Porcupine Suit

Have you have a few hours, days, weeks, etc when you would like to rent a porcupine suit? These are the times when you feel particularly bristly & not very friendly. As a follower of Jesus, it seems to me that I shouldn’t be like this. But alas, I can be cranky & cantankerous. In these times, I’d like to rent a porcupine suit & I should probably hibernate from social interaction so I don’t stab anyone with my bristly demeanor.

In these times, I need to let the Holy Spirit soothe the needles & console the grumpy. I may have some very good reasons to be cranky, but I must never resist help from the Holy Spirit to be better than my feelings, full stop.

Bad News


Nobody likes bad news, including me. I don’t want to hear things that disrupt my bliss & when I’m super honest, I don’t want to face stuff that’s uncomfortable or disturbing. It’s ok to watch an occasional YouTube video that’s not good or to see a FB post that’s distressing, but I get to choose when, how & in what quantities I see / hear stuff that I don’t like. Just because I choose to ignore something bad doesn’t mean it’s not there – indeed I think bad stuff gets all the worse when we pretend it’s not there. 
Sometimes, however, we need a wake up call – the proverbial 2X4 to the head. Yesterday I had one of these experiences here in Cambodia w Saving Moses. I saw something that wasn’t merely deflating but it was borderline demoralizing. As I woke up this morning, I still had a pit in my stomach from what I experienced yesterday & maybe that’s good. I think it’s good, from time to time, to have a wake up call about our lives. Otherwise, it can be too easy to live in distractions or denials about what’s happening not only around us but also what’s happening inside us. Sometimes it takes some bad news to shake us up, stir us to action & compel us to compassion. Let bad news be a catalyst!

hot topic: help my unbelief

I love this quote from a dad who was asking Jesus to heal his son.  Jesus says to the dad that all things are possible to him who believes.  The dad’s reply sounds like something I’d say, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

For me, believing is often easier said than done.  I can talk all day about believing God, trusting in God, having faith, etc, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes I struggle with the believing thing.  Of course I want to believe, so the desire is solid.  But the actual believing is often where I fall short.  When I think about why I struggle with believing, it’s mostly because of either past experiences or my brain goes into skeptical mode.  So I deeply appreciate this dad’s honest words with Jesus, “Help my unbelief”.  Like me, he’s saying that he wants to believe, but it’s a hurdle and he needs help to overcome this hurdle.

Here are some pointers for overcoming unbelief:

  • be truthful:  hiding or cloaking unbelief is counterproductive, but bringing our weaknesses to Jesus is where strength starts
  • ask for Help!  Since the Holy Spirit is our Helper, seems like a good idea to give the Helper access to the places of unbelief with which we struggle.
  • Jude 20 says that we build up our faith when we pray in the Spirit #selah
  • let’s remember that faith works by love, so the absence of love could be the catalyst for our unbelief #selah

Let’s decide that there is no unbelief in our lives that cannot be transformed into a place of strong faith!

A Murky Middle

Middle: Jacob, Isaac’s son, was in quite a difficult situation for 20years. In these years, he worked for a deceptive employer who also became his father inlaw when Jacob married Leah & then Rachel. The remaining 6years that Jacob stayed w Laban, he took care of Laban’s flocks & over the course of the 20year employment relation, Laban changed his wages 20times. 
Beginning: These 20 years were on the heels of a family conflict about Jacob running away from home, having stolen his brother’s blessing & birthright. 

Ending: Once Jacob left Laban, he had to confront his brother who was threatening to kill him 20years earlier when Jacob ran away from home.  

I totally understand that Jacob had made poor decisions & lived with the consequences.  Nevertheless, there were 20years when Jacob lived in a messy & likely stressful situation. 

So what should we do in murky, messy & stressful situations? Here are some helpful ideas (feel free to share this with some friends that could find it helpful):

  • Keep your integrity no matter what happens around you – Jacob certainly had more than his share of shifty, but with Laban, he kept things pretty truthful to the best we know
  • The middle is exactly that: not the beginning & it will end – seasons can be constructive even though challenging
  • Keep you eyes on Jesus – Jacob acknowledged that if God hadn’t been with him during his Laban years, things could’ve been much worse!
  • Work hard – sometimes it tempting to get complacent or discouraged in difficult times, which can be draining & tiresome. Keep working & trust God to being something magnificent out of the murky 🙂

Don’t forget to order Heavenly Help – super great resource to help us in the middle ,)

Keeping Perspective

Sometimes we get in situations & seasons that are not pleasant. Such challenges can include a bad report from a medical test, job changes, not being accepted at a university, waiting in a long & interminable line, etc. in these occasions, it helps me to do a few of these things & maybe these could help you as well:

  • Look for the good things happening around you
  • Chose to be friendly & grateful – being cranky is draining
  • Think about your favorite Bible story & imagine you’re in that story as one of the characters you like
  • Pray – asking for divine Help is always a premium upgrade 🙂

Handling a Crisis

A crisis is a really big challenge that can seem impossible & a crisis can be different for each of us. A crisis can be a medical emergency, a job loss, a severed relationship & lots of other things. There are also lots of biblical examples of people who underwent crisis, with varying outcomes, some were amazing & some were abysmal. Here are a few thoughts about handling crisis:

  • Moses at the Red Sea: keep your confidence in God & not what’s happening around you
  • Joshua at the Jordan: be obedient & trust God for the outcomes
  • Peter after denying Jesus: don’t let failures keep you away from Jesus 
  • Saul on the road to Damascus: sometimes a crisis is nothing more than a course correction 

Happy Wednesday to you!

Backwards

 We had a trampoline when I was growing up & I really loved learning tricks to do on the tramp. The only exception was when I tried to learn a back flip & wound up unconscious on the ground. As a result, to this day I have this innate opposition to anything backwards (back flips on diving boards, backstroke, reverse driving, etc). But here’s an interesting thing that I’m pondering: I wonder if my reliance on the Holy Spirit isn’t stronger when I do things that don’t seem as easy or natural to me. It seems like when I find things to be easy, I tend to rely less on the Holy Spirit than when things are difficult. While this initially feels awkward & uncomfortable, I wonder if there’s not huge spiritual benefits to doing some things in a less easy or natural progression. Maybe the Holy Spirit leads us in ways, on occasion, that don’t seem as natural, convenient or easy as we’d like. 

I still don’t do backflips ,)

Hot Spots & Looking for Jesus

When you microwave something, have you noticed that there are often hot spots on whatever you nuked? So to mitigate the hot spots after nuking, we stir up whatever was in the microwave to spread out the heat to the rest of the stuff. Like the microwave, life has hot spots. We can go through challenging times in our finances, marriage, job, school, relationships, etc: hot spots.
So rather than stirring all of that heat into the other areas of our lives, let’s settle in & look for Jesus in such hot spots, receiving His peace, stability & security. Jesus mitigates hot spots ,)
#lookforJesus

IMG_0340.JPG

The Self-Help Myth

In the Bible, I always enjoy reading about Peter, Jesus’ disciple, because he always seems to have an answer for everything. Some of his answers are good but some of them are beyond stupid. Nevertheless, he seems to always have some kind of answer, reply or solution, except when Jesus looked at him after he had denied Jesus three times. At that point, he was speechless & left the situation weeping bitterly.
While I’m a firm believer in helping each other, giving each other wise counsel, improving ourselves, growing, getting better, etc there are definitely situations, challenges, struggles & hardships that are far beyond the human abilities.
Consider:
*some needs are only met with divine provision
*some questions only have divine answers
*some problems only have divine solutions

God Makes a Way

Sometimes I get frustrated with God, not so much because I’m not getting my way (that was a problem when I was younger), but moreso because of some struggles I have with God about faith & trust.  As followers of Jesus, we know that we’re supposed to trust God & keep the faith, but sometimes this gets tricky.  It’s in those “sometimes” that I can get frustrated and even mad with God because it can get really difficult and seemingly impossible.  Maybe you’ve had some similar challenges in your walk with God pertaining to a health or relationship situation.  Maybe you’ve struggled with God about some decisions or the direction you’re supposed to go with your career, education or family consideration.

The Bible is full of people who have been in some of the exact same situations with which we may be struggling.  So here are some thoughts that can be helpful:

  • timing:  sometimes God does last minute work that can be really unnerving – consider when Abraham was about to sacrifice Issac in Gen 22
  • bits and pieces:  I often find that even though God knows the beginning & the end of stuff, we frequently find ourselves in the “need to know” zone, a little bit at a time and not the giant picture – consider Moses and the incremental nature of how God used him to liberate the Israelites from slavery in Egypt
  • honesty with commitment is important for intimacy:  you can be honest with God about your frustrations without putting your entire relationship with God at risk – consider Job
  • endurance & persistance:  the Apostle Paul comes to mind when I think about a biblical example of what endurance looks like, even finishing an extremely well run race with getting his head chopped off
  • community:  the Bible is full of examples of people encouraging each other in staying obedient to & passionate for God – consider when Jonathon encouraged David about being the king of Israel in 1 Sam

God makes a way when there seems to be no way so be sure to share this with a friend to spread some encouragement! 🙂

earthy

Living in America has the very subtle & sneaky attempt to be blinded by glitz, glam, image, shiny, trendy and veneer.  Whether we realize it or not, our culture bombards us with airbrushed faces, glimmery white teeth, body images that are almost physically impossible and lots more.  If we aren’t careful, we can be seduced by image and forget that substance, character and integrity are very important.

With this in mind, I find it very interesting that the person who heralded Jesus’ arrival was the antithesis of image conscious – John the Baptist was very earthy and for that matter, so is Jesus.  The Son of God, robed in splendor, glory and the ultimate glitz put on our skin, lived among us and was often mistaken for a mere man.  May the Holy Spirit help us to reveal Jesus through our daily and earthy living 🙂

when facing a challenge

We all have challenges in our lives of varying sizes and strengths.  Some challenges are relatively short & minor:  getting the chicken unthawed in time to bake it for tonight’s dinner.  Some challenges are massive:  nightcare with Saving Moses.  Regardless of your age, responsibilities, gender, season in life, etc, we all have challenges & it’s what we do with these challenges that’s important (not necessarily the challenges themselves).

So here are some helpful tips for dealing with challenges:

  • can do:  keep in mind that God in you is bigger than any challenge;
  • try:  don’t quit, give up or get discouraged;  a baby step is better than no step & a misstep is better than a regress ,)
  • selective nutrition:  feed the positive & starve the negative
  • timely inventory:  it can be super helpful, from time to time, to take an inventory of your overall progress rather than focusing on the lack of slowness of progress
  • encouragement:  encourage someone else in their dreams, goals & challenges – it’s good for you! 😀

Success, Progress & Opportunities

What an amazing spectrum of experiences today. I’ve finished this day at our present nightcare facility, playing with one of our toddlers before he went to bed & enjoying our warm, safe & healthy haven for the babies of prostitutes while their moms work. Shortly before this wonderfully satisfying joy (we’ve been running for more than a year & have really acquired the trust of these moms to look after their babies), we negotiated the rent on a new nightcare facility in a new neighborhood & this is also super exciting!! We hope to be up & running there in about 2-3months 🙂
But here’s my struggle as I finish this day – we visited two brand new areas that desperately need nightcare & one of the areas we visited was really overwhelming for me. Even though we were there in the daytime, it was indescribably dark & felt very actively evil – the last face I saw before I left this area was a baby & if the truth be known, I’m having a rough time with all of this &I can’t seem to find words to go along with my feelings.
So friends, thank you SO MUCH for taking some time to read this & for being interested. I’m celebrating our successes & achievements while absorbing the opportunities that lie in front of us as well. Perhaps there is no one that is more “least of these” than the babies of prostitutes.

20130722-213726.jpg

be encouraged :)

You & I have various challenges that are happening in our lives & sometimes the challenges are big & many but other times the challenges are small & few.  Nevertheless, we all have challenges.

Here are some benefits of the various challenges that we have:

  • challenges can force us to look outside of ourselves to get help and for resolving
  • challenges can help us to get stronger
  • challenges can foster teamwork & creative solutions that can be amazing!
  • for me, challenges often force me to trust God more and trust myself less, which ultimately helps me to be closer to God
  • challenges often help me to get more focused & less distracted
  • challenges make me pray more 🙂

An encouraging challenge

Sometimes I can get discouraged when I look at problems that seem to have no answers & sometimes I can get overwhelmed by some challenges that seem insurmountable. Ever feel the same? During my prayer time this morning, I was reminded about how God had a sheep waiting for Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac. This story reminds me that God has solutions, provisions & wisdom waiting for me when various needs can become urgent. In the meantime, rather than fretting, getting stressed out & uptight about various problems, I can change my thinking to being grateful & appreciative that God has already provided answers & resources. When I’m thankful, I’m a better traveling companion with God during the journey of life rather than being stressed out 🙂

do you ever struggle with love???

I’ve been talking with God recently about some situations for me that have been super difficult.  We’ve had some interesting discussions & I’ve expressed some of my frustrations & disappointments to God.  It’s been an interesting wrestling season of late & I’m not sure that I’ve totally turned the corner with some of my questions & uncertainties.

Nevertheless, I felt God really encouraging me a few days ago about His love for me.  When I asked Him about His love in relation to some of the difficulties & struggles that I’m going through, He challenged me to know that His love for me isn’t based on circumstances or situations.  Maybe you have also had this struggle – looking at the challenges in your life & asking God about His love in light of hardship & difficulty.

Just because we go through tough times, let’s never doubt His love for us – indeed, He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him & remain true to His purposes in their lives.  Be sure to doubt your difficulties before you doubt God’s love

insider thoughts about Saving Moses

 I’ve been thinking about this year & the various achievements & shortcomings for Saving Moses – reflections.  There have been some really cool developments – we made some great initial contacts for nightcare in Asia, we got a SUPER deal on some baby formula in Angola (over 40 metric tons for free if we would pay $5k for the transportation, an obvious no-brainer), some amazing progress with our media abilities, we’ve made some great potential relationships for the future, along with many other things.  On the flip side, there have also been some disappointments – our India trip was frustrating & I found that one of the malnutrition clinics that we recently visited in Angola didn’t have any milk, due to some poor communication.

Truthfully, I always want everything with Saving Moses to be 100% positive, but my experiences this year are teaching me that this isn’t always going to be realistic.  Furthermore, I’m finding that even though I want Saving Moses to be MASSIVELY effective, I need to be patient as we grow & continue to keep taking steps along the journey that will continue to help us be increasingly effective.

Something that you could do to help us grow is to be a fan on our facebook page 🙂

Progress!

I’m currently sitting at a malnutrition center along w about 15-20 moms who have just received some medical care for their babies & who are now feeding them their afternoon meal. One little guy next to me is named Augusto & he’s about 16months old. He has a sister who is a little bit bigger than he is, but she’s 3months old. The differences are so stark it can be very unsettling. Thankfully, we are working on a system whereby we can keep a steady supply of formula available for these malnutrition clinics to the sole purpose of helping all of the babies who come in having such tremendous nutrition needs.
This trip has had it’s fair share of ups & downs but I think we’ve established some great relationships whereby we can make a steady supply of formula & hopefully expand to other provinces in Benguela as well. I also had the great privilege of meeting a Dr this morning who is 2nd in command to the Minister of Health for the Benguela province here in Angola. It looks possible that we could work toward a potential partnership with this agency & other partners to create a scheme to reduce infant mortality here. Saving Moses is doing very effective work here! Thanks for all of your prayers, encouragement & support!

lessons I learn at my kids’ swim lessons :)

Last night I took my kids to their 1st swim lesson of this season & it was an interesting experience.  To begin, the lessons were delayed because someone puked in the pool & they had to clean it up – complete with the red bio-hazard bag & latex gloves.  After this brief delay, my kids went to their respective levels / instructors.  While I watched their lessons, at the beginning I wasn’t very happy because all of my kids seemed to be the last in their groups and I wanted to “protect” them.  However, when the lessons were finished almost all of my kids were totally pumped about their lesson and about what they achieved. 

So here’s my point:  it’s important for us to let God use different people in our lives to help us to grow.  If we only get ourselves around comfortable people, we can tend to get stagnant.  But if we let ourselves get around people who challenge us or who are different, then often times God helps us to grow more and more into the person He designs us to be.  Proverbs says that iron sharpens iron – let God bring some “iron” into your life 🙂

fun with philippians!

Ok, looking at Philippians over the last week or so has been an interesting excursion.  From the feedback I’ve gotten from people in the “suggested exercises”, it seems like there’s lots of interest & enthusiasm for many different verses through this little book.  But something I’ve been looking into are the verses at the end of chapter 1 & beginning of chapter 2 – specifically 1:21-2:4. 

Fascinating interplay between Paul’s decisions, what he proposes to us & then how this reflect or contrast Jesus’ major choices.  We talk about these things in Chapel on Tues & I think you’ll find it very challenging. 

Some things to consider, for your suggested exercises:

  1. Paul says in 1:21 that to live is Christ & to die is gain.  What do you think this means?
  2. How do you see yourself in light of the community of your co-workers?  How do you see yourself in the community of your family?  How do you see yourself in the community of your living arrangements (apt, house, neighborhood, condo, townhouse, . . . . )?  How do you see yourself in light of the community of your church?
  3. In Phil 2:2-4, what is the most difficult thing for you to do in this list?  Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to help you with this area.

Here’s something to ponder:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiXUmN1X21Y