I was 19 years old. I got out of work after 5pm and the bank had already closed for the day. I needed a little money out of my meager savings account to fill up my gas tank, as well as have a little entertainment money for the evening. My only option for money withdrawal was from the ATM machine.
I drove to the bank and walked through the first set of doors and turned right to the ATM machine. I dug out my ATM card from my wallet and slid it into the card reader. I punched in my PIN number and answered the standard questions:
Savings or Checking: Savings
Withdraw or Deposit: Withdraw
$10.00, $20.00, $50.00, $100: $20.00
The ATM machine was processing my request and when the little door opened to give me my money, to my surprise was a little gift left by someone before me. I was standing in front of an unmarked envelope with a wad of cash inside. Someone either didn’t know how to use the ATM machine, or it was a trap to catch a thief.
I stood there frozen in thought. Do I grab this envelope and my $20.00 and walk away? Do I leave the envelope where it is and take my $20.00 and walk away? It’s after hours, how would I let someone at the bank know there is improperly placed money in the ATM machine?
I was 19 years old. It was a hard decision; my savings balance was low. “Who didn’t know how to use an ATM machine?” I said under my breath.
I stood there frozen in thought, my heart beating faster, and little beads of sweat formed on my brow. I remembered the camera inside the ATM machine was watching me. I am sure if authorities reviewed the tape, they would see me standing there for at least 6 minutes for a transaction that took no more than 2 minutes.
I was 19 years old; my morals kicked in and kept me from being tempted.
Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.”
In eighth grade, I was too cool for my own good. So cool, I had to learn a lesson. While standing on a designated corner surrounding my school, I strapped on the orange safety belt that lead to my new attitude. I was a street-crossing safety guard.
My job was a necessity for keeping the children enrolled in the school every day. When I saw the plastic lunchboxes and little school bags approaching with the sunrise, I knew to stick my arms out to halt their next step while they knew to stop so I could take charge of their fate. After looking left, right, left and right one more time, I made sure the morning rush of cars were out of the way. I dropped my arms to my sides and the foot travelers would cross safely to the other side of the street and continue on their way to school.
The excitement of wearing the orange safety belt was felt every time I put it on except for the at the southwest corner of the school. This particular corner was on the safety rotation, even though I had protested. Plastic lunchboxes and little school bags did not travel by foot from this direction. After two rotations, I learned the definition of boredom and I took it upon myself not to stand guard on this corner. I convinced myself that eighth graders had more important things to do in the morning other than stand guard for nobody.
The school year passed quickly. Mr. Murphy was the teacher in charge of the orange-belted, street-crossing safety guards. At the end of the school year, he took the volunteers on a special field trip to the bowling alley to reward a job well done. As all teachers do, he tacked a sheet up on the wall to define the carpool and bowling team breakdowns. When I finally made it through the huddle of kids to view the list on the wall, I could not find my name listed. Could a teacher make a mistake?
“Mr. Murphy?” I called out in a questioning voice. “My name does not appear on the list. There must be a mistake.” Mr. Murphy, father by nature, teacher by choice, sat me down and told me there was no mistake. He pulled out a chart and pointed out all the times I was not at the southwest corner standing guard. Because of my neglect of duty, I was not allowed to attend the special field trip to the bowling alley.
In eighth grade I was too cool for my own good. The lesson plan for the year was the orange belt. Only when I removed the belt did I learn what responsibility and attendance meant. My attitude was adjusted from that day forward.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
I often watch home renovation shows. They always find houses that are filthy and unkempt with rooms that are too small or not properly inspected or licensed for an addition. They recognize walls that can be torn down to open up the space and bring in more light. By the end of the show, the professional room staging team embarks on the space and the houses look inviting and livable once again.
As a child, my heart began as one big open room, but as I grew, I began to build walls based on what the world was teaching me and how I reacted to people and situations in my life. I was busy building room after room and I became a pro at compartmentalizing my space. At the base of my heart I tossed in filth and it spread all over. The times when my heart would break, I tried patching it with false promises but the cracks would never seal. My heart was so filthy and the rooms were unkempt and too small, it became a place in which I could never invite anyone in to be with me.
I remember the day I said to myself with tears cascading down my face, “I cannot fix my heart alone. I need help”. The moment I uttered those words, I had a knock on my heart. I could only open the door enough to have my tear-filled left eye peer out to see who was there. It was Jesus. I let him in and watched as He squeezed effortlessly through the tiny space the open door would allow. I let him look around and he took his time surveying the space. He ran his clean hand along the ridges of my filth. He did not rush, he did not even blush. It was as if he expected to see such a terrible layout and that He knew exactly how to fix my mess. He cleared a space at my table and wrote out his quote and handed it to me before he squeezed out effortlessly through the door.
The details of my renovation were as follows:
First Observation: Your heart is in dire need of repair and rebuild due to the amount of sin it has incurred. There are too many tiny rooms and compartments contained within and I can knock down walls to let the light in. The cracks along the outer rim can be sealed by my love. Your heart will not last much longer in the condition it is in. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13) Therefore, I propose to get started as soon as possible.
Tools needed: Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30) I am the way and the truth and the life. (John:6a) You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand. (John 13:7) Unless I wash you, you have not part with me. (John 13:8b)
Total Cost: “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47) I did this for you and your bill is paid in full.
My heart has since been renovated. Walls have been knocked down, light shines everywhere and the Holy Spirit came in and professionally staged the space. All cracks have disappeared and invitations have gone out. I have room for you in my heart. Will you join me?
Today is January 1, 2017 and yesterday was so last year. I stayed awake to ring in the new year with my husband. Normally I get sleepy by 9:30pm and find myself crawling in bed by 10:00pm. Because I stayed awake, I, along with millions of other people, either in New York Times Square or sitting comfortably in our homes in front of a television or other electronic device, were witness to Mariah Carey’s train-wreck of a show minutes before the ball drop. Much to her chagrin, her reputation needs repair. I can only guess what her New Year’s Resolution is for 2017. However, a big round of applause goes to her backup dancers as they did a great job!
On February 12 my husband, and I, said good-bye to our little girl, Bean. She was the sweetest Grey Tiger-striped kitty who we adopted from a local no-kill cat shelter years ago. My husband picked her out and the first day in our house, she owned it. She sat up on the couch and took a nap, all while our other cats were sniffing her acquaintance. On December 5, my niece passed away. She was an awesome mom to her children and had a huge heart for helping people. We are blessed to know how many lives she touched in her short 31 years of life. My summation for 2016 is that the good die young.
This past year was heart-breaking, to say the least, but knowing that God is close to the broken-hearted brings me peace. That means He is near to me, my husband, my family, and Jill’s friends, holding us close as we mourn.
Isaiah 43:18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” But our minds hit replay on many episodes of days gone by, conversations that happened or didn’t happen, loved ones who were called home to eternity, or the voice of the doctor delivering news of a grave illness just discovered. God is close to the broken-hearted and he offers His outstretched hand for us to walk into 2017 with Him. Yes, God can even help restore Mariah Carey’s reputation if she reaches out to Him.
Isaiah 41:10 So Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
May God Bless you in 2017.