My friends, I must ask, what in the world is going on?
I ask this open-ended question because I am puzzled, worried and sometimes even disgusted at the behavior of people these days. Regular subscribers to my blog will notice that I have been absent from the blogosphere, silently pondering whether I want to continue to feed information about my life for strangers to read. I have grown weary of the emails, and negative words that weigh heavy.
This is the tradeoff authors endure. A public life equals public opinion. Thankfully 99.9 percent of my readers are kind. (Love to y’all). Still, I’ve had to callous my skin during my 10 year journey as an author. And during this journey one of my most important take away points is this: Every-Single-Person is going through something.
Everyone is going through something, which is why I have had to walk away from some people. Yes, I can understand, be compassionate, and try not to take negativity personally. I also have realized that I can’t love someone into being a better person. Usually, the more I love a negative and toxic person, the more they want to injure me. Why, Dear Ones, do people do that?
What does lashing out accomplish? Does uttering hurtful words at another person offer healing?
I try to be positive, to lend a kind word because-these days-hurtful words are a penny a dozen and kind words require a second mortgage.
Having cancer has taught me life is short. A blink. Why on earth my dear friends would I want to waste my limited breath on anything other than goodness?
Beyond my personal tragedies.
Beyond my concerns.
Beyond my weariness.
I try, to be positive. Because I’ve read the Bible a little bit and not once did I see Jesus being ugly to people. Jesus didn’t hashtag hatefulness. He bled grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, then He commanded me to be like Him.
Me, a sinner has been ordered to be the best person I can be, to be kind and loving, to show grace when I really want to scream.
Today, I dashed into Target to fill my basket with cold remedies. Final exams are next week which can only mean one thing, a terrible cold for my daughter during the second most important week of school. Minutes later, I was walking to my car when I witnessed what some folk would call a Mexican Standoff. Six, yes six vehicles ranging from Prius to Hummer-size all backed away from their respective parking spaces simultaneously. Every single one. Since we’re in the holiday season one might expect, or hope, at least one of these drivers would extend a little holiday cheer.
One would be wrong.
No one budged. Because I feared being run over, I didn’t budge either. During this time I stood, wondering what God thinks about this behavior. This pushy, hurried, think-only-about-myself-behavior that we don with our winter coats.
Why, my friends, do we act this way? Why?
This parking lot display, which admittedly most people wouldn’t even notice, troubled me. This is supposed to be a happy season? Birthdays are BIG DEALS and December 25th is the biggest birthday of all time. Why my friends, have we taken our eyes off the reason for the season? Why is it so difficult to be the best person we can be every day?
Why are we being pushy? Why are we in twitter fights? Why have we blocked our own family on Facebook (because heaven knows we don’t talk to them face to face…mercy no!) Why are we so unhappy?
I returned home discouraged. Sometimes I think that Jesus gets very sad. That we hurt His feelings, and today I kinda hoped that someone in the parking lot would have extended a little kindness. So after I gave my daughter her medication I asked, Lord, what in the world is wrong with your children? Then a little post came across the Facebook screen. The post didn’t answer my question, but it did give me hope.
Enter Johnny Smith:
Now I don’t know Johnny from Adam’s housecat. I met him the way people find acquaintances these days, through a friend of a Facebook friend. But let me tell you something about Johnny. He gave me hope.
His Facebook post read My Testimony.
Take a moment and look at Johnny’s picture. Look at it closely. You don’t have to share your opinions with me, but I’d bet my non-existent farm you have drawn a conclusion about him based solely on his looks. You’ve already forgotten my words that everyone is going through something. Now read his testimony.
I’m writing this testimony for Jesus Christ, not seeking sympathy, praying someone reaches out to Jesus .
A few years ago I had lived most of my life a heathen. Never went to church much. My son had went missing, they found him dead in the woods. Brought back 65lbs in a body bag, he was 190lbs alive .I came home from his funeral, thinking, what kind of God allows this kind of thing to happen? Blaming God. My phone rang, it was a close friend (pee wee) his first words were. “Don’t let this make you turn your back on God.”
I said, “Gotta go, don’t wanna talk about this.”
Went to computer, a friend popped up and said, God loves you Johnny.
“I said, ‘God don’t love nobody’.’”
My friend asked, “Did you love your son?”
“Yes,” I said, “more than anything.”
“Would you have given his life?” my friend asked.
“No I said.”
My friend said, “Well God loved you so much he gave his son’s life for you.”
My response: “Gotta go dont wanna hear it.”
But when I stood up I could only think of God’s word and how much love for me it took to give His son. I raised my hands and asked for forgiveness. Had a strong urge to get to a church when Sunday came around. As we parked the car my heart was pounding. I went on in. Pounding got greater. I got up to leave the building but knew if I went out the door Satan would rule me. I turned went to the altar. Here I am Lord. I’m yours whatever it is you want for me. I felt someone breathing on my neck and shoulder. Turned to look, nobody was there, that I could see. Then the wind hit me in the face, blowing. Kinda scared me, I thought Lord this is you?”
Here’s what the spirit of God said, ‘YOUR TIME HAS COME. ALL YOUR LIFE YOU SAT BACK WHEN I DEALT WITH YOUR HEART. YOU SAW WRONG BEING DONE AND WALKED ON BY. BUT YOU CAME TO ME TODAY, YOU BELONG TO ME NOW AND YOU WILL SERVE ME THE REST OF YOUR DAYS ON EARTH.’ I had a peace go thru my body like I never known…and the man that walked out wasn’t the man that walked in. Amen. That’s when I became his servant.”
Johnny’s friends didn’t have to reach out. I have also learned that sometimes when you are hurting is when you are most alone. But they did. They reached out to him during Johnny’s lowest time and showed him God’s love. They responded to Johnny’s anger with the love of God. So today my friends, if you are stressed, angry, worried, and/or afraid let me say that most of us are too. All of us have felt betrayed, been angry (sometimes at God), felt alone, confused. We’ve said things we are ashamed of. (please ask that person for forgiveness) We’ve hurt people either accidentally, or on purpose. (please ask the person you have hurt for forgiveness). But every single day we all need the little baby in the manger.
God knew this. That is why one day a long, long time ago a tiny baby came into this world on Christmas morning to make you, me, and Johnny Smith, His.
He wants to call us His child.
Thank you for reading and thank you Johnny for letting me share your words with my readers.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com
She needs two points. This is a simple math problem, one point, plus one point equals two points. As the school year rushes to a close, my prayer life has increased dramatically. Test anxiety, homework, finals and the school’s computer system crash has wreaked havoc on my family (and I’m not a teacher!) Not only did the local system crash, the entire County computer system crashed and stayed down for seven days. This meant End of Year testing, school projects and final exams simultaneously.
As an aside, if you are critical of teachers and faculty imagine for a moment the pressure staff is already under at the end of the year. Then add a system-wide computer crash so bad that emails aren’t even working.
I am thankful . . . for many things. My husband has a job. I remain cancer free. We’ve seen our share of job loss, fear, uncertainty. Still, knowing that college looms near, and, absent a book contract, I worry about money, am still searching for part-time employment. I pray about this, scholarship money, a book contract, a job; I pray about these things often.
But it is my daughter’s struggles that consume me. I pray, worry. Worry, then pray. Multiple times each day I pray, Lord, she only needs two points. Please help her make those two points.
This year, her struggles have been many. She’s dealt with anemia and vertigo. I’ve seen her stagger into the house, eat something then sleep so hard I have to wake her to do her homework. In addition to the health issues, during the first semester she had a teacher (whose contract will not be renewed next year) who shouldn’t have been teaching. I’ve met with faculty, pulled her out of that teacher’s classes and emailed the new teacher so often that she probably hates me (I promise, I am not a pushy person, or a helicopter parent.) For those who don’t know, helicopter parents do their child’s work, they hover, don’t allow their children to make their own mistakes, or decisions. I haven’t helped my daughter with schoolwork since Elementary School. For that I am proud. Yes, her grades would be higher if she came to me or her father for help, but she earned the grades she has; scratched and sweated out every single point. For that I am proud. I am not one of “those” mothers who will send my daughter to college then do her assignments. Instead, I posted a note on her computer which reads:
I am smart
I can do this
It will be difficult, but worth it
I will own the grades I make
Perhaps that is why I feel so helpless, because during this second semester, with the new teacher, she has pulled her grades up dramatically. Perhaps that is why I continually ask God please, just two points so she doesn’t fail.You know she has worked so hard.
Then today I read a devotional which began: Genuine faith puts a letter in the mailbox and lets go. Distrust, however, holds on to a corner of the envelope and then wonders why the answer never arrives (Streams in the Desert)
Y’all know I am a word gal. I love hand-written letters, anxiously await the arrival of mail every single day. I’m a letter writin’ card mailin’ fool. I send notes to complete strangers. Cards, letters, vegetable and flower seeds to people I will never meet. During that time I have never stood at the mailbox holding onto the corner of the envelope. No. I slap a forever stamp in the top right-hand-corner and hoist the red flag knowing that the US Post Office will deliver my letter. I am confident the Post Office will deliver the letter. They have never failed me.
But when I read that genuine faith puts a letter in the mailbox and lets go I realized that I (literally) have been placing more faith in the postal service than God. Sure, I’ve been doing my part, praying and believing that God will answer the prayer. But my belief only lasted for a few hours, until worry snuck in and whispered what if she doesn’t pass? At that moment I snatch the envelope from God and tuck it in my pocket.
So today, as another school day begins, it is my desire to replace the prayer of she needs two points with the affirmation of Thank you God for the two points. I may not yet see them, but I believe they are coming.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com