Do all the good you can, every day, in every way that you are able.

As you all know, I’ve been sewing pillowcases for charities for a while.  So far since Jan. 1 of 2016, my mother and I have made 400 pillowcases for charities such as the El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo and Albuquerque Ronald McDonald Houses, St. Andrew’s Hospitality House and more recently I made them for Veterans in local nursing homes.  I still have some to deliver, but more than half of them have been distributed to their intended locations.   The more of these I make, the more ideas I have of who these pillowcases can serve.

I have learned several things about this simple, repetitive, project.  One thing is that repetitive action, if productive, is very relaxing, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  Spending my time producing something useful is very gratifying.  The other thing I learned is that, small things mean a lot especially to the two ends of the life experience.  Very small kids and older people in nursing homes respond the same way, with delight, when receiving even the smallest gift when it is given personally.  Most institutions will take your donations, have you sign a donor list and send you on your way.  When you get the opportunity to personally give your small gift to individuals, it makes you more connected to the recipient and more likely to want to continue to give more of yourself in the future.  If you are one of those people that like to give anonymously there are lots of opportunities to do that.  But if you want to share the light Jesus put in you and spark that light in someone else, find the thing that lets you make human, one on one contact with someone.   

I had two of the best experiences happen in the past month.  I had been praying for a personal experience of connection with someone who would receive one of my pillowcases.  The first was delivering red, white and blue pillowcases to Veteran’s in nursing homes on Veteran’s Day.  Responses of nursing home residents were as varied as their physical and medical situations.  Some didn’t know I was in the room, most didn’t know what to say and were surprised that a stranger came to give them something.  But the ones that sat up and started telling you stories of their military adventures were really enjoyable.  I knew I sparked a memory in them that was important, and it was important to them that someone heard it.  I was glad to be that person.    

Then on Thanksgiving week, I got to deliver to Ronald McDonald House in Amarillo, Texas.  The coordinator there, Mrs. Jan Plequette, has been my contact person there for 4 years.  She arranged for me to meet the Child Life Specialist at North West Texas Children’s Hospital.  When I got there, the staff picked out a pillowcase that they thought would perfectly fit a particular patient they wanted me to meet.  Her name was Mila.  She was 4 and receiving infusions that day.   I was not allowed to know her illness because of HIPAA regulations, but they put me in a disposable isolation gown and gloves and let me give her this specially chosen pillowcase myself.  This little girl was the brightest piece of sunshine I have ever met.   The nurses there at the hospital said that this little girl keeps them all cheered up.  And she was so sweet I had the best time talking to her.  I wish I could have taken her home with me and kept her for a sister.  I would love to have someone like this in my life on a daily basis.  Her mother was so sweet too.  She said she was happy and grateful that a complete stranger would give her daughter a little gift that made the time they spent there at the hospital more comfortable and a less bland and boring experience.  

That experience was my ideal, the dream I had in my mind all along, coming true.  On Veteran’s Day, after delivering pillowcases all day, we went to the VFW for their fundraiser dinner in Cloudcroft, NM.  There I saw the man I knew as Santa Claus my whole life.  He was the man that worked at our local mall and posed for Christmas pictures.  He has been Santa for every Toys for Tots event, every charitable Christmas project and event in Alamogordo for my entire life.  He was there, eating dinner and had a Vietnam Veteran jacket on.  I had never spoken to him outside of his role as Santa.  As he left, I went to our car, and picked out an extra red, white and blue pillowcase and gave it to him.  I thanked him for his service to our country, as I had with all the veterans in the nursing homes I met that day.  And he thanked me and said he knew I made a lot of old people happy that day, and that’s what is so great about being Santa – so we had a little something in common.  I guess if I had to choose a title, I’d choose “The Pillowcase Fairy”.   I really can’t pull off Santa Jr.   

The marketing director at North West Texas Children’s Hospital said she hoped that my doing this would spark interest in others to do something and hopefully encourage kids to do things that were small random acts of kindness.  That is what I hoped to do with this article.  To tell kids that they are an important part of the world and that their outlook on life, if carried with them through adulthood, can affect the world around them.  At the least, an attitude of giving can affect their own life, and at the most, it can affect all those that have received from them.  It may spark others to pay it forward in their own way.  And every different way you can think of to pay it forward is necessary in some way to someone.  

To all the kids who dream of affecting the world in a big way, do it in a way that you know makes Jesus proud, have him as your partner, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.


100_3566   Madeleine Fazenbaker is 14 years old and is a wonderfully gifted young lady that lives in New Mexico.  She is very active in her church and her community and truly is a young woman after God’s own heart.  Why pillowcases?  Because when you lay your head on a pillow to rest you can remember this:  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 One of her favorite scriptures for small acts of kindness:  Hebrews 6:10 –  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

3 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

If I had the finances, luck, or a DeLorean complete with a flux capacitor I would love to travel back in time. Of course, I would love to travel through time seeing various events throughout the past and even into the future. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, time travel is not a reality at this point in time… or at least that’s what I want you to think! One of the trips that I would make back in time is to my 18-year-old self. Fresh out of high school, on my own, in college, and working up to 4 jobs all at once. I would like to tell myself 3 very real truths I wish I would have known some 14 years ago. I do not have many regrets in life, and these 3 bits of encouragement to myself or anyone in the same position are not about regrets, simply encouragement.

1.  Save your money. Just because you have a little bit of money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. Save your money and when you spend it, spend it wisely. Spend your money on things that will provide you lifelong memories, not temporary happiness.

2.  See the world. There are really awesome towns and sites to see so close to you. Go see the world that is right in your backyard and then keep going. Don’t limit yourself to the big cities stop in the small towns too. Get off the interstate, take your time, cruise. This world is full of rich history and people. Take the time to travel the world and hear people’s stories.

3.  Slow down and smell the roses. Take the time to take all that life is throwing at you in. You will have the opportunity to experience great joys and great tragedies, take them all in. Good, bad, right, and wrong these moments make you who you are. Slow down and take them in, let them shape you into who God is calling you to be and where God is calling you.

Life is an amazing thing. There is not a moment or experience that I regret or take back. My life is not perfect nor has it gone exactly as planned but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would simply slow down a little bit and take it all in. Life is too short to spend it worrying about money, missed opportunities, and missed moments. The fortunate thing about this life is we do not have to have a time machine, we can life into these ideas and hopes today, no matter our age. Enjoy life. You owe it to yourself and your family.

 


15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_oRev Zach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of BeardedTheologians and a Pastor for the United Methodist Church in New Mexico.  When Zach is not sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ he is fighting crime as the masked avenger “Beardy Face”, but don’t tell anyone!

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a day that brings forward joy and celebration as we lift up one of the most important people in our lives.  I am very thankful for the relationship that I have with my mom.  I will be honest, I was not the best kid growing up, I was difficult to be around especially when I was a teenager. Even through my worst of days when I was the biggest jerk, especially to my mom, she has always been there for me.  She is easily the person I call on the phone the most.  We have a special relationship and I will always cherish that.

I am unbelievably grateful for the mother to my kids Mikel is.  She is the engine that keeps our family moving, clean, fed, watered, on schedule, and sane. She makes sure hair is done, dresses are tied, princesses are princesses, bow ties are straight, chucks are the right color, that girls can be girls, boys can be boys, and her kids can be kids.  She often does this by herself, as I find myself on the road several times a year.  I know it is incredibly hard to take care of our children as well as taking care of the biggest child of all, me.  These are just some of the many reasons why I love her and am proud she is my wife and partner in this thing we call life. Mikel is truly a blessing.

Certainly, I cannot go on and talk about Mother’s Day and the impact that one has had on me and my family and not speak of my mother in law.  She has fought an amazing fight and won over breast cancer this last year.  On top of being a loving and thoughtful woman, raising my beautiful wife, and being a lovely Weazer (her name from my kids) to my kids, she is a true inspiration to everyone of what it is to be a person of faith and kicking cancer’s butt.

All of that being said, I know Mother’s Day is a hard day for many people.  It is a day we grief the loss of our mothers, a day some grieve of not physically being a mother.  This is a reality we need to be aware of as we celebrate.  Mikel and I have had the opportunity to be in places where our parents have not been and we have always found that no matter where we live, we have had mother/grandmother figures in our lives.  These relationships are relationships that we adore and are true blessings to all of our family, even our parents who live in another country (Texas).  They know we are being taken care of (Mikel and the kids) and they some of us are being kept in line (Me).

For all those ladies who have been mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters to me thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You have shaped me to be a better husband and father.

To my Mom, Susan, thanks for putting up with my crap all these years.

To my mother in law, Karen, thanks for trusting me to take care of your daughter.

To my wife, Mikel, thanks for sticking with me.  I know this life is not easy and I have asked so much of you. You are the love of my life and the absolutely best mother on this planet (sorry everyone else, you missed out)!

To my daughters Zoe and Ryann, you may never understand how much you have taught me about being a human. I hope you know how much Mikel and I love you.  I believe that you two will change the world. (I believe this for Noah too)

To all the woman and ladies I have had the opportunity to be your pastor, thank you for loving me, guiding me, and believing in me enough to be your pastor.  You have taught me more than I can ever pretend to teach you.

For all of the wonderful ladies in my life, thank you.  Keep up the good work. You are changing the world, whether you know it or not.

As we approach mothers day, remember that there are many people in our lives grieving this year.  Be sensitive to that and make sure you hear their stories.

Make sure you celebrate the women in your life! Those ladies who have been pivotal influences in your life.  Do your best to reach out in whatever way you can, whether it be a phone call, hug, text, or Facebook message, let the women in your life know they matter and have had an impact on your life.

Happy Mother’s and those who have been AMAZING Woman in my life Day!

Zach


  Zach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of BeardedTheologians, you can partly blame his for all of this.

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First Timer Lent and Mindfulness

Lent. It is one of those interesting times that has divided the evangelical world (as originally termed by Luther) from the liturgical world. So many from the evangelical side have shunned lent, among many other celebrations and observations. While religion and religious rites were once an instrument of social control, in today’s day and age, that is no longer a factor in most areas of the world. However, observations like Lent have a new place among the world these days.

A step back from this momentary quick start… I have grown up in the evangelical side of Christianity. I am a preacher’s kid and have a lifetime of exposure to religious atmosphere. Like many kids, I grew up learning my parents’ beliefs and understandings. As I got older and branched out in life on my own, my belief never wavered. However, I turned into what you may call a religious academic. I have known the stories. I’ve known the text. I’ve known the morals of the stories. I’ve known that the Jewish storytelling tradition was basically the same as anywhere in the known world at the time (think Aesop). It wasn’t about the facts. It was about the moral of the story.

I have grown more and more interested in the facts that go along with the stories. To me, they’ve provided more of an understanding. Instead of a lot of the speculation and interpretation that goes on with scripture, context explains exactly what was being told.

So, for me, this gives a new context to observations like Lent. No longer is it about social religious control. No longer is it about ritual. To me, it’s about differentiation. (Ask a teacher.) People understand the same idea, facts, and context in different ways. For a better understanding of what your God has done for you, maybe you leave the secular and the ritual behind. If an observation of Lent helps you be more mindful, then more power to you. If observing Easter as the day Jesus was crucified helps you understand the physical suffering that was not necessary, then go forth. They are organized observations that help those of us who need formal construct to help our mindfulness.

My observation of Lent has not been big, as this is my first year on this journey about mindfulness. But I can tell you that I have done two things. One, I went for an Ash Wednesday blessing. I appreciate the pastors who offer the quick blessings, including the one I went to. It was simple and straightforward, but something I can say I’ve never had a blessing directed just at me in that manner. I did not wear my ashes all day because I am so uncomfortable being addressed out of the blue for anything, even if it is a good thing, and have trouble interacting at that point. However, the blessing and the smell of the ashes stayed with me all day. I have not given up anything for Lent, but I have been observing (to the best of my ability) a photo of the day challenge on a social media account. I’ve played catch up if I have missed a day. And I have appreciated the formal construct to help my mindfulness.


63618_182980491719336_5407577_nTim is a project management consultant out of Lubbock, Texas. He’s been married to his wife, Tara (who went to high school with Zach), since 2009. They have a son, Jameson, age 3. Tim is an alum of Lubbock Christian University and Arizona State University.

Where is God at Work?

We are well on our way to Easter but there is a load of road left until April 16th.  I hope that you have had a chance to join us in our  40 Days of Beardedness Lenten Devotion.  Regardless, of what resources, spiritual practices, or whatever it is you gave up or took on I want to ask you a question, “Where have you seen God at work in your life the last few weeks?” All of our journeys are different.  We encounter God in different ways. God encounters us in different ways.

I hope this is a familiar question for you, but I hope you answer is not familiar.  My hopes and prayers for all of us are that we not only encounter God in news ways but we see where God is already and work in the world around us and we accept the invitation to join God.

God is at work in our lives and in the world around us.  Do you see it?  What do you need to let go of mentally, spiritually, and even physically to see it and to accept the invitation?

As you search for the answer to these questions, let this prayer from the Dr. Martin Luther king Jr rest upon your heart.

God, grant that we wage the struggle with dignity and discipline. May all who suffer oppression in this world reject the self-defeating method of retaliatory violence and choose the method that seeks to redeem. 

Where do you see God at work in your life and in the world around you?

Amen


15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_o Rev Zach Bechtold is one of the Co-Founders of BeardedTheologians and a Pastor in New Mexico.  In his free time, he is a crime fighting superhero, although he cannot tell which superhero as it would put many people in great danger.  When Zach is not preaching, teaching, and saving the word he enjoys adventures with his family and watching baseball.