Pay It Forward & Save!

“Our savings in this world are not what we have today, but what we give to others” Sam Vonumu, Uplift A Child International.

The quote stops me in my tracks. I read it again. And again. I take out my phone and snap a photo of it. I think about it as My Honey and I are herded toward lunch with hundreds of other Christians from around the world who are attending the same conference.

The convention center cafeteria is freezing cold. We stand in line next to a couple from Australia and My Honey, as usual, begins a conversation. A Haitian gentleman serves rice onto his plastic plate in front of us and I overhear a quiet exchange in what sounds like Korean from the next line over.

“God, You have people who love You on every continent, in every country. What are we all doing to show the world Your love?” I question as I wait my turn for the salad dressing. “Does the world see Jesus in the people who call themselves Christians? Does the world see Jesus in me?”

We find two empty chairs in the dining hall and settle in next to a rainbow of skin tones. The folks to our left are from Brazil. The couple across from us are Kenyans. We smile and introduce ourselves. English on the Brazilian side is limited. Our Portuguese is nonexistent. We spend the meal conversing about Africa as my Dutch-skinned South African husband jokes that he is “African American.” Mr. and Mrs. Kenya laugh and inform us that our President is from their same tribe.

Several minutes into the conversation, we learn that the Kenyan pastor we are speaking with serves 2,000 Christians in several churches and many of his people do not worship in a building, but under the trees as they await funds to build a church. His wife is a high school teacher. They have saved for years to be able to travel to America and represent their country in this convention. This is their first (possibly only) trip to the United States. They are overwhelmed, but they “love it!”

Give them some money.

I recognize the Holy Spirit’s prompt.

Lord, that would be awkward. They are not asking for anything. It might embarrass them. They are both professionals.” I argue.

I don’t hear God again as I finish my meal.

Then Honey asks them how much their plane tickets cost. They have a discussion about “Shillings” and “Rands” and “Dollars.” The man says, “I have some American money, but I don’t know how much it is worth.” He digs in his pocket and produces several coins. My husband touches each one and explains its value.coins in hand

The wife asks, “What can you buy with one penny?”

“Maybe a piece of bubble gum,” I reply smiling.

I take a photo of the man’s hand as he holds out his coins. God prompts again.

Ask them if they need anything.

I say nothing.

We all smile and shake hands as we end our conversation. They stand to leave. We wave as they melt into the crowd heading for the convention hall.

“I wish we could give them something,” Honey says as the couple disappears.

“I think God told me to give them money,” I reply. “But, I felt it would be uncomfortable.”

“What?! How much do you have? Give it to me. I’ll go find them.”

I frantically dig through my purse and produce some cash. My husband grabs it and chases through the crowd

“Why don’t I just listen to You in the first place, Lord? I’m sorry. You were right.”

Honey comes back smiling. “Mission accomplished! They were thrilled. It wasn’t awkward at all.”

I am humbled. Again. By the goodness of God. By the fact that He communicates with us. By the opportunity to be His hands to bless another.

Later, I receive an email from one of the postal workers mentioned in Chapter 12 of my memoir, Same Dress, Different Day. It was a thank you for the copy of my book I’d given as a token of appreciation for kindness shown years before. Way back then, without knowing the details of my situation, this insightful postal worker in my town had offered compassion and had prayed for me, a customer. How wonderful to be the recipient of God’s mercy through another human being who listened to Him!

Part of my response to that email reads, “May God continue to bless you on your own journey and as you impact people in your circle of influence. You never know what a difference you are making. Perhaps only in heaven you will find out the rest of the stories.”

Last night, one of the front desk managers in our hotel asked for prayer for a coworker’s daughter. After a few brief encounters, Honey and I were trusted enough to be confided in and invited to pray for someone we’d never met. What a privilege!men praying

These three incidents were sloshing around in my brain today as I sat down to write a blog post for someone suffering the effects of addiction. How does what I’ve written apply to codependence and addiction? How does it fit into the theme of my blog, that God redeems the dreams we thought were lost?

Here’s the connection. It goes back to Sam Vonumu’s quote at the beginning: “Our savings in this world are not what we have today, but what we give to others.”

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we miss opportunities for God to bless us through others. We can easily become mired in shame and fear and uncertainty when a loved one is acting out his/her addiction. We often miss the opportunity to give to others by allowing them to help us.

Here’s what I mean: The Kenyan couple gave us the opportunity to bless them because they did not respond to My Honey’s offer with pride or embarrassment. They happily took the cash and said, “Thank you.” No awkwardness at all.

The postal workers in my town gave me the opportunity to feel God’s presence and watch care over every detail of my life when they allowed God to use them to help and encourage me. I was humble enough at one point to confide in them because I needed help. I gave them my trust and they were able to bless me.

The hotel front desk manager became vulnerable enough to reach out to two Christian guests and ask for prayer. We would not have known the need if he did not ask. He GAVE us the opportunity to ask God for a miracle.

Sometimes we just need to give people the opportunity to help us. By doing so, we not only help ourselves, we also help them. If you love an addicted person, don’t live your life alone. Find a safe place to heal and grow. Find a place to talk and pray about your circumstance. Find a place to give others the opportunity to bless you. One day you may be the one who pays it forward.

Step 10 – “I Was Wrong”

Step 10

“Continued to take personal inventory

and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”

Who likes to be wrong? Nobody. Who is never wrong? Nobody! Who “promptly admits” when they are wrong? In my experience – very few people.

I met one recently. It was incredibly refreshing to see Step Ten in action! Please allow me to share the experience:

My honey and I were dinner guests. The table conversation was pleasant as we reminisced and chatted about people we knew in common. Subtly the mood shifted when one of our friends began speaking of another in a manner that lacked the seasoning of grace. I listened for several minutes before the topic turned a corner, wondering if those same words would have been spoken had our mutual friend been present at the table.

Key Lime PieBefore dessert was served, I had a pleasant surprise! Our host humbly admitted the unfairness of her words and apologized for speaking them aloud in our presence. What a rare treat! That piece of humble pie tasted sweeter to me than any dessert!
I had just witnessed Step Ten.

Step Ten has two components: Taking a continual personal inventory and promptly admitting when we mess up. Both of these work best when accompanied by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When we are in the spiral of addiction or are the “co-addict” or co-dependent trying to control the aftermath of a loved one’s out of control behavior, we become little gods of our own lives, often forgetting that we have a God who is more than happy to take the wheel and steer us onto a better life path. We ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, choosing, rather, to rely upon our own strength. This gets us nowhere.

When we discover Step 1, that our life is out of control and unmanageable, and we learn to submit to the Highest Power of all – God, something begins to change inside our hearts and we learn to listen to His voice above all others. Slowly, slowly, our lives become more manageable and peaceful. This can be a dangerous place to be, because this is where complacency creeps up on us and causes us to forget what we’ve been through and Who brought us out of the depths.

Keith Miller, in A Hunger for Healing (p. 164) suggests that in our daily inventories, we must ask ourselves questions like, “Which of my character defects popped up as uninvited guests today? Am I using the tools of the program? Am I praying? Am I thanking God for all the good things he has done for me this day, and for any positive things he’s freed me to do?”

He says, “The reason this is so important is that the Sin-disease, with its denial and delusion, is always hovering “just a decision away” to throw us back into fear and confusion. Its tactics are to convince us in various ways, “You’re ‘well’ now and don’t need a stupid program to lead a normal life. You can and should operate on your own as a mature adult.” The disease’s “strategy” often works like this: When we begin to feel a little secure and happy and our relationships are more comfortable, many of us “forget” to have our quiet time. We forget to go to meetings and don’t call our sponsor. We’re busy again, because the pain that drove us into the program has been alleviated. This is a dangerous place to be, because it is one of the major delusions of the spiritual life that we can “do it ourselves” without daily contact with God and a daily look at the reality of what is going on in our own lives.”

The Bible, in 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV), warns us about this:

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.”

But God doesn’t stop there, He also promises to make a way of escape so that we don’t have to fall back into our old patterns of behavior: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (verse 13)

It’s great to know that God provides a way of escape BEFORE we fall into the temptation. Taking that route would definitely be “Plan A.” But it’s also important to be aware of the fact that none of us is perfect, and we will make mistakes. We may even chew up a friend in conversation now and then. When we do, “Plan B” is Step Ten – humbly allowing the Holy Spirit to make us aware of our error, and taking immediate action to admit our wrong and make it right.Step 10 Meme

Father in heaven, thank You for loving human beings so much that You not only gave us Your Son, but You promise to give us Your Spirit, as well. Give me ears today, to hear that quiet Voice that says, “Caution! You are moving in a direction that leads to pain and sorrow. Here’s your chance to make it right.” Please help me to take an honest inventory today and to right what is wrong in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Oh, Lord – It’s Hard To Be Humble (Step 7)

Step 7: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings,

I grew up singing two songs about humility. One was a Christian camp song that said, “Humble me, humble me, oh Lord; humble me…humble me, so I can do Thy will…” The other, sung by Mac Davis, went something like this: “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”

College Daze

                                              On top of my little world ~ Before the fall

As an ‘80’s teenager, popular music both shaped and reflected the person I was. Sometimes I pretended to be perfect in every way, while refusing to come to Jesus with certain corners of my heart. Other times I truly wanted to follow God’s will and His plan for my life. Living with me was like flipping through every radio station on a long road trip. One day, I was like, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.” The next, it was more the Def Leppard version, complete with the mentality that “it’s better to burn out, yeah, than fade away.”

I wanted everything life could offer and I wanted it “right now!” I had planned out my future while still in grade school. As a young adult, I refused to wait for life to unfold. I forced it. I forced my way, my will, and my ideas onto other people. I tried to control them through manipulation, guilt, or fear. I tried to force broken boys to love me. I forced myself into relationships where I didn’t belong. I forced myself to reach impossibly high goals, expecting others to work as hard as I did, with little compassion for their shortcomings. I was often full of myself and empty of humility.

Then I fell. I not only physically fell from the roof of a barn, shattering several vertebrae; I also crumbled emotionally. The road to recovery was excruciating. My physical body healed more rapidly than my psyche. All pride had been crushed. I had to learn to walk in humility, just as I had to learn to walk with my new crutches – one step at a time, one day at a time.

Decades later, as I take a close look here at Step 7, I’m wondering if the Mac Davis song still sometimes describes my stance toward humility. Do I ask God to remove my shortcomings, while clinging to the falsehood that I am somehow perfect in every way (or at least in some little way)? I’ve been down this road countless times! Why does pride still rear its ugly ugly head in my life?

Isn’t it PRIDE that keeps me from going to God the minute something goes wrong on the inside of me? Oh, it’s not a big deal. I can handle it. I lie to myself, while ignoring the Spirit’s “still small voice.”

The book of James holds a promise for people like me in chapter 4, verse 10. James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” If I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings, He promises to lift me up. When I am puffed up with pride, full of hot air or a hot temper, God cannot lift me up. He can barely wrap His arms around me when I’m so full of my “my way or the highway” attitude.

In 2004, I was twenty years from being a headstrong teenager, trying desperately to control my tiny world after it came apart at the seams with my mom’s divorce. By then, I’d been married for ten years to a chemically dependent spouse and I carried a ton of guilt, anger and anguish around inside my head. My own thoughts of divorce crept across the borders of my mind as I struggled to find feelings to match my marital vows after addiction’s roller coaster had robbed me of so much. When I flipped through the radio and found Norah Jones singing, “No matter how hard you resist it, it never rains when you want it to…You humble me Lord… I’m on my knees empty…” I identified with that humility. Although God hadn’t handed me an addict on a silver platter, He definitely used being married to one to teach me to walk in humility.

Today, I live in a different world – far removed from the chaos of cocaine addiction. But I don’t want to forget the lessons learned in that valley. Forgiveness. Humility. Patience. Courage. Honesty. Surrender. The valley of the shadow of addiction is a deep one. It will mold a character. It can make us or break us, maybe both. I think the brokenness is what calls me back to my knees when I get too big for my britches.Step 7 Meme

I need Step 7 every day of my life. It’s an exercise that transforms me from the me-I-don’t-want-to-be to the me-the-looks-like-Him. When l admit my shortcomings and humbly ask God to immediately remove them before they embarrass or humiliate me, or misrepresent Him, my life flows so much smoother – fewer regrets, fewer do-overs. Why I so easily forget that, I do not know. But, tonight, I just want to make that little camp song my bedtime prayer, “Humble me so I can do Thy will.” Will you make it yours, too?

You humble me Lord
You humble me Lord
I’m on my knees empty
You humble me Lord
You humble me Lord
So, please, please, forgive me
You humble me

Kevin Breit/Norah Jones