I Met Her Once

We’re reading the story of the widow’s offering this morning (Mark 12:41-44).

A humble one, eyes downcast, who gave her best.

From her poverty, she gave all.

The Greek word can also be translated life.

From her poverty, she gave life.

I met her once, you know.

Once upon a time when I taught in the city.

She was a Little One, all spindly legs and braided hair.

Smart and articulate beyond her years, she came and went from my classroom that year, as her housing situation depended on the day (and, sometimes, on the kindness of strangers).

We shared a name, this Little One and I, and I joked that she was really my sister.

She loved to read, this Little One, and so when I offered a new book each month for just one dollar, she would scrounge together a handful of change and count it out carefully into my hand.

To have something of her own.

With her name inside.

There was a hurricane that year.

So much destruction, so many lives displaced.

We gave from our abundance, many of us.

Writing a check to soothe our conscience.

And then I met her.

Skipping into my classroom one dreary morning, she had gathered not one dollar but two.

Waving them in the air, she flashed a smile.

Ms. Hicks, she beamed.

Two dollars!

One for the book!  And one for the hurricane!

My breath catches in my throat at the memory.

A holy moment.

I do not know how to give like this.

I cannot wrap my head, my heart, my words or my bank account around it.

But I know it when I see it.

And that day, I saw it.

Out of her poverty, she gave life.

I don’t know where her dollar went.  I hope the Red Cross spent it wisely.

I know she did.

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The Thing Nobody Tells You

Little One has started calling me Ma pretty regularly now.

Though I never call myself Ma, I’ve stopped correcting the people that do.

And all of this hurts my heart a little.

Ma, Ma, Ma.  Little One whines, tapping my leg to get my attention.

Friend?  You want Friend? I ask.

This is what my nephews and niece call me.

And it is what I have always called myself to Little One.

Always.

I do all the things a Ma would do.

And still

I cannot let the word escape my mouth.

I’ve never slipped up.  The stakes are too high.

You see,

I know Little One’s Ma.

I have looked into her eyes.  Heard a little of her story.  Cried and cried for her.

Prayed for her with as much fire as I’ve prayed for anyone.  Ever.

Because here’s the thing nobody tells you when you sign up for foster care.

Judgment comes easy in theory.

But when there is a living, breathing person standing in front of you, compassion wins.

Overwhelming, unexplainable compassion.

Compassion that complicates everything.

The truth is, she loves Little One.

Of this I am absolutely sure.

The rest of the truth is that if I had been born into different circumstances and made different choices,

I could be her.

When I look into her eyes, I see humanity.

I see heartache and struggle.  And hope.

My brain screams the importance of consequences.

It wants to tally the injustices, to keep a record of wrongs.

But my heart cannot go there.

Its stubborn, unyielding allegiance is to Little One’s Ma.

Rooting for her again and again.

I look into Little One’s dancing, hopeful eyes and I see her there.

Ma.

Friends, it’s easy to judge, easy to hate in theory.

But life is not about theories.

It’s about people.

With real names.  And real stories.

People who are painfully real.  And hard to hate.

Even when compassion complicates everything.

Single Eye

Y’all know I am a doer.

But the more I’m learning lately, the more I think that faith is so much less about what I do

And so much more about who I believe I am.

Even before the sermon this morning, my mind is drawn to Peter.

Swept up in the moment, eyes locked on his Savior, he jumps out of the boat.

It’s only when he is distracted, when he hears the waves and lets his eyes wander that he starts to panic.

And sink.

We’re talking about money this morning.

I don’t mind this.

But Matthew 6:22 catches me a little off-guard.

The eye is the light of the body.  If your eye is single, your whole body is full of light.

Right in the middle of talking about money, Jesus starts talking about a single eye.

An eye focused on just one thing.

An eye like Peter’s, for just a moment, locked in on a beckoning Savior.

A Savior who says, “I am trustworthy.  I will meet your needs.”

Friends, I believe that God cares about how we spend our money.

But I believe he cares even more about our eyes.

When we are distracted, when our eyes falter, we make decisions out of fear.

Fear that others will look down on us.

Fear that we will not have enough.

But when our eye is single,

When our gaze is locked on his,

We know the truth.

We are dearly loved children of a God who does not hesitate to give us every good gift.

He is trustworthy.  He will meet our needs.

We are free to live abundantly, to give joyfully, to store up treasures in heaven.

Because our eyes are focused on just

One thing.

Tetelestai

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The Easter story is not new to me.  I’ve known it just about as long as I’ve known anything at all.

And so the sudden wash of emotion surprises me today.

I hear the Good News and my heart reaches out for it again.

You see, I need this Good News just as much today as I did once upon a time when I was a little girl who said all the right words and meant them in the best way she knew how.

Maybe more.

I’ve loved Jesus for a long time.

And still the voices sing their taunting song.

Work harder.  Run faster.  Do All The Things. 

Then, then you will be good enough.

Tetelestai.

It is finished.

Because of this Good News, because of Easter,

I don’t have to be good enough.

Pull yourself together.  Say all the right stuff.  Be a good Christian girl. 

Then they’ll all be impressed.

Tetelestai.

It is finished.

Because of the cross, because of Mercy personified,

There is only One opinion that matters.

And when he looks at me, he sees Easter.

But you are scared.

You have a good game face, but you are always, always scared.

You are a worrier.  It just who you are.

The voices yell this loudest of all, their taunting song ringing in my ears.

But, friends, the Good News speaks louder.

Tetelestai.

It is finished.

Because of this Good News, because of Easter

I know perfect Love.

The perfect Love that drives out fear

One hundred thousand times.

And then some more.

Friends, he is risen.

And it is finished.

The struggle to be good enough.  The quest for human approval.  The authority of the thing that lies to you about who you really are.

It. Is. Finished.

Tetelestai.