The Fragrance of Friendship

May 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm


“We faithfully tilled the soils of friendship, transforming a story of ‘Bramble and Thorns’ into the beauty of a ‘Bouquet of Roses.”


The recess bell rang, and hundreds of school children swarmed the playground, freedom bound. Kids bolted in every direction in an every-man-for-himself pursuit of their favorite playground equipment. Hand in hand, toddled towards the elusive jungle gym. Third graders pushed and shoved their way towards the swings. Fourth graders stormed the slides, and my fifth grade classmates and I sprinted for the baseball field. Recess lasted only thirty minutes. So our game always ended up at the top of the ‘shortest game in history’ list. But, it never failed to be the best thirty minutes of our day. For even in that short time frame, each of us found a strange contentment just being in the presence of our friends. That is…with the exception of one.

Darcy Fincklwitz forced her way into our line-up that day. She called no one friend. To my knowledge, Darcy never participated in anything ever. If a room had a corner, Darcy could be found sitting in it. She stayed in the shadows of every school event. Her dark eyes hid behind a black curtain of bangs hanging loosely over the precipice of a permanently scowling brow. She walked by herself to and from school and avoided talking to any of us. Given the choice, most of us assumed Darcy would have turned down walking with her own shadow.

“Of all days for me to be chosen captain of one of the baseball teams!” I cried out silently. “Why Darcy…and why today?”

The other team captain, Nicholas, and I flipped a rusty bottle cap for first pick. Nicholas won.

“Frank…I choose you first!” Nicholas yelled out with a smile.

Feeling the pressure to choose quickly, I yelled out a name at random.

“Evan! …come on over!”

I found myself so preoccupied with trying to avoid looking in Darcy’s direction that I couldn’t even concentrate. Nicholas and I batted a couple more picks back and forth until it came down to choosing from the last two people. And you guessed it! Darcy was one of the two.

“It’s your turn Hutty (My childhood nickname)…chop chop! Time’s wastin!”Nicholas reminded me, clapping his hands together.

Had I known in fifth grade the term, “heart palpitation” I would have known what to call what I experienced at this point. I could feel my palms drenched with the waters of my dilemma. Though Darcy stood speechless, I could almost hear her screaming out, “Pick me…please…just choose ME!”
The next thing I remember hearing is Nicholas shouting, “Let’s play ball!” and seeing Darcy heading straight for me.

“What did I just do?” I thought to myself, forcing a smile in Darcy’s direction. My voice seemed to have a mind of its own today; it answered me back saying, “I just chose Darcy Fincklwitz …the class giant…to be on my team.”

Time stood still on the elementary ball field that afternoon when Darcy bent down to pick up a bat. All of us took a deep breath as we watched her take a few wild practice swings. For one brief moment, we panicked. Evan leaned over whispering his warning in my ear.

“Way to go, Hutty,”” He said. You may have just found a way to arm the ‘enemy!’”

Darcy glanced back at us for a brief moment, and then stepped up to the plate to bat. But before she had a chance to swing the bat again, the bell ending recess rang and we all scrambled back to class.

I know that Darcy heard us talking in the background that day. She never said a word to any of us about anything. But after school I found her sitting on the steps outside…alone. I wanted to say something…anything…but I didn’t. As I started past her to catch up with my friends, she hollered out my name. I didn’t even know that she knew my name. Before I could even turn around she stood beside me. Her figure towered over me. I swallowed hard.

“Uh…thanks for being on…uh…the team today, Darcy,” I managed to spit out before her two giant arms reached over and put me in a headlock. Her reaction stunned me. If this wasn’t bad enough, she then took off walking with my head still under her arm. Convinced that she might be delivering me as a parcel of ‘rearranged flesh’ on my own front porch, I started praying! The thought of death at such a young age didn’t appeal to me. Especially death-by-Darcy! Her grip held my ear so firmly up against her rib cage that I could hear her heart pounding like a metronome keeping fast and furious time to a very angry song. A song with just two words… “Kill Hutty! … Kill Hutty!” She dragged me along, stumbling to keep up with her, for five l-o-n-g blocks. Then she just stopped. Still in a headlock, Darcy spoke for the first time since we left the school grounds.

“So, Hutty! Wanna be friends?” she said in a gruff tone.

“I…I guess so,” I answered from my head locked position.

Darcy seemed satisfied enough with my answer to let me stand upright again. Still dazed and confused, but grateful for having my death sentence lifted; I found myself standing at the bottom of my own street. In light of everything else that happened today, I supposed this might be Darcy’s own bizarre way of walking me home from school. She ended this grand entrance into my life with one final scene. Reaching up, she parted the black curtain of bangs across her forehead just long enough to introduce me to two of the saddest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. Then the curtain dropped and the scene ended as quickly as it had begun. Darcy turned and headed for home and I stood there wondering what just happened.

Comedy of Errors? I think not. Years later now, I prefer to gaze on this scene in my life story as more of a Divine Interruption. A truly unique way of God ushering friendship into an orphan’s life. You see, Darcy learned the art of ‘invisibility’ early in her life. Her mom, a school teacher, taught other people’s kids. Her dad, an efficiency expert, organized other people’s lives. At home…both mom and dad alternated shifts around the clock with Darcy’s older brother, Jerry. He suffered from a serious heart condition at birth. And Darcy? She faded into the background and disappeared. At school the story repeated itself. Teased and taunted by class mates, Darcy roamed alone; staying in the shadows life cast on her convinced of her unworthiness to merit anyone’s time and attention.

You see, every one of us as human beings has felt the unbearable ache of being swept aside and held prisoner by life and its unwanted circumstances. It is the heart-sting of orphanism. The gut wrenching loneliness of being abandoned in the streets of our own surroundings…left alone to provide somehow for our needs by scratching around in the dirt and alley ways of an unsympathetic world for love. We find ourselves desperately hungry for more than just the crumbs that others toss our way. It is emptiness beyond comprehension, and a deep longing in the caverns of our soul for someone to look deep into our eyes and listen to our story.

God used a headlock to draw me into Darcy Fincklwitz’s life story. When others might have viewed this scene as bullying; I believe God used her rib cage as a sounding board for my ears …as a way of revealing to me that Darcy had a heart after all. I learned from a unique perspective, about grace and mercy as she dragged me down that pathway headed for what I perceived as ‘sure death,’ only to be given a reprieve at the end of it all. I felt an orphan’s grasp, desperate for someone to walk along-side of her and listen to the cries of her heart. To share the pain hiding behind the loneliness that veiled those two sad eyes.

Each one of us has felt the desperation that drives us to act out of a deep longing in our soul to ‘belong’ in our world. To experience the thrill of being chosen; adopted into the shelter of someone’s circle of love and acceptance. If we are ignored long enough, we begin believing in the lies of a world that gladly steps in and tries to tell us who we are. We lose sight of who we are created to be…a child, forever precious in the eyes of our greatest Friend, our Loving Heavenly Father. We are souls created to love and to be loved. God gives each one of us a special role to play in life. A role which propels us head first into a moving dramatization of a search for companionship. An arduous journey that ever pushes us towards a continuous and growing love for others in life.

God used a thirty minute segment from a childhood baseball game and Darcy Fincklwitz, to set the stage for a lifelong lesson in my life. We are not alone on the stage of our life. Sometimes we are not even the main characters. Blinded by the spotlight shining down on us, too often we fail to notice the orphans hiding in silent misery behind the curtains on the side wings. Waiting…longing for a part in our story; and needing us to play a part in their story. Only when our stories intersect with those of others will we ever discover what King David of Old realized as he entered into the heights of his own story; “… it was for a special reason—to give joy to God’s people.” (1 Chronicles 14:2 LAB)

Darcy and I spent the next eight years of school together as friends. We plodded side by side, through the bramble and thorns of her life story. Darcy’s world really never changed on the outside. Her brother remained sickly; her parents, too busy for her. Even in high school, kids continued to taunt Darcy; and now me, for choosing to walk alongside her. But at the end of it all do you know what we each discovered? Joy. Though we stuck out in this world like sore-thumbs; Darcy Fincklwitz and I ended up as green-thumbs. The undeniable evidence of growth in our journey towards friendship. From head-locked, to hand-held, to heart-felt— we faithfully tilled the soils of friendship and in doing so, transformed the loneliness of a story of “Bramble and Thorns” into the beauty of a “Bouquet of Roses.” It is the Fragrance of Friendship…a fragrance that lingers for the span of a lifetime!

Sweetly Broken

May 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm


“STELLA…NO!”“Stop that! No…you CAN’T play ball in the house!” “DOWN, Stella!” “Off the bed, Stella!” “Get away from that screen door!” “STOP!…DROP!…SIT!…COME!” “WHEW! Where does it all stop?” Not until Stella learns to do what I say, when I say it. Until then, I just have to keep teaching her. Stella is my son’s girlfriend’s dog. We only have her for the weekend. She’s a two year old golden Labrador Retriever. Blonde and beautiful, she is also sassy and spontaneous in every way. Is there such a thing as the Terrible-Twos when it comes to dogs? In human-years, I realized she’s already a teenager. Perhaps that’s an even a worse scenario! In either case, obedience is a problem. My words go unheeded and she just plain forgets who’s boss.

Frustrated, I plopped down in my easy chair with a big sigh. That’s when I experienced my first Divine-canine moment. Though not audible, I could hear God’s Voice whispering in my spirit, “Come…Sit…Listen.”
Then He threw me a Heavenly Scrap to chew on. How often have I turned a deaf ear to God’s commands for my life? Ignored His Word and rushed headlong into something despite His warnings? I’m not so different from Stella after all. (That’s a sobering thought.) In both cases, obedience is still a problem. Sadly, sometimes I too, just plain forget who the Master is.

This excerpt is from one of my Journal entries way back on August 24, 2007. Since that time, my Son married his girlfriend, his girlfriend is now my Daughter-in-Law, and Stella became my Grand-dog! Even with all of these changes in effect today, one thing remains the same. Stella. Obedience is often still a problem. She is now 63 years old in human years! She’s the only one of my Grandkids who is older than I am! So much for the old adage, “With age comes wisdom.” What scares me about this thought is that I still see a lot of myself in Stella’s behavior concerning her natural bent toward disobedience. Whether you are a dog or a human being, all of life hinges on making good or bad choices. Even now, in my eagerness to please my Master, and Stella to please her master; we sometimes still prove to be only a disappointment when it comes to our actions or responses toward the circumstances pressing in on us. Both for a dog and for a human, obedience is always far more than just instilling a one-time change in behavior. True obedience is the result of a change that comes from deep within the heart. It doesn’t just affect outward behavior; the things we do. It is the result of sculpting our very character from the inside out; changing who we are. Though Stella’s disobedience may only change the climate of her master’s household for a few moments in any given day; my own disobedience in my Master’s House has the far reaching potential to affect the lives around me for Eternity! This is the point where Stella and I part ways. This is also the interval where I am reminded of the second time in my life when my Master unexpectedly threw me another Heavenly Scrap. A Scrap that I will be chewing on from now until Eternity!

This past year, I’ve been attending a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group every Monday night. We are studying the Gospel of Matthew. We meet as one large group for fellowship; then break down into smaller groups for discussion. Following this, there is time to share individual prayer requests. One of my main requests since September of 2013 has been to seek God’s wisdom and guidance in the matter of setting up a blog site for my writing. I am so media- challenged in this high-tech world; I knew I couldn’t begin to do it on my own. Yet…I still felt God nudging me to pursue the idea. After several months of praying, nothing seemed to change. Both my group and I continued to pray; asking…seeking…knocking, faithfully anticipating God’s provision in His time. By the time month number seven rolled around, I have to admit I struggled with thoughts defined by both doubt and fear in me. Every day, I tried not to listen to the little voices rising inside of me, silently pursuing me at intervals from daybreak to night fall. The enemy’s voice telling me things like, “Who are you on the social media scene anyway?” “Just a nobody…an unknown in the writing world.” “No one will read your writings.” “You will fail at this.”

Failure isn’t something any of us likes to experience in life, but I hadn’t even tasted success yet with a blog that hadn’t happened yet and here I was already fighting off fears of failure! Sensing a hole or two in my great wall of faith surrounding this blog idea, I stuffed both fear and doubt a little deeper down inside of me. After all, out of sight out of mind…right? Truthfully…this way of thinking is anything but a Biblical thought. It’s just choosing on my own to fly with my lights off. It is flying blind.

One Monday night recently, I headed off to Bible Study as usual. Everything seemed as it should be. Though still ‘flying blind’, my homework was done and my old prayer request was now written down in a brand new way. What I forgot was this. Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space in a Child of God’s heart for long without some serious consequences. Jesus calls His own to full commitment…not half-hearted devotion stained with doubt and fear. Little did I know it but, my heart was ripe and ready for receiving another of God’s Heavenly Scraps to chew on!
After our group discussion ended, a couple of ladies shared individual prayer requests. Then, taking a deep breath I added mine,

“Please continue praying for God’s will where my blog site is concerned. It’s funny…but, I almost feel as though God has gone completely silent on me.”

As our group leader closed our time together, she prayed for God’s will concerning my blog, ending her prayer with these words.

“…and God, Debbie’s blog is in Your Hands. We pray that You will make Your answer plain and clear to her beyond a shadow of a doubt. In Jesus name, Amen.”

At this point, I could hear the shuffling of over 200 women’s feet scurrying out of their small groups to re-assemble for a Bible lecture. It was into this less-than- five -minute snippet of time, between my Group Leader’s final “amen” and finding my seat for the lecture that God slipped me another of His Heavenly Scraps to chew on!
Bending over to retrieve my purse off the floor, I watched a pair of feet pull up and park directly in front of me. By the time I stood up straight there was a smile named Donna waiting at the opposite end of those feet to greet me. Before I could even smile back, she began to speak what she called, “the words God laid on her heart for me while our small group was praying moments earlier.”

With an attitude of genuine concern laced with a measure of kindness I can’t explain, Donna, shared these amazing words with me.

“While our group was praying for you,’ Donna elaborated, “God gave me a revelation concerning your writing. I believe it’s a problem of obedience. Maybe fear…or possibly even doubt… which keeps you from moving forward in the direction He’s been urging you to move.”

There were three words instantly highlighted by the rush of adrenaline inside of me triggered by Donnas’ heart-awakening conversation. Revelation, fear, and doubt. Another word for revelation is simply, eye-opener. This was certainly that for me! As for fear and doubt, I was well acquainted with both. Until this moment, I’d lost sight of the fact of them being equated with disobedience. The darkness that comes from flying with your lights off provides the perfect backdrop for the lingering shadows of doubt and fear to thrive in undetected. I stuffed them so-o-o deep down inside of me, Donna, a total stranger to me; couldn’t have known they existed there. No one in this world could’ve known they were hidden inside of me …except God. God, clothed in Donnas’ flesh. It was His Voice I was hearing when Donna spoke. Her words embedded deeply in my heart. I recognized them to be His instant message for me in response to my group’s earlier prayer to “… make His answer plain and clear to me beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Living beyond the shadow of doubt and fear wasn’t going to be easy for me. I’d ignored this dynamic duo for so long they’d become a part of who I was and how I filtered my thinking. Now that the Light of Donnas’ words was shining brightly on them both…I needed to decide what I was going to do. My heart wasn’t made to share space with my Master and these unwelcome strangers, too. The thought of my disobedience wasn’t easy to swallow, but I also understood the unmeasured value that comes with heeding my Master’s Voice.

Climbing into my car after BSF, oh how I longed for this next step to be as easy as Donnas’ smile pulling up next to me again and handing me part II of “Heavenly Scraps for Dummies!” but, Donna was nowhere in sight. In a less-than-two-minute-time frame I spent with her tonight, she’d managed to become for me a lifetime snapshot of what complete trust, amazing courage, and willing obedience must look like in the Master’s eyes. Now it was my turn. I made it as far as the edge of the church parking lot before the rain drops began to fall; on the front seat of my car, not outside.
“Forgive me, Father…forgive me for my lack of obedience. Forgive me for my fear to write the words that I once had no doubt You layed on my heart for others to read. For doubting that You have equipped me well to speak of Your Glory revealed in the trappings of my heart! ” I whispered. With every tear of regret I cried, I prayed a double portion of fear and doubt left with them. In this instant my heart grew keenly aware of an ocean of His Grace pooling in their place. I couldn’t help but feel a little like the blind beggars we’d just studied.

Two blind beggars were sitting beside the road outside the city of Jericho; shouting for mercy when they heard Jesus was near. Though the crowds tried to silence their cries, they continued to yell out; somehow knowing without seeing (faith), that Jesus could help them. Matthew 20:32-33 goes on to say. “When Jesus came to the place where they were, He stopped in the road and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus met these blind beggars right where they were…sitting in the midst of their own darkness. He already knew what they desired most in this world and yet…He posed an obvious question to them.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” I believe their desperate cries of, “We want to see!” rang in His ears as the beautiful melody of true faith. This is what ‘faith like a little child’ sounds like. It is belief beyond doubt! It is absolute trust beyond fear! This is the point in my tearful drive home that night that I heard Jesus whispering into my spirit the same question He asked those two blind beggars.

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

Jesus came to me ‘right where I was ‘…crying out in desperation consumed by my own ‘very real’ spiritual blindness. The road I was sitting on was the pathway paved with seven months-worth of prayers prayed for the birth of my blog site. Fear and Doubt were my crowds; attempting to silence me as I cried out to Him in desperation for relief from the darkness that comes from flying blind for so long.

“I want to see!” I cried out loud, like the blind men.

I wanted to see God bring the idea of my blog site into reality! I wanted to see His Glory shining through the words He’d given me to write.

My greatest desire in this moment was to trade my disobedience in for the blind trust I witnessed in the two beggars, and the unmistakable courage that defined Donna earlier. Thank you, Donna, for being Jesus to me in my blindness and for your willingness to serve as His Heavenly Scrap to me in a moment that will forever define my life. Though I can’t deny the level of pain that came when you spoke His words to me, my heart wouldn’t trade being so sweetly broken by the Master’s gentle touch. One week later, my son, Mike, built the blog site you are now reading! God’s Love truly is big enough to Light any darkness I have within me.

Concerning my Grand-pup, Stella…you weren’t barking up the wrong tree on that day you so blindly introduced me to my first taste of Heavenly Scraps and how difficult they can sometimes be to swallow! Even at 63 years old, Stella still loves just being in the presence of her master. At the sound of her master’s voice, her tail still wags in sync with her foot-long tongue. Her excitement is extreme and her love genuine, but her behavior still hinges on the bacon flavored “Beggin Strip dangling from her master’s finger tips. When it’s gone so is her desire for obedience.

This is not how our Master works in each of our lives. When He tosses a Heavenly Scrap in our direction, He aims it squarely at our heart. That is where true obedience takes place; changing not just what we do for the moment but, who we are for a lifetime. He doesn’t see us as anxious pups who, given enough time, will straighten up and fly right. He knows we’re more like little lambs. Utterly helpless on our own and prone to wander at any given moment only to end up lost in a darkness of our own choosing. It’s the very reason The Master calls Himself, The Good Shepherd. If the Good Shepherd were to toss you a Heavenly Scrap; one that you could chew on for the span of your lifetime, this would be it:

“With His gentle voice the Shepherd calls to His loved and straying lambs. “Come back, little ones, for you are not safe unless… you are where I Am.”

“My sheep respond as they hear My Voice. I know them intimately and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 The Voice)