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Friday, October 30, 2015

OA teaches me about Christianity

It's been a little over a year and a half since I joined OA and this proram has revealed new things abut my faith. Today I was thinking about evangelism.

  People have watched my journey for the past year and a half. They have seen my body and my spirit change. Last night 3 new ladies I have shared pieces of my journey with came to our local face to face meeting. I had invited them in the past, but I had no idea they were coming this week. I didn't actively pursue them, I just lived my life in front of them and they noticed. I also befriended them with no condemnation. 

 I hope I can translate this into myChristian witness. My life should be lived in such a way that people notice my deeds and my spirit. It should attract them to Jesus. As I befriend people, not assault them with the gospel, I earn the right to speak God's love to them. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Serving and Growing

"Something happens when you serve.  Something you cannot control.  You start with all kinds of obstacles, fear, incompetence, and even a desire to avoid the hopelessness that occurs when you realize that you do not have the power within you to fix people.  Something changes and you stop seeing people and you see a person.  Maybe even for a fleeting second you see a person through God's eyes... and that is when you get it.  Serving was never about them.  Serving is about getting gripped in the heart by God.  And he touches your heart through the ones you serve."
     -- Barefoot Church  by Brandon Hatmaker

I read this tonight and it summarizes my experience so well.  My first attempts at serving the poor were so stumbling and pitiful.  I first decided to go to the local free community meal and help serve.  They asked me to take care of the drinks.  That sounded easy until 100 people started filing in and there were only two of us trying to pour and deliver all those drinks.  I was overwhelmed and frustrated.  People complained that we missed their table, I didn't know where the sugar was for the tea, we ran out of ice....  Talk about feeling incompetent.  I did not feel like Mother Theresa but more like Cinderella before the ball.  I found myself feeling grumpy and critical.  Then God's voice whispered that I wasn't here to feel good or get brownie points, I was here to give an offering of service.  Well, my offering was pitiful, but I gave it and I kept coming back.  Eventually I started getting to know the regulars and I got better at serving drinks.  Now I chat with them and serve them with  smile and I love it.

Then there was the night of the tailgate party for the homeless. (See my post - The Homeless are Healing my Heart).  That was when I got to see some people through God's eyes.  I hugged a hurting veteran and listened to his stories.  I saw individual people that night, not just a group of homeless and God did grip my heart. 

The farther I get on this journey I realize that the things God calls us to are not meant to be painfully sacrificial.  It may be difficult at first.   Transformation is not easy.  However, in the end, the changes he calls for are meant to give us joy and the abundant life he promised.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The 7 Experiment month one - food

Well, my newest obsession revolves around a book (big surprise).  It's called The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker.  My friend introduced it to me with the sentence - "You have to read this, it's so you."  All I had to do is read the back and I was hooked.  This author looked at seven areas of excess in her life and pared them down to the essentials.  Most of the areas were the same ones I've been making changes to in my own life - food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.

In my life (somewhat documented in my story, Journey of 100 Bags) I made gradual, sustainable changes in various areas.  Jen Hatmaker took it to the extreme.  She considered each section a fast and her goal was for God's kingdom to break through in her life. 

For the first month she ate only seven foods - chicken, eggs, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples.  She examined the Western diet and discovered how it is making us sick and fat.  She explored the ideas of whole food, organic, local food, and industrial agriculture.  She looked at how much food we waste as well as what God has to say in the Bible about food and our bodies.  She looked at the world around her and how so many are starving while a few are so indulged. 

I was challenged and excited.  I tried a water fast for one meal - yep just 1 meal.  I was miserable.  I felt weak and hungry and irritated.  I learned that fasting knocks me off center, shakes me up and reveals my character flaws.  It's not fun. 

Then I decided to follow one of Jen's suggestions and fasted from seven foods in my ordinary diet.  This was easier than the water fast, but it still got old fast.  I was not entirely successful.  One particularly stressful day I came home and ate cinnamon rolls.  These are not one of my trigger/binge foods, but they are a treat and one of the seven foods I chose to fast from.  I learned that I still turn to food for comfort.  One day my daughter drank the last of my unsweetened tea.  I snapped at her.  I was tired of drinking tea with no sugar to start with, but if it ran out I only had water.  I was embarrassed to see that a drink was that important to me.  Another day I was again bemoaning my lack of sweet tea when I looked at my glass of water and decided to be grateful.  I was thankful that I live in a country with pure water and that I can even afford to buy bottled water if I want to.  I learned that my life is full of blessings that often go unrecognized.

Food month was hard.  That means I need to do it again sometime.   I have more to learn... but this month is clothes. Bring on the next adventure.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Homeless are Healing my Heart

I used to live in a place where I hated to go grocery shopping.  When I walked in I passed a line of beggers.  When I walked out one of them  would usually follow me to my car asking for money.  He would have a story about how he was stranded and needed money to get gas to go home or how he hadn't eaten all day.  I knew this was most often  a lie.  These men had wives and children waiting at home to see if they would return with a little extra cash but most often they returned drunk and abusive.  Every time I had these encounters I felt violated.  My heart hardened and scar tissue grew over my compassion.

When I moved to Alamogordo I saw a few guys flying signs here and there asking for help.  I assumed they were fake and I drove past.

Recently God has been working on my attitudes toward the poor.  He revealed to me how rich, how blessed I am and how impoverished so many in the world are.  He impressed on me that the whole world is a family - His family.  I would never let my children go cold if I had an extra coat (or any coat) to share.  Maybe it was time to share with the rest of God's children.

I began giving things away.  That was easy and it felt good.  Some of the callouses fell off my heart.  Then I helped my church organize a free yard sale for the needy.  That was amazing!  Light began to shine on my soul. 

Then came the day I had extra strawberries and God said - go give them to the homeless begging on the corner.  I was scared.  What would they say?  What would they do?  What would they expect from me? 

I took my two young daughters with me.  They were excited.  They gave me courage.  I pulled into the parking lot and left my purse in the car.  Then I met Frank.  I didn't know if he would accept my offering.  Maybe he just wanted money.  I approached and asked if he would like some strawberries.  His whole face lit up.  "Those are my favorite.  Thank you miss.  I get so tired of hamburgers."  He was so grateful and friendly.  We chatted a minute and then he asked if I would take what was left to his brother across the street.  In that moment I saw generosity.  These guys and others I would meet share and take care of each other. 

I went home and told my husband that the guys on the corner where friendly and kind.  They didn't feel entitled to anything.  They were just trying to live.  They aren't saints, but they have a lot to teach me.  My heart was healing a little more.

Then I went to a tailgate party being held by a church group.  They made care bags to hand out to the homeless.  They also had a meal and clothes to give away.  I sat down to talk to a man I had me before.  He shared his story with me.  He is a paranoid schizophrenic and he has PTSD from being a war veteran.  With tears in his eyes, he told me he could never be forgiven for things he was ordered to do as a soldier.  He admitted that he is an alcoholic and that it cost him his last job.  He's been homeless ever since.  I held his hand.  I told him about God's love.  I felt my own heart restored.

Jesus told us to serve the poor, but what we often forget is that it is not just for their benefit.  It is for ours.  the poor can teach us how to love, how to share, and how to heal.