How To Change The World

You can change the world. Do you believe me? The answer to that question comes down to this—the way you measure impact. You don’t have to cross the ocean to change the world. You can, but it’s not required. You don’t have to exhaust your resources to make a difference. You don’t have to post something on social media that goes viral.

Changing the world is simple.

Changing the world happens when you touch one life with the love of Christ. When you touch one life—you’ve changed their world.

Simple acts of encouragement make a huge impact. I know this, because I’ve been the recipient. It’s the conversation when someone looks straight into your eyes and sees all the way to your heart. Their words speak life and touch the ache you’ve felt but have not uttered. It’s the written message read over and over—proof that you’re not alone in this journey. It’s the unexpected gift found at your front door. The contents make you smile. It’s the reminder that God sees and reaches in a tangible way: lifting your heart, settling your doubts, and silencing your questions.

We all need encouragement. We need to know we’re not alone. You can make a huge difference in the life of another simply by reaching out. You can change their world. Would you join me? What would happen if 100 of us touched the life of one other person this weekend with Jesus’ love? What if those 100 were also inspired to reach out to another with the love of Christ? Love multiplies changing the world and we’re all in on it.

You’ve heard stories that tell of the way strangers paid for the car behind them at Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. My eyes light up to hear of love poured out. It’s the most powerful force on earth and takes nothing more than a few moments of simple obedience and courage. Right now, ask God for your assignment. Where will you spread his love? Is your heart beating faster? That’s love multiplied inside you. It’s love that can’t wait to get out. Cultivate willingness in your heart for spontaneous assignments too. You are changing the world—one life at a time.

Oh yes, and watch for the way God returns the gifts you’ve given!

Something From Nothing

Late last night I prepared to wrap a birthday present for my son, today is his 12th birthday.  The box was fairly large and I quickly realized I didn’t have enough paper to adequately cover it.  I also knew that I was out of options.

I wanted this gift to look inviting and speak the truth of my great love for him.  A plain old cardboard box was not going to convey what was in my heart.  I started talking to God about my problem. I realized that my life often feels like this—in a million ways I don’t think I have enough to conquer what lies in front of me.  Time, resources, wisdom; I often struggle to see the abundance, but I have no trouble feeling the lack.

As I sat on my bedroom floor, Jesus began speaking to my heart.  He reminded me of the day he fed thousands with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  One young boy came to him and offered everything he had.  To many, it wouldn’t have looked like the substance of a gift, but it was more than an ordinary offering.  The contents of a simple basket met the extraordinary abundance of One who came to fill hearts, not just stomachs.  I felt Jesus whisper that he would do the same for me.  My mind started to process the promise- “I will make something out of your nothing.”  My heart felt lighter immediately.  A smile spread across my face and excitement pulsed through my veins.  Ok, show me how I can wrap this gift.  The answer was simple—I took the scraps of collected paper and wove them over the box like a patchwork quilt.  Then I found a “Happy Birthday” banner and wrapped it around the box, finishing it off with some smiley-face stickers and ribbon.

This was something out of nothing.  It happened, and I thought it looked fun, albeit a bit unusual.  I’ve never wrapped a gift this way before.  I prefer perfectly creased edges, coordinating ribbon and precisely placed strips of tape.  This was different; it was spontaneous creativity where I felt empty and frustrated.

My heart felt hope in new ways as I looked at my son’s gift.  Jesus will help me do this over and over again, but I need to allow him access to my life.  I must surrender myself to a quiet place where I patiently wait on his wisdom.  He specializes in pulling something from nothing.  I don’t doubt that it may look unusual, even a bit messy to my systematical eye.  My perspective has shifted though; this is a promise, not just a challenge, and I welcome him.

Do you have places of “nothingness” in your life?   Are there areas where you’re empty but life demands you have something to give?  Join with me in asking Jesus to show you how he intends to make something from nothing.  I know he won’t let you down.  Instead, he will lift you up, change your perspective and fill you with great hope!  I promise, he is not finished with this situation, or you, yet.

The Grief Train

A freight train ran over me last week.  I saw it in the distance and tried to tell myself that we weren’t on the same track.  I wanted to deny the potential of what was looming on the horizon line.  I wanted to turn the other way so I couldn’t see the puffs of steam getting closer.  I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough to drown out the constant chugging.  I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that I lived somewhere else, in a land untouched by grief and the Christmastime loss of my dad.  I wanted all these things, but they didn’t happen, they couldn’t happen.  While I saw the train coming, I was unprepared for its arrival.

I had no real expectations for Father’s Day, no distinct thoughts about my heart’s well being.  I knew our schedule surrounding the day and tried to allow for a few moments of quiet time.  In the midst of feeling the loss I also wanted to celebrate my husband Dan, who is an amazing father to our kids.  We were going to spend the day together, and host a picnic in the evening for my family.  No big deal, right?  I told myself that I could do this, celebrate Dan throughout the day and honor my dad through the dinner.  Sometimes though, I lie and tell myself that I’m capable of things that are way outside the realm of possibility.  This was one of those times.  I hoped that if I said it often enough, that it would indeed be true.  In the end, a lie is still a lie.

I don’t know the precise moment when the train hit, although I would guess it was pretty much about the time my eyes opened and I took a deep breath of the morning’s gentle air.  I awoke to a day I’d never faced before, my first fatherless Father’s Day.  I pursed my lips and exhaled slowly, reassuring myself that I could do “this”.  I rolled over and said, “Happy Father’s Day” to Dan.  At the culmination of those 3 simple words, a solitary tear went streaming down my face.  I knew that the game was up, my lies were over and this was going to be a very exhausting day.

By 10 am I had applied mascara 3 times, discovering that it’s practically impossible to separate and coat wet lashes.  I wanted to look like my normal self even though I felt awful.  I’m not a “cute crier”.  My eyes get puffy and my nose gets red.  No amount of makeup can hope to mask my emotion.  I discovered this 20+ years ago, but I haven’t given up trying.

The day was filled with activity, some planned and some created.  Constant movement seemed to be my final attempt to hold my emotions in check, when what I really wanted was to throw myself face down on my bed and weep until my eyes shed their final tear.  This approach of busyness was as unsuccessful as the first.

Upon the arrival of this grief train, it parked itself in my station and refused to move.  I pushed and I pulled, but I was no match for the size and weight of this train.  It’s not like I haven’t grieved my dad’s death in the past 6 months.  I’ve spent a lot of time pouring out my heart before the Lord, my husband and friends.   I’ve gone through countless boxes of tissues since Christmas.  I’ve mourned the individual and cumulative loss over our family: it covers my mom, my kids, my husband, my siblings, my nephew, and me.  It’s complex.  I know this well.  What I did not know was that today, the loss would feel fresh and new, as if it just happened all over again.  The train hit hard, pushing me back to square one where a million memories from past days played like a movie reel in my mind.  The past infringed upon my future and spoke of all the things we would never do again.  It was a crushing blow.  My head already understood this, and while it wasn’t fresh there, I was reliving it in my heart as if I’d never felt it before.

Today there was no ability to hide behind the thoughtful processing of this loss on my family.  It was all about me.  This was Father’s Day.  I did everything I could to change the focus, to stay busy, to maintain emotional control, but I felt helpless.  I thought back one short year to a different time.  My dad was battling lung cancer, he was weak from the treatment regimen, but he was here.  I was thankful.  Last Father’s Day we celebrated with his favorite cheese steak from a local sub shop and milkshake to wash it down.  We teased that he could eat as much as he wanted—the doctor’s would love a little weight gain.  The rest of us would have to ration our bites so that we didn’t pack on the pounds.   We talked about “next year” when he would be feeling better and the world would be brighter.  There were so many memories we wanted to make together.  Now, those conversations felt like empty promises, hopeful grasping-at-straws that yielded no results.

As I stood in front of my dad’s grill, making his signature meal—burgers and hotdogs with baked beans on the side, my heart was broken into a million tiny pieces.  Smoke from the grill stung my tired eyes.  I’d finally stopped the trickle of tears that flowed off and on all day.  Now my eyes watered from my responsibility of “head chef”.  I thought to myself, “I can’t win.”  

Dinner was good, dad would’ve been proud.  This year we all laughed that I didn’t quite succeed in replicating his style—my burgers weren’t as dry as his typically were.   On the outside I smiled, inside I sternly reminded myself that there would be no tears during the picnic.

Night finally came; darkness covered me, offering a quiet place to rest my head and cry.  My responsibilities were finished and I was free to weep.   The sorrow and anguish of my soul poured forth, and like the grief train, there was no stopping it now.  I wept for hours.  Dan laid beside me in silent support.

Finally sleep enveloped me.

Monday dawned, my eyes opened and yesterday’s emotion resurfaced.  I tried to shove it away and hoped this day would be better.  To some degree, it was.  I still felt Sunday’s sting and wished that it would go away.  As the day wore on and my emotions remained unstable I had a life-giving realization.  Once again I’ve been looking with eyes of disgust at grief, when really, it calls to me as a friend.  Grief offers the opportunity to validate my feelings and the legacy of the one who has left me behind.  The piercing of my heart reminds me that I’m vibrantly alive; I still have the capacity to feel pain and loss, and this is wonderful.

I knew from past experience that brokenness is beautiful and suffering produces deep peaceful joy within me.  So I yield myself to feel the pain completely and will allow this loss do its complete work.  I will not shield my heart or turn away.  Grief is like a mountain that I overcome only by tunneling through it.  I step aboard this grief train.  I’m not afraid of it anymore.  I see the conductor give the signal—it’s time to leave the station.  Methodical shoveling fuels the engine’s fire.  The resulting steam puffs over my head, the chugging begins its gentle lullaby and my heart awakens to a different perspective.  This train did not come to run me over; it came to take me somewhere.  I don’t know where we are going, but I trust the One who’s in control of the adventure.  There is a mountain that I must go through.  God knows my heart, he sees the pain and he promises beautiful redemption for my pain.  This knowledge doesn’t make the loss any easier, but it promises that loss is not the end; it is the beginning.

As we depart the station and head out of town I settle into my seat.  I look out the window and see familiar places; I wonder how long it will take to get through the mountain.  I lay my head against the glass and close my eyes.  The gentle bumping of the tracks settles me.  Shallow breaths become deep and steady.   I feel a new invitation come as Jesus extends his hand and offers me a place of rest.  He sees my weariness; he knows I need stamina for this trip.  He asks me to close my eyes and lean into him.  Jesus offers safety and peace.  I don’t have to figure it out.  I simply have to trust that he is holding all the pieces in his hand and that somehow he will make a beautiful mosaic out of my tear stained shards of glass.  His rest envelops me, this time it’s different.  This rest does not simply cover my sorrow; it infuses me with strength and a promise:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 NIV

Joy in a Million Drops of Rain

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the day my word caved in; the great collide between good and evil.  In my life, good is winning.  I’m held within the continual embrace of Christ, who thrills my heart, renews my mind, and restores my spirit in a variety of extraordinary ways.  Yesterday afternoon, as I thought about my journey—the harshness life and death, mixed with the beautiful reality of God’s redemptive plan, I saw a picture.  One solitary page lay before me, a journal entry etched in tones of black on white, the substance of my days, the minutes of each hour.  Drops of rain, my tears, which left a watermark behind, framed the page.  As I considered the analogy of this illustration my heart began to pen a script, the story of my life, in simple stanzas, releasing sorrow, receiving joy.

Upon the margins of my heart etched in a thousand drops of rain,

Frames life and death, black and white, evidence of what remains.  

These droplet ribbons run, as dappled colors collide,

Fallen from green pools of sorrow deep inside.

Tears cascade, meandering upon my face, 

Ever flowing from a seemingly endless place.

 

And somehow as these tones converge,

I stare in wonderment; joyous glimmers emerge.

For there, flowing forth from salty pools,

Runs a rainbow of gloriously brilliant hues.

His promised declaration covers me,

Permanency gleams, alluding to what will be.

 

The words he speaks are ever true, 

No shifting, no changing of these 7 hues.

As I linger in the vibrancy of Rainbow’s embrace, 

Death’s shadow departs, vanishing without a trace. 

Gazing once again at the marks upon this page,

My eyes are drawn to beauty, by the One who eclipses pain.

The One who eclipses pain.  This phrase became the anthem to the rest of my day.  Jesus, in his mercy, passes between me and the pain.  He covers me, he heals me, he envelops me.  In the softness of his embrace, sorrow melts away.  I see it no longer.  In past years I’ve learned not to run from pain, but to run towards Christ, anticipating a tangible release of new life.  Always available, he takes the substance of my wound, and in return, gives the essence of true love.  It is The Great Exchange!  He took the weight of yesterday’s burden, painted a picture with it, and released amazing joy.  Redemption displayed in beauty for brokenness.

And so, on this 6th anniversary, the sky pours forth it’s million drops of rain, quite fitting, as He proclaims his poetic life inside my heart. I look, with expectation, toward the pools of color running across my story.  Dappled drops of varying shades—each moment proclaiming redemption, provision, grace, mercy and love, they flow over me washing away the black and white.  As I look in the mirror radiance greets me, beaming brightness, a divine display.  I am adorned with His rainbow, covered by His promise.  My heart knows joy, not trumpeted on center stage at high volume, no, this joy is different.  It is clothed with mercy, in a million drops of rain.

Encouraging Myself in the Lord!

We’ve got a lot of catching up to do!  The beginning of last week was amazing; so much good stuff happening- seemingly everywhere I turned, all the way through Thursday night.  Friday, on the other hand, was a completely different story.  Several small things arose that morning, pretty much as soon as my feet hit the floor.  It was not the atmosphere I wanted to be in.  Maybe part of it was that Friday was another cloudy/rainy day…it’s beginning to feel a bit like Noah around here, maybe it was the fact that the challenges required a lot of personal thought and the ability to sort through the facts without getting entirely coated in emotion.   The reason wasn’t really significant, but the deciding factor on how things went was my perspective- my focus.  Whatever I choose to believe (negatively or positively) about a situation ALWAYS affects it’s outcome.   By choosing a negative perspective I limit God and his ability to work things out for my good.  I choose to remind myself of this often, because it’s typically easier to be negative – that’s how the world works.  I don’t ever want to put God in a box and limit him, so I have to choose to lean in and believe his words, his promises, his truth over every situation.   Scripture says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.  Do I love him?  YES!  Have I been called according to his purpose?  YES!  So is he working all things for good in my life?  YES!  This is the conversation that ensued in my spirit Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday.  It wasn’t enough to press in and believe on Friday, circumstances didn’t change; the atmosphere generally remained the same.  Saturday had it’s own challenges and called forth in me the necessity to stand on TRUTH and declare in FAITH that everything was still working out for good in my life.   The same thing was true about Sunday.  I’m not saying that everything was bad, there were a lot of wonderful moments: we spent time with good friends, watched the kids play soccer and football, Dan and I had great conversation.  There were lots of things worth celebrating and enjoying to the fullest, and we did just that!  It’s the little moments of frustration that steal my joy most often and rob my eyes from clear vision…those moments can carry over into everything else unless I choose to stop them.   Reflecting on this weekend finds me celebrating the momentary victories, seemingly insignificant on their own that completely changed the atmosphere when stacked together.  Did I get it right every time?  Nope, I’ll be completely honest about that, but I see progress and I’ll rejoice in it!  I love receiving (and giving) encouragement!  There is nothing more amazing than an aptly spoken word from heaven.  It has the ability to lift and lighten like nothing else!  However, that doesn’t always happen- so I must encourage myself in the Lord!  Jesus is living, active and present inside of me, ”Christ in me, the hope of glory, “ Colossians 1:27.  Christ is in me, the hope of glory is in me…and that fills me with glorious hope!  This hope (Christ) does not change when my circumstances change; he is constant, unwavering and I have set myself to live in it, in him, everyday!  Yes it is a challenge at times to deny my flesh and emotional responses; but when I step into the presence of God (by stepping out of my circumstances) and I allow him to fill me despite all else- that’s true freedom, true victory, true life.  So friends, regardless of your circumstances, there is a greater hope, glory, and victory that awaits – you might have to fight for it, but it’s beyond worth it!

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