Saturday, November 28, 2015

Just as you did to the least of these...

A week ago, I was up at one of our local bars enjoying time with friends. A group came in asking where they might get a tire. Theirs had blown, and they were pretty much driving on the rim. All four were adults, but there was just something about this group that touched my heart. Perhaps it was the vulnerability the lone female of the group tried to hide. Maybe it was the fact that the older gentleman was a diabetic. Or perhaps it was something much deeper that cried out they needed help.

Regardless of what it was, I wasn't the only one who picked up on it. That night truly gave me hope as I watched those working make sure this family got a hot meal, and friends make sure they had a warm place to stay for the night and that they had food the next morning. And the tears in the eyes of this group as they gave thanks to those who helped them was all I needed to know that we touched hearts that night and gave hope to people in need.

I was going to write about this the day after all this happened, but sadly I let it slip from my mind until tonight. Tonight, I saw many people once again complaining about how we have our own people in need - we shouldn't let others in and help them. I call bullshit. Please forgive the language, but honestly - if each one of us just gave a little bit more of ourselves, whether our money, or time, or even just a few spare bits and pieces we have tucked away in our pantries, we'd be able to take care of our own AND others.

But we don't. Sometimes it's out of greed. Sometimes it's simply out of that thought of "all I have is a couple cans of veggies... that's not enough to help". Sometimes, we're just too absorbed in our own struggles to even recognize others need help. Regardless of what it is, we don't help as often as we should. And I am just as guilty (of all these reasons) as the next person.

Please - let's all take a little more time and effort this holiday season, and beyond, to recognize those in need. If all you have to give is a winter coat you never wear, or a few cans of food, or even just a hug... give someone hope. Show them God's love. Be God's hands.

37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Extra Love for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. In just a couple days, many of us will be gathering with family and friends to give thanks for everything in our lives. And then out comes the tree and lights, and Christmas music. There's concerts and programs to go to, and gifts to give, as we wish everyone some holiday cheer.

But I urge you all to please remember that for many, this time of year is not cheerful. For some, this time of year is incredibly heartbreaking and difficult to get through.

This is a time of year when, while many are smiling and laughing and enjoying loved ones, many others are struggling to not break down, wishing they had just one more day with a loved one.

This is a time of year when, while many are out buying gifts and all the fixings for a wonderful turkey dinner, many others are looking through the shop windows with tears in their eyes, and empty pockets.

This is a time of year when, while many are giving thanks for their health and happiness, many others are going through chemotherapy, or sitting in a hospital room, or are too ill or depressed to enjoy the season.

This is a time of year when, while many celebrate with family and friends, many others are stationed overseas and unable to come home, or are sitting alone in nursing homes.

Please keep all these people, and everyone else who may be having a difficult time right now, in your hearts and prayers. And take it a step beyond that... give someone the gift of love. Reach out and hug the person who is hurting. Donate, if you can, to places that can provide food and gifts to those in need. Set an extra plate at your own table. Visit someone who is alone, or who has lost a loved one. Bring them a meal and enjoy it with them.

Do something in love... be the answer to someone's prayer this holiday season.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spark of Hope

Once again (or, perhaps still), our country – our world – is in chaos. Shootings and bombings fill our newspapers, television media outlets, and social media formats. Stories of death and destruction reign. Our conversations swing from righteous anger to uncertainty and fear to sorrow and grief.

This morning, I was completely prepared to be inundated with these same stories and responses as I opened my Facebook. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Sure enough, the debates and fury and horror stories were still there.

But as I scrolled a little further down my feed, I saw a picture that stood out to me. I’d seen it before, but this morning it was a pleasant and needed surprise. It was simply of a couple winter coats wrapped around light poles. Each coat had a tag on it saying that they were not lost coats, but rather were there for anyone who may be cold and in need of warmth.

With a small smile, I continued my scrolling, past more devastation and bullying, and made it to a video clip – a mother of a 3 year old autistic girl was thanking a stranger who’d been on a plane with her and her daughter. This stranger – a business man – put away his papers and spent 2 and a half hours playing with the young child, giving her and her mother the best plane ride they’d experienced.

These weren’t the only ones that touched me. Scrolling through more depression and the few jokes and quizzes, I stumbled on a few more stories that brought a smile to my face – stories that brought hope.

That’s what we all need right now. And it’s not that difficult to do. Every time we do something kind for another person, we are giving hope to someone. Every act of generosity spreads this hope. Every opportunity we take to show God’s love, we spark hope.  Maybe this is taking a few hours out of our day to entertain a child, or comfort someone who is grieving. Perhaps it’s by giving a coat to someone who is cold, or a hot meal to someone who is hungry. Or maybe it’s even just by giving a stranger a smile or a “good morning.” Regardless of how we display God’s love, we have the power, from the Holy Spirit, to spark hope in others. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Lost and Forgotten

We were never meant to be happy or free. Our very lives were under the thumb of tyrants, each day being uncertain if it would be our last. Even the simplest mistake resulted in pain and torment. They controlled our every move - our every thought.

We were taught that love was pain, and hope a mere fantasy. God had forsaken us, and prayer was a useless act. Dreams were never meant to come true, and peace was non-existent.

We were the forgotten. The lost. The helpless. Our hearts grew cold and empty, our souls died.

We were the unlovable, the unreachable, the lonely. Trust, faith, love, tears - these concepts were a constant danger to our very existence.

I escaped the tyranny, but could not escape the lessons learned. For years I held onto those beliefs of being forgotten and lost, helpless and unlovable.

Many days I continued to wonder if your escape had been the better option. You escaped both the tyranny and the lessons. You found light by extinguishing yours. You found light, while we continued to live in darkness.

Days turned to months, and then to years. And the darkness remained my only companion.


For many years I felt like were alone in our struggles. Yes, I had a vague understanding that there were people in the world who had it so much worse, but this was only a small notion, and one where I chose not to put my focus. Perhaps it was because I was simply too young and immature to recognize the world beyond myself. Perhaps I was simply too afraid to open my heart and care. 

It took me a long time to recognize there was a light shining through that darkness. It took me a long time to stop trying to put out that light - to stop being afraid of it. It took me a long time to understand that amid all the pain and suffering, that light had stayed by my side. It took me a long time to understand that I have the power and responsibility to show that light to others. 

Perhaps it was because of this realization that my heart is heavy today. Our world is broken. It has always been broken. And it will continue to be broken because so many people have refused to recognize that they too have this power and responsibility to show this light to others. So many want to lock the door and keep the hurt and lost and helpless away. So many are driven by fear or arrogance. Or both. They claim compassion, but don't truly understand what it means to be compassionate. They claim love, but have no understanding of what it means to love.

I no longer wonder if your escape was the better option. Yes, you escaped the tyranny and the darkness. But I have found something so much better hiding in the darkness - a light. Hope, dreams, love, peace. And I have found a desire to show this light to others, to help people realize they are not alone, or helpless. I have found a desire to truly give compassion and love to those who need it most - to those who were like us, or worse. To those who have that rope around their necks, and cannot find a reason not to let it tighten. To those who stopped believing, or never had a chance to believe. To the lost and forgotten.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

You Don't Need to Wear Tights

This morning, I have seen many inspirational and beautiful stories about acts of kindness.

A stranger helps a woman traveling alone with an infant by comforting the infant during the flight then helping the woman get the stroller and bags after the plan lands.

A postal worker who finds a letter addressed to God from a little girl whose dog just passed away, and sends the young girl a book and comforting message that the dog made it to heaven and is doing well.

And there were many more as well. Seeing these this morning made me think of my own life, and the people who've been there for me - both friends and strangers. 

A while back, I went into the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions, and was told someone had already come in and paid the $100 bill. Years ago, when I was a waitress, I had a few customers at various times who'd leave me a larger tip so I could buy something needed for the baby I was carrying. A few years ago, after finding out my father-in-law had cancer, someone saw me walking and recognized the fear and sorrow in my eyes and stopped what he was doing to just give me a hug. Not too long ago, while in a state of severe depression, a friend rushed over late at night to help me and be there for me.

It doesn't take tights to be a superhero. It doesn't take wings to be an angel. God sends us normal, everyday people to help us when we most need it. And he sends us to others when they most need it.

All we need to do is be willing to be that superhero. Every one of us has the power to be a superhero in the eyes of someone else - by helping a struggling parent at an airport, or giving a hug to a friend who is grieving, or even just flashing someone a smile and a "good morning" when we pass them on the street.

Let's all be grateful today for those superheroes in our lives, and make more of an effort to be God's hands through acts of kindness to others.

God bless.