faith, Jesus, Light

Stacking Stones: My Cousin Jim

In uncertain times it helps to remember Jim. I did not see him often because he grew up in Florida and I grew up in Michigan.  My family visited his family each year, but he was a few years older, and a boy, so we didn’t interact much.

When Jim was 19 his face was smashed in a bad automobile accident.  His father – an oral surgeon – and a team of plastic surgeons put his face back together.

And then he dove into a gravel pit to help his girlfriend, who was tangled in a branch, and he broke his neck.

In the hospital, on life support, my cousin Jim kept asking his mom to make sure the machines keeping him alive were securely plugged in to the wall sockets.  He worried that someone might trip over the cords and pull them loose.

And then one morning, as my aunt entered his hospital room, she saw peace on her son’s face.  He told her that an angel had visited him.  He was going to die and it was okay.  He was not afraid.

Jim died that afternoon.

But that morning an angel gave a gift to him, to his mom, to me and now to you.  I treasure that gift in my heart and pull it out whenever I need a reminder.

Fear not.


Eleven Tender Mercies

Last December my niece made known her objection to the fact that millions of dollars were donated to keep The Bay Lights lit: “MILLIONS were donated to keep the bridge lit when people are HOMELESS!”

Bless her young, socially conscious heart.

But I saw it differently:

We all need shelter for sure, but we all need beauty, too.  It is not the rich who benefit most from the lights on that bridge, it’s the poor and the homeless.  My niece crosses that bridge every evening on her way home from work, notices the lights – or not – and then forgets them as she closes herself off in her beautiful, well-lit home many miles away.   But the homeless, huddled in the city, keeping warm around the fellowship of a trashcan bonfire, can enjoy them all night long.  A cheerful light in the dreary winter darkness.  A backdrop of beauty in a bleak existence.  Lighting for their home, humble as it may be.

Inner city children – whose parents can’t afford to put up Christmas lights and/or are too occupied with their addictions or depressions to make Christmas special – can look out their bedroom windows and see something magical.

The lights aren’t for the rich.

They are for everyone who has eyes to see them.

Today’s exercise in gratitude bears witness to the blessings that are available to every heart at every age and stage of life, health, wholeness, wealth and faith:

Sun on skin, warming to the bone.  We don’t even need sight or hearing to be blessed by this one.  Just emerging from a long, cold, lonely winter I am especially grateful for the warmth of the sun.

The colors of the sky:  Bright white, puffy clouds on a bright blue canvas, sometimes a soft blue canvas.  Red, purple, orange and pink sunrises & sunsets.  Spectacular swirls of colors and clouds.

Trees: flowering and budding in Spring, full bloom and glistening green in Summer, painted brand new colors in Autumn.

Awaking to the sounds of birds singing and whippoorwilling just out the window.

Some get to enjoy a walk on the beach:  Cool, wet sand squishing up between bare toes, or warm, dry sand buffing bare heels to a soft, smooth, healthy pink; fresh salt air cleansing sinuses and lungs. Some get to fall asleep to the sound of the surf.  All for free.  You don’t even need a home.

good news

Dogs, approaching with wagging tails, giving us a sniff and a kiss as we walk along, trying to shake off feeling down, discouraged or depressed.  They like us even if no one else does.

We can all have an audience with God.  For free.  Any one of us can climb into His lap or humbly, confidently approach His throne and say, “Thank you” or “Help me” or “My heart is broken” or “Do You love me?”

I pray He opens the eyes of the downtrodden today to see the beauty He has bestowed upon them; to feel the warmth of His smile; to catch a glimpse of His face; to feel His love.”

I’m going to smile at somebody today.