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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 Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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2018: A Pay It Forward Christmas

1ab1d1e0550be0eb56556f6449aba62bAs the Christmas holiday season approaches, I am contemplating ways to make it a minimalist holiday season. Those on my buying list have no genuine needs. They might have wants, but that’s not the same as needs.

My grandkids are in their teens or soon to be. They lack nothing and have  a closet filled with clothes, comforts of a good home, food on the table and electronic devices up the wazoo. What they believe to be lacking in their life are expensive items like owning their own vehicle free and clear (you know, that new Jeep parked at the local dealership), prepaid car insurance until they finish college & university degrees (paid for, of course, by someone other than themselves).

It’s the wave of the current generation; the one we helped to create by giving them (our kids and grandkids) everything they desire with little regard to words like: earn, work, deserve, merit or most importantly, saying no.

This year, I have determined that the gifts on my shopping list will be genuinely gifted from the heart.

What does that mean?

I like to think of it as ‘pay it forward’ gifts. It’s not about what you receive, but what you gift to someone else. It could be buying a cup of hot cocoa for the volunteer person who rings the bell for Salvation Army donations. Maybe it’s baking cookies or a Bundt cake for local firefighters or police officers, or dropping quarters in the a laundromat washing machine to pay for someone’s next load.

The agenda

I have posted my agenda, should you want to consider a minimalist Christmas this year. Yes, I am starting early, but the initial planning takes some pre-planning because the thought process involves thinking of others before us.

My grandkids won’t receive any Christmas gifts from Neenee & Poppy unless they fulfill the (15) required ‘Pay It Forward’ items on the list below. Some items can be done jointly; others must be done solo. The agenda will start November 24 and must be completed by December 22.

  1. Deliver indoor plant to someone in a nursing home (jointly)
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the Salvation Army person ringing the bell (solo)
  3. Bake something for firefighters or police officers (jointly)
  4. Put a quarter in a gumball machine and walk away (solo)
  5. Put enough quarters in a laundromat washing machine for someone to do a load (solo)
  6. Print up some inspiring signs and post around town (jointly)
  7. Leave a card on someone’s door step that tells them you prayed for them today (anonymously). Pray over the card before leaving on doorstep. (solo)
  8. Post a sheet of random ‘Pay It Forward’ tear-off compliment’s at neighboring stores/businesses
  9. Drop off a meal to a widow. (jointly)
  10. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier. (jointly)
  11. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who visits them. Ask the local facility staff if there’s someone whose day you could brighten. (either jointly or solo)
  12. Send a handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly. (solo)
  13. Put post-it notes with positive sayings on random lockers at school. (solo)
  14. Write a 200 word letter to your parents about why you love them. (solo)
  15. Donate a much loved toy or item of clothing to someone in need within the community. (solo)

I look forward to sharing photos and comments of our Pay It Forward Christmas season.

 

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Unexpected Grace

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With all the current mudslinging going on in the political arena, it’s refreshing to post some inspiring news about people who touch our life and often go unmentioned.

One such person is my longtime friend, Charlie, a retired engineer and owner of every foodie appliance on the market not to mention being an expert gardening by Google guru. He enjoys sharing his infinite knowledge, (at least what I believe to be infinite), about making home-brewed beers, sauerkraut varietals, roasted coffee beans and a plethora of ways to smoke meats and cheeses…and so much more.

Charlie grew up in Louisville and relocated to Michigan after college. In that transition our friendship blossomed and he became what I describe as a friend in all seasons. I can consistently count on him to be there whenever there is a need. It’s an unearned, cherished friendship not taken for granted.

Recently Charlie attended an autumn dinner celebration at my home and brought a bountiful variety of sauerkraut for us to taste.  True to form, he shared his usual myriad of information about everything imaginable but it was what happened after dinner that captured my attention.

Olivia, my middle school granddaughter, needed help with math homework.  From the get-go I was useless. Poppy and her mamma threw up their hands even though both were math minor graduates. And then, there was Charlie. The engineer I knew to be a whiz at math, even by today’s new math standards.

My heart swelled with appreciation as I listened to Charlie patiently coach and instruct Olivia in how to solve each math problem. I was reminded why I chose him to be a lifelong friend. It was a moment that substantiated the benevolence of mankind if we take a moment to part the waters of our bigotry, hatred and animosity of our political differences.

With homework finished, a very tired Olivia headed home with a heart full of gratitude for someone who took time to touch her life in an unexpected way. It was just homework to us, but to my granddaughter, it was much more than that.  It was the unearned, cherished help from someone in a time of need. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of the unmerited grace that Christ shows us every day of our life. It may not be help with a math equation, but it is most definitely help with a life equation.

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, God, for using Charlie to illustrate the true meaning of your grace in the most unexpected place and time. I pray that each of us takes time from our busy life to showcase those individuals that touch the lives of others and go unmentioned.

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God Doesn’t Need Us

21bb469bd758a78d363986998129d056Contrary to what you might think, believe or been taught, the truth is God doesn’t need us. He is already all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent. He isn’t a God who needs anything, and that includes us. He doesn’t need our faith, our prayers, our love, and He doesn’t need our praise.

Some have suggested God created man because He needed someone to love Him or He needed someone to love. False truth!

He is the creator of all and He is above all, as the Apostle Paul said in Acts 17:24-25,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands; And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

We Are Arrogant

God has plans that are better than we have for ourselves but we think we know better. We dismiss him until finding ourselves in need or in a hopeless situation. We can’t remember the last time we read our Bible or actually pursued Him with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37). But the minute we find ourselves in dire straits we look to God for an easy bailout. We treat Him like He’s a Genie in the bottle ready to grant us our three (selfish) wishes.

But God Never Listens

God is always listening, but we aren’t.  To truly find answers and help from the Lord, we must search our spiritual heart. Is there anything we aren’t doing that He told us to do? When we repeatedly hardened our heart to His call we stop listening and become obedient to our desires, not His.

We Need God

As depraved, in-corrupt people we have nothing to give to God, but yet He wants us. Left on our own, we would have never gone to Him. He came to us for our need, not the other way around. We can understand and appreciate Him more for who He truly is, and for all He has done for us when we fully digest that God loves us.

Consider this:

God sent His only Son to die a horrific, painful death on the Cross even though He didn’t need us. He did it because He knew we needed Him. That’s love, that’s grace, that’s mercy and that is mind boggling. God doesn’t need me, but He WANTS me. He wants me to see my need for Him. He wants me to desire His ways, He wants me to seek after Him and He wants to spend eternity with me.

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Ebenezer Stone

…the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12

I recently attended a prayer project study group hosted through my local church. During the time of sharing a biblical term was mentioned that I had long forgotten: Ebenezer Stone

As the group leader enlightened us to the meaning, the freshness of God’s mercies were aroused within me. I was reminded that God never fails to show up in our time of need. His arrival time is always divinely appointed.

What is Ebenezer?

Ebenezer means, “stone of help.” Under King Samuel’s leadership (1 Samuel 7), Israel experienced a renewal of their faith. Led by Samuel the Israelites gathered at the location of Mizpah to present sacrifices to the Lord as atonement for their sins. The nation repented of their sins, destroyed their idols and earnestly committed to obey God’s Laws.

When Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, heard that the people had gathered in Mizaph they planned a sneak attack to catch the Israelites off-guard. But God supernaturally intervened with loud thunder. It threw the Philistines into mass confusion and the Israelite Army overwhelming defeated them.

To commemorate the victory, Samuel erected a monolith (a large, tooth-shaped piece of rock or stone) near the city Mizpah as a reminder to the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them that day.

Raise your Ebenezer?

Samuel was a wise and Godly man with a good idea. He recognized something that’s true about human nature—we’re forgetful. At Ebenezer, Israel could stand next to that big old rock and remind themselves, “Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting.”

It is important to remember. In doing so, we raise our own Ebenezer and place value and recognition on God’s divine help, mercy and restoration in our life. It’s a testimony of thanks and praise of his faithfulness.

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SISTERS

3139_1074232579462_6883989_nI have only one sibling; a sister named Sharon, but I call her Sharrie or sissy. We are one year and two days apart in age, but our chosen life paths are about as far apart as you can get.

She is a pastor’s wife and that in itself speaks volumes about her. Not everyone is cut out to be a soul mate to someone dedicated to the ministry; certainly not me. My mom was one of those women, but God saved us all when I chose a different path.

My sister has a beautiful singing voice, plays the piano and effortlessly leads worship service every Sunday at church. She loves to hike trails, camp, bake, play practical jokes and hang out at their northern cottage which I have never visited (hint). Sharrie’s laugh is infectious; you have only to sit next to her while watching a comedy movie to witness her ability to unabashedly laugh out loud. She is our daddy’s daughter in that respect.

I, on the other hand, prefer hotels to camping; opt for motorized vehicles over bicycles and never hike more than up and down the stairs of my home. Church members would drop off the rosters if I led a worship service and all my baked goods are purchased at the local grocery store.

No one can keep a secret better than my sister or save money in a pillowcase like she is known to do. When I needed money to buy cigarettes in high school, her pillowcase was the bank that provided the needed cash.

She was the athlete and compliant child; I was the president of art club and a rebel. I married at 18, she married at 27. All ‘no’ answers from my parents were an open invitation to ‘do it anyway’. Anger was my middle name and I could bring conflict to a situation quicker than the blink of an eye. The Bible scripture blessed are the peacemakers did not apply to me.

With all our many differences you might wonder if my sister and I were birthed from the same parents. The God who created the opposing contrasts of night and day also created the opposing contrasts of Denise and Sharon and has allowed our different life experiences to work in unison. Our approach is uniquely different, but our lifelong goal has always been the same; to grow in the grace of Jesus.

My sister complements my shortcomings and remains my biggest cheerleader in helping me reach my goals. She prays, intercedes, listens and forgoes judgment when I make bad choices. When I reach out to her, she greets me with arms wide open; she is a friend in all seasons of life. There are no words I can pen to paper to express how much I love her.

And so, on my sister’s 58th birthday I give thanks for our forever friendship, the differences that join us as one and the many times she has been the beacon of hope in my darkest nights. She always believes in me; applauds my accomplishments and looks up to me, though I’m not sure why. Thank you for being my polar opposite. God knew I needed that in a sister.