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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coffee On The Porch

My friend, Susan, and I have shared some wonderful moments of friendship. We have seen each other through good times and bad, shared laughter and tears, and enjoyed each other's company through it all. I lived in Susan's home with her for a few months following my initial move to North Carolina. We spent many evenings together just talking and sharing the events of the day. During the summer and early fall, we developed a ritual that we called, "Coffee on the Porch". Susan would fix us each her special coffee: french vanilla coffee creamer, coffee, and whipped cream with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top. We would then take our coffee out to her huge front porch where each of us would occupy a comfy rocking chair and there is where we ended our day. As the weather grew cooler, we had our coffee in the den, still calling it "Coffee on the Porch".
When I found my own place and moved out of Susan's home, I dreadfully missed those calm, unhurried evenings where Susan and I would sip coffee and end the day. I gradually developed my own form of "Coffee on the Porch" by calling Susan and saying, "I'm having coffee on the porch". She would be having her coffee, too, and, over the phone, we would end the day. Eventually, "Coffee on the Porch" began to stand for fellowship and friendship, whether we were on the porch or not. I recall a time when I was driving home from a trip to Ohio to visit my family. I had stopped at a Starbuck's and gotten my favorite cafe latte. I got back on the interstate, looked at the time, and immediately called Susan, "I'm in the car and I'm having coffee on the porch". Susan started laughing and we talked for a few minutes about my trip and what was going on in both our lives. I smiled when I hung up the phone and thanked God for my friend.
Since then, Susan and I have told many of our other friends about "Coffee on the Porch". You see, what we have come to realize is that fellowship and friendship do not need a designated spot or ritual. Matters of the heart seldom do. What we have also discovered is that people, women in particular, are hungry for real friendship and true fellowship. It is the celebrations of life that make it rich and, sometimes, the celebration can be something as simple as being grateful for life and the opportunities it brings.
Recently, after our Women's Bible Study, several of those who attended, myself included, joined Susan in her beautiful home for, of course, "Coffee on the Porch". She and I shared with everyone about this time of fellowship and how it all came about. We had so much fun just talking about the things of God, our lives, our children, and how important Christian fellowship can be. Susan's Mother, whom everyone calls Memaw, shared some stories about Susan with us and we laughed hysterically at the some of the things she told about Susan and her sister, Vicki. Pastor Mike kept the coffee coming and, from time to time, came in and joined us. All in all, it was a great time and a lovely way to end the day.
I am convinced that friendship is God's way of extending His hand to us on a daily basis. True friends do not have to have words to tell how they feel, they just know. True friendship is not contingent on gifts, compliments, or extravagance. True friendship rests on the premise of loyalty, respect, and trust. When God sends people into our lives and friendship is cultivated, it is always the kind that lifts us up, encourages us, and gives us strength. It keeps our spiritual compass pointed toward the things of God and our ear attuned to His voice.
Oh, how grateful I am for all the friends God has given to me. I am especially grateful for the fellowship I am blessed to enjoy when my friends and I get together. I still miss the privilege of sitting on Susan's porch at the end of the day and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. However, french vanilla creamer is always in my fridge along with whipped cream and the cinnamon that sits in my cabinet. The coffee will be fresh and hot tonight, seasoned with Susan's special recipe. I'll make a cup, settle in on the sofa, and call Susan. When she answers the phone, I'll laugh and say, "It's time for coffee on the porch". What I will really be saying is, "I need to talk.". I'll do most of the talking, she'll do most of the listening but we both will be thanking God for all that He has done---especially for "Coffee on the Porch".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When I Dream

My friend, Janet, has a darling three year-old named Abbie (Abigail Elizabeth). This child is hysterical. She has the best little sense of humor and the highest energy level known to mankind. She can keep up with any child her age, including the boys, and is more aware of her surroundings than most adults. She is sweet, loving, active, and smart. Everyone loves Abbie.
A few months ago, Abbie and her mother were in the car, just out and about. Janet saw an airplane in the sky and pointed it out to Abbie. She asked her daughter, "Abbie, wouldn't you like to ride in that plane?". Without missing a beat, Abbie replied, "No, Mama. I want to DRIVE the plane.". I nearly died laughing when Janet told me this story. This is so typically Abbie. She dreams big.
I have thought about this story many times, recently with a different perspective. As a child, I,too, dreamed big. I dreamed of being a gospel singer and traveling across the country doing concerts with other gospel singers. I dreamed of being a writer and having my book sit on bookstore shelves while people waited in line for me to sign their copy of my work. I dreamed of teaching literature to college students and inspiring them to love English poetry as much as I do. I dreamed of a house in the country with a wide porch, a porch swing and lazy summer days sipping sweet tea to my heart's content. I did, indeed, dream big.
When I gave my heart to the Lord, though, my dreams began to change. I began to think about mission work, tent revivals, and youth fellowship. I began to dream of souls being saved, lives being changed, and the hopeless finding hope again. I began to weep for the lost and hurting of this world as I prayed for healing and restoration. I dreamed of being a source of inspiration and courage to those same souls whose lives seemed so despairing and dead. I dreamed big for God.
Unfortunately, as my own life began to pass by, I encountered devastation and heartache so intense that my dreams fell by the wayside. Not only did my dreams become small, they soon ceased to exist. I had lost hope---my dreams had failed. I lost the desire to dream again. I wrote in my journal during this time, "I have no dreams to dream. It is all so pointless. I am to old to dream anymore.". Life had won. My dreams had died.
It was after the birth of my first grandchild, Gabriel, that I began to think I might be able to dream again. As I held his baby face close to mine, I began to think of the things I hoped life would bring to him. Do I dare to say I dreamed big for Gabriel? Am I saying to you that this tiny being---this baby for whom I would be willing to give my life---is the reason for my dreaming? Yes, I am saying to you that with the birth of Gabriel, my outlook for the future began to change. I began to want things for him, to dream of what I would be to him, to think of the things we would do together and the lessons I would teach him. I wrote a lullaby for him, rocked him to sleep, stared at his baby face as he napped, and felt stirrings in my soul for the kind of man I dreamed he would be. Like Abbie, I began to dream big again.
Since that wonderful awakening, I have come to realize the importance of dreaming. Dreaming is defined as, "having a hope or aspiration; to consider something as being possible.". WOW! That definition alone inspires me to continue dreaming. I have hopes, aspirations, and dreams. I dream of being so close to God that I can feel the smallest urging of His presence. I dream of seeing my children and my grandchildren become great warriors of faith. I dream of growing old in the Lord and becoming wise in Him with the passing of time. I still dream of inspiring others to know Jesus by the reflection of Him they may see in me. I dream of knowing Him more intimately as time goes by. I dream of eternity in His presence.
Dreaming, having hopes and aspirations, seeing life's possibilities---is so important to a life of joy. Only when we can dream, and dream big, can we truly see the potential of what life has to offer. God gave us the ability to dream. He offers us, through our dreams, a vision of what life can be if we submit our dreams to Him. We do our part by dreaming big. He does His part by showing us how.
I am still dreaming and am recording those dreams in my journal. I don't want to forget the smallest detail of the possibilities of my life. So, yes, I still dream and when I do, I dream big. Just like Abbie.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remind Me

Dottie Rambo--my most loved and revered gospel music artist

When I gave my heart to the Lord at age 14, Dottie Rambo was just becoming known in gospel music circles. She had a big, booming voice and could play a guitar like nobody's business. She wrote songs on what seemed like a daily basis. The words of her songs would captivate the listener, bring tears to eyes of all who heard, and reveal an anointing that went beyond the usual songwriter. She was such a tiny lady--barely five feet tall and maybe a hundred pounds. But, when Dottie Rambo sang, the power of the Lord Himself came through each note. Her voice would ring off the rafters, bringing a richness to each note, creating hope and courage by the words she wrote and sang.
I was privileged to meet Dottie during a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. We chatted for a few moments about her music and her love for the Lord. She gave me the sheet music to her song, "We Shall Behold Him". She signed it for me, hugged me, and told me how much she enjoyed talking to me. I am sure she said those same words to many other people but, to me, it meant so very much.
Dottie was killed in a bus accident two years ago. She was traveling to a singing engagement when her bus ran off the road and crashed. She was killed instantly. Such a great loss to gospel music and to the kingdom of God.
Of all the songs Dottie Rambo wrote, my favorite remains, "Remind Me, Dear Lord". Please allow me to share those wonderful words with you today:

"The things that I love and hold dear to my heart
Are just borrowed, they're not mine at all.
Jesus only let use them to brighten my life.
So, remind me, remind me, dear Lord.

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then.
Show me where you brought me from and where I could have been.
Remember, I'm human, and humans forget.
So, remind me, remind me, dear Lord.

Nothing good have I done to deserve God's own Son.
I'm not worthy of the scars in His hands.
Yet He chose the road to Calvary, to die in my stead.
Why He loves me, I just can't understand."

Over the years I have sung this song so many times. Each time I sing the words, I cannot help but think of the good things my Lord has done for me. I pray He will continue to bring to my remembrance the times when only He could come to my aid. When you comforted me---remind me Lord. When you strengthened me---remind me Lord. When you mended my brokenness---remind me, Lord. When you turned my sorrow into joy, my pain into hope, my tears into laughter---remind me, Lord. When you became a friend that has been closer than a brother---remind me, Lord. When, in my humanity, I forget your goodness---remind me, Lord.
How we all need to be reminded of the great things our wonderful God has done for us. How easy it is to forget, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, the things, both small and great, that He continues to bestow upon us---simply because He loves us. How easy it becomes to reap the blessings of the Lord and still fail to remind ourselves that we have done nothing to merit such favor.
Oh, dear Lord, remind us. Roll back the curtain of our memory and let us be thankful for all you have done. Never, ever, let us forget that all we are, or ever hope to be, is because you first loved us. Remind us, remind us, dear Lord.

In Grace,