A Year of Smiles – Day 219

Reason to SMILE #219: A GOOD, SWIFT KICK 

… in the pants! 

Yep. There are times when it is completely necessary. Sometimes we get in a funk and can’t seem to find our way out. We begin wallowing in self-pity and despair over lost love, an unfavorable situation at work or a missed opportunity. The more we think of our unhappy circumstances, the more we whine and complain. And with each verse of our sob songs, we make ourselves and all those around us more and more miserable. Until… 

… someone decides to gives us a good, swift kick in the hiney or a smack on the back of the head. Sure. It may not always take a physical altercation to bring us out of our negativity and back to the land of abundant living but a kick sure does grab the attention! And when we’ve made it past a certain point in our little pity parties, it often takes something drastic to wake us up from our self-indulgent stupors.

Even more, it takes someone special to do the waking, kicking or rescuing. It takes someone willing to take us by the shoulders, look us in the eyes and tells us to get with it, to stop dwelling on our problems and start counting our blessings. It takes someone willing to risk a friendship or risk the backlash they may incur in order to help a friend find joy again.

We need lots of someones like that in our lives. We need to be those someones for others.

A good, swift kick in the pants most likely will not make us SMILE – at least not at first. But if it works, if it wakes us up from our stupor of negativity and self-pity, we’ll be grateful to the one who cared enough to do the kicking!

A Year of Smiles – Day 3

Reason to SMILE # 3 – COMMUNITY

Last night, powerful storms ripped through southwest Georgia.  Torrential rains gave the earth a good beating as high winds whipped through the treetops. Tornado watches turned into warnings and instructions for taking shelter blared from every phone in the house.  Facebook posts from friends and neighbors morphed from “It’s looking bad out there,” to “Power’s out”, “Tree’s on my front porch” and “I’m not usually scared during storms but this one…”.  It was an intense couple of hours.

The storm moved quickly and as the winds waned and the rains slowed, surveying the damage revealed that a tornado had indeed touched down.  Homes have been destroyed. Centuries-old oak trees have been uprooted. Cars have been demolished. Power has been knocked out.  The devastation is overwhelming.

As videos and pictures of the damage have begun to fill Facebook, there is one theme that prevails among all the comments – community.  People are asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?”.  Folks are picking up chainsaws and helping their neighbors dig out cars, remove trees from driveways and clear roads.  Strangers are checking on family members of Facebook friends that live elsewhere and cannot reach the ones they love. Community.

In times like these, we don’t think about smiling or happiness or joy.  But times like these give all of us the opportunity to provide a smile to those who need it most.  If you are in the area affected by last night’s storms, now is your chance to spread a little joy to those in need. If you can, get out there and help those whose lives have been wrecked. Show up with your chainsaw, or rake, or trash bags, or hammer and nails.  But whatever you take with you, don’t forget to show up with your SMILE.  Maybe, just maybe, you can help your neighbor find a smile of their own.

This is My World

“This is my world,” says the child from the broken home.  “Me and my little brother live with my mom most of the time.  We’re supposed to see our dad every other weekend but we’re lucky to see him once a month.  We really don’t see my mom much either – she works two jobs so we can live in a good neighborhood.  She does the best she can to take care of us but sometimes she leaves us at home alone while she’s at work.  Other times, she leaves us with her boyfriend.  I’d rather stay home alone than stay with her boyfriend.  He isn’t very nice.  He drinks; he smokes and he cusses – a lot.  He doesn’t help me and my brother with anything, either.  He just watches TV and drinks his beer.  We do our best to stay out of his way.  Sometimes, my grandma and grandpa pick up me and my brother for the weekend.  At Grandma’s house, we get to swim and eat Grandma’s good cookin’.  And on Sundays they take us to church.  Church is so much fun!  We play games, sing songs and hear stories.  I don’t really understand everything about the stories but I have a great time.  Wish I could go every Sunday but mom works most weekends.  I don’t think she likes church much, either.  I asked her to explain a Sunday School story once and she told me it was a bunch of lies.  Then she yelled at Grandma and Grandpa for taking me to church.  I don’t think the people at church would lie and I wish I could hear more about this Jesus guy.  That’s why I love weekends at Grandma’s and I hate it when those weekends are over ‘cause that means I have to go back to my house….  I wish I didn’t have to go back.”

“This is my world,” says the child from the religious home.  “My house is pretty busy.  My mom and dad both work.  I play soccer and baseball and my big sister, well, she talks on her phone a lot.  We do a lot of things at church, too.  Mom teaches Sunday School, and Dad is on just about every committee there is.  I’m in the children’s choir and I go to RAs.  My sister is in the youth group and she’s on the drama team.  Yeah, we do all that church stuff, but sometimes I can’t figure out why.  Mom and Dad really don’t talk much about God at home.  I’ve never seen them read their Bible except when they are sitting in church.   And my parents always seem to fight on Sunday mornings – I think it’s because it’s the only time they are together all week.  I don’t know…  But no one would ever guess my parents had been fighting just two seconds before those church doors open every Sunday.  They smile and shake hands with everybody just like nothing is wrong.  My RA leader says that we should tell God about our problems and he always asks us to share our prayer requests with the group.  I want to ask for prayer for my parents and for me but I’m afraid I’d be in trouble if I did.  So I just talk to God the best way I know how.  Hope He’s listening.  Oh yeah, there’s one thing I’ve been wondering.  Are all Christians like my parents?”

“This is my world,” says the child from the hopeless home.  “Dad left before I was born and mom couldn’t take care of me.  I’ve lived with different relatives over the years but no one wants to keep me.  They say I’m a discipline problem.  I really don’t try to get into trouble but somehow I always do.  It’s like I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people all the time.  I don’t have many friends because I’ve never lived in one place long enough to make any.  My aunt that I’m staying with now says I should try to meet new people, better people.  So, I tried to sit by this girl on the bus today.  She looked at me like I was some sort of disease and put her backpack in the empty seat next to her so I couldn’t sit down.  I thought she’d be a good friend, ya’ know – a good influence – ‘cause she’s one of those church people.  I’ve heard her talking with the other kids on the bus about her Bible club.  Well, she’s just like everyone else, only interested in being your friend if you’re smart, pretty or live in a certain neighborhood.  I don’t need her and I don’t need her Bible, her church or her God.  God’s never done anything for me anyway!”

“This is My world,” says the Father of our eternal home.  “I made this world, filling it with every living creature, every plant, every tree and with every man, woman and child.  I made this world to share with each of you and for you to share with each other.  I did not intend for you to be alone in this world.  So I created each of you to help one another, to encourage one another, to support one another, to love one another and to embrace one another.  But you choose to walk separate paths with your gaze set upon your own desires, never distracted by the neighbor who is in need or the child who is hurting.  You build walls around the world you now claim as your own – walls that keep out and walls that keep in.  This is still my world and my children are begging for your attention.  They need to know you love them, that I love them.  They need you to tell them of my Son.  Have you forgotten my gift to you?  Have you forgotten His sacrifice?  He lived with you, ate supper with you and prayed with you.  He fed you when you were hungry.  He healed you when you were broken.  He restored you when you were discarded.  He gave His Life for you when you were undeserving.  My Son left His world to change yours.  Won’t you do the same for my children?”

My Rescue

I could feel it happening and I couldn’t control it.  My mood was worsening.  Nothing in particular triggered its downward spiral but everything seemed to fuel its descent.  Idle chit-chat, attempts at humor and mindless quips of co-workers grated on my nerves.  The usual phone calls, emails and responsibilities of the day only added to my frustration.  Thoughts of home, of family, of finances and of needs fought successfully for my attention and the weight of these burdens grew heavier by the minute.  I was sinking further and further into a sea of worries and there was no rescue in sight. 

Then a hand reached down and lifted me out of the waters.  Actually, it was two “hands” – a phone call and a social media status.  The phone call was from a loved one in a challenging situation.  Her struggles are great, so much greater than my own.  Her circumstances are restraining and her suffering appears endless.  Still, she laughs; she finds joy in the little things in her life and she holds out hope for a brighter future.

The social media status was a post from a high school senior who will soon be facing major surgery.  I don’t know him.  A mutual friend shared the status asking for prayer.  What I do know is that the upcoming surgery is not the first for this teenage boy.  Sickness is his constant, if not lifetime, companion and this young man is facing surgery with readiness and hope for a conclusion to his years of medical issues.  

My lifelines – two people with different struggles reaching out for help and support became my help.  While I worried that I may not have the money to buy the movie tickets I want, this loved one was wondering how she would put food on her table.  While I worried that my child may catch a cold and miss a day of school, this high schooler dreamed of a day without sickness and pain.  Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem much like problems at all.

Oh, how easy it is to lose perspective!  We often wallow in self-pity, focusing on our own situations and our own worries.  We retreat within ourselves and lull ourselves into an emotional stupor with the melancholy tunes of “Woe is me.”   We get stuck in a pit and we lose sight of what is truly important.

I am so thankful that God doesn’t leave us in the depths of despair.  Though our misery may be of our own doings, He shows us mercy.  He reminds us of our purpose, of His purpose for our lives.  He picks us up and refocuses our sight.  He removes the blinders of self-centeredness and opens our eyes to the needs of others.  He relieves us of the burden of our cares and frees us to help carry the load of another.  Time and time again, God comes to our rescue.

Thank you, Lord, for your rescue, for your mercy, for your patience.  Thank you for the phone calls, the prayer requests, the casual meetings – all reminders of your call on my life to meet the needs of others and to share their burdens.  Please help me to remain focused on You when the woes of my life are grasping for my attention.  May I be your Hands of rescue for another who may be drowning in despair.  So be it, Lord Jesus.  So be it.