Bring Your Own Sunshine

Every Monday morning at work we have devotions. It is an hour that starts the week off right by helping all the staff to grow in our love and knowledge of God, to better serve our community.

During these times we are broken up into small groups. I enjoy these small groups and getting to know my coworkers that work in the many other initiatives that serve alongside ours.

Most Mondays I come away with a nugget of wisdom to use throughout my week and my life, but sometimes, a coworker will say something that strikes a chord deep in my soul.

Our study was on the book of James. We were discussing the darkness that can creep into our daily lives during the daily news. What are the messages we listen to? How do we discern what is right or wrong? How do we combat the darkness?

During these questions, my coworker Omar said something that really spoke to my heart. It was about bringing our sunshine with us into the darkness. While I can’t remember it verbatim, the premise of the conversation created a spinning spiral of thoughts.

I thought about that light that God puts within us, and that Omar reminds the students he works with that they have that light. We all need to be reminded that we have that light. The Spirit Christ put within us. When we rely on the heavenly Father, the light He creates in us grows and others can see it. That special Sonshine can be brighter than the noonday sun when we listen to Him and treat others with love.

Another thing that spoke to my soul was when Omar said to beware of the feelings and emotions of others. Without good boundaries and respect, others can rob you of that light within. You don’t want it to get so dark that it overcomes your Sonshine.

How often do we let others break through our boundaries, rob us of our dignity, and break our souls to steal the Sonshine within us? Why do we give people the power to overcome our Sonshine? How do we prevent it? The enemy tries to extinguish that light every chance he gets.

That’s easier said than done. I know too often in my life I didn’t know how to set boundaries, I didn’t want to upset anyone so I allowed myself to be a doormat. I gave other people the power that should have been mine. Our human nature often gets in the way. We forget that light lives within us. That we were all created in His image.

For me it took a huge shift in knowledge, it took someone being kind, someone willing to pour into me and show me my worth. It took years of two steps forward and three steps back and people who didn’t give up on me. It was people showing me the love of Christ rather than telling me about the love of Christ. That is how I learned “Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world,” (1 John 4:4). He was with every person who poured goodness into me as they walked with me, and He was with me no matter how low I sank. I am thankful every day that God does what I may think is impossible.

Sometimes the simple act of a kind smile, especially to someone who feels unloved and unseen can start a chain reaction. Kindness can be contagious.

I never knew my birth father, but when I was very young my mom told me that when he smiled, he lit up a room. She told me I had his smile and that ability as well. After hearing that, I began to smile more. It made me feel connected to a father I never knew. After I began my walk with a Father who knew me, the smile and the joy grew. I made a conscious decision to find the positive in whatever situation I found myself in.

Believe me, if you know me or have read this blog for a while it’s apparent that there have been many times in my life when smiling seemed impossible. It is my hope that my life shows Joy really does come from the Lord. He has always given me that little ray of Sonshine, just when I needed it most.

So taking Omar’s advice, I am asking you to bring the Sonshine with you wherever you go because there will be times of deep darkness when you need to shine brightly and let others feel the warmth of the Sonshine on their faces.

It is Sonshine that lights up a room with your smile. Spread a little kindness and share it with others. Trust me it makes all the difference in the world.

Journey into the unknown

Spaceship parking

Have you ever felt completely out of your wheelhouse? Or thought that you knew something and then it turns out, you actually knew nothing? That is exactly how I felt at my first Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. It was a journey into the unknown, stretching me to new limits.

In 2015 I remember leaving Memphis, where the conference was held, feeling like I had been hit by a truck. So many things bumped up against what I had been taught, against the status quo. It was earth-shattering, mind-blowing and more than I could digest in 3 days.

Yet, I was so moved by Dr. John Perkins and Coach Wayne Gordon’s Bible study every morning, my heart was opening to the possibilities. I was also overwhelmed. What could one person do to turn the tides against hatred, racism, injustice and a host of other wrongs in the world?

This CCDA thing was so much bigger than I realized, so much more personal than I realized. My empathy grew. My heart ached for people to the point of tears. My soul cried out to God, “why does it have to be this way?”  God still hasn’t answered that one, just in case you were wondering. But I keep asking.

I had to accept that as Christians we had gotten much of God’s mission for us wrong. This kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven part of the plan, we had messed it up. I saw too much hate, intolerance, persecution, pain, and injustice in the church as man has made it across the ages, the ON EARTH part of the equation was non-existent. That was a hard pill to swallow. It hurt to know that as a Christian those who look to me, see hate, intolerance, persecution, and pain, they do not see Jesus. They see the hurt that was put on them by me and others like me. I am not very Christ-like, I will never be, but I am trying. I am convicted.

I mean, who hasn’t been hurt by church? More and more people are stating that they are just DONE with religion and organized church. Why? Hurt in one form or another. But does it have to be this way? No. We can help create that Heaven on Earth, be good and loving to one another.

How? I realized this journey is one of love. Love is the key to it ALL, and that love lives within me. I can change the world, one smile at a time. The challenge is to LOVE EVERYONE, even if they don’t love me, even if they don’t look like me, act like me, worship like me, believe like me, even if I don’t agree, even if I am on opposite side of the debate or the aisle, LOVE MATTERS. Love is never insignificant.

Does that mean we will all gather together and sing Kumbaya, My Lord? Not even close. Too many times we think of love as a soft, warm fuzzy. Anyone who has truly loved knows it’s hard. It is not all sunshine and rainbows. It is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. And you will fail occasionally. Sometimes you have to do it from a distance. The key is to keep trying. To listen, to respect, to try to see the other side and love even when it doesn’t make sense.

Friends, a word of warning, it is impossible to show love when all you can see and feel is judgment. I grew up under constant judgment, spoken and unspoken, and it has a way of wearing you down until you feel completely insignificant. It is hard to love or be loved from that place.

A place of insignificance is where my journey began. I understood it, and I felt comfortable in my insignificance. I felt I could do nothing to change the course of things, so why try, who would listen to me? Insignificance kept me captive. Love set me free.

Do I have the answer to life’s burning questions? That would be a big, fat NO.

I have long believed judgment should never be mine, that is the Lord’s job, and one WAY too big for me. Rather than judge, I choose to love and to smile.

Can you make someone else’s day brighter with a smile? I challenge you to step out into the unknown and share a smile or a laugh with someone new. I know for your introverts, that will be hard.

You will be amazed at how it will improve your life, reduce your stress levels and begin to build bridges to others who are not like you. Your world will expand and their world will be brightened. You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that can not be hidden.

You may not be able to right the wrongs of someone’s past with a smile, but at least they will see something in you that brings them in, makes them feel a bit better and maybe, just maybe, they will see a glimpse of Jesus in you.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Christian Community Development, I encourage you to follow @iamccda on twitter or https://www.facebook.com/iamccda/ on Facebook. CCDA principles can be found in the book Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development
by Wayne Gordon et al.
Link: http://a.co/0O7tjak

Finding my tribe

Hello gentle readers,

It has been a long while since I’ve posted. My introduction into the world of nonprofits has been a learning experience and while I sometimes still feel like a babe in the woods, I also feel like I have found my tribe. The people of Compassion Coalition are not only my coworkers, they are my family. We pray together, talk about what matters and strive daily to make Knoxville a better place for EVERYONE to live.

I knew they were my tribe from the first hour I began working with them. They get me. I’m an odd duck, so that’s amazing in itself. They also help me be the best version of myself and I enjoy going to work EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is a blessing from God. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and sometimes things are tough, we operate on a shoestring budget, fundraising can be hard, foundations and churches close, coalition members lose funding and are unable to give, yet I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, what we do matters.

It seems, all of my life experience thus far brought me to a place where all of my gifts can be used and appreciated. My people skills, artistic skills, organizational skills but most importantly my spiritual skills. My gift has always been one of encouragement. This position has given me the opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, hear their story, share hope and help.

While it has been a busy two years, it has also been a period of growth. Stretching my mind, my heart and soul to care more, love deeper and seek justice. This didn’t happen by chance, this job, these people, they care. They care beyond anything I have ever experienced before, and not just for the people they know, their hearts ache for the hurting and marginalized. They help people. People in churches, people on the street, people in the pews and outside the church walls. They help churches cross denominational lines and break down barriers and work together to find common and sometimes uncommon solutions to problems in the community. They connect social work with church work, like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before, yet they are one of the most underutilized community/church resources in town.

Compassion Coalition Staff
Grant Standefer, Jessica Bocangel, Charmin Foth, Gina Whitmore and Carolyn Hansen

Some days it seems impossible to put all that we do into an ‘elevator pitch,’ “Our mission is to inform, equip, and connect churches to transform lives and communities through the love of Christ.” Yet I say, we love people well. That is what we are called to do, and we do it with all that we are. 

In future posts, you will hear more about my journey into the nonprofit life and Christian Community Development (CCD) and as a newbie, how that process has changed me from the inside out. For now gentle readers, I invite you to learn more about the organization I work for, and if you are touched and led as I am, consider giving.

A quote from Sister Simone Campbell at the Christian Community Development Conference this year, #CCDADetroit, says it perfectly, “Our hearts are broken open by the stories that surround us. It is all about community”

 

 

 

KCDC: Assisting Redevelopment

KCDC administers more than $6 million annually in redevelopment and community and neighborhood revitalization. The agency has spearheaded several redevelopment projects in downtown Knoxville over the last 30 years including the TVA Twin Towers, City County Building, and the State Street Parking Garage. More recently, the agency has been responsible for redevelopment of Volunteer Landing, Market Square, and the World’s Fair Redevelopment Plan just to name a few. To learn more about KCDC visit http://www.kcdc.org

Grande Event Center and the NKBPA

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The Grande Event Center members of the North Knoxville Business and Professional Association. Art Mearns talks about how much he enjoys the networking and business group. The Grande Event Center offers exceptional service for events both large and small. Spectacular venues from weddings and receptions to small business meetings, catering, decorating and over the top service, you owe it to yourself to check out what the Grande Event Center has to offer. 5441 Clinton Hwy, Knoxville, TN 37912
(865) 243-3100 or visit their website at http://www.knoxgrande.com