Friday, October 28, 2016

Reflections on Hartford...A New Awakening

I returned last week from a mission trip to Hartford, Connecticut. The last time I was in the northeast was with middle schoolers during their spring break on a mission trip to Brewster, New York in March of 2012. It was bitter cold if my brain is functioning properly. I must say my return visit was picturesque and filled with warm fuzzy memories.

I'll not soon forget the faces I met in the grocery store, the hotel and especially the street. We are proud of our hospitality in the south, but I was pleasantly surprised at being treated with kindness and respect everywhere I went. People were generous with smiles and warmth.

The day spent frying chicken for fifty people with Elaine and Paulette is a day I will treasure. We had a makeshift kitchen behind the hotel on a picnic table, as well as hotplates and slow cookers in a meeting room. As we worked in our outdoor kitchen, it began to sprinkle rain. The radar showed the entire region covered in green and Paulette began praying. The rain stopped. The green on the map never lifted. We fried 107 pieces of chicken and the rain never amounted to anything more than a few sprinkles, even though radar painted a different picture. We were exhausted by the end of our lonnng day but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. We were meant to walk in relationship with people through this life and this day was special in more ways than frying chicken.

I'll not forget praying for people on the street in downtown Hartford, on one of the busiest corners, in one of the worst neighborhoods. People are hungry for people who care. This was my own personal highlight, as well as the relationships I made with those on the trip.

I'll not forget Anderson University students praying for, giving out water to, and connecting with the citizens of Hartford and the surrounding area. They have a heart for ministry, students, the unloved, the broken. They gave their time during their fall break from classes to love on people 1000 miles from home who don't have a relationship with the God of the universe. There is a generation of young adults coming along that excites me. God is moving people. He is not finished if we are willing. He will work in and among those who will say "yes."

It was a unique joy to be part of the first service of The River Church of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Several of our group worked tirelessly preparing the sanctuary and grounds for the service while others spread throughout the town prayer walking and sharing information about the church. Pastor George Lim and his wife, Janelle are passionate believers in Jesus Christ and desire to minister to people in this community.

We traveled to Enfield, Connecticut where there's a rock laid and dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Edwards and the revival that sparked the Great Awakening. We gathered in a circle and sang "There is a Fountain," and then prayed for revival in our country, churches and personal lives. As we finished singing and unlocked hands, several people had stopped to sing with us.

And then we return to the real world of home, family and politics. I fall into the black hole of Facebook with everyone else and give way too much time and attention to the junk found in its trap. It's bad, very bad, and yes, I want Jesus to come back, but that would be a quick fix. And then a lot of people would die without Him; people I just prayed with on the street in Hartford, Connecticut. Who am I to say, "Come Lord Jesus?"

Yes, I'm tired of living in a fallen world; I'm tired of living in my fallen world with my pain and brokenness. But, thanks be to God He has the answer. It's not time. There are people who need Him and we must tell them.

No political candidate will ever dig us out of the mess we're in. E V E R. It takes individual people. You and me. One on one relationships, taking someone by the hand and telling them there is a God who will not vote for Trump or Clinton, but for them. He has a plan tailored just for you, and me.

"I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord..."
Jeremiah 29:13

It was timely for me to go to the northeast just before a major election. At one time, I saw them as enemies because they were traditionally liberal. Now, I see them as friends and in need of my Jesus. Won't you join me in praying for them? We are ONE nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Living Loud Inside My Head

Have you met the kind of person who exuded confidence and a bubbly personality? This same person could charm the neighbor's kid, the neighbor's dog, and the fence you had a chat over? I grew up surrounded by those kind of people.

I'm not one of them.

I'm quiet and reserved, until I discover something we have in common. My outward demeanor may come across as calm but most of the time the voices in my head are noisy. For many years I became accustomed to listening to the clanging sounds telling me I would never measure up to the person sitting next to me, but I've become better at remembering my worth in Christ.

I'm an observer of people by nature. Unless I know you well I won't approach you for fear of rejection, or because it's too awkward.

If you had a front row seat in the audience of my sub-conscience you'd hear creative projects brewing, conversations with friends over coffee, advice given and received, writing ideas bouncing around, decorating ideas, Bible study thoughts, and the conversation that never ends...the direction of my book, what to include, how much do people really want to know, and will they really care.

While sitting in Starbucks, the people huddled in groups of two or three catch my attention. I ponder what issues they find themselves. My eyes drift to the barista. Even with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, her simple beauty is unmistakable. Is she working her way through school? Maybe she's a single mother struggling to make ends meet, working during the day while writing her first novel late into the night. Did her husband leave, or did he die at a young age? Is there a little one to raise alone with no money, and no education, but she has a dream of becoming a writer?

And then there's the fifty something man who is there every time I stop by to write. Did he make millions and now he's retired and simply wasting time? Or did he lose his job and he's using the free wi-fi as I did awhile back?

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm an introvert, a writer, and I live on the fringes. I live loudly in my head, but very quietly in public. It's difficult for me to be assertive, but in my head, I have conversations going constantly. You won't find me on the dance floor at weddings, though I love to dance. In my head, I'm line dancing right along with you.

I love one on one time time with friends, and especially entertaining in my home. I get lost at parties and usually find one person to connect with. Writing conferences are filled with introverts who understand one another. Sessions are structured to your particular need and therefore, not intimidating.

Because introverts are quiet, we get looked over, pushed aside, ignored, and taken advantage of. The movie, Dirty Dancing, which caused quite a stir in the 80's, made this line famous, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Baby was the picture of an introvert coming of age in the hit movie set in the Catskill Mountains in the 1960's.

I've had to learn to speak up for myself, and while I'm not sneaking out learning dance moves like Baby, I can resonate with her character. I've only begun to understand introversion in my fifties. When I was a teenager, I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I understand, I was the one holding back, it wasn't anyone's fault that I felt left out. I've learned to use my creativity to transfer the voices in my head to the written word. But first, I had to find my voice, and learn how to say what I think. It's made all the difference.

If you see me staring out the window while sitting in Starbucks, please come talk to me. There's a story going on loud in my head. I'd love to share it with you.

Coming soon: Reflections on Connecticut Mission Trip