Tag Archives: graffiti summer

Graffiti Summer: Silence Births Vision

We’ve been intentionally leaning in to the Lord and stepping out to serve where He leads for six weeks now. This is the last week!

Thank you for coming alongside and hanging in there with me!

This Graffiti Summer Study and Do has certainly been both a journey and a challenge. But as the formal study comes to a close, I pray our hearts remain in this rhythm of seeking and serving Him for a lifetime.

For this last week, we considered how Moses approached times of quiet before God, how he handled times when God seemed silent, and how we can be encouraged during such times as well. Check out Alene’s post here for more!

DO Assignment: Look back over the Graffiti study and consider whether God is being silent or if He has already impressed upon your heart what to do next. And then DO it.

graffiti summer - silence births vision

As badly as I wanted to begin this study with a neat and tidy post, I maybe even more badly wanted to end this Graffiti Summer challenge with a neat and tidy post, but the truth is, I still just can’t.

Because the questions, the struggles, the unknowns … they don’t end here.

But the One constant hasn’t changed: Christ.

And I can think of no better note on which to end this Graffiti Summer challenge than to once again recognize that I don’t have to plan this life around a particular ministry or place to serve.

Rather, I simply trust the One who calls.

As my life revolves around Christ, I trust Him to take care of the details … the how, the where, the when. He knows the seasons of waiting, the seasons of doing, and all of the seasons in between that aren’t so easily defined.

He alone holds the future.

So I want to continue doing. Not just filling my head with knowledge that never makes a difference. But experiencing a change of heart that can’t be contained.

And I trust Jesus to do that in me. Because I certainly can’t do it in myself.

And yes, sometimes in the midst of the heart change, God seems silent.

But I wonder if more times than not it’s because I’m expecting God to speak in a certain way while He’s attempting to show me something in a completely different way.

I may not have perfect clarity regarding where He’s leading and re-directing. I may only have been given a glimpse. I may only have the one next small step. It may all still seem hazy and shadowy. But even in that, I hear His voice. I see His hand at work. I feel His prompting to love and serve.

And through the help and words of a dear friend, I see that through all of it, He’s leading me into an ever deepening trust in Him and in His faithfulness and in His Word.

So in the moments when that feels like God is silent, I want to sit in that silence. To be in His presence. To trust Him fully. To rest in Him completely.

So that all that’s left is humbly and honestly seeking His face.

Knowing Him more. Surrendering once again to His will. His way. His time.

Because this life isn’t about me.

And as I listened to the sermon on Sunday regarding the freedom we have in Christ, I couldn’t help but see the connection.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13 (ESV)

I’m free.

I don’t have to feel crushed under the weight of what I don’t understand in this life.

I won’t always know exactly where or how to serve. I won’t always get it right. But I can still live a life characterized by the love of Christ. By recognizing the freedom that is mine, by seeking first His kingdom, by stepping out and serving (in big ways and small) as He leads along the way.

So I keep seeking. I keep following where He leads. I keep trusting.

And He [God] said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

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Graffiti Summer: For Your Generation

I can hardly believe we only have one more week left of the Graffiti Summer Study and Do challenge. I hope the Lord is stretching and speaking to your heart as much as He is to mine!

Continuing our study on the life of Moses, this week we saw how the Israelites, while waiting to hear from God through Moses, took matters into their own hands and used their individual gifts to benefit themselves. Alene then challenged us to “get our eyes off ourselves and on to the hurting world God has placed us in” (go listen to Alene’s message here for more on this week’s lesson!).

DO Assignment: Take Isaiah 61:1-2 to heart and serve someone.

graffiti summer - for your generation

This is where I confess that (at least at first glance) I haven’t really gotten out to serve this week. Time has been limited and other life events have taken a priority position both mentally and physically.

And honestly, as I approached this week, that frustrated me. I just couldn’t see how I could add one more thing into my schedule, and that’s how serving felt. Like one more thing.

Oh, how quickly I forget when the Lord speaks peace and encouragement into me (as I wrote about here two weeks ago).

Why is it so hard to just sit in that reality?

Just because I happen to be going through a study that has a new emphasis and assignment each week doesn’t necessarily mean that the Lord’s answer for me right now, in this moment, is different than His answer was then.

It seems that far too often I’m so busy chasing the next DO that I forget to walk in the obedience of the just BE.

I’m afraid this all sounds very hypothetical, but it’s a message my heart desperately needed to be reminded of once again, and maybe yours does, too?

Because what the Lord is continuing to teach me as He’s drawing me close to Himself and leading me out of myself through this study is that the doing is always preceded by the being.

And yes, I know the point of this Graffiti Summer challenge is to NOT get stuck in the study part of our faith walk (hence the title: Study and DO), but serving just to serve, doing just to do, may still just be a change on the outside that doesn’t reach the heart.

And isn’t THAT really the point of all this? To be changed completely? To experience a deeper soul-level, heart-level transformation?

This doing for the Lord – moving beyond merely studying His Word to actually living out His commands – it’s not necessarily about what we do at all.

It’s more about how and why we do it.

And we simply cannot DO any of it without first being with and walking with Christ in the everyday of our right now realities.

So it’s about reorienting our lives off of ourselves and onto others. Every. Single. Day.

It’s about going through our daily activities and routines (because let’s face it, quitting our day jobs to go serve somewhere else just isn’t always a reality or even beneficial) with eyes open to the world around us and hearts filled with the love of Christ to serve others as He leads, directs, and prompts.

It’s about being intentional with our focus. With eyes fixed first on Christ in order to see people through His eyes.

We can’t keep doing the things we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done them. We have to be aware of those around us. We have to be willing to go into the uncomfortable and different, yes, but also to go into the safe and familiar with a different mindset.

We have to be willing to see people differently.

And while I may not always know how or when to step in and serve in their midst, this study is helping me to see all kinds of people differently … both those I interact with on a regular basis and those I likely will only encounter once.

To see their value and worth. To see them like I suspect Christ would. To see their physical needs, but much more importantly to see their spiritual needs. To see that they need a Savior just as desperately as I do.

And when our eyes are shifted off of ourselves, when our hearts are reoriented to serving others first, we begin to see needs and opportunities to serve everywhere and we begin to view the small moments that make up our everyday differently.

So this week, serving hasn’t been big or obvious or heartbreaking or well-defined, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe small moments like…

Sitting at the table and having a conversation with the AC repair man while waiting for the unit to thaw, or

Pet-sitting across town for a friend, knowing that far more time will be spent in the car than usual, or

Responding to an email to serve in a new capacity with a “yes” because it’s so obviously an answer to prayer

…really are enough.

And maybe part of the doing is found in the struggling and the wrestling of all this as we move – little by little – closer to the heart of the One who goes before, the One who loved first, the One who already knows, the One who IS.

Graffiti Summer: Opposition to Victory

During this fourth week of Graffiti Summer Study and Do, we took a closer look at the opposition Moses faced when obeying his God-given call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt as recounted in Exodus 6-14. The Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and it took 10 intense plagues before Moses was able to begin walking in the victory he had been promised.

By reminding us that life is full of opposition and struggle even when we’re stepping into serving exactly where God leads, Alene challenged us to share our struggles with others instead of hiding behind an “everything is fine” mask and to remember that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.

DO Assignment: Engage in authentic conversation with someone. Share struggles from a deeper level to give others freedom to do the same.

graffiti summer - opposition to victory

For the past several weeks, I have had the privilege of leading two other women from my life group at church through a discipleship study on Monday nights over dinner at Panera. We finished up our study this week, and while there were several things I loved about our time together, one of the things I most appreciated was the opportunity to just be real about some of our faith struggles.

During our study on fellowship within the body of Christ, the Church, that led us to recognize the unique and valuable role of each member, we were challenged to consider if there was someone within our local church community that we had a hard time loving. The study asked us to consider the reasons why it was hard to love them and how we could overcome those reasons.

I was extremely honest in my workbook when I answered these questions in preparation for our meeting, but verbalizing them during our discussion? I wasn’t so sure.

But recognizing the opportunity that was presented, I did ultimately share my horribly immature and self-serving answers. And the brief conversation that resulted, in which we realized that ALL of our answers lacked Christlikeness and then shared truth-filled Scriptures with one another to counter those answers, was both productive and Christ-honoring.

We may not have come away with a perfect answer or perfect attitude, but the authentic conversation that led to countering opposition with the absolute truth of Scripture was more than worth it.

Graffiti Summer: Broken for Others

As we enter another week of Graffiti Summer Study & Do, we begin by following Moses’ journey from fleeing for his life to encountering the LORD at the burning bush. Here, Moses is called to go back and serve his people. He questions and doubts, but in Moses’ own brokenness, God equips him for the task of going back and leading his people. Alene talks more about this here.

DO Assignment: Serve as you see a need according to what God has laid on your heart.

graffiti summer broken for others

But this brokenness for others. It doesn’t just happen in a week. Oh, it can happen in a moment of the Holy Spirit’s choosing. But it grows and builds and develops and matures over time. A lifetime.

I’m not exactly sure of the first time I experienced being broken for others … though that one evening at the men’s shelter in downtown Baltimore the summer after 8th grade stands out as a moment where the brokenness ran deep and stuck.

But while I can identify several poignant moments and seasons of brokenness since then, they rarely come when I’m overly prepared or looking for them.

Sometimes they show up in the midst of serving others. Sometimes they interrupt my vacation.

But they always seem to occur when my eyes are fixed on HIM. Not when I’m seeking out those to serve, but rather when I’m looking to Him with a willingness to join Him where He’s already working and a readiness to say “yes” to whatever or whoever He brings.

So as I prayed over the assignment this week, asking the Lord to show me where I needed to serve and who I needed to be broken for, His answer in the quiet of that night when sleep just would not come shouldn’t have surprised me.

He gently reminded me that I was already entering into a “different” place of serving out of brokenness.

The Lord has laid on my heart an area to serve that I can’t share here yet. But it’s not something I can just decide to do one day and then go do it the next. It’s one of those areas that will take significant preparation. And since I’m very early in the process, there are still a lot of little things that must be done.

And while it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking I’m not actually doing anything because I can’t fully launch just yet, the Lord spoke encouragement to my heart that night that all of this preparation, all of these small tasks, are necessary. And yes, they do take time away from serving in other areas, but that’s okay. Because this is where He’s leading. At least for now.

Now, don’t hear me say this gives me a pass to not meet needs and serve others and get out of myself just because I’m preparing for something else. Not at all. But it does mean that I don’t have to try so hard and spend so much energy looking for the next place to serve.

Because He’s already given me a glimpse into that. I just have to be faithful in completing the steps of preparation and to trust Him as He leads to the final destination.

So this week, my DO assignment is to stop procrastinating (yes, just like Moses had to…) and send the next email and have the next phone conversation. To be faithful in preparing for this next assignment HE’S given.

What has He laid on YOUR heart?

Graffiti Summer: A God-Given Destiny

This week, the Graffiti Summer Study and Do chapter is all about being different.

After reading personal stories and then observing the birth and early life of Moses (see Alene’s post here for more on this), including the tension he felt between the conflicting cultures in which he was raised, we’re led to acknowledge our God-given differences and encouraged to step out and serve someone different than ourselves.

DO Assignment: Buy a $5 gift card to a fast food restaurant and give it to someone in need.

Graffiti Summer God-Given Destiny

I didn’t think I really minded different. And yet, I knew this assignment was coming, and truthfully, I dreaded it.

It’s not like the assignment itself is that hard. It’s just being interested enough in someone in need to give them a gift card, so they can have a meal. A time commitment on my part of maybe 5 minutes. But I just hated the idea of it. It seemed beyond uncomfortable.

I may have even considered throwing in the towel and being done with this study.

Not even kidding. This was hard!

And the more I tried to accomplish the task at hand, the more I wanted to quit because it just. wasn’t. working.

But before I get to that, let me back up for a minute.

I struggled with this assignment and got really hung-up on it mentally.

To begin with, ministry to the homeless just hasn’t ever really been my thing. It’s way outside of my comfort zone. And something I’ve only ever had minimal experience with.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help but think that I could do anything for 5 minutes. In the scheme of things, this assignment didn’t really require all that much of me. So although there was an element of fear and discomfort, I could certainly force myself to step over that for this one time, one moment.

But then I hated myself for rationalizing it that way. Were my motives really that far off? As if all I was doing was just getting through the assignment … something I had to do, so I could check it off the list, write about it, and move on?

And then beyond all that (or quite possibly because of all that), I spent a lot of time considering the value in doing this assignment. I “needed” to know the point. Because how was it helping anyone to just do something for the sake of doing it?

While I don’t discount the value in simply doing something Kingdom-minded out of obedience that happens to be completely uncomfortable, I tend towards serving in relationship-based ministries. I hate the idea of “hit-and-run” ministry, so often, if I can’t see myself in it for the long-term (or at least know someone else is in it long-term), I choose not to even start. Practically expressed, this means that typically either I establish and foster a relationship with someone myself or I partner with a ministry that already has a longer-standing relationship with a certain individual or community.

But I’m already serving in some of those ministries.

So not only is this assignment “different” because of the people I’m asked to reach, it’s also different because of the very type of ministry.

But so what? Isn’t that the whole point of this Graffiti Summer challenge? To DO something DIFFERENT? Following Christ’s example? Meeting a need?

And then conviction sort of hit me like a ton of bricks: although long-term, relationship-based ministries are incredibly valuable, the Lord doesn’t need them to move in our midst.

Sometimes reflecting Jesus to someone simply means stepping out in obedience (whether it’s comfortable or not) into one person’s life for one brief moment to bless him with no strings attached, no expectations, and no agenda. For either of us.

And the value in that? That particular someone gets a meal that day and gets to hear that Jesus loves him and sees him.

And really, how is that not enough?

Jesus did that. He walked and served outside of His own small community. He fed people. He healed people. He met their immediate physical need, He spoke His eternal message to them, and then He moved on.

Graffiti Summer God-Given Destiny 2

So, with that background in mind, I set-out to actually DO the assignment.

Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I’ve been trying for a week now to give a gift card to someone in need.

In all honesty, I haven’t driven that far off of my usual routes (which already take me back and forth across town several times a week), but there are a handful of people that stand on the same street corners that I pass on a semi-regular basis, and since I so often just drive past and ignore them, I thought this would be a great opportunity to actually take the time to notice at least one of them. To be intentional about stopping and blessing them with a meal.

But every time I approached the intersections in question, something happened to prevent me from giving.

One of the men left his corner for an apparent break, and by the time he came back, the light had changed and I was already running late, and in rush hour traffic, I knew I didn’t have time to make the loop back around. And even though he’s frequently on that corner, I haven’t seen him there since then.

At another corner, a different man left in the 7ish minutes it took me to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru to purchase the gift card. Since I had seen another man a few intersections up, I headed that way with my now second $10 gift card in hand, and he was gone too.

I’ve been armed with gift cards and kept my eyes open all week. And no one.

It should NOT be this hard to find someone who needs a meal!

So why WAS it so hard?

As difficult as it is to admit, maybe it’s because I tried too hard and not hard enough all at the same time.

Too hard because I was attempting to force and manipulate the circumstances to fit into my too-full schedule, so that I didn’t have to go too far out of my way and be too inconvenienced – I wanted God to work in my time frame in a way that made sense to me. I should know by now that God rarely works that way.

Not hard enough because maybe I wasn’t willing to go far enough outside of my comfort zone and my routine.

Ouch.

So this week, stepping out and serving “different” looked more like:

Engaging in genuine conversation with the barista at Starbucks – asking questions and taking the time to actually listen to her answers during a down moment on her Monday morning.

Putting a band-aid on a 3-yr-olds’ boo-boo. Which just for the record, makes it “All fixed!” His words, not mine.

Having a conversation with the man on the other side of the gas pump whose hands look like he’s been working on cars all morning. Sharing my blue pen with him and helping him find the auto part store.

Graffiti Summer God-Given Destiny 3

And then just last night, as I thought I had fully processed all there was to learn this week, as I thought I was ready to step out and try again, I learned that a man I barely knew passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

I couldn’t help but cry.

This man, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, a man who likely wouldn’t even know my name, was a part of my own seminary education during my first couple of semesters as a semi-frequent and respected guest at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

His life reflected Jesus so well. And everything he said and did was an overflow of a heart that had lived it first and walked closely with the Father.

And yes, he did uncomfortable things and went to uncomfortable places, but I doubt he would have focused on that.

He just loved Jesus and loved people and lived a life of obedience and surrender.

I over-analyzed the heck out of this assignment, and none of it seems to matter now.

This life isn’t lived assignment to assignment. It’s lived in all out abandonment to and abiding in Christ. It’s being with Him … so close to the heart of Jesus that when He looks at those in our vicinity or across the world, those who are very similar to our own background or those who are a world apart, and says “That one,” or “Those people,” or “Go there,” or “Do that,” our hearts are in a state of readiness to hear it clearly and to just say “Yes.”

Maybe a “failed” assignment wasn’t so bad after all.

I still don’t know what God’s doing in all of this.

All I know is I’m not giving up on this one – I can’t NOT do it – but I’m not forcing it either.

I’m armed with gift cards and eyes wide open to where the Lord leads.

I’m ready to go a little further and lean into the Lord a little harder … trusting Him to guide my car and my heart to the right intersection or the right underpass.

I’ll sacrifice some spare time to search for the one in need, I’ll willingly enter the uncomfortable places outside of my typical routine, but after that, it’s in His hands.

And in the midst of all the failure that reminds me of my own humanity and brokenness and need, I just want to love Jesus and to reflect Him with this life.

Graffiti Summer: Introduction

**note: for the next six weeks, my Tuesday posts will be dedicated to the Graffiti Summer Study and Do challenge (see my intro post here or go check out Alene’s blog for more info). Fridays will still be a little bit of everything.**

DO Assignment: Drive to “the other side” of town with eyes and heart intentionally open to your surroundings and open to what God reveals.

Graffiti Summer Introduction

I so badly wanted this to be a neat and tidy post.

If I’m being really honest, while I most certainly spent time praying with all sincerity that the Lord would open my eyes and my mind and my heart to whatever He wanted to reveal, I think I had several preconceived ideas of how that might look.

I didn’t want to go into this assignment with certain expectations, but I did find myself hoping that this would be a holy and beautiful experience that left me broken for people and filled with God’s love for them.

And although technically I drive through what could be considered “the other side” of town whenever I go the non-interstate way home from church (it’s where I rejected Jesus on that street corner. not my proudest moment.), for this assignment, I knew I needed to see something different. Something a little less familiar.

Charlotte is big. There are several “sides” to choose from. And I don’t have to go very far from home to get to them. So less than 25 minutes from my own neighborhood, I began my 25-ish mile circles through some rough and impoverished areas of town.

As I started out on my semi-planned route (I did have a couple of specific spots I knew I wanted to see, but other than that, I pretty much just drove), I found myself unexpectedly filled with the following:

1. Hesitation – It was nearing dusk and quite frankly, these were parts of town I’d just rather not be after dark. It didn’t feel so much like actual fear (though maybe it was headed that direction), just hesitation. And bonus, my gas tank was sitting a little too close to empty for comfort.

2. Juxtaposition – On the one hand, everywhere I looked there were people and homes and lifestyles that didn’t really look all  that different from mine. But on the other hand, everything was different, and the differences threatened to be insurmountable.

But then it struck me. I went to high school (for one year) on the West side of town and this first area wasn’t so unfamiliar after all. This was my old bus route. These were my old classmates. These were my one-time friends. These were their stomping grounds.

And I couldn’t help but think … did I miss an opportunity to love them then? And am I now sitting in judgment of them? What changed? What hasn’t?

I was uncomfortable there. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t belong. I felt on display with every passing glance and stare. I wanted my windows rolled up and my doors locked. I didn’t want to linger in these areas because that just didn’t seem wise. But they live there. This is home.

From there, I headed in the direction of the one of the local men’s shelters on the outskirts of uptown. Although again a more-or-less familiar area, it’s not one I ever pay much attention to as I drive through it to wherever my destination happens to be for an evening out with friends.

It was around this time that my thoughts became far less organized (not that they started out in great shape…). I was simply lost in the act of driving and watching and observing:

The apartments known for their multiple drug busts.

The motels known for prostitution.

The other motels known for murders and violence.

The street name shared with a high profile gang.

The pimped out cars that made me wonder how and where the expensive parts were acquired. Or what month they went without electricity to afford the stereo system.

The two old men engaged in friendly conversation sitting at the bus stop.

The gas stations where, although my gas gauge was inching closer to “E”, I would never dream of stopping for gas because it just wasn’t that safe.

The mom walking down the busy street with her two children … one who looked about 7, the other who was probably around 2 (the same age as the preschoolers I work with at church on Sunday mornings).

The homeless man dressed in clothes that seemed far too heavy for such a warm evening with the beard that should have been white if only the red dirt and ruddiness were washed away.

The strip shopping malls with very few store fronts that were in my language.

The countless places to buy lottery tickets.

The heightened police presence.

The high school that required increased security to keep students safe … from the outside and from each other.

The greasy fried chicken joints seemingly on every corner.

And the longer I drove and observed, the more I just couldn’t seem to get over myself.

In general, none of the areas that I drove around were completely unfamiliar. I may not spend a lot of time there, and I certainly went down some roads and through some neighborhoods that were brand new to me, but I’ve lived in Charlotte a long time. At some point or another, I’ve driven through most of these areas. Sometimes with a certain degree of frequency.

But that’s just it. I’m typically just driving through to get somewhere else. These areas are very rarely my destination. For many reasons.

So as I was driving around to be in these areas intentionally, I found myself becoming so judgmental, so guarded, so uncertain at every turn.

It felt ugly and piercing and convicting and not at all what I expected.

So yes, I wanted neat and tidy. And instead, I got raw and real.

But maybe this is better. Maybe this is right where God wants me. Maybe He’s got something in store for me – to show me, to grow me, to use me – that I can’t begin to predict or imagine. Maybe He needs to break me and strip me of this part of myself, so that He can reveal just where and how He’s moving and just where and how I can join Him.

I don’t know exactly. And honestly, I don’t want to try to make too much sense of it just yet.

But I’m still committed to stick with it and find out.

How about you?

5 Things

5 things - brownies

1. I made brownies last night. For no reason at all. From a box. Because really, brownies are the one thing that I honestly think just turn out better from a box than from scratch (and I have tried several different recipes hoping to disprove this trend). So if you have a from-scratch recipe that you think is better, send it my way!

2. Have you considered joining me for the Graffiti Summer Study and Do challenge? You definitely should. It’s going to be good.

3. I’m reading the book of Nehemiah right now with the She Reads Truth community. I did a quick read-through of the book a few weeks ago as I was anticipating reading through it slowly on my own. And yes, when I start a new book of the Bible during my daily time with the Lord, I typically do a quick reading of the entire book first for context before I slow it way down. But when I noticed the #shereadstruth plan was Nehemiah, I decided to read along with their 17-day plan (with the YouVersion app).

It’s been great so far, and I have been so encouraged by Nehemiah’s commitment to prayer through every life situation. He prayed boldly, fervently, specifically, expectantly, and often. Such a powerful example!

4. I’m going to see Iron Man 3 this weekend. What movies have you seen lately?

5. Happy Memorial Day weekend!