Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two minute snap shot...

Tonight at church the Kenya mission team shared stories of their trip. Here is what I shared.

Since I was a child, I have always wanted two things: to be a mom and to go to Africa. So going in never the question for me. The question is if it is God's will for my family and I at this particular time. I was confident it was until a few days before we left when I can only explain as an unsettling came over my spirit. Something like fear, doom was weird. This is from my journal the first night of our trip:

We finally arrived after 6 countries, 5 connections and 42 hours of travel. It is awesome to see God at work in this team.

The past few days I have had some serious restlessness in my spirit. Honestly questioning if I were to still come. I can't really explain it but it was hard to discern if it were a divine inspired feeling of caution or just the devil trying to get in the way. After a lot of prayer, seeking out some Godly counsel, unsolicited encouragement from others and talking to Trevor, I decided to trust God.

On the plane between Brussels and Rwanda, I finished my talk for the women's conference my friend Christie and I would be giving to the Maasai women. I had been trying to write it for months and it came spewing out of me in one hours time. Scripture came to my mind and words to my heart and when I layed my pen down I knew exactly why I had those feelings a few days earlier...Satan was skeered! God was using me; this country girl from the hog farm in Southern Indiana to tell the Maasai women in the Bush of Kenya how much God values their life and loves them.

You know, it's funny, I always told Trevor before we were married to tell me now if he ever thought he was going to be called to be a preacher because I was not called to be a preacher's wife but I think I may have just written my first sermon.

My fears have always been in my limitations, my inadequacies...especially when i'm in an experience with people I love and care for and the needs are so great. I'm a helper by nature so it is uncomfortable for me to feel so small in the midst of intense suffering. So this trip for me was very personal this time around. It was a series of God revealing himself to me moments. The reassurance of His love for the people and country I love, His love for me and just how big He is.

This happened in a number of ways. The first was seeing our child we sponsor again. I met her two years ago on my first trip and it was a wonderful feeling to see her again. I said her name when I saw her and she said, "Jen you're here." It was the best feeling to get to look into this child's face and let her know that I was not just a tourist passing by but someone who loved her and prayed for her and was completely invested in her life. There were CHE trainers, teachers, social workers and other children I had met two years prior and their names just kept coming to me as if the Holy Spirit whispered each one to me and fed those relationships. It encouraged them and me.

On our tour of the slum the fist day, Jesus again showed me His face while we were walking through and we ran into Mary. The exact same Mary I had met two years before on my first day. She invited us into her home and it was a reminder to me how encouraging it is to them to have us show up time and time again to show Jesus' love to them.

At Joska, the boarding school we visited there were 3 girls I had spent a lot of time with on my previous trip that I was really hoping I would see again. We were there for worship on Sunday and it is a large school of almost 800. When a hand grabbed mine to dance in praise, I should not have been surprised that it would be Lucy, one of the 3, sitting directly behind me out of the hundreds that filled the place.

It was in a shanty in Mathare that I took a women named Anne's confession of faith.

And the loudest "our God is greater" moment for me was on the final day of celebration with Area 2 school. Each afternoon it had been tough for me to leave Mercy. I would become teary and an unbearable sadness would fill my heart that this was her home. I often struggle with why I was born into the privilege I was and others have such a different story. Before traveling I had asked if it would be possible to meet with Mercy's family and was told no. On that final day, I walked into the school and out of the close to 800,000 residents in Mathare Valley, God had brought Catherine, Mercy's mother, to me. She sat in the corner with her baby on her lap and I knew right away it was her. I was able to speak with her and show her pictures of our family and tell her we pray for them. She had on the necklace Grace had sent with me for Mercy and I had given her just a few days before. The cross now hung on her neck and it felt in my spirit as if God were saying, Mercy is okay. Her family is okay. I am with them and love you all so much. I love you enough to give you this gift of this meeting and the peace I know it will bring to your heart. Our God is so BIG and in every detail.

I always question how I can have an impact, of what use am I? God knowingly acknowledged my insecurities at each turn placing people in my path as if to say, I am big enough for both of us. I love you immensely. Thank you for saying yes.
Mission trip journal coming soon....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Emotions before mom leaves.

I lay awake unable to sleep. It's about 4:30 in the morning and my upcoming mission trip to Kenya has thoughts turning in my head. I hear the shuffle of little feet and Ava asks to climb into bed with me for the 2nd time in the night. I pull back the covers and she cozies in. She is one of those children that can't get close enough. She drapes her legs over my waist and lays her head on my arm and sinks in to the fluff of this momma. I ask her what she is thinking of and why she hasn't slept well and she simply says, you are going to Africa. This child of mine that would like the world to think she is the toughest 6 year old on the planet has the biggest heart of them all. I have found it's often the ones that appear the toughest that have the most vulnerable little spirits. I hold her close and tell her how special she is to mommy and how much I love her. We talk about why mommy is going to Africa. I tell her that God's plan for telling others about Jesus is us. I tell her that Africa is where I have felt God calling me since I was a girl her age. We talk about how important it is to show others the love and hope that God has brought to our lives. It was one of those conversations that brings tears to the corners of your eyes. I lay there in the silence for the next ten minutes taking in my effective parenting brilliance and then the silence is broken by the little voice in the dark, "Didn't you tell them about Jesus last year?"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Prayer for families

I was asked to pray for families in our community for the National Day of Prayer gathering at our town square. I had to chuckle when I got the itinerary. Many of the names had a title before it or some grouping of letters to signal their importance, education or role in this life. And there was my little name. I am reminded once again that God uses the ordinary!! But, I am the mother of five, a wife, a daughter, and a sister so I guess that qualifies me. I was honored to pray for our families. Here is my heartfelt prayer:

Gracious, Loving, Heavenly Father, Creator of Family,
We come to you today to thank you for the blessing of family, for the joy they bring us and the foundation they give us in this world. I know the state of our families must make you weep at times, break your heart, and we ask for forgiveness today for our failings.

We commit all the families represented here today to you…the families throughout Hamilton County and our great country. We ask that you not only preserve the sanctity of families, Lord, but that you would give us the strength to thrive and return to being the single strongest measure of our society.

Heavenly Father, we know you are sovereign and in Romans 5 you speak of your great love for us and we ask that you help us to trust in your love and sovereingty when the hard times hit. We pray for marriages that are split apart by divorce, betrayal, pain of poor choices and daily disappointments….we pray for healing over them, Lord God. In Ephesians 4:31-32 you tell us to put aside our anger and to forgive one another…send your Holy Spirit to help us do just that. We pray for forgiveness where it is needed and for you to work miracles in the lives of our families.

Today, Dear God, we ask you for unity, for open communication, compassion and kindness to fill our homes. Help us to speak to one another in love and to find the face of Jesus in our family members. Empower us with a spirit of service to one another and to our neighbors. You have told us that where two or three are gathered in your name, there You are in the midst of them….May your spirit dwell within our relationships and homes and may our community see the fruit of your presence among us.

At this moment, Lord, I believe you have the power to help us overcome anything. We call on you to help families that are struggling to break the cycle of violence, poverty, abuse and neglect. We pray you would place people in their lives to fill the gap for them. We ask that you create in them hands for helping and holding, not hurting. We pray for children in foster care and throughout the world that are waiting for families and for couples that are waiting to be parents. We pray for single parents and the extraordinary job that is.
For all parents in our community, Loving Savior, we pray for patience and wisdom. Help us to unconditionally love our children as you love your son, Jesus, and to seek Your face and Your Word in answer to the questions parenting brings our way.
There are families in every community throughout the US, including ours, that you provide for daily and we thank you for your provisions. Continue to meet the needs, Lord, of shelter and safety, food and medical care. Provide opportunities where there are none and work for those without employment. We pray for the working poor. And Heavenly Father, bless those families that in a world that calls us to bigger and better, they choose as a family to live simply so others can simply live. Let those families shine as an example for others.

We ask, Dear God, that you would create a desire within our families to WANT to spend time together…to make our marriages and family a priority. Help us to focus on our own response and actions despite the attitude and hurtful words that may come our way. Help us to be the first to love, even when it is difficult, in every circumstance.

I am amazed by you, Lord, by the beauty you surround us with, the grace you offer us, and the love you freely give. Allow us to put aside our own vision and dreams to come together united to work towards yours. Let us not ask of you each day what you can do for us, but what you, Lord God, can do through us.
In the mighty name of our Lord Jesus, we ask these things. ~Amen

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Real faith is born of the cross.

The past few months have found me in the midst of some pretty great suffering. Not my own, but others. It seems like all around me people are struggling and hurting. But in the spirit of Springtime and new growth it is amazing what I have seen in all of this...extreme faith. Faith that makes you weep and draw nearer to our God. Last night as I was working alone in the quiet, my thoughts turned to this Easter season. I have always been drawn to the dark beauty of Good Friday, one of the most violent and tragic days in our history as a people. I have always recognized that without Jesus' suffering on the cross, there would be no resurrection. As I was meditating on what that selfless act has meant for me, my mind turned to all the hurt I have seen over the past few months and it clearly defined real faith for me.

Real faith doesn't come in the ease of the everyday or the comfort of routine, real faith comes when it is challenged...when you are face down in the depths of your pain and can trust God anyway...when you are hurting, the ones you love are hurting and you want it to stop but instead are able to find a way to glorify God in the midst of it. That is faith. Faith like the example Jesus gave us in His last moments on this earth. He cried out to Our father, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" and in the complete surrender to God's will "Yet not my will, but yours be done." Even Jesus asked, why do I have to go through this? Isnt' there some other way? But sometimes, there is not. The only way to the Father was the cross. The thing I wish we could get in our culture is there was no other way and there is no other way except the cross of Calvary. It is the same today. Jesus didn't ask us to bring our own drinks and our favorite appetizer. He asked us to take up our cross and follow Him. We serve a God that CHOSE thorns over a throne. There is such intimate beauty with our King if we could only learn to embrace our sufferings. Faith comes in praising HIM anyhow. Not my will, Father, but yours. I have seen that faith firsthand amidst the suffering of others in the last few months.

Faith is in the mother of 5 boys taking in infant twins to care for and love on because they need a home.

Faith is in the heart of my 12 year old friend who lies in the hospital bed fighting for her life. Faith is in the grace of her parents praising God through this storm and standing hand in hand with friends around her bed thanking God for the opportunity to witness to others through this.

Faith is in the young mother I visited holding her not quite 4 pound son born 7 weeks premature who isn't hooked up to a single thing and there is no earthly explanation for his success.

Faith is in the locked arms of my family that surrounded my Papaw's bedside praying him in to the arms of Jesus. Faith is in my friend's brother as he struggled for each last breath.

Faith is in my Papaw's suffering and his quiet dignity and resignation to God's will for his life. Faith is in my friend's family embracing the life of their brother that lived each day in a wheelchair with a body that would not cooperate and lost his life far too young.

Faith is in the person that struggles with issues from their past and is haunted by the memories but knows that is not how God defines them.

Faith is in the wife that fights for her marriage that the world told her long ago to abandon.

Faith is in the patience of the mother that comforts and calms her autistic son for the 6th time that day

Faith is in the waiting for more than 2 years to bring your child home with you as they sit in an orphanage half a world away without you.

Faith is in my father-in-law that lived his life serving Christ and now sits and stares, his mind and soon body lost to Alzheimers.

Faith is in the cross. Faith is in knowing that the celebration is yet to come. Faith is in trusting that whatever I have to go through on this earth is nothing compared to what spending eternity apart from Jesus would be like. Faith is in our yes, to you God. Not my will, but yours be done. It's in trusting in God's sovereignty.

All this suffering, pain, struggles....all this blech!...Does it hurt? Absolutely. Do we wish there was another way? Sure. Do we cry out to God and ask why and ask if there is any other way. Yes, yes, yes. But there is beauty in the suffering, ya'll. There is a grace I cannot explain. There is an intimacy with our Savior if we can only learn to embrace our cross as He did. And then....after all that....after that real faith...then resurrection comes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One week ago today, I sat by my Papaw's hospital bed holding his hand as he was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. There are parts of that day that are forever seared in my memory as if it were slow motion. The day before, I had gotten a call that my grandpa was back in the hospital. It seemed his 17 1/2 year battle with cancer was starting to get the best of him. It was his second trip to the hospital in less than a week's time. In the quiet of my spirit I just knew I had to go. He lives more than 3
hours away. I quickly made the two meals I had promised to friends for the next day, farmed out all of the kids to other friends over the next few days, called my husband to tell him I needed to go and showered and threw clothes into an overnight bag and was on my way in less than 3 hours. It wasn't my need to feel needed or my need to protect the ones I love, this nudge I felt to go was from a deeper part of my soul...a nudge to just go and serve. I had an overwhelming desire to be their for others. I love my Papaw deeply and am very close with him as I think all of his grandkids would say. But this urge to go there was to lessen the burden from my aunts and uncles, his children and wife so they could just sit at his feet and BE with him. I simply told them all to be with him and I would do all the running, cooking, cleaning that needed to be done so they could truly focus on loving him in those moments.

My sisters and I had talked about this for a long time that when it came time to say goodbye to our grandparents how difficult it would be and how unbelievably sad it would be for us. I made a conscience decision on the way to southern Indiana that I was gonna praise God anyhow. In the midst of my fear and sadness, in the midst of my Papaw's pain, I was going to focus on the glory his life had brought to Our God and his undeniable faith. I put my praise music on and for 3 and a half hours I had church up in that little car. I raised my hands and sang til I was hoarse and tears rolled down my cheeks. I smiled and sang and cried and sang and all the while prepared my heart to serve my family however they needed me. I got pulled over for speeding in Terre Haute and for the first time in my life, I got a warning instead of a ticket!! I might start having church in my car more often!!

When I walked into my Papaw's room late that night, his eyes were still smiling. I made a joke with him that I heard he'd been asking for his favorite grandchild so I had come quickly. I kissed his bald head and hugged all my aunts and uncles. I got to speak with him a bit but his breathing was taking all of his energy and he only spoke when you asked him a question. He looked frail for my grandpa. He looked tired. He looked drastically different from when I had visited just one month before.

The following day after taking my grandma to the doctor for her blood pressure I brought her into the hospital and came in to see him. He had a rough night. My mom had stayed with him and I could see her concern. His breathing seemed a bit more challenging but his eyes were still smiling. He was completely alert still and knew I was there with him. I left the hospital to go and make lunch for all of the family at the hospital. I did some cleaning and made the meal and felt this overwhelming urgency to get back to the hospital. On my way, I recieved a text from my dad saying he did not know how much longer my Grandpa had. I ran from the car on the third level of the parking garage carrying a cooler, a paper grocery bag, a carrying case with a huge crock pot of chili and my purse....the paper handle broke and I was sweating and running and had chili pouring down my side. When I came around the corner into his room, each of my aunts and uncles were standing there with my Mamaw. They were in a half circle standing around his bed. No one was touching him. No one was saying anything. Everyone just stood quietly weeping. I think they were in shock. It had all happened so fast. I told my mom someone should touch him. I asked her if I could say something to him and she said yes. I went to my Papaw and I held his face in my hands. I touched his bald head and kissed his forehead and the words just came as the single tears turned into a continous fountain of grief. "Thank you, Papaw. On behalf of all of your grandkids, thank you for doing what was right instead of what was easy. Thank you for loving us through our teenage years with green hair and tattoos and our bad attitudes. Thank you for leading our family like you have and for being the kind of man that lived his life in such a way that we don't have to question where you are going. You have led us well....this whole bunch of kooks. Thank you for your faith. And I know 30 years ago you never dreamed you'd have 10 black great grandbabies but you love them all the same and I love you for that. Thank you. Thank you. I love you so much." I may have said more. That is what I remember saying.

Then my mom came and each of my aunts and uncles and then my Mamaw. We circled him tight and touched his feet, his legs, his hands. We held on to each other and my dad started the rosary. I was raised Catholic and my entire family still is. My Papaw said the rosary countless times a day, often sitting on his front porch overlooking the land he farmed. In the middle of our prayers, I overheard my Mamaw say to her husband of 60+ years that it was okay, he was on the porch saying his rosary and it was okay. My shoulders shook and the kind of tears that come from somewhere deep within fell down my face and the amount of love in that room was palpable. The nurse taking care of my grandfather quietly took his pulse as she wept. My Mamaw held one hand and I his other. I just kept rubbing his hand and watching his face. We took his oxygen mask off. On the fourth decade of the rosary, it's focus is the assumption of Mary into heaven when she is reunited with her son again. It is said for the grace of a holy death and it is when my dad's voice broke announcing that section of the rosary that my Papaw took his last breath.

I have seen my own children be born and two of my sister's children. In an odd way, It felt similar. I was indeed in the presence of a miracle. I felt the love of Jesus engulf that space and I felt as if I had truly been given a gift to be there and release my Papaw to the arms of Our Heavenly Father. It was beautiful. I don't know if I've ever witnessed such love. It was such a divine moment that I've struggled to write about it because no earthly words are good enough.

My Papaw had 8 children, 7 living. He had been married to my Mamaw for over 60 years. That committment shaped him. His first children were twins, my mother being one of them and the other, my Aunt Doris with severe special needs. He carried her everywhere she wanted to go until the last year of her life when she fell into a coma and died at the age of 16. That loss shaped him. He saw the world when he fought in World War II and that is where the asbestos from the hull of the ship he was on sat in his lungs and eventually took his life. The service shaped him. Je spent most of his life farming the land and raising his livestock. That hardwork shaped him. He ended his formal education after the 8th grade because he was needed on the farm. That sacrifice shaped him. My family is from a small farming town where real men drive trucks and the ladies drive smaller trucks. That community shaped him. But most of all, he was a man of faith. He believed in God and his son Jesus. He understood suffering and grace and mercy. He loved big and was a man of character and integrity and honor. His faith shaped him. He had 26 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. His family shaped him.

And all of that....his entire journey....shaped me. Shaped my mom and my dad and our family. He led us. He showed us. He was stubborn and old school and lived in the same small town most of his days but this man wasn't confined by that. He did it by choice. It offered a sense of family and faith and values that he cherished and fought hard for. He did the right thing even when it was hard and he valued his word and committment. I watched at his funeral as close to 1000 people came. I watched as 90 year old men wept and spoke of his light. I watched as the 5 and 6 year old neighbor children sobbed because they will miss their talks with him on the porch. I watched as so many laughed about stories of his stubbornness or humor or his love of life. My Papaw was the kind of Papaw that taught me how to fish and put me on his lap on the tractor and drove 5 hours to see me in a play in high school. He told ya when ya did right and you heard about it when ya did wrong. He was funny and full of life and loved family and the earth and learning new things. He went white water rafting when he was 82. He lived a good good life. He was blessed. We were blessed. I am so honored to be a part of his legacy. I am so thrilled for him that he is cutting up a rug in heaven, playing cards and driving the combine in the fields of golden wheat. I cannot wait til I see him again. I am so thankful for the promises of our God. And I am sad...Unbelievably sad for the loss my family feels....for my mom and her siblings...for my cousins that saw him on a daily basis and have farmed with him...for my children that are so young...and most of all for my mamaw that has lived most of her life with this man and now at the age of 82 has to adjust to life without him. This will shape us. It's time like these that example he gave us of family and faith will shine. Thank you, Papaw.

As my mom whispered to you last Tuesday right before 2:00pm, "i have no doubt you will hear, Well done, good and faithful servant." Well done.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update of friend's Thai adoption!

A few months ago I asked you all to pray for my friend that has been waiting to pick her little girl up from Thailand for 2 and a half years! Well, I am thrilled to say that she and her husband left today with their other 3 children in tow (all under the age of 11)!!!! They will be bringing their daughter home!!!! So thrilled for this loving and amazing family. While there they will be visiting 3 orphanages, the one their daughter is from, the one they picked their son up from where he spent 5 years of his life and another. We were able to get some funds together with some generous friends and they will be able to get the Thai children some necessities and a few treats! I am so excited to see what God does through this family. How cool will it be for their son to be back in his orphanage and be able to give to the children there?! Please pray for safe travels, for good health and for a smooth transition for this family that said YES to God's call.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I love a good talk with a friend.

3 days in a row! My blogging self is crawling out of her hole!

I was chatting with my best friend today about how exciting it is to be hungry for God's word. (This same friend and I used to sit and talk about boys and what bar to hit that night and who did what to who. I love friendships that grow with you!) We were talking about how easy it is to read what you should believe, to listen to what you should have someone else tell you. We were talking about how dangerous that can be too. You can't have a relationship with God through someone elses. You have to have your own. Our children won't be saved because we know is our responsibility to help them gain their own relationship with HIM. It's in the relationship that things change.

After we chatted, this thought came to mind. I thought I'd share:)

I liken it to a friend of a friend. You know how you have different circles of friends. For example I have a core group of women in my life that I have known since I was 15. I have another group of women I love and have grown with unbelievably in the past few years. The two groups don't know each other. They have met on one occassion I think. I don't keep them from one another, we all live in different cities and it just has never happened. I often think of how much I love both these groups and wish they knew each other. I like to have all the people I love, love each other:) Unity makes me happy! But I digress....

I have told each group of ladies about the other. They know their names and what they mean to me. They may know about their families or experiences we've shared in the past. They may even FEEL like the know each other because of that. You know what I'm talking about, right?! You've met someone and think, gosh I feel like I know you! The fact is though that if these two women were in the same room together we'd discover they don't really know one another. They would have things in common, they would get along well, they would have similar values but they probably would not confide in one another. They would not implicitly trust one another. They would not feel that unconditional love I feel for these amazing women of my life. They in fact, may not even feel that much of a connection to them at all. These women are amazing so I think their might be an element of friendly love/concern for one another just because I love them all....They would enjoy their time but they would not know each other at first. NO matter what I had told them about one another. One group would not spill their darkest secrets to the others (and trust me, with these girls there are some secrets;) ) just because I say they can trust them. That level of comfort and intimacy would not be there. It shouldn't be there.

There is one thing I have learned with any relationship....particularly these friendships...
being a good friend takes work. You have to check in and listen and talk and take time to invest in your relationship even when life gets in the way....even when it's inconvenient or time consuming or circumstances change. All that work is why these relationships are so strong, such a blessing to me. We all work at it. We value our time and know it makes us better. In these groups we look at the world differently, have different priorities, different lifestyles....but we understand one another and KNOW that is who we are.

I say all of this to make the point that our relationship with God is no different. I won't get into heaven or know what God wants for my life because my parents know HIM and taught me about HIM. Listening to others opinions and reading commentary and amazing Christian books won't either. Surrounding myself with Godly people who can give Godly advice....doesn't make my relationship with God mine. Tuning into KLOVE isn't enough to make me truly know Jesus. The sermon on Sunday, no matter how powerful and eloquently spoken won't change my heart for God if I don't seek HIM in my own time too. Will these things help grow my faith? ABSOLUTELY! Are they important pieces of our walk with God. SURE. Did God design these wonderful things to help encourage us and so we can do life together like the early church. YOU BET! But HE wants us to know HIM on our own. HE wants us to see who we are in HIS eyes. HE knows us. That part is done. HE knows your heart and thoughts, dreams, struggles, sins, mistakes, failures, triumphs and deepest part of your soul. But HE is waiting for us. Like the friend you call over and over never to get a call back. Like the friend that never has time for lunch or a phone call or to remember days that are special to you. Like the friend that thinks what is happening in their own life is more important than what is happening in yours. That doesn't create intimacy. That doesn't create trust or truly KNOWING one another. Real relationship is not one sided. It works both way.

We have to seek HIS face in prayer in solitude. We have to seek HIS word. It is how we get to know HIM. We have a living God. Who else can say that?! HE is waiting on us to get to know HIM. To know HIS heart. HIS dreams for HIS people He is waiting for us to see the world through HIS eyes. HE is waiting for us to understand why HE did what HE much he must love understand HIS sacrifice and the cost of HIS choice...To KNOW HIM. HE is waiting for us to call HIM friend.

It takes work. Just like any relationship...friendships, marriage, children....You ask the questions, you listen to their words, you watch them to see their likes and dislikes and what makes them pursue them, you spend time with them, you confide and are trusted and you work at KNOWING. God is waiting for us. It is our responsibility to search HIM on our own. Others can't do it for us. What God wants for my life, is not what He wants for yours. If we both read the same verse of the Bible right now, it would speak to us differently. God's words are living. They are designed to give us, individually, what we need at this given time in our life. How cool is our God to give us that gift?! HE wants a relationship with us. HE knows us. I pray a renewed sense of desire in your heart to want to KNOW HIM. I pray that you feel that relationship and how real it is to the split ends on your head and the toes that need a Spring Polish!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

chapter 2

I had to miss last night's class due to sick kids and a change of family schedule. I heard it was thought provoking and intense and I hated to miss everyone's valuable insights.

This chapter reminded me that to be able to follow God's will for our lives, to be able to do the work He asks of us, we must desire to get to know Him. We must crave His Word. If we don't understand the way of our God, then how can we serve Him? As Christians we cannot do the will of our Lord God unless we know the ways of the Lord our God.

Chapter 2 also points glaringly to the problems of this world, including a watered down Christianity where we meet society's expectations of what good is instead of God's. The option we are given is not if we serve or if we choose God but in the how. There are some things that God just simply commands of us. He demands us all to be radical. For example, he commands us all to take care of the orphan and widows (James 1:27)......For some, that looks like the young lady I follow on a blog that is single and in her 20's and has adopted 14 girls and operates a massive feeding program in Uganda. For me that looks like adopting two children. For me that looks like sponsoring a child in Kenya so she can go to school and get immunizations and eat while learning about Jesus. For you that may look like fostering or visiting a nursing home or clearing the snow from your older neighbor's driveway. It may mean cooking a meal for a family that is fostering or watching their children so they can have a break or maybe it means lovingly caring for a parent or grandparent......these are all radical. None of them big or small. The radical piece, for me, comes in being completely obedient to Christ.

The orphan and widow is just an example. He also calls us each to tell others about Jesus. Is that in being a missionary? Talking to a friend? Teaching in the children's class at church on Sunday? What is He calling you to? What is He asking of you? Requiring of you? When I think of it, we could all be doing more.....there is always more to do....Jesus died for us!!! What could we possibly do to make it seem like we are doing enough for HIM? The only answer I have for that is to give him your, Yes! Whatever you ask of me, I will do. That looks different for all of us. I believe you have to come to peace with the fact that you are being obedient to His calling for your life. If you constantly are asking of yourself am I doing enough, then maybe you aren't. But if you know you are following those nudges, answering His promptings on your life, then I believe we are living radically for Christ.

With all that being said, none of this can be done with out Christ.....His Holy Spirit residing in us. When we commit our hearts to God, we gain a power I think few really tap into. We are given the power of Christ to do what He calls us to do. I could not do what I do without God's living Spirit in my life. I would not have adopted, would not be the mom I am or the wife I am or the friend I work hard to be. I would not reach out in encouragement to others or probably even realize they needed encouragement in the first place. I think it is so important to see that is why it is important for chapter 2 to seek His face, to read His word, to desire to know Him intimately and and it is then.....when we crave His will, when we are radically dependent on Him to provide, guide, comfort and teach is then that we can live RADICALLY for Him, IN HIM!!! How exciting is that?!!! I am hoping this book talks about how powerful and essential His Holy Spirit is to living a Radical life because for me, it is the only way it can be done.

My talents, my strengths, weaknesses, the fruits of my life's work through Christ will look differently than yours. That is where the road is wide. The only way to heaven is through Christ....that is how it is narrow. He gives us that salvation, that invitation to an eternal life with Him freely. That "gift of God's Grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings." (Radical p. 39) It is our responsibility to accept it and spend the rest of our life getting to know Him more and answer with a resounding Yes. Use me God, I am yours. It seems the current church in general fails Chrisitans in this way. If you are just saying Yes, I believe, you are missing out on the power of His Spirit residing in you. Yes, you gain that gift instantly but you must get to know Him to truly tap into that power. That power is what brings about change in behavior, in life, in choices, etc.

The focus should not be on feeling guilty or scared into doing good deeds to gain access to heaven; but the focus, I believe should be in our intimacy with our Heavenly Father...gaining an insatiable desire to get to know Him more, to learn about Him, study His word, see the world through His eyes, have broken hearts over what breaks His heart. When we are getting to know our God and calling on Him to help us do what He asks of us, then the works, the fruits of the Spirit, the deeds and actions come freely. It is His will we seek. His will in our lives becomes a natural progression of Christ residing in us. As we get to know Him and become closer to Him, our hearts begin to resemble His.....our life's work begin to reflect that. When we truly begin to understand His love and His sacrifice for us, is when we can begin to comprehend that He deserves nothing less than our complete and total surrender, our obedience to Him.

So don't be discouraged or afraid of your salvation. Pray for a desire to know Him, a desire to be in His word, of HIS world. It is then that the growing happens. It is then that the beauty comes from ashes. It is then that the fuit of Christ residing in you shines and those around you will come to see HIM. The sheer blessing it is to know and experience Him is not one to be missed. Now that, my friends, is radical!


I am studying the book Radical by David Platt with a group of amazing women at my church. We are lead by a brave woman that answered her yes to God by leading a study that provokes emotions and struggles and makes people question all kinds of things in their lives. I cannot imagine leading a study like this. Especially when I don't have all the answers and God calls us all to such different places in life. I am thankful she said yes though. I am thankful that I am in a study with women that will question and struggle and seek answers to grow their faith in God.

David Platt starts out his book Radical by thoughtfully provoking the reader to answer some questions based upon the idea that Chritianity today has met our society's standards in catering to ourselves when the message of the Gospel of Christ is to abandon oneself. It leads you asking the question what do I need to abandon to be radically obedient to God. This could be something concrete like the material posessions of this world or maybe it something more abstract like the image or status your position at work gives you or maybe it is letting go of the past, of failures, of hurts, of anger. All of those things get in our way of truly being obedient to Christ's calling on our lives. With all that clutter, we cannot pursue Him or a life that points to His glory.

The first chapter leaves us asking the questions:
Do we truly believe Jesus? His promises? His power?

If we belive Him, do we trust Him? Obey Him? Enough to do the crazy when He asks? The radical?

Does our life reflect Christ residing in us? Is our life pointing to God's glory?

Wow, huh? Real light stuff for a Tuesday night study:) A couple of things I can see in this book. It is going to cause people to question, to squirm, to seek answers for themselves, to take inventory, to be introspective. Although many of those things are scary at first glance, they all bring about growth and for that, I am excited!!! Bring it.