Friday, April 30, 2010

Stress and Worry...Sin or Unbelief?

Here's how Chan's describes worry and stress:

"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.
"Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control." p. 42

Chan goes on to say, "Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won't be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small, indeed. Why are we so quick to forget God? Who do we think we are?" p. 42

To be honest, I've stepped away from my computer a few times, just to sort this out in my head...not necessarily to digest what Chan's saying, but, instead, what he might be implying. I think what he's saying is pretty straight forward. When we worry and stress out about the circumstances of our lives we are doing two things: #1- Not trusting that God is in control; #2- saying that our problems and worry are superior, or as Chan says, "exceptional."

Chan refers to worry and stress as sin; however, I think he's letting us off WAY TOO EASY!!! I don't think it's sin. I think it's far worse than sin...I think it's unbelief. If we allow worry and stress to infiltrate our minds, then here's what we're saying: We DON'T believe God IS who He says He IS! Don't get me wrong. I fully acknowledge that we are imperfect beings. We will be attacked by the temptation to worry about and stress over certain situations for the rest of our lives here on Earth. However, our problem is firmly rooted in the fact that when those doubts begin to creep into our thoughts...we don't acknowledge what they really are. It's in those times that we start to doubt God. We doubt who He is. We doubt what He's promised us. We doubt His sovereignty and plan for our lives.

We so easily forget that what WE have planned for our lives, the lives of our children, the lives of our friends...might not be a part of God's plans. When life steers off the course we've laid out, I think it's only natural to get a little anxious, a little stressed. But, it's at that precise moment when we MUST remind ourselves of who God is. (Remember His characteristics?) For me, I think this is the first step in becoming more authentic in my faith. There are some who call themselves Christians only because they want the "fire insurance" of eternity. They're covering their bases, so to speak. I personally know a few "Christians" that don't care to know who God is. They've professed their faith. They go to church. They're good people...and I can testify to that. But they don't believe that God IS who He says He IS. And, I truly feel that this is one of the major problems we face here in the States. God wants more from us than to just be good people. Our purpose here is to do God's work; to be used by him. But, it's a lot harder to be effective when we suffer from unbelief. Not impossible mind you...just harder!


I'd like you to share this blog entry with someone and then talk about it. (I know that a lot of you do this anyway...but today it's your homework!) Do you believe that worry and stress are sin or do you think it shows a level of unbelief? You might be surprised by the conversation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today, we're diving head first into the issue of stress: what God says about it and how we rationalize the stronghold it has on our lives. Here's Chan's take on the subject:

"...[T]here's that perplexing command: 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Phil. 4:4). You'll notice that it doesn't end with '...unless you're doing something extremely important.' No, it's a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, 'Do not be anxious about anything' (v.6).
"That came as a pretty staggering realization. But what I realized next was even more staggering.
"When I am consumed by my problems-stressed out about my life, my family, and my job- I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God's command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a "right" to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities." p. 41

How's the rejoicing going in your life? Are you regularly exhaulting praise or lifting a joyful noise unto the Lord. Well...I don't know about you, but I'm not. As I was reading over this a little while ago, I realized that I do thank God everyday for the blessings of my life. However, the scripture here talks of "Rejoicing!" and that's something completely different. Such exhaultation comes a little easier when times are good, but what about when times are bad, or when things are uncertain...what about when things are completely and utterly mundane? How do we rejoice then? It's hard enough to keep ourselves from throwing a "Pity Party," (or maybe that's just me!)...let alone finding a reason to rejoice when we are struggling.
Even worse, most of an effort to find a reason to rejoice during the most difficult of times... revert to an unexceptable option. We try to think of someone, whose situation is a little worse than ours, and rejoice in the fact that our situation is better. Ohhh...that's great. Very "Christian" of us, right? Don't get me wrong, we aren't reveling in their misery...we're just using it as "perspective." But, the problem with this is that our perspective should ALWAYS be centered and focused on God. Our rejoicing should be from Him, for Him and because of Him...I just wish I could figure out how to genuinely get to that point.
If you haven't put the pieces together yet, today's homework will be a practice in rejoicing. You can start out easy...rejoice about all that is good in your life. (FYI: definition of rejoice- to feel joy; be delighted) Then I want you to push yourself a little. Find something you're struggling with right now and REJOICE! Find some reason to be thankful: for what you will learn, for what you will be protected from, for whom you will meet. Find someway to rejoice in the Lord.
His Faithful Servant~

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You Might Not Finish This Chapter

"You could die before you finish reading this chapter. I could die while you're reading it. Today. At any moment." p. 39

That thought's a little disconcerting, isn't it? Chan goes on to talk about how some of us (most of us) take for granted the most essential elements of our existence...our kidneys, lungs, heart...and how those organs must work properly for us to continue living. But, for the purpose of today's lesson, I want to reflect on that opening sentence and what it really means for you and me.

Chan quotes Frederick Buechner, author of The Hungering Dark, who writes, "Intellectually, we all know that we are going to die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true." p. 40

For the most part, I think this is a fairly accurate statement. We all know our eventual fate. But, most of us assume that our inevitable demise will occur decades in the future. In fact, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is it's a rational assumption. Unless, you happen to be the the exception. Scripture says " do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then it vanishes" James 4:13-14.

So, for me, two things jump out and grab my attention: #1. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. There is nothing to say that we will not draw our last breath today. When I think about this, I can't help but think about my father. My dad was one of those men that had absolutely no idea what it meant to 'sit around and do nothing.' I never saw him relax. If he wasn't working at the office, he was working at home. If he wasn't working at home, he was helping a neighbor. We never took vacations. (Okay, we took one vacation to Disney World when I was 4-years-old, but that was it.) You see, my father was waiting to relax. He was planning to stop and enjoy life when he retired. But, what he didn't plan on was dying three months before retirement, at the age of 54.

Which brings me to my #2. What things am I pushing off to my retirement, or until my kids grow up, or until next year...until tomorrow...that I should be doing today? Two years ago, I made a 'Bucket List.' For those of you that are unfamiliar with the list, it's a compilation of all the things you want to do before you die. I've already marked off some of the items on my list: running a marathon and writing a children's book. And some items I'm currently working on: taking our kids to Africa. But these aren't the type of things I'm referring to right now. What I'm talking about goes back to my one wish when the time comes for me to meet Jesus face to face. If I die today, can I honestly say that I expect Jesus to welcome me with the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Am I living each day of my existence...IN MY it could be my last? Are you?


So, today you have two assignments. First, come up with your own "Bucket List for Faith." Think of 3-5 things you want to accomplish (or maybe just attempt) in faith, for Christ. You're limited only by your imagination. I've had time to think about mine, so I'll post them in the Comments section. But, remember, these are tailor made for me...and I have a VERY bold personality. We aren't called, by faith, to follow one another. We are called to follow Christ. Spend some time in prayer about this, ask God where He wants to stretch you...then make your list! Feel free to share your list in the Comments section...or email me (I know some of you would rather do that...and that's COMPLETELY fine!) But, please, take the video I posted Friday to heart! Don't just follow Jesus in your heart...or in your head. As childish as it might seem, write down the list and put it somewhere, as a reminder to seek Him.

Second, check out the video for Chapter 2. It's really short.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

God is Fair and Just. we're looking at Chan's fifth and final characteristic of God.

God is fair and just.

I think these two elements, fairness and justice, are really hard for some of us to wrap our heads around. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: Perspective.

Here's what Chan has to say on the subject:

"One definition of justice is 'reward and/or penalty as deserved.' If what we truly deserved were up to us, we would end up with as many answers as people who responded. But, it isn't up to us, mostly because none of us are good." p. 34

We all have different perspectives. That's part of what makes each of us so unique. But, sometimes, it's these "earthly" perspectives, that really inhibit us from understanding who God is. There are times when we feel that our bad behavior is justified. Or better yet, we convince ourselves that the questionable behavior isn't so bad...especially when we compare it to something worse. Does that sound familiar? Have you ever done something you know is wrong in the eyes of God, only to rationalize your bad behavior, in an attempt to justify your actions: so-and-so deserved it; it wasn't as bad as what she did; he's the one that started this mess; everyone else does it, so it can't be that bad.

Our legal system here in the States is a prime example of this. You can have two people that commit the exact same crime, one person admits their offense and accepts responsibilty, while the other refuses ownership of what they have done. Instead, they blame others for their actions. These "extenuating circumstances," whatever they are, have, on more than one occasion, lead to a great disparity in judicial findings and punishments...and more than one guilty person has walked free as a result. Please, know that I'm not passing judgment on our legal system or arguing against the rightful place of extenuating circumstances. Quite the opposite...I understand it and in some cases I believe in the need for them...only further strengthening my argument. With God, there is a definite line where right is right and wrong is wrong. It applies to everyone, without exception. We are equal in the eyes of God. We are required to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the circumstances.


This is the end of Chapter 1. One chapter down, nine more to go! We're one month into the study and I'm praying that you find this time somewhat useful. The one question I've gotten most over the past few weeks is this: What do I want people to get out of this study?

I know that I've written about this before, but my sincerest hope is that by stretching this book out into a year long study, we have time to practice some of the theories laid out before us. Reading, hearing, even studying the words of God, are completely different than LIVING the words of God. This study is about learning to live the words of God. Check out this clip. It's short, but really funny...and very appropriate. If you feel convicted...especially when he talks about his daughter cleaning her room... don't worry! You're not alone ;)

God is All-Powerful.

When explaining this characteristic, Chan goes straight to scripture, referencing Colossians 1:16:
"...all things were created by [God] and for [God]." However, Chan's view on how some of us...dare I say, many of us...acknowledge this divine characteristic, is a much needed reality check.

"Don't we live instead as though God is created for us, to do our bidding, to bless us, and to take care of our loved ones? Psalm 115:3 reveals, 'Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.' Yet we keep questioning Him: 'Why did you make me with this body, instead of that one?' 'Why are so many people dying of starvation?'... The answer to each of these questions is simply this: because He's God. He has more of a right to ask us why so many people are starving." p. 33

I think that calling this a reality check might be a severe understatement. For me, it's more like a slap in the face! I recently found myself asking one of these very questions when I was in Nicaragua. When first entering La Chureca, I was brought to tears. The picture at the top of this posting was taken during our tour of the dump. These four homes represent the typical living conditions. I had never seen such poverty in my life. As hard as I tried to contain my tears, I couldn't.
Now that I've had more time to process my thoughts and emotions on that day, I've come to realize two things. First, my heart broke to see children living in such horrific squalor. Children should feel safe. They should be fed, clothed, protected. Since leaving La Chureca, I have asked myself 100 times, at least, "Why?" Why would God allow these children to live like this? Why not me? One of the women on the trip summed it up pretty well. She said that the answer lies in the fact that "We will go." We are willing to help them. We are willing to leave the safety of our homes, the comfort of our familes to do whatever we can to help these children.
However, this dovetails into the second thing I learned during my time at La Chureca. I'm not living my life the way God wants me to. Some people equate God's "all-powerful" characteristic to that of a chess game, where our life here on Earth is God's game and we are merely pawns for his enjoyment. Others see this "all-powerful" characteristic as proof that God doesn't exist. Their rationale is based on the fact that bad things happen in this world and if God truly existed, He wouldn't allow such atrocities. But here lies the truth, my friends. God is all-powerful. And, yes, he does allow the most unspeakable things to happen in this world. But, He has bestowed on us the awesome gift of Free Will. We all have a choice. We can sit back and watch these horrible things happen, thankful that we are so undeservingly fortunate to live where we live and how we live. Or, we can stand up and prove ourselves worthy of serving an all-powerful God. Think of it as a parent watching a child suffer through a difficult decision. We want so desperately for our children to make the right decision. But, ultimately, it's their choice to make. Sometimes, they make the wrong decision, and we still love them. Sometimes, they make the right decision and we are more than eager to say "Well done!"
During the last night of our missions trip, I shared with the group that my greatest desire is to hear those words when my time here on Earth is complete: "Well done, my good and faithful servant." The problem, however, is that I don't feel deserving of such accolades. And, if I keep living my life this way, I won't.
Those that know me, understand that I hold myself to a very high standard...which I blame on my parents! Many times, friends have pointed out that I'm too hard on myself, citing that I do more than most people...but here's the thing: I don't compare myself to other people. I'm only driven by the conviction God places on my heart.
I found this youtube clip yesterday and I think it really speaks to what I've posted here...and it just so happens to be from Francis Chan!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God is All-Knowing.

Enough said...right? It only makes sense that our God of the Universe, the Creator of All Things, would be omniscient. It's ludicrous to think that He's unaware of the starving children around the world. I'm also quite certain that He sees what's going on in the Middle Darfur. He is acutely aware of the depravity that wrecks this world. However, this isn't the
"all-knowing" that Chan's referring to as he describes the third characteristic of God. He writes:

"Each of us, to some degree, fools our friends and family about who we really are. But, it's impossible to do that with God. He knows each of us, deeply and specifically. He knows our thoughts before we think them, our actions before we commit them, whether we are lying down or sitting or walking around. He knows who we are and what we are about. We cannot escape Him, not even if we want to." p. 32

There's a lot we could chew on here, but I want to focus on the principle message. Despite the facade we sometimes construct for the people around us, God knows who we really are. THERE IS NO FOOLING HIM! Each of us falls somewhere on the spectrum, at any given time. We pretend to be someone we're not in order to make a good impression. Some project a pristine image in order to veil an imperfection, an insecurity, or in some cases, something more sinister. Have you ever changed your clothes more than once (or twice) because you were afraid of what someone else might think? Have you ever said something, or not said something, because you feared the response it would garner? Have you ever wanted the approval of someone so badly that you did something you never thought you would do? Have you ever compromised who you are, what you believe, for the acceptance of someone else...whether that someone's a parent, a spouse, a boss, a neighbor, a co-worker, a child. The list can be exhaustive...and so can the process of pretending. But what we forget is that no matter how "successful" we are at fooling other people, we can NEVER fool God.

Right now, I don't think it's important to try and conquer the "Why?" (Why do we pretend?) We'll save that battle for another day. For our purposes here, we just need to be conscious of our behavior and acknowledge the fact that God is all-knowing.

In an effort to dig a little deeper...because that's what I like to do...I want us to think about something else. God's characteristic of being omniscient extends well beyond his ability to see through our false pretenses. He sees what we do behind closed doors. He hears the harsh words I say to my children out of anger and frustration. He hears the disrespectful tone I sometimes use with my husband. And worst yet, He knows the things that I won't dare say, but have no problem thinking.
For the next 48 hours, pretend that God is physically with you at all times. He's sitting with you in the car as you drive. He's standing next to you as you unload the dishwasher or prepare dinner. He's right next to you as you surf the web. If you pick up the phone for idle chat, think of it as a 3-way call with Him on the other line. When you've had all you can take because it's vacation week and your kids are getting the best of you, He's right there to witness how you handle the situation. (I'm totally projecting that one, can you tell?) Do you get where I'm going with this? I'm willing to bet that this change in perspective will lead to a change in behavior.
His Faithful Servant~

Friday, April 16, 2010

God is Eternal.

Today, we'll be focusing on Chan's second characteristic of God:

God is Eternal.

Usually, I take a small segment of Chan's writing and elaborate with my own perspective. However, in this instance, I feel that Chan's words are profound and worthy of repeating in their entirety.

"Each of us had a beginning; everything began on a particular day, a specific time. Everything, that is, but God. He always has been, since before there was an earth, a universe, or even angels. God exists outside of time, and since we are within time, there is no way we will ever totally grasp that concept. Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of understanding. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives." pp. 31-32

I first read this and began to realize that I have foolishly, arrogantly tried to impose limits on a limitless God. I picture His presence in complete darkness...before creation. It's an awesome, humbling thought. I will come and go, but God will remain. My children will come and go, as will their children. The only constant in these generations will be God. He was there to welcome me into this world. And as He was there to welcome every generation before us, He will remain present to welcome every generation that will follow.

He is the Alpha and Omega...The Beginning and The End.


In your quiet time today, focus on the eternal characteristic of God. I know quite a few agnostics and atheists, and for them, this is one of those "sticking points," if you will. Chan's "soda can/ocean comparative" helps us better understand why some people have a hard time acknowledging God's eternal existence. Take a moment to think about what Chan said. It's imperative that we recognize this as a stumbling block for some that choose not to believe. If you personally know someone that struggles with the eternal characteristic of God, spend some time today praying for wisdom beyond their understanding.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Who is God?

So...who IS God? Have you ever really stopped to ponder that question? For me, I guess the first answer that pops into my mind would be: Creator of Everything. But that's taking the easy way out! God is so much more than "The Creator." In the book, Chan states:
"We have seen how He is the Creator of both the magnitude of the galaxies and the complexity of caterpillars. But what is He like? What are His characteristics? What are His defining attributes? How are we to fear Him? To speak to Him? Don't check out here. We need to be reminded of this stuff. It is both basic and crucial." p. 30
Chan outlines six characteristics of God and we'll look at the first one today:
God is holy.
This is probably what I heard most about God when I was growing up. However, my understanding of holy was left to my own devices. No one ever explained what holy actually meant. Over time, I began to associate it with my own sense of inadequacy...meaning that it wasn't nessecarily about what God was, but more about what I wasn't. This seems a rather self-centered logic, but Chan's take on the word holy focuses on the flawed human perspective.
"To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart, distinct from us. And because of His set apart-ness, there is no way we can fathom all of who He is. To the Jews, saying something three times demonstrated its perfection, so to call God 'Holy, Holy, Holy' is to say that He is perfectly set apart, with nothing and no one to compare Him to. That is what it means to be 'holy'." p. 31
So, in other words, it's beyond our human understanding. Whether you associate holiness with a building, or a religious ritual...whatever it is... it's not even close to the true holiness of God. It's beyond our understanding, beyond our flesh and blood. We try so hard, as human beings, to make sense of everything. We arguably label ourselves superior to all other creatures inhabiting this Earth. But, we are not superior to God. We are not meant to understand Him...His holiness is beyond our understanding. There are many that mock my faith , my reverence for God. They call me ignorant. But after reading this and spending time contemplating the subject for this blog, I've come to realize that it's not about my's about their arrogance.
So...I'm not giving homework today! To be honest, I'm still recovering from my trip to Nicaragua. It's been an emotional 48 hours for me...trying to make sense of everything. I miss the children we met there, but I also miss the people I served with. That trip was such a HUGE blessing to me. I had the awesome chance to serve God and show His love, but I also got to meet and serve along side of some truly amazing people that have profoundly changed my life. I'm attaching a link to a video that was played for the kids right before they left. It was a compilation of pictures from their time at camp...set to a truly amazing song that speaks volumes. Check it out when you get a chance!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Changed Life...A New Beginning

Well...We are finally back in Managua and will be heading back to the states tomorrow. Right now, I´m running on about 4 hours sleep and a full day of seeing the sights. We have a break for the next few hours, so I thought I would spend some time writing. I don´t think it´s possible to describe what I´m feeling right now. I deperately miss my family, but at the same time, sad to leave Nicaragua. The past two days have been the second most emotionally draining days of my life...second to the passing of my father.

Last night, seven of us went to the CICRIN orphanage on Ometepe. This was the original reason for my trip. Youth Mission Challenge will be helping ADios Ministries with their fundraising efforts for CICRIN. It was an hour ferry ride to the island...did I mention there´s a live volcano on the island? This was suppose to be the highlight of my trip...and while I did find CICRIN to be fascinating, I was debilitated by my thoughts of the previous two days. I had just spent two incredible days with the most amazing children...children that have seen more than you or I can ever imagine. We were told that some of these kids won´t make it to their 16th birthday...a thought that is too painful for me to even contemplate.

The last day of camp, we set aside clothes for the kids. Each child came through the line and picked two articles of clothing. The clothes were donations from various people and charities, including The Root Cellar in Portland. A group of us helped the kids pick out clothes, making sure their needs were being met. Some of the kids were brought to tears. Several of them came to the camp with no shoes, or rancid clothes. This made several members of the team ashamed for previous complaints of having to wear the same clothes for two days in a row. (Nothing like a double dose of perspective to jolt you back into reality!)

In the book, Chan writes:

¨We are programmed to think about what we don´t have, bombarded mutiple times throughout the day with what we need to buy that will make us feel happier...This dissatisfaction transfers over to our thinking about God. We forget that we already have everything we need in Him.¨
p. 30

With these kids, they found the most enjoyment from the most trivial distractions: coloring, jumping rope, taking pictures with our cameras, walking the beach, playing in the sand. They didn´t need high-tech gadgets or bright, shiney toys. They expressed the most joy when we spent quality one-on-one time with them...when we talked WITH them, not to them. There´s a distinct difference between the two, but I´ve come to realize that sometimes I confuse them.


This will be an exercise in expulsion. It goes without saying that we are a society of indulgences. We have WAY TOO MUCH. If you seriously think that you don´t live a life of extravagence, I´ll be happy to send you some pictures for comparison...I have plenty from this trip. (And, please know that I´m not placing any judgment. I´m just as guilty as the next person!) So...I want you to go through your closets and eliminate 10 items...if you´re feeling extremely rebellious, go for 20! You can even make it a family affair. Then donate the clothes to some charity...don´t take them to a consignment shop, because then it´s about you again (unless you want to take the money you make and donate it to a charity!)

If you´re up for a real challenge, you can join me. I am going home and eliminating half of the clothes in my closet. For accountability, I will post the before and after pictures on the blog. I told you this was the real deal! I want to hear about how you do on this assignment. If you´re a ¨Follower¨ post a comment to let me know. If you´re a subscriber, send me an email. I won´t ask you to do this very often...don´t worry!

His Faithful Servant-

Friday, April 9, 2010

Buenos Dias de Nicaragua!

I only have a moment to type, but I really wanted to post something while I'm down here. In an effort to stay true to the blog, I will reference Crazy Love. In the Preface, Chan talks about how his experiences on a mission trip to Africa really helped to change his perspective on his faith...on what was missing. Well, if I didn't understand that before, I definitely do now. There has been so much and I honestly feel like I've been on an emotional roller coaster the past few days.
On Wednesday, we went to La Churecha, a dump in Managua. Over 1,000 people live on the outer rim of the dump. As we rode in, it took all of one minute for me to break down in tears. I tried my best to contain them, but the impact of what I saw was so profound...SO profound that I am crying as I type this right now. NOTHING could have prepared me for what I saw. But what broke my heart the most, and simultaneously melted my heart, was the reception we received from the children in the dump. They literally flocked to us as we walked into their school. They wanted to be held, wanted to the picked up, wanted us just to pay some attention to them.
One teenaged girl came over and asked if she could have my prayer bracelet. When I gave it to her, she instantly gave me the warmest hug and the brightest smile. Thanking me profusely, her joy at this simple gift was indescribeable. Later that afternoon, I called my husband and tried to explain everything that I saw, but it was truly too much for me at the time...and it still is a lot for me.
Right now is the calm before the storm. In about 1 hour, the kids from the dump will be coming to camp. They will spend the next 48 hours with us. Our group has been praying about this encounter for the duration of our trip. A lot of the members of the team have been praying for our hearts to be protected during this time...but as we go off for alone time, I secretly ask God not to include my heart in that protection.
In The Hole inOur Gospel, by Richard Sterns, it talks about how, as Christians, we should be asking for our hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God. Think about the implications of that! How would our lives change if our hearts were broken by the things that break the heart of our Savior? My life has already changed...and we really have only begun to break the surface here!
I can't wait to share more with you when I get back. Sorry, I can't write more. I'm borrowing the computer that belongs to one of our translators...and I'm having a really hard time typing on the mini-keybord! Thank you, so much, for your continued prayers. They mean the world!
His Faithful Servant~

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spiritual Amnesia

Spiritual Amnesia. Do you have it? I do…sometimes I feel like it’s the constant state of my existence. Chan states the following:

“There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget…When we love God because we feel we should love Him, instead of genuinely loving out of our true selves, we have forgotten who God really is. Our amnesia is flaring up again.” P. 29

I’ve been trying to come of with really good examples of this all day, but the problem is that we are all so completely and wonderfully different. What I find to be meaningful and significant, may not ring true with you, and vice versa. But, for me, when I think about genuine love, I think about the few stolen moments after giving birth to my three children. With each of them, there was this inexplicable moment where I found myself marveling at the miracle of life. I remember holding them, refusing to hand them over to their father. I must have said, “I will love you forever, and ever, and ever,” at least a dozen times on each occasion. And whenever they weren’t in my arms, my eyes were always on them and the smile never left my face.

However, I can just as easily relate to the “I-love-you-because-I-should-love-you” scenario, as well. In this case, I can’t help but think about my two eldest children…brother and sister (need I say more.) After every argument, their father and I always make them apologize and say “I love you.” Their “I love you” is void of any sentimental meaning, or heartfelt emotion. It is merely out of obligation…or fear of the consequences if they don’t. In both situations, love is said…but unlike the first example, the latter is lacking that sense of genuine, authentic love. It’s that authenticity that God deserves.


Go back to the website:

Watch the video entitled “Just Stop and Think.” It’s a little lengthy (about 15 minutes), so watch it when you have some time.

Another thing I’d like you to try the next few days: In your quiet time, try your best to marvel at God. It might seem a little weird, if you’re not used to it. If that’s the case, try this. Think about a time in your life where you have marveled at something (as I did with my children) and thank God for that splendid gift…because He was the one that gave it to you!

His Faithful Servant~

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chapter One...Stop Praying!

Interesting title for Chapter One, isn’t it? Chan’s point here isn’t that we should actually stop praying. Instead, he’s asking us to take a look at HOW we pray…and ultimately asking us to change how we acknowledge and converse with God. Here’s what he says in the opening paragraph of Chapter One:

“What if I said, ‘Stop praying’? What if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word? Solomon warned us not to rush into God’s presence with words. That’s what fools do. And often, that’s what we do.” P. 25

So, in a nutshell, Chan’s insinuating that we are fools…and maybe he’s not that far off. Think about the last time you prayed. (Hopefully you can remember. If not, we have some extra leg work to do!) Now, think about what was said during that conversation. Did you take time to actually marvel at how awesome God is? Did you acknowledge our Creator with reverence, or just petition Him with a laundry list of requests for the day? For me, the last time I prayed was at 5:01 this morning (that’s when my alarm clock went off.) And this is LITERALLY what I said: “Thank you, Lord, for this day. Now, help me figure out how I’m going to get through it.” Not exactly up to Chan’s standards is it…and definitely not worthy of praise for God. Of course, I don’t always pray like this…but the point isn’t to critique our absolute best quiet time with God. The purpose is to ALWAYS give our best.

In order to do this, we have to really understand how awesome God is. On page 27, Chan marks out a path for us to follow: We can better understand how magnificent God is if we spend some time examining what He has created. Here are a few lines from that page:

“Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head? That’s quite a few for a bug. The average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it…Did you know that when you get goose bumps, the hair in your follicles is actually helping you stay warmer by trapping body heat? Or what about the simple fact that plants take in carbon dioxide (which is harmful to us) and produce oxygen (which we need to survive)? I’m sure you knew that, but have you ever marveled at it?” p. 27

So, next time you pray…STOP! Don’t speak to God as if He’s a short order cook taking your lunchtime request. Think about who He is…what He’s done. If you need more inspiration, keep reading.


In the book, Chan asks us to check out a video chip on his web site:

On the bottom left, you will see a link for VIDEOS. Click on “the awe factor of God.” Watch this clip. It’s pretty interesting and gives you a much needed dose of perspective. So, as you spend time in prayer the next few days, think about this video and try to acknowledge God as the Creator of all things.

While you’re at the website, check out the Introduction video and Chapter 1 video. They’re really short, but you might find them helpful.

* On a side note, I leave for Nicaragua tomorrow morning. I’m going on a week long trip with Adios Ministries, which is one of the partner organizations for Youth Mission Challenge. My husband has generously agreed to post one of my blogs in a few days, which will be my third for this week. I will try to write one myself, while I’m away. But, if I’m unable to, I will jump back in on the 13th. Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. You guys (and gals) are the best!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

This is the third and final blog entry focusing on the Preface of Crazy Love. Before we dive into Chapter One, I want us to look at what Francis Chan finds to be the real problem for us…why we feel like we’re missing something.

“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never has an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers.” P. 22

There’s a lot to digest in these seven sentences, and Chan spends the next 10 chapters dissecting much, if not all, of what he says here. What I want to focus on today is the third sentence. It reads:

“We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.”

Okay…be honest…a virtual show of hands, of those that have done just this. I should probably raise both of my hands because I felt an extra dose of conviction with this one. See if this sounds somewhat familiar:

‘The alarm clock wakes you up 15 minutes early so you can have your 'quiet time,' except you hit the snooze button because you didn’t sleep so well that night. Not a problem, you’ll fit in the quiet time between the gym and the kids getting up. Great plan…except you didn’t check it with the kiddos. They decided to get up early. NOT A PROBLEM. You can definitely get the quiet time in after lunch. You actually crack open the Bible and start to read, but then the phone rings. You decide to let the answering machine get it, but it’s an important call. Okay, quiet time….definitely after dinner. Do you see the pattern? Next thing you know, it’s 10:00 and your quiet time, if you even start it, ends by minute four because you fall asleep.”

Sound familiar? This is pretty much an everyday occurrence for me…and it’s COMPLETELY embarrassing to admit. But here’s the thing...I disagree with Chan's reasoning. I don’t think we see God as being satisfied when we manage to fit Him into our lives. Honestly, that’s giving us too much credit...blaming our poor behavior on ignorance. Every Christian I know would readily admit that God is worth so much more...and expects so much more. So why aren’t we giving Him more? I'm sure there are as many reasons as there are people on the planet…but today, we’re just going to focus on one!


So…here’s one of my theories. We live in an age of instant everything. Last night, my family watched the BBC’s 2009 release of Emma. (Which I highly recommend!) One thing that really struck me was how much time people spent writing letters and visiting one another back then. People’s lives revolved around relationships…probably because there wasn’t much else to do. Well, that’s not the case anymore. We now live in the age of instant messaging and text messaging, Facebook and, my personal ‘favorite’ Twitter. Our relationships, and by default, our lives, have been reduced to 200 character blurbs. This is how we communicate with one another and how we have conditioned ourselves to talk to God. He deserves so much better…and so do we. So, your homework is to turn it off for one day. If at all possible, turn it all off… the cell phone, the computer, the TV, whatever your vice is. When you feel the urge to turn it on, turn to God.

For those of you that are interested in how my last homework assignment went, check out the comment section for that day!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One Step at a Time

Of all the comments and concepts introduced in the Preface, the directive given on the bottom of page 21 is what I found to be most intriguing. It reads:

“We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘I believe in God, just not organized religion.’ I don’t think people would say that if the church truly lived like we are called to live. The expression would change to ‘I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.’ At least then they’d address their rejection of God rather than use the church as a scapegoat.”

When I asked a friend for his take on the comment, he took a rather wide-angled perspective. In his opinion, the negative reference to “organized religion” resulted from a myriad of circumstances including, but not limited to, the current sexual abuse allegations dogging the Catholic Church and the numerous evangelical ministers that have wandered astray. I, too, agree that these things have done nothing to help the reputation of “organized religion;” however, I contend that such blame is also a way for us to divert responsibility. My approach to Chan’s statement is less forgiving. I believe organized religion speaks directly to the church…which is us!

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Ephesians 5:29-30

We are members of His body…each one of us is part of the church. And as a part of the church, we must hold ourselves to that high standard…WE MUST LIVE OUR LIVES AS WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE. So, are you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for perfection. None of us are perfect. We all fall short and are destined to make mistakes, but God’s grace covers those imperfections. This is about doing what we need to be doing…but aren’t. It’s about putting an end to the things we should not be doing…but don’t.


I’m sure you see where this is going! I want you to think about how your behavior may enable someone to use the church as an excuse for rejecting God. Ouch! If you’re anything like me, you might come up with a few examples. (Some examples could be prefacing gossip with "I really shouldn't say this, BUT..." or losing your temper with a friend or co-worker...or better yet, your spouse, or child). Take one of your “issues” and spend the next 48 hours working on it. Warning: you might be tempted to ‘right all your wrongs’…DON’T! You see, I have this theory. It’s the same rationale for why the New Year's resolution for losing weight never works. We become overly ambitious, so caught up in wanting to change, that we attack everything at once...exercising everyday, changing our eating habits, depriving ourselves the simpliest of pleasures. We begin to feel overwhelmed and ultimately defeated because making a lifestyle change is hard, making several all at once is incredibly difficult. We live in a society that wants instant success…but we’re talking about eternal success, if you will. Be patient. One step at a time.

For accountability’s sake, I’ll share my issue of choice. I am an encourager. I guess it’s one of my gifts. However, I seem to lack this gift with my own daughter. For the next 48 hours, I’m committing myself to extending that encouragement to my daughter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a tough parent. I expect a lot from my children and sometimes I forget that my job is to lovingly mold them. Jesus was firm, but he was also gentle. That will be my focus and commitment for the next 48 hours. I’ll let you know how I do…

His Faithful Servant~