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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Answer to Prayer

It has been a while since I’ve updated this old blawg! I guess, like everyone else, I’ve been busy with holidays and family. Now that things are slowing a bit I hope to update things more frequently!

God’s continued faithfulness, however, has never slowed down! He has been showing us His faithfulness on a daily basis with so many things. I’ve had several of you tell me that you are just in tears over hearing the stories of the Lord’s provision in the life of others through the Clothes Closet ministry. Let me tell you… you aren’t the only one in tears!!

Over the holidays I was so blessed to have one of our missionaries come serve in the Clothing ministry along side our team of workers! Katty is a precious young woman that serves in Ecuador and she was in the US for a few months. While she was here she was able to come and serve for a few hours on 2 different days. She speaks Spanish (of course!) and so having her there REALLY helped. She wrote out the gospel in Spanish for me so that I can have it to share with the people that come in to shop. WHAT a blessing!!

Two things  that I loved about Katty being with us was that she prayed for us while we were working and she easily engaged with people that spoke Spanish when I could not. 

One day the clothes closet was so crowded. We were very busy and Katty was standing near the door as people came and went. One lady had her hands full with two little girls and a huge bag of clothes that she’d found for her family. As she approached the door to leave Katty simply said, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”

The woman began to immediately weep! Katty and I exchanged looks and I began to pray. We took her girls to the front of the store and gave them seats while Katty took their mom to the dressing room to talk with her in private.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.

The woman began to open up to Katty about her life. She lives with a man that loses his temper and sometimes hits her and the girls. She decided a few weeks ago to take the girls to church where she heard that God loves her and has a plan for her life. Just that day, she said, she prayed that God would send someone to tell her about how to ask Jesus into her heart. She didn’t really understand it all, but she wanted to  and she needed someone to explain it to her. She also needed a Bible.

She told Katty that when she said, “Can I tell you about Jesus?” she began to cry because for the very first time she knew that God had truly heard her prayer.

Katty was able to share the gospel with her, lead her in how to pray and ask Christ to forgive her and live in her heart and life, and we were able to find a Spanish Bible for her.

Because of the language barrier there would have been no way that I could have shared the gospel with this lady. The Lord allowed Katty to be in the United States AND in the clothes closet at the exact time so that this precious sister in Christ could meet Him face to face and her life could be changed forever.

There are a few things that I walked away with on a that day.

1. I hope I never get over the lengths that God will go to just to reach  one lost lamb. The way that He orchestrates every detail and pursues each and every life so that they might come to repentance should bring every believer to our knees in praise of His matchless name.

2. I pray that I am able to be more and more out of my comfort zone and eager to share the gospel with whomever God places in my path. People are hurting and dying in their pain because they don’t know that there IS hope. Katty’s obedience to share about Jesus was literally an answer to a woman’s prayer. We never know how God might have the exact plan for us!! All we have to do is be obedient to share His love!

3. It is imperative that I am in God’s Word EVERY day. The very things that He directed Katty to say that day came directly from His Word. If I am not willing to spend time with Him and pray then how will I  know the will of the  Father and His Word as I try to lead others to Him? I need Him every single hour of every day and I can’t have that relationship by just being in church on Sunday.

Please pray for us? We are so excited to see the Lord at work and we desperately need prayer in knowing how to reach people with the truth. Joblessness and homelessness can bring so much despair. Women that are being abused or domestic violence in the home between family members is very prevalent. People do not know where to turn when they are so hopeless.

Only Christ is the answer. He alone can meet our true needs, and today we are praising Him for the lives that He’s touching and the difference that so many are making through volunteering, donating and praying. Thank you so much for YOUR help! God is using every person’s touch in this ministry to make a difference in our community.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pumpernickel and Pajamas

She came in with tears in her eyes. I knew she was having a hard time just being there.

“Hi! Can I help you?” I tried to sound happy but it was obvious that this was not going to be easy.

“People told me to come here,” she said. “I’m really in need of help and this is hard for me… the asking.”

“Ok. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on?” I asked.

“Well, I am in my late 60’s. I have gotten behind on my property taxes, I have no food in my house and I am just really struggling. There was another church that had offered to help me, but they are on the other side of town and I don’t have the gas to get there.” This time when she spoke a tear rolled down her cheek.

I knew that I could not help with property taxes, but we could help with a little food. She had not mentioned clothes, but I noticed that she was wearing sandals and short pants.

When I asked if she was familiar with our food pantry she said that she had heard that we had one. When I pointed to the building (at the other end of a long parking lot) she sighed. “I just walked all the way to you from there. I didn’t know where to go so I parked there. I really didn’t know what to do.”

The Lord told me to put first things first… He told me clearly that we needed to pray. I asked for her name and in the parking lot we prayed about her situation. I told her that He is our Provider and asked if she knew the Lord. She said that she did, but that she had not been very good at listening to Him. Her pride had really gotten in the way.

The Lord said, “Don’t make her walk back. Drive her.”

There was a line of people waiting to get into the clothes closet. How was I going to leave the clothes closet to drive one lady back to where she needed to be?? The other volunteers stepped up and I asked her to get into my car.

Once we reached the food pantry I went inside ahead of her and asked the men there to really take care of her. They were delighted.

I returned to the clothes closet where the door stood open as people waited to be served. Near the end of the line was a quiet man standing patiently with his hands folded. I recognized his face and knew that he had been before, but I could not remember his name.

“Hello, sir! How are you today?” I asked.

“Hola, senora. I am fine.” He said. He was so gentle in how he spoke and had peace in his eyes.

I took his ID card to look up his name in our computer and saw that he had not visited in a while.

“Are you ok today, sir?” I asked.

“Well, my wife? She has had brain surgery. She is home now but she spent many weeks in the hospital. The surgery left her unable to speak and unable to move. The doctors say she will improve, but it will take a while. I was wondering if you have pajamas?”

I remembered one pair of new pajamas that we had held just in case someone needed them for a hospital stay. We don’t normally keep them because people generally wear them when they are sick, and we don’t really have the space.

“Sir, what size would she need?” I asked.

“Small. She is so small now,” he said.

I walk to the back to look at the set of pajamas. They were grey with pink trim and so soft. And they were a size small.

Underneath them were a new pair of slippers that I had forgotten that we had. I immediately got a lump in my throat. God began to remind me that His hand is never shortened and that He is present in EVERY situation. I was so excited to tell the man about what I had found, until…

I went into the room where  three of the volunteers were sorting and I said, “Ladies, remember these pajamas that we said we’d save for someone’s hospital stay? He’s here! The Lord has brought the man for his wife. She had brain surgery and needs these pajamas!”

All three of them smiled at me, and one of them said, “No! Look in that bag. We just received a WHOLE BAG of size small pajamas and robes. They are BEAUTIFUL and brand new! We knew we didn’t normally keep them and there are several so we didn’t  have space for them all…”

I went to the bag that they referred to and there they were… a white night gown with beautiful bead work, a pink robe, a precious pair of soft pink pajamas and a white robe… all of it new, all of it small and all of it perfect for this lady.

I walked to the front of the store and I found the man. When I walked up to him I tried to speak, but I began to weep like a BABY! I began to explain to him that we didn’t usually keep the pajamas and how they’d just found these just for his wife when he interrupted me.

“My God is bigger than brain surgery. I have slept on a sofa for a month while my wife lay in the hospital bed. She prayed for pajamas. He has answered her prayer. I have prayed for healing. He has begun to give her her speech back. My GOD IS BIGGER!”

I was a complete and total mess. As I went to the front to fold the pajamas the other shoppers in the store noticed me crying. I could NOT help it. The presence of the Lord was so strong. It was more than I could take, and so I told those standing in line about his story and about the pajamas. 

One lady spoke up, “I remember when a man that I worked with trusted God with EVERYTHING! I didn’t know God then and it made me so confused when he would talk about God providing. Now, I know God and you are RIGHT! That is clearly the Lord working on that man’s behalf!”

I prayed with the man before he left and he hugged me. I was totally in awe of the Lord’s specific provision in this man’s life. As he opened the door to leave…. she walked back in.

“Hi!” I said. “Were they able to help you at the food pantry?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “As a matter of fact… there’s something kind of funny. See, I can’t eat regular bread and would you know that they had pumpernickel?? Who would have thought that they would have had the ONLY bread that I can really eat at a food pantry?”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inspired

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Once the Lord allows your heart and mind to see His face in another part of the world many questions begin to flood your mind.

What am I suppose to do now?

Now that You’ve shown me this, allowed me to experience this, helped me grasp Your world just a little more… how is my life suppose to look? What do You want me to do in my own life experience to make Your Holy Name great?

What did you want me to see, Lord? How do you want me to change?

How can I support the missionaries more, Lord? How can I pray for them daily? Is my life just to go back to being as it was before you showed me all that you’ve shown me?

There’s no doubt that a short term mission trip will rock your world and make you come to terms with just how BIG our God is. It also causes a shift in thinking about how you live and just how selfish you really are.

This week at the clothes closet the Lord has shown me that He is bringing the nations to our front door. It’s not that I haven’t realized this before. Many times I stand in that building and I am one of 5 English speaking people among 10-15 people. Usually there are Burmese speaking, Spanish speaking, Chinese speaking and English speaking people all working together to help find things for their families. It’s truly amazing.

The new revelation, however, is that the Lord is putting them in my path for a reason and He is challenging ME to do what I can to reach them with the truth of the gospel. We live in the Information Age. Language barriers are no longer an excuse. The fact that these people are coming to us with needs, greater than that of warm clothing, is inspiring me to think outside of the box and just TRY!

While in Africa we stayed with the McDaniel family. Lee and Tracy are plain people like me. They grew up in the south… also like me. They are educated, have a family and love Jesus… just like me. What I admire about them is their courage, obedience to God’s Word and faith to step outside of themselves to learn a language that they would not otherwise know, live in a place that they probably would not otherwise live and work among a people that they do not know… ALL FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL.

It challenges me. It inspires me! Here I stand with the opportunity to meet people that I would otherwise not meet, in languages that I would not otherwise ever hear, and I have the chance to DO SOMETHING. It’s really not so different than living in Africa… well, let’s not go THAT far. Africa? Well, It’s a lot hotter, a lot less developed and a lot more challenging, but the opportunity here in the United States IS the same. God’s asking me, “What are you going to do?”

So, I’m trying. The people who work with me are trying. We are all trying to have clothing available for them so that when they come we can invite them to church, give them a Bible and try to share the gospel. Other missionaries are praying for us. One came and wrote out the plan of salvation for me in Spanish so that I might be able to share with someone if the opportunity arises. While she was there she lead a man to the Lord in Spanish!

He is here. His Spirit is alive. He’s working among His people and the opportunity IS here. The question is, “What are we going to do?”

WE are missionaries. Right where we work and live and play… we ARE salt and light if we will let Him use us.

I can’t speak Burmese. I can speak a tiny bit of Spanish and sometimes my English gets all jumbled up. It’s just that we can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for a missionary to come and save 'them’. NO! WE ARE the missionaries. Be inspired! He WILL use us! Plain old people who love Jesus? They are the BEST kind of missionaries.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Processing

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It’s been 4 days since I have returned from Mozambique. Four days since I sat on an airplane, looking out a window over it’s giant wing, and wondered how Africa would change me.

While I was there my phone was stolen.. or lost..or somehow it was no longer with me. At first there was a little panic… the idea of not talking to my family or being connected to home made me a little sick to my stomach. That is until He said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” right into my spirit and I realized it was no accident that He would want me and my heart all to Himself.

People ask me, “How was your trip? Was it fun?!?”

Fun? Well, the blessing of the the joy of the Lord with a team that had the same focus as me brought much joy. The missionaries and their dedication to minister to people who would never hear of His promises and love otherwise brought tears to my eyes with joy, and yes some components were fun. We danced and sang and gave pedicures and laughed at our limited language abilities… so yes, there was an element of fun. But “fun” is not the first word that comes to mind when processing the magnitude of responsibility that’s placed on each of us to “go into all nations,’ and “make disciples”.

I suppose there are lots of different feelings and thoughts as one enters the United States after seeing, smelling and feeling such a different culture. If you asked each of the 10 team members that went on this particular trip you might get 10 different answers! Some come back with a stronger resolve to share Christ in their everyday lives. Some are emotional at all that they’ve seen and America makes them sad because there’s a  greater awareness of our selfish materialistic attitudes. Some have a greater purpose in life and the trip allows their walk with God to go to a deeper and more personal level once they realize that His heart truly IS for the whole world and the fact that we NEED Him and His Word to help us know Him more as we set out to make disciples.

Our church has taken the stance of challenging our members to “Live Sent” and I am so thankful. While it’s true that Bible studies and being a part of the body of Christ is essential to my walk with God I do not think that I have grown more than in the times that He has stretched me through missions.

The Bible comes alive to me as I read it and understand His heart for ALL people to come to Him in repentance and that He wants NONE to perish. (John 3:16)

Worship is sweeter. (And I usually BAWL!)

Missionaries, and their heart for their nation, challenge me to not settle for sitting in the pew on Sunday mornings, but to go into MY nation and share with the poor and down trodden.

I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

His death on the cross, FOR ALL TRIBES AND TONGUES, becomes more dear to me as I look past the people around me and realize that His blood was shed for EVERY sin that was EVER committed in ALL of history and for ALL mankind.

I’m, by far, not the first person to go on a mission trip. I am not the first one to be challenged or changed. I am no where close to a missionary that has given up a life that was much different (and possibly easier) and I am positive that there’s SO much that God has to do in me.

Sometimes, I believe, He allows us to experience things so that we gain a greater glimpse of Him and that realization brings us to our knees. I suppose that’s where I am… on my knees. My heart and mind open to His leading and my heart tender from what He has allowed me to see.

Who am I, Lord, that you would show me such favor? And where would I be without your grace?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Beware!

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

You ever struggle with God’s Word? Does He ever get a hold of you and just turn it up a notch in your life?

Sometimes I will see something in my daughter’s life and I know it’s not completely good for her. I  mention that maybe that particular thing needs to change and then every time I see it in her I mention it again and again and again. As her parent, it’s my job to help her grow in areas that may not be for her benefit and the only way to do that sometimes is to point it out again and again. Sometimes she says, “MOM! I get it! Okay!! I will stop!!” Sure enough… maturity gains a small footing and growth occurs!

Well, I’ve been struggling with this verse lately. There’s no doubt that God’s word is “active and sharper than any two edged sword” in my heart and life and He has been mentioning particular things again and again and again! It makes me want to say, “GOD! I get it!!” But just when I THINK I’ve got it… He proves that isn’t always true. UGH! I’m such a sinner!!!!!!

To be honest…looking at Matthew 6 has made me take a long hard look at the intentions of my heart, when stories are shared about times of giving… like in the Clothes Closet.

I mean, on the one hand it helps when people know the stories of great need and how the Lord has met those needs in incredible ways. It’s astonishing to be a part of that on a weekly basis!! And then to share it with others who praise God with you for His provision and life giving hope… well, it’s truly nothing short of amazing.

But do we tell… do I tell… about these modern day miracles with trumpet sounds? Do we give to the needy so that WE may be praised by others?

In today’s social media driven world we are just so inundated with seeing how many “likes'” we can get on a “post” or what comments people might have about who we are, what we do and where we go. Even as Christians we thrive on the approval of man.

But The Bible is very specific about how we give…

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  vs 4

Like with most things in God’s Word we have to be careful about the motivations of our hearts. Do we do things so that man might be impressed with us? Does it bring glory to His name to tell everything about who we are and what we do with the world? Is there ever ANYTHING reserved for just the two of us?

God does not need me. He is perfectly capable of meeting needs without my interfering attitude or opinions… which I sometimes freely give! It is a complete honor and privilege that He would ALLOW me to be a small part of the miracles that He performs.

Sometimes the amazement of God’s hand at work just overtakes me and I WANT to shout it from the rooftops! He’s always at work providing clothing, Bibles, shoes… things in just the right size and just the right amount. He provides volunteers just when I think I can’t take another step and He’s giving opportunity to share His Word in a community that is desperately hurting and in need of His salvation.

There’s another scripture that helps me with the balance of this… It’s out of Matthew 5:16 and it says, “ In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” It’s not that God doesn’t WANT us to share about the things that we do! The key is in the last phrase…

so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Pointing others to Christ is to be our life’s goal. Being available for Him to use us has to be the priority so that when He does use us we can use that opportunity to tell others that JESUS CHRIST loves them, He’s providing for them and He wants to have a relationship with them!

In the mean time I think we are wise to balance our “sharing” with discretion. There are some things that should be reserved for just US and our Heavenly Father. The intimacy of our time with Him, even when serving others, is precious and it refines us to be more like Him.

I usually try not to correct my daughter’s issues in front of everyone. Sometimes I’m better than others… but knowing that maturity takes place over the long haul makes me realize that she isn’t going to learn everything today! I have to balance my correction with love and patience and slow refining.

Praise God for His patience with me as I try to learn to be who He wants me to be.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another Country

They were standing in a line when we arrived that day. They looked similar in some aspects… dark hair, similar in height.

Psalm 22:27 “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”

I know that there’s a lot of unrest among our nation right now about immigrants coming across the border and into America. I totally understand the reasons behind the thoughts that we can’t support America AND the rest of the world.

Psalm 22:28 “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and He rules over the nations.”

There was one lady who spoke English. She was from Myanmar and so were the people that were crowded with her at the door.

“They are immigrants. They do not speak English and they do not have much. You have helped me and my family.  Can you help them?”

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

We went inside and got them registered. It took a few minutes since she was the only English speaking person.

If you’ve ever visited a 3rd world country you know that there is always a smell. Many times you hear people tell of the smell of foods or the smell of an area where the people live and many times it’s not a pleasant smell. These people were no different. They apparently cook with curry and the smell is very strong.

Psalm 47:8 “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.”

They began to shop and one lady went straight for the shoes. Shoppers are allowed to take 5 items per person. She took 5 pairs of shoes. For a moment I thought to ask her to only take a couple of pairs just so there might be some left for others. God shut my mouth. The more I thought of it the more He whispered, “Put them in the bag. Don’t say a word.”

(God’s economy is more than amazing and He already had a plan… a lady brought in a WAGON load of shoes today. I’d never met her. She just knew about us and brought them. PRAISE THE LORD! He ALWAYS provides!)

The lady that spoke English began to explain that her own husband had been imprisoned at a refugee camp and he is now free. They help as many of their people as they can and they try to share the truth about God with them. Being free in the United States gives them that chance! They wanted to help them have physical things in hopes of sharing about spiritual things.

James 2:15 “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace,  be warmed and filled without giving them what is good for the body, what good is that?”

I can’t help but to think that God is purposefully bringing the nations to us. We have TRUTH in America, but we don’t always tell it or live it! I am so guilty of it myself! We have what they need in our Christian country full of opportunity and perhaps God is bringing them so that they may hear!

We did not have Bibles in their language, but we offered them in English. They did not accept them but the lady helped them to understand that those books were God’s Word and that we longed to share with them.

Sometimes we can’t see past our own thoughts or ideas about why things happen like they do. All I know is that no encounter is a mistake and I need to take every chance to share that God’s hand is not shortened from any nation or people group! Not even this nation that’s my own.

Luke 24:46” Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead that that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations…”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Just Real Life

They came in explaining that someone had advised them to come to us for help.

“We are from a battered women’s shelter, and we need some clothes?” They both looked tired and one had holes in the seat of her pants.

They begin to register and one lady says, “I have 4 kids and they are with my mom. My husband is no good. I’m not shopping for him. I didn’t want them (kids) at the shelter with me. Too much to see. Too rough. Too crowded. Can I get clothes for them? I have a job, and I am on a long list to get my own housing. We are just in a rough kinda way, but it’s going to work out. I have to be patient.”

Just behind them another family enters. It’s a man, woman and a little boy and an older lady. The older lady stares at me and then a small smile. I smile at her and speak. She just says, “Hi.” in a very small voice.

The woman, her daughter, begins, “This is my mom. She just came to stay with us and has Alzheimer's. My brother was suppose to be caring for her, but wasn’t. I had to go get her and bring her to our home. She came with just the clothes on her back. Do you think you can help us? I won’t take clothes for anyone else… just her. This is a lot. It’s overwhelming.”

Behind them a couple of women carrying small children, and one walking along side, enters. They do not speak English, and they look around a little concerned that they won’t be able to tell us of their needs.

As the faces come in and stand in front of me… needing help in more ways than one… God is sometimes silently strong. I don’t always “hear” Him speak in every situation, but the reminder of who He is and how He alone is ABLE to meet every need that all of us have is always in my heart.

Over and over again I am also reminded that WE… humanity… people of every color and creed… people of every nationality and tongue have the same needs. No one is exempt from the need to be loved, have a place to call theirs and to have that place in their heart… that place of emptiness, filled.

The lady with Alzheimer's was struggling with how her clothes felt on her skin. She only wanted pants with drawstrings. Her daughter looked doubtful and said, “I am sure it’s hard to “put in an order” but is there any way you might have pants like this? I just haven’t been able to find any for her and I just lost my job!! I just can’t go spend tons of money!”

I walk to the back where we have a little bit of summer stock. It’s not likely that I will find the pants but I pray, “Lord, you know this need. Please direct me to these pants if they are in the building!”

I start with maternity pants thinking that I might find some that are small and might work.

No. There’s nothing.

I go to the few shorts that we have, but they all button.

As I begin to walk back to the front of the store I remember the pairs of capri pants that we’d just gotten in. I look… and look and..

yes. There are two pair.

I walk to the front (well almost skipped!) and I tell the daughter, “You need to know. I prayed. I asked God for this and He provides every time!!” Her mom looks at the pants and in broken English she says, “ I like those!”

Why would God provide the exact pants for a woman who no longer knows her own name? Could it be that He’s speaking directly to her spirit and reminding her that even in her absence of mind that He… HE sustains? He provides? He hears? He knows her every need and He will meet her where she is?

IN our deepest needs He is there. I pray that I never get over the fact that He knows each one of us BY NAME and He knows every struggle that we face and He’s with us. Every single one of us.