Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leslie and Travis - married in just 2 weeks

Leslie and be married in a mere 2 weeks!

They are total opposites in so many ways. She is contemplative and measures her actions by the consequences. He is a man of adventure and rarely thought beyond the next moment. They are good for each other. She makes him consider the future and make plans and he makes her stop and enjoy the moment. Thankfully, they have one thing in common - the most important thing - they both love Jesus. They met when they were both employed by the church in youth ministry, teaching teenagers about Jesus, His life,  His ways and His desires for each of us.

Travis pursued the world of professional BMX riding - doing all of those crazy stunts mid-air until ... his dad received that dreaded diagnosis. He found himself taking on the full-time responsibility of running his dad's industrial balancing shop as his father fought for his life. Travis is a good son. He honored his father well.

His dad lost that battle yesterday. He breathed his last breath as Travis held his hand and said, "I love you." And it could have been a depressing, dismal, dark day except...

Two weeks ago, Leslie, Travis, Dave and Zach payed a visit to bedridden Joe. Dave told Joe about the Jesus we know and love. He told Joe about the family to which we as believers belong. Joe agreed with Dave and said he wanted to be part of our Christian family so while Zach played worship songs, Dave baptized Joe and prayed over him.

That made all the difference. Yesterday became the day that Joe stepped into God's presence where he was greeted with amazing love - the kind of love that we all seek - pure, unselfish, holy love. I tried to imagine the beauty of that moment, and my mind just couldn't wrap itself around the grandeur. I am so happy for Joe. I am so happy that Travis is assured that he will see his dad again. I am so happy that God keeps His promises to never abandon us and to see us through the fires of life. And I am so happy that Travis is going to marry into our family. Did I mention, that he is a good son?

God is good. God is faithful. God is trustworthy.

When you think about it, please pray for Travis and Leslie. Pray for their wedding. Pray for their marriage.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Free to Be

Recently we experienced a cool morning - one of those times when you remember that fall will be here soon. A friend posted a photo of her toddler riding her little tricycle down their driveway wearing only her panties. I commented that this little one was "free to be." And then I pondered the beauty of that statement. "Free to be."

Also, I have been hearing the song "The Beauty of the Cross" resound in my mind at random times. The chorus:
The beauty of the cross is that there's One who has redeemed my soul.
The beauty of the cross is that I'm finally free and letting go.
The beauty of the cross that that Your grace has found me just as I am.

As a Christian, I am "free to be" - loved just as I am. I can let go of everyone's elses expectations of me and believe what God says about me. He says I am His beloved and adopted child, accepted and forgiven. My true identity is only found in who He says I am. In Him, I find rest for my soul. I am free to obey and free to do good works, not to earn anything or receive anything, but because I have this joy and love that must be expressed. My soul cries out to act.

A few days ago, I read a passage in Timothy Keller's book "The Reason for God."  He says, "Both religion (in which you build your identity on your moral achievements) and irreligion (in which you build your identity on some other secular pursuit or relationship) are, ultimately, spiritually identical courses to take. Both are "sin." ... Religion operates on the principle "I obey - therefore I am accepted by God" but the operating principle of the Gospel is "I am accepted by God through what Christ has done - therefore I obey."

Simply put, religion says "I did. I earned. I obeyed." The Gospel says, "God did. God gave. Now abide." Both result is good works, but only the Gospel points to God and glorifies Him.

What a glorious way to live, "free to be."

But you will not see me riding my bicycle "a la natural."

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Soraya. I have not been able to get her out of my mind. Her story haunts me. Would I watch the movie again? No. Was it worth watching? Yes. Her life was worth it. She was worth it.

The movie - The Stoning of Soraya. It portrays the true story of a woman living in rural Iran. She was falsely accused of adultery by her husband. Why? He wanted to marry a younger woman. How young? 14! It did not matter that his wife had given birth to 2 daughters and 2 sons. It did not matter that she was faithful. No, he was influential and driven by lust. The penalty for adultery - stoning to death. It was his way out of the marriage. The participants in the stoning - every man in the village, including her father, husband and sons.

I had read that stoning was still occasionally practiced in other countries but it is so easy to bury your head in the sand. It is so easy to avoid visualizing such an act. It is so easy to push away thoughts about the very real, physical and emotional pain a woman must experience as she is stoned to death. What would an innocent woman think about in the hour before her stoning? How would it feel to receive the first blow of a small rock hurled at you in the same way a baseball player throws a pitch? How long would it take to die? So many questions. Sometimes I dislike pondering.

Yes, Soraya's life deserves more. She deserves for others to know about the injustice. She deserves the opportunity to make a difference. So, if you have the courage, watch.

Now, did I struggle with God as I was trying to fall asleep after watching this movie? Yes! I started by praying, "God you saw this. I just watched a movie depicting this event but You were right there. You saw that innocent woman go through a brutal death. When will you say "Enough" and send Jesus for His bride?" Then I remembered. Soraya mattered to God. He created her for relationship with Him. But God loves those men, too. His heart must have broken over their brokenness, the many lies they had believed, the culture that taught them ways that were in total opposition to God's ways. Those men who believed the false accusations and participated by throwing a stone would one day realize that it had all been a sham. They had killed an innocent woman - their kind neighbor, their daughter, their mother. They would live with that knowledge the rest of their lives.

How interesting that an Iranian journalist living in Paris would just happen to be on assignment in that rural area when his car would break down. It was there that Soraya's aunt told him the story. And he took the story to the world in the form of written word. Yes, I think God was involved. I think He was a part of making sure the world would remember Soraya. There are so many spiritual messages to be found in this film - Ephesians 4:17-19, Ephesians 5:11, 2 Peter 3:8-18 and of course, John 3:16. Oh, I could record others.

Soraya. May your story change lives for the better.

Monday, July 4, 2011

God's answer to my expectations

God's answer was "yes." He met everyone of my expectations with regards to my trip to Guatemala. But I had another expectation - one that I did not add to the list. Why? Perhaps because I was not sure how I would respond. Perhaps because it could be too embarrassing or too private. Perhaps because someone might ask me about God's answer. I remembered past revelations and ... lots of reasons not to go there. But I should have added to the list that I expected God to reveal something new to me about myself. Some of my past lessons have been painful yet always tempered by God's promise of love and faithfulness.

So... revelation this year has everything to do with divine appointments.

It seems to be typical behavior in Latino cultures to "wait." Perhaps our American frustration with this has to do with our demand upon ourselves to be accountable for every moment. We attribute way too much of our value or worth to how busy we are. Anyway, at Casa you wait - a lot! I waited to talk to Jaimie about our schedule with the Doncellas. I waited to talk with Pastor Dave about our schedule with the boys. I waited on Mike to discuss the future of a young girl I love. I waited on ...let's just say I waited a lot. But a strange thing happened each time I was still and patient and available. A divine appointment took place! An appointment with potential. An appointment that could have eternal consequences.

For example, I was told that Pastor Dave would return soon (whatever that means). I chose to spend my "waiting" time with a couple of teenage boys who were sitting by his front door. Soon there were 6 boys and a fellow teammate huddled together. The questions that the boys asked! My, My! "What will it be like when I leave Casa? How should I transition into the world beyond these walls? When should I leave - before University or after? What does the Bible say about drunkenness? Why? What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?"

I may not be sure of the value of my answers but I do know that there was great value in the relationships that were rooted in love and caring. A mother's advice given for what it was worth-to be heeded or ignored. But spoken in love.

As I process my experiences of "waiting," I cannot help but ponder how rushed I allow myself to become in the states. When and where do I miss divine appointments? When do I make myself unavailable? Where am I unavailable for God's use? Where am I unavailable for relationships - new and old?

Unavailable - I don't like that word. Maybe because it is never found in God's character. Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). Now that is availability!

God help me change my perspective to one of availability. I choose to slow down and open my eyes to your divine appointments. Thank You that You are always willing to be found - just a prayer away!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guatemala Expectations

Guatemala tomorrow...I expect:

  • 500 beautiful children, each with a unique, personal story...a story that began with abuse, neglect or abandonment but has turned into a story of hope and opportunity-a testimony of God's love.

  • to have my heart break when I hear their stories at the same time I am looking into their eyes.

  • to understand more of why God commands us to look after the orphans and widows and to praise God for His provision.

  • children thankful to have a safe place to live-a place where they are not being sold, used or hurt-yet at the same time, longing for a family where they are loved and valued-one of 6, not one of 500.

  • to wake up as dawn breaks to the crowing of roosters and chatter of children (oh, and sharing a bathroom with 22 women!)

  • quiet devotional time with God where He prepares me for a day that I cannot see

  • shy children, afraid of another rejection; outgoing children clamoring for someone to notice them

  • to stand at the entrance of their school with a cup of hot, Guatemalan coffee giving hugs as the children begin their day. Hearing lots of "Buenos dias", replying with "Have a good day."

  • amazing worship services with children dancing, singing, praising

  • to sit on the concrete, surrounded by young boys, playing Bible Bingo in Spanish

  • God to do more than I could ever ask or imagine

  • God to reveal Himself in a fresh way

  • God's mercy to be new every morning

  • God to love these children through me, God to love me through these children

  • God's presence

  • God...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh, how He loves us!

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

I was reading of Jesus' treatment prior to His crucifixion. I read of the whipping, the thorny branches pushed down on His brow, the mocking, the ridicule.

And then ... I don't know how it happened ...but in my next cognizant moment, I realized that I had been daydreaming. About Christ and what He went through? No.

I was thinking about my "to do" list for the day. I was thinking about my discussions with people yesterday. My head was filled with questions like, "I wonder what she thought when I said ..." On and on and on.

Here I am one moment reading about the terrible physical, emotional and spiritual torture of Christ and then my mind wanders to how I can make my life more comfortable today. Does anyone need to remind me of how prone I am to wander? That I have a sinful, selfish nature? is ever present.

It is in that moment of recognition that I realize just how precious is His blood ... every single drop - such great value that it can completely cover my every sin.

And I am reminded just "how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me. And on, how He loves us, oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all.

We are His portion and He is our prize. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.

And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way...

Oh, how He loves us. Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all." (David Crowder)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

But ...

But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf ... Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert ... You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:17b-20

Sometimes I can see my story written on the pages of Scripture.

I too turned from God and chose to worship things of this world.

In fact, I vividly remember standing in my driveway and arguing with God (arguing may not be an accurate verb because I was doing all of the talking). I boldly told Him not to expect me to go into the mission field. I told Him that my "idols" meant to much to me to abandon. I even named them - they were lifestyle choices, material possessions (don't ask me to name them for you - way too embarrassing - and you may worship some of the same ones).

God had every right to walk away from me and abandon me to my idolatry (in fact, He had every reason to send a bolt of lightning and zap me on the spot).

But (I love that word when God is involved) He did not strike me down with His wrath. Nor did He abandon me. Instead, God showered me with His great compassion and grace. And He gently began molding my heart and revealing His heart for me. His kindness led me to repentance. His grace revealed what my true desires were.

All those idols were eventually cast aside - every single one - and God's provision never failed. God did not strip away those hideous idols away from me overnight but He led me to a place of joyfully giving them up. Once they were gone, that of greater value became obvious.

And so I praise you, God. "Blessed by your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD." (Nehemiah 5b-6a)

PS. That was over 30 mission trips ago!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Responding Rather than Reacting

In the temple courts he (Jesus) found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" John 2:14-16
It was almost time for Passover. Jewish families were expected to travel long distances to Jerusalem and participate in the celebration. Part of the celebration included the sacrifice of animals. And monetary donations had to be made in special coinage. So markets were set up to exchange monies and to sell animals suitable for sacrifice ... and the temple became that place of commerce.
Jesus arrived at the temple, which was intended to be God's home of worship, prayer, sacrifice and hearing His Word. Instead Jesus saw a busy marketplace. Did he see greed? Surely he saw distractions to those with hearts of worship. What else did he see? Jesus became very, very angry - enraged! But he did not immediately begin shouting and running around pushing over tables. He "made a whip out of cords." I've read this passage dozens of times but just noticed this phrase. I wonder ... how long did it take to braid cords into a whip? As he braided, undoubtedly he was thinking. observing and praying to his Father - lining up his heart with his Father's will. His anger did not dissipate. Did he get angrier? Did he calm down a bit? He obviously did not rationalize what he was seeing. He took a few minutes ... or however long it takes to braid a whip ... and then he responded with righteous anger.
I am guilty of reacting, often with regrets. I want to be a responder. I want to be courageous and respond when I see injustice. I want to remember to take a few minutes to think, observe and pray. I want to follow the example of Jesus. God help me!