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

Learned from Children

Building Mountains Guest Post by Michelle Essary

I am grateful to have a special guest post today—by my daughter Michelle Essary.

Boy digging in sand

One day it occurred to me, I have in many ways lived much of my Christian life impractically.

I’m almost 30 years into my walk with God, and about 15 of that have worked in various forms of ministry and still I feel I am only beginning to learn about so much of how God desires to know and be known by me. (I do find a lot of encouragement that God is still teaching me new things and hope he will continue to do so for many years to come.)

It turns out parenthood is what it has taken for me to return to the world of the practical, specifically a practical interaction with God.  So what am I even talking about?  Let me tell you a story:

I went through a period of what I can now accurately label as depression in my childhood, and I had some dark and tough days.

In a Bible class I remember the teacher describing a practical and intimate walk with God looking like “walking down the hallways, in the car, and anytime talking with God.”  At the time my young classmates thought this idea seemed strange and unfamiliar; I remember it feeling very familiar.

I thought to myself at the time, “How do people survive a day without that?”  I could not at the time imagine a day without that kind of relationship and communication with God, with the depth of my need the constancy of my communication with God increasing.

In the desperation and distress of life, Christ has been practical.  In my comfort and capability I often feel lost about how to know this Christ I’ve known so long!  Then one day it hit me: I don’t want to climb mountains right now!

When my husband and I moved to Colorado we sought to hike a few 14,000-foot mountains on our spare weekends, and then many other mountains along the way.

My physical self, (my pregnant, toddler-rearing, husband-loving and counseling self), is not currently interested in climbing past tree line in search of adventure and achievement.

In the same way, my spiritual self is not currently interested in conquering the mountains of spiritual challenge, failure, beauty and victory.  I have found myself in a place of longing, not for mountain climbing, but for mountain building.

My toddler son knows names for many different pieces of construction equipment, and has small toy versions of a few of them.  One of his favorite activities presently is collecting dirt and rocks and re-depositing them in a fashion that seems productive to him. He builds small mounds of dirt and piles of rocks and proudly shows me his creations with great joy.

In recent years I have found myself approaching the throne of God not with confidence and joy like my son with his rocks and dirt, but with timidity.  Instead of a heart of adventure I have found myself burdened by fear, of many things, but I think specifically that God would call me to get climbing in his next great spiritual mountain-climbing expedition.

All I want to do is thank God for the daily joys and trials, for the life he has set just before me in the moment, and ask him to reveal himself not in the thunder on the mountain top, but here and now in my life; in the small parts of each day that eventually add up to the entirety of life.

In my journal I wrote: “I don’t want to climb a mountain today God.  I want to live abundantly in my own home and work–building a mountain one rock and handful of dirt at a time. Let’s build together, God”

And that’s it, that’s what feels practical.  I know so vividly that God is in every moment when I am in desperation or feel at the end of myself.  I want to feel full and know God in every moment in that time as well.

In my own life the focus has shifted from what is global to what is often painstakingly practical.  I find that in order to connect my heart with some worship songs, for example, I do not currently consider all the unreached people of the world, but instead I see my husband, and children, and those I counsel in my small office in Littleton, Colorado.

I still care for the world, but God has brought me to this phase of life.  He has grown and is growing in me a heart for the life I have before me today.

God wants to meet me in the small pieces of daily life and reveal His wisdom, love, truth, beauty and victory there.  He wants me to invite him into the daily challenges and failures, not only the monumental ones.  He is not surprised by my shift in focus; in fact, it is his gift in this season for me!

My legacy may include seasons of great influence, bold adventures or world-changing accomplishments for his glory. But today…today I want to know God in the practical; in the small pieces of life that make up growing children into adulthood, loving my husband well, counseling those he places in front of me at the times of their great need.

I know the desperation will be revisited as seasons change and brokenness continues to be present in the world.  Until then, and again after then, I want to be building mountains; masterpieces of great beauty, and some failures, one stone, brick and handful of dirt at a time.

And today, that is to me the grandest role; it is the role God is asking me to join with Him in.   Because of this, I can approach with joy and confidence the throne of God with every little rock.

 

Michelle Essary

Michelle Essary is a Registered Psychotherapist working on the staff of Southwest Counseling Associates in Denver. She has 11 years experience in Christian ministry and grew up in a missionary family. She served overseas, in high school, college and leadership ministry. Most recently she has been working in leadership development and member care with a large missions organization. Michelle has training in individual, marital and premarital and relationship issues, family and group therapy. She works in missionary and ministry care. She specializes in depression, anxiety, women’s issues, stress management, and identity issues. 

She and husband Brad live with their toddler JB and their dog Calvin. You can follow her on Twitter @essaryme.  And she’s my daughter!

 




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Learned from Children: It Doesn’t Have to Be a Competition

Debbie and Michelle soccerI love competition—as long as no one gets hurt.  I can cheer for my teams loudly and heartily, especially for my kids’ teams and for the Texas Longhorns. I can tell the refs what I think as well.

Steve is pretty competitive as well—but he is always looking at a game from a coach’s perspective.  When he coached soccer, he scouted and strategized and at halftime adjusted so we always put our strength where they were weakest.

Our daughter Debbie made everything a competition from a very early age.  Her kindergarten teaches suggested that she couldn’t win every game they played.  If she was going to the playground, it was a race to get there first.  Even picking up her room became a contest.  And if her soccer team was losing, she took personal responsibility to get the win.

Then God sent us Michelle.  It’s like He left out competition completely when He made her.  Which often frustrated Debbie, because she wanted someone to compete with.

Michelle enjoyed a good game—but she was mostly interested in being with her sister or her friend.  And she would sometimes join in Debbie’s contests—because she loved to be with her.

But winning was not such a priority for her.   Her relationships were the main thing.

Her six years of soccer illustrate this well.

She signed up to play soccer because Debbie played.  At 5 years old it wasn’t too competitive.  The next two years were fun because she made friends and no one knew who won.  And she was actually quite good—she played with skill and smarts.

But as she got older, she continued to play for two primary reasons:  to please her parents and to be with her friend, Karen.

Even though we told her she didn’t need to play soccer, she thought we wanted her to—it was what our family did.  And she loved to be with Karen.  Finally she believed we would be fine if she quit.  And she knew she could still be with Karen outside of soccer.

So she quit!  And oh the joy!  The freedom! She began to focus on her art.  She discovered she loved encouraging and helping others.  Today she’s a counselor, encouraging and helping people.

Her non-competitive spirit has been challenged, though, since she married Tuscaloosa-born Brad, who is Crimson Tide through and through.  I have been amazed to see her ardently cheering for Alabama!

What about you?  How are you different from some of your family or friends? 

C 2014 Judy Douglass




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Learned from Children: Some Things Don’t Change

Legoland engry

When my children were young, I often said to them the same life truths over and over.  Such as:

     Know that you are loved so much—by us and by God.

     Treat people the way you want to be treated.

     Your happiness is not dependent on good things happening—it is your choice, no                matter what the circumstances.

     Focus on the good.

     Thank God in everything—what you like and what you don’t like.

     Being kind is better than being right (winning an argument).

My grandchildren are in town this week, and we have been having such fun.

But not everything has gone as planned.

Our trip to Legoland was great, but each time they got to the front of the line of a roller coaster, lightning forced a shut down.  Major disappointment.

And I found myself saying, “Things don’t always go the way you want.  You can pout and be upset, or you can choose to focus on the good that happened and the fun you had.

Today Uncle Josh took the three older boys tubing on Lake Mary Jane.  Aidan had an awesome ride.  Just as it was Ethan’s turn, the boat stopped.  The motor was running, but not the boat.  The propeller had fallen off.  Josh used the trolling motor to return, and Ethan was not happy about his slow ride.  And Carter, who had finally decided he wanted to try it, didn’t get a ride at all.

I said, “I know you’re disappointed, but you can be miserable or you can choose happiness and thank God and Uncle Josh.”

Of course, with four little boys around there is a lot of crazy, active play, lots of laughter, and not a few tears and whines and accusations.

Quite a few times I have said, “Treat your brother the way you want to be treated.” Or “It’s better to be kind than to be right.” 

All of which reminds me of myself.  I’m a slow learner when it comes to really learning the truths for living and loving.  My children were slow learners.  And it appears my grandchildren are as well.

I guess it runs in the family.  Mine—and the broader human family. 

But I have found those truths I tried to instill in my daughters and son have proven true for me over and over.  And I have seen my children now living them out pretty consistently.

So I have great hope that my grandboys and grandgirls will “get it” also and grow to live in the power of God’s Spirit, who makes these challenges possible.

What about you?  Which of these truths is hard for you to live? 

C2014 Judy Douglass




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The Gifts I Love to Give My Grandchildren

Gifts for children

I love gifting.  To most anyone, but especially to my grandkids.

The first words they say to me when I visit them or they visit me:  “Do you have a surprise for us, Jeedoo?”

And of course I do.  You won’t, however, usually find me giving the latest toy or “must have” item. (Though I have given them lots of Legos.)

I want my grandchildren—and other children I know–to enjoy and appreciate the gifts they receive from me.  But I also want them to have real value for their lives.  So my presents to them usually fall in one of these six categories:

Books

My first gifts—new babies, showers, every birthday and every Christmas—are always books.  I offer variety—old favorites, classics, new releases.   Board books, picture books, beginning readers.  Topics change:  trucks, tractors and Star Wars always win with the boys.  Girls often loved princesses and horses.

I love reading to my grandkids, then letting them read to me, and finally just watching them reading on their own.  Books provide amazing adventures, take them to exotic places, introduce them to real heroes.

Imagination

This is a broad category.  The boys love building and constructing; recent gifts have included Star Wars Legos and Lincoln Logs.  Jewelry kits and cooking always please many girls.  Music of every kind is a hit. And I give art supplies galore—appropriate for every age, using every medium. The boys especially love painting dragons and cars and dinosaurs they can then play with.

Hand puppets play a key role in our frequent storytelling—lions and kangaroos and mice and koalas—and the all-time favorite is a realistic alligator.  Costumes allow them to be superheroes or knights or ninjas or cowboys, or the latest pre-teen idol.  A sand and water table has given the grandboys hours of wet fun on hot days.

Action

One of my best gifts was the backyard playset—swings, a glider, a slide, a climbing wall, a fort–in my backyard. They have spent hours playing together there.  Our own bounce house has been a favorite, plus a slip-n-slide, bikes, a spring horse, even a pogo stick.

And sports equipment.  So many balls of every kind, shoes and practice shorts for soccer, soccer goals, a punching bag.  They burn up some of that incessant energy, strengthen their bodies and grow their skills.

Experiences

I love to take my grandkids on fun outings.  Books stores and pet stores are always fun, the zoo is amazing—except I can’t keep up with them—and any place with a train or a carousel delights.   Science museum, children’s museum, even Chuck E. Cheese—we do it all together.  And the beach—can’t forget the beach.

I used to teach horseback riding, and a friend has been willing to give some lessons to all of my grands.  I love sharing my love of horses with them.

Living in Orlando provides so many attractions.  Gatorland was a big hit—we have pictures of them on an alligator and draped in a python for a real memory.  One year’s Christmas gift was an annual pass to Sea World for all the local family members.  This past year the kids and their parents got passes to a climbing gym, which the boys love.

Time

Any of these gifts can fall under the Time topic—if I do the different activities with them.  But sometimes Time means a trip to Chick-fil-A or watching a movie together, or playing games on my I-pad.  I love to just be with them.

I also give them Time they don’t really know about:  I pray for them all the time.

Giving

This last category is one I did with my children, and am now beginning to do with the grandkids:  Giving.  I love to help them choose toys or clothes to give to someone else who can use them.  I also give to Angel Tree in their names—providing gifts for children whose parents are in prison.  Together we support a Haitian child through Compassion—she loves writing to her.  I hope to expand this category more as the kids are old enough to understand their own giving.

Do I ever give a gift just because they want something?  Sure.  And I buy little trinkets and snacks when I go to visit them.  But most of the time I seek to give life-expanding presents that keep on giving.

And so far they all still love their Jeedoo (which is what they call me).

What about you?  What are your favorite gifts for the children in your life?

C2013 Judy Douglass




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My 7 Best Mother’s Day Gifts

Sometimes I think I have to write something new and refreshing for every special occasion—such as Mother’s Day.  But then as I see what I wrote last year, I realize I really don’t have anything more or better to say.  Rereading this post about the best Mother’s Day Gifts I have received again so touched me. So I’m just sharing it with you again.  I hope it blesses you.

Debbie, Josh, Michelle

Debbie, Josh, Michelle

I have received many wonderful Mother’s Day gifts from my three children—and I have been grateful for each one.  But they have given me gifts they didn’t even know, and those have been the best of all.  I’m sure I could think of dozens, but here are 7 life-changing presents from my two daughters and my son.

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