To Give or Not to Give


Earlier today, while the Mrs. and I were enjoying a coffee at our favorite café downtown, a woman came in who we instantly knew was looking to ask for money.  She was probably in her 60’s, African-American, skinny, and dressed modestly, but you could see that she had worn clothes on.

We were sitting next to the door and were her first target.  She came right over to our table, opened her left palm where she was holding a few well placed coins and said, ‘Excuse me, can you spare…’.  I looked at her and kindly interrupted her by saying, ‘No, thank you’.   She looked in my eyes and knew I meant, ‘Not here’.  Over the course of the next ten minutes, she went to multiple tables eventually getting a few donations and someone to buy her a few bags of chips and a drink before taking off to the next place.  

As we walked home, I wrestled with my decision and how the choice brought about deep questions within myself about giving.  Please don’t get me wrong, the reason I said no so quickly came from my past experience working with the homeless in San Francisco. 

During a very difficult time in my life, I volunteered weekly at one of the largest homeless kitchens in the Mission District.  I quickly learned from those there not to give the homeless money.  They had free food, clothes, and even a bed to use if they chose to.  Many would also get a check from the city every month just for saying they were homeless.  Something they would quickly spend on partying and then they were back on the street where they could make hundreds of dollars a day by just sitting on the corner with a cup.   Granted, not all homeless people have the mental ability to do that, but there are a lot more who do than one might think.

The question really is, ‘When do we give and when do we politely say no?’  For every ten people there are probably ten different opinions on the subject. Certainly, the Bible says that if anyone asks to borrow from us we are to give (Matthew 5:42), but does that mean those who would be ungrateful or who would take advantage of us?

The Mrs. and I talked about it all the way back to the house and the one thing that kept coming back to me was the word sincerity.  Over the years I’ve trained myself to recognize sincerity in people.  Meaning, if someone is asking me for help, are they sincerely in need and grateful, or are they simply using me to get what they want?  The tell-tale sign for me this morning with the woman at the café was her shamelessness.  She had no shame or fear to work the room in a sneaky way without getting caught.  She seemed ungrateful and had her routine down pat. 

So, the key to knowing whether to give is wisdom and discernment.  Being willing to give is also crucial to helping us know the difference whether it’s just greed we’re feeling or sensing if a person is simply trying to use us.  Had I sensed she truly needed my help and was desperate, I would have gladly given her money, my coat, a ride, whatever.  But my gut and eyes said otherwise. 

No matter who you are, if you do give and find out later you were taken advantage of, at least you tried to do the right thing.  It’s never easy to know, but God can help us with those choices when they present themselves.  His heart is to always love and share.  But, He also wants to protect us from being taken advantage of and He may also want us to show tough love from time to time (as in the case of our kids); even when it seems like we’re being selfish. 

I still haven’t resolved the question in my own mind, but I feel a little bit closer to it after today.  How would you deal with that situation?  Would you say, ‘No thank you’ or would you open your wallet to give them something?  If so, how much?  Is a token gift helping them or is it something to help us feel better?  Perhaps. Whatever the answers are, God loves us all either way and only wants us to bless others who are truly in need.  In that, we can always take rest…

Love always,

Brad

Indecisiveness – Breaking Free from Fear


Decisions are a normal part of life.  From the moment we’re born we begin to make them and never stop.  Throughout our life we make good ones and bad ones not always knowing the difference until later.  Some decisions take more time and others are spontaneous; subconscious if you will.

Depending on the person, it may be a burden overshadowed by fear just to decide whether they want to have Chinese food or a Burger for dinner.  Not to make light of indecisive people because it really can be a challenge for some to make the smallest of everyday decisions like when to eat, what to wear, what television show to watch, or simply whether to call a friend when they need to talk.

What drives our inability to be decisive?  Without any doubt, fear of the unknown is one of the primary influences on a person when they are making a choice.  But, is that a bad thing?  I would contend it can be both good and not so good. 

All too often when we’re young the lack of fear allows us to make irrational and impulsive choices often leading us to a destructive end.  As we age and have the scars to show for those impulsive decisions, we tend to be overly cautious and may miss opportunities because of it.

So, yes, fear of not touching the hot stove or walking out into the middle of a busy street will keep us safe.  But when fear begins to bind us in knots leaving us crippled by it, is when we need to break free.  Every decision becomes a burden.  When making the smallest of decisions we hear that, ‘What if?’ ringing through our minds.  The larger decisions may even lead us into a panic attack rendering us helpless.

As parents the fear factor is something we must contend with every day.  On one hand we want to protect our children from every kind of harm and on the other we want them to learn from their mistakes like we did.  I cringe when I think about the things I did as a child while playing outside.  Parents today would NEVER allow their kids to do most of what we considered normal.  Kids today are in car seats until they’re in elementary school.  I don’t remember ever using a seat belt.  The back seat was our territory to fight over and use as a trampoline if we wanted (well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get the point). 

How do we know when fear is keeping us from making decisions or binding us so badly that we are ineffective?  For most of us it’s not whether we know it’s there because we live with it constantly. It’s knowing what to do about it.  So, how do we overcome fear so we can be free to take chances again and let go of the constant worry?

There really isn’t a quick solution, unfortunately.  Most of our fears are built from years of hurt, failure, mistakes, or being told by others to be afraid of one thing or another.  The first step is to recognize where fear has us bound in our life (easy one).  The second step is to realize that fear is not always reality because, if we can see it for what it is (usually a lie) then it will be easier to overcome.  The third, most important step, is to ask God to help us by giving us courage, wisdom, and faith. 

Having the wisdom to know truth from a lie also comes from experience and open-minded research.  Not believing everything we read on the Internet is a great start.  Then, having the courage and faith in God knowing that He is with us, to step out on what we know to be true, even if we fail, will begin to break the chains of fear in our life.  Every time we do that, whether we fail or succeed, we take one more step to freedom, and one day, we’ll look back and see how far the chains of fear have fallen behind us on our way to a brave new way of living our life…

Love always

It’s Never Too Late to Change


Have you ever had the thought that you may be living the best, or worst, times of your life and everything is either uphill or downhill from here?  I’ve had moments when I wished time would just stand still so I could stay in that moment forever.  On the other hand, I’ve had moments when it felt like I was stuck in time during some of the worst moments of my life; it felt like they would never end.  The future is coming.  Like it or not.  We can try to avoid it and hide in a room full of memorabilia, but at the end of our days, we’ll still look in the mirror and see the tolls that the years have taken on us. 

The Mrs and I were talking about class reunions tonight on our walk to downtown and back.  We were sharing just how much we, and those we went to school with, had changed over the years.  It only takes a brief look at photos of those of us who graduated back then compared to ones of today to see how the years, and our choices, have changed all of us.

For the young people in my life, my wish is for them to take ahold of the time they have now while they’re still young and make the very best of it.  If there is one thing the years have taught me, it’s that the decisions we make when we’re young affect us for the rest of our lives; and there’s no turning back the clock.  Oh, there have been many times that I wish I could have a ‘Do over’, but even dreaming of such a thing is only futility.

So many people I know became drawn into a path when they were young and didn’t wake up from it until it was too late.  Life offers young people many pleasures and temptations that will distract them from looking ahead and being prudent.  If they could start with even the smallest of things like putting a little money away out of every check into an account for their kid’s college, investing in a long-term retirement plan at an early age, and creating positive life-long habits of exercising themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, they will literally change their future for the better.

Tonight here’s to taking charge of our future and letting go of the regrets of the past.  Even at my age, it’s not too late to start healthy habits that will improve my future and benefit all those around me for the better down the road.  There’s no better time than today.  I know it’s tough to make changes after so many years, but if we keep our eyes on what can be instead of on what isn’t, those small changes will become easier every day.  Most of all, with God’s help, we can do all things and He is always willing to give us the strength we need to make those changes for the better…

Love always my friends

Looking Both Ways


It was one of the very first things my parents taught me as a child and one of the first things they taught me when I was learning to drive a car; always look both ways before going forward.  It seems simple enough and logical.  I mean, why wouldn’t I check to see if there’s a car coming from both sides of me before stepping out in front it?

Unfortunately, many people find that seemingly simple habit a hard one to form.  Whether they’re in too much of a hurry, thought they’d looked both directions but only glanced, or it never even occurred to them that they are sharing the road with other drivers, they just can’t seem to make it a regular practise to look both ways.  The consequences of not doing that one thing while driving, walking, or in life, could be deadly.

In California, one of the bad habits people tend to pick up is failing to stop before turning a corner.  Infamously known as the ‘California’ stop, it’s more of a slow-down, check to see if anyone’s coming and then drive right through the stop sign, than it is a stop.  I must confess, while living there, I was just as guilty as anyone until I moved to Texas and was caught by the hidden camera around the corner. That hefty $75 ticket helped me to get over the California Stops real quick. 

Just like pedestrian crossings and stop signs, in life we also need to stop and look both ways from time to time.  Those decisions to not look both ways when we are young bring with them a heavy price that, when we’re older, we don’t want to pay again.  Still, some people will look both ways in life, but because they are risk takers, they plow ahead anyway often nearly escaping tragedy or bringing it into other’s lives as well.

Whether we’re making a career choice, a relationship choice, choosing where we would like to live, or what kind of toothpaste to use, taking a moment to consider the options is a wise habit to consider.  One never knows what might be crossing our path unexpectedly just before we’re ready to move forward with our plans.

The key to developing a habit of looking both ways in life isn’t just learning the hard way, it’s practicing prudence. Instead of just saying yes (or no) to anything we’re offered, asking ourselves what potential dangers could come from our choice will help us to make good choices. Also, considering the consequences of our decisions on others around us is a good way to get into the habit of looking both directions.  It may be a good decision for me, but it may not be a good decision for the other people in my life.  

Lastly, depending on the weight of the decision, taking a few moments to seek the guidance of an all-knowing, all-loving God certainly will help us avoid getting side-swiped by unexpected or hidden dangers.  Speaking from experience, having God in the front seat of our life will only help us to make the right decisions and with perfect timing.  Besides, He also makes great company while driving through life too…

Love always