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Cheryl Mendoza

How He speaks to me…..Or… can't He just call my cell when He wants to talk?

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 A time to mourn….

Uvalde.  When these things happen we say a lot of things.  We are shocked and saddened, but do we really take the time to mourn?  For a few days, let’s try that.  Let’s just mourn together. I know as American’s we really hate the whole death/mourning thing.  We are all so focused on moving on, and maybe that’s part of the problem.  Instead, let our collective shock and sadness be our common ground.  Let the pain of the victims families and the pain in our communities move us to resolve, that no one should know this pain again!

I get it, no one wants to sit in that pain for any amount of time.  Until we all do, I wonder if we will ever find the common ground needed to make a real difference. Let’s not start debating immediately. All that happens then is the defenses come up and nothings happens.  We need to take a long look in the mirror, grieve together and seek wisdom from above.  All of us can agree that this should be the last school shooting ever! No one ever wants this to happen again, yet it seems we refuse to stay united in our grief.  It seems we’re more worried about our own rights, than the lives of others.  Than the lives of children…..

May God grant us mercy and wisdom……To which we say Amen. 

A little Community…..

Being an introvert, sometimes it’s hard to remember that I really like people, and enjoy simply being with others.  And on Saturday, it was even better, since we were eating too!  I have joined in a small group from my church.  It has now been over two years, and it is becoming more and more a group of people that bring me joy!  Since the church was having a mens breakfast and the guys from our group would be going to that,  we ladies decided to get together for breakfast too.  

It was great!  We ate, talked and enjoyed killing a few hours on a Saturday morning with each other.   I barely had time to ponder the time we spent together, when Mike was home and ready to go for a drive.  He has joined an online photography challenge, so every week he has a different assignment and wanted my company as he searched out inspiration.  So we drove, and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.  

We wound up at  Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park, just south of Corcoran on highway 43.  As we walked around, I was just happy to be outside enjoying the day.  The sky had some clouds, giving it some interest and the air was cool.  It rained recently, so the grass was green and there were swaths of small wildflowers  carpeting areas around the buildings.  From there I could see the snow on the Sierra’s through the haze.  As I admired the view I had, I could imagine what it would have been like just a little over 100 years ago.  

Out in the middle of the valley where it’s located, I could see clear skies giving the population of this small community a breathtaking sight of the far off mountains.   I thought of the safety and comfort of this special place.  You see, Allensworth was a town conceived, funded and built by and for African Americans.  And today as I walked through the houses and buildings that remain, I really thought about that community, and the concept of community in general.  

I could imagine the people in those houses, and the troubles, trials and possibly outright horror they may have already faced in their lives.  In Allensworth though, I wondered what did they find?  Was this finally a place where they had safety and peace?  A place where their children would be educated? A place where they could work hard and be rewarded for that work?  The town did not survive, but it wasn’t because of the community within, but the forces from without.  What would have happened if those forces had worked for and not against Allensworth?   What more amazing things would have been a part of their story?  

The older I get, the more I know that we are all the same. We all look for that place where our families will be safe, our children will be educated well, and we can achieve whatever we dare to dream.   All of this happens in the midst of community.  The people you work with, the children in our schools, the teller, cashier and the sanitation worker.  All of them, your neighbors.  And where goes one part of the community, more than likely will go all.  So …… where do we want to go?   

This weekend reminded me so much that I want it all…. For my family, those I know and for our community to thrive!  And I am grateful because I believe that that God has put enough “thrive” in this world for all of us.  I don’t have to hold on to mine so tightly afraid to lose it to someone else.  So if you look and don’t see yourself, don’t feel discouraged, your community is out there!  It may take some searching, but you can do it!  Go out and find them.  And when you do hold on tight, because your world will be open to so many new possibilities!  And in the end, your life and the lives in our community will be better for it! 

Looking for a comeback….

I am looking forward to Christmas.  I am looking forward to Joy!  I was in a bad way the other day.  I’ve found it very hard lately to write.  God made me the person I am and when I can’t be that person, I tend to get really quiet.  Because of that…I can’t write.  

Why was I in a bad way?  Well I feel like the people who should be salt and light, well….. aren’t.  We sound just like the rest of the world.  Opinionated, angry, judgemental, side choosing, and prideful.  It hurt, and it made me feel out of place.  Even worse, since I don’t like either the hurt or the out of place feeling, I got prideful.  I got angry.  Those two things go hand in hand for me, and because they do, I know I am not in the space where God wants me.  When that happens, I know it is time to SHUT UP,  and that is not where God wants me either.  

My pastor said something to the effect of who have you not shown grace to?   I knew immediately who that was in my life, but I wasn’t really ready to do anything about it until I stuck my nose in the book of Joel.  Such a small book in the bible, but so much for me to wrap my head around.  

The land is stripped bare.  There is no grain or wine to offer a sacrifice to God.  Times are beyond hard, but in this small book,  Joel is the messenger calling the people to repentance.  “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Joel 2:13.  It’s funny….I had been thinking of how people used to wear sackcloth and ashes to reflect an inner mourning.  I wanted to do that to show people, that I felt the mourning of these days.  Whether that mourning was for life lost or just life as we know it being lost.  What really made me want to mourn was the time lost from my own sin.  

When I got to that point, God was finally able to bring me the hope in the form of His Spirit!  “I will pour out my spirit on every kind of people.” Joel 2:28a

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness,  patience, goodness, kindness, self control, faithfulness.  I feel like we’ve been missing a lot of this nowadays, but I know that it can make a comeback, starting with a little repentance.  And if I really want that comeback, I know repentance starts with me.  

Love some community…

So Mike is working today.  Well not exactly working, but using his camera to document a community event which really  means I am on my own.  So while I enjoy some music, dancing and an amazing lunch I decided to bring my laptop and write a bit.  It has really been a long time, but sitting here watching the kids perform and seeing the enjoyment of the families watching, I just had to tap out my thoughts.  Anything to keep my head from exploding.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about family, community and love the past few days, and it’s due to a book I just finished reading called the Storyteller, by Dave Grohl.  Those of you who know who he is, you may be a little shocked by my reaction to the book.  So if you are, you should pick it up and read it.  He is quite a storyteller, but please expect some craziness, copious use of the F word and of course a lot of Rock n Roll thrown in. You can also expect a lot of  stories, that overflow with thankfulness, family, friends and love communicated  through them.

And that brings me to today, and the celebration of Dia de los Muertos that we have attended for the past few years.  A Mexican tradition that we have now fallen in love with.  After a year and a half of Covid, taking time to think of those who are gone, and their impact on our lives is very appropriate.  Something that many times in American culture, we don’t take the time to really explore.  

So while I didn’t grow up in this community, the music, food and gathering of  people feels like home to me.  Now this may not be in your comfort zone, but maybe it’s time for us all to be a little less than comfortable.  Maybe it’s time to take the lessons from a year and half of separation, and find community.  And not just the community you know, but the community that is new to you or different from the one you’re used to.  To find joy in being together.  Sharing time, talents and our very selves with each other! 

Kindness leads to repentance……

So she’s an athlete that has a problem with the American flag and anthem?  So many opinions are thrown around, but since I don’t know this woman I don’t really worry about it.   

I did see a post, and it seemed unkind.  In thinking of the post I wondered,  did you take her struggle and confusion and make it into some kind of easy choice? 

What if God made her a gifted athlete?  Well we know He did, because she wouldn’t be doing what she’s doing if He hadn’t!  Does she see it as a gift from God?  Maybe, maybe not?  It really doesn’t matter, because God has a plan for peoples lives.  He gives gifts and abilities even if they (we) don’t use them for God’s glory.  We all still have them and still feel that pull to use them.  

She’s conflicted…. She has the abilities and the drive, but the only avenue to use them leads her to this position.  Competing for the country, that through it’s history, has a horrendous past with her people.  How can she not be conflicted?   

 It’s kinda like God and people.  I’ve met those who are angry with God, but still acknowledge Him.  And I would rather see someone wrestling with God than just dismiss Him.   So when you have someone who is mad at their country, don’t you think they can still be a good citizen or even an olympic athlete? 

Above all, this day is not the end of her story.  She’s in the middle and the end isn’t written yet.  And above all, my perceived end to her story is not God’s ending.  We don’t get to judge her in the middle of hers, as we hope we are not judged in the middle of ours! 

What this brings me to is Jesus, and influence.    Why should I worry about trying to influence  this woman to honor a flag?  That’s an earthly symbol that will pass away.  

Why would I use my influence for something that is temporal and will not last forever?  My influence is better used for something that is eternal.  So for me, my prayer is that I never let the earthly overshadow the eternal.  And truth be told, that’s my hope for you too!

More than hope….

So I have these blocks with letters.  Every year at Christmastime I take them out and spell words with them.  I feel like I am missing some letters, because I can only spell two words every year?  So my choice is limited, but every few years these letters speak to me.  (No….not audibly…just metaphorically)  

A couple of years ago I started using them to spell JOY, and it really was a reflection of what God was talking to me about in that season.  Typically the other word I spell is LOVE since that is a favorite of mine, but this year was different.  What jumped out at me immediately was HOPE!

When I sat the letters on my hearth, I knew it was meant to be.  HOPE is a word is that brings its own energy.  There’s power, action and new beginnings imbued in that one word.   And right now, a lot of us can use some of that in our lives, me included.  It was on Saturday, and I was just getting my Christmas decorations out.  I am so behind this year, but that seems to be the way with everything in 2020.  Just off a bit…. or even off a lot!  I just don’t feel like I can catch up!  It didn’t take long though to get wrapped up in what I was doing.  Enjoying the memories that the decorations evoked.  So many good times!  There were also a few items that reminded me of harder days.  Even with those memories, I could remember how God brought us through the difficulties.  

And that is really where my HOPE lies….. 

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the showdown of death, and to guide us to the path of peace”

Luke 1:78 & 79

Advent: Hope

I told someone today that we are in the middle.  And if you ask most people, the middle is the hardest part.  It’s at that point where you feel like you can’t go back to where you started, but still can’t see the finish line.  It can be a place of frustration, fear and sadness.  The waiting during this period can be so hard, and it doesn’t even matter what you’re waiting for!  At this point in the pandemic, even waiting in line at that new Dutch Bros can bring about  a slight depression!

Years ago, we went hiking once at the Pinnacles.  It’s a very interesting national park in California.  I say interesting because it’s not the spectacular landscape of say a Yosemite, but the beauty is there just the same.   It’s claim to fame are talus caves that you can hike through, which are pretty fun, unless of course you like to see your hand in front of your face!  And yes…that’s not my type of hiking.  I could choose not to do it, but the only problem is that I wasn’t alone.  So what do you do when your partner is much more adventurous than you?  Well that’s how I wound up in the middle of a cave, with no light and very little courage.  That’s the scary part of the middle…sometimes you aren’t even sure you’re there yet.  At what point can we differentiate between the walking in, and the point when we’re finally making our way out.  

When we were far enough into the cave where no natural light reached, I was scared.  It was an unnatural fear that’s beyond what is normal.  Crazy as it sounds, the rocks themselves gave me peace.  “…You are my rock,”  says part of Psalm 31.  That portion of verse gave me hope.  I kept repeating that to myself as I carefully found my way through the rocks.  Once I got through the cave to the other side, I really didn’t fear it any more.  I was still a bit uncomfortable with the darkness, but since I now knew about where the middle was, I was able to enjoy the cave instead of being so anxious to get out.  

We’re in the middle, but are we still headed in or on our way out?  That’s the question!  As we continue to live through this painful time in our history, I think back to that cave and the God who is my Rock.  Remembering gives me hope, and isn’t that what this time of the year’s all about?  Redemption, light in the darkness, joy, peace…..The HOPE of Christ!  

Respond in Love….2020

“…..in their own self interests”  That was the part of the sentence that caught my eye.  As I make decisions regarding the pandemic and how it will shape how I act in the coming days, shouldn’t I take into account more than my own self interests?  

The book of Judges is one of my favorites in the Bible.  If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to crack it open but don’t expect the warm fuzzies.  Why I like it so much is because it’s opened my eyes to how humanity acts, and why we so needed saving.  At the end of the book there is a tale of people who do “whatever seemed right in their own eyes” with horrific results.  Is that who we are?   

So as we go through this crazy time,   (I wanted to use unprecedented but didn’t since it’s so overused now) I would ask that instead of looking out for just yourself, you would also look to your community.  These are your neighbors.  The real people you know, laugh with, care for, put up with and love.  Let’s stop seeing this through the lens of the media, twitter, FB and our political filter.  

All those things add distortion to what you are seeing, and clarity is what we all need right now.  If you really want to know what’s going on, concentrate on those directly around you.  That is your truth!  Let’s work to keep each other safe, lend a helping hand and encourage one another!  

Above all else, respond in LOVE.  When we choose love, we’re giving back control to the One who is truly in control anyway.   And in His hands we can find truth, peace and the oh so needed love to share in a hurting world.  

Careless whisper…..

When people tell me they’re having problems with their kids, I try to listen a lot and not give an opinion.  The only one good piece of advice I really have is this; whatever happens never say anything to hurt.  There are some words that you can never take back, and apologies will never be enough to erase.  We’ve lived by that in our household and looking back, I think we are seeing good results. 

Our sons like us, and they like each other.  I attribute much of that to that one piece of advice, of how we talked to and about each other.  

– Please listen to the words coming out of your mouth.  They may be poisonous.  Choose to speak life!

I wrote that out on election day….just a series of things I thought would be wise to remember, but I wanted to revisit this one today.  As I listen to people speak, I wonder if we truly hear ourselves?  And more so, if we truly weigh the impact of carelessly spoken words?  I think about words a lot.  I like writing more than conversations, because it gives me the opportunity to delete those careless words before they wound.  

And do not mistake my meaning.  I believe our words are leaving a mark, and it’s not a good one.  I have thought about it before…. 

“…..But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire….. “  James 3: 5&6

I have wondered if the spiritual is having an effect on the physical.  The more we let fly with our mouths, the more this world is on fire.   And it’s effecting us all, both spiritually and physically.  

So I leave you with the struggle in my own life.  To stop setting fires with my mouth.  To stop before I carelessly criticize, judge or let the sarcasm fly.  To instead bring beauty, love, encouragement and most of all hope.  

“Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing.”  Proverbs 12:18

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