Raw Reflections from the Journey

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Angel in our Garage!

My thrifty wife loves to organize garage sales to bless others in need and rid ourselves of superfluous items in our household. A recent move underscored the fact that we have plenty of material possessions to sustain life, so why not give of our abundance to others?

Every time we hold such a sale we collect memories for a lifetime, but October 22, 2010 was exceptional. Numerous events and conversations will provide the fodder of stories for months to come!

I spotted him out of the corner of my eye as I forked another mouthful of eggs into my mouth. "Ought oh! We failed to cover some of the items we didn't want to sell!!" The vagrant had found my shoes! My precious shoes! Running, golf, cycling and even a pair of prized dress shoes. "I've got to stop him!" I thought. But one of our sharp helpers beat me to the intervention. He walked away.

Instantaneously I heard, "Maybe he needs shoes." My eyes fell to my feet where I found a pair of very nice and comfortable running shoes given to me a week ago by a friend. Hmm! A generous friend provided for me. Perhaps I can provide for the vagrant?

I wasn't surprised that the needy gentleman was still wandering around in our garage after I'd taken my time to finish breakfast. He wouldn't be the first "visitor" God sent to emphasize a teaching point.

"Sir, do you need a pair of shoes?" I asked. He looked up with kind eyes and smiled as he reached for my hand. "Hello", he said. He didn't fit the profile of a homeless man. There was no odor, and the sparkle in his eyes was, well...other worldly.

"Sir, if you need some shoes, I'd be happy to gift you with these" I continued. "Thank you, kind sir. I'm happy to receive your gift." He smiled once more and then turned to slowly walk away with my shoes as if they were a prized possession.

As I watched him shuffle away (he might have been eighty), I heard, "Whatever you do unto the least of these...you do to me." I'm surprised that I didn't collapse in humbling gratitude regarding the lengths to which God goes to make His way known, and to give me an opportunity to walk in it. Say what you want, but I'm convinced that God sent a servant, (once again) to reiterate a timely message. "Give freely to me as to you I have freely given."

Would it surprise you that this event preceded a miraculous conversation with one who has been despairing of life and recently came within inches of ending it? Their pride almost kept them from salvation (both eternal and temporal), but as I'd been recently emboldened and reminded of Jesus' way, I boldly challenged them to accept the gift of cousnel, support and encouragement that they might continue to live to give to others, even their own offspring....

HE has quite a way of working with us, eh? What's your story? What has He been teaching you lately?

Continuing to live with expectation or Holy Surprises!


Gift Giving: It's more blessed to give than to receive

He came bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the opening of our garage sale, a happy little lad about 5 years old accompanied by his father, hopeful to find some treasures to take home. I pointed him to Noah's Ark, a beautifully carved hand painted boat with dozens of individual animals to place on and in the boat.

I didn't really want to see this item sold. My mom purchased it years ago for our children but now they're grown, and it's been sitting unused. "How much do you want for it?" asked the little lad being coached by his father. I was conflicted. It seemed too valuable to set a price. "Would you enjoy having this?" I asked. "Oh yes!" he exclaimed. "Would you take good care of it and share with your sister?" "Yes" he emphasized with exuberant nodding. "Then it's yours...for you, it's free." "Really?" he exclaimed. "Thank you." And that was that...until I thought about it a bit more, later. Free wasn't accurate. I wish I'd said, "It's a gift" because in truth, it wasn't free. It was actually fairly expensive. I know how much mom paid for it.

So, the lad got a gift paid for by someone else. Sounds like a gift we've all been given, eh? "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, Our Lord" (Romans 6:23, NIV). What a gift...but it wasn't free. Someone paid dearly.

My little friend didn't protest the gift. He happily and humbly received it, and that gave me such joy! I hope that he and his sister wear it out! How awesome it is to see gifts being enjoyed, and fully utilized...

What joy it must give God and Jesus when His gift of Salvation and intimate, loving, gracious relationship is joyfully accepted.

There's more. Several other morning gift-giving experiences prepared me to boldly challenge a person in need to accept the gift of a friend's gift of friendship, and my gift of counseling ministry. "I can't afford the fees" they protested over the phone. "But you are in a hole and really need help" I responded. "Yes." "Well, how are you going to get out of the hole unless you reach for and accept the hands that are reaching for you? In effect, we are extension of God's hands, and He wants to pull you out. If you don't accept our gifts, you interfere with the joy of giving, and besides, God has plans for you to help others. This is your time to receive, so that you too can give." "Ok, I get it. I'll be in to see you in a little bit." What transpired then was inspired by the Gift-giver Himself. I believe that salvation has come to yet another household.

The bottom line? Since it's more blessed to give than to receive, I pray you (and me) the grace to obey when prompted to give. And when it's time to receive; the grace to receive joyfully and to make good use of the gifts that have been given.

Enjoying the Journey,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Essential Encouragement - A Symphony of Support Prompted by Papa

"Hey Jeff, this is random, but I was just listening to the radio and I heard, 'Don't worry about your ministry. Pray a lot, and trust God.' You came strong to mind, and I wanted to know that I'm praying for you, and often do. No need to call back. We love you guys and miss you."

Awesome. A sixty second message that lifts the soul. This sister we've known for 30 years acted on a timely prompt. What she didn't know, but Father does, is that the weight of ministry was especially heavy yesterday; an unexpectedly intense conversation with a good friend, a crisis appointment, completion of a carefully contemplated report on some team-building assessments for a Church, journal entries from a client with palpable pain on the page.

People despairing of life, uncertain about the future, worried about whether or not there's been too much water under the dam to keep their marriage and family afloat any longer. To the compassionate caregiver it hurts and feels sad. Then there's the challenge of hearing from Father to serve those in need per the gifts He's given.

We can't do it alone.

John Eldredge's devotional message this morning was about the necessity of compassionate and encouraging companions for the journey. Thank God for friends who hear and obey prompts to reach out to care.

Better yet, thank God for His constant companionship, and constant conversation (speaking and listening prayer). He is always with me, always attentive, and somehow always responsive (through His Spirit, His Word, and people with skin on to hear, to encourage, and to hug).

Who is on your mind today, and why? Would you dare pray for guidance, and even ask if there is something Father would have you say or do to help them along the way?



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Grief!

My eyes still burn from some crying today. Jill, Laura and I said goodbye, AGAIN, to Carly and Gabby after a trip to see them and present a seminar in Baltimore area. But the tears of sorrow about going our separate ways are combined with tears of gratitude. Our daughter and granddaughter seem to be thriving, not just surviving their new life (The women and children’s program at Wilson College which they began August 15).

“I’m more than happy to sacrifice for their good, Jeff. Carly is growing and getting a great education, and Gabby is thriving too (in her pre-school, with new friends)!”

Loss, change, transition; a myriad of thoughts and feelings accompany these experiences; Tears, memories, hugs… And while it’s not easy to feel the feelings, such times are navigable, especially when we ask Jesus to walk with us through them. After all, he is a man familiar with sorrows and acquainted with grief.

It was an exciting weekend. Upon arrival in Chambersburg, PA, Gabby quivered with smiles and squeals when she saw us. “She remembers us!” Big hugs and kisses preceded our dinner. Wow! Does she ever love her Sissie! And each of us got our turn with the guileless child, “I like you”, she said as she sat down on my lap and hugged.

But there were struggles, too. Since we’re only in the 7th week of transition from living in Maryland to our new life in Ohio, Jill and I are still experimenting to discover a rhythm of quality time together. The bottom line is that the task of setting up and running a counseling practice has eaten into time we used in the past to thoroughly communicate about every facet of our lives; a necessity we think for those involved in relationship ministry; we’ve got to have a strong and pleasurable relationship if we’re goint to export that to others.

Surprisingly, it’s been one of the toughest times we’ve faced. Even as much good is happening (i.e., strides toward financial and ministry goals) the enemy seeks to devour and destroy with irksome misunderstandings and sensitivities. But thank God that when we reach for Him, He gives us a multitude of ways to withstand the evil onslaught. As we often remind our clients, the sword of the Spirit, The Word of God, is an incredible offensive weapon in the Christian Soldier’s arsenal (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Take heart fellow and sister sojourners. The One in us is greater than the one in the world, and He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness.