Below is a guest post written by my son Drew about an experience he had a couple of years ago.
It was part of my weekly routine.
For just under two years, I had worked at Hinda Incentives, whose office was tucked into a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Sure, weird things happened there from time to time. There were a couple of bullet holes in the side of the building. Younger kids often tried to get me to buy them beer while I walked to the train. Occasionally there was a guy high as a kite. Other than that, it really didn’t feel that dangerous during the day. All that “weird stuff” happened at night, well beyond closing time.
Around once a week I would walk to a Nicky’s, a hot dog stand around the corner from the office, for my chili dog special. Two chili dogs, a basket of fries and a Coke for $4.75. For a guy, living on a shoestring budget in Chicago, this was a treat. You couldn’t beat this deal, or the following heartburn. Worth it every time.
Recovering from a long trip
This particular afternoon, I was hungover from a looooong night of flying. I had landed in Chicago about 2:30 am the night before from interviewing for my eventual job at Engauge in Atlanta. Due to storms, both the ATL and my connecting CLT airport had closed and I had spent all night finding a way to get back to Chicago. After sprinting through airports, barely making onto planes before the gates closed and flying on two very turbulent flights, I was second guessing God’s plan for me to move to Atlanta.
If my trip home was this rough, did He really want me to move there? Would Atlanta be the right decision if I was offered a job or was God using the storm to tell me otherwise?
Anyway, it’s the next day and I’m falling asleep at my desk. Lunchtime comes around and since I obviously didn’t pack lunch on three hours of sleep, I thought a stroll to Nicky’s would be a good way to wake up and reward a hard night. I earned a few chili dogs dangit. I even contemplated splurging on an italian beef sandwich as I stumbled groggily down the street.
I noticed a couple of guys walking past me and thinking “they look too young to not be in school. Where are their parents? Why do I sound like already sound like an old man in my mind?” A car pulled up to the curb beside us and they hopped in. I kept on walking when I heard a loud CRASH. I turned around to see a Jeep had plowed into the side of their car, pushing it up on the sidewalk about 5 feet behind me.
That woke me up.
I turned around and began to walk back towards the car, hoping the folks inside were okay. Then I noticed that the Jeep wasn’t letting up on his brakes…the car was still moving and the guy behind the wheel of the Jeep looked angry. Not like a “I just got in a wreck” anger but “I’m going to kill these guys in the car” type of look. Recognizing that this wasn’t a situation I needed to be directly involved in, I quickly turned around and started to power walk to the convenience store up ahead to make a call. The Jeep eventually laid off its target and sped off in my direction.
POP POP POP POP POP!
I turned around and saw the guys from the other car already out on the curb with pistols in their hands, shooting at the Jeep. As the Jeep started down the street in my direction, making a turn towards me, I quickly realized that I was standing in between the guns and their intended target. So I did what any normal person would do.
I ran into a front yard and dove behind a set of concrete steps waiting for them to move on. In my mind I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on – and the fact that it was all happening in broad daylight. The guys eventually ran right past me in pursuit of the Jeep. Once they passed me, I quickly sprinted the other direction back to the office.
Once I was almost at the office, I thought I heard yelling and noticed that the same guys with guns were coming out of the alley in my path. We literally almost collided into each other had I not ducked behind another parked car. I made it back to the office, called the cops and ate a bag of chips until my boss told me to go home.
I went home a little after 1pm and went straight to sleep. No debriefing with anyone. I went home to my little studio apartment, laid down and slept hard. I woke up and had a brief 10 minute chat with my dad about what happened because I knew he wouldn’t freak out. I wasn’t really freaked out as much as I was in a “did that really just happen?”phase. I couldn’t tell my fiancee Megan, my mom or any other family and friends because I didn’t want that story to get out and get people worried. I think I spent the rest of the night eating frozen pizza and watching Arrested Development alone in my apartment.
The Next Day
I drove to work the next day…not taking my usual El train/walk commute. With good reason, still a bit shell shocked. That afternoon, I was still craving a hot dog so my co-worker Adam and I walked together to Nicky’s. When we got to where the events happened the day before, I told him where I was, where the (assumed) gang members got hit and were shooting. He said “hey, let’s see if we can find any shells,” still skeptical of my story. We went to the grassy spot and there they were: shells and live 9mm rounds.
I picked up a bullet, stuck it in my pocket and kept it with me ever since. When I eventually told Megan in person several weeks later, I don’t think she believed me until I pulled the bullet out of my wallet. Even mom was a little shocked until I told her and provided my 9mm evidence.
Oh yeah…also that next day? I was offered a job at Engauge. Accepted it on the spot. When the recruiter Dave asked if I needed a day to think about it, I replied “Dave, here’s what happened yesterday…” I’m pretty sure God gave me his answer on moving to Atlanta. That story also gave me a bit of a reputation going into my first day at work, since that story had been told by several folks in the agency prior to my arrival.
The bullet? I still keep it on my desk. Why? I know, no matter what kind of day I’m having at work…no matter how bad it may be…it could always be worse.
How about that for perspective?
April’s son Drew is the Director of Digital and Social Media at The DeMoss Group, the largest faith-based PR agency in the nation. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Megan and their dog Theo.
“God, I ask that you place your angels of protection around Drew and Megan throughout the night tonight and throughout the day tomorrow. Walk with them and keep your angels of protection around them in their cars, parking lots, parking garages, the streets, street corners, the subway and subway stations, their buildings where they work, and parking lots and garages. No matter where they go please surround them and feather them with your mighty protection from ALL harm and evil and ALL harm and evil people.”
This is part of my nightly bedtime prayer. As you know, I am a BIG believer in prayer. All through my growing up and now in my adult life, I have experienced prayers answered. Yes, there have been times when I have wondered if God was really on the job. Yet, events happen or someone shares an experience with me and I immediately see God’s divine intervention.
There are personal stories/testimonies I could share with you. Yet, there is an event that took place in Chicago with my son, Drew in March of 2011. It is an event that Drew shared with me on the day of his 24th birthday as we celebrated in a restaurant in Chicago. It is a story that as he began to tell me, I thought he and his dad were in collaboration in pulling the wool over my eyes. But, as his story unfolded and what he showed me at the end of sharing of this event gave me chills. It is a story where I saw God and his angels had been on the job.
The next post will be by my son, Drew. He will be guest writing on Thoughts From The Porch. He will be sharing the event that took place. It is an event that opened our family’s eyes of God at work and that he has a plan and purpose for us all.
As you read his post, keep this Psalm in the back of your mind and imprinted on your heart.
New International Version (NIV)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Stay tuned…..more thoughts on prayer are to come.
“I said to myself, ‘Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings.” Psalm 116:7-8 -The Message-
A few years ago, our son, Drew moved to Chicago to get his first taste of being out on his own and to begin his career. Of course, Chicago was a big change of scenery from the small town where he grew up. Along with this decision of moving to Chicago, he wanted to be in the heartbeat of the city. Thus, locating an apartment in Wrigleville, refusing to take a car up and using nothing but public transportation and the two good feet that God gave him to walk/run.
On one of our first trips up to be with Drew and to help him finish up with his move, we were suddenly caught up in the sights and sounds of the city. Drew’s apartment was not too far from the El which meant you could hear the train running day and night. Not only could you hear the train running 24/7 but the noise of traffic, people yelling and whistling for a cab was constant. As much as it was fun, entertaining and fascinating, Jim and I would always look forward to retrieving to our quiet hotel room at the end of the day.
One of the must see on our bucket list for Chicago was the Chicago Art Institute. Jim and I both have always had an appreciation for all types of artwork. And, I knew that I would see up close some of the pieces that I had studied in history/art classes during my college days. Along with the mentioned reasons for going to the Art Institute, it is also the scene for one of the Hawkins’ favorite movies, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.
Jim, Drew and I slowly strolled through the museum looking at paintings, sculptures and other displays. Drew would tell us about the artist, the story behind the piece of artwork and the time period of which it was created. As we stood and admired a piece of artwork, I commented to Drew how impressed I was in his knowledge for the pieces displayed in the museum and the artist. I went on to comment that he must have paid close attention in those art appreciation classes he had taken while in school. His reply was; ” yes, some of that I learned in school has come in handy but a lot of my knowledge has come from coming here to the Art Museum on the weekends.” ”The city is so noisy that I have to get out of the noise to think, reflect and to enjoy the quiet.”
Noise. It is all around every single one of us. We are all surrounded by the noises of the television, radio, cell phones, chatter at work, traffic and this list goes on. Yesterday, the television had been on most of the day. Some of the time I did not even really know what was on or what was being talked about. It was simply noise in the background. Yet, late in the afternoon, it felt as though the sounds from the television were getting louder and louder. It was causing me to have a hard time to think and it was not helping the painful headache that I was trying to conquer at the time. So, I said to myself; “enough!” and turned the television off.
Ah, the sound of quiet! The simple sound of nothing was amazing. In this quiet, I began hearing the lyrics to the song “None but Jesus” speak to my heart. In this process of hearing this particular song go through my mind and touch my heart, I realized that God was wanting time with me.
Life gets noisy at times. These days, it seems noise prevails 24/7 just like the El train runs through Chicago. It is easy to get caught up in the noise. As we get caught up in the noise, we tend to learn to adjust and tune it out. The result of our adjusting to the noise and tuning it out is that we tune out something or should I say some things that are truly important. We can easily begin to tune out God and His voice and what He wants to say to us and our hearts. Not only do we tune out God’s voice speaking to us but we can miss the opportunity to talk to Him.
Along with tuning God out, missing opportunity to talk to God, we can easily miss the blessing God gives us every day when we get caught up in the noise. These opportunities include the sounds of children playing outside, the birds singing, just having a conversation with your spouse, family and/or friends. Other blessings that come from tuning out the noise, are that we can see what really matters most, recharge our batteries and experience God’s constant presence around us.
Jim’s mom and dad have a beautiful cabin by a lake. In years past, life has been so busy that we haven’t gotten to take advantage of it as we should. However, this year, Jim and I decided to change that record and get down there more. We have kept that commitment and it has been wonderful. One of the things that we like to do while we are at the lake is to go over to Mammoth Cave National Park and have dinner in their restaurant. After dinner, we like to stroll along one of the walking paths that takes you to an opening of one of the caves. We love to sit there in the quiet. and enjoy the cool air coming up out of the cave, people watch and simply enjoy the sounds of nature around us. Instead of getting caught up in the noise, we get caught up in the quiet.
Noise. Haven’t you had enough of it? My challenge for you today is to take at least a half an hour and turn off the television, the radio, the cell phone and anything else that makes noise and listen to the quiet. Ah, quiet…..what do you hear and who do you hear?
In my previous post, I share about the Pearl of a Girl who was added to our family strand almost a year ago. Just as I looked up the meaning of Megan’s name, I continued on and looked up the meaning for Drew. Of course our Drew’s full name is Andrew. Here is what I found; Drew has a Welch origin. The short form of Andrew and it means “wise.”
In raising Drew, I was faced with many challenges that come with raising a boy. Grass stains that magically jumped up on his pants as he would explain why his good pants had stains. Loud noises and sometimes rude noises that I would immediately attempt to put a stop to. And, then there were things Drew would say out of the blue that would make Jim and me realize that he was sometimes wise beyond his years and sometimes actually knew a little more than we did. Yes, challenging!!
Drew was the type of child where Jim and I would have to draw straws to see who was going to do the punishing when Drew did get into mischief. You see, Drew had a way of looking at us and breaking us as we were attempting to correct/lecture him. One of us would have to do the confrontation/punishing while the other was in the other room with their face buried in a pillow laughing while it was all going down in the other room. Drew had and still does have a quick wit and tongue.
Yet, Drew has always been a child that Jim and I have great admiration for. He is always calculating, analyzing and researching before he makes any decision. For example, Drew did not actually start walking on his own until he was about twelve months old. However, we knew he could walk at six months. The reason we knew he could is because you could give him the thinnest of thread to hold on to and he would walk. Yet, he had to have it perfected in his mind before he would reveal that he actually knew how to walk.
We have watched Drew make life decisions in the same way. He would bounce a thought our way to see what input we would have but then would not pursue the issue as far as we knew. Yet, all the while Drew was gathering facts, and information to make the best decision. He did this as he prepared to start his career life in Chicago, as he moved to Atlanta last year and as he made he most current move to the DeMoss Group.
Jim and I have a lot of respect for our son, Drew. He reminds us so much of Jim’s dad. Jim, Sr is the type of man where people seek his advice and value his opinion. He is a man of wisdom. They are both kind of like the old commercial that was on years ago; “When EF Hutton speaks, everyone listens.”
Jim and I are proud of all of the decisions that Drew has made through the years. Yet, the decision to marry Megan has to be one of our proudest out of all of his accomplishments. It was only after a few visits with Megan that we knew that Drew was calculating something far more than a friendship. He was looking ahead at a life-time friendship, relationship and partner to walk with him the rest of his life.
Just as I looked up scripture that went with Megan’s name, I did the same for Drew. “Have I not command you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Jim and I know that in ALL the decisions Drew has been faced with that he has faced each one with confidence and great courage. He is a man who walks with God each and every day. It is because Drew has exemplified these characteristics over time that we know without a doubt that he will always watch and do what is best for his family. Most importantly, Drew will do everything it takes to take care of his “Pearl of a Girl”, Megan. Yes, Jim and I consider Drew a very ‘wise guy.’
It was three years ago when Drew had graduated from college and had been invited to attend the wedding of one of his college friends. As he made plans for this special weekend, he told his dad and me that he would need a date for this occasion and he had a “friend” he would like to ask come stay the weekend. Yet, when Jim and I heard about this “friend” our ears definitely perked up. Of course, Drew continued to emphasize that she was only a “friend.”
The weekend came and this “friend”, Megan, arrived at our door. However, when she arrived, I was out still doing some errands but soon after my arrival home, Drew introduced me to his new friend, Megan. The moment I met Megan I knew that there was something special about her. As the weekend progressed with activities, I noticed the way Megan looked at Drew whenever he would talk or do other things that this gal was more than a “friend.” She was something special.
During this weekend, Jim had to be on duty at the hospital so he did not get the chance to interact or get to know Megan as I had the opportunity to do. At the end of the weekend, Megan loaded her car to head back home to Ft. Mitchell. Drew began his job search that eventually landed him in Chicago. In the midst of this process, Jim asked me if I thought this friendship was more than friendship. I gave Jim my assessment and said, “I do think she is the one and she is definitely a pearl of a girl.
Over time, as Jim and I got to know Megan, we learned that she loves pearls. This made her even more of a girl after my heart. Sweet, simple and a girl who knows that pearls can go with anything! Loved it! And, still love it!
Then, as Jim and I were on vacation a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon these name cards with the meaning of names. Of course we had to see if there was a Megan and a Drew. We did not find Megan but we found a Meg. On this card it said that Meg meant pearl. Then as I prepared to write this post, I looked up the name Megan. Megan in its Greek origin means pearl. And, Megan in its Welch origin means “little pearl.”
Jim and I smiled when we read this meaning of Megan. It was on August 6, 2011, that our family added a pearl to our family strand. Ever since the first day of meeting Megan, Jim and I have been blessed with the sweetness of Megan’s smile and spirit. Yet, most importantly, Drew has been blessed to have such a compassionate, sweet, and loving partner to walk by his side throughout life.
Yes, a few years ago Drew told Jim and I about this “friend.” I understand after his first date with this “friend” that when it was time to say good-night, Drew said to Megan; ” see you later Pal!” Yet, this friend is so much more to Drew and to our family. This “friend” by the name of Megan has become a pearl in our hearts and our new family member.
Furthermore, as I looked up the meaning of Megan, I looked up the scripture that goes with her name. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” Isaiah 2:5 Megan is not only a pearl added to our family strand but she definitely exemplifies this scripture. She is a lady that walks and lives in the example of her God. What else could a mom and dad ask for?
The other day I came across a sign that said; “Train up a child in the way he should go, and “make sure you are going that way, too.” Of course the earlier part of this statement comes from Proverbs 6:22 and the last part of this statement hits the nail on the head with us parents. As parents, we are commissioned to care, love and nurture our children.
Parenting these days is not an easy job. As a matter of fact, Jim and I have noticed how the world has changed drastically since our son, Drew graduated high school and, for the most part, college. There are so many influences out there both good and bad. Of course, we want our children to be exposed to the good influences and shielded from the bad ones.
How do we raise our children in such a way? First, we must pray with our children and for our children. As Drew was approaching his middle school years, a dear friend in my Sunday School class at the time encouraged me along with others to pray Psalm 91 daily for our children. This is a Psalm for protection.
Second, as parents we must be willing to do what we expect our children to do. For example, Jim was listening to Dr. James Dobson. As he listened he heard Dr. Dobson give this advice. “If we expect our children to clean their rooms, then we need to make sure our rooms are just as clean.” In other words, our expectations, words and actions better match what we are telling and expecting from our children. To me, children are probably the first to pick up on hypocrisy and they are watching and taking notes more than we can ever realize.
Third, we need to encourage our children to read the scriptures and teach them how to experience and hear God’s voice within the scriptures and in their daily walk. When our son, Drew turned 13, Jim’s gift to Drew was to open the bible to the book of Proverbs and told Drew that this is the best advice he could give him as a dad. Apparently, Drew did as he was advised from his dad because now when I am tempted to color or highlight my hair Drew quotes Proverbs 20:29 “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.”
Fourth, we must realize that our children are given to us for a short period of time. Yes, as parents,we wish we could slow down time and keep them for a little longer. We must realize, though, that God placed them into our hands for a short period of time and then the time comes for us to place them back into the hands of God.
This last lesson was not an easy one for me being a mom of an only child. I will never forget Drew coming home and telling me he wanted to move to Chicago after he graduated college. Of course, the selfish part of me wanted him to move back to the small town he grew up in and live just a few minutes down the street. But deep within my soul, I knew that my role was about to change significantly as a parent and now it was time for Drew to follow God’s voice. Drew knew that God had a plan for him in Chicago and he had to go. He lived in Chicago for almost two years and then God opened other doors of opportunities for him in Atlanta where he and his wife currently reside.
As hard as it was to let go and let Drew leave, I knew that I would not be leading by example if I hung on to the apron strings and tried to persuade Drew to stay close to home. After all, my husband and I have always lived away from family and I grew up living away from family. I knew the drill and all that would be involved in Drew’s living away from home. As Drew packed to leave the nest, I prayed that I had shown him how to survive when family was not around. Along with learning how to bloom where he was planted, he needed to know that the people you surround yourself with away from home soon become your family.
At this moment as I write this post, there is someone’s child announcing to their family that they will be venturing out to new places and opportunities. I know that selfishness wants to kick in and convince that child how they need to stay close to home. But it is so important that the child be supported and respected in their decision. If it is in their decision to venture out, they need to be influenced by the leadership that raised them, following their God who created them in His image.
Yes, there are days when I wish we lived in more simple times. It would sure be simple to have family just a minute down the road and I didn’t have to plan months and/ or a year in advance to see them again. But, our world is rapidly changing and opportunities for our children seem to be taking them to places that we would have never have dreamed about going to when we were their age.
Looking back in our Christian heritage, I recall a group of twelve men who were asked to drop everything to follow their Master. Yes, they had families that they left to follow the call of God. These twelve men saw first hand of what it meant to lead and to follow. I am sure that they missed their families at times and wished they could run down the street to check in with them. Though they missed their families, they experienced miracles, blessings and God up close and personal. What an opportunity they had been given! As parents, I would like to think that we would want the same for our children. By letting go and placing them into God’s hands, we are allowing God to give them opportunities, life lessons, and a chance to experience their Master up close and personal.
My last piece of advice from one parent to another is to continue to pray for them. I encourage you to pray Psalm 91 over them daily. Again, my son, Drew is twenty-five and married but there is not a day that I don’t pray Psalm 91 not only for him but for his sweet wife, Megan, too. It is in praying this daily over them that gives me strength to keep placing them and trusting them in the Master’s hand as they follow Him.
“Are you leading your children to follow their Master?” and Are you going the same direction you are telling your children to go? Take this thought with you; “our actions and reactions will make or break our relationship with our children in the years to come.” How about it? Lead to follow?
** I highly recommend the book, Leaving the Light On by John Trent Ph. D and Gary Smalley.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40
From my previous post, you know that I saw the movie, “Joyful Noise“. The movie opens up with the choir master’s daughter singing “The Man In The Mirror” which is a Michael Jackson song that has always tugged at my heart. I know many people have their opinions about the late performer good and bad but in this song, he has a very strong message to ALL of us.
Okay. Now, before you continue reading, get a mirror. Look into that mirror. Who and what do you see looking back at you? Now, ask that person looking back at you; “what do I need to change in me that can make the world around me a better place?”
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways” are the lyrics as the song continues to play. We all see hurt, hunger, people who are lonely, angry, and those who are seeking unconditional love. Now, ask yourself, where have I missed opportunities to make a difference in the world.” “When did I fail to stop to help the lady struggling with her child and trying to load her groceries in the car because I would be late getting to the gym?” “When did I say no to ringing that Salvation Army bell for only one hour during the Christmas season?” “After all, it was for only an hour and that is equivalent to a one hour or two half hour television shows that I really don’t need to watch.” Or, “I got that extra bonus for work but I didn’t tithe because I wanted that new item too badly.” “But, it would have only been ten percent and it would have gone to where God would use it for his purpose in the world.”
The list could go on and on with these types of questions. Yes, some of these questions are even to myself, April Hawkins! Convicting isn’t it? Yes, sometimes there are situations where it is really hard to give our time to help, but God places opportunities in front of us every day to make a difference in His great big world. We don’t all have to enlist in the Peace Corps, drop what we are doing to be missionaries or give up all our earthly possessions.
“If you want the world the better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” Maybe there is a child that needs mentoring and encouraging, there is an elderly person struggling to get into a building and it only takes a few seconds of stopping your conversation with who you are with to lend a help inside. Maybe you have a pantry that is overstocked that you could pull a few items out and send to the local food bank. For me, it is my writing words of encouragement whether it be on my web site or sending a card to someone who needs cheering up. When I am out and about, I try to stay aware of my surroundings so that if a door needs to be held open I hold it open, if someone needs to get in front of me in the grocery line, I tell them to go ahead of me and I pray daily for people who God places in my path. It is the simple every day things in life that make the biggest difference in making our world a better place.
In making the world a better place, we need to make sure that we do it with a loving and Godly heart. We need to give without passing judgement those we are helping. I like the book “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. In this book Denver talks about our giving money to those on the streets. To paraphrase what he says in the book; ” our money says “In God We Trust” so give it and trust God to take care of the need and the person. Once the money leaves your hands, it is placed in the hands of not only that person but into the hands of God.” As I read Denver’s story of being homeless and his perspective from the other side of the tracks, my heart was convicted. How many times have I given to someone and wondered; “what are they going to do with that money?” ” I hope I haven’t contributed to a bigger problem!”
Jim and I are not big in sharing what we do for others. We feel that what we do is between God and us. But, as I write this post, God is tugging on my heart to share two stories.
The first story is set in Chicago, IL the first day of Spring, 2010. It was cold and I don’t mean the kind of cold where you needed to make sure you had your hat and gloves. But, it was the kind of cold where not only was snow falling but ice was literally blowing in the face. The kind of cold that makes you just want to cry. )And, I do believe my daughter-n-law, Megan and I both have shed tears in Chicago from such cold weather elements).
Jim and I had arrived that morning to spend a few days with our son, Drew and celebrate Drew’s birthday and my birthday since they are only days apart. We were walking down Michigan Avenue huddled together to stay warm as we walked and so we could hear each other talk. As we were walking down Michigan Ave, we stopped at a cross-walk and there was this gentleman having to use a walker to be mobile. He had on what little warm clothes he probably could find. Then, as we began to cross the street, my eyes are drawn to his feet and I see bare feet with bread wrappers tied around them for shoes. Instantly, I tugged on Jim’s coat sleeve and pointed out what I was observing. I told Jim something had to be done. Here I was staying at a very nice hotel that would be warm and cozy on my return from being out and about. I had a coat, boots, gloves, scarf, and hat to keep me warm. This man had little or nothing. Jim looked at me and I knew that was a God moment. Without hesitation, Jim reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet and tapped the gentleman on the shoulder and said; “here, take this and get some shoes to get those feet warm.” The gentleman’s face lit up and he said; “God Bless You.” Neither one of us will ever know if it was a scam. I doubt it because with it being as cold as it was, no one in their right mind would willingly go out in that blowing ice with just bread wrappers on their feet if they had any other choice. Neither Jim nor I will ever know exactly what all he would do with the money given but we placed our trust in God and into the tug that was in our hearts at that moment in time.
The second story just happened this past New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, Georgia. Jim and I were staying with our son and his wife who live in Mid-Town. The four of us had been out for New Year’s Eve dinner. After dinner, Megan and Drew headed out to attend a party at one of their House Church’s homes. Jim and I had planned to hang back, watch television, and babysit our grand dog (practice for when the grandchildren come). Jim also had a couple of odd jobs around the apartment he told Drew he would take care of while they were out.
As the evening progressed, I told Jim; “here we are in Mid-Town, Atlanta, The Varsity is just down the street and wouldn’t one of their slaw dogs, frosted orange, and a fried pie be great to bring in the New Year.” I nodded my head “yes” as I persuaded him on this adventure. Now, from growing up in Atlanta, I expected to see and experience just about anything on a late Saturday night and even more so on New Year’s Eve. Yes, traffic was about what we expected. It was busy, wild, and let’s say interesting. As we pulled into the Varsity parking lot, a gentleman approaches our car and motions for Jim to roll his window down. I am sitting in the passenger seat saying; “Jim don’t do it” and locking the doors in the process. He began telling Jim that he and his family were stranded on I-75 (which is just over the hill from the Varsity). He was trying to get home to Macon, Georgia. His car had broken down. He had some money but still needed $32.42 to have enough to get the car towed and repaired. Jim’s first response was; “I’m sorry sir but I don’t know if I can help you out” and began pulling away for us to park. Then, as we were pulling away, Jim looked in the side view mirror and saw this gentleman raise his hands to the sky in distress. Of course, I am in the passenger side and I don’t see this but Jim immediately puts the car in reverse and asks the gentleman his story once again. This man shared his story and began telling us that he was a Veteran, Deacon in his church (gave the specific name) and about the family he had with him. Once again, Jim pulled out his wallet and gave money to help with the car and a little extra to get a snack while they waited. As we pulled away the second time, Jim looked back and saw this man walking a straight shot going towards I-75.
“Whoa!”, I said to myself and Jim. Boy! I feel bad that I passed judgement like I did.” I tried justifying the location we were at and the time and type of night but my heart still ached for the thoughts I had during that moment. Jim and I went in, ordered our food, and had it walking (walking at the Varsity means to go). We arrived back to the apartment, spread our food out that we had purchased but before we could go further, I told Jim we had to pray. We prayed for the gentleman and his family. We also asked for forgiveness for passing judgement instead of being the Good Samaritan.
Since that night, I look at myself in the mirror a little different. When I look into this mirror, I see a person who still needs to open her heart just a little more, let go of preconceived thoughts and pay attention to God and his tugs. Then, I see a girl who can love a little more, stop a second to help someone with the door, or listen to a friend who is hurting. I look into the mirror and as I see my reflection, I tell God that I want others to see his reflection in me and in my actions. And, by the way,to this day, I continue to pray for the man with bread wrappers for shoes. I also pray for the gentleman and his family who were trying to get home on a holiday weekend. It is my prayer that God will bless them and watch over them each and every minute of their lives.
Okay, look in the mirror again. What can you do to change? What is the simple thing you can do to make the world a better place? Surrender to God and allow him to use you as his vessel of hope, love and encouragement. However, be ready because he will challenge you when you least expect it. For Jim and me, it was a cold icy day on Michigan Avenue and in a parking lot on a holiday night where he asked us to help him take care of someone.
In the book of Acts, there is a wonderful story of a man named Saul. He hated Christ and participated in killing Christians. But, as he journeyed on the road to Damascus, Jesus stopped him. In this encounter with Christ, Saul changed his ways. Not long after that, we knew him as Paul. As a result from this change, we have the wonderful writings of Paul to read, learn, and study as we journey on our faith walk.
“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” “I’m asking him to change his ways. No message could have been any clearer.” Are you willing to make the change for God’s glory and to make things just a little better for his children here on earth?
- My Regards (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Describe Him (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Mike Ragogna: Joyful Noise: A Conversation With Mervyn Warren, Plus Chatting With Mark Wayne Glasmire and Julian Velard (huffingtonpost.com)
- My life’s work: A pencil? (thatpenguingirl.wordpress.com)
- The Children in the Road (gospelapprentice.com)
As you go through the days ahead, think about the story or stories that have molded and are molding you. Share your story of Christ and how He has molded you and continues to mold you into God’s image. Then, listen to someone else’s story and hear what has shaped them and molded them. It is out of the exchange of sharing that relationship with others and Christ are formed.