Many of us are staying at home. We are limited in our movement and venture out to purchase supplies and are taking every precaution. If you are wired like I am you will notice even taking all advice to distance and clean it seems impossible. We clean everything, change gloves, wear masks and have a plan in place to clean every item we bring into our home. I mentioned this to Pattie and stated, “We need God to help us. We need His protection. He is our only hope.” So we’ve been seeking to stay safe the best we can and lean into His promises for He is faithful and true.
A song we have been singing. You are Faithful and true.
Our eyes are upon you.
You are Faithful and true.
Your promises are true.
Coming up to Passover several of my friends are encouraging us to lean in. Kick up our prayer life. Change our thinking and our lifestyle. Let go of small things that really in the light of what’s going on mean little.
Paul the Apostle once stated, “Having food and clothing we are content.” In view of all that is happening among the poor and countries who have little food, hygiene, or clean water, we have little to be ungrateful for. We live so much higher than most of the people in our world.
Gratitude is an antidote.
I’ve worked in communities where people are grateful for just having an opportunity to live another day.
One lady I know just finished battling cancer. During her battle she often stated on her Facebook page, “Jesus I thank you for another day.” No complaining just gratitude. It’s interesting she continues to say the same every day. She understands and practices thankfulness. It’s who she is and what flows out of her life.
Taking our advantage of facing every day with gratitude helps us to refocus and to embrace what really matters: our relationship with God, family, and friends.
This season of pause is here for a reason.
I’d encourage you to take advantage of your advantage. Take time to pray, read, worship, ponder and be grateful.
If you have embraced the good news, I’d also encourage you to be a messenger of hope. Pray for those you meet. Offer a listening ear. Figure out how to serve and connect safely with others. Your neighbors, friends and your family need to hear from you. Make that call. Offer assistance to the poor. Give to your church and missionaries.
How’s it works. We serve teachers (by taking a special display of kindness) and have hundreds of Valentine Packs available for the people of our church.
Every year we focus on teachers. So we make their day on Valentine’s Day by delivering special Dark Chocolate, and Hershey Kisses to the school staff rooms early on Valentine’s Day.
One year we purchased special cup-cakes. Teachers need appreciation and the outreach helps us build bridges with the schools and also meets a need in a practical way.
Here’s how we set up Kindness-to-go and the outreach the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.
We pack hundreds of packs. A special connect card goes into each pack along with three Hershey Kisses and a red foil chocolate heart. We also have instruction sheets to help guide the outreach.
The tables are located at all exits, red or black table cloths and fun balloons create a fun vibe. The two weekends just before Valentine’s day. Our teens and children’s areas pack thousands of Hershey Kisses into small zip lock bags with our special ‘You’ve just been kissed!’ or “Hugs! Everyone needs one!” connect card. People grab several of the bags as they leave the weekend services and go about kissing and hugging the people of our community during the week.
If the kids, or teens help pack the kisses it spreads the DNA of kindness to all ages.
A couple of years ago I went to the gym on one of my usual gym days. (My wife tells me it’s a good thing.) When I arrived I asked the receptionist, ‘Have you been kissed today?’ She smiled and said, ‘Nope, not today.’ I then gave her a pack said, ‘Well you’ve just been kissed.’ She laughed and exclaimed, ‘You’re from (she named the church) right?’ I replied, ‘Yep. We are kissing people all over the city this week.’
On the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, we head out to a couple of strip malls near the church. We take the packs of kisses and several buckets of carnations. We pop into the businesses and head to the customer service desk and ask, ‘How many ladies are working today?’
We then count out the flowers and Hershey packs…and say, ‘We are from (the name of the church) and you’ve just been kissed” or “Everyone needs a hug!”
Usually, some of the other assistants are around and join in the exchange. Often, a male worker will ask for a carnation for his girlfriend or wife. Some guys say, ‘Thanks for the reminder.’
Most people are open, curious, laugh and catch the vibe. One group went to a high-end Spa/Hair place, all of the working ladies gathered to receive their flower. ‘Who are you guys? Others exclaim, ‘This is so cool.’ Or sigh, ‘This will be my only present today. Flowers and kisses were also handed out to the ladies who were becoming beautiful-er.
One of the team noticed one of the ladies getting her hair cut didn’t receive a flower. So, being the sensitive, thinking person she is, made an extra special effort to find another team grab a flower and run back to the shop…when she gave the lady the flower, the surprised and delighted lady exclaimed, ‘You’ve just made my day! Thank you.’Really?
Made her day? It makes me wonder what one of her days looks like? It makes me wonder if she was ever loved, or had a caring boyfriend, or had a husband, or is now connected to an uncaring guy?
What’s in a gift of a small flower and a pack of kisses?
I think serving others in a fun, creative way sends an upbeat message to the people in our stressed-out world. Serving others often is a small action that sends a signal that says, ‘Hey, someone cares for you.’ The action performed with genuine love somehow touches the heart.
My friend Scott, says, ‘Agape love revealed… means my love is demonstrated as I serve others through the choices I make, and by the actions I take.’
Process for Valentine’s Outreach:
4 weeks out: have connect cards printed
4 weeks out: order Hershey Kisses (SNACC foods Cincinnati)
4 weeks out: order 4”X4” zip bags.
4 weeks out: order boxes of Carnations for pick up
2 weeks out: have kids, teens or a team pack the bags
Weekend of outreach: have packs placed at all exits
Valentine Outreach Saturday before Valentine’s Day
3 days out: pick up flowers, cut stems and place in buckets of water so they will be open on the day
3 days out: design maps with instructions and contact phone numbers
3 days out: make name tags 3 days out: gather Kiss packs and place in larger bags or containers for transport.
Saturday the Outreach Day before Valentine’s Day… Gather at 10am Give Instructions then divide up into teams Load up and head out. Also, be open to God’s leading and offer pray with people.go to shops, go to check out or customer service, ask, “How many ladies are working today, count out Kisses packs and flowers give to workers, Say, We’re from the (name of Church) and you’ve just been kissed.” Or, Everyone needs a Hug! We are hugging you today!”
After the project go to a coffee shop for download and great java.
We had a year of great challenge, heartbreaking loss, positive encouragement, strategic relational connections, and amazing blessing. We are looking forward to 2020.
Each year I look at my life in the light of what I know I have practiced. When I first started a few years ago I was surprised I had developed several positive life-practices.
I John 3:18-19 TPT
Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds. We know that the truth lives within us because we demonstrate love in action, which will reassure our hearts in his presence.
The demonstration of our our love in action gives us the evidence we are Christ-followers. Faith + Demonstration = a life captivated by the Father’s love.
Most probably your practices flow from who you are and from what you value. If you are like me, and don’t like the fruit of some of your practices you can change your focus. I choose to focus on and practice the positive.
Tip: Write down your own practices. What consistently flows from your life? What bears good fruit? What doesn’t? Tip: Focus…Push into the good! Let go of the not so good.
Believe for a good harvest. Mindset shifts are important. Sow believing.
Galatians 6:5-10 TPT
Every believer is ultimately responsible for his or her own conscience.
For what you plant will be the very thing you harvest.
The harvest you reap reveals the seed that was planted.
If you plant the good seeds of Spirit-life you will reap the beautiful fruits that grow from the everlasting life of the Spirit.
And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!
Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others.
Slowing Down. Hebrews 4…I know I have a tendency to move too fast.
I slow down by consciously walking slower and by taking the time to pause and reflect. I’m practicing living from faith rest, which means choosing to position myself to Be in His Presence. This time investment helps me to remember I’m always a son first… messenger second. Outflow flows from the inflow. I choose to slow down and slip away on most days.
Being a friendly open-hearted person. I choose to encourage one person every day.
I’ve discovered I usually encourage more than one person during my day.
Serving others in love. This is my lifestyle passion and development.
Use your gifts to serve others. Sometimes serving others means getting your hands dirty.
Awareness. I was moving from an unaware-mindset toward a being-aware mindset.
I wanted to grow by being self-aware, socially aware, being emotionally intelligent, and being spiritually aware. I’m currently learning to be aware of my environment: where I am, and being aware of who I need to be in a situation. I mistakenly asked, “What do I need to do in this situation?” The right question, “Who do I need to be in this situation?”
Knowing I am unaware is my first step toward living a life of awareness.
Responding to God prompts. Responding to those small intuitive “flutterbys”. What do I see/hear/feel?
I’m seeking to develop a lifestyle that is open for business. My daily prayer, “Jesus lead me where You want me to go, and help me to encourage who you want me to encourage.” I want to understand how He moves/leads me toward responding by listening to the Holy Spirit and to people. Listening, really listening, then responding is my practice challenge.
Praying for people. Prayer is our connection from heaven to earth.
I pray with my eyes and my heart open. I pray for people in the now moment. When someone says “pray for me” I pray then. I also often, ask “Can I pray for you?” Nine times out or ten people receive prayer when I ask. Prayer is the connection from heaven to their earth. Many times people cry, and/or sense His presence when we pray together.
Practice doesn’t make you perfect, it makes you better.
My prayer for you is that you would grow in your understanding of His great love and grace. I pray you would continue to practice your positive practices.
We wrapped up Tornado furniture moving with a mega move on December 14th.
Fifty-three families received new couches, tables and chairs, dressers and house goods.
$20,000 was gifted from a few churches to fund the move. We empowered people to help. Our Kelly, EJ and the workers at St. Vincent’s did a great job organizing and loving the people who came to serve. St. Vincent’s people are amazing! They work hard to help people in need. Living City Project was the relief valve for moving furniture from June through December. We helped move four hundred displaced families, most of whom lost everything.
Here’s an article published in the Dayton Daily News.
Dec 17, 2019
By Sarah Franks, Staff Writer
When the last piece of furniture was moved on Saturday, Living City Project had helped over 400 families displaced by the Memorial Day tornadoes into their new homes.
LCP has activated over 12,000 volunteers since the tornadoes tore through the Miami Valley on May 27. The organization serves on the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Board and, like other Dayton-based and national organizations, has been instrumental in organizing cleanups, helping distribute furniture to hundreds of families and simply making sure tornado victims are not forgotten as 2019 comes to a close.
“What really spoke out to me is they haven’t stopped living,” said Joel Burton, LCP team leader. “They’re going to continue to live, continue to try and pursue normalcy and joy as much as then can. To see them getting ready to decorate that tree tonight is good. That’s more hope than we expect to see. There are neighborhoods right now that aren’t putting up Christmas lights.”
“If today meant anything, it’s a reminder that the community still remembers those that have been impacted,” said Caleb Ingram, LCP executive director. “There was an inventory backup, and we thought we might not get this out till January or February. But we reached out to a number of churches primarily. Some churches donated $20,000 collectively so that we could get this delivery out before Christmas. I think it’s just a reminder to every individual that we’ve gone to over the last six months, that we know that they’re there. We remember that they’re there, and we love them.”
St. Vincent de Paul Dayton has acted as a home base for many of the tornado recovery operations.
“St. Vincent de Paul has also put in funds of their own to make this happen,” Ingram said. “Even the churches that donated, the donations went to St. Vincent so they could bulk order these couches. So the amount of money is a fraction of what it would cost if we went to the store and bought a couch. So funds came in and they would order 100 couches at a time.”
As people impacted by the tornadoes navigate the holiday season under difficult circumstances, Ingram asks them to know that organizations like LCP are not going to quit.
“There’s still more to do, still more to give,” Burton said. “We’re nowhere near done. Every moment like this carries us into the next.”
Hope Church partnered with Gateway Cathedral in Trotwood and gave away thirty $600 gift cards.
Gateway Cathedral sits in the Westbrook Village neighborhood, was in the direct path of the Memorial Day Tornadoes. The Gate served as the distribution hub for the community in the weeks following the storm.
Living City Project had a small yet essential connection. We performed a serving role with Christmas With A Cause. Thrivent, in Tipp City, raised hundreds of presents from the Tipp City School System to provide for the kids of thirty families who attended the evening. The guests knew there was a meal but did not know every child would receive a bag of presents. They also did not know that they would receive a gift card for $600 provided by the Hope Church.
When the meal was over, the Director for the event asked the families if they had a white envelope. Then she asked for others who did not have one to raise their hands. After the envelopes were distributed, she asked the families to open the gift together after a count down. 3… 2… 1… Open!
A sound of wonder began to erupt until the venue was filled with people shouting, crying, jumping up and down, waving their hands, and laughing. I had never been in such an atmosphere filled with so much love and gratitude.
As people walked down the hallway to leave, they received their presents for their children. They overflowed with thanks, and many told us their stories of what they thought was a lost Christmas, now turned into comfort and joy.
Mexico Kids Receive Shoes.
Around one hundred kids gathered to receive new shoes. Upper Room families gave to help the kids in a poor area of Piedras Negras. They need a roof and heaters. Hopefully this summer we will take a team to help build.
I spoke at the Upper Room this past Sunday.
The wonder of Christmas how to keep faith, love and hope alive.
You can watch here.
Phillips Temple is raising Twin Bed Sets for the ladies at the YWCA.
We will be delivering the Twin Sets on December 24. We are excited we have a donation of 100 throw blankets already donated.
We are Re-fired not retired.
Three years ago, we were looking at moving to Pensacola. We were 95% ready to move. We didn’t have peace, so we talked and prayed. Pattie wanted to finish her time at Prass Elementary School and retire at 65. It has been a good plan.
We stayed in the Dayton Area. We did not know we would connect with some amazing people or be working with great churches Phillips Temple and Upper Room. Nor did I know I would have a part to play with Living City Project. Looking back, we can see Jesus is always faithful and true to lead us into the plans and spaces He had for us. We are so grateful!
Your prayers and support are more than appreciated!
We’d value any year-end giving you’d give.