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Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

I don’t see many fortresses these days.  My neighborhood doesn’t look like a neighborhood of fortresses.  I have been to Fort Sumter, and a couple of other historic sites, so I can conjure the image of a fortress.  The purpose of a fortress is to keep people out, and also to keep people in.

Reading Psalm 48 today taught me about fortresses.  I guess back in the time David was writing this psalm, having, and being in, a fortress was a big deal. Of course David was talking about Jerusalem when he said “Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!…the joy of all the earth…her citadels….a fortress.”  Are you getting the image of a college in Charleston?  🙂

the-citadel

 

He goes on to say in a very poetic manner that some kings came together and saw the fortress and, basically, flipped out.  It says they trembled like the “anguish of a woman in labor.” If you watch Call the Midwife, you get it.

So a fortress back then was a big deal.  It was touchable.  It was seeable.  You could walk around in it.  Very tactile.  David goes on to say that “As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever.  This is where we come in.

Today’s fortress, protected by God, is in our mind.  We must hear God’s word through the Bible.  We must see with the eyes of our heart that God gave his Son as the ultimate blood sacrifice so that we could “Walk around Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels.”  God is saying that not only will he stay with us forever, he will protect us from the enemy.  As long as we are in, the enemy is out.

Remember this the next time your circumstances get in the way of your peace.  When your son or daughter’s actions hurt your heart, when your pet is ill, when a friend wounds you, when your spouse wounds you, when you cannot control something you want to control, please remember, you are in God’s fortress.  Imagine it in your mind.  Inside. Safe. Protected.  With your good and awesome friend, Jesus.  Pray for yourself and your attitudes to be changed, inside the fortress with our God.

 

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Mom and me at IHOP

Mom and me at IHOP

Mom and me went to church today.  I was so glad to have mom join me because no other members of my family went with me today.  Teenagers and husbands, what can you do with them?

So mom and I, we recreated our many many experiences of going to Arsenal Hill Presbyterian Church as I was growing up.   From the times I remember riding the rocking horse in the nursery to the time I was confirmed to when I left for college, my mom was there by my side.  Through all those boring sermons. (They only became non-boring when I was an adult with my own children.)  I suppose mom got more out of those sermons than I did, although they were soaking into my soul and creating a love for Jesus Christ and the other Trinity members.

Yes, as I sung with the Youth Choir my mom was there every time.  I had a favorite aunt who would come pick me up for Youth Group as I entered my teen years, and she attended Camp Longridge as a chaperone each summer.  Good, good memories.  Camp Longridge was where I accepted Christ, the date memorialized in my Living Bible, July 18, 1975 at 10:30 pm.  In this same Bible I wrote quotations and even had a few people sign it, like a yearbook.  I note one today – “Is what I’m living for worth Christ’s dying for?”

Mom and me, I wonder how many times we said the Lord’s Prayer together, the Apostle’s Creed, or sung the Doxology?  We both had terrible voices, we were so timid singing it came out a whisper.  But we were there, and we were doing it together.

My mom wrote in my Bible, “I try to live each day so that if I die, someone will miss me.”  And I do miss her.   She entered Heaven on January 4th of this year.  But as surely as I went to church yesterday, on Mother’s Day, she was sitting beside me signing the Doxology, so low I could barely hear her.

Mom and Sam

Mom and Sam

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Stray Dogs

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I saw him by the side of the road, in a gas station/truck stop parking lot.  I hadn’t planned on stopping, but he pulled at my heartstrings.  I turned the car in and tried to get him to come to me, but he wouldn’t.  For every step I took toward him, he took two back.

A minute away from giving up, I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler about the stray she picked up one day.  She said if I would keep trying, she would go in and get something for me to feed him.  She came back with a chicken nugget plate.  The dog would eat good today.

He had gotten out of my sight, so I hunted up the long haired black lab-looking dog, and threw a couple of pieces of chicken towards him.  I sauntered back to my car. The black dog followed, and brought a friend with him, a brown mutt- looking dog.

While tearing the chicken into pieces and tossing it to them, I soothingly spoke about how they could come home with me and I would find them somewhere to call home.  They could have someone to love them, play with them; they could have a safe yard, and maybe a couch to lie on.

All to no avail.  They approached me as close as the chicken lay, but they always retreated.  Once the chicken was gone, they were too.

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Sitting in church the next day, I realized that people are like stray dogs.  Some of us see Jesus as a different species, one to be wary of.  We look at him with skepticism, perhaps thinking he may be laying a trap for us.  Not letting ourselves believe the great mercy that awaits, we turn aside before he can capture us with a sly move.

My heart wants to say, come, where you will be loved.  Where you will have peace, comfort and a place to call home.  There is no trick, no gimmick.  Just a sincere unfailing love waiting for you to accept it,  accept him.

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The Door

The pastor portrayed a lovely word picture yesterday.  Here is the scripture:

Look!  Here I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.  I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.  Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.     Revelation 3: 20 – 22.
 

The preface to this scripture was about being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm.  Sometimes when we are lukewarm, we can ignore Jesus, maybe ask him to leave the house.

What this scripture says is that even when we treat Jesus mean, he doesn’t just leave the house and walk away.  Doesn’t give up on US.  He patiently turns around, stands at the door, and knocks.

Beautiful picture of unconditional love.  One that is difficult to find on this earth.

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Once upon a time I adopted (sorta, cough, cough) a dog.  This dog, Bandit was his name, came from across the street from the home of an uncle in failing health. He was a big dog, a mix of golden retriever, maybe lab, maybe chow.   Bandit became our dog Nick’s best friend.  They roamed the neighborhood, visiting everyone they could.  They hung out with the construction crews from the neighborhood next door.  I’m sure they received their fair share of treats.

The thing about Bandit was his fur was all matted and he looked  poorly .  After he spent some time with us, I took him to the vet.  He had heartworms, which my vet treated by starting him on heartworm medication.  He explained that the old heartworms would die off naturally and pass through his system, and then new ones would not form.  That advice turned out great, because Bandit lived a long time after.

The main thing the vet told me, after seeing poor Bandit’s matted fur, was that he needed a do-over.  Shave him down to nothing and let his hair grow back.  So I did.  And it did wonders for that dog.  His beautiful blond fur came back long and silky like a golden retriever.  Because the summers are so hot where I live, I would shave him in the summer and he would look like a lab.

Did I mention this dog had the best disposition and nature on the planet?  He yearned to obey.  He was protective when necessary – I felt safe for many years in my house in the woods, off the beaten path.  He could also discern people’s personalities, whether they were good or bad.  You know how some dogs do that?  Bandit was spot on every time.  He was just a good dog.

A do-over was the best thing that ever happened to that dog.  And to me, a life lesson learned.

Sometimes we just can’t continue where we are in life.  Sometimes it takes a do-over.  Recovering alcoholics know what I’m talking about.  And Christians who have accepted Christ as their Savior, die to self, only to live a new life?  Yeah, they know.  Marriage issues?  Need a do-over?  Could save a divorce.

Not to mention clearing clutter from a  room, getting new furniture, or doing household renovations.  Getting your surroundings in order seems to get your mind in order as well.

Has there or is there anything in your life that needs a do-over?

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Old Friends

When I was growing up, I always had a buddy.

In my childhood, my back door neighbor, Mary Lyl, was my best bud.  There was a place we could scale the fence easily.  Mary Lyl was a few years older than me, but when you’re under 10, that really doesn’t matter.  On Saturdays, we combined and set up all our Barbie doll paraphernalia on my back patio.  By the time we got everything set up, we were tired of playing!  We played on the swing set, biked around the neighborhood, and went to the “forbidden” “Big Field”.  This was a big field surrounded by woods, and had a creek running through it.  Later I have come to realize that creek is part of Columbia’s storm water system.  Oh well, what’s a little run off between friends?

When we outgrew each other, I was in my tween-teens and a girl a year younger than me moved in across the street.  Jill of the long straight hair introduced me to blue jeans.  I had never worn jeans before!  My mom was not into it.  But on to the Levi’s store we went, madly consumer-driven to purchase jeans.  As teens Jill and I had a lot of time to kill, especially in the summer.  We made many a trip to Hardee’s for specialty glasses (I wonder where those are now?) and to Woolworth’s for banana splits.  Both establishments were within walking distance.  We walked around the neighborhood, we bounced tennis balls off the carport wall, we talked about boys.  We watched soap operas.  Wow did we do a lot of soap opera watching.  There’s a soft spot in my heart for Jill and her family, but I can’t tell you today how I would get in touch with her.

Then in the hard core teenage years Linda, Nancy and I were fast friends.  We went to the same school and had the same interests, which is I guess to say, we were NOT on sports teams, or cheerleading, or popular.  Dare I day a small group of misfits?   With Nancy, I listened to music and went to the lake.  We went skating and horseback riding.  Oh those early riding days when I was invincible!  What a blessing to have had that time.  With Linda, we hung out at one house or the other, and started dating boys at the same time.  We skipped out on our Junior prom together to go with our dates to one of the boys’ lake house (sorry, mom).  We did our share of drinking and partying, smoked pot if we could find it (sorry again mom).  We graduated together and took a trip to Florida with my sister as chaperon to celebrate.  A guy peed on us in an elevator.  Linda and I got smashed at a place called Big Daddys.  Good times.

I had a good friend, Laurie, from church too.  She was the preacher’s daughter and we hung out as well as did all that youth group stuff and camp together.  I fell in love with Laurie’s cousin on a youth group ski trip, and my beloved aunt orchestrated a skit of marriage, and had him fake kiss me.  I was so boy crazy.

Then I went to college and started hanging out with the group of guys which my (new) boyfriend hung out with.  I don’t know what happened, but rarely after that did I have a girl friend.  When I began my professional life as an auditor, I had a friend at the company.  After a few years she moved to Greenville and she died after she had a baby.  That was traumatic.

Now in my adult life, I claim many acquaintances but few friends.  I don’t stay in touch very much with the one friend I would call a “good friend,” the one I have made since I moved here nineteen years ago.

Where do friendships go when they die?  I miss them.

Jill

Linda and I at the market in the Bahamas, Senior trip

Nancy and me

 

Prom double date with Linda

Pretend wedding!

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When the developers who I worked for told me there would be five thousand new homes in the vicinity of my neighborhood, I was amazed.  Ten thousand new neighbors, I thought.

I remembered the condo project near us that my husband and I had been opposed to.  I cannot remember why, just that we thought it was a bad idea.  Once the condo project happened, I thought – all these new neighbors, we did not want, here they will be, in our community.  We were hesitant at the thought of them, but realistic was all we could be when it occurred.

And now, I go to church in the new community, the community of ten thousand.  And in other places, I am in community and business organizations.  There is always someone with a connection.  They are from Columbia where I grew up, or they are my child’s teacher or principle, they are the grandmother of my child’s classmate, they are a relative of our client’s, they clean house for someone I know, or groom their dog.  The other day I bought a bicycle off Craig’s list, and the seller knew my business, so he put it together for me and delivered it.  It is always some connection.

It is a big, sloppy tapestry of community.  People are interwoven in other people’s lives.  Some connections exist and are easy to see.  Others don’t know they are connected yet.

But the thing about it is, every single person, every connection, every community member, is a story.  Each life has something to tell.  Some people have things to give others, some people take things.  You cannot see it on the surface.  When people let you in, when you weave into their part of the tapestry, that is when you can see it.  The very humanness of people.  Their needs and wants, their desires.  The ways they overflow and the ways they lack.  It is all beautiful if you let it be, if they let you come in.  The best thing is, sometimes you’re needed and can help.  A ride here or there.  A listening ear.  Prayer.  Relationship.  Community.

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