Sometimes I think I’m too quick with a smile and a kind word to strangers. Perhaps I should err on the side of caution and not speak to people I don’t know. Ever feel like this? Lately, whenever I’m tempted to keep smiles and brief greetings to myself, I think of my friend Pastor Tony.
Last September, my son and I drove to Philadelphia where he was scheduled to take an exam. Knowing it wasn’t smart to sit in my car in a Philadelphia parking lot for several hours, I gathered up my handbag and laptop and walked inside the office building where I hoped I’d be able to wait for my son. The security guard smiled and hospitably told me that I was welcome to wait in the comfortable lobby.
In between the hectic morning arrivals and late afternoon departures of office workers, there isn’t a lot going on in the lobby – except the large-screen TV which proved distracting to me as I tried to work. While packing up my laptop, the security guard kindly asked, “Where’s home?”
I hesitated answering for a second, knowing that speaking with a stranger in a large city might not be prudent. But feeling God’s peace that it was all right, I answered, “Richmond. Richmond, Virginia.”
We introduced ourselves. Cynthia the Christian writer met Pastor Tony the minister who also worked security during the week. The bond of Christianity smoothed the way for conversation. Pastor Tony learned that I was writing a book about God’s provision during tough times and I learned that Pastor Tony was in the midst of a tough time.
It doesn’t really matter what obstacles Pastor Tony was facing that day. What was significant was that God placed me in that particular lobby at the exact time that Pastor Tony was assigned there — and that Pastor Tony needed a listener who wasn’t in a hurry. As Pastor Tony spoke, his love for the Lord as well as his knowledge of the Bible let me know that God was already on top of Pastor Tony’s situation.
After leaving Philadelphia that day, I prayed often for Pastor Tony, asking God to guide and provide for him.
On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I found myself inside the same lobby. The security desk was unattended when I entered the building, but it wasn’t long before I heard a familiar voice.
“Tony, is that you?” I smiled as I turned my head toward the voice.
“Cynthia. As soon as I heard your voice, I knew it was you.”
Our conversation picked up where we’d left it in September. Only, it was obvious that Pastor Tony had changed. Yes, he was still facing adversity, but Pastor Tony’s spirit had been renewed.
I learned that the Lord used Pastor Tony’s weekday security job to put him in touch with others experiencing similar difficult situations—office workers in need of Pastor Tony’s spiritual knowledge and compassion. One might say that God provided Pastor Tony with a new flock in an unexpected sanctuary. All because Pastor Tony wasn’t afraid to smile and speak kindly to strangers.
I left the lobby understanding that a simple smile and a few kind words are powerful tools that God uses to touch the hearts of strangers in need. Knowing this, I’ll be using mine more often. What about you?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
Photograph by Justin Howerter © 2013
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Socks, socks, and more socks! It looked like my dryer contained more men’s socks than the Gold Toe sock display at Macy’s.
The sight of so many socks now piled on top of the dryer made me exasperated. My best estimate told me there must be at least 50 socks that I needed to match, fold, and put away. I definitely was not pleased with this menial, time-consuming chore.
“It’s all in a person’s perspective. You can either find the blessing and be grateful or find the fault and feel awful.” I could hear my friend Miss Caroline explain the value of perspective as clearly as if she stood next to me. It made me take a second look at the sock pile.
I suddenly realized several important things:
- These socks belong to my husband.
- I have a precious husband.
- If my husband owns 50 socks, then it’s because he has a job and can afford to buy socks.
- And if my husband has a job, it’s because God provided it for him – for us!
My disdain at having to fold so many socks turned to joy when I adjusted my perspective. A chore that could be viewed as drudgery was actually a blessing.
What things in your life need a change in perspective?
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Photograph by Cynthia Howerter © 2013Read More
It’s amazing what can happen to a nation in the span of about a week, and the span of that week isn’t quite over. We are in the aftermath of a natural disaster that has affected thousands of Americans’ lives and simultaneously in the face of a critical national election. All around us are people who are mourning the tragedy that has befallen us and at the same time fearing what may be to come.
What can we say, dear sisters? The tragedy of Hurricane Sandy is widespread and runs deep, and the physical, spiritual, and moral needs of our nation seem on many days to be a bottomless pit. We would sink in despair if we thought we had to climb our way out of this pit, but as followers of Christ, we have a different understanding on the situation, both in our nation and around the world. We participate in our government and we pray for our leaders, but we don’t count on them to meet our needs; we have a God in heaven who has adopted us, and He is able to provide for His children. We get involved in the relief efforts and we reach out to those who have lost much to the hurricane, but we also don’t take on the burden to rebuild people’s lives; we point them to the Savior, who is mighty to save and able to put all of the pieces of their lives back together.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). Lift up His name. Call upon His name. He is Bread for the hungry, Living Water for the thirsty, Wisdom for the confused, the Alpha and Omega for those who need a new start in life, the Shepherd for those who need direction, the King of Kings for all who long for the security of bowing the need to a trustworthy leader. He is Lord. He is God. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken (Psalm 62:2).
Will you take time now to pray for the people of our nation and to ask God to give Christians a great measure of courage today?
Thank you, Kimberly Sowell, for your sage words today. Please visit Kimberly’s website, “His Heart” at: http://kimberlysowell.wordpress.com
IN GOD WE TRUST
I knew the minute the father checked his Rolex watch that his son wouldn’t be back to our house for a second visit. Acutally, I knew his son was a “one-timer” when the dad glanced into our formal living room and “the look” crossed his face – as in ”there’s-no-furniture-in-their-formal-living-room-look” followed by the “they-aren’t-good-enough-for-us-look.”
It was true: we didn’t have oodles of money. But can a person’s worth really be measured by their possessions or lack thereof?
That summer, my husband’s job caused him to travel frequently, leaving me to fill our two young children’s summer days on a shoestring budget.
After breakfast, my son, daughter and I snuggled together on our sofa, a blanket protecting us from the morning chill. 30 toes peeked out from the cover’s edge while I read a short story aloud.
There were chores to do after dressing for the day. Justin helped Megan with the ones that were hard for her while Lappy Appy, our sturdy Lhasa Apso, supervised. Laughter and giggles filled the air while little ones learned early lessons in responsibility and teamwork.
After lunch, we laced up 30 toes inside sneakers and drove to a nearby park with Lappy Appy where we ran and walked four miles around the shimmering lake, breathing in pine-scented air. When Megan wore out, I carried her in my arms. When Lappy Appy wore out, Justin did his best to lug her in his little arms. When Justin’s arms gave out, Megan climbed onto my back so I could tote Lappy Appy in well-exercised arms.
Collapsing in the hot car, we opened the windows, the wind cooling our sweaty skin and tossing our sun-bleached hair on the drive home.
With 30 tired toes stretched out in the family room, it was entertainment time. Not from TV or video games, but from stories. Oral histories, some people call them.
My children heard accounts of family members’ lives who came before them. They learned about relatives who helped start our country and the high price they paid for freedom. Justin and Megan understood that they were able to have a good life because of their ancestors’ sacrifices.
They learned Old and New Testament stories, and understood that God gives everyone gifts that He expects them to use for His glory, not their own.
While little fingers helped prepare supper, Lappy Appy took care of spills, and after dishes were cleaned and put away, baths refreshed. Then 30 bare toes hurried to the deck. Sitting together on the glider, we watched the moon rise through the trees, a prelude to the Great Horned Owls’ nightly songfest accompanied by a chorus of crickets and katydids.
Cool night air persuaded us to leave the concert and climb the staircase for the final time that evening. Justin and Megan retrieved pillows from their bedrooms and plumped them against the headboard of my large fluffy bed. While Justin and Megan snuggled on either side of me, Lappy Appy stretched across the foot of the bed, head lying on her paws.
Night after night, we accompanied Laura Ingalls and her family on their long journey from the big woods to the prairie. Little hands squeezed my arms when wolves howled and smiles sparkled when Pa played his fiddle. Stopping to turn the page, I saw what could never be purchased: 30 toes evenly lined across my bed. And on nights when Daddy was home, 40 toes fanned across the comforter.
What was it like at Mr. Rolex’s house? My boy was never invited, so I can only guess. Did they make homemade cookies or crank their own ice cream? Did their dad play baseball in their yard with them? Did they sit outside until the wee hours of the morning watching meteor showers and identifying constellations? Did their mom direct singalongs in the car while she drove? Did they listen to raindrop symphonies or ooh and aah at Frankenstein lightning? Did their parents tell them that if they could dream it, they could do it?
Today, Justin and Megan came home for a visit. They are adults now, living and working in distant cities. And between the four of us, we have no fancy watches.
We may not have had an abundance of possessions or money when our children were growing up, but as the four of us sit around our old kitchen table, talking and giggling and enjoying each other’s company, I count 40 priceless toes.
What are some of your favorite family memories? What are you most glad you did when your children were growing up? Leave a comment and tell me!
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. Psalm 127:3.
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
Do you have a special place where you go when you need a break from life? Perhaps it’s a nearby park or a quiet room. The place my soul longs to visit when life delivers too many problems is near the foot of Chestnut Mountain in northeast Georgia.
During our long bout of unemployment, I found myself in desperate need of sanctum. Completely spent, I packed a suitcase and a borrowed laptop into my car and drove alone from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The 13-hour drive allowed me to put distance between devouring stresses and endless problems. Mile after mile sent heart-felt prayers to the Creator, alternately calling for God’s help and praising Him for spectacular sights as I drove between ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains, heading due south. Near Asheville, North Carolina, my car began the climb into mountains so beautiful, my weariness from 11 hours behind the steering wheel was forgotten.
Having left Pennsylvania in the middle of a sticky summer sunrise, I arrived at Chestnut Mountain with enough time before sunset to climb to the summit and absorb views capable of resuscitating my spirit.
I awoke early the next morning and after filling a mug with steaming coffee and covering my shoulders with a blanket, I slipped outside to the screened-in porch where I sank into a cold, damp cushion on the seat of a rocker. Thick white fog blanketed the valley meadows and veiled the mountains to the west. It wasn’t until the first rays of morning sun climbed over the peak of Chestnut Mountain that the shroud slowly dissolved and revealed the uneven peaks of timeless mountains that Cherokees once called home.
The mug warmed my hands while I breathed in the sweet smells of summer grass and clover that grow in the field between the house and the creek. My shoulders lost some of their tension and my bare feet, pressing against the floor, pushed the rocker in a soothing rhythm. Outside, my ears hear best when my eyes are closed. I turned my head slowly from side to side, the sound of creek water tumbling over rocks rode across the tall field grass and became my porch companion.
But this was only part of what I sought.
Needing more coffee, I tiptoed inside. The house was reverently quiet. Carefully holding the too-full mug, I picked up my Bible and returned to the porch. A vivid blue indigo bunting streaked past to the mature red oak at the edge of the garden where it landed on a moss-covered branch and began its early morning reverie. It was soon joined by phoebes and vireos.
Surrounded by a symphony, I opened the worn Book to the Psalms and asked the Lord to speak to my weary soul. Words ancient but relevant comforted, encouraged, strengthened, guided. Sanctuaries aren’t always confined.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God in whom I trust.”
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY