Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Cheeseburger with Jesus....Supersized

I have recently come to realize that I need to write more and that everything I write doesn’t have to be profound, but merely from the heart and genuinely full of Jesus. Yesterday my husband and I went to a Grand Opening but not for a fancy restaurant, a new trendy store, or to a theater downtown; this Grand Opening was for a McDonalds. Yep… the Golden Arches, Happy Meals, and Christians….lots of them.
Let me explain.
We moved to Owasso just a few months ago and shortly after that, a local McDonalds closed; to the ground, leveled, completely starting from scratch…closed. The owners I later learned are members of our church but it is not because of that I chose to blog about them. What they did was “blog worthy” because it is something we should all strive to be….truly living God-like.
Their doors would be closed for the entire summer with promises of bigger and better to follow, but what would happen to their employees when these changes were being made? This wasn’t a question I ever really thought about when restaurants or stores were “Closed for Remodeling” but the answer is unbelievable. He kept each employee on his payroll and paid them their wages as if they were working; there was just one catch….they had to volunteer in the community; a community in every sense of the word and not one I have ever been a part of. When asked about his Supersized Heart by a news reporter at the Grand Opening, he said simply… “My wife and I prayed about it and knew it was something we needed to do.” The sum was about $120,000 out of their own pocket but he went on to say “We had faith that this would come back to us; that our customers would come, and that God would provide for us so the decision was an easy one to make.”
The restaurant actually opened at Midnight on Friday night but we made our way there for lunch the following day. The extra-large parking lot was filled to capacity, the drive-thru was wrapped around the corner, and there was a steady stream of cars making their way to be a part of it. Where anyone would have left at such a sight before, they were now just happy to be there and almost looked forward to the wait….us included. We were lucky enough to find a spot and I couldn’t hold back a giggle as I thought to myself “If you build it…they will come” from Field of Dreams.
As we neared the door to step inside this brand new building we heard music piped through speakers inside and out; Christian music…Chris Tomlin welcoming us to a lunch of cheeseburgers and french fries. Despite the craziness of cars coming and going, looking for parking, and people all making their way to the inside, it was surprisingly calm when we got inside. We were welcomed by an older gentleman who told us that we were about to experience the best food in town “We’re so glad you’re here.” We said “So are we.” I found a table for two in the corner and sat down as Robbe went to place our orders; jumping into a line with at least ten people in front of him and soon just as many behind him.
I sat in my corner spot and took it all in. For all intents and purposes it was a regular McDonalds; shiny new tables and TVs on the wall, colorful seating and new soda machines. But there was something different about this one and everyone there seemed to feel it too. Jesus was in this McDonalds….He was in the owner who had faith this would happen, He was in the gentleman that welcomed us literally with open arms, He was in the guests that sat eating their burgers just as they had done a million times before. He was even at the center of a table where a family took off their hats, held hands, and prayed before eating their meal. There were flowers on each table and at closer inspection; there was a business card that promoted another local business. It was the most humbling of experiences to be sitting there, knowing we were a part of it.
With each new face that walked in, the greeting was the same, the feeling of kindness was not only palpable but contagious. Maybe it is the writer in me but I just couldn’t help thinking that is what Jesus wants for all of us and it really shouldn’t be as newsworthy as it was. We should all be doing this every day, and if we were….this would be just “another day at the office,” standard protocol and not this amazing experience. I honestly felt that someone told this owner and all of his employees that Jesus was going to be coming today and they didn’t know what He looked like so they were to treat us all as if He could have been us. Was Jesus in the 6 year old brimming with excitement to see the new Play Place? Could He have been the woman in the wheelchair that needed extra room at a table? Was He the guest dressed as a Flapper on her way to a party? Or maybe, just maybe….He was the slightly chunky redhead seated in the corner at a table for two. We were all treated as if we were the one they opened this restaurant for and had faith in. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Maybe it was just another McDonalds for some that happened into the doors yesterday but it was definitely more than that for me. The most important thing I have learned since moving to “Nineveh” is perspective. When looked at through the eyes of a human things get muddied and frustrating, but when we look at things as Jesus would have us look at them, there is a difference; a great, amazing difference. When I make things about me or “stuff”, it is always disappointing but when I give Him the credit and ask “What would Jesus do?” and live that way…. life seems almost easy.
Thank you Jesus for giving me a new perspective and a new heart. Thank you for allowing me to see your Supersized influence in one couple’s lives and how a community is truly a community in your name. Thank you for letting me see Jesus in others with hopes to emulate that, so others see you in me. Thank you for a great lunch date and inviting us to YOUR Grand Opening; it was awesome to see others congregating in your name somewhere OTHER than a church on Sunday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

EVEN as a Christian....

I just recently celebrated two years of accepting Jesus. Early in my belief and commitment to Him I would say “If only I had found Jesus sooner, sooo much in my life could have gone better. I wouldn’t have had to go through ________________ fill in the blank. Or, I could have avoided that whole ________________ fill in another blank.”
But as you may or may or may not know…I haven’t written in a while; nearly two months to be exact. I loooove writing. I loooove reading. And I looooove the bible study on Paul that I was reading AND writing about; in rediscovering my faith I felt was wavering. So, why did I only make it to Day Twenty Two of a 90 Day walk with Paul? The answer is simple…
A giant pity party.
Yes; EVEN as a Christian, pity parties are common events. I used to think that being a Christian meant avoiding those things and that because I was a Christian everything would now fall into place. It doesn’t work that way. For me; being a Christian just means that I still go through “stuff”… I just don’t go through it alone. Well… not always.
Let me digress.
I moved to Nineveh; ahem…Owasso, Oklahoma. I wasn’t happy about it but within a month began to embrace all that Jesus had brought me to. I began taking the walk with Paul to find faith in Him all over again and just KNOW that this is where I was supposed to be BUT… EVEN as a Christian (ESPECIALLY as a Christian) that Satan was working his magic; he even used the women from my bible study to do his bidding.

Let me explain.
If you have ever been in the 8th grade and had the confidence level that comes with that age…you know what I mean. I was in the 8th grade in Plymouth, Michigan. I just KNEW that I was exactly where Jesus wanted me to be. I was comfortable in my neighborhood and my church and was writing and sewing for Him every day. I saw friendly faces when walking into church every Sunday and would see them again during bible study or in volunteering during the week. It didn’t matter that my church was home to 25,000 people; it was my house and I felt I knew all that walked through the doors.

When I moved to Owasso, it was like graduating from 8th grade and moving to 9th grade. I was now a part of a place that didn’t just have my 8th grade peers but ALL of the 8th graders and 9th – 12th graders from EVERY surrounding area. I didn’t know anyone. I had to start all over. I didn’t have smiling faces that were constant or that I knew and had formed relationships with already. I was the new kid on the block and it wasn’t a feeling I welcomed. Rather than focusing on the one common denominator we all had in Jesus; I put the focus all on me and stewed in it. It was no longer a matter of faith that Jesus would come through it was a matter of me fitting in and critiquing those new faces around me that had the audacity to have their own conversations while I sat there just waiting for someone to approach me. I was usually the one to do the approaching. I was the one that put myself out there being the spokesperson Jesus created me to be…. Until now.
I went the first week but didn’t go back the second week. Looking back; I have no idea what my excuse was for doing so…but there you have it. The third week came and I attended but didn’t participate; I may have smiled and said “Hello” but didn’t encourage further conversation. I am certain Jesus was just shaking his head as He sat beside me, asking “What was that about?” I now know that Satan was on the other side whispering as he did that first bible study at Northridge “These bible study women are going to judge you. You’re the new girl and they have been together for ages. Once they find out your story it will be even worse than it feels today. You don’t fit in here.”
I’m embarrassed to say that EVEN as a Christian, it was easier for me to listen to guy on the left than to KNOW that Jesus on the right was sitting there disappointed. Satan enabled me just as I let so many others before him; before being a Christian. It was easier for me to sit there and begin that pity party in a room full of those faces that were new to me than it was to put myself out there as Jesus created me to be. All the confidence that He had given me to that point seemed tucked away in the back of my bible where indexes and maps lay dormant….not in the middle of the books Paul had written where I had been living for nearly two years. What the heck happened?
Well… I’ll tell you what happened.
Shortly after the beginning of bible study we attended the first night of four to learn more about our new church. It was organized by the church as a newcomer informational meeting; question and answer time with the Pastor and others that were seeking more “new member” information. We went around the room introducing ourselves and there were people that had attended for a year or so, some…like us, that had attended just a few weeks, and others that hadn’t attended yet but their kids attended the school so they were checking it out.
During question and answer time we learned that our church was not a non-denominational church like we thought…or assumed, but a Free will Baptist church. One person asked what that meant and I liked the answer but was still taken aback that it was a Baptist church. Free will Baptist just means that any that have free will are able to make the choice to accept Christ as their personal savior and Baptist is to be baptized by full immersion; just as our last church was designed. (It was then I remembered that our non-denominational church had evolved from Baptist beginnings… free will Baptist or not, I wasn’t sure.) But what came next is when Satan’s mantra of “You don’t belong here” began droning in the background. I was forthcoming by saying “We didn’t know that this was a Free will Baptist church. It doesn’t say it on the sign out front and I didn’t notice it on the web page when doing research from Michigan before coming here. I honestly don’t know if we would have made the leap through the doors if we had known; simply out of ignorance and not knowing what it meant or just how closely it is related to our church back home.” Another woman from across the room said “We are just the opposite of Gidget. Simply put, it was the label of Free will Baptist that brought us through the doors since it is most closely related to our own of Mennonite faith and closer to home for us to attend, rather than our current church of nearly an hour away.” I asked…. “Is it possible for THIS church to be the common ground for both of us? It is amazing (if not crazy to imagine) that we BOTH can find this to be our church when we are coming from such different backgrounds and what we are looking for in a new place to call home.”
This is where my mental torment began…EVEN as a Christian.
We stopped going to our small group BUT, in our defense, they started a study that was just waaaay over our head so the timing seemed appropriate. We didn’t go to church the following week and I didn’t go to bible study the following TWO weeks. I stopped blogging and I didn’t start sewing for my ministry as I had vowed to do. Even as a Christian, I doubted Jesus and his ability to make up for all the things Satan was doing. Not only did I get invited to this pity party, I attended, became the Guest of Honor, and dragged my husband to it with me. I whined “I don’t fit in. Nothing about Nineveh is working like it’s supposed to. I feel like I am different no matter where we go and I even changed my hair color from red to brown JUST to fit in.” Little did I know that hair color was the least of the fitting in criteria….it is ALL about mindset; a little reminder from that dang bible study this week. Yep… I’m going again.
Baby moved to Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago but the day before she left she said “Mom why do you care if you fit in when Jesus made you to stand out?” I say that I am proud to be the spokesperson He created me to be; even my quote in the header of my blog says “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1Peter 3:15. I am a cheerleader and cheerleaders don’t try to blend in….they cheer others on, they’re excited about encouraging, and never host pity parties (not on Jesus’ team anyway).
So…. Where we are now; EVEN as Christians. Everything isn’t perfect but it is soooo much better than it was. I am no longer hosting my very own pity party; I am not even attending one. I am loooving and getting so much out of my bible study; even friends and field trips with women from the group. Satan is still trying to get involved but I am no longer giving him the attention he was so easily capturing just a few weeks ago. Even as Christians we are tempted and tried and I was reminded of that just this morning when reading (yes….even reading my Max Lucado again…. Ahhhhh). A quote from his new book “God’s Story, Your Story”…. “Times of testing are actually times of training, purification, and strength building. You can even “ – consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
Max goes on to further remind me…EVEN as a Christian “Where are you empty? Are you hungry for attention, craving success, longing for intimacy? Be aware of your weaknesses. Bring them to God before Satan brings them to you. Satan will tell you to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). In other words, meet your own needs, take matters into your own hands, leave God out of the picture. Whereas Jesus teaches us to pray for bread (Matthew 6:11), Satan says to work for bread”…… “If Satan convinces us to trust our works over God’s Word, he has us dangling from a broken limb. Our works will never hold us.”
EVEN as a Christian we are tried but Jesus helps us to overcome them and usually has a lesson in the end that we could ONLY learn by going through those trials. My life isn’t perfect since becoming a Christian; I still have insecurities and weaknesses….even ones I didn’t realize I had. The key now? Getting those insecurities and weaknesses to Jesus before Satan has any opportunity to use them for his bidding. EVEN as a Christian, Satan was able to get in and use those weaknesses against me but Jesus was able to use my own daughter’s words to remind me of the spokesperson I was created to be. My hair color may be the same as some of those in Nineveh. My personality is different. My relationship with Jesus is different. Even the way I dress may be different….BUT none of those things matter to Jesus or the work that He has called me to do. It isn’t about me and Satan somehow got me to forget that for a little while. I don’t need to blend in or be friends with “everyone in the class”…I just need to continue to show what Jesus has done in me and through me and show others that EVEN as Christians we are put through tests and trials, the difference is what we do in those trials and how we use it for His glory no matter what we face or how long we face it.
I am not perfect….EVEN as a Christian.
Not everything goes my way….EVEN as a Christian.
I don’t make more money or have better hair ….EVEN as a Christian.
But BECAUSE I am a Christian I GET to go through whatever is thrown my way and to prove that Jesus always prevails IF I just give him the opportunity to prove it.
THAT is what a Cheerleader does.