This was not an average vacation. Our thought as two pastors, husband and wife, was to go away and spend precious time together. Life sometimes becomes as if you are two ships passing in the night due to the busyness of life and ministry. This was to be about working on the disconnect that so often happens. It was Valentine's Day while away, and he, unbeknownst to me, had planned to have a photo shoot done for our 35th anniversary. For a man who will tell you himself that he is not a romantic, he did a pretty great job of surprising me! We spent the entire 2 weeks together talking about family, ministry and life in general. So why say "not your average vacation?"
I also reconnected with some spiritual truths or at least sights that precipitated me doing some contemplating about my Christian life.
When we first met with the photographer who would do the shoot, my eyes immediately went to her workspace. Although amazingly small, she had a huge poster on her file cabinet. I cannot tell you everything it said, but I noticed right away in bold letters the word BLESSED across it with a scripture verse. My first inclination that she was a Christian. I immediately questioned her about it and an entire story poured out. Denise, who is from the Philippines, spoke of a broken relationship that she had learned countless lessons from, the main one being that she knew she was unequally yoked. It ended but God then brought about an encounter with a young man who was a worship leader at a local church. She is now engaged and is centrally focused on what God has for them together. I was thrilled to find out that on the cruise ship there is a Bible study held each night for all of the staff who want to participate. A lifeline at sea! So the first lesson is that sometimes a simple display of our beliefs can bring about a conversation. Yes, we were already Christians, but how do we know what dialogues may take place on a daily basis if we display our connection with Christ in a place where all can see? In our workplace, in a piece of jewelry, anything that brings about inquiries can open a door.
Secondly, I learned to pray for others within my view. We had a day of downtime before we would fly back home so we drove to a local mall. I had purchased an inexpensive bracelet there before leaving for our trip and it had broken. Thankfully, the lady offered to replace it so I picked out a new one and made my way to stand in line. There were two women standing in front of me but to my surprise, I was hearing the voice of a man. It sounded as if it was coming from the floor and my thought was that obviously there was a man looking for something on the floor. As I glanced down, the view was of a man with no legs perched on a skateboard. Right away, I noticed his smile. Immediately, the Lord spoke to me to pray for him.
When we were at one of the ports, I had the opportunity for the first time to walk into a Louis Vuitton store. I am like almost any other woman. I love pocketbooks and jewelry. Never much of a shoe hoarder because of my bunions. I'm all into comfort these days. Anyway, after walking in as if I had the money to do so, I looked at a small purse much like one I had viewed a couple of weeks ago at a Kate Spade outlet. The Kate Spade one was $280.00. This one was $4230.00. I have a purse at home designed by Cristiano Serrano, which I purchased at Payless for $15.00. I kindly thanked the sales woman for answering my inquiry and walked out as though not interested. Neither the Louis Vuitton or the Kate Spade was in my reach financially, but what stood out was that they, along with the Cristiano Serrano, were all the same size and much the same colors. The only difference was the designer, the name displayed on the front. We tend to do the same with each other. We look on facebook or perhaps at the lady down the row from us at church and begin to size each other up. We think one looks more beautiful, smarter or better off than we. The makeup or the clothing on the outward tends to make us question the designer who created us. We begin to think that maybe we are a lesser brand. But how can we be? We all come from the same designer. I am a designer brand, unique in all my own wonderful ways. As women, it is so easy to be caught up in comparison, etc. My desire is not directed towards how to please everybody else or to wish for them to think well of me (a trap we can all get caught in). It is to be entirely consumed with thoughts of how I can do my Father's will.
"God, break my heart for what breaks yours." Driving back to our hotel, there was a thin man walking in between cars stopped at the red light. He held a styrofoam cup in one hand, extending it towards each driver or passenger as he walked by. I'm from a very small town of only 2500 in upstate New York. That is not a sight you behold every day. In fact, I have always said we can become very complacent when we are not viewing what Jesus sees. My heart broke and I began to cry as the man received no donations and continued his way across the parking lot of a gas station. God, please do not ever let me be insensitive towards mankind. I realize we cannot give handouts every time someone walks by but the purchase of a meal for someone can brighten a day. We are to be ready to show the love of Jesus Christ and the hope He brings. I saw another man carrying a comforter, apparently his only belongings. We don't know the reason someone becomes homeless, whether its's someone who has lost their job or due to mental health reasons. But I do know this...Jesus loves them! I saw a whole world of opportunity to minister in Fort Lauderdale Florida in one morning. There are places like that in New York too. I love what Revelation Church in the Bronx does. They go to a homeless shelter in the Bronx and not only bring testimonies and music but they also brighten the surroundings of that home by painting inspiration all around. Then the ladies are brought to the church and have makeovers, a meal and clothing. There is a runway built with lighting and all the trimmings. As those women strut down the walkway, the smiles that ADORN their faces could light up a room. Amazing! NYSUM, in Astoria, NY under the leadership of president Peter DeArruda and his wife Darleen (who attended Zion Bible Institute with me) are out there all the time doing outreach to the inner city. And while I am on my soapbox, even if you are in a small community, there are ways to do outreach. If we seek, we will find opportunities to minister.
Before we head home to NY, I have already had to deal with some minor issues with ministry this upcoming week. The insight I have gained this week has put everything in perspective though. Entitlement needs to be done away with and time with God has to be increased. It is not about me, it is all about Him! Not my average vacation. I am walking away rested and energized to pursue more of what God has for me to do.