Category: Inspiration

Healing Hands

(an excerpt from “Life’s Journey”)

Many years ago I had a dog that wandered beyond the perimeter of the backyard into a field overgrown with weeds. As I watched her make her way back into the yard, I noticed she was limping, favoring her back paw. Understanding she probably picked up a rock or thorn in her travels, I sympathetically called her to me so I could remedy the irritation. But my normally obedient and responsive dog began to slowly and purposefully circle beyond my reach. As I continued to call her to me and attempted to move closer, she deliberately circled further out, avoiding all contact. I was frustrated by her response because clearly my desire was to relieve her of pain – she knew I loved her, she knew I wanted to help, so why then did she continue to avoid me?

Finally, knowing what was best for her, I sternly commanded her to lie down. Hesitantly she obeyed, but as I made my way toward her I sensed her desperate desire to ignore the command and again move out of reach. As I began to lay her on her side I was met with resistance and defensiveness, and as I began to examine her paw I received a response I had never experienced before – my dog growled at me. Though I had always been a loving and caring master to my friend, in that moment her pain was so great she could not allow herself to be vulnerable to me.  She was resigned to experiencing ongoing, continual pain rather than risk the anticipated pain of removing the irritant. To her benefit, the love I felt for my friend would not allow me to leave her in pain. As I soothed her fears, assuring her of my concern and promising only my best, she became vulnerable, opening herself to my healing hands. After I removed the deeply imbedded thorn the relief and liberation was apparent as her walk was renewed and her enthusiasm returned.

Just as my canine companion was required to be vulnerable in order to exchange her hardship for my help, on life’s journey I have been required to be vulnerable to a loving and caring God in order to experience forward motion. Certainly there were times I circled far beyond His reach, deliberately avoiding exposure of my wounds and the touch of His healing hand. I am aware of many occasions when I growled at God’s desire to address the source of my pain. Simply put, I was afraid. But when the thought of living with ongoing, continual pain scared me even more, when the prospect of limping through life finally became too much to bear, when I accepted the possibility that He did not want me to remain in pain, I was able to assume the risk of vulnerability in exchange for a renewed and fulfilling journey.

If you are walking in pain, I promise that God wants to bring healing and relief to your burden. You may be afraid that it will hurt too much to let Him touch the tender spots, but once His hands have finished their work, I know you will experience all the hope a loving God intends. Perhaps now is the time to ask for the touch of His healing hands.

Dear Younger Me

Most everyone has heard the saying – if I knew then what I know now – a line usually followed by a barrage of what-might-have-been regrets filling our minds.

I wondered the other day what advice 60 year-old me would have given 20 year-old me as I stood on the doorstep of adulthood decisions – choices that would shape and impact my life’s journey.

I pondered my successes and triumphs, and was pleased with those accomplishments. I also mulled over my mistakes and failures, as well as missed opportunities. Sadly, when stacked side by side, my successes didn’t measure up to the missteps I’d made along the way – decisions and compromise that took me down unnecessary paths of hardship and regret.

After weighing the if onlys and what might have beens, I decided the advice I would have given younger me was – you get one chance to get it right the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we can get through this life error-free, but I do think a purposed approach to decisions and crossroads can keep us on the path of steady ground rather than slogging through the trenches in knee-deep mud.

God has equipped us with tools to get it right the first time. We call them “nudges” or “impressions” or “conscience”. There are moments on our journey when conscience will tap us on the shoulder and plead it’s case – nagging us in the quiet moments or causing our heart to pound wildly when it knows we are about to abandon its truth. Innately human beings know good decisions from bad, and understand right from wrong, and God never misses an opportunity to emphasize the “right” ones on our behalf.

Because He desires that we live the best life possible, God continually nudges us in an effort to reveal the direction that will bring the greatest benefit to our journey. But nudges and impressions and conscience must be recognized, then received, then responded to in order to experience their effectiveness.

Taking some time to imagine where I could have been emotionally, relationally, professionally, and spiritually if I had responded to the nudges right away throughout my early life, has challenged me to waste no more time on getting it right the first time in this stage of life. With God’s help – His grace and favor active in my heart and mind – I will do just that.

Several years ago Christian band Mercy Me released the song, “Dear Younger Me”. Take a moment to listen, and ask yourself, what advice would you give younger you. Then ask, is the current you willing to listen, and ready to respond to God’s helpful and valuable nudges.

Right Turn, Wrong Direction

When I was a newly licensed driver, a joke was played on me by my uncle. I was asked to run an errand; the person I was to meet would be standing in a driveway several streets away. With great emphasis the directions were explained; with great responsibly I tucked them in my memory. Off I went – proud, confident, independent.

Per my instructions, I turned right at the first street, then right at the next.  At the third corner I made another right, followed by a final right at the fourth street. As I unwittingly completed the full circle, my uncle laughed gleefully in the driveway as I embarrassingly pulled up in front of his house. Unproductive directions had brought me right back to the starting point.

In this story, the directions were obviously meant for fun. But in life, how many times do we allow unproductive patterns and habits to move us in circles – emotional, relational, and spiritual choices that keep leading us back to the same old place – places that make us feel foolish and ashamed, defeated and unsuccessful.

We are meant to live in forward motion. God intends life to be fulfilling and rewarding. But we must first identify the turns that are unproductive and repeated, and then purposefully plot a new and successful course. In my life, I have discovered the best directions for navigating my most rewarding journey come from the God who knows me best and desires to see me happily moving in forward motion.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of stopping and asking for directions.

Unstable Stability

Understanding Forgiveness

(an excerpt from “Life’s Journey“)

The Beauty Beneath

Wise Words

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; the become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

~ Frank Outlaw

Live in 3D

In 1937 Walt Disney introduced movies in 2D. They were enjoyable and impressive, but more importantly, his creation had the potential to develop into something amazing – what we know today as 3D.

I think that’s how God creates all of us. He puts talents and gifts, dreams and passions inside each of us. It’s only when we tap into that potential and live our dreams awake that life enters the realm of 3D. Full of color and dimension, wonder and amazement.

Purpose to live in 3D – follow your dreams, use your talents, and consistently express your potential. And through the richness of your life, you will impress and inspire all those around you.

Princess Patricia and Dot

Recently my 82 year-old mom lost her driving privileges, which meant my sisters and I would be responsible for taking her shopping, to church, and to her church-related activities. Because my oldest sister, Dot, is retired, she was given the Tuesday task of taking my mom to several convalescent homes where she and her fellow congregants sing hymns, pray, and share words of encouragement with the residents.

My sister, who has never met a stranger, quickly befriended a lady named Patricia. Patricia could not speak, instead communicating through grunts and simple eye contact. As my sister got to know Patricia, it became evident that in addition to the speech limitation, she was also developmentally delayed. Having grown up with an uncle and aunt with the same limitations, Dot was able to assess Patricia’s capacity to be comparable to an 8 year-old.

Dot later learned that Patricia was 56 years-old, and had no family – at least none that had ever communicated with her during her lengthy stay at the convalescent home. Needless to say, Tuesdays and Dot quickly became a highlight of Patricia’s week. She would anxiously watch as the church group strolled through the doors of the recreation room, and once she spotted Dot, her eyes would light up and she’d begin grunting to make sure Dot knew she was there waiting for her. Dot would always greet her with a hug, and often Patricia’s eyes would fill with tears at the gesture of kindness. And there the two would sit for the next hour – church buddies and friends.

But on one Tuesday when Dot entered the recreation room, Patricia was not there, nor was she among the late arrivals being escorted in by the staff. Dot quickly followed one of the nurses into the hallway to ask where Patricia was, but following their protocol, the nurse explained she could give no information because Dot was not family.

There’s one thing about Dot – in addition to never meeting a stranger, she is fiercely devoted to her friends. So she proceeded to ask every nurse she passed until one finally whispered, “Mercy Hospital”.

After the services were completed for the day, Dot drove to the hospital in search of Patricia. Finally she found her in a dimly lit room on the second floor looking lost and alone. When Patricia saw Dot, her face lit up and she began to cry. Dot cried too. Because of the oxygen mask, Patricia could not express herself with grunts, so Dot simply asked questions, with Patricia squeezing her hand, or blinking twice for yes and once for no. The visit ended after about an hour with Dot promising Patricia that she’d be back tomorrow. Patricia blinked twice, confirming the date.

The next day Dot took a bouquet of colorful balloons and a stuffed gray rabbit to Patricia. Her elation was undeniable as her smile extended from ear to ear while rubbing the soft bunny fur across her cheek. Dot told her that if she ever felt alone or scared, to just hold the rabbit close and it would be like she was there with her. They named the rabbit “Dot”.

Having seen Dot’s generosity toward Patricia, and Patricia’s response toward Dot, the hospital nursing staff began to ask if she was family. They explained that no one else had been there to see her, nor had anyone else expressed interest in her condition or care. Dot explained their short but strong connection, and offered her phone number as a contact. Staff gladly accepted, adding that Dot’s presence seemed to bring great joy to Patricia’s otherwise lonely and quiet days.

As she talked with the nurse, Dot learned that Patricia’s condition was serious – they described her as “fragile” with heart and kidney concerns. Dot instructed them to call her anytime day or night, especially if things took a grave turn, expressing her wish that Patricia not die alone. The hospital staff agreed to keep her informed.

On Palm Sunday while I was sitting in church, I began thinking about the unlikely and amazing friendship between Dot and Patricia, and I began to wonder if her child’s mind understood the gravity of the situation. I also wondered if the aloneness and her inability to connect with people was creating apprehension or fear that she wasn’t able to express.

So as the church service was winding down, I wrote a short and simple expression that I hoped would give Patricia comfort in the midst of her aloneness. After church I called Dot and asked if she would read it to Patricia the next day when she went to visit. She agreed, so I took the message to her along with a gift for Patricia.

That Monday when Dot walked into her hospital room, Patricia’s face lit up and her eyes filled with tears. They embraced, and after their cryptic exchange of pleasantries, Dot asked if she could tell her a story. Patricia smiled big and blinked twice. Dot read the following:

The Bible says that God is the King over all the earth. And He has this amazing kingdom called Heaven. Heaven is beautiful – it has streets made of gold and palaces made out of diamonds, and the sky is always bright blue. It has beautiful flowers and trees, and all sorts of animals that we can play with. Heaven is filled with singing and laughter, and everybody is friendly and caring and loving. And God decided since it was such a special place, that He wanted everyone He loved to come live with Him there. So God decided to adopt everyone who loved Him.

At this point Dot paused and asked, “And you love God, don’t you?” Patricia squeezed her hand tightly. Dot continued. So you know what that makes you, Patricia? It makes you a daughter of God. And since God is a King, and you’re His daughter, that makes you a princess.

With that declaration Dot pulled out a Disney Princess Barbie doll and presented it to Patricia. Dot said her face beamed as she held the doll in a tight embrace. And with the story told, Dot now referred to her friend as “Princess Patricia”.

Having noticed during the visit that Patricia had declined over a matter of days, Dot visited her a second time that day. Their visit ending with a promise to come back on Wednesday. Patricia blinked twice, her princess doll laying on the pillow beside her head.

On Wednesday morning Dot received a call that Patricia had been minimally responsive through the night, and that the smiles she usually had for the nurses when they came into her room had been replaced by quietness. When Dot arrived there was little communication between them, just a brief opening of her eyes to acknowledge her presences. When Dot left that night, she placed a kiss on Princess Patricia’s forehead, whispered “I love you” close to her ear, and wished her “sweet dreams”.

On Friday, Good Friday, Dot received a call that Patricia was nearing the end of life, and she immediately rushed to her side. Dot held her hand and whispered to a now unresponsive Patricia how exciting it would be when she could talk and laugh and sing. And just after midnight, Princess Patricia experienced her last breath on this earth, and her first moment of wholeness in Heaven.

There’s an amazing story in the Bible about Esther, a Jewish girl who was brought into a palace and bestowed the role and distinction of queen. At that time her people were being oppressed – their future set for certain annihilation. As Esther contemplated the significance of all that was unfolding, she failed to recognize God’s preparation and orchestration. That is until her uncle challenged her to consider – perhaps you are in this place of influence “for such a time as this.”

I thought about that story as I reflected on the friendship between Dot and Patricia. I realized that God had been busy orchestrating a true friend for Patricia for the most vulnerable time in her life.

The unfortunate circumstance that cancelled my mom’s driving privileges was setting the stage for Dot to be at that convalescent home, where a friendship that would have never been was meant to be. It was part of God’s amazing grace to bring Dot into a place of influence “for such a time as this.” She was the right person, in the right place, at the right time. She fulfilled God’s call in that situation, and in doing so, Patricia left this life loved by her very good friend.

When opportunities, sometimes disguised as inconveniences or unfortunate circumstances, come our way, may we always remember that God is an amazing planner – the ultimate architect, the premier orchestrator – and that He may be leading us to a specific purpose, a deliberate encounter, a designed moment – for such a time as this.

What Are We Waiting For?

Waiting For Tomorrow

“I can’t live my whole life wasting
All the grace that I know You’ve given,
Cause You made me for so much more
Than sitting on the sidelines.
I don’t want to look back and wonder
If good enough could have been better,
Every day’s a day that’s borrowed
So why am I waiting for tomorrow.”

As long as we have breath, there will be need for change and growth. When we ask for God’s grace, He is faithful to transform our habits, our struggles, our mess – into His best.  Why wait?

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