"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lunch En-Counter

So, I went to lunch at a cute little place called the Almond Tree Cafe (& Ice Cream Parlor -- but I didn't have any of that). What I did order was their Supa' Marina Wrap which consisted of rice and black beans with cheese, onion, tomato, lettuce, and cucumbers, sour cream, guacamole and Goddess dressing. On the side were tortilla chips with this wonderful black bean hummus. (Side note: I'm normally not a fan of hummus, though it would make me sound "healthy" to say so -- but this really was delicious.) So why go into all the detail to tell you what I had? Because my original intention was to walk down to the Cow Cafe and have a hotdog with all the trimmings. But after my last entry of choosing junk food over satisfying, I just couldn't let myself do it. Besides, I can get a hotdog about anywhere.

But here's the real reason for the blog on the heals of the previous one. When I walked in, there was a woman sitting at the counter of the cafe. At the time, she was the only "customer" in the place, and I perceived right away that this was not a normal situation. When I walked past her, I tried to make eye contact with her and to smile and speak but she quickly and sharply turned her head and looked away from me. Again I tried, and again she did the same thing. Each time I looked her way, she immediately looked at the wall. There were some obvious issues. I asked the waitress if the woman needed something to eat; and if so, I would gladly provide it for her. At the present, that wasn't the case, and so I waited and prayed that if an opportunity for ministry presented itself, I would be ready with the correct word or touch.

As it happened, the woman got up and left the cafe, never giving me eye contact, and traveled aimlessly down the center of the road. Her story is a tragic one. Come to find out, she was superintendant of the local high school here, and back in the mid-90's, was gang raped. How one can even survive such, I don't know. Needless to say, she has never been the same since. The waitress says the woman has good days and bad days, but lately, it has been mostly bad. As I window shopped after lunch, I tried to keep a sense of awareness for her. If I could just have one more chance, one more opportunity to try and look her in the eye and convey that which has become so foreign to her: Life.

Jesus is recorded in John as saying, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." If this woman knows anything, she knows the reality of the first part of that verse. The evil one has indeed stolen any sense of security she may have had; he has robbed her of any ability to know intimacy; and he has killed the pure life in her.

Would you please pray for Lois, that she would come to know the reality of the second portion of John 10:10? After all, Easter's coming.

Lord Jesus, have mercy.


I'm sitting here today in NC overlooking the Trent river and a host of boats locked into the marina. And I'm hungry. Since I have no transportion, two choices prevail. One, I can either open up the Rubbermaid container of "goodies" I brought with me (which consists of a couple of slices of pound cake, 2 blueberry/banana nut muffins, fresh roasted cashews, a couple of nature valley bars, and best of all, some roasted almond "silky smooth" milk chocolate), OR, I can don some walking shoes and take off for downtown where there are numerous eating establishments that would offer a full meal. The first requires no activity -- and little nourishment. The second offers satisfaction -- with a bit of time and effort.

Sounds a little like my spiritual life at times. When I'm hungry, I can go for the junk food and "snack" on things that offer little reward and even less satisfaction. Self-effort for one. Church work. Dead traditionalism. Legalism. I've certainly gotten fat on all of these and more. Or I can make my meal off of that which really nourishes -- a relationship with Jesus; time spent with Him. Just like I feed my body daily for physical growth, so my spiritual "body" needs food, too. 2 Cor. 4:16 says that our inner man is renewed day by day, but therein lies the stipulation. I must come to Him -- daily -- for that nourishment. It is then that He feeds me with His very presence, and in essence, restores my soul and fills a longing -- a hunger, if you will. Truth is it takes effort. It doesn't just happen by opening up a box of goodies. Sometimes I have to put on my walking shoes. But after all, that's what I'm truly hungry for.

Now where did I pack those Keds...

Just an ordinary moment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Attire is Everything

I attended a women’s event recently where I found it difficult to get past the speaker’s clothing. Constantly, my attention was drawn to her style of dress, and whereas I know what she was saying was worthy to be heard, I just could never quite “enter in” because I was so distracted by her attire. And so as I prepared for the ladies’ retreat at which I was to speak this past weekend, my motto became, “Attire is everything.” It was evident to me that what I wore during each session could have a tremendous impact on what was heard or received.

So I planned accordingly and chose carefully. Even to the last moments before leaving my villa for the conference room, I was modeling outfits for my sweet daughter-in-love and my dear friend Jessica. Both of them agreed that the brown tank with jeans and the cropped jacket and my new brown casual pumps would do just fine, and out the door we went. After all, attire was everything.

To somewhat help squelch my butterflies, I began by telling the ladies the story of “attire is everything,” and how I had packed 5 outfits, 5 pairs of shoes and 2 sets of pajamas for one overnight stay just so they wouldn’t be distracted. We all had a good laugh. It was then that the leadership team presented me with a beautifully wrapped box. Inside was this:

Yes, that is a tire necklace complete with matching tire earrings! “A tire” is everything! To show them I would not be outdone, I donned the necklace and wore it for the entire teaching and evening! (I did remove the earrings for fear I'd knock myself out with them if I made any sudden moves.)

The next morning, I was just as careful with my outfit. I chose a white button up blouse with denim jeans again and a long “hodge-podge” necklace that goes with just about anything. I thought, yes, this is simple but classic and certainly nothing to distract. When I walked into the room, I saw several ladies who had come for the morning session who could not make it the evening before. As I hugged one their necks, she said, “Nancy, I love that necklace. You had it on at Bible study last week, and I could hardly pay attention because I was so distracted by it.” Oh, well.

God’s Word has something to say about attire being everything, too. Colossians 3:12 and 14 reads, Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. … And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

You see, if we are to share Christ with anyone, whether it be in a homeless shelter, around a kitchen table, or at a women’s retreat in a beautiful lake setting, Paul tells us in Romans 13:14 that we need to be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone’s really going to listen. Yes, maybe attire is everything after all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Step by Step

A number of years ago I got a call from my mother telling me that Perry was getting a Kroger. She was so excited and told me she couldn’t wait for us to come home so she could take us to Krogers. (Yes, she would put an “s” on the end of it. But that’s better than replacing the “t” in Wal-Mart with a “k” making it Wal-Mark” – which she does not do.) So sure enough, we came home and made the anticipated trip to “Krogers.” And it was nice, but they did have grocery stores where I lived, and I frequented them often, so I can’t say I was tremendously impressed by the venture.

However, last October, we got a Publix! Can you just imagine the excitement in my voice when I called my children and told them they surely had to come home so I could take them to our new grocery store? I mean, after all, it’s a Publix! (And here's proof that I really did take them!)

BUT, this is not your ordinary grocery story. I mean, they let you sample food – and lots of it! The first two weeks it was open, I never even had to cook! We would just go around dinner time and eat our way through. Actually, I would eat my way through as my husband doesn’t get into progressive dinners, and so I would just buy something and bring it home to him (and only because they refused to give me a take out). One afternoon I met my daddy there, and we must have eaten a pound of shrimp a piece. And that was mingled with turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole and a number of desserts. (Oh, and did I mention that the building is made of metal, so there’s no phone service? Mom didn’t have a clue where Dad was, and so he ate without the fear of her calling and spoiling our fun.)

But there’s really something else that’s neat about Publix. The lighting in their coolers. The first time I noticed it, I thought something was wrong. And then I considered, “No, this is occurring on purpose.” And then I actually began testing it. And sure enough, it was happening. The lights in the frozen section are on sensors, and if no one is in that aisle, the lights are off. But once you start down it, the first case will come on. And as you move further, the second case, until the entire aisle is lit up like a runway! But sometimes (okay, often times), I only want to go as far as the ice cream – and so the rest of the aisle stays unlit. How cool is that? And I just want to know: has anybody else but me noticed it?

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” This ancient imagery actually comes from the very small “lanterns” that were tied to the top of the sandals of the traveler. It gave off just enough light for him to see where to put his next step when it was night; where to place his foot when it was dark outside.

You know, so often we want to see the whole scope of things. We want the entire road map laid out before us so we’ll know what to expect. We want to know the turns and the twists. But God says, “Step by step I’ll lead you.” Or in Publix-ese, “Case by case.” And who knows, He just might be leading us to the ice cream! Wherever it is, one thing we can know for sure: it’s bound to be good because He is good.

Just an ordinary moment…