Start the week with words of love

AugustineTwice yesterday I heard someone talk about the importance of sharing words of love or affirmation. That old saying about how sticks and stones can break bones but words can never hurt is nonsense. Words can be excruciating.

Conversely, they can be precious, healing, inspiring, blessed gifts when shared in the right way. So, I thought I’d start the week with some words that I hope bless you.

YOU, whoever you are, have been handmade by God. He designed you and is even now shaping you. Why? Because he loves you. No, he absolutely adores you. You’re the most amazing part of his creation and he knew exactly what he was doing when he gave you that hair, those eyes, and your own special way of laughing.

He did NOT make a mistake when he made that bit of you that you’ve never liked–your nose, your thighs, your toes that make you not want to wear sandals. He knew all about that thing that challenges you–that illness, that habit, that addiction, that tendency you try to control . . . And he STILL thinks you’re absolutely amazing.

And so, since I know God is never wrong, I thought I’d remind you today that you ARE amazing. And you are loved.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Who ARE the Poor?

bouquetSunday’s sermon was about helping the poor. Our scripture was from James 2 which cautions us not to show partiality for those who appear to be better off.

Which set me to thinking about what, exactly, it means to be poor. There’s the obvious answer–people who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing . . . The homeless. The hungry. The family struggling to make ends meet. The senior choosing between food and medicine.

But it occurred to me that there are plenty of other kinds of poverty in this world:

  • People who are poor in friendships/relationships. Basically, the lonely.
  • People who are poor in joy/peace. Those who struggle with depression or maybe they’re just overwhelmed by life at the moment.
  • People who are poor in safety/security. Those who live in places with high crime or who are fearful of how people might treat them.
  • People who are poor in faith/spirituality. Unbelievers of all kinds–folks who believe this life is all there is.
  • People who are poor in health/wellness. Terminally ill people or even those who are chronically ill.

I suspect this list could go on and on. The point is, while I may not be poor financially, I’m poor in other ways. And so is everyone else.

Our pastor talked about how the poor are often people we don’t see or notice. They’re on the margins of society, tucked away, hidden, unrecognized–which can make them hard to help. We have to LOOK for the poor. But I think that extends to the people we DO see on a regular basis as well. Probably they’re poor in one way or another. And either we fail to notice it or they do a good job of hiding it.

What if we all started paying attention? What if I take the time to notice when a co-worker is poor in time and offer to help with a task? Or that a neighbor is poor in visitors and stop by for a chat? Or that a friend is poor in peace and take time to pray with her?

Sometimes we do nothing because it feels like there’s too much need to even make a dent. And yet . . . I know how wonderful it is when someone notices I have a need and meets it. Maybe if we all did just a little, it would add up.

 

Laying Up Treasure

treasuresThis past weekend a good friend and her family hosted a yard sale to empty out her grandparents’ house. Health issues and advancing years have forced the couple into a facility and it’s time to think about selling the little house they’ve lived in for so long.

Thistle and I stopped by for moral support AND to shop for a memento or two. I’ve known this sweet couple since we moved to our current house and she’s the one who first invited me to the church my husband and I now attend. I knew she collected teapots and thought it would be nice to have one.

I came away with a deviled egg plate just like the one my mom used when I was a kid along with a cast iron corn stick pan and a sweet little Brown Betty teapot. Which set me to thinking about what I consider my “treasure.”

I started walking through the house to pick out my favorite things. There’s the salt box and cast iron, elephant-shaped bottle opener from Dad’s childhood. Five or six wee pitchers from my grandmother’s collection. My mother-in-laws 40th anniversary salt and pepper shakers. The embroidered picture Aunt Bess stitched. A Christmas figurine from Mom’s childhood along with the butter mold she used when I was a kid (made by my great uncle).

And then there are the items that belonged to the senior ladies of the church. An amber glass cake plate and hand-painted dessert plates from Billy. A toll painting of a basket of eggs from Ann. And now Betty’s brown Betty teapot and egg plate.

These are my treasures.

But it’s not the THING so much as it is the person each one brings to mind. As I tallied my treasures I realized the value isn’t in the tangible item, but rather in the intangible memories and emotions and . . . love.

Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Betty’s teapot has a chip in it. I might break that egg plate while doing the dishes one day. Every last item could be lost or destroyed but that’s okay because they aren’t really my treasures. And ultimately, it’s not even the people they represent that’s the treasure–love is. And love never fails.

 

Royal Weddings and Real Life

Halloween

The closest I’ve come to being a princess–Halloween 1980-ish.

When I called my dad on Sunday I jokingly asked him if he’d watched the royal wedding. He scoffed and asked why everyone seems to care about it so much.

Indeed. Why DO we care about it so much?

I think as pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps Americans the notion of being born into royalty is wildly exotic. Oh sure, we have well-know families and figures–American royalty–like the Vanderbilts, Kennedys, Oprah, movie stars, athletes, and so on but even then if you look far enough back you’ll find someone who worked his or her tail off to get where they are.

Which means, theoretically, I could work my tail off and launch a similar legacy. Conversely, I can never work or earn my way into royalty. But I COULD marry into it (well, not ME, I already have a prince of a husband). And now an American has done just that. And while she’s minor Hollywood royalty, she’s also mixed race and divorced. Her mother is a social worker, her father a television lighting director. She’s a lot like . . . regular folks.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, proves that even the wildest dreams sometimes come true. Rachel Hauck has written the Royal Wedding series starting with Once Upon a Prince which was recently made into a Hallmark movie. Each book follows a royal mismatch made in heaven. Fairy tales, really, except now . . . well, for Meghan Markle the fairy tale is real.

And isn’t that what we all long for?

I’m betting Meghan will have challenges and struggles she didn’t anticipate and we’ll never know about. Rain falls into everyone’s life, but seeing her standing at the altar with her prince gives all of us watching the kind of real-life happily-ever-after we long to see. The kind we need in a world with school shootings, spiteful politics, death, disease, and tragedy happening every day.

And my very favorite part? The way her hair began to come loose from it’s upsweep. Stray pieces crept down the left side of her forehead and wisps came loose under the veil. You know, just like mine does when I try and put it up.

My name means God’s Princess. And I love that. Because all of His children are royalty in His kingdom. But until I get my own crown (and let’s be honest, mine’s going to be a tiara!) it’s nice to see Meghan wearing hers.

Here’s hoping the Most Reverend Michael Curry’s wedding sermon about the power of love–holy, God-honoring love–not only ushered Meghan into her new role as Duchess but also ushered some of those listening into God’s own royal kingdom.

That’s my dream-come-true.

A Man Called Ove–a Book I Hated Then Loved

OveI’ve had a copy of A Man Called Ove in my to-be-read pile for quite a while. Finally, I got an audio copy and began listening to it on a long drive.

I could NOT stand Ove.

There were one or two flickers of seeing something worthwhile in him, but overall, I simply found him to be a miserable human being. And I wondered why so many people raved about this book.

I was tempted to give up, but I had more driving to do and, well, what the heck.

I finished the story last night and I LOVE Ove.

Which, I think, is the point.

A story about a grumpy old man who turns out to have a heart of gold is NOT a new idea. But Frederik Backman managed to take what could have been a simple story of redemption and elevated it to a deep message of hope and love.

Ove was awful at the beginning and he was still pretty awful at the end. I mean, the poor guy who sold him an iPad would not have gone home and talked about dealing with a curmudgeon who was really a marshmallow inside. Ove was vindictive, unbending, impatient, and deeply set in his ways.

And yet. He was also fiercely loyal, ethical, and willing to stand up for what he believed to be right even if it killed him. Backman retained the essence of Ove even after he was redeemed.

Which is why I found this book so ultimately hopeful. The message wasn’t that Ove needed to change, rather it was that Ove needed to be appreciated. He didn’t change so much as the people around him came to see the beauty inherent in this big, tough Swede.

I like that.

Too often, I suspect we think the people around us (especially the people we disagree with) need to change. But maybe, just maybe, if we were willing to understand what makes people see the world the way they do . . . we could–if not agree–at least understand.

And then, perhaps we could see the value in everyone.

Dreaming Big – Once Upon a Prince

upon a princeWhen Rachel Hauck released Once Upon a Prince, I hesitated to read the story. I was afraid it was going to be just another reinterpretation of Cinderella. And while I LOVE Cinderella, did we really need another, modern version?

Boy, was I wrong!

Oh, there are echoes of Cinderella, but somehow Rachel has managed to craft a surprisingly believable commoner falls for royal story with a wonderful faith theme woven through.

And now, it’s being released as a Hallmark movie.

The thing is, shortly after an author’s book is released, friends and readers start saying things like, “This would make a great movie.”

And your job, as the humble author, is to thank them and say things like, “Oh, well, it’s tough to get a movie deal.” Or, “There are so many great stories out there–who’s going to notice mine?”

But secretly you’re thinking, “Yes! It would make a great movie. When’s that going to happen?”

Well, for Rachel, it’s happening this coming Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on the Hallmark Channel. Which could easily lead to things like comparison and jealousy.

But here’s what I know about Rachel. She’s written 30 or so books. Lots of them have won awards. Some haven’t. She’s incredibly active in the world of Christian and romance writing. She teaches. She mentors. She endorses books by new authors. She sits across the table at lunch and listens with her heart.

And now, for Rachel, her dream of a movie is coming true. I, for one, can hardly wait! Check it out this Saturday at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

Holy Week–The best story EVER

Easter gardenJust picture it.

Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. People act like he’s a rock star–waving palm branches, throwing their cloaks down in the street.

The king is here.

But wait. This isn’t the king they expected. He doesn’t overthrow Roman rule. He doesn’t claim a throne, wear a crown, or live in a palace.

Instead, he makes fools of the religious leaders. He sets the temple straight. He tells stories and gives them the greatest commandment all wrapped up in love.

He is NOT what anyone expected.

And then they arrest him and kill him.

But Holy Week doesn’t end there. Easter morning is yet to come. And it’s the greatest day the world has ever known.

This is my FAVORITE time of year. It’s better than Christmas. Better than my birthday. Better than my wedding day.

This coming Sunday, as the sun tips over the horizon, I’ll remember what God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit conspired to do . . . for me. Every year I recognize that I don’t deserve it. And every year I recognize that, nonetheless, salvation is mine.

I hope and pray salvation is yours as well. Because he didn’t do it JUST for me (although he would have). He did it for YOU as well.