Monday, March 24, 2008

Random Acts

1 Corinthians 13
 12 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

A random act of kindness is sometimes all that is necessary to bring someone to a point in their life that they can see things more clearly. While shopping the other night in Wal-Mart we were ready to check out. We had our focus on the twenty or less check out but in counting Lisa and I found we had more, so we moved down a couple of rows and fell in line. As always there seemed to be a hold up at the register. There were several people ahead of us so I couldn’t see too clearly what was going on. All I knew was, there was a hold up and I was ready to go.

As always, we picked the line that moves the slowest but tonight would be different. Lisa was talking to me about something and I was looking over shoulders trying to get a look at the face that was causing the delay. All I could see was an arm and the credit card machine. Then I saw this lady’s face. It looked like she was under so much distress. My heart really went out to her at this moment. I wish I could stand here and say I prayed for her but I’m not sure if I did. I was so into the event that was unfolding before my eyes. She had tried several credit cards and found only a few dollars of cash in her wallet. Nothing was working. There was no way she was going to be able to pay for what she wanted. I looked into her cart and noticed she had Easter clothes for her children and some food. My heart sank, we had been right where she was standing.

When our girls were growing up it was a blessing to have five dollars left from our pay check. We were blessed to have water and heat most of the time but we never went one day without food and clothes. I guess that’s what was hitting me, watching this event unfold was reminding me of the grace of God. I was getting excited, my soul was stirring and I was getting ready to do something that Lisa and I live to do and that is a random act of kindness.

We have this rule, if someone needs help, then help them. We ask God to lead people to us that need an act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be money, it may be a simple hug that can change a persons life, a simple word that will bring things into focus for them.

So here we are, ready to pounce and ready to experience the joy of giving without a reason, giving out of love and nothing else. As I watched, she swiped her card for the last time, she was done, her face was that of pain and embarrassment. She had reached bottom. She stood there with her eyes looking towards the floor and suddenly a voice from nowhere said, “How much is it, I’ll pay.”

My heart jumped for joy at hearing this but there was no answer at first. The lady looked up and tried to find the voice in the crowd but she couldn’t. The people in line looked like they were in complete shock. Then the voice came again, “I’ll pay, it doesn’t matter the cost, I have it covered.” The people in line started to talk, “That’s such a nice thing to do. That is so sweet.” The man ignored all the voices and walked to the front of the line and handed the cashier what was due. He had paid the entire debt. The lady looked at him and said, “Thank you so much, I will pay you back”, he said, “You can’t do that, it’s my gift to you on this day.”

The lady, the cashier, and the people in line were in shock. I was moved with compassion as if I had just seen an angel come forward and take care of this lady but what I had witnessed was a random act of kindness that moved more than one person.

While watching and listening to this event unfold, I thought of my own life. I still experienced the joy of giving the other night as I was able to witness the gift of giving. Next time maybe I will be quicker to act before a person reaches such a low point.

I believe I witnessed the perfect picture of Jesus Christ right there in Wal-Mart. You see, at our lowest moments in life when we realize that we can’t pay for what we’ve done, we need to be saved from our sins. When we realize that we can’t do all of this on our own Jesus speaks right to you and says with a loud voice, “I have it covered, no matter the cost, you can’t pay me back, the debt is too great.” Oh, what a great picture of our redeemer and how he lives today.

While knowing what Jesus did for us was no random act, it was planned before time had begun. This act of kindness was towards you and me and was meant for us all.

So how do I end this story? As with all of my stories, there seems to be no end just a question, where are you at? What point in life are you at? Are you the lady in line at the end of her rope, not able to pay for anything, needing help but not willing to ask? Are you the person just standing there watching and saying, “I’m going to do that one day?”

Let me encourage you that life is so much more than the everyday, go to work, get home, cook and eat, then go to sleep. That’s routine and confusion. Life is about love, it’s about kindness and giving of yourself so others will see Jesus. Look at the verses we started with. Sometimes life isn’t so clear, sometimes there is a fog, but in verse thirteen there are some things we can do to make life better. Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

George Beasley, The Invisible Soul

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Those Golden Shoes

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 (MSG)
14 I've also concluded that whatever God does, that's the way it's going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God's done it and that's it. That's so we'll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. 

15 Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That's how it always is with God.

I was sharing these verses with a friend the other day and realized how impactful they were. It’s not our time, but it’s God’s time. This story is an illustration of how we shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought to because of our status or worldly possessions. 

Back in the day, we all played flag football every Thursday. Rick and I were best friends in high school and still are to this day. He had one seat at the very back of the school bus and I had the other. We orchestrated things on the bus from this vantage point. We were not bullies but knew the status and responsibility we had as being the older boys in the home. If we saw something that was out of line, we were quick to act and bring correction. Looking back, I wonder what the other boys must have thought about how we behaved on those Thursdays.

On Thursdays, Rick and I didn’t talk; we just rode home from school on the bus. We played flag football on separate teams. He played on the “farm” team, and I played on the home team. The farm team always recruited the tougher and stronger guys. They were called the farm team because they worked on the farm. By the way, farm work paid seven dollars a week and was one of the highest paying jobs around. The farm team was the best, but I wasn’t on it. Don’t get me wrong, I was as good as any of those guys, but the farm thing just wasn’t me.

When we rode home on Thursdays, the bus was always quiet. This was the day that Rick and I would taunt each other and tell each other exactly what was going to happen on the field that day. You get the point. We were very specific in our language and our action. The other boys would just listen in. If you are wondering who was driving our school bus, it was another boy from the home. We had our own bus, and it was just us.

Then, one day, Rick crosses the line. We are going back and forth; it is a very heated conversation that day and we are almost in a fight, screaming back and forth. Suddenly, Rick stands up and picks up his bookbag. The bus driver slams on breaks. As the bus is coming to a stop, I stand up, gripping the back of the seat in front of me. Rick reaches into his bookbag and pulls out a pair of freshly painted football cleats. He screams, “Yeah baby. What’s up? What are you going to do with these bad boys?” He had painted his football cleats gold. Then he declares at the top of his lungs, “Today, these babies are going to fly by you so fast; you ain’t going to see nothing but gold.” Then he starts this taunt of “FTD, FTD baby, FTD, FTD baby.” When we were growing up, there was a flower guy on a TV commercial that wore golden shoes, and he ran really fast from delivery to delivery. Rick decides that if he wears golden shoes, he will be as fast as the FTD guy.

The whole bus bursts out laughing, the driver starts the bus, and we continue home. Rick straps on his golden shoes, still taunting me. He is dead serious about these shoes. What can I say? The man has golden shoes on. I was so ready to get to the field that day. The game starts, and it doesn’t take long for me and Rick to get matched up. He catches a pass and runs down the sideline; he looks at me and points down at his shoes. I head straight for him. When I get within range, I dive and hit him right in the side and send him sailing about twenty feet out of bounds. This is supposed to be flag football, so while we are on the ground, I grab his flag and say, “Got ya, golden boy.” We both get up and realize how stupid we have been and laugh out loud. To this day, we still crack up about the golden shoes.

So, what’s the point of this story? Sometimes our possessions make us think we are something we are not. Things don’t really make us who we are. They paint a picture to others, but when it’s all said and done and the lights go out, who are you?

As the word in Ecclesiastes says, “Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is.” Put in my vernacular, “It is what it is.” If we would try harder at living a life of truth and not one of golden shoes, we could help each other more. Maybe we could team up and do something for this world, leaving our golden shoes in the closet. Be who God made you to be. Find your destiny and your position in life in Jesus Christ. This life is not about how much stuff we can accumulate and how we model the clothes on our backs and the cars in our driveways. Life is about purpose and destiny. Who are you? Where are you going and how are you going to get there? Are you going to be you or someone with golden shoes? Are you going to be authentic or be a painted-on person?

Still Running

Still Running I recently turn sixty-two. There is something about getting older that makes you think about your life. Some days, I wake up...