The Christmas Condom

Okay, that’s a crude title…

…but no more harsh than what we say to friends and family over the holidays.  Therefore, I suggest that, as part of our morning ritual, we slip on an extra layer of skin, this one lubricated with the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I’m serious.  Despite our best efforts to rid our psyches of past traumas and wounds, people…particularly those we grew up with…have an amazing ability to push well-hidden buttons.

Shirley MacLaine once said that she had life all figured out…her life and everyone else’s lives…and then she went home for Thanksgiving.

We all have our infections…some more deadly than others…and just like practicing safe sex, we all should do the right thing and practice safe inter-actions.

And, just like with safe sex, it may not feel the same; it may not be as much fun; but that nasty barb or snide remark will infect and cause as much harm as syphilis.  (By the way, syphilis causes blindness; did you know that?  Nasty remarks that keep old wounds full of germs and puss will blind ‘loved ones’ to your virtues…and vice versa; did you know that, too?)

Remember, condoms protect both parties.  Before you press the doorbell, if you ask Jesus for the blessing of a Holy Spirit ‘condom’…and make sure it is on you, snug and secure…then you will be protected and protecting.

Happy Holidays

 

In Thanksgiving for life…

(Dictated into my cell phone on the evening of January 19, 2016)

I’m driving through Travelers Rest, watching the gas gauge because I am just about out of gas. I have about a dollar seventy five to my name and I’m making plans.

There’s a gas station at the Green River exit on 25 and I’m thinking of offering to clean the bathroom in exchange for two gallons of gas.

I’m recording this because I’m thinking about what it’s like to live like this…for the people who live like this every day of their lives, and can’t get out of the downward spiral.

All of my life I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth. I have to admit that I have very often thought that they somehow deserved to live this way,  either because they were wasteful and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality; by that, I mean they were so used to social programs that there was no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.

God was I wrong. There is no dignity in this.  Yes, I have been stupid and wasteful.  But, I believe it takes more strength to hold your head up, survive this, and ask for help than it does to work a hard, paying job.

I will make it through this. I know I will. I’m having to convince my daughter that she, too, will survive this because she, too, is overdrawn and facing rent day. But I’m also having to teach her that this is a God lesson in humility. This whole scenario is destroying my pride. And that is a good thing…a God thing.

To identify with the people who live on the streets or in their cars or in 60 year old house trailers with the floors falling in… it’s a good place to be.

God, forgive me for all those times when I have felt superior to people who have nothing. Forgive me for making them feel bad by looking the other way or not smiling, for not looking them in the eyes, or not offering to help.

And for all those empty-headed idiots who say people who live on the street do so because they want to…I can’t think of a curse strong enough for them.

Well, I did it.  I stopped at the Green River exit and asked the attendant if I could clean the bathrooms for two gallons of gas.  He deferred to the manager/owner. First, she calculates how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going, and how many miles I get to a gallon.  She then tells me she’s already cleaned up and they close in 10 minutes, so, “no.”  I wait.  She waits back.  So I leave, with no gas.

I drove 40 to 50 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.

I’m now at my daughter’s apartment where it’s warm.  It’s 19 degrees outside and I’m thinking about the people broken down by the side of the road, or ‘sleeping’ under bridges, or in their cars, or even in shelters.  I beg God to bless them, if not in this life then in the next one.  And, please, if they sleep, may they know in their dreams that someone is sorry, very sorry, that someone cares for them even if there is nothing she can do to help, and that she loves them.

Let Them Talk

I’m all about ‘teachable moments,’ those special moments in time when we are given the opportunity to alter life.  I miss probably 95% of them so when I realize I have walked away from one of the 5% that I am aware of, I lament.

I was late in making the water bill payment and drove to the facility on Saturday morning to put the check in the night deposit box.   As I was looking around the front door for anything that might resemble a deposit box, a white SUV drove past the side of the building to a covered drive-through.  As I walked around the side of the building, I noticed that the driver of the SUV had his window down.

“Is that the night deposit box?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” he replied.  He opened his door a bit and said, “I can’t reach it.”

I hurried into the space between us and offered, “Here, let me help.  You told me where to find it so I’ll put both of our checks in.”

“Thank you,” he said, handing me his envelope.  As I slipped both beneath the protective cover, he added,  “I’ve had a stroke and I’ve lost a lot of strength in my left arm.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…”

“…but I’m getting better,” he quickly added.

Seeing an opportunity, I prayed, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“You bet.  I’ll tell you, this stroke really saved my life.”

“Bless you, dear.”  I touched his arm; “You have a good Thanksgiving.”

“You, too.”

But I knew as soon as I turned to go that I had blown it.  That man had a story to tell and I cut him off.

 

Everyone has a story to tell.

Some stories are outrageous tales of abuse, neglect, and unbelievable mistreatment…or they start out that way.  Some stories don’t sound like stories at all, but rather as general complaints about politics, family members, illness, or the weather.  However, if given the opportunity, the complaints can morph into a sharing of the story teller’s  circumstances and experiences…often as an explanation of why the story teller thinks the way he does.

If handled properly (and if trust is built) the story teller may then be empowered to shift his position just a bit, less toward rancor and rage, and more toward patience and forgiveness…even toward a willingness to admit his own failings.  In, “What do people do, who don’t have Jesus?” I describe a day of meeting people, listening to their stories, and..in time…getting to the crux of life.

The gentleman at the water department wanted to share his story of how suffering a  stroke had saved his life.  It is probably a wonderful story; his stroke probably forced a change of life priorities or a re-connection to God.  By gifting him with the opportunity to tell his story, I could have strengthened the power of the transforming event in his life; I could have encouraged his willingness to share his story and life with more people; I could even have been blessing, myself, with wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

There are enumerable, but only positive, reasons for listening to another person’s story.  Truth be told, I would also be obeying Christ in doing so because several times a day He whispers to me, “Let her talk.”

“We still control our destiny”

After Clemson’s heartbreaking loss last Saturday night, I looked forward to hearing some wisdom from a most beloved inspirational speaker, Dabo Swinney.  But when I heard Dabo remind his audience that “We still control our destiny,” I thought, what about God?

I have seen Dabo and the team members acknowledge God when entering the stadium and after making a touch down. I knew Dabo was known for his faith, so I did some research.

I will direct you to an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 24, 2013, in which the author describes the spiritual climate at Clemson, particularly as it is fed by the faith of Dabo Swinney and other members of the staff. I quote from the article, With God on Our Side,

At Clemson, God is everywhere. The team’s chaplain leads a Bible study for coaches every Monday and Thursday. Another three times a week, the staff gathers for devotionals. Nearly every player shows up at a voluntary chapel service the night before each game.

The players all know the coach’s favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Run your race to win, don’t just run the race.”

“I’m a Christian,” Coach Swinney tells Clemson recruits. “If you have a problem with that, you don’t have to be here.”

The article goes on to describe how players have been baptized on the field, dedicating their lives to Christ, with team mates as witnesses.  Coaches and staff members address all aspects of a player’s character, not just the player’s catching or running skills. Dabo and the rest of the staff and team turn to Christ not just to thank Him for a win, but also for wisdom when they lose. After a painful loss, Dabo prayed, “Lord, help us learn from this. We take glory in everything You do, win or lose.”

In my introduction to this blog, I describe what I mean by a teachable moment and I point out that athletic coaches have a unique opportunity to make an impact on a young person’s life; athletic events are teachable moments by their very crisis nature. By setting the focus of each athletic competition and the focus of life, as a whole, as being a spiritual race run with Christ, Dabo demonstrates how one controls one’s destiny. Setting one’s life to be Christ-centered, Christ-focused, and Christ-worthy is the best possible strategy for one’s life and one’s destiny…temporal and eternal.

Ebenezer (Ebo) Ogundeko, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., picked the Tigers over Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and other programs. One of his reasons: “I felt like coming to Clemson would bring me closer to Jesus,” he told The Chronicle. “Most dudes on the team, they take their religion very seriously, and their relationship with Jesus Christ. They’ve encouraged me to move closer and closer to God.”

I believe that what our Creator wants is our reconciliation with Him. To encourage a young person to move closer and closer to God…through dedication, through prayer, through sharing, through outward demonstration…affects one’s destiny, in the best possible way.

Dabo was right. We all control our destiny.