Monday, April 21, 2014

Eyes on Your Own Paper: The Comparison Game

Don't you remember the angst of adolescence when you wanted to know what other people were doing before you made your own plan?

The homecoming dance.  Okay, who is going?  Then, I will decide.

What are YOU going to wear? Important to know for decision making.

The teen years seem wrought with comparison.  Going along with the crowd.  Not wanting to stick out or be different.  

Um, or maybe that's the adult years?  I get them confused.  Because it's hard when you are the last to get married.  Or to have a baby.  Or you consider the glamorous lives of others and it makes your life seem so dull.  

Perhaps its group fitness activities, oh say, like an early morning boot camp, when you realize that you can't do the same number of burpees as the girls next to you.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

We seem to spend our lives sitting at our desks with our eyes wandering to the paper of our neighbors.  I can nearly hear the voice of certain teachers from my past screeching, "Eyes on your own paper!"

This whole bent of our human nature is only fueled with the fires of social media and modern technology.  Where, at a moment's notice, we realize that so-and-so is on some fabulous vacation while we are cleaning up dog throw up.  Or, those other moms planned some amazing Easter activities and family fun.  While we went to worship and came home and did a whole lotta nada the rest of the day.  Oh and wait a minute...those pins on Pinterest tell me that a friend is planning and plotting something big while I am just hoping to get to Friday.

Yep.  We expend a great deal of energy considering what others are up to.  Measuring sticks and plumb lines set through instant information.  It can leave us feeling that our lives and our plans pale in comparison.  

I read THIS during my Bible reading this morning.  And, oh, the freedom this truth has to offer for each of us.

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave ME to do.
John 17:4 NIV

I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned ME to do.
John 17:4 The Message 

This is part of Jesus' prayer in the garden, just before He is arrested.  He is telling His Father that He brought glory to God by completing the work that HE was given to do. Not the work for John the Baptist or the tasks the multitudes hoped for in wishing for a military king who would conquer their enemies.

Nope.  The hard work of listening intently to His father's call and staying so close to Him that He spoke His Father's words.  Obeying His Father's leading.  Even to the point of surrendering his own life in a horrific death.

In other words, we bring glory to our Father by completing the work that HE gives US to do. We all have our own unique task lists.  Yet, we can get so caught up in looking at others' papers. Then we either don't complete our own work or we miss the joy in doing so.

Listen, if you are married, then part of the work you were given by your Father is be the spouse that your partner needs.  To love and cherish and support and serve them and affirm them on their own journey of faith.  If you are a mom, by birth or adoption or fostering, then the work He gave YOU to do is to care for those children.

Yes, dear bloggy mom friends.  Your work on earth is indeed filling up sippy cups, wiping little bums, answering a zillion questions, cleaning up baby puke, and collapsing from the fatigue of the mundane.  It may not be glamorous, but it's the work He gave you on earth.  

I was just emailing with a friend this morning about the upcoming Swap and Shop.  She was offering kind words about how she could never organize such an event. 

Um, HELLO!  She is a very talented singer and actress who offers her gifts and time at church and community theater.  I could never do THAT.

But it's the perfect example of embracing our own work and doing it well.  It's the work our Father gave US and we bring Him glory when we just do it.  Whether that means traveling the globe to sing or act or speak or care for orphans.  Or never leaving your home state and being willing to do the little things.

My husband's Mamaw was such a beautiful example of this Scripture--this call to do the work we are given to do.  Head to the plow, full steam ahead.

She helped her parents on their farm while growing up.  She cared for her siblings and helped her mom run the household.  She graduated valedictorian of her class of 17 seniors at Ponder High School.  She worked hard as a telephone operator.  Married the love of her life and waited patiently as he served in World War II.  Tried for years to have babies, enduring multiple miscarriages.  Tried to adopt, and then got pregnant.  Denied the twins that were to be hers when she notified the adoption agency of her pregnancy.  Cared for and prayed for her baby girl who was born needing a risky surgery she may not survive.  Poured herself into mothering her daughter and helping raise her nieces when they needed her help, living with her for months at a time.  Took in and cared for aging parents and in-laws in her 800 square foot home.  Loved her grandson and poured herself into his care as needed.  Served at church.  Woke up at 4:00 am to fix a hot breakfast for her husband before his early morning factory shift.  Worked.  And worked.  And worked.  With love and grace and without complaint.

She was not famous.  She was not rich.  But, she found joy in completing the work that she was given.  And that set her apart.  That made her amazing.  That brought glory to God.

Herein lies our challenge.  To stop and consider what work we've been given.  Here's some clues to uncover your assigned work.  Who has God placed in your life?  And how can you love and serve them?  What dreams and hopes and plans do we have?  Ask God to show us which of those translate to the work He has for us?  What gifts and talents and passions do you have?  Pray about how to channel them, according to His leading. Then, just jump off the boat and do it.

Most importantly--learn to free yourself from the trap of comparison.  Consider where and how you get messages that make you feel defeated or less than.  Cut these things out!  That may mean deleting the Facebook app from your phone.  Or avoiding Pinterest.  Or avoiding certain television shows or books or magazines.  Instead, dive into the truth of His Word and spend time in prayer to ask Him about the work He has for YOU.  Ask the Holy Spirit to encourage you as you seek to complete God's assigned workload so that you bring HIM glory. 

We all have our very own race to run.  Our path will not look like that of others.  Neither will our pace.  Chances are, the work you are given on earth will be hard and tedious and mundane much of the time.  But this does not diminish the fact that this work is indeed glory work.

Glory work.  Pointing others toward your Father.  It has eternal value.  Diving into your own task list, your own talents, your own calling.  And doing it to completion.  To bring Him glory and thus point others to Him.  Keeping your eyes on your own paper.  Ignoring the crowd or trends or the culture.  

Just running, with all your might, the pathway He has for you.  Remembering that completing the work He gives you in each day is indeed, glory work.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Power We Deny

Sharing straight from my prayer journal today. The powerful thoughts from my Father on this precious Good Friday.

Dear One,

It is finished.  Done.  Handled.  Over.  

All of it.  

So what are you giving life to that which I already died for?

Sins?  Yours and the offenses and sins of others?  Shame?  Wounds? The opinion of man?  Your own striving?  The merit of your good deeds?  The pursuit of worth and value?  Your past?  Worries?  Fear?  Anxiety?

It is finished.


So quit trying to revive it.  Quit giving it life by giving it thought.  Quit giving it room in your heart and your mind that belongs to Me.  Quit giving it any control or power over you.  Because I overcame it.  You're chained by it when I broke you free.  You're battling it when I am victorious.  You're imprisoned by it when I paid the price for freedom.  

The problem isn't the things that distract you, defeat you and overwhelm you.  The problem is that it is finished.  Yet you give it life.  

You overlook and deny the power of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb and the price that I paid. 

Because when I yielded up my spirit, I chose to pay the price to redeem you from it all.  Shame.  Accusation.  Condemnation.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Sin.  Yours and that of others.

I saw it all.  Acknowledged it all.  And conquered it all.

Because it is finished. 

So live like it.

Quit denying the power of the cross.

Remember that by My stripes, you are healed.

Live like the chosen, beloved, redeemed, forgiven, victorious child of the Most High God.  Who sent His Son to settle it.  Once and for all.  

And poured out love and grace the depths of which you can never outrun or use up.

And I granted a Helper to guide you in truth.  And to remind you, day after day.

It is finished!

So leave it buried.

Give no life to it.

Walk in victory and freedom.

Bring every struggle to the cross and rest in My peace.

Yes.  By My stripes, you are healed.  

Freed to live because I died.

The matter is settled.

It.  IS.  Finished!

"I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  
John 16:33

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Enduring Your Fridays

I know a lot of people enduring their Fridays.  Dark, hopeless, painful times of suffering.  If you read here regularly, then you know this is a recurring theme--to address grief and suffering.  Yet, I cannot deny an urge to continue to address it.  

Because I've endured my own Fridays.  When I could hardly get out of bed.  Seasons of grief.  Seasons of loss.  A season of post partum depression.  Seasons of physical pain.  Seasons of relational pains.  Seasons of questions without answers.  Seasons where there was nothing but cloud cover, devoid of any sunshine or relief.

How can you endure?  When day after day, what has been lost or not yet come to fruition overwhelms any sense of gain or joy or hope.  It's miserable.  

All around you, you see happy faces and smiley people and it feels foreign.  It feels unreachable.  It might even feel offensive.  That others would dare to find happiness when you are so deep in a pit.

Fridays.  Seasons of pain.

Consider what tomorrow is on the calendar.  Good Friday.  What an oxymoron.  Good denotes something positive and worthwhile and enjoyable.  But that Friday, the hope of the disciples and those who had dared to believe in Jesus were dashed.  To smithereens.  The earth responded in kind.  As the ground shook and the day became as night.  Matching the emotions of those who had found a reason to believe--yet now, all seemed lost.  The rocks shook and the tombs broke open.  

The whole earth groaned, grieving that Friday that it was enduring.  Why?  What good could come from THIS? 

Yet, we know the rest of the story.  We know that the hope of an empty tomb could not come without the dark Friday that preceded it.  We know that the moment of resurrection that offers a joyful eternity simply had to come at the cost of the pain and the suffering and the loss.  

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:20-22

You may be trudging through a Friday, of weeping and mourning while the world seems to rejoice around you.  You grieve and endure an unbearable pain such as childbirth.

But, be encouraged, bloggy friend.  Because Sunday is on the way.  And it is never ending.  It is the reason to find joy.  It is the hope and the life line during your season of suffering. Because none of this around us will last.  It's all fleeting.  Yet an eternal God sent his only Son to make a way for those who believe.  And what's to come, as we are completed to perfection in the presence of our Savior, makes all questions fade away.  It erases all grieving and groaning. So many things in our lives here and now, from drastic circumstances to daily burdens, try to choke out the joy of the Lord.  

That we, as Ann Voskamp says, might become joy warriors.  Fighting for joy through the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Rooting our hope in the salvation of the Lord.  In the unseen eternal.  The invisible forever that exceeds and outshines the deepest darkest pains of the temporal today.  That we might choose--or perhaps wrestle is a better word--moment by moment to turn our eyes to the Sunday to come rather than the Friday we endure.  

No, we don't understand these Fridays.  As I talked about yesterday.  So much of what God is up to is beyond our comprehension.  We simply cannot see the bigger picture, where all the puzzle pieces fit together beautifully.  Where our hard moments weave through our happy ones to create a complete and whole and eternal depiction of God's grace and love.

But, we don't have to understand.  In fact, we are not asked to understand how God works.  In John 16:18, as Jesus is preparing his disciples for his coming death, they hear him, but don't get it.  In fact, they literally say, "We don't understand what He is saying."

Yet, they followed.  They obeyed.  Because understanding God is not a prerequisite to obeying and following God.  Actually, I see here the exact definition of faith.  To choose to trust and follow beyond our understanding.  

To walk through our Fridays, grieving, mourning and weeping... and fix our eyes on the Jesus of Sunday.

He is the source of our joy.  The joy of the Lord shall be our strength.  But, we have to fight for it.  We have to fight to root ourselves in His Word, calling out in constant prayer, asking Him to be the lifter of our heads so that we can dare to believe in Sunday.

For every one of you living through a Friday, I pray this blog post offers you a hope.  Because no matter how dark and difficult this Friday is, there is a Sunday coming.  A new birth.  A new thing.  An eternal and unseen and invisible Sunday that will erase the anguish of the labor pains you are enduring.  

Carry on, joy warriors!  Carry on.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When You Don't Get What God is Up To

I just don't get it.  I mean, lots of times, I don't get it.  I think I know what is going on and so easily forget that what I'm seeing or understanding is only the tip of the iceberg.  I have a really bad habit of offering my assistance and insight to God on how to keep this world running.  As if He needs my help.  

One of the most profound occurrences of this lack of understanding came back in the day when I was a full time adoptive parent caseworker.  That day, I had the task of driving a birth grandmother back to the airport following the memorial service of her biological grandson.  Whom she had not known.  Whose adoptive family she had never met until this occasion.  He was a child, killed in a senseless accident.  

I'd known her all of one day.  

"I just can't understand this.  Why would God allow this?"

She was asking the unanswerable question.  Yet, the question hung in the air, thick with its demand for an answer.

I said a quick and desperate prayer for a response to offer.  Something to provide comfort. To someone I didn't really know.  And would likely never see again.  Yet, here I was, in a crucial moment, with the opportunity to offer her a tiny glimpse of hope.

"If God were small enough to understand, then He would not be big enough for me to worship."

My answer slipped off my tongue with no thought behind it.  I knew the Holy Spirit had offered a bit of truth.  

Tears slipped from her eyes and she reached over and patted my hand.

There are so many times when we just don't get what God is up to.  Listen, we are in good company.  Because even Jesus' beloved disciples were a bit confused as Jesus explained that He was going away in John 16:5-15.  In their confusion, he offers this insight to console the impending grief of his closest companions:

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus going away.  Absent.  Silent.  Unnoticeable.  

How often we find ourselves feeling this is the case.  Where is Jesus in all this?  Where is the hope?  Where is the good?  Why is this happening?

Today, I see a glaring truth that helps to wipe the cobwebs away from these seasons of suffering when God seems so far away. 

In this case, 2000 years ago, Jesus' absence was to our advantage.  His silence served a bigger purpose.  One that these disciples would not understand for quite a while.  In fact, it would get worse before it got better--before it became clear.  But there was a purpose beyond this "going away."  A good from what seemed bad.

Just a few verses later, in verse 12, I see a tandem truth that further sheds light on these dark moments when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.

Sometimes, we feel He is so far away and ignoring our prayers for understanding and insight.  The silence is deafening.  

But, we see in this Scripture that sometimes He has more to say than we can bear.  It's just simply too much for us.  His ways are higher than our ways.  His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  And He is well aware of our limited understanding.  So, He offers us the Spirit of truth within us, to guide us.

Here's the picture that comes to mind.  We stand at the entrance of a dark cave.  The hallways within are winding and confusing, with many forks in the paths.  It's just too much to try to tell us how to get through it.  We cannot be given the complicated directions or overview of the lay out.  It's more than we can bear.  

So, rather than spewing out complicated and complex and perhaps even alarming overviews, God gives us a Guide.  The Spirit of truth serves not only as our flashlight, but our personal Guide.  His presence is with us at all times.  He is our Comforter.  Our Counselor.  He came only after Jesus left the earth.  And He is God within us.  Our gift from the Trinity.  Our Spirit of truth.  Our Helper.  He will guide us through the dark paths.  The ups and downs.  The pain and suffering.  The questions and hardships.  He does not leave us.  And, He does not speak on His own, but speaks only what He hears [from the Father], and he will tell us what is yet to come (John 16:13).
He will tells us what is yet to come.  When Jesus has much more to say than we can bear, God offers the Spirit to tell us what is come, in small steps, one day at a time, to get us through it.  

The love of our Father sees our limitations.  Our shortcomings. He knows them all.  And He is moved, in His great love and astounding grace, to meet our needs.  So He offers us the Holy Spirit as our Helper.  God, in His infinite wisdom, created a process of revelation to equip and inform us.  To impart His rich wisdom to us, in bite size chunks that we can digest.  All for His glory.

Can we trust Him during these times when He feels "absent?"  Can we choose to believe that He has a grander purpose and thus embrace, or at least endure, these seasons of what feels like silence?  Can I choose to trust God's orderly ultimate plans for my good, granted through His love and His grace?  Can I allow Him to work out His plans and reveal them in His ways, being assured that they are beyond what I can bear knowing all at once?  

Can I lean into His process of revelation?  Turning down the volume of my doubts and the noise of the world and train myself to listen to the Spirit as He guides me forward?

Here is the overall, overwhelming, overriding truth from this passage in John 16.

From death comes life.  Death ushers in new things.  Jesus died.  And part of God's new work born from that darkness was the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

As the barren trees begin to bloom and the grass turns green from its brown brittle state, can we be encouraged that God is working new things, new life, new promises, new seasons--even from our most difficult winters?

And our Helper will guide us, one step at a time, through our darkest nights. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate

Haters gonna hate.  Yep.  That's pretty much what I read this morning in my Bible.  Well, maybe not in those exact words, per se.  But, essentially. I've been camping out in John 15.  This is where Jesus is wrapping up his time on earth, having some really important conversations with his disciples.  

He tells them a very important standard for obedient living--to just abide.  Remain.  Cling.  To him as the Vine.  In other words, the key to fruitful, God pleasing lives is the passive act of remaining right with Him.  Following His lead.  Dwelling and staying, right with Him.  Through prayer.  And time in His word.  And worship.  In other words, if someone asks you where you live so that you can boldly proclaim--right here with Him! This is the key to obedience and the all important command to love one another. 

And then, Jesus says haters gonna hate. 

So, don't be surprised, Jesus says.  Because remember--the world hated Jesus first.  If you attach yourself to the name of Jesus, then you, too, will feel the heat.  But, listen. Don't worry.  This world isn't where we belong.  We are, in fact, chosen out of the world, Jesus says.  In other words, we are just passing through here, and as aliens and foreigners in this world, we don't belong.  The locals won't like us.  

That's okay.  The charge is to be okay with being hated.  It's a sign of where we truly belong.  Because the King of Kings chose us to outta here.  John 15:18-25 explains that Jesus turned it all upside down.  His miracles reveal His holiness, His power, and His deity.  His death reveals our need for a Savior.  His sacrifice shines the light on our insufficient, sinful, sorry state of affairs.  The death we are destined for without the gift of His salvation.  

And yes.  Haters gonna hate that.  You see, Jesus was okay with being hated.  It does not change who He is, how He loves, or what He plans.  He calls us to do likewise.  To not engage in animosity or hatred.  Accept it.  Don't be surprised or deterred from our call to love simply because we are misunderstood when we proclaim His name.  

Which begs the question for me this morning.  Am I okay with being hated?  Do I really disregard all opinions but His?  Do I plant my hope in where I really belong?  Do I rely on the Spirit of truth given within me to empower and equip me?  Do I engage in love with an unbelieving hostile world because I am so rooted in the Jesus with whom I abide?  

Here's what I wrote in my journal in response to this passage.

"Man's approval or lack thereof has no eternal significance.  This isn't even where I belong.  Do I live like this is true? What would it look like if I did?"

What does it look like when you are just visiting a place?  When you think you may never see these people again and they are not your sphere of influence?  Do you act differently?  

I can remember a mission trip where we were asked to go door-to-door inviting people to a community, interfaith Bible study.  
Um, yeah.  Not really my thing. 

But I mustered up the courage to complete the task.  I sorta rationalized that I don't live here, I don't have to live with any fall out, and if they didn't like me, that was okay.  I don't even really know them.  Based on their response, I was grieved that the people in the community were so calloused to God and His Word.  In fact, our entire little group was grieved.  Unsure what to do--because the door-to-door thing was not working out--we prayed for a way to connect with these people and just show them that they are loved. 

We responded by throwing a free community car wash.  

No strings attached.  These cynical people just didn't believe us.  When asked what the trick was, our only response was we wanted to show God's love and do something for them.  It made all the difference.  We soon found ourselves with a long line of cars, lots of new friends, and great opportunities to just simply connect and demonstrate God's grace and love.  It had a great impact on those of us on both sides of the equation.

What if I lived everyday with more of that mentality?  Could I be more bold?  Could I love more freely?  Show more grace?  Overlook offenses because they become an expectation and a sign that I'm abiding with the Christ who turned the world upside down.

That I could just root myself in His word.  Pray throughout my days.  Turn down the noise and distractions of this world.  Let the haters hate and don't be caught up in it.  And press on.  Planting my hope in my eternal home.  Drawing my worth and value from my eternal Father rather than the opinions of man.

That I might hear the voice of my Savior drowning out all naysayers.  Telling me to press on!  Run hard.  Run well.  Love uncommonly.  No matter the haters.     

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Power in the Broken Pieces

I heard Christine Caine say this when she spoke at the IF Gathering a few months ago.  It hit a nerve then, but if you've heard her speak, you know she says so much in such a short time that it literally takes weeks or months to digest and process it all.

She posted this quote last week on Instagram and I was so thankful for the reminder.  To get this bit of Biblical wisdom in basically a frozen sound bite.  Because as I've thought about it, if you believe that this is true then it can radically change your perspective on the broken pieces in your life.  

Brokenness is not generally considered to be a positive or good quality in our culture.  In our way of thinking, you don't want things to break.  When you're a child, you certainly don't want to break Mom's expensive vase or favorite china.  When you're a teenager, you don't want your first love to break your heart.  You don't want new cars or appliances or gifts to break.  Perfect and whole and shiny is all quite preferable to broken, which we equate to being unusable.  Once something breaks, you toss it.  Throw it in a garage sale.  Donate it to a cause.  It has outlived it's usefulness and must therefore be discarded.

How we tend to treat relationships and people in the same vein.  

But the truth is that the Bible clearly illustrates, time and again, how very useful and powerful the state of being broken can become.  As Christine Caine stated it, the miracle is in the breaking and the power is in the broken pieces.

How fitting to consider this during the Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter.  The most ultimate example of the miracle in the breaking.  The power in the broken pieces.  Because as Jesus' physical body was breaking, the miracle of our redemption was completed.  As the separation from His Father broke his heart, leaving Him crying out about being forsaken, the power of God's forgiveness was being released upon each of us.  While Jesus' body was broken and pierced for all that we have or will do wrong, the power over sin and death and judgment was realized.  

Breaking.  Brokenness.  Broken pieces.  

Do these words ring true for the status of your own life?  Heart broken by grief.  Or shame.  Or despair.  Or loneliness.  The brokenness of a marriage or relationship or the mistakes you've made that eat at you, day after day.  The broken pieces of dreams you once dared to dream, but that now only haunt you.  

The ripping and shattering and tearing of precious things in our lives.  Sacred things.  And it leaves scars and callouses and empty places where hope once flourished.  I know several families who just this past week found their lives broken as they said good-bye to loved ones.  It's a shattering that leaves you wondering how to makes sense of the pieces left scattered about the landscape of your heart and mind.  

I have a word for you.  I want you to consider that where you feel hopeless and useless and powerless, God is actually quite powerful.  This is not an ending.  But, this is where God can create a beginning. Because the miracle is in the breaking and the power is in the broken pieces. 

In Exodus 32 and 33, the fickle Israelites made a golden calf to worship as an idol because Moses was taking too long up on the mountain.  When he came down and saw it, he threw down the stone tablets and they were broken.  So, where is the power in the temper tantrum of a national leader?

The people's hearts were set straight.  They were forced to deal with their idols.  Moses met with God once again, and once again, God showed his power and his love and faithfulness as he gave the ten commandments.  The broken tablets led to broken hearts that led to a God who poured out favor and promised Moses that His presence would go with them and He would give them rest.  

Brokenness that wiped away the wicked ways and brought fresh revelation of God's presence and glory.

In Joshua 5 and 6, the descendents of those Israelites came to the wall of Jericho.  The Promised Land lay just beyond it.  God gave his marching orders, commanding His people to circumcise themselves again. To do the cutting away so that the new could come.  And then, they marched.  And obeyed what seemed to be anything but a sound military plan of action.  And the impossible walls of Jericho came tumbling down.  Broken.  The power of the broken pieces meant that the people of God moved from deliverance to freedom.  The Promised Land was theirs, and they ate of its fruit.

Broken pieces that brought the people of God to a new place of freedom and favor.  

In John 12, Mary broke all rules and expectations and threw all sense of decorum to the curb when she shattered her jar of expensive perfume to pour out on Jesus' feet.  The broken jar.  The extravagant worship.  A woman realizing the only thing that mattered.  Who ignored the ridicule and social norms in order to surrender herself completely to her Lord.  And in so doing, completing a task on the eternal calendar as she anointed Jesus' body for burial. 

Shattering at a great expense that was misunderstood by many, but pleasing unto the Lord.  Bringing herself to an intimate and precious ministry to the Jesus who would save her.  Being used for His glorious purpose, unbeknownst to her.  Simply because she was willing for the breaking.

Jesus, huddled in the upper room with his beloved disciples, sharing the Last Supper.  Tearing the bread and saying, "Eat, this is my body, broken for you."  Symbolizing his greatest surrendering, his broken body to heal us, redeem us, claim us, save us.  

Broken bread and a cup of wine celebrating a new covenant, a new sacrament.  A new remembrance.  A new standard--to be willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.  To define greatness by service and incredible love and to redefine power by the broken pieces.

The veil of the Most Holy Places, torn from top to bottom, as Jesus gave up His spirit. 

"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split  and the tombs broke open." Matthew 27:51-52

The separation of the people from the most intimate place of fellowship with the Father--demolished.  No longer requiring a priest.  The curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Most Holy Place, torn.  The people no longer required to give regular animal sacrifices.  The ultimate sacrifice and the most glorious miracle of brokenness changing the course of history for all of mankind.  

The earth shaking and rocks splitting and tombs breaking open.  The earth groaning in the momentous occasion that moved us from Before Christ to Anno Domini--from before the cross to living in the year of our Lord.  

It's an incredible shift of thinking to see that the miracle is in the breaking and the power is in the broken pieces.   

To even contemplate for a moment that the broken pieces of your heart and life, the very breaking point that is your most painful place may, in fact, hold the greatest power and miracle that God can perform in you and through you.  To claim that power, surrendering your broken pieces to a God whose specialty is putting them all back together for His glory.  To realize that here, in this dark place of shattering, you will find the miracle of being held through your darkest moments.  The faithful presence of a Savior who redeems our broken roads.  Who does not waste a tear.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit who is our great Counselor and comfort and who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  

Or, if your life is feeling rather whole and complete and wonderful...what jars of expensive perfume is God asking you to be willing to shatter for His sake?  To bring you to a place of abundant fulfillment through living out His plans?  What impossible walls keep you from freedom?  What needs to shatter to bring you closer to walking in complete surrender?  

Beautiful mosaics are created from the broken pieces.  Beautiful God honoring lives are, too.  When we choose to believe that the miracle can, indeed, be in the brokeness.  And His power can be in the broken pieces.     

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Big Fat American Prom

I've been hitting some pretty hard topics here lately.  Today, a lighter topic to discuss amongst ourselves.

My Big Fat American Prom could totally be a hit reality show on TLC.  In fact, if the network should start airing such a show--remember who thought of it first.  

Perhaps you've watched an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (Come on, no shame.  It's the train wreck that is hard to look away from...and those Irish accents are intriguing). Lest we pride ourselves on our ability to avoid such over-the-top nonsense in our American culture, we actually have our very own version when it comes to prom these days.

I know this is true, not because I have a child who has or is attending a prom, but because of two conversations on social media within the last month.  Two different friends, who do not know each other, recently lamented what they had been hearing about how prom is going these days.  One friend was dismayed about the cost of prom dresses, according to some recent posts from those trying to resell the dresses that they had originally paid $2,500 to $5,000 to wear.  

Yes, folks.  That is more than all of my prom dresses, college formals AND wedding gown combined. I was the queen of borrowing dresses from friends.  And in the case of my wedding dress, from my sister.

This friend's status about the cost of prom dresses hit a nerve.  Because last time I checked, there were dozens of comments agreeing with her concern about this trend.  One mom made mention of a Mommy Mafia to try to stop the madness.  Other moms said no way, no how.  Not my daughter.  

Okay, so not our daughters.  Apparently, we are all THAT family who bucks the trend.  Yet, someone out there is setting the bar terribly high.  

So high, in fact, that the national average for money spent on prom in 2013 was over $1400.  The projected average cost for 2014 is over $1900.  This includes the dress, tux, flowers, dinner, limo, tickets to prom, etc, etc.  Another friend posted this statistic and asked for feedback.  At last check, over 65 people had commented.  Most of them in shock and awe and not in a good way.

HOW did we get here?  Why we are spending that kind of money for prom, setting a standard that just has to be continually surpassed as our children plan bigger and better things such as their wedding?  Being so extravagant that it becomes a "keeping up with the Joneses" rather than a good time within reason. Sure, some people can afford it without blinking an eye.  But does that mean they should spend that much?  Other people can't.  Yet they do.  In fact, my research today said that single parent homes and families whose annual income is UNDER $50,000 tend to spend MORE on prom than other families. 

Oh, yes.  This is so reminiscent of my blog post last fall, Moms Against Mums.  Consider this post the sequel.  Because it's all about the same thing.  Excess.  Getting so caught up in our First World Problems that we start down a slippery slope and actually become frenzied about such things as the PERFECT dress, the PERFECT hair and nails, the BEST limo, the GREATEST pre-prom dinner.  

Completely oblivious to the fact of how far that money could go toward bigger issues such as world hunger. Or orphan care.  Or human trafficking.  My new acquired world changer mentality is showing, I know.

Listen.  I lived in Lampasas, Texas, in high school.  I paid maybe $100 for each of my prom dresses.  Drove in my date's car.  Or his parents' car.  There was not even a McDonald's in our town at that time.  No pre-prom dinner.  Except the ONE year we drove to Austin--but I know it was not anything over the top.  I don't even think it required reservations. But it was still memorable (well, except I don't remember the restaurant.  Just the good times).

The most fun and unique thing about our high school prom was and still is the actual Promenade. You know, "the stroll or walk, especially in a public place, as for pleasure or display" (Webster's dictionary).  Promenade, folks.  As in PROMenade.  It was FREE.  And one of the most fabulous things about our school prom, in my humble opinion.  

You see, our town had a river running through it.  Prom was at the local VFW.  (Yes, city folks.  NO fancy hotels in Lampasas.  All we had was the VFW and we liked it).  The river was near the VFW.  So, before we entered prom, all of the couples lined up.  Parents and grandparents and siblings and more cameras than the Hollywood paparazzi lined up to take photos.  While we all made the walk by the river, over the bridge, across the other side and back.  

We were our own little high school parade.  And I can remember how important I felt as I walked along, showing off the reasonably priced dress I'd purchased, the hair that my sister did, and the make-up done by non other than myself.  

It was good, cheap fun.

So, not only is my wallet screaming out about the current average cost of prom, but so is my good sense.  Because honestly, money can't buy happiness.  Whether you have the money or not, we must consider the message we are sending to our kids when we go over-the-top with such events.  Yes, these are rites of passage.  But there are plenty of GREAT ways to have an incredible prom experience without breaking the bank.  

Because that child all dressed up who is the belle of the ball will be heading to college soon.  And that costs money. 

How about doing some research on gowns and comparison shopping?  Or [gasp] buying a dress that has only been worn once by someone else?  There are a million ways to score a fabulous dress without breaking the bank.  Check out outlet locations of big stores, such as Off 5th Avenue--the outlet for Saks Fifth Avenue.  

What about doing your own nails?  Or asking your child to pay for those items that they want to splurge on but you don't?  A great work ethic is a good way to build self-esteem and responsibility into our teens.  

Check out Groupons or Living Social deals for meals or limos.  Split the limo with other couples.  Save the limo for only senior year.  In our technology and information age, there are a million resources at our fingertips to help us research how to do prom on a budget.  

Listen, I get it.  Prom is fun and can be such a magical time for our teenagers.  I'm not begrudging that at all.  But I am not a fan of these big fat American proms that skew our children's sense of reality and can feed a sense of entitlement.  

Prom can be just as much fun when done on a budget.  In fact, I think it's more fun when planning and research translates to a greater sense of appreciation for using your money wisely.   

Bigger is not always better.  Unless you're talking about my 80's prom hair or the crowd lining the Promenade in Lampasas, Texas. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What if Heaven is for Real?

A few years ago, I read the book Heaven is For Real about a boy who experienced heaven during a surgery to save his life.  It was intriguing, to say the least.  An insight into the unseen.  The unbelievable.  I read it to our daughter, who was equally intrigued by the tangible evidence this young boy offered.  A movie is being released on April 16, based on the book.  And, I for one, will be going to see it.

Because here is the root question for every human being.  A question about life.  About purpose.  About what we are doing here on planet earth.  About what makes the world go around and what there is to live for.  What if heaven is for real?

It's a game changer.  To consider this question.  Whether or not you claim to believe in Jesus, you still must ask this question.  Because, truth is, you can read the Bible cover to cover, attend church your entire life, and do all the "right, Christian" things...and still not really be living as if heaven is for real.

Because if heaven is for real, it changes everything.  EVERYTHING.

This is what ran through my mind this morning as I read through John 14:1-14.  It made me think of two precious men whose journeys I've watched from afar for several months now.  I don't know these men.  I don't even know their wives.  But, I know their sisters-in-law.  And I've prayed for these families as these two men have been in the fight of their lives.  One, ravaged by a brain disease that took his life this week.  The other, still fighting against cancer, but able to articulate his thoughts and feelings in a way the other man was not able to do.

Let me tell you something.  I've never met him, but this man believes with every ounce of his being that heaven is the most real thing he's ever considered.  He's living out every last second of his life, writing letters of gratitude for the love and support.  Offering encouragement to others.  While he is dying.  HE is encouraging others.  Telling them that heaven IS for real.  And living as if this being true makes all the difference.  Because it allows him to look forward.  To not say good-bye, but rather, see you soon.  To consider, with great anticipation, a homecoming to his forever home and the welcoming arms of His Savior.  With joy.  Rather than a great despair you might expect from a dying man with a baby boy and a young wife.

It blows my mind.  I mean, I believe heaven is for real.  But, it's still more like a fairy tale in my mind that I think will come true than like a tangible place where I ultimately belong.  Where I was made to live.  Where the unseen reality exponentially outweighs the seen and passing struggles of this world.  It's like a mirage I'm reaching out to grasp.  And I want it to be so real to me that like this young man, I can taste the goodness to come.  Because I believe in it with absolute conviction.  

John 14:1-2 says:
Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God.  Trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.

In other words, when your hearts are so troubled, you have a choice to make.  Do I let my heart lead?  Do I drown under the waves, with absolutely no control?  Or do I call out and make a choice to believe God--to trust God--even there, in my trouble?  Do I choose to remember that even the worst threat I could face--the threat of death, be it my own or a loved one's--that even this threat only accomplishes bringing us home when we have chosen to follow Jesus?  

I am not saying we should never be troubled or grieve.  That is impossible.  Being left behind is a lonely and hard and difficult and nearly unbearable place to be.  Rather, what I'm saying is that in those dark pits, we have a choice to make.  Be led by the emotions and taken over by them and dwell always in the darkness.  Or cry out and choose to trust God and believe that heaven is for real so that we can grasp at even the tiniest of hopes.  So that we can ride the waves, wherever they take us, clinging to the hope of heaven. So that we can grieve with hope.  So that we can grieve forward.  

Asking God to help us in our unbelief so that the unseen becomes real.  So that the invisible becomes tangible. So that the grave is not the end.  But something more real, more wonderful, more amazing woos us to take one more step forward.  Struggling and falling and despairing.  Yet choosing to turn our eyes from the here and now to the there and then.

Choosing to believe that someday, we will be home.  Completely.  Like no home we've ever known.  Exactly where we belong.  Fully embraced.  Fully accepted.  Fully loved.

It's a game changer, alright.  No matter your circumstance or season of life.  If heaven is for real, then you will one day meet God face to face.  And it will be beyond any celebrity encounter or greatest thrill this world can offer.  This encounter should not be laced with threat of judgment.  But, with the idea that He is so real and His love is so grand that He wants that meeting to be a warm embrace where we hear the voice of God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  Where we know we are there to stay because we chose to accept, not reject, the gift of Jesus and we chose to believe that He died to pay for all our sins.  And we pursued knowing him during our days on earth.

Where we hear the great cloud of witnesses cheering and yelling in a way that will put the rowdiest of sports fans to shame.  Where we are complete and perfect and every fear, every tear, every pain of earth melts away.  And we are overcome with a deep felt joy like never before.  Because this is what we were made for.  This is where we belong.  And we never have to leave.  And we can face Him, out of breath from running the race of our lives with every ounce of gusto we could muster.  When he offers us crowns of reward for living for him, we merely cast them at His feet.  Because its all for Him.  Every question is answered.  Every confusion disappears.  Every worst struggle and trial melts away into the glory that we experience.  

This is where we belong.  He set eternity in the hearts of all men.  He wants us to be with Him forever, not separated from Him. And if we dare to believe that heaven is for real, then we can use that as the knot at the end of our ropes with which to hang on.  We can mourn and grieve and dare to choose a hope that keeps us moving.  We can embrace being aliens on this earth.  And we can find the motivation to run our race, every day, with the knowledge that a finish line awaits.  With a feast and a love and a welcome we cannot even imagine.  And the celebration will never end.

No matter where you are in your journey, consider this question.  What if heaven is for real?  What if?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Empty Religion Vs. Abundant Grace

There are waves of change blowing through me.  And, from all that can tell, I am not alone.  In fact, I believe that the storm swells are growing and a tidal wave is sweeping over us.  It's a tidal wave that is best described in one word.  Grace.  

From books I have read to sermons I have heard to conversations with friends and my general impression of the world of Christianity, I believe an incredible and mighty work of God is here.  It's growing.  And I couldn't be more thrilled.  Because THIS is what the world around us is so very hungry to experience.  

So many of us who grew up in the church or have long roots within it are seeing an epidemic towards grace rather than legalism.  The exchange of performancism toward one way love (Check out Tullian Tchividjian's book One Way Love for more). The point of callous empty ritual and religion being exchanged for choosing to dive headlong into the ocean of grace, the doctrine of grace, that is really God's heart for us all along.  Yet, like the Pharisees and Sadduccees, it's a concept so hard to fathom that we've exchanged it for an edict of rule following and earning our way and doing whatever we can.  That breeds exclusivity.  Honestly, it doesn't seem very fun or loving or welcoming to the world around us.

Instead, we must embrace that there is actually nothing we can do.  Other than accept the gift of grace and dare to plunge into its depth and be changed by it.  Releasing all control.

So what does this look like?  How do we shift our faith from an empty religion to an abundant grace?  I'm still processing it all as I wrap my head and heart around it.  But, here's what I have, thus far.

Empty religion says follow these rules.
Abundant grace says sit the feet of Jesus.

Empty religion says we must perform and do and achieve.
Abundant grace says you can't ever do enough.  I did it all.

Empty religions says look at our own self-righteousness. 
Abundant graces says be in awe of My gift of righteousness.

Empty religion says follow these traditions.
Abundant grace says stay by my side.  Learn to love and know me.

Empty religion involves fear of failure.
Abundant grace says His perfect love cast out all fear.

Empty religion involves earning approval.
Abundant grace says you never can earn it.  It's just my 1 way love.

Empty religion says follow these rituals.
Abundant grace says learn who I am.

Empty religion says fit this mold.  
Abundant grace says abide in my love.

Empty religion says obey these rules.
Abundant grace says remain in Me.

Empty religion says us and them.  Saved and sinners.
Abundant grace says I am worst of sinners.  Yet saved.

Empty religion says follow our script.
Abundant grace says dig into my Word.

Empty religion seeks to hang onto a slippery, elusive God.
Abundant grace is being held by a personal, loving God.

Empty religion creates cliques and is elitist.
Abundant grace says join us.  There's always room.

Empty religion says our church is better than yours.
Abundant grace says we are all the Church.

Empty religion says church is showcase for pretty smiley people.
Abundant grace says church is a hospital for the broken.

Empty religion points fingers and judges and criticizes.
Abundant grace is humbled by a love that spills over.

Empty religion is restraining, constricting.
Abundant grace is freeing.

Empty religion causes frenzy and work.
Abundant grace brings peace and joy.

Empty religion is full of empty promises, empty ritual, empty tradition, empty attempts to perform and earn, and being emptied as we spin our wheels.

Abundant grace says look at the empty tomb.

Because He knew we would fail, time and again.  Yet He still came.  He still chose to die on a cross.  He still paid ALL of our debts.  He offers complete forgiveness and longs for intimate fellowship.  He wants us to rest in His one way love, accept it, consider it, be filled by it.  Sitting at His feet.  Resting in His Word.  Clinging to His presence.  

Changed by it all. 

Let's all sink.  Let's drown in the ocean of grace.  I believe that Tullian Tchividjian is right.  His inexhaustible grace is the answer for this exhausted world. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why You Should Care About Orphans

It's funny how you can be so close to something for so long that you actually miss the heart of it.  Day in, day out, year after year, you are so close to something that you become desensitized.  Numb to it.  The profound and sacred nature of what you are knee deep in has lost all significance.  

It's shameful.  Hard to admit.  But, I must be honest.  This is me.  And the cause of orphans.  You see, I've worked in adoption for twenty years as a social worker.  I chose this particular field during my junior year at Baylor University.  In 1992.  Yes.  I know.  It was a while ago.  The point is that I deliberately chose, those many years ago, to be part of the miracle of adoption.   But, I must be honest.  Despite my years of experience, countless hours of continuing education annually, and hundreds of cases with which I've played a tiny part--I've missed the boat.  Completely.  

Because my perspective on orphans was greatly shaped by my misconceptions of Jesus.  By my dedication to a religion and tradition more than a dedication to the person of Jesus.  And what He was all about.  Why He actually came to walk on the earth.  The things for which God's heart beats.  

But, the blinders are coming off and the fog is clearing.  

Which leaves me asking myself.  What have I been doing here?  

I'll tell you what.  Being part of a sterile pretty little package of caring for families who long for a child.  So, they endure reams of paper to fill out and to get notarized and the home study which I conduct.  And they wait.  And wait.  And wait. 

And eventually an adorable picture with obscure medical history finds its way into their eager hands and boom!  A family is born.  

Oh, listen.  I'm not totally obtuse.  It's messy.  My job involves after visits.  Seeing and hearing the messy that is these children who grieve the only care givers and life they've known and the adoptive parents who mourn their own losses and want to be the answer to their child's every hurt.  These hurts come to children who have endured traumas and separations that we may never know.  Not to mention the birth families somewhere, if they are still living.  It's the meat of international adoption.  And I'm afraid I've created a rather clinical perspective of it all.

I have to be completely honest.  Over the last few months, I have realized how I have dusted off the ugly of the orphan crisis by picturing orphans as the Americanized version of them.  Sporting their new American flag shirt and living in their beautiful new American families and settling into the American dream.  I hear stories of their life before--yes.  

But, I've allowed myself to remove the sting from it all.  Using the anesthesia of distance and remoteness from my own day-to-day to pretend it's not really that bad.  To stuff my fingers in my ears and sing "la la la" about the nitty gritty dirty truth of the orphan crisis.  

When I began to pray the dangerous prayer of asking God to break my heart for what breaks His, my perspective on orphans began to shift.  Here I am digging, headlong, into the words and life of the Jesus I'm afraid I've never gotten to know because I was too busy playing church.  I'm realizing a truth that cannot be ignored.

As Jen Hatmaker says, turns out God has a lot to say about orphans and the poor and the oppressed and the needy.  In fact, turns out that being in their company and entering into the messy broken lives that they live is the very reason that Jesus left heaven to walk the earth.  Jesus came, not to judge, but to save.  Salvation comes from God alone.  Yes, He wants to save us from our poverty and He came to right every injustice, ultimately.  In fact, the Bible promises some pretty awesome eternal things to those who endured poverty on earth.  And God wants us to crave the unseen eternal salvation of being perfected in His presence more than we crave our own comfortable lives--for those of us who don't live in poverty.  He wants us to be like Him by offering what we have to those we don't know but who need us. He wants us to do this simply because He asked it of us.

He came to show us how to live.  And how He lived was by loving extravagantly and turning the religious on their ear as He called them out for ignoring the lame and the blind and the crippled.  He even scolded his closest companions for not welcoming the gathered children.

So how can we ignore the clear words of James 1:27 that says pure religion is caring for the orphans and the widows?

How can we gloss over the beautiful picture of John 13 where Jesus says that the appointed time had come.  And He was in the process of showing the extent of His love. As He was about to become our life boat from our sinking ship of sin when He offered Himself on the cross.

Showing the full extent of His love started by washing the nasty dirty feet of His disciples.  

The full extend of His love is not shying away from the mess and the filth and the dirty broken lives around us.  But diving headlong to help clean them up.  Removing the dust with the precious sacrifice of drawing near and pouring out our affections and care and concern.

My eyes are being open.  As I'm slowly allowing myself to be exposed to the photos and stories and details of the lives of orphans around the world.  I'm realizing that the very least I can do is face the harsh reality that they have to endure day after day.

The bitter truth is that the orphan crisis is growing and changing.  And from my vantage point, in the field of adoption, I see the injustices of the situation expanding exponentially.  As things like the Hague Treaty (look it up.  Good idea.  Good motive.  Bad results on international adoption) and the horror of some bad adoption cases and the complicated legalities and shifts in poor and developing countries translate to even more problems for orphans.  

Because even the portion of the 127 million orphans worldwide who have waiting and loving adoptive families, these children are still waiting for their answer.  They are stuck.  For many complicated reasons.  (Sidenote:  check out the documentary called Stuck for more information about this epidemic.)

Countries are closing to adoption.  Closing it down. Period.  Children cannot be adopted.  So they sit.  In orphanages.  New legalities are taking place in some countries, leaving children sitting in foster care or orphanages for longer and longer periods before they can be adopted.  Yes, these transitional locations can be loving places.  But the longer these children sit in limbo, the more complicated it becomes for them to adjust and flourish and thrive within the context of a loving family when they are adopted.  

And some countries have even issued edicts due to concern about adoption corruption.  Listen, corruption is never a good thing.  But these knee-jerk edicts imprison children who are already legally adopted by their families.  Already issued visas.  And yet, are basically being held hostage.  Sometimes in orphanages that lack regular meals.  Or medical care.  Or toys.  Or caregivers, as the younger ones are cared for by the elementary age ones.  Meanwhile, their legal parents have no way to bring them home. And up to now, our State Department has done little to storm the issue with its resources and do something about it.

It's an injustice that is beginning to burn within me.  When I look into the eyes of a beautiful boy from a photo.  And I hear his story.  How he lives in a government orphanage.  He's my son's age.  He has the clothes on his back.  Only.  If he's lucky, he has a pillow.  He gets one meal a day.  No cups or utensils.  A new blanket every 3 years.  One non-working bathroom to share with more than 200 other boys.  No one to tuck him in.  No one to tell his stories and his hurts to who is committed to walking him through it all for the rest of his life.   He still finds dreams and a smile and a hope.  But he endures dismal circumstances.

Or the little girl who my heart grew connected to because I know her mother.  She is one of the children who is legally adopted.  Granted a Visa to enter the United States.  But, sitting in an orphanage around the world because her government decided to shut down the last step of releasing the adopted children.  She now sits in an orphanage that lacks adequate food.  Meaning children have gone without.  Losing pounds.  Going to bed hungry.  While their food actually sits miles away and is not brought to them.  Because delivery has not been arranged or paid for.  

These are not some distant mirage.  These are not actors playing a part.  I'm opening myself up to learn more and I'm realizing that I have wasted time.  I'm an adoption social worker and I've contributed little of what I'm capable of to the global orphan crisis.  I've allowed the situation to be numbers and statistics.  Ignoring the fact that at this very moment, this actual child is facing these very real and very difficult circumstances.  

And while international adoptions face bigger and bigger obstacles, more and more children are going to need an answer.  If they cannot be adopted into forever families, they need someone to care enough to enter their dirty difficult world.

And be their voice.

Raise awareness of their plight.  Fight against their injustices.  Be part of the humanitarian aid that will be required in lieu of adoption.  So that they can be fed and educated and clothed and dare to dream of a future that looks brighter and better than their today.  

So what can you do?  I mean--127 million.  That's a ridiculously large number.  What on earth can we do from our pretty little suburban SAHM lives?  

That's what I've asked myself.  Who am I?  I'm no Katie Davis, chunking it all to move to Africa and build incredible schools and adopt 13 girls.  No, I have a husband and children.  And bills to pay. And responsibilities, right here.  Right now.

Here's the answer.  Quietly taking root deep within me.  Growing and blooming with excitement and hope.  

Do whatever you can.  We don't have to reinvent the wheel.  That's where I got stuck for a while.  Until I had the light bulb moment to simply get behind someone I knew who was doing something about it.  And adding whatever I could offer to the cause.  Putting my full weight behind their full weight.  And realizing that changing the life of ONE CHILD is impacting the global orphan crisis.  With ripple effects.  If I can bring one more friend to the table to impact ONE CHILD, then the effect multiplies.  

And so on and so forth.  

So, I'm making it super duper easy on you.  I'll tell you what I'm doing.  I've had this idea living in my head and I've jumped outta my safety zone to go for it.  

If you live in the DFW area, join me April 25 and 26th at Kidztown at Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas, for Swap and Shop.

Swap and Shop is a community clothes swap.  Talk about a win/win/win.  You purge gently used women's or juniors size clothes and accessories from your closet.  Bring them on April 25 from 9am - 3pm.  Pay your $20 registration fee.  Come back on April 26 from 9am - 3 pm.  Shop for as many items as you brought.  

Oh--and you can sign up for monthly sponsorship of an identified child or family.  Or you can buy some items for sale to benefit the cause.  OR--you can buy a rainbow loom bracelet made by some local girls.  For $1.  This bracelet will then be sent to an orphan.  Around the globe.  To remind him or her that they are NOT forgotten.  That someone cares.

Voile.  Shopping.  Bargains.  Orphan care.  

ALL proceeds go to One Together, Inc.  That's the bandwagon I've decided to jump on when it comes to throwing my weight behind the needs of orphans.  First of all, because it was founded by my friend, Cynthia Hoch.  Whom I've known for 20 years.  Secondly, because I trust her integrity and I'm inspired by her work.  She identifies needs within various countries and also identifies other organizations already doing good work.  She then works tirelessy to cry out for the orphans and be their voice and raise the funds needed to help.

Listen, lest you think you must sacrifice greatly to impact orphan care, you really don't.  Here's what I'm learning.  One Together, Inc. and other organizations are able to feed, clothe and educate an orphan for as little as $15-50 a month.  

Y'all.  Listen.  Instead of bemoaning the injustice of waiting in line at Starbucks, how about funneling that money to fight the injustice of orphans living without while we are blessed with so very much?

How about talking to your kids and skipping one meal out a month?  So that a child around the world can eat for an entire month.

The bad news is that millions of actual, crying, starving children around the world are orphans.  The good news is that there are organizations already working on the cause and all we have to do is contribute our little share.  

THIS is how we can be world changers from the comfort of our own rich American lives.

We can open our eyes.  Get educated.  Dare to care.  Then reach into the dirty hard mess of the orphan crisis and wash their feet.  Wash their feet by sending money.  Or shoes.  Or any other need you discover.  By taking on the sponsorship of a child monthly.  BY COMING TO MY SWAP AND SHOP.  Maybe--just maybe--being open to the idea of the rigorous process of international adoption or fostering here stateside.  Or joining a humanitarian aid trip to actually interact and fall in love with these children.  

The Bible says that to whom much is given much is expected. 

If we have food daily, a warm bed, a roof over our heads, cups from which to drink, utensil with which to eat, baths or showers or working toilets, family and friends, and an education...THEN WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH.

Let's live out pure religion.  It's not church attendance or opening your Bible once a week or completing some ritual in church.  It's bending down to the dirty feet of those in need and washing them with our love and our resources.

It's caring for the orphans and the widows.  It's placing ourselves in the vulnerable position of allowing our hearts to be broken for what breaks the heart of God.   

Author's Note: The above photo pictures the feet of a child that Cynthia met while on a recent trip to Ethiopia.