Callous or Pearl

I was watching the movie “Hidden Figures” the other night and as an engagement gift, the character of Katherine Johnson was given a set of pearls. It seemed to be inferred that pearls were something that, “only white people had in those days”. The film takes place when many areas of the United States were still segregated by race. I’ve seen the movie twice and still have a hard time understanding how anyone could treat another human being like they did in “back then”. That however, is a post for another time. Looking back at the pearls, something that my wife does not have, this verse comes to mind.

Oysters (mollusks) make pearls which are formed by the soft tissue of the oyster. I immediately thought of a callous that is formed on the surface of the skin – something hard that comes from something soft. Not really the same but you’ll see in minute my comparison. The term pearl is also used as a metaphor for something rare or admirable. When I think about how people live their lives, they can either be a pearl or a callous. One is rare and admirable while the other is hard and often painful. Ironically, we use the term callous to describe someone who lacks pity or mercy. I’d suggest that our lives, simply as human beings, is that we care for one another and show compassion and mercy on those around us. We should all strive to be the pearls in someone else’s life. You’ll never know when something you do or say will become someone else’s pearl.

45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

I’ve been told that when searching for fine pearls, you will look through hundreds of them before finding the one that is just right. People are like pearls, you can search a hundred people but when you find one that is just right, you bring it into your life. Some of those pearls you marry and others become your dearest friends. Think about what you traded in (sold) when you found that great one. When you marry your pearl, you trade your biological family to start a new one. In your life, you come across hundreds of people but you have only have a few friends and even fewer close friends. We have sought the pearls in our lives and we can become pearls in other people’s lives.

God has looked at billions of people and still loves them all. He only wants the finest pearls to join Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. God gave us the laws to follow and wanted us to become sin free. Yet, we remain blemished pearls because we are not able to follow the laws perfectly. God then “sold everything” by sending His Son to pay for our sins so that we can have eternal life. We became God’s finest pearls that He bought from the slavery of sin. As John 3:16 said “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Today, know that you are a precious pearl to God.

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Make A Difference

Make a Difference Day is officially October 28th this year. Each year, our city has about one hundred people volunteer to perform projects all around our city. We’ve had Boy Scout troops, church groups, a group from a local college, several high school groups, and various community minded residents all volunteer to make a difference. So what is this day all about? According to Makeadifferenceday.com; “For more than 25 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.” As an annual event in our city, it always seems to get me thinking about why should we make a difference just one day a year?

We all make a difference to someone, each and every day. Sometimes we know when we do and other times we don’t. We all do our jobs faithfully, day in and day out. We don’t really expect people to notice what we’re doing. Many times you will hear a public safety professional say, “We were just doing our jobs”. In reality, they were making a difference. Today, as you read this, I challenge you to make a difference for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. A few years ago this was often referred to as, “random acts of kindness”. I’m not saying hold open a door; I’m challenging you to put someone else’s needs before your own. You’ll never know what impact you might have on someone’s life.

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:10

Make a difference, today and everyday, had to be what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples. However, Ecclesiastes was written in the Old Testament. On the surface it sounds like we are being told to make sure that we have friends so they can help you up when you fall. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t have half the troubles we have today. What about the man who has no one to help him up? Who will help him? God’s commandments teach us to love one another (among other things) and to care for each other.

This means everyone, not just our friends. God took His love for us and sent us a “friend” that will never leave our side; Jesus Christ. No matter what is happening in your life, you are never alone. God is with you. When you feel distant, God is with you, just hold out your hand and open your heart. When you feel cold and alone, close your eyes and feel God’s warmth surround you. You are forgiven for everything you’ve done. Jesus, your friend, has helped you up after you’ve fallen. He sacrificed everything so that we could have eternal life. Now that is someone who made a difference!

Where do you turn?

Where do you turn in times of trouble? For most people, it’s a good friend or a relative. Someone who’s shared your tears and joys over the years. These are usually the same people who you turn to when you have exciting news or something great to share. For many of us, these people become our best friends. When you work in a field like the fire service, this is what forms “the brotherhood”. People turn to each other for support and they become almost closer with each other than they do with their families. Highly threatening team activities or in-extremist teams (FF, police, military, bomb squads, etc) rely on their team mates to keep them alive. For those not in life/death situations, we find these people in our lives.

At work, these special people become either mentors or confidants. A mentor is someone who helps you excel and grow in your career by providing advice, opportunities and guidance. A confidant is someone who you can share things with but they don’t provide a direct source of career growth. If you are lucky, you will find someone who can be both. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us the bold truth and other times we need someone to be sympathetic to our emotions; rational or not. My daughter will call and ask for “reality check dad” when she needs to know what mom will never tell her. I’m lucky that I get to be both a confidant and a mentor to her; I can read her pretty well and know when to hold the bold truth until she’s ready. We all need these people in our lives. My wife has a huge cheering section of friends and a few close friends that she can talk to about everything else. I guess my point is to make sure that you have these types of people in your life and don’t forget that they are there. Life is so busy that we often forget that we don’t have to carry all of the burdens alone.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4

I’ve often said “now that I say this out loud …” We need to say things to others to make sure that we really feel that way. We also have a need to get our feelings out in the open. The challenge is getting them filtered before we say something hurtful. We all know people who are in various stages of suffrage. Cancer seems to strike every family we know, financial stress is still present and family pressures will always be present. If you are raising kids, have siblings or are dealing with aging parents, suffrage is always going. We all find different ways of dealing with it – some healthy and some not so healthy. Last week we talked about our ability to go to God freely and with confidence. This week we see why.

God is all of things in this verse – a refuge for the poor and the needy, a shelter in the storm and a shade in the heat. When things go bad in our lives, God is there for us. It is human nature to ask “why me?” but the truth is that God is there with us in these times of trouble. He’s there when things are good too! God will not abandon any of us, no matter what you’ve done. We are given the promise from God to have eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no “reality check dad” with our Father in heaven. He knows what is on our hearts and in our minds and Jesus is sitting right next to Him saying, “all is forgiven”. I’d like to think that God inspires the advice that we get from our mentors and confidants. If we feel alone, this verse reminds us that God is always there; while St. Paul reminded us to go freely and with confidence to seek God for help.

True Friends

We have a sign in our home office under a photo collection that reads “A good friend will come and bail you out of jail…But a true friend will be sitting next to you saying ‘Damn that was fun!’” The photo collection that it sits under is of friends that we have traveled with and watching each others kids grow up; they are our life long friends that we have known for 15 years but we live 2800 miles apart. We have always been able to pick up the phone and call one another just to hear a friendly voice when we get down, to share troubles with a sympathetic listener or to celebrate exciting news. They are True Friends. To have such a blessing is unusual – I think, and I am grateful for their friendship. Who stands by you when you need it? For us married men, it’s usually our wives at the top of that list (if you’re smart anyway). Lisa and I will be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary this week and she has stood by me every day(9855+ days). We joke about what a great team we are when it comes to getting things done around the house or dealing with the kids but the real teamwork we share is working to be True Friends for each other. No matter what, we support and love each other every day, not because we have to but because we want to. I have had a number of professional opportunities come my way throughout the past 27 years, and she has supported every one of them. She’s changed states twice, we’ve lived in four apartments and five houses over the years and she continues to support me today as my number one cheerleader and encourager. While it’s highly unlikely, I know that if I found myself in jail, she would be sitting right next to me and we’d be laughing at the fun we had. To my True Friend, Happy Anniversary!

Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…”

We have all heard people say or we have said ourselves “God has a plan for you”. Some believe that the circumstances in their lives are merely chance happenings and that God doesn’t get into those details of their life or worse yet, that there isn’t a God doing anything. God does have a plan but as I’ve said before, it’s on His timeline not ours. A day or a year in God’s eye is not the same as an earthly one. Many of you will agree that “this life” is complicated and filled with all kinds of problems and trials. Can this really be part of God’s plan? It sure can be! God will only give us what we can handle and He wants us to grow in our faith and in our lives. We cannot grow if we are not challenged. The baby who first learns to walk is then challenged by climbing stairs, and again climbing down them before walking down. These are all challenges (ups and downs) and they exist in our lives but on a different scale. God wants us to grow! Like parents who help their baby take those first steps, He is there with us holding our hands for balance. As things get harder and the waters of our lives turn into rivers, He will be there so you are not swept away. God’s grace and love are with you everyday, sometimes you need to simply stop and realize it. Like the friend sitting with you laughing, God is always there – a True Friend. Thank Him for His care and presence in your life.