We’re Not Only Human

As I was putting dinner in the oven tonight (roast chicken, in case you were wondering), I began to reconsider sharing this post. I fear people being offended. I fear people thinking the wrong thing. But, the Holy Spirit nudged me along. Keep going, Caroline. This isn’t for you.

That means it might be for you.


Oy.

I’m challenged by this call. Sometimes, more than other times. However, there’s no turning back. I mean, frankly, Doug and I have had that conversation more than once. Each time, we know. We know before the conversation even begins. I suppose that’s why we find ourselves seeking the Lord for confirmation about once a year: Are we really in Your will, Lord? Did we really hear You right? Even though this happened, and that happened, and this one is mad at us, and we screwed up over here?

It has been a long summer. Doug and I look at each other some times with a weariness that is really almost comical. Last week, one our leaders was sharing a prayer need, and then he suddenly stopped and said, “You know, this ministry is just really hard.” I started laughing. Pretty soon, another leader was laughing with me. Yeah! It’s HARD. You put your whole heart out there, just to have people smash it in your face. You pick up the pieces, pray for them, and go back and do it, again. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness rule the day. Day after day after day. We trust God has our back, and He always does. One day, we hope, we’ll get to stand in His presence and find out we did at least one thing right.

In January of 2005, our first Winter on this mission field, the Holy Spirit gave me a sort of vision. This was a critical time for us. We had been living by faith for only a short time, and New Brother’s Fellowship had only just begun. Yet, we were really in a hard place financially. It was embarrassing. I’d never seen my refrigerator and cupboards so empty. Every day, I would ask the Lord to help me make a meal for my family, and every day He did, but it was hard for me. I’d been living a pretty cushy life, until then. 

We described our life back then as though the Holy Spirit had said, “Do you see that cliff?”

Yes, Lord.

“Well,” He’d replied, “I want to go right to the edge.”

Oh, that’s scary, but OK, Lord. We’ll do it. We made our way to that edge, faith-filled, and even eager to have this chance to respond to such a specific call on our lives. Putting our fears behind us, we made it right to the edge and breathed a deep sigh of relief. We smiled at one another, even felt a bit accomplished. Squeezed each other’s hands. We did it!

Then, the Holy Spirit completed His instructions.

“OK. Great, Doug and Caroline. Thank you. You’re in the right position now to do what I’m asking you to do.”

But, Lord, we did it. We’re here, on the edge. Livin’ on the edge! See?

“No, My will is there.” He pointed down, over the edge. “You’ll have to jump.”

It was safety and security, or free fall. All these years later, we’re still in free fall. We had no choice.


One day, I am going to stand before the Lord. Oh! The thought makes my heart race and eyes fill with tears. Just imagine it, my friends. Jesus. Face to foot—well, there’s no way I’ll be able to stand and look Him in the face, you know? I’ll be at His dear, wounded feet, washing them with my tears of gladness and gratitude. In that moment, I’ll be regretting the spit I ran from, the hurt I refused to suffer. I’ll be wishing I’d been entrusted with more suffering for His name’s sake. The fullness of His sacrifice for me will suddenly be real, and I can only imagine what that will mean to me, but I think these moments of trials and frustration and trouble will become like steam from my tea cup—gone away in a moment.

Doug wrote a status on Facebook recently that was spot on:

“At what point did you think it was going to feel good to reckon yourself Crucified with Christ?” (Doug Gregan)

I really want it to feel good right now. I want my life to be easy. Comfortable. I like easy. I like soft and cushy. 

Yet, I want Jesus! I want more of Him, and so much less of me, and that means I need to stop keeping me alive. I have to stop feeding my flesh, so that it dies away. That’s hard, but if I’m already trusting Him to give me a safe landing one day, I should be able to trust Him with all of me.

Yes, this past summer has been kinda hard. Heck, these past two-and-a-half years have been kinda hard. I think something about turning 50 just started messing with me. The reality of this life my husband and I live really smashed me in the face. What are we doing? While other people our age are planing for their retirement, Doug and I are living one day at a time, counting on the Lord to bring the balance to our accounts and help us get by until then. This is not the life I expected, and it’s not the life I wanted.

Wanted. Past tense. You see, it really is the life I want now, because it’s the life God has given us. My solution to the challenge is to just stop being so human. I’m not just a woman of flesh. I am called to reckon myself dead, and to let the life of Christ live through me. That’s the spiritual life I should be living every day. You read my blog, so you know I’m not succeeding in doing that, but I will go to bed relying on His mercies and wake-up trusting in His grace. It’s all I can do. 


This is a snippet from a great message on this subject that Doug preached on Easter this year. It speaks to exactly the matter I’ve discussed here. God bless you all who are struggling to reckon yourselves dead to this life. It’s not easy, but His mercy and grace is there for you, too. 

39 Cozy Miracles

I lead a Bible study for the ladies at a shelter in Lynn. During out meeting the week before Thanksgiving, a little seed of hope dropped into my heart. I had been imagining what it would be like to be away from family and the comforts of home on Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t stand the feeling. I kept wishing I could do something to make their Thanksgiving better. I thought there were 24 residents; that wasn’t too many.

As I watered that little seed of hope with prayer, I began to believe that maybe I could come up with two dozen little gifts for the residents.  I knew I had no budget, but I did have some little gift bags. Anything is nicer if it’s packaged well.

I knew we had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Ladder House to pay for the following Monday, and I knew we only had $137.91 in the ministry account, and I knew there was absolutely no way I was going to make this happen myself, but that little seed of hope just kept growing. God could make a way!

I really was stumped for gift ideas, especially for things I could make out of thin air, so I did what I often do: I queried my Facebook friends for ideas.

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I got some great ideas from folks, but nothing close to a universal response. Time was ticking. On Sunday (Wednesday was my deadline) I learned that there were actually 37 residents, not 24. I won’t lie: panic struck. That was a lot more somethings to come up with, and I still didn’t know what those somethings were!

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PAYPAL MIRACLE
Well, by Sunday we had received some donations via Paypal to cover the dinner costs. Praise God! But, the real miracle was that Paypal allowed the transfer of funds to our business account instantly. On the weekend! That just doesn’t happen. It normally takes two business days, but there it was in our account. That meant we could pay for dinner on Monday morning, and it meant I had at least part of the $137 for the gift bags.

Then, I received messages from three women friends, pledging funds towards the Thanksgiving gifts. I was NOT expecting that! God PROVIDED 100%, and leftover money is already designated for Christmas gifts for the residents. Stunning! 

WHAT WAS COZY?
So, I had a budget. I just needed a gift idea. A cozy gift idea. Well, my Mother always said you should give a gift you would want to receive. So, I asked myself what would be cozy to me, and I knew the answer immediately: a mug of something hot. Tea is my favorite, and it’s easy—all you need to enjoy it is hot water. I had a cozy gift!

Now, I just needed 37 mugs.

I had imagined going to a dollar store and finding all the mugs I needed, but I soon realized that in a residence with 37 people, each mug had to be unique. It wouldn’t do for two people to have the same mug in a house with shared kitchens. Though I had a budget, I wasn’t about to blow it on mugs. My sights were already set on those Christmas gifts. So, I decided each mug needed to cost no more than $1.00. This was going to be just a little bit challenging,

Monday we had the Ladder House Mission dinner to prepare for, but I popped into a discount store and found about 15 mugs. That left me Tuesday to find the rest, and that took the better part of the day. I confess I did end up spend a little over a buck for the final few mugs, but it was getting late—and, I was tired.

When I got home and set out all of the mugs, I had 39. I decided to prepare the extra two as insurance against any breakage that might happen in transit. It didn’t take long for Doug and I to assemble the gifts, and I was happy with the finished product. It looked cheerful—and, cozy—to my eyes. What do you think?

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Doug went with me to deliver all the goodies. We also brought a bunch of canned vegetables, paper products, and a sweet potato casserole to add to their Thanksgiving Dinner (one of the ladies coordinated the meal). A few men filed into the room when they saw Doug, so he stayed and we had a co-ed group. It was very nice. And, I was so grateful to know I was leaving little miracles behind when we left.  I can’t tell you what it meant to me.

A FINAL MIRACLE
So, I have one last work of God to share. When we got all the mugs into the house, none of them were broken. I asked my liaison at the house to confirm there were 37 residents. I was going to offer the extra two mugs to staff members.  Before I could say anything, though, she piped up and said, “Well, it was 37, but two more women showed up last night.” Two more women?  I almost cried. Can you believe it? It’s so like God. What kind of love is that, huh?

Oh. folks, will you just stop right now and say a prayer for the men and women at Great Hill? The spiritual need there is extreme. Each week, I hear something else that breaks my heart and leaves me all too aware of my shortcomings as a leader. (Will you pray for me, too?)

If you gave towards these ministry events this month, thank you so much. I wish I could give you a hug, and tell you face-to-face how your contribution made a difference for someone.

God bless you all!

He Thought It Was A Joke

Tonight, we served Thanksgiving Dinner at The Ladder House. The men at the house are all under the jurisdiction of the county jail, but they have earned work release and are allowed to rent a room there. We host an NBF Discipleship Group there weekly, and from time to time we like to take them a meal. At the holidays, it’s especially nice to do something for the guys, because most of them won’t be with their families. This year, that something was a turkey dinner with all the fixings.

Below are some pictures from tonight. Many hands made the evening a success. In fact, things actually went better than they’ve ever gone. We thought we’d be dragging ourselves home close to midnight, but instead we were on our way home before 9:00! The blessing of God was so evident. He provided for the meal, He provided for the volunteers, and He even provided another woman to help serve. I didn’t expect to have anyone help me, but the Lord stirred her heart and she responded. He always knows what we need, doesn’t He?

Before I share the photos, I just have to tell you about Carlos. On Sunday night, Doug went to the Ladder House to post some flyers—just to be sure the men all knew about the dinner.

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Carlos told Pastor Kobe (a leader of the Discipleship Group at TLH) that when he saw the flyer he didn’t believe it. He thought it was a joke. He said, “Who would do that for us?”  It really blew my mind.  Tonight we may be nursing our aching bodies, but we’re also looking forward to the next thing the Lord has on our calendar. Getting to be His hands and feet is a privilege.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!