Dear Beloved, It’s Me Joy

Dear Beloved:
 
It’s me, Joy. I have been trying to get your attention, but you keep looking at where I was instead of where I am now. I know you think I have abandoned you. I am here, in this moment. Now. Smiling at you. Waiting for you to smile back at me.
 
I am in your child’s face, even if you are having difficulty seeing past the scowl. I am the scent of your favorite shampoo. You know, the one everyone keeps asking about. Look out your window. There I am, tucked safely in a bud, ready to burst forth when the sun warms me up. I snuggled up with you and purred when you stroked my fur. I warmed your hands and your heart in a mocha kind of way. I’m the cello, piano, and violin. I sang to you over and over as you pushed the repeat button. With softness, I folded around your neck, hugging you tight, caressing your skin with the softness of cashmere. I surprised you at the door, with the ring of your phone, a touching e-mail, words meant just for you. You laughed. I was there. You danced and thought no one was watching. I was. I was sashaying right along with you.
 
I’m here. Waiting to be seen. Wanting to be experienced. Ready to burst. 
 
But, you are looking back. I am no longer there. I am here. In this moment. For you.
 
Please come back to me.
 
Forever Yours,
 
Joy
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Whose Your V.P.?

When I worked for the bank, it was a big deal for the vice-president to come into town and your branch was chosen as one that he would stop by. It was much like a town would feel if the president or prime minister was coming through. Everyone wore their best, the branch was scrubbed from top to bottom, and every last piece of paper was filed. The vice-president saw our best. The average customer on any given day, may not.

Last week, I was waiting for the cable guy to come. I had actually gotten dressed in real clothes, not yoga pants or sweats, and made sure I put some make-up on and my hair looked as if something had actually been done to it. Normally, pajamas are an optional dress code, at least until noon, and make-up is only used if I am going out into the world. The cable guy got my best, at least in daytime appearance, but my husband doesn’t on a day to day basis.

So, why do we do our best for people who really do not matter in our lives?

I am reading “The Purpose-Driven Life” for the fourth time and Rick Warren talks about doing our best, in all the little things and big things, for God, in addition to ourselves and our loved ones. I never really thought God cared if I did the best job cleaning the kitchen. But, why wouldn’t he if it is true that every act is an act of worship?

I have been trying to impress the wrong people.

I have been doing that my whole life.

I am not sure I have it in me to every day, without fail, treat my husband’s coming home from work on the same scale as the branch did when the V.P. was coming. But, I know I can do better. Maybe being properly dressed would be a start. I am not sure if I can joyfully and wholeheartedly clean the kitchen every day because it is a chore I find little joy in when I know within hours the counters will hold dirty dishes and bread crumbs again. But, turning it into an act of worship makes it so much more than a dreaded chore.

Today I start anew. I am going to go get presentable for my personal V.P. and sing and dance while I clean the kitchen, finish the laundry, and wash the floors. I am going to do my best in all the little things and the big things.

Who knows, maybe I will impress the right people today!

 

 

 

 

 Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

 

1 Corinthians 15:58

 

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

 

Colossians 3:23

 

 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

 

2 Timothy 2:15

 

 

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One Small Thread

One Small Thread

 

By blending all of the personality traits, idiosyncrasies, talents and passions in different ways for different people I have a world where there are enough teachers, doctors, lawyers, janitors, drive-through attendants, construction workers, grocery store clerks, artists, authors, police officers, house builders, coffee makers, bakers, snow plow drivers, fitness instructors, glass blowers, tree trimmers, doormen, nurses, taxi drivers, maids, veterinarians, truck drivers, toll booth operators, athletes, production workers, auto mechanics, electricians, stay at home parents, farmers, bank tellers, dentists, preachers, brick layers, loggers, pilots, counselors, real estate agents, secretaries, clothes designers, accountants, sanitation workers, bottlers, financial planners…. I could go on forever. 

 

 

 

page 81, The Promise, by Darlene Gudrie Butts

 

 

 

What would the world be like if we all only had the passion and natural gifts to be doctors? The streets would remained snow-covered and lawless. 911 would not exist. Schools would be empty. Stores closed. The speaker at McDonald’s would remain silent as there would be no one to say, “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?” Machines would break down. Books unwritten. Buildings never even make it to the drawing board. Teeth would fall out. Planes would be grounded. Houses remain unsold. Crops are wild with small yields. No one is there to till the soil, plant the seeds. 

 

 

 

Apocalypse.

 

 

 

But, God is good and powerful and mighty and ingenious.

 

 

 

There is order.

 

 

 

I stand in awe that there are enough people to play all the roles here in our world. Amazement, wonder, overwhelmed with the structure, the organization, the many threads that are needed to make up this great tapestry of life and how each one of us has played our role, weaved in and out of others lives to make it work, never stopping to think that it needs our color, our place to make it beautiful.

There is no better example of God’s power, his presence, his hand in preparation of us before we were even born. 

 

 

 

Find your passion. Find your place. And there, you will find God. There you will find order. There you will find peace.

 

 

 

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

 

Jeremiah 1:5

Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21 

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
Jeremiah 29:11

We are assured and know that all things work together and are for good and for those who love God are called according to design and purpose.
Romans 8:28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Call of a Lifetime

“Trust me, Sam, it is necessary.”

 

 

God wanted her to let go of the house. But, how do you choose between God and your husband?

 

page 114, The Promise, by Darlene Gudrie Butts

I have thought about Noah a lot lately. Everyone in the world had lost sight of God (think the Roaring Twenties meets the Hedonism II resort) yet he kept to himself, trying to be upstanding in a world falling down around him. It must have been lonely, being the only family to not partake in the party. I am sure there was ridicule and maybe even bullying involved.

“Come on, Noah, quit being such a stick in the mud. You are missing the best party in the world, dude.”

“Look at Noah, what a pansy. You think you are too good for us, well you’re not. You are nothing, Noah. NOTHING!”

In the wee hours of the morning, as the party breaks up, did they walk by Noah’s quiet home and shout obscenities, throw rocks, threaten harm?

Then, Noah gets the call of a lifetime.

“Noah, it’s me, God. You need to build a boat the size of a small village, so big you can’t hide the fact that you are building it. I know you have never even built a rowboat, but don’t worry, you can do this, I have the instructions right here. I know you are hundreds of miles from the sea. It’s not for the sea. There will be a flood that will cover the earth with water from rain. Oh, I forgot. You don’t know about rain. Rain is…”

Me, I would have said you are crazy. You have the wrong number. Not Noah. He never questioned any of it. God gave him the boat building instructions, Noah got to work.

So, if Noah was already the outcast, the easy target of jokes and insults, what was he now? The world was wicked and cruel. Now he was building a boat in his front yard.  It must have been painful to deal with the wisecracks, the teasing, the taunting, all of the questions. I am sure even his own family had a few questions. Well, maybe more than a few. But, he was steadfast in his purpose. He never wavered. He. Never. Wavered.

I have been thinking about Noah because I have been wavering. I have listened to others, ignoring God, wanting comfort, peace, the questions to stop. I caved under the pressure. I wavered. I wasn’t even building an ark in my front yard.

Noah got to work. He ignored all of the questions. He wasn’t overwhelmed with the size of the project. He didn’t ask God to pick someone else. Noah got to work.

And that is why I have been thinking about Noah a lot lately.

I got a call and I need to get to work.

 

So Noah did everything exactly as God had Commanded him.

 

 

Genesis6:22

 

 

  

 

So Noah did exactly as the Lord had Commanded him.

 

  Genesis7:5

 

(in case we didn’t get it the first time)

 

 

The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights. But Noah had gone into the boat that very day with his wife and sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – and their wives.

Genesis7:12,13

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You Are Not a Failure

You Are Not a Failure

 You are not a failure; you failed. There is a difference. As long as you don’t let it define you, or your life, there is hope.

page 58, The Promise, by Darlene Gudrie Butts

 

     Personal failure is an unpleasant companion. It taunts you until you believe you have not only failed, you are a failure and the future is hopeless.

    There have been times in my life when I have had such a close relationship with failure that I believed it was a reflection of me. Then I learned the lesson, you are not a failure; you failed. 

    In 2010, my friends were planning a trip to Africa and I had originally planned to go. I had also committed to raising funds for the group by donating half of the proceeds from the sale of my book, Lessons from the Depression, for the whole year. I envisioned a check of $10,000 thinking that the previous nine months I had sold thousands of books. I was on a roll. $10,000 would be easy.

     Then, my sister Deb was diagnosed with cancer in March and everything changed. There was no spare energy, focus, or time to plan such a major trip because once her illness took her strength and independence, my brother-in-law needed help. I was the one with a flexible schedule and children old enough to fend for themselves. I was the one who could help. So, I did. The two commitments collided and selling books lost. My focus was on Deb’s miracle. In September, she passed away and I was left to pick up the pieces of me.

     In January 2011, I got an e-mail inviting me to present the check from the books to the group. No one knew the full extent of the challenges I had face in 2010. They believed in me. They trusted I would deliver. They didn’t know.

     I couldn’t breathe as I added up the lonely sales figures scribbled in my calendar that were days, sometimes even months, apart. I had only raised $960.

     I failed.

     It took a few days to have the courage to respond to the e-mail and reveal my failure. Nancy, I am so sorry were some of the most difficult words I had ever written.

     The reply came back within minutes. I hesitated, steeled myself, then opened the e-mail.

       Darlene, you are not going to believe this…

     As I was sending my e-mail apologizing for my failure, someone was sending an e-mail that turned it into a miracle. God’s magic. God’s grace. God’s miracle.

     The organization that was sponsoring the trip to Ghana was looking for money to buy bibles for the graduating female students who had overcome slavery, poverty, and hopelessness to fight their way back to a life that now included an education,a life skill that would support them, and a resounding faith in God. They needed $960 for these bibles and were wondering if Nancy’s group wanted to purchase them since they would be attending the graduation ceremony as part of their trip.

     $960.

     My failure was the exact amount needed to buy bibles. Exact. To the penny.

     But, it gets better.

     My sister always wanted to go on a mission trip to Africa. She didn’t get to. My sister’s passion was ministering her faith to women. Her voice was now silent. An idea surfaced. What if we put a tribute in each bible to Deb so that she would have her trip to Africa and her spirit would continue to minister to these women who needed it the most?

     $960.

     The check was sent. The bibles were bought. The inscription read:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

May God’s Word bring comfort and strength to your heart.

This bible is presented in memory of Deborah Gudrie Pugh 

who found peace and love in the presence of God in both life

and in death.

     At the graduation, one of the group took a photo of the women, head bent over their own bible, a prized possession in the world of few.

 

 

     I thought I was a failure. I had only failed. There is a difference. I had failed only by my calculation as God took that and made it into one of my most prized achievements. I took my sister on a trip to Africa and touched the lives of women I will never meet, yet have felt the ripples of their lives spill over the ocean into my own

     Some people have ribbons and trophies to signify their triumphs, their victories. I have a copy of a check for $960 to remind me that sometimes our highest achievements come disguised as failures.

     Only God can do that.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

  If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. 

Psalm 37:23

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith.

1 John 5:4

 

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This is God, Please Leave a Message at the Beep

This is God, Please Leave a Message at the Beep

Yesterday, I did not live up to my commitment of a daily blog post. I could say I was tired (I was) or that I wasn’t feeling up to par (I wasn’t). I could whine about how difficult it is to write a new story every day. Walking around with ideas swirling in my head, spinning the dial until I connect with one, and then wrestling the words out of the idea is grueling. Then the words are laid flat, arranged, then rearranged like the tiles on a scrabble board trying to maximize points. Read through after read through casts a net over spelling and grammatical errors and exhaustion is usually the impetus to click the publish button. I can’t remember ever doing it because I thought it was good enough. Believe me, the glamor of writing took a vacation after day two.

I wish I could blame someone else and circumvent responsibility, but I can’t. I just chose not to write yesterday.

It made me think about what would we do if God just chose not to show up today? Sorry people, a little tired today so I am going to take the day, week, month off. Carry on and try not to ruin everything. Prayers would be shoved in a box for future consideration. If you want to be healed, come back tomorrow. There would be public outcry for you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. God can’t hear because he has his Beats headphones on (noise cancelling, good choice) while he lays in a hammock in Hawaii.

It makes me miss Him just to think that is possible, but makes me giggle as well because I know that it is not.

This scenario puts a finite boundary on infinite love and wisdom. We have put human form and human limitations on a God that is almighty and all powerful. He isn’t some white-haired dude nursing a sunburn after surfing all day. He is the power that resides in us and through us. So, He might be in a white-haired dude surfing in Hawaii, but at the same time he is with us all, in us all, in everything.

I realized in this reflection that I have made God personal to me. He is a guy who would go surfing in Hawaii. He has a twinkle in his eye like he can’t wait to tell a joke or pull a prank. He is the patient psychologist sitting in the chair across from me, refusing to give me the answers, instead making me find them myself. He is a friend, always there laughing and crying, sighing and nodding, comforting and supporting. He is the parent loving enough to never say I told you so yet we both know it is there at the tip of his tongue.

These are just forms of him. He is like Play-Do in the Play-Do fun factory. You can crank it through and make strings and bars, dots and stars. Then you can squish it back together again and make anything you want. He is there ready to be whatever we want Him to be, whatever we need Him to be.

Personally, I need a workaholic, never tired, always feeling up to par, no excuses, never leave my side, ready to give me another shot, coaxing, cheering on, loving me unconditionally, BFF kind of God and I don’t even need a Play-Do fun factory to make it happens. He just is.

 

I could have put hundreds of scriptures here that describe my God. I narrowed it down to my five favorite.

 

1.  In the end, all we need to know is that God is love.

  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

  1 John 4:16 (NIV)

2.   Yes, my God sings…

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 

3.   Is the best life coach.

 

 For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalms 48:14 (NIV)

4.  He is my soul food.

 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. 

Psalms 54:4 (NIV)

 

5.  And, He never rolls his eyes at me.

 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

 (Psalms 116:5 NIV)

 

 

 

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Making the World a Better Place, One Coffee at a Time

Making the World a Better Place, One Coffee at a Time

So being a janitor was Smitty’s divine purpose?

His divine purpose was to be a light for troubled teens. He combined it with his need for clean and ran with it. That’s the true path to happiness and joy. Do the best possible with the natural skills and talents I have given you. Look for ways to make the world a better place. It is a simple way to live, but when you do, you can’t help but whistle. 

page 83,  The Promise, by Darlene Gudrie Butts

 

I had two experiences going through the Tim Horton’s drive through in the past couple of weeks. The first one started with a honey sweet voice that sang over the intercom as soon as I pulled up, “Welcome to Tim Horton’s, Hon. What can I getcha?” I gave my order and after receiving my total pulled up to the next window. I saw the smile first, big, toothy, genuine. I actually think I felt it before I even saw her face. “How you doing on this glorious evening?” she continued as she handed over my drink. We made small talk but it seemed like a conversation I would have with a neighbor or friend. It was only seconds, but the echo of enjoy drove away with me and stayed in the car for a while.

The second visit started with a delay at the speaker then a  robotic, “Welcome to Tim Horton’s. Would you like to try a sixteen cent danish today?” The voice can across flat, uninterested, with a slight hint of please say no. My order was given and the reply came back,  “Drive ahead for your total.” When I drove up, no one was at the window. I could see three of them standing by the shelves of donuts talking. I waited, maybe ten or twenty seconds and one of them lumbered over. I recognized her without a word spoken. Trying to bring light into the world, I joked about having to stumble over the sixteen cent danish deal multiple times in a shift. The light was snuffed and the answer came back clipped and snarky, “It isn’t the only dumb thing we have to do around here, believe me.”

Same order, same drive thru, totally different experience.

Do I believe it is because one is serving their divine purpose by being a Tim Horton’s drive thru attendant and the other isn’t? No. I have never met anyone who’s dream profession was working at Tim Horton’s. It is usually a stop over or a stop gap kind of job. I do think the experience was because one relished in her divine purpose of serving others and made a conscious effort to do it regardless of position or current circumstances. It reminds me of the expression to “bloom where you are planted”, to do your best, treat others to the best experience, whether you are in the position you truly want or not. Smitty, the high school janitor in The Promise, did the same.

The first experience was a joy and lingered with me long after the tea got cold. The second dampened my mood and I had to work to realign my spirit back to happy or the soot from her displeasure would have stained the rest of my day.

We have the power to do that with each and every encounter. We can bathe others in love and light and lift them up or we can dampen their spirit with the gray of our own.

The woman who greeted me with such warmth and grace may never see me again. But, I will remember her and try to pass on her light, her love. She may never know how far the ripples of her grace will travel, as her light lit mine, spilled over, and tipped to light another. But God does. And, I think he is whistling just thinking about it.

 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)

 

 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,

    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 

John 6:38 (NIV)

 

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

(Just for the record, one of my very favorite scriptures. Can’t you just feel this one?)

 

 

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Small Acts of Grace, Big Impact

Small Acts of Grace, Big Impact

Could you imagine what the world would be like if people strive to be loving and giving first and successful second? That would be a world changer.We are getting lost in the pursuit of happiness. The goal line keeps shifting. Then we get annoyed and frustrated. Competition makes us concentrate on our individual needs instead of helping others.”

 

pages 110-111, The Promise, by Darlene Gudrie Butts

 

I just finished reading Hannah’s Gift, by Maria Houson and The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe back to back. There were reserved at the libraryweeks apart but showed up together. They are both about an ordinary life lived with extraordinary impact, one spanning three years and the other seventy-five, but shared the common themes of making that life count, being true to oneself, and that the life of dying can sometimes be a gift in and of itself.

When the same message comes from different sources, I listen. The stirring of desire to make a difference first came after the standing room only service for my sister Deb and the stories shared afterward. With a flair for the dramatic, I wanted a world-wide impact. Go big or stay home. And, I do not admit freely or without shame, I wanted to be recognized and rewarded for my efforts. I wanted to be the best philanthropist ever. Now isn’t that a new definition of charity.

These books made a case for small, one-on-one, unprepared, unrehearsed, and unheralded, acts of grace, generosity of spirit, shared kindness that made a life count, the same type of life reflected in the shared memories of my sister. Success wasn’t about income, awards, or recognition. It was about loving, respecting, recognizing others. It was about moments whose effects would never be known. It was about anonymity by nature, not by plan. It was about love spilling over to others without measurement or record. Will Schwalbe was often annoyed that his mother talked to everyone, always. He came to realize that this was her ministry, her gift to the world. Hannah’s refusal to take off her red patent leather shoes, even in the operating room, changed hospital protocol because it made the medical staff realize that young patients need to be treated with same respect and regard as adult patients. Small, unrehearsed, meaningful interactions.

The excerpt from The Promise above comes from a conversation about how one would want to be remembered when they die versus how they want to be viewed as they live their life. Although I hope to have some mortal achievements to banter about long after I am gone, the unmeasured and unrecorded acts of love and grace will truly be my greatest accomplishments.

 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 13:34

 And let us not be weary in doing good:

Galatians 6:9

 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22

 

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Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

 

I get an e-mail everyday from tut.com which is written by Mike Dooley who was part of The Secret phenomenon.

 

They asked for a sign, Darlene, evidence that I stir within their souls, that I conspire tirelessly on their behalf, and that all is exactly as it should be.

Do you think they mean besides simply being alive at all?

Things that make you go, “Hmmmmm…”
    

The Universe

 

I had to read it twice for the message to be absorbed and fully understood. I have been looking for a sign, pleading for a sign, to know whether I was on the right path or not. I have run into walls, slid off of mountains, sat by the side of the road like a beggar looking for change. I would have given anything to hear the English woman trapped in my GPS say “recalculating” because at least then I knew I would have something to follow. Somewhere to go. Destinations are highly underrated.

 

When I read this passage, I realized that breathing and a heart beat are my signs. As long as there is a breath, there is a path, in fact there are paths, that I can travel. Some may be perfect, lots of shade, easy on the legs, many friendly faces on the way, and a spectacular view. Others may be dark and bleak and lonely. As long as I am alive, I can change the path, go a different direction, make a way where they isn’t one, find new traveling companions, get the right shoes, and head towards paradise.

 

If you don’t like the direction you are going, change direction. If you are traveling to where you desperately want to go and the path becomes difficult, put one foot in front of the other until it evens out, opens up, and becomes easier. If you slid down the mountain you want to climb, find a better route to climb. 

 

Could it be that easy just because I still have a breath?

 

Wow, things that make you go, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.”

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