Saturday, May 26, 2012


I sat down this week and tried to find a label to find a frame to put what I've experienced this year in and after racking my brain - or what's left of it - I think roller-coaster will do.

Apparently God has chosen to place me in two situations in which you can feel like a winner or feel like a failure - and do nothing differently either time. I am living solely by faith in Him. I'm not able to make the differences I want to see happen. But He is and I am trying to live every day through His power, grace, and mercy.

Take the church situation - We continue to see God doing amazing things here. We have huge holes in many places and are a shadow of what we once were - yet God provides - God... ACTS - in ways that cannot be attributed to anything we have done. We're feeding about 130 people every week. We've seen people far from God draw near. And yet there are weeks when I prepare the same way I did for the "good years" and very few show up for worship. The feeling of failure is real to me. I defeat it with the power of prayer, the knowledge of God's absolute faithfulness and ever-abiding presence, and the companionship of my brothers and sisters at New Hope who labor with me.

Things happen. On a Wednesday night when I'm absolutely exhausted from a hard day at school with kids pressing against control and "feedback" from adults that's not uplifting (that'd be sarcasm), I rush to church to help prepare the meals for delivery. A fellow New Hope pilgrim helps me plate the meals, another has already cooked the sauce and started the water and green beans, others have affixed labels to the plates and laid them out. Another comes in and we divide the meals and leave to deliver. I come back to get more. Two people jump up and fix them and I leave again.

I finally find the home of a woman whose neighbor came to New Hope and talked to Bunny about having someone to visit her. She had moved down here from Georgia and had really hard times. She needs family/community - she needs the love of Christ. I had missed worship practice already and was about to be late for prayer. I stayed 20 minutes and listened. And prayed. And left her a meal.

Coming back, we begin our prayer and Bible study which this week centers on a comparative study of Islam. Only we never get there, as a visitor (who had been drinking "but not hard liquor") was trying to justify himself and put his girlfriend in her place. I was so proud of all the New Hope folks around that table. When the visitor tried to use the "you are judging me" card - everyone to a person acknowledged that they too were sinners saved purely by God's grace. When he argued "I know I am going to heaven" everyone rejoiced hoping that was true and refusing to box with that straw-man. We continued to talk about God's grace through Jesus and a total surrender of life to Him.

It was exhilarating.

We were who God had called us to be, doing exactly what God had placed us there to do - point to His Son and the surpassing greatness of the cross. I got to see what God has done in the hearts of the people of New Hope who I love with all my heart. They were kind, compassionate, loving, and completely grounded in the grace of Jesus Christ - and the necessity of it for everyone. I wish I had videoed it so I could have played it back for them. They were instruments of God's grace. They were agents of reconciliation. They were disciples of Jesus being true to the commandment of "love your neighbor as yourself."

It wasn't a Damascus road the man was on though. He grew frustrated with his girlfriend and really our interaction. We were not there to fight. We were there to love as Jesus loved. He wasn't ready to hear it so he left. (We are all praying he returns.) But his girlfriend came back in and stayed, opening her heart to us and admitting her need for Christ. We finished praying for/with her and I left in amazement.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

On Mother's Day

On July 15th, 1920, on the wrong side of the tracks down on Roff Avenue near "Mr Willingham's Textile Mill", a little girl was born to Henry and Bertie Bowden. Her parents were millworkers who had moved from the farm to the city in search of a better life. Each had lost a spouse to death before they met each other, and the family was a blend of Fosters and Bowdens.

The little girl grew to adulthood in that shotgun house, becoming the first of her family to get a high school diploma. During those years, she saw a sister die in a fire, a brother killed when his car stalled on the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the road. When she was 12, her father was hit by a car and died the next day. Hurt came often to Roff Avenue. The family grew tight - they had to. Somehow the widow "Bertie" raised all their kids and another couple of girls besides. Lodie was the big sister now, and she went to school and worked in the mill too. Whatever it took to help, she did.

She met a young man who lived in the same mill village, and just as World War Two began, they married. He was sent away, and in a year or so, she enlisted herself. They saw each other once during the War, in Manila.

After the war, they had both changed. Everything had.

They divorced, and then love found them again, and they remarried.

One day they got the news she was pregnant with twins. Nine months later they got the news the babies wouldn't survive. Delivered, they lived less than a week. But a couple who had seen so much pain and held so much heartache, just wouldn't give up hope. One year later, I was born - the young woman was my Mother - Lodie Marie Bowden Wilson.

She passed away in 1991 - much too soon. No other person had more influence on who I became than she.  Not one day in the years we shared on this earth did I not awake knowing that my Mother loved me deeply. We had some amazingly stubborn battles of will, but I always knew she loved me.

When you are the recipient of love, like a Mother's love, most of the time you are blind to it. Days come and go, sacrifices are made for you. Some you might realize but poorly comprehend. Others you miss completely. When your children come along, understanding does too, and then when the giver passes away, the gifts are made visible in the loss of the one who gave them. I think someone wrote "Now we see through a glass darkly..." and that is so so true.

I cannot give her anything now. All I can do is give to others as I have been given to. When I was reading Philippians one day, I came across this. Those of you who read it,  think about your life, and what someone years after you are gone will write about it in review. Will it be God-honoring? Will it be praiseworthy? What will be your legacy? Will you have pointed your family to Jesus? Can you write as Paul does here?

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NIV

Remember, we love, because He first loved us.

It's called...