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Words

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Family is a dichotomy of love and hate – especially true in the relationships of siblings.  Both emotions are steered by the conditions of their lives as they grow up.  There were six of us children, growing up as “army brats”.  That meant that every two years we moved to a new state.  As a result, we became each others best friends because we had to depend one-on-the-other to be the constant in our lives during our formative years.

Then as we grew up we drifted into forming individual lives, only coming together as a family unit on holidays.  That is until life began to bring us back to those feelings from our childhood when we were the only ones who recognized and who truly understood what the others were feeling.  It is those very feelings that cause us to join in God’s word in Isaiah 40:1 “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God”  bringing forth the unconditional comfort of family.

Today, my guest blogger is my oldest brother, Bill.  When we were kids, he let me stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone with him on Friday nights, followed by those scary Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings, and laughed with me while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, enabling me to face fear with the knowledge that better times always come.   When I was only nine and weighed 75 pounds, a bully at school stomped my foot, causing me to cry.  The next day at school, Bill walked up to the bully, stomped the bully’s foot and said, “Don’t ever do that to my sister again!”  And the bully never did, nor any other bully because words do get around.

Bill is the one who, when I was home with a very bad case of the flu, signed me up for cheerleader tryouts; not something I had even considered.  He then became my campaign manager by again signing me up to run for student council – also not on my “bucket list”.  He helped me write the words to my campaign speeches and encouraged me to reach all the way to my toenails and to pull up the courage to share them in front of the student body (I was very shy).  Imagine my surprise when I succeeded at both and both are two of my best high school memories.

He is the one, as I struggled with the decision to go to college after getting married said, “Just try it.  Take one class, make it your favorite subject – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.  You just need to know what it’s like.”  As usual, he knew me better than I knew myself.  Not only did I graduate cum laude from his favorite – The University of Alabama, I went on to obtain my Masters Degree.

He is the one who is calm in the storms of our lives as siblings today – all with words of peace, faith and hope, – and a whole lot of prayer.  I want to share the words of this man who backs them up with actions, making a difference.

 

BillWords by Bill Brewer

“I guess, just about everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I, for one, have never embraced this saying, because words do have meanings and they do have consequences.

What if you had printer in your home and as you went through each day each word you spoke was printed from the printer, page by page? What would be there for you read when you got home? Would you share it with everyone or just shred it?

Then, what if for one day each word that you spoke would travel across the screen of all television sets in your hometown? Could you then go out and walk in public with your head held high? Or would you hide and only come out when it was dark?

In a spiritual way, each word we speak appears on the screen of God’s television. When each of us talk to people we meet each day, we should always strive to use words that God would approve of.  Always remember that a word of kindness and encouragement, especially to a child, could give hope to a person that had none before, or give that child the needed encouragement to excel.

A single kind word or act to someone close to you, or even to a stranger, could show them that someone cares. So as you start each day ask yourself. “What will my printer say about me today?” But more importantly, when the day ends, we need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say about the words we spoke today?”

Bill, husband to Kathy, father to two daughters and grandfather to five grandchildren, brother, friend, veteran, refers to himself as “Just a God loving country boy.”

And so he is.

 

Promises Kept

ted's walk

The evening twilight brings a quiet time for reflection. Today is the first day of spring so Teddie, straining at his leash in excitement, and I went for an afternoon walk, his favorite activity other than snuggling in my lap. The sun shone brightly at times, defying the cold winds that gusted making the Westminster wind chimes in the garden play excitedly, while other times, clouds of ominous darkness hid the rays of the sun and its promises of spring.

This first day of spring is eagerly anticipated marking the end of the dreariness of winter, allowing us to rejoice in the newness of the flowers blooming, the greening of the trees and the warmth of the sun. It entices us to go outside enjoying the daffodils as they meander across yards, up and down the slopes as if the path to their destination is just part of the joy. The branches of the forsythia bushes cascade, dripping in fragile yellow blooms as their green leaves tease with hints of summer. The dogwood trees have buds that are waiting for that right moment to burst forth in bloom, just on the cusp of celebrating this Holy Week as Easter day approaches.

For today is also Palm Sunday – the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a small donkey, His feet almost dragging the ground. People welcomed Him with excited cries of “Hosanna” for the King of Kings was entering Jerusalem! Power had arrived through this King, bringing not might, but mercy not revenge but redemption. This first day of Holy Week, a week of terrible events leading to the last supper, Jesus’ arrest, conviction and brutal death on a cross, His burial in a dark, cold tomb, and His resurrection on Easter day.

Life is difficult but we must not lose hope.  The past few weeks have been difficult as loved ones struggle with critical health problems and with suffering that they do not deserve. I spend most days in prayer for these loved ones, holding in one hand fear and in the other faith, clasped so tightly it is difficult to know which hand holds which, as my prayers give me hope for His grace to comfort and heal them.Palm Cross

I hold the cross you see in the picture. It is a cross I received on Palm Sunday seven years ago; given out by the children just before service. I was told it wouldn’t last long because it would dry out. Yet, it has not changed and remains a gentle reminder of His promises kept. Just as spring is a time of renewal, Easter is a time of rebirth. God will deliver us from our imperfect self through His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us that we might be forgiven.

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
For He is coming.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.”
—–Psalm 96:11-13

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Fifth time lucky

My prayer for today.

Seventeen, an age most teenagers in the UK anticipate turning one day. It is the year one becomes eligible to apply for a provisional driving licence. Less than a decade ago, this was me. I had fantasized about the way my driving test would go; moreover I envisioned my first car. Never did I anticipate that it would have taken much longer for this vision to materialize.  

I was the first one out of my group of friends to start driving lessons, and ended up being the last to obtain my full driving licence (Matthew 20:16 “In the same way, the last will be first, and the first will be last, because many are called, but few are chosen”). As much as I prayed, believed, fasted and anointed myself with oil, I just kept failing. I didn’t understand how someone who was trying to do things “God’s way

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Giving Up is Harder Than You Think

forsythia“What are you giving up for Lent?”

This is a common question among my fellow Methodists. I must confess, the first time I “gave up” something for Lent was about five years ago. Oh, I had tried in previous years, but just couldn’t sustain forty days; just too much temptation I guess.

A few years ago I was determined to try again. I knew it had to be meaningful and near and dear to me – a real sacrifice! Anyone who knows me, if asked, “What would be hard for her to give up?” resounding response would be – SWEETS!!!

It was so hard. But every time I was tempted, I would tough through it by remembering why I was giving something up. After all, Jesus gave his own life for us.

What a success it turned out to be – I lost 14 pounds in forty days. This giving up something paid off. Oh, and Jesus’ sacrifice did too – so that we might have everlasting life.  Of course, it wasn’t long after Lent season when I began to eat sweets, and in the doing – you guessed it – I found those 14 pounds again. Lent didn’t change me a bit.

It is now Day 6 of this season of Lent. I didn’t give anything up this year except worry and anxiety. I modified my strategy because it’s so hard to give up something.  Therefore, this Lent season I am receiving by focusing on my relationship with God. I schedule a quiet time each day in self-reflection and prayer. I begin by closing my eyes seeing only darkness and I think about what happened yesterday, and what’s going on today, and I begin to feel His presence right beside me. I then pray by repeating, “God, God, God” with each breath as I allow sparks of thoughts in that darkness to guide me in my prayer, ending with,“Father, thank you, forgive me, lead, guide, and direct me that I may serve You through and with others. Amen.”

Until yesterday that is – it was but Day 5 of Lent.  I got busy with errands, laundry, and dinner and a movie with a friend, and I missed my time with God.

Temptations come in the most mundane forms; allowing worry and anxiety in again…just like those 14 pounds. I’ve always thought that the simple act of living your best life is a daily endeavor, requiring courage, which is but fear and faith holding hands.

As I took Teddie for his walk today, I noticed the forsythia bush has the slightest glimmer of tiny yellow buds. Snow and ice had bent it’s straggly limbs only days ago. I smile with the knowing that seasons don’t wait until everything is perfect. Nor does God.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  –1 Peter 5:12

Friendship

You can have old friends; you can have new friends – but, you can’t have new old friends. However, you can have new friends that feel like old friends, and you can have old friends that feel like new friends.

Life happens and as a result we change and our friends change. But, we don’t have to change friends; we just need to adapt to the changes in ourselves and those in our friends. Those inevitable life changes can make us angry, afraid, insecure, sad, happy, joyful – or, if we are lucky, a better person, albeit a different one. Love doesn’t dissolve for these friendships. Sometimes it’s the love we have for ourselves that dissolves. We lose our way, our identity and it’s just too hard to figure out how “to be”. So we just hide out in plain sight and true friends recognize that type of “hide-and-seek” game we play with ourselves.

Self-awareness limits judgement on the two-sided coin of friendship – with one side being trust and the other being forgiveness. Friends come and friends go – but a true friend sticks by you like family. Proverbs 18:24

That is what friends do.Friend picture

Soul Clutter

The sun’s rays peek above the tree line as twilight drifts quietly away, the wind propelling the pines from side to side, waving in this new day. The festivities of closing out 2015 and welcoming in 2016 was but a blink. This stillness encourages me to look up and forward for what is yet to be.

I cannot welcome this New Year just yet without contemplating on the ones past. My heart is heavy as I’m gripped with uncertainty, yet oddly thankful. There were six of us siblings – now there are five, as one of the brothers went to heaven ahead of the rest of us; all so close in age none of us remember a time when we were not all together on this earth.

Although it’s been two decades, I both miss and am thankful for all that I learned from my mother, from the quiet conversations with my gentle father, from my “John Wayne” father-in-law, and from my best friend for thirty years, my mother-in-law. Blessings of His grace for sure.

I still miss my husband. I will grieve for him for as long as I love him, and I will love him forever. Occasionally I will feel his arms around me as I rock in his old leather recliner. I smell his scent for a moment, and then gulp in air hungry for more, but it vanishes as if it never was. I recall his jokes that at first caused me to smile and then to just laugh right out loud! “How good is that?” he’d say.

Life for me is my simple home that gives me a hug every time I walk in the door. It backs up to woods filled with my beloved trees, making me feel close to nature and closer to God. My children are good – working on great – and Teddie, my “4-footed-ball-of-white-fur-gift-from-God” patched up my heart from the day he rescued me. These gifts make me happy.

While some friendships have grown distant, others have grown stronger with love, understanding, and acceptance, providing comfort each to the other through our joys and our sorrows. This is the cycle of old friends, new friends and new-old friends.

The general New Year’s protocol is to remember the year past and then to move on to the future. We make resolutions to complete items on our bucket list, to get healthy, to win the lottery, and various other ideas as we resolve to be happier than we were the previous year.

My new year begins on January 1st, every single year. On this day I cook our annual southern dinner of meat loaf fragrant with onions and peppers, the spicy tomato sauce dripping down the side causes my mouth to water. The country fried potatoes’ crispy edges align with the lucky black eye peas, the pepper sauce awakens the turnip greens, and the fragrant cornbread and homemade banana pudding comfort me with a gentle reminder of renewed grace.

Afterward I rush upstairs to begin my New Year’s Day tradition. I clean my closet.

This “tradition” may indeed be a head scratcher for some people who might prefer a nap, a brisk walk or football viewing. Never doubt that it has purpose as it provides much needed activity while I work off that second helping of banana pudding as well as providing a Zen state in which to ponder this New Year.

As I tackle my project, the thought that repeats itself is “let it go”. No, not the song from Disney’s movie Frozen; rather, that which causes confusion. Things like clothes that I hang onto in hopes I’ll get my “other” body back, shoes that defy logic as to why I bought them in the first place, all the junk in all those purses that I leave when I change to a different one, and lastly all those thoughts that throw life off kilter.

Some say the New Year provides the opportunity for a “do-over”. That’s an intriguing outlook with a big but, for the past is not the past – it remains the present and it will be the future unless I cleanse my spirit by letting go.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes; some were just dumb while others were hurtful. The question I ask myself is this – “Did I cause hurt to others on purpose.”

“Maybe,” I say out loud, after all I’m the only one in the closet.

“There was the time when I caused hurt to …?”

“But, but, but,” my mind continues to whirl. “What about the time when I got hurt by …?”

What about it? On this new day I forgive and then, I let… it…go.

After all, the best way to be forgiven is to ask for forgiveness.

Extra vigilance is required to  watch for soul clutter, otherwise, it collects like dust in an abandoned house. When my resolve weakens, I check my reality in my current moment – in this moment it is this cluttered closet. I stand back looking at the growing pile of clothes that are destined for the clothes ministry, while my mind discards those things that I need to donate to the forgiveness pile. While I’m at it, I throw in those shoes, and dump the crap out of those purses right along with anger, guilt, resentment and sour grapes.

An unintended consequence of cleaning is discovering hidden treasures. Part of my New Year’s tradition is finding gifts for the children that I had hidden and forgotten; they then became New Year gifts. I have found other delights such as my long-lost pearl earrings and those new embroidered jeans, now out of style. I’m now on the cusp of venturing into a New Year, which had seemed to be a dark and scary place, knowing full-well that I can’t go backwards just as I cannot stay where I am. So, faith and fear hold hands as I leap from my despised safety net into what is meant to be.

Things have a way of working out as they should and I will discern what clutters my soul; further avoidance is confusing to my spirit and to my mind. Embracing this New Year moment by moment, then day by day, then month by month creates, by its nature, a fulfilling life because it is a life of my choosing. I pause just one more moment and gaze around at my reality. The clutter is now out of my closet as well as my soul.

Peace be with you in this New Year.

1 John 1:4 “These things we write, so that our JOY may be made complete.”

A Mothers Love

It is late on this Christmas night as I sit in my favorite chair, the soft glow of the Christmas tree soothing in the tranquility of this moment. The last few days have been filled with the laughter of togetherness and of secrecy, of cooking and of eating, of wrapping and of unwrapping gifts that delighted the giver as much as the receiver.

I have enjoyed these holiday moments with my children. The memories of Christmas past influence the Christmas of the present with a bittersweet joy. Holidays reminding me that life goes by in a blink.

I look at my children – really look at the people they are today – such good people,  this awareness is my happiness.

A song comes on Pandora radio, as Pentatonix sings, “Mary Did You Know?” My fingers grow still on the keyboard as I listen to that question and I wonder what, on this day of Jesus’ birth did she know?

My pastor’s message last Sunday included a reminder about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was visited by an angel who said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

Confused she said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and the child to be born will be holy; he will be called son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to you word,”
Luke 1:26-38

So today we celebrate the birth of this Christ child who would suffer, but in the doing would provide for the forgiveness and redemption of people who choose to believe.

It could not have been easy for Mary to be unable to spare her son the suffering that was to come. Mothers feel the intensity of every hurt to their child and try to do everything to keep our children safe, no matter their age.

But what happens when sometimes we just can’t? Some things we don’t get to have a say in, or if it will happen or when it will happen.

Our children can fall down and skin their knee,fail to make the baseball team,are bullied or become ill. Mothers apply a bandage with a kiss, encourage them to find another team, to stand up to the bully and take care of them when they are sick. It is the same love, applied to each of these situations, that give us the strength when we can’t control what our children must face. It is also a good reminder of Mary’s willingness to serve God as she accepted the role of mother with great faith and love.

Regardless of what our children are faced with, our love for them and our faith that everything is possible with God is greater than that burden, and that is enough.

A Good Day.

Brewer Six

Sunday was a good day.

On Sunday the Brewer Six, noted in the photo, spent the day together reminiscing about our childhood and about all of the happenings of all of the times in-between linking us to this day. It was a day of laughter and stories – reliving the strength of childhood love.

Of course, memories must be filled with stories of shenanigans – many centering on Ronnie, the quietest of us all, but also the one that always smiled and with a twinkle in his eyes, would instigate pranks. Hysterical laughter erupted to the extent that Ronnie began to cough the deep cough that made all of us pause…waiting.

Someone reminded Ronnie of the time, when he was about five years old when I dressed him and our younger brother up in our mother’s clothes, complete with her hats, the fishnet veils shading their sweet baby faces and the dangling clip-on pearl earrings providing the finishing touches for their unusual, but stylish appearance. Dad stopped what he was doing and took a picture that resides in some dark and secret place today, both brothers only shrugging when asked to disclose its location.

Ronnie, along with our youngest brother and our cousin of about the same age, referred to as the three musketeers,  would have great adventures. By adventures, keep in mind we lived in the country which consisted of woods, fields and streams. One day, no one remembers why,  they locked Ronnie in the barn. Ronnie was so mad they were afraid to let him out so they left him there all day until Dad came home from work and found him. Ronnie said, “I’m going to find them and beat them up!” Dad, not knowing that Ronnie had been there all day said, “No you are not. Not get in the house.” Again, laughter erupted as he explained how Dad usually knew what they had been up to.

Our grandfather was a farmer who grew vegetables that my grandmother would put up for the winter. He would then sell the surplus vegetables along with the cotton that us kids sometimes got to help pick. The corn went to the grist mill for cornmeal and animal feed. Ronnie flourished in this farm life, staying with them whenever he could. He helped with chores, fishing in the pond at lunch and after the work was done for the day. He so loved it and would stay as long as he could until Dad would go get him, saying, “He’s got to come home sometime.”

Our cat, Tom, was allowed to stay in the house during the day, but at night was put outside to do whatever country tom cats do. Dad didn’t allow pets in the house, saying six kids were enough. One night the temperature dropped to below freezing and Ronnie smuggled Tom into the bedroom that he shared with our brothers, saying nothing to anyone for fear of Dad discovering what he had done. Sometime during the night, our youngest brother was awakened by something furry with big eyes standing on him and he began to scream, “Monster, Monster!!” Ronnie got in trouble of course, but he laughed the hardest, saying, “It was worth it.”

Ronnie’s teenage years continued his quiet delight of being a middle child. He and our younger brother would come home after school and prepare a little snack – usually one or two T-bone steaks to hold them over until dinner. Mother would shake her head and say, “Just can’t fill those boys up.”

So, on this remarkable Sunday in December, all six of us were together, clinging to what made us a family. Now, in our fifties and sixties, we allowed the years to drop away going back to a time when we only had each other for today was just such a day.  Times we are thankful for; memories we will always treasure. Sunday was a good day.

As we left, Ronnie, from his bed in the hospice unit at the hospital, gave us each a hug and kiss saying “I’ll see you here….or somewhere,” his eyes twinkling, his smile warm. “Text me when you get home,” he said to me, always concerned knowing mine was a solitary four hour drive.

Monday was a sad day. A day we knew was coming. Nevertheless, a day we wanted to deny. Ronnie’s month in the hospital ended when the unknown disease that had weakened his lungs, took his life, and our six became five.

Ronnie was a good man. He worked hard, and was always cheerful and concerned about everyone else. He told his pastor who visited him last, “I’m ready to go. I want to go. But I don’t want to make my family sad.” This simple sentiment gives us comfort because we know Ronnie felt loved and even more important to him, to give us the love he knew we would need.

Life certainly will end for each of us at some point. It’s important to give and receive love while you can and with all that you have by your words, deeds and actions – for these are  the stuff of memories worthy of joyful sharing. This is the best gift to those left behind; know it will bring comfort.

We will miss you Ronnie and will certainly see you “somewhere” in heaven – and that will be a good day.

 In honor of Ronald D. Brewer 1956 – 2015

special thanks to Bill Brewer for his inspirational quote, “Sunday was a good day.  Today is a bad day.”  at the passing of Ronnie.

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