I love this time of year! But not for the reasons you might expect. It’s not for the lights, the music or Santa…for me it’s the Anticipation! You see, I love that feeling! If Christmas were up to me…I would never open a gift…I would just leave it there…all wrapped up so I could look at it and wonder what was inside. I wouldn’t shake it or gently peel off the tape from the wrapping paper…I would just look at it…and that would make me happy.
Well, it’s Christmas time here in Antigua, Guatemala and the churches are celebrating Advent, which means “coming” in Latin. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, the streets are filled with people, bands and processions carrying statues of Mary, Jesus and various Angels. They shoot off fireworks in front of the procession as well as after it passes.
The anticipation of the birth of Christ and the celebrations that are to come in just a few weeks cannot be ignored. I catch myself being both joyous and humbled as the crowds of people pass by my door in celebration that God came thru with His promise.
Thinking about the fact that 400 years passed between the promise of the coming Lord (Malachi 3:1) and the news of His arrival (Matthew) humbles me on several levels. First of all…that’s a long time to wait… and secondly…it’s a long time to hold hope. I’m not sure I could have done it. But as always…God was true to His word.
So, as I think about “Anticipation” being one my favorite feelings, I begin to wonder where that feeling originates. I believe it originates with “Hope.” This may not be the correct definition, but this is what I believe. I believe Hope is the belief that something is good is coming and Anticipation is the feeling that is caused by Hope.
We don’t hear too much about Hope these days. Maybe it’s because many of us feel like we are in control of our life and circumstances and we feel like we don’t need it. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone needs Hope! I love this quote:
“Man can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.” – unknown
I believe it!
I have been working here in Guatemala for several years and living here for almost two. During that time, I’ve been involved in training pastors and business people, working in medical clinics and building stoves. All of that has been wonderful and I think we have made a positive impact on the community to some degree. But what I think has made the greatest difference is just being here… and lovin’ on people.
I think that just lovin’ on people gives them Hope. Hope that they are ok and that they will be ok. I think it provides a spark where Faith can grow. Faith that might lead them to do something that will improve their life, Faith that tomorrow might be better than today. Faith that God has not…and will not…abandoned them.
Yep, I think Hope is the spark to everything that is good. We need it…and we need more of us dishing it out to others in massive proportions.
So my prayer for all of us this Christmas season is to make a concerted effort to “love on people.” Anybody you can, wherever you can. Love on them with a smile, a pat on the back, a “good morning” or a “thank you.” Everytime you pass by that man or woman ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, drop some of your spare change in the bucket…not necessarily for them…but for you.
Everyone you can…wherever you can.
Give Hope this season…it costs you nothing…but its affect never goes unappreciated…or unnoticed.
I recently was going through some old notes I have taken along the way and found this little nugget. Many people have laid claim to its wisdom, from the Dalai Lama to George Carlin and others. Regardless…I believe wisdom is wisdom…and whomever created it is irrelevant…
Our responsibility is simply to share it…so here ya go..
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more,but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space, but not inner space.
We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air,but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer,
to quiet, to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.
A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight …or to just hit delete.
Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going
to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only
treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Remember to say, “I love you” to your partner as well as your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment, for someday that person will not be there again.
Give time to love, give time to speak and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
…and another thing… why not trying to smile more while you’re at it! 🙂
Sometimes this world seems just a little too difficult.
The things we see and witness, the pressures of family, finances and friendships, the differences in world views that are literally trying to rip us apart as a society are all constantly playing in out in our lives like a looped video. As a result, we often feel powerless, hopeless, frustrated and sad when we think of the days that are ahead of us. That feeling of “I can’t do anything about it” is the worst feeling we can have and it is the one thing we can’t allow ourselves to believe! We CAN do something! We ALL can do something! What can we do? We can choose to love!
We can choose to love those we don’t understand.
We can choose to love those we don’t agree with.
We can choose to love those that have wronged us or we fear will wrong us.
We can choose to love those that have different beliefs.
We can choose to love those that have different life experiences and expectations out of life.
We can choose to love those that are struggling and those that boast.
We can also choose to love those that may never know we love them.
All of this is within our power…
There are many people here in Antigua that are struggling for one reason or the other and as a result, they sit on the sidewalks and beg for handouts. These people have become “invisible” to most of the tourists and even mission teams that visit the city. They are routinely walked around, looked over and avoided at all cost. But the funny thing is…they have become “my peeps.”
Over the past few months here in Antigua, I have developed what is now becoming a little “street ministry.” Each day I’m in Spanish class from about 9am to 3pm. Then I hit the streets to get my workout in. (10,000 steps/day…thanks to the ever present reporting of fit-bit.) During my walk, I’ll go by and see “my peeps.” They are usually located at certain places in and around the city. Some are in the park, some sit on a sidewalk on a certain street. Some are on a street corner and some are just wandering around.
Once I find them I’ll just sit down with them and talk. Sometimes we’ll pray together, sometimes we’ll just talk about their day or their family or life, and sometimes… we’ll just sit. But the important thing is…they are no longer “invisible.” They are seen and we are friends. I truly love these people! Nothing makes me smile more than the time we get to spend together each day. They are a gift to me.
So I guess my point is this…there are people in our daily lives right now that deserve our attention…they deserve our time and they deserve our love. But they are not the easiest to love. Choosing love empowers us and puts life back into proper perspective. Sometimes it is not easy. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and it can sometimes be inconvenient…but it’s one of our only…and I believe our best option. It also provides a healing that this world most desperately needs…
We all can do something. We can all do this… Choose to love.
The time of giving and receiving of gifts. Some people love this exchange and other’s dread it. But I was wondering why we do it at all?
Why do we exchange gifts?
Some believe that God was the initial giver. He gave His Son to the world.
Some also believe in a wealthy bishop named St. Nicholas who secretly enjoyed giving gifts to people in need. A famous story about St. Nicholas, tells of a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. St Nicholas dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.
We all know how it feels to give to others. I think we are wired by God to enjoy it.
Recently, I was in Guatemala with Hope Ignited hosting a medical clinic and doing community development projects. We had a small team of 7 people and of that team, 3 people had never been on a trip like this before. So, I wanted to capture some of the highlights of that trip which I was able to experience.
The Greatest Payment Ever
We were made aware of a young father in the village that was dying of cancer and would soon leave a widow and several young children. Our team went to his home and found him in bed with a horrible multicolored tumor on his leg the size of a soccer ball.
The room was dark but we were able to discern that the man was in his early 40’s. The room had a stale stench of sickness that was indescribable. One member of our team was a doctor. Rachel Jamison, is a pediatrician and also Chuck Jamison’s daughter in law.
She examined the young man and spoke with his wife as we gathered around him in prayer. We laid hands on the man as Chuck anointed him with oil as a sign of divine love. Many in the team felt the loving presence of the Holy Spirit as we spent time just loving on this man and praying with his family. It was a very powerful and emotional moment for everyone.
As we left, walking up the hill toward our van, one of the man’s young daughters came rushing up to Rachel. With a big smile, she handed Rachel a single flower as a gift of thanks for caring for her father.
I know doctors make a lot of money…but I don’t think anything will ever top the value of that single flower.
Stove building / Life changing
We also visited the home of a widow and her 3 children, all under the age of 8 living in a “home” of corrugated metal and plastic scraps. Each morning she leaves her home at 5am to catch a bus to go to work washing produce in a nearby village and does not return home until 7:30pm. The children are left unattended with only a few pennies to buy a small bag of junk food to sustain them. Her “home” had a pile of rocks where she could cook and a bucket and a rock to wash clothes on.
One member of our team, Frank Gray, a soft spoken man that had never been out of the U.S., volunteered to help build an indoor stove for the family. He worked for two days with a Guatemalan masonry worker apart from the rest of the team. The work was dirty as they cleaned out a place for the stove. The area was full of spiders…which Frank is deathly afraid of! With language barriers between Frank and the mason, and under the supervision of countless curious children that were trying to understand why he was working so hard to provide a valuable stove in a shack for a woman he had never met or seen, Frank got it done.
After two days of hard work, we all gathered in the “home” to light the stove for the first time. The children all gathered around to watch with excitement and smiles from ear to ear…but the biggest smile among them all was the smile on the face of Frank.
We never saw the widow during the time we were there, but it was evident that her life would be better…and I think… so will Frank’s.
The Hugging Pharmacist
During our medical clinic, patients were registered and then sat in line to see one of three doctors that we had available to us. Once they had seen a doctor, they reported to our make-shift pharmacy that was staffed by Hope Ignited’s Chuck Jamison and a Guatemala first timer…Scott Helfrich.
On several occasions, I would walk in the pharmacy and I would see Scott with a huge smile on his face doing his best to converse with each patient to fill the prescription the doctor had ordered. It ranged from vitamins and antacids to worm medicine, antibiotics, ibuprofen and sinus medication. Scott would get eyeball to eyeball with each patient and explain the dosage and frequency of each medication in his “makeshift spanish”. But at the completion of each prescription, Scott would open up his arms and embrace the person.
It was the most beautiful and natural display of love for one person to another that I’ve seen. No doubt, each of the 388 patients that we saw over the two days felt better when they left…and I can’t help but to think it was largely due to our “Hugging Pharmacist”.
No Pressure Blood Pressure
As part of our medical clinic, we were required to obtain each patients temperature and blood pressure. I was responsible for getting the temperature of each person. It was an easy job that only required a gentle swipe of an instrument across the forehead of each person. The blood pressure job was a bit more involved. The volunteer for that job was another first timer, Joyce Fownes.
In Guatemala, most people have an elevated blood pressure due to genetics, but mostly diet. To see a patient with 180/100 is pretty typical.
Joyce was to record the blood pressure of each of the 388 patients in addition to many of the family members and children that came with each patient. When I took a break from my temperature reading responsibilities, I noticed how Joyce was taking each person’s blood pressure.
She would kneel on the hard concrete floor in front of each seated patient and gently place the cuff and stethoscope on their arm as she took the reading. I watched the eyes of each person as they looked at Joyce take the readings. I can only imagine what they thought of this woman from the U.S. that was kneeling before them on the hard ground serving them.
It was such a beautiful example of what Jesus would have probably done if He was there…and when I think about it…He probably was.
These are just a few of the highlights that I observed during our week in Guatemala. I have to say that the team of “first timers” was amazing.
So, when I think about the week, I know we went there to serve the people of Guatemala…but I know without a doubt…we were the ones that received the greater gift. Our hearts were filled with compassion, love and a deeper understanding of our place in this world.
All of this brings me back to Christmas.
Remember, the story of the three kings. They received word that the moment they had been waiting for had arrived. They traveled to this place of promise and brought gifts to bestow upon the one who would change the world forever. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh… all things of great value to give as a gift to the newborn child.
Whether shepherd or king, their encounter with the Christ child was the same. They left Bethlehem different than when they arrived. They returned home changed, with hearts full of exceeding joy.
What I find so interesting is that even the wise men took a new path: “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:12, NIV)
That is why I love trips like this…I believe you get to experience Christ…and once you experience Christ, your life can never be the same. And your response is always praise.
Oh come, let us adore Him.
I pray that we can all do that this Holiday Season.
I remember as a kid a phrase that was commonly used after a fight of some kind. A person would say, “He really got the best of him”. Meaning that somebody most likely got his butt kicked. But this is not the context of the question that I’ve been thinking about lately.
My question is literally…who gets the best of you?
Who is it in your life that makes you the “best” you possible? You know the one, the you that you really like…the you that are the happiest, the funniest, the most insightful, the most thoughtful. The you that you are really proud of being. When you are in their company, life seems to flow almost without effort and you routinely feel “filled” by having spent time together. This is what I’m referring to as being “the best of you”.
So who in your life gets it?
Are you surprised by your answer? Is it the one you feel “should” get the best of you? Many people I’ve had this conversation with have responded with answers like: My job, my dog or cat or even…I keep the best of me for myself! What a shame!
So what do you do if you don’t like your answer?
What if you’re not giving the best of you to the person in your life that needs it?
My answer would be that whatever you want in life…give it first and give it consistently and give it without ever thinking you’ll ever get it back.
Give away Love, Encouragement, Support, Understanding…give them away and don’t expect an acknowledgement, a thank you, a change in attitude or behavior. Just give that which you want. Stay focused on only on the giving…because it’s in the giving of ourselves that we become our best.
You’ve only got one “best”…so don’t give it to who deserves it…give it to who needs it.