Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brenda and the orchid

For at least twenty years, I have been meeting with a group of friends to share our faith.
I don't know if we are steel magnolias, but we have seen each other through deaths of spouses and siblings,illnesses ,dramas of our children and many good times.Mostly, we share what the Lord is doing in our lives and how we might be serving Him.There are five of us.

Two weeks ago, we met at my house to celebrate a birthday of one of the other members and when Brenda arrived, she handed me an orchid in a pot and one in water.I got chills up my arms,down my back and in my feet.I am getting them again as I type.Let me explain.

Twice this month, I was at Kroger when I passed their plant department.Amassed there were gorgeous orchids with white, pink and purple blooms and one marked a bit lower in price because it had lost it's flowers.I wanted that orphan.Both times,I left the store without it because I didn't need it.I really wanted it,though.

What Brenda handed me was exactly the plant I had wanted.How does this happen?

I first met Brenda when her daughter was 15 years old and in my Sunday school class.She was one of my favorite students,a loving ,sweet girl; sadly her father was dying during that year.Her fellow students formed a loving community around her and I felt blessed to be part of that.Her daughter is now 38 years old,so Brenda and I have a long history.It is so easy to love Brenda.She is possessed of a wonderful smile,a gold medal hug and is constantly looking for ways to serve her Lord.The stunning thing about what happened is that this is not the first time Brenda has known my wishes without my saying a word.

Twelve years ago,I was driving home from work on the freeway and I saw a billboard sign for Noritake china and glass products.The ad was attractive and I thought,"Oh, I would like a piece of that." Two days later, our group met for my birthday and I unwrapped Brenda's gift, a perfect bud vase.The box said Noritake.

Are these coincidences? How does this work?Brenda had probably purchased the vase before I had that thought.But I had passed that sign hundreds of times without even noticing it very much.Is there a special connection between people that pray together?Or does the Lord know the desires of our hearts and uses others to show His love?

This is what I believe to be true. Brenda,being open,was the vessel the Lord used to let me know that He sees and the desire of His heart is to bless me.This plant is much more than an orchid.It is a mystery and a sign and I am humbled by it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Steve Jones,Jennifer Capriati and the human race

Whenever I see a picture or a film clip of Serena Williams, I get choked up.You see, I am Serena's' biggest fan although she doesn't know it.

In 2004,I watched Serena play in the U.S. Open against Jennifer Capriati.The match was a long one and they were playing an important point when it happened;a call in Capriati's favor that was so egregious that I almost put my shoe through the T.V screen.A Serena shot was called out that was so obviously in, the fans could do nothing but groan.Capraiti won the match and Serena walked towards the stands, head down with tears in her eyes and not a word from her lips.I was so angry and sad.I wanted to hop a flight and go hug her in the locker room.I will never forget that feeling and that I was watching greatness.

In the after game interview,Capriati was asked why she didn't say something about the terrible call,which she could plainly see was in ,to the judge.Her answer was that she had her own share of bad calls.Jennifer, Jennifer, you missed your chance.Who but you remembers that you won that quarter-final?But if you had been a real sportsman, your name would be in lights.

Let me tell you what I mean.There is a Welsh runner named Steve Jones.He is the former world marathon record holder.A great runner but in the sports world he is also remembered for what he did in one race that he was winning.It was an important race,they all are at his level, and close to the end a competitor in his line of vision stumbled and fell.Jones stopped running ,dashed over and helped the guy up and they both ran on.Jones didn't win that race but he is winning the Human Race.This is the one where we will be asked to review our "race" and how we helped the brothers and sisters with whom we share this place and time.

My second son is a wonderful runner, state champ in cross country twice and track champion as well.They used to call him Q-tip in high school because he was skinny with a crop of almost white hair.In his Sophomore year he came in third at the state meet so we knew great things were coming.But when he meets the Creator, I don't see Him slapping His forehead and saying,"You came in first, here, there and there.". What I see being replayed is the morning he stopped a great run in Atlanta to help an elderly lady who was trying to put sticks in her trash and couldn't break them over her knee.Or the time he gave a free pair of running shoes that he had won, to a disabled runner he knew who couldn't afford a new pair.Or the extra care he gave to a shy and lonely boy at running camp that freed this boy to be a kid.

What I see is him standing amidst Perfect Love and being shown the times when he came so close to that.This is a race he is running very well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the Drowning

It is not clear to me now what the lifeguards saw that summer afternoon in 1962;why four of them leapt from their high white stands and dragging ropes and floaters headed for the water.As they ran, everything seemed to stop,the cries of children,music from transistor radios,the languor of the beach itself,was swept away.

Other lifeguards raced to put up green flags as warning to call swimmers out of the water.A sudden undertow had developed in the surf and like a beast was clawing at the sand and pulling everything out and out and under.The man they saw was helpless, overcome and under.

As they brought the man out of the water, a hushed crowd assembled ,drawn by the impossible.This was Jones Beach and this doesn't happen.A corridor in the midst of the crowd was left for the lifeguards to bring him up and try to revive him.

Near where I was standing, a young woman in her late twenties stood up and started to turn in circles crying,"That's my husband,that's my husband."Out of the crowd,five strangers moved towards her as if summoned.We took her hands and gently lead her to sit in the sand and one young man began to pray the rosary.We all joined in, over and over, the Our Father ,the Hail Mary.The woman had her back to the man and the lifeguards as they worked .They had him over a big blue barrel and kept pounding and pushing ,sea water spewing from his eyes,mouth and his ears.I watched to see some ,any ,small movement,a hand thrust up or a turn of his head, but there was nothing.

I don't know how long we stayed with her as they worked until she saw two people walking our way.She recognized them and ran into their arms.The small circle of strangers got up and without a word or a nod ,walked away.My friend and I left the beach.Our 20 minute ride home was somber.The next day, I read that the man had indeed drowned,the first person to do so at Jones Beach.I thought of those well trained ,dedicated lifeguards and how diligently they had worked to bring that man back.How they must have felt about this first drowning on their watch.

But now, from a distance of more than 40 years ,I also think of those five strangers who happened to be the same religion as the victim's wife.Who stepped out of the crowd and held her together until she was with friends when she finally learned the truth.I think of the old hymn."You are the Body of Christ"and believe that,by grace,on that day,we were.