Monday, April 13, 2009

"I Dreamed a Dream"

Susan Boyle, an unassuming forty-seven-year-old lady from a small village in Brittain, has shocked millions of people this week with her performance in England's version of American Idol. I have spent a good part of the day today replaying recordings of her performance before the three judges and a standing-room-only crowd. I have been greatly moved by her performance and am very impressed with this lady, and I do not use that term loosely.

I have watched as Simon Cowell, American's judge also, made fun of this lady as he spoke with her before her performance. He mocked her the entire time and seemingly urged the audience to do so. The camera would pan the crowd and one could see smirks on many of the faces. Outright laughter could be heard coming from the audience.

Ms. Boyle announced that her chosen song was "I Dreamed a Dream" from les Mesirables. Simon and the crowd once again had their laugh at this choice of songs. As the orchestra began to play, an angel's voice could be heard singing the words to Ms. Boyle's chosen song. Applause and cheers immediately began rising from the crowd who once made fun of this beautiful lady. Shock was the expression on all three judge's faces and Simon seemed overwhelmed. In fact, one of the reviews I read today said that he (Simon) seemed to be in love with her during the performance. A total reversal of opinions in such a short time!!

Susan Boyle is a child of God who has never been given a chance in life to be what she really wanted to be, a performer before a large audience. Why? Because of her looks!! No, she is not a "freak"; but she is not what most people would consider a "beautiful person." Her beauty is definitely more than skin deep and we can see that beauty as she talks before the performance and then begins to sing.

I have been impressed to write about Ms. Boyle because I wonder how many more people exist in this world who could be more than they are if we would only allow them to be. Too often we judge people by their looks, their knowledge or lack there of, by the houses they live in and where they are located, what school they went to, what church they go to (or don't go to), by how they smell and so on and on. How many future doctors have we passed by, Presidents of the United States, fighter pilots, nurses, teachers, professors, preachers because we weren't impressed by their looks? How many have we been unfair to? How many have we judged unfairly? If Susan Boyle is an example of the "forgotten" people, then we are the losers!! And, by the way, I pray that Susan Boyle wins England's Idol this year and that she shows us all!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Destination Imagination

Our entire day Saturday was spent watching hundreds of children from pre-school age through seniors in high school participate in a program entitled Destination Imagination (or DI for short). I come away from these competitions every year totally amazed at the imagination our young people have and I wonder if I was ever blessed with that much imagination!!

Destination Imagination is a program which started in our public schools many years ago and has now spread to private schools and home schoolers. Originally called Odyssey of the Mind, Destination Imagination is an extra curricular program that is designed to challenge the minds and creativity of the participants. Early in the school year the teams are given "problems" they need to solve using various means. For months the teams work untold hours after school attempting to solve the problems, build props, write scripts, make costumes, build machines, etc. The students are challenged to be as creative as they can be and to use any items they can come up with to display their creativity. Budgets must be kept up with and accounted for when the competition occurs. Many of the costumes are made out of empty soda cans, empty drink bottles or boxes, straw, shredded paper, plastic bags or grocery sacks, bubble wrap, old ties, old jeans, pieces of discarded fabric or wrapping paper, safety pins, ties their fathers no longer want (or are just confiscated from their closets!), old aluminum foil, paper plates, aluminum two gallon cans that came from the school cafeteria. I think you get the idea. A value has to be placed on each item in the challenge.

It is totally amazing seeing the products these very creative young people have come up with. I have watched in amazement every year as each team arrives to perform, seeing what they have used and what the outcome is. From the very youngest to the oldest participant I have observed, so much teamwork and enthusiasm and general pleasure in seeing their final products on view for everyone to see. The faces of these "great thinkers" are amazing as they work together-smiles, laughter, encouragement for each other, brows wrinkled as they try to solve problems and always, always showing sportsmanship and thoughtfulness. Kids from all economic backgrounds, from different parts of the state, from homes where parents are very involved to homes where parents really don't care as long as they don't have to do anything, working together as one to solve problems.

I was thinking as we watched all day long that it would be wonderful if all the students in all our schools were as enthusastic about learning as these are. It would be wonderful if everyone worked together and there would be no gangs or socioeconomic divisions of the students. It would be wonderful if all teachers AND ADMINISTRATORS were as enthusiastic and hard working as the coaches of these teams are. Perhaps our schools would be full of scholars instead of failing students; perhaps our kids would feel appreciated and loved more; perhaps our kids would want to be a productive part of society rather than a burden on society; perhaps our kids would just feel special, something we all want to feel!!

Destination Imagination does more than teach our kids to think. It teaches them to work together for an outcome that is so exciting; it teaches them to be a member of the team. It teaches them that no matter whether you win or lose, you are a winner!!

I had a most wonderful day and can't wait til the first of April when we go to state. Go Lone Oak Buffaloes!! Go Greenville Lions. You are all winners in my mind!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mamas and Their Babies

Have you ever watched a mother hen as she gently tries to round up all her chicks?  She is not happy until they have all come to her and are resting under her wings.  One by one they come and she gently nudges them under her wings with her beak, not satisfied til they are all there.  Protection is a word that comes to mind.  Love is another.  She loves on them and protects them until they begin to spread their wings and take flight--or as we might say, they leave the nest.  Is it hard for her to watch her babies leave?  Probably not; for, in the case of the mother hen, she will lay more eggs shortly and will have more babies to tend, the thought of the ones before just distant memories.

How do human mothers feel as their children begin to leave the nest?  They have loved them, fed them, clothed them, taught them and protected them for so many years.  Is it hard to see them fly away?  One answer is appropriate for this question:  YES!!  In the case of mothers who see their children leave to fight a war or wars, I am certain it is even harder and the longing for that child only grows stronger as the days, weeks and months go by.  The only thing she can do for that child in war is pray--pray for protection and safety and guidance.  Pray that they remember they are loved.  Pray that they will return home whole and safe.

A young man who has been a very good friend of both my children for years returned this week from a war in a foreign land.  He came home for R&R (the military's term for "vacation") for two weeks.  This young man is a quiet person.  He has a beautiful smile and his eyes just sparkle.  He LOVES BMW's.  He has a most precious and beautiful young wife and two of the most gorgeous little girls in the world.  Last night several of us met in a local restaurant to surprise this young man with a "Welcome Home" and "Happy 27th Birthday" party.  As he entered the room and saw all the people, his face just began to shine and that smile came across his lips.  He was truly surprised.  I watched as he greeted each one there.  First was his family.  His Dad, his sisters, in-laws, friends.  I began to watch his Mother as he came closer to her.  The love in her eyes was so great; the smile on her face was one of relief; the tears were ones of happiness.  But, the thing that really caught my attention was when she reached up and began to touch the back of his hair.  Her hand lingered there for quite some time; and, with each stroke of her hand, a sense of, "My baby is here, right where he belongs!" was seen on her face and demeanor.  Her chick was home, under the wings of protection!!

Our babies get bigger and grow up and move out of the home.  Some may go near and some may go far.  I have told my two babies all their lives that they may grow up and move from home, but they will ALWAYS be my babies.  I will always want to hold them, rock them, make everything right for them, protect them.  My children were true gifts from God.  I firmly believe that He wants me to continue to pray for them, offer them shelter from the storm if necessary and to love, love, love, love them unconditionally.  When they "fly from the nest" my job is not done.  I am their mother forever and ever and ever (or for infinity as I always tell my son)!

Thank You, God, for mothers who have to "loan" their sons to the armies.  Thank You for the sons who are willing and ready to go.  Thank You for my babies and for the many women who have been my mentors in showing me how to be a good mother.  Thank You, Father, thank You.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sam and Esther

The Story of Sam and Esther

I have spent the day trying to decide how, and even if, I should post my thoughts today.  You see, I started my blog to share my thoughts on various subjects that I found interesting, funny, helpful or insightful.  I did not want to limit my subjects; but, I did not want to bore myself or anyone else in doing so.  Today's subject was brought to my attention very early this morning as I was reading another blog.  What I saw on that blog has been very vivid in my mind and on my heart.  "How, Lord, do I tell others without boring them?  Will they even be interested?  Will they understand the hurting in my soul?  Will I have the correct words to convey the message?"  His answer to me was, "Start writing and I will give you the words!!"  So, here goes!

I was drawn to a web site this morning after reading the blog of someone who is very involved in missions work around the world, but specifically in Africa.  The web site featured a story that had a video to go along with it.  The video was the story of an American woman who has spent limitless hours trying to help the starving masses in Uganda.  The camera crew followed her as she went deeper and deeper into the bush, searching for villages of people who are so desperately hungry and ill and are dying.  They stumbled upon a boy (Sam) and a girl (Esther).  Sam is seven years old and his sister is five.  They are found lying in the dirt with just shirts on their backs.  The video is very graphic and shows their shriveled little bodies as they are lying there alone.  The commentator, who is also a cameraman, goes on to say that Sam weighs no more than 20 pounds.  He puts his large video camera next to the child and the camera is almost larger than Sam.  His sister, Esther, is two years younger but is actually slightly larger than Sam.  Both babies have had polio--POLIO!!  How long has it been since you heard that term?  Both babies cannot walk or sit up.  They are laying face down in the dirt just turning around and around, crying out for help.  Suddenly, in the background, the moans of a crying woman can be heard.  It is the missionary woman who is so distraught she can no longer contain her sorrow.  She says in the video that she has never seen anything like this in all the villages she has visited.

The people who had come upon this village watch in amazement as a sister, only eight-years-old herself, comes out of the bush carrying jugs of water.  She goes over to the children and gently begins to lovingly bathe them (does this remind you of a certain story of our Savior when he washes the feet of his disciples?).  The commentator said that this older sister had been cooking for her younger siblings but had run out of food.  She could no longer feed them but she saw they were dirty and she bathed them out of love.  I watched in awe as this little girl, not much larger than those she was caring for, picked them up and carried them to a mat after they were clean.  The little girl was given packets of crackers and peanut butter the visitors had with them; and, before she had one herself, she opened the packets and give each of the other two children crackers.  Notice I said, "BEFORE she ate she fed the others!!"  A few minutes went by; and, to everyone's amazement, the two babies were sitting up.  Their hunger had made them so weak they could not sit up!!  (And I get anxious when I feel the least hunger pains!!)

The commentator went on to say that before the group left the village arrangements had been made for the two younger children to be taken to a hospital 35 miles away.  After six weeks they were strong enough to be sent to a foster home and plans were being formulated for the children to go to a rehabilitation hospital for treatment of the effects of the polio.  The older sister had been placed in a foster home and was being cared for with monies sent by an American family who had seen the story.

Late this afternoon my husband and I were at a new restaurant in a town nearby for an early dinner.  As I sat there and looked at all the food that had been laid out before us, my mind went back to the story of Sam and Esther.  I am so blessed.  I am so privileged.  I am not hungry.  I am not thirsty.  I have clothes to cover my body.  I have a home that provides a safe-haven.  I have people I know love me and care about me.  I have medical providers I can go to when I am sick.  I have never wanted for anything.  When I die I know I am going to Heaven.

Sam and Esther have always been hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, unloved (except for their beautiful sister), never had medical care, always wanted because they never had and have never heard the Word of God so they don't even know what Heaven is!!  And, yes, there are, unfortunately, Sam's and Esther's right here in America.  I know.  I worked for the welfare department (child welfare) at one time!

I want these babies, and all babies and mommies and daddies, to know my loving Savior.  I want them to feel full and bubbling over and have warm clothes and homes, and loved.  I want them to have medical care when needed.  I want them to know all about Heaven.  I may not be able to go physically myself, but I can support mission interests around the world and I can pray, pray, pray for those who can go and do.  I can pray, pray, pray for all the Sam's and Esther's and Sally's and Bill's and ........"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Robert, the Bag Boy

To be really honest, I have had a very difficult time the last few days finding something I really wanted to blog about.  That is, until yesterday.  I was finally feeling better after a week's worth of headaches, coughing and laryngitis.  The sun was shining and it was an absolutely beautiful day.  I spent the day doing "mommy-do's".  My last "do" was a trip to the grocery store for my daughter.

I spent about an hour in the store getting all the things on the list and was finally in the check-out area.  Robert, the bag boy, passed by me going to another check-out line.  When he saw me, however, he quickly turned and told the other bag boys, "I'll get this one!"  Robert has been with this particular store for as long as I can remember.  He has always been a bag boy and seems very proud to be there.  I would say that Robert is in his late 30's or early 40's. Everyone who goes to the store knows Robert.  He is very friendly and always has a tale or two to tell on his way to the car with your groceries.  He greets everyone who enters with a, "Hello!  How are you?", and a smile that spreads from ear to ear.  I have never seen Robert unhappy.

Robert is not the smartest person in the world.  His life will probably always revolve around the job at the grocery store and his participation in the Special Olympics team he is a member of.  You see, Robert is a "Special Friend", or someone who is not as (or as the experts would say) emotionally, socially or psychologically developed as the others in this world.  Some people, and I have heard people say this, would call Robert "retarded".  I HATE this word.  I HATE it when I hear it said.  I don't like it when people even play around with it.  Robert is far from being "retarded" and he proved this to me once again yesterday.

Greenville residents recently overwhelmingly passed a law allowing the stores in our once dry city to sell alcohol.  The particular store Robert works at has taken one entire wall to stock beer and wine.  As Robert and I were leaving the store a little girl, about seven or eight years of age, ran in front of us and nearly knocked Robert down.  His comment was, "She could have at least asked us to excuse her!!"  My reply to Robert was that, unfortunately, parents today do not teach their children any manners and it seemed that very few children even know what "excuse me" means.  Our conversation led from one thing to another about our world today.  Most of what Robert said really did make sense (and I have found this to be true in other conversations I have had with him).  At some point in our conversation, Robert stopped what he was doing, looked at me in my eyes and said, "That STUFF that have put over on that wall (and he gestured toward the store in the direction of the newly stocked liquor aisle) is what is wrong with our world today!  Too many parents drink and don't pay attention to their families.  They spend their money on that STUFF and don't give their families what they need.  They don't teach their children what God wants them to teach them.  God sent His Son to die for us and we are to be example to everyone around us.  He wants us to live life like He did!!"  Robert went on to say that he had told his store managers that they were wrong putting that STUFF in the store and that they just laughed at him.

I listened with great interest and awe at what Robert was saying.  He told me that a lot of people had told him he should be a preacher!!  I told Robert that he was in a very important ministry right where he was; that he was a minister to all his customers and that he was the only preacher a lot of them ever heard.  Robert just grinned and went on his way.  I watched him as he walked back into the store and saw him laughing and greeting everyone he met in his usual way.

Why is it so hard for "normal" people to get the message Robert was relaying to me?  Why is it that "normal" people listen and reject the Message?  Why is it that "normal" people make fun of Robert?  Who is really the "normal" person?  You go, Robert!!  I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know.  I will never, ever get exasperated when you are talking so much as you take my groceries to the car.  You will forever be one of my heroes!!  

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Let My Lifesong Sing To You"

I was just reading the blog of a friend and the music that was playing was, "Let My Lifesong Sing to You".  Yesterday, Bro. Tim's sermon was about what message we were leaving with non-Christians as we walked through life each day...."Let my lifesong sing to You".  Our Bible Study lesson in the 11th and 12th grade class was on being a mentor to those around us, those who do not know the Lord or who are not walking daily with Him...."Let my lifesong sing to You".  The ladies in our church have been invited to a "Heart and Home" Rally in March and the theme is mentorship...."Let my lifesong sing to You".

I think the Lord is telling me something.  I KNOW the Lord is telling me something.  My prayer is that I will let my lifesong sing to Him in all that I am, in all that I do.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Our Heavenly Father Made the Birds"

One of my favorite children's songs is, "Our Heavenly Father Made the Birds".  I have sung it over and over and over for years to children of all ages.  The words of the song are:

Our Heavenly Father made the birds.
He showed them what to do.
If God so loved the little birds,
I know He loves me, too.

If you are like me, there are many songs that I sing (or hum to myself as my children remind me all of the time) where I just repeat the words that I have learned and never really listen to the message.  I think I get in a habit of just singing the words and not really listening to them.  Our Worship Leader at church reminds us often of how important music is to true worship.  Music sets the tone for worship.  Music is a vital part of worship.  How often, however, are the words absorbed and applied to my life?

Gary and I have a very large back yard.  Being the nature lover that he is, Gary has put up many bird birds, tufted titmouse, sparrows, crows, house wrens, painted buntings and finches are just some of the birds that visit our home daily.  Perhaps one of the most beautiful ones to visit, however, is the dove.  We have both ring-neck and mourning doves visit every day.  This morning Gary and I were sitting at the breakfast table watching the birds as we ate.  I don't even remember what we were talking about at the time, but my mind flashed back to the song I have mentioned above as two or three doves began to make their descent to the bird feeders.  They were flying pretty fast as they came in; but as they came closer, their wings and tail feathers began to spread and they slowed to almost a crawl as they landed.  A perfect example of the words....".....He showed them what to do.  If God so loved the little birds, I know He loves me, too."  

Man, alone, races through life at a fast pace....seeking, seeking, seeking.  Their landings are often rocky, shaky and, almost always, disasterous.  Man, alone, tries to do it on his own.  No one is there to show them how to spread their wings and tail feathers and make a smooth landing.  However, man with God in his heart and life, learns through gentle nudging and persuading to put their trust in the One Who loves them so, to spread their wings and tail feathers and to come in for a perfect landing....the landing that all Christians long for.  What a beautiful sight the perfect landing of the dove is.  What a beautiful sight when someone who has searched for so long finds the One Who will guide their landings.

I pray for the day when more and more men and women will open their hearts and let Jesus come in.  I pray that God will make me an instrument of His message to people throughout the world.  I pray that I have many more chances to sing, "If God so loved the little birds, I know He loves me, too".  What a beautiful message to a lost and searching world.  Help me, Lord, to listen to the words You have given me through Your messengers.  Help me to be aware of what You would have me to hear.  Help me, oh Lord, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world around me.