No RETREAT, no SURRENDER.

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Tall, very dark, guarded, angry . . . that is how I came to know him. Of all the street people I encountered in Long Beach, he is the one I thought, ‘dang, I wouldn’t want to meet him alone—especially at night!’ First, he tried to discredit me as a minister of the Gospel, (my being a woman and all), but somehow I passed the test, and he came back to the prayer meeting the following week. ‘What does the Lord want from us?’ I asked and looked around the room at many tired-looking faces. Eye contact is especially powerful when working with homeless folks, because most people won’t look them in the eye, for fear they will be asked for something. After a little silence, someone said, ‘he wants us to be holy because he is holy.’ ‘Who said that?’ One long finger was raised. ‘Say it again,’ I said. ‘Be holy because he is holy.’ And with that, I knew that this man with the cold eyes had a past—a Christian one. Much has changed with the self-proclaimed Jonah over the months and weeks after that day. He became my bodyguard, and kept a watchful eye on my comings and goings, allowing me to boldly answer God’s call to these much-loved, much lost people in this big Los Angeles city. Isn’t it ironic? The very man who I thought I would never want to encounter outside the building became the man to whom I entrusted my safety. Hmmm . . . The expression on his face became different. How he looked at people and responded to people became different too. His outlook on life was hopeful. And certainly his guardedness was different. Take for instance one week at our Sanctuary prayer meeting – one of his ‘homeys’ came for the first time. He told how he had hit bottom just a couple weeks before, thinking ‘how did I get here? It’s my birthday, I am all alone, and I’m living on the street…’ That’s when he ran into the Duke and they began to commiserate, even cried some, and purposed things were going to be different. When I asked my standard starting question, “What do you have to thank God for today?” Up came the big hand … ‘for all of you, and that my homey is here today. Things are happening.’ The theme on Tuesday, though unplanned, revolved around ‘surrender’. As Amy shared her story of a life of self-inflicted pain because of how much internal pain she carried from abuse, everyone leaned in and listened intently. When she told that total surrender to God is what ultimately saved her life, her husband silently nodded because that’s what had saved him from his self-destructive course too. I took the opening and said, “So Duke, where are you with this surrender thing?” He rubbed his chin, fully aware I had put him on the spot … ‘I’m getting there. It’s a process. I’ve come a long way, but I know better than to play games. It’s a process. Don’t forget, I’m a Marine. Marines don’t surrender … ever … under any circumstances. No retreat, no surrender.’ Keenly aware that the word ‘surrender’ was tripping him up, I mentioned that it isn’t quitting, but rather entrusting control to God…that didn’t seem to help. ‘Dang,’ I thought, ‘is this all about semantics? But then, Reggie--‘I feel you--you being a Marine and all, you would die before you would surrender, right?’ ‘Definitely. Uh-huh.’ ‘Well that’s what Christ asks us to do—die to ourselves—daily.’ Silence in the room. And then the head with the backwards baseball cap nodded, knowing that was true. See, that made sense to the Duke, and then Chad helped out too. ‘Duke, do you remember signing up for the Marines? You surrendered yourself then—your freedom and all. So you do know something about surrender. And you were willing to do it then.’ For me, I just listened as the body taught the body. As a minister of the gospel, it doesn’t get any better than that—when the body of Christ challenges and encourages its loved ones. On that Tuesday morning, honesty and vulnerability met with intense listening and valuable insight. We made great strides in our little community that day, and God smiled. Are you part of a community that listens, cares, challenges and loves? Christian community is where we grow in our living out of the Scripture-- where someone gives us a hand up when we fall, and locks arms with us when the way is rough. Community is where we grow and mature. I know . . . I got to walk beside the Duke of Earl. I'm wondering today if you need to surrender yourself to God . . . your will, your way, your burdens. "Until we fully surrender to God, we never fully trust. In trying to manage the parts we've held back, we'll miss the joy and freedom that come when we give all that we are and all that we have to the One who made us."* What an invitation Jesus made to us: Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Matthew 11.28. "Come to Me" Jenn Johnson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY0Vz8fvIhE Christine *from Embracing Trust, by Joanna Weaver, the book I am teaching through on Thursdays. THRIVEOC on Facebook, 10 am PST, 1 pm EST.

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