“Let the swapping begin!”

I hate to clean out my closet. Even if I know there’s a hole in a shirt, a button is missing or it’s out of style it’s hard for me to get rid of it!  I know, just get rid of it, move on! Now it’s time to spring clean again, yikes! It is hard to part with my clothes because I want them to go to someone who would like them. So it was a great draw for me to attend my first SWAP. The idea that someone could use my things made it easier to part with them. It was exciting!

A sweet friend Julie invited me to her clothes swap. She hosted her twenty something friends and invited me even though I was, at that time, in my mid 40s. We were encouraged to both bring and take items. Whatever remained at the end was donated. Her apartment was perfectly staged, set up in sections like a department store:

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Casual wear

Work/career

Athletic apparel
Shoes

Jewelry

Handbags

“Let the swapping begin!” It was bizarre, at first, to take the clothes I liked. I felt like a shop lifter the first time I took something because I didn’t pay for it, I just stuffed it in my bag. But I got over that odd feeling quickly and soon made the most of the thrilling opportunity.

Since then, I’ve attended other swaps. One day, at a mutual friend’s home, it was so much fun to try things on and find things I loved. I told Julie, “This whole swap concept is ingenious!” I was also delighted when a young gal left giddy carrying something I had brought.

Later, I hosted my first swap. I invited the ladies from my Bible study group. I watched as ladies brought something they couldn’t use or no longer needed while someone else selected that very thing and took it home cheerfully. “Let the swapping begin!”My friend Cheryl was moving to Colorado so she brought many things that needed to be given away.

In a true swap there are typically some rules or parameters set.  You’re not allowed to bring junk or broken things. The invite might state: Don’t bring the sweater that needs mending, a purse without a handle or the jacket with a torn pocket. Please bring items that you no longer want but someone else may be able to use.

I was thinking about the swap and how that relates in the spiritual realm. These rules are not the way it works in God’s economy! We are allowed, even invited to bring to him our broken lives for his SWAP or grand exchange. Our righteousness is like filthy rags, but we turn those filthy rags into him in exchange for His robe of righteousness. He gives us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Beauty out of ashes. WHAT A SWAP!

With heads bowed low, we come to him. We give him our sin, guilt and our shame and he swaps all of that for His forgiveness, His glorious presence and life itself. He even lifts our head and crowns us with favor. Our life for His life. We are clothed with joy! This is the swap of the century, the millennium and of a lifetime. The great I AM is the original swap item and ultimate swapper. Thank you Jesus! “Let the swapping begin!”

In your own life what about the spiritual swap are you most thankful? Share here.

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A Walk With Charlie

I’m quite pet-impaired so little did I know I’d learn from God about fear through a dog! One spring day, God prompted me to text my neighbor, Mary to go out for a walk. I wasn’t sure if she’d be available. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t act on the Holy Spirit’s prompting but went out alone. I approached my final stretch toward home when I saw her coming toward me on the other side of the street with her dog. So I asked, “Are you just starting out? Would it be okay if I joined you?”  

“Sure you can join us!” She replied.  

Just then her dog came bounding across the street, jumping up at me. His paws dug into my thighs while she chided him “Get down! You know Rachel’s not a dog fan. Charlie, get down!” He obeyed.

“You know I almost texted you about an hour ago!” I said.

“Really?” she replied.

I found out why God wanted me to text her hours earlier. It happened to be her birthday! I love that the Holy Spirit had placed her on my heart and in my mind and when I didn’t obey, He still gave me a second chance to spend time with her in what seemed like a chance meeting. I was prompted to text Mary earlier, but the enemy of my soul, Satan also tried to discourage my efforts to finish this book earlier that same day. As we walked along, I felt God repeatedly do what I call His show and tell.  He wanted to teach me about my walk of faith with Him exposing the enemy and his tactics to use fear to stop me.

We strolled along and she apologized profusely, “I feel like walking with Charlie slows you down Rachel. I’m so sorry!”  

I told her, “It’s no big deal, Mary. I’ve already finished a couple of miles of walking and jogging. I’m fine with this pace.”

The dog wandered all over the neighbor’s lawns. He sniffed here and stopped there as she kept calling him. “Charlie, come on now.”  

He sniffed a while longer, wagged his tail then joined us.  I was very surprised and impressed because at the end of every block her dog sat on the sidewalk and waited to cross the street until my friend tapped or touched his head. That signaled him, “It’s okay to go across now.”

It was such a beautiful picture of master and canine. He would wait until it was okay for him to proceed, listening to her commands, and with the slightest touch from her, he knew it was ok to move on.

I thought about the things going on in my life that day; publishing this book, career paths for my husband, questions and transitions going on in my kids lives, all of which seemed so foggy. But I know all will be made clearer when needed. I thought about not moving ahead until the Holy Spirit taps me on my head  and says, “Okay, move on!”

We reached Madison Street which includes a very steep hill. As we walked up its steep incline and leaned in, my heart began to beat a bit more rapidly, partly from the increased difficulty and partly because of what I knew was ahead. We were approaching a bank of evergreen trees that line the border of one particular property. The property where two dogs dwell: the first an Alaskan Husky that just looks like an eskimo (just place a sled behind it!) , the second a light gray schnauzer.

I could hear both dogs barking, even though we had only begun to approach the yard and their view was obscured by the tree line. I’m pretty pet impaired so I turned to Mary and I said, “These dogs have one of those electrical fences, right?”

She assured me “Yes, they do.”

We continued marching up the hill.

Recessed but up on the grass on the side of the bank stood the two dogs. The husky dog stood like a sentinel guarding the property, his front paws perched on a railroad tie structure encompassing a garden in that property’s backyard. He barked and he howled and he growled as the schnauzer ran up and down along the invisible fence line. The schnauzer ran, so frenzied, back and forth like a football coach paces during a close game with one more scoring opportunity. Then the husky moved from his post, while still growling and barking, and charged forward. Then he circled back and charged toward us again, baring his teeth.

Curious as to what he would do, I glanced down at Charlie who was very timidly walking toward that property on the lined sidewalk. He seemed to slow almost to a complete stop. I loved what happened next. Mary extended her hand and stroked Charlie’s reddish golden coat as she coaxed him along reassuringly, “It’s okay Charlie. c’mon let’s keep going!”

Without getting too touched by this visual demonstration of a spiritual truth, I was so pleased to see God encouraging me through the dog. It’s as if God told me it doesn’t matter how much Satan growls or barks or tries to frighten you, if this is the direction I want you to go, I will stroke your back and encourage you to continue on the path. But know that I will walk right beside you.

I thought that was absolutely precious that the Lord chose to coax me along through my friend coaxing her dog.  

As we rounded the corner toward another one of the neighborhood streets, we saw a chain-link fence that contained two dogs. I don’t even remember what kind the big one was, but I clearly remember this tiny, black Chihuahua about the size of one of my puffy bedroom slippers. That dog was yappin’ and yippin’ in a high-pitched bark that I thought she may explode in the next 20 seconds.19,18,17,16,15! “Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark!”

Charlie, was about 10 times her size and weight but he was so freaked out by that dinky dog’s bark. I thought, Seriously Charlie? You could swallow that little dog the way a snake detaches it’s hinged-jaw to swallow a mouse in one a single gulp! Don’t be afraid!

Mary shook her head and giggled a bit. “I know, I can’t believe how frightened he gets of that little tiny yappy thing!”

“Yeah, I can’t understand it,”  I chuckled back.

Yet, I could totally relate. Hours earlier, that same day, my enemy, though so small compared to my BIG AWESOME MIGHTY God, really wanted to make me cower too!

My prayer: Lord, thank you for the lessons I’ve learned while on my walks, the lessons I’ve learned looking at dogs, and the lessons you desire to teach me. I do not need to be afraid. I know that you go with me. That you are never going to leave me or forget about me.

You are the one that instructs me and teaches me the way I should go. Your counsel watches over me. (Psalm 32:8)

You tell me. Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

So how about you? What is the “little black Chihuahua” that is barking at you and making you think you should stop advancing? What is your “Alaskan Husky” that seems to be ready to charge at you? Know that the Lord, your good Shepherd, is wanting to stroke you on the back and move you forward into his ever increasing good will and plan for your life? I challenge myself and I challenge you to stop, listen to his voice, and wait for a tap on the head indicating, “Let’s cross now!”

Let’s keep on walking with our master! He knows your way. He knows mine. He knows your name and mine. He knows your birthday and he knows mine. He knew it was my friend’s birthday that day too.

In fact, every day ordained for us is written in his book before any of them come to be. He delights in you and he delights in me. So let’s take a walk, without fear, with Him!