Live Like You Are Small

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to substitute teach in the public school system. One day I was standing at the door greeting the children and one precious little 2nd grade girl with strawberry curls looked up at me and said, “I like your clothes, and your belt, and your necklace, and your (painted) toes, oh, and your eyes.” I blushed a little, smiled and thanked her, then began my day.

I thought about that little girl later and how loving she was and without any apologies. Then, I thought, she, along with her classmates, will grow up. They’ll grow up, become adults, and look the other way when they see you coming down the hall, just to avoid speaking. They’ll talk to everyone at their table but you. At a lunch outing, you’ll share with one of your “close” friends an intimate moment about your life—a struggle you’re having—because that was the topic of the day and then you won’t hear from her for months. All attempts to email or make additional lunch plans return to you void. Sometimes, they’ll profess their admiration for you and how much you mean to them and how glad they are that you are friends, and then they’ll never write or keep in touch. All attempts to stay connected are up to you.

Like the little girl in curls, I’ve had similar encounters with boys. They don’t really notice the appearance thing, but they will hang around my desk. They’ll ask me if they can help with anything (on a good day), tell me stories about their weekend, each competing with their buddy to tell the better story, ask me to come and see something they have built with blocks or Legos, ask me to help settle an argument between friends, and so on. Then they grow up.

They grow up and become men. They become men who will also profess their love and adoration for you, and then never call or come by again. They will do something nice for you, without being asked, but then will point to their “selfless” act later and want recognition for it. They’ll offer to do housework, which will spark much pride and love in your heart as you see them vacuuming or washing the dishes, only to find out later that they forgot your birthday.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had many cherished moments with adults, but what if we could love like little children. What if we could walk up to anyone and say, without apologies or wanting the compliment returned, “I like your voice, your eyes, your concern for others,” etc. What if the men in our lives would tell us something intimate about their own life and without shame? What if they would ask to help with housework not because they want a “trophy” for it or because of guilt, but simply because they love us?

I think that is why Jesus loves the little children, because their hearts are big and full of love. They trust without suspicion, they’re curious and full of wonder at the world around them, they’re eager to help with anything or to lend a comforting pat when we are sad.  They’re truly interested in us and our lives. What if we all would take a cue from them? How much better our lives would be if we would live like we are small.

No Safety in Fear

I have a lot of fear in my life. Its grip has been fierce and unrelenting. Fear has maintained its power over me by reminding me of past mistakes, failures, setbacks, betrayals, which, like a hamster on a wheel, have kept me in the same spot…just to be safe.

Trying something new or out of my “normal” has been out of the question or only vaguely considered because of how it could turn out—like the other mistakes and setbacks in my past. I have recently discovered a funny thing about fear, however. It does not provide the protection that it promises. Mistakes, failures, setbacks, betrayals still occur, sometimes in the area of my life I was trying desperately to protect. In other words, there is no real safety in fear.

I was in a discount CD store recently and struck up a conversation with the girl behind the counter. We began talking about the recent flood. She asked me if I had been affected by it to which I responded no. When I asked her the same question, she responded yes but supplies left over from hurricane Katrina had helped her protect her home. I completed my purchase and left, wondering the obvious, “Did that young woman flee New Orleans because of Katrina only to be threatened by flood waters again?”

I receive frequent emails from Beverly Ryle—a kind of prophet to the unemployed. This week’s newsletter was on fear. She mentioned that when we experience failure, we often put Fear in the driver’s seat of our lives. She went on to provide tips on how to know when Fear is ruling you, rather than the other way around, and how to combat it.

I read another article on fear and failure this week and how famous people overcame it. It mentioned Colonel Sanders, Chuck Colson, and Madeline L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time. I found the last one particularly interesting. Ms. L’Engle had written three books by the time she was thirty and then nothing with any success for decades. She wrote in her diary, “I am a writer. That’s who I am, even if I’m never published again.” She went on to publish her famous, award-winning piece.

Like so many of the things we “hook our caboose to” thinking that it will provide direction, purpose, fulfillment, fear is also a lie. All-encompassing fear doesn’t protect us or provide us with anything. It only leaves us feeling empty, alone, adrift.

The message then is to live our lives with conviction. Follow our dreams…live the life we’ve imagined (Thoreau) and fear…well, fear be damned. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Tennessee Without Dry Land, But Not Without Warm Hearts

In all my years, and I won’t go in to how many that is, I’ve never seen anything this bad. Some of you may have heard of the devastating floods Tennessee experienced this past weekend. I am thankful that our home was not damaged. We paid for some landscaping last week, however, and now it’s at the bottom of our hill, but that is nothing compared to what some have and are suffering on this sunny, gorgeous Monday.

Probably the most painful pictures to watch for me was the flooding of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Opry Mills, and The Grand Old Opry. These businesses are icons of our city, some national icons, and now they are under water. The flooding at Opry Mills is nearly to its roof. This beautiful discount shopping complex was already suffering from the weak economy and now this. The conversion of the theme park, Opryland, to the shopping center, Opry Mills, has been a shaky one at best. This does not bode well for this troubled center. The flooding at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center and The Grand Old Opry has not been as devastating, covering the first floor of both, but the damage is significant. A convention of 2,000 people was supposed to take place this weekend at this beautiful resort. Some attendees were already here and now must be turned away. I can’t help but wonder if there will be legal actions after this unforeseen disaster. I certainly hope not.

As I watch the astonishing pictures from the news, I am also amazed by another unique occurrence and that is of Tennesseans helping other Tennesseans. We may have run out of clean water in some places and electricity (28,000 homes without power from reports last night. Probably more homes without power today), but we have not run out of the generosity of people helping people. There have been numerous volunteers offering boats to rescue others. There have been 200 rescues at this writing and the efforts continue. In addition, there have been reports of people offering their homes to strangers, in order to help out the overcrowded hotels.

The economy has not been good for me here in several years. I have wanted to move, to try markets in other states, but it would be difficult to leave the lush greenery of Tennessee and the concern it has for its fellow man. I love Tennessee…have lived here all my life, but I have never been more proud of the efforts by city officials, public works, and of the kindness of its citizens during this historic and tragic event.