abounding in steadfast love

Living it and Giving it

Two Lives, One Purpose

A mature, widowed woman. A single Hispanic mother of two young daughters. Two women brought together to serve and to connect in a way no one would have imagined. Theirs is a story that keeps on telling.

The widow calls my office at church. She was cleaning out some things and came across bags of material she had purchased when she had once sewn for her grandchildren. They were older now and she no longer sewed for them. She would love to give the material and patterns to someone who could use them. I knew of a couple of women who had little girls and would enjoy receiving such a gift, so I told her to bring it to my office and I would pass it on.

A few days later, one of our Hispanic members came by my office to invite me to her daughters’ birthday party. I knew she was a seamstress. She even was working as one. So I asked her if she would like the material and patterns. I was pleased I had thought of her as she has two beautiful little girls that I just knew she would want to sew dresses for them.

Her reaction was immediate. With tears in her eyes, she grabbed my arms and said, “This is an answer to my prayer!”

She then proceeded to tell me she had been laid off from her job and she had been asking God to show her what she could do to earn money for her family. She was overwhelmed in that moment as she received her answer to prayer. I felt so happy as I took the bags of material to her car for her and we loaded them up along with the girls.

But this is only the beginning of this story.

As I related the details of what had happened to another friend, he looked at me thoughtfully and said he would like to purchase the dresses our friend would create and then he wanted to send the dresses with our mission team that was going to Nicaragua. I was so excited! The young Hispanic mother could make money while staying home and caring for her children. What a win-win!

But that was not all.

My friend not only wanted to buy the dresses, but he wanted to give them to a young, single woman we knew in Nicaragua who sold clothing on the streets to provide for her family. She could then use that money to buy food.

Excitedly, I called my friend to tell her she had already sold several dresses! And they would be worn by little girls in Nicaragua! Inspired, the young mother began creating.

When she brought the finished dresses to bible class to show me, she told me that as she sewed each outfit, she prayed for the little girl who would wear it. When she was finished, she laid her hands on the dress and prayed that the girl who wore it would grow into a strong, Christian woman who loved the Lord.

Meanwhile, the thoughtful widow was so moved by what was happening, that she went and bought new patterns to pass on and found more material. “You have lit a fire under me,” she said. “Maybe this is my purpose right now.”

It was a special moment when I introduced my two friends to each other. Two women at opposite ends of life, but joined together by a strong bond. Two women who were changing the lives of little girls they would never meet. Two families blessed by one man.

One God who uses us to bless others in small and in big ways.

Give Me Your Eyes

How is your eyesight?

Do you see who lives near you? Our church is located in an ever-changing community. We can see it in our area businesses. There are Hispanic and Arabic markets on Richards Road. A strip of stores and businesses on Antioch Pike are all Korean. At the corner of Haywood Lane and Linbar Drive are other Hispanic stores including a bakery. Drive through Apollo Apartments or any of the streets behind our building.

What do you see?  Do you see a diverse community of people?  Do you see different skin colors, hear different languages, and smell different foods? If you take the time to look around our community, you will see people who have lived here all their lives and people from far away countries. You will see people who have come to this country to live a dream, or to escape persecution. You will see people trying to own their first home and you will see those who are homeless.

Whoever they are, they are all fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator. Many are lost and are seeking. These are the people we see in our stores, on our streets, in our church. They are our neighbors, our children’s classmates, our co-workers. They are people sitting next to you on Sunday morning. Meet them. Talk to them. Not sure what to say? A smile is understood in every language.

It is so easy to stay in our own groups and simply ignore those who are different from ourselves. We may feel uncomfortable. But if we truly want to live out the Greatest Command given to us by Jesus himself in Matthew 22:37-40, then we must “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” To do this, we must reach out. We must, because He tells us to.

One of my favorite songs, “Give Me Your Eyes”, is by the contemporary Christian singer Brandon Heath. The words are:

“Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so I can see

Everything that I keep missing

Give me your love for humanity

Give me your arms for the broken hearted

Ones that are far beyond my reach.

Give me your heart for the ones forgotten

Give me your eyes so I can see.”

Yes, Lord, give us your eyes, so we can see what is already there.

Change

Change.

Most of us do not like it. We like things to stay the same. It feels safe. It feels comfortable. It feels predictable.

But change occurs. We get married. Children are born. Our health changes.  We experience the death of loved ones. Jobs come and go.  Children grow up. We move.

Life continually changes.

Antioch, Tennessee began as a small community in 1810. It was a farming community throughout the 1960s, experienced a burst of growth in the 1970s for blue-collar families, and in the past two decades has grown into a large international community.  The Antioch we see today has changed dramatically. Today we can meet people from Iraq, China, Honduras, Mexico, Jordan, Cuba, Somalia, Cambodia, or from any of the 70 countries represented in our community.   Most of us never knew a Muslim growing up. I am still amazed when I go into a store in our community and I am the only Caucasian, English-speaking person there. These are big changes!

But there is one thing that remains constant through all of these changes:  God. He does not change. His Word does not change. His love does not change. His commands do not change. He tells us to love Him and to love others. He calls us to make disciples of all the nations, to baptize them, and to teach them.  He equips us for every good work. We have many opportunities to meet and to minister to our community. One way is when we teach them an important life skill—how to speak English.

What a golden opportunity to show God’s love and to connect with our neighbors! As we welcome our community into our building on Monday and Wednesday nights, we have many volunteers who serve by teaching, setting up tables, working our check-in stations, providing childcare and snacks for our children, and helping in many other ways.

We help because we want to serve our community.We want to share Jesus’ love through this service. We want to put action to our faith.

And when some of our students visit us on a Sunday to worship God, they know we care. They know they are welcome.

God has brought the world to Antioch. Our community has changed, but our mission has not.

A Life Well Lived, a tribute to my grandfather

My grandfather lived for almost a hundred years. A century. During that time, Hayward Burden was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a great-great grandfather. He was also a carpenter, a lover of Beagles, a good neighbor and devoted to his family. He was a husband of 70 years to one wife. What a great example he was of love, honor, devotion, and commitment.

And what a blessing that my Pappaw lived to see his children grow up, marry, and then to know his six grandchildren. He saw us grow up and have children and become parents. He even was able to see some of his grandchildren become grandparents.

In 1917, when Pappaw was born, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States. He lived through the presidencies of Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush,  and Obama.  Yep—19 presidents! Much has changed in this world since 1917. But for Pappaw, some things never changed.

He loved my Mammaw. I remember a few years ago visiting them and how they laid in bed beside each other holding hands. He loved his “Polly.” It is actually difficult to separate my memories of him from Mammaw.  It has always been Mammaw and Pappaw. They were One. He died with his wedding band on his finger—where it had been for 70 years.

The love he had for his family never changed. Aunt Pat told me how every week, when she and Dad were kids, even before Pappaw was a Christian, he insisted on a “family day.” It was usually on Sunday afternoon and they would go to the park, have a picnic or go skating. His kids just remember that whatever they did, Pappaw joined in the fun. And he did not change as a grandfather. My sister, Luanne, remembers that Pappaw did not just sit by and watch us when we were kids. He joined in the fun and played with us.

Pappaw participated in life. Whether it was building something, playing with his beloved Beagles, talking about his Beagles to Ryan, hunting, being “Third Pappaw” to the neighbor kids or visiting with his grandkids, he was not one to sit still for long.  He never met a scrap of wood he didn’t like.  The man could make anything out of a piece of wood!

And boy, could he tell stories! I loved hearing about his life as a newlywed, living through the Depression, doing whatever jobs he needed to do to provide for his family, stories about my other grandfather, who he loved and thought of as a best friend.  Pappaw could tell a story and then tell it again. And sometimes stretch that story just a little bit! : )

When I think of Pappaw I think of someone who lived his faith. He put action to his words. It began as a young man in the 1930s working for President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCCs). He earned $30 a month and sent $25 to his family. As a father, he took care of his family. He worked far away from his family to earn money and to provide for them. He helped others. If you told him you liked something he would give it to you. He had a big heart. When his church needed a new building he was right there every day helping to build it.

Whether he realized it or not, Pappaw did exactly what we are instructed to do in the book of James: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” When Pappaw looked in the mirror, he remembered what he looked like. He did what the Word said to do. He was an example of faith and action.

He left us a rich legacy. When his great-granddaughter, Jessi Lei, was told that Pappaw had gone to live with Jesus, she put her hands up in the air and said, “Yea!” You’re right, Jessi, “Yea! Pappaw is with Jesus!”

And he is also with Mammaw–his beloved Polly. I can’t help but smile when I think of Mammaw and Pappaw together again, holding hands. And him singing their song to her.

                      “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

                       You make me happy when skies are gray.

                       You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.

                       Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

We will miss Pappaw until we see him in Heaven, but we can be joyful in knowing that he is with his “Sunshine” again.

It’s Love Week in Antioch

Antioch Love Week. A week of covering our community in love. What a week it is! I had hoped to write each day, but I have been too busy “doing!”

In just five days we have served over 400 hours doing service projects in our community. We have read books at four different elementary schools, taken food and visited people at our local hospital, volunteered at and taken donations at a local thrift store (who will give us credit so we can purchase coats this fall to give away at our Coated in Love), provided encouragement and refreshments for our ESL students during their test week, hosted a fundraising dinner for 400 of our closest friends to pay medical costs for a sweet girl in Honduras, taken food to widows, visited police and fire fighters and taken them meals, given homemade cookies to voters who came to vote at our building, and hosted Room in the Inn providing food and shelter for a dozen homeless men. And we aren’t at the weekend yet.

It has been a blessing to serve at many of these projects. It has also been a blessing to serve with many of my brothers and sisters. Sometimes we get so busy living life that we don’t see what is going on around us and who is around us. This week I have been encouraged to see how many people want to serve our community. They are doing it because they care. They are doing it to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

What I know so far this week is that we are making a difference in our community. There is much to do, but we are doing it. We aren’t just talking about it. The next two days will be exciting. I can’t wait to see how God will use us.

Love.

It’s all about LOVE.

A Lesson Outside of the Classroom

The weatherman said snow was coming. It should reach us between 6 and 8 pm. Another said between 8 and 10 pm. English Classes begin at 7 pm. After two years in a row of snow beginning to fall during class time and then getting stuck in it, I decided to cancel classes and be on the safe side. I tried to call every student (which is no small feat since we have almost 100 students!) to tell them class was canceled. Just in case, I posted a sign on the outside door in English and Spanish alerting everyone that there would be no classes that night.

So at 6:30 I packed up to leave. As I approached the outside door, I saw someone looking through the window. The closer I got, I saw two other smaller heads bobbing up and down. I recognized the Hispanic woman as one of our students, Juanita. Her two elementary age children were with her and another child was tucked inside a stroller and topped with several blankets. When I opened the door she looked confused. She had not received my message that classes were canceled, so I explained it to her. She was obviously disappointed.

I looked around and did not see a car. Her son said they had walked. Instantly I offered to take them home in my car. Although she hesitated, Juanita finally nodded and followed me to my car. We loaded the stroller into my trunk and strapped the kids into the back seat. We chatted as we traveled. Juanita asked about our church. I could tell she knew very little about it, so I told her about us. She asked why we taught free English Classes. This is always my favorite part! I told her we did it to share the love of Jesus with our community. She was silent and I could tell she was thinking about what I had said.

As we drove, I was very aware of the darkness surrounding us. I noticed the side streets we traveled and the railroad tracks we had to cross. I noticed the cars speeding by. As we approached the trailer subdivision where they lived I thought of how far we had already traveled. Then we drove another half mile to their home.

As I pulled into their driveway I asked Juanita if she walked to class every week. Yes, her husband worked, so every Monday and Wednesday night she packed her baby into the stroller, bundled up her other two, and walked to class to learn English. “I need to learn English,” she simply stated.

After inviting them to worship with us on Sunday, I helped everyone out and said I would see them Wednesday night at English Class. I apologized again that they had to walk to class when there was no class. Everyone smiled and said it was o.k. I offered to find a ride for them in the future, but they said they did not need that. They could walk.

As I drove away I realized this family walked almost two miles each way twice a week. In the dark. In the cold. To learn English.

The snow never came that night. It was o.k. I believe I had a divine appointment that night. It was a reminder of the importance of what we do. And why we do it. That night I was the student, and it was humbling, indeed.

It’s Not A Game

Ever play “Word Association”? You know, where you are given a word or a phrase, then you have to say the first thing that pops into your mind. If someone says “yellow”, then I think of “sunshine.” Or if someone says “sand” I might say “beach.” If someone said, “Antioch church of Christ,” what would be your response?

Recently one of our Hispanic members was talking to a group of people from the Latino community in our neighborhood. She mentioned something about her church and one of the people in the group asked her where she went to church. When she told them “Antioch church of Christ” they did not know where it was. She told them it was located at the corner of Antioch Pike and Richards Road.

“Oh, the big church with the big white steeple,” one of them said. “We didn’t know the name of that church, but we know about it. They are always helping people.  We just call it the “Good Samaritan Church.”

Our sister said she had tears in her eyes as she proudly told them that she was a member of this church.  Antioch church of Christ–Good Samaritans. It’s how our neighbors see us.

Around the World in Antioch, Tennessee

Want to meet people from Egypt? How about from Kosovo or Eritrea? Would you like to know folks from Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, or Haiti? How about meeting people from 47 countries? No travel documents needed–just come to Antioch church of Christ on a Monday or Wednesday night and meet some of our English Class students.

In the past six years we have had students attend from these countries:

Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and French Canada.

Last night we began our winter session. We welcomed 136 students and children to our classes. One class has 20 students with 14 different countries represented. At the heart of these classes are our caring and serving teachers. They are all volunteers who give their time and energy to teach the immigrants in our community. Why do they do it? Not for the monetary gain (as there is none!) and certainly not for the prestige. They do it because they simply love God and love others.  They don’t just “go” to church, they ARE the church! Thank you ESL teachers and staff for being the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.

It is easy to say you believe. It is more difficult to put action to your words. When you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, then you want to love your neighbor as yourself. You take to heart God’s words in Leviticus 19:34:  “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

So we welcome our community into our church building and into our hearts. We teach, we learn, we connect. We love.

God has brought the world to Antioch.

What an exciting, amazing time to live here and to serve our God!

The Face of “Reaching Out”

As Christians we often have a distorted, or incomplete view of “outreach.” We look at outeach as a program or as an event. We think of going door-to-door and inviting people to come to a meeting, or an event. We plan wonderful activities and invite our community to join us. These are all great efforts and are a part of outreach. But sometimes outreach is simply reaching out.

No plan.

No program.

Just being Jesus.

That is what happened to my  friend at Aldi’s Supermarket. She was leaving the store on foot, and a woman drove up beside her and offered her a ride home. At first, she declined, but then feeling the weight of her purchases, decided to get in the car. The driver seemed pleasant enough. As soon as my friend was buckled in, the driver handed her a Bible and asked her if she had a relationship with Jesus. My friend honestly replied, “Not really.”

So on the short drive home, this Good Samaritan shared the Good News of Jesus with my friend. When they arrived at their destination, the woman gave my friend the Bible, her phone number, and an invitation to go to church with her the next Sunday. My friend took all three.

After attending church and studying her Bible, my friend gave her life to Christ and was baptized. She is the first person in her family to follow Jesus. She continued to study her Bible and was troubled because some things at the church were not lining up with what she was reading. Something was missing.

One Saturday, she heard about a coat giveaway at an area church. She needed a warm coat this winter, so she went. As she was sitting in our auditorium and waiting for her number to be called, I sat down and visited with her. I found out she wanted to attend English classes. I made an appointment with her to apply for class. She came and applied and we talked some more. I invited her to church.

She came the next Sunday, and has attended every Sunday since then. She is in a solid Bible study. She sang with us at a nursing home during Christmas. She participates in a Life Group. She helped at Room in the Inn. She has brought a visitor.

She has found the missing piece. She wants to place membership with us and be a part of our family.

Outreach.

Reaching out.

Living like Jesus.

His Steadfast Love

I see it everywhere. God’s steadfast love is in the faces of my family, my friends, my community, my church. For several years I have written about what I have seen God doing in the multi-cultural community where I work and serve at www.antiochcofc.org/lisasblog. I will continue to share the wonderful stories of God’s steadfast love I see daily in my community. I may write about some other wonderous things I see as well. I will also repost some of my favorites from the past as they are a great reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Today I just want to remind us that “the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8)

Praise His Holy Name!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: