Monday, October 31, 2011

Stress Relief Idea #12

Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. Plan to arrive at an airport at least one to two hours before departure.
copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life: How to Get Through Life’s Holes Without Getting Stuck in Them

By: Judith A. Belmont, MS
       Lora Shor, LSW

The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life is a new, delightful book that was written by two ladies who work in the counseling field. This can be considered a “How-to of Happiness”.

An analogy is made between life and Swiss Cheese. The holes in the Swiss cheese are compared to times in our lives in which things do not go as planned. The holes in the Swiss cheese can be considered areas of the cheese that some might consider to be an area of failure in the cheese, but according to these authors, the more holes that the cheese has, the sweeter it is. The analogy points out that our lives may be sweetened by the things that we consider to be the holes.

This eleven chapter book is complete with numerous drawings that serve not only to entertain, but to become an island in a sea of text. For someone who is not accustomed to doing a lot of reading, these can maintain reader interest while minimizing fatigue.

Each chapter is complete with quotes from pop culture and leading experts in many different fields. Real life client examples are also included.
The three main characters are the “stinky cheese”, the “Swiss wiz”, and the “Swiss cheese fairy of life.” These are the guides for the reader throughout the book. The “Swiss cheese fairy of life” represents the affirming nurturer. The “Swiss wiz” is a wizard of sorts who is the mentor giving good advice and instruction. The “stinky cheese” are the bad habits and pitfalls that can plague people’s lives and limit or even prevent happiness and success.

There is also a metaphorical toolkit, which contains the items that represent each of the ten separate lessons. One of the items that goes into this metaphorical toolkit is a rubber band. This becomes a reminder to the reader to stay flexible.

I really liked this book. The authors have addressed the most frequent barriers that people have to happiness. They stress the concept of happiness being a choice, not a place or condition. They give good reasonable steps to follow to improve in every area of life.
Because of the light manner in which the subject matter is addressed I recommend this book for anyone from the fifth grade and older. A fifth grader might need and adult to discuss these concepts with, but is more than capable of understanding the writing.

I am sure that the authors will be able to use this book in their work, making it available to patients and clients. But every person gets out of balance in life from time-to-time, and consulting this book can help to move a person back toward the center of their lives.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Portrait of a Father's Grace

In the introduction to The Four Loves, CS Lewis makes a distinction between two different kinds of love: gift-love and need-love. He says, “Gift-love would be that love which moves a man to work and plan and save for the future well-being of his family which he will die without sharing or seeing.” Need-love is the same love that motivates a child to run to his mother when he or she is hungry or needs a hug or has some other want.

When I think of this concept of gift-love, in my mind’s eye I see my thin, young, strong, black-haired father, who, after a long day’s work is asleep in the brown recliner with his face covered by Time Magazine. His skin is bronze and his scent is the combination of sweat, cigarettes, and the paper mill where he worked. Usually, he would be wearing gray Dickies’ pants, a t-shirt and be in his sock feet, after removing his outer shirt and steel-toed work boots upon arrival at home. He toiled all day and then retired into the recliner where he would read until he could no longer hold his eyes open. This was a common scene.

His face was thin and a little gaunt, a little like Abraham Lincoln’s, complete with high cheekbones and acne scars from his teenage years. He was a handsome man whose face filled out as he aged.

I watched this thin frame give way to the middle-aged paunch as his hair grayed and then thinned. His personality mellowed at the same rate that his hair thinned.

He had a logbook that he updated with a detail that would make an accountant proud. In this logbook, he detailed his work hours for the week, rate of pay, and then the information from his pay stub with separate columns for each deduction. This was one way that he insured that his pay was correct. After his death, I looked through this book and saw that he rarely worked a forty hour week. A shift electrician, he worked sixty to eighty hours a week, sometimes for as much as six months at a time without a day off. He was paid well for this time, but he had to work to carve out time for relaxation.

His favorite hobby was fishing. He was able to buy a nice boat that he fished in as often as his responsibilities allowed. Unlike the person in C.S. Lewis’ example, he did get to share in the fruit of his labor. But like the person in the example, he didn’t live to share as much of it as he had earned.

He provided for his family during his life. This provision extended beyond his death. 

I remember when I was an adult, he said this to me. “You know that you are welcome to anything that I have. If there is something in this house that belongs to me, and you need it or want it, feel free to help yourself to it.” This was nothing but pure grace and he was full of it. Whenever I read the scriptures in which Jesus talks about having access to anything that belongs to his Father in Heaven, I think about these words from my father. I do understand this concept of gift-love. In my mind’s eye, it is the picture of my father on earth and in heaven..


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teresa of Avila Would Be Proud

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Mr. and Mrs. Reyna with daughter Lupe at finished new home.

We attend church to worship God and to be filled with the Spirit of God; then we are to go into the world to minister to others--to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Lorenzo Lara is one person who embodies this fact. He is a good neighbor. Actually, he is more than that. He is a great neighbor. He lives in Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, where he has resided for 25 years. He is an automobile mechanic who raised four beautiful daughters and one amazing son.

Lorenzo said that about six years ago, he ran into Mike Manning and Pastor Mark Porterfield, then the pastor of Buda United Methodist Church (BUMC). He asked them what they were doing. Mark and Mike told him that they had just returned from a mission trip to South Texas. They had gone down to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to build houses for people who were in need. They indicated that they did this every year as a church mission trip. This stuck with Lorenzo.

So much so that when he encountered Mike two years ago at Buda Automotive, he told him about a neighboring family who needed help with their house. He went into details about this family of three living in his neighborhood who lived in an inadequate trailer. It was inadequate in many ways, but the biggest problem was that two of the people were in wheelchairs, but could not maneuver in most of the house because the doorways were not large enough to accommodate their wheelchairs. As a result, the man of the house was having to bathe in the backyard. He said that he was trying to help his neighbors every way that he could, but that there was more work to be done than he could do alone. He asked Mike if he and his church could help. Mike’s response was “Sure.”

Mike Manning
Mike Manning phoned Johnny Potts, the Facilities Manager and Trustee at BUMC, and asked him to come survey the property with him to list the work that was needed. Lorenzo took Mike and Johnny over to the house and they realized that there was too much to be repaired. They decided that the Reyna family needed a new house.

Johnny Potts mentioned this at Wednesday night church service at BUMC. He told the congregation that something needed to be done for the Reyna's. And slowly this seed that was originally planted by Lorenzo began to grow.

Johnny and Mike involved Jim Sweet, the Associate Pastor at BUMC. Jim visited the house and agreed that these people needed assistance. A sense of helping the people in their own community began to grow.

Then, they all talked to the church men’s group and presented pictures for these men to review to ask for financial assistance. The men’s group committed to the project, which continued to grow.

Pastor Jim Sweet mentioned the project to the newly formed Buda Ministerial Alliance and requested their support.

The church mission team decided to support this project and rather than go down to the valley to build a house for someone there, to keep all of the money and work on the local level to minister to members of their own community.

Nancy Hardin and Chris Dunkin agreed to be the coordinators for the project. Bobby Lasseter agreed to lead the construction, including designing the house. The community was solicited for support. The idea was to have this as a community project, with BUMC providing the leadership. Mike Manning said that they wanted everyone in the community who had to desire to be included to participate.

Billie Franke solicited donations from area civic organizations and restaurants. When construction began, she cooked and delivered meals for the workers. Local businesses joined the activity. According to Nancy Hardin, “we had more than forty community business donors.”

The planning stage lasted about two years. This is because the planning involved securing donations and volunteers to complete the project. Congregations and community members were asked for financial donations. BUMC men’s group donated the funds that they would normally donate to the mission trip in the Rio Grande Valley.

Originally, this project was to be called “Extreme Home Makeover”. But, someone mentioned that there is a television show with the same name. To prevent interference with existing copyrights, the church changed the name to HMR, which stands for helping, mending and restoring.

Johnny Potts and Lorenzo Lara work hard.

Bobby Lassiter and Lorenzo Lara working.

Mr. Reyna waits for his new home.

Wally Rudinski, Lorenzo Lara, Sheila Kuschke, Nancy Day, Sr. Pastor at BUMC, Mrs. Reyna, Mr. Reyna, Lupe Reyna, Associate Pastor Jim Sweet, and Nancy Hardin

 Funds were garnered, the materials were secured, and on October 1, 2011, numerous volunteers from all over the community were assembled on site.The actual construction began.   Only eight days later, on October 9, 2011, the family moved into their new house.The Holy Bible tells us that the world was created in seven days.The Buda community built a house in eight.

The frame.

Lorenzo Lara and Craig Smith work together

Construction continues.

The next day, a barbeque was held on site as an appreciation dinner for all of the volunteers.

There was more work to be completed. Demolition of the old house was done and all of those materials were hauled off to another location.

Shower:wheelchair accessible.

Kitchen and dining area.

Yesterday, October 25, 2011, the final touches were made with the completion of the landscaping.

Living Room

Working on the porch.
This project began with a neighbor helping a neighbor. Lorenzo said, “I decided to help these people whether or not they asked. I asked them how I could help them, and they wanted to know if I would mind cutting the grass.” And so it all began three years ago with this father of five being the hands and feet of Jesus in the community.

Mike Manning said, “If you really want to know who the angel was who started it all, Lorenzo Lara deserves the credit. We were able to be the hands and feet of Jesus; and more hands and feet kept joining in until we got this project completed. My dream is for this to continue in our community.”


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laity Lodge Writer's Retreat-Getting There

This is the first post in a four part series. To read the other posts click on the link:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I have had this trip planned for less than a month. I am going to Laity Lodge for a writer’s retreat. I won the retreat, which was a special bonus. The day is Sept. 29, 2011: the 17th anniversary of my father’s death. I usually never forget this date. I have thought about it several times in the past couple of weeks. But today, I am so busy and so full of hope that it doesn’t cross my mind. If my dad were here, he would tell me not to dwell on the date. “It’s just another day,” would be his words.

I am busy packing, and making sure that I have the kids situated. I am also going to have lunch with a very dear friend on the way. We haven’t been able to have a good visit, face to face in over a year. We are long overdue. She calls and we talk. I am way behind schedule with packing. “Quit talking and finish packing!” she tells me. I do as I am told.

I get on the road and as I travel, I see yellow grass on the side of the highway; evidence of the drought that has plagued Central Texas for the past year. Finally, I arrive in her city, where we have a long, late lunch. We have a very valuable visit. But, it comes to an end and before I get back on I-10, I stop at the grocery store to buy a notebook and some batteries for my camera. There are clouds in the sky. This is rare in these parts. The smell of rain is in the air. I see a sprinkle or two on my windshield.

Many times throughout the drought, I have thought about water being the symbol of the Holy Spirit. With us having no rain, it is almost symbolic of a dryness of our spirits. This is something that we have to fight against. But on this special day, when I am on my way to a much needed retreat, I see rain threatening. I feel that it is symbolic of a breakthrough: the thirst of my spirit is about to be satisfied. When I exit the store, I see a hard, downpour. It is the first time that I have seen this sight in almost a year. This is a great sign. People are crowding around the entrance to the store, as if not knowing what to do. They are putting things over their heads in an effort not to get wet. I am wondering, what are these people doing? How long have we been praying for rain? I don’t care how wet I get, I am going to walk in it and be thankful.

I am reminded of a passage in Priscilla Shirer’s book, One in a Million, given to me by a friend and sister in Christ. In it, Priscilla shares a time in which she was jogging and got caught in the rain, and raced home so she wouldn’t get very wet. She said that she felt God telling her that people pray for rain, but when they get it, they don’t want to get wet. I try to keep from being in that group. But only because of what I learned from Priscilla.

Rolling Hills were part of the scenery of my trip.

I start traveling on to Leakey, Texas and the rain stops. The sun is out for the rest of the trip. The sky is a beautiful blue and the roadside reveals a rocky topography. I am in the heart of the hill country now, traveling up and down the rolling hills, out in the middle of nowhere.

On the dirt road leading to Laity Lodge

The road leads into the river.

The river has a hard bottom.

We had to drive through the river to get to Laity Lodge.

Water splashes as our cars rumble through the river.

I arrive at the destination. I turn in and follow my roadmap and signs on the dirt road, up and down the rolling hills, surrounded by trees. Then, I drive my car through a very shallow river with a hard bottom, back onto the dirt road leading to Laity Lodge. I am full of hopefulness as I park the car.

Arrival at the destination. I am soooo full of hope.

To read the next article in this series about Laity Lodge, go here.

Linking this post up with LL. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone.
On In Around button

Linking up with Laura Boggess at Playdates At the Wellspring

Copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stress Relief Idea #11

Don't put up with something that doesn't work right. If your alarm clock, wallet, shoe laces, windshield wipers, whatever are a constant aggravation, get them fixed or get new ones.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Wrinkle in Time By:Madeleine L'Engle

This is an old book: copyright 1962. I bought it at Half Price Books. It was the first book by this author that I have ever read. I had heard about her at a writer’s retreat that I attended at Laity Lodge in Leakey, Texas. I definitely will be reading more of her work. This is the first book in a series of five that she wrote. The other books in this series include A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters and An Acceptable Time. If purchased together, these are referred to Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet.

I highly recommend both this book and an opportunity to attend a retreat at Laity Lodge.

Madeleine L’Engle performs a brilliant mix of science fiction and Christianity in A Wrinkle in Time, using the Murry family as the main characters in this wonderful story. Normally, I have no interest in science fiction at all, but I think that the way that L’Engle fuses Christianity into the picture is unique and refreshing. The overall theme is the triumph of love over evil, which is not common in a science fiction story. Two of the children in this family join with some other characters to rescue their father. Some of these other characters morph into unusual forms.

When reading of the unusual forms that some of the characters take, I am reminded of John’s vision in the book of Revelations. In this book, some descriptions are made that are reminiscent of science fiction as well. The reminder of Revelations helps me to realize that some of the forms of beings into which some of these characters morph is maybe not so unbelievable at all.

L’Engle won The Newbery Award for this book, which is considered to be for children or young adults. I thought that it is a shame that it has been limited to this category because there is too much to be enjoyed in her writing from all audiences.

Since it was listed in the children and youth category, I decided that it would be a good book to explore with my children and started reading it to my eleven year old last night. I read the first chapter that ended with a concept called “tesseract”. I told my son that we would read the next chapter tomorrow. He pitched a fit, wanting to know what “tesseract” meant. I told him that he would have to wait for the rest of the story. He didn’t want to wait. He begged me to keep reading. I think that I can describe no better recommendation than this.

If you want to know what "tesseract" means, I recommend that you too get this book. You won’t be disappointed…

Friday, October 21, 2011

If You Don't Like the Way I Drive, Stay Off of the Sidewalk!

“Sissy, should I call the police?” my grandmother, Mamaw asked my mother using a concerned tone. Living about three hours apart, they were on one of their regular early morning phone conversations, almost always initiated by Mamaw. These usually started with her calling my mom, aka Sissy at 5:00 a.m. at the earliest, and in the most innocent voice that she could muster, asking if she woke my mother up;(which she always had). She didn’t just reserve the early morning intrusions for my mom. One time, she and my grandfather showed up on my sister’s doorstep on Christmas morning around 6 a.m. They didn’t understand why they were greeted with sleepy eyes.

“Why would you call the police, Mother?”, asked my Mother, sitting up in bed. It isn’t every morning that she received a call at 5 a.m. being asked by her elderly mother about calling the police. She turned on the bedside lamp. She had to squint.

“To tell them about that car I ran into a few days ago,”, offered Mamaw.

Sissy jerked her head, wondering if she heard correctly. “You ran into a car a few days ago?” she asked. She was frowning like someone does when they smell a terrible odor.

“It wasn’t my fault!” Mamaw offered. “That woman shouldn’t have been parked on that church sidewalk!!! It was her fault that I hit her!”

“You hit a car parked on the sidewalk……at church?!” Sissy asked with incredulity.

“Now, Sissy, she is NOT supposed to be parked on that sidewalk! When people park on the sidewalk, people have to walk around their car. Everybody knows that.”
Mother, what were you doing DRIVING on the sidewalk?” Sissy asked. She sighed and shook her head. How much longer would she and her sister, Mary allow their mother to keep driving, she thought. She had turned around and swung her feet down on the side of the bed. So much for anymore sleep, she thought. 

Mamaw said, “Well, I was just backing up, leaving church and wham! She wasn’t supposed to be parked there! All I need to know is, do you think that I should call the police?”

Sissy said, “You didn’t call the police when you hit the car?”

Mamaw replied, “No, Mrs. Such-and-so was in church and if I would have called them, then we would have had to wait for her to get out of church. We needed to get home so I could make lunch for Edgar (her husband), and well, she shouldn’t have parked there to begin with!”

“Well, why are you asking me?” Sissy asked.

“Because you are my insurance agent” replied Mamaw.

“Ohhhhh Lord” Sissy replied. “Did it damage your car?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Did it damage Mrs. Such-and-so’s car?” asked Sissy.

“Not that I could tell”, replied Mamaw. “But I was thinking that maybe I should call the police just in case they find damage to her car. And not only that, but they ought to write her a ticket for parking on the sidewalk! That is against the law, you know!”

“Mother, if they write her a ticket for parking there, they are liable to write you a ticket for not reporting the accident AND  for driving on the sidewalk!” Sissy informed her. She took another deep breath and shook her head again. Her head was starting to throb. The phone receiver was starting to feel heavy.

“So you don’t think that I should call the police?”, Mamaw quizzed.

“Mother, if you haven’t called them already, I don’t see any reason to call them now!” Exasperated, Sissy was almost yelling now.

Mamaw changed the subject. They finally ended the conversation. Sissy went into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. Maybe the aroma would help to calm her nerves. It usually worked when her mother aggravated her early in the morning. 

Time passed and everything worked out fine. One day, I was doing my Christmas shopping when I spied a car tag for sale that said, “If You Don’t Like the Way I Drive, Get Off the Sidewalk”. I thought of my Mamaw. I HAD to buy it for her. I did and gave it to her for Christmas. She got as mad as a wet hen! What did she say when she read the tag? “Now everybody knows that she wasn’t supposed to be parked on that sidewalk!!!”

Thanks to Mamaw, I guess everybody does……

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Wet Ministry

Mark 14:13-16
And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into           the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
14 And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?
15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

Is carrying water a ministry? It can be, as the above passage shows. We read here about Jesus sending two of his disciples into the city to prepare the Passover. This wasn’t just any meal or event. This would become the most famous and important Passover dinner in the history of time. This would become the last supper that Jesus would share with the disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection. This would be the meal that introduced the body and blood of Christ, for the first time in history.

Who was this man bearing the pitcher of water? Did he do this everyday? This man, with this menial job, had a very important job. He would lead the disciples to the setting of the Passover. Did he know this? Scripture doesn’t tell. Did he realize that his actions at that moment in time would be very important?

What if he had not faithfully done his job? What if, he had gotten frustrated with this menial task and decided that what he had to do wasn’t important and therefore, could wait until later? What if he had stopped by the house of a friend on the way to his master’s residence? What if he had decided to go see his buddies on the way? What would the disciples have done? Would they have gotten lost, or confused or ended up at the wrong place?

Jesus knew of this man and his seemingly menial job. And he knew that this man could be depended upon to carry out the duties of this job faithfully.


Did he know after the passover, after the crucifixion and resurrection that his faithful exercise of his job duties had been important to this story? Scripture doesn’t reveal this.

How many times in our own lives do we feel that our tasks are too menial to complete faithfully, with honor? How many times do we think that what we do is not important? We look for signs and validation from others. Do we look to God for his validation?

Colossians 4:22-24

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

The man in the first scripture followed the instruction of the second scripture in this article. He obeyed his master and performed his job in singleness of heart. Whether or not he knew it, he served the Lord and all of mankind to come.

He truly performed an extraordinary ministry in an ordinary place.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Diaper Story

My husband Greg was recovering from a pretty serious wreck, several sub sequent surgeries and a MRSA staff infection. He was in bed at home, recovering from the infection. He was being seen regularly by home health care personnel and receiving IV antibiotics daily. We had 3 small children, the youngest of whom was only three months old. Because of the seriousness of his infection, the doctors had advised us to not allow the baby to be in the same room with Greg, or to let Rusty interact with him. So I had all of the responsibility of caring for Rusty.

I also had all of the responsibility for everything else. Greg’s job was to heal.

When shopping, I had noticed that one of the ketchup companies had developed a new color of ketchup: green. I loved it! It is nice to have variety with ordinary things. I couldn’t wait to purchase and try the new ketchup. It tasted the same as always. It smelled the same; it just had a different color, that’s all. My kids thought it looked gross. They wanted their ketchup to be like it had always been. They wouldn’t eat it. They insisted that I continue to buy the red ketchup too.

I like to keep my sense of humor, even through trying times. So, I developed a plan.

One of Greg’s close friends, Steven, had come to visit him. He was in our bedroom, sitting in a chair beside our bed talking to Greg. I went into
Rusty’s room and got a clean unused diaper. I took it into the kitchen and poured green ketchup onto the clean diaper.

Then, I opened the door to our bedroom and talked to Greg.

I said, “Honey, I just wanted to let you know that the baby is sick. He has a stomach virus”

He said, “OK.”

I said, “It is really bad!” He nodded.

I said, “Look!!” I held up the diaper containing the green ketchup.

He made a face and said, “OK.” His friend was looking at something around his own feet.

I said, “No, I don’t think you understand! It doesn’t just look gross. It stinks to high heaven!!”

I moved the ketchup-laden diaper to my nose, took a whiff, made a face and looked back at Greg.

He frowned. His voice said “OK, Kathy!”. But his tone said ‘You can hush and leave now, before you embarrass me any further in front of my friend!’ Steven briefly glanced at me, then the floor, then at Greg, then back at the floor.

I could tell that they just wanted me to go away with all of my mother-baby gross diaper issues so that they could continue with their conversation. But I wasn’t finished yet.

I said “And you know what? It especially even tastes horrible!” I then moved the diaper up to my mouth, stuck out my tongue, and licked some of the green ketchup. As I lowered the diaper, I made a bad face.

Greg was obviously horrified, judging by the look on his face. His eyes were huge as he stared hard at me. Steven looked at me and then to the floor. He was staring hard at the floor. As a matter of fact, he looked like he just might be sick. He had a look on his face that seemed to say, “Ohhhhh, I know I didn’t just see what I thought I saw. But, yet, I know I did.”

I continued standing in the doorway, looking at the two of them as if nothing had happened.

Slowly, I saw the corners of Greg’s mouth begin to turn upward as his brow smoothed out and his eyes returned to normal size; he began to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a hard laugh as he figured out what I had done. I, too, began to laugh with him. But Steven continued staring hard at the floor. Greg started explaining to Steven what I had done. He assured him that I had licked only green ketchup. Steven finally looked up from the floor at Greg and nodded, relieved. I was laughing.

I had my fun. I decided to leave them alone.


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stress Relief Idea #10

Plan ahead. Don't let the gas tank get below one-quarter full. Keep a well-stocked emergency shelf of home staples. The way I do this is if I open the last package of something, I go ahead and put that item on the next grocery list, even if I don't use up the whole package. Don't wait until you're down to your last bus token or postage stamp to buy more, etc.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Rich Association With The High Calling

Serendipity is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for;” I had such an experience four months ago.

Late one night, as I was searching the internet looking for ways to increase my blog traffic, I landed on an online magazine website named “The High Calling”. On first inspection, the site looked good. I found a devotional that I liked that was written by Dr. Mark D. Roberts. I subscribed to the devotional so that I could receive it daily via email. To do this, I registered on the site. Beginning the next day, I received the devotional. I shared one with my prayer group. I added one to my blog with permission from Mark. Sometimes I email him with comments. These are well written, thoughtful devotionals that touch my heart.

About eight weeks later, I received an announcement about a contest for a free slot at a writer’s retreat at Laity Lodge. I entered and won. Once I was notified that I had won, I visited the site to really dig in and find out more about The High Calling (THC) and this place called Laity Lodge (LL).

This is what I found. LL is a structure on property in the Texas Hill Country that was purchased and developed to be a beautiful, peaceful retreat site by Mary and Howard Butt, Sr., the founders of the Foundation for Laity Renewal, and owner of the property and camps in Leakey, Texas, just west of Kerrville, Texas. Howard Butt, Sr. began HEB grocery. In addition to LL, several foundation camps are located on the same 1900 acre property.

THC is the website representing LL. One of the hallmark characteristics of LL is hospitality. This is a retreat facility where you are treated like family. THC tries to attain the same goal. They treat their internet partners like family.

This is how. THC magazine has a place to register. In addition to the theme of hospitality, one of the other main themes is combining spirituality with one’s vocation. This is a unique combination, because in our world, the spiritual is usually at odds with one’s vocation, unless one chooses a spiritual vocation. I have found this to be true in my life.

THC features articles in five different subject areas: faith, family, attitude, culture and work. These articles are written by the editors and members of this site. Membership is comprised of writers, many of whom are bloggers. Upon site registration, a member profile is completed, including a blog url and website feed. The site then captures the posts of the member’s website and pulls it to the magazine for the readership, who are then directed to the individual’s blog.

The Welcome Editor, Cheryl Smith, usually contacts new registrants via email, and invites them to write a post about their association with THC and the uniqueness of this partnership.

Certain writers are featured based on criteria established by THC. In addition to the featured articles, blog posts and devotional, the Special Projects Editor, Laura Boggess, leads an online book club with articles on Mondays.

My favorite feature is the community post, in which a particular topic is selected by a team of editors and the members are invited to write about that particular topic and then link back to the post. I have done this. The first that I did was about laughter. I linked my article entitled "Childhood Friends: Laughing Our Way Through Life" to Diedre Riggs’ site at Jumping This was fun to write and I also got to read a lot of other cool posts by the other writers as well. The second one that I joined was entitled, “Willie Mae”. This was my attempt to join with other writers to paint a portrait of someone from my past. I joined this at Jennifer Dukes Lee’s site at Getting Down With Jesus. This too, was fun.

The thing that I like about the community links is having a chance to fulfill a writing assignment without the stress of school. In school, if you opted out of an assignment, you received an ‘F’, had to worry about your GPA, your future career, wasting your parents money, etc. Here, if you want to participate, you do. If not, you don’t. It is that simple. Choice begets freedom.

I think back to the night that I ran upon this site by accident. I don’t think that it was by accident at all. I didn’t just join a website. I gained a new group of friends and joined a whole new community.


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places-Part II

In part I of this series, I told of an example of when I ministered to someone on the job. No, I am not a pastor. I was an Assistant Manager of a drugstore at the time. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t use that job to minister to others. I did this with many of our customers. Working in a drug store put me in a position to come into contact with many people. And many of these people were sick, because they were coming to get medicine. Any time that I got a chance to connect with someone who wanted to share, I tried to take the time to listen. It wasn’t unusual for our store to process over 1000 transactions in a day. I have never seen that many people in any one of our services at our church. So, really, I had an opportunity to minister directly to more people every day than either of our pastors did.

I think that is how it should be. We go to church to worship God, and to be fed by the spirit; to be in community with one another. Then we take our gifts out into the world, to our families, neighbors and jobs to be ministers.

Our jobs, and civic groups are frequently a place to meet up with others. Don’t forget social media. I have shared many a prayer request for others on facebook. Anywhere that you encounter people, you have an opportunity to minister to someone.

Here are 5 tips for ministering to others in ordinary places:

1. Don’t wait for a special time or place. Minister right where you are: football game, grocery store, your job, waiting in line.

2. Ask someone how he or she is doing. If you say this on the run, you probably won’t get much response. But is you take the time to actually stop what you are doing, look someone in the eye and sincerely ask them how they are doing, they will tell you. This is an opportunity to hear concerns. Make sure to listen. Don’t try to solve the problem for them, Most of the time, the problem is much more complex than it sounds. Offer to pray daily for this person, and then do it. Sometimes, you may want to add his or her name to a prayer list. I always ask for their permission before I do that. I have never had anyone to tell me no. Sometimes, I may keep the request on a prayer list anonymous. For example, I might say, “Please pray for Eve, who is going through a difficult situation. God knows the need.” And that is enough.

3. Simple acts are ministries: a smile, a touch, a hello, a hug, saying bless you, offering to pray for someone, taking someone to dinner, babysitting, mowing a lawn, making a phone call, and of course, cooking a casserole.

4. Don’t neglect to minister to your pastors. As members of the body of Christ, if we do not minister to our pastors, who will?

5. Be open to receive the ministry of others. I have to be ministered to in times of trouble. I definitely need the prayers and shoulders of my fellow Christians. I lean on others and hopefully, I am there for them to lean on me.

In June, a good friend of mine was commissioned as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church. She had just graduated from seminary. I texted her after she graduated and told her, “Now that you have finished school, be sure to teach me everything you learned.”

She answered me and said, “Sure! I will! It is very simple: 1. Love God. 2. Love others. That covers it.” I think that she is right.

Starting next week, I am going to feature a ministry on Wednesdays on this blog. I am looking for the ordinary place where we might not think of someone ministering. If you know of someone who has ministered to someone in an ordinary place, let me know. I would love to hear your story.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places-Part 1

“When you touched my hand, and told me that you would be praying for me, I felt something. I think that when you touched me, I was healed. I think that you are a prophet.” These are the words uttered to me by a customer as she held my hand. I kind of jumped back at that comment. I assured her that I am not a prophet. Hearing that actually almost scared me.

These are the words uttered to me by a returning customer. I worked as an Assistant Manager at the second busiest Walgreen’s in the capital city of the second largest state in the United States.

This store was always hopping. One day, I was called to do a refund of a box of hair color for an elderly lady. The first part of the transaction involved finding out the reason that a customer needs a refund. This usually led to some interesting stories.

I asked the lady why she needed a refund. She explained to me that she had shopped at the store recently and had hurriedly grabbed the wrong color. She seemed to be distracted by something as she spoke. I smiled as I told her that I would be happy to complete the refund for her. So I began scanning the product as I entered the proper codes into the cash register. While I did this, she continued to talk.

She explained that she had been in a hurry because she was unusually stressed. She had been experiencing some health problems. Tomorrow, she would be having a biopsy. The deep lines in her forehead and brow revealed her anxiety as she conveyed her concern. I could hear announcements coming over the store speakers as we talked.

I completed the refund by counting out her money to her and asking her to sign the refund receipt. After she signed, I gently took her by the hand and told her that I would pray for her and I would lift her name up in prayer at our Wednesday night church service. The lines in her face seemed to smooth out at the promise of prayer. I thought that I saw a gleam of hope in her eye. I thanked her for her business and she thanked me for my concern as she began to exit the store.

I took her concern home and prayed for her as I did many of our customers who confided their concerns to me. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. I found that sometimes all I had to do was to ask someone how they were doing, and if they had a worry or a concern, frequently they would share this concern. Sometimes, talking about a problem helps people to cope with something that may seem insurmountable. And for some people, sharing this information with a stranger is easier than sharing with a family member or friend. And then, some people are lonely and don’t have anyone to share concerns with.

I also lifted her name up in prayer at our Wednesday night service. I continued to pray for her along with others for several days.

The next week, I was at work and had to run a register because the store was very busy. I looked up to see my next customer and saw the same lady in my checkout lane. She had a smile on her face this time as I rang up her few sundries. She asked me if I remembered her and I said, “ Yes, of course I do! I did a refund for you last week!”

She said, “Well, do you remember that I told you that I was having a biopsy?”

I answered, “Yes I do.”

She talked hurriedly, energetically as she said, “It came out clear. There was no cancer! I am so relieved! You know, when you touched my hand, and told me that you would be praying for me, I felt something. I think that when you touched me, I was healed. I think that you are a prophet.”

I kind of jumped back at that last comment. I assured her that I am not a prophet. Hearing that actually almost scared me. All I did was to listen, touch and promise. Then I followed up my promise with prayer. I requested prayer for her at church. It was as simple as that.

I assured her that I was not a prophet, but that I had prayed for her. Sometimes a listening ear, a touch, a kind word and a prayer are all it takes to re-establish hope in the lives of others.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Own Yellow Rose of Texas

I am sitting atop of coarse, brown grass, breathing in clean air under the big blue Texas sky. I am in the backyard of my home surrounded by a rough, unpainted six foot tall wooden fence about ten miles south of Austin, Texas.

One might expect that the green grass of the summer would be giving way to the darker colors of fall in mid-October. But this is different.

For here in Texas, we have had more than eighty-five days of triple digit temperatures. Combine the high temperatures with no rain, except for last weekend and the conditions have combined for the creation of the color brown where green should have been.

The summer in these parts ended in the worst drought in recorded history. No wonder that only thirty miles away, wildfires burned more than 1000 homes. Everything outside is dry.

I hear a dog bark in the distance.

The rose bush that I purchased upon arrival from South Alabama three and one-half years ago stands strong. I asked my oldest son Levi to plant it, because he inherited his father’s natural green thumb. I notice that there are no roses in bloom, but that is OK because during the spring, it is not unusual to see fifty yellow roses bursting forth amid the green leaves on this hearty plant.

My father began the tradition of planting rose bushes about thirty years ago when he planted a red rose bush outside the window of our den and living room in South Alabama. We sat inside admiring the beauty right outside the window.

He declared that he had planted this rose bush for my mother, with whom he shared forty-five years of marriage before he died seventeen years ago. Of course, he loved to save money, so he said that he would just plant the bush for her where she could see it and she would always have roses. Then, he wouldn’t have to go out and buy them for special occasions. This worked well for them.

I assigned my personality to his tradition by selecting yellow roses instead of red. I did this in honor of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” I, too, bought it for my mom and asked her to select the place for planting.

A gentle breeze blows as I look upon the rosebush and am reminded of him, her and the love that they shared. I am also reminded of the arrival of my family in Texas. This is a symbol of my new geography.



I wrote this piece in response to an invitation to write "in place" by LL Barkat at Seedlings in Stone as part of her feature entitled "On, In and Around Mondays".
Copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stress Relief Idea #9

Procrastination is stressful. Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do it now.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Friday, October 7, 2011

Taken aback

Yesterday, I was taken aback with the unexpected, or a series of unexpected events.

First, I went to a meeting at a church, but mistakenly went to the wrong church. I had relied on a facebook post for my information without looking closely; had I looked closely, I would have realized that this post was a year old.

I realize my mistake after speaking to the pastor briefly. I turn to leave when a man drives up. I wait for him to exit the car to see if this is another person who had made the same mistake as I have. It wasn’t. My eleven year old son, Rusty, turns to the man as he exits his car and says, “There isn’t a meeting here tonight.” He didn’t realize that this man did indeed have a meeting with the Pastor.

At this point, I need to comment about color. My son and I are Caucasian, the pastor was African American and the other man was Caucasian. I normally don’t comment about this unless it is relevant to the story, which in this case, it is.

The pastor looks at the Caucasian man and says, “See that white boy thinks that because you are white, you don’t belong to this church because it is a black church.” And he is laughing.

The Caucasian man says, “It’s Ok. I’m really black too. It is just that my skin is white.” He was laughing too. He thought this was funny.

My son and I were not laughing. See, I have never attended this church for Sunday morning worship, so I don’t know the racial makeup of the congregation. My son doesn’t either. Not only that, but we don’t really care. We were looking for my meeting.

I have to say that I was offended. I felt that the pastor had made a racist remark. According to the free dictionary, Racist is defined as “discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion.” He wasn’t really discriminating against us, as much as assuming that my son was being discriminatory against him and/or his church. I really don’t think that he was.

Turn this story around. Let’s say for the sake of argument that a Caucasian pastor was approached by an African American woman with her African American son at a church that had a predominately Caucasian congregation. Then an African American male approaches. Let’s say the child turns to the African American and informs him that there is no meeting. Then the Caucasian pastor says, “See, that little black boy thinks that because you are black you don’t belong to this church because it is a white church.” I think that the parties involved would be offended; very much so. I think that things might even be escalated to the point of formal apologies being made.

So, in my offended state, I became angry. I didn’t respond verbally. I just walked away while giving a very potent stare to the offending parties. As I left, I was more annoyed about the exchange than I was about missing the meeting. I considered calling that pastor’s supervisor, the District Superintendent to relay my feelings.

As I drive, I play the potential conversation over in my head that I would have with her. I know that she would listen and then talk to me using words like forgiveness and reconciliation. Knowing her like I do, she might even tell me to grow up. And I know that she would be right.

I have a very good friend who is an African American pastor. He told me the story of a time when he ministered to an elderly white man. He said that the man told him that he had never had a “negro” to pray for him before. My friend said that if he chose, he could have been offended. Instead, he chose to understand that this man came from a certain generation in which that is the terminology that was used. He said he chose to be understanding and not let it bother him. He is a good example. I need to follow his example.


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Willie Mae

I could have been one of the children in the novel, The Help. Like the children in that novel, I was raised in the deep south in a family that had maids. This was the norm for the early 60’s. And like the children in that novel, I developed a close relationship with some of these women.

The first one that I remember was named Willie Mae. I never knew the last name of this short, energetic, older woman. Her deep black skin contrasted with the light colored dresses that covered her small frame.

Willie Mae came to the house every weekday while my parents worked. She kept the house clean, babysat the three of us kids, had supper cooked when my mom arrived home. My mother loved Willie Mae because all of her hard work made my mom‘s life much easier.

She was a godly woman who never learned to read. My older sister, Maresa, would exploit her illiteracy by having the three of us children to sit atop the kitchen counter. Then Maresa would pass out saccharin to us and tell Willie Mae that she was giving us aspirin. She swore up and down that Willie Mae would believe her because she couldn’t read. But I always thought that Willie Mae was playing my sister. Just because she couldn’t read didn’t mean she was dumb. What southern woman didn’t know what saccharin was? But Willie Mae acted as if she believed that we were eating aspirin, and she would pitch a fit. That made my sister feel really smart. I think that Willie Mae knew the truth all along.

One morning my mother received a telephone call from the Chief of Police in our small town. He was calling to let my mother know that Willie Mae would not be coming in to work that day. It seems that Willie Mae’s husband had shot and killed her. They said that he “wasn’t quite right.” I think that he had some senility that had set in. With the blast of his shotgun, we lost our Willie Mae.

This post was written as part of a Community Writing Project entitled Word Portraits over at The High Calling. I am linking to Jennifer Lee's article about her Aunt Gladys at her blog Getting Down With Jesus.

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

The Compassionate Congregation

The Compassionate Congregation
By: Karen Mulder and Ginger Jurries

This is a book that has been published since 2002. It was introduced to me through my service to the Austin District Lay Speaking Committee.

The Austin District Lay Speaking Committee is sponsoring a course on Pastoral Care in September. I am one of the people who has been honored with the chance to teach a segment of this course. In preparation to teach, I read this book, which will be the textbook for this course.

I loved this book from page one and on. To me, this should be the bible of Pastoral Care giving. It is also a good reference for how to be a friend.

This book is divided into four sections. Section 1 is entitled “Wisdom of the Wounded: Their Stories and Advice”. This is my favorite part of the book. Topics in Section One cover thirty-eight topics in alphabetical order from “Abortion” to “Violation of Privacy and Freedom”. Each of the situations has a testimony from someone who has suffered from this particular challenge. These testimonies are heartfelt, honest, real and full of grace. Most of these segments are accompanied by scripture which is relevant to the situation.

After the testimony, another sub-section that is discussed is called “Wisdom for the Caregiver.” This lists helpful guidelines as advice for what to do and what not to do.

Other sub-sections include “Additional Wisdom for the Caregiver”, “Helplines”, and “Books and Other Resources”. These provide more wisdom and guidance to assist the friend, lay pastor and pastor for ministering to people who are living through their difficulties.

Section 2 covers the issues of prayer, listening and respecting the grief process, complete with a chart illustrating the many stages of grief. This is a must-read for anyone who participates in the ministry.

Section 3 is entitled “109+ Ways to Say ‘I Care’”. This struck me as the “how-to” guide on friendship. This is full of great, proven, creative ideas for providing comfort and practical help to others. There is even a spot at the end to add your own ideas to this list.

Section 4 is entitled “Four Self-guiding Sessions for Small Groups”. This touch on scriptural references for this thing called Pastoral Care, as well as practical applications in listening and the grief process. This section gives plenty of opportunity to apply the information in the book to a classroom or teaching setting.

This book is well-organized, interesting, helpful, and relevant to the practical challenges that we all face as parents, friends and ministers. I recommend that every adult read this book. I have already applied some of the things that I have learned to my parenting repertoire.

Happy Reading! 

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins