How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

How Many Jackets Do You Wear?

An eighteen year old watches us set up tables of donated bread as wind whips through the parking lot. Children’s clothing covers another table. I asked the eighteen year old if he needed a jacket. Motioning him to follow me to my car, I showed him a few men’s jackets. He selected a red fleece pullover, smiling as he took it into his hands. After receiving the pullover, I sensed he felt more at ease with us. 

Donated bread can bridge differences, equalizing deliverer and receiver. For a few minutes, we meet in Christ’s love. Helpful children place bags of bread on tables, talking to each other as they sort through clothing. Grateful to receive some bread and newer clothing, wind gusts carry their many thank you’s into the air, including the thanks of a shy eighteen year old, now with a red fleece pullover to keep him warm.

Can you spare a jacket?

Can you spare a jacket?

Do you own extra jackets? Have you considered giving one to someone who needs it more than you? When you give anything away, Christ’s love will fill your heart.  

  “He also said to them, ‘Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread  because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.’” (Luke 11:5-8, CEB)

Like an eighteen year old young man, some people are too embarrassed to ask for help. If called upon, some people will get up in the middle of the night, maneuvering through a house full of people to help.

What if people helped the needy before they had to ask?

 

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Hope

Have you helped someone get along a little better today?

My family picks up bread from a local Panera Sunday nights. Monday morning, we package the bread into family friendly portions. Monday afternoons, we take the bread to local motels filled with homeless families and children. Today we had an abundance of bread, french baguettes, dozens of bagels, loaves and loaves of sliced bread. Almost every week, regardless of the quantity of Panera’s donated leftovers, God provides the exact amount of bread to serve the children and families who stand in line to receive.

Today was no different except we had 3 bags of bagels left. At the last minute, we encountered a mom and her children who were grateful to receive the bagels, stuffing them into their school backpacks.

My niece’s son is a freshman at college. We “face timed” with him last night, meeting his roommates and a study partner. Introduced to amazing college freshmen planning majors in biomedical, aerospace and other engineering specialties, we talked and laughed together.

We talked about the perspective of the Block “O” of Life, its purposes and goals.

A Block "O" for Life

A Block “O” for Life

This afternoon, I texted my nephew with a visual of the Block “O.” He was preparing to donate blood. I was humbled by his giving spirit. I recalled times he visited us, helping us package bread, pass it out, helping to deliver Christmas and Easter meals to families living in poverty. I am grateful that there is a new generation that realizes the importance of caring and giving to people living on the fringes of society, those who are marginalized through uncontrollable and unforeseen circumstances. There is hope.

Because the poor won’t be forgotten forever, the hope of those who suffer won’t be lost for all time. Psalm 9:18, CEB

 

Road Trip Gifts

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A luncheon guest gave me a copy of her recently published book. At a Maryland rest stop, Black Eyed Susans were in full bloom. 

Hosting gatherings of family and friends were priceless gifts.

The house at Ocean Grove turned out to be a near-perfect place to host family and friends at God’s Square Mile on the Jersey Shore.IMG_2457

 

 

 

Shopping for groceries at Wegmans was a gift. We looked forward to our daily trip to Wegmans.

We adjusted our original road trip schedule to attend Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit at Ocean Grove. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear Louie Giglio, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, Tyler Perry and many more leadership experts.

Road Trips can be a quiet time away from over-scheduled calendars, telephones, emails and to-do lists. One never knows what kinds of gifts wait to be opened.

Are you familiar with the movie Soul Surfer, the true story of Bethany Hamilton who was attacked by a shark while surfing in Hawaii? A speaker at a recent writers workshop is an editor for a Christian teen magazine, Sisterhood. Her presentation was great but I had no idea how it would impact me in the days to come. About a month after the workshop, I learned my granddaughter liked surfing, then I recalled the presentation. The speaker talked about Bethany Hamilton. During coffee with the mom of a 12 year old, I asked her if she knew about Bethany Hamilton. “We just finished a study of the movie. I have it. Would you like to borrow it?” she replied. I purchased the movie bundled with the downloadable study guide and gave it to my granddaughter, along with the magazine article and a subscription.  What happens next is in God’s hands.

On Sunday, Andy Stanley said, “You have no idea and I have no idea what God is up to in the world.” Stanley said, “I can’t, He can, He can through me.”

When you are on the road, look for what God is up to in the world. The 12 year old’s mom calls moments such as these “God winks.”

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

On touchdown, 3 days before graduation, I felt like a roadie touring with a sophisticated rock band sitting in the last seat of a tour bus. “What do you want me to do next?” was my mantra. I rounded corners on photos for photo boards, swept floors and observed divas preparing delicious dishes for a graduation celebration. I had become a graduation party stage hand. I loved every minute of it.

Two divas rode in on clouds of expertise, taking over the kitchen to prepare mac and cheese and cheesy potatoes from family recipes. One of the diva’s sons was graduating the same day. Giggles and fairy dust filled the kitchen as macaroni cooked and potatoes were prepared filling the kitchen with aromas of comfort food. Within an hour, several casseroles complete with baking instructions were relayed to us “roadies.” The kitchen was left cleaner than before the divas arrived. Excited chaos reigned as we watched clouds carry the divas of delicious dishes to the next destination.

On the day of the party, a family friend drove up carrying more fruit than Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda could fit on one of her signature fruit hats. If you want fruit kabobs that could grace the cover of any food magazine, you will need to call Melissa.

I don’t know what would we have done without the graduate’s friend David. He schlepped piping hot casseroles and kabobs to a neighbor’s waiting garage. It is encouraging to know that David goes to the same university that our high school graduate will be attending in the fall.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

But wait, it is graduation day! Rocco and Ginger watch as the graduate leaves the house for the formal graduation ceremony. A pot of geraniums sit on the porch. (Geraniums have all sorts of meanings but according to the International Geranium Society, the flowers Americans most commonly refer to as “geraniums” are not true geraniums at all, but are actually pelargoniums. Both belong to the Geraniaceae family and both are native to South Africa, imported to America in the 1700s. Though similar in appearance they have notable differences.) Doesn’t this description of geraniums sound like the human race? Aren’t we all similar in appearance but have notable differences? Don’t we all belong to God’s family whether we were “imported or were born here?”

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

I’m a good “roadie” who takes instructions well, especially for celebration preparations. Congratulations to all Graduates. To some of you, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your celebrations.

Twenty-two Graduates in One Community

Twenty-two Graduates in One Area of the Community

Every day is a cause for celebration. How are you celebrating God’s amazing gifts He has given you?

Graduate with Parents

Graduate with Parents

Midnight Pizza

He had given me a personal invitation to attend a performance of Les Misérables, not knowing if he would be selected for a part in the musical. Auditions had not been scheduled.

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His home turned into a gathering place for friends planning to audition for roles in the musical. Fifteen pairs of shoes sometimes sat by the front door, abandoned by teens taking the stairs to couches or seats on the floor to listen to music or watch DVDs of professionals performing roles they would audition for. The teens encouraged each other, bonding like family.

Auditions closed. Casting was completed. He and his friends were selected to be part of the cast!  Months of hard work paid off. The all-important production crew and orchestra would work tirelessly to ensure excellent performances. The school edition of Les Misérables was coming to life.

I attended the second night’s performance with four family members. Afterwards, we went back stage. Tired but smiling cast members and crew were showered with congratulations, hugs, and flowers from relatives and friends. The excitement was palpable. I left with his parents. While driving to the house, he called his mom to ask her to order pizza for his friends.  “How many are coming?  What kind of pizza?  Are you sure?” she asked.

Five cast members arrived at the house.  We talked with  “Jean Valjean, the Bishop, Marius, Enjolras” and others while they were eating pizza, discussing the performance. Conversation turned to family. Between pizza slices, one cast member said that grandparents would be arriving from New Mexico.  Others told of their family’s plans. It was after midnight.

The family room was prepared to accommodate the cast for a few hours of sleep before a 7:20am performance the next morning. Pillows, quilts and blankets dropped from an upstairs landing.  A mattress from an adjacent room was moved to the family room floor. “Javert” arrived after most cast members had retreated to the family room. He joined them after having pizza.

Midnight pizza with friends on a school night may be unusual.

I observed the teenagers treating each other with care like I imagined they had treated each other while preparing for auditions and performances.

ImageIn Les Misérables, Jean Valjean experiences the mercy and grace of God through the Bishop’s actions when he was caught stealing. Valjean’s life turned around in a significant way though he suffered from his past.  I watched this group of high school students care for each other, bound together through a musical, yet bound deeper through sharing God’s love with each other.

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables was published in 1862.  The life lessons remain relevant today.

Take a few minutes to watch this short video for a spiritual perspective.

Thirty-Dollar Salad

A Spring Break houseguest surprised us Easter morning with a personalized basket full of candy and chocolate.  We went to church to celebrate Easter.  A few days later, after our guest had departed, we found a thank you note with money designated for the next week’s church offering.  Our hearts were touched.  We keep a guest book and require all overnight guests to sign.  Departing the building is not permitted unless guests have signed the book!  Nothing else is required.

A week following the departure of our guests, I attended a program covering how older generations can communicate their faith journey to younger generations.  “Be transparent.  Share your story.”  The instructor talked about serving as a youth pastor, describing how 4th graders were presented with Bibles.  The 4th graders were also given a pitcher.  The pitcher was to remind them that they were a vessel that God fills up so that they could do what God wants them to do, filling themselves up with the right things so that they could pour themselves out for others.  The instructor told the class that John 13:34 was written on the bottom of every pitcher.  I loved the idea.

I had already ordered Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling, to give to our teenage Spring Break guests.  After hearing about the pitcher, I was on a mission to find the perfect pitchers for our young guests.  I pondered where I could find pitchers.

About a week later, my husband asked me to pick up his favorite salad from a local restaurant.  I had several errands already scheduled, picking up and dropping off donated hotdogs, chips, sodas and buns for an upcoming food pantry lunch, dropping off photo paper to a friend and now picking up a salad for my husband.

The restaurant where I was picking up my husband’s salad was the place I had selected to purchase the pitchers.  I had done my research to locate small pitchers that I could mail to our guests.  After completing the other errands, I rushed into the restaurant, looking at pitchers to purchase to go along with the Jesus Calling devotional.  I found pitchers!  The salad and pitchers were charged to our credit card.  My husband downloads credit card charges.  He has yet to ask me about his thirty-dollar salad.

If you are wondering about John 13:34, it reads in the NIV:

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”Image

God calls.  How will we respond?