God Exists

First.

I have to tell you a little story. Completely true.

I am in the Holy Land. We are handing out wheelchairs and eyeglasses. I am running around, taking pictures, sewing vinyl wheelchair footrests, counting rolls of velcro for inventory and sorting gifts for gift bags for our local volunteers for the end of the week.

I am the pop-fly shagger. The gopher. The water boy girl for the team.

I don’t mind. I’m happy and humble to do it. I have no idea what I’m doing, but as with improv, you simply accept what someone says and build on it.

“Martha, will you…?”

YES! Would you like fries with that???

I was not perfectly humble. Sometimes I grumbled. But then I would just pout in private, pray and move on when I could smile again. In the Holy Land, my butt-hurt recovery period was very short. Thank God! That 4:30 AM call to prayer came early and loudly. Right into my hotel room from the neighboring mosque. Punctuating the snores of my roommate. I would say my own prayers when I woke to those pre-dawn mournful meditations. I prayed. A lot. All day. For everything. Trying to incorporate that into this American life.

It also helped that I was witnessing miracles on a daily basis. Here’s just one. A tiny miracle that sows seeds of faith.


I was mostly in the wheelchair clinic. We were in a very large community center divided into two sections by a beautiful, dark red tapestry. The wheelchair clinic was about 2/3 of the space and the eyeglass clinic was on the other side of the curtain. Because I was helping with the sewing/upholstery department, I didn’t see but a few glimpses of the eyeglass clinic. I took many pictures, but I didn’t get to know the volunteers or patients very well.

They had a young man helping during the week with eyeglass distribution. He was a local tween or teen. Maybe 11, maybe as old as 13 or 14, I’m bad at carnival-guessing anyone’s age under 18, especially boys. I didn’t really notice him until the final two days.

Before the banquet on Friday, we were cleaning up the facility, putting things away, packing up our gear and returning the space to the condition we found it. Perhaps even cleaner!

I had brought several kid-centered trinkets from my home in the States. We had received an email before the trip about all the families and children that come to the clinics and how they might appreciate games, more interaction, activities and attention. I decided to pack a few things that my daughter didn’t want, we couldn’t use or that were cluttering our overfilled home. Things that kids would love. Stuff for bracelets. Pins for older kids. And a pair of neon sunglasses that were given to us. No one in my family wanted them and they were cool, but a little too…bright for us. 🙂 Perfectly good pair of sunglasses.

Well. They were sitting on our small utility table Friday as we were packing up. I never found a kid to give them to. They just sat all week. I looked at the sunglasses. I looked at my overfilled bag of cameras, computer and sewing accoutrements. Looked around the room and saw Swoopy-bangs Kid.

He had curly bangs. A little too long. Swooped to the side. Cool.

Maybe he wants these shades.

As I walked over to Swoopy-bangs, I had a sudden, slight sinking feeling of “do kids still like things like neon sunglasses? Am I the dorky old lady who offers the nerdy object to the cool kid and is totally oblivious to my own ridiculousness?”

Just ask.

“Hey man, do you want these sunglasses?” in as cool a voice as this 45-year old white lady could muster.

He looked surprised. I couldn’t tell if it was disgusted or thankful surprise, so there was an awkward pause.

He asked with a slight accent, “Who are these for?”

I pointed to him. “You! If you want them.”

He cracked a broken smile, averted his eyes sheepishly and heartily accepted them. Phew! Yay!

Sunglasses given! Smile achieved! Backpack and heart loaded for bear. Cool status confirmed.

What I didn’t know until later that night at the banquet…

Final banquet. Dinner. Speeches. Pats on the back. Gift bags!

Can I just say? As the Gift Bag Coordinator for 2019 Holy Land Trip, stop giving gift bags!

Or, buy one thing and give it. Don’t weigh down your luggage from America, burn jet fuel to get it there and then make some hapless pop-fly shagger distribute your American trash. I mean–Merry Christmas.

Fine. Praying over here.

Gift-bag giving was hell. Not one person was happy with the way I distributed gifts to the local translators. I relinquish my duties as the Gift Bag Chairman for 2019 and may all future gift-giving souvenirs burn on the Gehenna piles of Jerusalem. Ahem. Sorry. I’m still bitter. Still praying.

Anyway. Let us not dwell. LOL

Before the gift-bag portion of our evening, one of the directors of the clinics summoned me. “Martha, do you have an extra bag for this guy?” The director pointed to Swoopy-bangs.

Crap!

“No. I’m sorry. If I didn’t have his name before tonight, I didn’t prepare a bag.”

This had become my script. Before Eyeglass Director had asked this specific question, I had been bombarded with questions over the gifts all week.

Did you get this person on your list?
Do you have an extra bag?
Did you put my souvenir in my translator’s bag?
When are we handing out the bags?
Did you get the tea bags I brought?

Can we hand out the bags:
Before?
After?
During?
In front of…?
Can I be in charge of my bag?

Gah!

*In the voice of Pontius Pilate* I wash my hands of this.

The spirit of Christmas was truly lost on this night for me (it was Christmastime for this part of the world). People were obsessed. It was not a very Christ-like environment and I really had to pray hard. Not judge these Americans for their entitled, demanding, materialistic behavior. I made it through the night. Dinged and daunted, but not broken.

But to refuse Eyeglass Director yet another time, I started to feel defeated. He immediately dismissed his last-minute request and understood my frustration. “Nevermind. He just really helped us out. It’s fine.” I felt bad though because I really liked Swoopy-bangs. We only shared a few words, but he seemed appreciative of such a simple thing like the glasses I handed him. Gratefulness, in anyone, is something I admire and appreciate.

Later on that evening, I was relaying my frustrations to a new friend. We sat at different tables that night, based on our clinic service assignment. So when we got to talk after dinner, she asked how my night was going. We had become fast friends, despite our age difference and geographic extremes. (We live on opposite coasts!)

I told her I felt bad about the kid. “I didn’t have a gift for him. Did I miss his name at the beginning of the week?” She was in the eyeglass clinic, so I thought she might know more.

“That kid?” She pointed to Swoopy-bangs. “Don’t worry. He was there part of the time and he was helpful, but it’s fine. I think (Eyeglass Director) felt bad because the kid wanted a pair of sunglasses from the eyeglass clinic and he didn’t have enough.”

WHAT?!

“That kid wanted sunglasses???” I asked. I was dumbfounded.

“Yeah. It’s no big deal. We just didn’t have enough and he seemed disappointed, but it’s fine.”

“No! You don’t understand. I just gave that kid sunglasses before we came to this restaurant. I had no idea.” I was shocked. Humbled. I just kept repeating, softly. “I had no idea.”

I wanted to run over to that kid and hug him. Throw my arms around his neck and scream “Hallelujah!” But I just sat quietly with shiny eyes pooling with tears and the overwhelming knowledge that God had orchestrated all those tiny, tender moments.

Giving me some pair of neon glasses.
Packing them in my overstuffed suitcase.
Traveling halfway around the world.
Preparing hearts.
Creating desire for sunglasses.
Fulfilling wants.
Planting seeds.
Watering my desperate heart with words from my new friend.

God whispers small urgings to our overwhelmed hearts on a daily basis and we usually drown out his pleas with doubt and busy-ness. But this time, because I was tuned to his grace, alone in a foreign country, relying completely on his protection and will, praying my keister off, I took a small risk and the dividend was immense.

There were so many miracles on this trip of people served. This is just one, tiny example of God at work. But this is a reminder to me. God exists and he knows the number of hairs on your head. In the middle of our struggle, pain, ramblings, writhing, he cares. He is at work. And he cares about a boy, on the other side of the planet, and where that boy will go. Who he will touch. Whether seeds are planted in his brain of kindness and love and providence. And if his eyes are protected and stylish. 🙂

Luke 12:22-27 NASB

…“For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.


As I was writing this, knee-deep in word construction and heart-pouring, my computer shut down, unexpectedly. Nothing was lost. Everything was saved. Thank you, God. Thank you, WordPress. Thank you, AutoSave. God exists.

If kind, loving people exist, then God exists. If the watch is designed, the Watchmaker designs.

 

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Heart is a Gypsy

Perfume and spices on the air as I wait in the string-lighted courtyard of our final banquet dinner. There are fires burning in the metal stand welcoming street strays. The smoke in my clothes and tearing eyes might as well be from sycamore limbs back home in Missouri. My heart is full and oh-so heavy knowing I might not see my new friends ever again. Wishing farewells and whispering fevered fantasies about moving across the globe to adopt new customs, cuisines and children. This could be my home. My heart is a gypsy. A Native American warrior heart nomadic as a tornado.

My heart so fragile. Powerful. Chaotic. Ready to rope out and lose its whirl at any moment. Yet overeager to jump and pump arteries-first into strange territory of emotion and relationship.

What to do with all this feeling? Love? Raw force of nature?

I love this country. I love these people.

Purple Balloon Boy.
Yellow Chair Girl.
Red-nose Rudy.
Pink-Jacket Joy.

I hope to share eternity with you, Friends. Stay with God and send Him with me and we shall meet again on different, distant shores. Still bright and glistening.

I saw a young girl in a hot-pink jacket take her first steps with the help of a pediatric walker. She strolled straight through our hearts with smiles and laughter into the outstretched hands of her own mother’s love. I got to see what love can do.

Physical therapists seating kids who need wheelchairs. Nurses treating gunshot wounds. Kind people ready to laugh and bring joy, handing out glasses.

Make the sick well. Give sight to the blind. Bind wounds. And make the lame walk to mother’s waiting arms. Miracles. In the land where Jesus walked.

Love did that. Love changed their world. My world. THE world.

“For God so loved the world…”

Please let me see this place again. Please let me feel this love again. This beautiful lump in my throat. Jumping unrestrained from my lashes. Down my cheeks in rolling, fat tears.

Don’t let me pass from this valley without your love, God.
How do I take this with me?

my prayers are

for i am gentle

103

sink stones

yellow chair angled

Dreamy Muffins

I had a dream the other night about one of my teammates from my Holy Land mission trip. I dreamed that he was running a charitable food pantry. They were offering a warm cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin cake for breakfast. It was a treetop cafe with high-top tables.

He welcomed me, asked me why I needed food from the food pantry and I explained. “We’re just having hard times right now and we need a little extra help.” (We’re actually doing okay right now! Not really working poor any more, but we are about one paycheck away from disaster if we had a medical emergency, yikes!) He understood.

He told me, “(Your roommate from the trip), has been praying for your return next year on the mission trip. She hopes you can come.” This man knows my roommate in real life. They attend the same church

It was a sweet dream of help and hope. With cloud-like, fluffy muffins! Best dream ever when chocolate’s involved.

*Harry, let’s call him* is certainly a Christ-like man who is kind, patient and gentle. He talks to anyone and welcomes everyone. He just has a peace about him and I appreciate his kindness and generosity, even in my dreams. He gave me a chance to share my story with the team since he was in charge of morning devotionals. He was so supportive on our trip. He gave everyone honey in the morning for their tea or bread at breakfast. Love you, Harry-bear! You’re as sweet as the honey you shared. [He used to own an apiary (bees! honey!)] We were definitely in the land of milk and honey when we traveled with Harry.

I’ll Fly Away

The state of Florida has reduced spending this year and many organizations are struggling to find funds, especially art programs. Our family gave to two organizations, Ringling Art College and Venice Theatre. We are proud to offer any amount of money to these two art-based communities.

Please consider giving. https://givingpartnerchallenge.org/
You can give to Venice Theatre or to any organization. Until noon today, your gift between $25-$100 will be matched. Thank you!

Here’s a video about why my family recently volunteered at Venice Theatre in the play Grapes of Wrath.

I’ll Fly Away is playing in the background as they are doing sound checks. How sweet. That was our ending song for Grapes.

Charity Begins at Home (and with Demi)

I asked a WordPress friend to speak about charity. Here are her thoughts and answers.


Demi, known as The Lupie Momma on WordPress, is turning 27 this year. She is not disappointed about getting older, she’s planning a huge 30th birthday celebration. (Get it, girl!) But she is a little sentimental about her daughter growing up so fast. Demi has a sweet, little girl who is almost 4. Demi is a wife and mother by day, working gal by night.

She’s dabbled at blogging for a few years on a few sites, but recently she decided to finish her novel. While struggling with Lupus (autoimmune disorder), she’s been working hard on this memoir. Demi is right and brave when she says “…life is too short not to go after everything.”
What do you do to volunteer or donate?
I’ve always given my clothes that are in good shape, that I’ve outgrown, to people I think can use them. Now that I have a fast growing toddler, I have started giving her old clothes and toys to other families. We have been fortunate enough to be able to afford these things, but we realize that some people aren’t as lucky.


Demi told me more about her personal giving.
They have a friend, Brandon (name changed for privacy). He’s a single dad of triplets. The mother is not involved on a regular basis. Brandon has to provide for 3 children. On his own. Demi knows how expensive one growing child can be. So. She started helping in any way she could. Brandon’s children are just 6 months younger than Demi’s girl. 2 of the triplets are girls. So Brandon is fixed for “hand-me-downs”. Brandon is truly grateful for the regular supply of girl’s clothing that Demi gives every change of the season.
Right before Christmas, Demi was preparing for the incoming onslaught of new toys for baby girl. They found an unused toddler bed and chair. She messaged Brandon right away. A few days later, Brandon posted about bills and presents; how hard it would be to provide this year. Demi had thought about buying a few small gifts, but after the post, Demi’s husband went full-on Santa. Gender-neutral toys that all the kids would enjoy. Delivered to Brandon’s house just in time for Christmas Eve. They didn’t say a word, leave a note or want any attention for doing so. They did unto others as they would want for themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon shipping included the husband’s email and Brandon figured it out. Needless to say, he was very thankful.


Why do you volunteer or donate?

We donate to help those in need because we would hope someone would help us if the shoe was on the other foot. Whether it’s to Brandon and his kids or hurricane relief somewhere else. (The state of Florida thanks you, Demi!!)
How do you feel when you give?
It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more, but my husband reminds me that its better I do a little than nothing at all. (I agree with your husband! If we all do some, we can do it all. <—Has someone already said that? If not, it’s so true!)

If we all do some, we can do it all!


Are you Christian or other religious affiliation? Do you give for a specific reason?

We’re Christians, but not the “we think we’re holier than others” type. We aren’t going to spit out scriptures at you or chaste you for not going to church.
No specific reason we do–except for the Lupus Foundation as that is a close charity that I personally benefit from.
I don’t know if I was necessarily taught to donate or volunteer, I just think my mother instilled in us from a young age to help others when we can. I remember being out to eat as a kid and my mom giving me a few dollars to give to the homeless man sitting a few tables away. Since then, I’ve just always kind of done it. Giving money to a random homeless man, or buying them a meal, giving my clothes to someone who could benefit from them. And now that I’m a mother myself, I want to instill that in my daughter. That not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that it’s good to help others when you can.
How do your kids feel about your helping?
I’m not really sure she fully grasps the concept yet. She’s only three. Occasionally when we’re packing up stuff she hasn’t played with for months, we get the “That’s my toy!” but we explain that you know you haven’t played with it in a while, and there is someone else who would enjoy it. After a few pouts, she usually just drops the subject, goes and plays with something else. Explaining the Santa to Seniors, and why we were getting gifts for “old people who weren’t grandma or grandpa” was a bit tricky. But she picked out the names of the women we got, ‘all E’s because her name starts with E’ and picked out the bags to put their stuff in, she even threw in some hot chocolate packets for them. I hope that as she gets older, she’ll admire us for it. And continue to do it as she grows up.


While Demi regularly donates old clothes and toys, she was moved to go above and beyond this holiday season. She said, “…it felt nice buying gifts for other people that probably actually deserve the gifts.” Every year, people feel burdened in buying gifts for extended family members as an act of obligation. Holiday gift exchange can feel like a pressure cooker of negativity and resentment, boiling over by Christmas. And at the end of it all you may, like Demi, wish you had helped someone who actually needed (not wanted) something.
Demi left me with this thought from John Bunyan:

You have not lived today
until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.


Let us know how the book is coming, Demi. I can post a link in an update. Thanks for sharing!

Please consider donating to the Lupus Foundation or to Demi’s personal fundraising goal.

Thanks!

It’s been almost 2 years since I started my blog. January 15, 2016. Dead, Bloated Deer Carcass was my first article.

I have 480 posts (this article makes 481, and very few repeats). Over 13,000 views. And 332 followers. I’ve also lost ~172 lbs since I started! 😀

Thanks!

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. It hasn’t all been publishable prose or poetry. But it’s straight from the heart. It’s my life. It’s straight-through-the-teeth truth.

Thanks for following. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your support. I don’t do this for money. I do it because I can’t stop.


Also! I would like to keep interviewing people.

If you help people, anyone, even one person, in your community on a regular basis, I would love to interview you for a series on charity. It could be anything. As simple as always giving the homeless guy on the corner your extra change. Or always donating to an organization. Cooking meals for patients. How do you help people every day or at the holidays? I would love to hear your stories and share those with my followers.

Leave a comment or message me. You can also email me at: martha.maggio@sbcglobal.net.

Christ=Love

Philippians 1:9-10 NIV

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,


So our love may abound.

That’s not a selfish love for ourselves. That is love for our neighbor. Fellow man, global partner, friend, boss, co-worker, passerby, merchant, customer, homeless man on the street.

Do u think if you knew why a person was a jerk that you could love them more? If you knew why a man was homeless could you hold his hand? Offer him food? Wash his feet? If you heard his story, could you see his heart?

Our depth of insight is shallow. We don’t care why someone takes advantage of us, we just know that we have to fight for our rights! That is the American way. We were founded on this principle.

The knowledge Christ gives us of human relationship is deep and unending. And Christ asks us to overlook our rights to reach the heart of man. He forfeited his rights on the cross to reach us. Right?


I saw a man on the street holding a sign this week as I made my way to the hospital to drop off my collected labs.

AMERICA NEEDS JESUS CHRIST

We surely do. We need Christ. Christ=Love. Love=Unconditional care. Amen, Brother.

good stuff

I wrote this for church several years ago. I still agree with the sentiment. And I’m better now.

In terms of serving other people, I do what I can, for whom I can. I try to respond to the call of need of those immediately around me. Not just those who attend my church. I try to pay attention. And I do it because I want to. Because it brings me joy.

And if it doesn’t? Working on it.

We can start there. That’s a good start to good stuff. If everyone did that? We’d have a better world.


Altruism /æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. a concern for the welfare of others without any benefit to one’s self.

AKA-doing good stuff for other people and you don’t get nothin’ for it.

Many cultures and religions prioritize this concept of altruism. It is certainly a key tenet of Christ’s teachings (the words that came out of Christ’s mouth), even if some Christians don’t follow.

Interestingly though, many people are skeptical of completely selfless service. True altruism can in no way satisfy the giver. It must be an act of sacrifice in which the giver receives nothing. Educated opinions differ as to whether pure altruism even exists.

I believe that we are created with an innate sense of concern for others. I do. We are built for doing good. We are, after all, made in the image of God. But as with all divine design, we can pervert, mangle, void and totally destroy God’s gift with our own skewed perspective. We’re not perfect.

PLUS! We are imprinted with tons of distorted viewpoints by the age of reason. We are taught to be cautious, self-protecting, guarded, skeptical, closed. Instead of running naked (emotionally!), open, arms stretched out to total strangers embracing each other in love. Get outta here, Hippie!

Your life should bring you J-O-Y!


I was taught, from a very young age, that one could live life in an extremely simple, specific way and espouse this value above all others, JOY.
It’s easy, your priorities will fall into these categories:
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

I learned this lesson early and for the most part, I have lived my life this way. Sometimes, the letters got jumbled along the way. And sometimes the letters were missing, altogether.

Even so, I have usually put others’ feelings and welfare above my own, but the reasons were borne of fear and selfishness. There was no J-O-Y in it. My thoughts were these:
If I don’t put God first, He will be angry with me and punish me.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, they won’t love me.
If I don’t put myself last, I am selfish and lazy.

I didn’t do good for goodness sake, I was wrapped in negative motivations. I was simply trying to avoid the bad. Over the past decade, however, I have tried to put others first out of an idealistic will, to take the selfishness out of serving, to do good for God. I wanted that desire to fill me up and bring me joy. That desire has landed me in an unexpected place. I am still struggling with the same negative motivations.

Whenever I am asked to do something, I complain, out loud or in my heart. I am still wrapped in fear. My thoughts have developed to these:
If I don’t put God first, I’m not truly a Christian.
If I don’t put my family and friends first, I do not love or I’m not truly a friend.
If I don’t put myself last, I have failed.

In the past few months, I have come crashing down. I have staked my value in service and it has failed. I have tried to do more, serve more, give more than ever before and it has not brought me any closer to God. My marriage is suffering, my child is neglected, my heart is grumbling and dark. When you get to the root of it, I am an incredibly broken, screwed-up failure. My strategies for life are just as twisted as someone who only looks out for number 1. I am fooled and tricked by my own misunderstanding. I wish I truly cared for people the way Christ did. I wish that I could wrap my arms around the whole hurting world. I wish that my actions reflected a pure love for God.

I’ve been trying to define altruism for myself or letting others define it for me when I should look to God’s definition for my life and look at myself through His eyes.


For several years, my husband and I served at our local church, we were on the drama team, served in children’s church, wrote stories, scripts, essays and lesson plans. We unloaded fireworks, made movies, cooked, cleaned, listened, directed and an endless list of tasks. And others did even more than we did.

But. Our salvation. We were just as much in need of salvation on the last day of our time there as our first.

Salvation. It’s not a game. You try to put points up on that board, but somehow it never measures up to Jesus’ sacrifice, does it? I need to stop keeping score. Jesus zeros the board every single day. And that’s always in our favor. How many times do I screw up in a day? Let’s just say, I keep the statisticians busy.

Salvation is not about earning points on our way to heaven. It’s about letting heaven come down to take over the game, our will and desire: our heart, mind, body and soul. When we do that, the definition for altruism will simply read:
/æltru●ĭzǝm/ n. see God.