God Doesn’t Waste Anything

God does not waste anything. While those exact words may not be found in the Bible, the concept is there. Over the last few months God has proven this in my life.

I had the usual childhood answers to “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Nurse, teacher, etc. As I grew though the answer changed – I wanted to be a missionary.  In my young adult years I knew the location – Germany or Austria.

When an opportunity was presented at our church to join a new venture, called “World Class Cities Teams” I felt the tug in my spirit. World Class Cities were defined as a city of one million or more in population. I applied and was accepted to join a team that would plant churches in Vienna, Austria. As our team formed and began to learn how to work together and raise support we encountered some obstacles. Our team fell apart and most of us never made it to Vienna. This left me with pain and discouragement wondering why I had to go through that experience.

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Photo by Adam Tumidajewicz from Pexels

Many years later the organization I worked with partnered with an urban ministry, World Impact. We taught them about disability. They taught us about urban life, where many  people with disabilities live; either by choice or default. The part of the city we were working in was known to be among the top zip codes in the state for violence, drugs, etc. Still, I would have moved there if I could have, but this community would have made Jerry’s life even harder than it is. I loved what I learned about urban life.

When our partner ministry moved out of that area, we joined forces with Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association. Yes, even the anacronym OCCCDA is a mouthful. This work was in a part of the city that was new to me. Additional lessons came my way. Urban life is as varied as suburban life. Once again, I found myself wishing I could spend more time working with OCCCDA. I joined their Board and loved every minute of working with this community.

Then God moved us to central Florida. We do live within the city limits of a medium sized city, but still very much in suburbia. Here is where I saw the threads of my life coming together in God’s weaving.

Jerry and I joined the missions team at our local church. Each missionary supported has a liaison within the church.  One of the missions in need of a church contact was a seminary in . . .  yes, Vienna, Austria! Guess who quickly volunteered to be that representative? Though this looks much different than what I had envisioned thirty-five years ago, perhaps God is allowing me to have some level of contact and ministry in Vienna after all.

Working with Luke 14 Exchange, Inc took me to a meeting held at the Dream Center in the northern part of our city, which is urban. On our first visit there we learned about scores of amazing programs the Center offers for people in that neighborhood and around the city. One area they did not have any program offerings in was the field of disability. Hmmm, seems Jerry and I may have attended this meeting for more than one reason.

Every time I am in the neighborhood of the Dream Center (just four or five miles from our home) I see people moving around in wheelchairs or scooters and using canes. We are still exploring with the Dream Center what God has for us together. So far it has meant I’ve had an opportunity to reapply some of the urban living training I received in the past. It means that last night was the first of hopefully many opportunities where I and some church friends helped distribute food bags to the community. And it means I am developing a new friendship with C, a woman who lives with her own disability, and has a young son with autism. In a few short weeks she has taught me so much about trusting in God, vulnerability and living by faith.

I don’t know where else God will take these opportunities in the future, but I am

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Photo by Sergio Gonzalez on Unsplash

encouraged to see God unfold blessings from times in my past, even some difficult periods. I wonder what the final tapestry will look like?

And this much I know to be true, if He has done that for me, He will do it for you! What experiences do you wonder why or how God will use?

Recliner Ninja

I’ll admit it. I am a recliner sitting American Ninja Warrior (ANW). I am captivated by that television show. Captivated, that is, to watch, not to participate.

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Photo by Jaco Pretorius on Unsplash

True Ninja’s and Ninja wanna-bes run across floating disks, climb salmon ladders, cross wingnut alley, open doors underwater and take on the warped wall. If forced to try I would plop, fall, crawl and likely give up. There is no way I would even try to run up a wall that curves at a ridiculous angle.

The ultimate goal  is to conquer each obstacle course and get to the top of “Mt Midoriyama” (a structure set up on the Vegas strip). Some seasons no one accomplishes this feat. In the most reason season two made it to stage four, with one winning the coveted title “American Ninja Warrior,” and a large sum of money.

What do I get out of watching?

Some of the back stories about these athlete-performers make me feel like I am listening to a symphony orchestra the way they tug at my heart strings. There was the young dad who competed to earn money for his infant daughter to receive a kidney transport. A viewer responded to that story and donated her kidney! Another athlete trains on his ranch in the Midwest by completing chores and activities while carrying his wife with disability on his back so they can spend time together. Others train and race to show their own kids, or the community around them what it means to overcome.

Not all the competitors have such altruistic purposes. Some are athletes who want to prove they can do more, better, faster. Others are just quirky and young enough that their bodies allow them to compete covered in gold paint, hair dyed green or wearing a super hero cape, or shrimping boots. It is simply fascinating to watch what the human body is capable of, and the unique ways God created each one of us.

What strikes me most on every episode is the level of comradery between competitors. This is an individual game. While some say they are just competing against themselves, the reality is that everyone is competing against each other. But I rarely see that.

Because there are a limited number of Ninja gyms around the country. Many of the Ninjas move to areas close to a gym, or create their own. Several of the Ninjas train together. They don’t do this just to scope out the competition. They do it to sharpen one another. Hmmm, seems like I read something about that before.

But here’s the thing; when one Ninja is competing, groups of other Ninjas are on the sidelines, shouting encouragement or tips, and wearing the colors, or t shirts of the Ninja racing. There are tears and hugs when a fellow competitor makes it to the buzzer. Likewise there is a sorrow among everyone when a Ninja falls. It could be that the Ninja they are cheering on will beat them to the final buzzer.

I watch because I want to live in a world like that. Or more specifically I  want to live among a Church community like that. I want to live, work, recreate and worship with people who have my back. People who cheer IMG_5819for me, who train with me, who encourage me to go farther and faster than I ever thought possible. Who are sad with me when I get caught by an obstacle, and encourage me not to give up.

Even more I want us all to look and dress like the one who is in the lead -Jesus Christ. I don’t want to wear the colors of “church A” only to promote it over “church B.” I want to remember that Christians in other churches are not my competition. We aim for the same goal, our eternal home with Jesus, filled with as many people we can bring.

Who’s with me?

Don’t Forget Your Walking Stick!

Circle Bar B Reserve had been recommended to me by nearly everyone I’ve met since moving to Lakeland. People rave about the paths for walking or bike riding. Photographs fill Facebook with the variety of birds, plants, amphibians, and bugs that make their home there.

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I love seeing God’s love displayed in nature.

Today my schedule and the weather allowed me to venture on my maiden trek at the B. Thankfully, a neighbor was also able to go. While making plans a couple days ago, she ended our conversation with, “don’t forget your walking stick.”  I told her I did not have one. She assured me she had an extra one she would bring.

The next day I was talking with some other neighbors and mentioned Patty and I would be going to Circle Bar B. They responded with, “don’t forget your walking stick.”

I looked at them and asked, “what’s the deal with the walking stick? I keep being reminded to take one. I don’t have one, but I am not unstable on my feet. And I am not that old. Are the trails rough?”

Tim and Cindy smiled and said, “you want it to flick a snake out of the way if it comes across your path. Or you may need it for protection from other wildlife or animals.”

Ohhhhhhh. That makes sense! And now I want my own walking stick.

There is so much to learn in a new community and environment. While on the nature trail today I learned a couple fascinating tidbits about alligators. Did you know . . .

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See the gator between the two lower to mid log shadows?
  • The temperature of the nest in which the alligator eggs are laid determines the sex of the hatchling. Below 86 degrees F makes it most likely that females will hatch. Temps above 93 degrees F will most likely hatch males. (Don’t ask me what happens between 86-93 – maybe twins?)
  • The distance, in inches, between a gator’s eyes and nostrils will approximately equal their total length in feet (e.g. 4 inches between snout and eyes likely means you are looking at a 4 foot gator).

Patty and I had a great time. Neither of us needed to use our walking sticks for defense or offense. At least on this trip. But I’ll be ready next time. And if you come to visit I’ll rustle up a second one to share!

feedback-3387216_1920We’re never too old to learn new things. What is something new you learned recently? Please share; I have much to learn!

I Can’t Imagine

One of my friends met Jesus face to face yesterday.

This friend lived a hard life. At first, I found it ironic that she spent her last several days in a hospice home that likely was the nicest place she ever lived. But then I thought that this peaceful place was “training wheels” for the eternal home she would soon enter.

Several years ago my friend gave her life to Jesus. The day she was told it was time for hospice she called me. We talked about the excitement of knowing our final destination but the fear of the route we need to take to get there. I encouraged her to run without delay into the arms of Jesus whenever He called her name. I believe she did.

sun-rays-182170_1920I know what the Bible says about Heaven. The pearly gates, the streets of gold, the homes prepared for us by Jesus himself, the banquet feast we will share, a place of no tears, a place of no sin, and best of all . . .  Jesus. A forever home with Jesus.

Yet my finite mind can’t really grasp Heaven. I am glad my friend can now. The suffering and pain she endured, I am certain she would say, pales in comparison to what she is experiencing.

I have no idea when God will say it is time for me to join Him. Until that day comes I want to be present and engaged with the life He has entrusted to me. But when my time comes, know I too will be running into the arms of my Savior.

What’d You Get Me?

Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December.  That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas.  The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions.  It goes like this, “So what did you get me?”  Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue.  Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two wellintomiddleagedadults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord.  I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .

“So what did you get me?”
 

I paused and listened to the voice
– but it wasn’t that of my husband.  It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus!  As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?” 
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was – had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday?  If I hadn’t, why not?  And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly. 

What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who
owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me. All of me in fact.  No need to spend time trying to figure out the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!”  To surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me. 
Funny several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?

Building Sandcastles

Katelyn. our 10 ½ year old grand-niece visited recently. She is a loving girl who thinks deeply. Our family planned a day at the beach while she was here. In anticipation of the trip Katelyn told me she likes to build sandcastles, but not in the typical way with buckets and shovels. She described her method, but it all became much clearer to me when we were at the water’s edge.

katelyn sandShe digs a hole close to where the water laps the shore, allowing the hole to fill with water. Then she digs in and picks up a clump of wet sand. Moving to her sandcastle, just a short stretch away so it is out of the water, Katelyn slowly allows the goopy sand to drizzle out of her hand, creating odd shaped squiggles piled on top of one another. She continues to build it up until the water advances and washes it away, or it collapses on it’s own.

Right away she surveys the situation, digs a new hole and starts a new sandcastle. Then, she looks at me and says,

“Sometimes it gets wrecked, but that’s ok because it leaves a foundation to start the next one.”

Girl, are you really just 10 ½?  You just preached a message your grand-aunt needed to hear and I don’t think you even knew it.

Little Kindnesses

This week I was the beneficiary of some little kindnesses that impacted me in such a big way I want to share.

Here’s the scene. We were ready to head home from Ohio after a family visit. The drive, with stops, is about 10 hours. We’ve each driven it by ourselves. In more recent years sharing the drive has proved a healthier choice. The problem this time was that Jerry was not feeling well. I felt cautiously optimistic that I could complete the drive home, but still had a few friends join me in prayer.

Man with Binoculars

When packing the van, the hoyer lift always goes in first. I rolled it through the lobby to go out.  I noticed a few business men waiting for someone in the lobby.  I took the hoyer apart, loaded it into the van and came back in just as this group was leaving.  One of the men stepped toward me ever so slightly and looked me right in the eyes and said, “you have a good day.” Odd though it may sound, that small greeting spoke deeply to me.  It said he had acknowledged my responsibility and wanted to share a word of kindness with me. It felt like God was saying to me, “I see what you need to do today, I am watching and will be with you.”

The next load was the shower chair and a portable table.  As I rolled these items out a different man stopped and asked if I needed any assistance.  I’ve done this so long on my own that sometimes assistance is more of a hindrance than a help, and these were easy to pack.  I thanked him but told him I had this ok.  Again, another small kindness that spoke deeply to my soul on a day when I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders.

I doubt I could ever identify these two men, but I am grateful to them.  Likely they will never know the impact their 3 to 5 second phrase made in me.  But that’s ok.  I know. And God used their kindness to encourage my heart and remind me that I was not doing this trip on my own.

I even had back-seat kindness on the trip – whenever Jerry woke up on he checked in to see if I was ok, and then went right back to sleep.  I am glad I could minister to him by letting him rest, and we made it home safely.

I came home grateful, and reminded that it often is the little expressions of kindness and grace we share with someone that matter.  We may not ever know if, or how, our words or actions mattered.  But Proverbs 3:27 reminds us to do good to others when we have the ability to do so (my paraphrase).

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