Missed Opportunities

Walking around the Marysville neighborhood, we inquire about the sweet neighbors need for a meal for Thanksgiving. “Hi, we are from Calvary Chapel Marysville, the church just down the road, and we are wondering if you or anyone you know is in need of a Thanksgiving meal?”

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We mostly receive pleasantly surprised looks when the people realize we aren’t doing a fundraiser, but are instead hoping to bless them with a meal.

Although, I have been a part of this outreach project in the past, I stumbled on the correct words a few times. I was caught off guard once when a woman turned the tables and instead of needing a meal, she wanted to know how she could join in our efforts. One neighbor became outraged as soon as she heard the word “church”.  And the planner (a.k.a. me), didn’t have a plan about which addresses we were going to go to that day. All that to say, our outreach wasn’t polished or perfect. 

When my 9-year-old and 11-year-old got in the car with me to head home from our time in the neighborhood, I saw my gospel tracts sitting on the seat next to me. “Oh, wow, how did I forget those?” I mumble under my breath, rolling my eyes at myself.

“What are you talking about, mom?” How do they ALWAYS hear me when I talk to myself?

“Oh, I had planned to give some of the neighbors some of these cards that have a gospel message on them…a missed opportunity,” I lower my head sadly.

“You’ve been saying that a lot lately, mom. You know about your ‘missed opportunities'”, my 11-year-old comments.

“Gee, thanks, I guess you are right,” I reply, in defeat.

Lord, was our time spent in vain? My prayer that morning was that we would share your love with the neighbors. Did anyone see your light in us today, Lord? I feel like I am seeing more of the opportunities you give me to love others, but am I just fooling myself?

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The next day, our church secretary messaged me that three people contacted the church expressing their need for a meal! I was filled with mixed emotions. Sadness that in one afternoon, in two different apartment complexes near our church, we found three people that are struggling to feed their families. But, joy that our time was not in vain and the Lord’s love reached three different families.

Lord, please bless those three precious families. Please fill their refrigerators and pantries. Thank you for bringing us to their doors. Thank you for blessing our time of outreach. Thank you for their obedience and humility in contacting the church expressing their need. Please forgive me for being so close to these families, driving by them two, sometimes three or four times a week, and never stopping for them. Please show me how we can meet their biggest needs. Amen. 

My heart is to help those in need. I have more than I need. I have enough to share. I have so much that I get distracted by all that I have.

My mind wanders to the story Shelene Bryan shared in Love, Skip, Jump where she meets a woman and her large family living in extreme poverty. Shelene immediately asks if she can pray for the woman, but the woman replies, “I was actually hoping to pray for you. ” “What, me? Why me?” Shelene asks. The woman replies, “Because you have so much to distract you from the Lord.” Shelene wrote about how she dropped to her knees and said, “Yes, pray for me, please do.”

This is me. So distracted at times by my “American wealth” that it requires me going to an orphanage in Mexico to focus on what the Lord really has for me. So distracted by my “to do list” that I have to drop everything and schedule in time at a low-income apartment complex asking about food needs. So distracted by my service to already blessed people that I sometimes miss the dire needs of “the least of these” right in front of me.

Although both my 11-year-old and I are noticing all of my “missed opportunities”, the Lord is blessing the time I am spending responding to His call. This time is not perfect or polished. My voice is sometimes shaky when I step out toward His call. Sometimes my naiveté gets in the way. At times, I am less than bold and regret my fears.

The enemy would love for me to focus on my “missed opportunities”. But, the Lord keeps taking those misses and giving me 2nd chances.

I go to Him in prayer, asking Him to give me His eyes, His words, His power, His Spirit. And the next time, that “missed opportunity” becomes my call from the Sovereign King.

Thank you, Lord, for what your word teaches and promises about your 2nd chances:

Isaiah 43:18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Job 33:29, “Behold, God works all these things. Twice, in fact, three times with a man”. 

Jonah 3: 1-3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.

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AMEN!

 

Doers Not Hearers Only

God is messing me up.

His response to that statement would probably sound something like, “Sorry, not sorry.”

It started about a year ago, when my Bible study leader encouraged me to commit to memory, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

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My girls quizzed me on the verse each morning, several weeks in a row. It’s a shorter verse, which was helpful for my slow mind. Soon, I could spout it out without mistake. Before long, the girls had also learned the verse, without even trying…so not fair.

Taking the verse into context I see it in it’s fullness:

James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

That command from James, Jesus’ brother, began to make me uncomfortable. The words were slowly making their way from my mind to my heart.

Lord, I am just now beginning to learn your word. Can’t I just keep listening?

But, I wanted the promise of the blessing. James said that if I am not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word,  I will be blessed in what I do. 

The wrecking began.

Next came, Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ”

I began questioning, Lord, when I am kind to a stranger, someone living on the street, a helpless child…can they possibly see a small glimpse of  YOU in me? And, Lord, when I don’t notice a need in front of me or I flat out ignore a need, am I denying YOU?

Wrecked.

Then came our mission trip to Tijuana in MexicoI experienced how fulfilled I was by living on less. Packing a suitcase full of clothes, but not even using half of them. Eating rice and beans, and then more rice and beans, and then still more rice and beans. Not concerning myself at all about what I would eat, drink or wear, but only what we would be doing that day to serve the Lord.

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Coming home to a full closet, full pantry, full refrigerator.

Yep, wrecked.

Next came some books the Lord put before me, one by Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie, and another by Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution.

Through these authors, the Lord is confirming what I am already experiencing…Jesus wants me to live the life I am learning about in His word. It’s no longer enough to study the word, attend church, and fill my mind with the truth. These things are necessary. But, He’s calling me to more.

I don’t know what this will look like in my life other than love and kindness. It’s praying the words of Jesus, in John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.”

I am done learning without action.

I am done living without loving.

I am done hearing without doing.

If this sounds like sacrifice, you should know that it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like an adventure. It feels like purpose for the overflowing of the bounty of LOVE the Lord lavishes on me. It feels like a natural response to what the Lord is doing in my life. And, in all honesty, it doesn’t matter how it feels, it’s what the Lord has called me…has called you to do.

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He’s wrecking our selfish lives and calling us to live like His Son.

Let Him wreck you.

John 13:17, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 

What’s Your Story

If you have been following my blog, you have figured out I am a regular person, who hasn’t taken an English class in a LOOONNNG time! This thought tormented me for some time and caused me not to write. God put several people on my path to encourage me to write despite my need for an editor and my lack of proper grammar.

 

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I could have spent time brushing up on my writing skills, but God said NOW. I could have waited until my girls left for college, but God said NOW. I could have waited for a publishing company to approach me, but God said NOW.

The thing is, we all have a story. And, God has given us each unique ways and specific audiences for us to share our story. Our job is to be obedient and SHARE.

How can we expect the Good News to reach our neighbors if we haven’t shared how the Good News first reached us?

Why you should share your story:

1. “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:14

When we share about God’s grace and goodness through our struggles, others are encouraged to speak about the Lord’s work in their life. Believers receive encouragement and the world begins to see and hear true faith lived in the trenches of trials.

2.  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.

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Jesus instructs His followers to tell others about his death and resurrection. We are told to share about what Jesus did for us on the cross. What better way to proclaim His love and good news then to follow up the gospel with your personal story of God’s work in your life?

3. And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5

When we testify about the work of God in our life, we don’t need to worry about using fancy words or explanations. Simply share the beautiful story of how God came into your life and saved you. Ask the Spirit to give you the words and the opportunities to share.

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What is your story? When is the last time you shared it? I pray the Lord will give us more opportunities to share about His love and goodness.

Treasure Hunts

“Today, you are going to learn about Treasure Hunts,” our interpreter, Eduardo continues on, “Ask Holy Spirit to show you an image or a word…what He has for you on this outreach.” My mind ponders that statement, Ask Holy Spirit… That must be the Spanish way of phrasing that statement, leaving out the word THE before Holy Spirit. I get beyond the linguistic difference and consider what I was asked to do. Eduardo called this a Treasure Hunt and encouraged us to be alert, looking for what Holy Spirit revealed to us during our prayer.

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“Oh, Lord, as we go out on this garbage ministry mission, please show me an image or a word…something you want me to see when we are in the neighborhood in Tijuana. Clear my mind of my own agenda and help me to be open and responsive to your agenda, Lord.” 

Clapping his hands together, Eduardo, asks, “Now, what did Holy Spirit show you?”

Mikayla, with all her unfiltered faith, certain of what she saw, exclaims “KITTENS!”

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Others, “A red truck”, “Old van”, “Broken broom”.

Me, quietly “I saw a yellow flag, I think.” In my mind, I know it’s not a flag. It was a yellow, flag-like shape. Oh, well. Not sure what that means, Lord.

Loading up onto the old, broken down, barely running school bus, we head out to a poverty stricken area of Tijuana. I am looking out the window the entire time, not wanting to miss my yellow flag.

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After a 45 minute drive, the bus stops, our group of 8 grab our work gloves, water, and garbage bags and unload onto the dusty road. The neighborhood smells like garbage, but there’s a certain charm there. It must be the precious kids playing ball by one of the houses. Or, maybe the quiet of the afternoon.

Our task is to collect garbage from the households, as there is no garbage service for the people. After we have provided a much needed physical service, we offer to pray for any needs they may have. Be Bold

Some are unaware that their Spiritual need is far greater than their physical need of having their trash removed. Did they know that Jesus paid the price to give them Spiritual cleansing? Did they know that we are no different than them…in desperate need of cleansing from our Heavenly Father?

We start at the beginning of the street. Some of my group has the opportunity to pray with some of the beloved people we came to serve and we all the had the opportunity to pick through garbage and drop it into our garbage bags.

How quickly my mind wanders from my task. I had completely forgotten about our “Treasure Hunt”. I was hot, distracted and focused on the needs at hand.

“Mom, mom, mom, look at all the kittens!”

“Yes, yes, Mikayla. I see them, but that’s not what we are…” Kittens? Kittens? Oh, my goodness, look at all the kittens.

Oh, Lord, you are too much! Mikayla’s image was kittens. My distracted brain had forgotten! But, oh, Lord, you got my attention. There was an old truck, with about ten kittens surrounding it!

The 8 of us gush over the dirty, albeit, adorable kittens for a few minutes, when from next door, we hear a voice. The houses are all right next to each other, with little or no privacy. It’s easy for her to notice the 8 Americans right outside her door.

Before she speaks, we see her emotion. She begins in Spanish, shaking and with tears running down her cheeks. Eduardo explains to us that she is saying she knew we were coming! She had a vision that Americans came to her house and prayed for her. Several in my group begin praying for her, for healing, provision, peace…she’s trembling, feeling warmth flood her soul.

Eduardo explains to her our “Treasure Hunt”, again stating how Holy Spirit led us here through the image Mikayla saw.

Oh, I get it, Lord…the term Holy Spirit, without the word THE first, is intentional. When one is so close to the Spirit that they are friends, receiving constant counsel and direction, the word THE gets dropped. No distance there. Eduardo is guided by Holy Spirit. He trusts Holy Spirit. He loves Holy Spirit.

4 Truths I am Learning to Trust about Holy Spirit:

Holy Spirit, our counselor, John 14:16

Holy Spirit, our guide John 16:13

Holy Spirit, out fruit harvester Galatians 5:22-23

Holy Spirit, our teacher, John 14:26

Our beautiful time with the lady was coming to an end. I was in awe of the Lord’s work, planning, guidance, timing. Taking one last look at our surroundings before heading back out to the street, I notice a brightly colored towel hanging on the woman’s clothesline. It’s covered with yellow triangles.

That Old Familiar Fear

Stepping out of the van into the hot, dry air, I couldn’t breathe. Was it the heat? The dust? No, it was that old familiar feeling: fear. I looked around, just need to get my bearings. Cement buildings. Dry hills. Old busses. Unfamiliar faces. Brown trees. Dark colored bugs crawling around in the dust. I can’t stay here.img_7453

“Mom, mom, mom, I am hot.” Oh, there’s my person. She’s the reason I am here. I have to stay. Come on, get your bearings. Get it together.

We had arrived at Rancho De Sus Ninos, an orphanage in Tijuana for our week long mission trip, along with 60 other people. Mikayla and I were tagging along with another church, not our church, so Mikayla could experience something she had saved up for and had been talking about for years. She was ready. I had been an anxious mess leading up to this point and here I was, filled with fear.

This wasn’t my first mission trip. When I was a brand new Christian, I stepped out with bold adventure on a mission trip to Honduras. That was before. Before becoming dependent on modern medicine for health maintenance. Before two incredible little girls became dependent on me.

The questions always couple with fear. What if you forgot your medicine? What if your kidneys fail? What if the food or water make you sick? What if you end up needing medical help out here in the desert? What if Abby is sad the whole time you are gone? What if this isn’t a safe place for Mikayla to be and she gets kidnapped? What if? What if? What if? My heart pounds and the fear is winning.

“Come on, mom. Everyone is picking their bunks. Mom, hurry!” There’s that voice again interrupting my useless thought pattern.

My heart stopped racing. My mind stopped rehearsing the what ifs. I remembered.

God, my provider.

God, my healer.

God, my comfort.

God, my power.

God, my voice.

God, my strength.

God, my Father.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Throughout my walk with God I have experienced trials bringing an excruciating amount of fear with them. Sleepless weeks, irritable days, panic filled hours, minutes that stretched on like hours. I have found that if I can talk about, journal about, take note of how God led me to my current place and how His goodness has never, ever, not once, let me down, then I can walk through those fear-filled times. I remember thinking that once I truly arrived as a Christian, once I really matured, once I learned more of God’s word, I wouldn’t deal with fear anymore. What I am finding is that fear is dictating less of my life and the Spirit’s voice is becoming louder and faster, more dominant. And this is good. So very good.