resurrection

The entire life of Jesus present with God’s creation led up to his sacrifice for us, not ending there at death, but rising again in resurrection. God sent him, so that his life would redeem his creation.

I think of all the times in the Old Testament that God was angry with his creation, and that anger poured out in so many terrifying ways. I don’t think we like to ponder why God’s anger poured out, because we see too many similarities with how his creation exists today.

Disease. War. Hunger. Pain. Thirst. Sex trafficking. Drugs. Death.

It’s endless, right? This world sucks.

But God tried to help us see another way.

God sent Jesus.

The baby sent to redeem creation.

The man who started his ministry by telling people not to talk about him yet, and to stop praying for show.

The man who laid a foundation of belief, healing and community before giving himself to all.

The man whose stories led back to the Kingdom of God. Every. Time.

The man who was a true rebel preaching about helping prostitutes, murders, sick, hungry and poor.

The man who built community with 12 guys who didn’t have a clue.

The man who poured out his heart in prayer for ALL OF US before he was arrested.

The man who hung on a cross while freely giving salvation to a murderer.

The man.

That’s key.

He was born. He lived as one of us. He died.

And then…he rose.

Resurrection.

Life. Real life. Living in the Kingdom.

This world is not the end. This world isn’t even close to the Kingdom of God.

But it had been, until sin crept into that sacred space.

In my imagination, I see it as a big oil dump over creation. Slick, slimy, reaching into every crevice and so hard to get off. After working on getting oil off for a while, we want to give up…toss in the towel and head home where we can escape that hard, nasty, messy work.

But the oil covers our home…this world where we have the privilege to live out our earthly lives.

The oil needs to come off, and God guarantees he will restore it.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [Revelation 21:3-6]

Collective sigh of relief? All of this is meant to only be for a time, then God makes everything new again?

Yes. Undoubtedly, yes…but…

It dishonors the creator when creation sits and waits while parts of creation are in pain.

It dishonors the man who gave his entire life when we choose to not pay attention to his teachings.

It dishonors the world that has been made slick with oil of our sin when we want to throw in the towel on restoring God’s creation simply because it is too hard.

IMG_3533As we lean into the beauty of Easter, we also need to lean into the sin of the world we live in…it is where Jesus lived and died. Not to make us depressed and discouraged, but to inspire and invigorate the life we have living as people called by Jesus. Jesus didn’t die so we could play it safe and wait for God to come and restore it all. Nothing about Jesus’ life and the example he lived for his disciples shows us to play it safe and wait. It calls us to be daring in how we react to the world around us. It calls us to be restorers. If the Kingdom of God is coming, doesn’t it make sense to work toward the restoration that Kingdom will bring? To set right the wrongs around us? To confess sin and find redemption? To see God’s heart, and joy in the lives that the world says don’t matter? To live a live that is honoring to resurrection?

May you find the heart of God while you seek your answer, because each one of us has a different role in working toward restoring the Kingdom of God and any voice telling you different, is not the voice of the one who created you.

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good, right & true

What is good, right and true? Not much in this physical world, right?

There is sin, and in sin is brokenness and in brokenness is hurt, and in hurt is where we peel back the layers of ourselves and bare all before God. But who wants to take the surrender and pain that bareness brings?

However, it is definitely not good, right or true that orphans exist in our world.

It is not good, right or true that parents feel their only choice is to give up their children simply because they cannot afford food, clothing or education…or a combination of all three.

It is not good, right or true that Haitians earn on average $4 a day. Do the math, even IF they worked every day of the year, which they won’t, it is less than $1,500 a year…on AVERAGE.

There are a lot of reasons that Global Orphan Project is an excellent fit for me. Just one of them is their intentional work in orphan prevention.

I say intentional, because orphan care is messy and orphan prevention is even messier. When you are dealing with broken people in a broken world living in a broken system with no long-term outlook…it is just messy.

GO Project partners with businesses in Haiti that are intentionally creating jobs, and hiring parents in order to keep families together. A steady job, some with health insurance, is a huge step in keeping families together in Haiti.

The key is helping these businesses create profit by getting the word out regarding what they are doing. If they are not selling, or do not have orders to make…there is not a need for more workers, or even the employed ones. Check out GOEX.org for who we work with, because there are some amazing people running these businesses. We want to see them succeed, and they are inspiring in their ability to be stubborn against what people say can and cannot be done in Haiti.

Even better? Not only is GO Exchange able to partner with those that we are inspired by, but all of the profit from GO Exchange goes back into orphan care…creating a great visual of what sustainability could look like for Haiti and a multitude of other places.

It is not always about throwing money at a situation. Money helps in the right context, but when you are looking at things on a global scale…so many avenues get corrupted and money being brought in without an effort for sustainability within that country is key.

It breaks my heart when governments are apathetic to not just the rights of their workers, but keeping those workers employed. The reality is that believers have an opportunity to make more of an effort to stand in that gap to not only create jobs with dignity, good pay and working conditions, but also support those creating jobs to ensure those being employed are consistently employed.

It is good, right and true to care about the sin in our world on a personal, local and global level, because things are not right in this world. The heart of God is for all things to be set right and restored in our world. The real question is are we supporting those who are making that effort in risky, inspiring and sometimes persecuted environments?

placed

As I sit here typing this, the sounds that surround me are the Pathways kids arguing about a foul while they play basketball, which quickly turns into girlish giggles and taunts…from boys. There is Creole floating over the wall from the village next door. A baby crying. A plane coming in for a landing at the airport. The tap tap honking as it passes another car on the road. The breeze fluttering through the trees. Goats yelping. Basketball bouncing. Rooster crowing. The fan whirling above me. The buzz of electricity. A gecko squeals. Someone help that goat, its head is probably caught in a can…it won’t stop ‘meh-ing.’ More roosters. Laughter from the community of kids next door.

Wherever you are reading this, close your eyes for a moment and listen to what surrounds you.

God has put you in that place.

In this unlikeliest of places, he has placed me. He has placed you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of the God over the entire universe…you have been placed and have the opportunity to encounter the one who placed you.

I have had Exodus 33 ringing in my head for almost 2 months. Moses finds himself yet again in the unlikeliest of places while trying to lead a people that have been placed with him…who refuse to actually do what they are supposed to be doing. Moses says to God, this being the ‘Stephanie Abbreviated Version,’ of course…Moses says to God, you have been telling me to lead these people, but clearly they are not all willing to do what I say. So which ones am I supposed to be leading? Which ones will you send with me? Then Moses asks for God to teach him his ways, so that he can know him and continue to please God. And God replies:

‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

There is the sarcastic, human part of me that would have said, ‘God. Come on. We’ve been hanging out. You are already with me, I just want to know who else you are sending with me.’ But there is the other part of my brain that acknowledges the relationship that Moses had with God, and that God met with him face-to-face. Moses was set apart, and placed where God needed him. It didn’t matter that Moses felt unprepared for this adventure. It didn’t matter that most ignored what he said, and continued to go back to their ‘old’ ways. It didn’t matter that he was an awful speaker. God gave him a voice, and placed him where he was supposed to speak the words and instructions God gave him. We can’t control who listens. We can only be obedient to what God asks of us.

But none of this is what has been reaching into the depths of my soul and speaking to my heart.

Moses says, ‘Now show me your glory.’

Now? After being chosen. After the burning bush. After God gives him all the signs he asks for. After all the plagues. After the exodus. After the parting of the red sea. After the manna falls from the sky that isn’t enough…so then quail comes and covers the camp. After he is given the Ten Commandments. After spending one-on-one time with God, ‘as a man speaks with his friend.’ [Exodus 33:11]

After all that…‘now show me your glory.’

You could make an argument that Moses was a bit greedy with wanting to see more of God’s glory. But aren’t we all like that? Seeing the amazing things that God does around us, then asking for more. As if what he had already done wasn’t proof enough of his love, compassion, rescuing and grace. Granting a job when there is none. Saving the life of a child. Curing someone of cancer. Freedom from the bondage of sin in our lives. Reconciliation across cultural and racial lines. Holy Spirit moments that fill us to the point of giddiness.

When we experience significant moments when it is crystal clear that the hand of God is all over a situation we ache to see more of him. We are expectant for more…and so was Moses.

It is, also, the only place in the entire Bible that someone asks God to show them his glory.

And God’s response? God the creator obliges Moses, and that same creator obliges all of us.

As you listen to the sounds around you, acknowledge that God has placed you to see his glory in all the ways his glory shows up. With your family, friends, coworkers, sports teams, grocery stores, neighbors…in all of the places that you are every single day. God shows up there, and you should be looking not only for his glory, but for the ways he is calling you to be a witness to the glory you have already seen from him. Be willing to hear his voice in however that manifests for you. Be willing to rest in the presence of God. It is where you belong, and you will feel incomplete without it.

God, show us your glory.

calling

When I was in college, before I left for China for the summer, a friend wrote a scripture out for me on a piece of paper the size of a fortune that would be in a fortune cookie.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:28]

I’ve been reminded of this verse many times over the last 13 years since she gave it to me and I taped it into the front of the smaller Bible I take on mission trips.

I was reminded again when I randomly found this verse crafted into metal art at a store a week ago when I accompanied a friend who was buying items for the souvenir shop at Jumecourt. Obviously, I bought it. Worth every penny.

But reminders are not enough when it comes to a word imbedded into the verse.

More specifically…

Called according to his purpose for them.

I love this word and I love this verse, but for a lot of people that is intimidating. It could be because they haven’t invested the time with God to know what their calling is in his Kingdom. It could be that they are in denial of something God has called them to in his Kingdom. Or even that they know what God is calling them to, but it seems too risky and difficult to do while living comfortably with a good job that takes care of a family.

Acknowledging your calling from God requires a massive amount of faith, even more self-awareness and most of all a strong commitment to prayer and discernment consistently.

And those things take time and deep trust with the one who created us.

Although having that answer of what your calling is doesn’t make everything complete and your  life easy. There have been a multitude of times that I have questioned that everything was actually going to work together for the good of my calling. There are always people who will question your calling, and even tell you that you are not good at what you are called to do. Then others who don’t approve of choices you make within your calling, and heap negativity onto it. In those moments, the only voice you need to hear is the one who has called you. I have many failures under my belt, along with a pretty healthy amount of bad habits and people I have offended with my words and actions. I am the farthest from perfect you can get…but it is within those imperfections that God has not only affirmed my calling, but sharpened it to a specific area.

Since I became a believer there was a strong pull to God’s mission. It was never separate for me. Always hand and hand. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized that wasn’t true for everyone.

After a decade of living a calling to global mission, God moved me into a place of learning and trusting him through massive amounts of surrender. It was hard. It was painful. But it was worth it. Through that time, God showed me a specific area of brokenness that he wanted me to focus on in his Kingdom.

He chose me to fight for those that have no voice. For those that have been abandoned. For those that cannot trust or love easily, because they have been hurt by broken people living in a broken world. For those that have no one to champion them.

He chose me to be passionate about orphans in a global context.

The most thrilling part of all this is that he also landed me in an organization whose sole focus is orphan care through the local church. It is what brought me to Haiti, and it is what will sustain me on the days that living here is hard.

Only the God I serve with everything in me could have orchestrated this amazing timing, place and people I get to work with to be so specific to my calling in his Kingdom.

It’s more than exciting…it is life giving. When you experience living in the middle of what God has called you to, it is the most incredible feeling in the world, which makes every single word of Romans 8:28 the very breath of God to a soul that is craving their piece of God’s Kingdom life.

basic needs, pt. deux

It is a given that out of the six of us blogging that I am going to have a different view from everyone else simply because I am the one living in Haiti now. I think the Rethink Church question we are posting today is meant to have us reflect on the things that distract us from the needs around us, which is amazing for a lot of Americans to think about since we are broken people who default to sinful choices in however that manifests for us individually. Rethink Church asks, ‘What are those temptations that rule you and make you turn away from those in need? In poverty, disease and hunger?’

I don’t have a lot of barriers between poverty, disease and hunger surrounding me right now. It is pretty much everywhere give or take a concrete block wall. There is no escape, and honestly, I embrace that because this is something God has been pulling me to be a part of for a very long time.

As a broken, sinful person, even though surrounded by those in need, distractions seep in and I’m responsible to notice those and make corrections to be the best I can be while being with those around me. When I am tired and we are going to the third village of the day…it’s not the kids’ fault that I am tired and grouchy. That’s on me and I cannot waste myself in those situations with the very real excuse of ‘I am tired.’

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. [1 Peter 2:11]

God brought me to 1 Peter this morning…still not sure why, but I found this and I love how it says foreigners and exiles. In New Testament times there was a disconnect between those that followed the God of Moses and those they considered foreigners and unclean through their laws. It was a rebellious life the followers of Jesus led, especially when they embraced foreigners and started proclaiming that Jesus was for everyone.

As Americans, most of the time there is criticism for being passionate about people outside our borders, or foreigners within who don’t speak ‘our’ language. It’s not popular to like Russians right now, people are always complaining about Spanish speakers within our borders and don’t even enter a conversation about the Middle East, right? Recognize the sin in those criticisms and repent, because God didn’t create borders. We did. God created a world that sin crept into, and his desire is for it to be reconciled. But we get in the way.

There are a lot of distractions in the States, especially when the social norm is to be okay with ignoring people in need. How many times have you ignored a homeless person? Or judged them for what they are doing because there are ‘resources’ available? Yes. There are a multitude of resources available, but the bottom line is we do not know their story. God knows their story, and he is the one who calls on us to help those in need. God doesn’t put parameters on who is in need and who isn’t. There isn’t a sliding scale that he uses. He says help them, and a good reference on that is Isaiah 58:6-7.

As believers, we should reflect on this as well:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 4:7-11]

In the moments you feel your human body is the excuse to turn away from the need in this world, know that the strength God provides will be filling and enough for those moments. Don’t allow distraction and sin to keep you from doing the work that God has called you to in whatever context that is for you. We are a part of a global church that is most beautiful when it reflects the heart of God. To him be the glory.

basic needs

Perspective. It can be so daunting…and challenging.

Most of the time we don’t want to ‘waste’ time on perspective. It means seeing all sides of an issue, and working to see our world through a different lens. Sometimes that lens can be disturbing and haunting. Other times it can be a glimpse into God’s Kingdom and that can be overwhelming. However, God calls us to experience more by seeing the world through a different set of eyes.

In the United States basic needs have a very different definition than say…Haiti. It all does come back to how we define our terms. I know plenty of teenagers that would define basic needs on whether or not they have an iPhone. I also know plenty of teenagers that would define it based on a roof over their head (including running water, toilets, etc.), clean water, clothes to wear and education.

In Haiti, basic needs are not the American standard. Basic needs are basic. Water. Food. Clothing. Sometimes not even all of those at once, and then toilets in general are most certainly not the same as what Americans are accustomed to in the States, while education can be too expensive to fall under a basic need.

Do definitions of basic needs put cultures in hierarchy with each other?

No. Adamantly, no.

Unfortunately that is not always the opinion of everyone in the world, or we would see more beauty in living a more simple life and less of an emphasis on materialism.

As Americans most of the time we make cultures feel inferior based on our thinking that everyone should live the way we live. What are we telling the world when we insist that our way is the best way? Especially when our perspective is so much different regarding the majority world. What gives us the right to think we are the standard that everyone should measure up to?

Do we even consider what it does when we choose a place to ‘raise their standard of living,’ yet create a hierarchy in a community where it did not previously exist. Or worse…make parents look at an orphanage and feel like their child would be better off if they were dead?

Sometimes our best intentions on what a basic need is contradicts in a cultural context, but to assuage our guilt of what we have, we press forward with what we think is right.

But God measures things differently as well, and his measure is based on his Kingdom being restored. The things that we consider life not complete without will melt into nothing…and we won’t even notice.

What would happen if we asked God to open our eyes to a new perspective?

What would happen if we considered surrendering all to him in order to gain a broader world perspective? Would we want it, and if so, would be keep it? Would we honor him with it?

It all comes back to definitions of your perspective and the American definition of ‘basic needs’ completely contradicts how the majority world would define it. Let that mess with you a bit this week as you seek God’s heart during lent…

Also, check out my blogging community during this Lent adventure:

Shawn Franssens

Lindsay Evans

Heather Kostelnick

Brian Swanson

Julia Fleenor

lent

It’s Lent. But to be honest, I’ve barely noticed. As I write this, I am sitting at an airport in Dallas traveling to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where I will make my home for the next year to 18 months. I am now working for Global Orphan Project as their trip manager for the Haiti teams. Some may think it is a strange place to live, but I can guarantee you there is something about that place that will stir you. Could be something you have been trying to find. Could be something that you didn’t even know you were missing. Either way…God is alive and active, and that is exciting.

At the same time this is happening…Lent is back, which means my blogging community is back in action. I have some amazing friends, because after blogging every day of Lent last year we had pretty much decided not to do this again. Never say never. Because here we are with me moving, and them blogging to create community for me.

This year we will not be blogging every day, however we will still be focusing on the topic through Rethink Church. Our goal is to post every Wednesday, but I’ve already missed that with all of the packing I had to do. Throw in not being sure how effective posting through Wi-Fi will be, and adjusting to not only a new job but a new culture…I will be doing my best to stay with everyone else.

Lent is about drawing closer to the one that sacrificed all. It is about sacrificing some part of ourselves to see the God who reigns over the universe as clearly as possible. It is about acknowledging that without him we are a broken, sinful, distracted creation who seek to fall at his feet in surrender.

The version of Lent I claim is one of community, worship and sacrifice. I will be missing my community like crazy. I will be worshipping daily. And it will be a sacrifice of time to seek God so intensely that I might be given an inspiration…perhaps even a revelation to toss out into the world.

Join us. Read where God leads us with each topic, and above all else…choose to make this Lent unique in your ability to draw closer to God.