.  I'm not one for comparing material things to heaven on earth, but today I had to reconsider.  As I sipped on the coffee and ate off the plate, I felt like God was planting a big wet kiss on my forehead, and I felt special... loved.  To top things off, my daughter and I sat beside each other afterwards to do some reading.  She read her book, while I read mine; and then, I can't remember who extended her hand first, but as we read, we held hands for a long while.  Another wet one from above planted on our heads.

Later I had a conversation with someone I met a while ago.  He is now twenty years old, and although he's doing the best he can living life as an adult, he is still very much without the guidance and care of parents.  He grew up in an orphanage and is now trying to make it on his own.  Then again, that's what he's been doing his entire life.  Making it on his own.  This guy is amazing.  He tells me that he is doing service work to help minority people with things like work, education, and finances.  He tells me he is in need of a real job and education, but is thankful that he has a place to call home and food to eat.  He tells me that he is not concerned about the future.  He lives for today.  He says he likes to wake up each new morning and wonder what the day will bring.  He lives in the moment.  And he is at peace with that.  He called himself strong.  I reminded him that he is strong because there is a God who has been making him strong.  I reminded him about how God has brought people and opportunities into his life to help him be strong simply because He loves him. And he agreed.

And so I wonder... what would make someone like him feel special and loved?  Would something as ordinary as a cup of coffee or a plate of tasty food do the trick?  Would a homey cafe help?  I'm not sure, although I think he would enjoy it.  But I have an inkling that he would trade in a cup of coffee for a long walk and conversation.  I think simply spending time together would suit him just fine.  

Sloppy wet kisses come in a variety of ways.  And no matter what they look like, one thing remains.... God loves us.

I'm currently reading a book titled, "No Longer a Slumdog" by K.P. Yohannan, and it's got me thinking very reflectively about things of real value and those who are lacking.  The book tells of different real life stories about children who face all sorts of abuse and neglect in foreign countries.  It tells of occurrences that we cannot even imagine actually take place.  In essence, the book serves as an eye-opener to the reality of suffering in the world.  It leaves you wondering how you can make a difference, if at all you can.  And so as I read and my heart is breaking into a thousand pieces knowing that there is a little girl tonight, same age as mine, hiding in a room, while the men line up outside her door to get their turn with her.  My heart breaks and I cry out where is her sloppy wet kiss from heaven?!  Where are the sloppy wet kisses for the children who suffer in this world, while I'm sipping on my cup of coffee?  Does God not love them?  And if He does, how will they know they're loved?

And then I read about the stories of the children who have found hope and love because of Christians who have sought them out and brought them hope.  Children being freed from bondage because someone cared enough.  I read that God does love these children.  They are not forgotten by God.  But if I'm honest, would I dare to say that I'd give up all of these pretty little things that make me feel so special just so that children would no longer suffer?  Would I dare enough to give up all the sloppy wet kisses that God allows me just so that one child will be free of pain?  And what if I don't dare?

I'm envisioning my future daring... I envision myself walking alongside those children, talking with them and sharing with them.  Showering them and loving on them.  While God plants lots of wet sloppy kisses on them.

He gave up His own son to set us all free.  Because He loves us.  ----   I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. Jeremiah 32:37

*If you'd like to know how you can financially help the young man I mentioned above, please send me a private message on facebook.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Thing About Sisters

I know this week is Mother's Day, but I'm thinking about my sisters.  So this one's dedicated to all the women who know how much they're loved simply because they're sisters.

Who do you recall being there with you in the most trying times?
"Jesus' mother stood near his cross.  His mother's sister was also standing there, with Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." John 19:25 (ICB)

Something special jumped out at me when I read this part of the crucifixion story.  Mary the  mother of Jesus had a biological sister who stood by her in her greatest and most profound grief.  At first glance, it is simply women at the feet of the cross crying over Jesus' death.  But the fact that it wasn't just His mother standing there, that Mary was not alone in this her lowest estate, but that she had sisters who would grieve with her.  That is what makes it so special to me.

I love that the scripture points out that Mary's biological sister was there, but it also mentions the other women by name.  Scripture does not tell us whether or not these ladies had close-knit relationships, and it doesn't really matter because  in that one moment of time, they were closer than ever.  Death brought them close.  Sharing the loss of their child, friend, teacher, savior.  That's what made their connection unique.

In fact, there is something so special about sharing in the suffering of another person.  I can recall being there with my friend as she literally broke down upon learning of her child's cancer.  I remember thinking for a moment, "it is about 11 pm and I am standing here in my friend's bathroom holding her up... this is a powerful and very special moment"  It was strange how in the presence of real pain, there was also an overwhelming peace that we were in the right place, found in God's grace.   At the feet of the cross.  Suffering takes you there.

Celebration can also take you there.  Not too long ago, I got together with several ladies and we celebrated friendships.  It was kind of funny because of all the ladies in the group, only a couple were actually close friends.  For the most part, we are acquaintances and sisters in Christ.  And we came together to celebrate the friendships, the sisters, and women in our lives.  Those who are with us and those who are no longer with us.  That commonality brought us together. It was special.  Still even more special is the common ground we find in that we are all sisters because of Christ.  In essence, it's like we all stand together at the feet of the cross, as our savior's death brings us together.  Just like with Mary and her sisters.  And whether or not we spend lots of hours together sharing in each other's mundane, we are still connected by something that outweighs hours of walking closely.  It defines who we are as the body of Christ.  And that's something we can celebrate.

Then there's my sister, the one who God chose to have me grow up with from the time I was born.  That's wild!  To have someone else that's not a parent, witness your life simply because you were born into the same family.  And mind you, I know some siblings have a tough time caring for one another.  It's not always blissful to build on those biological relationships.  However, when you've been granted one that is rooted in deep love for one another, you cannot take it lightly.  My sister was there for me even before I could walk.  She actually bears a scar on her leg because of her tendency to mother me even early on. She would change my cloth diapers.  Yes, I said cloth!  And so one day she accidentally pierced her leg with the pin that was intended for my diaper.  Ouch!  I'm not sure how old she was, but being that she's five years older than me, I take it she was pretty young.  But that's my sister.  She is a caretaker by heart.  And I've learned loads of valuable lessons simply by shadowing her life.

I was normally in the background growing up with a girl who was always extroverted.  And I observed.  And I learned.  In fact, if I had to decide on a person to identify as the most influential teacher in my life, it would be my sister.  It's funny that we are sort of like night and day, as far as our personalities go.  She takes on sensibility, while I'm sensible.  She is literal, while I'm more into metaphors.  She's factual, while I can enjoy a play on words.  She's mature, when I'm acting ridiculously silly.  She provides the reality check when I'm acting flighty.  And I could go on and on... So what could two very different people find so endearing in knowing each other?  What could bring us so close?  Is it merely the fact that we are related?

I would say not.  In fact, I know that it takes more than blood relations to give the greatest value to a friendship or relationship.  For my sister and I, it has been the blood of Christ.  The knowledge that there is a God we both love.  The comfort in knowing that our lives are forever intertwined due to the sacrifice our savior paid by dying on that cross for us.  The joy that we will never be separate nor alone because of His promises.  The sufferings we have shared and the joys we've enjoyed have all been defined by the underlying truth of knowing God's love and grace.

So as I think about Mary, her sister, and the others standing before the cross joined by the suffering of His death, I can't help but imagine myself standing before the throne of God along with my sister, and all the other sisters I've made.  Joined not only by the suffering of Christ's death but by the glorious eternity we've been promised in Him.  Greeting one another, reacquainting with those who've gone before us.  Celebrating our common bond.  Living in eternal peace.  No longer standing at the feet of the cross, but alongside our creator and savior.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Brother's Keeper

You ever watch the show "What Would You Do?"  For a while, I was hooked on watching every episode.  I found it so interesting to see how people react to different and possibly awkward situations.  It sort of surveys the degree of morals a person may or may not have, and reveals those who will speak out in uncomfortable circumstances. I guess for some, it's not too difficult to speak out against something they feel strongly about.  But I don't think it's ever an easy task to speak up or speak out for something you believe in, specially when you know that what you do or say will affect the reputation of others.  

Are you familiar with the term, "Snitches get stitches"?  Yeah, I've heard it from time to time.  Sounds a bit childish, but it basically means that people who "tell" on others, deserve retaliation.  I think for the most part, people will remain quiet about things that are not directly affecting them.  We are prone to be selfish beings, and so if it's not a bother to me, then why should I bother, right?  Then there's the "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" famous saying; a proverb that in our Western world basically refers to lack of moral responsibility.  All in all, we are persuaded to convey a message that says "mind your own business".  

And what is my business?  Is it just what affects me directly?  Or does it also include those things that are affecting others?  Well, the other night as we were on the turnpike driving home, we noticed that the vehicle in front of us was swerving from side to side.  The person would swerve into the shoulder lane and then back into the dividing lines between the lanes.  He would go from driving right in the middle of the two lane highway to almost hitting the trees along the shoulder.  This went on for quite some time, and we were afraid to pass him, thinking he might hit our car.  Well, I did something I had never done before.  I called 911 and reported the vehicle.  It felt awkward at first, but then it just became the thing to do because he was not only putting himself in danger, but the rest of us drivers as well.  I'm not sure that the state police ever stopped him, and we did get home safely.   However, the whole thing got me thinking of our responsibility as part of the body of Christ.

So "what would you do" if you see your Christian brother or sister doing something that you know is wrong?  Like if she walks out of a store with something that you know she didn't pay for... Or if she is excessively striking her child in public...  Those things might be obvious and in your face, but what about when she makes the decision to leave her spouse?  Or what about when he is getting drunk on the weekends?  What do you do when they've confessed to you their deepest secret and worst sin?  What do we do when our brothers and sisters are living lives that do not reflect the light of Christ?  

 The Bible talks about holding each other accountable. As part of the Christian family, we are reminded that, "if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the spirit should restore that person gently"-Galatians 6:1.  I sure hope that we find ourselves prepared and know exactly how to respond in these types of situations in a manner that would bring glory to God. I think about how that driver who swerved from left to right on that highway last week, was in fact in danger and possibly putting us in danger.  In the same light, I find that when a brother or sister is living irresponsibly, he/she is not only in danger but also possibly putting others in danger as well.  But even more importantly, I feel that the fact that they may be severing the relationship they hold with God is the most dreadful predicament.  It hurts to see my sister blinded by temptations or sin.  And it hurts to see my brother seemingly clueless and unaware of the entrapment Satan poses.  

So once again, what will I do?  Well, I know one thing for sure and that is that God is not blind to any of our circumstances.  God is aware.  Therefore, He knows, just as I might know, when a brother/sister is failing spiritually.  And many times, He will allow me to see it, in attempts that I will act justly and intervene for this brother/sister.  As if to say, "What will you do"  now that you see your brother failing?  You see, if I just sit back and watch my brother fall, then in essence, I've fallen too.  Because what hurts one member will eventually hurt us all.  And if I do not act righteously, then I'm failing too.  Therefore, we must look for ways in which we hold each other accountable.

James 5:1-6
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Luke 17:3
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

Hebrews 10:24
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

Genesis 4:8-21

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[a] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.