Sharing worship – part 1…..

In last Friday’s post, I shared the story of meeting Freddy and his family at Wayside Christian Mission and how I (directed by the Holy Spirit) invited them to worship with me and my family on Sunday.

Now let me remind you of the doubts and fears that assailed me all weekend. Below are some snippets:

  • You are going to have to go ALL the way downtown to pick them up only to backtrack 20 minutes.
  • You don’t know these people. How are the kids going to act? What are they going to wear?
  • This is really going to disrupt your family’s normal worship time together. Your wife covets family time.
  • What do you think this is — the Blind Side movie?
  • You don’t know what is going to happen? What will all those church people think?

I had to remember two things:

  • God’s got this
  • Satan assails the strongest when we are closest to doing God’s will

And so, not knowing what to expect, I first crossed the bridge of telling my wife. You see, I love her so much but we are different in our comfort levels of many things. I tend to be more extroverted and more spontaneous. In the past, those traits have put me and her in challenging situations – mostly socially (like inviting all the guys over to watch football when she had a nice family day planned). I have learned to scale back and to also confirm schedules with her prior to making any commitments. However, because I was outside of my comfort zone, I knew she also would be. Additionally, I had not confirmed our schedule. But my wife took it all in stride and completely supported my action. The first prayer had been answered.

Next up was the logistical challenge of getting two families composed of 9 people to church on time. The meeting time I had planned left buffer room for minor adjustments. I was glad I woke up 30 minutes earlier than the alarm I set and I turned out needing all those minutes. I left on schedule and arrived 30 minutes later downtown on schedule. Sheena and the three kids were all ready in the lobby and I was excited because things were materializing as I had envisioned — no no-shows, no traffic detours, no miscommunication. I parked, got out and greeted all the kids. I was happy to see them all and they looked good. I was ready to pack them all up in my car when Sheena informed me that Freddy would also be joining us. That was good and bad news. Good because I have been praying for Freddy’s faith and that he will see and feel the love of Christ. Bad because there were six of us now and my car only has seat belts for five. Additionally, he had just gotten off his second job that goes 11pm to 7:30am and was still upstairs taking a shower. So we proceeded to consume the buffer time I built in.

Soon enough we were all packed into my car and headed to worship. It was nice to spend time chatting and getting to know the family. They were grateful for the love, attention and opportunity to get away from the shelter and go to church. They have been at the shelter for 3 weeks but are not able to spend much time together because of Freddy’s two jobs and because Wayside does not allow families to stay together. The men must stay with men and the women and children stay together. There are also some folks at the shelter – both workers and visitors – that are not so pleasant either in aroma, attitude, or behavior. Freddy and Sheena are thankful for what it is but also realize that it is not a place for a family to stay long. They are on a waiting list for the Wayside hotel – where families can stay together – as well as trying to get their feet under them so they can achieve their longer term goal of getting an apartment. I was glad to hear they had goals and glad to hear they were doing what was in their control to improve their situation. Having spent almost 3 years down at Wayside, I have seen people absolve themselves of all responsibility for their circumstances instead blaming anything they can – gov’t, the economy, Wayside, business, the streets, others around them, etc. That is not to say that all of those might not be contributing causes but ultimately, we are each recipient of the choices we make each day which can either empower or imprison us.

We arrived to church with time to spare – however, we still had to check the kids into the kids worship and classrooms. Because they were new, that process took extra time. The volunteer coordinators, teachers and facilitators were spectacular and I must brag upon my church for how they handle the huge influx of hundreds of kids in a professional, safe, efficient, loving and personal manner. Each person in the kids worship treated Freddy, Sheena and the kids as if they were special and the only ones there.

We headed back to the sanctuary hearing the worship music already in full stride. I lucked out and spotted my wife and kids up towards the front and they slid over having saved the appropriate number of seats that I had pre-texted ahead.

This is quite a long post and the story continues so I will break it up into two posts.

To be continued.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Engaged fathers…..

This morning during my normal Friday routine at Wayside I observed something I don’t see that often there — a father that is present and engaged. Usually, the women and children eat breakfast on one side of the cafeteria and the men’s recovery group eats on the other. It is very rare to have a married couple at the shelter (where they can sit together on the family side) and even more rare for a father to be present with his wife and children. So when I saw a father with his wife and three kids walk through the line and sit down together, I felt that I needed to chat with him to give him encouragement – 1 because that is rare for a dad to be with his family in a homeless shelter and 2 because it is even more rare in the African-American community.

So when the dad stood up to clear his tray I made my way to him so I could take it from him and encourage him. I greeted him and found out his name was Freddy. There were about 20-25 women and children eating and I asked him to turn around and look at the scene. I asked him what was missing and then pointed out that he was the only father present with his family. I told him he was doing something right and that he was on the right path and to keep going. He then proceeded to introduce me to his wife Sheena, and his three beautiful kids, Anaiah, Koran and Ethan. He thanked me for the encouragement and they walked out.

Fast forward through the rest of serving breakfast and me leaving to go pray at the abortion clinic. However, on my drive there I saw Freddy and his family on the street. I was moved by the Holy Spirit to go around the block and help them beyond the breakfast I served them. I rolled down the window and pulled up to them so they could see who I was. I got out and handed Freddy some money and a Jesus card and asked him if he knew about Jesus. He said yes and I told him I had something for them in my trunk. You see, in addition to my roadside ministry preparations — tools, gloves, gas can, antifreeze, etc — I also have blessing bags that a friend gave to me for distribution. She made these bags to give out to needy folks and they have water, crackers, soap, tissue, fruit snacks, and many other little things that make life on the streets a little easier. I gave a bag to each of them. The kids immediately tore into the fruit snacks and I knew they would go to good use. Freddy told me he was working two jobs to provide for his family but that it was hard because he had been in prison. I then found out that Freddy was Muslim but that Sheena and the kids were Christian. He asked me where I worshiped and when I answered I also offered to take them to Sunday service at 9am. I asked if they could be ready for me to pick them up at the shelter at 8am. They agreed and I told them I would see them there at that time. Then their bus pulled up and I hurried off because I was blocking the bus stop.

WHAT did I just do? When I drove away the reality of what I just did hit me. You see, when the Holy Spirit is working God has a way of getting His way. However, now back in my car the logistics of a Sunday morning with two families hit me. The realization that I had to tell my wife that I would not GO with her to church, but instead meet them at church. It would throw off our Sunday family routine. And what would they look like or what would the kids act like with all those church people watching. And we don’t go to a small, everyone-knows-you, you-can-tell-the-story church.

All these doubts and fears began to take hold. However, I had made a commitment and was going to follow through — in spite of being way outside my comfort zone. I am being called to love on these folks and I know that God will provide as He always does. It is not easy and the fears are constantly there to remind me that this is disruptive, this is not normal, this is uncomfortable, and this is inconvenient.

Stay tuned.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Observations from a day of travel…..

Prior to getting married, I had a tech job for 2 years that required travel at least every other week and usually 3 to 4 weeks out of each month. And while that was OK when I was young, I am sure glad I don’t have to keep up that pace now, especially now that I have a wife and kids. So for me, business travel is over-rated and I would much rather stay at home with the family and be happy in my routine.

However, my job now requires a little bit of business travel which is manageable — about 6 trips a year, and not all of them are for the entire week. What the business travel does is get me out of my routine and show me different perspectives, situations, landscapes, and opportunities. Below are the observations from my day of travel yesterday.

I have blogged before about how much I love our airport – Louisville’s Standiford Field (SDF). It is easy enough to get around, not crowded, usually has enough TSA folks herding you through security, and tends to be friendly as far as airports go. Well, recently they installed those new body scanners — the ones the privacy folks are all up in arms about. They still have the metal detectors there off to the side and I wondered when they were going to completely remove them.

So it was funny when the lady pilot ahead of me in the security line pushed her carry ons through the X-ray scanner and then stepped behind me. She went over to the metal detector and waited behind the little divider slidy thing like you find at the bank. Soon enough, a TSA agent went over, officially released the divider slidy thing, the pilot walked through the metal detector, and the TSA resecured the divider slidy thing with an official click. Once through the metal detector successfully, she shimmied through a little side gate around the body scanner and on to retrieve her carry ons. I meant to catch up to the pilot to ask the “whys” of that maneuver. Was it a pilot only option? Can regular folks do that? Was it a privacy principle? Or a way for an individual to show up the over-reaching bounds of an ever-expanding nanny gov’t? Unfortunately, she entered United’s executive lounge just as I caught up to her. I’ll never know, but I think I’m going to do some research. A hunch says that the TSA is required to provide body scanner options. I just don’t want to every opt out of the body scanner and get a body cavity search instead of the metal detector. Ugh — THAT would suck! Note to self – ensure metal detector equipment is available and operational before requesting a body scanner option. Better yet, next time when traveling with a friend or work colleague, convince them to do it first as a test subject.

My next item was a very enjoyable conversation I had with my seatmate Peg. This is more suited as an entire entry for the category “The People You Meet”, so I will keep you in suspense. But I can tell you that it is people like Peg who make traveling so interesting if you are open to opportunities that are right in front of you…..or in my case, right next to me.

After saying goodbye to Peg and arriving to a beautiful Seattle day, I retrieved my luggage and negotiated my way through SEA-TAC airport to secure my rental-mobile. They have redone SEA-TAC since I have been there and now the rental agencies are off the airport property across the border in Canada…..well, not actually. But it sure seemed like it from the bus ride. Thankfully, the cheerful lady driving the bus was a joy to talk to. It was waiting in the assigned “Rental Cars” general area and she greeted me being one of the first ones on the bus. She also looked at me with a very familiar look and asked if we had worked together many years ago. While I went to school up in Seattle back in the 80′s, I was pretty certain I did not know her so I told her that was my evil twin brother. She laughed and we proceeded to converse. She used to drive buses up in “Metro” but is now cheerfully greeting weary travelers and car renters at SEA-TAC. The weather came up and a couple of other riders chimed in. She mentioned that it was starting to get “hot”, clarifying that it means the temps are in the 80′s. A lady rider listening stated it was all relative because an 80′s day in Phoenix where she is from is cool. We all laughed as folks in the back wondered what all the fun was about that they were missing. Soon enough, “Pat” (that’s what I am going to call the bus driver lady) was safely chauffeuring us to the cornucopia of rental car agencies. As we approached the large off site rental hub, she was extremely helpful in providing exit direction and setting people up for success to get on the major freeways and area arterial roads. I am sure one or two folks would still be aimlessly cycling around the rental property looking for the rat maze way out if she had not provided excellent direction to us. Interestingly, that is the only time of all my travels that I have heard a helpful pre-direction statement like that.

I have blogged before about various food places that are west coast based that we miss in Kentucky. In-N-Out Burger is the primary but there are a few others like Jamba Juice (which I enjoyed while hubbing through Chicago) and Baja Fresh. Well, I searched out a Baja Fresh by SEA-TAC and found one in nearby Kent, WA. I pulled up after the lunch rush and proceeded to order my favorite Baja Burrito, however, this time I got ono (fish) instead of the normal steak. That was new to their menu so I figured I’d try it. Additionally, I ordered chips and pico de gallo for my road trip down to Portland. The manager/order taker guy was very friendly so I also asked him if I could order some extra of their very handy, reusable, large plastic cups. They come with a lid and plastic straw and I have used them at home for years. I tend to drink a lot (luckily I don’t like the taste of alcohol or I’d be a raging alcoholic) so I like large glasses. The fact these are plastic, have a lid, and can be taken on the go is a huge attraction for me. I was down to my last one at home and it was pretty beaten up from hundreds of dishwasher cycles. So I was excited that I had found a Baja Fresh, not only for my Mexican food craving, but also for my plastic cup stock. I told the manager of my excitement of being there and how I had driven straight from the airport. He found that interesting and we started talking about where I was from and how they had to build some Baja Freshes in Kentucky. He also knew about the very first Baja Fresh in Newbury Park which was the one I used to go to. It was very nice talking to him, especially since there was no lunch rush and he could take the time. I was grateful when he threw in some extra pico and a few extra cups.

While waiting for my food and filling one of my prized cups, I walked by a young lady who was eating lunch by herself and reading a book. I glanced closer and realized I had that same book. It was the Life Application Study Bible and she had all sorts of highlights, notes, post-it tags, and scribbles. When she looked up at me, I commented that I had the same book. She smiled and made a nice comment. I replied that hers had gotten lots of use and was very colorful — something to be proud of. She smiled again and I left her to her food — physical and spiritual. We were quiet the rest of the meal because she was three tables over but as she left she walked by and said “Be blessed” which I returned to her. I quietly said a prayer of blessing for her and that the rest of her week went well.

That last observation brings me to a “Sign From God” that I saw a long time ago. It said something like (I am paraphrasing here):
“The condition of someone’s Bible tends to have an inverse correlation with the condition of their life.”

I’ll end with the beautiful sunset that greeted me as I headed to my hotel after dinner. Apologies for the blurriness.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Hard working…..

This evening after work and dinner, I had to run to Walmart to pick up a prescription for my wife as well as to get her a few things to eat. With her being sick, she is specific on what she wants to eat so the mini 7ups and mint n chip ice cream was on my list. And because I was there I added a few items for my eats — even though I wasn’t sick.

As I was checking out in the 20 items or less line, I greeted Kathleen, my cashier. She was an older lady in her late 50′s or early 60′s. And like I always do, I asked how her day had been.

—– Tangent ON —–
I don’t remember if I blogged about this previously or not. Right now I can’t find it.

As a way to be the light of Jesus to the world, a while ago I had decided to stop asking people “How are you?”. I have done this because #1) our society has programmed people to just respond in a canned way that doesn’t match up with how we really are doing. How many times have you responded to that same question with a “Fine”, “OK”, or “Good” when you really felt like crap or were having a bad day. #2) Even if we were to reveal how we were feeling, the chances of someone listening are close to nil. We all recognize that this isn’t really an inquiry to how we are doing but just a method of greeting. The whole concern for others has been watered down especially in informal relations or where you don’t know the person.

So I decided to replace the “How are you?” with a more probing and concerned “How is your day going?”. In my experience it jump starts the rote conversation from benign “converse because you have to” into a true conversation of caring. I have had so many good interactions with cashiers, service people, team members, colleagues, and other folks it has been amazing. And not all the responses were “I am fine” or “I am having a good day”. Some have been “My relative is sick” or “It’s been a long day here at work”. Those are opportunities where I can show concern and empathy and also offer to pray for their specific situation. To this date, I have yet to have someone deny my prayer for them. Even if they aren’t a believer they aren’t going to stop my offer to pray for them because it doesn’t cost them anything and it covers their bases, right?
—– Tangent OFF —–

So Kathleen’s response to my “How has your day been?” was interesting. She said she was tired and had been there since 5:30. I asked “5:30 AM or PM?”

Her response was “5:30 AM“.

Now it was 7:30pm which means she had put in a full day and then some. I don’t know if she was covering for someone or worked a double shift but she was definitely putting in her time.

And then she mentioned that she works two jobs. I applauded her efforts and said “Good for you”. She then replied something that I wasn’t expecting. She said “Those people who say they can’t find jobs are full of it”.

Again, I applauded her efforts and encouraged her hardworking attitude. I then said that I hoped she got a full day of rest tomorrow since she would be off from both her jobs.

All this coming from a Walmart cashier. What a great hardworking spirit and someone most of us would overlook. Way to go Kathleen! I am proud of you and will look for your checkout line each time I purchase something at Walmart. Thanks for all of your hard work.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Snippets of the people you meet…..

One of the things I like to do while traveling is to get outside of my box, my bubble, my little world and interact with those around me in a deeper way. It is more than a “Hi, how are you?” — it is to engage them in conversation. Because I have learned that there are so many interesting, challenging, inspiring or fascinating stories out there — you just need to 1) ask and 2) take the time to listen. I think part of the reason most don’t do this is that we are too busy to slow down, take a look around and really soak up what is around us. As Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Usually I do this while sitting on a plane. If my seatmate wants to engage in conversation, it is a perfect place to get to know someone because you have a few hours to spend. The people I met below were not on the plane with me, but rather people I bumped into during the course of my day. Hence, I was not lucky enough to spend a few hours with them. In some cases it was only a few minutes. But as you will see, some of those few minutes really mattered and really enlightened my day.

The older gentlemen with the grey shortly cropped beard was mostly done with his breakfast as the hostess seated me next to him in the booth and long line of tables facing the window looking out onto the Embarkadero in San Francisco. We greeted one another and I thought that would be it — he would return to his paper and I could read the menu and dive into my devotional and Bible. Which is what happened.

I ordered my breakfast with Dani, my friendly waitress. Soon enough, in fact, very quickly my breakfast was delivered. This surprised the gentleman next to me who made a comment about how quick it was and perfect timing on my part. He also made a mention of my “religiousness” or spirituality based on my Bible reading which began a conversation that lasted my entire breakfast – 20 minutes or so. His name is Jeff and he was traveling from Philadelphia to give some training. He was only in the city for 2 days and was leaving the next day. He has been married 19 years to his wife Lisa and they have two teenage kids. We talked about how God has worked in our careers, about where our country is headed, the values of our nation and things you wouldn’t expect from a light breakfast conversation. We have both had challenges in old bosses and were able to commiserate together. His wife is currently having some career struggles too and I told him I would pray for her. He thanked me and gave me his business card as he left for his day.

As most of you know, In N Out Burger is my favorite food place to hit when I am traveling out west. This trip I was lucky enough to get in three visits. The first visit was immediately after landing at SFO and was my first stop after retrieving my rental car. I ordered my standard — a #1 meal (Double-Double, no sauce, ketchup and mustard instead of the spread, no onions, fries, a large drink) and a large strawberry shake. I also threw in a t-shirt because they had a new back design since I was there last. My order number was 85.

Once my number was called, I grabbed my box tray and headed outside to a hard stone table to enjoy the beautiful weather and because the inside was full.

—– TANGENT ON —–
When living in California I used to take the weather for granted. Because it was always beautiful weather, I did not have to take advantage of it and would mostly eat inside. If I wanted to enjoy the day outside, I could at any time in the future. Now, however, because in Kentucky we don’t always get perfect weather, I always go out of my way to enjoy a nice day outside. And if the opportunity comes up, I will choose to eat outside if the weather allows it wherever I am. This day was definitely one of those days.
—– TANGENT OFF —–

I devoured my meal because it had been a full year since my last enjoyment and enjoyed the warmth of the middle afternoon sun. I had eaten a light breakfast but was starving on the plane and put off buying any airport crap food just so I could soak up my In N Out meal.

As I was eating, an older Hispanic woman in full In N Out garb hit each table outside, wiping them down and throwing away any residual meal litter. I greeted her as she came by my table and she replied. I asked how her day was going and she said it was going well. Her name was Veronica and she was from Guatemala. She came to the U.S. when she was 19 and was now 50 years old and very happy to work for In N Out Burger. She said that the company is very good to work for and she was very grateful to be there. I told her she looked wonderful for being 50 years old and then she diligently went back to her tasks. Again, it wasn’t a long conversation but gave me a perspective that I might have missed had I not said hi. I walked over to say goodbye to her when I left and she left me with a smile.

Interestingly, the next day when I went there with a friend for lunch (aren’t you surprised?), she was working again. I greeted her by name and she recognized me. We exchanged pleasantries and my friend was very surprised and made the comment “You make friends everywhere”. Pretty funny. And again, I said goodbye to her on my way out and was treated with a smile.

Jamba Juice is my breakfast equivalent of In N Out Burger. I try to hit there in the morning to grab a smoothie and something for breakfast. Patrick was my order taker although his decorated name badge said “Pat Rick”. I ordered my standard – a large strawberries wild with immunity boost – and added a sausage, egg, cheese wrap to it. As I was waiting, a mail carrier came in to order what appeared to be his daily order. He was cheerful and we greeted each other with the guy head nod and a “hi”. After his order of two oatmeals and two smoothies, we greeted again and in our answers to “how are you” one of us said “blessed”. That got us on a short conversation of faith. He lives in the city but comes south for his mail route. He is a believer and quoted how we are to be cities on a hill. I could see the light of Jesus within him and he was cheerful and friendly. I just imagine what a blessing he is to those who are on his route. I can imagine he keeps an eye on the elderly and shut in people that he brings mail to every day. He was definitely not your typical disgruntled government worker and would put to shame the term “going postal”. In fact, I believe that he would probably redefine the term for everyone and make it a much more positive phrase.

James, my brother, you are in my prayers to be safe, strong and out there for Christ.

There were a few more this week but I must pack up my things, check out of the hotel, head to Jamba Juice for my breakfast, hit a few meetings, and then take the dreaded red eye home tonight. With God’s grace, I’ll be home this time tomorrow with my family — tired, but home.

I encourage you to get out and meet those folks around you in your world. I continue to be amazed at how God weaves people into our life tapestries — we just need to slow down and take the time to care and listen.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Costco believer…..

It has been a very long time since I posted. And so much has transpired. We took R to college, FDA fun at work, remembering 9/11, starting Financial Peace University with my wife, and many cards handed out via my roadside ministry. I was hoping to blog about many of these and had the beginning of posts started in my head, but life continued on and my want to post those important events prevented any additional posts which further damned things up because other cool posts started in my head. Soon enough, I was behind on my behind on my behind — kinda like debt on debt on debt, the way our country runs.

Well enough of that. I will see if I go back and blog about those important events. But in the meantime, I will just start chipping away at life and blog posts as they come at me now.

Yesterday, after my Men’s Accountability gathering, I swung by Costco before I met my wife and D for his 10:30a soccer game at church. I had a strict list of 8 or 9 things — all of which had coupons. I started in the vitamin aisle and said hi to the Costco lady stocking the shelves. It was early in the morning right when they opened and there weren’t many people in the store yet. She replied with a hi and how are you. I responded with a “better than I deserve”. He reply was “Oh, a Dave Ramsey fan”.

As a side note, my wife and I started the 13 week Financial Peace University class created by Dave Ramsey. I have also been podcasting his radio shows during my commute to and from work. One of his sayings when people ask how he is doing is “Better than I deserve”. I like it, agree with it, and have duplicated it for my use.

So back in the aisle of Costco, I formally met Sami. She and I shook hands and proceeded to have the coolest 8 minute conversation about faith, struggles, Dave Ramsey and moving from California. She said she had her emergency fund (step 1 and step 3) and was working on the other steps but her emergency fund had been depleted (which is exactly what it is for. I asked her if it was anything I could pray for. The big one was surgery for her husband Dave. He had appendicitis and when he was in the hospital, a spot was found on his kidney. Additionally, there was another issue with their house circuit panel that could have caused a fire which was a priority to repair. All of these items drained their emergency fund…..which again, is exactly why you need one.

I also found out that Sami and Dave go to a local church I like. This church, Fern Creek Christian Church, has some very good radio spots and I enjoy hearing them on WJIE. We had some good conversation about faith, prayer and God’s will right there in the Costco vitamin aisle. I was surprised at how quickly two believers in Christ could converse and connect.

We switched to the financial benefits of Costco pricing and their bulk deals. Sami said “if you can stay on this side of the store (meaning the food side) and stick to a list you can save money”. I thought her local was interesting because my wife and I have cursed Costco because of some of the other purchases we have made there. They might be good deals, but they are usually of things that we don’t need — electronics, holiday decorations, household knick knacks, etc. I agreed with her advice and made mention of Kentucky in pre-Costco days (2006 when the store opened). I made mention that we enjoyed Costco in California and she asked where we lived. She said they were from San Diego and had moved to Kentucky to open the store. They wanted to get out of California and moved because of the price of living in Kentucky. When they had the opportunity with the Louisville Costco store opening, they jumped at it and haven’t looked back. They really enjoy it hear and their older college kids have also followed them.

Soon enough I realized I had monopolized her paid work time and wanted her to resume what she was doing before I got there. I said goodbye and thanked her for the conversation. I then dutifully proceeded to get each of the items on my list combined with a coupon like the good guy shopper I am and checked out.

Please keep Sami and Dave in your prayers for healing and strength.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Freeda…..

Yesterday was my weekly day to volunteer serving breakfast at Wayside Christian Mission. And for the last two weeks I have added a twist by bringing one of my kids to help serve. They are reluctant when I get them up at 5:00am so we can be down there by 6:00am but we have had a wonderful time serving Christ each time we’ve done it.

So yesterday, when my son and I were serving donuts, hash browns and cinnamon biscuits, a lady came across our line. She was more peppy than the average person that time of the morning. We exchanged niceties and as she began walking away with her full plate I commented that I liked her shirt — which had a picture of Jesus.

Now this can sometimes be challenging in this situation. Not because it is Jesus. But because many of the folks that frequent Wayside get their clothes secondhand or donated. And just because they are wearing a Cincinnati Bengals hat, or a Louisville Cardinals shirt, or a UK beanie, doesn’t necessarily mean they like or even follow the team. It might have just been a convenient or free item that fits their needs, but not their loyalties. But I digress.

After my comment, she looked me straight in the eye, broke into a smile, and said that we shared the same Savior. It was at that moment that she began to light up and we relocated further down the end of the line so we could chat. It was down near my son with the donuts so he heard the discussion.

She began with an introduction. Her name was Freeda. She said she attended Lampton Baptist Church. I shared my name and place of worship and then she started into some Scripture riddles. This caught me off guard but I was up for some interesting conversation so I went along.

Freeda: “Knock, knock”
Me: “Who’s there?”
Freeda: “Jesus”
Me: “Jesus who”
Freeda: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. — Revelation 3:20″

Freeda: “How many ways can you go on a one way street?”
Me: “One”
Freeda: “No. You can go two ways, but only one is the right way. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matthew 7:13-14″

At that point with our eyes shining and sharing in the Spirit, I asked her what her story was. She said she had seizures and they detracted her from a normal way of life. My heart went out to her and I asked her if she needed anything. She said she was blessed and provided for. I told her that I was down there most Friday mornings and if she needed something I would be honored to be able to be used. She came around the end of the line by my son and gave me a hug. I responded by telling her that she made my day…..and it wasn’t even 8am yet. At that, she found a table and chair and proceeded to enjoy her breakfast.

I hope to see Freeda some Friday morning in the near future. If not, I just might have to make my way over to her place of worship to make sure she is doing well. What a bright and shining light she is for God…..and even more so when you consider her circumstances.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Prayer for Harley Davidson…..

2/15/11 – DFW airport, Terminal B

I had cozied up to the free internet terminal courtesy of Clear Channel to burn through loads of work email that continue to pour in every time I am on the road for business. I had been through three 1700 second cycles (designed to kick you off the free internet network after 1700 seconds specifically to prevent folks like me from setting up camp for long durations) before a bearded man took up residence to my right. We had not spoken nor made eye contact; not unusual for a busy international airport like DFW. Several of our neighbors packed up their tech gear – laptops, cell phones, chargers and the like – and departed for their gates and destinations. Beardman and I were the only ones left and he made a comment about the free internet being great for long duration layovers. I agreed and asked him where he was going to. He was headed to Houston to see his daughter who was having a surgery. He did not look frazzled or worried and later in the conversation I found out that she had a bone marrow transplant last year and that this was just a follow up surgery. She was doing well and he had decided to come over from Germany to be by her side. He had an eight hour layover which landed him next to me sucking off the free internet. However, between the 28.33 minute timer (remember the 1700 seconds) and the very uncomfortable, hard stools (more effective than the cutoff timer) we both wrapped things up. As he was leaving, I told him that I would put his daughter in my prayers. He thanked me and said her name was Harley – Harley Davidson. So I am praying that Mr. Davidson’s daughter will heal quickly and come through the surgery with strength. Additionally, that father and daughter can enjoy their time together and he can travel home safely.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

George Washington and the two Mohammeds…..

Today was a busy day on a very quick business trip. I had flown in last night to Philadelphia and made my way over to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where my one night hotel was for the following day’s conference. I was up early, read my devotional, grabbed breakfast and was on time at the seminar site. The all day conference was very educational and worthwhile.

————– Tangeant on ————–
I know you know this, but conferences can be a real crap shoot. I have been to some really suckie time sponges that weren’t worth the glossy paper the summaries were printed on. In fact, I could have done just as well just by reading their promotional brochures. And then others are pseudo worthwhile. And few others are well worth your time – along with the travel expenditures.

I have my own personal perspective on seminars and conferences. I believe that you can always find SOME kind of gold nugget to take back with you. It might be an idea, a concept, the way something is done. And sometimes it doesn’t necessarily come from the conference. It might be because you were out of your box; doing something different. But there is always a take home prize if you open your eyes enough to find it.

Anyway, conferences are like a box of chocolates…..
————– Tangeant off ————–

The conference ended early and I decided to turn to one of my past actions. You see, many years ago in a past job I used to travel 3 to 4 weeks out of the month. I flew all over the place for business. But I rarely saw much past the airports and hotels. However, whenever a job was finished early, or I had spare time, I really went out of my way to “see the sights”. I remember one time I had a half day available that I killed in south Florida on an airboat Everglades tour. It was very cool and I have never been back so I am glad I took the opportunity to get out and see stuff while I was there rather than rest up in a boring old hotel room.

So today with the conference finishing at 3:30pm I had a bit of time to kill before my 9:30pm flight. So I headed to the Valley Forge National Park. If you have never been there you must go. What a beautiful place dripping with history. I enjoyed my own private showing of their 18 minute movie in the theater building. And, because I was alone, I was able to slowly make my way through the Visitor’s Center and read every single little historical placard and fact – something that drives my wife and kids crazy any time we go to museums or such.

While in the Visitor’s Center right before they closed at 5pm, there were 3 very obviously Muslim men along with 2 completely clothed ladies with 3 children. The group piqued my interest and I observed them carefully from a distance. The men were heavily bearded, had the traditional skull caps on, and wore flowing robes. They were not unlike some of the pictures we have seen lately of those who have been attacking our country. The 5pm closing time gave me an excuse to depart the building and begin my outside self guided tour.

If you have never been to Valley Forge National Park, I highly encourage you to go. It is a beautiful expanse of 3400 acres devoted to retaining the feel of what General Washington’s encampment there the winter of 1777 was. The car tour takes you to many highlights throughout the park and all over there were people jogging, couples walking, deer eating the grass and staring, and tourists snapping pictures.

As I went from point of interest to point of interest, I would run into the same folks again and again. We would smile and say “hi”. I even offered to take a picture of a couple of work colleagues in front of the huge arch in the park. And I was able to snap some very grainy but very close pictures of the over tamed deer in the park. At one point I was able to roll my rental car up, roll my window down and “talk” to the deer 8 feet away just staring at me. They obviously weren’t Kentucky deer because they #1) run away and #2) get shot.

I was lollygagging and needed to speed up my self guided tour so I could make it to PHL for my late flight. So I told myself that General Washington’s headquarters house would be my last out of the car stop. I parked and walked down the gently sloped hill to the several buildings down by the creek. Wanting General Washington’s house to be last, I proceeded clockwise around the walking path – first with the General’s security staff huts. These were the first original Secret Service. The to the very nice statue of George. His family even said that this statue, which is a replica of one that stands in the Virginia Capital, is the most representative and lifelike one of him. It was here I said a prayer of thanks and for continued guidance for our country. I believe our country is very special because of the religious freedom which was one of the things being sought. This country has very spiritual roots and we need to continue to acknowledge them, not deny them or water them down.

I continued on to some support barns and out buildings. When I arrived in front of General Washington’s headquarters house I had a deep sense of feeling; like I was brushing history. As I stood on the front porch steps, I presumed General Washington probably did something similar about 233 years ago. I touched the stone walls as he might have and scanned the creek laid out in front of me. I circumnavigated the house and imagined all the activity back then.

I cut away from the concrete walkway to meander across the grass to the train station while watching the nearby mother doe and her two fawns grazing. And I saw one of the Muslim men carrying a boy walking towards me. I smiled as he approached and said “Good afternoon”. Accent-less, he responded likewise and asked if I knew which house was General Washington’s. I pointed behind me and then started talking and walking that way with him. It was completely out of my comfort zone. However, I had a different feeling than I had at the Visitor Center. This was my opportunity to learn. To represent. To act upon a quote I had heard Monday from Max Lucado – “If you have the chance to build a bridge, build it. If you have the chance to tear down a wall, take it.”

So I learned that his name was “Mohammed” and he was visiting from Illinois. He was well groomed and well spoken. He had not been to Valley Forge before and was visiting on his way back from Washington D.C where his local priest had been meeting and who was a part of the group I saw earlier. I did find it peculiar that he used the term priest. He was carrying his priest’s child who was a young boy of about 2 years old. They were taking in the old homes of the self guided tour like I was, as well as letting the kids get views of the deer, squirrels and birds in the park.

After a few more nice words, I left them to enjoy the scenery and began my walk back to the rental car. During that walk, I came across the “priest” in the group who was with his other two young boys. I said hi and introduced myself saying that I had met his friend and his son over by George Washinton’s headquarters. His name, too, was Mohammed and I said hi to his two young boys and then continued on up the hill to the parking lot. It was a very different experience and pushed my envelope.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Serving Christ…..part 2

This post is a follow up to my impromptu lunch with Jesse from a week and a half ago. If you haven’t done so already, read it first.

As Jesse got into the back seat and we headed towards our nearby lunch destination, I became aware of the unpleasant smell of alcohol. Knowing that my friend and I had just come from work and neither one of us had been drinking, my acute deduction powers kicked in pointing to Jesse. In a respectable way as lovingly as I could, I asked him if he had been drinking already today (seeing as it was only 11:30am). Jesse confessed to having a beer and I made it clear to him that I had provided him funds for a bus ticket to get home and that I wanted to see him use that money for just such an effort. Expectedly, he stated that he, indeed, would be purchasing a bus ticket after having lunch with us. It was a disappointing, but very human, piece of information.

The three of us grabbed a table and began the process of making the situation as normal as can be. I gave Jesse a summary of the day’s events on how my friend and I ended up at lunch and what our relationship was. My friend and I have many similarities in our lives and it was kind of neat to summarize a few of those in front of a stranger. It was my goal to get Jesse to feel comfortable and be a part of the conversation and lunch events, not just be a third wheel or spectator. I have found that in situations like these it is very important to, not only tend to someone’s physical needs, but to make them feel wanted, loved and important. It is these human aspects that society often misses when trying to take care of these situations. And they are almost always left out in government “solutions” and programs because it is subjective and not quantifiable. But that doesn’t mean it is not important. Quite often, it is more important than the problem itself whether it be homelessness, unemployment, addiction or abuse.

My friend and I asked Jesse some basic informational questions and answered similarly — where we live, where we’re from, people in our lives, etc. We found out Jesse lives down in Franklin county outside of Bowling Green. He does carpentry construction and has not had a good go of it since he fell off a roof a while back. Unfortunately, he is also recently divorced and out of work. He was up in Crestwood visiting his 17 year old daughter and was trying to make his way back home. He has lived in Kentucky all his life and seems like a pretty nice guy when he isn’t drinking the 6-10 beers a day he said he had a problem with. I found it interesting that he clarified that he doesn’t get “drop dead drunk” but rather just drinks throughout the day. He admitted he had a problem with alcohol and said he had been to a few AA meetings but didn’t “get it”. He wondered how a bunch of people sitting around saying their name and admitting they were alcoholics actually helped anyone. I told him that I knew many people have been helped by AA and that he might need to give it another shot.

The conversation progressed as we ordered and received our food. I found it interesting that Jesse didn’t order extravagantly or even get a drink. He ordered off the lunch specials menu and asked for water. As we dug into our grub, the discussion turned spiritual. My friend and I had an opportunity to witness to Jesse and share the hope we have in Christ. (“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” — 1 Peter 3:15) Jesse said he believed in Christ and occasionally attends church at home. I encouraged him to fully pursue his relationship with Christ and to seek help in defeating his alcohol demon. I told him we all have our demons and that none of us can do it alone. It is only in the freedom and redemption in Christ’s death were we can truly live free from sin’s declining spiral.

After finishing his meal, Jesse kindly thanked both of us and said goodbye. He left out a side door and headed down the street towards the local bus line that would take him downtown to the Greyhound station. We watched him walk out of sight as we finished up our meals and drinks. I was hopefully optimistic that he would use the funds to get back home. And hopefully, just hopefully, it will be a small step towards normalcy and possibly recovery some day. He has been in my prayers often since that day and will continue to be.

And a lesson I learned a while ago continues to ring true. Again, I have learned that I don’t need to have all the answers to be a part of the solution.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net