April 11, 2010

Praying It Forward

I still remember when I saw the movie Pay It Forward a decade ago. A few of the details escape me, but the premise of the story was forever ingrained in my heart and mind.

Kindness.

Randomly given.

Seeking nothing in return.

Keeping the cycle going.

Infusing good into the world three acts at a time.

What a concept.

It is interesting how quickly the inspiration we receive from movies, books, sermons, or teaching evaporates against the cold black night of a dark world.

Heartaches come.

Life happens.

People are mean and hateful.

It doesn't take long before we are begin battening down the hatches and withdrawing from those who need our kindness most in an attempt of self-preservation.

When we find it may cost more than we feel we can invest to pay it forward what once sounded easy suddenly seems much more difficult, risky, and frightening.

I believe that the enemy paints a terrifying picture by allowing us to experience rejection or pain, from time to time, so that we will be swayed in our desire and attempts to perform random acts of kindness.

Why?

Because when we pay it forward we are essentially showing the love of Christ.

The way that He did.

To the unlovable.

The misplaced.

Some maladjusted.

Desperately needy people.

Paying it forward has basically been a way of life for me. Not because I am ultra-kind or super spiritual but because I genuinely enjoy helping people in any way possible.

It brings me joy and fulfillment along with the satisfaction of knowing that my works have the possibility to be viewed as Jesus' hand extended. That part has always thrilled me most. At least until I woke up one day and made an alarming discovery.

The thrill is gone.

For quite some time I have been exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I've conquered many things in my life but before me stands "a mountain" like none I've seen before.

I can't see over it.

There appears to be no road around it.

I'm unable to tunnel through it.

When push comes to shove, and trust me I've been pushing and shoving hard, it seems that the only place that I'm going is down. That makes the mountain appear larger while my faith seems even smaller.

But it only takes the faith of a mustard seed.

Can I muster that up? No.

Is God capable of stirring up the measure of faith that He placed in me? Absolutely.

This past week I wrote an article on a festival that is taking place in our community next weekend. It caught my eye while doing a "random" search that needless to say was ordained by God.

The Pay It Forward Festival would not normally attract my attention especially since I have no young children at home. But there were three things about it that immediately caught my eye:

1. They are attempting to collect 3,000 pair of shoes for Soles4Souls.

I love shoes and have not been able to wear a pair of shoes in almost 14 years. I know what it is like to have pain in my feet 24/7. Prior to my illness I worked for a shoe company and developed quite a shoe fetish. So shoes are near and dear to me and I love the Soles4Souls foundation.

2. They are collecting money for the MS Society.

Several years ago I was diagnosed with probable primary progressive MS. The good news is that the progression of my illness is slow compared to some. The bad news is there is no approved treatment for this type of MS which makes the long term prognosis poor. Needless to say this is another endeavor which is close to my heart. I'd love for the MS Society to find a cure.

3. They are collecting money for The Well which is a local food bank.

I've never lived a life of poverty or been without the means to obtain food, clothes or shelter. However illness, at times, has robbed me of the ability to eat. I've experienced feeding tubes and felt the pangs of hunger on an abbreviated basis. It is no fun. As a way of life, I can't begin to imagine it.

Those are only 3 of 6 charitable organizations that the festival will be raising money for. Relying solely on the merchants of the community the goal is to pay it forward and at the same time provide fun for families.

Admission cost: a pair of gently worn shoes or a canned good item.

Who can't afford to attend?

Who can afford not to attend if they live in the area?

Here is the interesting part for me, personally. My energy level has been so low that I don't know why I even considered attending this event. It is difficult for me to navigate crowds, in a cast on crutches, even when I have the strength of a bull.

Right now it is unthinkable.

Yet I found myself writing to ask permission to photograph the event to use for a follow-up article on Examiner.com. The person was thrilled that I had written the initial article and elated about me coming with my camera. Although I made no mention of it, he asked me if I would open the event with prayer.

How could I refuse?

It's only a prayer, right?

I talk to God all the time.

I'll just be talking to Him out loud.

It's not like I haven't done that hundreds of times before.

The surprise and thrill initially felt when I received the invitation began to dissipate a day later when I realized it meant I would have to "come out of hiding" which is something I've nearly mastered over the past year. (some would argue that it has been even longer)

Then it dawned on me that I had not prayed publicly since I spoke at the funeral of my best friend nearly a year ago. As a matter of fact I've done very little publicly since that time. Little fellowship. Little fun. Little living---period.

I realized that I had stopped paying it forward since the night I stayed at the hospital with my friend. A wonderful example of Christ she was such a source of encouragement to me. She and her husband have dedicated their lives to paying it forward.

During an over-nighter at the hospital we were talking one moment and then she slipped off to heaven, in the blink of an eye, while I turned to make a phone call. My heart was broken and my mind was blown. I felt tricked and abandoned.

It was costly.

Extremely painful.

Life-altering.

Once the funeral was over I returned home feeling an incredible sense of loss.

The thrill was gone.

I still helped people, mostly online, but out of compulsion rather than out of joy. It has been fairly risk-free, impersonal, and unfulfilling.

But holding back kindness displayed lovingly has been costly, extremely painful, and life-altering, too.

It has not worked as I had hoped.

It has not healed.

It has injured me further and left me feeling abandoned by many--including God.

That is until the other day when a simple article prompted a chain of events that caused me to realize two things:

1. It is easier to give than withhold.

2. I'll always be a minister and a representative of Christ.

With that in mind next Saturday, despite pain in my body or reservations in my mind, I will go and pay it forward along with members of my community.

At the same time the random act of kindness bestowed upon me which nudged me enough to remember "who I am in Christ and who He called me to be" will pay off as a step back into ministry.

In a way I'll be "praying it forward."

Perhaps the healing will begin.

You can read my article on the upcoming festival here.

24 comments:

Sarah Salter said...

Melinda, when I was a little girl, I learned a great little song that I'd love to sing to you now. Since I can't, here it is: "He's still workin' on me, to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be. He's still workin' on me."

He's still working on you -- and me! Thank goodness He gave us each other to encourage each other while He works! And we don't have to worry-- He would began the good work in us is always faithful to complete it!

Julie Harvey said...

"It is interesting how quickly the inspiration we receive from movies, books, sermons, or teaching evaporates against the cold black night of a dark world"

So very true...

and you know what -- perhaps I havent experienced it to the extent yo have Rev. Melinda, at least in that area, but I know what you mean by "the thrill is gone"... gone through this to an extent also with my writing and studying -- something I once loved doing, has taken me a long time to get back that "fire". I have had to start by just going through my journal and beginning to type -- not for anyone else's benefit, not to teach or even to blog at this point...but just for me, so I can get my thoughts down and meditate on them...

I am also having trouble getting myself motivated at my new church and dont have a clue what area of ministry the Lord would like me to get into, but I know that sooner or later the opportunity will arise, so at the moment, I am just resting in Him and waiting..

Wow I so understand what you mean when you say (basically this is what I get from what you said) that grief can stop you in your tracks...somany times we are grieving over different things -- some obvious and some not so obvious, and once we realize the origin of the loss of our joy, only then can we begin on the road to recovery..I am so glad that the Lord has revealed to you (in His wonderful timing) the origin of your pain ( so often we think it is something else entirely and in no way can even begin to figure it out till he shows us) and now you can begin...I am sure that when you come out on the other side of this a whole new level of joy unspeakable and overflowing will begin -- the threshold of exciting changes ahead!! Praise God, I am sure you are on the edge of an awesome breakthrough in yor life...
Well enough from me or I will write a book, blessings Rev,

Jules xxx

grammylinda said...

Time to break out of rest and refreshing! You are an awesome woman spreading the Love of Christ! Be blessed by blessing others. Great article!
"Pay if Forward" gave me validation in doing for others, NOT wanting anything in return. It is such a blessing doing for others and telling them to "Pay if Forward" and have them respond in a positive manner.
God be with you Melinda, you are destined for great, Godly things in your life!

bridgetwillard said...

Not to the same extent, but having been recently diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, getting worse ever year for the last 5, I broke down and cried the other night when I realized that I really have no friends. I have to work and I commute to my job, so when it comes to the weekend, it's majority of bed-rest. I no longer have the time or energy it takes to maintain friendships. Thank you for writing this. I appreciate you.

Anonymous said...

No words! Just thank-you!

Rev. Morton

CandaceCalvert said...

This is a beautifully honest and spirit-tugging post, Melinda. I have no doubt that the Pay It Forward Festival didn't just "happen" to come to your attention. Bless you for all that you do and for who you are. Despite challenges: wonderfully made.

jasonS said...

Sounds like an amazing event. Glad things are getting worked out and I do pray you experience that healing that I know God has in mind for you. Blessings...

Jason

Ed said...

In regards to your statement "I've conquered many things in my life but before me stands "a mountain" like none I've seen before.

I can't see over it.

There appears to be no road around it....

I'm unable to tunnel through it. "

MY RESPONSE: There was reason that the settlers used a guide to get through the mountains. Without one they would soon be lost. One famous guide for the multitude of wagon trains headed west knew the answer.

Upon approaching the Rocky Mountains from a distance, the settlers could not see how they would traverse this majestic mountain range. They saw no possible way through them.

The wise guide, having been through them many times prior said this, "God never made a mountain range without also providing a way through them." It was the guides job to lead these people through to the other side.

That is why Jesus gave us upon His departure, the Holy Spirit. His job is to guide us through the obstacles in our path.

Karen Smith said...

I know what you mean by "the thrill is gone" when it comes to paying it forward as a Christian. Sometimes, I feel that way. I think it is because the world is so needy and there are alot more needy than Christians in the world and those needy turn to Christians when the rug gets pulled out from under their world. This can become overwhelming at times. We feel like we are giving and giving and giving and there is no one stepping up and giving to our spirit when we need it that we get burned out. But God is sufficient, if we let Him be, when no one else will be. That is where we must remember to turn. You will need to retreat, at times, and refresh your spirit, but never give up.

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful Melinda. It brought back a lot of memories from a long long time ago and all your prayers for me when I lost my best friend.
Pat Davila

pearl said...

I sure like the article on "Pay it Forward". It does remind me that I need to be more alert to hurting and discouraged people. There is so much hurt and pain in so many lives that we don't have any idea about. I'm sorry about your physical problems, Melinda. God is so faithful and gives strength when needed most. I know He is using you to reach out to lots of unhappy, searching, lonely folks that need just the encouragement that you give. Bless you for putting yourself out there and being so honest.
You have touched my life, and I know God is using you in a mighty way. I am very saddened about all the hurt you have experienced; and I pray that your healing will come and your joy will return four-fold.
I intend to look for more opportunities to pay-it-forward. Thanks!
Love,
pearl

~~Melinda Y.~~ said...

Reading your post Melinda- I sense pain, hope, and restoration. You hit a wall when you lost your best friend. You put on the grave clothes. Your time has come to put on HIS garment.(Isa.61:10)
Rise up and shine my friend.
your reflection of Christ is dynamic...people need to visualize it.
I'm "praying it forward" with you. ~Hugs~

christiansoldier said...

Dear Sister,

Your fire is not quenched, though the embers may have been banked for a bit. It takes only a small breeze to rekindle a blaze and I believe the Lord as blown this festival your way for a reason. May your light brightly shine to the Glory of God, dear heart.

In His Service your Brother in Christ,

Bruce

Melinda Lancaster said...

I have had so much apprehension about sharing this post. Thank you all for your sweet comments and words of encouragement. There is no way to convey how much they mean but "priceless" comes to mind. I'll be paying them forward--as you might expect :-)

Colleen Foshee said...

M - I love that we can be real with God and tell it like it is. You're fed up and tired of this life you've been handed. Who can blame you? Those dark nights of the soul are more common than a lot of believers will admit. There were times when people we admire most in the bible were right where you are. Paul had to take on discouragement in many of his letters. People were struggling! Like Job, you have no idea what's going on behind the scenes. And like Job, you are suffering. I hate that you have to bear this and I don't know how to make it better for you... but I want to. I am praying... because who have we in heaven but Him? - and we've experienced His goodness... and there is always hope. We never know what our God will do. I just want you to know I admire you and see your heart as a God heart. None of this has squelched Him even though you may feel as though it has. He shines through you - even though the thrill is gone.

iambelievinggod said...

Melinda,
How brave of you to open your heart. Thank you. Earlier this year, as I began to read my Bible through (in 90 days nonetheless) I came across something that caused me to see mountains in a different way. I think everyone has a mountain they can't see over or around at some time in their life. Abraham had his when he took Isaac to be sacrificed (or so he thought). Moses had several and so did Elijah. But the neat thing about it is--that is where they all met God. He is on and in that mountain. He may not have caused it, but He has allowed it so you can meet Him there. I have no doubt that this weekend you will meet Him in some way. I will be praying for you. Jill

Debby said...

Thanks for sharing this. Reading this today really hit home; made me cry. It touched my heart. Thank you for being open and honest.

You wrote: People are mean and hateful.

It doesn't take long before we are begin battening down the hatches and withdrawing from those who need our kindness most in an attempt of self-preservation.

When we find it may cost more than we feel we can invest to pay it forward what once sounded easy suddenly seems much more difficult, risky, and frightening.

I believe that the enemy paints a terrifying picture by allowing us to experience rejection or pain, from time to time, so that we will be swayed in our desire and attempts to perform random acts of kindness.

My reply: So often I feel just like this. Being kicked around, battered and bruised I think, "God, I don't want to do this any more!" Ya know it's really not that I don't want to do this any more, it's that I don't want to be unjustly mistreated any more; especially by those who are suppose to be my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I don't want to be misunderstood, hated, beat up, and kicked around any more. But in time God always picks me back up and off I go again.

Thanks again Melinda. Prayers going up for you.

fballmom240 said...

You are such a strong person Melinda. Even though you felt the "thrill was gone" you have touched and inspired so many. Wish I could come to the "pay it forward festival" and see my dear friend shine. Bless you.

Sue

Sara said...

Just stopped by from Heart Choices. So glad that I did. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit, this looks likes such a refreshing place to take a dip.

Splashing for His glory,
Sara

Gina Parris said...

Melinda,
I love seeing you post here on your blog where you are esteemed and appreciated. This is where you can be honest and attract those who love and appreciate your message.
Yesterday I was reminded that Jesus invites us to come to him when we are weary and heavy laden and HE will give us rest. When our yoke is hard and our burden heavy - it didn't come from him.
I will pray for a breakthrough of lightness. I ABSOLUTELY know what its like for it to become overwhelming and joyless but there is still a path for us that grows brighter and brighter!

Susan Fleming said...

Sometimes in the midst of those dark times, it is hard to realize that there are others who are struggling, and we feel very much alone. Thank you for sharing your heart. Praise God that we are not alone! And that He lets us, as Paul says, "share in His sufferings."

libbytalks said...

This is so beautiful-- a true sharing of the heart Melinda that we all go through when we are so startled and disappointed, crushed by circumstances that for a moment, a month, a year we lose our joy. Thanks for doing such a wonderful job of putting this into words so well for all of us and touching us to the core. Blessings to you from our Lord and Love in Him, Libby

Lisa R. said...

Praying the Healing Word, blood of the Lamb over your MS, Melinda. God Bless You.

David Weedmark said...

Paying it Forward was probably one of the most important movies made, because of the change of awareness it made in so many people I know. But I remember once, before the movie ever came out, driving with my father in the country. We were driving by a golf course when a stray golf ball bounced past us and into the grass. My father stopped the car, got out and tossed the golf ball to the player who had hit the ball.
"He'd never have found it in that grass," my father said. I asked him why he had decided to stop the car and he explained that it was important to do things for people like that. Someone had recently done something remarkable for him and, in return, he had promised to do the same for as many people as he could, large or small. He has done some remarkable things for others since then, but that was the very first I was able to witness. And I've watched his life transform as a result.
When I found out the film was based on a true story... I also understood that this transformation was quite possibly due to the ripples that had crossed the world because of this brave young boy.

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