Friday, December 30, 2011

A Challenge

"The people asked John, 'What should we do?'. John answered,'If you have two shirts, share with the person that doesn't have one. If you have food, share that too.'" Luke 3:10
This verse was highlighted in my daughter Olivia's devotions for today. The topic was sharing which is something we drill into our kids heads, but often stop talking about once they reach the teenage years. Oh we might clean out our closets and "share" our stuff with the poor people at the Salvation Army or we might upgrade and "share" our old castaways with someone less fortunate, but the concept of sharing our stuff...the stuff we still want is just not talked about. But think about it, what if for every item we bought ourselves or someone in our family, we also bought for someone else? What if we purchased a pair of shoes, and donated the same amount to an organization like Compassion International that feeds, clothes, and educates a child for the same or even less money! How would it change the lives around us if we told a neighbor in need that we were taking our kids clothes shopping and we wanted them to come along so we could buy things for their kids too? What would happen if someone dropped by our house, fell in love with something we own, and we wrapped it up and left it on their doorstep later on? What if we made a commitment, dollar for dollar to GIVE AWAY the same amount we spend on ourselves each year???? I'll tell you what would happen...things would change and we would finally make the impact Christ has called us to make. There has never been a time when it has been so EASY to give and find so many credible organizations to give through. WE HAVE NO EXCUSE to hide our heads in the sand and continue to build our barns here in the US. Our kids don't need more stuff...we don't need bigger houses...we don't have to have a vacation getaway every year. Friends, God has called us to so much more than living for ourselves 11 mos of the year and then giving a bit around Christmastime. The American church has been handed the opportunity to WAKE UP and reach a suffering world by a very small sacrifice...a small lifestyle change. Only you know what that means for your family, but please pray and accept the challenge to share not just your leftovers, but share so that it affects you. I promise that effect will turn out to be a blessing far greater than any item could ever turn out to be.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Born to Die

This is my favorite time of the year and I have been fully immersing myself (and poor husband)in every form of Christmas music. Old and new, cheesy and sacred, I'm singin it all! Lately though, a song written by Bebo Norman called Born to Die has been running over and over in my head. The concept of the song is the angels watching in awe, confusion, and probably even horror as the God of the universe was born as a baby...a baby born to die. Most of us that have celebrated Christ's birth for any length of time have become immune to this truth, but it really is amazing. Every religion requires a sacrifice, but Christianity is the only one where the Head is the One that performs that sacrifice. We as Christians are not required to give up our children, mutilate our bodies, or perform violent acts of martyrdom in order to appease a god. The penalty of death has already been paid and all that's required from us is simple, pure, greater gift. I think then the greatest gift we can give this amazing God this Christmas season is our worship...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Christian persecution, Human trafficking, Slum children with a life expectancy of 8 yrs old...these are realities in our world today. We read the articles and weep over the anguish felt by those suffering, but are left with the question, "what can we do?" I myself have wrestled with this for a few months now. With my husband working on behalf of the persecuted, we are receiving news everyday of brothers and sisters being tortured and killed all because they confess Jesus as Lord. I cry in sorrow, I alert my friends to pray, and I hit my knees and beg God to give them every mercy He has, but still am left with the nagging question of what can I DO?

At the age of 15 I traveled to Brazil on a missions trip. We traveled around performing a drama about the passion of Christ and saw many people get saved. We also were given the opportunity to volunteer at a Compassion International site where I got the priceless gift of hugging, holding, and giving a million kisses to the little girl I supported each month. One of the last places we shared our drama was the Dump. This was the largest landfill in the country located about 45 miles south of Rio de Janero. The bus dropped us off 5 miles outside the Dump and we slowly made our way in. Along the well worn path towards the mountains of garbage were shacks made of tin, wood, and sticks. Every time the hot breeze blew, a stench overwhelmed our noses. A number of us became physically ill along the way and all of our team felt an intense oppression overwhelm our spirits. This was a place of hopelessness. I'm not sure when I began crying...I didn't really notice my tears until I was crying so hard I could no longer walk and was being hugged by a small Brazilian boy who called this place of death his home. Children dropped the trash they were sifting through and flocked to our small group dressed in bright costumes. They smiled at us, touched us, combed their fingers through our hair, and begged us to hold them. We invited them to come down to the village church to watch our performance and many of them did. Thanks to our faithful interpreter, many children and a few adults came to accept Jesus into their hearts that day. I performed my part of the china doll without my signature heavy makeup because I had cried it all off...I cried the rest of the fact I cried for weeks after returning to my home. Yes, many of the children had come to salvation, but the reality was that they returned to picking through garbage while starving to death and I boarded a plane and returned to my home. I prayed for them and continued to support my little Compassion girl, but the cry of my heart was the question "What can I DO?"

I have heard it said that We pray for God to reveal the greater good work to us, all the while missing that prayer IS the greater good work. This dear friends is hard to grasp. It is hard to believe that the best and most important thing we can do for those dying and suffering unthinkable terror is to pray for them. It would seem that prayer is a good start to helping them, but surely not the best. It is true that God calls us to give our money to those in need and He calls some to specifically go and minister face to face with the suffering, but He has commanded ALL of us to pray and He takes it very seriously.

Paul commands us to "pray without ceasing". I always found this to be a confusing verse since I'd run out of things to pray about within 15 minutes on my knees. With the ideology that this was the key to being close to the heart of God, I was frustrated thinking I would never get there! But, today God literally hit me over the head by connecting the feelings swelling up inside of me as I learn more about people suffering around the world and the command to pray without ceasing. May I suggest that Paul was not giving us the secret to personal holiness, but rather giving us something to DO that would both connect us to the heart of God and minister to those in need? What if the very heart of being passionate about the things God is passionate about means that we open our eyes to a suffering world for the PURPOSE of prayer?! Friends perhaps the reason that our prayers have ceased long before the day is over is because we have been blind to the ones we need to be praying for and the situations we need to be praying about. If we ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His, there won't be enough hours in the day for us to pray. The body of Christ is united when we pray...that is powerful. The spirits of those suffering are encouraged when we pray...that is powerful. The lives of those around us are changed when we pray...that is powerful. God is glorified when we pray...that leaves me speechless. I can honestly say that I agree with my whole heart, prayer IS the greater good and I want to spend the rest of my life praying without ceasing.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Birthday in Heaven

Today Samara is turning 1 yr old...and she is celebrating with Jesus and the angels. I wonder if they baked her a cake and clapped as she blew out her candle. I'm sure they celebrated her since God is her Father. I wonder if she smiled when Olivia and I ate donuts for her this morning and if she enjoyed the balloons we sent up in the sky. And I wonder if she knows how much her mommy's heart misses her. Yes there is hope that she's with Jesus. There is comfort in knowing we'll see her someday. But I'd give just about anything to hug her and recall a year of memories together. Time heals a little, but the missing never goes away...
Happy Birthday sweet girl...daddy, mommy, and Olivia miss you

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Solid Hope

With the arrival of spring, I figured my blog was in need of a little updating...or maybe it's just the "nesting" thing going a little too far...Well, whatever the case I picked the dandelion flower because it really is a symbol of hope. As children we picked them and "made a wish". My wishes ranged from hoping the good day would never end, (it always did) hoping I would get that toy that would finally bring me happiness, (it never did) or even hoping "that boy" would like me after all (praise God he didn't!!!). I can look back and laugh about it now, but also see the way my mind has matured from thinking of something I hoped for really only being a wish. You see wishes sometimes come true, but often they don't...and aren't we glad some of them don't! Something that our hearts can "wish" for with ultimate longing and anticipation can turn out to be bad for us or detrimental to our health or well being. Hope however is something far different from a wish.

Hope is defined as "to have confident trust, to look forward with expectation, security, and FAITH".

Friends, what are you hoping for today? Or rather in Whom are you placing your hope in?

We have alot of changes coming for us in the next few months. The biggest of course is that we are anticipating the arrival of a little baby girl in about 7 weeks. Having lost two babies last year though has changed my hope. While I eagerly anticipate and fervently pray that I will get to hold a living baby girl upon delivery, my faith rests in knowing God loves me and my baby more than I could imagine. My hope is in the Lord. So while I can hardly wait for June to come, I also relish every kick, hiccup, and movement she is making in my womb today because today is the day the Lord has given to me. Oh how different this is from how I used to hope! My faith used to rest upon the object of my desire coming trust in the Lord came from the positive result of what I wanted to have happen truly happening. But friends, that is not hope! That is not security! The only unchanging, ever faithful assurance we have in this life is through believing that Jesus died on the cross for us and is alive in heaven as the Savior of our souls . Everything else in this life is changeable. We can plan for tomorrow. We can wish this or that will happen in the future. But our hope must rest on the only One who is unchangeable...Jesus Christ.

"He is the rock
His work is perfect
For all His ways are justice
A God of truth and without injustice
Righteous and upright is He."
Deuteronomy 32:4

Friends this isn't easy. There are so many people and things I have placed my hope in more than the Lord, so I know the fear of letting God have his rightful place in our hearts. But only putting God as our highest and truest hope with bring the security our hearts long for. I pray that as we celebrate his resurrection this weekend, you will open up your heart to Him and place all your hope in the only One who will never let you down.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Forgotten

I was wide awake last night for a few hours...a blessing of the pregnant insomnia I have wrestled with for almost eight months. I often use it as my time to pray though and it has become kind of a welcome time since no one needs me and my house is quiet. Well I woke up with this phrase running through my head "I am all you've ever needed...I am all you will ever need". It replayed over and over and over as I prayed for different people and finally I just stopped and listened. All throughout the book of Isaiah we see this familiar theme as well...the Lord saying things like "There is no other God besides Me, I am God and there is no other...I am God and there is no one like Me." This phrase is repeated more times than I can count actually and when God thinks it's important to repeat something, then I think it's important for us to know why. The answer seems simple and I'm sure you're all thinking "it's because He's the only one who can satisfy our hearts". Bingo! If that's what you're thinking then, I think we are on the same page, but let's stop for a minute and think about what that REALLY means. From the very beginning we see that we were fashioned for relationship...that was exactly what he created us for. His perfect design was for a perfect relationship with us and so He created Adam. Upon seeing the perfection of His garden and all the delights of His works, He then said "it is not good for man to be alone". This has always stumped me because Adam was NOT alone...He was walking in a perfect world with the God who created Him not to mention the host of angels all around! But God in His infinite wisdom saw the bigger picture and chose to create human relationships to glorify Himself, so Eve is created out of Adam. Now we have the foundation of human relationships as between a man and a woman. History attests to the fall of man as Eve chooses to sin and Adam follows likewise. This friends was the end of perfect relationships and the beginning of God's redemptive plan. All through the Old Testament we see jealousy, hatred, adultery, unfaithfulness, wicked plans, and cruelty that humans rage against one another. Each of us have our own stories of the people that have wounded us both in words and actions. And sadly, people have stories of how we have wounded them as well. Fallen nature is cruel...counseling centers are full of people trying to overcome the horror of their childhood, marriage, families, and friends. These wounds are real and need to be dealt with so that the pattern can be stopped and restoration and healing found. But so often the people leaving the counseling sessions get into their cars and call a friend...who will inevitably let them down...or plan a date with their spouse...who will inevitably let them down. You see as long as we look to the people around us to fill the void of relationship, we will never leave the cycle of hurt and pain. And try as we might, it is just a reality that we will cause other people hurt and pain. By now I'm sure you're saying "I thought this was a HOPE blog!" And yes I am just as ready to give you the good news as you are to hear it.

Isaiah 49:15 says this "I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands" Let that verse sink into your soul...when your husband forgets an important date or refuses to understand where you're coming from, God says "I will not forget you". When your children forget all that you've done and demand only more from you, God says "I will not forget you". When your boss passes you up for promotion, God says "I will not forget you". When your friends forget to include you...again...God says "I will not forget you". And when life is great and you have forgotten about Him, God says still "I will not forget you". Why? Because He has inscribed you on the palms of His nail scarred hands. Friends when He lay on that cross and had nails driven into His hands, He had your face in His mind. He bled and He suffered and He died for YOU and because of the great love behind that great sacrifice, HE WILL NOT FORGET YOU. No person on earth, no relationship, no connection can promise this truth. Only a Sovereign and Perfect God could promise this and hold fast to it everyday. So I challenge you as I am challenging myself...STOP looking for people to fulfill what only God can fulfill. It is a burden that no human can bear and it is idolatry to give importance to anyone greater than God. Love those around you...serve those around you...encourage those around you...and cherish the people God has put into your life, but let us reserve our greatest love and all our needs for the ONLY One who can truly satisfy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Counting the Cost

Often when the topic of overseas missions comes up, it is met with very opinionated responses. Usually the first is "I could never do that" and then the rest follow the same suit. It is something that has been running around in my head alot lately though because "counting the cost" for each of us could be quite enlightening as to where our hearts are. Recently I was telling my mom that I am glad that "stuff" isn't something my heart is attached to. I live in a teeny tiny apartment and although I love some retail therapy every now and then, I really don't want more than what I've already got. BUT leave it up to the Lord to show me the areas in my life that I DO hold very dear...pesky part of being a Christian that doesn't let you get comfortable! Anyway, Not more than a few days after patting myself on the back for not being a lover of stuff my daughter came down with a TERRIBLE illness. It started with congestion and a cough and by the middle of the night she literally could not breathe. I have never seen anything so scary in my whole life. While my husband rushed her out into the cold night air to open up her airways, I called the er to get advice on whether or not to bring her in. The pediatric nurse thought it sounded like croup and walked me through how to handle it at home and then bring her in if her condition worsened within the hour. She did improve that night, but I took her the next day and her Dr found a double ear infection and upper respiratory infection. Later that week I began having some strange symptoms and went to my ob to make sure baby and I are healthy (which praise God we are). My point is this. The excellent medical care we receive here in the US and the availability of Dr's and nurses both by appointments and phone is NOT enjoyed by most countries. My sister and her family moved to Thailand two years ago to minister to and bring the gospel of Jesus by way of international teaching. Counting the cost for them has meant a complete life change felt most dramatically when my sister got pregnant and delivered there just last month. NOTHING was the same as it is here in the US. Although she and baby girl are doing beautifully, it was not exactly due to the excellence they received from medical staffing. Out dated techniques, poor linguistics, and vast cultural differences led to my sister often calling my mom and me to ask Dr's here what they would advise. This my friends is a BIG cost to count when doing something for God and I know that their obedience to go where He led them in spite of it brings much joy to Him. It has been an eye opening challenge to me to look for the things in my daily life that I see as normal and come to expect or even complain about. And let me challenge you to ask God to open your eyes to these things so that you can greet them with gratitude rather than expectation. Counting the cost refers most directly to leaving something behind for the sake of Christ, but let's also use it to find new ways to be thankful and then pray for those who have given it up. And for what it's worth...I am REALLY proud of my sister. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thoughts For the New Year

Whew! After a very long...and very dry hiatus from writing , I am back to share some thoughts...and confessions. The Christmas season was magical this year. Christmas party with ten close girl friends, decorating and baking and loving everything Christmas with Olivia, food and presents and more friends and family. It was one of our best Christmas's so far. Funny thing was though that even in my attempt to keep Christ's birthday at the forefront of my mind, my spirit felt dry much like our live tree that littered needles whenever the heat kicked on. I did everything I normally do and expected the same things I normally do and found myself getting increasingly bored and restless. Something needed to change...but what?

Last Sunday morning I left my snoring husband and toddler (who was draped over my snoring husband) and traipsed out to the sofa. I picked up my Bible and did something I haven't done in quite a while...sat quietly and prayed. Now before you think me saintly for waking up early for my devotions let me tell you that this is something I can easily fit into my day. Although Olivia and I sleep in together since I am now pregnant, I have her naptime that I often waste watching Bravo re-runs or twiddling around on the Internet. I could also easily grab some moments when everyone turns in for the night. But I Don't...and that's the point. I uttered the revolutionary words "God please show me the sin in my heart" and watched as things like gossip, anger, discontentment, love of money and stuff, judgmentalism, and a criticism poured out from the contents of my heart. As the faucet of my eyes turned on so did the shower of God's grace. There He washed it all away as I asked for forgiveness and felt my soul be released from the heavy weight it had taken on. The restlessness of my soul gave over the clutter of sin and God gave me rest in exchange. I sat there until it was time to get ready for church and watched in awe as God forgave my sin and made me feel free...funny it took me so long. God offers us the cleansing shower of His grace each moment of every day and I had refused it for months. What a shame!

So while I could make a list of New Years resolutions that sound good...gossip my temper...end critical thoughts...yada yada yada. I think this year I am going to resolve to ask God daily to show me the sin in my heart and let Him be the judge of what I need to work on everyday. His cleansing grace does a much better job at longlasting results than a resolution anyway.