Summer has finally shown up and with a vengeance here in Fort Worth. Hot and humid, I tend to do all my outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Recently I was sitting inside posting, after an early morning exercise session, when I heard a rapping on the storm door-not a loud rapping, more of an insistent calling.
As I opened the door, I was greeted by a small old man~ obviously a homeless person. Short in statue--slight in build--he never the less took off his hat and put on his best manners.
"Ma'am, I was wondering if you had any yard work I could do for a few dollars?
I am completely broke and am willing to do any work you might have ~
I just need a little money to buy a meal."
Now I had spent the entire afternoon the day before working in the tiny yard. It seemed pretty obvious--at least to me--that the yard needed no work. He was so pitiful though--and I have a soft heart for the homeless--so I gave him a few dollars.
Perhaps an hour later, I left to run to the nearby grocery story. Who should I see a little over a mile away, but the same homeless man standing at a light with a sign--needing money. He did not recognize me (make up does wonders), and I did not wish to cause him any embarrassment ~ so I drove by without acknowledgement.
As I made my way home, once again--the same man is on the opposite one way street ~ same sign--same message---working the street.
Perhaps you think I should be angry. Not in the least! My responsibility is to help those God places in my path, not to be the "Honesty Police". If someone is willing to humble themselves to the point of living on the street and begging for money-- Well I am not their judge. If you pause and think about it--he is working--it is hot--miserable--and he is trying to persuade some of us to help him by pleading his cause.
This made me think of all the doors I have stood and knocked on
trying to make Fort Worth my home. Though no one has been so rude as to slam a door in my face --many-many times my knock has been ignored. At best the door was opened - they were polite - but not interested. I have come to recognize the reasons for this are legion--but the fact is most are not willing at this stage of life to open their world to new friends. Doors stand closed with no solicitation signs posted.
My point for today is two-fold, for you see there are two main characters in this little story--and they both stand at the door. One is knocking and the other is on the inside with the key to admittance.
Never be afraid--hesitant--unwilling to knock on a door. A golden opportunity may await you a step away. Until you rake up the courage to approach the door and knock, the door will not be opened. The opportunity on the other side of the door will not pursue you--you must pursue it. What is the worst thing that can happen?
Neither of which is fatal. Nothing ventured--nothing gained. So GO AHEAD ~
KNOCK ON THAT DOOR
Second point--when you are on the inside --answer the door. Being one who does not believe in co-incidences---when someone knocks on my door--God has a reason for that encounter. I am not deterred or discouraged in mankind when someone violates my trust by not being honest with their circumstances. God is using me as a conduit for his mercy and grace. God has not called me to be His judge.
It makes no difference which side of the door you are on--there are golden opportunities on each side. Go ahead take a chance and be prepared to be blessed!
"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.
While at a dead stand still in the middle of Farmer Brown's Corn Field--
most of my fellow passengers are on their cell phones trying to figure out how to get out of the situation. My alter ego--the patient and positive--showed up and I KNEW we would be rescued. For you see, we are parked on the ONE track going north and south---there is NO going around us--no going over us--someone is going to HAVE to MOVE us! I am patiently waiting for the rescue team to show up. #2 Son--who is waiting to pick me up at the train station in Austin, is bound and determined to be my knight in shining armor---BLESS HIS HEART! He tells me to "DROP A PIN." Now I know what dropping a pin is, but how to drop said pin is above my pay grade.
The kind army pilot shows me how to accomplish this wonder of technology. #2 tells me I see you and I am going to come get you!
I proceed to try to explain to #2---there is NO ROAD--we are in the middle of a corn field. Farmer Brown's house is approximately a mile across the field and I am not too sure he would appreciate us driving or even walking through his field.
Not to be deterred, #2 keeps insisting he is coming to get me--he is NOT listening to his mom---some things never change. EVEN IF--he found me--they will NOT let us off the train. There is a steep incline from the field to the track. Amtrak does not want to be sued for our broken bones when we fall down said incline. They are NOT letting anyone off the train.
When we finally are loaded on the buses, my knight still wants to come pick me up. We are now headed in the right direction and it makes no sense for both of us to cover the same mileage. I am thankful for his desire to rescue his mother in distress, but the truth is--in the grand scheme of things--I was not in distress.
All my life I have been searching for my knight in shining armor to rescue me--save me from this evil world. Though I have had brief glimpses of what that must feel like--there has been no "They lived happily ever after" knight. That's sad! BUT WAIT--the truth of the matter is I am no Cinderella--no Snow White--and for the most part not a damsel in distress. (Well except for the occasional climb on the roof--car won't start--how do you make this silly computer work moments) I LOVE a good fairy tale---Hallmark movie---chick flick--but that is just not life! I work really hard at trying to take care of myself and not bother others with my day to day struggles. Need to lift the armoire and can't budge it---use the car jack, need to move heavy furniture around---put it on a large towel and drag it, need to fix the television that's not working---reboot the system. In most cases where there is a will--there is a way. I am a sorry example of the damsel in distress--so why would I EVER think there might be a knight in shining armor waiting in the wings? Even Snow White spent all her time taking care of those silly dwarfs---NOT vice versa.
Here is the bottom line--I don't need rescuing--except occasionally from myself. I think I have got this covered--and then remember the wages of sin--I DO need a Knight in Shining Armor-One to pay the price for my sinful behavior--One to love me beyond reason---One to show me the way---One to be my truth--my way--my Savior. YES--I do have a Knight in Shining Armor--like no other!
Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned,
in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.
I have finally arrived at the advanced age of --Old Prude! The Amtrak trip pushed me over the edge of tolerance into the Zone of Intolerance. I have prided myself most of my life with the attitude of
Once the train became dead on the tracks, my senses began to be bombarded with so much profanity I wanted to give a Temperance of Tongue lecture. WHEN did it become OKAY---to loudly interject not mere profanity but downright vulgarity into every other word slipping from your mouth? There was NO attempt made to keep one's modulation to conversational volumes. Instead whether speaking to your seatmate or whoever was on the other end of the cell phone it was blasted at peak volume. You would have thought whoever they were talking to was deaf. NOW--I will confess-a word of profanity has been known to slip from my tongue. When I drop a brick on my toe, I am not known for the ability to greet pain with a "OH GOSH!" No, one of my preferred slang words is more likely to come gushing forth. My father might have been guilty of speaking profanity in front of his young brood. I can remember it to this day. So I was not raised nor did I as an adult live in a Victorian slang free world. I did learn there was a time and place for most things and the public arena was NOT the venue for colorful language.
Somehow this world has morphed into the place of your freedom to say and do whatever you want--no matter what the venue is more important than my freedom to NOT want to hear or watch your acts of freedom. Somehow society has lost its sense of propriety and there is no longer any sense of shame over stepping over the bounds and onto the toes of those around us. If you don't like it--get over it--seems to be the rule for today.
The fact there were children on the train with us did not slow down the stream of vulgarity. In fact one of the worst offenders was the mother of two of these innocents. What can be done? If I had said anything, I am quite certain an already volatile situation would have exploded into an even uglier scene. So instead I sat and did my best to ignore the lack of manners and vocabulary. My huge concern is this is indicative of the slide of society into a place of anarchy. Individual rights begin to overrule what is best for society and all the citizens. There is a greater emphasis placed on "Me" than "We". What can be done? I am not certain--beyond teaching those in our sphere of influence. Act like a lady--and be treated like a lady. Begin by demonstrating moderate behavior with consideration for others and providing the example of good manners for those in your path. My choice is to usually ignore the vulgarity, and instead demonstrate civility. PLEASE watch your language--the words you choose speak volumes about your character.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
As I climbed aboard the Amtrak Texas Eagle --Fort Worth to Austin--I was thrown back into the past~ to a time of innocence, elegance, and kindness. Visions of my first ride aboard a train cascaded forth and pulled me down memory lane. It was the mid 50's of the last century, when as a young child, I boarded the train in Louisiana with my Aunt Mattie Maude. A deja vu moment--we were headed to Fort Worth and a visit with my great Aunt Lora. I distinctly remember having on my Sunday best dress and white cotton gloves. My Aunt had on her fur coat and a hat. It is remarkable the things that made a lasting impression about that trip. I remember little about the trip except we were on the train at night and it was cold. Why one who cares so little about clothes would remember what we wore is beyond me, but that is the most vivid memory. That and the kindness of the conductor and the gentleness of the time.
Fall forward 60 years and I am in Europe last summer riding the Euro Rail from country to country. What an amazing adventure. You can set your watch by the rail system in Europe. For the most part, we traveled between five countries without a hitch--well except for human error on our part--and the experience was one of the highlights of our trip.
It seemed like a great idea to take the Amtrak to Austin. The interstate between Fort Worth and Austin is under construction. My last trip driving there included a hour and half delay in the construction zone and some of the worst traffic imaginable. My DIL suggested I look into the train and surprise the cost is only a little more than the gasoline would cost if I drove. While reading the reviews, I noticed quite a few negative comments, but decided even if I was delayed a little, it would be wonderful to not have the hassle of the drive.
From the moment the conductor gave the "All Aboard", it went like clockwork--we pulled out of the station right on time. One hundred feet down the track we stopped. After a bit the engineer announced he was waiting for the computer to tell him the route and it was OK to leave. Seriously--the track only goes one way--this train makes this route everyday-but we have to wait for the dispatcher to send the "Go Ahead" via computer. Knowing my love/hate feelings for computers and all the technology that goes with them--this should have been a warning! The first half of the trip is delightful. We are passing through towns, ranches with long horns grazing and verdant grass blowing, and fields filled with knee high corn. As we clickty-clack along we pass from flat terrain where you can see forever to sheer rock cliffs and overflowing rivers. Texas at its best is rolling by outside the window. Soon the car grows quiet and I notice many of the passengers have been lulled to sleep by the gentle swaying of the car and muffled sound of the train singing the decades old lullaby of the railroad. We begin to make our stops along the way to a final destination of San Marcos deep in the south-western part of Texas. About mid way to Austin, I am joined by an army helicopter pilot on his way for a four day leave. We only have a short time to get acquainted before the train suddenly stops--dead still silent on the tracks. At first I think we are waiting for a freight train to pass, but the engineer soon announces the engine has stopped, the computer has gone down and we are sitting at a dead stop with no power. THANK GOODNESS I was not on an airplane! Who knew these iron monsters could just quit. I will not give you the full story of the three hours we sat waiting for some kind of action, but instead only hit the high points. There is no air conditioning nor can you flush the toilet without power. The cafe car cannot sell you snacks or drinks because the computers are down. They will not let you off the train, for you see we are in the middle of Farmer Brown's corn field and there is a steep decline to get off.
When people are hot, hungry, and frustrated, they are not at their best. The engineer finally announces a freight engine is coming to push us to the next town with a siding where we will be met by motor coaches to take us the rest of the way. The phone calls and discussions all around me are absolutely amazing--these people are NOT happy campers! The army pilot is going to jump off the train and meet a uber car to take him to his destination--at the cost of $165. His bank account has to be grateful this did not happen since they would NOT let him off the train. Finally we slowly make our way to Little River, Texas. It is so small I could not find it on the map. This appears to be a big deal for the quiet Texas town since the residents are at the siding making pictures of the transfer. At long last we are loaded on buses--one car at a time--and sent to our destinations. The Amtrak official apologizes over and over--those with a good sense of humor are laughing and those with not such a good sense of humor are threatening law suits. I arrive in Austin four hours after my expected arrival time, but the good news is I arrive! NOW--let me tell you the good thing about all of this---it gives me LOTS of blogging fodder. I am still rolling around all that was said--and all that happened. AND--Amtrak had the opportunity to redeem itself when I returned to Fort Worth 36 hours later. It was a shaky beginning since the train was delayed 45 minutes, but once we got started it all went well. The other great thing---it rained all the way home--I did not have to negotiate the treacherous interstate driving 75 miles per hour in the rain. It reminds me of life---we have expectations of how things are going to play out--and BAM--the computer goes down and the engine stops in the form of some unforeseen and not anticipated occurrence. We have two choices---get mad--rant and rave---threaten the man in charge or treat it as a teaching moment , roll with the punches--keep our eye on the destination and make the best of the circumstance. Do we proclaim God's sovereignty in every step of our trip or do we bemoan our loss of power and refuse to leave the siding? Our response--our reaction is totally in our hands.
Though I remember little of my first train ride, something tells me I will remember in detail this excursion. AND---YES--I will ride the train again!
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
My Amtrak trip to Austin story will have to come another day. A conversation with a dear one today prodded me to speak on something which has been on my heart for quite a while--
While riding on the train, I observed a young mother and her two children--perhaps around 4 and 6. What I overheard caused me to grieve for this little family. The mother was yelling, threatening, cursing, and reprimanding the children in front of a car filled with strangers. While speaking with the children's father on her cell phone, she demeaned and degraded him with all of us listening--including the children. Her language was offensive, her tone was belligerent, and her attitude neglectful--far more interested in her phone than the children. I had to bite my tongue to not speak up--knowing who would pay the price if I interfered in these circumstances. She was not physically abusive--but rather her words were the weapons -forever etched upon the hearts of those children. As the day progressed, I could not help but wonder if she was parented in the same manner. What had happened to her marriage? Would her children some day treat their children in the same manner. As I observed, it became apparent her children were acting out in an attempt to garner her attention--even negative attention was better than none. Later in the trip--when we were almost to our destination--a different mother appeared who sang with her children and took turns telling stories with them. Her phone had died and she turned the corner and discovered the joy of being a mother. It was a completely different picture, once she turned her attention upon those two precious children.
I must say, I remember speaking words in haste, in anger, in frustration to my own children at times during their growing up. Not my proudest moment by any means. Some how I would let the day to days of life interfere with the far more important eternal moments in my push to put food on the table, and have a clean house. Those words thrown at my children in an effort to get them to comply with what I deemed important are moments of shame and regret. If only, I could retract and redo so many less than stellar parental moments.
While speaking with my good friend today I was reminded of the importance of our words to our loved ones. With parents who are in a fragile state of health, she was relating even in their total dependence upon her, she remains convinced she has never had her mother's approval. The power of her criticism and dissatisfaction with the efforts made to meet her needs has etched pain and unrequited desire for approval upon her heart. I fear this deep seeded need will never be met in an earthly manner.
Words have been forever etched upon my heart. Unfortunately those etched are usually the ones with the biggest negative impact. We tend to hold all those positive words in a place of disbelief or doubt. For some sad reason, the most painful-the most hurtful words thrown at us are forever etched upon our heart.
Today's world seems to be filled with a lack of decency when it comes to reining in our tongues. No thought is given to the power of our verbal jabs. There seems to be more importance placed on throwing the first word bomb than measuring carefully the impact our verbal jousts will have on our relationships. It saddens me that the days of civility seem to be long gone. We can no longer agree to disagree in peace and harmony.
Where am I going with this? There are two lessons to be learned. First be very careful what you say. Words thrown in haste and anger are as deadly as a loaded gun-able to maim, destroy, and change lives. Measure your words with grace, love and forgiveness--not malice and hatred. Think before you speak.
Second- Who are we going to believe---God or The Enemy? God has told us who we are and how precious we are in His sight. God has called us His own. Do we allow the hastily launched verbal bombs of our fellow fallen man to permanently scar us, or do we believe what God has told us?
There is more power in our words than the most dangerous weapon man can imagine. As with any weapon, we should use them with caution, respect, and mindfulness of the harm they can create. As the great statesman, Benjamin Franklin said “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Guard your tongue and speak with gentleness on all occasions.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,