Friday, July 26, 2013

Better Than OK

I'm a passionate person.
I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it.
(Sometimes I feel like I should've been Italian because of it, but that's besides the point.)

There isn't much that I can't get really passionate about with a little bit of time...
I'm passionate about all forms of art. I'm passionate about sports. I'm passionate about what I get to do for a living. I'm passionate about bridging the gap between culture and Christ. I'm passionate about the people I love. I'm even passionate about making sure everybody tries a bite of my food if it's awesome. (and don't get me started about Cheeto, my dog)

There's something about that uncontrollable feeling welling up inside of me that, well, wells up inside of me. I can't get over it. And you know the feeling... it's that feeling when it just 'clicks' and you feel like your body is about to explode... or implode... or do something that is completely foreign to the mundane, ordinary, everyday routine of life.

I hate routines.
I hate the ordinary.
I hate the mundane.

I think that one of the "tricks" of the enemy is to take the passion out of life.
To tell us that the ordinary is normal and that normal is ok... and that ok is ok.
The world is ok with ok.
But the problem with ok is that Jesus promises us a life better than ok.
He promises us a life that is better than anything we could dream of. 

And I think that the danger for those of us who follow Christ is that we could normalize the abnormal.
To make the supernatural seem natural.
To take the awe from the awesome.
And to stop feeling the Presence of the God who never leaves us.

I think I've let the passion slip a little from my life lately.
I think that I've let other voices scream louder in my ears instead of listening to the Voice that spoke creation into existence.
I think I've let others ideas of who I should be, steal from who He created me to be.
I think I stopped living for a little while and was merely existing and functioning and thinking it was ok.

I don't want ok.
I was created for a life that's better than ok.

So, here is a silly question.
What are you ok with in your life that isn't ok?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Weeks Like This

I’m not sure what to say or where to start.
I don’t have any profound words. Or really any words at all.
I don’t even really feel. The only thing I feel is like I’m just functioning, and that’s not enough. I wasn’t created just to function.
That’s not You. And that’s not me.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

I understand the apathy of this culture better today.
When everything and everyday can be so extreme, how can you be expected to continue to feel everything?
Feeling hurts. Feeling is hard. Feeling is exhausting.
But I want to. And I have to believe that You do.

We started this year asking to go deeper. To dive below the surface and find You.
God, show me Your glory. Show me Your power. Show me You.
Teach me how to do it like You. How to feel like You do. How to love like You do.

This has been a week of extremes.
This week feels a lot like ashes, mourning, and despair.
Show me the beauty and gladness and praise in this week.

When we get asked to pray for a woman covered in sores from head to toe on our way to church… I need to feel You.
When we hear stories about 8 year olds and 65 year olds being raped in the community that I just walked through and rescued an 11 year old from… I need to feel You.
When we drop that same 11 year old off at social services with a social worker who doesn’t believe her or have any visible compassion for her, to find the safest permanent home for her… I need to feel You.
When we walk through the children’s ward in a government hospital and see burn victims, broken limbs, and writhing children… I need to feel You.
When there’s blood dripping from the same bandage that was placed on a tiny 3 year old burned arm 2 weeks ago, staying three cots down from a little girl covered in entire head bandage from her own burns from almost 4 months ago… I need to feel You.
When I don’t want to leave weeks like this with the people that I love to go ‘home’ to my new apartment and fancy church in the land of abundance… I need to feel You.

You come for moments and weeks like this.
You come to set us free.
You come to bind up the brokenhearted.
You come to restore and to redeem and to trade beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, and praise instead of despair.

Feeling-Sustainer, Life-Giver, Heart-Holder, Tear-Catcher… come.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rhythms of Rest

The Sabbath, in Biblical times, was a major thing with a major offense if you didn’t majorly observe it. New Testament made a big deal about it too (remember the pharisees losing their miiiiiiinds when Jesus was healing and teaching? how could he…) :)

Exodus 20:8–11
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 
God, the creator of all things, rested. And I, a creative, get pretty busy sometimes and forget to do this… after all, I have deadlines. But I won’t pretend to be better at this ‘creating’ thing than the One who did it all. So I must rest…
…to stay inspired.
…to recharge.
…to breathe.
…to draw closer to God.

I think God knew what He was doing in created us. I think He knew that we’d need it. And so, one of the things I think we should do is do things on the Lord’s day that refresh us for His service, intellectually, physically and spiritually. So if you sit at your desk all week, then experience the outdoors. And if you work on the farm, breaking your back all week (which is what they did in the Old Testament), then sit down and take a long nap.

Just take one day in seven and set it aside as the day when you are physically recharging.
He told us to rest, and He told us to make it holy.

What are the things that draw you closer to God?
What are the things that ignite the creativity in you?
Are there certain places? Certain people?

I am not a robot and I am DEFINITELY not God.
And so I must rest.
I am so desperately in need of these rhythms of rest because they help me be the kind of creative and caring person I long to (and He created me to) be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

I don’t really know what to say.
It’s not a story.
Not really even a moment.
It’s not a name, or a face… it’s a presence.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt – darkness that can be felt.” (Exodus 10:21)

I feel it.
The darkness.
The heaviness.
There is a real battle between light and dark going on and I feel it.

I felt it Sunday night when we went to go get Lifa from his dad’s house more than ever before.
I felt it at Mama Charity’s house when you could sense her fear of her abusive sister.
Or the deep sadness in her hungry children and not really knowing if the story you hear is the truth.
I felt it when we walked past the tavern to 20 yr old Neli’s property, where we’re building a proper home for her and her 4 younger siblings. All HIV+ with TB currently sleeping on a queen size bed in a rundown shack.

Darkness all around.

When God spoke, light broke into darkness and kicked this whole thing into motion.
And it didn’t stop there.
All throughout the Bible God speaks about the battle between light and dark.

He is our light and salvation. (Psalm 27:1)
He wraps himself in light as with a garment. (Psalm 104:2)
His word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
We are supposed to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) as Jesus was. (John 8:12)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

Light represents what is good, true and holy.

I live in the Bible Belt.
I hear about the light a lot.
We don’t speak of darkness.
But what good is light to a well lit area?
Light is only light because it cancels out the darkness.

This trip I’ve felt a lot of darkness.
I’ve seen a lot of shame.
Shame hides from the light.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 19:21)

I’ve experienced despair and hopelessness.
And it’s easy to get really mad about it.
I’m mad about the darkness.
I’m mad at the lifestyles and living situations of some of the people I see especially when it affects kids that I love.
I’m mad about a 4 yr old boy living in a place of total darkness, when a home of light is a possibility, only because he is without an ID.
I’m mad about a 9 yr old boy who assumes the responsibility as head of his household yet sucks his thumb.
I’m mad about a 10 yr old girl who runs away constantly because her prostitute mother comes home to beat her when she gets off “work.”
I’m mad about a 20 yr old girl who desperately wants to go back to school to get an education but can’t because her deadbeat mother left her to care for her 4 younger siblings.
I’m mad about disease and hopelessness.
I’m mad about poverty and hunger.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

I’m mad that we live in a dark world and I am only one light.

Jesus, I pray that all of the lights of the world would burn brighter today. More of You and less of the world. Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Coming to the Rescue

In the tiny rundown community of Dwaleni, unattended children fill the red dirt yards in front of shacks made of plastic and tin. Dwaleni was never “my” community. Not like Mbonisweni was. Mbonisweni has my African church, African pastor, African family and so many kids with names that I know. Ten Thousand Homes has been involved with Mbon a little longer and we can easily see that they have much more hope than Dwaleni. The feeding at Dwaleni has about 300 kids who are dirtier and poorer and “play” by hitting each other. There are only a few kids from the feeding that I remember by name and one in particular has always stood out.

Nandi is a 10 yr-old little girl who acts like she’s about 16. Nobody knows much about her story but everyone seems to know of her. The first time I came to Africa, I heard bits and pieces of her story… how she is known to be a frequent runaway and sometimes sleeps in cemeteries or doorways of stranger’s houses. She would be gone for a couple weeks at a time sometimes. I heard stories of her mother (whom she lives with) who is a possible prostitute and the unbearable thoughts of what could be happening to Nandi at home race through my mind.
No wonder she runs.

Kacy has gotten to know Nandi’s family over the past few months. Nandi’s cousin, 2 yr-old Kevin first caught her eye, reminding her of a young Lifa. At two, Kevin and his twin Given wear 12-mo clothes. Accompanied by the home-based health care workers, she was able to go on a home visit to Kevin’s home, to find a tiny shack housing a Mama (22), Charity (4), Kevin (2), Given (2) and Karabo (6 mos). The shack is positioned on the same property of land as Nandi and her Mama’s house, which is a 2 room cinder block structure. Nandi’s younger brother Tommy (5) also lives there.

Kacy has invested into this family and sees that God has something very unique for their story of redemption. She has spoken truth and promises over little Kevin and has already begun to see the hope begin to rise up within him. One visit to Dwaleni recently, Nandi had run away yet again, but this time the family knew where she was. So Kacy and the entire family packed into a truck to go fetch Nandi to bring her back home. Nandi was allowed to spend the night at Kacy’s house after the rescue mission to let the dust settle a little bit and everyone seemed very relieved. Kacy became a foster parent that night. Beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. She took her to school the following morning, and Nandi never made it home after.

Weeks of prayer for Nandi go by and I go to meet this miracle-waiting-to-happen family and am greeted by an ecstatic Mama Nandi who exclaims in broken English that they have Nandi!! Well, they know where she is. They said that she would “be home tomorrow” so of course we make plans to come back to shower her and the rest of the family with Christmas gifts I brought from the States.

When we arrived with a bucket and hot water to bathe the babies, and bags of clothes to dress them in after, and Nandi was… not there. The mamas started to head for the truck motioning for us to go on yet another rescue mission.

OK. We’re in. 

We drove with 10 people piled into a 5 person truck across town about 20 minutes to a small rundown community across the highway. I won’t go into how I had Given, probably the sickest baby I have ever seen in my entire life, passed out asleep on my lap. That’s another story of healing and redemption waiting to happen, but for now, this is Nandi’s story.

Driving through dirt roads and potholes we end up at a warehouse with about 20 kids running around outside and see Nandi coming out. Nandi gave everyone hugs and we went inside to check it out. Turns out this is a shelter for kids, or at least that’s what we make of it. This gray warehouse lined with bunkbeds and children and didn’t exactly remind us of the Hilton. The adult who was watching the children and spoke some English was probably no more than 23 herself. We learn that Nandi got dropped off by a couple white people and that she can come back whenever she wants. The passive tone in the “adult’s” voice was disturbing to me. Kacy and I became social workers in about 2.5 seconds and we asked if Nandi had opened up to them at all about what home life was like, and if it was safer for her to stay at the center for children, or to go back home with her mom. Same response: “She can go or she can stay. Whatever she wants.”
“Oh, ok.”
I didn’t feel like it was truly a dangerous place, but couldn’t figure out if it was a loving shelter for abandoned children, or a sex trafficking operation waiting to happen with the unattended children and multiple beds.

Nandi piled into the truck with us and we brought her back to Dwaleni to stay with her family. Kacy told her that she could come spend the night at her house again in a couple weeks if she didn’t run away before then and she seemed excited about that part. Her mama seemed thrilled to have her back after the month long rollercoaster of not knowing where her child is. We are seeing a change in her mom and in Kevin’s family as well. They are learning what it means to have hope and how to be a family.

Needless to say, I ask for your prayers. Pray for Nandi and that we won’t ever have to go on another rescue mission for the rest of our lives. Pray for safety in the home. If Mama Nandi is doing anything that is putting herself or any of the children in danger, pray for that to end, too.

This is Nandi’s story and this only scratches the surface. This family has a lot of blank canvas to paint the story of redemption all over. Today I find myself so grateful that God has a big and beautiful paintbrush and specializes in doing this very thing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

I didn't grow up in church.
I think that's why I can love the church as much as I do.  :)
I believe in the power of the local church and believe she has a power through her Husband that nobody else has.
I recently accepted a position at a church outside of Ft. Worth as the Creative Director, which this particular church has never seen before.
I get to pioneer a creative movement to further the Kingdom and tell the story of Christ in a way that reaches every heart in the room, and beyond.
(no pressure, right?)

The way I see it, we (I can speak for the local church, right?) have 53 opportunities to communicate the Gospel in a corporate environment. That's 52 weekend opportunities, and throw in an extra for Christmas. One of those weekends happens to be a slightly "bigger deal" than the others... and it's happening this weekend.

In the church world, we refer to it as our Super Bowl Sunday.
We all of a sudden realize that we have an opportunity here to impact a larger group of people than we typically see. It's socially acceptable to attend church that day, when you wouldn't be caught dead in one otherwise.

The church starts talking about what Easter (salvation, redemption, love, the cross, the tomb being empty, etc...) means to the world and why we are suddenly ok with getting paid a slightly bit less than what the corporate world would pay for such raw talent.  :)

When people can understand the amount of power the resurrection has for their lives, everything changes.
When the story of Easter comes alive in you and in me, everything begins to come out of grey and into color...

(This is where I'll try to avoid my rant about how EVERY week should be an Easter Experience for the church and if we don't view it as such, WE. MISS. IT.)

So, here we are, leading into our Easter Experience for the weekend where rehearsals, run-throughs, extra work and quick snacks are the norm - but I can tell you this:
I don't want to miss one moment of this... One moment of Jesus. One moment of this week that is Holy.

Today is Maundy Thursday... and if you're like me, you don't really know what's so maundy about Thursday, or what maundy even means...
Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of the Last Supper of Jesus and gets its name from the Latin word mandatum, which means "commandment."
Near the end of the Last Supper, He said to His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

So today, we celebrate a day about love.
Our God is love. That's our God.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Honey, I'm... Where Am I Again?

Well, last week at this time, I was sitting in my African cottage with my person. Today I am sitting on a patio in Weatherford, TX. I had just a couple days in Houston… only to pack, say goodbye, and move. I’m not going to pretend this was easy. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

So much change and I’m not even talking about the time zones, although that is just now starting to seem normal again. Faces, schedules, zip codes, roads, and radio stations are different.

I couldn’t have come up with this on my own. Moving is not something that I consider to be in my Top 7 and saying goodbye is always so hard. But here I am.

Jesus, You called me and created perfectly. You know me. You’ve always known me. You will never forsake me either. That’s true and that’s a promise I can stand firm on.

Psalm 139:16 (MSG) Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

Jesus, thank You that Your plan is WAY better than my plan. Thank You for leading and directing me.

Where do I even begin?
- I have learned (again) that I was created perfectly. My intensity, passion, desire for intimacy, and intentionality is not a mistake.
- that I am worth more than a sparrow… and the animals that I saw on an African safari – no matter how magnificent they are.
- expectations are tough and I can’t expect people to act/react/handle things/love the way that I want them to.
- there is a real spiritual battle taking place.
- I am a bridge for the Kingdom of God – connecting people to their Kingdom stories.
- when Jesus restores – He restores things to a ‘better than before’ type of new.
- I’m worth it. (and so are you)
- God’s love is more than conditional, for it is intended to change those who receive it. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love. love. oh man. Love is strong.

So that’s where I am today. No big deal, right? He he he.
But that’s also where I am with this move.
It’s not easy, but it’s essential.
It’s an obedience and a response to a call.
It’s an ‘if I don’t, who will’ sort of thing.