Tag Archives: Jesus

Darth Vader and Fishing

I am confessing. I used the Darth Vader voice yesterday. You know THE Voice – deep, throaty, scary and loud! It kind of sounds like screaming, but instead of high pitched it rumbles and vibrates. It leaves a residue, both for the performer and the receiver. I was the performer and my throat still aches. My thirteen year old, Max, was the receiver and his heart may still ache.

Max was on thin ice this weekend at our home. With only two weeks of school left and the crazy preparation of Clayton’s high school graduation open house my schedule is full! Clayton is our middle child and very social – his guest list for graduation numbers in the small city range! And, I am glad. This is an amazing time of celebration and transition for him. Needless to say, every minute of my schedule for the next three weeks is accounted for.  That was until, Friday after school.

Max hopped in my car with a funny look on his face. “What’s up buddy? How was your day?” I asked.

“Okay,” he responded. Then he gives me the sheepish side glance. “Did the school call you?”

“No.” I wait. Max reaches in his pocket and pulls out the yellow Discipline Report. As he is unfolding it I ask, “Did you get detention?” 

Of course he did – that is what the yellow sheet means. We’ve signed or acknowledged over 40 of them this year. I am kind of hoping for lunch detention because that doesn’t effect my schedule. I then realize that after-school-detention would give me an extra hour to get things done before picking him up. Either way, it’s all good. 

Yes! I realize that this form of reasoning is at least a little pathetic on my part.

“Lunch or after school? What happened?” I can’t ask what he did or he just clams up, but ‘what happened’ seems to charge neutral in his mind.

“I got in a fight.”

“Max!” Okay, I am going to admit that part of my response had to do with my own selfish ambitions. Fighting means OSS (out of school suspension). Of course, my parenting instincts also kicked in and wanted all the details. Which he freely gave. 

Except for the name of who he got in a fight with. When he finally shared the boy’s name, my heart sank. They were friends. I knew the boy’s parents. I called my husband, Jeff. He was on his way home. Max would go over to their home and apologize. We would then determine consequences for his three days of out of school suspension.

It is usually pretty easy to figure out what Max has been doing and where he has been at our home and on our property. We live on a lake in Michigan and have 10 wooded acres. Max is an outdoorsy kid. I love that about him! He is also a slob. That’s not really a fair assessment. He does things in a neat manner and can be very organized. However, he rarely cleans anything up before his body and mind are on to the next thing. He isn’t sitting around being sloppy – he is more like a mini natural disaster occurring repeatedly in subsequent locations around our home and property. He will clean up and do a fair job of it, but he usually requires a reminder. Which gets me back to the Darth Vader voice.

Spring has sprung in Michigan. Kind of. Really, we’ve gone from winter to cold rain to 80 degrees, back to rain again. Did I mention rain? We haven’t had many warm and sunny days. When we get the combination of warm and sunny all activity in my home stops and we head outside!

This Spring our outside activity is joyful as always yet peppered with a deadline! We have entered the frenzy of activity for Clayton’s graduation open house. The funny thing is, Clayton already thinks we are weird for keeping our home and property in the best possible shape – picked up, cleaned, maintained, landscaped and decorated. Clayton feels like we might go a little overboard in the cleaning and maintaining department. I think he will be able to relate to us better when he owns his own home and has his own family…

I love gardening, landscaping, playing in the dirt! This is a season I look forward to all year! I feel so close to God when I am physically connected to creation. I hear the whispers, the song of hope, carried with each new leaf unfurling! I talk to God while I garden. I work out any issues or concerns I have while I am turning soil, pulling weeds or am up to my elbows in dirt. I feel the Creator with me. I pray. I give thanks. I worship. This is a spiritual act for me!

You can imagine my annoyance when I come across at least 30 drywall screws dumped in an area I am attempting to grow grass. Or the irritable twinge I have when I enter the garage for fertilizer and have to step over pieces of bike – dismantled, repainted, strewn about with tools, paint, my painter’s masking tape…Sigh. Our woods look like an apocalyptic survival forest with wood shanties and shelters built about every hundred trees (for air soft gun wars). My husband’s tools that we thought were lost are permanently rusted into the ground. So glad the leaves have come out and covered up most the wreckage and hidden the mess…I walk in the house for a drink. I remove dirt, dust and shoes in order to keep our home clean. Apparently no one else got that memo – the one about keeping the house clean.

Max has shoes inside and outside the door. His socks, a water bottle, a juice bottle and an empty bag of donuts are by the couch in the family room. The rest of his clothes from the day before are scattered like a breadcrumb trail leading to his room. His computer is in the living room. His fishing charter brochure is on the kitchen table, along with some drafting and drawing supplies and his detention slip and a job application. Another pair of socks is in the TV room along with a banana peel.

Max has been fishing. Since 7 am. You can smell him from about 10 feet away. We have been in different areas of the same universe for most of the day – until now. He is covered with fish guts and blood, smiling ear to ear, carrying cleaned fish wrapped in newspaper. He is on cloud nine and I am about to burst his bubble.

How can I be so spiritual one moment, so connected to God and immersed in His creation, and blow a gasket the next?

Now I am not saying that Max shouldn’t be held accountable and responsible for cleaning up after himself. Of course he should! What I am saying is that I could use an extra dose of self control, grace and mercy in parenting this child!

Max is also thirteen. Did I already mention that? Thirteen is my least favorite age of the teenage years. Max can argue with almost everything I say, especially if it is a direction. It depends on his mood…At thirteen he is wiser, smarter, stronger and taller than me. He really is taller. Okay, probably stronger too. When I began a discussion of some of the ‘things’ he needed to take care of he began to argue. The discussion (now I am using the term lightly) began to escalate. Before I realized what was happening Darth Vader had appeared and ordered Max to his room.

I headed back to the garden. Just that morning in church I had been reminded about forgiveness. I had been so relieved to search my heart and discover I wasn’t holding any grudges or hurts from others – I didn’t have anyone to forgive today. Then our pastor reminded us that some of us may need to forgive ourselves. Ouch. The place of personal hurt that can still come up and bite me, is my own short fall in parenting. I have apologized to my children for many things I have done and said. I have received forgiveness from them and from my heavenly Father. Jesus already paid for my transgressions. I have forgiven my self, sort of. I can still cry over times I totally missed it in the parenting department.

Little children (and big children) are our most precious gift. They, like us, really just want to be loved. And, if we had the time to celebrate them, and with them, and laugh, then the world would be a better place. People matter. Eye to eye time matters. Seriously, does it matter eternally if my home is clean? Is that business call so important?  Or is it more important that I stopped what I was doing and entered into the life of a child or another human being?

When I went to revoke the Darth Vader verdict I walked into the kitchen to a scene covered in flour. Max had released himself from Darth Vader prison and was covered in flour. I am smiling at him (inside I am biting my tongue).

“I’m cooking you and dad dinner, mom! I have this great recipe for catfish,” said Max.

I look in the bowl, in the midst of the flour, and it looks like bread dough. “Wow, honey, that looks a little thick to dip fish in?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control. The recipe says it should be thick.” He turns back to stir his creation.

I keep the reminder that I am supposed to be eating gluten free and that I don’t like fish to myself, behind my smiling lips.

I go to the bathroom. There is flour in the bathroom. I decide to go back outside and just let Max cook. There is flour on the deck. There are fishing poles on the dock along with fish guts and blood. Jeff looks at me. I am sending him the silent message that he pray for me. No words are needed. I go back to my garden.

“Dinner is ready,” yells the young man-child standing outside our door.

The table is set with real (not paper) plates. The fish has been grilled and kept warm in the oven. A salad has been cut up and put in a festive ceramic bowl. Max doesn’t even like salad, but he knows I do. We sit down together. We give thanks. The fish is excellent. Max is a really good cook!

Max spent the day fishing, cleaning his catch and preparing it for dinner. He is the real deal – a man’s man in the making! A provider.

After dinner Max and I walked through the dinner clean up steps. Max did a great job. We picked up both inside and outside, the day’s remnants of Max.

In the morning we watched the devastation a tornado had on Joplin, Missouri. We were relieved Tanner was not harmed in the storm. He is our oldest son and lives close to Joplin. Max watched the scenes of mass devastation. He stood up and held out his hand to me, “Mom, let’s pray!”

I stood with Max as Jeff walked into the room. The three of us joined hands while Max prayed for God’s restoration and provision for Joplin, Missouri.

Selfish or Gifted?

 

Recently my husband, Jeff, and I had to answer the question:

If God was to grant you a special endowment or supernatural grace to influence a specific sphere of society for the Kingdom of God, which one or more of the primary spheres of society would it be?

Family, Business, Government, Education, Media, Art and Entertainment, Religion

My husband immediately answered, “I know it’s selfish of me, but I would have to say, business.”

Really, I thought, that is selfish? How? So, of course, I asked him!

“Well, you know,” he said,  “I love business, it’s what I enjoy doing. And I’m good at it.”

I realized at that moment that my husband does the same thing I do!

I assume that the things (activities, talents) that I love doing couldn’t possibly be the areas of my life God would use. That would simply be too easy, too good, too good to be true – right?

WRONG! Believe it or not, I actually coach people to do the things in their life that they love – because God made them that way! He made each and every one of us with a plan to prosper us, and not to harm us. He made each of us in HIS image. He gifted us.

Why is it, often when we love and enjoy something*, we feel it is not the way we should go?  Is it possible those talents, likes, loves and desires were actually gifts in our lives from the One who knows us and loves us best? Could God have made us with these desires? Even if they aren’t church related? Could He be glorified through common, everyday  joyful actions of people outside a church building doing the things they loved? Hmmm…let me think…yes, Yes and YES!!!

As I discussed this with my husband I was reminded of several stories and passages from the Bible. Here are a few that came to mind: Jesus left the 99 sheep for the one. I’m pretty sure the one wasn’t waiting for him in the local church…the ‘one’ was lost (maybe even hanging out at some business…). God made Isaac to be a real estate developer, Jacob to be a rancher, David to be a shepherd – then in the military and then a king, Deborah to be a judge and a warrior, Mary to be a mother, Paul to be a tent-maker…Of course all these people served God.

They all did so much more than their vocational title. And so do we.

They were so much more than their vocational title. And so are we.

They all glorified God by doing their best in the vocations of their heart and seeking God, always, as their compass in life. And so can we.

I believe Jeff was being deceived into thinking that “business” was a selfish choice. We do have an enemy that longs for us to fear, to doubt and ultimately become powerless for the Kingdom of God.  We are warned that there is a thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy. We are warned that in life, there will be trouble.

And we are reminded that: He (Jesus) who is in you is greater than the one (evil) who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)!

I ended up being so encouraged by my conversation with Jeff. I was able to validate my husband’s gift in the world of business. And his heart for God and people.

I choose, daily to embrace my love of words, art and beauty as strengths, not weaknesses. I choose to believe that I serve the God of love, the God of the Bible, God who is good all the time! I choose to believe that God’s plan for my life would utilize the gifts He has granted me. I choose to use my gifts and talents to please my heavenly Father. I choose to glorify God in all I do. Even laundry (that will be a whole other blog entry)!


*Disclaimer – if the something you love and enjoy happens to be an addiction, this author is in no way telling you that God made you that way. I believe God is heartbroken over what you are giving yourself over to, if it isn’t Him.

Square Pegs & Round Holes

I have one of those children that carry a label. Special isn’t usually how he is described. Words like defiant, loud, disrespectful, disobedient, rude, liar, behavior problem, unruly, inattentive, rebellious, too active, annoying are more common for us to hear when others describe our child. Some compassionate professionals will refer to him as challenging, strong willed or a ‘high flyer.’

I want to tell you about my son. He is amazing! He is our third child, the third son. (For the record, all of our sons are incredible – but this is for Max). His birth was so anticipated! We had tried to conceive after our second child was just over a year old so that all of our children would be about two years apart. It wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t seem to get pregnant. Then, when I did get pregnant, I miscarried. Twice. I prayed for all of our children. But I did pray more for Max. Max was born almost 5 years after our second child.

Max was the sweetest baby, surrounded by so much love. Not only did he have Mom and Dad, but two older brothers who loved him. He never cried or even used a pacifier. There were always people around him and he was easily entertained. At six weeks old he came down with spinal meningitis. We were in Florida on vacation. Our baby, who never cried, wouldn’t stop crying. He was running a fever. It wouldn’t go down. We went to emergency.

I was terrified. Finally, I was able to get a hold of our doctor in Michigan, he persuaded me to let the ER staff run tests, insert an IV, take blood and perform a spinal tap. Now, remember, this is the baby that never cried. The baby I prayed for, for so long. Our Michigan doctor told me to have my husband hold Max and for me to walk outside the hospital until the tests were done. I was hysterical. My two older boys were with my parents. The spinal tap came back positive for spinal meningitis. I rode to Orlando General Hospital in an ambulance with Max. It would be a 72 hour wait to determine if it was viral or bacterial. While Max and I lived in the hospital, Jeff stayed with our two other sons. My parents had left. We were all alone, in Florida, with a very sick baby. Finally the tests we were waiting for came back as viral. The antibiotics stopped. Max recovered. My heart will always remember the fear and the sheer helplessness I experienced. I still live in the joy of Max’s recovery.

Max was an incredibly beautiful little boy. He had soft wavy hair of angel white blonde, the clearest twinkling blue eyes and dimples that would melt your heart. I am pretty sure that God knew Max would need to be so impossibly beautiful because he was going to be a constant challenge to parent. Max had so much joy, curiosity and get up and go! He was completely self mobile by nine months old. I found him on top his brother’s bunk bed. Of course I scolded my husband immensely for leaving a baby on top a bunk bed. Jeff didn’t have a clue what I was talking about! The next week I found Max on top of the refrigerator. He had opened a pantry door with narrow shelves and apparently used it as a ladder. I don’t think I ever sat down or left him unattended until he started school. I celebrated Max’s energy, innovation and joy of living. We all did. Maybe, his brothers not so much, as he was always into their stuff!

I knew Max had a lot of energy. I guess I didn’t realize just how much until preschool. Max couldn’t sit still at all. Or stand in line. Or follow directions. Or play with the other children. Or color in the lines. Or begin to read or write. I think his poor teacher suffered through us in preschool because she had such a big heart – thank you Mrs. Lull.

Kindergarten was the beginning of a huge change in Max. My sunny, loving, happy, joyful child disappeared. He became sullen, angry, anxious, and so very negative. His kindergarten teacher thought we should have a daily behavior communicator which she safety pinned to Max’s shirt. It either had a happy or a sad face on it. This went on for about a week before he came home one day with just the safety pin. I asked Max about this. He replied, “Oh, my teacher ran out of the papers with the faces on it, but she wanted you to know what a good job I did. She sent just the safety pin so I wouldn’t forget to tell you.” We quit what we liked to call the ‘scarlet safety pin.’

Max’s educational experiences could fill a text book and my tears could fill a river. At age six we were referred to Dr. Sloan, a child behavior pediatrician. He diagnosed Max with very high scores in all areas of ADHD. We were also referred to a psychiatrist for neurological testing. Max again tested positive for ADHD and anxiety disorder. What this  doctor also found was that Max had an extremely low processing speed – only 2%. At this young age it was determined that he had numerous learning disabilities. The neurological testing came back with anomalies that were most likely the result of brain damage from the spinal meningitis. So what could we do?

The medical professionals tried drugs for ADHD. Max could not handle a stimulant drug, or some of the other popular ADHD meds of the time (Concerta, Ritalin, Focalin, Straterra). We were told that Max was too young for an IEP (Individual Education Plan), the school we were in didn’t like to do them until 2nd grade. We later found out we had been given faulty information. After repeated urging we went to an occupational therapist where she explained that Max had many sensory integration issues (why he wouldn’t wear certain clothes, touch certain textures, timing issues for rhythm that would translate into poor coordination for catching a ball and some other sports, cadence for hearing and reading, why he liked to wear work shop ear muffs around the house, why crowds escalated him). The OT gave us extremely useful input for Max. Things like: five minutes of large muscle exertion would allow him to sit and concentrate for about 20 minutes, short – one word directions were more effective than a sentence,  chewing gum and using a straw would help him concentrate, a weighted blanket would help him sleep, a bouncing chair and doodling could help keep his mind engaged. I mean, “hello?” No one teaches parents or teachers  this stuff! I was three years into the education system and this was a huge light bulb moment. I was getting some helpful tools for Max.

During this time we were so overwhelmed as parents. Our marriage had been rocky. I had suffered clinical depression. Every time we tried a new med on Max our family would fall apart. I was reading every book on ADHD, parenting and sensory integration that I could find.  We went to family counseling. Having a Max wasn’t easy for our family, it wasn’t easy for his older brothers. The support groups and forums seemed to have more complaints than solutions.

We turned to church. Individually and as a family finding a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was the answer we had been looking for. Without faith, without Jesus, I don’t know if I could have gone forward. What we didn’t find was any help with Max from the church as a building. If we took him to Sunday school he would usually be out in the hallway after adult service or we would hear the same complaints we heard about him from every where else. He didn’t fit in there either. A dear friend of mine was in charge of a group of children at Vacation Bible School. Max was in her group. She called me in tears, because she felt she was failing with Max – she couldn’t get through to him or control him in a group. I hate to say this, but I felt validated. Her compassion for Max allowed me to admit how difficult it could be to parent him. We were even asked to leave a church because they were not set up for children like Max. We have made some very good Christian friends who have always accepted and loved Max for who he is. They and a few others are the exceptions in Max’s life and for them I will be forever thankful.

Max was permanently suspended from bus privileges as a first grader. I didn’t know that was even possible! In second grade things exploded in his school. We had a person of prominence ignore his IEP. My husband hired an attorney. I felt our parenting skills were being questioned. Many people throughout Max’s life have given us advice such as:

  • Have you tried timeout?
  • Have you considered taking away some of his privileges?
  • Have you ever grounded him?
  • You should spank him more!
  • Do you let him suffer consequences?

You know, I want to just stand up and say, “What a good Idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”

I have two other children that don’t have the issues that Max does, we are good parents! We don’t allow or accommodate disobedience, rudeness, lying. Only the parenting that worked for our other two children needed to be tweeked (a lot) for Max. In fact there are areas we are probably on the 1057th teaching repetition for Max and he still has not got it. I’m sure he will get it, it just might take 2054 times, or more.

Since second grade Max has been home schooled, tutored, in and out of the public education system. Right now he is in the public schools and this year he has a pretty darn good support staff around him. He has finally been able to tolerate some of the newer ADHD drugs (Intuniv and Vyvannse). Still he has had about 40 detentions (yes, this school year), 1 expulsion, switched classes, been exposed to language and situations that I am blown away by, has been accused of bullying, has suffered migraine headaches and can become so frustrated he cries. I am in constant contact with his teachers and the school. I know it is not easy to have Max in a classroom.

In our family, with my husband and I, or with a small group of people Max is great! He is just a pretty normal, very fun and funny, big hearted kid turning into a young man. Max is gifted with the ability to drive and maneuver vehicles, heavy equipment, power tools, basically anything with a motor. He is very smart, capable and out-doorsy. He is a hunter. He loves dogs and horses and small children. He loves the Lord! He will often ask me if he can pray for me. He prays for so many people and situations. Max is creative, he has an artist’s eye and is good with a camera or any number of art supplies. He plays the harmonica. He has a servant’s heart and loves having a job to do. We love this kid!

We were recently on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. One night we were able to meet with a group of Haitian refugees to pray with them and bring supplies. The Haitians are not welcome in the Dominican Republic, much like illegal immigrants are not wanted in the United States. Afterward our group was meeting together to process our time spent with the Haitian people. Max shared. “I know how they feel,” he said. “I have been a reject in the schools I have been in. I really felt for them (the Haitian people) because it hurts to be left out and not wanted.” My heart broke, again.

Max is the kid that is picked last for the team sports. He is the kid sitting in the hallway, principal’s office, alone at lunch, or in the detention room. Max is the annoying kid in your class. Max is the kid that cannot calm down when everyone else does. He is the kid that others can and do rile up, because it’s easy and entertaining for them. Max is the kid that says what he thinks, immediately and loudly, without thinking about the consequences. Max knows if you don’t like him. In his attempt to get you to like him he probably bugs you more. Max is the kid that isn’t invited over to play, or to the birthday party, or fun group event.  He notices this, he just isn’t capable of being any different than he is. He desperately wants to fit in. He lies, acts funny or outrageous and exaggerates in hope of getting your attention. Max wants you to like him. Max wants to be your friend. Max wants to be loved and accepted. He is maturing, growing and learning each year. He is a square peg that will never fit into a round hole.

Max and kids like Max have so much to offer. They are smart, funny, loving and desperately seeking approval. We have the privilege of knowing more of these kids than the average household because one of them lives here. They tend to be drawn to each other. Our peg holes are in every shape we can imagine!

Love these kids!

Mission Trip. Mascara. Shoes.

Dominican Republic 2011

Waterproof mascara will be on the top of my personal packing list for any future mission trip! I was not prepared, even with waterproof mascara, for the raw emotion of this trip. And, I didn’t bring enough shoes!

 

Los Alcarrizos

Processing this  trip to Los Alcarrizos in the Dominican Republic is, well, a process. Unto Inc. the organization leading the mission trip for Riverside Church is headed by Greg Henslee. He helped our group with an evening debriefing after each day.

Let me say that I don’t like meetings, at all. I’m a small group at best –  ‘Just Do It’ – give me a list – type of girl. However, these evening debriefings were so necessary (great job Greg)! Hearing God moving through the hearts of my fellow ‘missionaries’ was and is restoring and renewing me. And totally undoing me, even my waterproof mascara!

 

Love as a Verb

  • Being present with a group of people from my community, church and state.
  • Working along side them for the greater good of a people, a very poor people, a world away from the USA.
  • Experiencing this group loving people in a sacrificial way, with joy! With smiles! With tears of gratitude for being able to serve!

For me this was love in action. Love as a verb. Love like Jesus. This is the gospel.

Compassion. Community. Culture

One evening at our debriefing, Greg suggested that:

Our compassion could change a community and could thus change a culture.

I was humbled. I think he had it backward. Maybe it happens both ways.

Los Alcarrizos Impact

Greg was talking about our affect on Los Alcarrizos. I’d like to address the impact Los Alcarrizos had on us.

The people of this community have nothing. They have no ‘stuff’.  The concept of keeping up with the Jones’s would be ludicrous here. The Dominican’s in this community do depend on God, they have no choice. There is no plan B here. They also possess a contentment that I am hard pressed to find in myself, my friends, or my fellow Americans. They have community. Their children run amongst one another, house to house. They are safe, loved and accepted. The women work together. The men work hard.The children smile, laugh and play together – outside. These people are not depressed, stressed or overweight. When I could step out from behind the lens of my ‘American Filter’ I had an interesting thought: Maybe these people have everything. Everything we don’t.

Unto Inc.

Unto Inc.’s impact is evident in the neighborhoods they are present in.  Lighthouse School plus two satellite locations serve over a thousand children. There are over 600 children on a waiting list to attend. Healthy, clean water is made available. Over 25,000 gallons of drinking water is produced daily at the water purification system. Dear God, how we take drinking water for granted! Good stewardship is also taught through the ministry of Unto. Food for the hungry, homes for faithful families, education and the love of Christ are provided. Hope is brought, taught and captured.

 

Back to: Compassion. Community. Culture

Compassion

What if, as a group, we experienced a new level of compassion. How could we not? Compassion is defined by Webster’s dictionary as sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it. We lived a new level of compassion. We were hands, feet, hearts and heads moving as one to tangibly complete a project that would provide hope. We witnessed the compassion of the Dominican people as they served us – sharing their meager treasures, alleviating our discomfort any way they could, making us smile (and through their generous, giving spirits totally doing my mascara in).

Community

Did compassion change community? Without a shadow of a doubt. In the area Unto was building new homes the community was changed! It was cleaner, there was some pride of ownership happening. Residents walked a little taller and smiled a little wider. The community seemed a little tighter. Did sharing compassion change our group’s community?  Yes, yes and yes! We became a family, united. We shared a new bond. We worked harder together and with more joy than we ever worked alone. We shared parts of ourselves that would never have been uncovered if not for the mutual role of compassion we were fulfilling and witnessing. Yes. Compassion changes community.

Culture

What if compassion (bubbling up, filling our hearts, moving our hands and feet), what if that kind of compassion changed our community? What if we brought our serving experience home to our daily lives? What would that look like? Can we change our communities? Our culture?

ONE percent

Indulge me for a moment.

What if one percent of the population of the United States of America, roughly 3.5 million people, gave sacrificially? What if that one percent generated the cost of our trip ($1500) and the cost to sponsor one child ($35 per month or $420 annually) each year to benefit the Kingdom of God? That would be $1,920 multiplied by 3.5 million. I had to check my calculator twice because there were so many zeros when I first did the math! The amount is $6,720,000,000. That’s right! Six Billion, Seven Hundred and Twenty Million dollars!

About 40 people in Michigan came up with that kind of money (approximately $1,920). Whether through donation, fundraising, saving or simply choosing to spend their money that way.

Michigan has the worst unemployment rate in our country.

What if one percent of the population of the United States of America, roughly 3.5 million people gave one hour of their week to volunteer, to serve in a sacrificial way? The people that came on our trip already gave way more than that! That would be 52 hours annually multiplied by 3.5 million people. 182 million hours of hands, feet, hearts united for Christ – united for widows, orphans, homeless, hurting or hungry people!

Yes, I think that one percent could start to change our culture and other cultures! A spirit of giving and of serving, a community bent on compassion and outreach could mean a culture experiencing love in a tangible way.

One percent of the American population could make a six billion dollar and 182 million hour culture change. Wow!

Practical Application

  1. Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where to give, how much, where to spend your time.
  2. Give. Give where the Holy Spirit leads you to give.This could be at church (above your tithe), go on a mission trip, sponsor a child, financially support a ministry that has changed your life, give to a homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen. Be the One Percent doing something!
  3. Volunteer Your Time. Anywhere! Just do it! This does not have to be in a Christian organization. Go be Christ to the world!
  4. Thank God you have the resources of time and money to give!

 

YOU Matter. YOU make a difference!

My husband, Jeff, questioned whether it mattered if he, personally, came on the mission trip.  Wouldn’t it have been just as effective for him to write a check?

First, it mattered to God that Jeff was there – because Jeff matters to God. God meets us wherever we are. Sometimes, it is easier to see God when we are out of our comfort zone or normal circumstances.

Second, Jeff’s physical presence on the mission trip mattered to me! I felt safe, protected and validated in my need to serve. Two of our sons accompanied us on this trip. Our sons were able to watch their dad not only put his money where his mouth is, but also his heart, hands, feet and sweat!  That is something they (and we as a family) will always have. As parents we can talk all we want, but the best lessons are always caught not taught. You know, actions speaking louder….

I know Jeff mattered to the men and women he worked next to each day. Jeff is an incredible, capable, hard worker. He has a huge heart for people and gives generously of his time, help, wisdom and resources. It will matter to the people he tells about this trip that he was there!

Finally, I know Jeff’s actual presence mattered to the kids, adults and elderly he gave treats to. The surprised pleasure on an adult’s face – to be handed a treat by my husband – still brings tears to my eyes. It probably happened, but I wasn’t witness to anyone else in our group sharing treats with the adults. My husband always notices need and tries to meet it, that is just how he is.The children that rode on his shoulders and in the wheelbarrow he was pushing certainly cared that Jeff was there, live and in person! YES, Jeff personally being there mattered. EVERYONE personally present and accounted for on this mission trip mattered!

What Now?

Don’t not send a check. Yes, I am aware that is a double negative. God may nudge you to financially give or support something by writing a check.  God softens our hearts through tugging on our checkbooks. Really, isn’t it all His anyway? Jesus is after our hearts. Sometimes letting go of our ownership of currency is a first step toward God.

God isn’t asking us to give up, give away, everything. Take note of the many ways God blesses his people in the Bible. He blesses with love, salvation, relationship, provision, healing, children, abundant life, victory, riches, harvest, freedom, kingdoms and on and on!

Even the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-30) wasn’t asked to give everything to the poor. Jesus asked him to simply give to the poor. I believe, like me, the rich young ruler needed to learn how to do life with open hands. Hands both free to give (resources, time, help) and hands open to receive all God has for us (restoration, redemption, healing, freedom, love, joy, peace etc…).

Beyond writing a check, or even before writing a check, consider giving of yourself. First give yourself over to God, surrender to Him and His Lordship of your life. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second it like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Loving God first is the single most important thing you will ever do with your life. Jesus changes everything!

I have often wondered about the second greatest commandment. Who, exactly, is my neighbor? Is Jesus referring to the people that live next door to me? Or is this one of those ‘think deeper’ statements that could include all of humanity? There was a time I didn’t love myself, could I still love my neighbor? What if I don’t like my neighbor? Present neighborhood obviously excluded here!

I am constantly more challenged in giving myself away than my ‘stuff’ or money. Maybe money or stuff is the more difficult challenge for you? I still have fear (pride, anxiety…) rise up from time to time. What if I’m not enough? What if I don’t measure up? What if I can’t fix it? What if I’m not appreciated? What if they don’t deserve it? What if I’m rejected? What if I am not capable? What if I just don’t have anything left to give? What if?

Today, before a full blown self annihilation, I usually seek God. Way sooner than I used to!

“Jesus, what do you say about this? What do you say about me?”

His peace drenches me.

Because: It’s just not about me.

It’s all about HIM!

I didn’t bring enough shoes

His Grace is sufficient for me because HIS power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I have been stepping out, offering more of me. It’s a process, a journey. This walk can still be scary (hard, uncomfortable – you fill in the blank for yourself: _____________________________ ).

When we went to Los Alcarrizos I brought about 25 pair of Old Navy flip flops. I wish I’d brought the whole store plus a grocery store full of daily necessities.

My heart was wrecked over a little boy with wore out rubber shoes. I gave up on my waterproof mascara after day two because it just wasn’t waterproof enough.

I sat at the feet of Jesus. He was there.

Vow Renewal

Last night at church we renewed our wedding vows. Jeff and I have been married over 21 years. We cried as my husband began reciting his vows. Both of us.

When we were first married we did choose to be married in a church. We wanted to do marriage ‘right.’ After we had lived together for a year… We rented a quaint stone church by a river. The chaplain of the local mental institute performed our ceremony. Really.

We wanted to honor God and have Him as part of our ceremony. We just didn’t know how or know Him. I look back now and realize that God was there, we just weren’t plugged in.

Fast forward through:

  • Three babies, turned to toddlers, then adolescents, now all three are teens (yikes).
  • Five home moves, building and/or remodeling four homes. Do you realize this is the second most stressful event in a person’s life next to death of a loved one? We perpetually have lived in this flux for over 20 years!
  • Soccer games, wrestling matches, diesel drag races, horse shows, plays, choir concerts, track meets, cross country meets, parent teacher conferences, doctors appointments, dentist appointments, open houses, dances, countless visits to the emergency room, proms, first dates, heartbreaks, first teeth, braces, sleepless nights, summer camps, vacations, graduations, first loves…
  • Anniversaries, date nights, divorce attorneys, extended family, long talks, embezzlement, baggage, miscarriage, walks, counseling, dreams that died, holidays, home maintenance, trips, new business adventures, landscaping, deaths, the daily grind, growing pains, family dinners, growing up, hurting, accidents, parties, milestones realized, friends, healing, friend’s divorces, mid-life crisis times two, hating, loving, surrendering…
  • Meeting Jesus for real – up close and personal, following instead of just saying we believed in God, putting Christ first, learning to read and love the Bible, falling head over heals in love with Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ! Salvation. Working out our salvation (still). Changed lives. Redemption. Resurrection. Healing. Renewal! Learning to let Him work in us, through us and between us. Loving God. Loving people. Journeying forward!

Last night at church our vows meant more. Our vows were between two battle scarred, mature (at least more mature than we were), hope filled people in covenant with the Holy God.