around the corner and into the calling

Here I am again, as I usually am…wondering what my calling is. How I long to impact the world for the Kingdom of God in great ways, to be someone of Great Importance, to do something of significance. And yet my days speed by, and I feebly try to make something out of my little sphere. 

God is so faithful. He brings words right to my lap, sets them gently there as my mind and priorities are starting to stray. A gentle turning back to the narrow way. 

I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew, so close to the Cross: 

So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected (ch 24:42-44).

The original context is, of course, the End of the Age, when Jesus will return and all knees will bow. I must always be ready for Jesus, always prepared for his coming…never the lazy and drunk servant who is sure he has a few more days to catch up on management before the Master returns, but one who works with diligent persistence as if the Lord is always around the corner. 

Around the corner…isn’t that always where my future is? I ask God for signs, and paths, and plans and careers, and he tells me to be ready, that things will come when I least expect them. This isn’t just the life for the End. This is the life for always.

So be careful how you live, Paul writes. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do (Ephesians 5:15-17). 

Make the most of every opportunity. Understand what the Lord wants you to do. This is the ready life, the life always expecting Jesus around every corner. 

Because here is what I am learning: God does not give me a five-year plan, a career or an elaborate map of the future. He gives me something so much greater: Himself. This is the ready life: Jesus returning to my heart! Jesus restoring intimate, pure, right relationship with him. 

This is my calling, this is my great life goal: to move ever closer to God. And it requires a ready life, a life of every opportunity, because I never know when he’s coming or where he’s moving. This also requires a lot of trust. Because here’s the hard truth in the midst of this: I may never be called to the mission field. I may never be a big leader in Christian ministry. I may never be someone of Great Significance. I have to remember, remember, remember. My life is not about being big, never about being significant; it’s about God drawing near. Every day is a new day of remembrance that it’s not about calling or plans or the future. It’s about this heart to heart, filled to flooding intimacy with the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! And all that is required of me is that I be ready. 

 

Here are some ways I am learning to stay ready:

1. My husband and I have started budgeting a “make the most of every opportunity” fund. It’s a little bit of cash that we keep on hand at all times, with prayers that the Lord will bring us an opportunity. My husband felt called to buy a co-worker lunch and was able to listen as the coworker spoke of parents’ splitting and family chaos. I was able to give some money to an extra offering for the Christian school connected to our church. We are leaving this money “ready” for God’s calling. Going right along with this is having eyes wide open to the need right in front of us, and allowing ourselves the flexibility to meet that need.

2. I am learning that I need to say “yes” to uncomfortable situations. I agreed to be the political beat writer for http://www.thefaithnews.com. I don’t adore writing on politics, but it’s stretching my writing and thinking. Thom and I are going to a birthday party of a co-worker on Monday: a bunch of strangers for shy little me, and my heart feels a little squeeze at thinking about trying to socialize with a bunch of strangers. You know what that tells me? That’s exactly what I need to be doing.

3. I am starting to keep a gratitude journal, writing down the things I am thankful for, no matter how large or small as they come to me. You know how Paul continues the “opportunity” passage? …making music to the Lord in your hearts, give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. I need to learn to be more ready with my schedule. I tend to plan out my days from waking to sleeping. I need to learn to leave a ready flexibility that allows God access to my time. 

5. I need to be more consistent about learning to hear God’s voice. Jesus said, The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice (John 10:2-4). I need to spend more “sheepy” time: time dwelling with and closely following and closely listening to the Shepherd, soaking in the Word and prayer. 

How about you? How do you stay ready? Leave me a comment…

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high winds and ugandan hopes

I have never seen such smiles, white smiles beaming out of dark faces, sparkling and reflecting off eyes, twinkling through round cheeks. Such joy, such exuberance, such laughter, such dancing.

Until. Until they begin to tell their stories. Until they speak in tear-streaks down faces of the abandonment, the love-lost life of an orphan. Until they speak of fathers killing mothers, of AIDS killing mothers, of selfishness killing the mother-heart, of fathers leaving flesh of their flesh on police station stoops. “I never knew my mother,” one whispers.

Such dark pasts, dreary, lonely and of little hope, and yet these tiny world-leaders, nine years old at best, shout into the dark:

“Never forgotten. Never forsaken. God knows my name.”

I want to pull them to my heart, wipe the tears from their faces, soak love and care into their little bodies from mine. My heart aches with the loneliness they have known, so young, so small. I want to pull them close, arm wrapped around shoulders, whisper, “Yes, Little One. God knows your name. He knew your name when your father walked out, when your mommy died, when your baby sister cried from hunger. He knew your name on the darkest night, when the winds of winter howled through your soul.”

These children from Uganda have impeccable timing. They come to dance and sing with us on the eve of Sandy. Wind is already whipping trees frantic while I worship Jesus with the ones who have clung to him so fiercely.

Wind that will whip through homes, devastating possessions and power and hope. Wind that will leave us shivering in dark nights with little water and little food. Wind that will separate us from communication with our loved ones. Wind that will cost us much.

Large smiles. They are all large smiles. And at the end of their worship, they want to pray for us. Us! Who have so much. Who have known mother’s heart and daddy’s love, who have played with siblings rather than parented them, who sleep in warm beds with sweet dreams.

They, who have so little, want to minister to us. These children! Who have known war, and kidnapping, and rape, and murder. Deep hunger, deep thirst, deep loneliness. These children, who have know more pain in their nine years than I might  ever know in my ninety.

How we need their prayers. Because these children’s smiles shine brighter because their past is darker. They are assured of this one thing: God has always known their name. They were never forsaken, never forgotten.

What impeccable timing. Though our houses are lost, though our possessions spoiled, though our power out, though our toes cold, though we grieve and weep and mourn, we can know this: light shines in the darkest places. Light shines in Uganda. Light shines in Sandy’s wake. These children still smile, still sing, still worship.

And just like them, neither have we been forgotten, neither have we been forsaken.

Because I am convinced of this one thing: If an orphan from war-torn Uganda can be assured of Jesus’ love, so can we.