Go and Make Disciples

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

The day is here where the rubber meets the road.

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I started this blog about a year and a half ago with absolutely no intentions but to keep myself accountable. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, no plans for more than 5 people to ever read it, and no idea where it would lead me. I just knew that I wanted to learn more about following Christ. I wanted to live a more authentic life.

My life is no more perfect than it was then. I don’t have any more money, any fewer challenges, or any more material blessings. I still fail miserable at a lot of things a lot of the time (like the mommy-gone-postal episode I had this morning.)

But there are two really, really amazing things have happened.

  1. I have this sense of contentment with God, a joy that comes from knowing that He is enough. I am going to continue to live this life and there will continue to be sorrow, struggle, life, death, all the good and bad that is here on this earth. And through all that, I have all I need in a God that I can trust, a God that gives mercy to all who are willing to believe and follow him.
  2. Once the above happened, I gained a new perspective on everything I do in this life. I no longer go to work to get work done. I go to work to be the light I have been called to be. I don’t work to impress my peers or my team but to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in me. For some of you that may be hard to fathom. I have been a “Christian” for a long time and I never really understood this, but I do now. Every part of my life is to be lived in service to the one who gives me life.

With that said, I really feel called to change this blog up a bit. Most of you know that Mark and I own Ultramax Sports. Through our e-mail list, our events and our retail stores, we touch thousands and thousands of people every year. Most of these people are looking for guidance to make their life better, healthier or reach fitness goals they have.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could also touch them with my messages about Christ, about the truth, the joy and the contentment that can only be found in Him? I think it would.

We’ve changed a lot of things.  Now instead of getting just posts on my faith journey, you will also get posts about being active, healthy recipes and nutrition, and life in general.

I have to admit, I’m a little afraid it. With any new endeavor, there is a chance of failure. What if it isn’t Christian enough for my current followers? What if it is too Christian for all the people we serve that don’t believe?   What if we get backlash because of including our religious beliefs in our business?

What if?

Well what if I quit living in fear of what people think and instead live in light of scripture and what God has called me to do?

What if it does work? What if these are the lives, the nations I am supposed to disciple?

“Be Strong and Courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

I am writing to you today because many of you have been faithfully following me and I want to say thank you. Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your advice along the way. I would love to have your support as I move forward.

I am also writing to ask for your prayers, prayers that the Holy Spirit will lead and that I will be wise enough to follow.

And finally, I am writing to let you know that if you want to keep following, you will need to go to AmyLivesay.com and re-follow.  There is a follow button in the menu at the top of the page.  I know that it is the same web address, but when you go there now you will notice it looks totally different (much nicer!  Thanks to my husband). We changed our hosting to make it more professional which will require you to re-follow. I hope you will! I could use some support on this journey.

Again, thank you so much.  See you on the other site!

Amy

**On the new site, I have a new about page that you can check out as well.

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5 Ways I Share My Faith At Work

In my last post, I talked about how God needs me, as a believer, to be his light in the world.

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That probably isn’t a big revelation to most believers and it isn’t a new goal for me either. However, if you are like me, for the past 40 years or so, being the light generally consisted of being “nice” to people and a “good” person.   While those are “nice” ways to be, I think God is calling me to more. Being “nice” doesn’t necessarily help anyone start exploring their faith. They don’t usually think, “Wow, you are really nice, you must be a Christian.”

Again, being nice is nice.   But realistically, is that enough? I don’t think so. I need to be actively pursuing ways to talk about Jesus and to share his awesomeness, his peace, and his grace with others.

As business owners, Mark and I have been pretty typical. Over the years, we have been careful to keep our faith and our work separate, like they are two separate categories that cannot be mixed. At first, it was because we weren’t actually that faithful so there wasn’t anything worth sharing. But after that, I think we kept it separate out of fear, fear of what people will think, of business we might lose if someone doesn’t agree, fear of people who might be offended, or fear of messing up.

But here is the thing. We work a lot. So, if I am not treating my work as a mission field, then I really don’t have much time for a mission field.  This is who I touch and where I have influence.   Sure I need to reach beyond that at some point, but I also need to make the most of what is right here in front of me at this moment.

And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’” Mark 16:15

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Matthew 9:37-38

I am called to go into the world and proclaim the gospel, without fear.

The harvest is plentiful. There just aren’t enough laborers. Will I be a laborer?

Yes. I will.

I might not always get it right, but I’m going to give it a go.

At the end of my last post, I promised to share a couple of things that we have done to start sprinkling Christ into our business. Here are 5 things we are doing. Believe me, we need to do more, and will, but this is what is in progress to date.

  1. Private Prayer: While this might seem like the easiest thing to do, I also think it is the most important. Each day I pray that as I go into the world, God will work through me and that I will be the light He has called me to be.   Then I rest in the fact that if nothing else gets accomplished on that day, but I am a light in a dark world, a laborer for our Lord, then I have done enough. I have accomplished the most important task for the day and everything else on my list can wait.
  2. Public Prayer: If you don’t know, we own 3 retail running stores and we put on sporting events like triathlons, 5k’s and ½ marathons. At our events, I have started praying with the crowd, over the sound system with all the participants and spectators. I’m not super confident with a microphone, but I love this. It gives me the opportunity to get in front of thousands of people and encourage them through prayer.
  3. Reaching Out Through Our E-mail List: One of our most successful events is a ½ marathon called Go Girl. As the name implies, this is a ½ marathon for women. This year, we sent out the following letter to participants. It’s not as bold as it could be, but it certainly got the conversation going.

 

“So the last shall be first, and the first last.”  Matthew 20:16
Dear Jane,

As women, we are very good at doing things together.  We go to the bathroom together, we run together, shop together, eat together, we will even share a bed without getting freaked out unlike our male counterparts.   And for a community that does so much together, we need to come together on something. 

One of the things I love the most about our company is that at our core, we truly believe there is an athlete in everyone.  We don’t care how out of shape you think you are, how old you are or how overweight you are.   We believe you can finish even when you don’t believe in yourself.  And, we want to be there to watch it happen because it is amazing, exciting, and inspiring to watch each and every one of you achieve more than you thought you could. 

But, one of the saddest moments of my career was last year at Go Girl KC as I watched one of the last few finishers come across the finish line only to realize that no one had stayed to cheer her on.  This was her first ½ marathon and after 4 hours of working toward the finish line, she was finally there but no one else was.  The disappointment on her face will be forever etched in my brain.

There are huge crowds for those of us that finish early, but by the time those that need it the most finish, there is no one.   Isn’t this a bit backwards? 

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your soul and all your might and that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. 

Whether you believe in Jesus or not, I think we can all agree that this world could use a bit more of us all loving our neighbor a bit more.  

At Go Girl Run Columbia next weekend, we have this opportunity.  I know it is Memorial Day weekend.  I know many of you have other commitments.  You have children, families, lots of important things.  But, if you can fit it into your schedule, I’d like to ask you to consider staying and helping me cheer in our last finishers.   We expect that to be about 11:30, and I would love for it to be the biggest, grandest finish line celebration ever. 

Because, isn’t that the way it should be?  I know if that woman was my mom or my sister or my baby girl….I would want that for her.

Let’s do this thing!  I, for one, will be there for every single finisher.  I look forward to seeing each of you and hope you will join me at the finish line.

Amy Livesay
Ultramax Sports – Owner

  1. My E-mail Signature: This was also an easy thing to do. I added a verse to my e-mail signature.   Last year I had the privilege of attending the Leadership Summit at my church and hearing a number of wonderful speakers. One of those was Bill Hybels. He gave a wonderful talk about Courageous Leadership and what it takes to be a leader. Since that day, I have had the following verse on my e-mail signature line.

“Be Strong and Courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

  1. This Blog: Finally, we are going to start promoting this blog to our participants and customers. There will now be faith based posts but also active living and healthy eating posts.   When I am not writing this blog, that is what I do for “work.” I help people become active and stay active and healthy. I say “work” because it is one of my many passions so it often doesn’t feel or look like work.   It is my hope and prayer that more people can and will be encouraged by this expansion, and that as people are drawn to my posts about food choices or how to stay injury free, they might also be touched by some of my posts about Christ.

Honestly, changing this blog worries me a little. I have a little bit of fear that it won’t be Christian enough for some and too Christian for others. But, I’ll just be honest; God has called me to lead people. I know he has. And, leaders do courageous things.

Try things. Keep moving toward God even if it is just a little at a time. You will make mistakes. You won’t always succeed. You will stick your foot in your mouth on occasion. But you will grow and you will learn that God is with you always when you fail and when you succeed.

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid.

Do not get discouraged.

Our God is with us always.

Hopefully someone has courageously shared their faith with you at some time. How did they do it and why did it make a difference to you?  Leave your comment at the top of this post.

Into the World: Living Out My Faith In My Work

world_0I am a business owner. Sometimes it feels like a blessing and sometimes a curse. Either way, I am thankful for the work I get to do, and I will keep doing it as long as God is willing.

Over the past year, I have begun to question how much I am willing to blur the line between my faith and my work. Is the bottom line the most important, or is my faith the most important? In a world where no one wants to claim their faith as the one right way, am I willing and bold enough to live out what I believe to be my calling in Christ?

How am I supposed to balance this?

At times, I have entertained the idea of stepping completely out of my current occupation and working in the church full-time. It’s a challenge to focus on God and everything else that gets thrown at me all day. Somewhere in my mind, maybe yours too, when I think about going all in for God, I assume working in the church or as a full-time missionary would be easier. That’s going all in right? I wouldn’t have to worry about the day to day distractions in my work that pull me away from God. If I worked at the church, in the church or in the ministry field, I’d be doing God’s work all day. Right?

Newsflash

Amy Livesay, you are a missionary. You work in the ministry field.   Right now, today, you can do God’s work all day. You have a field that no one else has and a calling that is unique. You touch people in different ways than anyone else does and you just might be the only Jesus certain people ever see.

Hmm……There is a critical truth here, that as silly as this will sound, I have never really thought of before.

Most of the people who need to know Jesus, are not at church.

Let’s just repeat that.

Most of the people who need to know Jesus, are not at church.

Where are they? They are living in the world, doing ordinary day to day things, looking for answers, looking for hope, looking for someone to lead them, but mainly looking in the wrong places.

I like to think it’s the church’s job to bring people to Jesus. This is a fundamental belief I have held from a very early age. But maybe that isn’t quite right. And, maybe that is passing the buck a bit.   Not that I think about it, it seems that perhaps the church’s job is to equip people like me, who live and work in the world all day every day, to attract people to Jesus. And then, once they see Jesus in the world, maybe they will consider going to church.

When I stop to consider this, I realize that I have a unique role and place is this world and that this role can be vital, crucial, and life changing if I am willing to do the work, if I am willing to be the light. I also realize that it is crucial on a day by day, minute by minute basis, not some abstract in the distance, when I change enough to make a difference type crucial.

“While I am in the world, I am the light of the World.”  John 9:5   Jesus was certainly a better light than I will ever be, but I can certainly try to emulate him.

You know, that gives new meaning to my work, and a new purpose in each and every interaction I have. The church is awesome and absolutely critical, but it cannot do all things. Just like every other being or relationship, the church cannot be all things to all people. The church needs it’s people, specifically, me, to go out Into the world, to be fearless, strong, not easily discouraged, and willing to do the work that needs to be done.

 

God doesn’t just need people working in the church.   He needs me to be the church in the world. Going all in for God can mean being a pastor, a worship leader at church, or any of the other support staff there. But it also can be, and it really, really, really, really needs to be, regular old Joe’s or Amy’s living in the world and being brave enough to include their faith in their work.

True? True.

Stay tuned for my next post on ways we are making this happen in our work, but for now, what is one way that you include your faith in your work? I’d love some inspiration.

 

The Wife God Created: Part 2

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“And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35

Dear God, can you clarify? By all, do you mean my husband too?

Sometimes God says things I don’t want to hear. And, even though I say I believe, I want to dismiss that one thing. I want to pretend that the way I am doing things is right and that God is wrong. I take a hold of the little volume button and turn the volume down so I can do what I want, when I want. I stick my fingers in my ears and say, “La, la, la, la, la, la, la. I can’t hear you.”

He is still there though. Just because I am ignoring him doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

And, let’s all be honest, God is not going to all of a sudden “come around” to my way of thinking. The next time I pick up my Bible, it is going to say the same thing. Again, I can pretend it doesn’t, I can try to live my life ignoring the parts that aren’t convenient for me, but, well…..

“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.” Titus 1:16

By my actions, do others recognize that I serve Jesus?

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

Am I willing to listen to him and obey or will I deny him by picking and choosing the parts of his word that are convenient? Do I know God? Do I love God? Will I trust that his ways are better than mine, that his ways are better than the world’s?

And so, in the very beginning God says the following.

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

It is admirable, noble, praise-worthy, and awesome to serve the homeless, the sick, the elderly, those struggling with addiction, depression, even our children. People receive accolades to the tenth degree for their service to others. Businesses give extra paid time off now to do community service.   We serve at church. We serve in our communities. We serve our girlfriends. We serve and serve and serve.

But somewhere along the line and, for some reason, it is not acceptable to serve my husband. He is the exception to God’s call of “being a servant to all.” Serving my husband would be wrong. It would be giving him the opportunity to “take advantage” of me. It would be squashing “my” needs. It would be putting him before me. It would be giving up my needs and my time for the sake of another, and whose husband deserves that?

I know I am being a little patronizing here, but I am mad at myself for not realizing the hypocrisy in this. I have spent a lot of time believing that it was beneath me to serve my family and my husband in particular. Not only did I believe this, but looking back, I am 100 percent certain that this belief caused much of our marital strife. Because, instead of serving my husband, I chose to serve me, to struggle and fight to make sure I was taken care of, that my goals would be met, that I would get what I wanted, that I would be successful.

That is really sad. How did I believe that lie for so long? Does my husband deserve less than everyone else?

No, he certainly doesn’t deserve less. It’s just that to me, my husband is this independent man who can do anything. And, so I let him be independent and I vow not to serve him because he is capable. His shelter, food, and clothing needs are taken care of, so is it really even noble to serve him? And what kind of service, what kind of help does he really need from me?

Maybe, he just needs an underlying deep devotion to his good.

One of the first jobs I got out of college was working at Columbia Regional Hospital with the elderly. There was one really, really cranky old guy who got admitted a lot. He was lonely, cranky, and bitter. I suspect he had some of this in him all along, but you know what really exacerbated it?

He lost his wife.

He lost his cheerleader.

He lost his helper.

I saw this over and over again with my male patients.   My female patients? They missed their husbands. They certainly grieved the loss, but they moved on and functioned just fine. All their little girl friends brought flowers and casseroles and then they started doing everything together.

But husbands, they were devastated. They were lost.

Men can be awkward, unaware of their emotions, hard to communicate with, and driven to the point that we think we don’t matter sometimes. But all of that aside, they need their wives and the unique role that only a wife can fill. What an honor that I am the one created to fill that need for my husband.

Is it easy to serve my husband? Not always. Have I ever thought of it as an honor before? Not really.

I certainly am not good at it. But…..oddly enough, it is also very freeing.   Like so many, I try to be all things to all people, all the time. It can be exhausting. It is exhausting. But I am not supposed to be all things to all people. I am first called to serve God and then my family, specifically my husband.

We are one.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Matthew 19:5

In today’s world, it is very easy to remain independent and forget that we are one, but marriage is not an opportunity for me to serve myself. It is the ultimate opportunity to learn what true love and sacrifice means. If I do not have a servant’s heart in my own home, will I really have it elsewhere?

Thank you Jesus, for being the perfect example of love, service and sacrifice. May I be reminded daily of what an honor and privilege it is to serve those I love. And, please fill me with your Holy Spirit because you know I am a train wreck without you. Amen

Day 26: The Wife God Created, Part 1

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I think we all know things in our gut.  I used to dismiss my “gut” feelings, but more and more I realize these gut feelings are promptings from God.  We might not know all the answers.  We might not even know the answers we are desperately seeking to find, but there are some things, that live inside us.  We know they are there but for some reason we ignore them.   Then, one day we wake up and we realize that we know it.  We recognize that it has been with us for a long time but on this day, we are finally able to grasp its magnitude.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

A few months ago, I awoke to do my morning devotion.  I finished reading and began to pray over the day.  I prayed specifically to be able to love my neighbor as myself and asked God to show me what that really looks like.  As I was praying, I realized that I don’t even love my own husband that way.

In that moment, I realized that I have not been a great wife to my husband.   I also realized that in my gut, I have known this for a long time.

Stop.  What?

My husband, the guy I profess to love more than anyone?

Yes.  That one.

If there is anything besides worshipping God that I want to be good at on the face of this earth, it is being a good wife and mother.  I do not want to get to the age of 70 and think, “I should have and could have done that better.”

Now, he will defend me, some of my friends will defend me, my mother and father will probably defend me, and some of you might say “oh, you are being too hard on yourself.”  But the fact of the matter is that I KNOW this. I don’t need or want anyone to defend me because I am the one who lives with me and with him and I know it.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but often times Mark gets less love than what I give out to others in the day.  How will I be able to love others as myself if I can’t even do it for my own husband?   He is the love of my life, the one I picked to spend the rest of my life with.  Maybe if I am going to try to love others as myself, I should start with the ones in my home?

If you read some of my early posts about marriage, you know our marriage is better now than it has been in the past.  It is way, way better.  That hasn’t changed.  So, I am not writing this because our marriage is going down the toilet.  It is more that there is this quiet under churning telling me that I can do better.   

In our society, it is very easy to justify being a mediocre wife.

“It’s not like he is a perfect husband.” 

“Seriously, you have too much on your plate.  You just can’t be all things to all people.” 

“You’ve got young kids.  It’s just a hard time.  They need you more.” 

“He is a big boy, he can fend for himself.” 

“You have to take care of yourself first.  It’s not like you are his servant.”

Many marriages are struggling, so there is no shortage of women who can relate to me and even suggest that my marriage is “normal” or “average.”  For years, I have listened to these lies in my head and from others.  I have justified being “average.” I have justified being mediocre.   But do I really want that?  More importantly, does God want our marriage to look like the average marriage?  What does he think about mediocre?

And so, I started to pray and read more about God’s will for me as a woman, wife, and mother.  What am I missing here God?  Why is being a great wife so hard?

There are obviously many answers to those questions, but here is one.   My time is locked up between work, kids, taking care of the house and having a little time for myself.  At the end of the day, I don’t have the time or the energy to give to my husband.

Oh, wait.  That’s not true.  I do have time, and I am a very energetic person.   I am just giving it to someone or something else.

That is not acceptable.

Since 2006, I have worked 50-60 hours a week.   Before that I worked less, but we trained for Ironman triathlons which might as well be a full-time job.  Our pace has been frantic, always frantic.  And now that we have added two small children to the mix, it is even more hectic at times.  It seems there is always someone or something that comes before Mark.

I am guessing many families can to relate to this.  Oftentimes we both go to work all week, some Saturdays included, and then when we pick the kids up, I can’t bear the thought of getting an additional sitter for them.  They are at a sitter most of their waking life, more than I see them.  So, instead of doing date night, a class at church, or taking any time whatsoever for our marriage, we spend time with the kids instead.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids.  They bless us each and every day in more ways than I ever imagined.  But, more than anything in this world, they need a mommy and daddy that have a good marriage, a marriage that is not “normal” by societal standards, and a mommy and daddy that have time to grow and nurture their own spiritual walk so that we can then raise children that love God and don’t spend the first 40 years of their life missing the point, like we did.

I thought about titling this “Making Time” but the truth is that I am not making more time.  I’ve discussed this in previous blogs.  There isn’t more time to make.  We all know this.  Instead I am taking back some of my time.

I read my bible often, but I also read other Christian books.  Recently I read a book called “When Work and Family Collide” by Andy Stanley.  In it, he makes the point that we will never have enough hours in our day to do everything that everyone wants from us.  We are going to fall short somewhere.  Someone or something in our lives is going to feel cheated.  It is up to us to prayerfully determine where God wants us to spend our time and then trust that he will fill in the gaps where we fall short.  We have enough time to get done what God has put us here to do.  We just have to trust him.

This hit me like a ton of bricks.  Someone or something is going to get cheated.

Do I really want that someone to be my husband or my family?

No.  He deserves to not only know through my words but to feel through my actions that he is loved immeasurably by me.

If I get to the end of my life, which could be in 40 years or could be tomorrow, and I have not accomplished the task above, I will have failed.

So how am I going to fix this?  At the beginning of March I went from working Monday-Saturday to working M/W/F and some Saturdays.  This might not sound like much, but for me it was a big step.  We run our own company so I have helped build it up and nurture it like a little baby.  Before my kids, it was my baby.  Plus, it is not a “good” time in the business to make this change.   There is a lot to be done.  But, realistically, when will be a good time?  There is always so much to do.

This wasn’t a natural for me.  I’ve worked a lot for so long that it is ingrained in me.  I prayed a lot.   Every time I was unsure, God said do it.  Do it now.  I kept hesitating over the course of a couple months and God kept saying it again and again.

Trust me.

Do it.

So, I did.

There are challenges I did not expect.  It is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I am not magically a different wife.  I‘m still human and I know I will still fail at times.  But God is changing me, and changing my heart.  This will be a journey……. And a series of posts.  This topic is important, challenging and complicated.  More to come……Thank you God for leading me.

 

Day 25: Be Awesome Today

Bible verses about forgiveness

As 2013 draws to a close and 2014 begins, it is more important to me than ever before to look at my life, my actions, my thoughts, my prayers, my goals, everything I am doing and evaluate it in light of God’s word.  In light of God’s word, in light of the mercy and grace extended to me through Christ, what am I doing well, but most importantly what am I not doing well.   In what areas of my life am I refusing to be obedient to Christ?

Let me not be a stumbling block for those that are seeking, wondering, or leering at Christ.  May they not look at my life and say “if that is Christ-like love, I don’t want any part of that.”

So, today, it seems appropriate, to talk about forgiveness.

For those that don’t know or don’t remember, this blog was supposed to be a 40 day challenge to myself starting on my 40th birthday which was March 25th of 2013.  On that birthday, I made a list of different challenges I knew I needed to face or try.  Some were fairly simple and others were quite challenging.  Forgiveness has been on the list since day one.

Why has it taken me so long to write about it?

Let’s be real.  This is a hard one.  I know what the bible says, but I don’t want to do it.  Once I write about it, once I put it out here, I have to face it. And, truthfully, there are some people that I don’t want to forgive nor do I know how to forgive them.

I know that isn’t good. I know that isn’t what God says to do, but that is what I feel like doing.  I’m irritated with them, most of them don’t show any remorse, and I flat out do not want to forgive them.  It’s pretty plain a simple.  Some of them have done pretty heinous things and others have done more minor things.  Either way, I have taken their transgression very personally and I don’t want much to do with them anymore.

As I write this, I know I have forgiven some people of some pretty significant sins and so I wonder why these other transgressions, that aren’t actually as serious, are harder to let go.  The difference is remorse.  The people I am having the most trouble forgiving are those that don’t seem to be sorry for what they have done.

I am guessing a lot of people can relate to this.  I mean we have all heard the saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”  No one wants to be the fool twice no matter how big or small the transgression.  And, if someone isn’t sorry about what they have done, the chances of it happening again are fairly high.   I can forgive you one time, but if I have to forgive you twice, I am a fool and I failed to learn what a crappy person you are the first time.

Right?  That is what conventional wisdom would say.  You need to protect yourself, because no one else is going to protect you.

No, that doesn’t make my decision right.  That doesn’t make my inability to forgive them okay.  I know, in my gut that isn’t the right answer.  It feels bad to hold onto that bitterness and I can feel my spirit, my soul being tainted.

Everyone knows that some people deserve to be forgiven.  Who and for what, is subject to any one person’s opinion.  But it is also a fairly acceptable notion that some people do not deserve to be forgiven.  We can certainly all sympathize with certain wrongs being unforgiveable especially the big ones like adultery and murder.

As a believer, if I believe that or even if I just hold onto that because I don’t want to let it go, I am believing a lie and being disobedient to the God of the universe…the one who created us all, knows all, and wants the very best for us all.  As a Christian, I am called to forgive and not just some times.

I learned long ago that refusing to forgive someone creates a huge bitter burden to carry.  It eats away at the peace and love I should be experiencing and be able to share with others.  So, why is it still so hard to forgive even when I know it is the best thing?

I don’t know. I am sure there are a lot of reasons.  But honestly, the reasons don’t matter.  The bible matters and what Jesus says matters.  That is what matters.

I think most of us know what the bible says about forgiveness, but I’m just going to reiterate it, because honestly, I can’t remind myself enough.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t really like that.  I mean, as much as I love people, sometimes they really, really tick me off and I don’t want to forgive them.  God, don’t you get it?  I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. I don’t want to grant them forgiveness, especially more than once.

But Jesus says to do it over and over again.  After all, He forgives us over and over again.  I get it.  I’ve heard that before.  But now I have to fight against my own will because something deep inside me says NO.  Like what is the point?

Well, I think Jesus kind of gets to the point in another verse.  When I read things like this, I realize how relevant the Bible is.  I realize that even thousands of years ago, that from the beginning of time, God knew what would happen.  These are the verses that confirm to me the reality, the truth of the Bible and Christ.

“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”  Matthew 5:43. 

This is what we grow up believing right?!  Especially as adults when we get a little cynical, when we get hardened by the wrongs of a sinful people, this seems so clearly the right way to do life.  But there is nothing amazing or remarkable about that and Jesus knows it so much better than we do.

“But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:44-48

Yeah, I am doing nothing extraordinary, nothing remarkable, nothing overly Christ-like by merely loving those that love me.  EVERYONE loves those that love them.  It’s easy to love those that love you.  It’s extraordinary, remarkable, awesome, amazing and Christ-like to love those that are hard to love especially those who have wronged us.

It is hard to love our enemies.  That’s what makes it remarkable and impressive.  That’s what makes it worthy of Christ and will draw others to Christ.

Do I really want to be like Christ?  Do I want people to see Christ through me or not?  If I do, I need to be awesome.

Recently I have become enthralled with the definition of awesome.  This word has been overused, I know, but when you know the actually definition, it is exactly how I want to live my life.

Awesome:  awe·some,

Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.

Being a Christian is awesome.  It might be daunting.  Forgiving and loving our enemies is daunting.  The tasks laid before us might elicit some apprehension.  But, the love of God is extremely impressive….IF people can see it.  If people can tell the difference between human love and the love that Christ demonstrated and calls us to.

Be awesome today.

Day 24: Money, Money, Money

So……as awesome as this blog has been for my faith journey, I need to admit some epic fails on my part.  I mean, I am trying, but probably similar to some of you, just because I declare something, doesn’t mean I actually understand all the necessary steps that go into it.  And, probably like many of you, I am learning.  I did not come into this as a Bible scholar, quite the contrary.  I have come into this new found love of Jesus (which is still a little uncomfortable to say, I am embarrassed to admit) after spending a good 24 years practicing how not to live like or love Jesus.

The Bible has a lot to say, and God has a lot of transforming to do in this girl’s life.

And, truthfully, money is a real falling off point for me.  There is a reason it is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible.  Thank you Financial Peace website.  I am guessing it is because we will probably struggle with our worship of money more than any other idol.  There are two things about money that make it especially difficult, I believe.

  1. Money tends to be very logical.  One dollar plus one dollar equals 2 dollars.  There is no question about that.  And, when you do a budget or even when you don’t, it’s clear when you have money in the bank and when you don’t.  If you get paid $2000 per month and your bills total $2500, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist for any of us to realize that there is going to be some sort of issue.  So, when it comes to God and trusting Him with our money, it’s hard.  Logically, it does not make sense, some might even call it stupid, to continue to give God his 10% when your budget says otherwise.
  2. I equate money with security.  “If we only had this much or if we paid off that or if we could just get our income up to this, I would feel secure.”  Thus, I cling to money like a child clings to their favorite toys.  Mine, mine, mine!  In fear and probably in greed, I see our money and gather it all up (again, imagine the toy pile) into my pile for safe keeping, for when I need it, because I need it, because if I have enough money and if I keep control of it, I will feel secure.  I can trust money.  It’s logical.  It’s dependable.

So, one of my many epic fails thus far is in the area of tithing.  Do not be fooled, I have failed many, many, many, many other times and virtually every day.  But I can only cover so much in one blog post, right?

Day 7 was called Commit to my church.   I wrote about the importance or at least my commitment to tithing. The last words of that post were, “We are cheerful givers.”

Wwwweeeellllll……That was true, until it seemed we had too much month at the end of our paycheck.   You certainly can’t give God 10% if you don’t have it, right?  Like I paid all my bills and there wasn’t any money left.  I’m sure God can see that and I am sure he understands.  If it means we will struggle to make our mortgage payment, I certainly can’t trust God to provide for that, right?  There does have to be some logic here.  2 + 2 is always 4 and I’m not going to change that by being faithful, right?

Insert buzzer sound….EEEEEEE.  Wrong answer.  Nope, that’s not right.

I didn’t quite get it.  So, somewhere over the summer, I began feeling insecure about our money and if we would have enough to do whatever it is we need to do.  Like my little Eli protecting his toys from his sister, I gathered all that money up into my pile and began protecting it against any and all “unnecessary” spending.

Clamp down.  Save the money.  You can’t give God what you don’t have.

And, like every other year, I felt no more secure, no more at peace, no better about our financial situation.  Ahhhhh!   I knew something was wrong.  Something just kept telling me I needed to do something different.  Keeping the money, depending on the money, did not feel good.  It felt terrifying.

Finally, on day when I was walking on the trail I stumbled upon a sermon on Life Church TV by Robert Morris (http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/multiply-2013/1).   Listen to it.

I was convicted.  God deserves to be paid first.  He has entrusted me with the money.  His purposes are the most important.  How do you feel when someone gives you what they have leftover?  And how do you feel when they make a point to give you something special?

So when I do my “budget” (this a theoretical thing…more something that is in my head.  I LOVE Dave Ramsey.  I am seriously a groupie.  However, my obedience to his little plan is, well, let’s just say it needs some work.)  Anyways, when I do my “budget”, the mortgage company and my clothing budget and our cable company should not come before God.

God gets the first check now.  Forgive me.  I am learning.  Trying to hold onto the money was terrifying, but releasing it to God was freeing, peaceful, liberating.

Weird.

God is so smart.

Day 23: Black and White

 

Recently, I was asked to give a speech to some women on Faith and Overcoming Fear.  Now, before anyone says it, there are some real obvious questions here.

  1. Why would they ask me?  40 year old woman who has spent most of her life being fairly unfaithful.  Hmmm…..
  2. Do I really know enough and have enough wisdom to speak on Faith and Fear?
  3. Can I even speak well in public?

To answer the last question, I am no Obama, no stand-up comedian, and there are certainly a lot of more talented speakers, but I do speak to groups frequently and I do enjoy public speaking.  It is something I would like improve on and do more of, God willing.  So, yes, I can do that and would actually welcome the opportunity.

Back to the first question.  I have no idea why they would ask me.  I am guessing because of my openness in writing this blog, the fact that I am a cancer survivor, their limited budget J, or perhaps, and most likely, divine intervention.  I’m guessing God knew I would need it as much as anyone.

The second question….Do I really know enough to speak on faith and fear?  I didn’t at the time.

When they asked me, I thought “What do I know about fear?  I may not be a pastor, but I think I can talk on faith and obedience to a certain extent, but honestly, I am not a real fearful person.  So, how am I going to speak into these women’s lives on overcoming fear?” 

No idea. 

Pray without ceasing.  “God please speak through me.  Give me your words to speak.”

Be careful what you pray for.

All of a sudden, I was gripped with fear.  Fear that keeps me up at night.  Fear that keeps my head spinning.  Fear that makes me freak out and question God as to why I am going through these things when am really trying to be so faithful….so much more faithful than before.  Haven’t I earned a little bit of easy street?  I thought once I became more obedient to you, my life might get easier and maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with so many of the negatives.  Don’t I deserve some blessings versus this trial that is keeping me up at night?  I thought you blessed those you love?

Self-help book, where are you?!   Because I need some answers!

I’m not sure exactly how or why God moved in my life at the time He did, but prior to my 40th birthday, prior to this “40 day” project, and prior to this blog, I lived a life full of shades of gray.   Very few things were black and white to me.  Everything had an exception. 

Looking back now, I attribute this lack of clarity, this absolute muck that I lived in, to the 100 issues of Oprah magazine and the 50 self-help books that I looked to for the ever elusive solution to all of life’s problems.  Of course everything was gray.  I was taking the opinions of hundreds of different people and trying to assimilate them into some form of truth. 

At the time, it seemed so logical. 

Now it seems so ludicrous. 

Thankfully, for whatever reason, and on whatever schedule God wanted, on March 25th of 2013, life became much more black and white for me.

If I believe in Christ, then there are just flat out certain things that I need to do, OR I need to really question whether or not I truly believe.  I need to go to church. I need to pray and actually believe in the power of prayer.  I need to put God first on a daily basis.  Read my Bible.  Have faith conversations with others.  The list goes on and on.  Many of these things I am doing or at least working towards.  I’m not perfect and never will be, but at least I have one thing straight. 

The Bible is the best self-help book ever written!  End of story.  End of discussion.  Who cares what Oprah or one of her contributing editors thinks about how to be happy?  Or how to prioritize?  Or how to deal with a friend that is being a boob?

I listened to these voices for way, way too long, and they wreaked havoc on my life as I tried to play out all the pieces of advice that, looking back were often misleading.

Now, when I need help, when I need guidance, when I am struggling, I read the Bible.  And, when I don’t need help, and I am not struggling (I always need guidance!), I read the Bible.  And life, although not easier, is easier to understand.

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-3. 

Blessings, where are you?! 

How many times was my prayer answered?  God gave me a trial, a fear to experience.  Then He gave me help through His word.  And then He gave me blessings through others in my life that are courageous and dedicated enough to speak on the Truth on a regular basis.  This is a link to a blog post from a friend. 

http://uncommonfaith.org/2013/10/22/do-you-despise-him

This is a link to a sermon by our pastor.  I think you probably had to be there in person, but this service was special.  I think everyone in the room needed it, and you could just feel the presence of God.   

http://woodcrestworldwide.org/?p=470

Both of these were given/written in the midst of this gripping fear without any knowledge of my issues at all. 

Black and white. 

As a Christian, I am called to look at trials in a different way.  I am called to consider them pure joy because I know God will use them to shape me into the person I need to be.  And while this might seem crazy, and I am certainly not very good at it yet, that’s what the Bible says to do.  It’s black and white to me now. 

We all have struggles.  We will always have struggles, struggles/trials that invoke a reaction of fear.  Our normal reaction is to think, “This isn’t right!  This isn’t fair!  I shouldn’t have to go through this.  Why do I have to go through this?”   

I cling so very hard to what I want my life to look like.  And as I wrestled with the fear that seemed to be overtaking me one day, I realized precisely what God is teaching me.  My life is God’s.  It is not my own.  While I can enjoy the situations I am in now, He might want me to do something totally different tomorrow.  The harder I cling to my ideas, the more of His I will miss.

I claim to want to do God’s will, but am I really willing?  If His plan for my life doesn’t look like my plan, can I accept that with joy?  Instead of clinging to financial safety and security can I trust peacefully in God that He will either provide in the way I am asking or He will provide in another way and that either is His will?

Wow…that is totally counter culture and a really hard truth to embrace, let alone practice. 

This is really a foreign concept for most of us.  By societal standards, it might even be judged as stupid.  But going back to myself as a believer, the Bible is clear on this.  Trials are for our own good and produce great things in us.  The worst trials I have faced in the past, my most difficult struggles, when I am honest…..have produced the most beautiful results, the most beautiful truths. 

One to the most convicting verses to me is the one in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?” Can I sit in this storm, this trial of sorts and do what God says?  Can I be joyful and know that His will is better than mine?

One of the things I love most about participating in triathlons are the lessons, the parallels I find between triathlon and life.  God can use all things for his good and through sport, he has taught some pretty valuable lessons.  Here is one that really drives this point home.

When I was pretty new to the sport, we had a good friend who owned a coaching company.  He, of course, encouraged Mark and me to hire a coach.  He knew how much we enjoyed triathlons and wanted to help us enjoy them more.   Because, ultimately, what is the purpose of a coach?  A coach provides guidance, a blueprint; direction so that the person being coached can get the best possible results for whatever it is they are working towards.  Right?  And, so it seemed like a pretty good idea to us.

I was a good swimmer already, a very mediocre biker and a terrible runner.  Naturally, I wanted to get better at them all, but I really wanted to become a faster runner.

My coach lived 6 hours away from me so he coached me from a distance, providing my workouts online.  He would send me a plan at the beginning of every week, and then I was to go in after each workout and record what I had done and how I felt. 

The swimming was pretty simple, because I was already above average, and I actually had some good cycling classes at my gym, so that was pretty easy too.  But the running, this is where it got interesting.

The running workouts just didn’t make sense to me.  They would be weird things like skip uphill, then hop on one foot 20 times, and then run downhill.  Repeat 10 times.  Or, go out and run as slow as possible for an hour. 

I mean seriously?  Go out and run as slow as possible.  I’m hiring this guy to make me a faster runner, and he is telling me to go out and run as slow as possible and to hop around like a goof ball on one foot???  UM…..let’s just go with no.  I think I am not going to do that. 

So, week after week, he would give me these workouts.  And, I would proceed to do what I wanted, like I knew what was going to make me better as this had clearly worked in the past.  I would get online after my hour of running at whatever pace I wanted and I would log “ran one hour.”  I tried to make it look like I was doing what he wanted me to do by omitting every detail, but I wasn’t.

Interestingly enough at the end of that first year, (this will not be a shocker) my swimming was better, my biking was better and my running was still horrible. 

So, somewhere along the line, God did give me some common sense.  It takes me awhile some times, but I do have it, occasionally.  After that first year it occurred to me that I was paying this person, who I knew to be wiser in the ways of triathlon, to tell me what to do….to guide me.  So, either I needed to do what he was telling me or I needed to stop paying him.  Right?  Why pay him to tell me what to do and then just continue doing whatever I want, especially when it isn’t working.

I continued paying him and FINALLY decided to do what he said.  I wasn’t perfect but low and behold, my running got better.  I was faster, my back didn’t hurt, I started to really love running and finally, my weakness became a strength. 

I do this to God all the time!  He’s like the best coach ever, but too many times, even now, I’m not listening.  OR, probably more likely, I hear what He says, but I am so ingrained in what the world has told me over the years, His wisdom seems to get overshadowed and I just can’t make myself rely on it.  Honestly, just like the running workouts my coach gave me, some of God’s advice doesn’t always make sense to me, but also just like those workouts, God knows more than I do and His will and His ways will always produce better results than mine.

Ugh!  So just like my coach, it is absolutely ludicrous to say that I believe in God and then not value His guidance.  I am acknowledging that He is the creator of all things, all people, and the author of truth.  OR I am not.  This is where it all becomes very black and white to me and where I think we all need to ask ourselves this question.  Do I believe or do I not.  Because if truly believe, I will do or at least try to do what God says. 

God is guiding me, coaching me if I am willing to be coached. 

Today instead of the usual pity party that I try to avoid but usually end of throwing at some point during the day, I will be truly grateful for the storms of life and I will pray to learn what God is teaching me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I am weak, when I struggle, I know God’s power is made perfect in me.  

It’s black and white.  Now it’s just a matter of doing it.

Day 22: Excuses, excuses, excuses

“If Satan can’t make you bad, he will just make you really busy.”  I have no idea who said this, but that phrase is haunting me.   Yesterday as I stumbled out of bed with 18 things already on my mind, I began to make my coffee.   I filled the reservoir with water and then filled that same reservoir with coffee.  For those that don’t drink coffee, the coffee, goes in the filter, not the water reservoir.  Then I misplaced (don’t tell my husband) the electric opener for my car and the keys were locked in it.  My dad said “surely you have another set of keys?”  Seriously Dad, how long have you known me?  Of course I do not have another set.  This is a given.   

My brain and my life is on overload and it has been on overload for way too long.

I keep telling myself that life will not always be this busy and that when it quiets down in a month or two, THEN I can restart doing all the things God has called me to do.  Because, I am just REALLY busy with work stuff and two young children and I am sure God understands because he sees the tasks set before me, right? 

And, it‘s not like I have fallen off the wagon completely. I am still reading my Bible daily.  I am going to church on a regular basis, praying whole heartedly, and I’ve even been to some special church functions.  Even though I have put of a few things, like writing this blog, signing up for a class at church, and serving the needy on hold, I am still very engaged and definitely seeking God on a daily and basis. 

Well……it is amazing the grace I give myself.  It is amazing how quick I am to judge others and see their faults, but to completely gloss over my own.  I find myself reading my Bible and congratulating myself about the bad traits I don’t have; like that is something to celebrate.  I love to read about the Pharisees and then think to myself, “Good thing you are not anything like those Pharisees!  You don’t burden people with endless rules over a relationship with Jesus.  At least you have that going for you.”  “You are clearly not a tax collector.  You didn’t kill your brother growing up, even though you wanted to.  Obviously, you have got to be pretty high on God’s list.”

Then, I read things like these verses and I realize, I have so far to go.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Luke 6:46

Um…..well…..when you put it that way…um

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.  The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.  Please excuse me. 

Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen and I’m on my way to try them out.  Please excuse me.’  Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” 

The Parable of the Great Banquet, Luke 14:16-20.

Excuses.  They were busy….too busy to go to the banquet.  God has invited me to His banquet.  Am I really telling him I am too busy to come right now?

A few weeks ago at church, our pastor spoke about humility and I love the way he described it.  He said it is about figuring out who you really are.  It’s about being real with yourself, not over inflating your ego, but also not putting yourself down.  I think it’s time to find some humility here.    

God doesn’t deserve my excuses.  His work, as easy as it is to push it aside, cannot wait.  It should not wait.  When I read the parable of the great banquet, I notice that the excuses these people give are not pathetic excuses.  It’s not like they are saying “God I am really busy robbing people” or “I am really involved in an affair with a married person.”  Both of these are clearly pathetic excuses.  But instead, they give excuses just like the ones I give myself.  “My kids are so young, they need me.  I can’t possibly get yet another babysitter for the Discovery class at church.”  Or “I am really busy getting ready to move our store to a new location.  As soon as I get that done, I’ll make time to spend with your people.”  “My kids are so young, I will serve at church when they get older.” “Work is so busy, I will help the poor and the hurting in our community next month.” And on and on and on and on and on it goes. 

Amazing…..Jesus knew this might happen.  Over and over again, he warns us of this in the Bible. 

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”  Luke 21:34

If you don’t know what dissipation means, which truthfully, I did not.  It means wasteful expenditure or consumption.  So, if we are not careful, we will get caught up and waste our gifts, our time and our energy tolling over and doing a bunch of things that don’t matter.  Oh, and let me rephrase that.  I will waste the time God is giving me, the gifts He has given me and the resources He has given me. 

All of my excuses are true.  And, on the surface and without any thought about Christ, they probably seem totally legit.  Work is important.  My kids are important.  I am doing good things in this world.  But that doesn’t give me an excuse to not to do the most important things.  If I don’t want to get yet another baby sitter for the class at church, maybe I need to wake up and look at option B.  Maybe I don’t need to get the babysitter for all the other things that take up my time, and I do need to get it for the class.  Maybe? 

And, as far as work goes, I realized long ago (although I don’t always live this way) that when you enjoy your job, when you are really passionate about what you do, there is always work to be done.  I could work on my business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And, yes, in my work, I believe people can see Christ through me, but I know all too well what it feels like to do life on my own.  I know what it feels like to let life seep in ever so insidiously to where I think that I can do it on my own and I don’t need God. 

That is what Satan wants us to think.  Satan wants us to think we can do it on our own, but I know that doesn’t work.  Been there, done that, feel sorry for those that are still trying it.  It’s going to implode some time.

So, today, I am putting aside my excuses.  Day 19 was “Called to Make Disciples” and in it I committed to getting prepared by signing up for a class at church, seeking wisdom outside of myself.  But I haven’t done it.  It has seemed like too much to fit in.  I’ve been too busy.  But last week I said, enough is enough.  I don’t want to be the one invited to God’s banquet who keeps giving him pathetic excuses.  So, I signed up for the Discovery class at church.  I know that doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not that I am uncomfortable with the idea, it’s just that something else will have to give a bit.  But perhaps by being obedient and spending a little more time pursuing God in the coming weeks, perhaps something else will get pushed out. And wouldn’t that be a blessing?!  Perhaps God will be faithful, as He always has been, and He will bless that time, the relationships I make and help me to learn better what I should be doing with my time.

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  The he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’” 

When I read that, I think how sad.  Christ sees this huge harvest of non-believers, of people who are lost and need someone to reach out to them, who need to be told the Truth and need to be loved.  I look at the world now and I see this same thing, a lot of really lonely, lost people searching for something.  But, the workers are just too few.   Or maybe the workers are just too busy making excuses and being busy. 

This week I start my class, next week I start serving in some capacity that does not involve my own family or my business at least one hour every week. 

Jesus, thank you for the invitation to the banquet; the best invitation I will ever receive.

He shows up

Sincerely, if you don’t ever see God, you are absolutely not looking. 

Now, I can’t say that miraculous things happen to me every day, but to me, the next experience was really incredible.  It was so clearly God showing up that I can’t imagine it being any clearer.  I am sure some naysayers will suggest this is just a coincidence, but it sure seems like the hand of God to me.  

So…..get this.  My most recent blog was on being the hands and feet of Jesus.  Now, I am under no crazy illusion that I am saving the world, one homeless person or even doing anything really exceptional with my experiment to feed homeless people for 10 days.  It’s not equivalent to a lifetime commitment to Christ’s teachings, it’s not really going to impact the homeless that much, and I am not sacrificing too terribly much to do this. 

However, it is me working to be obedient to God’s calling, and I know God will use it for His good.  He will teach me.  Maybe no one will come to Jesus because of this, but maybe I will get better at sharing his love and his message and then will consequently be able to bring other people to Christ later.  Whatever it is, I know this might not be the perfect experiment, but let me show you how God shows up.

I wrote that blog on Wednesday morning with the plan to post it Wednesday afternoon.  (Being a new writer, I have to look back over things to make sure I don’t say anything completely ridiculous.) 

So, after writing it, I got myself ready for work and the hot yoga class I was going to take at 9am that day.   Mark and I got the kids ready for school and off I went to drop them off at their respective locations.  Right before I left, I decided to go to the noon yoga class instead of the 9am which would mean that I would double back to our office after dropping the kids off.  (While that seems like a senseless piece of info, it is important, so keep reading.)

Now, I know a lot of you know where to find the homeless.  You serve them.   You are annoyed by them, or whatever.  But, let me just be clear.  That blog post did not get posted when it was originally written because I was waiting for a convenient time, a time when I knew I would have enough time to actually seek out the homeless….because I don’t see them a lot.  I don’t know where they are on a regular basis.  I live in the country, which is awesome.  But it can be kind of isolating.  I mean if you were homeless would you be out in the country hanging out, hoping someone would notice you?  No, you would be in the city.  Anyways, when I posted my entry, I was assuming that my 10 days of giving away lunch to a homeless stranger was going to be pretty difficult for me to get done.

Back to the drive to school.  So we are driving down the highway of life on the way to school as we do every day.  Now, let me tell you.  I am not super observant when I am driving.  I have two small children in the car.  If you have two small children, you will relate to this.  I would honestly recommend that if you know I am on the road you take another route, because driving with two small children in a car is a complete and total junk show.  I’m not sure how people with 4 children do it. 

On that ride, my 3 and a half year old son asked me no less than 100 times if the rubber bracelet he was playing with looked like a hot dog.  Seriously?

                Eli:  “MOMMY! Does this look like a hot dog?”          

                Mommy:  “yes Eli it does!”  What is he even talking about????

                Eli:  “Now does it look like a hot dog mommy?”

                Mommy:  finally looking back, “oh, yes, I do see, it does look like a hot dog.”

                Eli:  “oh mommy look at it now, do you think it looks like a hot dog?”

Mommy:  “Eli, mommy cannot look back all the time, it is important that I watch where I am going so we do not crash.  You don’t want to crash do you?”

                Eli:  “Ahhhh, Mommy, pleeeaaassssssssssse just look onnnnneee more time?”

                Mommy:  Without looking.  “oh yes, it does still look like a hot dog.”

                Eli:  “You didn’t look mommy.”

Mommy:  Looking this time but promising it will be the last AND noticing that Emme has her bottle upside down and it is dripping into her seat and all over her legs.  “Oh, now I see, that doesn’t look like a hot dog Eli.”

                Eli:  “Mommy, what about now?  Do you think it looks like a hot dog?”

Repeat 10 more times. 

We are usually on the road from 8-8:30, I’d recommend that if you want to be safe, you just stay home during that half hour. 

Anyways, we get to the intersection of our road and I-70, right by Midway Truck stop, and low and behold, right on the side of the road, walking down onto the entrance ramp is a little old man who is obviously homeless.  Seriously?  Like, I just wrote that blog 30 minutes ago.

Now, I know there are probably homeless people there all the time, but cut back to above example of children in the car, I don’t actually pay much attention to them.    I am busy trying to keep my sanity for the 45 minutes needed to safely drop both of them at school.  But, today, I noticed him.  And, I was not looking.  I had planned to drive aimless around downtown hoping to spot a homeless clan or something over the lunch hour.

There was only one small hiccup; I had to get the kids to school.  I would however, be driving right back by this spot on my way back to our office  SINCE I decided not to go to that 9am yoga class AND I just happened to have my lunch in the car. (OK, it was my husband’s lunch, but whatever.)

This was my guy!  I knew it!  I told myself that if he was still on my way back, he was obviously who I was supposed to start with.   And, deep down, I knew he would still be there. 

So, I take both kids to their little schools and drop them off.  As I drove back by, I couldn’t see my little guy and started to get frustrated.   Ugh, I was so sure this was God showing up and putting the homeless man close to me.  And, then….. I saw him.  He was there!   He was just further down the entrance ramp. 

Slam on breaks.  Pull over to the side of the road.  Park car, grab lunch and a nutrition bar, and start heading down to see my little guy.   Pause, go back to car.  Grab 10 dollars so he can also buy his next meal. 

So, there I am, walking down the shoulder of the entrance ramp dressed in my 40 year old, middle class, women with 2.5 kids, I-am-going-to-yoga-later-what’s-on-your-agenda type attire.  And, as I felt the gravel beneath my feet and the food in my hands, I felt for the first time what it feels like to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  I am expecting no miraculous intervention here.  I am not expecting to change his life, although that would be nice.  I am simply trying to be obedient by sharing God’s love and saving grace with someone else by providing them with something they perhaps need.  I know that this may not be the way I accomplish God’s work throughout the rest of my life.  But I also know, that if for only one time in my life, I now know what it feels like to be a part of God’s work:  Work that includes no gain for me, only for Him and perhaps for this little guy I am getting ready to meet.

Cool.  Really, really cool.

Ok…back to meeting my new friend Melvin. 

                Me:  “Hello sir, I can’t give you a ride to Kansas City today, but I wondered if you might be hungry.”

                Melvin:  Sitting on his suitcase and a black plastic bag filled with something.   He looks up at me, not skeptically as I would have but, he does survey what I have brought him.  “I will take that bar you have.”

Me:  “ok.  Are you sure you don’t want anything else?  I have a sandwich and this is some rice.” 

Melvin:  Obviously a bit leery of my cooking.  “Nah.  You know of any churches around here?  Sometimes they let me stay there and I really want a place to stay. I’ve been up all night.”

Me:  “Hmmm…..I don’t know.  So, I know of some churches close by but it is Wednesday morning at 9 am.  These are small churches and I am pretty sure there is not anyone at the churches.  I have no idea how he will get in or anything. 

We chat on and on for a bit.  Melvin begins to ramble about being a veteran and some things that happened in Vietnam and the politics of desert storm.  As he rambles I am beginning to wonder what I am supposed to do here.  I have brought him this delicious lunch, that he clearly does not want, but now he wants a place to stay.  Hmmm….this is getting a bit more complicated and I am tempted to walk away.  Like, where am I going to find for this homeless man to stay?   Is God asking me to put this guy up? 

This is a hard one.  And, I am not sure I did the right thing, but I did do something.  I gave him the $10 and he said, “oh now I have $21.  I was going to stay at that hotel, but it costs $35.”  Me:  “Melvin, if I can get you into that hotel, is that what you would really like?”  Melvin:  “yes mam, it is.” 

Well, I just happen to know the owner of that hotel, and I could make that happen.  My good friend Joe not only let him stay but also gave him a couple meals.   As I got ready to leave Melvin, I asked him if he knew Christ.  He said, “yes, yes I believe in Jesus and God and all that.”  And I told Him that it was because of Christ that I was there. 

Again, I know I did not change Melvin’s life.   I certainly didn’t do anything that really took a lot of sacrifice on my part.  But on my personal continuum of trying to be more like Christ, I took a step I would not have normally taken.  I took a step and, get this….God showed up.   Once I was paying attention, not only did I notice a homeless person, but I noticed God.   As I walked down the exit ramp of a highway to meet a person I would never have met otherwise, I felt the heat on my back, the rocks under my feet and the lunch in my hand.  I realized what it feels like to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Love God.  Love People…and here’s the big one, Do stuff.  Do stuff for people. 

And, as I recognized God showing up, I wondered how many times I have missed him because I am too busy with myself and my goals.  Just like the homeless are easy for me to overlook, so are the signs of God.  We dismiss them away.  We may not even notice them.  But, now that I am focusing on God, now that I am praying, reading my Bible and doing stuff, I notice Him, and I notice him with unmistakable clarity.  And….it is cool, really cool. 

There is no particular challenge for today.  I just really wanted to share this…..May we all see God.  He is showing up whether we are choosing to notice Him or not.