Unearthing the Value of my Heritage – and other secrets of an Indian Giver

Sometimes my heritage is confusing to me.

My mother’s father was Norwegian. His wife (my grandmother) was German.
My other grandmother was Irish – down to her peachy skin and Celtic name.
To hear her tell it, her husband (my grandfather) was of Scottish/Irish origin too.
To hear him tell it, his grandmother was a full-blooded Native American from the Cherokee nation – and, despite his gray-blue eyes, he loved flaunting their almond shape, along with his high cheekbones and the well-tanned skin beneath his handsomely tall frame.
Of the four grandparents, I spent the majority of my time with him.
He was retired, so we’d go on summer walks through town together, as I held his large hand and looked a mile upward to speak with him.
We’d work in the garden and yard together, with him entrusting me to operate his first riding mower as I entered into my double digits.
He’d accompany my dad to many of my ballgames, where I was sometimes a teeny bit jealous when my older cousins’ friends would run up and hug him and call him Granddad. (Okay, so I still had to learn to share.)
I felt I had a right to be possessive of him. After all, I was the one who trimmed his ear hairs. (Though my eyes were assuredly better than those of my grandmother – who’d transitioned to a large print bible – some days, I believe he asked me to do this deed simply because he thought it was safer for a kid to be wielding a sharp instrument over him in lieu of testing his wife’s Irish temperament.)

But I digress…

My father and uncle were both intrigued by their Native American heritage and, for years, searched out related artifacts.
My dad turned me into a junior archaeological librarian, as I’d assist him in organizing and tagging his finds by appropriate periods. I can recall also getting to go on “archaeological digs,” walking sandbars during the cold winter months, most often needing to be carried by my father, as my small frame would sink into the soft mud as if I were being swallowed up by quicksand. Many years later, my father and uncle were killed in a boating accident in January, out in those same waters where the three of us explored our heritage together. As much as it hurt to lose them, I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate place for them to have been together when their spirits crossed over into eternity.

Nancy Ward print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

Hiskyteehee (Five Killer) print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

One of the gifts my father left me was a Ben Hampton print of Nancy Ward.
Awhile back, as my youngest son was lying on our couch, his head hanging upside down, he peered up at the print and inquired, “Mama, is that you?”
I was amused when I asked him if he thought it looked like me. He sat up and somberly nodded, still waiting for my answer. He was a little disappointed to hear that it wasn’t, but then he became intrigued with Nancy Ward’s story and decided to embrace that part of his heritage too. He now has a print of Five Killer in his hangout space (in which I can more easily see myself, having a “don’t tick me off” scar in the exact same spot; mine, admittedly, came from my neighbor’s cat, Herbie George, who decided to engage in a surprise attack when I thought we were in the midst of a peace treaty. I wish I was wearing his claw around my neck as a symbol, where I could then refer to him as “Cat with Nine Claws” to make him sound more intimidating. I mean, Five Killer started off as LittleFellow. Sometimes, you do what you have to do…)

I didn’t think anymore about my son’s remark of my resemblance to Nancy Ward until a few weeks ago at work. There, I have a framed poster in my office from an Eastern & Western Cherokee Council Reunion, which my dad attended (with my uncle and Ben Hampton, as I recall) & which has a montage of Mr. Hampton’s Cherokee Heritage prints. Our new secretary walked into my office, took one look at the poster and asked, “Is that you in that picture?” Nancy Ward? Are you serious? Don’t I wish? I did have a proud moment of sharing the who’s & why’s of that poster, though. And, admittedly, I do enjoy having some obvious features from that particular part of my heritage, just as I do from the many other parts of my heritage.

What I don’t enjoy are the negative connotations that people place on that heritage, just as I don’t enjoy other negative connotations that sometimes surround me. Just as my heritage may create some confusion for me, so do people who make unjust slurs against others in the name of being offended, with no regard for what offense the accuser has created. The term “Indian giver” is one such example, being bestowed upon Native Americans because of a misunderstanding in communication and trade customs; yet not bestowed upon those who came in with no regard for such customs and forced natives from their own territories under purposefully perilous conditions, providing them little means for success in prosperity or survival. (Here’s where you might need to reference the Trail of Tears.)

That savage sort of thing still happens in modern social circles – at least in the spiritual, if not the physical realm.

Invaders show up in our own private sanctuaries of peacefulness, determined to drive us out (or basically, just drive us crazy). The offenses of which we get accused only exist as excuses to control our soul’s treasure. Any gifts of grace and peace offerings we produce get scoffed at, with newly fabricated accusations made. Invaders work overtime to convince others that we want them to bestow something of greater value to us in return (basically, because scoffers over-value whatever power they believe they wield). Once our weaknesses have been explored and exposed, these conquerors – convinced they have used up anything in us that was of importance to them – push us aside, out to the margins, treating us as if we never had any heritage here at all. Soon, we feel as though our peace has become some antiquated artifact that must be dug up in pieces and put back together if it is to be discovered again.

  • We see it happen in homes.
  • We experience it in the workplace.
  • It crops up in churches as easily as in middle schools.
  • When focused on themselves, people seem to have a tendency to want to de-value and drive others out for their own selfish purposes – to steal another’s heritage of belonging.

Whenever that happens to me, I take time to remind myself of my most important heritage – the one in which I am a daughter of a heavenly King. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). In Christ, there is no east or west (United Methodist Hymnal, No. 548); thus we are not sent on a journey of separation from others. In fact, our God reconciles, telling us He “will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I’m also pretty sure there are no gossipy trouble-makers in that land of peace because we’re told that, “only in the place of hypocrites will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). (I can’t think of any better example of how teeth gnashing must look than to watch a gossiper in action, chewing up a gut-full  of someone else’s troubles.)

No one said we had to wait for the new creation, though, to experience life’s best heritage. When Jesus walked among us in the flesh, He said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). We are expected to live in peace and harmony with this land and the beings with which we have been entrusted in the here and now. Native Americans have long understood the spirituality and sacredness of all of creation. The gifts that they gave, such as roots that seemed worthless to the white man, held great meaning and often the power of healing or sustenance. Likewise, the gifts we give of ourselves, in which we know the value and meaning, may be received by others as meaningless, with that same sort of haughtiness and open disdain.

This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the gifts of your heritage, though – the ones that are given to you because you ARE expected to graciously share them with others. I want to encourage you not to be driven out – but to go. Go be an Indian Giver. Offer goodness when others don’t have the capacity to understand the value. Offer peace in the midst of strife. As for the scoffers…II Peter 3:3 tells us to expect them. But then we’re told: “But in keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13). In my mind, that new creation will look much like Native American spirituality, full of nurturing relationships between all people, land, and all living things. We are called to be part of that new creation in the here and now.

LORD, of all the characteristics that others may see,

let them most clearly heed the heritage of You in me.

 

 

 

 

 

How to limit GOD – or at least create immense boredom & an unenthusiastic response

Excuse me.

I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…

Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.

By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.

But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.

Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.

We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.

Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?

The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:

Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.

Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.

So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…

How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?

Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)

Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:

“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”

Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…

Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?

Distant Stranger?

Acquaintance/Friend?

Intimate Family Member?

Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.

For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.

Jesus did.

He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:

Give

Forgive

Lead

Deliver

Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.

By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.

God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)

Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.

That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

***

Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)

Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)

***

Reference:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Related Article:

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

Breaking the Cycle – through Love

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

New International Version (©2011)

To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably only ever looked at this verse in the context of how Christ laid his life down for us – literally – which leaves me wondering how my own love could ever measure up. I mean, as a mother, I can see doing this under dire circumstances. I easily recall the time I went whitewater rafting with my son on his first exciting excursion with a Class IV rapid, and our inexperienced guide (who had given me every reason already to be distrustful of her) caused our raft to nearly tip going over the falls. Realizing which way the raft was going and seeing my son losing his balance midair, I chose to let my own footing go & bail out portside, while uprighting the raft along the way. The hydraulics pulled me under, as I knew they would; and despite all my best efforts, I still got slammed repeatedly into the rock wall in the current beneath with a raft on top of me just about longer than I was able to hold my breath. Absolutely better me than my son, though.

But is there anyone else I love so much as to lay my life down for them, besides my family? I’m not sure. And yet…that’s what we’re called to do – to lay down our lives – in order to be Christ-like.

Maybe it’s not always as drastic as hanging on a cross, or allowing oneself to have a near-drowning experience. Perhaps laying down our lives is a calling to extend ourselves beyond…ourselves.

I know a couple of fellas’ who have been doing just that for the past few weeks – extending their schedules well beyond work on both ends of the day, extending their bodies in training beyond what they were comfortably capable of doing, extending their mission beyond the comforts of their own lives – laying down their lives to try to help save the lives of others.

biking

Tom & Brian will be embarking on an almost 200-mile journey this coming weekend on their bikes with the goal of raising awareness and funds towards ending malaria.

You see, they’ve gotten to know a few people in South Sudan, during their travels there, who have touched their hearts. More than that, their hearts are broken – in love – for the people there, especially so many children whose lives will be lessened or lost there to a disease that IS preventable, IS treatable, and IS BEATABLE – with the right resources.

love

The World Health Organization reports the following:

  • The African Region accounts for 85% of malaria cases
  • and 90% of malaria deaths worldwide.
  • 85% of malaria deaths occur in children under five years of age.
  • Every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria. (Some sources say every 60 seconds. In either case, I hope you agree this is unacceptable.)
  • As a result of the scale-up of use of insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy and Artemisinin-based combination therapy, 10 countries in the WHO African region have reduced malaria cases by at least 50% between 2000 and 2008.

BUT WHO CARES ENOUGH ABOUT ALL THOSE OTHER LOST LIVES?

AND WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN THE RESPONSE OF ONLY A FEW PEOPLE MAKE ANYWAY?

Among those who care and who are willing to respond are these two men – with full-time jobs and life responsibilities. No one pays them for their time to train to do this. As a matter of fact, they have to take time away from other activities and people who are important to them to be able to accomplish the training this takes. They aren’t wealthy. They don’t live extravagantly. Yet their gear, the tuneups, the bike tubes can all become costly. They could’ve saved themselves this trouble and just pulled a few dollars from their pockets…and that’s a start…

BUT THEY CARE ENOUGH TO LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES.

These two won’t get any glory for their endeavor, as no one will be there to cheer them on as they cross any finish line. They don’t get a cut of the proceeds or even a support vehicle to lean on or to supply their needs. They won’t get special IVs to replenish their body fluids after making a mile of ascension in less than two days. Instead, their worn bodies will come off the road hopefully in time for them to arrive at their destination to meet and fulfill their next responsibilities.

BUT IT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO THEM TO LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES.

And get this. After all that, and after delivering a check made out from our church organization who has received the funds that were pledged on their behalf, they won’t even get to choose who they think should receive the benefit of these funds. They are laying down their lives in this instance for complete strangers – strangers who are in need and to whom they want to show the love of Jesus Christ.

WHY? BECAUSE JESUS LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THEM.

As a matter of fact, if these men had their choice, there would be enough funds to help everyone who needed the treatment, education and other community prevention measures to eradicate this disease. And the good news is – there can be! Malaria is a disease that CAN be eradicated and as little as $10 could save 1 person’s life from this affliction.

WATCH WHAT BEGINS TO HAPPEN…

Marys_gift

The smallest of these gets the principle of how one or two people can make a HUGE difference. Children began overhearing how the adults were trying to help other children & their hearts were moved to help. Without even being asked, they began making their own plans to watch God’s good works multiply…

Our friend’s daughter, Mary, heard about these children in Africa from her mom and how they could be saved, and she gave up all of the money that she had been saving to buy something special for herself. She understood that saving lives had such greater value for her to treasure. So, by her own desire, she brought her money to her mom and asked how she could give it to help those children. I see 2 lives just in the 1 bill on top – Mary gives BIG because Mary dreams BIG!

boxtop

Two of our own ‘littles’ caught the vision simply by overhearing the mission. Without asking or explaining, they got together, found a used postal box and a magic marker and painstakingly wrote out “Donation to Sudan” on it. They made a slot to insert (cram) money into, taped the box shut, and began to deposit all spare change they had or could get donated over the next few months. Would you believe that 10 lives were saved in the deliberate spare change of children – because they excitedly chose to put it into the box that saved lives instead of into vending machines and the like?

And need we wonder why God loves child-like hearts, innocent eyes of faith & cheerful givers?

THESE TINY PEOPLE LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES FOR THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

CAN YOU AFFORD TO LAY DOWN THE TINIEST PORTION OF YOUR LIFE?

Ten bucks. In the grand scheme of sacrifices, for most of us, that isn’t much. A movie ticket. A couple of cups of coffee. That being said, if you feel so led to be a part of this worldwide effort, it’s not too late. You can make an online contribution in support of these efforts at:

BREAK THE CYCLE

NMM

Or you can take the time to investigate if what I’m telling you is true at ImagineNoMalaria.org – a partnership dedicated to eradicating malaria before it has the chance to eradicate any more lives.

PARTNERS

WHAT YOU LAY DOWN CAN BE COUNTED AS 
LIFE VICTORIOUS!!!
THE LOVE YOU SHOW WHEN YOU LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE FOR THE LIVES OF OTHERS DOES NOT GO WITHOUT NOTICE.
South_Sudan

The Game of Life

Humanity is a marvelous thing – when we’re being humane. Unfortunately, as humans, we don’t always meet that mark. And as much as we celebrate the goodness that can come from our humanity, we aren’t often as quick to celebrate its synonym, mortality. Mortality has the tendency to remind us of the weakness of our humanness. Strangely and beatifically, the human spirit still has the ability to cause our souls to shine during mortality’s dark hours.

Yesterday didn’t seem like a dark day. On the contrary. Despite the cloud cover and the chilly breeze that had caused me to choose blue jeans and a jacket over shorts for my spectator apparel, it had begun with every reason for a celebratory mood. My son’s baseball team had battled back the day before (after playing their hearts out all week; all season, in fact) to earn their very first chance to play for their State title. I had what I considered to be the perfect seat – a chair-back centered at the beginning of the second level behind home plate (chosen for its spacious leg room as much as my views – one for the panoramic field, the other for seeing peripherally into our dug-out, and the last for directly observing & greeting joyful passers-by from both sides).

State_game

My focal field of view on this fantastic field of dreams

As the game progressed, the stats showed the story – still fairly manageable. We were down by 2 runs, but it came down to us not being as successful at getting our hits synchronized – we had simply stranded more runners. They had 6 hits; we had 5. No official errors were recorded for either team (though, in truth, there were some early adjustments that needed to be made for this larger field that could’ve been considered ‘unrecorded’ ones). We were home team, and unfortunately, by the time we had only 2 at-bats remaining, we were down by 4 runs with a costly error recorded. We continued to hit for the next 2 innings, and continued to strand runners. I won’t leave you in suspense. 4-0 was the final score, leaving us as runners-up in the State. For a first-ever run at State (a first Division title, a first Region title), I wasn’t at all disappointed. But I knew there were 18 players and a few coaches who were feeling a little differently about matters at the moment. I also knew that, one day, while cheering on their own kids, they would understand how very little importance this outcome would actually hold.

When we left the field that day, my son’s smile wasn’t as bright as it had been the night before. (Maybe it was even a little non-existent at the moment.)

All Smiles – my son (left) and his teammate (fabulous freshmen at State)

All Smiles – my son (left) and his best bud teammate (fab freshmen at State)

But here’s the story I was able to share with him and I want to share today with you.

I began by asking my son what he thought about the other team’s pitcher, to which he replied he thought this was the best pitcher they’d faced at State. I nodded and said, “I’d like to tell you a little something I learned about him today.” (I’ve also learned to wait for his permission before we discuss anything after games. You’ll have to read the quick back-story on my post, Your Child’s Confession, if you’d like to understand why.) After getting his nod of approval, this is what I shared:

“As the bottom of the 6th was starting today, I could see the concern on the faces in your dugout, since time to get your runs back was becoming limited. I thought back to comments I’d heard from some of the moms the night before – about doing prayer walks and even cheering with ‘Holy Spirit fingers.’ I couldn’t help but grin over their enthusiasm and it caused me to have my own private little conversation with God. My words weren’t about winning, though. They went more like this: ‘Lord, I don’t even know if you care about ballgames…but I do know that you care about your children. And you know things going on in personal lives out there on that field – on both sides – that I couldn’t possibly know. I ask, more than anything, that each of these boys feels your presence in their lives and feels your peace out there on that field – so they can enjoy the time they’ve been blessed to be here – blessed by the support of all these family and friends surrounding them and cheering them on.’ And, honestly, I prayed it for every young man out on that field. I figured if God doesn’t show favoritism, I shouldn’t either. (Okay, as my son, you’re still my favorite player!) After that, I didn’t expect to hear anymore about it. What would be, would be.

“After your game was over, after the fans had stood and cheered you all on and given you more of their support and their love, I was standing on the walkway waiting for you to come out. As a fan from the other team passed, I smiled at her and offered my congratulations. She stopped and walked close to me and threw her arm around my waist. She looked directly in my eyes and said, ‘I know you’re disappointed about the loss today, but I’d like to tell you something. That pitcher you came up against today is my grandson.’

‘He did a great job,’ I nodded.

‘Oh, honey, that’s not why I’m telling you this. I wanted to let you know that he was diagnosed with invasive cancer in March and has had to undergo chemotherapy. He had to be cleared to be able to play here at State.’

I’m sure my mouth dropped open. Of course, by the time I’d told her how sorry I was to hear this news and had gotten his name and assured her I’d be praying for him, I hugged her and thanked her for entrusting me with this information.

‘I just thought that might help your boys understand…’ She smiled the brightest, most beautiful smile in that moment of darkness, as though the sunshine had burst through the clouds. Then she told me he was supposed to be playing ball for the college in our town next year – and she wanted me to come and see him there. And I believe that I will. I believe he’ll be there.

I found a way to pass this news to our coach through our athletic director; but I don’t believe the boys, as a team, had this information as they walked out of the stadium that afternoon. I felt blessed to be able to personally relay this testimony to my own son. As I shared this other young man’s story with him, about how the opposing player on the mound was undergoing a different sort of battle, not only did my son’s countenance immediately change as he expressed feeling differently about the game’s outcome (especially its importance in the grand scheme of life), he caught on to my little secret.

“God answered your prayer.”

“He did, didn’t He?”

“He let you in on what was going on in somebody’s personal life that did make this game important to Him.”

I just love it when we’re paying close enough attention for God to give us a glimpse of Himself and His heart. Don’t you?

What a precious moment – when we stop to realize those specific times when God has dipped, yet again, into our humanity.

***

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Devo: Heart Reflections

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror

then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall fully know,
even as I am fully known.
– I Corinthians 13:12

While reflecting this morning, I thought…

THE ANCIENT GRECO-ROMAN WORLD MUST HAVE BEEN A LOT LIKE OURS
… since the Apostle Paul (writing here to the church in Corinth) seems to use plenty of analogies, metaphors and real-life examples of what was going on around him that we can still easily understand. Gosh, Greek society must have been narcissistic too. Imagine that!

People, no doubt, enjoy focusing on themselves.

I mean, how many times a day do I pause to check my appearance through my reflection?  I straighten my clothing while walking through reflective doors at the bank; I pull down my rear view mirror to check my hair before exiting my car; I even peek at the little visual box of myself while I’m video chatting, perhaps so I can ensure my expressions are appropriate for the messages I wish to convey.

People more ancient than us might not have had Skype, but they certainly had this same reflective instinct and…yes, they even had mirrors! And, just like us, they found reflective alternatives when necessary. Don’t forget the story of the famous Narcissus. Cursed to fall in love with his own reflection, he couldn’t tear away from the water’s edge, where he found he could stare at the object of his affection (himself) all the day long.

I DON’T WANT TO GIVE YOU THE IMPRESSION THAT I THINK CHECKING ON YOUR REFLECTION IS A BAD THING.

I rather think Paul was suggesting it. His description of the mirror represented it as a tool to use. Tools can only serve whatever purpose is determined within the hands they’ve been placed. A shovel can dig a hole for planting a beautiful new tree of life…or it can dig a grave.

A spiritual mirror can serve as a tool to promote self-aggrandizement…or serve to help us see our inner transformation taking place 

WE’RE ALL FAMILIAR WITH THE FAIRY TALE EXAMPLE OF THE DESTRUCTION WROUGHT 

when trying to form a reflection for our own purposes, rather than being transformed by truthfully admitting what we find there.

Snow White’s stepmother, a.k.a. the Evil Queen, is well known for asking, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” Because of her sad need to self-aggrandize, to refuse to fulfill anyone’s desires other than her own, she could have never been satisfied with the answer. Like Narcissus, she could not tear herself away from a warped fantasy to live a life of seeing beyond herself. She never stopped to think that she, too, could have had the same fairness as Snow White – had she only considered what was being reflected from her heart. Instead, she’d go to all measures to manipulate what she reflected to get the effect she desired. Ironically, she turned herself into an ugly, old hag to try to fulfill her own plan of being the fairest.

OUR FLESH HAS A WAY OF GETTING IN THE WAY OF OUR ABILITY TO SPIRITUALLY REFLECT.  

That’s likely why Paul reminds us we won’t be fully successful in our reflections because we only see dimly now. But, if we’re consistent in picking up our spiritual mirrors and reflecting on what exists within our hearts, a more lovely display should begin to emerge as we allow there to be less of our fleshly cares and more of our spirit-filled ones.

In love, -jody

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Update: My post was removed from a writing community today, with an email expressing that I hadn’t met the site’s criteria of providing a “So What?” It honestly doesn’t bother me to have gotten the boot; apparently, I deserved it. Because, in further reflection, it DOES bother me to think that, in challenging us (that’s you AND me) to engage in deep heartfelt reflection and the recourse that act has on humanity (the greater good) over any mere individual’s self-centered motives, maybe there’s not a strongly related so-what anymore in our world.

Isn’t that, after all, the problem? Regardless of whether bombs unexpectedly collapse giant buildings where people came to work that day or explode in celebrating crowds? Regardless of whether children are gunned down in “safe places” or they’re dying from preventable diseases like malaria in places from which we “feel safe”?  Oh, I know. We feel horrified – temporarily…but so what? We rant on a Facebook post here and there…but so what? We turn off the news when it’s too disturbing. We go back to our undisturbed lives. We choose to vacation to refresh ourselves, rather than traveling somewhere to help others. If no one really notices the ugliness we bear in our hearts, we might feel slightly remorseful for awhile; but if we don’t get called out on our behavior…so what?

SO WHAT can WE do to make a difference in this world? Since I got called out, I guess I’m passing it on.

I’m left with only one recourse here – to turn it over to your hands, wise readers, and ask – if the message resonated on your heart chords the least bit, what’s the “so what” in it for you?

Carpe Diem Haiku: Tanpopo (Dandelion)

My wish was torn loose
Floating away from my grasp
Carried by the wind…

Photo located at: http://truevibes.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/make-a-wish/

Photo located at: http://truevibes.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/make-a-wish/

A delight in youth.
Devilish in midlife years.
What’s to come of us?

DSCN0819

Loosed by wind stirring
While firmly rooted in place.
Who’s to understand?

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Carpe Diem’s haiku challenges us this month to explore classical Japanese kigo (seasonwords).
March 29’s prompt celebrates the beginning of Spring with: Tanpopo (Dandelion).

I was first inspired by my memories of holding a ripened, white crested wish-filled dandy-lion as a child.

Then I was captured by the comparison of the memories that might be evoked between a dandelion’s life as compared to mankind’s.

And then I found myself contemplating on this weedy, curious little flower until I found myself traveling through its rooted system…while thinking on this specific day.

To be perfectly honest, I’m intrigued by the simple magic of the dandelion (which translates as “lion’s tooth”).

  • The floral meaning of the dandelion is meant to be a gift to a loved one that will provide happiness and a promise of total faithfulness.
  • I’m sure it’s the first gift I’ve ever been given by any child as an expression of affection. The pudgy little hands that plucked it, the unsteady little legs that wobbled to get it to me, the sparkling delight of the eyes as it was presented for my delightful gratitude — all give this perfect gift in such a simple, yet extraordinary, fashion.
  • I can recall its explosive power as a child – the power that drew me to run to grasp the stem of a ripened dandelion, so I could send my wishes a thousand directions out from me into a vast world of possibilities.
  • I recall my disappointment in learning that adults do not appreciate the lovely yellow gifting of these sweet, tiny bits of sunshine sprinkled into an otherwise boringly manicured lawn.
  • Yet, I’ve learned, their temporal daintiness is deceptive. They are persistent in their existence, spreading established deep roots and eternal seeding among us.
  • Despite our offenses against them, they continue to extend healing properties to us.

So I can’t imagine a more appropriate day to honor the dandelion than today, Good Friday, the day in which I must stop in faith and honor my Lord & Savior who continues to extend that same healing property to me, despite my offenses against Him. Everything about this day – representing His crucifixion, His body’s burial in a tomb – seem to represent the end of His good among us. Where child-like eyes and ears delighted in His gift, grown-up hearts saw Him as a nuisance in their world – a pest, a weed that needed to be removed. Where he came to sprinkle sunshine among them, they preferred their manicured earth they thought they could manage just fine on their own.

Despite our most horrible offenses, we will yet find His deeply established roots and eternal seeding among us. The (dandy) Lion of Judah is yet to rise come Easter morn to bring the ultimate gift of love to us, His joy with a promise of total faithfulness. Lord, let me see you anew with child-like eyes and a heart filled with childish delight. Let my faith be loosed by your spirit’s wind, wherever it chooses to blow.