THE LITTLE THINGS

I’ve had the joy of staying with my sister for a few weeks after the death of her husband. It’s been a beautiful time, but I’m lonesome for home, kisses from my daughter, cuddling with my granddaughters, seeing my friends, warm hugs from Pam and just getting to talk to her in person rather than FaceTime. I also didn’t realize how much I miss having fun teasing her and fussing about things that are totally unimportant. Who knew?!!!!

I got a call from one of my Bible study friends, J.T. Olsen this morning. He called just to tell me that he was thinking about me and praying for me. It made all the difference to me and lifted my spirits. I’m sure he probably thought I’ll just give them a call, no big deal, I’ve got the time. But his call was huge for me, because it told me that he loved me and that I mattered to him. Even though those words were not necessarily spoken, it’s what I felt. It didn’t cost him much, but it was a lavish gift to me.

I often think that when I’m doing something I think is monumental, you know, something that has a lot of peoples attention, it’s really important stuff. I just want to say this. Sometimes, it’s the insignificant acts that are the big deal. I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want people to get lost in the minutia of my thinking.

I’m reminded of this question that is found in Scripture:

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.”

(Vernor Vinge)

I know I’m quite familiar with this concept about the little things, I’m so painfully aware that at this late stage in my life, it’s still not rooted deeply enough in me. Even though the thought occurs, my action does not follow nearly as often.

Dear God….

Teach me about the little things. Help me become more obedient to your prompting.

Amen.

THAT’S GOOD

I’ve decided to get into art. My medium is pen and ink (avec une gomme). It only makes sense because I have a lotta pens I get from doctors offices, the bank and when I go to my physical therapy appointments.

I thought I was more of an abstract impressionist like Elaine de Kooning. I really like that style because it’s a calming visual where you use colors and soft brush strokes to fill a large area, but Pam thinks I’m more like a distressed impressionist. She says my work definitely has a very distracting quality, troubling yet unnatural. She knows how to talk all arty like that but I think I’m tracking with her.

Just a minute ago Pam mumbled something that seemed weird to me. She said I might want to consider some other thing to get into…like therapy. Maybe artists do a lot of stuff like that to bring out their creativity….but knowing her, now that I think of it, I’m not sure that’s the reason why she’d want me to go.

I just have this sense that I’m on the precipice of something stunning. I just showed her my most recent work, and she told me it would be stunning alright…. more like a stun gun. That’s good, isn’t it?

WHAT DO I KNOW?

There are people of all Christian faiths, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopalian (AME), Christian Church (disciples of Christ), Pentecostal, Catholic, United Church Of ChristNazarene, Church Of. God, Assemblies Of God, Church Of God In Christ, Moravian, Church Of Christ, Lutheran and denominations of every ethnicity….we all have our deal. This certainly is not a complete list by any means. Oh yah…and they all have their own Christian denominational dialect.

We’re expected to sort through eternal security, speaking ex cathedra, entire sanctification, 5 point Calvinism, 5 Solae, no instruments in worship, sacraments, eucharist, infant baptism versus immersion of believers, ordinance, pre or post millennials, speaking in tongues, gifts of the Spirit, purgatory, consubstantiation, transubstantiation, the unforgivable sin, does baptism save you, elders or deacons, episcopal, connexional, Presbyterian or congregational polity, Sabbath observance…and that’s just for starters.

Main streamers have a tooth for the tabernacle and the awe of God. Evangelicals tee-off on the temple and the teachings of Jesus while Pentecostals key on the experiential. The trouble is that each one dismisses the other. There are many congregations of wide diversity…but way more that stay with the people who make them comfortable.

Here’s the deal, you’ve got theologians on all sides of every issue, Bible answer men, a plethora of interpretation with most referencing what the Bible says or how it doesn’t really mean what it says. Just a whole buncha differing views. The funny thing is, not many of these debates center around orphans, widows, the poor and concern for the powerless.

I enjoy having people challenge my thinking, it’s a healthy process, and so needed. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can sit down and listen to a guy who is really brilliant and convincing, and then sit down with another guy who comes from a sharply different perspective and is equally convincing… Well, that gives me pause. Then…when you think that those two intelligent men I just referenced were Calvin and Luther, both lawyers, it really REALLY gives me pause.

I speak for me only when I say, I haven’t done a very good job of being the God of my life. I have to have some sort of standard by which I set my course in life. That is for me, the Bible as I understand it. I study, I think, but I’m not that smart, but even so, the ability to retain information is not wisdom. Those are two different things.

I can’t run my life on other people’s personal feelings or in culture that shifts. I believe there are eternal truths.

Ultimately, I’m thinkin’ that if God has any questions of me, they won’t be the aforementioned theological issues I stated earlier.

But what do I know? 😮

MY MOTHER’S GARDEN

I remember the unbearable earaches I had when I was in kindergarten and first grade. My mother would lay my head on her lap and pour warm olive oil in my ear. Probably one of those old wives tales. It felt good for a moment, but it didn’t last. This was before you could put tubes in little ears to relieve the waxen impasse.

But somehow, as I lay there in pain and crying, she would look into my listless eyes, rub my head and comfort me. “IThere there, Greggie boy. I know, honey…I know.”

My mom’s name was Irene. She knew about comforting her children. When my father left for the Aleutian Islands during World War II, she was pregnant with her first child. In the early months after her birth she found that my sister had leukemia. She lived 5 months. The most poignant photo I remember of my mother, was her holding Mary Corene about two weeks before she died, her eyes looked so weary and sad.

My mother did so much more than that for me as I grew to be a man. . Things for which my brother, sister and I are forever grateful, and could never repay.

It’s not national Mother’s Day, but I’m thinking about my her just now. I love this poem by an unknown author. Its not profound, but it’s a beautiful image.

AS MY MOTHER KEPT A GARDEN

My Mother kept a garden.

A garden of the heart;

She planted all the good things,

That gave my life it’s start.

She turned me to the sunshine,

And encouraged me to dream:

Fostering and nurturing

The seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rains d came,

She protected me enough;

But not too much, she knew I’d need

To stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example,

Always taught me right from wrong;

Markers for my pathway

To last my whole life long.

I am my Mother’s garden,

I am her legacy.

And I hope today she feels the love,

Reflected back from me.

THE RATIO

One of my most challenging prayers is, “Lord, get me outside of myself today and help me set my affections on things above.

With work, personal situations and family….there are days that are just plain hard, and it’s easy to focus only on what I can see presently. So some days I gotta just stop and say, “Wait a minute…I’m gonna smile, I’m alive, I can help someone today and God’s got things for me to do.”

People go through the death of a spouse, a family member, a dear friend , job loss and other bad stuff. It takes a season to grieve, which is needed…healthy for sure. Each of us deal with hardship differently. Moving on, moving thru, moving past or letting go involves making a decision…and for me..that’s not easy.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restores the my soul.”

I am realizing just now that God isn’t just the Shepherd…but He is is “the green pastures”…He is the “still waters.”He is in every part of everything I encounter, including hard days and grief.

But there are days I don’t, or won’t mentally embrace what God can do. It’s complicated….I’m complicated. I get overwhelmed. Some people don’t get overwhelmed very much…if ever. I’m not one of them.

You’re just not believing God, Greg. You’re not trusting Him. Well, that is true. I have that tendency. There’s a lyric in the hymn, “Come Thou Fount” that describes this well. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do think about things a lot…maybe too much….probably more than I pray. I’m guessing I need to get the thinking to praying ratio down a little better.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

THE HANDYMAN

I went to Home Depot with Pam yesterday to pick up some yard lights, Gorilla Glue and a small bag of grass seed. It was a beautiful day and I loved just strolling along with her as she got the stuff she needed.

Heading toward the checkout registers, we walked by a display of some big saws. Pam turned to me and pointed, “Would you like one of those for Christmas?” I told her I didn’t even know what a miller saw was. She went on, “ Now for sure you’re not getting one of those for Christmas, honey… it’s not a miller saw, it’s called a mitre saw.”

I hate it when she gets all passive aggressive on me like that….No matter what she says..I’ve got the handyman‘s number and Jesus in my heart. 😮

GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME

I’m tired…and worn out. This was the weekend of my brother-in-law, Bob Johnson’s memorial service.

I’ve been overwhelmed with the many caring friends and their acts of kindness. This is a time we struggled with beauty and sadness…smiles with tears…hope and loss…and imagining the recentering process facing my sister, and what’s to come. And all this, along with the exhaustion of engagement and grieving simultaneously.

It was heartwarming to watch the younger cousins witness the power and warmth of family, and feel the safety of being tethered to it. I asked my granddaughters to listen to the room as we visited at the house with friends gathered. “What do you hear?” They seemed puzzled by my question. I told them to listen closer. My youngest of Sarah’s girls said, “Well people are talking and seem happy.” I continued and said, “Yes, Tessa, what you’re hearing are the sounds of deep friendships, and the joy and hope of our faith in Christ. It’s a beautiful sound. Try and keep it tucked away in your memory.

I’m going to remember those sounds, it’s part of my recovery from this weekend. Pam and I stayed with Sig a couple extra days to deal with the immediate residue of it all. But when we get home, we’re going to need a lot of rest and exercise. It’s going to take some time to sort out life without Bob.