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

 

 

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

Just Enough

Just Enough

Your heart melts, looking into her beautiful green eyes watching her lift each of three young friends to the table to choose a donated danish, cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie. She is nine years old, but acts more responsible than some adults. She steers another child to the front of the line, “She’s new. She doesn’t know what to do,” she says. Nine people are in her family. We give her a loaf of raisin bread dusted with powdered sugar to make French Toast. Walking away, she is smiling. Your heart melts a second time.

Today, there was just enough bread and pastries for everyone. A woman, a regular, was missing. We wonder where she is. Has she moved?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible)

You are the Light

You are the Light

A green-eyed child taking care to see that other children get a sweet treat on a hot Florida evening is a light in a dark world. Her light shines in spite of the darkness of poverty around her. Just enough good things shut out darkness.

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

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

An eighteen year old watches us set up tables of donated bread as wind whips through the parking lot. Children’s clothing covers another table. I asked the eighteen year old if he needed a jacket. Motioning him to follow me to my car, I showed him a few men’s jackets. He selected a red fleece pullover, smiling as he took it into his hands. After receiving the pullover, I sensed he felt more at ease with us. 

Donated bread can bridge differences, equalizing deliverer and receiver. For a few minutes, we meet in Christ’s love. Helpful children place bags of bread on tables, talking to each other as they sort through clothing. Grateful to receive some bread and newer clothing, wind gusts carry their many thank you’s into the air, including the thanks of a shy eighteen year old, now with a red fleece pullover to keep him warm.

Can you spare a jacket?

Can you spare a jacket?

Do you own extra jackets? Have you considered giving one to someone who needs it more than you? When you give anything away, Christ’s love will fill your heart.  

  “He also said to them, ‘Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread  because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.’” (Luke 11:5-8, CEB)

Like an eighteen year old young man, some people are too embarrassed to ask for help. If called upon, some people will get up in the middle of the night, maneuvering through a house full of people to help.

What if people helped the needy before they had to ask?

 

In-between Times

In-between Times

Life is like a Kodak Gray Scale that is used in photography and film making. Lives may not be so much pure black or white but are lived in the in-betweens of  black and white, teetering between good and bad, secure and insecure.
A woman holds a tattered cardboard sign asking for spare change at a busy intersection.
Nearby, a weary-looking man wearing well-worn clothing pushes a shopping cart containing a single black trash bag. I suspect the over-stuffed trash bag holds his life’s belongings.
Two people, living in-between secure and insecure. How many others are living in-between, attempting to survive the insecure, fighting to get to something secure.
Spare change. Black trash bags. Tattered cardboard signs. Tonight’s local weather forecast predicts chilling temperatures. No county homeless shelter exists where this woman or weary man might go to stay warm. What will they do?

Egino Weinert's Good Samaritan, available through creatormundi.com

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers? ‘The one who treated him kindly,’ the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, Go and do the same.” (The Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, 10:30-37, The Message)

Leverage

Leverage

Arriving in a rural Georgia town, my husband announced that he forgot to bring his medication with him. We went to a pharmacy to get a small supply for the days we would be away. “You will have to call your pharmacy or your doctor for authorization,” the pharmacist informed us.

Most of our prescriptions are filled through mail-order suppliers. We didn’t have the prescription number with us. We began making phone calls. After a half hour on the telephone, we finally obtained authorization for the prescription.

A week later, we talked with a woman at a local hotel who was running into brick walls trying to assist families working through the maze of social service agencies. Her experiences ended in frustrating encounters with people she expected to be helpful.

We contacted one of the agencies she talked with, asking them to meet with the woman to address her concerns. The agency agreed to contact her. More than a month later, the woman has not heard from anyone. All she wants is to tell someone what she experienced. We contacted the agency a second time. They again agreed to talk with the woman. Another month has gone by. The woman hasn’t heard from anyone. It is frustrating. I wonder how this woman must feel. Would you feel like no one cared for your concerns if the same thing happened to you?

People living below the poverty line have no power, not by their choice or by their circumstances. Their voice isn’t often heard. People living in poverty have nothing to leverage. They are limited because of poverty.

Emmaus (Luke 24:1-35)

Emmaus
(Luke 24:1-35)

The Apostle Paul lived with a thorn in the flesh that limited him. Three different times [Paul] begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NLT)

I believe that Christ empowers us to help people living in poverty whose voices can’t be heard in the silence of indifference.