Variations on Giving: a Friend’s Reflection on Lent


Disclaimer:   

Please know I do not allow Mindy to publish what she does below with any sense of comfort. In fact, I do so with fear and trembling, not wanting anyone to think, for a minute, that I believe the life Sara and I lead deserves Lenten comparison.   

Sara and I have chosen our path purposefully, but it, in fact, gives to us more that we give to others.  The sacrifice is reciprocal and then some, making our lives meaningful, challenging, sometimes even fun. 

 Please know the words below are those of a friend, a friend who has loved us for many years and may speak with a bit of bias—but a bias based in love.  As such, I am humbled and try to accept the gift with grace—acknowledging that though it may be too much, it’s a gift given from the heart.

 And the gift of love, the gift of grace, after all, is what the Lenten/Easter season is all about.  God only asks for our hearts and gives us grace in return.

 So thank you, my dear friend.  Thank you!

Dear Readers:
  
Kathy has taken the day off. 
  
While she finishes a myriad of tasks related to her move home to Kentucky, she let me talk her into publishing the following post I wrote about her and Sara.
 
This week Kathy is looking back and reevaluating the experience she and Sara have had in Haiti.  I hope this post will help them see how brave they’ve been.
  
I know I speak for many who have come to respect and admire these good people.  And though I speak about them in the context of Christianity, I believe good works are apparent in and of themselves, regardless of religion, creed or belief.
  
Kindest regards,
Mindy
 
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As I reflect on Sara and Kathy and the lives they lead, I am reminded of the story in the Bible about the widow’s mite. “She gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford…she gave her all.” (Luke 21-4)

 The Jews had been instructed to give to the Temple and to the poor as part of their service to God. One day Jesus sat at the Temple and watched people putting money into the offering boxes. Some were rich and gave lots of money. Some gave money, but were unhappy about it. Then a poor woman, a widow, came up to the boxes.

The poor woman put two small coins in the offering box. The disciples with Jesus weren’t very impressed, but Jesus said this woman had given more than any other that day. How could that be? Jesus said it was because it was all she had.

 I reflect on the selflessness of my friends because they inspire me on this first day of Lent to “give my all.”

 I’m Episcopalian and have always observed Lent by giving up something for the 40 days or so that lead up to Easter and the celebration of the risen Lord. When I was a child, I was instructed not to give up something I disliked, like spinach, but to give up something I loved, like chocolate.

 The physical act of fasting is meant to remind us to allow the Spirit of God to reshape the way we think, act and live. I know this as an adult. As a child, it was just something we were expected to do.

 It was a practice that was meant to become a habit and, then, a life lesson.

 The apostle Paul explained the lesson very neatly in his letter to the Philippians:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:5-8 – The Message)

 This is how Sara and Kathy live. They go from disaster to disaster, at great expense – professionally, emotionally, physically, psychologically – giving extravagantly what they can’t afford…giving their all.

 Now, I want Kathy to run this blog post and if she does, you must know that it’s because I’ve asked her to do it on my behalf. 

 Because I thank her and Sara for reminding me, in this season of Lent, to allow the Spirit of God to reshape the way I think, act and live not only by giving up something I love, but by giving my all.

This is what my head says . . .


 Today I thought I’d share a poem I wrote when my bipolar symptoms were in evidence–one that, I think, illustrates the chatter that, even now, I push aside but hear vaguely in the background–a whisper that back-drops and wall papers my expereince of almost everything–every bowl of cereal I eat, every peice of paper I pick up,  every book,  every door I close or open or slam shut, hoping to silence the sing-song.

This is what my head says . . .

The back of the truck
     is let down and I am
     in the street again
                lines down
          the center of the roadway
                yellow voices
 
The color of a dress I had
     age three
                yellow roses on the bodice
                yellow roses on the table
          where the place is set
                for us to eat zucchini
                and avocado and other vegetables
          with green skin that must be peeled
                away before consuming
 
Before comes earlier than after
               as does the obvious
              preacher talk
     of Jesus saving other people
                from their sin
 
Sin is always in the third person
 
 

She Sheltered Me (In the Shelter of One Another, Part 2)


 

Today I’d like to welcome my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps to “Reinventing the Event Horizon.”  Mindy’s  guest post is also about “sheltering,” a topic explored in yesterday’s poem and one inherent to the recovery effort here in Haiti.  Mindy’s narrative negotiation of this issue–an event horizon of its own–is stunningly poised and powerfully moving.  (Mindy’s bio is below and her post “She Sheltered Me” just below that.  Mindy will personally respond to comments, so feel free to ask questions.) 

A journalist by training, Mindy Shannon Phelps is a project management and communications specialist.

Over the past 17 years, her clients have ranged from Habitat for Humanity 
International and the US Department of Justice to the FEI World Equestrian Games and the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, which she launched in 2007.  As a consultant, she focuses primarily on not-for-profit organizations.

As a wife and mother, she says she is humbled by the grace and love of her two daughters and husband, who encourage her to “write it down.” She does write – prose and poetry – and she is an editor, as well.

Her maxim: “Woman hath no greater satisfaction than editing someone else’s copy.”

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She Sheltered Me

It was the spring of 2004 in one of the worst years – work wise – of my life. I had been hired to transform a well-known non-profit organization from an affiliate of the national group to a state-only organization.  The group’s mission was completely embraceable – justice and fairness for all – but the group was hamstrung by about 60 long-time stakeholders – board members and advisors and founders – who each decided to be my boss. I also had an entrenched staff that I simply could not manage.  My associate director made Machiavelli seem like a decent person.

I could not win for losing. 

One morning, on the drive to work, I stopped at Starbucks and stood in line behind a very odd person.  She was very colorful.  A black lady whom you could immediately recognize as being from Africa or the Caribbean.  Not used to the chill March weather.  Bright knit cap and scarf. Bangles and rings and clothing that seemed to surround, rather than actually fit, her body. Sneakers and thick socks. Carrying a knapsack and a small pair of bongo drums, she was about to beg the barista for coffee for one dollar. Before she got to the counter, she turned around to me and told me I was a “rainbow child” and that I blessed her with my smile. 

She turned to the counter and the barista refused her request.

She hurried out the door. I was troubled that I did not quickly step in and get her some coffee. But I could see that she frightened the clerk and the customers. And she, herself, was frightened.  So I got my own coffee and went on my little way.

She walked across the street and I overheard her asking for directions to Main Street. I really wanted to pick her up and debated with myself through a light change, then crossed lanes and stopped and offered a ride. 

We sat for a minute and chatted and she explained how she had traveled from Jamaica to live with her sister – had sold $2000 worth of jewelry that she makes – and her sister had taken her money. My passenger was headed to the Hyatt Regency downtown to stay the night.  Her sister had a reservation. 

You know, I like to think I at least try to take people at face value. But I’m just as shallow as they come, really.  I wasn’t sure I believed this woman’s story. Making it even more difficult were comments that interspersed her narration, such as, “but, you know, I am not worried because God takes care of me.  We are all His children and He loves us.  I used to be a rainbow but now I am here.” I was with her on God’s love but the rainbow metaphor was beyond my ken.

Then she told me something I had always believed. 

“We need to continually stay in prayer.” With that, she began reciting the Lord’s Prayer and I headed the car down the road.

When I got to Main Street, I pulled into a parking lot next to a bakery. I don’t know why I didn’t just take her all the way down to the Hyatt. It was as if I was dreaming and did not have control of the car. This is what she told me in that lot.

“God bless you.  Be on your guard. Satan has demons driving on the streets today.  You are under attack and you don’t know it.  You need to call on Michael. Do you know Michael, the archangel? He’s my angel and he will be your angel, too.  You are God’s child and He loves you. You and I will see each other soon in paradise. We’ll be so happy then!”

All of this, she repeats, several times.

I began to weep because she touched something I didn’t know needed comforting. My heart.

The lady from Jamaica had blessed me and she was of God; that I knew. And I think God was there in the car with us and so was Michael, the archangel.

Before she got out of the car, I fished into my wallet and gave her a fifty-dollar bill. It was my two-week “allowance.” I felt as if I were giving it to God.  

She cried when I handed it to her.

I never saw her again.