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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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Kentucky

The Power of a Grateful Heart–Poor Wayfaring Stranger Gratitude

The Lord protects the foreigners. He defends the orphans and widows, but he blocks the way of the wicked. (Psalms 146:9 NCV)

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The first sentence of this verse grabs me by the throat. I have been a stranger in a strange land both foreign and domestic. Ask anyone who has moved across the country leaving behind the familiar and they will tell you how “foreign” one can feel even within the continental United States. Moving, setting up house, working in a new environment, finding the grocery store, the cleaners, etc. and making friends requires a level of energy that only can be supplied by God. For the gregarious person some of these actions of settling in a new place go by quickly, but for someone like me, who watches to learn the lay of the land and the voice of the people before jumping in, time passes in baby steps.

The task grows exponentially when in a foreign country where the language is unfamiliar and to work, order food, count money requires a trusted translator. In Mexico for two mission trips, I relied on interpreters primarily, although after my first trip I took two semesters of Spanish at what was then Tulsa Junior College. The second trip went so much easier than the first even though my Spanish was so limited..One of my interpreters who was a native of Mexico told me that Spanish was the language of Heaven…I laughed and said that was funny, I always thought Hebrew was. Perhaps all of us, myself included, consider our first language to be the language of God.

Language opens so many doors when in another’s country. I found strangers helped me more, their attitude was different if I attempted to communicate using their language even with my poor skills. Someone once told me that the greatest compliment an expatriate can pay native citizens is to learn their tongue. Believe me this is true even in the USA. Try speaking Brooklynese in Montgomery, Alabama or vise versa. Or Oklahoma middle America speak in Kentucky where there are turns of phrase that have to be acquired.

The Lord protects the stranger in foreign places. He has protected me. He has provided a rich diversity of life found only in stepping out of my comfort zone, where I speak the language, like the food, trust the water and know what is expected of me. To be like God then, I, too, must protect and care for the strangers and foreigners in my midst. I must also be a good stranger when I am in foreign places, striving to understand the natives both tongue and customs. I must not expect everyone to be like me…that would be a disaster for sure.

Thank you , Lord. I am so grateful for your protection in all the new environments I have encountered, in all the places I have been the foreigner. Let my Gratitude lead me to care for the strangers, the non-natives, I encounter as I would like to be cared for if the situation was reversed. Remind me also that everywhere I go on this earth teaches me something about You and that the truth is “I am a poor wayfaring stranger” and “this world is not my home”. Amen

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All Saints Eve

imageHalloween (All Saints Eve)

The weather man predicts with his maps, instruments and knowledge that we are in for a rash of storms on this October 31, 2013 in Kentucky. A little unusual for this time of year but what isn’t unusual about the weather? It is usual though that about this time every year a final burst of wind, a windy day, rushes in and down come the leaves. Suddenly, houses, animals, etc. appear where before they were hidden. The landscape changes our view of things. So it is in my life, as well, clear the clutter and there is that thing I thought I had lost or had hoped I had lost.

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Storm clouds gather, a final burst of power
Lightening, thunder, distant rumbling from the heavens
Uneasy stillness, waiting as they glower
Watching as mid-autumn kneads her leaven
In a rush to end October and usher in November
Her power strips bare trees and forests everywhere
Opening clearings to our eyes, to contemplate, to remember
to reveal what is hidden, all that has been smoldering there.

So it is on this All Saints’ Eve, a burst of storms
ushering in November, preparing our hearts for thanksgiving
stripping us bare, opening clearings, sounding alarms
Calling us to remember all that makes life worth living
Thirty days to view the vistas God strips bare so we can see
Thirty days to contemplate, to listen and remember
All we’ve hidden behind the foliage and set it free
On the wings of thanksgiving to usher in December.

Happy All Saints Eve and get ready for THANKSGIVING!

Carolyn

Still Running the Race….in Florida

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24 NIV)

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Here in Florida this morning in a place that does not as of yet feel like home–frankly, it all seems a little surreal–I have awaken to thoughts of worth and purpose. Maybe all this introspection comes with decisions that will change our way of life…where we live at least part of the time. If we were doing this buying of property, wintering in Florida stuff, when we were younger…like we could have done that, HA! Perhaps I would feel less torn.

In fact, in our mid forties we did yank up our roots, leave Oklahoma and move to Kentucky, following ministry and career opportunities for both Terry and I. Answering that call brought Terry and I closer together, brought our daughter to the place where she would marry and raise a family, and opened our hearts and beings to wonderful people. I might add it also removed me from micro managing my sons and their wives and families, so yes, it made me a better mother-in-law. Of course, there have been hard times, sad times, but all in all I can see the worth and purpose of it all.

So when I read the verse of the day from YouVersion, I realized I have been focusing inward when I should be opening my heart and mind to this new place, these new people, this mission field. The Holy Spirit has not gifted me as an evangelist, but as one who seeks to encourage and challenge myself and other Christians to know the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Whether in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida…wherever may I finish the race as one who testifies to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

All prayers appreciated!

Love to you all,

Carolyn

Braking Points–Epilogue

rocking chairs
Epilogue

Early winter in southwestern Kentucky comes in fits and starts with alternating icy winds and snow showers mixed with warming trends of various lengths. Sun, one day, might be followed by steel gray skies the next. Max found the warm days a respite for his bones and joints. He found if he dressed appropriately—his granddaughter Allison called it layering—he could sit outside in his rocker in the afternoons. Most days he’d carry his Bible outside with him. After the trip to the ocean he’d started going to church again. Ryan had stayed through the summer and then Millie and Andrew began taking turns picking him up and carrying him in to town church on Sundays. The other stayed at the house with Lily. Now he supposed they’d all be going together.

He’d been foolish to have stayed away so long. Worship in the presence of other believers reinforced the foundations of his life. He’d learned that as a boy, practiced it as best he could with his own family, succeeded at times, failed at others but even now there it was like the benediction, “May the Grace of God, the Love of Christ Jesus our Lord and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit go with you.”

With reluctance he glanced at the empty rocker next to him and then down at the two envelopes in his lap. Millie would be by shortly to take them to the post office. Peggy and Millie had taken care of the majority of the thank you notes, but he’d wanted to write these two, one to Sophia Winchester and the other to Amanda Carmichael. Both wrote often—Amanda suggested he get a computer so they could e-mail; He chuckled—that wasn’t going to happen—and Sophia called Millie frequently. Sophia plowed along like always, clearing the path for others. Amanda’s letters delighted him; they were mixtures of youth and maturity. She had started attending church with her parents. But was quick to add, “Now don’t go praying for me or anything”, as if she could stop him.

The envelopes were unsealed. Max reached into his jacket pocket and extracted two color photos, one for each envelope. The faces in the snapshot smiled up at him, the Carnes family—all grown up—framed by sea grass with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. In the center sat Lily a half smile on her face wearing the blue outfit with white flowers, hat and all and next to Lily sat “Greta” her hand over Lily’s.

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Saturday Morning Going to the Dogs

Skipper and Max wrestling in the grass
Skipper and Max wrestling in the grass

Watching Skipper, my grandson’s dog, romp and play with our Max in the grass reminds me of the importance of play in all our lives. Travel most places, even some pretty stark conditions, you will see improvised play, using cans for balls, sticks for rackets, chasing, catching, laughing–Ever consider that GOD created the need for play into the DNA of all his creation.

It is not cool here in Kentucky this morning, but there is a breeze and in the shade it is pleasant. A good view, good company and playing dogs for entertainment. image

I wonder why, if I am correct about a play gene, we find it so hard to just let go and do it. I suspect life circumstances, reprogramming, and worry about how we look to others “plays” a major role in stifling the joyful, carefree attitude involved in play. Think of all play does for us, it gets our bodies and minds moving, it teaches us healthy competition, it produces endorphins in the brain, it keeps us healthy and young.

Play can be as sedentary as a board or card game or as active as playing a pick up basketball game. The important thing to remember is the attitude of play differs from the attitude of work. Any of the above activities can become work. Play like the dogs scuffling on the lawn, with no worries.

Maybe that is the point of play afterall to carry us away from Worry…Jesus said:

I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can worry make you live longer? (Matthew 6:25-27 CEVUS06)

I have a distinct inclination that God has been showing me a better way to live out the time I have here on this earth and playfulness and spontaneity are important components of a life lived in the will of God.

P.S. I am too often like Emma, my granddaughter’s pug-mix, standing on the sidelines and God forgive me, sometimes disapproving! Help me Play More, Lord!

Emma, keeping a watchful eye on Max and Skipper
Emma, keeping a watchful eye on Max and Skipper

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