Living a life of mission can be really rewarding some days. But, many are just plain TOUGH! A constant struggle between the microwave, instantaneous society we live in, and the sometimes difficult, almost ALWAYS lengthy process of going deep and building relationships. Living a life of mission is to BE the church and DO the Bible. It’s not a drive-by, hit-and-run way of life. As a matter of fact, it is a way of life, not a one-time event or project. That’s what makes it so hard….and that’s what makes it so rewarding at the same time. With my new ‘eyes’, I can’t just go home and not see the challenges every. single. moment. of. every. single. day. On days where it’s more challenging than most, it’s a matter of pausing from my ‘Martha’ activities and spending time going deep in my relationship with Jesus….it’s time to ‘Mary’.
This morning has been a ‘Mary Morning’. For reasons left untold, the last 24 hours have been tough – mentally and emotionally – for me. My ‘Mary Morning’ consisted of…
- reading God’s Word
- sitting quietly
- a few emails/texts with friends encouraging and praying
Gardening…I recently learned that I really love gardening. I knew NOTHING about it. Yet, God has revealed a lot to me through this gardening process…and especially this morning when I was playing in my veggie garden.
When planting a garden…
1. It’s important to do a little research and take time to prepare. Friends would say – just throw it in the ground and see what happens….you can always dig it up, transplant it, throw it away when it dies. If you know me well enough, you would know that I’m not that person. I’m more thoughtful…doing research (ad nauseam)… trying to figure out the best way to do it…asking questions. Total fear of failure! Louis did research on the best way and size to build the raised beds. H learned what he needed to do before he got started. Measured 10x before he cut.
- Living a Life of Mission –
- Ask God questions like – where are you at work, God? how can I join you in what you are doing? what would you have me do in my community? where is my person of peace?
- Ask your self questions seeking your motivation. We must first prepare ourselves… Someone once said… You must be a changed agent in order to be an agent of change. Safety precautions are airplanes state to give yourself oxygen before you help someone else. We must first know who we are and whose we are before we can be sent out by God.
- Ask the community questions like – If I brought coffee tomorrow, would you be interested in hanging out during soccer practice/ballet class/etc? What are your dreams for your children, community, family, life? What keeps you up at night? Could you help me with….?
2. I actually had put off planting a vegetable garden, because it was something new…and I didn’t know where to start! I didn’t want to screw it up. I was afraid. I had to take a risk and just do it. After doing a little research and asking a few friends questions, Louis built me 2 4×10 beds (yeah…that’s not starting small….). We threw down some newspaper and some dirt, and planted a few seedlings from Lowe’s. Wasn’t going to even try starting from seeds!
- Living a Life of Mission –
- Talk to some friends who are doing it. Ask questions. Watch them. Be willing to share your fear. You will learn they were afraid initially, too!
- Start small. You don’t have to make it a big production….actually don’t make it big event. Work it into the everyday rhythms of your life…but yet it does require intentionality. Pray for opportunities to be a blessing to someone because God gave you new eyes to see.
3. I got a late start at gardening. Louis and I didn’t plant our garden until the end of May. Friends have been reaping their harvest for weeks. Mine is just coming in. I came close to giving up and just waiting until the fall or even next year. Louis encouraged me by building them anyway…as my birthday gift. It was indeed a labor of love, because carpentry doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s a plumber, car mechanic, electrician….not a carpenter.
- Living a Life of Mission –
- You aren’t meant to do this alone. In Luke 10:1, Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs….2×2 to prepare the way for Jesus to visit. Pray for the other half of your pair.
- Call in reinforcements. I am grateful for my friends who join me in the journey.
- It’s never too late to get started. Plant where you are. Plant where you go. Plant in good soil…where God is moving. It doesn’t matter when you start – just start.
4. Things go wrong. Birds, deer, and bugs eat your potential bounty. Bees don’t come to pollinate your flowers, so you have to change your approach. Dogs dig up your plants… or in my case…eat my dirt. (Weird…I know…but Bella loves the rich, ‘meaty’ dirt!) so you build a fence. Storms and hail come and beat up your poor little plants. (I’m thankful that we planted late! The hail storm that came earlier wrecked some friends’ gardens.) And then…there’s the dreaded…ugly ‘dog vomit fungus’. Yes…true story…and it was GROSS! It required tender, loving care..and removal of the fungus and adjusting the soaker hose.
- Living a Life of Mission –
- The enemy…Satan…seeks to discourage, kill and destroy. Yes. It is true. Be prepared. Our God is ALL POWERFUL!
- Timing is everything. Sometimes it’s just not the right time. God’s timing is always right on time. Trust Him.
- Turn to the Lord. Trust that the Lord of the Harvest raises up laborers…He draws them near.
- Christian community is often the fence around your new seedlings. Build a fence of support and community to protect your upcoming fence. Sunday morning church service isn’t enough. It needs to be closer, more intimate discipleship…tending, sowing truth, etc.
5. It takes time. Plants take time to grow…some grow faster than others. There were a few moments I just wanted to give up…and let the beds go to weed. Some start slow and then take off like crazy. Some are weaker than others..and aren’t producing anything at all…and are almost dead. No 2 plants are the same. 2 days ago I had a cucumber that was about 5 inches long. Today…it was about 9 inches, and I am eating it!
- Living a Life of Mission –
- Surround yourself with support and encouragement, too. You are not meant to be a lone ranger.
- Tend to the garden…and to the gardener. Go to the Master Gardener who will tend to you.
- Look for the little wins. Where God is at work.
- Praise God in the difficult challenging times….and for the fruit of your labor!
A few scriptures that often encourage me…
Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
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- After the Lord…sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
- He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
God gave me strength during some hard conversations. Some close friends and family members were never super thrilled about me moving into this neighborhood. They loved me and feared for my safety. One close family member gave me a particularly hard time. Finally, I asked him…”If God called me to go to Africa, China or Brazil to do His work, how would you feel?” He quickly agreed that he would fully support it. I respectfully shared with him, that God had called me to the mission field, it just happened to be an urban mission field. I didn’t have to go half-way around the world, but could stay in my own Jerusalem and be about God’s work. If he or anyone else had a problem with that, they needed to take it up with God…not with me. I had to concern myself with obeying my heavenly Father first. No one ever said that following God meant it would be easy. There were friends who refused to come to my house, or only came during the daytime. But, that is why God called me (not them) to live here. At times, being obedient means sacrificing.
I didn’t always see it as sacrificial….because it seemed sooo right. I had a real peace about it. But, I saw it as an opportunity to expose my circle of influence to something they might not have encountered otherwise. My friends and family have grown to accept my choice and love my neighborhood and its residents. They are willing to visit…day or night! My neighborhood was really not THAT different from my previous neighborhood or theirs. It just LOOKED different.
2006 had been a trying year in many ways. I LOVED on these kids….day and night. And their stories and their needs broke my heart. There were many lonely times…where I felt like I was all alone in this…..and I was tired. In retrospect, I was probably trying to do it all alone rather than seeking God’s will and help. The needs of the community were so overwhelming. I found myself only seeing the dealers, the prostitutes, the homelessness, the absentee fathers, the struggling single moms, the addicts, the guys hanging out on street corners doing a whole lot of nothing. Trying to be a light in the darkness. As a reminder…It’s interesting…in looking back, my journal wasn’t as full as it normally was. Indicating to me now, that I probably wasn’t praying and listening to God as much as I should have.
In December of 2006, a group of us from church were meeting for lunch. Rob, my pastor, had brought this group together to encourage us as Christians in workplaces throughout the city. This is where I first got to know Don Coleman… Pastor Don. I was sharing the story of my neighborhood, and work. Don gave me a Word…Luke 10:1-7.
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
It had been a year, almost to the day, since Kevin (remember Kevin…the bone God tossed me when I prayed for my future husband?) had come into my life. I had not talked with Kevin but once or twice since that day. But, I had meditated on Deuteronomy 8 many times. Now, Don gives me Luke. Being a quick study, I knew to take this seriously. After meditating on this Word for weeks, reading it over-and-over again, by mid January, 2007, I felt sure of its intent for me.
– God was reminding me that he still hadn’t forgotten about me and my singleness, that he had the other ½ of my pair out there somewhere, and we would be in ministry together. God had sent me (and some day my other ½) to SBH in preparation for Jesus ‘showing up’. I needed NOT to pray for my future husband….but to pray for the other half of my pair….my partner in the ministry. If it happened to be my husband…Lord, THAT would be the icing on the cake!
– I was right where I was supposed to be…at work and at home. The harvest was plentiful…and the laborers were few. I had been called to ‘be Jesus’ to people in my life.
– My house…was a ‘House of Peace’. Confirming that it was God’s house…not mine and that I was not to ‘force’ my Peace on anyone.
I was about to find out that there was more in that Word than I thought…..