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Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.

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Broken And Beautiful

I was standing at my kitchen sink crying and smiling this morning as I was washing my grandmother’s Spode, Christmas Rose, China that I now own. I noticed the sharp incongruence in my heart. There I stood, a broken heart full of broken pictures as the ballad of my soul played its hymn; this is not how it is supposed to be. But then there was an accompanying melody of, thank you, Jesus, for how it was. Imperfect moments, incomplete holidays accompanied by irreplaceable memories; both beauty and brokenness reigned there in the ordinary, yet extraordinary moment at my kitchen window.

This week, I have followed one of my favorite celebrities as she has ministered to the people of Haiti alongside Samaritan’s Purse. She has documented her trip in pictures. Many of her posts have contained the same observance or a similar variation. Her tag lines all lamented Haiti, so much poverty surrounded by so much beauty. Her pictures are oxymorons, and her perplexity of that juxtaposition is evident. Broken people and broken countries, but all encapsulated by beauty. It is not supposed to be this way, but it is.

As I sat in Christmas Eve service tonight and we sang Silent Night while lighting the candles, The Lord showed me a picture. For the dormant candles to be kindled, the light from our neighbor must remain upright and firm, while the one receiving the light must bend, lean and become vulnerable, to be ignited. At times we are the beacons, and at times we are the broken. We each have light to give and light to receive but the cycle cannot be sustained without both the shattering and the shining of souls.

The examples of the ever-present and unchanging reality of the marriage of beauty and brokenness are more pervasive than I can list. They are present in every moment and every memory, in our tears and our triumphs, our pain and passions, our struggles and our strengths. Where there is beauty, there will always be brokenness, and it was this way from the beginning.

I am so thankful that The Son of God, The King of the world was born in a dirty stable and laid in a messy manger. The Light of the world, God’s most perfect Gift, a Savior for the world entered this life, and surrounding His arrival was beauty and brokenness. Broken circumstances, broken parents, broken leaders, broken countries and broken plans were the backdrops that set the stage for the most beautiful bounty the world would ever know. It was all necessary to remind and comfort us when life is not as it is supposed to be in our hearts, that it is as it is meant to be in our Savior’s hands.

Many of you are experiencing the poverty of loss, illness and difficult circumstances this Christmas Eve. I pray you find strength from the life of a baby born into bankrupt surroundings, who suffered among both the sick and the “sufficient” so that He may bring the beauty of His perfect light to mingle among the broken parts of our lives. Jesus, may we all have eyes to see your grace flowing through our moments of grief, and may we be consoled, sustained and encouraged by the sweet fragrance that accompanies all of our fractured moments as we travel home.

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Embracing Transparency

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Embracing transparency frees us from a life of isolation, and the exhaustion of trying to appear like we have it all together. Transparency is contagious and liberating because it gives others permission to be “normal.” We need to walk this beautifully, broken life with each other well. I cannot do that if am not willing to give up my need to manage what people think of me, and to have an appearance of an “altogether” life. We are all only accountable to One. He accepts us just as we are-broken.

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The Rescue is in the Relationship

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I know a lot of you are facing some very difficult circumstances. Trails and hardships that threaten your desire to wake up, to get dressed, to smile, and carry on. I can confidently say I am familiar with that place. A few years ago, I went through a trial that positioned me in such despair that I gained a new identity-victim. Life alternates between numbness, crying, anger and fear there. I was drowning in a set of circumstances with no life preserver.

Why? I had plenty of friends for support. I went to a good church, and had all my life. I had a supportive family. I had every provision I needed. I had…I had…I had so much, yet none of it was enough to save me from my own despair. It was there, broken and helpless, that God found me.

It’s a perplexing thing to understand. I had been in church all my life. He hadn’t found me, or I him before? No! I had found a religion, not a relationship. I had found a lot of laws, not a lot of grace. I had found a lot of truth and not a lot of freedom. I had found a book called the Bible, but not the gospel. I had heard but I didn’t really hear. I saw, but didn’t really see, and I knew, but didn’t really know, didn’t really know-HIM.

It was not until I entered the darkest place that I began to find the light. For when things are always bright we cannot see, and when we cannot see we will eventually stumble. I say all this to encourage you that when life feels overwhelming, unbearable and hopeless, we can choose hope and peace, because it is in the darkness that we see the light, and it is only by the light that we find our way.

Rescue comes in the Relationship, and I did very little on my own to initiate that. All I did was start showing up, and some days it was a battle to do that! I can tell you, though, once you have been dragged through a dense forest, once you have been redeemed from victim to victor, subsequent trails, which are no doubt inevitable, become such a different experience! If for no other reason they draw us into compete lack of self-sufficiency, and into complete dependance upon a Savior. The more you need someone, the more you get to know them. Then a curious thing happens, the more you get to know Jesus, the more you want to spend time with him, and it only gets sweeter from there.

I’m not going to lie, some circumstances are outright unthinkable, but you can choose to find one positive thing in the midst of them, and that is an invitation…come broken, come messy, come weary, come over burdened-just come! I will personally testify-HE will meet you there. Trust me, I am there a lot, and I do know!