Thursday, March 8, 2012

Food Pantry

A Food Pantry Haiku...
the hungry exist
endless opportunities
need a helping hand

Sometimes, folks just need someone to hold their hand and help them along.  Grace extended brings humility to the soul.  Humility brings freedom from the trappings of pride.  It's not up to me to determine who is worthy and who isn't.  The pressure is off when grace appears.  

My favorite part about helping out at the food pantry tonight was chatting with the folks who needed assistance.  They blessed me immensely.  Observing those who operate the pantry welcome people and see to their needs was humbling, yet inspiring.  It makes me want to go back again and to take a bunch of food with me!

Some of the shelves were empty, which broke my heart.  It created a challenge in me to make the commitment to be intentional with grocery shopping by including a few extra items to donate to the pantry.  Giving to the food pantry is an act of worship.  I had forgotten, but there is no condemnation from this challenge.  Just a subtle reminder to myself to remember those who have less than me.  

A Food Pantry Haiku II...
pantry shelves empty
what about the golden rule?
remember to give

I hope this isn't too preachy... Please know I am writing to myself just as much as I am to anyone reading this.  May God bless you :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Retainers Needed Daily

Today, I had the blessing of helping out my sister.  My nephew needed a ride to the orthodontist and so I agreed to take him.  At the end of his visit, the orthodontist's assistant walked into the waiting room with my nephew to talk to me.  Uh...It was like being summoned to the principal's office as I approached them.  The assistant offered her recommendation and advice (warnings) about the retainer for me to pass along to my sister.  He needs to wear it every day.

What she told me isn't the subject of my blog, but the word "retainer" has stuck in my head this afternoon.  A retainer... What is it?  I've seen them, but never had to wear one.  They are kind of creepy looking, aren't they?  They remind me of crustaceans for some reason.  I don't like those either.  But anyway... I looked up on the web what exactly a retainer does.  It keeps teeth from returning to their original place after braces are removed.  Huh...didn't know that.

Straighten Up by Peter Griffin

Knowing what a retainer is and does begs the logical follow-up question (at least in my mind).  What are the spiritual retainers in my life?  What in my life keeps my faith strong and in place when the natural tendency is to drift back to where I was before I had any?  

It really wasn't all that long ago when my faith was pretty much non-existent.  Having faith isn't easy.  Living by faith isn't easy.  Faith takes time to grow and it needs to be exercised in order to strengthen.  Sometimes I waver.  It's true.  However, the bounce back time has become much less than it used to be.  I suppose it has something to do with my spiritual retainers.  My Bible.  My music.  My journal.  My prayers.  

I cannot hide anything from God because He is aware of everything.  When I take the time to talk to God and especially to listen, my faith is reinforced to keep me from falling back into the way I used to be.  Sometimes, my spiritual retainers are difficult.  Sometimes they are painful, especially when there are life lessons to be learned, or conviction needs to be realized.  Yet, I need these corrections in order to build my faith and keep me on the narrow path.  

It would be easier not to utilize my spiritual retainers especially when they are difficult.  Yet, feeling uncomfortable and handling it now sets me up for being able to endure in the future.  I want to reinforce and fortify my faith for the future because I really do not want to slowly slip back to the way I used to be...faithless.  Just like my nephew needs to wear his retainer every day to keep his teeth in place, I need my spiritual retainers every day to keep my faith from wavering. 

(Final Note:  The photo above isn't a dental retainer, but it was hard to find a picture of one on the public domain picture sites.  And pictures of dental retainers aren't so great to look at anyway.  I looked again.  Dental retainers are just not very pretty and I really do not want a picture of one on my blog.  These tree braces are kind of related to the topic, aren't they?)   haha   :)

Link to photo:  "">Straighten Up</a> by Peter Griffin

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All the Chicks Are Looking Up

Three Chicks by Petr Kratochvil
When I was thinking about what to write in my blog, I went looking through pictures and saw these two photos.  What would possess a person to line up some man-made chicks and then photograph them?  I dunno, but it is genius, at least to me.  Where's the story here?

All the chicks are looking up.  But why?  What do they see, that I cannot?  Perhaps the full moon or near full moon?  The same moon causing me to write about inanimate objects as if they were real? Are they looking for something?  Hoping they can find it looking up instead of down and around them.

Yellow Chicks by Petr Kratochvil
It makes me think of myself looking up to the sky, searching for answers or searching for a glimpse of heaven.  I'm not exactly sure where heaven is, but I assume it is up.  So I will look.  When I take walks, I look towards the sky because I am so aware of who God is in my life.  His presence and His purpose.  It fills me with wonder.  Psalm 89:6 says, "For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?  Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?"  I suppose I do not have a deep theological reason for looking up, for my faith is pretty simple.  Kind of childlike.  I suppose that's why I find an affinity with these little chicks.  

When I am searching for God or for answers to life's questions, I prefer to do this on my own with Him.  Others tend to trip me up with their theological brains.  Can I just love Jesus and let Him work through me?  Can I just read my Bible and trust God to lead me to the correct conclusions?  Do I have to know all there is to know about all the great spiritual minds out there on the planet?  Do I have to replace the awe and wonder of the Trinity with the ideas, writings, and conclusions of others?  I do not mean to discredit or put down theology, but sometimes I think I can over think things instead of going right to the source. 

When Jesus walked the earth, he had a group of 12 men who traveled with him everywhere.  Of those 12, Jesus had his closest friends Peter, James and John.  Another look at these pictures and I notice the number of birds.  The top picture has 3 birds and the other has 11.  Hmm... could these birds represent the disciples looking for Jesus after his ascension?  Could the disciples just be in awe and wonder for a moment?  When Jesus ascended, He entrusted His kingdom to some normal folks.  They had walked with Jesus and learned from Him.  They were in awe of Him.  Is it okay for me to just walk with Him and learn from Him just as the disciples did?

Link to photos:  
Three Chicks:"">Three Chicks</a> by Petr Kratochvil
Yellow Chicks: "">Yellow Chicks</a> by Petr Kratochvil

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Could I Not Be Overwhelmed?

This past weekend, I was on the receiving end of a blessing.  Words cannot express how divinely precise the blessing was to me in the moment it was given.  It was an answer to a prayer I had yet to utter.  
I was working in the kitchen at a women's retreat this past weekend, even though I am not gifted with the culinary arts.  The co-chairs did not care about that, as long as I could follow directions, I was in.  It was a blast, but we were extremely busy.  We started prepping on Thursday night, leaving the kitchen around midnight.  Friday morning we started at 6:00am and finished up around 10pm.  As soon as we finished breakfast, we would start on lunch.  Right after lunch, we started on dinner.  It was non-stop! 

A little after 10:00pm, I checked the prayer sign-up sheet to see what time I had committed to pray for the event at the chapel.  Turns out I had signed up for the 4:00am-5:00am prayer coverage.  I let one of the people in charge know that I would pray, but I would pray from home.  He said that would be fine.

Another man who was at the chapel asked me what my time commitment was and I told him.  He said he would take my prayer time and told me to sleep.  He volunteered for the time slot that I myself had signed up for a few weeks prior.  When I began to protest, he said, "You have been up since 5:00 and on your feet all day.  You're tired.  I'll take your prayer time.  You need to rest."  

The man was right.  I was tired and I could barely hold myself up.  However, I was trusting God to give me the strength to pray the following morning.  God honored my efforts and gave me what I needed.  He answered a prayer I had yet to say.  It was Romans 8:26-28 realized in a very tangible way I could understand and appreciate. The scripture says, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

As I walked back to my car, I began to cry.  Good tears, though.  I knew God had personally and precisely blessed me and the knowledge of that was overwhelming.  The verse I quoted above went through my mind as I drove home.  The Spirit knew I was struggling and I was physically, emotionally and spiritually weak after giving all I had in the kitchen.  Working in the kitchen doesn't seem "holy enough" to deserve a blessing.  But isn't that thinking a bit prideful?  

The moment that man offered to take my place at the prayer chapel was a holy moment.  I knew it as I walked towards my car, shedding tears of relief and joy.  I had not prayed for someone to take my place, but the Spirit was interceding because he knows me to my very core.  He knew I was not going to be able to do it.  The retreat was counting on 24-hour prayer coverage throughout its entirety.  So for me to let this man pray during my sign-up time was a surrender on my part.  The man was following the Spirit's prompting and offered to help me.  It was the body of Christ working together in that moment.  How could I not be overwhelmed?