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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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Louies, Leggings, Leopard Prints and Lamenting Stints

Lamenting has been the tone of my heart in lately.  I do not know if I recall a time when I have felt enslaved to such oppressive spiritual warfare.  I have been stepping on dark, enemy lines lately with a project I am working on and the closer I get to completition, the more aggressive the attacks become.  I have been crying out to The Lord for relief, but He has appeared silent in the midst of my struggle. I do know this about my Father, though; His seeming silence does not equal stagnation.

I woke up today with that familiar tightness in my chest that has been my frequent companion in recent days.  Anxiety is like a skilled, thief, masterful at surprise attacks.  I never know when he will show up, and he renders me largely powerless to his presence except for the provision of prayer.

Getting ready for Sunday School and Church felt laborious because I was tired before I started. That slightly strangled feeling that is indigenous to anxiety was an unwelcome reminder of the storm swirling in my soul.

On days that I am out of sync, my motto is, if you don’t feel well, at least dress well; so I put on some of my favorite things and headed out the door masking on the outside the incongruence dwelling inside. I long for my inward appearance to parallel my outward one, but some days it is not plausible.

We are studying the Psalms in Sunday School right now. This morning as I listened to the lesson, slightly frazzled because we were late, I was reminded how the Psalms reflect my life. I am a mixture of grief and gratitude, flawed and favored, stitched together by an ever-welcoming Savior.

We all endure seasons of strife, friends. Louis’, leggings, leopard prints, (some of my favorite things), and lamenting stints go hand and hand this side of Heaven.☺️ My desire to be congruent is so real, but rarely realistic, and that is entirely ok.

Thank you, Jesus, for the precedent of your word that reminds me that I am not an anomaly, and neither are you, friend!

You are loved!♥️

Outfit details:

Cardigan:  joseph-a-leopard-print-double-knit-cardigan

Leggings:  3828364

Boots:  4615297

Bag:  www.louisvuitton.com

 

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Be the Church

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I just read a news report about a Houston father, husband and police officer that was gunned down while pumping gas into his patrol car.  More violence against our people from our people.  The division is disheartening.

In the article, the District Attorney was exhorting people to drop qualifiers and recognize that ALL lives matter.  While I agree with her 100 percent, this is not a strong enough argument to change or stop the violence.  People don’t need to be convinced; they need to be converted.  Only light can extinguish darkness.  Jesus is light.

All lives matter is a slogan.  Jesus is a Savior.  Slogans may change headlines, but they will not change hearts.  

I fear Christians are becoming too quiet and thus being drowned out by the noise of the world.  Being the church is more important than being at church.  All lives do matter, but changing lives masters more.  Let us not be divided by our color; let us be defined by our character!  Rise!  Be the church.

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The Cross Guides Us Home

The cross- symbol of God's love to people
The cross- symbol of God’s love to people

If we are not keeping our eyes on the cross, we are merely a blind man driving home.

Last Sunday our Sunday School teacher took us on a short field trip on the church campus. We were lead to the cornerstone of our church, and he gave us a brief history lesson about the church and a touching exhortation to be the church. He also pointed out the three crosses that stand high above our church building. The one in the middle stands the highest, and the two on each side a little lower. The two lower crosses represent the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus. The higher one, representing the cross of Jesus.  The message was particularly special to me because those crosses, the highest one, in particular, holds special value in my life.

In September 2005, my parents were in town visiting. The second day they were here, my mom and I dropped my children at pre-school and headed to Sam’s. We had just parked when she got a phone call. It was my dad. “He said something has happened, and I cannot see.”  Our Sam’s trip was averted, and we rushed back to my house to check on him. We would later end up in the emergency room to find out he had a stroke in his eye. This would be my dad’s second stroke. The first had affected his opposite eye. Now both eyes were impaired.

As hours passed, and the story unfolded, we found out he was in the car driving down Columbiana Road when the stroke besieged him. Our church sits on Columbiana Road. Although my dad had very limited vision, He said he could see ONE thing. The high cross that stands guard at the top of Shades Mountain Baptist Church.    He went on to explain that he knew if he slowly proceeded toward the cross, he could find his way home because I lived just down the street. Miraculously he drove himself home, the cross guiding him the whole way.

After our field trip last Sunday, we were walking back into the church and I mentioned my dad’s experience to my husband. He said to me, “I still do not understand how he drove home blind.” It was at that moment that God spoke to my heart. The message direct and simple, “If we are not keeping our eyes on the cross we are no better than a blind man driving home.” Wow! I had chills, and I love how God used that little Sunday School field trip to go beyond our teachers lesson and deposit His own message into my heart.

We are all just driving home friends. Where are we fixing our eyes? On the world, on our problems, on our pain, on our possessions, or on the cross?

Sometimes my vision gets distorted. There are many things the world has to offer to distract my eyes. My flesh wages war against my sight. The goal is not perfect vision, but progressive vision. We must always be advancing, focusing and refocusing towards that one thing that now or later will make all things clear and guide us without fail, even in darkness-The Cross.

I know your “drives” sometimes become treacherous. I know your vision often feels blurry. Mine too, but Keep returning your eyes to the cross friends. It is the only way to get you home.