one thousand gifts – a book review chapter 10

empty to fill

Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purposes and in whatever way you may require.  Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with your grace. ~D.L. Moody

This was prayer many years ago when I knew I would live ministry.  Never could I have been prepared for what was to come…

I am a flame to light other flames.

“I set myself on fire and people come watch me burn.” ~John Wesley  I heard this quoted first in Higher Ways Youth Group in Thomasville, NC.  We were on fire, too!  Praying for an hour before services, worshiping in Spirit with tears streaming, sweating in service to others, walking the halls of our high school in early August praying over classrooms and teachers, meeting before school for prayer and devotions and accountability, crying together, laughing together, praying together, fighting together, forgiving together, healing together, going higher together!  I don’t know how it feels to burn physically, but I knew a spiritual burning.  The way it ignites a passion deep within your being.  How it hurts as it begins to burn away the dross of sin in your life.  How the heat coarses through the soul and causes conviction and action that produces like nothing I’ve ever known.  How it consumes and doesn’t let up as long as you’re feeding the fire with a life lived fully in and for Him.  The way it spreads…like the fires in desserts that eat up acre after acre!  I know that fire…I have experienced that fire…I have let dwindle that fire…I have returned to the fire’s edge…with kindling in hand…I am ready to burn for Christ in a way Nero couldn’t have even dreamed up!

…spread my fingers open.  I receive grace.  And through me, grace could flow on…I could share the grace, multiply the joy, extend the table of the feast, enlarge the paradise of His presence.  I am blessed.  I can bless.  A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.

Palms up, fingers spread.  The first time I read of it by Ann – either in blog or book – it struck a chord within.  God has not stopped playing the same chord in my heart and mind, over and over!  It is the call…not mine alone…it is the Christians Commission.

…is the opportunity we are given to let the fullness of grace flow on, the opportunity we always should take?

This is my place, openhanded.

I have heard many say “I have done my time, it’s the young peoples’ turn now.”  “I am burnt out.”  It’s a place I have had brief visits to but one I never want to remain in.  It’s not the goal of my life to do so much for so long and then retire from being available to Him.  Abraham, Sarah, David, Joshua, Caleb, Elizabeth…these were real people, in harder times than mine, and they never burnt out on loving, worshiping, and serving our God!  The torch has been passed but not to be set down.  I have my own race to run…and I aim for the finish line!

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15 NIV)

…this is what will determine a fulfilling, meaningful life, a life that, behind all the facades, every one of us longs to live: gratitude for the blessings that expresses itself by becoming the blessing.  Eucharisteo is giving thanks for grace…(and) more: it is giving grace away.  Eucharisteo is the hand that opens to receive grace, then, with thanks, breaks the bread; that moves out in to the larger circle of life and washes the feet of the world with that grace.

We wonder what we’re supposed to do with our lives.  What’s our purpose?  Why are we here?  How do we live this life?  God says “do as I have done for you.”  Do as He has done…so, I am to love, forgive, show mercy, extend grace, give kindness, serve with humility, live contentedly, lay up treasures in heaven, respond gently, stand firmly, worship passionately, stay connected to God and to others, turn away from everything that distracts, embrace everything that draws me closer to Him, obey, deny myself, become less as He becomes more, live for His glory, touch the untouchable, talk to the shunned, wash the dirty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the homeless, tend the sick, adopt the orphan, value the elderly – especially the widow, have holy anger…that is taken care of before night-fall, live in fulness of joy, abide in Him…

The Communion service is only complete in service.  Communion, by necessity, always leads us into community…That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living.  That our lives become the very blessings we have received.  I am blessed.  I can bless.  Imagine!  I could let Him make me the gift!  I could be the joy!

I can wash feet here by washing dishes.  My heart can enter into communion anywhere and anywhere my hands can enact the Eucharist!

Living Communion.  Unfortunately and fortunately, it is a new thought to me.  To actually live a life recognizing His flesh and blood – His life lived and given on our behalf.  To wake up every day moving, breathing, speaking, feeling, thinking, giving affection as one with Him.  An absolutely overwhelming, amazing, thrilling thought!  Could it be LIFE?!  I want it!  He wants to live in me…He wants me to live in Him!  We can be one.  Jesus, the God-man, who lived, died, and ROSE AGAIN – defeating death!  Jesus, the Healer of diseases, death, demon-possession, lameness, broken hearts and lives.  He resides in me, and He says I will do greater things!  How many actually believe Him?  How many have actually experienced those “greater things”?  Could I be one who does?

Christ’s ministry began with His miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana.  And at the close of His earthly ministry, Christ turns from the wine of the Last Supper back to the water, the water for the washing of feet…and thus, if done unto God, the mundane work can become the living liturgy of the Last Supper.  I could become the blessing, live the liturgy!

When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep…But when Christ is the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all.

I know days of serving people.  Those days are far too many!  Those days I wake up early only to be beaten to the steps by children who have been up earlier.  Those days I dish out meals and drinks, try to clean the kitchen quickly, only to make more meals and drinks.  Those days I clean rooms only to walk back in and see messes and yell at children for doing exactly what children are supposed to do…play!  Those days I lose it more than I self-control it, I yell more than I laugh, I scowl more than I smile, I sulk more than I delight, I take offense more than I take joy.  Those days I live for me and for the hopeful recognition of them.

But…I also know “Good days!”  Days when I wake up and hold hands with the child as we walk down the stairs together.  Days when I give children meals and drinks a plenty…with a smile!  Days when I look at the legos and dolls and swords and papers and my heart smiles because my children are getting to be children.  Those days I live in patience and peace and humor and joy!  Those days when my children don’t wonder if they can ask Mommy something without getting the third degree.  Those days when my husband can come home and relax instead of taking on my load of self.  Those are the days I live in Him, no stars or dots required!

I want the contentment, the real happiness, the touching of Christ in the work and I look for Him.

I see His face in each of the ones I live with.  In a Christopher laugh, in a Timothy drama, in an Aaron fish kiss, in a Hannah smile, and in a Nathan look.  I feel His touch in a little boy’s hug, a little girl’s sticky hand, and a husband’s tender caress.  I sense His care in the light that pours in through the curtains, in the daisies on the table, in the wind-blown leaves, in the smell of coffee and hardcover book pages, and in scents of a candle. I know Him in every Word I read, every song I sing, and every prayer I pray.

Christian hands never clasp  and He doesn’t give gifts for gain  because a gift can never stop being a gift – it is always meant to be given…Empty to fill…our happiness comes, too, not in the having but in the handing over…Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone.  God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.

I love it!  A gift never stops being a gift!  Though the experience may be different, though the hands that hold and steward it may change, though age and time will pass, a gift is still a gift…and a gift is in its very nature something to be given!  So, He gives me a home…and I open up the door and welcome in.  He gives me an ability…and I take the resources and opportunities and I steward that ability for their sake and His glory!  He gives me food…and I make two meals – one for my family and one for “theirs”.  He gives me money…and I remember that it’s all His, not just a percentage. He allows hardship and trial…and I give thanks and praise and trust and faith.  He allows peace…and I give thanks and praise and comfort and faithfulness.  He gives…I give…and you…

“The way through the pain is to reach out to others in theirs.” (John Voskamp) I have known ache and becoming the blessing is what deeply blesses us and this is the way He binds up our wounds.

The hurt and pain of her being impatient, angry, bitter, immature…it all sank in.  By graduation I was done and moved on.  In my wake I left a little girl who never showed how much she wanted her sister to stay.  I would receive phone calls of cries and anger and despair…but I would not, could not go back.  10 years away and I’m just now willing to turn around and embrace the pain of yester-year.  I can look back and yearn for them, miss them, love them.  That, my friends, is one of His greatest gifts of grace!  The beauty from the ashes.

I had a conversation yesterday with the little sister.  I had come down too hard on her a week or so ago when she just needed sympathy and understanding.  I had been there; believe me, I knew!  But I can’t go into a conversation…no, that’s a pit I have dug hard to get out of, and I must stay away!  I, on the other hand, can encourage little sister out.  I can tell her I know her surroundings…I can describe every one!  Will she reach up and grab onto “forgiveness,” and then put her foot on “trust in Him”.  Then pull up…place the next foot on “faith”…and then I will tell you more…

But it is hard, this facing the past…the pain.  I lived in hate and anger myself.  And I left because I wanted nothing to do with that life.  Now, I love, and I yearn to love them…to love her.  But, can I face my past in the face of the little girl next door who reminds me of me.  Could I go to her door, sit on her floor, and offer love?  Can I take that pain head-on and watch Him perform the miracle again?  I hope…

“I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service was joy.” (Tagore)

Isn’t this just the way – His Way!?  Jesus lived every day in joy!  From the miracles, the crowds, the acceptance to the rejection, the hardship, Gethsemane. All was joy, because we were His joy…His eternity with us!  I can live every day in joy!  From the sweet quiet times, the laughter, the excitements to the piles of dishes, the hard discipline, the world’s demands.  All is joy, because He is our joy…our eternity with Him!


More Gifts…that never stop being gifts…  #869-876

a good wake-up feeling this Monday

Aaron in his Thomas pj’s

Hannah “reading” her book on the couch

Hannah saying “doggie”

playing the smile game with Hannah

a Daddy holding his daughter while reading her a book

a Daddy helping and encouraging youngest son to ride his bike

a wonderfully overcast morning