Saturday, May 21, 2011

Find Your Wings

When I started this blog, my goal was to post consistently (at least once every 10-14 days) - but sometimes life creates a pause. We have recently paused to celebrate our son's graduation (see "Fireside" for more) and I have had minor surgery. So here's my latest post. The "Mountain View" section contains an excerpt from a book I've been working on that explores how we can become more compassionate in this broken world. It begins with a story a friend of mine shared with me. Feel free to give me your feedback on this piece. It's good to be back!


Mountain View

“A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently.
 
Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8
  
It was a cold day in January.  Typical of what we usually have here in the Midwest.  The sky was gray with winter clouds and there was a cold biting wind that blew strongly from the North.  I was returning from a funeral in the city and decided I would make a stop at the inner city church where I helped coordinate my church’s homeless mission. My suburban church supported this inner city church by providing sack lunches that were offered to the homeless each day as well as a monthly hot meal that we prepared and served.  I hoped to be able to meet with the leaders at the church to confirm our schedule for the new year. 

As I pulled up to the back door of the church where we normally entered into the kitchen area, I noticed (without much attention), a figure rummaging through the trash dumpster.  Not an uncommon sight.  When I tried the door and knocked several times, I heard a voice behind me say, “They’re not there.  They’re gone.”



            She could have been 30 or 60.  She wore several obviously discarded old sweaters.  Some buttons were missing and the elbow was torn from one.  She had a dirty stocking cap pulled down over unkempt straggly hair.  Her face . . . how could I ever forget her face?  Her lips were swollen and cracked.  Her eyes, watery and red, were matted nearly shut.  Her nose had been running for who knows how long, and the mucus was smeared across her face.  She was not beautiful!  But my heart went out to her. 

I asked if she had gotten anything to eat.  She nodded her head slowly indicating that she had.  I said, “Are you cold?  You look so cold.”  She didn’t reply.  After a moment, I turned from her and went back to my car.  I opened the door and removed my topcoat.  I went to her and put the coat on her and did up every button clear to her chin.  It didn’t matter that it was a man’s coat.  It didn’t matter that it was many sizes too large, or the possibility that within the hour she would be in some alley trading the coat for alcohol or even drugs.  It didn’t matter that tonight while she slept in some abandoned building or on the street that the coat would be taken from her by someone stronger or more desperate.  It only mattered that at that moment . . . she was warm!

I told her that Jesus loved her and that she was never alone.  Then I got back in my warm car and drove away with my eyes full of tears . . . tears of thankfulness that I had a home to go to, and a loving family and friends.

I changed that day.  This simple act of kindness awakened me to the fact that God was working through me when I helped the homeless.  I had always felt real satisfaction working with this mission of our church.  I knew it was well worth my time and energy, but that day I realized that we truly are the “hands of Jesus,” and it humbled me.  Good intentions and sound theology are wasted if those we minister to don’t feel that we care about their immediate needs.  Having everything we need can numb us and actually hold us back from the wonderful privileges and responsibility we have as Christians in a very needy world.

Written By: Len Bennett




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“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient.  We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures.  Our lives were full of evil and envy.  We hated others, and they hated us. 

But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love.  He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy.  He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did.  He declares us not guilty because of his great kindness.  And now we know that we will inherit eternal life.”  Titus 3:4-5 (New Living Translation)

Before we knew Jesus, we too dug around in life’s “rubbish”. We chased after worldly things, and made vain attempts to satisfy ourselves with superficial and empty pleasures. In our sinfulness, we were not beautiful and looked very much like the homeless woman - dirty and revolting. God saw our depraved state and did something about it. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to put His coat of righteousness on us and button us up in His unconditional love and saving grace.

It didn’t matter to God that many would reject His Son when He sent Him to earth. He sent Him anyway.  It didn’t matter that many of Jesus’ teachings, claims, and promises would be ridiculed, thrown out, and traded for the world’s trash. It didn’t matter that others would allow life experiences, pride, rebellion, bitterness, apathy, and sin to steal His coat of righteousness from them. It didn’t matter that one day even His closest friends would abandon Him in His greatest hour of need and fail to show Him any compassion at all. It didn’t matter that some of those He tenderly healed would one day spit in His face, call for His execution, and pound spikes through His body.

      Like the man who shared his coat, Jesus generously gave to those in need – without judgment or expectation. His merciful actions held no ulterior motives that those He ministered to would believe what He taught and accept Him as their Savior. He didn’t use His gifts as a way to “open the door”. He showed compassion because He truly felt compassion. He was sincerely moved by the suffering of the people and cared about their struggles. Jesus purely loved and so He purely gave. He met people where they were at and freely administered God’s kindness and love.

     Sometimes we lose hindsight as we progress toward spiritual maturity. Forgetting where we came from, we begin to strut around like a rooster in a barnyard thinking we have spiritual things figured out. We begin to pass judgment on others analyzing them in an effort to determine whether or not they deserve our help.  Their lifestyles are deplorable.  Their situations are a culmination of poor choices.  They don't measure up. We judge. We condemn. We withhold grace. We measure the return on investment before we act. Anyone can see that there is very little hope of improvement for some – so why do anything for them?

    Judgment and expectation tarnish our witness by preventing us from being what we are meant to be - the hands of Christ in a broken world. So this week, do something radical. Participate in an act of mercy toward someone the world has given up on. Drop your measuring stick. Show them kindness and unconditional love even though they cannot repay you and may have little desire to alter their way of life.


Fireside
Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.



Ten years ago, I made a life-changing decision. We were members of a large metropolitan church and God had graciously allowed me to be a part of His ministry there in a variety of ways. In my position as the Director of Sending Ministries (Missions), I discovered one of the greatest passions of my life. I am extremely grateful for each opportunity God gave me to serve Him through that church. In each one, I experienced great intimacy with Him as He led me; grew me; revealed Himself to me; and poured Himself through me. Through these experiences I developed a great love for the local church, and around the year 2000 experienced a strong inner call to become a pastor. As I sorted through this nudging, I prayed and received many affirmations that this was indeed something God wanted me to do. I eventually spoke to the head pastor of our church and was soon formally recommended by the church as a candidate for a pastoring school within our denomination. After more prayer and considering the needs of my family, I eventually walked away from this calling. The idea was that I would reconsider and possibly pursue this again at some point in the future when my children were older.  Putting this on hold was not easy. God’s call is strong. My love for Him, and my desire to serve Him, is overwhelming. 

I can honestly tell you today that I am so happy I made the decision ten years ago to place priority on my “domestic church” ministry. No regrets. This really hit home this past week when my oldest son graduated from high school.



 He is an exceptional young man of compassion and outstanding character. We have so many wonderful memories with him and have greatly enjoyed his presence in our daily lives. I can remember how he used to toddle around our home with his curly blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, bright smile, and stubborn “Tazmanian Devil” spirit at the age of two. When he was a child, I can remember how fascinated he was by the intricate details in nature. I also remember the way my heart ached when he struggled in peer relationships and was bullied in the 4th grade. I can remember praying fervently, consistently, and urgently for him through the years – particularly before his heart surgery.


I can remember times I failed as a parent and the way God filled the gaps where I fell short. I can remember my son’s grace in my inadequacies like the time I was preparing for a speaking engagement. It was a stressful time and I had been very short-tempered with everyone in my family one evening. The next morning as I got ready to leave, the smell of food drifted down the hall from the kitchen. I went in to find my sweet son, who I’d been so grumpy toward the night before, fixing breakfast for me because he thought I needed a good breakfast before going to the retreat. He had gotten up 30-40 minutes early, made waffles from scratch, served my breakfast on our “You are Special” plate, and even lit candles. He was 12-years-old. Such extravagant and undeserved grace! I can remember shuttling him to practices and endless activities; and sending him off on mission trips and to kamp. I remember him getting his driver’s license, and hanging out at our house with his teenage friends. I recall the joy of sitting in the stands watching him play his high school soccer games and tennis matches.



There were times when I thought some of the seasons of his life would never end, but they have all passed so quickly. This season of his life is over. He will be leaving us in August to go to a school that is a ten-hour-drive from home. There are parents who think we’re crazy for allowing him to go so far away. If I had my choice I’d keep him at a college closer to home, but doing this would clip his wings and short-change his future. He deserves better. He deserves God’s best. Truthfully, he is ultimately part of God’s story. God has specific places and ways for him to influence his world, and a path for him to travel as He brings him to maturity in Christ. God’s destiny is what I want for my son – not a destiny I might choose for him that would satisfy my own selfish desires.


God has taught me so much, matured me as a person, stretched me spiritually, and blessed my life so richly through my son (and my two other children). I can tell you without a doubt that the greatest ministry God has ever shared with me is the ministry to my family - and I am so grateful that He chose to entrust this boy to me.


Find Your Wings- Mark Harris
(You can find this song in my playlist)
It's only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I'll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I'll want to know
You're walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

Chorus:
I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I'm here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh, but more than memories

Chorus:
I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I'm here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

It's not living if you don't reach for the sky
I'll have tears as you take off
But I'll cheer as you fly





Pinecones and Twigs:
Just like gathering nature’s treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you’ll find here – a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.


I am becoming more “social” by the minute and have recently established a Facebook page for the purposes of better connecting with those who visit my blog. Would you please consider "liking" my new Facebook page for The Warming House?

When I first heard of Twitter, it sounded like something that was completely narcissistic and I was adamantly opposed to being a part of it. Well . . . I’m now on Twitter. My goal is not to use it to help you keep up with my life. You have much better things to do! I will use it to randomly send you quotes and scriptures to inspire and encourage you in the middle of your week – kind of like a “cheerleader-in-your-pocket”.

See the link below if you’d like to connect with (and "like") my Facebook page.



A Steaming Hot Mug

Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out


Submit your stories (150 word maximum) to thewarminghouse@gmail.com for publication to this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God’s compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you’ve done to teach your children compassion; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ. Can’t wait to hear (and share) your stories here at the Warming House!

 

~A church in Kansas City recently adopted an entire elementary school! The student population at that school is primarily comprised of children from financially disadvantaged families. For their initial point of contact, church members provided backpacks filled with food items for each of the children in the school. This is just the beginning of a wonderful new relationship that is being forged with families in need – all in the extravagant love of Christ!

      Thanks for stopping back by! I'm happy you're here.

Enjoy the view~

Lisa

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