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The Kindness of Strangers

Our family visited a small church last month. We chatted with the couple sitting in front of us and then an amazing thing happened: they invited all five of us over for dinner! She made a beautiful ham; I brought a sweet potato casserole and we had a fantastic time. Laughing I told them, “This has never happened in California! We’ve gone to a church for years and never been invited to anyone’s home!”

When Jeff and Jodi invited us over, it reminded me of a fun story that I share in my book about a Peloton delivery and God’s honor- “as a delivery team was setting up our bike, I asked if they wanted something to drink—water or because it was a chilly morning, hot tea. One of the young men perked up and said, “I’d love a cup of tea.” He had just moved to the coast from Arizona and was cold all the time in our Northern Cal weather.  When I went into the kitchen to make his tea, I reached for a mug but distinctly felt I should give him one off the top shelf. I grabbed it and made the tea. The mug had printed on it, ‘God will always give me the victory’. I turned it so the words faced him, and said, “This is a true word for you today, my friend, God will always give you the victory. I don’t know what you’re going through, but you’re going to come out on the right side of it.”

Well, what do you think happened next? He just stared at me for an awkward ten seconds. I thought uh-oh I’ve stepped in it now! “But he let out a big sigh and said that he’d just moved to Cali after finishing a career in sports. He was trying to get his life together with a fresh start. He was wondering, even that morning, if God knew where he was.  We talked openly for a few minutes, and then I prayed a blessing over his life and plans.” (Gracious Living, p. 185)

Honoring the person in front of you doesn’t take hours or a Ph.D. It requires listening to God’s direction and caring about people.

We sat behind Jeff and Jodi this week at church and watched them graciously reach out to a visitor nearby. Seeing their warmth, humility, and generosity has caused some self-reflection over here: have I given in to shyness or self-centeredness? Are my heart and mind positioned to share the love of God and “entertain angels” as the Bible puts it? Have I missed out on ministry opportunities because I was rigidly committed to my own schedule? Didn’t Jesus say, “I was a stranger and you invited me in”? (Matthew 25:35)

These are the questions I’m pondering over here. How about you, my friend? Do you have God-encounters to share this week? If you are looking for inspiration, check out my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. Find it on my website www.MargaretAllen.org or anywhere books are sold.

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Self-Talk

What’s the conversation sound like in your head these days? The harsh rhetoric in our world today seems to have leeched into my self-talk. Having just published my first book, I’m on a steep learning curve with publishing, marketing, social media, shipping and so on. My brain hurts! But I’ve caught myself being self-critical and exaggerating negative predictions like you’ll never figure this out! Why did you even think you could… you fill in the blanks. My daughter heard some of my stinkin’thinkin’ and she started quoting my book to me. In her sweet, young voice she read: 

Do the conversations in your head sound like someone who is deeply loved and secure? Is your self-talk filled with compassion and gentleness? Would you hope your daughters talk about themselves in similar ways? Small changes produce significant results.  Thinking of yourself and talking to yourself with affection and appreciation may seem insignificant, but it cascades into a more gracious environment all around. Silencing the harsh voice of self-criticism and speaking to yourself with grace is sunshine for your soul, my friend.  You’ll feel the warmth—and so will others.” (Gracious Living, p. 37) God bless that child and our kitchen conversations!

The turn-around for me was quick. At the next obstacle, instead of berating myself, I purposely declared there’s a lot to learn here, and I’m new to this, be patient. You see, if I had a friend entering a new profession, I wouldn’t call her stupid for not knowing things. No, I would call her brave for trying something new. I would say things like hang in there, you’re just learning, be patient with yourself and with the process. It is a gracious choice to speak kindly to oneself as well as others.

How do you keep the conversation in your head bright and true?  Do you struggle with negative predictions? In this season where we are all grieving some sort of loss, intentionality is key. The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Ruminating on negative, fearful, or critical thoughts doesn’t produce goodness in us.  The wisdom writings in Proverbs state “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) I’m learning to speak life over myself and others. My goal is to release resilience, hope, and peace through my words.

Don’t let negativity creep into your language! Take those thoughts captive and replace them with truth and love. We each carry tremendous power to speak life and love—over ourselves, our friends and family, our community and nation. Use your words to create a culture of honor. You, and those around you, will be lifted up.  

You can buy the book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion today at MargaretAllen.org or the Kindle version on Amazon.