Sometimes people surprise you

I want to tell you a story… and write it down so I don’t forget it myself….

Earlier this week (Holy Week mind you), I ran into Walgreens after my morning workout to pick up a bottle of vitamins. They had just opened so I was the only person in the store – except for this guy checking out as I walked in.

When I got to the checkout, he was still there talking the cashier’s ear off. Dressed in some beat-up clothes, raggedy jeans and motorcycle boots he was going on and on about his rebuilt motorcycle. I had things to do – a schedule to keep of course – so I refused to make eye contact with him or the cashier because I could tell that he was the type of person who would try to pull me into the conversation and I just wanted to pay for my vitamins and leave. He was driving me CRAZY. On and on about cylinders this and carburetor that and how fast he can get his bike… then he asked the cashier for some paper so he could get his number and tell him about group rides this summer. (I probably sighed heavily at this point… I mean come on already!) And the guy started talking all about the cool rides and how much fun they have – SERIOUSLY?!? – and then mentioned a ride he’s doing in a few weeks sponsored by a church and he paused – something he hadn’t done in the entire endless diatribe about motorcycles so far…

“You know I didn’t used to be huge church guy but it’s something we gotta do,” he said “It’s important to just go and say ‘I’m sorry Lord and thank you.’ You know what I mean?”

I looked up and he was looking right at me.

I smiled and said, “Yeah, I do know what you mean and you’re right it IS important.”

He smiled back, “God bless you.” And he walked out the door.

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Lenten Graces: Week Two

It was a dreary week. Gray skies. Lots of rain. Discouraging progress with the Achilles recovery. Bad sleep sort of week.

Precisely the sort of week that deserves being reviewed for graces…

A surprise at faith sharing: For 5 or 6 years now I’ve been part of a small faith-sharing group during Lent. We meet weekly, break down the coming Sunday’s Gospel and use a guide to help us consider related points. This week one of our discussion questions was where we’ve been inspired by faith. I was literally brought to tears when one person across the table said they were inspired by my daughter… and then to have others around the table nodding and chiming in with their agreement. I’m in awe and feel privileged to witness her faith but to have someone else express that was a wow moment.

A request received: Last week I went a little outside my comfort zone to ask a friend to participate in a faith-based book study during Lent. She’s a friend I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like so I was hoping this would give us a reason to reach out and talk/text/share. This week I found myself sitting in my car, waiting for my son to leave practice and grinning from ear to ear as my friend & I texted back and forth about the first chapter.

A walk to the beach: I decided to try and push my Achilles just a bit this week and was so happy to see it respond in pretty decent fashion. I’ve been discouraged with my recovery (though my PT says I’m doing great) and this little half mile walk was a big spot of hope.

Family visits: Last Saturday we spent the day in Indy playing at the Children’s Museum with my sister’s and brother’s families. This Saturday we spent another day in Indy with my brother’s family listening to my daughter perform at a state music competition. I’m very grateful for the graces in my sibling relationships.

I’m ready to put this week behind me. Shake off the doldrums and move forward into week three of Lent.

Lent Graces: week one

As a firm believer in the benefits of consciously being grateful, I’m going to add a post of small graces to my weekly Lenten obligations. I’ve done this before and while gratitude is part of my regular prayer life, I think it’s good to write them down… to mark the moments and look back on them later when needed.

Where have I found grace this week?

  • In a new kid who came to youth group this week at the invitation of someone else. He came up to me afterwards to ask when the next meeting is scheduled because he really liked the night. A night with a good balance of focused Lent reflection, laughter and conversation.
  • In the ability to get up to my Lake a few weeks in a row now. This Achilles recovery is keeping me from hiking but it’s so worth the drive to stand on the shore and experience the changing Lake on a regular basis.
  • A new book study for Lent that has already changed the way I’m seeing life.

I don’t know what it is but I’m so ready for this Lent… for the opportunity to think about my priorities and change/grow for the better.

What are you giving up for Lent?

When I was a kid giving something up for Lent was a big choice: chocolate? pop? television? It had to be something that felt like an indulgence – or maybe something I could complain about often.

I grew older and latched onto the idea of doing something extra for Lent. Reading books about scripture or faith. Praying a certain prayer each day. One year I put a box in my office and each day dropped in something that I didn’t need – it was both doing and giving up.

Now I tend to try and do both the giving up and the doing extra. I’ll be honest though, the giving up part seems silly. I know, I know there’s something about strengthening your self-discipline but for someone who is self-disciplined all the time? It seems unnecessary. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m drawing any closer to Jesus or remembering his sacrifice in some special way because I’m not eating snacks in the afternoon.

But Lent starts next week and something does, in fact, need to be done to honor the season. In preparing to lead a youth ministry night, I came across the 1 – 1 – 1 challenge for Lent. That’s what I’ll be following:

  1. Give up one thing
  2. Pick up one thing
  3. Focus on one sin

Here’s hoping for a fruitful, strengthening Lent. How will you be honoring the season?

My new friend Louie

Every time I’m out on the bike trail between 7 & 8 in the morning, I see some familiar faces. There’s one man in particular who always walks the same stretch – no matter what day of the week, I see him. He walks with a bit of a bounce to his step…. like he’s just happy to be out enjoying some exercise. And he always, always has the loudest, most cheerful good morning.

I saw him this morning on my way north as he was heading south and we exchanged our typical “good mornings” and “beautiful days.” I decided that if I passed him again after my turnaround, I was going to stop to introduce myself. I went on my merry way for a few more miles, turned around and saw him up ahead. As I neared him I almost chickened out “This is so out of character… are you really going to ride up on a stranger and just introduce yourself?!?” But I pushed those thoughts to the side, took a deep breath and shouted out “Coming up on your left and I have a question for you!”

I slowed down to roll alongside and told him that I enjoy seeing him out whenever I’m on the trail: “I’d love to say good morning by name. My name is Barb, what’s yours?” He stopped, extended his hand and said “It’s so nice to meet you Barb, my name is Louie. No one ever stops to share their names even though us regulars see each other all the time. That’s real nice of you. Real nice.” I thought that might be it but he started to talk. So I shifted gears and rolled alongside him for what turned out to be fifteen minutes of delightful conversation.

Louie worked for the steel mills for 44 years and the day after he retired he started walking on the trail. He now walks five miles every day “rain or shine – even in the snow.” He’s 69 years old and will turn 70 in November and is grateful every day that he’s healthy and active enough to get out.

I now know he’s a Colts fan and one year shortly after Christmas he found a brand new money clip with a Colts logo on it on the trail. He carried it with him for a week and asked everyone he saw if it was theirs but it wasn’t… and it had less than $10 in it so he didn’t report it. Every time he gets it out of his pocket it makes him smile.

He has a brother who just retired from being a mailman and this spring he helped him move down to Florida. He misses him. He has a niece in the area, another in Nashville and a third down in Florida.

He asked about my family and how long I’ve lived here. He’s a “region boy” who grew up in Whiting. He joked that I was probably a little shaky and nervous about sending my oldest to college in a few weeks but that I shouldn’t be because it will be the best time of her life.

When we got to his car, he extended his hand again and said he’s looking forward to seeing me on the trail again soon. “I’m excited to be able to call out to someone by name. I sure hope I don’t forget it but if I do feel free to smack me on the head as you ride past and shout it out – that will make sure I remember.”

Me and my new friend Louie… I’m looking forward to talking with him more and I’ll be sure to ask what he thinks about the Colts when the season starts.