I am being used . . . and I’m Ok with that

1-Winter scene

I find it interesting and fascinating how God answers prayers. I am reminded that it is not always in the way we expect. What is more pleasing to me was that it was my 17-year-old son who pointed it out to me.

In the past during the Christmas season I have always purchased restaurant gift cards and when approached by someone asking for money, I would try to engage them in a conversation and ask what the money was being used for. Often times I was told it was for food. I think probably 90 percent of the time that was the response that I received. Since I don’t carry cash around (I stopped that practice many years ago) I would offer them a gift card to a restaurant. Well my sister and brother told me that many times the recipient would exchange the gift card to someone for drugs or for cash to buy drugs. So this year, I decided to provide what the recipient needed more than anything – to hear about Jesus.

So I set about putting packets together. The packets were simply sandwich bags that had small pamphlets that talk about Jesus. I had been collecting them throughout the last several months. I also put together some information on social service organizations where someone can get some help – free meals etc. And I prayed. I asked God to use me to lead someone to a closer walk with Him. I asked him to slow my pace as I scurry from in the cold blasts of winter winds so that someone looking for help might approach me. I wanted to be an instrument to guide people to Christ. But so far there has been nothing. I haven’t seen anyone seeking help. No one has approached me on my one-block walk from the parking garage to my office building. I know they are there, but I haven’t seen anyone. Was my timing off? Were my eyes open? Was I looking friendly and approachable?

In the meantime, I was asked to serve on the live-in team for the February Walk to Emmaus. I’ve talked about my Emmaus experience before. It was the best 72 hours I have ever spent. I was away from home, away from the television, cell phone and internet. I was able to sit quietly and listen to God speaking to my heart. I heard a whole lot during that weekend. And I came out with a renewed love for the Word and for service.

In the 18 months since my walk I have been busy and involved. I have been listening and asking for direction and in general involving God in my everyday decisions. I’ve been thanking him almost moment by moment and receiving the blessings and hopefully being a blessing to someone. Thinking about significance of the season, I wanted to do something this holiday season. I wanted to do something impactful. I reminded myself it wasn’t for my glory – but for His. Even though I haven’t been approached by anyone so far this holiday season, I am being given the opportunity to make a difference and to have an impact.

I was asked to be part of the February team. I wanted to say yes immediately. Actually I did say yes right away, but I asked the Lay Director to give me the weekend to pray about it to be sure. It didn’t seem like it could be a bad decision. But in my usual fashion I began to think of a million things that I needed to take care of to make it happen. I would have to make sure my teenager was someplace safe for 72 hours and the dog needed to be well taken care of also. As I pondered about these things I continued to wonder about my earlier mission. And then as I was telling my son about my little packets and he said “I’m proud of you mom for your Emmaus work. You are making such a difference in someone’s life.” Boom. There is was. I was going to be able to help make a difference is someone’s life. God was going to use me in an Emmaus Walk. I didn’t immediately see it and I am so grateful my son pointed it out to me because he realizes its impact.

So I’m being used . . . and I’m Ok with that.

Remember Gran

Mom

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the passing of my dear mother. In my head I think that it’s hard to believe she has been gone that long. But in my heart I feel like she’s been gone for a long time. I miss her terribly. We talked every day – often several times a day.

She loved deeply and fiercely her family. It was at her house that we always gathered for holidays. And it was at her house that everyone gravitated toward to hang out. She had a very natural way to make you feel very comfortable. She loved to entertain. We had many parties in her back yard and I recall at least one New Year’s Eve party. To her any occasion was a reason to have a party – whether it was a holiday, a graduation, a baby shower, a wedding or even just a long weekend. And she dressed the table for the celebration. It may not have been fine china but she set out plates, flatware, water glasses and cloth napkins.

She spoke her mind but she wasn’t mean spirited. She didn’t offer up her opinion unsolicited but if you asked, she would tell you exactly what she thought.

She taught me about service to your community. She was always quick to volunteer. She had a flair for decorating and fashion. She spent many hours at her church – the last several years she was in charge of the kitchen at church. For church anniversary, funerals, pastor anniversary and many other celebrations, she was in the kitchen cooking up dinner and directing traffic.

Although she had a sad start to her life. Her parents died when she was a very young and she was raised by an aunt and uncle, but she never let it get her down. There was no official adoption, but they raised her as their own. Her cousins became her brothers and they were her parents. We called them Mama and Bop – our names for our grandparents. She often saw her biological brothers and sister. It was a big extended family that kept the kids close. Living in a small town you can remain close.

She lived in an era where there were ladies who did what she called “days’ work.” They were housekeepers in the homes of the rich, white families in town. She and her mother would work the dinner parties too. She didn’t finish high school but she did manage to get a GED. She was a hard worker and probably the smartest person even without a college degree. I recall cleaning house with her on the weekends and I had to beg her to sit down and take a break. She was old school and cooked starch to press her curtains into crisp, stiff attention. She baked from scratch and collected cookbooks. She was the quintessential church hat lady. She owned so many hats – big hats, little hats, home-style hats. And almost until her passing she was wearing high heel shoes. She was a classy, sassy grandmother. The grandkids called her Gran.

She was a teenage smoker who developed a two-pack a day smoking habit. By the time she stopped smoking she had developed emphysema and congestive heart trouble. But she didn’t let it slow her down. We had talked early that week about Thanksgiving and planning the big feast. It was going to be a big family affair with my sister coming into town and my brothers joining us too. But because she got winded easily, we decided to host it at my house. She just didn’t think she could manage getting her house ready for the day.

As the years have passed, I often think about how much she would have loved seeing her grandchildren come into their own and enjoying success and to meet more of her great grandchildren.

Life marches on. More babies join the family and we lose more family members. And it’s near Thanksgiving eight years later. I don’t have any plans for the day. I’ll probably cook dinner for me and my son and we will honor my mother. We will remember Gran.

Who Am I To Say?

I often open a blank page in my blog and think, ‘Who am I to say anything?’ Who would listen to me? There are occasions when I hear the Lord speaking clearly to me about a topic and I feel compelled to write about it. But there are many other times when I think I should just shut it down and close it up.

And I am not writing this looking for praise or begging for compliments. But I feel humbled each time I sit in front of my laptop.

I have slowed my posts lately because I’ve been busy and because I found myself writing just to be writing. I had set a goal to post twice a week. But I found I didn’t always have something to say. Trust me, not everything I write finds its way to the blogosphere. I do not post everything. But it started me to think about why I am writing.

My son first encouraged me to start writing my blog. It’s funny because I had encouraged a few other people to write a blog. I encouraged my sister to write a blog a few years ago. She often comments on lots of posts from political issues to social issues. And then I encouraged my son last year to start his blog on fashion. But it was my son who told me I should start my own blog about my faith. Was he weary of hearing what I thought were words of wisdom for him? Perhaps but too bad, he will still get that.

But who am I to say anything about the Lord? I am not a preacher or teacher. I am not a Bible scholar. I wouldn’t even call myself well-versed in the Bible. I am a student. I am learning. I am a sinner saved by grace. I have been redeemed and He has set me free. He has blessed me beyond my wildest imagination. He has provided for me and He has delivered me. He has done what I would call miracles. He has sustained me and He has helped me overcome. He loves me and I love Him.

He is awesome and I am awestruck. He is Lord of all. He came to save. He came as a sacrifice for my sins. He walked this earth and was tempted just as I am tempted. He died for my sins. He rose again and sits at the right hand of God. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

So what do I have to say? God loved the world so much that He gave his only son and anyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life.

Be An Encouragement and You Will Be Encouraged

Illuminated Bible

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. As we sat over coffee we poured our hearts out to each other – our worries, our cares and our concerns for family, marriages and careers. We sat there in the coffeehouse just shaking our heads. We were nearly in tears several times.

When I left the coffeehouse, I went home with a very heavy heart. It was well into the wee morning hours when I finally settled down to sleep. It is so easy to look at what is wrong in our lives and in the world. Children following the crowds, unfulfilled careers, the pressure in marriages, the reality of the aging body and more can be burdens we all struggle with. And the world is polluted with crime, war, disease, greed and so many despicable things.

But it was good to see my friend. It was good to sit across from her and see another sister in Christ who would be so open with me and someone I could be open with too.

When we ended our time together, I told her that I now know how to pray for her and she knows how to pray for me. We drew strength from each other and strength from our faith.

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another –and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Don’t Give God a To-Do List, Give God Your Heart

Chrysanthemum

Journaling is all the rage these days. And keeping a prayer journal helps Christians keep track of pray requests. But we need to be very careful that prayer journals don’t become our ‘to-do’ for God.

I started a prayer journal about this time last year. Each morning I would have my prayer and devotional time and then commence writing in my prayer journal. It became a task for me. I wanted to have the correct sentence structure. I worried about spelling and I worried about punctuation.

Part of me thought that it could be a lasting legacy for my son and his children beyond him. My topics in my prayer journal were legitimate prayers and concerns that I brought to the Lord. But my focus in the journal was misplaced.

When I decided to just sit quietly, speak with God from my heart and listen with my heart, I heard so much more in my prayer life and saw so much more happening on my prayer list. And then there was the discussion with my son about answered prayers and even unanswered prayers. That is the lasting legacy, my spoken word about the goodness of God.

Luke 11:9-10 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Trust In The Lord

I think we can all relate to living with anxious moments from time to time. Do you ever have those moments when you feel like something is wrong? Do you ever feel something has you on edge? You can’t put your finger on it exactly, but you are anxious about something. For some anxiety is severe and can be paralyzing. But the average person can manage their anxiety by trusting in the Lord.

Palm-Tree

I can first recall that anxious feeling during college. The pressure to perform well in college was nothing I had ever experience before. The first few months out of college I would get anxious moments thinking that I needed to be doing something. I had been so used to studying. But once college was over, the studying could stop. I had to learn how to relax.

Then along came life and career and the anxious moments from college were replaced with staying on top of work assignments. Adult issues such as bills, family and children can bring out anxious moments too.

But I have learned to trust in Jesus. I literally say many times a day, “I trust you Lord.” The anxious moments disappear.

When I feel an anxious moment coming on I pray, “Lord, something has me feel anxious and upset. I don’t know what it is, but Lord I trust you to help me through it. I trust you Lord to take away this feeling. I trust you Lord to see me through whatever it is.”

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Stop Complaining

My workstation sits out in the open a bit. I am surrounded by people all day. I can hear conversations, I can hear coughing and sneezing and I can hear people shuffling their feet as they walk by.

All three of those are things make working in an open environment a challenge for me. I try to stay focused and mentally block it out. But I miss the days of having my own private office.

This week was the triune of the things that annoy me. I heard all three on one particular day. I cringed when I heard the cough and sneeze determining not to catch a cold. And I let out heavy sighs at loud conversations that interrupt my focus. I can remember my father always telling me to pick up my feet when I walk. And he would tell me to walk with a purpose – head up, shoulders back. He would say ‘Walk like you’re going somewhere.’

All of it got me to thinking. And that made me think about my walk – my Christian walk. I was reading one of my favorite books of devotions and that particular day was so appropriate. I have learned that those messages are always very appropriate and timely.

The devotional message was commending me for staying close to Jesus but it also reminded me that I have a tendency to complain. OUCH! Nail on the head!

My complaining spirit about my workstation is not flattering or pleasing God in any way. The passage encouraged me to take my cares to the Lord because it will temper my thoughts and help me see things from His perspective.

Philippians 2:14-15 says “Do everything without complaining or arguing. So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like the stars in the universe.”

I am thankful to have a job when so many do not. I am thankful I live in a country where health care and medical supplies are easily accessible – there are so many places in the world without adequate health care. And I am thankful I have shoes on my feet – whether they are shuffling or not – because so many do not.

Scripture stops me in my tracks and reminds me to be thankful. That should be my focus.

Be Joyful