Sunday, February 21, 2010

Finding my Niche

I've been involved with a very active street evangelism team since about November 2006. The team goes out on the streets 1-2 times a week and also goes on up to 8 "away trips" (in various parts of the UK and Ireland) a year. I was so thrilled to be part of the team! People we meet on the street get the opportunity to hear the gospel and many pray with us to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus for their salvation. Joining this team caused a lot of friction with my immediate family and later on with some people in my fellowship but I motored on with it because it was obviously (to me) God's will for me to be involved in evangelism.

Then I burned out in February 2009.

I'd just finished a 3 week work experience placement teaching English and Religion in a secondary school. I was also going out on the streets most weeks and leading worship 1-2 times a week. My first ever trip to meet my then boyfriend's mother for the first time should have been a few days filled with joy and good fellowship. It was! But I was so exhausted and drained that I got sinusitus, which led to numerous, violent nosebleeds which freaked out my boyfriend and his mother. I ended up being brought to hospital and spending my time sleeping, crying and getting to know my boyfriend & his mum.

I've been out on the street in Dublin perhaps once in the past year. A good part of me was beating myself up for not getting involved in evangelism, the Great Commission. The rest of me was relieved that the tension between me and my family had started to ease, I didn't have to brave subzero temperatures for 4 hours every weekend and I got to sleep relatively normal hours on the weekend. It was only this week that any residual guilt I felt dissipated completely.

I've had the past week off from college and spend a few days sewing a couple of aprons and doing a good deal of ironing. I was talking to God while doing this and asking Him where I fit into the grand scheme of things. While I was really enjoying the sewing I did wonder whether it was a waste of time in the grand scheme of things? Surely plucking pre-believers from the dominion of darkness and leading them into the Kingdom of God was much more important? Then I felt God saying, "whatever you do, do it for My glory". I did a double take. How on earth could I iron or sew for the glory of God?!

My mind quickly turned to a brother in the Lord who spends so much of his time running a charity shop, doing deliveries, teaching and ministering that instead of doing his laundry and ironing he tended to buy new clothes. While I may not be directly involved in helping out with the shop, deliveries, etc. I realised that offering to wash and iron his clothes would help him by freeing up his time to do what God has gifted him to do and by saving money that he could spend elsewhere. This really excited me! I could help others to evangelise by being part of a support team, doing things to help them do what they do best.

I shared this revelation with my pastor's wife and she told me about a spiritually "dead" church she visited in the States 10 years ago. She didn't expect it to be there when she visited again this year but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was. As she thought about how and why it had survived despite the fact that no pastor survived in ministry there for more than 2 years (due to a pernickity board of elders) her attention was drawn to a ladies' group in the church. They meet once a week to pray and to sew care packages for babies in orphanages. She decided that the group's outward focus (prayer and meeting physical needs) had allowed the church not to become too insular but instead to thrive, albeit in an un-extraordinary yet steady manner. In contrast, a thriving youth-filled and vibrant church she encountered 10 years ago had disappeared without a trace.

I realised that I'm not running a 100-metre sprint but a life-long marathon. I can't save the whole world in a day. I can however employ my God-given gifts in freeing up other people's time to use theirs. I can also devote more time to serving God with my own gifts, e.g. leading worship, by not getting side-tracked with other activities I'm not suited to- I strongly maintain that I was not built to withstand wintry conditions outdoors for hours at a time!

I'm still part of the evangelism team, even though I don't often evangelise. I serve with my gifts and that glorifies God. I've found my niche!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Know the Plans I Have For You...

Was thinking about Jeremiah 29:11 a couple of nights ago.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end"
Most translations use the word "plans" instead of the KJV's "thoughts" and I wanted to see which one was more accurate. "Thoughts" to me doesn't seem to be as direct or as, well, planned as "plans", it seems to be more general, less regimented. So, as always, I checked out Strong's Concordance.

Strong's No. 4284: machashabah
a contrivance, i.e. (concretely) a texture, machine, or (abstractly) intention, plan (whether bad, a plot; or good, advice).

This didn't say all that much to me. Then I read that this word is derived from another word 'chasab' so I checked that up too!

Strong's No. 2803: chashab
a primitive root; properly, to plait or interpenetrate, i.e. (literally) to weave or (gen.) to fabricate; figuratively, to plot or contrive (usually in a malicious sense); hence (from the mental effort) to think, regard, value, compute:--(make) account (of), conceive, consider, count, cunning (man, work, workman), devise, esteem, find out, forecast, hold, imagine, impute, invent, be like, mean, purpose, reckon(-ing be made), regard, think.

I love that "thoughts"/"plans" is derived from a word that is linked to fabric: plait, weave, fabric. Knowing this gave me such peace. God is the master Weaver, patiently weaving together all the strands of my life. No thread is left unused, no matter how dull or insignificant it may seem. Nothing goes to waste in God's masterpiece.

"My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me
I cannot see the colors He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper and I the underside.

Not till the looms are silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver's skillful hands
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned."