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Monday, January 20, 2014

Be the Salt and Light

So you ask Jesus into your heart. You realize that you can’t live this life without Him and the forgiveness that He offers and you start to grow in your walk with Him. You realize just what a complete sinner you were before coming to relationship with Him and now, in the everyday, you know that because of your sin you feel that you are not able to be used by a Holy and perfect God.

Then you come across that verse. It’s the one where Matthew quotes Jesus in Matthew 5 Vs. 13-14. Jesus Himself says, “ You are the salt of the earth…” and “You are the light of the world…”

What?!? Me!?! How?!? Have you MET me God? I can’t be the seasoning of this life… the preservative? I can’t project light to others! I am such a sinner! I can’t even figure my OWN life out.

Once you become a Christ follower one fact quickly becomes real. Just because you love Jesus, and you know that He loves and forgives you, YOUR ISSUES DO NOT GO AWAY! We have to figure out HOW to be salt and light in spite of our own issues.

Since starting the clothes closet there have been issues! I have had a sick kid several times, people have been negative and have questioned my motives, I have had arguments with my husband before going to serve (THAT’S when you REALLY feel like salt and light! More like lemon and darkness), I have been overwhelmed by the number of people in need, and I have felt far less than equipped to handle the questions asked by those who are seeking help physically, emotionally and spiritually. Just to name a few. 

The point is that life is going to happen. Just because our lives are not all perfect everyday does not mean that you can’t do what God has called you to do. As a matter of fact, if you are honest with those around you about your own struggles you can be MORE effective because people are not looking for someone who is perfect. They are looking  for someone who TRULY loves God and trusts Him through the hard times.

Maybe you are struggling with knowing that God has called you to do something, but you are scared to take the first steps. When I felt this call I had come to a place where I was scared NOT to take the first steps. I was so tired of living in fear when God’s Word says “FEAR NOT” over 300 times! I was tired of NOT taking God at His Word and trusting Him.

When He spoke to me about this I:

*immediately asked people to pray, but not everyone. I tried very hard to keep this between me and God and I asked those that prayed to just pray for clarity, direction and for doors to open if this truly was God’s plan.

*I journaled. I wrote down my thoughts, fears, confessions of sin in this time.

*tried to be still and let God work the pieces into place once I surrendered. I tried not to go around asking for donations of clothes, but let the word spread through the people I’d ask to pray. A friend of mine brought clothes to my house to store in my garage before I’d ever told her about it. She said, “I think I am suppose to give these to you. Why?” HA! Oh, I still get butterflies thinking about that! I just didn’t want this to be about ME and what I was doing. I wanted God to fuel it and I was going to respond.

*I approached the church and asked them to begin to pray about it, but I tried hard not to push. I tried to remain open to the fact that God might NOT be telling the church that this was His vision for them and I needed to be willing to go and rent a building if that was what it took to obey. How I would pay for that building? I had no idea, but I knew that I would do something! I could no longer stand before Him in rebellion when He had directed me in other ways before and I had failed to respond.

I just want to encourage Christ followers to do that… FOLLOW CHRIST!! I have so many struggles and am so insecure you would NOT believe it!! It’s just that my life had to go in a direction that was not my own. I was stuck, but God was speaking and my own ways were just all dead ends. I know that it’s hard, and I know that it’s a road that is covered with opposition, but our God is ALREADY there. He’s clearing the way whether you see the entire path or not. Just start. Just take the step that He’s calling you to take, PRAY LIKE MAD and get in His Word and hold HIs hand. You will be completely amazed at the adventure that He takes you on.

Leave me a comment and I will pray for you. I can’t wait to see what God’s doing in your lives!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Covering Up

She came in and hardly spoke. Her face was hard, furled brow, cold eyes, hair pulled back straight and she was silent. She wore a white t-shirt, though it was cold outside, and jeans.  Her little boy was with her and he carried a bottle of milk though he was too old for a bottle. Her friend brought her to see if we could offer some help.

We greeted her. “Is today your first day with us?” we asked.

She shook her head, yes.

My friend helped her register and explained the procedures, but she never spoke. Her boy put his bottle on a little table and started to walk around. She ignored it. She just completed the paper work and started to look for items for their family.

After shopping and finding items she puts them on the counter for me to count.

“Did you find some things?” I asked.

She shook her head.

As I stood there counting her things the Lord whispered. “She’s hurting and afraid.”

I tried again, “I am so glad you found some good stuff!”

She smiled a small smile, but her eyes… so much pain.

Her little boy walked up and hit her on the stomach!! She looked down at him, but never said a word. He did it again. She pointed for him to go sit in a chair, and again… she never said a word.

“God, he’s so young! Why would he think he can hit her? Where has he seen this? Oh, Lord! She’s tired and can’t take much more…”

As I finished folding and counting her things I asked, “Do you need a Bible? Would you like one?”

Finally, she looked at me. “No. I don’t need that.”

My heart sank. “God, PLEASE let me say something that will help.”

He whispered, “This is enough. Give her the clothes and invite her to church, but don’t push it. Love her with this.”

I packed it all into a bag and gave her information about our church. As I spoke I could see tears welling up, but she would NOT let them fall. A tough exterior was hiding her pain and it was starting to crack and so she took her bag, said thank you, got her son’s hand and walked out.

 

Another woman. She came in behind several other shoppers, but her face was familiar and there was a similar look. Eyes hard, eye brows furled, jaw set… She’d been there before, but I’d not seen this in her in previous visits.

“Hey! I know you!” I say.

“Yeah, I’m back.” She doesn’t look at me.

She reminds me of her name and I pull her form. She has 5 kids.

I can’t help it. I have to ask. “What’s wrong, honey?”

She’s curt. “Nothing.”

“Well,” I say, “I am not sure I believe you! You ok?”

“You know anybody that will help with utilities? My lights are going to be cut off. Again. I got help last month, but I don’t know where to go now. My husband WON’T work! I have 5 kids and not all are in school yet. I CAN’T work and send all of my money to childcare.”

I ask, “Why won’t your husband work?”

“He has a felony. It happened a long time ago, but he uses it as an excuse to not try. I know there are people out there that would give him a try, but he won’t. All he wants to do is fish. He’s fine as long as he’s ok, but look at all of those names on my form. What am I going to do?”

I just look at her. She is so distraught and I don’t have any idea how to to help her.

“You know we love you here. You know I will help you all I can.”

She answers after a pause, “Yes. That’s why I came.”

She begins to shop and finds some things for her kids. It’s a little help to know that what ever money she does get does not have to go to clothe her children, but can go for bills that need to be paid.

We get really busy and my friend sees her waiting with arms full of clothes. My friend helps her take them off of hangers, folds them and puts them into a bag. We look through a resource book that has agencies that offer help and we try to refer to anyone that might offer hope. Before she leaves I see my friend, holding her hands and praying. Tears are streaming, but she’s able to muster a smile.

“Thank you so much,” she says.

The hardness that we see in people? I believe it’s pain. I believe that out of hurt comes defenses and walls that only God can truly tear down. The older they get the more people realize that their circumstances, many times, are brought on my the poor choices that they’ve made. They don’t know how to escape the mess that they’ve made and they wear it. Their faces show it.

Without Christ there is NO hope. We will turn on each other and eat each other alive out of desperation to live. Christ offers life. When our hearts and minds are set on Him we are at peace and when our choices are rooted in His direction and His Word we LIVE instead of scrape by. Every Christ follower is not rich nor do they escape problems of this life. It’s just that our confidence is in Christ and not OUR abilities to provide.

“Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope?” Job 4: 6

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Things I’m Learning

RWC1055

My whole life I have had a few pre-conceived notions about those living on the streets.

1) They are all drunks and drug addicts.

2) They are lazy and don’t want to work.

3) They don’t really care about their lives or the lives of others.

The past year has confirmed a few things.

1) I have no idea what I’m talking about.

2) It’s really unfair to have pre-conceived notions about ANYONE.

3) I have no idea what I’m talking about.

While it is true that SOME people living on the streets are addicted to drugs and alcohol it is my finding that many are trying. so. hard. to make a lives for themselves and get off the streets.

While SOME of them are lazy and actually plan their lives around how to move from shelter to shelter, county to county, state to state so that they can continue this life style… there are many who are doing all that they can to have their children in school and are working towards permanent residences through whatever means possible. They care about their lives, they want their children to have a future, and they are doing everything in their power to provide.

Sometimes people on the street are not there by choice. Sometimes they are, but sometimes…  I would dare say most times… they are not. They lose jobs, spouses (who made the only income) leave, they are working two part time jobs and still can’t make ends meet… the list goes on and on as to why people get into situations where they just lose their homes and have no where else to go. Some of their choices have been poor choices that have gotten them in bad situations, but not always. Each person is different.

The more I see the more I understand that in so many ways America does not get it! We take so much for granted and we assume that everyone has support, education, a family that loves and encourages and the simple truth is that more people are struggling than we could really ever imagine.

The stories of entire homes being completely stripped bare by robbers in the United States and leaving an entire family with absolutely nothing is unheard of, but I have heard it more than once. Stories of people losing jobs and using every bit of their life savings to pay for their home, utilities, everyday expenses, etc. is extremely common, and these people are not dead beats who don’t care! They try! They really try.

The year of 2013 was the year of “God opening my eyes.” As I enter 2014 I am already sensing in me the determination to press on and to DO something.

1. I am going to ask people to tell me their stories and I am going to listen. Sometimes when they start to share with someone they instantly cry because the burden is just so heavy and they would really LOVE a listening ear.

2. I am going to pray. I am going to pray with them and I am going to pray for them. Why do we see their situations as hopeless, and why do we not pass on the hope that we know through Christ? He IS ABLE and they don’t know that.

3. I am going to meet as many needs as I can. I can not pay a mortgage payment or a car payment, I can not turn someone’s lights back on. BUT I can give my time to organize clothes and basic items to meet some of their basic needs.

4. I am going to tell them that Jesus loves them. Do you know that sometimes they look at me and say, “Really?” when I say that? Has no one LIVING IN AMERICA ever told them this? Christians!! What have WE been doing?

I’m learning that I have not been doing what I am called to do. I am called to: (while I am at list making I will make one more!)

1. Micah 6:8 “Do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your (my) God.:

2. John 13:34 “love one another…”

3. Jeremiah 1:6, Joshua 1:9 “do NOT be afraid” and remember that He is with me!

I am learning that I am frankly tired of my disobedient, judgmental and self-consumed life and I am on a journey to change that through CHRIST. He IS the answer to my life and the lives of those who are living in hopelessness. His Word is true and His message is clear and we are NOT sharing it! I’m learning that for much of my life I have ignored acting on His Word, and I am praying for the boldness to follow through with a new found obedience.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

You Never Know

It was a busy day today. There were many people that I’d never seen coming through the door waiting for help. There was a line. People waited to register and people waited to be processed and people waited to hear a word of encouragement. It was in their eyes. Well, more like in the way they held their heads kind of looking at you  sideways… almost not wanting to look because they were admitting they needed help.

There was one lady. She came in with the crowd and stood to wait her turn. Behind her was a younger lady who looked like her, obviously her daughter.They waited quietly and they were not new. I’d seen them there before and smiled at them, “Hey! I will be with you in one minute!” I said. They both smiled, nodded and said ok.

As I came to them I asked them to remind me of their names. They told me and handed me their picture identifications. As I looked for their names the daughter spoke up, “Hey, you know that Bible you gave me last time? It has really helped.” I looked at her. She was smiling right at me. There was still a line behind her and so I just said, “Oh, I am so glad!” I touched her hand and told her that she could begin shopping.

People continued to come into the store and so I continued to welcome them and find their information.

She finally finished shopping. As things go the line of people that she came in with began to complete their shopping, too. Again there was a line.

She came to the counter and put her items up to be counted. I said, “So you have enjoyed your Bible?”

“Yes! Thank you so much!” she said, smiling.

“Do you have children?” I asked as I folded pants and shirts for her to take.

“Yes, one daughter.” she replied.

There were 2 men and a woman standing behind her looking at me with arms full of clothes to be processed.

I thought of my own daughter and how a very wise friend had challenged me to prepare my own Bible as a legacy for her. I decided to share it.

“I’m going to challenge you now.” I said. Her eyes got bigger and she moved closer in curiosity. The eyes behind her also got bigger.

I continued. “I want you to take that Bible and every time you hear a sermon… so you need to be in church… and every time you pray for her… because you ARE praying for her, right? I want you to write it in that Bible. Let her know that you are leaving her a legacy of faith and of prayer and of God’s Word because if you don’t do it then who will?”

She shook her head, thinking. “Ok, I will. I will start doing that so I can pass it on to her.”

“You need to give it to her for a special occasion when you know that she will be able to appreciate and respect it. Don’t just hand it to her one day. Treat God’s Word like the treasure that it is and give her that treasure in time.”

I finished bagging her clothes, we said our goodbyes and the next man stepped forward.

“That was good advice. I have a Bible. I need to think about that.” He said with smiling eyes.

Sometimes wisdom from God is only for us and the situations that we face. He is so faithful to meet us where we are and help us through with a special word. It’s specific revelation.

Sometimes, though, God’s Wisdom is for everyone and if we are wise we will share it. My friend did that for me and I wanted to do that for someone else. How else will God’s word move forward into hurting lives if we are not sharing with those in need of a word of encouragement? You never know who else might be listening and how their lives might be impacted, too.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just a Coat

He came in with some of the dirtiest shoes I’d seen in a while. He was probably in his 50’s and was wearing large glasses that were scratched, very dated. It was cold, but not bitterly, and he wore a jacket, sweatshirt and jeans.

“Hello, sir. Have you been here before?” I asked.

“Um yeah. One time. I just need a coat. You got a coat?”

“Well, I need to find your name in our computer and then we will look to see what we have.”

He looked right at me. Glasses taking up his entire face and sure of what he wanted. “Just a coat. That’s all I need. It’s gonna get cold you know? I mean, it’s chilly today. It’s gonna get cold. I need a coat.”

At this point my heart begins to beat really hard. It’s God. When He needs for me to listen to Him and not to anyone else around He causes my heart to pound. It’s almost scary to me that someone might hear the pound, pound, pound as He begins to show me what I need to do.

In my mind it’s His still small voice,“ You have sweat shirts, you have socks, you have underwear and you have toiletries. Offer them. Look for a coat, but you KNOW you have these things. Offer them and give him a Bible.”

I began to ask, but wanted to be careful. He was a little embarrassed and he doesn’t want to ask for much. It’s people like this that I would bag up the entire store for because I know they are probably living on the street with very little.  Friends are helping me sort clothes and so I ask them to quietly start looking for things that might fit.

There’s a teenaged boy working in the back room. He’s out for Christmas break and wanted to volunteer. It’s his first day and I tell him that I need him to help me minister to a homeless man. He stares at me. I ask him to put together a bag of men’s toiletry items in a small bag and to quietly bring it back to me when it’s complete. He eagerly begins to fill a bag… deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap.

Instead of shopping and looking for the items himself, the man sits down in a chair near the front of the store. He is tired and I don’t dare ask how far he’s walked to get to us. He doesn’t talk much and he keeps his eyes straight on the wall in front of him.

Sure enough… we have sweatshirts, we have toiletries and we have socks and underwear, but I can’t find a coat. I have the volunteers help put together the items that we do have and I begin to look everywhere. We have to have a coat. It was all he asked for.

I walk to the back room. We keep coats and a few extra items for times like this. I begin to look. There are sweatshirts that zip and coats that are for ladies and children. My heart drops. I don’t see a coat.

As I walk back into the store area I notice a jacket. It’s not thick or heavy, but it is something more than what he’s wearing. I take it to him.

“Sir? I don’t have a coat. However, I do have a few sweatshirts for several changes of clothes and I have this jacket. You can layer them.”

He smiles. “Oh, that’s fine! That’s fine! I am just so thankful for all that you’ve done. Look! I got a Bible. Thank you so much, ma’am. Thank you so much.”

As he walks out I have to gather myself. Sometimes it’s just too much. It’s hard to watch them leave knowing that they needed just ONE thing, and would not have taken one thing more, but you can’t always give it.

Thing is… it’s not too much for God. He sees every single one and He knows exactly what we need. Maybe the man needed the Bible, and God brought him there under the guise that it was something physical that he might need, but he left with the realization that God’s Word was the thing that would bring true satisfaction.