Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Power of Influence

Have you ever wanted to tell someone of influence, thank you? I mean, face-to-face? Shake their hand, look them in the eye, and whisper thank you? Yeah, I feel that way a lot. In fact, if you're reading this, it's likely you are one of those whose influence has strengthened, grown, challenged, and encouraged me.

There was this Dreamer's Retreat, Jumping Tandem, that I attended in Nebraska. I know I mentioned it a while ago. Did I mention what happened after we parked the car and entered the lobby? How we were greeted by a woman who crossed the room, arms out wide, caught us up in her embrace, giddy with enthusiasm to see us? Like she'd waited all month for our arrival.

"I'm so glad you're here! How was your trip?" You know, when you're greeted with all that love and joy splashing all over you, goodness! even if the trip was difficult (which it wasn't), we were so taken that we stammered out some standard nicety. "Wonderful!" She continued to engage us with her eyes, her smile. "There's a gift bag for you and you can let these ladies here," she motioned to two women standing behind a desk, "know that you're here. They'll give you your room key. After you get settled, you're welcome to come hang out with us."

My friend and I walked down the narrow hallway toward our room. "Do you know who that was?"

"No, but wow, she's super welcoming," I said, turning the key in the lock.

"That was the organizer for this retreat."

I looked at her with a blank stare. Who? A little embarrassed, I confessed that I didn't know hardly any of the names speaking at the retreat, that I hadn't followed their blogs, that I had somehow stumbled on "Dreamer's Retreat" and signed up because, well, of course... a retreat for dreamers. Just tell me where to send my money.

But, oh, that initial greeting? Yeah, that gal Deidra*, she's for real. Some people splash love and grace all over those blessed to get near enough to get splashed. Turns out, she'd put together an entire retreat full of people who splash Love and Grace.

I remember the first time I met someone of deep influence. She was a fellow dreamer and I had read several of her books. I wanted to thank her for influencing me to say Yes! to whatever Jesus said, to the audacious dreams of changing my world, to showing me what it looks like to let Jesus love people through me... for teaching me to love the word Impossible. But how to get past her entourage. They surrounded her, sweeping her out of the conference room after her last talk. I followed them out the door and as they ascended the stairs, I timidly said her name, shyly hoping she wouldn't hear me and that she would all at the same time. She did.

She stopped, one foot on the next step up. "C'mon Ann, you don't have time. You have a plane to catch." But she simply held up her hand to them. Gently. Boldly.

She descended the stairs to engulf me in an embrace and whisper, "I love you." Then she touched my cheek, her deep blue eyes speaking gospel, like a mother who wants to make sure her message is understood.

Is that how it was with Jesus? His entourage constantly trying to protect Him? Trying to keep Him on schedule? Attempting to keep His time with other adults sacred when actually it was the sacred who His entourage kept at bay? The sacred whom He took up in His arms to bless.

Ah, I think I'm getting a clearer picture! How amazing that moment when the woman reached out to touch the hem of His cloak and He stopped the entire procession to dialogue with her.

This whole thing about loving people with some kind of crazy, audacious love right in the moment. Greeting strangers like they're the most important person you've seen all day. And, {oh! be still my beating heart!}, the sheer joy and romance of interacting with our spouse and children and loved ones this way!

I have a friend here whom I wish you could meet. She'd greet you like she's been expecting you all along. Betty would probably hug you and she'd certainly smile, her usual greeting, "God bless you," splashing grace that soaks all the way into your soul. I'm both taken and taken back by her bold love. Every interaction with her is an invitation to engage in meaningful relationship. To love intensely.

What if we engaged deeper? What if we allowed Jesus to love people through us? What if we embraced the responsibility to make people our priority?

You bear the mantel of influence in someone's life... what if you embraced them today -- figuratively or literally -- and spoke love and grace over them?

I'm so glad you're here! 
I love you! 
God bless you!

*Deidra Riggs releases her new book, Every Little Thing: Making A World of Difference Right Where You Are this Fall. To read more and get pre-order information, visit her at Jumping Tandem Blog.


  1. I just love reading your blog Sharon! It's such a treat to be able to hear your voice, even across the miles! And I'm inspired! I'm going to go splash love and grace all over my people today. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Wendi! Your encouragement blesses me -- splashes grace my way! Hugs!