A Year of Smiles – Day 217

Reason to SMILE #217: CONNECT THE DOTS


What draws us to certain people, groups or organizations? Why do we feel at home in particular surroundings or atmospheres? What makes us feel connected to something or someone? 

I began to ask myself these questions as I stepped back to survey the finished bulletin board at my church this afternoon. Our congregation is beginning a study on life in the church and the connection church members have through Christ, Unity, Growth, Words, Service and Prayer. I’m excited for this study and I’m anxious to get back to the basics of what it means to be a functioning part of the body of Christ. As I finished the display, however, my thoughts moved to more than just the church member but to humanity as a whole.

It’s funny that this simple Connect the Dots themed bulletin board raised so many questions about our connections with each other. But the answer to all of these pervading questions is really just as simple as this basic children’s activity. What draws us to others? What makes us feel accepted? What gives us that connection? Love. The answer is simply love.

Colossians 3:13-14 (NIV) Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love binds us all together. Love is the connection. And when you find that Love, you can’t help but SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Day 199

Reason to SMILE #199: BEING DIFFERENT 

All of my life, I’ve longed to be like everyone else. I’ve wanted to fit in, to be seen as an equal to my peers. I’ve dreamed of finding a place where I could feel at home and a group of people with which I could feel comfortable. I’ve dreamed of the day when I could walk into a building, see faces light up because of my presence and hear my name shouted across the room. Wait – that’s a TV show –

“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your na-a-ame”

Bum bum bum

“And they’re always glad you ca-a-ame”

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. But wouldn’t it be nice?…

Rarely do I ever feel as though I fit in. Rarely have I ever found anyone with whom I could be myself and say what I think without fear of judgment. Never do I feel comfortable in a group, no matter how large or small. Rarely do I feel accepted for me, just me.

But I’ve learned a thing or two about acceptance and fitting in along my journey in life. You see, no matter how much I long to be the same as others or fit into a particular group, I simply wasn’t made for that. Neither were you. You and I were made to be different, to stand out from the crowd and to glorify God with our uniqueness.

Yep. I’m very different. Maybe even a bit weird. That’s okay because I wasn’t made to fit. And knowing God has a specific plan for all of my quirks and peculiarities is a wonderful reason to SMILE.

A Year of Smiles – Day 176

Reason to SMILE #176: GRACE

John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.


God’s grace is not restricted to those who are powerful, those who are rich, those who come from the right neighborhood or those who behave a certain way.  God’s grace is freely given to ALL who believe.

So why is the grace we choose to show limited to only a select few?

Knowing that I am loved, forgiven and accepted by God no matter my past, no matter my mistakes and no matter my proclivity for messing up, is the greatest SMILE of all.

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Matthew 7:1-2 (ESV) Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.


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A Year of Smiles – Day 173

Reason to SMILE #173: NICKNAMES

I have this fear.  It overtakes me when I check my Facebook notifications and find that one of my college friends has commented on a post or tagged me in a picture.  Oh no! I wonder…  I almost cringe as I click to navigate to the post.  With hands covering my eyes, I peek through slightly spread fingers as the picture or comment appears.  Whew! She didn’t call me by my nickname this time! 

I had some of the best friends in college.  We had so Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgmuch fun, shared lots of laughter, supported one another, gave nicknames to each other.  Wait.  Let me rephrase that.  They gave one to me!  From the first day I walked into my dorm, one of the first friends that I met decided I reminded her of a Precious Moments figure.  This prompted her to begin calling me “Pookie”.  And it spread!  By the time I graduated, the name had stuck.  I will forever be “Pookie” to my college buddies.  And yes, they still call me by that name today…on Facebook…where the whole world can see!

Oh, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  I love to hear my college friends call me “Pookie”.  It reminds me that I am loved and it takes me back to some of the best days of my life.

I’ve had other nicknames through the years.  Some were good:

“Kari-poo” – given to me by my mom when I was very young,

“KJ” – given to me by my dad as I got older (My family and many friends still call me that today.) and

“Li’l Bit” – given to me by my youth director when I was a teenager.

Some of the nicknames I’ve been given were not so pleasant:

“Duck Walk” – given to me as a child by a bully on my bus (You can read that story here.) and

“Copy Lady” – given to me by an entitled little man who didn’t know my name but saw me by the copier and thought it would be funny (It only happened once… If looks could kill!)

The bad come with the good but that’s life, isn’t it?  Thankfully, my life has been filled with wonderfully good friends and family who have found something so special in me that they have to give it a name. And even if it embarrasses me a little, when I hear those special nicknames, I always SMILE.

How about you?  Do you have a nickname that makes you SMILE?  Don’t be embarrassed.  Hey, I’ve already shared mine so we can be embarrassed together!

A Year of Smiles – Day 150

heart-home-imageReason to SMILE #150: HOME

 

Home is where the heart is.

It’s the place where I belong,

The place where rest comes easy,

Where I never feel alone.

 

Home is where guards are dropped –

True colors can be shown –

Where PJs can be worn about

And hair need not be combed.

 

Peace and love fill its walls;

It’s often filled with laughter.

Of course, no home is perfect –

It’s worth we must look after.

 

Times may get tough and bleak.

Trials may come and tempers flare

But a multitude of sins

Can a loving home repair.

 

I find it hard to wander

From this place that I call home

For it’s where my SMILES begin

And where my Loves are grown!

 

 

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A Year of Smiles – Day 122

Reason to SMILE #122: COLORS

What if all the blue crayons

In your color case

Decided all the green crayons

Were simply a big waste?

 

“You’re too green,” they might say.

“You’re not like us at all.

We don’t need your kind around.

Get out!” they’d say with gall.

 

Pushing the green crayons out

Of the color box,

The blues would then settle in

Their spacious, comfy spots.

 

“Ah!” the blues would then proclaim.

“This extra room is nice

But the reds might say it’s theirs

And that will not suffice.”

 

The crayons blue would soon begin

To push the reds out, too,

Along with every other shade

Til all was left was blue.

 

“Oh, what freedom! We’ve so much space,”

The blues would then shout.

Now, we can color everything.

Our hue’s the best, no doubt.”

 

Upon this declaration,

The crayons blue would jump

From their box to color the world –

Ev’ry rock, ev’ry road, ev’ry bump.

 

They’d first begin with the sky.

Oh, what wonderful hues!

They’d paint the sky almost as bright

As God himself would do.

 

Dark blue, light blue, gray blue, teal-

Endless shades there’d be!

Blue cars, blue pants, blue, blue, blue

As far as one could see.

 

Then stepping back to survey

All that they had colored,

These lofty blues would be pleased.

They didn’t need the others.

 

Somewhere, then, I’d like to think,

From in the crayon box,

An old and used up blue crayon

Would climb up to the top.

 

“Hey!” he’d shout. “What about

The sun, the grass and flowers?

The wondrous beauty of these can’t

Be captured by mere blue power.

 

“Yes,” another blue would chime,

“How shall we color these?

The sun is not a shade of blue

Nor is the grass or trees.”

 

“We pushed out all the colors that

Could have done the job.

A brighter place this world could be

If their beauty, we did not rob.”

 

Nodding in agreement, I suspect

Each blue would slump

Knowing they had slighted the world

By being such big chumps!

 

I’m so glad God chose to use a multitude of colors to paint the world, aren’t you?  Imagine how boring and bland it would be without such a variety of colors.  Imagine how dull the world would be without such a variety of people.  And just like every color is needed to create a perfect picture of a beautiful sunset over the ocean, so also is every person needed to create a better world and to fill that world with bright and beautiful SMILES.

 

 

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You Weren’t Made to Fit: A Letter to my “Square Peg”

Every day, I watch you struggle to find a place where you “fit”.  I see how much you long to be included, to feel at home somewhere, to feel accepted just as you are.  I feel your hurt when all the “Round Pegs” around you push you away because of your corners.  Oh, how I wish I could take away that hurt.  I wish I could make the world see the awesome kid that you are.

The bad news is I can’t.  I can’t change people.  I can only leave them in God’s hands.

But the good news is you’re going to be ok.  You see, you weren’t made to fit into the mold of this world.  God made you a “Square Peg” for a reason.  He molded you in His image and He has a purpose for those beautifully pronounced corners.  He has a job for you that only you can do – a job that requires your determination and resolve to go your own way, your imagination and creativity and your interesting perspective on life.

Knowing this won’t make life any easier, though.  You’ll still be teased. You’ll still hear ugly things that make you feel unimportant.  But when you are feeling down and you think there’s no place that you will ever “fit” or be accepted, just remember that God loves you just as you are, corners and all.  You will always “fit” perfectly in His great big arms.

How do I know this?  It’s simple.  I’m a Square Peg, too.  And, this Square Peg will always be here for you, ready to wipe away any tears, to polish up those awesome corners and to walk with you as you discover the great things God has planned for you.

“I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

The Most Precious Gift

Frank strolled into our worship service one summer evening about two years ago.  He wore an old flannel shirt, cast-off work pants and a knit snow cap.  His clothes were ragged and dirty and his hair and beard were unkept.  No one could tell his age and Frank did not give an answer when asked.  He had no family to speak of nor did he have a home.  That particular night, Frank needed a place to get out of the rain for a couple of hours but he soon became a regular in our midst.

We learned a lot about Frank over the next few weeks.  Some things we learned from Frank himself; some we learned from local shelters and others we learned just from watching.  One thing we quickly learned, though, was that Frank loved music.  At the beginning of every service, Frank would sit on the front pew of the sanctuary.  He would clap and sway as the hymns and praise choruses were played.  He would sing as loud as he could and would applaud with great appreciation at the end of each song.  But as soon as the music stopped and the preacher began to speak, Frank would move to the very back pew, lay his head against the wall behind him and take a nap in the comfort of our sanctuary.  This ritual was a bit disconcerting to our pastor but harmless, nonetheless.

Our friends at the local shelters informed us that Frank was mentally challenged and as we observed Frank on his regular visits, we began to realize that Frank was more like a child than a grown man.  This explained his delight of all of the children in our congregation!  Often, Frank could be found at the children’s welcome center, passing out crayons, pencils and papers to the little ones.  Some of our parents were concerned with Frank’s involvement but all of our children loved him.  He laughed and played with the children and made each one feel welcome.  And boy, did Frank love to hear those children sing!

Before we knew it, Christmas had arrived.  The children’s choir had been practicing very hard for the Christmas pageant that year because each choir member knew that Frank would be in the congregation.  The special evening came and Frank sat in the front pew, as always.  He was fascinated with the manger scene on the stage and could barely sit still as he waited for the service to begin.  Finally, the children, dressed as sheep, cows, pigs, shepherds and angels, entered the sanctuary.  Frank stood and cheered and all the children giggled with excitement.  After Frank settled down, the music began and Frank watched as the children of our church told the story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.  No one had ever seen Frank so attentive and when the choir sang its final song, Frank stood and cheered once again.

After their performance, the children made their way from the stage to their parents in the congregation and the pastor made his way to the pulpit to preach.  Once in the pulpit, the pastor was surprised to see Frank still seated in the front pew and not settled in the back pew for his evening nap.  Though quite curious, the preacher began his Christmas sermon, looking down occasionally to see if Frank was awake.  Frank was awake, indeed, but he was not listening to the preacher.  You see, before little Mary left the stable stall that evening to sit with her parents, she placed the baby doll used in the pageant to portray baby Jesus back into the manger.  Frank’s attention was fixed on the little baby.  Then halfway through the sermon, Frank suddenly stood up.  We all thought that Frank was headed to his usual back pew but Frank was headed in the opposite direction.  Before anyone could react, Frank had made his way to the nativity scene on stage.  The pastor, still trying to keep his wits about him, nodded to a deacon to go after Frank but neither the deacon nor anyone else in the congregation was looking at the pastor.  All eyes were on Frank.

No one knew what to do.  Our first impulse was to grab Frank and pull him back to his seat but our curiosity kept us frozen in our pews.  We watched as Frank stood near the manger where the little baby lay.  Scratching his head and then wringing his hands, he inched closer and closer to the baby.  He reached down toward the baby but quickly pulled back his arms.  He looked out at all of us then back to the baby.  At this point, the pastor realized that God had a different plan for the evening, and he gave up all attempts at finishing his sermon.  The sanctuary, filled with hundreds of men, women, boys and girls, was still and quiet as God’s message of love and grace began to unfold in front of our eyes.

Frank’s obvious confusion ultimately pulled him to his knees beside the manger.  He reached over to pick up the baby Jesus, and the sounds of tiny sniffles throughout the room grew into uncontrolled sobs as one heart after another began to break.  Quietly, a little angel slipped from her seat and made her way down the aisle of the sanctuary and to the side of Frank.  A sweet little voice said, “It’s ok, Frank,” as she gave her friend a big hug.  Frank knew this little angel – she shared her cookies with him every Sunday – so Frank asked his friend, “Do you know whose baby this is?”  “That’s baby Jesus,” she said emphatically.  “He’s God’s Son.”  Frank replied, “He’s all alone….just like me.”  The little angel giggled as she said, “Silly, Frank, that’s just a baby doll.  The real Jesus is in our hearts and that means we’re never alone.”

Tears began to roll down the face of our friend Frank as little angels, sheep, cows, shepherds and all the other children gathered around the baby Jesus, and our silence was broken.  Sweet melodies of Christmas rang out from the sanctuary piano and our hearts overflowed.  It took some time but the pastor finally convinced Frank that the baby in the manger scene was simply a doll but most importantly, the pastor was able to tell Frank about God’s love and the gift of His Son, Jesus.  That night, Frank left our Christmas service a changed man.  In fact, no one in that sanctuary was ever the same again.

Jesus, sent from heaven for you and for me, was a gift so precious that even a host of angels could not contain their great joy in telling the Good News of His birth nor could the shepherds, after seeing the baby, keep from sharing with all who would listen that the Savior had been born.  Yet, we often keep this gift to ourselves, storing it away for safekeeping and sharing it only on special occasions.  We celebrate Jesus’ birth and retell His story year after year then we walk away, leaving God’s Love lying in the manger.  May we be more like Frank this Christmas season; may we embrace God’s most precious gift in spite of all that is happening around us and may we share His gift with the world.