Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Shirt Off My Back

Almost 20 years ago, I found the Lord at a small church in Pompano Beach, Florida. Because it was a traditional hometown church, I was encouraged to join the Women's Bible Study. I showed up that first morning and was embraced by one woman who had cut out a bunch of Bible verses and had magazines and papers for me. At the end of the Bible Study (almost everything went right over my head because I had very little understanding at that time), one elderly woman announced that their dear sister who had just passed had instructed in her last will and testament that she wanted the women of this church to enjoy her possessions.

I did not know this woman who had passed, but I was the first to approach the mountain of clothes. So many colors and beautiful accessories! I do not remember much about that day except the itens I was given. I do remember one woman commenting that their friend would have been happy knowing that I had joy in seeing all of her wonderful blouses, sweaters, scarves and handbags. I did take several items home that day because this woman knew how to accessorize!

The gifts that day long ago made an impression upon me not just in a materialistic way but because the event became less about the clothes and more about the character of the woman that had passed. I watched as the women cried and laughed and then laughed and cried as they held each item up. They remembered different events in which this saint had worn these items. These women remembered!

This memory caused me pause today as I packed up our mountain of Christmas ornaments (yes - Christmas was 2 months ago and this mountain represented procrastination!)

I realized today that I can also give my items to the women in my Bible Study. Check. I can see their faces now! Laughing about this and that and just having fun being alive. My friends are much younger than the women were at my first church. Those women were a bit reserved but got a bit rowdy at times and they also were enjoying my vim and vigor (I was the only one without gray hair) at seeing all of these fun items in one place there for the taking.

I felt good knowing this would be possible for me to arrange as well. However, I began to brainstorm about other areas of my life in which I could bless someone long after I entered Glory. Imagine opening my box of Christmas ornaments and seeing a Scripture and a note about the item! Imagine a note to the person opening the box! Inviting them to enjoy the items and passing them along to their children! A note about the $14.00 (including shipping) artificial Christmas Tree that I bought on Ebay one year and proudly decorated on into my 70's!

I thought about other areas of my every day living. And my pondering led to the Lord's still small voice convicting me of my procrastination with my paperwork and cluttered areas of my closets and my office. Do you live every day as if it is your last? Do you live every day as if your legacy would give joy if someone stumbled upon these things? Do you spend time in making your day count?

Ahhh Lord! I do not. I do not act when You prompt me to act. I do not knock on that door when I feel like being a couch potato. I avoid that situation because it may become painful. I do the comfortable lazy things and put off the To Do's for another day. I am truly sorry. Please change, mold me and make me more like You.

Relief. Cleansing. God's Holy Spirit shower of love....

After confessing this, I remembered another situation in which someone had blessed me almost 20 years ago as well. I had spoken to my neighbor Linda about not having silverware or dishes. I am not sure why I didn't have these items but I mentioned this to her. I opened my front door the next morning and there were stacks and stacks of plates, a box of silverware, mugs, monkey dishes and little knick knacks and fun things! She did not even tell me that she left those items there but I eventually found out and was blessed in so many ways by her kindness. She told me that the very next day after I had mentioned this to her these items came to her. I remember seeing the excitement in her eyes as she shared how she came upon the very items that I had told her I needed and she knew these items were for me. I understand now that she had seen God in this situation and so in faith she followed through and delivered these items to my front door. I get it now.

She was a Christian. She seemed like such a kind person and  yet I did not engage with her too much as I was in transition stepping closer to the Lord and not yet aware of the legacy she had left me. I still have the white monkey dishes in my cabinet. Every time I use them I smile because these dishes represent Linda. Her act of kindness continues today because of the memory she gave me!

On a more somber note. Some would pity me in not having children to leave my items to and I understand this. I lived a pity party every day for many many years. But, I have overcome this sad reality and am now choosing to live a life of blooming where I am planted. I will bless others because God has planned this for me to do even before the foundation of the world. I am no longer kicking and screaming at the goads because of not having children, but dwelling in obedience. Had to kick the goads first tho!

I take so much joy in knowing that God had me go into my garage today and decide to plow through the mountain of ornaments. I am truly going to make a special blessing for someone who opens that box. I have other inspiration plans in motion now as well.

One day I will give not only the shirt off my back, but my shoes, my handbags, all of my jewelry, my home, our car, our animals and so much more! I hope whomever receives these worldly possessions will take joy in the gifts I plan to give. I hope my legacy will ignite in someone else the same legacy which that woman I never met did and the same joy my neighbor Linda did. You just never know who you will affect by living your life for God. Giving the shirt off your back and so much more will leave marks on hearts you may never meet and on neighbors you will never run into again! Do it! Joy is to be shared.

Gotta go now and tackle that mountain of paperwork in my office (no one will want me to leave them my bills and accounting paperwork to file). Hmmm possibly I can leave a note on each year's tax return about God meeting our financial needs. The possibilities are truly endless....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stranger Danger

A Stranger. Stranger danger. Beware of eye contact on a plane when you are traveling alone. Keep your wallet in your front pocket just in case. Always look over your shoulder before entering your car. The warnings rattle around in our heads 24/7. The warnings become a part of who we are.

Strangers. They are all around us. The world would have us be fearful, look away, and protect our person and our possessions when among "Strangers." Wise. And yet, what does God's Word have to say about strangers?

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ESV" - Hebrews 13:2

43 Bible Verses about Strangers:

Recently I have come to understand the need for hiring a Stranger. A Visiting Angel sits with a man so that his wife can get a respite from the arduous task of caring for her husband who recently became a victim of dementia. He actually thinks his wife is a Stranger and works for a government agency. He has convinced himself she wants to take eminent domain of his residence. She has become a Stranger to him even after 50+ years of marriage.

The Visiting Angel - a Stranger who has instantly gained access into his world of darkness and insanity has quickly become a trusted confidante and a shoulder for this woman to cry on. The Visiting Angel had quickly accepted her role in the life of a man who capably raised 4 children and dreamed about the day he would celebrate his Golden Years. No doubt he envisioned sitting in the sun and reaping the rewards of a job well done. He surely couldn't wait to tinker in his garage and tend to his herb garden as he guided his grand children into adulthood. That plan was not to be. But a Visiting Angel entered a Stranger one day and easily left a friend the very same day.That was her role and she played that role well.

Strangers pretend you are invisible as they pass you by. I remember when I was a child as I walked alongside my Mother Strangers would smile at us. I mimicked my Mom and began smiling back. It wasn't until many years later when I had gum surgery and could not smile at Strangers that I realized the reason Strangers smiled at my Mom and then later me.  I realized my Mom had been smiling at Strangers and then they smiled back. The smile was ignited as we made eye contact. This was a chain reaction which occurred and which I had learned from my Mom. What a gift she had given me!

As a result of not being able to smile because of gum surgery when I was 42 I realized the power of the smile chain reaction. The gum surgery and inability to smile made me sad and so I struggled to then share a smile with just my eyes. It did not work. Because my smile did not happen a smile was not returned. My world was not the same until I could smile again...

Being almost 50 now, I realized this week that I smile less. With all of the ills of this world and the lack of love I see around me, I have begun to frown more than I smile. I looked in the mirror the other day and realized I had tiny frown lines beginning to form. I had never seen those marks before. Just for fun I smiled and then my entire face became beautiful again! In that moment I vowed to smile even when no one is around. Who wants jowls and frown lines? Besides, practicing a smile never did a body harm.

A Stranger can return a smile. He or she will still be a Stranger but will become a Stranger with a smile. One of my favorite Bible stories is the Good Samaritan. There was no smile in store for the Samaritan. He did the right thing because he knew the wrong thing was to walk by and remain a Stranger. In that story, the Stranger Danger was walking by and doing  nothing. And God in His Goodness has given us that story to remind us that Strangers are people placed in our path to provoke us to not just smile but to be the hands and feet of Christ.

My hope this year is to engage. To look for the need, to hear the woman 4 stalls away sobbing and to not only leave vowing to pray but asking if this Stranger is okay. The danger is in not asking to help. The danger is regretting to respond to that orchestrated situation in which God placed me to help, to love, to be the salt and light in a dying world.

How many Strangers have you pretended were invisible as you walked by today? Dare to step out of your comfort zone. Try some eye contact. Try a smile, a hello, a hint of a greeting. Be wise but be bold.

These are the days in which we cannot faint, fall, or follow anything or anyone which does not lead us closer to the Cross! After all, we truly are just Strangers ourselves - in a strange land.  So why not roll up your sleeves and smile? It's a start! And it is contagious! More smiles = less frowns and the grand total of this equation is a whole lot more LOVE. And at the end of the day Love is what Jesus did for us on the Cross and Love is what this world needs more of.  

Drop me a line and let me know about your Stranger story today! I will cheer as I smile a big smile because I can! If ya got it - use it!!