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The Beauty of Pain: It Turns Us to Love

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I listened to a play list of my favorite songs today.  Each song represented a season in my life. Some brought memories of reclaimed joy while others resonated with lyrics that held my emotions hostage to some of my deepest moments of pain.

Letting go of what no longer supports a healthy lifestyle or relationship can be painful. It may be a failed marriage, death of someone deeply loved, feelings of emotional abandonment or quitting an addiction. There are a plethora of reasons and life events that torment our body, soul and mind.

When we fail to seek the divine consult of God and pursue our own desires, there will be consequences. Make no mistake, our heavenly Father loves us deeply, but the outcome of our success requires obedience to HIS will and planned purpose for our life.

If you are like me, you will screw up and it will be a hot mess. But, there is beauty to be found in our pain. How can that be?

God stands ready at any given time to turn our pain into HIS love and take our ashes and replace them with garments of joy. Isn’t that so like God?

And so, as tears filled my eyes in remembrance of the painful times in my life, I remembered that I am a child of an Almighty God who will forever point my pain in the direction of HIS love. It is my heartache coupled with HIS unconditional love that has shaped me into the person I am today.

We all experience physical, emotional pain and challenges of life. The beauty behind that pain is Jesus. He can transform it into joy and love if we allow Him to actively engage in our heartbreaks, hurts, losses and grief.

There is beauty in pain when we give it all to Jesus! It brings to mind the lyrics of an Evie song:

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?
Are you tired of spinning round and round?
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
(Chorus)
give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys,
Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
And He will turn your sorrow’s into joy

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The TRUE Meaning of Pay It Forward

Picture1She reached out to embrace me with a heartfelt hug. As the softness of her cheek brushed against mine, I leaned in and gently kissed it. As I did, the elderly woman whispered in my ear, “I can’t thank you enough, this means so much to me. I’ve really needed help and didn’t know who to call or ask.”

I turned to watch my teenage grandson as he worked to clean, sort and organize Sarah’s kitchen pantry. Sarah has Parkinson’s and her hands tremble and shake uncontrolably. Some days are better than others, but this once vibrant member of our community now has limited use of her hands.

Sarah rarely complains about her condition. Things as simple as changing light bulbs, vacuuming the inside of her car and trimming back flower beds are no longer things she can do without help.  She had asked if I knew of a teen in our community that could help with chores. Sarah was willing to pay, but with limited funds, she couldn’t afford to hire a professional service.

I own a cleaning company and take care of Sarah’s house cleaning needs, but there are things not included as part of my business services so I asked my grandson if he wanted the opportunity to work.  It’s is a win-win situation. My grandson needs the cash and Sarah needs a trustworthy, affordable worker.

Pay It Forward endeavors and missions aren’t always glamorous and sometimes require more effort on our part than donating a bag of clothes or buying a cup of coffee for the person ahead of us in line. There are times when it means we must get our hands dirty or donate time we really don’t have. In the case of my grandson, it was cleaning up mouse droppings, crusted bird feeders and disposing of expired food product in a pantry.

It could be delivering a home cooked meal to someone who is home-bound, offering carpool services to a parent that can’t get kids to an event because of their work schedule or providing  your professional services or labor without charge.

In whatever way you choose to Pay It Forward let it be done  out of love, compassion and with a servant’s heart. Let it be done without a contrived effort to validate your own self-worth or to showcase your personal acts of goodness to others.

Benjamin Franklin loaned a man in need some money one time and he said,

“I do not pretend to give such a deed. I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest man in similar distress as you, you must pay me by lending this sum to him.”

Although my grandson is getting paid to work, there may come a day when he is unable to do things for himself.  Should that happen, I hope he pays it forward and hires a vibrant, robust teen like himself who needs to earn spending money.

Passing on good deeds may seem like a novel, modern idea, but it is as old as the work God is doing with humanity. He has given us life and everything else we need to achieve our potential—eternal life in the family of God. Let’s take the good things God has done for us and do our part to embrace the TRUE meaning of pay it forward by being representatives of His never ending grace.

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Are You a Taker or Giver?

I do plefbe106998c36bce9aa90503259d6015a--amen-so-truenty of community work. Trust me when I say that those who give the most are the least financially equipped. And no, I’m not talking about me; however, if any of you feel compelled to pay off my mortgage, it would be greatly appreciated.

The individuals and families I reference are those you may least expect.  Consider this comment recently shared with me:

“We continually give, because that’s what we do and who we are. Yet, in the giving of our time and non-monetary donations to local events, we have found ourselves in situations where a family member had to gift us money for groceries. We have our kids pack lunches to save on the $3 per child lunch fee, but even then, we fall short and not because we are extravagant.”

Linden Tribe this is an ongoing issue in our community.

There are takers and there are givers. We tend to pay attention to the takers because they have the louder voice; but what about those who don’t voice their need?

Sure, maybe they should, but it’s not who they are; and more likely, it’s not who their parents were either. Asking for a hand-out is difficult. These are families who are not afraid to work. For most, they are college-educated or skilled trade people who just can’t keep up with family expenses.

The list includes single moms/dads living on one pay check, individuals who have fallen on hard times due to health issues. Then there is the average household paying for multiple children in school sports, kids who outgrow clothes and shoes in a matter of months and still have to pay to get into community sporting events. Yes, I know, there are season passes, but really? How much do you save and why isn’t that part of the tax levied by the school district? Just sayin’!

My point

Take it for what it’s worth. The people I reference don’t qualify for food stamps, Obama Care (for what that is worth) or free school lunches. Oddly enough, these are the individuals who are first to volunteer to coach a community sports team or donate their resources to a charitable event.

They see their community as a working mission field and to not serve would be a dishonor.

Food for thought

What are you doing to serve your community? Are you sucking the live out of it and giving back nothing? Then shame on you! Mount your giddy-up horse and find ways to serve, donate, and share the blessings you have been gifted.

I can give you a list of people in our community who would greatly benefit from a grocery store gift certificate.

How are you Paying It Forward to the community where you live?

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The Catty Shack Club

cattyAre you a member? You might be and don’t even know it.

I’m not talking golf (caddy) here; I’m talking about running your mouth and being catty behind the scenes while on the surface you give all appearances of being the faithful friend, family member or co-worker. Yes, I’m talking about you, me and a host of others who are active members of this club.

The conversation:

“Isn’t he/she just so wonderful? They do so much for others through community & church donations, volunteering their time, energy and efforts – BUT…

It’s the BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE that negates any positive comments previously shared. The moment you utter the words, you (and me) have enrolled in a ‘catty’ shack club membership.  We have deliberately made ourselves judge and jury as we indulged in comments that are hurtful and spiteful.

The why:

What compels us to share negative comments about those we love and care about? Good question.

Honestly, I believe it has more to do with acknowledging the success of someone we love and admire. It makes us more aware of our own weaknesses, limitations and failures to find gratification in life. God desires us to uplift, encourage and inspire others just as He does for us.

The outcome:

I can say with complete confidence that God doesn’t share any BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE secrets about us with others. We should follow that same example.

To share tidbits and betray the confidence of others speaks volumes about us and the condition of our spiritual heart. Are we harboring envy or greed that needs to be reconciled? Maybe it’s jealousy or our own feelings of inadequacies.

Whatever, the reasons, we are not judge or jury to the decisions others make, the lifestyle they choose or the intents of their heart. That is God’s job. There will always be open enrollment to membership in the Catty Shack Club.

When the enemy of this world solicits you to engage in membership, remind yourself that it serves no purpose.  Our God-ordained purpose is to love at all costs.

“…but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I think we have all heard: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.” It’s applicable. If you want to share, then share with God in prayer.  Unlike us, He sees the whole picture, not just the conversation.

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Love Wins Every Time

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Sorry! I just don’t see how posting your political venue on Facebook along with sarcastic comments, quotes and venom is going to change the heart and mind of those who oppose your views.

Yes, you are entitled to your viewpoint on all things political, but do you have to present your case on Facebook?

If you really want to make a difference, do something that requires more than copying and pasting political propaganda and opinions you find on the internet. It’s the lazy person’s way of broadcasting politics and requires little effort.

We are a nation that has to co-exist together regardless of our political views. To verbally or physically assault others who oppose our views achieves nothing. History pretty much confirms this truth.

In a perfect world, it would be nice to believe that after the November 6 elections, all political disparity would subside. Sadly, you and I both know that won’t happen. There will be a new barrage of online verbal attacks; some on a very personal level that will sever family and friendships.

My life is surrounded by friends and family members with differing political and religious views that are contrary to mine. That’s OK. What’s not OK is for me to take an offensive enemy position in an effort to persuade them to my point of view.

For the record, there is this thing called prayer. God is the judge and jury of all mankind (at least in my religious views). Even if your views should differ, the bottom line is this:

We were created for a purpose. Hopefully, you view your purpose as someone who embraces humanity with love, understanding and compassion.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

I encourage you to practice love. It wins every time.

There is clarity when we set aside our differences. The blinders of hate, political discord and allegiances to groups that seek to divide us are lifted. Love allows us to see people who may have opposing views as a group of individuals that truly want to find a way to bring unity without twitter feeds, media hypes and Facebook / Internet propaganda.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Heavenly Father, unite our nation. Unite our people. Let us look toward the greater cause and purpose of why we exist… faith, hope and love.

Amen.

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Finding Your Purpose

IMG_2855YIKES! Finding purpose is not so easy. I am 63 years young and still trying to learn what exactly it is I’m supposed to be doing. One week I believe it should be writing this blog, the next week I switch gears and believe it’s donating my time to a worthy cause, and then, I end the week with a big hallelujah that will help prosper community spirit.

I am all over the board and then some. It’s how I operate and the chances of that changing are unlikely. My heart is forever drawn in so many different directions with great intentions, but focusing on one particular purpose seems impossible.

Is that you?

If you have more than three servings on your life platter, there is a good chance I’m talking to you. Maybe you are a sport’s mom or dad who works full time. At this time in life, your purpose might be to feed the kids dinner, get them to practice or games, help with homework and get them in bed at a reasonable time.

Perhaps, you’re a student. Your purpose is to finish college, find a career that yields a worthy income, get married, have kids and eventually buy a house. Or, you could be a senior who has lost your purpose after retirement. The kids are gone, the house is paid off, grandkids no longer visit and health issues keep you from doing many of the things you once loved.

You are not alone

Life is transitional which means we are continually making adjustments to find our purpose on earth. When single, our purpose is to eventually find a spouse; once married with kids, there is a new purpose. The cost of college education for our kids ushers in a purpose of finding affordable tuition that doesn’t rob our retirement.

The pursuit of purpose is never ending and always changing when viewed from an earthly point of view. It can be exhausting, especially if we compare our life to those around us.

Eternal Purpose

We need to count it a blessing that our eternal purpose is salvation through Christ Jesus; it never changes. It is the mingling of God with humanity, through us, that cultivates our ultimate purpose. When we grasp hold of that eternal purpose, it is life-changing.

God uses every circumstance in our life to make us more like Jesus. Every success, failure, joy, and disappointment is designed to bring eternal purpose to our life and make us more like Jesus.

“Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29)

As you forge a path of purpose in life, don’t fail to see the eternal picture. In our lifetime, we will pursue many ambitions, reach for goals and aspire to find new venues of purpose. However, it is the eternal purpose that matters most.

“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things [purpose] will be given to you also.”
Matthew 6:33

 

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Walking Mission Field

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I’ve been called many things, but never a walking mission field; it was a first.

I recently connected with a prior acquaintance to assist me with my Monday house cleaning jobs. The drive time between each house clean has given us ample opportunity to grow from acquaintance status into a heartfelt friendship. Her name is Janine.

Travel Talks

During our travel time we talk about our families, favorite pastimes and share memories about our childhood years. But it is our shared faith that really seals the bond between us. She is a believer in Christ and her commitment to a life long journey of discovering what that means brings added value to our relationship because I am on that same journey.

A few weeks ago I casually mentioned that I have a blog called Devotionals for the Imperfect Person. Those who know me well know that writing is my passion. Not just writing about my faith to bring inspiration, but writing stories of encouragement and hope when weathering storms of life.

Caught Off Guard

On other drives Janine and I have talked about my Warrior Chair project; chairs painted and gifted to others that are battling cancer. There have been conversations about cultivating a daily pay it forward attitude, being attentive to the needs of others and my life as a pastor’s daughter.

It was our last stop on the way home from a clean this week that prompted Janine’s comment, “You are just a walking mission field.” It truly caught me off guard and I was uncertain what had prompted the remark.

I had made a quick stop at the corner market near my home after our last clean. I explained to Janine that the girl who worked there was a single mom with two kids. Her work days were 15 hours with a 40 minute drive to work. I went on to share I had dropped off a token gift bag to her last week.

There was nothing of particular value in the bag, but it contained some goodies along with a note of thanks for the great service she gives every time I visit the store. Unknown to me, the store clerk was having a particularly difficult day and the gift bag was a reminder she is valued.

The Mission

I shared this story with Janine. Not to receive any accolades, but to share the joyful impact a simple goodie bag had imparted to this unknown store clerk and how she was filled with gratitude. The door was now open to share the greatest gift of all: God’s love for a store clerk I barely knew.

We can all choose to be walking (or driving) mission fields. The rewards of our efforts may not be evident through the eyes of man, but God’s all-seeing eyes take note and He blesses the effort in unthinkable ways.

What mission field are you headed to today?