Monday was the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. Along with other activities the local town had a parade and a gospel sing. The print and social media were filled with King’s photos and memorable quotes, of which there are so many. I remember the turmoil of the 1960s and his peaceful demonstrations, which, through no fault of his, weren’t always so peaceful. Years later I interviewed Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old girl who was used to desegregate the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. A few years ago I visited his massive memorial in Washington, D.C., fitting for a man of his stature. Now, while we celebrate the man who was beaten, jailed and eventually assassinated for daring to stand up for human rights, how much has really changed. When I hear of tragic accounts of racism and rising anti-Semitism in this country, I have to wonder. Much change has happened in our culture since the 1960s but only God can change our hearts.
What an interesting week. I’ve just started a book about Joy Davidman, the woman who became the wife of C.S. Lewis. In discipleship class at church we’re going through The Screwtape Letters by him, and then my daughter bought tickets to a play in Dallas in which a man portrays Lewis on stage telling stories about his life. Lewis was a highly educated Oxford scholar who turned from atheism to follow Jesus. As he is one of my favorite authors, spending that time with a daughter who appreciates Lewis as much as I do, what could be better! (Well, she did take me out to lunch at a nice restaurant before we went to the play, so even better.) Lewis did not claim to be a theologian but if you have read Mere Christianity or The Great Divorce or the series he wrote for children, The Chronicles of Narnia, you know he had a deep understanding of what the Scriptures reveal about Jesus and his sacrificial love.
I know some of the most friendly, outgoing, fun-loving people, including those in my own family. I can see how much God could love them, but what about me? When I compare their outgoing sociable personalities to my introverted one, I wonder. Now I know God loves everyone, but does he like some better than others? These are foolish questions, of course. According to statistics at least about a third of the population are introverted, maybe more. By looking at what he created we can see God loves diversity. Just as he created different races and skin colors, God created all types of personalities. After all, without us good listeners, who would all those extroverts talk to?
When I mentioned to my daughter that I needed to upgrade my cell phone, she said, “I saw someone with a pretty red phone. See if they have red phones.” “OK,” I said, “but I’m not going to get a red phone.” With me it’s usually black, white, gray or some shade of tan. That goes for clothes, cars and just about everything else. When I got to the store, guess what, all they had in the model I wanted was red! Yes, they could order me another color, but the red phone was all they had in stock. It takes forever to get a phone and get everything transferred from your old phone to your new one. I didn’t want to wait around and spend another day in town, so I bought the red phone. You know, it’s kind of pretty! I always pray about large purchases like this. Maybe God thinks I need a little more color in my life.
Last Sunday our pastor talked about “hanging out” with God. He said he didn’t mean doing anything in particular, just hanging out, because God is primarily interested in being in a relationship with us. I thought about what “hanging out” means to me when it comes to my friends or family. Hanging out can mean sharing a cup of coffee or a meal or simply talking together. But what does it mean to hang out with God? Are prayer, meditation, Bible study or fasting considered hanging out? I suppose they could be but I think hanging out means something more. It means more than a scheduled time to pray and study and meditate. It means more than a planned fast day. All those are good and should be part of our regular worship, but hanging out is not formal or structured. Hanging out is just being with someone we love and enjoy being with. So, this morning, over a cup of coffee, I just “hung out” with God. I hope he enjoyed it as much as I did!
The year is ending and I’ve taken the last matchstick out of the box of suggestions my daughter gave me last Christmas. “Throw an impromptu party.” I’ve been to several Christmas parties already and I’ll probably go to dinner with friends on New Year’s Eve. So I’m getting kind of partied out. My impromptu party may have to wait. I hope you’ve enjoyed these matchstick suggestions and even followed through on some of them. They’ve helped me get out of my comfort zone more than once, and I appreciate that. Some of those suggestions were really hard for me, I admit. They reminded me that I need to think more about interacting with other people, wherever I am, wherever I go. Relationships are more important than all the jots and tittles of life I tend to focus on. People need to be acknowledged and noticed and appreciated. So that will definitely be an important goal for this closet hermit this coming year. Happy 2020!
On my way down Lindsay in Gainesville this week, I stopped to let a donkey cross the street. Though I live in horse country and see donkeys almost every time I’m out and about, this doesn’t happen every day. This little gray donkey was accompanied by a woman with a lead rope and they were headed to the Presbyterian Church on the corner. Every year they have a live nativity scene depicting what the birth of Christ might have looked like, so, of course, they needed a donkey. Donkeys have been featured throughout the Scriptures, from Balaam’s ass to the colt that carried Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. A donkey, much like the one I saw, carried a very pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been for her. Well, I can in a way. I remember how it felt to be nine-months pregnant. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to be riding a donkey being jolted over rough trails for miles in that state! In this wonderful season of remembering our Savior’s birth, let’s not forget the little teenage girl who was chosen to be his mother, and who accepted! Even on the cross, Jesus didn’t forget his mother.