Table Settings 101

 

As a twenty-something college student, I recoiled at the mere thought of public speaking. This phobia was exacerbated even further when I learned that a speech course was required for my major, and several types of speeches were to be delivered over the course of the semester. My first attempt, a demonstration on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation was sharply criticized, in part, because I couldn’t pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. Don’t believe me? Just try it.

To prepare for our final speech, I decided to speak on an issue that I felt passionate about, which seemed to be a hot topic at the time – religion. A group of students who I thought resembled religious zealots had been active on campus, and frankly they’d gotten on my nerves. They were always preaching this Jesus stuff and something about being saved that didn’t make much sense. Just who did they think they were to judge any of us? I thought. Nonetheless, I decided to interview a few of them as background work for preparing my “persuasive” speech. This final oratory would count as 40 percent of our grade and it had to be a good one.

When the time came, I stepped up to the front of the class and delivered my observations on the subject, comparing all people to either forks, spoons or knives. I reasoned that the forks were atheists who didn’t believe in a God and jabbed at any opinion or evidence on there being one. Then I carved out a description of the knives too; people like those religious students on campus who cut it right down the middle. Either you were with them, or against God and doomed to hell, no middle ground at all.

But what I proposed instead, was that most people in fact were spoons – folks just like me. I stated that we were perhaps the majority who believed in a God, but just weren’t sure about how it all adds it or how it works. Yet we were ready to scoop up whatever we could learn.

In the years since receiving an “A” in that class, I’ve had enough disappointments and disillusionment to gorge on for a lifetime. We all have. But along the way, I ventured out to discover more about who Jesus was and what the Bible says for myself. With that newfound vision, I’ve also admired some beautifully adorned table settings too. Some were the finest pieces of silverware laid out in front of me – everything I’ve needed for a grand feast. I’ve learned that no meal is quite as enjoyable without them and no food is more nourishing to eat than the well-seasoned, salty-sweet, divinely prepared, Word of God.

 

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Heroes in Hiding: Three who can give us hope and then some…

Hiding photo

Photo: Courtesy of Morguefile

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a tumultuous, exhausting ten days for me. Words have neither escaped nor embraced me. Instead they’ve been buried beneath a bunker of disbelief, anger, hurt, sadness and grief for the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa.

Rather than giving yet another perspective on the why, how, who and what, mostly because I’m certain tragedies like these will happen again, and again until…. what I’d like to do however, is focus my thoughts on three “heroes in hiding.” They are hidden because, the media has glimpsed briefly into their lives and we seem less than interested. Their words give me the hope of a sustained dialogue for the future – even if I don’t foresee that any time soon.

The first is Anna Garnaas, a teacher at the Montessori School where Philando Castille worked. She spoke about how much the kids loved him, how he was always there for them, trying to provide whatever they needed. She also wondered how she would discuss his death with the six year-olds who knew him when school starts back in the fall. Perhaps the only thing she can explain to them what John 15:12 tells us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Hardly more than a child himself, fourteen year-old Royce Mann from Atlanta had both the talent and courage to say what many folks in their fifties and older know to be true, and are too proud or too scared to admit it, or too angry to care otherwise. If you haven’t heard it already, Royce’s poem “White Boy Privilege” won an award. How legendary would it be if it won over some hearts and minds too. Here I am reminded of one of many scriptures that promised us all a deliverer with these words “…and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.

That brings me to  Abdullah Muflahi. He owned the Triple S convenience store in Baton Rouge where Alton Sterling lost his life. Being invited to speak, he took the podium at Mr. Sterling’s funeral to talk about how kind Sterling was – a man who befriended him when he first came to town, who looked out for him, and was generous giving to others. Muflahi became emotional thinking how much he was going to miss his “friend.” I call his actions courageous, because Muflahi could have kept quiet in such a national controversy, but he didn’t. I am reminded of the greatest controversy known to mankind – who Jesus was, to which came the response “and the truth shall set you free”, found in John 8:2.

Here at home and around the world, thousands have already and continue to honor the slain policemen in Dallas for their unspeakable bravery, their selfless actions, and supreme service to our nation. I honor them too. Any other words I might offer here would be insignificant at best, so I continue doing what I’ve done since day one. I pray genuine prayers for their families along with prayers for all the children who are grieving.

Anna Garnaas, Royce Mann and Abdullah Muflahi are names we probably will forget by sundown tomorrow, but the sincerity of their words give me hope. Their actions soothe the fluctuating fears I have inside as I pray constantly for the safety of those in my own family. Many of you are praying daily for yours too. God, I ask please bring them back home to us every day. Perhaps I am naïve to hope that these three “Heroes in Hiding” may bring more of exactly what we need: love, youth and a truth that will set us free. Maybe they can inch us closer to a higher degree of acceptance and a measure of understanding. In this lifetime, I may not find out.

But for today, perhaps all I can do is quote the words of a long forgotten Taxi cab driver, 20 plus years ago who knew this story all too well. Sadly, in the end, he never quite found his way.

“Some people feel like I’m some kind of hero. Others hate me. They say I deserved it. Other people, I can hear them mocking me for when I called for an end to the destruction, like I’m a fool for believing in peace.” – Rodney King

Scriptures are taken from the KJV, NIV Bible.

A Page from the Heart

Heart table

I knew what I was getting into. I’d made a commitment, promised to be there regularly – at least in my mind anyway. But I just didn’t do it. That’s right, I haven’t posted a blog entry in months. And for that I apologize to my readers with this new “page” from my heart.

So let me tell you what I have been doing, in no particular order: Continue reading A Page from the Heart

The Sand Dollar Designer & Original Foot-print Artist

Aaron Beach
Photo: courtesy of  Veleeta Aaron

The Legend of the Sand Dollar poem was given to me as gift years ago.  I’ve since seen it composed in many formats. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, a quick online search will provide reference. The imaging created by the words, as well as the  Footprints poem recently came back into focus when the above photo was shared.

At first glance it appears simple, unlike a thousand other beach photos right? But look closely and you will observe that there are at least four shades of blue, three shades of gray, and the colors white and beige. No brilliant reds, yellows or greens are needed for this palette. Foam capped waves gently cascade onto the shore, and fluffy white clouds overhead hint at what may have been the perfect sunny sentimental day. The picturesque view brought me back to “The Son” – the true subject of the two poems.

This Son is the One who gave His life, was resurrected and remains with us today. Whenever confusion, frustration, doubts or even complacency clouds our thoughts, we can close our eyes and picture God’s creations – the water, waves, sand, sunshine and sky. Imagine a hundred different seashells and sand dollars just under the surface. Look closer still and view the many other footprints in the sand He gave us to either guide or walk beside us along the way. Some may be treasured mentors or loved ones we’ve lost, but are nonetheless memories the tide will never wash away. Continue reading The Sand Dollar Designer & Original Foot-print Artist

Mary’s Armor

IMG_74276959491791

 

It had been a usual day at work when I hung up the phone from speaking with a lady (who for reasons of confidentiality) we’ll call “Mary.” She works at Inland Regional Center.

“You’ve been an absolute delight to talk with” I exclaimed. My chuckling co-worker in the next cubicle over wasn’t so convinced.

“Haha Carlitta. You really poured that on thick didn’t you…”

“No not at all. I really meant what I said to her” I replied.  “I don’t usually pay those kinds of compliments if I don’t mean it. She really was nice to talk to.”

Three days later, I sat huddled around the computer screen, cringing at the news reports coming out of San Bernardino, California. A queasy apprehension lulled in the pit of my stomach. My mind was on Mary. Was she there? Had she been hurt? God I hope not…oh how horrible. For hours all I could imagine was the horror at the center, all the lives that had been lost and many who will be scarred physically and emotionally – forever. Why? I don’t know.

But at a minimum, I believe it is because evil lives. However, evil does not rise up one day and inadvertently strike like a lightning bolt into human beings. Evil is ancient, cunning. It is broad reaching and breeds across barren grounds of twisted hunger, generational despair, isolation, and occasionally mental illness. Guns will never cure it, nor defeat it. It must be called by its name and fought with the only armor Ephesians 6 says we should use to slay it. Perhaps Mary had some of that same armor on that day. Others we now know, didn’t have a clue.

Before last week Mary and her co-workers were just like many of us, trying to make a living, while serving the neediest most fragile of our citizens. But that has changed. Fourteen visitors from the local health department had come to Mary’s building for a Christmas party and never went back home.

A week later I’d still hoped to blog about how illness struck my home in early September, as fatigue and exhaustion took me away from my monthly blog posts; and then I’d apologize to my readers.

But all I have done the last week is think of Mary, and she was one of the lucky ones.

 

 

Amidst the Ashes

Courtesy: http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/
Courtesy: http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/

As our family historian, naturally I thought of all the photos that were probably left behind as people fled their homes from California’s recent catastrophic fires. Elsewhere, thousands of evacuees were just glad to be alive and still breathing.

On some days the smell of smoke from the fires drifted into my window from 60 miles away. I couldn’t help but glance up at the ominous smog spread across the morning sky, as I drove into work each day.

News stories about the devastation and images of teary-eyed families flooded across television screens, but nothing has been quite like hearing about it first hand or seeing photos up close. A friend of mine who worked in the relief effort recounted how some distraught families recreated a sort of mini-tent neighborhood. Choosing to forego the bright lights of gymnasiums and luxury style army cots inside evacuation centers, they lodged outside in parking lots instead. Former neighbors once comfortable in their houses were now neighbors once again, preferring the privacy of donated tents or their cars – eating, weeping and sleeping – just without the four walls. These are the “pictures” we seldom see.

Now there are new photo memories, awful, sad, images wrapped around the realities of twisted metal and piles of charred, broken bricks and burned out vehicles. It is the new norm for communities like Middletown. Yet somehow, up out of such destruction, amidst the ashes, a garden of fresh greenery has survived. Despite the drought-stricken and charred landscape are round, green and red, plump tomatoes in all stages of development, still thriving. They have been planted there by hands that never expected to see so much pain amidst the fruits of their labor.

I want to believe that the residents of those communities will capture new images as they rebuild and return home, resolved to restore their lives with those most dear to them. Though it will be a place where the ruins of homes lie under thick mounds of cold ash, I pray their peace will return and their faith will be sustained. I pray it will be a place where not only survival and perseverance exists, but also where hope will flourish, and where red, ripe tomatoes still grow – even there amidst the ashes.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3 KJV).

Hallelujah Savings & Loans Co

Courtesy: http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/
Courtesy: http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/

Do you ever wonder how much money is enough to have? or how many things it will take to finally make us happy? Here’s a small lesson I learned some years ago. I entered a contest where part of the requirement was that each contestant had to obtain paid advertisements. There was no gofundme.com or other money generating social media sites to help me out back then. I thought I had plenty of friends and family to get the job done, but funds slowly trickled in.

I shared my frustration with a dear friend who I hoped would commiserate with me. But she didn’t. Instead, with a gentle voice, she surprised me by this response “maybe people just aren’t interested in that.” Her words both caught me off guard and stung. After all, I’d taken interest in so many things that my family, friends or other people had done in the past. I’d supported many of their causes like a freshman cheerleader. How could they not support me now? Over time, I saw that my friend was right. The contest (which I didn’t win by the way) was based in vain, selfish motives. It involved actions that served to line someone else’s pockets with money.

Could it be that rather than more money, gadgets or things, what we really long for are the eternal treasures only God can place in our lives? And don’t we need a safe, secure place to store them in? like a sort of “Hallelujah Savings & Loan Company?

I’ve come to realize that things done for God’s purpose and that are in “His” will are what matters most.  Heavenly treasures are the ones that can give us a lasting degree of satisfaction and sense of life’s true purpose. These are the gifts, talents and Blessings God has bestowed on us for His Kingdom, not for our personal bravado, but for His Glory.

In the historic Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included this teaching also, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Matthew 6:19-20.

I want more of these treasures – the Godly kind, where paid advertisements aren’t necessary. And I want a safe, secure place to store them in too; a location where the dividends will be exponential and spiritual data remains hack-free.

Tune Out…by Tuning In

Terry Ballard

When we decided to turn off the television for one week last year, at first it seemed like an eternity. We dithered through the house stone faced, with the silence of a mortuary filling the air. “So how was your day?”

“Not bad what about you?” I answered as my spouse and I began our experiment to “tune-out.” We looked forward to being without advertisements, negative news reporting, internet surfing and anything else that chips away at moments of peace and tranquility. We wanted more rest and quality time spent with God. We agreed to read our Bibles more too.

A couple of days into the quest, we wondered how we could continue to do without other “necessities” like gorging off snack foods and a feeding frenzy on each of our daily news shows. But manage we did, learning to welcome and appreciate the outside sounds of tree nesters and a low refrigerator hum indoors. After just a few days, easy chats and the solace found inside the pages of various books became the preferred pastime as well.

As the week wound down, we seemed to resemble modern day homesteaders from Little House on the Prairie (70’s television show) and we were proud to be accomplishing what we set out to do. In the process here’s a bit of what we discovered:

The time spent in electronic solitude had forced us to pay more attention not only to each other, but in our surroundings, our words, thoughts and actions. Our attention refocused on doing what was important rather than on diversions that steal away precious time. And we experienced how calming it is to not have a hundred other voices drown out our conversations along with “Huh? Say what? I’m on the on phone. Turn the T.V. down!” Sound familiar?

We’d also escaped having our emotions assaulted by sound bites of sinister and ungodly things we may never understand or resolve. Never once did we lose the remote control or sigh about not finding anything decent to watch. And guess what? It was all good. By tuning out, we’d learned to enjoy tuning in to peace. When we turned on the television once again, the world hadn’t exploded on itself. We hadn’t missed the funeral of anyone we loved, and there was still enough fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink and food to eat.

Seems the only things we did miss that week were worry, anxiety, busyness and forgetting to set out the popcorn.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).

Confession…I’m not who you think I am

cameleon

I have a confession to make – I’m not who you think I am.

Yes, I’m blogger, a mom, wife and more. But, I’m also a person who has made many mistakes, full of flaws and priceless imperfections that would make even the prettiest diamond weep. I have yelled, screamed at and pointed a crooked finger at those I love, ignored others who may have needed a mere hug from me that day. I’ve pouted at God for not answering prayers about problems that I thought needed fixing – sooner rather than later.

I’ve not always been a faithful follower of the faith either, toting around a leather-bound Bible bleeding from yellow highlighter pens. And I have not always been kind, thoughtful or attentive, especially to God’s word.

But then I fell in love, and got involved in a deep relationship.

I had been going through a pretty tough time in life, not exactly sure of where the next road would lead. I was driving towards home on a dark highway one night contemplating it all. Many years prior, I’d already accepted Christ as my Savior, but our relationship was shaky at best. Sure, I’d attended church, bible study and tried to “do good things.” But behind closed doors, I was still angry and making decisions about and doing things not in line with God’s Word and biblical principles.

Then, to my amazement, I began to see God blessing me in remarkable ways; with things I’d prayed about, but never thought would really happen.  A new job promotion came just as I lost my home. A brand new car with only four miles on it seemingly drove itself up into my driveway, despite some pretty disparaging credit. And a woman I’d never met before allowed me to come live in her beautiful home until I could land on solid footing again. I was blessed with a supervisor who I still admire to this day and much more. With food, shelter and work, I was beginning to develop a new respect and relationship with my Lord and Savior, and it grows continually.

I confess that I still struggle, as we all do. But in the years since, I have learned and am still learning to put my faith and trust entirely in God’s hands. I confess to Him when I go wrong, and look to Him for the right direction to take with matters big and small. I am so grateful to be loved by a merciful, gracious and forgiving God, who is shaping and changing me into His purpose for my life.

No, I’m not who you think I am, but I am forever thankful not to be who I once was.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become a new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)

The Gamiliel Effect

Photo: courtesy of http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/
Photo: courtesy of http://themasterslight.blogspot.com/

Nothing withstands the test of time quite like the truth. Truth will always win, no matter what we may say or do. Recently, I have been reminded of the prophetic words of an ancient scroll and a 1st century lawyer that both conveyed this premise well.

After Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, the apostles were left to endure their own personal persecution. But before their eventual demise, some of them were brought before the Jewish court. Gamiliel, a first century, highly respected teacher of the law stood to address his colleagues about the defendants.  He could have engaged in a lengthy intellectual squabble about the authenticity of the apostles’ new ministry and the supposed offenses they committed. However, he refrained from what could’ve been a well-crafted oratory, further denouncing the ministry of Jesus Christ. Instead, Gamiliel reasoned that time would tell.

As Peter and the other apostles stood on trial before the Sanhedrin Council, Gamiliel rose to speak to the court. He reminded them about rebel leaders of the past, referring to Theodus and Judas (not Iscariot) of Galilee. Gamiliel pointed out that those men also mounted revolts that eventually failed and all the insurgents were put to death.

Then Gamiliel goes a step further. He appealed for the apostles’ protection, not because he loved or greatly admired them, but because of his knowledge about past events and a belief about what the future would reveal. He argued that if the Christianity movement, which the apostles were forbearers of, was a fraud then it too would fail. He surmised that it would fade and die out just like previous rebellions and their disgraced leaders. But more importantly, he stated that if Christianity was real and truly of God, it would last and nothing could ever destroy it. Here’s what he said:

“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” —Acts 5:38–39 KJV

And that is precisely what has happened. Over 2000 years later, Christianity has not gone away. In fact, it has steadily grown and progressed all over the earth, despite what one might think, hear or see. Years before Gamiliel spoke his prophetic words; the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. In the Isaiah text, the most complete, most well-preserved of all the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christ’s birth is foretold hundreds of years in advance (see Isaiah 9:6-7). The life of Jesus Christ, His ministry and purpose for coming (our salvation) isn’t up for debate, neither is the Bible. God’s Word has been here from the beginning and it remains. It does not stammer, studder nor lose its’ all-encompassing Power to interpretive litigation. And Gamiliel unknowingly showed that God’s word could not be lost in any court’s judicial deviation. No defense is necessary for God’s unchanging Word. It has withstood the test of time, just as Gamiliel said it would.

The jury is now excused. #Court-is-adjourned#

Tanara McCauley

Love Knows Color

Tanara McCauley

Love Knows Color