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 . . . in a Creator

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So, I just finished reading “Something Beautiful for God”, (If I was savvy, I would put a link here which would lead to Amazon and every time one of you followed it and made a purchase, Amazon would reward me with something like 20 cents.  But I couldn’t figure out how – where are my geeks when I need them?) which is a book by Malcolm Muggeridge about Mother Theresa and the Sisters of Charity.  I’ve been trying to write a blog about it.  I don’t usually write about the books I am reading (at least not directly) and it’s been completely unwieldy.  So I decided to write about how it is influencing the way I view people and the way I treat people and use it as my entry into Robert Hruzek’s change yourself/change the world challenge.

One of the things in the book that struck me forcibly was the elegant simplicity of the ministry of M. Theresa and her sisters.  Their philosophy of ministry is based on Matthew 25 (see below).  They believe that anytime they feed the hungry or clothe the naked they are feeding and clothing Christ.  And what wouldn’t they do to show their love for the One who gave all for them.

She says of the Sisters’ joyful, patient service – what would be complete drudgery to you and to me, “They want to give to God eveything.  They know very well it is to Christ the hungry and Christ the naked and Christ the homeless that they are doing it.  And this conviction and this love is what makes the giving a joy.  That’s why you see the sisters are very happy.  They are not forced to be happy.  They are naturally happy because they feel that they have found what they have looked for.”

Muggeridge goes on to say that after spending a few days with the sisters, he went from pitying the poor and destitute people that they served to realizing that they were, in his words, “quite marvelous people.”  I think he stopped seeing people and started seeing individuals.

One day I had been thinking about the book and also Hruzek’s challenge and I walked by someone in a parking lot that may have needed help.  I didn’t stop.  It wasn’t a straight-forward situation, I’m not sure they needed help and it could have been embarrassing or possibly even a bit dangerous, but that’s no excuse.  Someone might have needed help, help I could give, and I walked by.  And later I was ashamed of myself for not stopping.  I’m a helper by nature.  And if I don’t stop . . . who will?

A couple days later, in a different parking lot, I saw someone I thought might need help, and I walked by.  And then I stopped and thought, “This is one little way that I can change myself and change the world.”  And I turned around.  And I offered my help.  And it was gratefully received.

And I’m going to keep stopping.  Not just when I feel comfortable.  Not just when I have time.  Not just when it’s convenient.  And not just because it makes me feel good.

I’m going to try to remember that what matters on this earth is how you treat the people around you.  When I’m done here I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to help, to encourage, and to uplift all those who came within my sphere of influence.  I want to treat people the way Jesus treated them, with love and with respect, in a way that honored and cherished, in a way that brought help and hope.

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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From the budding writer in the family (kindergarden):

Was a pod a time my casins came aovr to my wit hows!  Win thea cam aovr to my hows.  my casin name jadn play on the cpetr.  and the game was Monsters, inc.  after he play Monsters, inc. he wite out sid we playd fes tag.  thea we wite in sid.  and we had fun.  and I like it win my csins came aovr to my hows.


Once upon a time my cousins came over to my white house.  When they came over to my house, my cousin named Jadon played on the computer and the game was Monsters, inc.  After he played Monsters, inc. he went outside.  We played freeze tag.  Then we went inside.  And we had fun.  And I like it when my cousins come over to my house.

There is this thing that my friend Jon likes to call “divine procrastination”.  It is the God-ordained serendipitous that happens when we are stalling or avoiding getting started on what we “should” be doing.  Now I don’t pretend to know if this is God working things together for our good, or if it is Him operating within our personality, or if the procrastination itself is an unconscious following of some inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I experienced it myself (not for the first time) this past week.

I was online, surfing my usual list of blogs, a privelege I allow myself sometimes before I get down to the “real” work.  I went to Stacey’s blog and she had some silly online quizzes posted.  She’d had these up for a few days or maybe even a week, and so far I had not even been tempted to take any of them – not interested – don’t have time.  But this day I clicked on “what color green are you?”  I took the quiz and it turns out I’m grass green – down to earth and a bit of a hippy.  And I thought, “Huh, that seems right.” and I clicked on another, something really meaningful like . . .what flavor tootsie pop are you . . . or which stooge are you . . . or something equally ridiculous.  I answered one or two questions and then thought . . . “no” . . . and turned off the computer and got to work.

The next day, I had coffee with a new friend.  God has been drawing me into a relationship with this woman, to what end I have no idea, but I am thoroughly enjoying the process.  We spent a delightful hour together sipping coffee, sharing a cinnamon sugar doughnut and talking and laughing together like old friends.

Someplace in the middle of our conversation, I thought, “Now, here’s someone who’s down to earth and a bit of a hippy.”  In a flash God spoke to me so clearly that I had to school my features not to reflect that at that moment the inner conversation was more real to me than the face to face one.  He told me that this was my village.  These are the people I want you to pray for.  This is the territory you can penetrate for Christ  . . . the granola eating, yoga practicing, organic produce purchasing, birkenstock wearing, down to earth, back to nature hippies.

I thought I was wasting time, but God was using the seemingingly meaningless to clarify my call, an answer, in fact, to an ongoing prayer of mine.  Now, I know this doesn’t give me license to procrastinate at will, but isn’t it cool how God uses our weaknesses and quirks to reveal Himself to us?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.     Is. 55:8

I think everyone who reads this blog knows that my father, my well-loved daddy, passed away last summer.  He has been on my mind a lot this week and I wanted to share the following story with you. 

When I found out my dad was given 2-4 months to live, I asked the church to start praying that I would have an opportunity to speak with him about spiritual things.  My dad was raised Catholic and although I had spoken to him a few times over the years about spiritual things, I was unsure about whether he had a relationship with Jesus.  This seemed like the “right” thing to ask for.  Surely God would honor such a prayer.

Interestingly, the answer to that particular prayer was, most emphatically, “no”.  I have 5 siblings and all of them spent copious amounts of time alone with my father between his diagnosis and his death.  I was the only one who had no such opportunity.  Whenever I saw him, there were great crowds (ok at least half a dozen) of people in the room as well.  One day, I dropped my son off at his day camp and drove up to Michigan with my girls to spend a few hours with grandpa before we had to be back to pick up my son.  My mother had forgotten we were coming and was not home.  My brother was there and my dad was sleeping.  My dad woke up just a few minutes before we absolutely had to leave and it was just enough time to give him a hug and round the girls up into the car.  This was to be the last time I saw my dad while he was still capable of carrying on a conversation.

On the way home, I was crying out to God, “Oh, God, that would have been the perfect opportunity for me to share with Daddy about you.  You could have made that happen.  I don’t understand.”  Right at that moment when I was crying out, what can only be described as a wave of peace swept over me.  And God placed the thought in my heart.  “It isn’t up to you.”  Wow . . . . Ok.  I didn’t understand and I still don’t understand, but from that moment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it pleased God to save my daddy, nothing I did or didn’t do would change that.

The epilogue to this story is that a week or two later, the next time I saw my dad and the last time I saw him, he said to me, “I love you.” and “everything’s ok”.  Both of these things he said to me twice.

I don’t pretend to understand what all this means, but I trust God.  And I have great hopes of seeing my dad in heaven.  I do remember, one time, when talking to my dad about spiritual things, I offended him by suggesting that he did not really believe in Jesus.  I think, perhaps, God’s “no” answer to my prayer was to protect me from offending my father with our final conversation.  As it was, there was nothing but mutual love and respect in our final months together.

What follows is something I wrote for my dad’s funeral that was read by my brother.  I wish you could have heard him read it, because he did such a great job.

The Adjective

When I was in the fourth grade my teacher asked me what my father did for a living. I proudly announced to the class that he was an “Adjective.” It is the only time to my recollection that one of my teachers laughed out loud at me. She told me that can’t possibly be right. Outraged by her laughter, I insisted, “Oh yes, Mrs. Madison, he’s an adjective . . . I know.” After all, I was an Ybarra, I must be right. She chuckled again and gently suggested that I go home and ask him if he was an adjective.

At the dinner table that night, “Daddy, you’re an adjective, right?”

More laughter.

Then he explained to me that he was an advocate at the prison and not an adjective at all.


My father held the title of advocate for a few years in the middle of his career, but the truth is that he was an advocate all his life. From his early years, as the eldest child, helping to raise his brothers and sister after his mother passed away, through the years with the department of corrections, to his work in his service club at the end of his life, he strove to speak for those who had no voice and supported causes that brought power to the powerless. He knew poverty and disadvantage and prejudice and he fought to eliminate and eleviate them wherever he came across them in both his public and private lives.

He taught us, his children, how to love people and to love causes that could bring positive changes for those around us.

I am so proud to be his daughter. And I only pray that I can serve and bless those around me the way that he did.

I leave you with some adjectives that characterized my father . . .

giving, faithful, strict, hardworking, overprotective, kind, caring, loyal, impatient, trustworthy, self-sacrificing, stubborn, accepting, knowledgeable, smart, honest, generous, responsible, curious.

Good-bye, Daddy.

Recent events in my life have brought me to the end of myself like nothing ever has before.  In truth, I’m way past the end of myself.  I am understanding experientially things that I have previously only believed intellectually.  I feel like whereas previously I was only living a half-life, now I am living fully.  (The exhilarating thought comes to me occasionally that maybe this new place is still only a fraction of what God has for me as I go deeper into Him).  

 One of the by-products of this new fullness is an experiential understanding of the love of God available to me when I put Him first.  I’ve always known that the believer is “supposed” to love God first and above all.  But in practice, this has always eluded me.  In my honest moments, I have to admit that I was not able to love God more than my husband or my children.  This new place in my life has driven me to God like nothing else, ever.  Suddenly, at the end of myself, I’ve taken to spending an hour a day in worship, prayer and meditation.  Throughout the day I am stopping to look up verses or journal thoughts to God, from God or about God.  He is my first thought in the morning and I am singing His praise with my last breath at night.

This experiencing the love of God, for God and from God is overflowing and leaking out all over in my life.  Even though I am physically and emotionally exhausted (I am getting very little sleep these days, and I have my theories about why, but that is for another post), I have so much more love for my family and those around me.  My love for those around me has grown in pace with my love for God.  It is wonderful and inexplicable.

O Lord, deeper and deeper, all I want is you.

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