The Power of A Cupcake

CupcakesI don’t picture my life like the movie scenes of a homeless story. I never thought I could be in the same category as someone who has lost their way and is unsure of the next place they will lay their head. In fact, I never thought about that possibility for my life at all, until I gave someone a cupcake.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We were hosting a church leadership meeting at the local library and as always, refreshments were provided. Big juicy strawberries, sweet soft cookies and the latest trend in deserts, designer cupcakes! After the meeting, we had some of these wonderful cupcakes left over. I suggested we take them to the local mission and give the few that were left to whoever would like one. We packed up and headed down the road to the other side of town. We parked the car, got the tray of cupcakes out and began to offer a group of gentlemen a cupcake. I didn’t think they would be so happy to taste what I have tasted far too often. The smiles on their faces were genuine and the gratitude they showed was precious. We kept passing out cupcakes. They didn’t seem to be dwindling. My friend looked over and asked me, “Are these things multiplying or what? How do we have so many?” I didn’t know the answer, and honestly I didn’t even listen to the question because I had my own thoughts flooding my head such as, “Wow… there are so many people who call this corner of the sidewalk home. Why would anyone want to live here?

We crossed the street and approached a group of ladies sitting on the sidewalk. We offered them a cupcake. As we were making light conversation with the three women, I recognized two of the ladies. The first woman had her hair all in her face. Her eyes were glazed over and the look she gave was empty and disconnected. She was filthy with soiled clothes. The second woman was full of conversation and pleasant. Her clothing was weathered and her face appeared to be older than her body. There was no way these woman would ever be connected to me in any way, until I realized they actually were. I almost dropped the cupcakes.

Rewind time back several years. These two ladies had jobs, homes and one had a spouse. They were well-groomed and I knew them from mutual friends we had. They socialized, had food to put in their refrigerator, cell phones and TV’s. And now they were now camping on the street, in a dazed fog, eating a cupcake I handed to them.

The cold reality of life smashed into my face. My God… I know them. I have socialized with them. I know their names and I could very well be sitting on the other side of this cupcake. Questions filled my mind… What happened? How did you get here? When did you give up? What are you doing? Why do you look so different? The truth is I had too many words filling my head to say any words of wisdom out of my mouth. I knelt down, said hello, wished these ladies a good day and gave them a cupcake. As I was walking away, tears rolled down my face. All I could do was say, “God… What do I say? That very well could have been me.”

Devastation has no particular requirement of those it goes after. The Bible tells us in John 10:10 the Devil is here to kill, steal and destroy us. Jesus said that His purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your income is or what you think you’re better than. If there is any way that Destruction can find to creep into your life, it will. If there is any door that is unlocked and unguarded within your life, the thief will find it. It is the thief’s purpose and mission to find a way in. A true thief practices until the skill of breaking in is perfected. It doesn’t always happen overnight but it can happen.

Jesus is the only One who can guard, protect, cover, seal and anoint you with His security system. Our lives matter. All of our lives matter to Him. I was brought to the realization that it is my intimate relationship with Jesus that has me on the giving end of the cupcake, instead of the receiving end. The power and authority that lives within me comes from Him. The grace and compassion that my life has experienced only comes from Him. The fact that I stand here today with a sound mind and a home to live in is because of Him. My decisions were not always the best. What separates me from the people who received the cupcakes is nothing more than circumstances. It is my desire to go back and share with these people what God has done for me! It is my desire to bring more than cupcakes on my next visit. How sweet the gesture, but unless I share the gift of the power within me, then it’s just some sugar.

The fact that Jesus has a purpose and a plan for each and every one of us is reason enough for me to continue to take cupcakes and the message of Jesus, to these people. If a cupcake can start a conversation, then there is hope for a better life. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Stop Treating the Symptoms

fotolia_3508976_XSThe doctor’s office is frustrating. There is a lot of sitting and waiting as we try to use all the resources available to us explain one simple fact; something in our bodies seems wrong. In turn a medical practitioner tries to interpret our words into a list of symptoms that can be then used to help them determine what is happening.  The frustration lies in the fact that we can’t see what is wrong. Our fever, or headache, etcetera could be caused by one of a long list of illnesses; some that don’t even have physical cause, but rather a psychological one. Additionally, many of these illnesses require their own unique set of treatments. There is no little pill that treats all fevers, no herbal tea that cures every headache, nor any diet regiment that resolves all stomachaches. We know and doctors know that simply treating the symptoms will likely do nothing to treat an underlying condition and could in turn cause more problems in our bodies by masking the blatant alerts that are telling us something is out of balance. Thus, the sitting and waiting and testing is all necessary to ensure that our symptoms don’t become an undiagnosed illness resulting in late and less effective treatment.

This inconvenience is part of the human condition; a result of living in a fallen world with bodies that are imperfect. Our souls are similarly imperfect and subject to problems. Our sins are symptoms of an underlying spiritual disease. However, our actions to resolve such issues are many times counter intuitive. We believe we could just stop being so angry, just stop drinking, or just stop making mistakes everything will be okay. Our spiritual practitioners tell us if we just loved God more everything would be better. That is no more effective than telling someone if they could just be healthy everything will work out. The product is a group of sickly Christians who are unable to carry out the work of Christ with the consistency and passion that comes with maturity. Some have taken an Advil and feeling asymptomatic happily live a Christian life that consists solely of going to church on Sundays and Wednesday. They don’t have any problems at work, their home life is stable, and their health is good; therefore they are deemed spiritually healthy. Is that health as Christ describes it though? They don’t suffer as others, who have taken medicine with no avail and struggle frustratingly to make things in their life better- many times not even knowing what better truly means. If both live at an arm’s length from Christ; failing to share Christ with others, are either of them truly spiritually healthy?

We must ask ourselves, why is symptom masking the preferred method of treatment in the church at large? Do we or do we not serve the Great Physician?

Are You Treating God Like Your Cell Phone?

downloadDo you treat God like a cell phone?  I thought of this when I was at the bank once and the man standing behind me obviously wanted everyone to hear his cell phone conversation.   He had his Bluetooth ear piece on and talked so loud that his voice echoed in the lobby area.  Even when he ended the call, he kept the earpiece in giving the impression that he was still in the middle of a call.  He reminded me of how some of us display external signs that we are communicating with God (bible on our work desks, scriptures on our computers) when we really aren’t talking to him at all through prayer and devotion.

Another way we treat God like a cell phone is answering his call but when we realize it’s God, making up an excuse to end the call.  That’s usually once you realize that His call is about living with integrity and submitted to His will.    Even though I can say I’ve been blessed by my obedience to God, there have also been times I made all kinds of excuses when it was something I just didn’t want to do.

Also, like we put our phones on silent, we do the same thing to God.    We keep his voice on “silent or vibrate” because we are busy doing something that being obedient would disrupt.    In these instances, you may be the only that knows there is a “call” and can easily ignore it.

Similarly, being in a bad cell phone reception area, you try to continue communicating with God but because you stray as a result of sin or other subtle compromises, it’s hard to hear him clearly.   Some of us like using being in a bad area as anexcuse for missing a call that we really didn’t want to answer in the first place.

Cell phone technology advances all the time and I think we sometimes forget the original purpose of the phone:   to communicate with others.   However, many people walk with their heads down engrossed in their cell phones ignoring where they are going and the people around them. We get so caught up using the latest piece of cell phone technology and forget that it’s designed to bring us closer to others, not push us away.

I think that sometimes we treat our relationship with God like a cell phone with a similar mixture of impatience and casual convenience.   We are happy when he gives us what we want but get impatient for him to answer that next prayer.    Deuteronomy 5:24 says,         “And you said, ’The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him.’”  We want to control how and when we hear from God but forget that the best thing is just being able to hear his voice.

A New Journey

Pioneer work is never easy. I doubt Lewis & Clark ever toasted a glass of champagne and said “Here’s to the Good Life!”  The definition of Pioneer is a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.  Pioneers are the first to discover a new method, area of knowledge, or activity.

The book of Genesis, chapter 6, talks about Noah, a true pioneer.  Noah was willing to hear God’s voice, to listen and obey His instruction, ignoring the risk of being labeled insane.  Noah prayed.  Noah listened.  Noah followed through with God’s plan even though water had never fallen from the sky before.  Even though his friends and family must have doubted, he didn’t.  The end result led to a new beginning and a new promise.
Queen Esther, long before she was ever a queen, had the same heart.  When she held her place as Queen, she faced a challenge, both morally and with the law.  She lived in a time where a woman could not enter the presence of the King, without being summoned.  The book of Esther explains the testimony of a woman who was part of a culture that was facing genocide.  She had a choice, does she risk her life and try to persuade her husband, her King, the ruler of the land to change his direction based off his advisors?  Or does she trust her God for protection of her people and a miracle?  Her decision and follow through of her commitment gained her favor in the king’s eyes as well as saved a nation of people from death.
Have you ever been faced with a choice that consumed your mind?  Have you ever felt a calling in your heart that wouldn’t ever leave?  Have you ever questioned why?  What do you do?
God loves you.  He has a plan for you.  He has a purpose, a calling and a way to give you success beyond your wildest dreams.  He needs a Noah, an Esther, a you.  You were created for a time such as this.  Some of you were called 20 years ago to start a movement, a spiritual revolution that shakes the shackles of mediocracy off your life.  Some of you are called today to change the comfortable, lucrative lifestyle for a position of mentorship and service.  You have been chosen to listen to the voice of Salvation and change the direction of your own life.  Your example will shift the atmosphere in your home, causing others to notice a change.  Maybe you are reading this and it’s all you an do to hide the tears because something is stirring in you.  You have a gift inside of you that God has given.  Today is a good day to bring your dream to life.
Be a pioneer in your life’s journey, with others and with God.  Believe that great things will happen!  Don’t delay and question, but rather come to a place of surrender, for it is then that you will gain so much more.  “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Real Protection

Insecurities are a nigh01-protect-your-photosnightmare in a busy mind. The thoughts we dwell on can steer us in a course we shouldn’t travel down.  Often times we find ourselves in a vulnerable place, unprotected and we can feel a physical sting from an emotional battle.

Have you ever started your day in an elevated mood, life in your mind is going well and you have much to be thankful for, only to find yourself lost in thoughts that you didn’t plan on creating and now your mood has shifted?  What happened?  Why did the movie we replay in our head have to be so tragic, negative or scary?
The Bible often talks about what we battle against. It’s not as simple or fair as 2 athletes in a boxing ring. We don’t fight against flesh and blood but rather principalities and powers of darkness. What does that mean exactly? Is all negativity darkness?  It can be, especially if Fear and Doubt detour you of the course God has put you on.
Reading Ephesians 6 reminds me of what to think of and how to prep for my day.  Putting on the whole armor of God is beneficial in every aspect. Protection in a physical world is obvious. But too often we fail to protect our spirits, our hearts and our minds.  Our thoughts, ideas, daydreams and visions all lead to our actions.
Here’s a call to action I am inviting you to take with me. Let’s test this. Start each day by thanking god for who He is in your life. Then by asking Him to tie up our waist with Truth, so the way we live is honest, without lies and fabrications to justify our actions. Put on the breastplate of Righteousness so our hearts and souls are covered from anything that tries to capture or enter in that doesn’t belong.  Wear your shoes of Peace so that the word of God comforts you and protects you on the journey you walk. Pick up and use the shield of Faith to protect yourself against any weapon that flies at you.  Put on your helmet of Salvation, which covers your head in times of vulnerability.  And when you pick up the sword of the Spirit and use it, you are able to pray, without stopping, being effective and purposeful with your prayers.
Let’s see if this works. Let’s see if when we do this, we notice the atmosphere shifting in our day to day life. Let’s see if our kids start to come around. Let’s see if our partners notice our spirits rising. Let’s see if the people we are praying for come to Jesus. Let’s see if our family is healed. Let’s see if promotions happen. Let’s see what powerful positivity can do in our lives.

Self-Righteousness or Service?…

The call and purpose of every Christian is to serve like Jesus did. Unfortunately, The Church in this post modern area and western age has sercume to the spirit of consumerism. Our hearts no longer break over what God’s heart breaks over. We do not see ourselves as the extension of Christ’s life and love in the earth, His thankful servants; rather as pretentious and pompous judges. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten who we really are and why Jesus came in the first place.

Mark 10:45
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus wasn’t a Popstar or a Supreme Court Justice.He was and REMAINS the Eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father. He is God in human flesh yet He humbled himself and He, the Creator served His creation. Jesus came to give His life, not to better it. He gave it in exchange for our freedom. His life saved our lives and we are forever changed by His selfless love. It’s not as if The Lord Jesus didn’t deserve to be treated like a king. He was The King. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords yet he humbled Himself. I think that’s where it all begins. Humility. Let’s face it, the real reason why many of us set in the seat of Judgement is because we are full of arrogance and pride. Some how we have come to believe that we deserve His grace and forgiveness. That because we think that we serve Him, in exchange FOR our salvation. But the reality is we should serve Him BECAUSE of our salvation. Why is The Gospel such “good news?” Because God came NEAR. He bridged the distance between His Holiness and our Ratchedness. Between The Perfect and the Poisoned. JESUS CAME TO SERVE! He came to love and raise man again back to God and leave His blood and body in the Eucharist; that partaking of it we might eat and live. Jesus power and authority was undeniable. Unexplainable. But it flowed from a specific place…

Matthew 14:14

“…he had COMPASSION on them and healed their sick.”

The greek word for “compassion” reveals a far more deeper meaning than just pity or a feeling of empathy. Compassion suggests a guttural connection. It is a sorrow for those who are sick and a service to the suffering! What moves you like that? What makes you cry? The Homeless? The abused and abandoned? The mentally or physically sick? Pain and suffering should awaken in us a desire to take of the robes of judgement and criticism and wash the feet of the world. I suggest that if there isn’t anything that has ever MOVED you like that you have never experienced truly being human. Truly being like God. He came to us when we could not get to Him. Not because He HAD to but because we needed Him to. You can’t wash feet and wear a judge’s robe.11026556_10205901762363929_1358530864_n

Luke 22:27

For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

Where_is_the_Love__by_Revelation_TalcIt’s difficult to experience unexpected loss. Loss through sickness, loss through fatal accidents and loss through tragic events all have a different sting. We hear of tragedy in other cities, other states, other communities and we often don’t think it will happen in our town, until it does.

Recently tragedy struck my hometown. A life was lost. People witnessed it. It was like out of a bad movie, yet the pain still lingers like a bad dream. Facebook feeds flew with opinions. Social media arguments began to rise. News reports were tuned into and everyone had felt what happened. Regardless of the position you chose, pain was felt on both sides.
Reading comment after comment from defensive opinion writers leaves me with questions such as when did we become so heartless? When did we think that it was okay to speak bad about a family who just lost a loved one? When did we decide that humans are disposable? Because someone has mental illness their life is worth less? Because someone has misdemeanors in their past, their life isn’t as important?
We were each uniquely created. And in this life we each make choices, they either need to blessings are consequences.  Sometimes when someone chooses a path and they are no longer alive to change course the family is left with the brutal reality of its effects. We as a community may have our differences but this is not the time to see who can stand on the highest box and scream the loudest. This is the time where arms should be extended wider than before. This is the time where I love you should fall from the lips and how can I help should be the most talked about question. We talk about loving Jesus and wanting to be like him yet we wouldn’t be caught dead roughing the politically correct feathers of our inner circle.
My community is divided. Those who are not connected may not understand what it’s like for those who are. Either way, compassion never choose a side. Jesus never judged when he spoke life into those who needed him. Jesus never dangled a rap sheet and his disciples face. Jesus hung out with those the community said not to. Compassion is a gift that we have the power to give. It was Jesus who gave us the most incredible gift, his own life, and a compassionate way in which we did not deserve, so that we could live eternally.  How can we possibly repay or represent this compassion to the fullest?  I don’t know the answer to that question but my heart wants to spend a lifetime trying to figure it out.
Today I encourage you to do one compassionate thing to someone out of the blue. Ask God who needs a hug today. Ask Jesus to speak to you about who needs an encouraging word. When was the last time you sent a real card in the mail with an actual stamp?  Today might be a great day to do that.  Pray for your police departments. Pray for your fire departments. Pray for your local gyms and those in the community who are trying to protect serve and make us a healthier place to live.  Pray for our community members. Pray for the single moms and dads who struggle every day. Pray for the mentally ill and have compassion for the handicap. Lift up the elderly for they have lived a long life and seen many things. Pray that we can learn one thing from them to make ourselves better. Forgive each other the way Jesus forgives us. Bond tighter. Talk more. Listen more. Spread more love than opinion.
Jesus was real, raw and relevant back then and he still is in our lives today. Stand up! Show compassion and love above all else. Without love, our words and actions are nothing but noise.