Extraordinary Everyday People

Search For Significance

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Children, Extraordinary Everyday People, Truth | 22 comments

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Our search for significance often begins on a playground sometime between the ages of 3 -5. It starts the day we first risk asking the question, “Will you play with me?” and then matures to even more vulnerability when we dare to add, “Will you be my friend?”.

 

Think about how many times over your lifetime you asked those questions – and how many times the answer either hurt or disappointed you. These encounters are the beginning of our shaping.

 

I watched my granddaughter try to approach a group of girls the other day at the park. The girls were fully engaged in what they were doing and obviously all knew each other well. At first, she stood a distance away from them – observing and waiting. I knew what she wanted and it was agonizing to watch. She inched closer and closer hoping they would notice her, knowing full well she had nothing to offer them but herself.

 

My instinct was to dive in, intervene, and help her out. But my heart knew better. It would be as big a mistake as helping a struggling baby bird out of its birthing shell.

 

There are things we need to discover and conquer all on our own. The shaping of our identity and the role others play in our significance are core issues we’re tasked to settle through a lifetime of experiences. It starts early and the lessons we learn early-on carry as much weight as the ones we learn later in life.

 

I’ve worn the same uncomfortable shoes my granddaughter did that day many times in my life. It’s risky business to seek an invitation into an established group. Do you remember your first day at a new school, or your first crush or first job interview? The playgrounds change, but the emotions are the same.

 

During the long quiet walk back to my car, I sensed the wheels turning in my granddaughter’s mind.

 

As much as I wanted to tell her this was an isolated experience or that she was the most special girl on earth – I knew there were other more important shaping factors in play.

 

Instead, we talked about compassion and empathy, about forgiveness and feelings.

 

The truth is, not everyone she meets will like her or want to be her friend (even though the sun rises and sets on her, in my book). Her significance is not found in the acceptance of others. It’s not even found within the security of her family. Her significance is found in Christ and who he’s created her to be.

 

He has given her, and us, everything we need to effectively (and significantly) join the game of life on any playground we find ourselves. We are secure, loved and equipped to be his. And that’s good enough.

 

 

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Days That Shape The Soul

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Aging, Extraordinary Everyday People, Life, Remembrance | 22 comments

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If you were offered a chance to go back and revisit a day in your past, would you? Which day would you pick?

I asked myself this question yesterday as I sat watching a dozen or so wheelchair bound individuals swinging foam noodles at a balloon. I wondered what day they would pick if asked. Would a day playing the noodle game be worth revisiting – I wondered.

Our life is a masterful architectural linking of moments that together create a framework for our story, the story of our soul. No moment stands alone and yet each one carries its own weight while our heart and soul are being constructed from the inside.

Some days hold great experiences – events we wish would never end, while others are deeply sorrowful. And some days don’t seem memorable at all.

I’m not sure what day I would revisit if I could.

Happy days are easy to recall like the birth of my children, or trips to faraway places, but in the bigger scheme of things, I don’t need to relive them. They’re part of who I am and deeply rooted in my story.

I have many days I wish I could go back and do over. There are words I wish I hadn’t spoken and days poor choices affected the rest of my life. But admittedly those days are also deeply rooted in who I am.

The white haired souls at the nursing home are nearing the end of their days. Much of their time is spent alone with themselves – wandering the hallways of their memories. I asked one of the more lucid individuals which day she would revisit if she could. Her answer was simple. “Days can’t be separated from each other. Separating days would be like trying to take apart a fully baked cake”.

The mysterious soul within each of us – our eternal soul, is grown and shaped by our day to day life experiences. Whether encased in tragedy, celebration, boredom, or fairness – we become the unfolding of its masterful creation for God’s eternal use.

It may feel as though we’ve fallen victim to a faulty cake recipe. And some days might seem as though our only accomplishment is smacking a silly balloon around the room. But the truth is, every day is a gift. And the shaping of our soul is the greatest mystery we’re invited to read and write.

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of a great mystery.”
Annie Dillard

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The Baton Has Been Passed

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Death, Extraordinary Everyday People, Hope | 24 comments

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The baton has been passed, my friend is gone. Prayers for comfort, peace and healing linger still as they gently shift toward the family she adored.

 

While we weep her loss and consider her life, she speaks still – from a place we haven’t yet seen. Her voice is clear and delivered with a cadence of familiarity, “Press on, stand strong, give grace, cry for the helpless, dream patiently, live with conviction and fervor, love unsparingly, live unceasingly, hope unreservedly.”

 

She now lives without time, or pain, or fear, or worry. Our clocks tick on with a voice of challenge to live and die like her. Her beautiful baton has been laid down for our picking up.

 

Weep with me. Listen with me. And run wholeheartedly toward the goal she’s now reached.

 

 “Your life is your own, your glory is your glory, but you will lose it if you keep it for yourself. Grasp it for the sake of others.” Nate Wilson – author and her beloved son-in-law

 

 

 

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Courageous Faith

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Courage, Extraordinary Everyday People, Faith | 24 comments

 

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Courageous faith stands taller than, wider than, and deeper than any faith I’ve experienced. Although I don’t fully understand it, I recognize it when I see it. Courageous faith seems to emerge out of the darkest places. It rises up above wild angry seas. it surfaces from tumultuous rapids and within the flames of fire.

People who demonstrate courageous faith rarely realize they have it. It seems to come with a soft garment of humility. It grows in adversity and it cannot be tamed.

No one wants the circumstances that accompany courageous faith. No one relishes storms, rapids or consuming fires. For courageous faith lives within adverse circumstance. It doesn’t tell the circumstance what to do or try to predict its outcome. Like outcome, it’s beauty and power cannot be captured.

When circumstances squeeze in around the strong shoulders of such faith, arms reach down to lift observers up top. I’ve seen the broad shoulders grow big enough to carry whole communities, families and the faithless.

Storms and fires want to overpower courageous faith – but they can’t. Our powerlessness and dependence are its energy boosters, growth-generating enhancers. The higher the waves, the greater its resistance. The deeper the waters, the more buoyant it is. The hotter the furnace, the more brilliant it becomes.

Courageous faith is not of this world. We can’t learn it, earn it or reproduce it. We can’t even properly describe it, but when we see it, we know it.

Whether from the top of someone’s shoulders or within a storm ourselves, if we look long enough, we will see the face of God. He is the lifeblood of courageous faith – he is the anchor, the author. He is the breath, the depth and the width.

Strength, valor, grit, and perseverance can be found in the middle of any circumstance.

Today is the day to fill our own cup of trust. We do it by consuming the Word of God and spending time with him. Our cup is filled one spoonful at a time by dependence and brokenness.

Believe. Trust. Grab hold – so when the waters rise, when the seas try to overtake us or fires rage – we will be ready for the miracle of courageous faith. He promises to be there. With us. Our overcomer. Our strong defender. Our God. Our courage and our strength.

 

 

 

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Unclaimed Treasures left at the Beach

Posted by on Jan 11, 2014 in Divine Appointments, Extraordinary Everyday People | 6 comments

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A few nights ago my husband and I headed to the beach with a blanket and beach chairs hoping for a front row seat to watch the sunset. The unseasonably warm January weather drew many ocean lovers out that night. It was a special night, the kind you don’t want to end.

We intentionally parked ourselves close to the water so our view would be unobstructed. Seagull and sandpiper joined us for the show as stunning ribbons of pinks, purples and golden light began to dance on the horizon before us.

Just as the sun was turning into a vibrant ball of fire, my husband was drafted to join the beach photo shoot. I don’t know if it was where we were sitting, our age, or what – but it was picture time and he was asked to accommodate. One couple wanted a romantic shot with the sun as their backdrop. A set of teenage girls wanted the sun to rest between the heart sign they made with their hand, while another guy next to him was trying to get the sun to appear to be balancing on his knee. I couldn’t believe it.

As my attention shifted from the sunset to the photo-op/comedy show next to me, another man came along. He walked up to the shoreline in jeans and collared shirt with rolled up sleeves. He was alone. He looked pensive, and in deep thought. His eyes were fixed on the horizon. He seemed to be standing at attention with his head slightly tipped upward giving him an unapproachable look.

I was close enough to see his facial expressions. The very slight twitches in his brow, around his eyes and lips were the only physical movement he made in the fifteen minutes he stood watching the sunset. He never repositioned his feet or took his hands from his pockets. I wanted to know what he was thinking so badly. Was he praying? Did he come to watch the sunset every night? Was he deeply troubled or was he filled with deep peace? Who was he?

It was clear he was not to be interrupted. I couldn’t just intrude on him like the other photo hungry folks did with us. Or could I?

I believe I missed a moment custom made for me, a potential treasure hunt sent from God. That young man had a story – I’m pretty sure of that. Whether I had something to give him or him to me, is irrelevant. I knew as we walked away, the opportunity would fade into a memory like the sun into the ocean.

We are incomplete without each other, people need one another. God set it up that way. Fulfillment comes when we risk an encounter and allow our lives to intersect. At any given time we are surrounded by the embodiment of thousands of divergent stories milling around us. I don’t want to feel uninvited, intimidated or powerless to engage with the silent status quo I call my neighbors or my community.

I’m glad I have the young man’s picture to serve as a reminder and a challenge. People are worth the risk of discovery. Everyone has a story, they just need to be asked to share it.

How about you? When’s the last time you risked going on a sacred treasure hunt set up for you by God?

“See to it no one misses the Grace of God” Hebrew 12:15

 

 

 

 

 

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The Day I Saw Jesus in the Pharmacy

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013 in Christmas, Extraordinary Everyday People, His Love | 18 comments

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Last minute shoppers crowded into the messy Christmas aisle of our local pharmacy. Items marked down for quick sale were strategically placed for the busy shoppers darting in and out to grab what they needed.

The aisle had everything from ornaments and lights to holiday slippers and crock pots.

I watched as harried mothers and busy shoppers cruised through, snatching up items to throw into their cart and be on their way. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry – everyone, except one old woman halfway down the aisle.

She was small in size, modestly dressed, and leaned on her pull-cart for support. The cart was also used to hold the oxygen tank she was hooked up to. She didn’t look strong enough or healthy enough to be out shopping by herself. Her wispy grey hair hid most of her face from my view, but her frail body and gentle countenance held my attention. I lingered to watch her.

Every item she picked up seemed precious to her. I watched her examine candles, cheap garland and children’s gifts like they were delicate crystal or valuable jewels.

With each item she placed in her basket came another careful evaluation of what she had already selected. She would rearrange the content again and decide whether or not to make a substitution.

I don’t know how long she’d been in the store before I arrived – but what I witnessed took close to an hour.

When she finally finished, she straightened up and pulled out her wallet. Her eyes shifted back and forth between her selections and the cash. She made her way up to the register.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had been watching her.

At the register, the old woman pulled out her cash in one hand and began laboriously unloading her cart with the other. She asked the person at the register to please keep a running total and not go over the amount she was holding in her hand.

Then I saw Jesus. He took on the form of a gentle man, an ordinary man. A man who cared.

He quietly slipped in between the woman and the counter, giving the attendant his credit card. The old woman was so focused on her job of emptying her cart, she missed seeing him.

The gentleman didn’t need recognition. He sweetly stepped aside as the woman finished emptying her basket. Eventually she learned someone had given her a special gift. Her purchase was paid in full. She didn’t jump up and down like a lottery winner, she didn’t even insist on knowing who had done this kind act – she merely clutched her bag of selections and turned in my direction to leave.

With tubes wrapped around her ears and across her nose, her dim eyes released a tear as it made its way down her wrinkled cheek and our eyes met. Mine were damp too.

We both knew we had witnessed Christmas in the rawest form. We had seen Jesus.

“Then Jesus said, I’m telling you the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40

I saw Jesus in the face of the generous gentleman – I also saw Jesus in the face of the old woman who graciously received the gift he gave her.

May we all be as generous to give and to receive this Christmas! I can’t wait for an opportunity to stand in the aisle of the pharmacy again – I just know it’ll be my turn to be Jesus on one end or the other.

 

 

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