“Fourteen-Eleven”

IMAG1781

I hesitate to write this post.

Why? Because it’s a little embarrassing.

I have been given a lot. That is an understatement. In the way of earthly goods, I live in a really nice house, I have a closet full of clothes, I have plenty of food… I could go on and on. I also have a family that for some bazaar reason is crazy about me. But those are small in comparison to the fact that God has placed me in a home that loves and follows after Him. I was born into a home that already believed that the Bible is the True Word of God, and that Jesus is the Messiah. I can’t describe just how overwhelming it is. God has literately poured out blessing upon blessing on me.

So often I think and ask “Why God? Why would You give me so much when others have so little?”

And then He says, “You have been given much so you can give much. You are to be my hands and feet, giving all for My sake if I ask it of you. You are to love the unlovable, touch the untouchables, reach the unreachables. The poor, the desolate, the unpopular, the ugly and unwanted. That is your mission, Grace. Your life is to be spent reaching those for My glory. Those whom the world esteems the lowest are highest in My Kingdom – treat them as royalty.”

That’s my mission. That’s my calling in life.

But no, I don’t always live with that attitude. There are plenty of days I sit on the throne of my life and selfishly run it.

Like last Thursday…

Early that afternoon there was a battle raging in my soul; I won’t go into all the details now for time sake. But I was angry with myself and throwing a royal pity-party. Honestly, it was the display of selfishness you’d expect to see from a 4-year-old, not an almost 20-year-old. But God in His grace did not leave me there. After many selfish tears and thoughts rooted in pride, He opened my eyes to my selfishness and areas of my life I was clinging onto.

Selfishness.

I repented. I surrendered.

There was much joy in that.

Lord, try me again. Try me again. I’m ready. I’m surrendered.

He did.

(Oh praise Him for that! When you ask Him for trials or testing to grow you, be sure that He will.)

And even though I’d asked Him, I wasn’t prepared for the area of my heart He’d touch next.

That evening, I ran an errand to Joann’s craft and fabric store with my Mom and sister. I wandered my way into the clearance fabrics, and after a while I noticed a man passed by.

“How are you doing, this evening?” An employee asked.

“I’m alive, and that’s saying a lot,” replied the middle-aged black man.

His clothes were worn, but not tattered. A construction-worker vest peaked out beneath his dark coat. Our eyes met. I smiled. “Hi.” “Hello.”

He hesitated for a few seconds and then walked up to me. “I’m being bashful… I’m sorry. I need to ask you something. Ok, I’m just going to say it. I need “fourteen-eleven”… My brain locked up for a second as he continued talking about things. What in the world is a “fourteen-eleven?” He mentioned something about his job, something about his house, and needing just “fourteen-eleven” more for a place he and his wife could stay the night.

It hit me. Oh, it’s $14.11. He’s asking for fourteen dollars and 11 cents.

I panicked. No one had ever approached me asking for money before. The thought crossed my mind “what if he’s just making it up?” It was awkward. It was inconvenient. I didn’t really know what to do.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t really have cash on me.” I replied knowing full well that I had some.

“Oh that’s ok, I’m sorry to bother you. I know God will provide someway.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said again sympathetically, almost tagging on a “I’ll pray for you.”

Are you not disgusted?! That I would pretend to hurt and sympathize with him, all the while knowing I had what he needed? It makes my stomach turn.

There I stood in the fabric isle transfixed, replaying the whole scene over in my mind again. What have I done? Out of my selfishness I lied. I’ve been selfish with what God has freely given me. What would Jesus have done?

What if that were Jesus?

I felt sick. What if it had been Jesus? I would have gladly given what was asked and more. But what does His Word say? Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me. (Matt 25)

I pulled out my wallet to see how much cash I had in it.

Fourteen dollars. No way.

I grabbed it and some change and started searching for him. I ran around the store, I checked outside. I looked around the store again, combing every isle. I check outside again. He was gone, no where to be found. The golden opportunity to show be the hands and feet of Christ was gone. I missed it because I was to consumed with myself and my wants. I did not have an outward focus.

How different it could have been if I had let the Lord truly sit on the throne that day… “Here Lord, my life–take it, spend it, use it!!! Make a fool out of it for Your sake if You wish. Only let it be Yours today.” If I had been living with the behavior of heaven–where those whom the world despises and call out as inconvenient are held high, and precious. Oh how different would my response have been!

Twice that day God showed me areas of my life that were tangled in selfishness. Twice I was so consumed with myself that I didn’t see what God was doing around me. Even as I type there are things He’s wanting me to pry my grubby little fingers off of. It’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be inconvenient. But so was the Cross, and that’s what we’re called to do.

 Luke 9:23 – And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Deny ourselves and carry a cross? Yes… And follow Him. And when you follow Him, you too will wind up at Calvary.
I’m not really sure how to end this post… These are things that I’m still learning and haven’t mastered yet. But slowly I’m learning to answer “Yes Lord, I’m willing” when He asks something of me. I have far to grow, and know I will be challenged from the moment I rise tomorrow morning.
So while this might be the end of this post, it’s the beginning of asking for the eyes and heart of Christ. It’s the start of asking Him to so fill me, that He lives and works through me.
Oh friend, won’t you join me?
-Grace Elizabeth

Fed and forgiven

This is just a raw journal entry from today. Because not everyday is perfect.

Tuesday
Jan 14th, 2014

How can I be so foolish as to not fill my life with the Words of God? How can I afford not to be memorizing and meditating on God’s Word daily?

There is no victory to the unfed, malnourished warrior.

These past few days as I have been struggling, I have asked God why it is so hard to follow Him. Why when He proclaimed “my yoke is easy and my burden is light?”

God as a loving Father sets a plate of rich food before us– His Word, His very presence. But instead of being still, of feeding on the food He has provided, I foolishly hop up and run out into the battle very near starvation. And I wonder why I fail.

It’s be strong in the Lord and int the power of His might.

Not mine.

And yet I push and push in my own strength until I collapse, too weak to move on.

I begin to wonder where He’s been. I am frustrated with myself for failing again. And in one black moment I believe that victory in the Christian life doesn’t exists.

He approaches me so tenderly. Tears fill His eyes as He sees His beloved weak and beaten in a state of delirium.

And He draws me back to His side.

He forgives me.
He loves me.
He feeds me.

And today I choose to thank God for what I most detest in life–failure. Because failing always ends up bringing me back to Jesus’ side.

Oh Abba, how prone to wander, prone to fail I am. Teach me to feed on Your Word and dwell in Your presence! I praise You for being so faithful to me and always–ALWAYS drawing me back to Yourself. Your mercies are renewed EVERY morning. Great is Your faithfulness. Selah.

Five Minute Friday: Empty

~Start~

Empty.

That word may very well bring tears to my eyes…not because I’m a “the glass is half empty” kind of person, no, I’m an optimist, my glass is always half full. In fact, my cup overflows.

But emptiness is what I see in my neighbor’s eyes…his heart, his soul, is well, empty. He doesn’t know Christ…and I pray for him, and shed more tears. How many tears do I have to shed and prayers do I have to utter before he comes to Christ? Sometimes I’d like to know…

For a time I followed the world’s “fulfillment”, but it left empty–destitute. So when I look in my neighbor’s eyes I see the emptiness I used to have, and it breaks my heart. Oh, and don’t you know it breaks God’s heart too?

Empty, lost souls…they’re everywhere. Though they may appear to be silent, they scream out for something to fill them. They try to fill their empty God-shaped void with many things, but it only leaves them emptier before. Who will tell them of the Great Fulfiller?

Let your heart be stirred even today, and go share with some empty, lost soul true fulfillment that they be no more empty.

~Stop~

Broken cisterns and Living Water

This morning I decided to start working my way through the book of Jeremiah, and thought I’d share some gems. Honestly, I chose Jeremiah because I thought that it would be a tough read with all of the judgments and prophecies in it. And I want to learn to love and delight in reading all of God’s Word, even if it’s a list of names; not just picking and choosing what I love to read out of it.

So before I began, I prayed. O Lord, show me something out of Your Word, anything. “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”  He did not disappoint me.  

I suppose the first thing that made me stop and think was Jeremiah 1:5-9.

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

How wonderful is it to know that God formed me for a distinct purpose and plan. O Master, let me only follow the path that you have ordained for me…I need Your strength.

“Then said I, Ah Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.”

Often I feel so inadequate or too young to accomplish anything for God’s Kingdom. But see, little things like age or disability don’t stop God. Watch how God turns around and does something beautiful with little Jeremiah.

“But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for though shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”

O my Lord! Would You do the same thing with this little girl, as You did with Jeremiah? Would You touch my mouth, and put Your words in my mouth? Yes, even in this faltering, little mouth. Oh may everything these lips utter bring honor and glory to You…how often they do not.

These were good and encouraging, but just a warm up for Jeremiah 2:13:

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

After reading this verse I paused to reflect—something here seemed all too familiar. Forgive me as I fumble around for the words to describe what the Lord showed me through this. (This will be a very ruff explanation of what it means to me).

You see, God created us with a void inside that only He can fill. He created us for something exciting—a full and exciting relationship with Him. But so often, instead of pursuing a relationship with God, the Fountain of Living Waters, we set up idols–we hew out our cisterns. But the thing is, our cisterns are broken and cracked, and can’t hold any water. So what do we do? Out of desperation to feel full, we do the same pointless things over and over again. We spend countless hours on the computer, joking with friends, reading fiction, and etc. (These things in and of themselves aren’t bad necessarily, it’s when we let them become idols). But the water [fulfillment] only lasts for a short while, and then leaks out just as fast as it came in, leaving us dry, broken, and empty. A broken cistern is anything that you replace the Fountain of Living Waters with, good or bad: Friends, family, relationships, books, computer, school, drugs, addictions, etc…

I have seen this pattern many times in my life. First, I have substituted The Fountain of Living Water for a cheap imitation, a pathetic broken cistern. Then I try to fill the cisterns with something “exciting” (because having the Fountain of Living Waters coursing through your veins is thrilling, so we try to leave something “exciting” in its place). But it only fills me up for a short time because the cistern is broken, and holds no water. So I fell empty. And then I try to fill myself up more and more with the same things, but it only left me emptier still, and more broken than before. The only way to get out of this rapid cycle of emptiness is to replace your pathetic, broken cisterns with God’s Fountain of Living Water. I promise, when you do this you will become alive, full, and yes, your cup will run over.

            To me, this is such a beautiful picture. And I wouldn’t have seen it had I not asked the Lord to open my eyes. He is ever faithful to me; always answering my prayers when I pray according to His will. Hmm… Lord, I praise You and exalt Your name.

I don’t know if any this makes any sense to anyone but me. Often, what is the greatest find and treasure to me, is a simple fact to everyone else. But if perhaps, this does make sense, then join me as I examine myself for the cisterns that I have hewed out in my heart. And let us allow the Fountain of Living Water to flow out of our lives.

All for Christ’s glory,

Grace

Psalm 16:11