Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dog Lover

Dog Lover wasn’t her real name but the name that she preferred. Her real name was Shauna. She was interested in the brood of boys I brought with me to the frozen yogurt shop and questioned my daughter and me about them as we sat indoor among the quiet and warmth. Although only 3 of the boys belonged to me, I had sent all of them outdoors to be loud and annoying. The boys belonged outdoors, no matter the weather, since spilling, shouting, and shoving, was inevitable.
Shauna spent the next few minutes asking socially awkward questions about my age, my dogs, and my boys, and telling short stories about her family and the dogs that they owned. Her voice was not particularly quiet, but her curiosity at a peak.
She steadied herself on a flowered cane and appeared to be going someplace. “Where are you going next?” I questioned. “Home,” she replied.  She then told us about her bus ride,  where she lived, and how long it took her to arrive home after the bus stopped several times along the route. As I thought about the distance to her home, a car drive was a short one and paled in comparison to the bus ride. Before I could stop myself, and consider my companions and the number of seats in my car, I blurted out, “I can give you a ride home.” Delighted at the idea, she clapped her hands and joined us outside to gather up the boys let them know that we would be taking Shauna home. Acts of goodwill were not their primary language, so their shocked faces were quickly ignored as I began walking to the car summonsing them to follow.
Shauna and I talked the entire ride about her home about her impeccable skills for knowing every breed of dog, even mixed breeds, and her neighbors. The passengers sat silently, still shocked that we were driving a stranger, who lived in the opposite direction of our home, to her house.
The minute we arrived at Sauna’s home and she exited the car, thanking me and asking me to say hello to my dogs, my oldest son asked, “Why did you do that?” To which I replied, “God told me to.” There was no need for any more explanation, and I knew that what those kids witnessed would leave an impression. They needed desperately to see someone not physically or mentally healthy, exude joy in the midst of her circumstances. They needed to see how to show God’s love to a stranger. They needed to know that when God asks you to do something, even if it makes you uncomfortable, you need to obey. They needed to know that serving God means loving people.
While I have never taken my family to a soup kitchen in order to feed the homeless, driven out of the country to build houses for the less fortunate, or delivered sandwiches to people living on the streets, I do my best to be an example of someone who serves God by loving people. I don’t always get it right, but when I do, I receive more of a blessing than I ever could imagine. When God places people in my path to serve and love, I know that He is giving me a gift of being His hands and feet, and that is a privilege.
Give your kids the gift of watching you serve Him by loving others, and let it begin right inside your home.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Be Brave

Standing at the top of a rocky cliff with the deep, blue, ocean water beneath, was no guarantee that I was going to jump. Witnessing a steady flow of other teenagers fearlessly leaping into the ocean below was no guarantee that I was going to jump. People treading water below reassuring the depths of the water, the safety of the jump, and using their best motivational speaker “You can do this” discourse, was no guarantee that I was going to jump. I was scared. Fear of jumping had me stymied and frozen. I wanted to jump. I love adventure, but I had fear.
After an hour I mustered up the courage and jumped, and failed miserably at the landing. Failed. On decent one leg went east, the other leg went west, and the water tension slapped my skin with painful punches that took several minutes of floating in order to fully recover. The pain from my botched finish cured my adventurous spirit. I was never going to cliff dive again however, the take away was that I now knew how to master landing.
Several years later I returned to a smaller cliff where my own children were leaping into a lake, giggling on decent and returning to the jump pad as if it were an empty ride at Disneyland. As they coaxed and begged me to jump the image I had from my previous cliff jumping experience heightened my anxiety, but the lesson learned from that experience stifled my fear almost immediately. Instead of dismissing the pleas, I succumbed and landed successfully returning several times to dive.
Being brave is hard. Taking another chance on an already failed experience may mean repeated failure, but modeling brave behavior and trying again after failing once or one hundred times, speaks of persistence and all things good.
In the Bible there is a story about a brave boy named David. While soldiers twice his age ran away in fear of facing the giant, David took him on and succeeded. He not only trusted his instincts and the lessons he learned from previous failures and triumphs, but David trusted God’s faithfulness and embraced God’s power and ability to do more through him than he was able to do on his own. David succeeded. The giant was slain. David’s team won, and his brave behavior inspired the frail army who stood behind him trembling, shocked an amazed at the tenacity, and gumption of such a small boy. Failure didn’t intimidate David. It propelled him. David was brave.
Although I don’t plan on jumping off cliffs, slaying giants, or leaping out of a speeding airplane, I do know that I will inevitably be put in situations where I am called on to trust God, take a leap of faith, experience uncomfortable circumstances, and be brave. When that time comes, I will jump.