Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Running Barefoot in the Snow

I bit the bullet and got a hot tub as a Christmas present for myself and my girls.

Totally uncharacteristic of my frugal self, but worth every penny.  I am a Florida girl and living in the midwest.  I have circulation issues now where half of my fingers remain white for a while when it's cold out.  I'm always wearing hats and coats - even in the house.  And I've taken a liking to hot tea, simply because of what it does for my inside.

Another reason is that my oldest daughter seems to dislike anything younger than her living in our home at the time (related or non), so she often plans her social get-togethers away from home.  Wii is no longer a draw when you're a teenager (for girls), the trampoline is filled with snow, and we do not have a sixty inch flatscreen in the basement, so I had no other choice but to get what none of her friends have and lure them over to our warm, quiet, outside!

When my middle daughter had a friend over the other day to take a plunge, she looked at her like she was crazy.  "What? You just run out there in your bathing suit barefoot and jump in?"  To which my daughter wisely replied, "Yep!"  They did it, and loved every minute.  It was worth the snowy, frozen feet, and now they will do it over and over.

Since it's the Christmas season, a sermon that I heard recently was about Jesus leaving His home in glory to come to live on earth for a time.  He left heaven!  For us!  I know it's not totally theologically sound, but I think the parallel works:  Jesus, sitting at the right hand of His Father in heaven (hot tub), hears the words, "It's time".  To which He replies; "I really don't want to get out of this warm, cozy water with you and go out there in the freezing, gross, world, but it's not up to me - it's your plan, so, here we go!"  And with that, He jumps out of the hot tub and runs around in the snow - barefoot - for thirty-three years!  And He doesn't just "run around" - He walks - purposefully!  Sure, Satan offers Him boots, coats, and gloves, but He denies them all.  Why?  Because if He took them, He wouldn't be able to bring any of us back with Him into glory (hot tub)!  And He wants us with Him in there!  He knows this world is not His home.  He knows His home is so much warmer and more comfortable and peaceful, where He has all He will ever need.  And, if we get rid of our hats, coats, and gloves, immerse ourselves in the waters of baptism (dying to our old self and finding our real life!) - we can run barefoot in the snow on that path that leads to that amazingly glorious hot tub, too!

Ecclesiastes 3 says that God "has also set eternity in the hearts of men", and in Luke 24:32, some of the disciples said of Jesus, "were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us...".  So, we have this idea of life in a hot tub in us, God placed it there to remind us that what we are living in is not our home.  And as we live a life talking with Jesus, He warms us up, reminding us of this hope, that He is with us and He wants to bring us home with Him, which is why He came here in the first place!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  
Hebrews 12:1-2

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Do You Give Them Back??

For the past three and a half weeks, we have had a thirteen month old boy in our home through Safe Families for Children.  He left yesterday.  I picked him up at 10:30pm in the parking lot of a Greek Restaurant after answering an after-hours emergency text, and brought him into our home.  Honestly, it felt a little sketchy, but it made it more adventurous.  Often times, big things come with risks and sacrifices, and this was one of those big things.

I will not miss

  • the Raffi, Justin Roberts, and Cedarmount Kids CDs we had to listen to in the car in order to get a little peace and quiet
  • the balls thrown all over the house or legos all over my bedroom floor 
  • all of the extra yogurts, cheeses, grapes, bananas, watermelon and juice we had to buy for this very hungry and growing little boy
  • all of the diapers we had to change when we realized whole milk and soy milk did not agree with his system
  • holding with one, and cooking with one hand while hurdling plastic bowls (and large dog) dispersed all over the kitchen floor
  • driving with one hand in order to pass back snacks with the other
  • having to do my schoolwork at the YMCA for a couple hours each day while he played
  • the family dinners that get interrupted by having to take care of a screaming child
  • having to constantly run over to make sure no one was climbing up or going down the stairs

Everyone always asks how we can give these kids back after bonding with them and loving on them, and when I think about the above things that I will not miss that's one of the ways I would reply.

But I would not trade it for...

  • the patience and love that grows in me from these experiences
  • seeing my daughters invest in someone even when they are fussy
  • the extra purpose it gives me while my girls are in school
  • watching my daughters learn how to change a diaper, feed a moving target, bathe, tickle, look out for, soothe, and dress a toddler
  • teaching each of us how to give of ourselves for another
  • my daughters learning to pray for someone they may never see again
  • the smile I see on all of their faces when they see each other after school
  • the lesson my older one is learning on how to avoid having one of her own (if this is all she learns, I'm okay with that)
  • the longing we have for only each other and bonding we have as a family that we would not have been able to experience had we not gone through this experience
  • the rest we have been able to give to a mom in order for her to become a better one
  • the racial boundary walls that are being knocked down in our home because of these relationships
  • the ease and joy I have in parenting my own children afterwards

So, I think it’s one of those decisions, like most, where we just have to weigh the positives and the negatives.  When we do that, there’s no question that the work is worth the result.  And as we enjoy this family re-charge season, we will soon long to be messed up again, because "struggle is the chief architect of character" (A. Lubrano).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Great Adventure!

My very good friend asked me to partner with her and take part in CityChase Chicago yesterday.  It's kind of like Amazing Race with Fear Factor for one day in the city.  I was all over it!

As soon as it started, we had to get six out of eight scavenger hunt items in order to even get our list of challenges for the day.  As they read the list to us, one of them was grass stain, so I immediately hit the ground and rubbed my shirt in it.  The remaining five we had within ten minutes and we were off...

Letting my wise partner use her brain and smartphone, I just followed her lead and made sure no one was mugging her or she wasn't running into traffic while she told me where to go.  After two buses, we got to our first challenge which ended up being wheelchair softball.  After being nailed in the gut twice by my partner's rocket swing (who I could not be mad at since she got us there in the first place), we had to sit in an ice bath for one second per number of balls our partner did not clear over us.  We didn't even think twice - I ran over between two cars, threw on my bathing suit (covering the essentials), jumped in, jumped out, changed, and got on the next bus.

We ran into a bar before 11am, where there was trivia going on and since we both stink at that, ran right out to find our next challenge.  Armchair course - cool.  Done.  Next, crawl through a twenty foot tube full of crickets, dirt, and maggots while retrieving twelve cents.  Go, get gross, don't breathe, wipe off with wet bathing suit from ice bath and move on.  My partner was a little gun-shy going into this one, hearing from another racer what we were up for, but she sucked it up and performed quickly without hesitation!  You go, girl!

Some more of the challenges we were able to participate in were warrior tug-of-war, burrito making relay race, jewelry making while posing with waitress and posting to social media - to thoroughly embarrass yourself - as if that really mattered at this point?  And, singing karaoke at the top of our lungs with strangers in a car.  We ended over by The United Center, wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what our clue meant - knowing all the while that this wasn't the best place to just stroll while looking lost.  We made it to the pool to find specific hockey pucks at the bottom - enjoyed the chlorine to cleanse us of maggot dirt, got on the el, and made it to the finish line!!

We were awarded with two free Coors Lights, which neither of us drink, so we paid for our food and iced tea and just enjoyed not having to be on our feet for two hours.  And, the peace of being finished.

Why?  Why did we not at all care what goobers we looked like?  Or how disgusting we got?  Or the neighborhoods we wandered around in?  Or the pain we felt at times?

The prize?  Nope.
The lovely surroundings on the el and the streets of Chicago?  Nope
Looking cool in front of strangers?  Hardly.

We did it because we wanted to finish a Great Adventure.

That's how God wants us to look at life!
He doesn't want us to care what neighborhoods we have to go in.  He doesn't want us to care if we have to get a little dirty, feel a little pain, get a little tired, or embarrass ourselves.  He has a wild journey for us.  His prize is WAY better than ours was; but He also wants us to experience this wild ride NOW. And, He even gives us way cool people to experience this with!

A classic song by Steven Curtis Chapman sums it up perfectly:

"Saddle up your horses - we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's Amazing Grace
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other - This is The Great Adventure!!

Come on, get ready for the ride of your life
Gonna leave long faced religion in a cloud of dust behind
And discover all the new horizons 
just waiting to be explored
This is what we were created for!"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Walking A Big Dog

One of my favorite things to see while walking my dog, who is now bigger than I am, is some big, beefy guy walking a poodle-type of 'dog' (I guess technically they are called that).  It is usually on the other side of the street because they think my dog will eat their dog.  When, in actuality, my dog is just scared of theirs because he knows they are about to bark - and it just might hurt his precious ears!  As we walk by, a grin appears in my heart because I can feel the insecurity increasing all the way across the pavement.  (Yes, I realize guys who walk little dogs are probably like guys who wear pink - very secure in their masculinity.  But go with me here - those guys don't count for this analogy).  I guess it just gives me peace to know that even though I am small, my dog is way cool and massive - so that makes me way cool and massive, too! And, if you think you are a big stud, but walk a puny dog, it kinda knocks you down a notch.

Remember the first time you spoke in public?  If you were nervous, the teacher told you to picture everyone in their underwear.  That way, you'd be laughing at everyone instead of fearing them.  Knowing you were fully clothed, and nothing you said from here on out would be more worthy of laughter than what they looked like underneath their fashionable (or not) attire.

"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  1 John 4:4 ESV

When we start to feel the least bit small or don't think you have what it takes.  When others are flaunting their stuff around you and it's starting to get to you just a little bit.  When your situation doesn't seem to measure up to someone else's;  just picture this.  You are walking a VERY big dog if you are in Christ.  God wants you to have such joy in Him that your heart grins as the deep peace that He bought for you seeps through your soul and anything coming from the world just looks like a little purse dog in comparison!  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Today I Drank From a Public Pool

And, the kiddie one, at that!

Reminded me of the time when I was a freshman in college and I was the caboose in the skit where everyone goes in to the bathroom individually, brushing their teeth and rinsing in the same cup, then I get to come running in completely dehydrated and drink it all down.  Did wonders for my reputation - I didn't care, I was a freshman.  And, neither did I care when I was reprimanded by my seven-year-old for drinking the pool water.
I bet you would have done it, too.
We took our latest little toddler, who had never seen a pool (per her hysteric response), to go have some good, clean, summer fun.  She was scared to death - clinging to me - didn't even want to put a toe in the stuff for over an hour.  Until she saw a ball.  It took her about ten minutes, but she got into an inch deep of the pool!  She touched it. She put it in her mouth.  Her eyes smiled (she would deny it, but it was there).  Then, for the next thirty minutes, she continued to put her hands in the water and put them in her mouth - she couldn't get enough.  She put them in my mouth, too - what was I gonna do?  Say no?  No way!  I drank, I copied - she thought it was hilarious.  She then proceeded to "wash" herself.  Everywhere - inside her suit, arms, hair, face - my hair, arms, face.  Normally, I can't stand it when my kids touch my face, but at this point, I loved every minute.  She was discovering something new - something that she was so scared of, she realized was actually a blast!  And getting to play a little part in that discovery was amazing.  My face was smile-cramped.

Verses that were running through my head (yep, that's how I think):

"What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean."  Mt. 15:11
Re:  Imbibing kiddie pool water.

"Then, Lord, Simon Peter replied, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"  John 13:9
Re:  The overwhelming washing in discovery of water.

"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."  1 Cor 9:22
Re:  Becoming undignified for the sake of others' joy!

But here's what I found when I got home that was way better:

"Never again will they hunger; 

never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs of living water.  
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Revelation 7:16-17

That's what I witnessed.  This little girl has been homeless for just about her entire twenty two months of life.  I'm sure there's been a few tears.  As she displayed the overwhelming joy in experiencing kiddie pool water for the first time, that was just a glimpse, a sliver, of what our experience with the living water will be.

The footnotes in my Life Application Study Bible say it perfectly:
"Salvation cannot be earned, but God gives it freely.  We live in a world desperately thirsty for living water and many are dying of thirst.  But it's still not too late.  Let us invite everyone to come and drink!"
God so wants us to get rid of our fears and come and drink - freely, richly, abundantly!  
And, one day, maybe, just maybe, we will be reunited to drink living water and remember the time when we drank from the kiddie pool.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted...

Go ahead, sing along.  I'm finding this our mantra and I like it!

When we dropped off our last placement at Lydia Home a week and a half ago, they were ready to pop another one in my car for the ride home like a swinging door.  I told them no - It was recharge time for me and my family - had to get Dr.'s appointments done, go on some bike rides, etc...  Well, that lasted about two days and we were done.  Grouchiness started to surface.  Bickering.  Indulgence.
Got me into a book by Gerald May called Addiction and Grace.  WOW.  I was reading it partly for my own issues and partly for educating myself for the sake of others.  After becoming involved with all these moms who lose their kids from addiction issues, the fire inside me was being stoked, and I figured out where I wanted to focus my upcoming degree.  But, of course, I learned more about myself and what is at the root of my own issues.

Here are some cool things I learned about addiction from this amazing book:

It seems to me that free will is given to us for a purpose:  so that we may choose freely, without coercion or manipulation, to love God in return, and to love one another in a similarly perfect way.

"Nothing", God says, "must be more important to you than I am."

It is addiction that keeps our love for God and neighbor incomplete.

God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.

Addiction can be, and often is, the thing that brings us to our knees.

We can choose whether to relax our hands a little or to keep clenching them ever more tightly... this simple choice may be the greatest kind of struggle any human being can face...

Then we will realize that we are our own worst enemies; we cannot beat ourselves.  At that point, when we have exhausted all the available false repositories for our hope, it is possible that we will turn to God with a true sense of who we are, with an integrity that is both humble and confident, with a dignity that knows itself because it has met its limits.

In a nutshell - choosing to let go of the thing that is drawing us away from God, and choosing, instead to cling to the One who made us in the first place, allows us to know love and to love others!  I would like to propose the opposite is also true.

I was given a time of unexpected free time yesterday.  Camps and playdates all of a sudden coincided.  I was going to read or listen to music, but God told me He just wanted me to sit with Him.  So, I did.  I confessed and then told Him that I loved Him.  I liked how that felt (probably because I was doing what He wanted), so I did it a few more times; "I love you, God."
Two minutes later a text came through with an opportunity to keep a one year old girl for two to three weeks because her mom was homeless, jobless, and needed to find a stable place to be.  I had no reservations.  This was God responding.  Saying, "I love you, too".  I called and she is now in our home.  And we are much happier now.  You see, when we "spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then our lights will rise in the darkness" (Isaiah 58:10).  The light in our hearts turned on.  That's how we were made.  We are addicted to love.  We needed more and more - to give it and to get it.  And in that, there is no room for other addictions, because when our hands are open to God,  and He fills us completely, why grasp for anything else?

Friday, May 17, 2013

When My Kids Are in School All Day...

I remember when I used this saying to precede something I was dreaming about doing when the days belonged completely to me.  Did you?

When my girls were young and home all day, I used to day dream about training for an ironman when the youngest got into first grade (since Kindergarten is even shorter than pre-school).  I dreamed about dropping them off at school on a 70 degree day very much like today, and getting on my bike all day to ride.  I would be bringing lots of gels and bars and special drinks that cost a lot so I would have enough energy to then get home and put on my running shoes and go run for an hour or so, then I would shower or sit in an ice bath until they came home...  ahhh, the life!

What was I thinking?

I have zero interest in that now that my youngest is actually in first grade. (Don't mind the torn ligaments, inflamed fascia, herniated discs... I guess that helped)
Yes, my life circumstances have changed. But, so have I, thankfully.

Lesson #1 - "A lost reputation is the best degree for Christ's service."  - C.T. Studd
To me, that said - get over yourself; who cares how many miles you rode your bike today?  I created you to work for ME; to make a difference for ME - you can't do it sitting in an ice bath. - God

Now, I find myself planting flowers and mulching (I'm done now, it only happens once a year).  I actually stopped working out at the gym on January 1st  (world record?).  I am enjoying hanging out with a toddler who is not even my own during the days!  And, I bought a new sofa out of nowhere just so I could be more comfortable when my kids ask me to hang out, vegetate, and cuddle while watching "Good Luck, Charlie" (yes, I like it - the show, and the sofa).
Oh yeah, and, instead of becoming a body builder, I want to be a social worker, which I realize will barely pay for the degree itself but I don't care.  And, according to Studd's quote - a lost reputation is better, but if you're going into Social Work - you don't really care about your reputation, so there.


It's all explained in Erwin McManus' book, Uprising - A Revolution of the Soul.  I guess my soul is being revolutionized.  Doesn't that sound cool?  I'm only sharing this because it's not just for me - I'm being paid to sell the book (kidding).  Here's a clip:

"You were created to be free.  
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you're also called to be free.  Yet to experience this freedom there must first be an uprising - a revolution of the soul.  This is exactly what Jesus Christ calls you to.  Your liberation will require you to see beyond the illusion of freedom - free acts that lead to bondage. 
Our freedom must never be about us and us alone.  
Freedom is the gift of serving others out of love.  
This is the freedom that only God can give, where we once again become like Him.  
It is here and only here that freedom exists without boundaries.  You are free to love without limit, to forgive, to be merciful, to be generous, to be compassionate, to risk, to sacrifice, to enjoy, and to live."

Do you see the line that sums up the uprising??  I'll write it again:
"Our freedom must never be about us and us alone, freedom is the gift of serving others out of love."

Lesson #2:  God's plan for your life will always involve other people. (Not my words, but it's been quoted so many times, I have no idea who said it first - sorry)

Translation/message to selfish me, from my Creator:  You think you are free because you can go ride your bike as long as you want to, BUT (big BUT), you will not be free until your world is bigger than your tiny self!  You will not realize this until you can actually serve others out of love, OVER yourself.  Because then - and only then - you are free from yourself!  And, when you do this, hold on tight, because the adventure is just beginning - you will wake up pumped up about what the day will bring - you will have "life to the full" (John 10:10), because that is what I created you for!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"The Bomb"

Shhh - don't tell anyone, it'll jinx it, but we are officially having fun with this! 

Our new little twenty month old African American girl is "the bomb" - even the dog thinks so (high-chair hovering...).  While I am able to credit my "circumcised heart" a bit (see last post), I prayed that God would place the perfect fit for us and He really answered (yes - I will do this EVERY time now, and I know He will answer, whether it seems like He forgot or not):

  • Sleeps 12-13 hrs/night - uninterrupted
  • Naps 2.5 hrs/day - even in the laundry room - while doing laundry
  • Eats anything but bread and strawberries
  • Walks sturdily, even into walls, and doesn't care
  • Copies words (this is usually good)
  • Not afraid of the 115 lb dog (this is massively cool)
  • Her hair dries in a minute (this was very educational for us)
  • Lies/sits down nicely for diaper changes and shoe placement
  • Says "please" and "thank you" when reminded
  • Makes us laugh
  • Entertains herself with bubbles - unopened (yep, just the jar)!

I realize most of these are the product of her upbringing, which is drastically different from mine.  But it works for our benefit right now, so we're okay with that.  (Kinda makes me wish I vacuumed in the bedroom during nap time).

Word is, she may be part of our family for a couple of months - and we're actually okay with this.  We're even looking forward to this.  The girls (2/3) come running home from school to play with her.  The money that's being spent on anything for her is definitely being saved (and then some) on no extra entertainment needs!  I think this is called a win-win.  

So, I am also thinking that this is proof that as God changes our hearts - we have fun doing what He asks us to do!  "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4) doesn't actually mean that if I delight in Him, He gives me a red Hummer - it really means that as I delight in Him, my desires align with His desires for me!  (Which probably means I wouldn't even want the red Hummer - not there, yet)

To quote one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker:

"Maybe it's my tattoo talking, but this (1 Cor. 9:21-22) is my favorite missional mandate.  Because the perception of Christians as self-righteous segregationists is so prevailing, it is such a pleasure to represent a new expression of faith.  For me this is not hard, this is not work, this is not a sacrifice, this is not uncomfortable.  A missional approach to a disoriented world has made discipleship fun again."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I am not married and I have no sons, so this is not a visual for me, and I'm sorry if you are distracted by that in your own head.  Go ahead and get it out because I'm talking about circumcision of the heart.

As I dropped my girls off at school the other day, one of the teachers looked in the car and said:  "No baby today?"  I told her that the previous ones were back with mom and there would probably be another one soon.  To which she replied "you must really like doing that".
That struck me.  Notsomuch.

Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm not a baby person.
When people come over with their babies, or we bring a meal to someone or visit someone who had a baby, I am not the type to ask to hold it.  I'm really just glad it's not mine and I get to leave soon.
I don't volunteer too much in the kids ministry at church because that's really not one of my favorite things to do.  I figure I've got enough time with kids in my own home, that's plenty.  I'll hang with and serve the adults.  (However, when I do serve with the kids, I always enjoy it - hate when God does that.)

Back to the statement that was made:  I'm not doing this because I really like it;
I'm doing it because I like what it is doing to me.  

Each child we have through Safe Families, God uses to circumcise my heart.
He promises that He will do that to us in Deuteronomy 30:6:
"God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, REALLY LIVE!"
(Message translation)

In bible study last week as we heard Beth Moore, she was talking about how she'd never pray to be broken or ask to be broken, but when she is broken, it ends up being a really good thing.
She's right.  When we are broken, we can be used by God.  I think broken and circumcision mean the same thing.  They are both painful at the time because they are cutting away/breaking off, the things that we hold onto (whether we know it or not) that are actually weighing us down from living the life God planned for us to live!

Jesus was broken bread and poured out wine for us.  And as we are broken, in our case, in spirit - when I'm down to no strength of my own, that's when God uses me for the sake of others.  And, I can actually REALLY love these children!  I think with each child that comes in our home, a piece of my flesh is removed.  The Spirit grows where the flesh comes off and I become less selfish.  A cool visual I just read about is that the bread with a hard crust can't soak up the wine, but when it is broken into pieces, it can.  I am seeing this happen with my time that I use to want all to myself; I am WANTING to spend it on others, the blood of Christ is soaking in.  It's not law anymore.  It's desire!

"In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with a circumcision done by Christ..."
Col. 2:11

So far, each little child that enters our home seems to be a flint knife.  And I don't think it makes me a masochist to say that I love it because the hurt is making something I never dreamed of - a desire to really follow hard after the God who is wooing me to Himself, and has been for my entire life though I didn't always know it.

Just this morning, as I was consoling my own hurting child, I told her I loved her, and instead of responding with, I love you, too, she said, "I know".   That's what I want.  That's what I'd rather hear.  Because it's when she knows she is loved, that she can go out with confidence in who she is.  And that's what God wants from us - He wants us to know how much He loves us.  The more we allow the work of His flint knife to carve away the other stuff, the more clearly we can hear Him - and live in that love!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Power of a Hug

We currently have two new little bodies in our home to love on, and I am quickly learning, or should I say, re-learning, the power of a hug.  One of the girls is five.  She misses her mom.  When I told her that I should probably be hugging her more and invited her into my arms, she grasped me with all her might, we stayed close, and everything shifted.  For both of us.  Her spirit was re-juvinated, and a greater sense of love for her entered into my heart.  I was able to get past anything that had been bothering me from her and just love her.  Now,  we promised to start  and end every day with a hug - not to mention whenever needed in-between.

When my middle daughter came downstairs all bummed out about something a month or so ago, I asked her if I could have a hug.  I ended up being transformed as much as she did.  We sunk into each other as my chin rested on top of her head I told her that she was the best one to hug right now because I could stay in that position forever.  We needed that, and since then, we regularly do it when it looks like the other might just need it.

A good hug will melt our hearts and take us into another place.  A very good place.  God knew this all along and wants us to see the tenderness, power, and example from His hugs, too.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart..."  
Isaiah 40:11

"And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them."
Mark 10:16

God wants us to be His arms of love.  But He showed us first.
He told us how He cared for us like gathering lambs (us) in His arms and carrying them close to His heart.  And when He became a man, He was finally able to show us what that looked like.

My mom always said she would quit teaching if she weren't allowed to hug her kids.  I get it now.  It can change a mood in a flash.  It fills the tank - of the recipient and the giver, then they both just become the same.

In her book, Hug Therapy, Kathleen Keating showed us this, too.
A hug is "the power to give (and receive at the very same time!)"

I think that's why Jesus died with His arms wide open, awaiting our embrace.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How To Morph

I didn't learn at all what I thought I would on our missions trip to Costa Rica over Spring Break.

What I did learn happened to be right in line with what God had been teaching me before I even went.  Weird how He always does that.

When asked why his church hadn't grown in leaps and bounds since it'd been around so long, one of the local pastors said something along the lines of - people don't want it bad enough.  His church demands a lot.  They want to make disciples.  They will love and take in whoever comes, but unless you really want to be a disciple, and want to do what it takes to become one, you probably won't want to stick around very long.

Here's why:  "You will never experience holy transformation until you are involved in regular, loving accountability relationships centered on God's Word."  - Chip Ingram

"Butterflies change in a cocoon.  Christians change in a community.  Both experience shelter.  Both experience struggle.  This is one of the most difficult concepts for American Christians to accept and integrate into their lifestyle.  In other parts of the world, people have a communal concept of life.  Generations stay close or even live with one another.  Not so with mainstream Americans.  We've got that John Wayne mentality: "I can do it myself".  The average American Christian brings that same mentality into his or her relationship with Christ.  He or she things, "It's me, God, my Bible, and prayer.  If I hang around other people, and we encourage each other - that's nice but not necessary."  For American Christians, community is optional.  That's not what the Bible teaches."
- Chip Ingram

I witnessed this in Costa Rica.
Families living practically right on top of each other.
Sharing life.
Cooking from 5am till 7pm - TOGETHER.
Parenting each other's kids.
Staying at church for longer than an hour - GLADLY!
Worshipping without inhibition.
Confessing (with others being able to see).
They knew they needed each other and they received strength from each other!  So should we.

In this book, "The Miracle of Life Change", Chip Ingram devours Ephesians 4.   The verse that supports the idea of community being our cocoon is verse 2:

"Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love"

Each of these attributes is displayed and grown in community.  We can't be patient or gentle or humble alone.

I also heard a message from Beth Moore with these two quotes three days before we left:

"When we quit engaging in the joy in the body of Christ, our problems become insurmountable."

See it again?  The people of Purral, CR live in a nasty neighborhood - they'll admit it.  But, because they are regularly engaging in the joy in the body of Christ - they have hope for their community!  They have a plan and they have the support of their family of believers to go about that plan.

"When we detach ourselves from the problems that the rest of the world is having, we become ineffective."

This one keeps us from the idea that we are to only keep in our Christian community.  These brothers
and sisters in Christ have immersed themselves in the problems that the rest of the world is having - together!  And, from what's happening in the neighborhood so far, they are highly effective.

I think Costa Rica was my Dot To Dot page.

We spent time hearing the goals and feeling the love and family-type atmosphere of fourteen churches with a passion to win Purral, CR (near San Jose) for Jesus.  Often times I couldn't tell who the pastor's family was, there were so many people involved closely with him they all just blended.  We felt the love of the people in another nearby church who performed a thirty minute display of song, dance, and drama for our enjoyment - then gave us homemade tamales as we left!  Another made a spread of authentic Costa Rican food (fried plantains are amazing, by the way), and gathered their church family together just to meet us!  They wanted us to join with them in community!  The playground we put in was for the purpose of drawing kids in the community to come play and then, hopefully, keep going up the driveway right on into church.  They were inviting others to share in life with them!  And, to morph.

"The God of the Bible is the God who lives in relationships and who brings about holy transformation as we also live in relationship." - Ingram

Let's take a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Costa Rica and practice bearing with one another, supporting each other, and sharing life!   I'll even make you fried plantains (perfected or not).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End/The Beginning

If I drank, I'd be downing a Pale Ale right now.  Since I don't, I am just telling God how incredibly cool He is!  I think my writing will make a little more sense with this choice, too.

When Jesus was in the boat with His disciples, the water wasn't calm, quiet and peaceful.  When you decide to welcome a little child into your home in Jesus' name, the home is not calm, quiet and peaceful.  BUT - it is filled with His presence, and that is very, very good.

For the past three and a half weeks, our family decided to care for a two and a half week old baby.  I'm not looking for glory - more like "crazy",  I know.  We did this to give her mom a chance to "come to",  to get her priorities straight.  To think of someone else before herself.

She was a great baby.  (God knew this would be necessary).  She taught my youngest how to love the neglected.  Now, she wants to be the teacher at school who helps the kids who "don't really understand all their schoolwork".  She taught my middle daughter what it means to have a heart for the poor.  And she grew one.  And she taught me that as long as I pray the songs "I'm Worn" and "Revive Me", I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength!!  (Phil 4:13)

But, her mom taught me what grace looks like.

I was a little mad at her.  How could she do this to this beautiful little baby?  Her own baby?  But as I was driving downtown yesterday for the two of them to meet for the first time since the hospital, God overwhelmed me with love for her.  He made it very clear to me that Jesus took my sin on Himself so I could have His righteousness.  Who am I to judge?  I am just as dirty as she is.  All I am supposed to do is love her with Jesus' love.  So I did.

I prayed like crazy that God would grab her heart with the eyes of her baby and draw her in - give her a vision of what could be...  So, when she decided, right after our meeting, to check herself into a treatment center I couldn't take any of the credit.  But that's okay, I really don't want it.  She had been in the foster care system since she was thirteen and she realized that she wanted to be the mom she didn't have.  

The call came to bring our little houseguest to go and be with her mom this morning.  We celebrated for her - we're going out for ice cream after school for her!  She is with her mom, and we will trust that God is big enough to transform their lives, together!

God is good.  He redeems things - makes them new.  He changed our home.  He changed a new mom's heart.  All because of Matthew 18:5.

And now, I sleep.