What’s better than running first thing in the morning? Hearing and receiving God’s living WORD first thing in the morning! Have you seen the movie “Faith Like Potatoes?” It’s an amazing story about how God brought a Scottish potato farmer named Angus Buchan out of alcoholism and anger into a worldwide ministry through a community testimony service. I’ve seen this man preach in person and WOW! To say he can touch the inner most parts of your being is not enough. Well I had a day that I would describe as “Grace like Banana Bread.”
As I shared before, I went running with the Mach Tenn Running Club at 5:30 Sunday morning. Directly afterward, I came home, showered, enjoyed an amazing breakfast prepared by my fireman husband, then headed off to hear Pastor Scott preach it, man! The guy is real, he’s down to Earth and brings the word in a way I am quite confident that everyone in the house can understand and receive it. I thank God for him and his family and the way God is using him to transform our community for His glory.
He wrapped up a 4 week sermon series on money entitled, “Money Matters.”
WAIT!! Don’t close this tab yet! I know exactly what you’re thinking I’m going to say…you need to tithe. NO (well yes but…) that’s not the message for today. This whole series is about the fact that everything is God’s. Our money included but not exclusively our money. Our families, our minds, our homes…everything. As a matter of fact just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about what else he had to say on the subject. This week, we talked about the fact that if we understand grace, we naturally will be cheerful givers, and not just with our money but with our whole lives. Grace, defined biblical is being given a gift that one can’t afford, deserve or work hard enough to obtain. This is where my tears just began to pour out of my tear ducts. I mean rivers, people.
This beautiful home that God has given to us is WAY beyond what we have worked to obtain. We wouldn’t be able to afford it if it weren’t for God moving mountains and piecing together circumstances just perfectly. There is nothing in my life, my husband’s life, my kids life…that any of us have done to deserve a blessing of this magnitude. A friend of mine has told me repeatedly that it’s God’s grace that he freely gives as to why were have found ourselves in this season of our lives. I heard what she was saying. I even pondered what she was saying. It wasn’t until I was sitting in the second row of the 10:15 service this past week that the entire tide of God’s grace really sunk in and knocked my emotions over like a tug boat in the middle of the ocean. I was completely overwhelmed by how God relates to and with us. My word…even now as I type that my eyes are almost too moist for me to see the words as I type (it’s a good thing I took keyboarding in high school or I’d be up a creek). So basically we don’t deserve the house we are in at all, but through God’s grace, that I don’t even fully understand, we have been given a gift so huge we could never possibly pay God back for it. Through the realization of what he has given us, I can’t help but overflow with gratitude. Through that gratitude, I have the drive to do all I can to glorify Him with this home. It consumes my thoughts, actions, feelings, emotions…to the point of struggling to breathe.
Ever since my husband and I decided to take the plunge and agree to take over this home, I have been planning what to do to bridge the uncomfortable gap of being the newbie in the neighborhood. If you follow me on facebook, you may have even contributed to the brainstorming process. You know how it is when someone new moves in next door. You watch as they pull out piece after piece from the moving van or vehicles, so much so you wonder if they have rented a circus car in the shape of formerly said mode of transportation. In the house they go with each arm full. Day after day you watch as the sweat rolls down their faces and backs during the physical labor of relocating every item that belongs to them and you wonder:
- Who are they?
- What are they like?
- Are they weird?
- I wonder if they are “good” people.
- Are they private people?
- Do they let their kids run the neighborhood?
- Are they going to take care of the place?
- I hope they aren’t partiers. And on and on.
Who makes the first step in breaking down those barriers? Tradition says that the established neighbor is the one who is to reach out to the new family, however in my past experience, this simply doesn’t happen anymore. Though I have taken welcoming gifts to new neighbors in the past in keeping with tradition, I have taken it upon myself to break down those barriers when we are the new family coming in more times than not. As I have said before when confronted with this very question, If I wait for someone else to make the first move, I’ll be waiting my whole life.
If you read the first post I made about our decision to move here, you will remember that I strongly feel God has a plan to use us while we are here. Have you ever been confronted by someone who is well meaning in their approach to get to know you but you just know they have an ulterior motive? Me too and it’s annoying and most times I do everything I can to avoid that person from their on out. I truly do want to get to know my neighbors as we are leaving a neighborhood which is very close knit. We adore each of the families on our street. To say we were comfortable there would be an understatement for sure. I would love to be able to foster those sort of friendships again here. I also know that in order to be effective for Christ, a foundation of friendship, trust, and love has to be established first. I have no intentions of using my bible as a hammer to pound people between the eyes. From the deepest part of my soul, I want to bring the peace and love of God to a hurting world. The bible says that we are to reach people in our own town, state and country as well as the other parts of the world. Did you get that first part? Our own town…the people we interact with on a daily basis…that’s our first mission field. How do you do that effectively? By meeting people where they are, growing the friend relationship and then taking opportunities God lays in your path to share what he’s done in your life. Do you think that just because someone has a nice car, house, well dressed kids, smile on their face that they aren’t hurting or have doubt about why they are even alive? Is it possible that the people you talk to on a daily basis have deep desires to end their lives or are trapped in addictions, be it Rx drugs or sexual addiction? The though of him using me…a stay at home, homeschooling mother and wife…who runs to maintain her sanity most days…to reach any of those people and others utterly blows my mind and humbles me to the core.
Over the past week, when I haven’t been working on filling sponsorship orders, I have been creating dish cloths for our neighborhood introduction baskets. Each one was done in white cotton yarn and each had a unique pattern from the others. These were far from cookie cutter cloths and each one took several hours to complete. I wanted something in there that was directly from my hands for the personal touch but also to soften up the basket a bit.
After church, I spent several hours mixing up and baking banana bread from scratch as well. I think my husband nearly had an emotional breakdown when I told him there wouldn’t be any leftovers for us to enjoy. I’m pretty sure he told one neighbor it was pure torture to be in the house, smelling it bake, knowing he wasn’t going to get to have any. He cracks me up. I also whipped up a batch of chocolate chunk cookies as well. In my opinion, they weren’t the BEST cookies, but they were alright. Who doesn’t like a cookie straight out of the oven after all. Within an hour of all of these items coming out of the oven, they were packaged and we were out the door. The bread was still warm when we handed the baskets over. Mmmmm…makes me hungry just thinking about it actually!
In addition to the handmade and baked goodies, I attached an index card with a note saying it was nice to meet their family, all of our names and the ages of our children, our address and our phone number in case they ever needed or wanted to contact us. My hope is that they reach back to us, at least with a wave as we see each other out and about over the next days and weeks. I plan to create more baskets as the weeks and months come. I just think it would be so cool to be able to personally introduce each of the homes in our little subdivision. Put names to faces, kids with parents and houses with families. My husband and I, along with our three boys walked around to the house in front of us, behind us, to either side of us and two other homes in the neighborhood to start the process.
In November, a new ministry in town called S.H.A.R.E. (Sharing Him and Reaching Everyone) has encouraged each of us to reach out to our neighbors. I hope by that time I will have made contact with everyone and will be ready to further follow up with them over the course of the month. My prayer for the people in my closest reach is that they grow a sense of community with one another in Christ so that we can support each other in struggles and in good times. I pray that a fire is started in this community that engulfs the entire town. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the property value of these homes sky rocketed as a result of the supply and demand created because everyone wanted to be a part of the brotherhood here? I believe we will see Mark 12:30, 31 in the flesh. People loving God first, and loving their neighbor as themselves. With that, people will start treating people the way they want to be treated (Luke 6:31). I’m sitting here praying for everyone in the neighborhood as I type this and Chris Tomlin’s song God of This City popped into my head. Fitting I believe.
Lets go back to the picture of those bananas for a second:
The sight of those bananas is pretty nasty when you think about it, isn’t it? Nobody in their right mind would think, “Oh those look fantastic! I think I’ll just dig right in!” No, on the contrary, most people throw them out when they get the slightest hint of brown/black on the peel. And to buy them from the store that way? HA! I think that’s the way God sees each of us…even you reading this! We deserve nothing more than to be thrown out with the evening trash. Dirty, rotting, mushy messes of people. We make mistakes, say things we shouldn’t, think things that would make our mother’s put us in time out for a long time, gossip with the best of ’em, lie, cheat and steal. And God…he couldn’t bear to see us discarded. Not only did he buy us while we were still horribly disgusting, He also gave us a gift far more precious than a beautiful home that we could have never gotten on our own. He gave us his SON! I mean I love you, but I’m not sacrificing any of my kids for you…not even on a bad day! But God did! Even though we don’t deserve to be given another chance. Even though we deserve to be thrown into the fires of hell on a daily basis, he loves us too much. Instead, He takes our nasty peels off, mixes in a little bit of grace and mercy. Folds in a mixture of patience love and peace. Pours us into a mold that shapes us to fit His plan for our lives, puts us through the fires of trials and bakes us into a perfect loaf of banana bread. It isn’t until we are banana bread that he can deliver us to people who need fed with the ONLY food that will satisfy.
Thank you God for picking me as a nasty banana. I submit to your plan and ask that you make me into banana bread as well. I give you this home, this family, this neighborhood for your service. My answer is “yes” to what you have for me here. To be honest I am a wee bit intimidated but I know I can do all things through your Son who strengthens me. Have your way, Lord. Have your way!