Heart Hungry

I was out in the Carytown area yesterday. One of the worst places to be when you know that you can’t have solid food for 36 hours before a medical test. But I was looking to pick up my last meal for a few days and wanted something special.

However my husband and I ran across homeless people near the trash cans of so many of these trendy restaurants . I began to weep when I saw them because this is America….the land of excess…and yet so many are living like this. Carytown flows with cash. Most times I can afford nothing there. It was heartbreaking seeing people of all ages and colors hoping for some wasteful person’s scraps.

This situation is only exasperated by Covid closing so many churches and shelter resources. It is also created by a ” I got mine. You get yours” attitude so many financially secure people have.

We don’t have a lot in our house but we are blessed. My husband and pooled what we had and bought as many sandwiches and fries we could handle. Thank you to the Carytown McDonald’s for asking what we were doing and donating a matching amount of bottled water.

I was shook so much by one married couple out on the corner with what seemed to be all of their possessions huddled against the cold. I freaked when I noticed a baby stroller but was relieved to find it was a very old dog wrapped in a blanket. I’m not a pet lover but I had to feed it. The poor thing was so tired looking he barely lifted his head at the smell of food. The young husband was so grateful he started to cry.

In the age of Covid you can’t touch, get too close or even see smiles anymore. But I was struck by all the emotions in his eyes and they spoke the volume of the problems in the human experience. His eyes were a golden brown color that I have never seen before and pierced right through me as a reminder to be grateful in all things. Even under the dirt and behind a make shift mask his face glowed.

I also noticed that they still wore their wedding bands. Tells me that they have not been out there too long. Most folks would have pawned for a room. Also tells me that they are determined to stay a family.

My husband and I made one last pass thru the street to make sure we hadn’t missed anybody we saw. Thought I had gone crazy because the couple and that old dog were suddenly gone. No way they could have moved that fast. We had just circled the block.

All I can do is wonder if we had been visited and tested. I pray we passed. My own food is still in the fridge. No need for it. My heart filled me.

WHERE ARE YOU?

I would have fainted,  unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalms 27:13

1/7/18.   I will always remember that date like it was a star date in the Star Trek Captain’s Log.

Started off as a normal Sunday set-up. I had just cleaned up the area around the sound booth and was adjusting everything to get ready for that morning’s praise and worship.   Service was a running a few minutes behind, but we were still fresh off our morning’s high of pre-worship hour prayers.

Then it happened. My phone rang. I almost never answer it during service. In fact, two minutes before I had nudged one of our teenagers about having their phone in use during Sunday school.

But I recognized the number. That familiar 264 exchange that every “kidney” family in my region of Virginia recognizes.

Breathless, full of anticipation, and almost terrified, palms and face sweating in two seconds flat, I answered to the coordinators voice…. “WHERE ARE YOU?”

You see, protocol call dictates that when the organ sharing center receives a possible match, you must call the prospective recipient to make sure they are within four hours of their chosen transplant hospital.   Once whereabouts are confirmed, they then say they will call you back and promptly hang up.

Yes, you read that right. In one of the shakiest moments of your life, they hang up with a promise to call you back within an hour…..or so…. If it is a good match.

I was still in the sound booth. My son was sitting on his favored spot approximately 6 rows in front of me. I didn’t know whether to tell him or not that his life was about to change because we had been disappointed by these phone calls twice before.

I simply texted him “be ready to go when I tap you.”  

His answer to me was a simple “Ok”. Never even asked why. Just trusted that if I said go, we go.

For me, on the other hand, this would be the longest 59 minutes of my entire life.   Seems like time and space stood still. Room temp was suddenly too warm for me and the air too stale.   I can’t remember if I set the microphones correctly… pastor could have been screaming and I would not have heard him.   The praise and worship team was faithfully belting out songs that my impatient ears could not discern. All I could distinguish was the rhythm of the beating drum that was now matching my racing heartbeat.

Just about 45 minutes into the process, I had to set a course correct.   Not on the sound board, but in myself.   I had to steady myself on a bumpy ride by apologizing to God, to Jesus, to Holy Spirit.   I had become so consumed with that phone call I forgot to continue in personal worship and attention to the Word being brought forth.   I was esteeming what I wanted from God…more than I was esteeming God.

It was as if in that moment, Holy Spirit was ringing within my heart and asking “WHERE ARE YOU?”

I steadied myself. I readied myself. I began to worship through tears of pending decision, proclaiming that as much as I wanted this gift to release my son from 5 years of agonizing dialysis treatments, that I wanted the Presence of the Lord even more.

As my spiritual belly began to be filled with more and more of knowing that God was with me no matter what, I heard in my spirit, “hang up” and I looked down and the phone I had been clutching in my hand rang.

Tearfully I answer. Joyfully, 58 minutes into the wait, the coordinator responded……”HOW FAST CAN YOU GET HERE?”

And such is the stuff of our walk in Christ!!!!

How often have we positioned ourselves to want and need from God, some things directly tied to a promise that we are sure He made to us, and then only to find ourselves in a position that seemed more than we can bear.   We sadly turn our “knock and the door shall be open” approach to believing into a heartsick lifestyle of being unfulfilled, unsatisfied and yes, even unbelieving unless we see the manifestation of the desire.

Hebrews 11:6 instructs us thathe who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.   Note it says “diligently seek Him”. Not diligently seek it.

In our individual journeys, we must be careful to remember when God calls to ask “Where Are You” that we be found seeking Him and not just the “thing” we are in hopes of.   We need to be diligently obsessed with His Word, trusting His timing and praising His goodness even when it seems if all will fall apart.

And when He “hangs up,” we need to trust that He will indeed call again. While we wait, we need to focus on Him and His goodness.   Hang up on any thought that causes you to doubt and despair. We need to abandon our consumption with the “will He” notions of whether we will be given that perfect mate.   Ignore the siren of ticking biological clock.   Avoid the stress of will the money come in time.   Steel yourself to know more of Him….even when your child’s life is in the balance..

Trust God and His Goodness. . Even when it seems distant….it is in God’s plan. Even if it turns differently that what you expect, it is in His plan. Even if it is a no…because of reasons greater than we understand….better is in His plan.

Let the love of Him guide you. Let knowing that He only wants the best for you to guide you.   Understand that loving Him more than anything you could ask for or desire is key in the knowing that soon He will be looking to call you to higher heights and greater blessings. Some so marvelous that you will forget what you originally wanted.   Reset your control and let God have His way with it.

One last question.   He wants to know and I am a bit curious in my prayers for you too.

Since we are confident that God is always on time, how soon can YOU get here?!

 

 

 

MARY, DID SHE KNOW?

“ But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19

 In the past few weeks, I have heard so many complaints of not having money for “this” or not having funds for “that” when it comes to Christmas.   Some to the point of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” for things they just can’t afford that will only bring them a momentary joy. Many are allowing themselves to drown in debt to prove that they are loved and that they do love.  So much Christmas spirit lost to being “Christmas broke!”

Others still moan that the recent elections and darkness in the world around us just ruined the season for them. Politics, prejudice and pain instead of tidings of comfort and joy.

Listening to all of groaning (and a time or two participating myself), I now think of Mary on her first Christmas. If anyone had a reason to complain, it would be her. Though the Bible does not say so, so don’t shoot me, I imagine that Mary’s First Noel is a bit different than the meek and mild story we relate on Christmas Eve.

On what should have been her honeymoon season, she was married to a good man who, nevertheless, was most likely caring for her out of obedience to God and probably not such much out of love for his betrothed wife or her unborn child.  She had been forced to exit home and leave family behind because an egotistical dictator wanted to count everybody.  She had spent days upon days riding a donkey, which would not have been great on any regular day, but a nightmare at nine months pregnant.   And adding injury to insult, due to a lack of accommodations, would soon find herself in labor next to the very beast of burden she had just used for transportation.

Yet, I don’t remember a gripe story in Luke 2:1-20.

But it does mention in verse 19 “she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

No doubt she was amazed from the time the Angel told her that she was chosen to be the blessed mother. No doubt she was amazed when Elizabeth’s unborn child leaped in excitement at the coming of his cousin.   No doubt she was amazed that Joseph chose to stick by her when he could have had her stoned.  For now she was surrounded by a heavenly host pronouncing “Glory to God in the Highest” and a short time later a royal delegation would come to bestow great gifts.

But surely in her pondering, she must have thought of where they would go the next night.   I wonder what her thoughts were when they ran to Egypt to escape Herod as he slaughtered innocent babies in a search to destroy the one she was cradling.  Time and time again as he would be sought after, persecuted and ultimately crucified, what were her thoughts…… what might have been her complaints?   Did Mary always know and consider the tests and trials of mothering the Savior of the World? How did she feel loving the one child she had that was destined to die.

I would like to think that she always knew that God would provide for her needs and for the ways of escape. I would like to think that she always trusted in God’s plan. Even  in his last breaths Jesus made sure somebody was available to take care of his mother.  (John 19:26-27). But I am sure, even as she sang sweet lullabies  to the Son of God dressed as the Son of Man, she had her days.  She was 100 percent  human entrusted with the care of the 100 percent King of Glory.

Provision on the run could not have been easy.   Watching Him give His all for a dark and devious world, could not have been easy.   Certainly watching Him die for people who would someday complain about Christmas would be no holiday!!!!

So I admonish you (as I do myself) that if the season we call Christmas is “getting to you,” then I can almost guarantee you that your focus and pondering is in the wrong place.     It isn’t in a line at a black Friday sale.   It isn’t at a tree lighting ceremony.   It isn’t at the annual pageant at your church this Sunday.

The true joy of Christmas is not even at the manger.  It comes thirty-three years later at an empty tomb where the ultimate gift is given.  He gave you salvation and peace and even a promise to be there during the lonely points when we miss those who have gone on before us. No gift you can or cannot give could ever top that.    Stop trying and stop stressing.

But gift HIM your best gift.  A surrendered heart that is willing to ponder Him.

See, your Christmas just got merrier!!!!

A Christmas Story

Twas the night before Christmas

And I had just closed my country store.

Turned the locks, shaded the windows

When there was a frantic knock on the door.

The sales were quite over. Merchandise was quite done.

I had had quite enough of Christmas.

Nothing left to sell ya, not a toy. Not a one.

 

I was quite tempted,

To shout “No Room At The Inn”

But remembered my Sunday School Teacher

She’d  say “ Naughty, Naughty Sin”

It was a Papa, a Mama, and a few little ones

How could I pass?

Seeing chubby cheek chilled faces

Pressed against that last pane of glass.

 

The snow and wind came in behind them,

A huge chill filled the air

Yet there was a warm glow all about them

Oh so happy I was there.

“Patch of Ice You Say, Car in a ditch, Everything Tossed”

“Big Boom” the children said excitedly

Mama chimed  “cold and lost”
On the phone  was Papa

“ We can’t wait, no place to stay.”

“Sorry Buddy”  the tow driver retorted

“Don’t you know it’s a Holiday”

Everything then in me

Wanted to hide under my bed and weep.

For surely in house full of strangers

This old shop keeper would get no sleep.

 

So I rekindled  the fire,

Boiled milk  for  a cup of cocoa or two

Exclaimed not much food left in here

But all I have is open to you.

The Kids  Got All Excited,

and  Raced to the Tree

At the prospect of candy canes still hanging

And suddenly free.

Mama was ingenious,

what she did with that spam.

Totally convinced me and the Papa

Of the miracle of canned ham.

 

As I pulled blankets, and soft pallets

And strew them about the floor

I realized though I had made a killing this Christmas,

It was they that truly had more.

They played games,  they told stories

They laughed about with glee.

They had a joy  about them

That had long ago escaped me.

 

My head and heart couldn’t take it

I yelled for them to stop

How could they be so crazy happy

When their holiday was such a flop?

No real food, amiss from  presents,

and sleeping on the floor.

Stuck in ditch and with a grumpy stranger

In an empty Christmas store.

 

When just then ,

a little hand tugged

at the hem of my dress

Said “ Hey Lady ,

in Jesus there are no strangers

and this  aint such a mess.

See we headed to grandpa’s  fancy house

Up on a really big hill

Though we were scared when the car went boom

Daddy said , “let’s find God’s good will.”

We came through the cold and snow

When God led us to your door.

And now you have shared all that you had

So I just know God will bless you more.

 

As I looked into those little eyes

It was very plain to see.

It was not me helping them that was God’s good will

But it was them helping me.

It’s not about the trimmings, not the money

Or any kind of gift

The true celebration of Christmas

Is seeking His will for who you are with.

 

As I settled in a rocker that night

Humming my little messenger to sleep.

I wonder if this was how Mary felt

And I knew why she did weep.

Though His gift was wrapped so quietly

In a manager filled with hay

He was destined to be presented triumphantly

On a Hill far away.

 

So if your Christmas spirit has  escaped you

Look around for who you are with.

Seek the will of Him who sent you.

That’s your greatest gift.

Already bought and paid for

Precious blood, highly priced.

He Reached out for a stranger

And Gifted this day in paradise.

 

Michelle Gillison-Robinson, Christmas 2016