Helping Others

Recently, I ran errands — checking off my long to-do list. Fifth stop. Pick up antibiotics for my son. Ear infections hurt. My next stop — pick him up at track practice. I’m running early. Got time to spare. Relax. Wouldn’t that be nice? Stop complaining, Helo! Perhaps I should make a coffee stop.

But just as I was about to get in my car, I noticed a disheveled woman, clothes tattered, sitting outside on the concrete ground against the wall of the drugstore. Looked like she hadn’t showered for several weeks. All of her belongings crowded a dirty pull cart. Plastic bags, remnants of food, and a dirty yellow shirt splashing out.

We’ve all seen carts like this one. Sometimes we stop. Sometimes we pretend we can’t see it or don’t want to.

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I could have driven off, but felt moved to change my mind. I got out of the car with a fresh bottle of water, granola bar, and hidden copy of Halo Found Hope. I sat down next to her on the cold concrete.

She smiled, revealing broken and missing teeth. “Why are you sitting here with me?”

“I’ve got time — I need a break — and thought I’d join you while you are taking yours.”

Silence.

I handed her that granola bar and the bottle of water. I began to munch on my own bar. Now we were talking and eating.

“Thank you so much,” she remarked. “Most people look at me and keep going — like I’m not even here. I don’t think anyone wants to know me.”

A frown and sorrow crowded her face.

Looking her right in the eyes, I remarked, “I’m sorry. People shouldn’t do that. You are loved, you know?”

A twinkle. A smile. Belief expressed.

“Yes, I know God loves me. I just don’t understand how I ended up this way.”

I didn’t ask her how she got to this place — homeless, I gathered. I thought to myself, Father, why do some people end up this way? Help me love this child.

Up until this point, I hadn’t mentioned God. Yet, this tender lady brought up our Comforter. Authentically unashamed. Knowing who He is.

“Do you like to pray?” I questioned.

“Yep. But I’m not sure if He listens. I’m not sure if I say the right words.”

“Praying is talking. Just talk to Him. He already knows what you are going to say or ask.”

“You make it sound so simple,” she snickered.

“Yeah, isn’t God is awesome? He understands us like no one else can.”

We closed our eyes, held hands, and talked with God. She couldn’t stop telling me how thankful she was that I took the time to visit.

I told her how thankful I was that she took time to spend with me. See, she blessed me. She made me realize that the things I complain about, or take for granted at times I need to set aside. Complaining is contagious — but so is the opposite, including appreciation and gratitude. And serving others.

God reminded me that focusing on the need of someone else, rather than my own, brings out the blessings He provides me, day in, day out. Often blessings are disregarded or we don’t pay close attention to them. One day, like days gone by, I will feel broken. And what a blessing it will be if someone sits next to me, reminding me how much God loves me.

This woman was in a dark and lonely place. I told her how much God loves her. She responded, “I see that, because He made you, Helo. And you sat down with someone who is alone. He used you to show me His love.”

I looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Thanks for your time.” I was just about to get up to run errand number six, when I remembered that I had a hidden copy of Halo Found Hope in my purse.

“Say, do you like to read?”

“Yes, I love to!”

I signed her name in the book and handed it to her. She reached out with dirty hands and clasped onto the gift. So thankful — as if I’d given her so much, when in fact it was just words on paper, bound into a book. With a twinkle in her eye and a radiating smile, she reminded me to smile more often, thank God more often, and praise Him more — even during dark moments.

My heart has a tender spot for the homeless. The hopeless. The overwhelmed. The sick. Perhaps because I’ve been through my share of heartache and trials, likely so have you, and came out of it with a greater appreciation, greater gratitude, and new perspective. Every day is a gift.

We all need mercy. We all need grace. We all need comfort. We all need strength. We all need fortitude. We all need resilience. We all need forgiveness.

We all need love.

We all need God.

And Jesus told us, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

There’s a story behind everyone’s challenge. I don’t know why God allows certain folks to end up on the street. Or end up sick. Or lonely. Or challenged. And until their story is told, we should not judge. Instead we should love. They need Christ and hope found in Him just as much as we do. We all have or will face dark hours. Life isn’t always easy. Neither is faith. But God promises to never leave nor forsake us. All of His children need to hear that. He also never told us we wouldn’t face trouble in this life.

So how should we help others?

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Don’t walk by a person in need.
Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Let God’s love saturating your own heart and soul soak someone else’s. If you have a job, a roof over your head, transportation, food in the fridge, and a closet with a change of clothing, God has provided well for you. Therefore you can help someone else. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).

Be God’s vessel.
Let Him use you to love others. And remember, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17). Give love without expecting it in return. This is generosity defined. And refined.

Choose generosity.
Looking beyond ourselves and setting our eyes on the hearts and needs of others dissolves our own complaining spirit. Remember, complaining is contagious — but so is the opposite including appreciation and gratitude. Don’t hold on so tight to the things of this world, the blessings God has given you. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Often, the things we complain about pale in comparison to what others are going through. Not always. Sometimes. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that what we are going through should be minimized by what someone else is going through. I’ve learned that when I feel like complaining, and do something kind for someone else, it erases my grumbling heart and replaces it with a happy one.

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Share God’s love with someone else today.

Hope in Him,

Helo 

Questioning God

I’m not going to ask you to answer this question out loud, because I want you to sit back comfortably. I want this to be a peaceful moment for you. But I’m also going to ask you to prepare yourself, because sometimes questions we’re asked give rise to sparks of discomfort. You know, the kind that makes us want to get up, leave, and avoid the question. Now I’m going to ask you to take a quiet moment and search your soul for your answer. This moment — right now — is between you and God. Your Father. Your Confidant. And the Keeper of your soul. This moment has nothing to do with anyone else sitting around you. It’s all about you and the One who loves you. And you know what? Questions can give rise to proof.

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Here comes the question…

Have you ever wondered if God is real? Even for a split second? 

You know, that momentary feeling of doubt where you find yourself wondering if God truly listens and if He truly loves and if He’s really there. I know there have been moments when you felt like or still feel that you’ve not been a recipient of His affection or His presence. Or maybe you’ve felt like you didn’t need Him. (Side note: we’ve all done that). Yet you find yourself looking for proof because sometimes you wonder if He really is there. Part of you knows you need something or someone greater, and if you were completely transparent and honest with yourself you’d admit that you’re still wondering. Still seeking, still wanting authentic love, and everlasting hope.

I am going to get boldly vulnerable with you right now. I admit I’ve had moments of doubting God, wondering if He was real. Usually because of painful situations He was allowing and I didn’t understand why He thought it was okay for me to be hurt. I mean I’m strong, but I am not invincible.

Hurt happens. But so do miracles.

Decades ago, my sweetheart boyfriend of several years broke up with me for another girl. It shattered my heart and I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong or why he chose to leave me.

Several months later, he asked me to marry him.

I replied joyfully, “Yes!”

Or there was that moment, where I lay in bed after three miscarriages, facing my fourth. Lying there per doctor’s orders for six weeks, hoping I wouldn’t lose this one.

My precious son was born months later.

Or there was that unimaginable doctor’s visit, where I learned that I had something wickedly wrong inside of me. I doubted. I doubted God was real. I doubted God was near. But the more I doubted the more afraid I became. And the doubt-fear cycle escalated. I don’t like panic and neither does God. It was time for me to face that brain tumor head on. (No pun intended). I had no idea then what God was going to teach me during my near-Heaven experience. But wow. 

What I learned is how real He is and how authentically He loves.

Moments of doubting God’s authenticity or His presence are part of the human condition. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t faced these kind of thoughts. But God understands us in spite of our weaknesses and doubts. He knows how to cradle and hug even during the most tender or raw, heart-draining moments when our arms are stretched out, begging for mercy and comfort. We might think we are wearing thin, cannot go on, and are not sure if He’s really there.

But I promise you, He is real, and always present.

So we can learn to redirect our doubt. Miracles still happen, right? 

Precious child, miracles are whispers from Heaven, proving that God is real.

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We’ve heard of others blessed by them, but may not have experienced one ourselves, leaving us questioning, “Am I worthy? And is God really here?”

Precious child, stop for a moment. Put every thought aside, and envision that you and I are sitting at a kitchen table right across from each other. Now take your hands hidden under that table, lift them up, and stretch them across the table. I am doing the same thing. I don’t know you well, and you don’t know me well. But in God’s presence we’re going to get vulnerable. We are going to ask Him to draw close. And if you don’t feel comfortable asking Him to sit with us, I will ask Him for the two of us.

Take my hands and look me straight in the eye.

Precious child, I am looking at a miracle, right now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (quote inspiration – Psalm 139:14). You are precious. You are loved. You are wanted. And you are worthy.

God is real. 

And if you are still doubting, look around you. If you are sitting in a room with nothing alive in it other than yourself, go outside. Look around at the trees surrounding you. Look up at the clouds in the sky. Stop and listen. It could be the voices talking, the birds singing, a dog barking, or a child laughing. These motions, events, and scenes are all clear evidence that God is real. He was real yesterday. He is real today. And He will be real tomorrow.

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Now close your eyes for just a moment.

Oh no. If you keep them closed you won’t be able to finish reading this.

Please open them again.

Thank you.

My prayer for you today, is that you will grasp how much your Heavenly Father loves you and that you’ll understand how real He is and always will be.

Amen.

Hope in Him,

Helo

Don’t Wait To Draw God Near

Ever found yourself asking, “What does it take to draw God near? Is He always close? Really?” People who call themselves “Christians” often tell me, “He is near” — and I know I’m supposed to believe it, because I call myself a Christian too. But how come it doesn’t always feel like He’s close?

Let’s get real and transparent for a moment. All of us have faced or will face struggles. All of us question or wonder at times. I have. If we don’t seek God during those puzzling moments, doubt clouds the truth.

THE TRUTH: He is always present, always loves, always forgives, always holds onto us — when we let Him. He is real.

He is amazing.

But sometimes we don’t exhale amazing faith. Instead, we inhale doubt and it keeps us questioning and mumbling, “Where is He? Where is He? Where is He? How come I can’t see Him?”

Hmpff. Ever felt exasperated? I have.

We get caught up in things we think are important and somewhere along the way we can lose sight of what matters most. We look for love, validation, and success in this world, and discover, “Hey, this fulfillment is temporary.” The satisfaction didn’t linger long enough. It didn’t and won’t fill our vacuum. At least not in an everlasting or eternal way. Are you following me?

Beloved — walk with me for a moment.

You are loved.

You are worthy.

You are adored.

You are forgiven.

You are appreciated, redeemed, cherished, embraced, understood… and the authentic LOVE list doesn’t stop.

See, that’s how God loves: authentically.

Eternally.

Everlasting.

Unstoppable.

Unfathomably grace-filled.

So now, do you want to find God? Do you want to draw Him near? What will happen when you do?

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Pray.

Look up.

If tears are flowing, that’s okay. He captures tears of joy and sorrow all the time.

Ask Him to hold onto you. Ask Him to listen. And if you feel like He isn’t near, ask, “God, where are You?”

It isn’t that hard to find Him. He doesn’t play “hide and go seek.” I think, at times, we do. But you know what? He already knows exactly where you are. All the time.

Beloved, slow down. Step away from the chaos and busyness of this world. That to-do list can wait. That worry needs to be set aside. Time with God is more important. Look up. Close your eyes and call Him near.

There He is!

He’s been there all along.

Beautiful, amazing, outrageous, authentic, assuring, unwavering, steadfast…. LOVE!

God is real.

You found Him!  He’s been holding onto you and loving you all along.

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Okay, this worked. But will it work every time? Will He be there even when I feel grumpy, unworthy, selfish, stubborn, alone, or wayward?

Yes.

I’ve learned drawing Him near works every time — when I make it a habit — setting aside distractions. Turning to God and turning away from my fears and preoccupying thoughts draws Him near in a contagious, outrageous, and captivating way. Then drawing Him close turns into an automatic tendency. An automatic reaction. Loving the One who loves us like no one else can is hard to give up. Now that’s one contagious Love. 

Then we want Him close all the time.

Okay — got it?

Time for reinforcement. Time for repetition. Time for authenticity. Time to let go of our own agenda.

Draw Him near — at times over and over again — and finally hear or listen to His voice. Beloved, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE NOR FORSAKE YOU.” (Hebrews 13:5). See, He IS always with us. He does not abandon us —  though at times we turn our back on Him.

Friend, time to turn around. 

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Now you are finished reading this. STOP. Don’t get up from your desk or chair. Not yet.

Stay right where you are. Draw Him near. Right now. And after you do, get up, and walk boldly in faith.

Time to express faith boldly…

B : Believe

O : Out loud.

L : Love Him back

D : Deeply

L : “Love You, God!”

Y : “You are there, all the time!”

Beloved, He loves you.

Hope in Him,

– Helo