Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When the dots connect

I awake and the first thing that comes to mind is what seems to be a locked up, closed door, seemingly no way through problem. I knew if I didn’t refocus, I was about to have a very bad start to my day.

I had no idea what God was about to orchestrate.

Dot number one.

I brew coffee, and sit down to have my morning devotions.  I read this one for the day written by a woman who found while out walking in a garden that she “came up against a closed gate.” A seeming dead end. But then noticed a “very narrow path beside the gate.” A way through.
I swallow that sip of coffee hard. Hmm. God might be saying something to me about my own closed door.


Dot number two.

My daily Bible reading includes these words from Isaiah 22:23, ". . . what He opens, no one can shut . . .”

A door in my mind swings open. Could be a theme here. I put my coffee cup down and pick up Streams in the Desert.

Dot number three.

“We saw no path upon the sea nor sign upon the shore. And yet day by day we were marking our path upon the chart as exactly as if there had followed us a great chalk line upon the sea.” They were “sailing by the heavenly not the earthly lights.”

I sat for a long time thinking about how God was connecting these dots for me. How he was saying that though there seemed to be no way through, He was making a way. Even though it might be narrow, it will be wide enough for passage. And that once he opens a way, no one can close it. And He showed me again that my attention should not be on navigating the path by earthly sight but through my relationship with him.

I felt a child with a crayon in my hand making a picture by going from number to number, 1, 2, 3 . . ..

And the picture I make by connecting God’s dots is an indescribable one of encouragement, hope, and the belief that God is indeed providing a route of passage through this difficulty.

And if you, too, feel, you are up against a blocked way, look again, but not with physical sight.
Look with faith.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What you might not know about those backyard hummers and what they can teach you

I stalked the hummingbirds for days trying to get a picture.

Me with my point and click trying to get one good photo of those lightning fast wings before they head off for points south.



I wondered, where do they go in the winter?

Far away, I found out―southern Mexico and Panama.

When they get ready to migrate back in the spring they’ll stop off at the northern Yucatan coast to gas up on insects and spiders. They’ll need that extra layer of fat when they leave in the early dawn to begin a nearly 500 mile nonstop flight, which takes around twenty hours to complete. According to this source, they may weigh six grams when they start and only 2.5 when they land on the Gulf Coast.

Those teeny tiny little creatures that zip around my feeder are right now getting ready to launch on a big excursion. Interestingly, in the fall, more cruise the Gulf Coast back to their winter grounds than in the spring, but some still make the big trip.

And if they live an estimated nine years, they may make a dozen and a half of these trips. Alone. Hummers don’t fly in groups although they may join other flocks of migrating birds.

I sat for a long time wondering how God doesn’t worry over these little fellas doing such seemingly impossible things. I have to confess if I were a mama hummingbird, I’d be fretting my head off over an offspring facing such a challenge. “Did you eat enough spiders?” I’d ask. “Let me feel your middle to see if it’s fat enough.” “See if you can find an oil rig to land on for awhile. You know you need your rest.” Better yet. “Forget flying the Gulf, just cruise the coast up to North America. Lots of places to stop off for a fly snack.”

But God doesn’t fret. That’s because he knows how he created them. He knows they can do it.

When we face the impossible, He doesn’t worry. He knows how he made us, too, and that we are by his power totally equipped to face the seeming five hundred mile treks before us.

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:13 The Message).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Department store dining and what it has to do with anything

While reducing the clutter in my house recently, I came on a magazine article about department store dining rooms. Inevitably, it sent me on my own rambling retail culinary gallop.

My first stop was at Belk department store in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. For many years as a buyer and merchandise manager with Belk stores, I spent a lot of time in Charlotte. A lot meaning out of the ten years I worked for them, cumulatively, two of those years were in a Charlotte hotel room. At the time, our buying services were downtown right next to the then flagship Belk store.

So, inevitably, we’d wind up eating at the Belk cafeteria sometime over the course of that week. It was geared to accommodate the large crowds, which arrived for market weeks. Standard cafeteria fare, we’d eat meatloaf and mashed potatoes and discuss things like which planned purchase distributions we’d accept and which ones we’d decline and what percentage increases we expected in our women’s sportswear departments. During my tenure with Belk stores, the cafeteria eventually went the way of the dinosaur when the Belks opened up their new buying services center out on the Billy Graham parkway. But I always missed it.

Across the street from the downtown Belk sat the Ivey Department store. The building now is luxury condominiums, but at the time, it housed several floors of merchandise and one delightful restaurant on an upper floor called the Tulip Terrace. Other buyer friends and I would make our way across the street from Belk, and after perusing shoes for a while, we’d take the elevator upstairs. We’d usually order the Ivey leaf plate, with chicken salad and some sort of frozen fruit concoction. We’d linger over lunch in our big shouldered eighties suits and gaze out the windows at the churchyard next door with its old plantings and beautiful flowers. When I think of idyllic moments in my life, the lunches at Tulip Terrace would certainly be included in the list.

Next on the list was the Macy’s lunch counter in New York. After working all morning on Seventh Avenue, I’d stroll up to Sixth and take one of the clickety clack escalators up to the lunch counter. (By the way, on a visit just a few years ago, I found a few of the wooden escalators still in operation at Macy’s. They’ve probably had to cannibalize every part they could get their hands on from other escalators they were taking down just to keep a few running, but it definitely is worth it for the nostalgia.)
A 1980's Time Square on the walk to Seventh Avenue
Here I am in a New York Showroom with order pad in hand. The vendor took this picture. I think I'm giving him my special, "You've got to be kidding me" salesman look.
 I don’t remember much about the food at the Macy’s lunch counter, but I remember the feeling of sitting there thinking the cameras might start rolling any minute in a reenactment of Miracle on 34th Street.

At my last visit, Macy’s still serves food in their Cellar, but they’ve turned the lunch counter into retail space.

But seriously, I don’t think it would have the black and white feel of the lunch counter.

So, now you’re trying to understand why you’ve read this post and what it has to do with anything. Well, I wasn’t sure either when I first started writing it, but then I often don't know exactly where I'm going when I start to write (Terry Kay, "You don't write to tell a story. You write to discover a story).
But as I’ve written, I've realized that in our grief, it’s important to remember past joy, not to get stuck in the past but to remember that ahead are more times like the ones we’ve already had. That the wonder already experienced is not confined to days gone by, but new experiences lie ahead which, at some point, will also be referred to with nostalgic affection.

Hey, and who knows, maybe one day, I might even find I like that Macy’s bistro a lot more than I’d guess.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:14 The Message).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When you have a case of saditosis

Our little friend McCoy has a way of capturing the essence of a situation in words. One evening when I was explaining about the promises of God in a children’s class at church, I used the post-flood rainbow and God’s promise never to flood the whole earth again as an example. He paused a moment in thought and then said, “That’s not just a promise, that’s a super promise.”

Yes, it is McCoy. A super promise, for sure.

So, I wasn’t surprised at another of his insights when I received a text from his grandmother. He had long anticipated a sleepover at a friend’s house, but at the last minute, he came down with strep and was confined to home. He mulled over his disappointing situation. With tear-filled eyes, he looked at his grandmother and said, “I have saditosis.”

Ah, yes, saditosis. If only we could take an antibiotic for seven days and get rid of it like we do strep.

Friends, don’t bother looking saditosis up in any medical dictionary. You won’t find it. McCoy invented it to describe his situation. Very aptly, I might add.

In 1961, as chaplain and professor with joint appointments at the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Medical School, Dr. Granger Westberg delivered a radio message on the stages of grief people appeared to go through after losing someone they love. A normal message might receive a dozen or so letters in response. Westberg’s message on grief elicited almost a thousand.

He’d hit a nerve.

He went on to write a little book from that message entitled, Good Grief. His message has now circled the globe for more than fifty years and has become a classic.

Since my dad’s death a couple of weeks ago, I have reread Good Grief. In it he says, “Grief is a natural part of human experience. We face minor grief almost daily in some situation or another.” Like McCoy’s disappointment over losing his opportunity to sleep over at a friend’s house, we too face daily disappointments and loss in addition to the bigger ones like moving to a new location, empty nest, retirement, or even more devastating ones like death and divorce.

In Westberg’s book, he seeks to “explore the good aspects of grief” and “also what we can learn from it.”

“Faith plays a major role in grief of any kind. But not in the way some people think. They often seem to have the idea that a person with strong faith does not grieve and is above this sort of thing. They might even quote the two words from Scripture ‘Grieve not.’ They forget to quote the rest of the phrase in which these two words are found: ‘Grieve not as those who have no hope’" (I Thessalonians 4:13).

Westberg describes the stages of grief, which don’t necessarily occur in any certain order. It helps to hear about these stages. When I feel anger, guilt, or resentment, I know that these emotions are part of the process. Sometimes, I can feel several of the stages all in one day. Grief has its own timetable. No one person grieves like another.

There’s no way around this thing we call grief. It is a door we are all destined to walk through at some point in our lives, most likely many, many times. If you love, you will grieve.

If we allow it, however, God will ultimately bring us through the process to hope and healing.

If you have saditosis, I recommend Good Grief.

I think McCoy would, too.
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