Reflections on This “Upcoming” Giving Tuesday

I see you sitting there, firmly on the ground, legs stretched out in front of you. Sitting in a parking space in the back of the autoparts store, as if you have indeed parked yourself for a time.

I drive past in my heated van, sitting comfortably in my pilot seat as I head to the library. My glimpse is short, but my eyes take in all the details.

A larger woman, dressed in blue. Hair braided. A bag next to you. You are sitting in such a way as to announce to the earth that this space, however small, is yours. You exist, and by virtue of existence, you must claim some small corner of this planet. And here it is, the back parking space of the autoparts store.

And I wonder how long the store will let you stay before they shoo you away. Perhaps call the police to come and make you move along. I wonder if you’re cold. Your jacket looks thin. I’m sure that the pavement must be freezing your butt. Your eyes are wide open, observing everything around you in a way that makes me wonder if this a new situation for you.

I see you.

And I keep driving.

I have places to go.

Things to do.

On this giving Tuesday, I’m going to share a link for KARM, Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Though I’m sure they will accept donations on any day of the year.

http://Karm.org

Edit: I got my Tuesdays wrong, so I’ll repost on Dec 2nd, but any day is a good day to give!

😄

Fall Nights

It’s been a good day. A day to notice little things. 

This evening I heated up some soup for my supper. On Sundays I make a big noontime meal and then the rest of the day everyone fends for themselves (Ok, we help the three year old out, but that’s about it). I try to have sandwich makings or bagels or leftovers or something simple people can snack on. Today I heated up the homemade chicken soup which is more like chicken stew, it’s so thick, and two of my girls joined me. We got out the pretty colored bowls of mismatched shapes and sizes that always cheer me up. Sat at the big wooden table my husband made. 

After eating we moved back to the living room, the center of the home in winter time. My teen was playing the part of dj, selecting music off her playlists for us while she read her book. 

Some kids were gathered around the coffee table, having an interesting debate about how to draw animals. 

Another child was sitting on the couch with the dog, also reading her book. The puppy sleeping on the floor close by. 

Another child crawled into my lap and after a couple minutes of rocking in the old chair, she was out. I sat there holding her, enjoying my domain. 

Right now life feels a little crazy. Holiday plans are getting shifted, age-long traditions are being paused. Our country still doesn’t feel stable. I try to avoid thinking about the outside world as it seems out of control and bewildering. 

And so, it feels like a gift, to be able to just sit and see my immediate space. My home. The solidness of family. To feel the peace around me. Belonging. Purpose. Mission, as we try to raise these kids to adulthood. 

As we head into Thanksgiving this week, I’ll get started with the thankfulness now. I am thankful for fall nights, in my home, with my family. 

Is Prayer Enough?

Have you all ever read Isaiah 58? The other day, I was moving things around in my dining room, and a Bible that had been on a side table was set on the dining room table. I went to eat breakfast and there was the Bible, lying open right where I usually sit and eat. How nice. I sat down and looked to see where it was open. Isaiah 58. I started reading. And it kind of felt like I was suddenly sitting in the Principal’s office being read the riot act. 

I will summarize. Basically, God says, I’m not interested in your fasting and praying if it’s not accompanied by acts of mercy and justice towards the people around you. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot concerning our country. Before the upcoming election, and even throughout this momentous year, I have heard a lot of Christians, from all denominations and political stances, calling for prayer for our nation. I have often heard people quote, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land..” and then we are all called to pray for our country. Except that the verse they are quoting actually says, 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We seem to forget about that “turn from their wicked ways” part. Isaiah 58 gets pretty detailed about what God thinks of as “wicked ways”. 

Isaiah 58:6 -7

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I don’t believe it’s an either/or kind of thing. We’re not supposed to choose between fasting and prayer or social justice. One without the other is empty. I am not trying to put a yoke of condemnation on our shoulders. In this world where we are overwhelmed by all our responsibilities, being told that you should be out feeding the poor and lobbying for social justice, well that just feels heavy and impossible. But, saying, it’s too much, I can’t do it, is also a cop-out. 

Each of us has talents, gifts, and resources. We can use those to help those around us. We can send that extra spending money to a homeless shelter. If we have time to volunteer, there are endless possibilities. We can write letters. We can call our local government offices. We can serve people in our community through one-on-one relationships or through supporting others who have time for that one-on-one. For those moms with young children who are in the trenches and barely hanging on, you can befriend someone at your church who is new. Maybe reach out to another young mom who desperately needs fellowship and encouragement. For those who are housebound, you could write letters to people in prison, start researching the issues in your community, email people with influence. There is SO MUCH we can do! 

We all desire the grace of God on our country. But I am going to say that prayer is not enough. If we want to see changes in our country then we need to follow Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. God’s heart is for the homeless to be fed and sheltered, for the worker to earn a living wage, for people to be treated with love and respect. 

We are saved by grace through faith. Not by works, but when we have faith and grace, it should compel us to do works. 

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I would like to suggest that while we are praying for our country, we also add to that prayer: God show me what I can do to help the homeless, the oppressed, those who are under a yoke. Show me specifically something I can do to help. 

In Jesus Name Amen. 

Here is Isaiah 58 if you are interested in reading the whole thing:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

    Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

For day after day they seek me out;

    they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

    and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

    ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

11 

The Lord will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 

then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Panic Attack

I found myself having a panic attack and decided to write my way through it. Here’s a snapshot of what is going on in my brain during a panic attack..

I’m having a rough day. I had to take my nine year old to the hospital for surgery early this morning to get rods put into her broken arm. My other daughter is sick and I will be heading off to another doctor’s appointment this afternoon to help her. I’ve been fighting a cold for ten days and in this era where Covid fear rages, having a cold is not a small thing. 

Today my mind is stewing on silly things. An online conversation with a blogger that turned into a veiled interrogation of me and my life choices. A scary notion that I am failing in this game called life. An overwhelming feeling of impending doom. 

And suddenly, I stop and realize that I’ve got things flipped upside down in my mind. In my mind, all these crazy things are happening, and as a result, I am responding with anxiety. 

I think the actual truth is I am struggling with anxiety and so everything that happens is being filtered through that anxiety and blown way out of proportion. My life isn’t causing me anxiety and stress. My anxiety is causing my life to feel anxious, stressful. 

Next question, why am I feeling so much anxiety? 

Typical culprits: lack of sleep, social media and the news, having to forego church due to sickness in our house, being physically sick myself.

When you can sit back and analyze things, it helps take off that big load of self-condemnation. Cause when I’m feeling anxiety, I feel like a personal failure. I have failed. I am not at peace. I must be feeling anxious because I’ve done something wrong. Not just that I’ve done something wrong, but that there is something inherently wrong with me. 

So, it’s time to hit the Refresh button. Speak some truth. 

I am Esther, daughter of the King. I have been saved. God no longer looks at my sin, but instead looks at me and sees Jesus’ goodness. My future lies with spending eternity with God. I am loved. God has blessed me with parents and parents-inlaw and a brother and brothers and sisters in law who love me. I have been blessed with a husband who loves me and children who are amazing. I belong to a church body that is there for me, that regularly supports me in all ways. Our world is crazy right now with political upheaval and covid, but God is still on his throne, none of this is a surprise to him. I am not perfect, but when I make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. I can apologize. I can make restitution. I can go back and try again. 

My life is in God’s hands. 

So, I say Thank you Lord for this beautiful day. Thank you that my daughter made it safely through surgery. Thank you that my other daughter has a doctor she can visit and that medicine is available. Thank you for freedom of speech in that, so far, we are still able to hold opposing opinions with others and live in a diverse world. Thank you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that you thought creating me, in all my quirkiness, was a good idea. 

These verses come to mind..

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Childhood Memories

Disclaimer:

The following is a memory from my childhood. A note on memories. They are not always accurate. Details might be wrong. Also, these are the memories of a child, my understanding of the world around me was that of a twelve year old. My main concern in posting this article is to not cast a bad light on the country of Haiti. I do not want that. I think the events that happened are universal to any society that is going through upheaval, not specific to Haiti. So, without further ado..

I was twelve years old. We were living in Cap Haitian, Haiti. We had just moved back to Haiti maybe six months before, after living in the States for five years. Haiti was the home of my father and mother, and I had memories of Haiti from when I had been younger, so it felt like home.

There had been a Coup d’etat, the government had been overthrown and the country was in an uproar. We had been hiding in our house for a week with little word of how things were going around the country. My father religiously listened to the radio throughout the day and he had a ham radio in his truck that he could reach a missionary compound that was maybe a thirty minute drive away in Vaudreille where my Grandparents lived. My father and Grandfather had a prearranged time that they would talk over the radio twice a day. 

The first day that everything fell apart we had heard explosions and gunshots. We had all hid in the stairwell of our house, the safest place we could find in our open, airy, tropical home. Not sure if any of the bullets were aimed our way. During the day we could hear the low roar of a mob, far off in the distance. And I wondered what that mob was doing. I had overheard stories of mobs attacking rich people’s houses, dragging the occupants out into the street and killing them in horrible ways and then ransacking their houses. The sound of the mob was the sound of death. I hated that sound. 

We stayed inside, rarely venturing into our concrete-block-walled yard. We had very little groceries in the house and had been subsisting on macaroni and a large bag of pancake mix. 

The first night of the trouble, my father had told us to lay out an outfit in dark colors and pack one small bag. He was afraid that our house might be attacked in the night and that it would be necessary for us to run on foot from the house. He had spoken to our night watchman and the watchman knew the trails over the mountain that could take us to the missionary compound, and he was willing to lead us if necessary. 

I had always wanted to hike over that mountain, it always looked so romantic, looming over the Northern Plain, often covered in clouds. The whole idea sounded exciting, but it also made my stomach churn. I remember laying out my black tshirt and my blue jean capri pants. I packed a small blue jean bag with leather straps that my mother had brought as a gift for me when she had gone to South Africa for the funeral of her missionary father. I always slept with my favorite stuffed animal, Potbelly, and I couldn’t decide if I should stuff him in the bag so he would be ready to go or should I sleep with him and then, if I was awakened in the night, I could stuff him in the bag at that time. I can’t remember what I decided. 

My mom had a large jewelry collection, none of it worth a great deal, but each piece representing an exotic location she had visited. My mom got out some dark green fabric and showed me how to sew a simple little drawstring bag. We sewed two bags and then put our jewelry in the bags and stowed them in our travel bags. 

When I woke up the next morning, I looked over, and all my travel stuff was still there. I was surprised and thankful that we hadn’t had to run in the night. But, we left our stuff layed out every night that week, just in case. 

After a week, my Dad came in after talking on the ham radio with my Grandpa. After talking with my mom, they announced that we were going to drive to the missionary compound and stay there until things had calmed down. 

What about the drive there? What about the mobs? What about the gunshots? What if we got stopped? 

My Dad said we would not get stopped. Everything was going to be ok.

We each packed a small bag of valuables and clothing and then loaded them into our truck. The watchman agreed to stay on and take care of our pets and take care of the property. 

Our truck had once been a Tap-Tap, a vehicle outfitted to act as public transportation. The back had a roof and sides. My dad had changed the benches in the back to make them more comfortable and he had installed a tail gate and wire mesh doors that could completely close up the back. 

Usually, my brother and I would sit on the benches and we would get a bungee-cord and fasten it to the two wire mesh doors to hold them closed from the inside. If my dad wasn’t carrying passengers he simply used a padlock to shut the doors from the outside.

This time my dad put a mattress down on the floor of the truck bed and instructed us to lay on the mattress. Then he shut the wire mesh doors and locked them from the outside with a padlock. He had canvas curtains that he could put down when it was raining. We hated those curtains as it shut out any breeze and made it very hot. He put down the curtains so that nobody could see into the back of the truck, and we couldn’t see out. 

I lay on the mattress on the floor and just stared at that padlock through the dim gloomy light. What if our truck DID get stopped by a mob? What if the mob set our truck on fire? I knew this was a possibility. I had seen burnt-out vehicles by the side of the road before. What if the mob pulled my parents from the truck and killed them and we were just stuck in the back of the truck, unable to do anything?

I looked over at my brother. He had his headphones in, music blasting. I scooched a little closer to him, layed on my back and stared at the sliver of light coming between the rubber curtains. I held on as the truck slowly made its way down a very rutted and washed out dirt road. I mentally kept track of where we were, each bump and turn giving me a clue. I didn’t move from the mattress. I had no desire to get up and peek through the cracks. Finally the truck pulled off the dirt road and onto a paved road that was also rutted and full of potholes, sections of pavement missing every once in a while. My body tensed. We could drive faster on this road, but we were still in town. Just a little bit farther and we would be out of Cap Haitian. The closer we got to Vaudreuille and the missionary compound, the safer we would be. 

Finally, finally, the truck took a sharp right turn and then stopped. I knew we must be at the gates to the compound now. The gate would be locked and guarded, but they would recognize our truck and let us in quickly. 

We finally pulled into a grassy driveway behind my grandparents house. My dad got out and I could hear him talking to my grandparents. I shook the back door, Hey, let me out. And he walked over and unlocked the gate. My brother and I jumped out, holding our bags. We all then acted like we were having a holiday visit with my grandparents. My grandmother showed us our rooms, my brother and I sharing the room we had always shared when staying with them. A cannonball from the Citadel, a large fortress in the North, acting as a door stop for our door. The whoosh of ceiling fans. The chimes of my grandmother’s clock. 

My grandmother explained when supper was, when breakfast was, what the shower schedule would be, what she and Grandpa’s work schedule would be, as they were still working full-time at the Christian Radio station. It was all so orderly. Just like my grandmother. 

I laid on my bed that was made up with seventies style flowered sheets. I pulled out my book and started reading.

I’m Available

Yesterday someone asked me if I planned on continuing to foster children in the future. I said an outright NO! And then, after a pause. Well, ok. In the end, God gets the final say. I just hope it’s no. 

I thought about it some more and wanted to add to the conversation, You see, the problem is, I don’t feel like I have very much Margin in my life. Margin, according to nourishedplanner.com is “the boundaries, the rest that is built into your every day life. It is the space between our load and our limits. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating…” 

I was thinking about margin and thinking that it feels like I have been going full-throttle for twenty years now and my margin has been very small. `I would like to have more margin. Having more foster kids would definitely not fit into that plan. At least, not in this stage of my life. 

While I was thinking all this, I put out a little prayer, Lord, I need more margin! 

Then last night I had a crazy dream. The simplified version is I realized someone had a baby hidden away in my house, and it had been there for months, and no one had been taking care of it, and it was severely neglected and needed care Immediately. I was rushing the baby to the doctor, making plans in my head of how I could wear the baby in a carrier to try and establish a good bonding between us. Maybe I could nurse it? I was in full-blown FIX IT NOW mode, and at the same time feeling overwhelming guilt that I had somehow let this happen right under my own nose. I woke up and there was a complete thought planted in my head. 

“There are so many babies that need someone to take care of them. Aren’t you going to do it?” 

And all my thoughts about wanting margin in my life came flooding back and I cried out to God, “What do you want from me??” 

And this verse came into my head. 

Philippians 2:17, NLT: “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.”

And then I just lay there in bed. And now today, as the whole thing lingers in my mind, I think more about margin. I remember all the times when I felt like I was on the edge, I could do no more, I was, in fact, Done, and God provided Rest. Restoration. Reset. 

My grown up life has seemed to be a series of long hard gallops, followed by some really slow, meandering walks. And sometimes, just periods of time when I am completely still. And when I’m restored again, the pace starts picking up and the gallop starts again. 

And it doesn’t seem correct to me. I mean, slow and steady wins the race, right? Pace yourself. Take care of yourself first, and then you will have something to offer others… All of these statements have been my go-to for the last couple years. 

Not taking on more than you can handle sounds like wisdom to me. Of course, when you do that, you kind of negate the Divine. God never said that we could handle everything. He said that if we are relying on him, and walking in His Spirit, His Power, working through us, can accomplish anything. And when that happens, it’s so obviously God, and not us, that God gets all the glory. 

I have no idea what the future holds. Our current foster arrangement was miraculous in itself. We did not fit any of the parameters for fostering, but when the need arose, the court was willing to jump through a bunch of legal loopholes so we could foster. I don’t know what will come next.  But, I am feeling led to just say, Lord, I’m available. Whatever you want. I’m here. 

Three Love Stories

The other day I was reading the New York Times and they had a section where they were offering readers to submit their own loves stories in 100 words or less. I looked through their requirements, and they were looking for a demographic that doesn’t include me, but I still thought it would be fun to try and write a love story in 100 words or less. I ended up with three stories, about children, my spouse and God. Enjoy!

MY BABY

He is the youngest of ten. His oldest two siblings are all grown and gone. He is the baby. Three years old.

I am cleaning my desk. He climbs into my lap, demands my attention. 

Read me a book!

I sigh. 

Ok, one book, then you go play. 

We settle into my armchair. I read. He smiles and laughs. I set the book down. He snuggles into me, in moments, asleep. 

I still need to clean. 

It can wait. 

I know. 

I’ve only got seconds left before he too will be grown. 

Gone. 

I sit and hold my baby. 

We are Romance

The romance movie ends. Steamy, undying love between two attractive, successful people. I look across at my husband. We are two middle-aged, normal looking people. We pay bills. Raise our kids. Go to church. We are not considered movie material. Too bad. Our lives are all about romance and undying love. The undying love of washing dishes and going to work every day. The romance of saying, no, you stay in bed, I’ll get the crying baby. The passion of sleeping in on a Saturday morning together while kids eat cereal and watch tv. We are Romance in the flesh.

GOD

God. The one I bring my heaviest questions to. The one who gives me answers. The one who lives in my head. Hears every thought and feeling, loves me anyway. The one I talk to, complain to, yell at, cry to, sing praises to. The one I compliment and thank every day as I watch the sunrise, see the beautiful colors of the fall trees, feel the warm sunshine. The one who I take my heaviest burdens to. Trust that he will turn the bad into good. 

God. Without you there is nothing. You are the meaning of life.

Anyone Else Worried?

Last night I checked my phone one more time and then crashed into bed at 9:30pm. It was a long day. The kids were off from school due to the election, I had several meetings and errands and house cleaning and chauffeuring and cooking and as a backdrop to all of that, the knowledge that it was election day. 

I woke up two times in the night, grabbed my phone, checked the election updates page, then went back to sleep. 

This morning my alarm went off and the normal, “I don’t want to get up.” went through my head. Then I remembered, election. Oh yeah. I grabbed my phone. Checked the updates again. Just as I suspected and had dreaded. Both sides claiming the victory is obviously their’s and no real conclusive results yet. 

And thus begins possibly the longest week of the year as we wait for all the “officials” to do their “official” stuff and give us the “official” answer. 

This is not designed to be a political post. This is an exploration of the question, “So, how does that make you feel?” 

Right now I feel frustrated (I hate delayed gratification, I want to know the results now!) Helpless (I’m not a government official, a poll worker, a lawyer, or anyone with a position to do something to make sure the votes get counted quickly and fairly.) Powerless (I have no control over how people are going to react to the end result and I’m worried about people making bad decisions in their anger.) A little angry (why on earth is our voting system so convoluted??) Lots of doubts and fears (how are we going to move forward as a nation after the results are declared?)

I find myself pacing around in a state of restlessness. I actually got on my elliptical today because I just needed to be moving. I’ve done more cleaning in the last two days. I haven’t been able to focus on my book and have felt distracted. 

I have seen several people give the good advice that we need to just get on with life. That this election doesn’t change anything of real significance and life goes on. Which I agree with in theory. But I haven’t quite convinced my mind and emotions to grab hold of that. 

I would say I am definitely guilty of being Worried. 

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, here goes. Lord, I thank you for this nation that we live in. Thank you for the abundance that we enjoy. Thank you for the freedoms that we often take for granted. Thank you for all the good that we as a country have managed to do throughout our history. Please forgive us for all the bad that have also managed to do. Lord, I just ask for your will to be done right now through this election. I ask for your peace.  I ask that we as a country can reconcile our differences and learn to live in unity. And I ask that no matter what the results of the election, our response would be one of peace and joy. Knowing that you are still on your throne and your WILL will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that during this time your church will rise up and be instruments of peace to our fellow citizens. 

I ask all of this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen. 

I’m going to put on some praise music and get on with my day. Hopefully a little less stressed. 

Peace to all of you. 

“I Need You to Survive”

This past week I was having a bit of a rough time with my foster child. I reached out to her therapist to get some advice/strategies. She said, “If I could recommend anything, try to create opportunities for connection with her.” 

Hmmm. Ok. 

I tried it. More hugs. More positive encouragement. More time talking about her day. 

It really helped. 

No, she didn’t become a perfect angel, but some of the extreme behavior went away. 

I was talking to someone who was going through some bumps in their relationship. Have you tried just talking together about what you’re thinking and feeling? 

The person tried it. Things have improved a lot. 

Connections. We all need them. We forget just how crucial they are to our existence. I can tell you from experience that my mental health crises have been significantly improved by making emotional connections with other people. My marriage always gets a big boost when we take time to be vulnerable with each other and just share our thoughts and fears. My friendships are greatly improved by a night of chatting and catching up. 

In fact, I would say that the polarization in our country could probably be greatly healed if we spent more time focusing on things we have in common instead of our differences, searching for ways to connect, instead of loudly trumpeting our disdain for the other side.

It’s also the same with our walk with God. I start acting out. Feeling fearful. Anxious. Which makes me then act Annoyed. Irritated. Unable to Cope. 

The cure? 

Get re-connected to God. 

Open up my Bible. Turn on the praise music. Spend time in prayer. 

It renews my faith, my hope, my joy. I stop acting out. 

The New Testament has a theme that runs throughout. God has created us to be a part of a family. The Body of Christ. The Church. We all play our part. No lone rangers. Community. 

During this time of unprecedented stress and turmoil in our world, I would say that Establishing Connections, Re-connecting, is really important right now. We need each other. 

This Hezekiah Walker song is running through my head right now.

I NEED YOU TO SURVIVE

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me

We’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied

You are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me we’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied you are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me

I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you i need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you I need you to survive

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: David Frazier / I Need You To Survive Holding

The Lending of a Piano

I play the piano. I have been plunking the keys since I was probably two or three, though my first memories are of me trying to “play along” with my mom when I was maybe four. My mom’s hands would seem to be flying over the keys, and I really wanted to be part of this magic. I would hit a couple keys at the very top of the keyboard, sure that if I played gently, it wouldn’t mess up the song. We had an old piano in our living room/dining room there in the North of Haiti. It was in the corner of the room and I remember being drawn to it. It did such amazing things. 

We left that house when I was six and moved to my grandparents farm in Eastern Kentucky. We were living in a small trailer. No room for a piano. In fact, over the next ten years I did not have a Real Piano in my home. My parents got me a keyboard when I was pretty young, then later, as I pursued music more seriously, they got me a nice keyboard, a Roland with a full length keyboard and weighted keys. It also had a cool function where I could record myself playing, play back the recording, and play along with myself. This function worked great for me because I knew lots of duets and I could rarely get someone else to play the other side with me. 

Over the years I learned how to keep an eye out for Real Pianos (because keyboards are great, but nothing can replace real strings and hammers and keys that respond to the lightest touch). I would enter a home and glance around, any pianos? Oh, you have a piano! Do you mind if I play? When we would travel to different churches, I would linger afterwards, waiting for everyone to leave the sanctuary so I could sneak up and maybe play a quick song on the vacated piano. I was drawn to the instrument, some kind of magnetic force I wasn’t even aware of. 

Of course, I have always said, it would be a lot easier to play guitar. Then you just carry your instrument around with you. Alas, a pianist does not have that luck. But, I have good memories of all the pianos I have discovered and stolen a couple moments from over the years. 

The church we attended when I was in eighth grade had a giant Steinway Concert Grand Piano. And for some reason I can’t remember, my father had to be at the church pretty regularly during the week, and sometimes he would take me after school, and the secretary gave me permission to go in and play. I remember sitting in the auditorium-like sanctuary, all the lights off except a little lamp on the piano. I remember the keys were a lot heavier than I was used to. I would belt out the grandest song I could come up with, and at that age, it wasn’t anything too grand, and I would marvel at the richness of it all. It was heavenly. 

Later, when we were back in Haiti and lived close to the Baptist Seminary, I would often walk down our mountain that we lived on, go to the seminary and get the key to the Chapel where they had a lovely brand new upright piano. It was draped in a thick, quilted, fitted cover. You had to pull it off just-so or it would get stuck on a corner. None of the keys were chipped. There weren’t any notes you had to avoid because they would stick. The sound was warm. The empty chapel with it’s wooden benches making a holy atmosphere for creating music. 

I remember when we moved to Bethel, Alaska right before my sixteenth birthday. We had only been there a couple days and one of the local pastors came and introduced himself, invited us out to lunch with him. We went to the local pizza place and got to know Pastor Ralph Liberty a little better. He was the friendliest, jolliest pastor I had ever met. My dad mentioned that I played piano and I was needing a place to practice. Pastor Ralph immediately offered the piano in their church, a little Assemblies of God congregation. I started walking to the church regularly to practice, and our family started attending the church. They had a new, black, baby grand. It was perched on their little platform stage, to the side, right by a window. I remember the carpet was a rich burgundy color and the light came in weakly through the small windows. I would turn on the little lamp on the piano and pull out my books. I had just started piano lessons at the local community college and my new teacher was determined to challenge me. The first day she sent me home from my first lesson with the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor that was written on four staves in certain sections. I had never had a piece that difficult and I was determined to prove myself worthy. I remember sitting in the little sanctuary, pushing forward one measure at a time until I could finally play through the whole thing, very, very, very lento. 

A couple months after that my parents found me a little spinet piano that just barely squeezed into the tiny house we were renting. My days of searching out pianos to practice on were finally over. I loved that little piano, and I wore it out. But, looking back, I am glad for the adventure I had in seeking the lending of a piano. I inhabited many sacred spaces that became my own for the short time I was there. 

And so I say Thank you. Thank you dear churches. Thank you dear friends. Thank you dear strangers for lending me your piano. Those moments brought me great joy.