Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Entertaining Angels (Unaware)

Neighbor's door in Los Angeles. (Anything goes!) Whatever the season, let us live with hearts and doors opened wide.

There are many Big Stories to be told, but I am not quite up to it yet. (Let’s let them marinate for now.)

Instead, I may shoot out a few vignettes every now and then.

Like this one, written a while back…

It was a complicated day, as they often are in a big city.

Several adults camping out in a small (kinda "ghetto-y," by Southern sensibilities) one-bedroom apartment in LA is not a pretty picture. Stuff piled everywhere. Hard to clean, even if you had the energy to attempt it.

Things are not exactly cookie-cutter cute in my relatively affordable (for LA) accommodations. When friends from Georgia came out in January, one said, “Oh, this reminds me of Seinfeld!” while walking down the stained blue-carpeted hallway to my door. (Actually, Seinfeld’s hallway looked like the Ritz compared to this one.)

Still, I’d hoped to have (at least the bathroom!) professionally cleaned before my husband returned to LA that night for Amie’s most recent jaw surgery.

As they say, it’s hard to find good help. Over the years, I’ve tried several different individuals and cleaning companies in LA, but nothing’s ever been a perfect fit. So I signed up for a new and popular service, hoping for the best.

(Now switching to present tense, for some reason…)

The morning of the appointment, I receive an email from the company. (“Your service provider can’t come. We will try to find a replacement.”) Back and forth, back and forth. Finally I am informed that they have found a replacement.

An hour and a half after the promised Cleaning Genius is to supposed to arrive… just as I’ve given up and started writing a negative review on Yelp… I’m startled by a loud buzz on the intercom.

A young, very tall, very dark, very serious young man is getting off the elevator as I run to meet whomever the company has sent. He is without a single cleaning implement. No vacuum cleaner, no mop, no broom. Nothing. He introduces himself as M.

I ask if he has anything to clean with. He tells me that he is sharing a vacuum cleaner with a friend, but the friend will bring it by to him after he gets started. He goes back out to his car to get the other supplies.

I send him out on the tiny patio to sweep, as Amie is not feeling well and moving slowly. After her shower and meds, she says hello to M. and gives him too much information about her accident in explanation as to why she is missing teeth, limping, etc. (Although, of course, he did not ask.)

At this point, Amie’s friend Mark arrives and immediately gets to work on his computer, trying to finish a project before their day trip to Orange County.

Secretly giddy about the prospect of a little alone time away from my favorite adult-child roommate, I discourage Amie’s idea of going out to eat for lunch. Mark wants to keep working until the last minute. He asks if I have anything they can eat at the apartment to save time.

Although the cupboard's pretty bare, I dig out whatever I can find in the frig. A little sandwich stuff and some leftover 4-day-old Shepherd’s Pie I wanted to get rid of. Not even real Shepherd’s Pie, the healthier fake version with cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.

While we eat, M. is in the bathroom, on hands and knees, cleaning the floor. When he comes back into the living-cooking-dining room, we’re just finishing up. I feel a little rude.

“Would you like something to eat?” my mother’s daughter asks, expecting him to decline because of his tight schedule and late start for the day.

“Yes, please.

“Sandwich or shepherd’s pie?”

“Shepherd’s pie, please.”

I dish out the left-overs and start to rush around again, but feel bad about him sitting alone at the folding bamboo table that serves as our dining table in exile.

I sit down across from him, and make perfunctory conversation.

“Where are you from?”


I make a few pleasantries about Africa in general.

The serious expression turns into a full-blown smile.

“Have you been to Africa?”

“No, but my husband has been to South Africa. He’s always said that I would love it.  Maybe one day.”

He tells me Uganda is fairly safe for tourists.

I ask a little about his life… how long has he been here… how does he like America…

He cleans his plate. I ask if he would like some more, and he smiles, “Yes, please.”

At the end, as he stands up, he says, “This is the best meal I have ever had in America.”

I am taken aback. Almost wounded by his words.

He starts back to work, but the vacuum cleaner never arrives.

When he has done all he can do, he tells me, “I must go to my next job, but I will be back. Please don’t report this to the company. This will be on my own time.”

At 5 or 6 that night, he shows up and starts vacuuming quickly.

I am ready to put on my nightie and get off my tired feet, but I sit on the sofa and mess around on my computer until he’s done.

As he’s leaving, I slip him a ten.

“Thank you, missus. This is the most beautiful home I have ever seen in America. You are the most kind person I have met here. Thank you for your kindness.”

I just stare at him with my mouth slightly open until he concludes with, “I will be praying for your daughter.”

I am a woman whose life is wracked by sin and failure.

But at that moment, I realized that I was the hands of Jesus to that young man.

And he was Jesus to me.


Perspective is everything.

Katherine and Jay have taught this with their lives.

There is always someone better off than you are.

There is always someone much worse off than you are.

I ran across these words on Ann Voskamp’s blog:

Perspective is a giver. Comparison takes.

Perspective is generous. Comparison pares down the loveliness of your life until it appears a thin shred of its former glory.

Perspective carries us through life laughing. Comparison evokes cursing and frowns and grumbling.

(Kate Merrick)

My encounter with M. reminded me:

Our little is someone else’s much.

Let us remember to share the little we have until it multiplies blessing like loaves and fishes.

In the end, it always come back...

with interest.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hebrews 13:2

*Was it a coincidence that the left-overs just happened to be Shepherd's Pie?

Monday, March 6, 2017

(a modern-day) Margery Raves On: Some Thoughts on Lent

(a modern-day) Margery Raves On: Some Thoughts on Lent

Some Thoughts on Lent

Guess what I’m giving up for Lent…

I’m giving up trying to give something up!

Traditionally, Lent has been associated with penance, fasting, and abstinence… sacrificing pleasures or vices as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. A time of reflection and repentance, for some Christians it is a joyful, deeply spiritual thing.

I’ve always been an abysmal failure at it.  Basic human nature is such that the more you focus on giving up the thing, the more you want it. C’est moi.

I’m tired of making resolutions I probably won’t keep, giving in to temptation, and then feeling even worse about myself.  A lying voice sneaks up to whisper “Failure” in my ear. Like our original ancestors, I pull away from God in shame. Instead of feeling closer, I feel further away than before.

But, while he was visiting here, Jesus repeated these words from the Old Testament:

I desire mercy and not sacrifice.*

What if instead of sacrificing chocolate or wine or carbs or cussing or unkind thoughts, I asked for MORE.

more mercy, instead of judgment…
more love, instead of indifference…
more patience, instead of aggravation…
more acceptance, instead of bitterness…
more joy, instead of heaviness…
more abundance, instead of lack.

The Christian life is about provision, not deprivation.
Satiation, not starvation.
Bounty, not depletion.

More, not less

Lent is a time when I want to feel closer to God. More God-centric, less Me-centric. When I focus on my shortcomings, it builds up an invisible wall.  Low self-esteem is still Self-oriented, not God-oriented. A sense of unworthiness is a barrier that must be overturned.

How to break down that wall between the Holy and the Un-?

Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you.**

It’s that simple.

Like a child, run back into Daddy’s arms. Clean or filthy, naughty or nice, He embraces the one He loves like no one else. He draws you close to His boundless  heart, glad that you are safely home from wherever you’ve been wandering.

And He will give us More.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”***

The main thing God wants to give us more of

is Himself.

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” ***

Christ in me.

Recently, a wise friend shared an analogy with me. She told me that when she was in a time of having the life crushed out of her, she envisioned herself with an oxygen tube sucking Life out of God. The source is infinite and inexhaustible. There is always more.

The best gift that God longs to give us is more of His Spirit. That is one prayer that is always answered. How much more will your Father give good gifts to those who ask Him!

This Lent, I am coming boldly into the throne room and asking for more from my loving, limitless Father. More abundance, more mercy, more grace…

more of Him.

I am praying that for all those who read this as well.  (Yes, even you.)

...so that the Spirit may flood our beings with such love and joy that selfishness and sin will be flushed away by the flow of living waters.

And the sacrifice we offer will be a sacrifice of praise.


* Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13
** James 4:8
***John 14:20

I have a favor. If you are interested in more thoughts on life and faith from a modern-day Margery, would you please give me thumbs up in the comments? Helps to know I'm not just blowing steam. Thanks!!