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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. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Can’t Look

Today I am exactly like so many parents who are facing a new phase in life that they are SURE that they are not quite prepared for. 

Today marks the last day of elementary school for my girl. Tomorrow she will join her classmates in a little ceremony that declares that she will move forward into…wait for it…

Middle school.

Oh, I can hardly type it. Did I spell it right? I closed my eyes.

I know you are probably thinking, “Just stop. It’s natural! They grow and, yes middle schoolers have lost their minds amidst all of those raging hormones, but she will be FINE! JUST fine!”

Yeah.

Here’s the thing… I have NO idea what the plan is for next year. None! Zip. NADA. Do you hear me? NOTHING.

The school that we are slated to attend is large, and we need special ed classes. The district does not really offer the type of class that best meets her needs once they hit… yep, Middle school.

We have her on a waiting list for a charter school. She’s 15th, which is good and sounds promising, BUT she’s 15th. She’s not IN.

Ok. Yes, I have considered home schooling and it is an option. Kinda.

One of the issues that she faces is that she really NEEDS to be with kids that are typically developing. Yes, I know about Co-ops. I know we can do all kinds of things that helps her be with other kids. It’s just that she WANTS to go to school. She loves it. She wants to be with the teachers and kids and she loves the structure and she’s enjoyed everyday of being there…even when it’s hard and she can’t do what the others do… she loves it.

My friends are sick of me. This is all I have talked about and asked for prayer for since the first day of school this year.

Ya’ll that’s a long time.

They really should break up with me.

You know… I have been claiming in the waiting Isaiah 49:16. “I have you engraved on the palms of my hands and your walls are EVER before me.”

I know God knows the plan. I know He loves us and that His ways are best and that in the waiting we grow and trust Him more.

But there are just days that in a mama heart it’s hard to believe that it’s really all going to come together!! It’s just true. There are times that we don’t believe that He is in control and we think that He’s taking too long to show us His plan.

Yep. We think that. AND What does He do? He just keeps loving us and holding our hands and telling us to trust.

What would be awesome would be a sign…. A neon sign with a big arrow hanging over the location would be awesome! OR a big BUSH could just catch on fire near the school of His choice would help!

It could happen.

You know, in the scheme of things this decision is big, but it’s not going to be the death of us if we have to wait. We may even have to start in a place that we didn’t think we would and just keep our eyes on Jesus until He shows us.

I just might have a couple of meltdowns between now and then.

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked about making decisions out of our emotions vs. making decisions out of what we KNOW to be true.

What I know is that God has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and  that He is with us where ever we go (Joshua 1:9). I also know that He said in Isaiah that our children will be taught by THE LORD and great will be our children’s peace. AND I know that He is sovereign and that He is always on time. ALWAYS.

You ever wonder if He waits on us to quit having meltdowns so He can speak? Because I also know that He speaks in a still small voice and when I have a meltdown, sister… I have a MELTDOWN!

So, here we go. Summer’s coming and we have no plan. I guess this is the adventure of walking with Christ and trusting His hand when we can’t see His plan.

Wait! Is that smoke in the distance!?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life Changing

One year, one month and eighteen days ago I went to Africa.

We always hear stories about the lives of people in third world countries and about how hard their lives are just making it from day to day.

We hear about extreme poverty and about the hardships of living with little food or access to medical care and medicine. Africa 121

It’s very hard to imagine all of it from the comfort of our homes.

I mean, it’s impossible really. There was no real point of reference for me because of the life that I’ve lived since my birth in the United States of America. I have always had a loving family, a home, clothing, the best medical care and an opportunity to have 3 meals a day.

From that context it’s extremely hard to relate to the fact that children live in dirt huts with few clothes, little running water and with AIDS running rampant in their homes, communities and sometimes in their own little bodies.

Africa 164

 

And then you go.

And… well, it’s just real.

The stories are true.

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The faces are precious and the hearts are tender and in need of love and hope that someone genuinely cares about their needs… especially their need for Jesus.

Africa 047There are people that are there Africa 040

who are telling them about Christ. They are working and sacrificing a life with many luxuries to live among the people of Africa. Their hearts are for the people who might not know the truth were it not for their obedience to go and tell them.

Africa 197Africa 184

It will be an honor for me to return to Africa in October of this year. My prayer is that we will be able to minister to these who are living a life that is very different from the lives they’ve always known. I am praying that our team of ten will be able to encourage their hearts and come along side them in a time of refreshment for both the missionary parents and kids!

If you are around a person in need or who is not well for very long you know the kind of toll it can take on you mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s extremely hard to see suffering and to know that there’s very little that you can do to solve all of the issues at hand. You need help!  You need resources and finances and support.

As the church, we HAVE to be those things to those who are taking such strong steps of faith to choose to live in those conditions daily. We may not be able to do everything, but we CAN do something.

I love that our church has taken on the mentality and mission to live according to God’s Word and to LIVE SENT every day. Our ministers are challenging us to look beyond ourselves and to see the needs around us in our community and around the world.

Something happens to you when you begin to live in a way that gets your eyes off of yourself. So much of it involves the realization that your life REALLY isn’t so bad. Other things that come to light… you have so much to offer, when you know Christ you have hope that transcends even the hardest of circumstances and the things of this world become very small in the light of His glorious grace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sunglasses

She had on sunglasses. The big kind that cover a lot of your face. The whole time she stood at the counter being checked in by my co-worker they stayed in place and her mouth never changed. It was straight. Not even the corners lifted in a little smile.

Angry. She seemed angry.

She stayed for a long time. She shopped and collected several piles of clothes. She never removed her glasses. They stayed in place the whole time she shopped and her face stayed the same. Stoic.

Other shoppers came and went. We prayed with some and offered a word of encouragement. We try to be a place that is a moment of joy in the middle of so much need.

She came to the counter with arms full of clothes. I pulled her name to help me understand what might be going on.

Eight children.

“Hi, sweetie. Did you find some things?” I asked.

One tear. It fell below the lens of the dark rims and rolled down to her chin.

“Oh, honey. What is it?” My heart was breaking for her. The stoic face and glasses were all a mask attempting to hide her pain.

“We are in a hotel. My husband tries, but it’s hard. You get behind on ONE thing and you are OUT! And my son? He has some disabilities and it’s so hard. He’s 17 and so big. He’s hard to handle. It’s just a lot.”

More tears now… so many that I find a tissue and just stand there holding her hand.

“My family WILL NOT HELP! We are good people! We try so hard and we just can’t get it together!! My family says I look so mean… well, I am trying to keep from crying every minute of the day!”

She continues. Her voice a little more shaky but louder now. “Do you know how hard it is to live in a hotel with 10 people!? We have eight kids!! You would think that our family would see what we are facing and step up, but they don’t! They won’t!! They think we don’t try. WE TRY!!!”

She’s sobbing now. There are more tears and more tissues and we just stand, holding hands, and I let her get it all out.

“Do you have a church home, sweetie? You do need support in so many ways. If people there can’t help with housing or bills they can at LEAST pray and love you!” I offer. Trying to offer any hope.

“Yes. We do. We haven’t been going. We need it so much!”

I get a Bible and I begin to underline scripture from the book of Isaiah.

But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you. ” Isaiah 43:1-2

I hand her the Bible.

“These promises were originally for Israel, but we can claim them! God never said that we would not walk through difficult days, but He did promise that He’d be with us.” I say.

“Yeah. I’m going to read this. I need to know this,” she says as tears continue to pour down her face.

A line starts to form behind her so we count her clothes and get items for everyone. It’s a big help with growing kids and uncertain days ahead.

I ask if I can pray for her and we hold hands. She’s dripping tears onto our hands as we pray. She has just kept it bottled up inside trying to be strong for eight other people who look to her as “mom” and all that title entails.

She looks at me through tears and dark glasses, “I am not a bad person. I love my kids. I love my family. This is hard. It’s so hard. Thank you for the clothes.We are going to go back to church.”

Finding peace in the storm. It’s impossible in this fallen world among fallen people and fallen attempts at happiness. Only God… ONLY GOD… can be our peace, our provider, our intimate companion and our hope. He’s the only one that will not fail us and He’s the only one with true answers.

No words that I could have EVER said to her would have helped. She needs Jesus. The healer. The hope of our everyday. The life giving grace that only He can bring. It’s what she needs. It is what we all need.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Today

God is being more and more clear to me and my family that we have a trust issue. It seems that we see His hand in our past with no problem. We trust His hand for our future knowing that He has promised that one day we will be with Him because of the blood of Christ and how He covers our sin for eternity.

So there’s this problem though.

What about today?

A man and his wife walked into the clothes closet the other day. He had lost his job and they were trying to get a few things to help end meet until he could secure something else. They have 3 kids and they were optimistic that something would come through soon. They just needed a little help.

The man noticed another shopper pick up a pair of tennis shoes. He came to me.

“Do you have more of those?  I need a size 11.”

I knew that we had extra shoes, but I also knew we only had a couple of pair of tennis shoes.

“Sir, I can look for you. I am just not going to be able to promise. We have been low on shoes lately. Especially for men.”  I was doubting. There are times that we can’t help and I begin to not want to give much hope so that they are not so disappointed.

He replied, “Ok. Would you mind looking?”

I walk to the back where the extra shoes are. Just as I thought there were only 2 pair of tennis shoes. One pair looked almost brand new. I pick it up.

It’s a size 11.

“REALLY??! God HOW DO YOU DO THIS?” I ask, out loud to an empty room.

I walk back to the front of the store and the man and his wife are watching for me. They both begin to smile.

Why did I doubt? Why can’t I wake up everyday with the knowledge that God WANTS to provide for me TODAY? Why do I not trust that things that may not work out just the way I think they should couldn’t work out another way?

You know… that man didn’t ask for a size 11 in a Nike. He just asked for a size 11.

I am not saying that we should not ask and be specific when we approach God about our daily lives. It’s just that maybe we could come to Him trusting that His way will be best.

And maybe we could trust that TODAY He is the same God that provided for us yesterday, and He’s the same God that holds our future securely in His hands.

I’ve just questioned.. am I a follower of Christ TODAY? In the present? In this moment and I worrying about what will happen or am I resting in knowing that His sovereign hand that has carried me is carrying me now?

Why do I quickly forget that He provided a size 11 shoe for a man that has no job 15 minutes ago, and worry that He won’t take care of me?

I don’t know. It’s just that I make this harder than it has to be. Obedience would be so much easier than worry.

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field., which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30

True. So True.