When Deb, a single mom, got phone calls from school or worried about the behavior of her daughter, she turned off the TV and she prayed. When her fiancé mysteriously wanted some time off from the relationship, Deb fasted. She read scripture and she pulled in as close to God as she could.

Every time she faced an obstacle, whether it was as scary as a potentially serious health issue or as simple as a looming deadline at work, she would turn toward God.

Every time she’d tell us God’s got this.

She said it often enough that it became her trademark and the phrase we all held on to in the days and months after her car crash. At her funeral person after person told of her strong faith and her pure love and joy. And without planning it, person after person mentioned God’s got this and they pointed to Deb’s favorite Bible verse, which says that those who wait on the Lord will be strengthened. They will spread their wings and soar like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.

Deb knew about loss and knew what cancer could take from a family. She knew about divorce. She knew about hard work. But she also knew where her strength came from, or more accurately, who her strength came from.

And the best part?

She lived her life that way – as if she really trusted. With the little things and with the big. Without hanging posters on the walls of her office or wearing T-shirts with Isaiah 40:31 emblazoned on them, we all knew about Deb’s faith because we saw it every day.

God’s got this.

I’ve grown to love that phrase in the last year. I use it when I’m crying in the drive-thru at Tim Horton’s because I miss Daddy and when I’m nervous about speaking in front of people. When I’m afraid the teenager won’t be ready for life beyond my house, and when the list of home repairs grows faster than my budget. When I start a project that’s much, much larger than I’ve ever done before and when I look at a blank page and wonder how on Earth I’ll ever do justice to my friend’s memory.

Turns out she wrote her own story by how she lived: Whatever it is that we’re worried about, God will help us through. We’re never alone.

God’s got this.

MemDay5
MemDay3It was my husband who found the letters. They had fallen behind a dresser, along with a receipt for the poll tax of 1904 and three war ration books.

They must have tumbled out from my over-stuffed drawer of vintage things that I want to keep but have no idea what to do with. But I recognized them immediately — about a dozen letters from a soldier filling sandbags at checkpoints in Bosnia in 1996.

I don’t remember exactly how I got his address. At the time, newspaper columnists like Dear Abby would publish a general address to send notes of encouragement to men and women in the service. Maybe I got it there or from my cousin who was in the military. All I know is that almost half-a-lifetime ago I sent a card and a soldier replied.

For about eight months we wrote about our day-to-day lives, our families and our pets. I got a glimpse of life in the military and he got cookies and a football to share with his buddies. And prayers. Lots of prayers.

“A couple of days ago one of our soldiers was shot by an intruder. He’s going to be okay, though,” he wrote, adding that another soldier died when a vehicle went off a cliff. “Hopefully, nobody else will be hurt or killed while we’re down here.”

Hasn’t that always been the prayer? Well before the 1904 poll tax and the war rations of 1946? Well before I ever signed my name to a card?

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MemDay1

As we come close to Memorial Day, may we be thankful for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and grateful for all of those who have freely given up basic comforts, peaceful rest and precious time with loved ones on our behalf.

Unfortunately, battles still rage in this bullet-pocked world. May we pray for those who wear the uniform today and those who wear the responsibility at home.

For the leaders of not just our country, but for those around the world, may we pray for wisdom, patience, compassion and courage to do the right thing.

And for my long-ago friend? I pray he made it home safely and that he enjoys this weekend — without any sandbags to fill.

 
 Turns out the talking heads – the ones who have studied us and written books about our behavior – say you and I aren’t so interested in slick marketing anymore.

We’re drawn to the imperfect. We think the video shot on your iPhone signals the message is more homegrown, less manufactured. Sure, we can still be pulled in by a glossy advertisement or just the right commercial, but in this over saturated world of ours the average Joe is looking for something authentic. Something real to believe in.

It makes sense, really. Who isn’t drowning in a sea of communications, yet wanting at least a sip of something that truly matters?

But it’s not just the creatives on Madison Avenue who pedal perfection. It’s also people of faith, who in their earnestness to show God’s greatness, pretend that everything is great. We put on our best dress or our most fashionable tie and we sell God and a beautiful, trouble-free lifestyle.

We forget that God doesn’t need our polished marketing, he needs us to show our marks. Our scuffs. Our brokenness. He needs us to show how we’ve been redeemed. How he has knelt beside us and lifted us back to our feet. How he has taken our heart aches and our mistakes and made them beautiful.

Those cracks and splits are nothing to hide because they are really just openings for more of God’s light and love to shine. They remind us that God isn’t just available at the mountaintop, he is with us always.

When a bomb tore through the federal building in Oklahoma City and shattered the glass and the lives of those in the church next door, they hung banners all around that said Our God reigns and we will remain. Even with debris in the parking lot. Even with boards over their windows. Even with rescuers still swarming. Because if they had tried to clean up the mess first, they would have diluted the message.

If they had made everything seem great and glossy and trouble-free, the banners would have lost all meaning. And those talking heads are right. We all want something authentic, something that’s true – in business and in faith.

When we show our scars and dents, we show the real work of God. We show that he loves us and gives us hope.

That’s a good marketing plan.

how to fight fearWhen Benjamin was 3, he asked for baby alligators for Christmas. Then, around the age of 5, he wanted a bat house for our back yard. And now, at 7, he’s interested in having his own beehive.

Outwardly, I play the role of supportive and inquisitive mom but my husband can tell you how I threatened to put our home on the market four years ago when a bat got in our house and how last week I screamed and ran from a creepy silverfish that I promise was coming after me. But since Benjamin’s interests are great and noble, I downplay my fear and try not to taint his opinion.

Fear is tragically contagious, and it can drain the joy out of life and take years to recover from. I don’t want to be the one who introduces that in his life, or in the life of anyone else. That’s why I reached out to Sweet Beez, a nonprofit that puts bee hives on roofs in the Rochester area, and asked if they might let a curious 7-year-old come see what they do.

A few weeks later we found ourselves with about a dozen people on top of a once-bustling warehouse tasting honey and listening to volunteers talk about the importance of bees. It turns out not all of their bees made it through the rough winter, so they would be adding new bees to a hive that night.

Would anybody like to put on a jacket and veil and help?

how to fight fear
how to fight fearMy son was the first to reach the jackets. A few other adults followed, but none got as close as Benjamin, who wore man-sized gloves that went well beyond his elbows and helped empty the bees out of their traveling case.

Bees flew all around his head and hundreds more buzzed mere inches from his fingers. But Benjamin wasn’t shaken. He had listened to the seasoned beekeepers, and they told him he wouldn’t get hurt if he put on the protective suit.

It made sense to him to trust those who really knew. It made sense to choose faith over fear.

I was glad we had come – and glad that confidence and courage are contagious, too.
how to fight fear

loving my neighborsI love a good to-do list. Nice penmanship. Little boxes to check off. That’s how my scattered brain finds order.

Unfortunately, my spiritual life doesn’t work that way. I thought I had mastered the whole topic of loving my neighbors. I even wrote about it for an entire month last year, but still it stalks me.

Have I designed my life around loving others or only around my own comfort? Have I made room in my day-to-day and in my budget? Of course these questions surface at the time when I have more freelance work than normal and we’re trying to eliminate debt. Spiritual lessons never come at a convenient time, just at the right time.

I know I’m more likely to share with someone who is homeless when I have something in my car. I’m more likely to send a card or take a plant when I don’t have to rush out and buy one. I’m simply more likely to help when I’m prepared.

So, I’m adding something new to my to-do list: A hospitality party. My plan is to invite people to bring clippings from plants and dried ingredients for soups that we can keep in our pantries and deliver to friends who are sick. I’ll ask if they have sample-sized toiletries, granola bars or bus passes to share. And maybe those unused cards and baskets in our closets would be perfect for someone else and their loved ones.

I suspect, if we come together, we already have most of what we need to bless others in their time of need.

It will take some coordinating, some sharing of recipes and some research. But being prepared will be worth it. Love is always worth the work.

What are some of the ways you make it easier to show love to your friends and neighbors? What are some of your tried-and-true suggestions? Please email me at markettagregory@yahoo.com or share your ideas at the Simply Faithful page on Facebook so we can all learn together.

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