The DO-ing part: phase 1

During the first week of our read-along of the book of James, we’ve been challenged not only to read the words of the scripture, but to actually do what James says to do: DO WHAT IT SAYS.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (v.22)

There are many instructions for us to follow throughout scripture, some of which are not explicitly clear or can be applied different ways. But this one is pretty clear…no matter the command, James reminds us to DO what it says! Seems overly simple, but although I have read the bible and have a fairly good understanding of it, I admit that I still find myself daily failing at that tiny little detail of doing what it says. There’s that darn obedience thing again, right?

In fact, James pretty much tells us we’d be idiots not to do what the Word says. He says that a person who just listens to the Word of God but doesn’t do what it says is like a person who looks at his face in the mirror then walks away and forgets what he looks like. (v. 23-24.) I don’t know about you, but a person like that would seem pretty daft to me.

So, my daftness aside, I’ve come to a realization. I am the queen of trying to be an overachiever. (Lord help me with those “mmmm-hmmms” that I’m getting right now just from admitting this publicly!) I have a hard time just saying no to people.  I have a tendency to jump head-first into something without a lot of prayer, then I realize I’ve bit off more than I should have, then I can’t do my best at whatever it is, then I get grumpy and run-down, then I’m all bitter for having ever done the thing in the first place. What is that about!? For some reason I always feel like I have to do the biggest and best thing, and I end up ignoring all the little things along the way that really make up the person I am supposed to be. (You have no idea how hard this is for me to be confessing right now….ugh) So the whole big-shebang is not the point. The big events aren’t what make me who I am.  I’m starting to see that the little, everyday moments– the everyday choices that I make– are the actual threads that make up the fabric of my life. So I can sew a big flashy decoration on it if I want, but if the fabric is bad, nothing pretty and shiny will hold anyway.

So, of course when I read the challenge to share what I plan to do to become a DOer, and not just a HEARer of the word, my mind went to all this big stuff about studying for hours every day and starting a big prayer thing and all this other business. But God was so gracious to shut off that line of thinking for just a second and make me breathe. He’s nudging me in the direction of this to-do list instead:

  • Ask God for a bit of wisdom each day before I do something, instead of wondering later if I should have done it
  • Be slower to speak (that’s going to be a tough one!) and more eager to listen (equally tough for me!)   
  • Write letters to both of our sponsored girls this week, Zoila in Guatemala and Donna in India  
  • Spend some time with my mom, without any other reason to visit.
  • Keep a tighter rein on my tongue, by not participating in gossip or other negative talk when the opportunity presents itself (I’m pretty sure I already blew it this one, but I’m hitting the reset button)

What are you planning to do to become a DOer?

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Can you hear me now?

So, I finally took some time tonight to catch up on an amazing little blog that I can’t even recall how I discovered, written by a local author by the name of Marla Taviano, who seems pretty darn amazing herself. I’ve been reading one of her books lately, entitled Is That All He Thinks About?: How to Enjoy Great Sex With Your Husband (way more on that later!) and I must say, I am enjoying the way that through her writing, this lady just brings it —the truth, that is— in a way that is  gentle but also a little bit in-yo’-face when it needs to be. Now I don’t know her personally, but she just seems very….real.  That’s my kinda gal.

Anyway, she’s decided to invite folks to do a read-along of the book of James, starting this week. Now, I mentioned to her once through a comment on her blog that I was a little freaked out by how timely some of her posts have been for me recently. You know that weird feeling when you’ve been thinking of something for a while and all of a sudden the whole universe  seems to confirm your thoughts and point you in the direction you need to go? Well that’s happened a few times recently through this little lady’s blog, among other things, and seeing this invitation to read through the book of James, it’s happening again.

I’ve been pondering what to read next in just about every way.  I’ve been shuffling back and forth through the pages of my bible lately, not really giving myself to one particular book or topic. I have several professional books that I’ve recently purchased and I’m trying to figure out which one will give me the most bang for my buck, since my personal reading time just got slashed by about a million percent when school began a couple of weeks ago. (FYI: A workaholism post will be following soon…maybe.) My book club just finished up an awesome novel and we’re looking for a new book to read…should we do another novel or try another book that is more life-application-ish?? The decisions…

Well, at least one of those decisions has been made for me. Whether or not this will be a book club pick or not, I know I’ve got to do this read-along. Because all these little road signs and nudges have been pointing to something to do with this verse, what I like to call the second scariest verse in the bible:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Guess where it hails from? The book of James. Mmmmm-hmmmmm. Anyone joining me?? If so, check out the details and introduce yourself over at Marla’s blog here.  

I know I’m not good at it, God, but You’ve got me listening, and that’s a start, right?  I am listening.

Obedience: I’m in love, again.

I met a new friend today. His name is Danny. I’m in love.

It’s okay, you can tell my husband. I plan to.

It started when I saw him this afternoon, while I was out and about going several different places across the city in a [failed] attempt to buy some new clothes. Not because I’m running around threadbare or naked. Not even close. (You’re welcome.) I just like to buy a couple of new things each year when school starts. You know, new school clothes.

So in all my driving around I was downtown near the arena district when I spotted my new love. There he was, in the afternoon sun, wearing what appeared to be the same clothes he’d worn for days. His scraggly beard was fairly long. He was missing several teeth (which I could tell from quite far away) and he was at least 5 inches shorter than me.

PERFECT.

However, it was not exactly love at first sight. It was more like love at first nudge. I was in my car, coming up to a red light and in the middle lane. He was standing on the sidewalk to my right, slowly walking. His sign said “Homeless and very needy. Please help.” I watched him from the corner of my eye for just a couple of seconds. I could see the disappointment and a little speck of disdain on his face as every driver and passenger kept their eyes starkly facing forward as he walked by, refusing to acknowledge what they’d surely already seen.

A person. A man. A man in need of something. In need of something so badly that he resorted to begging anyone –everyone– to help.

That’s when I heard our love song. Cranking in my car at that exact moment was:

Your love, Your love/ the only thing that matters is/ Your love, Your love/it’s all I have to give

Your love/ is enough/ to light up the darkness/ It’s Your love, Your love/ All I ever needed is Your love

I knew then that I was his answer, at least for that day. God wanted to use me to deliver some love and maybe even provide him with the means to eat that day. So I started to reach for my purse, to get some money out. The light turned green. All the cars around me started to move and I needed to get over. No one was even thinking about acquiescing to my turn signal. I was starting to create a line of angry drivers who were behind me since I was inconveniencing them by making a last-minute decision to change lanes. It was annoying, I admit. So I hit the gas pedal and moved forward onto the freeway ramp I was right in line for. I had a moment, just a moment, where I thought well, it wasn’t meant to be since I wasn’t able to get to him quickly enough. I’ll pray for him. Then…

Why worry about someone’s soul but don’t bother to give them a basic need when you know you can?

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. (James Ch.2, the kinda-ghetto Krysten version)

I thought about all the other songs I’d listened to that day while I was out and about doing my thing. The lyrics shot through me light lightning bolts, one right after another.

I want more of you, God…

        I’ve found a love greater than life itself….

                     No place I’d rather be/ than here in Your love…

                                         Nothing can tear us from/ the grip of His mighty love…

                                                            He lavishes His love upon us/ He calls us now his sons and daughters…

                                                                        We’ve only glimpsed/ His vast affection/ heard whispers of/His heart and passion…

So I DID pray, but not for the man. I prayed that he would still be there so I could go do what I knew God was asking of me.  (So I guess I was praying for myself?) I got off at the next exit. I turned around. I got back on the freeway. I spotted my man and found a place to park. I walked toward him and was keenly aware of all the confused and frightened scares of the people in the cars when they realized I was talking right up to him.

I tapped him on the shoulder and told him how happy I was that he was still there. (again, was this for me?)

He smiled his toothless smile and hugged me.

I told him I saw him a little earlier but couldn’t get to him, but that I’d turned my car around and came back so I could come give him some money to help him through the day.(Why did I tell him that? What did I expect, a medal!?)

And you know what he said?

He said: “Well, you didn’t have to do that! All you had to do was love me!”

ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS LOVE ME.

He told me his name was Danny. We talked for a while about how the weather was nice even though it was hot, and how his back hurt and how he just sleeps any place he can find, and how he knows the people who owned the building he was standing near but they don’t have anywhere for him to stay in there. He hugged me three times and introduced himself twice in the span of 5 minutes.  He’d been on the streets for 25 years. YEARS.

I told him I would look for him again, and I will. I told him I would be praying for him to stay safe and for his back to heal. And I will. He was so thankful to hear that, of all things.

The whole experience took less than 15 minutes, surely. But he will last forever whether I see him again or not. I’d been wondering lately if I’ve been obedient to God, I mean anytime recently. I’d seen such beautiful pictures painted in several lives around me, of just pure obedience and the lovely results that follow. I couldn’t remember the last time I was obedient to a nudge from the Spirit. I’d asked Him to bring something to mind so I could remember it, but  God was gracious enough to do me one better…. He gave me a new opportunity to be obedient to his voice. It’s almost romantic.

All I had to do was love him, he said.

Done.