Monday, December 21, 2015

Would You Come to a Christmas Service with Me?

I'll be honest - I'm struggling to find the right words to accompany this invitation. It's an idea that's been kicking around my mind the past few days and really took shape at yesterday's service when one of the pastors mentioned there were actual invitation cards available for us to take and hand out this week. The cards contain a handy-dandy schedule of Christmas services and even a link to join and watch on-line if one can't be there in person.  

"Perfect!" I thought. I snagged a few from the Information desk on my way out...and promptly left them at home this morning.  So the best I can do at the moment is extend the invitation this way. 

Oh, I know - some may not be at all interested in taking me up on it. It's okay - I won't try and twist your arm. I just suspect there are more than a few people out there who - as has often been the case with me in recent years - are so busy with the comings and goings they don't think they'll have time to fit in a Christmas service, even if they really would like to.  This is my way of letting you know - yes, you can - even if all you have is an hour to spare!  (Even if you plan on wrapping gifts and/or fixing up a veggie casserole for the family gathering while you watch/listen.)  Here's the link if you'd like to check it out:

If you'd actually like to attend in person, there are lots of options, both location-wise and time-wise. And if you think you might like to attend, but you're hesitant - for whatever reason - well, just consider this your personal invitation from me. I don't bite. And neither will this. :) 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


"25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]:Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:25-32.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, there are rarely -- if ever -- times when I attend church and don't come away feeling that I was meant to be there -- to receive the message and once again be reminded that He is almost always speaking to me.  (Maybe I just listen/hear Him better while I'm at church -- after all, being still and quiet is sort of an ingrained part of the churchgoing process. Besides, surfing Facebook during the worship service just seems uber tacky.)  Because of this, I've gotten in the habit of walking in with a particular question on my heart.  Whatever is weighing on me -- I bring it there and hold it out, like Zuzu's petals, for God to "paste it," and make it better; make me whole.  I don't know why it still surprises me -- but He always does. 
Lately, a couple different concerns have been weighing on me, but both have to do with loss -- loss of people who matter to me, to be precise.  There are different ways we lose people -- sometimes to death, sometimes to anger or betrayal, sometimes just to drift.  But loss is loss and the closer the tie to the person, the greater the hurt when we lose them, particularly when it's abrupt and/or unexpected.  I've been carrying a good deal of hurt with me over several people who've chosen to exit stage left in recent months.  It's left me feeling very small and not valued.  And I've been trying to figure out how to get past it.
Just letting go of it and walking away isn't really my way. Usually, my instinct is to attempt to mend fences, but in order to do that, I know I need to get past the point where I feel compelled to plead my case; to explain how I've been "wronged" and how and why I didn't "deserve" it.  Problem is...I've been stuck there for awhile, and haven't been able to move on to that "It doesn't matter who's right or wrong; what matters is the relationship with this person" phase. So when I realized today's theme was "forgiveness," I thought, "Oh, boy - here we go."  
As it turned out, the message was about more than just forgiveness.  If I had to sum it up succinctly, I'd say it's about walking the walk. But forgiveness is a crucial component of that -- God's forgiveness of our sins and, in turn, our forgiveness of one another.  Towards the end of the message, the Pastor encouraged us to seek out those we need to forgive -- to start figuring out how to get to that place.  ("Great," I thought, "That's what I've been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do.")  But then, he added another dimension to it and encouraged us to seek out those from whom we need to seek forgiveness.  
I was still mulling this over as I drove away, and it suddenly hit me: I've been so focused on forgiving, I've forgotten I need to be forgiven. Maybe I need to shift my focus to that, in order to get to where I need to be.  So I'm putting this out there, and I'm asking any and all - if I've let you down; if I've hurt you, please forgive me. If there's something I can do to make it right, tell me. And if you're still not there yet, know that I'll be right here when you are.  

There are people in your life who've come and gone;
They've let you down, you know they've hurt your pride.
You'd better put it all behind you, baby, cuz life goes on;
You keep carryin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside.

I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter.
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore. - Don Henley

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Flip or Flop

It all began for want of a pencil case.  Of course Riley got one along with her other school supplies about a month ago.  But the one we originally got, it seems, wasn't all that sturdy.  Ergo, when stepped on by a classmate last week, it sort of fell apart.  So I was informed that she needed a new one.  It went a little something like this:  I went to Target last Saturday and picked up all sorts of things (as one so often does when one goes to Target.)  Got home and, as I was unpacking my purchases, was greeted with, "Next time you go to Target, can I come with? I need a new pencil case."  I might have rolled my eyes a teeny bit, but laughed and said, "Well, yes, the next time I go to Target, you're welcome to come along, but I can't say for certain when that will be, seeing as how I just now got home from Target!" 

Later, I was informed that there was a particular case the kiddo had found on line which she needed wanted. So she described it to me, and I promised to pick one up the next time I was at Target.  Went last night to "our" store only to discover that they didn't have the item in stock.  So she asked if we could order it on line.  Sure. We can do that.  Hopped on line last evening and's out of stock on line!  And in "low stock" in only two stores in the St. Louis area -- O'Fallon and Jennings. Okay fine, the O'Fallon store isn't too far away, so I decided to run by there on my way to work this morning.  

Got there shortly after the store opened at 8:00 a.m., and, as I was walking in...something went terribly awry with my left shoe.  I was wearing my prized Colin Stuart black wedge flip-flops -- which, anyone who sees me regularly can attest, is basically the entirety of my summer shoe wardrobe.  Actually, I like this particular shoe so much, I have it in 5 or 6 colors, but since I wear a lot of black, the black ones get the most wear.  And it seems, I've worn them so much that I wore the flip right of the flop.  Busted.  So, what was I to do?  I was already at Target. Wasn't going to hop back to the car and go home.  I figured Target might actually have a reasonable substitute, so I trudged forward. 

Trust me, you haven't lived until you've attempted to traverse a large box store in a busted high-heeled flip flop.  Let's just say, I moved verrrrrrry slooowwwwwlllyyy.  I'm sure anyone who saw me thought I had a terrible leg injury.  

But I made my way over to the shoe section and low and behold - they not only had a decent selection of flip flops -- they actually had some black wedges!  Not identical to my beloved Colin Stuarts, but close enough!  

Now the trick was to figure out how to swap the fully functional flop out for the busted one without appearing to be some kind of shoe shoplifter, as simply donning the tethered-together Target pair seemed likely to cause further mobility issues.  I was able to carefully untether the left flop from its mate (and thankfully, the price tag was affixed to the right flop.)  So I donned the left flop and proceeded with my shopping sporting a pair of mismatched, yet close-enough, black wedge flip flops.

I flopped over to the school supply section...only to discover that the desired pencil case apparently wasn't in stock at this store either.   I asked the kind gentleman who was restocking the team-wear nearby to check.  He did, and after several moments and some hunting around, ultimately determined that there'd been an accounting error, and they really didn't have any in stock.  

I grabbed two alternatives and headed towards the checkout, where the cashier graciously placed my old shoes in a bag and snipped the price tag off the right flop so that I could wear my new pair out of the store.  Hope one of the cases I snagged will do, because I'm not driving to the Jennings Target for a $4 pencil case!  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Still

I went to church yesterday for the first time in several weeks. Summer's been busy and weekends fly by, and it's all too easy to place church down low on the priority list.  But I felt it tugging at me a bit. Truth be told, I've been feeling a little bit low of late. No one thing, no enormous thing, just the paper cuts of life leaving their sting. 

So I went with the hope that an hour in church would renew my spirit a bit, as it so often does.  I went with a prayer on my heart that God would speak to me there as He's done before.  It's the reason I've come to love my church so -- rare is the time I attend and don't take something meaningful away.  

And as the service went on, I felt...well, not really what I'd been hoping for.  The music was good, the message was fine, but it wasn't really connecting with me in the way I'd thought it might. Even when the pastor mentioned "those times when God speaks to us and we know it's Him."  Yes - I've experienced those times, and they're a large part of what informs my faith. But He wasn't really speaking to me yesterday.  

Then, at the end of the service, the lights dimmed, and the pastor engaged in a sort of "question and answer" prayer session with God.  He voiced a concern or doubt, speaking directly to God, and then, in turn, a verse would appear on the screen -- one which spoke to the question. I don't recall the pastor's first query, but the responsive verse was:  "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine."

And for some reason, that prompted me to think of the times I've called out to God in sadness or doubt, and "heard" (in my head - not in a big out loud GOD voice): "Be still, and know that I am God."  So I thought, "Okay, maybe that's what I'm supposed to take away from today."  I thought on it a bit as the question-and-answer-prayer continued for a few minutes.  

And then the pastor was quiet and the lights dimmed completely. And then, a blue spotlight illuminated a lone pianist on stage.  And this is what he played:

I heard you, God.  Thank you.