Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hangin' On

Last night at our service, we were told that "ready or not, we're going to die." Adults realize that, death is a natural part of all living organisms' life cycle. But the bad news is that we don't necessarily get to determine when that occurs. Brother Jimmy talked about a friend who held on to life, longer than he should because he thought he needed to. It wasn't until a family member went in there and told him it was okay, that he let go.

The story is very similar to my Paw Paw. He had congestive heart failure. I remember being in seventh grade, and watching the clock all day at school when he had triple bypass surgery. I was very nervous for him but he came through it all great. As the years went by though, his heart could take no more. I was around age thirty when  the family was called in to bid our goodbyes. I walked in and he had an oxygen mask on and was struggling for air. It was all I could bare to watch him suffocating and his eyes looked at mine as if to say "help me!!"

I walked up to his bed with my sister and my sweet little Maw Maw beside me. I smiled as if I wasn't worried for him (or us) at all and said, "It's okay Paw Paw. We love you and we'll take good care of Maw Maw. Try to just relax and get as comfortable as you can." And I left. Five minutes later, he was gone. I barely cried because he was suffering so, I was just happy he was no longer struggling. It's not easy letting go of people we love. But if you know Christ, sometimes it's worse to hang on. Letting go can be the biggest gift you could give them.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How can you sleep...

You know as a parent, I've made sure my kids have the basics if nothing else. A week or two ago, our preacher went over feeding, clothing, and sheltering our children and I began to realize that maybe I've not given them what they really need. Last night at the service, it hit me really hard when it was confirmed that I had not.

As a precious mother of four called out to the church how two had been Saved and two had not, she shouted through tears with sincerity, "I'd do it for the other two if I could, but I can't!" Her husband had given a powerful message just minutes before and we sang verse after verse, providing as many opportunities as possible to ensure we've done our part as a church to give the unsaved a chance to enter Heaven one day.

On the way home, I talked to my child just as I had last Sunday to her older brother. I assured her, that His hand is outstretched, and when she is ready...all she needs to do is take it. They each listened to me. Some of my most heartfelt conversations take place in the car when the distractions are minimal and I have their attention. There was a time when I had to pull over, face the back seat so they could see me speak because their ears were of little use. So I'm thankful that each Sunday, as we leave a service, I can talk to my children and make sure they understood what had taken place.

I have to question my own parenting skills and wonder how do you sleep at night if you haven't mentioned Christ today? I used to pride myself on not being selfish. I've sacrificed as a parent as most of us do, I do for others as much as I can...but I've went to bed each night knowing I'll go to Heaven if I never wake up. God gave me two children and I haven't given them what they really need. As a parent I have neglected my children in such a way that the common eye can't see. With clothes upon their backs, food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads, I have neglected their greatest need. As Brother Adam said Sunday morning as he gave his Testimony, we'll have to answer for that one day.

Our preacher was mentioning something he'd heard on the radio and quoted "Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future." Parents have huge burdens that go beyond putting food on the table. It may take sleepless nights, and it may even take every person inside those church doors, but as Christians, we have burdens.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

...and He knew it

A few months ago, I walked through the doors of my little country church assuming I'd sit on a pew, sing some songs, try to listen to as much of the sermon as possible and maybe go home with a sentence or two that could apply to me in hopes to grow as a Christian. That wasn't going to happen, and He knew it.

The church looks like many of the other country churches found nearby. They're almost a dime a dozen where I live, churches found everywhere, some right across the street from each other. But this is where I belong, and He knew it.

God has a way of showing me things. I've shared in previous posts a little about how and why I've learned not to overlook the things He sends my way. I walked into church one night, many months ago, and I saw something. It was a scar. It looked exactly like the scars my children wear on both sides of their little heads. Although, this man didn't have hearing loss, I needed to see that scar. I sat on my pew that night thinking I was in the right place. The people of this church have lived through a lot even though they all may not bare physical reminders. I didn't know at the time I was going to stay, but He knew it.

No other place can allow me to not only hear words from the Bible, but understand them too. I have a really hard time with the terminology and all of the preachers in our church do a fabulous job of not only interpreting the words for me, they tell me exactly what I need to hear in order for me to apply it to my life outside of the church doors. I in fact bring home the entire sermon isntead of the sentence or two I had expected. Today in fact, I was called out by name. I was practically beaten over the head with today's message about talents because I needed to be...and He knew it.

So with a church full of gifted people, we were encouraged to use our talents. I heard the two softest and sweetest voices today from two young ladies, I'd never heard sing before. I also heard our Pastor sing a capella and though I've been told before he could sing, his song never reached my ears until today. I began thinking, what if "they" never sang? If the lady last week, had not stepped up to that piano bench and sang (see previous post), I'd not have strolled through Heaven with my Maw Maw...even if it was only in my mind...I thought about all the times I've seen songs turn into sermons. I thought about all the times I've seen beautiful voices lift people from pews and bring them to the alter...but what if they never sang?

So we have to think about our own talents, our own gifts and use them not simply to make us happy because we have hobbies or do something well, we need to think about how we can use them for Christ. We have to realize that by wasting talents God has provided for us, we could be depriving more than just ourselves.

I have two related stories I wrote years ago. At the time I wasn't sure why God had gifted me the content but I wrote them anyway, knowing that one day, He'd show me.

The Sparrow (click here)   and   Tasting the Clouds (click here) where I find more of God's gifts!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They Take Me...

I walked in and took a seat at my usual pew. As I've said before, I never bring in expectations, I don't need them. With each and every visit, I gain more than I could ever expect from a church.

On Sunday night, I was asked a question "What will you do for Jesus?" I've admittedly not had a lot to offer the church other than filling space. Sometimes I feel like I've been sent to The Church for the Gifted. Although I'm not Gifted myself, they all seem to be. I suspect that my non-gifted presence could be a sign that maybe they all weren't born Gifted. Maybe they all had talents, maybe not, but as they all sit under the roof of New Welcome now, they have a Gift. And what's great, is they are all Gifted in different ways so it's like sitting amongst scholars of various fields but without feeling overshadowed or belittled.

I watched in amazement as a young preacher stood bravely in front of us all with tears streaming down his cheeks. He's normally seated at the piano so I was taken back that he had more than one Gift to share this night. So I kept repeating in my head, "What will I do?"

Before I could come up with an answer, she sat down at the piano. There's more than one singer at this church that can walk to the front for a song and have me searching for a tissue box in my preparations. I held tightly to the thin Kleenex as she began to softly play and sing..."If I surveyed all the good things, that come to me from above...If I could count all the Blessings from the Storehouse of Love..."

I sat watching the pretty grandmother sing this song and I realized what was different about this church, than any other I've ever been in...They Take Me...

They take me to a place with every heartfelt Testimony...I can feel the love, the passion, the commitment, the Faith. They take me to a place with every prayer request, that let's me know-even the Gifted need prayer. And Sunday night, with this one song, she took me...

She briefly lost her voice when emotion filled her, only to have God give it right back-she looked up as she sang, as if she were talking to someone in Heaven. Tears poured into the Kleenex I held so tightly to. I pictured my own sweet grandmother and was comforted knowing I too will be strolling in Heaven one day with her.

So that's why I can't wait to go to church each time the doors open. They take me...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And that's why

I had a very sad little girl on Tuesday. I got a text at cheer practice from her Daddy that said her beloved brown rabbit Buck had died. When I told her, she of course was heart-broken. She shouted, "God should have taken someone else's rabbit, not my Buck." But after a few minutes of tears, she came back up to me and said, "Well, Buck was sick. He's with his babies now in Heaven. I'm sorta glad God picked him today." Over the summer her rabbits had a litter and all died over a week's time. (Click here to read that story)

B's new rabbit "Blackie"
Today her Daddy made good on his promise and instead of church, the two of them went shopping at the local flea market along with the grandpa. This gave my son and I a chance to have some quality time. On the way to church, we talked about being SAVED. I asked a simple question. "Do your friends ever mention God, or do they talk about getting Saved?" Although I kind of guessed what the answer would be, he confirmed it with a "No." And that is why the rabbit died this week, that is why we had some one on one time, that is why that question came into my head.

Christ has an amazing ability to show people what they need to see. When we got to church, several things hit home...and wouldn't you know it, the message was about parenting and getting Saved. When the service was over, my child said to me "How did you know he was gonna talk about that today?" And I just smiled.

Years ago, I was shown something about this child, by God himself and I chose to turn the other cheek. As a one year old deaf child who could only cry for communication, I had decided to have a major operation, without praying about it first. A desperate mother trying to giver her child a voice, one that others could hear and understand without needing a parent's interpretation. I wanted him to hear music, hear danger, and hear my voice.

The day before his surgery, my boss passed away. He'd been living with cancer over a course of two years and had become unrecognizable to most by his physical appearance. He was a strong Christian and was proud of it. He was often found at the watercooler talking of sermons and Sunday School. I had a strong urge to reschedule my son's surgery because I wanted, and needed to say goodbye to my boss. But instead of praying, I knew what was best and showed up at the hospital. With my baby in tow, I signed him up quickly for the four hour surgery. So quickly in fact, I didn't notice all the paper work had the wrong ear listed. A nurse caught the error, his surgery was delayed while new paper work had to be drawn, and then signed. When they finally took him back, I was almost sick with the thought that it was just all wrong. But I turned the other cheek, handed my baby over. I was a nervous wreck, and after four and half hours with absolutely NO WORD from the operating room on his condition, I began to panic. Soon a nurse flung open the doors to find us in a large and almost empty waiting room. She said nervously, "The doctor wants to see you in private."

Can you imagine the thoughts in a parent's head? I knew I should have listened, obeyed but I didn't. I denied that it was God trying to show me the way. With my heart beating rapidly the doctor told us, he had to abort the surgery. He couldn't even identify parts of my child's ear because they were so microscopic and malformed, he just didn't recognize the cochlea...the one part he needed to place the device that could change my child's life. He also told us that his face was paralized on the right side.

Gage with facial paralysis
But you know what? The Lord forgave me, and then I forgave myself. So I for one, know that when you turn the other cheek, you'd better make sure it isn't The Lord trying to speak to you. And that's why I pray when I need guidence. It's easier to get the right directions when you just ask for them first instead of driving around on the assumption you'll know where you're going when you get there.

(to be continued)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Planting Pennies

A child asked her mom to plant a penny, to see if they could grow money. As cute as it sounded, the mother had to tell the child, that you can't grow pennies...or can you?

One day, a couple of years ago, my phone rang. I'd been mentoring families for years who have special needs children, in particular, those who have children with hearing loss. When I found a nervous Mom on the other end of the line, I listened. To my surprise, this was someone in our school district for a change. She had a child starting school the same time my deaf daughter would begin, but she was relieved to know I had another deaf child who would be in third grade. Having a parent who has been there done that can really ease a worried mind. We talked for probably over an hour if I had to guess and she closed the conversation with sincere gratitude, appreciation and a remark I'll never forget..."I think God has sent you to us for a reason." With that subtle comment, I knew who Penny was. And with that subtle comment, she planted a penny...

As it turns out, our girls are now the best of friends and compliment each other like no two children I've ever met. Both of Penny's children live in a much darker world than we do. Their visual impairments may not allow them to look at people in the eyes...instead, they look at people in the heart. My children may not hear each and every word to the hymns we sing, but instead they feel the songs through the stomping feet and the hands tapping the pews. Her children can hear what mine can't and my children can see things her children never will. But all four of those babies can feel more than the common man.

I may have helped Penny in the beginning but what she doesn't realize, is how much she's been helping me. The penny she planted years ago, has grown and matured with her help and is worth more now than any amount of money. She's one of the reasons I found my church. She's one of the reasons I believe in planting Pennys because one day, I want to be like her.

One of our sermons this week was being a play maker. Penny made a huge play last week at school. She walked up to the Principal she once feared and asked if she could start a parent prayer group at school. I had my doubts with it being on school property but to my surprise, she got it approved. The soft hearted Mom of two is absolutely fearless when she is working for God. I'm proud of her and I hope that one day, I plant more Pennys. We could use more soldiers like her.