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Words and Hands

Posted Friday, July 27, 2012, at 2:51 PM

She was so excited who could barely stay in one spot for more than a few moments at a time. The guys were loading the van with all their supplies. They had been working for almost an hour and she was growing impatient with the desire to be on the way. The sooner they left, the sooner they could get to their destination and set up camp for the weekend. Thankfully she had few classes on Fridays so she could go down in the first group.

She loved camping. Her family had gone camping every summer she could remember. Most of the time they were joined by her parents siblings' families as well. They would end up with tent cities set up by an Ozark spring branch with small clusters of tents around the main campfire/cooking area. She especially loved the nights when they sat up late talking, roasting marshmallows, drinking hot chocolate or tea, teasing and laughing as the close knit family they were. This was her chance to begin to build memories with a new group--new friends.

Finally, they were ready to leave. Travelling along the roads, they drew puzzled and sometimes strange looks. They were rather odd looking with the tipi poles lashed to the roof of the van, the interior stuffed with a jumble of tipi canvas, camping equipment, and people. They crowded everything possible into the space and sat closely together; three guys, two young boys, and the girl.

When they stopped for gas along the way it reminded her of a clown car. People watched as they continued to pile out of the van, laughing and talking. She and the boys went in search of the wonders in the candy aisles. Stopping to pay as they made their choices, she was amused when the man behind the counter commented on her precious boys--"if only" she thought. Instead of correcting him, she thanked him and herded them back to the van while holding in their giggles.

Soon they were at their destination and everyone got busy unloading the van. She had never helped set up a tipi before, but under guidance they all took their places and soon had both set up and the supplies settled inside. The rest of the group began to arrive; the smells of cooking food, conversation and laughter brought a warm feeling of déjà vu to her.

The night was cool and they soon gathered inside the larger of the two tipis around the fire pit in the center. They sang songs; talked of God; swapped tall tales; and grew into a family over that weekend. She watched their leader, his wife, and children--the boys she had been with on the way and wanted to find a relationship like theirs for her own someday; a spouse to laugh, play, work, and stand with through time.

In between ghost and "big foot" stories, it was discovered that she knew how to give a good back rub--when she would finish massaging one person's back, another would move over for a turn. She learned that while she was loosening taunt muscles the conversations would move from the playful to deeper levels; that meeting the physical needs of her friends also opened the doorway to spiritual conversations and issues as well.

She shared her faith in God and talked to those in her life about God easily. She began to wonder if just talking about God to others was enough. Her hands needed to be engaged in the work as well--words without actions were not enough.

Over the years her life continued to entwine with her former campus minister. They lived and ministered in the same community many years later. When his family was facing hard times, it was her opportunity to give back some love and support. Their relationship grew and changed over the years as mentors, ministers, and friends. They became family--not by blood, but rather by heart. The joys, accomplishments, heartaches, and sorrows they shared; and that made the path easier to walk--knowing they would never be alone.

God brought them together; blessed the relationship; and called it good. God created humans to be God's children; to share fellowship and be in relationship with God. When we try to walk alone, we rob ourselves of the incredible peace and contentment of being with our creator. We were never intended to be solitary, isolated individuals. God created us for good, to reach others through our touch, our words, our actions . . . our love--the image of God's love.

We thank you for those who have touched our lives with your love, God. You continually love us, provide for us, and bless us. In our press toward earthly comfort we often forget to take the time to commune with you--forgive us. We know you still speak to us with your voice, and through the touch of your children. Give us the wisdom to open ourselves to you, the courage to share with others, and the contentment in knowing you. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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