Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crazy Ones

I have to admit... Chan's opening remarks in this section really spoke to me... because I could've said them myself!

"Sometimes I feel like when I make decisions that are remotely biblical, people who call themselves Christians are the first to criticize and say I'm crazy, that I'm taking the Bible too literally, or that I'm not thinking about my family's well being." p. 135

Chan's referring to what happened when he came home from his first trip to Africa. Upon his return, he felt very strongly that he was to sell his house and move into something smaller... thus allowing him to give away more. The response he received when sharing his decision with others (especially other Christians) was a little surprising. Instead of hearing words of encouragement and support, he was met with skepticism and judgment. Chan specifically wrote, "I do not remember a single person who encouraged me to explore it or supported the decision at the time." p. 136. Having that context, here's how he lays out the obsessed characteristic for this topic:

"Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don't always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth. As Martin Luther put it, 'There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day' (Luke 14:25-35; Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev 3:1-6)"p. 136-37.

I'm one of those people that read Crazy Love and felt God's confirmation that downsizing was the right thing for our family... but it should be noted that my husband and I were already contemplating the drastic change well before reading the book! Everything we read just further solidified what we already felt God was putting on our hearts. However, with the exception of very few, the idea was met with lots of resistance. Sometimes, I even heard things like: I hate it when people read this book and feel like they're suppose to sell everything they own and live a life of poverty! This was usually followed up with some comment about how that wasn't realistic or wasn't Chan's intent.

At the time, I would just bite my tongue... if not, I would have said something that I would have regretted! But, as far as Chan's intent, you don't have to read much further in the passage to understand his intent:

"If one person 'wastes' away his day by spending hours connecting with God, and the other person believes he is too busy or has better things to do than worship the Creator and Sustainer, who is the crazy one? If one person invests her or his resources in the poor- which according to Matthew 25, is giving to Jesus Himself- and the other extravagantly remodels a temporary dwelling that will not last beyond his few years left on earth, who is the crazy one?" p. 136.

In my opinion, this leaves little doubt as to what Chan's "intent" is here! He calls us out. He lays all the cards on the table and speaks to, in my opinion, one of the suffocating roots that is binding us from truly becoming followers of Christ... as is intended in the Bible. As I've mentioned before, right now I'm doing a really great Bible study, written by John MacArthur, that's taking me through the Book of Acts. I wanted to study the early church: how it was formed, what the early members did... specifically how they were called to live. And the one thing that has really stuck in my head is how everyone seemed to sell off all their possessions and throw all their money in a pot, so to speak. They weren't required to do so, but many made that choice. They lived sacrificially for one another. So, I guess my question to you... to myself... is this: Do we live sacrificially as part of our faith? Do we give out of our excess, our abundance? Or, do we give in such a way that our lives are altered? I'm not going to sit here and say that we should be doing "X" or "Y".... I think sacrificial giving looks different for each person. But, I will share what's on my heart... just because a dear friend recently put the thought in my head! Do we donate old worn out clothes because we want to clean out our closets (so we can buy new clothes for ourselves)... OR have you ever thought about hanging on to those old clothes and INSTEAD buying new clothes for those in need? Do we go to the store and buy name brand food for our families, but then donate generic brands to give to the local food pantry (and, please note that I'm not criticizing the act of buying generic food! If our goal is stretching the dollar in an effort to give more, then buying generic is the way to go...However, think about how much more we could give if we buy generic food for ourselves... stretching our dollars... and then buying more food (namebrand or generic!)to donate to a food pantry? I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong... and by all means, giving anything is better than giving nothing (though, I know some that would disagree with that last statement!) I just want you to think about your thought process when it comes to giving sacrifically.

My husband and I are ready to make a drastic change. We are ready to sell our house and move into something significantly smaller... even as we prepare for baby #4. It's not because we don't appreciate where we live, or what we have. We have been incredibly blessed in our lives. But, as we grow in our faith, something interesting has happened. Any night of the week, either my husband or I will look around our house and comment on how much "stuff" we have (always in disgust)... things we don't need, things we don't use, things we don't want. We used to "collect" these things: nice furniture, dishes we NEVER use, figurines and small statues that fill the furniture we don't need. We used to rationalize having and purchasing these things because they "made our house a home." But, if we're honest, they don't. What makes our house a home is our family... when we place God at the center. The dynamics of our family have drastically changed these past weeks and with that comes the confirmation that everything else means nothing. All the other stuff keeps us from using our money and time to help those in need. Yes, of course, we have helped those in need and been able to have all the other stuff, too! But, that's not what this is about. It's about TRULY living our lives as Christ calls us to...OR just doing enough to satisfy ourselves (our conscience).

I want to leave you with one last comment from Chan: "Why is it that the story of someone who has actually done what Jesus commands resonates deeply with us, but we then assume we could never do anything so radical or intense? Or why do we call it radical when, to Jesus, it is simply the way it is? The way it should be?"


Spend some time thinking about how you give of yourself (your time and your money)? I'm not going to give you any more direction... I'm trusting that God will take care of that!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Friends of All

This characteristic is quite similar to the first one Chan mentioned. In fact, the only difference is that it specifically places a spotlight on those in need (and the potential corruption of riches)... and what we should be doing about it if we truly consider ourselves followers of Jesus.

"People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (1 John 2:4-6; Matt. 16:24-26)." p. 135

Even though Chan doesn't mention it in this section, I can't help but think about Matthew 25:34-36:

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of 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 took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."

I have to admit that God's timing... His providence... is pretty amazing. After our Christmas Day outing, as mentioned before, my husband and I have been consumed with this topic. The fact that I'm getting a double dose of it this week is not a coincidence! On top of that, got a call today from a dear friend- by far the most influential mentor I've had in my faith journey. She had been reading the blog and wanted to discuss one of the topics... which dealt with homelessness. This conversation sent me on mission, of sorts... to see what Scripture says about our role in taking care of the homeless. But, in conjunction with that, also learning the difference between what He calls ALL of us to do as Christians, with what He calls each of us to do as individuals.

When talking to my husband about this, we specifically looked at Matt 25:35: "...I was a stranger and you took Me in." The obvious question here is whether or not this to be taken literally. I won't go into the debate here, but I will share the conclusion we came up with (and by all means, have the debate amongst yourselves... God might place a different conclusion on your heart!) It goes without saying that my husband always errs on the side of caution... it's an occupational hazard. On a daily basis, he sees examples of people taken advantage of, and in some cases, hurt and even killed, because of their generosity (or naivety). Now some people might read what I just wrote and say, "Well then, so be it. We will be martyrs for our faith." But first, I'd like to ask you to ponder something before you make any proclamations. Another Scripture that comes to mind in this situation is Luke 18:29-30:

“'Truly I tell you,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.'" (Luke 9:22-26 might even be a better example!)
Now, I know some people that read this Scripture with an interpretation that requires all of us, in one way or another, to sacrifice our families in order to retain our inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven. But, the problem I have with this is that when you step back and look at the totality of Scripture, this seems somewhat contradictory. There are countless Scriptures reiterating the importance of family, of protecting our children. When I began to dig a little deeper yesterday, it became evident that through dissection of the Scriptures... specifically the context in which each Scripture was written, that all of these pronouncements ring true... HOWEVER, it's in our application of these Scriptures that things start to get a little muddled.

Yes, family is important and we are to protect our children. BUT, if God calls us to do something that might upset the apple cart, if you will...then Luke 18:29-30 should be used as our guide. I can't help but think of Lisa Chan as I write this. Before leaving on their trip, she talked about the fear she felt when thinking about taking her children overseas, not knowing what to expect. Of one thing she was certain, God made it clear that her family was to go... so, she had to be willing to trust God's plan over her concerns (over her "plan).

Bringing this back around to today's characteristic... a somewhat superfluous route, Sorry!...I don't feel that God calls us, in all cases, to open our literal homes to the homeless. (For some of us, this might be the case though and I don't question that!) This is quite unrealistic and, as my husband is eager to point out, can go against our obligation to protect our family. However, this doesn't get us off the hook, so to speak! Matthew 25:35 still speaks of taking stranger in... "In where?" becomes the obvious question: under our wing, into our church, help them find a shelter, a resource center... maybe. I think that depends on you... more importantly, what God places on your heart. From another perspective, look at it this way. Scripture says that we all have spiritual gifts. I feel that mine is encouragement, maybe even teaching. But, I most definitely don't possess them all! In the same vein, we can't be all things to all people. God points each of us on different paths, weaving a tapestry that, when done correctly (meaning through His sovereignty) will envelop the homeless, the sick, the widows, the orphans, etc. We each have a different part to play!

I know today's characteristic dealt with the correlation between befriending the poor and our "love for money"... BUT, God placed something a little different on my heart. And quite honestly, I've beaten the "love of money" issue like a dead horse on this blog! You know where I stand on that.


Spend some time asking God what your part is in the "tapestry." Showing God's love to the poor is essential, but there are countless ways to do it. Don't feel you need to follow someones else's path... maybe He wants you to blaze your own trail!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Becoming a Risk Taker

This one always makes me laugh because my husband and I are the antithesis of risk takers. I have this theory that we're all created to take risks. If you disagree, spend some time with a youngster under the age of two. They are curious about everything and are seemingly fearless in their attempts to embark on new adventures. Of course, as their parents, it's our job to make sure they stay safe... but for an overwhelming majority of us (myself included) I think we overstep the role of "safety procurator." Instead of teaching them to use caution, we just advise them to steer clear, if you will. "Better safe than sorry!" is the ol' saying, right? Even as we become adults, we're still inundated with messages about "playing it safe": life insurance, car insurance, disability insurance. (Of course, there are monetary benefits from these examples... to large corporations. But, that's a whole other can of worms!) The point I'm trying to make here is that we are constantly reminded of all the bad things that "could" happen. As a result, the risks begin to outweigh the potential benefits in our minds... and this applies to a multitude of things in our lives.

So, here's the characteristic that Chan gives us to ponder:

"People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress." p. 133

Now, I think it's important to notice that Chan doesn't say we should ignore our personal safety and comfort... just that we shouldn't be consumed by it! The example he gives in the book was one that gave me pause. He talked about how we always pray for safety when we travel... that we get to and from our destination in one piece, essentially. BUT... what if that isn't God's plan? What if an "interruption" in our travel plans is part of God's plan... a plan that will bring Him glory... a plan that includes bringing countless others to Christ. You hear about it all the time! For example, just in the last few weeks, our church has had two funerals. As a result, we've had countless people show interest (not just in our church... but in Christ!)

But, this is the thought I want to leave you with today: Not every risk has to be about "life and death." What about taking a risk with your financial security? What about changing careers? What about changing your lifestyle? Remember, Chan talked not only about personal safety... but personal comfort! Are you willing to risk your comfort in an effort to become obsessed with Christ? I've written about it many times in this blog. There are countless things in our lives that we hold on to (that we find comfort in) that are inhibiting our growth as Christians. We forget that what God promises us will far exceed any transient comforts we experience on this Earth. It's when we trust Him with these things that we begin to experience the transforming power of His holy hand in our lives.

My family experienced this yesterday morning. Usually, our Christmas mornings are pretty much the same: early morning deluge of endless presents, a constant supply of food coming out of the kitchen, Christmas parade on tv and then laying around the house all day enjoying the spoils of "Santa." Well, this year we stepped out of our comfort zone. This year, we still woke up early and opened presents; however, there were significantly less... about 90% less! But, to our surprise, the kids didn't complain once! (It should be noted that we warned them ahead of time!) After opening presents, we headed out to deliver presents to the homeless. We wrapped scarves and mittens in ribbon and tucked in gift certificates to Dunkin Donuts. Then we went to the local soup kitchen to deliver the bundles. This experience, I dare say, has forever changed me and my husband. As we drove off yesterday, I wept. I could only think of the prayer: Break my heart with what breaks yours, Lord! My heart was definitely broken, but equally, I think my husband and I realized that we live in our "comfort zone" way too much, and that God is calling us to live outside that comfort zone. What does that look like? I don't know. But we're definitely talking about it and praying through it with other people at our church. We are so incredibly blessed to be surrounded with church leadership and members that humbly want to serve God and other people, in His name. But as I sit here and write this, I can't help but wonder what it would look like if we actually took risks in an effort to serve the homeless in our area. I'm not talking about going out once a year (or month, even) and serving food. I'm talking about getting out of our comfort zones and helping them, befriending them! And for the record, let me just say that before yesterday, the thought of this seemed a little unrealistic. But after meeting some of those men and talking to them, it became immediately apparent that there isn't much that separates "us" from "them."

How many lives could God change through us? How many people could we help? The opportunities are endless... we just have to be willing to place the benefits over the risks.


Think about ways you can get out of your comfort zone. If nothing comes to mind, spend some time asking God to help you come up with some ideas. I'm sure He has plenty. But, remember, this is only the first part! Ideas mean nothing until they are put into action!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lovers (of EVERYONE!)

Of the 13 characteristics Chan presents for being obsessed with Christ, this one is BY FAR the hardest for me... and it's probably the hardest for most people. (You'd think he could have, at least, started with something a little easier to swallow!) But, when everything is said and done, this characteristic is undoubtedly the MOST important!

"People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back."

Easier said than done, in my humble opinion! What I find so interesting, is that we are presented with two specific "scenarios" in this section... two types of people that are seemingly difficult to love. In the first scenario, Chan looks at Luke 6:32-36:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Is anyone else feeling a little conviction right about now? Well, just in case you're not, let's look at what Chan adds, in an effort to "help" us examine our own lives.

"We are commanded to love our enemies and to do good by them. Who are your enemies? Or in terms we can connect with better, who are the people you avoid or who avoid you? Who are the people who have hurt you or hurt your friend or hurt your kids? Are you willing to do good to those people? To reach out to them?" (emphasis added)

In the passage above, I emphasized the part that I REALLY struggle with. I'm pretty "old school" in my philosophy. I was brought up believing "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But, for me, I have to take it a step further... and those that know me, understand why. I have a very difficult time holding my tongue. I speak my mind. Period. In an effort to "keep the peace" I avoid those that really tick me off, so to speak. So... you might be wondering: "How's that workin' for ya?" Well, truth be told, it works pretty well with "keeping the peace" outwardly... but it definitely doesn't keep the peace in my heart. In fact, it's just the opposite. The more I avoid, the more incredulous I become. There's one case in particular where I've become so incredibly bitter and resentful that the mere thought of this person makes my blood boil... not exactly what God intended, huh? I don't talk to her on the phone and I'm cordial in person, but, oh my, how this woman gets under my skin... to the point that it literally effects my blood pressure! Can anyone relate?

In the other scenario, Chan references Luke 14:12-14:

"Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

This pretty much cuts directly to the chase. Last night, my husband and I sat on the couch talking about how this Scripture fits into our lives. (It should be noted that we don't have a lot of dinner parties... maybe 5 since we've moved into our house over 5 years ago!) But, the point being made here is that when we look around to the people we surround ourselves with, those we chose to spend out time with... whom do we see? People like us... the same socio-economical background? Or, are we befriending those that have less... those that could never return the kindness and generosity that we are capable of bestowing upon them?

There's a lot to ponder here. I wish I could pass along some words of wisdom to help or encourage you, but alas, I find myself needing those words of wisdom and encouragement myself! But, of this I am quite certain: God has the power to change our hearts. We can try with all our might to "will ourselves" to change... (I'm not sure about you, but for me, that never works out the way I want it!) It might work for a while, but I always find it exhausting. The reason, plain and simple, is that it's an act. In these situations, my heart was never changed, I was just putting on a good show, in an effort to keep the peace... to afford myself the luxury of patting myself on the back after an exhausting visit. But, at the end of the day, my heart still holds resentment, bitterness, anger and hostility. Only God can delivering me from the grips of those things. I've been holding on to those things for years... and the longer I hold on to them, the stronger they grip my heart. The ONLY thing capable of prying loose those strongholds is His gentle hand!


Spend some time in prayer asking Him to reveal any "enemies" you might have... to prick your heart when it comes to those you are avoiding. Maybe you've avoided them so often that you've completely forgotten about them! Also ask Him to open your heart to the possibility and desire to befriend those that are less fortunate... if you're not already doing so. See what God reveals in the days ahead... and don't be surprised if he puts a new face in your path!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Does It Look Like to Be Obsessed... With Christ?

Chapter 8 begins with a definition for the word obsessed:

Obsessed: to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic

As I reread this the other day, it made me think of things that I've actually been obsessed with in my life... and none of them were exactly "healthy." There were the TV shows that I scheduled all my activities around, the songs I played over and over again... just so I could learn the lyrics, the key lime pie that I made my husband go out and get at all hours of the night when I was pregnant with our first child (now I make him get Honeycrisp apples- We have 10 pounds in the fridge right now, which I'll devour by in the next three days!) For others, it might be their favorite sports team or celebrity; maybe they obsess about going to the gym or on how they look. I have little doubt that the list of all the things we could obsess over is seemingly endless. But, what about Jesus? By my own omission, I must admit that when I think of someone "obsessed" with Jesus... like many others in the "secular world"... my mind conjures up things like "Jesus Freak" or something far worse. When I spent some time thinking "why", the only thing I could really come up with is the fact that "obsessed" holds a negative connotation in my mind...even when I associate it with Jesus... so, I think, by default, I immediately think of those people that constantly TALK about knowing and loving Jesus... but their talk doesn't match their walk, so to speak.

So, where does this leave me? Well, honestly, a little befuddled as I start reading Chapter 8 again. In the next 13 blog entries, I will dissect each of Chan's characteristics for being "obsessed" with Jesus... what it looks like (and what it doesn't look like)... trying to keep in mind that these are the characteristics we are to embody as followers of Christ. This week, I just started a 12 week study of Acts... the story of the early church. Yesterday, I spent two hours pouring over Chapters 1 and 2, fascinated by what I read... almost like reading something so familiar, yet remembering it as being so different. I don't think this is a coincidence! As I learn about the journeys of the Apostles, those that were truly obsessed with the message of Christ, it will, no doubt, help me focus on my own "obsession" with the Savior... I hope!
Today, I planned on having you read an update from Lisa Chan about how things are going on their trip overseas. So, I was really surprised to find that the most updated blog entry was from Francis. I was even more surprised to read what he wrote! It speaks to what I wrote about, a little. But, in God's awesome way, it spoke to me directly, answering a VERY specific prayer that my husband and I have been praying the last few days. I'm constantly amazed at how God works... better yet, how God draws closer to me as I draw closer to Him. You hear it preached at church all the time, but, to be honest, I've become a little numb to it... desensitized, if you will. I hear pastors talk about it, but I've always wondered what it actually looks like, feels like... not from a minister's point of view or someone that has walked in faith for a while... but for someone like me, that questions the possibility. It's really cool to experience this closeness in a tangible way! For the first time, I dare say ever, I feel that God is close, not abstract... that He is leading me in a direction... still not sure where He has me headed... but, then again, for the first time, I don't really care!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Are You Doing With Your Talents?

As we finish up the last part of Chapter 7, we'll be taking a look at Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. In the story, a man is leaving on a long journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants according to their abilities. He gives the first servant five talents. The second servant is given two talents and the third is given one talent. As for the first two servants, they take what is given to them and go to work, so to speak... doubling what was given to them. The third servant, however, takes his talent and buries it in the grown for "safe" keeping. Upon the master's return, he congratulates the first and second servants for what they have done. For you see, the master entrusted his servants with those talents as a test... to see if they could be entrusted with more. The master, as a reward to his "good and faithful" servants, puts them in charge of many things. The third servant, however, upon sharing with his master that he placed his talent in the ground, is told that he is "evil and lazy." The servant's excuse for his actions were based on what he considered to be his master's dishonesty and cruelty. Regardless, the master cast the third servant out into darkness, giving his one talent to the first servant. With that, the master replied, "for the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." Matthew 25:29.

So... how does this parable relate to our faith in Christ? Well, my interpretation is this: When we use the talents bestowed upon us, in faithful service, the result is increased responsibilities in His kingdom. On the flip side, wasting our talents... or better yet, not sharing our talents with others, leads to condemnation. Yet, what I find so incredibly striking is the suggestions that not using our talents can result in us being cast out of the kingdom of heaven, a loss of stewardship, eternal weeping by our Savior. Is it really that black and white?

The other night, my husband was reading chapter 5 for his small group... the "dreaded" chapter 5! He put the book down and looked at me, about to say something... and then he stopped. I couln't help but laugh, because I knew exactly what he was going to say. After a little prompting, his comment went something like this: If we are to take the Bible as a LITERAL instruction book for life, then we're in big trouble! (He's was at the part about selling everything you own, picking up the cross and following Jesus!) I told him it's important to remember that we aren't perfect (which is where the grace of God comes in!)... HOWEVER, we also can't get caught in the trap of using God's grace as an excuse for making bad decisions.

We live in a society that wants quick fixes. People are more interested in taking a diet pill with horrible side effects or undergoing elective surgery (which, consequently, give pretty fast results), instead for making lifestyle changes that are difficult and take time, in an effort to get the same result. I've talked to several people who've done exactly this, and every one of them admitted they were tired of struggling with their lack of will-power. They just wanted something to get them to the end result they wanted... no matter what road they had to take to get there! So, how does this relate to the parable of talents, you might be asking? Hang in there for a minute! Some of us have been conditioned to hold on to what we have... to cling to it even... for fear of losing it, or fear of it being taken away. The thought of letting it go, in hopes that it will become something more isn't something we're interested in... it's a gamble we aren't willing to take. I can think of three things right now in my life that fit into this exact analogy! What if... I let it go and it doesn't come back (figuratively speaking!)? The obvious answer is that whatever it is... it wasn't part of God's plan... but that doesn't make it any easier to let go of. I know the end result that I'm looking for. I want to live my life as Christ calls me to live it. There isn't a quick fix for that. There's only one way to get there. The process can be arduous, painful... the pruning process isn't exacly fun, trust me! But, what we learn on the journey is life changing... and that's what we must remember: This is a journey that is dependent on Christ's power to change our hearts. We can't do this alone. If He wants you, or me, to literally sell everything we own and follow Him, then He will change our hearts in a way that will align "our plan" with His. I don't believe for one minute that this is a prerequiste for being a follower of Christ. But, I do believe that we are to take what He has entrusted us with... our talents... and use them for the betterment of His kingdom. I have no doubt that if we serve Him in this way, we will be entusted with more... He will reveal to us more of His will for our lives. He will change our hearts, making them more like His!


We're heading into Chapter 8! Take a look at the video.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Time For An Update!

Well, I'm officially back "online" again. As I mentioned in the last post, I spent the past 3 weeks "unplugged" in an effort to reconnect with my family... and it was most definitely worth it. The past 3 weeks have been such an amazing blessing. We took a road trip to Florida, by way of North Carolina for a Thanksgiving stop at Grandma's house. After that, we took our yearly pilgrimage to Florida. Usually this trip is filled to the brim with activities from sun up to sun down, but this year we did things a little different (in an effort to save both money and our sanity!). But, what I did get to do was spend a lot of quiet time with God...reading, studying, listening to music, talking about Him with my husband. One of the main purposes of this trip was for me and my husband to make a very important decision: Are we willing to COMPLETELY follow Christ? It sounds rather simple... but when you know, for a fact, that some of the things in your life don't line up with truly following Him, it can get a little uncomfortable. And truth be told, we can spend the next decade talking about being followers of Christ and what it looks like....OR we can work on becoming followers of Christ.

On the ride home from Florida, I began thinking about this blog and how God has used it to help me on this journey. And then I realized that with everything that I've written, I've never really taken the opportunity to share with you what He has done in my life. So before I pick up on the rest of Crazy Love, I want to give you a little glimpse into the past 6 months of my life. And here's a little warning: It's not pretty at times... but I'm not someone willing to shy away from my own inadequacies. In fact, it's really the opposite. I try to acknowledge them, give them over to Him and allow Him to change the "not-so-pretty" circumstances (on behaviors) into something that brings Him glory.

Six months ago, life was pretty good for us. My husband had willingly made a career change (which meant substantially less money, but more time with the family... and less stress!) I was also in the process of "kicking off" the non-profit that we just started, which included training for a marathon as part of a fundraiser. Summer was in the up-swing, so homeschooling was almost a distant memory. Everything seemed right with the world, until I started feeling a little sick. My first thought was that I wasn't fueling my body properly for all the running I was doing. But, on a routine trip to the doctor's office for one of my kids, I asked for a pregnancy test... ONLY because I wanted to ease my mind and rule the impossibility out of existence. However, the seemingly impossible became an unbelievable reality. In that one moment, my life literally flashed before my eyes... at least, the life I thought I was going to have. What happened next is really a blur, but of this I am certain: This was NOT part of my plan.

The next few weeks were probably the most critical, when it comes to my faith. My emotions were all over the place... but none of them included joy. Inevitable questions began to arise: How are we going to afford another baby? How are we going to find balance with four kids... because we were already struggling with three? And for me, the one question I didn't want to face was where this left the non-profit... something I have spent hundreds of hours on and more money than we could afford. Then... in my darkest moments... there were the questions I angrily threw at His feet: How could you allow this? What more do you want from me? Haven't I given and sacrificed enough? (Like I said, it wasn't pretty! But, it's honest.)

Looking back on it now, I see those moments for what they were: I was hitting rock bottom. I am a consummate multi-tasker....juggler. The problem, however, was that God (and by default, my faith) was just something else I was juggling... when in actuality, it should have been the foundation I was firmly planting my feet upon. When describing this to my friends, I always say that God just decided to throw in another ball for me to juggle... knowing good and well that this one final ball (aka, our fourth child), would cause me to drop all the balls... making me, for the first time, take a look at my life... where I was going, what I was doing... and more importantly, who I was following.

During this time, God placed a Scripture on my heart that I have held so tightly to the past 6 months: "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10. It seems pretty simple, but for someone like me... it's almost impossible! I did my best with it for the remainder of the summer, but in the fall, it's almost impossible to "be still." Slowly things began to pick up and by November, once again, I didn't know if I was coming or going. So, these past few weeks were a drastic attempt of escaping my life... a life that I've created... in earnest hope of hearing God's voice... learning what He wants my life to be.

So... Did I "hear" from God? Yes... not audibly... but He lovingly bestowed one confirmation after another as to what direction my family needs to take. I stopped asking Him to reveal "the big picture" to me... even though it would be nice to know where my husband will be working next year, how I'm going to handle four children, if I'll be homeschooling on top of everything else... and what will happen to the non-profit! Instead, I began focusing my request on what He wants me to be focusing on right now, one day at a time. His answer: my family. My husband and I have decided that we need to completely focus on family for the next 4 weeks. This means no extra curricular activities for the kids, dinner as a family every night, no computer while the kids are up. Instead, our nights are filled with books, puzzles, games and endless talent shows. When talking to someone about this the other day, their response was that my expectations weren't realistic... but the only expectation I have is to reconnect with my family. In the past few weeks, God made it very clear that my priorities are reflected by where I spend my time. But, more importantly, as much as I want to develop a ministry outside the walls of my home, I cannot forget the HUGE ministry that resides within it. Yes, balance is important... but when, as a Christian, you're trying to balance God along with everything else (instead of building your foundation on Him), that elusive "balance" is unattainable... believe me, I've tried!

I've learned a lot these past few months... about myself, my faith, my family. When I reflect back on where I was 6 months ago, I often tell people that I was standing on a precipice, a jagged cliff. I had a choice to make: I could trust God and His plan for me, or I could become angry, bitter, resentful, fearful. I chose the former and God, as always, has been truly faithful. In the midst of chaos and a barrage of unanswered questions, I have this consuming peace. More than that, I'm so incredibly excited to meet the newest member of our family... because it was the gift of our son that has allowed me to fully embrace God's rightful place in my life and His plan for me... whatever that may be!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Unplugged"... For a Little While!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm "unplugging" for a little while. From time to time, I take a few weeks to unplug from the computer... and "plug-in" to my family. I've been sharing with you that my family has a lot of really big decisions to make, and we will be spending time together the next few weeks... in hopes of getting a little closer to God, and the direction He is leading us in. I'll pick up where we left off in a few weeks...only 3 chapters left!
Wishing You a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Does It Mean "To Live By Faith"?

In the last blog, I talked about how a passage in the book made me realize that my growing frustration is not with God... but with myself. Today, I want to share that passage with you... and then ask a very pointed question:

"Back when I was in Bible college, a professor asked our class, 'What are you doing right now that requires faith?' That question affected me deeply because at the time I could think of nothing in my life that required faith. I probably wouldn't be living very differently if I didn't believe in God; my life was neither ordered nor affected by my faith like I assumed it was. Furthermore when I looked around, I realized I was surrounded by people who lived the same way I did." p. 124

So... it begs to question... what are YOU doing right now that requires faith? In my almost 30 years of being a Christian, I have never once asked myself that question. Maybe the reason is because I wouldn't like the answer... but I think it's more about the fact that I never really thought it was imperative to live by faith as a Christian... I just thought I had to believe in God. The other night, when I had my "epiphany" about the focus of my growing frustration, I engaged my husband in a conversation about Scripture and what it says about how we should live our lives... why we don't live our lives that way and, most importantly, if we were willing to make the changes that were needed. We haven't revisited the conversation. In fact, we just left it open-ended, giving us time to think...squirm... and wrestle with the convictions that God is pressing so firmly on both of our hearts.

But, the conclusions we did come up with hold fast to Chan's follow-up statement:

"Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different from you. That epitomizes what my life was like; characterized by comfort. But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through." p. 124

And that, my friends, was the "one, two punch" that knock me down for the count! Not only is there nothing currently in my life that is requiring me to live by faith...I refuse to get out of my comfort zone... not for a lack of desire, but because I am consumed by fear... which simply boils down to the fact that I don't trust God. My husband was eager to point out that things would be different if we didn't have kids...but WHY? Why should having children affect our decision to trust God? It doesn't... it just further substantiates the truth that we don't really trust Him. What my husband really meant to say was we would be more apt to taking risks IF we didn't have children...and the reason is because if would be a lot easier to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off if and when God wasn't there! We'd be limiting our risks and liabilities. God is never in the equation...except for when we say, "Please, Lord, bless what we are about to do."

Furthermore, we have surrounded ourselves with people that live just as we do. Some of them are facing the same internal (and eternal) struggle... but quite honestly, the majority of them don't really care, at least not enough to contemplate any true and lasting life change. For them, the resounding response goes something like this,"God's not going to call me to uproot my family and move to Africa." I've even had some people tell me that God blessed them with this life, why would they throw it away to live as a peasant...they could do more for "the kingdom" where they are. Great, I say...then WHAT are you doing for the kingdom? This is the question I have been asking myself for the past few days. But, I think the true key to this dilemma is the following question: What should you be doing for the kingdom? Is there a discrepancy between the two? Do your actions match up with the requirement placed upon your life through the Scriptures? The truth is simple: Our faith is not reflected through church attendance, baked bean suppers or church offerings. Our faith is reflected through our actions of love, mercy, compassion and justice. It goes back to Biblical equality. Is that reflected in your life?


Are you living by faith? Can you site one example in your life that requires you to fully trust God? If so, do you trust Him? If not, what are you going to do about it??????

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trusting God Has Left Me Frustrated

Last night, I picked up Crazy Love, trying to figure out what to write for this blog. As I opened the book, it fell upon page 124...close to where I left off on the last blog. Instead of flipping back a few pages, I read the three, isolated sentences at the top of 124:

"God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge." p. 124

Well, this was enough to bring me to tears. Granted, being almost 6 months pregnant has made me EXTREMELY hormonal. Add to that three children and homeschooling and you get... tired and hormonal. Now, add to THAT this blog, this book, the small group I'm leading in women's ministry and this "little" side project I'm doing for the upcoming Christmas Tea at my church and you have a perfect storm that decided to break loose last night. I'll be the first to admit that I take on more than I should... but in all fairness, there is MUCH more that I say "No" to! And, it should also be noted that I am stepping away from almost all of my "responsibilities" outside of family after Christmas. In fact, the only thing I'll have left is this blog... and even that will be coming to an end soon. And to be completely and totally honest...I'm terrified. I don't know what it means to "be still."

Obviously, I know what it means... but I don't know what it looks like for me... or better yet, my idea of what I think it looks like IS NOT IN THE LEAST BIT APPEALING. Yes... I know, God's plans are better than ours. That message has been pounded into my psyche for the past two weeks. I'm in the throws of putting together a 30 Day Devotional centered around the lives of real women that have real struggles... and how they depend on Christ for their strength and refuge. I've been reading 3 or 4 of these testimonies a day and then having to write a devotional around each woman's story. Last night, in tears and frustration, I walked away from the computer and threw myself onto the bed...spewing every last thought that was taking up space in my head, out to my bewildered...and a little terrified... husband. The humor in this is that he was getting ready to go to his small group (focused on Crazy Love).

In my mind, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God's plans ARE better for me than mine. I also know that God has the power to change our hearts. He has changed mine in the past few months... so the frustration comes from the fact that despite knowing these two things, I STILL refuse to trust Him! My frustration is not with God... it's with myself. I finally realized that last night... maybe I'm just realizing it right now! I used to hate reading in Exodus where the Israelites were walking in the desert... following the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire by night. I didn't understand how they could so easily lose faith. I mean, God was right there and they STILL made bad, selfish, indulgent, self-serving decisions. But, isn't that what I'm doing...what a lot of us are doing? Granted, we don't have the clouds and fire...but, in the same breathe, I can't deny who God is and what he has done... just in my life alone. The light bulb went off as I continued to read the rest of page 124... but I'll save that for the next blog!


Many of you know that Francis Chan and his family are overseas right now. I checked out their update the other day and thought you might find Lisa's postings interesting. If you get a chance, check them out!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Does Equality Really Mean?

When you hear the word "equality," what images does it conjure up? Do you think about women's suffrage or the three fifths compromise reached at the Philadelphia Convention of 1878? Maybe you think of Martin Luther King, Jr. or the more timely gay rights movement? Equality... what it means and who it's "reserved" for... has been a hot button issue for generations, for all races, for both genders, for every age group. So it's no surprise that the Bible speaks very plainly to the issue of equality. But, what might surprise you is what it says:

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"
2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Here's what Chan has to say about this: "Paul was asking the Corinthian believers to give to impoverished saints of Jerusalem, the goal being that no one would have too much or too little. The idea is pretty far fetched in modern-day culture, where we are taught to look out for ourselves and are thus rewarded. The gap is so extreme in our world that we have to take lightly passages such as Luke 12:33: 'Sell your possessions and give to the poor.' How else can I walk out of a mud shack and back into my two-thousand-square foot house without doing anything? The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful...and nearly unheard of. We either close the gap or don't take the words of the Bible literally." p. 121

Take a moment to catch your breath, to pick your jaw up off the floor or tend to the stinging ache that resonates from the slap across the face we all just received. I just got through reading a really good book that talks about how we "cherry pick" scriptures to fit into our lives. We take them out of context (a great example of this is Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.") Or we say, "Well, things have changed a lot since then... we have to apply scripture to our culture." By doing this, we compare scripture to's adjustable given our situations, based on our comfort level. Seriously, people think this?

Cultures might change, social mores might change... but scripture will never change. It is constant, just as applicable today as it was 200 years ago... 2000 years ago. What changes are our interpretations... our willingness to submit. The scriptures highlighted here today are blaring, "rubber-meets-the-road" calls to action that almost everyone I know balks at... not defiantly, mind you... but almost everyone has an excuse: I need a big house for my family, I need a "good" neighborhood for my kids, having a big house allows me to invite people in, I won't be able to minister to the rich if I don't live with the rich. I'm not here to argue these points, some of them are valid... and I've said a few of them myself... but are they spoken in truth... or, in the back of your mind, is there a part of you that thinks that maybe, just maybe, this isn't what God had in mind. Call it conviction, guilt, conscience...God. Do you doubt your decision, question how you live, how you spend your money? Do you shake your head at the thought of equality... Biblical quality? It's one thing to say you agree with it... it's another to live like you believe it!


Spend some time today thinking about Luke 12:33 and 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. Ask God to reveal to you any selfish desires or strongholds in your life that are making it difficult for you to embrace the concept of Biblical equality. If you're married, talked to your spouse about it. You might be surprised by the conversation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hoarding the Fishes and Loaves

Today we're going to jump right into the book. Chan states the following:

"Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy's small lunch? In that story according to Matthew, Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would've been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.

"But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for a small loaf. The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends." p. 120
In an earlier segment in the book, Chan makes the observation that many of us in "westernized Christianity" truly have no idea what it is to live by faith. It's my belief that this is the exact reason why we have such a difficult time understanding and applying the passage on page 120 to our lives. I don't know about you, but I was brought up with the notion of "saving" pounded into my brain: save for college, save for retirement, save for vacation. I buy a little more food than I need each week in order to stock up my pantry. We rationalize that this is "good practice"... that we're being practical, and maybe we are. However, the problem lies in the fact that I have several cans of vegetables and boxes of rice that have been sitting on my shelves for over a year. Last night, I was doing some work on a writing project and I came across a very interesting statement - - - "rational lies," which is another way to explain the word rationalize. I dare say this is a little insightful... and convicting!
Many of us have never had to rely on a "handout"... the generosity of a stranger. Even when we have "no money" there's a way to find something. For example, this past week my husband and I were faced with some unexpected bills that weren't in the budget. I had an unexpected root canal on Wednesday and then my car broke down yesterday. In a matter of 72 hours, we were faced with over $1000 in bills... bills that weren't accounted for in the budget... bills we will have no way of paying based on my husband's salary... at least not with heating season around the corner and a new mouth to feed soon. But, we did have a credit card. Now, granted, my husband and I don't regularly use credit cards and when we do, we try very hard to pay off the balance... but it came in quite handy yesterday. It got us over the immediate hump of paying the auto shop. We even decided to cash out some of my husband's retirement in order to pay some of our increasing expenses... to buy us some breathing room. But, even then, we are relying on our "man-made" safety net and not our Savior. Of course, we joked that if we go through all of the retirement...THEN we will have to truly trust God.
Why is it so hard to trust Him... regardless of what's in our checking account?
For me, this point just hammers home the fact that so many of us, myself included, have no idea what it is to live by faith. Church (Christianity) is what I do, it's where I go... it's not who I am, at least not completely. I'm a work in progress. We all are. But this piece of the puzzle is key: Faith is about more than just professing our belief. It's about our trust. It's easy to say, "I have faith in Jesus." If you don't believe me, say it yourself. I promise, the words aren't difficult. But, just because you can articulate the words... that doesn't mean that it resonates in your heart... and it certainly doesn't bare witness to your ability to trust God.
Watch this video!!!! I've posted it on the blog before, but it's never been more relevant than it is today. In just 2 minutes, Francis sums up this whole blog... and challenges us with a prayer that has my mind moving a million miles a minute, but has left my body a little shell-shocked. What he suggests here would require us to live in a perpetual state of dependence on God... it's no wonder that his suggestion is 100% counter-intuitive to our society's ideals.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Break My Heart With What Breaks Yours

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned going to a local ministry fundraiser for the Root Cellar. The speaker for the event made a really interesting comment that night that has been stuck in my head ever since. He mentioned that, most likely, John 3:16 is the best known Scripture in the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I'm sure you've heard it a time or two yourself. Interestingly, he mentioned that he was actually partial to "the other John 3:16"... specifically 1 John 3:16. So... I was more than a little amused this morning when I saw that Chan references that passage in the book.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Then this is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us."
1 John 3:16-20

Chan goes on to say the following: "In this passage, we see that John questions whether it is possible to truly have God's love in you if you have no compassion for the poor... God didn't just give a little for us; He gave His best. He gave Himself. John is saying that it's no different for us: True love requires sacrifice. And our love is shown by how we live our lives: 'Let us not love with words or tongues but with action and in truth.'" p. 119

We can talk the talk...but do we walk the walk? Better yet: Does our walk MATCH our talk? Almost instantaneously, when I start talking about "compassion for the poor," I'm IMMEDIATELY convicted about the way I live my life. Yes, I live paycheck to paycheck like so many other Americans... but, if I'm honest with you...let alone myself... I would have to admit that the reason I live paycheck to paycheck is because of the things I have. I easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others: "Well, I don't have a fancy car like so and so," or "I don't waste my money on the latest electronics." I don't even have a cell phone! But, if we've learned anything from this book, comparing ourselves to others is pointless. We are looked upon as individuals...compared only to the one standard that matters... His standard.

Like I said... I'm convicted about how I live my life! But, what do I do with that? Do I sell everything and move into an inner city neighborhood... move to Africa? (Yes, I have truly considered both of those!) But, despite my hearts desire to do both of those things, is it what God wants from me? I don't know the answer to that... but I ask Him almost everyday. Yet, until I get some sort of direction from Him, what am I suppose to do? What are you suppose to do? I'm not sure if I have the right answer, but I can share with you what I've been doing... and it definitely has changed my heart for the better.

I want to go back to an excerpt from The Hole in Our Gospel. It says: "Divided between the things of God and the things of the world, our 'hearts of stone' are incapable of loving the poor unless God changes them to hearts of 'flesh.' Should this not cause us to plead with God daily... for our hearts to be 'broken by the things that break the heart of God'?" p. 116

After pondering this for a while, this is my interpretation: Our struggles with the things of this world inevitably turn our hearts to stone. For me, I'm ashamed to admit... sometimes I find myself motivated more to help the poor out of obligation than love... duty instead of compassion. I hold on to the things of this world with one arm WHILE I "help" the poor with my other arm. Imagine what He could do with me if I allowed Him to use both arms? But the key here is that I have to WILLINGLY let go of the things I'm clinging to in this world. How does that happen? For me... and granted, I'm STILL struggling with this... things started to change when I started asking God to "break my heart for what breaks yours." I've found that when my heart breaks for something, whether it's for my children, my friends or the poor, I am moved into action without thinking... without weighing "cost to benefit." I move because it's what I want to do. I think that's the question we should be asking ourselves: What do we want to do? Does your answer line up with God's plan. If not, maybe you should try asking Him to do a little work on your heart as well!


Take a look at this video. It's an amazing song that really speaks to the subject of this blog today. If you don't have the time to watch the whole video, at least watch from 3:12 to 4:00. The lyrics during this segment are an INCREDIBLE prayer that I have used quite a few times!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Do You Walk As Jesus Did?

Last night, I spent some time talking to a friend about Crazy Love. Our church is about to do a small group study on the book and I've been praying for the people that will be doing the study... even though I don't really know who they all are. I have really strong feelings about this book (OBVIOUSLY!) God has used it to radically change my faith. There is absolutely no doubt that I am a completely new person, transformed for the better, because of what God has done in me through this book. But in my conversation last night with my friend, we got into this discussion about what others have thought about this book. We have both heard many stories of people getting up to Chapter 5 and then.... putting the book down. It makes people uncomfortable. We like to see ourselves as the "good guys," but this book makes us think that maybe we aren't as "good" as we thought we were. I know some people that look at me... and how I want to live my life after reading this book... and question whether my "interpretation" of the book is on target. For those that are bold enough to say this to my face... and I truly LOVE it when they do, because it ALWAYS ends up to be an awesome conversation for the both of us.... I simply ask them if their problem with my "interpretation" has more to do with the choice I make on how I'm living my life OR the choice their making on how to live theirs. I follow this up by telling them that I don't judge anyone's decision on how they live... especially in this society. It's hard. The temptations are great. The traps are many. I'll start pointing fingers when I stop making bad decisions...which, I assure you, won't happen in this lifetime!

I guess my point here is that if you've made it this far... you've done better than many. And I have no doubt that God is working as hard in you as He has in me. Personally, I relished Chapter 5. It was my favorite chapter in the book. It's Chapter 6 that seems to be wrecking me right now. I'm not sure this was the case in my first reading of the book... but as I was reading it on the way to church Sunday, I slammed it shut saying, "I hate this book." My husband's prompt response was, with a laugh, "You love that book." And, he's right. What I hate is how I've wrongly convinced myself that I'm doing "enough." This is the part I read before closing the book:

"John clearly tells us that 'whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did' (1John 2:16). Are you ready and willing to make yourself nothing? To take the very nature of a servant? To be obedient unto death? If your honest answer to those questions is yes, how are those intentions manifested in your life?

"In Mathhew 25 we get a frightening picture of the coming judgment. In this passage, Christ condemns people to eternal punishment becasue they did not care for Him during their lives on earth. 'I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' (vv. 42-43).

"The condemed protest, saying they never saw Christ in any of these positions of need, and Jesus responds, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me' (v. 45).

"Ouch. To me that is like a stinging, unexspected slap in the face. Like many of you, I've heard that passage taught on numerous occasions. I've left convicted, but haven't taken it literally. We see it as a fresh perspective on poverty rather than a literal picture on impending judgment." (pp. 117-118)

As I read this passage to my husband, I vented my frustration that I wasn't doing enough. But, you see, the problem with us is that we WANT to do more... we just aren't sure what MORE looks like, if you will. To make things worse, with the exception of a few friends, when we share these frustrations with others, we usually come up against infuriating eye rolls or comments like: "Don't beat yourself up. You do more than most people." But, that's not really saying a lot, is it? However, the comment I get the most and the one that truly breaks my heart is this: "You're not going to be able to change the world."

As we pulled into church on Sunday, my husband shared with me something he had read the night before (something that I had heard before, but it was definitely worth hearing again!) It was the story of a little boy walking on a beach covered with hundreds, if not thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore, waiting to die. The little boy was picking up the starfish, one by one and throwing them back in the ocean. A man went up to the boy and said, "Son, you could spend your entire day throwing these things back in the ocean but it's not going to make a difference." The boy looked at the man, holding up a lonely starfish in his hand, and replied, "It will make a difference to this one. " As he threw it back in the water, he walked away... to pick up another starfish.

Maybe people are right, I won't change the world in its entirety, but I ABSOLUTELY CAN make a difference in the life of one person... two people. That number is only limited by my willingness... or unwillingness... to serve Him!


I heard this song on my way home from taking my youngest to pre-school today. I've heard it several times before, but today, it spoke to my heart. I thought it might speak to yours, too!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Living Recklessly For Him

When I hear the words "living recklessly," it stirs up images of things I was constantly told not to do as a teenager: Don't Smoke, Don't Drink, Don't Drive Too Fast. When I think of living recklessly, I think of two things: carelessness and fearlessness. So, I was struck a little off guard when I read the following passage:

"If we allow ourselves to live recklessly for Him, then we, too, will see His glory. We will see Him do the impossible. Christians today like to play it safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity." p. 116

I'm going to veer off course for the next few entries (but will always tie it back to the principles laid out in Crazy love)...only to strengthen the points I'm hoping to make. About a year ago, I read a really great book: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. In this book, Mr. Stearns makes some really bold statements (much like Chan), about the state of Christianity here in the States. I picked up the book a little while ago and flipped through the pages. At times like these, I really appreciate my willingness to use highlighters when I read. I looked over all the passages that I highlighted just a year ago and was struck by the reoccurring theme. Jesus preached about four major areas in His ministry: love, compassion, mercy and justice. Please, keep this in mind as I share three quotes from The Hole in Our Gospel:

"On Sunday morning, safe in our church pews and surrounded by friends, it can be all too easy to leave the world's violence, suffering, and turmoil outside- out of sight, out of mind" p. 2

"...Being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith- and mine- has a hole in it." p. 2

"...Christian community is not enough. God has always demanded more. When we committed ourselves to following Christ, we also committed to living our lives in such a way that a watching world would catch a glimpse of God's character- His love, justice, and mercy- through our words, actions and behaviors." p. 3

So... where am I going with this... to be honest, it's about where God's going with this because THIS IS NOT WHAT I PLANNED ON WRITING TODAY! God is using a book I read over a year ago to answer a repeated prayer that I've had the past few months... and, hopefully, this will all make sense as I TRY to string everything together: Living recklessly for God isn't about carelessness... but it IS about fearlessness. In my opinion, almost everything, if NOT everything, comes back to our inability to truly trust God: not trusting who He is, what He promises and what He has for us. Chan is right! Many of us live a rather safe existence. We don't want to be seen as "radical." Better, yet, we're afraid to completely give our lives over to Christ because, heaven forbid, God will miraculously change our hearts and place in us a desire to live radically... Oh my, what will the neighbors think?

I'm not going to sit here and try to analyze why (and, in the end, it doesn't really matter!). What matters is that, collectively, we are not living our lives the way we have been called to live... as individuals or as a church. The three quotes from The Hole in Our Gospel speak to me...actually, scream out to me... for THIS has been my struggle the past few months. I see the importance of fellowship in Christ, and those that know me...know that my heart TRULY aches for that fellowship. I am also torn with this insatiable desire to live outside the four walls of my church... that "public and transforming relationship with the world."

This brings me to the last quote from The Hole in Our Gospel: "Christian community is not enough." There's another passage in the book that talks about the stark differences between the Mega Churches here in the US and the small community churches in Africa. Stearns talks about how when you open up a church bulletin here in the States, the overwhelming majority of the activities listed are for people within the church... fellowship opportunities, small groups, youth groups, classes. And I'm not here to belittle the need or importance of these things. They ARE important... but what I'm saying is that they are NOT MORE IMPORTANT than the call Jesus has put on each and every one of us to preach His message outside the four walls of our church. They are BOTH EQUALLY important...but do our church bulletins reflect that? The real questions is whether or not our churches reflect this message. More importantly, are we missing the biggest opportunity there is... to combine these two ministries into one?

If we spend our ministry mostly focused on bringing people into the four walls of our church... I will be the first to say that we are playing it safe. We're not living out the full message of Christ. What better way to teach people the message of Jesus Christ than to hold their hand and SHOW THEM? Reading Scripture in just theory until you actively practice what is taught. When you are posed with the question of whether we, as a church, should focus on "internal" ministry or "external" ministry... the answer is YES... to both. We NEED to be doing both. We HEAR what we are taught... but we REMEMBER and LEARN what we do. Some might see this as living recklessly. I assure you it isn't... but, it very well might bring you and others outside of your comfort zones. But, remember this... living INSIDE our comfort zone isn't where Jesus has called us to be!


I'm quite honestly at a loss today. This is not where I was planning to go... I'll save that for the next entry, I guess. Maybe just spend time reflecting on where your heart is with this message. What ministry do you spend your time focused on... and if you can't think of a ministry that you're even involved in... maybe now is the perfect time to start!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hall of Faith is Filled with Misfits

Before I go any further, it should be noted that the title of this entry is not meant to be offensive... quite the contrary. It will hopefully serve as encouragement to those of us who never feel worthy or good enough...present company included!

Chan begins Chapter 7 with the following statement: "By now you've probably realized that you have a distinct choice to make: just let life happen, which is tantamount to serving God your leftovers, or actively run toward Christ." I think it's fair to assume that if you've made it this far into the book, you're going to chose the latter. So, that leaves us asking the next question: "What does running toward Christ and pursuing Love look like in daily life?" p. 113-114

Chan advises us to look at Hebrews 11 for the best example of those that wholeheartedly followed Jesus. This chapter is often referred to as The Hall of Faith... but Chan warns us that despite the temptation to refer to those mentioned here as being "superhuman, or supersaints," they were anything but! In an effort to save time and space, the list below highlights some of the great men and women that fill the pages of Chapter 11... along with some of the trials they have faced:
Abraham - feared for his safety, lied about his wife (twice)
Jacob - stole his brother's birthright, tricked his father and then fled from his brother
Moses - was a murderer
Rahab - a Gentile and a prostitute
David - an adulterer and murderer
Samson - had so many issues, Chan didn't know where to begin!
All the people listed above are seen as heroes of our faith... but heroism does not equate to perfection. They were flawed human beings that God used for incredible things... because they had faith in Him... faith that He could redeem their lives and use them for His works. While I'll be the first to admit that I would never want to be compared to these people, I will also admit that seeing their imperfection... and, more importantly, how God used them DESPITE their imperfections... gives me great hope for what He can do in me.
In closing today, I want to share Chan's perspective on Noah:
"Noah spent 120 years building an ark and warning others of the impending judgment. Suppose the flood had never come- Noah would have been the biggest laughing stock on earth." (And my personal side note here: I can only imagine that HE WAS the laughing stock for those 120 years! Can you imagine???) "Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to believers." p. 114-115.
Yesterday, I was sitting in the lobby of my hotel, working on a writing project. The view was breathtaking... an overlook of Bar Harbor, Maine. But, as I was sitting there, deep in thought, God spoke to me... not audibly, but nonetheless, He made it clear that I was to go speak to this man sitting at another I did! I got up off the couch, sat myself right next to him and asked if I could ask him a personal question. He looked a little taken back, but quite amused and replied, "Sure." So, I simply asked him, "What do you think about God?" This lead us into a 20 minute conversation about faith, religion, doctrine, relationship... and about 15 minutes into the conversation my husband showed up. Come to find out, this man I was sharing my faith with has spent the past two years working with my husband. I'd never met him before... but wished I had because he was a believer! For the next 5 minutes, the three of us talked about faith, and politics... something I don't usually like to do... be we all share the same views, so I made an exception! So this morning, as my husband and I were walking to the lobby, he jokingly asked who I was going to talk to today about God. I told him, "Whomever the Holy Spirit leads me to." He just laughed. When I questioned his laughter, he said quite plainly..."I actually think you mean it." And, my response: "Of course I do!" We both couldn't help but chuckle.
The Push
Do you ever let your sin hold you back from the benefits of being a child of God? It's easy to do... to convince ourselves that we are not worthy because of all the "junk" in our lives... or in our pasts. Look back at those whose lives are written in the Hall of Faith... adulterers, murders, prostitutes. Their sins are no worse or better than ours... but God used them for great things. He can use us, too! Today, spend some time talking to God about this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SomeOne I Can Be Real With

I love this quote from Chan: "If you merely pretend that you enjoy God or love Him, He knows. You can't fool Him; don't even try." p. 110

Chan then goes on to list all the things you should tell God: confessing that you've been lukewarm, that you've placed other things before Him. Chan ends the chapter with a prayer... and to give him the benefit of the doubt...I'll assume that this is his own personal prayer and not a specific prayer that he wants each of us to repeat. If it is the latter, I guess that I understand the purpose of a uniform prayer... but it just seems that a one-size-fits all, "cardboard cutout" prayer takes us a little... off course. It is a really nice prayer. I won't begrudge him that... but, Crazy Love, at least in my opinion, has been about focusing on our own, individual relationships with Christ. Each of us is unique, and as a result, the relationship we have with our Creator is unique. So, it only makes sense that our prayers should be unique... genuine to us. As tempting as it may be to use his words on page 111, I would encourage you to speak from your heart... if anything, use his words as an outline. Take each of his sentences and then expound on the subject: don't just deal with generalities...give Him specifics. This prayer is short on that... but don't lose sight that God loves the specifics. It's the specifics that make us unique. If you want Him to work in the minuscule details of your life... then turn them over to Him. NOTHING is too small for Him!

Chan's subtitle for this last section in Chapter 6 is called: SomeOne I Can Be Real With. A lot of thoughts rush through my head when I read this: "Of course, we can be real (honest) with Him! He's not doing to talk back (even though He has His own way of getting His point across...don't loose sight of that!)." I also find myself snickering a little because, truth is, we really don't have an option when it comes to God knowing our inner most secrets. We can hide them from others, but we can't hide them from God. It only makes sense that we come clean, if you will. At least, if we're honest, we can take one step closer to the freedom that is lovingly offered through Him.

But the problem I wrestled with for so long was this: How do I share the inner most workings of my mind, my heart, my soul, with SomeOne that I feel so disconnected with? I've said it before, it's kinda the whole "which came first" argument: the chicken or the egg? Will sharing these things with SomeOne I honestly feel very little connection to, by default, help me feel connected to Him...or does that connection need to evolve (at least, by some minuscule amount) before I can honestly confide in Him. Well... I have no idea! But, I WILL share with you what worked for me... in hopes that it might be helpful to you.

This past week, I shared with the ladies in my Bible study group, how we can become more aware of God's presence in our lives everyday. I shared the importance of prayer and how it's just more than blessing a meal or placing a laundry list of requests at God's feet. Our prayer time should include praise and worship to our Creator (which, for my son, is a simple, "You're Awesome, God!"), followed up by a word of thanks. There's always something to be thankful for in our lives... but sometimes we forget. I always follow this up with intercessory prayer... praying on behalf of someone else... because, plain and simple, it's not all about us! Then, for the longest time, I would wrap things up with my own personal prayer requests and then a plead for God to reveal His will for my life... because that's really what's most important, right? Living out God's purpose for our life? Maybe... But about six months ago I stopped asking God to reveal His will for my life. Instead, I asked Him to reveal His will for me on that day. And, almost instantaneously, I started becoming more aware of His presence in my life everyday... through a conversation about Jesus with my youngest child's preschool teacher (a teacher that all my kids have had, someone I've known for 5 years, but not once had shared my faith with), in conversations with my neighbors, my husband's co-workers. Opportunities to talk about God and serve God just came out of the framing of my life. In these situations, you have no choice but to draw closer to Him... resulting in a desire, a longing, to share everything with Him.


It's time to start Chapter 7! Take a look at the video. I love this chapter!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not My Finest Moment

This past weekend was a struggle for me. It started off pretty great, but by Saturday night, my heart was heavy... and soon my attitude turned sour. I've been trying to put my finger on why and there are a lot of contributing factors: my current bible study is pushing me out of my comfort zone a little, after four months, I thought I was finally past that awful stage of "morning sickness"... I was wrong, and then there's always the dreaded finances. And while it would be so incredibly easy to point my finger at any, or all, of these things, the truth is... God is trying to tell me something... and I don't want to hear it. I'm literally fighting it... and it's making me miserable.

So, this morning, I woke up and spent some time praying before I got out of bed. I prayed for a better attitude, a gentler spirit. I prayed for my family, the women in my small group. And I prayed that God would reveal whatever it is that I've been wrestling with Him over... even though I know I'm not going to like it... I also know that this isn't going to get any better until I confront it! So, I went down stairs and finished my bible study and then picked up Crazy Love. Of course, the irony here is that I have been avoiding this book for almost a week... which would explain the absence from the blog. Don't get me wrong, I've tried. I've sat at my computer, book in hand, many times this weekend... only to stare at a blank screen and wish for a timely distraction. I couldn't figure out why. It didn't make sense, because I usually LOVE this time. But... when I started to read the pages of Crazy Love, it all started to make sense: I didn't want to face what was coming next.

As he references the Book of Malachi, Chan says this: "...we get an incredible promise from God: 'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse , so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts, ' if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows' Mal. 3:10.

"This is the only place in the Bible where God invites His people to test Him, to try to out-give Him. He knows it's impossible, that no one can out give the One from whom all things come... If you really want to experience God's supernatural provision, then do as He says. Test Him. Give more than you can manage, and see how He responds." p. 110

Seems pretty innocent, right? Well, not for me... not after this weekend. You see, my husband and I went to a local ministry fundraiser on Friday. I was already extremely hesitant about going because, to be quite honest, we had very little money to give. But, putting my pride aside, I knew that God wanted us to go... I couldn't tell you why (and my husband was more than eager to know God's reasoning because he wanted to stay home!). So we met up with some friends and had a really great time. At the end of the night, it was time to give our donation. I was already starting to fill out the envelope when MY HUSBAND told me to give more. I looked at him like he was crazy... for two reasons: #1 My husband NEVER says "give more" and #2 the only thing left to give was our grocery money for the week... and that is NOT an exaggeration. I can show you my checkbook!

I was flabbergasted... shocked. And this is coming from a woman that wrote a $1000 check to a local Christian radio station because she knew God wanted her to do it... and if you read my blog earlier this year, you know what God did with that! So then, why was this so hard for me? Well, I figured out the answer this morning... and I'm so horribibly ashamed of my response. But, what I'm more ashamed of is what happened as a result of my unwillingness to trust God. You see, all that was left in our account, after our donation at the fundraiser, was enough to give to our church for the next two weeks. But, instead of giving the money on Sunday, I just held on to it... rationalizing that we've given enough... SERIOUSLY, I THOUGHT THIS! It's no wonder I've been feeling this way for the past two days. There is no way in the world that I could give enough. I could empty out my checking account, my savings account, sell my house and all my possessions... it would never be enough. But, for this one moment, I allowed myself to believe that I had a right to hoard some of that money for myself. For what, I don't know... probably just out of fear of seeing $0 on the balance sheet... which can be a scary thing when there's still another 8 days to the next paycheck.

Even as I sit here this morning, sharing this with my husband... who, by the way, is reminding me that once I put this on my blog, it's out there forever ... I'm reminded of the fact that money has a tighter hold on me than I ever imagined. And, yes, this is NOT my finest moment... and definitely not one that I'm eager to share with the whole world... literally! However, it is a HUGE turning point for me in this journey. I'm tired of pretending. My bible study this week was focused on removing the obstacles that are keeping us from an abundant relationship with Christ. I didn't even realize this WAS an obstacle... but God is good and faithful.


The only person getting homework today is me! First things first, I'm writing the check to my church and handing it in tonight! Then I'm going to spend time in prayer, thanking God for this reminder. His timing is IMPECCABLE...what are the chances that I would be reading this excerpt in Crazy Love right after this happened? I'm still shaking my head in amazement and laughing through the tears. God is really good.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The "Chore" of Being a Christian

Have you every just stopped to think about how difficult it is to be a Christian? I've written here before about how someone once told me that being a Christian isn't hard... I just make it hard! (And I also told you that my not-so-subtle-reply was that if she didn't think it was hard, then maybe she wasn't "doing it" right.) But the more I've thought about it the past few weeks, the more I've come to believe that this woman only associates "being a Christian" with her proclamation of faith and church attendance... and if that's her understanding of what it means to be a Christian, then it makes since that she doesn't find the task too arduous. Proclaiming my faith in Jesus and hanging out at church for a few hours on Sunday without complaining is definitely do-able... but, then again, how many of us have still found ways to complain about that?

Today, I want to look at why some of us think it's difficult... and, hopefully, how we can change our attitudes about this awesome privilege... something we seem to forget. I think the number one reason why so many of us find following Christ to be so difficult is because it is counter-intuitive to almost everything in this world... especially the western culture. Instead of seeing our faith as freedom and liberation, we compare it to the shackles of a teenager with a curfew... we see it more as a list of things we "can't" do, instead of things we "can" do. For example, if I'm really ticked off at something a friend might have said about me, I "can't" go and vent my frustration to other friends... behind her back. (And, let's be honest... even though our intention is just to "vent," we enter into this extremely slippery slope that quickly winds itself around the entanglements of gossip.) But, what I "can" do is vent my frustration to God, asking Him to soften my heart and abate my anger so that I can then go to my friend to talk to her about the situation. You see, our society relishes the first example... there are reality TV shows that merely exist on the formula of the first. There's no drama in the second...just the glory of God. And while I readily admit that it is MUCH more difficult to confront a friend... in the loving spirit of Christ (that's IMPERATIVE!)... this road less traveled is FAR LESS BUMPY than the road paved with gossip... which in the end, cause much more difficulty in our lives.
Chan says the following: "When I look at my relationship with God as a chore, a sacrifice, the I am getting the glory- not God. I keep saying 'Look what I have sacrificed for God...' or 'Listen to what I do for God. It's hard, exhausting really...'" p. 108
I was once told that anything with a reward of value will involve hard work. So, if this is true, then I can only assume that the work involved with my journey in following Christ WILL be difficult because, quite honestly, there isn't a reward more valuable than my salvation. But, I want to take this a step farther...
In general, when we work towards a reward... whether it's a summer reading goal for a child, a bonus schedule for an employee or an Olympic medal for an elite athlete... there's usually minimal complaining involved. Why is this? I think there's two reasons: #1 We know what's at stake and what is expected from us and #2 We want the prize! So, as I try to relate this to my faith...and I think the same can be applied... I'm left asking myself two obvious questions: Do I know what is expected of me (And for me, the answer is "Yes.") and Do I really want the prize?
So here's the thing...without thinking, I would answer yes to the latter question. I think we all would. But I want to pose another question: Do we really understand what the prize is? Is it eternal life in Heaven? Or is it so you can just hedge your bets against going to hell? Is it peace in our lives here on Earth? Or is it because you were raised this way and you just want your kids to grow up with "some morals"? Have you ever really asked yourself WHY you want to be a Christian? Because if we don't know why... then MAYBE that's why we aren't working so hard... MAYBE that's why we complain so much. Maybe we really don't understand the choice we made and what it means for our lives. I can give you a scripted answer... we all can. But, do we really know what it means... not in our heads... but in our hearts?
Do you know what it means? Find someone... anyone... and have this conversation... not because you want to see if someone else understands... do it to see if you really understand.