making myself available

I keep talking about this “a la orden” philosophy, so this week I stopped talking and tried to start applying. And, GOODNESS, it is like singing sweet freedom’s song and hearing it echo in the greatest canyon! I thought I would try to summarize some thoughts, if no other reason than by way of reminder to make myself available to serve with the ways God has shared Himself with me.

The philosophy of “a la orden” (Spanish for, “at your service”):
Making conscious, consistent decisions to put the needs of others in front of my own by making my gifts completely available.

We know that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Anything good in this world is good because it comes from the Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth. So, whatever good things ended up in me – gifts or abilities or talents – are there as the distinct, divine fingerprint of an Almighty God. They are not from me, because I am not capable of producing anything (John 15:5). Every ability or gift we have is revealing something about His character and creativity.

So, if I recognize that I’ve got a good set of gifts on loan from the Creator, I must also recognize I have no right to hoard them. If I turn the gift inside out so only I can see and enjoy it, two things happen: 1) the gift fails its purpose (to bless others) and 2) I have wrong views of God and myself. I try to take the shortcut to joy by enjoying ways God has blessed me without using those blessings for their intended purpose. It’s no surprise that I come up short on joy and frustrated by my self-centered excitement in my gifts.

In Philippians 2, Paul challenges the church,

“if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul asks, have you benefited at all by this relationship you have with the Living God? Then, Paul says, nothing would bring me more joy than to see you joining together in community and serving one another. Paul goes on to describe Christ’s character that we should strive to emulate,

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Christ was the greatest gift and He opened Himself up completely that everyone might enjoy Him. Everything He received from the Father (by being indeed one with Him), He made completely available.

I think this is maybe what it means to look to the interests of others. It’s not just keeping your eyes peeled for that little, old lady needing help to cross the street. As we are working out faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), we must be searching God for ways His gifts can be made available through us.

Sometimes it takes awhile to understand how God has gifted us… and that’s okay! But, Paul’s advice for the church in Philippi is useful here as well. Encourage one another! Be like-minded! Look for ways God has blessed other people and then LET THEM KNOW IT! Build them up in their gifts and encourage them to praise God for His unique fingerprints on their lives.

Then… we use God’s gifts in our lives like a Mary Poppins bag of blessings! I know God’s in charge of the blessing, so when I make His gifts available to others through me – EVERYBODY WINS! I receive the joy of obedience and service, someone else receives encouragement or a mentor or a much needed Scripture, and GOD gets the glory. I’m only the vessel that holds the water of blessing for others to drink! Christ said COME and DRINK and there’s no way I would try to take that place, but being a vessel that carries the hope of eternal life is like walking around with 4th of July fireworks in my heart.

The more loosely I hold onto things of this world – whether it be words or jeans or the gift of organization – the more tightly I cling to the indescribable joy of eternity.

That’ll have to do for now, folks. I’m sure I’ll be processing this more in these days. As for practical application, I take it day by day. But I would say trying to live this out has rendered me speechless. There aren’t enough pages to record all the blessings, but at the same time I can’t seem to articulate just one. God is so good!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

learning to live “a la orden”

where the JOY happens

In the mess of emotions and energy and exhaustion of the past week, I’m breaking mental ground for a new life motto. Up until this point, I’ve stuck with “Love God, Love Others.” I know, I know – it’s nothing mind-blowing. It’s as old as Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:36-40.

It seems like we shouldn’t really have to improve on what God explained so clearly. This bold declaration to love God with all my heart and love others out of that love will always breathe life into whatever else God is teaching me. Lately, it seems the lessons in my conversations and experiences have me searching for words to explain how my theology informs my philosophy of living.

So, this past week, I started taking my joy pulse. I was intentionally on the lookout for those times when there was “fullness of joy” in my life, because those moments found me in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). So many things triggered this crazy feeling of joy bubbling over the flimsy walls of my heart – laughter on the bus ride, children on top of high school students’ shoulders, serious late-night talks, watching a drama acted out to the glory of God, hearing stories of evangelism teams, playing in the ocean in the rain, singing/rapping, sunshine and clouds – all these things amounted to an emotion I can’t explain.

One of the beautiful moments where God arrived in splendor happened the last night before we came back. We were all sharing and reflecting about what made an impact on us, where we felt we made an impact, and what God is leading us to do as a result of our experiences. One of the students mentioned how wonderful it felt to just share. She mentioned that normally all her friends would be very possessive of their “things,” but this week she experienced how cool it was to share.

Something clicked while she was talking… something that I am learning as I live here in this beautiful country: “a la orden.” I can remember so many times when I’ve made a comment to one of my students about her outfit and heard this response, which means, “at your service.” It’s like saying, “Oh? You like it? Well you can wear it whenever you want!”

I love this.

I realized my joy pulse goes crazy whenever I think of ways I can live a la orden… and I truly believe this is how we live out Philippians 2:1-4. The idea is WAY bigger than offering our clothes. When someone compliments us about our gifts of leadership, encouragement, organization, creativity, laughter, work ethic, prayer, or ministry, our response can and should be, “a la orden.”

Can you imagine what would happen if we made our best gifts available and “at your service”?

Person 1: Wow, you really have an amazing way with children!
Person 2: Thanks! God is so good! And, well, I’m at your service whenever you need.
Person 1: (confused) Oh, cool… what do you mean by that?
Person 2: Well,  I mean that what good is a “way with children” if I don’t use it? So, please let me know the next time you have a need involving kids!
Person 1: Whoa. That’s kind of crazy. So, you mean you’d be available to fill the open spot at the after-school program I work with on Tuesdays?
Person 2: That’s exactly what I mean. Let’s talk details.

Obviously, this scenario can’t play out perfectly every time because our days will fill up and we will find it difficult to make ourselves “a la orden” all of the time. But, the point I’m making is a mental shift. No longer am I guarding my time and treasure for myself. God blessed me and saved me for His purposes, not mine. When people point out beautiful things in me, it is only a reflection of my God who formed me in my mother’s womb. My gifts aren’t meant to bring me glory, but they will bring me joy if I make them available to others through my service.

Very few of us wear clothes that we’ve designed ourselves and our spiritual gifts are the same way. We wear them and get compliments on them, but we did not design them. When we receive compliments they should be re-directed to the Designer and He promises the MOST joy will happen when we aren’t promoting ourselves with our gifts, but instead looking for ways to elevate others.

I have SO MANY STORIES and ways God has blessed this philosophy. The joy seriously multiplies! I love looking into beautiful brown eyes and saying, “Whenever. Wherever. You name the place. I know God has gifted me for such a time as this and such a person as you.”

That’s what makes my joy pulse go crazy! And that’s how I know making ourselves available by putting others first is the biggest blessing we could receive.

another reason to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy