A Voice in the Night

There is a physical realm, and there is a spiritual realm. What is impossible in the former is sometimes completely possible in the latter. That is because each realm is governed by a completely different set of laws. Most people live their entire lives under the influence of physical laws with little or no thought about what goes on beyond the veil. But sometimes a normal person has an experience where the division between those realms is blurred and something physical crosses over and does what would otherwise be impossible.

This is a true story of just such an event. And the reason that I know beyond any doubt that it is true is because it happened to the most normal person I know…me.

I am quite passionate about working with the homeless, so for the past six years I have spent one day a week teaching, counseling and working alongside the homeless at an amazing facility here in Joplin, Missouri called Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission.

A few of the great workers in the recycling center. Soon we will move from this 700 square foot room into a new 7000 square foot facility!

Finding value in what others no longer want is also a passion of mine, and one of the many ways that manifests itself is through recycling. About four years ago I began working on an idea that would combine the two. I wanted to create the ultimate win-win; something that would benefit the homeless, the ministry, the environment, local businesses, and individuals. It took about two years to get it going, and since day one it has grown…and grown…and grown. The model didn’t just “work”, it met a serious need in our community.  So much so that we didn’t dare advertise it or we would be inundated with the broken appliances, old computers, rusting lawnmowers and other recyclable goods that were cluttering the homes and businesses in our area.

It was just a few weeks ago on a Monday (July 30th to be precise) and I was working at Watered Gardens in the WorthShop (where the homeless and less fortunate work to earn food, a bed for the night, or even furniture for their new home). I love organizing, and by the time I get there each week, there is no shortage of that to be done.

Weaving among the workers, I was sorting totes of miscellaneous items and grouping various metals and circuit boards, when I heard an odd thud behind me. I turned around and noticed a commotion but couldn’t see what was going on. Moving closer to two of the worktables, I looked over them and saw the source. Mandy* was thrashing around on the floor, in the midst of a grand mal seizure.

The first thing I did was make sure my son was not in the room. A seizure can be quite an intense sight.

As her boyfriend Brad tried to keep her from injuring herself, she jerked and flailed with immense force, breaking the metal leg of a table in half with a single kick. Various liquids used in the copper purifying process slid down the broken table and spilled everywhere. Staff and workers frantically tried to get the table moved and the mess cleaned up. All the while Brad sat with Mandy, cradling her head, trying to hold her still.

“Come back to me, baby. Come back to me, baby.” he kept saying, gently kissing her on her forehead.

I walked closer to the table separating us and began doing the only thing I knew to do in such a situation…pray. I didn’t simply ask God to make the seizure stop, because I had a sense that this might not be the result of strictly medical issues. If you have spent a lot of time with those who have used a lot of hardcore drugs, especially crystal meth, you know (because once they trust you, they will tell you) that meth opens a doorway to the spiritual realm. They come face to face with creatures most people prefer to believe do not exist.

As she writhed around on the floor for one minute, then another, then another, some of the subjects I have studied guided my prayers. God is omniscient. He knows your thoughts better than you do. But demons possess no such power. So for your prayers to directly have an effect, they have to hear them. It doesn’t have to be loud, it just has to be uttered. And even though none of the people around me knew I was praying, if my sense was right, then they could.

Multiple staff members were now keeping a perimeter around her, someone brought in a cool wet rag, and Brad still held her. “Come back to me baby. I love you. Come back”. And Mandy just kept seizing.

Her eyes remained closed and she hadn’t been conscious of anything, when all of the sudden she used all of her power to arch her back, look behind her and lock eyes with me. She held my gaze, then shot out her hand towards me like she was drowning. Her eyes were more desperate than any I had ever seen, and she looked like she was being dragged down to hell, reaching out for me to save her.

For a few moments she reached, our eyes still locked, then she collapsed and the seizure renewed. Her eyes clinched, and her hands looked like gnarled claws. I just kept praying.

After another minute or two, the seizure gradually subsided, but she was still not with us. Now she was finally still, even though she was unnaturally rigid. Brad gradually started lifting her into a sitting position. Then she opened her eyes.

Mandy didn’t hug her boyfriend. She didn’t even acknowledge all of the people standing around her. Mandy didn’t speak. The second her eyes opened, they began scanning the room. She turned and looked behind her, and again her eyes locked with mine.

Both of her hands shot out, and I reached out mine. She gripped it tightly.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she repeated with tears streaming down her face.

I walked around the table and helped her boyfriend gently lift her still rigid body into a chair, and I stood there with my hand on her shoulder.

“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” she said to everyone around her, visibly embarrassed about the scene she had caused. Mandy then lifted her head and gazed to the heavens and as she wept said, “God, I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” For the next two minutes I held my hand on her shoulder and Mandy, with eyes lifted, confessed one sin after another, interspersed with cries of “God, please forgive me! Please forgive me!”

When she had said what she needed to, Mandy looked back at us, the tears stopped, and she put her hand on mine. She still couldn’t walk, so I helped Brad support her and take her to another room where she could sit in peace. We got her into a chair and I quietly left the room.

I worked by myself for the next hour, quiet and pensive, trying to figure out how to process the previous 15 minutes. I knew something out of the ordinary had occurred, I just had no idea what. Whatever it was, it obviously hadn’t affected any of the other people in the room. They were all back at their tasks. As I continued to search for an explanation, I resolved myself to the fact that I would most likely never get one. Fortunately, I was wrong.

The next Monday I was working in the WorthShop again and walked out into the hall and Mandy walked by. She looked…different. She came up to me with a big smile on her face and gave me a hug. She had never hugged me before. I asked her how she was doing and again she smiled.

“I’m doing great! I feel good. And I’ve been keeping my system clean,” she said giving me a wink.

“You look like you’re doing good!” I said. “I’ve been praying for you.”

“Thank you.”

We started to walk away and I stopped. I just had to know. Again, I honestly didn’t expect to learn anything about what happened the previous Monday. We rarely get to see behind the veil, and I didn’t expect to get that chance now.

“Mandy…may I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Why did you look for me as soon as you came out of your seizure and thank me?”

Her eyes turned serious.

“Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. I really thought I was going to die. Then I could hear the words of your prayer. I could hear them clear as day. I grabbed onto them, then I started praying with you. I took hold of them and that was what pulled me back. It was a miracle. Thank you.”

I looked to my left, where my 9 year-old son Thatcher was standing, and he looked up at me with wide eyes. I had been praying so silently that I couldn’t even hear my words; but someone in the midst of a seizure could hear every word.

I gave her another hug and we went our separate ways.

I have seen Mandy every week since then and she keeps improving. The last time I saw her she had started back on her medications and felt better than she had in a long time.

Most of our lives we work hard, trying to be a blessing to others, hoping we can truly make a difference. If that sounds like you, may I tell you something? Don’t stop. You may never get to see the results of your acts of kindness, or the answers to many of your prayers, but you ARE making a difference. I promise you. Your kind deeds performed on this side of the veil aren’t limited by physical laws. Love, kindness, and prayers, in the spiritual realm can accomplish more than you and I are physically capable of, and every once in a while, God takes your simple act and does the impossible.

 

*Out of respect, I changed the names of those involved.

 

A True Warrior’s Motivation

My brother-in-law set aside his life as a successful entrepreneur to serve the people and the country he loves. Make sure that whatever you are fighting for is inspired by love. It is the only drive that is inexhaustible and results in a truly fulfilling life.

Anger, resentment and revenge are motivators that burn hot. But they also burn out fast and take you with them. But when love is acted on, it is refueled by the responses of others and your own internal response. As far as motivators go, it is the only renewable resource.

Jordan Meme

The Critical Connection between Optimism and Entrepreneurship

If you are currently pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor and are not optimistic about its outcome, please allow me, as your grossly underpaid business adviser to give you some advice. Don’t do it!

“Well thanks a lot for the encouraging words, Mr. Free Business Adviser Oh, and by the way….you’re fired!”

Not so fast, Mrs. Pessimistic Entrepreneur! Give me a chance to explain, and hopefullyHalf Fool even convert you from the Dark Side to the Light.

“Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit is…an optimist at heart. The desire to start a business, in and of itself, is optimistic. It’s a belief that you can do something to improve your situation and make a positive change in the world.” Ara and Nick, the authors of “The Lemonade Stand” believe that optimism is so critical for an entrepreneur that they make it the first of 13 principles explored in the book.

Your perspective and attitude as you build a new business will be one of the greatest determinants of its success. It is often the enthusiasm and amazing determination of a business founder that inspires the first few customers to take a chance and pay for his or her services. If that spark is lacking when you approach people, don’t expect them to believe in something that you don’t.

So if you do have pessimistic tendencies, does that mean that you are doomed to be a business failure?! I, with all of the authority of a free business adviser, can confidently assure you that you are not.

Here are a few steps you can take to start improving your attitude and perspective:

1.  Consume the good stuff!

Captain Optimism
Your attitude affects far more than your business life. It even affects your late night superhero battles that nobody knows about.

This is not a plea to encourage you to start drinking expensive wine. If you are going to change how you think, you have to change what you hear and read. You can start by replacing your gansta’ rap (gangsters are cocky NOT optimistic) with great podcasts from very successful (and yes, optimistic) entrepreneurs.

I daily consume the wisdom of the EntreLeadership podcast, The Brian Buffini Show, The Ken Coleman Show, and others. I can do it when I’m driving or working outside, so it takes no time away from other projects.They are a lot of fun, allow me to learn from amazing businessmen and women, and I get a lot of great book recommendations. If you want some from me, feel free to ask. I always have a book with me, so any time I have to wait, I get to read.

2.  Put on a pair of “entrepreneur shades”
Have you ever presented a great idea to someone and all they did was tell you all of the

Persol
Just imagine that the word “Entrepreneur” is neatly placed on the side. My wife does my graphics and she ain’t here. I tried, but it looked pathetic. No, I’m not being pessimistic!

obstacles and reasons your idea won’t work? Don’t be that guy! Every business idea encounters obstacles. But instead of viewing those as road blocks, with your new fancy sunglasses, you will see them as detours. And with each detour, you have the opportunity to make improvements in your business.

I recently helped a homeless shelter start a recycling facility. Initially I wanted to start with electronics, but after one meeting with an expert in the industry, I knew it would cost a fortune and take a really long time. There are so many regulations and certifications needed! But rather than getting discouraged, I set that idea on a mental shelf, and pursued a far more simple type of recycling to start with.

And the electronics recycling? We now do that too. All of those “obstacles” were wiped away with a single signature, when a major electronics recycling company saw what we were doing, loved it, and allowed us to partner with them. See how this works? No obstacles, just opportunities.

3.  Trade in some of your “downers” for “uppers”
“Birds of a feather flock together,” your mom said. My mom said it too, and even though

Red Blue Pill
The attitude you have each day is ultimately your choice. The more you choose one, the more natural it will become.

it drove us nuts, they were right. Based on that, if you need a change of attitude, you might need a change of friends as well.

Start by finding someone who people love to be around and asking them out to lunch. An optimistic entrepreneur would be ideal. Then you can improve your perspective AND learn. (If you live near Joplin, Missouri, I like Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Red Onion Espressoria, and Chick Fil-A, in that order. 😉  )

The more positive influences you add in your life, the more optimistic you are going to become. And if you want to use your gifts and passions to change your family, your community, or even the world, YOU have to truly believe you can or you will never give it everything you’ve got.

 

A Life Lesson from Zorro….?

If you saw him performing with his lifelong friend Lenny Kravitz, you would assume he Zoro and Lennywas just like any other world class rock star….and boy would you be wrong!

Zoro the Drummer is an anomaly, an outlier, an exception. You get the point. And his story is nothing short of phenomenal! Growing up in abject poverty to a single Christian mother, he discovered his passion for drumming at the age of 6. He then spent his life pursuing his passion relentlessly, while never leaving his Christian roots behind.

Zoro“Your days are limited, but your good deeds are not,” Zoro said in an interview with Ken Coleman, the host of the Entreleadership podcast. He not only knows that truth, but he lives it everywhere he goes. Zoro orders inspirational books by the thousands and gives them away, along with extra autographed drumsticks he keeps on hand, to fans everywhere he goes. He is also an author, (his most recent book Soar: 9 Proven Keys for Unlocking Your Limitless Potential will soon be in my library) speaker, fearless evangelist and has his own ministry (http://www.zoroministries.org/).

“What is your point?!” you ask.

It is simply this (and I think Zoro would agree). Whatever gifts or talents you possess were not given to you for your enjoyment. They were given to you to provide a platform unique only to you, so that you can use them to bless and encourage others.

For years, I have been an entrepreneur, starting many different kinds of businesses. But

Worthshop Gang
This is a crew of workers at a recycling facility I helped start to provide jobs for the homeless.

making money never has been enough for me. It is only in the last few years that I have pinpointed my sweet spot, that place where I love what I am doing and have the greatest impact. I use the business gifts God has given me and I have worked to develop to help non-profits and ministries to develop entrepreneurial ventures to fund themselves and provide jobs, especially for the homeless. I also love teaching what I learn to others, which is why I started writing consistently.

Where you are and what you can do are not incidental. They are both a part of God’s plan for your life, and as soon as you recognize that and start looking for opportunities to bless others, your work and your life will take on a new level of meaning and fulfillment!

*You can meet Zoro and hear his amazing story here: https://www.entreleadership.com/podcasts/207-zoro-the-drummerwhy-the-world-nee

Circuit Boards and Tropical Storms

Last Monday I would have chain-smoked all day long…if I were a smoker. It was so intense and I was so distracted that I kept doing stupid stuff, like walking out of my gym (which requires a key card to get in) without my keys. I had to bang on the door until someone heard it and let me back in. My wife, Nicole, had a very similar day. Hers probably got downright dangerous, because being an artist, she’s typically pretty scatterbrained. (Don’t you dare tell her I said that!)

All we could do is think and pray for my family in Houston, as hour by hour, the water

Flooded Street
Water in their street (which does not normally flood) was waste deep.

crept closer to their house. That morning we had offered to rush down with the truck and our largest enclosed trailer, but within a couple of hours they were completely inaccessible and we would have probably ended up being one more stranded vehicle on a flooded highway. So, from 9 and a half hours away, we waited, worried and prayed.

As I was leaving the house that evening for Cub Scouts with our son, Thatcher, Nicole showed me a picture taken from my parent’s front porch of a rescue boat driving down their street to take a pregnant lady to safety. Looking down at the ground, I could clearly see the water line. It was six feet from their front door. And the rain just kept falling.

I can’t remember a day when I prayed that much, but I’m pretty ashamed of myself. Why? Because I allowed my prayers to be limited by what I thought was possible. “Lord, please keep the water out of their house and keep them safe.”

“Oh, ye of little faith.” Yep, that was me.

The next morning, as soon as I woke up I texted my mom.

“Mom, what is the water level?!” My heart was racing as I waited for her response, fearing the worst.

“All of the water is gone!” she said.

Dry Street
Even though it rained off and on all night, by morning it was all gone. When I asked my mom how that happened, she said, “I have no idea! To me it was a miracle.”

“All of the water is gone!” I hollered upstairs to Nicole and the kids as my eyes teared up. She sent me a picture, and the same street that had a boat in it last night did not even have a puddle.

“Thank you so much, Lord.” I thought to myself repeatedly. I sure wish I had prayed for all of the water to miraculously disappear. But I just didn’t think it was possible. In retrospect, this reminded me of a powerful principle I live by….typically. Here it is:

In any given situation or pursuit, first decide what is ideal with a deliberate disregard for what is or is not possible. Once you decide what that is, go for it! If you are doggedly persistent, you will watch as paths form around obstacles that before seemed completely insurmountable.

The first meeting I had when pursuing the idea of a recycling facility for Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission (which would provide work for the homeless and funding for the ministry) was with a lady who had worked for the government in the recycling industry for almost 20 years. She has been an invaluable resource along the way. My initial objective was to focus on electronics recycling, but as she listed government regulation after government regulation related to that industry, my heart fell. It would cost a fortune and take ages!

I left the meeting despondent, but as in similar circumstances with other businesses I have started, I don’t give up. I simply re-route. In my mind, I have a set of shelves (I literally see them when I do this) and I took electronics recycling in my hand as if it was an object, and set it on the shelf. If something gets put on the shelf, it means that it is a good idea, but the timing is not right.

We did get the recycling facility going via a far less complicated and expensive

Worthshop Gang
This is just some of the people who are put to work on a daily basis in the recycling facility.

road. I then decided to take electronics recycling off the shelf and see if its time had come.

I made a call to my local recycling expert to find the most reputable electronics recycling company in our region.

“That would be ESCO,” Mary Anne said. “They are based out of Rogers, Arkansas. The owner is really nice and honest and I bet they would be willing to answer your questions.”

The day after I talked to the receptionist at ESCO, a great guy named Adam gave me a call. I told him what we were doing and said I was wanting to learn more about the world of electronics recycling.

Adam
This is Adam from ESCO, giving Gregg and me a lesson in the sorting process of e-recycling.

He volunteered to come to Joplin and while here, gave us some basic instructions, then extended an invitation for  my good friend Gregg (who runs the Worth Shop where this takes place, and my fellow co-conspirator throughout this process) and me to tour their facility.

I was pretty excited about the tour, but more excited about the possibilities. When I was alone, I would think and allow my mind to dwell on the ideal. I didn’t waste a thought on what was likely, what obstacles there were, or what was possible. To put it another way, I allowed myself to DREAM.

When we arrived at their facility, it was enormous! We had to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to tour their 275,000 square foot facility. I’d love to tell you all about it, but, well…the NDA had me give them a picture of Nicole, so I’m pretty sure she would go missing if I did. 😉

At the end of the tour, he took us into the conference room and the three of us sat down. It was obvious he had something on his mind.

“We do not deal with individuals,” Adam said. “When we receive and send shipments, it is by the semi-load. Our biggest client is WalMart, and we do not have time for small accounts.”

I was not sure where he was going with this, but it wasn’t looking good.

“But I have been talking with the owner, and we LOVE what you guys are doing at Watered Gardens! What can we do to help you succeed?”

This is exactly the possibility I had considered. No, this was the exact possibility that I had allowed myself to dream. And I knew EXACTLY what to ask for.

“If there is any way that we can be legally placed under your umbrella of legitimacy, along with all of your certifications, accreditation, etc., that would be ideal. That would allow us to confidently approach businesses and the community, so they will know that their computers and electronics will be properly handled,” I explained.

“We will draw up the legal paperwork and send it to you,” Adam responded, as if it wasn’t a big deal at all. But to us, it was HUGE!

Printer
This sweet young lady is breaking down a printer received from The City of Diamond, MO. Even though she ended up covered in ink, she kept on going because she was having a blast!

Two weeks later, the paperwork arrived, and with the time it took to write one’s name, every single obstacle that made opening a legitimate electronics recycling facility impossible was decimated.

Since then, we have picked up computers from a Fortune 500 company, small businesses, and even, get this…government agencies.

Don’t waste your time, my friend, worrying about what is possible. Let your mind go to that place where your heart comes alive; where there is no limit to what you can accomplish. Let yourself DREAM! And then pursue that dream with everything you have.

She Said Yes! How to Properly Propose to a Princess

The phone was ringing, and my heart was pounding! I was about to ask Dr. Sherrod permission to propose to his daughter. I was pretty sure he liked me, but how much?! Well,..I was about to find out.

If you know me at all, you know how it went. We have now been married ten years and have two beautiful kids. And instead of a card, I wanted to officially tell the story of our engagement. I knew I was only going to do this once, so I wanted to do it right. I wanted her to have a story to remember for the rest of her life, and hopefully I succeeded. I’ll let you be the judge.

Copy of 100_1110I told her what to pack for a weekend trip, but other than that, she had no clue what we were doing or where we were going. We got in the car and I handed her a manila envelope. She opened it, and on page one, there were directions. Where to? It didn’t say.

We started heading north, and after about 30 minutes, Nicole was pretty confident that we were heading to the Kansas City area. She was correct (as she often still is) and a couple of hours later, we pulled up at the Kansas City Zoo. Nicole LOVES animals, as evidenced by all of them on our property, and has always loved going to the zoo. So for the next few hours on that beautiful fall day, we enjoyed practically having the zoo to ourselves. It felt like I had reserved it just for us, because there was nobody there, and we had a blast!

After walking several miles and enjoying some quality time with a kangaroo, a herdEngagement Night 024 of sheep and an orangutan, we were ready to head out. We got in the car, Nicole pulled out the manila envelope, and turned to page two, and thirty minutes later we pulled up at The Intercontinental Hotel in The Plaza, our favorite outdoor shopping area in Kansas City.

After a few pictures, we got checked in and went up to our room, where we each had our own bed. You might call me old-fashioned, but I only plan on doing the marriage thing once, so I aimed to do it right the first time. It took me thirty two years to find this amazing woman, and I was willing to do anything, or not do anything, to make sure our marriage would last.

A little context here: I had been planning this for at least a month. From the selection of the hotel, restaurant, activities, to talking with the managers of each location to properly orchestrate everything. Timing was critical! If anything was out of place, it would blow the whole surprise. That’s why I was SO glad that I answered our door when someone came a’knockin’.

100_1111I saw who it was and immediately pushed them back, stepped outside and shut the door! It was the concierge with a silver platter full of decorative chocolate covered strawberries…that was supposed to arrive after we had left for dinner! I quickly made that clear and stepped back in. “It was the wrong number…room number,” I said, and probably sighed a little too loud.

We had time for a nap, then started getting ready for dinner. I had advised her to dress nicely, and she did! She was stunning! And I was starting to get nervous. I tried not to seem too preoccupied as I continued to work on the most important speech of my life.

Before we walked out of our room, I made sure that I had the ring safely tucked into my inside jacket pocket. I just hoped she didn’t notice the bulge!

They brought us the car, we got in, and Nicole pulled out the manila envelope yet again. She turned to page three, and we drove for about 25 minutes and pulled up at what is now called Rosso, Hotel Sorella Country Club Plaza’s restaurant. It’s one of them fancy restaurants what’s on top of a sky scraper and spins around real slow so you can look around.

I can still vividly remember that ride in the elevator. I was painfully aware of the ring case in my jacket, and just knew she had noticed it. And if she had noticed it, but not said anything, that’s because she knew what I was going to do in an hour and didn’t want to spoil it. And if she didn’t want to spoil it, then that meant she was going to say yes! Or maybe she wouldn’t!! I didn’t know, and I was going crazy!

Dinner was kind of a blur. I can’t remember anything I ate at all. I was looking for the manager, with whom I had spoken many times on the phone, but had no idea what he looked like. “I have to use the restroom,” I said about 30 minutes in. I got up, made sure Nicole wasn’t watching, and started looking for him. When I found him, we went back over the plan, and somewhat reluctantly, I handed him the box with the engagement ring.

I went back to our table, sat down, and tried to act normal for the next 45 minutes. She never said, “Brian, you sure do look like you’re going to throw up,” or anything like that, so I must have succeeded.

Then it was time to order dessert. I selected one, and she another. Then I waited. My heart was pounding, and I knew that what happened next would have an enormous impact on the rest of my life. Then I saw him.

Our waiter approached and time slowed. He walked up with a silver covered platter and I made my move. I got out of my chair, got down on one knee, and the waiter lifted the cover off of the tray. I grabbed the box, looked Nicole in the eyes, and began the speech I had rehearsed countless times in my mind.

cropped-engagement-night-049-1.jpg“Nicole Chandler Phillips, the last year has been the best year of my life…..and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Nicole, will you marry me?”

Her hands were over her mouth in surprise and she teared up. She said “Yes!” and the entire restaurant burst into applause! I put the ring on her finger, stood up, maybe teared up a little myself, and kissed her.

The manager then took us to a private seating area, and provided special desserts on the house. It gave us time to talk about what had just taken place, and enjoy each other’s company. I then learned happily that she had no idea that I was going to propose, but sure was glad that I did.

We arrived back at our hotel room, and this time the concierge had gotten it right. 100_1099Actually, he exceeded my expectations, most likely because of his earlier visit. There were not just beautiful chocolate covered strawberries, there was champagne, and it looked like a dozen rose bushes had exploded. There were rose petals everywhere!

We talked for quite a while and drank some champagne. Then we went to bed and I slept in the clouds.

And after being married ten years, I have never looked back.

I love you, babe. Happy 10th Anniversary!

 

The Redbox Nudge

His name was David. I didn’t know it at the time, and truth be told I didn’t want to know it. I just wanted to grab a couple of energy drinks at the gas station and see if there were any new movies at Redbox that Nicole and I could watch over the weekend.

Homeless Man“Avoid eye contact” is kind of the rule of thumb with homeless people. If you don’t, he is likely to engage you, and that can get pretty uncomfortable.

There was a man sitting with his back against the window right next to the Redbox kiosk, and I intended to avoid him if possible. But sometimes, His plans are a little different than mine.

If you are married or have a significant other, then you are definitely familiar with the

Photo Call For Columbia Pictures' "Total Recall"
This guy definitely just got “nudged”. Awkward!

“elbow nudge”. For example, you’re talking to someone you know, but your spouse doesn’t, and there it is – nudge, nudge. Dangit! I forgot to introduce her!

You are talking to her parents and crack an inappropriate joke (I have of course never done this). Nudge-nudge!! This one borders on painful. You know exactly what’s going through her mind. “What the heck are you thinking?!”

You always know what the nudge means, based on the context in which you receive the nudge.

That’s how it often is when the Lord wants me to do something. I might be at a restaurant with Nicole and I look over at a family that has young kids. They are obviously not doing well financially and are sharing a couple of meals between all five of them. Nudge-nudge. “Cover their meal. And while you’re at it, throw in a Cookie Monster desert for each of the kids. Oh, and by the way, make sure the waiter doesn’t let them know who did it.”

I am at a toll booth. Nudge-nudge. “Pay for the next car. You don’t know who it is, but I do. It will be more encouraging to them than you can imagine.”

I am talking with someone I barely know and he is telling me about some challenging issues he is currently facing. Nudge-nudge. “You need to pray for this man…out loud.”

I don’t know. Sometimes praying for someone else, out loud, is pretty awkward. I’ll just pray for him when I get home.

Nudge-nudge-nudge.

Okay! Okay!

Well, there I was walking up to check out the Redbox movies and wouldn’t you know…nudge-nudge.

I tried to convince myself that it was the wind, or something else so I could ignore it.

Nudge-nudge-nudge.

Alright, I give!

I stopped resisting and simply said, “Hello. How are you?”

He paused and said he was doing okay. He didn’t ask for money, which I was anticipating. He just said he was trying to get moving on.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

He said he ultimately wanted to head towards Tulsa, but mentioned a McDonald’s next to a major truck stop on I-44. He figured that if he could get there, he could hitch a ride the rest of the way with a trucker.

Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to be “nudged” (or whatever you want to call it), but I know some people do. Either way, I knew what I was supposed to do. I am yet to regret obeying the nudge, but I have ignored it. Every time I ignore it, I wish I hadn’t.

“I’ll give you a ride.” I said, knowing it was a few miles out of my way.

He was very appreciative and climbed into the passenger seat of my Yukon. I don’t think I found a good movie and I can’t remember any cans of Monster rolling around in the back seat. However, I do remember him, and that’s a good sign of what was most important that evening.

We pulled out of the gas station, then took a right onto the on-ramp to I-44.

I love getting to know people and everybody likes to talk about themselves, so I simply asked him some questions. He talked about his transient life, the many places he’d been, and mentioned that he was a very good roofer…at least five times.

Homeless WomanWe neared the exit, went up the ramp and suddenly he said, “Slow down.” There was a girl on the side of the road holding a sign. David reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge wad of bills.

“Roll your window down, please.”

I did as I was asked and he handed her a few dollars.

“You don’t fly a sign unless things are really bad,” he said.

“Really bad?” I thought to myself. “You’re hanging out at a gas station, hoping to eventually hitch a ride to another state for no good reason. Everything in this world that you own you are currently wearing or it is in your pockets, and that’s not really bad?!”

I had been introduced to a homeless hierarchy of misfortune of which I was totally unaware, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. David had been in the same situation as that young lady, so he could empathize with her while I was still attempting to intellectually understand her situation.

David and I were miles apart in our ability to relate to someone “flying a sign” and that fact revealed a principle to me that I have since taught to many others. Sometimes the very thing we view as our greatest weakness provides us with our greatest (and often most unique) strength.

Were you at some point homeless and destitute? You are in a better position than anyone else to help someone who is currently in that situation.

Have you overcome breast cancer? Thousands would benefit from everything you learned during those trying times.

Are you single and broke? Your faith is going to be tested, but you are also not tied down to any particular location. You possess a freedom and agility that someone who is married with two children and a mortgage does not have.

We see David in the Old Testament as defenseless and weak, standing there looking David and Goliathpathetic with no armor to protect him. His perceived weakness allowed him to wield his sling and with pinpoint accuracy kill a giant 4 times his size without getting a single scratch.

I dropped David off at McDonald’s, he said thank you and shook my hand. No request for anything material at all; just appreciation.

There is no doubt who fared better in my few minutes with David. He got a ride, but I got a lesson I will never forget. That is how things tend to work in God’s economy. We do something in obedience to Him and He does more with it than we could have imagined.

It kind of reminds me of a guy who was willing to give up his lunch one hot afternoon….