Two Different Worlds

TwoDifferentWorlds_lightbox

Tim and I attend an inordinate amount of weddings –mainly because my hubby is a wedding pastor and teaches a pre-marital class. (And I would suggest because he is brilliant, hot and won’t mess up their pictures)

At one of our recent festivities we were seated at the “reserved” family table and enjoying dinner when one of the groomsmen brought over the family housekeeper and invited her to sit in an empty seat next to him. While the sweet housekeeper appeared flustered and awkward because she wasn’t dressed up, she did agree to join us and jumped up to grab the waiter for a plate.

As soon as the housekeeper walked over to the bar, the groomsmen quietly explained to our table that the housekeeper was sitting inside all alone and he wanted to include her because she was a part of the family. We all nodded and agreed it was a fabulous idea, except for his mother.

“She’s not invited son. She’s the help. I didn’t pay for her to eat with us,” the mother exclaimed in a loud and shrill voice.

I shrunk down in my chair in mortification.

Her son boldly stared his mother down. “It’s too late. I’ve invited her. Deal with it.”

The mother scowled and turned away. But a few minutes later she was back to telling us how involved she was at her church and yada, yada, yada…

And then I vomited in my mouth a little.

Because the damage of her remark lingered and it made me wonder how she viewed me –was I the lowly help too.

As the pastor’s wife, I wasn’t really an invited guest.

I looked down at the ground and chewed on my thoughts.

Do I judge like that? Do I discount people because of occupation or status?

While I hope not, I will fess up to feeling uncomfortable at Knott’s berry Farm the other day. I felt very fair-skinned and un-inked in a land of gang-type attire and attitude. I even saw toddlers with tattoos. I had to work hard to smile big and not retreat in fear.

And while nothing in me made me feel better or set apart, I did feel different and I know in awkward situations it’s easier to push away then lean in and embrace.

But as Christians that’s exactly what we need to do. We must stop trying to LOOK spiritual and BE spirit lead. We need to not only love our servants, we need to be servants. We are commanded to love our neighbor –even when they have unsupervised kids who randomly show up and stay too late, even when they party every Friday and Saturday night until 3:00am right outside your bedroom window, and even when they cuss you out on Social Media for a misunderstanding.

We need to embrace the uncomfortable.

So, although I didn’t confront the woman at the party because we don’t have that type of relationship, I wish I could have grabbed a cup of coffee with her and held her hand and looked her in the eyes and said…

I know this isn’t easy. I won’t pretend you will feel comfortable but let’s risk together.

Why don’t we invite the down-trodden in our life to the party? Let’s make room at our table for the poor and the quirky and the Mexican woman who has loved your kids and vacuumed up the dust-bunnies and scrubbed the stains out of your shirt. Let’s bless and love and love some more, even when it’s hard and even when people will raise their eyebrows.

–Sam

Little Things

rope swing 

I heard the roar before I opened the door –a posse of kids and moms in my front yard. 

A line had formed around the rope swing and our tree was groaning with the weight of toddlers furiously pushing to and fro.  On my steps sat two of my neighbors cuddling infants and relaxing in the sun.

It was Saturday morning, and although I rose early to write and clean and prepare a large breakfast for the family, it was now pushing noon and I still had yet to dress.  I slowly ventured out in my fuzzy pink chenille bathrobe –knowing it was inappropriate for the hour and yet not really caring either.

I chatted with my friends, got razzed by a few male neighbors (who seemed to be concerned our property values might drop by my wanton appearance) and watched our kids frolic. 

A few minutes later, my husband popped out the door with champagne flutes for all the moms and filled our glasses to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little decadent.  Champagne and jammies in the afternoon is vacation-land not my reality.

Suddenly, the kids bolted across the street to jump on my neighbor’s bounce house.   So, I followed (still in my bathrobe) with ten kids in tow and clutching my flute.  And there we sat for an hour (or two) and reveled in the day.

It was magical.

The kids shrieked and bounced and got boo-boos –as all kids do in a jump house, the mom’s all added orange juice to the champagne to make mimosas (more because we all light-weights than for taste purposes), and life seemed to stand still. 

And I didn’t have to think about anything other than being present and celebrating the little things. 

And I thought about the rope-swing –borrowed from our neighbors and now permantly planted in our front yard. 

And it’s a silly “little thing” that helps me to remember the important stuff -my neighbors, relationships and our children who are small for such a brief moment in time.  

The rope swing helps me to recognize the best parties are impromptu, start on the front porch, and the only invitation is a smile, a little champagne and time to share.

That evening my husband and I donned our fanciest attire and stood out on the lawn taking pictures to commemorate the day.  We posed on our front porch with kids and dogs and the rope swing in full motion.

And although I didn’t take a picture with my camera of our little mommy soiree –I have it locked in my mental scrapbook of “best days  ever.”

Do you have a “little thing” that helps you to remember what’s truly important?

So Long Sailor…

“What are we going to quit this Thursday?” I posed to my girlfriends as we lingered over a late lunch after church at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

The speaker on Sunday morning, Bob Goff, ignited the church with his infectious love and zeal for people, and had us all thinking about the lack of margin in our lives. We sat and reflected on what we needed to be let go of so we could more available to engage in loving relationships.

My dear friend leaned back in her chair and said, “I need to stop swearing. It’s not what I want to model for my kids.”

And her words startled me because I realized how not that long ago this was a HUGE issue for me.

But without even realizing it, my desire to verbally scrape the filth off the bathroom floor has disappeared.

How did that happen?

It’s certainly not because I’m more Christ-like, although I give it my best shot every day. I look in the mirror and the same old redeemed sinner stares back at me.

But In a moment of clarity I grasped why I’m now different in this area and how I inadvertently gained victory over my covert potty mouth.

I think it’s because I’ve made a HUGE effort to cut out the life draining activities and toxic relationships which perpetually keep me on the edge of an F-bomb leaking out.

If I’m honest, I was so overwhelmed with life (for a time) with the third baby, church plant, being the pastor’s wife, and juggling three jobs that resentment and bitterness were slowly brewing in my belly into a pity party of vulgarity.

Even if I didn’t say the bad word (good pastor’s wife that I am), I was probably thinking it.

But when I made some major life overhauls, thanks to my cranky heart –contentment and MARGIN started to fill in the cess-pool of obscenities. I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my heart condition, but more often than not, lately it seems like it might be a hidden blessing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some people will always be jackholes and I have no qualms about calling them out, but there has been a massive shift in my verbal paradigm and for that I am eternally grateful.

At least my kids won’t remember me as Sailor Sam.

As for me, the thing I want to quit is being afraid. I have a laundry list of fears swirling around finances, my parent’s health, and my kid’s growing up able-bodied and sound; all of which give me chest pain if I dwell on them too long.

So, in light of the magnanimous Bob Goff (author of Love Does), I want to ask you…

What do you need to quit doing to make room in your life for love?

Pay it Forward

So my heart’s been acting a little cranky lately. It’s not a spiritual issue –more like the forty-year warranty on my body is about to expire and the valves need some fixing. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out at the Happy Heart Center waiting, waiting and waiting for my busy but awesome cardiologist Dr. Gandhi to take more tests.

Kolby accompanies me on these journeys and even though it’s a pain the behind to hang out in a waiting room and atrophy, my two year-old keeps it real. We sing silly songs, read magazines called “Great Circulation” and play on mommy’s iPhone. We have long conversations about doggies, and William (her best friend) and Mickey Mouse.

A few weeks ago we sat near an older couple who watched the two of us and chuckled at my busy toddler. They told me about their grandchildren and we swapped stories about living in Newport Heights (my old neighborhood) and writing and life.

No one mentioned why we were there. It’s never good news at the cardiologist or the oncologist but it just might just be one of the more genuine places to meet people. Everyone there is a bit frayed around the edges. Masks are let down. Sadness and hope and resolve swirl around like air freshener.

I found out they owned a clothing company for little girls called “Girlfriends” and the lovely lady –Anita asked me what size Kolby wore. She also asked for my card to check out my blog and said she might send us a treat.

I wished them the best and off we went to wait some more.

On the day before Mother’s Day, a big box arrived in the mail and I tore into it. I pulled out one beautiful dress after another for my little girl.

And I was blown away at this couple’s generosity. We didn’t talk about God or illness or anything sad that day –because it was the unspoken and obvious, we just laughed and gloried in the life and vibrancy of a small child.

And maybe that was our simple gift to them.

Thank you Anita and Jerry for your random act of kindness and paying it forward! You made my Mother’s day very special ♥

What can you do today to bless a stranger?

Touchdown Jesus

First published on Everyday Christian Nov 18th, 2010

Many years ago, back in the heyday of college, some friends and I traveled to South Bend, Ind., to see the campus of Notre Dame, and hopefully catch a peek of the Fighting Irish‘s football stadium.  After sweet-talking the groundskeeper, he generously allowed us to run through the hallowed tunnel from the movie “Rudy,” and burst out onto the field. 

Squealing and delighted to have accomplished our covert mission, we pretended to throw footballs and run plays until we caught sight of the mural of Jesus, just to the left and behind the scoreboard.There it was… Touchdown Jesus!

A hush fell over our group.  Though I knew little of God at the time, the sacredness of the space caused a chill down my spine.  I felt like Moses standing on Holy ground, in awe of what my spirit perceived, but did not yet know.  Our antics ceased as we soberly exited the venerated field.

I had no idea at the time how much the two realms of football and Jesus would intersect in my own life. Years later, my 12-year-old son is now a gifted athlete playing football for a nationally- ranked team, heading for the West Coast Conference and then, Lord willing, on to Florida to play in the Pop Warner Football National competition.  My husband, a pastor, will be accompanying him. It is a strange fusion, God and football, and yet for us, it has become our new normal.

While football has many critics, and negative attention has more recently dominated the news because of concerns about concussions and their long-term affects; that which is uplifting and noble cannot be overlooked.  And, while few would debate that brute force is a large part of the game, there is much more beyond the obvious testosterone and aggression than meets the eye. 

In many ways, a great football team is a metaphor for the spiritual battle we face in the fight against good and evil.  Not unlike Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, my son and his team-mates pursue football greatness with the same determination as Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.

My son’s team, the RSM Pee Wee Titans, train relentlessly. They are well disciplined and wear the appropriate uniform, or what I like to call “armour” for the battle.  They study film intently, and play by play, make corrections and adjustments.  They diligently research and know their opponents long before the game. 

Their coaches are not only well-versed in strategy, but loving mentors and teachers, leading the boys with both grace and truth. They live, eat, and breathe, the game.  The team is placed higher than the individual, and all sacrifice one for each other.  There is a deep sense of respect among the boys and coaches, as they continually push one another to new levels of performance.

Watching the boys is like viewing an intricate dance.  It is harmony in motion.  The angels sing and the trumpets play.  These are the moments in life, far and few between, when heaven and earth intersect.  When athletes play the way God intended, when a team moves in a cadence and rhythm distinct from the pack, and football in its purest form-is revealed.

Last week, before the League Championship, the boys knelt down and prayed.  They did it on their own cognizance, no adult around, just a group of eleven and twelve year old boys simply praying for courage and honor, and that God would be with them through the blood, sweat and tears.

And so Touchdown Jesus has become a part of our vernacular…God and football, prayers and the O Line, a blend of the sacred and the secular, and a beautiful  picture of little warriors gearing up for a spiritual battle.

Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV) … Therefore put on the full amour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


A Little Help Please…

Help

Image by LiminalMike via Flickr

Last night my car broke down. Not that it’s ever convenient to have car problems, but I was parked behind a high school, deep in an isolated canyon with nothing but tarantulas and mountain lions around for miles.  My son was one of the last kids off the football field after a late practice and as he hopped in, I heard a clicking sound instead of the engine coming to life.  It sounded like a dead battery.

Fortunately, one of the mom’s also exiting saw my waving hand and stopped.  She sent her husband home for the jumper cables and we hung out in the cold night, with growling stomachs, kids running around and the baby howling along with the coyotes for a bottle.  Shockingly, a few last stragglers walked by and observed our little woebegone party-two women, three children and a baby standing around a car with the hood open, obviously in distress, and not one of them stopped or asked if we needed help.

It’s a story told all too often in our society… of people passing by and not heeding the call of those in distress.  Now obviously we weren’t in imminent danger, and we did not ask for help, but the other mom seemed pretty indignant that we were ignored.

I would suggest that their lack of concern is more normal than not, and I am generally more surprised when people do offer assistance.  Heroic acts these days are few and far between, and when they do occur, somebody probably has a video to capture it for YouTube.  Because, when nobody else is looking, when the credits don’t roll, it’s just too easy to turn our eyes away and pretend not to notice. Ignorance is bliss right?

The Darwinist mentality seems to have pervaded our culture so deeply that survival of the fittest means we overlook the ageing, disabled and stranded. What this reveals about our society is a startling lack of compassion and an indication that somewhere along the way we have learned to care more for ourselves than for the greater good.

I know that if I am honest, my own heart is inherently selfish and my gut reaction is rarely to stop what I am doing, surrender my agenda, and dive into the need at hand. More often, I feel a tug in my spirit, choose to heed or ignore the nudge, and then usually, but not always, try to help.

When I look at the ministry of Jesus, I am struck by how the interruptions of need seemed to define his entire ministry. He did more healing, teaching and revelation in the unplanned moments than any organized preaching.  His agenda seemed to incorporate the unplanned and invite the messy in. 

And so, I am challenged to create space in my life for the unexpected, the things I can’t put in my agenda but may define my identity far more than my busy schedule.

The journey of compassion is the road less traveled. It whispers to look beyond ourselves and glimpse that which is sacred. It loves our neighbor simply for loves sake.

That’s the message I want to teach my kids. It’s the banner I want to wear across my own heart. To never be so busy that I can’t stop, engage in humanity, and get my hands a little bit dirty.

But if your car breaks down…my help might consist of a little company and a cell phone. Mechanics are just not my gift!

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