First Impression~ Wrong Assumption

This morning Greg and I managed to get to church early despite the snowy roads. We don’t get there early often but it’s always a treat to be able to visit with friends and grab a cup of tea before the service. While chatting with a leader in the coffee area I saw an elderly man trying to get around us to grab a little snack of fruit that had been put on platters for the taking. As this gentleman got closer I tapped on my husbands arm to alert him not to back up on this gentleman who was standing so close by.

From the corner of my eye I observed him; he looked a little out of place, a little awkward, and just a little disheveled perhaps. I wondered about him as I had not seen him there before. I wondered if he was alone, maybe homeless and I found myself putting him in a “category” based on my first impression.

Imagine my surprise when he walked right over to our conversation, stood there and said, “ I wanted to introduce myself; this is my first time attending Westside Church.” He then went on to share (in his European accent) that he was visiting from Silicon Valley; has two successful daughters who live in Bend.   We continued chatting and it became evident that he was a brilliant professional, well spoken, and kind. In fact, he was involved with a hefty robotics contract with Google in California.

As we all made our way into the service I was struck by my ability to make such hasty judgments about people! I was disappointed that I had made assumptions, incorrect assumptions about this dear man. Sad to confess but I don’t really know if we would have had such an engaging conversation if he hadn’t initiated it.

As I listened to the speaker share a powerful message from the stage of the power of loving people in “the way of Jesus” knowing that left to my own human nature I fall prey to internal judgments and assumptions that keep me from being “Jesus with skin on”.

I was reminded of a story I heard a long time ago:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek  ( pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

 

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Lord, may my biases and assumptions cease as I am filled more and more with Jesus. Amen.

 

How about a Summertime challenge?

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Day after day I go about attending to the different errands on my “to-do” list; hustling and bustling through traffic to accomplish my goals.   It’s very easy to go in and out of banks, grocery stores, gas stations, and even the post office without paying any real attention to the individual who is serving me.

It was 2 years ago when I found myself feeling quite convicted about the fact that I could be so busy minded that I rarely acknowledged those who are so helpful in the service industry. It’s been 2 years since I began to challenge myself to slow down, to take time to get eye contact and start a conversation with whoever served me in some way.

Over the past 2 years I have had the joy of hearing coffee baristas thank me for being kind or being patient. I have gotten to know any of the sweet people at my local Albertson’s store; their stories, their challenges,  even sharing stories from their family life. I was recently told that I am known as “the nice lady” there.   I have learned how powerful a compliment, a thank you, and a smile can be in the middle of someone’s workday.

Cost to me? Time, it takes more time to engage with people. It does take me longer to do my errands but I think it’s so worth it.

I don’t share any of this to make myself sound “so nice”.  I have really had to grow in this aspect of my life. However, summertime is a time when these folks work even harder, there are more tourists and activities that can put stress on those who serve our needs each day.

So how about a summertime challenge? What if you commit to taking a few extra minutes out of your day to connect with those at the grocery store, Starbucks, gas station, and eateries? Watch and see how when you encourage them you will also feel encouraged.

There’s a lot of busy, irritable people out there! How about we shine our light anew this summer?  🙂

Thoughts on my birthday~

 

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Often while driving I’ll tune my music to the “oldies” channel; within seconds of hearing the first few notes from a song by America, Fleetwood Mac, or the Beach Boys, all the words come rushing back. All the memories come to mind!  For a little while I’m 16 again!!  I’m 16 years old  sitting on a beach in Northern California anticipating what my life would be like in the years to come.    I remember that girl ~ there are still bits and pieces of her inside of me but there are changes too.  What advice would I give that 16 year old Dianna?

  1.  I would tell her that her parents were right! The faith in God that they instilled in her was real and it would be that faith that would carry her in the changes and challenges she would face. As I look back over my life I have seen God intervene is creative, crazy, and amazing ways.  I have felt His comfort, I have experienced supernatural peace.
  2.  I would tell her to try extra hard to be un-offendable.  After getting stuck in hurt and offense many times over the years I have learned that the only one that it hurts is me.  Relationships often have a way of coming full circle over time if we apply grace and forgiveness to the situation. Hanging on to hurt and anger is exhausting and unfruitful!
  3.  I would tell her to be brave!  I remember many anxious moments where I agonized over situations I experienced from job changes, to relationships, to raising my children, etc.   Looking back I recognize that my worst fears never came to fruition.  We were always taken care of.  My boys turned out to be great men.  All that time being fearful robbed me from being hope-filled and confident. Be Brave!
  4.  I would tell her to be herself in every environment; that she is uniquely created! As a young woman I found myself supporting my husbands ministry placements and in doing so I had to adapt to many different churches, environments, personalities, and “rules of the club”.  There were many years where I saw myself “disappearing” to fit in.  The nuances of my personality were hidden, many times, to be that “perfect pastors wife”.  No one asked me to, I put that pressure on myself.  As I have become more authentic over the years~ my quirks, my weaknesses, my hobbies, my dreams~ I have found a greater kinship with people than ever before.  If I had it to do all over again knowing what I now know, I would just be myself!
  5.  I would tell her to take good care of herself.  For so many years I put all my energy into my family, my church, my home, and my outside relationships.  I kept my schedule so wound up that I rarely took time to take care of me; excercise, rest, boundaries, and free time were lost in a well intended, but over-packed schedule.  There were many times when I found myself exhausted, moody, over weight, and anxious.  Over the past 15 years I have learned to take care of myself physically, relationally, spiritually, and activity-wise. I’m certainly not perfect but I make a real effort to keep these areas vibrant.  Truth be known, if we women are not applying self-care, if our cups get empty, everyone around us suffers.

I do love the season of life that I am in.  I have no desire to be 16 again! In this season I understand what matters, appreciate the sweetness of relationships, and I am incredibly grateful to be a Mimi! 🙂 So, happy birthday to me! 🙂