Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hungry Child

It was Wednesday morning, and I woke with leftovers still on my plate from the Sunday services. My hands trembled as excitement built about going back to that little country church. I pretended it was like every other morning as I shuffled children around for school but I knew it was different, only eleven hours to go and I'd be walking through those glass doors.

With only ten more hours to go, I sat at my computer to write something, anything...but it wasn't His Will. My hands were full of tremble but my mind couldn't decide on which of the leftovers I was willing to share, so I kept them all to myself, while knowing someone out there was hungry.

I sat on my patio with an apple in my hand. As I began to eat, I reflected on my week thus far. The apple tasted so good and I thought about that child...
Just the day before, I had been teaching a class and a student asked me what day it was. For a moment, I had no idea and as I fumbled for the answer, a child spoke up with confidence and said, "Tuesday". I smiled at the child and realized who he was. I fought back a tear as I remembered a few weeks ago when I sat at the teacher's table during lunch, he had walked past to throw away his empty plate after he'd consumed everything. On his way back to his seat, a teacher stopped him and asked if he was still hungry. His head nodded and without hesitating she stood to her feet and with her hand on his back, she walked him back into the kitchen area and whispered something to one of the staff. He walked out of that kitchen with another plate of food and he sat down with a smile on his face, and he ate. The teacher came back to her own food and simply said, "It's a Friday, I'm not sending him home on a Friday hungry." I knew what that meant. I was in awe at her courage to break a rule to feed a child.

I continued to eat my apple and bask in the warm sun as He poured my own life right into my heart. A tear came to my eye as I thanked Him for showing me. I finished my apple and threw the core into the woods thinking I might get something glorious like an apple tree one day, or maybe it would be a snack for deer walking through. I tried to go back into the house, but I couldn't, He wasn't finished. I sat back down and thought about what my own child had said the day before, "Mama, you didn't pack me enough to eat today. At snack time, I had nothing left and I was hungry...but my friend gave me something to eat."

I tasted the salt pouring from my eyes when I realized my own child had a need. That day, she had been the hungry child and I'm not even sure she had the courage to ask for anything, but she had a friend with leftovers who gave her exactly what she needed anyway. My mind was teetering back and forth between being hungry in the flesh and having that Spiritual hunger. We have kids in our own church, in our school who are Spiritually hungry and as parents we try to feed them what we think they need but sometimes at the end of the day, it isn't enough. They are going to look to their friends and they'll either be fed or they'll do without.

As a Christian, as a Child, I began feeling guilty because I sat there on my patio with leftovers that I had no idea if I'd ever be able to consume. I tried again to go to my computer and write...the only thing I know how to do, but again, words failed me. I told myself as the hours wound down, six hours, five hours then four, when I walked through those doors He'd show me the way. I knew in my heart someone needed something I was holding on to, but on this day I had no idea how I could present it so they'd feel full. I watched the clock wind down and all day, barriers fell in front of me, trying to prevent me from getting there. I fought hard, I felt mentally drained at the end of the day but was so proud that I'd climbed over everything that fell in front of me, and I still had that hunger, that desire to get through those glass doors.

When my child came home sick, I gave her all I thought she needed and I still tried to figure out a way to get through the church doors, and leave the sick child behind. I prayed, my friend prayed and still several more barriers fell in front of me, until I realized, it just wasn't His Will. He's still teaching me something. I sobbed most of the night not sure why He didn't want me there. I felt like a Child left behind.

As my week has progressed, I finally awoke with my answer. I needed to feel disappointment. There is nothing like wanting something, needing something and still hoping for something even when the odds are stacked against you...and being left with that hurt, that disappointment in the end. There are so many of us as adults, as teens, and as Children of God, who walk around with leftovers every single day. There are starving people out there that will die before asking for help. There are needs to be met, even in my own children and it may take a friend to give them that one piece of fruit that satisfies their hunger. Often times, people don't see that they are in need, until someone walks up to them and asks if they are still hungry, only to realize that they are. It was worth the disappointment I felt on Wednesday night as a hungry Child, when I was unable to go back and get more before I had distributed my leftovers from Sunday. But I feel full now knowing that I will try my best to distribute everything I have. The thought of someone looking forward to something, anything and finding nothing more than disappointment is a large burden on my shoulders...

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Place for Me

I was as excited to see that tall white steeple just over the tree tops as the road led us into the parking lot. Families were leaving behind their vehicles and traveled by foot from the parking lot up those concrete steps with their Bibles in hand. My family took our places on the familiar pew we usually rest our backs upon.

If you had asked me a year ago if I needed anything, if there was anything you could do for me or my family, I would have said no. We had a roof over our heads, we had shoes on our feet and though our cupboards seem bare at the end of the week, we have never missed a meal. I didn't think we needed anything anyone could offer us. But I had no idea what He was about to give me.

It's been about 10 months since I walked inside those four walls for the first time. I had grown up being dropped off at the doors of a church only to be picked back up when it was over. I've spent years as an adult in and out of churches and there never was a really good fit for me. I had become content that I would worship alone, at home. I knew I had secured my place in Heaven so what did it really matter if got up every Sunday, and met with people I really didn't know...people who pretended things were perfect, people who had no idea what it's like to walk out in your yard and burst into tears because The Lord has painted the sky with the most beautiful sunrise you've ever seen, because He knew you'd love it...people who have no idea how beautiful a sparrow sounds, because your deaf children can now hear it...people who have no idea how heavy burdens feel on the shoulders of a tired mom just before she kneels down in the middle of her living room to seek His help and how weightless she feels as she stands back up...I was content with home, and Home.

As the old song goes, "as small as I am", He loved me enough to find a place for me. A place where there are times the preacher doesn't even get to preach because he doesn't need to. A place where beautiful people stand up and shout through tears that the sun was so warm on their skin, that they found themselves moving their chair as soon as the shade found them, back into the sun because they missed the warmth and how they wanted to be found moving their chair closer and closer to The Son because even when it rains, they know He's there.  They might need to just move their chair closer to see Him, to feel Him. A place where people are so filled that they laugh out loud, shout out loud, and cry out loud all at the same time. A place where the songs are felt instead of heard, a place where people leave prettier than they came in despite their make up being on tissues when they leave...

No one ever asked me if there was anything they do for me or my family, but He knows what we need when we need it. So much happened yesterday and I can not stop thinking about it, about Him and His Blessings that I don't even deserve. I'm so happy that my children have a church like this where both Mama and Daddy sit next to them on the pew. They see the tears we shed, they see what it's like to really worship, they see that we're not pretending to be someone we are not, they see that we are welcome and most of all, they see that we are both unworthy and worthy all at the same time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beyond the Altar

I was very excited to get back to church this morning. Illness kept us home last week and I know we are only human, things happen from time to time but I honestly felt like I'd been gone a month.

Traffic was backed up at the top of the mountain. People couldn't wait to get inside the gates of the flea market which is only held on Sundays. I was equally enthused to be heading in the opposite direction, to my little country church.

As service began, I inhaled deeply the clear air within that room. One after the other, the members stood up to Praise Him. I looked to my left and a child sat with one shoe on, and one shoe off. His Mama held his shoe in her hand, as the family all sat closely together. I watched as many were led to The Altar, where on bended knees, they placed their heads down into the carpet, as low as they could possibly get. You could hear sobs, as I too could no longer hush my tears. The Spirit flowed throughout the little church.

I looked around and bare feet were everywhere. People of all ages had left their shoes behind, to walk up and Worship Him. I immediately thought that we will all have to leave things behind one day. It won't just be our shoes. We'll leave our parents, our children, our friends, when He calls us beyond The Altar, to our Eternal Home.

Before service was over, the tears had turned into complete Praise again and even laughter as we departed ways. There's no guarantee that we'll all make it back for the continuation of the service tonight, but I'm excited that my feet, and my heart are pointing in that direction. I love my church, and I'm beyond Blessed that He gave them to me. No matter how much my children love me, or my husband loves me, or my parents...I will remove my shoes one day and go Home to Him. 

His gifts are completely free. He holds His hand out for me every single day, and all I have to do is reach for it. We were fortunate enough to all have been given a future Brother today as one of our own was Touched by The Lord, and Saved. What a beautiful day, it has turned out to be...and again, we didn't even make it to Sunday School.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bare Branches

I pass the old tree every single day. I rarely think much of it other than I wonder how long the people that own it, will keep it there. It's been years now and every single year, it offers nothing but bare branches. This time of year, while its brothers and sisters who line that long drive way bloom, it stands at the very end, and offers nothing to me. I ask myself each year, why don't they just cut it down, but they never do.

As I passed by this morning, the same thought entered my mind as it does every time I see the two lines of well groomed trees, all fairly equal in height, equal in size and shape, equal in beauty...yet my eyes began to gaze at the one. The one who bares no beauty, the one who bares no fruit, for me. I thought about the owners, they must see something I do not.

They may have Faith that one day, she will bloom again. They probably see life under the old bark and maybe they think that with proper nurturing, they will one day see her branches full. I'm not convinced that's the only reason she still stands. I imagine that when they planted those trees many years ago, the toys out near the carport belonged to their children, and not their grandchildren. I believe that over the years, they've come through many trials they never knew they would face. I'm not sure if that tree ever did bloom but year after year, she came through the storms, and they hoped.

They probably didn't have the heart to cut it down, just because she didn't bloom like the others. Over the years, I'm sure she's been home to little birds that were worth the walk, all the way to the end of the drive just to hear their song. Not every living thing blooms the same way. She stands strong and tall, no matter how many eyes see her as useless. She obviously has her purpose and I have a feeling from now own when I pass their house, my eyes will continue to glance over the prettier trees and fall on her, as I wonder what all those bare branches hold.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back to the Heart

I awoke this morning fully aware of my heart pumping strong. I lied still and felt the blood move into the vital organ and back out again, and I became very thankful, for it was just yesterday, I was unaware of its existence.

Somehow this past week, I let life lead me and it didn't take long before I just didn't feel like myself. When Sunday rolled around, I couldn't wait to step foot inside those church doors. I listened to the sermon, and became aware that something was missing. I watched the preacher as he displayed incredible enthusiasm. He stood on the piano bench and all I could do was watch. My mind was racing the message around in circles as he wiped the beaded sweat from his brow. He talked about how you can speak from your mind, but the Lord knows when you speak from the heart. He talked of people thinking they were Saved because they spoke rehearsed words but if sincerity and heart isn't included, the Lord knows.

I took the message back home with me as I would a plate of food I wasn't hungry enough to eat right then. I was dissatisfied with myself since I normally devour everything right then and there but for some reason, I was held back this time. Unsure if I had prayed enough this week, I said a quick prayer hoping to awake the Christian who lived inside...but she remained at bay.

It just wasn't like me to attend a service where I watch from a distance rather than taking part of everything He offered. I left there the same as I walked in. I went about my day trying to figure out what was different about me, why am I like this? I couldn't wait to go back that night, where hopefully I'd find the answers.

I told my child I felt like we needed to sit somewhere different during the evening service, maybe I'd get a new perspective but we took to our usual seats. I was fully aware that He wanted me to figure this one out and my ears listened. I sat there with my Bible in hand and a long time member stood to his feet, as he was going to preach this night. His dark Bible opened with the familiar golden edges shining in the lights from above. His voice grew in power and pretty soon, my bones rattled as if there were no flesh hanging from them. He described how he was to blame for most of his troubles. He got in the way of himself lots of times and I wondered why I let myself get in the way this week. I realized I was looking for a why when I should have been looking for a how. How do I fix this, how do I move forward from here?

We were asked to have Altar prayer and I intended to end this battle right then and there. Although we were supposed to be praying for someone else, I couldn't help anyone, until I was where I needed to be. As I felt my knees bend into the welcoming carpet, I realized that was the first time all week that I had intention. My heartless prayers during the week were quickly put into perspective. I had went through the motions of a Christian life, because I had become accustomed to it, but He knew I was speaking with my mind and not my heart. As I spoke to Him, I became completely aware of my beating heart. I began to pray for others and tears ran down the wrists of my clinched hands.

I left there, better than I walked in. On the way home a song came on the radio about pictures on the wall. I thought of how emotional we can get from a picture. A single photograph can stir up memories from our past. I can look at one picture of my kids when they were babies and realize how fast time goes by. If I'm not careful I'll be sitting in a pool of tears just from looking at a picture. I wondered what it would be like if God had pictures of all His children on the walls of Heaven, what would He think of mine. Would He be proud of what I've become and how much I've grown. I could barely see to drive as I wept the whole way home. By the time we pulled up in the driveway, I was exhausted but I had a refreshed vision of who I am, and who He needs me to be. Thank you Lord, for getting back to the heart.