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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

God Came Down

Hey ya’ll!

There have  been several people that have been so encouraging in praying for us at the Clothes Closet. It’s so humbling when someone walks up to you and says, “You are in my prayers regularly!” It’s the obvious reason that I haven’t fully lost my mind. AND it’s the reason that God keeps showing Himself faithful. People JUST pray! They pray and they give and they tell me that they are excited to know that the Lord is at work through this ministry.

Guess what? ME TOO!!!!!!!! I love, love, love seeing His hand at work each week. He blows me away with His provision and His faithfulness every single time the doors are open.

So I recently started a Bible study with my SS ladies and they are beyond precious to me. I know a few of the ladies pretty well, and there are a few that are kind of new to me, but their love for Jesus and for growing in His Word is exciting and I can’t wait to see where this leads!

Well this week we were in the Old Testament. We read in different places in Genesis and Exodus setting the stage in history for the upcoming weeks. There was this one story that has just made me pause. It’s not a new story to me. I learned it when I was a girl growing up in Sunday school. I’ve read it many time, but this time it just made me think a little more. I love how God’s Word does that! Takes something old and makes it fresh and new!

You know that story in the Bible about the people building the Tower of Babel? It was after God destroyed the earth by the flood and the people of Noah (you know.. Noah’s 3 sons and their offspring) began to be fruitful and multiply. God told them (Genesis 9) to fill the earth, but by Chapter 11 they seemed to like one another, didn’t listen to God, and decided to build themselves a tower “with it’s top in the heavens” and they were not wanting to be dispersed over the face of the earth… like God commanded.

They said that they were going to make a name for THEMSELVES. (Gen. 11:4)

They just thought that they were SO great.

Prideful.

Disobedient.

Big.

It just got me thinking about myself. It started making me ask questions like:

“Why do you do what you do?”

“How prideful are you?”

“Do you do things because GOD said or because you think it’s a good idea?”

“What are you building? Is it God honoring?”

When we obey God in one way or another and it goes well for us, do we celebrate one victory and just walk away? Or do we press on in prayer, seeking God and His wisdom to continue in that obedience?

I suppose, for part of my life, I’ve seen obedience as an “event’. God told me to do ABC and I did it, and now what?  

We have to begin to see our walk with God as a journey. An ongoing, day-by-day, walk with Him in all areas of our lives. It’s not just ONE step of obedience and then we go off on our merry way!

What IS that?

ANYWAY… the story continues ( and this part CRACKS ME UP every time! I laugh OUT LOUD at God and the silly people) in Genesis 11:5 and it says, “And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the children of man had built.”

Did you see it?

The people were going to build their BIG. OLD. TOWER. It was going to reach the HEAVENS!

And the LORD had to COME DOWN to see it.

Oh. I die.

We are so sure that what we are doing is just AH-MAZING! We are going to impress people AND God. But here’s a few things to think about…

#1- God didn’t tell them to do it

#2- They have already forgotten their heritage that had been wiped out by a flood because of the sins of their forefathers- forgot where they’d come from and the judgment  that ensued

#3 GOD DIDN’T TELL THEM TO DO IT!!!!!!!! In fact, He told them to do the exact opposite.

So, instead of the people obeying God in the first place, they wasted ALL that time and energy on building a tower and city and then GOD’s will takes place anyway. He confused their languages so they could not understand each other and FORCED them to go through out the earth. (Gen.11:7-8)

I don’t know about you, but I am flat out tired of using all of my energy on what I think is right! GOD is GOD! He is right 100% of the time and His plan is best… THE FIRST TIME!

I don’t know what God is telling you to do, but let’s consider these things:

God does NOT have a plan for living in sin. As a matter of fact He sent His ONLY Son for that very purpose. When we think that our way is the best because it just feels good, we like it or we just CAN not stop.. we are wrong and God WILL help us overcome whatever we face so that the patterns of sin can die in our lives.

GOD DOES have a plan for our lives. We can trust that when we start pursuing Him that He will show Himself faithful and He will direct our paths in relationships, friendships, work issues, etc. He IS in control and He loves us! His plan is not to harm us, but to walk with us through whatever we face.

Jesus came to give us life! He is also a gentleman.

He does not force His way into our situations. His Word is clear (just like with the Tower of Babel people) about what He wants of us and if we are wise we will do what He says. Otherwise His plan will come about without our input.

I love God’s Word. It’s TRUTH! It doesn’t play around, try to be politically correct or try to make me feel good about how I live. It’s the truth. It IS the handbook that we all complain about not having! WE DO! It’s RIGHT here!

Thanks for praying for us! Please DO NOT stop. I want so much to bring God honor through the Clothes Closet and in my own personal life. I want to take God’s truths and apply them to every part of all that I’m involved with. I want to obey the FIRST time and not waste time on my plans… they usually fail miserably.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One on One

Mother Teresa said, “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

I’m finding that ministry is just this.

Just today at the Clothes Closet a lady came in with her teenaged autistic son. He’s very tall and just a big guy. A gentle giant. He has a sister that has no issues and he has a mom that loves them both.

And… they are homeless.

The mom looked so nice with a scarf around her neck and a black sundress. Her son was dressed in shorts and a tshirt. They were clean. The daughter was away at a camp that she had gotten a scholarship to attend.

It’s just that they are homeless.

Once she found a few things for each of them she asked me if she could talk to me. As I walked from behind the counter she asked if I might have soap? Deodorant? Anything that might be a little extra?

I went to the area where we store extra items, found a few things and as I walked back to her she asked me if she could have a hug. As I hugged her neck she just lost it. Broke down. Hugged me tighter.

I asked how things are and she said that they are just place to place. On one friend’s floor, another friends bonus room… wherever they could stay so they weren’t on the street.

As soon as I mentioned a shelter I remembered… she can’t do that. Her son can’t stay with her since he’s a male, teenaged and autistic. He would be placed in an institution while the system tries to find a place for her and her daughter.

She’s stuck.

We walked outside and she continued to talk about working, losing her job due to her sons needs, working again, losing her job. She just feels trapped and she knows that I don’t have answers. It’s bigger than her and bigger than me, but it’s not bigger than our God. She DOES trust Him. She does know that He is with her, but she has moments where she doubts. She has times when she feels discouraged and hurt and afraid.

It’s in times like these that soap, deodorant and a few clothes feel like very small offerings. The mentioning of resources are small talk when TODAY she doesn’t know where their little family might stay and there’s a process that must be endured.  I can’t say that I know that this lady has always made good choices or that she uses her resources wisely. I do know that in many ways we are the same.

We are women.

We are moms.

We know that God is real, loves us and is in control.

We don’t always make good choices.

We could sometimes just use a listening, non-judgmental ear to hear our story and affirm that some of our choices are not so terrible.

We need Jesus every. single. day.

That kind of ministry does not take a leader to come in and tell us what to do. It takes us being willing to admit that ALL we have is Jesus to offer and that He is enough. We have to believe it ourselves before we can give it away. We have to be willing to hear someone else’s pain and remind them that our God is a strong tower. One on one. Just you and them… and Jesus.

I remember when the pastor came to my house to tell me about Jesus when I was 10 years old. I was in the 4th grade. I remember him showing me what baptism was and him telling me that when I trusted Christ as my Lord and Savior that I would be able to trust Him with my very life.

Are we telling others? Are we faithful to remind people that, even in this day and time, He still holds everything together? We need to hear it and we need to tell it. We need to help others hold on to hope and we can do it all… one on one.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Prickly

This tree, ya’ll. I hate it. It has been a thorn in my flesh (literally!) for years. It’s prickly. It’s huge and it’s planted on a slope so no matter how big my ladder I can never reach the top to trim it without being punctured a million times. I mean little bloody places on my arms, ya’ll.

So it had gotten waaaay out of control. There were sucker shoots and the tree had grown onto the house because I was in denial. I didn’t want to touch that thing with a ten foot pole.

I came home from exercising today and when I drove into the drive way there it was. Just ugly. Prickly. On my nerves. I had to do something.

I got out the ladder and the clippers. I started looking at the tree and I realized that maybe if I stood back a bit, started trimming before I got on the ladder that maybe I could get in under control. I just stood there looking at the hateful thing and thinking about how I just didn’t want to fool with it, but it was there. It was a sight and it needed some attention.

Things started looking a little better. I started trimming and while branches fell to the ground, and pricklies were making places on my arms I was actually making a little progress.

There’s one section of the tree that has no prickly branches because it faces our house. It is towards the back of the tree and as I made my way around the back of the tree a sudden little wind blew and rustled the branches. It caused me to look up and when I did I noticed that basically the branches made a nest of sorts. All around the trunk of the tree were no prickly leaves, only branches that reached out towards the sun almost like a protection for the heart of the tree. Standing there at the base the breeze continued to blow and it was so peaceful for a minute. No prickles.

Now I don’t know about you, but God sure does speak to me at some weird times. In the shower. When I’m cleaning out closets (the birth of the clothes closet) and, apparently, when I’m trimming hateful bushes.

Here’s what I heard.

“You know those prickly people in your life? You know the ones that you sometimes steer clear of because they are so prickly and messy? You know those situations that come up that you think are too hard? Well, sometimes those are just hurt people with branches full of prickly leaves that are protecting their hearts from pain. They really don’t know how to deal and so they just grow more and more prickly. I bet if you started… just started… with them you’d make some progress and get to the place where you might be able to help make a difference. This tree can use some pruning and ignoring it has just made it worse. Maybe that’s the case with those situations, too.”

UGHHHHH! I don’t want to hear THAT! It’s too hard. THEY are too hard.

Well, anytime God speaks to my heart through situations like that, whether I want to hear them or not, I can’t get them off of my mind. I am positive that the Lord is going to bring a situation to my heart that needs to be addressed and THEN?? I’m going to have to obey. It’s not an option.

The thing is that every time I try to approach those prickly people it almost always seems to not go well. I know for sure that I won’t be able to do it on my own and only the Lord knows their true hearts and situations. He alone can make all things new and give me the words and wisdom to help make things right. I think the thing to do for now is to start praying for these situations before I even begin to approach them. His plans are perfect and His ways are right. He can show me how to navigate the hardest of situations and how to love in the midst of it.

I can promise you that if I try to go it alone… well, I’m just going to walk away with bloody pricks again!

“I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Change

It was a Tuesday. She came in looking a little rough. I’m not being judgmental. She knew it and she was hoping to find some things at the clothes closet.

She was a single mom. Her son had been kicked out of school because of behavior and other issues. She was tired and she had kind of given up on taking care of herself.

No makeup.

Dingy shirt.

Ripped pants.

Dirty flip flops.

Hair pulled into a pony tail. Kind of greasy looking.

I don’t really think she expected to find a place that might love on her a little. It was another place that she’d heard about that might offer her some help.

Maybe even just let her dig through a box.

“Ma’am, what size are you looking for?” I asked.

“Well, I actually have found some things! I am excited to see that this place offers nice things! Is it all donations?” she asked. She had a different light in her eyes than when she entered.

“Yes!” I said. “ We have been blessed with very nice donations from people in our church. I am glad you are finding things.”

I was even able to help a little with some toiletries and underwear. Her kids were needing those things, and quietly, so was she.

Before she left she asked if we had programs for kids at our church. I told her about our upcoming VBS and about other opportunities that kids have at the church.

I talked to her about the single mom’s class.

I gave her a Bible.

The very next day we were open was Thursday. It was a steady day with people coming and going. I was standing near the desk helping another customer when the door opened.

It was her.

Her hair was washed and pulled back in a bun. She had on make up and she was dressed in white pants, a sweater and a tank top and she was wearing a matching necklace. It all matched. She looked so pretty and so different.

“HI!” I said. “You are back! You look so nice today!”

“Yes,” she smiled. “I brought my friend with me. Everything I am wearing came from you!! Look at my necklace. It matches and looks so nice! I am so excited that everything fit and you all helped me so much!”

It was almost as if a woman that had been locked inside had come out again! Her face was radiant and her eyes excited about how she looked and how she felt about herself.

She brought her friend into the store and helped explain everything. She helped her shop and she helped make stacks of clothes for her friend’s family.

She was giving back.

She was taking what she had been given and using it to help someone else and she was doing it with so much pride. It was as if the Lord Himself had whispered, “I’m carrying you. I’m here and I want you to tell someone else this same message.” And she was.

Before she left she thanked me again and again. She asked for information about the church for her friend and she wanted her to have a Bible, too. I honestly could not believe the difference…

… and yet that’s just like the Lord. In His time, and in His way, He makes all things new. You just never know exactly how He’s going to go about it… or when. And every once in a while He allows you to see it. First hand.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Do Your Job

They came in as a group. They usually do because not many of the women drive and depend on their husbands to bring them to shop. Once they have a ride several Asian ladies bring their children to find things to wear.

I noticed one of the young ladies stayed behind. She had a calm demeanor and a sweet look in her dark eyes. She kept near the back of the group until everyone was entered into the computer. She helped with their English at times and smiled at everyone. There were several children, and if they could walk, they would come up and hold her hand or she would address them if they were running or into things.

She finally approached the desk and I asked for her I.D. card. She said, in very plain English,  “This is my first time here. I had to drive today. I also had to come to see the place that has helped so many of my people.”

“The Burmese?” I asked. “Your English is very good. How long have you lived here?”

“Seven years. I have lived in America for seven years, but I have only lived here for a few years. I work at a clinic and I help the doctors care for my people. I am single, but I have family that lives with me and I help take care of them, too. Can I shop for them today?”

I explained how our system works and told her that we would be happy to help in any way.

“You have no idea what this place means to us. I was happy that it worked out for me to come, meet you, and see what my people talk about. Our children grow so quickly and we can buy a few things, but this place allows us to have enough as the children outgrow things.”

My heart began to beat so hard… just like when the Lord begins to speak directly to me about something that needs to be said and done. But what? I had no way of knowing what He wanted me to say other than to share the gospel. I can’t usually do this with these people because they speak little English. But now was my chance!!!

She began to walk around looking for items for her family.

As she made her way close to the desk where I was standing I said, “It makes my heart so glad to know that we are helping your people. One thing REALLY bothers me, though. I can not speak to your people. The language barrier is hard and I can’t share Bibles or Jesus with them because I do not have them in your language.”

Then I knew why my heart was beating so.

Her eyes lit up and she said, “THAT is my job!”

I am sure I looked so confused, and for a moment I was a little concerned about what she might say. Many cultures participate in idol worship and continue to worship false gods. I was praying that the Lord would help me know what to say next and praying there would not be confrontation!

She continued.”You do not have to minister to my people in that way. You are doing what God has told you to do. Now it’s time to do my job.”

I looked at her a little confused. “But God has only given me the clothes to help me meet physical needs. The spiritual needs, and sharing about Jesus is more important and what we wish we could address with your people,” I said.

She smiled, “Oh, I know! You see, for so long I have asked God to do a work in the hearts of my people in Burma. I have prayed for my country with weeping. I came here so burdened for them and I continued to pray for my people and one day the Holy Spirit tells me… your people are RIGHT HERE.”

She pointed around the room at the people that she’d driven to the Clothes Closet. I began to understand the calm demeanor and gentle spirit. It was the presence of the Lord and my heart was filled with so much joy that I literally could not move, but hung on her every word.

She continued. “There are so many children. We have many families with multiple children and I am not married and I don’t have children of my own. The Holy Spirit told me to teach the children. He said, “THESE are YOUR people,” and I realized that I wasn’t doing my job. Yes, I still pray and ask God to work, but it’s my job to tell them, THESE, about salvation.”

“Do you drive them to church every week?” I asked.

“No, I teach them in our apartment complex. Every Sunday I have Sunday school and I tell the 20 children that the Bible is one book and that it has two parts… the Old and the New Testament. I tell them that Jesus is at the center of the Bible and that He loves them. I tell them every week and God is giving me a vision that He will grow them to love Him. I am only to be faithful to teach.”

She paused.

“I am so humbled by this. There are times that all I can do is cry because the Holy Spirit is so strong and He is directing my way.”

I had heard in the past that many of the Burmese refugees were here because they had come to belief in Christ and had fled their country because of their longing to worship Him in freedom. Many came with the clothes on their backs hoping to make a life in the United States where they could teach their children Truth. I knew that several families came to our church and brought their children to Sunday school, but as with any group of people, there are those who do not believe and are living in rebellion. They came with their families, but are not going to church or hear about Christ on a regular basis. My heart had been burdened for a long time about only giving clothes, meeting only external needs, but never knowing whether or not they’d met the One True and Living God.

phone pics 2013 018phone pics 2013 021

“So, what can I do to help you?” I asked.

“Pray. That is all that any of us really CAN do. God has made it clear to me that I am to do my job and that the results are up to Him. That’s what you should do, too. When they are standing in front of you, and you are folding their clothes, you pray for their hearts to be stirred. Pray for them to be receptive to the gospel and don’t worry about the language barrier. They are shy people. They don’t have confidence in the English that they do know so don’t worry. You just pray.”

She continued,” Don’t worry about the Bibles. Among just these people here there are two dialects. You could not have enough Bibles for each dialect and you could not know who speaks which one! You pray and you trust God to use you and the clothes to point them to Him.”

I was still. Completely still.

The Lord was sweetly telling me, “She’s right. You don’t pray enough for the people. You must TRUST that I am able to use ANYTHING to reach them. It’s not UP to YOU!! Just be faithful to what I tell you to do, and trust that I am at work.”

I asked her if I could have the honor of praying for her before she left. She shopped a little more and brought her items back to the desk. I removed the hangers and then walked around to pray for her. She fell to her knees with her arms in the air and blessed the Lord during the entire prayer.

So humble. So willing. So used by God in every facet of her life.

Challenging me to trust. Challenging me to obey. Challenging me to press on in what He has called me to do.

The Lord moved during that time and even now my heart beats hard as I tell, feebly, of His impact.

I took a picture of her and put her name in my calendar so that  I would continually pray for her… though I suspect that I won’t need the reminder. Her name, and that day, will be hard to forget.. you see her name? It’s Mercy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why Exchange Students?

In the fall of 2013 and in the fall of 2014 the Lord opened opportunities for me to go to Africa. It changed me. Never in my life had I been exposed to such a different life.

Africa 117

While the lives of the people struck me to the core and the lives of the missionaries challenged me to live a life that makes a difference there was nothing quite like the faces of the children.

Africa 116

They live in a place that offers little opportunity. They are beautiful, smart and so curious about life. They wanted to sing and laugh and dance and play and create and listen and see what new things they might learn from us… the Americans. Africa 070

While I am not na├»ve enough to think that America.. with our broken lives and hurting culture… would solve any problems that these children might face I do believe that we STILL live in the land of opportunity and freedom. We have amazing families that live through terrible circumstances and still have faith that things will improve.

Africa 157 

We have resources and experiences that people in many countries do not have, and we CAN make a difference in the life of a student. So many want to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. They want to learn English so that they can be effective in more than just their native tongues and they are eager to learn.

We can help them to see that education is worth it and that there’s something placed within us by the almighty hand of the Living God that tells us that there’s right and wrong, good and bad and that there’s love. Amazing, life giving love!

me and kids

When I went through the airport in South Africa, I stopped at an airport restaurant to buy a water and prepared to board my flight. Two South African girls working behind the counter asked me where I was going and I said, “America.” Their faces! They lit up with the biggest smiles and they said, “We don’t want to move there. We just want to see it. Just one time, could we come with you?”

I have never forgotten that.

I have a friend that works for the exchange student program that I am now employed by. When she posted on Facebook that they were looking for host families those two hopeful faces came to my mind. Our home needs some repairs and so we are working on that in hopes that we can bring a student to stay with us for the academic school year.

No doubt, there will be issues arise. It won’t always be easy and there will be differences to work through. In my mind, nothing worth having is easy all the time.

I’m just excited to see what God has for our family and it is my prayer that I can impact more than one life through this exciting opportunity to be God’s hands and feet to the world! One child at a time.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Bread

Beth Moore wrote, when speaking of the table of shewbread in the tabernacle, in her Bible study A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place,

“When the unleavened bread was set before God on Golgotha, this tabernacle shadow, the bread of the Presence, found it’s fulfillment. As the sun ceased to shine that Friday afternoon, the Sabbath abruptly pressed in. The sun set early for a while that fateful afternoon, almost as if God wished to hasten the end of His Son’s agony. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:11

For hundreds of years the sacrifice was made daily in the courtyard. God’s chosen people were seeking to atone for their sins using the blood of lambs, bulls and cattle. God gave them the guidelines:

the bread was before Him continually

the incense would burn on the altar continually

the oil in the lampstands would burn from a continuous supply of oil…

and yet it was not enough.

I am not Jewish.

Were it not for Him choosing me, loving me first (1John 4:19) and showing His love for me would I even be privy to such knowledge?

Would this Gentile be able to understand that His plan included me?

“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1Corinthians 10:17

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “” Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said them, I am the bread of life; whoever come to me shall not hunger….” John 6:33-35

Today, I am praising my God and my King for coming as the Bread of life so that even in my sin the Father might be satisfied and see the blood that was shed for me. On my own I am completely doomed to hell. His life, the Bread of life, was enough.

“…. there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.” Hebrews 10:26