Opposites Day

When my kids were young they would often play a game called Opposites Day.  During this particular day, whatever they said was actually the opposite of what is true.  This was really just a way of trying to catch the other sibling- kind of a trap.  Really just a kid’s game.  But I think that in actuality, it is more than just a game.

Morning 003

This past Saturday I headed downtown to a ministry where Kathy and I have been serving for the past five or so years.  We get up early each Saturday and pick up surplus baked goods and head downtown to distribute food to the needy.  I can attest that it is tough some Saturdays to head downtown.  Yes, sleep and comfort are issues, but the work can be frustrating and unnerving.  We see some moments that make the whole thing question what you are doing.  The need is overwhelming and you can’t be unaffected by palpable feeling of hopelessness that hangs in the air.   We have also seen some pretty ugly situations.  Tension from actions viewed as unfair.  Deep neighborhood wounds.  Indescribable family dysfunction.  Crazy stories of pain that you struggle to untangle in your mind.  One thing is for sure.  You can’t keep score here.  It will drive you crazy.  You simply give and let God take care of the rest.

Amidst all of this, is the heart.  We have made great friends and have had the privilege of living our lives with them.  Each week we share and get updates.  Victories and failures.  We have seen it all.  Stories of success and stories of death.  Sometimes the reality is just too much to carry.  We try to help but we are not in it.  No matter how we try to step into their shoes we are not really with them.  We try to get there, but cultures and lives are so different that the gap really can’t be crossed.  So we meet in the middle each Saturday.  A circle between two circles and we do what we can.  Anything more is just cultural arrogance.  The two crazy assumptions are that we can truly understand what is going in the tough areas of the city while they can understand what it’s like to have a servant’s heart in suburban America.

This Saturday, I was leading a walk that we take each week through the neighborhood.  We carry bags of groceries and hand them out as the Lord leads us and we pray for the families and the neighborhood.  The groceries have always been the minor item.  When we approach folks in the neighborhood and start conversation and ask if they would like prayer, they will open up and share what’s going on in their lives.  This has lead to relationships as we return each week and visit with the same folks regularly.  This Saturday, I suggested that we visit a lady named Vera who lives on the outskirts of our walk, yet is always a treat.  Vera is a grandmother and takes care of her family although she has very modest means.  We knocked on her door and waited.  After a few minutes, she came out and her face lit up in delight.  We hadn’t made it to her house in a while, probably several months.  She quickly caught us up on what was happening with her and her family.  She pains for her family and their struggles.  You can feel her pain as she describes her family update.  Yet, she refuses to stay there.  She immediately turns the story to the day- this day.  She thanks the Lord for the blessing that this day brings.  She is thankful that we have visited her.  She radiates real love.  It makes you tingle.  Not the polite kind of stuff.  The deep love of the Father.

Vera loves to pray.  We generally pray as we make our way through the neighborhood but at Vera’s house we want her to pray.  So she offers and we smile and nod yes.  Vera breaks into a powerful prayer- thankful and a prayer of a grateful heart and worship.  None of this is the I want- I need kind of prayer.  This was a celebration of life.  Then she shares something new.  Vera breaks into song and sings a portion of her prayer to her Father.  The Spirit is thick.  He is here.  She finishes her prayer and a bird begins to sing.  Vera shares that God loves music.   I agree with her, sharing that even the birds sing to Him.

So what happened?  It was Opposites Day!  We set out to help bless others and instead we were blessed.  We left Vera and we all were visibly uplifted.  This is what we needed.  A refill.  A reminder that He is always there and He is always faithful.  The Bible says that he sings over us.  He knows every hair on your head.

Thank you for the song of our lives.  Thank you for the birds singing each morning.  Thank you for Vera and her heart for her Father and her family.

Remember to sing today.  No matter how hard it is.  It’s Opposites Day!

Have you ever had an Opposites Day?  Please click on comments and tell your story!              

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Eyes Wide Open

I took this picture Saturday morning: 

Azaleas

 

Yes, it is remarkable that an azalea is blooming this early- easily a month early.  But this is not the thing that makes this picture special. 

Yes, this particular azalea is brilliant in color and a beautiful flower.  But this is also not the reason I am sharing this picture.

This is the where the picture took place:

White House

The picture of the flower was taken in the front yard of a run down house in a really rough neighborhood.  The second picture is not nearly as special as the first, is it? 

Here is the message that I took from the experience:  There is beauty all around us.  Sometimes we just need to stop and look!  Amidst the chaos, despair, and decay that we encounter every day, there is still beauty.  We just need to open our eyes to see it!

It may be as simple as a smile.

It may be a mother with her child.

It may be the birds singing.

It may be the laughter of the children.

Take the time to stop and really look around you.  I bet you will be surprised.  We are bathed in beauty every day.  Don’t miss it!

Have you had these moments before- where you are confronted with beauty in unlikely places?  Please click on comments and share your story!

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!