How to know if your life made a difference

IMG_0570A week ago tomorrow I attended the funeral of my grandma, Dorothy Summerville. Now a lot of people may have counted her out long ago. She was 95 and as Americans we have the tendency to discount those who are older among us. But my grandmother was not to be discounted. In the days leading up to her death my mom and aunt sat by her bed side at the hospital, where so many people came by that they had to give her, her own room. One by one and two by two people would come in, hold grandma’s hand and thank her for her influence in their lives. One couple cried as they thanked her for literally saving their marriage, other’s thanked her for being a second mom and others just sat, held her hand and cried.

At her memorial service over 25 grandchildren and great grandchildren took the stage and sang “Give me Jesus.” This was my grandma’s heart. She wanted Jesus. She wanted others to know Jesus. We stepped down and a long time friend and pastor took the stage and started some open sharing time where people would get to share their memories and thoughts about this 95 year old woman. He began with a story, “The church had just switched to a worship band from the organ and piano. There was a drum kit and the drummer played loudly. Dorothy came up to me one day after service and said, ‘I don’t like the drums too much, but I’ve prayed too long for the youth of this community to come to know the Lord that I can not help complain. I’ll just turn my hearing aid off!” And she did. Next a rancher told the story of ranching for my grandma, he spoke of her warmth and love and the integrity she and her late husband had. Another man stood up and said, “Dorothy always took in young boy hoodlums. I am one of those boys and I came to know Jesus because of Dorothy.” Another man shared about when he was 10 and his appendix ruptured. Grandma had called an emergency prayer time at the church and together they prayed, and he lived. A woman stood up and spoke of her rough demeanor as an adolescent. Grandma had taken her in too. She came to know Jesus through grandma. Another woman shared of her afternoons with Dorothy. Can you imagine young 20somethings choosing to spend time with an 85 year old woman, just for fun. My grandma loved people. She loved Jesus more. For over an hour people shared stories of Grandma’s prayers, her kindness, her smile, her laugh, her honesty and the love that oozed from her.

Grandma knew Jesus. She lived a life full of his love and gave that love away to everyone she encountered. It was like breathing to her.

I think when we know Jesus, love comes a bit more naturally. It is my hope that I too would know Jesus and love him so deeply that if I make it to 95, I would not be found alone counting down my days in self-pity and loneliness, but that my hospital room with be filled with those I loved and prayed for daily until the very end.

(In total my grandma prayed for nearly 1500 people a week, by name, and with purpose. Since her leaving us, I know of several people who have decided that they needed to start praying more and pick up where she left off. Her death is actually increasing prayer all over the world!)

What kind of stories will you leave behind? How do your every day choices make a Kingdom difference? Share a story of a person you know who’s life left stories of Kingdom good.

Be you, rabbit trailing and the Kingdom of God

Just-Be-YouToday I sat at my normal table at Solid Grounds where I have set up an ad-hoc office. Through out the day I was interrupted by several people. One woman who also frequents the shop came and checked in. I told her a bit of the goings on of my last week and she wanted me to meet her husband. He and I talked and she mentioned, “tell Larry about your car.” I proceed to tell Larry the story and his demeanor changes when I mention Salina, UT. He proceeds to tell me of similar stories in his life that have take place in the exact spot of my break down. A small part of the story, but an immediate connection was made.

Secondly a young woman who works at the shop stops by my table. She and I talk a bit. She shares a bit of her story and I speak some of the things I’m learning lately. Man, I can be wordy. I say, “We may not get to choose our circumstances, but we always get to choose our response.” Immediately her demeanor changes and tears surface. She mentioned how she needed to hear those words. A random, passing thought, that has come from the past week of my life and just going with my train of thought I was able to encourage another. A sentence, but courage was given.

Lastly a man came and joined me. We started talking about life and such. I was talking with the best of them. All kinds of stories of God’s faithfulness and choosing to risk and trust. I realized I had been talking more than listening and paused for a moment. I said, “That was a lot of talking.” He agreed. Jokingly I said, “Yeah, maybe you sat at the wrong table.” He again paused and said, “maybe I sat at the right one.” He went into his head as he was mulling over all that was discussed. He didn’t speak much, but something happened for him. I don’t know if he needed to be reminded of something or if he was invited into faith in a new way, but we had a holy moment in the middle of the coffee shop. A story or two, and God prompted thoughts of growth and invited us both into deeper dependence.

The mundane of life is never mundane to our Creator. He is strategic, even to the point of allowing my rabbit trails to be words that encourage others, invite others, connect with others. I wonder if rabbit trails and a talkative nature can be gifts of the Spirit? The very thing I would like to be able to change about me, God uses to connect, give hope through, give courage away through.

I’m strangely encouraged today. I feel as though I’ve sat with Jesus and have been able to see others through his eyes. I feel as though we were conspirators today. Conspirators to give hope, courage and life to others through me being…. well… me.

Be you.

As you root yourself in Jesus and entrust him with your very life, be you.

Be completely you.

Be completely solely you, connected to your Savior and watch how God uses all of you for His Kingdom purposes.

Leaving ministry helped me find it’s true meaning

298311_10152106778950004_642523587_nI left a full time, salaried, church position over 7 years ago. It’s strange to say that, it seems in many ways that it’s been much longer and at the same time it feels as though I was putting on programs, attending meetings, speaking, writing lesson plans and setting vision and mission for a suburban church just yesterday. When I left I moved to a new city and worked as a consultant with a non-profit. I had a desk job. My work had purpose, but I felt there was something missing. Who were my people I was to serve? How was I going to find them? I mean, when I was in youth ministry I had parents, students and their friends to serve. My people were given to me. I would make myself aware of need, joy, life happenings and the like for these people I was entrusted to shepherd. I gave my life, time, energy and vision to those who fit in my given demographic.

But now? What was I to do? Who were my people? Here I was, a seminary graduate and had no idea what to do with my longing to shepherd, care for and pour into the lives of others. I prayed and it was as though I heard Jesus whisper into my ear, “you may not have a youth group but you have a neighborhood.” It was as though the most simple thing, the most obvious people group, one that Jesus himself referred to, was suddenly highlighted. How did I miss it? How did I miss that I was to love my neighbor? How was that even possible?

I took my seminary training and started applying it, not to a church program, but to my life. Though I have a love for the local church, I do believe we have quite missed the point. I was a perfect example. I had spent so many years serving in the walls of the local church that I wasn’t even aware of the fact that ministry was not limited to those walls.

I think we all forget that fact at times. We leave ministry up to professionals. We believe pastors are only those who stand behind pulpits. We believe discipleship is to be left to those who have been trained. We don’t share our faith, for we don’t know how to mix the language we’ve used to speak of God with the language of our neighbor. We think of ministry as program we sign up for to teach children, care for the elderly, sing in a choir, or perhaps, in some circumstances, ministry is something we attend as we go on ministry trips. Oh my friends, how we have missed the point!

Unless we reframe our understanding of ministry, of church for that matter, we will continue to miss the point.

So take some time today and think of those in your natural life path. How can you serve them? Do you know their needs? Do you know heart aches? Do you know joys? Ask Jesus to give you a person to serve, who does not go to church, and watch!

Coffee and loving people

fair-trade-certifiedI care about people. I actually really really love them, all of them. This can, at times, get me into trouble, or at least make life a tad inconvenient. Today I have been doing some research on buying fair trade products for an event I’ll be helping with later next month. When fair trade became a word more commonly known, I thought it was a left wing, hippy conspiracy that was just tricking people to spend more for the products they love. I didn’t understand what the driving was behind fair trade. I wasn’t informed and at the time, social justice was not something evangelicals cared about. Social justice was for those who didn’t care about the gospel and only wanted to do good and make life comfortable in the here and now. My assumption was that those who cared about social justice did not care about eternity and did not care about gospel. Boy, was I wrong!

Several years ago I was part of a team of people who were writing curriculum on a Kingdom response to Social Justice issues. I was given a module focusing on the idea of a Kingdom and our buying practices. At first I thought to myself, “why was I asked to help with this? I don’t know anything about why it matters what we buy?” I began my research and the more I studied, the more I understood why this topic ended up with me. My buying practices matter, because I love people. My buying practices matter, because of the gospel.

Working on this particular writing project was a part of my conversion. I grew belief in a new area. I understood a deeper reality of the gospel. The gospel, the whole gospel cares about whole people. The gospel sets people free, in eternity now and in eternity to come.  The gospel binds up the broken hearted. The gospel makes beauty from ashes. The gospel does not wish one well and walk away.  The gospel saves. The gospel loves. Buying fair trade matters because of the gospel. Caring about the fair treatment of people matters because of the gospel. Choosing to steward my money, matters, beyond frugality, because of the gospel.

So, today, as I was researching chocolate, coffee, tea and wine I was finding myself growing impatient with the process and wondered if I could justify spending more for products that I could easily buy for much less. Then, I was reminded of the gospel. I was reminded that as one who stewards that which I’ve been given, by a King who loves people, I can not only justify the extra, but it is just for me to do so.

Sometimes, loving people is costly in unexpected ways.

How have you experienced love at the cost of someone else?

Check out Trade As One and Westrock Coffee for great finds on fair trade products.