Friday, August 17, 2018

"I Want You Back"

Joel 2:13  ...Now return to the Lord Your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil."

I started back at school this week, working as a teacher's aide in a severe special needs class, high school level. Very challenging work, especially for the time of life I am in now. We are kept on our toes. By the end of the day, I am exhausted.

BUT...or should I say AND...

There remains many bits of joy found in these kiddos, their innocence, their beautiful smiles and giggles, their perseverance and humble spirits and acceptance to trust us with their whole day at school, away from parents and other care-givers.

Many are on the autism spectrum which interferes with communication skills. We seek ways to find out their needs as they develop unique ways to express theirs.

Grace, an important part of the curriculum, every day is a new day, a clean slate.

Last year, I developed a pretty special relationship with one of my senior kiddos. A bit attached, I'd just like to say, we bonded. His behavior quite improved, he developed an obsession with volcanoes. (probably watching the one in Hawaii on YouTube)  Every day he wanted to talk about them and read about the lava, so I indulged him a bit. Towards the end of the school year, I brought some real lava rocks from my own collection and gave them to him.

He was intent on leaving them in the hot sun so they could remelt. He wanted to reverse the process.

This year, while still on my campus, he is now in a different classroom, a transitional class.

He is having a difficult time. All week, he bounds off the bus in the morning, spots me, gives one of his famous hugs, towering over me with his 6 feet plus frame,  gets a bit teary-eyed and says..."I want you back!"

All week his new teacher gave him behavior goals. His reward? He could trek across campus and visit me on Friday,  if and only if, he met his goals which included not asking to go visit me every second and getting upset when he was told no.

The time to clean-up and head out for a Friday of the first week of school approached, and my buddy did not show up. I sent a text to one of his teachers.

"What happened?"

"He lost his privilege because of his behavior. He is working for next week now."

Sometimes, we cannot reverse the process. No cure for autism, no leaving rocks in the daylight will turn them back into lava. We take the beauty that became from the process and learn from it, share it--treasure it.  I know this all too well.

Then there are those times when God and life tell you it is time to move on, make new discoveries and experiences...GROW and learn more. When we do that, our obedience to God pleases Him. We are rewarded.

We miss the old, but those memories will always be precious. It is, of course what got us to a place of  success to be able to make a transition.

Then, there are those days, those weeks...sometimes the very moments when we need a do-over. There in lies the GRACE.

There in... the accepting and the learning and relationship--there in,  the trying and the dreaming and the hoping--there in, the undoing and redoing... the try-agains and the frustrations in our humaness, grace pulls us through. We get back on the bus and try again.

God says loud and clear to us..."I WANT YOU BACK!"

And GRACE says, you don't need to wait until next week because I AM (the Lord) ready for you to bound off the salvation bus and receive your hugs right now.

Thank You Lord, it is all about relationship. Only Your Perfect Love can melt away all our imperfections and make us brand new, trusting in each new mountain ahead of us. Thank You that we can come to You with child-like faith and grow through are "behaviors" to see more of You. Thank You that we can come to You, just as messed up as we are and Grace already prepared the way for that special visit. I love my kiddos, they bless me in so many ways. One day, all of us will be made perfect singing and shouting, bounding and flying---with glorious words, Your Grace that brought us back, back Home.

     Call It Grace ~ Unspoken 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Intentionally Finding the Shadows

Psalm 91:4  "He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. 

Many of you know I planted a butterfly garden a few years back in my son's memory, but even more so for God's glory and inspiration. I frequently take pictures and post them, capturing the Monarch in his life cycle. The milkweed plant I added to the garden last year draws the butterflies in as they drink from the nectar of the flower and lay their eggs on the leaves. I've watched many caterpillars grow larger in their diligence of eating the leaves in preparation for their next life. Purchasing a butterfly tent, one lucky fellow emerged from his chrysalis inside my home. Though I missed the event, he graced me with the experience of holding him and setting him (or her) free, back into the garden.

So, I thought I'd try it again, and bring a chrysalis inside. This one never emerged. 

That happens. As I've been reading, not all caterpillars make it, get to actually become the Monarch they were meant to be. They didn't consume enough,  get fat enough, have the strength inside the chrysalis to complete the transformation. They just were not equipped for the change about to come. 

Oh, how I can relate to that scenario...

With all the numerous Monarchs gracing my yard at any given moment, one would think I have a ton of caterpillars as well. I watch for them, but those too, fight to survive. Wasps seem to also enjoy the Milkweed plant, as well as ladybugs. The eggs get consumed. The strong and/or the purposed find their way to survival. I see that the leaves are munched on and I have faith that the caterpillars, one by one as I locate them, will continue to thrive. I may find 2 or 3, sometimes as many as 10...and then suddenly, they are gone.

Where did they go?  

It is their time. They find a quiet place, away from the milkweed and search for the perfect spot in which to grow and change. Like a baby being fed, they are ready to take on solid food so to speak, their purpose, discover their destiny and true beauty after a season of survival and grace. Why stay a baby? There is so much more!  It's in their DNA!  They don't fight it, it is what is to be!

I have found the chrysalis in many places, some totally outside of the butterfly garden.  On a thorny rose stem, under the lip of a pot, attached to a cross beam of a fence, the bright green chrysalis hangs and waits.

This week, something very cool happened. I spotted a chrysalis hanging from another butterfly! Across from the butterfly garden is a pot with some newly planted Plumeria beginning to sprout. Also,  stuck inside this terra cotta pot, two garden stakes, one purple and one traditional colors of the Monarch. This caterpillar crawled across the warm sidewalk, up the pot, into the dirt and up the stake to the wing of something he recognized, a glimpse of His own image to come. Why wouldn't he want to do his transforming under the wings of this great one?

When showing my friend who came to visit, he said, "Wow, that took a lot of effort to get there." It does seem intentional, doesn't it?

Let me ask the effort worth it? To crawl, run, curl up, reach for, embrace yourself in the Wings of our Maker? He is the One who created you in His image and for His purposes. Do you want to just stay a baby, hoping for more milk while battling the wasps of this world who so easily carry us away, the carnivores who consume our time and leave us hopeless, drained of life?

As for me, I choose, very intentionally, to be under the shadow of His wings, for there is where I find grace, purpose, beauty in the transformation and hope. Every inch of getting there and the detours...even the hardest and darkest of places to get through-- are all worth the victory today and into eternity.

Thank you Lord, that I can see Your intention for me, Your direction, Your will. Though rust and moths, disease and disrespect,  rejection and hurt,  insecurities and disappointment want to discourage along the way, I know that Truth stands tall and I have my eyes on You. Help me, help us Lord, everyday to be intentional in our worship and in our lives to reflect all You created us to be and thank You that I can find rest under Your wings, all for Your Glory, Amen

My Savior's Shadow ~ Blake Shelton 

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Completely Joyful Adventure

Philippians 2:1-2 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 

What a way to start the summer break off then to take a long-awaited and planned for many months, road trip with my BFF! We snapped our selfie at my front door and we headed for the airport just the next city over from our homes.

My boarding pass said B, hers was C and we ended up unable to sit together on our 3 hour flight to Texas. I found a seat towards the tail end, my friend Christina, up front. I felt a bit down about that, and hoped the flight might be over quickly and/or my book might keep me from boredom. I did end up with a window seat. A clear flight, I looked out the window a lot and wondered what and where we were, if that was the Salton Sea, if below me might be New Mexico...

I sat next to a couple who quickly introduced themselves, Teri and Randy. They informed me that they were off to Dallas to assist Pastor Greg Laurie and the Harvest Crusade happening that weekend at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Last year, over 85,000 people showed up with more standing and listening in the parking lot. They hoped for the same this year. She pointed out to me more friends on the same mission across the aisle and said many more were scattered in the jet.

Wow Lord, I couldn't sit next to my friend, yet You surround me with Your good servants and conversation that glorifies You. So Cool, So You Lord, Thank You. 

I felt assured, encouraged--in going away on an adventure and excited that God provided for me to go with no lose ends at home.

I felt Christ's love when my seatmates asked me to pray with them before the plane landed. We prayed for the Harvest Crusade and they prayed for myself and Christina to enjoy our trip safely and joyfully.

I knew fellowship, being of One Body in Christ with complete strangers, yet...not really strangers after knowing that they served the same God with passion and compassion for the lost. My joy--complete yet waiting for our adventure, complete because of what blessings the Lord gives to me in friendships. Joy because strangers and best friends can share instantly in that sameness, a unity because of knowing God personally and trusting Him.

We left on a jet plane. I found new friends for a brief 3 hours. Along with my forever friend, (we call each other Soul Sisters), we all are intent on one purpose: To fellowship and share our hearts in love and words and find joy in each other, in serving and being served, and in adventure. The Lord moves us to and fro and we cannot be scenery watchers or keep our heads stuck in a downward position, afraid of people or where He may call us to.  His purposes are not seen in the clouds, but sometimes right in the seat next to us, to pray and fellowship and be reminded that it is never about the destination, but more about the journey.

Lord, Thank You for being a God of providence, provision and unity. Thank You Lord for best friends and new friends. Thank You Father for a beautiful world in which to share Your love and hope in. You are a good God intent on filling us with Your Joy, in all our adventures and even in our misadventures.
Help us Lord to continue to see You in our everyday walk through life and live fueled up and ready to soar to new places You plan for us. May we be packed with faith and trust and ready to unpack Your Goodness. Amen.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spell "One Another" Please

Acts 2:42 “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Breaking news: 14 year-old Karthik Nemmani from Texas, won yesterday’s (May 31st) 2018 National Spelling Bee with the word “koinonia.”

What? I came back into my bedroom to listen to the morning news anchors repeating the word, giggling while admitting they didn’t know the meaning much less the spelling of the word. “Well, I looked it up, it means a spiritual gathering of like-minded people,” said one newswoman.

Some words have tremendous power behind them. We hear that every day. Twitter, a popular social media of 140 characters or less, catapults them out 24-7. We watch and see where the direct hits land and the collateral damage. 

…and one 14-year old boy spells ONE word that can change the world. Would you have known it, recognized it--have you experienced it? It is only one word, yet is speaks volumes. 

Koinonia. K.o.i.n.o.n.i.a. Koinonia.

It’s Greek to me. Well, it is Greek, literally. More than just being like-minded, “koinonia” means united for a purpose, devoted to one another, serving one other, praying for one another, honoring one another, encouraging one another towards love and goodness…did you catch all the “one anothers?”

Koinonia results when a true, pure fellowship, authentic and intimate in words and love, takes place with one another because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for every one of us on that Cross. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself through this word. Koinonia cannot be summed up in 140 characters, but in continuing love and action to those who heed the call to be Christ-like and Christ-minded. To those who do not settle for just a salvation story, but want to break bread and trust together for the right words to reflect His glory, koinonia moves mountains. It instills hope, brings healing and spells out the divine purpose, that together as one Body in Christ, great things in love can be accomplished. In each of us as we encourge Koinonia, we learn and grow in our walk with God...and with ONE ANOTHER. 

Now that you know how to spell koinonia, go and discover it, be a part of it, read about it in the Acts and other books of the New Testament.

In gratefulness, Lord, I know that as a Christ follower, I was never meant to be alone in my beliefs and in my growth, but to fellowship with one another, discuss, study, pray, worship and minister together. Thank you Lord for all the opportunities to do that in Your Body of Christ and in koinonia. I hope to share these same experiences out to a broken world. They say a child shall lead them. Thank you Karthik. I pray you too, will know the fellowship of the saints and that God will use this word and your correct spelling of it to enlighten others to a greater calling. Amen.