The Homeless Veteran: Guest Post by Bobby Hegedish

Engaging with homeless people I encounter has become a joy and a passion for me.  My friend Bobby Hegedish has discovered a similar calling. I think you will love his story of a homeless veteran. Orlando (although a city like Cleveland where I call home) has a much different vibe than most of the cities I have been to. Ethnic, cultural and economical diversity paint the town colors that make it known as “The City Beautiful.” I don’t usually find myself walking the streets of downtown Orlando past 11:00 PM. However, walking the streets recently to where my parked car was located gave me a sense of being small. Surrounded by skyscrapers and people, from wanderers to third-shift workers, I had a sense of being invisible. But in a moment of discrete observation and contemplation, the city around me became like a scene from a good documentary. What happened next would have made a great scene in such a film. Muttered words I could barely understand came from a man passing by on my right, head to the ground and papers in hand. From when I was a child, I have had a particular burden for those who had less and the homeless. Regardless of how they got there, it was their reality. Yet in small suburban Cleveland growing up, there weren’t many people with those situations to interact with. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Stopping in my tracks, I turned to the man in a split-second decision to attempt a conversation with him. I’ve tried many ways of serving the poor throughout the past several years: giving money or food, taking them out to eat, giving rides, and even a place to stay. These have been exercises as well as tests of faith for me. However, it is so easy to dismiss and project critical, judgmental thoughts onto folks like this man, who I found out was named David. These initial heart-level responses are inherent: external circumstances which trigger pre-disposed responses. Call it “flight Read more

Write the Vision: Guest Post by Stacey Thacker

  “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2:2) A couple of years ago I found a kindred heart on the pages of God’s Word. His name was Habakkuk. He has a tiny three-chapter book in the Old Testament with his name on it. Maybe I liked him immediately because he wrestled with God. Or perhaps it was because of something God told Habakkuk to do, even though he was feeling fresh out of amazing like me. “What did God tell Habakkuk to do? He told the prophet to pick up the chisel and write the vision on a tablet. God also told him how to do it. The phrase “keep it simple.” Now consider that God had to tell farmer-turned-prophet Habakkuk to keep his message simple. He didn’t have a hashtag, images purchased from iStock, or even colored pens to make his message extra special. He didn’t have a Journaling Bible or a You-Tube video. He had a simple message written on tablets of stone, and God said, “Hey, Habakkuk, just write what you saw. Nothing less. Nothing more.” When God speaks we don’t need to dress it up or make it fancy. His Word, his vision, his instructions are enough. God told Habakkuk to write it down. And he did. I know what you may be thinking: “But I’m not a writer. I failed writing in college. I avoid writing grocery lists. This doesn’t apply to me.” Before you move on, though, let me just put this out there for you to consider: Habakkuk was a farmer. Peter was a fisherman. David was a shepherd. Matthew was a tax collector. James was a carpenter. I am a mom. Write the vision on people's hearts. You don’t have to identify as a writer to write down faith-affirming words inspired by God. You simply have to be willing. And whether anyone sees your words or you tuck them away in a journal like I did for years, your words matter because your soul matters. Writing is indeed clarifying soul work. And isn’t that what we need Read more

Our Loving Bitmojis--Just in Time for Valentine's

We would know we love each other if we never said the words because of the little things we do daily to demonstrate Read more

Lingering in the Word of God Brings Transformation

This is the third post from my word for the year—linger. What does a true follower of Jesus look like and live like? I ask that question often, especially as I read—and linger--in the Word God. Today I was in Romans 12—which is abounding with words that unveil the beautiful, character-growing transformation that God has promised to do in our lives. A Living Sacrifice The chapter is brimming with instructions to encourage us to surrender to God’s labor of love in our lives. So we will take a brief look at just verses 1-2, and hopefully continue through the chapter in later posts. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NLT) Paul is addressing you and me as well as the believers in Rome: brothers and sisters—all of us! What he wants to say to us is so vital and essential that he pleads with us. Because of all God has done for us, he reasons, we must give our bodies to God. This giving of ourselves is no small matter—we are to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. A living sacrifice? Clearly something different than the sacrifices of animals. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? (Here’s a hint: We will find out what that looks like as we encounter the verses that follow in the rest of the chapter.) And a holy sacrifice? Me? You? Holy? Only because we have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus. And acceptable to God? Again, only because we have been bought by Jesus’ death on the cross. How does our Father receive our very personal sacrifices? As worship. Perhaps this giving of our living selves is Read more

Hidden Figures - the work and worth of women at Tim Fall

  For years I have been an advocate for the staff women in our ministry, seeking greater opportunities for them to use their gifts. In more recent years my friend and acquaintance circle has expanded to embrace many women of color. So it's no surprise that I loved Hidden Figures. It is a beautiful story of overcoming prejudice and discrimination to accomplish great things.  And I am grateful that Tim Fall invited me to write a personal reflection on the movie. I hope this "review" will get you up and on your way to see it.. Here's a taste, then head on over to Tim's blog, Just One Train Wreck After Another, to keep reading.   My stomach knotted. Already? Would there be trouble even in the opening scene? Three young black women on their way to work at NASA in the early 1960s stalled on the side of a country road. As the “mechanical one” worked to fix the problem, a police officer pulled up behind them. Cheerfulness turned to confrontation. My whole body tensed as I remembered such encounters in books I had read, in movies I had seen, in stories my friends had related. Gratefully “working at NASA” rescued them and the officer escorted them to their jobs. I attended the showing of Hidden Figures with the global leaders of Cru. It’s become tradition at the annual Executive Team retreat to take a break and attend a current significant movie. I asked why Hidden Figures was chosen, though there were other important films available in the same theater.... Keep reading: https://timfall.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/hidden-figures-the-work-and-worth-of-women/ What about you?  What emotions did this stir? c2017 Judy Read more

Becoming Kindling

The Homeless Veteran: Guest Post by Bobby Hegedish

Engaging with homeless people I encounter has become a joy and a passion for me.  My friend Bobby Hegedish has discovered a similar calling. I think you will love his story of a homeless veteran.

Orlando skyline

Orlando (although a city like Cleveland where I call home) has a much different vibe than most of the cities I have been to. Ethnic, cultural and economical diversity paint the town colors that make it known as “The City Beautiful.”

I don’t usually find myself walking the streets of downtown Orlando past 11:00 PM. However, walking the streets recently to where my parked car was located gave me a sense of being small.

Surrounded by skyscrapers and people, from wanderers to third-shift workers, I had a sense of being invisible. But in a moment of discrete observation and contemplation, the city around me became like a scene from a good documentary. What happened next would have made a great scene in such a film.

Muttered words I could barely understand came from a man passing by on my right, head to the ground and papers in hand. From when I was a child, I have had a particular burden for those who had less and the homeless. Regardless of how they got there, it was their reality. Yet in small suburban Cleveland growing up, there weren’t many people with those situations to interact with.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Stopping in my tracks, I turned to the man in a split-second decision to attempt a conversation with him. I’ve tried many ways of serving the poor throughout the past several years: giving money or food, taking them out to eat, giving rides, and even a place to stay. These have been exercises as well as tests of faith for me. However, it is so easy to dismiss and project critical, judgmental thoughts onto folks like this man, who I found out was named David. These initial heart-level responses are inherent: external circumstances which trigger pre-disposed responses. Call it “flight or fight” if you will, but the heart responds before we decide what to act on.

My initial heart response was to stay in my zone and keep walking, but one look into David’s face had me standing square with him on the sidewalk. He handed me a poem he had written. It was about his journey and how God has pulled him through. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that lingering deep in the corners of my somewhat guarded heart were questions of this man’s intentions. Did he want money? Did he need food? A friend? Regardless, it didn’t matter anymore as he began to pour out his life story to me.

Homeless veteran, divorced with children he hasn’t seen in who knows how long, and ill with lupus–my interest in the affairs of David’s life grew with each insight he gave me.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14)

After close to an hour listening and sharing, he asked for a bus pass. At this point the realization came that regardless of what brought this man to the place he is, providing a bus pass for him was something I had ample ability to do.

We hugged, said our goodbyes, and left with the subtle joy of having made a new friend. Let me be honest. Even after a rich relational experience with an unlikely friend, I had doubts. Doubts about what he would do with the bus pass money I gave him. Doubts about his story. Doubts that I truly served him rather than enabled him.

It was at that very moment of clouding doubts that I came to a man lying on a bench attached to the sidewalk. Getting closer to the man, I noticed he had holes in his feet. Yes, holes. This would have caused me some alarm if I didn’t immediately realize this was a bronze statue, molded into the bench itself. Standing somewhat baffled at the placement and intention of such a piece of art, the plaque to the right of the bench gave me clarity to what was before me:

Homeless Jesus plaque

 “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

Homeless Jesus

This moment seemed surreal. The timing of my interaction with David, my ensuing doubts, followed by stumbling upon this sculpture was too timely to not be an acknowledgement of the Divine hand behind this orchestrated experience.

Honestly, I felt broken. This night was pivotal in my walk with Christ and the way I am challenged to live out the Gospel of grace toward all people, especially the poor and needy. It was as if I touched a fraction of God’s very heart, or rather, that He touched mine.

Weeping on the bench from a mixture of emotions, including the regret that burdened my soul from judging David’s motives and the pure joy of having a real-time moment with our living God, I asked Him to change me and take me on the adventure of entering other’s stories. To help me love and serve those He calls me to love and serve–because He cares deeply for them, regardless of status. It is in His ability to soften a heart of stone and indifference that I put my hope.

“The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:21)

What about you? How have you been challenged to love outside of your comfort zone?




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When I Cooked for My Church Family

antioch-eating-2

“The food is good, Miss Judy,” said the 4-year-old, and the 6-year-old agreed, “The food is good, Miss Judy.”

Our church family meets on Sunday nights, beginning with dinner together at 5. Different people, or gospel communities or couples prepare dinner for us all—usually 50-60 people. Sometimes we get pizza or subs.

My life is full, I travel often and cooking is not my great strength. But I was always feeling I should sign up to do dinner. So January 8 was my day to serve our church family.

I decided to make Javanese Dinner, a large group meal introduced to our ministry staff decades ago by Vonette Bright. I remember preparing it more than 30 years ago. (My apologies to my Indonesian friends—I don’t know why it is called Javanese.)

I went to work. The recipe called for stewed chickens, but I preferred crockpots. I used my two and two borrowed from neighbors to slow cook 6 chickens. Getting two into the larger pots was a challenge, but I managed–and my house smelled wonderful.

I surely don’t remember that it was so much work to debone and shred all that meat. It took me several hours.

The dish calls for a buffet approach, piling up your food on your plate.

First came the rice. I had never tried to make rice for 50 people before—and I was not successful. It just wouldn’t cook enough and stayed very wet. I passed it off as Asian rice, which is usually not as dry as what we mostly serve in the U.S.

Then came the chicken. It was good, but needed more seasoning. Next time (if that ever comes) I will add more salt and pepper and a few other spices.

Then the toppings, which I chopped as needed: cheese, green onions, celery, carrots, pineapple, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, flaked coconut, pumpkin seeds—you can add what you want.

You top it off with the juice from cooking the chicken. Again, more seasoning was needed.

I was mostly pleased, except of course for the rice and the lack of seasonings. But all those wonderful people at church loved it! They went back for seconds. They kept telling me how good it was. I think they were truly surprised that I could cook at all, especially for 50 people.

But the best was to hear those girls tell me they loved it.

And the rest of the best is being a part of a church that’s a family and eats together and encourages the others, even my meager efforts.

And the kids know my name.

What about you? What helps your church feel like a family? 

C2017 Judy Douglass

 

 

 




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What to Wear as a Child of God: Jesus

I thought I had finished my series on What to Wear as a Child of God, from Colossians 3. But I neglected the most important clothing of all.

 baby jesus

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ….(Romans 13:14)

Jesus is the embodiment of all that should describe those who follow Him. Paul admonishes us:

“…you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:9-14)

So when I am overwhelmed at the thought of consistently living compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love—which would be almost any day—I am so grateful that in reality I just have to put on Jesus—He is all those virtues.

And how do I put on Jesus?

He took the first step:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Jesus put on flesh—He became like us—so we could become like Him. It’s called incarnation—God became human.

And that’s what we are celebrating at this Advent season—the coming of Jesus to give us new lives, new hope, even new clothes.

So as I look for the appropriate dress for a party, a family gathering, even a church service, I can’t go wrong when I put on the just right attire for every Christmas celebration.

I put on Jesus.

What about you? Need a change of clothes?

 C2016 Judy Douglass

Related posts:

What to Wear as a Child of God: Love

What to Wear as a Child of God: Compassion

 




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How’s Your Heart: Questions from Michelle Beckman

Michelle and friends

Michelle Beckman’s memorial service was beautiful, like Michelle. Tears, laughter, insight. We saw into the life of this amazing woman. And we saw how she used questions to always turn the conversation to “you” and how “you” were doing.

A few weeks before Michelle left for her new home in Heaven, I had a delightful two hours with her. She seemed to have some energy, and every time I said I should leave, she said, “Please stay.” And every time I tried to ask the questions so I could hear how she was, she said talking made her tired, and she asked me another question.

As person after person told of Michelle’s impact on their lives—and on so many others—it became clear that she had an amazing gift to draw people out, to discern needs, to mention just the right Scriptures, to have the most encouraging response, to pray the best prayer.

Michelle with her family

Michelle and friends

Questions were her currency.

I have gathered here—from a Facebook question I asked–some of the questions Michelle frequently used to get to the heart of every person she encountered. She almost always began with, “How’s your heart?”

Stacey: She always asked me “how can I pray for you?” This would be a question asked even without the deep conversation but more of a “hey! How are you?” kind of thing.

Lori: But it probably still made you pause and think. Because you can’t answer that question with, “I’m fine” it made you be sincere with her because she didn’t ask you the typical How are you?

Katie: Michelle was real—she could ask questions and get answers, because she shared her struggles and her life as well.

Kelly: How are you and Jesus doing? How is your heart? How did (insert something in my life here) go? How are you feeling about that? Where is Jesus meeting you in this?

(Insert affirmation here)

(Insert Michelle sharing vulnerably from her life experience here)

I hear you saying _________. ^This one is key, because this is how Michelle always always showed me she was         not only listening, but she cared and understood.

How can I pray for you? Let’s pray right now (enter into extended time of specific prayer).

Lori: Kelly, those were great. I love how you outlined a typical conversation.

Shawna: How is your heart? What are you learning? What has He been saying to you lately?

Joy: Always asked me ‘how’s your heart’! Loved it. Because she really wanted to hear the answer!

Bethany: “Where is God in this?” It was always a hard question to answer, but answering it always revealed a whole lot of truth to my heart. I don’t remember the follow up, but I believe it was something like, “Where do you want him to be?”

Bethany: Yes, it usually came when I was dealing with something hard. Her response was always to listen intently and then, when the time was right, to relate her experiences to mine with “hope on the horizon” as she put it.

Naomi: If I was fighting back tears, not letting them come, she wouldn’t let me get away with it. She would acknowledge and draw me out. Something to the effect of, “It looks like you have tears in your eyes. What’s behind those?”

I’m sure other friends could add more questions.

Michelle with Desiree

Michelle with friends

I’m missing Michelle—I was used to seeing her almost weekly. But, of course, I am rejoicing at her joy! And hoping I can practice more of what she lived.

What about you? What questions do you ask?

C2016 Judy Douglass

You can watch a video of her memorial service here.

Related post: Kingdom Women: Michelle Beckman




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What to Wear as a Child of God: Patience

waiting with patience for bamboo to grow

I am rejoicing at hard evidence that I have truly grown in patience.

All my things are red: Mustang convertible, luggage, MacAir, Iphone, Mini-Ipad.  And so was the Vodaphone charging station in the Lisbon airport. There I sat, surrounded by red, charging all my electronics.

My assistant Michelle came running up: “Quick, we have to get through Immigration to get to the Club, and four planes just landed. So I quickly pulled my cords, wrapped them up, grabbed my phone and ipad and rushed to Immigration.  Leaving my red Mac lying on the red Vodaphone station—almost invisible.

After immigration (which quickly filled up behind us), we had to go through security again. Sigh. Oh no! Alarm!  My laptop was missing.  Immediately I could see it—red on red. Michelle tried to go back where we had just come, but no way. We made it to the club, I got settled, and she took off.  Two hours later, she returned, no computer, but with a promise from the airport police to look through the security footage.

I was amazed at my peace of mind and heart, at my ability to say Thank You, Lord. I could hardly believe how patient I was. And so grateful for good work God has done in my life to bring me to this point.

And it’s lasted.  The police found the computer, turned into a nearby store by an honest traveler.  But it’s been more than two weeks, and my forever companion computer is still in Lisbon, making round trips between airport police and city police via UPS.  Not only has patience prevailed, but so has laughter. (It helps that I have a loaner.)

As we look again at “what to wear” as a child of God, we turn to Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

We all know what patience means—and we often assure others that patience is not our strength. Like the new dad who said, “I have no patience for all this baby stuff.” Or the mom who waits impatiently for her daughter to get home from a date.  Or the boss who declares, “I am losing my patience with your carelessness.” Or my long wait for a prodigal to see the light and turn from the “dark side.”

The dictionary gives us these definitions for patience:

  1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation (often not so easy to do)
  2.  an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay:                         to have patience with a slow learner.
  3.  quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence—to work with patience. Also patience in suffering.

Synonyms often help us grasp the true meaning of the word: composure, diligence, endurance, fortitude, grit, humility, moderation, perseverance, persistence, poise, restraint, self-control. (Hmm—so how am I doing?)

Scripture reveals the patience of God to us:

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

“ What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—“ (Romans 9:22-23)

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

God’s Word tells us of the rewards of patience:

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) 

“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:12)

And there are admonitions to be patient:

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (James 5:7)

How? How do we become patient? It seems impossible for many of us. God does not leave us helpless:

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, (Colossians 1:11)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; (Galatians 5:22-23)

Once again we see that God calls us to the impossible—in this case to grow into a patient person.  Then He provides the means—the powerful, available, doing the impossible Holy Spirit.

What about you? Are you becoming a patient person? 

c2016 Judy Douglass

Related posts: What to Wear Series

 




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