Monthly Archives: July 2009

Belongings

I remember the smell of my grandma’s house.  It always smelled like biscuits and bacon, a regular meal that my grandfather enjoyed nearly every morning with his coffee.  Grandma would put the leftovers in the middle of the stove—there they sat all day until one of us would muster up the courage to ask for a biscuit.  Sometimes grandma would make us chocolate gravy to enjoy with her biscuits, a memory I hold dear.  I would watch her pour cocoa, sugar, milk and a few other ingredients into a pan.  She always gave me the spoon, told me to stir v-e-r-y slowly, and then would shake a finger at me (and wink) if I dared to steal a taste.  We loved her chocolate gravy and biscuits.  I don’t think it would be the same if I had the meal today.  It’s just magic to a kid.

SuitcasesSpending the night with grandma was an even greater event.  I always brought my white suitcase filled to the brim of anything I could carry.  After all, we never knew how long we’d be at Grandma’s and I wanted to have plenty to keep me busy.  I’d come bumbling through the door and Grandma would always shake her head, laugh, and call it my “box ‘o belon’gns.”  As a young girl, I never knew what humored her so much about that suitcase.  To look at it now, however, makes me laugh too.  For a suitcase it was rather small, white with vertical blue stripes and a hideous dent in one side where my sister sat on it.  I’m amazed I ever fit anything into it much less half my “belon’gns.”

Grandma had a huge dining room with a wonderful table that stood as a gathering place of joy and hospitality.  I loved it when she had guests over because she always made it a special time. We would clear off the old plastic cloth and add the four leaves.  Then grandma had me get the big tablecloth, the white one with the pretty brocade, and we’d cover the table together.  Guests meant fine china and that meant pulling things out of the china cabinet, a sacred and usually off-limits place in her home. I tried to be very careful as I helped her set her table.  Grandma loved guests and wanted to treat them like royalty.  I so loved that about her, and to this day I love setting a table and inviting guests over.  And while I didn’t have the good fortune to inherit her gift of cooking, I do my best and no one ever leaves my home hungry.

My grandfather was usually a quiet man, but had a quick temper.  We always kept our careful distance around him and immediately jumped to any task he requested.  One particular day, however, Grandpa spoke lively about their recent vacation to Florida.  Vacations were rare for them, and I honestly don’t think they’d been anywhere outside Kentucky until their trip to Florida.  He was like a little boy as he talked about the water, sand and the shopping.  Then he showed us his souvenirs.  I’m not a “trinket” person, but I made a big deal about his souvenirs just because he did.  It was one of the few times I remember connecting with him, and I didn’t want it to end.   At last, he rose from his chair and went to the china cabinet where he pulled out two beautiful blue drinking glasses.  To this day I can’t remember what made them so special, but I sensed they were his favorite of all his souvenirs.  He quickly replaced them, sat back down in his creaky chair, and finished telling us about his adventures.  I was so happy he gave me so much of his attention that night.

An hour later grandma and I were getting the table ready for guests when she asked me to get the souvenir glasses out of the china cabinet.  Carefully I unlatched the door with the key, and pulled out one glass, then the other.  But the door bounced back into my right hand causing me to nearly drop one of the glasses.  As I was brining it back up to a place of safety, I accidentally hit the end of the cabinet door and the glass shattered into a million pieces.  Grandma ran from the kitchen and froze at the doorway.  Everyone in the room fell silent and all our eyes were on Grandpa.  For a brief moment I knew that was the end of our new relationship.  In my heart I was preparing for the worst: a good yelling and then a command to go to bed without dinner.  Not only would I miss dinner with guests but I would also never enjoy another happy conversation with my grandfather again.  I stood motionless, still not believing what had just happened.

“Go get a boom!” Grandpa bellowed to Grandma.  We all jumped but remained still.  He came and surveyed my hand to be sure it wasn’t cut and then walked back to his creaky chair.

“It was just a glass,” he said quietly as he deliberately sat down and lit a cigarette.

That was all he said.

We slowly returned to our tasks but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just disappointed the most powerful man in the world.  And that feeling was mixed with something I couldn’t quite put my finger on … something unexpected and out-of-place, but something big.

Our guests arrived and the whole room suddenly filled with energy and laughter.  I kept to my duties and quietly helped serve the meal, trying to busy myself so that I didn’t have to make eye contact with my grandfather.  I knew if I did I would just burst out in tears and I didn’t want to cause either of us that embarrassment.   I noticed, however, that he didn’t really join in on the conversation.  No one thought that too unusual since that was sometimes his way, but somehow I couldn’t help but feel it was because of me.  We never reconciled that moment.  I was nine.

Twelve years later when Grandpa was at the pinnacle of Alzheimer’s disease, I showed up at the house on Easter morning dressed in an Easter Bunny costume to surprise my younger cousins.  Elderly and timeworn, Grandpa was sitting at the table, unengaged and in a faraway place.  He gradually turned his head at all the commotion and fixed his eyes on me.  I watched his eyes slowly focus on what was before him and then his mouth turned into a huge smile.  His left hand slowly reached for me and landed on my fuzzy, pink arm.  My dad took a picture.  Grandma laughed out loud and led me outside with all the children.  I looked back and Grandpa was still smiling. He waved his hand to say goodbye and joy danced in his eyes.

Grandpa died shortly thereafter, but I will forever cherish the sunrise of his happy smile that followed me out the door and has stayed in my heart since.  As an adult I look back on the broken glass incident and realize that Grandpa did a remarkable thing when he didn’t grow angry at me for breaking his glass. Although I was guilty of destroying something that belonged to him, he swallowed his pride, his tendency to respond in anger, and instead chose grace.   I realize now that he not only left me with the gift of a smile and joy when he didn’t know who I was under that fuzzy, pink costume, but he also left me with the gift of grace when he did know me as I was: transparent and vulnerable.

I miss my grandparents very much, but am thankful for these happy memories and lessons they leave behind.  Who they were has shaped who I am today.  In their honor I re-gift the laughter, the joy, the hospitality and the grace to my daughter, Sidra, on her 18th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Love.
July 29, 2009

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ENSLAVED!

humantraffickingThere is nothing more vile and sinister as the wickedness of human trafficking in the U.S. and all over the world.  My missionary heart compels me to pack a bag and run—to these places—and offer relief through a helping hand, a shared word, a crust of bread.  Yet each morning finds me in that hollow place between comfort and grief as I pray and seek God’s will.  It is in that place that I realize His will for me right now is deep and fervent prayer.  We must believe that the wounds of any nation can be significantly healed through awareness and prayer.  I’ve listed below some ways you could and should help.  One person can make an incredible difference in the life of one young girl or boy, a life snatched for the purpose of the filling of a pocket. May God give us zealous and passionate hearts to respond to these so desperate.

TAKE ACTION!

Read Isaiah 58:6-11
A strategy of prayer is paramount to engaging our compassionate efforts.  This strategy must include both faith and faithfulness for the lost and broken.  Each prayer holds abiding value on earth and in heaven. Commit to praying specifically and fervently for hurting hearts.   There are three ministries below you can pray over and then seek God’s will for how you can help.  Action must first begin with prayer.  Then God will reveal the work He wants you to accomplish.

MINISTRY FOCUS – CALL & RESPONSE

Slavery is defined as exploitation, violence and injustice, and involves children and young people who are forced to work without pay and without the ability to leave.  Very often they are abused and beaten.  At over 27 million, there are more slaves in the world today than any other time in history.  Over 17,000 slaves are trafficked in the U.S. every year, and they can be found in restaurants, hotels, domestic and agricultural jobs. Slave traders made a staggering $32 billion just in 2007, and the numbers are dramatically increasing. http://www.callandresponse.com/trailer.html

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LABOR SLAVERY:

Subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery for the purpose of using a person for labor.  Victims are often kept in a condition of servitude by abuse, threats and/or lockdown.  Female victims are often sexually abused.  Read Kumar’s story here:  http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0809_ijm.html

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SEX SLAVERY:

The use of a person for a commercial sex act induced by force or fraud and used on the account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.  Sex trafficking is considered the largest specific sub-category of transnational modern-day slavery.  Read Puja’s story here: http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0810_ten.html

What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. –Lamentations 3:51

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CHILD SLAVERY:

The sale and trafficking of children for bonded and forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation and/or forced conscription into armed conflict.  Child slavery is perpetuated by poverty, debt bondage, mass displacement, pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, war, and the traditional roles of girls.  Meet Ravi, Rama and Rambo through this powerful video: http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0809_fts.html

“You understand, O Lord; remember me and care for me. 
Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering–do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” –Jeremiah 15:15


The Validity of Prayer

prayer

The adversary wants nothing more than to keep us from an intimate walk with Christ and a ministry of prayer for His people.

I was talking to a friend recently who was questioning the validity of prayer and intercession.  He isn’t a new believer, but he does move very slowly in his faith.  His question, however, helped me appreciate the journey and value of prayer more than ever.  The adversary wants nothing more than to keep us from an intimate walk with Christ and a ministry of prayer for His people.  He wants to bind us to this earth, dismiss the importance of prayer in our lives, and keep us captive and enslaved to flesh out the problems of the world with the makings of our own minds and hands.

We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray unceasingly.  To the casual reader, that seems daunting or impossible.  To the somewhat seasoned Christian, that feels like hard work (and it is).  But to the prayer warrior, unceasing prayer is compared to the regular beating of our hearts or the repetitive intake and withdrawal of our very breath.  Prayer is always on our minds; it rests constantly on our lips ready for the moment of whisper.  In his book, How To Pray, E. Stanley Jones explains that in prayer “you are being fashioned into a person who lives by principles rather than pulse-beats, by decisions rather than by delights.  Prayer is always right, with or without an emotional content … for prayer is not only an act; it is an attitude.”

When we resolve to pray unceasingly, we will no doubt have moments of interruption, but that should not thwart the act or keep us from this good work.  Jesus’ whole ministry was a constant interruption, but He prayed unceasingly and maintained a continuous dialogue with God.  As we intimately align ourselves with God, we open our hearts and souls to His light so that we may shine for others.  As that light shines, people are drawn to us; hence, they are drawn to the Father.  Prayer is like a flowing current of water interlacing itself through us and God, and then He and His created beings.  It has a simultaneous vertical and horizontal effect on the Kingdom, freely giving way for the work of the Holy Spirit.  When we see the Holy Spirit at work we realize we are just the vessel being poured out for His work.  We relinquish our human desire to control and humble ourselves to His service.

I took my friend to Revelation 8:3-4 which describes the prayers of the saints as like incense to the Lord.  How encouraging to know that our prayers are sweet and pleasing to the Lord.  He stores them in great golden bowls in heaven and He hears our cries and petitions, our thoughts and desires.  The prayers of the saints are valuable to God.  And when we sincerely and humbly pray and intercede for others, we are working with an almighty purpose, and an Almighty Purpose is working with us.
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Copyright (c) May, 2009 Angela Zimmerman, New Albany, IN


Cherishing Men

I was in a used bookstore recently, not really looking for anything particular but simply musing over the collection of spines. Alone and contented to be that way, I slowly walked up and down each aisle, coffee in one hand and a couple of books in the other. I blissfully looked over the colors, the words, the typesetting of each spine. I sipped my coffee and wondered what each author was trying to convey in these choices. How difficult it must be, I thought to myself, to arrive at one short title to sum up an entire book. In that title the author must capture my attention and pique my curiosity. He must speak volumes to me without saying much at all. He must make me want to slide the book off the shelf and crack open this possible treasure trove of information and knowledge. Just as I was about to leave the section on Foreign Politics, a bright blue spine with beautiful lettering caught my attention. “Cherishing Men from Afar.” The book itself is about Chinese foreign relations, but I simply adore the title. Now there’s a title, I thought, from which endless words and volumes could be–and probably already have been–written.

In his commentary on the book of John, Scottish minister Alexander Maclaren, eloquently points out that “the lost are seeking rest for their hearts, a home for their spirits, perfect truth in their understandings, perfect beauty for their affections and perfect goodness for their conscience.” And they do not even know they are seeking these things until they are faced with turmoils and trials which cause them to ask where hope can be found. We know these things ourselves, dear Brothers and Sisters, and in so knowing, we seek these precious truths for the lost. We are called to cherish these people, the lost and enslaved, and pray that their hungry souls find perfection in the knowledge, grace and mercy of one God, one Father, our Christ and Savior. Hence, we cherish these men from afar.

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