Hands and Feet of Jesus: Emily and Andrew’s Story

Story.  We all love a good story.  My son, Owen, will sit for hours and listen to my husband or me reminisce about our childhoods or college days. He loves to hear stories.

People go to movies, watch television, and read novels for story.  Love stories particularly capture our attention.  Consider all the recent Twilight and Hunger Games craze– one girl, two boys, who will she pick?  Love plus the success of an underdog drives us to read more and watch more.

We love story.

We love story because we were created by God to innately love story.

Story captures our hearts, helps us believe we too can conquer our fears or achieve our dreams.

Story gives us hope.

We hear of one person overcoming the odds or seeing a miracle, and we begin to believe “there’s hope for us too.”

I read a lot of story – mostly nonfiction “story.”  I love the story of those who have taken great risk or demonstrated great boldness for the gospel.  That’s why I love 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Jen Hatmaker’s book details how someone ordinary – someone just like me – changed her life for His glory.

But, amazing stories aren’t just lived on movie screens and book pages.  Look around you.  People in your community or church are doing the very thing Jen is doing:  Living radically to make a difference, giving God all the glory.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Meet Emily and Andrew.

I met Emily when she was in high school.  I was her cabin leader at our church’s youth retreat.  Emily is now a children’s pastor at City Soul Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and a student at Ohio University.  Her love of Christ and people pours from her.

I met Andrew last fall.  He and Emily started a daily (now weekly) vlog (video blog) to raise awareness about homelessness in our area.  Andrew is a talented videographer and video editor, so it was natural for them to choose vlog over blog.  Andrew is also a talented musician who plays in our praise band at church.

Emily and Andrew met at Passion 2011.  (See?  Romance!  You’re warming to the story already:)  It’s a story of…he texted her, she texted him, they were just friends, then bam!  Dating.  I wish you could hear them tell the story complete with grins and blushing.

Andrew said after they returned home from Passion, he woke up to a text from Emily that said, “I miss Passion already.”  Two months later they built a snowman together and the rest is history.

Fast forward to Fall 2012.  Emily and Andrew begin to become more aware of homelessness in both Parkersburg, WV, and Marietta, OH.  Men and women holding signs at major intersections.  “Homeless – Need Help” written on cardboard.

You’ve seen these individuals before.  My heart always breaks as I roll down my window and hand them $5, but I then progress through the intersection, park, buy groceries at Wal-mart, and head back to my cozy home filled with clothing and lots of stuff.

My broken heart forgotten.  The person holding the sign forgotten.

For Emily and Andrew, tossing money out the window as they passed simply wasn’t enough.  They wanted to do more. They felt God calling them to more.

So, they acted.   Notice, they didn’t ask for the church’s permission or launch an official ministry with a fancy logo.  They decided to be the hands and feet that God calls each of us to be.

They acted.

Emily and Andrew began cleaning out closets, accepting donations, and purchasing canned food.  They went to the homeless  – at intersections, under bridges, on the street.  In talking with these men and women, they discovered how these individuals ended up homeless and how they could help.

Emily made flyers and distributed them near shelters and on the street, letting the homeless know she and Andrew would be in the local Kmart’s parking lot with food and clothing.  They loaded the truck at Andrew’s house, went to Kmart, and gave food and clothing to those that came.

At that distribution, Emily met a man named John who lives under a bridge.  A few months later, they visited John there, so he share how he became homeless.

Click to see Emily and Andrew’s visit to John’s house under the bridge.

Click to hear John’s story.

I pray you listen to John’s story.  We can all identify with John.  Questioning God – not understanding His ways.  Yet, John is thankful for what he does have.  Wow.

Story.  Emily and Andrew’s Story.  John’s Story.  Your Story.  We’re all part of God’s awesome story.

What’s your part in His story?  What’s God calling you to do?  How can you be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth?

I love the verse Emily quotes in the vlog:  35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

Indeed, it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Always.

To continue following Emily and Andrew’s remarkable story, you can like and view their vlog on Facebook or subscribe to their vlog on YouTube.

They have inspired me.  I pray they inspire you.

Let’s act.

Journey to Simplicity Week 4 – Less Sarah, More God

For Month 4, the Hatmakers gave up Facebook, Twitter, Email, TV, gaming consoles, iPhones (unless necessary), etc.   – all media for a month.  (No one died from this fast either…just sayin’).

As I read Month 4 in Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, many quotes jumped off the page and resonated with me.  Here are a few:

  • The gospel is neutered until it grows hands and feet and actually becomes good news to someone…
  • It’s okay to admit your worst struggles.  To actual people.  You don’t have to be awesome.  You can be ordinary.
  • There’s this nagging tension that things aren’t right, that life is more than blessing extremely blessed people…that’s all true.  A torrent of believers are demanding more from the indulged American life, daring to imagine that discipleship is adventurous and risky and sacrificial and powerful.
  • Others don’t need me to be as wired as I thought.  Most of my media involvement is simply about me (blah).
  • For me, it wasn’t so much the media I was missing but the knowledge that I was the only one missing it.  The party was going on outside my window, and I uninvited myself.
  • My communion with God suffers not for lack of desire but time.  And let’s be honest:  I say I don’t have time, yet I found 35 minutes for Facebook…”

I could go on and on.

Even though so much in this chapter resonated with me, I decided the “Aha!” moment in my world came through this verse and quote:

“’Blessed are the poor in sprit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). ‘ In order for Jesus’ kingdom to come, my kingdom will have to go, and for the first time I think I’m okay with that.”

I’ve blogged and talked often about my control freakish ways.  I like order and planning and [insert the type A profile here].  But, over the last few weeks as I’ve dealt with some bumps in the road, I’ve come to rest in Him – and be okay with it.

Food, clothing, technology – all the excess that Jen mutinied against – lose their hold and lure when you finally realize “my kingdom has to go.”

The “my kingdom has to go” mentality is something that God’s been working on in me for quite awhile.  And, in my defense, I’ve taken some steps he’s called me to that I NEVER thought I’d take…because they were an integral part of MY kingdom.

Still…I just couldn’t seem to develop an attitude of  “Jesus this is all you and yours – I am here to follow, obey, and glorify you.”  I continually held this or that back from God (as if we can really do that!). Hanging on to my kingdom.

Then, I started reading 7 with Marla and studying Jonah:  Navigating a Life Interrupted with the ladies at my church.  These two books have been colliding week after week with one with one theme resonating in my head and heart…

More of you, Lord. Less of me.  Less food, less clothes, less stuff, less technology.  Just less.

Less Sarah –  period.

And in the space that’s created by less of me and my stuff, God enters.  He gets ALL that space.

More prayer.  More Bible.  More fellowship with Godly women.  More family time. More quiet time communing with the God of the universe.


Jonah and Jen helped to me understand my need to hang on to my kingdom.

Jonah ran from Ninevah and God’s directions.  He was seeking his kingdom and his ways, not God’s.

“When God desired to dispense mercy to the Ninevites, Jonah wanted them demolished.  His aspirations were not in sync with God’s.  The discipline God allowed was not meant to punish Jonah; it was meant to prepare him. “

When God recently put the brakes on my self-seeking kingdom, it was because my aspirations and decisions weren’t in sync with His.  God disciplined me not to punish me, but to prepare me – thank you, Jesus!

“He [Jonah] gave himself over to what the Lord was permitting.”  Jonah quit fighting – for his way and his kingdom – and began fighting for God’s.

I’m finally willing to give myself over completely to what the Lord is permitting in my life because (I repeat),  “In order for Jesus’ kingdom to come, my kingdom will have to go.”

Mine’s going…and for the first time, I’m OK with that:)

Unexpected Gifts in the Mail

After a great weekend away with my family, I was sorting through the mail and found an envelope addressed to Hannah.  Inside there was a check for Amazima Ministries (you can read more about Hannah’s heart for this organization here), a picture of Cambodia with a note on the back, Cambodian money, and a picture of Marla Taviano and her family.

How awesome.

I met Marla online.  She’s an author/speaker/blogger who is leading the online read-a-long of Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Muting Against Excess.  I have tweeted and commented with her since I began participating in the study. She read my blog about Hannah’s heart for Uganda and decided to participate in Hannah’s fundraising efforts.

Wow.  Hannah (and I!) were so thankful for this unexpected gift in the mail.

It made me think about the Internet.  Lately, because of the book 7 and some events in my life,  I’ve been thinking about how Facebook, Twitter, and technology in general can steal my time and brain power while also hurting my feelings from time to time (I’ll post more on this Tuesday when I reflect on technology’s role in our lives as part of the 7 study).

Mostly, I have been hating technology recently.  Or, maybe more accurately, hating how I let it steal my first few minutes every morning when I scroll through Facebook and Twitter. Really?  The first few precious moments of my morning – right after prayer- goes to THAT? Yuck!

But, today I was thankful for technology.  Without it, I’d have never met Marla and been blessed by her genuine writing and loving heart.

I hope you’ll be thinking about technology and how it fits into/rules/compromises/affects your life.  I am looking forward to that conversation on Tuesday.

And, thanks, Marla!  Be expecting a return letter from Hannah:)


Too Much Stuff: Journey to Simplicity Week 3

Give away seven things per day for the next 30 days.

That’s the decision Jen Hatmaker made in month three of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

Of all the times in my life I could be reading this book, I happen to be reading it while packing to move.  Obviously, I have no excuse not to sort and give as I pack.

Easy, right?

Ummm….no.  Sure, I can give away the clothes that are too small for Hannah or too big for me.  Sigh.  That’s not sacrifice.  That’s helpful.  They’re just in my way.

Can I give away other things?  Things I don’t really need, but don’t want to give away?

As I pack, I keep thinking, “Where did I get all this stuff? Do I really need all this stuff?”

Don’t get me wrong; I am not auditioning for Hoarders. I love to throw and give away, but only on my terms.

It’s hard.  I am a justifier.  I think this:  “But, what if in a few years I decide to wear these shoes when my others are worn out?  What if I decide to redo a room in purple and regret giving away this vase?  You know, in a few years?”

See?  I can justify keeping any item with this line of thinking.  Then, I read this:

“Static has always surrounded the Christian life; so much threatens to distract us from the main point.  People have always preferred details and complications and rules, but when Jesus was pressed, He said (Jen translation), ‘Love God and love people.  That’s pretty much it.””

Could this stuff be part of the  “static” in my life?  Indeed, what is distracting me from the main point:  Love God, love others?

Oh, the distraction list is long.  It’s ugly.  So embarrassing that I am not even sharing it here.

As I look at the convicting list, I feel God speaking through Jen’s book:  “The gospel will die in the toxic soil of self.”

Yes, yes it will.  [Insert big dose of conviction here.]

Why, oh why, am I keeping these clothes, these books, extra dishes, etc.?  What’s the need?  The lure?

My care group is reading The Gospel by J.D. Greear and today’s chapter focused on this part of Greear’s Gospel Prayer:  “Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.”

His presence and His approval are all I need for everlasting joy.  I don’t need all this stuff.

I find it ironic that I’m struggling with this when my daughter understands it so well.  She’ll be 12 on Thursday, and her birthday party was last Friday.  She sent this letter in the invitation to her party:

Dear Friend,

        A couple of months ago I started reading a book called Kisses from Katie.  It is about an 18-year-old girl who is a missionary in Uganda and has adopted 14 children. She was sad when she saw that many of the children there could not go to school because they couldn’t afford it.  They could barely afford a daily meal. So she started Amazima ministries (Amazima means “the truth”) in hopes that she could help hundreds of children have clean water, food, a doctor, and an education. So this year instead of getting gifts for my birthday, I would like to help those children too. Instead of bringing a gift, please bring a donation for the kids Katie’s helping.  It would be cool to bring $12 because I’m turning 12!



Hannah knows she needs nothing.  She understands clothing and feeding Ugandan children is more important than her receiving another game, movie, electronics device, or shirt.

Her needs are met; she wanted to meet someone else’s needs.

As her mom, I am proud of her decision.  She’s raised over $250 for Amazima.

But, today, I went on Amazon and ordered her four books she’s been wanting.  I didn’t honor her wish to donate to her cause.  Geez, I just wanted her to have some presents!

Why?  I spent $40 on books.  Why not $40 to Ugandan children?  The children who have captivated my child’s heart?

Because culture says sweet little girls turning 12 deserve birthday presents.  (Lame, lame, lame! I am so lame!)  My daughter makes a radical choice, and I don’t even honor it because I want my child to have things.

I was reminded of Matthew 6:19-21 – 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Hannah gets this.  Her 12th birthday stored up treasures in heaven, not on earth.  Wow.

What about you?  Where are you storing up treasures?  Are you (like me) following cultural norms and expectations when buying?  Or, have you (like Hannah) realized you have enough and that it’s time to stop the consumerism cycle and give?

I know it’s not this simple.  I know there’s a shaky line somewhere between giving and keeping (although I have no idea where that prosperity vs poverty line is!)

My prayer is to find that line in my heart, so I can become more like Him.

Walking in a Fog – A Change of Perspective

Do you ever feel as if you’re walking in a fog?  You can see what’s in front of you and a bit of what’s around you, but you can’t see what’s in the distance.

Do you even feel as if you’re living in a fog?  You know what’s going on in the here and now, but you can’t see the bigger picture.  You may be asking how or why did this happen unable to see any potential good.  You simply can’t see the forest; you can only see the trees.

I’ve been in the fog for about 6 weeks.  Actually, a whirlwind of fog.  I see situations – almost all out of my control – unfolding around me, and I don’t understand why.  Yes, I trust God, but sometimes I’d just like to have some answers.

I’ve asked, “Why me?  Why them?  Why us?”

Do you ever look around at others and think, “Lord, why are their lives so perfect when I am struggling so much? “

In seeking answers,  I have immersed myself in God’s Word and Godly company.  I’ve been digging and questioning and reading and questioning (with some kicking and screaming thrown in for good measure:)

I have felt as if I was getting absolutely no where.

Helllloo, God?  Remember me?  Could you help me out here?  Silence.  More silence.

Until this morning – this morning everything I’ve been learning and reading clicked into place.

As I walked about 6:00 am, I listened to Found Favor from Life Church with guest speaker Steven Furtick.  He asked us if we wanted to find “favor” with God.  Not the “give me a parking spot near the door” favor. But, a “interrupt my life” favor.

Mary had favor with God.  She gave birth to a son that she would later watch die on a cross.

Job had favor with God. He lost all of his children and all his belongings – and more.

Furtick gave many examples of those who “found favor” with God.  But, favor doesn’t mean “easy life” as we’ve often been taught.  In fact, it often means difficulty.  No, it doesn’t have to be as severe as Mary or Job or Paul or Peter.  But, finding favor with God means struggles and interruptions nonetheless.

Near the end of the message, Furtick previewed next week’s message on FOG – Favor of God.  He asked the listener to consider it they are living in the FOG- the favor of God – complete with struggle and life interruptions.

The podcast ended.

I decided to talk to God in the silence, and here’s what God spoke to my heart…

You’re walking in the fog, Sarah.  (And, I was literally walking in fog! )  I’ve tried to help you see that my plans aren’t your plans. I am at work. I will redeem this in my own time for my glory.

To which I reply, no, no you haven’t, God. You’ve not tried to tell me.  You’ve left me hanging.  Tossing about as if I’m bipolar.

Then, the connections flooded my heart in a way only God could provide….

Jonah:   Navigating a Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer

I’m participating in this study with the ladies at my church.  On Wednesday, the following passage struck me between the eyes: “God graciously gives divine intervention to His children.  He presents them an opportunity to partner with Him in purposes they could never conceive.  A life interrupted by a holy God is a privilege…God doesn’t need us to complete His purposes, yet He still chooses to ask us to partner with Him.  It’s unfathomable.  His calling you means that He has chosen you above anyone else to do what He is asking.  You are the one He singled out and pinpointed as His partner for a particular project. “

Really? God chose me to walk through what I walk through because I am His partner?  These life interruptions and difficulties are a privilege?

This was a new perspective for me.  I’ve always know that God can turn ANY situation for His glory, but to think the difficulty or interruption is a privilege is remarkable.  A gift from an Almighty God.  Amazing.

Daniel 3:  Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego

In a rather odd twist of events, I am teaching this story to the children at my church this Sunday.  I’ve heard this story a million times (slight exaggeration maybe).  So, as I picked up my Bible to begin studying,  my attitude was one of…yawn, I’ve got this.

Wrong attitude.  As I read Daniel 3, all I could think of was…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only ones obeying God.  They would not bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue because they only worshipped the one, true God.

How “fair” is it that they were thrown in the fiery furnace?  It seemed the good guys were going to lose.  For me, that would’ve definitely been a “why me, God” moment.

But, these three faithful men said, “Our God will save us.”  If he doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  WHAT!?!??!  Oh, to have THAT faith.

And, it was in the furnace that they saw Jesus, standing among them, protecting them.  God took what seemed unjust and wrong  – a major life interruption – and he used it for HIS glory.

Prayer:  Does It Make Any Difference?  By Philip Yancy


My friend, Angie, and I are reading this book together.  There are so many parts of this book I’d love to share, but (honestly) I am still processing and understanding prayer.  However, God brought this quote to mind as thought about the “why me’s” in life:  “Prayer is not a means of removing the unknown and unpredictable elements in life, but rather a way of including the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of the grace of God in our lives.”

God’s not going to remove the unknown and unpredicatable.  If he did, I wouldn’t rely on Him – stay close to Him.  Again, this book has helped me to understand the necessity and awesomeness of life’s interruptions as God grows me/us through them.

Walking in the FOG is just where God needs me.  I can see what I need to see to accomplish just what he needs me to.   I can’t see too far in the future.  I can’t understand or see the bigger picture because if I could, I wouldn’t need Him directing me.  When in the FOG, I have to submit and lean completely on Him because my vision is limited – He has to be my guide.

While I will continue asking, “Why me?” – it won’t be with the same expectation.  I won’t mean “why poor ole me?” or “poor Sarah, what’s going to happen next.”

No.  No more.

Now, I ask, “Why me, Lord?  Why are you choosing to partner with me?  What are you trying to teach me?  How can I use this for your glory? “  From here on, the struggles and difficulties and interruptions will become a chance to partner with the God of the universe in doing his good work.

I pray the next time you ask, “Why me, Lord?” that your heart is seeking to lament less and glorify more.


Caught in Comparison: Journey to Simplicity Ch.2

“In the south you dress right.   Their customs run deeeeep, and you don’t mess with them…I was headed to a region where I once overhead this dialogue:

‘So, are you a Christian?’  ‘No, I’m a Southern Baptist.’

Okay then…

I wore my Haiti T-shirt on Friday night, and…my first sentence was a description of 7 with a What-was-I-supposed-to-do? reference to my outfit.  I couldn’t help it.  Okay, I could help it, but I had a social compulsion to defend myself, utterly vain and reminiscent of middle school.

Blame it on the Deep South.  Blame it on my need for approval.

I blamed it on ‘respect for my audience,’ but that may or may not be genuine…But just as quickly as the insecurity wave crested, it receded, because we opened up God’s Word and let it speak.”

As Jen Hatmaker recounted this experience in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I thought of the times in my life when I felt compelled to explain myself.  Jen was speaking at a women’s ministry event in Atlanta, and because she committed to wearing only 7 items of clothing for the entire month, she had few choices about what to wear for a two-day speaking engagement.

Feeling underdressed when she took the stage, she began explaining why she was dressed in such a way; she had a “compulsion to defend” herself.

Me too.

My decisions, my opinions, my past, my future, my purchases, my [insert just about anything here]…I feel as if I need to explain.  And while I only feel compelled to explain to people I care about (usually), I still feel as if I have to answer to …everyone.

For example, I am in the process of moving.  My husband and I feel this is God’s will for our family and our finances.  The process so far has been super easy.  Our house sold in two weeks; we bought the only house we looked at for a low, low price.  See?  Explaining.

Why do I/we feel compelled to explain?  Justify?  I used to think that justification only came when we thought we were wrong or sorta wrong.

I don’t believe that anymore.

We can fully believe we are absolutely correct, but still justify and rationalize our decisions to others.

Moving, homeschooling, quitting my job, training for a half marathon, blogging, volunteering at my church and on and on.  My explanations play like a broken record in my head.

Why?  Comparison and need for approval. When I compare myself to others, I then feel compelled to defend how and why my choices are different from or better than theirs because I need their approval.  Sigh…..

God has been revealing my penchant for comparing myself to others for a few months…ok, maybe a few years, but I was an unwilling participant until a few months ago.   My self-thought goes something like this, “I’d love to ______, but I could never do _______ as well as my friend, ________. So I won’t try/volunteer.”

I compare myself to others too much.  And, in each case, I come up woefully short or awesomely above.  Neither is healthy or Godly.

There’s no win in comparison …ever.  (I stole this line from Andy Stanley’s sermon series The Comparison Trap.  I encourage you to listen to the series if you struggle with comparison- i.e. everyone.)

How do we get over and past the comparison trap? Take a page from Jen’s book:

“But just as quickly as the insecurity wave crested, it receded, because we opened up God’s Word and let it speak.”

Let God’s speak:

Ephesians 3:16-19:  16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Romans 8: 38-39 says 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He loves me – just as I am – widely and deeply.  I am who He made me to be.  I don’t need to be anyone else.  He empowers me with the inner strength I need to resist sin through his Spirit.  Nothing can separate me from His love.

For me it all boils down to this:

“The average human gets around twenty-five thousand days on this earth, and most of us in the United States of America will get a few more.  That’s it.  This life is a breath.  Heaven is coming fast, and we live in that thin space where faith and obedience have relevance.  We have this one life to offer; there is not second chance, no Plan B for the good news.  We get one shot at living to expand the kingdom, fighting for justice.  We’ll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us.  We’ll have one moment to say, ‘This is how I lived.’  More than 13,000 of those days are over for me.”

Me too.  13,233 days to be exact.  At least half my life is gone.

Do I really want to live the remaining day or 13,000 days comparing myself to anyone except Jesus?  Worrying about what I wear?  From what store is comes?  And all that shallow garbage?

What a waste that would be.

As millions around the world go without basic necessities, I am busy saving for Buckle jeans because K-mart ones aren’t good enough?


Are you caught in the comparison trap too?  Even just a little?  I am praying that you break free. He has so much more for each of us.


Journey to Simplicity: Chapter 1 – Food

This week’s topic of conversation in my online read-a-long is food.  With just a cursory glance through my previous blog posts, you can easily discover that one of my biggest issues is FOOD.  I am slowly but surely allowing God to work on this issue in my life.  Thanks to Lysa TerKeurst’s book and Bible study Made to Crave, I am finally beginning to see my food issues for what they are:  sin.  So, as I read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I assume it’s not coincidence when the first area of excess I need to face is…food.

Ok, Lord, you have my attention – again.

Except, what God taught me through this chapter had little to do with food.

WHAT?!??!?  But, that’s my issue.  Surely, Lord, you have something new to say to get me past this funk I’ve been in lately.  This is how you work (usually).  Thing 1 isn’t getting my attention, so you kick me in the pants with Thing 2.

But, no.  What He needed me to hear was much bigger than my small-minded presumptions.

This sums it up:  “When I see kingdom work in the middle of brokenness, when mission transitions from the academic soil of the mind into the sacrificial work of someone’s hands, I am utterly affected.  Obedience inspires me.  Servant leaders inspire me.  Humility inspires me.  Talking heads dissecting apologetics stopped inspiring me a few years ago.”

Lately, I’ve felt stuck.  I read and study and listen to podcast after podcast, and I have moments of “wow, that’s good.”  But, I don’t feel I am really growing closer to God.  I don’t think I am becoming more like Jesus.  I see bits of heart change and perspective change, but there’s also a feeling of “stuck in a rut.”

I’ve been praying to break out of the rut.  Praying to start pursuing the dream that’s always been hidden in my heart.

When God revealed to me what moves me…further from me and closer to Him…I knew He, too, wants me out of the rut.

Kingdom work in the middle of brokenness…When I see kingdom work in the middle of brokenness, I am driven to tears.  I ask, “How, Lord, can you still work through him or her when he or she is so broken?” even though I know He often works best in brokenness – whether it’s a broken heart, a broken church, or a broken relationship.

God works in the brokenness – you don’t have to wait to be all fixed and all better to move closer to Him, to serve Him, to rest in Him. In fact, there’s no better time to seek and grow closer to Him than in the brokenness.  His grace and mercy will cover the rest.

Kingdom work moves me away from me and culture and closer to Him.

Mission transitions from the academic soil of the mind into the sacrificial work of someone’s hands….Nothing fires me up more than vision casters who don’t follow through.  Those who talk big about what he or she is going to do for this group or that country or these people, and then…nothing. Nada, zip, zilch.  Some know all the right things to say, but until it moves from their mind to their hands, I simply don’t respect them even if I like or love them.

However, when vision is cast and mission is carried out, I am overwhelmed.  I see Jesus in them and through them.  Indeed, “I am utterly affected.”

Being on mission and serving for His glory moves me away from me and closer to Him.

Obedience inspires me….On Sunday my friend felt called to stand up and clarify some information.  It’s just not this friend’s nature to do so, especially in a very public way.  In general, this friend doesn’t need to be right or argue or prove a point, resting in knowing God is in control.  But in this case, felt called to stand for what is right.  As I watched this friend’s obedience, I choked up.  God gave the perfect words and a gentle spirit.  It was a God moment for sure.

When I see obedience in others and when I am obedient, I feel closer to God.  (I know, thank you Captain Obvious!)  Still, just because we know obedience moves us closer to God doesn’t make it any easier when we have to courageously make a stand.

Obedience requires less of me and more of Him.

Servant leaders inspire me…What is a servant leader?  I decided to google it.  Woah.  Lots of definitions in cyber space along with an entire book on the topic by the man who coined the term “servant leader.”  Against my English teacher tendencies, I chose this Wikipedia definition:  “someone who is a servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community.”

I may have not known this term for them, but I know these leaders. I think of them as those who work alongside you, not the ones who sit in meetings and hand out directives and decisions.

As if I was drinking from a fire hydrant, God revealed my heart on this issue:  I have no respect for those who practice any other type of leadership style.  In my book, you’re a servant leader, or you’re a poor excuse for a leader.  Harsh, huh?  God’s dealing with me on this one.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Humility inspires me…It just does.  True humility causes my heart to sway.

Philippians 2 says, “ 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

This sums it up: Be like Jesus.  (THAT will move me or you out of ANY rut!)

When I began reading 7, my goal was simply to learn to create more space for Him, so I could have less of me and more of Him in EVERY area of my life.

That’s my prayer for me today – and for you.  More of HIM and less of ME/YOU.  I am praying God reveals to me exactly how I can create more space by asking myself these three questions from 7:

  • What in my life, if taken away, would alter my value or identity?
  • What causes an unhealthy change of attitude, personality, or focus when “it” becomes threatened?
  • What is the thing outside of God that I put everything else on hold for?

I’ll let you know what God reveals:)

Journey to Simplicity with 7

Today I begin an online journey with about 100 women from just about every state and a few foreign lands.  We’re reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and pondering the “excess” in our lives.

Honestly, I’m scared to truly reflect on the excess in my life – maybe because I secretly know how much is there.   [Insert big ‘ole sigh here.]

Our first assignment is to reflect on one of these questions:

  • What would move me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine?
  • How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?
  • What areas need the most renovation?
  • How am I blind and why?
  • Where have I substituted the American Dream for God’s kingdom?
  • What in my life is just too stinking much?

I considered all of these questions.  However, one jumped out at me: How am I blind and why?  In fact, I feel as if this question underlies all the other questions.  If I ask God where and how and why I am blind to certain excesses or sins or thought patterns in my life, I will (hopefully) move closer to God’s agenda, renovate my life and views, and reduce my excess.

I don’t think the process of discovering my blind spots will be easy or fun.  I don’t like being told I am wrong, so I am pretty sure when God begins revealing my blindness I will kick and scream and justify for a few days – at the least.

But, I am willing to take this journey because I am tired.  Tired of living in a cultural whirlwind of Facebook statuses, tweets, bills, expectations, and keeping up with those proverbial Jones.  After all, what has the American Dream done for any of us lately besides cause us to feel as if we can’t measure up?

I see broken people, broken families, broken organizations all around me.  I don’t want to join them, but I have a feeling if I don’t keep in stride with God’s agenda and sprint from my own, I will end up caving to a culture that has little true joy to give.

Why would I cave?  Because I have an addictive personality.  I easily jump on bandwagons.  When I have a new idea, project, or membership, I jump in head first and rarely come up for air.  Whatever I do, I overdo.  If I commit, I begin to live and breathe the commitment and expect everyone else around me to get as excited and “all-in” as I am.

Luckily, I have some amazing friends who aren’t afraid to say, “Ah-hem.  Slow down.  Think.  Stay close to God.  Don’t decide without Him.  Remember, He’s in control.”

That’s another issue I have that I hope the 7 journey will help me with:  Control.  I like to be in control.  Right now I am in the midst of some situations in which I have no control – zip, zero, zilch.  And, it’s driving me nuts, so I am praying God reveals my blindness (or stubbornness) in this area and helps me pass control of all things over to Him.

Our group is also considering these quotes from Jen’s book:

  • “I became a girl who loved the marginalized. I couldn’t get enough of them in my personal space.” (2)
  • “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.” (3)
  • “The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.” (3)
  • “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (4)
  • “My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” (5)

Again, as I perused these quotes, most of them spoke to me, but one jumped off the page:  “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal:  to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

That’s what I desire most – for God to reveal His kingdom to me in new ways.  To have space in my life and my family’s lives to steep in His love; to learn more about Him, His word, and His ways; and to grow closer to one another and those in our community as an outpouring of His love for us.

I’m done with complicated and keeping up.

I’m ready for simple and slowing down.

The journey won’t be easy – more of a roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl than a merry-go-round.  But, I am buckling down excitedly and expectantly as I anticipate how God will reveal himself and his ways over the next few weeks.

If you’d like to join us or follow along, visit Marla Taviano’s blog; she’s leading us.

Beautiful Things

I am a writer. I write daily about everything.  Writing is how I process life.  Just ask those who text me on a regular basis; my texts often turn to novels:)  However, when I am writing about things that aren’t beautiful, pure, lovely, or excellent (Philippians 4:8), then I (mostly) don’t publish them on my blog.  While I want my blog to be transparent, authentic, and real- about real life, real people, and real struggles – there’s only so much dirty laundry one can or should air (in my opinion:).

A few weeks ago I gave up and quit publishing to my blog.  I regret it.  I wish I’d kept going, sharing what I could for His glory.  I wish I hadn’t allowed busyness, stress, and insecurity to creep in and stop me from publishing and sometimes writing.

But, I did.

The amazing thing about life and our Savior is that we get second chances.  We fail.  We stumble.  We break down. We pray. We lean into God and friends.  They pick us up.  They carry us.  We regain our footing.  (We often repeat these steps…again and again.)

And, second chances are for ALL of us – the sinner and the sinned against.

Still, do you ever have those moments when you ask God, “why, why, why?”  Why did this happen?  Why is he/she so successful?  Why is everyone’s life so neat and wonderful and mine’s a mess? Why is she so skinny?  (Ok, that’s mine.)  If someone has wronged you, you want that person to pay, to suffer, to feel remorseful.  You ask God, “How could you let this happen?  To me? To him? To her?”

I have been asking some of these questions to my friend, Angie, and as we’ve processed and journeyed together, here’s what she shared with me…It all began with God taking me on a journey to realize that he could use a broken person like me; that he created me; and that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.  Then leading me on to see that in people around me.  It is quite easy to see beauty in people close to me, people I love.  However, to see the world through God’s eyes I have to see the beauty in each person I come into contact with here on earth – even when the beauty is yet to be displayed from them.  I have to look at those who have wronged me or hurt the people I love and ask God to show me the hearts he designed in them.  I have to look through their brokenness just as Christ looked through mine.

It’s so hard  “to see the beauty in people …to see the world through God’s eyes…even when the beauty is yet to be displayed in them.”  So, I want to share Angie’s prayer with you – a prayer from her heart as she strives to be His hands and feet.


This is Angie’s prayer:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for taking my hand in this journey – for having an outstretched arm ready for me to grab a hold of.  While I long for the day in which you return, I continue to pray that I seek your knowledge and guidance daily to be your hands and feet here on earth.

Life here on earth is full of chaos – broken people in a broken world.  At times I get so entangled by the sin surrounding me and in me that I can’t see beyond it.  In those times I have to remind myself that I am simply looking through my own stained lenses.  I call out to you, Lord, and ask to get a glimpse of how you see us. 

Recently you led me to the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, in which the following words impacted my soul:

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

I know anything that is seen as beautiful in me Lord comes directly from you.  Psalm 103:14 says, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” 

You know that we struggle, that we fail you, that in the times when we need you we often hide in shame.  You know when we falsely judge others or seek our own selfish desires.  You know every intimate detail about me, every thought, every motive, every hair on my head. 

Yet, you remain. 

You remain beside me, waiting for me to learn not to hide from you but instead to run to you.  You remember I am but dust.  Let my broken offering be an example of your unconditional love and unending grace.

You created us in your image – every one of us.  So when you look at us, you see what you desired to create in each one of us. 

Isaiah 61:3 – “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

Thank you for loving me past my pile of ashes, for opening my heart and soul to your truth in the Bible.  Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the garden you see growing here on earth.  A garden whose vine is you, whose roots come from your word.  Thank you for planting amazing examples of a Christ-like character all around me.  Oaks of righteousness – may we each desire to be oaks of righteousness. 

You make me new; you are making me new…


New.  God is making each of us new every day if we allow Him to.  Our world is broken, but we don’t have to sit and simmer in the brokenness.  We can read his Word, pray, seek Godly wisdom, and choose to view the brokenness as God views it.

May each of you see others today as the image bearers of a loving, sovereign God who reigns in the brokenness.

Raise a Child in the Way She Should Go…Even if It’s Hard

Last night as I picked up my daughter, Hannah, from dance she asks, “Am I dancing on the elite teams again next year?”  I say, “I have no idea.  Why do you ask?  Do you have to decide now?”

“No, I have just been thinking and praying.  All the money we spend on dance could help so many people in the world.  Like Katie and her kids in Uganda.  I want to help them.  Just think how many kids I could help with all that dance money, “ she says.  “Maybe I could give up doing a solo.  I could give up the elite teams and just do one team.  Then, I could give all that money to Uganda.”

“You’re quitting dance?  But, you love to dance, Han,” I respond.

“I know, but what am I going to do with dance in the future?  But, that money could educate and feed kids.  And they need that,” she says. “I won’t quit.  I’ll still dance. But, maybe I won’t compete.”

“Let’s pray about that, Han,” I mumble.

A few weeks ago Hannah began reading Kisses from Katie.   I recommended it to her after seeing Katie Davis speak at Catalyst in October.  While reading the book, Hannah has continually educated our family with statistics about the plight of children in Uganda who need clean water, food, housing, an education, and medical care.

Then, a few Sundays ago, the children’s ministry at our church launched a project to support Amazima Ministries – the organization Katie Davis founded in 2008 at the age of 18.  (She’s now adopted 14 children and is only 21 years old.  Read more of her story here.)

Katie Davis

That project was like a word from God for Hannah.

She told me she’d been praying for a way to help Katie and now she could.  Awesome, I thought.

Not much more was said after that, except for the occasional, “Mom, did you know that for just 19 cents a child in Uganda can have clean drinking water?”

Until yesterday.

Little did I know that my eleven-year-old little girl had never stopped praying or pondering how should could help Amazima.  This morning, once again on our way to dance, she described her plan while reading from her “notebook” on her iPhone.

Her plan:

  • For my 12th birthday [coming in March] I’d like to have a big party at church, but ask for people to donate $12 to Amazima instead of bringing me a gift.
  • I want Nana to help me make heart suckers at Valentine’s Day and Easter.  I’ll sell them and give the money to Amazima.
  • I’d like to have the pretzel container from Christmas.  I want to decorate it and put it at the front desk at church, so people can drop their spare change in it.  I can even ask them during the service if they’ll let me.
  • I want to make a Facebook page.  I want to post statistics and information about the needs in Uganda and let people give money through the page.
  • I want to think about how I spend money and try to be more careful.

This is how she plans to Make Much of Him.

I bet most of you are thinking, “That’s great!  Aren’t you proud of her? What a great little gal!”

Yes.  I am proud of her.

But, deep down – if am truly honest – I do not want her sacrificing her gifts and party and special day and dance and all the things 12-year-olds want and do.

This is what other people’s kids do.  Other people’s kids are called to sacrifice.  Other people’s kids are called to the mission field.  Not mine.

Steve and I teach our kids to pray and listen for God.  We teach them to go with God, even if it seems radical or counter-cultural.  So, when my precious little girl goes the way she’s been taught, I should not be surprised, upset, or anxious.

Yet, I am.

I should be thankful.  I should pray for her and her quest to raise $6,000.  Yes, you read that right:  $6,000.  She did some math based on the statistics in the book and came up with that number.

That’s just her first goal. She actually hopes to raise $24,000 – in $6,000 increments.

I want to say, “Han, that’s really not possible.  You’re dreaming too big.  You’re being unrealistic. That’s a lot of heart suckers!“  I want to say those things because I don’t want her to be disappointed if she doesn’t reach that goal.

Pause.  I don’t say those words because I suddenly realize I am not practicing what I preach – literally.  This is the young lady we teach her to be.  Pray she’ll be. So,  I keep thinking, “What is wrong with me?”  I should be jumping up and down and my heart is heavy.

Little or no dance? Hannah is passionate about dance.  She literally dances from room to room and spends about 10-12 hours at the dance studio each week. $6,000?  No birthday party?  Really?

In the midst of this back and forth in my heart, I asked a trusted friend for thoughts.  My friend replied with this:

“The leading priests and the teachers of the religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.”   (Matthew 21:16, NLT)

Indeed, this is what we have taught her – to praise and glorify Him with her life.  It’s time to walk alongside her as she lives out what she’s learned and what God’s spoken to her young heart.

Even if it’s hard.  Even if it’s not what I had planned for her.

Hannah is His child.  God has entrusted Steve and me with the gift of raising her (and Owen:).  He has a plan for her life that’s far greater than anything I could imagine, even if it’s tough to see right now.

While I can speak wisdom into her life, teach her His word and ways, guide her to Biblical teachers and Godly adults, and pray for her, ultimately, I must let her find her way – follow God’s calling on her heart – even if it’s not what most would call “normal” or “typical.”

Today was a lesson in letting go and letting God.

Are you having trouble letting go and letting God?  Maybe it’s not your children, but something else.  I encourage you to give it to Him.

Easily said, not easily done.

NOTE:  If you like to learn more about Amazima Ministries and Katie Davis, please visit this site:  http://www.amazima.org/index.html

I’ll keep you up-to-date on Hannah’s plans and progress:)