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?!

 

 

 

You Are Normal!

 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;

–          Hebrews 4:15 KJV

We often joke in my household that I would never make a good politician because I tell everything about and on myself so there would never be any dirt to dig up…unless you looked under the carpet.  I believe the wearing of my heart on my sleeve comes from having a testimony of a loving God that has been too good to me to keep it to myself.  I pretty much live an open book. Or so I thought.

My ministry is the often sharing of being joyful in troubled times, trusting God no matter what and believing how He would restore all.  Nice, tidy, wonderful sounding inspiration…missing one major detail.   Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was fear.  Maybe I could not stand to have to utter words aloud that would cause me to think and deal with it or myself.

But recently I was faced with three persons that “outed” me.   One was struggling to hold on in faith when modern medicine said “no way.”  Another because of past mistakes was wondering how God could ever love her.   Finally, the third who had lost the roof over her head due to medical and legal difficulties.  Each supposing lack in their faith because they were scared, they were hurt, and they were ashamed of the way they felt.

Normally, I would have an easy answer for their queries of “I don’t understand how you do it?” But God challenged me to pull the last bit from under the rug.   It didn’t sound like such a testimony to me, but from each of the “three” I received either a “why didn’t you tell me” or “gee, you hid that well.”  Finally I was convicted by “I really needed to hear that….I am normal”.

My secret you ask?   It was simply the answer “ME TOO”.

Most of you already know that it has been close to 5 years now since my son simultaneously went deaf and into final stage renal failure.  I have not been slack to share most of the experience… highs and lows.  What I failed to share… and even now I hesitate to say it…..the day I got mad with God.

You see, after years of countless surgeries, repeated illness and thrice weekly dialysis treatments, a suitable donor match had been found.  We immediately went into preparation mode to get the house ready for infection control, not spending a spare dime since I would be out of work for weeks, and tip toeing around family and friends because we wanted to keep the surprise quiet until after the procedure. We cancelled all travel, all vacations and even my participation in what could have been a career changing convention concert.

And then “it” happened!  I was in devotions one morning and I clearly heard God say to me “Forget the Back-up Plan…”   I didn’t have a clue what that meant at the time, but I knew it meant to trust Him.   In my mind’s eyes I immediately applied that thought to my finances, my job and so on and so on.  Everything except what would come next.

Just a few days before we were supposed to check into the hospital, I get a cold emotionless call from a third party nurse.   She gave no explanation. She would not answer any of my questions.   She offered no empathy or sympathy. She simply said a very technical version of “No Go. “

I don’t remember any reports of earthquakes that day.  But I felt it.   I didn’t know how I was going to tell my son, who was so excited about finally being free from the pain and isolation of dialysis.   I was furious. Was God playing with me like a cat with a string?   Imagine if you will, me going off by myself because I didn’t want any people to know though I knew in my spiritual mind God had a plan…..my heart and my head was all jacked up.  I wanted to know what I had done wrong.  I wanted to know what I needed to do better

As if God had not seen me, I reminded Him of all the nights I stood by my son’s bedroom door praying and listening for his breath making sure it was still there.   I reminded Him, how we believed through all the extreme body pain when the high dose narcotics wouldn’t do.   I reminded Him, how we stayed faithful even when were too tired to function.   I even bargain that even if my prayers were no good, then surely somebody amongst all the folks that prayed for our family there had to be one….even just one… whose faith was greater.

My screams were met with simply “Forget the Back-up Plan.”

It became clear that God was telling me to trust Him even when I could not trace Him. We found out later than the donor had a sudden condition that disqualified him.  If we had received that kidney, it would have failed us quickly.    We would have been in a bigger mess than what we started with.  Just like His Word says in Jeremiah 29, He has a plan that has a good and certain end.  For our Good and not to harm us.

As I told my three friends, it didn’t happen overnight.  Months have passed now and I still jump a little when the phone rings at night.   I will be honest and let you know that this piece took days to write because tears started to flow amidst a whole lot of “God I am sorry. “

I reveal all these things to simply let you know that whatever you are going through, You ARE normal.  Being faithful and believing is not always easy, but so very worth it.    Yes, Philippians 4:4 tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord Always, “  and then goes on to say “Again I say rejoice. “  I surmise that if we have to be told and then reminded to rejoice then apparently it “aint” always easy.

Believe it or not, He knows you hurt.  He is not a God so far out that He is not touched with our personal pains (Hebrews 4:15).  He is okay with you being honest about it.  He will not strike you down for asking questions.

Just remember that it is faith that moves mountains… not tears.   Cry but keep pushing!!!!

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

Does It Still Hurt?

   Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”                      John 20-27 NIV

 Our topic for the day was “God is Not Picking On You…..Trials Vs. Temptations.” It started as a lesson on discerning the difference between trials and temptations and how to rejoice in the trials that God gives you.   However, very quickly, it turned into a discussion of past hurts, disappointments, and especially abuses in childhood.

As I watched several people compare stories and physical scars, instinctively I glanced at a recent one on my arm.  A footprint shaped burn I received thinking I could cook a meal for my family the day after my youngest grandchild took his flight for heaven.

Forgetting I was the one teaching the class,   my eyes began to well up on me, but the Holy Spirit nudged me to look again and then asked, “Does it Still Hurt?”

I was like “Of course Lord, it still hurts”.

“No, Chelle. You really mean that 6 month old scar still hurts?”

“No, Lord, of course the scar doesn’t hurt.”

“Okay then, give me all of it.”

Uggh, I felt it in my spirit and I asked the class and I asked you, the same question the Holy Spirit asked me.    “Does it still hurt?”

In John Chapter 20:25, Thomas makes a bold statement, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.  This was even after Jesus had appeared to several of his fellow disciples during the 8 days since the crucifixion proclaiming that everything Jesus has said would happen had come.

Jesus had forewarned that He would take the sins and sickness of His people to the cross.  That He would take on the pains of abuse, disappointment and despair.  That He would whip these things to naught and deliver them and death to the gates hell, while snatching the keys from satan so that nothing the devil had could really win over us.  And as evidence of His work, he broke the grave wide open and showed that freedom from all manner of trial and temptation could walk the earth.

However, how many of us now need to take on the title of “doubting” that history has given Brother Thomas? How many of us have received the written, heard, and Rhema Word of God and been flooded with the freeing testimonies of how others have seen the Lord move in their lives, yet still keep looking down at our scars declaring  disbelief until we receive a full manifestation with our own eyes.

Jesus is still reaching out to you saying, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”…

He wants you to know, that though yes there is a scar on your body and your heart that evokes a memory that will move you…….and yes, He understands because He was touched with every trial and temptation you face….., it is paramount that you understand that He bears scars on His hands, feet, and side that are witness that He took it all for you.   He doesn’t want you to carry the burden any longer. He does not want you to smell like smoke though you have been singed by  the fires of life.

When Jesus, invited Thomas to “Thrust his fingers into His side”, Jesus was still bearing the evidence of His wounds (aka your wounds), yet they could not have possibly hurt to the touch if he would allow Thomas to do so.

In essence, Jesus was reaffirming that it was possible to be bruised, beaten, broken and horribly scarred, yet be so healed in the promises of God that the discolorations and disfiguration become “smoothed out proof” that God’s Living Word is still living.

Jesus wants you to receive that gift from Him.   He took it.  He bears the scars.  He gives you the freedom from what life delivered.   Though you bear evidence of it, He does too.   And since His wounds healed, so did yours.  That moment when we trust in Him enough to give the pain to Him, even when we can still see and feel the scar, He will take that anomaly on your heart and make it a tattoo of your testimony instead.  He will make you a walking, talking, scar bearing evidence that He is very much alive!!!!

No Seed Alone

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the seed of wheat having fallen to the earth dies, it remains alone.
But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  –   John 12:24 (DLNT)

It is an awesome blessing that, in very recent weeks, my earthly father, most certainly under the direction of my Heavenly Father, had taken great care into making sure that I would be united with my slightly younger sister, Tammy. The two of them had only reconnected a few months prior and though I had heard her name in conversation before, she never really knew I existed.

As I would soon find, timing is everything. On January 5, ironically on my birthday, Tammy’s mother died. My dad was devastated at the thought of his baby girl being alone and though we could not make the services, we had made plans to make a 6 or so hour drive to see Tammy. Daddy felt she needed him and that she would need me.

I didn’t fully understand his urgency, until just 30 days later, on February 5, both Tammy and I would lose Daddy.

As I went through Daddy’s papers in preparation to celebrate his entrance into Heaven, I begin to find “bread crumbs on a trail” leading me where he wanted me to go. I found Tammy’s birth card from the hospital where she was born.  I found her younger brother’s newborn pics. Over and over, I found evidence of the six children he loved, lost in circumstance and had hoped to renew full fellowship with.

Tammy and I have not met yet, nor have I had the opportunity to meet two of my other siblings… yet. The memorial service is in a few days and I pray they will all be able to make the winter travel. But she and I have had a ball getting to know each other via text, phone and social media. We realized that we are actually pretty alike including our bad habit of not being able to sleep past 4 a.m. and that we are both warrior sisters who like to get stuff done and done right. LOL.

During one of our conversations, John 12:24 came to my mind… “Unless a seed falls to the ground…. It remains alone”. God knows we miss our parents. My mom died on a February day as well… on a day ironically important to Tammy’s mom too. But it seems clear to me that they had somehow planted seeds that are multiplying in us.

Seeds of wiping each others tears. Seeds of laughter. Seeds of hope. Seeds of forgiveness. Seeds of renewal. Seeds of never really being alone again.

Tammy says that she had always wanted a  sister. She just inherited more than a few. My sister Melody says that the  girls involved should never call ourselves half-sisters because we are all too chubby to be halfs of anything. Lisa can’t wait to embrace all of us.. thinking she was the oldest… but tickled to find out she was not.

I began to count out all the children from all the parents involved and realized that Tammy has a lot more sisters and brothers that she will be able to handle. All ages, sizes, colors and shapes ….not letting blood separate us …. But embracing each other as what my youngest sister, Cheryl, calls “grown orphans.” LOL.

Even though there are only 5 months between Tammy and myself, I am pleased that she thinks of me as a big sister. It remains to be seen if she will relish her role as a soon to be spoiled Baby Sis. I think we were both feeling loved when I got the chance to nag her this morning about making sure she lets me know that she got to work okay … snowy weather both here in Virginia and in New Jersey where she is. She agreed to comply with the request of this “mother hen.”

The seed has definitely been planted, Daddy.

Hell? In Heaven?

It may not have been one of life’s more teachable or even preachable moments. But it was most certainly a hint at God’s sense of humor.

This past Friday night was one of those rare moments when all bills and obligations were paid and we had a little un-earmarked pocket change.  Having worked so hard, we decided to treat ourselves to a night out at a local seafood restaurant we were hoping to try because the food was supposed to be good and they had jazz on Friday nights.

As our luck would have it, the restaurant  was not quite what we expected (though their spoon bread was to die for) and the jazz band had been replaced by a Beatles cover band.   Determined to make the best of it, we stayed on… singing along, endless choruses from a time gone by.

In the midst of one of the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs”, I noticed  a waitress bringing a single slice of birthday cake with a lone candle to an elder gentlemen in the corner.  He seemed to have a far away look in his eyes…. enveloped in a weathered face… that spoke volumes of hard work and loneliness.

When I could grab the waitress’ attention, I asked if the birthday boy was truly there alone.  She shared that he had no family or friends in the area and was a regular at that particular booth for single dinners… almost every night.  Moved by compassion and a push from above, I asked for his check.

A short while, and a “Yellow Submarine” later, a smiling face appears to thank me.   I tell him that I am a sucker for birthdays and since mine was a just a few weeks earlier, that this was my way of continuing my celebration.   After a hearty laugh, he asks me if I were a Christian.    I assured him that I was and he proceeded to thank me for letting God use me to bless him.   His exit benediction was “If I don’t see  you again in the this life, I will see you in Heaven’.

I promised to pray for him and proceeded to exchange names when he replies “Hell, John, Hell”.   I guess the look on my face made him explain… “ No really, my name is….John Hell”.    It is an old german name and not as rare in Missouri where he was from as it was in Virginia that night.

Yes… I couldn’t help myself. I had to see his driver’s license.  There it was.. plain as day… John H. Hell.

We shared a good belly laugh as I realized that I had just blessed hell and he exclaims “there is going to be a little Hell with you in Heaven”.