Lines of Power

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Lines of power

Divided

Colored sky

Partition

Provided

Infects mind’s eye

 

People

Separated

Deprecated

Kept always apart

Not allowed to see

Beauty of a Whole

Heart

 

People

Categorized

Compromised

Safely keeping mine near

Prejudice fed

on ignorance and fear

 

Truth

A light so

Bright Beautiful

Blurring the lines

Showing Shadows

In power

As stronger it shines

No more dreading

 

Now

Shedding

Lies of Power

 

Yep, another cloud picture that inspired a little poem of questionable worth. I think we have to be careful of power (only through our weakness can we find strength) and we should be careful about the power that comes from fear. Fear can actually help us to do great things but (if I can quote Mr. Ollivander from Harry Potter, which I think I can)  great but terrible things…

I’m reminded of Romans 12:16 (o.k. I did a google search for community bible verses but “I’m reminded of” has a nicer ring to it don’t you think?)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 

Ground Hog Day in Texas…

.groundhog

Explained….

First of all we are actually supposed to go by Bee Cave Bob, the Armadillo who predicts the weather for Texas. Having said that there are some criteria for those who need to interpret the result of either mammalian measure of weather, be it furred or armoured.

When the groundhog sees his (or her, it is 2017, can’t we get a female groundhog by now?) shadow for the rest of the country it means 6 more weeks of winter.  However in Texas this isn’t the case.

In Texas it means 6 more days of winter (not necessarily in a row.) But, that’s only if we’ve had a winter yet by Ground Hog Day (Armadillo Day? I don’t see Bill Murray cracking wise driving with an armored bunny.) If we haven’t had winter yet when the groundhog sees a shadow (I avoided the gender pronoun, look at me keeping up with the times!) then that means that Winter will start for Texas (not necessarily right away) and there will probably be a few days of winter but not more days since we haven’t had any days of winter at all yet. Make sense?

In either case it will mean that we will have some winter days for a few days, then some spring days (anywhere from 1 to 16) and then one real day of winter (temps below 45) then probably a day of summer mixed with some fall days for some reason.

This will, of course continue and Texas will gradually warm up and level off late February (right around my birthday) unless it gets really cold and icy like it did in 2013.  Otherwise it will warm up until everyone thinks it’s safe to move our plants back outside then we’ll get three days of hard freeze, either in early March, or late April, or basically whenever it happens.

After that it’s not just summer, but summer on the sun with temps between 100 and 130, until a norther comes in with its billowing black clouds, pelting sleet, and freezing rain sometime in June like that time I was trying to drop off the trailer at my in laws and nearly froze in my t shirt and shorts (y’all remember right?)

It’s pretty simple really but if you’re not from Texas it might be hard to understand at first so I hope this explanation helped.

O.k. seriously though I decided to be a little silly for this post since I’ve been heavy and dark lately. We obviously have no control over the weather in Texas or anywhere else so it’s easy to accept unpredictable and difficult to understand patterns. In fact here in Texas we joke about it quite often and try to laugh it off. If you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change…

Our lives are like that also, only sometimes we decide whether our life is fair or unfair or just etc. That part isn’t up to us. God’s work is like the weather (I guess the weather is God’s work?), we can’t predict it, nor can we always (or sometimes ever) understand it. Because I’m learning to trust God in all that he does I am starting to see his work in me. It hasn’t always been easy, sometimes it feels like that icy day in February when my sister called me to tell me, “daddy passed away.”

Sometimes it feels like the warm spring sun on my face as I look up at a beautiful sunset and listen to my kids laughing at the lake. I trust God though, and I remember he works all things for my good, even when my mistakes have cast such a shadow I wish I could hide for 6 months or so… or since I’m in Texas… 6 days?

Romans 8:28  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I forged this Chain

 

Pulling me down

black-out-chains

 

 

The first link a gift
Whispered in the dark
Words wicked twisting
Wrapped around my heart

Actions to be hidden
A crime in the night
My own links forged
Hiding truth from sight

Lies lengthen by links
so long grew the chain
Broken body sinks
Surrender to the strain

In weakness I surrender
as I call out His name
My Savior who renders
me free from this shame

Broken

Links lie scattered
Lies brought to light
a life in tatters
another love taken flight

In Freedom though
His love settles deep
In my heart a new prayer
A greater truth to keep

I realized the other day (it was after I wrote this) that I keep focusing on my lies… almost to the exclusion to the reasons I had to lie. Of course it’s part of the shame cycle, hiding and lying the shame only lets it grow. But I’ve been staring so hard at my lies that it made me go into denial about my actions.

Either way, actions, shame, lies held in and held in the dark grow like so much mold on our hearts, they grow into a barrier between us and God, and therefore between ust and healing.

When I start to think that I’m too broken, too filthy, and that the chain is too strong for anyone to do anything about I remember Jeremiah 32:27

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?”

and I know that He can break the chain and shed light on my denial. I just have to remember to ask…

 

Fea or Fe?

mange

She…. was… ugly.

Ugly to the point where I just wanted to look away, but I couldn’t’. She was in the middle of a busy Houston boulevard and in immediate danger. Cars were rushing past but she was steadfast and focused in a turn lane, wild eyes pointed towards something on the ground.My hero complex kicked in and I knew I had to do something. Not wanting to scare her deeper into traffic I  assumed a very passive and approachable posture as  I crept nearer..

I checked for traffic and crossed to the median, turned my back to her to be less threatening, and lowered my poster down to her level. I called to her in what was not as soothing as a voice as I would have liked, the noise of the traffic required a bit of a shout. To scare her out into traffic would be tragedy so I took minutes for every inch toward her.

Finally between the roar of rushing cars I heard the dry summer grass crunching under her feet as she came closer to investigate… crunch, pause……crunch, pause… and so on until I felt a wet nose on my hand that was stretched out behind me and toward her.

I turned and saw that ugly fell short of describing this creature. From this closer perspective I saw that her skin was covered in angry red spots, her hair was only in patches of 10 or 12 follicles trying bravely to find purchase on her thickened skin.  After a couple of sniffles (hers not mine, I wasn’t a crier yet in this stage of my life) she rolled over on her back with her tail between her legs; doggie body language for, ‘you’re the boss, I trust you.’ I reached out to rub that disgusting belly and hardly cringed when I found her skin sticky with fresh blood. My heart was breaking and I was falling in love even as she swallowed the last gulp of her dehydrated flattened frog.

The joy expressed in her eyes while I rubbed that sticky, rough belly infected me and I hardly had to repress a gag in my throat at all. Right there in the midst of the chaos of cars rushing home in the hot Houston traffic I made friends with the ugliest dog in the world.

At this time in my life I was working as a veterinary technician while I was commuting to finish the last couple of hours of my Zoology degree. My dreams of going to Vet school had gone down with my GPA, which had gone down with too many pints of Sam Adams (I was still drinking then, not crying, still drinking, I know it’s hard to keep up, sorry)  I was above the 2.75 minimum requirement for Texas A&M Vet School, but far below average GPA of those select few they accepted.

But I still loved Vet Medicine and working as a vet tech helped me grow in areas of customer service and real experience in the medical industry. It also helped me with my obsession with rescuing animals ( I also had a diabetic Russian Blue cat and would later get a 3 legged kitten.)

I put a towel in the back seat of my car (the upholstery was vinyl so it was actually to protect the dog not the seat) and took the dog with me to work.

I walked in with her and the first thing I heard was, “Que Fea?!” or “How Ugly?!” from our Venezuelan vet tech. She was right, one language was not enough to describe the ugly on this dog, not only that but she inadvertently gave her a name…. Fea.

We gave Fea her shots and checked for worms and did the skin scraping to test for mange. The demodectic mange (demodex) test consists of scrapping the skin with a scalpel blade in order to get down to the follicle where the mange lives. Then taking the material and smearing it on a glass slide for inspection under the microscope.  It feels about like what you might think a scalpel blade scraping on your skin would feel like scraping on your skin…. little Fea just took all the needle jabbing and poking and scraping and other offenses to check for intestinal parasites. She just kept looking at us with those big brown trusting eyes.

Luckily Fea was negative for all the other worms or diseases other than the mange. Unluckily (I didn’t know that was a word until spellcheck just ok’d it!)  demodex doesn’t respond to topical treatment and is tough to get rid of. When one of the young associate Veterinarians suggested we try a new experimental treatment I was encouraged at the possibility of a faster and more effective treatment. I knew that our Vets always stayed current and at the leading edge of the latest techniques and I was always impressed with their care and concern for animals so I trusted the plan completely because I trusted the doctor completely.

Fea looked like an old boot that someone had spilled red paint on and then tried to get the paint off with a blender, (I don’t know why anyone would put a boot in a blender… it’s artistic license) but after she trusted us through all of the indignities we put her through I knew I had an amazing and special dog on my hands.

The experimental treatment went well, a low dose of heartworm preventative was given every day over a period of time. Conceptually this would bring up the level of the medicine (toxin really but…) in her blood to make any sustenance that the mites took from her would result in a last meal. (I didn’t feel bad at all for the little mangie suns a guns at all!)

The treatment wasn’t without side effects, it would occasionally cause nausea and Fea would barf up breakfast (not until after she moved off the tile kitchen floor onto the carpeting of course.) She was also basically a wild dog and had no concept of inside or out. Combine that with the fact that her upset tummy sometimes took a southerly route of evacuation and you get a dog who would happily look you in the eye, squat and add to the stains on the rug.

The potty training progressed at about the same rate as the treatment and soon the spots on her smooth, shiny fur coat outnumbered those on the carpet.

Most of all, now her outside appearance matched her friendly and beautiful puppy personality, and the name Fea (Spanish for ugly remember?) became shortened to Fe, pronounced like the end of Santa Fe.

What never changed was her brave spirit or her soulful eyes that would look at me with so much tust as she pooped on the rug…. Her spirit inherited from her unknown pit bull parent. Even with that heritage she was always gentle to those she loved, her only aggression was out of protection for those she loved. We used to go to a dog park on weekend mornings and if there was a new or strange dog there she would stay close and do a doggie mean mug until she could tell that the other dog wasn’t a threat, then she’d be off playing and running carfree to find something smelly to roll in.

Her favorite game was to dig up crawfish from near the pond and eat them al la cart in their shells. When I think of her I still see a crawfish hanging from her mouth with one pincher on her nose and the other on her eyelid. She acted like she barely noticed as she crunched away.

Pit bulls can also be stubborn and she was no exception, it gave her the upper hand in several of our battles of will. Especially when it came to bedtime, she thought her place was right next to me and I thought her place was in her $100 dog bed. I would walk in from brushing my teeth and there she would be… head on pillow and wagging just the tip of her tail.

“Down!” I would command standing straight to add dog body language authority.

Her eyes would reply, “O.k. but we both know I’m just getting back up after you fall asleep.” (she had very expressive eyes by the way)

I would drift off to sleep congratulating myself for outwitting a dog only to wake up later absentmindedly patting her soft little ears as she lay right next to me…. Dang!

Her breed gets a bad wrap and I’m not going to argue one way or the other, I do know that I never worried about her, she always seemed to take up for the underdog, or undercat as the case may be. At some point I obtained a three legged tiny little kitten, he was black and white and had black fur over his eyes so obviously I had to call him Bandit (one armed Bandit? anyone?) Fe decided to adopt Bandit as her own as Bandit couldn’t get away from our other dog’s rambunctious playfulness or the other cats’ clawful dejection of his attempts at play.

Bandit would run (well sort of, he only had three legs so… ) to Fe and stand under her for protection and even started nursing from her when she would lie down (it was sort of interspecies creepy and adorable at the same time, but who am I to judge right?)

When my kids came along she was a playmate, jungle jim, and or a pillow depending on the occasion.  On our walks through the woods of Bastrop Fe was always walking point for us and would range back if she heard another dog, or leaves (I said she was brave and loyal, I never said she was smart) that could be a threat.

In her about 12 years she showed me something about gentle toughness; living through being a bloody mess and eating dried frogs to survive, staying happy through nausia of treatment for painful skin mites, and her protection of her loved ones showed me that she was never Fea and always Fe. (Fe stands for iron y’all)

Ugly to Iron and always beautiful.

You know, that’s how God sees us, always beautiful, never perfect, but beautiful just the same. No matter how ugly I see myself God sees me beautiful and that thought puts some Iron in my spine as I take each step on my journey toward healing.

Fe always had a strong spirit but not me. My spirit has been crushed and the Lord was there for me. Just as in Psalm 34:17-19

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

bobby-and-fe

This is an old picture of Fe and my son having a little nap together. Taken before everything was digital and the photo has taken some damage, but not my memory of that sweet dog.

The beauty of pain…

sunrise-through-the-oaks

Ripling Red Gold above

Grips tight my heart

A hold of love

Beauty sinks to that part

of me Broken

Now a new sound awoken

From the break comes a cry

Ringing out through the sky

To Praise Healing Power

Unspoken

 

OK so I know I have tons of cloud picture/poems, they just inspire me…

And really when I see a beautiful sunrise I’m reminded of how, much like he rising of the sun burns away the darkness of the night, God’s healing power has burned away the darkness in my soul. (not all of it, I’m still far from perfect)

The beautiful sky though reminds me to be thankful that I’m on  a journey and that I’m learning lessons. Those lessons come with pain, but the pain of being broken allows the beauty of healing.

Psalm 30:2

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

 

 

Wear Red or seeing red?

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You have to get to school early to finish grading the formative quizzes so that you can group kids properly for the next lesson. As you walk down the hall you see three kids waiting at your door, they didn’t understand yesterday’s lesson and need some tutoring, ‘ok’ you think, ‘we’ll go over the work as a warm up and then group.’ After the mental rescheduling you welcome your tutees into class and see how you can help. They need all of your time (even though you needed to write a test for Friday this morning also, but kids come first) up until the first bell and as you walk them out of your room you see the kid you threatened you last week coming down the hallway, you grit your teeth and try to find a way to give him a fresh start in class, maybe you even say a little prayer (silently of course, because separation of church and state) that you can find grace for him because you know he’s really just angry because his father’s in jail and his mom sleeps all day and he has to try to care for his little brother and sister. He doesn’t make eye contact as he walks past into the classroom even though you give him the brightest ‘Good Morning! I’m glad you’re back’ that you have. Was that grunt a hello? Maybe? As you greet the rest of first period you plan out writing your test for your conference period, you were gonna use that time to grade essays but maybe during lunch for that….
Groans and whispered comments of ‘we have to have our stuff on time’ greet your disclosure that they’ll have to grade their own quizzes, ‘oh wait, check your own quizzes because trade and grade is against Firpa.’
You get through class and as you start writing your test you get an email ping, your absent minded administrator is e-telling you that you have a 504 meeting for Jimmy right now and his mom is mad because he has zeros and he’s supposed to get extra time… ‘ok, I’ll write the test while I eat lunch and then grade essays for a while after school.’ You make it through the meeting and convince Jimmy’s mom that the zero is so that she can see that he has something missing and of course he’ll get full credit for it. Another class down now and you get your lunch ready as you see a young lady hovering outside your door, her hair is different, combed in front of her face. You go outside to ask if she needs something and you see tears welling in her eyes. ‘Come in, what’s wrong!?!?’ When she gets inside the room she asks if a teacher would have to report if a girl’s boyfriend was hitting her, then you notice that the eye behind her combed down hair has a dark circle underneath. You choke back tears and rage and you try to convince her to talk to her counselor. No, she only trusts you. You talk to her for a while and convince her to go see the counselor with just enough time for you to email the counselor after trying to call to let her know what’s going on with the kiddo, before the bell for the next class rings…

You  can eat your sandwich in the hall during the passing period, but wait, your teacher ears hear they the rumble of the hallway noise is different…

Sure enough you look across the hall and two kids are bowing up to each other you get there just in time to break up shoving, the only real damage was a crushed sandwich that you had to drop to break up the potential fight. You only have a few seconds of relief before more internal rescheduling, ‘Whew, ok I guess I’ll grade essays after school and then write the test tonight after I get my kids to bed.’ Another email ping and your absent minded admin needs a report on what you’ve done to reteach and retest the kids who failed last six weeks because they had 12% attendance and how you’re going to get them to pass standardized tests, and he’d like the plan emailed to him by tomorrow because he forgot to ask for it last week….

Elbows on desk, hands on forehead turned to claws gripping your hair you realize you’ll only be getting three hours of sleep again tonight unless you plop the kids in front of Netflix while you grade, write, and plan… you’re jarred out of your daze by the piercing cry of the fire drill alarm…. kids shuffle out of your room, not realizing that you have a home to go to and hours of work to do before they shuffle back tomorrow…..

Unless you’ve experienced a day like this, don’t say teachers are overpaid, don’t say you understand public education and don’t try to take money away from it.

Proverbs 4:2

After all, I have taught you well. Do not abandon my teachings.

Re-Covered in the Vine…

vine

 

I am at a stage in my recovery where I do an inventory of my life and my character. It is a painful process but hopefully pain will continue to bring about the change that I want. Soon it will be time for me to make amends when I can to those that I’ve hurt. There are some that any attempt at contact would just refresh pain and anger so I decided to write letters and think of ways that I could make amends at least to the honor the love I’ve received that I betrayed. I imagined having to talk to the fathers of women I’ve hurt… and it was scary but I came up with the following.

 

A letter to the Fathers of the women I’ve hurt…..

Dear Sir,

I have let you down, you trusted me with the care for your sweet daughter and I let you down. As a father of a daughter myself I know the work you have put in to raise a confident and caring daughter. I have done things to erode that confidence and jade that care in your daughter.

I made her feel like she wasn’t enough, or wasn’t good enough, I made her feel like it was her fault that I always needed attention from other women.

I took a beautiful lady who opened her vulnerability to me and even though I thought I could give care and help in many aspects of life, I didn’t honor her or the work you did to build her into the amazing woman that she is.

Where she gave me trust I gave her lies.

Where she gave me faithfulness I gave her nothing to have faith in.

I justified what I did because I didn’t physically cheat, but I was not true to the love that I received. The love that you taught her how to give and how to accept was thrown out because I refused my responsibility as a man.

I always tried to do good things, fix sinks, hold hands, make diner, mow the lawn, bring coffee in bed, I bought thoughtful and unexpected gifts so that she would know how much I loved her, I always wanted to be her prince charming and her champion. But I failed, I always did bad and thoughtless things that would make her question my love. The good things could never make up for the bad… this I know now.

I wanted to protect her as you did and make her feel safe, but ended up failing to protect her from myself. Now I worry that she won’t feel safe loving anyone again.

I never wanted to hurt anyone, there is a monster in me that was put there as a child… No excuses though, even though I hoped it would go away a part of me knew it didn’t.

I failed you and I failed your daughter and I failed myself.

I am sorry that I was careless, selfish, manipulative, and controlling.

Sorry doesn’t count for much though, so I choose to make amends.

While there is nothing I can do to take away hurt, disappointment, or fix a broken heart. By making amends I can at least keep from doing the same thing again.

I committed myself to God, I gave my life to Christ and was made brand new.

I stay in His word and spend every morning reading scripture.

I joined a new church full of people willing to help me heal.

I joined a recovery group to talk to other men like myself and support them as they support me as we become new men together.

I pray every day for God to heal my heart and take away my lies and make me a man who only needs truth. Before I pray that though, I pray to God every day that he will bring healing and peace to the heart of your daughter.

 

A line from one of my new favorite books comes to mind. The narrator speaks to the namesake of the book and tells her profound words.  When I think of the women in my life, in so many ways this rings true…

 

“The idea of you is part of my mind, you influence my likes and dislikes, all my, hundreds of times when I don’t realize it. You really are a part of me.”

            -From “My Antonia” by Willa Cather

Sincerely

The Recovering Monster

 

I know the above letter may sound like I’m beating myself up, as I wrote it I kept feeling like I was diminishing what I had done wrong. I’m no bashing myself or wallowing in guilt. I’m writing to keep myself out of denial, and to keep from becoming ‘comfortable’ in my recovery.

 

Now for contrast…. a letter to my abuser.

 

I hate you, I hate you…. yet my heart breaks for you.

You took so much from me, my innocence, my trust, my safety. You saw a need in me and you took advantage of it and manipulated me for your pleasure.

Worse is what you taught me. Manipulate, lie, cheat, keep secrets, that’s how you live and stay safe. You taught me to fear the truth, because you made me feel like no one would like me if they knew truth of what happened.

You ruined every relationship I’ve ever had before it even started.

Or did you?

You made me hate my 11 year old self that allowed this to happen. You planted in me a desire to destroy a part of myself, to punish myself for what happened.

You set me at war with myself, like there were two of me, one battling for good and the other to do bad.

I have to tell myself, try to convince myself that what you did to me wasn’t my fault. But the idea still sits in my heart, that somehow I did something to encourage you.

I’m so mad at you because you still have this power over me, you are still a weight on my heart.

Or are you?

I thought I understood you, thought it had probably happened to you so I told myself that I forgave you.

But did I?

You shoved anger into my heart so deep that I don’t know how to dig down to let it out. Angry at you, and angry at me.

I have used that anger, focused it, but the anger has used me, continued to abuse me.

Because I let it.

As much as I hate you I still love you, as much as I hate myself I love me.

You made me a victim, but for all these years I let myself be a victim. A victim is never at fault, a victim can always blame someone else.

I choose to  be a victim no more and to destroy the power you have over me. Not through revenge but through grace.

I chose to honestly and at the depth of my heart forgive you and pray for your soul. I chose to love you and hope that you found forgiveness for yourself. I choose to be a survivor. A survivor accepts responsibility, a survivor doesn’t blame but learns.

Sincerely and with love

The Survivor

I am work every day, and I hope that this work will bear the fruit of redemption and change, to be one clear man, who needs only truth to describe himself. As I think of working and toiling in the hopes of bearing fruit I’m reminded of John 15:4, 5, and I pray to remain in Jesus so that my recover will be fruitful.

John 15: 4, 5.  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Fires of truth

firey-rise

Sky fire rages
Melting cages
In our minds
Set free
From the heavy bars of lies
Freedom Inspired
By wild morning skies
Ok I guess it’s obvious I like taking pictures of clouds and sunrises and then Bam! I get a gorgeous cloud fire sunrise so I just have to take a picture and then that picture makes some words come to mind and next I hammer my reader(s) with my questionable poetry.
When I am offered beauty I see truth, truth that burns away lies. For me that is important because there has been part of me who had lies as his only coin. Others have been burned because of those lies (or rather the things that I lied about), and when I had finally decided that I could never break another heart I prayed for God to take away my lies. Then wham! they were out there… They were out there and it was painful, but the truth did set me free from my old ways and I look at the hard truth of what I did to stay convicted a new way…
John 8:32 is so true and so right….
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…

Higher message from…Netflix?

netflix

Sitting in my office for a few minutes after the end of the day, my head spinning from getting used to a new job, I felt glory of the work I was to do fade quickly as I realized that a big cut in pay set in. I opened up good old Microsoft Excel and decided to crunch some numbers… The good news was that with what I had in savings, I wouldn’t go into the negative for my budget for at least 9 months….

Yep, I had to figure out how to pay what were still big paycheck bills on a little paycheck budget.

I was thankful that I had some time to figure out a better budget and maybe even get an extra job so that I could afford my new career calling. When I finally left the office and went outside I saw battle line being drawn in the sky. Half was roiling and angry thunder clouds, black like coal smoke, the other was bright and blue with the sun brightly holding back the clouds. I chose to face the sun and feel the warmth on my face. Closing my eyes I felt thankful for the sun and reminded myself to be thankful for my job. A job where I could make a difference if not a mint.

A cute little beep/clunk sounded as I clicked the fancy little button on my keychain and my car unlocked itself, I got in just as the first heavy drops splattered on my windshield. The Dark clouds had won the day and were celebrating by releasing their purchase upon the land.

My drive along the freeway was uneventful with the windshield wipers not quit keeping time with the Christian music on my radio. I used the voice activated blue tooth in my car, “Siri, remind me to call my new insurance company to ask about benefits.”

“O.K. here’s your reminder….” her cheery response didn’t take the edge off of my frustration that my insurance wasn’t as good as my old job and my deductible would be big.

The storm had brought a slight chill to the Texas summer and even though 71 degrees isn’t cold, it feels cold when it’s the result of a 30 degree drop within fifteen wet and rainy minutes. I clicked the seat warmers on as the exit came up for my neighborhood. Some frantic activity to the side stole my attention for a moment.  A group of the transient folks who live in a vacant lot were racing for cover beneath the overpass. A few of them tugging and puling shopping carts full of their belongings trying to save them from the deluge. Black or grey hair slicked down on brown faces, clothing clinging to bent frames, they struggled to help themselves and each other to escape the rain.

I turned onto my street and made a mental note to really make the time to make care packages for the small community of homeless on my corner. It was nagging me to do so for as long as I’d been in the neighborhood.

Walking up to my apartment I saw my upstairs neighbor with her umbrella walking her three little Boston Terriers, the youngest was excited by the weather and  ran up and jumped up at me to get her pats and attention.

“Crazy how cold it got so quickly,” I said as I bent down to scratch little ears that were bouncing about my legs.

“I know it wasn’t even supposed to rain, at least we get a break from having the ac on.” she was struggling with the umbrella and leashes as she responded.

A few more trivial pleasantries and we went our separate ways. The coolness of my apartment was a contrast compared to the usual 85 that I faced when I got home. I never leave the ac on when I’m out to conserve energy and money, I was thankful that it was cool enough inside to keep the ac off for another night. Normally I had to sit and sweat for a half hour before my place cooled off in the evening.

I went to the fridge and opened it and let out a short, silent stream of curses as I realized that I’d have to settle for PBJ because I forgot to defrost a fish fillet. A cold sandwich dinner would cap off a day that I struggled, with only minor success, to be thankful for

My head was still a little clouded with doubt about my future finances so I figured I’d numb it with a little Netflix.  I clicked through trying hard not to pause on the bikini movies that are the artifact of my old watching history.

Unfortunately I was week and when the “Because you watched…” row came up it was filled with temptation I scrolled along. It must have been some documentary I had watched because the whole row was documentaries. Something caught my attention right away, but not what you think. “Living on One Dollar” is a documentary about some college kids who decide to go to Guatemala to live just as the Guatemalans do. On one dollar a day.

I don’t really know why but I clicked watch and my jaw dropped….

Less than an hour after I frantically tried to figure out my budget for a salary that is higher than the national average I watched four college kids try to budget money that is the equivalent of earning an average of one dollar per day. They even created a spin wheel with different amounts to simulate the native experience of not knowing how much or when they would get actual cash. Some days they had plenty.

Some days, just like the natives, they didn’t get to eat.

10 minutes after cursing about having to eat what is surprisingly complete nutrition in the form of PBJ, I was watching people who sometimes didn’t eat at all. I watched the boys as they learned from natives to buy lard (my mom hates that word but it’s full of calories, the lard not the word) to supplement their beans and rice. The lard is cheap and is high in calories to keep you going for little money.

The second night the boys stayed in their little shack the Guatemalan Rain Forest lived up to its name and opened up on the little tin building. Water poured in through several holes in the roof and, I guess to break up the cliché, even poured in from some holes in the walls.

25 minutes after I was clicking the little seat heater in my car I watched as the boys like the natives shiver in the chill of the downpour.
The next day for the little group the sun was back out and boiling away the water from the soggy ground. As the boys were sweating in the shack as they decided to walk to a neighbor to ask about a doctor for one of their ranks who had taken a fever from the rain and chill. The neighbors told them through a mix of Spanish and a native Mayan dialect that they would have to go try to get a ride to town and have money to see the doctor. Of course the boys’ daily allowance of money wouldn’t cover the doctor visit so the next piece of advice was to ask for a loan from the “Mayor” of the little village.

35 minutes after I was using $600 dollar technology to remind myself to call to complain about the deductible for my coverage that would basically take care of any and all of my medical needs I watched the struggle to pay for and then wait in line for hours for very limited medical care and even more limited pharmaceutical availability.

The kicks to the gut of my emotional thankfulness kept coming, I was whining about my ac bill and having to sweat at 78 degrees mere minutes before watching villagers have to live through extremes of temperature between 60 and 100 degrees. I watched a young girl who was crying because she wanted to be a nurse but had to quit school around 7th grade to take care of her little sisters while only a little over an hour earlier I was worrying about my student loan bill.

I realized how lucky I really was, and that I should be someone who could distribute the benefits of that luck. I was caught up in the spirit! I decided that I would go on a mission to Guatemala and help build a school and help make farms and build hospitals I would… I…. I would never be able to go to Guatemala, not in the near future.

I sat back on my leather couch, watching my big, flat screen t.v. eating my PBJ (actually my favorite meal if I’m honest) and realized I couldn’t reach as far as Guatemala. With a new humility I watched the remainder of the film. An honest and eventful telling of poverty that we in the U.S. can barely comprehend. I wanted to help but flailed about for a way.

Suddenly in my mind popped an image of souls drenched and dejected, frantically saving their possessions. Rejected from society living in a field and under a freeway. I didn’t have to reach all the way to Guatemala to make a difference, I only had to go about a block.

So many lessons learned in that short time.

God sent me to find thankfulness and attracted me to what I needed to see with the very weakness of my sin.

The best way to be happy is to be thankful, for there are those who would love to have your troubles.

And, a great way to not worry about myself is to decide to help take care of others. Right after watching this I started my work at a place called Community First, a village that provides housing for those wishing to end their homelessness. I’m not in Guatemala but I’m doing what I can.

When I worry that it’s still not enough I remember this verse from Matthew

 Matthew 6:25-27  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Time for Beauty?

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He paints the sky in bold bright hues

No need to wait in hallowed pews

But trees like days begin to blur

While background images hardly stir

Rush through life so frantic so fast

or pause

a moment

Let beauty last

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.