Monday, May 5, 2014

When We Go With God's Flow...

You know that saying...
"Just go with the flow." Yes, that! I have come to learn that beautiful God-things always result when we let God interrupt our days with His flow... when we are willing to be sensitive to His promptings and when we are in tune with His heart, especially when it comes to the things that break it.

This past Saturday was one of those days... 

The day was off to an early start. Hubby and I were to be attending our church's Annual Meeting which required us to leave the house by 8am. Yawn!

I had just enough time to read the verse of the day from my YouVersion app before jumping out of bed to get going. With two minutes left to spare before 8am, I shared the verse on Facebook... intending to read more of the chapter on the drive to church.

But as hubby pulled out of the driveway, the verse promptly left my brain... as thoughts of a busy day ahead filled my mind.

We spent all morning at the church and got home around the lunch hour. We still had groceries to buy, shopping to do, laundry to wash, dinner to make... the list goes on.

So just as quickly as we got home, we pulled out of the driveway again. This time with our son in tow as he is growing like a weed these days and is in need of some new clothing items.

Our first stop, Target!

As we pulled into a parking spot... 
I saw her approaching our car. We would later come to know her as Fela, a refugee from Romania. She is nine months pregnant and speaks very broken English.

I said to hubby, "I think this woman needs help." He looked at me with knowing eyes, rolled down the window and read her note, "3 hungry kids at home. Need money for rent and diapers."

Hmmm... a God-interruption to my day!

I thought to myself, "We'll quickly buy her what she needs and then we can get on with our own shopping."

But I really should know by now that God is pleased when we sacrifice... He is pleased when we step out of our comfort zone, not when we do just what is the most convenient for us. If only, at this point, I had the verse I read earlier in the morning in my mind. But it had already left my brain earlier, remember? ;)

We started to fill the shopping cart with things...

When she said the baby wouldn't have anything to wear after she's born, my heart broke.

When she wouldn't buy the $3.04 carton of eggs because it was cheaper at another store for $2.88, my heart broke.

When she wouldn't buy the block of cheese because it was too expensive at $6.33 and a luxury in her opinion, my heart broke.

When she said the only meat she feeds her children is boiled hot-dogs, my heart broke.

My heart broke for the things that break God's heart... and together, Fela and I, we filled the cart. Diapers. Baby girl clothes. Groceries. Yes, including a carton of eggs and a block of cheese and a big bag of hot-dogs.

I chatted some more with her as we shopped and quickly found out that she has no way of getting home. A friend dropped her off at the Target parking lot earlier in the day and will be back for her at the end of the day.

A pregnant woman who is due literally any day now is having to stand outside in the rain all day begging so her kids don't go hungry... why does God allow so much suffering?

We offered to drive her home. But she said that she still needed to stand in the parking lot to beg. She is short $60 and rent is due the next day.

We decided to give her the $60 she needed and offered to drive her home. Suddenly, my idea "of quickly helping her so that I can get going with my own shopping" got thrown out the window. God has now successfully majorly interrupted my Saturday afternoon plans! ;)

Not only that, He has also successfully led me into majorly uncomfortable territory... giving cash to a stranger and letting her into our vehicle. 

She told us that she doesn't live far but that she doesn't know the address, she just knows the way. We drove and drove and drove. It wasn't just around the corner, as she had suggested. It was in the next city, in the poorer part of town. Well, to her... it must seem like "just around the corner" compared to how it is in Romania.

As we drove and drove and drove, I chatted some more with Fela...

She and her husband are refugees claimants. They have only been in Canada for 2 years. They went to Montreal first but couldn't find jobs there. They moved to the Toronto area just 4 months ago thinking that jobs would be easier to find in a bigger city.

Such was not the case. Not only is rent double the price, jobs aren't easier to find.

They have 3 little boys and are expecting their first daughter any day now. They are in a desperate situation.

She told me that she is a Christian. She told me repeatedly that God would bless us for our generosity towards her. Then she asked me to help her find a Romanian church!

We finally arrived at her apartment building. We exchanged contact information and I promised to find her a Romanian-speaking church community. Then we said goodbye and parted ways.

It was surreal driving back... 
As we retraced our steps and drove back to the Target store to re-start our afternoon, I kept asking myself this question, "Why does God allow so much suffering?"

Little did I know, God was going to answer my question the very next day via the teaching at church. The teaching series is entitled Questioning God and the first question that our Teaching Pastor, Bruxy Cavey, was answering on Sunday was... yup, you guessed it... "Why does God allow so much suffering?" 

Yes! The question really isn't why God allows so much suffering...
Because Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23, "It's what grows out of the hearts of people that leads to corruption." Our sin affects creation. Our planet is sick because of our mistreatment of it and of each other.

The question really is... where are the Christ-followers, us who are God's image-bearers, in the midst of all this suffering... and what are we doing to make this world a better place?

Photo Credit: God's Gal
Isaiah 58: The fast God chooses.
Aren't we who are Christ-followers and God's image-bearers commanded to choose the same kind of fast that God has chosen... to be agents of change in this world?

To liberate those tied down and held back by injustice, to lighten the load of those heavily burdened, to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.

A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none, giving those who are homeless a space in your home, giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

This is not an easy fast to choose. Yet, it is a beautiful fast... as it comes with a promise:

Then, oh then, your light will break out like the warm, golden rays of a rising sun; in an instant, you will be healed.

Your rightness will precede and protect you; the glory of the Eternal will follow and defend you. Then when you do call out, “My God, Where are You?” The Eternal One will answer, “I am here, I am here.”

If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need, then your light will shine in the darkness, and even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.

The Eternal One will never leave you; He will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength. And you will grow like a garden lovingly tended; you will be like a spring whose water never runs out.

As Bruxy taught some more on this topic...
Tears welled up in my eyes... as I realize that God was right there with Fela, standing with her in that parking lot, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, as she begged and agonized over her hungry children at home.

You see, we serve a God who is familiar with suffering.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
In Jesus God has come to share our pain. God is no absent academic who writes a book on the problem of pain. He got involved. He has allowed pain at its most severe to strike him. We worship a suffering God: that is the best answer to the problem of undeserved suffering. ~ Michael Green, The Message of Matthew.
God knows Fela's suffering... and alongside Fela, He was waiting to see how we would respond as His followers, as His image-bearers.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me."
Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, "Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?" Then the King will say, "I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me." 
~ Matthew 25:34-40, The Message.
When we finally got home that night...
We were catching some down-time after an eventful day. Hubby was scrolling through his Facebook feed and came across my post from earlier that day.

He remarked, "Wow, that verse you shared on Facebook this morning..."
I said, "What verse?" 

I had to check my own Facebook profile to jog my memory! Ah, yes... this verse:

And I smiled... deeply thankful and I marveled at how God makes beautiful things out of seemingly ordinary days! 

And, as an addendum to this story... we have found a Romanian-speaking church community for Fela and her family! We are praying that a connection can be made this week. 

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for... #3208 - #3215:
:: God-interruptions! ♥ 
:: Family and friends getting together over the Easter weekend.
:: A life well-lived... by our beloved Papa.
:: This beautiful tribute... by my girl, for her Ankong Papa.
:: Hubby being able to be with family in the Philippines during the week of Papa's funeral... and for a safe trip there and back.  
:: God's sustaining grace... as the kids and I grieved from afar, here at home.
:: Sufficient grace, for difficult days... as we each grieve differently.
:: The outpouring of love, support and prayers from many friends and family during this difficult time.
In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
Eucharisteo curves the moment into a cupola of grace, an "architecture of holiness." - a place for God. Thanks makes now a sanctuary.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!