Monday, December 13, 2010

Empty Bowl


On February 27, 2011, the Gateway Center will present its thirteenth annual Empty Bowl Dinner. From 12:30-2:30, the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta joins with the Gateway Center by opening its doors to the community for this fun and tasty fundraising event. Empty Bowl benefits the Gateway Center, and is designed to give participants the eye-opening experience of how a homeless person might receive a hot meal from a soup kitchen.

Soups, breads and desserts are provided by some of Atlanta’s best dining establishments. When leaving the event, diners take home a free one-of-a-kind soup bowl made and donated by local artists. The empty bowl serves as a reminder that many in our community would go hungry if not for the generosity of our citizens. Tickets are $20 per person (children under the age of 6 are admitted free).

The Gateway Center is the keystone project of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta and the Regional Commission on Homelessness’ effort to impact chronic homelessness. Operating as a twenty-four hour shelter and services center for the homeless in metro Atlanta, the Gateway works to end chronic homelessness by providing the support and training people need to achieve self-sufficiency. We are committed to helping the homeless move into employment as well as transitional and permanent housing.

The Gateway Center, a self-managed 501(c)(3) organization, is recognized by the IRS as a Non-Profit Organization (ID# 26-1193832). Make checks payable to the 24/7 Gateway LLC. Mail to: Gateway Center, PO Box 250028, Atlanta, GA 30325

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Face of Giving



Today, on behalf of the Gateway Center, I accepted a $100 donation from Sanaa, a nine year old girl who raised the money herself selling a self-published book about the joy of eating chocolate cake. What a gesture! My challenge to you - go and do likewise, but in scale with your age and earning potential. I assure you, when you do, you'll have a smile on your face too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lead Serve Love


I'm so happy to reveal the cover of my upcoming book, LEAD SERVE LOVE, published by Thomas Nelson (available May 2011).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lead. Serve. Love.

As the editting process unfolds, you end up having to cut a few words here and there in everything you write. This is the early draft Introduction I wrote for my first Christian book, Lead Serve Love (available May, 2011). In the final draft I had to cut it a good bit but didn't want to lose the original altogether, so elected to post it here for your pleasure:

A few years ago it seemed everywhere I looked people were wearing bracelets bearing the letters WWJD. Of course, we know this is the acronym for the question, What would Jesus do? I observed then that surprisingly few owners of those bracelets could answer that very question when confronted with any number and manner of dicey dilemmas or moral conflicts, let alone everyday awkward encounters with other people. Further, reluctantly, I have to admit that then I too had only vague ideas about what Jesus would really do in a given situation. I was not yet a student of the Bible, especially the New Testament, in those days.

Since then I have taken up the Bible not only as an incredibly interesting read but also as a guide for living. I spent a full year in extensive daily Bible reading and doing my best to live by the example of Jesus Christ himself and as taught by his apostles. One day, I came across this verse: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). Those eleven words have since become a driving force in my life; they helped me to answer the question: What would Jesus do? Reading through the New Testament a second time, now intentionally seeking to learn how to walk as Jesus did, my life began to change.

I was finally discovering how to walk the Christian talk, so to speak. And with every step, I grew closer to God, and the closer I grew to him, the more I wanted to share what I was learning. This book was written for those who also want to walk in the Spirit, to do what Jesus would do, and who need a simple, loving nudge to take those first life-changing steps of Gospel living.

This is a rather simple book really, one meant to be understood quickly, thumbed through randomly if you wish, yet resonate deeply. To that end I’ve written one hundred brief, three word sentences (a friend of mine calls it the threeology theology), each followed by an expository paragraph and a few Bible verse references which encourage the recommended behaviors and traits posited in the three word sentences. You may begin and end your study of Jesus with this book alone, or, and I hope you will, you may go to your Bible and read the verses I’ve cited in their full context. The latter process will take more time but leave you more blessed with greater knowledge of the teachings of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Either way, it is my hope that with the help of this book you will discover walking with Jesus means putting into action what Jesus has commissioned us to do, and that is to make the Gospel known to all people by demonstrating the love of God through our words, deeds and motives. Jesus charges us to take up his mission in our generation to bring glory to God so that his kingdom may continue to come through the work of his people - including you.

We cannot adequately demonstrate the love of Christ in the privacy of our homes, among only our closest friends or within the walls of our church. Instead, just as Jesus walked from city to city imparting mercy and grace to all he came in contact with, we are to be similarly intentional about imparting mercy and grace to others. We should do this as every opportunity arises, even if in unlikely places. As in when standing next to someone on a street corner, while in line in a grocery store, in the break room at work, during rush hour traffic jams, and even more far reaching places and occasions.

Being a disciple, an ambassador to Christ and a willing minister to others, is a dynamic life process. Yet for some, putting his or her theology into action may at first be an awkward, even uncomfortable, process.

Many of us go through life looking away from unfamiliar people and those whom are different from us, missing an opportunity to speak to or literally touch someone who may be in great need or agonizing pain. But imagine a world where you demonstrate one loving, selfless deed every day, and your deed inspires good deeds in others, which in turn inspires even more good deeds in still others. Your one act of Christian loving-kindness may ripple across the workplace, your neighborhood, even your entire community, resulting in immeasurable Kingdom impact, all for the glory of God! Oh, for such a world!

Turn the page and begin your walk with Jesus today. And along the way, may you lead others to Christ through your faithful, righteous example, may you serve all with a humble, true and compassionate heart, and may God’s love shine through in everything you do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You cannot start a life over, but you can change the way it ends.

You have (or certainly will) hit many potholes in your life; you may even have already driven into a ditch. But you survived. Today when you get back behind the wheel you must choose between two beliefs – the fact that you once drove your life into a ditch dooms you to do it again, or, you have the freedom to choose a new road, one with guardrails in case you become weak at the wheel. You cannot erase your past, but you can separate yourself from it. Change your life by envisioning a new ending to your journey, and steer yourself in that direction.

Your To Do: Make a list of the bad decisions which prevent you from being the person you want to be, and one at a time, working from easiest to most difficult, conquer those bad habits. It is best to do this with the encouragement of friends, your guardrails.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Twist on an Idea

I wrote the book Why I Need You as an inspirational read for new parents. I never imagined children would give the book to parents when the time came to leave home. And then I received this email:

Hi Greg - just wanted to send off a quick email to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. My youngest daughter just left home for University and she gave it to my husband and I as a parting gift. I couldn't read it at first as the sorrow (mixed with joy) of her leaving was a bit too intense. I cannot believe how precisely you captured the feelings of first time parents, raising children without a manual, making mistakes and trying to do better. You are so right - the rewards are worth it.

Here's the introduction to Why I Need You ~

Perhaps the most joyous moment of my life was when I held my newborn daughter for the first time. In the world only a few minutes, a nurse held her out to me, wrapped snug in a keeping blanket. I eagerly but cautiously reached out and accepted her, taking great care to support her with both hands without holding her too tight, bringing her close to my chest to make sure I did not drop her, but not so close as to smoother her. I spoke to her in a near whisper, not wanting to startle her. “I love you,” I said, before leaning down to kiss her forehead. Her sweet smell filled my lungs, her skin warmed my lips, and her cooing delighted my heart. In that moment my life changed forever.

In addition to that momentous day, I have many other memorable moments with my little girl, like watching her take her first steps, the time she grabbed me by the ears and pulling my face toward hers slobbered all over my nose, the afternoon that we crawled through winding tubes filled with plastic balls, chasing each other until our knees were sore, and my favorite, hearing the first time she called me “Daddy.” Nearly every day was fun and exciting, and yet nearly every day was challenging and at times stressful for her mother or me.

She was our only child, and although we thought we had prepared ourselves well for her, I was fearful nonetheless, wondering if she was comfortable in my arms, was she wrapped too snug, was she hungry or sleepy. I had watched my mother take care of my younger siblings, and my aunts take care of my many younger cousins. My wife and I read books to educate ourselves about infants, we listened to family and friends as advice based on experience was given, and we took home and saved all the instructions the pediatrician had given us. Still, sometimes we didn’t know what to do, so we learned by trial and error, trying to read facial expressions, interpret baby jabber, remember schedules, and anticipate what need might arise next. We were afraid we would do something wrong, we feared causing some long-lasting harm, and we struggled with our confidence on difficult days when we could not please our unhappy child.

There were times that we wondered out loud what she needed from us, when we disagreed about what to do, and when we tried anything we could think of to handle the challenge of the moment. There were times when I doubted my abilities as a parent, when I wondered if my daughter would turn out all right, having been raised in part by me. There were times when I wanted desperately for her just to speak to me, to tell me what it was that she needed.

Those were the days that I wished she had come with a book, a parent’s manual that described all possible infant behaviors and strange noises, reasons for tears, how to stop a runny nose, explanations for the different colors of poop and what to do for each one. Such a manual would have saved me a lot of frustration and doubt, a few temper tantrums (thrown by the both of us), and perhaps made my daughter a bit more content with her father. But alas, no such book existed.

I have tried to be a perfect parent. I have taken her to most of the places she wanted to go, bought all the stuffed animals that would fit in her room, given her the snacks she demanded even though I didn’t want her to have them, and read to her at night long after she could read for herself. But I have not done everything right. I have fallen short more times than I can count.

Fortunately, I learned a few things from my successes as well as my mistakes, and from the insights her mother shared with me. I learned that children are loving, resilient, and forgiving, but they are also delicate and impressionable. They will forgive us for most of our mistakes as long as our intentions were well placed and we do better the next time, but they cannot thrive in our indifference, carelessness, or anger. I learned that children have many needs that require the purposeful service of a devoted parent. While some of these needs are real only during early childhood, others endure for a lifetime and are staggering in their importance and effect if unattended. Some needs change, evolve, become less pressing, and others grow in importance as time goes by. Some needs must be met only once; others are never met but require constant feeding. Our children's own sense of worth is determined in large part by the worth they believe we have placed on them, which is demonstrated by how attentive we are to their needs rather than our own.

My now teenage child cannot recall all the care that I have given her, yet she knows of it. That is why now and then she calls me into her room at bedtime for a goodnight hug, or reaches for my arm when we cross a parking lot, or calls me on the phone in near bursting exuberance to tell me about something she has conquered that day. These are the moments when I am rewarded for what I did years ago; these are more of the moments, like those of her infancy and early childhood, I will remember for all of my days. These are the moments when I can smile and believe that her mother and I have done a pretty good job as her parents.

I never did find that manual, so I decided to write one. I do not hold this book out as the exhaustive book of wisdom that all new parents need to read in order to raise perfect children. However, I believe that somewhere there are parents lying awake at night, as my child’s mother and I once did, wondering what to do for their beloved baby. I hope that by sharing a bit about what I have learned, that giving a child a loving, supportive start in life, that taking care of a few basic, universal needs, those parents will find confidence in their abilities, comfort in their successes, and strength with each life lesson shared with their child. With this book I hope to give new parents a glimpse of what they should know about and do for their young children, starting as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love Your Enemies

If circumstances arouse your indignation, do not be led astray. Not one of us is deserving of God’s compassion, yet we are forgiven. Christ on the cross prayed for his enemies; so did Stephen, the first Christian martyr. As God loves you so too should you love your enemies, forgiving them for their transgressions, giving glory to God for his kindness that you now ought to extend to others. He who can obey this precept is a transformed man. Love your enemies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sneak Preview of an upcoming book...

To Meagan and Linley.

May the legacy you leave be salt and light for those you love.

A few years ago I reflected on the significance of my daughter Meagan reaching her sixteenth birthday. I thought of the milestones she had achieved in her short lifetime by then, and of my pride and heart pains as each milestone achieved signaled her coming of age and decreasing dependence on me. Those years ago I wanted to impart to her all the reassurances, warnings and bits of advice I hoped she would consider, not only when alone behind the wheel, but as she continued to mature into her own person, making plans and decisions without the necessity of sage parental consent.

As most parents do in the span of time beginning with a child receiving a driving license and ending with graduating from high school, I realized I still had much to teach my daughter before she left home and set out on her own. In that span of time I took every opportunity to teach or remind her of an important life lesson. We discussed the perils of misusing a credit card, the wisdom of understanding your health insurance before going to the doctor, and the details of entering into a lease agreement, securing utilities, registering to vote and much, much more.

The day our family drove away and left Meagan standing alone in the center of her college dorm room, I was confident she was prepared for the independence granted her that day. That evening, however, when I passed by her empty bedroom, I wondered if I had indeed adequately equipped her with all that she needed to know to succeed living on her own, without a parent near her side to rescue her should the sudden need arise. I thought too about the youngest in our household, Linley, who then was within a year of receiving her learner’s permit, and who was yet to receive all the warnings, teachings and fear-driven prayers that had been extended to her older step-sister.

It is a worry all parents experience, I suppose, wondering if their children are ready to face the challenges a milestone presents when the time comes, be it at sixteen, eighteen or twenty-something. It is probably also a frustration every child experiences, wishing their parents would worry less and trust more, wishing their parents would have faith in their own parenting skills and believe their child is ready and able to handle what may come. It is a lesson both girls have gone to great lengths to teach me - that while parenting does indeed mean coming alongside and helping your child, but equally means stepping away in the right moments to give the freedom and room for growth. It was difficult knowledge for me to accept, but wisdom I am grateful for today.

As I write this, two milestones, one for each girl, are fast approaching, even arriving somewhat sooner than expected. Through their own determined efforts, Linley is graduating high school a year early and is eager to leave home to attend college, and Meagan is finishing college early, eager to begin her career and graduate school. So once again, I reflect on the significance of children graduating and going solo…

…and I put my concerns aside, having faith in our prayers and our teachings, and in the girls’ own natural resources and abilities. I smile at their bold confidence and assured willfulness, marvel at their expanding, brilliant minds, take pride in their growing list of achievements, and stand amazed how each in her own way has surpassed my hopes and dreams of how she would turn out.

And yet, I remain a parent with the impulse to make sure my children are safe, happy and destined to prosper. So even though, given the chance, they might have convinced me it was an unnecessary exercise, I penned this book. I wrote it to capture just one more round of fatherly advice and simple suggestions for living a fulfilled life, and I wrote it as a remedy for when they might be perplexed, in need of a reassuring cajole, and far away from home. And I wrote this book to remind them of the love their mothers and I have for them.

Yes, I remain a parent, no matter how old and how accomplished the girls might be. And as a parent, I will also, always, I’m sure, remain proud of what they do and who they become in their journey. I can’t wait to watch them get there.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A New Book Review

Over the weekend I found (thanks to Google Alerts!) this great review of my second book, and wanted to share:

This isn’t so much a classical book as it is 100 affirmations for fathers to ponder and even for sons to remember. It’s a fresh reminder at a time when the divorce rate is simply out of control and fathers are being marginalized in the lives of their children in the aftermath, often against their will and best efforts.

Gregory Lang’s effort reminds us all of the critically important roles fathers play in their sons’ lives at a time when some are glorifying “single motherhood by choice.” More than that - all of their children’s lives, son or daughter, are so affected by the sentiments that are chronicled in this book. Sadly, today more than ever, children are being raised in fatherless homes or in custodial situations that relegate fathers to very limited parenting-child interaction by order of family courts.

These thoughts are shown in both simple and more complex issues, for example:

o A son needs a dad who can be playful and silly
o A son needs a dad who can help him face his challenges with confidence
o A son needs a dad to nurture his independence

The formula that Gregory Lang has provided in such a simplistic format is quite powerful. Even in our busy daily lives, one can expect to sit down with this book, a book that isn’t a very long read, and expect to be left pondering many of the 100 areas that Lang chooses to include in this work. Maybe we’ll be thinking about our own fathers and grandfathers. Maybe we’ll be thinking about our children’s futures and how they’ll end up. They range from items that remind you let your guard down and have some carefree fun with your kids - to the benefits of hard work, doing things on your own with your own two hands, to learning to respect others and ways to gain respect yourself. It’s a checklist for bringing up boys in the way that will give them all the tools necessary to be bright, smart, caring, loving, and considerate adults and fathers in their own right. It won’t tell you how to get it done, but it certainly will remind you what needs to get done.

I highly recommend this book for fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters alike. It’s one that should be sitting out there on the coffee table or on the end of your work desk. When you need a break from the day-to-day mundane tasks, it’s a perfect distraction that will refresh your mind and leave you with a smile on your face. The accompanying photography by Janet Lankford-Moran provides a stunning compliment.

What prompted me to write this review was a little reminder of my own. I was going to grab some chocolate chip cookies for snack tonight and found that DW had pilfered what was left earlier in the day. This prompted me to make an ice cream run.

I headed out to the van for the snack acquisition and as I opened the driver’s side door, there was book opened on my seat. It was Why a Son Needs a Dad (100 Reasons). It was open to the page that read:

A son needs a dad who is willing to make sacrifices for his family.

I turned around and asked my son, “Was this your message for me?”

He replied with that proud grin that only a child can offer, “Yeah, Dad. I love you.”

I responded as the lump started to push on my throat, “Yeah, well I love you guys both with everything I got. I really appreciate the message, son.”

He continued, “Yeah, well, I just wanted to let you know that we both know you guys make a lot of sacrifices to keep us with you and take care of us and stay in our lives and stuff. And I just wanted to let you know that.”

I thanked him again and off we rolled to ice creamy goodness. Unbeknownst to me, my son had picked that book off of the book shelf today and read it. He put it on the driver’s seat of the van sometime this afternoon without ever knowing when I would be having to take a drive. Lucky for him, his timing was impeccable and it resulted in an extra scoop for the both of them. After all, sometimes a son needs a dad to show him that flattery will sometimes get you an extra scoop of ice cream!

The original review may be found at Book Review: Why a Son Needs a Dad (100 Reasons)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Play Footsie Under the Table


Play Footsie Under the Table is my new book which is being released in November. It will be available in most major bookstores and online. For your pre-release reading pleasure, here is its introduction:

Being in love is not a steady emotional state that some are fortunate enough to find ourselves in; it is a dynamic emotional state that requires a continuous series of actions that any of us can take if we want to preserve a romantic relationship. It is not enough to believe that the love one feels for another is just understood, it must be made clear and obvious. Love simply must be expressed if it is to known by its recipient, and if it is to flourish in reciprocated abundance between two people.

Most often we express our love through language, as in simply saying, “I love you.” Other times we express our love through the written word, as when penning love poems or sweet notes to one another. And then there is love expressed in gestures, as in those things that we do for one another to give shape to and evidence of the true passions of our hearts. The words, “I love you,” whether spoken or written, are a profound statement. When coupled with an embrace, walking hand in hand, stealing a kiss, sharing a romantic nuzzle, or a hundred other tender, giving gestures, these words are elevated to an experience, a lasting memory, a delicate, reflective moment of proof, a love sign, that demonstrates you care for me and I care for you in a way that words alone cannot. This book is about showing love signs, those priceless moments we can create that allows our loved ones to think to themselves, “I know that I am loved.”

I could probably rest assured that my wife will love me always and stay with me no matter how little I might do to show her that she is the love of my life. However, because she is the love of my life, I am driven by the desire to reassure her that I love her. I know that it makes her happy when I do, and she then loves me even more in return. So everyday I do something to show her that I care about her. Sometimes it is a simple gesture, like waking her with a kiss after I have made the coffee the way she likes it. Sometimes it is not so simple, like searching for hours for the perfect gift or writing a poem to hide in her purse for her to find sometime later. These daily gestures aren’t necessary to keep her in love with me because I know that her love is in reality a gift to me, not a reward for my good conduct. However, I also know that if romantic love is left unattended, it will not come to its full potential. Thus, I make such a gesture everyday; I show her a love sign whenever I can. I want to make it as obvious as possible to her that I love her as much as I do, because I want her to love me as much as she can in return.

We each brought a daughter into our marriage. As they approach their teenage years and become interested in and vulnerable to boys, I worry about how to prepare them for the thrills, trials and tribulations of relationships they will face without causing them unnecessary alarm. I want them to enjoy dating, but I want them to be appropriately cautious and selective about whom they give their hearts to. I want them to have deliriously happy, lasting marriages. I want them to never shed a tear over broken promises and dashed hopes. I want them to never know loneliness and despair.

When I have these thoughts, I remember how I learned about romantic love watching my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and others close to me who had a way of relating that was unmistakable in its meaning, that an intense love was shared, enjoyed, and reciprocated. These memories further compel me to be unfailing in my efforts to show Jill that I love her, for I know that I am also teaching the girls a valuable life lesson, that is, what true love looks like. It is an almost daunting responsibility, but also an honorable one that I, we, fully embrace.

So in the end, this book is itself a love sign, another way for me to show Jill that I love her. It is a reminder to me to never take her for granted, to never assume that all is well just because it has been heretofore, to always be attentive to her, to always nurture the love we share so that it comes to full bloom. This book is also a way for me to help our daughters to set appropriately high expectations about how they should be treated, and hopefully to tell them what they should look for, in truth what they should wait for, before they give their priceless hearts to someone, and how to then show those fortunate young men that they are loved in return.

I do not profess to be an expert on relationships, but I do make claim to having the gift of artful expression, and a desire to help others when and where I can. So rather than give advice, I’ll end by simply expressing my hope. I hope that you will take this book and use it in the way that I meant for you to. That is, to go and show someone the love that dwells in your heart, and to do so everyday.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Life of a Book

As much as I'd like to have written a book that one might consider timeless, I haven't quite yetachieved that goal. Although my first book is still on shelves and selling well nearly nine years after its debut, another title is reaching its sunset. Life Maps will be retired in the coming months. The good news is that it will be rereleased as a new and revised edition next Spring, so although I'm a bit sad, I'm also delighted the content will get a second chance under a new cover and marketing plan. For your enjoyment, I'm posting the original introduction to Life Maps: Simple Directions for Finding Your Way:

Over the years I have had the delight of watching my daughter, Meagan Katherine, reach many milestones. I will never forget the first time she called me “Daddy,” her first steps, and when she became potty trained. Her words “I can do it” were spoken with insistence; she wanted the chance to accomplish by herself whatever the task at hand. I was thrilled to see my little girl growing up, yet also happy that she still wanted to hold my hand, ride on my back, and give me kisses.

As these early years passed and she continued to grow, other milestones approached and new tasks required mastery. Some I could just demonstrate for her, like how to tie her shoes, buckle her seatbelt, and use the microwave oven. Others required a bit of practice and explanation, as when she wanted to make her own scrambled eggs, shuffle a deck of cards, and later, use a computer. As my daughter grew up and became more independent and less willing to turn to me for what she wanted and needed, I began to feel the sting of loss. Too soon it seemed I was no longer needed to read her to sleep, walk her to class, or help her with her homework. All too quickly she entered her preteen and then teenage years. I knew other milestones were ahead and new life tasks would challenge her, but by now she had begun to turn more often to her mother for guidance, and I struggled to find a place in her life.

One afternoon while visiting my parents, who live on a remote country road, Meagan and I went for a drive. She was at the wheel. She had been driving in open fields for two years by then, an activity meant to give her as much driving experience as possible before she set out by herself, without Dad by her side to make sure she was safe. On this day I unexpectedly found myself requesting that my young driver turn off the familiar road and onto an unfamiliar one——and then another and another.

Soon she had driven much farther than she ever had before. She was frightened when she first pulled into traffic but smiled eagerly at the same time. She listened intently as I gave instructions and advice, following my directions without complaint or rebuttal. She beamed at me when I praised her as she skillfully negotiated the roadway. Under my tutelage she was learning something new. It reminded me of earlier times. I knew something she wanted to know, and she needed my help to master it; she needed me.

I decided that afternoon that driving was the bridge I needed to reach out to my daughter again, to have the occasion to spend time with her in the way that I missed, having fun together, laughing large, and teaching her something that would prepare her for the day when she would set out on her own. For the next three years we practiced driving every chance we got——driving in the rain, after sunset, practicing parking and hard braking, and learning how to intuit other drivers’ moves. I helped her study for the learner’s permit test. I was with her when she took it, and tried to calm her nerves as we waited for her results. A great sense of accomplishment came over me when she proudly held her permit up for me to see, and in that moment I was where I wanted to be, in her favor, basking in the warmth of her smile.

Meagan now drives nearly every time we get in the car. It was on one of our first extended drives that the need arose for teaching her about road maps. We were taking my eleven-year-old stepdaughter, Linley, to summer camp, and I did not know the way. I spread a state map out on the dining room table and proceeded with Meagan at my side to find a route. We began by looking up our destination in the index, then followed the grid lines to pinpoint it on the map. Once located, we surveyed the various roads we could take from our home to that tiny dot. We settled on a route that included city streets, interstate highways, two-lane mountain roads, and finally a winding dirt road. We chose an alternate route for coming back, one that would wind through the countryside, taking us through little town after little town and eventually home. Meagan was excited; it would be the longest time she had ever been behind the wheel.

The morning of our departure arrived. The girls and I rose early and had breakfast at a local diner before heading toward the mountains. Linley got some extra sleep in the backseat while I navigated for Meagan. For the next three hours she and I followed the directions we had written down. I helped her recognize the landmarks we were looking for, coached her on keeping up with the distance between turns, and taught her that even-numbered interstates ran east-west while odd-numbered ones ran north-south. Suddenly she asked me what to do if she ever got lost. I reminded her of her cell phone, and then opened the glove box to show her the road maps I keep tucked away in there.

The three of us embraced before leaving Linley at camp, and then Meagan and I set out on our return route home. We listened to music, drove with the windows down, had lunch at a roadside barbeque joint, and stopped to shop at an old country store, complete with a few old men in overalls sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch. We were having fun. Once back on the road we encountered a detour and had to refer to our map again. We selected a new route for the last leg home and continued on our journey.

As Meagan drove she remarked once more that she worried about becoming lost, that she needed to practice using a map. I realized then that I had less than a year to teach my child all I wanted her to know before she became fully licensed and able to drive off without me alongside to help her find her way. I imagined her going into the world alone, driving to her first job, leaving for college, going on road trips with friends between semesters, hoping she would not lose her way. I thought of all the things I wanted to warn her about, the things I wanted to make sure she could handle, and the many other life tasks she would need to master on her own one day.

As I looked out of the car window, the old sting of loss and worry about her eventual departure came back to me. I know I have to let my child go. I cannot keep her under my wing, not that she would she let me. Yet I asked myself, how do I let my daughter go before I am certain she is ready for what she will face? How do I prepare my stepdaughter, Linley? I thought of Meagan’s fear of becoming lost and my own fear of her losing her way. I suddenly wanted to write down some directions for driving, even for living, and stuff them into the folds of the maps in the glove box. I smiled as I imagined her pulling off the road one day to refer to a map, unfolding it and my hand-scribbled notes falling into her lap. “Don’t drive too fast,” “Follow at a safe distance,” “Keep a diary,” “Laugh often,” and “Come home now and then,” they would say.

In that moment the idea of this book came to me. Better a book than random notes in the glove box, I thought, because she could keep a book at her desk, on her nightstand, in her briefcase, or anywhere else close at hand, ready and waiting for her when she wants to reminisce about what we have done together, when she wants to know how much I care about her, or when she needs a hug and I am not near enough to give it to her.

And so here it is, this book that might have been notes tucked away in a road map, a collection of fatherly advice and directions for living a wonderful life, offered with love to my little girls. Meagan, I hope you will read it when you get lost, when you just want to reassure yourself of where you are going, and when you miss me. And Linley, put your shoes on; we are going for a drive. You take the wheel.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bible Study Prayer

Father, let me hear the Word clearly that I might understand it. Let not my understanding be dulled by my sinful nature, and soften my heart that I might act faithfully in accordance with what I have heard. Amen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Living Reminder

Gina grew up believing her father loved her, but his withdrawn and gruff nature made it such that she reassured herself of that love more often than he did.

The kind of dad who was often in a bad mood after coming home from work, what he wanted to do most was have dinner and then relax watching TV. Gina knew that he worked hard and was tired at the end of the day, but she needed more from him than she was getting. Their relationship was strained even in its best moments.

Yet, there were times when he let a hint of softness show through. He knew the words of one song and occasionally sang to Gina. Although he sang terribly off key, in those moments his voice was music to her ears. That was when he was the dad she dreamed of. She had only that song, but it helped get her through the times when she questioned if he loved her as much as she hoped.

Everything about their relationship changed in a way Gina couldn’t have imagined the evening she came home with her boyfriend and told her parents she was pregnant.

Expecting her dad to go into a rage before kicking her out of the house, she braced herself. Instead, he looked at her and calmly said, “Whether it is a boy or a girl, I expect you to name the baby after me.”

His name was Fuston. When his own father was born his name was supposed to be Houston, but the doctor who delivered him was drunk and wrote Fuston on the birth certificate by mistake. The name stuck and was passed down to Gina’s dad.

Fuston stood, reached for his daughter and hugged her. From that point forward, he became the dad she had always wanted.

Fuston accompanied Gina to all her prenatal appointments, provided her with financial support, and more importantly, abundant emotional support. His loving attention and protection began to fill the void she had endured all the previous years.

When his granddaughter, Ariel, was born and her father was nowhere to be found, it was Fuston who abruptly retired and became Gina’s nanny, cook, and housekeeper, all at once. Her dad, the man who always depressed her as a child, was now the one who lifted her spirits and kept her going. All those years of hurt were healed in a matter of months as he showed her everyday how much he loved her.

When Ariel became a toddler her grandparents needed to relocate to another state. By then Gina saw the need to rely less on her parents, so she stayed behind with her child and set out to make it on her own. In the beginning she didn’t have a telephone, nor cable or antennae for her television. Fuston taped her favorite shows and sent them by mail each week, along with pre-paid calling cards and other goodies in a nearly overstuffed care package.

A few years later Gina’s parents moved again, this time to be nearer to their grandchild. During the move, Fuston injured himself. It was discovered he was in the final stages of cancer, and he died only five months later.

Gina feels her father’s absence everyday, but she also finds comfort in remembering that when she needed him the most, her dad was there for her after all.

Ariel is now fourteen years old. When she is moody or does something that reminds Gina of her dad, she calls her daughter “Fustonette,” just as her dad had asked her to.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dad the Encourager

Thomas was the younger of two children. His father, a physician, died at the age of thirty-three. Only five years old at the time of his father’s death, Thomas was raised by his independent and strong-willed mother who never married again. Thomas became an equally independent and strong-willed young man.

He was also quite smart, bright enough to go to medical or law school, but he decided against those careers because he didn’t want to add the financial burden of graduate school to his mother’s worries. Instead, he completed an undergraduate degree and began working as a salesman for a paper company where he rose quickly through the ranks.

Eventually, Thomas fell in love, got married, and fathered five children. Ann is his oldest child; she was followed by three sisters and a brother.

Thomas was an achiever, and although he did not unreasonably push his children, he clearly expected them to do their best in all things. Laziness was not tolerated. Ann was as bright as her father, so his expectations for her were particularly high. She always seemed to meet or exceed them.

She received straight A’s in numerous honors classes, sang in the school chorus, learned to play the guitar, was a skilled cheerleader and still found time to become an accomplished ballerina. Thomas was delighted with how his daughter made no waste of her intelligence and capabilities.

In the year of her high school graduation, the honors students were brought on stage before an audience of peers and parents to be lauded for their impressive achievements. The principal announced each student’s career aspiration as certificates were presented. When Ann was called he hesitated before announcing her aspiration; she wanted to be a choreographer.

More than any other activity she had mastered, Ann loved to dance. Yet, wanting to please her dad, she pursued a double college major in dance and biology. It gave her options, she explained to her parents. Thomas was pleased with her decision, hoping she might become the doctor he had not.

When Ann first began to plan for graduate school, she knew her father would be disappointed that she had decided to become a university dance professor, not a doctor. Anxious, she asked her best friend to go home with her one weekend to break the news to him. Ann positioned her friend strategically between herself and her father, hoping her friend’s presence would keep her dad from overreacting, and then told him of her plans.

Thomas just sat quietly and stared ahead as he listened.

When Ann finished explaining herself, there was a long silence. She thought she was going to collapse from the tension in the air. Her best friend grabbed her hand, squeezing it tight.

Thomas finally turned his gaze toward his daughter, smiled, and then nodded and said, “Good for you, kid.”

It seems that what he had wanted all along was for Ann to follow her heart. He had chosen not to follow his own ambitions because of his mother’s circumstances, but he wanted his children to freely pursue their dreams. Ann had her dreams, and he wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Ann went on to get a master’s degree in dance at Ohio State University and landed her first full-time university faculty position when she was just twenty-five years old.
Although she was a bit nervous as she began her career, she remembered her father encouraging her to never doubt her abilities. From then on, it never occurred to her that she would not succeed at dancing or teaching. To no one’s surprise, she excelled at both.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In Daddy's Eyes

When Laura was just four years old her mother looked down and saw that one of her blue eyes had started turning toward her nose. Together they marched into a Washington optometrist’s office and a couple of hours later, Laura had her first pair of glasses.

Unfortunately, those glasses were neither sleek nor stylish. Even worse than being about as thick as the bottom of a soda bottle, they were bifocals, too. During the drive home her mom tried to encourage Laura to think positively about wearing glasses, but she dreaded what she was certain her friends would say when they saw her wearing those massive, ugly bifocals.

But more than she feared what her friends might say, Laura worried about how her dad would react to the change of her appearance.

That evening when her dad arrived home from work, Laura shied away and tried to hide her face. Having gotten an advance notice from mom about his daughter’s worry, he sat down at the kitchen table and called her to his side. She nervously stood before him as he took a long look at her face and studied her glasses. Then, with the utmost conviction and authority, he said, “You look beautiful. Go to the mirror and see for yourself; you're a movie star.”

Laura walked sheepishly into the bathroom and gazed into the mirror, repeating to herself her father's words, “you look beautiful.” Turning her head from side to side, looking at her face and glasses from all possible angles, she finally smiled.

“I do look like a movie star,” she told herself.

Any feelings of self-doubt and insecurity were swept away as she repeated her father’s words over and over again. When she turned away from the mirror she was ready to deal with anything that anybody else might have to say about her glasses. Her dad thought she was beautiful in spite of those bifocals and his opinion on that subject was the only one that mattered to her.

As she looks back at photographs from those days Laura sees she looked nothing like a movie star. But in that simple conversation that occurred twenty-eight years ago, her dad did more than reassure her about her appearance. He let her know that in his eyes, she would always be beautiful. He would always see the best in her.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Words Dads Long to Hear

Meagan and I spent a day on campus at the University of Georgia, the college she hopes to attend next year. We toured the classrooms, the stadium, met with a few faculty members, and peeked into a freshman women’s dorm where I had to explain that the stack of menus on the foyer table were not for room service, but from the local restaurants that offered dorm delivery. After our tour we went to lunch at a café near campus and I entertained her with stories about how much fun my two cousins and I once had years ago while attending the same university.

Before long I noticed my staunchly self-reliant, independent teenager sat quietly across the table from me, fiddling with her salad. “Is something wrong?” I asked.

“Will you come visit me?” she asked.

“Of course I will,” I answered, “at least once a week.”

She started to choke on her Arugula. “Ah, that’s a bit much,” she managed to get out.

It didn’t matter. My little girl had just told me she would miss me when she leaves home. We would reach an agreement later about how often I would be “permitted” to come to visit, but for the moment I got something I had been hoping for – reassurance she did not think leaving home would also mean leaving me behind.

Over the previous couple of years as Meagan became more independent she also became less willing to turn to me for what she needed, and even less willing to accept my affection. I tried to convince her I should be permitted to hug and kiss her at will; I was, after all, her father. She didn’t budge and it took me too long to realize my persistence only solidified her conviction. The more I tried to maintain our affection, the less of it I received.

I’m not sure how I finally got the point, but eventually I did and my gestures of affection were replaced with text messages and occasional brief hugs. I preferred more, but I was learning to be happy with what I could get. Any affection was better than none.

By the time of this lunch I had begun to worry about what place I would have in her life after she left home. I thought she was eager to get away from me, a dad who all too often had been accused of hovering far too much.

I had this worry because just days before I had received an email from a twenty-three year old woman who admitted that although she only lives fifteen minutes from her parents’ home, law school consumes nearly all her time and she rarely sees her family. What little free time she does have she spends with her fiancée. She wanted advice on how to help her dad understand that things were changing between them; she loved him still but just couldn’t see him as often as he wished.

It seems her dad was having a difficult time dealing with the realization that within a year his daughter would graduate from law school, begin her career, get married, and live as an adult. I recognized his quandary - he thought he was losing his little girl.

Strangers, we were, that father and I, yet we had something in common – we do not want to go through the pain that seems to follow the distance all daughters eventually place between themselves and their fathers.

If the natural course of growing up ended with daughters boldly cleaving from the protective oversight of their dads, an act which to him feels like having his heart ripped out with a blunt gardening tool, fathers would probably do everything possible and anything supernatural to prevent his child from aging beyond her seventh birthday.

Fortunately, the inevitable quest for independence does not signal the end of the daughter-dad relationship. My friend, Dick, reassured me of this as he shared his memories of his own hurt and frustration as he dealt with Jenna, his determined and independent daughter.

He, like any good dad, tried to discourage his teenaged daughter’s willful behavior, rewarding good conduct and issuing consequences for the bad, including grounding her and denying her favorite privileges. She simply dealt with him in her usual determined way, which more often than not meant she simply ignored him and did what she wanted anyway.

Jenna entered her college years with great enthusiasm, and dad surmised it might be because she was excited about finally breaking away from his parental influence or attempts thereto. With mixed emotions, he drove his daughter off to college, convinced it was the beginning of the end of their tenuous relationship.

As he expected, Jenna’s phone calls home were few and far between. Some days he even wondered if his only role in her life was to pay tuition. Four years went by quickly and then one day he found himself back on campus, this time to watch his daughter graduate. It was then he noticed that something about Jenna seemed to have changed. She appeared happy to see him, and even touched him as they spoke. Afterward, she began calling home, sometimes with specific objectives in mind, other times just to talk about anything that was on her dad’s mind.

One day she asked for his advice as she launched her first professional job search. When she landed that dream job, she called her dad before anyone else to thank him for his advice and encouragement. Soon she began to say other things Dick thought he would never hear, but had held out hope for.

After she moved into her own apartment Jenna started talking with her dad more regularly than she did back when she lived under his roof. Some of her phone calls were just to say hello, others were when she shared news about her efforts to establish her place in the world. She started visiting home every Sunday night for dinner, and in time, she sent her dad an email thanking him for being her “best friend.”

His story gave me hope that one day Meagan, too, would send me such an email. My thoughts returned to the law student who had written me a few days earlier. She had said, “I will always need him, even though he is no longer the only man in my life. Actually, I need him now more than ever.”

“Then go tell him,” I wrote, “I’m sure there’s nothing else he’d rather hear you say.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Place in Her Heart

When four year old Lily first became aware her dad, Warren, left home each morning to go to work and would then be out of sight for hours, she cried if she had not waved good-bye to him. To offer comfort and minimize her tears, mom began waking Lily each morning in time to stand in her bedroom window to wave goodbye as he backed his car out of the garage.

Lily waved to her dad every workday for two years; as long as it took for her to believe he really would be coming home at the end of each day. When he finally did walk through the door, she dropped everything to run to him and jump into his open arms.

Although Warren was relieved when he learned his little girl had outgrown her fear of his disappearance, he couldn’t help but be a little saddened the first morning he looked up and found an empty window at Lily’s bedroom. It was her first step toward that moment he knew was coming but hoped was still many years away, that moment when little girls become teens who then have too little time and affection for their dads.

Steering his car onto the road, Warren remembered the previous morning when Lily had waved goodbye to him. Had he known it was the last time she would send him off in that way, he would have paused and watched her a little longer, looking at the twinkle in her eyes, knowing he was the reason she was up so early in the morning.

As he reassured himself that he still held a special place in his daughter’s heart, he hoped she had not also outgrown the afternoon greeting she offered him upon his return home. That, he was not yet ready to lose. It was his favorite part of the day.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Nothing Stops Dad

Another story from my book Daddy's Little Girl:

When getting off the bus one morning on the way to elementary school, Kim tried to jump across a snow and ice covered curb. Unlike her fellow students who had jumped before her but cleared the icy patch, eight year old Kim didn't leap quite far enough and down she went. One of her hands bent backwards as she landed and the force snapped her wrist.

Although she was in considerable pain, she didn’t shed a tear as she was escorted to the school nurse’s office. She wanted to be a brave girl, as brave as her father always was.

The nurse called Kim’s parents and told them of her accident, learning the stoic child would have to wait until her mother could find someone who could drive them there to pick her up. Both parents were blind and obviously could not drive themselves to the school.

Her father hadn’t yet left the house for work when the nurse’s call came in, and wanting to be with his injured daughter as soon as possible, decided not to wait for a ride. He grabbed his cane and left the house, in his haste leaving his gloves and scarf behind. He walked just over a mile through the Philadelphia winter, all the way to the school.

When her father walked into the nurse’s office, Kim burst into tears, not because the pain of her broken wrist had finally gotten to her, but because she was so touched that her dad had endured the walk to come to her side dressed only in his business suit. In spite of his vision impairment and in the face of rather unfavorable conditions, he had once more come to her rescue.

He took a seat beside her, draped his arm around her shoulders and kissed her on top of her head. “You’re going to be okay,” he said, “Daddy’s here.” He carefully raised his fingers to her checks and brushed away the tears he knew were there.

Kim knew that day nothing could stop her dad; he would come to her rescue whenever she needed him to. And over the following years, he did.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Pot of Gold

From my book Daddy's Little Girl: Stories of the Special Bond between Fathers and Daughters, a great Father's Day gift:

Richard enjoys spending his days of retirement in Florida, sitting in the sun and reflecting on his long life and list of accomplishments. At the top of his list is the knowledge he has raised two wonderful daughters; his little girls have become grown women he can be extremely proud of.

Inevitably, whether when looking at old photographs or daydreaming about memorable events in his life, his thoughts turn to the days of four decades ago, when his little girls looked up at him with dancing eyes and thought he was the source of all things fun and joyful.

One morning as images of Debra, his youngest child, played like a treasured home movie in his imagination, a song suddenly popped into his head. It was a song he had not thought of for many years, and although he could hardly remember the last time he had sung it, every word came to him as if it were just yesterday that he had memorized it. He sat down at his computer and quickly typed an email to his forty-six year old daughter, one that included a few lines from that song:

“You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold. You're my little angel, to have and to hold.”

Moments later he received an email; it was from Debra. She was crying at her desk, she told him. She hadn't heard that song in thirty-five years. It had been her favorite bedtime song, one that Richard always sang to her each night while he made sure she was warm and snug beneath her bedcovers.

Even though Debra is a grown woman, hearing her dad say that she is still his little angel touched her heart that morning just as it had each night when she was a young girl. She went on with her day knowing that no matter what challenges they may have faced over the years or how many miles now separated them, her dad still loved her just as much as he always had, if not more. He was still a source of joy.

And Richard, well, he sat back in his chair and shed a few tears of his own, moved by remembrances of his little girl and the knowledge that she still wanted to be his pot of gold.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Love Your Enemies

If circumstances arouse your indignation, do not be led astray. Not one of us is deserving of God’s compassion, yet we are forgiven. Christ on the cross prayed for his enemies; so did Stephen, the first Christian martyr. As God loves you so too should you love your enemies, forgiving them for their transgressions, giving glory to God for his kindness that you now ought to extend to others. He who can obey this precept is a transformed man. Love your enemies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Take Control of Your Life

You cannot start a life over, but you can change the way it ends.

You have (or certainly will) hit many potholes in your life; you may even have already driven into a ditch. But you survived. Today when you get back behind the wheel you must choose between two beliefs – the fact that you once drove your life into a ditch dooms you to do it again, or, you have the freedom to choose a new road, one with guardrails in case you become weak at the wheel. You cannot erase your past, but you can separate yourself from it. Change your life by envisioning a new ending to your journey, and steer yourself in that direction.

Your To Do: Make a list of the bad decisions which prevent you from being the person you want to be, and one at a time, working from easiest to most difficult, conquer those bad habits. It is best to do this with the encouragement of friends, your guardrails.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Gift of Forgiveness

You cannot be forgiven without also being one who can forgive.

It seems natural to remember the trespass one has committed against you, and to then steer clear of that person, avoiding future negative encounters. But keeping score and holding grudges are exhausting exercises that ultimately harden your heart, and the real result is you have one less person in your circle of friends. Have you ever been excluded from someone’s circle because you were not forgiven? Would you like to be invited back into that person’s life? What would it take for that to happen? Is there anyone you’ve excluded from your life but with whom you wish you were friends again? Try forgiving her, not just in your mind and heart but in a face to face conversation. Forgiving is easy to do once you’ve tried it, and can be done often. The more you forgive, the more you will be forgiven. Try it, you’ll see.

Your To Do: Identify one person you are angry with, and carefully think about what she did to upset you. Weigh that trespass against all the positives you enjoyed when on good terms with her. Go to her and tell her you value those positives more than your grudge, and offer your forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why a Son Needs a Mom

On my mantelpiece rests an aging photograph of my mother, one taken as she was about to graduate from high school, a few short years before choosing to alter her life with the decision to become a mother. She was beautiful then, with hair that fell upon her shoulders, big eyes that reassured and a smile that warmed. I am told she was energetic, vivacious and popular back then, when she was young and had only herself to be concerned about. This photograph is my favorite picture of my mother, and although it has yellowed and faded, it has been lovingly displayed wherever I have lived, and serves to remind me of the nest from which I flew, the home that my mother kept for my four siblings and me, and the bosom to which I always return, the unconditional love and acceptance of my mother.

My memories of childhood include all the many things my mother did for us to provide us comfort and make sure we were happy. Everyday began with a hot breakfast, often including biscuits made from scratch, lunchboxes that were filled with what we each liked to eat, and dinners that always included something that was a favorite of at least one of us. With a family so large, cooking consumed much of her time. My love for cooking and belief that it is a sincere gesture of love is traced back to my mother and the way she never failed to bake a birthday cake of your choice, brought soup to the child sick in bed, altered recipes to suit our tastes, and made the house smell like the season or holiday that was approaching. But our mother did far more than cook for us to let us know that she loved us.

My mother made clothes for us, tended to what we thought were life-threatening wounds, drove us to our respective after school activities and cheered for us, sought out obscure but coveted gifts for Christmas, helped with difficult homework, wiped tears away and endured tantrums, all the while making sure not a child was overlooked, and doing or giving whatever each needed, as though she had nothing more important to do. My mother helped me to negotiate my conflicts with my dad, she taught me to ride a bicycle, balance a checkbook, sew on a button, check a turkey for doneness, and how to change diapers, treat a cold, and understand what my own infant needed when she was unable to tell me. My mother did many other things for me that taken one at a time may seem inconsequential, but when taken all together, made me who I am. My mother also did things for me that others are unaware of, and knowing her, I am confident I am not alone in that privilege. But still, our mother did far more than these kinds of maternal tasks for us to let us know that she loved us.

Each child in their own turn has found out how very much our mother loves us. One child got into trouble, and my mother was there to help find a new way. One child fell onto hard times, and my mother was there to help ease the burden until times got better. One could not see beyond a broken heart, and my mother was there to provide comfort and bring hope. One child became sick, and my mother was there to provide care. One child carried a secret, and my mother was there to make it no longer necessary. Our mother has loved us collectively, but also individually in a way that expresses to each of us, in the way that only a mother can express, that she is, and shall remain, there for us, no matter what. Gone from her nest but never from her heart, fully grown but always her beloved sons or little girl, each can call upon her still, and she will come. It is this, her unwavering devotion, her tireless effort to help, her unshakeable faith in our goodness, her absolute belief in our worth, that let us know then and lets us know now, that we are loved.

I am the first of her five children, and over the forty-plus years since my birth I have seen much change about my mother, and I have seen much remain the same. Although now much older than when pictured in the photograph I treasure, her eyes still offer reassurance to whomever she gazes upon, as does the gentle touch she often gives while listening with great interest to whatever one might be sharing with her. Her smile still warms, as does her laughter and the heartfelt embrace all have come to expect when coming upon her. I still receive birthday cards, enjoy a favorite meal when I go home, and hear from her the applause and affirmations that tell me she is proud of my accomplishments. Now walking more slowly, her hands less able than they once were, her health requiring more and more concessions from her, she struggles at times to keep up with her former pace. Yet, in spite of these changes, she always manages to be there when needed.

I do not know what my mother’s dreams were, what plans she had in mind for herself as she grew up, where she wanted to visit or what she might have become if she had chosen to live her life differently. I am ashamed that I do not know these things because I have never thought to ask, but I also do not know because my mother has never uttered a word of disappointment about the life she has lived. I do not know of her regrets for she does not share them, if they exist, nor does she lament about what her life used to be like or otherwise give off signs of disappointment about what age has taken from her. Perhaps she has just accepted her life for what it is, thinking it is too late to change it. Or, perhaps she is happy with her life for what it has been. It is the latter, I like to think. I think this because I know my mother has enjoyed being a mother, and a grandmother, and a surrogate mother or grandmother to those in need that have been fortunate enough to enter her life. I know this, because she never fails to seize the opportunity to act like a mom, to be there for someone.

I love my mother dearly, and I have a long list of things I want to do for her one day, but most of all I want to tell her “thank you” for all that she has done for me. I believe that a child, especially a son, can never express adequately the gratitude for what the mother has done. I know that I cannot, except that I know what I will do to try. I will do what my mother did for me, I will be there when she needs me, no matter what. I love you, Mom.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Count to Three - Again.

Make counting to three a habit.

Counting to three implies self-control; it leaves enough time between a stimulus and a response to change your mind. Self-control refers not only to abstinence from self indulgence, but control of the temper, the tongue, and the lust for money or power. Be careful not to act or speak rashly, especially in anger. Under the influence of anger you are not in your best state of mind; an angry person will show forth something very different from what she might when in a peaceful state of mind.

Your To Do: Take stock of your hot buttons; know what topics, events or situations trigger your fight response. Analyze how you react in the face of those triggers, and when you feel those sensations swelling inside of your chest or hear those sirens wailing in your ears, take a step back and count to three. Count to ten if you have to. When you do respond, pay attention to how you do. If necessary, count again.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Love the Least

Take great care not to align yourself only with those in high and influential places; recall that Jesus dined with and cared for the outcast, not limiting himself to the company of the king’s court and temple priests. If you enjoy the love of Christ you will faithfully minister to the least. Called to a heritage of blessing you must live a life of blessing. Having contempt for the least, rather, for anyone, only encourages the unbeliever. Love the least.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dose of Wisdom #3

Listen carefully.

When listening to anyone, what you hear depends in large part on how you hear. You should be quick to listen, but slow to speak and even slower to become defensive or angry, for neither reaction will bring out the best in you. Some of the best conversations you’ll have in life will be the most difficult ones. Strive to understand that criticism is as valuable to you as praise, and take care to represent yourself as one who is willing and able to listen to both. Praise tells you what you do well and that which you should maintain, but criticism tells you what you do not do so well, and that where you should focus your efforts for improvement. Remember, just because you don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth hearing.

Your To Do: Think back to occasions when feedback angered you. Consider how you might handle similar feedback in a more calm and productive fashion, and how you might use feedback for self-improvement. Ask someone for constructive yet critical feedback; listen and use what you hear.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Love Your Neighbor

Though you may exhibit what the world calls charity and kindness in the highest degree, unless you are filled with love, your deeds are nothing. It is in our love for our neighbor, moreover, all our brethren, that we continue Christ’s work of spreading the word of God. Go, be a disciple, love your neighbor and bear good fruit. Love each other so well that there will be mutual service and helpfulness, all for God’s glory.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cherish Your Spouse

Marriage is a state of mutual obligations. Each spouse must yield to the other what those obligations require. Your spouse is a great blessing given to you so that you may more fully enjoy your life not only on earth, but in heaven as well. Honor and cherish that blessing. You are called to love your spouse just as Christ loved the church, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Cherish your spouse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Help Others Succeed

If Christ encourages and blesses you, be like-minded. Serve not only your own interests, but also the interests of others, all the while spurring them on toward their own good deeds, not letting them fall into the neglect of their brethren. Help others succeed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do Your Share

Let each do as he is able according to his blessings, no matter how high or low the task may be, with joy in his heart, knowing he is a model of Christ’s love and mercy. He who is able to work, should. It pleases the Lord for you to do your share and to do it well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dose of Wisdom #2

You cannot make someone love you, but you can be someone who can be loved.

You may now or will one day wish to have someone to love, someone who will love you in equal return. You may even currently be in a determined search to find that person who would fulfill your romantic dreams. But do you know who you are looking for? An eligible single who best meets your criteria yet whom you must convince to become interested in and attracted to you? Or someone who sees you, understands you, and loves who you are? Think more about who is interested in you than who you wish were interested in you. It is far better to be readily loved than to work hard to cause someone to love you. The former is indeed a gift; the latter is indeed not.

Your To Do: Take a thorough, objective inventory of yourself and discover those characteristics and attributes which draw others toward you. Work to enhance those appealing assets, and then wait patiently for that special someone who will one day find you, and love you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Act

We cannot adequately demonstrate the love of Christ in the privacy of our homes, among only our closest friends or within the walls of our church. Instead, just as Jesus walked from city to city imparting mercy and grace to all he came in contact with, we are to be similarly intentional about imparting mercy and grace to others. We should do this as every opportunity arises, even if in unlikely places. As in when standing next to someone on a street corner, while in line in a grocery store, in the break room at work, during rush hour traffic jams, and even more far reaching places and occasions.

Being a disciple, an ambassador to Christ and a willing minister to others, is a dynamic life process. Yet for some, putting his or her theology into action may at first be an awkward, even uncomfortable, process.

Many of us go through life averting our eyes from unfamiliar and dissimilar people, missing an opportunity to speak to or literally touch someone who may be in great need or agonizing pain. But imagine a world where you demonstrate one loving, selfless deed every day, and your deed inspires good deeds in others, which in turn inspires more good deeds in still others. Your one act of Christian loving-kindness may ripple across the workplace, your neighborhood, even your entire community, resulting in immeasurable Kingdom impact, all for the glory of God. How awesome would that be!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do Good Works

The Christian code is to do good; by your good works you bring glory to God. Your faith in God if that faith is without works is not enough. Care for others and exhort them to love and to do good works, for through good works Christ’s love is shown to still others. That love must not be an empty profession, but an active and practical love, a love that identifies you as a faithful child of God. Do good works.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Meagan Turns 20!

Today my dear daughter turns 20! In her honor, today I'm posting the introduction to my first book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, written twelve years ago for one reason: to let her know how much I love her. Enjoy!

I have known from a very early age that I wanted to be a father, and particularly the father of a daughter. I’m not sure that I really know why, but I have been certain that I would be blessed with a girl child. My heart has always melted when I held little baby girls or grew envious when I watched them as toddlers crawling into their father’s laps to cuddle. I’ve been touched while listening to women speak fondly of their fathers and moved by the grief of women who have lost their fathers. The love shared between a daughter and a father seemed to me to certainly be special, and was something I wanted very much to experience for myself.

When my wife told me she was pregnant I was overjoyed and quick to believe that the baby would indeed be a girl. Throughout the pregnancy I spoke of the baby as “her” or “she,” never as “it.” When I saw the first sonogram I could tell that our baby was a girl. Even though the doctor said it was too early to tell, I was convinced and thereafter believed my hopes and dreams about fatherhood were coming true. I was in the delivery room when she arrived. The first person she looked at was me. I was smitten instantly.

After the delivery an exhausted mother slept while Meagan Katherine and I bonded. She slept on my shoulder; her face nestled under my chin. We spent her first night in the world together, asleep in a big recliner. Today, nearly twelve years later, Meagan still lays her head on my shoulder and turns her face into my neck. I still pull her close and make sure no harm comes to her.

Over the years Meagan and I have done much together. We have daddy-daughter dates, she travels with me, and we play together, learn new things together and do sweet things for one another now and then. Sometimes we sit on my bed and look through the contents of the “Meagan Box,” a cardboard box overstuffed with pictures, her artwork, keepsakes and notes we have written to each other. In that box resides the reassuring evidence of our close relationship. Her mother and I divorced years ago and Meagan lives with me half time. During the weeks that she is with her mother, I go to that box often. For a long time I have wanted to capture those memories and put them together in some form to give to Meagan, to reassure her that when we are not together, that I think of her and I love her.

With the same certainty that I had about having a daughter, I have also been certain that the relationship Meagan and I have would be a changing one. I knew, and people told me, that one day she would be a little less affectionate, more interested in friends, less entertained by me, and that she might perhaps even find me embarrassing. It has surely come to pass. Now when I take her to school, she kisses me good-bye, and never on the lips, before we leave the house. I may not listen to my music from the moment the car enters school territory. I am to keep both hands on the wheel, my gaze fixed straight ahead. I should wave just at other parents, and only if they wave first. If I must say, “I love you”, it is to be nearly whispered, and never if the car door is open. Sometimes I go to the Meagan Box to reassure myself.

When I first began this book I intended to create a different kind of “how to” book, a book daughters could give to their fathers to tell them what they wanted from them. I sat and thought of the things my daughter and I have done together. I remembered what my father had done with my sister, and my uncles with my cousins. I asked Meagan for some ideas. Then I wrote it all down. The first time I read what I had written I saw a list of what a daughter might ask her father to do for her (just as I had planned). The second time I read it I saw a list of all that I hope to do for my daughter. The third time I read it I saw myself telling Meagan that she would change but never outgrow me. When I read it the fourth time, I knew I was holding the Meagan Box.

With this book Janet and I hope to inspire new fathers and experienced fathers to embrace the important role they have in their daughters’ lives, and give them the love, nurture and support they seek, and to enjoy that which is reciprocated in kind. With this book I tell my child how very irreplaceably important she is to me. With this book I comfort and reassure myself that I will always have the pleasure and honor of being in her life. I love you Meagan Katherine.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Dose of Wisdom #1

Seek the regular counsel of someone better equipped than you.

As competent as you may be, your knowledge and experience is limited to that which you have been exposed to. While you may often draw from your prior knowledge and experience to help you reach wise decisions, you are likely unable to handle anything since you have not yet been (and are most likely not to be) exposed to all things. Consequently, when confronted with a unique and unexpected challenge or circumstance, you may be inadequately equipped to handle the matter appropriately. In such times you would do well to turn to a trusted, mature advisor, seeking his counsel, thoughtfully considering his advice given based on his greater wisdom and experience.

Your To Do: Identify a person you can rightfully consider wiser and more experienced than you, preferable someone older and with life experiences different from your own. Ask him to be your mentor and begin spending regular time together in discussion and disclosure, presenting to him your questions and challenges. Listen carefully, learn from him, and equip yourself with his wisdom.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Commissioned

Last night I had the pleasure and priviledge to help commission ten new Stephen Ministers, Christian lay-counselors, into our Perimeter Church fold. It was a wonderful experience, and reminded me of my own commissioning last year. I'm reposting today what I wrote in April '09:

So now I’m a Stephen Minister; the commissioning ceremony was last night. Twelve others and I met with the other ministers and officially accepted into the ministry. It really was a powerful evening.

First of all, I went alone because Linley had come down with tonsillitis that day and was feeling pretty bad, so she and Jill stayed home but they did send me off with hugs and smiles of pride. I know I have their support.

We began with a brief social so that new and old ministers could get to know one another, and then went into the prayer room. Perimeter has a prayer team that meets at the church several times a week to pray for the church, congregation, community and more. Before this group we took our oath, answering “Yes, with the help of God,” to each question. It was a reminder to us that we are not healers, only messengers. God is the healer. Then we received our Stephen Ministry certificates.

After the formal commissioning, each new minister was lead away by two members of the prayer team who asked what weighed heavily on us, and then prayed for us individually. It was overwhelming to hear two people pray so earnestly and personally for me and my family. I am rich with blessings already, but if God finds favor in me as these two people asked him to, I’m going to be hard pressed to describe my gratitude. I tell you, it makes me want to serve Him even more.

Next we gathered in a circle and were asked to hold our hands out palms up. An Elder went around to each of us and anointed us, making the sign of the cross in each palm with francenscence oil. As he did so another Elder read to us the story of Stephen from the book of Acts. After each of us was anointed, we were asked to hold hands. As we did the prayer team gathered around us, laid hands on our shoulders, and took turns praying out loud for us.

I kid you not, warmth filled my hands, and I felt warm vibrations radiating from their hands on my shoulders into and throughout my body. Their words lifted my heart. The ceremony was as powerful as when I became baptized.
When it was over we all congratulated each other, Carla, my prayer partner during the training, and I hugged and made plans to meet with our spouses for a glass of wine next week, and then everyone went their separate ways.

As I got into the car I found two notes sitting on the passenger seat. Jill and Linley had driven to the church to deliver them, wanting me to know they were there for me even though they couldn’t attend the ceremony.

What a night. I’m proud to be a Stephen Minister.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Use Measured Words

Words can be either lasting solace or lethal poison. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. Let not your mouth utter both blessing and cursing, good and evil, as it is an insult to God, the creator of all people. Choose your words with care and let them lift others up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tell The Truth

Simply let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No. You are a member of the Christian household, and every member has a right to the truth; do not lie. You have taken off your old self with its ill practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed. Tell the truth.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Listen With Understanding

Take heed that you might faithfully hear the Word and use the Word to glorify God in all other things that you hear and answer to. When listening to man, what you hear depends on how you hear. You should be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry, for anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Always sympathize with the joys and sorrows of others. Listen with understanding.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ease Other's Burdens

There are many burdens: financial, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Fulfill the law of Christ and help carry others’ burdens as you are able. Bear in mind that you yourself are not infallible, so judge others’ burdens gently.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Lend Helping Hands

Honest labor is the best antidote to a dishonest life. Every man is to labor in order that he may not only supply his needs, but have that which he can give. To do something with your own hands for someone in need is pleasing to Christ. When you do, your faith will grow and be witnessed by many. That pleases Christ too. Lend helping hands.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Be Not Indifferent

With wisdom is found humility, mercy, consideration and love. Be not indifferent, but be wise and ready to do whatever is good, including loving those who may seem impossible to love. Christ died not for his friends alone, but his enemies as well. Be not indifferent.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Points North Magazine mention....

Lift Others Up

Let not your brother suffer as others walk past, but reach out your hand and take him into your heart. Be kind and compassionate to one another, just as in Christ God has been kind and compassionate to you. Our duty to others is enforced by the example of Christ. He forgot himself in his work of saving men. So ought we too. Lift others up.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Offer Your Shoulder

Be there even if you haven’t been asked to show up. When you are least expected is often when you are most needed. Giving comfort secures more real happiness than receiving, and besides, is Godlike and blesses forever. Offer your shoulder.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Be Fair Always

Always, not just when it serves you well. To be otherwise is to be dishonest, and that is not good. Look to the interests of others; earn respect for your impartial character rather than contempt for your dishonorable ways. Be fair always.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Encourage Your Friends

No friend is more welcomed than the one who encourages you. Make yourself welcomed. Encourage your friends and stir them to duty so that the cause of Christ may be made stronger. Encourage your friends, turn them from false promises, and you too will be encouraged.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Make Many Friends

To have a friend is to be a friend. You can never have enough friends, but you can have too few. Be zealous, enthusiastic, not indifferent, making the needs of your brethren your own and helping them, receiving one another into full fellowship as Christ received you. Make many friends.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Share With Others

Share not just your things, but your heart, counsel, and time too. When you do, you’ll enjoy everything more, and so will everyone else. During life our means must be so used as to please God; your free and cheerful giving will indeed be blessed. Share with others.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Strike Up Conversations

You’d be surprised how many people are lonely and think no one cares. Show that you care. Strike up conversations, extending not only to your friends but to strangers too the comfort that God has given you. In this way you will surely confound the work of God’s adversaries. Strike up conversations.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Love Talk

Being in love is a wonderful circumstance we are all grateful to find ourselves in. It is all at once a heartwarming, fulfilling, consuming, euphoric, promising and tantalizing experience. Love stirs us to be at our best and moves us to thoughtful, attentive action and deference. Being in love is seemingly effortless at times, especially in the formative days of a new relationship when one is all agush with admiration for the object of his affection, when one cannot ask too much of you and you cannot give too much of yourself. But the truth is romantic love is far from being an effortless adventure. As time passes and the newness wears off, it becomes apparent that intentional and continuous effort is required to nurture and preserve romantic love. Love cannot be assumed to be just simply “understood” between two people or even left to chance and nature’s course; it must be actively encouraged, reciprocated and reassured if love is to take root, grow deeper and endure for a lifetime.

Reassuring someone of your love involves both action and verbal expression. Showing your love is easily accomplished through various actions that are recognized as signs of love, like lingering in the comfort of a warm embrace, walking hand in hand, sharing a passionate kiss, or hundreds of other tender, attentive gestures that are given exclusively to our loved one. But such actions are not enough – one likes to hear that you love her, and probably likes to hear it often and in ways that have never been said before. Expressing your love with words in a tender, insightful and disclosing conversation or in brief yet meaningful phrases, are reassurances of your affection and commitment. Whether one sings another to sleep with a favorite love song or often repeats a little jingle that has special meaning, people in love find personal and intimate ways to verbally express their love for one another. It is that love talk, those little sweet nothing statements that are, when said, as profound and memorable, if not more so, as any gesture of love one might make, that this book is about.

We most often express our love by simply saying, “I love you.” These words, whether spoken or written, are not to be underestimated in their significance. These words are spoken in every language and culture and are longed for by everyone at one time or another in our lives. These words are used at pivotal moments in relationships, as when first telling someone of how important they have become in your heart or when wedding vows are exchanged. However, familiarity brings an unfortunate consequence and one day this phrase will no longer be as fresh and heart lifting as when it was first spoken. Not because “I love you” becomes less treasured or believable as an expression of romantic love, but because we tend to become less attentive to that which happens, or is said, all the time.

So what to do? The solution to this romance dilemma is simple – one must take advantage of the human desire for novelty. Our attention is peaked when we see and experience something for the first time. Likewise, our hearts are lifted when we hear “I love you” said differently, said not out of habit or expectation, but out of a desire to express this: “I want to tell you just how special and important you are to me, and I want to tell you in a way I’ve never said and you’ve never heard before.” Love talk must be not only sincere, but also creative, thoughtful and ever changing to make sure his ears receive your words with the desired enthusiasm and welcome effect.

Furthermore, not only must one think of and say “I love you” in different ways, one must learn to hear “I love you” when it is said, even if perhaps not exactly in those three words. Just as one has a responsibility to be loving and reassuring toward his partner, one also has a responsibility to recognize and be receptive to the many ways in which the partner might express her romantic love. Sometimes saying “I love you” comes easy, sometimes not. Sometimes saying “I love you” doesn’t seem enough for the moment and other words should be employed instead. Hearing these words and making known their tender effect are essential steps to giving your loved one the confidence that you understand him and value his efforts to express himself. What better way is there to let someone know you love the way she loves you?

Make love talk a part of your repertoire, a new step in your romantic dance. When you do, you will touch a heart in a way that it has not been touched before. When you do, you will see that love talk confers a unique message to someone who wants to hear just what love talk really is - the sound of a memory that will last forever.

Say Something Nice

Certainly you enjoy compliments and sincere pleasantries. So does everyone else. As your lips smile, say something nice, revealing your heart with your words. Use courteous, graceful speech, calculated to attract rather than to repel, so that you might make a new friend. Say something nice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Smile at everyone.

Christian character is not mere moral or legal correctness, but the possession and manifestation of several graces, including love, joy, and peace. A simple smile is an easy yet powerful expression of those graces. Smile at everyone; smile a lot. It says a lot about you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Launch Week

I'm excited - my two new books, my first to be published by Sourcebooks - are out this week! Because You are My Daughter and Because You are My Son, both celebrating a parent's pride in and hope for a beloved child, are a fresh approach to a familiar topic for me. These books, numbers 22 and 23 of my works, still focus on the special parent-child bond I've written so often about, but rather than rely on positive aphorisms (100 Reasons) to tell the story, I've written letters to Meagan and Linley (the Daughter book) and Cameron, the boy I mentor (the Son book) to express a parent's thoughts. Here's what the publisher says:

"Because You Are My Daughter is a heartfelt letter of love from one proud parent. New York Times bestselling author Gregory E. Lang puts into words and photographs the unique ways mothers and fathers bond with their little girls and inspire them to become amazing women.

As parents, nothing makes us more proud than watching our daughters grow into beautiful, successful, happy women. We cherish every first step, first smile, first sign of independence, and first grown-up decision, and we know we are learning, experiencing, and succeeding right along with her.

Let this wise and warm book give voice to all the personal connections you have with your daughter and let her know how blessed you feel to have her in your life."

Available now in your favorite national bookstore and online (see the covers on the right margin of this page). I hope you enjoy them!

On another front, just today I finally finished my first distinctively Christain book. While all my books endorse Christain traditions all have been more secular than not. In this new book, currently titled Walk with Jesus, I write straight out about Christian living. I hope I can find a publishing home for it, and pray that God will provide me with a new audience for this work. Until then, I plan to post portions of Walk with Jesus from time to time just for your pleasure.

Enough for now; God bless!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A God Story

This is the first draft of a story I'm working on for the church's upcoming newletter. It is likely to change a bit but I wanted to get something out there to prove I'm still Living the Word, or at least using my gift in His service:

On December 30th, 2009 John woke up with a plan to spend a portion of his day serving God. He was to visit several extended stay hotels to help distribute one hundred sack lunches to the children who live there, children who call the hotel rooms “home.”

He and his wife Kathy had participated in a few community outreach service projects in the past, but neither claimed to be immersed in missional living. Yet, on this day, the parents of three wanted to serve not only to help others but to give their children an opportunity to bless others with their good deeds.

The family of five piled into the car and headed for their first stop not knowing what God had in store for them.

Shalihia sat at the little table tucked in the corner of her hotel room, her head heavy in her hands, wondering what she was going to do. She and her two young sons had been living at the hotel for nearly three months and the cramped quarters were wearing her nerves thin. Christmas had passed without gifts for her children, and with their father in prison she hadn’t had anyone to share the season with. She and her mother hadn’t spoken to each other since October.

Back then, facing her mother’s ultimatum to either be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness or leave home, Shalihia stepped outside into the cold taking with her only the clothing she and her sons were wearing. The twenty-four year old mother and her sons spent their first night homeless in the frightening surroundings of a shelter. They eventually made their way to the Norcross Cooperative Ministry where she received help to secure a room at the hotel where she now lived.

John and Kathy reached the first stop, an extended stay hotel in Norcross. They had heard of the growing numbers of families moving into the hotels after an eviction or foreclosure followed shortly behind the loss of a job. The children living with their parents in the hotels often received their only nutritious meal at school. For them, when the schools are closed, there are no such meals. For some of them, the sack lunches the church people brought would be all they would eat that day.

The couple stepped into the hotel lobby to deliver a box full of the sack lunches. They were greeted at the front desk and the attendant began to call the residents to announce that lunch had arrived.

Shalihia looked around her room. Her hopes had been high a few days before when all was on track for her to move into a nearby apartment complex, only to come crashing down when she discovered her identity had been stolen and her credit ruined. Now the required deposit was beyond her ability to pay. Making matters worse, her employer, having troubles of his own, was days late handing out paychecks. She had only a few dollars in her pocket.

Shalihia looked out the window and thought of the woman down the hall who watched her children while she worked, and remembered the woman’s words: Don’t worry, have faith and something will come through.

At that moment Shalihia’s telephone rang.

John and Kathy watched as a few timid parents walked across the parking lot through the cold to receive lunches for their children. When it seemed they had served everyone they began to pack the remaining bags to go to the second stop. John looked up and saw a young woman approaching.

“How many children do you have?” he asked.

“Two,” she said, giving an appreciative smile as she took the lunches. She turned back to return to her room.

Kathy, thinking the young mother might be hungry too, tossed her husband a third lunch. “Go after that woman and give this to her,” she told him.

Nearing her room, Shalihia heard a voice over her shoulder. It was John. “I forgot to give you a lunch,” he said, and handed another to her. She smiled a second time and thanked him again before turning around once more to go inside.

“In what was probably only seconds,” John recalled later, “I felt God prompting me to ask her if she needed anything else, and at the very same time I was nervously asking myself if I was prepared for what might come if I asked her.” He drew a breath.

“I was headed in the door when I hear his voice again,” Shalihia laughed when describing her encounter with John. “That man asked me, ‘Is there anything else that you need?’ I couldn’t believe it because I could tell in his eyes he really wanted to know. All of a sudden words just started to spill out of my mouth.”

John learned everything about Shalihia’s circumstances: her mother’s rejection, her delinquent paycheck, her credit in ruins, and her despair about her children having to live in a hotel. “I was stunned,” John said. “I felt so burdened by her situation that I knew we had to do something to help her, I just wasn’t sure what. I promised Shalihia she would hear from me again, and for the rest of the day I was preoccupied with her, wondering what God wanted us to do.”

John and Kathy decided to help Shalihia with the deposit she needed for the apartment, only to realize she had nothing to move into it. “We couldn’t let them sleep on the floor,” Kathy said. The couple began to spread word of Shalihia’s story to their discipleship groups, friends and neighbors. As other’s learned that the single mom and her sons had nothing but a few clothes, donations of gift cards, furniture and household items began to pour in. Dozens of people, some complete strangers to John and Kathy, mobilized to help Shalihia furnish the apartment.

“A few days after I got those lunches,” Shalihia explained, “the front desk of the hotel called and it was John on the phone. He told me to pack my bags; he said I was getting out of there! When I told my four year old son we were moving into an apartment, he said “Mommy, God is good!”

John helped Shalihia move into the apartment just four days after meeting her.

Kathy invited Shalihia to Perimeter, first to meet Kathy’s cohorts in Community Outreach, and later to attend a WOW meeting where Shalihia told her story. “I knew that God was at work in my life because I could think of no other explanation why people I didn’t even know would be showing me so much compassion and generosity.”

On Kathy’s invitation Shalihia began to receive guests to help her with Bible study group. She also attended A Taste of Perimeter and began to grow attached to the people she met. “I could feel the Holy Spirit as I listened to how others were living to love and serve people just as Jesus had done. Amazed at how God has blessed me already this year, I realized I wanted to commit myself to Him.” Shalihia has since accepted Christ as her Savior and is planning to attend the upcoming Inquirers Seminar.

“Before I met John, I remember thinking maybe I would go to my mother’s church and get baptized just so I could move my children back into a home, but now I’m so glad I didn’t. Now I know God because he showed himself to me through other people’s love, not their coercion. I wake up every morning now and instead of being filled with worry I think about how much God has blessed me. I know that he is real. God is real.”

John and Kathy, already faithful believers, grew closer to God through their experience helping Shalihia.

“I learned that I really could depend on God,” John explained. “When I sat down to write that first email to my friends asking for their help I didn’t know what to say or ask. But somehow Shalihia’s story unfolded and that email spread around like wildfire. Almost immediately responses began coming in with offers to help. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t doing anything in this scenario. God was doing all the work but letting me go along to watch. He was letting me enjoy his plan for Shalihia.”

“Yes, we came to trust in God’s provision,” Kathy added. “People we didn’t know were sending money or asking what Shalilia needed. It was amazing to see God at work, and amazing to see the joy in Shalihia’s face as she, though this encounter with all the people who reached out to her, came to know and love God.”