Be A World Changer in One Minute

So often I look at the dreadful status of the world around me and sigh and wish that I could change things in a significant way. This moves me to join with organizations that are making a difference either through participation or through contribution. That is not a brag… I’m far away from being able to brag about myself in this matter.

I wonder how often we fail to make a difference in the world because we’re always looking at some IMMENSE problem that demands a GIANT solution? What if we could change the world in one minute or less in a simple way?

I don’t know if she knew this was going to happen but Ashley C. Ford (Twitter @iSmashFizzle) did just that back in December. One area that touched her heart was the unpaid lunch debts at the schools around her. So she just made a suggestion in a tweet:

A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off. (LINK)

Depending on your experience with Twitter, you may know that thousands of tweets float by in the universe every hour and you won’t see the vast majority of them. But sometimes they catch your eye.

At the time Ashley had  66,000 followers.  Enough of them saw and retweeted so that this simple suggestion began to grow wings.  By now that tweet has been retweeted more than 13,000 times.  Every time it is catching someone’s eyes. 

Lindsey Bell noted that Kristina Arwood, a resident from Evansville, Indiana, helped raise $20,000 to pay off lunch debts in her area. She told CBS News, “It really hit home for me. . . . I grew up on free and reduced-price lunches, but even that 40 cents was hard to get together with four kids. There were times I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have money and didn’t want to be labeled as the poor kid.” (LINK)

The Today Show ran with the story and you can read some of the amazing results of this tweet HERE.

What touches your heart? What is it that catches your breath when you hear about it? 

I’ve been blessed to know a number of these influencers. One person I’ve never met in real life but who has had a great influence in my world is Mike Ellis. He’s one of those who doesn’t let anything keep him from reaching out and helping others. Another world changer is Aaron Reddin who was inspired to love the homeless people of Little Rock. His world changing idea was to buy a van and stock it with stuff the homeless need and take it to them. This has grown as others have gotten on board. Or Mike Baumgartner who refurbished an RV and turned it into a kitchen and goes where disaster strikes to make food for victims and helpers…and this has also evolved.  Quincy Gardner has gathered around him an army of helpers who come to the aid of people truly in need. 

Stack of Cards from Love in the Mail Group!

I once had an idea that if I could get 100 people to agree to send 1 card with 1 dollar to 1 person per week that we could change the lives of 52 people per year. So I started a group on Facebook called Love in the Mail. We’ve sent cards and dollars to over 100 people now. We still don’t have 100 participants, hovering around 70. But to me that’s a simple plan, a simple idea, that makes a big difference. Let me know if you want to join in!

The one thing all of these people have in common in the beginning is that they had an idea of a way to help someone and they just put it out there. There is, in most people, a heart of compassion that needs an outlet. 

So what idea have you had that might change the world in one minute? Why not just tweet it out or share it on Facebook or call a friend and ask if they want to join in? I have a little project right now that I’m about to ask some friends to join in and help. Maybe I can help change someone’s world in one minute. 

I’ll be watching for your world-changing idea!

You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you – Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Thanks for reading. JD

That Person Next To You

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I’m as guilty as anyone of being zoned out to those around me while I contemplate what I have to do next or fret about why this line is taking so long. I will admit that I’ve often ignored the person next to me while I took care of my own business. I also want to assert that we’ve got to start noticing the person next to us.

How tempted are we to start thinking in grandiose terms when someone mentions we should love our neighbor as ourselves (a teaching of Jesus!)? I start thinking about the world, cities, the community … and may even be daydreaming about that while there is a person 3 feet from me that I’m not acknowledging.

When Maggy and I travel to the Mississippi Delta to see family, we usually go on the same route. Along that route is a McDonalds restaurant which happens to appear about the same time we need a break! So we have stopped there many times. Yesterday we were taking a break on our way home and an elderly black man sat down near us.

So what was I doing? I never noticed him. I was watching Republican convention coverage on the TV monitor and also thinking about the trip home and what we had to do when we get there. That’s when I heard Maggy say:

“I like your hat.”

That’s all. Simple, sweet, acknowledgment of the human being that was right there near us. That statement broke my ‘concentration’ and I noticed it was an LSU hat. So I joined in and told him we were from Monroe and there were lots of people here who love LSU.

He beamed and said that he had a son that graduated top of his class in the engineering department there. He then added that he had a son that was in the Navy and had soared to the top of the ladder in the area where he served (he called the rank specifically what it was, my memory won’t recall that now). Then he said he had one son that wasn’t worth nothing – but he was smiling as he thought about his youngest. I told him that maybe he’d find his way before long. We complimented him on his parenting skills and he gave all the credit to his wife.

That’s when he told us that his wife passed away a few years ago. And I knew at that moment how important it was for us to acknowledge the person next to us. He wasn’t eating lunch at McDonald’s by himself for the fun of it…nor was he talking to strangers just to be kind.

To tell the truth I was the one who was blessed when we started talking to an elderly black man in McDonald’s one afternoon.

Recently on Facebook I saw a post relating to a meeting at the Hunter Hills Church of Christ near Montgomery. It said in part:

What a blessed time we had on tonight with the Hunter Hills Church Family. A great message from our minister Tim Anderson, Jr. He challenged the audience to start a conversation with some who doesn’t look like you and get to know others.

Simple, but powerful. It all starts with noticing that person next to you. They may need some encouragement or a kind word … but chances are they have something to share with you. We might not be able to fix all of the troubles of the world, but we might be able to ease the trouble of one person near us.

If that catches on, I think something beautiful might be up in the world. No surprise… it’s part of the Jesus Life to which we’re called. He didn’t pass up an opportunity to speak to the person next to Him. Neither should we.

Thanks for reading,  JD.

There’s So Much To Say…

file0002105100289There’s so much to say when there’s nothing to say.

In that quiet moment when someone bares their soul with a confession of shame …

When someone has lost a person they love and there is a big empty space …

When you’ve been given the diagnosis you never thought would be yours …

When terror finds its way to your tranquil life …

When the failure of another has impacted your own life in a devastating moment …

When “I do” turns into “I won’t” …

When the silence of God roars so loudly it drowns out His presence…

There’s so much to say when there’s nothing to say. And it’s so much better to just not say it.

When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud … Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. ~Job 2:11-13

That’s hard to do, but what a beautiful ministry silence is when one is present with a hurting friend.

Thanks for reading,

John

 

 

What I Learned About Painful Experiences From The Beatitudes

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Audio of the message below.

The very familiar beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:1-12.  As Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, He takes a look around Him and begins to notice the real struggles of the people He loves.

Contrary to popular opinion he does not offer up platitudes for happier days nor just positive affirmations for good attitudes. Each of the beatitudes addresses a painful experience of the people in front of Him. Before Jesus gives any commands in this sermon, He spends a moment as the man of sorrows both sympathizing with them and giving them hope.

What I learned about painful experiences from reading the beatitudes can be summed up in three observations.

Painful Experiences Are Common. No doubt seated before Him are those who have been dealing with the prideful Pharisees, and maybe some of them were prideful Pharisees who recognized their own sin. How many there had lost loved ones during persecution and mourned their losses? How indignant were they that they were an occupied nation, tempted to use their strength to strike out instead of controlling themselves to bless others?

The truth is that everyone experiences pain in life. This week we will begin a GriefShare series. Like every time before we will see the expressionless faces of those still shell-shocked by sudden losses that have left them feeling helpless and vulnerable. I remember walking into a Compassionate Friends meeting for the first time. I remember how much pain there was in that room. I could barely stay. Your pain may not be loss, it may be a struggle for your health. Disease that scares you. A relationship that is falling apart. A child that is making all the wrong choices.

Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. (Job 14:1 NKJV)

The beatitudes teach me that Jesus knows we will all face pain in our lives. He doesn’t ignore that. He is drawn to it with HIs compassionate heart. And that is why He can handle our response. The second thing I learned about painful experiences from the beatitudes is…

PAINFUL EXPERIENCES CAUSE US TO QUESTION. The questions swim in our head and it is so hard not to be dominated by them. For those gathered before Jesus there may have been questions like…

-Why do we not have our own kingdom?

-Why does God allow us to be persecuted?

-Where is the Messiah who will save us?

-Why not just give up and live for ourselves?

-What would be wrong with using force against the Romans?

I don’t know if those are your questions. I think today we ask questions more along the line of these…

-Is God real? Does He care?

-What did I do wrong, am I being punished?

-Why did God allow this to happen in my life but not in the lives of people who hate him?

These questions are natural, and we can be assured that God does not reject us because we do not understand.

… whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37)

So go ahead and ask your questions. I wish I could answer them all. Even Jesus, in the beatitudes, acknowledges the pain and questions of the people without offering immediate solutions. In fact, if we read the beatitudes we come away with another thing we can learn about painful experiences.

PAINFUL EXPERIENCES ARE FOLLOWED BY BLESSING. Jesus communicates to the hurting people around him that a blessing is to be expected. He does not promise to take the pain away, to remove our heartache, or that justice will be found today. He does promise to make all things right.

The poor will be rich. The mourning will be comforted. The meek will overcome. The hungry will be filled. The merciful will receive mercy. The pure will see God. The peacemakers will be children of God. The persecuted will be rewarded.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We don’t always like to hear that passage. It sounds trite … but I believe it is true. And I believe we need to remember that God doesn’t promise that every situation is good. He just promises that within the painful experiences we endure, He will work toward our good. It is, admittedly, hard to see sometimes. As some of the beatitudes suggest, we may have to wait until heaven for some of them to come to pass. But a blessing is on its way…. not just a giggly happiness, but a deep seated knowledge of the approval and love of God.

Which of these beatitudes speaks into the pain you are experiencing today? What blessing do you need from Him? Jesus knows There are hurting people everywhere … and here today. He doesn’t  want to mask your pain, but to walk with you through it and ultimately heal it.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:3-5

Trustworthy and true. I need those words. As Jesus begins one of his most famous sermons, he acknowledges the pain and needs of those gathered around Him… and us. And you. Trust Him.

Thanks for reading,

John

What I Learned From Compassionate Friends

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Once a month I gather with other bereaved parents for a meeting of The Compassionate Friends. The first time I went to that meeting was very hard. Not only was it hard to come face to face with my own loss in front of strangers, it was so hard to be in that room. You could feel the weight of the pain as all of us shouldered a common grief. To be honest I wasn’t sure I would go back again, but I did. There is something healing about being in a room with someone who lost a child ten, twenty, or thirty yeas ago. Their life continued on without their child, but they still have tears for them.

I’ve learned a lot about grief from meeting with this group of people. I’ve learned about survival, finding new meaning, and compassion. It is not uncommon for a new person to walk through those doors. Fresh in their grief with tears they think will never end, I am reminded of my first time. In that meeting a lady gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry to meet you in a meeting like this, but I’m so glad you are here.”

Compassionate Friends of Northeast Louisiana meets on the first Thursday of each month  except December at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Monroe, LA at 6:30 p.m. Click HERE to go to our Facebook page. Click HERE to go to our website.

Another important thing I learned about grief in that meeting was that the jagged pain I was feeling would not always be that harsh. There are few waking moments without the realization of our loss, but it does not hurt the way it did at first. I am not sure we could have lived with that.

There have been many helpers along the journey of grief I’ve been walking. Spending time with counselor James Bagley was helpful. My church family, close friends, the immense support that came from the online community, the special care that Royce and Carol Ogle showered us with, the GriefShare series. Craig Hicks, who called me every day for six months. And of course the One who carried us along, our Abba. I think it takes a lot of compassion from many resources to make it. Our Compassionate Friends leaders French and Marilyn Smith were a big part of that.

So tomorrow night I’ll walk into that room looking for the new people, the broken and bleeding ones who have come to what they hope will be a triage to tend to their wounded hearts. And we will do our best. It will not be enough, but we already know that.

“Each person’s grief is like all other people’s grief; each person’s grief is like some other person’s grief; and each person’s grief is like no other person’s grief.” ~ J. William Worden

Would you say a prayer for the broken-hearted parents of the world today? Thanks for reading.  John

There is an immense selection of resources for working through grief.

A few blogs I really like…

Normal Died With Max

Grieving Dads Project

The Grief Toolbox

Some books for your Kindle…

$9.39 Recovering from Losses in Life H. Norman Wright

$3.47 Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright

$4.49 Good Grief 50th Anniversary edition by Granger E. Westberg

$9.99 Through a Season of Grief: Devotions for Your Journey from Mourning to Joy by Bill Dunn
(Available free via daily mails from http://griefshare.org)

$9.78 A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss by Jerry Sittser

$9.59 Grieve Like a Man by Jonathan Fann

$9.89 Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar

$9.39 Traveling through Grief: Learning to Live Again after the Death of a Loved One by Robert C. De Vries

$6.89 Holding On to Hope: A pathway through suffering to the heart of God by Nancy Guthrie

$5.99 Death and the Life After by Billy Graham

.99 Poems to Help You Grieve a Loss by Debra A. Kuebler

Monroe Proud Pair Share Shoe Drive

Here in Monroe, LA there is a way to share your new and gently used shoes with those who are less fortunate here in NE Louisiana. It’s called the Monroe Proud Pair Share Shoe Drive and runs through November 30th.

Most of us have shoes in our closet that we never wear. This is a way to put them to good use and to help your neighbor who may not be able to afford a good pair of shoes. The goal is to collect 3,000 pairs of shoes.

According to THIS ARTICLE IN THE NEWS-STAR:

Residents can donate shoes at any Monroe City or Ouachita Parish school and all city of Monroe Community Centers. Shoes should be tied by the laces or bound together with rubber bands to prevent loss and the need for later sorting issues.

What a great way to make a difference in our community! The Keep Monroe Beautiful website is HERE (appears to be seldom updated).

KNOE story on this effort.

Join In!

Thanks for reading,