Culture Wars

17 12 2014

I’ve been quite intrigued with the world lately.  I went to Africa in October and that opened the door to a part of my heart once locked tight – the part that begs to explore and experience as much as possible as soon as possible!

Since returning I’ve been anxious to get back on those planes – interesting since I was restless and uncomfortable through every flight we took – and go visit somewhere else I once would have regarded as “not for me.”  All it takes it for someone to mention another country and I’m looking up the cost of getting there!  It’s actually kind of beautiful because I know God is going to use this new found desire and I’m excited to see how, but might need to be ok with waiting in the meantime!

In the meantime, I am surrounded by people from other cultures where I work.  It is such a beautiful thing to be getting to hear the language, speak the language, eat their food – sorta, ask them questions, and experience as much as possible with them in my culture until I can make it to theirs!  And sometimes it makes me think about my culture, sometimes we fight because of the differences in culture, and most of the time we make faces at one another when something is really weird and call each other “Strange.”  The most spectacular thing is that we know we are different and enjoy the differences we bring to the world.

From one friend I hear stories of a war torn nation that once knew peace.

From another friend I hear of a nation that has abundance, but its people are living in poverty.

I hear stories of people going between countries trying to build a good life- which they did.

I hear stories of people fighting and doing everything possible to stay in America because this is their hope.

I hear of the people who come here to learn all they can simply so they can take it back their people who are desperate for the hope and freedom we have.

Then there are the times when the excess I grew up with clashes harshly with one who has no idea what that means.

I remember growing up the popular phrase used to make children eat all their food was, “There are starving kids in Africa and you want to throw your food away?”  Now in reality, I was full and had probably put too much food on my plate for the third time that day.  I did not care about the starving kids in Africa, I cared about not making myself sick.

The other day a person brought donuts to the office and although they were already not fresh we ate them!  However, at the end of the day we had not managed to eat all of them.  In my Americanness I was ready to throw the already going stale donuts into the trash because it was not worth keeping them around!  But my friend fought valiantly to save these donuts because in her country they can’t afford to not use everything they have!  I was ready to simply over rule her since in some ways I am above her in work ranks.  “You are in America now, and we throw stale things away.” I reasoned with myself in my mind.  Then she said something that set aside my American pride and caused me to capitulate, “My grandmother would cry so much if she knew you had thrown those away.”

Now for those reading this you may not understand why that statement made me stop.  I think most of the reason was that I knew she was telling the truth.  This wasn’t a sarcastic comment stretching the truth in order to get her way, it was her reality.  It was something that defined her life and caused her to see the world in a specific way.  Unfortunately, I might have given her a little bit of attitude because I did not get my way, but in the end compassion and understanding won the day.  This is just one reason, one incident, that makes me so grateful to have so many friends from other countries!  They make me a better person, and really they make me a better American too.  Because we aren’t being who we are supposed to be to the world – we are pretty caught up in our own mess, but they still need us!  They need us to be free to live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God!


I’m Not In Control – A Story of Africa

10 11 2014


This is Tanzania.

The hardest place God has ever asked me to go.  Which is crazy because it is a stunning place to see!

Not only it is stunning in beauty, but Tanzania is easy to evangelize!  Living in America you get used to people yelling and arguing with everything you say.  Not that this never occurred in Tanzania, because it did, but there was less hostility behind their disagreements – and seeing some of them genuinely change their mind was incredible.WP_20141023_06_48_31_Pro

I saw two people get saved who before they heard anything wanted nothing to do with what we might say.

I shared the Gospel with a very large group of students, half of whom had never heard to Gospel before!

But despite all the amazing things that I did and saw, it was the hardest 11 days of my life!

There were several reasons for the severe difficulty of being in Africa for 7 days and traveling for 4, but I will save you those details.

The thing was it was not until about a week before that trip that I resigned myself to actually going.

I have tried to figure out what caused my unwillingness to “go into all the world” which is the very cry of my heart and honestly I’m still uncertain what kept me from wanting to go!

I will say this though: if you ever haSUNP0017ve a chance in your life to do something God has asked you to do and you do not want/feel like doing it, JUMP IN!!!  Go after that moment if it takes everything inside of you to complete it!

Going did take everything inside of me.  I even had a pretty bad internal attitude about going.  I waited until the last possible second to take care of things.  Up to two weeks before the trip I sat on my floor and nearly begged God to not make me go.

I went.  I am so very glad I went.

I watched God open doors that probably should have been closed.

My view from the hotel room.

My view from the hotel room.

I expected them to be closed.

When they opened I begged God to close them.

What a mess I was!

I found out that even when I think I have control of things, I actually do not!  I thought I could wiggle my way out of being on a trip that would change my life forever – but I couldn’t.

I have been back home for almost two weeks and I asked the Lord about those events leading up to me going.  His response?

“Your flesh was weak, scared, and tired, but your Spirit was crying out to me to go, to be there, to experience this – so I ran with that.  I made sure that in your weakness I was strong.  When you were unable to want to be there, I made sure you were there.  When you hated that I had asked you to go, I strengthened you from the inside and made sure you could handle it.”

God is so good!

I experienced a level of mercy I have never known before!  To be allowed to go on a trip that I fought against being on – wow!  He could have closed all those doors!  He could have listened to me beg him to let me stay!  He could have decided my attitude was terrible and he would never allow that on his mission!  BUT HE DIDN’T!

My Sister calls this the typical Africa photo!

My Sister calls this the typical Africa photo!

From the instant I stepped foot on American soil again nothing has been the same!  I have shed tears over this nation I revolted against being in.  Thinking of the people still makes my heart weak.  In fact being back in America feels weird.  I can not explain it or describe it, but it is weird.

I have always known I would do a lot of short-term missions, I think that is being fully unlocked in my life.  I dream of nations.  I want to see them.  Experience them.  Learn them.

My flesh is weak, but my spirit is begging to “trust without borders.”

To try and explain what the Lord has done in my life is impossible.  I do not even understand it.  Maybe in a couple months things will be more clear.  Right now all I know is that whoever left America three weeks ago is not the same person who returned.

Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Mt. Kilimanjaro!


Like A Butterfly

4 09 2014

So that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:5

I’ve realized that my life has been caught in men’s wisdom. Or most accurately, my wisdom.

If I can make sense of it, then I’ll believe it. If I can see how it might possibly be able to happen, I can have faith for it. But if I cannot understand it, nor find any possible way for it to happen then I probably won’t believe it can or will.

So the last few weeks I’ve been reevaluating faith. I’ve determined I want my faith to rest on God’s power, not my wisdom or imagination. I have no idea where this road will take me. I’m not sure what I’m looking for or what changes might occur. I am positive of this one thing, though, my faith can no longer be reliant on what I can do or can’t do. I must believe that my God truly is the Miracle Maker, the Great I Am, the God of the impossible.

This is simply my public declaration that I am choosing to trust in the Lord, not lean on my own understanding. I’m pressing in and I will fall into God’s power.

Why Did I Get Dressed?

11 03 2014

I’m here in my office, and no one else is around.  It’s nice to have music as loud as I want it while I work, but otherwise it makes for a pretty boring day and this introvert is now lost in her head because there’s no one to impress!

A couple months ago having no one to impress would have meant I spent as little time as possible on my appearance.  Do enough to be in dress code and nothing more!  However, today I spent more time on getting ready than any other day at this job! Why is that? Because I finally am beginning to understand that I am worth my time!

I was a roll-out-of-bed-and-get-out-of-there person for most of my life.  Not because I didn’t have the time, or even because I was lazy as I used to tell people.  It was because I did not feel worthy of giving myself time and I felt God was disappointed in me if I made myself look nice.  I would actually look at myself and think I was ugly if I was wearing make-up or something shiny on my ears and neck.  I thought that was how God viewed me too.  Turns out, I was wrong. Yes, He finds me stunning and captivating just the way He made me!  I am enough exactly the way I am!  But He also finds me beautiful when I put just enough make-up around my eyes to make them stand out because they are His favorite feature.  How do I know?  Everyone compliments my eyes!  He thinks they are incredible and He loves to draw attention to them!  I even think He enjoys making people stop dead in their tracks to get a second glance at the captivating pupils He placed so delicately inside.  He loves for people to delight in His creation, and He loves to work within culture to do just that!  Many times we fear culture and have a mind-set that since the world loves these things, God must hate them.  I’m learning that heaven sees things very differently!  I am learning to take God seriously when He said He loved the world, that the earth is His and everything in it!  He came to redeem and restore, not condemn and refuse!

Therefore, today I put on mascara, beautiful eye shadow, and nice clothes knowing that I am redeemed and taking time for myself!  When I was finished I almost laughed with joy at the beauty I saw!!

For those of you who may struggle with something similar, hear me…this did not happen over night.  It also did not happen because people around me were begging me to wear make-up to look beautiful.  I have spent over three years of intense time with the Lord overcoming insecurities and heartache.  About a month ago God began to approach the subject of beauty.  I asked Him two important questions: What makes me beautiful? And what lies have I believed about beauty?  Through the course of the last month I have spent various amounts of time getting ready – but I hold to the two truths everyday no matter how much time is spent: I am beautiful and I am worth my time!

What is your beautiful?

Did I Ask Jesus Into My Heart?

5 03 2014

I have grown up in church.  I went to my first camp when I was 8, ATF at 13, and by the summer of 13 was a total camp junkie.  I had one school year where I did not make it to every church service in existence and felt so guilty for it.  

I have never faltered in my devotion to the church or to God.  In fact at the age of 20 I went to Bible school.  Now I am a graduate of said school and a youth leader in my church again at nearly every service open – except when I cannot get there because I do not have a car.  

But I have to be honest, sometimes I question the way we do things in the church.  Most of them I keep to myself or share with those who I know will listen and correct as necessary.  The general public is not ready to hear the things that bounce around in my brain. This one, though, I am really wondering about.

So here is the question:  Are we selling people short by telling them to accept Jesus into their heart?

Before you berate me for heresy let me explain.  When I was five years old I sat on my Mom’s lap in tears.  I do not remember what the pastor said, except “Let’s pray” sometime toward the end. I do remember my Mom looking at me crying and asking if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart.  I wish, and maybe one day the Holy Spirit will tell me again, I knew what God was speaking to my heart in that moment!!  I did not realize the power of that moment until a couple years ago.  In fact, I thought I had been caught up in something emotional at that tender age. I always told people I got saved at twelve when I found a new depth of my relationship with God, but really that is all it was, a new depth of what was already there!

I got saved by asking Jesus into my heart.  In fact I got so saved I went home, and got my sister saved because I knew she needed it too!  She was two. I think I mostly made the decision for her, but the decision stuck around!

I am not necessarily saying this is wrong.  Obviously I got very saved by the asking of this question.  Although the longer I am in relationship with God the more I realize I did not just ask Him to come into my heart for me to be forgiven and then evangelize other people for the same thing.  No. No. No! I got saved in order to be one of a million people invading earth with the presence of heaven making it harder for them to deny the existence, power, glory, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!  I got saved to follow after Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I got saved to be after his heart and to push back the kingdom of hell to render Satan and his armies as utterly defeated as they already are.

I did not get saved to ask more people to accept Jesus into their heart.  I got saved to plead with them to desert their dead life and run forward with everything they have for the life and freedom Christ offers them!  In fact I might ask them that very question: Would you like to leave your dead life and head toward a promise of eternal life beginning this very instant joining with Christ to bring His presence and power to the earth in order to seek and save those who are also lost?

The Gospel is so much more than Sunday School and a sweet prayer to ask Him to live inside of you.  Following Jesus means we do as Jesus did because He only did what the Father was doing.  He is inside of you, making everything new, and bringing the dead things to life.  Why can He do that?  Because He conquered death and walked away from it!  He did not save you so you could sing pretty songs in church!

The world is dying.  Will you follow hard enough after Jesus to be a part of His rescue mission? 

No More Flirting

6 11 2013

For those of you who know me, you probably think that title is crazy since there is not a flirting bone in my body!  I don’t naturally have the cutsie grin or eyelash batting or cheesy pick-up lines.  And I thought that meant I was broken.

As a teen I enjoyed my single life!  In fact it was an accomplishment to have made it through high school only dating one person – and that didn’t get too serious!  I even prided myself on getting through college (especially one famous for getting people together) without so much as a date!  Although there was a near proposal thrown in there – weird.  I enjoyed the fact that I was able to live life different being totally focused on God and what He was doing in me than starting a family!  I used to read blogs from twenty-somethings lamenting about watching friends get married and what God was teaching them and thinking, “I’m not sure I will ever feel like that.”

The problem?  I do dream of having a family.  In fact the more God works on me the more I desire it!  The more He squeezes selfishness out the, the more I long to have a family to serve and to lay my life down for.  I thought serving in my church’s youth group would make it better.  Nope!  It only made it worse!  Being the only single female youth leader in my age range left a sour taste in my mouth!  Suddenly, after watching picture of proposal after proposal and wedding after wedding on Facebook I felt exactly like those twenty-something girls who all learned something about being single when everyone else is not.

The crazy part?  Most of my friends I live daily life with are single!  It’s not like I’m forced to be an awkward third wheel all the time while they enjoy their time together!  So what happened?

I bought into a lie.  Something that deep inside of me had me convinced I would never marry or know what it was like to even be in a committed relationship.  I believed it.  With my entire heart.  And God had a funny way of revealing those deep secrets of my heart to me.

It all began with an innocent dinner with friends!  We went to a wonderful place full of food and most importantly coffee!  Perhaps the heavy coffee drinking impeded our judgement?  Nah!  After consuming our food and many cups of coffee my friends thought it would be a great idea to teach me how to flirt, because we all know I simply can’t!  So the awkwardness began.  My face turned multiple shades of red throughout the event, especially when it was decided that in order to “live a little” we should take my new found skills (which were actually none) to Wal-Mart.  Now can I just say, Wal-Mart is the perfect place to act dumb and silly, but not get a man of God who can lead my family so needless to say I suddenly felt really awkward!  The most they could get out of me was to go step in front of a guy and say “Excuse me.” because there was no way I was going to flirt with any of them!  No way Jose!  And if that offends someone named Jose – I apologize!

When I returned home from my “adventure” I sat on my couch in complete humility.  See at one point during the Wal-Mart fiasco I managed to get away from the urging of my capt-uh friends. 🙂  As I wandered the isle of my prison God began to speak to my heart.  “What do you keep telling yourself?”  I wanted to be sarcastic and say that this was dumb, but I knew He was getting at something greater – my core beliefs.  I thought of every thought I had as they “taught” me to flirt.  My thoughts were filled with degrading self-talk full of lies about my relationship with men, myself, and the future of my relationship with my eventually-to-be-revealed husband.  I got on my computer and I typed whatever had come to my mind during the course of the night.  I left it alone and left it to God to begin to show me how to work those out specifically over the course of time.  Then tonight there was a gentle stirring in my heart that is the entire reason for this blog!

See in the Youth Major one of the most popular sayings about youth ministry was this, “What you catch them with is what you keep them with!”  In that case we are speaking of teens, but tonight God told me that same thing about my husband.  I can’t flirt.  Maybe when a ring is on my finger the button will magically switch to the ‘on’ side, but why fake it now?  Why catch a man with something that isn’t a part of who I am?  Culture, and peer pressure, tells me that in order to get a date I have to flirt.  But I’ve learned that God has called me to live counter-culture to almost everything. God tells me that to be myself, lack of flirting and all, is the best way to wait for my husband.  Because whatever guy can love a girl who can’t flirt with him – is a pretty stinking special one!

I will get my man by being myself, and I will keep him by being myself.  I will offer him something no other woman, job, opportunity, or anything can offer him – the totality of me.  No one else can be me!  That’s God’s way!  I think I like it too – it seems less embarrassing and more safe! 🙂

Dear Church,

27 06 2013

What if?

Separated they are just words.  Together they create one of the most powerful questions in the English language.

What if you really knew God loved you beyond anything you can comprehend?  WOuld you be different?

What if?

I have been wondering about a lot of “what if?” questions for a couple weeks now.  Questions that perhaps you have never thought of.  Or maybe you have and disregarded them because of what it would imply and how much your life would have to change.  Questions that challenge me and sometimes cause me to wonder if maybe I am crazy.  But I am not – well actually I am.  I have been asking the questions that no one wants to hear, but we need to.  And I intend on finding the answers and putting them into practice.

What if everyone in the Church actually gave the full 10% that God says is necessary?

We get on the Government about being greedy and having too much salary and not being willing to give some of that up in order to help the people.  But if the ENTIRE church gave the 10% that God asks us to, we could literally take care of hunger, adoption, the sex-trade industry, pornography, AIDS, and everything in between.

JUST ON 10%!!!!

I know it is uncomfortable to give when the economy is tight and you are not sure how you will pay the bills.  I know it is hard to give when it would mean giving up that phone or the extra car.  I know it is hard to give when you are wondering how your children will eat.  But here is the thing – if people tithed you wouldn’t have to worry about what your children would eat!!!  We would see the church being able to take care of people and families just like they did in the early church!  We should not be a welfare system, but a place of safety and challenge.  Not allowing people to get lazy, but challenging them to work hard because they have been taken care of in their time of need!

I think we need to stop complaining about how much money the government is taking and start tithing and doing things the way the church was always intended to.  God wants to take care of His people.  He put people and a plan in place – I think it is time we step up to the plate!  I for one am already doing my part and given time this message and all the other one’s God has placed inside will be shared with people in order to challenge them!

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

The Kingdom doesn’t have any oppression, by giving sacrificially of yourself you are pouring into the Kingdom and all the other things will be given to you as well.   Will you respond to the heart of the Father that wants His people to be taken care of?!