A blog about finding God's way on the journey with our children, our family, our jobs and our community.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Do Your Ripples Say About You?

I stood on the shore of the lake last Friday afternoon and watched my precious grandchildren throw rocks into the water. Whole fistfuls of pebbles or stones flew through the air. Each one hit the water with the same result…ripples. Ripples that circled out and intersected with the other ripples, ripples that went far beyond the spot where each stone landed.
This image of the ripples never fails to bring the same thought to my mind over and over.
Small as each pebble is, not one touches the water without these resulting ripples.
We are like the pebble. No matter how influential or insignificant we see ourselves, we each send out ripples that circle out further than we might ever dream.
Words and deeds of kindness or cruelty, gentleness or abrasiveness, generosity or greed - all ripple out and touch other lives far beyond the boundaries we think they go. Our families, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers are often touched by an act or a word that we never dreamt would get as far as it did.
My husband is good at skipping rocks across the water. The girls count the skips; the more the better. Sometimes we think we, too, can skip through life, independent, not touching others, hurrying on without time to stop and be concerned about anyone else. The inevitable ripples still flow out.
We do influence, we do touch others, even when we are not aware of it. God even reminds us of our ripples…“…you be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
As you go through your day today be reminded that you are sending out ripples. You have no idea how far they go. Ask your Heavenly Father to help you bring His heart of love and grace into your setting and be conscious of the ripples you are sending out.

Prayer for Today~Heavenly Father, I sometimes forget that I am an influence in the places I walk each day. Help me today to be aware of the ripples I send out with my words and conversations, and even with my tone. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit today so that the ripples from my words and actions touch and encircle those around me with strength and encouragement. Help me to be an example of love and faith and purity today because You have placed me in this very spot to bring Your love to the people around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

White Gloves and Children Don't Mix.....Or Do They?

I still believe that some of the greatest blessings are the ones that take us completely by surprise. I was reminded of this beautiful part of God’s storehouse of blessings tonight at church. The youth group hosted a fundraiser for an upcoming youth trip. Our three teenagers are a part of this youth group and I love to watch their interaction with the rest of the group. I love to watch their growth as they come into their own place of being a teenager taking a hard stand against this world.
Our youth group has formed a worship team called “Sign 4 Life” - a glove ministry using black lights and white gloves. (It’s quite inspiring to see signing to music and song and I would encourage you to check it out if you have never seen it before.) But for this Mom, tonight was strangely different. Tonight I “saw” my girls in such a different light and I will never, ever be the same…
Now mind you I have seen Sign 4 Life perform for Jesus many times in many settings. But tonight in that little sanctuary when the lights were turned out, the music started and the black lights illuminated the pairs and pairs of white gloves on that stage, something amazing happened. God completely took me by surprise. Although I couldn’t see any faces in the dark, I saw their hearts! I could see my girls worshipping Christ, loving their Savior, witnessing with pure love in such a special way. I could see them the way Christ sees us! I sat there amazed and overwhelmed by the fact that I was “seeing” my girls – and all these kids that I know so well – in a whole new way! It was like God had allowed me a glimpse into their insides – into their very hearts and souls! Although my natural eyes couldn’t discern one pair of gloves from another in the dark, God allowed me to see them clearer than I have ever seen them before!
I could “see” Olivia, beautiful, sensitive, loving Olivia, keeping her hands in perfect unison with her Lord. I could “see” my Avery, so full of life, happy-go-lucky-make-the-world-laugh Avery - A pure heart dancing before her King. And I could “see” my Sara, my dear, sweet, resilient adopted 13 year old beauty, stepping out with courage and praising her Heavenly Father for loving her so very much and keeping her safe for so long.
I can’t tell you how emotional and spirit-filled this experience was for me. I normally see their brown eyes (and Sara’s blue eyes) and big smiles, but tonight I saw my children through the eyes of Christ and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Tonight 1 Samuel 16:7 actually CAME ALIVE for me! The verse says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." And what a beautiful sight it was for this mother, this Christian, this woman on her earthly journey. God “sees” His children this way – God actually sees you and me this way! What a blessing to know that my Father feels exactly the same way about His children as I felt tonight about mine. I will never forget tonight. And I will never look at a pair of white gloves the same way again! Hallelujah!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Although Spring is usually full of change and new life is springing forth, this Spring wasn't near as full of change as Summer has been for Rick and me so far. WOW! Our home has grown overnight from 2 teenage daughters to include a beautiful 9 year old granddaughter, a 4 year old little fireball posing as our youngest granddaughter, and our 26 year old daughter Austin. As if that in itself isn't enough change, I changed jobs three months ago into a totally different field after 27 years in the hotel industry, and I have lost almost 50 pounds! There is a sense of pandemonium and absolute mayhem resounding throughout my life for sure! And then again, there is a sense that life is as it should be... but it is an adjustment when the house is stuffed to the brim with ribbons, bows, toys, hairbrushes, and let's not forget all those extra piles of laundry!
Life changes - boy, is that the understatement of the year! And we must flex and make adjustments. Adjustments...to new schedules, new routines, a much more hectic house, changes in sleeping arrangements, and the realization that my Dad has now been gone for 4 years and he is no longer here to phone.
They say change is the only constant in life. I have thought so much about all the changes that life brings. Some of them I like, others I don't care for at all. But all of them are simply part of this wondrous, God-given thing called life.
Our granddaughter Riley turned 9 this June we had the privilege of hosting an absolute blow-it-out birthday sleepover for her. She is such a precious child and doesn't ask for or expect a lot. A good friend who is very crafty (the Martha Stewart of Farragut!) came over to lead the girls in "craft time" which involved making a little scrap book for their favoriate photos, photos they were instructed to bring with them to the party. And we pulled out lots of family photos and old albums that I hadn't looked at or thought about in years. As I have gone through each book representing a certain period in the life of our family, I realized that life has been full of change. Home has been in varied places and change has not always been easy. But for the most part we have thrived on it and loved every moment that change has brought to our family. I realized that there were principles I put into practice that served me well and that I needed to dust off and remind myself of now in this period of new change...
Maximize the pros and minimize the cons.Every change in life has both positive and negative aspects to it. Sometimes the balance isn't equal. But in every situation of change, we choose where we will dwell... maximize the positive points and don't linger on the negative ones. Choose to smile.
Enjoy the moment.Change is inevitable and this particular space in time is a treasure, even if it is hard. Don't wait to enjoy life. Engage in this moment in life. Choose to laugh.
Appreciate people.Without people, life is empty. God created us as social creatures. We need each other. Dare to reach out.
Cultivate a thankful heart.Never doubt the goodness of God toward you. Find the little things to raise your heart in thankfulness. Gratitude puts a softness in your eyes and is tonic for the soul. Choose thankfulness.
Invite God into every change.Some changes are hard, and we struggle against them. Ask God to give you the strength and wisdom you need. He can be counted on when no one and nothing else can! Hunger after Him... He promises you will be filled. He is the sure source of a grateful heart and an outlook on life that finds the joy. Invite Jesus.
As I think back over the changes of my life and realize how these five conscious decisions have helped me in the past, I am determined to look to the future with eager anticipation. Stopping to ponder has confirmed the track record of God in my life as I called on Him to be my source when change was approaching and decisions were difficult.
You cannot always choose the changes that come your way. But you can always choose your response. And you always have access to a God who loves you and will carry you through. I know, for He has done it for me many times. And as sure as I am sitting here tonight, I know that God has blessed us with this opportunity to have a full-to-the-brim, house-busting-at-the-seams, oh-my-goodness life once again. And I, for one, want to enjoy it as long as it lasts.

Riley and Parris take a moment out to pose with Max

Monday, June 30, 2008

My Psalm

On a beautiful Fall day in the Smoky Mountains in 2003, I was inspired to pen the following Psalm to My God, in response to an exercise of putting into words what God has done for you. I was attending a Women's Weekend Conference entitled "The Storm," and I must tell you this exercise helped me to realize that our sovereign Lord has surely rescued us from a life of dispair. I trust you will somehow find it inspiring as well.
My Psalm
Spiraling down was I
On a murky path of disgust
with no shelter from sin;
Or the heartache of despair.

With nowhere but down to go,
further Into the darkness.
Hope and love had hidden herself.
She lay lifeless, chained under a thickness of
Blackened lies - never to be awakened again.
Never to be freed from her
Slumber of night.

Death was coming.
Death and destruction were marching forward
To consume me.
Boastful of their victory sure to come.

And then I saw Him.
Like a tiny ray of light at first.
Then a display of splendor I would not look away from.
With outstretched arms and a
Gentleness of spirit. But moving forward constantly.
Never wavering; never hesitating; never faltering.
But keeping His eyes on my heart.

The Giver of Life came steadily
Beaming down His goodness and His mercy
Upon my soul.

“Be still”, He whispered.
And sin, she shuddered.
“Come here”, He sang.
And darkness he recessed into his
Cave of shadows.

“Hold to my hand”, He delighted.
And with that He offered up to me the
Waters of the eternal spring.
And I drank freely -
till the thirst of a thousand years was satisfied.

And next He fed me truth.
The truth of forever and the
Nourished bread of life.

And my cloak of disgrace it fell from my being
And He gave me a new robe gleaming white
With the pureness of righteousness and glory.

And my old cloak He took up to Himself
And I watched as He cast it into the sea
Of forgetfulness; never to rear its ugly face of
Torment against me again.

The Lover of my Soul He cleansed me!
He refreshed my senses and caused all pain to fall away.

Quickly then He turned to death and destruction
And He raised His mighty sword.
Death and destruction they cried out in fear -
And they retreated to their cave of blackness.

He shared with me His light and His steadfastedness
And I became strong. I was free!

And peace and love she awoke
From her darkened blanket; her chains of destruction
Were loosed, and they fell at her feet.
She sprang forth into victory!
Arise! He said. And I followed Him.
Never looking back upon the disgust of yesterday.
I was free!

Tomorrow has come!
The Giver of Life! The Mighty One!
A new day has begun.

The Sower of Peace and Healing He hath
Crowned me with the victory of everlasting joy.
He hath rescued me from death and destruction
And I shall dwell victorious in His
Lovelight forever.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's How You Make Them Feel

For 27 years I had a solid identity as a business professional in the hospitality industry. I have gone from the ground floor of answering a switchboard in a busy hotel corporate office at the age of 19 to learning just about everything one could learn about the hospitality profession.

Experiences are forever seared into my conscious mind about how to treat the customer in a professional, respectful manner. “The guest signs your paycheck; they are the most important person – hands down – in the business. Without them, we would all be out of a job. Treat each guest as if they were the most important person in the world. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR THEM THAT COUNTS; IT’S HOW YOU MAKE THEM FEEL.” Who said that? Well, me for one.

As I trained a new crop of employees coming into the business for the very first time, I would conduct orientation again and again with enthusiasm and purpose. Time after time, year after year, I would teach that what we “do” and what we “sell” is not tangible; you can’t hold it in your hand. It’s not about the clean and cozy hotel room. It’s not about the great dinner or fantastic breakfast. It’s not about the swimming pool, the tennis court or the complimentary internet service. What we sell is service – and that’s what sets us apart from the competition. IT’S HOW YOU MAKE THEM FEEL that counts.

Now fast-forward 27 years into May of 2008. And here I am, at the crossroads. Back to learning the ropes. Back to the ground floor again. My first two weeks in the ministry at Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) were pretty scary for this seasoned hospitality professional. Learning the ministry. Learning the terminology. Absorbing and taking it all in just like a sponge. Just like I did 27 years ago.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. All of the things I learned about the hotel business have really been preparation for ministry to the homeless and hurting. They ARE our guests. They are looking for something tangible – a hot meal; a shower and a clean, safe place to sleep. But what they really need – what really matters to them is being treated with respect. A handshake. A smile, a hello, an acknowledgement they exist in this world. RESPECT. For someone to tell them “YOU MATTER.” The homeless have very simple needs, desires. Just like my hotel guests for the past 27 years, it comes down to one thing. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO FOR THEM. IT’S HOW YOU MAKE ME FEEL.

Imagine you are a young 26 year old woman. You ran away from home at the age of 16 to get away from an alcoholic mother and a very abusive step father. Your good looks quickly got you a ride 400 miles away from home. But not without sacrifice of your virginity and self-respect. You are drinking more and more to drown out the memories of a little sister you left back in Tucson in that hell-hole called “home.” You start to drink more and more until you finally can’t hold down that minimum wage job at K-Mart that was barely paying the $60 a week rent on the efficiency down the road. A guy comes through your check-out line one evening and tells you that he can give you something later that will really numb the pain. And later that night, your nightmare begins as you smoke crack cocaine for the very first time. The next 6 years are a blur because you spent most of the time trying to find that buzz you got that very first night with a guy you didn’t even know. You have tried to stop, but when you are clean for more than 32 hours the voices in your head and the demons on your back are so strong you start “numbing down” the pain all over again. Eventually you are sleeping on the street because you are spending every penny you make turning “tricks” just to stay high. You’re at the end of your rope. You have thought about calling home many times but that guilty verdict that Satan plays over and over in your mind has kept you from dialing the last digit of the number. You are hungry, you are tired and you just want to wake up from this really, really bad dream.

As bad as it sounds, this is reality for the majority of young women that I see coming into KARM every night. They are so tired of being used and abused and treated like yesterday’s TV dinner - they just need someone to acknowledge them as a human being and treat them with warmth and understanding. They don’t need judgment. They don’t need preaching – heck, most of these street people have heard more sermons than you and I will ever hear in our lifetime. They just need the safety that comes with unconditional, love and human RESPECT. We all need it, even though we don’t deserve it. I have realized in a very short time in working with the homeless that it is this little thing called respect that draws the lost and hurting to Jesus more than any other thing. It’s nothing tangible – you can’t see it, you can’t eat it, you can’t sleep on it. It’s the value of being treated with respect without regard for what you did to get there.

It’s all about how you make them FEEL. And once they FEEL respected, FEEL clean, FEEL full and FEEL safe, they are more apt to accept what Jesus has for all of us. And that’s forgiveness at the foot of the cross. You know, it happens the same for each of us, no matter the circumstance, no matter the color of our skin, no matter our age and no matter what sins we have committed against others or ourselves. IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW JESUS MAKES US FEEL. He makes us feel accepted. He makes us feel forgiven. He makes us feel clean. He makes us feel safe in His arms. He makes us feel LIKE WE MATTER.

And now I see how God prepared me for work in the ministry over the last 27 years. After all the worrying and fretting I did about “learning the ropes” of a new job, I was taught the lessons of unconditional love and preparing for ministry work through the service industry! I was transformed and preparing to be a servant for Jesus to the least, the last and the lost. Who but Jesus could do such an amazing thing without ever letting us in on it!

I consider it a true privilege and honor to serve the homeless and hurting– more than I ever thought possible I am enjoying seeing the dirty, unkempt beards of the scraggly old men that shuffle along the sidewalk. I am finding a deep purpose in holding open the door for the prostitutes, drug addicts and street ladies that file inside seeking shelter from the night. Because at the end of the day, I want to serve my Risen Savior who gave His life for me. I want every person I meet to FEEL the same way that He makes me FEEL. Like I MATTER. Like He did it all for me.