And then…Life Happened

Posted: March 16, 2017 in World On The Edge

mother and boyThis blog is for parents, especially for mothers, but also for the many fathers who are raising children today.

…………………………….

Do you remember when a child was first placed in your arms? Your child.

Do you remember what a miracle you thought it was that you were holding another human being that you helped to create? You began to see all the good things that would occur in his or her life because you couldn’t imagine that your child would have anything but good.

And then life happened. Maybe things didn’t go as well for your child as you anticipated.

So, what did you do?

I know what I did. I drew on the memories of my own childhood. I did as my own mother did, and I’m sure I made some of the same mistakes. But always, my mother was there for me. And in the end, I believe I was there for her.

The manner of parenting in a family is almost like a carousel that continues going round and round. The passengers who ride in each generation are different, but they bring passed-down ideas with them. These can be good and positive ideas or ways of doing things, but they can also be negative and destructive. This is why the job of a parent is so crucial to our very civilization.

Recently, I’ve been going through old 8mm film taken by my grandmother. I see my mother as a beautiful, young woman, laughing and chasing after her daughters. I see myself from babyhood to teenager, with a hand in the hand of my mother, or in the middle of a hug. And always, we’re happily moving in these pictures–always we had to be moving, a requirement of my grandmother who was filming.

Of course, there were times my mother and I did not see eye to eye, but one thing I knew: whatever I did, or she did, our arms would re-open to each other in love.

Because life, and relationships, are full of surprises. Things won’t always go as we expect them to. And plans we have for our children may not materialize.

The way of a good parent is the way of forgiving–the way of love.

Being a loving parent does not mean over-indulgence, but neither does it mean selfish disregard of one’s child. A parent ought to be a shoulder to lean on, a shelter in sad, and bad, times. A parent ought to be there. My mother and father were there for me, and I pray I’ll always be there for my children as well.

The_Annunciation,_by_Francesco_AlbaniDay by day, even minute by minute, each of us are called to make decisions and to act on them. Some are trivial—-what will we eat for supper? What will the children wear to church, or a party?

But the decision to return God’s love affects our whole lifetime. It determines what kind of life we’ll have and even how it will end. How do we make that single decision to reach back? With one word: Yes.

The woman who made the greatest, single decision of all time is The Blessed Mother. Her decision was made with that one word: Yes. And then, throughout her life, she carried out one significant action: She let God lead her. She surrendered to His will.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrendered. If she hadn’t, there would be no Jesus Christ. If she hadn’t, there would be no Christianity. If she hadn’t, we’d never have heard the words, “eternal life.” In fact, we would have no idea how to attain it.Mary allowed God to use her; and certainly, she could have said no. She had free will just like the rest of us. Almighty God would never have forced her to bear His son.

For a moment, put yourself in her position. When Mary was asked to be that vessel by a messenger from God, what would she have thought–“Am I going crazy? Do I really see an angel? Am I dreaming?”
She was engaged to be married. How would Joseph react if she turned up pregnant? He had the right to have her stoned. But there was something in her, a grace given by God that allowed her to trust that the angel was His messenger. She didn’t ask for proof that she would become the mother of the Redeemer. Her only question was, “How?” Because she believed in God, and most importantly, she believed that He loved her, and she allowed Him to do so.

But how do we allow God to love us?

Well, Mary knew how. She made the decision to surrender her life to Him.

Surrender is the opening move for each one of us, but for most of us, it’s hard. No matter what our personality is, we each have an instilled desire to control our own life. Why is that? Why do we feel we have to be in complete charge of every aspect of our lives? Why are we so afraid to give up control and surrender ourselves and our problems totally to the will of God?

It may be that we don’t believe, as Mary did, that He loves us—-really and personally loves each one of us. And if we don’t first believe that He’s madly in love with us, then there’s no way we’ll surrender or trust Him.Stop a minute and think about it. The person I trust most in the world is the person who loves me, who wants only the best for me, and would lay down his life for me if he had to.
If I believe that Almighty God loves me—-and he does–then why shouldn’t I trust Him enough to surrender my fears and worries, all my heart breaks, my illnesses, my lack of self confidence–in fact, everything that bothers or upsets me?

When we give up control of our life in favor of God’s plan–done His way, not ours–then we enter onto the road called: Trust. And what does Trust in God prove? It proves His faithfulness. I can certainly say that I’ve seen His faithfulness in my own life. And if you look upon your circumstances, whatever they are, with spiritual eyes, I’m sure you can see it, too. Mary saw it and it caused her to make a decision. It caused her to say: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy will.”

Mary Surrendered.

Let’s take a few minutes to think about making that decision to surrender to God’s will. Are we able to let go and trust Our Lord and Savior?

Climbing Out of A Hole???

Posted: March 14, 2017 in World On The Edge

Not so long ago, if you turned on a local radio station in Dothan, Alabama, the music that came up was Gospel. You might hear The Blackwood Brothers, or the Blind Boys of Alabama. You might hear Mahalia Jackson or even Elvis Presley, but all of them were singing about the presence of God in our world.

Many times the songs were a sort of reaching up out of pain, and there was no question that God would reach back. For example, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” verse Three:

Whenever I am tempted, Whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, When hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, From care He sets me free: His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.

Today’s world often seems filled with pain and sorrow. We all recognize it, and at times personally feel it, but after pain and sorrow hit us, do we feel as safe as that old gospel song says we should? Do we reach up in order for God to reach back?

Sometimes, when tragedy or disappointment strikes, all we want to do is crawl in a hole and stay there. And personally, I think that’s fine for a while. We have to get used to loss, or disillusionment, or whatever it is that has dented our life. But we can’t stay there forever.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.–Matthew 11:28

We have to climb out of the hole and look up to realize we are loved, and that we will always be loved by God.  And what that realization can do for us is truly amazing.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are a five-time Grammy Award-winning gospel group who first sang together in 1939. The Blind Boys have toured for seven decades, and created an extensive discography. In 2016 the on-stage configuration of the group consists of eight people: four blind singers—Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore, Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, Paul Beasley – guitarist and musical director Joey Williams, and a keyboard player, a bass player, and a drummer. They sing mainly spiritually uplifting songs, as well as giving encouragement to those with disabilities. In the words of one of the group’s blind members, Ricky Mckinnie: “Our disability doesn’t have to be a handicap. It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music.”

Am I Good Enough???

Posted: March 13, 2017 in World On The Edge


There’s a character in one of my several yet-to-be published novels, The Distance Between High and Low, called Hobart McSwain. He was born in Detroit, and adopted as a child by an Alabama family. Expressing his need for acceptance in the fictional town of Highlow, he says:

“I never asked for Alabama; I never asked to be her son. I had no choice over my deliverance. A child has no muscle, at all; just a displaced leaf riding on a stale wind, blowing this way and that. But when the wind stops, the leaf descends. I descended into the high side of Highlow and was raked aside, and it hurt that I wasn’t good enough to be noticed.”

Not good enough to be noticed. A frightening and continuous worry that most of us have throughout our lives.

Four years ago, I had my first book-signing at Barnes and Noble, here in my hometown. I worried a lot–like a child: Will anyone come? Will I sign any books? As a new author, will I be accepted?

Since then, I’ve spoken at many events and venues, but always wondering the same. Am I good enough?

Acceptance is what we all want, isn’t it? From the time we are born until the time we die, we strive for the acceptance of those we admire. Am I good enough?

In high school, in college, on the job—am I good enough?

In marriage, in parenthood, as a friend —am I good enough?

Living on the edge of a materialistic world that places wealth, power, and beauty on the altar of success—am I good enough?

Do I hide as if I’m inferior, and only now and then, peek out? If so, I need to remember that I don’t have to please another’s version of ‘good enough.’ I only have to satisfy that place in my own soul that pricks me to follow my highest inclinations, not my lowest ones.

Because in that place, I can relax in comfort and ask the Lord to lead me, then hear His voice as a Father to His child: “I love you no matter what you do, or who you are. I accept you. You are mine.”

pacific-oyster-57644_1920

On this phony “A Day without Women,” we will hear how women are unappreciated. One of the ways this is to be shown is to have women teachers strike. Women, who were once a child’s best advocate, are encouraged to forget children. This false use of women is repulsive. Of course, many women have already forgotten children.  The number of children aborted since 1973 have reached 59,115,995.

Typically, we hear a lot of political double talk about “speaking to the hearts and minds” of the American people, but in today world, it’s hard to speak to people’s hearts. The better and higher parts of us sometimes seem impenetrable, as if crusted over by an ugly oyster shell that no one chooses to open because we have become partners with the darkness inside. We have become partners in lying.

But this is a breathless darkness, and one cannot live without breath. This is the sort of darkness that will use us, and then turn on us.

In our shell we do not see, much less personally search for truth or right reason. Instead, we are satisfied with the blindness of following dim and weak political agendas. Maybe this is because we’ve always thought a certain way and don’t want to change it. Maybe it’s because truth, right reason, and common sense, threaten our life style or our past choices. Maybe we just hate others with courage enough to break out of their ugly, confining shells to return to brightness–and yes, even greatness.

Whatever the reason, this darkness, if not scooped away, will be catastrophic for our country and for us.

Fearlessness will be required.

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.” –Matthew 12:25

 

 

You– A Lost Soul??

Posted: March 3, 2017 in World On The Edge

lost-1605501_640
For all those who think they are unloved, and don’t deserve to be loved–well, you are so wrong. The only question for you is: “Will you meet love halfway?”

Love requires action. Your action, too. Not just someone else’s.

People are basically good. People are basically kind and loving. Often, to be loved takes only a step toward someone else. Only a little courage on your part.

You may worry that your approach won’t be returned. If that should happen, don’t be dismayed. Try again. And you can do it, because despite what you think, YOU as a human being, have great value. You are an expression of God’s much more powerful love. You are an expression of divine love.

God loves you infinitely more than people can. God loves you as if you were the only person He ever created. Take a step toward Him, and find out.

“Lost Soul”

There was a man of confused and sad nature
Thought no one loved him, that was not true
He said he was a lost soul, didn’t fit in anywhere
Didn’t know where to turn or who to turn to

There’s a lost soul coming down the road
Somewhere between two worlds
With an oar in his hands and a song on your lips
We’ll row the boat to the far shore
Row the boat of love, lost soul

Ever since, oh, I can remember
We all tried to ease the pain
Took him in when he needed some shelter
Tried to make him feel he was one of us again
There was one day, oh, I can remember
He sat alone with a pencil in his hand
All day long he drew careful on the paper
In the end, just a picture of a man

There’s the lost soul coming down the road
Somewhere between two worlds
With an oar in his hands and a song on your lips
We’ll row the boat to the far shore
Row the boat of love, lost soul

Oh, dear Mary, do you remember
The day we went walking downtown
As I recall, it was in early December
After school had just let out
When I see you on the street in the twilight
I may tip my hat and keep my head down
You show me love, but maybe I don’t deserve it
I’ve been called but not been found

There’s a lost soul coming down the road
Somewhere between two worlds
With an oar in his hands and a song on your lips
We’ll row the boat to the far shore
Row the boat of love, lost soul

people-844209_1280

 

Recently, on a late afternoon walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans, I considered that the place was like a microcosm of our world. Teeming with people of every nationality, speaking different languages, dressed in different ways; all against the backdrop of a destination that had appealed to them, one they had chosen.

It wasn’t yet Mardi Gras, but the regal purple, green and gold colors of the carnival marked nearly shop and restaurant. There was the spirit of ‘celebration’ in the air, along with the smells of food mixed with stale whiskey and garbage cans that hadn’t yet been emptied.

In the middle of it all, was St. Louis Cathedral, rising above the rest of the nostalgic iron work of lovely, old buildings. The church. A symbol of God on Earth.

As the shadows lengthened, and afternoon faded into night, more and more people appeared, walking the sidewalks of Bourbon Street; not after the shops, but the after-hours pleasure; a time when women hold onto their purses, and men gape into the strip-club doors to catch a glimpse of skin, and people pass the dark corners where those, often called grace-less, crouch like discarded, broken dolls. These broken, imperfect people, I pass by. I do not let my eyes meet theirs. I give them no notice at all—-out of fear? Or out of a smug superiority?

These are the people in the corners of life who, when they were born, may have been held in loving hands, or not. These are the people who may be prostitutes, drunks, drug-addicts, or thieves. These are the sort of people, these sinners, that Jesus called friends. They were created, as we all are, by a God who loved, and still loves, them. Yet they are here, huddled in the sometimes dim shadow of His church.

When I was young and turned up my nose at some people, my grandmother and mother, too, gave me a pointed warning: “There, but for the grace of God, go you.”

Can I see myself huddled in the corner of a dirty street? Can I see myself lost and afraid? Can I see myself being passed by as if I was a tossed-away scrap of garbage not worth anyone’s time? Most importantly, can I see myself as a sinner, too? Except, I am. And so is every person born in this world.

The good part is that we sinners are also children of God–and therefore, we have been given the ability to hope. I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. –Luke 15:10

The ability to hope comes from Grace. Some of us are fortunate enough to have easier lives. We don’t have to worry very often about the corners; and if we do, we get out of them quickly. But some cannot get out, or haven’t yet chosen to.

So, how much work and effort, blood, sweat and tears, does it take for people in the corners to change? How much effort will it take for us–the smug ones–to change as well?