Monday, October 24, 2011

A Chance Encounter.

This past weekend I spent the weekend in lovely Santa Barbara.

Yup. Those are indeed sexy Frenchmen playing soccer. Oh la la.

We partied on State Street, Laid out on the beach, ate good food, shared lots of laughs.

But that is not what stood out to me.

It was a person.

A encounter. A moment in time.

Our day started at the Farmers Market. A mix of locals and tourists, enjoying the beautiful scenery. Everyone is friendly to one another, polite and friendly. But something is off.

You see them on every corner. But no one pays attention to them. The homeless. No one acknowledges them or even offers a passing glance.

It was obvious that some of these people were drunk or on drugs.
But then I saw her.

Her face was warm and kind. But the lines in her face told of a life that was met with trouble. She held a simple sign: 'Anything Helps'

Another homeless person trying to take advantage of my sympathies?

I looked at her and at my turkey sandwich clutched in my hand. And I heard a gentle voice..

'Go to her.'

I have never heard God's voice so apparent. Usually in this type of situation, I would wrestle with God.
'I'm not ready!'
'What do I say?'
'I am not equipped...why me?!'

I would try to justify my cowardliness.

But none of that happened and before I could even think I found myself offering my sandwich and sitting in the middle of a busy street talking to her.

We talked for a good five minutes. But in those 5 minutes, I learned so much.

Her name was Dina and she had been on the street for a couple of months. She has been laid off and had no family. I asked her if she had been staying in the shelter but she told me that the shelters were full of drug addicts and alcoholics and that she was trying to be clean. Overcrowding was another issue.  I was enticed with her story but I was whisked away. I just offered her a quick goodbye and told her that I was going to pray for her.

Could she be lying to me? I don't know. But the tone in her voice was honest and full of brokenness. As I sat there talking to her about her life, I could see the pain and the hurt in her eyes. Maybe i am too nice or naive, but I think that something like that cannot be faked. 

All through the day, Dina ran through my mind. I regretted not praying for her. So many 'if only's' raced through my head.

Later that night. I saw Dina again.

Immediately I ran to her and took her hand and prayed for her and told her how much she was loved by Christ. The look in her eyes said it all. Something sparked inside her, I could see it.

Seriously. What the frick. God moves in crazy ways. Months ago, I would not have the courage to share the gospel with anyone. Let alone a complete a stranger.

On the way back I began thinking about the homeless and what is like to live through each day thinking it may be your last. Living to just survive. Hopeless. What is it like to live everyday with that mindset?

Now imagine living like this and not knowing the gospel. Death must be a terrifying thought. Dying with no one, no home, and no hope.

Once again, God is turning my worldview upside down, slowly revealing things to me in his timing. I am thankful for this opportunity to grow in Him..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


vul·ner·a·ble (v l n r- -b l). adj. 1. a. Susceptible to physical or emotional injury. b. Susceptible to attack

For the past few months, every so often, I have times where I wake up and my heart and spirit just feels 'heavy.' I do not want to be around anyone. I avoid forms of social interaction and when I am forced to have interactions with others, I am not myself. I find myself being judgmental, harsh to those around me. I get frustrated with myself for acting that way. I would ask God to rid me of these feelings and repent from all my judgments and go to bed and the next day I am fine. 

When I noticed that this became a pattern. I realized that this was possibly an attack from the enemy himself. It made sense, I have grown so much in my relationship with the Lord in the past year alone of course Satan hated it and was doing everything to discourage me. Whew. Glad to have that one was over.. all I had to do was ask God to help me right?

Flash forward to a couple of days ago. I was having another one of those 'heavy' days. A friend who I highly respect and love asked me how I was doing. I was honest with her and told her that I was not doing alright..but I would soon get over it. I made it seem like no big deal and quickly tried to turn the conversation in another direction.

Then, she she dropped the bomb.

'Rachel, I have noticed that something different about you. You're isolating yourself. What is really going on?'

The sincerity in her voice was clear. That's when I lost it. The feelings of heaviness that I had been bottling up had finally exploded. I broke down and told her all that was going on within in my heart. In that instant I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In that moment I felt loved and cared for. It was an amazing feeling.

I have realized that I'm still struggling with being transparent with others and learning to receive.

Why is this? There are many factors. Fear. Pride.

According to webster, vulnerability allows us to be open to attack and pain. 

But what it doesn't mention is the beauty of vulnerability. It allows us to heal. It allows us to be loved by God and others. 

So if it is such a beautiful thing, why am I afraid?

Fear of rejection. Feeling that I am not worthy to receive love from others. 
These are obviously lies which I am still in the process of overcoming. 

So what do I do now?

Take Risks.

I know that in this season of my life, God has put significant people in my life. People who are willing to invest and walk alongside me and even carry me in my times of struggle. The risk is letting them do this and not push them away. I have to tear down these walls that I have built around me and be vulnerable. Receive the love, even when it feels strange and uncomfortable to me. Trust that God is doing his good work in me through this process, being faithful to him always. 

The struggle that I have with receiving love from others reminds me that I still have a lot to learn in how I receive love from God. When it comes to being vulnerable with others, I am afraid because I don't want to be 'messy' with people. But I am seeing that when we allow ourselves to be messy with others, it heals and restores us. The same with God. We must come to him fully exposed with all our baggage then when we allow him into our brokenness, that is where the real healing begins.

How can I love and minister to others if I do not allow others to love and minister to me?

The girl just needs to learn how to RECEIVE. 

Shoot dang, Ain't that the truth?!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The one on GREED

A YOUNG WOMAN fumbles with her purse. Her heart is heavy. It is apparent in her face and overall demeanor. She seems troubled, yet hopeful. She sees the USHER with the offering plate walking closer to her. She tries to move more swiftly. The internal struggle is obvious. She finds the crumpled dollar bills. The offering plate is placed in her hands. She shoves the dollar bills into her purse, takes the plate and passes it on.

This seems like it could be a scene in a film. (Obviously, it is written in script format.) This happens everyday. This happened to me.

This past Sunday in church, we were wrapping up our series on 'Matters of the Heart' this week's topic was the dreaded G word. GREED  Listen Here.

I thought 'How many times have I heard this one?!' 'Giving to the church is important...I get it!' Nevertheless, I listened attentively, hey...maybe I would learn something.

After service when I was talking to some people about it I was a little angry. The sermon focused so much on giving of finances and not our time, etc.

Here was my thought process at the time:
-'We as Christians can be greedy with our time, not just our money!'
-'I make it a priority to invest my time in others, my church, etc. I AM NOT GREEDY.'
-'I have no job or income. I cannot give like God wants me to.'

In the sermon, Pastor Kyle talked about how there different types of greed. Most of the time when we think of greed in our lives...we envision this:

He's mean. Brash. Heartless.

Yeah. It's true, we have encountered people in our lives who are 'Scrooge McDucks.'
But greed can come in other forms, like this:

I look like a fool in this picture, mid-laugh and all.  It's obvious that greed can be covered by the most light-hearted and fun exterior. But nevertheless, I came to the realization that I am one greedy---shut yo mouth!

Let me explain. Pastor Kyle made a really good point about how we are so quick to spend on ourselves. But when it comes to helping others or giving to the church, we become so hesitant and make excuses not to give willingly and freely.

How many times has this happened to me. I have a opportunity to give to a missionary, my church, or a worthy cause. I give, but I give LESS than the bare minimum or I do not give at all.  But when it comes to spending money on myself, I give no second thought when it comes to feeding my own needs and desires.

I am all about investing. I love investing in others lives. I make time for others. I willingly and freely give time to God. I thought I was doing a good job. I was doing enough.

I began to reflect on my current situation. Living on very fixed income. No job. Graduating soon. Jobs are not coming my way. Schedule is packed tight. Do I have time to make income right now?

Then I began reflecting on the past. When I did have a job. I gave. But it was certainly not the 10% or more. It was certainly not the first check I wrote out.  I always gave God what was left over, if any.

'What an idiot.' I spent my money on myself, feeding my selfish desires. Thinking about it sickens me.

So what now?

I want to be able to glorify God with my finances. I think we can let our circumstances get in the way of that. The fear of the unknown cripples us, because let's face it, money does in fact make the world go round.  I know that I should give freely and willingly, I desire deeply to be able to do that. But then reality sets in. 'If I give this much, how will I____?'

This is where faith and trust steps in. 

Right now, I am in place where I am limited with my finances. But I can still give. I want to give. I need to give. It will just take budgeting, self-control, and lots of trusting and relying on God.

When the time comes when I actually have a real job (whether that comes sooner or later) I want to be able to give to God. I pray that in this season in my life, he will equip me with the things in order to learn how to do it effectively.

But what is encouraging, is to know that I am not alone in this. I know many other brothers and sisters younger and older than me who struggle with the same exact thing.

Please pray for me friends.