20 July, 2010

A StarFish Story

"A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”- adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

There are many nights that I fall into bed and begin reviewing my day. I play the day over in my head and think of what I accomplished, of how I spent the day. I try and think if there were any starfish that I helped throw back into the sea…just one?

Last week, some friends had English Corner in the student building at the University of Alabama. English Corner is a time Chinese students come to share a cup of coffee or tea and speak English with native American speakers. It’s always interesting and always well attended. Friday, we had a good group and enjoyed sharing life, laughing and visiting. Just as we were about to leave one of the students, Lan, told us that in two weeks she was transferring to another university to continue her studies. We were surprised. We had just met this young woman in May when she traveled with us to a retreat at the University of Memphis.

We planned the retreat hopeful that 6 to 8 Chinese women would travel with us to Memphis. We had 8 women agree to go and of that eight we only had previous relationship with two girls. We knew these women were God’s eight!

My friend Julie and I picked up these students on Friday and drove four hours to Memphis getting to know these brand new friends. We were with this group of women from 3:00 p.m. Friday until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. During that time we visited several American homes, spent the night with American hosts, joined a University of Memphis Chinese dinner, visited Graceland (home to Elvis!), ate real Memphis BarB-Q, took a trolley car tour of downtown Memphis, had swimming lessons, cooking lessons, etiquette dining class, attended an American church service, witnessed baptism and heard personal testimony of Christ’s work in several women’s lives. For some of our students, this was their first ever introduction to the Person we call Jesus.

During the weekend, I had noticed the Lan was fully engaged and enjoying herself. She was especially attentive on Saturday night when we heard a very moving testimony from a woman who had suffered a great, great loss yet shared from her heart of Jesus’ grace and love. Lan was particularly disturbed by this testimony and asked many questions. She was angry at the losses incurred by this dear woman. She did not understand the cruelty of life and how a person could praise God for such a tragedy.

Several weeks later, I met the girls from our trip for lunch one day. We relived the trip, showed pictures, and had girl talk. There was nothing heavy or spiritual in the lunch time. We were just there, together, being friends. The only mention of spiritual matters was the comment that they still pondered the story of loss, tragedy and hope.

I long to tell you that there is a great ending to this story….a typical American, fairytale, happily-ever-after ending. The ending has yet to be revealed. I only know that God orchestrated Lan to go with us on the weekend to Memphis. He provided a way for her to hear of His great love and grace. When Lan and I said goodbye last week, I reminded her of our trip. I asked her to remember the stories, to remember the Word that was planted in her heart and mind that day. I asked her to continue pondering all she saw and the witnesses she heard. She assured me that she would. As we hugged, she said to me, “Kathy, I will never forget you”. And I will never forget her.

She is on her journey and I will probably never see her again this side of eternity. My heart aches for Lan to meet our Jesus. I pray she is one of the starfish we helped throw back….Will you throw some starfish today?

"...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" Matthew 25:40

13 July, 2010

A Confession

I want to confess some things:
I’m preachy
I write and talk as though I have all the answers
I’m fully spoiled in my lifestyle
My words come easy but often my lifestyle does not reflect them
I like my independence and not having to rely on anyone else
I like the comforts of my life, especially air conditioning (some of you over 50 women will totally get this one!)
I become upset when I don’t get my way
I get angry when my car is in the shop and I’m inconvenienced
I’m selfish
I don’t love unconditionally

Yesterday, I got to church with many of these feelings and shortcomings swirling around inside me. Saturday, I ‘lost’ my car for 2 weeks as my son was borrowing it and he’s lives out of state. I am dependent on sharing now. I strongly dislike not having my car. It’s a major issue, don’t you think? And for some reason, I had also been thinking about a mission trip I took last summer to the Appalachian area in Kentucky. It was a week of difficult living from our housing, to the weather, to the restrooms. The group determined that I was ‘high maintenance’ and I agreed! I’m not too flexible. I like my comforts.

But yet, I write about serving, mission, going into the world. My words and actions are not matching up.

On Sunday, our pastor preached on Luke 9: 20, 23
Verse 20 reads,"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
Verse 23, Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Who do you say that I am? Deny yourself. These two phrases struck a deep chord in me. For I say and I write that He is indeed the Christ. But I live without denying myself. So much of what I do, how I love, how I serve is all about me. I’m not denying myself at all. I work God into my self-serving lifestyle and convince myself that I’m living for Him. Our family owns four cars; surely one of them can go and be used by a person in need. How embarrassing and humbling to see how very selfish and needy I am.
And yet, He loves me. He died for me. He has a plan for me. He is the Christ. He is the lover of my soul. He is my deliverer. He teaches a hard but freeing lesson in His Word.

“Who do you say I am? Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.”

05 July, 2010

Bent Over

There’s nothing like a good hug…arms around you, holding you, enveloping you in a warm embrace of love. My 4th of July celebration started with hugs in my sister’s home. Nephews, cousins, sisters, brothers, in-laws or in-loves as we call them! The offering and giving of hugs is sweet. Hugs of welcome, of hello, of I’ve missed you, or I treasure you in my life. This holiday the one hug I treasured most was the hug from my mama. For you see, she’s a ‘bent over’ woman. Her aging process has affected her body. She can’t hug too well anymore. But as I knelt in front of her wheelchair and hugged her, I whispered, “put your arms around me, mama. I need your hug today.” She lifted her sweet arms then and haltingly put them around me and there we stayed for several minutes. Oh, the sweetness of that hug…the whispers we shared of I love you, I treasure you, the little moans of love. This bent over woman of mine needed the hug too.

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Luke 13:10-13

Imagine the bent over woman Jesus encountered. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. She had been looking down for many years as her body forced her eyes downward. (Wherever you are, stand up right now, and place yourself in the position of how you imagine the bent over woman). What do you see? I see feet, the ground, the bottom half of the room, the bottom half of life. For eighteen years the woman had been crippled. She saw the bottom half of the world but we find her coming to the temple that day. She hoped. She prayed. How badly she must have desired the ability to stand up straight!

When Jesus saw her, He called her forward and set her free. She straightened up and praised Him. Oh, how glorious that must have felt to her soul and her spine. The spine that had been locked up tight for so many years was finally stretched out. Her neck muscles could stretch to look up into the heavens, to see the sun, to see people she loved, to give and receive upright hugs!

This 4th holiday, after leaving my sister’s house and went to a favorite location of ours, the Grand Hotel on Mobile Bay. We’ve been here less than 24 hours as I write this and have already met and talked with symbolically ‘bent over’ people from Germany, Indonesia, Mexico and America. For you see, I believe we’re all bent over in some way. We all desire the healing touch of Jesus that enables us to stretch out, look to heaven and praise Him!

Are we bent over as all of our ‘things’ weigh us down and we see life only from the perspective of prosperity and achievement? Or are we bent over because we find we know all the answers. We’ve accepted Jesus as our Saviour and have moved on…but could we be bent over in our silence, our keeping His news of salvation just for ourselves? The acquaintances we met this weekend from Germany, Indonesia, and Mexico may be bent over in their lack of knowing the One as perhaps they’ve never heard the call Jesus is making to them.

Oh Lord, as Americans, you’ve blessed us and our country. We’re blessed to be a blessing. Many of us have heard Your call. You called us to come to You. You’ve healed us so that we could know you, love you and tell others of You. The world around us is waiting to be hugged. People are longing for someone to tell them of the Saviour so that they too will feel the warm arms of a hug, a belonging. Straighten me up Lord so that I offer Your words of healing to the world around me.

Blog Archive