Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Open

What an amazing and timely prompt for me.

As I go into this new year pondering what the Lord has for me this is the feeling I have. I am beginning this new year with a 17 day trip to Ethiopia to serve. I am open to whatever God wants to do and excited for Him to work in me and through me. I don't know what to expect, but I am open. I have been open by saying yes to join in the adventure. I have said yes to leaving me comfort, my rhythm, my safety and diving into something new and big and scary.

I also feel like the last few months have been challenging to me. I have been a little off and a little different. Maybe it's been a little dark even. Now I realize I have been in a cacoon. I have been preparing for the next phase of my journey. I have felt the cocoon opening the last few weeks. I feel like i am emerging as a butterfly. There are so many amazing things stirring in me. I am taking some art classes. I am starting to dance one again. I am beginning to take all the really great techniques that i have been learning and merge them into new and interesting expressions of beauty and goodness. I feel filled with excitement, anticipation, joy, vision, and direction.

My wings are spreading. I am open to the new the God wants to do. I am open to where He wants to lead me, challenge me, and ask me to go. I see so much light as the cocoon is breaking open and the arts begin once again to flow out of me like a river.

Lord, I want to be open to all that you are and all that you want to do. Free me from fear and the desire for safety. Help me to say yes, live dangerously and wonder at how small I would make my life compared to how big a life you have in mind for me.

At the top is some of the Art coming out of the cocoon.

Putting away lying

I flipped open my bible to Ephesians and began to read. It always amazes me that I can choose what I think is a random passage to read and God will illuminate and speak so clearly to me. I know it shouldn't surprise me by now, but it still evokes a sense of awe in me. As I read I came to Ephesians 4:25 " Therefore putting away lying, "Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. It really struck me so I stopped and began to ponder.

I have read this book of the Bible a thousand times, and have read this verse over and over, but two things struck me about it. Every other time I have read this verse I have really concentrated on the not lying to one another part. I really make every effort to tell the truth and not shade it or lie. When I realize that I have misrepresented something I am pretty quick to go back, admit what I have done and ask for forgiveness. My children used to really make fun of the fact that mom wouldn't even tell a white lie. I have gotten the attitude at times from people that this is a fault my refusal to tell any type of lie. I feel like it is what God wants me to do. I find sometimes that b/c I am so careful to tell the truth I also generally assume that people are sincerely telling me the truth. Then I am really surprised and hurt when I find out someone has lied to me.

Anyway, enough about that. What I had never really pondered was the last half of the verse. For we are members of one another. I know that the body of Christ is considered members of one another, but I didn't read don't lie to fellow believers b/c we are members of one another, it read don't lie to your neighbor. So I went on a search to see if anyone else had the same thought process that I had. Was this verse saying that we are all in fact members of one another?

I found a lot of reverences to the Body of Christ, but I did also find those that pointed to all of humanity being members of one another. We are, as humans, part of the same race of created beings. We all came from the same original set of parents: Adam and Eve. What we do and say to one another effects us all. So how does that effect how we should interact with everyone. We are told not to lie to anyone. Do we misrepresent? Do we exaggerate? Do we take advantage of people's trust? Do we excuse not being completely honest and transparent in our dealings with people outside of the church, justifying that they are not a part of the family of God? But aren't they they family of God? Isn't every human being created in the image of God? Whether they choose to glorify Him or not, each and every person is an image bearer. Is there ever a reason to deceive anyone? What if we made a point to be totally truthful at all time not matter the cost?

Then Romans 13:10 came to my mind. "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Deceiving anyone is harming them. If we are out for the good of everyone else, even over ourselves we have no need to lie or harm.

This lead me to the following list of verses about how to treat people:

Galatians 6:10

10 So then, (A)as we have opportunity, let us (B)do good to everyone, and especially to those who are (C)of the household of faith.

Proverbs 3:27

English Standard Version (ESV)

27 (A)Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,[a]
when it is in your power to do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

English Standard Version (ESV)

15 See that (A)no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always (B)seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Romans 12:10

English Standard Version (ESV)

10 (A)Love one another with brotherly affection. (B)Outdo one another in showing honor.

Philippians 2:3

English Standard Version (ESV)

3 Do nothing from (A)selfish ambition or (B)conceit, but in (C)humility count others more significant than yourselves.

1 Peter 5:5-6

English Standard Version (ESV)

5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. (A)Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for (B)“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 4:9

English Standard Version (ESV)

9 (A)Show hospitality to one another without grumbling

Galatians 6:2

English Standard Version (ESV)

2 (A)Bear one another's burdens, and (B)so fulfill (C)the law of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

English Standard Version (ESV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Ephesians 4:32

English Standard Version (ESV)

32 (A)Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, (B)forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Romans 12:16

English Standard Version (ESV)

16 (A)Live in harmony with one another. (B)Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[a] (C)Never be wise in your own sight.

John 13:34-35

English Standard Version (ESV)

34 (A)A new commandment (B)I give to you, (C)that you love one another: (D)just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 (E)By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I John 3:11

1 For (A)this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, (B)that we should love one another.

1 John 4:12

English Standard Version (ESV)

12 (A)No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and (B)his love is perfected in us.

1 Peter 4:8

English Standard Version (ESV)

8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since (A)love covers a multitude of sins.

I know that is a long list of scriptures. I guess the point I wanted to make is that we are to love everyone and put their needs above ours. We are to prefer them over ourselves and refuse to do any harm to anyone. That includes deceiving, gossiping, ignoring or looking down upon. Galatians says to do good to everyone and especially the household of faith, but lets not rush into the household of faith part ignoring the do good to EVERYONE. Just like we wouldn't intentionally harm our own bodies, since everyone is a member of everyone, we are to care for, bless, nourish, cherish and do no harm to anyone.

Very quickly the other things that stuck out to me was that the "Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor," in the verse is a quote b/c in the verse it is in parenthesis. So I went on a search for where is was being quoted from. I found it in Zechariah 8:16 "There are these things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgement for peace in your gates."

How much peace would there be internally and relationally if we simply always strive to tell the truth and do no harm to our neighbor no matter the cost to us or what we might have to let go of gaining for ourselves.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Let love be without hypocrisy

Romans 12:9 (KJV) days Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

I really got stuck on Let love be without hypocrisy. The ESV says: Let love be genuine. I meditated and journaled on this yesterday and today and thought I would share.

When I seek out a definition for love, I am usually led directly to 1 Cor. 13. As most people probably are being that it is called the love chapter.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)

That is a tall order to do with people whom we spend our lives with, whom we have emotional attachments to. We fail over and over miserably with them. Most of the time we don't even try to do that with others we don't know; we do even less of it with people we don't care for or whose who are not like us.

But who are we commanded to love?

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another fulfills the law.

Romans 13:10 Love does not harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Matthew 5:43-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Loving without hypocrisy, loving genuinely is not easy. As a matter of fact it is impossible in ourselves. It is only possible through His Spirit dwelling in us. Only when we are full of Him, when we have brought all of our needs to Him and we are not seeking to have them filled any other way, can we poor out unconditional, overflowing, never ending, genuine love. He is the only source of love. We cannot manufacture it or find it in ourselves or anyone else. We can only receive love from Him and give genuine love out to others from the river which flows out of us by His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We can be fulfilled in Him and then seek to give or serve with no thought of return because He is our source and we are always full in Him.

He is the only source of unconditional love. Our love always contains conditions. We always have mixed motives and in our giving love we are seeking to receive something back. Perfect love originates in God and exists in us only as we exist in Him and He in us.

I John 4:16
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

I John 4:19
9 We love because he first loved us.

As He is the only source of love, as He is love, we can only love through Him. His love abides in us and flows out of us. This means that those who do not know Him cannot truly love. Love involves sacrifice; it involves placing others above oneself. The world does not and cannot teach us that. Sin causes us to love only self. The world does not understand it; the world sees this type of behavior as foolish; love comes only from God. Anything called love which does not originate from God is not love no matter what it is called. Love outside of God is hypocrisy.

I John 4:9-11
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Parable in the form of ornaments

I have bee working on these ornaments I am making to raise money for They ended up being much more popular than I thought they would be. Because of their popularity I have ended up spending a lot of time making them over the last month or so. As I have been making them, God has shown me different lessons.

The first lesson that came to my heart involved the materials they ornaments are made out of. They are made out of scraps of material woven into latch hook grid material. The idea for the ornaments came from a book, so the original idea was not mine. I just took the concept and made it my own. All the materials I have used with the exception of the grid are recycled materials. I have a hard time throwing much of anything away b/c I know almost anything has the potential to be made into art. I have a drawer that I have been throwing material scraps into since I started sewing. I didn't have any idea what I would do with it, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Now it's so funny that what most people would have sees as rejected, useless fabric has become beautiful in the hands of the artist. Trash has become art. It occurred to me as I was working on ornaments that this is what God does so many times. I know in the case of me, no one else really saw anything of value when they looked at me. What people saw was a dirty, homeless punk rock girl. God picked up the trash and turned it into art. He took something that seemed to have no value and wove it into something beautiful. How often do we overlook unseen potential in a person or even a situation b/c we don't take time to change perspectives. Maybe what we are looking at just needs to be woven into something different, something bigger-like the church.

Five Minute Friday: Color

This will be my first time to participate in this exercise. I have been following, but never get around to doing it.

So Here Goes.

Color is beautiful. I love bright colors. I love combinations so complementary colors. For so many years I wore only black with maybe a splash of red. I spent years working in the makeup and hair industry and found that to be a perfect excuse to wear only black. I tended to toward a more gothic type style and so black and red worked for me. That also bled into my art. It was very dark, black, red and gray color schemes.

What color represents in my life now is the healing of God in my heart. I have begun to phase the blacks out and slowly add color. My wardrobe is changing slowly. What is really changing is my art. My art has become so lively, bright. So outside of the box. I am becoming so much more adventurous. The timidity of being scared of the artist in me and scared of failing has been so stripped away and healed. My art is life and color and a stunning example of God's power to heal and change and restore.


That wasn't very long. and it also wasn't very hard. Maybe if I would commit to this every Friday I could find more time to use the gift of writing God has given me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The nagging Question in my mind

There is a haunting question that constantly rattles around in my head. It's not a small thing that just pops up every so often. At times it can become an obsession to me. It is a somber melody that plays at the back of everything I do. It plays when I rise in the morning and pray. It sweeps into my days as I live and attempt to give thanks to God each day. It plays when I meditate on His goodness and all that He has done for me and given me. It become a roar as I read about struggle and lack and hardship for others all over the world.

Job 1:9-11

9Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? 10Have you not put(A) a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have(B) blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But(C) stretch out your hand and(D) touch all that he has, and he will(E) curse you(F) to your face."

This passage is always at the back of my mind. It is not b/c I am afraid that God will give me Job's treatment. It isn't a question of justice or God's right to do such. It isn't even about understanding why.

It is this thought. Do I love and serve God because He has blessed me beyond measure? Do I delight in His will and grace because in my life His will is easy and His grace is pleasant?

You see I am sooooooo blessed. He has given me so much. He took that broken, hateful, confused, lost little punk girl off the streets and over the last 19 years has dramatically changed me. He has healed me of more than I will ever even really comprehend. And far more than most of the people I know can begin to grasp. He has untangled layer upon layer upon layer of lies, confusion, programming, fears, insecurity, self loathing, anger, hopelessness, abuse, addiction. I could go on for the rest of the year and not run out of things that He has lovingly stripped me of and removed. He has taken a high school drop out and given her a degree, several professional licenses and the opportunity to now become a nurse. He took the fatherless, extended family-less girl who felt like an orphan and given her an amazing family with her in-laws who who loves and accepts the small broken family that she has. He gave me the love of the most amazing husband ever created. He is kind, gentle, faithful, patient, committed, calm in the storm, and ever devoted to our family. He took a broken womb which should have never been able to conceive and brought forth 3 beautiful, amazing children. He has healed me so that I could mother them without continuing the cycle of abuse. I have a house, a job, food, clothes. I can read, and go to school and even be given money from the government so I can attend school. I have never had to hold a child who is starving to death and wonder how I was going to feed it. I don't have AIDS, hepatitis, TB or any of the other diseases that my drug addiction would very well have given me. Nor do I have a child who is sick because I gave them one of those diseases. We have two cars, 3 sewing machines, 2 refrigerators, a microwave, an expensive bike, a stove to cook on, heat, hot running water, AC in the summer, I have legs, eyes, ears, lungs that work, a heart that beats, a brain that sends nerve signals down my spinal cord to all my extremities. God made me creative and intelligent, driven and passionate.

I think I have made my point. I am no where near finished. I could keep going on and on and on. But I think everyone gets it.

He has been so good to me. I am blessed beyond measure and every day the blessings are multiplied. Every day He makes me more like Himself. Everyday, He faithfully meets me in my bathtub, listens to my prayers, and speaks life, hope, and unspeakable delight and joy into my heart. How could I not rejoice in His will and grace? What choice do I have but to be overwhelmed and brought to me knees before His grace and glory. He loves me, protects me and fills me with Himself. I contain all the riches of heaven. He is everything I need and more than enough. He is my greatest good, my highest joy.

So back to my question. Do I love Him because of His goodness, blessing and protection? What if everything I love was removed? What if life became harder for me? What if His grace became a hard grace as opposed to this beautiful grace I know that is blessing beyond all measure? Would I still love Him? Would I still serve Him with all of my being? Would I still trust and delight in His will no matter what it looks like?

Or is the grace I know cheap grace? Grace is so easy to believe in and delight in when it is what you want and how you want and free of tests and trials. What if grace suddenly became hard grace for me? Would I still be hopelessly in love with Him? Would I continue to rejoice in Him and attempt to shun evil? or, if the hedge was taken away and I lost it all, would I curse God to His face?

This is the haunting question always at the back of my mind. It is a melody that ebbs and flows and moves through me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back in the saddle again

It's been about six months since I wrote on my blog. It has been such a busy and crazy few months. I would like to start writing again and record this journey toward the goal God has put in my heart. Then as I go to school to be a nurse practitioner and eventually work to provide medical care for the desperately poor in Ethiopia, this blog can serve as a place to deposit the lessons, thoughts, and hopes along to way.

In an effort to try and keep myself on track writing I am committing to myself to write at least one day a week, and to keep myself from saying I am too busy I will commit to set a timer for an hour one day a week and write then post what I wrote. If I have other time to post then I can be free to post more, but this way at least one day a week I am committed to write and not use the excuse that I don't have time. I can set aside at least an hour and guard that time as time that I have committed to share the journey.

For today, here is what has been rattling around in my heart. It has been such a hard month for me due to overburdening myself with commitment. Working at Starbucks, Six Flags, and going to school have been more than I really thought it would be. Going back to school has not been easy on me. There have been times I have thought to myself, "what am I doing?" The work hasn't been too bad; school comes pretty easy for me. Statistics has been pretty challenging, but again not too bad. What has been hard for me is losing free time to do the things I love. I miss reading. I have traded reading books that shape my soul and make me more like Jesus for books on Biology and Statistics. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Biology and enjoy learning about it tremendously. I just miss being able to read other books. I miss having time to sit and journal my thoughts and meditate on the Word listening to what the Lord would say to me with no real pressure to hurry and cut it short; just enjoying the leisure of being with Him and my journal. I really miss being able to be creative; I miss sewing and painting and the process of seeing an expression come to life.

It seems like the pressure is always there that something needs to be done. Sometimes I would like to go back to just going to work at Starbucks and coming home to do whatever I felt like doing that day (cleaning, cooking, creating, etc.). Part of me thinks this is too hard; this a lot to undertake. Life was so much simpler when I wasn't in school trying to become a nurse. The thought of this pressure and limit on my time for the next 8 years makes me cringe somewhat. This is a long journey I am on; this is a pressured and challenging journey I am on. The rhythm of my life has changed dramatically.

I pray and ask God to help me be faithful and glorify Him while I am on this journey. I pray for His grace to carry me through. I pray for His help to understand and learn the concepts. I pray for Him to help me not get to focused on the end destination that I forget to make the most of the journey. I pray and ask Him are you sure that this is what you want me to do? Why not just go to Ethiopia and love the orphans now? Why are you asking me to do this long process before I get to go? You see I have no problem leaving everything I have here, moving my family and serving Him by serving them. I would pack up tomorrow if He would say, "Go now." The problem is that He has asked me to do this other thing first. He has asked me to give up my free time and become a nurse, so I can do more than just love on them. He has asked a little more of me. He wants me on His terms, His way, not mine.

So as I have struggled and basically tread water for the last month, wondering what in the world possessed me to say yes, He sent me a reminder as to why.

I woke up early last Sunday morning before time to get ready for the day at Six Flags and decided to peruse the blogs I follow (another area that has suffered at the hands of school; I have not been able to keep up with the blogs I normally read faithfully- there are quite a few.). I came across this one and God reminded me why He asked me to do this. He helped me remember what this was all about. If I was just trying to get a new career so I could make more money and we could live more comfortably, I don't think I would be able to keep going. I think it would be easy to just stick to the status quo. The way life was before He asked me to be a nurse and I said yes, was so much easier and so much less complicated. Because, however, this is not about a new job and more money, giving up is not so easy and not really an option. Because my Father gave me a brain that learns so easy and a drive that helps me go places that others might not want to push themselves to go and ordained for me to live in a country where school is an overabundant option, He in turn asks me to take all those privileges and gifts and use them to obey Him and say yes. He sent me this blog to break my heart yet again and remind me that I am on this journey b/c there are children and mothers who desperately need for me to say yes and finish this part of the journey so I can give them medical so they can live, have health and become what He has called them to become. That is the part of this beautiful tapestry of the Kingdom of God that He has asked me play. Read the post below and maybe you can see where I am going and why; and maybe, just maybe, He will use it to ask you to play a part in this beautiful tapestry. Your part may well be difficult too, but the rewards He is offering far outweigh the cost.Link

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Ugly Side of Grace

I haven't written in so long that I am not sure that anyone will even read this. I have been writing a lot in my journal which I think has lead to me not blogging at all. I need to find some kind of balance between the two, or I need to learn to pick out of the journal and blog about some of it. Today, though, I need to pour out some junk. I just feel like putting on the paper is not enough.

There is a great deal of angst inside of me. This angst has been rolling around in me for months, every since I found out that my brother had relapsed. So, I have plugged Seether into my ears and I am going to type until I feel like I have let it all out. I don't know how long it will be or what all I have to say. Hopefully, there is a bigger reason for me to type this than just to purge it out.

Just a little back ground. My brother has battled a crack addiction for the last 10 years. He has had good seasons and really bad seasons. Things have gotten really dark at times and at other times things were going so good that we thought the dark seasons were over. He ended up in jail a few years back which led to a long stretch of good with a couple minor relapses. He had a really great couple of years. There were some small rough spots, but the general direction was forward and up. He had a really great job that he absolutely loved; he had unbelievable favor with the bosses. He had his own apartment and was paying his bills, saving and giving a lot. He had really built up a great library of books and bible study tools, and was studying and learning a lot. He had even began to take responsibility for a lot of past mistakes, even making amends financially to people he had stolen from. He was beginning to admit the truth about a long list of lies he had lived by. During this last year we had really began to get close and be like a brother and sister instead of enemies. I spoke to him almost daily on the phone. He was at my house weekly. We shared what we were studying and struggling with. We had really moved into having a close relationship. I wasn't distant or annoyed by him anymore.

About 2 and half months ago, things came unraveled. They started to unravel slightly, but I just kept praying for him and believed that things were going to head back in the right direction. To my horror things did not go back; they continued to unravel very quickly and deeply. I had no idea that things were going to completely come unraveled. I was totally caught off guard b/c I really thought that we had gotten far enough down the road of recovery and restoration that he wouldn't turn back. The savings went, then the job went; slowly he sold all of his belongings off; then the apartment went. He stole from my mom out of my house; he totaled his girl's car; he was held captive and beaten by drug dealers. He is now homeless and had lost everything. He is sleeping in bus stations and behind grocery stores. I even found a rehab for him, which he left after just a couple days.

I have gone through all kinds of different stages during the last couple months. At first, I was just very angry. I felt angry that he would choose this path again. I felt totally shocked; I really can't understand why he went back to that. I have been hopeful, believing that he would grab a hold of the sides of the pit and stop the descent. I have been overwhelmed with fear that he would die. I have grieved the loss of our close friendship and despaired that it would be once again close. And I have cried and cried and cried. This has hurt so much worse this time than it ever has before. In the past, I could just write him off and feel nothing toward his stupid decisions. We weren't close. Now, I cannot do that. My heart is ripped in half. Sometimes, I walk around with a lump in my throat for days and it feels like the grief and fear are going to choke me. Then someone strikes the right nerve and the tears come hard and deep and cleansing. Sometimes I feel like my guts are hanging out dragging behind me. I literally have a stomach ache b/c the grief is too much for me to take.

He showed up at my house yesterday. My first gut response was anger. I was angry that he was at my door like that and I knew that he had no where to go and would be asking for money. I also knew that I couldn't let him in b/c then he wouldn't leave and would probably steal from my mother; he always steals from her if given the chance (when he is on crack that is). I didn't speak to him or go out. I sent my husband out to deal with him. I just felt angry and couldn't go talk to him. I didn't realize until this morning that the anger was only a cover for what I was really feeling. It is how I protect myself from the torrent that is really inside of me. He ended up going to Starbucks where there are many people who know and love him. They talked to him and fed him and did what they could for him. As I pulled into my Starbucks this morning to get my coffee and saw those who had seen him the day before, the torrent was released. I had seen a glimpse of him through the slit in the blinds that I looked through to see who was at the door. I cannot get the image out of my mind. My precious D, my beloved brother, emaciated, all his belongings on his back, defeated, overwhelmed, hot, tired, feeling completely alone and hopeless. This morning, as I pulled up and saw my fellow barista and lover of D, the look on her face broke me. The grief bubbled up out of me threatening to break into a tsunami totally out of control. I choked in back, though. " I can't talk about him, right now," I said moving passed them. I walked in to see my boss, also one who loves D fiercely; the cracks in the dam holding back the flood began to leak; the tears began to spill, but with some control. Then the next face, lover of D, approached knowing the my heart was broken and threatening to give way; the sweet friend who had spent the day before at the Starbucks with D, feeding him, trying to reason with him. As she hugged me, the dam broke; I gave way to the sobs and lost control. My heart split open lying on the floor for all to see. We had to walk out of the store b/c the dam had given way and control was no longer possible.

I feel so sad and so confused. Why go back? Why won't you do something, Lord? I know what you did for me. I didn't want to quit drinking. I told you that you were going to have to change my heart and make me want to stop- that I would keep drinking until you took it away. And then one day, you took it. One day, you made me want to be free and I took you hand; you have led me down this path of sobriety from alcohol for the last 2 years. You have kept me from falling when I was tempted and given me the desire to let you change my heart. It has nothing to do with me. You did that for me, Lord. Why won't you do that for D? Why won't you take it away and make him want you more than he wants the crack. When will it end? Surely, you won't let him die this way. I have cried and prayed and cried some more.

I know you are good, Lord. I know you love him immeasurable more than I could ever love him. I know that you are in control of the universe and that you have a plan. I know that none of this is a surprise to you.

Grace looks so pretty in my life. It is an easy thing for me to hold to your sovereignty and delight in your grace. Trusting you is easy for me, b/c my life has been far more blessed than I ever imagined it could be. You have poured grace upon grace upon grace in my life. I have not suffered loss. My children are healthy and well adjusted. My husband adores me and provides for me. My house has electricity and running water. We have two cars and far more food than we can eat in our house. Grace is easy for me. Being thankful is easy for me. But what about grace in the lives of others? What about mothers who have to bury their children or care for desperately ill ones? What about the widows who don't have food to eat? What about D? I don't like the way grace is packaged for him. I don't see beautiful grace in his life. I see devastation and suffering. I see a hurt, hopeless little boy who grew up without a dad and just wants someone to show him how to be a man, to hug him and tell him that he is loved and that they believe in him. Forgive me, Lord; I don't see it. I don't like it. I am eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, labeling things with no true knowledge of the whole picture. I know that I see such a limited view and you see the whole thing beginning to end. I want to stand in the place of creator and judge deciding what is grace and what is not grace.

Kisses from Katie says it so much better, this idea of eating from the tree. Read about it here.

I have grieved and struggled and all I know to do is to keep preaching the gospel truth to my self. We serve a loving God who knows all and can only give grace to us. We don't always like the package that grace comes in, but it is always a gift from God and it is good. He loves D and knew this was coming; it did not catch him by surprise. He knows how this all ends as well.

He used Elizabeth Elliot to say to me, "When it's finished, you'll see." We can't see the whole picture so we don't understand, but when it's finished, we will see.

I was singing in church this morning, "Savior, He can move the mountains, our God is mighty to save, mighty to save. Forever, author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave." As I sang, I heard Him, gently say to me, "I am writing his story. I am still writing his story." So no matter how the grace is packaged and no matter how much I dislike what it looks like. It is not my story to write. I am not writing this story. God is writing D's story. God is writing the story of Jesus in D.

And somehow, in His amazing faithfulness and providence, God is sanctifying me and changing me to make me more like Jesus through D's struggle and my struggle to walk through it. My loving Father is writing my story and D's story and weaving it together into a beautiful tapestry of grace. I can't see it with my eyes, but I choose to see it with my faith. The grief and pain are signs that He is healing me and causing me to be able to feel. The pain is a sign of life and growth and love. Being open to love means being open to pain and somehow that is also beautiful and it is grace.

July 18th, 2011

A little addition thanks to my great friend Sean who encouraged me by pointing out grace in my brother's life right now via text message.

"Grace is that, unlike several other addicts, he falls in direct sight of a Christian community that loves him. Grace is that he knows people that pray for him. Grace is that he is alive."

What comfort from a brother in Christ. It was just what I needed. Straight from the mouth of God to my ear through the mouth of a beloved brother- answer to the questions I prayed aloud in my blog.

Update : Dec 26th. God has moved in D's life. He has 4 months sober, a job, and lives at the 24 hour AA club downtown. He is on the mend, moving forward, pressing into God. He spent the first overnight at our house since the unraveling on Christmas Eve. Our relationship is on the mend. God is healing and showing us how His grace was and is woven into the whole situation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Just a little something...

This is something I wrote one day after wrestling in prayer over the things that break my heart and cause me to shutter and sometimes cry; in the midst of those times of wrestling, I sometimes doubt that my prayers even make a difference. Sometimes, I don't even know how to pray and I just say, "Lord, please do something. I don't know how to pray, but you do. Please turn my petitions into something that is meaningful and makes a difference." Then I am reminded of Romans 8:26
If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. (Message translation).

Beautiful God, I love you
Beautiful God, I trust you
Then I find myself asking
"What can we do?"

How can we just sit
Idly by doing nothing
But what can we do
O Lord, have mercy
O Lord, do something

For you have been so good to me
You have dealt so bountifully with me
But how can my soul return to rest
When there is so much suffering
When children are hungry
When mothers are grieving
When war and famine wreak destruction
When restless masses have no where to call home

I want to trust you
But when, O Lord,
When we will the oppressed go free
When will children have parents
When will the hungry be fed
When will the broken know healing
When will we love and care and give and hear.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Confession time

I have never thought that I could be addicted to pain pills. I am not saying that I judge those who are or have been addicted to them. I am an addict of a different kind. I am an alcoholic and and a speed freak. That is why I have never really been able to see myself with a pain pill problem. When I have surgery or some reason to need them, I get the prescription filled, take what I need and them leave the remainder in a bottle somewhere in my house. I just don't like the way they make me feel. I have spent so much of my life feeling tired and groggy that I don't like that feeling that vicodin gives me... usually. I like to feel speedy and get lots of things done. Most of the people who know me know that I hate to sleep and resent the fact that I am required to eat or sleep.

Well I had major dental work done on Tuesday. I was in a lot of pain; I took my pills and went to sleep. I got up and took some ibuprofen the next morning. After being awake a couple hours I took a pain pill and went to work. This is the first time I have had to take pain pills and work. Usually I take them and go to sleep; by the time I have to function normally, I am usually done taking them. In order to combat the grogginess I drank one of my extra stout white mocha drinks. When the ibuprofen wore off and the pain started again, I took another pain pill (not realizing that really the ibuprofen is what made the pain stop). It was at that point I started to feel really good. It was somewhat reminiscent of my speed ball days (heroin and cocaine together), only not quite as intense. I was so relaxed, but wired from the coffee. Wow!!! I thought. I came home and later made the connection that is was the ibuprofen actually made my mouth stop hurting. It seems to me the vicodin doesn't take the pain away; it just makes you not care about it. The ibuprofen actually eased the discomfort. That night (Wednesday)I told myself that I didn't need to take anymore of those pills; I just needed to take my ibuprofen. The problem was when I got up Thursday I wanted to take the vicodin even though I had taken ibuprofen and knew it would take away the discomfort. I wanted to take a couple and go drink coffee so I could feel relaxed and wired at the same time. "Alarms starting going off all over my head." I am so grateful for the grace of God that sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of me and lead me and speak to me. I am so grateful for the grace of God that gives me a willing heart to hear His voice and deep desire to obey and fear losing the walk He has given me each day. I now see how easy it would be for me to fall into that addiction. I gave the pills to my husband and asked him to hide them.

I am so grateful for the glimpse into how susceptible I still am to falling into a new addiction and now much my flesh still yearns for an escape. I am so grateful that God is bigger than my addictive personality and that He loves me enough to warn me and give me the ability to catch it before it gets out of hand. I am grateful that its okay to be tempted and to struggle; and I am grateful that He allows me this platform to share and hopefully impact others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Lenten Journey

This year is the first year I have observed Lent. I have not really been in a church that observed it, nor have I even been taught anything about it. This year our church began following the Liturgical Calendar and observing the rhythms and days of the calendar. I have been so amazed at the focus and direction it has given my walk to think in terms of the seasons of remembrance in our faith as a opposed to just passing the days and months of the year. When we started this journey, our pastor, Mark taught a class on the Liturgical calendar, the meaning of the days, and what is significant about walking this calendar. I loved the idea of walking through the seasons of the life of Christ and how that can and will shape us into His image if we will allow. I love the idea that each year we can revisit remembering and re-walk the path, and as we revisit each year we will be changed and have a deeper understanding of who He is and how He walked. We will, in turn, have a deeper understanding of who we are in Him and be daily formed by Him into His likeness. I have been so excited to walk this path and have been so amazed at what He is doing in me as I seek to be in tune with the seasons and what He wants to teach me in all of them. The other part of this new journey I really enjoy is reading each day from the Book of Common Prayer. It really amazes me to think on the idea that brothers and sisters all over the world are reading the same verses and listening to what our Father has to say about them each day. There is something big, and grand and beautiful to me about the church of Christ unified in readings that cross ethnic, denominational, economic, and national boundaries. I have been so blessed to be able to discuss with my husband and other members in our church what we are reading and what He is teaching each of us as we read. It has been such a surprise how much I have enjoyed implementing these two practices into my life.

So onto Lent. As we were following the Church calendar and preparing , I had prayed for weeks about what the Lord wanted Lent to look like in my life this year. Observing Lent was a new idea and our pastor was so good to post links to sites we could read and research to understand what this journey of Lent is about and how people historically have observed it and people who are accustomed to observing Lent are doing so now. I began to seek the Lord and ask Him what He wanted me to do or give up. What I felt impressed to do was surprising and seemed pretty unorthodox. But, as I continued to press and seek Him, I continued to feel the same impression. What I felt I was to do was really press into finding the creative artist He created me to be. I felt Him tell me to bath it in prayer and be faithful to take time each day to express creativity or write something. I felt like He said we were going to walk through the darkness and shadows the have buried "the artist" in me, and deal with that fear, the insecurity, the doubt, the paralysis that sometimes keeps me from even feeling like I can try. I began to work through a book by Janice Elsheimer called The Creative Call. I am also taking an online creative Indie business class. I felt like He told me if I would work on these and seek Him everyday, we would walk through the shadows and doubt resulting in Him resurrecting "the artist" at the end of the journey on Easter. So I have undertaken His call to really push into who He made me to be and all that stands in the way of that. There have been times when I just felt like giving up in the last week. I hear the old familiar voice in my head telling me that "this is stupid", "who am I to think I am an artist", "I am not really an artist". Then I would hear Him whisper to me "don't give up, press in, how are you going to inspire the people I want you to inspire if you give up and don't find your freedom?" So I press on. I am supposed to write every day for my assignments in The Creative Call and I have failed many days to make time to do that, but I can and will keep pressing and seek to do better. I spent hours yesterday writing in my journal as I sat on the back porch in the sun. It was amazing. It was so amazing that it may be easier for me to consistently make and guard that space to write. I read His word and just wrote my heart out. It was liberating and beautiful. I also made a piece of art that He inspired me to make; I trusted Him and worked on it and finished it yesterday. And, I actually like it. The picture above is what I created yesterday. It was such a great day. I feel so free and inspired and motivated to keep pressing on. I see the progress and growth He is doing in me and I am so excited to keep going and see who I am in a few weeks after completing my commitment to undertake this journey and be disciplined about making space to do what I actually have such a deep desire to do anyway.

So this morning as I sat quietly before the Father resting and waiting to hear what He wanted to say to me, He showed me a beautiful and heartbreaking picture. I began to weep. He showed me that I buried my true self; the beautiful artist, the truest part of who I am. I buried her a long, long time ago b/c I wanted her to be safe. I put her away in a box buried in corner in the basement of my soul. She is the most beautiful, purest part of me. She has been buried and covered over with so many layers so that none of the pain, abuse and tragedy could get to her. I needed to protect her b/c it was not safe for her when I was growing up. Now, though, it is her hour; it is time for the me He intended when he thought me up to come forth. My Father is digging her up out of the dirt and introducing me to the beautiful artist that I have kept safely tucked away for so many years.

I am so glad that my Father challenged me to take this journey for Lent and that He gave me the courage to accept the challenge. What a beautiful dimension and sense of adventure I feel as I learn to let the Creator teach me to develop and cultivate the creator He has created, called and equipped me to be.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We are going the Ethiopia

I have been intending to write this post for a couple weeks now and I just keep running out of time before I can sit down and write it. This post probably won't be nearly as thorough as I would like for it to be, but it will be a start and I can expand on it later. I have felt like I was going to go visit Ethiopia for a couple years now. Every since I first saw a video about the orphanage Drawn from Water. I was overcome with compassion and the desire to go and serve was birthed in my heart. Here is the video just in case you haven't gotten to see it. Please watch it. If these families can pack up and move to another country to love and serve then we can at least watch a video about the work they are doing.

Since seeing the video the first time, two years ago, God was done so much in my heart and life. I was introduced to the Embracing Hope for Ethiopia blog through following Drawn from Water. The main thing I feel like we are supposed to do this summer in Ethiopia is to give our time to Embracing Hope for Ethiopia and the work they are doing in Korah. We are going to love the overlooked and forgotten people of Korah. I believe so passionately in what the Shannon Family is going among the people of Korah in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I don't know for sure what the Lord has in mind for us and our connection with Embracing Hope for Ethiopia in the long run. He will continue to reveal His purposes and details as we need to know them. For now, we are trying to spread the word about what they are doing and ask people to sponsor families to be enrolled in the program they are organizing and implementing.

We have never been on a mission trip, nor had we even thought about doing it until recently. I don't even know how it is going to happen. Honestly, part of me thinks I am crazy for putting this into print b/c I have doubt in my heart that the money to get there will come in. I mean, I know that when God calls He provides. I really only halfway believe that He will provide for us to get there. I know that He put it in my heart and has begun to put it in Larry's heart. I am so glad that His call, His provision, His grace are not dependent on me having some kind of super faith because I do ask Him for what I need and what I want, but I don't always believe that He will bring it to me. My faith continues to grow as I see Him come through for us over and over, but I do realize that any faith I have He gives me anyway. I am definitely not of the hyperfaith camp. He is so faithful and good to me and I know it is b/c He chooses to be good and faithful not b/c I have some great faith. He is faithful to me in spite of my doubt and fear.

The scripture that has been rolling around inside me for that last couple weeks and has given me great comfort and brought me to tears more than once is Psalm 116:7 "Return to rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." He has been so good to me; He has blessed me so far beyond measure; in spite of my struggles, doubt and fear, He has given me more than I could enumerate were I to speak every minute of every day for the next year. I am sure that just the ways He has blessed me that I am unaware of would take up that much time or more.

My intention for this season of my blog is to use it to talk about the two ministries we will be serving while in Ethiopia (Drawn from Water and Embracing Hope for Ethiopia), to talk about the people of Korah, and to chronicle the work God does in us as we prepare to take this trip. Please pray for us as we step out to answer the call to go. Please pray for Drawn From Water and Embracing Hope for Ethiopia as they care for the widow, orphan and needy in Ethiopia. Pray for God to prepare and make way for what He wants to do while we are there.

Here are a video about Korah and the people who live there. Please watch it. So you can see why we are going and pray for us and the people of Korah village.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why am I at Starbucks?

If you asked me that question I would probably give you the standard answer I give to most people. I came to work at Starbucks so I could have benefits and only have to work part time b/c I had a breast lump and needed to make sure I did not have cancer. Then I stayed b/c I ended up needing surgery after breast cancer was ruled out. After that I stayed through the holidays as a thanks for my boss letting me keep my job after I had given notice and needed to stay on longer. Now I am there b/c it's not so bad. I love my job most days; I don't have to work full time and it helps pay bills. I have a really nice rhythm to my life; I have a job, but it doesn't really encroach on the things I like to do and the rhythm I like to keep. I don't see myself leaving any time soon.


when I ask God why I am at Starbucks He has a different answer which if you probe deep enough and ask really wanting an answer I will share with you as well. It is that answer that I want to blog about. I have to say that the answer to that question has changed as the months have turned into a year and as God continues to peal back layers of the onion that is me.

When I first went to work at Starbucks it was about killing my pride and my ego as well as the "image" I worked so hard to become and keep. It was a very humbling thing for me to take the job at Starbucks. I don't say that to convey that I am better than anyone else or that it is a lesser job b/c it is not. There are no "just jobs". There are places God sends us and asks us to be faithful. We are the ones who minimize it and make it less than it is. Where ever God sends us; it is a solemn call and beautiful opportunity to love and worship Him by doing "whatever we do as unto Him, with all our hearts"; it is a beautiful opportunity to love and serve the people we encounter. I can just give out coffee to people reluctantly and with no heart, or I can lovingly furnish people with a warm beverage with love and blessing in my heart intentionally connecting with them and using my passion to impact them and make their day better b/c they crossed my path. I can serve the Master of the Universe and creator of coffee by serving the people He created with grace and humility. So anyway, it is not just a job and it is absolutely not a job to be ashamed of. I am not better than anyone else, but God sure did expose that I thought I was too good for "Starbucks" and therefore I thought I was better than at least people who worked at Starbucks. I actually think I am better than a lot of people. That is something I admit now with shame in my heart. What a horrible and ungracious thing to feel. But the best way I can be faithful to God is to expose my weakness and His grace in spite of that. Hiding our struggles will never lead to freedom. I can be grateful that I even recognize it and realize that it is ugly instead of justifying myself or denying that it is really how I feel making me a "white washed sepulcher". When I expose it I can be filled with grace instead of death.

Now that God has moved me on from that and had so much of my "image" and ego really trampled on, there are deeper things being worked on through my job. The reason why I work at Starbucks right now in this season is to put into practice all that God is doing in my life. I am getting to work out daily the implications and daily practice of the beautiful things God is showing me and the amazing desires that He is stirring in my heart. If we cut down to the deepest yearnings in my heart beyond all the surface and really unimportant things, the thing I pray about the most and long for more than anything else is to be like Jesus. I really want to be like Him in every way. I know that there is much teaching in this day and age that we can't be like Him that He is perfect and we can't be perfect, "if we could be perfect, we wouldn't need Him". While there is a thread of truth in that statement, we use it as an excuse to not seek to be more like Him. We can't with any effort of our own become like Him no matter how hard we try, no matter how good we try to be or what rules we try to follow. We cannot in ourselves become like Him. But He can renovate and change us into His image. As we seek Him and love Him and spend time with Him, we will be changed into His image and become more like Him.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
II Cor 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Col 3:9-11 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

If we are not becoming more like Him each year we walk with Him, the question must be asked ," Are we really walking with Him or are we just putting on the pretense of walking with Him?" "With man this is impossible, but with God everything is possible." The call of every Christian to to do the work of the Kingdom; it is to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in Heaven. We are called to be apprentices of Christ Jesus. He is to be our King and Lord. We are called to take up our cross and follow him...
Matt 10:38
And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Mark 8:34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, " Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Mark 10:21 then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack:Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

The cross is such a common thing for us it causes us to miss what He was really saying here. We see the cross from the context of our present age and culture. It is a religious relic, a reminder of what Jesus did for us. We need to take off our cultural glasses to really get what He was saying here. The people He was speaking to did not see the cross the way we do. He had not died on it, yet. I was not a picture of salvation. The cross was a Roman implement of death by torture. It was a symbol of high treason. So with that in mind think about what He was really saying to them. He wasn't saying, "Hey, take up your symbol of salvation and follow me." He was saying, "Hey, take up your implements of death by torture and follow me. Give up your life; die to all that you have been living for; lay it all down and follow me and suffer with me." Now it looks a bit different when you stop and see it that way, huh?
Salvation is not about "us". We are called out of darkness to shine His light in the darkness. We are called to obey and follow Him. When we make it about our "personal salvation" and not a part of an amazing enormous beautiful plan that began before we ever where, then we miss the point. The call to us is summed up by this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." We are called to give up our lives, our ambitions, our wills, our resources, our time, our dreams; we are called to lay our lives before the King and say, "As you will my Lord." We are so blessed and fortunate in this country; we have so much; it is not costly to be associated with the name of Christ. That blessing is also what keeps us from taking the call seriously. It doesn't cost us, so we treat the things of God very flippantly. For so many years I was not very concerned about the lost; I didn't really give much thought to people who were suffering and dying; the desperately poor were not my concern. "Me and Jesus were okay and that's all that mattered." When salvation is about where you go when you die, then it is a personal thing between you and Him. Everyone else is responsible for what happens to them in the end. If they don't know Him that is there problem. Their suffering is not my problem. When God began to show me that salvation was not about me, but was about something so much bigger I couldn't continue to make it about me and Him and not care about anyone else. Being a follower of Christ is not about where I am going to go when I die. It is about the part I am to play in this beautiful story God is telling. It's about me taking the Kingdom to the hurting, the lost, the broken. It is about becoming more like Him and caring about the things God cares about. The church is God's plan to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, God's plan to love and care for the poor and needy, the widows and orphans. The church is God's plan and there is not plan B. We are to show the broken and desperate world a new way. We are the light. We are to show love and forgiveness, humility and service. We are not supposed to ask God to step into our plans, we are supposed to step into His plans. The question must be asked, " what has God blessed us with so much for?" Has He given us so much so we can accumulate stuff and live well beyond comfortably while most of the world goes without the basic necessities of life? While we go to parks that consume millions of gallons of water, 2,500 children die from lack of water every day, in Africa nearly 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. While Americans spend $18 billion just on coffee per year, 1 child dies every 5 seconds from lack of food. Can we, Christian, really be okay with this. Or do we need to rethink some priorities. Are we called, as followers of Christ, to continue accumulating stuff we don't need while so many are suffering and dying? It is so easy to ignore b/c these people are so far from us. Is this what denying ourselves looks like?

That was a little bit of a rabbit trail, but important none-the-less.

We can be changed into the image of Christ. Not only can we, but we are called to be changed. So I am consumed with learning to die to myself and love as He loved. To love unconditionally passionately and completely. I desire to learn to serve all and make my desire and plans last. I long to take interruptions and rerouting of my plans with grace and humility and not with irritation and self important arrogance. As I seek this and pray about it, God exposes every day to me how far from that place I am. Currently, that is why I work at Starbucks. As the high maintenance and sometimes difficult people come into my life each day, it exposes the lack of Christ like love in my life. I am at Starbucks to be made aware of all the ugliness that still lives in me. We are called to love. No matter what others do to us, we are called to love them. Read the sermon on the mount. ( Matthew 5) Pay attention especially to Matt 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren" only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors" do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

There is never an excuse for being unloving. And since God knows the intents of our hearts and every thought and feeling, then it isn't just about treating them well; it is about how we feel and what we think about them. It is not easy; as a matter of fact it is impossible to do on our own. Only Christ living in us, ruling and remaking us, makes it possible. Then there is not ego or boasting in ourselves b/c we didn't and can't ever do it. To God, then goes the glory.

The amazing thing about it is that, as I encounter these individuals each day, when I begin the feel the negative unloving thoughts and emotions rise, I feel badly. I recognize that I am not acting as Christ would therefore it exposes the ways that I have not yet been remade in His image. Before I not only would not have recognized that I was being unchristlike, but I would have felt justified in feeling negatively and even verbalizing the negativity to others. I now find myself grieved as soon as I see it rise up and begin to repent and ask the Lord to help me feel grace and compassion toward the person. By that I know I am making progress, and by that I know I have so far to go. I long for the day that grace and love are an automatic response not one that I have talk myself into. For the time being, God has graciously put me in the position to be able to practice and have my unchristlikenesss exposed to me daily.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More Bicycle Messages

You know I had a thought that I was going to write more bicycle metaphors and maybe people might get tired of my bicycle metaphors; then I remembered that I started writing this blog to process through things that happen in my life and to talk about what God shows me. It just happens that people read what I write, but the readers are really not the point.

I just went for a bike ride and let me tell you it is colder than I thought it was, especially with shorts on. Before I left, I asked God to speak to me and give me a heart to hear the message He wanted to give me.

I think that God can speak to us all throughout the day in all that we do if we are open to hear what he wants to say to us. If we are looking and listening, He is speaking all the time. He may use a person, a sign, a song, nature, a thought we have about something. He speaks in all sorts of ways and all the time; our job is just to be open to hear what He has to say.

So anyway, I left with the intention of riding and listening. The first of the ride was pretty difficult. As I said, I really didn't know it was as cold as it was when I took off. I was going on the assumption that it was comparable to yesterday when I went and rode. It was beautiful on my ride yesterday. Today, on the other hand, it was 46 degrees. The wind was blowing against me which makes the ride difficult in several ways. The wind is built in resistance plus as the gust come up on me they are so, so, so cold, biting cold. So as I rode I was asking hey what do you want to say to me. I did take the opportunity to think about people that don't have a warm home to go to. As cold as I was, I knew that I would be returning to me home where I would take a scalding hot bath. So I tried to think about people who don't have that and feel some compassion for them. I have been homeless. I spent time in Missouri homeless in the winter. I ended up spending several days on the side of the highway in the snow with my toes frozen to my socks. The only reprieve was sneaking into the truck stop until we would get kicked out again. No one would pick us up. It was miserable. I definitely feel for people who are homeless in the cold. However, I don't think I feel enough compassion or I would do more to help people in that situation. Sometimes its easy to be grateful for what I have and take it for granted so that I don't reach out to others.

That was a little bit of a rabbit trail. So, I was struggling with my ride, wondering if I had lost my mind when I went out on my bike in the cold. I was peddling and asking what do you want to say to me out here in this cold. There is something about riding my bike that is like a release from everything going on. I feel like I am flying; its a break from everything. My mind gets really quiet; I talk to Jesus and listen. No message, nothing really but struggle and freezing cold. I reminded myself that as much as the wind was blowing against me the chances were I would have a really great tale wind going home. I got to the end of the trail and turned around. Sure enough, the tail wind came up behind me and blew. And as it blew I flew. There is really nothing else like the feeling of riding with the wind behind you; it is literally like flying to me. I was so excited; I had to stupidest grin on my face. Though I had the wind at my back, I was not coasting with the wind either. I peddled as hard as I could with the wind helping me along. That equated to really flying. Then the message came. Hey, you see what happens when you put all that you have into it and I add the wind; you can go so much faster. The wind could have blown me home and made my effort to go along be much less. But with the wind at my back and all my effort combined, I made such faster progress. God gave me the muscles to peddle and helped me train them so they are strong, but when He added the wind the increase was exponential. Just like He gave me a lot of gifts and talents. The word says that "the gifts and callings of God are without repentance". He gives good gifts to us all. He doesn't just give gifts to those who would believe. He endows all if His created with gifts. However, when we walk with Him and love him, when we abide in Him and realize that He abides in us, then our gifts are combines with His Spirit. That puts us on a totally different playing field. Our talents with His Spirit makes an out of this world combination. I grinned like some kind of cracked out fool peddling my legs off. I must have been some kind of sight. I guess it doesn't take much to make me a happy grinning person. It was fun. Thanks Jesus; You're the bomb!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thoughts on New Years

First of all, let me apologize ahead of time to the people who don't like my heavy posts. This is not a jolly New Years resolution type of posts. I am feeling pretty heavy about some things. But Matthew 5:4 says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I feel overwhelmed with the the tremendous need in the world and the apathetic, complacent, paralyzed state that much of the western world seems to be in. The same state that I have spend most of my life in. We have so so so much in this country and we consume so much of it on our lusts. Many people don't really know about so much of the need. Others don't want to hear it. For whatever reason, God made me a pretty serious, very literal and concrete person. I would rather watch a documentary that informs me about me injustice or need than watch something that will entertain me or make me laugh. I would rather read a book that convicts me than read some fictional tale. I am not saying that either of the other two options are wrong or that I am better b/c of my preferences. It is just how I am. I am full of so much information about really terrible injustices in the world. I find small talk to be so frustrating. I go to parties and gathering and listen to the talk. I don't follow it; I don't find it interesting. I want to turn the conversation to things that really matter. I want get people to think about how many people are dying while we sit and chat about frivolities. I want to pray or talk about the word of God. My husband jokingly told me the other day, "You can bring a room down like no one else I know. Dawn's party pooper service." Don't get him wrong; he wasn't being mean. He was just talking about how I really prefer to talk about really heavy issues. I want to tell people about things they don't know. I am sorry if it makes people sad. Good!! Maybe it will make people sad enough to step out of apathy and do something. We can effect change one little step; one person at a time.

I am not sure these thoughts are even coming across very cohesively. I hope I am conveying what I am trying to convey.

I feel like my blog may need to take a directional turn. I understand that people may not want to read about some of the subjects I want to write about, but I need to try and get the message out. I have been reading some books that are really rocking my world. I just finished "The Red Letters: Living a faith that bleeds" is about the AIDS crisis and how our response to it has been pretty minimal. Now I am reading "Radical"; it is really rocking my world. Anyone who really knows me knows I read pretty voraciously and they are not usually upbeat type books. These have really spoken to me and come at a time where I am really doing a lot of soul searching anyway. I feel like we need to wake up. God's people need to hear the cries of the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and the slaves. There are movements and people that are making many moves toward changing things. But we have so much progress to make still. I feel like Dorothy; the curtain has been pulled up on the wizard; he is a lie. I want to pull the curtain up to show everyone the American dream is a lie that we have bought into. It's like the matrix. All this stuff serves to distract us from the fact the we aren't really living at all. We are missing the point. We are not living out the gospel. We are not seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness. The Gospel and the American Dream are diametrically opposed to one another. If we continue to try to reshape the Gospel into our version of gospel we will hear "depart from me, for I never knew you" at the end of time. We are building structures that will not make it through the test of fire. We are building huge alters worshiping the temporal. The Gospel is not about going to heaven when we die; it's about living the kingdom now. It's about giving everything we have to Him to do with as He pleases. It's about loving, and loving and loving so much it hurts and makes us look like fools. It's not about being Second; it's about being last. Putting everyone else ahead of ourselves. It's about not worrying about whether someone might take advantage of us or if they deserve our love or help, b/c we don't deserve anything we have. Everything we have has been given to us and we don't deserve ANY of it. That is not an easy Gospel. It is not a pleasant Gospel, but it is the Gospel none the less. I personally don't live out that Gospel everyday, but I am searching and seeking freedom to live that way. I struggle and fail over and over again, but I am seeking Him b/c I want to love like He loves. He has been gracious enough to open my eyes and cause me to begin to ask questions about what we have accepted as okay and our culture. It is not okay. I will not keep quiet about it any more. I will answer to call to be the party pooper. I will tell people that things they don't want to hear. B/c some will hear what I say and turn. Are we spending ourselves on things that matter or are we spending ourselves and our resources on things that will be destroyed by moth and rust, or stolen by robbers? Are we allowing our true riches to be stolen away for things that don't matter. We are like children who give up pearls for costume jewelry b/c it shines more than the pearls.

As I walked through Costco shopping for groceries, today, I almost began to weep looking around. We have warehouse after warehouse filled with food, clothes, water, whatever we could desire when thousands a day die from starvation, thirst and preventable disease. I just can't continue to pretend like I understand our way of life at all. I have questioned so much for so long. It runs deep in my heart. Why do we spend so much on entertainment, more clothes we don't need, more and more and more. We keep acquiring. Yet, most of us still feel empty and purposeless. Could that be because we haven't been given all that we have to consume it on stuff for ourselves? Could it be that fulfillment comes from giving everything we have away, from trusting that if we give it all away, that Jesus will take care of our needs. Seriously, He doesn't want a corner of our lives. He wants all of our lives. He wants all of our heart, all of our resources, all of our abilities and talents. ALL of it, not part of it.

In light of all this I have been asking myself some very serious questions. I feel very called to care for orphans overseas. I don't know how; I don't know when; maybe I am just crazy, but I feel it so deep in myself. I know that time is not yet, b/c my husband has not caught the fire that burns in my bones, yet. This obviously means we are not ready, yet. When he says, "It's time." I will know it is time. Only God can change him and makes him to want to leave it all and go. If I am called, though, He is called. When the time comes, He will burn with it, too. Meanwhile he keeps me from impulsively jumping into something we are not ready for. But, onto the questions...

If I can't have my juicer and my celery juice, would I still go? If I can't make my green smoothies, would I still go? If I have to live without my treadmill, would I still go? If I had to go without my veggies, would I go? What if I had to eat meat to survive, would I go then? The conclusion I reached is yes, to all of the above. I would go and learn to live a totally new way. I would give it all up. I am willing to sacrifice for the sake of the need. I want put tangibility to my faith. I don't want to just talk about what I believe. I want to give my all for what I believe. I want my life to reflect the grace and glory of God. I want to love those who have no one to love them.

There is so much desperate need out there.

Below are some really interesting links to check out. There are so many ways to make a difference.

Did you know that for 40 cents a day, a person suffering with HIV be put on ARV therapy that will put the virus to sleep. 40 cents a day. I spend more than that on Stephens gum. Watch the Lazarus Effect; it's only about 30 minutes long, but it is really a great picture of the home ARV therapy has given. Red Campaign video

World Vision has a wide price range of gifts that can be given.

The Five for 50 campaign gives some really great small steps to make a difference with the AIDS crisis.

Drawn from Water is an amazing organization that rescues "Mingi" children from being put to death. They bring them into an orphanage to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Here is the sponsorship page to sponsor one of these precious children.

These are few places I would like to direct you to start trying to make a difference. I will probably post more as we go along and as I figure out exactly the direction that the Lord would have me take this blog.