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Christian Blog Self Care

Into the Deep

The prayer room at my seminary dorm was small: just two comfy chairs and a little table framed by a window. A wooden box with a hinged lid sat on the table—a place for people to leave prayer requests on the cards provided. Each card had space at the bottom where you could tell the person you prayed for them.

I sat down in one of the chairs, opened the box and began to pray for each request. The first two were like many I’d seen before. “Please pray for my dad. He has open heart surgery next week.” “My cousin isn’t a Christian. Pray that she will accept Jesus as her Savior.”

I reached into the box for another request and fished out a piece of paper that was folded several times. “This is odd,” I thought, as I flattened out the creases.

What I read sent a shiver up my spine: “My name is Daryl and I want to kill myself.” I impulsively scribbled a message back, “Please don’t. I’m here if you want to talk” I added my first name and room number, refolded the paper and put it back in the box.

Later that evening someone came to my door. I opened up to find a rather disheveled man: about my age, with major bed-head hair, tired eyes and mismatched clothing. He looked like a workaholic telecommuter straight from central casting.

“My name is Daryl,” he said. “I’m the one who wrote the note.”

Cue second shiver up my spine. Since I wasn’t sure when my roommate would return, I suggested we talk out in the foyer. I sat near the end of a long couch, while he stood uneasily across from me, repeating (over and again) his intention to end his life. He also mentioned that he had the means to do so–in his car, which was parked right outside.

This was way more than I’d bargained for, but there was literally no one else around. So I began to talk. I shared scripture verses, stories of survival and positive thoughts, but Daryl was undeterred.

NOTHING helped.

I asked him to wait while I went to get someone, but he refused. He said he would leave if I did. By this time he was clearly agitated: pacing back and forth throwing glances at the front door.

Exasperated and out of options, I got on my knees beside the couch and began to pray out loud. For 15 minutes…30 minutes…45 minutes, I cried out to God: “Heavenly Father, please help Daryl want to live!”

Sometime after the 45 minute mark I felt him sit down on the couch beside me. I looked up. Daryl began to quietly sob. He told me he wouldn’t go through it. Reaching into the pocket of his tattered brown blazer, he pressed something into my hand that brought the third shiver of the day: a single 12 gauge shotgun shell.

At 1 a.m. we parted ways. It turned out he was my next door neighbor who’d just returned to seminary in the past twenty-four hours!

At 8 a.m. that same morning I waited outside the student counselor’s office. Let’s just say I was his most interesting walk-in that day! I told him the whole story. He said he was familiar with Daryl and knew he had just returned to campus. Someone close to him had committed suicide and he was in danger of doing so himself. The counselor had been trying to contact him.

I head back to the dorm, and sure enough, there’s a thick thumb-tacked stack of notes on the message board for Daryl. The next day there’s a message for me. It’s from the counselor. Daryl had been to see him and was returning home. I am to keep the entire matter in confidence.

The only evidence that remained of what happened was my vivid memory and a 12 gauge magnum shotgun shell.

Then Samuel took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “So far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12

I soon realized that the shotgun shell represented MY Ebenezer from God–a reminder of His help in my inadequacy. I walked “into the deep” to rescue a man who’d lost his way, but was unable to lead him out.

God intervened and saved us both.

Almost 30 years later, I still have that shotgun shell. It sits in the back of a drawer and I take it out from time to time. Holding it in my hand, I recognize a certain overconfident young man (me) who overestimated his abilities, and then I thank the God who stepped in.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I hope you’re still out there, Daryl— happily alive and middle-aged like me.

Categories
Perseverance Perspective

Sparkle!

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” Dr. Seuss

One of my colleagues has this sign hanging just outside her classroom door:

Frankly, every time I walk past and read it I have conflicting thoughts. Thought #1: “Right on!” Thought #2: “That’s easier said than done.”

If you’re like me, your sparkle has been dulled before. And needless to say, it’s a “Once bitten, twice shy” experience. In fact “sparkle snuffers” seem to have an unfair advantage in this fallen world. The lopsided power of negativity, as seen on social media, is a prime example.

Question: how do you do that—not let anyone dull your sparkle?

That’s right, I’m asking you, because I’m not sure I know. I do have a pretty good idea, though, so please read on.

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Everything that glitters may not be gold, but REAL sparkle only comes from God. And whatever God gives you, can’t NOBODY take away!

That’s my idea: ✨God-Sparkle ✨. It doesn’t come from the world, so the world can’t dull it—at least not for long.

But the first order of the day is to make sure our glitter (yours and mine) comes from God.

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

This is one of my favorite scriptures in the whole Bible. God has an AGENDA for each of His children, AND it’s a GOOD one! All we have to do is make sure we’re holding the right bottle of glitter.

We are His workmanship, so keep sprinkling your God-Sparkle (good works)!

If you need a pick-me-up from a Christian blogger who has sparkle to spare, please check out Caralyn at Beauty Beyond Bones. She’s an eating disorder survivor who’s as effervescent as a glass of Alka-Seltzer!

Again, how do YOU not let anyone dull YOUR sparkle?

Categories
Christian Living forgiveness

Are You My Daddy?

One of my favorite books as a child was, Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman. In the story, a baby bird hatches while his mother is away from the nest. He falls to the ground and immediately begins to search for her, but doesn’t know what she looks like. The little hatchling meets several animals, and even a few machines, and asks each of them, “Are you my mother?” Finally, the baby bird is returned to the nest–just as his mom arrives with a worm.

The Bible has a version of this story. In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus returns to Jerusalem just before Passover. He’s overcome with emotion when the city comes into view and says this:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.

Matthew 23:37

The Israelites had ‘left the nest’ yet again, and were not seeking to return. Time after time in the Bible we find God’s people asking everything they see, “Are you my daddy?” And, just like the baby bird in the story, they have NO IDEA of their REAL predicament. When Jesus says, “Look, your house is left to you desolate,” He refers to the ultimate destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (in 79 AD) and God’s rejection of His people (Jeremiah 12:7).

Isn’t idolatry (even in ignorance) still a problem today? It’s easy to stray from the nest. And Christians are not immune to the lure of the three S’s: sin, self, and stuff.

A recent devotional in, Our Daily Bread, highlights the tendency to trust in just-in-case idols. The old hymn, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, becomes Leaning on the Ever-lesser Arms, when we trust in our own intelligence, abilities, or possessions more than God.

Nevertheless, a loving Father awaits the return of all stray hatchlings to the nest.

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.

Psalm 91:4

Who’s Your Daddy?

https://davidsdailydose.org/2020/10/17/whos-your-daddy/

Categories
Christian Living devotional

A Winning Formula

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After I left full-time ministry, but before I became a teacher, I spent three years in sales with Frito Lay, Inc. I was a Route Sales Rep, which is a front-line position selling salty snacks to grocery and convenience stores.

One day, my boss was helping me set up a huge display of potato chips at a grocery store. It was five in the morning, and I had eleven more accounts to visit that day, so I was in a bit of a rush. Pulling a large cart stacked high with boxes of potato chips, I turned a corner too sharply and clipped a large display of pancake syrup at the end of an aisle. Several glass bottles crashed to the floor, creating a growing pool of sticky brown goo.

I know big boys aren’t supposed to cry, but looking at the mess I’d just made, I started to lose it. To my surprise, my supervisor didn’t berate me. Instead, he came over, put his hands on my shoulders, and said, “Are you ok?”

That’s how it really went down. No joke!

“These things happen,” he said calmly, “I once dropped a pallet of milk off a loading dock!” He then showed me a neat trick: pouring corn meal on icky messes makes them more manageable. After applying a few boxes to the chestnut colored goop, I was able to scrape up the whole mess and finish stocking my display.

My boss knew just how to help me recover from a set back. Instead of coming unglued, he came alongside, giving me the tools to cope with a challenging situation.

Years later, I analyzed what he did, and figured out his winning formula:

How to Come Alongside Someone in Need

  • Ask – “Are you OK?” Recognize that all is not well.
  • Acknowledge – “These things happen sometimes. I once did something similar.” Identify with the situation.
  • Assist – “Let me show you a trick for cleaning this up.” Offer to help.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Triple-A: it’s a winning formula for helping others.

Categories
Christian Blog devotional

God Knows You

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Phillip called you.”

John 1:48

I just saw the coolest PBS documentary about Emperor penguins! After marching up to 125 miles across the sea ice, the mother must find her chick among the thousands of others in the colony. That sounds impossible enough, but it gets worse: all the chicks and their dads–who are with them–look EXACTLY alike. To find her husband and their offspring the mother issues a unique call which only her partner can identify.

“When’s mom gonna get here, dad? I’m hungry!”

“My sheep know my voice and they follow me”

John 10:27

Jesus spoke these words in denunciation of a group of Jewish leaders who rejected Him. Basically, He told them, “Guys, the reason you don’t get it is because you don’t got it.”

True believers recognize God’s voice, but can He pick theirs out of a crowd? Of course He can! God is all-knowing and familiar will all of our ways (Psalm 139:3b). He recognizes our needs BEFORE we do, (Matthew 6:8) and knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21b).

The concept of being intimately known by our creator is clear. However, what does this look like in real life?

The about-to-be disciple, Nathanael, had never met Jesus. Yet when Christ saw him approaching He said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” — (John 1:47) Jesus saw much more than a guy sitting under a fig tree–before Phillip called him over. Clearly, the Son of God knew the character qualities of an apparent stranger. This surprised Nathanael enough for him to say, “How do you know me?”

God has this same level of intimate knowledge about each one of us.

I love Romans 8:27 and Romans 8:29. They serve like bookends for one of the most quoted comfort scriptures of all time.

(27) And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

(28) 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.

(29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.

With God we can be ourselves. He knows us anyway!