Revive: Teach Me to Listen

We sit down at the small kitchen table with soup and a chicken salad sandwich.  He chooses chicken noodle; we take tomato.  He declines a drink.  The small meal is fine, he says.  I haven’t worked today so I don’t need much to eat.

We talk of slaughtering a cow and eating fresh beef.  Of bees and honey collecting.  Of raising and eating hogs.  Of his granddaughter’s childhood memories.  Of his mom and the meals she cooked for him.

What is your favorite meal, Grandpa?

I’d have to say beef with some potatoes and carrots.  Maybe some mashed potatoes. Other vegetables.

They continue talking of yummy meals.  He is smiling.  She is smiling.

I am listening intently to granddaughter and grandfather reminiscing.  I have no desire to interrupt or interject.   It’s good for my heart to simply listen.

He says…

You know, the last time I had my dad’s smoked ham was when I was stationed in New Jersey.  I had an uncle who lived up there and my dad had given him some ham.  I visited one evening, and he prepared it for me. 

There’s a pause in the conversation…I can hear the sigh of his wife’s oxygen machine and the whispered conversation of those in the living room.  Then he begins again…

In 1942 I was stationed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I worked on a switchboard there.  We’d see ships coming back from Hawaii with artillery holes in them.  They were painting the bridge at that time.  It’s miles long.  They were hand painting with a brush, a big job.  Course now they have better ways to do that.

I was also stationed in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and New Jersey.  I was sent from Kentucky to New Jersey with three other guys.  Just four of us.  We had to do all our work at the base.  It was secret work. We couldn’t take any work home. It was then that I saw my first television in New York City. It would only transmit from one room to the next.  Can you imagine?  Think about what we have now. 

He pauses, removes his glasses, and wipes his eyes with his handkerchief.  The moisture gathering around his eyes barely visible.

They dropped the bomb on Japan and that was it.  The army just let me go. 

Were you drafted, grandpa? 

Yes, I would’ve have enlisted…

He wipes his eyes…again…

But I was drafted. 

I love history, so as he talks my head is filling in blanks…World War II.  Pearl Harbor.  The Manhattan Project.  The Atomic Bomb. Hiroshima. And on and on.

One of the most pivotal times in America’s history. One of the most pivotal times in world history.  And, he played a part.  He knew things from working “in secret” in New Jersey that we’d never know.  He knew of the world when women began entering the work force in droves because men were away at war.

World War II changed the face of America – from her workforce to atomic bombs.  Things we’d never known became reality.

And, he lived through it.  Served.  Wow.

He continues…

Well, I was 25 by then, and I’d spent some important years in the army, missing some things.  I didn’t go college.  I didn’t know how back then to go to college.  I didn’t have the resources either.  So I just did the best I could as a young man.  I got into the construction business…I helped build bridges in Zanesville…

And on he goes about structures he had built.  Bridges.  Power plants.  He describes working from heights and stuff dropping from above his head.  Scary, hard work.

He finishes his soup and returns to his wife’s bedside.  She’s moving toward eternity.  He sits by her side, not knowing in just about seven hours she’d be gone, taking her last breath in her earthly body and her first in the heavenly realms.

This conversation…this day…was a gift.  I was like a “fly on the wall” as a grandfather, who was watching his wife of 66 years fade from this life, shared precious memories with his granddaughter – my friend.  I’d come to bring dinner, but I’d left with a treasure that will forever live in my heart.

As I drove home, I was reminded of a few things…

One.  Listen to one another.  I often talk first and listen later.   God reminded me of James’ directive to believers in James 1:    19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…

Quick to listen and slow to speak.  Just think of what I would have missed if I’d been quick to speak and slow to listen.

Two.  Those who have lived longer than us have much to share if we’ll simply take time to stop and ask…listen.  In this crazy, busy world we rarely stop to have conversation beyond will you pick up the kids?  And, what’s for dinner?  We seldom sit for a few hours and just listen to others’ stories.  Sad, huh?

As I study the story of Gideon, I am reminded that we must always be looking for the ones who are older  – those who can shepherd and mentor us well.  And looking for the ones who are younger – those whom we can shepherd and mentor well.

Continually learning from and loving one another.

We ALL need a listening ear – young and old.   When someone listens to us, it says to our hearts:  You matter. Your story, your life, your experiences, your thoughts, your opinions, your everything matters to me.  So I listen.

Are you listening today?   What might you be missing by talking and not hearing?  Who needs your attention? Who’s heart do you need to hear?  I mean, really hear?

I pray you listen.   I don’t want you to miss the gift.

Listening, 

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: He is For YOU

Hundreds of voices singing “How Great Thou Art.” 

The unfathomable holiness and majesty of God who created the universe and YOU.

How can He number the stars and still love me so much that He died for me?  Simply amazing…amazing grace.

From beginning to end, Saturday was a day full of Good News and praise to our Father. 

It’s been three days since we gathered and perhaps the spiritual “shot in the arm” you received is already wearing off.  Perhaps what you learned and/or were reminded of has easily been forgotten in the midst of busy.

We encourage you to intentionally choose Him today – and tomorrow.

You have been on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent.  Though you have faltered at times, you have not let go of My hand.  I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me. (Jesus Calling)

Desire to stay close to Him.  Don’t let go of His hand.  He knows you’re spent.  He knows your journey has been long…He knows you’ve faltered.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.  Jeremiah 31:25

He will refresh you.  He will satisfy you.

If your tendency is to seek refreshment and satisfaction in humans, we pray today that you turn to your Creator.

While living in community is necessary and Biblical and while a conference is certainly a great way for God to remind you of His love and teach you about his Good News, ultimately, your daily walk is with Him.

Not with your husband, best friend, or children.  Not with your small group.  When you rise and when you rest, there is only One who is constantly with you.  Only One who always loves you and is for you.

I substitute teach often, and I recently watched a bullying video with a group of 6th graders.  We talked about how they’d been bullied and how much it hurt and why people bully.  And, I am more convinced than ever that this concept of bullies and groups and cliques applies to all of us – not just 6th graders.

We still leave people out – often on purpose. We see people hurting or failing and revel in their failure because we are tired of watching them succeed.  We aren’t happy with who we are, so we make others feel less than.  Or simply give them the cold shoulder for being who they are.  We hold grudges and compete for friends.  We try to “position” ourselves in churches and organizations by having the right friends or saying the right things.

All of this…I have either witnessed or done.   What a waste.  A sinful waste.

More than ever I desire to know that He is for me and for you to know that He is for you  – so we won’t allow “bullying” to affect our hearts or walks with Him and so we always extend grace to others, truly desiring them to feel loved and cherished by their Creator and others.

He is for you, sister.  We are for you.  Do not grow faint or weary, for He is your strength.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

Praying you live out of that today.

In Him,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: He is For ALL

Driving home after school drop off, asking God for wisdom, I land on Kari Jobe’s song You Are For Me.

I immediately transform into Kari Jobe, singing at the top of my lungs, remembering to keep at least one hand on the wheel.  (Don’t judge; we’ve all become rockstars in our cars at least once in our lives;)

As I exit the interstate, there’s a homeless man standing at the ramp’s end.  Actually, there’s almost always a homeless man or woman standing at this particular place.  As my van stopped at the red light, my heart paused too.

homeless-man

Are you for him, God? 

I know you’re for me.  I do. I certainly needed reminded today because lately I’ve not felt you’re for me.

But, are you for him?  The homeless guy at the freeway exit asking for food and/or money?  Are you for him, God?  Because I look out my window, headphones in my ears, money in my wallet, gas in the tank, food in my refrigerator, and computer in my backpack, and I see him…dirty, hungry, sad.  No window to look out.  No fridge full of food.

I know the answer to this question.  God and I have been around this way before – many times this bleeding heart has asked God about poverty.

KNOW God’s presence and love isn’t only evidenced in the material.

Still…

It just feels like God is more for me.  And I tell Him so.  Not in an angry way, but in a “please, God, be for that man too” way.

And in my soul I hear…Sarah, the gospel is for all.

I am for all. 

This is true.  Jesus died for all.  He bore the weight of my sin and yours and the homeless man on the corner’s.

He is for the one who gossips about you.  He is for the Bible memory verse champion. He is for the one who bullies your child at school.  He is for the homeless and oppressed.   He is for the church lady.  He is for prodigal son and the faithful son. He is for the doting husband and the cheating husband.  He is for the ones who love you and the ones who despise you. He is for the ones who love Him and the ones who are far from Him.

He is for all. His gospel is for all.

And if the gospel I believe or the gospel you believe excludes ANY of the ALL?  It’s not the gospel.  If your gospel does not apply to the homeless man and the rich man, then it’s not the gospel. If your gospel defines blessed only as a state of outward appearance and not as a state of inward joy, it’s not the gospel.

The gospel we believe, live, and share must be for all.  When we add to it to suit our own culture and lives, viewing it through our own North American lens, then we are dangerous.

Is your gospel – the one you believe deep in your soul, the one you live out of – for all?  Do your beliefs about Jesus and his death and resurrection fit the homeless man and you?  Can you apply your gospel to yourself and those living without clean water in Africa?

If not, beware.  Beg God to open your heart and help you understand His good news in a new and fresh way.

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day… Acts 10-34-40

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3: 23-26

He shows no favoritism. His gospel is for all – in every nation. We all fall short, but our just and fair God declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Amazing grace.  Thank you, Jesus.

Rescued,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: All For Jesus

Sitting on the cabin’s front porch, I watched them hug one another goodbye.  Old friends reunited.  New friends discovered.  Tears everywhere as each returned to her “corner” of Honduras. 

Refueled.  Revived.

Ready to see family and friends and serve Jesus.

No words were or are adequate for the four days I spent last year in Honduras with Women of Purpose’s Revive team and 100 English-speaking missionaries.  I’d come along to blog and update. Jesus had sent me to be changed.

I listened to story after story.  Prayed prayer after prayer.  Embraced sister after sister.

Stories of hope and hopelessness.  Stories of faith and stories of tragedy.  Some stories had endings; others are still in progress.

Many different approaches to ministry from many different religious traditions.

All for Jesus.

Through these stories and diverse perspectives, I saw God.  I witnessed His love, His faithfulness, His redemption, His unity…all of Him.

It’s an understatement to say my faith was increased.  It was increased, solidified, and…well, there’s no words for the honor of serving the missionaries and what that does to a gal’s beliefs and heart.

On November 7, I’ll return to Honduras for Revive along with the Women of Purpose team. Once again, we will worship and pray and lean into Jesus. We will share stories of heartache and joy.  I will see old friends, and I hope to make new ones.

But, best of all, we will gather for four days to focus solely on our Creator – on the one who died for us and deserves all honor, praise, and glory  – for He is our King.

My prayer is that you’ll partner with us in serving those who serve.

Revive has become a connecting place for missionaries.  A place to share ministry mistakes and cultural concerns.  To sing glory to God, cry tears of hurt, share stories of victory, and love one another.

We all need such a place.  We all need such community and connection to live rescued.

If you’d like to partner with us, we appreciate any donation, any amount. Please contact rebekahgrose@hotmail.com to help.

May God be given all glory.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15

Rescued at the Cross,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: Weak Together

I alternate between the clock and ceiling.  Sometimes I study shadows on the walls or windows.

Sleep simply won’t come.

Life is messy and pondering all the what if’s and why’s and why not’s has me looking at everything except the backs of my eyelids.

I don’t know who to tell or even what to say.  I am reminded that life in living rooms is often so different than façades on Facebook.  Not that I’ve intentionally portrayed myself or my family untruthfully.  But, social media only gets the smiles, not the tears.

I send a message to a good friend who lives in New York.  I’ve never met her in person.  We’ve Skyped and chatted on the phone.  We’ve emailed and collaborated.  Undoubtedly, we are kindred spirits and would be BFF’s if only miles didn’t separate us.

As part of her ministry team, I feel compelled to update her on my life – struggles and all.  I lead other woman on her behalf, and before we embark on a new session, I want her to hear my heart about my….well, heart.

I spill my guts in a Facebook message, preparing myself for her response.  Trusting she knows best for me and for her ministry.

Whatever her response, I will trust.  She is as authentic and loving as anyone I know.

Minutes later, she responds.

Hidden in the midst of her response were these words:

You know, with this ministry, I have this “grace place” feeling. We serve from our overflow. Sometimes there’s a lot. Sometimes there’s nothing. That’s okay because it’s not our ministry. It’s God’s. He’s got it covered even in our weakness and failings. I’m learning so much about this, for myself and as I witness the struggles others feel.

When we are weak, He is strong…strongest…always. So let’s be weak together and celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

So let’s be weak together and celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

I wept.

THAT is a true friend offering immeasurable GRACE.

I don’t have to sit all alone in my weakness.  In my mess.  My friend sits with me.   In humility, she is weak with me.  She offers no fixes. No easy answers to my struggles.  She offers herself.  Her time. Her heart.

To be weak with me.

And best of all?

TOGETHER we will celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

How had I forgotten that God is at work in the mess?  My friend isn’t leaving me. But, even better, GOD hasn’t left me and isn’t leaving me.

EVER.

And in my weakness HE is strong. 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I will celebrate His strength as I see Him working in my mess – in my weakness.

Extending grace to a struggling friend.  Becoming weak with another.  Celebrating God’s strength at work in our mess.

That’s living rescued.

Rescued at the Cross,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: We Remember

She’s sitting in her high chair, gold hair curling around her face.  Smile as big as her face.  There’s a constant drumming on the chair’s tray.  She delights in making her spoon an instrument. 

I can hear her giggle.

Her chair is positioned between the living room and dining room as only a change from tile to carpet separates the two.  I am in the kitchen warming her food; she is in the high chair (mostly) so I can contain her.

I am frazzled.  Worn out.  I have realized long before this moment that stay-at-home life isn’t for me.  But I love this little girl something fierce, and I am determined to parent her with all the strength God provides.

As I settle in the chair to feed her, I flip through the channels.

No.  More.  Kids.  Shows. Really.

By 8 am, I have had all I can take of prancing puppets and dancing Doras.

I stop on Channel 3 – the Today Show – just minutes before the first plane slams in the North Tower.

Matt Lauer speculates – Accidental?  Intentional?  Others chime in.

The reporters are bewildered.  There’s no time for prepared stories or planned reactions.  Planes are crashing into buildings.  Victims are jumping from windows.  Burning buildings are falling.

Ash spilling from the sky.  People running from debris.  Reporters scrambling to find words.  More planes crashing to the ground.  Sirens blaring toward danger.  Men and women running to the rescue.

To the rescue.

First responders  – police, firemen, ambulance drivers, and bystanders – rushing into flaming buildings to rescue their fellow man.  Risking and losing life for the sake of another.

Wow.

They went to rescue twelve years ago.  Many losing life in hopes of saving another.

To the loved ones of those who lost their lives – regardless of nationality – we stand with you today, praying and remembering.

He came to rescue thousands of years ago.  Him losing his life in order to save you and me.

To those who do and don’t know Him as their Rescuer – regardless of nationality – we stand with you today, praying and loving.

We can ask question after question about 9/11.  Why?  How?  Still, we’re often left with more questions than answers.

We can ask question after question about our Rescuer – our rescue.  Why?  How?  Still, we’re often left with more questions than answers.

We will never know all the answers to why and how. But we can know who.  We can know the Who of the Bible – Jesus – our Rescuer.  The one who died on the cross for our sins so we could live eternally.

We pray as you remember the tragedy of 9/11/01 today, you also remember that in the end – Jesus wins. He conquers death.  Terrorism. Injustice.  All of it.

Rescued,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: Live Out Loud

She’s up early.  Curling her hair, trying on outfits, loading her backpack, and eating breakfast. It’s her first day of middle school.  Whew.  How did that happen?

I feel like I am feeding her to the wolves. After homeschooling her a few years, I am sending my baby girl into the great unknown – literally.  It’s a world from which I have undoubtedly overprotected her.  I don’t regret it.  I wonder about my wisdom in sending her now.

I like being part of her days. I like helping her develop her ideas about life, math, and great books. I like knowing she’s tucked safely in my basement each day at her desk, exploring the world without the influence of others.

Because the world is coming for her.

And I’d rather it be later than sooner.

Still, I shed a few tears after I drop her off and say a prayer, passing her into the hands of her Rescuer.  The One who knit her in my womb and numbered her days long before I knew her. The One who knows the hairs on her head, the joys of her heart, and the fears in her head.

I pray…

Jesus, you rescued her thousands of years ago when you bore her sin on the cross.  You died so she might live.  Help her today to live for your glory as one who is rescued. Help her life proclaim to all “ I am rescued.”

She comes home full of stories.  Who traveled the furthest this summer?  She did!  She had the opportunity to share about Honduras and love on a gal who is desperate for attention.  (Ok, I didn’t view this little gal as desperate for attention right away;  at first, my momma heart rose up as “what  a mean girl!” but Jesus helped my heart on that over the next few days.)

Yet, through the comments she makes and my reaction to her comments (momma rising up and up and up), I am reminded of our sinful natures.  Our tendency is not to love and extend grace. Our tendency is to analyze what’s wrong and suggest possible fixes.  To talk about what we think drives all the poor behavior she witnessed at school…especially the excessive use of the mother of all cuss words.

Why do they say that?  Why do they act that way?  Why are they exclusive?  Mean?  Snobby?  Judgmental? 

The short answer?  We live in a “what’s in it for me” society, which drives poor word choice (look at me!), poor actions (I am better!), and the exclusion of others (I am part of something and chosen; you’re not!)

I find myself saying…avoid that girl! And my daughter says, “but mom you said be nice to everyone regardless.”  Honestly, I am rethinking my advice.

Until…

I am reminded of my prayer.  For my little gal to live rescued.  For those around her to look upon her life as “rescued,” she must be different.  NOT different for different’s sake. But because her heart has been transformed by her Creator.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…Ephesians 1:18

My devotional this morning articulated this desire in my heart for both of my children – as well as for you and me.

I want to be free to live out loud in contexts not so safe and predictable…I want Your love to be so compelling that I don’t think of “witnessing” to people, just loving and serving them.  I want Your love to be so satisfying that I find it hard to make excuses for my brokenness and much easier to live transparently and authentically before others. I want Your love to bring forth hot tears of compassion and loud guffaws of joy.  You’ve set me free for eternity, Jesus, please set me free for today. (Everyday Prayers, Scotty Smith)

May we all be free to live out our faith in contexts that aren’t safe or predictable. My gal can talk “Jesus” in the comfort of our home, but what about in the confines of a classroom?

I pray our lives are so compellingly different – so unbalanced away from culture and toward Jesus – that we don’t even need to “witness.”  We love and serve others, allowing the gospel to naturally become a topic of conversation.

I want God’s love for me and you to be so satisfying to our hearts that we live transparently and authentically, not afraid or ashamed of our brokenness. Never feeling the need to make excuses for who we are or for what we’ve been through.

Suffering needs no excuse. It only needs a Savior.

When you think of Jesus’ love for you, I pray that knowledge – those feelings and thoughts – pour from you as compassion to your neighbor, to the one who cuts you off in traffic, to the overworked cashier, to the stubborn child, to the hateful relative, to the orphaned child, to the impossible co-worker, to the homeless man…to all you meet.

And from the joy of knowing Jesus loves you, may you laugh loudly and delightfully, knowing you are His.

He has rescued you. Setting you free for ALL of eternity.  May we live “free” each day until His kingdom comes.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Rescued, Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: I Don’t Know

The room is completely silent.

The fluorescent lights’ buzz is all I can hear.

Seventeen pairs of eyes focus on me, waiting for my response.  All chatter has ceased.  They want to know what I’ll say.

I stand at the front – the teacher – the one who is supposed to know her subject inside and out.  The one who is supposed to guide these teenage minds to a deeper understanding of literature and composition.

But, the intelligent boy in the back has asked a question about Lars Eighner’s essay Dumpster Diving.  While his sarcastic tone caused me to think he desired no answer because he had an agenda of his own, I thought his insight was interesting.

So, there I stood, pondering his question, listening to his reasoning, and knowing that I had no answer.  I’d taught this essay about a man who dives in dumpsters for food – not because he has to, but because he feels Americans are wasteful – to a few hundred students, but not one had ever questioned my interpretation or the literary devices I applied to explain the nuances of Eighner’s use of language.

Actually, few students ever questioned my analysis of any text.  Except this boy.  Who thought perhaps we could look at Eighner’s words in a different way using different devices.  And while his defiant, arrogant tone made me want to dismiss his challenge, I thought perhaps he could be right.

I swallowed a mouthful of pride.  (Pretty sure it was years of  pride.) And I said the words that I would say more and more in class after class…

I don’t know.

I always thought I knew.  I’d studied and researched and even prayed over what I taught in my classroom.  I took my job seriously and saw each student as someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, or friend.

How could I not KNOW?  The school paid me to know.

But, when confronted with the insightful ponderings of a brash 16-year-old Advanced Placement Language student, I had no answer.  In fact, I thought his answer sounded better.

And so, I don’t know became part of my teaching style.  I found that I preferred what do you think? to here’s what I know.

And today, I am settled on I don’t know.

As I have researched and studied and asked God what it means to live rescued…why He’s not at work in ways in which I think He should be…why sometimes the promises in His word do not seem to mesh with the reality my human eyes see and my human heart feels…I have concluded…

I don’t know.

I would love to compose a beautiful speech or devotional outlining how we all can live rescued.  But, I can’t.  And I don’t think any of us can or should.

There is no formula for living rescued or living as a Christ follower.

While following Jesus’ commands to love Him and love others is a given – a must – how loving Him and others looks in your life and how it looks in mine will be quite different.

While reading your Bible, praying, and living in community with other Christ followers are essential, what your study time and prayer time and community looks like is probably very different from mine.

And that’s ok.  Even desirable.

While we all should agree that our rescue occurred 2,000 years ago at Calvary when the Creator of the universe sent his only son to bear and die for our sin by being horrifically crucified on a cross, God designed us differently and gave us each different situations and gifts.

So.

I don’t know a formula for or the ten steps to being or becoming holy.

I don’t know all the answers about what God allows or causes.

But, I do know Who He is.

He is my rescuer; the Savior of the world.

I can live rescued, resting in the promises He’s made through His word.  I can live rescued, resting in His character.  Who is He is.

And that’s the same for all of us.  We don’t have all the answers.  I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me. But, He does and can.  He has all the answers and His “fix” for your life probably doesn’t look exactly as you think it should, but we can rest in WHO he is – NOT the situation, not our gifts, and not the “fix.”

And HOW do we rest in WHO He is? Again, no formula there either.  As I struggle in this current season of life and question what God’s up to and why we treat one another poorly, I cling to His character:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8

Have you not known?  Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  Isaiah 40:28

These are just a few of the verses that remind me He is the same yesterday, today, and forever; He is with you always, will strengthen you, and uphold you; He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love; He is everlasting, understanding, and unsearchable, never growing weary.

So we rest in Him and live our lives with the peace of knowing THIS is WHO he is.

Thank you, Jesus.

Rescued, Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: Living Rescued Together

Eleven pounds.  Six ounces.

That’s how much I weighed at birth.  I appear to be about five months old in my newborn pictures.

And, yes, my momma had me naturally. WHEW!

From the moment I entered the world in 1975, loving people surrounded me. I have no childhood stories to share that would cause you to gasp.  We lived in a 70 X 14 trailer in Bishop’s Trailer Park in a little unincorporated area called Rock Branch.  Our socioeconomic status wasn’t the predictor of success or failure that I learned in college it should have been.

Or, perhaps we were an exception.

Our parents loved us.  My sister and I had a good relationship with both our parents including our dad.  My parents didn’t divorce.  We weren’t abused or neglected.

We simply never fit any of the statistics – thank you, Lord.

Of course, we weren’t and aren’t perfect.  But those 18 years before I moved to college were as wonderful as any child could ever desire – especially now that I know the pain and suffering of so many kiddos.

When I went to college at 18, a new group of people joined my world.  My mom, dad, and sister were still present, but not nearly as much.  I lived in another place with other people.

My new college friends and I would describe our growing up and high school years to one another…everything from bulimia to affairs causing divorce to racial slurs.  I grew up in a small town; some of my friends came from big cities. We were a diverse group with equally diverse stories.  I loved learning about each of them and how different our upbringings had been.

And, while I can share story after story with you about these precious friends, I can’t tell you what it’s like to grow up in an inner city or as the only African-American in an all-white high school.  I can’t tell you what it’s like when your dad leaves your mom for his secretary or when you struggle with an eating disorder or have been molested.

I know the stories.  I listened and loved as best I could.

But, I can’t truly know how any of that felt.

After college, I married and had two children.  I’ve lived in five different communities over the past 15 years.  Friends have come and gone.  My dad’s gone, and my extended family still lives far away.

I know story after story…I have walked through mess after mess and joy after joy with friends and family  – some joy and mess mine – some joy and mess theirs.

Still…I cannot truly understand living in Honduras for seven years with need in my face daily.  I can’t relate to a husband with a gambling or drinking problem. Infertility is real and hard, but I don’t know how that feels either.  I’ve never had to file bankruptcy or bury a child.

I walk alongside and love, but I can’t ever fully “get it.”

And, I don’t think I have to.  Or want to.  Or should.

Because no one really “gets” my story.  I’ve shared it generally with many, but the specifics are only known to a few. And the few who have known and dove into the mess with me? They never “got it” because my experience was not theirs.  And even if we share similar suffering, no suffering is one size fits all.

No answers are one size fits all either.

Recently, God has made my heart super sensitive to how I “size up” others.  Perhaps I am sitting in the mall and see someone I know.  My head begins down this road:  she’s the one who left her husband for no apparent reason and remarried quickly. I never speak these words aloud, but if that person’s story has been public or shared with me, I identify them with it. Always.  And sadly, I filter what I think about them through what I know about them, which I fear begins to affect my attitude toward them. And I have no idea what precipitated that divorce or how she’s hurt.

It seems no one gets a clean slate.

I think we are all guilty of “sizing up” others or speaking about another  even though we have no idea what it’s like to live in her home, parent her children, or survive her trauma. We even try to “hurry” her healing.

It’s so easy for me to say…they need to get those kids under control.  Or, she needs to spend more time being a better wife. Or, that woman needs to slow down; she’s always in a tizzy.  Or, if she were closer to Jesus, perhaps she could see the error of her ways or make wiser decisions.

We sometimes think we know what’s best for another, but even those walking with me now – walking with you now – do not and cannot know the full scope of our lives.  My parents and sister knew me best from 0-18; my college friends from 18-22; my small group and co-workers from 22-24; and a variety of friends from 24 to now.

No one except Jesus fully understands how I am wired and what’s made me that way. He’s the only one who has been there for all 37 of my years.

And no one except you and Jesus fully understand how you are wired and what experiences – good and bad – have molded and made you into the person you are, standing in the season you’re in for the purpose HE has.

So, let’s trust others in the hands of the ONE we follow.  Trust Him to be the healer, redeemer, and heart changer He promises to be.

Let’s love one another and extend grace. More and more and more.

We can find hope and life in loving one another, but we only find destruction when we sit and discuss another’s life as if we understand or know- especially if we’ve never talked to that person about what we’re seeing or feeling.  (And, heavens, I have been guilty of THIS!)

Follow Jesus’ example and walk with the hurting instead of discussing them. Trust me, they’re already hurting enough.  Whispers and sideways glances only deepen their wounds.

It’s so easy to look at others and think we know what’s better or best.  But, we can’t possibly know what it’s like to walk a mile in her shoes, and even after walking alongside her for years and loving her well, we will never fully understand what it’s like to be her.

Indeed, as I ponder “living rescued” – living as a child of the one true King – I realize God’s commanded me to encourage others to live rescued too.

He desires for us to live rescued together.

Answering every heartfelt question with often quoted Bible passages, probably won’t help others live rescued as much as doing life with them – noting when Jesus shows up in the ordinary – seeing His hand everywhere – THAT grows faith, trust, and hope. THAT moves me and those I love closer to Him as we talk about Him and look to Him through the ups and downs of life.

That is LIVING rescued together, not showing up randomly to preach rescued, but LIVING it. It’s walking alongside another in good and bad. It’s seeing others as image-bearers of Christ.  It’s realizing that in Christ we are all loved and forgiven equally.  It’s seeing yourself and others in light of the cross.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15: 12-13

We pray today that you’ll choose to live rescued…together.

Rescued,

Sarah and the WOP Team

Rescued: The Good News

Brown, fabric pews.  I remember the pews were cushy, but the fabric itchy.  Often, I’d twitch during the service if my bare leg brushed the edge. 

Piano on the right.  Organ on the left.  Baptistry, lecturn, and choir loft, front and center.  The pastor a sweet man who would mop his brow with a white handkerchief during his sermon.  He dressed in a suit and would step from the “stage” to the altar while preaching.

As a teen I used to think…. Heavens!  Who steps on and walks on the altar? Isn’t that bad or something?  As an adult, I love that he felt free to close in, making his point.

My friends and I would sit on the right side, halfway back each Wednesday and Sunday, listening as Pastor Delbert explicated God’s word, holding his Bible high in his hand.  It was in those brown itchy pews as he mopped his brow that I first heard these two words:

The Gospel. 

I was either 13 or 14.  I associated the words with “gospel” music, so I knew it had something to do with Jesus or singing about Him.

Good News.  

That’s the definition Pastor Delbert gave; the definition stuck in my head and heart for many years.

Over time, the gospel became the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and rose again on the third day, overcoming death.

This is truly the gospel and became (more or less) my standard operating definition for “the gospel.”

Then, I joined Women of Purpose, and we began to reflect on and define the gospel.  Because our theme is Rescued, meaning we were rescued the day Jesus died for us on the cross thousands of years ago, this year’s WOP conference will focus on…the Gospel.

The story of our rescue.

As I searched my heart and my Bible, the gospel continued to be the Good News of Jesus’ defeat of death, but it also became so much more to me.  Previously held beliefs and ideas began to change as I read the Bible with a gospel perspective – looking for the gospel, looking for Jesus on every page.

During this “quest” to understand and internalize the gospel message, I happened upon more than one (ok, hundreds of) books about the gospel.  I’d read Gospel by JD Greer.  The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. And, Suburbianity by Byron Forrest Yawn.  All books focused on explaining the gospel.

One of my favorite gospel explanations came from Suburbianity:

The good news, the gospel, is a declaration of what God has accomplished in Christ for sinners.  It is comprised of the set of historic facts surrounding the righteous incarnate life, innocent death, and resurrection of the person Jesus Christ.  It is the declaration that this Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth in order to willingly offer His life as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of sinners to atone for our sin and its tragic consequences before a holy God.  (It’s actually the message from Acts 2:21-24)

Whew.

Information overload.  As I talked with a pastor about the gospel, he said, “It’s so simple, yet so complex.”

To which I said, “Amen, brother!”  Double whew!

Finally, I happened upon a book in a used bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, that would connect my prayer, study time, and experiences.  I think of this moment and this book as “divine intervention.”

The book?  The Divine Rescue by Edward Williams Fudge.  You should know…I’ve never fully agreed with a book in my life.  The same goes for this one.  But, this book walks the reader through the entire Bible – through God’s relentless pursuit of those He created and rescued.

Me. And You.

Wow.  The entire Bible.  God relentlessly pursuing and redeeming His people whom He loves.

Calming yet overwhelming.  Simple yet complex.

And with these paragraphs, something “clicked” in my head and heart…

Jesus taught his disciples a special way to close their prayers: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”  Each time they repeat this phrase, the Rescued community acknowledges Jesus’ agenda and agrees to put it into practice beginning now.

By using the closing phrase, the Rescued also affirm three defining marks of their relationship with the Creator.  They solemnly pledge that in their own lives and within the life of their community the Creator will set the agenda (“yours is the kingdom”); he will provide the strength necessary to carry it out (“and the power”); and all the applause and accolades will go to him for the results that follow (“and the glory”). 

If you’ve been in church or at a sporting event or any number of places, you probably recognize these closing words from the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6)

Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. 

While I realize this is one man’s interpretation of this Scripture, I couldn’t help but think…

If my life is about His kingdom, meaning I have surrendered to Him and His plan; and it’s through His power  – His Spirit in me – that I live and accomplish and grow and learn; and I give Him all glory for my life – failures and accomplishments – come what may….

Then…

I am living rescued. 

I know. This is an unattainable notion.  To live completely surrendered through His power, giving Him all the glory every second of every day.

But, being intentional about surrendering, calling upon Him, and giving Him all the credit?  Totally doable.

You won’t get it right or perfect.  That’s heaven.  But, you can cling to Him, surrendering your will for His, asking the Holy Spirit to guide, and giving Him praise for it all.

Rescued,

Sarah and the WOP Team