Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Haiti Bound

I have to admit that for most of my adult life (and my younger days too if I'm being honest) I really thought I was doing my kids a favor by raising them where we are.  We are in an area just outside of a fairly big city, we have excellent schools, a big church with lots of programming and resources, a neighborhood full of kids and just about anything we could want within a 30-45 minute drive.  

However in the last few years I have come to realize that perhaps I got this one wrong.  The area we live in is also one of the top five wealthiest counties in America.  And where I once saw opportunity and resources I now see materialism and pride.  Where I once saw family friendly neighbors where kids play outside while the moms visit, I now see kids who are over scheduled and moms who are overcommitted   Where I once saw parents who work hard to provide the best for their children, I now see parents who have their priorities way out of whack.  Don't get me wrong.  I still love where we live, I love the people around us and feel like this is EXACTLY where God wants us.  He has just opened my eyes to some realities I needed to see.

In just a few hours I will board a plane with my 11 year old daughter and head to Haiti.  The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  We will visit with, love on and play with children who have been orphaned or abandoned living in abject poverty, children who have absolutely NO material possessions and who are eager to get whatever limited education is available to them.  Yet these children have a faith that inspires me.  They believe in Christ with a conviction us spoiled Americans find it difficult to emulate.  

I have visited this country one other time and I am excited to see it again, this time through the eyes of my daughter.  I am excited to see what God shows her, what she learns, and how she processes it all.  I am excited to see how God uses her and how she reconciles the life she lives with those of the kids we will soon meet.  

If you are so inspired to pray for us in the coming days we would so very much appreciate it.  I look forward to sharing our stories and lessons with you when we get back!

But right now, Isabella and I are Haiti bound!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An All Consuming, Unconditional Love

Where does the time go?

Last week I sent the kids back to school.  Where did the summer go?

Last week I sent my oldest child to middle school!  Where did the years ago?

I swear we brought her home from the hospital just last year!  I remember looking at her, thinking, "I don't have a clue what I am doing!  But oh my heavens do I love her!!"  I loved her with a love I had never experienced before.  I loved her instantly. I loved her with a love that was all consuming.  I loved her unconditionally.  It made no difference what she did or didn't do, how she would grow or who she would become, there was nothing that would ever change how much I loved her.

A few months ago she was a toddler (at least it feels like it was a few months ago) and life was messy.  She was messy, the house was messy, I was messy.  She had her share of temper tantrums, honestly, I had my share too!  But it didn't change my love for her.  I loved her with an all consuming love.  I loved her unconditionally, even in the messy moments, even in the middle of her temper tantrums.  It hurt me to see them, but it didn't make me love her any less.  

Last month she was a preschooler.  She seemed so big that first day of preschool, with hair in barrettes, clothes clean and pressed.  She brought home art work that I couldn't decipher and writing I couldn't read, her work was FAR from perfect, but I loved it!  I loved her!  I loved her with a love that was all consuming.  I loved her unconditionally.  It didn't matter that her stick figures were missing most of their parts, while her peers were drawing far more detailed pictures.  It didn't matter that language skills came harder for her.  I was proud of what she drew, what she had accomplished and who she was.  And her imperfect attempts didn't make me love her any less. 

Last week she started kindergarten.  She was officially a big kid now.  Some of the school work was hard for her.  She wasn't the smartest kid in class, she wasn't the fastest or funniest or coolest.  But I loved her just the same.  I loved her with a love that was all consuming.  I loved her unconditionally.  It didn't matter that other kids won amazing awards, or were recognized for stellar performance.  I didn't love Isabella any less when she didn't get the accolades or honors.  

Yesterday Isabella started middle school. Through the years I have gotten to know her better.  I know more of her inner thoughts, her fears, and her feelings.  And she knows me better.  Our relationship is changing.  She is starting to see me as a person and not just her mom.  She knows what my dreams are and I know what hers are.  She knows what I am scared of, what keeps me up at nights, and I know the same about her.   Though we are closer now, I don't LOVE her anymore.  I still love her with a love that is all consuming, just like I loved that baby.  I love her with a love that is unconditional, just like I loved that messy toddler.  I love her now, just like I loved that preschooler and school-ager.

Our relationship has changed over the years, but my love for her hasn't.

The same can be said for our Heavenly Father.  I don't know where you are in your spiritual journey.  I don't now whether you are at the infant stage of your faith or the toddler stage; maybe you have a school-age faith or maybe you have a mature adult faith.  Whatever stage you find yourself in, your Heavenly Father loves you.  He loves you with an all consuming love.  He loves you with an unconditional love.  He loves you even when you are messy.  He loves you even when your very best work just doesn't compare to others around you.  He loves you even when you are not the smartest, funniest or coolest.  He loves even when others are winning awards and your work looks like kindergarten work.  He doesn't love you more the more mature or further in your faith you get.  Your relationship with Him will change, but His love doesn't.  

It doesn't matter if you have the faith of an infant, toddler, preschooler, school-ager or someone more mature.  He always has and always will love you.  He loves you with an all consuming, unconditional love.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Life Lived Well, Part 2

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Matthew 25:21

I am sure you are all familiar with these words.  They are found in a parable Jesus tells in the book of Matthew.  Three servants are given some of their master's money or "talents" before he leaves town.  I won't recap the whole story, you can read it yourself in Matthew 25:14-30.  But within this parable the servants who properly manage what they have been given are rewarded and praised with these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

They are words I dream of hearing some day as I stand before my master, my God and King.  I pray the life I am living is one that is being lived well; that I am properly managing what I have been given; and that one day I will be told these words.  

I think a lot of people dream of hearing these words.  I think some people even expect to hear these words.  Honestly, most of us would probably say we are pretty good people.  Sure we might sin a little, but the Bible says we ALL sin, so we can't really avoid that.  Besides, we're supposed to be humble so we better say we're sinful even if we don't really think we are!  

If we get down to it though, I wonder just how many of us bank on hearing these words of praise at the end of our life?  It's not like we expect the master to say, "Perfectly done!"  No one expects him to say, "Really, AMAZING job!  You couldn't have done better!"   All we are asking for is a little ol', "well done."  That's hardly too much to ask!  Or is it?

In the parable there are three servants, only two of them hear these words.  One of them does not.  It wasn't until I really started studying this passage that I began to get concerned about the third servant.  I mean, what did he do that was so wrong?  It's not like he squandered the talent. He wasn't like the Prodigal son who spent what wasn't even his. The prodigal son was welcomed back with open arms.  But this poor servant, who gave back EXACTLY what he was given, was punished.  I don't get it!  What did he do wrong? And more importantly, how can I make sure I don't do the exact same thing!!

I have thought A LOT about this.  I have read this passage over and over, I have prayed about this passage, asking God to show me He wanted me to learn from it.  And here is what I think He has been telling me.  Here is what the third servant did that was so wrong...

He didn't know his master. 

He didn't know him.  The servant tried to justify his actions by explaining that he knew the master was a hard man who harvested where he did not sow and gathered where he did not scatter seed.  The servant was scared of him.  So rather than risk losing what wasn't his in the first place and angering the hard master, the servant hid the money, and when the master returned he gave back to him exactly what he had been given. The master responds with this comment, "...So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?"  It's the question mark I have never noticed before.  

The master isn't agreeing that he is a hard and wretched man.  It's more like he is saying, "That's what you think of me, huh?"  But the fact is, he was neither hard nor wretched.  He gave three servants an opportunity to do something great, to do something for him and only two of them did.  Those two he generously rewarded, not the actions of a hard or wretched man.  The other servant had a distorted view of his master.  He didn't really know him. And he didn't take the time to find out what the master expected of him.  

Had he spent more time in his masters presence, had he paid more attention to his master's actions and his expectations of those who worked for him, perhaps the servant would have acted differently. 

It wasn't that the master expected the same return on his investment from this servant.  He didn't expect this servant to earn him five talents or even two, it wasn't about how much he  could earn for the master.  It was simply about taking what the master had blessed him with and doing something good with it.  It was about knowing the master enough to recognize he wouldn't be mad if there wasn't a bountiful harvest as long as there was something!

Our master has given us all a lot.  He has given us giftings and resources and love.  And he expects us to know Him enough to know how to use these gifts and to know what exactly it is He expects of us.  He doesn't care how talented we are, he doesn't care how much fruit we bring in or how many people we reach.  He doesn't care if my talent is kindergarten work and yours looks like a PhD in perfection!  He is pleased with both efforts!  And if you take the time to get to know your Master he will show you EXACTLY what he wants you to do with what he has given you.

How sad if at the end of our life we meet Jesus and say, "Thank you for all that you gave me.  I so appreciate it.  But, I didn't really use it, so you can have it back, exactly what you gave to me.  It's in mint condition, 'cause again, I didn't really use it."

You have been given much, but you are expected to use it.  You are expected to use it for His glory and not for your own.  But in order to do that, you have to know your master.  You have to spend time in His presences, listen to His word, and do what He asks.  That is the key to a life lived well.  

Monday, August 11, 2014


Summer is beginning to wind down in our household.  The kids go back to school later this week.  It's hard to believe another year has gone by.  

This summer has been a happy one, we didn't travel, we didn't do any "great" things.  But we had a lot of fun with the occasional incredibly boring days thrown in.  I think kids need those days too.  

One of the lessons I learned this summer is there is a difference between joy and happiness.  I had an opportunity to share this lesson on another blog recently and it posted today.  I would love for you to check it out by clicking here!

I wish you all a very joyful day!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Life Lived Well, part 1

One of the problems with being a talkative person is that many talkers don't make very good listeners.  I don't mean this to be some great overgeneralization.  I am sure there are lots of talkers who make very fine listeners.  I would not be one of those.  

I'm not a good listener.

Unfortunately this is also true when it comes to listening to God at times.  Sometimes God needs to tell me the same thing over and over again before I hear him; before I pay attention to him.  That seems to be the case this summer.

The summer started with me becoming fascinated with Hebrews 12:28 
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
The words "worship God acceptably" grabbed my attention.  If there was a way to worship God acceptably than there must also be a way to worship God unacceptably.  And honestly this idea terrified me.  Was I worshipping God acceptably???  I shared my thoughts and my concerns on this idea at BCW and you can read about it here.  

Perfect!  Done!  Lesson learned, processed and documented.  Check.

Um, not quite. Though I may have been done listening, God wasn't done talking. 

A few weeks later someone brought to my attention Cain and Abel.  Two brothers who both made sacrifices to God, only one was found acceptable and one was found lacking.  So clearly, we can make sacrifices that we ourselves feel pretty good about yet God finds lacking, even insulting, unacceptable.  Oh.  So, how do the sacrifices I claim to be making stack up?  Honestly? Probably not as good as I think they do.  I mean if I have been worshipping unacceptably, there is a good chance I have also been making sacrifices unacceptably.  

Let's be honest, God wasn't always getting my first fruits.  Yes Erik and I tithe a fair portion of our finances, but He wasn't always getting the first and the best of my time or my attention.  I had not taken captive every thought and made it obedient to Him as we are told to do in 2 Cor. 10:5.  He got what I was willing to give Him, when it was convenient for me, if I wasn't feeling it, He wasn't getting it.  And I expect Him to be delighted with me? 

Then I started to re-read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan and was reminded of the parable of the seed found in Matthew 13.  We all tend to assume that we are the good soil that the seed falls on.  Meanwhile, the reality is we are more rocky than we think with roots that don't grow deep.  We have earthly weeds that we allow to choke out our full devotion to God.  Chan tells us not to just assume we are the good soil, but really look at how we are living out our faith.  

In the last 10 years my faith has grown by radical proportions.  Often I find myself thinking I am in a pretty good place.  But when I am confronted with the scriptures; with the truth from God's own word.  I am forced to acknowledge that my worship, my sacrifice, my soil is not what I think it is.  I have a long way to go before I am the person God is making me to be.  

There are times this summer, brief moments, when I have been discouraged by this.  But then the Holy Spirit brings to mind Phil. 1:6, 
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

And I am reminded of the grace that is found in Christ Jesus.  I am not enough.   My worship, my sacrifice, my soil, will never be good enough.  I cannot earn my salvation, my place in heaven. It is given to me freely because I have given my life, my whole life to Christ Jesus.  He and he alone is enough. 

Hmm, maybe I am finally starting to listen.  The lesson maybe sinking in...

Lately, I have been dwelling on the parable of talents found in Matthew 25.  It is the story of three servants who are entrusted with some of their master's property.  At the end of the parable the master says to two of his servants, "Well done, good and faithful servant." The third servant, though he thought he was doing the right thing, got it all wrong.  He was reprimanded and disgraced.  

We will never live our lives perfectly, but we can live them well.  The question is, are we?

There are lots of things we do for God throughout our day; pray to him, worship him, maybe sacrifice some small part of our time or attention, or perhaps our finances, but do we do these things well?  Because the mere fact that we do these things does not mean that we are doing them acceptably.  Just because we worship, does not mean we worship well.  Just because we sacrifice does not mean we sacrifice well.  Just because we pray, does not mean we pray well.  

Our worship should be acceptable.  Our sacrifice should be a fragrant offering.  Our prayer should be heart-felt.  Our life should be lived well.  Is yours?