WHO NEEDS PEOPLE?

“People,

People who need people,

Are the luckiest people in the world”

“People”
Jule Styne (music)
Bob Merrill (lyrics)

There words are from the 1964 song by Barbra Streisand.  I have come to a greater understanding of the meaning during the past weeks.  While I have been very grateful to keep in touch with my small group, my prayer team and my church family through Zoom, WebEx, Email and Streaming platforms, I have missed the physical connection.  I miss the greetings and interaction with Billy and Carol every Sunday in “our” seats at Regal.  I miss the hugs, laughter and discussion time with Otto, Sharon, Richard and others in our small group time on Wednesday.  I miss sharing the joys and concerns of others during prayer time every Sunday with Dawid, Jane, Robert, et al.  I miss hearing all of the voices together with the worship team in corporate worship time.  I crave the actual physical interaction that comes with each of these groups.  Hebrew 10:25 states:

 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25 TLB

Attending church services has been a part of my life for years.  But, I now realize how very precious that time together truly is. 

The Pandemic has also highlighted a few other things in our lives (some good and some not so good.) We have seen firsthand how self-serving actions can cause others to suffer with the toilet paper shortage. Panic came to the forefront and hoarding was the name of the game.  I’ve lived through a few hurricanes and floods that caused Houston to shut down.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever see things quite as bad, especially when there were no real shortages.  There were people out to make a buck through stockpiling, but there were also people that were willing to give.  One example is “Katy Neighbors Helping Neighbors”, a Facebook page started to share needs.  If someone need baby wipes, or formula, or cleaning supplies or anything else, they could post their need.  Usually, someone would offer to share or knew a store that had it in stock.  I saw LOTS of sharing and meeting needs on that site. Food pantries were stretched to the extreme, and people stepped up to help and meet the needs. 

Families have been forced to be together.  Kids are doing school on line from home.  Parents may be working from home.  There’s no escaping with restaurants only serving take-out and malls and movie theaters closed.  I’ve seen parents step up and get involved with their kids school time.  Game nights (or afternoons) have come back into style.  This has been an opportunity to learn something new through on-line classes.  I’ve heard of some grandmothers that have done sewing and/or cooking lessons with their grandchildren via facetime or other apps. There has been time for family walks or bike rides, family meals, or just family time. 

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony! 

Psalm 133:1 TLB

As we begin the process of reopening Texas and the rest of these United States, I hear mixed messages.  There is frustration that things are not moving faster.  And, there is the fear that we are moving too fast.  I hear about the need to return to work as well as the complaints from those who receive more on unemployment than they do at their job.  I see the excitement for the return of socializing mixed with concern over the continued social distancing guidelines.  It’s easy to fall prey to fear and depression that accompanies the seemingly overwhelming task ahead of us.  We are approaching a “new” normal.  Masks will continue to be the accessory of choice for many.  Hand-washing has moved up in priority (where it should have been all along.)  I’ve joined the ranks of actually USING the hand-sanitizer I carry with me.  Fist bumps will replace handshakes.  Air hugs and kisses may be the “thing” for a while.  We will survive this time.  We will adjust.  I refuse to give into fear mongering. 

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 

Matthew 6:34 TLB

What has your experience during the Covid-19 pandemic been?  Have you found meaning in some of the “norms” that you took for granted.  Have you spent time with your family and strengthened those ties?  Are you ready to step back into the reopened world? 

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.

     He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.

 Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

 You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.

 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23 TLB

Social Media: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

(and the questionable)

Social Media affects all parts of our life.   Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube (just to name a few) are ingrained in our day to day routines.  During the recent pandemic and social media has been the place to get information, to attend church and to just stay in touch.  There are some really good things that occur on the platforms.

I love keeping up with my extended family through Facebook.  I have watched my great-nieces and nephews grow up through posts.  I have reconnected with school friends and teachers.   I have been able to host “watch parties” of church services for The Bridge on Sundays during our time of social distancing.  It’s been great to share my church with others all over the state.  Our small group has been meeting through WebEx and we even had a family wedding via Zoom.  All of these things have been great.  I love seeing posts that recognize local accomplishments during this time.  We’ve seen food distributed by schools and organizations, hand sanitizer made and distributed by local distilleries, masks being handed out in central areas.  All of these things have been good. 

But, along with the good, there are some bad things that occur because of social media posts.  Information that is not correct is often posted as fact and then the false information gets passed along (very quickly).  Those that live with a “glass half-full” attitude concerning life, can promote panic among others.  (I suspect the hoarding of toilet paper was exacerbated by panicked posts.)  Rumors become “truth” in a flash when they are shared across the social media platform.  It’s easy to make negative and/or hurtful comments with a post on Facebook or Instagram.  There is empowerment that comes from the facelessness of a keyboard.  We will post words on these sites that we would NEVER say out loud to a person’s face.  We attack friends and family with a simple comment. 

And then, there’s the Ugly.  Social media platforms while promoting social equality and interaction between users, has given us a way to deepen the gulf between the differences.  Political ads and campaigns have always been harsh and often ugly.  But, social media has allowed “US” to be included in the muck and mire.  Opinions are no longer welcome (unless you agree with me?!)  Because the written word doesn’t convey emotions, there is no tempering of the vitriol that we spew to protect/support THE side.  Half-truths and out and out lies take an equal if not greater footing with truth.  I’ve seen (and felt) relationships dissolve for these reasons.  I believe in healthy debate.  I think you have as much right to your opinion as I have to mine.  But, I don’t get the need to attack, the need for emotional vomit when I say something that is contrary to your thoughts. 

Another aspect of the ugly side of social media is the opportunity for sex trafficking.  Underage students are posting/receiving explicit photos on various platforms. Sex traffickers seek out the disenfranchised youth and make offers that are “too good to be true.”  How many busts have been reported that originated in a chatroom or some other social media app?  My kids grew up at the beginning of chat rooms and there were way too many girls/guys sneaking out at night to meet someone they only knew from a chatroom.  Sometimes it turned out ok.  But, the times that it didn’t outweighed them. 

So, what’s the questionable part of social media?  I will admit to be old.  But, I will add, that I have also been called an “over-sharer” on social media.  With that in mind, I have to wonder some posts I’ve seen most recently.  Is it really necessary to document every moment of the day and post it for others to see?  Am I missing something here?  I understand the YouTube tutorials and have watched several to figure out how to use or do certain things.  But, why do I need to see how you get dressed for the day or other intimate details of your life?  Most of us wouldn’t live on a busy street and leave the windows uncovered for any voyeur to watch the details of our daily lives.  So, why do we exhibit these same things on the web?   Is privacy being sacrificed on the altar of self-importance?  Have we raised a generation that does not know how to be an individual and only feels accomplished when others “like” or comment on our posts?

We live in a world of fast food and microwaves.  We have lost the art of planning, patience and perseverance.   I would hope during this time of recovery, we can take the time to consider our interactions and decide:

  1. Finding the good things and keep them up
  2. Being aware of the comments I make and the way they may hurt others.
  3.  Avoid being pulled into the dangerous world of misinformation and vitriol. 
  4. Concentrate on encouraging the living breathing people around me.

Not Me!

I’m not the problem!!

Social distancing.  It can be boring.  And, we all think that we are OK to be out and about.  It’s those OTHER people that are the problem.  Here are some things to consider in today’s environment:

  1. While people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.  There have been reports of this occurring with this new corona-virus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.  The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community. So, we should probably enact the “better safe than sorry” attitude. 
  2. You may be taking every precaution and feel very safe about visiting with an at-risk person.  But, can you guarantee that the people with which you have contact are taking the best precautions?  What about their interactions with others?  The best advice may be “Act like you are already contagious.”
  3. Wearing gloves can protect your hands from coming in contact with the virus, but you still can pick up and spread the virus on the gloves.  Wearing a pair of gloves all day may actually do more harm than good.  Good hygiene is the best alternative. 
  4. Be aware of what you touch.  Don’t forget to clean your phone, your mouse, your keyboard. Antibacterial gels/hand washing won’t do much good if the items your touch most often are never cleaned/sanitized. 

Some of us are still required to go into the office to work.  I carry a disposable towel with me from the car to the office and use it as a barrier when I have to touch the stair railing, door handles, elevator buttons and light switches. I dispose of it when I enter the office.  I have a bottle of disinfectant that I used daily on my desk items, my desk phone and my cell phone, the copier buttons, light switches and door handles in the office.  I wash my hands often and use Hand Sanitizer quite often.  When I leave for the day, I reverse the process and use a disposable towel on the way to the car, taking advantage of the garbage cans in the parking garage.  Then, I use my hand sanitizer before touching my steering wheel. 
Because I am still working in an office, I am hesitant to be around any high risk persons. 

Social distancing is challenging.  But, the better job I do at protecting others from ME, the faster the curve will flatten and life will return to normal (whatever that might be.)

Cliches and Control

There are several platitudes that we say in order to find or give comfort:

1. Into each life some rain must fall.

2. God will never give you more than you can handle.

The first statement is rather sanctimonious. It basically says “Get over it. We all suffer!”

The 2nd statement is a misrepresentation of a Bible passage: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I’ve come to understand that my strength depends on God. If I’m only tested to my strength, I will never need God. However, when I understand that “God will provide”, I know that I rely upon Him for all of my strength and endurance.

I think of The story of Noah. He was told to build a BIG boat. He was ridiculed. I doubt he truly understood, but he obeyed. The children’s stories make us think the journey through the flood lasted 40 days. The rains may have lasted that long, but Noah and his family were in the Ark for almost a year. I wonder if they had enough toilet paper? Do you think Noah survived on his own power? God gave Noah the Ark plans. Did He share the long term (ie: one year on the water) plan? Noah’s Faith was tested.

Are you ready to spend a year of faith living? How about a month or a day or even an hour? I want to say yes. However, the control side of me wants more information and frankly, more control. We are in the midst of panic and fear in our world. Will we trust God to provide everything we need even when we don’t have toilet paper? Do I have a choice?

 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.

 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

Matthew 6:31-34 TLB

Huffing and Puffing

Straw, Sticks or Brick?

We’ve all heard the story of “The Three Little Pigs’.  The first little pig built his house out of straw.  The second little pig used sticks.  The third pig used bricks.  The wolf was able to “huff and puff” and blow down the first and second houses, but the brick house withstood his efforts.  As a child in VBS, I also remember singing the song about the foolish man and the wise man:

The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood firm

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rains came tumbling down

The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the sand went smash.

So, how many of us truly heed the warnings of these two children’s stories?

We live in a “microwave” world.  We have no patience to wait for anything.  We eat fast food, drink coffee from pods, use credit to the extreme, treat sex as a dating option, and seek “happiness” above all else.  We’ve lost the need or the desire to plan, wait and/or build something of value.  We struggle and come apart over the “stuff”.  We live in a culture that confuses wants with needs.  I NEED a bigger house.  I NEED a new car.   I NEED the new phone.  I NEED to be happy.  I NEED to have the BEST. 

Instead of being content with what we can afford, we buy and sell and trade.  We save for the temporary things that we will tire of when the next newest thing is unveiled.  But, we forget about investing in the things that matter.  We are so intent in our pursuit of happiness, that people and relationships become secondary.  We don’t take the time to repair and/or build our marriages or relationships.  We treat relationships that should be the most precious with less regard than the latest IPhone. 

As we build relationships, we establish a solid footing for marriage.  We build the brick house for ourselves.  When sex becomes the basis for my happiness, I build a house of straw or sticks without a foundation.    A challenge or problem within the fragile walls will knock it down.  I know that I’m old school.  I do believe in the marriage vows “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”  Unfortunately, the truth of many a marriage is this:  “to have and to hold today, (unless you disappoint me or become a bigger liability than an asset to my happiness) or until something better comes along.”

I do believe that we have to return to our strong belief in family values.  I do not advocate the “Leave it to Beaver” life, but I do believe that marriage and family have to come first.  My children were always important to me.  I was the typical Momma Bear and they knew they could depend on me to stand up for them.  However, my husband came first.  If I did not focus on building a strong marriage, my kids wouldn’t have the family that they needed.  These are the “bricks” that I have found critical to a successful life/marriage:   

  1. My Relationship with God
  2. My Relationship with my spouse
  3. Taking care of my children

I met both of my husbands through church.  Faith has been a huge part of each of my marriages.  Without God, I could not have survived some of the things I have endured.  We believe that God is in control.  We have to trust in Him for all our needs. My kids were also raised in the church.  I would make a pallet on the floor of the gym where we had services and lay my baby on it while I practiced the hymns and/or offertories on the piano.  Gracie learned hymns in the womb with I practiced.  The church was a 2nd home to my children.  Sunday’s were not optional.  We would be in church that day.  Never a question.

Date nights every month away from our kids are important.  When my children were small and money was tight, we were known to drop them off with a sitter and go home to watch TV alone.  It was what we did as much as just building time together, alone.  It’s important to spend time growing together.  It’s so easy to get pushed apart with children in the house.  There’s so much to do.  Sleep is often at a premium.  It’s work to remain a couple and not just co-parents.

I’ve spent my life being a working a mom.  I went to the office and sometimes traveled for work.  I don’t think my children ever felt slighted.  In fact, after being laid off and home for 9 months, they were ECSTATIC when I returned to the work force. 

There are many, many options in life.  I would challenge myself as well as others to decide which battles in which you engage.  Is the fight for newest or the best “thing” critical to your life? Or, will it just bring a moment of happiness and feed the “NEXT” wolf? Will my house stand against the huffing and puffing?

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

Matthew 7:21-27 MSG

It’s Personal. . .

(Part 2 of 3)

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
It’s shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he’ll call me someday to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share

The Old Rugged Cross

When I really dig deep and understand the torture that Christ went through for the world, I cringe.  And when I realize that it was for “ME” that He died, I am ashamed of the days that I have not been worthy of that gift, of His death.

“The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.”

Matthew 27: 27-31 MSG

On A Hill Far Away. . .

(Part 1 of 3)

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.”

The Old Rugged Cross

Things and events often feel very distant, maybe even insignificant to the daily struggles of life.  This is especially true of events that we did not personally witness.  In my Christian walk, although we talk of the sacrifice that Christ made, I often look at the cross as something very distant from my life.  It happened, but I don’t always count the cost in my day to day adventures.

“This isn’t the neighborhood bully     mocking me—I could take that. This isn’t a foreign devil spitting     invective—I could tune that out. It’s you! We grew up together!     You! My best friend! Those long hours of leisure as we walked     arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.”

Psalm 55:12-14 MSG