Looked After

I lingered too long with my coffee yesterday morning. I planned an Independence Day run in my favorite park but didn’t start as early as intended. Orange cones already lined the street into the park to guide the throngs of firework watchers showing up to stake their claim to the best spots. I maneuvered my car through some of the cones to park in my usual space.

My run started better than expected and I felt good despite the heat. There were more people out and about at the park. Biking, walking, running, or preparing for their picnics. I ran through neighborhoods, around the school, then back to the park.

My run still felt okay but I was hot. I ran on the edge of a parking lot when I nodded to an older gentlemen driving a golf cart. He stopped the cart and motioned to me. I noticed he wore a cap with the park name on it. I wondered if he was an employee.

I walked to the cart and the man asked how long I’d been running. I answered him, then he asked how far I had to go. I told him, “three more miles to reach my goal.”

I must have looked overheated and thirsty. He handed me an ice cold water bottle from his cooler and told me to take it with me. Then he told me to take it slow. I opened the water bottle and drank fast. He looked concerned. I thanked him and turned to walk away. He said, “wait I’m not finished yet.”

He spread a small towel in his lap, filled the middle of it with handfuls of ice, and pulled the corners of the towel up around the ice. He put the “ice bag” behind his neck, on top of his head, under his chin, on his wrists and told me to do the same to cool off. I stood there with the bag behind my neck as he told me to be careful. He warned me of the heat again and I had a fleeting sense of familiarity.

He mentioned how he planned to celebrate later with his family and beamed when he talked about his grand children.

I thanked him again, reached to shake his hand, and asked his name. His eyes brightened, he shook my hand, told me his name, then asked mine.

Before he drove away, he said, “Marie, glad to know you.”

It wasn’t until this morning I discerned the familiarity.

The man on the golf cart reminded me of my father. Not his appearance, but the things he said and how he said them. His makeshift ice bag and demonstration of its most effective use. His going above and beyond in his care about such a small thing as me being too hot.

It was Dad who saw to our wounds when we were stung by yellow jackets or scraped our knees. He did the mean stuff. He dabbed our cuts with iodine or squeezed our splinters to the surface to pull them out with tweezers, and told us to stop whining about it.

As he aged, his care became more tender. More advice and prayers than tending wounds. Moving things or fixing broken ones. Letting us borrow what was his and always helping when he saw a need. Sometimes he helped before I knew I needed help.

Dad looked after us.

I finished my run. I took the man’s advice and slowed down, and it may be the reason I finished. I think it was another one of those times I needed help and didn’t know it.

 

Photo by Arleen wiese on Unsplash

 

Love Me Tender

Eleven days into my Lenten journey and I realize I’ve slowed down……a little. I’ve allowed for more quiet time in the morning….reading, praying, listening and reflecting, but I’m still trying to find a consistent soul-speed.

I’m reading a daily online Lent devotional and the Gospel of Mark during my Lenten journey. This week the story of a man with a withered hand in Chapter 3 struck a chord. Or maybe it hit a nerve.

Jesus walked into the synagogue and noticed a man with a withered hand. Some versions say his hand was shriveled. Others use the word deformed or crippled. Whatever word described it, the man’s right hand was useless. The same story in Luke 6:6-11 says Jesus asked the man to stand in front of the crowd.

Jesus wanted the people to see the man and his gnarled hand. Perhaps some in the crowd were moved to compassion. Some wondered what Jesus would do. The Pharisees and scribes looked for a way to accuse Jesus.

In all three Gospel accounts of the story, Jesus questioned the crowd.

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm?”

“If your sheep fell into the ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you lift it out?”

“On the Sabbath should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”

The four words at the end of verse 4 in Mark’s version say it all.

“But they were silent.”

No answers. Not a word. Only silence. The religious leaders were unyielding. The sight of the disabled man and the pointed questions did nothing to soften their hearts. They were consumed with the idea of catching Jesus in breaking the Sabbath.

I wonder about the onlookers, though. The other ones in the synagogue. Why didn’t one of them answer Jesus and say, “I would rescue my sheep” or “It’s lawful to save a life any day of the week.” Had they heard the man-made rules about Sabbath for so long they forgot what God said? Were they scared into silence? Afraid of what the religious leaders would do if they spoke up?

Verse 5 says, “And Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart….” 

Then Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.

Such a work of mercy should have tendered hearts and caused amazement and faith, but they wouldn’t be moved. They persisted in unbelief and set out to destroy Jesus. The ones determined to uphold the law missed the whole point of it: to love God and love people.

Are our hearts hard? Are we unmoved? Do we value man-made rules and traditions over people? Are we determined to move our agendas forward even when it means hindering others’ journey toward God? Are we holding onto status or position or reputation instead of trusting God?

Father, show us our hearts. Reveal the deepest places – the ones we try not to see. Make our hearts tender so we are moved by what moves You. May we love you wholeheartedly and may we see those around us the way You see them.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

 

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

 

 

 

Look What You Made Me Do

Like millions of others, my daughters anticipated the new song by Taylor Swift and they weren’t disappointed. While most critics have bashed Look What You Made Me Do, millions of fans have helped Swift break streaming, download, and video view records and it’s predicted the song will hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart next month.

I like the song. Maybe it’s easy for me to like it because my girls literally grew up with Taylor Swift. Every single one of her songs has been played over and over and over in our house, on the computer, in the car, or on their phones. Wherever they could be played, TS songs were played. So in a way, I grew up as a mom with Taylor Swift. From Teardrops on My Guitar to Look What You Made Me Do is a lot of growing.

As I listen to Look What You Made Me Do, I’m reminded of a time as a young woman when I had the same attitude as the one played out in the song. After some heartbreaks I vowed I would never be hurt again. I didn’t trust others and kept everyone at arm’s length. I was strong and independent and ready to take on the world.

Like Taylor, “I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.” Only my heart became harder and harder because with every hurt a wall was built around my heart. Another hurt, another wall. Walls of sarcasm and suspicion. Walls of bitterness, pride and stony ambition.

But the thing about walls around our hearts is they don’t work. Not if we want love and joy and peace. Walls keep these away.

So what do I tell my young daughter when she’s betrayed by a friend? Or when someone calls her a name? What do I do when I’m lied to? Or ignored? Or uninvited?

I can tell my daughter to treat those who mistreated her the same way. I can tell her to ignore them and never talk to them again. I can snub those who ignore me and unfriend those who no longer welcome me.

But there is a better way. I’ll be kind to them. I’ll smile and speak when I see them. And I’ll forgive them. I’ll tell my daughters to do the same. Forgiveness may be a process and one I have to work hard at but it’s the only way to do it if I want to love and live well.

And I will tell my daughters to fight to keep their hearts soft. “Become wiser. Don’t give in to what you want to do at first. Don’t let this song or all the others like it become the anthem of your lives. Don’t give in to how the world says to treat those who hurt you. Instead, be kind and brave . And forgive them.”

 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.     Proverbs 4:23 NIV

While lessons learned should make us wiser, they shouldn’t make us harder. Hearts are meant to be soft and without walls. That’s the only way we learn to love. That’s how we give it and get it. That’s how we learn to trust. That’s how we learn to forgive and become compassionate and kind.

Maybe smarter in the nick of time. But not harder.

Photo by Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash