Burning Korans vs. Fanning the Magnificent Flame

8 Sep

Dear Pastor Jones,

It is my pleasure to share in the love of Jesus Christ with you today.  We truly serve a glorious God.  Since I am your sister in Christ I will spend the next few days praying for you and your ministry.  Please know, however, that I am praying against your scheduled burning of Korans.  The reason for this is because I know how to fan a flame so magnificent that it will not only be seen by members of extremist Islam communities, it will be felt and hopefully captured by them as well. 

When I was a little girl my father showed me how to build a fire.  I was eager to learn this skill since my kindergarten class was reading about Native American smoke signals; it amazed me that huge clouds of smoke could result from rubbing two sticks together!  It worked because friction from this action created a steady stream of smoke, then embers began to spark and next a fire would spring up.  My father, on the other hand, did not need to go to such great lengths to build his fire because he had access to an instant flame.  To do this he first arranged wood and rolled up a newspaper.  Then with a lighter he created a flame and touched it to the paper.  Finally, the paper was used to transfer the flame to many different pieces wood.  Before long, the fire began to roar.

Both religions, Christianity and Islam, seek to build contagious fires.  These fires are different because of why they burn and how they are built.   Following the instructions of the Koran is like building a fire with two sticks.  Everything must be perfect.  The weather must cooperate; the wood must be dry; one’s eyes must be able to withstand the risk of smoke infusion; embers will need to receive the proper amount of wind energy and after all of this, a fire may or may not burn forth.  In the case that a fire is created, the parameters of its environment will restrict the free flow of oxygen causing it to diminish in size, if it manages to stay alive at all.

The worst part is not the amount of work that is required—it is the smoke that results.  If there is any, then it rises into an empty sky and dissipates into thin air.  This makes me very thankful that my father taught me how to build a fire his way.  All it takes is a lighter, wood and paper. 

As Christians, we have the ability to ignite an instant fire because the Lord is our flame and he is available to us at any time.  The wood is the frame from which we operate; it is our faith, which constantly needs to be replenished through communication with the Lord in prayer, fellowship and scripture readings.  But the Bible offers more than the renewal of faith and a framework for our individual lives—it is a tangible gift from God that we can give to others so that the flame of Christ may grown strong throughout all the world.

When we build such a fire for Christ and His Kingdom then thick smoke will rise to the Heavens and people will take notice.  From every direction smoke signals will be seen and many will travel towards them.  When they do, we will have the opportunity to share the good news of God’s love with them so that they too, will know how to fan the magnificent flame.  

With Grace, in Faith, through Christ,

 Courtney Allison

I made the Flight Attendant Jump!

28 Aug

I made the Flight Attendant Jump (990 words)

I know who she is—the woman sitting next to me.  Her arms don’t take up their allotted portion of the arm rests.  This is a gift to me and the man on her left… or it is just what skinny people do on airplanes; they overcompensate for the rest of us. 

Even while she is thumbing her blackberry, her elbows dig deep into her torso.  She is typing an itemized list into her phone. “1. Dry cleaning; 2. Get Rascal; 3. Grocery shop…” I get overwhelmed just by reading this over her shoulder.

My to-do list on the other hand, (which I wrote 10 minutes ago on a soiled napkin from Subway) has my one and only obligation.  It reads… “Don’t Jump!”

It’s sad to say, but I know this woman because I use to be her— before I became suicidal, that is.  She’s married with 2 children, a golden retriever, and a Cadillac CTS parked in front of her 5 bedroom home on Long Island.  She probably goes to prayer meetings and charity events so that she’ll be a shoe-in when we arrive at the pearly gates, but what lies ahead of her… God won’t go near.

One morning she’ll awaken to a frantic phone call from an unidentified voice who is incoherently explaining that her husband tried to balance cocaine and xantax… He failed!  Months later, her son will announce that he’s gay and her daughter will run off with a man named, “Gunz.” (The sort of guy who refers to himself as, “Gunz-with-a-Z” at every introduction.) Before she knows it, 3 years of bingeing on hotdog buns and maple syrup while watching late night infomercials will make her a valued customer at Lane Bryant, which predictably ushers in the day that she’ll start to pay more for the aisle seat on an airplane.

These skies aren’t so friendly anymore—which may serve me well if I choose to ignore my to-do list.  This thought leads me to notice that my napkin has fallen to the ground.  She does too.

 “Is this yours?” The girl next to me asks politely.  She reaches down in her seat to retrieve my napkin. (This is another thing that skinny people do for those who are “bendably” challenged.)

“Yes, it’s my to-do list.” I don’t try to sound like I’m joking.

“Looks more like your ‘to-don’t’ list,” she replies with a laugh.

I manage to make squealing sounds while taking in short breaths, thus giving the illusion that I find her funny.  “Actually, I jotted this down while eating a meatball sub; it reminds me not to mix $5 footlongs with aerobic activity.”  It takes a moment to register before she lets out a big laugh.

“You’re funny!” She says, repositioning her head from having her left ear on her left shoulder to having her right ear on her right shoulder. “I’m Clara!”

I respond with the up-down head nod to signal that I’m willing to volunteer my name if we can return to being strangers. “Joy.” My response is unenthusiastic. 

“Joy!!!” She sings my one syllable name in a melodic fashion.  “What a GREAT name! You must be happy all the time! Wow!!!” 

Ironically enough, “Wow” seems to be the only word that is appropriate to responsd with.  In effort to avoid any further communication, I say, “Wow, Clara… wow,” with zero inflection.

She doesn’t catch on.  “You are also a Fruit of the Spirit! Along with…” Ok, forget the jump; this is how I’m going to die! “Love, patience, self-control…” Oo for 3… “Kindness, goodness…” None of these relate to me either… “Faithfulness, gentleness…” none, notta, zilch… “and Peace.”

There is a pregnant pause while I try to figure out what to say next.  “Well Clara, I’m sure glad my name is Joy because that is the only way that I can have one of those damn pieces of fruit. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to get some peaceful rest before we land in New York.”

“Okay, Joy!” She says this like she’s a cheerleader for the God Squad or something. “If anything disturbs your peace then cry out, ‘Good God, Give me peace’—then, the Lord will take all of your burdens and replace them with his perfect peace.” I smile blankly and close my eyes.

Surprisingly, I do sleep peacefully for the entire flight from Pittsburg. In fact, I wake up when the plane has already stopped.  I quickly sit erect because of my false sense of alertness and stand promptly to retrieve my carry-on.  (Which may or may not have shifted in flight!)

All of the sudden, a fiery eyed, fire haired flight attendant comes racing towards me.  He is saying something fast and emphatically, but I cannot make it out.  I look at the other passengers and notice that everyone is still sitting.  I’m embarrassed, but then my eyes meet Clara’s.  I’ve got to admit, the woman has got peaceful eyes; this reminds me of what she said earlier.

In fumbling with my suitcase and shooing away the overbearing flight attendant.  I finally cry, “Good God, this man and I need some peace!” Immediately, he turns around and leaves me alone. I exhale and take my seat. 

I didn’t have a chance to process what just happened because I hear these words raining down from above: “To the women who…” I lean into Clara while the fire-flighter cusses me out over the intercom; oddly enough, I feel okay with this curve ball life has thrown me today.

Clara sweetly whispers, “I sense your pea…” Before she finishes her sentence we are interrupted by a strong draft of warm air that sweeps down the aisle of the aircraft.   Clara and I both strain to look through the window of our chubby traveling companion.

Then, exchanging big eyes with one another, I laugh and say, “Someone forgot to have his fruit this morning.”

Encouraging Thoughts on the Book, Eat-Pray-Love.

17 Aug

Encouraging Thoughts on the Book Eat, Pray, Love (By Elizabeth Gilbert)

Written by Marie and Courtney Allison

Elizabeth Gilbert is her name and writing is her game.  Unfortunately, when her marriage, and seemingly her world fall apart, she suffers a serious case of writers block.  Frustrated with her life and failing relationships, Liz (for short) decides to embark on a search for her true self.  She’s determined to discover who she really is aside from her cultural norms, comfortable surroundings, and most importantly… men!  As the story unfolds it becomes evident that what Liz is looking for cannot be found quickly.  In fact, in her search she travels to 3 different countries. She eats her way through Italy and prays to an absent guru in India before she finally finds love for herself, and another, in Bali.

Traveling to different countries can appear to be a promising path that leads to self discovery.  After all, it is insightful to experience other cultures. A person’s character will grow when they acquire knowledge about the world.  However, it is not necessary to go a great distance to search for what Liz was eager to find; love, her ultimate end, would have met her exactly where she started from.

In order for love to bring completeness to Liz’s life, she felt the need to seek 5 different things.  She wanted healing from broken relationships and forgiveness for her divorce.  She desired direction for her life.  With her marriage dissolved and her career on hold, she needed a path to follow, which leads to her longing for peace of mind.  Most of all, Liz was desperate to feel fulfilled

All of these things- forgiveness, healing, direction, peace of mind and fulfillment are longings that exist in the heart of every woman.  Fortunately, we don’t need to travel half way across the globe to find contentment.  There is a Guru, A Rabbi, a teacher, from the Middle East who demonstrated a revolutionary path to God.  When he lived on earth he encouraged women to sit at his feet, as his students.  Now that he has left the earth, his spirit remains and it is the one thing that is able to transform the lives of women today.

Before Liz set out on her epic journey, he already knew the cries of her heart.  He knows the cries of your heart too.  It is no secret—this someone is Jesus Christ, and he is accessible to all who are searching… all who are broken… and all who desire more from life.  All we need to do is eat, pray and love- Consume his teachings in the Bible, talk to him daily in prayer, love him and allow his love to flow through us.  By doing this we will be introduced to true, unending, all providing love.

This is the promise that Jesus makes to every person-*“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks the door will be opened.” By taking in the words of the Bible, communicating with the Lord in prayer and being open to his Love, any person in any situation will find forgiveness, healing, direction, peace and fulfillment.  After all, this is his promise.

 *Matthew 7:7-8 NLT

When God Twitters

17 Aug

When God logs onto Twitter what does he see?  He sees that Matthew is still recovering from partying, while Mary in Arizona is prays for rain, and Larry, a father of three, has too many bills to pay.  Fortunate enough, God mustn’t go far, to collect all the requests that are tossed to the stars. 

While his Flickr account diligently organizes images of entertaining situations and humorous faces—a vibrant array of all places and races—he warmly chuckles and doles out his graces.  Yet, the most impressive part of God’s social networking accounts, is the Facebook page where he watches his friends amount.  But the list that is longer is found on the left, between his networks and the list of his friends; it is the names of his children, billions in length, and continuing to grow with each refresh of the page.

Yes, when God logs onto Twitter, what does he see?  What happens when all of God’s social networks are synced? From what I have experienced, and personally believe, our posts become prayers, reaching the destination that we should first seek.

The poem that I used to introduce this topic can only mean one thing—people must be praying!!!  At every hour (and even by the minute) people are making their requests public, their praises made known, and their interests a topic of conversation.  This means that prayer is on the rise in our nation and all over the world. (Well, wherever WiFi is accessible, that is!)

People are finally seeing results when they verbalize the inner workings of their hearts and minds. These results come from their communities of peers, families and friends.  Personal testimonies would claim that because of these social networks, requests are being fulfilled, praises are being offered, and interests are being met with similar interests. But the question we must ask is, by whom? To who? And with whose?

Let us make headway in these questions by first showing our appreciation to those who finally came to our rescue.  I’m talking about the people who created environments that allow us to pray more fervently, like Mark Zuckerburg (the creator of Facebook), Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams (The Twitter guru’s) and Caterina Fake (the mojo behind Flickr).  Thank you for finally creating easily accessible websites that can efficiently answer the cries of the people.  We have been waiting for this!!!

If you are unable to sense my facetious tone, then wake up and smell the nearly burnt-out, overworked motherboard!  Many of us are unaware that we are taking our needs to the keyboard before we take them to The Creator, The Councilor and The Ultimate Friend.

All too often I will find myself turning to my social networks to cry from the depths of my soul, or to find a solution to my problems and even to cheer for something that is worthy of praise.  I repeatedly race to my computer before I fall to my knees in prayer, despite the fact that I know God is the one source who I can go to for anything.  He is the only source from which all good things flow and the best part is that he’s available anytime.  So, what is it about these websites that make us feel like we’ve been taken care of?  Why do we continually return to our social networks, creating more traffic and offering more of ourselves?

Whether it is for more advice, or more socializing or more meaningless banter, we are using these social networks because they deliver results, and not just results… instantaneous results.  The way that I think about it us that within minutes of broadcasting a post I can receive a flood of replies from many different people.  These responses must have been so overwhelming for some that a short-cut response system has been developed. It’s called the “like” button.  Apparently, writing, “I like what you just said, Courtney” takes too much time.  Let’s face it, we want to know that our words were received by an audience and accepted by them… immediately!

In addition to timely responses, before I post something I tend to think of the likely responses I’ll receive from my most dedicated “friends”.  Ultimately, this leads to me conveying my thoughts in a politically correct fashion that will appease those in my network—it may even stray from what I’m really trying to say.  Therefore, I’m technically publishing words that resemble my thoughts and feelings but have been mostly crafted for an audience.  This means that my words are being cheapened because I’m gearing them towards an audience, which results in sharing posts that lack authenticity. There is another reason for this besides expedient results and the audience’s reading pleasure—yes, I think that the best name for it is, “trial and error”.

There have been times when I’ve posted an authentic, gut wrenching cry, for no other reason than to get whatever is burdening me off of my chest.  But when those posts are not responded too in a timely matter, the burden returns and, without a doubt, has gotten heavier.  So, I’ve learned, as I’m sure most of you have, to not post anything that will leave me feeling too vulnerable.

But, wait a minute—if we cannot be vulnerable, authentic, or patient then these posts aren’t prayers at all.  Even though we are doing all of the right actions—petitioning our needs, making them public, trusting that assistance with come—we are not directing them towards the correct source.  In fact, we are not directing them at any source; which can be more damaging then directing them at the wrong source.  When we send the words that define our souls off into cyberspace then there is no promise that they will be detected.  So make sure to send your cries to The Source…God.  Even though it may seem like he lives in outer space sometimes, he is actually much closer than we think.  In fact, he is closer to you than any person who happens to be in your social network.

This is because he already knows the workings of your soul, the thoughts in your mind and the obstacles that you face.  Therefore, before you type your thoughts into the 160 characters of allotted space, send a message up to God.  He is waiting for you to engage him in conversation.  Even though you may not get immediate results, you can be positive that he has heard you and that he will answer you with a solution that is better than you could ever imagine.  And while you are at it, why not send up some praises as well.  Instead of writing a post about how much you love blueberry ice cream, thank God for blueberries…and milk…and freezers…and Ben & Jerry’s!

The next time that you are about to post a message that will be sent into cyberspace forever, ask yourself whether it is a message meant for your social network or a message meant for God.  He wants to hear from you and he wants to answer you… everyday.

Banning the (Wedding) Band: Gay Marriage, American Unity and God.

9 Aug

A phrase that can be repeated over and over again without risk of getting old was said by a man as he took his first steps into a new world.  Lance Armstrong declared that being on the moon was “… one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  When those who huddled around a single television set with family and neighbors heard this for the first time, they must have known that humans had taken a crucial step in the direction towards advancement, and that everything from that moment on would be different.

This advancement in science was good.  Other advancements of the 20th century, like gender and race equality, were first met with opposition but in time proved to advance the common good as well.  Perhaps those who were disgruntled about an African American sitting at the front of a bus or a woman entering the work force were silenced by the cries of support that overpowered their complaints.

As one who has seen only the positive effects of these advancements and not the struggle to secure them, I recognize the progression of science and human equality as positive.  It is normal to sit in class with a colorful array of peers, and to be blessed with the same rights as men, and to enjoy the many amenities that science has brought about.  These advancements, at one time, were new and different but are now common place and necessary.  This provokes me ask… will my children view gay marriage in the same way?

Is gay marriage something that is receiving opposition today but in the future will be so common place, if not a necessary fiber that makes up America?  Or does the legalization of gay marriage in a nation whose currency reads, “In God We Trust,” go against our very core?

Everything new has the ability to divide a people group.  For instance, the Civil War was sparked with the idea of a new citizenship for slaves.  This divided the nation into regions of north and south.  What about the two-party democracy that our new, young nation, America has been governed by since its conception? And recently, take abortion and artificial insemination? A new technology with the ability to create or take away a fetus separated us into “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps.  So, with this new concept of legal marriage between two people of the same sex, how will we be divided?

The most obvious answer is religion.  There are a number of religions that have defined stances opposed to same-sex coupling, but to be more specific, the religion that will most definitely stand out in this division is Christianity.

For years people with ties to Christianity have been outspoken about their convictions involving this “alternative” lifestyle.  Whether it has been approached with love or condemnation, the message has been clear: Those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are living with sin. 

Chuck Colson, a famous evangelist in the world of politics once said that the word “sin” is the most politically incorrect word that one could use.  And it is… but it is more than politically incorrect, it is downright hurtful.  It is a word that means an individual or a group of individuals is doing something wrong.  And in a world where the line between right and wrong is not defined by laws but by personal beliefs, what classifies an action as sinful?  The word is subjective but does hold a common understanding; sin is an act that is wrong and imperfect.  Yes, it is an ugly word, but one that is commonly used by Christians.

In fact, it is one word that is necessary to understanding the Christian faith.  Why? Because no human is perfect and therefore we all must sin.  And I’m not just writing to those who have sexual relations with someone of the same sex!  Even the most devout Christian on his or her best day partakes in actions that can be classified as sinful.  Which brings up another word that is equally important (if not more important) in the vocabulary of Christianity.  Grace.

Grace is the solution to our human shortcomings because it is applicable to every person.  For this reason, it is a word that brings us together in unity: Black and white, female and male, homosexual and heterosexual.  The reason why this one word can bring unity to people so divided is because it means that something dull and coarse can become polished, lovely and refined.  And who isn’t dull or coarse?  (In my personal opinion, an incorrect perception of a Christian is that we are dull, and a wrongful stereotype of someone in the GLBT community is that he or she may be coarse.)  But the good news is that we can all be refined, polished up and made perfect again, for God gives us Grace and in return we can give grace to others.  And when we realize that we can bestow grace on other people then we recognize that we have the ability to make another individual feel lovely and comfortable in their own skin.

As the story goes, Grace was birthed when Jesus Christ died.  In fact, the sole reason why we even hear of this man, Jesus, is because God sent him with a mission to ensure that humans could become sinless.  When he died, we became cleared of all sin, which, as we established, is otherwise impossible for humans!!!

Being gay isn’t the sin, just like being African American or a female isn’t a sin, as was commonly thought once upon a time.  Our human actions are sinful—but Grace makes them obsolete…for all of us.  This is why it is so unifying.

In a country that is all too often divided into parties, camps, and regions why not attach to something that is unifying?  Instead of opposing people who desire to advance the group they identify with, or ostracize another group of people for what they believe, why not find the ground that holds us all together? 

We are American. We are human. We are living under a larger God.  What is different might frighten us and what is new may turn us away.  But as we each wake up every morning and take one small step for ourselves and possibly stride for the people whom we identify with, why not take one larger step for unification? When we decide to do this it will result in a giant leap in the direction Grace.

Gift Cards for Long Island

23 Jul

If you lend me your imagination for a moment then I will be able to paint a picture of how I envision Gift Cards for the Gulf Coast being most successful.

The day that I spent in Long Island was a perfect example of how I plan to travel when I am in the Gulf Coast. I’d like to be open with people thus allowing people to be open with me.  Sharing in a number of meaningful conversations taught me much about personal struggles.  It would be nice to serve them with a gift card.  

My trip differs from my day in Long Island because when in the Gulf Coast I will be attending organized functions (that I have listed for you under “Destinations”),communicating with churches and getting involved with local nonprofit projects.  Therefore I will have the opportunity to meet and talk with more people in helpful settings.  This will allow me to continue communication long after I’m gone.

The following people who helped (through conversation or a friendly ride) me, I would like to help in return…

Jim (He was openning up his large “Drainage” business when I asked him to point me in the direction of the train station.  He was the first person to say, “Get in!”  I was thankful for this ride and surprised to learn that he has a winter home just 10 miles from where I live.)

Miriam

Jerry

Daniel

 All in all, New York is wonderful, the people are great and these brief encounters added much joy to already joyful purpose for being there.

Friends and Love-- Congratulations Lindsay and Ben!

Daniel… and the Lion’s Den

22 Jul

I felt relief upon arriving at the Deerpark train station.  For the first time that day I could see the finish line of my journey.  All I had to do was get on the train to Ronkonkamo (don’t worry if you can’t pronounce this… it seems that only the New York tongue has such flexibility).  I huddled in the corner, sparing what little energy I had left by staying in the shade of the train station overhang.

Throughout the day I had been opening my bible to 1st Corinthians… which I was about to do again when I felt an urge to write down all of the ways that the Lord had blessed me throughout the day.  When the list was exhausted at 2 pages in length I looked up to take in the people around me.  It was then that I caught a glimpse of a man who was walking fast—like he had a purpose… a place to be… a destination in mind.  Plastered on his face was a huge grin.  Even though he was on the other side of the train tracks, I knew that because of his smile we were connected through the Lord.  It was obvious to me that his smile had a source, and that source was Jesus Christ.

I hardly expected to speak to the man; after all, I had already accumulated 2 entire pages of blessings for that day– no more were necessary.  However, this was a divine appointment that brought him and me together.  It’s amazing to see what happens when 2 or more people of gather in the name of the Lord… Praises raise, services pour out and church proceeds— even in the mid-day sun at a congested train station.

He first approached me to ask a “train related” question.  By this time I had moved from writing praises to lazily reading the Word.  I looked up, answering him with my most popular retort of the day, “I don’t know.  I’m not from around here.” I offered him all the information that I could before he went onto ask the next person in hopes of receiving a more thorough answer.

After a moment, he turned back to me and said (in more of an expressive revelation rather than a question), “Is that a bible you are reading?”

“Yes.”  I said sheepishly.  “Do you read the bible?”

“Yes.” He said confidently, “a proverb a day.”

While we waited for the train we spoke of the great things that the Lord has done for us.  Ironically, it was the first time that he had taken the train, even though he lived and worked on Long Island—and it was obviously my first L.I. train experience.  So I have concluded that we were meant to be with one another at that time, in that place, so that we could share with one another just how the Lord has worked in each of our lives.

Unfolding in this conversation were stories about being lost in the world and found by Christ… being enslaved to addiction and then freed to live… and most importantly, the desire to help those whom find themselves in similar predicaments.  The details were sparse but the message was concrete: The Lord saves.  Even when we are in the pit of despair, trapped by our own vices… He saves.

 I saw a lot of myself in Daniel, despite an age difference.  (I would guess him to be around the age of my parents.)  Regardless, I don’t often meet someone who I have such similar qualities to.  For instance, he is full of ideas and at no shortage for words to describe them.  He paints verbal pictures to cast his visions, which allowed me to understand what he sees and grasp the magnitude of his entrepreneurial efforts. 

In his heart, he desires to serve those who suffer from addictions because he has been in the stronghold of such struggles.  I, also, have a personality that is drawn to mind-altering dependencies.  I have seen the corrupting hand of addiction plague my life and others.  Often, I hopelessly try to unravel myself from these strongholds—just to disappoint myself when I frantically get entangled with them once again.  Yet, on that day, under the overhang of that Long Island train station, Daniel taught me a very valuable lesson. 

Addiction can be a personal lion’s den… one that is humanly impossible to escape from; it is also impossible to rescue someone from it because we have only the strength of a human.  But God can save and God can serve.  He can grab us from the far reaches of ourselves and deliver us to a place where we can serve others in his name.  Perhaps someday, I (with the strength of the Lord) will be able to extend my hand to an individual who stands alone in the pit of addiction… just as Daniel has done.

Daniel is a man of vision and action.  He has combined his experience with addiction and his heart for service to create a wonderful program that will be available soon.  Amazingly enough, this program (which has been in the works for quite some time) will be a great way to serve people affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill.  Daniel does not want to see other people fall into the pit of addition—he wants to serve them so that God can do for them what he has done for both Daniel and me… Save.

Daniel served me on that day by being open, honest, and inclusive.  I knew from the moment I saw him that he was my brother in Christ.  And whether he knew it or not, he treated me as his sister.  He served me in a way that would be odd to acquaintances and foreign to strangers… He served me as his own.  But I am not surprised because, after all, God arranged for each of us to need that train; we both relied on that mode of transportation for first time on that day… Together.

Getting Burned on Fire Island

21 Jul

The last thing I expected to recieve while aimlessly wandering through NY was  a ride in a new BMW convertible.  It seemed terribly ironic that this was the situation I found myself in on such a day.

I had chosen to visit the town of Bay Shore because I liked the name.  Is it not a little descriptive? It’s a name that, to me, sparks a mental image of a sandy beach that serves as a connecting link between water and metropolis.  This is not so. 

Bay Shore is the home to the infamous “Fire Island Ferries”.  From what I gather, these ferries are the ideal mode of transportation to other New York destinations.  So, instead of walking towards a sandy beach, I walked right into a motorcar circus, complete with the driving, cussing, and finger waving that I have come to expect from New Yorkers (based on my Hollywood perception, that is).  In fact, I only saw cars and boats—I’m not even convinced that there was water.

One car that called my attention was a black BMW convertible.  Perhaps it caught my eye because I caught the eye of the man driving it first.  He circled me once, twice and by the third time I acknowledged his obvious behavior by asking him the most obvious question, “Are you looking for parking?”

The man in the driver’s seat happened to be my age and within a few minutes of discovering this, he asked for my phone number.  (He was convinced that me living in Palm Beach posed no obstacle and insisted on staying in contact.)  I politely declined giving him my phone number but did invite myself into his car, for the blister on my right foot had just broken and I needed to sit for a moment. 

Upon getting in this fancy car I saw his Louis Vuitton wallet conveniently placed on the floor by my filthy feet.  (To Men: all women know that you don’t keep your wallets, car keys, or other expensive items on, in, or near the passenger seat of your car!) I spotted his wallet and he spotted my feet.  It was a big turn off—for both of us.  I began to explain my story to him.  He thought I was crazy—the feeling was mutual. 

Our agreement, when I let myself into his car, was that he would look for parking and I would be driven to a place much closer to my final destination, wherever that may be.  So when he found parking just half a mile up the road we parted ways.  He was no longer eager to get my phone number.

I walked up the street through this plush Long Island neighborhood.  It was no different than the other areas that I had traveled through that day.  It was complete with “Stepford” style homes and perfectly manicured lawns.  One lawn looked very inviting because it had a beautiful shade tree that rested between the street and the side walk.  I decided to sit there for a moment while trying to figure out how to get where I needed to go.

Just a moment later I heard the sound of car engines.  When I turned my head I saw 2 separate vehicles drive up the long driveway of the home that I was sitting in front of.  It was not that I was naïve in sitting on someone’s property—it was just that no one has ever had a problem with it before.  However, the way that my blood started to pump when I heard the cars approach told me that this time it was not okay.  And it wasn’t.

Within a moment of them being home I heard the sound of sprinklers winding up and chugging, beginning first with short spurts of water and then spraying in several different directions.  I just sat there in amazement that nobody came to talk to me… no one asked me to leave… they had their sprinklers do it for them!  My mind raced with questions like, was I really that much of a threat to them?  Why didn’t they come speak to me in person?  How could I be so unwelcomed under a three that was so inviting?

One by one they maneuvered each sprinkling spout until they found that one that covered the area where I was sitting.  While the water was refreshing, the insult was just fresh.  I stood, picked up my shoes and walked barefoot into town.  And so it was… there were no shade trees to protect me from the burning rays of my day.

Driving through life with Rose tinted glasses– Jerry

20 Jul

“Hey, Sweetheart…” A thick accent shouted in my direction as I stepped into the town of Babylon.  In descending down the steep stairs of this outdoor train station all I was focused on was searching for the direction I needed to travel in.  I was thinking of my ultimate goal at this time (which was to get to MacArthur airport in Islip, NY) when I heard…  “Need a ride?”

His name was Jerry.  I welcomed this greeting and respond with a, “I’ll let you know.”  I was very aware that even though I did not want to resort to taking a taxi, I might be facing a situation that called for it.  And it did.

As I searched all throughout the Babylon train station for some sort of neon sign to point me in the “right direction” I succumbed to the reality that I would be using a taxi service that day.  This revelation occurred when I asked the woman at the ticket counter for some direction. (Thank GOD that there was an actual human present at the ticket counter—everything up to this point had been electronic!)  The first words out of her mouth were, “get in your car and go to DeerPark station.”  I wondered if she knew, from the looks of me that I had been walking all day.  She emphasized again by using the exact words, “get in your car and drive”.  So that’s just what I did…I walked over to the gentleman who had greeted me first and invited myself into the backseat of his taxi.   

“12 dollahs” he said answering my question about fare.  It was better than the $40 that another cab driver had quoted me for a ride to the airport.  So off we went, advancing towards my final destination and driving right through an enjoyable conversation with a like-minded individual.

I soaked up the cool air of the car and the refreshing personality of this man.  It would have been impossible for me to sulk in the presence of such an optimist.  Even though my journey had exhausted me and I looked forward with trepidation towards the next leg of my journey, I saw sheer happiness in another individual; it awakened happiness in me.  Only while I was in his presence did I feel overwhelmed with joy—joy that was refreshing, hopeful and necessary at that moment.

Miriam: Blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news.

19 Jul

Miriam is her name.  Miriam Alvarez.  When my mind recalls the image of her face I see her warm expression, exuding smile, and God.  She is the epitome of God in Flesh. 

I was hobbling down the streets of Maple and something-or-other in Bay Shore, NY, when I slowed (from my already tortuous pace) to replace my shoes.  They’d become unbearable by this point—irritating the blisters that they had caused.  As I bent down I met eyes with a woman who, with a smile, made known her concern for my feet.

She, herself had a cast wrapped around her foot; it was the result of doing work around the house, she said. 

“This is your BODY!!!” Emphasizing emphatically with full-on gestures and concern in her eyes she continued,  “And it is the Lord’s, so you better be good to it.” 

It is evident that the spirit of love enriches the soul of this Latina mother; Latin American nurturing is something that I’ve grown familiar to because of living if South Florida for the past 4 years.  I fell into her arms crying wildly for just a moment, releasing all of the sadness that the world had, in just one day, placed on my shoulders.  At that moment she was my mother and I was her child.  And in that moment I saw the Lord, El Shaddai—God the nurturer, in wisdom and grace, for the first time in someone other than my own mother.

 As my eyes cleared and my heart lifted, I noticed that her friend accompanying her was reaching for her wallet.  My mind immediately envisioned her pulling out money for me and me having to gently refuse, for money was not what I needed at that moment.  Instead, Theresa pulled out of her wallet, (with all the enthusiasm as a child who finds a quarter in the couch cushion) a tiny “Dora the Explorer” bandage!  It fit perfectly over the blister that has broken on my left foot.  We all celebrated this because, after all, the main concern was my feet.

It made sense because both Miriam and Theresa had problems with their feet; Miriam’s was a current and obvious problem while Theresa’s happened a while ago; she told me the story and showed me her scars.  At one time she had 4 pins holding together her right ankle.  The importance of feet seemed to be the message that she was proclaiming.  This I knew even though I couldn’t understand a word that she was saying.  She slowed her pace and broadened her gestures– all the while staring into the bewildered eyes of someone who couldn’t understand the language she spoke. 

This was the first time I had really been on the other side of “that-sort-of” conversation.  Usually, the many people I meet whose 2nd or 3rd language is English enjoy practicing their English with me.  I talk, they talk—they try to understand me… I try to help them understand me.  Very rarely am I in the position where I must attempt to understand someone other than an English speaker.  Thinking back, I cannot say that I have ever been in a conversation where I had to understand such foreign verbal cues.   It was also somewhat challenging to communicate with Miriam, even though she spoke excellent English and spent many years living in a suburb of West Palm Beach, where I currently live.

Fortunately, we serve a God who is not challenged by this obstacle.  A language barrier is no challenge to God.  Through both Miriam and Theresa, individually and together, the Lord was able to communicate loud and clear—words of Love, acts of provision and comfort in my heart.  He was fully present.

After they dropped me off at the train station I believe that the communion between us three and God grew stronger; I knew that I left and they continued to pray.  I am certain of this because after they dropped me off at the train station there was refreshing burst of blood pumping in my veins; a constant flow of God-given energy.  It was energy like I had never known, simple and even.  It renewed my faith and desire to continue my travels.  They were fully with the Lord and prayed for the Lord to be fully with me. 

And so on I traveled—with little discomfort to my feet for the remainder of my journey.