Monday, February 15, 2016

You're Needed In the Kitchen

I don't know if you've ever been in need of a blessing, but I have! I have had days where the tiniest of kindnesses meant the world. I have needed five dollars. I have needed a friendly wave from across the room. I have needed a bottle of water. To be on the receiving end of goodness can make everything feel better. 

Here's a story about King David's generosity that impressed me this morning...
“Then he gave to every man and woman in all Israel a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins.”
1 Chronicles 16:3 NLT

Any day I don't have to worry about feeding my family is a good day! King David fed entire families on this day. I'm sure there were some mighty happy women at this party! What an awesome day-off this gift was to those women! 

I can imagine, however, how miraculous this gesture felt to the homeless, the handicapped, and the outcasts of the land. The vast array of the people in the crowd that day who were recipients of David's goodness would be mind-boggling to truly know. 

Here's the thing...
David's vision of feeding EVERYONE couldn't have occurred without cooks and bakers.

God has given your pastor a vision for the city, but he needs "cooks" to make it possible. God has set up the church to be a blessing to itself, but he needs some "bakers" in the kitchen.

Ask yourself how often you are on the kitchen-side of blessings. There's nothing wrong with being on the receiving side, but you should also find yourself whipping up some goodness for others. 

Don't only sit in the chairs at church dinners, make sure you also stack the chairs. 

Don't only take pictures with the decorations at church dramas and events, also help create, or help clean up after the events. 

Don't only walk on the carpet of the church, also vacuum the carpet. 

Don't only listen to the choir sing, also join the choir and sing. Or perhaps babysit a choir member's children during practice or service. (Oops! That just slipped right out there. These silly music director thumbs...)

There are so many "Don't only's," and each church will have their own unique efforts and visions with which they need help to make reality.

Help bake somebody's miracle!
Make sure you spend time "in the kitchen."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Do It Anyway

I spoke with a young lady a few months ago about her talents she would, or would not use, based on how she felt. She was dealing with some new health issues and she tearfully told me that she would engage her talents again when she felt better, when she felt like her old self. I asked her, "What if you never feel 'normal' again? What if this is the new you that you have to learn to function with?"

These were hard questions to ask, but necessary. Because I wasn't merely asking her, I was equally asking ME. I used to not know what anger felt like, I didn't know what bitterness was like, I didn't know what depression and loneliness felt like. I didn't know what hopelessness was. When I hit a spot in life where all of these stressors, and more, were a daily experience, I SHUT DOWN. I came home from work and went to bed. I woke up to eat, and went back to bed. I sat at my desk at work and stared into nothingness. And I told myself every day, "It'll be so good to feel like working again." 

Weeks turned into months, and the months became years. I kept waiting on the old me to come back and energize me. After three years, I finally realized I had to pursue my goals and dreams despite not feeling able or equipped. It's now been six years and I've realized the old me couldn't come back to help me because she was DEAD. In my acceptance of this, I buried her, mourned her, and moved on to rise and walk in newness of life. 

The New Normal is not easy to accept. Especially when we liked the OLD normal. But when we begin to familiarize ourselves with this new person, we are able to LIVE AGAIN. 

Striving in a state of physical or mental pain to be and do better, to once again chase dreams and make goals, doesn't mean you can't ALSO seek to better the conditions of your body and mind. In fact, doctor visits, meetings with nutritionists, education and counsel should be a part of your new normal. But WAITING on these fixes is the trap you must avoid.

In my personal journey of putting my talents and callings back to work, I was inspired by people I'd known through my life, who could have been excused for nothingness, but instead figured out a way to engage with their talent and calling.

A blind man, named Jonothan Lollar, who would smile and joke, play music and sing. No one would have blamed him for slouching at home in bitterness over not being able to function as other young men his age. But he engaged in his talent and calling in spite of his body. 

A woman named, Lena Jones, had many bodily ailments and couldn't leave her house. She sat in her recliner and called people daily to pray for them over the phone. She engaged her talent and calling in spite of her body.

A woman whose name I never learned, but when I visited her church I was told that half of her face was paralyzed from a stroke. She had developed and led the best Vacation Bible School curriculum I've ever seen, in spite of her vanity being wounded. 

I know a woman who felt too intimidated to speak English after coming to the United States. But rather than seclude herself in loneliness, she immersed herself in the Prayer Room. Her intercession has no doubt saved thousands of people of ALL languages.

These are but a few people I personally know who demonstrated to me that if we will, we can contribute to goodness instead of drowning in nothingness. This list does not include the names of people like Mother Teresa, or Ghandi, or Helen Keller, or the many others who figured out a way to engage in spite of prison, or poverty, or physical handicaps. 

I hope your pain and affliction is not something you have to deal with for the rest of your life. I believe we should seek relief from those who've found fixes and cures. But we cannot allow our gifts and talents to be dormant because of our weaknesses. We must be diligent and FIND A WAY to use our talent because God gave it to us for use! 

God has assured us over and over that He doesn't call perfect people; not perfect morally, physically, or mentally. God is highly exalted when in spite of our infirmities we put forth efforts to use the talent He's placed within us. There is a three-fold cord we must strap to ourselves to ensure that in our sometimes blind push forward we are safe, and the people around us remain safe; Church, unity, & grit.

From experience I know that clawing one's way out of a fog can be dangerous. It's possible to cause inadvertent harm. Like Rahab hung a scarlet cord out of her window for the protection of all, keep this three-fold cord a priority and you and yours will be safe when the dust settles. 

1. The Accountability of Church.
This is not a blog about man-authority God recognizes. I'll simply say that you must be in unity with your pastor and congregation. You can't be deceitful in lifestyle behind closed doors concerning what the pastor has asked of the congregation. God's given him an unnatural authority, not of this world. It's likely even your pastor doesn't fully understand the importance of his authority. But trust me when I tell you that God isn't a God of Power-trips. He's a God of love and fatherhood. He sees how to protect his children, and when he gave the church a system of guidance through the authority of a pastor, it was to protect you. Be accountable to the guidelines of your church. It will protect you as you figure out how to use your talents as the New You.

2. The Checks and Balances of Godly Social Circles. 
We sometimes withdraw from friends in times of distress. Because people are busy, our infirmity means we can't be as busy as they are, and we sometimes get left out. That can feel like painful rejection. First of all, it's not rejection. It's simply the new you not able to be like the old you they're used to. NOBODY knows how to do this soul-mate-BFF thing with the New You. Not even you. Don't let the frustration cause you to utterly isolate yourself, or to not regard godly counsel. In this new season, you'll learn new friendship methods, and you'll learn to become an intimate friend of yourself. Allow a new person to contribute to you. Allow old friends to contribute in ways THEY are comfortable. Checks and balances are uncomfortable, but necessary. Take all of their counsels to heart, with a grain of salt.

3. Your Own Grit.
It will feel like death to do the simplest of tasks, but do the task anyway. 
You will cry WHILE doing the task, do it anyway.
You will feel like a loser after accomplishing a hard thing, do it anyway. 
You will feel lonely, rejected, and your baby-steps will seem insignificant to you, do it anyway.

In our weaknesses HE is shown to be strong. From our mental illnesses, to our physical ones, we can still yet be used of God within the protection of church leadership, godly social circles, and our own GRIT.