Owwies Make You Stronger

This summer I made a new friend.

Three-year old Titus.

His father, Daniel, is one of the pastors leading the Urban Youth Outreach in Englewood – a gang-plagued, violence ridden neighborhood of Chicago.

A gregarious little guy, Titus loves to talk and play with his older sister Arielle and all of the other neighborhood children who flock to the outreach play yard. With his charismatic personality and gift for gab, Titus is surely an evangelist-in-training.

One morning as he mingled with our mission team he showed off his finger with a dangling bandage. He bravely peeled back the adhesive strip to show each person his “owwie” long enough for each one to commiserate with him.

After several people had gotten a good look at his wound he smiled confidently. “That’s O.K. because owwies make you stronger.”

Suddenly, innocence deafened the world’s cacophony that had dulled my ears.

Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Are you listening? I am speaking.”

A truth renewed.

Trials make you stronger.

Pain can be a stimulus for growth.

And when rooted in the Word and will of God, perseverance in trial brings hope.

And perhaps most importantly, as children of God, we are never alone in our sufferings.

Years ago, I endured a season of brokenness. I felt completely worn. As my young daughter lay in the hospital, critically ill with a failing heart I searched the scriptures for a word to sustain me. God did not disappoint. He led me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; (just breath, child, He whispers)

perplexed, but not in despair; (don’t over analyzeinhale my peace)

persecuted, but not abandoned (relax in my love, I am right beside you)

struck down, but not destroyed (my hand will lift you up, I will protect you).”

The word of truth forever sealed in my heart.

Trials hurt.

But Love heals.

Love is waiting. Embrace the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Signals

This morning as I was driving down a two lane road I encountered a road repair crewman standing in the middle of the intersection. In his right hand was one of those two-sided signs that said SLOW on one side and STOP on the other.

The side that said STOP was facing me, so I did.

However, in complete contradiction to the sign he was holding, the crewman began to motion that I should make a left-hand turn.

I looked to my left and spied a line of cars creeping forward. Should I choose to follow his command, I was positive a collision was in my immediate future.

Thinking he must be confused, I sat still.

When I didn’t move he began gesturing even more emphatically. It was now obvious that even though he was holding up the STOP sign, he meant for me to turn left in front of all those other cars.

Hoping that he knew what he was doing I made the turn. It wasn’t until I was halfway through the turn that I saw another man holding a sign for the oncoming traffic to halt. My view of him had been obscured by a large piece of paving equipment.

It got me to thinking – isn’t that what faith is all about? Following God’s lead when everything in the natural tells you to turn around.

Sometimes the world’s perspective is telling you to stop. Those insidious lies that sneak into our heads say:

There’s no way you can do this. 

It’s completely beyond your skill set.

If you try, you’re going to fail.

And yet the voice of truth whispers:

Go on, I’m right here with you.

A path has been cleared, I’m making your ways straight.

You can do all things when you lean on my strength.

Each day I’m given a new chance to walk in the light or cower in the shadows. I can choose to ignore what the world says about me to rest in the promises God has for my life.

Ultimately, I can view the stop signs of this world’s as an opportunity. An opportunity to make an unexpected turn, while trusting that the signs of life are straight ahead.

 

 

Pooh Man and Baby J

Immersed in the task of scraping filth from the kitchen floor, an audience of two suddenly appeared. As I looked up, two pairs of inquiring eyes peered in from the open door.

Pooh Man and Baby J

It was Englewood and here in the ‘hood nobody used their given names.

The two brothers lived downstairs from the apartment we were cleaning and painting for the Chicago Urban Youth Ministry. They had heard the racket we were causing and had come upstairs to investigate.

After inviting them in, I learned that Pooh Man was ten and brother Baby J was six. They were very curious about what I was doing on the kitchen floor with a putty knife. After explaining that I was scraping up the grease and dirt left behind so somebody else could move in they were eager to help me.

We became fast friends in the fight against grime.

I showed Baby J how to position the scraper against the floor and with my hand over his we applied steady pressure to plow up the layers of grease. Each time we managed to move some of the sludge I would say, “That’s so disgusting!”  Baby J would gleefully echo, “Disgusting!” in the way that all little boys do when they revel in getting dirty.

As we worked, we played games and told riddles. Practiced spelling words and addition facts. Every answer, correct or incorrect, received praise and encouragement. That morning I knew I was there to work on the apartment, but recognized that my divine assignment was to lavish love and encouragement on those two beautiful little boys.

As our rapport grew, Pooh Man told me about his family. One of his brothers had passed as a result of the violence in the neighborhood. Another was in jail. He spoke about it without emotion as if it was another ordinary fact of life.

The following day we returned to the apartment to bless it. Pooh Man and Baby J tore up the stairs to join our prayer circle. As we held hands and prayed aloud the Spirit of God descended upon us like a cloud. When I opened my eyes, Pooh Man’s tear-filled eyes were locked onto mine.

And I can’t get them out of my mind.

That little one, hair full of dreads, pants hung low, will never know how deep a place has been burrowed into my heart for him.

But God knows.

So I will continue to lift up prayers of intercession that the God of this city will rescue him.

And I am confident.

Confident that God who loves this child and every other child with an all-consuming love will hear my cries and answer.