hot topic: Orlando Massacre

It is very disturbing to read the unfolding news about the mass shooting yesterday in Orlando.  A muslim security guard, armed with a semi-automatic machine gun, entered a gay bar in Orlando and began shooting.  He was confronted by an off-duty police officer and manuevered into the bathroom where he maintained a stand-off for three hours while the Orlando police and emergency services worked to protect and rescue victims from the carnage and violence.  Of course this story is continuing to unfold in the news and I have no doubt more information will come to light over time.

In the political world, various leaders are advocating better gun control laws, some leaders are rallying support for the LGBT community and many leaders are blaming the immigration struggles with which the US is wrestling.

As a follower of Jesus, it is my sincere prayer that my community rallies around the words of Jesus more than the world of hate.  There are some people who would try to explain that because this was an attack on a gay bar, God is expressing His judgement and wrath on the homosexual community.  There are other folk who would seek to ostracize muslims because of this violent atrocity.

Seems to me that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, He didn’t ask the Father to get revenge on these wicked, violent and undeserving sinners.  He asked the Father to forgive the people who violently beat, condemned and hung Him on a cross – the most innocent and pure human to ever grace the human race.   May our words and actions be overflowing with the grace and love that have been so richly lavished on us.  Let us freely give what we have so abundantly received.  We need the Holy Spirit to work into our thoughts and actions the redeeming life of Christ.

Strange People

My parents always encouraged me to continually work on my people skills & I’m grateful for this for two reasons:  

  1. I’m an introvert & sometimes I can seem prickly (sometimes I AM prickly)
  2. People are God’s first priority so being close to God also means it’s good to love who God loves. 

With that being said, I frequently come across people who are usual & even strange. How I treat people who are a few clicks off of norm is a significant reflection of my love for God. I say this based on 1John 4:20 where it says that we can’t love God & hate people simultaneously. 

So no matter what kinds of people you find in your life, let’s allow God to not only love us but also love THROUGH us 🙂

Be sure to preorder Heavenly Help!  It’s number 2 in Amazon’s new releases!!

#heavenlyhelp

Valentines Hangover

I’m a huge fan of Genuine Love but not as much with the romance stuff. While I certainly like my share of chick flicks, candlelight dinners, snuggling & nice cards, the idea that romance is the same as love leaves my soul cold & withered. 
Romance is nice, sometimes frothy & often temperamental. In contrast, Genuine Love is the sturdy & robust soil in which intimacy flourishes, deepens & makes for opulent & desirable fruit. Consider what Paul says about love in 1Cor 13:4-7  

Let’s be conscience of the difference between romance & Genuine Love, opting for substance, sacrifice & continuous sustenance for our souls. Keep in mind that 1 John 4:8 says that God is love 🙂

Happy Post Valentines Day!

Being Scared

I pride myself in not being scared. I’m not scared to: 

  • try new things, 
  • go new places, 
  • try different foods, 
  • fail during a learning experience 
  • stand alongside someone when they go through difficult seasons. 

As I think about being scared, generally I think of myself as fearless, until I consider various situations that I avoid because I’m intimidated or afraid. I think that all of us wrestle with fear but in different ways. So let’s be honest about the unique fears that are difficult for us. If we aren’t honest about our fears, such fears will often control our decisions because we refuse to be honest & face them. 

In general, I want to live a fearless life, but the one fear that I want to nurture & protect is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & I need all the wisdom I can get! So having a healthy respect for God is an essential ingredient for letting wisdom flourish in my life. 

Furthermore, remember that perfect love casts out fear 🙂

Pay attention to your fears & keep the ones that cultivate wisdom but challenge / toss the ones which try to control & shrink you!

storytime :)

Yesterday, I read a thought-provoking story that I think you’ll also find to be at least curious. I read about this wealthy businessman who was really into Jesus, having been heavily influenced in very transforming ways by a pastor whom he greatly admired. This particular pastor only briefly passed through the businessman’s life, but his impact was revolutionary. Subsequently, this businessman began to treat his employees with more grace and generosity. But here was the rub, one of his employees severely ripped him off and then went missing. After several months, the wealthy man received an email from the distant pastor that he’d accidently bumped into the rogue employee and the thief had repented and decided to give his life over to Jesus’ leadership. The pastor was sending the thief back to the businessman! In the email, the pastor put the squeeze on the businessman, requesting him to do two things: forgive the thief & then let him go back to the pastor to help in his pastoring work. Clearly, the businessman was in a quandary. Justice said that the thief should pay for his crime, but grace said that the businessman should forgive his fellow brother in Christ.

When I read this story, there was a totally riveting sentence that keeps echoing in my thoughts. In the email, the pastor told the businessman that the former employee was useless as an employee, but now he was altogether useful as a fellow member in Jesus’ family: useless as an employee, but useful as a brother. Seems to me that we often determine the value of a person on their function rather than their relationship with Jesus.

This story is my paraphrase of the story of Philemon in the Bible – a super short epistle from Paul to Philemon, the businessman. Philemon had a slave, Onesimus, who stole from him and ran away, only to bump into Paul, who helped Onesimus become a follower of Jesus. Upon returning Onesimus to his former owner, Philemon, Paul placed the supreme value on Onesimus being a fellow brother in Christ & made his position as a slave a virtual disposable value.

As a follower of Jesus, we need to be better at loving people than using people 🙂

Baby Jesus

  
Jesus was born in kind of a shady way – an unmarried teenage chick, Mary, gets pregnant, supernaturally & gives birth to the Messiah. Maybe her parents were a little suspicious of the “supernatural” thing & maybe it’s good that Mary took a few months to chill w Elizabeth her cousin while they were both pregnant. Although Mary became pregnant because the Holy Spirit overshadowed her & Elizabeth became pregnant supernaturally, their babies were gifts from God, filled with the breath of the Almighty. 

Just because a baby is born in kind of shady circumstances doesn’t make them disposable nor less valuable than a baby born in more “normal circumstances”. 

I love my work with Saving Moses because it’s genuine love in tangible expression. It is a very practical way to walk humbly with God, do justice & love mercy. 

Please join me in this journey & get behind Saving Moses in your finances, prayers & energies. God has a great future for each of the babies we get to love 🙂

Watch This 🙂

hot topic: Charleston Church Shooting

Waking up this morning, I was horrified to read about a church shooting in Charleston, SC at a Bible Study last night.  From what the news said, there was a Bible Study in the church basement of Emmanuel AME and the shooter just began to shoot people.  At this time, 9 people have died from the shooting and the police are calling this a hate crime.   The police say the shooter is still at large and obviously there are boatloads of unanswered questions.

Here are a few things that we can do, as outside observerers and fellow believers:

  • pray for the families of the victims:  peace, grace, strength, courage and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be very real to each family member
  • pray for the police as they search for the shooter:  protection, wisdom, clarity, discernment and truth
  • pray for the shooter:  it is a very disturbed individual who walks into a church and randomly shoots innocent people at a Bible Study
  • pray for the church:  Emmanuel AME is a very famous and historic church, founded in the late 1700s.  This church has had it’s share of historic events, including a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr in 1962;  the pastor for Emmanuel AME was shot and killed last night, so our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel AME very much need our prayers

Intervention

I’m in Angola finishing up our first day – highs & lows. At our first stop, we hopped out of the car only to meet face first a baby who just died along with her mom who was just shattered. I’ve landed at this clinic too many times to come with flippant indifference. The fight for life here is literally every day. 

On a relatively positive contrast, I visited a neighborhood & keyed in on a baby who’s not doing well at all.  Please pray that she turns up at the malnutrition clinic in the morning, her name is Josephine.  While I’m extremely sad to see Josephine’s condition, I’m also thinking that some prayer & proactive work has a really good chance to keep this baby from dying. 
God redeems pain & maximizes opportunities to maximize life!

The Opposite Way

If you’re like me, we want to run away from revolting smells, we want great distance from troublesome people, we want to keep our space from difficult situations & too much garlic can repel more things than just people ,)
One of the things I so desperately love about Jesus is that He isn’t repelled by us, never. When everyone leaves us, Jesus runs to us. When we retreat & repel people out of dysfunction & hurt, Jesus runs to us.
When we’ve failed & want to hide, Jesus runs to us.
When we want to run away from broken people, Jesus runs to them.
I’m so thankful that Jesus consistently does the opposite of what seems to be human instincts. Jesus runs to us
Jesus runs to help the babies of prostitutes with nightcare through Saving Moses. Jesus runs to us, no matter what we’ve done or not & regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves. Jesus runs to us for the clean & simple reason that Jesus loves us, full stop.

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You are easy to love

Having grown up as a pastors kid, I’ve had the honor of meeting all kinds of wonderful & interesting people, some nice & easy to love & others who were more complicated ,)
But let’s be super clear that you are easy to love, full stop. You are easy to love not only when you’re being good, friendly, warm, cordial & sweet. You are also easy to love when you’re cranky, contemptuous, grumpy, impatient & ugly with lettuce in your teeth & an epic deodorant failure. Even at your worst, for your Heavenly Father, you are entirely easy to love, full stop. You are easy for God to love because love is natural for God & not based on your performance or behavior. Because God is love, you are easy to love & that my friends is reason enough to keep your head up on this fabulous day in January 🙂

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time management

🙁  Sometimes I’m not good at managing time & you’d think that after more than 40 years of living that I’d be more proficient with using my time.  Alas, my achilles heel with time is people and maybe in the grand scheme of things, perhaps this isn’t all bad.

In our fast paced world, acheiving, results & productivity can easily become idols and often at the expense of deep & meaningful relationships.  While I most certainly appreciate that deadlines and achievements are super important, valuable and even necessary, at the end of the day, Jesus came for people so maybe it’s not all bad to love well and even inefficiently, which sometimes means being a little shady on the time management front ,)

presents and presence

I haven’t wrapped a single Christmas present yet & a few years ago, I didn’t wrap any until 11pm on Christmas Eve – what was the point in that?!???  I don’t think I’m generally a procrastinator, it’s just tricky to remember & find time.  Maybe this year, I’ll wrap our presents soon, maybe.  One question worth a little consideration is what will you & I be giving Jesus this year, to celebrate His birthday.  It seems kind of counterintuitive to give everyone but Jesus a present on Christmas, the day when we celebrate His birth 🙂

So going with the 5 Love Languages idea, here are some gift suggestions for Jesus:

  • affirmation – take some moments to sing one of your favorite praise / worship songs  directly to Jesus or make a brief list of reasons why you love Jesus and tell Him
  • touch – consider giving someone a hug that would appreciate that;  sometimes when we touch someone with genuine love it’s a nice way to communicate genuine love to Jesus (when you do this to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25:40)
  • gifts – think about giving a coat, hats, mittens, socks, etc to a homeless shelter or discretely helping a needy family in your church, maybe make an extra donation to a charity (Saving Moses is awesome – smile)
  • service – every church has extra services, usually, to support the Christmas season:  consider volunteering a little extra to share some love 🙂
  • quality time – consider dropping by a park and taking a brief walk with Jesus or waking up maybe 10min earlier just to give Jesus your presence, which is possibly the ultimate present He desires 🙂
  • coffee – that’s all I have to say on this one ,)

Merry Christmas!

No Thank You to Fear

Fear isn’t cool. We can all probably remember at least a few times when fear was entirely horrifying. For me, I remember some walks home from school that were terrifying, waking up from a nightmare that virtually paralyzed me & the ever so common fear of not being liked. In our world today, people are afraid of Ebola, ISIS, losing their job, not getting married & lots more.
So let’s you & make a pact to say, “no thank you” to fear & then make the active choices to support that pact:
*be attentive to our decisions that we allow to be controlled by fear
*be aware of conversations that magnify fear – change the subject
*watch for places in our lives where we are cozy with fear
*actively choose love over fear because they are mutually exclusive (perfect love casts out fear)
*forward this to your friends to help grow an anti-fear mob!!

hot topic: Ebola in the US

Yesterday, we heard in the news that a person in Dallas was diagnosed with #ebola.  The man who was diagnosed had flown from Libera in mid-September to the US and showed signs of being sick a week later.  There’s plenty of news circulating about this development & this is a very important thing on which we should be aware.  While I know that it’s important to be educated about this kind of stuff, let’s be mindful of some fundamental & important bullet points:

  • pray:  let’s keep the Dallas patient in our prayers as well as the West Africa nations of Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone – super important to keep these nations in our prayers, along with the healthcare workers who are on the front lines in these nations
  • be smart:  stay informed and current with what’s happening in our world so that we can know how to pray and make wise decisions
  • fear:  let’s be mindful that we don’t let fear get a foothold in our thinking or decisions
  • love:  pray that we can find some ways to help the babies & toddlers in Guinea, Sierra Leone & Liberia with Saving Moses!!

Sweat Equity

Let me show & tell you about some of the coolest people on the planet, with whom I’ve had the honor to be around. I’m leading our first ever Saving Moses team trip & we are in Cambodia with an absolutely amazing team who has poured their hearts, souls, sweat & love into everything they’re doing here! Only a few of the amazing & cool things they’ve done include: painting, cleaning, being patient (again), assembling baby cots, holding babies & hundreds of more things! Here are some fun pix to show our sweat equity!

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Hot topic: prostitutes

If a person talks about prostitutes or sex workers, people have some interesting reactions. Some people get really uncomfortable & change the subject quickly. Some people get really condescending & holy. Some people don’t get too jittery & seem relatively calm. In the Bible, prostitutes were often considered lower class, except by Jesus. When I watch how Jesus treated women of ill repute, He didn’t shun nor shame them. In fact, it says that He was considered a friend of sinners.
In my work with Saving Moses, we look after the babies of prostitutes with our nightcare centers. Without our centers, these babies & toddlers have tremendous struggles which are difficult for us to imagine & understand. I’m in Cambodia right now celebrating the Grand Opening of our 2nd nightcare & was recently told about a 3year old little girl who was helping her mom in the evenings by selling birth control to the customers of her mother. I want to be like Jesus & love people more than shame them, including prostitutes.

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making faith effective

In the Bible, there are all kinds of things that happened because of faith (blind eyes healed, miracle provisions, raising the dead, family restoration, giant killing, etc).  Whenever I read Hebrews 11, I’m always really stirred up and motivated in my faith because the chicks & dudes in this chapter are AMAZING!!!  But here’s a simple essential to make our faith effective:  genuine love.

In Galatians 5:6, Paul says that faith works by love.  So whenever I’m not seeing the results of faith in my life, the real question doesn’t always rest on the quality / quantity of my faith, but moreso the reality of my genuine love.  Perhaps the evidence of our faith is directly related to the sincerity of our love 🙂

#somethingtoconsider

Jesus Chix: just love

There is a chick who followed Jesus who always takes my breath away: Mary of Bethany. I love watching her because of her devotion to Jesus & her authenticity. The first time we read of her, she’s sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him – a place reserved for men who were learning from a teacher, not women who weren’t deemed as worthy to receive education nor instruction. Mary should’ve been helping Martha in the kitchen, doing domestic stuff. But Jesus applauds Mary & says that “this one thing won’t be taken from her.”
Mary’s devotion to Jesus is tested when her brother Lazarus dies, even though Jesus could have prevented his death. Mary is extremely upset by Lazarus’ death & it seems to me that she let her emotions prevent her from seeing her brother raised from the dead (John 11).
The final time we read much about Mary is when she is washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying them with her hair & anointing Jesus with costly oil. Her love & devotion to Jesus were nothing less than authentic & extravagant. May I love Jesus as Mary did

speak, think, feed

I’m not a big fan of onions – when I chop them, they make my eyes water and sometimes they can have a really sharp odor & flavor.  But they can serve as an interesting metaphor with some helpful thoughts.  If you think about it, onions have many layers – you can keep peeling & peeling, ulimately finding that an onion may have up to 20 layers!

The layers of an onion are a little like our lives, with the first layer being what we say.  The things that we say are very important & since I’ve had children, I’m more convinced of this than ever.  Our words can give life, encouragment and be uplifting or they can be negative, discouraging and death oriented.  So our words are important, but our words are often a reflection of what we think, which is another layer of the onion, so to speak.

Second layer – Have you ever thought about what you think about – a thought inventory?  Many of our thoughts are about getting stuff done and general maintainence thinking (cooking, grocery lists, auto repair, etc).  But we also think about many other things – conversations, what we think people think about us, priorities, time management, how we feel, reactions to various people & interactions, etc.  What we let ourselves think about is very important because our thoughts affect our actions, words, decisions, etc.

But here’s the center of the onion:  what we feed our hearts is what affects our thinking & ultimately our words & actions.  So let me encourage you to take a few minutes to consider the things that you feed your thoughts, emotions & heart.  What are the inputs that you allow in your life?  Do these inputs give life?  Are they uplifting?  Are they truthful?  Do they have genuine love?  Our words are shaped by our thoughts which are shaped by the inputs we allow – so let’s chose these inputs with discernment, discretion, wisdom & love 🙂

Keep Some Light

Sometimes we can be in really dark situations or seasons in our lives. Darkness can be lots of different things: bad environments, yucky people, wicked things that happen to or around us & lots of other things ( I’m reminded of one of the neighborhoods that I walked in for a possible new nightcare location in Cambodia with www.savingmoses.org – a totally evil & wicked place that was overwhelmingly dark even during the day).
With that being said, lets be mindful to keep Jesus as the Light in our hearts – dont let the darkness seep into your thoughts or emotions no matter how strong it may seem. Darkness never overcomes Light so lets stay full of Jesus in our hearts so that we can bring light, hope & genuine love to any darkness that could be in our lives 🙂