What to Do?

Good Works BowlFor you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.   Mark 14:7

I saw the following quotation this week: “The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.” – Voltaire

At first it seems that Voltaire is saying there is but one opportunity to do good a year while opportunities for mischief abound. That isn’t it at all. He’s commenting on how often we find each class of opportunity!

Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment – You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor – includes this key phrase; “Put the best construction on everything.” In other words, there is often more than one explanation to an event.

This was shown brilliantly in the 2008 Movie Vantage Point. It shows an attempted presidential assassination over and over but from different vantage points. Each time you change your mind on what is actually happening and who the bad guy really is.

Trying to do good is a struggle. St. Paul confesses,

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!   Romans 7:21-25

He also acknowledges in his letter to the Galatians that doing good can wear on our sinful selves.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.   Galatians 6:9

Unless we decide to put the best spin on things, unless we decide to persevere against sinful inclinations and the weariness that struggle entails, we also may only find one opportunity a year to do good. And doing good is not just about helping the poor, contributing to our favorite charity, or being kind to family and friends.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.   Luke 6:27

Um… I have to be nice to idiots? People that oppose and even hurt me?!? That’s what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke. Remember that He forgave his executioners as they crucified Him. We need to do our very best to be like Christ.

Good Works Building

Why? We will all appear before God’s throne on Judgment Day.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.   2 Corinthians 5:10

Yup. We’re all going to have some “splainin’ to do.” Oh, we’ll be forgiven, but then again Scripture gives every indication that there will be greater and lesser levels in heaven. The Apostles will be at the “head table” so to speak. We will be rewarded with heaven for our faith in Jesus. We will also receive more or fewer rewards in heaven depending on our lives.

Part of doing good is simply a practical matter. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.   Romans 13:3

Do you want to stay out of trouble with the authorities? Keep your nose clean. Do good instead of mischief!

So, we can see that doing good is beneficial in staying out of earthly trouble, possibly making friends out of enemies, and being rewarded in heaven. These are all good reasons to do good. But doing good also benefits us here and now. James tells us,

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.   James 2:14-17

You do good in faith. That faith is rewarded, fueling your faith. Practice makes perfect, eh? The more you find opportunities to do good, the better you get at spotting them. And there are definitely plenty of opportunities out there.

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

Good Works: Good Soul Maintenance

Helping People“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.

Shaking the World

So Jesus said to them, “…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”     Matthew 17:20

MountainI remember the first time I heard the verse from Matthew 17 and wondering what would happen if everyone decided to give that a go. I mean, there aren’t enough mountains, right?  I was young, and tended to take things very literally.

BBBIn a recent online discussion with fellow blogger, BeautyBeyondBones, the idea of doing something earth shattering for someone came up.  Sometimes we do that without any real effort.  Sometimes we do it and never even know it!

I remember someone coming to me once and telling me that I said something that completely changed his life for the better. I couldn’t even remember the visit let alone what I said.  As a college instructor I changed a young woman’s life, and didn’t even know it till after the term.  She came to my office, changed from blond to brunette.  She finally felt like shewas really smart after all and decided to leave behind the “dumb blond” she had always thought she was.  See Smart Blond.

We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we, Wang?   Jack Burton: Big Trouble in Little Chinabig-trouble-little-china

When BeautyBeyondBones does something earth-shattering to help the followers of her blog – and she is very inspirational – she’s not sure she did that much.  I haven’t always known when I’ve made a contribution that made someone else’s life better, that “rocked their world.”  Or tossed their mountain into the sea.

Drink of water

Whoever gives a little one only a cup of cold water…  Matt 10:42

When you or I do something earth shattering for someone else, it isn’t always a Herculean effort on our part. When we live in faith, God works through us to help others.  God gives us spiritual gifts that we use to help those around us.  Just as a bird would find nothing amazing about flying or a fish about swimming, someone with a gift from God finds that changing someone else’s life can take little effort.

 

God can use anyone to accomplish His intended purpose, believers and unbelievers. God using Babylon and other wicked nations and people to accomplish His ends in the Bible are examples.  But here is the difference; when we perform good works through faith, when caring for others comes from acting on Jesus’ love to us, when it blooms as the fruit of the Spirit, we can do so much more than feed someone or give them money.  We can start to show them the way to God!

I am a board member of a Christian charity called Friends of Russian Orphans, F.O.R.O.  This is their mission statement: Friends of Russian Orphans (“FORO”) is an American mission organization, dedicated to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ to Russian orphans and their caregivers through practical assistance and friendship programs.

Bathroom-Stalls-CommercialWe’ve rewired orphanages that were in danger of burning down, replaced holes in the floor over sewage lines with REAL TOILETS, complete with stalls! We’ve paid for education programs to be introduced into some orphanages.  We’ve also introduced Jesus to them in places where we were allowed to.  Showing we did more than talk, we gained credibility and could begin to work with their souls in addition to bodies and minds.

One of our programs was hosting a group of orphans from a Russian orphanage here in the states for two weeks, ten kids or so, accompanied by a couple caregivers from the orphanage to chaperone their travels and help with communication. Each child stayed with a host family, had their own bedroom, went to Vacation Bible School, the zoo, swimming, all sorts of things.

Over half were adopted by their host families over the three years we could do this. The orphanages reported noticeably improved behavior from those who weren’t.  They had seen what a real family can be like, and tried to bring that back with them, buoyed with the hope that life CAN get better!

The last time we were able to do this, one of the chaperones just seemed to be an old sourpuss, some crusty, Russian government employee. We couldn’t help feeling a bit put off that we had paid for her travel along with the rest and she couldn’t show a little courtesy in return.

We would give the chaperones a treat every time of a shopping trip to Chicago for a couple days. FORO’s founder has a sister there, and she put the chaperones up at her house.

Old Crusty got one daughter’s bedroom. The daughter’s white confirmation Bible was on the bed stand.

BibleThe next morning the chaperone came to the kitchen looking like she’d been up all night. The white Bible was in her hand.  She had indeed been up all night, reading God’s Gospel.  All she could say was something along the lines that she had never known any of this.  She was devastated, but…changed.  She wanted to get her own Bible to take home with her, so they spent a good part of the day finding a white confirmation Bible just like the one she read.

They prayed with her, and she accepted Jesus as her Saviour.

Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.    Luke 15:10

It was just a shopping trip from Toledo to Chicago. It was a daughter letting a stranger sleep in her room.  It was a Bible just left where it always was.

But those things shattered her earth, rocked her world, changed her life, tossed her mountain into the sea, and shook the pillars of heaven with the joy of angels over one sinner who repented.

Not bad. For a shopping trip.

WAIT A MINUTE!!

Ephesians 2:10 [Full Chapter]

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

These are the questions that torment my wife only when we’re pretty well past the point of no return on a trip:Lit Burner.jpg

  • Are all of the stove burners off?
  • Are the timers set for the lights?
  • Did we remember to plug them IN to the timers?
  • Is the thermostat turned up/down to save dollars on the utilities?
  • And my personal favorite – Is the garage door down?open-garage

She’s just a little compulsive about, oh, a lot of things. I couldn’t tell you how many times she’s been late to work for the number of times she had to go around the block to be sure she really did put the garage door down.

I once waited till we were almost asleep to whisper, “Did the dome light in the car go off?” and then held her down, not letting her go out and check.

I still say I was just doing a little therapy to help her get over this thing. She maintains I’m just a sadistic jerk.  I was going to put in a voting button, but I’m not sure of the men to women ratio in my readership, so I’m playing it safe.

If you can in any way identify with her “Wait a minute!” compulsions, then have I got a contemplation for you!

death-bed

“I’m not quite dead yet…”

Imagine lying on your death bed, family gathered ‘round, pastor or priest in attendance, and someone humming “Nearer My God to Thee.” You feel yourself starting to slip away, and that proverbial light starts to shine behind the unmistakable outline of Jesus.  A peaceful smile starts to cross your features.

 

Suddenly you bolt upright, eyes popping out of your head, as you scream “Wait a minute!”

Let’s see what might make your almost peaceful departure hit some turbulence. Well, there’s…

  • …that raggedy, hungry-looking guy at McDonald’s you thought about buying breakfast for but didn’t.
  • …your best friend you never tried to really tell about Jesus, because you were sure you’d just ruin the friendship.
  • …telling your pastor you didn’t want to say yes to helping teach a bible class, because (your lie) vs. (your real reason).
  • …not giving an extra offering off that bonus, because you only pledged $X.00 per week.
  • …ignoring a new face at church, because you didn’t want to embarrass yourself, if they were just from the other service.
  • …gossiping. About anyone. Anywhere. Any time.

That’s a list that can go on ad nauseum. Imagine those bullet points flying across your sight as you slip away, and you backpedaling like a dog who sees the flea dip tub.

“WAIT A MINUTE! I’M NOT DONE!!”

And that would be whose fault?

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.    James 1:27

Jesus made no secret that His mercy is to beget our mercy. His true followers would pass along His good deeds to witness to the love of God to them and the world.  Good deeds have even been prepared in advance for us to do!

Thing is, I’ve already missed a boatload of opportunities. I’ll miss more.  I’m riddled with sin, and echo David in the psalm, I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.    Psalm 73:22

The Gospel? If indeed we do see those mistakes parade before us in our last seconds on earth, if indeed we do struggle to stay for guilt and fear, trying to ask for one more minute, I think Jesus will spread his forgiving arms, spread that loving smile, maybe even chuckle, and say, “Come on home.  You believed in Me and showed it by your life.  Anything else, well, My child, I had your back the whole time.  Come see the mansion I prepared for you.”

At that point, who wants to wait a minute?

bright-light

LOOK OUT!!!

Romans 15:1

[ Bearing Others’ Burdens ] We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

No, nothing is falling your way. At least not that I can see.  It’s just a piece of advice I try to keep in my head.  It’s a usual council for my daughters when they are having a problem.

The secret to start healing from a worry or anxiety is to refocus. Worry and anxiety usually has us swirling the drain, trapped between our ears, too deep into our own naval…pick your metaphor.

Today was a prime example for me. It’s been a trying day; 11 hours on the road, trying to get home, and lots of bad news and frustration.  Alone in the car, I had precious little to do, except stew.  I kept telling myself to knock it off.  I jacked the music to the point of almost making my ears bleed (hyperbole).

You know what finally helped me get back to some peaceful place? This blog and our blogging community.

One of my favorite bloggers had a poo day, and was really upset. Feeling for the blogger’s plight, I wrote some encouragement.  I got a reply that it helped.  So, I was helped.  We both felt better.  I felt better, because I…Looked Out!

Now, some might say that this is an example of a supposedly Russian proverb, used in Disney’s Lady & the Tramp.

“Miserable being must find more miserable being. Then he’s happy.”

But, no, that wasn’t it. As in the above from Romans, I helped someone bear a burden.   That pulled me out of my own psychological naval, and helped me feel better.  Just from being nice to someone.  That’s all.  We both ended up feeling better.

Next time you feel really down, try to tear your gaze away from the drain you’re circling and just…be NICE to someone.

And, just for grins, I’m gonna use a joke I’ve been wanting to drop somewhere for ages now.  You are my unwitting victims.

The above “Miserable Being Quote” is from the very prolific Roman author, Anonymous. You may have heard of him.  Full name; Anonymous Maximus.  Of course, you’ve all heard of his brother, Gluteus.

Wait for it…

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!

What to do?

James 1:27

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN LEBANON:

Young girls forced into ‘survival sex’, six-year-olds made to pick potatoes for cash and boys of ten working as car mechanics: The shocking truth of child exploitation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Link to article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3369182/Young-girls-forced-survival-sex-six-year-olds-pick-potatoes-cash-boys-ten-working-car-mechanics-shocking-truth-child-exploitation-Syrian-refugees-Lebanon.html

What to do? That’s a whole lot more than the title of this post.  It’s a real question I struggle with.  Not whether or not to help, but figuring out how.  There is so much pain in the world that I sometimes just sit here, frozen by the enormity of it.

I do know that the first action is to pray. Prayer is our usual last resort.  We’ve done everything we can.  “All we can do now is pray.”  As if this is – excuse me – some sort of Hail Mary play with a barely 50/50 chance of succeeding.  No, prayer is the first resort.  It’s our dialing up the most powerful, resourceful Being in the universe.

I know; it doesn’t feel that way at all. We pray, sigh, and then go to McDonald’s for some breakfast.  For all we know, nothing happened.  But that is quite wrong.

Pray first. Include in that prayer for God’s guidance on what you can do to help out.  For the problems in the Middle East and Europe, what organizations can you get involved with?  And I’m not thinking just about money.  My church supports missionaries and causes.  We send money to African churches to support their startup and continuing work.  We recently sent boxes of stuffed animals to children in Haiti.  Our members travel to Africa to physically help out on projects and evaluate needs.

If you are involved in a church, check with your denomination to discover what international…or domestic…initiatives you can support and get involved with.

I have friends in Toledo who founded Friends of Russian Orphans (FORO). The mission statement is to spread the love of Christ through practical help and assistance.  We have rewired an orphanage that was in danger of burning down, installed restrooms where there was only a hole in the floor, built a small gym, help dozens of families adopt orphans from Russia, sponsored training programs so kids can learn a trade, sponsored cooking competitions between groups of kids to teach them how to eat well economically, and, of course, let them and their caregivers know the Americans came all this way, because we are doing what Jesus wants us to do; help widows and orphans.

Here is their website: http://fororphans.org/

There are many people around the world who need help. You might say there is plenty to do here in the US, and you’re right.  There was plenty to do in Jerusalem and neighboring towns in the 1st Century.  Peter was called to attend the church in Jerusalem.  Paul’s commission was to the Gentile; and that’s a real irony, by the way.  He was a “Jew of the Jews,” a top-shelf religious authority, and gets to go to the Gentiles.

Some are called to work in their community. Some are called to the orphans of Russia.  Some are called to the Middle East.

So…what to do? Always remember: PRAY  FIRST!  The open your eyes a bit wider.  Look around to see what God sets in front of you to do.  Your task today may be one person.  It may be an introduction to an organization.  Just always have your Good Works Radar on high to see those good deeds, which God has prepared in advance for you to do.

Ephesians 2:10

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Elaborate Plans

“12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”     Philippians 2:12-14

God does not send everyone in my life to me 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 recently had an example of that, and I never saw it until the dust settled months later.

A 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.  So I entered my application on line last summer.  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 like the real deal, not some hustler.

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 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 of the players in place to have a miracle happen.  God excels at elaborate plans.

Only sometimes it is 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!

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!