choices Christian living Making a Difference

Not Just A Sunset

There is an old childhood song with words to the affect “over the hill and through the woods to grandmothers house we go.”  Well, it wasn’t to grandmothers’ house that I so many times drove down a winding narrow roller coaster of a road. It went through the woods and up and done more hills than I wanted to count. I always considered it a pain in the…you know where to drive this road.  This former cab driver did not like using the slow gear to drive anywhere. My patience was thin, but it took me to a dear friends house so many years ago.  That graceful southern home belonging to my friend is gone.  Replaced with a well more “functional” house.  The friendship like the house is sadly no more.  

One thing I noted about this road was that if you drove on it when the sun was setting.  Well, every time you reached the peak of one of those ridiculous hills.  The sky opened before your eyes, and you could see the sunset straight ahead. It appeared so close that you felt as if you could become part of its incredible beauty. It was a private time, a special time I felt when God was revealing his incredible work of art. Nobody else at that moment had the opportunity to share that view. I alone was presented with the privilege of nature at her most colorful splendor.  That exhilarating moment always left me wanting for more as I anticipated the next top of the hill view. They were special moments that all too quickly were gone as I made the turn into my destination.

I remember remarking to my friend how beautiful it was and how since it was the road to her house, she must have enjoyed it so many nights coming home.  She took me totally by surprise by saying “It’s just a sunset, what’s the big deal!” 

I think to God, it is a big deal!  There will never be another one just like it. Just like there will never be another one of you or me.  That makes it a big deal!  A one-time event, a one in a zillion unique experience, and being with unique lifetime opportunities.  And like the fleeting sunset we are here to gloriously shine as His individual creation. Yet, unlike the beautiful sunset of each day, we are more precious to Him.  The sunset has an appointed time to display its splendor and fulfill its purpose. I am no scientist, but I know the colors and design have a meaning for the coming day.

So, I have been seeking the answer to the question I hear in my heart that the Holy Spirit is asking.  What has God placed in my heart for each day that I am here? Has the up and down hills of my life distracted or perhaps prevented me from displaying the beauty of my life?

Have I allowed the responsibilities and sometimes the drudgery of everyday life to push it aside?  How many times have I been in a hurry to a goal and skipped over the gentle tug nestled in my spirit. How many “for such a time as this” have I not answered the call placed ever so gently into my heart. 

We humans tend to think that there is always another day, always another opportunity. In my youth I seemed to have no perception that strength and opportunity would ever run out.  Perhaps proving the saying that “youth is wasted on the young.” I think you have to grow old to understand the full impact of that statement. I have lived long enough and attended enough funerals to know that longevity on this earth is not always the end story.   

What has God placed in our hearts for such a time as this? Has time and life pulled us away from the path spoken to us for a season. Maybe even this season that you find yourself in?

Perhaps for some of us it has been so long that we have a hard time acknowledging the truth our soul knows. Recognizing the gentle whisper by the Holy Spirit. You know that little nudging inside of us that wants to prompt us to the truth our heart already knows. Maybe like me, you already recognize the path but are timid in your trust of God to fulfill what your heart dares to dream. Maybe, just maybe you are fearful of the personal cost. Leaving your comfort zone is never well, comfortable. Maybe it is standing and perhaps speaking truth in a society that is working diligently to silence the morality of truths purpose.  What can be said to encourage you, encourage myself?

Perhaps this moment it is a path that seems to place you alone, apart from “others.”  But as God’s child are we ever really alone? As I looked back at the heart calls I put aside and not answered, I was reminded of the story of Esther from the Old Testament. I was seeking some miraculous moment that would rationalize my past choices.

It is the story Jewish tradition has based the celebration of Purim on.  The base root of that word is “pur” as to purge.  Most of us know the infamous line that Mordecai sent to Queen Esther moving her to into action “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther acted on these words and history was changed. We all are acquainted with our call is in this season. I am convinced it takes faith and boldness to answer those calls placed on our heart by a loving God.  Whether it be to stay or go, to speak or to be silent. Maybe a dream to create using a talent left dormant up until now.  Perhaps it is to stand for what you know is right when others will fall away. I believe that is Gods never-ending grace for His children.  Some choices will only present themselves once. Other opportunities will call us to choose the same principle multiple times.  Whatever is your God given path my prayer for all of us is that like Queen Esther when called for “such a time as this” we seek clearly His guidance and answer in confidence and show off our unique beauty to a starving world. 

Proverbs 3: 5-7 The Passion Translation,

“Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions.

With all your heart rely on him to guide you and He will lead you in every decision you make. 

Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. 

Don’t think that for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.”

Making a Difference

Better than Our Best

“There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:16)

The lasagna pan was empty. The sheet cake was long gone. Every dish on the potluck table had been devoured—except mine.

Have you ever felt your best just wasn’t good enough?

As a young wife, I felt that way at our church potluck dinners. Everyone else’s food looked delicious and tasted as good as it looked. But no matter what I brought, it just sat on the table.

I know what it feels like to do my best and not measure up.

In 1 Kings 17, we find another woman whose best didn’t seem to be enough. She was a poor widow with a son and they were near starvation. She had a handful of flour in a jug and a little oil. Elijah asked her for some bread. The woman explained she only had enough for her and her son to eat one last meal and then they would die.

Though she had tried, she couldn’t feed herself or her son, much less Elijah. Her best just wasn’t enough.

Elijah said feed him first and God would stretch the flour to feed her and her son. She mustered up the faith and offered her last bit of food to God, and her best suddenly became better.

Every time she went to make bread, she found flour in the jug and oil in the bottle. When her best wasn’t enough, God made it more than enough.

Paul says we’re responsible for doing our creative best with our lives (Galatians 6:5). Our families deserve our best. Those we serve at church and in our community deserve our best. God gave us his best when he sent Jesus to redeem us. But our best apart from God isn’t enough—it can’t be.

Jesus said, “…Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. But apart from me you can’t do a thing” (John 15:5). Our best done on our own will never be enough. In fact, Jesus said we can’t do anything for the Kingdom without him.

But when we offer our best to God, it becomes more than enough. God takes our best and makes it better. Give your best to God and then get ready—a bountiful harvest is coming!

Dear God, thank you for making me unique and for loving me just like I am. Help me discover the gifts you’ve given me and how I can use them for your Kingdom. And help me to always do my best as I serve you and others. Take my best and make it better. I love you, Lord. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Making a Difference

Compassion in Action

Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)

In this one verse we are told to be both sympathetic and compassionate. Here’s my question: What is the difference between sympathy and compassion? Don’t they both mean to feel sorry for someone? Why repeat the same instruction twice in one verse?

I looked it up, and sympathy and compassion have different meanings. Sympathy means, “to have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Compassion, on the other hand, is, “the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it.”

I’m not too great at math, but here’s an equation we can all understand: Sympathy + Action = Compassion.

If you fell into a pit, would you rather have someone feel sorry for you or have someone reach down their hand to help you out of the pit? Their sympathy doesn’t help you, but their action does.

Sympathy is a feeling. It’s fine to feel sorry about someone else’s pain. But compassion is more than a feeling. It may start with sympathy, but it doesn’t end there. Compassion includes action that changes someone else’s situation.

We saw it with the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). The priest and the Levite may have felt sympathy for the man lying half dead on the side of the road, but they had no compassion. The Good Samaritan saw the same situation but took action to help because he was moved with compassion.

Y’all, compassion makes us move. It pushes us to do something.

When Jesus felt compassion, somebody’s life was getting ready to change.

  • He saw a widow weeping as she went to bury her only son. Jesus was moved with compassion and the widow’s son was raised from death to life. (Luke 7:13)
  • Jesus felt compassion for a hungry crowd. He turned a few loaves of bread and fish into a meal for thousands, and the hungry were filled. (Matthew 15:32)
  • Jesus was moved with compassion when a leper asked for healing. Jesus reached out and touched the man, and what was unclean became clean. (Mark 1:41)

Jesus’s life on earth was marked with genuine compassion. He repeatedly helped the hungry, the poor, the grieved, and the sick. Just like Jesus, our lives should be marked by compassion.

Compassion without action is just feeling sorry for people. People don’t need our sympathy, but they desperately need our compassion.

Dear Lord, please open my eyes to see those around me in need of compassion. Let my heart be moved with a desire to help people. I want to make a difference in someone’s life. Use me to show Christ-like compassion in a world filled with people in need. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Making a Difference

Send Me!

“Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8)

I’ve never been athletic. Actually, that’s an understatement. In kickball, I was more likely to miss the ball than kick it, and quite likely to fall down in the effort.

I hated sports in general. I especially hated PE. And I really, really hated the times when two athletic kids were named team captains and took turns picking the members of their teams. I stood there really cool, like, “I don’t even care,” while also trying to look coordinated, speedy, and strong. But inside, I was pleading, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”

We can all identify with not being chosen. Maybe it was that job we really wanted, but they hired someone else. Or the time everyone was invited to a party except us. It hurts when someone else is chosen and we are rejected.

But here is something awesome: God has already chosen us. Ephesians 1:4 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” God chose us. Before he created the earth, he chose us. Because of Christ, God doesn’t see our faults. He sees our righteousness. He knows our potential. We don’t have to try out. We don’t have to earn our position. We’re already on the team.

In Isaiah, chapter six, the prophet tells of seeing a vision of the Lord. Isaiah was humbled by God’s holiness, and he heard God asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

God was looking for someone to use, and he was calling Isaiah, and Isaiah responded to the call. He made himself available: “Here I am. Send me.”

We’re chosen. We’re called. God wants to use us. Have we responded to the call? Are we willing to do what God wants us to do?

It’s God’s job to send us. It’s our job to be available. Whatever God wants us to do, it starts with us saying, “Here I am. Send me.”

God doesn’t just choose those of us who are extraordinarily gifted. Or super smart. (He doesn’t even care how athletic we are…or aren’t.) He chooses each of us, with all our faults, flaws, and messed-up lives. He takes joy in bringing out our uniqueness and using it for his glory. All we have to do is to be available and willing—every day—to be used however God sees fit.

Dear God, thank you for choosing me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your work on earth. Lord, I’m available. Use me for your glory. Help me follow where you lead, even if it seems awkward or uncomfortable. I’m willing to be stretched in your service. Here I am, Lord. Send me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Making a Difference

Nothing I Do Makes a Difference

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9)

Life can mess with our heads. It can make us believe our actions make no difference, that what we do doesn’t matter.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, everything we do matters.

In John, chapter six, a child whose name we don’t even know offered up his lunch to feed thousands of people. Why would he do such a ridiculous thing? He must have known his little lunch wouldn’t make a difference. But he gave it anyway. His small action sparked a mind-boggling miracle. Everyone ate their fill, with food left over. Thousands of years later, his action still assures us of God’s supernatural provision.

What we do matters greatly. The plan of God is always his presence working through his people. Just as the boy’s lunch must have seemed small to him, our actions may seem small to us. But just as God worked through that boy, he will work through us and use our seemingly-small actions to make big changes.

What does God’s presence working through us look like? Here are some small actions that cause big-time changes in the world:

  • Be kind to people, even to those who disagree with us. There’s no reason to be ugly to anyone.
  • Be patient. Listen—not in order to respond, but to heal.
  • Show compassion. Reach out to someone who is hurting.
  • Forgive quickly. Because we have been forgiven of much, we should generously forgive.
  • Be willing to share Godly wisdom with others, when the time is right.
  • Smile! The joy of the Lord should show on our faces.

These six actions reflect God’s character. He is kind, patient, compassionate, and forgiving. God gives us wisdom. And he smiles on us with a joyful twinkle in his eye. We are to daily become more and more like God, and these six actions are a pretty good start.

In the book, “The Shack,” by William Paul Young, the character of the Holy Spirit says, “If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes. Every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes. With every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished, and nothing will be the same again.”

Everything we do matters. “Nothing I do makes a difference” is a lie designed to keep us from the destiny God designed for us. Before we were born, God planned our destiny and the good works he wanted us to do during our lives (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t fall for the lie. Take every opportunity possible to do good. That’s how we change the world.

Father God, open my eyes to the difference I can make in the world. I know my actions make a difference. What I do changes the world for better or for worse. Fill my heart with kindness, patience, compassion, forgiveness, Godly wisdom, and joy. Let my life impact the world in the best possible way. In Jesus’s name, amen.