This week I would like to highlight "Step+" (read, step plus). "Step+" is one of our five newly articulated values. You can examine all of our re-articulated values here.
We articulate it this way:
because simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.
Take some time to reflect with me:
Read Acts 8:26-27a
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
Answer this question:
When was the last time, in obedience to Jesus, you "started out" not knowing where your steps would take you?
One of the things that keeps us from joining Jesus in the work He's already doing is our failure to take the simple steps He prepares for us to take. We want to know how it will all turn out. I praise God that as this value gets lived out more and more, it will accelerate the impact of new life.
A "Step+ Story"
Some things have been transpiring in lifeGroup over the last couple of weeks that I wanted to share. God has been teaching me a lot lately (when I take time to listen) and I think this story might be encouraging for others.
The theme is listening to God and being obedient. :) Sorry it's long, but I have a lot of thoughts.
Regina (lifeGroup member) has been having a lot of joint pain lately so the doctor told her to try taking a hot bath, which normally would never happen because she is super busy mom of two. Her back was hurting so bad one night that she made time for her hot bath. She grabbed a book (The 5 Love Languages) from her nightstand and jumped in the tub. She was leading lifeGroup that week, and immediately God put on her heart to encourage us to be loving people (and she listened!). She challenged all of us to perform a random act of kindness for an enemy or a complete stranger (and she was obedient!).
The day before lifeGroup I still hadn't performed my random act of kindness. It is much easier to do an act of kindness for people you know rather than a stranger! I decided to use my lunch hour to walk around the Capitol Square and asked God to make it apparent what He wanted me to do, but in my heart I very much doubted something would just pop up. I wasn't even 1/2 block into my walk when my head immediately spun around (almost involuntary) to see a rough-looking young man sitting against the wall with a very dejected posture. I looked up at the sky and thought, "Really, God? You really want me to strike up a conversation with this guy?" I decided to play this little game with God: "Ok, I'll walk around the square one time and if he's still there after a lap, then I will know that you want me to talk to him." I made a lap and, yep, he's still there. I still had no idea how to approach him, so I started walking around and then sat on a bench about 20 feet away from him. As I was sitting there thinking, "Lord, how do I strike up a conversation with him?", a lady walking around the Capitol made eye contact with me, smiled and said, "It sure is a beautiful day, isn't it?" We proceeded to have a 5 minute conversation about the forecast and the cold Spring. "There you go, Michelle," says God. "That is how you start a conversation with a stranger." Okay, fine. I'll go.
So I walked up to the kid and said, "This is going to sound very strange but do you ever get the feeling that you are supposed to talk to someone? Because I really think I'm supposed to talk to you." "Ok," he said. I asked him where he's from, and he said Madison. I asked him what he's up to today, and he said he's waiting for someone to bring him some money so he can get a hotel room for the night and take a shower. I ask if he had a home and he said no; he had a court date soon because he has to go to jail. He looked like all hope had been sucked out of him.
When his girlfriend arrived with a pizza she seemed very unhappy I was there. After I explained that I was just saying hello, she still was not very happy, so I wished him luck with everything and continued on my walk.
These events are really amazing to me. While the ending isn't exactly spectacular, it has really opened my eyes. I've been making a conscious effort to be intentional about listening to God while going about my normal business. The whole point of my lunch was to walk around the square and LISTEN to Him and see people the way He sees them. And guess what? He spoke to me. It was plain as day that he wanted me to let that kid know that someone - even a stranger - cares about him. Then I didn't obey - I kept walking! And He still provided me with the stranger who struck up a conversation with me to show me that I could do it. And when I actually did it, the guy didn't freak out. It was obvious he wanted to tell his story to someone. Regina pointed out that if I had been immediately obedient, I would've had an extra 20 minutes with him and an opportunity to go even deeper into conversation than I was able to due to the pizza delivery.
Several other people were deeply affected by our lifeGroup's "random acts of kindness." First, my co-worker and fellow lifeGroup member Abbey came up to me with tears in her eyes the morning after we shared our stories. "Michelle, I made a very bad choice this morning! Every morning when I get off the bus the same homeless woman is on the corner. This morning she was sobbing, but I didn't stop to talk to her because I was worried about being late to work. I feel horrible - I should have talked to her." Two days before it wouldn't even have been on Abbey's heart to notice or think it was her place to talk to the woman! The next day when Abbey got off the bus, she followed up with the woman and asked if everything was okay.
The second story is that Leslie (our neighbor) has been volunteering at the Children's Museum to help out another lifeGroup member, Andrea. On our lifeGroup day, Leslie was going to drop off something at my house for Andrea to pick up, and Leslie waited to come until lifeGroup started! We invited her in for dinner and I prayed, prayed, prayed that God would open her heart to stay for Word time. After dinner, she said, "So what's the topic tonight?" I said we were going to continue to discuss our random acts of kindness and I told her about Regina's challenge to us. She stayed and got to hear all of our stories!
Maybe these events seem way more awesome in my heart than they actually are, but I really think it would be inspiring if stories like this could be shared frequently within our church. I'm so encouraged right now and I want others to be energized, too.
What a big lesson. If you listen, He will speak. If you obey, He will hold your hand. If you share, He will open hearts.