On the corner of the desk at my mom and dad’s house, a stack of addressed envelopes in my mother’s handwriting remained for years. Three, four, or more. The cards inside were written to her nieces and nephews. One was for my daughter Lauren. I always wondered why they were never mailed, but one cannot argue with Alzheimer’s. Upon my mother’s death, we opened one that was not addressed, and we found a story from my mom and a letter. I think she wants you to have it. I think it’s all to say that everything will be okay.
I want to tell you a story. This is a true story. It is about me. How my life was changed.
From Sharon Savage Petty
When I was a very little girl, before I went to school, our family went to a little white frame church. It was about a half a block east from our house. We walked to church every Sunday. I loved going to church. I loved Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I loved all the songs and the stories that I learned. I loved Jesus and knew that He loved me. When I was in grade school, the church had grown so much that they decided to build a bigger church. It was built about half a block west of our house and it was made of stone. We continued to walk to church every Sunday morning and Sunday evening and sometimes on Wednesday night. I remember one of my Sunday School teachers more than any other. Her name was Mrs. Ward. It was about that time that I began to listen to what the preacher said that we are all sinners and need a savior. He said that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. I knew at the young age of ten years old that I was a sinner and I wanted Jesus to be my Savior.
Our little Baptist Church asked people who wanted to invite Jesus into their lives to be Lord and Savior to come to the front as a witness of our commitment to follow him. I wanted to walk down the aisle to make that commitment, but I was a very shy little girl, and I couldn’t make myself go.
I believe it was the next Sunday. I will never forget what happened that day. I heard a small sound, and I looked across the church and saw one of the girls from my class at school. She was walking down the outside aisle. I thought, “If she can do it, I can too.” So I went down the aisle. I prayed to Jesus asking him to forgive my sins and be my Savior and Lord. It was a strong commitment to follow Jesus.
That afternoon, my Mother’s friend came over to visit. She said that she didn’t believe that I was saved, and she thought I went to the altar because my friend did. Her words put doubt in my mind, but I knew in my heart that Jesus was my Savior. That night when I went to bed, I prayed and prayed asking Jesus if I was really saved. I prayed for a very long time that night and, suddenly, I felt great peace come over me. I knew then for sure that I was saved. I got out of bed and went into the living room where my Mother was and told her that I really believed that I was saved. She said, “I believe that you are too.”
I truly know that Jesus has been with me since that day. He promised us that He would send His Holy Spirit to be our Counselor, Guide, and Teacher. He helped me understand the Bible. The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I can’t say that I have had a perfect life, but I can say that I have had “A Wonderful Life”. My relationship with Jesus has grown through the years. I read my Bible and pray often. I am very thankful for the life I have had. I have been truly blessed. I hope that you will make a commitment to follow Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him too. I can truly recommend him.
At the beginning of December, I started Year One of what I hope is a new tradition. I challenged myself to read the Book of Luke, an entire account of Jesus’s life, a chapter a day, leading up to Christmas. Below. My summaries. My interpretation follows. I’m no Bible scholar, just a regular person, trying to be better than the person I was yesterday. Maybe next year I’ll add to this outline. Maybe this year you’d like to join me for the last ten days of Luke.
The angel Gabriel appears to Elizabeth’s husband and Mary (separately) to announce immaculate conceptions for both.
Jesus is born.
Within the chapter he is twelve, listening and asking questions of temple teachers.
He grows in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
Genealogy of Jesus.
Jesus is tested and rejected, and he heals the sick.
Jesus call his first disciples.
He heals leprosy and forgives and heals a man with paralysis.
He eats with sinners.
Jesus prays before choosing his disciples/friends.
He heals more and more people.
Love your enemies.
Do not judge and you won’t be judged.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Jesus performs a resurrection.
He forgives a sinful woman.
He teaches with a story of debts and forgiveness.
Jesus teaches with parables—the seed sower and the lamp on the stand.
Jesus chooses his family.
He calms storms.
Jesus gives disciples the power and authority to heal and humbly spread news of God.
Jesus feeds five thousand, heals more people, and speaks about God’s kingdom.
Peter declares Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus, as son of man, says—
That he must suffer.
That he will be rejected and killed.
That he will be raised from the dead.
Follow me if you want to save your life (for everlasting life).
Peter, John, and James pray with Jesus on the mountain.
Jesus transforms and his face glows.
Moses and Elijah appear in glorious splendor and speak of Jesus’s departure.
A cloud descends and God speaks—“This is my son, listen to him.”
Jesus heals another person and predicts his death a second time.
He tells his disciples to get rid of their egos.
He says—Whoever is not against you is for you.
On the way to Jerusalem (to his death)—
Jesus isn’t welcomed by the Samaritans, and he moves on.
People say they will follow him, but they have excuses in the moment.
Jesus sends out 72 to spread God’s word.
He teaches with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
At Martha and Mary’s house, Martha busily prepares to be a hostess.
Mary spends time with Jesus.
Martha is bitter about her self-imposed work.
Jesus tells Martha that Mary’s choice is better.
Jesus teaches his disciples to pray:
Give thanks, ask for forgiveness and help in forgiving others and help with temptations.
Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.
Jesus says that kingdoms and houses divided will fall.
Jesus says to let the light within you shine.
Jesus instructs us to be generous to the poor.
Jesus says, “Whoever acknowledges me before others…will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”
“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Jesus teaches with the parable of the rich fool.
Jesus tells us we won’t prolong our life through worrying.
Jesus says, “Be ready…the son of man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
He says that there will be division in families and asks, “Why don’t you judge for yourself what is right?”
Jesus instructs us to repent or perish and uses the parable of a man who has a fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit.
The advice to that man is—leave it alone for another year and see what happens.
Jesus heals a crippled woman who cannot stand straight.
Jesus uses the mustard seed and yeast parables for God’s growing kingdom.
Jesus says that the entrance into God’s kingdom is a narrow door.
Jesus hears that Herod wants to kill him. (This is a different Herod than Herod the Great who tried to have Baby Jesus killed).
Jesus heals a man with abnormal swelling.
In a wedding feast parable, Jesus concludes, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In the parable of the great feast, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame are invited.
Being a disciple costs you yourself. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
No matter what you believe about Jesus or Christianity, in Luke we see Jesus spreading good news and deeds, in a humble, non-preachy way. He’s a natural teacher, using stories that allow people to draw their own conclusions. He doesn’t judge, and he forgives. Satan tests him, others reject him, and he suffers. Such is life. I believe that he calms storms and heals people and resurrects the dead to show us perfection in the afterlife. I don’t know about you, but Jesus gives me hope—and shows that our struggles strengthen us, that better days lay ahead. I could use a little hope. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and good tidings to you!
Church started with Pink Floyd last Sunday. Technically it was Domino. With his iconic dreads and electric guitar, he sang, “On the Turning Away.” I saw it online, and I just happen to have a link. Next came Jeff Jones, he’s the senior pastor, and the current series is “Love Like Jesus.” Feel free to scroll on. I’m posting it believing someone might need to hear and will watch.
Jeff started out his sermon with some word associations: “If I said ______, you would say _____.” Eventually making it to his point. “If I said, ‘Christian,’ I don’t know what you would say, depending on what your experience is…”
I knew where Jeff was going. I knew what should go in the blank, but I’ll be honest, my first thought was not positive. Forgive me for going there. I know there are lots of good Christians, amazing humans who give generously of their time and resources and have an unbelievable level of grace for others. But I also know lots of people who won’t step foot into a church…who feel judged by Christians…who have had bad church experiences. Almost daily during my online scrolling and sometimes in overheard conversation, I hear and see Christians passing judgement. And I think—what would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? What would Jesus post?
Jeff continued, “…but I know what we should be able to say, what anybody in the world should be able to say whether they are Christian or not or believe anything about Jesus…the first thing they should think about when they think about ‘Christian’ is love…because that’s the one thing that Jesus said,…’Love like I love.’”
The weekend before last Ryan Leak kicked off the series. He’s a teaching pastor and a professional speaker. And the strange thing is—I saw him for the first time preaching at a church in Houston about a year ago, and then suddenly he’s popping up at my home church back in Dallas. Throughout the pandemic, Chase Oaks Church is my go to for Sunday mornings. I find extra inspiration and hope here. The sermons are archived on their website if needed, and you can fast forward through the music—or not.
Anyway, I go to church each Sunday for my weekly attitude adjustment. I am far from perfect. FAR. But I try. On the day of this U.S. Presidential election, I might not be perfect. Despite results, I’m sure I’ll need to be back in church by Sunday.
Jesus knows we’re all messed up. He offers forgiveness as a gift. And because He would, I’m sending love and peace your way—no matter who or where you are, no matter what you’ve done or what you believe. ❤️
As the first semester at my new school winds to a close, the students have had some extra down/review time leading into exams. “I’m taking song requests,” I said to my class while sitting in front of my computer at my desk, double checking potential failures in a final attempt to give kids opportunities to pass.
“Rihanna. Love on the Brain,” Rebecca responded.
Ironically, I’ve had love on the brain for a while now although my thoughts on the matter don’t quite align with Rihanna’s lyrics. Love keeps knocking at my door, showing up in phone calls, texts, mail, books I’m reading, on television and social media, almost everywhere, persistently, as if to say, “Let me in. Don’t let me go. Oh, but share me because I will multiply. Pass me on.”
Flashback with me a couple of months or so, one month after evacuating from my Harvey-flooded house, I left Houston on a weekend getaway through Dallas and into Oklahoma, a break filled with family and friends and Love. It was a wonderful escape to places I-call-home during a time when I didn’t have one.
On the return trip, I began mental preparation for my work week, telling myself that everything was going to be okay. But, thoughts of nurturing kids and making up two weeks of lost curriculum time amid so much personal loss overwhelmed me, and thoughts of doing that without my former co-worker friends seemed impossible. Anxiety attacked a place in my chest that felt like my heart, and bitterness crept into my head about living at a La Quinta in Houston.
When I arrived back at the hotel that Sunday, Kody wasn’t there. I texted him after waiting awhile to announce my return, “Will you bring food when you come back?”
I never heard from him.
I said never, but I’ll rephrase. I didn’t hear anything from him until his key scratched at the door, and he stumbled through, wasted, and promptly passed out on the bed. I saw red. Anger coursed through my veins, pounding at my temples. Anger towards my husband for handling his stress like an alcoholic, anger towards Oxy for transferring us from Dallas to Houston away from a home and friends and a job I loved, anger towards Harvey for destroying my house and taking most of my furniture, anger with myself for taking a job without knowing exactly what I would be teaching. And all of that anger turned my heart black, into a thumping conglomeration of hate. At that moment in time, I HATED my life.
The next day I endured school and texted Denise afterwards. In the back and forth, three things resounded:
Not the “come live with me part,” which I totally considered, but the “Hang on? Love others….” followed by, “Are you going to run away?”
Forty-seven-year-olds don’t run away. At least, I don’t, or I don’t think I do. Her question helped me realize I had to let it go—I had to let it ALL go—the anger, the moving back to Dallas fantasy. I needed to breathe, put one foot in front of the other, and choose Love and grace. If you’ve read any posts since October 2nd, hopefully you’ve noticed I’ve been practicing. Recovery is a process.
I’m fascinated by how YouTube reads minds. Maya Angelou popped up the other day.
I’ve seen this video before, but not in a couple of years. Now, I can’t stop hearing her words: “I am grateful to have been loved, to be loved now, and to be able to love because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold. That’s ego. Love liberates.” Hey Rihanna, I recommend listening to Maya Angelou.
From Maya Angelou, my thoughts shift to Jesus. After all, he is the reason for the season, and reminders of Him abound this time of year. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). As an English teacher, I notice he said, “must.” Love is imperative.
Recently I started a book called The Gift of Crisis: Finding your best self in the worst of times. I know the author and psychologist Dr. Susan Mecca through a friend, and I’ve been to Susan’s house for dinner. Her book had been on my To-Read list, and post-hurricane, Susan offered a free download of her book on LinkedIn. She knows crisis. Her son Nick and her husband Vito simultaneously had cancer after Vito had recovered from the paralysis of Guillain-Barre. Nick is now healthy and cancer free. Vito lost his battle. I feel guilty claiming a crisis in comparison. Susan says, “In the years our family fought for the survival of our men, Nick and Vito taught me love always brings transformation to our lives. That love is endless and can never be taken away from us, even when we can no longer see its source.”
In chapter one, Susan suggests some strategies and exercises for a crisis:
Imagine it is six months after your crisis has passed. Your best friend is talking to you about what s/he admired most about you during the crisis. What do you hope s/he will tell you?
Strength, grace, and love popped into my head.
Reflect on someone (real or fictional) who has gone through severely challenging times in his or her life. What are the qualities or traits that person demonstrated through his or her personal crisis?
Sydney Carton, Maya Angelou, Jesus, and Susan Mecca come to mind.
If you don’t know Sydney Carton, let me introduce you. In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney was a miserable alcoholic before meeting Lucie Manette, but his character shows how love liberates. His love for Lucie frees him to be a better person and my favorite literary hero. Sydney tells Lucie, “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you…think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you.” Sydney Carton’s sacrifice at the end demonstrates a Christ-like strength, grace, and love.
Dr. Maya Angelou survived rape at age seven and coped by not talking for the next six years. She grew up in the segregated U.S. and became the first African-American trolley conductor at age fifteen, a civil rights activist, a poet, a journalist and author, an actor, director, producer, and professor to name a few. The epitome of strength and grace, Dr. Maya Angelou says, “Love liberates.” And I have witnessed that truth in my life time and time again.
I’m sure most of you have heard of Jesus. So many celebrate His upcoming December 25th birthday, but the night before he carried his own cross to his own crucifixion, he commanded his disciples to “Love one another.” As a believer and Christ-follower, I want to live my life like that—with His strength and His grace and His love, and when I speak of His grace, I mean His kindness and His forgiveness.
And as for Dr. Susan Mecca. Well, I look forward to finishing her book. She has made me realize my crisis is over. All of my people are alive. After losing her husband to cancer, Susan shows strength and grace through her message, “Love always brings transformation to our lives.”
And I say, “I am practicing. And you know what? I feel both liberated and transformed.”
(And the messages keep showing up…)
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a new year filled with STRENGTH, GRACE, and LOVE!