Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).

I sat for a long time at my dining room table with a tangle of cords and chains, metal and rock, silver and gold, as I tried to separate all of my earrings, bracelets and necklaces from the hopeless state that travel had gotten them into. Usually, it is a task that I like—slow tempo, measurable results, and useful effort. But, this time, the snarl was incredibly complicated. Each time I was able to free a chain or a charm, the whole mess would begin to twirl and wind up, capturing everything again in a different way. The earrings would hook themselves onto the tiny links. The bracelet fasteners would be wound around with threads and string. It was maddening!

As I wondered how much time I should invest in this untangling, I felt the gentle encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

“This is how peoples’ lives sometimes feel to me,” a voice in my head said.

I took a moment to pray for help, even though at some points in my life I would have thought it too trivial. As I pulled and prodded, twisted and untwisted, new ideas began to flow. As I relaxed and thought about other things, what seemed like an insurmountable problem began to look more like something that could be conquered.

Here were the insights I gained from my two hours at the table with the jewelry.

  1. Knowledge is important.

    The material properties of my various necklaces, etc., made a difference in how much pressure I could put on them. There were delicate ones that couldn’t really be pulled too strongly. There were some chains that were tough and hearty. And, I had to know some basic techniques of how to get them apart (I use a pin or a needle to help my hands work better).

    But, knowledge alone could not work out the tangles in an effective or efficient way. If knowing the properties was enough, they should have come immediately apart as soon as I began working with them. It took more.

  2. Understanding is vital.

    To solve the problem I had with the tangled jewelry, I had to understand how I could succeed. I needed to understand that the tangles were sometimes actually knots. I had to understand that some the pieces needed to be unlatched, so they wouldn’t all simply form unending circles. I couldn’t move forward without understanding that the chains and ties would wrap around each other when lifted from the surface of the table.

    And, still, I was two hours at the work, trying to “un-weave” the complicated woof and warp of the knot of things.

  3. Wisdom will win.

    Once I began letting God in on my thinking (and my frustration), the whole exercise turned around. I felt the calm hand of Wisdom teaching me how to be peaceful and intentional, even in a tension-producing situation. Wisdom said, “Take it easy. Don’t rush. Let it happen.” One by one, the chains unwound from each other. The earrings slowly came out of the tangle so that I could set them aside. Bracelets shook off the shackles of the other pieces. I could finally put everything away in its place, happy and content.

There is no doubt that we have plenty of knowledge in today’s world. Some that can be trusted and some that cannot.

And, understanding is available to us with some study and some practice.

But, it is wisdom that will give success; wisdom whose source is the Creator.

Cleaning a Toilet


They didn’t know what to do. The Graffiti outreach team was in a new neighborhood and wanted to reach their neighbors. Many were from different countries, and many were going through serious financial challenges.

A few team members asked their mission trip leader what they could do for the day. He took them to a local drug store where they bought cleaning supplies. They then trundled into a small grocery store across the street. The area was filled with local stores run by neighbors from far away countries. This owner was from the Middle East.

The group and their leader asked if they could clean the owner’s restroom for free. The owner waved them to the back of the store. Later he came to see what was going on. He thought the group had just asked to use the restroom. He couldn’t believe they were on their knees scrubbing the floor.

There were language barriers in talking to him, but with a little help from an Arabic translation app, the team was able to communicate they were followers of Jesus and simply wanted to bless the man and his business.

At first, the store owner looked angry. He did not understand. But then, a tear slid down his cheek. He suddenly embraced the mission leader and spoke in broken English, “We are brothers.” He led the group to the front of the store where they had a deep conversation about who Christ is and the differences in what they believed.

The store owner did not accept the Lord that day, but the team felt they had made more progress than if they had simply given the man a tract condemning his religion.

Now in that neighborhood, a new Graffiti church meets with new believers. In one of their outreach programs, they have 40 people on the waiting list—most from countries with few Christian witness.

God has so many ways to reach people, but one of the ways we use most in New York City is to meet the need first. The Bible says many things about God but summarizes it all in 1 John by saying God is love. And what is love? The Bible says love is patient and kind.

There are so many conflicting cultures and values in our present world. Isn’t it amazing how kindness seems to cross every culture? Sharing Christ doesn’t necessarily require a complicated evangelical strategy. It may start with a willingness to clean a neighbor’s toilet.

"I Saw You That Day"


George looked a little silly. He was riding his daughter’s bike toward the church in New York City. The bike was pink and small, and his legs were nearly up to his chest.

But George’s face was fresh and bright. “I checked myself in to a rehab and now I am back,” he told Pastor Andrew. George had earlier placed his faith in Christ and been baptized at the church, but as often happens,

all the change didn’t take place in a day.

Since George returned from rehab, he became more of a quiet leader in the church. He helped the church to “meet the need first” in a community with many needs.

How did George go from someone who simply watched the neighborhood on the street, to someone who helped many young people with the integrity of his own experience?

Much earlier, Andrew hadn’t really known George well. Andrew used to pass by as George simply shot baskets in a park. Finally Andrew just asked if they could eat lunch together. George said he was shy, but slowly he opened up as they ate.

George said one thing that surprised Andrew during the lunch.

“I saw you that day.”

Andrew didn’t know what he was talking about. “What day?” He asked.

George was serious. “The day you brought that man back to life in front of the grocery store,” he said quietly.

Andrew remembered the scene, years ago. He didn’t even know George at the time. Andrew had just learned CPR, and he saw a crowd of people in front of the grocery store.

They were all standing around a man who was unconscious. His face was blue.

Andrew felt for the breathing barrier on a lanyard he had worn since he had the CPR training. It wasn’t there. The man’s arms had holes dotted with blood. He was clearly a heroin addict. No one in the crowd moved.

“Is my life more valuable than his?” Andrew thought. Then he remembered the tent across the street that was a Harm Reduction Center for people using drugs. “Do you have a breathing barrier?” Andrew shouted. They did, and they ran it over to Andrew.

Andrew put the clear plastic over the man’s cold, blue lips and began to puff breaths of air into his lungs. Time passed, and eventually paramedics arrived. By this time, color had returned to the man’s face and the paramedics picked him up and he regained consciousness.

Andrew never saw the man again, but George had been watching in the crowd, those many years ago. We sometimes say that the two hands of Christ are “relief work,” and “release work.” Relief work is the immediate thing that needs to be done. Release work takes longer, and it involves the process of being released from dependent behaviors, from addictions, and from sin.

“I saw you that day.” Andrew didn’t know George was in the crowd until he simply had lunch with him much later. Andrew didn’t know what God would do in George’s life to bless the whole community.

One of the principles of community engagement is learning to “See the Unseen.” Sometimes we will see the connection between relief work and release work, and sometimes we won’t.

We can’t all give CPR to a heroin addict, but we can all invite someone to lunch who is shy, and we can simply start by listening.