Tag: serving others

Natural Disasters Devastate; what we can’t see without them.

Natural Disasters Devastate; what we can’t see without them.

Homes leveled by a raging storm, peoples dreams along with them. Once a carefully designed house, now only debris. Streets and back yards where kids once played, now small bodies of water filled with contaminants and electrical current. A lifetime’s worth of personal belongs gone in a matter of hours. Whole neighborhoods under water for the first time. Worst of all, lives lost. Families broken. And the course of one’s life changed forever. All because of a storm of wind and rain. A storm over which we have no apparent control.


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Have you ever wondered; why does God allow such devastation? What possible purpose could come from such destruction and loss of life? We may not ask this question out loud, but it may quietly haunt us on some level. Does God really care? If he does, why doesn’t he protect us from such destructive forces? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but there are some observations worth noting.

The Christian Bible makes an interesting statement on behalf of the Creator;

“I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” Jeremiah 21:18 NKJV

The environment God seems to have set us in is one of contrast between life and death, good and evil, of which we see displayed daily. The question still begs; why let death and destruction have its way so often and in so many ways? Sometimes it feels as if the world is mostly evil, destructive, with only occasional slithers of light getting through. In my own journey of trying to discover the good amidst the darkness, I often wondered if God allows such devastation for the sole purpose of allowing his ways to be more clearly seen. Maybe in some odd way this messed up world serves as the perfect backdrop for God to showcase authentic good.

This idea is an affront however to our utopic mindset. Naturally we don’t want to see any evil in our world. We want to eradicate it. Therefore, we may reason; “if God were really a loving God, death and destruction would never occur.” But it’s hard to deny the clarifying effect of a world that contrasts both good and evil so poignantly. If we’re looking to create a Utopian society however, the idea of having to parse out the good and evil around us seems an unnecessary distraction to the life we’re hoping to build.

With Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many are singing the praises of individuals who are sacrificing their time, labor and funds in order to help those affected by the storms. Corporations too. We all have watched as stores like Home Depot helped in getting goods to people who need it by increasing delivery of goods to the devastation zones, and without raising prices unduly. Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines all have reduced their fares in an effort to help get folks out of Florida. Gallery Furniture of Houston opened its doors and became a shelter for anyone in need. Some reports suggest it may have cost the store upwards of $30,000.00 a day for its generosity. No doubt many mom and pop stores have shared their goods as well, these are unsung heroes.

Here in the U.S., there’s something rather stifling about things going well; a bustling economy, money flowing, goods being sold, no major wars, no storms, no worries, that seems to bring the worst out in some. It’s almost as if the closer we get to a utopia, the more of a platitude we become, the more one dimensional our spirits. We become complacent as a people, bored maybe, and our criticism and infighting abound as result. Instead of our success as a country bringing out the hero, it appears to hide the hero. Instead of wealth making us want to be more generous, it seems to highlight greed. This is not true with everyone. Our own pursuit of the utopia however seems to rob our existence of character and blur the lines of right and wrong.

On the other hand, when disaster hits, our profile as a country changes dramatically. We’re once again shaken in our being, our gaze is sharpened and our spirits are open to the idea of sacrificial love. We spring into action with an ever sharper focus, and we ask; “how can I make someone else’s life better, who can I help?” Socioeconomic status suddenly means nothing, the color of our skin is of no consequence, our political squabbles grow quiet for the most part and our precious schedules fall in their status of priority. And our inner heroism rises to the surface and altruism more easily flows from our being.

Is it possible that God occasionally allows things to go wrong so that he can make us right? Is it possible that he allows a disaster to occur so as to remind us what’s lurking just below the surface, what we’re capable of, and what matters most in life? Is it possible that God wants to remind us that no one human being is more important to God than another? That he deeply values all of his children? Is it possible that God wants to remind us how much we need each other, and how our petty disagreements only divide and destroy? And is it possible that those who often and easily throw around accusations of others are only doing the Devil’s work. Perhaps God wants us to stop judging and condemning one another, and instead try to see the good in others, even with those of whom we may not agree.

I can’t help but believe that God allows such disaster so that we can once again see how simple and beautiful life can be when we just take care of each other, look out for the interest of others and to remember that we’re all in this together, both in bad times and good?

Maybe disasters remind us that some of our pursuits are ill intended, and how easily we exploit one another for personal gain, especially when “times are good”. Maybe too many of our relationships are for utility purposes alone, and not simply for the sake of spending time with each other, with no particular agenda.

I wonder how quick the social, racial, economic and political challenges of our day would be solved if we would abide by Jesus’ words; My command is this: “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV

When the storm has passed, who will you be?


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The Power of Outgoing Love

The Power of Outgoing Love

I never had so much fun remodeling a house. I usually did it for money, but not this time. I was able to set aside my greed and selfishness long enough to think about someone else. And it changed me.

This remodel was for Marcie, a woman who was working 3 jobs to provide for two daughters, one in college at the time. She wanted to pay for her older daughter’s education even though money was scarce. Her husband had abandoned the family and left her alone to provide. No complaints, no excuses. She had 3 jobs to do and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her, not even an estranged husband.

Some of the exterior walls in her house had holes in them. Portions of the house were falling apart. So our church decided to step in.

Remodeling homes is what I do for a living, and I didn’t exactly want to do more of it in my spare time. But I was involved for a different reason than making a profit. And that made all the difference. We had fun on the job. There was a spirit of joy and cooperation that I wasn’t used to on a construction job site. The crew, some professionals and some volunteers, worked to repair and improve the inside and outside of her house. The spirit over those few days was not laborious and the work didn’t seem tedious. For everyone there, it was an honor to make a difference for this admirable woman.

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For several years afterwards, I would run into Marcie in the most random places. The Eddie Bauer Store, Sam’s Club and a couple of other places. And she would always come up to me with a spirit of gratefulness that nearly moved me to tears. She would vigorously shake my hand with both her hands, as if we had just performed the work the day before. But something tells me that is wasn’t coincidence that we kept running into each other in a city of 1.2 million. It was as if God was reminding me where the real value in life is; in the place of serving others.

From the moment we’re born, we completely rely on others for our needs. We are unable to do anything for ourselves as others nudge us unto maturity. In a sense, we learn to be self focused by the very design of our upbringing. And many of our pursuits reflect this trend. But a transition must take place if we’re to live full lives.

Most of us value the love and attention that would come our way. But I’ve learned a strange thing about life; the love that we give has a lot more to do with the value in our lives than the love we receive.

I believe this is true because life in fact is lived outwardly, whether we want it to or not. “No man is an island” as the saying goes. And I think it’s true. We were not meant to live unto ourselves, and I don’t think it’s even possible. We are wired to love, give and express from our being, outwardly. Yes, we need incoming love. But I’m convinced that the person sending love our way benefits more than we do.

If we’re selfish and inward focused, we are merely projecting our self-centeredness onto others. In fact, the whole idea of living inward is really a farce. Whatever we do, our lives are an outward expression and a gift to those around us, for better or for worse. And this is why when I live selfishly I’m hurting those around me as I become a witness to fear and hatred. But the wise live and love outwardly for the benefit of others.

Jesus said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Mathew 10:39 NIV

Slowly, I’m learning to lose my life to the cause of Christ and the needs of others. And the more I do, the more alive I feel and the more gets done for others. But the transition is slow.

Our selfish ways don’t hurt others because of what we hold back, it’s because of what we project; One way or another, our lives are a giant bill board advertising a message of true living or apathy.

What determines what we have to offer to others?

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 NIV

If our heart is full of any kind of evil, then that is what we’ll project outwardly. But if love, humility and purity find their home in our hearts, this can’t help but come out in helpful actions towards others, kind speech and a desire to serve the interests of others. When I live this way, it is the closest thing to a full life I’ve ever known. And we could use more of that in our world.

But to live this way, we must settled one crucial issue; our faith in God’s incoming love for us. In fact, the more I trust and lean on God’s love for me, the more effectively I’m able to serve and love others. After all, it’s God’s love and joy we bring to others, not our own. And we’ll only have that love if we abide in him.

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