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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not a Clue

I truly believe that when God calls us to something that is new and outside of the box of our norm it has a two fold purpose. One is to fulfill his plan for us to be in a deeper relationship with Him through obedience to His call. The second purpose is to help us see more of what He sees and fulfill the call to get outside of ourselves for a greater good, namely bringing others to Him through salvation.

Being a part of something that is mission minded on a weekly basis has helped me to see that I do not have a clue about many things in this life.  Up until now my goals have been pretty much like those of most Christian Americans. It goes something like this:

Go to college, get a good paying and steady job, marry someone who loves Jesus, is reliable and will take care of me,  afford a good house in a good neighborhood, have a kid or two, make friends and be involved in church and grow in my walk with God.

Nothing about those goals really involved anyone but me. My view has been completely self-centered and, frankly until recently, I’ve been perfectly fine with that.

After years of teaching Bible studies and being involved in every church activity imaginable I found myself in a very unusual place: unfulfilled. Most of the goals that I’d set for myself had come to some sort of fruition. Not everything was perfect (because it’s just not) but I really had about every blessing that a girl could have, and then some.

So why was I so unfulfilled?

The Lord started showing me through some local missions days in our city that my focus, while it had been on Him and His Word, was MORE on myself and those around me that are just as blessed as I am.

The last 5 weeks of serving in the clothing ministry have shown me that I am WAAAAY to consumed with myself and what I DON’T have. Seeing those in need for simple things have really made me sit up and take notice of how blessed I am.

I’ve really not had a clue that people right around me have MAJOR needs.

Things like:

Families have no winter clothing. Like the mother of 5 who came in the other day with a tank top and a t-shirt layered over it when it was so cold… and she was asking for clothing for her kids. Not herself.

Some have no ability to fill out a simple form as they enter because they can’t read or write.

Men are in need of a pair of pants because they’ve been out of work so long that they have nothing to interview in when finally being considered for a job.

I am not so na├»ve as to think that there are NO needs around us. Obviously we are in a time of recession and joblessness is running rampant. No one really has it easy right now… including us! It’s just that I never really put myself in their shoes and considered what that must feel like to feel hopeless.

I am so grateful for Jesus. The hope that He brings and the fact that I can offer a pair of pants and shirt, and explain that those temporal things will wear out, BUT GOD… came to bring plans to prosper us and give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) through the blood of Christ is just such an amazing gift to those with no hope!

Living in America with the American dream and the American church sometimes brings a level of protection from the real world. If you are like me you understand. We really have NO CLUE until we get out there and live it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Dreams He Dreams

When I was a little girl I had several dreams. They weren’t crazy dreams like to be a super hero or to become president, but I did struggle with how I would do it all… because I was determined that I WOULD do them all! I wanted to be an interior decorator. I wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to own a store of some sort. Like a cute store. We’d have gifts and cute things to wear and something just…cute!

Well, my mom wanted me to be a decorator. She thought that was just the coolest thing and that I would LOVE matching things and making things look good… and spending other people’s money! Which actually all sound very appealing to this day.. I must say!

God, however, had another plan and He would not let my heart get away from teaching. I just knew that I was going to be a special ed. teacher from the time that I hit high school and now that I have a child with some special needs… well, I now know why He would not give in… though my mother prayed in earnest that He would! (What is with praying against God’s plan for  your child, mother?! So funny how that works sometimes.)

Well, I taught special ed. for 4 years, regular ed. for 4 years and then I had my daughter who needed me to stay home. Now that she is getting older God is allowing me to dream one of my dreams again, but it’s through HIS lenses and not my own… and I LOVE IT! 

About a year ago I was cleaning out our daughter’s clothes and trying to figure out how I could bless someone that might be able to use them the way that others have blessed us over the years! I prayed a simple prayer asking God to show me who I could potentially help and not just do the ol’ drop off at Goodwill. Not that I don’t LIKE Goodwill! They do a lot of good!

That night it happened. As my husband lay sleeping the Lord STOOD on my face!! I was just lying there and He laid out the whole plan of having a free clothes closet that would be “fueled” by our church through donations.  I could picture it in my mind… every detail of how it would go, what the store might look like, how we’d get donations, etc.  All I needed was a spot to put the stuff and a way to get the word out. He told me He would provide and I said, “OK! Please God! If you will get off of my face.. I promise I will do it!’

The next morning I did NOT tell my husband. He’d think it was another one of my hair brained ideas (I have no idea why he thinks things like that!) and so I decided to e-mail 4 friends to ask them to start praying. 

I went to my church and presented the idea to the missions pastor. He thought it was a great idea, but didn’t know where we’d put it.

A year passes.

A YEAR!

Now, I know that in God’s timing a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day so I guess in the scheme of things that is not very long.

Let me tell you… it felt LOOONG! LIKE a thousand years, I tell ya!  I prayed. I asked questions. I prayed some more. I talked. I begged. I prayed and asked my friends and family to pray. I drove myself, and others, almost to the point of drinking over this. I mean… MADDNESS!

Well, it has happened.

This past month has been a total blur but we have set up a FREE clothing ministry in a little building on our church property! I CAN NOT BELIEVE IT! It is SO pretty! We are still in the process of getting things done and once it is finished I will have pictures to share! We have dressing rooms and rounders with donated clothing and a sorting room and… it is just beyond what I thought it might be! It is SO cute!! (Remember my dream was for cute!?!) Isn’t that how God works, though!?

The “store” itself is really neat, but that’s not the best part.

The absolute, beyond awesome, best part is getting to see the faces of those in need come in and find a little something to wear and leave with tears in their eyes over God’s provision for them! BEST PART! HANDS DOWN! NO DOUBT! It feeds my soul just as much as it does theirs.

We’ve been able to serve approximately 64 families in just 6 days of being open!! We have had the opportunity to  pray with many of those and invited them to church!

I know that I, personally, would not have this chance to reach out to our community on a regular basis were it not for this clothing ministry. The demographics of the area around our church are not great and there are many who use the food pantry to get free food. There are many in need and this store gives me the chance to let them know that Christ CAN meet their needs and that He wants so much to have a relationship with them!

Now, don’t get me wrong. As with anything, there have been some difficulties getting to this place. We’ve had some road bumps and we’ve had those who have tried to take advantage of the fact that the items are free. God never tells us how bumpy the road will be once we are on the journey because He knows… we’d never take the journey.

HE IS SO SMART!

I just love that God can take our dreams and make them His. He can take what we think would be a great idea and turn it into something that somehow glorifies Him and points others to Him.

I don’t know what you are dreaming today, but maybe you could start praying that God would take it and make it something bigger and better than you could ask or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20) Doing God’s will for our lives fills us just as much as being in church.. sometimes more! It’s that obedience that nourishes us and lets us know that we are being the people that God has called us to be!

God calls us to go into all nations… and on several occasions I have not been able to communicate with those that come through our doors because they are from other nations! We are in a battle for souls to be won for the kingdom of God all over the world, and it can start right in our own backyards! Being on mission can take on many faces.

Maybe He is asking you to dream something bigger than you ever thought you could do!

Jen Hatmaker, in her book, Interrupted says, “If we’ve been in church for years yet aren’t full yet,  are we really hungry for more knowledge? Do we really need another program or event? Do we need to be fed more of the Word, or are we simply undernourished from an absence of living the Word? If our faith is about us then we are not just hungry- our spirits are starving!”