I forgot to pray for someone this morning. I talked with them yesterday and they had an appointment today for which I said; “I’ll pray for you.” Then, this morning, it completely slipped my mind! I didn’t realize it until the person I was supposed to pray for let me know everything went well. “Whew!” I then prayed a prayer of thankfulness for the person and for God still working even when we forget to ask.
I don’t think that our prayers determine God’s actions. I think we pray because God is already working and we want eyes that see grace, kindness, goodness from a God that connects himself to humanity in an amazing way.
I am thankful for a God that works even when we forget to ask, friends who support even when we take them for granted, jobs that aren’t always easy but provide us money and other benefits, a family who drives us crazy but we wouldn’t trade the world for, and life’s many miracles and answered prayers, that we can’t see or simply forget to look.
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Almost Finished –
I started mowing the grass today around 10:00AM. According to the weather report, a front was pushing through our area near 1:00PM and it takes about 3 hours to mow and weed our yard. It was hot and humid when I began, the skies were blue with puffy clouds. It was warm enough to sweat even though I was on a riding mower. I stopped to drink some water when I finished the back and noticed a patch of dark clouds coming my way. I continued mowing and all of a sudden the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and the skies grew dark. I increased my speed and hoped to get finished in time. Fortunately, I did complete the mowing but the bottom fell out of the sky and I couldn’t squeeze the weeding in because of the heavy rain.
As the rain pounded on the tin roof of our porch I reflected on life and all that is done and left undone. We fill our lives with appointments, events, occasions. We think we have time to do everything which needs to be done. The sun shines on us, the blue skies and the beauty of being alive gives us the illusion that time is on our side. Then a storm of disappointment, disillusion, danger, and death reminds us that time is limited and we can’t take even a moment for granted.
#BenjaminFranklin said; “Be careful with every moment. For these are what life is made.”
Soul Alive –
Outside, under our two sheds and front porch are families of rabbits. I see them when I let out the dog, who’s too old to chase them anymore, when I drive the truck into the driveway, when I sit still long enough and wait for them to emerge from their hiding holes. It excites me. Wildlife has always had this impact on me. I slow down to look at deer on the sides of the highway or in far-off fields. Stare at Falcons and Hawks perched on fence posts or electric poles. Turkeys, skunks, opossum, armadillos, foxes, even cows grab my attention.
I grew up in the suburbs but my parents took us to National Parks as often as the could. We loved camping, canoeing, hiking, exploring. We saw lots of wildlife and even had a few run-ins with Black Bears. I believe this is where my love of nature was born and raised along with the important lessons of treating it gently, basking in its beauty and always leaving a place better than you found it.
Nature, along with other gifts we take for granted each day, bring life to my soul. I can’t imagine not being excited, filled with joy, while experiencing it.
Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.
The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.
As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.
Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
This afternoon I stopped by a store to pick up some sodas for our incarcerated father’s class. I grabbed and carried them to the cashier station. I waited on the woman in front of me and when she was finished stepped up and watched the cashier scan the drinks and stick them in plastic bags. When it was time, I scanned my card and then entered my pin number. However, as soon as I punched the digits in I knew it was the wrong pin. I told the cashier and she reset the scanner. For a moment I couldn’t separate all the pins and passwords in my life and choose the correct one but finally settled on the right one. It worked and I walked out with my purchase.
As I drove to the jail I thought about the men in my class who were receiving their certificates of completion tonight. I thought about the different men in the program and how each of them has certain “codes” which work for them. For one humor might be the key, another is not being singled out in class but letting him join the conversation when he’s ready. Our goal at the jail is to give the men a collection of tools and skills which will keep them clean, responsible, have abilities that many people on the outside take for granted. However, getting them to participate and accept the knowledge is tricky. Not any one approach works with all. We must take the time, learning about the men, connecting with them, understanding the way they think so we can “break the code” that will help them make life changing choices.
A little bundle of unexpectedness just rode out of our driveway.
This past Saturday Beth and I discovered a kitten hanging out near our house. Knowing the dogs in the surrounding area, including our own Siberian Husky, wouldn’t treat it well, we gave it a safe place, some food and began looking for someone to adopt it. Thankfully, a nice woman, who was looking for some companionship, came this afternoon and took it to a new home where it should live a long, good life.
It is amazing how one small thing can wreak big havoc in our lives. Because it was staying on our front porch we had to start taking Trooper, the Husky, out the back door, not his usual routine. We bought kitten food, prepared and fed the little one three times a day. When one of us left for work the other had to hold the kitten because it followed whoever was walking, wherever we went. Whoever was the last one leaving the house had to sneak to their vehicle because the kitten would come running if it heard them. As the kitten rode off today Beth and I both breathed a sigh of relief while also feeling a tinge of sadness.
Life is not predictable. We’re never sure when someone or something will join us our journey and remind us not to take “normal” for granted.
This afternoon, before the person remodeling our bathroom left for the weekend he rigged a shower and a working toilet for us to use. I took my first real shower in almost a week about an hour ago and it was wonderful! Standing there as the water flowed I was reminded of those around the world who have no water due to poverty, homelessness or lack of clean water in the areas they live.
Blessings are in abundance for so many of us and yet we miss the wonders. They are bountiful and flow into our lives like a giant waterfall. Unfortunately, we have become so used to them we take them for granted and dismiss their importance and rarity.
Today is Good Friday, the day the Master died. Because of his death, we in the Christian faith are showered with grace, love, kindness and mercy from our Father who is in Heaven. We’ve grown up with the story. It is so familiar that we miss the importance and the rarity of the God-man who came to our world, clothed in our skin, and made a way for us to bathe in the presence of the Father for all eternity.
For Good Friday, Eternal Acceptance, and showers we thank Thee, O’Lord.