The Crazy Guy

Jesus left a crowd of people where He was appreciated and valued so He could help a raving lunatic.  In Mark 5:1-20, we read about a man who was completely undone and thoroughly tormented by loads of demons.  He was demon possessed and was living a very tortured, painful and isolated life.  When he was described in these verses, I was deeply moved by his tragic existence.  He would roam the tombs & mountains with no human contact, gashing himself, screaming and unclothed with no hope of reprieve or help – until Jesus came.

When we come across people in our lives who are broken, hurting, dysfunctional, crazy, hostile, erratic and even barbaric, let’s be willing to see past these descriptions and difficulties to see a human in need of love and redemption.  Let’s remember that the enemy of humanity is seeking to torture, deceive and destroy humans in any way possible.  On the other side, Jesus wants to work through us to bring love, healing and redemption!  Let’s make sure we stay on Jesus’ side 🙂

X-ray Vision

“. . . . , those who previously saw him as a beggar.” John 9:8b

I read this verse today & it really stood out to me about the power of vision & how we see people. In John 9, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. Before his healing, this man sat outside the temple & begged, so everyone recognized him as, ” that beggar guy.” When he was no longer blind, the people struggled to see him as anyone but, “that beggar dude.”
This has started me to think about various people I see: Bob the homeless guy at Starbucks, Tina the blind chick, Marion the needy one, Jerry the deaf dude, . . . .
If we see people only in the quagmire of their pain, dysfunction & disability, then maybe we’re limiting God’s power to work through us.
Maybe it’s a better strategy to ask God to reveal that persons true identity & divine design so that we call out their potential & not merely their inabilities & weaknesses. I’m more than a little grateful that God calls things that are not as though they are!

Unlovable

I know that there are seasons when I’m more lovable. And I’m like-able when I’m not sullen, morose, discouraged or cranky. But I’m not a robot & I go through the ups & downs of life. Sometimes I go through experiences & seasons that are extremely difficult. Sometimes, I make bad decisions, letting my flesh rule my choices & priorities & that’s no bueno.
Here’s the hope: In my paraphrase, Romans 5:8 says that in my least lovable condition, Jesus demonstrated His most extravagant love for me by giving His life in my place. I’ve read this verse loads of times, but what always stops my heart is that the verb “demonstrate” is in the present tense in Greek, which means a continuous activity. So God is continually demonstrating Their love to me, since They are Triune & that’s heaps of continuous love!!! I never grow weary of remembering that God loves me because God is love & not because I’m lovable or I deserve or earned that love 🙂

A Little More

Traveling around the world, I get to see lots of distinct preferences. For example, in Bangladesh they tend to enjoy spicy food & sometimes it’s REALLY spicy! In Brazil, they prefer community over individuality & the German language prefers precision over approximation.
But there’s one universal constant: everyone craves genuine love & I suspect this is by Divine design.
So if the universal constant throughout humanity is the desire for genuine love, it begs the question about how we can express genuine love.
When I think about expressing genuine love, I almost immediately feel inadequate & incapable. But if I think about expressing genuine love just a little more, then I’m not as discouraged. Here are some possibilities for consideration:

  • Affirmation & encouragement: recognize & vocalize something good to total strangers with sincerity
  • Gratitude: expressing thank you is a polite essential for genuine love
  • I see you: not the exterior trappings of wealth, success, begging, poverty, dirt or broken
  • Listen: hearing someone, being interested & asking questions is a way to be present & express concern, attention & genuine love
  • Borrow love: there are always people who we find challenging to love. So think in terms of borrowing love from someone you know & letting that shape your mindset for the tricky people.
  • Ask for more love – let’s never believe that we have enough genuine love.  We exist, in part, for God to love not only us but also through us!

Uber Rides

Today’s Uber driver is from Darfur Sudan. He has 7 brothers, 2 sisters & both parents all back in Darfur. This is the place where they had a genocide almost 15years ago so I was fascinated to listen to my driver talk about his circuitous journey to the US. Whenever I uber it, the drivers are always from a distant country: Mali, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, etc. When I listen to each of these drivers, it’s astounding to hear their stories & think about how they’ve navigated various tragedies, twists & opportunities.
Everyone we meet has had their own journeys, culminating to the moment we meet them & get to hear about their lives. Sometimes when we hear their stories it helps us understand some of their behaviors & choices. Regardless of their backgrounds or experiences, let’s choose to love & be gracious. We don’t have to know people to be loving, kind or gracious 🙂

Driven or Directed?

I desperately want to be led by the Holy Spirit, in every area of my life – my decisions, conversations, priorities, relationships, etc. If I’m honest, however, sometimes I’m more driven than directed.
For me, here are some key indicators that I’m being flesh driven rather than Spirit led:

  • my flesh tends to dictate my actions.
  • my perspective gets very self-absorbed.
  • I can be more results oriented than relationship attentive – achievements become more important than connecting with people.
  • Fear often dilutes any expression of genuine love from me.
  • I become more consumer minded rather than thinking how to be generous.

Let’s be careful that we stay in Step with the Spirit & not controlled by our flesh 🙂
Be sure to pre-order my newest book about how to stay In Step with the Holy Spirit!

Things We Dont Like

Today, I’m in Bangledesh & I like being here because of the wonderful people. They are super friendly & very hospitable. Unfortunately, this country is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have annual floods that routinely displace thousands of people, killing large pockets of the population in these horrendous floods. Additionally, the education system here is still developing, so the literacy rate is a challenge. Bangladesh has 160 million people & its 90% Muslim, 8% Hindu & 2% mixture. There’s generally a high level of respect for the various differences among the ethnicities, religions & social classes here.
Today, we’ll be going around the capital city, Dhaka, & I’m super keen to spend some time here! There are about 30million people in this urban area with lots of diversity in the spectrum of poverty to wealthy. As I’m in this city, I know I’ll see things that I don’t like, but I want to see with God’s of compassion, healing & welcome. Let’s be careful that we don’t turn away from things we don’t like, when God wants us to engage & express genuine love 🙂

Walking with God

I’m presently in Cambodia with a magnificent team expressing Jesus’ love
To the babies & toddlers of prostitutes. This is a really powerful experience for everyone & me in particular. For starters, getting to love on babies is thoroughly glorious. Their bright eyes, curiosity, trust & acceptance are unparalleled in our adult relationships. There’s a simplicity & purity with babies that we seem to lose as adults. This experience is also powerful for me in getting to watch my team come together as individuals & join in cohesion, complementing each other rather than competitive division & exclusivity. Finally, this year is unique for me from the previous years. Last year when I was here, I was recovering from a concussion & that was extremely difficult, blech. The year before that, I was doing physical therapy to recover from shoulder surgery.
Going through hardships helps us appreciate the non-hardship times! Walking with God is truly the adventure of a lifetime!

A Lavish Feast

Jesus told a parable about a rich dude who made an elaborate feast, with abundant food. The dude went to extravagant lengths to prepare, complete with invitations, massive amounts of food & loads of servants to facilitate this magnificent party. When the servants went out to let the invitees know that the party was ready for them to attend, none of the invited peeps showed up. This was very rude because the dude hosting the party had killed several animals to abundantly provide food for his party. Now, he’s stuck with all these provisions & no one to eat them. Rather than letting everything go to waste, the party host sent out his servants to invite anyone & everyone to come to his party.
Here are some important take aways for us from this parable:

  • God has made an extravagant feast for everyone – there’s more than enough!
  • As God’s servants, let’s keep inviting people to experience God’s lavish love for them
  • There’s room at the table for you, your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, . . . .
    “Come & Dine!”, the Master calls!

Outrage!!!

In our modern world, outage is common & I think even expected sometimes. It seems like we can get massively incensed at almost anything: driving infractions, mistakes on paychecks or bills, government shortfalls, moral failures in Christian leaders, etc
But here’s something to consider: if sin is the common human experience, why do we allow ourselves to be outraged when people sin or make mistakes? Wouldn’t we be more constructive to celebrate the moments when humans don’t behave sinfully? What about when a driver makes space for you instead of cutting you off? That’s noteworthy! What about when a government does something positive that exceeds your expectations? This might not be often, but that’s exactly why we should celebrate it! And when a Christian leader has a moral failure, let’s not be so much outraged as we should pray for them & have sincere compassion because we identify with our own shortfalls.
Let’s aim for less outrage & more celebration 🙂
Selah

God’s Provisions

This morning, I had the most wonderful breakfast with a friend I’ve known for many years. We haven’t been able to catch up & have a deep conversation so this morning afforded the time & place for us to do just that. We shared with vulnerability about our struggles & weaknesses along with how Jesus has helped us along the journey. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a rewarding conversation & this was absolutely a gift from God. This time was all the more beautiful because it came on the heels of a very busy & demanding weekend for me.
I’m very grateful that God supplies what we need, when we need it – even in ways that we don’t expect!!

Hair Salon Wisdom

Whenever I get my hair cut & colored, I usually walk away with more wisdom. Here are some observations from my recent experience:

  • Augmenting / Reduction:  This was an interesting discussion about the perceived need to increase or decrease body parts to improve one’s beauty. Let’s remember that we’re fearfully & wonderfully made in our Creators image 🙂
  • Politics:  On this topic, the best wisdom I’ve learned from my salons visits, is to listen more than I talk. Nuff said
  • Waxing:  This is the removal of unwanted hair & it has to be done regularly or those unseemly hairs become problematic. This becomes a need for maintenance & which reminds me about keeping my spiritual life tuned up. Sin gets increasingly visible when I neglect my spiritual growth
  • Vampire Facials:  I guess this is a new thing, but I’m not interested. The name itself repels me & maybe there’s something to be said for soap, water & a good scrub with a washcloth. This makes me grateful that while God does new stuff, I’m abundantly thankful that there’s no need to invent a new way to get close to Jesus. Indeed, the Father welcomes us with open arms, an eager heart & compassionate hands with tender words! No vampire facial needed 🙂

Loving Cranky People

Do you have people in your life who seem like porcupines? There are people who go through difficult seasons & experiences,causing them to be prickly & cranky. Generally, when people are cranky we want to stay away from them because they’re unpleasant & we want to shield ourselves from possible jabs or hateful darts.
In contrast, it seems to me that Jesus ran to the porcupine people with genuine love & they often softened from His sincere interest & engagement in their lives. Love seems to be more difficult when we focus on the pain, cranky & porcupine actions rather than the person. Let’s decide to love well, full stop.

Don’t Freak Out

Whenever my kids tell me, “Mom, don’t feel out when I tell you this, . . . ” I brace myself for what comes next. Sometimes it’s something easy, like “I forgot to tell you about a school assignment.” At other times, they spring something on me that’s more robust or unsettling. Whenever we have one of those “freak out” conversations, it always helps me to remember that nothing makes God freak out.

Indeed, God is never shocked nor chased away by us, our struggles or questions. And in full truth, God’s love continues to pursue us, even when we give up on ourselves. Be encouraged! You will never freak God out!

Selective Memories

Who is someone you’ve known personally who has inspired you? I can think of a slew of people and all of them have had unique flaws, regardless of how much they inspired me. For example, my former neighbor across the street always inspired me with her devotion to raising her children to love Jesus & how she continuously treats her husband with respect & dignity. With those noteworthy accolades, she had lots the the same flaws that I have. We can be disorganized, scatter-brained & sometimes irresponsible. Nonetheless, I chose to remember her excellent qualities & minimize her shortfalls.

I would suggest that this is a good strategy for lots of our relationships, so that we bring out the positive in people rather than maximizing their negatives.
On this Memorial Day, let’s be grateful that we get to live in the land of the free because of the brave!û

What’s Better?

In Bangledesh today, I met a group of floating sexworkers, in contrast to the brothel sexworkers I visited yesterday. Sometimes I think it’s human nature to quantify or qualify bad, worse & worst. So we think that one kind or quantity of suffering is worse than another. I’m not sure that I think this entirely accurate. Suffering hurts, full stop.

Can we find it in our hearts to express compassion regardless of who is suffering or how much is being suffered?

I hugged each woman that I met this afternoon deeply & wholly, feeling that I wanted more love to pour through me for them.  None of these experiences are easy to process but the worst thing for me that could happen would be to ignore my feelings & disregard the eyes with whom I met with deep affection & connection.

Lets love well.

Out of the Box

Jesus had dinner with the not so upstanding crowd & not everyone was thinking that was such a good thing. Indeed, Jesus was not just a little out of the box. This morning I read in Matthew 9:10-11 that Jesus dined with shady characters & the righteous crowd was pretty ticked off about his choices for social interactions.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting some very amazing women & their children in the largest brothel in Bangledesh. While some people may think that I should spend my time in better neighborhoods, when I follow & love Jesus well, I often find myself in these kinds of neighborhoods & loving people for who they are, regardless of what they do for a living.
It’s not so bad to be out of the box 🙂

How to Live?

I’ve just spent several hours walking through the largest brothel in Bangladesh & had the privilege of talking with some very incredible women. I’m struggling to process these hours & conversations. Listening to each woman & looking in her eyes let’s me genuinely love the person sitting in front of me. We desperately need to throw out our stereotypes of people & interact on the basic level of human to human.
It seems to me that we cloak & insulate ourselves in our professions, education, hobbies, etc, all the while neglecting to interact on basic human levels.
I could tell you stories of sex workers that could probably evoke strong reactions. But let’s be careful not to create chasms of disconnection rather than cultivating genuine love on a very basic & daily level.
As I walked through the maze of alleyways, I kept hearing this question: Am I loving well?
I hope I bring this question home with me for my daily conversations & interactions. I hope this question defines my mindset & outlook.

Thawing the Ice in Hot Bangladesh

When I visit foreign countries, I love getting to be with the regular people in their daily living. Because of this, sometimes I find myself in situations where I can get some strange looks.
For example, I just crossed a massive river here in Bangledesh & on the ferry, I was a novelty. I had the distinct impression that they don’t see loads of Western women traveling through more remote Bangledesh. Of course a person can be unsettled by the staring eyes, foreign faces, language barrier, cultural differences & the loads of other contrasts that could create barriers & hindrances for connecting.
But I’ve found that a genuine smile & warm countenance universally melt icy stares & cold shoulders.
Let’s be committed to regulating the temperature in our interactions by remaining congenial & warm!

a Touch of Heaven!

I’m super EXCITED to be back in Bangladesh for the 2nd time this year!! Not only do I love the people here, but I also LOVE getting to work with a wide diversity of people! My team for this trip consists of an American, Irish, Khmer & Bengali – a wide assortment of cultures, mindsets & abilities! Thankfully, all of them are very patient with me & eager for our grand adventure! We’re opening nightcare here very soon & very eager to provide a shelter with nurture & protection for the babies & toddlers of sex workers, while their moms work.
Last time I was here, they let me know that 7/10 babies & toddlers are on the bed with their mom as she works. So I’m very humbled & honored to provide a shelter to protect & look after these lovely babies!
Saving Moses is expanding nightcare this year & Bangledesh is on our immediate horizon!
I’ll keep you posted over the next few days!

Emily – no bats in the closet at the TD, this time ,)