Live Your Faith

beach

Several years ago, my brother Dan introduced me to a pastor of a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since then, I’ve listened regularly to his Sunday sermons online. This Sunday’s sermon caused me to do some thinking.

What is it that is so much on your mind? he asked.  What is it that you are always talking about?  His point: What you’re thinking about, what you’re talking about, says something about who you are and possibly even how you are living out your Faith.

As Followers of Christ, we are called to see the good. We are to be His hands and feet. I’m not always successful at seeing the good each day, or representing His ways as well as I would like. And I was reminded of that as I listened to the pastor’s message.

The image above is on my desktop. It’s the first thing I see each morning as I sign on to my computer. Well this morning, I saw this image differently. Walk in His Light—that’s what it seemed to be saying to me. Walk in His strength. Walk in Faith. Walk and talk like the believer you are—the believer you were meant to be.

So here’s what I took away from the North Carolina pastor’s message. I want to think about the good.  To not belittle or denigrate anyone because of their politics or their beliefs. To say something nice. Something gentle. To show my neighbor love and grace.

My mother used to tell me stories about my father’s Aunt Minnie (she took my father in at the age of 3 after his mother died in a fire).

Aunt Minnie never said anything about anybody that was unkind or ungracious. She saw the good and walked humbly yet boldly with her Lord. She lived her Faith. What a legacy. What an example.

I want to be Aunt Minnie. I want to surround myself with all the Aunt Minnie’s that God graciously sends my way. I want to live my Faith.

 

 

Advertisements

Helgi

yellow-colorful-flowers-wallpapers-1024x768.jpg

Helgi loved bright colors.

 

My 91-year-old mother lives in a supervised independent living facility just down the road a bit from where I live. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people—both those who live there and those who work there. One side of the facility is assisted living–for those who need extra support and help.

I feel great joy when I visit with my mother and the many residents who reside there. There’s Joyce, who sits near the front entrance in the beautiful lobby, who takes my hand each time I come into the building, with a ready smile. There are hugs from Roy and his wife Pat, Susie, Art (a gem of a person), just to name a few. And Helgi.

Helgi was born in Czechoslovakia. Her grandparents perished in a concentration camp during the German Occupation. But Helgi and her mother were fortunate. They escaped to London, where they survived the bombings of that city during WWII. She and her mother eventually reconnected with her father, who had immigrated to America several years earlier. Helgi eventually married, was a nurse, and outlived all of her family. She was a beautiful lady.

I say was—because three days ago Helgi left this world.

I knew she wasn’t feeling well and I had planned on stopping to see her. Helgi was a woman of Faith. And I felt a deep desire to sit and pray with her. Except, I didn’t. I got busy with other things. Unfortunately, we all do that—even those of us who are His Followers.

It was two days ago that I finally stopped by Helgi’s apartment—and it was empty. Someone said she had moved to the assisted living side of the facility. So I walked the halls looking for her name outside each assisted living apartment. Finally, when I couldn’t find her, I went to the front desk.

They know me there. I come to see my mother almost every day. When I asked about Helgi, they said, “She died yesterday afternoon.”

I couldn’t help myself. I got emotional, choking out these words, “But I had hoped to sit down and pray with her. The Lord was nudging me, and I didn’t listen. I should have. I’m so sorry.” The receptionist looked at me with kind and tearful eyes, “I know,” she said.

It’s only been a few days and I’m still feeling the loss of a friend. The missed opportunity to spend time with someone transitioning from this world to the next saddens me still. And I am reminded of the blessings we receive when we listen to the nudges of the Lord.

I hope to be a better listener the next time.

The Lady Across the Hall

img_8660-1

I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

The Beggar

 

DSC00499 (2)

Inside the Forbidden City

In 2007, the year before the 2008 Olympics, I made my 12th business trip to China. I was blessed with the privilege of traveling to many wonderful countries in my work—Germany, China, India. I even went to Africa.

Beijing is one of my favorite cities and whenever I was there, I always visited the Forbidden City—where the emperors of China once lived many years ago.

There’s a small fee to get inside the walls of the ancient city—and it was there in line to buy my ticket that I had an experience that forever touched my heart.

While I was waiting in the long, long line to buy my pass, I saw a tiny, emaciated, one-legged beggar using a crooked tree branch as his crutch—standing right beside me.

He didn’t say a word, just stood there, eyes focused on the ground. And when I stepped forward as the line moved, so did he. I admit I felt a bit uncomfortable, and I ignored him.

When I finally reached the front of the line and made my purchase, I turned around and almost knocked him over. He whispered, “One dollar. Just one dollar. Please.”

I was surprised he could speak English. But I was even more surprised by his humble nature, his sad eyes, and the sincereness of his request.

I gave him what he asked for—just one dollar. To which he didn’t say a word—he just slowly limped away.

I entered the gates to the inner city and walked around as a tourist for about 3 hours. When it came time to leave, I walked out through the same gate that I had entered.

And there he stood. And when he saw me, he looked me in the eyes and simply bowed his head. A silent gesture of thanks.

His presence was unexpected. His humble gesture touched my heart. I looked back at him and nodded my head in return—and once again, he hobbled away.

Later that night as I sat alone in my hotel room, I thought, why didn’t I give him more?

Well, the next year, the year of the Olympics, I was in China once again—this time a few weeks after the event was over. I went back to the Forbidden City, hoping to see the beggar. He wasn’t there.

China, in an effort to “clean up” their streets for the Olympics, had removed/relocated all of the beggars.  I’m not really sure where they went. All I know is this: There were no beggars anywhere to be found.

I had so wanted to see him again. And the fact that I didn’t, honestly, troubles me still. He gave me so much more than I came close to giving him.

At the time, I wasn’t yet a follower of Jesus. But I am a follower now.

I sometimes wish I could return to that moment—and do more. Be kinder, more respectful, give him a hug—I’m not sure what.

But one thing is certain for me after all these years: I’m grateful that I’m here now with a heart that is eager to help and a Lord who nudges me to reach out.

It’s not always about giving money; sometimes it’s sharing a smile or a moment of one’s time—chatting with a lonely nursing home resident or thanking a check-out clerk at the grocery store who seems to be having a difficult day.

My hope is that every time God presents an opportunity to love a neighbor in the days to come, these words will continue to stir my heart:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 35-40

May God bless you with the opportunity to reach out and selflessly help someone in need.

 

Jackie Evans, AOG

 

jacke_0001 (2)

Our paths have crossed several times over the past 12 months—first on a trip to Israel where we were tablemates at breakfast. Six months later, we were both in a women’s bible study group—and in the last four weeks, part of a study group between church services.

Her insights are inspirational and her amazing Faith shows in her demeanor, presence, and deep commitment to the Lord.

A couple of days ago, we had a conversation. I caught up with Jackie after one of our classes just to tell her how touched I was by something she had shared. One thing led to another, and then she told this story.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed the tendency for some professions to add initials to their names—initials that identify their credentials. Susan Fields, MSN, for example. Or, William Brown, CFP. Well, I’ve made the decision to identify myself from now on as Jackie Evans, AOG.”

I smiled, but must have looked confused. “AOG, you know—Agent of God,” Jackie explained.

I liked the concept and thought about it for the next several days. And the more I thought about it, the more I savored the idea. Agent of God—on a mission; available at a moment’s notice to become God’s instrument.

Then on Sunday, I met up with Jackie and asked her to elaborate.

“I first learned about the Agent of God concept in a Lenten study at church,” she said. “I liked the idea right away. So much so that I found myself repeating the phrase over and over. I playfully applied the title to the end of my name. But as I continued to think about it, the idea became more serious. In fact, it was a defining moment.

“I realized Jesus was an Agent—on assignment; faithful in His mission. As His follower, I’m called to be an Agent, too—available at any time to be mobilized in mission.

“We never know what God will set before us,” Jackie continued, “but one thing is for sure. If you’re a follower, He will use you for His purpose.

“It may be something big—like a mission trip to a foreign country; or it may be something local, like volunteering to work with a group that serves young wives of men in prison. Some days it may even be something as simple as holding the door for an elderly woman struggling with her walker.

“God works through the lives of ordinary people like me,” Jackie clarified. “He uses His Agents to demonstrate His love and forgiveness through the sharing of love and forgiveness with others.”

Jackie boldly admits this is her new role in life—her purpose. She believes it’s why she’s here.

Her final words to me that Sunday, “I often feel like I’m more of an AIT, Agent-In-Training, than a seasoned Agent of God. At life’s end, I just hope to be worthy of either title.“

 

 

Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Galatians 6:10  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”

John 15:12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Our Miracle Departure!

 

IMG_6721 (1).jpg

Happy we could enjoy this sunset on the ship off the coast of St. Maarten!

At first, I wasn’t going to write this story. It seemed somewhat trivial to write a spirit-filled blog about asking God to help us please get back in time to board our departing cruise ship. But then I recalled two things: First, a scripture,

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30

And second, God uses all things for His mighty purpose, and maybe this story will touch someone somewhere in ways that only He will know.

So here it goes.

It was a beautiful day on St. Maarten. Ten of us (all neighbors) had hired a private company to create a tour just for us, rather than buy one of the many tours available through the cruise ship (the only downside of hiring a private tour rather than taking a cruise tour: if you are late for final boarding call, the ship will leave without you).

We had a lovely day driving around the island, stopping at several magnificent beaches.   Our last stop of the day was Maho Beach where we would stand at the end of the small island airport runway with hundreds of other tourists to watch the 2:50 Air France 747 land directly over our heads. The ship was docked about 35 minutes away from the airport and we had 2 hours from the plane’s touchdown to make it back in time for boarding.

We waited for about 15 minutes along the edge of the ocean at the end of the runway watching other smaller planes come and go. Disappointed, we left early when we could see on the arrivals board (yes, there’s actually an arrivals board next to the viewing spot on the beach) that the plane was going to be about 30 minutes late.

Before we could even get out of the airport, we were trapped in deadlock traffic—which we could see in the distance stretched all the way over the mountain road headed back to the ship. Must have been an accident, we all concluded.

Then to make matters worse, rain began to pour! We were in standstill traffic for at least 40 minutes with no hope of moving forward on the one road on the island that would quickly take us to the ship. We were down to about one hour before we had to board. So we turned around to head back in the direction from which we had come—about an hour’s drive back to port.

As we drove, it didn’t get any better—pouring rain, slow, slow traffic. Everything seemed to be going against us.   At first, we laughed, joked…but the longer we drove, the more we began to realize we might not make it back in time to catch the ship.

One of our neighbors suggested he call the cruise line emergency number on the back of our SeaPasses (the stateroom keys). When he reached a person on the line in Miami, he very calmly and respectfully stated this was not a life threatening emergency, but that we were tied up in traffic and not likely to make the final boarding time for our ship. Could she contact the Captain and ask him if it would be possible to delay the ship’s departure? We have 10 people and will likely be 5-10 minutes late.

She said she would make the call, but couldn’t guarantee any result. “Understandable,” we all agreed after he hung up, “but certainly worth a try.”

As we drove along, our stress levels continued to increase, yet our driver remained calm and professional, even under our constant questioning—what’s the latest estimated time of arrival. (The neighbor sitting in the front seat next to the driver told us later, the driver was calm, but his hands were shaking just a bit).

At 4:40 (last call for boarding was at 4:45) we asked the driver yet again, “How much longer before we reach the ship?” And he said, “Another 20-25 minutes if we don’t hit worsening traffic.” Just then, a slow-moving truck pulled into traffic right in front of us—and the van became very, very quiet.

I prayed for a miracle—and I’m pretty certain others in the van did, too.

A few minutes later, suddenly, out of nowhere, we could see the ship in the distance and the tour company called the driver to say he had permission to drop us off directly at the pier.   As we continued to move along through traffic, the clock showed 5:06 pm—6 minutes later than the 5:00 pm ship departure time.  Hopeful that we were close enough to still maybe make it, one of our neighbors asked the group, “Can anyone here still run?” (we’re all in our sixties/seventies). Ron volunteered and was one of two designated runners prepared to leap from the van the moment we would come to a stop. When we finally did stop about 5 minutes later, we all grabbed our belongings and ran as fast as we could for the ship.

At the point of security, we were waved through and rushed to the dock. Unbelievably, the ship was still there and the gangway still extended. About 25 crew members greeted us, shouting, “Hurry!” Ron arrived first and they told him they were waiting for 10 people who had managed to get to the Captain. Ron simply said, “That would be us.”

And so we all squeaked on board.

As we sat on the top deck watching the ship slowly pull away from St. Maarten, several in the group commented, “I don’t know how we made it. We were 20 minutes away in heavy traffic, then suddenly, we were here!”

I whispered, “Thank you, Lord!” And I later found out, I wasn’t the only one.

To some, it may seem silly or a stretch to think the Lord was somehow involved in our stressful journey. You might even be saying to yourself: “Well, this is all just coincidence—or good karma. Besides, God doesn’t get involved in the little things in our lives.”

To this I would respond: “God is involved in the details of our lives. He hears and has an answer to our prayers. Sometimes He gives us what we ask for—often in a way that is mysterious or a beautiful surprise! Sometimes His answer may be no or not right now. And when that happens, instead of losing faith, we need to trust Him and His plan for us.

In hindsight, asking for help through prayer about our need to catch our ship was not a trivial matter. If we had missed this ship, some would have been without life-saving medications for several days, and without the identification necessary to return to the United States (most had left their passports, credit cards, and cash on the ship) travel home would have been very difficult. There would have been no way to just catch up with the departed ship at the next port—for it was sailing for the next 3 nights and days directly back to the United States.

Reaching the Captain, the Captain holding the ship when he was not required to do so, arriving at the port just in time against all odds—is it possible that God had a hand in the outcome of this journey? A response to our prayers? I happen to think so!

 

A Christmas Tradition

 

IMG_0701 (1)

I started a tradition four years ago with the birth of my first grandchild—a grandson. And now I also have an almost 2-year-old granddaughter.   They are both sweet, loving children—and quite normal, for they love receiving presents.

While I cherish the fun of buying them special Christmas gifts, I truly longed for a way of showing them the real meaning of the Christmas season.   I know from my own experience the joy that comes from giving to someone who is in need, and I wanted my grandchildren to have this experience as well. Thus the tradition: buying a gift for someone in need each year as one of their Christmas presents.

Here’s my hope: As they begin to grow older, they will be just as excited on Christmas morning to discover who they helped this year as they will be for any of their other presents. And as young adults and eventually a father and mother themselves they will continue this tradition of giving a Christmas gift to others.

My grandson’s presents over the past 4 years have been 2 chickens to a family in Africa, a doll to a child in need in the USA, a warm coat for a refugee boy in Syria, and this year—a winter care kit for a refugee child in Europe facing a freezing winter.

For my granddaughter, her gift last year was 2 weeks of milk for a hungry baby—and this year, a loving-care package for an orphan girl in India.

I read a devotional earlier today entitled, “Life is Best Lived When You’re Awake.” The author’s premise: Appreciate all that God has given you. Pay attention to the wonder of being alive. Notice and help the people around you—especially those in need. Then he asked, “Are you awake?”

God bless you as you think about and give to others in need this glorious season—as we celebrate the Birth of our Lord! Merry Christmas.

Gift ideas for children in need all over the world can be found at samaritanspurse.org and worldvisiongifts.org. You can make a difference for a child or a family in need for under $25.

 

Crossroads

The IntersectionA terrible tragedy occurred on Saturday morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   A car plunged into the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Parade crowd killing four people—including a 2-year-old boy—a child the age of my little granddaughter. Another 47 people were injured, several in critical condition.

It’s understandable that we are angry with the 25-year-old woman who has been identified as the one responsible. Many consider her to be a monster. I myself was angry at her, asking how she could do such a horrible thing, hurting so many innocent people.

But then God reached out and touched my heart—and I remembered. How could I, of all people, not feel compassion for this woman.

Most of my friends will be surprised to read what I’m about to tell you. Only my family and a handful of others are aware of this difficult chapter in my life story.

~~~

Six years ago this past September, I made a left turn at a green light at a busy intersection. I turned—and never saw the motorcycle that was heading toward me from the opposite direction. It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing him only at the very last minute.

That’s all that I remember. The next thing I know, I woke up inside a smoke-filled car with airbags deployed and shattered.

As a result of a split-second decision, my life has never been nor will it ever be the same again. The motorcyclist didn’t make it. I wasn’t drinking; I wasn’t texting; I wasn’t on drugs; I wasn’t speeding; I wasn’t on my cell phone. I simply made a left turn and didn’t see the motorcycle.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine what the driver in Oklahoma is thinking or going through at this moment—but unfortunately, I can. No matter what the rest of us might think of her, she is numb, in shock, feeling desperate, hopeless, full of fear and unbearable anxiety. And she’s just beginning her terrible journey—and I can tell you it gets worse before it ever might get better.

Please understand. I am in no way condoning or excusing this woman’s behavior—whether she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or mentally unstable. We are after
all, all accountable for our actions. I’m just saying that we’ve been told not to judge or condemn, to love our neighbor, and to forgive others. God offers redemption to even those who seem most unlovable.

So I would ask each of you: Pray for the families of those who lost their loved ones. Pray for the families and the victims who are critically injured and recovering. Pray for all who were touched by this horrific incident.

But also pray for this woman who has to be, inside herself, hurting, too. I know I feel compelled to do so. I hope that you do, too.

 ~~~

In the end, my traumatic journey turned out to be a blessing. The Lord called me, said he loved me, forgave me for this and all my past and future sins, and asked me to follow him. And I said “yes.”

I wish this for everyone who has their own unique walk as they journey through their time on this planet. My family, my friends, all of those affected by these terrible events in Stillwater, Oklahoma—and yes, also for the woman who is responsible.

Be Strong and Courageous

My mother.

My mother at home in Florida.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”    Deuteronomy 31:6   New International Version (NIV)

 

It’s been four months since I’ve written anything on my WordPress blog. I last wrote as I was getting ready to head for Israel. I was consumed with all my plans and responsibilities—things I needed to get done before I traveled.

Of all the “things” I needed to do, the one that concerned me most was making sure my mother was not alone while her 92-year-old husband, Bob, traveled to New Zealand on vacation with his son—his trip scheduled at the same time I would be in Israel.

I “knew” in my heart it was critical that she be with family in Bob’s absence—and things weren’t working out.  My brother couldn’t get away and Ron graciously offered to bring my mother to Florida.  Still I “knew” that either Dan or I needed to be there also.

Well at the last minute things did all come together—Dan’s business suddenly had a lull and he could be in Florida after all.  And I could head to Israel.

Weeks later, my mother, my brother and I all agreed—it was God at work making sure my mother was not alone, but in Florida with my brother, when the news reached her that her husband, Bob, had passed away while in New Zealand.

When I returned from Israel, we flew back to Minneapolis to begin the work of going through belongings, cleaning out the house, searching through papers, preparing the home for sale, meeting with accountants and lawyers, working with social security—while at the same time always grieving. My mother and Bob had been married nearly 30 years.

The challenges were overwhelming—mold remediation and house foundation issues—all invisible to the eye until we began the process of moving built-in bookcases. At times the challenges were more than a normal 90-year-old could possibly bear.

Now, four months later, things are coming together. The house has been sold, all repairs completed, and my mother has moved to Florida into a wonderful caring community. Almost all of the issues surrounding her husband’s death have been resolved.

Yesterday was a big day for my mother, and last night I Facebook private-messaged her:

“Sleep extraordinarily well tonight! You have had a very good day. God continues to bless you! If you feel up to it, tell him thanks tonight before you go to bed. Love you very very much.”

This was her answer:

“I have thanked him for the positive things and asked for strength to take the knocks. See you in the morning. I love you very much, too.”

Thank you, Father, for this and all your blessings.

On This Valentine’s Day, Remember Your First Love

Several of my friends and I are getting ready for our trip to Israel in a couple of weeks—and we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things we need to do. Make sure all of our bills are paid in advance, shop and pack, make arrangements for our pets, make sure our parents (most of us are in our sixties) are well-cared for in our absence. In the midst of all this angst, I found comfort this morning in a message from Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Today:

         “This world you inhabit is increasingly complex and confusing. You have more    information at your fingertips than you can process in a lifetime. There are so many demands on you—from the world, the church, other people, yourself. As a result, it’s easy to feel lost and perplexed. To find Peace in this chaotic clutter, you need to set priorities….

      It is crucial to make your relationship with Me the top priority….Other priorities fall into their proper place when I am first and foremost in your life.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me that my first priority and my first love is my Savior and my God. When I know this, all of my other priorities fall into their proper place. Happy Valentine’s Day to all my friends and family, whom I love and cherish. May your day be clutter-free and filled with peace.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

 Matthew 22:37-38