A Place to Land

It’s taken me awhile, but I finally sat down and finished Kate Motaung’s A Place to Land: A Story of Longing & Belonging. Even though there was quite a lag between reading sessions, the book never lost a beat.

Kate’s way with words not only tell a story — a very personal story — but engulf you as a reader. That might not be totally accurate. More accurate might be, you journey with Kate — by her side, witnessing the pain, grief, laughter and joy — almost first-hand. Her descriptive words draw you in and her writing style keeps you there.

This memoir show Kate’s vulnerable side {don’t we all have a vulnerable side?} as she navigates through her parents’ divorce, her restlessness in finding a “meaning” for her life, her life on two continents, two international moves and 10 rental homes in 10 years. Her back cover states, “When home is supposed to be synonymous with love and comfort and safety, unpredictable and unwelcome life events — even the chosen but challenging ones —  can shake you to your core.” Yet she bares her soul as she looks back and, more important, looks forward, ultimately recognizing our earthly address is just temporary. “I now know how to respond the next time someone asks me the simple question, ‘Are you heading home?’ Regardless of my earthly destination, and purely because of God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice, I’ll be able to answer with confidence, ‘Yes. Yes, I am.’ ”

From start to finish, Kate constantly refers to her mother — her anchor. And much of the book deals with the grief of her mother’s battle with cancer. In this sense, the book not only was a tribute to her mother, but also therapeutic as she verbally, through her words, deals with her mother’s death.

I was surprised Kate chose to start her journey flying home for her mom’s funeral. Those first few chapters seemed out of place as she chronicled her life. lt turns out the prelude provided bookends for the book.

A Place to Land will tug at your heartstrings and make you just want to reach out and give Kate a big hug. I’ll also give it five stars.

A Place to Land: A Story of Longing & Belonging, Kate Motaung, Discovery House, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-62707-662-3.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The quick answer is seldom the one that’s the best answer.

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Lesson in Simplicity

It started as  a way to pray for my family and friends and give them a little encouragement. Along the way, the “words for the week” just kept picking up steam, growing from five family members to close to 150 friends. As I post, I continue to lift them up in silent prayer, know God knows their needs.

At the beginning of the year, I ask them if they would like me to continue. I lost one this year, and that’s because she retired and is no longer receiving e-mails at her work.

Here are some of the comments I received … and why I decided to expand the ministry.

“Some days these are just what I need. Thank you for the blessing.”

“Please continue … they are a blessing.”

“I love reading them!”

“Keep on sending. Thanks!”

You get the gist. It started as a way to spend time praying for my family, friends and faith partners and share with them some nugget of encouragement for the week. Sometimes it’s a sentence. Sometimes a paragraph. Sometimes a story. I’ve discovered each one had a special meaning to some one at some time. The message just resonated with them at just the time they needed it most. I never know who until after the fact.

The messages — while typically from Christian sources — have universal appeal. Today, for example, the message is a Lesson in Simplicity. It can be a lesson for all of us — reaching an audience with the “simple” message. So, here’s this week’s words for the week…

In Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster told of Billy Graham preaching at Cambridge in 1955. For three nights he tried to make his preaching academic and enlightened, but with no effect.

Graham finally realized that presenting the intellectual side of faith was not his gift and began preaching the simple message of Jesus rescuing us from our problem with sin. Foster wrote, “The results were astonishing: hundreds of sophisticated students responded to this clear presentation of the Gospel. It was a lesson in clarity and simplicity that he never forgot.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you want the world to follow you, make sure you are walking on solid ground.

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Stewards of the Blessing of Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven … — Ecclesiastes 3:1

Dr. Seuss wrote,

“How did it get late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”

Time is a funny thing. The older you get, the quicker it passes. The older you get, the more you understand the seasons of time, the qualities of time which have made up your life … years of struggle, moments of pure joy, seconds of sheer terror and vast stretches of boredom. But how do we recognize what time we are in?

It’s a common question, asked a million times a day: What time is it?  How do you know?

The clock. It’s one of the earliest inventions we are asked to master, as young children, to be able to “tell the time.” Interesting isn’t it?

We teach our children to let us know when they are hungry or to recognize when they are tired and take a nap, and then they go to elementary school where they learn to “tell the time,” to read a clock, but what they actually learn is how to let “time tell them.” How to let time tell them when they need to wake up, get the bus, go to math and art and PE and science, come home, eat dinner and go to bed. And from then on, we eat at noon and 6 o’clock, regardless of whether we are hungry or not, and we go to bed at a certain time, whether or not we are tired, and we structure the whole of our lives based on an external device which tells us what time it is.

More than smartphones, computers and tablets, the clock is the most addictive and controlling technological device we own. In our culture, we learn lessons about time along the way, like, “time is money,” and “wasted time is wasted opportunity.” We in our culture have found time so abundant we could kill it when we thought we had too much, as in “I had some time to kill.” But Henry David Thoreau by his Walden Pond wisely cautioned, “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity …”

Scripture would argue with us. Does the clock tell us what is most important in life? Does it tell us that it is the time of beginning or ending?  That now is the time to break or reconcile, the time to build up or break down, to tear or to seclock,w?

We need to realize the clock does not answer these things. The ways and wonders of time are much more complicated, much deeper, much more sacred than we presume, those of us who live bound by the clock. And it takes an inner wisdom, cultivated intentionally and in quiet, deep spaces to learn how to really tell time.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we are given this reminder, this gift about the blessing of time. There is a time for everything, it says, a time for every matter under heaven. There is such a profound trust being described, isn’t there?

In these familiar lines we sense there are profound gifts in every moment, these treasures of God we call seconds and minutes, days, weeks, seasons and years, even the times the Greeks called epiphanies and crises and promised time filled with hope.

As “stewards of time,” and as much as a child learns to “tell the time” and read a clock, we too need to learn to “tell the time” in these ways and find the blessing of each moment, whether it is the time to weep or the time to laugh, the time to embrace or the time to refrain from embracing, the time to keep silence or the time to speak, the time to come together and the time to move on, and all the things that follow from such wise, comforting, and even dangerous, moments.

As a whole new year stretches before you, think about the blessing of time. Whatever time you are in, whatever time we are in together, the Spirit is here with us, breathing out God’s blessing and giving us life.

Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, West Hartford, CT, and the stewardship consultant for ABCUSA (American Baptist Church-USA).  She is also the coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations. 

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you want the world to follow you, make sure you are walking on solid ground.

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Prayer-Care-Share

As I try to make this blog more interactive, I’ll slide into what I hope becomes a Saturday fixture — Prayer-Care-Share.

It’s been a slow transition, but the intent of this category is first and foremost to bring your words of praise and joy and prayer requests and concerns to the foot of the cross. After the public prayer that follows, I invite you to include them in yours as well as you lay down petitions on the Sunday altar.

Dear Father, You are most holy. And yet You reached down to us asking simply for us to talk with You … to thank You for Your providence, but more important, to allow us to share our worries and concerns with You. You already know them, but by speaking them to You, we are moved to realize You are in complete control. These words are not for Your benefit — they are for ours. And so, Father, we thank You for the blessings we’ve received this week — the biggest being seven more days. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your healing (although that would be welcomed) and guidance but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. You are walking with us every step of the  way. We  have to remember that. Lord, You are the Potter, we are the clay vessels carrying Your Light in an often dark world. In Jesus’ name, we pray for obedience to and cognizance of Your Will so Your Light shines through us. Amen.

Also in this category, I will be sharing a blog post or thought sent to me as part of the outreach. Today’s thought is from Barbara from Dover-Foxcroft (ME) United Methodist Church.

Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw His unfailing love from me. Psalm 66:20.

Our little four year old great-grandson said grace for our meal as we visited. A, B, C, D, E, F, G…thank You, God, for feeding me. At four, he understands his love for Jesus. We should thank God, and talk to God, as these little ones do. Take the time to know Jesus and talk with Him. Our Lord is always listening to all of us, no matter our age. Jesus is always in our presence and eager to hear from us.

Our prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for patiently listening to us as we pray and even as we talk to You and as we sing to You. Even when we forget and do it late after we forget to open up to You. Amen.

Of course for this segment to “work”, it needs your input. On the top bar {and I believe to the right if you’re not a follower yet} there is a “Contact Me” button. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site.

I don’t want this venue to be one-sided. My vision is to use the platform as a clearinghouse for sharing, caring and, most important, prayer.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Sometimes in the problems, sadnesses or even stresses of the day we can have moments of feeling utterly alone. The good news? We’re not!

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Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday. On Friday. Wait, nobody else is around.

The Five Minute Friday community is on a break this week. We’ll return for more flash writing next week.

But the absence allows me to continue with the explanation about the tweaking to the blog.

Friday, obviously, is the anchor for Five Minute Friday. Who knows? Maybe it will be the spark for me to actually write on Friday!

As you read earlier this week, almost half of my 2018 posts were off Five Minute Friday posts. I looove the exercise. The one word prompt stimulates my mind … and sometimes takes me down interesting writing paths. I love the camaraderie of the community. I love reading others’ takes on the same word. I love the insights from generally a younger female perspective.

I thought I would share some of the Five Minute Friday specific stats from last year. Those with above average likes and/or comments were Five Minute Friday — Burden (11/9), Five Minute Friday — Agree (2/3), Five Minute Friday — Complete (9/21), Five Minute Friday — Who (10/19), Five Minute Friday — Restore (6/16), Five Minute Friday — Deep (11/30), Five Minute Friday — Regret (3/2) and Five Minute Friday — Crowd (9/14). The most liked was Burden. Generating the most comments were Burden {by far}, Deep, Who, Agree and Moment.

To remind you how the exercise plays out, here’s my contribution from Burden:

As humans, we all have our own burdens. We have the burden of getting along with our neighbors. And it is a burden because it’s a responsibility. Without cooperation, without listening and sharing, civilization is chaos.

As Christians, we carry an extra burden. Not only do we have to get along, but we have to reflect a Higher Power. Our actions, our words, our behavior should always reflect the light of the Christ we profess to follow.

Why?

Because we often — myself at the head of the line — don’t reflect the Light. We tend to go our own merry way, talk {or write} before thinking, interact … STOP

in anger, respond in an un-Christian way.

We have a duty shine the Light. We have the obligation to live for others. We have a huge responsibility as Christians. That’s our burden.

Well, that’s what I came up with. What’s your take on the word “burden”?

And, please, don’t forget I am tweaking the blog slightly to make it more interactive. The reason for the new emphasis is because I don’t want this venue to be one-sided. My vision is to use the platform to become a clearinghouse for sharing, caring and, most important, prayer.

That’s where you come in. I can’t share your praise nor can other followers if we don’t know your joys and I can’t pray for you nor can other followers if we don’t know your concerns. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {and I believe to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

I am also inviting readers to share a blog post or thought with us as part of our outreach. I’ll choose one to “share” during our Prayer, Care, Share time each week and link others along with the joys and concerns on Saturdays.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If it changes your life, let it.

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Joys and Concerns, Life & Love, Etc.

As I mentioned before — and as I have been outlining all week — I am tweaking the blog slightly to make it more interactive. The reason for the new emphasis is because I don’t want this venue to be one-sided. My vision is to use the platform to become a clearinghouse for sharing, caring and, most important, prayer.

That’s where you come in. I can’t share your praise nor can other followers if we don’t know your joys and I can’t pray for you nor can other followers if we don’t know your concerns. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {and I believe to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

I am also inviting readers to share a blog post or thought with us as part of our outreach. I’ll choose one to “share” during our Prayer, Care, Share time each week and link others along with the joys and concerns on Saturdays.

This is a work-in-progress. While I’ve chosen seven categories to correspond to the days in the week, I’ve also added two others — Life & Love and Etc.

Life & Love has been and will continue to be personal, usual first person posts reflecting life and the things and people I love. That will not change, although the posts will be collected under that category.

Etc. is for those random posts that pop up occasionally. They tend to be more of rants on the general state of politics, events or sports that don’t quite fit into other categories.

One question I have been asked is how I will incorporate the two “other” categories — Life & Love and Etc. — into the writing scheme. The truth is, I’m not sure. I will probably post to multiple categories. I would appreciate your thoughts on that!

Finally, I have really been having a problem getting the graphics to link with the categories. I’ve asked the “friendly” experts at WordPress and haven’t received a reply. So I’m asking you. I’m trying to link images to my categories so people can click on either to enter the category file. My brain says the categories should have a link which can be included with the image … but I just can’t seem to find it. Any help would be appreciated!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.

 

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

And so, as part of the blog revamp, I’ll be including a category called “Midweek Mirth”. Posts in this category will include cartoons, jokes and — well — just some good, clean levity. The purpose is to make you smile at the sometimes absurd way we look at life.

As an example, before we get too far into the new year, here are some New Year’s Observations

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.

My New Year’s resolution is 1080p.

I have only one resolution: to rediscover the difference between wants and needs. May I have all I need and want all I have. Happy New Year!

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s is just a holiday created by calendar companies who don’t want you reusing last year’s calendar.

And as a bonus, here’s an example of being Indispensable

One Sunday morning on her way to church with a baby and three-year old in the car, a woman pulled over to the shoulder of the road with a flat tire. She had no idea of how to change it, but fortunately a gentleman pulled up and offered his assistance. When he completed the task, she gave him a rag to wipe his hands, and, noting he was wearing a suit,  said, “I hope I haven’t made you late for church.”

“Don’t worry,” the man replied. “They won’t start without me. I’m the minister.”

Let me know what you think!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Believe everything happens for a reason.

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