“More than you can ‘imagine'”

I was driving home last night after a full week of painting. When you are in home renovation, you like it when every once in a while, you can get up off your knees from laying tile and do something different…like painting. My partner Matt and I have been a bit slow over the month of January, and so, this short three week project has given us an opportunity to ease into Spring before we get REALLY busy. Painting; for me, is relaxing. I like cutting in…that means doing the trim work around the ceiing, fixtures and baseboards. I like taking a brush and artfully skimming the sides of my brush against the fine edge between the top of the wall and the ceiling. The tapered bristles (preferably a China bristle brush) individually deliver the paint right up to the micro edge without touching the ceiling…leaving a perfectly straight clean line. Matt comes behind me and rolls the walls and when we are finished, the room is transformed. Old dirty grey or brown walls are now white, clean and fresh. The whole room looks brand new. We have a happy customer.

But last night, I was just happy the week was over. I was covered with paint spatters on my shirt, my pants, my shoes…even my face. I was a mess. I sat in my car on I-24 heading North and then, cutting across Old Hickory Boulevard I would drive about 8 miles, head south on I-65 and turn onto Moores Lane, where my wife and I live. I was in that kind of “end of week stupor” where I was somewhat numb from being active on my feet all day. I was ready for a shower, dinner and a relaxing evening with my wife Mary Ann. My mind was disengaged from anything important, in fact, I had just asked Alexa to play a song that I hadn’t heard in a long time. “Angela’s Theme” by Bob James…the old theme song to “Taxi” I was hoping that the week wouldn’t end before I had a chance to encounter someone in a special way.

As I took the exit off the Interstate, I pulled into the left turning lane to head west toward home and stopped at the light. There waiting on the shoulder of the exit ramp was a lady with a sign asking for money. Contrary to what I had been told, (which was, “Never give money to “these” people because they will just buy alcohol or drugs), I try to always give something. It isn’t the amount of money, it is the opportunity to make eye contact and talk with the person. You never know…it might be an opportunity for God to show up.

I rolled down my window and told her, before she took a step, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money today”. She smiled and out of her jacket popped the head of a little white Westy Terrier. The woman said, “It’s okay, smiles are just as good.” I asked the dogs name and she told me but I forget the name just now. Taking a page from an old friend named Joe Smith, I said, “hey, listen, we don’t have much time…what is your greatest need…I assume it’s money…right?” To my surprise, she said, “No…I need prayer for my son, who is going to have open heart surgery in a week.” Time was ticking…I asked her to come over to my car and asked if I could place my hand on her arm to pray. She nodded.

“Lord, I ask in Jesus name for my friend’s son. I ask you to heal is body, heal his heart, provide the money, provide care providers to surround him. Nurse him back to health. I pray for a miracle in Jesus name.” She smiled and said, “That is better than a thousand dollar gift Mister!” I was surprised the light hadn’t changed green with the turning arrow yet. She said, “I sure love your little car!” I drive a little orange Pontiac Solstice.

I found change, in the front pocket of my seat, and dredged it out and placed it in her hand. I said, “I forgot I have this!” then asked, “What is your name?” She said, “Angela”.  The light turned green, and I shouted to her as I began to move, “I’ll continue to pray!” She placed her hand on her heart and mouthed the words, “Thank you!”

I tell you that story because before it ever happened, I had asked God that day for an opportunity to minister His love to someone…and then she showed up…Angela.

Something great is going to take place today in your life. Something exciting is waiting for you and I the moment we walk out our front doors! Weekends are great…they help us to rest up for the coming week. We get to go to church…(Wow…just found our new church here in Leiper’s Fork, and it is SO good!), but weekends can entice you to believe that going to work is drudgery, which is completely opposite to what God has planned for us.

God planned for our lives to be a constant adventure, at least that is my experience. And depending on how you decide to see your work, it can either be an exciting adventure, brimming with opportunity to change people OR you will “fish your wish” of a day filled with problems, work you hate, and another day doing something other than what YOU want to do.

Every morning I have to make the decision to rejoice and be glad in the day that is before me. I HAVE TO DECIDE! Otherwise, the world will decide FOR me, and that is something I will not allow. I will not allow the world to make me cynical and angry about going to a job that provides the money that pays my bills, that allows me to give to the Lord, and bless others.

We have to get out of the self centered mode of living and be happy that God is for us, wants to bless us and use our “sanctified imagination” to see in our minds, a day filled with joy, laughter, service and profitable labor. Scripture states, “As a man thinks within his heart…so is he!’” Proverbs 23:7. Your imagination was designed by God to be CREATIVE! Everything in life as two creations…the one we first see in our minds and heart, just like an architect building a building on paper. The second is making that mental creation a reality in the flesh. A day that we will look back upon tonight when our heads hit our pillows and we say, “Thanks Lord for such a great day!”

My coach in High School gymnastics was a pretty important man. He was on the United States Olympic rules committee for Gymnastics. He was a committed winner. One of the things he would have us to practice was to see ourselves on the apparatus whether it was rings, parallel bars, high bar…whatever it was in our minds. He told us to imagine going through our routine flawlessly. He said, “I want you to see it over and over and over again in your minds.”

He asked us to IMAGINE doing a flawless routine on the actual apparatus whether it was a home or away meet, because when we would see it in our minds, then our bodies would not feel out of place when we were in a gymnastics meet. We would have visited that place BEFORE we ever got there! It was revolutionary! He was asking us to create the score, BEFORE we ever performed the actual routine. And you know what…it worked seamlessly. John Hinds taught me how to use my sanctified imagination before I even knew what it was. As a result, we won 13 out of 17 State gymnastics titles!

We have to have a look at things we cannot see every single morning. We need to get alone, in a quiet place and ask God to help us to see the day before us as HE wants it to be. Imagine the feelings of joy and hope and faith and love when we see our co-workers and bosses. Feel God’s pleasure when we act rather than “react” when something difficult confronts us.

Not only that, but we can imagine coming home to our families, spouses and loved ones and meeting the issues of their days with ease and wisdom. I’m telling you, this is not an experiment from some Sufi mystic…this is straight out Bible! God, the creator of the Universe, saw an earth where there was none and spoke it into being. What words do YOU speak every day and what wishes do YOU fish? “Life and death are in the power of the tongue and he who loves it will eat it’s fruit!’ Proverbs 18:21

“From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is satisfied; he is filled with the product of his lips” Proverbs 18:20

Even though I didn’t know who it would be, I saw Angela before I ever met her. I knew someone would come along…and I was not taken off guard with nothing to say. ARE YOU READY with something to say today? Are you ready? I will tell you straight out my friend, God will not use you because you are some good old 50 year Christian…He will use a 2 day old Christian who is humble and prepared over one who thinks God can’t change the world without him! God uses good attitudes, not crusty bitter people who are annoyed that God brought someone into their path to help. He will overlook those people all day long!!!

I don’t care if you are a pastor, world leader or television personality. God overlooks personalities that try to overshadow HIM! He wants people who will call out to him, take the time to “imagine God’s possibilities for today” and be ready for water to be turned into wine!

Keep Your Eyes Open in 2019

” I glanced at the woman who was waiting and was going to make a silly comment when I saw that her eyes were red and her face was flushed, like she had been crying. “

Doug Pacheco

I was once on my way to a meeting, in fact, I think I was going to church. It was a pretty early on a Sunday morning and I was stopping at a supermarket to get some kind of supply we needed  and we were running behind schedule so I hurried in to find what I needed and then dash out to get to where we were going.

When I entered the store it was early, maybe 7 am.

As I walked into the store, it seemed empty, aside from the woman in the check-out lane, (this was before you could do “self-check- out”, there didn’t seem to be any one but this one customer checking out.) I always try to notice the “lay of the land” when I walk into a place and on this morning there was just bad elevator music and maybe a handful of people doing their shopping. I think I was irritated that I was late and I was trying to hurry.

I noticed the employee at the cash register was trying to scan a greeting card as I walked by her but I heard her complaining as I was within earshot, “I don’t know why this card won’t scan!”  I just shrugged it off and went to get the things I’d come for because I figured it didn’t concern me so I forgot about it. Allow me to say for the record, that it is my personal belief and my personality to think that EVERYTHING concerns me.

It’s not that I think I am all that and a bag of chips; RATHER, I have learned throughout my life, that if I saw it, heard it or in anyway experienced something with my five senses, that I experienced it for a reason. Sometimes that’s been good, many times it has not been so good.

I took a few minutes to make sure I had made the best buy, compared prices with a couple of other things and headed for check out. To my surprise that employee was STILL trying to scan the card. I took my place in line behind the woman customer who was patiently waiting for the card to finally scan. Evidently she had gone back to the greeting card section to select another identical card and IT would not scan.

As I said earlier I was irritated for being late and this didn’t help. I wondered why this woman had gotten this dumb card that wouldn’t scan. “This is just inconvenient!” I said in my little self-centered head. I kept fuming until I began to realize this was just too strange that the card would not scan into the register. I wondered why the cashier didn’t just type in the bar code number. I glanced at the woman who was waiting and was going to make a silly comment when I saw that her eyes were red and her face was flushed, like she had been crying. Isn’t it amazing how insensitive we become when we are focused entirely on ourselves?

I then noticed she was trying to buy a sympathy card and I thought, “Oh no, someone close to her has died.” I have learned over time that, at least with me, God only gives me enough information to work with an no more. This is because I tend to move too quickly and impulsively if He gives me more information. I knew what I had to do, but I turned and looked behind me to see that at least 5 other people were now in line behind me. I looked because I didn’t want to get “caught” praying for some woman in the check-out line. The first thought that entered my mind was, “Hey stupid, these people are going to think you’re crazy if you pray for this woman…don’t do it!” That’s another reason God never tells me more than I need to know… because I would chicken out if I had seen the situation sooner.

Too late. I knew if I spoke up then I would just have to go through with it. So, I touched her shoulder and said, “I’m sorry, did you have someone close to you pass away?” She looked at me with big tears in her eyes and explained that her friend in another state had a son who had drown. She was sending a card to her to tell her how sorry she was. She was distraught that she couldn’t be with her friend to console her, but she said she was getting a flight in the morning to go and be with her.

I said, “Look, you don’t have to let me, but could I just pray for you?”  She shook her head yes and I began to pray. I know I should have bowed my head and probably closed my eyes, but if I had I would not have seen what happened next. I prayed and as soon as I said, “Amen” …and I’m not kidding you right then the card scanned and made a “bleep” sound. Everyone in line, including the cashier said, a big   “Amen!” Off she went into the morning darkness into her car and hurried home.

After I got into my car I stopped and thought for a minute about what had just happened. I had been in a hurry, I was agitated that the lady in front of me had bought a dumb card that wouldn’t scan and God had to grab my attention away from myself to say, “Dude, you almost missed that!” I realized that this was not the first time that I had been so self-centered that I had almost missed an opportunity to  bring the  remarkable into someone’s life. After all of the things that had happened in my own life…obvious divine outreaches to me by God, I had been almost too busy to notice my chance to give back.

And so my message for 2019 today for you… is to BE READY and to BE WILLING! God will not use the big name EVANGELISTS anymore to reach the world, it will be through people like you and me. God’s people are EVERYWHERE and if we will just be willing to step out of our comfort zones and love people, you will see miracles in unremarkable places. Make it a New Year’s promise to yourself.