God’s Provision and a Pendleton Blanket

pendleton-blanketIt was a cool, fall-like day and I had the nagging itch to go for a run.  It was a weekend, so I decided to jog the trail on the opposite side of the river….a typical weekend thing that I like to do.  It’s pretty scenic and quiet…a good time to reflect on life and hang out with God.  So I laced up and hit the road.

As I was jogging down the path, breathing in the crisp air, my eyes and heart were drawn to a gal walking towards me.  She was pushing a grocery cart full of cans, clothes, food….basically her whole life stuffed in a basket being pushed with feeble, weather-worn hands.  As I passed her, I smiled and said hello, but I don’t think she noticed me….she was probably used to folks turning the other way or becoming conveniently preoccupied with their phones or whatever.

I continued down the path towards the end, where I usually turn around and head back the way I came.  My steps had a nice rhythm going and my body was warm, my blood pumping pretty good.  Through the rush of exercise came a gentle whisper in my soul….this whisper basically told me that if I happen to see the gal on my route back, that I need to stop and talk to her.  It was like one of those butterflies in the stomach feelings.  Almost like my whole being was on alert with the anticipation of seeing her, wondering what God had planned.

Guess what?!  As I followed the bend of the path, there she was, patiently pushing her cart, heading to who knows where.  So I listened to the whisper, or the Holy Spirit as I like to call Him and I stopped to talk.  I said something like “for some reason, I feel like I need to talk to you.  You mind if I tag along for a bit?”  She didn’t seem to mind at all, so I just walked with her for a bit.  I found out that her name was Karen and we talked about her life, faith and what it was like to be homeless, surviving off of the land and trash cans and shelters and hand outs and whatever she could get her hands on.  She gave me some tips on what trees were best to sleep under and other interesting stuff.  She was pretty street smart and really nice.

I didn’t have much to give her since I was out running and all.  The only thing that I had was the sweatshirt that I was wearing, so I gave it to her.  She seemed happy with it, but I wasn’t….I wanted to give her more.  So, after we parted ways, I sprinted back to my house (about 1 mile away) hoping that I could grab some food and clothes really fast and meet her at the end of the path in time.  So when I got home, I made an announcement to my wife and 2 boys that we were to quickly grab a bunch of food, some clothes, blankets, toiletries and whatever else was available so we could complete the mission of finding Karen.  After everything was gathered, we hopped in the truck and drove back to the river, where the path ended….guess what?!  We found her!

We basically just pulled up next to her and I reminded her of who I was and that my family wanted to give her a few more things.  We all participated in loading up her grocery cart with items that seemed pretty basic to us, but probably were necessities for her.  Along with the stuff that we brought from our house, I also noticed a couple of blankets in the back of our truck, so I gave those to her as well.  She seemed pleased, we said our goodbyes and that was it.  It was great.

Well, later I found out that one of the blankets that I gave her on impulse was a nice Pendleton blanket given to us as a wedding gift.  OOPS!!!  My wife wasn’t mad or anything, just bummed that I chose that blanket to give away and I can understand that.  My bad.

Here’s the cool part of this whole story….a couple of weeks ago, a family friend dropped by the house to deliver some Christmas gifts.  Really nice of her.  Guess what one of the gifts was?!  A BRAND NEW PENDLETON BLANKET!  My wife had told her this story in passing a while ago and our friend felt led to replace the blanket that we gave away.  Isn’t that awesome?!

I was so blessed not only by our friend’s generosity, but that God used her to remind me of His provision.  That blanket meant a lot to my wife and He replaced it.  What a practical, yet powerful thing.

God’s pretty creative and He never ceases to amaze me.  I had no idea that this story would blossom from a simple run on a fall day.  I hope Karen got some good use out of the stuff we gave her.  One thing’s for sure; we both scored some new blankets out of the deal!  Wink wink.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

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My Homeless Friend, John

Homeless grocery cartSeveral of weeks ago, my small group from church got together and served some homeless folks.  It was a pretty cool setup.  We had tons of food, coffee, juice, clothes, toiletries and a trailer equipped with a large cooking griddle and burners.  Better yet, we had willing hands and feet available to serve and love.

Our goal was to make a bunch of fresh breakfast burritos for the homeless in the area.  Nothing too complicated.

We started cooking in the morning and noticed that the turnout was a little slower than expected.  It was pretty early and we figured that most folks wouldn’t be out and about until mid morning or so……..so a few of us hopped in my truck and starting driving around, looking for people to invite.

The first stop was a park, then down the main drag….our eyes were searching left and right, in hunt for those “in need”…then we saw John.

He was coming up a side street, pushing a grocery cart full of cans.  He had dark sunglasses on, a running nose, a scruffy beard and a heavy heart.  I would guess that he was roughly 35 or so.  He was pretty open to chatting, which was cool.  We invited him up the road for a burrito and some rest….we were about a mile away.  John mentioned that he had to take his pop cans back first and then he may hike up the road later.  I glanced at my friend Jeff with a “should we?” look and then we proceeded to get creative.  We ended up putting John’s grocery cart in the back of my truck and my other buddy David sat in the back with it, bracing the cart so it didn’t fall over.  John sat in the front seat with me, while Jeff squeezed into my small back seat.  One big happy family!

When we arrived to our location, all of us piled out of the truck and we made sure that John was fed and comfortable.  There were other homeless folks there also: one gal was sitting in a corner, talking with one of the team.  Others were chatting about the “system” and how hard it was to get ahead in life when faced with such a steep uphill climb.  Most of the conversations were laced with hopelessness, paranoia and the desperate confusion of what to do next.  It was a humbling, eye-opening experience and I was grateful that my friends and I were able to be there.  To listen.

After an hour or two, John had to get going, so we headed back up the road to return his cans.  Jeff was in the back this time, holding the grocery cart in place and just John and I were in the truck together.  What a great, short, yet powerful conversation we had!

In a nutshell, I thanked him for coming with us and for sharing his story.  I felt the need to be kind of blunt with him.  I mentioned that I noticed his hopelessness.  That maybe he thought his past mistakes defined him.  That maybe he thought God somehow looked down on him for who he was and the choices that he’s made.  John agreed with me in a simple, yet moving way….he nodded and began to cry.  His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, but I felt his pain and I heard his desperate need to be loved.  I felt God’s powerful presence in that truck.

The few words that I could muster were “Jesus loves you man.”  That’s about it.  We talked a little about forgiveness and grace and in about 5 minutes, we were unloading his cart and he was visiting with his buddies at the can return.  Short but sweet….so sweet.  God works in crazy ways doesn’t He?!

My hope is that John was encouraged that day.  I know I was!  Only God knows outcomes and heart conditions and I’m ok with that.  It was an honor to be a part of God’s plan and to serve strangers with a group of selfless people.

The homeless folks weren’t the only ones being fed that Saturday morning.  My soul was filled to overflowing.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

How My Haircut Changed My Life

confidence-activities-superman1-optGrowing up, I was really insecure.  When I say insecure, I mean insecure….like really scared about what other people thought….actually I was just really scared of people in general.  People knew I wasn’t confident and they used it against me in the form of bullying.  It sucked.

Eventually, the bullying went away around my junior high years as I got bigger and stronger.  Unfortunately, the lack of confidence held on like potent garlic breath…..I just couldn’t shake it…..until one simple, yet profound thing happened around the age of 16.

I GOT MY NEW HAIRCUT!!!

You see, I had a bowl cut.  It was pretty long up top, shaved on the sides and I had a butt crack part right down the center.  Me and my bowl cut had a relationship for many years….but it had to end.

So one fateful, yet victorious day, I went to Great Clips and got a “George Clooney Caesar Cut” as they called it.  You know, a “normal” haircut.  Shorter, tight, faded and dead sexy.  Oh yes.

This was a big step for me and believe it or not, this haircut changed my life.  Sounds dramatic, but it’s true.  I was suddenly “normal” and I felt confident.  I began making new friends, walking around the school halls with my chest puffed with teenage pride!  I had hit my stride.

Although this was great news for my confidence and social life, I look back and become a little sad.

It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t have been more comfortable with myself before this new change.  I always tried so hard to fit in, to blend with the crowd, to be just like everybody else.  Being different seemed too risky…..it got me nowhere when I was younger…it just led to me getting picked on all the time.  So I clung to my new caesar-cut-life-raft as it saved me from the grips of individuality.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with gaining confidence.  We’ve all had pivotal times in our lives where we’ve changed for the better.  It’s just that, for me, I know where my heart was before I began to grow.  I remember being nauseous as I looked at myself in the mirror.  I remember feeling scared of someone else throwing gum in my hair or knocking me into the sticker bushes.  I remember wearing cover-up on my zits because I was too ashamed to just be a teenager with acne.  I remember a lot of the shallow worries that I struggled with growing up.  Sometimes, it seems like a waste of a lot of years.  Really though, it’s just another part of my story….one that I’m grateful for.

Although the back-story is a little negative, God completely used my confidence as a tool to mold me.  As I grew up, I developed my faith in Jesus.  I entered college where I grew in so many ways and made so many more great friends.  I entered the workforce and learned how to face the daily grind.  I met the woman of my dreams and have been blessed with 2 beautiful sons.  He has guided and provided.

God has a beautiful way of taking even the lowest of times and creating beauty from them.  We’re all who we are today because of where we’ve been.  For me, God used my haircut as lighter fluid to get me heading in the direction that He desired for me.  The cool part is that He didn’t let me forget where I came from and the obstacles that I faced before life started coming together.  Awesome.

So, BE YOU and rediscover your own “haircut moment.”  When you do, don’t forget the journey that guided you there.  God has a funny way of turning the simplest of things into the most profound, earth-shattering revelations.  I pray that you would find your own quirky revelation.  One that’s unique to YOUR story!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

Praying for our Enemies and Melting Butter

ButterI truly can’t think of a better time than now to do what’s seemingly the most unnatural……..to pray for our enemies.  Not only for those in our social circles, but for those around the world.

In all honesty, as a Christian, I’m called, you’re called, we’re all called to pray endlessly for each other. Even for those who hurt people.

Should we pray for murderers, terrorists, gossips, slanderers, liars and abusers?  You bet.

We all come from humble, simple, organic beginnings.  It’s a pretty weird concept to grasp.  Even the most evil among us were born into this world as babies.  They wake up everyday, they breathe, they eat, they drink, they sleep…..similar to all of us.  Somewhere along the line, something happened.  A paradigm shift occurred.  The bad trumped the good.

As human beings, we will never sever the root of evil, that’s God’s job.  He’ll complete His work someday, but for now, our job is to love, encourage and welcome God to change lives all around us.

Praying for our enemies doesn’t condone their senseless acts.  It just simply releases them to the One who created them.

Not because they deserve it, but because we all suck sometimes.  We all mess up in various ways, some of which are more serious than others.

There’s a change in the heart when we begin to lift others up in prayer.  It’s kind of like a hard stick of butter, freshly removed from the fridge….I see our hearts like that.  The longer the butter sits at room temperature, the softer it becomes.  Similarly, the more that we pray for others, the softer our heart becomes.  The defensive barriers slowly come down and God gives us His eyes for others.  Our judgement of other’s actions now becomes an understanding of their disposition….of the fallen condition as human beings that we all fall subject to.

So let’s pray friends.  Let’s pray for healing, for freedom, for God’s intercession in even the most wrecked lives.  For an understanding and belief of who Jesus is.  That’s the stuff that matters and that’s the stuff that flips worlds upside down.

We’re not capable of knowing other’s motives.  We’re not capable of understanding it all.  We’re only capable of conversation with the One who does.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

Keep Looking Up

Looking UpThe world sure seems dark lately.  Every time I turn on the news, there’s mainly negative stories talked about.  Folks are getting killed, children are being abused and tragic accidents are happening daily.

The culture seems to be in a tailspin.  The lines that separate right from wrong are often blurred at best.

It’s as though we’re on this never-ending roller coaster, going faster and faster in the wrong direction.

Some may disagree, but I just can’t see how this downward spiral can go unnoticed.

I could go on and on about evil overtaking the world.  I could vent about injustice.  I could focus on the bad instead of dwelling on the good.

There’s a fine balance to consider: focusing on the good, while still being aware of the ever-present bad.  A sway in either direction isn’t productive.

Hopelessness can be found when our purpose is unclear.  When this world, with it’s expectations and pressures, seems overwhelming.  When perspective is lost.

What keeps me sane (most of the time) is my faith in Jesus.  I trust that things are temporary and I trust that in the end, good wins.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of worry and frustration, isn’t it?  Wondering what the future holds not only for us, but for our children and generations beyond.

We need to keep good footing friends.  God is certainly in control, even when life doesn’t seem that way.

Practically speaking, we simply need to keep looking up.  We need to turn our entitlement to thankfulness.  We need to turn the dang news off and go for a walk.  We need to talk to God about life and even vent a little bit….He can handle it.  When negativity tries to sneak in like oil in a puddle….resist it, kick it in the pants, fight it with good things and good thoughts.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

Sure, life is dark and dismal at times, but that’s just reality.  Let’s counteract the darkness with goodness.  Let’s bring good flavor to our communities and light to dim rooms.  Let’s give stuff away and serve others.  Let’s embrace one another, despite our differences.  Let’s take the focus off our petty selves and change the world.  God is limitless and He loves to use willing people to carry out His purposes.

The choice is ours really.  Let’s dwell on the victory that’s ours for the taking.  God is good.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

MOONING FOR APPROVAL

LikeHave you ever dropped your pants and mooned somebody to be funny?  C’mon, I know you have.

A funny memory came to mind the other day.  I was friends with this girl on my street.  I believe we were in kindergarten.  We hung out here and there and I remember having a big crush on her.  In fact, in my school picture, I was looking down at her with a cheesy smile on my face.  Kinda cute really.

We lived down a country rock road and we often walked together to the bus stop.  One day, as we were walking home, I decided to do something genius…..in fact, I thought it would be the most hilarious thing ever……in fact, I knew that she would be impressed with my wit and spontaneity….I dropped my drawers, turned around and mooned her.  I flung those chubby buns out for all to see.  Awesome, right?  Nope, not really.  I don’t remember her freaking out or anything, but I don’t remember her giving me a high-five either.  What I do remember is not hanging out with her anymore.  I was now the creepy kid who reveals his buns for approval and laughs.

My feeble attempt to gain approval didn’t work.  We all search for approval don’t we?  I know I still do.  We don’t need to drop our pants to gain approval….we do other things like talk about our stuff, status, money, accomplishments.  Sometimes, we may exaggerate a bit, just to add that extra-interesting flavor to our life.

God created each of us in a unique way.  We each have different gifts, abilities and strengths.  The bible talks many times about us using our God-given gifts boldly….if our gift is teaching, then teach….if serving, then serve….if leading, then lead.  So many times, I haven’t been satisfied with myself.  It’s almost like I’ve felt the need to convince others to like me, to think I’m cool.

I’m learning to just be myself.  It sounds simple, but it’s been a long road.  I love how God created me and I love how God created you.  If only we could boldly just be ourselves, gifts and all, without having to show each other our “buns.”

Have you ever found yourself doing silly things to seek approval?

God Bless,

Paul