Good Deed Almost Missed

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:10

God does not send everyone into my life for my benefit. If life is seen as a movie, you might find yourself as the walk-on and not the star in a scene. I once had an example of that, and I never saw it until the dust settled months later.

FedExA friend had told me about a training position at FedEx and suggested I apply. I hadn’t been looking, but figured maybe this was a change coming, a gift from God. I entered my application on line, and, as expected, I didn’t hear anything back and forgot about it.

I got a call months later from FedEx, asking for a phone interview. I did well enough to earn a live interview at their world HQ. Interview day I drove to that end of town a couple hours early – Memphis rush hours can be brutal – and went to a McDonald’s up the road to study my resume’ and get mentally prepared.

As I sat there, a bedraggled guy sat down a couple tables away, and I heard a despairing sigh. Deep in my own thoughts, I thought for a moment if I should say something. Maybe he needs some help. But he got up and left before I could decide to say anything. I was frustrated with myself, as maybe this was someone God wanted me to help, and I was slow on the draw.

Then he came back in. I got a second chance. Terence was from Joliet, IL. He had come to Memphis with a friend, who unfortunately had a warrant on him in Tennessee and was arrested. Terence is an ex-con on some felony rap. He had no driver’s license, no money, and had been sleeping on the streets for days. He hadn’t eaten in at least 24 hours. He sounded and looked like the real deal, not some hustler.

Poor Man

Stock Photo

I bought him the big breakfast, and we talked for a while as my interview time closed in. He hadn’t been able to get into a shelter without an ID. He needed to find a shelter that would take him without ID. I told him I’d help him, but I had a big job interview very shortly. I told him I would be back by 10:30, pick him up, and we’d get him some help.

The interview went very well. As left exited the conference room, the guy actually patted me on the back. YES! I could see myself with my own FedEx ID, walking into one of those big buildings soon.

I hustled back to McDonald’s to see if Terence had waited for me. He had. We figured out where we could get him to a shelter. From there he’d be able to get downtown where he could get an ID and start trying to get home. The shelter was not far from my church, so I detoured there just in case Pastor Chuck had any better ideas than what we were doing. He didn’t, but he gave Terence $55 out of his own pocket.

Before heading to the shelter, I decided to treat him to a good lunch at a nearby Panera that I liked. With two good meals in him, I took him to the shelter, said a prayer with him, and said farewell. He took my cell number so he could call me and let me know how he ended up.

As we had driven around during the day, I learned he knew construction, but got caught up in some trouble with some bad folks. He now was fighting alcoholism. His dream was to someday own his own construction company. I told him about how I had been down too; lost my house, everything. I told him he’d work his way out, and that God would see him through if he just relied on Him. He cried softly as I spoke.

Now here’s the thing. Weeks later, I learned that I had not gotten the FedEx job. They hadn’t even called me to let me know, as they’d promised to do if I didn’t get it. It was then I realized that the whole job incident was God having a means to get me to that McDonald’s just when Terence needed me. He never intended that I get that job. It was just part of an elaborate plan to get all the players in place to have a miracle happen. God excels at elaborate plans.

Only sometimes is it all about me. More often it isn’t. More often it’s about keeping my eyes open for those good works that God has prepared in advance for me to do.

FOLLOW UP: I never heard back from Terence, so I have no idea how he ended up. He remains in my prayers. All I know is that he was obviously touched that some guy in a suit tried to help him, rough as he was, because that’s what God wanted done. I pray he someday has that construction business he wants. Maybe he’ll put a cross or fish in the logo. God speed, Terence!Christian Fish Symbol

Activation!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

BBBLast week BeautyBeyondBones (BBB) paid a beautiful tribute, Finding the Why, to a former acting teacher, Hope, who died.  The woman had a big influence on her life, and my comments to BBB got me thinking about how it’s a message we should all consider and act upon.

So thank you, Beauty, for inspiring another article here!

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We are the sum of our experiences. It’s true.  What that cliché doesn’t admit to is that there is a usually a mere handful of people that create really pivotal experiences.

Ice Cream Bicycle

But without the umbrella!

At the end of it all, I was not very close to either of my parents. Still, they kept my sisters and I clothed, fed, and sheltered.  Thanks in large part to my maternal grandmother, I believe, we were sent to a Lutheran grade school at our church, grades K-8.  “Little Grandma,” as we called her, did most of the rearing and was the one who always helped us with our homework.  She played with us, taught us countless games, bought us ice cream when the ice cream boy came around, pedaling – yes, pedaling! – his freezer box cart.  Little Grandma lived across the street from us, and that’s where I remember spending most of my childhood, playing with her or in her stuff-filled attic and basement.  See Memory Warehouse.

In short, the three of them put the basic pieces together. But they didn’t provide me with everything I needed.  No parent can.

Your parents produced you, taught you, and influenced you. But every family has its own “dance.”  It’s what happens when you go back home and feel like a little kid again, due both to the physical surroundings and the simple stimulus/response of those life-long relationships.  We fall into those familiar patterns whether we want to or not.

 

DancingPeople outside of our families “activate” us. That’s the best word I can think of at this moment.  In any event, they do something different.  The introduce us to a significantly different dance from the one ingrained in our family, one that is not familiar but still resonates with something our parents and family put there.

BBB’s acting teacher, for example. I had my theatre professor, Jim Austin, at Heidelberg College, high school friends Steve Harris and Rick Michael.  There was even one other acquaintance at Heidelberg I cannot even now name, but I wrote about him recently in Washing Feet.

ACTIVATE! That’s what Hope did for BBB and Jim did for me.  It’s the love BBB talked about that we’re put here for.  We are here to make a difference in other people’s lives.  As a college or corporate instructor, I didn’t find teaching the curriculum so satisfying as  helping other people with their lives by way of the class.

I helped one corporate student from Canada break through a glass ceiling she was caught under at her facility and helped a thirty-something college student remember and reclaim who she really was; see Smart Blonde.  I’ve played unofficial and official mentor to co-workers and assigned myself as a second dad or unrelated “uncle” to others who accepted whatever help I offered them.

Old and Young Together

Contributing, Activating

That’s a lot of “I’s”, but it’s not for self-promotion.  It’s to make the point that there are ways we get “activated” and – most importantly – activate others!  It’s simply a blessing, which is to be  discovered and treated to when any of us ACTIVATES something in someone else’s life.

That’s why BBB is such a phenomenon; she contributes to other people’s lives in meaningful ways. 31,000+ at last count.  Which begs the questions, if you aren’t following her yet, why not?  I mean, 31,000+ people; that’s an above average sized town for crying out loud!  Over half of Americans live in towns of 25,000 or so.  She practically has her own city!

Jim Austin

Jim Austin

I raised my daughters, gave them what I could as a father. The rest of what they need, I don’t have.  They’ll have to get whatever it is from their “Jim Austins,” their “Hopes.”  Having raised my girls, I still have a responsibility to activate, to love others in different ways.  There have been the opportunities and successes listed above to name a few.  God will place more opportunities in my path; I just hope don’t miss too many of them!

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10

What contribution can you make to someone’s life this day, this week? Even if it’s just giving the half empty bag of mini chocolate donuts on your car seat to a beggar on the exit ramp (and that one hurt, people); significant doesn’t have to be big!  Any gesture can have – dare I say it? – eternal consequences!

Well, done, BBB! Both in contributing to other people’s faith, recovery, need for light, and honoring the memory of your teacher.

You and me, my friends?  Let’s build a similar history for ourselves and, more importantly, to honor God and the Activating He has done for us!

Running a Surplus

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

 

God created us to do good things, not bad. It’s how the human machine was made to work.  Good works are like the lubrication that makes us run well and feel good.  When we don’t keep the crankcase full, we start to feel the gears of our being grind…and that feels lousy.

He knows we need that lubrication on a regular basis. He also knows that our lubrication of doing good works doubles as a message to others that He is around and working through His creation to talk to them.

Guilt is God’s internal warning system that we are operating His creation outside of its designed parameters. The good feelings that go along with knowing we did the Right Thing, the thing God wanted us to do, tells us that we’re operating His creation as intended.

When you’re properly maintained, getting your spiritual oil changed so to speak, you run better. You’re faster, you feel better, you better “mileage.”  You can get that spiritual oil change wherever  you can find someone to do a good work for.

You might have read my post from last December 28, Elaborate Plans –

https://jeffreyhking.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/elaborate-plans/

I did a good deed for a guy who was in desperate straits. I was the one who felt blessed, because God used me to help someone.  Let me expand that.  God, The Creator and Supreme Ruler of THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE used me, a sinner, dressed in the rags of misdeeds, to make a change in another man’s life.  I was the point man on a Special Ops mission from God!

Doesn’t that sound cool?!?  Li’l ol’ me with God’s night vision goggles to see through Satan’s fog of lies and confusion on earth, some hollow point ammo to put a nasty exit wound in the Devil’s plan to put my man, Terence, down, shot straight from the rifled barrel of a Cross-made 9mm Sabbath night special.  No silencer needed, ‘cause we WANT the ol’ boy to hear that round heading downrange to his nasty self just before he goes down…

Sorry. Go a little carried away there.  It happens.  But you see what I mean?  I spend my money and most of my day helping Terence along, and looked how juiced I get about it!  Like I said; running a surplus.

From my college teaching days, my greatest success was a thirty-something young lady, cute blond, and just a bit retiring. She did a good job in my class and earned an “A.”  She asked me if I was just humoring her with good grades.  Well, no.  I don’t really give out the grades; I just translate your work into a letter grade.  You gave it to yourself.

So after the term is over, I’m sitting in my office, and she walks in. With brown hair.  She thanked me, because in GRADE SCHOOL a teacher told her she was stupid, and that wounded her terribly.  Since then she had accepted that, eventually dying her hair blond and adopting the persona of “Dumb Blond.”  That was her self-image.  It wasn’t fun, but it was safe.  No expectations and flying under the radar.

Then she took my class, got validated, and suddenly realized it was all a lie.   A BIG, DAMMNED LIE!!!  She dyed her hair back to her natural color and started becoming the person God always intended her to be.  Do you see this?  That happened decades ago, and it still puts gas in my tank!  Running a surplus!

Now I’m a sort of pen pal with another blogger, BeautyBeyondBones (see Beauty and the (ED) Beast – ). Maybe that’s more like blog pals, but anyway…  She’s been blogging for a while and is really good.  Almost 9000 followers think so.  I’m not too bad myself…less than 100 think so (and I’m working on that, by the way).  She thanks me for my feedback, and very much appreciates my support.  Once again, we’re both running a surplus.

This isn’t is Joel Osteen’s false gospel of prosperity. This is not some automatic formula.  This is not about some cosmic ATM where you enter your good deed with your hand out.  We’re talking about genuinely trying to help others with no thought of self.  Focus on others and their needs with sincere concern, and you will find yourself running a surplus.  Emotionally, career-wise,… whatever way God sees you need blessing for being part of His Plan.

Am I rich? For America, no.  I’ve faced financial ruin, and I’m now doing OK.  Am I in my dream job?  No.  But I am in a good job with likely the best boss I’ve ever had.  In tough business conditions, I’ve survived 2 rounds of layoffs in 2015.  And why is that?  Because Boss looks out for me.  Why?  Because I’m a team playing; I help the rest of the team with their problems.  I help other people without selfish motives, and God gives me the blessings that He knows are right and good for me.  Richly!

Do you have needs, wants, satisfaction? Well, forget about it.  Look to help other with theirs.  Spend yourself on those folks, because Jesus spent Himself on you…and me.  And, just as Jesus was elevated and got more than He gave, you too will run a surplus!

Do You Echo?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

I was a prominent figure in the theatre department as an undergrad. Years after I graduated, I went to a function to honor my professor and mentor, James Austin. At the party I chatted with a young lady who was pursuing her own acting dreams. She introduced herself and I gave her my name. Her eyes got a little bigger, a look of surprise on her face.

“Are you the Jeff King who went here some years ago? The actor? I’ve heard of you. Your name still echoes in the halls at the theatre department!”

A fan. It was nice to learn that I was good enough to be remembered years after I left. Just like some of the legends I’d heard about when I first got there. It was nice to know I was talented enough to have “echoed” in Gundlach Theatre after I left. Especially after tanking in graduate school.

Since then I’ve wondered how long my name will echo in the minds of friends and relatives after I die. Think of it more as a litmus test to show that I lived my life well enough to outweigh the jerk side of my personality.

Not a bad benchmark to go for. Who knows what acts of kindness and consideration we perform that will echo for years – even generations to come?

In another entry, Being Judgmental, I wrote about the young lady I sat with on an overseas flight. An unbeliever, she asked me if I thought she was going to hell. It felt like a challenge. With sorrow, I told her that yes, she was. And that it hurt for me to tell her that. I think it had an impact. I’ll never know. But if it got her thinking, maybe she sought God. Maybe her descendants will be Christian. Maybe. Not bad, eh?

I taught college for three years, several communications courses. I was also a corporate trainer. I spent over ten years altogether heading a classroom. I put a Christian perspective on things when I could.

There was a 30-ish woman in one of my classes. Blond and attractive, she did well, but couldn’t believe she was getting A’s from me. A grade school teacher had told her she was stupid, and she took the barb to heart. She later dyed her hair blond and deliberately made herself a dumb blond. She squeaked through high school, and settled into her persona. It was safe. No one expected anything from her. When I told her she earned her grades from me and that I thought she was very insightful, it was a revelation to her.

Weeks after the term was over, she came by my office to tell me her story. She had dyed her hair back to its natural color, and, for the first time since grade school, felt like a whole person. And all I did was give her the grades she earned and a little encouragement. I knew nothing else of her till it was all over.

A dear friend of mine founded a Christian charity, Friends of Russian Orphans, FORO. She had me join her board of directors, and I helped her as I could. For years I tried to get my church to sponsor our annual Journeys of Joy, bringing orphans to America to spend two weeks with a family here. Over half have since been adopted. For years the answer was no.

Then a new pastor came. His father-in-law is a missionary to orphanages in eastern Europe. So Pastor Carr was gung-ho to do this. In the end, he and his wife adopted Sasha. Now Sasha is being raised a Christian, he lives in a loving family, and his life is infinitely better than it could ever have been in Russia.

I didn’t do much for Journeys of Joy that year. I was out of work, and life was an unimaginable struggle. I think I helped drive the kids to the church from the airport and that was it. I just introduced Pastor Carr to Lisa. A small thing, really. But now Sasha has parents for the first time in memory. He is God’s child. Just because I said, “Pastor Carr, Lisa. Lisa, Pastor Carr.”

I don’t know about you, but I think I hear an echo. Even if I’m only That Guy at the Church.

The point of these anecdotes is that these are the ones I happen to have known about. I believe they are the tip of the iceberg of all the people whose lives I’ve brushed against and have no idea if or what impact I’ve had. I think there are more that I have no clue about.

What about you? Have you been a force for God/good as you brush against other people in your life? Have you performed the good works that God has prepared for you to do? How many echoes will resonate years or generations after you die, whether or not the people who hear them will know where they came from?

I Have GOT To Do a Better Job!

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 12:2

We need to be about God’s business of building our own temples, personally and as the body of Christ. Something happened this past week that made me realize I have GOT to do a better job of this. I must be honest; I don’t do nearly as well as when I was much younger.

Once, late at night in a snowstorm, I was southbound on I-75 from graduate school in Detroit to Toledo, heading home for the Holidays. I saw a family broken down on the side of the road. Something said to stop for them. I screeched to a stop and backed my already-should-have-died Rambler station wagon to them. I had no idea how everyone would fit in my stuffed car and could have easily said, “Naw, no room.” But we all crammed in. Turned out they lived about a mile away from my parents.

Another time I saw two girls hitchhiking. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever picked someone up. They just looked…wrong. Like they really shouldn’t be doing that. Turned out they were stranded, and I was a God-send.

In downtown Detroit two guys asked if I had a set of jumper cables they could borrow. Did I mention it was downtown Detroit? Something whispered, “Do it.” So I did, thinking I’d never see those cables again. But they came back to my apartment and returned them. Faith rewarded.

This week I was on another trip and was grabbing a quick Egg McMuffin for breakfast. I saw an old guy sit down at a table a few yards away. He pulled out a load of coins and started counting to see what he could get. I thought about offering to buy him something. Thought about it. I might have heard one of those old whispers, but I was still bleary-eyed. Ok, I’ll do it right after I hit the john. When I came back out, he had a coffee and was intent on a game of solitaire. Real playing cards too. Not a video game.

Ah, he’s OK. I gotta get going.

Shame on me! I just don’t listen to those voices in my head like I used to. For all I know, he watched me go out the door, shook his, head, pulled together his deck of cards, sprouted some wings, and flew home to report out on me.

It was too easy! How hard could it have been?!? Just walk the ol’ boy back to the counter and ask if he wants McBacon, McPancakes, McSausage…whatever.

But I didn’t.

Now I feel badly about it. Now I’ve got to repeat the lesson to myself and program me to do it right the next time I hear a whisper to take the lead and be helpful.

And that’s the trick, isn’t it? We always think in terms of a church program to get involved in. We’re always looking for the long ball. We’re so fixated on organized religion and witnessing (remember the Kennedy Questions?) that we miss the gimme’s, the puppy shots, the layups.

So why am I airing my dirty laundry here to you?

“…but exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

I am exhorting you to NOT do as I did this week, but to do as I did when I was younger. I’m also preaching to the mirror. Knowing human nature, I’m sure more than half of you reading this fail as I did. Do. We can only get better at being God’s people by exhorting and encouraging each other to do as He would have us do.

Any successes out there? Any regrets? Please share! I and other readers want to know!

Good Works: Good Soul Maintenance

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

 Think about how many times in the course of your days and weeks you have the opportunity to help someone, to show a kindness.  Do you always take that opportunity, or do you sometimes pass it up?

 When you take that opportunity, how do you feel afterward?  Put upon?  Regretful?  I think we’d all feel a sense of not just accomplishment, but fulfillment.  And the further out of our way we go, I think we feel even better about it in retrospect.

 By the same token, how do you feel when you recognize an opportunity help someone, to show a kindness and fail to act?  Does it stick in your mind that you should have done something?  Do you spend time convincing yourself you really had good reasons not to help?  Do you feel guilty?

 God created us to do good things, not bad.  It’s how the human machine was made to work.  Good works are like the lubrication that makes us run well and feel good.  When we don’t keep the crankcase full, we start to feel the gears of our being grind…and that feels lousy.

 Guilt is God’s internal warning system that we are operating His creation outside of its designed parameters.  The good feelings that go along with knowing we did the Right Thing, the thing God wanted us to do, tells us that we’re operating His creation as intended.

 He knows we need that lubrication on a regular basis.  He also knows that our lubrication of doing good works doubles as a message to others that He is around and working through His creation to talk to them.

He has prepared in advance good works for us to do.  Because we need them as much as the people we do them for.

What do you think?  Have you done any good works lately?  Are you glad you did?  I and other readers want to know what you think too!