Friday, July 26, 2013

Differences, passion and cute baby animals

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Romans 12:4-6a

Noah, my mom-in-law Sandra, and I were on our way to visit my sister-in-law and her kids and their kids for a couple of days in Ranson, WV. Driving through Morgantown, we saw a truck from WVU with the words "Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences," which conjures up mental images of people studying how to take temperatures of horses and how to birth goats. Ewwww.

I'm not an animal person. We have a cat and a goldfish, and I take pretty good care of them. I also enjoy a good baby animal video on YouTube from time to time.  (For your viewing pleasure, check out the one posted below). However, there is not anything about Jennifer that wants to study that. I began to think about how glad I am that people are so different. If everyone on earth loved writing, but had no interest in animals or computers (yeah, I'm out of the loop there too), we'd have a whole lot of dead animals and we would have nothing on which to write.  

The fact that we are so different is a good thing. Animals are taken care of, computers keep computing, cars get painted, sick are cared for, and television shows get produced. 

It's also a good thing when it comes to the ways we serve God, though I don't always see it that way. 

When people have a different opinion than mine, naturally they're wrong. *said with only slight sarcasm* But seriously, people are passionate about different things in life. One might be passionate about the poor and the homeless, while someone else might be passionate about  music, and I have another friend who is passionate about fashion. All of it can be used for God, the very God who hardwired us with those passions. 

Sometimes I wonder why my church doesn't have a kind of ministry that is running through my head that we need. It varies, depending on what I am focused on at the time. If I am really feeling a concern for the poor in our community, I start to wonder why my church isn't out feeding the homeless. Or if I hear of a focus on adoption at another church, I wonder why my church isn't doing that as well. 

But I am part of my church. If God has placed these desires on my heart, it could very well be my job to get these things going. As much as I want to blame it on other people, and criticize us as a whole for not focusing on those things that I think are super important, I have to place the blame back on myself. 

God created us all different for a reason. I will have things He wants me to do, that He won't ask you to do. And the same goes for you. If you are wishing for something to be done for a cause that is dear to your heart, don't waste another minute waiting on someone else to do it. Pray about it. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do about it. Then do it. 

I am definitely preaching to myself right here too. When I put off doing the things God puts on my heart, not only are the people I could be serving missing out, I am too. Instead of feeling peace from knowing I'm doing what God wants, I'm feeling unsettled. Instead of seeing the beauty of watching God work in ways I never imagined, I'm wondering what it would be like if He did. Instead of making a difference, I'm not. 

There are so many reasons we can come up with for not doing the thing that needs done. We aren't qualified. We don't have time. We don't have resources. Just to name a few. 

But God isn't limited by any of that. He used Moses, a shepherd with a speech problem, to lead an entire nation of people out of slavery. Not only did Moses not feel qualified, he obviously didn't have resources to feed and care for more than 2 million people. Moses obeyed anyway, and God took care of it, using Moses and his brother Aaron to speak, and using manna and quail supplied by God himself to feed the people. 

If you haven't felt God asking you to do something yet, ask Him to show you. He will. Then do the best you can, wherever you are with what you have. God will take care of the rest. Whatever it is that God might be asking you to do, don't put it off any longer.  The world is waiting. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tapes, faith, and Jonathan

"...Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." 1 Samuel 14:6b

For several years, I worked as a transcriptionist for a mental health agency. I started out in data entry, then the transcriptionist had surgery, so I filled in, then she quit, so I was able to take the position. Perfect! Sometimes I was even able to do my work at home. During the summer, I could stop by the office, pick up the tapes and type them from the comfort of my home in my PJs, not needing a babysitter.

One problem. I didn't keep up. I would drive to the office to pick up the tapes, sometimes 10 at a time. I might do two of them, then need to pick up more. The stack grew. This resulted in a very large envelope stuffed with untyped transcription tapes and a whole lot of stress. When I finished my journalism degree and was about to begin my internship at the paper, I quit the transcriptionist position and I turned in this giant envelope, with something like 40 untyped tapes, to my boss. She lovingly said something like..."I'm going to kill you...Good luck at the paper."

I knew how to do the job, but it was too big for me, and maybe for any one person. 

I'm so glad God isn't like that. It's comforting to know there is no job too big for Him. 

In I Samuel chapter 14, Jonathan points this out as well. 

Jonathan and Saul were taking on the Philistines with just 600 men, and the only weapons were what Jonathan and Saul had with them. Jonathan and his armor bearer took off for a bit to get a closer look at them, and Jonathan told his armor bearer to go with him to face the Philistines. He said, "Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." 

Jonathan was pretty wise. Not only did he know that the battle is God's, which is something the Israelites had a recent habit of forgetting, he also knew that no battle was too big for God to win, and that He could use even just a couple of guys to do it. 

On a side note, if ever there is a guy in the Bible to have a crush on, for me it's Jonathan. I'm sure that sounds weird. But if there were a Jonathan poster, I would have it hanging on my wall right next to Taylor Lautner. There's just something about his devotion to God, his humility, his loyalty to his friend, and his selflessness that really gets me all starry-eyed, like Marsha Brady at the mention of Davy Jones. But I digress...

That day, God caused somewhere around 20 Philistines to fall over when Jonathan came by, and his sidekick finished them off. 

Jonathan knew no job was too big for God. That's the kind of faith it takes. I wish I could always say the same about my own faith in God. I guess know it in my head, but sometimes my heart feels less sure. 

God doesn't guarantee He will fix things our way; however, He will do it the best way. Our job is just to trust Him and look to Him for our rescue. 

If there is something in your life that seems too big, know that it isn't. Like Jonathan, take a peek at your Philistines, and instead of seeing them, see how much bigger your God is than your situation. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Praying for guts

Standing in line for the Gatekeeper, I could feel my stomach turning. It was the first ride my husband, son, and I lined up for at Cedar Point last weekend, and I wasn't sure I was up for it. I have ridden my share of coasters in the past, but the older I get, it seems the emptier my courage is becoming. Noah was being pretty brave about it, but I was afraid that any sign of weakness from me could result in some added fear for him, which I didn't want. (Turns out that wasn't something I needed to worry about, as the next day at Kings Island, he rode the Diamondback so many times, he began posing for the camera during the ride, making goofy faces, and at one point forming his hands into the shape of a heart as a message for me to see on the screens in the gift shop). 

I had a plan to back out of it. I thought I could just stay in line for the ride, then as I start to climb on, I would just keep climbing through and wait for them at the exit... Maybe he wouldn't notice I had gotten off. But I didn't want to do that. So I prayed for guts. Lots of guts. At one point I even had to ask myself if I was sure I wanted God to give me guts, because then I would have to ride it. But probably 40 minutes into the line, I decided I did want the courage. I wanted to be able to face my fear. God did it. I had the courage it would take to get on, get strapped in, and with tears in my eyes, face the Gatekeeper. 

Here is what one article said about this ride...
The GateKeeper is indeed a record-breaker. It is the longest (4,164 feet), fastest (67 mph), has the longest drop (164 feet), and has more inversions than any other wing coaster (six). Moreover, each inversion is different than the last. It also features the highest inversion of any roller coaster in the world."  
Sounds fun, right? 

The guts I needed to make it through the ride, climbing up the enormous first hill and then twisting and turning through the rest of the 2 minutes and 40 second ride, were there. 

I realize this is just a ride, but it was a big deal for me that day. And if it was a big deal to me, it was a big deal to God. I'm so glad He feels that way. 

There is something a little bigger that I am also praying for the guts to do. I've had it on my heart for a while to have a Bible study for about a year now (I guess I don't like to jump into things?). God has kind of gotten specific about it in a way only He can do.

Not feeling sure about whether I wanted to try it at my home, or at church, I put it off, and undoubtedly questioned my qualifications to lead one. But lately God has put my neighbors on my heart.

I'm not a social neighbor. At all. I can probably count on one hand the names of the neighbors I know. I'm not proud of this, just stating the facts. I've lived in this house since the 1900s (Christmas of 1999, to be exact...). That should be enough time for anyone to get comfortable enough to introduce themselves, but not me. 

But God isn't letting me out of this one, and I don't want Him to. It started with a feeling that I should pray for my neighbors. So I took a walk around my neighborhood, asking God to work in each home with whatever situations were going on there. Then I see on Facebook, without searching for it, a daily guide to praying for your neighbors - their salvation, knowing God's love, grace, that they would have the peace of God, forgiveness and healing, and wisdom.

Then, in His not-so-subtle way, we get a package delivered to our house, but it was for a neighbor, mistakenly left on our doorstep (big bummer, by the way. I LOVE getting stuff in the mail). 

Shawn takes it to the neighbor’s house, and gets into a lengthy conversation with them. The man is super friendly, and tells Shawn he and his wife have recently started a Hispanic church in Putnam County, and that he wants to start a Bible study in the neighborhood. Wow. 

So, I will ask for your prayers as I attempt to figure out details of what God wants me to do with this. I'm excited about it, but am nervous, and a little scared. Especially scared I will chicken out, or find excuses as to why I can't do it.

The writer of Hebrews says this as he finishes out the book in chapter 13...

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

So I'm praying for guts. And just like He equipped me with the guts to climb aboard the Gatekeeper, He will supply the guts for this as well. 

Obviously, this isn't us, but you can take a peek at what the GateKeeper is like right here.... Yikes!