Extraordinary Everyday People

Christmas Crowds

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Christmas, Extraordinary Everyday People | 12 comments

people vs masses

 

People Watching has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Even back in high school my boyfriend and I routinely scheduled date nights to do just that – watch people. Of course at the time, the art of people watching also included a lot of sarcasm. To us, the material demanded it.

As we watched people parade by we critiqued their clothing, their hair, their size – everything. And everything was open to our cynical evaluation.

I still love to watch people but time has matured me beyond thinking they’re here for my amusement. While watching people for entertainment might be inappropriate – to not see them at all – seems tragic.

The Christmas season brings people out in droves. Our malls and highways become jammed with holiday shoppers and revelers. It’s easy to look out at crowds of people and see one combined mass, rather than individuals. But when people are viewed as a group, their faces tend to fade away. And nameless, faceless individuals are often those who become disregarded and undervalued.

The art of appropriate and respectful people watching was beautifully modeled by Christ. He had an eagle eye for the person buried in the crowd. He bothered to notice them – to see their faces and know their names.

A large mob of people can be transformed into individuals of worth when we take time to truly look into a person’s face. It causes us to remember we’re all alike. Each one of us share a common, humble beginning as helpless babies. We were each born into the same harsh world. And we are each here by design.

The mystery of the face is one of the most intriguing maps on the planet – and worthy of exploration.

More importantly, every person has value to God. And every person – no matter how annoying they might be, or different, or even humorous – should also have worth to us, simply because God values them.

Won’t you join me in asking God to give us his heart for people this Christmas?

Bother to know the name of someone you frequently see in the marketplace. Ask God to give you boldness to do something extravagant as you interact with people this year. When was the last time you simply let people move ahead of you in one of those long annoying lines? Why not look someone in the eyes and pray a blessing over them this Christmas. People matter, after all, they are us.

As you demonstrate the heart of Jesus this Christmas, ask him to lead you to individuals hidden within the masses. Seek, find and love one person at a time.

I’m fairly certain our Heavenly Father is people watching too.

 

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Ever Wonder What Impresses God?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2013 in Extraordinary Everyday People | 8 comments

bird on fence framed

 

 

Have you ever wondered what impresses God? I have. You know – impressed like we get impressed. Standing ovation, stop and take notice, a gasp of approval – that kind of impressed.

When I think about what society considers impressive, I get confused.

We scream and yell for athletes with great enthusiasm. We pay large amounts of money to hear certain people speak, sing or perform. Our pocketbook can be very telling about what impresses us. And so does our time and attention.

 

So where does God invest his time? What arrests his attention and causes him to gasp with approval.

 

At the end of each day I find myself introspecting. I look back at what I did that day and wonder. Was the God of the universe one bit impressed by me today? Did I do anything that caused him to stop and take notice?

I have an ordinary life. My days are filled with ordinary activities. Nothing I do warrants a standing ovation or autograph. How could I possibly ask my Heavenly Father to notice me, much less be impressed by me.

Public figures with exceptional gifts might have an easier time evaluating their day. The immediate feedback they receive from fans and followers might lead them to assume God was equally impressed with them.

 

The current traditional church messaging provides us with many ways to impress God.

 

My email inbox is filled with those suggestions almost daily. Just in case you don’t receive them, I’ll enlighten you.

  • I can share my faith.
  • I can be consistent about my biblical reading and studying habits.
  • I can give my money to the poor or find a place to invest my time in service.
  • Definitely I should behave morally, responsibly and with integrity.

 

I have to admit – I want to impress God. I want to make him gasp and take notice so I’m inclined to work on these and many other checklists.

 

Such standards and the current cultural behavior suggest a link between our performance and impressing God. But I wonder – does our performance really do that?

 

Personal gifts (or talents) are exactly that – gifts from God. Whether they’re used for him or not – they’re still his and nothing we’ve created by our own efforts. A singer was born with the ability to make pleasurable vocal sounds. It’s a gift. When God listens to a beautiful singer it must be like looking in a mirror – he sees himself. The gift came from him and is for him.

 

I recall a few times in the Bible that God seemed impressed. He stopped and took notice at the baptism and death of his Son. Another time he stood up for the martyrdom of his servant Stephen. He paused to notice as a sinful woman covered his feet in oil and tears. Apparently it’s in our laying down, he rises.

Whether our life is public or private, noteworthy or ordinary – it seems God places the highest value on our selfless moments – on sacred relinquishment.

What do you think?

 

 

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Courage at Sunset

Posted by on Aug 25, 2013 in Courage, Extraordinary Everyday People, His Love | 4 comments

sunset 1

 

“Courage is grace under pressure” Ernest Hemingway

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for God is with you; he will never leave you” Deut. 31:6

 

Sometimes courage seems to appear in sporadic doses while at other times a daily dose of courage is the only way to face the day. Until recently I thought courageous people were born courageous and that courage flowed from them anytime a situation called for it. But recently I’ve witnessed the loveliest demonstrations of courage in unlikely people and in unlikely places. Courage is always noteworthy. Courage inspires.

My friend Lilly lives in a skilled nursing facility, where in my opinion, she doesn’t really belong. Our paths crossed a couple years ago when I was visiting a family member. She stands out from the others who live there. Most residents are either bedridden or in wheelchairs but Lilly can be found upright scurrying about connecting with people most every day. Her passion is people, whether they’re residents or visitors. She prays for the sick and encourages the downtrodden. Her faith is the driving force of her life. She lives to know her faith has influenced others and craves affirmation of that fact.

Lilly doesn’t see herself the way others see her. Externally she appears to be confident, gregarious and lighthearted. Internally she questions herself. She pushes back resentment for being placed in an environment where she doesn’t belong. She’s saddened to reside in the waiting room of death alongside roommates who don’t have the ability to communicate with her. She’s lonely for family and purpose. Her circumstances suggest her influence is over and she’s been forgotten. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face each day with the smile she wears.

Courage is often an internal force we choose to draw from when circumstances demand it. It’s kept alive by a deep sense of hope – by desperation really. Other times, courage claims a circumstance spontaneously like a firefighter who runs into a burning building. Afterward we look back and marvel at its behavior.

Courage isn’t always obvious or cloaked in a uniform. The daily courage Lilly taps into is rooted in the awareness of her own need. Isolation can weaken the ability to recognize courage and threatens its demise. However, courage can be cheered on by friends who understand and love authentically. Care and nurture fan the flames of courage, especially in the sunset hours of life.

Celebrate courage in someone elses life today. Be courageous yourself by claiming your own hope and sharing it with another.

Lord, grant me grace to ground what I do in acceptance of being yours. Place my actions in the stillness of your courage.

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More Cat Tales

Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Extraordinary Everyday People | 12 comments

 

stray cats

 

Out of the mouth of a stray cat I hear the gentle voice of God.

 

He always knows my need. He calls me to himself. His words never accuse and yet always challenge. He accurately pitches questions only I can answer.

 

I love him today – through a transient houseguest.

 

By way of a stray cat I’m challenged to wonder. I wonder how deep my love for humanity or my neighbor actually goes. Do I readily love the unlovely or those who can’t repay me? Am I reluctant to begin an act of service without a foreseeable end in sight? I wonder how closely I look at the price tag before offering myself to a stranger.

 

Suddenly six furry creatures are part of my life, like it or not. The mama cat’s problem has become my problem. No matter how hard I try to stay emotionally removed, I find myself engulfed in their need.

 

 

 

woman-on-road-300x272

 

 

There’s a woman who walks down our two mile road every day. She and her mother moved from Romania to the US several years ago. The mother is quick to accept help whenever we offer, but the daughter wants nothing to do with a ride or a relationship.

 

I recently learned from Dora that her daughter is deeply wounded. She walks five miles to the library everyday in search of a job, always ignoring offers for a ride. I also learned she was physically assaulted when they first moved here, which explains why she wears layered high neck shirts and long pants even on the hottest days. She’s wounded, she’s in need and she is a stray.

 

Admittedly I’ve been angry with her stiff-armed response to me when I offer a ride or try to engage in conversation.

 

 

four kittens

 

 

We had to be extremely creative about finding the mama cat’s kittens in order to rescue them. We had to first earn the trust of the mother in order to create bonds with the kittens. We have solutions this cat family is not even aware of.

 

Until the cats came into my life I had given up on Dora and her daughter. After all, they didn’t want our help and weren’t necessarily our problem. But the cat has become a voice and a mirror. I’m challenged and listening.

 

Who is my neighbor? Who are the poor? And what is my responsibility?

 

(Please hit READ MORE for the Comment Box to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you)

 

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A Different Kind of HARD

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Extraordinary Everyday People, Friendship, Joni and Friends | 4 comments

 outside w chair

 

 

We came because we agreed to be teen group leaders for Joni& Friends Family Camp. Families affected by disabilities came for retreat and respite from their unique lives. The connection was life changing.

 

During the month prior we wrestled to prepare meaningful curriculum, but truthfully, the task seemed impossible with the diverse nature of our group. Over and over we found ourselves saying, “It’s too hard – it can’t be done”. We wanted to throw in the towel and admit defeat.

 

However – after meeting Lori, Barbara, Haley & Brian, along with many others, our definition of hard completely changed.

 

cynthia

 

 

Hard is knowing your husband who is blind and limb-less would literally die if you didn’t feed him. Hard is dressing a son with cerebral palsy who’s 6ft tall. Hard is realizing you’ll never dance at your daughter’s wedding because her particular disability will probably prohibit marriage. Hard is explaining to healthy young siblings why people stare at their brother all the time. That’s hard.

 

No – planning activities for one week out of a year was not hard, it was an honor.

 

Our week was filled with contradiction and challenged perspectives. Many preconceived ideas were obliterated the first evening we welcomed families to camp and into our hearts. It was apparent we had much to learn.

 

 

 worship camp style

 

Want to know what hard really looked like last week?

 

Our STM’s, meaning short term missionaries who served one-on-one from sunup to sundown – AND who paid $400 to do it; taught us about hard. We had several STM’s in our group who spent 10+ hrs a day with someone who couldn’t talk to them. While their friends were engaged in activities – they sat silently beside their camp friend stroking a back or keeping a discreet distance. They were challenged to find ways to enter into their camper’s world discovering keys to unlock connection and develop relationship.

 

Ask any teen if that’s hard. Better yet, ask the parent of the silent teen what it’s like the other 51 weeks of the year.

 

friends for life 

 

Other STM’s ran after their camper with ADHD or autism all day long, clocking between 5-13 miles per day. They chased, laughed, collected banana slugs and loved. Some never finished one meal sitting down all week because their camp friend chose to eat on the run. I wonder what dinner time looks like the other 51 weeks of the year in the homes of these active teens.

 

Last week was a short pause from the hard reality families affected by disabilities face every day.

 

sarah

My husband and I won’t be using the term HARD so flippantly anymore.

 

I only hope I can be as gracious as the STM’s were when small hiccups occur in my day. I hope I can treat people with differences with the same respect and kindness I saw the STM’s and parents give.

 

043

 

Hard for me, will be accepting the challenge to model what I saw.

 

true love

 

“Then Jesus said, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-24

 

 

 

 

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Glimpses through Reflection

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in Extraordinary Everyday People, God Speaks | Comments Off on Glimpses through Reflection

 

There’s nothing quite as beautiful as a shimmering reflection captured in a clear pool of water. Whether it’s a lake, pond or even just a puddle, the gentle ripples seem to grandstand the reflected image. They lure us to a closer look. Reflections are mirrors of sorts. They showcase what stands above or beside it. Depending on the light and volume of water – sometimes the image appears to become an extension of the physical form it mimics, making it hard to tell what’s actual and what is replicated.

Could it be that we’ve been given the opportunity to see a glimpse of the face of God through the reflected image of his master creation, us?

If so, the same God who carefully placed every cell together giving freedom to create its own countenance, reveals Himself through the window of the soul – the face. When we fail to search for and see a person’s uniqueness, we fail to see God and defraud His artistry and design.

Little can be hidden behind our face. With its countless muscles and ligaments, even the tiniest change in expression mirrors the soul. Hurt, pleasure, surprise, disappointment, fear – all stand nakedly exposed to the careful observer’s eye.

In every face, and especially through the small face of a child, I believe we can see the majestic face of God. We see His plans, His gifts, His anguish and most of all His love. We rob ourselves of His majesty when the ‘reflecting puddle’ appears to be too small to bother with, or too filled w/ debris, or clouded by circumstance. Most often our failure to see is simply due to our own distractibility and busy-ness. Instead of looking at every face independently we tend to broadly scan the horizon and see in mass, missing the details – missing the reflection.

It’s never a waste of time to stop and look. Bothering to connect eyeball to eyeball and truly look beyond expressions we see reflection.

I never regret slowing my pace and peering into the window God has provided to reveal Himself to me through – YOU. We may ‘’look through a glass dimly now”, through tiny reflective peak holes, but the day is sure to come when reflected meets real and we’ll all be graced with a panoramic view of His fullness.

I long to see him and I labor to be honest enough with myself and others to allow him to be seen through me too. It’s easy to see Christ in your face. I am confident grace and redemption will allow him to be seen through my muddy little puddle too.

 

1 Sam 16:7b (ESV) “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
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