Grace and Gluttony

I admittedly have a problem. I’m a glutton. Now before we continue this conversation, I have to stop you. When I say glutton, I’m not referring to eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting down to eat a meal that has been put together with loving hands, or taking a bite of a delicate pastry that has just come out of the oven. However, overeating is something that sickens me. On the occasions that I have found myself in the place where I put too much food in my mouth, I feel sick, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. What I am confessing here is not the overconsumption of food, but the overconsumption of life.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. If I’m going to cook a meal for my family, I want it to have a main course, two sides, and dessert. I want my coffees Venti and my schedule picture perfect. If I’m going to workout, only an hour will do. If I can’t fit in an hour with Jesus, then obviously He won’t be pleased to hear from me. If I’m going to use a planner then it has to be followed to the T. Any change or skipping of a duty is treason to my life. Seriously, this is a problem.

For those of you that know me as the person who loves adventure and trying new things, this may seem odd. The funny part is, I love the little things in life. I love randomly going to try a new activity or tasting a new kind of lemonade. Just ask the man (my husband) who has to constantly hear my “OOO’s and AAHH’s” over the changing of the leaves or the twinkling stars. He sees me breathe sighs of deep relief when I relish in a warm cupcake or cozy up next to the fireplace. A piece of chocolate can better someone’s life. A small candle lit makes a world of difference in a room. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I only enjoy the small things in life if they’re coming from something or someone else. If the things of life are about me or coming from me, then by all means, it must be big and good. It must be of the impressive kind of things, nothing less than the best given my this girl over here.

This seeps into everyday life and I’ve found that it affects not only my to-do list and my adventures, but also my joy. I’m afraid to take on something new because what if I can’t give it 150%. I’m afraid to start cleaning, because what if I only clean the counters in the kitchen! I’m afraid to cook because what if the flavoring isn’t just right or what if someone is still hungry; it would be a crime for them to have to take some berries out of the fridge to munch on. I’m afraid to start a new adventure because what if I can’t do my best. I don’t want to take a day off of work for a mental health day because what if someone is disappointed in my work ethic. I’m afraid to write a blog post because surely it could be longer, more in depth, more nourishing to the  soul. What I need is grace, from myself, to myself. I need to give myself the permission to try new things, to celebrate in the little things, to spend only 30 minutes a day working out, to read only 3 pages in a book, to sip on a Tall or Grande sized coffee, to call someone I miss even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Do you need that kind of grace today?

Luke 16:10 says: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” How many times have I been unfaithful in little things because I was afraid of how small it was? It’s okay to do seemingly small things. It’s okay to spend 5 minutes praying, it’s better than 0. It’s okay to fit in a 10 minutes workout, your body needs the movement. The dinner you’ve prepared for your family doesn’t need to be extravagant. Do the small things my friend. Take joy in the little things that you do, they’re enough, you’re enough.  

 

Lost Sheep

Read: Matthew 18:11-14
I’ve read these scriptures 100 times over, and if you include the times
I have heard sermons on it, or read a devotional, the number would
most likely increase exponentially. I know that Jesus would leave the
99, He has, and He will do it again, just to save the 1 lost sheep.
In the short twenty-something years that I’ve been around, I have had
multiple reactions to this story. Like everyone else I process these
stories through my life experiences. I internalize them when I feel
connected to one of the characters. This makes is personal and I feel as though I really understand what Jesus was saying, and come to find
out, all my thoughts were quite off.
As a dedicated 99, I get frustrated at the 1. The 1 just can’t seem to
get it right. How dare you? Jesus died for your sins and yet you treat
Him like trash! Can you not just follow Him? That thought process
normally happens when I’m up on a mountain top where I carelessly
have forgotten just Who placed me there.
Sometimes, I connect myself to Jesus in this story – can I give you a
word of advice? You’re not Jesus, nor were you intended to be. And
despite what you might be thinking right now, when you try to
understand a story by thinking the character you mostly relate to is
Jesus, you may just be headed down a road where you try to do all the
saving. But I digress, there are sometimes that when I read scripture,
my brain says: “Yes, I am most like Jesus in this! I relate to Him the
most.” When this occurs, instead of becoming more like Jesus, I try to
take His place. I see that 1 and instead of pointing to Jesus, the One
True Savior, I lend out my own hand.
When I’m the 1 though, that 1 who just can’t get her act together, my
mental thought processes are quite different. Shame enters in.
“Goodness, Ali,” I say to myself… “Jesus died for you, and look how
you’re thanking Him! You’re worthless. You don’t deserve Him or His
love.” Now some of you might say that these thoughts are slipped into
my mind from our enemy, and while sometimes I know this is true, I
think it is important to realize that sometimes our biggest enemy is
ourselves. My brain really is that mean to me and I’d be willing to bet
that I’m not the only one.
With all these different approaches that I’ve had to this story in the
Bible, I thought I had touched it from all angles. Surely, one was close
to being right? Let me tell you my friend, just when you start thinking
that, you’re in for a lesson…
Many of you may know that I’m a teacher of the littles. Some of the
littlest of littles. The 5-year-old littles that forget whether they’ve
eaten lunch, or how many recesses there are per day. By the way, Ihave not forgotten what I was writing about. I promise this all ties
together. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the littles, and recess. Can I
share with you just how God opened my eyes to Matthew 18:11-14 using
my littles?
One beautiful school day recess time came for the group of littles that
share my classroom and on this particular day, I didn’t have recess
duty. Relieved at the promise of 20 minutes of quiet, I walked them
down to the recess doors, checked to make sure the teachers that had
duty were out there, dropped off the children and went back my
classroom to get some of my to-do list done.
Twenty minutes passed and my sweet kiddos came walking back in. As I
gave them directions, they went to gather the supplies and made their
way to their carpet squares to get ready for our math lesson. It didn’t
take even a minute, once everyone was sitting on the rug, for me to
become slightly panicked. “Where’s A and R?” I asked, trying to hide
the panic from them.
“Still outside…” They all replied.
As I asked them why, I could see on their faces that they were
starting to worry. No one knew why they were still outside. I stepped
out to see if maybe they were lingering in the hallway, but to no avail.
Another teacher offered to go look for them and my heart twisted.
While I thanked her for the help, they aren’t her babies. They’re mine.
I’ve been given the responsibility for them. It’s my job to find them. I
know them. I know where to look. After what seemed like eternity she
came back to offer to watch my other children while I went to find
them. It took everything in me not to run outside, but with other
groups of children in the hallways I did my best to show them the
example of “quick walking because you’re not supposed to run in the
hallway”. I want to add here that my students that were outside, were
never left without supervision. Other recesses were going on, and they
were perfectly safe, they just were not where they should be.
As I got outside, I looked through the crowd on the playground for
them. When I found them, my heart loosened a little from the panic it had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want them had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want to know they’re safe. I want them to know they’re loved. And I want
them to know that the rest of My children are happy they’re back safe
and sound.”
My heart stilled, the three points of view that had so dominantly been
in place had ceased to exist. They had quieted to the Truth of His love.
That’s what happens to lies when they are confronted by His
never-ending love, they have no choice but to fall back.
My dear friend, I don’t know where on that spectrum of thoughts you
fall. Maybe you’re the 99, strong in your walk with the Lord, but you
tend to get annoyed at those who can’t get it together; maybe you’re
the compassionate servant, holding out your hand to the lost, but
forgetting you’re not their savior; maybe you’re the 1 that keeps
messing up. Jesus has a word for you today. To the 99, love the ones.
To the compassionate, keeping loving, just remember Who does the
saving! To the ones, you are loved, let Him make you safe; He’s not mad
at you. To all of His children, His love, His never-ending love, is much
deeper and everlasting than our beings can even imagine.

Who Do You Worship?

Joshua 24:14-15

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

A while back, I was listening to a sermon and the topic of true worship came up. Being raised in church, I have heard many sermons, debates, and deep conversations over this topic and what it means for the different departments in our churches. Conversations and heated debates swirl around with questions like: “Is our music too loud? Should we get lights for the platform? Is our music too soft? Do we need a sign team? How do we reach all of these people in our congregation?” With hearing all of these different ideas, one thought keeps coming to mind: “Who are we trying to worship?” Are we trying to honor and reverence the thoughts and opinions of those around us? Are we trying to honor and give reverence to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Good Ol’ Merriam Webster defines worship as this: 1) “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” and 2) “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion”. The first definition of worship is not something that we, as Christians, easily mistake. Many Christian people honor or reverence God as the divine being or supernatural power. People of the many different religions around the Earth also have a being that they honor or reverence as divine or with supernatural power. Yet, it is this second definition that trips us up. If we switch this second definition: “To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” to our everyday usage of the English language, we get something like this: “To consider something or someone with great respect, honor, or loyalty and love”. With that in mind, I must ask this question: “What, or whom receives your greatest respect, honor, loyalty, or love?” I challenge you to stop right now, and make a list, mentally or even on a piece of paper.

My initial reaction creates a list that looks something like this:

  1. God
  2. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  3. My family,
  4. My spiritual mentors,

Then, as it normally does, my brain begins to question, is this the list that my everyday life supports? Do my everyday actions say that I am loyal to these things; that I honor, respect, and love these groups of people? What gets the most of my time every single day? You see, what we love the most, what we are the most loyal to, what we honor and respect the most, gets the majority of our time.

With this in mind, I revisit my list, and if I am completely honest with you, my list begins to look a little more like this:

  1. Me
  2. My Work
  3. Social Media
  4. My family
  5. God
  6. Church
  7. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  8. My spiritual mentors.

With many different scriptures, the Bible is very clear about Who we should be worshipping:

Deuteronomy 6:13-14 You shall fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name.You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you.” Note: here the word “fear” in its original Hebrew  means to “revere”.

1 Chronicles 16:25 “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.” Note: here the word “feared” in its original Hebrew means to “revere”.

John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.” Note: here the word “service” in its original Greek means to “worship”.

If worship is defined as honoring or extravagantly respecting someone, and if worship is an act of our love, if the Bible is this clear on Whom should be receiving our worship, and if our time spent is an indication of what we love, then it is imperative that we realize what we are spending the most time on.

I encourage you my dear friend, to really look at where your time is being spent. Who are you worshipping?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

Six Minutes to Eternity

I’ve been told this message jumps all over the place, and while that is true, I ask that you stick around. Come with me on this multi-lane adventure, because I promise you the destination makes sense, once you get there.
A while back I woke up too late to do my devotions. Because of my habitual pressing of the snooze button, I had missed my time of praying and decided to pray while I was driving. That week in particular was more than busy. Monday was small group, Tuesday was song practice, Wednesday was church, Thursday was something at school, and Friday I was due to teach a lesson at a church youth event. As the realization hit me that I had yet to prepare a lesson for the upcoming youth night, my confusion of God’s provision was heightened.
“God,” I spoke up, “Why haven’t you given me anything yet?!”
There aren’t many times I here a direct, quick answer, but this one threw me for a loop.
In a thought loud enough to be barely a whisper I heard, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Nearly in tears I asked God for forgiveness. I had been upset with Him because I had expected Him to give the answer when I hadn’t even asked.
Then I asked: “God, this is important to me. I know they only give us six minutes to teach this lesson, but those six minutes could mean someone’s eternity.”
This latter sentence rolled over and over in my mind and wouldn’t let up. Six minutes could mean someone’s eternity… Six minutes.
When I got to work, I spent a few minutes looking up “six minutes”. Why wouldn’t this idea of that specific time frame leave me? What things of importance could you do in such a little amount of time? So I asked Google, because obviously that is the place to go for answers. The following is what Google suggested:

  1. You could run a mile (insert picture of me laughing hysterically, because as smart as Google is, this one, my dear friends, it got wrong).
  2. Go through a drive thru twice… Once again, dear Google, you are misinformed, or we need to switch our food choices because I’m not sure I’ve been through a drive thru in that amount of time… ever.
  3. You could go get coffee down the street! Oh, here is the Google I know. Good job Google! Finally you speak my language. Coffee. Coffee is a good thing.

Now as you can see by the three things in this list, six minutes is not a lot of time. In fact, if you do the math, six minutes is less than 1% of your day. Yet, this small amount of time, the time it could take you to get coffee, or run a mile, or whatever your thing may be, that time could be used to save someone’s life.
Too many times when God asks us to do something, He asks of us the things we consider small. The things that seem so minute that we mistakenly think they are not worth our time. There is no “little” or “big” thing to God though. In His word, He continually shows us that He uses the things we consider little to perform great miracles. We see Him work in David. I’m sure David could’ve let fear take over. He could’ve said: “I’m not big enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not enough.” Instead though, we see a small, young man defeat a war champion, a giant, with a sling and a few stones. Flip a few books on and we find a young orphan. She was chosen to be the wife of a king, a seemingly flippant king at that. Yet she was chosen, not only by a king, but by The King. He chose her to save her whole country from genocide. Skip a handful or more books on and we come upon a small village that was chosen to be the birthplace of our Savior. I can’t help but wonder how different Christ’s story would have been, if that small village, if that small stable, would’ve said, “I’m not good enough, no baby can be born here”.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (NLT)

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish… And he chose things that are powerless… chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…”
Have you ever felt foolish? Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough, worthy enough of the calling you had received? Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed too big for you to accomplish? I’ve been there. I could venture to say that we’ve all been there. No matter how small or insignificant you feel, God has made you for a specific purpose and NO ONE else can fill that exact role.
Have you ever felt like the calling you received wasn’t good or big enough? Maybe you feel like you should be doing bigger and better things. Yet, God has something “smaller” in mind. Sometimes his voice is hard to hear because he chooses to whisper things and when he asks something small, we don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference, so we don’t listen. Yet there are so many times he asks something small because he wants to use it in a big way. These small things might sound something like this:

  • “Go sit by that kid at the lunch table.”
  • “Give that teacher a smile, I know they get on your nerves, but they’re hurting.”
  • “Say yes when your little sibling asks to play a game.”
  • “Ask your mom or dad how their day was… and really listen this time. They’re human too.”
  • “Text this person, they need a friend.”

God doesn’t call all of us to go to Africa, He doesn’t call all of us to be Pastors or Worship Leaders. But He does call all of us to something; whatever He has asked of you, no matter how small it seems to be, it’s worth it, and He has a bigger plan.
The call rings out clear. Come. Serve. Be planted where you are. Love where you are. Esther 4:14 says: “… And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I’ve changed the words just a bit and maybe it’ll help you see how it applies to you, right here, right now:
“…And who knows, maybe you were made (in your workplace, in your school, with your family, with your friends) for such a time as this?”
Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

A Letter To Me

A book I read a while back inspired me to write a letter to who I was ten years ago. My 14-year-old self was going through quite the traumatic time, as many that age do. I had recently turned back to God from a middle school version of rebellion. I was repentant; worried I had messed up any chances of witnessing to those around me, quiet and worried about every little thing. God and I were closer but I still wasn’t sure what it looked like to serve Him in love; the center of our relationship was solely fear, fear I would miss out on Him, fear I would make Him unhappy… Fear. But still I pressed on. With all of that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to Freshman self, and I invite you to come along this journey with me; it may end up more important than you realize right now.

Dear 14-year-old self,

May I start by saying hello. If you don’t believe it’s me, I could share a few secrets that only a select few know. Yet, I think if you look into who you are at your core, you’ll believe every word. You are beautiful. You are wanted. You are loved. You are enough. I know life is hard right now, it is for everyone. It never really stops being hard, you just find better ways to give it to God to handle. I have a few words of advice, and I hope at least one of them sticks with you:

  1. Find your worth in the One Who made you. You can’t find lasting worth in achievement because the minute you fail, so does your identity.
  2. Let that guy go, the one who tries to control you, the one who says you need to lose weight, the one who chooses another girl, let him go. He doesn’t know who he is either. And if God’s plan is for you to marry, He will bring a man to you that will love you as He does. He will bring a man that will treasure you more than you feel worthy of.
  3. Take a risk, try out for the squad, go for a late night movie with your friends, do something; just be sure to make stories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Do everything but don’t forget yourself. You have the time, right here, right now to do whatever you want. Be the secretary of a club, join a team you don’t know if you’ll like, join the choir at church, take a night class for a craft, take up a real hobby. These things aren’t what makes you who you are, but you may find a bit of yourself in one of them. You’ll never know if you don’t actually go.
  5. It’s okay to fail, just learn from it. And if all you’ve learned is one thing that doesn’t work for you, then you’ve done well.
  6. Love well. Love those around you, make them smile, make them laugh, show them the beauty you see in them. You’re good at it. It’s one thing you do that’s as easy as snow falling. It just happens. Let it happen.
  7. And for the love, quit letting others define you. There will always be those who talk; give them something to talk about. There will always be those who hate; give them something that makes them question their hatred. There will always be those who love you with everything in their being; don’t push them away.
  8. Just be you, honey. You are beautiful. You will mess up. It’s okay. You will do great things. Celebrate them. You are determined. You have talents and dreams. Pursue them. Most importantly though, out of any of this, you are loved, created for a beautiful purpose. Be you.

Sincerely,

The 24-year-old version of You
You know, as I look over this little letter to myself, I think of how applicable it still is today. I’m in the beginning years of my career, engaged to be married this summer, and yet those eight things apply to me, here and now, just as much as it ever did. And I have this feeling that they will still apply 10 years from now. So the question is this, what would you tell your 10-year younger self? Go write it… and then do something courageous, take your own advice.

 

 

 

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

Prayer

“Jesus, Thank you for this food and drink. Help it to nourish my body, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.”

Such a short prayer, simple, and to the point, and so easily forgotten. As with many young Christians, I grew up praying before each meal. I was taught to do this; while I don’t remember the reason that was presented, I knew it was important. I have fond memories surrounding that prayer in particular. While family gatherings are often a mixture of bitter and sweet, I have always loved them – for the most part at least. My grandfather always used to call on me to pray over the family meal because of how quickly I prayed. I sped through the prayer just as you would the ABC’s when you suddenly forget what comes after R, or some other alphabetical situation that befuddles you. Theoretically, I was happy to pray, it comforted my conscious. “Look at me Lord, I remembered You before partaking in a blessing.” I felt like a good Christian when praying for my meal, like I was somehow holier for speaking a few words before shoving morsels in my mouth. If I accidently skipped this prayer, I would always feel guilty, thinking that suddenly God would be disappointed in me.

As I grew older, I found ways to recite this prayer with discretion. My friends at the lunch table did not share this particular ritual, and I’ve never been one for pushing my thoughts on others. I kept it quiet, closed my eyes, thought the prayer, and then would move on to eating. There was even a time where I struggled being ashamed of this prayer. What if people thought it weird or unnecessary? Now, I’m not even sure if my friends noticed the silence. Over the years, I have been blessed with friends that respected this time, and would automatically quiet down until I finished and looked up. Somehow, this helped my fear subside. I realized it didn’t really matter what people thought. We all have our own ways of doing things.

While I am no longer ashamed, something new has begun to run over my mind lately. One day, I was sitting, relaxing, I don’t even remember what I was thinking about when a thought hit me. That day in particular, I had prayed several times for the different meals I had eaten. I realized that each time, I had said that prayer without even thinking about it. The words flowed over my mouth just as your muscle memory allows you to punch in the code on your phone. God showed me the intent of my heart that day and it hurt.

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2

My prayers that day were no more righteous than the person who doesn’t pray over their meal. In fact, I would go to say my prayer, because of the motive, was not righteous at all. It was not the incense unto the Lord that I want my prayers to be (Psalm 141:2). It was hypocritical. I prayed thanksgiving to the Lord just like the Pharisees did (Luke 18:9-14), so that people could hear me, so that I could hear me. I truly was not thankful for the food that Jesus had given to me. Scripture says that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17) I may be wrong, but I consider food to be a good gift. A gift that I ought to truly be thankful for. In everything, I should give thanks. It’s easy to give thanks in the great things. It’s easy to remember that I should give thanks in the hard times. Yet, those days that seem mundane, the average ones where nothing sticks out, those are the days that I often forget just how good I have it.

I choose to continue praying over my meals, not with a guilty heart, nor with a habitual heart, but with one that will grow into a thankful heart. Maybe praying over your meal is not necessary, maybe it is. I am not God. I look to our example and see that Jesus blessed the meals that He ate many times in scripture. However, while learning about the heart of my God, I want to say this. I do not believe that the prayer is what really matters to our Lord Jesus. He knows the motive behind the action, and someone with a thankful heart is what pleases Him.

I pray that the Lord will continue to soften our hearts to the motives behind our actions, that we may have a heart after His.

Missions – Not What I Expected

I felt the call to be a missionary when I was 11 years old. I didn’t know that one way God would have me fulfill that call would be through teaching until about four years ago. Maybe one day I’ll travel around the world teaching the Good News. But right now, this is where I’m planted, to be the light to my kiddos in this broken system.

I remember it clear as day. I was eleven years old, sitting in my room at my desk. I know that year I received the Holy Ghost, but I don’t recall whether this moment happened before or after that time. Anyway… I was sitting at my desk looking at the corkboard hanging on the wall. I had pictures of friends and family, a few pictures of artists I loved listening to, you know, the typical pre-teen room display. Also on that corkboard was pinned a picture of a world map. It was there to remind me to pray for our missionaries. That day though, I just sat there, staring at the map. I felt something in me shift. I didn’t know the details; I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was that I was going to be a missionary. It was my calling to work on the mission field.

Fast forward to college; since that time when I knew my calling, sometimes it was placed on the forefront. It was all I looked at. However, other times I placed it in the background, basically forgetting it existed. I didn’t know how it would all play out and it scared me (still does sometimes). Almost every time I heard a missionary speak, or someone speak about missions, I would cry. I would listen to their stories and plead with God, asking, “WHEN IS IT MY TURN?” Then I would look at my life and feel like it didn’t measure up to the calling of a missionary. Do I really have what it takes? Does my life show Jesus to those around me? Am I doing this right?

After five years, I graduated college with a degree in early childhood education. I earned my certificate to teach the littlest of littles. I had no idea that this would be my first mission field. You see, I had these ideas in my head, ideas that kept that missionary calling fire in my heart going. But I don’t know if those ideals really meet where I’m going. Then again, maybe they do. I listened to life stories of missionaries; I studied their lives, I heard them preach at church. They all came from foreign lands, places where they had to give up everything and move off; they preach the gospel on the streets, some hide, preaching quietly to a group hoping the government won’t catch them, they live life with different people groups, loving, serving, teaching, sacrificing, feeding the hungry. And while my heart longs to travel, I haven’t heard the call to go live in another country just yet. I have heard the call though, offering me a job at a local school; where within the last five years free-and-reduced lunch has went from 5% to 75%; a place where children come in, in defense mode, because they stayed up all night to their parents fighting; a place where children come in, nearly starved for food just as much as for attention; their needs unmet to the point of desperation. I did not see this as a mission field. It did not even click until I read a blog post about teachers being missionaries.

Because my ideals were so focused on living in a small hut in another country with barefoot children running around, I neglected to see the children in front of me. I didn’t hear their cries, their pleas to be fed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Whatever your calling may be, missions, preaching, teaching, mentoring, singing, translating, etc., please realize that the foundation of that ministry may look nothing like you think. You may be called to be a pastor, and right now all you are doing is scrubbing toilets. You may be called to lead the worship team and right now you are only singing in the shower. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. I know it may seem like God took you on a detour and left you; I promise you He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. This road that appears to be destitute, it’s part of your journey. A beautiful part. This is part of your calling. I would be willing to bet, if you are following God with all your heart, compare your calling to what you are doing now, they’re connected somehow.

If you still don’t know your calling, don’t lose hope. Live life as it is right now. Don’t rush it. Let God do His work; in His timing everything will fall into place.

Right now, small town USA is my mission field. In a broken world, every country needs missionaries.