Monday, January 25, 2016

Glittering Luminaries or Lighthouses?

Six years ago this month God started orchestrating circumstances in my life that led to a life change. A big one. I'd worked and studied hard for 10 years in my career, and even earned letters after my name (CFP) to help set me apart in the professional world. But my faith told me God had something else entirely in mind for my future. I prayed Proverbs 3:5-6 often for several months. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to him, and he will make your path straight. Make my path straight, Lord. I took a trusting step into the area of family ministry, which I'd never really even considered as a career path before. God is faithful. Since then, he's used my imperfection to work through me in ways I never anticipated. My hangers of business skirts now sit mostly untouched, and after a busy family dinner night at church, I realize my sweaters are decorated with spaghetti sauce. But really, I made the career change in faith and haven't looked back.

Friday night my husband Chad's start up company was nominated for an award in our community at Innovation Celebration. Innovation Celebration is not merely an award for accomplishment, but a benchmark of success for those outstanding individuals, organizations and corporations who are nominated and selected to receive this prestigious award. At some point in the evening, I believe the attendees were described as "glittering luminaries" in the local business and university community. Whether awards and success come or not, I'm always proud of Chad, his team, and their hard work. It was really nice to see them honored. Award recipients included a doctor who is working to cure cancer, teams of scientists whose technology developments we barely understood from the descriptions printed in the program, visionaries who are working 10 years ahead of their companies to drive improvement and technological advancement. Really cool stuff. The live band played in the beautiful performing arts center. Fancy hors d'oeuvres were served. The luminaries mingled.

My handsome date and me at Innovation Celebration

Then, the tickle of insecurity hit. A woman exactly my age was honored for her work with students at the University. I'm not a part of this world anymore. Where would I be if I hadn't left the business world? I work with a great team of hard working, God loving, faithful servants who are on staff at the church. None of us will probably ever stand up to accept an award in the business community for our professional accomplishments. 99.8% of the time I think we're ok with that. But there are those moments when it hits home that we're working toward a different goal entirely. One the world doesn't understand.

Sunday morning, I'd swapped my party dress for pants, as I knew I'd be sitting on the floor with the grade schoolers. At church, the hallways were hopping. Sickness struck several of our Sunday school teachers, but the kids seemed to be more than well (except for the little boy with the constantly running nose!) so our pinch hitting teachers had full classes. We had several new children visiting for the first time, two of which spoke very little English. I was responsible for teaching Children's Church, our program for K-3rd graders during the sermon portion of our morning worship time. Within 2 minutes, I'd sent out a helper for my back up reinforcement. Some of the key components for teaching the lesson were missing, which I didn't discover until there were 15 little faces watching me. It was just that kind of morning. I was not feeling like a glittering luminary.

Then, it happened. I glanced over at the chalkboard, and realized I could draw the lesson for the kids. They engaged with the simple story aid I brought. Apparently you can fascinate some children by giving them a poppy seed/substitute mustard seed! During a time they have for reflection, I pointed one little 2nd grade girl toward a beautifully illustrated book of devotional thoughts I thought she might enjoy. She's an inquisitive thing, who sometimes comes across to me as a skeptic. Her family is here from another country for a time. I am constantly amazed by these families that come to our university community to learn and how quickly their children learn to speak English. Many are new to Christianity altogether, so sharing the gospel is a joy. A few minutes later, she was at my side. "Did God create the world? I have a friend who says he didn't. That there is no God." Wow. A big, important question. So we took a few minutes in the midst of the busy classroom and talked about it, another child listening in as well. The hustle and bustle of the morning was totally worth those two minutes. I know God was in that time with the children.

After church, an African woman, a nurse, who's been attending our church for several years flagged me down. "I have a gift for you!" she announced. Me? We always make it a point to greet one another, but she and I have never sat down for an extended conversation. Beaming, she presented me with a beautiful native dress from her home country. I felt like I'd been given an award I didn't deserve. What an honor!

Beautiful African dress- a surprise gift!
Will our community ever consider me, or the people I serve alongside "glittering luminaries"? Probably not. In reflection, though, I think we want to be known as something different altogether: as lighthouses. Pastor Herb used this quote in a sermon a few years ago, and it has stuck with me:

Lighthouse quote from D.L. Moody

Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Father. I don't need to shine for my own sake or for attention. Help me remember that. I know any light in me is because of you. Help me reflect your love for this world and point others to you through the work you've given me to do. Amen.

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