Friday, September 20, 2013

Salt, Light, Prison





 Prison. I can't even fathom being confined to a life behind bars. It's a world that exists and is very, very real for many people. Thousands of adults who used to be children that were abandoned and abused by their parents find themselves in this world, wondering where things went wrong as they find themselves under a federal sentence that they themselves are responsible for.

About a week ago I was flipping through the latest "Netflix" additions and came across the Netflix original TV series "Orange is the New Black". I will confess, I didn't read a whole lot about the show but just watched it based on advertisement on TV. When I first started watching it, I was shocked. I felt like I shouldn't even be watching it because it was so crude, so horrific, so evil; and yet, I became hooked.

The first question I asked myself was "Sarah, why do you even care about this?", but something kept attracting me to the the plot line, the characters, the world of female prison inmates, and it didn't take me long to figure out why.

Every single person on this planet deals with hardship at one point or another. Sometimes we feel that we are in our own prisons of an addiction, debt, depression, etc.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds of pain and struggle. But there are completely different worlds out there. Worlds that we can't even comprehend; worlds that would make us vomit, faint, and potentially leave us crippled and scarred in ways that could never be healed.

I just finished reading a book called "Dangerous Surrender" by Kay Warren, the wife of author and pastor Rick Warren who wrote " The Purpose Driven Life". In her book she chronicled the call that God placed on her life to minister to people affected by the AIDS virus. She wrote her experience with words so descriptive, so vivid, of the pain and the depravity of AIDS victims in Africa. She wrote about how important it is that we be disturbed as Christians; that we allow our comfortable worlds to be shattered with the horrific reality of others.

Entering into the world of the female prison inmates has disturbed my world. It has given me an even deeper understanding that any existence apart from Christ is a prison. That any of us, I don't care WHO you are, has the potential to become vulnerable to commit heinous and unthinkable acts. That when deprived of Christ, of hope, nourishment and touch we are truly hopeless.

The powerful element in "Orange is the New Black" is the back ground stories of the inmates before they got to prison. Daughters of drug dealers, sexually abused children, homeless, sold to pimps; young girls who knew nothing other than pain and horror; a pain and horror that became their existence. Everyone has a story. What you see is not always what is actually there.

Be disturbed. May this post serve as a reminder of how important it is to get out of our comfort zones in the way that the Lord desires us to do. May you be reminded that the darkness of prison is the same as the darkness within our own hearts, but because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ we live in radiant light of freedom in Christ. Our chains are gone and we've been set free, but so many are not free; so many are bound by the hand and feet to chains of their past and their present. We are not just called to be salt and light to people who are sick, hungry or in another country. I believe that God has called us to bring hope to those in chains, whether physically or literally. How will you do this?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Edging Closer




With September upon us and the season of fall casting its blanket over the earth, many families have already taken their summer vacations. Do you remember those family adventures when you were a child? My family didn't take a whole lot of vacations, but we did travel to my grandma's in Minnesota several times a year. Mom would pile all of us in the car with a few duffle bags, pillows, stuffed animals and blankets. She was also known for cruising past the golden arches and instead stopping at rest stops to feed on ham sandwiches, apples, water and Twizzlers licorice.

I remember that feeling when we were almost to grandma's. There was a satellite tower in a cornfield that was the visual marker for our little eyes. Mom would say "See, there's the tower! We are almost to grandma's!" We would all get really excited for several reasons. 1) To see grandma, of course. 2) we didn't have to sit in that van in such close quarters any more, and 3) grandma always had something delicious to eat upon our arrival. All these factors combined resulted in joyful childish squealing, and I'm sure my mother was relieved to have the company of another adult after a day in the car with little ones.

Right now I'm not going to grandmas house (though I certainly wish I was!), but just as that little mini participant in that mini van, I'm edging ever so closer. The difference is that I don't know what, where or when, but I know that I am edging closer to something big that is going to change my life. I am edging closer to a deeper understanding of the Lords fulfillment of His plan for me on this earth. 

The love of my life is finishing his college degree in about two months time, and the plans after that have yet to be completely revealed. There are little bits and pieces that God has pulled back the curtain on, but nothing definitive. I've learned that God marvels in being definitive when it comes to defining our existence and who He is, but that He also chooses to be more mysterious than definitive when it comes to His timing and His plan for our lives. This in turn just creates an opportunity to trust Him more deeply.

So here I sit with my cup of blueberry crumble coffee (with room for cream), knowing that I am edging ever so closely to that definitive moment in time, but that right now is where I am meant to be. I am meant to be ministering and encouraging you through this blog post at this exact moment in time. Last night I posted the following on my Facebook status:

"Right now, right in THIS moment you are EXACTLY where you need to be. You may want to fast forward to the future. You may want to walk up to the angel receptionist of Gods waiting room and tell her how long you've been waiting for God to call your name for "your turn".

Don't lose heart my friends. If you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, you need not fear of where you need to be or where you are going to be...you need only "be". "

As you are edging closer to something....maybe the birth of a baby, a college degree, a first kiss in a relationship, a marriage, a new job opportunity...whatever it may be, may the truths in this post resonate in your heart and give you the ability to wait in patience and in joy.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."- Psalm 27:14

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tedious


For 7 1/2 hours off and on I tackled the accessories/jewelry area of the store that I work in. For 7 
1/2 hours off and on I was unwrapping, sorting, color coding, untangling and trying to read the ridiculous merchandise plan for the new fall line up.



In some ways it was therapeutic to me, working by myself to accomplish a task. But a majority of me felt irritated by how extremely tedious the project was. With too much stock for the space given and nothing really being marked down quite yet to be put in the sale items, I felt like anything I was trying to accomplish seemed like a cluttered mess.

Funny, but that is how this season of life tends to feel: tedious. It feels like untangling a bunch of beaded necklaces and trying to color coordinate earrings. Now, maybe you are one of those people who enjoy tedious projects. You like all those small little details and get a little thrill when you untangle a delicate necklace chain.

I am no such woman.

I love vacuuming for the simple fact that I can see the result of my work almost instantly. Why can't more tasks or challenges in life be like vacuuming? Instead we have to deal with tedious situations in life like working to save money, pay off debt, lose weight, receive a degree in higher education, etc. These are all examples of things that can be extremely tedious; counting pennies and calories, studying and writing what seems like unlimited amounts of exams and papers. However, all of these little tedious aspects eventually add up to a greater reward; a reward with lasting meaning and significance.

If there is anything that the Lord is trying to pound into my head these days, it is patience. During a time that I would like to hurl things across the room and maybe throw a little temper tantrum at how tedious waiting on the Lord can be, my heavenly Father gently tells me to be still. He tells me that what may seem tedious to me is necessary for Him to accomplish His plan.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don't give up."- Galatians 6:9