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Serving the Servant

June 20, 2013

During the last meal of a very busy local missions week, I sat with the co-captain of the kitchen crew.

She told me how the week had been, how much the kids ate and how long she was at the church each day. Since she and her husband were the co-captains, she mentioned what a trooper her youngest daughter had been throughout the week. The family would be at the church around 6 am and leave around midnight. I was exhausted just listening about all the work she and the family had accomplished. She joked that going back to work would almost feel like a vacation. And the plan for the day, even though there was normal everyday work to be done at the house, was to take a long nap.

It hit me then what a sacrifice her family had made in order for others to participate in a missions trip. Though they were in their hometown, able to sleep in their own bed, they had sacrificed. I suddenly felt bad. I had helped with one dinner during the week, but what could I have done to help their family? I can do laundry, clean, take a car to get the oil changed. I could have even offered to take the daughter for a day or two. I don’t mow, but I know people who do. There was an opportunity for people not involved in the actual missions week to give of their time and talents to help those serving that week.

The next time there is a mission trip or opportunity, think of ways you can help the families who will be gone on the trip. With a husband gone on a trip, a wife may need someone to mow the lawn or take the kids for a few hours to get a break. A husband may need help with meals or transportation for the kids. An older adult might need a dog sitter. While those on the trip could use encouraging texts, mail or messages, families at home could use the same.

What will you do for someone giving their time to be in missions? What will you ask help with if you are going on a mission trip?


Love Came Down

December 16, 2012

For the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking about something. What if people loved each other? If people loved each other, would they create food including flame retardant? If people loved each other, would we have to worry about GMO foods? If we loved each other, would a business owner have to be forced to provide health care to their employees? If we loved each other, would we put persons into a workplace that is dangerous? If we loved each other, would we shoot each other? Would we?

Love came down at Christmas. Love came down for you, me, children in a first grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary and a young man delivering fatal rounds of gunfire. That’s some kind of Love.

The good news about Love is that it’s always around. It’s around even when you don’t want to acknowledge it.

Love is never absent. Ever.

Thoughts from the cold

October 29, 2012


I dressed warmly for the Vanderbilt game last night. Even so, I was getting cold before halftime. I’m sure the metal bleachers didn’t help. What I’ve discovered is that it’s easy being cold. It’s not comfortable by any means, but I know I have a car that has heat and even seat warmers, a warm home and warm bed waiting for me. Even when walking to my car I know I can stop at Starbucks (not ideal) or Barnes and Noble for a warm drink. The point is, I can withstand some cold knowing that warmth will be in my near future. What a luxury. There were people last night sleeping outside having to figure out where they could find warmth in the morning. Not many places want homeless folks coming into their establishments. 

As I lay in bed, I was thankful for the hot bath that took the chill off my body, the warm bed made warmer by the furnace that is my husband and the burp in the hallway that tells me the heat has turned on. 

We walked to Starbucks, leaving before halftime of the ball game. Sitting down, I could feel tingling in my hands as they warmed. The place was empty except for one student studying in a corner. It soon started filling up. I noticed a man sitting beside the door. Upon inspection, I saw that he was in regular, clean clothes. He was talking, but making no sound and using his hands to emphasize the point he was trying to make to a person who was not there. It can make an onlooker very uncomfortable. As we left, I said goodnight to the man. I wanted him to know he was not invisible and worth being spoken to. I noticed he had a coffee cup from Wendy’s just across the street. I found that interesting. He was sitting in Starbucks with coffee from Wendy’s. 

Words my dad has spoken when talking about less fortunate people came to me. Sometimes people just want to feel “normal” or like everyone else they see. I don’t know that this was the case for the man; what if he couldn’t afford Starbucks, but wanted to experience it in some way by drinking coffee in the Starbucks building? Would that make him feel a bit more “normal”? The people you see wearing new clothes walking in front of their housing unit on 12th avenue, maybe they want to feel “normal”. The guy at the grocery store using food stamps and then buying a carton of cigarettes, does that make him feel “normal”? When all the other aspects of your life are not normal, something like a cigarette can give you the illusion for just a minute that you are just like how you perceive everyone else. 

One of the best presentations that changed the way I looked at some things took place during my work’s United Way campaign. There was a rep who came in and handed us a pack of Smarties and a sheet of paper. On it was a list of things like transportation to work, housing, food, health, entertainment, etc. To the side of each of those were three choices with a circle/ circles the size of a Smartie under each one. 

Ex: Transportation to work: buy a car (two circles underneath), public transportation (one circle) and walking (no circles). 

There are about 15 Smarties in a pack. The exercise was to spend all your Smarties. You could choose one way to spend them on each item (transportation, food, etc). There were about 10 items. Let’s just say I ran out of Smarties very quickly when I picked options that met my living conditions. I had to start making choices. Do I buy a car and do laundry at a laundromat? Do I have a washer and dryer at home and walk to work? Get the picture? I didn’t have enough Smarties to live the way I was living. I finally got it worked out. The rep then asked us to eat two Smarties and do the exercise again. What? That exercise was hard, but the point was clear. These are the types of choices people have to make when working for minimum wage. 

So, why do so many people who work for minimum wage or don’t work at all have new shoes, nice clothes, new cell phones, cable, etc? They don’t think the same way as most of us. Most of us have a future, we see our future. We have goals. We have hope. What kind of hope do you have making $15,000/yr when you have so many expenses? If you come out ahead one month do you think about putting it in a savings account? Can you even get a savings account?

The number one interest for persons who live around the poverty line is entertainment. For those of us with money, it’s savings. There is a difference in thinking. People want to belong and if that means they spend money on a cool phone instead of saving, that’s what they’ll do. We want to be like those around us. If you are living in government housing and go to school with those even a bit more affluent, you want to be like them. We all do things in order to belong. It’s just not as obvious or judged when the person has means. 

I used to be so black and white about things. It was easy, until something that I thought was black and white proved it could be gray. That opened up a whole new world for me. Things weren’t as black and white. I had to start asking myself hard questions and give myself real answers, from the heart. It was hard. I was no longer who I thought I was. I was no longer who others thought I was. There was actually freedom in that.  




I (don’t) Spy

August 15, 2012

ImageThere’s something about driving into a parking lot full of cars and a playground full of kids that makes me want to keep driving. I told the boy we were going to a new playground though so I parked and we had lunch on a picnic table. I secretly hoped the crowd would thin since it was lunchtime, but it didnt.

What I noticed were the mothers in groups of 2 or more surrounding the perimeter of the playground about half the size of a football field. There were 2 sets of playground equipment for different ages, swings on both sides and a few other odd pieces. I’m not the type of mom to let my kid go into the midst of a kid crowd and equipment without me nearby. I was one of about 4 parents within the kid crowd watching our children. The only men there were with their children.

I pointed out a tunnel T (my son) could go through. A girl crawled in behind him. She asked if T would be her friend. She was a couple of years older than T. So, T followed the girl playing on different things with her. At some point, when I was talking to my son privately away from the playground, there were some boys who went to the older equipment and started playing with the girl. They were loud. People think T can scream, these boys could shreik. T wasn’t sure about going on the set, but he wanted to play with the girl. He walked cautiously across the bridge that was at my eye level. The boys were yelling, a few had sticks. T stood with the girl as the boys yelled, but they started getting louder and closer to them. The boys then started jumping and yelling in their faces. T turned calling for me as he scurried back over the bridge to some stairs where I was waiting and gathered him in my arms where he burried his head in my shoulder. I knew he was frightened. He does not like loud noises so the combo was too much. The girl had run across the bridge as well, but stopped when the boys didn’t follow. T was wanting to play with her again, but she was walking towards the boys. T asked if she wanted to play at the other equipment. She said the boys were being mean. I said that we could just go to the other one. She wouldn’t, she said the boys were trying to kill a butterfly. That’s one tough girl to stay in that mean crowd of boys to try and save a butterfly. She even followed them to the other set. T was still in my arms, but wanting to play.

Something similar happened right before we left. T saw the boys coming over the bridge so he quickly went down the nearest slide and into my arms. The boys were being loud and rough. I was watching carefully, but didn’t say anything mostly because I was watching the girl and how she was handling the boys. It was like watching an older girl enjoying the attention, but not sure what to do with it. Anyway, someone must have stuck a stick near someone’s face when I heard the mom of the girl come over and start telling the boys to not touch people with sticks. I felt bad because I had been watching and missed it, but also because I’m new to this stage in my son’s life. When and what do I say to another person’s child? What if I find their behavior unacceptable and the parent does not?

Did you see something missing from most of these stories? Moms, why in the world would you not be watching your children on that big of a playground with that many children and people walking by? Maybe I’ve heard too much about Safe Sanctuaries or maybe I’m paranoid from all the news stories I hear about children being kidnapped or sexually abused. As tired as I am and as tempting as it might be just to take a seat while T plays, I can’t and won’t do it. Maybe I’m just not in the playgroup clique. Maybe we were the new ones there and everyone else knew each other. Or maybe there is a false sense of security because of our location.

I may not go back there. It’s enough to watch my own child, but I feel some sort of responsibility for the others if only to make sure my son is safe. Plus, I’m not the most tactful person so interrupting a group of mothers for a nice chat with the mother of an unruly child probably wouldn’t go well.

Am I wrong or being overprotective?

Sex as an Olympic sport

August 9, 2012

Who knew there was an official condom of the Olympic games?

I didn’t until I read this article this morning. Over 150,000 condoms were sent to the Olympic Village where the athletes stay during competition.  (That’s 50,000 more than the Beijing Olympics.)

As the Daily Beast wrote, “Averaged among 10,490 athletes, that’s enough condoms for every athlete to have sex 15 times over the Olympics’ three weeks.” 

I don’t know what you learned in health class, but I remember my teacher saying that when you have sex with someone you have sex with however many people that person has had sex with. I’ve always thought that was pretty gross to think about, but I also am a person that thinks sharing a toothbrush with my husband is gross. Back to the topic. Regarding the Daily Beast statistics, I doubt athletes have chosen one person with whom to have sex five times a week for three weeks. This doesn’t take anything into account of their lifestyle at home. Ewwww. (Note: As exotic as it may sound, I would avoid having sex with any Olympian.)

Years ago, we would have called these people “players” or “whores”. The terms were not used as a badge of honor. Between the years of high school and now (wow, 16 yrs) something has changed.

The V word

Think about some current athletes. Have you heard of Tim Tebow? LoLo Jones? The media has not been nice about their Christian beliefs regarding lack of antics in the bedroom. The word “virgin” has been spewed from the mouths and pens of journalists when talking about these well-known athletes. Why? Why does this subject overshadow their professional work? Is it so hard to believe that people would choose to refrain from pre-marital sex? I’m sure both athletes have had plenty of opportunities, but they have had the discipline and a clear vision of the bigger picture to refrain.

These people are different in a world that boasts sexual conquests or makes pre-marital sex look like the norm. Personally, I like people who don’t follow the crowd, especially those who do it because of their beliefs.

Tax-Free in Tennessee

August 2, 2012


I know what a lot of people will be doing Aug. 3-5. Shopping! It’s tax-free time in Tennessee. It applies to school supplies, kids’ clothing and even diapers.

Here are a few ways to make this weekend more fun and meaningful:

1) Buy more than your child needs. There are children who will be going to school whose families can not afford the basics. Yes, it’s true. Offer the extras to your child’s teacher, principal or keep them and ask or listen to your child to see if there is someone in the class they could give the extras. If a kid keeps asking yours for paper, don’t get mad. Send your kid with extra paper.

2) Buy diapers. It’ll be a good time to reminisce at the growth of your child while helping out other children and guardians. There are agencies near you who would love to have packs of diapers. My first suggestion would be to give them to Miriam’s Promise in East Nashville, but I am a bit biased.

3) Don’t have children? Don’t worry. I’ve got a plan for you, too. You can do what’s above, but my suggestion is to take the whole day and make it fun. You’re going to make School Kits for *UMCOR! Here’s the list (take notice of the bags required and packing and shipping).

Grab some friends to go shopping. I don’t know about you, but talking about school gets me excited. As you’re grabbing scissors, you can tell the story about trimming the ponytail of the girl who sat in front of you in first grade. Oh, you didn’t do that? What about the story where your favorite Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox leaked pickle juice all over your cubby. Didn’t do that either? Well, you get the picture. Have fun shopping and remembering the fun you had in school.

If you do this in the morning, go to lunch afterwards. Chuck-E-Cheese anyone? Hmmm, that may be a bit weird.

Designate a house or maybe a church where you can go through the supplies. (Wash your hands first, especially if you had that Chuck-E-Cheese pizza.) Sort your items and start an assembly line to fill the bags and get those boxes ready to ship.

If you’re a bit competitive, challenge another group of friends to do the same. See how many kits you can make. They really make a difference.

This weekend can be stressful, but don’t let it. Have fun and think of how you’re helping people and use it as bonding time.

*I love United Methodist Committee on Relief. We (and I say we because I am United Methodist and I tithe which means part of that money funds UMCOR) are some of the first people in disaster areas and we’re usually the last to leave. Yes, there are still UMCOR people in New Orleans. There are UMCOR offices around the world. One great and terrible example is Haiti. During the earthquake, there was actually an UMCOR meeting and unfortunately our UMCOR director and a pastor died at Hotel Montana. UMCOR is a great organization to give to regardless of your religious beliefs. All money given goes to the disasters and not to cover overhead or personnel. I’ll stop now. 

Apologies to KStew

July 26, 2012

By my count, there are at least five issues related to the Kristen Stewart cheating story.

Issue 1: Two persons in separate intimate relationships begin an intimate relationship of their own. There are reasons why people choose to cheat on a partner. I’d say most are not to hurt their partner. Some have practiced poor choices for so long that it seems wrong is all they can choose. Transference is another reason and I’d dare say that is the majority reason. Here is an example of transference: Bob’s wife never complements him on his attire as he leaves for work. She always seems to be asking Bob to do something and never thanks him. Bob gets to work and is complemented often on his attire by co-worker Jane. When Bob helps Jane on a project or something trivial she always thanks him. Bob starts to compare Jane with his wife. His wife never thanks him, but Jane does. His wife hates the way he dresses, but Jane always complements him. If Jane is having similar thoughts about her husband, she starts comparing him to Bob. I hope you can see the way this can progress until you have a full-blown affair happening. Beware of transference!

I’m not saying this is what happened in Kristen Stewart’s case (everyone knows Rob Pattinson is perfect), but I’d say there was something going on in both relationships that wasn’t being resolved and led to some transference. (You know I’m just kidding about Rob.)

Issue 2: Someone digitally captured them canoodling.

Issue 3: The canoodling capture-er shared the photo and probably made a lot of money. This person knew the pictures would create news. This person also knew the potential it had to create a lot of drama, not just in the news, but in those persons’ lives. This was all disregarded for a job.

Issue 4: The photog has a job because the general population loves gossip and drama. Some probably have dreams that Robert Pattinson will leave Kristen and somehow fall into their arms.

Issue 5: Someone chooses to run the photos and story online or in a magazine. They could choose not to, but again, the general population loves this stuff.

I have to admit, I’m interested in entertainment news. I don’t seek it out, but if I’m checking Yahoo News! and see it I’ll click to read the article. I don’t make excuses that it’s ok because celebrities have put themselves in the position to be photographed and scrutinized. I don’t make the excuse that it’s ok to judge them because they put themselves out there. I know there’s something just not right about it, but I still do it.

I guess the point of this is to get you and me thinking about the everyday activities that happen and our choices surrounding them. I have the choice to spread a rumor I’ve heard or keep it to myself. I have the choice whether to take a picture of a celebrity grocery shopping and tweeting it to the world. I have the choice whether I engage in gossip. (That’s a hard one for me because I like to talk and be part of conversations.) If you catch me in any of these acts or other detrimental behaviors (to myself or others), gently bring it to my attention.

To Kristen and Mr. Director, I’m sorry that a snowball of poor choices has created so many problems. I’m sorry that we live in a world where your troubles and life events are our entertainment. Unfortunately, doing your best to keep a relationship extremely private in your world has created more of an intense hunting feeling to get whatever private info that can be found. All the best in working this out with those you love.