Changing my route on my usual walk on Monday, going not uphill but down and around, led to a God connection so unexpected for Jessica and me, and then for her husband Brian. No way could a casual hello on the street when I saw a woman up ahead, then turned right to walk the loop, then changed my mind and turned back to say hello to her and her daughter, have the results it did by any hand other than God Almighty’s. New neighbors are here to plant a church! And the connections we discovered had God’s fingerprints all over them.
Should I have been surprised, then, on Thursday as I was packing up PBJ and other food to take down to the homeless at the park, at the nudge I got to take some hand lotion, cologne, and scarves for any woman who might be there ? God had an intersection planned for one woman in particular he knew would be there, and it turned out to be a blessing of major proportions for me,too.
I parked in my usual spot and lugged insulated bags over to the playground, where a “landing” on the climbing gym makes an acceptable table to spread out whatever I’ve brought. thursday it was humble peanut butter, apple butter, bread, fruit, and apple juice (heavy on the “apple a day to keep the doctor away”!) Will was there, and James, and I met Marcus, who came over as I put out the paper plates and fixings. Onemwoan sat on the ground under the climbing gym next to a man lying ont he ground. “Hmmm…,” I thought,”Okay, Lord, you told a woman here needed to hear today that she’s beautiful in your eyes.”
I went back to the car and carried the Burts’ Bees hand lotion, cologne,and a pink plaid scarf back to the landing. When the woman came over, I asked her if I could put the scarf around her neck and told her why. Her eyes widened and she said,”you’re going to make me cry, aren’t you?”
Jesus, front and center, already there. I took her hands in mine and rubbed lotion on them, then spritzed her neck with the cologne, and all Heaven broke loose. She’s Teresa, and through tears she sobbed,”You don’t know how much I needed this today!” Well, Jesus knew for sure, and I was blown away to be his “bucket girl” carrying his love to Teresa, much more than the scarf, lotion or cologne. A huge hug burst from both of us!
She asked if I had time to listen to her story, and I sensed this, too, was a way Jesus could love on Teresa, so I listened. I left the cologne and lotion with her (and Jesus even knew she cared about eating and using healthy things!) and drove off to my usual Thursday prayer meeting a little late, but so overcome with Christ’s love for ME, too, to take the time and heart to nudge me to bring a greater blessing than I imagined I’d be carrying with the PBJ.
God’s heart has changed and challenged me. Oh sure, I always donated money for the homeless,and donated stuff to Salvation Army and other organizations that help the homeless, but I’ve discovered such a deeper joy in actually MEETING the homeless!
“What?” you ask,”Hug someone who hasn’t had a bath in who knows how long?”
I gave up on being afraid of catching “cooties” from boys when I was in fourth grade… so I guess 57 years later it’s hightime I got rid of that fear when meeting, and getting to know, people who for whatever reasons don’t live the way I do. There but for the grace of God go I! I’m keenly aware of this truth now, and keenly aware that I was keeping myself away from some incredible discoveries, adventures and blessings by hiding in Caucasian suburbia with my “churchly” friends and feeling noble for plunking money in the plate.
Don’t hear what I’m NOT saying! There is nothing wrong or ignoble about donating to worthy causes for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom. All I AM saying is that maybe, just maybe, Jesus wants us to take “church” outside the four walls of our buildings, out of the confines of our Bible studies, out to where HE already is with the homeless, the hurting, the elderly, the poor, the addicted, the prisoners. I didn’t have to “clean up my act” before Jesustouchedme.Granted, I grew up in a very sheltered community of families and people almost indistinguishable from my family, surrounded by Christians, thinking the world must be pretty much the same.
Reality check, heart check! Teresa said I blessed her unexpectedly; she did the same for me,andmore than that, God blessed us both simultaneously because He knew what Teresa needed, He knew that I’d be blessed to be a vessel of His insightful love, precisely because God loves us and delights in working through His children that way. Anybody else out there want to find Jesus,and find Jesus BIG TIME, somewhere you never looked for him before?
5 Do you think that is the way I want you to fast?
Is it only a time for people to make themselves suffer?
Is it only for people to bow their heads like tall grass bent by the wind?
Is it only for people to lie down in ashes and clothes of mourning?
Is that what you call a fast?
Do you think I can accept that?
6 “Here is the way I want you to fast.
“Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
7 Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
8 Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That’s because I always do what is right. Isaiah 58:5-8 NIRV
15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…. 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. The word that you hear is not My own, but it is from the Father who sent Me.… John 14:15, 23 NASB
6 “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” John 10: 6-8 NIV
All I can say is, it’s a blessing FOR you beyond comparison to take Jesus’ love in your “empty bucket” to the places and people Jesus wants to fill with the reality of HIS LOVE. Guarantee: you will get splashed! Anybody else want to join the “bucket brigade”?
A “…BUT…”to pray: Jesus, I admit it, I’d be afraid to got to __________________ and show people there – people not like me, but only people not like me because I haven’t walked in their shoes, dealt with wounds like theirs – your tangible love. Lord,forgive me! Help me get over my fears, my repugnance, my “holier or better or smarter thanthou” attitudes, expose them to me and kick them out of me, and Holy Spirit, tell me, show me, nudge me to take practical love to the place where you want to change and enlarge my heart and bless me more than I’ve ever thought you could! I thank you ahead of time for the love, purpose, and joy YOU will show ME there, in Jesus’ name. Holy Spirit, I’m listening; help me be brave enough to go where YOU lead ____________________ AMEN!