Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Into The Arena!

I write today with a bit of a heavy heart.  Have you ever had God get into your business and expose you for what you are?  Well He is a loving God and so He refuses to let me stay the same.  He is always challenging me to be better.  To live what I say.  He speaks to me in pictures and parables.  This week He showed me an allegory using my job.  I am a personal trainer and a public speaker.  So people pay me to tell them what to do.  If you hire a house-keeper then he/she is paid to clean your mess for you.  If you hire a lawn service then they are paid to cut the grass and pull the weeds for you.  If you hire me, you pay me to tell you how to work your butt off!!!!  I stand and talk while you do the hard work and sweat.  It’s the same thing when I speak.  I come in and tell people how they can change their lives by applying scripture, life-skills, habits, etc.  If you have not read my last blog “Challenged to Blast My Comfort Zone“ stop right now and go read it. . .now that you’re up to speed think about what happened that day. . .I told people who are already fighting in the arena how they can go and fight better.  Only I am not in that arena myself.  My thoughts went to the “Hunger Games” series (yes I admit to being a fan!).  Katniss and the Districts are sent into a bloody arena to fight to the death while the people of the Capitol cheer them on.  I want to look at myself and think that I am Katniss Everdeen the “Girl on Fire”. . .but really I am just Effie Trinkett the quirky capitol  lady who is a stickler for “manners”.  The one who tells her tributes how to fight the battle but does not engage in the battle herself.  As much as I hate to admit that I am a member of the Capitol I have to wonder if many in the Church are just members of the Capitol as well?  We sit each Sunday and listen to the Pastor tell us how we can be more Christ like.  We minister to each other and talk about how “hard” it is now that we have one car in the shop and will have to make due with only one this week!  “Well, I will pray for you in your trial brother! Now let’s all go out and have a big Sunday dinner at a nice restaurant”. . .
I wonder what it would look like if we all left the training center (Church) each week with the purpose of entering into that bloody arena filled with hurting people?  I think we might end up bloody, messy, and tired ourselves. . .but we are called to be the body of Christ and His body was bloody and broken.  What if we could be willing to roll up our sleeves and enter into that battle?  What if we took the words our Pastors speak to us every week and applied them?  I think the Church is meant to be a sort of training ground for battle, not a Sunday morning fellowship brunch. 
I am glad to say that fire is catching in the Texas Panhandle.  I am seeing people from all churches, outreaches and businesses preparing to engage in battle.  I leave you with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps it will help you decide if you want to sit on the side lines or enter the arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Challenged to Blast My Comfort Zone

Today I presented the Isaiah Challenge for the United Way 2-1-1 staff and found myself being challenged.  I realized my life is very soft and comfortable.  I spend my time around people who are, for the most part, like me.  Middle class church going Americans who have 2.5 children, a mortgage, and a life-insurance policy.  We live in neighborhoods that require residents to keep up lawn appearance and we drive cars that are no older than a 2005.  We stress about how long it took to stand in line at Starbucks because now we might be late for out next “important” meeting with another middle class American.  Today, I entered another world.  As I pulled up to the building to park, I notice a homeless man a few feet from my car. . .which made me nervous. . .so I drive around and look for a better spot.  As I hurry into the building another homeless man is standing at the front entry way (again I feel nervous); this man stands for a good 45 seconds and waits to hold the door open for me!  Hmmm. . . .some middle class men would have gone in the door and never given me a thought.

I meet up with the 2-1-1 coordinator and request “help” getting my things out of the car.  I could have made it alone but again, I was afraid to go back out alone.  A security officer assists me.  Now I am ready to present the Isaiah Challenge. . .me. . .who is out of my comfort zone and about to “teach” the staff how to reach out to those in need.  I am about to talk to them about sharing bread with the hungry, clothing the naked, and bringing in the homeless.  Me in my red high heels and jewelry is going to give a lecture to a group of people who live a life that comes in contact with people that most of us would call the “unlovely” and  the “unclean”.  I look into the faces of the staff and realize that they see poverty, rape, abuse, and starvation on a day to day basis.  I realize how far I am from fulfilling Isaiah’s Challenge.  If I am living in my comfortable little world I will never make the impact these people can make.  After the seminar I am given a tour of the entire resource center.  I see a childcare room used by homeless families, I see a free medical clinic, I see help for the mentally impaired.  Now we go into a room full of homeless people.  Just a place they can “hang-out”.  Computers are available for job research.  A laundry room and showers are made available.  Donated clothing is available along with help in how to “dress” for a job interview.  I see all of this, but all I can think about is if I am safe.  I am wishing my husband was beside me.  I feel vulnerable and alone.  Ironic.  That must be the way all of these people feel every day of their life.  I realized today that this Challenge is just as much to challenge my comfort zones; to be able to get another vantage point and put myself into the shoes of someone who’s life is completely different than my own.  I hope that everyone who is participating allows yourself to be as Challenged as I have been.  Step out of your own comfort zone.  It may be frightening. . .do it scared! 
That which you do to the least of these, you do unto Me”. . .
Next time Lord, help me to not move my car to another space when I see You standing too close for comfort.