When I saw you driving up, I thought to myself, they love Jesus.”
But, it wasn’t just the new shirt my friend was wearing that led to a stranger’s remark when we stopped at a gas station to fill-up on our way to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference last month. Before the young woman had even read the words on Clarice’s shirt, she’d already recognized fellow sojourners.
The shirt my friend wore proclaimed, “Messy Bun and Jesus kind of day.” It was an appropriate thought for a day spent on the road.
The stranger approached as I was filling up the gas tank and Clarice was cleaning the windshield. “I just love your shirt!” the young mother said.
Our pre-ordained meeting with the young couple, who were traveling from North Carolina with their six children to their home in Ogden, Utah, came as we drove across Kansas. It opened the door to an uplifting conversation. The husband and wife are worship leaders in their church and were returning from outreach work to other church groups. After exchanging email addresses, we agreed to stay in touch.
Pulling up to the intercom to place my order at a fast food place, I noticed something amiss. Normally, the vehicles waiting in line would have pulled up a ramp to the window to pay for and pick up their meal. However, they were bypassing the usual route and parking next to the ramp.
Before I could figure out what was happening, the employee taking orders explained. “We have a problem with a car blocking the exit. You can still order and follow the line in front of you or come inside.”
After placing my order, I drove forward where I could finally get a glimpse of the vehicle interfering with traffic. When I looked closer, I realized—and felt sorry for—the young man who had evidently tried to exit the ramp too soon, leaving his car straddling the concrete barrier to his right. I’m sure he was not only embarrassed, but his car was probably going to require some major work.
To minimize the delay, restaurant employees were scrambling outside to collect customers’ payments and then returning with their orders. Even though their usual routine had been disrupted, they were taking the challenge in stride without complaint. They even apologized for the delay.
Have you ever had one of those days when everything that could go wrong does? Maybe you’ve been moving forward, following God’s directions, when you make a wrong turn. You wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”
The first time I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to give away a prized possession, I admit to reluctantly obeying. However, I can attest to the overwhelming joy I received when the woman, who was the recipient of the necklace I gave her, began to cry.
For me, it was the start of a lifelong habit to begin paying more attention to that still, small voice to be more generous with my time, my money and my possessions. The necklace I mentioned above was a gift from my sister. On the simple silver chain was a small cross. The woman who had admired it worked at a fast food chain. I learned later she worked two jobs to support herself and her family.
While I treasured the gift from my sister, I know God treasured my generosity more. But, I received a greater gift when I gave the necklace away. It’s a paradox many don’t understand.
According to dictionary.com, a paradox is “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.” Synonyms, or words that mean the same or almost the same, include contradiction, absurdity, inconsistency and mystery. But that’s the mystery of generosity, at least for those who don’t understand God’s economy.
In an article by Michael O. Garvey, he discusses the “empirical evidence in support of the biblical admonition” that it is more blessed to give than to receive. According to Garvey’s article, a study by University of Notre Dame sociologists revealed “through analysis of measurable data, people who are generous with their money, time and associations are happier, healthier and more resilient than their less generous counterparts.”
A recent Facebook post by a former student of mine led to responses from people of all ages. The post asked the following: “Without saying your age, what is something you remember from your childhood that a younger person would not understand?”
Many of the posts focused on memories before inventions made our life easier and technology ran amuck. There were mentions of telephone party lines, rotary dial phones and phones with cords that stretched across a room. Some mentioned specific stories associated with the history of these obsolete items.
One woman responded to the post with a story of being in labor with her first child. She was trying to call for help via a party line but a young neighbor wouldn’t hang up the phone, in spite of the nervous soon-to-be mother’s pleas.
The Disappearance of Small Town Places
Others in this small community mentioned places no longer in existence. Small restaurants, full-service gas stations, mom and pop grocery stores and other businesses that had closed their doors for various reasons—health, deaths, progress, the economy.
Mentions were made of events native to the local culture. One woman said, “I wasn’t raised here but it sure sounds wonderful! Mayberry USA.”
Another said, “Amazing how many generations of memories that are being shared here.”
How many of us make New Year’s resolutions but fail to follow through? We resolve to lose weight and get healthy. We promise ourselves we’ll pay off debt and save money. We plan to give up habits detrimental to our well-being. Most of the time, most of us don’t accomplish what we yearn to do.
Why do we begin a New Year full of hope and promise, only to fall back on old habits and ways of thinking? Is it because we’re trying to accomplish our goals without the help of the One who has our best interests at heart?
Instead of resolutions, what if we made commitments? What would that look like for each of us? What if we saw ourselves through the eyes of God’s Holy Word? Would that make a difference?
Make spiritual growth a commitment
What if our first commitment was to grow spiritually? Would that lead to healthier physical and fiscal habits? Would we drop pounds and fatten our bank accounts so we were physically and fiscally able to help others?
Grumbling, I cracked the shell of another hard-boiled egg. Just like the others, it spidered into a web of tiny cracks, meaning I’d be dislodging tiny pieces of the shell while risking the tearing of the white part of the egg.
While making a dozen deviled eggs doesn’t bother me, I’d been asked to make three dozen for our large family Thanksgiving gathering. Attending would be in-laws, cousins and a host of aunts, uncles and grandparents.
My history with deviled eggs
I knew my history with making deviled eggs. They might taste good, but their appearance wouldn’t win a culinary beauty contest. Since this was the first time for me to attempt this many eggs, I looked on the Internet two days before Thanksgiving for instructions to make the hard-boiled eggs easier to peel. I’d heard of different methods but couldn’t recall any.
photo by Carol Round
Varying hues of red, gold and orange decorate my lawn. That’s why autumn is my favorite season. Watching the leaves change colors and drift to the ground is a reminder to count my blessings. If I couldn’t see, I would miss out on one of God’s gifts. I’m thankful for my eyesight.
Walking across my lawn, I hear the crackle of the shriveled brown oak leaves. While they’re not a thing of beauty, and the mess they create causes more work for me, they are a reminder of the blessings of hearing and an able body.
When I take a daily walk through my lakeside neighborhood, I continue to count my blessings. I love the scent of the neighbor’s burning leaves. I am thankful for the sense of smell.
Inhaling all God has to offer us in nature and being thankful each day for the simple things we often take for granted has made me more aware of how much He loves His children. When I stop by the cove near my house, I am in awe of the variety of birds He created. How could anyone not believe in a Creator God when viewing the diversity of wildlife, trees and flowers?