A Gutter Ball Performance

In my experience, there in nothing quite as vulnerable as bowling. Your skills, or in my case, lack thereof, are on display for all to see. There is no turning back from what you’ve done. Everyone has seen it. It’s out there… strike, spare, split, gutter ball… it’s all out there.

I was with one of my best friends and her family a few months back. They were going bowling and invited me to join them. At that point I had bowled a grand total of four times in my life and on one of those occasions I was two years old.  In my more recent attempts I managed to take a fair stab at the game, nothing spectacular,  but I held my own. I was looking forward to just being with this extended family of mine and bowling sounded like a lot of fun.

Not coincidentally, the Lord had been making me aware of my thoughts and behaviors with regards to “performance.” I was stuck in the mindset that somehow it was about what I did for Him that was somehow connected to being loved. I knew in my head that wasn’t right. That’s not how He operates. But my actions and my thoughts weren’t supporting what I knew to be true. I had hoped a day with close friends would take my mind off of it for a while but, as He often does, God had other ideas.

For the next two hours the Lord proceeded to show me exactly how much my “performance” was worth to Him. To say my bowling skills were pathetic would be extremely generous. I am not sure I even broke 100. Every time I stepped up to the line, it seemed my attempt was worse than the frame before. It didn’t matter what I tried, lighter ball, heavier ball, slow release, fast release, flip the wrist, don’t flip the wrist, spin the ball, don’t spin the ball… nothing I did seemed to work. It was utterly humiliating.

Although I don’t think she would ever admit it, I believe my dear, sweet friend was purposely throwing gutter balls just to make me feel better. She is not competitive and she knows I am. She’d sacrifice a good score just to make me feel better. That’s just her heart for me. But even in her gracious attempts she still outscored me by a significant margin.

But the most powerful thing that happened to me that day was not the humiliation of a horrible bowling experience or even the love of my dear friend. The most powerful experience came from her dad, David.

Although his whole family was there – his wife, his daughters, his grandkids, his brother, his sister-in-law, his niece and nephews – he was focused on me. He just wanted to talk to me, spend time with me. He wanted to hear my opinions about things. He didn’t talk to me about bowling. He didn’t try to correct my form. He just wanted to know me better. He didn’t care what the score was. He’d just be waiting for me after each attempt I made so that we could pick up our conversation where we left off. And, when the game was over he wanted to make plans for the next time we would be together.

The ride home for me that day was a tearful one. I was raw. I felt totally exposed. My “performance” was out there for the world to see and it was awful. But the tears weren’t because I bowled a terrible game – although that didn’t help. The tears were coming from the vulnerability of having my “performance defense” ripped away from me in such a tangible way. I was not only face-to-face with the truth of being a horrible bowler, I was also face-to-face with an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance. I had a choice to make. I could either continue to cling to the lie I was believing or relish in the love that was being extended to me.

Amidst the tears and confusion as I drove home, I sensed the Lord’s presence. He knew my choice. He was the One who put it in front of me. Still following my old pattern of behavior I said to the Lord, “David was so nice to me.” I heard God ask me, “Why wouldn’t he be?” I answered through my tears, “Because I’m a terrible bowler!” I’m almost sure I heard a sympathetic chuckle from the Lord as I felt His embrace. Had the feelings not been so deep I would have joined Him in that chuckle. I knew it was ridiculous as soon as I said it but it didn’t change the fact that that is exactly what I believed. The choice was an obvious one. I chose to let go of the gutter ball performance and cling to the love.

What David showed me that day was a beautiful and powerful example of God’s love. It is NEVER about our performance. It is always about His love for us. He already knows us. No one knows us better. He created us. He wants to show us how well He knows us and that comes through spending time with Him. His desire is not only to spend time with us but for us to desire to spend time with Him and grow closer and deeper in our relationship. It’s all about that relationship. We as believers get so focused on what we “do” for Him. But that is not what deepens our relationship WITH Him. That is not where our love and acceptance is found. The love and acceptance come first. It always has! “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It has NEVER been about our performance. Our performance could never merit the kind of love He has for us.

It is only from the depths of our relationship with Him that the gifts He has given us flow freely into the world and what we “do” for Him becomes visible for others to see. What we “do” isn’t for Him to see and notice us. It’s for others to see and notice HIM. Our focus should always be Him and our relationship with Him. It should never be about the works. They should flow from the relationship and what He does with them in the lives of others is between Him and them.

Lord, thank you for loving and accepting terrible bowlers like me. Thank you for your love and acceptance before I ever did one thing for you. Help me to focus my time, energy and love on my relationship with You. May the gifts you have given me flow freely into the lives of others to point them to You. But, may my focus never leave You and may I always desire to spend time with you. Thank you for giving us people in our lives to show us Your great love for us. Thank you for David. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.

Love Outside the Box

About fifteen years ago the Lord shared a vision with me.  I have to tell you I have received visions before but on very rare occasions and they are usually for other people.  This one however was for me and although I recorded it, wrote it down and even rewrote it a few times it’s only now that I truly see it’s significance in my life.  Isn’t it just like God to be patient with us for 15 years (or longer) in order for us to get where He’s coming from!

I am sharing the vision with you now because I believe it is applicable to many.  You may change the meaning of a few things to fit your story, but I believe the message to all of us is the same.  I pray it will be a blessing for you.  This is certainly my longest blog post but I hope that will not deter you from reading it and enjoying it.

I awoke suddenly to a strange reality. The truth of the matter was, I wasn’t sure I had been asleep at all. But there I was sitting inside what could only be described as a wooden box standing upright.  The box was dark and quiet.  And although I was startled to find myself confined I felt strangely comfortable. It was a familiar place. I fumbled in the dark to get my bearings. The box stood about 6’ tall with four walls about 3’ wide on all sides, square top and bottom. I sat on the floor and leaned against one of the walls. I was neither warm nor cold, neither scared nor peaceful. I merely existed within the box, resigned and for the moment, content.

From the bottom edge of one wall a small but persistent light streamed in through the spaces between the planks. It was dull at first, distant. But slowly it began to creep upwards. It was different from a sunrise. It swayed back and forth. It was clear that this light was being carried and the one who bore the light was coming closer. As the light grew brighter I stood and pressed my cheek against the wall that faced the light. I strained to see between the planks, first with one eye then the other. The stronger the light became the more desperate I was to see who carried it.

They drew closer and my heart warmed to the thought that someone was coming – a rescuer perhaps to free me from this place. I found a knothole in one of the planks. Finally a clearer view of who was coming my way. The sound of my gasp broke the frigid silence and my hand quickly muffled the sound. It was the Lord.

He was still a ways off when the depravity of my surroundings came into my awareness. His light had illuminated the box enough for me to see its dingy, filthy, worthless appearance. Tears gathered in my throat. I was about to have an encounter with my Lord and this is where I found myself. I peeked out again to see that he was much closer now. A twinge of nerves shot through my body and then that horrible resolution that failure brings.

I sensed that he had stopped. I looked out again hoping He wouldn’t see me and yet pleading silently in the deepest part of me that He would. I moved my hand to my mouth in anticipation of seeing my Lord. And there He was, just a few feet from me now. I was breathless as I took in His dark hair and dark eyes, His bearded chin, and His chiseled, weather-worn face. His robe was white, His hands at His side. He was looking in my direction with warm and gentle eyes. A subtle grin suddenly appeared across His lips as He crouched down. I quickly backed away from the wall to the corner furthest from Him.

“Where are you?” He asked.

I waited to hear a response. There was none.

“Where are you?” He asked again.

I hesitated. I slowly moved to the front of the box and peered out again. His forearms rested on His knees as He crouched down looking in my direction. He smiled. “Where are you,” He said looking right at me without a question in His tone.

“I’m here.” My voice cracked as I spoke. I wasn’t even sure He heard it.

“I want to be with you,” He said.

I didn’t answer. Not because I didn’t want to but because I was swept away by the thought that He just might be serious.

“My love,” He said, “why do you hide from me? I want to be with you. I want you to be with me.”

My heart beat faster. The tightness in my throat grew and tears began to well in my eyes. “I’m here Lord,” I managed.

As drawn as I was to His goodness and light I struggled within my surroundings. I wanted to burst through the walls that held me and run to Him but at the same time I feared leaving the security of the box. Confined both within and without I again took my eyes off of Him sunk into the corner and began to weep.

Then from just outside the box I heard Him just above a whisper, “Where is my love?”

“I’m in here,” I sobbed.

With a tenderness that I have never heard before He said, “What is it that keeps my love from me?”

I could sense He was standing over me. Light shined in from all sides. His love and warmth penetrated every side of the box until finally I could not resist any longer. In weakness I stood hardly able to keep my balance. With all I had I pushed against the wall where the light shone most brightly. In an instant I was free. His hands caught mine as I pushed through and His eyes met mine.

We stared at each other for a moment. I was afraid to hold his gaze for long. As much as I wanted to leap into His welcoming presence I stood paralyzed barely able to breathe.

He continued to hold my hands. “Oh, my love,” He said. “How I have longed to see you.” His smile melted my heart.

I slowly pulled my hands away from His. I folded my arms in front of me and leaned back slightly until I felt the box behind me. His eyes never let me go.

“I came to see what hides you from me,” He said. “Show me this place,” He said with a gentle smile. He sat on the ground with His legs crossed beneath Him. I sat close but not close enough to touch Him.

I looked at the wall that I had just pushed open. It suddenly occurred to me how simple it was to move. Funny I hadn’t tried opening it before. The Lord was looking carefully at it, examining it with His hands.

“This wall here,” He said. “Tell me about it.”

“This hides the real me.” I wasn’t sure where the words came from but the tears quickly followed. I tried to hold them back but to no avail. He waited. I took a deep breath and continued. “The real me isn’t accepted, Lord. I’m not like everyone else. When I’ve let that show…” The tears wouldn’t let me continue. “I’ve learned it’s safer to hide. If people see who I really am…” The tears took over again.

“Oh, my dear girl. I know you,” He said with a smile in His voice. “I know everything about you. I know that you’re creative and love to play basketball. I know that your short and you really don’t like being short – but you’ve learned to live with it. I know the color of your eyes and how many tears you have shed since the day you were born. I hear you. I see you. AND, I love you.

“I know what you’ve done every moment of every day of your life. I know what you believe in and what you stand for. I know what your favorite pair of tennis shoes are. I know that you get lonely and afraid and sometimes you just want to be held. I know you. I know what you have needed from others and haven’t received. I know what melts your heart. I know what brings you the greatest joy. I know your deepest desires – even those you’re afraid to ask me for. I have made you. You have never been out of my sight. I know you. I love you and you are the apple of my eye. And I want to be with you… the real you, the one I have created you to be. I won’t settle for any substitute. I want you.”  He smiled broadly and tears filled His eyes.

“I want you too,” I whispered as I inched closer to Him.

He turned His head until my eyes met His. “Then let me fill this side of the box. Is that okay? Let me take the place of this wall. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You are seen by me and you are more than acceptable. You have been created by me, and that you is the you I love most.”

I nodded yes as our attention turned back to the box. We both stood and reached for the side of the box that stood partially away from the other sides. Together we pulled until the rusty pegs came free from their holes. With a mighty gust of wind that side of the box was gone. The Lord filled that side with His presence and again took a seat on the ground. I sat down too, my arm resting on his knee.

“Now what’s this second side here?” He asked, pointing to the wall on His right.

My face felt flush. “I feel like I am constantly seeking to fill the emptiness of my life. I work hard. I love deeply. I throw myself into whatever task you put in front of me, Lord.  And when I’m not doing that I’m filling my time with nonsense – distractions of all kinds.  I keep searching and longing for something or someone to fill that ache. I just keep striving for it but it always alludes me. I’m weary, Lord. I feel like I’ve reached the end of myself and there’s nothing left to grab onto.”

“Me.”

I looked at Him.

“Me. Grab on to me.” He paused. “I’m the one, my sweet girl. I’m the one who has given you everything you’re seeking to cling to. You’re looking at the gifts I’ve given you as the answer to your fulfillment. Honey, I am the answer to your fulfillment. Look to the giver. I want nothing more than to fulfill your every desire, but you have to know the source. And when you know the source our desires will be the same – yours will match mine. But until then, my sweet one, as long as you seek out people, places, things, and activities to fill your heart it will remain empty. I’m the only one who can fill it.

“And my love, when you recognize that I am the source of what you are seeking, you will not only be filled but will be overflowing. When you overflow with my love, you will be connected to others in a way you have never connected before. You will be sharing my love with them. The fulfillment they too are seeking will flow right through you and into them. Then you can share the secret. I am the key, dear child. Let me fulfill you. Then you can help me fulfill others with the same love you have come to know.”

We both turned again towards the box. “What if I would fill this side of the box too?” He asked.

“Yes, Lord. Take that side too.”

And with that another side was gone. The Lord positioned Himself at the empty corner of what was once the box. As He moved, I moved a bit closer to Him this time. “What about this third wall?”

Looking at it in the light now I could see I leaned against this side the most. The wood was worn smooth. There were distinct outlines where I leaned against it. I looked at Him then back towards the wall. I took a deep breath.

“Well Lord, this is my self-reliance,” I said with hints of both pride and shame. “You see, I have a tendency to rely a lot on myself. I don’t rely too heavily on other people. I’ve learned to handle things on my own – had to. I admit that I have allowed this to get in the way of my relationship with you. Sometimes, especially when you really bless me, Lord – when things are going so well, I feel like I may not even need you. I know that isn’t true, but sometimes I think I can handle life on my own.”

“Hmmm,” He said with a serious look on His face. “This sounds pretty important to you. Is this something you want to part with?”

My heart sank and my throat tightened. What was I saying?! It made no sense! My eyes filled with tears and my hand covered my mouth. He looked in my direction. All I could do was shake my head.

“Oh, my girl,” He said tenderly His hands reaching for my shoulders. “I know,” He said as He pulled me closer but held my gaze. “May I fill this side of the box too?”

I shook my head yes and immediately the wall collapsed. It disintegrated without a trace.

“My love, the wall upon which you relied most, was nothing but dust. In fact, it was no wall at all. The credit you have given yourself belongs to me. When you leaned upon that wall it was I who held it up. It was not your strength at all, it was mine. And the comfort you felt when you leaned upon this side, was the comfort of my presence. And when I blessed you, my sweet one, I blessed you so that you would run towards me, not away from me. My heart’s desire has always been to bring you close.”

I leaned into His chest and sobbed. “I’m sorry, Lord. I’m sorry I missed you.”

Without moving, His presence seemed to grow. As I gathered myself again I found I was now sitting in His lap. The box that once stood over us was now one thin small wall with a square attached at the top and the bottom. It seemed so small in comparison to us.

“There’s one left,” He said.

A chill ran through me that made me pull away from Him suddenly. I stood up quickly nearly pushing Him over backwards. My breath quickened. I could hardly catch it. I backed away from Him until I could feel the remaining wall against my back. He stood up.

“What is it, child? Tell me about this side.”

I clutched the wall behind me. I looked at Him desperately but was too afraid to even cry.

“What is it? It’s okay to tell me,” He beckoned. His eyes were soft.

The splinters of the wall were in me now as they had been so many times. “Fear,” I managed. I tried to pull away from the wall but it had me in its grips. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t give voice to the screams inside.

I watched Him back away from me. His eyes remained fixed on me and I could see the same passion I had seen all along. “Where is He going?” I thought to myself. No! This is exactly what I fear the most. Where? Why?  LORD!

He took a few more steps back and pointed to His right. He never let His eyes leave me. Shaking, my eyes darted in the direction he was pointing. Charging towards me was a knight on a galloping horse. He held a lance that was aimed at me. As each second ticked by he grew closer. The rider rose in his saddle, raising the lance with precision aim. With everything in me I pushed away from the wall that held me just as the horse and rider ran past me. I ran as fast as I could into my Savior’s arms and buried my face in His neck.

He held me tight and rocked me back and forth. I don’t know how much time had passed but finally He said, “Look!”

I turned in the direction of the knight. He was cantering away on his horse the flimsy wall which looked like cheap cardboard was still stuck on the end of his lance along with the top and bottom of what was once the box.

I looked up at Him. “He wasn’t after me?”

He tipped His head back and laughed. “No, my love. He wasn’t after you,” He said His forehead leaning against mine. “I have conquered fear, my lamb. You need not be held by it any longer.”

I smiled. For the first time since I saw Him, I smiled. In the pit of my stomach I felt something I hadn’t felt before. The feeling travelled up my spine and down to my toes. I began to giggle, and then laugh. Tears filled my eyes but they were different tears than what I had shed before. I threw my arms around Him.

“You know what that is, my lovely?” He waited. “That’s joy!” He whispered loudly in my ear until it tickled.

I don’t know how long that moment lasted, it could have been seconds, it could have been years.  It was sheer joy and I felt complete in His presence.  As we both caught our breath my attention was drawn to where the box had once stood.  I can’t describe what I saw or heard but I knew something was there.  I looked at Him.  He let me down and said, “Go look and see.”

I moved carefully towards the site my eyes pealed for whatever was drawing my attention.  When I arrived I saw what appeared to be bits of broken pottery.  There seemed to be hundreds of them packed tightly into the square upon which the box stood.  Even though I hadn’t seen them before I knew the pieces well.  They were pieces of me… broken places of my life that had served as a foundation upon which that box was built.  I gathered up as many pieces as I could and ran to Jesus.  He had gathered the front of His robe into His hands in order to collect every piece I brought Him.  Without a word He took each piece and I ran back to get more.

I returned to the foundation more than a dozen times until each piece was picked up.  I went back on last time to make sure I had gotten them all.  I had.  And when I made my way back to Jesus, there He stood, not a piece of broken pottery in sight.  His arms were open to me and although I could no longer see what I had brought Him I knew He had them all and that they were safe. 

He gathered me in His arms and we walked the path together.

I pray that you know how much you are loved by the Savior of the world.  I pray that you know that His love is greater than any box you have created around you.  He can free you to be the person He has always intended you to be.  There is Love outside that box just waiting for you to experience!  Love for you to receive and love for you to give.

Thank you, Lord, for you love for us.  Thank you for sending your Son to rescue us from shame and fear, distractions and self-reliance.  Set us free to be loved and to love as you have loved us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Depth of True Love

Do you remember the excitement when mom and dad announced they were going out and your favorite babysitter would be there any minute?  What was it that made those nights so special?  For me it was knowing that for the next several hours the rules did not apply.  I could stay up a little later.  I could eat whatever I wanted.  I could make a fort in the middle of the living room, and I could watch the scary movie.  And mom and dad would never know… or so it seemed.

In a kid’s world that is a dream come true, isn’t it?  No rules.  No limits.  We can do whatever we want and not have any consequences.  What could be better?  But, would we have traded our parents for the babysitter? Maybe in the moment, in the mind of a 7 year old we would… for a second.  But all it would take would be one scary dream (from watching the scary movie we weren’t supposed to) when mom and dad suddenly became the most priceless commodity in our life.  How could we have ever entertained the thought of life without them even if it was only for a second?

And yet, I would bet that if you asked my babysitter, or yours… especially your favorite one, they would tell you that they loved you.  And most of them would really mean it.  They loved sitting with you, playing with you, allowing you to break a few rules here and there, being the fun sitter that you asked for by name.  That love was genuine.  But, is it the same kind of love as your parent’s love?  Of course not.

The love from our parents included limits, boundaries, and rules.  It was annoying, irritating, persistent, and unrelenting.  It was standing over us as we cleaned our room for hours when it would have taken them 20 minutes.  It was staying up late with us watching us finish homework that we put off until the last minute and didn’t tell them about until bedtime.  It was staying awake to hold us in the middle of the night so we could sleep when sickness or fear overcame us.

We use the same word.  We call it love.  But I think we all agree, that kind of love is a love that runs much deeper than the love from our favorite babysitter.  It is sacrificial.  It is messy.  It is tough.  It is at times uncomfortable to receive because its limits deny us from getting what we want.  But it doesn’t end.  It doesn’t go home at the end of the night.  And it’s the love that’s there for us when we break those rules and push those boundaries and have to pay the consequences.

Our Country is celebrating what some are calling a great victory.  What is most tragic to me is not that the Supreme Court ruled as they did.  The decisions of mankind even of the highest court in our great land are just that… the decisions of mankind.  They are of no surprise to God.  They neither diminish His authority, nor dissuade His passion for us.  What is most tragic to me is that, to use our analogy, the babysitter’s love is being touted as greater than the love of a parent.  That is not true.  And belief in it will fail those who trust it.

The truth is that no matter what our government sanctions, whatever laws or rules we are allowed to break the rules of the house don’t change.  Going to bed at a decent hour, eating healthy, keeping the living room neat and tidy, and staying away from scary movies didn’t just disappear when the babysitter showed up.  They still existed.  We just had permission to ignore them.  Do you remember making the argument to your parents, “But the babysitter lets me do that?”  How did that work out for you?

True love does set limits.  It sets limits that are uncomfortable.  It sets limits that absolutely go against our nature.  It sets limits we sometimes don’t understand.  It tells us at times we can’t have what we want even if what we want seems to be what everyone else has.  It doesn’t seem fair.  But that doesn’t mean it is not love.

To my LGBT friends: There is One who sees you, knows you, and made you exactly the way that you are.  He knows where you are at and what you have been through.  He knows your struggle.  He loves you so much that before you even existed in this world, He looked at you and who you would become and then said to His Son, “Son, it’s for her… it’s for her that I’m sending you into the world to die.  Because I want to have a relationship with her that will last forever.  I want her to have everything you have as my Son.”  He’s not a mean parent who doesn’t want you to be happy.  He’s a Parent who loves you so deeply that He sets what seems to be unrealistic limitations because what He has for you is a life that is better than what the babysitter can offer you.  It is true relationship with the God of the universe filled with deep and passionate love that will last forever.

I know that may be of little comfort to you when your heart is aching for a person that you feel fulfilled by, one that you believe completes you in a way no one else can, the one you want to build your life with.  But I guarantee you, that He will be there for you in the middle of the night when no one else is.  He will be there to guide every decision and help you through every difficulty.  His love is real and yes, it does have limits even on those things that feel natural and right.  Don’t settle for the babysitter’s love.  It will fail you.  Don’t judge His love as hate because it sets limits, or because those who supposedly know His love have judged or mistreated you.  Christians are sinners too and tragically do not always love as He loves.  But He is the real deal.  He knows what sacrificing the love of His life feels like… He gave up His own Son for you.

I also want you to know, my friends, that I share this with you as someone who has struggled with her own identity.  My experiences may not be the same as yours, but I believe I understand your struggle from first-hand experience.  I have chosen to put God first, to follow His rules, and to dedicate my life to Him.  That has meant in some cases, going without, being different, not fitting in with what everyone else in society seems to have.  All I can tell you is, I know His love is real.  He has not failed me yet and I know by faith that He never will.  He has been a part of my darkest hours and I wouldn’t trade Him for a temporary happiness that will ultimately leave me spiritually empty.

Lord, my prayer is your heart’s desire… that all will come to know your love.  Thank you for that love.  Help me and all those who follow you to show that love to others and especially to those who are struggling with sin – whatever that sin may be.   Thank you for your great grace.  Thank you for a passion that can never be deterred by the laws and decisions of man.  Your love is real and deeper than the deepest ocean.  You are real.  Thank you for sacrificing your own Son so that we could have a restored relationship with you that will last forever.  I love you and I need you, Lord, every day.  Thank you for being there to meet us where we’re at.

SUGAR!

c-h-granulated-sugar-lrgEvery Sunday morning about 25 members of a small Spanish-speaking church gather in their meager church kitchen to make burritos.  Using a combination of food taken from their own refrigerators as well as donations they’ve received, they cook whatever they have and form an assembly line to make as many burritos as they can.  They pack up whatever they’ve made and travel to one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area.  There they meet those who are homeless and give them everything they’ve made.  They set up tables and chairs and shade covering so that everyone has a place to sit and eat and fellowship with one another.

When I asked if I could come with them one Sunday I asked the leader of this small group, Gloria, if there was anything I could bring.  She said simply, “We need sugar.”

“Sugar?” I asked.

“Yes, for the coffee.”

It seemed so simple and so small.  I knew that this church was poor.  Gloria told me that herself.  She told me they would come together on Sundays never sure how much they would have to give.  I felt guilty.  I persisted in asking her, was there something more I could bring?  Was sugar enough?  She assured me it was.

I have to admit I struggled a bit with this task.  In the days leading up to that Sunday it just didn’t seem like I was bringing enough.  I reluctantly went to the store but the whole time I wondered if I should be doing something else, something more.  Even that morning I was a little embarrassed to only be carrying a 5 lb. bag of sugar as I walked through the back alley to the church.

As I walked up to the kitchen one of the ladies spotted me and the bag I was carrying from several yards away.  She yelled out, “SUGAR!” as she came running out of the kitchen.  She joyfully grabbed the sugar from my hands, graciously patted me on the back, then called out to Gloria in Spanish, “We’ve got SUGAR!”  before running back inside.

It was the warmest and most unusual greeting from a stranger I have ever gotten.  It also put me completely at ease.  So much joy from a simple bag of sugar.  It was what they needed and I was so glad I didn’t let my doubts sway me from following through with that simple request.

That morning was an unforgettable experience.  The amount of food this small group was able to provide was amazing.  Although Gloria had told me they were never sure how much they would have each week she also told me they always had enough.  God provided enough each week, sometimes from the most unusual sources.  She said she would often get calls the day before from bakeries or markets asking her to come by to pick up food that would otherwise go to waste.  Every Sunday was a surprise as to where the food would come from, but there was always enough.  God made sure of that.  That week I was a small part of God’s miracle.  They had no sugar until I arrived.

I recently read the story in John 6 where Jesus fed the five thousand.  What stood out to me most in this story was the faith of Jesus’ disciple Andrew.  After seeing the large crowd gather Jesus challenged his disciple Philip with this question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (Jesus already knew what he was going to do.  He was only testing Philip with his question.)

Philip responded, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

But then, here comes Andrew.  Andrew said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far with they go among so many?”

5-loaves-2-fishEven though Andrew wasn’t sure how far it would go, he at least had faith enough to see the potential in this boy’s lunch.  How easy it would have been for him to ignore those measly scraps,  chalking it up to impossible and joining Philip in the “we don’t have enough” rant.  But Andrew didn’t do that.  He brought to Jesus what he had.  As we know from the story it was more than enough.  With that small offering, Jesus was able to feed the 5,000 (which was most likely 15,000 if you include women and children) and have 12 baskets of leftovers to boot!

How many opportunities have I missed because I think what I have to give is too small?  Whether I am coming from a place of wealth or a place of poverty nothing is too small for God to use in miraculous ways.  After all it’s not about me!  It’s all about Him and bringing Him glory.  It’s about offering what we have no matter how big or how small and giving it to the Lord to do with as He wishes.

Lord, forgive me for the times that I have missed being a part of your miraculous touch in someone else’s life. Forgive me for making it about me.  All I have is yours.  Help me to live that way, not just say it.  Lord, put me in tuned with your Spirit so intimately that I know His nudge, His voice, His urging to reach out with little or with much to show others your great love for them.  Continue to bless Gloria and the ministry you started in that little church to make an eternal difference in the lives of so many.  Thank you for their faithfulness and their example.  Use me and what you have given me everyday for your glory.  In Jesus name, amen.