A Surprise Blessing

Last weekend I went to Dallas for our daughter Jess’ wedding shower.

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The shower was a perfect time to speak blessings and reminisce on all that God has done over the decades from when our church community began.

Linda, mother of the groom, shared when their family came to the church where Jess and Chris eventually met. “I’ll never forget our first day.” She explained that their sons came to church before the rest of the family. “They were spending a lot of time at the church. We were excited that the boys were eager to be at church, but we hadn’t been to that church ourselves. We decided to go as a family and check it out.”

“The place was packed when we arrived. It was difficult finding a place to seat all six of us. We crammed into a section at the back. After the worship Pastor Steve got up to give the message. He paused, looking over the mass of people. Suddenly, he pointed… towards us ‘You there.’”

“We were far at the back and new. Surely he didn’t mean us. Then he said, ‘You –young man in the orange shirt, pointing in our direction.’”

Linda looked around the room full of women, then at Jess. “My son, Chris was the one wearing a bright orange shirt. Everyone else sat down, but Pastor asked Chris to stay standing. You can imagine my thoughts right? ‘Oh no, what has he done?!’”

Pastor Steve addressed Chris declaring that he believed the Lord was going to use him in a powerful and unique way. ‘There’s a high call on your life, son -to serve the nations.’  He encouraged Chris to prepare himself to minister among dignitaries around the world.”

The ladies responded, “Linda! That’s awesome!”

I waited till their happy responses finished, then eagerly thrust my hand in the air, “Wait! There’s more to the story!” I had to tell the other part of the story.

“Ya all, last fall Linda and I met for coffee when I was in town. She shared that story with me not realizing I had been there too, only with an entirely different view of what happened.”

“When she told me of their initial visit I cringed inside. I had forgotten that day up to that point. When she shared, my own recollection flooded my mind as if it just happened.”

“That day, I was up in my special “staff” spot where I took a count of attendees for service planning. The place was packed. We were short on seats and time. It was critical to keep to the timeline so we could move people out, so others could come in for the following service. I was stressed –even ticked, thinking, Why is Pastor Steve going off script for a kid who isn’t even part of the church?!”

“Pathetic, right? Oh, it got worse.”

I shared my unholy thoughts, “Wow God, we come week after week, year after year. We changed countless diapers in the nursery, stayed up endless nights during weekend retreats, camps and all those wacky junior high events. We loved and drudged thru the high school drama and never a special word for our kids who grew up in the church.”

“Then my thoughts went back to the service. What is Pastor Steve thinking?! There was no time in the script for this. It was completely out of his norm. I considered holding up a sign “Timeline!”

The ladies chuckled knowing it would have done no good anyway. I went on, “Later that week Pastor revisited the event saying, ‘I know it was off track, but the impression was just so strong, you know…. like I could feel the Holy Spirit prodding me to speak it. I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do thru that kid.’”

I confessed to our friends, “I secretly coveted that blessing, despite the nagging conviction to ‘rejoice’ for others!”

The ladies laughed, “Wow… See how good God is. He knew your heart.”

“Yeh, he knew my weak and selfish heart… and He still brought Jess and Chris together.”

God is good. At all times: even when we don’t deserve it.

His blessings are constant, whether someone declares it publicly or we have the incredible honor to hear Christ’s rich whispers in quiet places.

I think this verse sums how God’s grace and blessings outreach our wayward ways.

“…the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7a

As for the bride and groom… surely the good Lord will bless them beyond what we pray or seek. God is good.

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Top Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

 

People Are Watching

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Brad and I love to “people watch”. Downtown is a great for this place because there’s always something going on and plenty of people.

This weekend we went to Acacia Park downtown. Immediately, we saw three young men doing flips. “Brad, look!” One would flip. Then the other flipped and then the next. They paused a moment, caught their breath and repositioned. Then bam, bam, bam; they each did it again, and again and again.

Mesmerized, we got out of the truck excited to see more. And we did. All over the little park young men were running, jumping and twisting into the air doing complete arial somersaults. Some were hanging in trees and a few were jumping from the trees to other objects. A young man climbed onto a four foot wall bordering above a playground. He stood like a diver ready to make a complex dive. Suddenly he sprung off the wall tucking, twisting and arching to spin wildly in the air before landing in a soft bed of mulch.

Nearby, a group was gathered by the small amphitheater where a semi-circle obstacle course was arranged. This was the competition ring for the Jump Fest Event Parkour Festival; a ‘Tranquil Movement’ event.

Every couple of minutes a new heat started in which two men laid flat on their backs –the official start position. At start, they sprung from laying on their backs to jumping up, on, over, thru, under and around large crates, parallel bars, over-size tires and monkey bars.

These athletes were strong, elegant, daring, fast and fluid. We watched, in awe.

A few came close to falling. “Oh, no, no!” My mother instincts had me wanting to halt the event with a shout of “Hey! Wait a minute guys. This just isn’t safe.” Somehow I managed clench my teeth and flinch quietly instead. It was fascinating to see the smooth flow of body over fixed objects. These guys moved like liquid.

More gathered and watched. The competitors watched as well. They watched one another and they looked to see who was watching them.

This was a competition; a show of their best. They had come from all over the country so the judges could watch them. It was evident; they’d trained hard honing their skills.

Then something else caught my eye. “Brad look!” Coming up near our heels was a small child, a baby actually. He had just mastered crawling and was proudly conquering the soft green grass on little hands and knees.

Obviously he had been watching as well because he wasn’t just crawling. This baby crawled a bit then tucked and twisted. He’d crawl again and arch and roll. He used his body to imitate the fascinating acrobatic athletes all around. “That’s awesome!” His parents chuckled proudly as they watched on their picnic blanket nearby.

The little guy had watched, studied, internalized and was now duplicating.

That’s what we do isn’t it? We watch. We learn. We do. We teach. It seems we’re either learning, practicing or teaching.

Others are watching. I wonder… What do others see when they see me? What about you? What do people see when they watch you? Are they inspired, encouraged or motivated?

Matthew 5:16 reminds us,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(NIV)

When you head out today, consider –people are watching. Who will see you? What will they see? Think about it and have a great week my friends, and SHINE!

Pause

pause-button-mdPause is defined by Your Dictionary as a temporary stop or rest.

As a verb, pause means to stop, for a brief period of time.

A few years back, my husband Brad and I did a ropes course with a group of friends.  We started with a name game, as several folks didn’t know one another.

Everyone stated their name as we formed a large circle.  A clock started as a ball was tossed in the center.  We had 60 seconds to keep the ball suspended in the air.  The object was to keep the ball moving at all times.  You couldn’t hold it.   Whoever had the ball would toss it to someone else after first calling out their name. No one could be a receiver twice in a row. Each successive round another ball was added.

The object was to keep everyone in the game as possible without losing balls.  If a ball touched the ground it was lost forever.  At the end of the round if anyone was holding a ball they were out.

The first round was easy. By the 3rd round, everyone knew each other’s name, but it was a challenge to keep the balls suspended.

The saving grace was that once in each round anyone could call “PAUSE”.  PAUSE stopped the game for 10 seconds, enabling us to regroup and strategize without losing balls or people.

It was a great illustration showing how complicated life gets the more we add.

The PAUSE factor didn’t buy more time, but it gave us mental pause to gain clarity on how to best utilize the time we did have.

The next event was to climb up a 30 foot post.  There was a 2 foot by 2 foot platform at the top. From there, you were to jump off the post to grab a suspended rod which slowly lowered you back down.  The climber was harnessed to a pulley for safety in case they fell or missed the rod.

I don’t like heights, but I absolutely hate having something that overcomes me. God created us to be overcomers right?

I opted to climb first. I was safe in a harness, but I didn’t trust it.

Visibly shaking, I made it to the top. I felt like throwing up as I crawled on top of the platform.

My friends were shouting cheers and instructions, but all I wanted to do was stop shaking and get my feet back on the earth.

My shakes became trembles.  This STINKS.  Why did I go first?  Stupid pride.

I remember my peers and holler out, “Guys, I might cuss!”

Laughter and more shouts, “You’ve got it Shelly.”  “Put your foot under your knee.”  “Turn to your left and reach.”

I don’t cuss, but a loud “P A U S E !!” defiantly escapes my mouth.

I’m startled to realize it came from me as I look down (yeh -why did I look down?!)

Everyone is stumped at my abruptness; except my husband.  He’s laughing his bu- – off.

He controls his laughter and shouts back, you can’t “PAUSE” in this one Shell. You’re okay.”

Despite my shaking, I attempt to regain a mental grip. I shout again to my friends. “Sorry guys, but… Can ya all not say anymore?  My head is all messed up here.”

(Don’t you wish you could push some magical PAUSE button in life?)

We can’t stop the clock, but we can take a mental pause any time we want. And we should.

Sometimes it only takes seconds to mentally regroup. Other times it requires more.  Occasionally you have to temporarily remove yourself from a situation or circumstance to gain a fresh perspective.

I did leap from the post that day successfully grabbing the rod, and I still don’t like heights.

I do, however, find myself continuing to use a silent PAUSE… a lot. It helps me remember to do a quick check with the Spirit of God.

It works.  My thoughts shift gears. I become aware of God, and His perspective.

He’s really not so hard to hear. Though He’s God, high and lifted up, spiritual and invisible; He’s also a person; concerned with matters big and small.  He’s both practical and spiritual.

In James we’re encouraged,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Next time you are in a bind, perhaps a little overwhelmed or ill-equipped (or precariously perched high up on a 2 x 2 platform) and could use clarity of mind, remember to PAUSE and sync in to the mind of Christ.

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Mother’s Day -or any day

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I remember an especially dark season of my life over 20 years ago when Mother’s day came and went several times without calling or even sending so much as a card to my mom.

I wanted nothing to do with my past or the people I perceived responsible for much of the darkness associated with it.  I severed ties with my mom, cutting off all communication with her.

Breaking ties doesn’t necessarily fix problems.  After exhausting attempts trying to fix myself, I always came up short.  I came to a point of desperation and turned to Jesus.

Bit by bit my life began to change as I learned to turn each area of my life over to Christ.  My perspective became God and others focused.   I went from accusing and resenting to caring and forgiving.

Anger and disappoint gave way to hope.  Though it didn’t happen overnight, and often it was humbling and difficult, my relationships began to change.

Over the course of several years, my relationship with mom was restored and took on a new identity that was good and healthy.  Not only did we get beyond the pain of the past, but now I enjoy the present together with my mom.  Mom lives with us; not because she has too, but because we’ve welcomed her into our family.

You may not want to have your mom live in the same house with you, but check your heart and ask; is there a welcome place for your mother in your life?

People never regret saying things that are kind and full of grace, but we all regret if there comes a day and it’s too late.  Your mom won’t always be there.

Time is priceless and words can be powerful; use them wisely.  Live without regrets.

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise —  

“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 

Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV)

More Like David

I want to be more like King David of the old testament.  Known as the man after God’s own heart, David kept God at the center of his vision in everything he did.  He was a man more concerned with his relationship to God then any post he held.  Because David knew God, he confidently welcomed the future.  As I look to the second half of my life, that’s exactly how I aim to approach each day; I want to know God more than anything else I know.

How does that play out in the practical?  I believe it’s time and focus spent on God.  We see that demonstrated in the life of David.

David honored God above the threat of man as he faced off with Goliath.  He trusted God when he was chased in the desert by Saul.  David only went where the Lord led him, when He led him.  One can only be led by hearing the one they follow.  David knew he was in God’s care because he spent time waiting on God and listening for direction from Him.

For us that could mean maintaining our beliefs, not compromising to be “politically correct” appeasing others.  Are we courageous enough to stand firm in the face of defiance against God on foundational issues?  Do we spend time alone with Jesus, listening or do we rely on getting the word second hand from others who hear from God?

We see that David pursued God, writing songs of Him in his lonely hours of exile.  He respected the ways of God and the timing of God; resting with God in the desert.

We all have times of trials and hardships.  How do we respond in the midst of these challenges?  Are we turning to God seeking His will, His wisdom, His peace?  Are we thanking Him for LIFE and goodness in the midst of the trials?  Like David, are we looking past our discomfort for ways to honor Him in our desert experiences?

As years passed and battles continued, David didn’t loose sight; he didn’t give up.  David kept his eyes fixed on God, turning to him again and again.  Though our battles drag on, sometimes for years -even decades, do we press on faithfully following God with unconditional adoration? psalm 9.10 2

When the time came to celebrate, it was the Lord who David danced wildly unto, not the jeers of man. His own wife mocked him.  What about us?  Are we so taken with God that we’re more mindful of Him than we are of what others think of us?

Even in his time of shame and failure with Bathsheba, it was God whom David sought.  We all mess up.  When we do, does it drive us to our knees seeking God more; accepting just consequences?

At the end of his reign, David was still more concerned with his relationship to God than any other person or even the kingdom he’d ruled.  His vision remained fixed on God with a perspective that the greater Kingdom was yet to be revealed.

What drives us?  If you summarized your life in a couple sentences what would your life be about?  Would it have an eternal value with Kingdom purpose?

God is the main point.  God seeks us.  He is purposed to have relationships with us.  It began in the garden and was completed at the cross.  Our lives are HIS STORY continuing.

To know God is to keep Him at the center of our vision -our lives.  Like David we can know God and proceed with confidence.  God is the very purpose for your presence!!

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:10

Attitudes and Impact

The other day an intern asked if I could talk to the lady waiting in the reception area.  “She needs to talk to someone about gas money.”  I was short on time, in the middle of a project.  This was not convenient.

Frequently, we have people come in asking for money.  We often see the same people come back with the same story, “My sister cousin’s sick and I don’t have enough money to get to Houston.”  They don’t come back except to ask for the same thing, repeating the same story.  It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

Her name was Betty.  She smiled gently as I entered the room.chipped paint - Copy

The sight of her took my breath away.  She must have been in her late 70’s.  A tiny thing, she couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  She was at least a foot shorter than me, but it was difficult to gauge her true height -her back was so severely hunched.  With her long, stick like limbs she resembled a spider walking upright on two legs, except for her curly white hair.

I asked if she’d like some water.  “Oh no dear, I’m fine thanks.”  She wore a simple flowered shirt and polyester pants; outdated and well worn, but clean nonetheless. I touched her arm in a gesture of kindness as I sat near her.  I almost gasped, she was so frail.

Betty’s mouth was sunken in. Most of her teeth were missing, save for one lonesome tooth sticking out over her lip.

There remained a trace of beauty in her deep blue crystal eyes all but hidden beneath layers of leathery wrinkles.  Surprisingly, her eyes danced happily as I spoke with her.  Fragile and tiny in frame, she was lively and had a sense of humor.

I listened to Betty.  She was easy going and confident though humble.  Usually the teller will speak of hardship focusing on their woe.  Always, it ends with, “All I need is money for gas to get to —–.”

Betty, went on about how her momma and daddy raised her in church and how they’d loved her well.  She told me how good her life was and how happy she was.  Her face lit up as she spoke of Jesus.

In the end, she still was in need.  I went to my office to get a gas card thinking, “Wow, she’s really going to use it for gas.”  Betty was legit.

Of all times, this was the exception that we were out.  I returned, “Betty I’m so sorry.  We don’t have anything”.   We usually have $20 in petty cash, but even that was empty.

She looked at me, raised her eyebrows beneath worn rimmed glasses, and granted me a big smile, “Oh honey, that’s okay.  It was good just to talk.”

I walked her to the door and remembered I had cash for my daughter’s class project.  “Wait!”

Betty was so thankful for that $16.  She tucked the cash in a little hand bag with fingers misshaped I would guess from arthritis.

We prayed together thanking Jesus for “being so good to us.”  With a squeeze of my hand and a wave with her gnarly hand she left.

Her gratefulness made a lasting impression on me.

Whether you realize it or not, you are impacting others around you.  What kind of impact to do you have?  Is it positive?

Do you have something to give?  Wisdom to share?  Kindness to extend?  A smile for a stranger?  A helping hand to a friend in need?  A simple thank you.

It doesn’t take much to make a lasting impact, if your eyes are fixed on Jesus.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.  -Winston Churchill

Giving Changes Perspective

You know those days when everything seems to be working against you?  I was having one the other day.  I was entertaining the thought of purchasing tickets for our family to fly to Jamaica so we could “disappear” for a month.

As I daydreamed, a new friend came into my line of vision.  Yoko is from Japan.  She speaks no English, and we’ve only shared bows back and forth with smiles and hugs.  She’d recently started attending our church with her daughter and son in law.

I approached her with a hug and she extended a small decorative bag.  Her daughter Jinko, told me to open it, it was a gift for me.  I opened the bag to find a beautiful hand crafted paper box.  I thought the box was the gift itself until Jinko instructed me to open it.   

Inside, were delicate earrings and a matching necklace.  I could tell she’d taken special care to select the color of blue that matched my eyes.  This was personal; a gift of kindness given out of the goodness of Yoko’s heart.  yoko2

She really didn’t know me, and yet she had taken the time to skillfully design a personal gift for a new friend.

This gracious act brought thoughts that washed over my frustrated frame of mind. What prompted this?  When had I given to anyone so unselfishly?  Had I ever?   What is this woman’s story?  How can I be more like her?  What can I do to thank her in return?

It’s amazing the affect that giving has on our thinking.  It can completely turns our thought patterns from negative and self serving to optimistic with a focus on others.

I’m excited about the gift, but even more so about the new friendships.  I’d love to hear your ideas on how best to let Yoko and her family know how much this impacted me!

Write a comment and share your thoughts!