Walking by Faith Alone

Archive for June 2011

Music in the garden…

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On my walk to the Joffrey Ballet Studio every morning at 9:15, I pass a garden, enclosed by a 7 to 8 foot black iron fence. It is triangular in shape and filled with exotic plants that make seeing inside all but impossible. The area has become a mysterious dwelling for me, and my curiosity runs rampant wondering who owns it. There is a tree, Japanese maple, which grows in the center of the garden and under the tree sits a man in a stadium chair, playing music. He doesn’t sing. He doesn’t collect money; for even if we wanted to throw money, it would be lost in the thick jungle-type vines that grow on the fencing. No, he plays for a different reason.

It is sad, whimsical at times; sometimes, it is rejuvenating and spirit filling. The acoustic guitar resonates above the sound of the moving cars and the bustling of people. It flows through the crowds, enveloping us, inviting us to stop and hear.

I stood and glared through a peep hole in the vines, wondering who could be playing such beautiful music and why? His hair is brown with a slight curl, his skin light but darkening from the sun. He wears shorts and flip-flops and a safari type hat… but the music is mesmerizing.

I sat on the pavement with my back to the fence, not wanting to leave but tired from standing. When 10:00am rolled around, he stopped in mid-song, disappearing into the building which serves as a blockade to anyone wanting to enter the sacred dwelling.

Not far from where I was sitting, a lady began gathering her belongings, “Who is he?” I asked.

She paused only for a moment before walking over to where I was. “I have no idea. I’ve been coming here every day to listen to him for the past two weeks. He plays every day. Even in the rain.”

“Even in the rain?”  

Maybe he plays to God or a long lost lover. Maybe he is in therapy to overcome anger issues. Maybe he is a famous musician hiding from the public. Maybe it is none of my business the reasoning behind what he does; maybe I’m just supposed to enjoy it.

As I started my walk home, I decided not to take the subway. I wanted to think about God and people. Why we do the things we do… I’m a believer that God took time to create every life-form on this planet. Each pedal is counted and placed strategically for our enjoyment and every color of rose chosen to glorify Him. The Bible tells us that He calls the names of the stars in the sky and knows the number of hairs on our heads. The spider’s legs are shaped perfectly so that it can climb and weave its web. The songs of the birds vary because the combined singing must bring harmony to His ears. This world, intelligently designed, is a beautiful place made for us to enjoy by the hand of God.

The familiar quote entered my mind, “Stop and smell the roses.” When I think how many sunsets I’ve missed, new leaves budding on the trees, mountains gleaming in the distance, or light shimmering across a lake.  The butterflies I’ve overlooked or the smiles from people I ignored. I wonder if we all should just stop what we are doing and lavish the beauty of nature.

My grandmother, Mama Dolly, used to say, “Stop and smell the roses and while you are at it, pull a few weeds!”

I think she had the best idea.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm

We Simply Shared a Cup of Coffee…

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Joe’s Café is just around the corner from StarBucks in Greenwich Village; a nice “home-like” atmosphere with  tables outside to enjoy the morning light. After taking my laundry to the sweetest little lady down the street who cannot speak a lick of English but makes the clothes smell sunshine fresh, I decided to stop in and read. At 7:15am Joe’s is quiet, and there is one particular table that I like because I can see the street in either direction.

I’m researching the civil war for a ghost writing project I will embark in August. While I will be representing the Confederacy, I am currently engaged in a book about the Union. Important to know both sides, I reason.

She sat at the table next to me, joking that I had taken her favorite spot. “Well, if it’s your favorite, why not join me?” I responded…and she did.

We talked about New York; where we were from; why we were here. She said I didn’t sound southern. I told her I try not to.  After asking why, I responded, “Because most people think southerners are illiterate.”

“Well, you’re reading,” she replied, gesturing towards my book, “So I guess that speaks volumes for you.” We laughed.

We discussed whether Obama would have a second term and the economy in Greece. We laughed about pigeons and their thoughts of the city and reminisced about an old Disney Movie that had Doberman Pinchers in it who assisted a couple of bank robbers. What happened to that movie?

I told her about hearing the gospel singers in Time Square and how it rejuvenated my soul. She asked me about my faith; she shared hers. When she had finished her cup of coffee and some sort of Danish, she left a tip for the waiter, thanked me for our conversation, and left.

“How do you know her?” the waiter asked me as he cleared away her plate.

“Who?” I responded.

“Ellen. Ellen DeGeneres.”

The silence that followed answered his question. “You didn’t know you were having coffee with Ellen?”

“Maybe she was just a look-alike,” I murmured to his condescending eyes and shaking head as if he could not believe I could be so ignorant.

I’ve spent the last few hours wondering if indeed she was Ellen and  had I known, what would I have said? Probably that Finding Nemo was my all time favorite and Dory’s phrase, “Just keep swimming, has inspired me on many occassions.” I often use it as a mantra when I need encouragment. Autographs are just too intrusive, so I know I wouldn’t have requested it.

She didn’t say her name was Ellen but neither did I say my name was Nora.

…we simply shared a cup of coffee and maybe that was what we both needed at the time.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Your Sunday is coming

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I love to be challenged, not in a competitive way, more in a personal way. Challenged by God to give more, to learn more, to see more, to listen more, to understand more, to hurt more…yes, to hurt more.

A friend of mine recently lost her husband in an automobile accident. I say recently although it has been 1 year and 8 months. She requested I clean out her husband’s desk. He kept it under lock and key. The key was attached to his car key chain. No one ever touched his desk.

His clothes had been donated to Good Will months ago; his many books to the local library; his ties to his best friend and golfing partner; but, the desk remained in a mysterious, somber, silent state in his office attached to the garage. She had placed the key in her jewelry box.

Her instructions to me, “If you find anything that could disparage his image in my eyes, will you destroy it?”

“I won’t find anything,” I whispered.

“If you do, give me your word. I cannot accept he wasn’t who I thought he was.”

“You have my word,” I stated confidently, “but I won’t find anything. He was as good as it gets.”

We all experience doubt – doubt in ourselves and in those we love. It is almost a defense mechanism to prepare us for hurt. Raw, open wounds are just too painful, and the inevitable scars that are sure to come from those wounds are the visible symbols of why we doubt.

She left her house not to return until I texted her “all is clear.” I must admit as I inserted the key and turned the lock, I silently prayed, “Please be who we believe you to be.” Sudden death gives a person little time to cover up messy tracks. Were you an adulterer? Maybe a gambler? Did you harbor a past of which she is not aware? A child from another relationship? Were you an international thief?

I tried to imagine why he would have this secret world locked in a drawer. Who does that? A rational person would have to conclude that there was something very bad in the drawer. What could be good?

As I pulled open the brass handled drawer, my eyes fell quickly on its contents – filled with cards and gifts- every anniversary covered – jewelry he had found in his travels with sweet notes attached. My favorite was a pair of sterling silver Hershey’s kisses earrings with the words written on a card, “I found these in Pennsylvania 3/11/07 and thought what a perfect gift for my lady on our 25th.”

I laughed aloud and cried all at the same time. Of course! Always the planner, why wouldn’t he have such a secret drawer of treasures?

The night of Christ’s arrest and later crucifixion, His followers must have felt so defeated. Everything He’d promised defied – everything He was about held in the limp, lifeless body covered in blood and despair. He was their God, their savior, their deliverer. Even though He told them Sunday was coming, that word, that insecurity, that hurt filled their souls. Doubt must have consumed them. There was no rejoicing but complete resolve – their King was dead.

Ahhhh, but Sunday came.

Faith is challenged and learned only when our doubt wants to consume us but we do not allow it. There is no obstacle, no problem, no struggle, no pain that God cannot handle. It is our unwaivering belief that He is in control and will turn it for good that buries our doubts and builds hope in the possibilities ahead.

His arm is long enough, strong enough, comforting enough, gentle enough, and secure enough to rescue us  from any situation in which we find ourselves.

Believe…your Sunday is coming.


Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 28, 2011 at 10:18 pm

The Right Stride

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          There is something about New York that is different from any place I’ve ever been. It is a beat, a rhythm that resonates along the streets, questioning who you are – challenging you to fit in. There is a walk that distinguishes the New Yorker from the tourist, almost instantaneously. Even the dogs on their leashes strut in like fashion.

          It isn’t hard to master once the ebb and flow connects with your feet and the pavement. I felt it when the gait finally kicked in and a person stopped to ask me for directions. “Ahhhh,” I thought, “I’m walking like a New Yorker!” It was about the time I stepped in a pothole and fell. Although I didn’t hear the word “tourist,” I’m sure it was uttered by someone.

          When I was in my early teens, my best friend Laurie Vinson and I used to ride our bicycle-built-for-two all over Sea Island, Georgia. Laurie had shorter legs than I did, so I took the front and she took the back. The front was hard to steer, which forced me to concentrate so that I did not hit an acorn and have the two of us sailing over the handle bars. It wasn’t so much the injury that concerned us as the appearance of a bicycle accident. We were one acorn away from total humiliation, if the right person was looking. No, I kept my eyes on the pavement, scanning for possible wipe-out disasters. We rounded a curve on the sidewalk and found ourselves face-to-face with a six year old boy on training wheels. He swerved left, I swerved right. He made it in the clear; I hit an acorn and flew over the handle bars.

          There is always someone or something lurking in the shadows to throw off our “walk.” Always some unexpected pothole or acorn thrown at just the right time to make us feel derailed. It is usually at a time when we are trying our hardest or putting forth our best efforts.

          In the Bible, several men are mentioned as people who “walked with God.”  Enoch, Noah, and Abraham are some who visibly walked with God on a daily basis. In my morning prayer I often ask God to place each step that I take in the direction He wants me to go. So, where do the pot holes and acorns fit in?

          The more I study the Bible I have come to realize that life here on earth is actually preparation for eternity. This “earth journey” is the cover page and table of contents – the chapters begin when we cross that finish line. We are here to learn compassion, empathy, obedience, trust, submission, forgiveness and humbleness. Those pot holes and acorns are tools to redirect us and allow Him to use us for a much bigger plan of which we are totally unaware.

          Surprisingly, that pothole, on the streets of New York? At the time I tripped, I was actually talking to God wondering where He was in this big city of millions of people. I guess He answered me. Five people stopped to help me, one of whom runs a missions home for people who live on the streets.  

          Asked and answered.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

The Inevitable Voice of Change

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        My Dad had a red Ranchero back in the early seventies. He bought it about the time we moved from the only home I’d ever known to a colonial styled 1906 two-story brick, in desperate need of remodel, on 20 acres. “Chapter 3,”  as my Dad liked to call it  He paraphrased life changes as if writing a book. (The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, for I do as well). 

          We were waiting in the driveway for a herd of Dairy Cattle to arrive one muggy summer night in 1973. I was sitting on the edge of the bed of the truck listening to the bullfrogs sing when he uttered, as if delivering a soliloquey, “You know bug (my nickname), every seven years something difficult happens in a life and it changes us dramatically.” He paused as if in deep thought and then walked away, leaving me to wonder what he meant. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found there is truth to his words, at least in my life..

          Seasons, Chapters, Cyclical Rotations, Redefining stories, whatever term one might use to describe the process, unexpected changes are an inevitable voice in everyone’s life – sometimes by choice and other times arriving as unexpected as a violent storm.

          That’s where I find myself today in my life. Ending a very long, tough season. Oswald Chambers noted, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” I’ve often wondered if Chambers meant to say “change.”

          Many of us find ourselves in unchartered waters at times. Over the last few months I randomly murmur at any given moment,  “Ok Lord. Here I am…now what do I do?” A family home burns to the ground; a car accident takes a life; a marriage of 26 years ends; the nest becomes empty; the job of 15 years terminates; it all finds us standing in the middle of the grocery aisle, wondering, “What do I do now?”

          It isn’t so much the depth of the heartache or the adjustment of lifestyle as it is the direction of movement – and movement must occur. Somedays I have counted the steps I made the entire day and written them in my journal just to prove I actually made it through 24 hours. I’ve found the people in my life that I appreciate most are those whose words are neither cruel nor nice but real. And while change is daunting, scary at times, and painful, it can be positive if given the opportunity to be by those who are experiencing it.

          What my Dad failed to mention to me however is how we deal with the changes of our lives, probably because there are no clear cut answers.  Job put it best in 29:3, “By His light I walk through darkness.” 

         That rod and staff is not just for comfort, sometimes it is the only thing left to grab…and I’m holding on tight.

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 28, 2011 at 12:35 am

Leap With Me…

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I once read about an experiment with a frog in a kettle. The idea confirmed that if a frog is put in a kettle of boiling water, he will quickly jump out; however, if he is put in a kettle of cold water over a flame, he will acclimate himself to his environment and boil to death.

How many of us are like the frog? Conditioning ourselves to our surroundings, accepting the heat, until destruction overtakes us?

Very few times in my life will a person hear me say, “I’m angry because…” Well, today I am angry.

We have become a society of over-users of a particular word “inappropriate.” I’m guilty. The phrase “inappropriate behavior” blurts from my vocabulary quite often. What happened to the words, “that’s just wrong.”

The divorce rate is soaring. Infidelity is rampant. Our political and governmental officials use their power abusively. There are increases in hate crimes. Abundance of harm to animals. Cheating, stealing, hatred of others…I could literally wallow in all that’s bad for the next three paragraphs, but I won’t.

For the record, inappropriate means “not suitable or proper in circumstances.” The definition of wrong is “an unjust, dishonest, or immoral action.”

As parents, citizens, spouses, friends, children (put yourself in any category), we’re gradually boiling in a pot of hot water simply because we no longer distinguish between two words.

Well, today I’m angry. I’m leaping out of this kettle. What about you?

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm