Five for the Plate

Five for the Plate

Ever been on mission to have it abruptly interrupted? On my way to a meeting, my enthusiastic foot pressing hard on the car’s accellerator got me a signed, suitable for framing warning from local law enforcement. I was traveling 10 miles over the speed limit on a Saturday morning, 8:25am.

“Driver’s license please?” I texted my husband. I may be late for my meeting. I waited for what seemed 30 minutes. The officer approached my car shaking his head side to side. Dread filled my heart. “This time, I’m giving you a warning, I see your husband was cited at a stop sign some time ago. You are in the system now,” he said. I thanked him, driving slowly away, placing the Warning Notice above the passenger seat visor.

Whew, a narrow escape for me. Then I thought, I should have mentioned that I would put an extra $5 in the offering plate on Sunday for him. It was too late, I had to drive fast so that I wouldn’t be late for my 9am meeting. The phone rang. My husband asked, “Did you get a ticket?”

I described the watch I was wearing to my husband, a guardian angel watch with an inscription on the back. I had no doubt that several guardian angels swirled around me at 8:25 as the officer took my driver’s license.

When my meeting ended, rain was flowing like a lawn sprinkler. I pulled a shawl over my head stopping at a market to pick up something for dinner. The butcher said, “It’s raining, be careful out there.” Rain pounded my car all the way home.

On Sunday morning, the wind whined like rolling turbines on a jet engine. As the offering was being collected, I handed my husband $5 whispering, “This is for Officer Middleton*.” I silently prayed for him.

The officer said that he encouraged drivers to focus on driving instead of their GPS, cell phone or music on the radio.

Driving to the meeting, I thought of Psalm 91:11,

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Angels are all around us Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Angels are all around us
(Photo courtesy of unsplash.com)

When I prayed for Officer Middleton*, I prayed for his protection. I try to remember to pray for first responders who risk their lives every day to serve the community. I give thanks for them. Even if I would have received more than a warning, I thank God for those who serve.

 

*Name changed

 

 

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Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

A man from Argentina looking for a dialysis center rang the door bell. I gave him directions to where he needed to go, silently praying for him as he walked back to his car.

A young girl asking for olive oil for a recipe rang the doorbell. I welcomed her into the kitchen, filling her measuring cup with more oil than she might need.

A woman asked for directions. I described how to get to the place she was looking for.

We decorate and light our homes in preparation for the coming of Immanuel. The light of Christ shines through us every time we open a door, pray a prayer for a stranger or give more than asked.

Someone recently described a GPS tool as God’s Positioning System. God’s system doesn’t black out in the darkness of tunnels or get interrupted by solar flares. God lights our paths equipping us to serve others for Him.

It is seven days before Christmas. God counts on each of us to light the path so that others will see his glory. Can he count on you?

Be the Light Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Be the Light
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Hope for the Homeless Population

Hope for the Homeless Population

A memorial mass for a local homeless man framed our trip to Salt Lake City the day before we left town. The homeless man, hit and killed by a car in March on a busy Central Florida road was partly identified through his pockets full of Starbucks and Panera gift cards given to him by caring people who took time to get to know him. At the memorial service, a simple urn donated by a county memory garden contained the remains of this bearded, beloved to many, homeless man.IMG_0080

Our trip took us to Denver, CO, before boarding the California Zephyr Amtrak train to Salt Lake City. Four random Denver taxi drivers, all from Ethiopia, expressed their gratefulness to be living in the United States. There is a homeless population living on the streets of Denver. The California Zephyr’s route travels through majestic, yet desolate canyons, following the Colorado River. As we left Denver, many homeless people stood along the station’s railroad tracks.

Arriving in Salt Lake City, we observed homeless people of every age on street corners, sleeping in vacant building entrances, holding signs asking for assistance. I saw the face of the local homeless man reflected in each homeless person I encountered in Denver or Salt Lake City.

Homeless people are around us from coast to coast, living under bridges, trees, in woods, on streets, carrying belongings in borrowed shopping carts or in well worn garbage bags.

The day we flew home, news reports mentioned our local officials visiting Salt Lake City to observe best practices to help their homeless population. It is too late for the man hit by a car last March but a glimmer of hope is building for others. May the area officials respond in more generous and permanent ways to help the homeless community before more lives are tragically lost.

“Have I ignored the needs of the poor, turned my back on the indigent, taken care of my own needs and fed my own face while they languished? Wasn’t my home always open to them? Weren’t they always welcome at my table?” (Job 31:16-18, The Message)

Shake It Off

I think many of us want to shake off a few of the latest news reports.

A jury convicted peanut butter company executives of fraud and conspiracy. The company’s CEO reportedly directed subordinates to “Just Ship It,” though they were waiting on contamination test results for batches of product prior to shipping. The company’s tainted peanut butter killed nine people and sickened hundreds.

Volkswagen has admitted to blatant cheating on US emission tests. The stock price plunged. CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned. Consumer confidence has gone the way of the stock price.

Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of a drug that has no generic competition. Online HuffPost Business reported, “Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals attracted widespread negative attention this week after The New York Times reported the firm hiked the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 in a single day. [Emphasis added] The medicine is more than 60 years old, but has no generic competition, mostly because so few patients need it. Those who do must take the drug to fend off a deadly infection called toxoplasmosis, which afflicts people with AIDS, babies born with HIV, and those with some kinds of cancers. According to Slate, Retrophin implemented a similar price increase for a kidney medicine when Shkreli ran the company. (Note the update: 7:35 p.m. 22 September—Shkreli said Tuesday that Turing would lower the price of the drug an unspecified amount “in response to the anger that was felt by people.”)

Consumers should be angry. Tainted food, pharmaceutical price gouging, emissions cheating by a respected automobile manufacturer. Have corporations’ integrity gone into the toilet?

Victims of tainted peanut butter can’t shake off the death of loved ones. HIV babies and cancer patients can’t shake off diagnoses. Volkswagen’s image and trust is tainted. Once loyal customers are shaking off a brand they used to trust.

Watching for Stop Sign Runners

Watching for Stop Sign Violators

Local Sheriff Deputies were out in force today giving tickets to violators who routinely ignore a four-way stop. The officers positioned themselves in strategic locations to catch violators. We must be strategic and vigilant consumers, identifying and calling to question violators of trust who are eager to take our hard-earned money.

(Note: the officer pictured is strategically on the sidewalk, not roadway).

Jesus said to his disciples, “Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16).

Who are the Strays in Your Life?

Two “preachers” came to visit him. A stray dog appeared. The preachers made unkind remarks about the stray dog while they were talking. Their comments did not sit well with the host. He said, “Do you know that dog spelled backwards spells God?” The two told him they never had thought about that.

He gave the preachers money for their cause. After they left, he gave the stray dog food.

Who are the Strays in Your Life

Who are the Strays in Your Life

Many times, one with a humble heart touches one of God’s creatures, by nurturing a heart without a home or providing food to soothe a hungry belly. Sometimes, one reminds others of the value of all of God’s creatures.

Who are the strays in your life? Who are the ones who have no home or the ones who have lost their way, hungry for love and acceptance, who need to be nurtured?

Holy Week Experiences

While delivering bread, we met a young man whose life has resulted in many wrong turns. His goal is to correct his path. He can’t do it on his own.

At a restaurant, we talk with the waiter. “Where do you go to church?” We asked.

“I haven’t been to church since I moved here.”

“Where do you live?”

Based on what he said, we offered names of churches he could attend Easter Sunday or any Sunday.

The Holy Spirit will move in the two young men’s lives if they are open to receive the Spirit’s guidance.

During a Centering Prayer gathering, the Holy Spirit moved among us. A gentle presence of the Trinity blessed our time together.

Friday morning, we helped assemble almost 200 Easter Meals donated through the local Catholic Church and the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Forty meals designated for families in transition were distributed to children unable to receive minimal daily nourishment due to family circumstances.

Saturday, we delivered five remaining Easter Meals and nine donated hams to other needy families.

While delivering one meal, a woman hugged us with tears in her eyes. She was grateful to receive God’s provision. Her grandson had lost a tooth during the week. She dug into her worn couch hoping to find coins. There were few. It would be two days before her husband would receive his paycheck. She bought her grandson a tiny turtle anyway. Her grandson named it Turbo. Her husband asked, “What are you buying a turtle for when we don’t have money for food?” Then God shows up through the generosity of a local Catholic Church with an Easter Meal for her family.

The young man hoping to correct his path was surprised to see us. He is working to connect to agencies that can help him change his circumstances.

When we least expect it, God shows up through many hands and feet of caring people working to do His will His way. We are grateful to the many people, churches and organizations who generously give God’s provisions to those in need.

You Don’t Want That Dog

Every evening I look up, watching lights go on in a third floor corner condominium diagonally across the street from my home. Nola used to live there, her terrace filled with tomato plants, basil, other vegetables and herbs. Ten years ago this month, Nola began a 6-week seminar in my home teaching Dr. Joel Furhman’s “Eat to Live” program. Fourteen women gathered every week to listen to Nola’s wisdom.

Nola

Nola

We watched videos, discussing material, enjoying fellowship. Nola passed away August 25, 2012.

A photo of a rescue Chihuahua named Nola living in Virginia is mounted on my refrigerator door.

April of 2013, a beloved friend’s dog named Francois passed away. She notified me of the passing by email. Condolences were sent. I didn’t hear back from her which was unusual.

A lengthly letter arrived August 25, 2013 a year to the day of my friend Nola’s passing. The letter described my friend’s recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, her chemotherapy, surgery and radiation she had gone through the past months. Her letter included a photo of Nola, a newly acquired rescue Chihuahua to help her heart repair from the loss of Francois.

One day she and her husband went to the pound around closing time. She saw a Chihuahua. She was advised not to take the dog, being told, “No one can handle this one.” She asked to take the dog outside. The dog immediately warmed to her, jumping into her lap, sitting peacefully. It was closing time. She decided to take the dog home, naming her Nola, for her love of New Orleans (NOLA) and family ties going back several generations. Two weeks after adopting the Chihuahua, she received the earth-shattering pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

When I read her letter, I shuttered in unbelief. On the anniversary of my friend’s death, I learned of my friend’s diagnosis and learned about a dog named Nola comforting her during a severe medical crisis.

We met later. I shared this with her. It gave her comfort. She is in remission. Her dog Nola does have her challenges with the rest of the family pets, but she is a comfort to her master.

When the lights go on in the third floor condominium, I think of Nola. Angels are among us. Some may be covered with fur.

Furry Angel

Furry Angel

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11