What She Needs Most

winter trees

I have a friend preparing for battle. Actually, it’s the same type of battle she has fought before but this time it’s different, because she is already tired from fighting it for a long time already.  Previously, she had enjoyed a lengthy respite with joy and hope that the good health would last and last and never stop. What she needs most is not to lose her grasp on hope but even more importantly she needs to know most that God has not loosened his grip on her.

But the respite did cease. The ensuing battle has caused her to suit up again with the armor she has worn many times before, so many years ago. Not quite as shiny as the first time she put it on, but still ever so beautiful and true to fit…in perfect design by the one who made it for her. There are some battle scars on the armor, which I hope and pray will remind her of victory and not defeat. If truth be told, she has never taken that armor off. But perhaps it had felt lighter during the wellness years and may seem quite heavy and difficult to wear right now. I want her to believe that the armor is light while resting upon her yet heavy enough to protect her from stinging discouragement and fatigue or the feeling of hopelessness or to be tempted to doubt the promises of God.

Winter Tree

I want her to be brave, once again and suit up in the protection of that spiritual armor. Putting on spiritual armor simply means that she continually clothes herself in the Lord, relying on His gifts and graces through this trial. What she needs most is for her friends to stand firm with her, to help hold the armor in place through prayer.

She is one of the strongest women I know. Perhaps her strength has come from those previous battles and dark storms…her leaning into God, listening to his voice to calm anxiety. No, anxiety sounds too simple of a description. It’s more like a tsunami of everything difficult. I don’t think of God’s voice as being soft and quite, otherwise, how can we hear him over the chaotic noise and pain of the battle rushing and overwhelming us?

God speaks with words and remarkable things happen. What she needs most is to hear God’s loud words, his voice to speak into her storm.  For her to know his presence with her and to have an unreal, supernatural peace from the gospel of grace in her life. What she needs most is to know she is treasured.

She has been a voice of grace words and peaceful comfort to so many in need, reminding them of the strength they have through Christ. What she needs most is the relentless prayers and grace words from friends to lift her up.

Late Spring Tree

She is a warrior. She has hidden so much of God’s word in her heart. Memorized it. Feasted on God’s word and experienced the sweet satisfaction of God forever keeping his promise to give her what she needs most…at the time that she needs it.

What she needs most is not to forget that it will be so.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Spring

The Whole Armor of God Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God… Ephesians 6:10-18

Memorial Day is to Remember

“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

~Ronald Reagan

I have wonderful childhood memories of the 1960’s. To mention a few: my parents renting a small carousel and having it delivered to our backyard for my birthday party, eating Jiffy Pop Popcorn while watching black and white movies of Tarzan, Jane and the chimpanzee, Cheeta, on a Saturday afternoon with my Dad and brother…so excited to have our brand new TV in amazing black and white “color.”

A most significant memory I have of the ‘60’s is being at elementary school when my teacher announced to us that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. School ended early that day. I remember my mother picking me up from school, tears streaming down her face, crying and crying; sitting in front of that black and white TV with my family, listening and watching Walter Cronkite retell the sad and terrifying news.

A lighter memory is watching The Ed Sullivan Show…a family favorite until the Beatles where showcased. My parents thought the Beatles were “long-haired rebellious punks” but I thought John, Paul, George and Ringo were the grooviest!

This Memorial Day, I am thinking about 1966. One of my friends, that lived on the next block in my neighborhood, rode her bike to my house to tell me her father was home from Vietnam. I was young and didn’t understand what the war in Vietnam was about but I had several friends whose fathers were soldiers in the Army. I knew that their fathers were brave and heroic.

My friend’s father had been home for just a few short hours, and she wanted me to meet him. I remember that he was bigger than life to me. Still dressed in his army fatigues, sitting on a kitchen stool with his beloved wife snuggled in his lap. He was so happy to be home with his family. I remember his kind smile, his military hair cut and his big black army boots and again, I wondered what Vietnam was like and wanted to ask him…but I was afraid to. Everything I had heard about this war sounded horrifying. Why stop their happiness to ask questions.

And then the day came when I learned the sadness of war; the day that the war in Vietnam hit close to home. My best friend, Janet, and I were inseparable while in the fifth grade. One day in March of 1966, the principal of our school came to our classroom and asked Janet to come out in the hall. Her expression was scared and I was too because when the principal called you out in the hall, it meant bad news. Janet did not come back to class and this troubled me. Our teacher told us that Janet’s father had been killed in a helicopter crash. I remember crying.

Years and years go by…while on vacation in Washington, D.C., with my husband and children, we visit The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall. I wanted to find the name of Janet’s father, Harlow Gary Clark, Jr. I found it! My fingers gently touched his name etched in the marble and remembered his sacrifice and the loss that Janet felt…probably continues to feel.

 LTC Harlow Gary Clark, Jr., is honored on Panel 5E, Row 128 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This is just one of many memories to honor today. Many of my adult friends, Moms and Dads, have lost a son or daughter in war. Friends have lost a spouse in combat for our freedom and their children have lost a parent.

137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed – it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy. ~Doc Hastings, U.S. Representative

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’ ~William Arthur Ward

So, I end this post with, “Thank You” and the memory etched in my mind as though it were marble, never to forget.

The Swan Story

Childhood friendship

The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 1 | When Walls are Broken

stockfreeimages.com

For the past several months, I’ve kept a journal of nuggets that I discovered and learned from reading about Nehemiah. The name of the journal is, “The Nehemiah Challenge.”

Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11

Sometimes we need a hero, a person to challenge us in prayer, leadership, faithfulness, bravery, humility, and how to thrive in our everyday work and calling. A hero is just an ordinary person who God extraordinarily works through, yet by God’s grace, must continue to pray for a persistent obstinate quality of belief, to keep-keeping-on, grounded in faith and theology.

I discovered a hero in the pages of history, whose life continues to teach all of us who will become engrossed in his story. Just an ordinary guy that exemplified the art of empathy, so much so that empathy propelled him to take action. This hero’s name is, Nehemiah. The first 11 verses of Chapter One illustrate the character of Nehemiah through his action and words.

Nehemiah seems larger than life with which he defined his goals and the energy with which he pursued them. Yet, Nehemiah’s life story is a testament of what God has done in and through him, not to anything Nehemiah might claim as a personal achievement. [1]

Here are three things (nuggets) to do when walls are broken.

  1. Ask the right question
  2. Start praying
  3. Bear another’s burden

1. Ask the right question

The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah.  Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:1-2 ESV)

 Nehemiah received a visit from his brother and men from Judah.  After greetings and salutations, Nehemiah asked them a question about the condition of his extended family (concerning Jerusalem.) Nehemiah lived in a lifestyle of security and peace, far away from the hardships of his covenant community, yet he ventures to know more about the people in need.

 Even though Nehemiah suspected the answer would not be encouraging, he proceeded to ask the right question. The answer Nehemiah received about the status of his people and the security of his home and his community was very sad and grievous. The answer to that question propelled him to start. Nehemiah empathized.

Application: Don’t ask a question about a need unless you are willing to be part of the solution.

 2. Start praying

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3 ESV)

Nehemiah absorbed the answer into his soul, words that quickened his spirit to move, albeit overwhelmed and weakened by the news, he immediately sits down and begins to pray, to cry and mourn the loss of a city in ruin, a broken community. Nehemiah is passionate to do something, yet instead of reacting about the situation, Nehemiah responds in humility with mourning, fasting and praying for days.

Nehemiah is more God-conscious than self-focused.

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4 ESV)

Nehemiah models an example for us to learn that it is prayer that changes things and that without praying there is no prospering. Nehemiah’s walk with God was saturated with his consistent, habitual and petitionary prayers in devotion to God.

“And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night…” (Nehemiah 1: 4-6 ESV)

Application: Constant private conversations with God keep us God-conscious and not self-focused.

3. Bear another’s burden

O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. (Nehemiah 1:5-7 ESV)

Empathy is costly because it requires that we step into another person’s situation to meet a need. [2] Nehemiah’s response to the broken walls of Jerusalem was a broken heart. He loved the people of God and the glory of God. He was in anguish because God’s special people were unprotected, shamed and humiliated. [3]

Empathy for others begins when we see ourselves rightly before a holy God. [2] Those walls had been in ruins for 141 years. And likely this wasn’t the first time that Nehemiah heard that there had been no real progress in rebuilding the walls. So what explains Nehemiah’s response to the news about the walls of Jerusalem? The only real explanation is that God was at work in Nehemiah’s soul. He felt God’s heart toward the shame and weakness of God’s people, and he wept. [3]

When we understand our state of utter desolation without God’s grace, we are free to empathize with those who are hurting. [2] If we love the glory of God, than we will be people who care about the well-being of God’s people. When God’s Spirit begins to move among his people, they see the broken walls and begin to care. They turn from indifference, and their hearts are broken over that which does not glorify Jesus in his church. They take ownership of their own compromise. They cry out to God and ask him to intervene. [3]

Application: Bearing one another’s burden will result in greater empathy toward brokenness.

Here’s a question for you, when you know walls are broken, where do you begin first? 

You may enjoy reading:

The Nehemiah Challenge │Part Two│A Radical Trust in God

The Nehemiah Challenge │Part Three │Getting Going

 
 
 

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

The Stuff of Friendship

the stuff of friendship

I’ve been gone for a week. I traveled with friends to the Orange Conference 2013. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. I invited six friends to go with me. This was the first time for them to experience an Orange Conference and I suspect they will continue to unpack what they heard and learned for weeks to come.  I’m still chewing on the great stuff I heard. I’ll write about that great stuff later, but right now I’m focusing this moment on the stuff of friendship.

Those six friends that accompanied me to Atlanta are new friendships in the making. They don’t know me well and most have not heard my story of being rescued by Jesus Christ. They don’t know my family, my children and grandchildren. They don’t know about the crazy wild and fun adventures my family has experienced or the deep sadness of loss we have dealt with. These new friends do not know my history, yet they are now part my life story. And you know what, I am now woven into their story, too.

I had to stop and think about that…I am now woven into their story, too. My new friends have opened a small window into their life story and I have offered them a glimpse into my history. The stuff of friendship is messy when everyone’s history is dumped on each other. I realize it takes time for friendships to become engrained with trust, laughter, and acceptance of the real messiness of junk. All of that junk that keeps us bending the knee in prayer and surrendering in submission to God for help. The stuff of friendship means that I give them grace when they mess up and they give me grace when I fail.

The stuff of friendship is built on the foundation of Jesus, the number one example of what being a real friend is. While Jesus was all God (think about that! ALL God!) He was very comfortable hanging out with the “worst ” of people. The worst of people who needed a real friend to impact their history…nasty and messy people with raunchy stories that would soon be filled with supernatural beauty of healing, forgiveness and life change. Jesus added more fun and laughter into their lives. He gave them something real to be happy about!

Those friends of Jesus were transparent before him. They spilled their guts and messiness all over him. They wanted more of Jesus and he welcomed them into a new life of freedom and victory. He took their mess and began to rewrite their stories. Jesus offered them a way out of their messy junked up life. Their history was forever changed.

The stuff of friendship is like that. We are the voice of Jesus into a broken world, shouting beautiful words of hope and joy, sounds of laughter, having fun and sharing stories of real life change. We can help shape another person’s story, add grace from God’s truth and begin to weave it into the life of a new friend’s life story. The stuff of friendship is the stuff of stories full of God’s redeeming grace.

So, I’ve been gone for a week. I walked in the door of our home very late. My husband was waiting for me. When I walked in, very tired and weary, he was there to embrace me and he said, “Finally, you are home! It’s good to see you!”

The stuff of friendship is woven into our marriage, our life together means transparency and acceptance of all the junk and messiness that we are capable of and we continue to love each other through it all.

My husband is a handsome introvert. Introverts find their strength and rejuvenation with retreating into a quite respite by themselves. Introverts are very contented with alone time. I know this about my hubby and since our friendship is woven deep and knotted with life, I am very happy to give him time to be alone.

That’s why I treasure the words he said to me, “I am most contented with me, myself, and you!” No longer is it, “me, myself, and I” but YOU.

The stuff of friendship is about including the people whom God moves into our stories. It’s knotted up in the life of each other. It’s including all of those “YOU’s” out there into our life. We have very little time left to make a difference in the lives of our families, much less into the lives of friends that God brings to us.

We are people needing the stuff of friendship…the catalyst for a deep devotion, and sustaining faith in God.  Friendship and loyalty that can single-handedly make it possible for us to survive.

“Friendship” is a mild word for such an extraordinary and holy connection, for what can be the most sustaining, life-giving, death-defying relationships some of us will ever experience. My closest friends are the reason for my deep faith in God, because through them I have discovered what superhuman intimacy and devotion are. ~Anne Lamott

After Memories Fade

After the Storm

My father’s swing in his back yard

He holds fast to the memory attached to this swing. He would watch his beloved read books in the shade while gently swaying. He would sit beside her in the evenings while sipping on cool ice tea. Friends and family would arrive for visits and race to be the first one to sit on the swing. Folding chairs were hauled out from the garage and placed in a half-moon circle facing the swing. Sweet times and pleasant memories.

There has always been a wooden  swing in the back yard or one hanging on the back porch. Pillows were added for a comfortable touch and cozy enough to lay down and take a nap. He would tie a rope on a branch of a tree or from a corner of the porch, long enough to reach the person sitting in the swing. We would stretch out on the swing, give the rope a tug and rock ourselves to sleep.

Things happen and life changes. She was no longer around to enjoy the swing with him. The rhythm of conversation taking place around the swing stopped because she was not there to talk. He never noticed how old the swing was and how badly the paint had chipped around the edges, until after she was gone. He noticed the swing more after the memories began to fade.

He fought back to keep the memories from disappearing. He bought lumber and set out to build a new swing. He created a swing like the original one he gave her years and years before. He built bird houses near the swing because she always loved to watch the birds. He is pleased with his carpentry  knowing how thrilled she would have been and so proud of him. After memories fade, he sits on the swing he built for two and is flooded with peace that he will be with her again one day.

The tree dad planted

The tree dad planted

My Dad

My Dad 

A Doodle Kind of Day

A Doodle Kind of Day

A Doodle Kind of Day

Ah! Spring Break is here! There is time to relax and doodle away the hours. So I doodled (for the first time) a small watercolor painting on a note card to send to a sweet and very dear friend who is recuperating from major surgery. I hope the card will brighten a moment in her day and just knowing that I doodled a card for her may bring a smile to her face.

Watercolor painting has become a favorite hobby whenever time allows. I’m just a happy amateur having fun painting cards to give away. Here is a photo of a card painting I did last year for a friend. Or is it a doodle?  I should add the following caption on at least one day of every month:

“A Doodle Kind of Day!”

Original Watercolor by Donna Harris

Original Watercolor by Donna Harris

Ordinary Things

 

 

Photography by Donna Harris ❘ Remember the Year

I’m remembering a wonderful weekend in Charleston, SC, one of the loveliest cities I’ve visited. I was enthralled by the pristine architecture of steeples reaching toward heaven and of course the wrought iron sculptures, which are truly works of art that grace the simplest to the grandest of homes. After driving on the Cooper River Bridge, I wanted to lace up my running shoes and experience the elegant symmetry of that engineering masterpiece up close.

But it’s the ordinary things that I remember the most. A hot and humid stroll through an old cemetery, reading stories of lives passed… etched on concrete monuments and then happen to spy a few sparrows cooling their feathers with a splash of water from a concrete bird bath.

Dodging people in the Straw Market just to get a closer look at overpriced stuff and then notice an elderly lady sitting in a shady corner where a cool breeze is felt, her hands moving swiftly, gathering straw to weave the next basket. I think she has been sitting in that chair for a long time, everyday weaving her baskets. She looked weary, yet driven to finish that basket. When she finishes weaving the basket, it will be tossed in the pile of more baskets.

I remember the joy of chatting with friends while casually touring the city streets. Waiting (somewhat) patiently while she searched for the perfect water-color painting to grace her home, or the oldest tin ceiling tile that communicated the most character and then celebrating the find together. Watching her take pictures of a lamppost or an old window shutter and thankful for her inspiration. Laughing so much that it brought tears to our eyes.

It’s the ordinary things that God used to communicate His presence–He cares for the sparrow and He knows the needs of the weary basket weaver. He will love me no matter what and gives me friends that remind me of that.

 Five Minute Friday
Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Fridaywhere a remarkably encouraging and loving  community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: ORDINARY.