Did you know that in the last 2 decades over 100,000 children under the age of 5 were injured or killeed from falling out of windows? This isn’t a big city problem. It is happening in modest homes and most often through screens in first and second floor windows. Please read my recent article on Technorati for details.
Just driving down the street to fill my car with gas the other day brought tears to my eyes as memories of my Dad came flooding back to me. The anniversary of his death is coming near. My Dad was my hero but not because he invented something world changing and not because he discovered a cure for the common cold. My Dad was a country boy. In my eyes he could do anything. He found joy in simple things and taught me to do so as well. He always had a smile, a laugh, a hug. As I drove down the street with my car windows open, I saw a bit of smoke in the air and heard the crackling sounds of a brush fire well controlled in the neighbor’s yard and smelled that oh so familiar smell. The smoke didn’t bring tears to my eyes, though. It was the memories from long ago.
One of my favorite memories is really just a small thing and yet I can remember it so well now as decades have passed and I am that 6 year old again. I can hear the sounds from that day long gone, can smell the aromas that marked the day, and feel the textures. Daddy was out in the yard raking leaves. We had lots and lots of them as the yard and neighborhood were filled with trees and it was autumn. The lovely colors were turning to rust as the leaves dried out and fell from the trees and he had a huge pile of them ready to burn. I watched. I can hear the squeak of the rake against the hard earth. I can hear the crunch of the branches and dried brush under my feat. I watched from the stairs as the pile grew higher and higher. Finally Daddy was satisfied with his progress and went into the cellar to get a hose and some matches to burn the leaves and put out the fire. As he disappeared from view, I saw my opportunity
Jumping up from my watchful spot on the stairs, I ran to the pile of leaves and leaped into the pile! As I did, the leaves flew into the air and I landed on the soft pile and then leaped up again and again! Each time I landed back down into the soft, dry leaves, I swung my arms about me and giggled with joy as the leaves flew higher and higher into the air then fell back to land on my nose, in my hair, and scattered about the yard! It seemed to me at the time that Daddy must have been having trouble finding that hose because I had plenty of time to leap for joy in the pile of leaves! Looking back, I am older now than my Daddy was then and I know he must surely have been standing nearbv and watching me. Maybe he was remembering the small boy he used to be and remembering my Grampa doing what he was doing.
Daddy had to do a lot of the raking all over again after my time spent playing with the pile of leaves was over. I remember it all so well. I don’t recall getting scolded, though, nor even frowned at. I only recall the grin on Daddy’s face as he came from around the corrner of the yard carrying the hose and box of matches. I can hear his laughter even now.
I love you, Daddy!
What a great idea! What are you grateful for today? Here’s my list!
1. My personal relationship with Christ
2. My church family
3. Having a roof over my head
4. The Holy Spirit to guard and guide me
5. Prayer that’s always heard
6. The capacity to love
7. Angels watching over me
8. Food to eat
9. Birds singing outside my window
10. Palmetto trees reminding me of Jesus
11. Friends who care about me
12. Rain – cleansing and thirst quenching
13. Peaceful sounds of sleeping family
15. God’s love and forgiveness
via Cloud9 Design
My Mom has a picture in her bedroom of jesus laughing. It is a wonderful picture and reminds me that Jesus was indeed fully man yet fully human. It reminds me that He cries with us when we cry. It also reminds me that while the life of a Christian isn’t for “winps” this doesn’t mean we must be serious all the time. The Bible is so full of reference to “joy” and to the Joy of the Lord. A quick click revealed that the NIV Bible has nearly 250 references which include the word joy. I am thinking of this because I can recall so often hearing a chorus of “shhhhhhh!” resounding in church halls when there is joy and laughter happening! This is simply wrong! The Lord doesn’t desire a bunch of gloomy disciples to be at work for Him. Who’d be drawn to such a life in Christ?
He resides in us and He is perfect peace and joy. We are to reflect this to the world and be missors of Him. This came to mind most recently this morning as I stood in the chuch hall before the service. There was one service letting out and another to begin shortly thereafter. There were lots of people both old and young rushing about, smiling, laughing, chatting, and hugging. Occasionally there would be a bit of “shhhhhh!” I am happy that it was ignored. We are much too quick to throw water on the joy of the Lord when we see and hear it. Why is this? What do we fear? Sure there are times when we need to be in quiet time with Him. Yes, when the service is going on we don’t want to create a distraction outside the door and thus prevent folks from participating in it, but this “shhhhhh” can go too far! Jesus called the disciples His friends and I am sure He enjoyed Himself with them. We, too, are His disciples and we too are to be filled with His joy.
Joy and laughter is not the same thing as “noise.” The sounds I heard from my position of observation in the hall? That was music to my ears. I believe that it was music to the His ears as well! “Make a joyful noise until the Lord” folks! Jesus will smile and laugh with you!
Our priests at my church always inspire me. Each is unique and each touches my heart for Christ in their own way and I am so blessed to have them in my life. Yesterday, our Assistant Rector, Fr Chris delivered the sermon and he got me to thinking . . . it also seemed as though he somehow got inside my head and heart and was preaching just to me alone. How’d he know what I needed to hear? Well, I think I know the answer because when we listen with our heart and soul and follow His lead, Christ works through us. Follow . . . that got me to thinking even more. It got me thinking about the concept of being a follower. But first, I need to think back.
I can remember when the children in my life, all grown now, got to the point of being walking, talking toddlers. Suddenly, the word “no” was constant in conversation and I swear the first complete sentence must surely have been “no, I do it myself.” Oh, heavens, those were beautiful, sometimes frustrating, and generally amusing times in life. That stage in a child’s life is a healthy and normal part of their growth and development as they discover their authentic selves. We all go through that. I don’t remember my own life at that point, but I do remember the stage that came next. I can remember my late father so strongly at that time. I remember how “big” he seemed and how all-powerful. Any problem I had I knew I could take to Daddy. My doll’s leg came off. Daddy took care of it. I wanted to learn to ride a bike. Daddy took care of it. I got scared. Daddy was there to settle me down. It seemed he could fix anything and he pretty much could. No, not all broken toys can be repaired even by my Daddy, but somehow he had a special way of making me feel loved and making me know it was all going to be okay even if a certain toy wasn’t able to be fixed. Daddy took care of me. When he died just a few years ago, I can recall feeling like that little preschool age girl again as I thought “he could fix anything for me and make me feel better. What am I going to do now without him?” I learned to be a fixer.
Okay, in truth, by nature I have for years, more years than I want to admit to, been convinced that I needed to fix everything, try to make everyone happy, content, and safe. I needed to work hard, I needed to focus, I needed to do it all. For years I thought I could and thought I was doing just that. I was convinced. I was also in denial. However, I held fast to that belief and pressed on. Not so surprisingly, I was never entirely satisfied, but I told myself I could try harder and I’d “get it right.” When I couldn’t, I got frustrated, but didn’t give up. I could handle it. “Don’t help me.” I wanted to “do it myself.” I was sure I could “fix it.” Hmmmm . . .
As I listened to Chris preach yesterday, I realized something. In order to be able to fix anything, we need to acknowledge that alone we can fix nothing. In order to be a true success, we have to realize that alone we can only fail. Most importantly, in order to be a true leader, we must first be a true follower. As I write this, I realize that this is exactly why I never felt satisfied with the results of “do it myself” and also realized that when life, a short time ago, brought me to a place where I was destined to start over completely, I hungered for a new approach. Wow, that was unexpected. I felt called to set aside all that was familiar, all that was comfortable, and all that I’d done “by myself” and just follow. Funny, I can recall a time when I’d look with disdain at folks who I had declared “followers” and wrinkling my nose at the thought of being one. I thought they were weak. Now I am seeking to be weak and to follow. Why the change? Jesus. He is my reason.
I have found a personal relationship with Him and my life will never be the same. That “authentic” self I stumbled about seeking when I learned to walk and talk got lost along the way as I followed the teachings of this earthly life. That urge I had to be strong and independent and to take care of everything “all by myself” was never going to work until I met Jesus personally and discovered the truth.
My strength lies only in Him. My hunger to lead has become a hunger to lead others to Him. I cannot lead, cannot be a true disciple of Christ, unless I first become a true follower of Him. I cannot be my authentic self, the person I was created and put on this earth to be, until I set aside my foolish and selfish ways and surrender to Him. I must trust in Him completely. I’ve had practice at it. When I was that toddler who knew Daddy could fix everything, I was practicing for a life in Christ where my Lord and Savior truly can “fix everything” and use everything for His purpose. He can take the good, the bad, and the “good enough” and transform it and redeem it. I don’t wrinkle my nose at the concept of being a follower anymore. I hunger for it because I can think of no better title to have or role in life! We are called to lead others to Him through our words and examples in this life, and all we have to do is follow Him. I am a follower! Care to join me?