Change takes more than updating your Facebook status

Serving a meal together.

Serving a community meal together.

The bumper sticker on the car in front of me, the car that I watched come up behind me weaving in and out of highway traffic at about 90 miles an hour, read, “Be the change you want to see.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” I thought, watching him cut off the third lane and go on his way while brake lights flashed and horns honked. I’m not sure what change he wants to see unless he’s saying that the world needs more self-absorbed jerks. Maybe it’s just me, but I think we already have too many.

“Be the change you want to see.”

Over the last couple weeks, that bumper message flashed in my mind quite a few times. I saw it while watching clips of unhappy voters marching, shouting, waving signs and even breaking windows to protest the outcome of the national election. I could not help but wonder what the impact would be if all those thousands of angry marchers were actively involved in their communities either in government, working with immigrants or meeting needs around them.

Maybe many of them are involved but it seems like much of activism today has been reduced to people wearing bracelets, writing on their arms and changing Facebook profile pictures to show how much we care.

Bundles of Love

More than $2000 given so far.

The ancient book I like to read puts it this way:

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2

Thankfully, I see a lot of people around me doing more than yelling, “Somebody should do something!” I get to see people seeing needs and taking action.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

Saturday morning I spent time with a family packing up Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that get sent to children all over the world who have little to look forward to at Christmas. Their faith community gathered 74 boxes to add to more than a million others from all across the country.

Saturday night, I watched a group of close to 30 people serve a free turkey dinner spread to almost 200 people. Many of the guests were elderly people excited to have a great dinner and night out. Some of the guests had special needs. Others were people enjoying a chance to connect with others in their community.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the same faith community pull together boots, coats, hats and other warm clothing to meet the needs of an immigrant family unprepared for the approaching Maine winter.

In just a couple of weeks I will return to Guatemala to work with AMG International. I’ll be doing photography work to help communicate how AMG is helping more than 8000 children there. It was just 7 months ago when I made my first trip to Guatemala and experienced overwhelming poverty and thought, “somebody needs to do something!” The good news is that I met a lot of people who are doing plenty to help. It wasn’t too long before I knew I had to join them in their efforts.  My friends, neighbors, church & family are sending me with more than $2000 to purchase Bundles of Love to meet the greatest needs of more than 100 children. (contribute here – BUNDLES TEAM)

Most of us get paralyzed when we’re faced with something that is so much bigger than us. What can I do? I can’t end poverty. I can’t end racism. I can’t stop misogyny, injustice, homelessness or any of a myriad of other problems. That’s true but we are not powerless.

You are not powerless.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

What if each of us did for one what we wish could be done for all? If a million individuals choose to sponsor just one child trapped in third world poverty, a million children would eat and be educated.  If 100 families in each of our communities welcomed just one immigrant family, imagine the impact. What would happen if just one person in each neighborhood went door to door collecting unused winter clothing out of jam-packed closets to donate to the community center, homeless shelter or veterans services?

One person cannot change the world for everyone but one person can change the world for one other person.

Maybe it’s time we put down our signs, stop writing on our arms and come out from behind our Facebook pages to actually love.

Real solutions require more than social media “awareness.”

You are not powerless to affect change.

Don’t just stand there. Do something!

A few ideas:

  • thinkSponsor a child in poverty. AMG is one option.  Compassion International is another.
  • See an immigrant? Smile and say hello.
  • In 2017, commit to THINK before speaking, posting or sharing. True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?
  • Volunteer to help a teacher, a youth league, a rec program, a church youth program.
  • Bring your toddler and visit someone who has no one.
  • Lend a hand at your community center.
  • Buy an extra canned good to donate each time you grocery shop.
  • Teach your sons to respect, honor and value women.
  • Run for office.
  • Send a Bundle of Love to Guatemala with me Dec. 3.
  • Host a neighborhood gathering.
  • Give some time to Habitat for Humanity
  • Set another place at your table for someone who is alone.
  • Drop off a thank you card at the police or fire station.
  • Help your church help others by giving of your time, treasure and talent.
  • Forgive a grudge you’ve been holding onto.
  • Give blood. Register to be an organ donor.

 

 

 

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Time for an update on liver, life and love…

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Someone nudged me just last week. So, here goes!

First, in liver news, my liver is still behaving fine. I’ll go for blood labs soon to do all the normal AST/ALT /INR/Creatinine reports to give me a measure. I still have some normal side effects from my meds but they are nothing to spend too much time complaining about because I am alive.🙂

Second, in life news. I’m loving life and enjoying my two new grandchildren. They are 7 and 9 months old and now hold out their arms for me to take them. Is there anything better than that? My little church where I am now pastor is way cool and full of people I love a lot. My photography stuff is going well and always introducing me to new people. I had surgery on the veins in my legs back in May and that crushed my summer cycling goals but I am planning to ride in this weekend’s autism ride to get back at it.

Third, love. What do you love? Where do you invest your life? I think, before transplant, being successful at what I did was really my top priority. Doing things well and winning accolades and praise was what drove me. Now, after transplant, it’s relationships. Relationships ran a close second before but now the success stuff has dropped down quite a bit. I love being with others, investing in others, building new relationships and sharing life. I’m spending my time on loving others a lot more now. In December I will head back to Guatemala for the second time this year to shoot marketing photos for AMG. AMG works to help about 8,000 children trapped in third world poverty. It’s amazing that I have a life to poor into stuff like that now. I look forward to Sundays, family days and sitting on my lawn with others. I always knew that my God wanted me to love him and love others more than anything else, but now I think I understand why. Life is so much more fulfilling.

Life is good. I am so very thankful that I get to live it!

Here are a few pictures from my life of late…applepicking-6242 applepicking-6284 applepicking-6358 applepicking-6517 applepicking-6522 applepicking-6592maineprophoto-5997

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When the good part of life hits you hard

What do you do when good stuff hits you hard? Have you ever had moments when you just sit back and think, “holy smokes, I have it good?”

There are piles of crap pulling for my attention. Gross, right? Crass, huh? I’m sorry but it’s true. It yells at me from my television, blares across my radio, tweets at me and scrolls down my Facebook newsfeed. Someone shot a bunch of people, this guy is promising to build a giant wall, that woman is up to her eyeballs in half-truths at best, “share this if you agree” posts, hateful messages left around a housing complex …  It’s easy to get cynical, negative and fatalistic.

An old guy outside a store in Pennsylvania gave me an earful last week while we sat on a bench waiting for our shopping wives. “This world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” he told me.

I took note of his Marine cap declaring his Korean War service and asked him if life was easier back then. He stayed silent for a while. It looked to me like he was processing some painful memories.

“No, it wasn’t easier,” he finally answered. “We’ve been going to hell in a hand-basket for a very long time.”

Nero lit up his courtyard with human torches in 64 AD. People have been hating people, killing people, torturing people and abusing people for nearly as long as there have been people. Is it worse today than during than Hitler’s Germany? Worse than the Rwandan genocide? Worse than Colonial times?

If I put my hope in mankind I will always be disappointed, so, I choose not to. I choose instead to put my hope in Jesus Christ and try to live like he lived. My hope is in him. My perspective goes beyond this temporal plain.

I look for the good. When you train your eyes to see it, it isn’t hard to find. Last week it was all around me every day. Somehow a family vacation came together and we had all three of our kids, their three spouses and both of our grandchildren with us for a whole week.

My favorite times were the down times. Yes, we shopped, we went to a water park, we hit up restaurants, did touristy things and we swam in the pool but it was the nothing times that I loved most. It was the boring, do-nothing, small-talk, together times that made me most thankful for this life I’ve been given.

  • My granddaughter, Emma, six months old, went from her “oh no, that guy” face of terror when she saw me to a “Yay! There’s Grampa!” with her little arms reaching for me.
  • My grandson, Calvin, 8 months old, started doing the army crawl and is now on the move. He looks at me with a big smile that says, “my Grampa is a goof ball.”
  • I saw my kids’ marriages, full of affection and the playfulness they grew up experiencing in Robin’s and my marriage.
  • Aunties and uncles read books and played with their nephew and niece.

14054985_10100884581983017_7297639365903704106_nI don’t think anyone noticed my moment when it all came down on me in a wave of emotion.  I was sitting in a chair to the side, Calvin and Emma were lying on their stomachs on the floor while Shara read a book to them with Kristen sitting nearby. “Holy smokes, I have it good.”

It’s been 4 years and 3 months since my liver transplant.  It’s been 4 years and 5 months since they took me off the transplant list and I was sure my life was coming to an end. But, my God, had other plans. I’ve been given bonus days.

I’m not going to waste my days worrying about Democrats or Republicans. I’m not going to believe that there’s a bomb around every corner or live my life in fear. I’m not going to fear my black neighbor, my tattooed neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my gay neighbor … I’m going to choose to love and serve because that’s what Jesus did. I refuse to let CNN and FOX shape my outlook and attitudes.

I’m determined to live out these bonus days recognizing my God’s Grace in this very messy world.

The world may well be going to hell in a hand basket but I jumped out of that basket a long time ago.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

 

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4 years today. A good, good Father.

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Calvin James

My eyes opened for the day just before 4:00 AM. I listened to the birds coming awake in the trees just outside our bedroom window and thought “how blessed I am.”

I spent some time talking to God about the names He brought to mind. There were three new names that came in the last 4 months: Calvin, Emma and Tanya.

As my mind grew sharper, I began to think of my day ahead and my calendar note that said “PLAN NOTHING – REST” in bold red print across this whole weekend. I was up making my coffee by 5:00 AM and watching my little dog search for the perfect spot on our freshly-mowed lawn.

A quick text to my son and daughter-in-law, “I’m up if Calvin is awake and chatty and you’d like more time to sleep.” No response made me a little bit disappointed.

I settled in to write a bit, turned on Pandora heard Chris Tomlin,
“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

A quick check of my social media shortly after I woke reminded me of today’s date, May 7.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”

It was four years ago at this very time when my son Josh and I were in hospital beds at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts. They were wheeling him down the hall to the operating theater to remove 60% of his liver to transplant in me to replace my diseased organ right at about this time.

“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are”

Four years ago people joined in prayer all over the world for us and waited for my sister, Gloria, to post updates through the day.

“And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

13076892_10154173424263928_2165838123442856519_n

Emma Hazel

Cause you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

I wrote my last blog post before transplant the night before. Rereading it this morning is surreal:

“As I write this, I’ve got to tell you I’m that I’m scared. I’m not afraid of the outcome… I’m scared of the process … I have no fear that Josh and I will be preserved … we were preserved years ago and rest in the hands of our Father no matter what … I’m at peace with the surgery and that’s weird for me … Jesus holds us. He loves you like crazy!”

“You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us”

Those three names on my mind this morning … Calvin, Emma, Tanya … three precious children, two my grandchildren, one my newly newly sponsored child in Guatemala, will grow up different because my God has chosen to restore and heal me.

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think”

Tanya scott goodbye 2

Tanya

These words on my screen are blurred again through the tears that come so frequently in these bonus days of the last four years. The graduations, the weddings, the family times, the new friendships … new life came when life was about gone … abundant life more than I could ever ask or imagine

“You’re a Good, Good Father
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am.”

Loved by You. Yes, it is who I am and I will never again take that for granted.

Thanks for this bonus day, Lord, and for any you choose to grant me from this day forward.

By the way, Calvin and I are now hanging out listening to the toddler station on Pandora while the rest of the house sleeps.

“B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O,  and Bingo was his name-O.”

Can it ever get any better than this?

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

Listen to “Good, Good, Father” here.
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Weird coincidences?

By Scott Linscott

We’ve been back from Guatemala for almost two weeks now. Today, our sponsor kit with a photo of Tanya’s smiling, 7 year old face looking at me. The first thing I notic…

Source: Weird coincidences?

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Testing from Guatemala

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We are Guatemala bound in 9 days!

IMG_20160406_205229 (1)Pinch me. Not hard, please, but I think I need to be pinched. This is a dream, right? Or, am I actually having another part of the life I loved so much before transplant returned to me?

In 9 days, at this time, I will be on a plane with 18 of my friends on the first leg of our trip to Guatemala where we will be working in a school with 350 children in the little village of Oratorio.

We’ll be doing some painting at the school, encouraging the staff and playing with kids as well as whatever else comes up. I bought some children’s books in Spanish and am looking forward to reading “Are You My Mother” to as many children as will listen. It was my favorite.

God has provided more than $30,000 to make this trip possible. Someone asked me if it would not be better to just send the cash. It’s a fair question.

First, it is HIGHLY doubtful we would have raised $30,000 just to send to Guatemala without the relational link. We are all more likely to support a friend bringing a gift than we are to give with no connection.

Second, apart from the plane tickets, everything else is going to Guatemala and supporting either the sponsoring ministry or the local economy. That is about $17,000 not including what our team spends on gifts, trinkets and extras. That is a significant supply to a local economy where the average annual income is about $4500. It will help fund the school, pay for our work project, support the staff at the lodging house and even provide additional money for food boxes or additional projects. So, yes, Delta is benefiting but the people we work with are benefiting more.

Third, team members are carrying their own expenses. My vaccines were $330 (my part was $80 thankfully). Some needed passports and all need to supply their own travel gear. And all have given directly to the fundraising goal.

Lastly, experience in leading these trips has shown me that the greatest value from these trips is the relational ties that comes home with team members. For example, after our trip to Mexico several years ago, a woman we worked with desperately need a surgery on her back but, of course, had no resources to pay for it. The Lord provided a lot through the relational ties made with visiting mission teams who came to love Labrada and her children. People I take on these trips come home with a heart for ministry and, after experiencing poverty firsthand, are more generous with what God supplies.

I’m not a supporter of American missions tourism. My goal is always to try to help ease some of the weight of local workers and serve them.

Don’t worry. I will be VERY careful. I will eat no uncooked foods or veggies, will only drink and brush my teeth with bottled water. I have plenty of high-powered hand sanitizer that kills even super bugs instantly (3M Avagard) and will use it frequently. I have antibiotics to begin at the first sign of a tummy ache. I am vaccinated and protected and my docs have no hesitation in letting me go IF I am cautious.

But, a little prayer covering never hurts! So, pray!

Pinch me. I am so very thankful that God has given me such a full life after transplant.

If you would like to increase the amount of the additional gift we are bringing to directly benefit the people, visit www.fbcwestbrook.com and give online. Be sure to indicate it is for Guatemala. (NOTE: the info page has not yet been updated. )

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