At the Eleventh Hour

There is a parable about the master of a great vineyard. Early in the morning, he goes out seeking laborers to work for him. He finds some workers in the marketplace, they agree on a wage and head off to begin their work. It’s easy to focus on this first group; they bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat (Matthew 20:12.) We tend to highlight these individuals; the early bird gets the worm.

As the day wore on, the master continued to go to the marketplace to seek laborers. At the third, sixth and ninth hour, he added more workers. Only, with these workers, he sent them into the field without an agreed upon wage. They were simply promised that they would be given “what is right.” A person would certainly have to view the master as someone they could trust or else their labor may be in vain.

Finally, at the eleventh hour, the master returns to the marketplace. With only an hour left in the work day, there are still people roaming around. When asked why they had spent the entire day idle, their answer is heart-wrenching. “Because no one hired us,” they say. No one wanted them. They had stood unwanted and overlooked hour after hour.

I’ve often sympathized with the first ones hired. They were the ones in the vineyard bright and early. They worked the entire day in the heat of summer. Or, sometimes, I would admire the faith of those next few groups. The master chose them and they set to work without knowing how they would be compensated. They trusted him to be just in his dealings with them.

Yet, this time, as I read the passage (Matthew 20:1-16,) my heart was stirred for the last group – those chosen at the eleventh hour. I began to brainstorm all of the reasons that someone would be not chosen hour after hour.

Had they proven untrustworthy in the past? Were they too old, too young, too small? Was their strength, endurance or work ethic being judged based on their appearance? Did they show up late to the marketplace? Were they withdrawn and quiet? Did they fail to sell themselves properly? Perhaps, they didn’t know the right people.

And then I began to think about those who, today, may feel like they’re at the eleventh hour. They’ve watched as others seem to have been chosen to work in the vineyard – to serve the Master. The clock keeps ticking, others keep getting chosen and, still, they wait.

They wonder if they’re too bad or too broken to be used by God. Perhaps, they fear they’ve wasted too many years and it’s simply too late. Maybe others have come, given them the once over and deemed them unworthy. It could be that, at one time, they were the ones in the field at first light. Now, they find themselves in a different season and wonder if their usefulness is over.

In Philippians, Paul is weighing the pros and cons of remaining in the flesh or going to be with Christ. To be with Christ, he says, is far better. To remain in the flesh, however, means fruitful labor (Philippians 1:22.) If there is, at any point, no longer work for us to do, God will call us home. None of us remain here to simply stand idle in the marketplace and pass the time. If we are still breathing then there is, not just labor, but fruitful labor for us to do.

God has work for you to do. You are not too damaged, too old, or too far gone for Him to use. You are not too late to the party, too awkward or too much for Him. If you have ever wondered if God can use you, then let Matthew 20:7 encourage your heart.

He said to them, “You go into the vineyard too.”

He chooses you, too. If no one else in the entire world chooses you. If everyone else only sees your flaws. When others don’t even give you a second glance. When you look in the mirror and don’t see anything desirable. God chooses you, too.

Now, get out there and be fruitful.

You are loved. ❤

Stacy

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How to Claim Your Community for Christ

It doesn’t matter what your community looks like. Perhaps you live in a gated community. Maybe it’s a farming community. You could have been born and raised there or you could be new in town. It could be that you love where you live or not.  None of that really matters.

When the children of Israel were in exile, God had a word for them on how they were to conduct themselves. Keep in mind that this was definitely not home for them and they didn’t want to be there.

Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7 HCSB)

We are to love our communities. We are to seek the welfare of the places God has placed us. Here are three ways we can claim our communities for Christ.

A – Accept that unbelievers are going to act like unbelievers.

Seriously, friends, can we stop acting appalled and clutching our pearls when those who don’t know Christ act unChristlike? It is not our job to play the Holy Spirit. We will never guilt someone into accepting God’s grace.

I live in a community filled to overflowing with people struggling with brokenness. Many of them cling to the very thing that brings them pain, not because it’s fun, but because it’s familiar. They are afraid to pursue something different because what if, in the end, this really is all that life has to offer? Let’s be honest; that’s a real possibility.

Claiming our communities for Christ may just mean engaging someone who uses language we wouldn’t use. It most likely means getting to know someone who looks, thinks or acts quite differently from us. We have to get to know them so that they can get to know Him.

B – Be present in your community.

Let me be clear. I am an introvert’s introvert. I could, quite happily, spend the vast majority of my time in my home. Crowds make me nervous and, quite honestly, strangers make me anxious. So, when we moved to a small community about a year ago, I was nervous. New people. New places. New opportunities for rejection.

I am surrounded by poverty, addiction and a multitude of things I can’t fix. It has caused a lot of frustration for me. I don’t always understand what I’m doing here. Then, a couple weeks ago, I felt the Lord calm my spirit and say, “You’re over thinking this. I just want you to be present.”

I had to ask myself, “If I were to leave this community tomorrow, will my presence have made a difference?” I’m choosing to be present. I have scheduled checking my mailbox around when I knew a certain person walked by my house so that I could meet her. I made chocolate covered strawberries and delivered them to some ladies in town. I plan my walks around the neighborhood to pass by those folks I know will be sitting on their porches or in their yards. I’ve had neighborhood children into my home and baked birthday cakes for their mamas.

They’re small things, but not really.

C – Casseroles, Cakes, and Cookies, oh my!

Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. I’m here to tell you that so does cream of chicken soup. You take love and a good casserole and you have an opening into almost anyone’s life.

Look around your community. Who haven’t you met? Who, ahem, have you purposely not met? There isn’t any judgment here, friends. I have a list of people and a list of recipes. I’m setting a goal to meet some of them and I’m bringing food with me. A chocolate chip cookie never offended anyone. If you don’t believe me, you need to make these.

 

They’re divine; don’t forget to take some to that person on your list. I’m convinced that food, fellowship, and friendship are essential to claiming our communities for Christ.

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What have you done in your community?

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You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

4 Ways to Know You Have an Idol in Your Life

14305256_1737031053206700_2219233568440604115_oConfession time: I’ve had an idol or two in my day.

I’ve been reading in Isaiah the last several days and there is a constant theme of idols in the lives of God’s people. Perhaps, you think you can’t relate; it’s not like you’re carrying around a golden calf in your pocket. Or are you?

Many years ago, I was a working mom with a strong desire to stay home with my children. And, by strong, I mean a cry every Sunday night, stalk every stay at home mom on Facebook, imagine all the ways my children were going to suffer because I worked desire.

Then, after ten years of patient waiting, calm petitions, weeping and wailing, God granted my request. Here’s the thing, I love being home. In many ways, it’s everything I hoped. But, y’all, it comes with a whole different set of issues. It wasn’t the be all – end all that I believed.

Fast forward a couple years. I’d been blogging and writing my little heart out with my eye on the prize – my own book. It seemed like everybody and their mama had a book deal and I wanted it something awful. When someone chose to take a chance on me and offer me that opportunity, I was certain it was going be awesome in every way.

And it was. For a while.

All it took, for that idol to begin to crumble, was one person leaving a mediocre review. Not a bad one, mind you. Just meh. Some random somebody left a review that they really enjoyed the book, that it was a great addition to their morning Bible study, and the person gave it…2 Stars. In my flesh, I was offended. Seriously, what did they want it to do for them? Make their morning coffee as well?

Here’s the scary part; in the moment, I didn’t realize these things were idols. So, as I was reading through Isaiah, I began looking for idol signs – things that would be warnings for those of us who wish to avoid the pitfalls of idol worship.

FOUR WAYS TO KNOW YOU HAVE AN IDOL IN YOUR LIFE

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You are loved. ❤

Keep Your Hands and Feet inside the Ride at all Times

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I almost died last week. You might think that is an exaggeration but that’s only because you did not see the ring of death that I rode at the local Strawberry Festival. I don’t know if rides have gotten scarier or if I’ve just gotten older (okay, fine, I do know!), but there is no reason for an almost forty-year-old woman to be dangling upside down for a sweet forever.

My brother has always had this theory that you shouldn’t ride anything that can be put up and taken down in less than twenty-four hours. I used to think that was just fear speaking but, perhaps, it was wisdom at an early age. After all, as I was standing in line for the tilt-a-whirl, I did see the two workers have a pow wow in the corner. Then, one reached behind a curtain and pulled out a small bag of parts and proceeded to crawl under the ride. Were these the parts they had forgotten to put on? The “spares”, perhaps? Were they replacements for the parts that come off on the regular?

What would make a normally rational woman ride the ring of death fire? In my case, it was a little boy who rides the bus to our church on Wednesday nights. He came up to me as I was working a booth and begged me to ride this particular ride with him. He continued to check on me every thirty minutes to make sure I had not forgotten. So, at 6:00, I walked to my doom and rode the ride.

For the rest of the weekend, every time he saw me, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. He would yell over the noise of the rides and crowd, “You did it!” He’s right; I did it. But, I’ll tell you, it was frightening and uncomfortable.

God often calls us to frightening and uncomfortable scenarios. If you commit yourself to following Him, you may just find yourself hanging upside down trying not to embarrass yourself by begging the workers to stop the ride when all you wanted was a funnel cake.

The Strawberry Festival draws you in with the cotton candy and bright lights. You’ve already bought the armband and gotten on the ride before you realize the cost. Christ, on the other hand, is quite upfront.

Pick up your cross.

The world will hate you like it hated me.

Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.

You can never say that you weren’t warned. But, one day, when it’s all said and done, we will lay eyes on Jesus Himself. On that day, over the noise of the angels singing and trumpets blasting, He will yell, “You did it!” And you can know that, yes, it was often frightening and uncomfortable, but you did it.

Just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

 

 

When Buddying Up Leads to Betrayal

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Buddy System and what it looks like for grown women trying to walk it out. The fact is that we’re all a little broken and it’s just a matter of time before we cut one another. Often it’s the person closest to us that gets hurt the most or, on the flip side, who hurts us the most.

If you’ve ever experienced the betrayal of a buddy, you’ve probably thought one (or more) of these things:

  1. I must have picked the wrong buddy.
  2. I must have been a bad buddy.
  3. I won’t buddy up ever again.

We always seem shocked when someone lets us down, don’t we? Perhaps, we had our expectations a little too high. We expect people to understand us completely and to always behave like we want them to behave.

As I was reading through the gospel of Luke, I came across the passage where Jesus selects His apostles. At this point in time, He had thousands of disciples. {A disciple is simply a follower.} Out of the mass of followers, Jesus was ready to pick his inner circle. He was ready to buddy up, so to speak.

I must have picked the wrong buddy.

The first thing Jesus did, prior to choosing His apostles, was to pray. In fact, Scripture tells us that He prayed “all night” (Luke 6:12.) After spending the entire night speaking to and listening to His Father, Jesus selects the twelve men who will be His closest confidants. What I’m trying to convey to you is that Christ did not pick the wrong people. He buddied up with the exact men that God wanted. And yet…

When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:13-16) emphasis mine

Do you see it? Jesus prayed fervently and chose the men God told Him to choose and there, in the midst, was one who would betray. There are times when we buddy up with someone who will break our heart. We will invest in them and they will walk away. That doesn’t mean you chose the wrong buddy.

I must have been a bad buddy.

Can we all agree that Jesus was a perfect buddy? There was nothing He did to warrant Judas’ betrayal. Think about it. One night at dinner, Jesus announced that one of the apostles was going to betray Him.

And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:21

Did they all give each other a knowing look and give the side eye to Judas? No, they all were shocked and asking the Lord if it was them! Why? Because Jesus treated Judas just like every other disciple. He loved Judas like the others; He broke bread with Judas like the others. He washed Judas’ feet like the others!

Someone’s betrayal is not a reflection on you. Christ was the perfect buddy and, in the end, Judas still chose to be a traitor.

I won’t buddy up ever again.

It’s happened to all of us. We’ve been wounded by another woman and we’ve promised ourselves it won’t happen again. We aren’t playing this game anymore; we’re taking our ball and going home. No one will get that close to us again. It seemed to be all pain and no gain. Peace out, ladies, the buddy system isn’t for me.

The apostles certainly could have chosen that route. They had walked side by side with Judas. They experienced trials and triumph together. They were the chosen few and he had played them. One man short, they could have just tightened the circle a little and refused to allow another possible traitor to join their ranks.

The apostles must have been paying attention because they did what they had seen Jesus do. They prayed about who should take Judas’ place. They sought God’s will on their next buddy. They selected two men who had been with them from the beginning – someone who had been faithfully on the fringe for Jesus’ entire ministry. They presented the two names before the Lord and waited.

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen.” Acts 1:24 emphasis mine

They were brave enough to buddy up again. To risk betrayal again. To not place the sin of one man on every man that came after him.  They didn’t ask God for “a good buddy” this time. They simply wanted the one God had chosen.

Ministry is messy and there will be many who turn away. But those of us who are committed – we carry on. We link arms with another woman and keep moving. There is much work to be done.

You are loved!