Section One

Faithprints One-to-One


We sat on the wooden steps of my front porch, an angry young man smoking a cigarette and me. He was still agitated from a screaming, cursing fight with his live-in girlfriend that ended only a few moments before.

I befriended both of them separately, they evidently befriended each other, moved in together, and now they were trying to drag me into their drama.

No thanks.

I heard them coming down the street, screaming and cursing and threatening each other with violence, before they finally showed up on my front lawn.

“Off my property,” I calmly told them. “Until you lower your voices and speak to one another in a respectful manner, stay off my lawn, or I will call the police. Take your fight across the street to the park.”

So they did.

They knew I would call the police and wouldn’t have held a grudge if I had. Furthermore, they both knew my house rules, so they didn’t take it personally that I ordered them off my property.

My house rules? Boundaries: I have them. People will not bringing their hell into my house. I don’t allow drama. I don’t permit screaming, cursing fits. I don’t permit people to call each other rude names. They can smoke outside and take their butts with them or put them in my garbage can but not leave them on my lawn. They may set their can of beer on the driveway before they knock on my door. It’s not coming in the house, either. When they calm down and are ready to behave, they can come in—unless they’ve stolen from me in the past. Then they can sit on the porch, and I’ll come out and talk with them—like I was doing with this young man.

After I ordered them off my yard, the young man and the young woman went to the park and screamed abuse at one another, threatened bodily harm, and generally acted like lunatics until a police cruiser drove by. I watched the officer park his car and approach them. I guess they were both tired and a little hoarse from fighting; at the officer’s suggestion, like a violent summer thunderstorm that expends its fury then settles back to grumbling and heat lightning, they fired a few parting verbal volleys at one another, then went their separate ways. The young man headed toward my house, the girl to parts unknown.

The young man stood on the sidewalk in front of my house, shoulders hunched, staring at his shoes, wiping his tears.

“Oh Jesus, please give me wisdom,” I prayed. I grabbed a box of tissues, went out on the porch, and invited him to sit on the steps.

He sat down, lit a cigarette and talked; I listened.

He loved her, he said, the best he was able. They had so much in common and wanted to get married, but she did things she knew would make him mad.

True, they did have a lot in common. Both had messy, complicated lives, were alcoholics with poor impulse control, dabbled in drugs, were chronically unemployed, and possessed poor decision-making skills—not exactly the ingredients for a great marriage or even a friendship.

Oh, yes, they also had anger issues.

Why would she do these things? he asked over and over. Why didn’t she appreciate all the effort he was putting into their relationship? Why? Why? Why?

He was on a roll, and I didn’t interrupt. Maybe eventually he’d come up for air, and then, if he asked, I could insert some new information into his life. In the meantime, while he rattled on about how much he loved her and how little respect and appreciation he received from her, it gave me a chance to pray.

Truth, Lord, give him ears to hear and a heart to receive your truth. Send your Holy Spirit to speak to him, convict him of sin, and persuade him to listen to you. I can’t change hearts. I am depending fully on you and your Word.

Suddenly, I was aware that it was quiet on the porch. He had finally quit talking. Frankly, I had quit listening some time ago when he started repeating himself.

I took a deep breath. “What would you like me to say?” I asked.

“I’d like you to give me some advice on handling women,” he said.

Mentally, I rubbed my hands together with glee. I think it’s disrespectful to offer unsolicited advice—not that I don’t break that rule upon occasion when my own impulse control fails me—but he opened the door to advice. He asked for it so . . .

Let him have with both barrels! advised my psyche, which never has given me good counsel.

Give him one truth about me that he can digest, cautioned the Holy Spirit.

Okay. Help!

“You have chosen to love her,” I said. “One day, you may choose to marry her. You may choose to have a family together. If those things happen, you will have chosen those responsibilities. But just a few minutes ago, you chose to publically scream obscenities at the woman you say you love. You chose to threaten her with bodily harm.”

“I couldn’t help it,” he argued. “It’s her fault. She made me mad.”

“Do you mean she is stronger than you, that she is in control of you? That you are merely her puppet? If she pulls a string, she can make you jump?”

He looked conflicted. He did not want to take responsibility for his actions, but he certainly didn’t want to be a puppet of his lover. Finally he replied, “No, she’s not stronger than me. I chose to get mad. I could have done something else.”

These were probably the first true words out of his mouth all day. As the weight of them soaked into his mind, he actually looked younger.

“Today and every day, you choose how your life will proceed. You are responsible for your own life. You create your own world by the choices you make.”

I explained to him that when God created mankind, he gave us the great gift of free will. Free will means people as individuals create their own world by what they choose to permit in it and what they decide to do with what is already in it. They can choose to follow God and his Spirit, who will help them make decisions. Or they can invent their own rules and reap the consequences.

So, I said, “How’s it going? Who is making the decisions in your life, and how are things working out?”

He had sat quietly, thoughtfully listening to everything. But when I asked that final question, he jumped off the steps like the seat of his jeans spontaneously combusted.

“Can I borrow twenty bucks?” he blurted.

He knew better. “Do I look like an ATM?”

“Just this once?” he begged. “We don’t have any food in the house, and I’ll work it off later. I promise.”

I didn’t believe him on either count, but I was tempted to save myself a lot of trouble and just give the kid twenty bucks.

I said, “Can’t do it. I’ve been overruled on the subject: ‘If a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat,’” I paraphrased, omitting the fact that this was in the Bible (2 Thess. 3:10).

“Oh. Well. What do you want done?”

“Two full hours equals twenty bucks,” I said. “The clock stops when you take a break.”

I’d made these deals before.

“Two hours!” he protested. “I’m not a slave.”

“That’s better pay than minimum wage,” I said.

He smiled. “Okay.”

I gave him a shovel and a bottle of water and showed him how to turn over the compost heap. It didn’t need it, but he did. He worked at a snail’s pace for two hours, collected his twenty bucks, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thanks. Thanks for everything. See you later.”

Then he walked off without stealing anything this time. (I hope!)


Yes, It’s Messy

It’s only fair to warn you: making Faithprints on the lives of people, one on one, one to one, can be really messy. MESSY!

Please go into this with your eyes wide open. You can get robbed. You can be exploited. You may find yourself involved with people you wouldn’t ordinarily speak to or invite to sit on your couch, much less include in your sphere of friendship.

You can get crucified—literally.

When you volunteer to make Faithprints, Jesus may send you where the truly broken people are, the ones with very little pride or pretense left, the ones who know they are broken and need help.

He may well send you to the people who made the religious folks exclaim, “He can’t be a prophet! He associates with sinners!”

Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Naked demoniacs who haunted cemeteries. These were the people Jesus touched when he walked the earth. Who did you think he is likely to send you to touch for him now if not the very same sort of people he touched then?


Let’s Put Space between “Us” and “Them” and Start a Program!

Inventing programs is a much tidier, more fastidious way of dealing with messy people. As a big plus, programs can also assuage our conscience and erase our feeling of responsibility to others.

Here’s an example: “Hey! Let’s have a program where we collect canned goods for the needy.”

“Yeah! Let’s!” This is a nice idea, and as Christians and nice people in general, we’re big into nice, so this program is very appealing on two levels: it makes us feel both nice and good—a double dose of Novocain for the soul.

Yes, of course, this program is helpful, too. We’re feeding the hungry, right? (And the lazy, also, but let’s put our hands over our eyes and not look at it that way.)

Programs are necessary. The Bible tells us everything should be done “decently and in order,” and programs do provide a framework for order.

But the weakness in programs is this: we tend to rely too much on them to do the work we are called to do, the messy work of touching people one to one, one on one, to leave an impression of who Jesus is, making Faithprints.


Faithprints 101

Let me ask you to do this: Think back to the very genesis of your walk with Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember. What influenced you to seek Jesus?

Or was it a “who”? And if memory serves, you weren’t seeking Jesus at all: he was seeking you.

Who was that person who patiently fed your sin-sick soul tiny droplets of the sincere milk of the Word, watching and praying over you until you could digest more? Who helped you chew your first taste of the bread of life? Who helped you draw from the well your first swallow of living water? Who made you want to know Jesus? Who left Faithprints on you?

I see my mother. My father. The elderly neighbor lady who made strawberry jam sandwiches on white bread for me and cut the crusts off after we said thank-you to Jesus. A host of harassed Sunday school teachers whom I delighted to turn into theological pretzels if I sensed they weren’t prepared. My brothers and sisters. Aunts. Grandmother. The YFC director. Some youth group kids. Conference and retreat speakers. C. S. Lewis. And so many, many more. Virtually a cloud of witnesses who were willing to get their hands messy to leave a Faithprint on me for Jesus’s sake.


Your Unique Faithprint

When we get to heaven and have all eternity to enjoy the presence of Jesus and one another, I want you to sit down with me and tell me how you met him. I want to hear all about the people who made Faithprints on your life.

However, I especially want to hear about the people you touched for Jesus. I pray we have a lot to talk about.

But why wait? Tell me now. ([email protected]) I can’t wait to hear your stories.



Chapter 1

Leave a Secret Faithprint on the Down and Out


God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world,

this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Faithprints in the Word

God Rewards Secrecy in Giving


In pointing out hypocrites who gave to the poor to be noticed and admired, Jesus instructed his followers to give secretly as not to inflict pain or embarrassment on the poor: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. . . . But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:1, 3–4 NIV)


So there are three other reasons for giving in secret:

  1. God rewards the secret giver.
  2. Secrecy keeps our motives purer.
  3. And when we give in secret, Jesus gets the credit for sending the gift and that points the recipient toward him, making a clearer, more lasting Faithprint.


Psst! Want a hot financial tip that pays off in ways that will baffle the savviest economic experts? Invest in the needy. But keep it secret.

Tight economic times are nothing new. In the late 1970s to early 1980s, gasoline was high priced and in short supply, jobs were sparse with low pay, the stock market was dragging its indexes, and inflation made saving money an exercise in futility. One day, groceries cost twenty-five dollars; the next day, the exact same groceries cost thirty dollars.

In times of inflation, what does one do with money that is daily losing value? Historically, rich people invest in gold, diamonds, and farmland while poor people invest in collectible plates, perfume bottles, and figurines. But God’s people can take the least risk with the highest investment return by secretly sending their money on ahead to heaven.

I knew the Scripture: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” By divine providence, I just so happened to be at the right place at the right time to witness this financial principle firsthand and in real time.

I was at the checkout counter of our small-town grocery store when I spied a note written in thick black marker: “Do Not Accept Their Checks!!!” A bounced check was attached. Under the red ‘Insufficient Funds’ bank stamp, the name was clearly visible: Jim and Jane Doe

I knew Jim and Jane. We all grew up in the same church. About age ten, a puppy-love crush sparked up between Jim and me that went on for a few years. Things got so hot and heavy between us that we once held hands at a church weenie roast. (!) Then, at age twelve, Jane developed a bust and captured Jim’s attention, whereas I only developed skill as a softball outfielder. After that, the spark died.

Eventually, they married. Over the years, I’d lost touch with them. All I knew was that Jim ran a handyman service while Jane reared their three small children and gave piano lessons. Recently, however, I’d heard rumors that they had fallen on tough times. In addition to the lousy economy making repair jobs hard to come by for Jim, piano lessons were not considered necessary, and their marriage was in trouble.

Looking at the check and the sign, my first thought was, “Whew! If things had been different, my name might have been on that check with Jim Doe.”

Then a better thought—clearly from the Lord—came to mind. I said to the clerk, “Could I speak to the manager?”

She rang for him, and, as he made his way to the front of the store, I was still unsure of what I was going to do. “Lord,” I whispered, “some wisdom here, please.”

“About that bounced check from Jim and Jane Doe,” I whispered to the manager. “I hear they’re having a difficult time just now. If I pay the face amount of the check and give you the bank fee, will you take down the check and sign?”

Here’s one of the beauties of a small town: You know everybody—especially the local tradesmen. And I knew the store manager. He was a no-nonsense, hardworking, family man trying to make a living from a grocery store that boasted thirty shopping carts. I could trust this guy—if he agreed to cooperate

He thought for a moment. “Are you part of their family?”

That question stumped me. True, Jim and Jane’s family trees didn’t connect with ours. But we were family by way of the fatherhood of God and through the tree of Christ.

“Non-kissing cousins,” I told him.

He agreed to my terms.

Money was tight for us, too, so I was surprised when I heard myself saying: “Jim and Jane have three kids. If I give you enough money for them to buy a week’s worth of groceries, will you let them know they have an in-store credit and keep my name secret?”

“Not only that,” said the manager, “I’ll match you dollar for dollar.”

So began a secret partnership between the store manager and my family. When my husband, kids, or I heard of a family in financial trouble, we bought them a week’s worth of groceries—which stretched into two weeks of groceries, thanks to the generosity of the store manager.

We had a couple of rules to convey: no cigarettes, alcohol, or lottery tickets. When you get on your feet, pass it on.

Now comes the truly strange part of the story. We certainly weren’t rich. We had to sacrifice to do this. We had to bypass several great deals on collectible plates. A couple of times, to help raise the money, the kids made and sold homemade candy on the school bus.

But the Father, who saw in secret, absolutely rewarded us. Somehow—and to this day I’m really not sure how—while others were losing their homes, we were able to pay off the mortgage on our home.


Another Example

To the casual eye, Mr. Long was a tiny, dried-up husk of a man. A retired English teacher, he never married and had few relatives and friends. Socially awkward and painfully shy, he typically spent his waning days raising exquisite roses and reading books on the Civil War.

But Mr. Long had a secret life that most people would never have guessed. I knew a little bit more about it than most folks because I helped him live it.

“I have $510,” he would whisper to me conspiratorially as he shook my hand after Sunday morning church. We would exchange a secret, knowing look, and I knew that he was giving me advance warning to expect someone who needed five hundred and ten dollars.

I don’t know exactly where Mr. Long got his idea of secret philanthropy, but he was very much like the hidden benefactor on the old television series The Millionaire except that Mr. Long ran his charitable operation on the pension of a retired schoolteacher with much less money and as little drama as possible. However, one of the things that absolutely amazed me about Mr. Long’s gifts was how he would tell me in advance how much the need was going to be, and, time after time, he’d be correct right down to the penny. I suspect Mr. Long prayed earnestly for opportunities to come along, and God honored his willingness with this verification of his obedience.

Secret giving was a passion with Mr. Long. He was not as particularly concerned with maintaining his own privacy as much as he worried about embarrassing the recipient. Mostly, he wanted the recipient to focus his or her thanks on God, not him. Logically, he determined that the fewer people who knew, the better. He didn’t even trust the church treasurer to keep his secret, and so he was willing to forgo claiming his contribution as a tax deduction. “My Father keeps pretty good books,” he would tell me with a straight face but a twinkle in his eye. “We’ll not worry about notifying Uncle Sam.”

Typically, a day or two after his whispered notification, I would hear of a need, either directly or indirectly. The next step would be for me to stop by his tiny house where, depending upon the weather, I would find Mr. Long fussing over his roses in the backyard or engrossed in a history book. He would disappear for a few moments then return with a bank envelope. Inside I knew was his gift, all in crisp, brand-new bills.

“Tell them that the money is from the Lord,” he would remind me. “If they want to pay him back, they should look for someone else in need.”

Incidentally, God did indeed reward Mr. Long publicly with the most private desire of his heart, a desire he could barely admit to himself. Much to his unending surprise, the pretty, vivacious widow who lived next door to Mr. Long fell head over heels in love with him. Attractive and equipped with a comfortable bank account, she could have had her choice of husbands, and she definitely chose Mr. Long. Their romance budded with her admiration over his roses and came into a blushing bloom with a small, private, garden wedding. Two more opposite people you might never find except that they shared a mutual love of the Lord, roses, and the private reward for secret giving.

So be bold. Be financially wise. Invest in the needy. Just keep it a secret.


Giving to the Needy through the Church

“I have a lawn mowing/snow removal business, and this year, there’s just been no work. We’re three months behind on our rent and we were wondering . . .”

“Could you loan me ten or fifteen bucks for gas to get back and forth to work? I’ll pay you back when . . .”

“My husband is dying of cancer, and because I had to take so much time off work, I lost my job. What with all his medicines, we are running short of money, and we wondered . . .”

“My work hours have been cut and my uncle died two states away, and I need some travel money to . . .”

“My food stamps won’t come until later in the week, and right now there is no food . . .”


To have firsthand knowledge that a family is in need and secretly provide help is one way to help the needy; providing for people who come to the church requesting money or assistance, as in the circumstances described above, is yet another.