Effective Without Words

Help me to love with open arms, like You do
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father’s love*

These lyrics became my prayer on a recent humanitarian outreach trip to the Middle East. My inability to quickly connect with people felt like a weakness, a flaw that rendered me ineffective in ministry outreach.

But God encouraged me with the story of the Good Samaritan. He called me to join the outreach team to do good for people in a culture different than my own. The Samaritan didn’t preach, teach, and possibly didn’t talk much to the injured man he helped. His actions, not words, made all the difference. His example is one Jesus would have us follow. Be kind to your neighbor. This is the reason I traveled to a place I never thought I would go.

God also revealed to me that the commandments given to Israel during their desert wanderings were intended to set them apart. Their lifestyle was to be a testimony to the nations around them.

From a Bible in a Year devotional:

God intended them to be a highly visible example both as to the nature of the God they worshipped, and as to the quality of social justice embodied in their community. In other words, following the example of the Good Samaritan has an evangelistic consequence.

When we live the life God asks of us, people take notice. Our lifestyle is a testimony. How we behave, how we love, how we show kindness matter immensely.

As I read God’s word at the conclusion of my trip, I sensed His love for me. He revealed that nothing I do in the name of Jesus is without effect. Although I recognize I need to do a better job of using my words to share Jesus, God affirmed through His word that my time in the Middle East was in fact effective.

*Chorus of “For the One” by Brian Johnson and Jenn Johnson

Pursuing Career or Fulfilling a Calling

I’m behind the times. I only recently read a book called The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns, CEO of World Vision. He writes about how God pursued him, revealing His plan for Rich’s career. The book challenges Christians to put their faith in action. Reading it now was good timing considering I took a leap of faith only seven months ago to move from career to calling.

IMG_2333I can’t say I had high aspirations regarding my career. I fell into technical writing soon after landing my first job out of college. When I was offered an opportunity to leave technical phone support to work in the documentation department, I gladly took it! Little did I know that God was preparing me for my calling.

During many years of technical writing, I learned to convey information succinctly. I enjoyed writing just the facts. I’m most certainly not a novelist or a fictional story writer. I prefer simpler words, keeping things uncomplicated. My last writing job gave me some experience in marketing communications. Thankfully I was writing about a technical product that had no need for flowery nonsense. But, it was a step toward more creativity.

In the middle of my career, I became a mom. I was ecstatic that my husband’s salary allowed me to stay at home. I wasn’t concerned about the break in my career. As I said, I didn’t have ambitions to climb the ladder.

As any mom can attest, having children (I had two and stayed home for 8 ½ years) teaches one about selflessness. My heart softened because of these beautiful little ones; I learned to be more patient – a lot more patient. This was another way God was working, and continues to work in my life.

God also used short-term missions to prepare me for my calling. Earlier in life, I never imagined having the desire to embark on a mission trip to Africa. But I did – three times. And then, one trip to Haiti. These missions began to break my heart for what breaks the heart of God.

As I reflect on events that shaped me into who I am today, I see how my character required refinement so God could use me for His planned purpose. My past poor choices and my reactions to heartache were a training ground and a process that apparently had to take place. I now have a clearer view of the big picture. I know I can trust God to guide me into what’s next. I’m learning to surrender the future, trusting His vision. As a result, I stepped into His calling for me, working in ministry writing stories about the poor, suffering, and helpless. I bring awareness to their plight, and celebrate the hope they receive when we heed the command of Christ to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Thank you, God, for showing me the sweet spot where career fades and calling shines brightly.

Learning to Bless

It’s likely people say I bless them in one way or another, and maybe this is a frequent occurrence. While I’m grateful that I am a blessing to people, I realize I generally don’t go out of my way to bless, especially people I don’t know. Starting up conversation isn’t my forte. I know people who can befriend a stranger within the first five minutes of meeting them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. Apparently, I need some schooling. Being intentional about blessing others is part of God’s lesson plan for me.

IMG_0186My family recently vacationed in beautiful San Diego, California. As we walked down the sidewalk near the harbor, I noticed two men sitting on separate benches, each with their possessions stacked beside them. In front of them sat a plastic cup for passers by to drop in money. We didn’t stop. In fact, after mentioning it to my husband, he hadn’t even noticed them. (That comment isn’t meant to put him down. He’s very task oriented, and we were heading to a specific location, and that’s where his focus was. There’s no looking around at people and things when we have somewhere to be. Ha Ha!) It made me wonder that those guys must feel invisible.

IMG_0179A while back, we decided to purchase some McDonald’s gift cards to have on hand for such occasions. We remembered to bring one with us on that day. As we walked back past that spot a couple hours later, one of the guys still sat on the bench. As we approached, I noticed he picked up the cup in front of him and dumped out a few coins that had been dropped in. I envisioned someone walking by, dropping in the coins and continuing to walk. My husband had the gift card in hand. We stopped, spoke briefly to him and handed him the card. My husband told him we’d be praying for him. I hope that action was a small blessing to him. We didn’t just drop the card in the cup and keep walking, but we offered him dignity by placing the card in his hand and speaking directly to him. I also know we could have done better by sitting down with him for a few minutes and having a conversation, or going and grabbing lunch for us and him and eating together. Intentional blessing is a learning process.

IMG_0173Through my work with Cru and GAIN, I believe I will have opportunities to bless people intentionally. Of course, the work I do as a writer for GAIN is an indirect way of blessing suffering people who live in some of the hardest places in the world. Closer to home, I pray that I am able to be more relational with people around me, blessing them with actions, words, and maybe even by challenging them to grow in their relationship with Christ.

A wise friend and pastor explained in a recent sermon that focusing on small changes eventually leads to big changes. He challenged our congregation to think of one word and a corresponding verse to focus on over the next year. My word is BLESS. What is yours?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10