I started my day buying two cartloads of groceries in preparation for the BIG storm headed our way. Apparently, we are expecting 16-24 inches of snow over the weekend...which means I am expecting my whole family to be hanging around AND anticipating roving tribes of hungry teenagers to end up at my house! Feed them and they will come. :-) The grocery store was crazy, they were out of a number of things, but I kept running into friends and it was actually a fairly festive atmosphere.
As I unloaded the obscene amount of groceries that I had purchased, I was mulling over in my mind my topic for bible study this afternoon. As many of you know, I study the bible with my friends at the Lamb Center every Tuesday and most Thursday afternoons. The Lamb Center is a day shelter for the homeless and many of my bible study friends have very little in the way of worldly possessions...most will sleep tonight in the local Hypothermia Shelter provided during the winter months by local area churches. With the upcoming storm on all of our minds, I decided to see what scripture had to say about shelter and refuge. As expected, I found some wonderful words of hope in the book of Psalms.
On the way to the Lamb Center, I had the opportunity to spend an hour with one of my favorite people. This dear friend is one of the most brilliant, funny, compassionate people that I have ever had the privilege to know. We speak a similar language and our hearts are tuned to a similar song. She is experiencing some challenges right now. Although my offering was simply a listening ear, I was blessed to share some tears and some laughter with her, connected by our common belief that God doesn't intend for us to stay stuck in the hard places and that our way out will be illuminated when we reach out our hand and choose not to walk this rocky path alone. As I left, my eyes filled with tears as I offered prayers of gratitude for the privilege of this friendship and God's presence in the midst of it.
At the Lamb Center, I was once again humbled and amazed at the palpable sense of God's presence around our table. The words we found in scripture reminded us that, regardless of our present circumstances, our refuge is in God alone. We went around the table and shared stories about the times when we experienced God as our refuge, our shelter, our fortress. As always, I was touched by the insight and depth of my fellow sojourners' revelations and by the faithfulness God had shown to each one who shared their story. My favorite moment came when we were discussing Psalm 46. One of the best known verses from the Psalm is verse 10 "Be still and know that I am God." As we discussed the ways in which God invites us to "be still," my friend J. says he hears God speak those words into his spirit in this way; "Sit down, boy. I got this!" We all loved that! Being a southern lady, I decided the Lord would be more likely to tell me "Sit down, darlin'. I got this!" Nothing like a gentle reminder about who is God...and who is NOT God!
At the end of our bible study time, we move into a time of prayer. Our prayer time is always meaningful, but today was especially moving as a number of people lifted up their heartfelt gratitude for the ways in which God has shown Himself to be their refuge and their rock. Truly, I can only remember a few other times when I felt the Presence of the Lord as strongly as I did today as we prayed together. I fought back tears throughout the prayer time and exchanged hugs with many of the bible study participants as we talked afterwards about what a powerful time of worship we had experienced around that table together. As I was leaving, my dear friend P. ran in to tell me that she was sorry that she had missed bible study. She and her husband have recently become homeless again after a layoff, yet she has the most beautiful spirit of joy and completely trusts that God has them right where He wants them to be and will sustain them until they are able to find housing again. They feel that they can really minister to others at the hypothermia shelter while they are in these circumstances and had run to their storage unit to get some movies for the upcoming snowy weekend. She hugged me and said not to worry, they were doing just fine. The tears returned as I drove home...not tears of sadness, although I am certainly concerned about my friends in this weather...but rather tears of gratitude for the privilege of witnessing God at work so powerfully.
Back home again, I was thinking about writing a blog entry about this deep sense I felt today of God's hand at work in the lives of myself and my friends. How blessed and humbled I feel when He opens my eyes and whispers in my ear "I am here" or reminds me that I can rest in the knowledge that He has it all under control...both in my life and in the lives of those I love. For some reason, today I just felt so grateful that I needed to share it.
As I thought about this and considered what I wanted to say, I had occasion to talk to my mom in Texas. She works in a charity thrift store once a week...a place like our local WFCM Clothes Closet that provides low or no cost clothing for those in need. She told me the most amazing story, starting with the prayer she prayed on her way there today. She asked God to give her the opportunity to really connect to the people who came in to the store, a prayer that she would have the opportunity to offer more than just clothing. I'm not sure if she realized it, but God answers this prayer in the affirmative every day of her life. He wired her that way...she has the most amazing gift of making people around her feel special. In her presence, people feel that they are truly loved. On this day, she was simply offering up herself and asking to be used by God...and God said YES!
A women came in the store and my mom remembered her from a previous visit. She greeted her by name and they began talking. While the lady looked at clothing, she shared about her life and experience with my mom...a difficult life that God had redeemed in a number of amazing ways. Eventually, she shared that she had recently auditioned for "America: You've Got Talent" and done quite well. With that information, my mom asked her to sing for them. As the store was fairly empty, my mom's new friend obliged. They were all blessed by her beautiful voice and, as she was singing, they looked up to see another regular volunteer enter the store. She joined them as the lady finished her song. The newest member of the audience immediately asked for the singer's name and number, explaining that she ran a talent agency and would love to help her continue to pursue her singing! They all marveled at God's providence and the unlikely "coincidence" that led to this woman singing at that moment in that little store surrounded by these new, encouraging friends. They were so moved by this series of events, that they decided to join together in prayer right then and praise God for His grace. My mom said she has never felt closer to the Lord in her life than she did standing in that store praying with this former stranger and giving God all the glory for the work He had done and was doing in the lives of this group of women from very different backgrounds. As my mom told me this story, I found myself with tears running down my face once again, humbled and grateful for yet another reminder of how God lives right smack in the middle of how we show love to one another.
An amazing day! For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen!