I DO WISH THIS ON MY WORST ENEMY – I EVEN WISH THIS ON YOU!

Call me evil – that’s ok because I DO wish this on my worst enemy and I even wish this on those I love the most – I wish it for you and I don’t even know you!

I dare you to read past what you’ll feel is a self-pity trip, through the depressing impressions and read this whole post to figure out just what it has to do with joy.

Sorry if it offends you but sometimes I do.  Sometimes I do wish that the people that say Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue are not real illnesses can live a few days in my body.  I even wish my wonderfully loving husband and kids would spend a few hours in this skin.  At some point and time I’ve wished this on everyone except my beautiful 14 month old grandson…. So far.

I wish you could wake up with your legs and back so stiff that it is agonizing at times to get out of bed.  I wish you could feel the humiliation of having to yell out to your 19 year old son because you need help walking to the bathroom.  I wish your thoughts would be so clouded and jumbled that you can’t understand the words spoken to you or the words you want to speak.  I wish you could sit perfectly still while stabbing pain rages randomly throughout your body like exploding fireworks, each blast in a different place.

I wish you could walk your sweet baby through the mall and have people laugh or point and comment because he was born without eyes or a sealed palate.  I wish you could sit in your high school English class while the other students make fun of you, slap you, or call you embarrassing names until you slump into total humiliation.  I wish you could sit in your closet, door closed tight, while you listen to your dad scream at your mom in a drunken rage and all the while praying he doesn’t come through your door again.  I wish you could drive your minivan to a grocery store fifteen miles away so your kids aren’t embarrassed as you hand the cashier food stamps.

I wish you could look at that filthy glass of dirty water that you have no choice but to give your child to drink, knowing full well it might kill them.  I wish you could pack your kids up and what few belongings you can carry and walk miles on end in search of safety and freedom that you’ll take, even though it means living under a single tarp held up with four poles.  I wish you could gather with others in a dark basement with only a few cherished pages left of your bible and quietly pray and worship for fear you’ll be caught and beat and imprisoned.

I wish you could live under any circumstance that you’ve failed to open your eyes and see.  Put your feet in the shoes of another who can’t even lift their face up because life has smacked it one too many times.

Why?  Because there is always someone worse than you.  Run with me on this thought for a second – there has to be that one person on this earth who is actually worse off than any other human.  Isn’t that true?  It has to be.  There is one meager soul who sits at the bottom.  But guess what; it ain’t you!  I know that for a fact because you’re reading this, you’ve been blessed with the ability to read and understand print.  In one way or another you have access to the internet when some haven’t even had the fortune to hit the power button on a computer.  Yep, it ain’t you!

I think a lot of people are running pretty low on the compassion meter in general.  Go ahead and say you’re not like the others.  But you are.  At times.  We all are.  Me included, among the worst offenders at times.

I’m on a year long study of joy right now and I’ve come to realize that joy increases right alongside with your increase in compassion.  Compassion isn’t pity; it isn’t feeling sorry for someone and offering a smile as you walk by.  Compassion is acknowledging someone else’s difficult or even horrific situation, and seeing if you can help even if the help comes in the form of your heartfelt prayers.

Compassion is a forerunner of gratitude.  How can you not be thankful after seeing the plight of the less fortunate?  Gratitude leading right to joy.

Step one in living a life of joy; live gratitude.  This may seem too trivial and you may be thinking I’m nuts by now; but if you can’t see the many things in your life that are gifts, blessings, treasures around you, I don’t see how you can live out a joy-filled life.  If your eyes are closed to the apparent good a deep-seated joy can’t begin to grow.  Going further; if you think about it, there should also be gratitude in our hearts because of things we don’t have or haven’t experienced.  I haven’t had to experience the loss of a child or our home burning down – I personally know others that have – I am grateful for those that I haven’t had as well.

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

If you need a little help getting started as you search for bits of your day for which to be grateful I had previous mentioned author by Ann Voskamp; on her web site she offers pages you can print with daily prompts of things to look for and see the little things you normally might miss in your busy life; things that are worth a moment of heartfelt gratitude.

So go ahead and enjoy your day – search for the things you are truly grateful for – and enJOY your day!

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TOOTSIE, DISABILITIES, FOSTER KIDS AND LOVE

A few days ago a facebook friend of mine posted a video of Dustin Hoffman talking about his experience making the movie Tootsie.  I don’t click on many links people post so I’m not quite sure what prompted me to click on this one.  Possibly a bit of boredom at the moment.  I’m very glad I did!  He mentioned that in order to take on the role he wanted the makeup department to be able to transform him into a woman that you could pass on the street without someone knowing it was a man in drag or even turning their head for a second take.  He felt they succeeded, but then Dustin asked them to go a step further and make him a beautiful woman.  They chuckled and told him that was as good as they were going to get.  This made a huge impact on him as he realized people would overlook him and possibly not even give him the time of day due to the fact that he didn’t meet the world’s standards of a beautiful human being.  At that moment he acknowledged that there have been many interesting women he has come in contact with in his life that he has looked over based purely on their appearance.

It was a month or more ago that I ran across this youtube video of Lacey Buchanan as she tells the story of her baby boy Christian.  I urge you to watch.  I caution you to have Kleenex handy.  This remarkable young woman is raising a young boy that most people would have aborted.  She is raising a child in a world where a visual first impression is sometimes all the further you’ll get in connecting with other people.

I find it very sad that our world seems to function on the basis of appearance.  But then there can be another side to this coin.  This judgmental coin.  The side where from first glance someone seems to fit our opinion of “normal” or even “attractive”.  Until you get to know them.

Last Wednesday night in our women’s bible study, one of the ladies shared about how their life has changed now with a beautiful foster child they’ve taken into their home.  He has some emotional issues and learning/behavioral disabilities.   She mentioned how she has realized that he doesn’t always respond to acts of love like you may expect; but she has learned through this experience that if someone doesn’t have any idea what love is you can’t expect a certain response.  He has to learn what love looks like by their actions; by them showing him God’s love.  For him it has not been as simple as life with loving parents in a functional home; growing up with a simple understanding of love and acceptance.  Unfortunately, he is in a world where many will turn away from him simply because he may act out as a means of trying to see where he fits into this world and his need for that love and acceptance he doesn’t even comprehend.

As you know if you’ve read any of my blog articles, I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.  This leaves me with conditions that get a general response of “but you don’t look sick”.  It leaves me often with a messy house, a list of chores to still be done, days spent in bed, days spent trudging through trying to appear as if there isn’t any pain running through my body, days overwhelmed by depression and sometimes needing to back out of certain engagements and outings.  As with many others in our world with diseases and conditions, either mental or physically internal, that isn’t worn on the outside like a badge so easily recognizable.

I’ve really been burdened lately for people’s hearts.  For their sense of acceptance.  For who they are on the inside.  For the daily load they carry of either their physical differences or their mental/emotional differences.  Differences all based on our own ideas of what is normal and acceptable.  We all have a line, our own reference point.  That line is based on ourselves and how we perceive ourselves.  So sad that sometimes we don’t even measure up to our own line of acceptable standards.

I love Hillsong’s worship song Hosanna.  My favorite verse of that song reads “Heal my heart and make it clean, Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me, Break my heart for what breaks Yours.”  It’s talking about asking God to break our hearts to see the pain in those around us.  To heal us from the pride in our hearts that would make us think we are better or above other people. To look past the obvious at first glance and look for what is in the heart of others, what we can’t see.  Realizing that God loves this individual and He may want to use me as the one that shows them His love through my actions toward them.  Even as far as to love ourselves.  Our broken, flawed selves.  All works in progress.  All needing God’s love.

My prayer is that even today by a simple smile or gentle action and kind words we can show others they are loved!

Please click here to listen to this incredible song sung by Hope’s Call.  (I just happen to know the singers! 🙂  Allow it to speak to you, to know how much you are loved and to in turn, be able to show love to others!  “You are loved with no conditions, you are loved with no remorse, the scars of your forgiveness are engraved upon the Lord, you are loved!”


         


Are you my neighbor?

Remember that old book from your childhood “Are You My Mother?” That poor little bird was asking everyone and everything he ran into if they were his mother. As all good children’s books end (except for Bambi which has left me scarred for life), he did finally find her.
Well I’ve been asking a similar question for a couple weeks now (not out loud of course, I don’t want to seem like I’ve completely lost my mind).
It all started a few weeks ago in our Sunday school class. We were talking about the Good Samaritan, loving our neighbor, who our neighbor is, and to what extent do you go to show that love.
Love thy neighbor…………….
So I ask. Are you my neighbor? I happen to know the names of the people that live in the first two houses to the north and south of me. They are my neighbors, right? I know two other families on my street but a few blocks down, they go to my church. They are my neighbors, right?
Most of us are Facebook official with 682 of our closest friends. Are they my neighbors? We follow 144 of them on Twitter; surely I would consider them my neighbor! I often see the same homeless guy at the river by my credit union. Is he my neighbor? The man in line behind me at the grocery store; is he my neighbor? The child from India whose face I saw on a sponsorship card, he surely isn’t my neighbor, right?
I think our modern technology is great, but I think it sometimes gives us a false sense of knowing and loving our “neighbor”, friends, and family. We’ll see a status and click “like” or if we’re really interested we might give a four word comment. Of course if it’s regarding a need or prayer request we do our spiritual duty by commenting with “praying”. Sometimes we’ll even throw in a few exclamation marks. But do we always actually take the time to literally pray when we say we do or even try to help by physically meeting their need.
But the fact that we saw the request, the status highlighting the moment of their day, or updated picture of their kids and pets makes us feel like we’ve taken part in their life that day. The real truth is that some people won’t ever write about their deepest need or spiritual hurt or heartbreak, etc. We don’t really know them at the level required to “love thy neighbor.” But we’ve spent at least 2 hours of our day in 10 minute increments with our faces glued to the computer or smartphone feeling good, like we’ve truly connected with others at some level. (Pat self on back here.)
Don’t get me wrong! It’s a great to be able to keep in touch in a way we never could have imagined before, with more people than we could have before; but it takes a certain level of connectivity to be able to truly love them.
In Luke 10 Jesus said to “Love your neighbor as yourself”; but a little further down in the text, when He’s telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, the individual that shows love to the man left to die in the street is clearly someone we wouldn’t normally think of as his neighbor.
This man had been beaten, stripped, robbed, abandoned, and left to die. A priest saw him, walked to the other side of the road and passed on by; then a Levite (a man from the tribe of Levi who would have typically been one to help the priests at the temple) walked on by. Two men that would have spent the majority of their days serving God harm this man by their pure neglect of him. But how could they be expected to help him, after all, was he their neighbor? He had been stripped so they couldn’t see his clothing to tell what social class he was in. What if someone came along as they were trying to help and assumed they had beaten this man? They couldn’t afford that hit to their reputation! Quite possibly he was beat beyond recognition to where they couldn’t even tell his nationality. He might have already been dead and it was a huge, time consuming ordeal in Jewish customs to purify themselves after they had touched a deceased person. Who has time for that?
Then here comes the Samaritan. Keep in mind that in this passage in Luke Jesus is answering questions from a Jewish lawyer. The Samaritans were not thought of too highly among the Jews. They would rather spit at each other than say hello. But Jesus chose to make the hero of the story someone that would have been looked down upon by the people listening.
The Samaritan picks up the broken man. Bandages his wounds. Takes him to a hotel. Stays and cares for him through the night. Pays the hotel manager two days worth of wages to cover costs involved. Leaves him under the care of the hotel and promises to return.
What an awesome picture of what Christ has done for us!! He picks us up in our broken state. He paid for our sins on the cross. He leaves us in the care of the Holy Spirit and the comfort of His Word. He promises to return for us! It gives me chills!
So who was the actual neighbor to this wounded man? The one who showed him love and compassion.
Now back to what’s been going on in my mind these past few weeks…….. Are you my neighbor? How can I possibly know who I’m supposed to be loving on and helping in this world of technology that can have me connected to thousands upon thousands of people and opportunities to help? I believe that’s where wisdom and the Holy Spirit come in. If you know of an opportunity to help and you have that tugging on your heart to do something then you should. But be very careful, the bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 you can quench the tugging of the Holy Spirit on your heart just like pouring water on a fire. If you don’t fuel the fire by listening and acting on His urging eventually He’ll stop tugging until your heart is open again.
God may place us in a situation to help a man on the side of the road or help support a missionary overseas or He may have us sit on the front porch with our next door neighbor and comfort her in the loss of her mother. Opportunities to love our neighbor come in endless possible scenarios. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the stories we hear of people in need in one way or another to the place where we throw up our hands and say we can’t do it all. But I think the important thing is that we do something! We need to leave our hearts open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and do what we can to show God’s love to others through our actions!

It’s all in who you know!

That’s right.  It is isn’t it?  We’ve all witnessed it in one form or another.  You’ll be standing in line waiting for a table to clear at a restaurant, you’re next on the list, and you can almost taste the perfectly seasoned steak and loaded baked potato.  You watch the bus boy wipe the crumbs from the previous patrons and you take a step toward the hostess, positioning yourself for her to lead you to your seat.  The restaurant door opens behind you and a very well dressed man and woman push their way past you.  The hostess looks up and says how happy she is to see them and proceeds to escort them to YOUR table.

Aside from the restaurant incidents I’m sure you’ve all witnessed someone stating that they were able to get a job, car repairs, discounts, free movie tickets, etc; based on a friend or even a friend of a friend.  Yep, a lot rides on the circle of friends you keep and even the circle of friends they keep.

I’ve never been the kind of person that was awe-struck by celebrity or social status.  I certainly have respect for people’s intelligence and hard work, don’t get me wrong.  But too often we look at people and judge them based on finance or social status and not in who they are as a person or what they do to make a contribution to society.

Let me tell you who had me totally awe-struck this week.  My son, Austin.  Yep; 17, broke, certainly not an all A student, and someone that totally drives me crazy at times.  But not this week.  This week that kid had me awe-struck.

Austin works as a bagger at our local grocery store.  The baggers take turns going out into the parking lot and bringing the stray carts back into the store.  As he headed out to the parking lot he noticed a local homeless man sitting on the curb, eating the food he had just purchased; a two liter of cola and an individual apple pie.  There were five kids standing around the homeless man.  One of the boys said, “It looks like you need something to eat” and spit his gum out on the man.  The man just hung his head.

In walks the hero of the story.  My kid.  He walked up to the boys and told them to get out of there and that he’d call the cops if they didn’t leave the man alone and that he wasn’t messing around.  The boys laughed and said they didn’t think Austin would do anything at all.  So he did that male posturing thing you see guys do when they set their shoulders back and stand tall and then he made a few steps toward the boys.  They said they were just messing around and left.   He then walked over to the homeless man and asked him if he was ok. 

Then four ninja’s in dark clothing jumped out of the bushes so Austin whipped out his nun-chucks and……  sorry – that’s Austin adding to the story.  But back to the real story…..

As I said, the five boys left.  Austin told the homeless man that if they came back and started to bother him again that he was to go into the store and walk up to the service desk and ask for “Austin”.  Then they’d call the police if needed.  The man was very grateful for my kid’s kindness to him. 

See, that’s the kind of thing that impresses me.  Not a flashy car or a purse with the initials “LV”.  A beautiful house in an upscale neighborhood is great, and I’m happy for you if you’ve been able to acquire those things.  But what makes me look at you in admiration is who you are in your heart.  Your behavior, your treatment of others, and the things in life you pursue and hold in high esteem is what shows me who you really are. 

When we all stand before God one day He isn’t going to ask what we did for a living or what kind of car we had or what that figure was on our W2’s.  Nope, He’s going to ask what we did for Him.  Did we accept the gift of His Son’s life and did we spend time serving Him and telling others of His love for them?  Did we treat others as we’d want to be treated?  It’s not going to be about your physical presence and the physical things you acquired; it’s going to be about how rich you are in your faith and service to Him.  This will be the one time when the “WHO” you know means everything!

My son exemplified the meaning of the Golden Rule.  He stood up for someone who could not stand up for himself.  Someone who society would see as an outcast and someone to overlook entirely.  My son saw him as a man.  A person God created and loved.  A person with a story that you could assume was riddled with mistakes along his journey that led him to his seat on the curb; but a fellow human being none the less.    

What he did took less than five minutes, but he showed that man that he had value as an individual and that someone cared about the way he was treated.  To me, that’s what I find worthy of admiration.

Matthew 25: 34-40  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’