Thursday, September 22, 2011

What is in your hand?

On Tuesday night of this week, I went to Kairos, a weekly worship service held at a local church. The teacher this week spoke about the story of the call of Moses (in Exodus 4) when Moses is just trembling in fear and God says to him, "What is that in your hand?". M
oses says, "A staff." And God says, "Throw it on the ground." And when Moses throws his staff on the ground, it becomes a snake and Moses runs away from it in fear. But then God tells him to pick it back up, and when he does, it becomes a staff again. The teacher talked about how the staff represented Moses' work (a shepherd). The action of throwing it down was an act of obedience, but its becoming a snake also shows how our "work" has the ability to destroy us if we allow it. But God tells Moses to pick it up because God was about to use that staff for mighty purposes in the Kingdom. So the teacher asked us on Tuesday night, "What is that in your hand?" He told us to throw it down, and then reach over, and pick it back up. Because when we surrender our "jobs" into God's hand, He can use it for mighty purposes in the Kingdom. The staff looked the same after Moses picked it back up, but it wasn't the same. From then on, God used it even though Moses carried it.

When this teaching was over, I was stunned...because of what I had just experienced that day at my own workplace...

I have been employed for the past 7 years by a company in Franklin, TN that has treated me amazingly well. This company has continually been over-the-top understanding and flexible with me as I tried to balance it with my other job in youth ministry. However, it is no secret that the nature of this job is not my passion nor is it what I want to do for the rest of my life. And although I have been very thankful for this job and for how well I have been treated there, I cannot imagine how many times in the past 7 years I have said, "...but I really don't think I'm going to be there much longer...". And then a year later, I'm left saying, "oh my goodness, I'm still here".

I don't think I would have ever admitted it out loud, but there has always been something deep, deep down in my spirit telling me I wasn't done there. And I didn't even know what that meant. But for years, week in and week out, I have been talking to students about going into their schools and going into their jobs and bringing Jesus into those places, because that is their mission field. The problem was that I could never help but take a step back in my own life and look at my own workplace and ask what I was doing to bring Jesus into that place. I made up every excuse in the world. "Well, it's not a workplace that is conducive to relationship-building." "Well, even if I tried to get something together outside of office hours, no one would come." "Well, my real mission field is in youth ministry; I just have to go to this other place so that I can pay the bills." That last one was always the one that would randomly pop into my head and would produce immediate conviction. So what, I get to pick and choose when I want to shine for Christ? And if I do, I'm choosing to shine for Him when I'm working in my "ministry" job, but not in my "secular" job? Yeah...pretty lame...

This is why there has always been this tension in me, this thing in me saying that for seven years, I haven't really done anything for the Kingdom in that place. Sure I've encouraged people here and there, but I think I have always known that God had something more. And if I had left that job at any point in the past seven years, I think I would always have looked back and regretted not really ever making a mark for God in that place.

One of the things I've always dreamed about was having a women's devo or prayer time. Problem is, I never thought anyone would do it because it would require off-the-clock time...and it's like pulling teeth around there to get anyone to agree to that. So although for years, I've considered doing that, I have never once spoken it out loud to anyone.

So a couple of weeks ago, I am eating lunch with a couple of women from the office and they were just sharing about how hard life is and long-story-short, I end up asking them if they would come to a weekly womens' prayer time/devo if there was one happening at the office. Without hesitation, they said "yes!" (with much anticipation in their tone).

Fast forward a week, and there are five of us meeting about starting this thing. We decided to not make a big thing of it and just spread it via word-of-mouth. I'll be honest, I was worried that if any of the "higher-ups" found out about it, there could be some problems because of the distraction it could cause in the office. So we just told a few women and had no idea if anyone would show this week.

Fast forward to Tuesday of this week, our first "official" meeting, and 15 women show up. I was blown away. It was a really sweet time together and there were already tears flowing from some of their eyes...and we had barely gotten this thing started! Later that afternoon, I found out that one of the women had mentioned that we were doing this to the CEO and co-founder of our organization, and I immediately got nervous. But she said that he was so excited about it and told her that we would always have his support. Again...blown away. I e-mailed him that afternoon and just assured him that this would be completely off company time and also told him how thankful I was that we had his support (and threw in that I was praying God would put it on the hearts of some men to start the same thing...:).

I came in Wednesday morning with over 15 e-mails from other women in the office asking me to add them to the calendar invite for the weekly meeting and also had an e-mail reply back from the CEO:
" actually gave me chills when she told me. Absolutely have 100% support from me. It’s sad that the world forces us to be politically correct so that we would avoid any religious issues in the work place. I really don’t like that. You should also know that along with myself, you all will have the support from the rest of the Executive Team! We will be more intentional here b/c I truly feel that it is what He wants for us and for this company. "
I couldn't help but just stare at my computer screen in amazement. I was getting e-mails from women all day telling me that they have been wanting something like this at the office for a long time, how it was an answer to prayer, how desperate they were for something like this each week. And then at my daily team huddle that morning, one of the women in my team asked if we could start praying at the beginning of our huddles. So there we were, standing up in the middle of the office, praying as a team. It was almost surreal. God is on the move.

The reason I share this story is not, by any means, to give myself even the slightest pat on the back. If anything, this is somewhat of an embarrassing thing to admit, that for seven years, I had made up excuses about why I was spiritually "chained" there and couldn't really do anything for Jesus. And I truly don't one bit deserve to be part of what God is doing in that place right now. It is by His grace alone that I would have the chance to see and join Him as He moves on hearts and lives in that office.

No, the reason I say all of this is to just encourage you, no matter where you are or where you work, to not wait for seven years before you decide to make a mark for the Kingdom in your workplace, in your school, in your community. There are people who are desperate for it, hungry for it. Be bold and courageous. What is your staff? You have one. Throw it down, and then pick it back up, and see what God will do with it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Had a Dream...

I really don’t dream much. Or if I do, I rarely wake up from them and I rarely remember them. Last night I had possibly the worst dream I’ve ever had in my life. It wasn’t like any other dream I can remember…it was vivid. It felt completely real. And it was really long. So there was never a point in it that I remember thinking, “This is a dream”. It was one of those dreams where when I woke up, I literally rejoiced in my bed upon the realization that it wasn’t real.

To get to my point, I have to share a little about the dream itself. Warning: this may be a tad graphic…sorry. I’ll spare you all the details, but basically I was in a big city and was taken by a gang (after watching them kill my dad) and most of the dream consisted of them taking me to different places and doing awful things to me...awful things…I won’t go into the specifics, but let’s just say that there were multiple times when I was begging them to just kill me.

Anyway, the POINT of me sharing this is that there was one part of the dream where they took me to a church and had me tied up. I can’t remember what they were actually doing to me, but I remember very clearly that there was a church service happening and they had me right in the middle of the sanctuary where everyone was meeting but nobody was paying an ounce of attention to me. I’m tied up and bleeding and crying out to everyone for help, but it was as if I was completely invisible. No one was even looking at me, much less attempting to rescue me.

And it wasn’t until I was describing the dream to some of my friends this morning that it all hit me.

I once heard Christine Caine (of the A21 Campaign) speak about the horrific things that are happening in the world around us today, but we just keep “playing church”. There are horrible things happening to innocent people today on our watch as the Body of Christ. And I would think that if these things were happening right in the middle of our church building, we would do something about them. But since it’s happening outside of our walls and in places where we can’t see them, it is easy for us to turn a blind eye.

I was reminded of our visit to the castle at Elmina in Ghana, West Africa, a few weeks ago. This castle is the biggest and oldest standing slave castle remaining in Africa. After touring the castle and hearing about the horrific acts of injustice that took place within those walls, we were taken to the top of the castle where there was a church. We were told that the church would actually meet there every week while right below them, people were getting raped, beaten, starving to death or dying from sickness because they were laying in their own waste. And the church would be only feet away from these people…just “playing church”.

It’s easy for us to look back on them and think, “How could the church know that this was happening right below them and not do something about it?! How could they just stand there knowing what was happening right under their noses???” But I wonder…what will future generations say about us?

"How could the church just stand by when they knew there were 925 million hungry people in the world? How could the church just stand by when they knew 27 million people in the world were held in slavery? How could the church just stand by with 143 million children living as orphans? How could the church just stand by while 1 million people were trafficked across international borders every year? How could they just keep playing church while they knew those things were happening?"

I am again brought back to what I said in my last post: it is the CHURCH that was not only called, but empowered, to set the captives free, heal the hurting, feed the hungry, BE THE HANDS AND FEET OF JESUS in this hurting and broken world. And it is only the church that has been given the authority to attack the gates of hell. Heaven help us if we choose to simply “play church” and forget the reason we’re on the planet!

So as horrific as that dream was last night, it was like God giving me this tiny little glimpse into what it must be like to be suffering and dying at the hands of another person, while the “hands and feet of Christ” turn a blind eye and just keep playing church. God, give us Your eyes so we can see!