Thursday, November 3, 2011

Always Enough

Katie Davis' sweet writing has truly blessed me in ways I couldn't have imagined. At times, she gave words to my heart and helped me process my own story as I read hers. I pray that Jesus continues to teach our communities, as individuals and groups, to love desperately... with true and lasting faith. We can trust Him, because He has gone before us and taught us to love. God help us believe! Help us to fight for racial reconciliation! Help us to serve you without hesitation! Lord, give us Your eyes, Your ears, Your love, and Your grace to do the hard work of the Gospel... to see lasting change in relationships around us and around the world.

In the last portion of her book, Katie writes:

I believe there is only one truly courageous thing we can do with our lives: to love unconditionally. Absolutely, with all of ourselves, so much that it hurts, and then more.
I would like to say that as I become more and more surrounded with sorrow and destitution, it gets easier or less painful. But it doesn't. The brokenness of this world does not become any less sad. Each and every time, it is overwhelmingly devastating that people have to live, and die, like this--like my girls and I see happening around us. While it does not get easier, I have found that I am able to face each situation with a little more hope. I always hope my friends will live here on earth with me, but I tell them with a new sense of urgency about Jesus because mostly I want them to live with Him, experience His profound, unconditional love, whether here or in heaven. I see the sadness, but I also see the redemption.
I have learned along my journey that if I really want to follow Jesus, I will go to the hard places. Being a Christ follower means being acquainted with sorrow. We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy. Joy costs pain, but the pain is worth it. After all, the murder had to take place before the resurrection.
I'll be honest: The hard places can seem unbearable. It's dark and it's scary, and even though I know God said He will never leave or forsake me, sometimes it's so dark that I just can't see Him. But then the most incredible thing happens: God takes me by the hand and walks me straight out of the hard place and into the beauty on the other side. He whispers to me to be thankful, that even this will be for His good.
It takes awhile sometimes, coming out of the dark place. Sometimes God and I come out into a desert and he has to carry me through that too. Sometimes I slip a lot on the way out and He has to keep coming back to get me. Always, on the other side is something beautiful, because He has used the hard place to increase my sense of urgency and to align my desires with His. I realize that it was there that He was closest to me, even in the times when I didn't see Him. I realize that the hard places are good because it is there that I gained more wisdom, and though with wisdom comes sorrow, on the other side of sorrow is joy. And a funny thing happens when I realize this: I want to go to the hard place again. Again and again and again.
So we go.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What an AMAZING night! God is incredible!

Last night I experienced a taste of redemption in an unlikely place. I was really needing to see the Lord working in my life, as I had been discouraged throughout the day with work and other things. I knew I needed renewal and I asked for it. He answered much quicker than I realized...

I was on my way to weekly worship time at Covenant and happened (for the first time in a long time) to be 25 minutes early. I noticed that I was out of gas so I pulled out of the turn lane and went up to the gas station semi-near the Seminary. With the little time I had, I pulled up to the pump, swiped my card, and turned back to the car to put my card away. Behind me, I heard a woman's voice saying, "Excuse me. Ma'am. Excuse me!" I turned to see this woman who looked pretty frantic. She said, "My sister was in a terrible accident. They are life-flighting her out to Barnes Jewish Hospital. I don't know what happened, but on my way, I realized I didn't have any gas and I didn't bring money with me. Could you spare a few dollars to help me fill my tank?"

Now, normally, I am a pretty skeptical person when asked for money. I usually (admittedly and regretfully) ask several questions to determine the seriousness of the situation before I let the small amount of money I have slip out of my fingers. But this time was different. I didn't have any cash. All I had was a card. I looked into this woman's face, could see she was distressed, and told her to pull up her car at the adjacent pump. I filled up her tank.

While I was filling her car, I told her about my sister and how she had passed a little over a year ago. She wept and said she was afraid of what was happening with her own sister. She said, "What am I going to do?" So, I asked, "Do you know Jesus?" She looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said, "Yes! I just became a believer recently! My sister led me to the Lord." I smiled and I told her the God of all comfort, the God who died on our behalf to walk these difficult roads with us, was with her, with her sister, in this moment. I told her that God orchestrates even these interactions at gas stations to shower his incredible Love on His children... to be with each other when tough times come. She told me that she just knew to come talk to me- that she saw me standing there and just felt Someone tell her to come ask me for help.

Isn't it just like our Lord to bring together two suffering women this way? This woman had no idea that I had just walked the road she was on just 16 months ago. How is this possible apart from the Gospel? IT ISN'T. The same God that fed 5 thousand through a few pieces of fish and bread, the same God that poured water from a rock, the same God who is making all things new, RIGHT NOW, stepped in to someone's despair and fear, and answered their prayers- BOTH OF OURS. We parted by me reaching to her and hugging her, telling her He is with her.

I got into my car and just sobbed on my way back to Covenant. I thanked Him for the honor to serve Him out of my own pain, and thanked Him for my story. I thanked Him for the challenge of this past year, the trials I have faced, and the agony of losing a beloved sister. Mostly, I thanked Him for giving me the courage to trust Him, to put my hands out and be a light to another sister in need. What an incredible gift for my heart to experience.

Just 10 minutes changed the course of my entire week. 10 minutes of the Lord walking on this earth with me in this moment at a gas station on a busy road, 10 minutes to soften my heart to his calling on my life. 10 minutes was long enough to hear, "Katie, love my people. Love them. Give them everything you have. I have delivered you through incredible mercy. Feed the hungry. Give voice to their tears. I will bring them to you... share with them what I am doing... for them! Love them desperately because I first loved you."

I leave you with Paul's words to the Ephesians- 4:1-16 (MSG) tonight. Trust in His power, His story, His truth in your life. I give all glory to Him who has granted me such tremendous grace!

1-3In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

7-13But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,

He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.