Monday, May 24, 2010

Reaching out

Last Friday I was on my way to an appointment when I saw a man at an intersection asking for help.  Sadly, this is not an uncommon sight.

<< Rewind<<  A while ago I became discontent.  Driving by these people every week I wondered what I could do.  As a Christian, am I not supposed to be helping the less fortunate?  Many thoughts of safety and questions of actions went through my mind.  I continued to drive by these people and be reminded of my discontent.  I was frustrated with the call/desire to help but no idea how.  I kept praying.

Finally, I had an idea - gift cards - a practical way to help, while not risking money being spent on drugs or alcohol.  So I decided to make a care package of sorts.  I bought some gift cards to healthy-ish food places and put it in a card with an encouraging note.  I, of course, do not want to meet only someone's physical need but want to make sure I minister to their spiritual need as well.  So in the card I included a small book that explains the Gospel.  I made a few of these care packs and put them in my glove compartment so they would always be handy.  My hope was that this care package communicates that someone cares about them and that they have worth, ministering to their felt-need and their real need.

>>Flash forward>>  I decide to pull over and give one of these care packages to this man.  I parked and crossed the street.  I shook his hand, introduced myself, and asked him about his situation.  His name is Ronnie.  He has some kind of blood disease and lost half of one of his legs.  He is unemployed, thus the reason he was out there.  I gave him the card and explained I had to go because I was on my way to an appointment.  I told him I would pray for him.  He was very grateful.

I wanted to ask you to say a quick prayer for him too.

I also challenge you to think about how you can reach out to others in need.  Will you make care packs like mine?  Will you get creative and think of other ways to reach out to others in need?  If you do come up with other ideas I would like to hear them, so tell me about them.  Of course asking God to provide for others is good.  But we have to beware that we are not praying for God to provide for those in need only through other people.  If we have the ability would not our faith and love move us to take action ourselves and be the answer to our own (and others') prayers?  James 2:15–16 (ESV) 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?"  I would be so bold as to say that if we have the ability to reach out to others in need and are praying for God to provide for them, yet are not taking any action personally, then we are lying to ourselves and to God in that we really do not want God to provide for them.  So ask God how you can help others in need...and do it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

I shall come forth as gold

Thunder rolls, the dogs stand up looking a little worried.  Emergency vehicle sirens ring out as the smell of fresh summer rain fills my nose.  There is a lot on my mind as I eat my banana with peanut butter and honey.  These cloudy, thundery, rainy moments seem to foster pausing life for reflection.

I woke up this morning on the "wrong side of the bed".  I think I had been dreaming about a Friday workout with Trinity Fitness.  Friday is the day when we share prayer requests at the gym.  I awoke and my first thought was about a concern of mine.  This concern has been on my heart for a long while, but recently I have thought about sharing it with my workout buddies.  I guess that is how my dream was going.

It was a difficult start to the day.  It makes for one of those days when you have to force yourself to do almost everything because you just don't care.  I searched some scripture for a little pick me up.  I got a little as I read that Jesus will be coming back one day.  I got dressed and rode off to the gym wishing it were Friday so I could share what was on my heart.  I knew that working out would be tough mentally; I usually do not have much mental endurance with this kind of weight on my mind and heart.

I walk in to find lots of equipment, a pretty big group, and a hard looking workout on the board.  Another discouraging thought, "wow, this looks hard."  It must have shown on my face because one of the women said I looked worried.

Mentally and physically I would say that I have strength.  I am strong enough to often lift the prescribed weight and stand up to whatever difficulty/discouragement comes my way.  But mentally and physically, I do not have much endurance.  I can do push ups on my toes, but can barely make it to 20 before dropping to my knees for the remaining reps.  Mentally, I think I give up too soon or think less of myself than of what I am capable.  Physically, I could probably do more, but because I cannot take the strain mentally, I take a break or go with lighter weight.  It does not help when I have the added burden of life concerns on my mind; then the weight is just too much to bear.

I know it is at these points I need Jesus - to rely on his strength and hope in him.  I am not sure that I have quite figured out how to completely let go of trying on my own to letting him be my source of strength.

As I was running the last stretch of the last part of the workout, Job 23:10 came to mind.  "When he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold."  It made me think of the heat of the fire that gold must go through to be purified.  I was hot.  Summer has come quickly here in Melbourne and with the heat and humidity I was extremely sweaty and needed water.  I wanted to quit and just walk.  But I thought about my gold, how I want to come out purified as gold after all the heat and testing.  It gave me the extra umph to keep going and to finish well.

Likewise, I know these tough times in life turn up the heat to purify me even more and I will come forth purified, as gold, when the fire is over.  And that is where my hope is, that there is a higher purpose for this pain and it starts and ends with God, and is all for his glory.  :)  Such a wonderful thing to cling to my Savior!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Most influential person?

Who (besides Jesus) has been the most influential person in your life? Why? Or how did s/he influence you?

It is hard for me to pick just one person.  People make such great impacts in our lives and three come to mind quickly (mostly for their negative influence) and one comes to mind in the shadows, for that seems to be where she has always been, that quiet consistency of love and provision.  My mom has always been present and prominent in most things in my life, good and bad.  When I think about the other people that come into mind, it amazes me how their role in my life could play such a large part in influencing me.  One person's absence had a great influence in my life, or really, lack thereof, and I can see how I might have been different had that person been more present.  The other person's one action had an immediate and considerable effect in my life and had underlying effects that I have slowly learned of over the many years since that event.

But I will settle on my mom as the most influential person in my life (besides Jesus, of course).  Her influence has been most consistent, most present and most direct.  The most important influence she has had on me was introducing me to Jesus at a very young age and putting me in the environments for me to build a foundational knowledge of God and the Bible.  I will present the rest of her influences chronologically. 
Elementary School
She encouraged me and gave me the freedom to be who I wanted to be (and to look like and to dress like how I wanted).  She never talked negatively about my tomboy-ish nature, so for the most part, I felt secure in who I was.  She encouraged and enabled most of my passions, so I was able to begin following my dreams.  She taught me how to make the best pancakes.  She did the best job anybody probably could have done at getting me through the big tragedy of my elementary school years.  The way she handled that situation instilled in me a healthy concern for emotional health, which has helped me to handle well the difficulties that follow.
Middle School
She started to become unavailable emotionally and I started to notice that I was missing something, though it was an unconscious awareness.  It led me to seek out a relationship that had a great impact on how I viewed vulnerability and emotions (a person which I mentioned earlier).  Because of her instability I experienced things and did things that matured me beyond my years.
High School
She taught me how to drive a stick-shift.  I continued to mature more than necessary for a teenager and I quickly learned how to be an adult, somewhat.  Her instability increased and I took on more responsibility than I should have.  It led to a poor understanding of boundaries and responsibilities in relationships, with which I still struggle today.  She afforded me the opportunity to love deeply, but also to hurt greatly.  The pain I experienced, partly from my relationship with her, caused me to harden my heart, which I am also still working on today.

I am who I am today greatly because of lessons she taught me directly and because of lessons I inadvertently learned because of her own problems and how they affected me.  This is just a general snapshot of her influence in my life.  I still learn many things from her and because of her, and I imagine she will always be the most influential person in my life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Biggest accomplishment?

Hmmm, I have tried to give myself time to think about this hard question. I guess it is hard for me to answer because I feel like God deserves all the credit for anything good in my life - I could not have done it without him.

That being said first, now I am not really sure, I don't really keep track. But here are some notable accomplishments.
  • In 9th grade I managed to take honors classes, play on the school basketball team, take care of my mom after school and practice, and still somehow manage to get all A's. 
  • I made it through college without any student loans. :D
  • I received the "Citizen of the Year" award one year in elementary school.
But as I mentioned before, I have to give God all the credit for enabling me to do those things.