Tangible Love

I believe everyone has times when they wonder if they make a difference, if they matter to folks, if they are loved. We live in a crazy, busy, hectic world full of superficial relationships and untended friendships. We “like” pictures and posts on Facebook to let folks know that we’re acknowledging them. But, how often do we reach out and let people know, in a meaningful way, that they are important?

Ouch. I’m stepping on my own toes here! I am absolutely guilty of letting life get in the way of a personal connection – a lunch with a friend, a handwritten note, an email of encouragement…or whatever else the Lord may be prompting me to do if I would be still long enough to listen. I think the unintended consequence is that we can end up feeling alone. 

A few weeks ago, I was more than a little shocked when I opened my paycheck. I squinted really hard at the total, hoping and praying that, somehow, I had read it wrong. Nope. There it was. In black and white. $1.72.  I had no money in my account and was counting on my paycheck to pay a house payment and maybe buy a few Christmas gifts. I was absolutely sick with fear. And embarrassment. And yes, I felt alone.

But God.

God is good, y’all! All the time!

God made sure that I knew He hadn’t forgotten me. He sent love in tangible forms. A Coke from a friend. Some Christmas socks. Cash from someone who normally wouldn’t have it to give. Money from the best friend. Then, some cards in the mail. With checks! And, more than that, they had very special hand-written notes telling me how I had touched their lives.

Those notes completed undid me. I sat in the Walmart parking lot, sobbing. These sweet ladies had all seen my need and helped meet it. But, somehow they saw my heart’s need and met it also. My gratitude is deeper than what I’ll ever be able to express. In fact, I’ve been remiss in sending thank you cards because I simply haven’t known what to write. 

Friends, read this carefully. You matter. You have the opportunity every single day to make a difference. Money doesn’t have to be involved, but sometimes it surely will be. Be still. Listen to God’s promptings. Learn to hear His voice in the midst of the bedlam. What seems little to you may make a world of difference to the other person.

So. Just do it. Send the note. Give some money. Take the meal. Offer a hug. Pray the prayer. God uses people every single day. All He needs is a willing vessel. Will you be that vessel and be a part of what He’s doing? I surely want to be!

Be blessed and tell (show!) someone you love them.

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Trust the Process

One of my favorite older movies is Doc Hollywood. It’s about a “city” doctor on his way to Hollywood to work as a plastic surgeon. He got stuck in the small town of Grady, SC when he was diverted from the interstate and plowed into a fence with his beloved vintage car. 

One of the scenes shows the local mechanic working on the car, with parts strewed everywhere. The young doctor walks in and freaks out. The mechanic tries to calm him and points out that this was no different from him walking in halfway through a surgery and freaking out when a person’s intestines are pulled out. Disgusting picture. But excellent point.

Sometimes, I feel like my life is that way. I do what I think is right and it seems to blow up right in my face. I have definitely had a couple weeks like that. Tiny pay checks, the skunk-smelling dog and a blown-out tire have all made me feel like my life parts are strewn all over the world and I’m standing before God freaking out, trying to figure out exactly where I went wrong.

Finally, yesterday, I threw my hands in the air and said, “Okay, Lord, I’ve done all I can do. It’s all You now!” I got His gentle voice with that message I’ve heard so many time. “Trust Me.” And with it came a measure of peace I haven’t experienced in days. 

So often, we have a prescribed journey for our lives. Or a checklist that must be completed before we feel like we’ve accomplished anything. But, I’ve learned that God rarely does things the way I think they should be done. But His way is always best. Sometimes though, it simply makes no sense this side of eternity. And those are the moments I think we have to breathe, surrender our plan and trust that, since God sees the whole picture, His plan is going to work best – even if it seems like chaos in the moment.

So. Are you feeling chaotic? Stressed? Freaking out? Can’t figure out who it’s all going together? Breathe. God’s got this.

Remember:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Because:

 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Wherever You Go

If you read my blog Thursday, then you know about the mini saga of Bruno and the skunk. My curious, playful dog thought he had found a new playmate. The new friend wasn’t amused and sprayed Bruno. At 2:30am. Although we washed him as quickly as possible, he had touched enough stuff that my house reeks. And Thursday, I reeked. So much so that I earned myself the nickname polecat. 

The worse thing about smelling like a skunk, other than offending my co-workers’ sinuses, was that I couldn’t get away from it. I couldn’t escape the smell because the smell was me! 

It made me think of a favorite phrase of a former pastor. He would say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

What he was referring to was the propensity of people to simply change locations when they weren’t happy. Offended? Leave the church. Mad? Quit your job. Unhappy? Get a divorce. But, changing locations won’t help if you take the problem with you. And often, we are our own worst enemy.

It brings us back to the scripture we used yesterday. In Luke 7:45, Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” NIV

The only way to change what’s on the inside is to put better stuff in. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We know that we become a new creation when we accept Christ. I believe Paul is telling us that we need to fight the battle in our head by spending time with Jesus everyday. How do we do that? Talk to Him. Have an ongoing conversation. Listen to a sermon. Read your Bible. Learn to see things from a godly worldview, rather than from a self-view. Only then will some situations become bearable.

There’s a song that was release by the Christian group FFH in 2000 that has often been a prayer of mine.  Here’s the chorus:
Lord move in a way that I’ve never seen before. ‘Cause there’s a mountain in the way and a lock on the door I’m drifting away, waves are crashing on the shore. So Lord move, or move me.

So. Are you somewhere you don’t want to be? Ask God to show you what He’s trying to change. Spend time in His presence. I believe He will answer and move or move you.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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When You’re Bumped

I heard a quote recently that I really liked. I liked it so much, I put it as my Facebook status. James McDonald says, “When you bump a person they spill what they are full of.” 

It has been my experience that, when God is teaching us something, He’ll tell us first, then test us in it, in the same way Jesus taught the disciples about faith just before they were on a boat in the midst of a raging storm. I do believe God’s trying to see if I was listening because I’ve gotten bumped in the last 24 hours.

It started with a casual conversation about tattoos. I don’t have one (yet) but have many friends who do. A friend at work informed me that she thinks tattoos are trashy. And that we shouldn’t have them. But she’s not sure why – she was taught that way. Bump.

Later, I got my paycheck stub. My monthly paycheck stub. I opened it and my total pay was $1.72. For a month. One dollar and seventy two cents. Did I mention this was my monthly paycheck? And I’m full time? BUMP!

I wish I could say I handled these things with grace. That when I was bumped only good stuff spilled out. But. Well. Y’all know I’m pretty chronically human, right? Yeah, I held a most-of-the-day grudge against my friend and cried like a baby when I saw my paycheck.

I spent the whole afternoon and early evening trying to figure out how to get my insurance deductions to a manageable number so I would actually get a paycheck. By the end of the day, I had some ideas but no real solutions. I did, however, have some good time with God and He reminded me that He was still in control. So, at least I had a measure of peace. I declared it a day and got myself to bed before 9pm.

Fast forward to 2:30am. I got up for a bathroom break and our dog, Bruno, decided that he needed to go also. So, Keith, being the sweet husband he is, got up to walk Bruno out. A few minutes later, I started smelling skunk. Shortly after that, Keith walked in and informed me that Bruno had been trying to play with a skunk. The skunk wasn’t amused and sprayed Bruno right in the face!

Oh my. The smell. I have no words to properly describe the stench that filled my house and nostrils. Or the lurch my stomach made at that smell. Bumped again.

A quick search on Google yielded a recipe for skunk wash. As Keith and I were gathering our wits and supplies, we stopped and looked at each other. The absolute absurdity of the situation struck us and we started laughing. 

James McDonald’s quote is really just another way to say what Jesus told us in the gospels. He said, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” 

Hmmm.

Here’s the entire paragraph where that statement is found:

“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:43-45, KJV

See. Jesus said whatever is in you is what’s going to come out. As a preacher friend used to say, “What’s in the well comes up in the bucket.”

Honestly, I’m not terribly proud of what spilled out when I was initially bumped. Clearly, I had some pride and fear right at the surface, ready to bubble out. 

But, God.

He’s so good, isn’t He?!

God gathered my heart close to Himself and reminded me that I am His and He is in control. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28, NIV. Only with His help can I be the woman described in Proverbs 31. Ny favorite verse in that chapter says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” v. 25, NIV.

I want to confidently say that only good stuff will be spilled today if (when) I am bumped. That may not be true. But I hope I’m able to laugh.

So. How about you? What comes out when you’re bumped? If it’s something you don’t like, spend some time with Jesus. Let Him fill you with good stuff. And if you’re already filled with good stuff? Spill that around. I’m sure somebody in your life could use it!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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I Choose Love

I have a confession. I don’t like everyone. I know. It sounds terrible. But, the truth is that I have a very low tolerance for some personality types. Don’t get me wrong, I like most people. And, generally, I can get along with almost anyone. But there are those few…

Recently, I’ve had the occasion to be in close contact with one such soul. It’s not that this person has been overtly rude. Let’s just say he or she rubs me in the wrong way. 

I began asking God to speak to my heart. To help me see this person the way He sees them. To help me see the good. To help me like this person. What did I get? This:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:14, NASB

How does one “put on love”? Well, I asked a lot of folks and I read the book of Colossians, several times, in different versions. 

One theory I had was that maybe putting on love is like putting on glasses, similar to the glasses in the book “The Wizard of Oz.” While the movie had the Emerald City as an actual green city, in the book the wizard had green glasses issued to everyone. The Emerald City was only Emerald when viewed through the glasses. So maybe we’re supposed to simply view everything through God’s “love” glasses. While that had some aspects that sounds right, I kept feeling like that wasn’t quite right.

Some other versions of that verse say to “clothe yourselves with love.” Clothe yourself. Hmmm.

I’ve often heard that the clothing makes the man. Think about it. If you walk into a hospital and see a man or woman with a white coat and stethoscope, it’s probably safe to assume that he or she is a doctor. Businesses have their employees dress a particular way so as to distinguish their employees from everyone else. When dressed in uniform, employees are expected to behave as employees of that company, because they are representing in their uniform. 

John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” NASB

If folks are going to know that we belong to Jesus by the love we show, then it makes sense that we are to clothe ourselves with love. Just as an employee in a service industry must be polite to customers because they’re representing a company, so too should we be loving others because we represent Jesus.

That takes me to the same place it always does…what is love anyway? 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” v. 4-7, NASB

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” NASB

So. There it is. My answer. Love. So often, we associate love with a feeling or an emotion, but I believe these scriptures make it clear that loving others has nothing to do with how we feel and everything to do with how we choose to act. And the act of love changes everything.

So how about you? Are you going to allow your emotions to rule or are you going to choose to love others for Jesus’ sake? I choose love.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

BTW – I am happy to report that choosing to love that person has made all the difference. I think we’ll be great friends. 

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When Darkness Falls

Something folks may not know about me is that I’m afraid of the dark. It’s not really a big secret, but I don’t typically tell everyone I meet either! I do think it becomes apparent when I walk through the dark flipping on lights!

I’ve been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember, so I’m not exactly sure why I have that fear. My equilibrium is a bit wonky and I have no balance in the dark, so that could be the culprit. Or maybe it’s my over-active imagination. The gift that fuels my writing also sees a boogeyman in every dark corner. 

Whatever the cause, the result is the same. I don’t like the dark. Thankfully, the solution is simple. Light. I mean, we have electricity. And you can buy a small, powerful flashlight at the Walmart for a dollar! Light reveals that the corners are empty and the fear goes away.

Y’all see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Life has been a little scary for most everyone I know. We just had our presidential election last week and this has felt like a pivotal choice, no matter which side you’re on. I think fear has driven this election more than any other year I can remember. One day, as fear for my my children’s futures was gripping my heart, God reminded me that He was still in control. That I was so focused on what could go wrong that I had shifted my gaze from Him. That the darkness was making me fearful.

Oh. Okay.

The dark is scary, y’all. Things go bump in the night and there’s no telling what kind of evil could be lurking in the shadows. But, God is light! It says in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” The Bible also says that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). We know that there is no need for a sun in Heaven, because God’s glory is so radiant. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, his face was glowing from spending time with God – so much so that the people were afraid to look at him and he wore a veil unless he was in the presence of the Lord. That’s a whole lot of light!

Why are we afraid? Because the enemy of our souls knows that if he can simply shift our focus from the Light to his darkness, fear will creep in. And fear will cause us to do some crazy things!

So. How about you? Has fear crept into your heart? I challenge you to open up those scary places  to God. Let His light illuminate your dark corners. The fear will flee with the darkness. What if you already know all this and haven’t been fearful? Well, then, I encourage you to find someone who is fearful and shine God’s light in their life by showing them some love.

And that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it? Love. Love God. Love people. 

Be blessed and tell someone you love them. (Or better yet – show them!)

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Love Trumps Hate

I can be real here, can’t I?

I love my new job as a lunch lady. The women I work with are fantastic and I look forward to going in everyday. The kids are largely kind and polite. And the hours I work make me swoon when I compare them to what I worked at Food Lion.

But. There’s one little thing I don’t like. Literally.Little. It’s the bathroom. And it’s tiny! The toilet is in a stall roughly large enough for a small child. The room also contains our lockers and first aid kit and I don’t know what else all squeezed into the space of a small closet. There’s nothing more fun than trying to relieve yourself with four other ladies crammed in like sardines just on the other side of a metal half-wall! So, there are times we will slip away to another bathroom for a little privacy. “A purposeful walk.”

I don’t know why that got my brain going in this direction. Probably only God can explain this brain He created! But it did.

So, think about different walks you may take. Sometimes, it’s a purposeful walk to a bathroom. (And anyone who hangs out with me can tell you that can be very purposeful!) Or to a sale item on Black Friday. Or to a friend’s house. Well, I think you get the point. Those walks have a pre-determined end in mind and are done when that end is achieved.

Other times, we walk just to be walking. One of my favorite things to do is go on a walk with a friend and talk. My short little legs can travel some distance if my mouth is running! Those walks aren’t necessarily purposeful, but are much needed.

But this post isn’t really about walks. It’s about my favorite subject – love. When I was thinking about purposeful walks, my brain went to purposeful love.

God tells us to love our neighbor. There seems to be no condition or caveat or time limit. Simply love. Yet, my experience has been that many folks love for a purpose. I don’t think they mean to, it just happens. I’ve found that, all too often, the love is withdrawn when they see that it’s not producing the results they wanted. That, my friends, is conditional love and not at all what Jesus was talking about.

Right now, our country needs love more than ever. My Facebook feed is filled with hatred and fear and disgust. I’ve seen both sides of our political landscape spewing things that are as far from love as possible. 

What are we doing? We have to stop this! 

You hate the way the election went? Do something productive. Go out and serve those you feel were marginalized by the vote. But a lunch or a coffee or a family’s Christmas. Get involved with local politics. Or find an organization that represents those you’re concerned for and ask how you can help.

Pleased with how the election turned out? Do the same things. 

We’re all Americans. This is supposed to be the great melting pot. Get out there and melt! Love those around you. Be kind to strangers. Smile. Put your hand to something that matters. Love. It’s not hard. And it’s the only force that will ever change anything.

So. Whoever is reading this, I don’t care if you’re black, white, yellow, purple, green, orange, striped, polka dotted, Christian, democrat, republican, liberal, conservative, straight, gay or any of the other ways we silly humans manage to sort ourselves…I love you. 

Will you join me in showing some love today? It’s time to heal our nation. Trump can’t do it. Hillary can’t do it. The media can’t do it. But we can do it. Because love really does trump hate.

I love you.

Be blessed today. Now, go show some unconditional love!

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