I am Least

Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Today I met a man I will call Joe. He was worn and leathered, a hard life written over his skin and in his eyes, like a well-read book. His nicotine stained moustache framed the mouth that spoke pleas of desperation. He was holding a sign, I did not read it, I just looked into his eyes and shook his hand as I introduced myself. He proceeded to tell me that he was having a bad day, a bad life really and mine was good because I did not have him in it.

 

 

At that moment, the store manager interrupted, possibly thinking she was ‘saving’ me from Joe and offered him coffee if he would put his sign away and come into the store. I pulled out what I thought God would have me give him and walked around the store praying He would give me the opportunity again. Funny thing, I never shop where I went today and I was shopping for friends whose family was down with the flu. God had an appointment for me. The opportunities He presents are endless, if we would only look.

Joe was back at the door when I was leaving. I stepped over extending my meager offering and talked with him a bit more. I blessed him and left and as the door was closing I thought I heard him say wanna give me a ride home. I unloaded my groceries in the -30 with wind temperatures and did the bargaining thing with Jesus, you know, like if he really said that Lord and you want me to drive him home, let him walk out of the store when I drive in front of it. Guess what? haha I rolled down my window, “Joe, do you want a ride?” His eyes lit up and he slowly limped around and slid in.

Turns out, his little shelter apartment was on the way to my friends’ home. Funny how even this unexpected appointment was ordered. Joe shared his life, his look was a true reflection of all he’s lived. 40 years ago an accident paralyzed half of his body and he has been unable to work. We talked about Jesus. He knew God saved his life and he has been searching for his purpose ever since. I told him I think it was to make people smile as he hadn’t stopped telling me how kind and beautiful I was and that my husband was very lucky.

As we pulled up to his building, he said he was going to fight the eviction notice they have given him, but he wasn’t fearful. He didn’t know where he would end up next. I asked if I could pray for him before he got out, oh yes a beautiful angel to pray for me he said. I asked God for the impossible which isn’t impossible for Him. For Joe’s healing and provision, for God to be his strength. As he got out of the truck, he said it was God’s will that he met me today and if I ever change my marital status to come looking for him. That made me laugh out loud and I assured him that it won’t but I pray he is blessed and it was a pleasure to meet him.

I share this story with you today not because I think Joe is the least of these but because I know that I am too. I know that I needed Jesus and He saved me and set me free from sin and death. So when I give of my heart and time to someone that may have less than me, I know they are not lesser than in the Kingdom of God. Compassionate actions are the central message of the gospel and though the least of these may not encompass only the poor and needy, God gives us compassion for those that are.

I don’t know if God intends our paths to cross again on earth but I do know I will see him again someday. In 1986 he said, I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and I went back and thanked the nurse that saved my life. Our encounter was just as much for my heart today as perhaps it was for his. It reminded me that God answers us when we ask Him for opportunities to love others with His love. It shows me that a smile and being noticed can bring light to someone’s eyes. I saw how life is not all about me and God wants to interrupt us so we can extend His hope. I saw Jesus in a broken, frail man who seemingly had nothing but really had all his heart required. And I can pray. Thanks Joe. Thanks Jesus.

hope-1804595_640How can you extend the hope of God to someone today? Pray that God will open your eyes for opportunities and to have a heart willing to be interrupted. You might be surprised.

Process Mountain

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:1-3

What if mountains are just part of the process? This question occurred to me today during a long overdue conversation with my great friend. Helena made the comment that often we are not ready for things to change immediately. We think we are, we expect them to, especially when they are uncomfortable or painful. Often another ‘trip around the mountain’ is needed to prepare us so we are ready for the next thing God has for us. We see that mountain excursion with a negative connotation so often, but God sees with different eyes. As we read in the above verses, He is with them on the trip, Moses was reminding the Israelites to remember how the Lord their God led them all the way in the desert those forty years. So even though He allowed it, He still led them. He did not abandon them, in fact He provided all that they needed to survive.

Today marks the 8th anniversary of my Mom’s death. It was the first time on this date that it was not the first thing I thought of when I awoke. This forgetting was bittersweet to me as I know it is partially due to healing and partially due to not remembering and this includes some of the parts about her. It is so important to talk about our loved ones and keep those memories alive. It is why we celebrate this anniversary with traditions of eating her favorite KFC and reminiscing. I say this because the times after her death were a mountain we circled from circumstances and did I expect for things to change immediately, absolutely. I longed for the pain to be taken away and prayed and railed and even yelled at God in the hurt. If not for me Lord, then please for my family members. But we all had our own journey to take around that mountain and as I look back now at all the ways God led and strengthened and provided what we needed, it was a process mountain, not a deliverance one. Our journeys include hurt and pain in this sin filled world but we are not abandoned.

Just like it is important to remember our loved ones, we need to remember the Lord our God and the things that He has done. “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Deuteronomy 8:11-14 Don’t forget where we came from and the process that He took us through in order to get to our healing.

We are part of a grand story that has a bigger picture than the immediate circumstances we face. God knows we are quick to forget His goodness and sovereignty when we face difficulties and yet He is still merciful to us. I have strength in places I never could have made up because of that particular trip around the mountain in the desert. I can speak to places in people that are difficult because of this part of my story. I have more compassion for those that face mental illness and suicide and addiction. I judge less and love more, I fix less and listen more, I weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I love what Darlene Zschech spoke about at the Joyce Meyer conference I attended recently, she said that even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, remember it is THROUGH the valley and that there is a river of life there and because there is a shadow, we know the Light has to be there to make one.

So don’t forget the One who is with you and who has or will bring you out of the shadows and shine His healing light on you. The process mountain contains different peaks and valleys for each of us but He will restore your soul. “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” Deuteronomy 8:4  He will care for you and carry your heart in ways you could not even imagine. Decide to trust Him as you walk Through the valley, He is a good, good Father.

 

 

 

Scars, Souls & the Shallows

“For much of our lives, we live in the shallows. Then something happens – a crisis, a birth, a death – and we get this glimpse of tremendous depth. My soul becomes shallow when my interests go no further than myself…A deep soul has the capacity to understand and empathize deeply with other people – not just himself. A deep soul notices and questions and doesn’t just go through the motions. A deep soul lives in conscious awareness of eternity, not simply today…A soul especially has depth when it is connected to God.” John Ortberg Soul Keeping

This quote has gotten to the depths of me and has given me much clarity especially in the dark places of the soul where things are difficult for me or the others around me. I know without a doubt that the things that have molded me the most and made me most like Jesus were not the things knit in the shallow places, although my flesh often longs for my lessons to be learned there. Sometimes darkness and trouble is where hope is born and faith grows or changes, ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’ Hebrews 11:1. The change in your faith is up to you and as I wisely heard my friend, Shirley say recently, ‘now you have the scar, you need to choose how you are going to wear it.’

The glory of the scar can be swallowed up in bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hate, judgment or ungratefulness to name a few. Sometimes we can’t change how things have worked out in our lives but our response is always up to us. Often in the deep it is hard to see how God’s glory will show up in the scar but that does not mean it isn’t there. I believe our choices are what ultimately will reveal what is hidden in us and whether God will be glorified in our response or not. Shirley, a survivor full of Jesus and inner strength, told me that she wears her scars proudly and only God can help her say that and mean it. This is a response that brings God the glory and shows God has healed her more than just physically.

Recently I was dive-bombed into the depths as I witnessed the birth of our first grandchild. My daughter became my new hero and a bundle of heaven’s sweetness stole my heart. The process was brutal and traumatizing to my daughter, her boyfriend and I. Our little grandson at 10lbs 7oz, withstood this trauma like a warrior as his name signifies. Shortly after he was born I found myself thinking about and noticing other families,wondering how many children were born through much difficulty. As I shared my daughters’ story  I realized that it was a common occurrence for many mothers to have traumatic birthing experiences.  I found myself praying for God to remove trauma more and more. This experience gave me more of a capacity to empathize deeply with these women.

Our main purpose is to love as Christ first loved us and often the way we do that is through our empathy and being able to comfort others with His love. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5(NIV)3 ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.’ The places of the deep are never wasted if we surrender them to Him. In the process our soul grows and our shallows lessen increasing our capacity to love like Jesus and making our scars count for eternity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margin for Compassion

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe

I just watched a video that I will post below that is driving the idea behind this blog. It was a social experiment that was deliberately planned and I witnessed an unplanned one that involved my daughter last week. The start of it was a jolting, weeping call that Tessa had just been in an accident. She was driving to school and had even left early that morning  and then before I knew it, I was racing to the scene of an accident.  A young driver had lost control of her vehicle on the freeway and instead of hitting the overpass she swung right in front of Tessa’s car, leaving Tessa no choice but to crash into the passenger side of the girl’s car. Praying frantically for them and for Tessa’s unborn baby, I arrived to find them still in the middle of the freeway. Tessa had never been in an accident before and unfortunately the other girl had experience in this and so I quickly told them to see if the cars would start and pull them over to the side of the road. As things started to sort out and information was exchanged I listened to how it had happened, I witnessed several people either honk or yell, shaking their fists as they went screaming by in their vehicles. Now initially I was giving them the benefit of the doubt since the damage from the accident was not visible, but as this happened more than once, I was shocked and heartbroken. I thought do they seriously think that 3 women with 3 vehicles would just stop on a busy freeway and have a hen party? One woman had slowed previous to me arriving and yelled, did you call the police? but not one person stopped to see if they were ok. Ok granted, they were able to get out of their vehicles and walk and I know I have a vested interest in this, but still do you hear me? My husband suggested later as we relayed this story that people just don’t have margin in their lives. There is no room to slow down or stop rushing here and there because we are late,  we are late for a very important date.  I think he has a good point and it is frightening isn’t it?

Perhaps people were quick to judge what they saw because it seemed inconvenient to them, this lack of margin also can create selfishness. Margin is defined as an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary, as in margin for error or in this case, time and/or compassion. I don’t stand in judgment of these people, it was merely an observation of behaviour. I don’t know their stories and they really could have had their own emergencies but the ones that made me ponder the most were the classmates Tessa had who had witnessed her dilemma and continued to drive to school letting the teacher know she would likely be late. Now have I been guilty of this same type of behaviour, Absolutely and I am not proud to admit it but this situation and the video caused me to pause a minute. Why are we rushing to and fro, possibly missing opportunities to extend God’s love to others? My friend and I have kind of adopted and are trying to live by the words that life is not an emergency. Things do not need to happen or be resolved immediately. God’s best is often shunted for a quick fix or impatience. Jesus did not rush about willy nilly trying to accomplish God’s will or put band aids on situations that had deeper roots. When the crowds pressed in, Jesus often retreated to pray and get direction from the Father. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 

I think it is best said by the following quote. Please take a few minutes and watch the video and dig deep into your heart, then take time to listen, perhaps repent and ask God what does He want  to say in your next hours, days, life…He loves you So much and is waiting…

We would be better Christians if we spent more time alone, and we would actually accomplish more if we attempted less and spent more time in isolation and quiet waiting upon God. The world has become too much a part of us, and we are afflicted with the idea that we are not accomplishing anything unless we are always busily running back and forth. We no longer believe in the importance of a calm retreat where we sit silently in the shade. As the people of God, we have become entirely too practical. We believe in having “all our irons in the fire” and that all the time we spend away from the anvil or fire is wasted time. Yet our time is never more profitably spent than when we set aside time for quiet meditation, talking with God, and looking up to heaven. We can never have too many of these open spaces in life-hours set aside when our soul is completely open and accessible to any heavenly thought or influence that God may be pleased to send our way. (Mrs. Charles Cowman)

PS. The girls and the baby are fine, waiting on the car.

Community is Crucial

Defining moments. Seven years ago today I received the call that my Mom had taken her life. Although grief doesn’t shackle me as it once did, sadness rose to the surface of my heart as I remembered. One simple but striking question from a dear friend allowed me release of that sadness, How is your heart today? I received God’s comfort through my tears and reflected on how my missing Mom is different now and how that time seems both like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I miss not being able to share all the moments, like events in my children’s lives and how I am at home writing now, those things that we talked about together. I miss the community of family, she was a big tie for us communicating and seeing each other more, even if it was in crisis.  I miss not being able to have a redo in some areas of our relationship now that I know the things I do now. I see also how some things have changed from deep pain to guilt to regret to man I wish we could…All a process of healing.

I have a picture in my home that says, Cherish every moment because it will never come again. Cherish – care for something deeply, treasure it. It is easy to say to others especially when you have experienced any loss or anything difficult in life and you wish you could retrieve some moments back in time.  My thoughts this past week have been who do I have to cherish those moments with and who do I have when the defining moments come that knock me down and take my breath away, wondering how I will breathe normally again.

As always when God is showing me something, it has to come at me in several forms to get through my head and into my heart. All I have been reading and watching has a theme about community. It is crucial to have a small group of people in your life who will fight for your heart. Jesus did it with the 12 disciples and even more intimately with Peter, James and John. We can have a community of believers at church but devotion stems out of small units just like in a family. John Eldredge says it this way in Waking the Dead, “It is knowing you are at war, that God has chosen you and evil is hunting you and a fellowship protects you.”

Do I want to acknowledge that there is evil in this world? Not necessarily but it is the truth. Bad things do happen to good people as they say. Can community be hard and messy? You bet it can, it will reveal the places in me that have yet to become holy. Conversely can community be a lifeline. Absolutely, it has saved my life and heart many times in this lifetime. The devil doesn’t come just to play games with us. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Community is one thing God has given us so that we have intimate allies when life happens.

Our church has always encouraged the idea to get into a small group and do life together, in fact, the church began from a lifegroup. I become more and more sold out to this idea all the time. Wade and I have been hosting groups through the span of our time there and even though the initial step may have been partly from a feeling of obligation and wondering if that is what God was calling us to do, our obedience has led us into relationships where we breathe life, receive it and are able to blow it out wherever we are. Our pastor taught on the weekend that since the 80’s there is a 40% drop in people caring about others. He said the lack of compassion has a direct correlation to the increase in social media. (See the link to the full teaching below) Receiving likes and lack of personal interaction make it easier not to care. This is a frightening phenomenon to me, I don’t know if that speaks to anyone else but likes on my posts will not feed my heart, I may get the quick release of dopamine from the pleasure of it but that leaves just as quickly. We can’t act on compassion if we don’t interact with others.

How did I get from my Mom’s suicide to social media you ask? My mom isolated a lot during the last years of her life and I often wonder had she been in community with those who knew her heart and could breathe life into it, would we be missing her today? As Pastor Craig says compassion interrupts us and it costs us but it also changes lives. Often we don’t see our hearts as they really are for different reasons and we need people around to remind us that our hearts are good, to laugh with us, to celebrate with us,to pray for us, to cry with us and to just be silent with us. Take the first step, find a person, find a group, come to church. Let’s be messy together.

 

http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/struggles/

Waking the Dead – John Eldredge

Come to church with me, 1625 Montreal St. Regina http://www.bloomchurch.tv/