Friday, October 11, 2013

No Certain Dwellingplace

Since November of 2011, the longest I have been in one place is three months. It has definitely been a season of stretching. I thought I was flexible, but I never dreamed I would have to be THIS flexible.

Part of me longs to have a place of my own, a home base, a little tiny house that is just mine, where I can settle down and just stay put and let things stabilize and feel normal. I was born with a good-sized dose of wanderlust, but even my travel tolerance is beginning to wear thin. 

Sometimes in prayer lately, I sigh to the Lord with longing to just settle down in a place that I can call my own. But then He asks me, "What if it is my will for you to have no certain dwellingplace?" Would I be okay with living my whole life on this earth as a transient, a nomad, uprooted, never having the chance to own a home or live a normal life? 

So I cry, "Oh Lord Jesus, be thou my dwellingplace, and purify my motives for wanting to settle down, and make me available for Your purposes, whatsoever they may be." 

Could I be satisfied with a basement bedroom in the home of people I don't know? 

Could I be okay with never having a kitchen that is mine, with the good quality pots and kitchen knives that I dream of having? 

Could I accept the idea of still living under someone else's roof, and still not knowing where I'll be three months from now? 

I kind of moved out here with the dream that I would put down roots and finally settle---but since I have been here, circumstances have forbidden that outcome. 

And the whisper falls soft on my soul: "Why did you want to settle? Was it so that you could prop your feet up and stop fighting and just live a comfortable, normal life?" 

Lord, spare me from ever settling for retreat. Spare me from mediocrity, from normalcy, from the status quo, from the rat race. I was made for more than this. Therefore, I freely relinquish all claim to a place of my own. I embrace the nomadic life for as long as you want me to live it. You must love me very much indeed to have given me this opportunity to discover your grace. I look forward to you being better than a house to me. Thank you. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Witnessing vs. Banking: Parallels at work

It's amazing what God can use to teach you through a secular job and unsaved coworkers and customers. 

One of the things I do every day is stand out front and hand out flyers to people who are walking by the bank. This feels exactly like handing out tracts, and it provides some interesting insights on doing Christian literature distribution.  

•  I used to think when I was handing out tracts, "Oh, people are just so hardened to the gospel. No one will accept a tract." No, actually, no one wants ANY kind of literature shoved in their face. It doesn't matter if it's a flyer advertising free checking accounts or free salvation. It's not necessarily the content that people are opposed to, it's the interruption when they are passing by.  

•  I used to feel unspiritual for not wanting to hand out tracts. Now I realize that this is an activity that is universally difficult, whether it's love of money or love of Jesus that motivates you to do it. NONE of my coworkers like handing out flyers. They state frankly that they can't handle the rejection. The reluctance to go up to a complete stranger and hand them a piece of literature is not unique to Christians. It is intimidating whether or not there is anything spiritual about it. 

•  Handing out flyers is something you can get better at with practice. In a month and a half, I have gained skills, learned more about how to read people, and improved my ability to give out flyers. I discovered that if you stand still with the flyers in your hand, no one will take one all day long. In fact, it seems they will go out of their way to escape you, studiously avoiding eye contact. However, there is a way to get a flyer into the hand of that person who is studiously avoiding eye contact. First, greet the person with a warm smile and a genuine, "How are you doing today?" They will make eye contact. Then hold out the flyer, and casually take a few steps in the direction they are walking so they won't have to be bothered to stop. If you hold out the flyer while you are saying, "How are you," it doesn't work. The flyer must come an instant AFTER the greeting, but before they have a chance to break eye contact. (I have experimented with the timing on this.) And lo and behold, their hand will make an imperceptible move toward the flyer, or two fingers will spread out to receive it, and the flyer will go into their hand. Little techniques like this make a difference in terms of delivery. Whether or not they actually read it is a different story, but certainly more will get read if more get delivered. 

•  There are always some people who will rudely reject you, some who will reluctantly take a flyer, some who will pause for a short conversation, and some who want what you have to offer right away. Don't take it personally when they are rude. Don't stress about the person who reluctantly took the flyer. Be ready to plant a few key ideas in the mind of the person who stops to have a short conversation. Know how to deliver the goods to the person who wants it today. 

•  Usually the person who consents to open up a checking account is not the recipient of the flyer, but someone who is aware of some sort of problem. They come to us with a check that they couldn't cash elsewhere. They can't get a bank account with another bank because of a bankruptcy or other issue. There is a check-cashing fee for non-customers that we can waive if they open up an account. This is the easiest person to work with. Same with the gospel. If a person has an awareness of the problem (sin), they don't need a flyer as much as they need to be offered the gospel, and they will be the readiest to receive it. (Does this render the flyer distribution unnecessary? No, because it is reaching a different person at a different level, the person who needs a sound byte, the person who doesn't have awareness of a problem, the person who is just walking along, minding their own business, oblivious to you and the issue you represent. The flyer creates initial awareness for that person that can possibly bear fruit later. And even if we don't understand all this reasoning, we pass out flyers because the higher-ups ask us to. It's part of our job, simple as that. Also, being out there handing out the flyers allows us to interact with a higher percentage of "people with a problem" than if we stood at our teller windows all day and waited for them to come to us. A few come to us out of their own initiative, but a far greater number walk on by, unaware that we could offer them a solution, unless we are out there, drawing them in and engaging them in conversation.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Loaves, fishes, (and housing?) materializing out of nothing

And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.--John 6:2-7

He himself knew what he would do, yet he asked Philip, "What are we going to do about this?"

Is there ever a time when the Living God does not know beforehand what he is going to do? No, never.

Therefore, when He asks me, "What shall we do to provide for this need," I need not gasp, "I have no idea---who could afford to provide such a thing?" Jesus did not ask, "Do we have the money," he asked, "Where shall we buy bread," but Philip immediately jumped to the money aspect: it's going to cost this much money, and how in the world can we afford it?

In my case, Jesus says to me, "Where are you going to live," and He ALREADY KNOWS WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO, but I (predictable creature) instantly jump to the money aspect and say, "I don't know, I couldn't possibly afford it. What AM I going to do?"

Is He not saying this to try me? Ought not my response to be, "Thou knowest, O Lord"?

Jesus said to Philip, "Where is this bread going to come from," and the correct answer was that it was going to come from Christ Himself. Was Jesus proving Philip to see whether he would answer, "You, O Lord, will provide it"?

How could Philip conceivably guess what was going to happen, for who ever heard of bread materializing out of nothing? Yet Jesus knew what he was about to do, and He proved Philip to see how close he was to trusting Him to do something of that magnitude.

Whoever heard of housing materializing out of nothing? Yet what if Jesus is proving me to see how close I am to trusting that He can provide even this for me? So much for "two hundred pennyworth"---it would cost me ten years wages to buy a house. It is farther out of reach than a multitude-sized meal of loaves and fishes was to the disciples. And shall I not trust Him to do great things, Who proved Himself over and over again to His people?

February 8, 2014

The same week I needed to be out of the house, God orchestrated the most remarkable set of circumstances to bring me into the a lovely home of a Christian family who had an extra bedroom for rent.