It is four o’clock in the morning. I’ve been up since 1 trying to go back to sleep…but 3 hours later, here I am. I gave up on the sleep for now. Instead I am eating Natural Smuckers, no sugar or artificial sweeteners added pb&j on rice cakes and drinking Almond milk. “What!?!” you say, “No Gheradelli dark chocolate morsels and JIF? No coffee with peppermint mocha sweetener!?! Is there something wrong with you?”
Well, yes. As a matter of fact there is. I have the flu. But much more significant than that…I asked for God to be with me…to make me ULTRA aware of His presence in my life during this Lenten Time. And He is.
There are always Supernatural things going on…but unless we are really tuned in we may easily not notice them for what they are. We may chalk up the unexpected text from someone who has been on our mind as a coincidence, or the refund check in the mail for some random over-payment made three months ago…. just at the time when we need that exact amount… to be sheer luck. We may not realize that the inconvenience of a flat tire when we are already late for work may have prevented a blow out on a busy interstate, and with the extra few minutes you got to teach your interested child how to change a flat tire (a good trick to know)…have a conversation that most mornings are too busy to engage in…and get a hug and a kiss before his bus takes them off to school. We may not understand why the child that everyone else thinks of as difficult offers you help on the day that you just cannot do one more thing…unbenownst to you, that child was contemplating suicide but your SINCERE appreciation that they took time to help you in your time of need made them re-evaluate whether of not they were important. I could go on and on and on with examples. But I want to share from the book that I have referenced lately… 14 Secrets to Better Relationships by Dave Early:
“A few years ago at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the one-hundred-yard dash….they all started out…with the relish to run to the finish and win. All, that is, but one boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbles over a few times, and started to cry. The other eight heard him cry. They slowed down. They stopped. Then they all turned around and went back….every one of them! One little girl with Down syndrome bent down, kissed the fallen boy, and said,’That will make it better!’ Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for ten minutes.”
As I laid awake in my bed for the past three hours I was talking to God about things and people and concerns and plans. I was asking Him to do a thorough search of me and to let me know if there are some parts that need extra attention. I know that I need to let God be God. He knows much better than I how things should work out for the good of us all. But one thing I thought about was…if I never got any recognition or words of encouragement or affirmation that I was doing a good job or was appreciated, would I still try? Do I do “good” to get glory and praise or do I do good because it is the right thing to do? If the end result is the same…and the job is getting done that needs doing…does it matter? It does to me. It matters that I would do it anyway.
One of my favorite books is The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. In that story a young boy is learning life lessons from his grandparents who have taken him to raise. One of his grandparent’s friends is a Cherokee Indian named Willow John. It may be because I am part Cherokee that I feel such connection to this book, particularly to the Grandma and the friend Willow John…but I am also part Scottish and part Irish, so I understand the Grandfather too! This book has been criticized in the past few years for not being a “true” story…but I think on a spiritual level, regardless whether or not it is fact or fiction, this story is about as true and real as it gets.
Each Sunday Little Tree and his grandparents go to church where they sit in the back row with their Indian friend, Willow John. Willow John has a deep sadness within him, a dark hollow look in his eyes that Grandpa explains came upon Willow John when he went to look for “The Nations” of fellow Native Americans only to discover that there were no “Nations” left. Little Tree thought that Willow Johns’s empty eyes looked like an old photo he had once seen of a defeated Geronimo. One Sunday Willow John gave Little tree the gift of a long knife. He did not present the gift to Little Tree, he just left it in the seat to be discovered. Grandpa tells Little Tree that is the way Indians give gifts. They do not give a gift if they don’t mean it and unless they believe that it was deserved , and therefore it would be foolish to thank the gift giver for something that was deserved. Little Tree reciprocated, and left Willow John the gift of a nickel and a bullfrog in Willow John’s coat pocket…at church. The gift and the scene that proceeds during the church service gives Willow John the sparkle back into his eyes.
One more example from my Dave Early book of a love freely given:
“I don’t know if it’s a true story but my pastor used to tell a beautiful tale of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained to the little boy that she had the same disease that the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Because the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor. ‘Would you give blood to your sister?’ the doctor asked. The little boy hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and sighed, “Sure, for my sister.” Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room. The sister was pale and thin. Her brother was stronger and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, he grinned at her. As the nurse inserted the needle, the smile faded from his face. He anxiously watched the blood flow through the tube. When the ordeal was nearly over, the little boy’s quavering voice broke the silence. ‘Doctor, when do I die?’ he gulped. ‘Will it be much longer?’ Only then did the doctor realize why the little boy had been so hesitant at first. He thought that giving his blood to his sister would mean giving up his own life. In a moment he had made the decision to give the blood – because he loved his sister…”
Wow. That is powerful. That is sacrificial love. That is giving without thoughts of receiving earthly rewards. What that story makes me remember is…Our life is already His. Everything we have is already His. If we die this second we are taking nothing with us …we are only leaving behind things done that have impacted the lives of others…let’s be vigilant that those things are ONLY good. Lord, I don’t want to “do” to get glory and praise. Please give me a servant’s heart. Help me to do good only to helpand never to harm if I can help it.
Two more quick thoughts to leave you with from The Education of Little Tree…
“Granma said I had done right, for when you come on something that is good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find; that way, the good spreads out to where no telling it will go. Which is right.”
“Granma’s name was Bonnie Bee. I knew that when I heard him late at night say, ‘I kin ye, Bonnie Bee,’ he was saying, ‘I love ye’ for the feeling was in the words. And when they would be talking and Grannma would say, ‘Do ye kin me, Wales?’ and he would say, ‘I kin ye,’ it meant, ‘I understand ye.’ To them love and understanding was the same thing. Granma said you couldn’t love something you didn’t understand; nor could you love people, nor God, if you didn’t understand people and God…Grandpa said back before his time ‘kinfolks’ meant any folks that you understood and had an understanding with, so it meant ‘loved folks’. But people got selfish and brought it down to mean just blood relatives; but actually it was never meant to mean that.”
Do you kin me? You may not be my blood relative, but you are my brother or sister as God is our Father. I want to understand you and to be understood. We are commanded to “Love One Another.” If that seems to daunting to start with…let’s try to understand one another first…and then we may know how to love. Truly love.