Longhorns, Fighting Irish, and an Unexpected Friendship

September 21, 1996.  That’s how far back I have to go to tell this story.  And it seems appropriate that I tell it this week, as the University of Texas Longhorns take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Austin for each team’s opening game of the 2016 season this weekend.  Once again – since Grandma gave me the gift of gab – make yourself comfortable.

Steve and I met in the Longhorn Band at UT.  He says we met in 1985, at the Fiesta Parade in San Antonio (LHB traditionally kicks off the parade as the first band); I know better, and actually have proof.  We met in the fall of 1984 at a meeting of the LHB Decadence newsletter staff.  This was the newsletter that was written by students and distributed to LHB members to read as we traveled to away games.  I still have that particular newsletter; I’m surprised Steve hasn’t burned the evidence by now.

cathy steve LHB

But I digress.

I tell that short version of the story to share why Steve and I, once we graduated, bought season tickets to the Longhorn football games every year for 23 years.  Being in the stadium was just in our blood, and that blood bled a very boiling burnt orange.  Our first seats were well past the end zone, in the sun; eventually, we moved to an area that was under the overhang on the west side, shaded, and filled with characters that we named “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady.”  Each game was not complete unless these individuals were in their proper seats; only then did we feel at home.

In 1996, we only had one child (Jack came along in 2000), so we were able to invite friends to the game.  We had four tickets, and they were stacked two and two (rather than four in a row).  This helped us out in that we could easily talk with our guests and explain traditions to them (cue “Angry Man,” “Headset Man,” and “Hairnet Lady”).

Darrell_K_Royal-Texas_Memorial_Stadium_at_Night

At this particular game, we had invited a coworker of mine, Scott Riddles, and his friend John.  Each football season, Scott and John, longtime buddies, had a guy’s weekend, when they selected a high-profile football game to attend.  This year it was #6 UT v #8 ND, in Austin.  The stadium was still known as Texas Memorial Stadium, but had recently undergone improvements, and on this particular day, the seats were filled to capacity.  Who could doubt it?  This was a big game – Texas, coming in with 2 wins on the season, as did Notre Dame.  The two teams met the year before in South Bend, where ND trounced the Longhorns with a score of 55-27. [Quick pause to say that Steve remembers it well, since he was a stones throw from SB at the time, and I made him feel bad about even thinking of attending without me.]  Needless to say, the excitement on this night was in the air – and the expectation of payback? We could almost taste it.

The game was great.  Many of the fans in our area stood, rang their cowbells, chanted “Texas” and “Fight,” when appropriate.  Me?  I joined right in, with one addition.  Scott and John were sitting on the lower two seats, which meant that Steve and I were on the upper two.  This allowed me to stomp my foot loudly on the seat as we cheered and yelled; even better, neither Scott nor John cared that I did.  I’m telling you, it was one of those electric environments that only sports venues can provide, and everyone was on their feet, cheering and yelling.

Well, except this one guy.  And boy, did he let me know it.

At the start of the second half, the game was very close – 14-17, in favor of ND.  (Hey, the internet is good for some stuff like historical box scores).  So, as all good Longhorn fans do, we got back on our feet and started yelling and pounding the seats.  That is until, in one moment of silence after a play, we all heard a voice, coming from a few seats to our right:

“HEY, LITTLE LADY, YOU MIND BANGING ON YOUR OWN SEAT FOR AWHILE?  YOU’RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!”

Just in case you are wondering, he clearly meant me.

I looked to my right, and saw an older man, maybe in his 70’s, Texas Longhorn cap on his head, glaring at me with what can only be termed a “Get off my lawn!” scowl.  My response was somewhat unexpected:  completely embarrassed, I turned my head toward the field, and sat down on my seat, silent.  (It happens).  His words seemed to hang in the air.  Scott, feeling my shock, tried to lighten the mood.  He turned around from his seat, and casually reminded me, “Well, you could always tell him that technically you are banging on your own seat.  And he should try sitting in front of you!”

But not much helped my mood.  In fact, his outburst made the yelling from others worse.  As you can imagine, the nearby fans more than made up for my missing voice the next two quarters.  But, despite a significantly valiant effort, our Horns lost the game, 27-24, in the last-minute of the game.  We left the stadium – me, significantly humbled and dejected, other fans more boisterous but equally downcast.  And I certainly didn’t make eye contact with the man who yelled at me.

The season continued, and I remained energetic, but quiet.  I just didn’t want to get so worked up that I was scolded again.  So, there I sat, timidly (don’t laugh), through each of the next two home games.

Then came the last game of the season – the big rivalry with Texas A&M.  Nothing compares to a rivalry, and at the time, the Horns had two:  The TX/OU game in October in Dallas, and the home/home series against Texas A&M.  Always – and I mean always – a great game, when anything can happen.  On the field, and off.

As Steve and I made our way to our seats, someone reached out and grabbed my arm.  It was him, and I stared, wide-eyed, wondering what I had done now.  “Little Lady, I want to make sure we talk before the end of the game. I have something for you.”  I looked him in the eye, a little confused, but answered, “OK.”  Then  I made my way to our seats.  He reminded me again at halftime as we passed to go to the concession stand.  Steve and I were both curious by this time.

We cheered the entire game (me, still a bit reserved so as not to offend).  And our cheering paid off – in what can only be described as a solid thumping, the Horns beat the Aggies 51-15, earning the right to meet Nebraska in the first ever Big 12 Championship game the following week.  (The Horns also won that one, something that can never be taken away).

After the game, Steve and I made our way to his seat, and sat down beside him.  What happened next was, at best, unexpected.  He looked at me and said something like this:

“Young lady, a few games ago, I did and said something that was completely out of character for me, and I want to say I am sorry.  It is clear that you are a wonderful fan, and you shouldn’t have to quiet your enthusiasm.”  (or something like that)

Then he reached into his pocket and brought out a card, with his name on it, and handed it to me, with a hug:

L. DeWitt Hale, attorney

(home address)

And such became a wonderful friendship.  I learned that day that DeWitt is a former Representative from the Texas House, serving in various capacities for almost 42 years.  His heart, like mine, led him to fight for better education and equal rights for all.  You can read more about him HERE.  Over the years, we became pen pals; we sometimes traded gifts; he grew to love the kids, and showed it by sharing some of his prized coin collection with them.  When the Longhorns went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in history (2005), we shared pictures with him; and when the Longhorns won the National Championship in 2006, we had something new to celebrate!

Mr. Hale lost his beloved wife, Carol, in 2008, and eventually, it became difficult for DeWitt to attend the games himself.  Our family, too, found that attending all of the games was, at best, difficult, and our time in Austin diminished.  When we did attend, I would make sure to talk with DeWitt’s daughter and grandchildren, who were the light of his eyes.  When Texas was invited to the National Championship again after the 2009 season, we had hopes that all of us could travel to the game together.  However, those dreams became impractical for lots of reasons.  Steve and I dropped our season tickets during the 2015 season, finally admitting giving in to the inevitable….we will likely not be season ticket holders again.

DeWitt is still around; no doubt having in-depth and meaningful discussions with his children and grandchildren.  It’s funny, I haven’t seen him in years, but he remains in my heart every time we sing “The Eyes of Texas.”  I miss that man.  I miss the experience of talking with him.  He is a wealth of knowledge and widsom.  And he made me a better person.

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In my last blog post, I wrote about listening to understand, and not to reply (Stephen Covey).  That thought applies here as well.  Both DeWitt and I have had a chance to listen to each other, after what many would call a rocky start.  And by listening, we opened up a whole new route to friendship.  We accomplished this not by yelling, but by listening and loving.

Somewhere in your life, a situation requires listening, rather than yelling.  Find a way to address it.  Apologize.  Forgive each other.  And always, always, let love be your final word.

 

 

 

 

The Color Craze

The story begins on a holiday.  I’m fairly certain the holiday was Thanksgiving, and the reason should become clear later in the story.  Get in a good reading position; this is a long one but a great story.

We were together with Steve’s sister and her family for the holiday weekend.  Our daughter, Shannon, was the oldest of the bunch, around 9 at the time; then came Cameron, about 5; and Jack, still a chubby cheeked lad of 2.

As many parents do, we had prepared well to keep the kids occupied for the weekend.  Aside from just general play, and movies, I had found a brand new box of crayons at the discount store.  You know the ones – the 128 jumbo box, sectioned off in smaller cartons of 8, waxy smell drifting upward as we tear off the top, each crayola perfectly crafted, yet to be used.

crayola

This particular box that I found was special.  On the outside, the box advertised a ‘NAME THE CRAYON CONTEST.’  Inside the larger box, one sleeve of the crayons was a white box.  The concept was to name the colors in this sleeve, send in your innovative creations, and receive the honor of having ‘named’ one or more crayola crayons.  Brilliant move.

Now, I know that recently the coloring craze has been touted as a stress reliever for adults as well as educational and creative play for children (a discovery that I am completely in favor of, by the way).  But that research hadn’t been completed at the time of this story.  Which is why it was a bit curious that the person most excited about the contest was not our daughter, Shannon (who probably kept crayola in business), but her Uncle Tim.

Since the time our nephew, Cameron, could draw, Tim had been fascinated with coloring, and joined him at every opportunity.  We weren’t too surprised that Tim jumped down on the floor with the kids, eager to name the crayons.  Pulling out the first one – green – he turned the crayon on its edge, scribbling the color with flair onto a white piece of paper, Tim declared with confidence:  “Bent Grass Green.”  We were hooked.

He selected the orange one next.  Tim, along with Steve and I, were graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and we were certain he’d have the perfect name for the orange hue.  Again, a scribble on the page, and another confident declaration:  “Sunset Orange.”  Amazing.

Finally, Tim pulled out the next crayon, which was a darker shade of purple.  We all stared at it, with serious trepidation.  Here’s why I’m sure the holiday was Thanksgiving:  because Texas and Texas A&M had just played a sports game (I’m assuming football), and A&M had won, with more than a few questionable calls during the game going against our beloved Longhorns.  Tim stared at the tip of the crayon; he drew a straight line – no flourishes for this one – and declared, with all the passion he could muster:  “Cheaters Maroon.”

Our family loves that story, and we reference it often.  It’s one of those inside, legacy stories that will live on in the Sweeney and Host households.  Our family passion for coloring hasn’t waned one bit since that time; I can’t seem to part with any of the bits and pieces in our crafts closet.

Earlier this month, I read something new, by author and artist Ingrid Sundberg (www.ingridsundberg.com)

Compiled-Color-Thesaurus-Long-Horizontal-1024x242

She’s created a Color Thesaurus so that she can name every shade of every color.  How brilliant is that?  Having reviewed the chart, I’d say she has hit the mark with almost each one (although she could use some of Tim’s creative adjectives for emphasis).  I’m amazed at how she’s able to see a distinct difference between, say – ‘ballet slipper’ and ‘lemonade.’  Some people just have a great eye for details like that.

Here’s something I know:  God knows those kind of details.  God, the creator, who made each of us distinct, and who knows each of us by name.  We read from the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 40:26

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens;
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

The same God who created the starry host, created us….with great detail.  As we continue in the Lenten season, I urge you to stop and contemplate what God created in you….what is the Holy Spirit calling you to become?  More importantly, how will you act upon it?

See, unlike the crayon naming, this isn’t a contest.  This is, first and foremost, between you and God.  God already knows who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can become.  And God is waiting, more than patiently, for you to accept him.  What’s stopping you?

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Note to the keenly observant:  Tim didn’t win the contest, although we believe he could have.  Turns out the package that I purchased from the discount store were ‘out of date.’  The contest had wrapped up about three years prior.  But someday…….

How do the Faithful Pack a Lunch?

For many years, I made lunches for our daughter, Shannon, to take to school.  As a vegetarian, she sometimes had few options provided in the school cafeteria, and packing her lunches was a good way to make sure she had something she would eat.

Shannon graduated from high school in 2012, and by that time, I had added lunches for Jack to my daily routine.  For each, I made sure that the lunch contained a healthy balance of items:  one main item (like a sandwich or wrap), a veggie, a piece of fruit, chips and a treat.

lunch

Some might question if that is, in fact, a healthy balance; I say yes, given some of the alternative choices we face.  As a junk food junkie myself, I know the temptation to select the quick and the easy.  I don’t want that for my kids (we’ll talk about me another time), so I’m happy to pack the lunch each morning.

For whatever reason, this morning got me thinking about each of the items in the lunch, and how living a faithful life also requires us to select from certain ‘food groups’ every day (or at least every week).  Let’s take a look at the lunch items and see if we can determine an equivalent for leading a faithful life:

  1. The Sandwich:  being the main portion of the lunch, this item keeps us filled and fueled until the next meal.  What’s a sandwich in our spiritual lives?  I’d suggest that worship fills this role.  Once a week, we come together with others to hear a message, learn more about God and our relationship with God – to praise and to proclaim that which we know is good.  With lunch, some choose turkey over pastrami; some choose a veggie wrap over chicken tortilla wraps.  With worship, some people choose traditional, some like modern or contemporary.  Some prefer live streaming, some come in person.  Whatever the choice, the meaningful service hold us over until the next week; but alone, it’s not enough.  What else do we need?
  2. The Vegetable.  Yes, I know.  Many of us would not choose to include a vegetable for our lunch.  Yet, each day, I make sure I put carrots, or green peppers or cucumbers in Jack’s lunch sack.  Vegetables are those lunch items that need a little more chewing; they are often crunchy, needing more time to digest than some food items.  The equivalent in our spiritual lives, I think, is bible study.  No, not because the Words is hard to digest;  when we read and strive to understand the Word, we are pondering and listening, and learning.  Reading the Word, and understanding it, takes time – just like eating the crunchy vegetables sometimes takes time.
  3. The Fruit.   You’re waiting for me to make some kind of lame connection to the apple, aren’t you?  Instead, I’m going to point you to Galatians 5:22-23:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Packing a piece of fruit in our lunch reminds us that there are ‘fruits’ we gain from living a faithful life.
  4. The Chips.  Let me be the first to say, this is a hard one for me.  I often go overboard on chips.  But adding chips to the meal brings a variety, and adds a bit of tasty salt to the mix.  Wait – you ask – isn’t salt bad for you?   Yes, it can be, but not the way Matthew uses it in The Message, MT 5:13.  In that verse, Jesus says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?”  Using salt – and chips – sparingly when we pack our lunch, that’s the key.  We add chips and salt to flavor the rest of the meal – the worship, the bible study, the fruits of the Spirit.
  5. And finally, the Treat.  This morning, I packed the Boy Scout Trail’s End brand of chocolate covered popcorn.  Soon, I’ll switch to Girl Scout cookies.  Often, I pack graham crackers and nutella spread.  The lunch just isn’t complete without that last item.  In comparison, I don’t think a life of faith is complete without relationships with other people.  We read in Genesis 1:18 “It is not good that the man shall be alone.”  And so God created humanity, and gave Adam a partner to share life, and it was only after God created humanity that it is written “and it was very good.”

That treat in the lunch is not meant to be eaten alone; when we live a life of faith, we want to share the joys of that life with others.  We share by faith and by actions – loving others, serving others, loving God, serving God.

That’s what I call balancing a faithful life.  And I think about it every morning, when I pack Jack’s lunch.

You Know Where to Find Me

Having spent one week sick in bed, and another week in Santa Fe at the hospital with my husband, Steve, I wanted to have some special time with our son, Jack, when we returned to Dallas.  Under normal circumstances, Steve and I are not “movie-goers.”  We choose to wait for movies to appear on instant video or on demand, watching from the comfort of our own home, and with the ability to click “pause” when needed.  Even when we dated in college, we rarely spent our times in a movie theater; personal preferences, I guess?

Our son Jack, however, really likes to see movies on the big screen.  So, upon our return, and while Steve continued to recuperate, I promised a trip to the theater to see “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.”  If I’m going to pay a lot of money to see a movie in a theater, it’s going to be a high action movie, with great stunts and visual effects!

Mi Rogue Nation

I was especially interested in the opening scene, shown above.  Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise) was determined to stop the ‘rogues’ from stealing a large pallet of nuclear weapons.  He was so determined, in fact, that he ran down the runway, jumped onto the aircraft, and latched himself onto the door, all while the aircraft was lifted into the air at amazing speed.  Hunt had no choice but to hold on, waiting for his partner, Benji (played by the ever charming and funny Simon Pegg), to open the door by way of improbable technology.

Of course, the door opens.  Hunt needed help, Benji heard him, and opened the door.  I don’t know how that happened; the details are far lost on me.  What I do know, however, is that Hunt had faith in his friend, and his friend pulled through.

Watching Hunt hang on, while the plane rose to cruising heights at speeds faster than I can even imagine – I realized that’s the kind of month I had in July.  I just had to hang on, knowing life would one day be normal again.  In the meantime, though, I had faith in my friends, and that God was my companion.  I knew that eventually, the door would open and I would get a long overdue breather.

Later in the movie, coincidentally in the final scene, Ilsa Faust (British undercover, played by Rebecca Ferguson) looks at Hunt and declares, “You know where to find me.”  Her line is a play on a previous scene in the movie, which I will not detail here, lest I spoil the movie for you.

The concept of “You know where to find me,” though – that line brings the intro scene for me to full circle.  See, when I think of hanging on, despite incredible odds and difficult circumstances, I can’t help but look for God, and know I’ll find him.

In the Gospel of Matthew 28:20b, Jesus reminds us “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”  Jesus, Son of God, is there with us, as we hang on, and as we ask for comfort.  God is there, all the time, working with us and through us to bring on the peace that passes all understanding.  And God is there, working through friends, who open the door for us when we ask.

I’m thankful that God is with me as I hang on.  I’m thankful to each one of our friends who sat ready and able to open the door, and who took our hands, ready to pull us in from the rushing winds and climbing heights of our troubling month.

“You know where to find me.”  Yes, I do, God.  Not only do I find you in prayer and solitude, but I find you in the lives of friends who open the door when we need shelter the most.

Amen.

How to get an Acura MDX to Santa Fe…..Have Faith.

July 2015…a tough month for the Sweeneys, ending with Steve as a passenger on a careflight ride from Raton, NM to Santa Fe.  He had been hiking on the Philmont Scout Camp, with the scout troop, and contracted pneumonia along the way.

We had a lot of logistics to consider, but the one I would like to focus on today is the story of the car.  Steve drove half of the troop in his Acura MDX to the camp and now we were challenged with two things:  getting the scouts home, and getting the car home.

acura

Boy Scouts have a hard rule that a scout must be 18 or over to drive other scouts.  None of those in the troop were over 17.  Even so, we hoped we could obtain a waiver so the 17 year olds could drive the car back to Dallas.  No such luck.

Still, the scouts needed to get home, since they arrived in Steve’s car. Amazingly enough, another troop from Dallas was leaving the same day as our troop. And amazingly, there were three spots available for extra passengers.

At Philmont, the staff calls this ‘A Philmont thing’. I call it a God thing, and the rest of the story helps you understand why.

Thankfully, we have many friends on Facebook.  Since Cathy had been posting, some friends had offered help. We connected with a friend from our Longhorn Band days who lives and conducts band programs in Cimmaron, NM (Pam).

Pam had resources who were willing to drive two cars to Santa Fe for shopping.  But the best resource was a woman who worked the front desk at Philmont, who was out of town for a few days.

Cathy was prepared to drive up to Philmont to get the car.  At the last minute, Pam reached front desk friend (Dede) on her first morning back to Philmont.

As Pam relayed the problem to Dede, Dede covered the phone mouthpiece, and asked the group congregated in the lobby if anyone was headed to Santa Fe that morning.

One man stepped forward.  “I am,” said Elder Anderson, a chaplain with the camp, representing the LDS faith group ( Philmont staffs 2 LDS, 2 Jewish, 2 Catholic, and 2 Protestant.chaplains at the camp).

“I am headed to St. Vincent’s to visit a camper named Steve Sweeney.”

You can guess the rest.  Elder Anderson and his wife, Mary, delivered the car around noon.

Do not try to convince me that God is not real.  I saw God today in the faces of two people who sacrificed time and energy to help their neighbor.  Thank you, Philmont.  Your chaplains give their best so we can feel the love of God around us.  Today, we remember that God is good, because we have lived it.

You’ve Heard of Comic Con….Is there a God Con?

If you have access to the internet, or if you are active on social media, you could hardly miss last week’s reporting from San Diego, the city which hosts the largest annual ‘fandom’ convention in the world – Comic Con International.  The city was bombarded with visitors dressed as Marvel Heroes, DC Comic Heroes, Star Wars characters, Star Trek characters, Pirates of the Carribean, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Frozen, and Dr. Horrible, just to name a few.

SDCC

For those who are not familiar with Comic Con, allow me to explain.  The first three day convention of Comic Con took place in August, 1970, in San Diego, with about 300 participants attending.  Attendees were treated to panel discussions between well-known comic dealers or actors, exhibit halls, a dealer’s room, and film screenings.  The convention has exploded in recent years to include over 130,000 attendees, 7 venues in the gaslight district of San Diego, producing four days of activity:  film previews and related panels, book signings, celebrity hosted events, ‘teasers’ for popular television shows for upcoming season, general programming and educational lectures, and gala balls in specific storyline themes.

The success of Comic Con has prompted numerous, and smaller, Comic Con productions; and there are spin-off concepts that have specific themes.  For example:

leaky con

Leaky Con (wordplay on Leaky Cauldron), a three day programming event dedicated to all things Harry Potter.  My daughter, Shannon, has attended this for three years.  Really…..it’s a thing.

vidcon

VidCon, which hosts more than 300 of the most innovative and influential YouTube creators, who perform, discuss, and connect with the more than 20,000 attendees at the three-day conference.  Shannon leaves for this year’s in LA next week (she’s actually networking for her internship).  Really….it’s a thing.

anime logo

And even Anime Fest, a satellite convention of the Anime mothership art genre recently held in Dallas.  I have no idea about all things Anime, but really….it’s a thing.

The surge of Fandom conventions – books, films, television, art – the popularity of these make me ask one question:

Is there a Fandom for God?

The answer, as you might guess, is simple.  God’s Fandom comes together weekly, and for me, I celebrate at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.    Our general sessions take place in the narthex, where we find out the happenings for the day and week, and lead into the sanctuary or Trinity Hall for worship.  Our breakout sessions are the small groups, Sunday morning classes, and bible studies throughout the week.  We have specialty programs for children, music ministries and missions.  God’s Fandom organizes and celebrates at church on Sunday, and takes the celebration to the world afterwards.

church with people

Here’s the real kicker, though.  In whatever location you might worship, with whatever method you might employ, at whatever hour you might choose, God will show up.  In Matthew 18:20, Jesus tells us, “For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am with them.”  Even better, there’s no celebrity fee and no costume required.  The only thing needed is to invite the love of Christ into your heart.

Yes, indeed.  Christ has a Fandom, and it’s called the living church.

Because really…..Christ’s Fandom…..it’s a God thing.   And we’re all invited.

Stolen Treasures

Jack’s bike was stolen this weekend.

bicycle

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we live on a creek in Richardson, Texas.   The creek is separated from our main lot by a chain link fence; other house lots along the creek are offset by wooden fences, tree lines, shrubbery, or in some cases, remain open to the creek below.  Over the years, we’ve noticed people walking along the creek bed; sometimes teens will investigate the ‘wildlife’ (although that’s usually coincidentally timed with a school science project deadline).

But school’s out for summer, and now Jack’s bike is missing.  Someone entered our property – presumably from the creek bed, since we have a locked iron fence that closes off the driveway – and took his bike. 

We aren’t planning on replacing the bike soon, for many reasons – not the least of which the frequency with which Jack rode it this last year.  Even so, we feel violated.  Something was taken from us.

As I ponder my feelings on this, I’m reminded of a time recently when I allowed someone to ‘steal’ my feeling of joy.  Has that ever happened to you?  I was in a great mood, smiling, laughing with friends, and – BAM! –

I allowed a person to take the joy out of the moment with a simple comment.  And for at least 24 hours, I struggled to regain the feeling I had lost.  What better place to turn than the Bible for comforting words?  I found them in two places:

Psalms 51 is a prayer from David when he needed cleansing and pardon from God:  51:12 ‘Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.’  I am reminded that the true joy of Christ comes when we are willing to receive it; I had been so focused on remembering the feeling of lost joy that in a very short time, I had closed my heart to the renewing joy of Christ.  I don’t want to feel this way – I want to have the joyful feelings that God intended me to have!  ‘Sustain in me a willing spirit,’ God.  Help me to be willing to seek it, no matter how hurt I might have been.

John 16:22, in the words of Christ, remind me that ‘no one will take your joy from you’ when you lift your heart to God.  No one, and no ‘thing.’

So do I still feel like something was stolen from me?  Less frequently than at first, and unfortunately, I do still find myself remembering.  I have to push that hurt out, lift it up to God, and remember where true joy is found.  Joy might be momentarily lost, but that loss is entirely mine to recover…I just need to look to the One who fills me up, time and time again.

A Community of Faith

At church this morning (Arapaho United Methodist), we welcomed a new member into Christ’s church.  The little boy, a little more than a year old, was fascinated with the water; his brothers and sister, standing beside the pastors, were equally enthralled.  After the pastor “baptized him in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” she walked the boy around the congregation, into the aisles. Each of us could see the little one to whom we were committing our pledge: that “this child, surrounded by steadfast love, will be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”  We pledged to always be there to help him know that God loves him.  And quite fittingly, his siblings joined him on the walk, as a reminder that we had committed the same to them over the years.

I was reminded of a Sunday in January, 2001, when our children were baptized from the same fount at Arapaho (picture above).  Our oldest is in college now; our youngest in junior high.  They have been raised by a community – a community of family, of church, of teachers, and of friends.

It is because of THIS community, today, that I am especially thankful.  And it is because of THIS community that I am eager to pass on the pledge to others.

In all things, Love.

In the Chill of the Night

We’ve been dealing with some pretty icy and cold conditions in Dallas this last week.   I can feel the laughter from my school friends in Colorado and Virginia; surely a little ice isn’t going to slow us Texans down?  But it does.  Oh yes, it does.

When the temperatures drop below freezing, everyone in the city seems to change personalities.  Cabin fever sets in as we wait for ice to melt, so we can venture onto the roads.  Not to the grocery store, mind you.  Those shelves have been bare for a week.  No eggs, no bread, no milk.  No point in trying until we know the trucks can get through to stock the shelves.

So at Sweeney’s on the Creek, we mostly stay inside and try to stay warm.

I fell asleep last night under a mountain of blankets.  Before I nodded off, though, I realized just what was keeping me warm:

Image (1)

Each of these blankets were made by loving hands, for specific purposes.  The top, made by my sister, Penny, and given as a Christmas present one year.  Next, a throw crocheted by Steve’s Grandma Babe, given to us (and all her grandchildren) as a wedding present.  The pink quilt was crafted by my great aunt, and given to me as a graduation present.  And finally, a prayer blanket, lovingly crafted by Arapaho UMC Methodist Women, and given to me when I had a period of two surgeries in four months time.

How could one be cold when this much love surrounds me?  How could I not feel loved?  Don’t you just know that, buried under those loving covers, I wait patiently for the cold to end, knowing that I have a loving family who will keep me warm – physically and otherwise?   The cold…will…end…someday.

Zechariah prophesied in Zech 14:6-7 (The Message):  What a Day that will be! No more cold nights—in fact, no more nights! The Day is coming—the timing is God’s—when it will be continuous day. Every evening will be a fresh morning.

What will your day be like when the cold ends?  Who is it that gives a prayer of thanks for the warmth you give?  I pray you are wrapped in loving warmth of family, friends, and God’s love while you wait.

The Story of Sweeney’s on the Creek

We live on a creek, in Texas.  Some people just assume that the moniker, “Sweeney’s on the Creek,” derives from that location (and it does).  But, as usual with nicknames, there is a hidden meaning that I’d like to share with you now.

Steve’s father was raised in Lansing, Iowa, a small community of about 1000 people today.  Lansing is located in the far northeast corner of Iowa, right on the Mississippi River.  It’s a popular tourist location in the warmer months, because of the fishing, boating, and general relaxing atmosphere.  Right at the bend in the river is a bridge that connects Iowa to Wisconsin.  Drive up the Iowa side a few miles and you are in Minnesota.

Relaxing – that’s how I came to know it, when I married into the Sweeney family.  There are two places in this world I know I can go to relax, and Lansing is one of them.  Mount Hosmer, Fish Days, farm league baseball, the Blackhawk Bridge – nothing like it.  I’ve not been back in ages, but remember it fondly.

There’s a small restaurant on the River, at the base of Main Street in Lansing.  It’s a popular place for boaters to stop, gas up, grab something to eat and drink, play a little pool, watch a little sports, and – just ‘be.’  Many years ago, William “Ben” Sweeney, one of Steve’s relatives, built and ran this establishment.  And he named it “Sweeney’s on the River.”  In the last few decades or so, it’s changed hands, even changed names – but it’s back to Sweeney’s now.

Cathy Shannon at Sweeneys on River

Sweeney’s is a gathering place.  A place where people can feel welcome and build community, with each other, and with the travelers who pass through Lansing.  What better place to model?  So “Sweeney’s on the Creek” is not only a location, but a shout out to history.  A history I married into, sure – but a history that supports community.

What other name could we choose, other than “Sweeney’s on the Creek?”  The Sweeney’s may have moved away from Lansing, but we give a shout of thanks for building community each time we refer to it.  We host annual parties, including an egg nog challenge, in honor of Steve’s grandparents.  We try to bring the small town generosity to our own little bend in the creek.  Imagine our surprise, then, when we realized that – less than a mile from our house – lives a gal named Chris – born and raised in Lansing, Iowa, graduated from Kee High School.  Our kids sit next to each other in the Jr High band.

Community, indeed.  And a very small world, when we let down our defenses and share a bit of ourselves with others.