Sunday, September 25, 2016

Words From The Marketplace

Thoughts or new perspectives can come from unexpected places. Here are a few words of wisdom that came as I was "passing through life" the past few weeks.

The Kroger Parking Lot - Nora section of Indianapolis

During a recent rainy Saturday, I went to my favorite Kroger on the north side of Indianapolis. When I got out of my car I noticed a Kroger employee gathering grocery cards that were scattered across the parking lot.

I asked, "What happens when it rains and you are collecting the carts?"

"I get the good Lord in my face," she replied with a big grin.

"Now that's a new perspective!" I dodged the rain drops as I opened my umbrella and rushed into the store.

My Church - Indianapolis

John, the custodian at the church I attend, is a retired postal service employee who was part of a class I taught on prayer a few years ago.

When I go to the church every Monday night to lead a support group, John is usually vacuuming the carpet. His positive, upbeat attitude is always refreshing.

One evening, I asked how he was doing and he replied, "Making things happen!"

"That's a great motivating phrase," I replied, reflecting on how I can take the initiative to bring about good in the world.

Indiana University North Hospital - Carmel

Louise, the director of volunteer services at the hospital where I volunteer every Tuesday is a former nurse. She managed a floor for many years before taking a part-time job with volunteer services.

Louise is full of wisdom gain from dealing with patients, families and hospital staff.

When I recently finished my shift, I overheard her talking to a new volunteer. "Always manage up," she offered.

She later explained when I asked about the phrase, "Always be positive and encouraging with people." Although she was referring to guests, patients and staff in the hospital, her words can apply to any interaction.

Walking through the rain in the grocery store parking lot, talking with a custodian at church and listening to a former nurse in an office - unsuspecting places to glean wisdom, in the  "marketplaces" of my life.

For your reflection:

1. Keep your ears attuned when you go different places throughout your day. Where do you find wisdom? Who is an unsuspecting carrier of reflection for your day?

2. Record thoughts of strangers or others that you hear in passing or in conversation. with those you know. How can these thoughts enter your heart and bring new insight to your life?

Prayer: God, thank you for people who spread your word with phrases that have come to them through their life experiences. Keep our ears and hearts open to receive what you want us to capture in the marketplace of life. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Owner of A Broken Heart

Occasionally when I cannot express what I feel in words, I use fabric, paper, paint, an X-acto knife or scissors to give language to my thoughts.

Several years ago, I had no words for what I was experiencing. I drew a 12" wide heart on fabric, cut the heart into twelve pieces, hand-sewed the pieces together, then appliqued the heart on a large piece of cloth. I repeated the same cycle nine times - cutting a large heart, making twelve pieces, hand-sewing the piece together, and appliqueing to fabric.

Recently I came across the quilt that I stashed in a closet. I noticed many of the pieces of the hearts were frayed, coming apart and worn. Preparing to put the quilt in a bag for Goodwill, I noted the beautiful design from machine quilting on the back. How could I throw away this piece created during a time of chaos and turmoil?

After all, the hearts on the back were complete - when I studied the stitching I couldn't even see the frayed edges on the front side. All I saw was the visual purity of a healthy heart weaving all over the underside of this artwork made when I was heartsick!

The quilt suggested a metaphor for rough patches of life with the ragged pieces on the front and the transformed hearts on the back. Hearts are frequently broken into pieces, frayed and word for various reasons. In time, with prayer, those same hearts experience God's healing and restoration.


1. What is on your mind that breaks your heart, personally, for a friend, for our nation?

2. Draw a picture of a heart and divide it into as many pieces as you want.

3. Bring to God your concerns, holding each piece of the heart praying: "Put my heart in your hand, God. Bring warmth, insight, discernment, wisdom or any other thought or tiny piece of love that can help me come together.

4. Make this time of prayer and holding happen over a few days, weeks or even months, knowing that restoration can take time.

5. When you are ready to piece your heart together, get glue, and paper. Put the pieces as close together as you can - realizing that the new form may look different, but is beautiful.

6. Thank God for the healing taking place and for the freedom that comes from being open to transformation.

For your Reflection:

1. How did dividing your paper heart begin to represent the fractures and fissures of your pain?

2. What feelings surfaced as you worked through each step from beginning to end?

3. Write a short prayer to thank God for holding your heart and bringing change.

Prayer: God, thank you for allowing us to express creatively what we feel inside and how we image our heart to appear when we have distress. We can feel emotions from experiences that indeed wound us. In your rest and through prayer, our hearts can be fused together and we can walk in new life. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

God's Provision - How Church Ladies Filled The Gap

Early in the summer, I went to a local gift store. One of the employees asked if I made the bag I carried over my shoulder..

"No, but a friend did."

"I'm learning to sew."


"There's a group of ladies who sew at my church every Tuesday night. They are teaching me. I'm making a bag." She described the colors of the fabric.

"Sounds beautiful. Save the scraps and you can eventually make a quilt!"

She laughed. Maybe she wasn't sure about the quilt yet.

My Church Ladies - God's Provision

I made my way through the store looking at various items. While she was talking about the ladies who sew, my heart swirled back to the numerous 'church ladies' in my life who helped me cook by writing their recipes on index cards, introduced me to quilting by sharing stories of their handwork and providing fabric, but more importantly offered positive models of what it meant to be an encouraging wife and nurturing mother.

I called these women "silent encouragers." They had no idea I was watching as they interacted with their spouses, prepared meals and raised their children. Church ladies were part of God's provision for me, filling a huge gap in my life by living out healthy marriages and child raising.

God's Provision through the Ram

The Bible lists may stories of God's provision. One of the most remarkable is when God tests Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham obeyed taking his son to a mountain, tying him on an altar made from a pile of wood. Just as Abraham raised a knife to kill Isaac, an angel called to him saying, "Don't hurt the boy or do anything to him," he said. "Now  I know you have obedient reverence for God, because you have not kept back your only son from him."

The story continues, "Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in in bush by its horns. He went and got it and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named the place, 'The Lord Provides.' And even today people say, 'On the Lord's mountain he provides.'"

God's Provision for  My Family
Sometimes God's provision is with something material. For example, we lived in Vincennes, Indiana, from June 1989 to June 1996. One late Friday afternoon, Mike, Anna and I were walking to the high school football stadium for the opening game of the season. Sarah was a freshman. She played in the marching band and was already at the stadium practicing for the pre-game show.

As the three of us were walking the few blocks from our parsonage to the stadium, we wondered how we were going to afford to get in. It was the end of the month and our bank account registered $5.00. We weren't sure if six-year-old Anna was free, nor did we remember the cost of adult admission. We kept walking, hoping we had enough. If not, we decided one of us would stay at the game with Anna and the other would go home.

We were at the bottom of the street leading to the stadium when a car pulled over to the sidewalk.

The friendly voice of a church lady called out, "Hi Mike and Jacquie! Are you going to the game?"

"Yes we are!"

"I have two adult tickets. Would you like them? John and I can't go tonight."

Stunned, we replied, "Sure ...yes we could use your tickets!" Pat's hand jutted out the window waving the two tickets.

"I get season tickets each year free because I'm a school principal. So glad we found someone to use them!"

God's provision once again.

We got into the game. Anna was free and the $5.00 we brought enabled Anna and a friend to split a bag of popcorn and have a drink.

God's provision was timely, serendipitous, and received with much gratitude.
Keeping Hearts Open for Everyday Provision

God's provision occurs throughout the day - many times we may not even be aware. When we're struck with a new thought or insight about life or we sense a nudge to complete God's call to extend love to others - these are ways God provides. God is always waiting to deepen our faith and move us closer to his image. Keeping an open hear ensures a readiness to receive what God gives readily and with great love.

The church ladies in Mike's three rural student pastorates in North Carolina were formative in my early days of marriage. As I said, they showered me with recipes and encouragement as I learned to cook. The church ladies in each of Mike's appointments in those early years offered models to ground my life in God and to be the best wife to Mike and mother to Sarah and Anna. Even after 42 years, the imprint of what they gave me remains.

Questions for reflection:

1. Who are the silent encouragers from your life?

2. What individuals or groups of people have modeled Christian living for you?

Prayer: God, I thank you deeply for the many ways you have offered provision to fill gaps of loss in my life. These church ladies have blessed me in ways that still carry me today. As I have been blessed, open my heart to bless others in your name. Amen.