Wednesday

When the Rocks Cry Out -- Sharing Christ through Kindness Rocks

Megan Murphy didn’t know she was starting a movement when she picked up five rocks, scribbled messages on them with a Sharpie pen, and scattered them on a Cape Cod beach two years ago.

But someone found one of her rocks, and word got back to her. “The rock made my day,” the recipient said. “I was struggling, but the message helped turn things around.” And thus began the Kindness Rocks movement.

Since then, Murphy’s Kindness Rocks Project has gained worldwide attention, with inspirational, hash-tagged rocks popping up in at least seven countries and garnering millions of views on social media. “The project isn’t about rocks per se, it’s about connection,” Murphy said. “People find a rock, and they relate to the message on the rock. Then they connect with the fact that there is a human being on the other end of that rock, and they don’t feel so alone.”

 A kindness rock can be simple, like Murphy’s first rock – just a sharpie and a stone. Or it can be complex – hand-painted, bedazzled, or personalized. Simple or spectacular, no one’s disappointed when they find a kindness rock tucked beside a sidewalk, in a parking lot, or near a street sign.

The rules are easy – keep it, pass it on by leaving it in a new place, or exchange it for one of your own. Be sure to leave it out in the open (don’t hide it) in a public place where it will be easy to spot.

I found my first kindness rock near a mailbox on my morning walk. Pink with a purple paw print, it said, Love Has Four Paws. I took it home and smiled all day long.

Then Murphy’s story got me thinking. Her motivation was to empower others with feel good messages. BE STRONG. YOU’VE GOT THIS! or SHARING A SMILE. What a great idea.

But, as believers, we know words that can not only make people smile, but can change their lives forever. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”


How much more powerful would it be if, instead of just cute pictures and happy phrases, we painted and scattered rocks decorated with God’s Word? Personalized. Imagine how a person might feel if, on a really bad day, they found a rock that said, You can do all things through Christ. (Phil 4:13)? Or Be strong and courageous, for God is with you. (Joshua 1:9)? or I will never leave you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)? 
Here's my first not-very-artistic-but-prayed-over  #ChristianKindnessRocks.
I hid it in the flower bed of a local grocery store, by the entrance so someone
would be more likely to see it.

What if believers all over the country – all over the world – painted Kindness Rocks with Scripture on them and left them for others to find? If God’s Word is true, and it is, then God could use these rocks to encourage, inspire, and draw people closer to himself.

And maybe, as Jesus said, in this age when the world seems determined to silence Christians, it’s time for the rocks to cry out. 

Would you like to join me in spreading God’s Word using painted rocks? I’ve collected a few resources to help you get started. But first, three reminders:

1. When you paint a rock, be sure to put the hashtag #RocksCryOut on the back.

2. If you'd like, post a picture of it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) using the hashtag.

3. I'd love it if you'd send me a picture of your rock “on location” ( LoriAHatcher (at) gmail.com) with your name (if you’d like) and what city and state you’re from so I can share it in a subsequent post.

We know that the kindest message of all is the message of hope through Jesus Christ. Let’s pass it on!

CLICK HERE for a simple How To on painting Kindness Rocks. 

CLICK HERE to visit the Kindness Rocks Facebook Page. 

CLICK HERE to visit Lexington County SC Rocks Facebook page in my hometown of Lexington, SC.

And here’s a 3-minute video featuring Megan Murphy telling her story of how Kindness Rocks.


 began.


If you’re reading by email, click here to watch the video on Megan Murphy and Kindness Rocks: 






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Sunday

What I Saw in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

Have you ever participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoe box ministry?

This week is collection week, so I thought I'd share a post from several years ago after our youth group volunteered at the OCC distribution center in Charlotte, NC. If you've ever wondered what happens to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox your family fills every year, this post will answer your question.

Many families donate boxes full of toys, candy, and personal items to Franklin Graham’s ministry to children in impoverished or war-torn areas. They seldom think about what happens next. My visit to the giant OCC processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina enlightened me. 

Every year, thousands of volunteers help inspect and process the shoe boxes for distribution. This year, my husband led a team from his youth ministry, and I went along. In 2013, our guide told us, the Charlotte campus of OCC hopes to send out 2.9 million boxes. By 2 p.m. on the day our team arrived, they had already processed 109,000—a remarkable feat considering that every box must be hand-inspected by volunteers and prepared for travel. 

This is not me -- her hair is much prettier!
Stationed on a long assembly line, my job was to open each box and remove the seven-dollar shipping donation. As the first to handle each box, I was the first to peek inside. It was like Christmas morning a thousand times over. 

As I carefully raised the lid, mindful of the fact that a check could be taped to the inside or resting on top, I couldn’t help but imagine how the little child who will ultimately receive this box might feel. 


Two types of boxes were particularly moving. 

The boxes designated for little girls made me smile. Many included soft stuffed animals, hair bows and brushes, and pretty pens and paper. I imagined the girls’ delight when they fingered the faux pearls, sniffed the scented soap, or hugged the black-eyed teddy bears. My favorite box of all contained an entire fairy outfit, complete with a sparkly wand and a pink tutu. 

The boys’ boxes were equally exciting, according to my husband. They held flashlights with extra batteries, ball caps, and tools like hammers and screwdrivers. Candy filled the corners and the token toothbrush and toothpaste balanced out the equation. Some were packed so tightly and filled so full that we had a hard time closing the lids. 

Every now and then, however, I’d open a different type of box. Sparsely filled, sometimes with items that were second hand or functional, these country cousins just couldn’t compete with their overweight city relatives. They were usually smaller, almost apologetic in their presentation, and seldom wrapped in pretty paper. One had a photo of a little old lady sitting on a couch with a bug-eyed Chihuahua beside her. “Jesus loves you,” she had written. “I hope you come to love him, too.” 

Thankfully, due to the added generosity of individuals and businesses, we supplemented boxes like these with filler items. We’d tuck toys, school supplies, or toiletry items into the empty spaces and pray a blessing on the giver who’d obviously had a generous heart but an impoverished pocketbook. 

The full boxes made my heart happy, because they demonstrated the generosity of God’s people toward those less fortunate than themselves. They gave me hope that although our world seems to be increasingly selfish and self-centered, people are still listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s nudge to give. 

The partially filled boxes made my heart happy, too. Like the widow’s mite, they demonstrated the desire of God’s people to give sacrificially. Both boxes, I believe, made God’s heart happy. 

Perhaps some of the shoe boxes you’ve donated over the years have been filled with gracious plenty. Others, maybe not so much. Even if all you could give was a partially filled shoe box, rest in the knowledge that God multiplied your gift and sent it on. 

And he’s smiling—just like the little boy or girl on the other side of the world will be when she opens her box this Christmas.

Do you have an Operation Christmas Child story to share? I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below. If you’re reading by email, click here to comment. 

And if you'd like to read about two orphaned children who received shoe boxes, click HERE to read my friend Dawn Gonzalez's fabulous story.
Here's the team from Green Hill Baptist Church with my husband, David (left).



LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT 
FOR THE BUSY WOMAN IN YOUR LIFE?


May I tell you about my new book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women?

 Today's women want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. You want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but you don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.

You need a resource that answers the questions you’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you. 












 

 

Wednesday

Destination J.O.Y. (and 10 Creative Community Service Projects for Your Youth Group

When my youth minister husband decided to design a summer mission week for the teens in our church, he knew one thing – it wouldn’t be the typical youth group experience. 

Instead of going away (there’s nothing wrong with going away), we’d stay local – in the community we were trying to reach. Instead of being heavy on fun (there’s nothing wrong with fun), he wanted the kids to experience the joy of serving others. Instead of tacking on token Bible lessons like commercials during the Super Bowl (there is something wrong with that), he wanted scriptural principles to be the main event. 

He called our week-long, stay-in-town mission trip Destination J.O.Y., which stands for Jesus, Others, and You. Built on the pillars that characterized his ministry: biblical teaching, service, outreach, and wholesome fellowship, Destination J.O.Y. was the highlight of the year. Best of all, it became one of the most life-changing events of our students’ lives. . . 

To read the rest of the article, including 10 creative community service project ideas, CLICK HERE to head on over to Crosswalk.com.




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Sunday

Shade and Sweet Baby Ray's



I never understood why people carried umbrellas on sunny days until I moved to the South. They used to be called parasols and were quite the fashion statement. Made of cloth and edged with ruffles, parasols served a purpose beyond style. They protected a woman’s skin from the damaging effects of the sun and kept her body from overheating. 

I’ve never seen someone carrying a parasol, but I do occasionally see someone carrying an umbrella when the sun’s shining. I totally get it. The summer sun in South Carolina can be merciless. It can be pretty intense in the fall and spring too. Shade of any kind (even the Mary-Poppins-black-umbrella-type) can make a 10-degree difference in body temperature. 

I thought about parasols, and umbrellas, and shade recently as I drove south on I-77. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun shone brightly. The temperature gauge read 71, but the interior of my car was toasty. My left arm, resting in a patch of sunlight, felt like a marshmallow roasting on the end of a stick. 


Then an 18-wheeler carrying Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce drove up beside me. Casting its long shadow over the length of my car, it moved between me and the hot afternoon sun. 

Instantly everything changed. The temperature inside the car dropped. The glare eased, and my toasted marshmallow arm stopped sizzling. I sighed as the soothing shade cooled everything it touched. 

The refreshing and restorative power of shade isn’t new. David the psalmist/shepherd wrote about it in Psalm 121. He knew what it was like to sit for hours in the Judean sun watching his sheep graze. He also knew the value of a well-placed shade tree or drifting cloud. Perhaps this is why he described God as “the shade at your right hand.” 

Listen to his words: 

“The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” 

What a beautiful picture of God. 

When the glare of our circumstances distorts our perspective, the shade of his presence enables us to see with clarity. When the heat of trials threatens to incinerate us, God’s presence cools the flames. When the blazing rays of difficulty beat down upon our heads, God positions himself between us, refusing to let them consume us. 

If you’re melting under the heat of a fiery trial right now, let God be your sunshade. Allow him to refresh you by spending time in his Word. Rest under the protective canopy of prayer. Take refuge in the shadow of his presence, knowing that he watches over you. 

I rode in the shade of the Sweet Baby Ray truck for miles. Then the interstate took me west, and the heat of the sun eased. As my escort and I parted, I thanked the Lord for a tangible reminder of the way he cares for his children. 

And I vowed to seek out the shade of his presence instead of stubbornly navigating the scorching highways of life without him.



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Wednesday

Is It Wrong to Pray for "Little" Needs When Others Have Big Ones?

I went from spiritual to shamed with six words from Sister Freda: 

“Please pray for food and medicine.”


I’ve known of Sister Freda for years through friends. A soft-spoken, regal Kenyan, she’s a woman with big dreams – dreams that are coming true. 

Since 2004, when she left her job as a nurse, she’s served the poorest and sickest citizens of Kitale, Kenya. She’s founded a hospital, an outreach clinic, a preschool, a feeding program, a girls school, and a nursing college. 

When my friend Debbie, who’s taken several mission trips to Sister Freda’s hospital, got married recently, Sister Freda came from Kenya to be her maid of honor. 

We sat together at the reception. She told me about her ministry, and I told her about my latest book project. “I want to help women get excited about God’s Word,” I told her. “I believe the Lord has called me to write a devotional spotlighting uncommon and unusual verses in the Bible.” 

Because I knew she was a powerful prayer warrior, I asked her to pray my book would find favor with a publisher. 

Then I asked how I could pray for her. Her response made my heart hurt. 

“Please pray for food and medicine. And we’re trying to build another building. The rainy season is beginning, and we can’t feed the children outside in the rain.” 

That’s when I felt small – asking her to pray for my book project when she was trying to feed children and save lives. 

Have you ever felt ashamed to share your “little” prayer requests in light of “big” ones? I mean, what’s a devotional book compared to hungry children and sick Kenyans? 


What’s a better job compared to cancer? Or a tight budget compared to a family member addicted to cocaine? Or the loss of a pet compared to the loss of a spouse? 

What right do we have to pray (or ask for prayer) for our own small needs when others are facing life-threatening, earth-shattering events? 

After much wrestling and soul-searching, I can confidently say we have every right. 

Here’s why: 

1. God is able to hear ALL our prayers. 

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear,” Isaiah 59:1 assures us. My “small” prayers don’t prevent God from hearing Sister Freda’s “big” prayers. 

I often told my children, “I may have two ears, but I only have one brain. Talk to me one at a time.” Thankfully, God isn’t limited by human frailties. He hears the cries of all his children and responds even before we say “Amen.” “Before they call I will answer;” he promises, “while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). 

2. All our requests are small in light of God’s power. 

Unlike us, God doesn’t rank needs on a scale of difficulty. Curing cancer is just as easy for him as providing money for school books. His power is beyond measure and miracles are his specialty. 

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” God asked Abraham when Abraham laughed at the promise that his 90-year-old wife would have a child. This same truth levels the playing field for our prayer requests. 

3. God’s resources aren’t limited. 

I remember as a teenager asking my mom for a pair of jeans. “I can’t buy them this month,” she said. “Your sister needs a winter coat.” Money was limited in our one-income family, so she had to prioritize our family’s needs. The greater need got the yes. The lesser need had to wait. 

In God’s economy there are enough resources for every need. I don’t have to worry that a child will go without clothing in Venezuela if I ask God for money to buy my husband a birthday present. 

4. God calls us to different ministries and cares about each one’s success. 

Sister Freda’s calling to save lives, feed orphans, and train women is remarkable. Equally remarkable is my calling to write. Because God uses both our callings to point people to himself, one ministry isn’t more important than the other. They both have a part in God’s great plan. 

Since that heart-baring conversation at my friend’s wedding, it’s been my privilege to pray for food and medicine for Sister Freda’s ministry. I’m confident she feels equally-committed to pray for my book. Together we’re doing our best to fulfill the calling God has placed upon our lives. As we pray for each other, we partner with God to accomplish his will and work in the world. 

And that’s nothing to feel ashamed about.


If you'd like to learn more about Sister Freda's amazing ministry to the people of Kitale, Kenya, click HERE.


Many thanks to fellow blogger Sheryl Boldt, whose post, "Praying for Our Needs when Others Are Dealing with Far Worse," prompted me to further explore this topic.



Would you like to win a FREE COPY of the audio version of my book, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time? CLICK HERE.










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