Serving Christ…..

Today I was extraordinarily blessed with a spectacular day. However, I wavered back and forth about whether to blog about my day. The reason being is that, while I enjoy identifying opportunities to serve Christ with my whole heart, I am hesistant about writing or talking about them.

On one side of the coin, I want to blog about them to share with others ideas on how they can identify opportunities and serve Christ. It also might be an opportunity to inspire others. At the least, it probably makes for a good story.

On the other side of the coin, I do not want to bring attention to myself. When I act on these tugs at my heart by the Holy Spirit, I am merely being obedient and doing what God calls me to do. It is nothing special and I continue to be amazed at how God can use a broken vessel like me to fulfill His plan. I write about this solely for #1) the glory of Christ and #2) to hopefully inspire others to get out there and make a difference. Additionally, scripture gives us some good guidance on this as well. In Matthew 6:1-4 (New International Version)

1″Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2″So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Just to show the entire picture, I have also blogged about my failure to serve Christ in the past, as highlighted in these posts — I failed….. , Turtles and failure….., and I’m ashamed….. .

So with that all being said, here is a summary of my day as I was able to serve Christ. I blog about this to bring glory to Christ and inspire others to do the same.

As most of you regular readers know, I spot all sorts of cool things in the morning and on my drives to work. From gorgeous sunrises, to patriotic signs, to wildlife, to a combination of almost everything. I have learned that the morning and my commute to work is when I am freshest and when I am most open to God speaking to me.

So this morning it was no different as I cruised to work in the drizzling rain. I was about 1 or 2 miles away when I noticed a TARC bus stopped in the middle of nowhere in the industrial park dropping off a nicely dressed lady in heels. Now, this was peculiar because it was a part of the industrial area where there is no intersection, no bus stop, no strip mall, no stores……nothing but warehouses and industrial buildings. She didn’t have an umbrella and was holding a Walmart bag and newspaper above her head. I sped by the other direction at 55mph and didn’t think twice when I heard my heart say that I had to make a U-turn to go back and offer her a ride to where she was going. It took me a 1/4 mile to find a break in the median (again, this was an industrial area with not much around). I spun around and pointed the car back to where I saw the bus drop her off. She had made her way not far down a side street. I pulled up, rolled the window down and asked if I could give her a dry ride to where she was going.

It turned out she was just going to the next large warehouse building where she works but she was thankful for the sheltered escort to the front doors. I didn’t even get a chance to ask her name but said goodbye and “have a nice day”.

As I turned around in the parking lot, I turned back up the radio to my normal dial — 88.5 WJIE. At that time one of my favorite bands — Tenth Avenue North — was on playing their latest hit single from their new album – Healing Begins (which I am listening to as I blog write this). Uncharacteristically of me, I lifted up my hand in praise as an obedient servant. It was just coming off a small task of service and now was acknowledging my Savior. I was overcome all the way back to my work.

So, as you can imagine, my day was off to an awesome start. Unfortunately, one of my really good friends who I was having lunch with had to cancel. This is one of my “anchor” people — someone who is a brother in Christ and where we can build each other up. (Editorial: make sure you have “anchor” people in your life that can build you up and who you can build up. It is important to have the encouragement, accountability, wisdom and perspective of other close believers.)

Being the resourceful person I am, I inquired with another anchor friend of mine who agreed to head out to lunch with me. We decided on a local BBQ place and headed a bit before noon so we could beat the lunch crowd.

We enjoyed nice conversation on the way there and I exited the freeway eagerly anticipating a nice meal with a friend and the large sweet tea I have come to love. As we went under the freeway I noticed someone standing at the bottom of the offramp from the other direction. That area is quite a bit away from the city and not known for panhandlers. He looked down on his luck but wasn’t filthy or ragged. He was holding a cardboard sign that I couldn’t see from our angle.

I looked over to my friend and informed him that I was going to take a detour. Now this is a bit of a sidebar here — I am very lucky to have a friend in Christ in this anchor person. He and I have had all sorts of interesting conversation in our trials and tribulations and have been able to share and build our faith together throughout our growing relationship. And while making this kind of detour is not in my everyday activities, especially with someone else along for the ride, it was something I felt comfortable enough within our relationship to be able to do. I thank him for being someone I can share that with.

We crossed through the intersection and pulled to the side shoulder. My friend hung out in the car while I jogged back to inquire as to what the offramp fellow needed. He couldn’t hear me across the traffic and was initially hesitant to leave his vantage point. He finally “Froggered” his way through the offramp traffic over to my side. He was an older guy with graying shoulder length hair. I asked him if he wanted to join us for lunch. He said he was stranded here and was trying to get back to Bowling Green (just a short 2 hour jaunt south down I-65). He said he didn’t want lunch but needed a bus ticket to go home.

Now, normally I don’t give cash to panhandlers, homeless or cardboard sign folks. It is too easy for them to use it for nefarious purposes (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and other things they don’t need — which is quite often why they are in the situation to begin with). But for some reason, my heart spoke to me and I gave him the needed money for the bus ticket. At that time, I was able to convince him to join us for lunch. That test he passed — I was thinking that if his “real” need for a bus ticket was met, he would then spend time with us over a meal. If he just wanted money, he’d take it and get back to his prime spot on the offramp.

I introduced him to my friend who was patiently waiting in the car and he said his name was Jesse. We headed down to our lunch destination and worked through the initial uncomfortable moments such situations come with.

Stay tuned…..part 2 and the lunch conversation will come tomorrow. It is late and I need to get my beauty sleep. (Ha!)

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

I’m ashamed…..

I am out in CA for business…..again. It was supposed to be a quick trip but will now take me all the way through the week. Hopefully that will be it for a while so I am looking forward to getting it behind me and getting back to the Spring that is in Kentucky.

Tonight I figured I would grab some Baja Fresh — it’s kinda like Mexican In ‘N’ Out in that we don’t have them out in Kentucky so I have to get my fix while I’m out here. As I entered the strip mall I noticed a homeless guy sitting out front with a sign asking for help and handouts. I’m ashamed to say that I have seen him here before and never done anything about it. I pulled into the parking lot and felt a tug at my heart. I had a feeling that I must do something, even if it was small. However, I learned a long time ago to not just throw and give money. It means more to provide a meal and human interaction. It is also a lot harder to do. I said a small prayer as I turned around the car to go inquire as to whether he wanted to join me for dinner. I pulled up and he responded doubly surprised — one that someone had stopped to pay him some attention and two that someone was asking him to dinner.

He jumped in the car. I introduced myself and found out his name was Tom. We headed over to Baja Fresh and proceeded to order our grub — Tom a Baja Ensalada with chicken and me a Baja Steak burrito. I made sure he understood he was my guest as I held the door open, grabbed our drinks and plastic cutlery, and served our meal to the table. In my limited experience in these situations, I have learned that it is important to treat folks in this situation with dignity, concern, and consideration. Sometimes that is more important than money. That someone cares and doesn’t look right through them.

We said a meal prayer and proceeded to chat over dinner. He has lived in the area for over 40 years. In fact, he was here before I had moved here back in 1977. We discussed all the changes that have occurred here in Thousand Oaks throughout the years and fondly looked back at some of the old times. The conversation flowed and ebbed with some quiet times between discussions but they weren’t awkward. I’ve had other meals before with folks I have taken out that were much more awkward; luckily this meal and conversation were more enjoyable.

After a while we finished up, cleaned the table and headed out the door. I thanked Tom for the conversation and his time as we headed to the car. I offered him a ride back to his spot which he declined. Even more interesting, he declined my additional request if he needed anything else. We said goodbye and I got in the car with a contradictory feeling — I felt good helping out someone in need however, I really didn’t do that much and I should be doing much more. I should be getting him a heavier jacket for the chilly fog, cloud cover moving in. I should be setting him up with food for tomorrow. I should be taking him to a church or a homeless shelter so he can get on the path to recovery from whatever put him on the street. However, it isn’t always that simple as I have found out in the past. I don’t necessarily have the answer either. All I know is that I don’t have to have the answer to be able to be a small part of the solution.

During our meal, I told Tom that I travel out here often and that I would stop by to see if he was occupying his spot and if he was, we could have dinner together. He thought that was a good idea and we called it a future dinner reservation. We’ll see how that unfolds. All I know is that I am ashamed — #1 because I had seen Tom at that spot before and done nothing. And #2 that I haven’t done anything like this since last June when I met Mike.

Please say a prayer for Tom and Mike.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Mike…..

I began the weekend off in a good way by getting my butt out of bed and to the weekly men’s breakfast and Bible study. Because of travel and chores, I hadn’t been in a couple of weeks and it was good to see the guys there.

We dove into the scripture of 1 Kings, Galatians, and Luke. The readings that hit me were Galatians and Luke. Galatians 5:1-5 talks about being free in the Holy Spirit and leading a Spirit filled life. Luke 9:51-62 talks about committing your whole heart and life to Christ. Together with the discussion they had some impact on me. We need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, serving Christ, loving our neighbor, and being pushed out of our comfort zone. It was enough of an impact that, as I got in my car and left down the street, I distinctly noticed a wandering man at the foot of the freeway offramp. My first instinct was to offer help. However, several things justified or distracted me to inaction. He was on the other side of a busy street and there was traffic behind me. My personal safety wouldn’t be ensured. Maybe he was an adventurer and he wanted to be there.

As I got on the freeway headed away from him and towards home, I struggled with the thought of my nice Bible study, my comfortable car, my (fairly) orderly life, the safe cocoon I live in — it seemed too hypocritical for me to just go on about my business. I was very uncomfortable turning around but I prayed for God to guide me, use me, and protect me.

By the time I returned to the road, the stranger had crossed the busy road and now, again, was on the other side. However, he was headed towards church which was only a block or two away. I thought that was perfect because I knew there was leftover breakfast we could share with him. I had to turn around anyway so I went into the church parking lot and ran inside to make sure they didn’t put away the food.

As I pulled up to the traveler, I got out and approached him, asking him if I could help him with anything — specifically if he was hungry and needed a meal. He said he had just finished a candy bar and asked if there was a gas station he could get a Pepsi at. It seemed like a strange request and I secondly asked if he would like a nice breakfast seeing as how we had one already set up at the church down the street. He denied it and was prepared to keep walking. I asked him where he was headed which came with a response of Lexington (which is about 70 miles east). I told him that I couldn’t take him that far but would he like a ride to Shelbyville (about 17 miles east). He asked how far that was and when I told him he was very happy.

I swung by the church to let them know we wouldn’t be needing breakfast and told them I’d call them after I dropped off my friend in Shelbyville. As we left the church, I introduced myself. The man said his name was Mike. He was about 60 or 65 years old, had short grey hair, some grey stubble, and very few teeth on his lower jaw. He mumbled his answers and I had to carry quite a bit of the conversation. He said he was heading towards Lexington so he could catch the I-75 to head up to Dayton, Ohio. I asked if he had family there. “No, sir” was his reply. I followed up with “Is there a job up there?”. “No, sir” again. It turns out there is a laser show up there he was going to.

“Okay?” I thought. This along with the original candy bar answer when I met him began to give me the picture that Mike wasn’t all there. I found out later in the drive that he was from the Atlanta area, used to work for Eastern airlines, had at least two sons and an older sister down in the Atlanta area. He hadn’t spoken to them in years. I asked if he knew their numbers or wanted to call them on my cell phone and he declined. I asked him other questions about where he’s been, what he’s done, etc. He likes winters in Florida (who doesn’t?) and enjoys being farther north during the summer.

Taking a cue from Bible study too, I asked Mike if he believed in God. He did. I asked him if he believed in Jesus, knew that Jesus loved him, and forgives us of our sins. He did. I asked him if he carried a Bible, ready to give him the one I carried to the men’s breakfast. He said he didn’t but that he couldn’t read since he injured his left eye. I asked if he had a favorite verse or wanted me to read something and he declined. I told him that even more important than the ride I was giving him was sharing the good news of Christ with him. Again, that was a stretch for me because I usually don’t discuss matters of faith with strangers but rather that I be a disciple of example and let my actions speak.

As we approached Shelbyville, he asked to be dropped off by the interstate. I told him that at that exit there were no facilities, gas stations, or fast food joints. He didn’t care and I pulled off to the side when we got there. I asked him if I could say a prayer. We bowed and I put an arm around him. I thanked God for the beautiful day. I prayed for safe travels for Mike. I prayed that He continue to provide for us. And I thanked Him for His Son, Jesus.

With that Mike unpiled all his stuff out of my car. I asked him if he needed any money and if I could pay for his next meal. He politely declined and said “No, thank you, sir”. I gave him a few more direction updates and headed away. I expected him to hitch a ride there at the onramp or begin heading towards Lexington. Imagine my surprise when, after my 30 minute trip to Lowes to get paint with my wife, I saw him headed back down the street the way we came. I pointed him out to my wife and gave her some of the story.

I sure hope Mike is ok. Please say a prayer for him. And don’t be afraid to help him or any other Mike’s out there. It’s not as scary as you think.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net