On Window Seats, Turbulence and Faith…

I had a so-called “window seat” on my flight last week.
Except I had no window.
Because the airlines have squished more and more seats onto the plane, I had a nice piece of plastic to look at for the flight.
And for the most part, I did not care.
I dozed off and on, earphones in, music soothing my soul.

It was a bumpy flight – but those don’t bother me much.
I have logged thousands upon thousands of miles on planes.
So all was well – with or without “my” window.

Until we started out initial descent.
And then I suddenly “needed” to see.

The captain warned us that it was going to be a bumpier than normal descent.
Winds gusting – and I mean, really gusting – from the north.

And out of the blue, I had this overwhelming need to check things out.
How high are we?
How much time before wheels down?
When will he signal for the flight attendants to strap in for the landing?

By the way, it didn’t help that I have landed at this airport, in this flight pattern, many times before. You would think that would be beneficial. But sometimes knowledge – or memory – work against us.
You see, I know these things about landing at Reagan National when flying in from Alabama:
1. You come in from the south, flying straight up the Potomac. Great views – and the feeling that the wheels are going to touch the river before they touch the runway.
2. The descent has to be steep, simply because we are landing in the middle of a city, complete with tall buildings and lots and lots of traffic.
3. I have a vivid memory of the news reports and stories of Air Florida Flight 90 going down in the Potomac when I was a child. On a cold, windy, icy day long, long ago. Something that crosses my mind every time I have to fly into or out of Reagan in cold weather.

So suddenly, all these things made it imperative for me to SEE where we were.
And I couldn’t.
Because, not only did I not have a window, but the ones in front of me and behind me were closed.

I thought I was going to lose my mind.
And it made me laugh at myself.
Because I had no idea that this was something I do.
I avidly watch our landing, mentally checking off that things are going well.

So foolish to think I have so much control over the aircraft!
Or the weather conditions
The pilot’s skill
Or the mechanics of the plane.

Yet I apparently believed that I could make a difference in how this landing went down. Which is laughable because my brain knows these Truths:
1. God is in control of all things.
2. My days were numbered before one of them came to be – and if that number was fulfilled last Friday, so be it. Heaven is my destination and it is going to be glorious!
3. Seeing does not change what I can or cannot do about anything. I can pray either way – and that is the only thing I can do. Period.

But in that moment, Truth was not in control.
Instead, I was desperately trying to be.
And my rational mind was laughing at me.
While the Holy Spirit was trying to remind me of what I know to be True.
Even as my emotions were ramping up.

It. Was. Ridiculous.

As I battled the irrational, foolish part of me, the Holy Spirit said, “This is a metaphor for life. You have to “walk by faith, not by sight”. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Or, rather, fly by faith, not by sight.

Sometimes in this life, I have a window seat with an open window.
I can clearly see where I am and what is coming – or at least, what I think is coming.
I have great views.
The flight is smooth.
And I am relaxed.

But more often than not, I do not have a window seat on my life.
Or, if I do, there is fog.
Or darkness.
Or cloud cover obscuring my view.

Sometimes, the weather is clear.
Smooth sailing.
No turbulence.
And a gentle landing at my next stop.

Other times, the flight and the landing are both bumpy.
Buffeted by the winds of trials.
Temptations. Tests.

But regardless of my circumstances – and what I can or cannot see – the Truth remains the same.
1. I am not The Pilot of my life. I am not even the Co-Pilot. I am not God enough to be either.
2. I am not in control of the plane. Or the weather. The landings. Or the take-offs.
3. The only thing I can do from my seat is trust the Pilot. Constantly talking to Him in prayer. Whether I like my current conditions or not. Whether I can see or not. Doing anything else is wasted energy and wasted emotion.
4. I do not have to see for us to have a safe landing. I do not have to understand in order to trust Him. I have logged thousands upon thousands of hours of “flight time” with Him. And as the Psalmist wrote, I have “seen in (my) history the faithful love of the Lord”. (Psalm 107:43, NLT)
5. My memory of past pain – like remembering Air Florida Flight 90 – does not determine my future with a good, good Father. He may allow troubling circumstances to come – but I have His promise that He is working those things – “ALL things” – together for my best interest and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

So after the longest 30 minutes in my recent history, the wheels bumped down and we rocketed to a stop, safe and sound.
Even without my help.
And without my sight.
Imagine that!

Will I still ask for a window seat? Of course.
Will I open the shade as we land? I am sure I will.
But I hope that the next time I have to land without seeing, I can do a better job simply trusting.

That’s always the goal – to do it better the next time that test comes around.
Not to earn His love.
But because He has lavished His love on me already.
And I know I can trust the Pilot. He’s proven that time and time again.

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On Tornadoes, Trust and Who Is Truly In Control…

I am super sleepy this morning and it is my own fault.
It’s all about giving up control.

You see, I am currently on vacation in Alabama, staying with dear friends.
Dear friends who happen to live in Tornado Alley.

Severe storms were predicted for last night and by the time we went to bed, they had already wreaked havoc in Louisiana. But my friends are used to such things and have a plan, a system, a way of being safe. The town has a sophisticated tornado warning system and this happens frequently enough that my friends have safety down to a science. So they told me that they would come and get me if we needed to take shelter in their “tornado closet”.

But, foolishly, I decided to leave the volume on my phone turned up instead of turning it way down or muting it like I usually do.
And so I was startled awake every time a notification came in.
The junk e-mail.
The weather alert that said it was going to start raining soon.
The e-mail from a friend who is a night owl.
And yes, eventually, the tornado watch and warning that came.

Thankfully, I was able to go back to sleep each time.
But in the harsh light of a morning where I cannot keep my eyes open (and I am a morning person), the truth hit me.
I was not willing to give up control.
I could have easily muted my notifications.
But that meant I would have been completely trusting my friends to keep me safe.
And, more than that, completely trusting God as well.

I have absolutely no reason to distrust either of them, my dear friends or my Beloved God.
My friends have been in my life for almost 20 years.
We have walked many, many perilous paths together.
They are some of the most trustworthy and faithful people I know.
And they would never let anything happen to me if they could prevent it.

And I have even less reason to distrust God.
He has proven Himself faithful time and time and time again.
I know that “my life is in His hands”. (Psalm 66:9)
I know that my “days were numbered before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16)
I know that He knows when the sparrow falls – and I am worth far more than a sparrow. (Matthew 10)

Or, I should say, I know those things in my head.

But last night, I chose to not apply what I know to be true.
And today I am paying the price.
Which, in His mercy, is simply sleepiness.

But how often do I do this same thing in life?
I say I trust God – but then I take matters into my own hands.
He is not moving fast enough for me – I have to help Him out.
He is not doing what I want Him to do – I have to figure out how to change things.
He is not coming through for me like I think He should – I have to rely on my own resources.

How foolish!
How insane!

The God of the Universe knows my name.
The number of hairs on my head.
My thoughts before I think them.
The good works He has prepared in advance for me to do.
The plan He has for my life.
The number of days I will live.
Every word I speak before I speak it.

The God of the Universe gave His one and only Son to be my Savior so that we could be in relationship.
Proof positive that He is there for me, is looking out for me, is worthy of all my trust.

And yes, His ways are not like mine.
He is often mysterious.
And often does not do things the way I think He should.

But He is good.
Oh, so good.
And I know that He is worth trusting.
Worth believing.
Worth acknowledging in all my ways.
Worth resting upon.

Because that is the bottom line in all of this.
I can choose control.
Or, more accurately, the illusion that I am in control.
Or I can choose rest.
Letting go and trusting Him to be a far better God than I could ever be.

Last night I chose control.
And forfeited rest.
Foolish me.
Sleepy me.
And yet forgiven me.

Thank God, His mercies are new every morning!
OK, Lord, let’s try this again…

The Perfect Date

I had an amazing lunch date yesterday with the man of my dreams.
It was his idea.
We went to a local park; I packed a picnic lunch.
We sat on a pier at the lake and watched the show.
The beautiful crane that was hunting for her lunch.
A fish that jumped out of the water to grab his.
The clouds that studded the brilliant blue sky.
And the leaves that are changing colors so beautifully right now.

Granted, it was a little chilly at times.
But he held me close, even as the wind blew.
And we just sat, enjoying each other’s company.

I finally broke the silence with a question.
“How do you see me?” I asked.
I know – that is a vulnerable question to ask.
He could have said anything.
Because he is the perfect man.
And I know I have many, many flaws.

But do you know what he said to me?
He said, “You are beautiful. And you are mine.”

I had to smile, even as I battled my disbelief at his words.
“How can you say that I am beautiful? You, who know me intimately – how can you find me beautiful?”

He said, “You are beautiful because you are mine. I adore you just because you exist – for no other reason than that. I am not looking for perfection. You don’t have to earn the right to be with me. And I don’t love you for what you bring to the table. I just do because I am. I. Love. You.”

But then it got even better…
Because he asked, “Do you want to know how else I see you?”
“Yes, please”, I replied.

He said, “You are forgiven. The past is in the past and it does not matter at all. I hold nothing against you. You are free.”
“But – but you are the one I hurt the most by the choices I made! I know you say you forgive me – but surely you must hold some of it against me. There have to be consequences of my actions, things I have to pay for, make up for…”

And my voice trailed off as he put his hand gently over my mouth.

“You. Are. Forgiven. It is finished. It WAS finished a long time ago. And no, I don’t hold any of it against you because your debt has been fully paid. The old is gone, the new has come.”

And then he said, “And, darling, one more thing. Do you know what I want from you? Rest. Simply rest.
Your job is to rest. Rest in me. I will take care of you. Everything. Every part of every part of your complicated life. There is nothing I can’t do. And I promise, you mean more to me that you will ever know.
So you don’t have to be needed for me to want you. And you don’t have to control any part of your life for me to love you. You are never too much for me. You are never not enough for me, either. I am crazy about you. Always have been; always will be. All I want from you is your heart.
Spend time with me. Love me for me – because that is the way I love you. Get to know me better. Delight in being with me the way I delight in being with you. I will never fail you – I promise.”

Shortly after that the rain clouds blew in.

But as I packed away the remains of lunch, he said to me, “I love spending time with you. Let’s do this again very soon, OK?”

And I fell in love with him all over again.

After all, He is the One whom my soul loves.
And the One who is the Lover of My Soul.
The Beginning and End of me.
The Glue that holds me together.
The Light for my pathway and the Guide for my feet.
The Shepherd I need.
And the Source of all I am.
He is the One who created all things.
And He is the One who loved me enough to die in my place.
He is the Only One who will never fail me.
I am His.
And He is mine.

And so, I choose to spend as much time with Him as I can.
It is not every day that I have hours to have lunch with Him.
But I had the time yesterday.
And I am so glad He gave me the idea.

My goal is to make the time to be alone with Him, simply enjoying Him, as often as possible.
Because that was the Best. Date. Ever.

For I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.

I hope you know Him like that.
If you don’t, ask Him to show you why you don’t.
Trust me, He is not the One in the way of relationship.
I dare you to ask Him.
You will not regret it.

Whispers…

Pay attention, because he lies.
And he is so very good at it, too!
This arch enemy of the Living God knows you will recognize a full frontal attack so he rarely comes at you that way.
Instead, he wiggles in sideways
And he doesn’t (usually) yell.
He whispers.
He hisses, “You will never measure up.”
“You are always so stupid.”
“They don’t really like you, you know.”
Or something similar. Something designed just for you. To stop you in your tracks.

Usually the message he whispers was originally given to you at some point by another human.
Someone who should have loved you well but did not.
Or someone who did not love you at all but should have.
The enemy takes those words and plays them back on a loop, softly, repeatedly, intentionally.
Often, he whispers so frequently and so well that you don’t even realize it is there.
The message becomes the background music of your life, the almost-hidden, underlying soundtrack of your thoughts.
It is there – but you barely are aware of it.

But every time you get poked by life, the volume increases and it is the message you hear.
Every time a sensitive area is jostled, this whisper comes with the pain.
And the message becomes one you deeply believe, without even realizing it.
It defines how you deal with relationships.
And how you deal with yourself.
Until at last you shut down your heart – or at least that part – and become trapped in his web of lies.

Until one day, something changes.
One day, a different Voice speaks above the soundtrack.
The Voice of Truth.
Sometimes He shouts.
And sometimes He, too, whispers.
Sometimes He uses a friend who is willing to ask the hard questions.
And sometimes He uses a book.
Or a sermon.
A passage of Scripture.
A song.
Or all of those.

When the Voice of Truth speaks, the enemy has to flee.
Light suddenly shines in what has become a dark and dreadful corner of your heart.
And you recognize the lie for what it is.
You wonder how you never saw it before.
And you rejoice at the freedom that washes over your heart as the Holy Spirit proclaims Truth.

But beware! The enemy will try again.
Yep, with that very same lie.
Or perhaps a slightly different version.
After all, Jesus said that our enemy comes to “steal, kill and destroy.”
And Peter calls him “a roaring lion, seeking who he will devour.”

So what do you do when he comes crawling back around to whisper some more?
You speak Truth to him.
You take that thought captive, wrestling it to the ground and kicking it out of your head and heart.
And then you replace the lie with the Truth of God’s Word.
Every. Single. Time.

So when he says, “You will never measure up”, you say, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in me. And I may not be able to measure up, but my God always comes through. His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect in my weakness. So I will press on, forgetting what is behind and striving for what is ahead.”

When he says, “You are always so stupid”, you say, “I am a glorious creation of the Living God, bought and paid for by the precious blood of Christ. I may not know everything there is to know, but I know the God who does know, who has promised to be my help in time of need, every time. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness.”

When he says, “They don’t really like you, you know”, you say, “Love chooses to believe the best. I don’t know if they like me or not, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I am called to love them with the love of God. So I will choose to love, choose to believe the best and choose to remember that I am a beloved child of God, regardless of what anyone else thinks of me.”

Do you know what happens when you replace the whispers of the enemy with the Truth of the Word?
He has to flee.
Every time.
He has to go.
Will he try again?
Oh, yes.
Anything to shut you down and keep you from being Kingdom-effective.

But does he win in the end?
Absolutely not.
His fate was sealed the day that Jesus broke the power of death and hell by walking out of the empty tomb. And he can mess with you now only as much as you allow him to play in your thoughts.

Here is how Paul describes your mind and this battle for you as a Christ-follower:
“For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, AMP)

Those “sophisticated arguments” and “exalted and proud thinking” may come from some outside sources. But often they are simply the internal messages, the whispers, the lies that replay themselves in your mind on repeat.

But here’s the Truth:
That message doesn’t have to be there.
Take it captive.
And take it to the cross.
Leave it there at the feet of Jesus.
And watch the enemy flee in fear.

Repeat that procedure as often as necessary.
Give yourself a tangible reminder if you need to.
Something you can see.
Or something you can touch.
Something that reminds you of Truth so that you can replace the lies one more time.
And the time after that.

Because this only works if you replace the whispers of the enemy with the Truth of God’s Word.
And you will only know the Truth if you get into His Word.
Reading the Bible
Studying it.
Memorizing it.
Meditating on it.
Listening to godly speakers.
Being in friendships where “iron sharpens iron”.
Asking the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to the Word of God.
Replacing the whispers of the enemy with the Voice of Love, the Voice of Truth, the Voice of the One who died to set you free.

So that you will, indeed, know the Truth – and the Truth will set you free.

On Learning (Spanish)…

I am attempting to learn Spanish.
And I must admit, it is slow going.
I have great resources at my disposal – a couple of good apps, some workbooks, flashcards, podcasts and other tools.
But the problem is my brain.
It resists learning the new – and it keeps mixing in the old.
Because 20 years ago, I learned a little Japanese.
So that pathway in my brain is firmly established.
And when I go to think in Spanish, often Japanese jumps out instead.

Now, there are some things about Spanish that I find to be easy.
Lots and lots of words come from Latin roots that I recognize.
Change a few letters, use the proper pronunciation, and they make sense.
But then there are other words.
Like the word for “lunch”. Almuerzo. How in the world is that “lunch”? I am sure there is a great explanation – but all that matters to me is that I have a hard time remembering that one.
And don’t get me started on the accents, the “tildes”. One little mark changes the meaning of the word completely.
Not to mention the verbs. Oh, Spanish verbs! They are the bane of my existence!

I have found that one of the keys to success for me is my own faithfulness level.
You see, I tried to learn Spanish three years ago.
And I did great for about two months.
But then life got busy.
And it got harder.
And I got overwhelmed.
So when I sat down to hit “restart” a few months ago, very little of what I had learned then was still in my brain.
I am trying to do it differently this time.
I have made it a very intentional part of my morning routine. And then when I have a few minutes during the day I will practice with flash cards. Or do another short lesson on the app.
And because I have practiced more faithfully, it is getting easier. Things are sticking more.

Another thing I am doing differently this time is asking for help.
Using the resources I have.
Friends who are native speakers.
Some online dictionary sites.
I am even trying to get together periodically with others who are learning so that we can practice together.

And why am I so motivated this time around?
Relationships.
We have an ongoing partnership with a ministry in Guatemala.
The first time I tried to learn was right after the first trip there.
And I was motivated.
But in the last three years, as the partnership has developed, I am even more motivated.
I want to be able to actually talk to the people there that I love without using a translator for EVERTHING.
Will I still need a translator? Oh, yes, I am sure I will!
After all, it is a BIG language that I am trying to learn.
And I have a very finite brain.
But I want to do my part to make communication easier.
I want to be able to speak heart-to-heart with my friends there.
So I study.

But I will say this – I also get in my own way.
Pride stops me from using my Spanish in situations where I could easily take it out for a spin.
I panic and think, “I might say it wrong! I might offend! I might make a fool of myself!”
So I trot out English instead.
I know that the very best way to learn is to practice.
And I also know that I will fail along the way.
But my own self-interests, my own pride, my own fear of looking foolish are lousy excuses for not making connections.

————————————-

I am attempting to become more and more like Jesus, to be a disciple of the Lord.
And I must admit, it is slow going.
I have great resources at my disposal – the Word of God, some Bible studies, podcasts and other tools.
But the problem is my brain.
It resists learning the new – and it keeps mixing in the old.
Because 48 years ago, I was born a sinner.
So that pathway in my brain is firmly established.
And when I go to think like Jesus, often my sinful-self jumps out instead.

Now, there are some things about following Jesus that are easy.
Lots and lots of what He has called us to do just makes sense and sounds a lot like simply great advice.
Stop worrying, because it doesn’t change anything.
Pray about everything, because God is bigger than you and wants to hear from you.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But then there are other things that He said.
Like the “Love your enemies”.
And “Forgive no matter what.”
And “Not only treat people as you want to be treated – take it a step further and treat them the way God has treated you.”
Loving the unlovely.
Forgiving the unforgivable.
Seeing myself as God sees me and acting accordingly.
Seeking first His kingdom.

I have found that one of the keys to success for me is my own faithfulness level.
You see, I have claimed the name “Christ-follower” for 44 of my 48 years.
But it wasn’t until my early 30’s that I actually became committed to a daily time with Him.
Because life was busy. I had too much to do to take the time to pray about everything. To soak in His Word. To read great authors who loved Him and had great things to say.
Life was hard and so I didn’t make the time to spend with Him.
And I got overwhelmed.
And when I was living that way, I had to dredge up the strength to live for Him out of old resources.
Sunday School lessons from childhood.
Sermons on Sundays.
Verses I had learned as a kid.
But they weren’t fresh each day. They weren’t “new morning mercies”. They weren’t fresh food.
Because I wasn’t taking the time to feast with Him each day.
And it made life so much harder than it had to be.
But for the past 15 years or so, I have made time with Him a very intentional part of my morning routine. And I have learned to make prayer like breathing through my day. If you are someone I love and you come to mind in the course of the day, I pray for you. Just a sentence or two – and then I move on. Before a meeting, when the phone rings, as I am working on a project, I chat with God. Sometimes asking for help, other times simply being thankful.
And because I have practiced more faithfully, it is getting easier. Things are sticking more. I am not living on stale bread and tepid water. Instead, my life flows out of His life, the Living Bread and Living Water that came down from heaven. Not because I am wonderful – but because He is.

Another thing I am learning to do differently over time is asking for help.
Using the resources I have.
I have the greatest Native Speaker of Truth living inside of me – the Holy Spirit of the Living God.
And He is more than willing to give me all that I need to live for Him.
I just need to ask.
To stop and listen.
To remember He is there and to seek His help.
I am also learning to use the other resources I have with more regularity.
And I make a point of getting together with others who love Him so that we can encourage each other, pray for each other, and lift each other up.

And why am I so motivated?
Relationships. First with Him. And then with those He loves.
The more I understand about the incredible grace of God, the more I want to be like Him.
The more I comprehend just how loved I am – just as I am – the more it motivates me to grow as His kid.
The more I see Him at work in my life and the lives of those I love, the more I want to be on the same page with Him, accomplishing His purposes in my world.
And because I am more in tune with His heart for me, I am also more in tune with His heart for the world.
I want to be able to reach those who don’t have this hope that I have found.
I want those who know Him to know Him even more.
I want to encourage and equip as I have been encouraged and equipped.
I have seen the difference my intentionality has made in my walk with Him.
And I want you to have that, too.

Will I still need a translator His help? Oh, yes, I am sure I will!
After all, it is a life-long journey to become more like Him.
And I have a very finite brain.
But I want to do my part to make communication easier.
I want to be able to speak heart-to-heart with Him even more perpetually.
I want Him to call me “a woman after My own heart”.
And I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” when I see Him face to face.
Not to earn His love.
I already have that by His choice alone.
But because I am deeply loved, I want to live like it.
So I study.

But I will say this – I also get in my own way.
Pride stops me from sharing His love with others.
I panic and think, “I might say it wrong! I might offend! I might make a fool of myself!”
So I stay silent when I should speak.
Or I trot out platitudes instead.
Or I shut down.
I know that the very best way to learn is to practice.
And I also know that I will fail along the way.
But my own self-interests, my own pride, my own fear of looking foolish are lousy excuses for not sharing the Love of my life with the world.
The Hope I have found.
And the Rescue from an eternity in hell.


Learning Spanish is important to me.
But learning to be like Jesus is critical.
For me.
But also for you.

He is worth the investment, I promise.
He longs to spend time with you – but the choice is yours.

Bread

The first person I met was a man huddled by the side of my path.  He was moaning, clutching his stomach, and crying.  He looked up at me in agony and stretched out his hand.  “I am starving,” he said.  I have tried to fill myself with this,” as he motioned to the dirt and grass at his feet.  “But nothing satisfies.  Do you have bread for me?”

I told him that I had bread but that I could not share it.  It was, after all, mine. And what leftovers I had should go to people who look like me, live like me, are nearer to me.  And I walked on.

The next man I met was also sitting at the side of the road.  Beside him was a plate with moldy crust of bread.  As I came upon him, he picked it up and took a bite.  He looked at me and said, “I found this crust and it begins to satisfy my hunger.  But I long for more.  Do you have some that you can share with me?”

Again, I gave him the same response.  Yes, I have bread.  And yes, I know where more can be found.  But I must save it for the people I know, the people near me.  After all, they have problems, too.  And I walked on.

The third man I came to had a plate full of bread beside him.  It was fresh and hot and ready to be eaten.  But both of his hands were twisted, crippled and bent.  He had no way to get the bread to his mouth.  He cried out to me, “Can you help feed me?  I have bread – but I cannot consume it because the needs of my body are too great.  Can you help?”

I gently told him no, that there were others in greater need, that he at least had bread, and therefore I did not have to be concerned for him.

And finally, I came to my own land, to my home.  Everywhere I looked there were piles and piles and piles of bread in all shapes and sizes.  Everywhere I walked, I could easily find bread.  Now, not everyone was eating it – but it was available.  So available.  At their fingertips.  Some were heartily eating.  Others pretended it wasn’t there.  Some were angry that there was such an abundance because they didn’t really want bread.  And still others just passively ignored it.  Everywhere I looked, there were bread hawkers as well, shouting about their wares.  “Fresh, hot bread!  Come and get your fresh, hot bread!”  So. Much. Bread.

And I was happy to be back in the land of abundance.  The land where bread is plentiful.  Where it is free to have it and free to eat it.  And the place where I could forget the look in the eyes of those that I met.  After all, they were not my concern.  There were many people around me not accessing the bread they have.  They are my main concern, right?

And then, just as I was happily contemplating my lack of responsibility, I was stopped by a hand on my shoulder.  I turned and looked into the eyes of the One Who is the Bread of Heaven.  His face was sad, His eyes filled with tears.

“Why, My child, do you hoard what you have been given?  Freely I gave – freely you must give.”

“But Lord, I do give!  Why, look at all this bread we have!  I am sharing it with anyone here who wants it.”

And He replied, “For God so loved the world.  Not your world. THE world. The WHOLE world.  He so loved the world that He gave Me, the Bread of Life.  Stop hoarding what you have; start freely giving the Living Bread to every man.  Look beyond the people who share your soil, those who are like you.  There are millions who are starving to death, dying without knowing Me.  To whom much is given – that is you – much will be required.”

——

There are approximately 200 language groups in Papua New Guinea alone who have never heard the gospel.  They are isolated tribes whose language has never been written down.  They are hungry and in their hunger, they try to fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in them with witchcraft.  Curses.  Talismans.  And futility. And that is just one country.

There millions more in the world who have pieces of the Word of God, partial understanding, but limited access.  They live in countries where it is illegal to own a Bible or to go to a church that is not government sanctioned.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in these places are daily in danger of dying for their faith and yet have little to no access to the encouragement of the Word of God.

And then there are millions more who do have the Word because it has been translated into their heart language.  They have missionaries in their countries.  But those missionaries cannot stay because of a lack of support.  Or those people cannot hear because their physical needs are so great that the spiritual needs take a back seat.

And then there is us.  The U.S.

We are saturated with “bread”.  Gideon Bibles in every hotel room.  Christian radio stations across the land.  Christian television programs.  Bibles in more translations that I can list here, in free apps and on the web, in book form and audio resources.  CDs. Podcasts. DVDs.  Churches in every town.  Often, MANY churches in every town.  Awana.  Upwords.  Vacation Bible School.  Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  And so many more great organizations.  We are drowning in “bread”.

And yet we hoard what we have.  We say, “We have problems of our own.  We have to reach our ___.”  We fill in the blank with our own pet project or people group or area.  And YES, we are called to share the gospel wherever our feet find us.  Those things I listed above are good things.  But we are in such danger.

We have been given MUCH.  The wealth we have comes in every form.  Spiritual wealth. Physical wealth. Freedom to worship.  Freedom to share our faith.  Freedom to choose not to do so.  We are stinking rich!  Even the poorest among us are rich compared to the rest of the world.  And we will be held accountable.

Because Jesus did not tell the disciples, “OK, guys, stay here in Jerusalem.  There are tons of problems here.  Lots of people here don’t believe in Me.  So hang tight, and I’ll take care of the rest of the world.  After all, they aren’t your problem.”

Nope.  He said, “GO into ALL the world and make disciples.  Teach them what I have taught you.  Baptize them in my name and the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  I’ll go with you, I promise.  And yes, start in your hometown (Jerusalem) but then go out a little farther to the region (Judea).  Then go to the people who are NOT like you (Samaria) and finally to the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, Kathy-phrased)

None of that was a suggestion, by the way. It is a command.

And there is no “or” in the command.  It is not “Jerusalem OR Judea OR Samaria OR the uttermost”.  It is AND.  The Body of Christ is commanded to cover all of those bases.  Not just our own.  Not just the people who look like me.  Or sound like me.  Or live near me.  Reach them, yes.  But then reach farther to the rest of the world.

So what can you do?

First, educate yourself.  Take a trip to a place that is off the tourist routes and outside US soil.  Look and allow yourself to see how the rest of the world actually lives.  Talk to a missionary.  Don’t know any?  I can introduce you to a few.  Listen to their heart.  Feel their passion.  And ask them why they do what they do. Take a look at the groups at work around the world.  Discover what God is doing beyond our borders.

Next, pray.  Ask God what your part is in all of this.  Because you DO have a part if you are a Christ-follower.  I know your first assignment because we all share it: you are called to pray.  And  then you are either called to send someone in the name of Jesus or to go yourself.  Doing nothing is only an option if you want to be disobedient.

And then obey.  Whatever it is God is asking you to do, obey.

Because millions upon millions are starving for the bread you possess in abundance.  While you share it? Or will you hoard it?  The choice is yours.

But please, please remember: to whom much is given, much will be required.

 

Praying His Names…

One of my favorite things to do is to pray the names of God.

Sometimes I do it so I can shut off my brain in the wee hours of the morning.  Then it is usually an alphabetical list of both His names and His character traits.  On a really, really bad night I get all the way to Z.  (“God, You are zealous for me”) and have to start over. But usually I drift off somewhere among the G’s.  (“God, You are great, good, grand.  You are the Great I Am, You are full of grace and glory…”)

And sometimes I do it when I am afraid, frustrated or on the very edge of sanity.  Like when I am stuck in traffic.  Or becoming impatient while waiting in line. Or stuck in an airplane on a long flight.

But sometimes I do it just because He is worthy.

His Name is worth lifting high.

And He is worth every bit of praise I can bring.

If you have never prayed the names of God, I highly recommend it.  You may be wondering what I mean or what it looks like.  Here’s what it looked like in my journal the other day….

Living Water, flow through me today.  Bring healing waters to me – but then let them flow through me to touch those I love and those I should love. Make me a conduit.

Bread of Heaven, fill me today.  Satiate my hunger – but then let me share freely what You have given to me in the lives of those I meet today.

Lamb of God, thank You for Your sacrifice on my behalf.  May I live sacrificially on behalf of others.  All of the “others” You bring my way, regardless of how I feel about them.  About me.  Or about my circumstances.

Creator of All Things, thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  May I take what You have made and not hoard it or use it solely for my pleasure; instead, may I use all You have given me to bless those who You put in my world. And may my world be bigger than me, bigger than here.

Lover of My Soul, thank You for being passionate for me and about me.  May I take the knowledge that I am fully and completely loved and let it change how I interact with all the other humans You love.

Risen Lord, thank You that You are alive, active and on the move.  May I tap into the resurrection power that flows through me and allow You to change me from the inside, out. Have Your way in me – and in spite of me.

Lion of the Tribe of Judah, thank You that You are not a tame lion.  May I rest in the wildness of Who You are; may that give me the courage to live out Your fierce love today in the midst of the wilderness.

Commander of the Armies of Heaven, thank You that You fight on my behalf every day.  May I take up the armor You have given, as well as the sword of the Spirit, and use them effectively as we face Your enemy together.

Emmanuel, God with Me, thank You that You will never leave me or forsake me.  May I be as faithful and true as You are in all of my relationships, consistently shining for You and pointing to You in all I do and say.

Light of the World, thank You for piercing the darkness in me and in this world.  May I be the moon to Your Son, reflecting You in all I do and say today. May I never take credit for the Light that is in me.

Word of God, speak to my heart today however You choose, dividing even joint and marrow in me as needed.  May I be a faithful student of Your Word, as well as a faithful teacher, so that You can use me to touch the lives of others.

Holy One, thank You that You are perfect in all Your ways, right in all You do, completely set apart and lifted high.  May You continue to work in me, making every part of my life holy to You, taking me from glory to glory until the day we meet face to face.

God my Provider, thank You that You have supplied all of my needs and You will continue to do so.  May I live generously today as a conduit of Your goodness to those in need.  May I be Your hands and feet today.

God my Protector, thank You that You watch over me, knowing and delighting in every detail of my life.  May my ears be sensitive to Your direction, my heart quick to agree and my feet quick to obey, no matter how You lead.

Abba, thank You that You are my Daddy, the One who holds me close and whispers love in my ear.  May I live as a beloved daughter of the King of Kings, fully known and yet still fully loved and therefore able to fully love without fear.

Alpha and Omega of all things, thank You that You are the beginning and the end of me.  May I live this day as though it is my last on earth, loving as You love, serving as You serve, shining as You shine.  And if this is not my last day in this body, may I do the same again tomorrow.

God, take all that You are and use it in me, for me and in spite of me.

I am Yours and You are mine.

Be glorified today at my expense.

Amen