Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Strangers Meet

"There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't yet met." - William Butler Yeats, poet

While God was busy kicking the Apostle Paul off a donkey on the road to Damascus to get his attention, God was also speaking to Ananias through a vision. A vision where Ananias was to go and meet a stranger named Paul and pray for him. I've read this story a million times but just recently while preparing to teach I was awestruck at what God had actually done. He had spoken to two men who were miles apart so that their paths would meet. 

How many times have we come across a stranger and something unusual or out of the ordinary happened?
A chance meeting? Fate?  Or an on purpose meeting orchestrated by God? 

They say God works in mysterious ways, and the story of Paul and Ananias is just one of many stories that brings out the supernatural of God.

On August 14, 1945 a chance encounter in Time Square happened that would live on for years and decades to come. A photographer snapped a picture of a nurse welcoming home a sailor from war. A kiss between two strangers that would soon become iconic, first appearing on the cover of Life Magazine, and years later sculptured into a 25 foot statue which stands off the harbor in San Diego.
 The sailor's story of that chance encounter:
 "I was so happy. I ran out in the street," said McDuffie, then 18 and on his way to visit his girlfriend in Brooklyn.
"And then I saw that nurse," he said. "She saw me hollering and with a big smile on my face. ... I just went right to her and kissed her."
"We never spoke a word," he added. "Afterward, I just went on the subway across the street and went to Brooklyn."

(Source: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Kiss-Statue-V-Day)
This statue depicting a chance encounter is aptly named Unconditional Surrender.
When you stay in the presence of the Lord, God can make any chance encounter with a stranger more memorable than you could ever imagine. That is why it is important to use unconditional love within your fellowship with others, yep, even on strangers. You'll never know what may become of it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More Than Just a Dog

"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

A dog is seen exuberantly hugging, barking, and licking the face of his master, the soldier, returning home from war.

A very sad dog is seen lying at the foot of the casket of his master, a soldier, who unfortunately didn't make it home safe.

You leave home with suitcase in hand, the dog looks at you with those sad puppy dog eyes as if to say,
"Don't leave me!"

You arrive home from  vacation and your dog jumps excitedly upon you, barking and wagging his tail at 50 mph as he licks every ounce of your face. He's happy your home.

Let's be real, all you have to do is come home from work and your dog is all over you.

A couple of years ago we stumbled upon a dog beach in Southern California. I counted over 15 different species of dogs running, frolicking in the ocean, and playing together. They even had a water fountain specially made for dogs.

Just like us humans, dogs are happy when their thirst is quenched at the taste of water.

After a couple days of dog sitting for my sister recently,  plus having owned my own dog, I've come to the realization that: dogs have emotions just like humans. They may not have a soul, but they were created to touch your soul, therefore I believe they will be in heaven. Sure, you may want to argue with me on this one, but neither of us will know until we reach that destination.

I look forward to seeing my dog again one day. It will be a most joyous occasion for us both, I'm sure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Blast from the Past: Amazing and True

"The only thing better than singing is more singing." 
- Ella Fitzgerald

During a recent lunch break at work, a friend and I had a conversation about singing. I decided to share with them the following story, which in itself is amazing and speaks volumes about God's grace and our enjoyment of praising Him no matter what we sound like:

I can't remember the woman's name but she reminded me a lot like Aunt Bea of the old Andy Griffith Show. The lady came into my music store faithfully every two weeks to pick out accompaniment tracks to sing at church. I think it was about the second time she visited where she had the boldness to ask if I'd mind her singing while listening to certain songs she had picked out. Of course I didn't mind, since there was no one in the store at the time.Boy, I am sure glad the store was empty when she sang, if you get my drift. She had a hard time carrying a note, I don't know if it was the style of music she chose or whether she just wasn't giving it her all, but I appreciated her enthusiasm of singing praises to the Most High.

After a few month's of visiting and purchasing new songs to sing, the woman disappeared. I knew the church she attended, so I would ask some of my regular customers, but to no avail I didn't receive any answers. Then one day a couple of months later, a newly appointed music director came into the store. As I began to chat with her I found out she was from the same church as the old lady who couldn't sing. The music director shared the following story:

"It was a Good Friday service and the old lady was singing a duet with the music director, the old hymn
It is Finished was their selection. After the very first verse was sung, the music director passed out and was dead in a few short minutes. Although the music director went to heaven doing what he loved to do, this tragic experience made her stop singing."

After the woman shared this story my heart just sank. I felt bad for the old lady because I knew how much she enjoyed singing. I began to pray for her daily for the next few days and weeks. About a month later she finally came back into the store. This time around I didn't care how she sounded and who was in the store, she could sing as much as she wanted to. I didn't mention to her what I had known, but as the tears flowed through my eyes all I could say was, "Welcome back".

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Past and Present

Boy, look, look! Look! Your daddy may not had a whole lot of money. Oh, but he was rich, because he invested in people. What'd you think? You think I was the only one he gave a job to, Calvin? No! That man opened up the doors to anybody and any knucklehead around here in the city of Chicago that wanted to come down here and make somebody out themselves. Gave the opportunity to be somebody!  - Eddie, in the film Barbershop

Just recently after watching the film Barbershop, I was quickly reminded of many things from my past and the lives I invested in. I believe God had just wanted to point out that within my past failures there were accomplishments, so they really weren't failures at all. It seems that wherever my feet may have trembled God used me, sometimes without my even recognizing it, and I kind of like it that way. From the very beginning of my blog in 2009, you will read some amazing stories from people I've encountered through my life and through the business I owned and operated. For the short time of running a business and my job as a Youth Pastor, and the ministries I've been a part of, I've allowed God to just use me according to my personality and talents. I'm not boasting or bragging, I'm just glad God can use me in such a way.

Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water
    from the wells of salvation.
And as you do it, you’ll say,
    “Give thanks to God.
Call out his name.
    Ask him anything!
Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done,
    spread the news of his great reputation! 
(Isaiah 12:4 MSG)

God has a great reputation, one worthy of telling others. He rescues us from circumstances and difficulties so that we may tell others of His goodness.

 In the last week I have seen many posts on Face Book about forgetting our past and moving forward, such as this one:
You can't start the next chapter of your life, if you keep re-reading the last one. Turn the page!

 Some great words to live by, but sometimes God has a way of reaching us the most when He does remind us of our past. He can either remind you of  the miry clay He brought you out of, or He can remind you of the successes you've had within those failures. Yes, I believe much can be accomplished through our failures, just as past mistakes can bring us back to God.

Domino's Pizza has been carrying out a new campaign slogan: Failure is an Option. What they are saying is they are not afraid to try something new and fail, because you never succeed if you don't try, and so you can't be afraid to fail.

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. God gives us hope. He wants us to try new things. He wants us to succeed. He has a reputation to uphold. He can't go back on His Word, nor His promises.

Move forward knowing God's got your back!

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.org for more of God's encouraging Word.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Greatest of Fears: Rollercoasters

"Always do what you are afraid to do." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now that is quite a statement on facing your fears. A most recent conversation with  friends pertained to scaling the greatest of fears, roller coasters. I bypassed roller coasters and ferris wheels throughout my childhood for fear of heights. It wasn't until I was eighteen when I was coaxed into fighting that fear, or lest be humiliated by my friends and forever be known as a wimp. The things we do to maintain our manhood.
Later on in life, it was my very own brothers who had coaxed me into fighting another fear of roller coasters, the rides where you get flipped upside down while harnessed in a seat with your feet dangling in mid-air. Nevertheless, I went ahead and conquered yet that fear. After awhile it just gets easier to be talked into trying an amusement park ride to fight those fears. And it also appears easier when you get older to say, "No, I'm not an idiot and I'm not letting you talk me into trying that ride."

 If you want to appear tough, yes, you have to do what you are afraid to do.

 One of my favorite Everybody Loves Raymond episodes is titled "Pet the Bunny". An episode where Raymond fondly remembers as an eight year-old catching his tough dad Frank petting his son's rabbit. Frank denies it ever happened so he won't lose his image as being a tough guy.

 If you do decline to ride a roller coaster or ferris wheel, remember, you won't lose your image as who you are. You will not lose your manhood or womanhood.

 As a kid, I remember sitting on a park bench at an amusement park waiting for my dad and sister to be rescued from a ferris wheel that got stuck. Yep, they were stuck atop that ride for over an hour. All I could do was sit there and chuckle saying, "Better you than me!"

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

But when it comes to riding roller coasters, I think it's okay to fore go that fear and just pick another fear to conquer. Hmm, how 'bout skydiving?