Friday, September 25, 2009

The Story of Candice

I prayed for a month that God would help me come up with a great gift from the heart for my wife’s 30th birthday; something that required effort, time, talent and showed my love. It’s the opposite of what I had done in the past, usually I would buy something expense or exactly what she had asked for. This one was going to come from the heart. Finally God helped me figure out what I could do for her, make a fused glass piece of art. I have no reference point for where the idea came from except what was put on my heart and mind. I had zero experience with fused glass, I was clueless. It was going to require research, learning a new skill, a lot of time, much effort and talent: Perfect.

I’ll save you all the details because this is not the account of a birthday present in the making, but what happened AFTER that. After researching the right place to make it, I went to talk to the local artist and teacher (Greg) at his studio on a day that I didn’t have the kids. Greg is a wonderful Christian man, we had many great conversations. We discussed his studio and how people come in from all over to learn the skills of glass work and actually rent time in his studio making pieces to sell for a living. I shared with him my current trial and he shared what he has been through in his life. We had a wonderful time and agreed I should come back to make the piece at his studio.

As I was driving home that afternoon, pulling up the exit ramp to Rockville Road, I noticed a girl standing on the side of the road. She couldn’t have been much over twenty three. She was holding an all too familiar sign; please help. Except the sign indicated she had a three year old and a six month old baby. I rolled down my window and asked her if she needed food because I knew better than to give her money. It’s usually not spent on wholesome things. No, someone had already provided her a meal. Well, I guess that’s it then, what more can anyone do for her. I pulled onto Rockville Road heading home. A hundred times an encounter such as this had ended the same way; ask, and then move on with life.

I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the feeling that I should turn around and help her. How? I don’t know, but I’m certain I should try. I went to a convenient store close by and grabbed some flavored waters and drove to the nearest parking lot to the intersection. I hopped a fence and waded through the high grassy field that separated the parking lot from the off ramp. She saw me coming and was looked quite confused; this must not be a normal event for her. Me neither.

“Raspberry or pomegranate,” I inquired harmlessly. “I’m sure me being here is not good for business, but I’ll only keep you a few minutes if it’s o.k. with you.” Thankfully she obliged. Her name is Candice. She has a three year old daughter, Sophia, and a six month old son, Ricky. I drilled down to make sure she wasn’t just making this stuff up. Sure enough, it’s a heart breaking tale. Her husband had abandoned her when she told him she was pregnant again. Her brother-in-law had compassion on her and watches the kids sometimes while she begs for money or does odd jobs, like mowing a lawn, to get by. She can’t seem to find employment and besides she has a great big chip on her shoulder of bitterness that she wears on her sleeve. I can’t blame her, but it would be difficult to make a good impression to be hired by anyone.

I’m at a loss at this point. What am I doing here Lord? How can I help her? I’m in way over my head. So I pray silently, quickly. Lord what would you have me do? What would Jesus do? That’s when it hits me. He would teach! Jesus doesn’t usually give someone a meal for the sake of a meal. He would teach them how to live, the skills to prosper. “Give a person a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they will eat for a lifetime.” Where do I go with this one?

“Candice, if you could start all over, do anything you want for a living, what would it be?” She looks at me bewildered. This in NOT reality she seems to have written on her face. “Look, just indulge me for a minute. If you didn’t have the life you have now. What did you love in high school? Math, Music, Art, Science, English, what?” I’m grasping for a connection. “I hated Math!” she says. “O.k. now we are getting somewhere. So math is out. What are you truly passionate about? What would you love to do? Anything.” There is a long pause and she seems to dig deep for an answer that really means something to her. For the moment she has escaped her surroundings; the cardboard sign, the glaring judgmental eyes of passing strangers, her humbling, pride swallowing life to simply survive. I can see an answer formulating on her face.

I will NEVER forget her answer.  I was frozen where I stood in awe of the connection that I had just made in my mind.  It was as if time stood still for a moment, everything was silent...a moment of extreme clarity.  The very reason God had sent me down a certain path and had implored me to talk to her.  "If I could do anything, anything...I would take broken pieces of something and mold them together into a piece of art." I was stunned.  How could this be?  The only words I could get out were, "like glass? Could glass be the pieces you put together?" She confirms my question, "Yes, but could I really make a living doing something like that, something I love?"

The rest of the account is mine alone, just as all of the other amazing moments over the last few months are.  I made mention of them in my entry entitled, "Would you believe me."  I only share a part of this recent story to pull all of the pieces together from my other entries.  I give God all the glory and credit for what He does through my life and the blessings from it.  This is not about me, which is one of the reasons I am cautious to share other accounts.  I want you to see how everything is intertwined as I wrote about in "God's Incredible Economy."  We only need to listen for His leading, have enough margin in our lives and be obedient to follow Him on these paths.

Was it simply an incredible coincidence that my answer to a prayer request was to make a fused glass piece of art as a present?  Was it simply an incredible coincidence on that very day of being in the studio, being informed people can and do make a living from being taught this skill... I run into a person, the very person in need and a begger no less...the one thing they would love more than anything was to make art?  You do the math. Not just improbable, impossible!

What will become of Candice? Can people change? Only God knows the whole picture, but I believe He is working in the lives of people to do just that.  He wants to work through you too.  What's that you say, "but I'm not worthy, I fail every day, I have evil thoughts, do evil deeds, I'm selfish, a sinner, a reject, I feel like I can't even get my own life in order."    ...Me too. We all fall short.  We all feel less than capable or qualified at times.  That is why we need Jesus.  Don't let Satan fool you, lie to you, keep you beat down.  You are precious in His sight, always will be...No matter what you do.  Go be His hands and feet, I know you can.

Jesus is very fond of you and so am I,

Today's song touches my heart for so many reasons, please take time to read the lyrics or bettter yet listen to the song & video on youtube
I can't get through this video without crying.

Does anybody hear her by Casting Crowns

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
She is trying
But the canyon is ever widening in the depths of her cold heart
So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She's another two years older
And she's three more steps behind

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

She is yearning
For a shelter and affection
That she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away


If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances form lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we never even met her

He is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you drowning? Need some air?

Have you ever felt like you were drowning? Like life seems to hand you one upset after another, you know “when it rains, it pours.” It can be an awful retched sensation full of despair and worry. Your nerves get the best of you and perhaps you have the added feeling of being punched in the stomach. There is one solution that seems to melt it all away in one fail swoop! Imagine going from the sensation of drowning in one moment to breathing a deep sigh of relief.

It works so well and never seems to fail. What is it you ask? It’s like the air we breathe. Once you begin to breathe air as a newborn you simply can’t do without it. The living words written in the Bible are like the air and to put them aside is like trying to hold our breath, which you can only do for so long! “Hold tightly to the word of life” says Philippians 2:16. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.” Colossians 3:16 and in Hebrews 4:12 it says “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires.”

In Ephesians chapter 6 we read about the whole armor of God “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.” The word of God is referred to as the sword of the Spirit going on the offense against thoughts that tear us down and give us the drowning sensation.

The Word is so full of God’s provision for our lives and promises that never fail. For example God tells us that He will never give us more troubles than we can handle. I was recently discussing this with my son. He was becoming gloomy and despondent with the thoughts that mommy may never come home for us to be a family again. I understand his concern and it pained me to see him being held captive to these thoughts and emotions.

We talked about how God provides for us, has our best interest at heart and makes the sun to shine again after the storm. I asked him a fundamental question that we all have to ask ourselves from time to time. If we know God will take care of us and everything will be great in the end because of His promise…if we already know how the story ends, do we need to worry about what happens in the middle? My son understood this, it’s like watching a movie and someone’s already given us the spoiler. We know everything turns out roses for the hero and the damsel in distress so we don’t have to “sit on edge” when he’s hanging on for dear life wondering if he’s going to make it or not. We already know the truth; we can rest assuredly in it. Some might say, the truth will set you free! That’s John 8:32 by the way.

My son now tries to rest on this promise. He believes, as I do, that in the end it will all be better than ok. We now look forward with sweet anticipation for that time. That’s a great place to be, full of peace and comfort. It comes from daily living in the words spoken by our Savior and we stay near to it. As if it were the very air we breathe.

Today’s song appropriately - Breathe by Michael W. Smith

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I, I'm desperate for you
And I, I'm lost without you

Friday, September 4, 2009

Can people change?

What a controversial question. Can people really change? I’ve talked with many that seem to think that real lasting change is just not possible. “People are who they are” or “you can’t change their nature” or “it’s just the way they are and always will be.” Have you heard this before? I understand where the statements come from; it is the voice of experience.

“If you only knew my ex-husband, you’d understand. He’s been this way his whole life. That’s not going to change. Oh he’s made efforts over the years, but he always goes back to center. He may even find someone to make him truly happy, it just won’t be me.” I personally know a lot of people that either believe this line of thought wholeheartedly or they fit into the camp that is being spoken about.

I also know of several people who defy this logic to the highest degree. A certain despised tax collector named Matthew who was probably living quite high on the hog from his job in biblical days. Another is named Paul; he persecuted Christians with great fervor and pride at one time. Then suddenly these men came face to face with Jesus. At that moment they were different, changed men from then on. You can read about their accounts in the Bible, they became two of Jesus’ closest friends, disciples who spread the message of Christ and ultimately gave their lives for the very cause they once stood against and tried to stamp out.

I also personally know of couples who lived sinful selfish destructive lives. One such couple, a wife was sleeping around while the husband was drinking himself into a stupor on a regular basis. Another couple was heading quickly into oblivion together for a time getting drunk on a regular basis, and then it turned into affairs etc. A third couple were both thought to be solid in their faith until the husband allowed sin to slowly creep into his heart and his growing lust for the “greener grass” that would surely make him happy overtook him. Neither of them saw it coming, nor did he recognize that his heart was hardening. It was too late.

I have encountered numerous couples who all share a similar story line. I believe God put them in my path to encourage me and open my eyes to the truth. Every single one of those couples has been redeemed from the pit of despair, sometimes neither one even wanting to work it out! All of them said they believed change wasn’t possible at one point. Then there was a moment for each of them, they came face to face with Jesus. He transformed their hearts and healed their marriages when the world around them said it just wasn’t possible. They now sing in chorus that they have twice the marriage as before!

If we don’t believe change is possible, we don’t leave room for God’s grace and mercy, his unfailing love. You say, “But they are already Christians! Wouldn’t they have changed already?” I have been a Christian since I was young, I knew I was saved and going to heaven. I even felt like I was a good Christian, doing good deeds, going on mission trips, etc. Let me tell you something though, for as good as I thought I was, perhaps even book smart in the Bible, I was “sucking up the field” in reality. (Pardon the crass language.) There are those who have faith in Christ who are saved. They live BECAUSE of him; they have the promise of eternal life. There is also discipleship. They live FOR him; they have all of his promises written on their hearts and take him up on them.

The truth is I was a becauser…I wasn’t the husband I was called to be, I thought I was a good guy with a good heart doing good things for good reasons. I wasn’t the father I was called to be, I thought I was a fairly involved dad who deeply loved his children. I wasn’t the leader I was called to be, my ego would have told you otherwise. I wasn’t even the friend I was called to be, although I would have given you the shirt off my back.

No, it wasn’t until this storm hit and I came face to face with a living God who held on tight to me. It wasn’t until I was willing to step out of the proverbial boat in the middle of my personal storm to meet Jesus walking on the water, to keep him in my focus so I wouldn’t sink; only then did I begin to transform into the man he called me to be. To die of self daily and live for him; all those words he spoke in the Bible began to come alive in my heart. I am my own best example of people being able to change. So you can challenge me on this one if you want, but the proof is in the changed lives that I have come into contact with, one of them stares at me in the mirror every day.

In Christ we can be husbands that desire to be servant leaders, having our spouse’s best interest at heart in every decision. We can create a warm and safe environment for our wives to flourish and help develop their walk with God, together as one. In Christ we can truly understand how to cherish our children who are on loan from God. We can raise them in the fruits of the Spirit and draw them closer to God as well. In Christ we can put our ego aside and our own ambitions and ask God what his will is for our lives, in ministry and work. In Christ we can reach out to strangers, call them our neighbor and love them as Christ loves us.

People can change, just not on their own accord. They need to come face to face with Jesus and be willing to follow him instead of just using him as a life vest for salvation. This is the path to an abundant life, amazing, full of joy and contentment. “I pray that you…may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-18 (NIV) He wants it for all of us. He’s waiting for us to take him up on the offer.

Jesus is very fond of you and so am I,

Today's song: Among The Thirsty - I'd Need A Savior
The video isn't great, but you can hear the song

How many names can I use to explain the love of my Jesus,
the life that he gave and so many times will I praise you today.
I lift up my life ‘cause you’re always the same
And my offering to you I bring

Your name is Jesus. Your name is Jesus.
You’re the Wonderful, Counselor, my Friend.
You’re what I hold on to; I know that you brought me through
All the days of loss, to the cross you knew
I’d need a Savior.

How many songs can I sing to proclaim your wondrous love and beauty so great?
What would I say if you brought down the rain and everyday
I walk through the pain my heart would still say…


You’re what I hold on to; I know that you brought me through
All the days of loss, to the cross you knew
I’d need a Savior.
I’d need a Savior
I need you, Savior