I noticed that we reached 10 psalms before I left! How awesome! So this Bonus post is way overdue- my apologies! Today I will post two posts to make up for it, God willing. And hopefully this post about Blessings will bless you. :]
Having recently returned from a Spiritual journey through China, I have thoroughly enjoyed looking back to see all the ways that God blessed me for that trip, but I also find myself asking another question- “Wasn’t this trip really about how I could further the kingdom of God? What did I accomplish in His name? This trip surely wasn’t one sided…”
I think we often feel the one-sided part of blessings- that is, we can see and be grateful for the ways God has blessed us. Our families, friends, the weather, our jobs- BLESSINGS! I see the blessings for my trip through the support that came together around me, the strength given for each day, courage to navigate a foreign land, the trust for purposes unknown… but I also know that God created His children to BE a blessing. On top of these two things, after returning from my trip where I was very independent, I am finding something else that I will share in a bit here….
So we get that we receive blessings, but we don’t often look back at the day and thank God for letting us be a blessing for some one else. Maybe it would feel too much like patting ourselves on the back, but your cup needs to empty to be filled again. It can be a humbling moment to be able to look back to see how God decided that you were the one He made to bless some one in your day. There was a day while I was in Beijing that
I decided to hand out some gifts God told me to give what I had. I did not expect this opportunity on my journey. In my hometown, I do love to go out with little items/small gifts/etc. in order to bless people, though I do it to practice being a living form of communion and not for any kind of recognition. And I hadn’t packed any gifts to give out on my trip. (I actually didn’t pack for my trip until the night before I left!) It was my last day in Beijing, and I was really excited for this opportunity! I had a sketchbook, some band-aids, and postcards. Strange gifts, God used them anyway.
I also realized that each day I got up and actively agreed to participate in this journey, and not wither under a bush like Jonah or Elijah, I was blessed beyond measure. I met so many amazing people just by being obedient and trusting. I was so glad that I found an art museum one day, and there was this sweet lady working there who spoke excellent English and she really wanted to talk to me. Well, I told her I would come get her if I needed help translating things in the gallery, but I always look at galleries quietly so I planned to talk to her after going through it. Luckily, she came to me while I was watching a piece about migrant workers in China and explained it to me, so we started to talk. She was very interested in art, so she volunteered at this gallery. She walked around with me, then asked me if I wanted to get some dinner with her, and I agreed. (I confess, a lot of my immediate moments of trust with total strangers that I met were heavily questioned within me about what character traits I had that I was unaware of…Rash? Bold? Oblivious? Rebellious? While trusting total strangers is dangerous, I think it was God putting me into situations to teach me something, as I didn’t stop to think about it. Most of my meals came from meeting people randomly.) We found a place to eat in a little shopping center and began to chat. I learned that God wanted me to be a blessing to her- she was nervous about her own upcoming trip to Europe alone! I was so glad that I had met her so I could encourage her and share my experiences a bit and what I was learning from my own trip! It was an amazing start to a friendship that promises to continue because in exchange for the meal, I will be teaching art to my new friend.
You GET to be a blessing. I think of tithing- you can’t have a spirit of ‘have to’ when what has been given to you isn’t yours to begin with- YOU GET TO. You get to bless your kids, your students, your coworkers, even your enemies. But unlike tithing, where you get the option each Sunday, with being a blessing it often just happens. You have no say. You may not even realize it is happening.
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” -Genesis 12:1-3
Did you catch it in there? “…and thou shalt be a blessing:” Whoa. Yeah. God created you and me, no matter our circumstances or what excuses the enemy may give us to believe we could not bless someone else, to be blessings. The embodiment of a blessing. Do you think of yourself as one who walks this earth dressed as a blessing? Or do you just go out to see what blessings are coming to you?
The third part of this is brought on by something recent. I got a flat tire about 4 days after returning…not just flat, but something ripped into my tire, took a good chip out of the rim and everything! I got it back to the coffee shop, it was night, and I didn’t want to change my tire in the community lot where I usually park. I know how to change a tire, but I double checked my manual to make sure that it wasn’t too different from the last car I drove. (Huge Ford Explorer to a tiny Kia Forte…) Got everything together that I needed, and proceeded to jack the car up carefully since I was on a slope with no tire blocks. I definitely took longer than I thought, so Songbird got off work and saw me working on this task, and since he is so full of kindness and grace toward his brethren, he asked if I needed help. I should probably mention that the stubborn, independent me that had begun changing this tire was still very determined to do this alone- I know how to change a tire! Did you hear my pride? I did, right after I told him, “I think I got it.” and then tried to wiggle the tire off with no luck. He didn’t laugh outwardly, though I’m sure it was humorous. I humbly said, “Okay, maybe I need help.” Glad I did, because he laid on the ground to kick my tire off- I never would have tried that! And he did it like a seasoned pro, like he knew that was what it would take…I’d never had to do that, I wouldn’t have pursued that technique.
I reflected on my actions, and how Songbird had blessed me that night just by being there at the right time, and I realized that if we really believe and want to live like the first church did, we need to walk that two-way street. There are times we are called to do things alone- we experience the most growth when we are far removed from our comfort zone. God may be calling you to spend some time alone, even if it seems inconvenient to you. I am very glad that I took my trip alone, and I am glad to see Songbird head out on his trek alone soon, and I am thankful I get to witness my other friends who are in school come into summer and begin their own independent growth journeys. But when we are the church, we really need to encompass all the qualities Jesus worked hard to teach, and the disciples worked hard to exhibit. We need to be open about our struggles and allow others to bless us. It is a learning opportunity for all groups. I don’t want to live a life where I block others from being the blessing they were created to be. Otherwise we will be stuck in the parking lot all night with a jack under our car and a flat tire!
I am determined to be less of a hindrance to the blessing God intends others to be to me, and to recognize more how I can be used as a blessing. Elijah had it pretty rough, right? He’d been anticipating the rain that would end the drought he had called and was prepared to receive the blessings that fell with the rain. In faith, he prayed for what he knew was coming, but when it came, he ran away. He ran away from his blessing. Then Elijah sat under the Juniper tree and wrote a suicide note to God about how unfit he felt for the calling he was given. He didn’t want the responsibility any more. He wanted to receive the blessing, but he didn’t feel fully worthy. And God bakes Elijah a cake, gives him a new friend, and tells him to keep going. I was reading the story of Elijah on my trip, and it is a blessing to look back and see how God has used you, but it can also be overwhelming to think that the Creator has chosen you to do something so great- I probably wouldn’t have done any better than Elijah! But along with those moments, God also provides us with examples of His faithfulness and belief in us to do what He has called us to. We can look back and be amazed at how He has used us, but rest assured in the knowledge that He has walked with us every step of the way. Do you believe in the purpose God has called you to? That He can use you to bless others? That He has great plans for you? Can you think of anyone in the Bible who exemplifies this idea besides Jesus? Who? I’d love to hear who you think of and why.
Be blessed, friends!