Friday, August 19, 2016

Sharing the Son Means Leaving the Shade

by Sally Matheny

Enthusiasm fresh as the morning
My enthusiasm was fresh the morning we began serving a meal at the project. People slowly filtered into the commons area. My cheerful greetings were not returned. Instantly, I sensed a divide greater than the table of food between us. They had come for the food. Nothing else.

An inexplicable heaviness stifled conversations. Icy silence, as well as sharp tongues, severed most attempts of interaction. It was obvious. We were not welcome.
After helping distribute the food, I retreated under the outstretched branches of a tree, thankful that I’d thought to bring a lawn chair. It provided a secure place to perch and watch the crowd. Most of the missions team stayed under the shady tent. Two or three pastors mingled and tried to chisel out conversations.

Then I saw her.

A young woman, probably in her early twenties, stood off to the side, alone. She was looking around as if searching for something, or someone.

I hesitated. The last woman I had approached, gruffly informed me she was waiting on someone. Perhaps this young woman was waiting as well.

Yet, she continued to stand there, sweat flowing down her face. She hugged her drink and chips in one arm and her hamburger in the other. What was she looking for?

Seating was limited. Most people grabbed their food and hustled back to their homes. Could this woman possibly be one of the few who wanted to sit and stay awhile?

Slowly, I eased out from under the tree’s protection. Would she be like the others and berate me for being there? I was an outsider—different ethnicity, different economic level, different worldview.

“Hi. Are you looking for someone?”

She shyly shook her head no. I didn’t recognize any anger in her face. It appeared to be more like discomfort.

“Would you like to sit down to eat?”

A simple nod yes.

I look around at the few tables provided. No empty seats. I scan the grassy area under the trees. An empty chair sits beside  mine.

“Would you like to sit under the tree? It’s cooler.”

Sharing the Son Means Leaving the Shade

She nods and follows me to the tree. The distance is short, but we don’t arrive in time to claim both chairs. Only my chair is left.

“Here. You can have my chair.”

As she sits down, I introduce myself. She tells me her name. But I could not hear her well over someone yelling. I did not ask her to repeat it.

I smile, trying hard not to be insincerely cheery. “It’s nice to meet you. I hope you like your burger.” I motion toward the tent. “I’ve got to go help serve.”

She smiled with another silent nod.  

As I stood under the shade of the tent, I kept looking back over at the tree. The woman ate silently. A young man, with a mental illness, chattered away beside her but she wasn’t responding.

Something inside told me to go tell her why we were there. We weren’t just giving away free meals. We were sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
But the earlier rejections of the crowd stifled my response.

The crowd dwindled. Only a few remained in line. I decided handing out napkins to folks would be helpful.

“Would you like a napkin?”

A few minutes passed. Another expressionless face approached.

“Would you like a napkin?”

Another five minutes passed before anyone needed my valuable napkin distribution service. This is ridiculous. I should just go talk to her.

I neatly stack the napkins on the corner of the table and turn back towards the tree.

She is gone.

As quietly as she slipped into my life, she slipped out. As well as my opportunity to tell her how much God loves her. And how He gives a joy so great, that she’d have a hard time staying so quiet.

Plant a seed of hope.

And for my silence, I am sorry.

Perhaps she already had a relationship with Christ. I hope so.

I understand when we first meet someone, it’s not always the best time to share Christ.

Although often,

it is.

 ”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 
Always be prepared 
to give an answer to everyone who asks you 
to give the reason for the hope that you have. 
But do this with gentleness and respect.”  

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

College Student: Be a Game-Changer & Beat the Need for “Adulting”

by Sally Matheny

College Student: Be a Game-Changer
When my children were preschoolers, they “beat” me in every game. I made sure they buzzed in answers before me, scored the most points, and reached the finish line first.

Why? Because I did not want them to be upset if they failed to win.

The same took place in other areas. Batches of backward letters were praised, rather, than reshaped. Misspoken words adored instead of corrected. Scored baskets enticed wild cheers at their first basketball games. We did not dare mention the refs overlooking some serious walking infractions.

Why? Because I, like many others, wanted my child to feel successful.

Eventually, we enforced playing games with integrity.  Corrections began to flow into all areas of my kids’ lives. Sometimes they did get upset. There were angry outbursts, tears, and “I quit” attitudes.

For the sake of peace, I almost wanted to slip back into letting them be right, even if they were wrong. Almost.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Have you heard of "adulting"? 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Got Gumption?

by Sally Matheny
Gumption. It can mean practicality, common sense, or downright guts of courage. A recent visit to the roller-skating rink presented several cases of gumption.
It had been two years since our last visit. Not much has changed. Same disco ball. Same glow-in-the-dark, neon-splashed carpet on the walls. 

The new items were the “walkers” for beginning skaters.  Little kids hunched over and gripped the handles. They looked like they were practicing for a future Sr. Citizen Roller Derby!

The person who came up with the idea of the walkers, made with PVC pipe, connectors, and wheels, was wise. Whomever decided there should be an additional charge of two dollars to rent one, was a genius.

One could say they had a lot of gumption. There were two more people at the skating rink that greatly impressed me with their gumption.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teaching the Shy Child (and Parent) to Share Christ

Have you ever had a child who wanted to do something, but he was just too shy or scared to do it?

Our family decided to participate in a one-day community outreach event at a local laundry facility. At first, our eleven-year-old son eagerly looked forward to the event. Then, as the day drew near, he tried to find reasons to be excused. 

"Maybe I should go stay at a friend's house while you go." 

"I'm not sure about doing this. What if I don't know what to say?" 

Although amiable, he’s shy with strangers—especially adults.

Unfortunately, there have been too many times when I’ve kept him within his comfort zone. It was time to do brave things. Since he is a Christian, I appealed to his heart.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Share the Hope of Christ with the Mentally Ill

by Sally Matheny

Share Hope with the Mentally Ill

Years ago, one of my kindergarten students, “Cody,” exhibited bizarre and sometimes violent behavior. He wasn’t malicious. Yet, he consistently wrecked havoc among the five-year-olds, causing everyone around him great stress and concern. 

No matter what methods we tried to encourage success for him, they only helped for a short time—a very short time.

My assistant and I felt all our efforts were hopeless. And school wasn't the only place of Cody’s erratic and raucous behavior.

One morning he came in with singed hair and no eyebrows. His crystal blue eyes remained as expressionless as his face as he told me what he did in the middle of the night.

The kindergartener snuck out of his home with an armful of toys. He dumped them in a pile in the front yard. Then, while everyone was asleep, he set them on fire.

I asked his grandmother, whom he lived with, about it later. She seemed a bit frazzled, but laughed it off and said the boy was constantly into things. 

It took me almost an entire year to convince Cody’s grandmother and family doctor that something wasn’t right. He needed more help than his prescribed Ritalin could provide.

Around May that year, Cody finally received the requested testing and counseling. The results revealed Cody suffered from severe mental illness due to physical and sexual abuse. He was taken where he could receive extensive care.

Prior to Cody receiving help for his mind and body, I had the opportunity to offer him hope for his troubled soul.

It was on one of those many days when the P.E. teacher sent him back into the classroom because he was causing mayhem and harm on the playground. Cody flitted from one end of the room to the other. I was used to talking to him while he was on the move. Rarely did he stand still or even make eye contact.

However, that day, something unusual happened.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review of Fragile World: A Film by Sandy Boikian

by Sally Matheny

An intriguing movie released in 2015. While fictional in story, Fragile World may shatter a few misconceptions about those who suffer with the realities of mental illness. It certainly refreshed my perspective.

The award winning, inspirational film has earned the highest rating of five Doves. This nonrated family feature is free of foul language, sexual content, and violence but the storyline is best suited for ages twelve and up. 

The main character, Rosalie, an interior designer, suffered a mental breakdown after the death of her father and occasionally suffers from delusions.

One day, she meets the man of her dreams,,,but does he really exist?

That question, as well as the excellent cinematography and outstanding acting, held my attention the entire movie. I constantly guessed at what was real, and what was not.

Those uncertainties opened a gate to better understanding those who suffer with mental illness. Writer/director, Sandy Boikian deserves kudos for that.

Bruised Reed Productions describes the film as one that “ponders the depths of human loss, the fragile framework of the human mind, and the road to emotional and spiritual healing.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Three Things Parents Should Avoid on Sundays

by Sally Matheny

Do your Sunday mornings roll in with waves of whines
and crashes of grumbles?
If you’re one of those parents who has it altogether on Sunday mornings, whose kids eagerly jump out of bed, and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” all the way to church—this post is not for you.

However, if your Sunday mornings are like some of mine, rolling in with waves of whines and crashing with grumbles—read on, dear friend.    

Like grains of sand swirling about in the ocean, parents long for peace. But are we encouraging our families to settle for less than they should?

Here are three things parents should avoid, followed by some tips to help you get more out of your Sundays. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Honoring True Freedom

by Sally Matheny

Honoring True Freedom
In my youth, I did not realize the full value of my freedom. My understanding only went as far as my own limitations.

“Why can’t I watch that T.V. show?”

“When will I get to drive a car?"

“Where can I go with my friends?”

As I grew, so did my perception of freedom.

I learned people sacrificed their own freedom for mine.

I may never fully comprehend the price some have paid, or adequately appreciate those who are still hammering out ways to preserve my freedom.

One reason for my ignorance is because someone, for some reason, cared enough to protect me from that knowledge. I once heard a special agent say if an evil event didn’t make the news, because his team prevented it from happening, then their mission was accomplished.