Coming Full Circle

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a movie person.  It’s a rare day that I feel the urge to sit down and watch a movie completely through.  It’s even rarer for me to be able to quote movie lines.

So you can imagine my surprise when I started hearing a random movie quote in my head during the Sunday morning sermon.

If you ask them, they will come.

Okay, so it’s not an exact movie quote, but it’s pretty close. Even I knew it was very similar to what actor Kevin Costner heard in the movie Field of Dreams.

I don’t even know if I’ve ever watched Field of Dreams from start to finish. I seem to recall the main character (played by Costner) heard a mysterious voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come.”  The IT was a baseball field which Costner built in the middle of a bunch of corn (I think). I’m not really sure who HE is, but a bunch of famous ball players from days gone by show up in the middle of the field to play a game after the baseball field is completed. I guess one of them was the HE that Costner was looking for or something.

See, I really am no good when it comes to playing the movie game. My mind just doesn’t work that way. Hopefully, I’m close enough to the ballpark though with my pathetic attempt at summarization.

(Yep …. pun intended.)

While I may not be able to fully explain the Field of Dreams quote, I do know the exact meaning of what I heard at church on Sunday, as well as who said it to me.

Sunday morning I almost didn’t go to church.  A messy house and the possibility of another family coming over for lunch after the worship service on top of an aching foot had me debating whether or not I had a good reason to stay home. In the end, I decided I could wear my nicest flip-flops to church (and thus ease my foot pain), throw food into the crockpot for lunch, and enlist the help of several children to surface clean the worst spots of the house. If I had chosen to stay home, I would have missed out on a huge blessing.

Early in the service, I noticed an unfamiliar family walk into the sanctuary, and felt an immediate tugging in my heart, letting me know I needed to go meet this couple. So, during the short break between our music service and the Bible teaching, I made my way over and introduced myself to them. David and Heather Evans told me they were missionaries from New York, here for a short 3 week stay in Cajun Country. I found out they homeschool, and since I do as well, suggested that perhaps we could have a park day while they were in the area. I figured that would be that, and headed back to my seat for the sermon.

But things didn’t go as I thought, for there was the Voice in my head that started talking to me almost as soon as Pastor George began to preach.

Go back after the service, and talk to Heather and David. Invite them for lunch. If you ask them, they will come. 

Mentally, I started to resist. “I’m sure they have plans already. Besides, they don’t know me at all. What sort of folks would come over to eat with a random family? It will be embarrassing if they turn me down. And what if I don’t have enough food …”

Again, the Voice whispered:

Invite them for lunch. If you ask them, they will come.  … They will come. … Ask. They will come.

Sighing, I leaned over to Jon and whispered, “I met this couple during the greeting time. I think God wants me to ask them to come eat lunch with us. What do you think?”

Without any hesitation, Jon said, “I think you better ask them.”  A moment later, he leaned back over and said, “Good thing the Guidry’s aren’t coming to eat with us after all. At least we’ll have enough food.”   Up until that point, I had not known Brandon and Neta’s family wouldn’t be joining us.

So it was settled. Only, I still felt nervous and uneasy.  Not so much about how they would answer my invitation.  After all, I knew how it was going to end. The Holy Spirit had already told me. And yet, there was the worry and doubt. What if they didn’t like the food I had prepared? Our family has a strange diet, especially for this area. No gluten. No dairy. What would we talk about? I didn’t know anything about them, other than the information I had learned during our brief introduction. Would our kids get along? Their oldest was the age of our youngest.

Following the service, Jon and I immediately walked over.  What happened next was completely unexpected.  After I introduced Jon, he began to talk with David about their missionary work. David told us how he worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, particularly with the sport of ice hockey.

My first thought was one of disbelief. Ice hockey in Louisiana? Lafayette is actually home to the Ice Gators, a  minor league pro hockey team. While they have plenty of fans in the area, I don’t know a lot of kids who participate in ice hockey.  It sort of reminded me of my 90 year old grandfather, who upon joining the US Army during WWII was immediately shipped off to Colorado where he was trained as a medic in the snow ski patrol.  Here he was, a young Louisiana boy, who had never climbed a mountain or put skis on his feet, trying to save the lives of others while doing both of those things.

The very next thought to come into my brain was, “Why does ice hockey ministry sound familiar to me? Don’t I know someone else who does this too?” Then it hit me. I did know another family who shared Christ through ice hockey.  So I said, “You know, I think I know some folks who do something similar. They live in North Carolina, though.”

David said, “Really? Well, we have some ministry partners in North Carolina. Can I ask who you know?”

“The Wagners. Scott and Kristin.”

“You are kidding me!” He gasped. “You know Scott Wagner? I work with Scott! How do you know him?”

Heather and Jon stood there gawking.  I laughed.  It was almost too absurd to be true … and yet it was.

I had first met Scott and Kristin at Gum Branch Baptist Church in Hinesville, Georgia. In fact, I think Scott was the first person I met at the church.  I had only been in town for 3 days. I had my two boys, ages 3 and 1, and was seven months pregnant with Julia. My family had moved into a rental home, but our furniture hadn’t yet been delivered due to a delay with the Army movers. When the Wagners found out that our furniture wouldn’t be delivered for nearly a month, they rounded up several chairs, a small dining table, a couple of air mattresses, and even a small TV for us to use. Kristin invited me over to wash clothes, so that I wouldn’t have to drag two toddlers to a laundromat.

I could rave for hours about the Wagner Family, and how they blessed me and my family immensely during our three years of life in Georgia.  Joel loved their son Josh, who was a year or so older. In fact, for years whenever he would write a story for school, he used the pen name “Josh Terry” a combination his two favorite people on earth at that time, Josh Wagner and his Papa, my father Malcolm Terry.  And Tori Wagner, their daughter, had a special relationship with Nathan.  For most of his young childhood, Nathan expected every babysitter to be exactly like Tori, and he was always disappointed when they weren’t.  While I’ve only really kept up with the Wagners through Facebook in recent years, the memory of their Christ-like love to our family has stuck with me for the past decade.

With a smile, I said to my new friends, “Well, I was already planning to ask you to join us for lunch, but now I feel like I know you so you must come eat with us!”

Heather said, “Oh, we’d love to  … but  we kinda have a special diet.  We don’t eat gluten.”

“That’s perfect” Jon said, looking at me with a knowing grin, ” We eat gluten-free too.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just like the Holy Spirit told me, David, Heather and their four beautiful kids did come to our house for lunch. We enjoyed a great visit, which lasted most of the afternoon and included sharing our favorite God stories. I felt immediately comfortable with them, just as I had with the Wagners a decade ago.

I’m grateful to the Lord, who brings us full circle, through blessings and difficulties and back to blessings.  It was Him who, on a Sunday morning in Georgia, introduced me to the Wagner Family. He was with me as I suffered through a divorce. He blessed me with a new husband, and used a medical crisis in his life to force us to follow a gluten-free diet.  And brought it all full circle on another Sunday morning ten years later, when I heard His whispers in my head, meet the Evans Family and feasted with them on the encouragement of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

What’s your God-story this week?

Feel free to share, because there is nothing more encouraging than recognizing God in the little and the big things of life.

Something More than a Half-Hearted Love

I’ve got a weird feeling in my heart. It’s a lump of grief without tears, an uncomfortable tickle urging me to cough, a thick feeling I”d like to swallow away and yet when I try I find it lingers on in the back of my throat. All over my Facebook feed, I’ve been reading about World Vision’s decision to begin employing homosexuals in an effort to unify the church. Jon and I sponsor 3 children through World Vision.

Sigh.  Now what?

This question has been floating around my head since I first learned the news of World Vision’s change of policy. Do we continue giving to World Vision? Does their policy on homosexuality truly matter in the long run as we aren’t basing our family’s theology off of World Vision? What happens if I stop sending our financial gifts to World Vision? Will those 3 beautiful girls in the photos stop receiving services? I pondered about what I should do in response to this new information.  Surely, by partnering with World Vision and giving financially to their programs, I am loving the “least of these” … Right?

Figuring it was too early in the morning for such deep thoughts and wanting to ease my stress, I decided to check my email.  But doing so only made my heart ache worse, for in one of the emails I read about Wesley and his story.                                                      ( http://mad.ly/4bca94 )

Wesley ... wanting a family; waiting in China.
Wesley … wanting a family; waiting in China.

Wesley isn’t an orphan exactly. He’s an abandoned child. Left at the gate of an orphanage by his family at age six … no note, no explanation given.  Just a boy, alone.  He will turn 14 in August … at which point he will age out of the system, no longer able to be adopted, destined to live his life without a family.

After reading about this boy “whom no one cared for,”my instant thought was to pray for some other person to come love him. And then, like a small shockwave to my soul, I heard a whisper in my heart, saying, “What about you? How will you love my sheep? Are you willing to do more than give a little bit of half-hearted love?”

Quite honestly, my involvement with World Vision has been just that … half-hearted. Oh, a couple of times a week I pause to pray for Samanise, Manahel and Julian by name, if I don’t forget. Each month the money flows out of my bank account, never really missed.

Somehow it feels empty, this giving without engagement. There’s no cost to me really.  Even though I do pay out $100 or so a month, it’s rather easy come, easy go money.  I don’t even know the exact amount. I rarely think of it. I just pay and go about my own business.

How is this loving someone else in the name of Christ?

Please. Don’t misunderstand me or my heart this morning. Giving is wonderful. God expects us to give, even give sacrificially. I am grateful for those people who have poured into my life, often financially or materially, when I needed it. I believe whole-heartedly that God loves a cheerful giver. There is nothing wrong with financially supporting ministries and it is something my family is blessed to be able to do regularly.

Yet deep down I know that for me the act of giving money to World Vision is no more loving than giving away my old, discarded clothes to Goodwill is an act of love.

So why do I bother? Perhaps to feel better about myself? Maybe to convince myself and others that I really do care?

The Bible says that Christians will be known by their love. (John 13:35)  So why is it that most days I don’t feel loving? I feel a lot of things: stress over money, worry about raising my kids right, concern for the direction my nation is heading. But it saddens me to think I don’t really feel loving towards others, especially people who aren’t in my little world, which revolves mostly around me and my activities.

This year, my family has been working to memorize the love chapter of the Bible.  I’ve always enjoyed the flow of this passage of scripture. Normally, the rhythm of the words lilt along, leaving pleasant sorts of thoughts in my mind.

1 Corinthians 13: 1, 3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. … If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Not this morning. Today the words stung, prickling my heart, mostly because I know what love looks like:

Reid & Eli, Dec. 2013
Reid & Eli, Dec. 2013

It looks like my brother Reid and his wife Heather, who put money, time and tears into adopting Eli.  Now, our entire family is richer for this blessing in ways I cannot even begin to describe.

Uncle Curt in Uganda
Uncle Curt in Uganda

It looks like my Uncle Curt and Aunt DeDe, who picked up and moved to Africa to serve as missionaries. They left behind aging parents, beautiful grandchildren, and a comfortable life, simply because they know Christ and wanted to share His love with those who didn’t.

It looks like my friend Marcia, who I’ve never met face-to-face, but if I did I’d immediately hug her neck and tell her what an inspiration she is to me. Instead of just talking big about being pro-life on social media, Marcia and her husband are actually stepping out in faith by helping one young pregnant woman choose life by adopting her baby. (Here’s the link to her story:  http://marcia-underhiswings.blogspot.com/2014/03/happy-anniversary-were-having-baby.html )

Love isn’t half-hearted, and it isn’t empty either. It is action. It is involved. It is compassion and truth mixed together. While love isn’t all about fuzzy, feel-good moments, it fills the giver and the receiver up and makes a mark on the soul.

Because I know what love looks like, I am challenged to do more than give a little half-hearted love. I ask for your prayers as I seek for God to reveal to me how I can love others with His love.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’