Is God Relevant?

“When kids come to our church youth room, they find a place where they can kick back and fellowship, enjoy a soft drink, some snacks, play games and listen to music.”

I was stunned as a large mega-church youth and college leader showed me their enormous youth room. Much larger than the youth rooms I visited elsewhere in my own teen years. (You know, back when dinosaurs walked the earth. Lol.)

Yet the concept was still the same. Keep up with trends .. we are at this blessed place in history. Technology, transportation, fashion, entertainment, even occupations have changed drastically in the last two hundred years.

It has been said that trains of thought have polarized greatly. Many studies and statistics say that while there are a large number of Believers in the United States, not all of them are gathering to fellowship, while pastors and youth leaders wonder why this is occurring, the pandemic beside.

Church attendance and participation in service clubs has wained over the past twenty years, I am told, by those who manage those organizations.

Is God still relevant?

Is He relevant to me? Is He relevant to you?

Relevant .. relatable, necessary.

Surrounded on all sides by a Jesus believing family, I memorized scriptures as a kid.

And I craved a relationship with the Lord. My prayers were full of the God blesses, etc.

The “be with” prayers. Be with those who are suffering. Be with those who have lost their way. Be with those who feel empty and don’t know why.

Why is God Relevant?

It seems that those who believe in God really, really believe, and those who don’t, really, really don’t.

A long time ago, someone told me that trying to win the world by admonishment or accusation would never work.

“But your testimony, your story, no one can dispute. And when they see the light in your eyes, they will know.”

They have seen God. The God of all creation, the Almighty Author, the fantastic Painter of all things beautiful. The Creative Musician Who sings over us as we sleep.

Lord, we seek You. Right here, wherever we are. There is no place on earth where You cannot be found. We love you so much, and seek Your Presence in our lives.

Psalm 104:1-2 (New King James Version) “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”

The Coffeehouse Jesus and Blue Jeans Rock

The chilly drive on the Indianapolis interstate dumped us out in inner city Indy, where my Dad found a parking spot amid spaces covered by hard packed snow outside a storefront coffee house usually frequented by the homeless and those just seeking a touch from God.

Already dark outside, the trunk of the car was almost a welcome sight, as Mama unloaded her guitar, Dad grabbed his bass, and together, they made a second trip for the amplifier and microphone.

Mama was in the house.

The Watch Night service, as it was called in those days, started around 7 o’clock, with supper around 8.

As congregants waited for the midnight hour, to pray in the New Year, one person or group after another would bring special music, share testimony, or pray.

Dressed in my blue corduroy jumper dress and tights with a striped turtleneck, I wrapped my winter coat a little tighter because it seemed to be colder at times.

Then it was our turn to sing.

Shedding the long coat, I followed my parents to the front of the room, surrounded by maybe thirty people, seated on barrels and metal folding chairs, drinking coffee and leaning on wagon wheel tables.

This was my first time singing with Mama and Daddy, and I was so nervous.

“Throw Out the Lifeline,” was the song we sang. My voice was sometimes strong, yet I struggled.

Applause and cheers loudly followed and I found my eight-year-old self questioning whether my “performance” warranted that.

Hours stretched on, with songs and hymns, and bursts of encouragement, and soon the midnight hour was upon us, where we prayed in the New Year, asking God for His blessing.

Jesus met us in the worn down coffeehouse, a Haven for the searching, comfort for the weary, light and warmth for the distressed.

I often wonder what Jesus would look like if He came to us now? Would He have long hair and ride a skateboard? “Hit me up on Facebook,” He might say. “Send me a text, day or night, I mean it. I am here for you.”

I like to think that He would be as relevant and approachable to us now as He was then, even though “our God dwells in inexplicable light.”

A lifetime has passed since that night.

I went on to join an adult church choir at nine years old and continued singing in some form or fashion even to my life now.

The performance has changed to worship and seeking that familiar Presence, Who moved with grace among the group who sought, some with tears in their eyes, their Savior.

I am so grateful for His love. He sees past all my shortcomings. He holds me when I can’t see my way. He gives me a hand through difficult days. He scatters His glory across the sky to show me there is hope, yes, in this life and beyond.

Selah.

Lord, You are our hope, and we love You so much.

Let brighter thoughts prevail

It is end September and Florida is still hot and humid, but then again that fresh ocean air that sweeps over the state is so worth it.

I found myself asking a coworker what her beauty secret was for keeping her hair straight even though she has curly hair. She shared the product and combing technique she uses and yes, I went to the store today and totally forgot to pick up the product.

Some days are like that. If I don’t put it on my list, I may or may not remember it.

Yet a train of thought flew through my mind of how sometimes I complain about little silly stuff, like the weather, or traffic (well if people would use their blinkers, be considerate and kind, that would be a non-issue), or congestion at the grocery store.

And I thought to myself, self, why do you complain about such things?

How about be thankful for the changing weather, or the fact I have a car, or that I have access to grocery stores and can get most things I need?

And then.

My how the dust has gathered in my bedroom, which presently looks like a book and greeting card hoarder lives here. (Maybe I am exaggerating a little bit.)

I figured out why I have so many books, besides being bookish and loving to read and actually consume a book, curling up with coffee and tenderly turning the pages, and the feeling you get as you read page by page and get lost for a few hours in the land of who knows where or what is this new project I can do .. it is because as a kid I had no siblings and books entertained me for hours. But as a fast reader, I ran out of reading material quickly.

To me, the closest thing to an earthly hell would be a house without books to read, notebooks or journals, pens to write with .. devoid of card sending or letter writing materials.

When I finished reading my books, I read cereal boxes, and then some of my mom’s nursing books for school, and our encyclopedia set.

I know someone, somewhere is saying hello .. with the internet you now have a treasure trove to choose from to satisfy your literary longings.

Self help books are cool. I love non-fiction, as well as fiction set in England or New York.

But the room is dusty.

Slowly, I am simplifying, with a goal that I can come in here and just breathe.

I am sure you are thrilled with the idea of house cleaning (for real?), but to me it is part of making a home, and making a day great, or splendid.

Someone has to polish the teapots of the world and set the table for a brand new day.

My cat Molly Moo sends her regards. As do Peebs, Winter Moo, and Oreo. I still wonder what she would look like in a cat dress, posed next to a teacup.

Peebs, a calico cat with great curiosity, and Molly Moo affectionately study the camera and wonder if treats are next.

Ah, the fancy minds of writers.

A desk awaits

A notebook and pen tucked into my daily work bag, my first book, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing started as a journal of my past and noted my history, penned at the time strictly for my own healing from our family’s dark secret.

Slowly, I crept out of the dark place, sharing my story with friends, at first, and other survivors, who urged me to use my gift of writing to reach others because they said that they were not able to do so for various reasons.

And I respect that. They wanted me to be a light bearer, they said.

I am a survivor. I did not wake up one day and say well hey I am healed from the abuse (intimate) I suffered from age 7 to about 12.

Once in a while, someone says they had a sudden epiphany and poof, they have no more issues with suppressed memories, painful thoughts of low self esteem, panic, inner non-positive dialogue, etc.

Many survivors of sexual abuse turn to drugs or alcohol. Some self harm. Others seek to change everything about their environment or themselves that is a reminder of abusive events.

I sought counseling while addressing my past many years ago, and it was the best thing for me. I did not have a substance abuse issue as even aspirin makes me sick to my stomach, so that was not appealing to me. I wrestled with my existence. Why did God make me, and why did I feel like a freak?

I feel so strong now, compared to where I used to be.

What does strong look like to me?

Well if I am a survivor, I don’t have to do or be anything great to be extraordinary. I made it “through” and am walking on firm ground. I didn’t always think this way. Constantly trying to win approval can get exhausting as you will never make everyone happy.

That said, I love to be the best person I can be. Sometimes I fail. I have learned that one of my challenges is to remember everyone makes mistakes. But it is how I handle that – which determines my inner peace and the outflow of blessing I can be to others.

What mistakes am I referring to? Personally? Not being selfish here, but one mistake was not valuing myself as a human being.

I have as much right to be on this planet as anyone else. And because I believe God made me, I know He has work for me to do.

Yet the telling has been difficult at times.

My eye doc told me I have a type A personality. I was flabbergasted!

(Smile) Big 😁

That was news to me lol!

You see some believe that being bossy is problematic, but is sharing my story bossy?

I think it would be if I were to say ok the only way you can handle etc. is to stand on your head, figuratively. (No this is not a reference to yoga, lol. I wish I could stand on my head, but sadly, I am not that coordinated.)

So that feeling of my type A being too much for others at time has been a bit of a buffer to my desire to continue getting my story out there.

Anyway.

Finished writing this in downtown Winter Haven. A lizard was watching me, and a turtle in a gated nature garden slowly crept along.

Will get back at the blogging. A little each day.

Who says?

How many people give up a hobby because someone says they are not good at it? And how many have persisted because one soul encouraged them to keep on going?

I was astounded several years ago when I spent five hours reworking a structured painting, ending up with an abstract by the end of the evening.

Having several writer, author, artist types on my friends list, one of the creatives spoke up and offered to screen print my creation onto a Tshirt to sell in his shop and divide the proceeds.

At the time I was in journalism, and though most writers have a side hustle of some sort, I opted not to take him up on the offer. A marketing decision it was, as I was working on my book and trying to get that finished.

Some time later I interviewed an actual artist. Pretty cool, as he taught middle school children how to rework their paintings for “art” effect.

The kids were mortified and protested greatly as they had one idea, carefully painting that. There were nature scenes, family pics, weird creatures and more.

So he instructed the children to blindfold themselves (teachers, Paras, and guests present) and then turn their painting upside down and use a different brush in different paint, making haphazard designs.

“Now you have art,” he said.

I guess the type A side of me cringed as I saw this, as all of a sudden, their paintings took on a different life.

Some of the kids were mad, others were laughing, still others were like “oh cool!”

Today’s painting is an abstract. It started out as an ocean scene, then I painted over that and it all became lavender with a olive green heart tilted to the side.

Frustrated that it looked like a nothing canvas, I then sloshed yellow paint across it in the middle, mixed with white.

Then remembering a little art trick we did in school, took a Q tip and scratched a flower and pot design in the paint while it was still wet.

Happy flowers. Happy happy flowers.

Anyway.

One thing I have learned from artists is that art is your expression. Yes, I would love to paint something that resembles something factual.

And I may again paint coffee cups for fun. Or other little items. Or rocks. Or my old jewelry box that has junk jewelry. Or a wooden spoon. Or.

Here is to exploring your creative side.

Molly sends her regards. The splendid housecat approves this project.

When the storm rolls in …

Sometimes there are no words.

When the cancer has grown.

When your mother has flown to be with Jesus. Or your brother. Or sister or friend or coworker.

When all the news seems to be a steady replay of death, controversy, suffering and pain.

When the money is not enough.

It won’t buy health, it won’t buy time, it won’t replace the years lost.

When you feel so defeated and wonder why even the good you try to do for others seems to go nowhere.

A song on the radio plays and you find yourself in tears.

Having bottled up your pain, the cup finally tips and you let it gush.

It would not be good for your friends or family to know you cried, you think.

Because why not, society only admires strength and this is not that.

A voice comes over the radio.

A paper thin female voice, wispy and soft and comforting.

“Give it all to Jesus,” she says.

She talks about prayer and how God loves you and how your life will never be the same when you let Him in.

Nine years old, eight years old, six years old, you remember the baptismal waters .. A crowd of Christians and Sunday morning dresses …

Spearmint chewing gum your Grandmother handed you from a thirty year old purse that smelled like old roses and held one Kleenex and a lipstick ..

The preacher and the cross and the music.

Maybe the question isn’t “Have you let Him in?” but “Have you let Him back in?”

Not wanting to be vulnerable, you go on a number of months, even years, and admire the people you see and how they smile as they share their faith and wonder why isn’t it like that for me?

The God of the fancy is the God of the every day person, not a pick and choose God that some would paint Him to be.

The Godhead with muscles. The Ancient of Days Who Gets It.

The One you can talk to about anything without fearing society’s pilfering opinions or judgment of man.

The tears, the fears, the concerns overwhelm you and suddenly it becomes clear.

This God thing is a relationship thing and not a religion thing and is something quite tangible.

God is Bigger than the cross around our necks.

He is Bigger than the altar at our church.

He is Vast and Omnipotent, Unchangeable, Ever Present and yet loving enough to pull up a chair in our hearts and have coffee with us as we dish on the day and all its cares.

Selah.

Lord, come sit with me in the quiet of this time. Walk through the corridors of my soul. Fill me with Your love and healing. Hold me close and give my bones strength for another day. Let me be a blessing, Lord.

Sparkle just because

As long as I can remember, the light and shine of glitter, sequins, and foil star stickers has given me hope.

For me, it goes to that “Let there be light” that God said in the beginning of time.

Tonight, am keeping this short as I want to see the opening Olympic ceremonies.

What makes your heart light?

Share that with someone.

Maybe if we all let our “sparkle” sparkle it will brighten someone’s day.

Steady moves reach the goal

Sporting a migraine is a great way to end the day, and suddenly I remember another Facebook post that someone else wrote .. “focus on your blessings and not on your complaints.”

Had the day off today as I work this weekend, and since the bestie was free, we checked out a few thrift shops, had lunch, went to the grocery and then swimming, where she went after a wasp nest full force with a bottle of spray. I was in awe of her bravery lol.

Presently, outside, the crickets are happy, or at least that is what I imagine as they chirp their evening pre-storm chorus.

You know what they say, in Florida, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

So, goals.

I find every time I have a day off, I have a pile of things I would like to do, because sure it is great to relax but also to keep up with life .. because that is what you do.

Or I do.

Or I try, that is.

The matter of the day was cleaning my room.

Imagine what a creative writer’s room looks like, or abode, or cave or whatever and you realize just how daunting a task that really is.

But this year, since reading Gretchen Ruben and her words on being Happier At Home, and taking in a few happy cleaning-organizing shows, I feel as if I really need to get my room organized to be happy.

Large exclamation point.

!

Seriously, though, it is not like it is trashy, as I empty the small waste basket every day, and dirty clothes go in the laundry hamper (which at present moment, the wicker hamper is being shredded by the newest housecat, Peebs, just for fun), and junk mail gets tossed and so forth.

But as I look around, I see piles of books, craft projects, art projects, sentimental and historical family gifts and momentos, thirty or so baskets (I collect them and as such, they multiply, and I am paring them back, slowly, painfully), bags of makeup (yes I am high maintenance but I try to maintain myself ha ha), shoes of various kinds, a few paintings here and there and more bottles of perfume than I would like to admit.

As you can see by the photo above, an ordinary cell phone snap shot of one of my baby blankets I am creating, this photo is one I shot .. am trying to get to the point where even if I take a still shot for my blog, at least it is mine and not from the free media library that comes with my subscription. And probably a more appropriate photo for this blog would be the pic of my messy room. Will have to tidy it more to get that shot I am sure.

My room. The mess. Yes. This afternoon dove into it and went through all my closet clothing and pulled out garments I don’t like any more, that are outdated or don’t fit, or are not useful. I was surprised to see that I actually have things to wear! Amazing! Like opening Christmas presents indeed.

Pulled out all broken or flimsy hangers and replaced them with the good ones.

Cleaned off one part of my dresser and hoisted my mother’s Japanese jewelry box (it has no jewelry in it) to the top novelty shelf.) It does not really fit my decor down low, but up high it almost looks like a mystery.

Weird.

Now having new room in my closet to hang more clothes, moved the clothes I hanged on both doors to the inside of the closet, and now I can see my long, hand painted tin sign with the motivational saying “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” It hangs on the door and is perfectly artsy there.

I believe that with my tan walls, I will eventually move back to a black accent decor (I have a few different comforter sets that I switch out occasionally, also weird, but I guess I take after my Mama, who does the same thing.)

Slowly I am moving toward a more almost minimalist room. I say almost, because I am not sure I will be for example, that person who lives with nothing on their walls.

Admittedly, even with the little I have done, I feel I can breathe again.

Recently, I visited my oldest daughter’s home in Virginia, and what she and her beloved have done with their home is gorgeous. Fresh paint, no clutter, organized rooms, touches of light decorating .. I thought to myself, that is what I want.

Light and clean, airy, simple, creative and beautiful.

Maybe tomorrow I will uncover another few inches of my dresser.

Or maybe I will organize my makeup.

We’ll see.

I feel accomplished, and happy.

The God connection

The Sunshine State did not disappoint today.

After church and a quick run to the grocery for a few lunch items for next week, came home and jumped in the pool for a while.

Swirling the water around with my toes and doggy paddling, I’m not a real picturesque swimmer, but I make do. Most of all, I just floated and paddled, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the scent of freshly mowed grass.

As I looked up at a few white billowy clouds, I thought of their beauty and thought also, hey this is really cool.

Floating weightless, and observing the clouds do the same, it occurred to me that most people have some kind of God connection, and whether they acknowledge it or not, it is still there, I believe.

I have never been one to get into deep religious arguments or skirmishes about the status of things.

Quietly go and do, hopefully live in such a way that I am a blessing.

Grandma always said don’t talk religion nor politics, and that is safe.

Yet I admire when folks are real with me because proverbial smokescreens of relation seem so shallow at times.

So when I write about God, or a muse, or something I have pondered, it is my way of sharing a part of me that blooms because of seeds others have planted.

Girl, get to the point.

Our pastor shared something today that I found very thought provoking. It went along the lines of “Are you showing up” for God?

And I thought you know, I have always felt the need for God, for His Presence in my life. I have always, even as a child, thought how on earth am I going to be good enough to get into heaven?

This might have something to do with me spending years of my childhood grounded, lol, for either sassing my parents, or foraging my own way instead of following instructions (for the last time, button your coat, turn the faucet so it does not drip, do not bring home C’s on your report card, as we already know you are a minimum B).

I laugh now when I look back, really, because as an adult I am such a rule follower.

So salvation to me has presented many challenges, as I thought to myself you have to be more than perfect to get to heaven.

Youth group changed all that for me, as our youth leaders glowed with the love of Jesus and were not hypocritical. They knew they would never win any of us by beating us over the head with a Bible, but by living it out before us, Christ in jeans.

Jeans. Opposite of a conservative Baptist church I attended in my early childhood years, the Southern Baptists reached into my heart and home and slowly, showed me their faith in action. My parents were impressed with the preacher who owned one suit and used to be a rock musician. Amazing Grace was really something when that man played the piano.

One half of my family was Baptist. The other side of my family were Church of Christ (non-musical.) And of course, that was one of the grounding occasions of my teen years, having an interesting discussion with one of my grandmothers over church history and music, and how music is so a part of worship.

After attending a number of Baptist churches, I came to the non-denomination Christian fellowships (i.e. the Alexander Campbell movement, not the only Christians, but Christians only.)

I raised my kids in those churches, and returned to the Baptist denomination after my first marriage ended.

Eventually, I came to the Assemblies of God, drawn by the open worship concept, and the warm and inviting church, who helped me through some of the worst parts of my adult life.

I also attended jeans and Jesus churches, which reminded me of my youth group.

In my second marriage, I went to a charismatic church and also joined a Jewish synagogue (by marriage, it was obvious I could not sing in Hebrew, though I did try!)

By the end of that decade, my marriage ended. So I was like wow, in church circles, this does not look good. But sometimes it is not meant to be and you have to move on.

I found I also began a heavy spiritual search. Who are you anyway? Every church I visited had a little pamphlet, a small handheld cross, a religious coin, a pen or a church coffee cup. I enjoyed the fellowship of many churches before I finally landed at my current church, Episcopal (Anglican.)

There are several of us who attend who came from different denominations. Some confirmed, some did not.

A Jewish friend of mine, who is a dear friend, to whom I still owe an Indiana pot roast, said once to me, how did you go from Baptist to Charismatic/Pentecostal to Episcopal/Catholic, so I thought I would share.

The God connection.

I feel like we all have a place for God in our hearts that only He can fill. Every nation on earth has some aspect of religion or relationship, worship or tradition.

I still feel drawn to Him because I have seen Him in others, and in nature – the works of His hand – in day to day things like sunrises and a child’s laugh, and the light of a candle on a stormy day.

Have a splendid evening, all. I was thinking of doing my spiritual writing on Sunday, then creative and life encouragement the other days.

Molly, my cat, sends her regards.

Prayers for all, for a safe and beautiful week.

The blessing of Friendship

Good friends are like a stunning teapot collection.

Each brings their own personality and view to your world, each leaves a blessed pattern upon your heart.

At the beginning of last week, I had one of those blah days. I know blah is not really a word. But it is a word in my vocabulary.

As I ponder on the last couple of weeks, it occurs to me that completely on their own, a few people reached out to me .. and all said hello.

Hello is a great place to start in the world of friends. You hear me share much about my bestie and our projects and adventures.

She and I both reflect on how many wonderful friends we collectively have .. precious souls.

Two friends sent me greeting cards, a few texted, a couple sent messages.

Even one of my Indiana cousins reached out with one of her beautiful hand made cards.

Love it, I did!

(I know suddenly that sounded like something Baby Yoda would say, but there you go.)

Lol.

And there is another note of interest. Well to me, anyway.

I have always loved cards. I love paper. I love words. I love books.

And that is no surprise.

In my younger years, as I was raising my firstborn in Tennessee, miles away from Florida, away from the familiar, I wrote a lot of letters and received a number of cards.

A large bulletin board hung in the hallway of my old house served as a gathering place for all of them.

And as new ones arrived, over the course of a year, I rotated them between the board and a small box that held the rest of them.

Ok. So I have started three sentences with the word And.

My old copy editor would be on my case to get rid of And immediately.

The sun is setting on another busy day, and as I listen to the evening traffic buzz and rumble by, I find myself very grateful for this existence.

That of knowing some special folk, who do their thing encouraging others.

And.

Perhaps I can repay the favor at some point.