Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Extra Out ...

A group of neighborhood kids gathered in an open lot. Everyone came to play 'kick ball'. Everyone ... including the girl with perfect imperfections. Not all children would welcome a child touched with special needs ... but this group ... did. Teams were picked ... the little girl was always chosen ... never left out. The team she landed on was allowed an extra out. No one complained. No one made a fuss. They wanted her to be a part of the game.

As I listened to my friend's recount of this childhood memory, tears clogged my throat and perched on my eyelids. This friend and I, we share a special similarity in life. I have a niece with special needs and she ... a sister with special needs. We both know the cruelty this world can deliver. We also know the measure of someones acceptance.

She went on to say that she sometimes runs into one of those neighborhood kids. They're all adults now. She sees them, smiles, calls them by name ... and remembers.

Those kids accepted her sister with all the differences. They allowed an extra out for her. Anything she couldn't do ... didn't matter to them ... didn't change the girl who was their friend.

After we talked, I went back to my office and ... sat there. I couldn't stop thinking about those kids and the acceptance they gave ... freely.

I don't know any of those kids (now adults). I've never met them. But ... I'm thankful for their quiet witness. On an open lot, in the middle of a neighborhood, playing a game of 'kick ball' ... they made a choice that has ministered to my heart ... years later.

We all have differences. Things that somehow hold us back from the ability to do what comes so easily for others. Imagine the acceptance we could give if ... we allow each other an 'extra out'. Make it so the things we (or others) can't do ... don't matter. At the end of the game, all that would matter is ... we were there.

"Sometimes things are allowed to happen so that the quiet power of our Lord to arrange and rearrange events according to His purpose may be shown." Amy Carmichael - Spirit Filled Woman's Devotional Bible

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cheerios and Shrek

When do you feel accepted ... just the way you are?

With family and friends .... ?

In a room of strangers .... ?

Most people would say ... family and friends.

Our middle boy, James, found out a total stranger can make you feel accepted .... just the way you are ... no conditions.

A few weeks ago, our family attended a carry-in at our new pastor's home. A group of church members flocked into his home with cold meat sandwiches, chocolate pie, cherry delight, soup ... ready for food and fellowship.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of home cooked food. And, smiles.

The thing is ... James is a picky eater. Jerry and I have (and are continuing) to work on this issue. Nothing set out was on his ... "I eat that" list. I talked to him before we walked into the house. I explained the situation to him and that he would be polite. He would find something to eat from whatever was provided. No arguing or complaining.

Everything was going great. Until ... it was time to fill our plates. James followed Jerry and me into the kitchen, holding a plate ... nervous look on his face. He went back to the table ... nothing on his plate.

In that moment, any number of things could have happened. But, the one thing I never saw coming ... happened.

Our pastor's wife brought James a bowl of Cheerios. After the meal, she put in a dvd (Shrek) and talked to my little boys. She laughed with them, sang silly Shrek songs with them ... made them feel welcome.

No one said anything about James 'diet' or ... anything. James was ... James ... and that was perfectly fine with everyone. Especially, Susie.

What no one in that room knew was ... James has not felt accepted in a lot of places. He's unsure of himself.

That day, he felt total acceptance. Unconditional. Unreserved.

That day, I learned a small act can mean so much.

A bowl of Cheerios and Shrek ... things some kids would take for granted ... made my James feel good about himself.

Each day, I want to live my life in a way that shows others ... they are loved. Just the way they are. There is a God who loves them unconditionally ... without reservations.

Thank you ... Susie. You have no idea how much your act of kindness meant to me.

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

While the Cameras Are Rolling ...

I've been watching Celebrity Apprentice.

I don't usually enjoy reality shows. But ... this one is different. Watching people I've seen in movies, concerts, CMA's, sitcoms ... behind the script. I get to watch them interact on a personal level.

It's interesting.

This season, the men's team includes (among others) ... John Rich, Meatloaf and Gary Busey.

On each episode, the friction between Meatloaf and Gary has mushroomed. Last night, that friction exploded.

The team was given the task of creating art pieces for a fundraiser. Each celebrity needed to create a piece to be sold at the designated gallery. John Rich was assigned as the 'project manager' ... he was to lead his team. At the onset of the project, the men headed straight for the craft store. Each one picked up their own supplies. Camera crews followed them through the store and 'listened in' on conversations. Meatloaf found fault in everything Gary said or did. He repeated his frustrations to other team members. All the while, cameras caught each interaction.

Somewhere in the middle of the craft store and the art studio, Gary managed to ignite Meatloaf's temper. By the time everyone arrived at the studio and began setting up to create their pieces, Meatloaf was convinced Gary had taken his art supplies. He looked over at Gary's table and was certain the spray paint, sponges and brushes were all things he (not Gary) had purchased. Immediately, Meatloaf exploded into obscenities and name calling. Hateful words came spilling out of his mouth. He 'stalked' around the studio pointing fingers ... his face red with anger.

Gary stood still. Other team members tried to stop Meatloaf ... but, he kept on ranting. John Rich calmly told the guys to remember why they were doing this fundraiser ... for charity. Each celeb picks a charity and all money raised during the task goes to the project managers charity. John was raising funds for St. Jude. John took Gary out into the hall ... in an attempt to separate the two guys.

In the middle of this, John spied a bag sitting just out of immediate view. Meatloaf's supplies were all there ... no thieving by Gary.


I could not believe he acted that way ... he KNEW cameras were watching all of them.

Would I behave any differently if cameras watched my every move ... listened to every conversation?

In reality, I should always behave my best. Because ... God is watching. I'm human. I screw up. Sometimes I need Him to stop me ... remind me ... I'm here for a purpose. There's a bigger picture.

Meatloaf apologized. But ... his words and actions are forever recorded ... they can be played again (and again) for everyone to see. I'm thankful for a God who forgives and ... erases. He paid the ultimate price to take all my sins and wipe them from existence.

Psalm 139:23 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."