Commitment, Contentment, Faith, Gospel, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Redemption, Restoration, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Victory

Waco’s Redemption

Washington Avenue Bridge, Brazos River, Waco, TX
Photo by Marlene McKenna

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

Ephesians 1:7, ESV

What does Waco, Texas have to do with redemption? If you’ve visited this small city in the hill country, made famous by the television show Fixer Upper, you’d know. After attending a women’s retreat in Seguin, a friend and I journeyed to Waco for some shopping therapy at Magnolia Market. What I found, however, was much more than great shopping. Waco is a city defined by the word redemption.

Not only are there several homes that have been brought back to life, there is also a thriving economic upturn because of the popularity of Fixer Upper. In fact, thirty-thousand tourists visit the city per week! But it wasn’t until we took a tour from Waco Tours (https://www.waco-tours.com/) that we discovered other organizations that were working to revitalize the poorer parts of the city.

For example, the library in East Waco was refurbished and a mural was designed to encourage education for the underprivileged who live there. There is also a non-profit grocery store called Jubilee Food Market created by Mission Waco that was placed in a “food desert” so that those without transportation would have access to healthy, low-cost food. Finally, we were told about a church that gathers the homeless who live in Waco for a church service every week under the bridge where most of them live. During construction, when many were displaced, Chip and Joanna Gaines opened the common grounds at Magnolia Market for their services on Sunday morning.

When you arrive, you realize very quickly that this is not a wealthy city even though there are very nice areas with rolling hills, green grasses, and a beautiful river. But God is moving mightily, meeting the needs of the poor through His people. Moreover, He is bringing people from all classes and races together in love. For instance, Jubilee Market offers jobs to convicts who are transitioning from jail to living in the world. At Jubilee, they find a place to belong when others turn them away. As one employee put it, “I now have hope for the future.”

In short, Waco is a place where you can see the Gospel lived out every day. It is an uncomfortable place where you are challenged to look at your own heart, beliefs, and motivations. It is a place of glory where Baylor University shines and a place of poverty where a homeless man bathes in the fountain at Baylor’s entrance near the Hilton hotel and the Brazos River.

Similarly, our hearts are complicated too. We love the Lord and yet do not always love Him with all our hearts or love others as Jesus loved us. Nonetheless, like Waco, we are being redeemed. Every day we walk in newness of life and have hope for the future. To me, Waco is a metaphor for spiritual sanctification. As we allow God to search our hearts, He chooses to cleanse us. Then, little by little, we are made more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

As we allow God to reveal the deprived and impoverished parts of our lives we can surrender to the process of redemption. Remember, there is a river as powerful as the Brazos in your own heart cleansing you from all unrighteousness. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Remember, there is a Jubilee Market where we can belong, no matter what we have done, and get fed by the One who paid the price. Remember, there is a place for us to gather as a Church and praise His glorious name for all He has done, is doing, and will do for His glory. Remember the Cross!

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

Romans 3:21-22
Contentment, Faith, Hope, Jesus, Life, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Trust, Victory, Worry

Circus Circus

  …be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Hebrews 13:5-7

He picked us up outside a little church in Sarasota. “Hello!” His accent was unique.

“Where are you from?” I asked as we drove away.

“I live here but I’m originally from Morocco.”

“What brought you to Sarasota?”

“Oh, the Circus!”

“Really? We’d love to hear your story…”

The Uber driver shared how he provided for his family when he was a child growing up in Morocco. He performed acrobatics on the boardwalk for tourists and, he said, “I made more money than my father.” His Uncle had been in the Circus and taught him how to perform. Eventually he was able to get an internship at Disney World working at EPCOT. Afterward he worked with the Ringling Bros. Circus for almost two decades, traveling all over the country until they shut down in 2017.

This colorful story reminded me of God’s faithfulness and the power of contentment. When I first heard it, I was transported to the Moroccan seaside and felt the joy and pride that he had as patrons would pass him money and applaud. God gave him a gift that eventually carried him to the United States where he continued his dream and lived in relative luxury. Even as an Uber driver he was satisfied and happy with the memories of his nineteen-year circus career. His Pooh Bear like attitude impacted me. If I were him, I would have told the story of my rough childhood in a poverty-stricken country where my labor enabled my family to eat. But he didn’t mention the obvious difficulties, only the blessings.

Even now as I reflect on this encounter I am convicted. You see, I am a pessimist. Naturally, when I wake up in the morning I’m usually grumpy. My sunrise countenance aligns more with Eeyore’s than Pooh’s and I am definitely NOT a Tigger—those energetic people who are always cheerful and kind from dawn to dusk. There is a weight to my flesh that is attached to childhood memories telling me that “bad things always follow anything good.” It’s not until I sit at Jesus’ feet that I start to feel and act joy-filled and content. Because of this I have to purpose to listen to God’s promises first thing in the morning or the heaviness follows me throughout the day. For example, when I am tempted to worry about loss, fear can grip me and keep from being productive. However, if I listen to my Heavenly Father, He whispers, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Or, when I fear criticism because I think I’ve done something wrong I will isolate myself and “hide” from God and others. But, if I run to Him, He says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

God, like the Uber driver, always looks on the bright side and wants His children to remember what He has done and to be content. That’s why God wants us in His Word. It truly is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It illuminates the dark places so we can see the work God has done through the suffering. Only then do I realize that the heaviness I feel in the morning is an illusion. My reality is amazing! I am free from the poverty of sin and death and so are you. Regardless of our past or current circumstances we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We just need to be reminded often.

Ironically, whenever I tell my story, including the trials, others are encouraged because God’s redeeming love is all over my past. Like an acrobat’s trapeze act, it is the hard and dangerous feats that impress us. We are amazed at what God has done, if not without suffering. My story, like the Uber driver’s, includes suffering too, but God masterfully choreographed every step. I am grateful for the journey God has brought me through and desire to be satisfied with wherever God leads. I want to reflect on God’s goodness in my story and to have a contentment and optimism that is reflective of God’s faithfulness. I want to be a Circus Pooh.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

Matthew 6:25-26