Thursday, January 29, 2009

i used to say this.

now i lay me down to sleep.
i pray the Lord my soul to keep.
when in the morning eye wide and awake.
pray the Lord my soul to take.
God bless...
mommy, daddy, bryan, ashley, ollie, cary, zap, the crabs, the fish, the bird, the rabbits, doc, shelly, and allll of our animals. God bless the good people, bad people, white people, black people, purple people, red people, orange people, yellow people, allll the people in the world. God please forgive me of my sins and help me to be a better person tomorrow.

and then i'd pray for God to please let me marry some boy that i currently had a crush on.

how innocent. i mean look at that. i prayed for every bloomin' animal that lived under our household - and we had a lot and that doesn't include them all. we had hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles, snakes...our house was a zoo most times. and i prayed for every person in the world. do you see that? good people and bad people. in my little heart, there was no one outside of God's reach to love. i remember praying that prayer, mostly, while living in the house we lived in the longest. so let's say that prayer began somewhere around 5 years old. and that was the same prayer i continued to i say it still. i say it still as i lay my head down at night just to remind me of that innocence. it's the catalyst that gets my heart praying in all different directions. it's almost like i pray that prayer and i'm looking back at a little girl who isn't me. cause let's face it. when you're a child, you're so different.
when does that change? when do we lose the faith that we had in childhood?

God says that we were created for him and by him. if that's so, then something in us must yearn to be with the one who created us. i know that i used to have a near panic attack if i lost sight of my mom in a grocery store. lordy me, if i lost sight of her once, i lost sight a million times. and i'd hollar out, "mooooommmm!" of course all moms would turn and i'd be embarrassed. but i needed my mom and my dad. they were my lifeline. but so was God. so is God. and children know that. it may not come out as knowing that Jesus is the son of God...but they know something bigger is at hand and they know love sweeter than we do. their love has yet to be spoiled by the world.

they still hold hands with classmates who don't feel good - just in hopes that holding their hand will help them feel better. they still cry when their goldfish die. they kiss the tops of frogs backs. they take in deep breaths and giggle when the wind blows suddenly. they hug with a fierce intensity as if it's the only hug they'll ever be able to give you and they want it to be the one you'll always feel and remember. they smile at everyone despite whether they smile back. they love sitting near the ones they love.
my sister-n-law told me that when her oldest son started preschool, he had a precious little black girl in his classroom. i guess my nephew hadn't really been around anyone with a skin tone different than his before. the teacher informed my sister-n-law, that day at pickup, that my nephew had stood in awe of this little girl and just stared at her while he said, "she's beeeauuuuutiful." see, isn't that it? no prejudices - just a heart that was made to love, loving.

somewhere along our way, satan starts rubbing in lies. he starts telling us that our skin tone is prettier than another, that a certain face shape is most perfect, that blue eyes are better than brown, that you don't have to smile at everyone and you definitely don't have to be nice to everyone. but those are all lies. nowhere did jesus say - hate your neighbor or be unfriendly to him when he wrongs you or when you're in a bad mood or when you want to, just ignore him if you're in a hurry.

i know that we can't keep innocence innocent forever. i'm fully aware that our minds are invaded and bombarded by worldly thinking. but the one thing we can do is practice innocence. we can be aware of where our innocence is tarnished and be more intentional in how we love. after all, the loving we do isn't for us anyway. we love others so that they will feel loved. and if they feel loved, maybe their hearts will be positioned and open a little more and a little easier to receiving the love of Christ.

faith like a child. isn't it precious?

shirley was in my kindergarden class. she came back to school after having a nasty bout of chicken pox. she was from a poor family and i knew her clothes were different from mine. and when she came back to school, her spirit seemed so broken. she was so embarrassed by all the pox scars all over her face and arms. and so on the way to the cafeteria for lunch, i grabbed shirley's hand and held it as we walked and i told her, "it's gonna be alright."

i don't say that to pat myself on the back. i say that looking back at a little girl who i'm proud of - because i'm not her anymore. but i want to be. i stand in awe of the faith and love i had as a little one - like all little ones have.

faith like a child. i want to practice that more and foster that in loralai so that she knows that in a world that's full of lies, it's still ok to love like Jesus.

look at that - faith that no one's gonna let go of her so that she can sit on that table without crashing to the ground. isn't it precious? no doubt. no worries. just pure chicken, peas and i'm ready to swing joy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

the heart of the man

At church yesterday, our pastor mentioned something about being in a desert. How God allows us to pass through dry and desolate places in our life so that, maybe, we'll get a clue. Maybe we'll quit buying new clothes...oh you know, just doing the whole "retail therapy". It's not wrong to buy new stuff, but why in the world DO we buy new stuff? So many times we succomb to the marketing and think we need something because it's newer, better, brighter, shinier, works better than the old thing we've got...make your list. It's true.

And every now and again, if we still ourselves, we realize that even though we keep buying all of the stuff, the void is still present. Or even if we keep moving town to town, the void is still there. Or even if we keep getting new haircuts, we still feel unpretty. It's not the change of things and locations that can renew our's God.

Scripture tells Ruth that she will be renewed after being widowed. The Psalms sing of our spirit being renewed. Job says that he will wait patiently for his body to be renewed. Jesus says that we will be made new with the cleansing of sin and renewal of our bodies when the Holy Spirit is invited in.

Crazy isn't it? God makes it completely clear that it is HIM who makes all things new and yet we still try to take the reigns and study enough, read enough self help books, talk our way through interviews with enough smarts, and when things pan out as they should according to our measure...we take credit. It's not to say that we have no part in our success or failure. Because we do. We play a crucial part in whether we'll stand behind the door as Jesus knocks and let him in or pretend he's some crazy guy knocking on our door in the middle of the night.

Friend, if you're reading this and you've wondered and contemplated about where you are in life, please don't keep looking into yourself for answers. The answers don't come from our own creative selves, they come from God. The first real Creative. Pray to the one true God and ask him what the next steps are. Ask him to show you, in baby steps, what it looks like to walk in faith. I promise you he won't overwhelm you with some huge leap that you aren't able to take. Because whatever he asks of you, he knows you can do, can handle, are capable of and were created for.

As a mom, I'm fully aware of Loralai's limitations. I know when she's standing, balancing, that there comes a point in her new little leg muscles where she's just gonna tumble over. And that's ok. But each time she stands, I try to encourage her to stand a little longer. And she does. And she'll stand longer soon. And not so much because I made her stand, but because she was created to do so. If I carried her around all day on my hip, she'd never know she was capable of such awesome movement.

But you're capable, friend. You're equipped. Don't you know that before the universe was ever made, God knew you and had you in mind. He did. And he still keeps you in mind. He knows your heart. And he knows your motives - all of them. All of mine. And all he asks is that we consult with him - our Father. The one who knows what is best for us and has a precious plan for us, for Him. Our lives were created to glorify him. Wouldn't it be better if we aligned ourselves with him so that our lives glorified him in peace rather than personal destruction? It's not to say that walking with God means that our lives will be void of pain, but walking with God is the only way you know that you're walking towards glory.

Some friends recently led me to 1 Samuel 16. Read this: 7 But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."

Can you imagine? You're overweight, you're wrinkling, your hair is graying, your crow lines deepening, your job is stinking, your finances are in the pits, you have a pretty car and awesome wardrobe. So WHAT! None of that matters and all of that matters. It only matters if you place all of your stock, your faith, your identity in the stuff, the job, the situation...

What if we remember what God told Samuel...what if we allow that to soak into the dry spots of our hearts and remember that God knows our hearts. There's nothing we can hide from God - so let's come clean.

If you're afraid that your life will look different when you start really walking with God, well it will. But it's nothing to fear. Your relationships may become fewer, but they're deeper. Your money may be less, but you're far richer. Your wardrobe may stay the same, but you're far more beautiful. Don't you see...God lavishes himself on those whose heart are positioned for His. It matters not what stuff we have, or how rich we are financially...he just wants us to open our arms, turn our hands up in surrender and quiet ourselves so that his Spirit can start working something beautiful in us.

So that we really can become new.

Let God direct your path - let him lead you in baby steps to your next job, your next purchase, your next move...and see this world with new eyes.

Don't you remember, or haven't you heard it said,
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

somewhere small

When I was in college I visited a church several times that met in a middle school. I liked it very much. I liked the music. I always understood the message - it never seemed to go over my head with theology that was confusing. But I didn't stick with it. I didn't really stick with much back then.

I moved away after college and after three plus years, I returned to Wilmington. I didn't want to go back to that church. But I did - want to, that is. It was a torn emotion. For some reason I had these resentful feelings toward the church. Doesn't that sound stupid? I think I knew that if I'd gotten my act together and made different choices that I wouldn't have been churchless in a town where I felt void of God. While God is everywhere, I never seemed to find a place where I could worship comfortably or receive truth in that town. It was disheartening and I was in a place where I think I put up a wall between myself and God - I kept sinning and God kept telling me I was wrong and I didn't want to hear it. I wanted to hear - job well done. Perfect.

So when I returned, I went to another church. I liked it a lot, too. But I still felt a nagging feeling to back to the school church. I figured it would be the same: few people, good message, decent music, etc. But oh no. It was: lots of people, amazing message, beautiful music, uncomfortable worship. Uncomfortable because I'd never felt a desire to worship so much and yet not want to - yet.

And now, that church that I went to in college (with maybe 20-30) people present is a megachurch. Right. I know. Roll your eyes. We have thousands of people who attend. Crazy, isn't it? One place where thousands of people can come to receive truth. Mike never knew what God was working out when he asked him to be pastor. He never conceived he would minister to thousands - and then reach so many more half a world away.

But none of us know, do we? We're just asked to be obedient.

Obedient to what?

I know. It's overwhelming to think about sometimes. But there's a song that says if love is what it's all about, then why am I so scared? If we're supposed to live our lives For God and if God is love - not like love or reflecting love, but IS love - then what are we afraid of? Why do we act out in rebellion against God?

He asks us to be kind. He asks us to not change a city of people by convincing them that their ways are wrong but by sharing with them the Way. The only Way. Imagine if we shared with people the truth that we hold in our hearts. Imagine if people saw us acting in obedience - actually being followers of the Way. Imagine if people saw us sin, and then ask for forgiveness in humility. What if we didn't retaliate when we were mad. What if spoke freely and sweetly about the love that God gives us through Jesus.

Does it paralyze you think about acting out what God has asked you to do? Sometimes it does me. I get tongue-tied and feel stupid. I worry if I'll say the wrong words, offend, hurt or anger someone. I never want anyone to think that what I'm saying is judgemental. It's not me who judges, but sometimes I fear for those who live their lives as though God doesn't exist - because he knows. And He judges. And I'm desperate for them to know of his love - to know that he IS Love.

God is Love. God is Love. God IS Love.

Really pray on that. It's completely amazing.

I wish I knew that years ago. But then I wouldn't be where I am. My story, my life, would be different. God uses it all. He uses the baby that died at birth or before birth, the dad whose life was self-destructive, the poverty-stricken mother, the widow, the divorcee - he doesn't leave a stone unturned. Don't you see - there is nothing out of reach of God. God didn't bring Jesus to earth to pour out some list of sweet words for us to suck on for eternity - he brought him here to offer salvation to a broken world.

Not a one of us is perfect or free from brokenness. I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this now. I have so many different directions I want to dart off into right now. So I guess I'll just pick one -

When Loralai crawls over to me and pulls up on my leg and tries to crawl up into my lap while saying this sweet little voiced 'mama ma ma ma', I nearly melt. It really does make me feel so incredibly rich to hear her say mama. I well up with a crazy amount of pride when she holds up her green pea and says 'baow' (ball). Did God really give me the job of nourishing, nurturing, caring for and teaching her his word - his love? I feel so undeserving and yet so incredibly priveleged.

This is just the beginning. Each day when I pray with her or talk to her about Jesus or dance crazy no makeup, stinky morning breath, pajama dancing to praise music, I know that there was no other job meant for me than this one. I know that each word I speak to her about God's love - each act of kindness she sees me offer is just one step of obedience. Just one. It's the beginning. I don't know what of. But it's the beginning. I don't know if I'm growing a megachurch, but I'm going to give my everloving best try at pouring so much love into Loralai Whitney that she will never ever doubt the love of the Savior.

And I'm going to quit holding in my excitement for Jesus as we walk through Costco and I'm nearly bursting with the Holy Spirit's giddiness that we just scored on cheap diapers and a chance to talk about God with a shopper - I'm going to start praising God right there. Why not? I want my daughter to remember her childhood days as being ones filled with a mama who was crazy...crazy in love with the King.

When Mike started our church with his brother-n-law, he never saw it coming. But each Sunday he poured his ever loving heart into every word he spoke about God.

It all starts somewhere - somewhere small. We just have to be obedient in our calling to live in the Way so that others might know love.

God is Love. man, still, I say that and it's just so big - that's so much!

Friday, January 2, 2009


i'm reading a book right now - really i'm reading five books. and surprisingly they all work together well. but the one i'm talking about is one by francine rivers. it's the first in a series. and it's awesome. if you've never read anything by her, i suggest you do. her writing inspires new relationship with God.

I'm only a quarter of the way into the book and I'm already struck by one of the character's selflessness. Her family was murdered by Romans. She was living among Jews and is a Christian. So she isn't accepted - and many people don't even know she's a Christian. She lived in a time where Christianity was looked down upon and people in Rome were killed for their faith in the risen Messiah - the Messiah they laughed at; that they didn't believe existed. But Hadassah - that's the girl's name - is beautiful. She's young and frail, having been starved, and has just been bought into slavery in Rome. She's the maidservant to a 15 year old girl who lives with her extremely rich family. They worship gods. Several gods. Gods who are idols whose statues live in their house - who they see. Haddasah worships God - the trinity God. God the father, the son and the holy spirit. She believes in the risen lord and knows that the secret she holds, the truth, is the one thing that has set her free and that can kill her.

And still she serves. Still, she gets up nightly and walks into the family's garden and kneels and prays before her unseen God. The brother sees her, questions her and wonders why she would pray to an unseen God - and wonders why she thinks her God has had mercy onher when she's now a slave, her homeland destroyed and her family murdered. Her answer is that her God loves her - she's alive, has food, a place to live. He's both annoyed and fascinated with her peace. And he's in awe of how she loves. He watches Haddassah handle his difficult sister with love. And he's moved when this young little girl looks up at him with big brown eyes and tenderly says, "i hope you find peace, my lord."

She who is alone and without anyone she's ever known is praying for peace for someone else. And that someone else is wondering how on earth she has peace - she shouldn't. And she shouldn't be so selfless. She strokes his sister's hair. Holds her when she cries. Offers stories from the old testament about Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath, and the stories are absorbed. God's truth has been spoken. She sings worship songs over her owner and calms her spirit. She jumps when called upon and always answers with a kind word when spoken to harshly. And she never lies and is always ready to answer truthfully but with tact and sweetness so that the truth can be received.

I so admire this little girl. Her faith is beyond what I've had to face. She's without written scripture, fellowship or teaching of God's word. And yet she hasn't succommed to temptation or fallen away from the truth or denied God. She is precious and brave. She isn't particularly pretty to look at and yet people are falling in love with her beauty.

I like that I've been raised to be well-rounded and know how to work with my hands. I know how to fix things and cook things. I know how to organize things and delegate and teach. But I dare say that myself and most women I know struggle with serving. We do it, sure, but we always want something in return. Credit, a thanks, appreciation...just something. I don't think those desires to be acknowledged will ever disappear but I'm really hoping that what increases is the ease in serving. That serving will flow more naturally...despite if someone likes my cooking, or cares if I've vacuumed four times in a week, or if anyone notices how long and far I've traveled to help, or how hard I prayed to give them just the right words. I want serving to be an overflowing result of my love affair with Jesus - not myself.

I'm glad I have Haddassah to remember when I'm serving. I'm glad I have Jesus who served to lead, to show me what Love really is.