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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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Silverware

I got a text. It was from a friend of mine that works at the church.
“Hey, are you busy?”

The clothes closet was open and it’s always an ebb and flow…

“We are a little busy.” I reply.

She helps put together items for some houses that are used for missionaries that come back to the US. People had donated silverware and there was too much. She wanted to know if I could run up to the church office to get it. We don’t usually accept that type of thing… only clothes, but it was good to know.

I couldn’t go right then, but I tell her we will get it soon.

I put my phone in my back pocket.

The next shopper, with arms full of clothes walks up. She has a scar on her face. 

My heart starts. “She’s been abused.”

She lays her items on the counter and I smile at her and say, “Did you find some things?”

Her eyes get glassy with tears.

“Yes.” That was all she could say. A tear falls.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I ask.

“Well, I am at the battered women’s shelter. You know, when you flee you just go with the clothes on your back? So I am trying to piece it together again.”

Another tear.

“So now I am out trying to get some clothes and other things. I think they are going to help me get into a house but I have nothing. I mean, I have no silverware, no blankets…”

I stop her.

“Wait. What did you say?”

I pull my phone out of my pocket. Of all the things that this lady would mention that she needs she mentions SILVERWARE??

I call my friend who, not five minutes before, had texted me.

I tell her and she just says, “I’ll  meet you. Come get it.”

When I arrive my friend is in the hallway with not only silverware, but a silverware holder, cleaning supplies, a night gown, a laundry basket, some trial sized toiletry items and some blankets.

We just stand there for a second and look at each other.

She laughs. “Do you know this has been in my office for a few weeks? Why did I decide to text you today? I had it under my desk and it fell out on me. I just got aggravated and someone picked on me about having a mess so I decided to text you right then!! Are you kidding me? This woman really said silverware?”

We load it on a cart and I push it down to the clothes closet. When I walk in another helper is praying with her. We walk to the parking lot and the woman sees the cart. She is just overwhelmed.

“Ma’am we see God do this so often. I did not bring one bit of this to the church! You need to know that He knows your EVERY need… even the need of silverware.. and He is going to provide.”

She shakes her head. “Well, I recently rededicated my life to Him. I have not lived like I should. I don’t deserve this.”

I reply, while holding her hand, “None of us deserve His grace. You have to live for Him! He’s pursuing you!!”

She is smiling now. She takes her things to the car that waits for her because she  has ridden to the clothes closet with others that are in the same situation. Relying on each other. Trying to make it through.

I am not sure why this happens, but we all deal with lack of faith in the here and now.

If we know Christ, it’s easy to say that we know that “one day” we will be with Him and “one day” He will fulfill His promises. We know that we have hope for eternity, but what about TODAY? Why do we not trust that TODAY He will provide for our needs? Why do we not see that TODAY is the day of salvation and that TODAY He is the same God that provides for tomorrow or the future? Why do we not pray for the little things that we think are small and insignificant? He is GOD! Nothing is impossible for Him.

Moses prayed and the Red Sea opened up and His people walked right through! Moses didn’t “Pre-pray” for that! He stood at the water and prayed and God did it! THAT day.

It’s almost like we have the faith for our future with God, and we see His hand in our past, but somehow He’s just not able to handle our present.

I think we forget. He’s here. He is the GREAT I AM! Not “I was” or “I will be”.  I AM.

He can provide even the smallest detail. The thing that is essential to make it through today… He can make it happen. That’s why we have a daily walk and a daily (well, lately it’s been hourly and even minute by minute) prayer time. Because He wants to meet us, and provide for our needs in the everyday. While it’s still called today…

Even silverware.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pretty Things

Recently I received a clothes donation from a friend who has lost lots of weight. She has done so well that she cleaned out 7 large bags of clothes and gave them so that others might be helped, blessed and encouraged. What a major blessing to our ministry!!

The lady came in with a smile on her face. This wasn’t the first time she’d visited. The first time was far different.

She’d come in convinced that we could not help her. She didn’t want to register and her tone was a little gruff. Her hair was cut in a man’s cut and she wore men’s clothing. She had been a part of an alternative lifestyle. She took men’s XXL golf shirts and said she wasn’t going anywhere anyway so why did it matter? Her heart was very bruised and her spirit was very low. Her gruffness stemmed from pain and it was so obvious that there was layers of pain.

Little did I know that she was being prayed for. Other ladies at the church had also met her and they were praying for her to come to church and for opportunities to help her see Jesus.

They invited her and they kept praying.

And then one week she came. Then she came, and she came again. She sat through all three of our services on a couple of given Sundays. She heard truth and she saw kindness. She  heard that she was welcome and she was invited to a Bible study. She came to that, too. She had not grown up in church and so her ideas, to say the least.. were very skewed. Her lifestyle had brought some sharp edges and she wasn’t opposed to speaking out…sometimes using those edges with people who were trying to encourage.

People just kept on praying.

SO this week she walked in with a smile. She tried to bypass the check in counter, but I recognized her and I asked her to come check in.

“You won’t have my size! I just wanted to look before I committed.” She said with a grin.

“How do you KNOW? You don’t know what we have been given so remind me of YOUR name so we can get started looking!” I replied, smiling the whole time and feeling my overjoyed heart get bigger by the minute.

“Oh, really now?” she said, grinning still.

I checked her in and she began to look. I walked over and pointed out several of my friend’s pretty things and I suggested that she take them.

“Really? They are so nice! I can have this?” she asked with her eyes sparkling and she laughed with LOUD laughter. So much so that it filled the room!

“You sure can. See? I told you! You just never know what God will do.”

She kept looking and she brought a few things to the counter. “Now, don’t let anybody take these. I am still looking!” she said.

She came back with a few more items and this time she wasn’t smiling.

“I get it, you know? “ she was more serious now.

“You get it?”  I asked, a little confused.

“Yeah. I get it. I have been coming to Bible study and I get it.” She paused. “I am not sure that I totally buy into it, but I do get it.” she continued.

“Yeah? I was like that for a while.” I said.

Her eyes shot up to mine. “YOU?”

“Well, yeah. I mean I grew up in church, but my faith wasn’t my own until college. I knew Jesus loved me, but I didn’t live it until I was in my 20’s,”  I said.

“Yeah!? Well, you aren’t old like me! If I buy into this that means that my WHOLE life, up until this point, was a lie.”

“Yeah? Me, too.” I stood just looking at her.

“No. You mean I am not the only one?” she truly looked surprised.

“No, ma’am. Actually, you are pretty common among those that have asked Jesus into their hearts,” I said with a smile.

“Ok, well… If I take these pretty things it would give me something to wear to church, you know? I could keep coming and this would make me feel so much better if I had some nice things to wear. You remember I got those men’s golf shirts last time? Well, I would rather not wear that if I don’t have to.”

“Yes! I do remember and I agree with you. You can wear these and they will look so nice. They will be perfect for church!” I smile at her.

“Hey, I want to help you. Do you need volunteers? I could sort some stuff or something. I am on disability and can’t work, but I can do something for a few hours. Can I help you?”

She genuinely wants to be there. She is longing to be used and to be productive and she needs to be connected… not only to other Christians, but to God.  Her lifestyle has left her alone and she is beginning to see that God’s plan is a better plan for her life… for every life.

We signed her up to work next week. I am sure there will be little bumps in the road, but I see her taking steps. She’s trying and she’s tired of living a life of emptiness. What would it be for me to deny her the opportunity to see God’s hand at work on a daily basis? This could be THE very thing that causes her to see Him working in the lives of others and it could help her “buy into it” for eternity!

As I packed up her bag I asked if she’d like a little cosmetic bag that we’d been giving away. “I am not sure why I’d use it.,”she started, but then she said, “Oh! I could use it to bring my markers and pencils to church! I could wear my new things and bring my new bag with my markers. I would be ready to learn!”

Oh, Lord! Why do you bless us so?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just in Time

There had been talk of calling Pedro. We had discussed calling him because we had bags that we thought he might use in the food pantry that works in conjunction with the Clothes Closet. I was in a back room with ladies who were sorting clothes and they were showing me things… asking questions. I never had a chance to call Pedro.

I heard the door open and so I went to the front. Several people had entered and I began to help them register to shop. While I stood there the door opened again. This time there was a look of dread on the lady’s face as she entered.

“Hi!” I say. Trying to sound welcoming.

She smiles a small smile, but her eyes are so sad.

“Is this your first visit with us?” I ask, trying to keep the conversation light and encouraging.

She shakes her head. Yes.

I give her the paper work and tell her that she’s welcome to shop. She begins to walk around, but it’s more like a wandering. A lonely gait that’s weighted down with the worries of this world.

Finally I ask, “Are you looking for something specific?” Hoping to strike up conversation and share a little hope.

“Well, see…” she pauses. “I lost my job.” She starts to cry. “My 12 year old daughter needs some shorts and I have already visited Goodwill. I just don’t know what to do.”

I walk towards her. She’s wiping tears and she doesn’t want to look at me. I walk up beside her and put my arm around her shoulders.

“Listen, there’s no shame here,” I offer.

“YES! THERE IS! I don’t want to do this! Walking in that door was the hardest thing!” she shoots back.

“Ok. Well, the way that WE see it is that we are here to help those who have gotten to a bump in the road and they just need a little push to get over it! We see your situation over and over again, but we know that God has a plan and that He will work your situation for your good. It may be hard to see it now, but He will use this!”

She softens. “I know so many people who have lots of money! I never imagined I would be here shopping for free clothes.”

“Yes, but are you realizing that money isn’t everything?” I ask, gently. “You know those friends that have money? The money definitely helps, but are all of them really happy? Are they really satisfied? Only God REALLY fills us. He has a plan in this. You watch and see.”

She continues shopping. It’s hard, but she finds some things for herself and her daughter. She brings her things to me to “Check out” and she hands me her credit card. I giggle and I say, “Ma’am. I don’t need this!” and we both laugh. She’s a little lighter now.

I look at her form to be sure that she had found something for everyone on her list. Sure enough it’s just the two of them. The “Spouse” line says “Widow.”

“Oh God!” I pray. “She lost her husband and she’s probably my age! She has a daughter that’s the same age as my daughter and now she’s lost her job. It’s no wonder she’s so sad and overwhelmed. Please God! Show me what to say!”

He whispers. “Pray.Point her to Me. I will carry her.”

I get her hands and I say, “You are probably going to cry, and that’s ok, but I need to pray with you.”

She sighs, and big tears well up in  her eyes, but she bows her head and we pray. We ask God to carry her and for Him to continue to draw her to Him. We ask Him to provide and that she would sense His direction as she looks for a job.

About that time the door opens. It’s Pedro.

He’s carrying hats that someone had left at the food pantry. He looks at me and then at the lady. He says hello and introduces himself. Then he says, “Ma’am, why are you crying!?”

She can’t answer and so I whisper, “She lost her job. It’s a little hard right now.”

His words could not have been more perfect. It was as if God had him eaves drop on our conversation and he had had time to practice what would come next.

“Ma’am, we ALL are in need. Every one of us.  Even the richest people have needs. Everyone of us needs something! Right now you need a job, and God will provide it! He will! Did you get some clothes? Did they help you here?”

She’s crying, but she nods her head and she’s looking straight at him.

“Ok! You need food? We’ve closed the food pantry, but I have a key. Will it help you? I will open it and we can get you some things. :You need a few things now, but you wait. God is going to carry you.”

She looks at me. He eyes are teary, but she’s somehow smiling a little. It was as if God had told both me and Pedro to say almost the exact same words.  “Some food would help a little. Are you sure it’s ok?” she asks.

I smile at her. “Oh, well, if Pedro says that he will take you and open the pantry just for you I think I would follow him!”

She hugs me. “Thank you.”

It’s a wonder, sometimes, that when everything is going well… we have a job, food for our families and clothes on our backs, families that love us, a good education… that we even see God at all. I wonder how many times He has had to strip us bare before we realize that HE IS GOD!?

There are times that we go through, hard times, and we decide that we are going to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and DO THIS THING!

At some point, however, as one preacher put it, we come to the realization that we don’t even have boots.

All we have is a true and living God that longs to have a relationship with us. He wants to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we can see that His ways are higher. Better. Richer and stronger than any way that we could ever choose. He will take us to any length to make us see that He is pursuing us and that the things of this world truly do not hold a candle in comparison to the Light of His glory and the hope that He brings.

And for those of us who have seen that glory.. are we willing to stop our lives that are going so well to tell someone else about it?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Invitation

I never know what she will say. She’s never met a stranger in her life. She is easily intrigued and questions come quickly, and they are easily voiced.

Every person is just that. A person. They are not strangers. They have no color differences and they all must be kind. In her mind they are all very much the same and there are just no boundaries that she can’t cross.

While shoe shopping last weekend we decided on black paten leather. Shoes she’d wear to church. We went to pay and while we were standing at the register…

“You can wear these this Sunday,” I say, smiling at her.

“Yes.” She agrees while watching the lady behind the counter. She hears me but she’s not paying attention to me. I know it’s coming.

“Do you have a church home?” she immediately blurts out to the lady ringing up shoes and checking sizes.

The lady realizes she’s talking to her. “Me? Oh, um. Well, I do have a place that I attend sometimes. It’s on the West side. A Methodist church.”

“Well, we go to Hickory Grove. Right mom? Tell her!” I am suddenly on the spot in the middle of a discussion with a complete stranger about church. I was buying shoes, for the love of Pete!

“Um, yes! She’s right! We do attend Hickory Grove. It’s on this side of town and we’d love to have you sometime.”

It doesn’t stop. “Yeah! We have a clothes closet! Do you need clothes? You could come!”

The girl smiles, but her eyes are on the computer screen. She’s putting shoes in a bag now and getting my receipt. You can tell this talk about church is making her very uncomfortable.

“Wow! Really? A clothes closet!” she says not sure what to say next.

I realize that this conversation must need to happen and yet I am almost as uncomfortable as she is. WHY!? If this twelve year old isn’t in the least bit concerned about what she may say or think in response then why am I?

I continue. “Yes, we are open on Tuesday and Thursday each week.It’s on the church campus. Do you know where we are located? ”

The lady runs some extra paper off of the roll from the register and hands me a pen. “I may know someone who could really use that. Thank you so much for mentioning it. Could you write it down for me? The information about the clothes, I mean.”

It’s true that most of us have trouble even starting a conversation with a stranger about God, church or anything of the like. We can talk about shopping and how things look. We can talk about the prices of groceries being overwhelming in the grocery store and we can talk about sports all day long. When it comes to God, however, we are frightened that we might offend or cause someone to feel uncomfortable.

As we walked to the car I said, “Hey, why did you do that?”

“Well, mom. She might not have had a church. We need to invite everybody, right?”

Yes, honey. We do. We sure do.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just a Pair Of Jeans

“Hey, you remember me?”

He was standing in front of me with a navy toboggan and a jacket. He was smiling, and he was carrying food from the food pantry in plastic bags.

“Can I sit this here?” he asked as he sat the bags on the floor.

I thought I remembered his face, but wasn’t certain until he said, “My ID was stolen and I am getting it back  Monday. I just need a pair of jeans. I was here a little while ago. I got a little job doing a little construction work and the man is real nice. He’s paying me a little until I can get things all set up. I just need a pair of jeans.”

I looked his name up in the system. When he was in last he’d been staying in a hotel.

“You still at the hotel?” I asked.

“Well,” he smiled, “I, I had to sleep on the street last night. It’s ok though. I am alright.”

I remind him that he can have more than a pair of jeans. As he walks away I notice  his jeans, the only pair he owns, has mud all over them from the construction site.

He had slept in those on the street and in his mind he just needed another pair to get him through. Maybe to help him feel clean and to know that he had more to his name than just a dirty pair of jeans.

I remember a blanket that someone had given us and a sweatshirt that was surely too big, but I take it and I offer it. “Oh, really? This is nice! You gonna let me have this, too? Ma’am what a blessing!'”

He found 2 pair of jeans in his size and he is smiling from ear to ear.

“You have socks? Just a couple of pair will do. I just need a couple of things to get me by is all.”

“Do you need a Bible?” I ask.

His eyes light up. “NO! Oh no ma’am! When I was here last you gave me one and I still have that Bible. Thank you.”

I ask him to remind me of his name and he tells me.

I say, “Well, you know what sir? I think we need to pray! We need to pray for that ID to come like it should and for that job to be a continuous thing so that you don’t have to sleep on the street anymore. You see, God is providing these things for you. I didn’t bring that blanket here, and that sweatshirt wasn’t mine. God has provided and we need to thank Him and ask Him to continue to provide.”

“Oh yes ma’am! I know that God looks after me! I trust Him and He is going to see me through this rough patch. He already is! What a blessing this is!”  His grin just lights up the room!

I hold his rough, strong hand. He squeezes it as I pray for him and ask the Lord to continue to speak to his heart as He provides along the way.

We say amen and the man looks at me square in the eyes. “Thank you. I know somebody has prayed for me today.”

I give him information about our church. “Please come to worship with us.”

“OH! I would LOVE to!” he said with his smile even bigger now.

I can only imagine how it would thrill him to know that he could worship, dirty jeans and all, in a place where he’d be accepted.

What would it be to have faith that God is going to do what He said He would even if I lived on the street? Would I have joy? Would I have peace in my heart and would it show on my face?

Would I treasure God’s Word and see it as a special possession if that were all I truly owned?

Would I value the prayer of a stranger and view it as a blessing that someone had prayed for me that day because I was uncertain if any other day someone had?

 

“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Connection

I don’t know about you, but when I am not feeling well I really LOVE to be home by myself. Today is one of those days. Once I got everyone off to their destinations I just needed to lie down and rest. I slept a while, got showered, and went to lie down again.

My problem is, that while I know that this is a good thing, I miss people. I mean I love to be home by myself because I can sleep and be quiet and sleep some more. But then when I am awake I wonder what my husband is doing or where my friends are or what I am missing out on. Anyone relate?

Well, another benefit of the quiet is that I can begin to sense God’s nearness. I picked up my Bible and started to read and over and over again His Word is just a wealth of encouragement and reminders of His faithfulness. I also love His instruction about how to live and so I have started journaling in my Bible so that I can give it to my daughter one day.

134

I love this picture of her and my mom.

The past couple of years have been great reminders to me that we won’t always have the chance to have an influence on our kids. Two of my dearest friends lost their moms and I know that they treasure every ounce of the heritage that they left behind.

So often my words come across like, “Because I’m your mom and I said so!” But God’s Word? Oh just look…

“The sum of your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

“The Words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6

Seven is the number of perfection and completion. His Word is purified to perfection and completion. What mom would NOT want to give her child perfection and completion, and God’s Word?

Maybe she will go through many times of uncertainties but God’s Word tells us that “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 17

Being alone and quiet gives me a chance to be reminded of these promises myself. I can journal about things that I am going through so that she sees that my life is far from perfect! I need God and His Word at every turn so that I can just make it through those times that I’m angry, hurt or feel alone.

Recently God has been very clear that He wants me to be silent in an area where I have been very vocal for several years. A sanguine like me struggles greatly in the area of silence, and especially when I am use to opening my big trap!

And then He reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

I sometimes wonder if He doesn’t allow days like this to make me see that I TRULY CAN be still and quiet. Maybe He’s letting me practice. Isn’t God funny like that? Oh, He just makes me laugh out loud sometimes at His goodness.

For a very long time I thought that relationships that were healthy were only relationships where we were just talking all the time! (I still struggle with thinking something’s wrong between me and someone if we haven’t spoken in a while! I hate being insecure!) My husband, the engineer type on the other hand, thinks the opposite. (Imagine that!) He always says, “Well, someone HAS to listen!”

Our God is a true gentleman. He will not speak while we are speaking. And we can’t listen while we are speaking! I know it pleases Him when I come and spill my guts about everything that’s troubling me, when I am happy and praising Him or when I just need to ask Him to show me His Will, but THEN I need to SHUT IT! I need to have a day like today where I reconnect with His Word and see that He has so much to say to me!!

His Word is perfect and without it our lives have no direction and this sanguine girl could use all the direction I can get!

Monday, March 10, 2014

He Knew

He knew that I would face feelings of awkwardness… unworthiness…  when I walked into His house yesterday and so He met me there, and He spoke, like I was the only one there on the pew, in His presence, at His feet.

He drew me to worship in complete surrender. In His unrelenting love He reminded me to let everyone just fade away. Let every feeling and thought just meld into Him, and He would provide for my every need. My every awkward and insecure need.

He knew that I would face a trial that left me feeling lonely and like no one would understand. He placed the right person, at the right time, with the right words in my path to make me realize that He is already there.

The trial is only for a moment, but He is eternal and He knew that all I needed was a reminder. He used an unsuspecting and gentle soul to bring comfort as I walk this road with Him. Such peace. Unwavering peace.

He knew that I would feel inadequate to do what He has asked of me. Another step of obedience that scares me to death? He knew my questions before I asked and He waited for me to come to Him, in desperation, no less, seeking answers that only He could give.

He knew I could not do it on my own, and He knew that I would eventually come with tears after I attempted to do just that. He never flinched. He heard my cries and reminded me that in HIS strength, and His alone, would I ever be able to accomplish His tasks.

Today He knew, from the time that I woke up,  that I would struggle with feeling less than secure and so He met me at our usual spot to remind me that it is all going to be ok.

He knew that I would need to hear that He is enough for today, and that my insecurities and are nothing when He takes this day into His mighty hands and molds it into what it needs to be for His glory.

Having a relationship with God does not mean that we never struggle with less than pretty feelings. What it DOES mean is that we have a place to take those feelings… in all of their ugliness… and we can hand them to the KING OF KINGS and the LORD OF LORDS and we don’t have to hold them by ourselves.

How will we ever teach our children that He is who He says He is if we don’t believe it ourselves? Every teen I’ve ever known has struggled with every feeling that I have recently felt, and unless I live it how will my OWN teen-to-be learn it?

If I have a breakdown at every turn of the page and every disappointment, how will my child ever learn that HE is WHO HE says HE IS!?  How will she ever trust God if I don’t show her how? How will every situation not be an emergency and how will she know that He TRULY holds all things together if I am not living it?

How will the world know that He’s alive in us if we don’t show them that we are real people with real struggles who loves a real God who really loves them back?

He knew from the beginning of time that we’d struggle even in this, and yet in His infinite wisdom He allowed us to live this life anyway.

He knew we couldn’t do it on our own.

He knows we can’t face tomorrow, and what it holds, without Him.

He knew we’d be desperate.

He knew He’d die for all of it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Trust Trouble

He’s just trying to do what he knows he should do. Find a job. Provide for his family. Be responsible.

The problem is that he lost everything. He was living in the woods in a tent and trying to go to job interviews on a city bus. He sent his wife and kids to another town to live with relatives until he could figure it all out. His eyes were bright and his smile was easy, but he looked like a man living on the street.

“You have clothes?” he asked.

“I do! Let me get you registered.”

He handed me a card with his photo on it. It was from a local men’s shelter.

“That’s the only ID I have. Everything was stolen from the woods. I left my things there hoping they’d be safe, but when I came back from getting a little food my things were gone.”

“Well, at least now you don’t have to be in the woods. I am so glad you are at the shelter. We’ve had a cold winter.” I tried to sound all “bright side” but I knew this was so hard.

He had a friend with him and as they began to shop I noticed his friend was picking things that were more dressy. Dress pants, a tie, dress shoes. He brought them to me.

“This is for church. I have not been in a long time,” he said.

The man from the woods, “Man, I am getting something warm! What I have on is what I own. That’s it! It was all taken away. Maybe I can come another time and get things for church.”

I ask if they need toiletries and they both nod “yes'”. It is hard to admit that once you had a home, work and family all going in the same direction, but now you are asking for soap and toothpaste because you have nothing with which to buy those things.

He asked me if I had any bus passes. “You know? If you guys had passes then maybe we could use them to go to interviews. I hate this! I don’t want to live like this, and it’s hard to get a job when you can’t even get to the interview. It’s hard to trust that things will improve when it feels like you can’t even get the ball rolling.”

When things get this hard… when life just seems to spiral more and more downward.. when the breath that you breathe and the sun coming up don’t feel like a blessings anymore because it means you HAVE to face another day… how do you trust?

Before they left I asked if they needed Bibles.

“You can give me one?” he asked. His eyes a little brighter.

“Yes, I have two! One for each of you.”

They take them. I encourage them to read them and I tell them that though things are hard today the Lord DOES have a plan for them. While I may not have a bus pass or a job to offer I do know that Jesus is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine and that they can’t lose heart.

What I face today is NOTHING like what they may face today. It’s true that not everything in my life is perfect, and we live with uncertainties like anyone else. So why do I struggle to trust? IF I am a true follower of Christ and I am taking Him at His word why is TRUSTING Him so hard?

God’s Word says in Psalm 9:10, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

He has NEVER forsaken us. NEVER. So when we say we don’t trust that the Lord will carry us through the trial then we are essentially calling Him a liar. Ok, maybe we don’t SAY it. But in our hearts we don’t lean into it. We don’t take whatever we carry and lean it on Christ and walk away trusting that He will, indeed, use our concerns and our worries as blessings in our lives somehow.

No trial that comes can come without first being sifted through His mighty hand. His love for us is so deep that we can’t even fathom HOW he might use difficulties to pull us toward him, but He does. He is the gatekeeper to our souls and He wants us to realize that no matter what comes our way He is the same God with the same power that parted the Red Sea and brought a dead man to life.

As they walked out the door they both smiled at me. “Thanks, ma’am.”

It was my pleasure, but more than that, seeing a man just holding God’s Word and it lighting up his face was such a blessing to me and it gave ME the encouragement to trust God more with every passing day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

God’s Growing Someone Else

You ever get jealous of others? I mean, I certainly don’t!! I was just wondering about you!

You ever watch someone else and how they have SO much faith? You can just see that no matter what comes their way they are set on Jesus and joy is ever a part of them!  You wonder, “How did she GET there!? MAN! I just wish I had an ounce of that!”

Or maybe you read a book and the author is SO gifted and their words are so eloquent (I just misspelled “eloquent” and had to look it up. See? Reason to be jealous.) You might just let a little feeling of envy sneak in because all your life you’d thought it would be SO great to write like that. The stories that they tell of God’s faithfulness and their use of scripture and quotes just show how well read they are and you think, “God! Why can’t I do that!?”

Then there are those who can sing, or play an instrument, and they are just amazing with their talent and when they worship they just SHINE because they are so in their element! You see worship just ooze from their very beings because they are right where God wants them to be, and it’s no surprise to anyone because it’s so obvious that He is at work in them and through them!

There’s also the amazing Bible teacher! I mean their ability to organize information and the research that they do and then their ability to communicate that in an interesting or effective format? Lives are changed by their dedication to God’s Word and their willingness to put themselves in front of others to proclaim His truths!  Well, it just makes me want to go home and try that myself!!

I can write all of those examples because I have thought every single one of those examples. I have struggled with seeing the “success” of someone else’s faith and I have thought that somehow God has left me out. Like when He was handing out certain gifts of talents maybe He just skipped me!

For a little while I struggled with this in my heart until one day I saw the truth of the matter. Through reading God’s Word (and the conviction of the Holy Spirit) He showed me something.  The gifts and talents that those people are exercising are given straight from God.  It is under His control as to who receives the gifts and talents that He provides.  His Word tells us (in Romans 12)  that everyone has been given a gift of grace and that we are all members of one body…. HIS body of believers. We are also told that we are to exercise those gifts and abilities to HIS glory, and not our own.

Oh.

So while I was so busy being jealous of other people and their gifts and abilities I was doing NOTHING to exercise my own.

Yeah.

I started thinking about those people again. You know, those that I’d had jealous feelings about? Well, when I think about HOW they got to where they are often times their talents were honed out of pain.

One particular writer went through great personal loss and pain before she ever put a pen to paper about it. It was too painful to relive! But God began to speak to her heart and He enabled her to write her story (and it reads like flowing honey!) so that she could help others dealing with the same struggles.

I can promise you this. I may have been jealous over her ability to write, but the road it took to get there? I would NEVER trade my life for what she’s been through. I am not sure, but for the hand of a sovereign God, that I would have come out on the other side.

I’ve heard missionaries tell of their incredible faith that God is at work in the country that they have served for years even though they have seen very few people come to Christ. It has made me jealous of that faith until I have realized that they have lived in the harshest conditions of no running water, no food, no heat, no one that spoke their language and have been isolated, but GOD was faithful to provide for them each day. THAT is where that faith has grown.

Sometimes people use their talents out of simple praise to God for what He has done to deliver them from certain destruction. They have worked on their craft of speaking or preparing simply because it came down to that person having NOTHING else, but God. They’ve dedicated their very life to knowing Him because of what He has done for them, and I was jealous of this? Could I have endured what they endured?

I have decided that there’s an inkling of talent in my body. It’s not because I put it there or have done something to deserve it, but because God Himself, in His grace, saw fit to allow me to have a tablespoon.

And so it’s time. It’s time to stop looking at everyone else’s gifts and abilities and it’s time to take the tablespoon that God has blessed me with and DO something. It is not up to me as to WHO God has blessed with more talent or with WHAT talent, but it IS up to me as to what I do with my OWN talent.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Thing of Thoughts

“A Bible saturated mind loves to linger long and mainly on the beauties of holiness.” John Piper

Her mom said she was never going to measure up and so she believes that she never will. Though she’s in her 20’s (or 30’s or 40’s)  now and no longer lives under the influence of her mother’s voice… it doesn’t matter. It’s still there. Echoing in her mind and keeping her from thinking that she really can be who she’s intended to be.

Though he has a family that is supportive and caring and will do anything to help, he has difficulty having the confidence to believe that he REALLY can be who God wants him to be. Though he believes in Christ and knows the scriptures and sees God’s hand at work, it’s hard for his mind to think (or his actions to show) that he really can succeed.

When I taught kids with special needs there were lots of different kids with lots of different issues. Some could barely read. Others had difficulty understanding what they read and others were 15 but could still only do basic elementary math. Some had behavioral issues while others were dominated by anxiety and panic.

It always amazed me when I had several kids with the same or similar issues how some did well, but others fell by the wayside. Those that did well generally had the mindset that “come what may, I will try and I can succeed”. Though they may have never reached the academic level of their non-challenged peers, they still believed that they COULD succeed at some level and in their minds progress was progress. Their minds were set on being the best that THEY could be and did not worry about anyone else.

It’s no surprise to anyone that our minds are breeding grounds for failure or success. It’s very simple. When I think that I can do something it is no problem for me to charge ahead with confidence that I will succeed. When I think I can’t do something… well, let’s just say that I procrastinate, complain and don’t always do so well..

There is a story in the book of Matthew (Chapter 9) where Jesus went into His own city of Nazareth. A group of people brought a paralytic to Jesus on a bed and when Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s friends Jesus said, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.” (vs. 2) There were some scribes standing near by and they were THINKING that Jesus was a blasphemer.

Verse 4 says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

It has been so amazing to me, over the past year, to realize how intimately God knows me. My whole life has been built around church and knowing God, but it wasn’t until He put a new call on my life and I FINALLY (Oh, I wear myself out!) surrendered everything to Him that He has shown me just how in tune He is to me.

God’s Word tells us that He has us written on the palm of His hand and that He knows every hair on our heads, but I am not sure that I have BELIEVED that with all of my being for the majority of my life. I have believed that He loves me, that He is in control of this world and that His life was lived perfectly so that He could be the sacrifice for my sin, but I have lived much of my life believing what OTHERS say about me and not what God says.

My heart and mind have had to go through a renewal process and I have had to surrender things that were holding me back from following Him and it all started on the inside. Once your heart and mind are set on following Him the acting on it becomes much easier.

Romans 12:1-2 God’s Word says just that…”I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God,what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

For me renewing my mind means several things:

1) Being in God’s Word more and BELIEVING what He says about me.

2) Moving away from situations or people that were not seeking to honor God in what they stand for or how they live or what they say. I realize that I live IN this world and that not all things or people will love God. Where and how I spend most of my time, however, is a choice and I had to choose to make some changes so that I could hear God’s voice above the world.

3) Start being obedient to WHATEVER He said. (I have SO far to go with this, but I want to be obedient and live a life that is acceptable before Him. Being willing to come to Him with my hands and heart wide open is my goal so that He can take whatever I am holding that does not belong and so He can fill my hands with what He wants. What a process, but what freedom!)

As with any relationship, our relationship with God is intentional. It takes a conscience effort to be a friend with someone,and our walk with God is no different. This includes the things that we think about and where our hearts and minds linger. We can choose to be defeated my lingering on the things that this world throws at us OR we can choose victory and a life lived in freedom knowing that God is honored by our thoughts being set on Him.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Open Hands

So many decisions to make and so much to do. So many opportunities in this crazy world. It’s can be all good and so much to balance, but exciting and exhausting and challenging and it can all make for a full life. The thing is.. for much of my life there was no boundary. There were no limits and my busy life was rolling along with days and years passing with feelings of being out of control and somehow, though I loved Jesus and trusted Him, I was so tired and I was empty.

7744043-female-hands-holding-open-bible

A decision will be made this coming week about our daughter’s schooling through a random lottery system at a new, local charter school. Thoughts of someone else holding her future in their hands by the random draw of a number sometimes makes me want to just throw up. My husband and I talked about it. “Well, if she gets in then we will go with it right? It’s so random. Is this the right choice?”

Is that how life is? A random draw and choices are made? We see an opportunity and so we just walk through the door? Where does God come in to all of this?

For a follower of Christ nothing happens by chance. Our pastor said this past week, “If Jesus isn’t Lord of your life, then He can’t be Savior. He HAS to be LORD first.” I looked up Lord and it literally means “master, control, to have power over others.”

When I think about Jesus and His ability to calm wind and waves, calm storms and call someone out onto water… He is LORD over that. He is Lord over sin and death and He conquered the grave.

He is Lord of the elements and Lord of certain chaos like a storm that can bring destruction and great harm… a storm in our lives.

I think about my own natural abilities… Ok, I can talk a lot. I am good at that. I can sing a little. I can decorate and put colors together and I can be creative.

Um. None of that says “Lord” to me. No ability that I possess, though given to me by God Himself, qualifies me to be “Master, in control or have power over others.”

So while this world just spins at top speed in so many directions that it makes your head spin,  and while I have no ability to control any of it there’s one scripture that just gets me every time.

It’s Col. 1:16-17 and it says, “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers of authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Do you see that? He is LORD of the rulers and authorities! He is Lord of those that we see as important and as leaders… He’s the master of them!!! He is Lord of the HEAVEN and the Earth and He is Lord of things that we can’t even see!! He is in CONTROL and holds all things together, and I am NOT and I don’t HAVE to be!!

Whew. That’s a relief.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

It is now with open hands that I have learned to come to Him. What do I have to offer? I can not see what the future holds and only know that today the wind blows and the rain falls, but He? He is God. He holds all of that in His mighty and loving hands to give to me as I need it.

I come with open hands because I know that what He brings will not overwhelm me or cause me to be so busy that I can’t have boundaries and priorities in my life.

I come with open hands because I want to be ready to receive whatever He has for me, and I want nothing else to be there that might hinder His will in my life.

There’s so much freedom when someone else is in charge, isn’t there? I don’t have to worry that the right decision will be made because I know that the ONE who created the heavens and the earth can handle this small life of mine. How do I think I am so important as to be in control of anything?! Oh, I have so far to go, but in the mean time I am going to keep working on coming to Him with open hands.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Pursuit

“You do not need to see far ahead. Just one step at a time with Me.” God Calling, A.J. Russell

My heart isn’t always prepared to see what God brings my way. In fact, I believe I would probably run the other way if He allowed me to see in advance what each day held.

The Buddhist that came to find clothes for himself, his girlfriend and their baby? I would have argued with God, “I don’t know WHAT to say! No, I can’t do that God!” 

But there they stood before me and I had a decision to make.

God’s relentless voice, “They are lost, and have no hope of heaven if you DON’T tell them. Invite them to church and offer a Bible. It’s a start for someone who will cling tight to their false faith. I am pursuing them.”

I AM… pursuing them, pursuing us.

I offer it and he takes it, “Sure, I can practice English. I can use it to learn.”

Oh, yes sir. You sure can.

I stop and I stare for a minute. I am in awe that my Father’s love is so far reaching and never stops. Ever. Past cultures, languages and beliefs He is there. Always reaching. Never stopping.

My futile mind can’t comprehend how broken a handsome, tall boy must be when he’s confused about what to wear. Whether it should be something for a boy… or something for a girl?

I give him a Bible and I write 2 scriptures in the front of it for him to look up later. I tell him that while he was standing near me, I’d prayed for him.

I wasn’t prepared for the hunger of knowing what I had written, but he immediately sat down and began to DIG through that Bible until he found, “I know the plans I have for you….” Jeremiah 29:11. He smiled at me.

God’s pursuit.

There’s more grace, far more reaching grace in this world than any of us dare to be aware of. His gentle, but strong heart is relentless and He continues to patiently wait for our blinders to be peeled away so that we might fully see that grace.

He puts people in our paths, and allows situations that we’d never seek out for ourselves, to help us see that He is relentless and reckless in His astounding pursuit of our very lives.

It’s undeserved. It’s unmerited and it’s unfounded this grace.

It is through lies to ourselves and others…

It is through our forsaking of the One who gives us air, water, breath and heart beats…

It is through our pursuits of other gods… other things… other ideas that we think are so much better than One that can see all, know all, hold all things together.

It is through arguments and violence and brokenness and pain…

that this grace permeates.

She was the last shopper of the day. She’d waited patiently for me to finish with others so that I could remove the hangers from the items she’d chosen and put them in her bag. She was quiet, but smiling.. until I asked if she needed a Bible.

“My girls go to church with their grandma each Sunday, but I could use a Bible, “she said.

I looked her dead in the eyes. “Well, how about if I give you a Bible and YOU bring them to church with you?”

The tears started. I knew she knew. God was pursuing her.

She took the Bible and the tears would not stop. I held her hand and prayed for strength, hope and His presence to be very real in her life.

His pursuit is too strong and too much to deny.

And His grace… is simply amazing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back to Normal

We’ve had 12 feet of snow on the ground in the south this past week. Ok… we’ve had 8 inches that melted as soon as the clouds floated past the sun and it showed it’s warm face. It sure felt like 12 feet when you consider that we see snow like that once every ten years.

So we sat in our homes with warm blankets and we watched movies. We ate be bread and drank the milk that we’d… and when I say “we” I mean “WE… the people of the south” bought at the grocery store. We dressed our kids in warm coats and boots and we played in the snow. It was fun! I loved spending time with my family and neighbors and it was a sudden stop that most seemed to appreciate.

It’s just that today when I took my daughter to school and dropped her off I saw other kids getting out of the cars and  it was like God reminded me to pray for her friend who might not have had food since there was no school. No school, no school breakfast and no school lunch.

And as I started doing laundry and trying to get caught up on so many wet pairs of socks and sweatshirts and warm clothes that those people whose kids don’t have much may not have been exceptionally warm during all of that… fun.

I am not trying to put a damper on things. I LOVE all of it! I love the snow and the time off and the hot cocoa and the naps and… well, I just sometimes think that since the Lord has allowed a window to my soul to see the needs of those around me He just won’t let me forget.

He won’t let me forget that the school that’s located near our church and near the clothing ministry has about 200 families that are dealing with homelessness.

He won’t let me forget the refugee families that frequent our ministry that came to the U.S. with the literal clothing on their backs and that they came because of the HUNGER… to know Christ.  When asked how we could help them their first response was, “Teach our children about Jesus,” as they stood in empty apartments that they shared with other families.

Once God allows you the honor of standing with Him (though you can’t stand… it is on your knees that you learn to serve because you are too humbled and too burdened to serve without a tear in your eye) you begin to understand His word when it says, “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 the things needed for the body, what good is that?” James 2: 15-16 Verses like that stay in your heart and they are at the forefront of you mind when you see those in need. You WANT to share Christ, but how will they hear you if they are cold or hungry… or both?

There’s a Christian author named Jen Hatmaker that wrote a book called Interrupted. It’s the story of her family’s life being interrupted by God as they picked up and moved their family to an inner-city area in Texas. God literally moved their lives to help those who were forgotten and forsaken. I read Hatmaker’s work when I felt God tugging at my own heart to start a clothing ministry and He whispered to me, “If she can do this, you can do this.”

I suppose it’s not to that scale, but in many ways I feel that my own life has been interrupted. I take God at His word more these days because I can not deny the ways that He has taken it and used it to show me that He’s serious! He won’t let my heart and mind go too far from what I have experienced and seen here in my own city and most of it not even 20 minutes from my home.

So while the remnants of the snow continues to melt and I try to get my home in order I am excited to get back to normal! I want to see what God has in store as I have the opportunity to meet Him face to face in the lives of those that we can touch. I can’t wait to see how He provides for specific needs. I am eager to hear my heart beat hard as He shows me those that He has specific plans for and as He whispers what He’d like for us to do to fulfill those plans. I pray that hearts and lives will be forever changed and that this week is all to His praise and glory!