Will work for food

Red light. I stop, wait to turn, notice the man standing on the sidewalk beside the right lane.

His sign is crude: Will work. Need money for food, gas, home.

But his gaze is direct. And across two lanes he finds my eyes. He stands tall—not a challenge, just acknowledgment: “Yes, I stand on a street corner, I hold a sign that tells you I need help.”

I consider a U-turn, glance at my dashboard clock, estimate the time it will take me to get home to meet the scheduled repairman.

I turn left.

Drive three blocks.

Slower and slower.

I hear You, Lord.

Turn around.

Pull into the grocery store lot, stop behind his tidy old-model Taurus station wagon.

He meets me halfway.

Taller even than I’d thought.

My left hand holds out the money. He tucks it away, fast. Not grabbing, just… like he doesn’t want it. Like putting it away makes it less real.

My mind is blank. I’ve forgotten to ask for words. God bless you, I think. I offer my right hand.

He shakes it. His eyes slip above my head.

“I’m a mechanic. I can fix cars.” Urgent voice. “Do you have any that need work?”

I shake my head. “I don’t.”

“I can work. I can… You don’t have cars that need…?”

“No, but… God bless you.”

Our eyes meet again—closer now than across two lanes of traffic.

He juts his chin at me, eyes slip up again to the blue sky. “I like your necklace.”

Pressed clay, sitting right at the base of my throat, stamped firm and clear with the words “Set Free.”

Good to receive, not just give. “Thanks.”

Back on the road, the regrets. Why didn’t I say more? Why didn’t I get a name, number? He’s a mechanic. I could have sent word out through e-mail, Facebook: “Mechanic, corner of Main and Geneva: if you’re willing to take a chance, he’d appreciate it. Name, number.”  At under 142 characters, I could even tweet it. What is social media good for if not for this?!

Marketing background kicks in: he needs a better sign, one that advertises his specific skills while still expressing willingness to do odd jobs.


Stop, Jen.

Let it go.

But this day it’s hard.

Because I’ve been set free not only from

But for.

And in the callused handshake and averted eyes, the money tucked quick out of sight, the urgent plea for the dignity of work, I felt a moment of his pain.

Through love

I am

Set free

To care.

Addicted, part 2

A few years ago I shared my “mixed bag” with a wise friend of mine. “Sometimes I hate the public side of writing because it reveals a twisted darkness deep inside me,” I told her.

I thought she would be shocked. I thought she might say to stop blogging.

She wasn’t and she didn’t. “Of course it does,” she said. Then she shared her view with me, that often the very ways God gifts us—the very things He calls us to do—have purpose within us as well as without, and often the “within” purpose is to reveal and begin pulling out deep roots of sin.

“It’s a little like the parable of the wheat and the tares,” she said, “though it’s clear in Scripture they’re symbols for people. But I think they can also symbolize our motives. Some are pure, coming from the Holy Spirit. But others are straight from our own selfish hearts. When we use the gifts God gives us, we will see both.”

“The ‘tares’ I discover in my heart make me want to quit writing,” I told her. “Sometimes I think it would be safer just not to do it—or at least not to publish it.”

“But that’s exactly what you should NOT do,” she said. “We will never have pure motives for any ‘good’ we do this side of heaven. It’s far better to have our sin revealed to us than to be safe and leave it hidden. We can’t deal with it until it’s out. We have to trust that God will not only reveal the sins but will also pull them out AND He will work good through our trusting Him and pursuing Him with our gifts.”

So the answer for how to “not become engrossed with things of this world” is NOT to quit using them. If that were true, we would have no believers in business or marketing or the fashion industry or law or coaching or…

No, many, perhaps most believers are called to use the things of this world AND not become engrossed in them. Many are called to wrestle constantly with the tension.

And to let the tension pull us ever closer to Jesus.

Because in this tension, we see our need;

we see His sufficiency;

and we fall deeper in love with Him.


“This high priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NLT)




I blog my “thoughts” a couple times a week, and I recently started tweeting—since all the agents and publishers say that’s a “must” for any writers who are trying to get a book published. Those same agents/publishers say writers should check their blog and Twitter accounts a couple times a day.

Okay. Can do.

But I’m finding that this creates a tension in my soul, one that reflects the difficult “be in the world but not of the world” paradox in Scripture. I am using Twitter and the internet to, I hope, help others draw closer to Christ, but the stats and the publicity of it often draw my own focus onto ME.

In I Corinthians 7, Paul refers to a “crisis” in his time and gives advice related to that crisis. Some of the advice was specific to crises (such as not marrying), but Paul’s overall point is applicable to all times: to let nothing distract us from living fully devoted to Christ. Right in the middle of the passage, there is an interesting phrase that I am pondering in relation to blogging/Tweeting/social media: “(those of you) who use the things of this world, (live) as if not engrossed in them, for this world in its present form is passing away” (NIV).

I DO use “things of this world,” things that will “soon pass away.” So how do I use them without becoming engrossed in or attached to them?

I am not alone in this struggle (and that alone is encouraging). A few years back I heard a chapel speaker admit that shortly after his first book was published, he became addicted to the book’s selling statistics. He found himself checking these stats dozens of times a day. He shared this with a friend, and the friend partnered with him on a short-term “fast” from his own book media.

It’s very easy—actually, it’s natural—for us to become engrossed in the things we use in this world.

Because even though we have a new nature and the Holy Spirit, we still have that old nature that feels very much at home here.

When I check my blog and find that I have a new follower, there is one part of me that gets excited for all the right reasons.

But underneath that good reaction is a selfish one, the one that believes I become more valuable when more people like my writing.

I’m a mixed bag of pure and impure, and my use of social media often reveals that to me.

And perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW: I am trying to cut down the length of my blog posts, so I split this post into two parts. I’ll post part two tomorrow, Monday. If you have any comments on how this tension plays a part in your own life, I would love to read them.