Monday, January 30, 2017

The Girl...

    A few weeks ago,  I stood in the hallway waiting for the food pantry guests to come through for prayer. It was a somewhat busy night. There were kids running around and mothers trying to catch them. In the middle of all of the noise and the chaos, a little girl stopped running down the hallway long enough to look at the cross hanging on the wall...and then she knelt. Despite all that was going on around her, and a big brother who was trying to get her back to her seat in the sanctuary...she stopped and knelt in front of the cross. I watched as she folded her hands and closed her eyes. Even thought she wasn't there long, it felt to me like the room stood still. When she had finished, she got up and followed her brother into the sanctuary. In my mind's eye, I still see her there kneeling and praying in the midst of the chaos surrounding her.

   Last week was a chaotic week for me and for our country.  Several executive orders flew off of the desk of the President and millions of lives were changed in an instant. There's a lot of tension in the aftermath. Perhaps that's why I can't stop thinking about that little girl.  I don't think I have ever felt the need to kneel pray for our leaders more, than I did this past week. There is no better posture in the midst of tension, than to humbly kneel before the cross. People have been choosing positions for a while now...busy taking sides as if everything can be sorted into black or white. I can't get the thought out of my head, that there is only one position in life for the Christian. The only place we should be positioning ourselves is at the foot of the cross, in allegiance to Christ. There is only one view point that matters...Christ's. Because of this, I need to hit my knees and be that little girl in the midst of this world of chaos and tension. Let the world stand still, the social media be silent, listen to His voice, and simply ask my Savior, "What do You say?"

     "What do You say?"  What if we asked God this question more, instead of being so quick to have our own say in things? How would this change our viewpoint of the current events? Would we find that our thoughts, feelings, and opinions line up with what truly matters to Him... and with what His Word says? How would asking Him this question change the way we respond to the differing opinions of others? Would God find that our natural way of responding points to His Spirit living within us? Or do our responses to others bear no resemblance to the merciful One who loved us at our ugliest, forgave us, and set us free? These are all questions that we will find answers to when we kneel before the cross.

   We live in times that are going to require us to make choices, that we thought only people in other countries have to make. We are continually being put in the position of choosing who we are going to pledge our allegiance to. Is the church going to fall prey to the devil's schemes involving chaos and fear, and close our hearts and homes to those who are different from us? Is the church going to forget who she belongs to and pick a political party, leader, or an ideology to be her Savior? Or will she pledge allegiance to the One who has loved her enough to die for her and raise her back to life? Does she love Christ enough to drop to her knees in the middle of the chaos, silence her own opinions, and sit quietly with child like faith...waiting for the answer to the question "What do You say?"

    In these times especially, I need to be like that little girl. I need to kneel before I speak. I need to pause in the chaos of life. I need to fall on my knees more quickly and pray to the only One who can meet me right there, right in the middle of it all. I need to refuse to get up or to be interrupted until I have left it there at the cross...until I have heard the answer to the question "What do You say?". Only then can I run off free and joyful- just like the girl. Anyone else?


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hope and Cookies...

  "Thank you for the cookies, buddy. They were good! That was real nice. It gave me a little bit of hope for this world."  I have been thinking about these words from a friend since New Years Eve. I didn't know that a small bag of Christmas cookies could give someone else "a little bit of hope for this world."  Maybe that's because I tend to look for hope to show up in bigger ways.  I would have been more likely to expect my friend to feel hopeful, if just one of his many difficult circumstances had changed...than to feel hopeful because of a bag of cookies!

     During these last few days, I've begun to wonder if he is really on to something. Perhaps that's because I have been spending time with some people whose circumstances appear to be so incredibly hopeless... whose struggles are piled so high, that they appear insurmountable! I am not normally a "woe as me" type of person, but lately I find myself hung up on the overall sad/scary family health problems that seem to loom large before my loved much so that I can easily miss the glimmers of hope in between...the "cookies".

      As I've considered this, I have become more aware of the "cookies" in life. They are the small things that people say give them hope, or the way something seemingly insignificant makes a person's consistently downcast face suddenly light up. Friday, I had a conversation with a woman who has had one debilitating health issue after another, and is estranged from some of her family members. She told me, "I had the best Christmas ever this year, because my grand kids came to see me and even brought me gifts!"  Shortly after, I prayed with a man who simply asked for prayer that his wife and kids stay healthy and happy this year.  When I finished he said, "I needed that! I feel so much lighter!"  One of my girls figured out the math work that she had been struggling with, and received an excellent grade. This gave her hope that there would be more successes like this in the future. We shared a simple dinner with an elderly friend and he was so happy, that you would have thought we had taken him to a five star restaurant!  Eating a meal with others gave him hope by reminding him that he is not alone. Sometimes we think we are just listening to a person talk, having a conversation like anyone else would. Later, we discover that somehow God used the listening to lift a burden, and it gave them hope to know that someone else cares. I spent time Saturday, with a woman who couldn't stop expressing how thankful she was that God had blessed her with a rare week of minimal physical pain. Despite all of the ways He hasn't healed her yet, all of the new suffering that has occurred in recent months, and the uncertainty in her future...that tiny bit of a reprieve gave her hope!  Hope came to me in a text message from my brother. It was a picture of my niece and I that he took at Christmas...that I was unaware of. Just knowing that he thought of me and took the time to share it, gave me hope.

     Like many, I tend to think of  hope in terms of big things... big prayers answered, or an end to a big trial. While it's true that when the big things are taken care of we feel hopeful, if we make that our focus we will miss the many ways God offers us hope in between. These little glimmers of hope are the lifelines that He throws us. He sends them just in time to encourage us to hang on and to remember that He hasn't forgotten us. It's because He pays attention to detail that we often receive these glimmers of hope in what appear to be the most insignificant ways. The listening ear of a friend, a simple meal, a text, a slight reprieve from chronic pain, a prayer, a visit from love ones...these are just some of the ways He loves us. Each glimmer of hope that I mentioned was specifically tailored to the person who would receive it, by the God who loves them so. Could you imagine if He left us hanging there, in the middle of waiting for the answers or the end to the big trials...with no glimmer of hope in between?

  I made the cookies because I wasn't sure if my friend had anyone in his life to spend Christmas with. I honestly didn't know at the time whether he even liked cookies. There was nothing spectacular about those cookies. The only reason they gave my friend hope is because God was sending His love in a bag of cookies. In that moment my friend knew he wasn't forgotten or alone. I am humbled by the thought that God does this for me...for each one of us in so many ways and many times we don't even realize it. I am challenged by the thought that I want to do more of this for others!

     As long as we have Christ we have hope. As long as we have hope we have something to share, and Someone to introduce those who are feeling hopeless to.