Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Time for Peace

Hello friends,
I'm probably the last person who has any right to urge each of us to keep calm (I'm usually the first one to panic). When faced with some new technology, like a laptop or a camera, I'm usually dragged kicking and screaming. I hate Mp3 players, even though I use one when I'm on my treadmill. I'm a side-seat driver on the Interstate, and I have been known to sit on the floor in the back seat, so that I can only hear, not see the trucks go by. I hate people messing with my medicine, especially insurance companies, government agencies, and the substitute Pharmacist.
So, peace is a concept that I am still defining. I know what it's like to hold my puppies and get kisses all over my face. My blood pressure goes down, and I feel relaxed. I know what it feels like to pile on our bed, just our family of people and dogs, and watch our favorite movies and TV shows on DVDs, without commercials. Also relaxing, but that is not peace.
Turmoil. Wow. I practice for that. I'm an expert. I especially go wild when I try to get a hold of my credit card customer service department. You know, the people who used to be from different areas of the U.S. People who speak English. Yesterday, I received a call about my JCPenney card. Someone in very broken English, with an unmistakable Indian accent, attempted to tell me my problem. After twenty minutes of unintelligible conversation, which began to accelerate, I asked why JCPenney was now outsourcing. After a few curses on her part, she screamed at me "JCPenney does NOT outsource!" Then she hung up.
I, then, called JCPenney's customer service number. After taking 15 minutes suggesting I press this, that, and the other number, the automated teller threw me out of the system. Then I did the obviously stupid. I called another number, which was answered by a human being, with, of course, a thick Indian accent.
"Okay, Sir, my first question is this. Why is JCPenney outsourcing it's call center to India?"
"I-am-not-from-India!" He replied in a pronounced Indian accent.
"Oh really." I said. "Then where are you now?"
"Oh-I'm-from-Ohio!" He insisted.
Yeah. Yeah. So, I did some heavy Google searching, and I discovered who is actually hiring these people. They are hired much like day laborers. A call goes out for one position, and maybe a thousand Indians show up to apply. People waiting for these low tech jobs are desperate. They have a script, which they must not deviate from. That's why we never know what they are talking about, much less do they know anything about our country.
I've been insulted, threatened (which is against our laws, which, by the way, they know nothing about). So, that's where the jobs have gone, and that's part of why our country is in a terrible mess. A long list of accumulated idiocy, by our leaders, now has all of us crippled, including we in middle America. We also have 401K's, insurance, bank loans, mortgages, and college loan payments. We've been stretched like rubber bands, and we must not snap.
Strangely enough, I have, in this crisis, more peace than I could imagine. Yes, I have a husband who understands our finances, and a daughter who organizes budgets like a whiz machine. We are all contributing. Even me, with my small pension. And I'm keeping my eye on the news. I do see some panic, but strangely, I feel a peace that passes all my understanding. That peace is knowing that God, not only, is in charge, but that He will, as He always has, set our feet upon His solid path.
The picture above, is of a peaceful garden. My peaceful garden. It took years to grow out of nothing, and the little path was created by my daughter, Jenny, from bits of rock that we collected after our yard was blown up. Long story that I will share at another time. So, we decided for our peaceful garden, to use what was broken to create something beautiful. Perhaps our country can, also.
Without having any financial answers, I am certain, especially at this time, that God is in control; that He has a plan; and His plan is to bless us, and not discourage us. We do have a future!
So, now, I urge you to find that place of peace, in a garden, on a terrace, in a room by yourself, or wherever your private place is. Hold your children in your arms. Love on your pets. Take a deep breath, and let the air out slowly. You have a future, and so do I. I will be praying, not for myself, but for you. With all my heart, I know that God has hope for your future. He holds you in the palm of His hand.
Father in heaven, in a round about way, I have tried to illustrate that peace comes from within. Stumbling in my faith, I have tried to share the Hope that you give. Please let everyone believe that long before the universe exploded into history, You knew their name, and You still do. Forgive me, Lord, if I have failed you, and most of all, forgive me if I have failed those who follow this blog. Thank you, Lord, for a hope and a future, but most of all, thank You for peace in my heart.
With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Time to Serve

Hello friends,
The picture at the left has never been shared, not in the nearly eight years that I have been writing on the web. This was taken during another unpopular war, and I had decided to serve.
The reasons that a person serves, in time of war, are legion, and the incentives, especially in this one, are tempting. Some of the incentives that our government offers are: enlistment bonuses, re-enlistment bonuses, education, life insurance premiums for their family, if the worst should happen. Finally, the most powerful incentive for enlistment is the desire to serve one's country.
My desire, at the height of the Vietnam War, was simply to serve my country and to assist the soldiers and families traveling through San Francisco Airport. I believed that I was given a sacred trust to make their paths less crooked. I was faithful to my pledge, and I've never regretted my time served.
Looking at that picture, it is difficult not to notice just how young I was. At the time, at almost 21, I felt mature indeed. But the truth of the matter was that I was a babe in the woods, filled with the love of my country, and frankly, I would have taken a bullet to save the Flag that I served.
War is seldom the wisest course. Diplomacy, from a position of strength, must be exhausted first. Otherwise, the young men who crossed through my desk, would have spilled their blood for someone else's glory. Glory is never a reason to start a war.
After diplomacy, our leaders must use wisdom, and wisdom dictates that a war that is entered into rashly, will only come back and strike us. The Bible is certainly clear about this.
But, I was not making the decisions for government in 1967, and I'm not now. So, in case you don't understand why we served then, and why others have served, and still serve, now, I will tell you.
A father serves to protect his family from possible harm; a mother serves, so that she can keep her children safe. And there are many other reasons one serves. None serve for the money. Trust me. I was in the military, and I was a military wife. We didn't do it for the money.
For each soldier there are personal reasons to serve, but what is in their hearts, for the most part, is a connection to every soldier who ever fought for his or her country. And, now they are serving for them, for their family, for themselves and one another. The valiant. The protector. The bearer of the torch. All these reasons and more are why we served, and why they still serve.
So, when you see a Soldier, an Airman, a Seaman, a Marine, or anyone else who serves, with your heart in your throat, go up to them and simply say "thank-you," because he or she serves, so that your children don't have to.
War. I hate it. I hate those who sign the proclamation, as though no one will have to pay the price. Certainly not their children! I hate the ones who start keeping a tally on just how much they will make on their war products. I hate the "glory speeches," because they don't speak of the lives lost, and the maimed who will have to go on, while wondering why.
So, now you know. I served. I gave my best. I was a United States Navy WAVE, during the Vietnam War. And history has forgotten me, as so many of the sacrifices made today will be forgotten.
My ultimate belief is that God keeps short accounts. He exposes the lies, and he punishes those who have caused His "little ones to stumble." That is what I comfort myself with in the night. His comfort. His forgiveness. His understanding. His kindness and love.
Thank you, Father, that we have You to cling to. Thank You for keeping us in the shadow of your wings. Lord, we know that we can trust you to expose the lie, and make truth triumphant. These are the things for which I pray.
With love,
Jaye Lewis

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Time to Sift

Hello friends,
Have you ever noticed that there are times one must stop, look at their lives, and take stock of where they are putting their energies. My energies, as with many others, are expended with the ones, and the things, that I love. My family, my dogs, my garden, and my God. Now, what's wrong with that sentence? Seems okay, but looking closely, my relationship with God came last. That's not where my heart is supposed to be. It's not even where I wish to be. So, now, I must sift all the important things in my life, not into the right order, but into the right Spirit.
I've tried living up to the world, and I have to tell you, there's not much out there that changes hearts. The only heart-changer in my life has been God. He must come first, or nothing else has any meaning.
The next most important thing, in my life, is my husband and our personal relationship. Am I jeopardizing it through self-centered ways, pride, self-pity, or unexpressed anger? Louie has taught me how to love without taking; how to receive with a joyful heart; and how to forgive without withholding. These are not lessons that the world teaches.
Then come my daughters: beautiful souls; lovely faces; voices of kindness; and nurturing hearts. These illuminating lights of God's grace have given me devotion that fills me with wonder. It is impossible for me not to marvel at their generosity of spirit.
Now, come my dogs: my big-hearted, stubborn, whale of a dog, more sensitive than his size suggests. He's been known to creep under my feet, and when I lose my balance and stagger near him, he leaps up screaming. This further insures full body contact, that sends me reeling, as Jessie streaks over to his safe spot. It can take days to heal his timid heart.
Happy Dog, my heart, my laughter, my protector, my baby, my friend, he is all of these. Peanut, an adorable fox-like Pomeranian, with Titian gold hair, and a joyful grin. She is my precious girl. Pixel, our newest arrival, full of mischief and a marvelous deductive mind, that is engaging to see.
And then there is me. That would be where gardening comes in. I love my gardens. I love not knowing, and then finding out. I love failing, only to try again. I love getting dirty. I love collecting earthworms from one place and moving them to another. I love the cool morning breeze upon my face, and best of all, watching things grow. Trees, now 20 feet high were grown from seedlings. Dahlias that I planted as seed, are now blooming.
These are the seasons of my life: My God, my husband, my daughters, my pets, and myself. Taking care of myself is the hardest thing I do. But I don't want to risk a shortened life, because I would not make the hard choices for my health.
Today is a time for sifting my behavior into an attitude of God's will. You see, the diabetes that I had so carefully controlled, has changed. Now, it is in control of me. My doctor and I have begun a new treatment, which still includes diet and exercise. I don't like this. I want to be in control. So, today is a time to sift.
Father in heaven, I'm not worthy of your favor, but I thank You for blessing me with it anyway. May You bless those souls who look in on my journey with You.
With love,
Jaye Lewis

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Time for Perspective

Hello friends.

The picture on the left is one that I have been longing to share. This is the little stone knife that I have written about before. Thousands of years ago, this little knife meant something special to its owner. Was it ceremonial? Was it a weapon of war? Did it belong to a boy? Or a woman?

Except for the back end, which obviously went into a handle of some sort, the edges are dull. The point was either broken or the wages of time have taken its toll. So, who owned this knife before I found it in the soil of our property? And where was this person from?

One of the fallacies of our human nature is to imagine that we are first. First to land on the moon. First to buy the land. First in our own imagination, and, of course, we are the best. But, people came before us. If you check in with the National Geographic Society, even the Neanderthal had a gene marker (actually a mutation on the gene) for red hair and green eyes. When I read that, it made history come that much closer, and since I'm a red-head, with amber eyes (also a mutation), I felt a kind of kinship with the beings who came before us, and whom we have so misunderstood.

Now, I have before me, a small, stone knife. Although worn, it is obvious to see that it was fashioned by an artisan. The sophistication with which it was designed, makes it obvious that the designer was an intelligent, gifted human being. Long, long ago, before you and I were born, there were people who loved, hunted, gathered, and cared to design some of the most beautiful artifacts of history.

The one word that I keep repeating, I have just discovered, is the word design and designer. These days, they have become four letter words. So, in my non-scientific mind, let me just make a few comparisons. Have you ever noticed that the most beautiful seashells have a counter-clockwise pattern that resembles a galaxy? Why? Again, have you noticed that hurricanes, tornadoes, dust-devils, and cyclones all have the same pattern? Why?

I have thought about things like this for years. I believe that they are not proof of, but that they present a good argument for a Designer. Do not confuse the argument for a Designer, with the "six-thousand years creation event." I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm just saying, I don't care how long. All I know is, if we were to go on a treasure hunt, and we found my little knife, we would assume that like things would be buried in that same location. However, when we speak of God, as Designer, we get all crazy about it. The atheists go wild, and the "Creationists" get busy.

I believe in God, and I see patterns in the universe, that tell me that He is the Creator of it all. I know He lives, and I know that He loves me. I feel His hand of protection, and I see His Hand of favor. He lives, and He has filled my life with joy, peace, and love.

I also know that He loves all of His creation, even the ones who deny His very existence. He loved the owner of my little stone knife, and He made the connection between the original designer and me. It is simply a matter of perspective.

Father in heaven, forgive us when our perspective buries our understanding of Your presence. Grant us the grace to see this world, and everything in it, through Your eyes. Let us watch the fading shadows of twilight and know that you are there. And when the sun goes down at the end of the day, or at the end of each life, give us that certainty that we may rest safely in Your arms.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Time to Think

Hello friends,

What gives you peace? Some people like to go into their bedroom, find the perfect book, close the door to all and sundry, prop up against fluffy pillows, turn on a lamp and read.

Others like to go for a walk, or a run. Still others find their peace in their favorite chair with their favorite drink. My husband likes to go downstairs and stand outside, looking up at the night sky, and just think. Let go of the day. Let go of things that you have no power to change. Pray. Even if you don't believe.

I had a vision about prayer one time. We almost lost one of our daughters. Miraculously she pulled through two landmark surgeries. In the vision I saw a multitude of people praying for my girl, and musical notes were floating up to heaven in colors of red, blue, yellow, and rose. I could see them in my mind's eye, and all of a sudden I realized what prayer means to God. When we pray to Him, asking, pleading, explaining, agreeing, doubting, but not retreating, He hears music. I believe that prayer is the music of the heart.

My most peaceful places are in numbers of three: (1) encircled in my husband's arms, alone; (2) laying on the bed with my girls, my husband, and our dogs, just watching a DVD of our favorite show, commercial free, and (3) alone with God in my garden. Oh how I love to talk to Him in my garden.

In my garden, alone with God, I can feel his sheltering arms around me. I can see his breath in the crispy night air, as the mist rises from the valley below. I see Him in every perfect flower. And I see His mercy in every twig that grows up into a tree. With me, my relationship with God is deeply personal, and those moments alone are the best part of my day.

A time to think. What does that mean? According to the Family Word Finder, to think means: to use one's mind; to reason; to reflect; to deliberate; to ponder; to contemplate; to plan.

In my garden, to think means to let go and let God. This is not easy for me, in times of crisis, such as we are in right now, in the U.S. I have such a great list of suggestions for God, and I usually go through a struggle, as I try to surrender, and yet hold on to what I think would be the perfect solution. For some reason, God puts up with me in those times. And when I don't have any suggestions, I simply have to surrender, and it is then that He dries my tears.

So, now, wherever you are in your life, you might find it possible, to seek that place alone with your thoughts, and I hope, alone with God. Focus on what really matters. Think about the people in your life, who are most precious to you. Money is not precious; houses are not precious; even jobs (that are necessary) are not precious, but your loved ones are. Your peace of mind is; honor is; truth is; and of course, peace.

Heavenly Father, for those believers who call out to You, and for those who don't, I entreat You to hear their prayers. We are not perfect, Lord. So forgive us when we stumble. Protect us from the greed that has crippled our nation and that has taken the bread from our children. Guide us in the days ahead, and raise up honest leaders to lead us into tomorrow. May You guarantee our children's future, and may you grant them peace in the turmoils of their lives. Forever may we stand in the light of Your grace. Grant us, oh Lord, the peace that only You can give...the peace that passes all understanding. Peace of heart, peace of soul, and peace within our homes.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Time for Honor and Truth

Hello friends,

Is there anything about that beautiful dachshund, on the left, that I do not love? I hate it when I hear someone say, "Well, they're just like a member of the family." What is that? And is that really how people think of their own family? Just one of the members? Or is it that they are really saying, that the heart and soul of my little dog, is "just a dog?" How could they?!

This little dog has never left my side, willingly. He has, throughout his life, lived with honor and truth. I'm his, and that's all there is to it. I am in his care, not the other way around. If he must he will die defending me. That little dog is so inside my heart, that he is present in every beat. I've told you a lot about him, but this story I haven't told.

When Happy was a year old, he came down with a deadly form of mange. It took four insecticide treatments to kill the deadly mites. He was so sick that it looked like he would die. I'll never forget the morning that he sat up, with ears perked, and then came trotting to my side, as if to say, "Mommy, let's run and play."

When Happy Dog was six years old, he "went down" with a protruding spinal disc. Spinal disc disease, common among low, long-backed dogs, especially dachshunds, is deadly if left untreated. It was a nightmare. I knew I would lose him, and I just couldn't bear it!

He has a wonderful veterinarian who moved heaven and earth to get him to the research hospital at Virginia Tech. The surgery was successful, and Happy Dog was allowed to come home. We crated him for four weeks. Then right before his sixth birthday...you guessed it...another surgery. And, you guessed it again, he survived to race and play again.

One evening, I walked Happy Dog in my front yard, being careful where he stepped, since he was still recovering. There was a feral dog in the neighborhood. I saw the dog, but I had stared the dog down before, so I was unafraid. Quickly, I hurried my faithful companion towards the door. I walked in with Happy Dog, and quickly he did an about face. The ruff on his neck and back stood straight up, and he was growling. Next thing I knew, my husband was down the stairs, and the dog high-tailed it away. That vicious dog had followed us into the house. Can you believe that? And he was after Happy Dog.

Crippled or not, Happy Dog, stood his ground to defend me. I swear, if that wild dog had harmed my precious pet, who is so full of honor and truth, I would have hunted that dog down and torn it limb from limb. Hard to believe that a 62 year old crippled woman would make such a remark. Huh?

Approximately two years ago, Happy had minor surgery, along with teeth cleaning. When I went to pick him up, my hand felt moisture on his chest.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Oh, it's just a little fluid. It's normal." What?

By the time we got home and out of the car, my clothing was soaked with Happy's blood. I held him up, and the blood "drip-drip-dripped." Back to the emergency we went, and the same doctor who had saved his life before, saved him again.

Now, Happy Dog is almost ten years old, and I am grateful for every minute. The only thing that keeps me from letting him sleep in the bed with us, is my fear of him injuring his back in the middle of the night.

So, at a time in our Country, when we have a Presidential election staring us in the face, and every mortgage company and insurance company needs a bail-out, things look pretty bleak. These are the times, however, that I look to my little dog. I have never seen him give up. He has fought every set-back with every ounce of his being. He has no trouble recognizing danger, and when the time comes, he's ready to fight.

Today, I consider the blessings in life, that God has already given me. My husband and daughters and my Christian faith. Another one of my greatest gifts is the love of my Happy Dog. If need be I must face my fears with his courage and grit. There is only one way for my little dog in the face of adversity: fight, and when all else fails, then to stand unmoved.

This present crisis, in the United States, smacks of corruption, or at least, lack of oversight. It's downright scary. Yet, I wonder how Happy Dog would handle this situation. Truthfully, I think that Happy Dog would grab hold of the culprits in charge, and he would give them, while growling fiercely, a great big shake.

So, take heart, my friends. Look around you, and in family and friends, you will find true riches beyond compare. You certainly have blessed my life, just by listening to me. I just hope my little metaphor has blessed you.

Father, bring us through this time of desperation. Help us to understand what is honor and truth. Help us to face the storm ahead, knowing that Your loving presence will be there for us, in the eye of the storm.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Time to Be Real

Hello friends,

The picture of Happy Dog says everything I want to say today. Sometimes, you've just got to shout it. Happy Dog has been shouting his opinion all of his life. He is the Police Pup of all four dogs, especially our biggest one.

At birthday celebrations, it is Happy Dog's job to tackle the present and rip the paper off, as though he is ripping into an intruder. When he is tucked safely under the covers, any movement near him, will learn its lesson quickly, as he savagely grabs the blanket and gives it a good shake.

Another job he has is to get my husband's water bottle under control, by grabbing it and running down the hall. Then he tears off the label, with a bark that says, "So there!!!" But that's not all. He also rebukes my husband's slipper. If my husband is wearing the offending felon, Happy will grab a hold and hang on, furiously struggling against the reprobate. Often he wins the battle, by seizing the slipper, deftly removing it from the victim; then he dashes down the hall. First one way; then the other. Up and down the hall he goes. HERE HE COMES!!! THERE HE GOES!!! And the game doesn't stop until Happy is finished.

Happy Dog is the most joyful being I know. He is a clown, a mischief maker, an authoritarian, and the fiercest, most loyal friend I have. He would die for me. No dog is bigger. No object too hard to face down. And he does everything with a kind of joyous vigour. This dog has a lot to teach, and he teaches me every day.

You see, when I brought Happy Dog home, I was suffering from depression. He changed me with his happy heart. That is why his official name is Sir Happy Heart. Of course, I began to, then, call him Happy Dog.

I don't know how long God will give me with my little Happy Dog. I hope a long, long time. A few years back, I expressed my fears about losing my little boy, to my Father in heaven:

Excerpt from Jaye Lewis' Prayer for My Little Boy

I know, Lord, there will come a day,
When I'll have to say "good-bye."
Yet, even then I'll trust in You;
Although it makes me cry.

I trust in You to carry me
Through that dark and lonely place;
And heal my heart, as I recall,
His little, laughing face.

I know that you will be there,
And you'll wipe my tears away;
And perhaps in Your great mercy,
I’ll be with him, there, one day.

The Bible says, in Heaven
We'll be free from every care;
But I can't imagine Heaven
Unless Happy Dog is there.

So, if I am presumptuous,
I trust You'll understand
That I’ll willingly walk the road ahead,
If You'll only hold my hand.

© Jaye Lewis, 2001

There is not a dog that I have ever known, who has captured my heart, the way that Happy has. He is under my skin and in my heart. I would die for him, and he knows it.

So, why am I sharing this with you today? Because I have seen much division and derision in my country, during this election season. The graft and corruption is unspeakable, yet it has been exposed. Sometimes you've just got to scrape out a sore. I've seen so much pretense, and if I hear, one more time, "my friends," I think I will scream. What? Am I stupid? YOU'RE NOT MY FRIEND! MY DOG WOULD MAKE A BETTER PRESIDENT!

Happy Dog would take the miscreants by their ankle, and he would shake the daylights out of them. Then he would bark them to attention, and march them off to jail. Then it's bread and water for the lot of them! Happy Dog is tough. He knows the right thing to be. He shouts it to the sky every day. BE REALLLLL!!!!!!! Be real. It's not hard. If you are real, then the citizens who vote for you will shout for joy.

Father in heaven, grant us the grace to recognize what is real within our candidates in this, our election season. May they state their case, without rhetoric. Please, Lord, show us the way, even into the voting booth. Help us to look at the issues and the candidates, and let us see who will understand and tackle those issues with the fervor and courage of my little dog. Help us to see clearly, just which one is real.

With love,

Jaye Lewis

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Time for Peace

Hello friends,

The picture on the left is of one of my gardens. It's small; yet it is filled with things that I like. It's right outside of my back door.

The tree trunk that you see, is ten years old. I planted it as a tiny seedling, along with several others. Most of the seedlings did not grow. This one did. It is a healthy tree. Through torrential rains, ice storms, and summer drought, this tree, somehow is anchored to everything that is good about the land.

When we moved into our house, the yard was filled with trees, but the ground was red clay, which turned to concrete under the summer sun, and became a quagmire after days of rain. Our yard sits on a granite shelf, that is two feet down. The dirt (we laughingly call soil) is covered with the ugliest lawn I've ever seen, and it is filled with rocks. From that beginning, we have created gardens. My favorite is the garden that you see in the photo at top left.

The statue is a statue of Francis of Assisi. Francis was a young man, who lived in the Twelfth Century. He gave up a wealthy existence to become poor. He gave up life as a soldier, to become a man of peace. You may remember his poem, which begins:

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith...."

It is well worth the Google-search to read the entire poem.

Francis is one of my favorite peace makers. He loved the Lord, and His people. He loved the animals, and he called them "brother" and "sister." It just seemed right to find a statue of Francis to be a part of this garden.

In the world that we live in, there isn't much peace. Yesterday, a young girl in India committed suicide, because of her fear of what is referred to as "the big-bang machine." Billions of dollars have been spent on this giant contraption that "might" bring about new technologies. Or it might blow the world up. The young girl was so terrified, that she took her own life. It breaks my heart.

Never mind that there are people being slaughtered in the Sudan and around the world...people who want nothing more than a future for themselves and their children. Yet, we are a pretty selfish society, and the more able we become in technology, the less able we become as human beings.

We cannot force peace upon strangers who don't want peace, anymore than we can force peace upon certain members of our own families. You know who I mean. You have perverse people in your life who are all about attack, slash and burn, in their relationships. Anything to bring about their own interpretation of victory. Never peace.

Life is not easy in a world like this. In our own community, there is affluence and poverty. It bothers me. I want someone to care about the poor. When we stand before God, what are we going to tell Him about our propensity to invent one more contraction, that we have no idea WHAT it will actually do? And when He asks us, "Did you feed your brother? Did you heal your sister?" What are we going to say?

"Well, we built a lot of stuff?"

So, I'm sadly aware, that we can only do our best to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. We cannot dictate what governments should do. We cannot singlehandedly bring about the one thing that we all long for...peace.

So, as in my garden, we must find a place that brings us personal peace. As we reflect upon this tragic anniversary of America's darkest hour. As we contemplate the lives that were lost at the Twin Towers (from every nation) let us find the peace that we seek within our selves.

So, join with me now, in the garden of our hopes and dreams, and let us bring peace to our souls. We can only pray that our world will follow.

Father in heaven, in the words of your servant, Francis, please make of us, instruments of Your peace.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Time to Consider Friendship

Hello friends,

To our left is a picture of three little friends. At the top of the puppy pile is Pixel, who is nine months old. To the right is my weenie dog, Happy Dog. To the left is Peanut, who is nearly four years old. Really? Nearly four, already? Happy Dog, of course, will soon be eleven years old.

He's growing old, but then, so am I. I'm not crazy about growing old. Gravity is not nice to a woman of 62, and muscle-tone is a thing of the past. Even though I garden, including weeds, pulling up sod, and digging out boulders, still I find that my body betrays me. Enough of the pity party.

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately, and how illusive it is. If you have one close friend in a lifetime, then you are very rich. I'm not talking about popularity. Nor am I talking about that local pub, "where everyone knows your name." I'm talking about friendship where success is celebrated, and faults and imperfections are overlooked. In fact, sometimes those eccentricities are celebrated and considered a virtue.

We have lost, I believe, in modern society the ability to forge true friendships. We choose friends who think as we do; go to the same Church; or who don't go to Church. We want someone to validate us, not give us a different point of view.

I have one friend, outside of my family. She and I were both pushing forty when we met; both military wives; and we spent nearly eight years living across the street from one another. We did things that made us laugh; we shared sorrows; and we watched our kids grow up together. Even though we live thousands of miles a part, now, we still keep in touch. We have shared lives, experiences, and we forgave one another quickly. I can't think of anyone whom I miss, the way I miss her. She will always be my true friend.

My other friends are my daughters and my husband. Oh yes, aside from family, we are all friends, and we have unique relationships with each other. We all live to be together. We can't wait for that first cup of coffee, when everyone is home. We pile on the bed, along with the sleeping pups above, and we toast the day: Tink...go the cups, as we cry, "I love everyone in this room!!" Then we share our experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There's a lot of laughter. A lot of peace. These are my best friends.

The little pups, in their little puppy pile above, are very different. Happy Dog is older, an alpha-male, who still thinks he's the policeman in charge. Pixel, our little miniature Schnauzer is a lover, not a fighter. She adores Happy Dog, and he let's her. Peanut, is a sensitive four year old, filled with anxiety when her Momma is gone, yet when Momma comes home from work, she is a laughing, playful, bundle of joy. These little dogs fill my life with tenderness and love. They are my friends.

As you look at the picture of our puppy pile, above, remember that these little dogs are not naturally friends. They've worked things out, and although they have their idiosyncrasies, they are definitely friends. What an example they are: loving, arguing, vying for their space, laughing, playing, and, by God, telling time, as they have just now. It's time for lunch, and they are telling me.

Gosh, they are looking at me with wide-eyed expectation. I guess I'd best move along or they'll start barking. We wouldn't want lunch to be late.

Father in heaven. Thank you for the creatures you have given us, from the lowliest sparrow to these little pups, who make our lives rich, beyond compare. Grant us the grace, that we will practice wise stewardship. Let us never forget that you created them first.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Time for Memories

Hello Friends,
The picture at the left is one that was taken twelve years ago, of my husband and I, half-way up to a place called... Crystal Falls (I believe). Although it was taken with a "point and shoot" camera, and it is a little hazy, it is one of my favorite pictures.
Hazy. That's what memories are often like. The bad memories become dull, the pain more distant. The good ones seem to be bathed in a halo of light, much like this picture to the left. I have memories from my childhood and beyond, that still inflict pain. I have beautiful memories, also, which are intertwined with the bad, yet are still a part of the pattern of the whole.
Nothing fills my heart with more joy, than reminiscing with my husband about our past, especially our first meeting. What did he feel? What did I feel? Then we try to capture the moment of our first discovery and falling in love. Because of how we both were, and still are, our children were included as an integral part of our beautiful whole. Neither my husband nor I took our love lightly. We didn't leap ahead to the finish line without careful thought and mountains of prayer.
I guess prayer, to a lot of people, seems silly these days, but I believe it is the strong thread that was woven through the tapestry of our lives with one another. We've both lost part of our families, by choice, so that our marriage could grow in a healthy, peaceful environment.
So, we have lost some; but what we have gained is worth more than all this world can offer. We have gained a freedom, by God's grace, that we had never known in our pasts, and we have seen our children grow into women of faith, fortitude and happiness. This could never have come about, without the grace of a loving God, who asks only that He be held first in our hearts.
When I met my husband I knew more about what love was not, then I did about what love is. Oh how handsome he was when he walked through the door. I could tell that he was a real man, and I hadn't the slightest idea what that meant. But now I know.
A real man is a gentle man; yet he can fight fiercely for what is right, without using his fists. A real man loves children, and he is not afraid to make a fool of himself, just to make them laugh. My husband taught our girls how to throw a Frisbee. He played on the jungle-gym and merry-go-round. He played cards until his eyes crossed, and he played board games until he could barely remember his name.
A real man speaks his mind and listens with his heart. He knows who he is, what he believes, and why. A real man puts his ego last, and he doesn't confuse pride with self-respect. He is respectful to everyone, especially women, and he can be trusted like no one else.
A real man takes care with his thoughts, his behavior, and his motives. He is cautious, yet he gives willingly. And when he came into my life, at just the right time, he stole my heart with all the goodness that he was and still is.
A real man is faithful, in thought, word, and deed. He laughs readily, almost as though he's been waiting all day for the punch-line. I think I fell in love with this aspect of his personality, first. A real man may be afraid of commitment, but once he gives his word, it is forever.
So, you can see that I am rather fond of the memories that my husband and I have made through the years. I visit them often. And at night, when I gaze over at him as he sleeps, I thank God, simply for the life of this man, who has given so much life to me.
Father in heaven. Thank you for the life of my wonderful man. Thank you for his heart that is so true. Thank you for his deep, green eyes, that crinkle so readily when he smiles. Oh, how I love the way he looks at me, as though, in his whole life, he has never looked upon anyone so lovely. And that is the greatest gift of all.
With love,
Jaye Lewis

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Time for Happy Dog

Hello friends,

The picture at the left of this screen is of my beloved companion of over ten years. You can see that he is remarkably young looking for his age. I don't think that he looks a day over seven. He's getting white on his paws, and on his muzzle, but he is as beautiful as ever.

I don't know what I would have done without the devotion of this little dog. For ten years he has been at my side in fair weather and in foul. When illness hit me eight years ago, and no one knew if I would live or die, Happy Dog lay by my side. I have a picture of his worried face, and though the picture of me is not flattering, I will keep it always. When I seemed to be getting better, he was the one who brought me the ball to throw, making up a game that he has taught the other little dogs, and one that he still loves to play.

I've thought a lot about what Happy Dog's faithfulness signifies, and I think I know what it means to me. He has taught me that faithfulness never dims when one loves his master.

I have a Master. Yes, I willingly follow Him; wait on Him; and am often impatient with Him. I believe that my Master loves me, much in the way that I love my Happy Dog. I forgive Happy Dog, even when he does the unthinkable, such as lifting his leg on everything in the house that he claims as his own.

I also have a problem with owning things; like the weather. I NEED RAIN!!! SEND IT NOW!!! Uh..oh. I guess I don't own the weather. I must submit. And I repent. Happy Dog does much the same, when he brings me his ball. I NEED TO PLAY!!! He barks, wagging his tail. He is relentless, following me from room to room, no matter what I need to do first. ME FIRST! PLAY WITH MEEEEEE!!!!

So like me, is this little dog. Yet, I have to crate him from time to time. He is a dachshund after all, and he has degenerative disc disease. When he injures himself, it is prednisone and muscle relaxers; and three to six weeks in the crate. I limit his access to play, so that he can get well and live to play another day.

Degenerative disc disease can be life threatening to a dachshund. It can often require delicate spinal surgery. Happy has had two surgeries, back to back, a month a part. Since then I have crated him five or six times, limiting his mobility so that he can heal.

Loving a dog like my Happy Dog requires devotion, a sense of humor, self-discipline, a rigid diet (so that he has no extra weight on his spine), and he doesn't like it at all.

You may wonder -- heck, I wonder -- what my little allegory has to do with me, other than my undying love for this dog. Well, this is very personal to my relationship with Someone other than my dog. You see, my Master is Jesus Christ. My relationship with Him is central to my faith in God.

God doesn't always consult me. He acts, and I have no idea what He is doing. I can't see the result of my discomfort, much as Happy Dog cannot see from his crate, the real health that I am giving him to play again. So, with my Master, Jesus, I can't see the outcome, and, frankly, sometimes it just makes me crazy. LORD, send me a memo, soon!

All of the pondering of my heart, God can hear. He cares. He acts. And, as my husband says, "It has already happened; you just haven't caught up with it in time." So, here I am, understanding more, by simply writing and sharing my thoughts with you. God is here, always, right with me. In the same room. Looking over my shoulder as I write. He's here, even more than I am with Happy Dog.

God makes me wait, when I want what I want, NOW! He hears my prayer and cares. So my prayer should be, LORD, you know what I want; but I know that you know what I really want before I do.

Father, thank you for giving me an understanding that I can hold on to. My understanding is weak, and perhaps shallow; but I do see why this waiting is so important. I may not like the outcome, but I can trust the One who holds the outcome in His hands. With all my heart, I love You.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Time to Hear and See

Hello friends,

Have you ever felt that you are not being heard? You know. You are speaking, and you are not being heard. "I heard you! I heard you!" Someone may say. But you know that you haven't been heard.

Jesus often referred to people "hearing, but not hearing;" and "seeing, but not seeing." It seems like a paradox. How can one hear, but not hear? And how can one see, but not see? Well, I have a few examples from my own life.

When my husband and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary, he took me to a posh restaurant, which had romantic lighting. The enormous picture windows allowed us to hold hands and watch the sun go down. All at once, my love, pulls a tiny package out of a colorful bag. Then he pulls out a small, handmade velvet pillow, and he kneels upon it, with one knee. I was astounded as he opened the box and showed me the beautiful engagement ring inside.

"Jaye," he said. "I couldn't give you a ring thirteen years ago; so I offer you this one, now. Will you marry me?"

My eyes filled with tears, which spilled down my face, as the server behind me cried, "Oh, my God!" The restaurant patrons broke out in applause, as I replied in a tremulous voice, "Yes!!!"

No one knew that we were an "old married couple." All they saw was a man and a woman deeply in love. Sadly, at the next table, a tragic break-up had been taking place. A young woman pleaded with an angry man.

"Please, see the sun is going down! Look! Look! It's so romantic."

The irritated man quickly glanced out the window and spat out words I'll never forget, "I SAW IT! I SAW IT!" Then he leaped up and left the restaurant, as his partner sobbed. He hadn't seen it, nor had he heard her.

Hearing words, without understanding, is not hearing. Seeing, yet unmoved, is not seeing. I have learned that seeing and hearing is not about the eyes or the ears. Seeing and hearing is about the heart. So, it may seem as though my pondering over these things is irreverent today, but for me, it is everything.

I had an acquaintance once, whom I thought was a close friend. However -- and this was years ago -- when she and I were watching a horrible sight on the news, our paths went different ways.

I was appalled by the story, and the video of an Ethiopian mother and child. Both were emaciated, and the baby had a swollen belly. I couldn't stand it. All I could see was my baby, dying before my eyes. It was so personal, and I was helpless to save them.

All of a sudden, my "friend" spat out a barrage of filth and obscenities. I could see her face filled with hatred and rage. Then she screamed, a racial slur, and cold shock streaked through me. I couldn't believe it. Before our eyes, the baby's eyes went blank. We had watched her die, and my life was forever changed. My "friend?" Well, let's just say, we were no longer friends. She was able to look, without seeing; and her heart was so hard, that even this did not move her. I went home, and I cried so long, that it seemed like forever.

So, what does this have to do with my life today? Well, that day taught me to look, with an open heart; and I've learned to hear, with open ears. Where I cannot reach out and change the circumstance, I allow the circumstance to change me.

One day, not so many Christmases ago, we had decided that we would not exchange presents, because we do not have small children. Instead, we try to look for ways to help others have a happy Christmas. We've been very blessed by our decision. However, that first Christmas, was the best of all for me. I had one of my holiday asthma attacks, and I was standing in line at the Pharmacy.

I had just paid for my medicine, and I was feeling a little uneasy about our Christmas decision. Then, behind me, a young woman stepped forward to pay for her baby's medicine.

"That will be twenty-five dollars," the clerk said.

The woman stood there holding her baby, and she pushed a bag of change onto the counter. The clerk sighed, and she quickly counted the change.

"You're $4.29 short."

Tears sprung to the young mother's eyes. It was a painful sight. What was she going to do???

"I don't have it." She said.

"I'm sorry." The clerk replied, obviously embarrassed.

Suddenly, a light burst forth in my soul.

"Wait! I can pay for it!" I cried. "I have the money!!" I don't think that I have ever felt so filled with joy and understanding, as I wrote a check for the child's medicine.

"Here," said the young woman, as she tried to give me the bag of change.

"No," I replied, as I handed back her change.

"I'll never forget this gift," she said, "nor you."

"Oh, but you don't understand," I barely choked out the words. "You have given me a priceless gift. And the best Christmas I've ever had."

We parted, and I walked out into a Christmas Eve, all at once filled with light. My heart sang. I cried all the way home, just as I am now. I realized that it doesn't matter when we decide to hear and see. It only matters that we do.

Father in heaven, grant us the grace to hear and see, more than we ever have before. Let each day be a new day to allow our hearts to open towards others. I know that I fail in this, and it always amazes me just how blunt my perceptions can be. By Your grace, I can become a more compassionate, seeing, hearing child of God. In Your name, Amen

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Time for Compassion

Hello friends,

Compassion. Just what is it? Is it sympathy? Or is it something more. According to the Family Word Finder, a thesaurus, compassion can be defined as "tenderheartedness." Compassion is feeling the pain of others, and going beyond self to try and heal suffering, without judgement. I believe this is a rare virtue. However, our best example of this kind of compassion is Jesus.

When Jesus was faced with a woman taken in the very act of adultery, instead of staring at her or distaining her, He showed compassion.

"Then neither will I condemn you." There stood the Son of God, averting His eyes, so that He would not add to her shame. How can I not love a God like that?

When He was at the well with the Samaritan woman, did He rant and rave a sermon? And tell her what an adulteress she was? No, He did not. He simply told her about her life. He read her soul, and her heart responded. To this day, there are Christians in the Middle East who trace their faith back to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Jesus made it very clear that we are not to judge. And the Apostle Paul stated that he was not concerned with the behavior of the world, but he was concerned with the behavior of the Church. If you are a Christian, that's you and me.

So, why is it that the attitudes of Christians, in this day, are ones of judgement? Why are conservative Christians, as I am, loud, noisy, even rude? I look at some of my fellow evangelicals, and I think, our attitudes are what gives Christianity a bad name. Why is that? Why have we become so shameful?

Where is our compassion? Where is our decision to follow Christ? When were we elected to judge our neighbors? And just who IS my neighbor? Well, Jesus told us the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who was shunned and judged as an outcast from society. So, what is wrong with us, that we look upon the outcasts of today, without pity?

Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to desire no will of my own. Hold up the mirror of your perfect example, and open my heart that I may cast aside my pride. May I love others as you have loved me. May I see myself through your eyes, and may I become a compassionate Christian, just as you desire of me.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Time for Belief

Hello friends,

Once when presented with a request for healing, Jesus asked, "Do you believe?" The petitioner then cried out, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!"

So much of my life has been filled with this struggle. Lord, I know you'll provide. Help me to last until the tide turns. I waited ten years for a new asthma medication - one that would allow me to go months, even years without an asthma attack. Lord, give me my next breath, and let me see a healthier tomorrow. With asthma, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and neuralgia, I waited years. Lord, give me one more day without pain. Help me to live each day with hope.

Too many years have meant a battle with my health. I hate every pill I take, every single time. Yet, each time that there is a problem with one of my presciptions being filled, the anxiety has been almost unbearable. Lord, help me to believe that this, too, is directed by your hand. I get angry when my medications are messed with. You too? Yeah, you know what I mean.

We have three little dogs: Happy Dog, my little dachshund; Peanut, my youngest daughter's pomeranian; and our newest, Pixel, my older daughter's miniature schnauzer. If I am sitting on the bed, as I am now, they are all around me. Happy Dog on my left, sucking all the heat out of my left hip; Pixel, pushed up against Happy; and Peanut at my feet, because the other dogs have cooties. Each has its own personality. Each has its own personal need. They depend on me. And when they have a request, they sit up and stare expectant holes through me, knowing that I will understand and respond.

If only I had faith in God, with the same measure as they have faith in me. But we humans don't offer faith very easily. We want proof. These little dogs don't need proof. They know. I realize that there is a lesson here. Only when my faith becomes trust, can I be as good as my dogs.

Little dogs are very unique creatures. They are smarter, more observant, and more demanding. They are filled with love, intuitiveness, and courage that is only surpassed by their sense of humor. Each can make your soul spill over with fierce affection, and when they ignore you (as they will if you displease them), it can just about break your heart. Little dogs are also the only animal that Jesus speaks about, in Scripture, with fond affection. How appropos that my Savior should let me know how precious they are. Little dogs.

I don't know how I lived my life, without these little dogs. Each has something precious to give to me. Happy, with his undying devotion, after eleven years, has left his mark on my soul. Peanut, whose tremendous, watchful spirit, has taught me much about loyalty, single-mindedness, and the power of waiting. Pixel, just a little over six months in our family, has taught me the boundless energy of puppyhood, and with her blue-green, human-like eyes, she has given me a look into my own soul.

Each pup gives everything, 100%, always. Can I do that? Can I love with their passion? Can I trust with such capacity. I don't know. But I can try. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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