22 December, 2013

Came to Meet Us

Distractions abound.  I have no time to write this blog.  I have no time to focus on the bigger picture. Christmas is just days away and I have so much to do, more money to spend, more groceries to buy, more food to cook, more packages to wrap, more highways to travel, more...more...more.  But wait, what happened to "oh, holy night" and "silent night" and "away in a manger"?  The beloved songs speak of quiet and peace and of worship.  I'm getting ready to sing those songs but those songs don't speak of how I'm living my life right now.  Yes, it's Christmas-days-extraordinaire count down.  

The irony of all this 'doing' is that we're counting down to a very quiet, private moment that God Himself chose to come into this physical world and find me and you.  He came just to meet us.  He completely went out of His way to come and find us.  He took a trip just to live in our world with us.  And here I sit, Miss Hustle-Bustle.

I like the way the Wise Men came to meet Jesus.  I don't picture much hustle-bustle in their story.  I do picture a deliberate, stay the course route, across difficult terrain, and lasting many weeks.  Traveling back in that day had to be uncomfortable and so very tiring but yet, they kept coming.  Slowly and methodically with one step in front of the last.  They were on a mission to find this King.  The King and One who would save us all, One that had been promised and foretold and now born.  The Wise Men realized they were seeking a spiritual King who had come into the physical world.  They decided to make the long journey to see Him, worship Him and gift Him.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him... 
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Wise Men: they saw, they believed, they came and they kept looking and seeing. Until they found the King.  First and foremost, they bowed down and worshipped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts.  I want to be a 'wise man' this Christmas.  The journey will be difficult as the distractions mount.  The hustle-bustle will not stop but I want to see and keep seeing and following until I get to the King.  I want my Christmas to be a day, a moment, a sincere bowing down and JOYFUL worship to the King.  All the treasures I have are from Him and I so want to offer them back to Him this Christmas.  This great, unbelievable gift of God has come to me and you.  He left heaven to come meet us, to come hold our hands, heal our wounded hearts and offer us a fulfilled and loving life.  It cost Him but He came...He came to be born into our world.  Hallelujah! Open my eyes that I may SEE.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believeEphesians 1:18-19

15 December, 2013

Not As Expected

We hear over and over, "Make your Christmas list!  When my kids were little they each had a Christmas list.  Actually, by the time Christmas Day arrived their lists had changed many, many times.  It was hard to keep up!  My natural tendency is to go against a Christmas list - not in a Scrooge sort of way but in a surprise sort of way.  If I just give gifts from a list the surprise of Christmas morning is really not possible.  And I like to give surprise gifts that are right on the mark!  It's the unexpected gifts I give and receive that I love the most.

The story of Christmas is much the same.  Jesus was expected in one way and came to earth in another.  It was an unexpected arrival, an unexpected gift, in an unexpected way of delivery.  I suppose a christmas list back in the days before Jesus' arrival were something like this:
A strong, powerful King
A commander who will defeat the enemies surrounding our country
A ruler who will restore and keep order
A leader who will demand people follow his rules for peace and harmony

But unexpectedly, Jesus arrived as an innocent baby boy.  How could we ever have expected such a turn of events?  And now that the Christ child has arrived in our world how could we have ever imaged a more perfect gift?  The expectations of our proverbial Christmas morning gift opening' have been surpassed....or have they?
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2 excerpts
The shepherds were surprised at this unexpected visit.  They were simply at work, doing their normal 9 to 5 shift.  I would think they were caught up in the drudgery of another work-day.  Perhaps they were worried about bills to pay, children, the future.  Their expectation of a Saviour was a distant hope perhaps.  And suddenly the unexpected night became a new life, a new journey as they went immediately to see this new baby.  And then they hurried off to tell others, to share the unexpected turn of events.  For you see, as we have truth revealed to us we then are propelled to share it, shout it, reveal the restoration we've received.  Our unexpected pains are transformed to His unexpected, over-surpassing love and healing and hope.

Is the Jesus you worship today revealing Himself differently than you expect?  Whatever your life involves right now, today....are you expecting a different Jesus?  Are you disappointed that the Saviour has not arrived in your world and completely FIXED everything that is troubling you?  Were you expecting Him to look differently and act differently and help you differently?  Yes.  I'll answer for you.  Life has not been what I exactly expected.  My original Christmas list did not include: deaths, drug addiction, divorce, harsh words, nursing homes, chronic pain, losing friends, emotional abuse, etc. etc. etc.

But the arrival of Jesus does fully complete our expectation for love, for forgiveness and for hope.  For He has come into this world and into my life not as I expected but as I needed.  He has come to me and to you perfectly.  He has come offering us life.  He has come as a Redeemer, Healer, Restorer, King, Warrior, Peacemaker, Servant, Love of my life, Creator, my Purpose, Friend, Lover, Final Victor....over my world, over my pain, over my joy, over my blessings and over my very short-sighted expectations.

Lord Jesus, I simply love you.  I don't understand so much of how you're working in my world today.  But I trust and hope in Your presence.  Replace my human expectations with Your heavenly promises.  I pray today that I'll SEE people in my world living unexpecting lives so that I can give them the love they deeply desire but are not expecting.

For more Advent Meditations visit:

08 December, 2013

The Foretelling

The foretelling of Christmas has officially begun.  If you have doubt look at some headlines from around the world.
Signs Christmas is coming  Glasgow, Scotland News, Evening Times
1. The Coca-Cola advert comes on TV: It was a Coke ad which first put Santa in a red and white outfit.
2. Coffee shops start using Christmas cups: We wonder where they keep them the rest of the year?
3. You can't find a birthday card anywhere: Tough for December babies.
4. Workers spend less time working and more time on online gift sites: Watch out, the boss is behind you!
5. Christmas songs are everywhere!
6. Brussel sprouts appear in the shops: Try them shredded and stir-fried with chilli and garlic - delicious!
7. Eating chocolate for breakfast becomes normal: As any good doctor will tell you, calories don't count at Christmas.
8. Schmaltzy TV ads fill every break: I wasn't crying, I had something in my eye.
9. Adults turn into big kids at the first sight of snow: And end up skiting on their bahookies.
10. Office secretaries collect deposits for the Christmas bash: And we all start counting our pennies
And according to Google with over 1,080,000,000 hits:
  1. Christmas Is Coming - Las Vegas Guardian Express
    1 day ago - Breaking News, Information, Opinion, Entertainment and Health News... In this way, they assure attendees that Christmas is coming in a truly 
    Christmas is coming - news - marlborough-express | Stuff.co.nz2 days ago - Christmas is creeping closer and will be heralded with day-long festivities in Blenheim next Saturday. 
    Christmas is coming for the high street | Holly Baxter | Comment is ...5 days ago - Christmas is coming for the high street ... Our editors' picks for the day's top news and commentary delivered to your inbox each morning. 
    Christmas is coming to St. Albert Centre | Local News | St. Albert ...3 days ago - Chestnuts are slowly roasting around town, vast quantities of eggnog are being brewed in local homes and St. Albert Centre is preparing to ... 
    Christmas is coming: The festive house display so dazzling that ...5 hours ago - 'Christmas is coming: The festive house display so dazzling that 1000 people turn up to see them switched on' on Yahoo News UK.

    Of course, the Bible has told us this news for many, many years.  The Book of Isaiah was written between 740-680 B.C. and includes these words from Isaiah 7:14.
  1. "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
    So perhaps because we're slow learners, God repeated similar words to the maiden Mary who was to become the mother of Christmas, i.e. Jesus.
    "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
    “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”" Luke 1:31-34

    Hold that thought and segue with me a moment .....I love a party in my home.  I love to plan, prepare, and anticipate those who will come.  I love the weeks leading up to the party and encouraging people to attend, adding people to my list.  I guess it's a little bit like Santa, "making a list and checking it twice"! For I want the party to be for everyone...I want to love well.  I love the feeling of surprise when a guest arrives that I did not think would attend!  I love the hugging, laughing and picture taking.   The foretelling of the party is what makes people want to come.  Our guests do not ask me, well how do I know you're really having a party?  I mean, how do I absolutely know you are real?  They don't ask me, why did you invite me?  There are no questions or doubt about the sincerity in the invitation.  

    Interesting though that Christmas has become just that.....questioning if it's REAL.  Living as if it's all about Santa, gift-giving, food and family gatherings.

    I noticed that when the angel came and spoke to Mary and gave her this literally, unbelievable news she only had one question.  Which in my language, would be "seriously, you know I'm a virgin, right?"  There was NO question about a son, the SON of the MOST HIGH.  There was no question about the LORD GOD giving him a throne to reign for ever and ever.

    The foretelling is now up to me and you.  Yes, Christmas is coming!!  Has come! And will come again!!  Who can we invite to this grand celebration?  You've been FORETOLD - let's starting sending out invitations!!


01 December, 2013


Please visit the Hayes/Elliff Christmas blogsite:  adventagain.blogspot.com
As we roll into this Christmas season, I've been pondering.....If I had not been born in the USA
would I know the name Jesus?  Would I believe in this God-Man?  If I had been born in Vietnam or Russia or China would I have learned the story of Christmas?  Or would I still be waiting to hear some Good News?
I recently heard a story of young woman who was studying at an American university and Christmas was about to be celebrated.  She had only heard of God since arriving in America three years ago and was interested but still seeking.  As she visited with her American friend one day they begin to discuss spiritual matters.  And after a matter of minutes, this young foreign student became intrigued about a book her friend was discussing.  As she took out her notepaper to write down the book title she hesitated....her writing looked like this......Je
She stopped writing and looked up at her friend and said, "I'm not sure how to spell Jesus.  I've never written this before."
Clearly, her friend filled in the blanks.  And my pondering began anew.  Many people are living in a preJesus world.  Would I believe if I my birth had been elsewhere?  And IF I do believe how is my life different?  How have I let this Jesus change me?
Why does it matter, you may be thinking.  Well, for some reason it matters to me.  For some reason, this realization leads me to my knees in thanksgiving and gratitude.  It stirs in me a desire to tell this News.  And it makes me wonder about my PreJesus days and my life since knowing Him.  Has there been a change in me?

Today, I began to think about Mary's preJesus days.  She had them, she lived days waiting for a Saviour.  But then one day...

The following month God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin, Mary, engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Congratulations, favored lady! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you! Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy, and you are to name him ‘Jesus.’  He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God. And the Lord God shall give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he shall reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom shall never end!”  Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”
Luke 1:26-32Living Bible
Mary's answer to all this Good News was confusion, disturbance, fear and...absolute faithfulness.  "I am the Lord's servant," she answered.

In this early Christmas season, the excitement is just beginning to build.  I want these days to be marked by a faithful response of, "I am the Lord's servant."  As I think and live the month ahead, I desperately want to be as excited about Jesus' birth as I am about my family gathering, gifts and cooking delicious foods.  I want to ponder again....

...if I'm "so excited" about Christmas and the celebration of His birth how will my life reflect that excitement?  Amidst the confusion and disturbance of this season, am I the Lord's servant as we await His birth?  Am I a servant to those around me who are living preJesus lives?

16 November, 2013

Trees Walking Around

In a stadium of football fans, the number equals 100,000.  On the university campus the number equals 30,000.  In the mall last week during sale day, the number equaled 10,000.  On the highway yesterday the number equaled 1000.  In my world today, how many do I see?  How many am I called to see?

There was a man and he was blind.  Friends of his physically brought him before the great Healer and begged for the Healer to touch him.  They had absolute faith.  The healer then took the blind man by the hand and led him to a private area.  Just the two of them now remained.  The Healer actually then spit on the man's eyes and put His hands on him.  "Do you see anything?"  The man looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."  Once again, the healer put His hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Mark 8:22-26

My sight is good, in that I'm not blind.  However, I think I see people as trees sometimes.  I know they are there, I recognize their shape, I see their colors and differences.  But yet, I see them so often I just simply walk by without REALLY looking and seeing.  But Jesus came to my rescue. Once He touched me with His life and hands on my eyes....I can see, I do see, I want to see and I want to see clearly.

Is my calling to the 100,000? No.  Is my calling to the 30,000? No.  Is my calling to 10,000? No.  Is my calling to 1000? No.  Today in my house, in my neighborhood...I'm called to 1.  One person I know is hurting.  One person who lives down the street.  Those 1's need friends to bring them before the Healer with absolute faith.

How can I be His hands of touch today?  How can you?

11 October, 2013

Palm Routes

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved football.  In my childhood days we only had 3 choices of TV stations in my house.  And also in those days, my daddy chose the station the entire family would watch for we only had one TV.  On Sunday afternoons, it was always football so I grew to love the game.  I was also a pretty good player, for a girl, as my brother liked to tell me.  I was often his "center" if the team needed an extra.  Occasionally, I got to play wide receiver however, this was a much more pressure packed position in the neighborhood.  After a dropped pass, my brother would say to me, "if the pass touches your hand, you should catch it!"Oops!

But my favorite part of the neighborhood games was the huddle.  We would get in the huddle and my brother would call the play.  Then he would stretch out his hand and diagram it on his palm, showing me the wide-receiver route.  I was exhilarated to be included in the huddle and be shown the plan on his palm.  I was much less exhilarated to return to the huddle having missed the catch.  Being benched on the neighborhood team wasn't good for my frail little sister ego.  Those are sweet memories for me today.

Last week as I was driving I saw five or six little neighborhood boys playing their own game of football.  The teams were separated and amongst the gang were little ones and big ones trying to compete and trying to score.  I wondered what their huddle was like and if there was a "palm play"?

As I search for meaning in these days of empty-nesting and the age bracket of 55+, I think about the palm showing the route for me.  There is one.  

I've been studying the story in the Bible about the master who upon leaving on a journey entrusted his servants with his property i.e., talents of money. (Matthew 25:14-30).  You remember, he gave 5 talents of money to one, 2 talents of money to another and one talent of money to the last.  Then the landowner went away.  When he returned the 5 had become 10, the 2 had become 4 and the 1 was still 1.  The master taught them about doing well with what they'd been given.

But my pondering has been about what he gave them and the fact that he gave them no specific instruction.  There was no detailed plan of what to do with the talents, no specific action called for, he didn't lay it out for them.....He gave them the talents, the time and the ability.  They only had to take a step and go.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

Our Master gives us the same.  We have the talents, time and ability and no, we don't have the route marked before us but we KNOW He's in the lead.  Often times, I don't take the talents He's given me because I'm waiting for the route.  I become the servant who buried the 1 talent of money and let it stay one.  I want to be the servant given 5 talents and make it 10.  

Let's don't wait today.....let's claim sight unseen His palm route for each of us.....GO into your world and see those who are hurting and in need of a touch of love.  I bet they look like older ladies at the grocery store or students who seem to walk alone or people in the office who always seem to be in a struggle or.....or.......or........
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money." Matt. 25:14-18

11 September, 2013

Back+to+School at Starbucks

Back-to-School shopping was always a big event in our house.  New notebooks, backpacks, school clothes, new tennis shoes, file folders, 3 ring binders, calculators and etc etc.  The upcoming year offered our children a clean slate, a new start.  All of their gear was new, the teachers were new, the classroom was new.  All the difficulties of the past academic year seemed long gone.  The lazy days of summer were over.  A fresh start awaited.  And in anticipation...we waited.

This year is no different; however, now we buy used furniture for apartments, sheets for new beds, tires for cars and college books!  Yikes, the price tags have increased but the process remains much the same.  It's a new start for my kids and for me.  We're each anxious, excited and anticipating what lies ahead.  It's like a New Year celebration.  I'm ready for new year.  One that I dream new dreams.  One that let's me start over with a newness in spirit and purpose.  A year that I don't question where I am or what's next BUT what will I do with this place in time.  I'm here.  I'm in my community.  I have relationships.  What will I do?  

My brother posed this question recently: 
"What is God’s dream for you?  Here is some language that I think is part of God’s dream for us, His children"
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (I Peter 2:9-10).

Part of the back-to-school process for me is getting reacquainted with students and friends I've not seen over the summer months.  Yesterday, I met with a friend that I have known for 5 years but have not seen or visited with in many months.  We had a lot to catch up on!  She shared stories of her teaching, her boyfriend, moving to a new apartment, worry about her mother, employment questions, American culture questions and her departure from Alabama within the year.  We talked of our old friends.  We talked of my family.  And we laughed of old memories and many things.  At the very end of our visit, I asked her, "Have you had any further curiosity about spiritual things"?  She laughed and replied, "No, not really.  I've been very busy".  I assured her I understood.  But then, said "I'd like for you to begin thinking about spiritual matters especially since our time together will be ending soon.  Let's use this last year to talk of such things."  And she agreed.  And she seemed interested.  And then she told me this, 
"Kathy, I would like to know how Jesus has changed your life.  Many Americans ask me why I don't become Christian or ask me why I don't believe in this Jesus.  But honestly, I don't see how Jesus has changed their lives.  If I saw that I would decide to follow Him.  So when we meet again, will you tell me how Jesus has changed your life?".......

How will I answer this question?  I said earlier that I was ready for a back-to-school new year but now that it's here I feel paralyzed.  Hesitant.  I'm not special.  I'm not a willing servant. This was coffee at a hot and crowded Starbucks.  This was me really NOT wanting to be there, of me wanting to cancel this meeting.  I dreaded it all day.  Then she asked me, ......how Jesus has changed my life!  Ughh..... 

Does my life reflect a Jesus-changed life?  What words will I use to answer her question?  I really have no idea what words to say but I know I rely not on myself but on my God.  And claim that He who has called me will equip me.  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him...

Are you ready for new year?  One that you dream new dreams.  One that let's you start over with a newness in spirit and purpose.  A year that you don't question where you are or what's next BUT what will you do with this place in time.  You're in your community.  You have relationships.  What will you do?  

20 August, 2013

A Story of 2

Five or six years ago, they begin to meet every Sunday night in a campus building for Bible study.  A dozen students would gather.  Students that had absolutely NO knowledge of God...many of whom had never heard of Jesus. (as an aside, it's a thrilling moment to help a person learn how to pronounce this name...Jesus).  A month later, a few dozen more students joined their meeting.  Soon dinner after the meeting was suggested.  Sunday worship services including transportation were offered and accepted.  The numbers continued to grow and grow and grow.  Before long, English classes were started, field trips planned (blueberry picking, American restaurant visits, museums) road trips scheduled (Braves baseball, beach trips, shopping trips to Atlanta), pre-game parties, Halloween parties, more Bible study, and more and more and more.  Seven days a week, they are meeting with students and serving and loving them to Jesus.  Hundreds of international students have experienced this opportunity at the University of Alabama.  Dozens have met Jesus when most arrived in the US believing no God existed.  Hallelujah! 

But this story isn't about big numbers and statistics.  It's a story of 2.  Two people who decided to deny themselves, take up the cross daily and follow Him.  
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
These are 2 normal people.  They're even old like me....in their 50's!  They are on the second half of life.  Where they could have retired they've chosen to be reborn and renewed and reused.  With my empty nest, I've struggled with what's next in my life.  I've felt the loneliness, the isolation of children moving out, of friends moving to new cities, of leaving beloved jobs and careers.....the empty thoughts of losing identity that was tied to these people and occupations.  But The 2 have been a gift.  They've modeled new life, new identity...actually, True identity.  The only lasting identity for our lives.  They model Luke 9:23 for me.  I've been pondering what these words in Luke actually mean.  How do we truly deny ourselves and take up the cross daily and follow?  What does that even mean?

I see in The 2 the outward act of denying their wants and demands.  I see them deny their own dreams and plans.  I see them deny their daily lives in order to live for others.  I see them "take up their cross" by allowing Jesus to give them a love for the lost and hurting people in our town.  This Cross-like love will be painful and costly – time, tears, possessions, etc.  But we are never more Christ-like than when we are willing to “suffer” so that others can know God’s love. (JLLoftin, 2013)

I see me still demanding my own way, my own plans, my own hopes.  I see me scheduling time to take care of me.  Change my heart, oh God.  Teach me how to deny myself.  Teach me how to take up my cross and follow You.  Years ago I outwardly proclaimed that I am a disciple... help me truly become one.  Not just my watered-down, Americanized, Sunday version of the easy Good News but the real, unconditionally loving, unconditionally forgiving Christ-follower that you require.  Amen.

13 July, 2013

Unnoticed but Eternal

We met in the main student building on campus.  It's a building that has constant activity: meetings, Starbucks stops, food choices, banks, student services of all types.  As we walked into the building, we were surrounded by Parent Summer Orientation groups.  There were hundreds of parents and students, information booths in every space.  I see worry and fatigue on the faces of many moms, perhaps it's just that I'm remembering those early freshman days!  But my friend and I slip into the building unnoticed.  We are but two among throngs of people.  We're kinda strange looking in that we're a middle-aged woman and a young Asian male....but nonetheless, unnoticed.

As we find a quiet place to have our English tutoring session, my friend exclaims to me that he passed his mathematics comprehensive exam; therefore, he is now able to begin his research project in order to complete his PhD.  Oh my.  Does this dear man realize how very poor my math skills are, were and will forever be??  But instead of voicing this quiet thought in my head I instead congratulate him on such a great accomplishment.  I know my friend is very brilliant and I also know that in normal circumstances we would have absolutely no reason to talk or become friends.  But....there is English and in that subject I'm an expert in pronunciation (albeit, slightly Southern) but still an expert.  Oh, by the way.....you are too!

I removed my files and begin to organize our work for the morning and he says, "Ms. Kathy, before we begin may I ask you a few questions.  Several months ago you gave me some readings and I have now completed them and read further information on the Internet but I have some questions."  He then proceeded to pull out a full page of hand-written verses from the Bible.  Here are the entries he wanted to discuss.

"Love your enemies"
"Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all"
Why does the Bible refer to Jesus as, "Son of MAN"?
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Oh dear!  How do I explain the meaning of these verses?  I'm no Bible scholar, in fact very far from it.  But here I was alone with this student and he was awaiting my response.  After 30 minutes of discussion that involved simply explaining certain word meanings and practicing pronunciation of other words and my simple-minded interpretation of these words from the Bible the conversation slowed down a bit.  As we sat there, this brilliant scholar commented, "Ms. Kathy, I am very curious about the Christian belief as I have never heard of this God, Jesus, before I came to the United States.  After I study further, I still may not decide to believe but I'm very curious to learn."

And I believe God heard those words and He is up for the challenge to teach this student.  And I believe God will continue making my friend "curious".

And I believe that God uses my reluctance everyday.  You see, I didn't want to go to this tutoring session, I grumbled about it.  I walked into this day feeling the day held no meaning as I'm a retired, middle-aged woman, empty nested, non-working and wondering how God might possibly use me and my very limited skills.  I'm not special anymore than anyone else.  I simply showed up even though I really didn't want to be there that day.  But God in His great mercy conducted the meeting in spite of me and His name was lifted high.

He will use us all....unnoticed but eternal.

03 June, 2013

The Garden

 Back in the day, I remember Saturdays spent shelling peas and butter beans.  It was the worst of Saturday duties for me.  I wanted to be out and about.  I can still feel the cold pan, full of beans, wedged between my legs as I peeled purple-hull peas.  My fingers turned purple and became sore long before I reached the end of my pan of peas.  And I can still smell those fresh peas, there's really nothing like that richness.  My parents weren't true gardeners until my daddy retired and I had left home for college.  Daddy only had a small garden but it bore much produce which meant picking, peeling and "putting up" the fresh crop.

We have friends in Tuscaloosa who have a large garden plot.  They work the soil, fight the deer, water, weed and love the work and effort and reward!  I love the spoils of their hard work.  (I've been promised fresh veggies and in late summer....Fig preserves!!! Oh my!)

And then, there are other gardens to discuss...
Before Easter, as we studied Jesus' last moments in the Garden of Gethsemane it struck me that there was another Garden story in the Bible and I had never connected them in my brain.  So the first garden is the Garden of Eden where God created such beauty and plans for us.  The Garden of Eden where we first were thought of and planned and created and given vision and given hope and a future.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  Genesis 2:15
Then much, much later we find Jesus, the Christ in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.  A garden that marks an unparalleled prayer of desperation and trust between Jesus and His Father.  A prayer of honesty, a prayer where all feelings poured out.  In this Garden, Jesus felt the weeds, the death of all things and still persevered because He KNEW life was on the other side.  REAL LIFE.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will"
Mark 14:32-36

Ray and I started a little herb garden this year.  We started with just a flat little piece of ground and developed it into our tiny, little vision.  I love it and am tending it as best I can.  Last week, I was weeding in this little garden and it was so very hot outside.  I had my stinky, gardening sweat going full blast:)  As I leaned over these little baby herb plants, sweat from my body dripped on some the delicate little leaves.  Uh oh, I thought....but then I wondered, if I'd just encountered a God moment and remembered the two Gardens.  The Genesis Garden of hope and vision and the Garden of Gethsemane....the Garden of hard work, sweat, honesty, and real LIFE.

We are called to the world to work our own gardens.  Gardens that are filled with plants perhaps but most importantly gardens of people who surround us.  My garden of people is often easy to dismiss, easy to overlook for these people don't look like me or act like me.  This personal garden of mine is also hard to work at times.  For the problems in this garden are so much bigger than me and my little brain.  I've also experienced times when the vision for my people-garden has not grown into a rich harvest but a rather unsavory end.  So I'm reminded of God walking in the first Garden and seeking His creation to love and adore.  Then I'm reminded of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane amongst the pain and anguish and yet....He chose LIFE and He gives life.  How can I not share that in my garden?

Dare I go dig in my people-garden today?  How can I fail for HE is with me?  I dare you.....go to your garden.

02 May, 2013

Africa, China or Tuscaloosa?

Lubbock, Texas was my destination last week.  The trip held excitement, a family united, joy, astonishment and love.  We were all gathered to celebrate a rebirth.  My beautiful son, Nick celebrated his third year of recovery.  There were dark days during the prior years of this journey and actually the darkness was so very black and ominous and scary.  But last week, we were washed in bright light.  I've learned that it's only in fully experiencing the dark that we truly appreciate the light.  Now, for our son there is a newness, an eagerness to share what he's learned.  He leaves for Africa in just a few days...going into the world to share hope and recovery and redemption.

Austin, Texas is my destination next week.  The trip holds excitement, joy, astonishment and love.  I'm going to help my beautiful daughter, move into her summer place.  This sweet girl was brave and courageous and left a safe community to move 730 miles away and attend college.  She's made a tremendous impact in many lives.  This move challenged her and made her grow.  She too has seen darkness as moving from state to state causes great difficulty and adjustment.  She was adjusting to not only a new place but a new state, a new way of life, a new freshman experience, completely new friends, a new LARGE city to learn to navigate.  She was brave to her daddy and me but I know my girl saw darkness this year because I see the new light that now shines through her.  She fully experienced darkness and now knows real light.  She leaves for China in just a few weeks....going into the world to share hope and redemption.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama is my destination this week.  Does my day hold excitement, joy, astonishment and love?  Do I remember the dark days of my life and how they were transformed by His marvelous light?  Or have I become 'ho-hum' in my existence?  Surely Africa and China are exciting places to visit and are filled with people in need who crave love and acceptance.  But isn't Tuscaloosa also?  Isn't your city?  People are waiting for someone to come and tell them a reason to live.  People who are in great darkness only hope for light.  Yes, God has called Nick to Africa and Sarah to China AND he has called me to Tuscaloosa today.  Where are you called today?  Who is hurting in your world that you can serve?

26 March, 2013

Seeking Easter

Pondering is alive inside me.  I find that I ponder quite a bit.  Perhaps it's in these recent years of difficulty with my children that I find myself pondering a bit more.  Most recently I've been pondering Jesus' last week of life on earth.  I've been reminded of Jesus' complete surrender which became our complete satisfaction....ponder that a minute.....I've also been thoughtful of Jesus' last words, "Into your hands I commit my spirit".  My question to myself is, have I done that?  Do I live my life in complete submission to Jesus? Am I actively seeking this Jesus that came to seek and save?

I have some friends who are seeking Easter.

1.  I had lunch last week with a visiting scholar from China.  I've been friends with this young Ph.D student for over four years.  We've learned English together, went on a retreat to Memphis, shared lots of coffee, laughed, discussed the possibility of mermaids and many more topics.  We've talked of God.  She is only mildly curious.  After lunch I was driving her to her next class and I casually asked her if she had any new thoughts on God.  She responded, "not really.  But I did take my Bible on my recent trip to Florida.  I put it right beside me as I traveled".  I found this interesting and told her so.  Then I asked her why she would do that?  She couldn't really answer.  "I just thought it would be a good idea for my protection".  I agreed and promised to send her a verse on protection so that she could open the Bible and read some words.....she's seeking Easter.

2.  Another young, darling American friend is trying to understand the Jesus of Christianity.  She is asking a lot of questions.  She is also pregnant with her first baby.  It's a joyous time.  We were recently talking all-things-baby when I asked her if her pregnancy had caused any new God thoughts.  "Actually, yes", she responded.  "It's just so amazing what is going on inside of me.  I can hardly believe this miracle".  I agreed....she's seeking Easter.

3.  Last night I received an email from a young friend in China.  Here are her words.  She is seeking Easter in China.
I am very glad to receive your email. I also miss you and other friends in Tuscaloosa,and also thank you who let me know our Father. It's a so special experience that I can't forget. I am very well now. But I haven't contact any other sisters. There are several Catholic Church in my city, but I don't know whether I can go to there to worship. In actual, I hope to communicate with other sisters and brothers just like what we did in Tuscaloosa. I don't know how to do now.Hope you happy and healthy!

I want to seek this miracle of Easter.  I want to ponder and think about what Easter is, what it means.  I want to be in the stage where I'm asking questions and actively seeking this Jesus, called Christ.  Have I completely surrendered to Him?  Have I completely committed my spirit to Him and His world and to those who are still seeking?  Are you seeking Easter?  Are you seeking Easter with those who don't know Him?

22 February, 2013

Tears Fell Down

There is a woman I have only known for one year yet she changed my life.  She taught me meekness as she sat across from me during our Tea Party gatherings.  She was quiet and often would not speak unless a direct question came her way.  Her English speaking was unpracticed but her understanding was quite good.  She would smile demurely at me.  Her eyes laughed. Even with communication being so very difficult we somehow knew what the other was saying or intending.  We talked of marriage, love, Jesus, salvation, daughters, sons, marriage concerns...we talked of life.

Last week, I said good-bye to this wonderful friend.  We met in her apartment for our final Tea Party.  The table was laden with fruit, chocolate, steamed buns, nuts, banana bread, and potato chips...And as always hot tea was being served in beautiful, antique china cups.  We laughed and told stories as we celebrated our friend's time in America.  The minutes ticked by until it was time for our goodbye.  Tears fell as I expressed my heart of love for this beautiful woman.  She was special to me, as our hearts had collided through broken English and laughing eyes.  I told her that I had met many Chinese students but none had captured my heart like she did.  I begged her to keep seeking God, as she has not yet accepted His love.  As she too cried she said in her beautiful, broken English, "I'm so sorry, I feel so much, I cannot control my tears...they fell down."

And so she returned to China knowing about and wondering about a God of love.  She gave me a new freedom to let go and love.  She gave me joy and laughter.  She gave me a bigger mind and a bigger heart.

One day, we will rejoice as our precious Li realizes her words to me are the same ones our Jesus gives to us...
"I feel so much....my tears fell down."

Let us 'let go' and in our complete weakness let the Lord use us in this world.  The blessing will be ours.  Our hearts will grow...

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  I Corinthians 2:1-5

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