Thursday, July 30, 2020

My sweetest memory of my Daddy is our Daddy/Daughter outings. We didn't call them dates then, but they were time for just the two of us. We'd drive a pretty good distance to the walk-up ice cream shop, a very early version of Dairy Queen. Not like the restaurants they have now, but more like our local Bo's here in Tampa. He and I would get dipped cones. He'd buy a shake to take home to mom. We'd climb back in the car and on the drive home he would sing this little song to me. I never heard it anywhere else, until my cousin used it in her wedding.

The Lilac Tree

A little boy and a little girl
In an ecstasy of bliss
Said the little bot to the little girl,
"Pray give me just one kiss"
The girl drew back in great surprise,
"You're a stranger, Sir," said she
"And I will give you just one kiss
When apples grow on a lilac tree"

The boy felt very sad at heart
She was the only one
And the girl felt quite remorseful
At the terrible wrong she's done
So bright and early on the very next morn
He was quite surprised to see
His little sweetheart standing in the garden
Tying apples on a lilac tree

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lying in Church

Today the words caught in my throat and my voice stopped, because I knew I did not totally buy what I was about to sing. 

Did you hear it today? 

Really? My health? My “rights"? My job, financial security, dreams for my marriage or for my child? Take it? 

Easy singing. Tough living. 

May it become so. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pro-Life Beyond The Womb

All M wanted was “love.” She's not ready for a baby. She wants to make it go away. What do we do? What do we say? 

G’s pregnant and the guy has proven himself a jerk, not fit to be a husband much less a father. What do we say?

L & D are both excited. They’ve got a great family started and this new little one will have lots of love. Then the doctor tells them there is a problem. A big problem. "The earlier we terminate the better. You can have another child, a healthy child, and continue to grow your family. It’s not fair that you be burdened with this when your other kids need your attention."  What do we tell her? 

Most of the people I hang out with will adamantly stand for the baby, for its right to life, in all these scenarios. No excuses. 

Just because you weren’t planning on a baby doesn’t mean you kill it.  It will be difficult, it may be embarrassing, but you can't just make it go away.

Just because you aren’t married, or you’re married to a jerk, doesn’t mean the baby should not be born. This little one will be a tremendous gift.

Just because the tests indicate any number of issues with the child’s health or development, just because the child may not live a long “full” life, doesn’t mean she should be eliminated. She is still a life, a gift from God. No matter how hard the future may look.

That’s what we say. But how do we really live? Are we really as Pro-Life as we claim to be? 
Sometime in the next year, this little one shows up at the church nursery at check in time. Mom looks pretty frazzled, like this morning has not been an easy one. We don’t know it, but very few mornings have been easy. Baby Girl cries inconsolably through the whole church service. The nursery workers are pacing, waiting for Mom to return and rescue them. It’s been a long hour.

Next year, Toddler Girl may not be getting words like her peers. That’s frustrating for everyone. Frustration leads to biting and nobody wants that. We’re going to have to do something.

In the Preschool, she doesn’t sit at circle time but flies around the room, climbing on tables and making noises, not seeming to care that she’s interrupting the teacher and distracting the other children. We can’t have this. We have to call Mom. With tears, Mom takes her from the room and decides to just stay home next Sunday. And the Sunday after that.

It’s been four years now. Our second grader has settled down some, thanks to hundreds of hours of therapy and thousands of dollars out of pocket. She’s still stressed by things that don’t bother the other kids and she still needs her routines in order for life to be manageable. Dad works all the overtime he can get and mom even works some weekends when Dad is home, just trying to give their little girl a chance. But neither one of them are working this weekend. "Maybe we'll try that church again. Maybe this time…"


Are there easy answers? Not often. But we can’t desert any of these “little ones,” whether in the womb or in the classroom. We’ve got to get in the battle with more than our words. Whether it's the complicated pregnancy or the complicated second grader, just because we don’t have the answers doesn’t mean we throw them away, either by abortion or by relational abandonment. 

I still have way more questions than I have answers, but I know that we can come alongside, we can learn, we can enter into their world and learn how we can serve them. We can seek to understand rather than demanding conformity to a perfect world that we lost a very long time ago. We can hug that mom without giving her any parenting advice. We can celebrate that child when she enters the room, knowing she will show us things about God that we never would know any other way. And we can stand in new amazement at the idea that God loves us, His messy, complicated, learning-disabled, stubborn children who sometimes bites when we're mad. 

Truly, I tell you, what you’ve done to the least of these, you have done to Me. (Jesus of Nazareth) 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday of the Soul

It has a reputation that is different from its meaning. Culture does that to many words. Black Friday is currently associated with a shopping frenzy that you either love or hate. But its root is in the idea that retailers historically operate "in the red" all year until this time of year, and then turn the financial corner out of "red" and "into the black." Many new businesses fail because they do not plan for the long dry season, the months and months of barely squeaking by, the Ramen Noodle and mac/cheese months. If they judge their success in May, they are liable to lock the door. By September, they're adding more water to the Ramen Noodles and calling it soup. But if they can hold on, if they keep doing what they know is right, if they keep fresh stock, keep the doors and windows and bathrooms clean, keep the ads going, keep greeting the customers with a sincere smile and good word, then Black Friday is coming. 

There are parts of my life that seem to be constantly in the red. Certain relationships are not reciprocal, but always seems to be pouring out. I have a job that, on the books, doesn't carry its own, but is a constant pouring out of resources. Oh, there are many rewarding moments, for sure, but if your run numbers on it, it doesn't look profitable. Special Needs Ministry is about pouring out, about investing with little indication of return. But harvest time is coming. Black Friday is coming. 

I'm grateful that I work for a church that invests in this with full knowledge that our season of being in the red is very, very long. But when our Black Friday comes, it will be Christmas for eternity!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who Cares?

Renters and owners tend to have different perspectives.

For renters, there's a transaction: I pay you, you give me use of this (house, apartment, tool, truck, boat). I use it till I'm done with it, then walk away. For owners, there's an investment: I pay for this, maintain it, fix it and guard it, because it's mine and I want it to last a long time. Someday I may even sell it and will want to get the most out of this investment. 

Then there are managers. Managers have responsibility for something that belongs to someone else. They are charged with caring for the thing the way the owner wants. Like the owner, they go for increasing the value of the thing and for that, they usually reap some personal benefit. It might be a store, an account, a business, an athlete or a musician. Whatever they manage, they are also accountable for. At any point, the owner can say, "I like the way you're doing this," or "Are you kidding me?! You're out of here!" But a good manager, like an owner, takes good care of things.

What's your attitude when you stay in a hotel? Do you make the bed when you leave the room? I might straighten things a bit and pull up the cover, but I know when I come back at the end of the day it will be neat as a pin, because "that's what I pay for," right? At home, though, it's up to me. I make the bed, clean the dishes and the bathroom and the floors and the windows, because it's my place. I'm responsible for it.

Because of folks sharing our space at home for extended times, I catch myself analyzing my frustration over certain situations. Is this a matter of right vs.wrong or just a different way of doing a thing? Is it something to address or to release? After a series of mental questions, it usually comes down to this: I care because it's my home. I've got a long-term view, an investment view, a stewardship view.

But the latest question to plague me is, "What about the earth?" Is my attitude one of a consumer or a steward? I'm starting to feel an urge to embrace a nearby oak. To worship it? No, no more than I would worship the house we and the bank own. But to value it, to try to see its Owner's perspective, to act in the best interest of that Owner.

And to not mock in my heart those who are passionate about its care.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Moon, Not a Star

Our light shines as the moon’s.  

It is not from within ourselves but is a reflection of the radiance of the sun, whose light cannot be viewed directly, fully, without overwhelming, even blinding.

The moon does not generate its own light.  Staying where God put it, the moon reflects the right amount of light at the right time on the right parts of the earth.

Take care to avoid a spiritual eclipse, where we allow the world to get between us and God, blocking out our source of light, darkening the night.  Maybe worse, do not come between men and God, blocking their view, making their day dark.

You are a moon, not a star.

Photo credit Michael J Boyle

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I'm a social media fan. I love the connection that it provides, the ability to stay in touch, at some level, with just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Post a picture or share a link and hear from friends of friends. Old friends from childhood and college have a window into each other's lives through which they see current joy, smiles and tears. Folks who thrive on connection can make great tools of Twitter, Facebook, blogs and Google+.  

Just like every other area of life, I can look at others and judge them on their Facebook posts. Or lack of same. That teenage girl's pictures are way too suggestive. The guy who never posts anything but only observes is a voyeur. My personal filter affects everything I think or do.

Some folks avoid social media because of privacy concerns. The current Facebook Timeline has gotten lots of comments, positive and negative. It seems that anything you or your "friends" have ever posted is tied into that Timeline. Yes, even the embarrassing things and the lousy photos where you were tagged. "I can't believe how bad my hair looked!" or "Why does he have that smug look on his face?" It's all there, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

I love to have the good posted.  

I would like to delete the bad and the ugly.

However, as Timeline so rudely points out, there is a lot to one's life.

The Scriptures tell us that one day everything will be laid bare, exposed for what it truly is. Even if I never Tweet and manage to avoid being captured through the lens of someone's Friend, every moment of my life is on record, every happy or desperate  thought in the middle of the night, and the true intent of my heart when I present a smile on Sunday morning. It will all be subject to judgment by two standards. One is the standard by which I have judged others. (Ouch!) The other is the standard of the Blood. That Blood is a standard of love, and I take comfort in that, but that love cost so much more than I can comprehend.