Thursday, May 27, 2004

An Open Letter to the Christian Sub-Culture

Dear Christian,
I hate to write this to you in such a public maner, but you’ve been making a fool of yourself in many public places.
I’ve seen you on Sunday mornings as you rush to find your seat in your favorite church.
I’ve seen you sing your songs of praise and proudly write your checks of duty.
I’ve seen you quickly duck out of church hoping no one will notice you or begin to question how your walk with God is.
I’ve also seen you proudly pray before your meals and I’ve seen you beg for help in times of need.
I’ve seen you wear your Christian shirts to school, work and the lake -- thinking that’s all it will take for your “weekly witnessing quota.”
You proudly wear your shirt declaring your devotion to Christ, yet you act like a fool in public.
You curse the umpires at your church softball game being sure they know that you’ve been wronged. But the only difference I see between you and them -- is their uniform actually means something.
I’ve even seen you slip on your Christian jewelry hoping it will make up for the wrongs you did yesterday.
You petition and boycott the FCC, Disney, the goverment and all the evils of society in hopes that you can bring about a reformation.
Because if Christ was here today, you know He would avoid anything and everything un-holy like the plague.
He would never stop and talk with the sinner. No! That would not be Christ-like.
I write all of this to say it’s time to wake up.
It’s time to start being known for your love -- not your shirt or jewelry.
It’s time to stoop down and reach out to those hurting and starving around you.
It’s time to check your attitude and maintain an attitude as that of Christ.
It’s time to stop bickering and nitpicking over a preference in music or an interpretation of theology (after all theology is simply man’s attempt to understand an incomprehensible God.)
It’s time to be a relevant example of Christ -- 24-7 and stop judging the sinners around you.
Because if I were “one of them,” I’d have given up and ignored you and “your Savior” a long time ago.
- Signed

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Love Endures All Things

This Saturday I will celebrate with my good friends Matt Dugan and Erin Parker as they join together in holy matrimony.
Now while I could give them lots of advice on starting a marriage, my 25 years of singledom probably don’t give me much credibility as a marriage counselor.
Last Saturday Matt called me to help him carry their new queen-size Sealy Posturepedic mattress home from the store.
So I met Matt at the store, loaded the mattress and box springs and we went on our merry way.
As we traveled along FM 93 I saw a flash of white in my rear view mirror.
I looked and sure enough, the brand new mattress had caught wind (I’m beginning to think FM 93 is cursed for me).
“Matt -- there goes your mattress!” I exclaimed.
We both watched in amazement as the mattress took flight into the wild blue yonder -- like a bird with wings.
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite that impressive -- but it did shoot seven or eight feet into the air before it came crashing down on it’s corner with a tremendous bounce and then settling in the middle of the road.
Thanks to quick reflexes by the driver of the Ford Explorer behind us, the mattress wasn’t completely toasted.
As we examined the mattress, we knew there was no way we could hide this accident from Erin. So we loaded the mattress back into the truck and slowly made the way home.
Needless to say, Erin wasn’t too excited to see their brand new mattress with pretty permanent tears and wrinkles in it.
I took my cue and left shortly after.
Talking with Matt later reminded me again of the importance of material things.
There is none.
A mattress is a mattress -- and as proven Saturday -- they don’t last forever, but their love for each other will endure.
To help ease the pain, I told Matt a story David told me about his wedding escapade.
As David and Anna registered for their wedding gifts at a fine retail store, the sales clerk promised them an extra nice gift from the store.
After the wedding, they went to make a few purchases remaining on their list and the sales clerk brought out a small white box.
She seemed very excited about the couples gift and opened a small white box to reveal an even smaller glass swan.
David and Anna looked at each other, not quite sure what to think.
And after they left the store they both laughed about their disappointment.
“We sure thought we’d be getting something super amazing from all the hype,” David said.
But amazingly with all the gifts that remain from their wedding, two things remain.
Their love -- and that small glass swan.
“I’ve broken most of our other gifts,” David said. “But the one thing we’ve always kept as the greatest remembrance of our wedding is that little swan.”
So to Matt, Erin and the rest of us -- sometimes the marriage, honeymoon, gifts and excitement are all super hyped and we get caught up in the emotion of the moment -- but in the end love is what matters and love is what endures.
Through the ups and downs, the sickness and health, love remains (and maybe a goofy story about the day we forgot to tie down your mattress).
So good luck to both of you and may your love endure above all else.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, May 06, 2004

A Dis-Belief in Coincidences

I used to believe in coincidences.
But that was before I met Ann Tubbs.
Many people would say Ann’s life is full of coincidences – she believes differently and I can see why.
“Too many things have happened in my life for it to simply be a series of coincidences,” Ann said.
You see, Ann’s a chef by trade, but nearly five years ago she was forced to look at other possibilities when she was laid off.
“I sat at home confused as to what direction I should head,” Ann said. Not only had Ann been laid off, but her husband LaRon was also seeing a cut in hours as well. “After two weeks of feeling down for myself, I was sitting in front of my sewing machine and then I heard a voice as clear as daylight telling me ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ The voice was so clear I had to double check the house and make sure all the doors were still locked.”
Thinking she knew more than God, Ann saw this as a declaration that she was to open her own sewing business.
“I’ve always enjoyed sewing and making clothes and thought this would be a great opportunity to open my own store in Salado.”
But for the next year it didn’t matter what Ann tried, her business was not taking off as she had hoped. Without a designer label, the dresses didn’t sell.
She tried various avenues for selling her dresses, but the sales weren’t coming.
“I kept getting knocked down over and over again,” Ann said. “But even during that time, I kept taking the best dresses to local shelters. When I dropped them off, I’d say to myself, ‘Oh great -- now look what you’ve done. You gave away all your best dresses and now you don’t have any money for fabric, food or anything else.’”
Ann kept saving her money and buying material for new dresses all the while, imaging little girls playing and enjoying her dresses.
“I felt like I could easily sell these dresses for $70 to $100 anywhere,” Ann said. “But I continued to have an overwhelming peace and joy when I donated the clothes to the local shelters.”
Amazingly, as Ann continued to bring 20 to 30 dresses each time to the shelter she would be told that the dress sizes were exactly what the shelter needed.
“I remember vividly one occasion where I decided to create three identical dresses to take to the shelter,” Ann said. “I always made each dress unique, but I just had an urge to make three identical dresses. When I took the dresses to the shelter, they were amazed saying they had just received a request from a set of triplets in those sizes.”
Time after time Ann kept seeing these unique coincidences and continued to offer her dresses to the local shelters as well as groups taking mission trips to Mexico and Columbia. But as time wore on, so did the strain of no income.
So three years ago, Ann went back to work at Deli on the Square.
“I was working at the deli but whenever people asked what I did, I kept saying I have a dress and clothing ministry for children,” Ann said. “But working full-time limited what I could design drastically. I went from making 80 dresses a month to only 20.”
Then after almost four years of work, Ann was simply worn out.
“I was so tired,” Ann recalls.
She took nearly 150 patterns she had used over the last four years and dumped them all.
“I was frustrated and tired,” Ann said. “I had drawn nearly 99-percent of my patterns and I threw them all away. I thought, now I can focus on a regular job, with a regular salary and stop worrying about where the money comes from.”
Yet while Ann thought she had ended her ministry, through several more coincidences she realized this was only a beginning.
“I threw all my patterns away over the weekend,” Ann said. “And when I came to work Monday I was in the worst mood. I didn’t know why. I didn’t want to talk or deal with anyone. Then it hit me on my way home -- I had thrown away a four-year long passion and ministry.”
When Ann arrived home, to her amazement, the trash had not been picked up all day. She immediately jumped in the dumpster and began salvaging her patterns.
“It took some time, but I was able to find and repair each and every pattern.”
Since that day, Ann’s passion has been revitalized.
A letter from Columbia assured her again that she was doing the right thing.
“I’ve always strived to make my dresses durable so they could be washed and dry-cleaned without a problem, but I never imagined I was making them so substantial so that young girls at an orphanage in Columbia could wear their dresses and wash them in the river without them falling apart. The letter was like God was saying, ‘Good job, way to go.”
After Ann’s recommitment to her ministry she has come to a crossroads.
“God is asking me to step out of the boat and I’m horrified because I can’t swim,” Ann said. “I can’t clothe the world but I believe I can make a dent in Bell County.”
Her new recommitment also brought her in touch with new sources of funding and help.
After sharing her story with one or two Kiwanis, after their Tuesday morning meeting at the deli, Ann received several large financial donations as well as tags for her dresses and new business cards.
“It was amazing what God was doing,” Ann said. “I’m terrible at asking for help, but JoAnn Flowers and Pearl Fellingham continued to tell me, ‘Just tell your story and you won’t have to ask.’”
And now Lawyer George Dulany has donated his time to help Ann earn 501(c)3 status and has set up a charter and by laws for her ministry.
Then as a way of affirming everything, God assured Ann that He was in charge and she had no need to worry.
“One afternoon I was working in the deli just feeling worn and tired when a young girl looked and smiled at me as big as possible,” Ann said. “Her smile melted away all my troubles. I told her mother about my ministry and asked her if she would permit to make a dress for this precious girl.”
After exchanging phone numbers Ann designed a dress for Sara.
Ann had no clue who this family was but she wanted to give back a token of gratitude.
After exchanging the dress, Ann told her new friend about her ministry and as well as stories about her husband’s talent as a musician and producer.
As it turns out, Ann’s new friend had an interest in music as well.
Her husband, a doctor at Scott & White also had a music ministry and had recorded several CD’s that he gave to his patients for free.
After seeing the beautiful dress Ann made for his daughter, Dr. Steven Vold insisted on meeting the person who would make “such lovely dresses for someone they didn’t know.”
The Dr. Steven and Ann Vold invited Ann and LaRon to dinner where it was discovered that Dr. Vold was a glaucoma specialist for Scott & White.
After years of blindness in one eye, LaRon had begun to come to grips with the fact that he was also loosing sight in his other eye.
Upon learning this, Dr. Vold insisted that he could not allow LaRon to go blind.
Dr. Vold plans to re-evaluate LaRon’s case to see if there is something that can be done.
LaRon has also in-turn begun working with Dr. Vold on writing and producing new music at his home studio.
“All this happened through a baby’s smile.”
So Ann continues on designing and sewing outfits for children she may never meet and continues trusting in God’s faithfulness and ability to provide.
And you can say what you will about coincidences and fate, but as for Ann and I we believe in an easier solution – someone else is in full control.
For more information on Ann’s ministry, Threads of Hope, call (254) 947-5498.

“I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” – Matthew 25:26