Do You See Them? (Still The Voices)

“. . .she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.”

Forgiven much meme

Last week we talked about Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee in search of a lost lamb, leaving the proverbial 99 to find the one.

Sometimes the Lord would have us go to great lengths, travel great distances, to share Jesus with the lost and hurting. And that’s good, we are commanded to go into all the world to share the good news, that is the great commission. But we are also commanded to love our neighbors as well. Often times we miss what is right in front of us. We can fail to see the person right next to us that desperately needs Jesus, needs rescued, just as much as the fellow from Gadarene that we named Xander.

My wife Donna is good at seeing those people, the lost lambs, and because of that they are drawn to her. She was working with one such young lady at McDonald’s in Billings. Donna had befriended this young lady, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, and this young lady began to pour out her heart to Donna. She had found a safe place to be real.

Donna felt compelled to invite her to come camping with us on our big annual family camp out (Family being used pretty loosely and extending to pretty much everyone we knew.) Since the campsite was not too far from Red Lodge where my church is, and everyone knew me either as family or from church past and present, everyone who was camping planned on coming to our church Sunday morning.

worship

You know you’re in a mountain town church when you walk in and everyone smells like campfire smoke.

So anyway, this single mother and her one year old daughter, did indeed come camping with us. They had never camped before and Donna invited them to stay with us in the camper we had borrowed. I found this a little awkward but I thought she was  pretty brave to go camping with the preacher’s family, especially since she had never even met me.

Donna told me on Saturday afternoon while we were camping that her young friend said that she probably wasn’t going to go to church the next morning with us. I was suddenly very disappointed. I had only met her the day before but I knew Donna had been loving on her for a while and was very concerned about, and had filled me in on, all heartache and betrayal she had already been through in her young life by her parents and her ex-husband.

Later I saw her and her baby girl sitting at the picnic table in our campsite and I did something I hardly ever do, I sat down across the table from her, and tried to coerce her to come to church with us. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to put someone on the spot.

She didn’t know me, and she actually looked kind of terrified when I sat down across from her. But I looked her in the eye and said: “I hear you aren’t sure about coming to church with us tomorrow. I would really like you to. I know this might sound weird but I really think the Lord gave me the sermon just for you. And if you come I’ll give you one of my books; To My Girls” (Yippee— Hey I was desperate.)

I was desperate because I really did believe that the message I was preaching that Sunday was written just for her. I knew in my heart that she was why God had given me the message titled: You are Loved. To my relief and joy, she came. And she came back the next week, with her sister, both of them giving there hearts to the Lord in that first week or two and both attending quite frequently for a few years driving 60 miles all the way from Billings to Red Lodge to do so.

That young lady is still a big part of our life, her little girl calls me “Granpa” and 8 years later she still loves the Lord with all her heart and soul and is healing from a horrific past as she walks with him and seeks to learn how to live in this messed up world as she tries desperately to see the world through the eyes of Jesus rather than the eyes of a distrusting wounded soul who has every right to be angry and rebellious.

But she has allowed the Lord to still the voices that taunt and haunt.

no tuning back

I had been somewhat amazed for quite some time that she even came that first time, let alone again the next week and that she just kept coming. Especially with what seemed like such an awkward invitation from me, the strange preacher she didn’t know. Maybe it was the book, I don’t know, it had deeply touched many. I was sure love was involved, the love of the Lord, the love of our church family.

Then, one day we were visiting about that day, and she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.

I knew she had been hurt and betrayed, seriously betrayed, by the men in her life, but his really startled me; no other man had ever treated you with respect!? —That doesn’t say much for the world we live in, does it?

How sad that people can go through life never feeling like people even see them, at least not as a person. I was kind of startled when she told me that, because of all the reasons I might have come up with for her coming to our little church—and returning— the fact that I had talked to her with the respect that I would give to any other person, would never have been one of them.

Donna saw her, then I saw her, that’s what it boils down to. I saw her through what was no doubt the eyes of the Father, a scared little girl struggling in a big scary world to be a mother and provider despite the worst the world could throw at her, a young woman who needed to know she was loved and that she was not alone. A lost lamb who had been betrayed in the worst way by her own father, her mother and then a husband.

GirlHiding

But Jesus saw her and sent someone to let her know.

We all need that; we all want to be seen;Somebody, anybody—see me for who I really am.” We all share this basic desire, and to some extent I think we all are a little fearful of being truly honest with one another for fear that we will be seen differently, so we either pretend for as long as we can, or we just go full blown; “I no longer care, the hell with y’all!”

At least that’s what we tell ourselves– But inside we are still dying.

The voices are still taunting us; “You are worthless, you deserve nothing but what you got— trust no one and strike first before you get hurt again.” Jesus would tell us otherwise.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”. . . Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:44. 50

 

Hope meme

 

 

Radically Changed? -Little Mattie

Lithe Mattie

-Radically changed-

You canBaby-Full-Size-Wallpaper’t be born again and not be radically different, not see the world through the eyes of the Savior; experience life, the pain the joy and heartache and the passion, that comes from being a Spirit led, Spiritually alive being, in a dead and dying world. Unless of course you purposely ignore the Spirit.

Being born again isn’t a state of mind, it’s not a phrase to describe a set of beliefs or a particular brand of Christian. It’s not a club that you join or a conditioning to ascribe to through discipline, ritual or liturgy. Being born again is a state of being. It’s a state of being just as surely as being born of the flesh is. It is who you are, but you also have to allow yourself to become who you are as a born again person.

Being born again from death to life is a radical transformation, it is literally an altered state. We don’t learn to be born again any more than a baby learns to alter his or her condition from being in the womb to being out in the world. But unlike the first birth where a baby doesn’t have a choice as to whether it’s born or not; In the case of being born again we do have a choice, we choose whether we will be born again, or not, when we choose whether or not to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and invite him into our hearts and are made alive by his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

How can you not be different when you are suddenly the living temple of the very Spirit of God himself?

I have seen this transformation happen over and over again, I have had the privilege of inviting many, many, people over the years to accept Jesus as their Savior and I don’t care if it is just quietly raising your hand in acknowledgement in a church service, boldly sprinting to the alter in front of everyone at a big event, bowing your head and saying the sinner’s prayer across the table in a cafe, falling prostrate in repentance and weeping for joy before a campfire in the mountains— if you have opened your heart to Jesus you are a new creation, and you are not the same person you used to be.

When it happens it is always a miracle, another rebirth, another cause for celebration in heaven. I’ve looked in a person’s eyes and seen the lights come on as there is suddenly someone home, the fear and hurt falls away and life begins— real life.

I racked my brains as I taught this lesson to my church trying to think of some story or illustration about what it means to be born again, to be free, to be real, to just be, and it just wasn’t happening. There’s the old usual illustrations of the Butterflies and the Bull frogs being born again, from a caterpillar and a tadpole but really, that doesn’t work, we are not worms or bugs or amphibians so it’s hard to relate.

But I kept thinking about little Mattie, (Names changed) A baby girl a couple in our fellowship is foster parenting. I remember the first time they walked in here with her, the foster mother, Catrina, was all aglow just like a mother showing off her new baby and Scott- the proud father. But this baby had not been born to them. Mattie had been born into a nightmare. At just a few weeks old she shown up in our church with two broken legs, a broken collar bone and sternum, and a cigarette burn on her toe for good measure. All inflicted on her by her birth mother, her flesh and blood mother.

But Mattie was born again into a new family, given another chance, a new life. She was now in the arms of a mother who would never hurt her, who loves her and has brought her to a place of healing, peace and safety.

But there is more to the story; the Lord had told Scott and Catrina that Mattie was coming. The Lord knew that there was a baby girl who would need a chance to be reborn into a new family, weeks before she was even born.  Matt and Catrina had been struggling, they wanted a big family and had a beautiful daughter but had been unable to get pregnant again and they asked me to pray for them. I did and in the midst of the prayer I saw a picture in my mind of a baby girl still in the womb and I heard the name Mattie.

I told them that they were going to have a little girl. I then asked them if they had thought about any names; “No, not really” I hesitated because I didn’t want to influence them but I said, “Well I heard the name Mattie, I think its short for something but I don’t know what.” So when she walked in that day with a baby girl and said; “Guess what her name is”, I said; “No, it can’t be.” … It was, She said: “Her name is Matilda, but they call her Mattie.”
-The little girl they were promised.

So it is, that our God is good— all the time. Is that a great picture of being born again or what? Mattie, who was born into chaos and pain, has a new life a new family, a new hope for a good future. She came to our church that first week bruised and broken, knocked out with pain meds screaming in pain whenever she woke up, it was heartbreaking. But she has been allowed to heal and now her eyes have a light and she smiles when she is awake. Her past just a distant, fading memory.

Someday Mattie will have the choice to make, “Am I the victim, living in defeat and bitterness, using my past as an excuse and a reason to destroy my future, or am I going to live as a victor, one who has been given another chance to live a life of joy and purpose, using the opportunity and love I have been given to move forward into a hopeful and optimistic tomorrow?”

We all have that choice to make.

So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:7,8