Saturday, May 28, 2011

Beautiful Stranger

Have you ever walked out of a store to be met by someone in the parking lot who is begging for money or food?  What about when you're driving and pass by someone holding up a sign?  Of course you have, right? A lot of whether or not you regularly experience this has to do with where you're situated geographically, and because I grew up in a small town located in a northeastern pocket of Arkansas, encounters with the homeless population weren't something I had often.  In fact, I didn't have an encounter that I can actually recall until I was away at college, and by my earliest memory I was already in my twenties.  I still recall what I felt.  I was on the exit ramp waiting at the light to make a left turn.  He sat there with sadness in his eyes, a weathered cardboard sign with fading black letters, and skin that had been both browned and aged by the sun.  It was as if he was the first homeless person I had ever seen...and perhaps he was.  I couldn't take my eyes off of him, and the minute he looked up and locked his own eyes with my gaze, I knew I couldn't just drive away. I went to order food and brought it back to meet him in a moment of shared humility and thanks. Today when I look back, I'm reminded of who he was - a beautiful stranger.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A New Perspective

I was getting ready to leave for a Bible Study last night when it occurred to me that our pup, Lucy Liu, needed to be taken out one last time before leaving.  "Ashton, can you take Lucy out for me?" I yelled across the rooms of our small condo.  "Okay, mama!" he enthusiastically responded. So, as I finished getting dressed I listened for the door to shut and planned to follow him out...as soon as I touched up that one last stray hair.  As I stood before the mirror smoothing my hair to perfection, I heard it.  Another dog.  However, it wasn't one of those sounds that immediately registered in my brain. For instance, when you hear your alarm go off in the morning, you immediately know what it is.  But, have you ever heard something and not realized what you heard until a minute or two has passed? You know the type - we've all had this experience at some time or another.  You'll hear a sound and know instantly that it means something, but what that "something" is doesn't connect in your mind to the actual sound in your ears until later. Well, the instant my "later" arrived, I went running outside and saw what my ears had been trying to tell me.  In the front grassy area of our condo, I saw my six year old son (who, I might add, is lucky not to have gone airborne) trying desperately to pull back on the leash of a relentlessly playful and much stronger black Labrador pup.  Lucy Liu was excitedly trying to break free from the leash on her collar so she could lick, hug, love on, slobber on, and chew on two new friends. The victims of her love assault?  Two prim, and most definitely proper, pillow puffs..

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Barely Breathing


Not long ago, I lay awake in bed asking God why I couldn't sleep.  No definitive answers came, so I silently prayed as Matthew 11:28 ran back and forth across the corners of my mind.  "You promise me rest," I anxiously reminded Jesus.  Still, sleep seemed to evade me.  "What? Am I not trusting You or releasing my burdens?" I asked Him in frustration.  His answer was shocking.  "You're barely breathing," He gently whispered.  With that, I opened my mouth and let out a breath that I didn't even know I was holding.  Upon expiration I felt my chest wall lower by what seemed to be at least two inches.  Though I thought it odd that I had literally been "barely breathing," I began thinking back to previous sleepless nights.  Was I forgetting to exhale on those nights as well?  Hmm...I made a mental note to pay closer attention in the future.  "Must breathe," I sleepily instructed myself.  With that, I thanked Jesus for His counsel and drifted off to sleep.  It has been since that night that I've begun to take note of how frequently the natural act of breathing in my own life seems to take long breaks after inspiration.  Somewhere along the way of each day, I often allow my breathing cycle's expiration component a long and unnecessary break.  What is it I'm doing when I'm forgetting to exhale? What are any of us doing?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Walk This Way

As I sat in silence asking God what He wanted from me next on this day, Steven Tyler's voice screamed (literally...it screamed) inside of my head.  Though "walk this way" were the words attached to the noise, it was Jesus I saw in my mind.  How odd, I thought to myself as I struggled to recall the entirety of the song's lyrics.  I had nothing.  I couldn't remember.  Only "walk this way" stayed in my mind so with that I went.  Shuffling back and forth between the words and Jesus' face, I realized that in life we're walking in one of two directions: towards Jesus or away from Him.  "Well, that's not true. There has to be a middle ground," the skeptic retorts.  No, I've lived on what I consider to be "middle ground" and guess what?  I was walking away.  If we're not walking to Him, we're walking away from Him.  In which direction are you walking today?  Or, do you even care?