Archive | February, 2015

Be a Blessing

22 Feb

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Do you have something nice to say? Then say it. Your words of kindness, gratitude and positivity can do nothing but great things.

I have been sitting on this post since last fall. I was first inspired last summer, then a few months later did a re-write, followed by another and another and…

What first inspired me to write this has only multiplied as time has passed, and after an event today I am finally committing to finishing and sharing this. Because like I said, if I have something nice to say, I should say it.

You see, it’s easy to count our blessings, but are we as concerned about how we can be a blessing to others?

Out of the blue I heard from a high school/college friend today. Our paths don’t cross often, but after she released her memoir last year and my eagerness to promote, promote, promote, a writer-kinship was formed. And my encouragement and cheerleading compelled her to send me a letter of gratitude.

It was an honest confession and a letter of thanks that both humbled me and even encouraged me, and I let her know. She followed up by saying, “The beauty of writing these letters is that the response blesses me just as much as the letters are meant to bless the recipient!”

This is just one of many examples I have experienced in the last few seasons that have pushed me to write this.

My husband and I recently attended a 75th birthday party, an occasion normally dedicated to the person of the hour. But this wasn’t a typical cake and candles celebration.

All the party-goers (median age 60), gathered in a cramped overflowing circle as the birthday boy shared how grateful he was for everyone in his house. He went around one-by-one, telling each person what they meant to him.

He was selfless, kind and grateful. And I was blessed.

Last summer I attended a co-ed bridal shower with my neighbors and good friends, Jessica and James. We chatted in a small group with the bride’s grandmother, and in response to a question, Jessica began to talk about her commute to work.

Nothing exciting happened in the conversation. It was freeways and traffic wait times, but the grandmother was in awe – of James.

“You are blessing me,” she said to him.

Huh?

“You are blessing me with how you listen to your wife. It’s like you don’t want to miss a single word.”

It’s amazing how we have the ability to be a blessing in any situation or opportunity. An act as simple as listening intently to your spouse had a positive effect on someone else.

Soon after the bridal shower I received a Facebook message from a sweet girl I worked with more than three years ago. She wrote me a thank you note.

“I just wanted to take a minute and make sure you know what a difference you make to those around you.”

Humbled. I’m so grateful I didn’t squander the opportunity I had while I was around her to make a difference, and I hope I still continue to do so today.

Bringing it around full-circle, my college friend from earlier created the Facebook group, Give Thanks + Get Fit, as a means to serve as an encouragement. Her name is Sarah and she is a professional writer and traveler. In fact, you can order her book here. 480914_10100815495911723_387681245_nShe had posted this on the group’s Facebook page:

“So I usually write from the RV, but I like to change it up and head to Starbucks sometimes. An elderly man overhead me saying I was from Washington so he started talking about how he was a green beret stationed at McChord back in the day, then he served in Vietnam. I thanked him for his service (without bursting into tears) then he showed me his puffed up, swollen hand, most likely a product of the war. We discussed treatment options then I told him I would pray for him. It was awesome to be able to offer up the most foolproof healing known to man. Don’t forget to slow down and talk to someone today, offer a smile, a prayer. Let these opportunities bless you and the people around you. Much love, friends!”

Every day is an opportunity to be a blessing. Whether it’s with a positive attitude, a smile, sharing a snack, giving an unsolicited compliment, helping someone with a task, saying hi.

If someone blesses you, tell them. If someone blessed you five years ago and you just now realized it today, let them know what that meant to you.

Don’t count your blessings, share your blessings! Be blessings.

The Grand Paradox

8 Feb

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Two years after Ken Wytsma published his debut book, Pursuing Justice, the pastor, educator and justice pursuer released his second book, The Grand Paradox.

I first heard from Wytsma in 2012 at The Justice Conference in Portland. The founder of the conference created an annual international event that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations related to justice. My friend and I traveled to Philadelphia in 2013 for the conference and then to Bellevue last year to see a simulcast of the event that took place in L.A.

When Wytsma was getting ready to release his first book I was fortunate to be a part of his book launch team. It’s been two years since I blogged about Pursuing Justice, which remains my most-read post to date.

I’m excited to introduce you to The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith (Thomas Nelson). Wytsma is a genuine storyteller who pulls from his own life experiences of coming to faith at age 22 while a student at Clemson.

Wytsma is a pastor who loves the local church and uses The Grand Paradox as a way to have a frank conversation about the true nature of Christian faith.

I’ll let Wytsma tell you more about his new release in the following Q and A:

Q: How did the idea of The Grand Paradox come about?

A: The Grand Paradox was an attempt to address the tension we feel in life when we realize life is messy (messier than we think it should be) and God is mysterious (less clear and forthright than we think he should be). That tension is the life of faith — the walk where we choose to obey and follow despite the lack of clarity, presence of suffering or experience of doubt and dark nights.

The American church has a history of shading faith so we come up with false notions that everything is about me… it’s all individualized and ultimately is aimed at my well-being and blessing. Scripture, however, tells a different story. We were never promised exemption from difficulty or perfectly blessed lives simply because of our belief in God — rather, we’re promised that God is good and his ways are better despite the trials, despite the setbacks and despite the allure of sin and selfishness.

I loved the exercise of tackling most of the deep questions we wrestle with and emerging with a God-centered and joy filled answer: that faith, hope and love are possible even in the mess and in the mystery.

A side note, this book was also kind of a part two to Pursuing Justice. I discuss this in Chapter 5, but if we are going to give our lives away — show greater concern for others than for ourselves — the issue of faith and whether God will “catch me” becomes a very important one. God, if I live this crazy counter-intuitive life of love and service, will you truly walk with me and be there for me? Continue reading