Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Opportunity Knocks

I was getting ready for church this morning and there was a knock at my door. My children raced upstairs to tell me that we had visitors. I will be honest my first reaction was one of annoyance ... I was after all getting ready to leave. I could not imagine who would be going door to door on a Sunday morning ... and half way contemplated just ignoring them ... but, surely the people waiting outside my door had heard my children racing up the stairs yelling, "Mommy someone is at the door!" To ignore it at this point would be rude, so I begrudgingly went to the door and answered it already practicing in my head what excuse I would use to turn down whatever it was they were selling. When I opened the door, there were two people both holding red environmental bags. I quickly noticed the shirt that the man was wearing. It read .... "It is against my relationship to have a religion." It was while I was pondering this, that I heard the woman introducing themselves to me. They were from West Valley Bible Church. They were collecting cans of food to help others. Would I be interested in helping? With a healthy serving of conviction I responded that I would and went to retrieve as many cans as I could carry in my hands. I placed them in their bags commenting that it felt a little like trick-or-treating ... but in a good way. They thanked me in words and smiles and continued on their journey.

I have been pondering this interaction throughout the day and have been brought to a couple of realizations. First, what these people did was bring an opportunity to me to help. God calls on us to help and serve others. It is what we are designed to do. But, sometimes I think we miss opportunities that God places before us. Sometimes we miss the subtle whispers of opportunity knocking … sometimes we hear it, but ignore it because we are busy … sometimes we just don’t recognize it as an opportunity. Today God’s whisper came in the form of a knock on the door. I could have ignored the knock … I wanted to, but I am so glad that I did not. You see today’s visitor brought not only an opportunity to help someone else, but an opportunity to learn a lesson. We all have a list of to-do’s. Our list might even be full of things that are good things to do … like going to church, writing a letter to a sponsored child, or emailing a friend in need of prayer. But, we need to make sure to keep our spirits alert to the promptings of the Lord as he reads off His To-Do list for each of us as well that we might not miss the opportunity to bring Him glory. Second, there is a choice to be made. We can always choose to hide behind the curtains … to hold our breath and hope that they go away … in the name of “I am to busy to do this right now.” But, if we do that, we will never know what God has for us in that moment, and what He wants to do through us or to us ... as the case may be. Finally, there was the saying on the shirt: “It is against my relationship to have a religion.” You see what these two people were offering today was a way to demonstrate my relationship with Christ. It was not about religion. It was not about legalism. It was not about rules. It was about relationship with God. It was about blessings and responsibilities that come with the blessings. It was about loving God enough to hear His heart for others and respond to it using whatever we are blessed with to bless others. It was about hearing the knock at the door of your heart and answering use me.

Father, forgive my selfish heart. Forgive me for hesitating when you called. Oh how quick I am to see things from my own perspective instead of yours ... placing my own to-do's infront of yours. Grow me Father. Fill my heart with a reverance and sensitivity to your promptings. Help me to see that you orchestrate opportunities for me to be used ... more often than I realize. Search me and know me ... change me ... use me. AMEN

Sunday, October 18, 2009

When Hunger is the Answer

Some dear friends and I took our daughters to The Revolve Tour in California this weekend. One of the speakers at the conference was a young boy who has changed the world ... one basket at a time. Before I tell you more about him though I wanted to tell you that HUNGER is the answer to the global problem of poverty and hunger. It is both the problem and the solution. You see, we need to get hungry! I am not talking about sympathy fasting so that we can try to even begin to understand a small portion of what people around this world are feeling when it comes to hunger. Instead, we need to actively seek, pray, and yearn for a heart that is hungry to be a part of the solution ... a soul that aches with hunger for change! The child ... yes child ... that we heard speak has started an organization called Hoops of Hope. A summary of his story is listed below:

Hoops of Hope is the biggest basketball shoot-a-thon in the world, much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! You can join thousands of participants and teams from around the world that shoot free throws for children in need. Every dollar raised will go directly to the project you select to help these children. Every free throw will literally help keep children from becoming orphans.

The United Nations estimates that every 14 seconds, somewhere in the world, another child is orphaned by HIV/AIDS. This means that each day over 6,000 children join the 15 million children worldwide who have already lost one or both parents to this disease.

In the spring of 2004, Austin Gutwein watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, he realized these kids weren’t any different from him except they were suffering. Austin felt God calling him to do something to help them. He decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used by World Vision to provide hope to 8 orphan children.

From that year forward, thousands of people have joined Austin in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $1 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school and finally, a medical testing facility which he was told would save an entire generation. A second clinic is now under construction.

All of this is the result of one child's hunger to make a difference. God used what this child loved and his willingness to follow a vision to help change the world.

There are a lot of people in the world that are dying from hunger. Let's get hungry! Let's do something. Let's take a good look at what our passions are and ask God to give us a vision of how they can be used to help others. We were made for this.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When God Says Unpack

Although it is true that it is time for a memory verse ... and I do have one ... I would like to take pause and go in a different direction. I am currently at our church's woman's retreat. The theme this year is: The Journey ... and the Journey started when I got here. Within minutes of arriving, my suitcase literally opened up and spilled out out its contents - laying out in front of everyone all my stuff. I tried desperately to grasp each and every item and cram them back in, but as I did ... even more spilled out. It was absolutely horrifying, and it brought me to tears. I could not believe the things that were being revealed ... to be honest I did not even remember packing some of them. I felt so vulnerable and raw.

You see, it was not my physical suitcase that spilled out, but my emotional one. God, in His infinite grace and fatherly love, expertly lanced the suitcase of my emotions and beliefs, my heart ... and let all the packed away "junk" spill out. Six years ago, I had cancer. Six years ago, I lost my long, thick hair ... my metabolism ... my eyebrows ... the ability to grow healthy, long nails ... and more. Six years ago, my body took a huge hit. I survived, even flourished. God took something tragic and grew me in ways that I never knew were possible. We walked hand in hand through the fires of cancer ... and I knew who I was in Him. It was an amazing journey, but there were scars ... physical and emotional. You see, the physical scars are daily reminders that of what I have lost. My self-esteem ... once freed from vanity ... has been smoldering in the depths of my heart for the last six years. I have been nursing insecurities about the physical scars of my journey with cancer ... and they have indeed grown. I thought I had it under control though. I thought it was no big deal. But I was wrong.

From the moment I Got here God has been talking to me. He has bound my hands from re-packing these thoughts and has brought them into the light. He has shown me that they are in the truest sense as much of a cancer as the physical cancer that bore them. Every time I look in the mirror and tell myself how unattractive I look now ... every time I look at my now thin hair and fel shame and discontent ... every time I delete the pictures of myself from my camera because I am embarrassed to have others see me captured for eternity ... I feed this cancer of insecurity. Worse yet, I open my heart to the lies that Satan whispers into my bruised spirit and call them truth.

This weekend God has clearly said, "Enough!" He has brought my brokeness to the surface in a place of retreat ... where I am safe. He has kept me raw ... and has shown me each lie ... bringing it right before my eyes ... showing me (through the caring words of friends that are here with me) that my thoughts do not reflect the truth of how He sees me. Instead, they tear down and destroy what God has created in me ... the woman that He birthed from the cancer.

Each year, we get a word. A word to think about ... to meditate on. Mine this year was "Pure." The verse that was with it was: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8 NIV). In thinking about this word, it has become clear to me that the thoughts that I hold against myself are impure. That they consume my heart, and in reality harden it. God wants my heart to be His dwelling place ... not a dwelling place for self. A while back the following verse was one of my memory verses:

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the LORD loves
rests between his shoulders."
—Deuteronomy 33:12

I did not know it then, but it was in preparation for this day. You see, God is not leaving me on my knees grasping to pick up my scattered emotions and beliefs ... instead He has extended His hand to me ... inviting me to climb up onto His shoulders and rest. The journey to seeing me as God sees me is one that I am sure will take some time. It means letting go. It means dying to self. It means letting Him shield me ... even when it means He is shielding me from myself.