FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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She Didn’t Even See Me

I started this morning kinda hard.  Really hard.  As in face down on some cement.  This is how it happened…

I went out early for my morning walk (trying to make at least three miles each day).  On my way to the walking track my feet got tangled in some orange safety netting.  So much for safety because down I went scraping elbows, palms and worse of all, my knees.  Both of them.  You have to know that I am super protective of my knees.  Osteoarthritis has long plagued both, and as I age, it has gotten progressively worse.  Injuring a knee is the LAST thing I want to happen.

Oh well, so much for wanting because I hurt them – scrapes, bruises and swelling.

At this point I wasn’t sure if I was glad or not that no one was around.  My pride was glad that I was alone, but I surely needed some help getting up because I had to kneel on the cement and those injured knees to stand.  More scraping.  More bruising.  And now some blood, sweat and tears.

Nevertheless, I was able to stand and limp back to my car.  I dusted myself off, grabbed some tissues to blot the blood and searched my knapsack for a bandage.  No luck.  I thought I might still be able to walk (I want to get those three miles in!) if I could just get some bandages and maybe some Neosporin and Aleve.  Close to a grocery store, I drove there.  Not open.  Passed two drug stores.  Not open.  Ahhhhhh, a dollar store!  And it was open.

Still early in the morning, there was only one person working in the store and now me.  At this point my knees were swelling and because of the bleeding my pants were sticking to them.  I said, “Good morning, can you tell me where the first aid supplies are?”  The clerk responded, “Huh?”  I said, “Band Aids” to which she replied, “Aisle 12.”  Now hobbling (Is this worse than limping?  It felt worse.), I made it to what I thought was Aisle 12, but I did not see bandages, Neosporin or anything else that looked like a first aid supply except some cotton balls.  Tears welled in my eyes; I was hurting.  I called to the lady, “Maam” (That’s what we say in the South even though I suspect I was twice her age at least.) “Excuse me, but I don’t see any bandages.”  She snapped, “I said Aisle 12; you are on 13!”  As my grandmother used to say, “I don’t know who licked the red off of her candy,” especially so early in the morning, but I just needed some bandages and to elevate and ice these knees.

Over to Aisle 12.  Band Aids, Neosporin and Bacitracin.  Passing by the cooler, I grabbed a bottle of cold water – to drink and to put on these now throbbing knees.  My elbows and palms had begun to burn.  I stopped at the first register to pay.  The clerk walked past me to the third register and yelled, “Down here.”  My Lord, more steps.  And in the wrong direction – away from the door, the parking lot and my car.  By now I am beginning to tremble (don’t know if it was nerves, anxiety or something else).  Trembling and tearing I fumble into my purse to pay.  The clerk takes my money and throws (literally) my stuff in the bag mumbling, “Come again; have a nice day.”

A nice day?!

She never looked up.

She didn’t even see me.

Yes, she saw a woman come into the store.  If I’d committed a crime, she probably would have been able to report accurately to the police that I am Black, heavyset and was wearing black trousers.  She might be able to add that I wore my hair in a ponytail.  Beyond that, she didn’t see me.  She didn’t see ME.  The hobble (or limp).  The tears.  The trembling.  The need for help.  The need for a gentle response.

Rather than be angered, I thought, “How many times have I not seen people?”  How many times have I been guilty of having a conversation (“Come again; have a nice day.”) without really seeing the person (or meaning the words)?

We are commanded to love each other (John 15:12), to lay down our lives (John 15:13), to give (Matthew 5:42) and to look to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) all so that we might point others to Christ and so that our Father in heaven may be glorified (Matthew 5:16).  We can do none of this if we do not first “see” people.

In my car, crying and bleeding, I prayed, “Father, open my eyes and my heart that I will never pass another person and not “see” them.”  I am grateful to the Lord for this early morning lesson; I just wish I could have gotten it a little less painfully.  😉

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Catching and Spreading

I guess this is the season when germs, cold and flu are on our minds. That Satan and the evil spirits he commands, much like germs, are EVERYWHERE, is an analogy that has remained on my mind this week.

A “thought question” from my weekly Bible study asked what it meant to resist the devil. That seemingly simple question plunged me into thought and reflection. Scripture tells us to resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9) and he will flee from us. We have to look a little more deeply at the Scriptures and think a bit more deeply about ourselves and how we live our lives to understand exactly what resisting looks and sounds like.

My thoughts turned back to my earlier germ analogy. Most of us want to resist a cold or the flu. Sure, if we get sick, we can scurry to our local drugstore and have our pick of over-the-counter meds designed to soothe our ails – coughing, sneezing, body aches… If our symptoms seem to exceed the relief that the OTCs offer us, our personal care physicians stand ready to prescribe pills, drops, ointments and syrups.

All that sounds well and good, but going to the doctor takes time, buying meds cost money and while meds solve one problem, they sometimes cause others. (Ever listen to those drug commercials – “may cause cramping, nausea, hair loss, severe diarrhea…” Seriously?) You get the idea. So, the best course of action is not to catch a cold or the flu in the first place!

I wrote earlier about washing your hands to avoid the spread of germs. But the truth of the matter is that all the hand washing in the world is no guarantee that you will not get sick. We can do our best to minimize the number of surfaces we touch, saturate ourselves with hand sanitizer and scrub with soap and warm water until our hands are literally raw. Germs are still out there! Scientists tell us that what you can’t see can hurt you.

Using high-speed imagery, MIT researchers analyzed the trajectory of the “fallout” from a sneeze. The force of a sneeze can send 100,000 germs across a distance of 5 to 32 feet. While most of the larger, heavier drops fall quickly to the floor or other surfaces under the influence of gravity, the smaller and lighter particles are less affected by gravity and can stay airborne almost indefinitely as they are caught up in and dispersed by the room’s airflow. Droplets that remain airborne can continue to travel through ventilation systems, ending up even farther away. Two points: If you are around sick people, be mindful of what you might catch. If you are the sick person, be mindful of what you might spread!

The sin analogy raises two additional points for us. If you are around sin, be mindful of what you might catch. If you engage in sinful behavior, be mindful of what you might spread!

Just as we can “catch” the flu bug, we can “catch” bad habits. An off color joke here, a trashy movie there, a swear word later, a “little white lie,” etc. While there’s some controversy about whether Frank Outlaw, Lao Tzu or Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny,” whichever wise man spoke these words, he must have been thinking of Proverbs 4:23 which teaches us to guard our hearts. All that we say, all that we do, all that we are flows from it. What we watch, what we do, we become. Watch what you are catching.

As Christians we must also be mindful of what we are spreading. Matthew 5:16 says we are to let our lights shine before others so they may give glory to the Father. Ephesians 5:8 teaches that we are to walk as children of light while verses 1 and 2 of this same text remind us to be imitators of God. 1 Peter 2:21 says we were called to follow Christ’s example – to live lives that reflect Him. Our lives are to be a testimony for Jesus – that He is alive, that He has changed us, that He changes lives. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited for saying, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” In short, we are to preach Jesus through our lives – what we do, what we say, how we behave, where we go, how we deal with struggles… Why? The world is watching, and our lives are the most powerful testimony of the Christ that we say lives within us. What are you spreading?