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?”
Do others see Jesus in you? Do you see Jesus in the everyday routine”
“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?