Open, Reach, Do It Scared

And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers.  And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-12

I carry a picture in my heart, which is intended to guide the way I live daily in relationship with people. It’s not a Sunday walk or a special occasion walk. We’re on a lifetime journey toward our eternal home, so this is an everyday walk along the path we’ve been given.

Along our path are many people. Some share my same destination for eternity, and some do not. Yet, we share this earth walk for an appointed time, and in an appointed place by God’s grace.

In this picture, to which I hold dear, one of my hands reaches forward toward someone walking on the path a bit ahead of me, while my other hand reaches for a person walking along behind me. All the while my eyes are focused on Jesus who is the Pioneer and the Perfecter of my earth walk.

Have you ever doubted your ability to influence this world?

Did you read the Scripture at the beginning and say to yourself, “Well, that’s not me. I’ve not been given grace to build the body of Christ because I don’t hold any of those positions or titles. I’m just plain me.”

Did you just disqualify yourself for service?

May I encourage you take another peek at my picture? Remember, the picture is a goal for living – a plan of action. Just like many of my goals, I definitely do not hit the mark all the time or every day. Yet, because I have a picture in mind, and a mark to aim toward, I live this way more often than not.

So , put yourself back in the game with a plan and a goal.

Instead of me, place yourself in the picture. Eyes looking at Jesus. Now, do the next brave thing. As you walk along the path the Lord has marked out for you; ask Him to bring just two names to your mind. Ask Him to highlight the person walking just a little bit further down the faith journey in front of you. Then ask Him to remind you of someone who might be walking right behind you.

So, now that you’ve taken the first step in faith. Hopefully, you’ve written down two names in your Bible or in a journal. The next step is to ask our Good Shepherd to open a door of opportunity with each of these people.

I know. Most of us are actually very scared right now. Some of us are more bold and brave and will message the two people as a reach for a hand. Others of us, are asking Jesus to make the introductions. And a few of us are considering whether they want to ask Jesus to open even a window let alone a full door for relationship.

These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

No matter where you find yourself in this spectrum. I ask you to be bold and brave enough – do it scared – and have a conversation with Jesus about everything you are feeling right now. Good Shepherd will take your fears, doubts and all your oppositions (if you will let Him) and strain them through His filter of love. He’ll hold your hand, and my hand, while He shows us in what direction to reach for the hand of flesh.

These hands reaching, and the people on the other side of those hands represent our need for discipleship and encouragement. We’re meant for community. We need each other, which is why we’re struggling so. We’re far too isolated – even within the family of God.

One hand reaching forward to grab hold of a sister’s hand in front of me represents my need to be mentored. This visual reminds me to remain teachable. No matter how old I am nor the number of years I’ve been walking with Jesus, I am not fully sanctified. There’s always more for me to learn about God, His character and who He says I am because I belong to Him.

Additionally, with every turn or dip on the path I’m faced with situations I’ve never yet encountered. Yet, guaranteed, someone in front of me has already traversed a similar rough spot. I want to hold her hand for awhile. How encouraging it is to know I’m not alone! Together, we can look to Jesus for guidance and wisdom because we know He’s overcome every difficulty we could ever experience!

One hand behind me reaching for the hand of a woman behind me represents the responsibility I have to mentor and encourage another person. As I have been loved, there’s someone who needs to be loved. As I have been taught there’s someone coming up behind who needs to be taught. There’s always someone coming up from behind struggling with something for which I can offer encouragement.

And then our immaturity will end! And we will not be easily shaken by trouble, nor led astray by novel teachings or by the false doctrines of deceivers who teach clever lies. But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express the truth. All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead us deeper into him, the anointed Head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:14-15 TPT

Does it sound all too good to be true? Is the concept seemingly unrealistic? Are you just too scared? Are you still disqualifying yourself?

May I take your virtual hand, and encourage you once more. Simply stop. Take a deep breath. Pull out something to write on and with. Do the next brave thing. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Ask Him what He thinks about everything your feeling and thinking right this very minute.

You’ll be so glad you received His perspective on the path. Jesus will lead you. He’ll make you brave enough to do it scared. He might even cause a hand in front of you to reach back so that all you have to do is grab hold.

Come on, sisters, let’s open our hearts, reach out and do it scared!

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

None the Same; Gathered As One

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. John 10:14-16 MSG

This last Sunday, as my husband and I sat together congregated in our particular house of worship, I wept. My dear man, handed me his handkerchief as he is growing accustomed. We felt the presence of the Lord with us in a way that felt like a father coming home from a long journey.

I’ve been asking. We’ve been asking. I’m sure many in our congregation, especially our new pastor, have been pleading – “Father, we need You!” The parched air and the famine season of bearing such little fruit has caused us to cry out to the Lord.

“Come Holy Spirit You are welcome here. Please come and bring a down pour of all we need to break this drought.”

If this experience was isolated to our one congregation, I would not be able to use words like drought and famine. One brown, dying yard in a neighborhood full of flourishing yards indicates a very specific problem. The truth is that our church story is not uncommon.

We, my dear man and I, have the privilege of relationship with many brothers and sisters in Christ who congregate in various Christ centered fellowships throughout our local area. Many of our believing friends have experienced similar drought and a lack of fruit bearing during an extended season. It’s been difficult and even painful to walk in hope and JOY through this barren time. However, we have stumbled upon a practice, which has produced hope in us to believe the famine is only for a season.

We’ve stumbled, but now looking back I feel sure it was God’s plan all along, and more so, His provision which has led us this way. We’ve made a practice of visiting with small groups of friends from different congregations over dinner quarterly and weekly for prayer and Bible study. I attend a monthly prayer group of which I am the only member of a different congregation. My dear man keeps up with and prays for his family and college friends via email and Facebook.

None the same; gathered as one.

The extraordinarily beautiful and prosperous fruit tree which has grown up in the middle of this practice is a body of faith. We are none the same, but frequently gathered together to share in the abundant fruit of the Spirit of God. We have needed it – desperately needed this – during the most challenging season of our lives. The prayers of the saints have been powerful and effective, but even more so tenacious for us (all of us) to witness breakthrough after breakthrough.

The planned one service, which we experienced this past Sunday, was a beautiful mixture of our English speaking congregation along with a new Hispanic church congregation meeting in our same building. Talk about none the same, gathered as one!

From the coupled Spanish and English music, to the stirring baptism celebration and ending with the sermon in Spanish translated into English and ASL*; this was truly one of my favorite worship services in a number of years. As our Spanish and English voices, along with many signing, melded together, I was transported back to Miami, the place my heart calls home. The multicultural richness enveloped in one family brought me to tears.

None the same; gathered as one!

As I look back over the last month, I recognize that the glorious celebration we just experienced in our home church actually began for us three weeks previous. We were staying in an AirBnb over 2,100 miles from home, and on our way into town Google plotted our path right past a very inviting church**. The orange banners whirling in the arid breeze, green grass and palm trees presented a picture of an oasis in the middle of a very brown, dry desert landscape.

We took note on Friday and planned to visit on Sunday. After spending a couple of adventurous days in 100+ degree heat, we arrived at the church hoping to worship Jesus with brothers and sisters we had never met and probably won’t see again until Heaven. As we walked through the welcoming committee, we were invited to open seats.

As our eyes adjusted and our bodies embraced the cool air, the familiar music filled our ears. As the words, “Your a Good, Good Father” moved from my ears to my heart, a flood of tears ran from my eyes and dripped from my chin. I couldn’t sing for the enormous lump in my throat.

As my dear man handed me his handkerchief, I simply listened and cried. The overwhelming goodness of God materialized within me like a tall cool glass of clear water. The JOY of the Lord filled me with hope as I realized He had prompted His kids in California to greet His kids from Georgia with this song from home.

And more than that, with the next song from Elevation Worship*** (also birthed on the East Coast) our Good, Good Father reminded my dear man and I that He is always with us. Great is His faithfulness. He never fails. Whether we feel stuck at home or roam far across His creation, He sees us. He knows us. He’s moving mountains on our behalf. Christ, as our Pioneer, is making a way for us where there seems to be no way.

The dryness of our hearts finally cracked through with tears flowing deep. Our brothers and sisters out there in California may never know how they ministered to us that day. The Lord Himself is pleased though as He orchestrated the gathering of His children from coast to coast.

None the same; gathered as one!

That’s the way I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE!

~Lisa

*ASL American Sign Language

**Southwest Church LaQuinta, California

***Elevation Church based in Matthews, NC

Community is a Gift

Recently, my dear man and I spent three days enjoying the fabulous Pacific Ocean via Dana Point, CA. Our Eastern time zone body clocks caused us to be awake at 4 AM initially, and so we waited with a cup of coffee watching for evidence of sunrise. We were startled the first morning at the number of surfers already congregated IN the surf as the sun slowly rose in the east.

Each day, moving toward Friday, it seemed the number of surfers increased in the light of dawn. We found them fascinating, and so we walked with bare feet in the sand observing behaviors. We wanted to see real Californians catch the waves.

Occasionally, a surfer paddled into the wave, moved to their feet and smoothly balanced atop. Some crashed. And others seemed most content to sit on their board.

By the third day, our beach observations had joined at an amusing connection. We looked out onto the water at the mass of surfers divided into several “small groups” with an occasional loner off to one side or the other. My man and I laughed as we identified ourselves according to social surfers and loners.

I’m not telling who is who…

Yet as our eyes moved away from the surfers and up along the retaining pond between our hotel and the beach, we saw a very similar portrait of congregated community. The only difference was in the species. These were birds.

We got the biggest kick out of observing the birds in similar formation. Some gathered in groupings. Some sat off to one side or another, preferring the quiet of solitude. And from time to time, one particularly energetic fellow would land right in the middle of a group. You could just tell that he expected everyone to scoot over and make room for him.

Our eyes scanned from surfers gathered on the ocean to birds gathered on the sand. Suddenly, together, we caught the message.

All of creation is meant for community!

Even those who chose to be a little more sequestered to the side of the groups, sought community. It was so obvious that we could not deny the lesson. Those who were in the group sometimes separated to go it alone for awhile. Interchangeably, the ones which seemed to prefer solitude intermittently joined a group.

All of these observations and pondering thoughts led me back to God. He is triune in nature, which means that He is community within Himself. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existing three in one from eternity past to eternity future. Since God is the very definition and existence of community I have to conclude that He has placed His stamp of approval on the idea of living in community.

Additionally, God’s teaching places the greatest emphasis on relationship, love, encouraging one another, giving generously and taking care of others. A number of men asked Jesus to tell them the greatest commandment. Consistent was Jesus’ answer, and always inclusive of community. Jesus taught: first love God; then second, love your neighbor. Community!

One additional observation in our study of the bird congregation. In the center of the bird gathering was a dead bird. We watched the scenario play out as if we were peering through the ceiling of a funeral home during the visitation of a precious loved one.

A bird or two would walk over to the dead bird, look at it and walk back to the group gathered off to the side. Meanwhile, birds congregated squawking and cleaning feathers off to each side. Some ate tidbits from the sand.

They appeared to be supporting one another. Dare I venture to think? They were encouraging one another as much as birds comprehend death, community, encouragement and grief. We need one another.

On the best surfing days, we need each other. On the darkest days of suffering, we need each other.

Whether we see examples in nature or in various congregations of people in everyday life, it’s true that people seek relationship. Perhaps we simply choose to believe God as our greatest example of living in community. Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

We’re meant to live in community. And Community is a Gift.

What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

Lisa