Gail's Book Nook

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Looking in the Window: A Place for God?

My neighborhood in Marietta, Georgia, glows with bright lights. At the local malls shoppers fill their arms with packages. Employees in nearby office buildings bring sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles on them to work and swap presents at the gift exchange. Communities all across the country hold parades, put up red and green decorations and brilliantly lit trees. It’s the Christmas season. And I’m caught in the flurry of activity, the baking, getting together with friends, finding the right sweaters for my daughter and niece, the socks and aftershave my husband always asks for, the parties. It’s time to celebrate the bonds of friends and family.

But it’s so much more. It’s Christians all over the world rejoicing because Christ came to free us from the shackles of sin that we could not possibly shed on our own. By his grace, because of the blood he shed, the pain he endured if we accept him as our Savior, we’re no longer bound to an eternity of misery. Therefore, at this holy time of year Christians give thanks to God, declaring his majesty. We go to church to praise him. On Christmas Eve many of us sit in the still of midnight candlelight services, where the Hallelujah Chorus lifts our spirits to the Heavens. There we acknowledge that we indeed do know why we’re giving presents to friends, family, and those less fortunate. We’re doing it to honor Jesus. We’re giving because he told us to love one another, and we want to worship him. When he grew up, he was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22: 36 - 40).

But even with all God gave to us, with all Jesus did for us, for all he taught us, we don’t always love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds. Sometimes we don’t even acknowledge him. Not only that, we might even criticize those who do. Recently a college football player on a winning team said on television that he wanted to give glory to Jesus. Later I heard a churchgoer condemn that player, saying he believed the football field isn’t the place to praise God.

I first heard that politically correct term years ago, when my daughter entered the first grade in a public school. She was asked to perform a solo in music class and started to sing a song she’d learned in Sunday school. Then she was chastised. At home she repeated her teacher’s words, when she explained to me that she couldn’t sing a Christian song, because, “School isn’t a place for God.” I reassured my distraught six-year-old that God is everywhere. I asked her to keep the love of God in her heart and insisted that he never would leave her no matter where she was. Then I encouraged her to pray or sing hymns in silence at school, even if she wasn’t allowed to do that out loud.

God is on our football fields. God is in our schools. God is in our kitchens. God is in our living rooms. God is in our shops. He’s on our streets. He’s walking down our sidewalks. He’s on the battlefields. He’s in our airplanes, our cars, our buses and trains. He’s in the forests. He’s in the cities. He’s in the suburbs. He’s in the light of day and the glittering Heavens in the dark of night. He’s in the storms and the sunshine. We may choose not to recognize him, but he’s there. Some may declare his holiness only in select places, such as churches, or at special times, such as Christmas, but he’s in every corner of the universe every second of every day. Since we can neither put God in a particular place nor leave him out of one, a more correct statement for us to use if we feel we must be politically correct is, “God is on the football field, but I don’t speak of him in that place, or God is in the schools, but I don’t praise him out loud there, because it’s against the rules.”

It is so easy in our secular driven society to try too hard to please others. Also, I know many times I hear a comment made or a phrase used over and over by the general public so often that it no longer rings untrue to me, becoming part of my vernacular. Then I use it without even thinking about what it means or what I’m really saying. But I resolve to watch out for the secular pitfalls as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas in my heart year around. Christmas reminds me that I can do nothing on my own. I owe everything to Jesus. All glory and honor to him.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28: 7).

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10 : 32 - 33).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking Out The Window: The Sunset Club

When I think of Thanksgiving, all my blessings rush to mind, including the ones I often take for granted, such as food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, and freedom of worship. The many gifts of life in peaceful Marietta, Georgia, overwhelm me compared to the obstacles faced by many. But today I’m in Destin, Florida, on a fall vacation, seeing people I haven’t seen since last October. I’m thankful I’ve found a spot where I’m received with warm welcome smiles. One doesn’t find such a place easily in our busy world where we often don’t have time for one another, where we disagree on so many issues, where we have so many problems to confront.

Before I left for Destin I left the house to drive to the pool in Marietta to swim laps before the crowds arrived, ended up in the Monday morning rush hour, rode one hundred feet in a long line of cars, stopped, rode another hundred feet, stopped, started moving again when suddenly a red sports car zipped in front of me, missed me by an eight of an inch. I turned down the radio. I always instinctively do that if threatened by vehicles when driving, and I don’t know why unless I subconsciously believe I can concentrate better. Finally, I reached Cobb Aquatic Center, got in, swam, got out refreshed, and thought how fortunate I am to have such a great place to exercise.

However, when I entered the locker room instead of the familiar faces I usually see and chat with there was only one large-boned, heavy set woman with dyed black hair I’d never met. I put my black swim bag underneath the hook on the wall where I’d hung my navy sweat pants and shirt. She frowned at me. “You’ve got the whole locker room. Can’t you put that bag somewhere else? Can’t you see my bag next to it?”

Shocked, I cut my eyes at her, thinking that some darkness had fallen over her life, and I was sorry for it. Nonetheless, I said nothing. Instead I hurriedly unzipped my bag, retrieved my soap, shampoo, and towel, and stepped into the shower, quickly pulling the curtain shut. I rushed to get ready to leave, because I didn’t want to stay in the same room with that lady, even though she didn’t speak to me again during the time I dressed and dried my hair. Relieved that she hadn’t, I left.

On the way home a black sedan pulled onto the 120 Loop, headed toward me. I blew my horn, but the vehicle kept coming as though the driver were deaf. Out of self preservation, without even looking, I moved to the lane beside me. Miraculously, probably because I pray each morning to be spared in the Atlanta traffic, the space was available, and no accident occurred. When I got home I told my husband about my unusually trying morning. “Phew, what a way to start a vacation,” I said. But start it we did. We arrived here late that night.

The next day I sat on the beach, listened to the roar of the waves lap the white sand, my mind millions of miles away from the red sports car, the stocky, harsh woman, and the black sedan. Later I walked up to the deck overlooking the shore to join the Sunset Club. That’s a group of people who see each other in Destin every night at sunset during the month of October. As soon as I arrived I got hugs from the ladies I’d seen here the previous two years. “How have you been?” we asked one another. Then we caught up.

A stranger, a tall, thin woman wearing a blue jogging suit walked up and stood beside me. I smiled. “Hi.”

“Hello,” she said.

Then a man with dark hair and brown eyes asked, “Did you come down to see the sunset?”

“Yes,” she said. In her brown eyes I saw a sensitive, friendly soul we could get to know, give hugs to if she came again next year.

Moments afterward I put on my sunglasses to look at the big red ball paint the powder blue horizon with its bright orange and red streaks just above the calm emerald green water. The man with the dark eyes said, “Time it.”

A petite, blonde headed lady with a sweet smile glanced at her watch as we all stopped chattering, turned toward the setting sun, which now lay at the base of the sea, slowly sinking, sinking like butter melting until it slid away, leaving a profusion of warm pink shades across the sky. When finally we saw it no more the timer said, “Two and a half minutes.” But even after the sun disappeared we stayed beside the shore with its cool breeze and talked about the glorious sunset, our trips down here, our children, and our plans for the next day long after the sky grew completely dark. Here it was easy to set my eyes on God, to feel cared about, and accepted, and to return the sentiment. Thankful for the respite, tranquility, and welcome of this place, I have resolved to take the peace of it with me to give to others.

Matthew 5: 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Looking in the Window: My Big Floppy Hat

This September, in Destin, Florida, when hurricane Ike hit Texas we were fortunate. Only winds strong enough to blow sand a quarter of a mile inland and a tide seven feet above normal blasted the area. Shortly after the storm the sun shone brightly on a beach tinted yellow by the waves that had crashed over it. Jelly fish, some in pieces, others entire blobs with their tentacles still in tact, cluttered it like monsters out of a horror movie. Other unidentifiable items, which appeared to be pieces of bricks, cement, and rusty iron, had washed up from who knows where.

This morning as we walked by the sea my husband, Rick, pointed out roofing shingles that had blown off the roofs of condos on our right and underpinnings that had pulled away from several buildings. Not a pretty sight, but we were grateful. The eye of the hurricane and the worst of its outer bands had missed us. Some children ran around us with their buckets and shovels, others charged into the Gulf on rafts while teens threw a football and adults sunbathed or strolled. I’ve heard that dead jelly fish with tentacles in tact still can sting. Because of that rumor and the debris, I stepped tentatively, listened to Rick tell me about another house that had lost some of its trim.

Within thirty minutes the sun beat down on my head, prompted me to put on the big floppy hat that I carried. Its wide brim blew against my face, suddenly blocked out everything except a powder blue sky, a sandbar in the distance surrounded by calm, clear, sparkling, emerald green water serenely stretching as far as I could see. I forgot the rubbish from the storm, the busyness of the beach, even the jelly fish and stood in awe of God’s glory. “Rick, stop looking over there at the damage. Your missing the view,” I said.

How many times had I missed the view because I’d been caught in a routine that included bad news from the newspaper and television, everyday aggravations, such as our recent gas shortage, and problems I tried to solve on my own rather than turning them over to God? Even though seeing the Gulf and the bay in Destin, Florida, always takes away my breath, God has his hand on so many sights all round me wherever I am if I pause, take the time to see them. From now on I’m going to put on an imaginary big floppy hat no matter where I am. Then I’ll witness God’s glory in the sunrise I sometimes see while swimming laps at a Cobb County, Georgia, pool. I’ll pause in the evening, take pleasure in the soft pink streaks the sunset paints across the sky. I’ll revel in the hope of a rainbow and find peace in a twinkling starry night. I’ll let this fall’s brilliant leaves of gold, red, and orange lift my spirits, and in the spring daffodils, yellow bells, dogwood trees, and azaleas will fill my heart with joy.

When I walk through my house I’ll stop by the red stained glass heart with the sunlight streaming through it creating a bright glow on my window and think of the wonderful time I had with my cousin from Canada the day she visited, gave it to me. I’ll pick up the vase my English professor had made for me right before he died and see his personality in the green and brown swirls, his favorite colors. I’ll remember how he encouraged me, shared his steadfast faith in God with me. When I sit in my love seat and gaze at the painting of a brown barn in white snow, I’ll give thanks for my childhood friend, who knows me so well, cares about me so much I know I can talk to her, trust her, and she won’t judge me. She painted it, gave it to me when I visited her one summer. As I glance in my foyer I’ll see wind chimes made of small porcelain white birds, a white candle holder with a delicate lace design, and a floating candle holder, all gifts that spark memories of good times shared with buddies. I’ll feel God’s blessings surrounding me and stand in awe of them.

Psalm 46: 10 - 11: “‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Looking Out The Window: All Wind - No Rain

I first noticed the green leaves ruffling on the oak trees in the back yard on Friday afternoon, when I looked out the kitchen window of our Marietta, Georgia, home. My husband, Rick, entered wearing a pair of jeans and a green checked shirt. He picked up the binoculars he kept behind a plant sitting on the pine stand and gazed at the bird feeder. “Not much business out there. It looks like we’re going to get some rain.”

“I hope so,” I said.

All day long the branches swayed, but the air stayed dry. By that night the first of fall’s dead brown foliage lay on our deck, but not one drop of water. Saturday morning the blustery weather teased us again, seemed to promise a shower that never came. Disappointed, I told Rick, “There’s a storm outside with no substance.”

Then it occurred to me. When I’m not true to my religious beliefs, I am a Christian with no core just like a tempest without rainfall. I attend church on Sundays, but do I have a strong foundation that stays with me when I walk out the doors? For someone such as myself, who was raised as a Christian, it isn’t difficult to go to church, participate in a Sunday School class, and volunteer for projects. But, is my faith part of my life or do I live orchestrated Christianity? Do I respond to strangers as well as people I know with kindness? What do I say to the waiter who gets my order wrong in a restaurant? What about the clerk who rings up an incorrect amount on my check? What about the person who is in line in front of me at the grocery, who buys a loaf of bread, writes a check, can’t come up with sufficient identification, and insists on seeing the manager?

That happened one day, when I was in a hurry. I ran in the store to pick up noodles, Italian bread, and Coca-Cola to find large numbers of people jammed in the isles. Then the sign atop check-out number twelve lit up. Making a dash for it, I arrived just after a thin lady with long disheveled black hair, who wore a pair of jeans and a dingy white shirt. She laid a loaf of bread on the counter and whipped out her check book. Surely she wasn’t going to write a check for one item.

Before I knew it the cashier in the green jacket was asking, “Ma’am, could I see your driver’s license, please?”

I couldn’t believe it. The lady fished a white card instead of a driver’s license out of her small black purse. The clerk said, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t enough.”

“I want to see the manager.”

My heart sank. How long would this take? Finally after what seemed like an hour, but probably was only fifteen minutes, the manager arrived, okayed the sale, and the woman left. “I’m sorry,” the cashier said as she rang up my items.

“It’s all right.” I forced a smile, but I only can imagine what my effort looked like to her.

In retrospect I wondered what God expected out of me in that situation. Perhaps, I should have learned how to be more patient. Maybe I would have if I’d thought how insignificant an extra fifteen minutes in my day is when there are people fighting for their lives in hospitals, suffering abuse, or starving. Maybe the woman in front of me had needed me to buy her a loaf of bread. Also, it’s possible the cashier had had a hectic afternoon and would have appreciated a kind word. I wasn’t rude, which I suppose qualified me as a gentle wind, but I was a tempest without rainfall, thinking only of myself. However, I’m going to try to have more substance like a friend of mine who ended up behind a white-haired couple buying lunch in McDonald’s one day.

Busy at work, he had decided to grab a quick bite. When he got to the fast food restaurant, a gentleman with slumped shoulders in front of him counted his money in his wrinkled, thin-skinned hand. He looked at his wife and said, “You get the French fries.”

She gazed back at him with tired blue eyes. “No, you can have them.”

My friend put five dollars on the counter in front of them and asked, “Why don’t you both get French fries?”

Galatians 5: 22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Looking Out the Window: Getting Through the Drought

Today it’s ninety-five degrees and dry in Marietta, Georgia. It’s been hot, the ground parched all summer. The lakes are still down, watering allowed only three days a week, and my hydrangea is so thirsty. Two years ago for Mother’s Day my daughter gave me the pretty deciduous shrub with two pink clusters on it in a small pot wrapped in green foil paper. I nourished it, made sure it had the right mix of shade and sun. Then at the end of the season I planted it near the house where it would get light and shadows. The next year it sprouted five blue blossoms. I later learned that was because the acidic soil had changed the color from pink to blue. One of my neighbors said I could bring back the pink profusion by putting nails in the ground beside my foliage. I decided to keep the blue. When my daughter came to visit she said, “Mom, what happened to the plant I gave you? Did it die? Why did you buy a blue one?”

It took most of the day to convince her that she looked out the window at the same gift she’d given me a year earlier. This spring my hydrangea spread out at least three feet. When the weatherman predicted a late frost at 10:30 p.m., one night I rushed out, covered my prize with a sheet. Sure enough the danger passed and buds sprang up all over the hydrangea. But when they tried to bloom excessive heat with no water drained the life out of them. Instead of forming showy blue clusters the florets turned brownish white. Day after day I watched the flower wilt, saw tiny hints of blue attempt to push their way into the malnourished vegetation. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. On the days I was banned from using public water I bought bottled water from the grocery, poured it on my flower until it turned bright blue.

There are times when I feel as washed out as the hydrangea looked. That’s usually when I’m in a spiritual drought. Some days I’m so busy trying to solve a problem my way that I forget to call on God. When I’m not feeling well, I often don’t have the energy or inclination to attend church or worship God. Even though these two circumstances are wrong on my part, they are inadvertent. I don’t make a conscious decision to drift from God. It just happens because I’m pre-occupied with something else. Then, there’s the spiritual drought that creeps up on me, when everything goes so well I don’t think I need God. However, once it dawns on me that I’ve neglected my spiritual life, like a pendulum I swing back to the good habits, going to church more regularly, praying more thoughtfully, studying God’s word more thoroughly. Then I remember to count my blessings.

When I stop to think of all the times God has answered prayers, sometimes when I didn’t even ask, but just wanted something in my heart, all the times he’s protected me, all the narrow misses I’ve had when I’ve almost been hit by a car in traffic, or left an area to later hear something bad happened there. The list goes on and on. If I bring those incidents to mind I can’t help but believe God cares for me, be thankful for his love, and praise him.

But the worse spiritual drought happens when I know I need God’s help, say my prayers, but don’t see the answer I expect. I assume God has abandoned me, which gives me a horrible, empty feeling. I know I have to get relief from the famine, want to get out of it desperately, but how? I often remind myself of “Footprints” the wonderful poem written by an anonymous author who thought God wasn’t with him during a difficult time because he saw only one set of footprints in the sand. The poem ends by saying that’s when God carried him. Even though I’m moved by the beautiful acknowledgement, glad for that person, it doesn’t help me.

I’m as wilted, as lifeless as the thirsty hydrangea with no way to refresh my soul. Yet God is omniscient while my vision is limited like a person driving through thick fog. There are some hills I simply can’t see over, some curves I can’t possibly see around ever in this life. God hears my prayers, answers them even though I may not recognize his response. Hope comes from Matthew 17: 20: “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And from Romans 8: 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” While the evil in this world interferes with my spiritual well being God can miraculously bring good out of bad.

Eventually through constant prayer by divine intervention I escape from the worst of all spiritual droughts. Just like the hydrangea I am nourished, can bloom again. “…Everyone who drinks this water…” (well water) “…will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Looking in the Window: A Brave Man in Trying Times

It was an ordinary Monday at the company where I worked on the twelfth floor in Lenox Towers in Atlanta, Georgia. I sat at my mahogany desk, perused pictures I’d taken at the company picnic -- my favorite, one of a boy, who was the son of a man who worked in the computer room. The youngster swung on a long rope attached to a huge old oak tree. I put it next to the headline for the story, “Employees Have a Swinging Time.” I glanced up to see four strangers, serious-minded looking men in expensive pin striped suits. Without speaking to any of us they walked into my boss, Walt’s, office and shut the door.

The employee relations department sat behind the lobby wall with the busy switchboard, yes, the old kind with the cords. It was the late 1960’s. I gazed at Walt’s secretary, Leigh. She shook her head “no,” which told me she didn’t know who they were. It wasn’t unusual for Walt to keep his door closed, because all day long folks who worked in administration, the computer room and the law department of the high-powered energy company met there. A gentle, soft spoken man, slightly plump, with thinning salt and pepper hair and crystal clear blue eyes, he’d been with the company for twenty-five years. He planned to retire in five years, but no sooner. He adored his wife and five children, some of whom were still in school, and wanted to take good care of them. He quietly dealt with the mound of problems that landed on his desk and made sure mine and Leigh’s daily lives were set apart from the crises, kept a little tonic in the top right hand drawer for the really heated times.

Today, after the four men left he called me in, closed the door and took a swig of the coping liquid. “Gail, the fellows who were here are management efficiency experts. Unfortunately, they told me to cut our company publication.” A sinking sensation fell over me. “But, the administration has agreed to let you stay until you find another job.” Relief. “However, they want to discontinue the magazine immediately, so tomorrow I’m going to move you to the switchboard. You’ll fill in for Mary Jane. For a while she’ll get more breaks and help Leigh with transcription.” I operated the Hasselblad camera and my electric typewriter, but I had no idea how to keep up with the active board. It stayed lit up like a Christmas tree.

The disappointment must have shown on my face, because he said, “I don’t expect you to become a switchboard operator. This temporary position is a way to pay you a salary while you look for work. If one of my girls were alone in a strange city I wouldn’t want her boss to turn her out on the street without wages, so I refuse to do it. You can take all the time you need for interviews and find a good position; then, give your two weeks notice.”

For the next three months I clumsily plugged in the calls, often connected the person on the phone to the wrong party. At times when I hurriedly strung a cord from the far right to the far left while completing the same action in reverse with another cord I thought I might hang myself on one of them. But, I persevered, paid my bills and finally found employment. It was near the end of my two weeks notice when I overheard Leigh and another secretary. Leigh said, “Yes, he could have gotten fired for sticking up for her, but that’s the kind of man he is.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that the company ever would consider letting my boss leave. He was a vice president. However, I soon learned that the title offered no protection. The day before I left one of the other vice presidents packed up the personal belongings in his office and departed. Thank goodness, he owned stock. He got no retirement.

And thank goodness, I worked for a man who lived by the Scripture. To this day when I think of him two Bible verses come to mind. “‘…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27). And, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.” (Psalm 106:3).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Looking Out The Window: The Stalker

The blue heron stood perfectly still in the warm morning sun on the white sandy beach in Destin, Florida. Six feet from a fishing pole and a bucket of live bait, the two-foot tall skinny bird moved not a muscle, his head held high. The fisherman in a beige fishing cap waded barefoot into the white foamy waves. He cast his line, and the blue heron slowly lifted his pencil thin legs, moving forward ever so precisely, ever so carefully. As soon as the fisherman gazed backward the bird straightened his slender body. When he faced forward again, the heron tentatively stepped with his long wiry feet positioning himself even closer to his goal. The moment the man glanced at the pretty light blue creature this finely feathered piece of the shore’s landscape assumed his statuesque pose. Over and over he and the man in the beige cap repeated the action.

“He thinks he’s a stealth bird that we can’t see as long as he isn’t doing anything,” I told my husband. Listening to the roar of the tide beside me, watching the power of the water washing ashore I understood how he might assume that. Then, I asked myself, “When I’m in a sea of people, is my belief in God visible or invisible? Do I stand still, doing nothing with my faith?” I hoped not because Matthew 5: 16, tells us “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Most people have witnessed Christians doing good works for years. They listen to the troubles of others. They take food when folks are ill. They visit the sick in hospitals. But I think Christianity shines brightest when a person comes to the aid of another even though it’s not convenient, and they don’t have the time, that intangible asset valued almost as much as the commodity of oil in this century. I know such a person, a college adjunct who rotates from one school to another. One day one of her students asked her for special assistance, explaining that she soon would be deployed to Iraq. The instructor already knew the girl needed to pass the last test in the class to receive full credit for the course. She also knew if she took extra time to assist her she most certainly would be late to her next teaching assignment at another school. And, she taught next door to her boss. The young adjunct said, “Visions of getting fired flashed in my head. I figured at best, I’d be chastised. But I thought of what that student had committed to do for our country, and I saw the need in her face. I couldn’t let her down, so I said, ‘Sure, what do you need to know.’”

Fortunately, when the bell rang at the other school for the adjunct’s class, the students went in the room and shut the door, so the young professor’s boss never knew she arrived late. Recalling the incident I told myself in the future I would try to bring this type unselfish aid, comfort or reassurance to those in need.

Then, I turned my attention back to the heron to see that he finally stood right beside the bucket. When the fisherman cast his line again, the spindly bird lowered his long elastic neck creating several folds in it until his beak touched the top of the container. Suddenly, the fisherman swung around and clapped his hands loudly, shooing away the hungry heron. I was disappointed. I thought he could have given the bird at least one fish for his effort.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Looking Out The Window: Little More Than A Bread Crumb Trail

This morning I turned on the car radio to hear the emcee congratulate a woman for finishing a marathon in the top twenty-five runners. She said, "I just needed someone to believe in me." Giving background the announcer explained that she had wanted to run the race, but didn't think she even would be able to finish. A friend had signed her up. Then, she was committed. Today, she was exhilarated.

Listening to the story reminded me of a similar time in my life. I wanted to attend a writers' conference a little over an hour from my house in a place foreign to me. Each time I picked up the form to fill it out I recalled my terrible sense of direction. Then, I had visions of myself driving frantically down street after street, never finding my destination, or worse yet, leaving the site meandering on dark roads late at night unable to get back to the expressway. I know. When that happens one either asks someone or checks his or her navigation screen. I didn't have a GPS and had learned from past experience one can't always depend on others to give correct directions. I was once told, "Well, you just can't get there from here."

However, coming to my rescue, a friend went with me. Then, lo and behold, at the end of the first session she learned her husband was in the area. "You came straight here, and I'm sure you'll have no trouble getting back home," she said. Then, she left. She wasn't abandoning me, but telling me that she knew I was capable of getting back, even if I didn't. Obviously, she was right or I wouldn't be sitting here writing this.

I believe we all have areas in which we need assistance. Also, I'm sure I've missed opportunities to give a friend or someone in my family the help and encouragement he or she needs. Sometimes it only takes a small act of kindness or a few words to boost another person's confidence. I've resolved to keep my eyes and ears open to possibilities I have to nudge someone who may be struggling with self doubt or insecurity overshadowing his or her desire to achieve a big or small goal or excel in a God given talent. Romans 15: 5 says: "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."