Monday Morning Meditation: True Humility

The church we attend has a lot of prayer meetings. At one such meeting, a man named Bernard shared that it was his 29th birthday in the Lord. He shared his story with the group, and one of the pastors asked him to share in church.

Bernard had been a heroin and cocaine addict since he was 14. After almost 20 years of addiction, he walked into a Teen Challenge center in Brooklyn and gave Jesus the opportunity to change his life.

29 years later, he has not touched drugs at all.

Bernard is a powerful speaker! His story itself is thoroughly compelling, and he is quite funny. God has truly transformed him into a man of God.

So what does this trophy of God’s grace do to serve the God who saved him?

He cleans the church.

That’s right. On Saturday mornings, every week, you will find him and his wife on their hands and knees, scrubbing the altar of the sanctuary with huge smiles on their faces.

I know this not because Bernard advertises this fact. I know because I see them. I see them when I come in to the church during the day for meetings or worship practice. I see their hard work and their positive attitudes. I know they have been through their share of great challenges, but you would never know it by the joy in their eyes.

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As he shared his life with us that day, I thought, This is true humility. Someone with a testimony like Bernard’s could be doing a lot of things. True humility is serving wherever God has called you to serve, even if that means cleaning the church.

On this Monday morning, I pray that your ears and eyes would be open to what He is doing around you and that you would have the humility to serve Him, no matter where He calls you.

If you would like to hear more about Teen Challenge’s program, here is their site.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #13: “Hope Runs” by Claire Diaz-Ortiz & Samuel Ikua Gachagua

I finished my 13th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption by Claire Diaz-Ortiz & Samuel Ikua Gachagua

I don’t remember who recommended this book to me; I think it was my husband. This is another book I got through PaperbackSwap, a resource that I love!

The story follows the life of the author, Claire, as she takes several “find yourself”-type trips with her friend Lara. The last trip has them ending in Kenya, where they board at an orphanage there. The children steal their hearts. They end up returning for a longer period to establish a running program for the orphans, who are in desperate need of extracurricular activities. The book alternates with Claire and a young man named Sammy, who lives at the orphanage, writing chapters. The kids eventually run a marathon, and Claire & Lara sponsor Sammy, so that he can come finish high school in America.

While the main author, Claire, is a Christian and this comes up several times, faith was not the main focus of the book. In fact, Claire’s traveling partner, Lara, was not a Christian. There is a funny story in the book where the kids ask Lara to pray for them before they run the marathon, not realizing that she might not believe in God. Rather than explain and possibly shatter their little worlds, she goes ahead and prays 🙂 In the orphans’ eyes, Lara will always be a Christian.

I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy read, and I devoured it in a couple of days. I’m like that with well-written, biography-style stories (books #15 & #16, if I ever catch up on writing these posts, were also biographies/autobiographies). It is eye-opening, hearing about all the trials Sammy had to go through before he & his brother ended up in the orphanage. To some, landing in an orphanage might seem like a bad thing, but Sammy describes his emotions as “happy beyond control.” There, he is guaranteed food and a bed and a stable environment. That’s a lot for a boy whose father died unexpectedly and whose mother abandoned him and his siblings.

It’s eye-opening to read Claire’s story as well – to see what God can do when you are willing to open yourself to the needs around you.

Definitely recommend this book.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

 

Freedom Friday: The Power of Service

My 4 year-old came to me recently and excitedly shared about his prayer life.

He said, “Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that……”

OK. I’m pausing in the story to say I was sure he was going to share he had been praying for a loved one’s health, or the end to world hunger. Actually, no, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to say any of those things. Let’s get back to the story.

“Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that I would see a ghost!”

After a discussion where he reassured me he knew ghosts aren’t real, I asked if he was praying about anything else.

“That I’d have lots and lots of video games.”

Well. There you have it.

I of course posted on Facebook to ask how to teach gratitude, compassion and social awareness to small kids. I got a lot of reassurances that his behavior is age-appropriate, we’re already doing some good things, and also some concrete suggestions. It brought to mind some of the ways we served when I was a child, the most memorable being at the soup kitchen.

You may be asking, what does this have to do with freedom?

We know that Jesus came to serve. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)

Jesus served by laying down His whole self, both in life and death. How does following His example help us learn to walk in freedom?

1. Service helps us to love.
If you are still deep in the thick of your battle with life-controlling issues, you may think it silly or even inappropriate for you to consider working in service, especially to the church. There are many possibilities and places you could serve, however. Does your church provide coffee and snacks after service? Offer to bake or help with clean-up. What sort of outreaches are happening in your community? Assist at a food pantry.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:13-14

In a mystery we can’t fully understand, when we serve others we are serving Jesus Himself.

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:37-40

Service helps us to love. It helps us to love ourselves, to love God and to love others.

2. Service helps us recognize our gifts.
” God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)

I heard a speaker once say that if you don’t know how God is gifted you, or where He’s calling you to serve, just try something. Ask the person in charge of greeting newcomers if you can try it one Sunday. Offer to sit in on a kid’s Sunday school class. Fold bulletins. Find something that seems interesting to you, or where there is a need, and commit to serving there for a period of time. If it’s not a good fit, ask the leadership of that ministry where you have strengths and where else you might consider serving.

3. Service requires God’s strength.
The verse from 1 Peter 4 quoted above continues, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (NIV1984)

Serving requires God’s strength. You won’t always feel like getting out of bed early on a Sunday to set up chairs. Ask God to help you. Service is another way to grow in intimacy with God, as you ask Him not only for His strength, but His grace in empowering you to be a blessing to others.

4. Service gives us perspective.
My favorite answer to my Facebook question was from my friend who lives with her family in Guatemala. How do you teach children empathy and social awareness? She simply wrote, “Move here.”

Service helps us to get our eyes off our own struggles for a moment. It reminds us that the whole world is struggling and suffering in some way. On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of shaming yourself about the time and money you have spent on your recovery. There is a time and a place for that as well. But those problem that seem so big and overwhelming can be put into perspective when we come face to face with the suffering of others.

This past week on Mother’s Day, one of the pastors at church shared about his mother not eating for days to ensure she had enough food to feed her children. Still, the kids often ate once a day. Even in the most trying times, I could likely feed my children for a month with what I have on hand. Imagining opening the cabinets to find nothing for my kids is one of the most heartbreaking things I could imagine.

You might also consider going on a humanitarian missions trip with your church or other outreach, as my friend suggested in her “Move here” comment. Others agreed that nothing gives you perspective like seeing how the truly poor live, or walking through the devastation caused by a natural disaster.

In what way could be serve someone today?