Saturday, 29 September 2012

The small miracle of ten dollars

Have you ever had a branding moment?

Something so catastrophic happens that it marks you for the rest of your life. You remember what you were wearing and the smells and sounds, and especially how you felt when it happened. Thinking about it makes those same emotions spring to life, and you are suddenly right there, in the moment.

For me, it was in the subway.

Several years ago, I often didn't carry much money in my wallet. The bottom line was, I didn't have much money, and often didn't have cash. It was never a crisis, because my credit card and my bank card carried me through most situations.

Except one.

At that time, you could only use cash or tokens to get on the subway at Kipling station, which is the west end of the line. I would get off the train (for which I had a monthly pass) and board the subway every day at Kipling. On this day, I was on the train when I realized the change in my wallet wasn't enough to board the subway. A frantic search in the depths of my purse (had any change fallen down there?) and my wallet (was there a token stuck in the lining?) revealed my worst fear. I didn't have enough money.

When I got off the train, I tried to use my bank card with the ticket seller to get cash back, but that wasn't possible. There were ticket machines in the subway, but you needed cash for them. I couldn't turn around and go home (as my heart longed to do) because there would be no westbound trains until evening. With growing horror, I realized my only recourse.

I would have to beg.

I approached a woman going through the turnstile. I held out the change I had, and began to explain my predicament, but the shame of the situation rose in my throat and squeezed out the words. Tears spilled down my face unbidden, and my cheeks flamed with embarrassment. She must have understood, because she reached into her pocket and found the change I needed. I grabbed it like a crust of bread to a starving person, and rushed onto the train. It took several stops for me to cease shaking and crying. From that day several years ago, I never leave the house without checking my wallet for change.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was on the subway, when a young man stepped forward. He looked to be in his early twenties, clean cut but a little ragged around the edges. I didn't notice him until he started to speak.

"So, I've had a run of bad luck, and I'm just trying to get home. I need to get to Union Station, and then take the train to my town. I don't have enough money to buy the ticket, and I wonder if anyone would help me. I still need $30, and I'd appreciate anything you could give me."

Immediately, I was back at Kipling, frantically searching in pockets and linings for enough change to get to work. The powerful emotions of those moments washed over me, but this time, I was able to be the beneficiary. A ten dollar bill sat in my wallet, and with a quick prayer, I gave it to him. He looked surprised at the denomination of the bill, and then melted into the seat, as if trying to disappear.

I don't know if he was legitimate. My gut feeling is that he was, but there are ways in which it doesn't matter. I think I was handing the money to that horrified woman at Kipling station, and reminding her that even in the most out-of-control situations, God is in control.

A lesson she is still learning. Daily.

What "branding" situation have you been in? What have you learned from it?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The small miracle of successful days

I love to accomplish things.

There's no better feeling for a person with my personality type than to make a long list of tasks, and then begin to cross them off. When I was a mom at home with small children, I would make my ILT ever day. That stood for my Impressive List of Things. At the end of the day, I would show it to my husband (who was far too smart to ever say, "What did you do all day?") If all or most of the items had been crossed off, I would feel it was a successful day. I had accomplished!

My list was typical:

  • clean the house
  • laundry
  •  run errands
All these things needed to be done, but many years into it, when the children were mostly grown, I began to realize that the ILT had become more important than God wanted. I was becoming 100% Martha. Don't get me wrong- I love Martha (and so did Jesus) but she got things out of perspective sometimes. So do I.

I began to wonder what God's ILT would look like.

  • I'd really like to talk with you today. "Come near to God, and He will come near to you." James 4:8
  • I have things I'd like to say to you today.  "Don't stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night think about what it says, so you can be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will prosper and succeed." Josh 1:8
  • How's it going with the fear thing? "I will never leave you nor forsake you. So you may boldly say, 'The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Heb. 13:5,6 
  • I made today for you. Can you give it back to me? No matter what happens? "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps. 118:24 
  • Here's the thing. I am with you. I love you. You are my special, beloved child. Today and every day.  "For you are a holy person who belongs to the Lord your God. Of all the people on the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his own special treasure." Deut. 7:6

      • So today, Lord, I give you my list, and decide to take a look at yours.

    Monday, 17 September 2012

    The small miracle of flowers in concrete

    It was a sight so arresting, it halted my journey up Christie Street.

    From the side of the curb, only inches from the street, were flowers growing from a minuscule break in the concrete. Beautiful purple cosmos bloomed where there should only be rock and pavement.

    There is a lesson here.

    More than "Bloom where you are planted." These flowers weren't planted. They sprang forth in the most difficult of places and spread their beauty among the feet, the tires and the bustle of a busy street.

    All of us have times of concrete in our lives. Difficult situations that don't improve, even with fervent prayer. The illness goes on and on, the struggling financial situation you can't get on top of, the relationship issue doesn't get resolved. There are times when the concrete hardens and the situation doesn't change . We storm the gates of heaven, but for a period of time, we are called to live in the concrete. And bloom.

    Why? Every situation is different, and many times, there is no answer to that question this side of heaven. My poor lifestyle choices, or my own sin may have caused the concrete, but often, there is no discernible reason. The concrete is there and I am here and I need to find a way to cope with it.

    The neat thing is, I am not alone.

    God is the god of the concrete, and He promises to be with me. "Shout for joy, you heavens: rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones." Is. 49:13

    He is there in the middle of the concrete situations, holding me up and encouraging me to bloom.

    Blooming doesn't mean dealing with the situation perfectly every time, but facing the daily challenges, and finding a way to not only cope, but thrive. At least some of the time.

    Blooming is the blind lady with the incredible sense of humour. She bemoaned the lack of men in her life, and asked why I didn't bring my husband. When I replied he was sick that day, she batted her sightless eyes and said, "I'm a nurse!"

    It's the woman who was diagnosed with cancer, and said, "Well, when I lose my hair, I'm getting a wig, and it's going to be red. I always wanted to be a redhead."

    It's the couple who can't have children, but celebrate every child that comes into their lives as a gift from God.

    Blooming is acknowledging the concrete is there, but concentrating on the flowers. Looking for God's hand and God's help.

    "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you." Deut. 31:5,6

    Are there "stuck in concrete" issues in your life? How are you blooming?