Friday, September 30, 2011

(day seventy-three) the question of the quality of life

A few things today have got me thinking about the quality of life. If we could remember what our first thought was when we entered the world as a baby, I wonder what it would have been? Perhaps you would feel valued... like you were worthy enough to be created and born. Then imagine, over time, the different things that could happen that would strip you- the child- of the very God-given value placed on your life before the first breath was even taken. Some believe that as soon as a baby comes into the world, skin to skin contact with the mother and father is most important. In some ways I suppose it would solidify that value to the child. There is so much that is exchanged in this intimate moment. Something I've learned in the past few years is that our cells can actually hold memory. So whether we think a newborn is too young to remember or not, it's very possible that each cell in it's body is either remembering the love and worth or wanting to forget the rejection and abandonment.

Best case scenario: a child is born into a loving family who raises it the best possible way they know how (regardless of it's financial situation). Worse case scenario: the child is rejected, unwanted, abandoned, and unloved. Either case eventually allows a chance for the child to know and receive TRUE heavenly and perfect value from a Father that accepts, desires, protects and loves. Because He does. If God is completely God all of the time then we are always valued by Him. Right? So what's the problem? Well, the enemy hates when God's creation knows how much He loves them because then they delight in God, worship, praise, and thank Him for who He is no matter what. Then we understand the price He paid and the value He placed on our lives and we see the value in others... no matter where they are in their journey. Devil despises this stuff. When we recognize the value God has placed on our lives before the beginning of time... we begin to then question the quality of life.

So even the worst case scenario mentioned above is still better I suppose than the alternative: never being allowed the chance to live in the first place. Being rejected for no substantial reason without a voice to speak. Over the years I've asked myself all of the questions anyone does about their stance on abortion. The reasons may include: mother's right, rape, deformities, poor, or potential risk for mother. But these are all pretty much based on the worlds view of the quality of life. Every single one of us human beings are a miracle. The facts surrounding the conception, growth of an embryo, and process of birth STILL blow my mind. But I guarantee you that if we began to view quality of life as the Lord does, and believed that His power is great enough to completely reverse the possible effects of the reasons listed above... then we might see ourselves, unborn children, and worldwide injustice a little bit differently. We might actually begin standing up for life (other than just our own). We may see that one person CAN make a difference in this world, but a unified community can make an eternal impact. We don't have to make war with injustice but we very much need to rely on the power of God in and through us. His love is going to change the whole world one day... and I choose to be an active part of the journey now. Do you?

Are we just living to work to sleep to die? Or are we just surviving till the good Lord takes us home? Do we consider "quality" as having a good family, occasional satisfying vacations, good insurance, a nice retirement, good church life, nice neighborhood, pleasant routine, good morals and a fun hobby? These are tough questions I'm asking myself and these things aren't wrong in and of themselves; But as I've examined my life this last year... and started aligning it with the word rather than comparing it to others, I've been quite shocked with what I've discovered. I found that the quality of life God offers is strikingly different than the quality of life we tend to buy in to. Again, I'm not saying He doesn't want those good things for us (He does have a best in mind!!!), but what I'm saying is sometimes we settle for those things as "good quality" when He has a much greater purpose in store for us than just to live a "good" life and die. But search your own heart and His to find out what it means to you? It was disturbing and convicting for me, yet profoundly invigorating. As I began to give away the life I had bought in to... I began to catch a glimpse of the reality of my worth and how to live that out on earth... the one chance I've been given. Not only has God now let me identify with my true identity in Him, but He's greatly expanded my expectations in life, allowed me to see the true value in others, and given me a new relentless passion for the broken, dying, hungry, poor, and injustified. On top of that... I find even more fulfillment in family, church, work, relationships, hobbies, and travel when I seek satisfaction in Him first and foremost. We can settle for just those things, the "good" safe life, and die- smelling good, with money in the bank, clean as a whistle, and full of love. But really... what kind of life would that be? If we think we have the right to pick and choose what suites us to love and fight for... then we might be awfully surprised when we enter the gates of heaven scanning the crowd in search of just one person we were acquainted with on earth in the "good life". And there is a great possibility there will be people in heaven you (myself included) were too uncomfortable to hang out with on earth. It's just one of those funny thoughts to me. Could that change the way we see people now? Or do we even really SEE people that can't do anything for us? (You can thank God later for the tough questions.... haha).

Please see that God is testing my heart right now too! Writing this is not the easiest thing in the world, because I too am now accountable and vulnerable. Things like this are very hard to hear, but should also be held up next to the word of God. I know many of you that live your life with the beautiful quality God has revealed to you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being this example to me. And even if we don't exactly know or see that yet... I pray God is giving us all a revelation of His value and worth at us this very moment. I pray that we begin to intentionally walk outside of our comfort zone to SEE people, see the needs, fight for the justice, and allow God to bring freedom, healing and value in others lives through us.

If we still have an issue with trusting, believing, undermining, or underestimating God... then I'd say there are some lies we've agreed with along the way that aren't quite true of the God who tells us exactly who He is in the word. One of the great hard lessons I'm learning right now is that we will never fully understand God until we die. So often I get overwhelmed with His mystery and could actually make myself go crazy with questions. But then God gently reminds me that I am human and my human efforts and fleshly heart will never amount to anything of worth and value on its own. No amount of earthly acceptance, love, and desire could give us even a fraction of the quality of life that He places on all of us before we enter the world. This is why when we accept Jesus- the way, the truth, and the life- we are able to connect with God in such a way our true identity is revealed, our hearts are healed of the BIG LIE that we are worthless orphans in this world, and we become free to live a quality of life we never could have imagined before. But it doesn't stop there. When this happens... this love encounter with our Father... we want everyone else in the world to have the same revelation of His love and worth for them.

It's easy to repent when you begin to understand that the things you are repenting from are stealing your quality of life away. Your ability to move, breath, love, live, believe, trust, heal, give, and be free is altered and somewhat disabled when we continue to hold on to the lies and the sin that toxifies our one life. Repentance then becomes not a chore or a rule... but a beautiful thing to be desired. Yes, it's admitting you were wrong and you want to be cleansed... but it's an unbelievable opportunity (not to mention commandment) to get detoxified and have more space for God to move in your life. I don't know about you... but I don't want to be satisfied with just "knowing" more about God (which is all good), I want to have more of God inside of me!

YOU are made in His image! You are beautifully and wonderfully made! No matter who you are, where you are from, or what you have done... you are valued. If you don't know Christ... I encourage you to pray for a revelation of His love for you and to see the truth. If you do know Him... I challenge you to not settle with the worlds definition of quality. I challenge you to dig deeper into His word, into His mind and heart for you and the world... dig deeper into your personal worth. As you read trust that the words are true whether you feel them or not. If your faith is wishy washy get on your face before Him; He is the same but the world is changing and your watered down perception of the truth will be your stumbling stone as the times get harder. Let HIM be your rock! Especially when you feel like you are sinking. Some of us need to examine our lives in a manner we never have; asking deep questions of why we believe what we do. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my bible was taken away tomorrow. Would I have His word so imprinted on my heart and mind that nothing could shake the truth? Or would I begin to run out of faith because of the harsh lies penetrating my weak soul?

I know it's not all about the word.... we have the Spirit too! And we need to rely on the Holy Spirit for many things. I'm a firm believer in miracles, God's power, and all of the gifts of the spirit... and I also believe that we as Christians are not confidently collectively walking in these things. We must have a balance. We must have unity. We must find our strength, hope, faith, trust, value and love in HIM.

Now it's time to watch this very sobering, convicting, yet POWERFUL short film that should be watched with humility and grace. So instead of allowing hatred for evil people to stir up... put on your armor for the spiritual battles we are facing and hopefully become willing to let God's justice come through you to break down the enemy's authority on this earth. He comes to steal, kill and destroy but God gives us authority to override these abominable lies if we let the word penetrate our hearts and live to the greatest capacity of quality we can as humans in this fallen world until the day we die.... dirty, damaged, broken, and tired.... but FREE, valued, healed, sanctified, justified and loved- rejoicing in victory and praise with ALL of our colorful family and AWESOME God. Please take a moment to watch this....

B90: (Mark 10:35- Luke 3:20) There are just a few verses from today's reading that I'd like to highlight and let you seek for personal revelation within the scripture. For me, He's confirming through His word what He was speaking to my heart today.

Jesus said to the disciples who were inquiring about their "seating arrangement" in heaven, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

When asked which of the commandments is most important Jesus replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your HEART, and with ALL your SOUL, and with ALL your MIND, and with ALL your STRENGTH. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Read the "widow's offering" Ch. 12:41-44

Read Mark Chapter 13: 5-13. Good stuff... too much to type out. It's late ok? Ha.

"Stay Awake!!!" Chapter 13: 36 (exclamation marks added for emphasis)

And don't forget the power of the Great Commission at the end of Mark :) Go Jesus!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

(day seventy-two) I think I've discovered the fountain of youth!

On Tuesday of this week our local community had a jazz concert on the lawn of the library with a local non-profit fair type of thing. I was asked to set up a booth. It was a great opportunity to share with people a little bit about what I get to do on this earth and hopefully spread some encouragement and love their way! All of the conversations were so beautiful, but one specifically stuck out to me. It was with an elderly woman who was a cute little firecracker I tell ya! I ended up driving her home where she asked if I wanted to come in so she could play me a little tune on the piano. After she played "Jesus loves me", in the most childlike manner... I thought to myself, "this woman gets it." Most might just say she was old and a little crazy... but I say she has a special place in the Father's heart. She asked if I wanted to come in and hang out with her... but sadly I had to go. Before I left I asked her how old she was and she sat there for a few minutes looking up with her finger tapping her lip trying to decide if she was in her 60's, 70's, or above. She said... "well... i've got a piece of paper somewheres in here that tells me". Oh man.... it was the cutest thing I've ever seen! Finally she just said... "well, i dunno hon... i must be well up in my 80's by now." Haha!!!! So great! Not only did she not know her age, but she really didn't care. To her it was just a number and she was a living, breathing, active, loving soul inside of that wrinkly old shell of hers!

Not till I entered adulthood did I really realize the kingdom of heaven was attainable before I pass on from this earth. I guess I had always assumed Jesus was talking about the place we go when we die... but after reading the gospels many times over it's become quite clear what message He was proclaiming. Alongside all the kingdom talk Jesus speaks a lot of His love for children. Even as adults we are God's kids... but there are certain characteristics that define a child that I think are a blessing to our Father as we acquire them at any age :) And when we do step into the kingdom, it's almost as if we are dipping our toes in the fountain of youth- accepting that our eternal worth starts now....not just when we die.

My neighbor said something profoundly simple the other day that really hit me differently this time. This is the cliff notes version: "I AM not my age, it REALLY is just a number... and my body is a house for this eternal soul." He may have not said it just like that... but that's what I heard in the moment. And for the first time I truly felt age-less (and i didn't even need a revlon cream to help!). Sure our bodies will age since we live in a fallen world with temporary bodies; but our mind, soul and spirit doesn't have to. For some reason we tend to equate maturity with a less faith /more reality kind of composure. We sometimes think (believe me, i've been there) that we must "grow up" and be strong, independent, self-reliant, successful, respected and intellegent. It's not that these are wrong... it's just that it becomes easier to trust in ourselves than to depend on God (or even other people). And when we fail, boy... do we beat ourselves up. When others fail us? Well... our grace runs thin.

What if we truly saw our bodies as a vessel for the Lord and treated children with the same respect as an adult or elderly person... not because they did something to deserve it, but because we are all broken human beings in desperate need of God! And when our expectations of others are shattered, or we fail ourselves, or we don't think someone deserves OUR respect... maybe we could see that we all just need more freedom and healing from a God who is big enough to give it. It's funny how each of us think the world owes us honor and respect to a certain degree... like we have special "rights" because of age, status, paid dues, prestige, degrees, or money. When if we truly begin to see with a child's eyes... none of that matters. If you look closely on the public playground you'll see that most of the time they are all playing with each other no matter race, money, intelligence, or status. We, as adults, are the ones who begin making that unfortunate distinction and separation. The harder we work in life the more we deserve, right? Well.... if we really got what we deserve we'd all be in a heap of trouble. Thank God He saved us... literally.... from ourselves.

Most of the time children are over-looked; especially children with nothing to give. Jesus emphasizes the importance of little children again and again in His word. I think it's time we begin to take notice. First of all, a child is a gift and should be treasured highly. They should be loved and nurtured and listened to. Why? Well one reason is they have not yet been tainted by the world. They are, however, vessels who are in need of a Savior. YOU are that representative until they make the decision for themselves. They can teach us so much through their inhibitions to life and fearless dreams. Not a worry in their mind or a scar on their heart- they play long, love hard, and live fully!! So, listen to their sweet small voice... and find your innocence again. There IS a child in all of us...

A cool story about listening to His voice and waiting: A few weeks ago, as I mentioned in a previous blog, some friends of mine purchased my ticket for new zealand for me. I needed it quickly (didn't have the money) and God told me to wait. They called that day and took care of it. Wow. So then I knew I was going to have to buy a ticket from Little Rock to LA to catch that flight. I checked on prices two weeks before my flight (last Sunday) and the price was $200 with tax. Not bad really. But for some reason I felt like God told me to wait and not buy it. So I waited. The next morning I woke up and it was $300 with tax. Shoot! I wondered if I had really heard God wrong??? But instead He told me to keep waiting and trust. So I did. Today a friend of mine found miles that someone had given him awhile back that He had never used. He transferred them and I paid only $80 in fees!!!! Wow. Seriously... God is very cool. Even if I would've had to pay $300 there is no doubt that God would've taken care of me, and He's cool regardless of what happens.... but I'm celebrating His goodness and provision tonight!!! Yahoooo!!!

B90: (Mark 1- 10:34) There are two main verses I'd like to reflect on in this section... although there is so much more value in this book that would be good to dig deeper into on your own. Like I said above, my perspective on the kingdom began to shift a few years ago. After re-reading all of what Jesus speaks of the kingdom I came to my own conclusions that really helped me live more fully for Him in every moment. I see how when we step into the kingdom of heaven on earth we truly become the living breathing representatives of Christ with a different mindset than others who don't see with those eternal eyes yet.

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." ~ Jesus as told by Mark in Ch. 9: 37. There's something about getting down eye level with a child. It's almost as if they begin to not only hear what you say but inherit the character in which you say it. Jesus also speaks a lot about character throughout the gospels, but more than that... he lives it. Character is learned by what we see, hear, observe, and attain. Sometimes we wonder why children don't listen to what we say (or yell) when they are actually watching (sometimes mimicking) your character and responding to that rather than the words. I'm often curious as to why we hold a much higher value to the obtaining of knowledge rather than character. We even occasionally hire people within the church according to their degree rather the quality in which they treat the lowly, poor, dirty, and broken people of the world. I think it'd be a great idea for anyone the church hired to put them mopping the floors for a few months or working in with the little ones. Then you can clearly see if this is something they live by.... "but many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mk 10:31

"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Mark 10:14

One of the things I love about my mom: for those of you who do not know her... she's been in charge of the preschool department of our home church for a few years now. There are always ups and downs, but I've seen her character grow in so many ways. I love that when there is a child who is giving them trouble my mom stoops down, talks to them with respect and love, and prays with/for them. Almost always God's power moves through the child which handles the situation with such love and care. She has many more stories like this one, but she probably wouldn't share them with you unless she was giving God some major glory time! Yet another reason why I love her :)

I want to enter the kingdom of God as a child... everyday. The children are standing at the gate; waiting for us to love, cherish, care, and invest in them all that God has graciously given us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

(day seventy-one) uncomfortably comfortable

I had a neighbor friend ask me tonight if I was more comfortable in typically uncomfortable situations than i was in seemingly comfortable ones. It took very little thought to answer yes to that question. For several weeks now I've been itching to be back in the third world. It's been a little over a year now since I've been in a physically poor, broken, dirty, hopeless and wrecked place with desperate people. What I didn't realize was that THAT lifestyle had been slowly becoming my norm.

As YWAMers we tend to saturate ourselves in the culture we are in at the moment trying to really dive deep into the surrounding environment. We want to learn parts of the language, live as they live, eat what they eat, and communicate on their level as we walk in their shoes. We relate eye level but something IS different. What is inside of us is the hope, truth, faith, and love that they may or may not know yet. We all embody this within us if we accept, believe, and seek to know God more. But not all of us have figured out what it means to walk in the kingdom of heaven on earth... It took me awhile till I understood, and i'm still learning daily. The important thing is that we keep humbly asking God to show us how to step into this "kingdom" mentality... and He will!

Call me crazy, but I truly believe we are sometimes stepping into a false sense of security (which to us usually creates comfort) when we buy into the "American Dream". This can include everything from going to college, getting a good paying job, owning at least one nice up to date car, having the newest/best technology, having cool/nice clothes, going to a posh church, getting married to a good-looking person, having cute (well-behaved?) children, insurance (for everything), being "healthy", social security, retirement, pleasant vacations, entertainment, sports, any kind of food any time, recognition, status, etc etc. And unfortunately we go to great lengths to achieve these finer things (that we see as "normal"): debt, heartache, pharmaceutical drugs, arguments, dieting, stress, business, obsession, anxiety, worry, indulgence, and so on. I'm not saying that the "American Dream" is necessarily wrong in itself... but does it become wrong when we sacrifice the foundation of the very things Christ died for? He died and rose to fulfill the law... to complete it. He died and rose to bring freedom and healing in all of our lives. Can we truly be free if there are things in our life that control us and hold us back from greater levels of faith, hope, love and joy?? I'm not saying this to condemn anyone at all... just to make us look a little deeper into our hearts and clarify our motives with the Lord so we can walk in freedom! (Sidenote: I know i'm preaching to the choir on this... most of the time it's what God is directly teaching me in my life. And when I began to be convicted and go thru this cleansing process I almost always have to release it and write about it! haha. You ARE NOT a bad person for living that "American Dream" lifestyle at all!!! It's just a night where I want God to reveal to us His way of life so that we can align ours up with His!)

Well God can certainly bring freedom in our lives as we recognize our tainted motives and ask for Him to cleanse us. He can and will restore and redeem us from our corrupt fleshly heart that can so easily believe the manipulative lies of the enemy. Please hear me out... I don't think everyone living the "American Dream" is living in sin, or is a slave to it, or lacks faith, hope, love and joy. I just think it's alright to allow God to go deeper and check our motives behind everything. It hurts sometimes, but it's always good ya know? Anything that takes us to a deeper place of trust with the Lord is always a safe place to be. May not be too much fun at first... but the deeper he cuts in, the more room for His miraculous love to be stored.

After traveling for so many years I come back and sometimes have to giggle at how different our perspective of the world is standing on this continent. For example there are A LOT of really good people out there (that may or may not know Jesus) who are extremely loving, trustworthy, hospitable, and sacrificially generous. There is a man is Switzerland I know who ALWAYS lets backpackers stay in his little tiny flat for free, shares all of his food, picks people up from the airport and train station, shows them around zurich and loves to make quality conversation. Warner gives up his own room and sleeps on the couch just so strangers can have a comfortable place to rest their heads for the night. Most people in America that I know would think that's crazy. Let a stranger in your home? Give them your bed? Feed them your best food? Show them around town? And for nothing? Are you kidding me?? I wonder how many people would think that's a waste of time? If we're being completely honest. Then... some of us might do something like that, but we'd make a deal with them they have to come to church with us or something if we are gonna let them stay at our house. What does Jesus do here?

Another big reason why we wouldn't do something like this is simply because of fear. Of course, we like to call it being "cautious". Haha. I know because I've lived this life. Just ask my mother. Whether it's a story we heard on the news or some lesson that's been passed down, we then listen to the voice "well... this could also happen to you" spoken from the mouth of the TRUE counterfeit... rather than the voice of the holy spirit which guides and directs speaking words of life, trust and faith. How come living "radically" for Jesus has become only something for those "called" by God.... rather than all who follow Him? What would happen if we stepped into the kingdom mindset living radically free from that which controls the world with FEARLESS faith, completely UNCONDITIONAL love, and CONSTANT joy.... even in the midst of trials and tribulations. The more we trust in our Father who provides... the easier it is to give things away because they hold only temporary value which doesn't hold a candle to what lies ahead in eternity. Not to mention the blessing of letting go then letting God fill those empty spaces.

So although this year or so of being in a consistently comfortable environment has been quite refreshing and replenishing... I'm ready to be an "uncomfortable" atmosphere again where I absolutely must trust in God for every single need. Funny enough I find myself creating these little pockets of awkwardness to try and relieve some of the tension I feel between the extreme differences of first and third world. A lot of times I don't even know I'm doing it... then others, like today... I'm just doing what the Lord tells me to do. Like praying for a woman's headache in salvation army. Hahaha. Something happens when (even in our "comfortable" world) we make room for God to move by shaking up the atmosphere with a little bit of Jesus juice. Whether it's taking the leading of the Holy Spirit to drive home a different way one day, stop off at the thrift store, go to the hospital, invite your neighbor over, taking a homeless person out for dinner, letting a college student stay in your home, adopting children, supporting missionaries, leaving your home for another country, or praying for someone in your local supermarket..... whatever the case we are choosing to step out of our "comfort zone" and step right into the kingdom of heaven fully relying on His prompting, wisdom and love to get us through it. All the sudden our eyes begin to open up to the needs all around and God gives us the grace to bestow this freedom and healing to others through conversation, servanthood, and the power of prayer!

Just for kicks I thought I'd look up synonyms for the word comfortable, here are a few:

adequate, agreeable, appropriate, at rest, cared for, cheerful, complacent, contented, convenient, cozy, delightful, easy, enjoyable, enjoying, gratified, hale, happy, healthy, hearty, loose, loose-fitting, made well, pleasant, pleased, protected, relaxed, relaxing, relieved, rested, restful, restored, satisfactory, satisfying, serene, sheltered, snug, snug as a bug in a rug, soft, soothed, strengthened, untroubled, useful, warm, well-off

So as we strive for this better way of life for us and our families... do we actually achieve those things above? And if we do... is it worth the effort putting forth? If it is... is that security what God is calling us to? Or could it be a radical life of faith where nothing we do makes sense to the rest of the world because it is this "upside-down kingdom of heaven" way of life that man just can't hardly grasp? Are we teaching our family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances how to live safe, secure, steady, by-the-book, predictable lives with little or no freedom to live radically different ?? It's hard to live that radical life when all we see around us is people living just like us... but it wasn't until i stopped comparing and started aligning my life with Jesus' life that I finally began to get it.

B90: (Matthew 20- 28:20)
The Final Judgment
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, an he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father inherit the KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matt 25:31-40

Monday, September 26, 2011

(day seventy) I hope you like fish... cuz we got lots of it!

Twenty more days now. Still seems a little weird that I've been doing this thing for seventy... well ok, it's actually been more than seventy days since I started but life is always happening and some things just needed a little more attention than the blog at times. Thank you for always understanding :)

I woke up again this morning with a heaviness on my heart. I'm sure part of it was because I dreamed that I was in Cambodia working with "Daughters"- an organization that helps rescue women from sex slavery and gives them fair-trade work, hope, life and love. I've worked with them on and off for many years now and have such a desire to be back in that part of the world one day serving and loving these people to a place of freedom and healing. In the dream something stood out to me... it was their smiles. These are the smiles of joy I remember seeing after they are rescued and given a proper opportunity to live outside those walls of slavery.

After expressing the sadness in my day with a good friend, she quickly called me. She's had a similar lifestyle to mine and we've both found it sometimes hard not to be overwhelmed with the world's great need. We both know it's more about being a child of God than "doing" for God, but we also know that out of our love and devotion for the Lord we desire to serve Him whenever wherever. The more we know His heart, the more ours breaks for what breaks His. And there are broken people all over the world... and yes, even in our backyard. There are endless opportunities to serve globally and I tend to get a little overwhelmed by that. But something my friend shared with me tonight that she recently heard from Heidi Baker made so much sense. Heidi said something like, "I don't have a plan other than being completely possessed with Jesus." She wants to eat, drink, breath Jesus... being totally saturated and consumed with all of who He is.

Now, if you are reading this you are probably thinking either, "wow, cool" or "wow...crazy". Haha. There have been times when I would've thought this sounded a little loco too. My thoughts were always..."well, how can you really relate to people if you are so strung out on Jesus?" But now I see things a little bit differently. When we are TOTALLY captivated by all of Him... then the majority of what we say, think, act, or do will be all about Him. Sure, some people might think you're overboard but I'm betting most of those people would be church folk. Yikes! Haha. Who knows? But we certainly do need more of the power of the trinity moving in and through us in and out of the church body. We should always want more!

Heidi also shared with the crowd some things God had been revealing to her over the years. She's pretty convinced that we should find the lowest, poorest, dirtiest people on this earth and love them. Why? Because Jesus did. Either He found them or they found Him... and He never turned His back. She was sharing how we need to have feasts for them and ask for nothing in return. So often we first think of the "right thing" to do... like not giving hand outs, making sure we get them working, or at least making sure they attend church with us. Rather, checking our hearts to see why we are even doing it? If it is for Jesus... then the simple act of loving and serving the lowly is more than likely blessing His heart tremendously and will in turn bless our souls. I know we all need more Jesus... wealthy or poor. But how cool would it be to see people of all budgets, colors, and denominations opening their homes up to the ones no one wants to be bothered by? What if we asked over the meanest of the mean, the poorest of the poor, the dirtiest, most broken, crippled, stinky, "undeserving" (in our minds) person... and set a feast before them laying out all our best china and spending hours on the meal? Wow. Kind of reminds me of what God does for us hey? "Come and dine with me... He says... and bring your friends too. I don't care what you've done... just come spend time in my presence feasting on what I have for you and you'll never be the same."

Rock our world Jesus! Let us be so consumed with your love that we are a constant outpouring of that to everyone we meet or pass on the street. Let our eyes be opened to the needs of others and let your name be lifted high above all names as we serve and love them. It's your power that saves them. It's your love that captivates them. Open the eyes of the blind tonight. Move in this town of Jonesboro, Ar. Move in my other home of Nashville, Tn tonight. Move in the people of the church all over America, break down the walls of denomination and segregation and let us love one another in unity!!! Spread this love among the earth, Oh God, and let our hearts bust open for you!!! Let nothing stand in our way to receive MORE of you Holy God! Amen.

On a more repentant note I've been thinking of how much I've thought I deserved recognition in the past... when God clearly tells me differently. If I'm being completely honest, part of my sadness today could be attributed to either not being recognized in the church or not having people support me with their confidence in what I do. Now that I'm writing that out, it sounds so selfish and prideful. I guess I've been searching for security in people when I really need to be seeking Him for all that. Realizing this and now having to admit it is hard... but I'm asking God to come into that place to forgive me and heal my heart. In fact, just today I had been thinking about the temptation to just run away to some random country where no one knows me at all so that I'm not faced with the option of desiring the "fame" (if you will). Instead, God has me here right now and I am going to seek to trust in Him alone for His confidence, recognition, and security. He calls us by name. We are His children. We can trust in Him. And this.... well, this is enough for me.

Even in today's reading I find it so intriguing how many times Jesus told those who witnessed miracles not to tell anyone. Like when Jesus heals two blind men in Ch. 9, or when He tells the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ in Ch 16. And also in Ch. 16 when Jesus asks "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replies, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Then I find it so amazing that Jesus says, "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." This little section right here teaches me several things: 1) We don't need recognition from man to validate of human efforts 2) We don't have to force Jesus down people's throats when He didn't force himself done anyone's throat, in fact... He was more concerned with His father in heaven receiving all the glory and honor than Him gaining any human confidence in himself by others. 3) We now believe in Jesus not just because He was a good little prophet that did a lot of miracles and lived a sinless life (i mean, He was and He very much did) but because the Father validates Jesus has His son and as part of the trinity.... the whole God. Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life ya'll.

B90: (Matthew 9:9- 19:30) Matthew is seriously just packed full of goodness. I think I've circled, underlined, and starred just about every passage several times. Sometimes I can't even read it because I got a little too carried away or my ink bled :( Oh well... I'm kind of partial to my scrappy little bible that's falling apart.

I don't know why I've never noticed this before... but Jesus and the disciples actually fed thousands with fish and loaves on two separate accounts. One time right after He had heard about the death of John the Baptist and was trying to withdraw from the crowds and probably mourn His loss. Instead He was followed and was faced with more overwhelming need. Even in His sorrow He healed and served, loved, believed and trusted. His compassion was so great that nothing would get in the way of Him taking care of the needs of others. And He asked for nothing in return.

In the second account He was having some sort of mini revival for 3 days healing all kinds of folk. Jesus actually said, "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lets they faint on the way." (15:32) Wow... I want more of His heart for people in need. It's interesting that the disciples wondered where they were going to get more bread from after seeing the miracle the first time. Duh guys... come on. (Seriously tho, how often do I do this?) Regardless, the miracle was great, the people were satisfied and they all took home doggy bags.

God provides people. And this is something I'm having to remind myself again today. God provides. I may not have consistent prayer partners, I may not have all the money I need, and I may not even have a church to send me off into the field... and you know what? That's ok. He's going to take complete and perfect care of me, I have no doubt about that!!! It's trusting every single step of the way... and that can be very hard to do, but so rewarding! Please continue to pray for me as I journey to the nations and go where God is leading me to serve. Love you. Goodnight :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

(day sixty-nine) The wild wilderness

There is an unrest in my spirit and I'm not sure why.... have you ever had one of those days? Today I have felt extremes. I've experienced the most beautiful moments in worship and have fought some unwelcome battles of insecurity and longing. In one second my soul was spending time in the heavenly realm - my heart filling up with God's love, and the next second I was hearing the lies of the enemy sting like flaming arrows against my skin. Mentally, I feel as though I've gone from victory to defeat and back again all day long. There has been a lot of joy and a lot of internal sadness all wrapped up in the same breath.

It seems like ever since I started this 90 day thing I've been exposed in ways I never imagined. It's like I consciously decided to take the first layer of skin off revealing every nerve, ligament, and bone underneath...becoming transparent in ways making everything a little more sensitive to touch. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I realized that was completely eliminated every source of numbing mechanisms. Since I started excluding unhealthy things in my mind, body, soul and spirit and practicing discipline and obedience through love... I can now feel everything the way it's intended to feel. Sometimes it feels amazing and sometimes the feelings are painful, but God is clearly teaching me not to rely so much on my feelings and emotions but rather the truth. Although they are great indicators and should be treated fairly, they don't deserve to be in the drivers seat when headed down the road to freedom.

Yesterday I had gotten extremely frustrated with this Daniel fast when my tummy got a little overwhelmed with hunger. I had waited too late to make something healthy and wanted so badly to just quickly fill my stomach with something.... anything! Even cheese-its! The coconut curry and rice I had stowed away for a time such as this had been swiped by my innocent dad and my family was over at my sister's eating pizza. Ugh. What an internal dilemma. In that moment I felt God saying, "Lindsey push through the pain, I will fill you up and you will hunger no more." Soon after that I found something in the house that worked with the fast and finally calmed down a bit. Sometimes we just have to realize our emotions are trying to forfeit the truth for a quick fix and politely ask them to take the back seat and let God do His thing. I went to bed full that night... in more ways than one.

Then a few days ago I had pinched something in my spine. The pain quickly spread throughout my back and shoulder blades. I decided I would make a speedy trip to the chiropractor and I'd be well on my way to recovery. For some reason I felt like God asked me to sit in the pain for a little bit and simply trust in Him to fix it. Again I heard him whisper, "Lins, let me align you with me... only I can make you whole." I didn't go to the chiro like I normally would and just stuck it out for the day. That night I went to a prayer thing and there was a lady there I knew from awhile back. She had since become a chiropractor and gave me a little adjustment right then and there! Praise God for coming through again!

Even in the midst of family and friends I still sometimes have lonely days. Days I think about how wonderful it would be to walk alongside my best friend enjoying life, making decisions together, and serving the Lord. In this vulnerable place it's quite easy to believe the lies of not being good enough, pretty enough, etc etc. The other day while dealing with this internal battle I wanted so badly to call a guy friend of mine because I knew He'd fill that hole in my heart momentarily. God said..."Wait on me daughter, let me be the one that makes you whole and fills your heart." So I pushed through, allowing myself to feel the pain, and felt Jesus move in at the most opportune moment to love me the way only He could.

I tell you these stories not to gloat in any way, shape, or form (believe you me, no bragging rights here)... but to expose the potential dangers of numbing ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As well as the slippery slope of letting our emotions take the wheel when we face the reality of the enemy's lies taking full advantage of our vulnerability in the pain we experience, or worse- the pain we choose to ignore. I'm not trying to encourage you to strip yourself of all your comforts (like I'm feeling at the moment), but to simply become aware of your needs and your path to temporary fulfillment or eternal satisfaction.

There was a time in my life when I would have a deep longing or need that quickly turned into an unhealthy want or desire that was quickly satisfied in a damaging way that lead to more slavery. If we're being completely honest I'm wondering if we all might have those moments more often than we actually think. I got so good at justifying that I could tell myself whatever I ended up doing had to be done because God put those needs and desires in me. Yes they are in all of us... but when we suppress them or avoid facing the true reality of that need and it's deep longing then our emotions take over and the enemy wastes no time in supplying a quick fix.

When you do a physical detox, you are literally faced with your own crap that's been hanging out in your intestines for a long while. I'm sure anyone who has done this would tell you it's not a pretty sight. Same thing goes for when you decide to detox the rest of you. As soon as we stop letting unhealthy things enter our mind, heart, body and soul... and we become keenly aware of the enemy's ploy we begin to see the desperate need for complete truth and will go to great lengths to saturate ourselves in it. When this happens, stowed away crap begins to come to the surface so God can clean it all out. He's all about freedom and healing if you haven't noticed! Haha.

So now... when your emotions are acting up, or your feelings are a little off... I challenge you to travel to the source of it all down to the root of the need instead of satisfying the hunger or pain with a temporary solution. When we do, something really cool happens. Jesus comes along for the ride and when we get to the root of the need God says, "Here i am child, i've been waiting on you ... i'm the only one who can fill this hole and make you whole again."

Sidenote: I just pictured the cartoon- "the magic schoolbus"- for some reason. Jesus hops on the bus with us and the holy spirit is leading from the feeling or emotion inside the body through the veins all the way down to the heart. There in the heart is the deep longing for God our Father and He's right there waiting to restore, redeem, and heal. Just a visual for all you moms, teachers, and anyone else who watches cartoons :)

B90: (Malachi 1- Matthew 9:8) Today I crossed over! I made it to the new testament and a celebration is in order... yahoooooooooo! Nothing against the old testament, but man... sometimes it just drags me down with all that blood and heavy stuff. I must say though... I learned so much but I'm grateful to be moving on :) After all, we wouldn't even need a new testament if it weren't for the old one... right?

Today at church we had a baptism service. I love these days!!! We get to rejoice alongside those who are professing their faith publicly and praising God corporately for who His goodness, mercy and grace! The testimonies were simply beautiful as they immersed from the water a new creation. This set the stage perfectly for my reading in Matthew today.

I love how John the baptist "prepares the way" by saying, "I baptize you with water for repentance but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with fire." Ch 3: 11

As soon as Jesus was baptized the Spirit of God came like a dove and rested on Him... and God says, "this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Something all of us kids hope to hear from the mouth of God someday. Soon after Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be faced with a series of lies from the enemy. He would then be tested in the most vulnerable state. Jesus was hungry (after fasting forty days), he was probably lonely, he was most likely tired and possibly a little weak. Sounds a little bit like this past week for me (except on a much grander scale i suppose).

Jesus could have easily ignored the lie, suppressed the emotions, numbed the pain or found a quick (temporarily satisfying) fix. Instead He pushed through the pain, faced the opposition and spoke the truth. He may have not felt like doing it in that very moment... but He did because He knew He could only really rely and trust in the whole Truth. Because although he was fully God, he was also fully human. He went to the root of the need and God had the answer. Even after it was all over and the devil left Him, the Lord sent angels to minister to His weary soul.

This is the most beautiful picture of His love for us when we find ourselves entangled in lies, insecurities, fear, and pain. Jesus is the only one who has ever lived who could actually say, "I've lived through everything you could possibly live through. And trust me, Dad is the only one who can truly complete us, saturate us with His love, fill the holes in our heart, and give us an eternal satisfaction that no human effort ever could." So... do we trust Him enough to give Him our lives? Have I mentioned the alternative? I don't think I have to.... I pray you have a revelation of God's love tonight; a love that penetrates the depths of your heart and heals the broken and bruised places so you can began to stand in a place of freedom and victory once and for all!!! Amen!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

(day sixty-eight) the little orphan who stole my heart

Back in 2009 I co-led a team of half-crazy missionaries through southeast Asia and Africa. One thing that was forever embedded in my brain were the children I met on that journey. There was something special about this trip, and there was something so breathtaking about the little ones. I remember one boy in particular that took a liking to me. We hit it off right away shortly after our bus rolled through the dusty village. I will never forget the greeting we received that day...

Here we came... a large dirty yellow bus bumping through the skinny "streets" full of white folk from all over the world (that's us) and a team of Ugandans from the city. We had come because of a local church that was in desperate need of financial and emotional support. Before we even pulled up to the destination, all of the village children were chasing our bus screaming and chanting. When we rolled up the celebration continued with an enormous welcoming party. As soon as we stepped off the bus they greeted us with kisses and hugs! I wondered what it would look like if we welcomed foreigners into our home and church like that? I also wondered if that's what heaven is going to be like. We were overwhelmed with their love and knew I lives were about to change forever.

They wanted revival in their little village... so naturally they asked us "the white missionaries" if we could help. (That's always so funny to me.) What we found is that this small group of believers had the greatest expectations for God to move... and that He did. But not because of anything we did. It was simply the power of God moving through His faithful sons and daughters speaking to the surrounding communities the stories of His love and faithfulness. I was blown away by their dedication! One night they had an ALL NIGHT prayer and praise session. Our group of "white missionaries" stayed up till we could bare standing no more... but they marched on! The next day and the day following that and the one following that one we say many many saved and got to witness true breakthrough and freedom in that area- glory!!!

Besides all that, the most memorable story was that of a young boy. Since the whole team thought his name was something different.... we decided to name him Bobby. Boy... Bobby could dance! I'm telling you, you've never seen anything like this kid. And He was such a comedian! He had us rolling the whole time we were there. I just remember waking up every morning so excited to see him that day. I looked for him every where we went and if we found each other he would stick by my side or hold my hand so as not to lose me in the crowd. We would communicate through motions as we spoke in our native tongue. One night I recall taking him to our bus to hang out while they were showing a movie to the village. Our driver started speaking with him and translating to me... so i started the questions. I found out that this boy had no parents and was being raised by an aunt who was some type of witch doctor. He had absolutely nothing... except the clothes on his back. I think I made the decision right then to somehow sneak him into my luggage and whisk him away to America to give him a chance in life. Sadly this plan never came into fruition. I knew my time with Bobby was quickly coming to an end... so my only option was to try and fully enjoy every moment with him hoping time would stand still. More than ever before, I wanted to bring this child home with me and raise him as my own. It's been so many years since then and my heart still aches for the lost boy of Uganda.

The day before we left I found a little clearing in the woods to chill away from the crowded church and get a good quiet time in. Before I had a few verses read, I heard something in the distance and to my excitement saw Bobby coming to hang out with me! Behind me I heard a woman yelling something in their language and I was assuming she was telling him to not bother me from the way he was reacting. What she didn't realize was that I really wanted to hang out with him!!! I tried to tell him that it was ok... and he would move towards me, then she would yell and he'd back up. I was so frustrated with her because she was making him leave, but there was nothing I could do. I knew that might be one of the last times I would get to see him before we left. After sulking for a few minutes I saw something creeping up from the other direction and guess who it was?? Bobby had found an alternative route that was hidden from the yelling woman. Go Bobby! Haha. I was so proud. He quietly tip toed trying his best to be invisible. Before I knew it, he had found a tree to perch himself in so he could sit and watch me read. Although we weren't technically hanging out... I felt the love he had for me from a distance. And in that very short time, I loved him as if he were my own child.

I believe the hardest day of the whole trip for me was the following day when we were scheduled to leave this lovely dirty place. All day long I looked around and asked if anyone had seen Bobby, and no luck. He wasn't anywhere to be found. Reluctantly, I loaded up my stuff and took one last look around. I started tearing up as we pulled away from the church then all of the sudden I saw him running toward the bus (like a movie). He stopped, smiled really big and just waved his little heart out. I knew He thought that we were probably coming back that day... and to my dismay we never did.

I often think about Bobby and wonder where he's at now and what he's doing. I'm not even sure if I'd be able to find him, but I still contemplate searching him out. Just as I was writing this I began to envision heaven again. There I saw Bobby running up to me smiling, dancing and waving. Then I pictured every child I had ever met that I fell in love with. They were all running up to me and grabbing my legs, jumping on my back, and holding my hand. One thing I'll never be able to truly understand is what it feels like to be an orphan, but my heart breaks for them every single day. I can't imagine how God must feel about them. I have several friends who are so burdened by this epidemic in our world, that they have adopted several. I hope to be able to do this soon.

My heart sinks when I think of a child that has been abandoned, unwanted, rejected, or unloved. Then I meet adults on the street who have never had someone truly care for them, or someone in prison who was never believed in, a business man whose parents were too busy for him, an actor who was told they're not good enough, a housewife who was loved conditionally, a pastor who was left behind, a mom who can't catch up, a grandparent who was treated like a child, the list goes on and on. Rejection, abandonment, uselessness, and unlovable. How often do we feel these things? As I sat and reflected on the pain I feel every time I hear or see this... my sweet friend reminded me that God is the Father of the Fatherless and He is near to the broken-hearted. Knowing this we can stand from a place of adoption and live as though we have a Father who will take care of our needs... or we can live out of our orphan spirit not trusting our Father will come through and fight for ourselves.

There are too many orphans in this world to count. And there are countless others walking around with the spirit of an orphan. How amazing would it be if we all began to really see ourselves as sons and daughters of the most High King. And how much more amazing if God's sons and daughters began taking care of the orphans of the world desiring to see freedom in their lives by accepting them unconditionally. What a blessing it is to know that we are precious children of His... and what a blessing it is to share this same joy with so many others.

For many years now I've been bewildered by the look I receive from some babies passing by. It's almost as if they are looking directly into the depths of my soul and saying something. One day I had a revelation that Jesus was speaking to me through their eyes. (I'm not claiming this is what happens, it's just what I imagined could happen). I had a picture of each baby (pre-born) sitting on His lap before heading to earth and Christ kissing each of us saying..."Now, as you get older and are tainted by the world you will forget about this moment with me... but then you will hear about me through other people. Try to remember my love for you and seek after me with your whole heart until we meet face to face again. Earth is your only time to love me in your lack... so make the best of it. Obey me. Live a full long humble life. I will never leave you or forsake you. I am and always will be your Dad."

B90: (Zechariah 1- 14:21) In Chapter 7 the Lord means serious business with Zechariah..."Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." v 8-10

You can almost easily begin to see how much the enemy wants to do the very things God hates and he will use anyone to do these horrible things. I'm sure there have been times when we have been the victim... and there have also been times where we might have justified our injustice acts towards someone else. Then looking even deeper into the verse I have to wonder if are ever unintentionally oppressing the widow, fatherless, sojourner or poor? Do we know how our daily decisions are effecting others globally? Are we actively supporting, loving, and encouraging widows, orphans, sojourners and the poor locally and worldwide? I know... heavy stuff right? I'm asking myself these same questions right now.

Lord I pray tonight that you reveal your love for us as sons and daughters. I ask that every person reading this will accept and receive your gift as a good Dad. You DO love us so much, as well as all of your creation which you yearn for. Let us give you all the praise, worship, glory and honor that you deserve. Our human efforts can never reach you without the power of you in us... but let us seek you all of our broken, humble days on earth! You are so worthy to be praised no matter how we feel or what we think. You are TRUTH, LIGHT, LOVE, THE WAY. I pray you break our heart for what breaks yours! In the name of your son Jesus... begin to unify our broken body separated by silly disagreements. Bring us together how you designed. Let us all worship you TOGETHER after all this time of being apart. Let us stand in victory as one bowing to you on the throne who has already won! Grow in us a passion for the lost, dying, orphaned, hurt, bleeding, lonely, sick, torn, abused, unwanted, unloved people of this world. Help us to see their needs and actively serve and love to see healing and freedom in all. Our hands continue to point to you in everything we do... let us trust the path we walk on with you... and lean not on our own understanding. You are good. You are God. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

(day sixty-seven) spending time in the river of life

Yesterday was quite an eventful day (hence, why this blog is just now getting out :). I woke up at about 5:45 in the AM with messy hair, squinty eyes, and balance problems. Although I don't too much care for early mornings THIS one was special. I was going fishin' at the river with my pops! One of my favorite things in the world. Now, my decision making skills aren't the sharpest that early nor is my attitude the brightest. Along with that... and my senses being heightened to the nth degree, made for a dangerous medly of toxic emotional ingredients.

As soon as my dad started up the car the loudest, highest pitched, most annoying beep i ever heard began. I quickly reverted back to a little 6 year old girl holding my ears, putting my head between my knees and screaming..."daddy! can you please stop that?!" (as if it were his fault). My poor dad has the amazing ability (not disability in this case) to not hear high pitched sounds. What a gift i tell ya! So, while I was crippled with pain praying the glass wouldn't shatter and rabid dogs wouldn't attack our vehicle... my dad was aggravated with me being so troubled by a noise he could not hear. Our anticipated trip almost ended 5 minutes in, but thank the Lord the beeping stopped and we were well on our way!

Then about 5 minutes later I decided it was time for breakfast. So here I go shaking away my protein and almond milk mixture when little miss irritated forgot to close the lid! Before I knew it, my protein shake was all over the inside of the car including myself. Perfect. I just sat there frozen with gook all over fighting back the tears of frustration. Although I knew this trip had got off to a rocky start I was ecstatic about the destination and still hopeful for the rest of the journey. Dad immediately pulled over for napkins, a towel...and some coffee of course. I started apologizing for getting a late start because I knew my dad was so eager to get to the river.

My sweet dad just looked at me and said something like, "Lindsey... I don't care when we left and I don't care when we get there, I just wanna be with you." Then He told me he was gonna pull over there anyway. It didn't take long for God to say, "listen to your dad lins, that's exactly how I feel about you." Wow. So much of the time we do "godly" things and sadly leave God behind. Isn't that strange? Or somewhere along the way we are doing these great things, but forget about who we are really doing them for. In that teachable moment I learned that my father in heaven is excited about being with me in the destination... but just as eager to for me to participate with Him in the journey. He's not concerned about getting a late start or catching a certain amount of fish, He just wants me to be WITH HIM. He delights in our company. Can you believe that? That the king of the universe and beyond enjoys every second with you!!! Except maybe those freaky meltdown moments. Even then, He wants to be present to bring peace into the situation and teach us something very valuable and eternal about His love.

Dad and I both ended up catching a crazy amount of fish.... and throwing them back of course. I still can't hardly bare seeing that hook in their cute little fishy mouth. Again, it paints a beautiful picture of our journey with God. The more we desire HIM and not the actual things we do... the greater our pleasure becomes in those things and the more He will accomplish through us. It IS about Him and enjoying His presence. As I was standing there visiting with my dad on the river we hardly noticed all the fish that we were reeling in because of the beautiful conversation that was happening simultaneously. Our love exchange with Christ will make spreading the gospel almost effortless. I know there are times when planning may be good, but if we are in constant communication with our Father and diggin' in the word... living it out will be so much more natural. People will begin to actually see the product of walking and talking with HIM. They will start to see the fruit in your life of the one you interact with moment by moment.

I was super encouraged by a fellow ywamer and bro in Christ today as I began to catch up on his blog and hear about what God is doing in and through him. He is a great example of what I've just been talking about. He is so hungry for more and more of God's presence in His life which in turn gives Him more and more passion for the world in which we live. When He talks with people He's not arrogant about the gospel or intimidated by their journey, instead He humbly testifies to what God has done in his own heart over the years and how unfathomable a true love exchange with Christ is. In fact, I'm so honored to know many more like this. You may be one of them.

If you don't think it's in you to be this passionate about the Lord and His heart for us... then you're wrong. And since this is my blog, I'll tell you all day long... YOU ARE WRONG. If you think that way it's because of a lie you are believing from the enemy. No matter where you are in your walk, He always wants to take you deeper with Him... and deeper in Him is possible. I dare you to challenge me in that :) Ha. I'll always want more of God till the day I die. It's not that I'm not satisfied with what He's given me... it's just that I NEVER want to stop seeking His face, EVER. The more I know about who God really is the MORE I fall in love with Him. The more I fall in love the more I'm passionate about what is in His heart... and the more i HATE sin and how it toxifies our soul and planet.

Last night I got to hang out with some good old buddies in a christian band that was playing locally. At one point I started visiting with some of the backstage managers about their work and family. One woman started sharing her whole life story with me while the band was rockin' out on stage only a few feet away. Haha. It was pretty funny. But as I stepped deeper into her story I began to see a dilemma she was sorting through. First she told me how she was only 39 and had raised 5 strapping young men alone. Her husband died 12 years ago and she's made it her goal to raise the best kids she possibly can. She continued to tell me that they are all smart, have good jobs, and didn't get anybody pregnant. So... she said, "I think I did a pretty darn good job." Recently a friend challenged her to quit smoking and her reply was, "I think I've accomplished God's plan for my life so when the good Lord takes me home I'll be done." Now... there is a can of worms in this statement I've been wanting to open for awhile, but am going to wait a little bit longer for God's wisdom in the situation. But what I do want to say is... first of all... Yes, God IS Lord and He IS good. (I'm also wondering how exhausted God gets with us not taking responsibility for our destructive decisions and taking advantage of His grace... more worms later :) But what REALLY got me was the fact that she didn't see or desire for God to use her anymore. This makes me SO SAD... and i hear it all the freaking time.

We tend to decide what God wants for us because of what gifts we have (or don't think we have) or what path we've chosen in life. Then when we "feel" like we're done... we quit. I really believe that it doesn't matter if you are a little kid, a parent with a lot going on, a businessman, a missionary, an ill person, or very old... God still wants you to desperately seek Him and He still wants to use you to reveal His glory to the world. Whoever you are reading this I just feel an overwhelming sense of love that our God the Father has for you. This blog is not just for the general public tonight, it's for you. You are special, unique, and irreplaceable to God. There is something about His character that He wants to reveal through you. If we really are made in His image and we are all different, then the very core of who has created us to be is crucial for the world to know. This is something that can be represented poorly or properly when we either desire pride or seek humility. We attain that humble attitude, juicy fruits, and Christ like character when we simply spend time with Him... like my daddy in the river.

I wanted to share this video with you because it's from the friend of mine I mentioned earlier and some of the ministry they've been doing in the U.S. The kids in this video are so passionate about the God they spend time with and know... they can't help to share His awesome love and truth with everyone they meet. I love their rawness, courage, and humble attitude as they talk about the one who has changed their lives and what He's doing in the world. It's super encouraging and I believe spirit- lifting!

B90: (Micah 6- Haggai 2:23) What does the Lord require of us?... "but to do justice, to love kindness (or steadfast love), and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

Just like we were saying... when we walk humbly with our God His character is revealed to us and His love is known. There is a consistent steadfast love that we are exchanging in that beautiful relationship and we begin to truly connect with His heart. Doing justice comes natural and we quickly become intolerant of the injustice of the enemy and his lies.

"Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:13 &14

The earth will be filled... meaning it's present, but not complete yet. We have a little taste of His glory on this earth and also have the availability of tapping into more when we enter into His throne room with thanksgiving and praise. His glory is so vast and knowledge so deep... never stop pursuing, you won't regret it!

And lastly.... "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord." Zephaniah 2: 3

Workout and daniel fast: I know I haven't talked about these 2 elements in awhile now, so I thought I'd share just a little bit about what is going on in these areas. I'm still doing P90x. Trying to do it at least 6 times a week. If I don't do that I try and do some other type of exercise that day. As far as eating well... I decided to start the Daniel fast on monday (which I wrote about a few blogs ago). Right now I'm doing fruits, veggies, water, grains, and nuts. So basically no dairy, meat, caffeine, sugar or processed foods. I'm on my 5th day and so far I feel great. I recommend it to anyone who wants a good healthy way to detox, needs a spiritual breakthrough, or just wants a good challenge :) Love you all....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

(day sixty-six) in the belly of a whale...

Tonight I had the special honor of sitting amongst a small group of women all on their own personal spiritual journey to God. Many of these ladies have come looking for support, encouragement, growth, love and understanding. All have pretty similar stories... and all searching for more. There was such a beautiful innocence about each woman as they spoke with such vulnerability and listened with such compassion. After hearing everyone speak I was able to share my purpose and passion in life. I had the amazing opportunity at this point to speak life, truth and freedom in that place by telling them the story I've been sharing with you the last couple of days.

Since last week's tour of the underground railroad and civil war sites, I feel like God's given me physical representations of the spiritual battle for freedom. As I began to share with them tonight God began to reveal even more about His heart for His people and the world. You see, the interesting thing about the two camps of slavery and freedom is: that is your reality until told the other exists. If you are born in freedom then you have no clue what slavery really is unless you are faced with that reality in some way. And if you are born a slave... you might see freedom but have unbelief in it's attainability unless someone shows or tells you differently.

Ironically enough, one can actually be a slave living in freedom.... or an enslaved free person. I've been in prisons where men and women are behind bars, yet their spirit is soaring high. And I've met very wealthy people who can buy their freedom living outside those bars who are very much enslaved to their own greed. These are just examples representing many ways to look it.

Regardless of the situation, we have a choice to make. Our freedom is paid for.. do we accept it and walk in it? Do we acknowledge the chains and humbly ask the Lord to break them? Or do we allow ourselves to continue to be tangled in the enemy's web of lies and enslavement? Every chain is connected to a lie... and every lie is the direct opposite of what God's says about us. When we embrace true salvation in Him, we taste real freedom. This means that no physical bars or chains or circumstance could ever take this freedom away. We can choose to give up pieces of that precious freedom, but He doesn't give up on us!

As we walk in this victorious place of freedom Christ instills the passion, courage and desire to see others step out of their slavery. The closer we come in proximity to Him, the more we burn with His heart to see the world accept life that only He can graciously give us. The more we will not be able to tolerate the lies that cause this slavery... and the greater passion we will have to be apart of the rescue. Our purpose, like I shared with those lovely women tonight, is to be a modern day abolitionist sharing the freedom we have with others, fighting for justice, and pointing to the source of it all! In that freedom we share there is found the characteristic and nature of a loving and just God who is Sovereign in all His ways and who is who He says He is EVEN when we don't feel it or believe it.

And as my admirable friend reminded me this evening... above all else He cares about our heart. So all this talk I do about being whole is great, but the center of it all is Him. If we stare into His eyes even for a moment we'll see the reflection of our heart in them. The question is: is it turned towards Him?

All in all, my soul has been challenged this week by many: an abolitionist who risked it all to see slaves know really freedom, a group of women who are humbly in search of a true God who cares, parents who have understood that obedience is God's love language for many years, a friend who would give up the comfortable life just so she can be a mother to more orphan children, another friend who dedicates the majority of his time to making sure homeless people know they are loved, a guy who has battled with mental and physical sickness for the good part of his adult life but is now seeking complete freedom from the power of Christ in all areas, and this little 4 year old boy......

This precious boy can teach us so much. He knows what it's really like to go from an unwanted baby, to an orphan to an adopted child fully loved and adored. If anyone can tell you what it's like to be truly free, he can. Oh... how much glory God must receive from this innocent prayer of gratitude. Oh Lord, teach us how to pray like this thankful son of yours.

True freedom comes when we can praise and worship God for who He says He is! Sometimes we may not feel his protection, love, grace, mercy, or kindness... but His character never changes. We must remember it's not about us but about Him. And in His amazing goodness He lets us participate with Him in this beautiful journey of freedom and abundant life!

B90: (Amos 5:17- Micah 5:15) I absolutely LOVE the story of Jonah. Who doesn't? I mean... this kid lives in the belly of a freakin giant fish (possibly shark-some historians say) for three whole days!!!! This is such a divine picture again of God delighting in our obedience to Him and His desire for us to be able to be apart of the blessing! There are probably a billion lessons to learn for this small book, and I hope that you dig in deeper yourselves! God has so much mystery to reveal to us in His word... and simply reading it nourishes our soul.

This also reminds me of a little story my pops shared with me today. In this analogy God had told a man to push a boulder. This man pushed and pushed for days and weeks and months. Finally He got fed up with God and said, "God, I don't know why I am pushing this boulder for you... it hasn't budged a bit since I started." To that God replied, "I didn't ask you to move it, I just asked you to push it.... do you see how much stronger you are in every way?"

This man found freedom in letting go of His plan for this boulder and accepting God's plan for his own life... and Jonah found freedom in the belly of a whale (or some sort of large fish :). I love to see Jonah's heart soften in this place of vulnerability in the last few lines of his prayer..."Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what i have vowed i will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!" Jonah 2:8 &9

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(day sixty-five) Chains be broken... lives be healed.

When John Parker was eight years old He was sold into slavery. EIGHT. He was sold by His white father and would never see His enslaved mother again. I know I talked about Parker a little bit in last night's blog, but I just can't seem to get him off my mind. Despite his enslavement and tragic obstacles, John did just about everything he could to soak up all the bits of knowledge around him. At 18 he persuaded an elderly woman to purchase him after much convincing. He worked night and day- literally- until he could pay off every penny she paid for him. At 19 years of age John P. Parker was a free man.

Parker was very successful with many inventions but most interesting was his active involvement in the underground railroad. His house was right on the banks of the Ohio river facing Kentucky (then a slave state). As I peered out of the very window he perched at nightly; I began to imagine him spotting the slaves, sensing their anticipation of freedom, and rushing to their long awaited rescue. A chill ran through my body as I could almost feel exactly what he must have been feeling 120 years ago in that exact place. John would hop into his little boat in the black of night and row as fast as his arms could take him across the river to the slave state. Suddenly He would appear amidst the fog, and the slaves could now almost taste and smell their freedom as the water touched their skin. Sometimes bloodhounds would be right on their tail or head hunters hired by their owners. Seeking freedom was quite dangerous for everyone involved. So why would someone risk his own life and family for a stranger's freedom? More like hundreds and hundreds of strangers?

Many people- white and black- were fighting against the injustice of slavery by risking it all to see chains broken and lives healed. One of the more clever ways they assisted was through coded quilts that would hang on fences or lines outside plantations. On this trip I learned that these beautiful quilts had hidden messages in them only slaves could interpret. Since most didn't know how to read or write, they depended on pictures or songs to point them in the right direction. One of the coolest symbols was a monkey wrench which told the onlookers to gather their tools for physical, mental and spiritual preparation for the road to freedom. Then it hit me.

As a child I remember how important it was to memorize the bible stories in sunday school as well as some verses that were suitable for us youngsters. There's certainly nothing wrong with telling these stories or desiring your kids to remember them... but what if we began to also see each one is a message of personal freedom? What if -just like the quilt - we were able to allow the stories to teach us what true freedom in Christ is, how to prepare for the journey and where to find the path? I'm sure John P. Parker could have tried to free slaves from a safe distance, and I'm sure He could have sent some money to help or paid others to go. He also could have reproduced the quilts or beat people over the head with them..... but he didn't. Parker didn't see His freedom as a special privilege that only the smart or wealthy or "blessed" deserved. He was humbled by his freedom therefore put his life on the line over and over again so others could have this beautiful gift as well. Those he saw across the waters had been seeking this freedom down a long hard path, and now they were standing at the river of life. I am certain he was such a man of honor that he would not be able to enjoy a single day of his freedom if he weren't at least helping others walk out of their own bondage.

If you attend church I'm sure you hear the word freedom sometimes. I don't know about you but I'm ready to see this in action! I wanna see more communities of free people who are there seeking after God's face with no other agenda other than blessing the Father with their praise, thanksgiving, and sacrifice. When this happens- BAM- we are overwhelmed with what HE wants to reveal to us.... His powerful, healing, restoring LOVE. As this penetrates each area of our lives.... we begin to experience true freedom. But just like the underground railroad... we make a series of decisions that get us to that place, but God is the one that does all the breaking free! So often we can't get past our comfortable position or our paralyzing fear or unbelief. And if you live in America you have no more excuses to decide to pass through that threshold and come to God on His terms. We spend so much time and effort blaming God for what the church has done when God is not the messed up one. We are. Our spirit-man is battling the toxic world daily... and this is the very reason why God knows we need His freedom in our lives on earth. So we can walk around in the kingdom of heaven... confident in Him... and fighting for freedom in each others lives rather than fighting each other.

As a broken person, wouldn't you want to step into that community of people and be smacked in the face with God's love and walk out of that place healed and free??? If we continue to go to God on our terms, we will continue to be disappointed. BUT, if we come on His terms seeking ways in which to bless Him with our service, worship, praise, adoration and sacrifice... He will blow our socks off! It was, is and always will be about Him. He is the beginning and the end. But He loves us so much He wants us to be a part of the world's journey to freedom. Will you?

b90: (Hosea 10- Amos 5:17) It seems that a lot of what makes up Hosea, Joel and Amos are either God's mercy on Israel, their sinning nature, His judgment on them, His punishment, or His love and favor. A few days ago, I heard a pastor say, "Obedience is God's love language." And honestly I'd never thought of it like that before. In Hosea Ch. 6 vs 6 God says, "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." And then in Joel He says, "Yet even now return to me with all your heart, with fasting, and weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."

My pastor in Nashville once explained it this way: First He gave a scenario of Him coming home with flowers for his wife and telling her He did it simply because He was obligated to because he was her husband. Then the second scenario was Him bringing her flowers because He loved and adored her as his wife. You see the difference? Boy, it really opened my eyes that day of how I sometimes treat God like this. How I can easily do things out of duty and sacrifice because I'm supposed to... rather than bringing Him adoration and praise out of love. He wants nothing more than for our WHOLE heart, our whole being, to return to HIM and when we do.... His presence is full of more freedom and love than we could imagine.

Monday, September 19, 2011

(day sixty-four) the underground railroad and our path to freedom!

Did you guys miss me as much as I missed you??? Haha. Well, it has been quite an adventure the past two weeks and I'm so ready to share it all with you guys. I know it's only been a few weeks since "day sixty-three", but it feels like it's been forever. I hated that I had to step back from the 90 day challenge for that amount of time, but it was necessary and very fulfilling. That first week was jammed pack full of wedding celebrations in Nashville, coffee dates, dinners and everything in between. I got to catch up with my pastor in Franklin, Tn as well as many people who have encouraged and mentored me over the years. I felt like it was a week long counseling session where I walked away feeling so restored, refreshed and inspired! God knew exactly what I needed! I did not have a moment to work on the challenge, but continued implementing "wholeness" as a part of my daily lifestyle.

The second week was spent traveling with a tour company called Appleseed Expeditions that I do some part time work for. During this trip we led about 130 sophomore Catholic boys from Missouri to Indiana to Ohio and back to Tennessee on an educational journey of the underground railroad and civil war. I think I may have enjoyed this tour more than anyone else. It opened me eyes to things I had never seen before now, helped me really connect to our historical past, and brought even more revelation as I bridged this physical road to freedom to our spiritual one. Many MANY stories are yet to come from the past few weeks of my own adventurous journey! Stay tuned.

With that said... I feel like this challenge is about to get a whole lot more intense. One of the things I felt like the Lord was telling me the last few weeks was that it was time to take this thing to the next level. I also felt that those 2 week were almost like a marinating period. God was allowing everything that had happened up to that point to be somewhat of a foundation for what was about to happen. And what God was revealing to me in this little "break" was something that needed some time to soak in. Personally I've been majorly challenged by some powerful sermons, prophetic words, deep conversations with some really wise folk, questions of His great mystery, and awesome yet terrifying truth spoken by His very word. These are things that needed time so that the full flavor of what God wants to reveal to His people is properly represented and tasted.

Whether you've just been reading these blogs for fun, or they have encouraged you to seek HIS face even more (which I pray they have)... I think we are about to head down the road of no return. There may be times in the following 25 days where I say something I was told to say that will not bring comfort. And there are times you may literally feel the loving arms of the creator of the universe wrapping around your soul. But as I've said before, I am here to speak the truth and nothing but the truth (so HELP me God). Only the TRUTH can set us FREE. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

As I learned about the underground railroad last week I was most interested in the brave souls who found freedom worthy of dying for. If you are not that familiar with this railroad: it was a system of trails (before the abolition of slavery) helping fugitive slaves to escape into Canada, free states or other places of safety. It was not an actual railroad nor was it underground. Although, many of their hiding places were. The conductors were people who were daily risking their lives to help lead slaves along this path to freedom. Harriet Tubman was one of the more famous conductors and she has quite a story too. We got to walk along one of the actual trails they walked and look up on the hill they would have to see the lantern the would lead them to safety!! You see... most slaves did not even know this freedom could exist or that it was attainable until they met a conductor or someone speaking of this possible truth. Once they began to hear it over and over again... some began to desire it. Then it became an obsession that outweighed any consequence of getting caught. If true freedom existed, they would rather die trying to become free than continue on living enslaved.

I remember reading about this as a child and perhaps I can attribute my love for Justice, Freedom and secret passage ways to the underground railroad stories. But for the first time it became REAL to me. In some strange way I began to relate to the chains of the slaves, the reckless courage of the conductors, and the passion and drive of the abolitionists! Every single person involved knew the price of freedom and was willing to lay down their own lives so that someone else could attain it. This to me is true sacrifice. Many abolitionists and conductors had thousands of dollars placed on their head. But sadly hundreds of thousands turned their head at the very mention of slavery not wanting to get involved in the least bit. How often do we do this? Not only do we have modern-day slavery going on in our very back yard and with our brothers and sisters around the world... but we have millions more who are enslaved to the lies of the enemy. How often do we go about our daily business not even allowing ourselves to see that hell is consuming the lives of so many every second! And I don't just mean people dying... I mean people living in actual hell- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

I truly believe that if we call ourselves followers of Christ then we must wake up to what is really going on around the world and not just in our own little neighborhood. And when we do... we begin to identify with God's heart on a whole new intimate level because we begin to see how He aches for the dying and hurting globe. We will start to see why He has such a heart for justice and speaks so highly of His own FREEDOM. He is truth, and He can and will set us free (if we give Him back the authority to do so). I wonder how many of us don't feel comfortable with this freedom yet because we are still too attached to our chains in some area of our WHOLE being. Truth is... we will NOT be able to properly identify the lies (and call them out) until we dig our face into the word of God. How else would we know what He really thinks about us... especially when we don't feel it. You are a child of God and you were created to live in His freedom on earth. When we walk in freedom we testify to it and we help lead others out of their own slavery with His grace and mercy and love.

I want to be a modern-day abolitionist risking my own life for other people's freedom. I want to see many others decide not to turn their head from this evil thing but face it directly with the power and freedom of Christ. Even though we may get a price put on our own head from the enemy, it is a small price compared to what He paid for our very own freedom. We can no longer allow the slavery of this world to be justified down to worthlessness. Every single human being is a creation of our living God and deserves a chance to fully live abundantly in Him. I want to be a conductor on this road to freedom pointing to Christ every chance I get. He is the light on the hill directing us towards our Father... and we have the awesome chance to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

It begins in our own hearts. Have we first accepted the free gift of freedom He's already paid full price for? Even if we've made that initial commitment to Him there may still be areas of our lives in which we are still enslaved. I encourage us all to take the next few days to search deep inside our mind, body, soul and spirit.... asking God to reveal any places that are weakened by lies we have believed along the way. We need a good ole detox of our crap... and need God to fill us right back up with the revelation of His love for each and every one of us. The journey to becoming whole is also the road to freedom... and He is with us every step of the path.

My prayer is that we will become so familiar with our freedom that we will not take it for granted but we will be able to spot out the chains even faster. That we will have keen vision and sharp discernment when calling out the lies of the enemy! I pray that we will see hundreds of thousands of followers of Christ step into a deeper place of freedom and begin to stand up against the enemy (not each other) so that others can walk in it as well. It is our privilege and responsibility to be LIVING representatives of this freedom so that they will know that it really exists and they will desire and seek the same... so much so they become obsessed to the point of losing their own lives for HIM. The Truth shall set us Free!

B90: (Daniel 7:15- Hosea 9:17) The last thing I think I mentioned about Daniel was the Daniel Fast. Most of you have probably heard about it before, but basically Daniel wanted to prove to the King's men that He could be stronger and healthier by living off only what God provides in the land. After 21 days it's clear that Daniel was right and they began to adopt His diet for the rest of the men.

[The purpose of the spiritual fasting is to consecrate (set aside) a specific period of time to draw closer to God to hear from Him. A powerful side benefit of the Daniel Fast is the improvement in health that most people experience because of the plant-based eating plan. When the bodies that God designed and created are fed the good quality foods He created especially for it improvements in health result. The high fiber in the fruit, vegetables and whole grains cleanses the body and improves digestion. It's not uncommon for cholesterol levels to drop, for blood sugar levels to balance, for weight to be lost and for a general feeling of well-being to be experienced.- excerpt from]

I also believe that it helps reveal how all things are connected and why "wholeness" is so important. So much of the time I can directly correlate what happens in our physical system with what God wants to do in the spiritual. God wants to nourish our soul with the word of God... but just like our cells, if they are toxic they can not hold nutrients at the same time. If we are consciously allowing toxic things enter our mind, body and soul... we can not possibly soak up all of what God wants to feed us with. We become spiritually malnourished and either become overweight with knowledge of the word but no healthy spirit.... or become frail and thin with spirit but no wisdom of the word. Balance does exist, they go hand in hand. We are being deceived if we think we are spiritually healthy and fit if we are toxic in other areas of our lives. We must look at the whole picture!

This is one of the reasons I've decided to partake in the Daniel Fast for the last portion of this 90 day challenge. I feel as though I can't continue to talk about it unless I'm willing to walk through it myself. If anyone else feels the need to join me then please let me know! I'd love to have a community of encouragement and accountability along the way! I must warn you though... if this fast becomes about duty and not love I may have to stop. We do not obey God out of obligation but out of love. And we must always keep our ears open for what He's calling us to do, which may be different for everyone.

Disregard and disassemble the lies, run forth in His truth, follow His promises, step into His freedom and feast on His love. This is my prayer for all of us today. Amen.