Monday, October 28, 2019

Loud Love

 “Do you always hug strangers?”

What, dude? You’ve been married to me for more than forty-two years now, do I always hug strangers? Yes! You know I do.

Funny man, my husband. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last I hug a new friend I’ll never see again.

As we made our way back to the hotel after walking a beach in less than summertime heat, Dave lost me a few feet from the end of the trail. I spotted a large rock with shells around it and had to investigate what was there. As I walked up to the shrine, a young woman met me there. Her smile was so incredibly beautiful, she caught me off guard. As I read the memorial piece next to the picture of a very handsome young man that died too young, it felt like she was watching me instead of reading it herself. I looked up at her precious face and asked, “Did you know him?”

“He’s my brother,” she said sweetly, with joy and pride, hiding any sorrow that may have been just beneath the surface of her smile.

I apologized for her loss. It’s what we do. Not that it had a thing to do with me, but I was genuinely sorry for her loss. She calls him her soulmate. Wow – to be so close to a sibling that you’d call them your soulmate. Her loss was great. Yet, her joy for knowing him was greater.

She told me a little about him.

I asked how he’d died expecting her to say it was a surfing accident, or something of the like. But he’d killed himself. She didn’t really go into much detail as to why. We talked for a few minutes about losing a loved one that way. I contributed little, since I don’t think I’ve personally known and loved anyone who’s life ended this way.

The whole town treasured his friendship, erecting the memorial there, declaring and celebrating his life for all the world to see. If you go to Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida – make sure to set aside some time to find this rock, this memorial, and wait there for a few minutes. I think you’ll feel it, too. You’ll feel his love reach out across time and even death, to touch you.

I’m from a world away. I’d have never known this man Mikal Benjamin Evers – but, now his wonderful life has touched mine, and creeps into my thoughts like a haunting love story; a story of a life loved because he loved so generously.

Whatever drove him to the desperate feelings of such despair that he took his own life, it stole from us a young man who could have shared his passionate love for so many more decades. Yet, his love remains. I’m sure of it. I saw it in his sister’s face, in her eyes. It made me want to know him and see him putting his love in action. And, we hugged.

When I got home from vacation, I looked him up on the internet. I read his obituary, I read a few news articles about him. I read what his sister wrote about him. It all touched me all the deeper.

Do I always hug strangers? No. But, I do it a lot. If I didn’t, I’d miss out on so much love!

Pay attention, take a look around – where’s your next hug coming from?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Circles of Listening

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Welcome to my circle.

My circle gets larger each day, the people within my sphere of influence; the people I meet daily – at the supermarket, or a political gathering, at church or at the gym. 

My circle gets tighter, too. As the needs of the people around come to my attention, I pray. Sometimes God has me praying for people without even knowing their needs. He’s good like that, He doesn’t need to let me in on everyone’s business just so that I can pray for them. 

I may look impatient in a long line, until I look around at all the people around me. They may be impatient, too. But, many of them are hurting with concerns they’ll never share with me. That doesn’t stop me from praying for them, once I allow God to get my attention. If I’m fussing about the slow cashier, or that my ice cream is going to melt or that the child behind me won’t stop whining, I’m not listening for that gentle prompt from God.

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But, when I let all that distraction fall by the wayside, it’s much easier to hear and even discern who needs prayer and a smile or a kind word. Sometimes, even who needs me to buy a gift card for them, or just the quiet suggestion to buy a gift card and trust the cashier to give it to whomever needs it as they pass through their line.

Am I rich? Yes. Beyond measure. That doesn’t mean my bank account has an overflowing balance. But, you can’t out-give God, His idea of thanks or payment are very different than ours.

Listening for His still small voice always pays off, whether I see the payment or not; whether I know who needs the benefit of my listening ears or not.

As my circle broadens, so does my heart.

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Sometimes when I’m privy to someone’s story, I can get anxious. Many are tragic. Evil raises it’s ugly head too often. Life doesn’t always seem fair, not by a long shot. So many times, I question, why? But, that’s a question that doesn’t always abound with answers.

As my circle broadens, my compassion grows and my mind can be drawn into serious drama that surrounds me. But, my blood pressure can come right back down, when I’m listening for God to show me what to do, because I trust that He’s is in control!

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So, as my circle grows and grows tighter because I connect with people who have no clue someone is praying for them, it’s lined with the soft carpeting of a listening ear. Without that ear, this large circle can feel like a cold, comfortless prison cell.

Fourteen times in the NIV version of the Bible, we can read, “Whoever has ears, let him hear…”

Listening and hearing from God connects us to God. Listening and hearing God speak to our hearts connects us to the others around us, whether we know them or not.

Ever feel disconnected? Now, you see why. Those are the times you’re not listening. Or perhaps you’re listening to wrong voice; the one who tries to fill your head with lies – about yourself and others.

You may want to tune into what scripture says, so I’ve listed those fourteen verses here so you can find them easily.

Good night, friends. I’m listening…

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