Defending Those Who Can’t Help Themselves

The summer before my junior year in college I went to Guatemala with a team of students at Liberty. During the first month all of us stayed at a small orphanage in a town called Llano Verde. Not only did we stay with a few orphans, but we visited several orphanages on the weekends. I remember the pain I felt in my heart for those babies whose parents had abandoned them. It was also difficult to only have one day to play with them and love on them and then say “goodbye”. But I knew I was not only sent there for those babies, but for my own sake. To realize what was at stake and how I could play a part in helping those who cannot help themselves. Even after I had gone away.

As Christ followers, we’re called to help the poor and needy in their distress. This is not an “oh I will do it one day.” But an action that is required of us now- whether it’s to a neighbor in great physical or spiritual need, a young girl or boy who is fatherless, a widow who’s experiencing great loss, or actually going overseas to help orphans and those in poverty. Jesus invited the poor, the broken, the lost, those who smelled, those who lied, those who hated him… all to sit and dine with him. He was never too “good” for anyone and didn’t care where they’d come from. The invitation remains for us today.

Lately, I’ve been realizing all the more that I am really broken. I am no better than the homeless guys I see huddled under the bypass on 75 every morning. God’s grace is the only thing that holds me today.

This 50 second video (from Francis Chan’s blog) reminded me of our responsibility to defend those who cannot help themselves. To visit them in their distress and bring the love of Christ to them. How can you not just want to wrap your arms around them and take them home?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz1t88kaadg&feature=player_embedded]

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

Monday Wake-up Call

This past Monday, I went to bed consumed by fear, worry, and anxiety. It all started when a few coworkers of mine were briefly talking about the potential Health Care plan and its implications on our insurance and America as a whole. After we talked, my thoughts just began to snowball into thinking about the crazy czar’s that Obama is surrounding himself with (Just check out GlennBeck.com), communism, socialism, a one world economy, end times, the anti-Christ, the rapture, and wondering if a New World Order is coming? I know it sounds crazy. And I’m really not I promise.

Everything just kind of got to me that day. I acted differently around Jeremiah. I laid down with a headache and woke up with one. But on Tuesday, something changed.

I realized I had been a little ignorant of what’s been going in our world. Maybe for a reason because turning on the news can be depressing. But I realized that I was letting all those things affect me so much as if I had never heard about them. As if I had no hope. I was encouraged by a friend to be more aware of what’s going on. To be educated. And most of all- TO WAKE UP! to the crisis that we’re really in as a nation.

So… my goal this month is to be more informed but not to be so affected that I’m not the person I want to be. To worry a little less and trust that whatever the next few years hold for our country, that God is moving at the same time- somehow, some way. Even though evil is clearly and tangibly at work, Good is right there with it. His plan is unfolding and if anything, we’re getting a little bit closer to His return…

So if that’s the case and His return is in fact near, then I need to get back to work and start focusing on eternal things.

Authentic Thoughts

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

You might not finish this blog post

Do you have days where you forget that your life is a vapor and you’ve been put on this earth for just a short time compared to eternity? You’re a mist. Here one day and gone the next. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. At any time, any moment your life could be taken from you.

This intro isn’t meant to sound morbid, but to show reality as it is. Because too often, we forget that life is a vapor. Too often, I forget that I’m not invincible afterall.

My friend Whitney and I started going through the book Crazy Love two weeks ago. I shared about Chapter 1 a few weeks ago. Last night, our friend Jen joined us in the discussion. While indulging in the Hollywood-famous Sprinkles cupcakes that Whitney brought us, we had a great time sharing thoughts on chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2 is called You Might Not Finish This Chapter. And rightly so. The chapter deals with the reality that we all have an appointment with death and that God determines whether we live through each day. The main takeaway that I got is what do I want to remembered for? Can I actually live my life each day remembering that life is precious? What kind of legacy do I want to leave for friends, family, and my children one day? Am I becoming the person I want to be?

Chapter 3 switches gears and talks about God as our Father. Sometimes our thoughts about God have been influenced by the kind of relationship we have with our earthly Father. Francis’ view of God used to be full of intense fear because his father was that way towards him. He walked on eggshells a lot and rarely heard “I love you.” His view began to change when he had his own kids- he saw that the overwhelming love he had for his children was the kind of love God had for him. He was a God who just wanted his children to crawl up in his lap and enjoy His presence.

The former also isn’t to say we shouldn’t fear God. We should always have a reverent intimacy towards God, but He never intends for us to hide from him because we’re afraid of him. I think the truths in this chapter are huge. A lot of us see God this way. We have an unhealthy fear that he’s casting down lighting bolts when we sin. I’ve had that view at times in my life.

Some of us see him in a light of a performance based acceptance where we feel God loves us by what we “do.” If I could just pray more, read my Bible more, cuss less, go to church more, give more… These are all burdens we were never meant to carry! Those are burdens of “religion.” God never asks for religion but for a relationship where we focus on loving him first- not “doing” all these things. Those things will naturally flow from that love relationship.

This is a lot of stuff to unpack in a blog post, but I hope you’ve been encouraged.

Questions: Do you see God as Love- so much that he sent his son to die in your place? Are you carrying heavy burdens around your neck you were never meant to carry?

Rest in the fact today that the greatest commandment God calls you to is to Love the Lord Your God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Luke 10:27).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1V7X3o03Ds]

Love Your Choice

501144_dreamLately, I’ve been especially grateful to the man God gave me to be my husband. I just absolutely love doing life with him. Over the years, I appreciate him more and my respect and love for him grows deeper. This isn’t at all to say that our marriage is perfect. It isn’t to say that we don’t have our arguments, disagreements, frustrations, annoyances, and times where we’re just not on the same page and want to go crazy. But this is to say that since the day we began dating, we’ve really strived to put God at the center of our relationship. And I can say confidently today that He is at the center.

Honestly, I don’t know any other way to do marriage. I don’t know any other way to have a successful marriage. In the months before our wedding day, I had to realize that Jeremiah would never complete me. Only God could fill the deepest parts of my heart. I had to understand that marriage was going to be hard work. But I didn’t know the degree of hard work until I experienced it. Melding two imperfect sinners under the same roof for life just isn’t easy because sin is messy and in marriage you see it magnified all the more.

At Bluefish, we recently interviewed NFL football player Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda for our upcoming marriage series. I couldn’t believe that no matter how successful, talented, and famous Kurt is, he shared candidly how he still has to work through hardships and struggles in his relationship to Brenda. They both still have to work through unmet expectations, trust issues, and communication. It’s just not this magical relationship because of who he is. He has to work at keeping Christ in the center. It was also neat to hear them say that football is never even mentioned inside the walls of their home.

It’s been encouraging to hear stories like these and stories of friends who are striving towards a godly marriage. They’re aiming to love unconditionally, sacrificially, and selflessly- regardless of how hard it is. I saw a sign yesterday that had something to do with marriage that read, Choose your love, love your choice.

I love that. It reminded me of being committed for a lifetime. To keep loving your choice- in sickness, health, good times, bad times, when you don’t “feel” like it… There should never be another option.

I’m really thankful for the gift of marriage and I’m determined to keep working at it as I work on my own issues first.

Happy Nine Months, John Samuel

IMG_9639I was sitting on a comfy chair outside Starbucks on Monday evening for a meeting Jeremiah and I had. John was with me sitting on my lap. And there was a young man in his 30s sitting across from us plugged in to his ipod. He kept staring down. I kept looking at him wondering how he could keep from looking at the adorable baby looking at him. I kept waiting for him to look up.

“Oh no!” I yelled. John had spit up. And it went on him and then all over my jeans (this is a regular occurance). The guy was still looking down but he was chuckling under his breath. He had to have seen it.

A few minutes passed and then all the sudden, the guy decides to look up. He smiles. And starts waving hello to John. John is smiling and cooing at him. Then the man says goodbye and walks away.

Well I can’t believe the baby we brought home from Baylor Hospital 9 months ago is now interacting with people at Starbucks, crawling at full speed, making “ma-ma” and “da-da” sounds, opening up drawers, and cutting two bottom teeth.

It’s so hard to believe how fast time goes by when you have a baby. As a mom now, I can’t imagine life without John. I love holding him, playing with him, laughing with him, singing to him, reading to him, and kissing his cheeks all over. Every day I just want to eat him up.

Even in the hard times of motherhood like tantrums, fussiness, sleepless nights, difficulties eating out, not getting my to-do list done… It’s all worth it. Because nothing compares to giving of yourself to your child.

And I am so thankful God has given John to us as his gift to steward well and to love well.

Happy Nine Months John. Your Mommy and Daddy love you and you are loved by God, with an Everlasting Love.

Book Review: Crazy Love (Ch. 1)

My friend Whitney and I are going through Francis Chan’s new book, Crazy Love. We met and discussed Chapter 1 yesterday and I’m just amazed by the truths in this book.

Francis talks about his view of God growing up in the church. For him, it was all about rules. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex. Don’t cheat. You get the point. So he viewed God as a God who wanted to spoil his fun. He began to think: Is this it, really? Is this what being a Christian is? He didn’t want anything to do with Christianity if that was the case.

But he had an epiphany in his view of God. Through reading the Scriptures and through a few trips overseas, he realized his view of God was skewed, incorrect, and unbiblical.

God was not out to spoil his fun or take away from him. God’s commands were to give life to him, to protect him, and to show God’s love to him. Francis began to experience this love and it was so radical that he started to see that God, after all, was crazy in love with him. So much that God sent his son, Jesus, to come down to earth, die on a cross, and raise to life again so that he could be saved from his sins and have life to its fullest.

Francis goes on to say how incredible it is that Creator God would want to have a relationship with him. I resonate so much with Francis. I still think my view of God is sometimes jaded. I like to put him in a sweet little box as if I have him figured out. I sometimes think he’s casting lightning bolts down from heaven when I mess up. But I too am beginning to see that this is far from the truth. All I have to do is read God’s word to see that He is Wholly-different and it’s okay that I can’t comprehend him. I can still trust in who he is.

After watching the video below, I was in awe that God wants to have a relationship with someone as insignificant as me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ya12I036lg]

Orange Air & Anxious Thoughts

APW_orangeA lot of mornings in Dallas, there are what you call “orange air pollution” watches. I saw one on the marquees driving down the interstate this morning. I was also notified via radio. I can’t quite figure out what action they want me to take when they tell me about this orange air. Do they want me to turn around and carpool with someone last minute? Am I supposed to hide inside all day, in hopes that my respiratory system won’t be exposed? Do I need to text all my friends and tell them to stay inside? If anything, all these watches do is make me worry instead of take caution.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She shared some of her struggles with having a “controlling, anxious personality.” I struck a chord with that. I battle anxious thoughts every day: Will I get sleep tonight? Will my brother in law be okay when he deploys to Afghanistan in a few months? Am I communicating well in my marriage? Is America going to recover from the current condition we’re in and are we really protecting ourselves well from terrorism?  And then it’s the more simple things like What will I eat next? Am I staying healthy? Will I survive my 15k tomorrow? Will I make it to that appointment on time?

God knew that we would be people of worry and he knew it would be one of my main struggles. He knew that I would have to refer back to this verse 10,000 times to remind myself: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-8).

So what’s the solution to worry and anxious thoughts? PRAY. Petition. Be thankful. Present all your concerns to God- yes that means your laundry list. But make sure you LISTEN. Complain to him. Talk to him. Believe in him. Depend on him. Have faith that he will answer. Rely on truth that he deeply cares about what you think. Stand firm in his power to give you strength to endure this life. SURRENDER.

Then what? His peace will consume you and guard your life. You won’t be able to explain it because it transcends human comprehension. Your anxious thoughts will be turned into thoughts of trusting in someone Greater.

So, what do you need to give Him today? Do you trust that he will carry whatever burdens you have?

Well I guess the next time I see “Air Pollution: Orange” I’ll be reminded that God is in control, even when we do stupid things to our environment.

Give me Prudence

1199870_old_style_doryJeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.  These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens. So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk. I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications.  I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

Running for Sunrise

Part of the White Rock Trail

Part of the White Rock Trail

On Sunday morning, John was up and ready at 4:30 AM so I decided to do my long run of 7 miles for the day. I started at 5:00AM. Since it was still dark out, Jeremiah followed close behind me in our SUV. Running that early just isn’t fun to me. Everything is closed. No one is around. And I longed for sunlight.

No matter how far I run, I always run on Swiss Avenue, a well-known street in Dallas lined with historic mansions. I pictured everyone snug in their beds. Past Swiss Avenue, I jogged on the sidewalks of Lakewood, a charming area where my final destination would be. On the left in the distance, I saw a few workers at Whole Foods getting their day started. I smelled doughnuts from a local shop, reminding me of my intense hunger pains. Past the neighborhoods, I reached White Rock Lake where I had around 3 miles left.

At last, the sun  pierced through the clouds- bursts of bright pink and orange. Fishermen were out for their morning catch. Cyclers, walkers, and runners breezed by- sweaty and short of breath just like me. The light I had longed to see had finally arrived and it was beautiful. It gave me a new burst of energy to finish what I’d started.

There are days where I sense darkness, that I’m in a valley and I just long to be with Jesus and to be at home in heaven. This is not at all to say I don’t love life. I absolutely do. God has given me fullness of joy in His presence. I love my husband, my son, family, and friends. I’m overwhelmed all the time by God’s grace and goodness in my life. And it’s depressing to think about dying one day. But I still have days where my heart longs for my eternal home in heaven- where I’ll be healed from the brokenness of sin within me and restored to God’s perfect image.

At the end of 7 miles and wanting to eat a dozen doughnuts, I was encouraged that in Christ, there is no darkness at all. He is the light and gives light to everything. He alone is what our hearts are chasing after.

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