23 January 2013

Birthday Fun ...

Today has been a great day!

I took the day off from work because it’s my birthday today.

My aim – it was to simply relax and, perhaps, get some reading in for my three courses that I’m taking this semester. My sisters had a different plan though and I actually ended up spending a good part of the day with them. That was nice!

The other part was having some delicious ice cream cake with my sons.
And, while I normally do the blanket ‘Thank you for the birthday wishes’ on Facebook, this year I decided to respond to each one individually.

What was my reason?

I wanted people to know that I appreciated them taking time out of their day to wish me happy birthday. The other reason is because I am truly thankful for the people that God has placed in my life. Whether they are family members, dear friends or casual acquaintances, I am learning the importance of valuing relationships and people specifically ... and letting them know that you value them. I want to seize every opportunity I have to let those who are special to me know that they are. It blessed me just to take time and reflect upon how I’ve been connected to these people and what makes it special.

I posted two pieces of Birthday Wisdom on my Facebook page today:
  •       Live life in such a way that others celebrate your birthday ... truly thanking God for the day that He created you.
  •       If you ever think to yourself, 'I'll be the first one to CALL and say Happy Birthday' ... and it is 4:50AM ... PLEASE THINK AGAIN!

Yes, the first birthday call actually came in at 4:50AM!

Yet, despite that small hiccup, the day has been a very relaxing one. I started out in prayer and reading the Word and spent the remainder of it with the people I love … and who love me.

You can’t ask for much more than that …

Truly grateful this evening …

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. ‘
This is the first and most important command.
And the second command is like the first:
‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

Matthew 22:37-39 NCV

04 January 2013

angels die ...

Today has been a truly difficult day …

It started this morning – with a ride to work in my son’s car. Now I don’t normally listen to the radio. I have a set of CD’s that I enjoy that remind me of hope and love and faith – songs that move me. 

Well, this morning I heard a song that was not in my collection …
This song by Ed Sheeran ‘The A Team’

I wish it referenced a now defunct television series from the eighties. But it did not. Neither did it reference the elitism that comes with being in the ‘right crowd’, although I am certain that can contribute to the problem.
It is a somber tale of strung out young lady – a tale of too many young ladies and young men.

And as I listened to this song, no words were spoken between my son and I. And, curiously enough, he did not switch the station [as he often does], surfing and looking for just the right song. He let it play. And suddenly I was very thankful that it was 6AM and still very dark…

I could feel that press on my heart, that lump in my throat and sudden sadness – followed by extreme awkwardness – as my eyes welled up with tears as I thought about how many of our young angels try to fly to a place mentally where the shame of sexual abuse can’t reach them, where painful violence ceases and extreme loneliness fade – even if only for a moment.

It seemed like the song would not end and, as it played, my thoughts went to a young lady I use to know. For the sake of all parties, I will call her ‘Angel’.

Back in the day, Angel would walk home from school with two people that I knew very well. But somewhere along the way, Angel was drawn in another direction, toward a different path, to endure a very different life than anything she probably ever imagined for herself. You see, Angel was just like the young lady in this song – trying to escape, caught up in the grip of drugs and doing unthinkable things to get money for that next fix. The last time I saw Angel was in the spring of 2002 and the years of drug use, hard living and sexual exploitation had taken its toll her. I would like to say I barely recognized her. But I did not recognize her at all until someone told me it was her. Living with HIV, she looked so many years older than the young lady that I remembered – a young lady who had the sweetest face and a smile that was breathtaking – one she flashed often as she use to walk down the street with her friends.

Three friends – one became a nurse, one became a magistrate and the other became ‘an angel’. Sadly, Angel became another tragic story of situations gone very, very wrong. I don’t know if Angel ever accomplished any of the aspirations that she had as a young teen and she ended up in a casket – far too soon. There is a sting of irony when I consider that one of her friends grew up to save lives, and the other to protect lives and society. Yet, no one was able to protect Angel - to save her.

I cried, when I got out of the car, I cried in the elevator and when I got to my desk I struggled to fight back the tears as my mind kept going back to the countless number of ‘Angels’ who are flying and dying every day. When my co-worker came in, I was sharing with her what a challenging morning it had been and why – and it wasn’t even 7:00AM yet.

Her response to my expressed frustration with not being in a position to do more was this:
She shared about someone she knew that finally got free from drugs at the age of 50 and then she said, ‘That is why you are doing what you do and why going to do what you’ve planned’.

My pursuit of a degree in Psychology with a focus on Christian Counseling begins in less than two weeks. But even with that in mind, I said, ‘You know how long it will take to finish my degree …’

Then my friend said something that stuck with me the remainder of the day:
‘Who says you have to finish in order to start?’

Immediately I knew she was speaking words of wisdom…
While we should always finish what we begin – we do not have to finish before we begin.

We do not have to get the degrees and certifications before we reach out to others with compassion – and listen to their story, feel their pain and love without expectation.

We do not have to get ourselves cleaned up and ‘complete’ before we take a step toward Jesus

And we should not expect others to get themselves cleaned up and complete before we’ll take a step toward them. Rather, we should be like Jesus who embraces us right where we are – the divorcee, the prostitute, the drug addict, the girl next door and the corporate executive in the corner office.

We do not have to have the entire matter completely figured out before we will embark upon becoming a better person, reaching out to an Angel, acquiring a new skill or making a difference in the lives of those around us. God says it is He who, ‘knows the end from the beginning’ (Is. 46). Therefore, we don’t have to be consumed with the end. We can start right where we are – doing something, even if it is a small something.

My friend who gave me that very thought provoking quote – she found out yesterday, along with another friend of mine, that she will not have a job after tomorrow. They are ‘releasing’ our temporary employees. I don’t like that word ‘releasing’ in the context of job loss. It makes it sound less crushing than it actually is – and I know because I have been on the giving and receiving end of that piece of news. After all, who wants to be ‘released’ from a way to pay the rent, pay child care and put food on the table?

I’ve had to swallow my pride tonight and reach out to an old acquaintance that I have not spoken to in quite a while – to petition for a favor … not for myself but to try to help find a job for a single mom.

You see, I don’t just want to help the ‘Angels’ in the world. I want to help the single mom so that her precious daughter or son won’t grow up to be one of the angels in that song. It may sound extreme, but only the angels know what truly drives an Angel to the streets and to that life. Was it abuse that occurred when a single-parent was absent, having to work two jobs to make ends meet? Was it frustration with a life of poverty that drives one to try to escape? It can be any number of causes…

My heart is extremely heavy today … and I feel the tears welling up all over again. So I will end with this:

There are far too many of our precious angels trying to fly
And definitely too many who die
And the heavenly angels – they do cry – and so do I
Yet I am not content with crying … and I don’t believe you are either.
So let us pray. But then let us also do … something …

01 January 2013

Happy New Year! 2013

Praying the LORD will go before you in all your endeavors, blessing you with peace, favor and victory. Praying that He will reveal Himself to you in unique and personal ways. Praying that He will be your shelter, in the sunshine and rain. Praying that you will pursue Him as much as He pursues you. Praying that your desire to be free from everything that binds will be overwhelming - that you will release those things and embrace the freedom that the LORD Jesus freely offers to all. Praying that His incredible love will be tangible in your life. Praying that you will become all that He has called you to be and accomplish all that He has purposed for you to do.

‘I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the LORD,
Who call you by your name,
Am ... 

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the LORD, do all these things.'
Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,
And let righteousness spring up together.
I, the LORD, have created it.
Isaiah 45:2-3, 5-8

Wishing You & Yours
Blessings of the LORD
Happy New Year!