Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bible Study in the Neighborhood

My friend comments about an interesting experience relating to her neighborhood. She writes...

"Your story about Ben speaks to me, because we have a situation on our block where a new resident has turned his front yard into a repository for broken-down restaurant equipment and other junk. He seems like a nice young guy when we talk with him, but nothing has changed in several weeks. Some neighbors have called the city code enforcement to report him.

Meanwhile, this past Monday morning the fall neighborhood Bible study began. Since early 2002, this group has met for typically three studies per year, taking off during the summer and end-of-year holidays. Another woman hosts, and I lead the discussions. As I have done in the past, I circulated an invitation to every home on the block a couple of weeks in advance.

As we gathered that morning, some of the usual attenders began catching up on news from the summer. The topic of our new neighbor came up, along with critical comments on the state of his front yard. A few minutes later, guess who showed up at the door to join the study! I trust he didn't notice our red faces.

We welcomed him. He had brought his Bible, and he participated in both the discussion and the prayers afterwards. His prayer "in Jesus' name" sounded very
sincere. I hope he comes back next week.

God is teaching me not to judge people's character by external evidence that may be unrelated to the kind of person they are. I don't know what reasons my neighbor might have for not yet doing something about his junk pile, but I want to be forgiving and compassionate in the process of seeking resolution. I think this kind of approach would get better results anyway. It seems almost ironic that our topical Bible study for this fall is focused on "caring for physical needs"--including needs for practical help. Instead of being confrontational, maybe our group could offer to haul things away for him--or at least help move them into his back yard!"


Yes, it's a little slow over here. I generally post twice a week.
It's quiet over at Ben's house. Maybe I'll run into him this weekend.
Talk to you soon! A writing post is coming up...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

God's Day in the Neighborhood (Part 2)

Continued from previous post...

Thanks for checking back for an update on the memorial service and Ben. It warmed my heart that some of the neighbors reached out to Ben in small ways. Nothing earth-shattering...but a good day...and a good start—for Ben—for us—for the neighbors...and God.
For this post to make sense, you should read the previous post first.

* * *

I looked aross the street and Ben's dented car was gone. Did he forget about the service? We had to leave in an hour.

"If he forgets, and doesn't show...we'll have to leave without him." said my husband.

About 15 minutes later the front doorbell rang. I swung open the door and there was Ben standing in a pair of tan slacks and a rumpled but clean white shirt.
"Oh I'm so glad you're still here!" he said. "I ran out to get a hair cut."
"You look nice," I said.
"Thanks for telling me I look nice."

Just then large rain drops plopped around us. I ran inside to grab some umbrellas.
Ben said, "Oh I have one I can bring!" He hurried back across the street.

As we rode to the service, Ben pulled his umbrella out of a dusty plastic wrapper.
"I've never used this before—it's still new."
(In Southern California, we haven't had rain for about 150 days!)

We arrived at the little chapel and threaded into one of the pews. A neighbor passed a program up to me...but not to Ben. It was nicely done with pictures of Jean and a beautiful prayer. I wished Ben had one. A few seconds later, this same neighbor returned with a program for Ben.

A Lutheran pastor conducted a meaningful service. The soloist sang "How Great Thou Art" and several other hymns. He sang from the heart as if he truly believed the words. The soloist looked familiar to me. Ben mentioned the same thing. (more about that later)

As we stepped out of the chapel to the graveside service, the rain stopped and the sun spilled through the clouds. (and I took the picture below) As my husband and I talked to some of the neighbors, Ben stood quietly to the side of us. One of the neighbors reached out and shook Ben's hand.

When the Pastor lead us in the Lord's prayer, I could hear Ben's voice saying the words quietly as if he had known them for years.

The soloist closed the service with several uplifting songs. As we climbed back into the truck, Ben mentioned that when he was young, he had gone to the Lutheran church.

"The songs made it nice, today." he added.

We began to discuss the familiarity of the soloist and figured out, to our surprise, that he was a clerk in the garden department of our local Home Depot store (!) Ben remembered meeting the clerk one day at the store. "He struck up a conversation with me," said Ben with an amazed tone in his voice.

The day ended inside Jean's home with a small feast and many assorted relatives we did not know. So the neighbors found themselves congregating at one table. Soon my husband and I had to leave...but Ben stayed. He was talking with the neighbors.

As we were going out the door...the Home Depot soloist who loved to sing about the Lord, entered the house. I hoped he would end up at the neighbors table and strike up another conversation with Ben. I wondered if God would use him in Ben's life.

If you have time...pause for a moment and say a prayer for Ben...that he will walk toward the light of Jesus Christ.

Well...I don't think this story is over yet. Ben left his umbrella in our truck.

Friday, September 21, 2007

God's Day in the Neighborhood (Part 1)

My dear next-door-neighbor and friend, Jean, passed away this week. She was 85 years old. We would often talk over the side-wall that runs between our homes. Sometimes we would sit and talk in her kitchen. She always had time for me.

Jean's passing has awakened the neighborhood. Suddenly the neighbors are talking with one another. Even tonight, the door bell rang. It was Tim, who lives across the street, bringing us directions to the service. My husband and 2 other neighbors have been asked to be pall bearers. Afterwards there will be a reception in Jean's backyard.

We have one home in the neighborhood who everyone complains about. The man who lives there doesn't keep his place up. He has a drinking problem. But he has known Jean since he was a young man. Jean has often told me about his history. She knew his parents, before they both passed away. She said they were quite irregular parents. Now Ben lives alone there, but not in the house. The house is a shell...because he started remodeling/rebuilding it and ran out of money. So now Ben, about age 65, lives in the little back house. Ben would also make his way over to Jean's from time to time to sit in her kitchen. The neighbors do not like Ben. They complain about him and call the city to come and make him clean up his property.

I was standing in the street with Jean's daughter, when she was telling Ben that her mother passed away. I could see the sadness on Ben's face and I heard myself inviting him to come ride with my husband and I to the memorial service. His face brightened and he thanked me heartily.

Yesterday when I saw Ben, he said, "God Bless You." Ben doesn't attend church, and he doesn't strike me as religious. But I have often prayed for I have a son who is going through difficult I'm sure Ben did, when he was young. But Ben fell through the cracks...somehow...perhaps no one to support and help him through the rough waters...and he ended up on the wrong path. Compassion. I feel compassion. Maybe I'm feeling God's compassion...not mine.

As various neighbors have found out that Ben is coming...and riding in our car, they stammer a bit and roll their eyes. Even my husband wasn't thrilled.

So tomorrow should be an interesting day. I feel its the Lord's day...his day to work in the neighborhood. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Solid Rock

As I shared my anxious thoughts with my mother, she responded, "Your family will be fine. You've built your home on a rock...not on the sand."

The truth in her words touched my heart with immediate comfort.

How could I have forgotten...

My husband and I have built our home on Jesus Christ. We stand on Him.

..."And the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." (Jesus) Matthew 7:25

I thought about these things in church this morning as we sang...

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand
All other ground is sinking sand..

Take courage, dear friends, our homes do not sit on the sand. They are built on a rock. And we will come through all of life's storms intact. We will overcome...because we have built our lives on Jesus Christ..the solid rock!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Moments in Time

At the public school where I work, today, 9/11, the children gathered for an assembly outdoors on the grass. Teachers and students, dressed in red, white and blue stood beneath the warm morning sun. One of the teachers led the students in a song. One thousand kindergarten through 6th grade children sang "God Bless that I love..." acappella. It was an awesome moment.

Pray for America's children...may they come to know their Creator and know they are loved by Him. May the their natural fledgling faith not be suffocated by "the ways of the world" which will rapidly surround them...just as weeds creep around tender plants.

I just took a walk catch the last glow of light before darkness. I saw the first star come out. Actually it was the planet of Jupiter. I prayed for different friends who are struggling. The grass felt prickly under my thin rubber flip-flops. Fall is coming, but the air is still warm here. I'm still waiting for that first crisp morning.

As I watched a few leaves flutter to the grass, the words of some of my blogging friends came to my mind..."Fall is a time that nature rests." I love this thought. I want to rest, too.

May I place my trust in Him...and rest.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Counting My Blessings

I had a nice 24 hours the other day. I went boogie boarding at the beach, then spent the night at my parents. I went on a nice bike ride. It was a refreshing and restful change.

Then I came home...and school started...and my job. That's today. It was actually nice feeling to be back and greet old friends.

Counting My Blessings

Sometimes I must remind myself to stop and count the blessings I have in my life. I think my Father in heaven would enjoy that.

If my children only complained, pleaded and were constantly anxious...about my ability to care for them...parenthood would be dreary, indeed.

Dear Father in Heaven---thank you!


my house

my husband

my boys

a job that I enjoy

parents who know you...and live a few miles from a beautiful beach. (a restful spot for me)

my friends

my writing critique group

my moms-in-touch group

Sunday morning lifestyles class at church

Nice neighbors

extended family relationships are healthy and "in you".

thank you that my oldest son really likes his new college classes--auto and welding

thank you that my youngest son is doing well

I'm thankful that my husband loves me

Thank you for the nature I see every day...the mountains, the sky, the plants, the birds, rocks, dirt, breezes, trees...oh and the stars, planets, moon, and beautiful universe!

Thank you for your Word.

Thank you for listening to my prayers.

Thank you for forgiving me, saving my life through the death and resurrection of your son and preparing a home in heaven for we can be together forever.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sizzling Hot

Hey...thanks for those funny captions on the previous post about Miss Maggie. They brightened my day! You, friends, are creative! I'm not good at thinking of captions.

It has been so hot here the last few days. Yesterday the power went out for most of the day. Today we have had some surges, but basically the power has stayed on. Today it was 112 degrees. Our voltage is very low right now, so I must get off soon. It's in the 90's at night. Whew! We've been going without the air conditioner most of the time. (to save money, and to save voltage).'s time to remember that there are others in the world with worse situations.

At least we have water! I've re-discovered the joy of playing in the sprinklers. How it happened was...tonight I went out to the front yard to turn off the sprinklers and some of the spray hit me. It felt glorious. So I ventured out on to the lawn and stood in the middle of the tall wet blades. (Our lawn needs mowing) The sprinklers sprayed water every which way. Every few seconds delightfully cool drops showered over my head, and clothing. Oh the simple joys!