Saving Issac

Saving  Issac

liferingFresh from our Saturday morning garage sales, Vicki, Jo and I pulled up to the light, and waited for it to turn green. When I glanced around, I saw a man huddled in a heap of ragged blankets sitting on a bench. His eyes were dazed—his hair a nest on his head. I knew the Lord wanted me to speak to him—to let him know that He had not given up on him, even if this man had given up on himself.

We pulled into the driveway behind him and pooled our cash. Out of the car, I approached him cautiously, and stood by the bench. He must not have heard me coming because when he looked my way he was clearly startled.

“Hi. My name’s Kay. What’s yours?”

“Isaac.” He was maybe thirty five, and under all that mess and grime, I could see he still had a handsome face.

“Here’s some water and an orange. Sorry that’s all we have right now.”

He smiled, and reached up. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Then he let lose with a stream of stories from his childhood. They were funny tales of happy times when he was a spoiled only child. How long has it been since he’s talked with anyone? I wondered.

“How long have you been doing this?” I asked, bracing myself for the answer.

“Ten years.”

My eyes fell to the ground where I saw two six-packs wrapped in plastic grocery bags. I slid the money back in my pocket.

“Isaac, that money was for you, but I can’t give it to you now.” His bloodshot looked up at me. “My friends and I will go and get you some food, but we can’t give this money to you. Do you understand?”

“Oh, yes ma’am, I do. I wouldn’t give me money either.”

Silence hung between us, like the center of night. Finally I said, “Isaac, would you like to ask the Lord to come and live in your heart today? Have you ever done that?”

“No ma’am, I never have. I think that would be fine.”

So, right there at the corner of 34th and Cortez we held hands, and he repeated after me the invitation for salvation known as The Sinner’s Prayer. Then I looked him in the eye for a full minute. God’s peace had silenced us.

“I want you to know that you are a new creation now, Isaac. In your spirit, the old has gone, the new has come. You will never be the same. I believe you will find your way out of this life into the new one God has planned for you.”

We drove to McDonald’s and brought back burgers and fries. How he smiled at the sight of that red, white and gold bag!

“Isaac, you don’t have to live like this,” I said as I handed him his lunch.

“I don’t know if I can I do anything else now?”

“You can. You will. Trust God. He knows the way.”

* * *

 I drive past that corner every day or two. I haven’t seen Isaac since that Saturday in January. Some would say, “He’s just switched benches. He’s still out there somewhere.”

I say, “No. God’s got hold of him now. He’s a new creation. He will never be the same.”

The Best Pecan Pie

The Best Pecan Pie in the Whole Wide World 

pie

Do people north of the Mason Dixon Line appreciate the cuisine of the south, or do things like cheese garlic grits and fried okra send them running out the door?

If there’s ever been a food that would pull down the barrier between the two, it’s Pecan Pie–#1 sweet in the southland of my youth. Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were perfectly complete with a slice of this nutty caramel delight.

Not only was Pecan Pie a treasured dessert in our home, it was also the reason for rambunctious family adventures. In the groves out north of town, the nuts were waiting to be gathered onto our big clumpy blanket. At home, we cracked and cleaned them, got out the big metal mixing bowl, threw in the magic ingredients and popped a pie or two into the oven.

If you’ve never tasted this treat, you owe it to yourself to try it. And if you’ve enjoyed it in the past, it’s time to have some more!

Here’s my mother’s award-winning recipe.

3 Tbs Butter
½ C Sugar
3 Eggs
1 C Karo Syrup (the light one – red label)
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 ½ C Pecans

Combine the first five ingredients—mix well (with electric mixer).

Make crust (God love ya if you know how to make it from scratch) or buy them. My favorite is Marie Callendar’s frozen crust—thawed, or Pillsbury’s – Red Box in the dairy case. Each package has two crusts.

Line the crust with pecans and pour mixture over it.

(Important) Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 325 for 35 minutes—this ensure the bottom crust will be golden brown.

Pie is done when firm with slight jiggle. Shake pie pan lightly to see. If it jiggles (a lot), allow it to bake a few more minutes, then, test again. (Do not over bake.) Serve warm with ice cream or cold with homemade whipped cream. (Oh, no! Oh, no! Please do not cut corners by using a “whipped topping” from the dairy case.)

Here’s how to make old-fashioned whipped cream:

beaterLick-the-Beaters-and-the-Bowl Whipped Cream

Pour a small carton of whipping cream into cold bowl½ hour before, place mixing bowl with beaters in freezer

Add ¼ C of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla

Beat until cream is fluffy and forms peaks

Do not over beat

Put a dollop or two on each slice and prepare to eat and smile!

P.S. Most people think Pecan Pie is hard to make. Not so. Just follow this recipe, and before you know it you’ll be saying, “Oh, this is easy as pie!”

Lost for So Long

lost for so longLost for So Long  

At first there’s no recognition
No thought, belief or care
Emptiness is so familiar and safe
It doesn’t see, hear or feel

Settled into solitude
At home with the sameness of days
She’s accustomed to coming and going
With no one knowing or caring

There’s a hollow place in the heart of his heart
A place he guards with a grin
And he hopes no one sees or knows
How lost he feels within

Would anyone ever suspect it?
Her smile lights up a room
But the secret stands and she stands by it
“Oh, how I long to be and have a friend.”

Then there he is–as he’s been for a while
And even with her upbeat smile
He sees the secret she’s held so long
It’s the same as he has known

It only takes a second for the heart to see within
To the point of revelation—the place where hope begins
Wrapped in scarlet ribbons and bows is the glow of anticipation
For lost-for-so-long souls who have finally been found

The Problem

The Problem  

problemWhy isn’t ‘You’re welcome’ the reply for ‘Thank you’ anymore? It used to be–back in the olden days when courtesy was a way of life. That was before the phrases ‘Not a Problem’ and ‘No problem’ took our culture by storm.”

I was at a breakfast place with my friend, Sarah. We were having a good time when, for no apparent reason, I became irritated.

“I’m aggravated.” I squawked. “It’s not you or me, but something isn’t right.”

Sarah laughed, “You’re not having one of your baby meltdowns, are you?”

Just then the perky waitress returned with our iced tea.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

The waitress gushed, “Not a problem,” and skipped back to the kitchen. I didn’t know why just then, but I didn’t like her reply. Then came the third encounter.

“Not a problem,” she chirped. She was very friendly, but obviously following her peers into this language mine field.

Okay. What’s the big deal? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here goes.

“Thank you” is a show of gratitude for service rendered. “You’re welcome” is a reply that focuses the attention back onto the one who’s grateful—that is the customer. It’s a pleasant exchange. In addition, the phrase “You’re welcome” begins with “You” which, once again,  focuses back to the grateful customer.

On the other hand, when “Not a problem” is the response to “Thank you,” who’s that about? Not the customer. This phrase sounds like the server’s saying, “I didn’t have to go to any trouble to do this for you.” So, the server is highlighted. There is no acknowledgement of the customer’s gratitude. Then, there’s the fact that “Not a problem” starts with “not.” Isn’t beginning a courteous exchange with a negative word sort of like shooting yourself in the (good communication) foot?

So, there it is. Am I crazy? I don’t think so. I’m just a woman who longs to hear, “You’re welcome.” Why? Because, gratitude is one of life’s simple joys, not just sometimes, but every day in every way.

Kindergarten Time

Kindergarten  Time

kindergartenDon’t you ever wish you could go back to Kindergarten time? You know, when life inched by–flowing in a perfect, present tense dance.

Every moment was brimming with magic—a lightning bug’s glow in the dark, a bike ride that seemed to last forever although it was really only ten minutes or a run through the sprinkler on a red hot day. Each moment was captivating as our laughter launched us up like a rocket.

But now, in this noisy, rapid-fire world, could we ever imagine ourselves living (even for one day) in the present, as we were back then?

That would be a day when we would talk less, listen more, and know how to turn off the scramble in our heads. We would be astonished by the splendor that surrounds us, and be free to smile at or hug someone without knowing or caring if it was politically correct.

We would truly believe that “now” is all there is and not get ahead of ourselves by worrying about tomorrow’s troubles or turning around to hurl guilt on ourselves for the things we did or failed to do. No, we would simply be—as we were back then. Could we be okay with being?

Kindergarten time. Who wants to enroll, besides me?

Gravity

Gravity

gravityPast a certain age, like it or not, gravity has its way—leaving us not only shorter, but wondering, Oh my goodness, what’s the deal with my arms–that jiggling skin? Then we look down and see that our thighs have bunched up just north of our knees.

It’s not pretty, but it’s just one of those things. We can choose our reaction, and either be graceful and accept life’s changes, or drive ourselves crazy trying to deny the evidence of our ever-advancing years.

Thankfully, the wisdom gained from the passage of time is the great leveler. Being at home in our own skin (even if it jiggles) is the healthy perspective that makes our lives flow.

Take heart. No matter what the state of the our bodies, we’re still breathing—loving, learning and growing to be more than we were. And the gravity that takes its toll on our bodies here on Earth is the same force that prevents us from floating into space where we would be lost and alone—drifting into oblivion.

Now here’s a word for the younger generation. You’re not here yet, but someday when you get past that certain age you will be. And when that happenings you’ll be shouting, “Hey! How does this happen?”

And those of us who’ve crossed over to the acceptance side will speak softly, “Yes, it’s lousy, but it is what it is. Relax. You can’t change it.”

The truth is, barring the nip/tuck of plastic surgery, no one escapes gravity’s pull. It always has its way.

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For AirYou’re swimming in The Sea of Trouble when, suddenly, you start to go under. Miraculously, a ship is passing by. A rope is thrown over the side within your reach. Do you continue to flail your arms and go down, or do you grab the rope, and get pulled to safety? 

* * * 

We’re on this twirling ball called earth. We meet lots of people. We’re all different, and yet in many ways we’re alike. For example, when our world spins out of control (we blow it with family, friends or on the job) don’t we wish we could have a do-over? 

Several years ago I needed one. No, I was desperate for one. It was a matter of life and death. Not the stop-your-heart kind, but my emotions were stripped so raw I felt as good as dead.

I had been running for my life for so long, I knew I had to stop or at least slow down, but when I finally did, I saw that the dial on my Me-Me-Me meter had been set on sky high for years. I had waltzed into the lives of loved ones, friends and/or strangers, set “fires,” and vanished before the smoke cleared.

The insanity didn’t stop there. Ever since I was a child I had misused my talent as a performer to satisfy my need for attention. Acting pumped me full of self-importance. I dreamed of grand success. But after years of pining away for a bigger-than-life life, I finally gave up.

With a bruised and battered ego, I finally saw the razzle dazzle for the lie it was. My heart shattered, but as I searched for its pieces, a glimmer of hope broke through. I hadn’t prayed in many years, but that night I got on my knees, bowed my head and cried out. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy gave me the grace to go forward—into the new life He had planned for me.

* * * 

No matter what the lesson, the answer is always the same.
Choose the rope.