Blessed are the merciful…

Mercy is undeserved, unmerited, unwarranted. It’s compassion inexpressible, grace unimaginable, love unconditional. 

Mercy is holding a door, holding a hand, holding a heart.  It’s that extra step or extra mile to show someone they matter.

Mercy doesn’t just “look past” our differences and our quirks, our idiosyncrasies or our weird behaviors, but celebrates them, respects them, forgives them.

Mercy is never just for “them”, we all need it in abundance.

Mercy is seeing the big picture and choosing grace over condemnation, respect over judgment, and people over all.

Mercy is strength to get through each day, because we know we need it daily, hourly, maybe more. 

Mercy, God’s mercy at least, is new every morning. There’s never a drought or shortage; it’s meant to be given… And recieved… in abundance.

Mercy doesn’t ignore wrongs done nor condone sin, no mercy triumphs over it all. 

Mercy is hope given in a hopeless situation, kindness to the undeserving, life to the desperate.

As our world seems to keep getting crazier and crazier… I find myself crying out more and more simply, “Lord, have mercy!” Sometimes it’s all I know to pray.  Earlier this week as I prayed this over my life, my friends and family, our country, and this world, I sensed God whisper back: 

I will and I am… and it starts with YOU.” 

It starts with one caring action that brings a little light into a dark room.  A candle lit that then lights others… That’s how mercy spreads… not just to our friends or family, but to the undeserving and yes, even to our enemies.  It’s possible not because of what any of us do.  No, justice was necessary, but Jesus took care of that.  So instead of pointing fingers or pointing guns, why don’t we start by passing on the mercy we’ve been given.  We are God’s hands and feet in this world and he wants to use us to pour out His mercy in this world and in the process carry out His promise that He is making everything new (Rev 21:5).

Let’s let mercy triumph! 

A woman named Joy…

Joy.

That isn’t really the woman’s name, but it’s the name I call her.  To be honest, I tried and tried to learn and remember her given Chinese name, but it wouldn’t stick in my brain.  All I could remember was that it started with a “J” sound and the last name began with a “Y”.  JOY was something I could remember.

Joy was also what I got to witness God bring in abundance to this woman’s life.

I wasn’t supposed to even be at that church the day I met Joy.  As our mission team divided up the night before I had been scheduled to go with another team.  A few minutes after assignments were decided I felt unsettled.  I spoke up and asked to be switched. At first I thought it was because I wanted to be with the other two people who were on the trip from my church.  By Sunday afternoon, I realized it was God calling me to a different place… a place where I would meet Joy.

We had finished the worship and teaching part of the meeting and had moved into a time of prayer.  Prayer in China is a beautiful, loud, chaotic, amazing time of a worship service.  Everyone, hands raised, begins pouring out their praise and requests out loud all at the same time.  While this is going on, we would often snake our way through each row praying blessings on each person present.  We had no clue what they were praying or what they needed prayer for, but we depending on God’s Spirit to intercede as we stood with them praying… them in Chinese, us in English.

I had made it back as far as I could before the center aisle was completely blocked by people completely absorbed in their conversations with God.  I could tell the prayer time would wrap up soon and decided to just head back toward the front.  Once again, God had other plans.  An older woman pushed me toward a younger woman… Joy.  She had tears streaming down her face and obviously was struggling with something.  As I had done for many others that day I put an arm around her shoulders and held her as I prayed for God’s comfort and peace to fill her.  There was no way to know what was on this woman’s heart and mind as we didn’t speak the same language, but as a fellow human being, I could sense (with the help of God’s Spirit) that this woman needed to know simply that she was not alone.

So, instead of moving on after a few moments as we typically did.  I stayed.  I didn’t have much more to pray but I continued to embrace her as she turned and wept into my shoulder.  I held on longer as the Pastor brought the prayer time to a close. I prayed the Lord’s prayer hand-in-hand with her in English as the congregation recited it in Chinese.  As her tears began to stop she slipped her phone out of her pocket and took a picture of the two of us.  I remained a little longer.  The music began and I felt her relax a little bit.  It seemed she might even dance a bit in praise.  At one point I did slip away only to go grab my camera so I too could take a picture with my new friend.  Only I never made it back to her pew.  Halfway back up the aisle, Joy grabbed my hand again and pulled me toward the front of the sanctuary, right to the middle of the people up there and we began to dance.  Round and round we went, other believers dancing all around us, yet at least from my point of view, it was just the two of us and Jesus.

I now as almost in tears as I had literally watched Psalm 30:11-12 become this woman’s testimony right before my eyes:

“You turned my weeping into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.”

We hadn’t exchanged a single word, yet I felt like I knew this woman’s heart.  After about 15 minutes of dancing, I pulled her out of the circle and went to find our translator.  Through him I was able to tell her the things God had put on my heart for her:

“I want you to know that you are never alone.”  She nodded.
“God is always with you.” She smiled.
“I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I can tell that God did something in you today.  Don’t ever forget the joy he brought you today!”  Her smile broadened.

I felt God prompting…”give her your ring”.  As I took it off my finger and put it in her hand, I said, “I pray this will be a constant reminder of what God did for you today.”

In the metal were these three letters…. J … O… Y.

A Parent’s Heart

In just 3 weeks from today I will pick up a jet-lagged, new-to-America, beautiful young woman and take her home to live with me for the next 10 months as a “daughter”.  In terms of literal age it may not seem I’m old enough to have a teenage child, but it’s true.  As host parent to an AFS student, I’ll sign on the “parent” line for school field trips, be up late at night this fall washing sports uniforms, and spend my evenings driving all over WNY to events.  I’ll have to set boundaries and curfews and say “no”.  I’ll get to share meals and my home and life with her, say “yes” to adventures around Buffalo, and hopefully do other fun things like shopping for a prom dress.  I’ll get to learn from her and I pray she’ll learn much more from me than just how we tell time in America with 12-hour clocks not 24 (one of the things we’ve chatted about on Facebook preparing for her arrival).

Already, I can see God teaching me more about His parent heart as He prepares me to, in limited ways, have the role of ‘parent’ next year.  You see, this young woman is not really my daughter.  Her parents back in the Faroe Islands are and will always be her mother and father.  They are just entrusting me with part of that role while she studies this coming year in America.  I’ve started praying for her and her family and her arrival… as well as her departure for a few months now.  Because the reality is that one year from now, she’ll head back home… to her family… to her school… to her house.

As I thought about this more, I realized that if I am blessed at some point with children of “my own” … they really wouldn’t be mine either.  Children are a gift from God… they belong to Him alone… He just entrusts parents with their care for a while here on earth.  I pray that as I head into this year as “host mom” (and some day maybe just “mom”) God would never let me forget that I may know a lot about the children He entrusts to me, but He knows even more.  Perhaps harder to comprehend… I love and care for them a lot… He loves and cares for them even more than I do.   He knows literally how many hairs are on their head.  He knows their hearts deepest struggles even if they’re slow to share them with me.  He knows their future careers and families and lives even when THEY are clueless.

Lord, continue to show me your parent heart… a heart of love and grace and compassion.  Teach me to lean on you as you entrust me with care of those around me whether in the role of “host mom” or “friend” or “daughter” or “aunt”.   May I remember that those I love are in YOUR more-than-capable hands and You will provide the wisdom and grace and courage I need as I interact with them.  Above all, thanks for choosing me as your daughter.


MOVE 2016 – Saturday – Heading Home

theme image

We’re heading back home today and it’s been an AMAZING week! Keep you eyes out here and on Facebook as students continue to share about their experience! Thanks again for your prayers!

Schedule:

  • Drive home
  • Arrive at First Trinity in the evening

 

Prayer Ideas:

  • Safe Travel and transitions back to “real life”
  • Rest and recuperation
  • Courage to act on the ideas of how we can build off this trip and live as loved, rescued, united, changed, and sent Kingdom Workers.

Pictures from Yesterday:

 

 

MOVE 2016 – Friday – SENT

Day 5 - sent

Today’s Theme: Kingdom Workers are sent.

When God changes us, He also sends us to be people who tell of the hope of change to others. Today we look and how we may be challenged to work in God’s Kingdom everyday of our lives and share that hope with others back home and wherever else we may be sent.  (Eph. 6:1-9)

Schedule:

  • Morning Session
  • Encounter/Small Group Time
  • Electives
  • Free Time
  • Evening Session
  • Youth Group Debrief

Prayer Ideas:

  • For the transition back to NY
  • For students and the group as they are encouraged to take a “Kingdom Worker” card which challenges them to do something big for God’s kingdom in the coming year.
  • For everything from the week to come together so that we can understand what it means to be a Kingdom Worker
  • For a restful night’s sleep for the adults who have to drive tomorrow

Pictures from Yesterday:

 

MOVE 2016 – Thursday – CHANGED

Day 4 - ChangedToday’s Theme: Kingdom Workers are changed.
Through Jesus, we are loved, rescued, and united, and the result of all of those things coming together is lives that are changed. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us we can’t live like the Gentiles do anymore. We must put off our old self and put on a new self. Today we will think through how to apply being loved, rescued, and united in our lives so that we are changed people. (Eph. 4:17-32)

 Schedule:

  • Morning Session
  • Encounter/Small Group Time
  • Youth Group Breakout Games in Chattanooga
  • Evening Session
  • Youth Group Debrief

Prayer Ideas:

  • Pray that students be open to God’s life-changing truth today
  • Wisdom to know what true righteousness and holiness are
  • Events of the day would challenge us to put off our old self and put on a new self, created after the likeness of God

Pictures from Yesterday:

 

MOVE 2016 – Wednesday – UNITED

Day 3 - United

Today’s Theme: Kingdom Workers are united.
When God rescues us, He doesn’t just leave us isolated and alone, He unites us with others who have also been rescued. Today, we look at what it means to be united. As people who have been included and made a part of God’s family, we are to be people who seek unity, peace, and reconciliation. (Eph. 2:11-22)

Schedule:

  • Morning Session
  • Encounter/Small Group Time
  • Electives/Free Time
  • Evening Session/Alternative (Talent Show)
  • Youth Group Debrief

Prayer Ideas:

  • Pray for the MOVE staff and University staff that are serving us this week at Lee University
  • Pray for fun and safety in our free times
  • Programs and small group time would help us learn how to live in unity with one another

Pictures from Yesterday: