The Power to Bless

In her book “Angels in the Workplace,” Melissa Giovagnoli tells the story of a man who was homeless. There was a program in that city to help people get off of the streets by earning money selling newspapers. So every morning, a formerly homeless man went down to his street corner to sell papers. Rain or shine, in cold weather or warm, he was there. He began to wave at the familiar faces of people who were driving past.

One day, he was startled by a woman who stopped her car, jumped out and gave him a big hug. She said to him, “I want to thank you for simply being here.” She went on to tell of the difficult time she was going through. Every day was a struggle. There were days when she really didn’t know if she could go on. But each day, as she came to that intersection, there he was standing and waving to her. His simple gesture of warmth, gave her the strength to get through the rest of the day.

Often, we look at our lives and tell ourselves that we can’t make a difference anywhere. We really don’t fully comprehend the impact we have on another person’s life. Simple kindnesses can make a significant difference to a person starved for affection and love. A note, a phone call, a visit, a word of encouragement, a smile or taking time to listen can show that you genuinely love and care for that person. Your prayers can touch a life and join with Gods for a person’s well-being.

You have it in your power to bless somebody’s life today. You can make a difference. You can be a part of God’s Kingdom of love and kindness. Look around you. Who needs you to reach out as a friend to share God’s love today?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

God’s Grace in the Hard Lessons of Life

IMG_1515 A chance encounter at a local service and convenience store, got me thinking about the hard lessons we learn in life. A young man had dropped his straw at the soda fountain. When I leaned down to help him, I noticed he had a cast on his arm. Though he insisted he didn’t need help, we fell into conversation. He described in detail the break in his arm and hand. Thinking he was in his late teens, I asked him what he had done to his arm that caused the break. I was anticipating a story about a football injury or some other sporting related cause.

Instead, he ruthfully explained that he had broken up with his fiancee. In the midst of the break up he got into a fight and broke another man’s jaw. Then in frustration he had hit his hand on a brick wall. I asked him what he had learned from all of that. He thought for a minute and then he answered, “I learned not to break up with my fiancee and not to go drinking if I do. I learned not to get into a fight and not to break someone’s jaw.”

I hope when my young friend looks back in life, he will see how he chose to take responsibility for his mistakes and his resolve not to make the same ones again. I pray that it is a turning point in the way that he lives his life. As I pulled out of the gas station, I thought of the life lessons this young man was figuring out. We learn from our mistakes. We learn the most from the ones which cause us pain and haunt our sleep. Wisdom is recognizing the path we are heading on will only lead to destruction, heartache and more sorrow. Making a decision to change direction is a gift God gives us, one God leads us to and then journey’s with us in. The marvel of God’s compassion is that even our mistakes can add beauty to our lives.

I’ve been out taking pictures of this fall’s abundant color. The odd thing about a tree is the difference an up close look at the reds and oranges can make. Some of the deepest reds look old and marred until sunlight breaks through. Almost magically, beauty hidden from one’s eyes is revealed in translucent glory. Like our own lives . . . Yesterday’s mistakes become part of the tapestry of our lives. Given over to God, God weaves them into our lives. Weaves them in such a way, that we not only learn from our mistakes, but become a giver of grace when another is going through their own painful learning moments. In God’s hands, scars of past mistakes are transformed into compassion, forgiveness and an understanding heart. There really are no perfect people in this world . . . just fallible human beings, all in the need of grace.

“Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.”  Psalm 32:1

God Never Stops Loving

“I was such an awful person, I knew God couldn’t love me. So I chose Satan as my higher power,” was the way one young woman expressed herself to me. She went on to relay a history of chemical dependency and sexual promiscuity.

The idea that God could care about her was a strange and alien thought. Why should God care when her parents didn’t? Why would God care when none of her relatives did? How was it possible that God could care when even those she had thought of as friends, had left her?

Accepting God’s love, with all of God’s forgiveness and grace, does not come easily when we are ashamed of our actions. We wonder how the God, who is good, can care about the “me” who has done wrong. When our lives are in shatters through our own mistakes it is difficult to believe that we matter to God.

Yet the assurance of God’s caring is found throughout the scriptures; “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will care for me.” (Psalm 27:10) “Far as east is from west, so far has God put our offenses away from us.” (Psalm 103:12) One day Jesus told a story about a lost sheep. One so precious to the shepherd that all the others were left behind to go search for that missing sheep. The way that Jesus tells the story, he talks of the joy of the shepherd in finding the missing one. Then he tells us, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

God’s great desire is that all are embraced in God’s love. God wants us to know that each of us, no matter where we have been, however hard our lives or how far we’ve run away from God . . . that each of us are loved. Each one of us is precious in the eyes of God. We are loved just as we are in this moment today. God may lead us to healthier places, better relationships, some soul-searching and positive changes in our life. But for today, the message of scripture is that we are loved. God loves us enough for a Savior Shepherd to come searching for us, to bring us home . . nestled in the love of God.

“Please, Don’t Let Me Look Dumb”

I had ordered a burger and ice tea at McDonald’s. The girl who filled my order was new and clearly stressed. I headed off with my tray when suddenly the same girl appeared with french fries. Putting them on my tray, she said. “You forgot your french fries.”

“Oh, I didn’t order any fries.” I replied.

“Would you please take them anyway,” she asked, “so I don’t look so dumb?”

One of our great fears is not measuring up to our own or other peoples expectations. We don’t want to “look dumb,” especially in front of people we are trying hard to impress. Our egos are fed on the praise of others. The problem is that none of us are perfect. We will inevitably make mistakes. We will fail at times when we most want to look good. Failure is one of the ways that God keeps us humble. Our readiness to admit that we may have made a mistake keeps us human.

Pride can be healthy or unhealthy. There is the healthy pride one takes in a labor of love, completing a degree after facing tremendous obstacles, or nurturing children into people of compassion. We experience healthy pride completing a job which has brought joy to others. Unhealthy pride is the opposite. The Bible says of that pride, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) The pride the scripture writer is speaking of, is the kind of pride which becomes destructive. It’s not the healthy pride of a job done well, rather it becomes a negative force in our lives. Unhealthy pride keeps us from seeing another person’s point of view. It prevents us from caring about what other people value. Unhealthy pride separates us from one another. It separates us from God.

Pride can keep us from relating to a family member or old friend. Pride can interfere at work, school or church. Pride can make a stand, where stands do not need to be made. Stubborn pride even refuses efforts made to reach out to us. It can build a wall declaring judgement on whole segments of the population. A child, a brother, a sister, a co-worker may well feel the full sting of our prideful wrath. Pride can keep us from admitting to anyone, even ourselves – that we may have made a mistake. Pride slinks into our spirits, often leaving us feeling defensive and not quite at peace in our hearts.

The good news is that the sin of pride is not terminal. Confession, really is good for the soul. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) Jesus said, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12) A little humility goes a long way in restoring our relationships with God and with each other.

Is there someone in your life that needs to hear from you a word of reconciliation? Today is a good day to restore a relationship, mend a friendship, swallow some pride, and allow God’s grace to work in and through you.