What are You Doing Today?

Here I sit. The day is dawning and I have a full Saturday ahead of me. I wonder… How can I make a difference?

Last week I was honored to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my employer and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. We spent 4 days fitting children and adults with hearing aids. The need was overwhelming. Simply because their medical care is so lacking. It’s incomprehensible to me to see so many children that could not only not hear, but they could not even communicate well because they had no language….i.e. no speech or sign language. What would a person’s world be like with an inability to convey a thought?

Giving the gift of hearing!

Giving the gift of hearing!


I am struck at the amazing good fortune we have in this country and how we are so self involved. Me included. We have our daily routines. And a much of it is absolutely necessary. Laundry must be done. Bills must be paid. But when work and duties or self gratification are the hallmarks of our day, we should ask ourselves a question….

Why are we given this privilege of living here, with endless opportunities at our fingertips each and every day?

Mamma told us, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”

And I think we all know it’s true. When we reach out and touch others – offer a kind word or a helping hand, there is a fulfillment in our hearts that no self-focused exercise can create.

So today…. I will pray that my eyes are open and my heart willing to look for an opportunity to reach out in some small way (or large, if the opportunity arises) and touch someone else’s life.

Join me….. will you?

The Blind Leading the Blind

Not long ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip where we attended a national conference for associates in his position. Basically it’s the same trip we take every year and we enjoy renewing friendships and catching up with those we aren’t able to see very often throughout the year.

This year I was looking forward to seeing an associate’s wife who has been fighting cancer. She is a lovely lady whom I have enjoyed visiting with year after year at various events. Bravely, she and her husband have fought brain cancer and won. However, the chemo and/or radiation has left her essentially blind – with just the slightest vision….. in which she can see only shadows.

I was privileged to spend three days with her as the husbands gathered for their meetings and socially as we all attended the scheduled events. So many people fighting this horrible war called cancer are true inspirations – and she was no exception. Her attitude was positive and humble. Kind, grateful and sweet – she was a joy to help.

What surprised me was the world around her.

As we walked through the hallways and rooms bustling with people, my friend clutched my arm for guidance. Seeing her limitations disheartened me. One day as the rain began to fall, I realized she couldn’t traipse back to her room to fetch her umbrella… and if she were able to make it back to the correct room – the trial of finding the umbrella would be more trouble than it was worth.

Although saddened by her disability, there was another handicap I observed – the blindness of the people around us. It astonished me. Unfortunately, we had no sign that read, “Please move aside, blind lady coming through.” It would have helped. Tremendously!

As we approached the men and women strolling towards us their blindness became evident. Why couldn’t they see what was right in front of them?! Maybe they were focused on their destination, their goal, the race against the clock… Why was it that they were blind to the woman approaching them that needed a little consideration – a lady who needed them to step aside so she could walk past them a bit more easily. Instead the flow of people strutted towards us fully expecting that we would step out of their way.

It’s difficult not to take up an offense for a friend that is helpless. I became silently incensed and indignant. Indignant because of their blindness and insensitivity. Offended by their selfishness and angered by their speed which stopped them from seeing what was right before their eyes.

Then it hit me.

On a typical day…..am I as blind as they? Am I those people? Rushing through the day to the next destination so quickly that I don’t even see people in front of me that may be blessed by a small act of consideration? Sadly, I know that I am guilty as charged.

It’s natural to focus more on ourselves than others. But what’s natural isn’t always right.

Today I will take a moment to survey the world bustling around – and take a short detour to make someone else’s life more enjoyable.

Let’s not scurry through and miss opportunities to enrich lives – ours and those around us.

Keeping EVERYBODY Happy

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It’s really quite easy to make a friend: Show someone that you genuinely care about them.

We all have an inherent need to be loved. And most of us enjoy the company of others; some more than others…

Conversely, we rarely do well when we are at odds with someone, especially when it’s someone we interact with regularly. However, it’s impossible to keep everybody happy. More often than we’d like, people get upset. And some of us deal with that better than others.

Surprisingly we sometimes find ourselves doing back flips and cartwheels to keep others happy. Just so they won’t get upset with us…

Those are people pleasers! We love them! They are “Easy going, get along with everybody” type people. To a degree we all need to be people pleasers – in certain relationships. But there is a point where sacrificing who you really are just to please someone else is a bad choice, you become a puppet dancing to other’s music,

When you’re a people pleaser, the people whose music (or moods) you are dancing to, end up tossing you aside when you don’t do what they want. They become accustomed to calling the shots and not being challenged. When a challenge or difference of opinion comes, they are ill equipped to handle the conflict and rather than deal with the problem they rid themselves of what they see is the source of the problem : YOU!

And you’ve lost a friend. Or what you thought was a friend.

We all experience “The fear of man” to some degree. When that fear controls your personality and reactions – and you put aside who you really are, you will eventually be left unhappy.

Realize you are unique. And only you can do what YOU are positioned and talented to do.

Use that unique gifting and talent to influence the world you are in. Deal with matters as they arise to help others- not to spite them. Confrontation should be a positive and kind gesture that a true friend makes towards another friend.

Are you trying to keep everybody happy and sacrificing who God made you to be? Challenge yourself to an honest evaluation……

The Train Ticket

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As I answered the phone and heard the tone of his voice I knew it wasn’t good…

“Mommmm.” It hit a familiar cord. My mind raced. Lord please, not a car accident. No, it couldn’t be, he had left hours ago to go to my sister’s house to dogsit. What could it be?

“Hey buddy, what’s up?” I tried to keep my response light hearted hoping for the best…
“Are you busy?”
“No..” I kept my answer short to save time so that he would get to the impending problem.
“I’m on my way to the animal hospital.”
“What happened?” I knew it must be bad because his voice was so somber.
“Sammy’s eye fell out.”

My mind raced. HUH?! I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where was this eye?! How could this happen?! Did he have to pick it up and carry it to the hospital? What was going on?!!! How could I stay calm through this?!

“Sammy’s eye fell out?” That was all I could muster…
“Yes, can you tell me exactly where the animal hospital is…”
“Sure. I’ll meet you there.”
“Thanks, but you don’t need to.”
Really? That was a proud moment for mom! Yea, son!! But I knew I needed to go anyway. As much for my son as the dog and my sister.

I gave him directions, prayed a quick prayer, hung up the phone, grabbed my purse and headed for the door. As I drove to the animal hospital I wondered how could I possibly handle what I was about to see.

Remembering the train ticket story that Corrie ten Boom shared in one of her books granted me the courage I needed.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who was imprisoned during WWII, along with her family. Her family hid many Jews from the Germans during the Holocaust. After her release from a German concentration camp, she wrote many books about her experiences and her faith in God. She had a strong faith which her parents shared.

Corrie recounted a time when she and her father were going to take a train for a trip they were going on. As they walked hand-in-hand to the train station, Corrie asked her father where her train ticket was. He told her that he was holding it for her. Corrie was anxious and wanted to hold her ticket, but her father told her she didn’t need to be concerned; that he would handle it until she needed it. When they arrived at the train station, just before she was to present the ticket to the cashier, Mr. ten Boom handed the anxious Corrie her train ticket.

He explained to her that God’s grace is similar to the train ticket. We ask for His grace and help prior to needing it. Often we get worried and anxious… (Just like me as I was stressed out wondering how I would be able to handle the dog with his eyeball detached).

In spite of the fact that all that worrying contradicts our trust in God – just at the time we need it, is when God gives us his grace to help us. There was no reason for Mr. ten Boom to give Corrie her train ticket prior to her needing it. And the same is true with God’s grace. He gives it to us at the moment of our need.

On my drive to the animal hospital I called my mom and we laughed a bit about the absurdity of the situation which broke some of the tension.

I arrived before my son. I alerted the vet that the dog would be arriving and told him about the eye. Heading to the parking lot, I saw my son drive in. I approached his car as he parked, took a deep breath, and confidently accepted God’s grace (my train ticket) knowing that he would get us through this next leg of the journey.

As the car door opened – my fears melted and my heart was instantly filled with compassion and courage rather than fear.

God is faithful and true to His word…

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If I Weren’t Afraid..

Pressure vs. Stress

“I do what I’d do if I weren’t afraid.”

I read that this morning on a friends LinkedIn profile. It shocked me because I didn’t think she was afraid of anything. Her name is Becky and she lives life with more courage and passion than anyone I know.  Since I’ve known her she has raised and homeschooled her children (and others), went back to school to get her masters degree in Counseling, started a residential home for victims of human trafficking, and on and on and on….

The point is – we all are bound by fear to some degree.

When I read that statement – I do what I’d do if I weren’t afraid – I was immediately challenged.  I grabbed my journal and pen (the way I communicate best with God) and I began writing, asking, probing.  I began to be honest.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Take some time to consider this…

In looking into the fear, it seems there are two basic things to be afraid of:

-         Failure

-         Success

Who really says they’re afraid of success? I’ve never engaged in a conversation with  anyone that said, “Yea, I’d like to try that but I’m afraid I’d be great at it!”

So how can anyone be afraid of success?

First consider the fear of failure.   What is so horrific about making mistakes?  Most of them are correctable. The power which stifles us – is bearing the burden of the opinions of others (and ourselves) when we “fail.”

Likewise, when we succeed, we draw the same type of attention.  Other’s opinions.  Actually more so… because success breeds attention.

If “fear of Man” is stifling you – there’s a solution.

Reprogram your mind. Meditate on these verses. Let God’s Truth dwell in you and you will be surprised at the changes you see..

Psalm 118:6 The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?

This psalm encourages us in the Lord’s love for each of us individually.  The God of the universe is on your side! Read Psalm 118 today, you’ll be glad you did.

Romans 8:31 If God is for me, who can be against me?

Romans 12:1  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

This takes work.  Commit to reprogram your thoughts.  Think about what you think about.  What do you believe? What lies have you believed? It will take time to reprogram a lifetime of wayward thoughts.  Be patient but diligent.

The best defense is a good offense.  These are simple verses that can right our wrong thinking.  Write them down, be determined to get them into your mind and hearts.  God’s word can change our lives if we let it. This will require diligence and effort – which will change the course of our lives!

And lastly, but most importantly, ask the Lord step by step what He would want you to do.  Walk with Him, talk with Him. He is a personal and intimate God who is there for us in our times of need and all day long too.

The Lord wants your success even more than you do.  He is our greatest ally.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? 

So Far from Perfect…

 

I remember receiving an email years ago that was filled with beautiful nature-type photographs and wise sayings. One of the captions caught my interest. It read:

I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business. (Michael J. Fox)

How often do you strive for perfection when you simply can not reach it? You become disappointed in yourself and others when you/they don’t meet lofty expectations. You wait for the perfect time, perfect spouse, expect your children to be perfect….

Perfection is truly God’s business. We strive for it because we are made in His image and want what He wants. We want to perform perfectly and never lose our temper; always be on time; exercise and eat right every day; keep an orderly schedule and home; greet our families with a smile and heart full of joy, etc., etc., etc.

No one can perform perfectly. Those expectations set you up for feelings of failure….deeming yourself as a failure – as well as those that you expect to never make a mistake.  It’s futile. We all make mistakes daily.

Let those mistakes be a help to you. Allow them to show you how “not” to do something the next time. Use the mistakes instead of letting them discourage you.

Expecting yourself to be perfect is a trap. It assures you will be disappointed.

“Excellence I can reach for.”

Striving for excellence and knowing it’s a continual goal gives you a sense of peace and understanding… We have an intimate God who will help us and give us grace to reach our lofty goals. Call on Him, He will hear you and help you.

The better goal is: Progress not perfection.

Perfection is God’s job, let’s strive for excellence!

And when we look back in a year we will see our striving was not in vain.

We may not be perfect (or our loved ones) but we aren’t what we used to be!

 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

The Power of God’s “No”

20130605-175045.jpgThe church bustled with a sea of people for the memorial service. Certainly there had to be over 1,000 present and the massiveness of the crowd struck each in attendance as they scanned the church, looking, wondering….

How could this be? Bruce didn’t attend a large church; he led a decent sized ministry, and worked for a local mid-sized city. He wasn’t a government official or a man of fame. Nonetheless, the church buzzed with people.

As the service began, the friends and loved ones could tell that this was going to be unique. So apropos for a man who could fill a church of this size. A mime was the first to grace the stage acting out a scene of an unloved man whom our friend touched and led to Christ. Each song, skit and testimonial was a reflection of his life and his passion. Reaching out was his gift. He lived each day with a zeal – for God, for his family and for the recovery of himself and others that struggled with hurts, hang-ups, and habits. Touching those who he loved; touching those who were overlooked and unloved… he loved.

Nonetheless, I wondered – how?! Really, how could one man draw this many people in?! Could one man really affect so many?

Then it hit me. As his family shared, the answer unfolded. Surely, the common man would’ve thought he must have neglected them. But no. As his children spoke – individually they told of a father that was always present, made himself available, and showed his love for each of them – and that’s when the answer revealed itself. This wasn’t one man’s ministry. It was a team effort. This wasn’t one man touching thousands. This was the power of a family supporting one man’s passion and joining him.

Finally, the pastor began to speak. He struggled with his own grief as he shared. He too had lost a close friend and recalled special times they had had together playing tennis, elder board meetings, serving others, pranks our friend was a part of and so on. We laughed and cried along with him as he remembered.

The congregation nodded as the pastor spoke of Bruce’s affinity for his phone. Always texting, emailing, calling, checking up on others. He chuckled as he remembered how he had received a text from him during a sermon (about a tennis date later that week) – when he, in fact, was even in the congregation a few feet away! The pastor didn’t seem bothered, rather amused, knowing this was our friend’s sense of humor as well as his gift of juggling so much.

As the pastor spoke, the minds of family and friends swirled, grasping for answers – for their loss and pain. “Why?” Would certainly be the most common question. “Why would such an effective man, who touched so many, be taken from us?”

The pastor shared how just a few days before surgery, the congregation had laid hands on our friend and prayed for healing and a successful recovery. How could he not be here today? If we prayed….

He continued ….

When we pray, he explained, God has three possible answers: “Yes, No, or Not now”.

We love the “Yes.” When God says “Yes” we celebrate and rejoice and praise God and talk about how good he is!

Conversely, when God answers “No” we wonder, what did we do wrong? Did God hear us? How can this be?!

The pastor explained that we can’t always understand why God answers the way He does. He reminded us that God’s ways are so much higher than ours, His thoughts greater than ours. We will not fully understand God until that time when we are face to face with Him.

My mind drifted a bit, but tuned back in when a phrase caught my attention, “The power of God’s “No” is greater than the power of man’s “Yes.”’ The pastor repeated this statement many times, obviously hoping that we would grasp and believe it.

“The power of God’s ‘No’ is greater than the power of man’s ‘Yes.’” Huh?!

Through the pain, in our humanness, not many of us could really grasp, understand or quite honestly, believe that God’s “No” is greater than man’s “Yes.” So many would feel their friend’s absence. He was always available and we knew he always would be…..

As the pastor spoke, he acknowledged the chasm that our friend had left. Who would be there for us? Lend a smile, word of encouragement, offer a helping hand, listen to our concerns, and minister to our needs? He too would feel the loss of a dear, close friend.

Subsequently he painted a word picture. He asked the family to remain seated and spoke to rest of us. He solicited our help. We all knew if one man could fill a church this size – his presence would be sorely missed. We knew many would miss his friendship, his love, his encouragement. He touched, genuinely touched, so many. In lieu of his absence, the pastor asked each of us to consider committing to reach out to three people in this upcoming week – to check on them, give them a word of encouragement, love them, and help them. We were to stand if we accepted this challenge. Surely we could contact three people! The sea of people rose to their feet.

The pastor then asked the family to rise to their feet and turn around to see the commitments of loved ones and supporters who would step up in their beloved’s absence….

Then he said it. The words struck me and I felt my heart cracking from the impact.

“This is the power of God’s ‘No.’”

The power of God’s “No……” greater than man’s “Yes” …..

We all knew if each of us followed through, we could do more and have an even greater affect than this one great man we knew and loved.

The reality struck  like a sharp pain. Accepting God’s “No” is amazingly difficult when the pain is so deep.

Ignoring the ache within each of us, he continued…

Explaining that this was the part of the service where he would typically ask the congregation about their hearts. If they knew where they were going, if they knew Bruce’s savior. But not today. Because, he explained, just a few days before Bruce’s surgery they had recorded our friend as he led his weekly Celebrate Recovery meeting – something they do only once a year.

So he let Bruce do the honors…..

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May we learn to trust God through his “No’s” and seek to use our gifts to reach out and touch others.

Will you join me and reach out to three people this week?