silence

Silence is deafening.

I moved to Haiti almost two years ago. It doesn’t feel like it has been that long, but when I think about the healing and purifying of my soul in this place, God has been hard at work in those years. My soul, heart and mind needed a strong, refreshing cleanse and thankfully God has provided it in Haiti.

Through that cleansing has been a lot of listening, many moments of sinking deep into scripture and even more moments with my friends who are in the care of a local pastor while living in a children’s home. My small friends have taught me it is ok to be still and the value of being fully present, among much more I’m sure I am not even aware of yet.

Over a year ago, God imparted a thought on me that I have struggled with since. Over that time, we’ve argued back and forth with a solid amount of avoidance on my part and equal part overt denial. The reality was he had sent me here to restore my heart, mind and soul…to live fully within my calling and who he has created me to be…and now he has poured into and purified those three pieces of me to the point he wants to use them for his church in the States.

For me…that’s scary.

I don’t feel I have a voice that is useful.

I don’t feel like anyone in the Stateside church would listen to anything I have to say, or am given to say.

My apprehension is that I won’t fit back into that world well, because I have fit so well within this world. And friends, they are not the same. They should be, but they are not. There is a freedom of Spirit within the Haitian church that I haven’t ever experienced in Stateside church. There is a freedom in this reality that makes Stateside life seem unrealistic. There is freedom within the all encompassing Kingdom culture that is inspiring and life giving.

A couple of months ago, God brought me to Acts 18…

One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream, ‘Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens I am with you, and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.’ That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians. [Acts 18:9-11]

IMG_0056

I am a scripture doodler, and I just happened to be doodling when the image of the flower and petals pour into my mind.

The image God gave me within those words is one of a flower with petals missing…scattered, but instead of the typical ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ of pulling petals off of the flower, instead this visual was that the petals had chosen to be separated and were actively choosing to stay separated when they have a Lord whose desire is for all to be grafted together as one whole flower.

Too many times, the local church chooses to stay separate from each other and chooses to not cross denominational lines. One of the best examples working against that separation I’ve seen recently is GO Project’s CarePortal where many local churches are making small, simple choices to assist social workers and foster kids with needs that come up, despite their differences. (to learn more about CarePortal go to careportal.org) But in order for believers to fully be a Kingdom community and embrace our calling within the Kingdom…we cannot be separate. We have to be one. God’s heart is for us to be unified as his people, all fighting to right the wrongs of this world. Instead we get caught up in religious and political differences. When we choose to let those things motivate and move us, we choose to allow silence on the things that matter to give a stronger picture of who we are as believers. Our silence becomes our inaction. Our silence continues the status quo, and gives us no gains for the Kingdom. And frankly, the status quo sucks. I’m not content for people to go hungry, kids not be education, parents to give up their kids, kids who have lost everything to be alone and injustice to be swept under the rug.

As most of my friends and family know, I am not good at silence. Constantly, my mouth does not have a filter and it gets me in trouble. Constantly. And I think that inability contributes to my thoughts that I won’t be able to fit in well with Stateside local church. God has changed me in Haiti. I like to think for the better. He has intensified many things I have always been passionate about, and he has directed me into new territory. Though, I do have faith and confidence that God knows what he is doing and that ultimately, his way is best and most life giving for me. Basically, I’m just too stubborn sometimes.

But I choose to not be intimidated and I choose not to embrace silence on the things that really matter within the reality of God’s Kingdom and his unconditional love and grace.

 

stop

Jesus rarely shows emotions beyond love and compassion in the stories we read. The images of grace for a sinner, children coming to him and deep love for his disciples come to mind.

But…isn’t there always a ‘but’? But, there is an instance where Jesus looses it like a redhead with a temper. *I can say these ridiculous things, I’m a redhead. But don’t YOU dare say it!*

Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.” [John 2:15-17 MSG]

Righteous anger. Jesus had it. We have it, but our version sometimes comes through the judgmental filter lacking broad perspective. We like to see only our side and justify why it is righteous anger. We actually get really good at it.

Being passionate about justice involves a LOT of righteous anger, but being angry the wrong item got delivered from Amazon does not involve righteous anger.

Jesus’ anger was pure. He was royally pissed off at how they were using his Father’s house. It was sacred. It was holy. They were desecrating it. And they were using it for their own gain.

I love in The Message version when he yells…and I picture this with very red face, veins bulging out of his neck and a lot of crazy coming out of his eyes…”Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall.”

We get that, right? A shopping mall is the epitome of suburban life. A place to consume anything your heart desires from food to clothes to jewelry, name your price, but where else do we consume the things around us?

Frankly, coming from Haiti and landing in the states, it seems most everything is based on consumption. But if everything is based on consumption, are we still desecrating holy spaces?

Pause. Evaluate. What is a holy space anymore? What are the places set apart for us to encounter our Creator? It seems the term is looser now than every before. It could be on a walk. In a conversation. At a dinner table. What do you consider holy space?

Once you’ve figured that out, ask yourself a tough, honest question of how that time and space is desecrated by what is happening there. Would Jesus walk in with his face contorted into horrifying realization that unholy things are happening there?

Would he yell with righteous anger, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!”

knowledge

“That night, God appeared to Solomon. God said, ‘What do you want from me? Ask.’” [2 Chronicles 1:8, MSG]

Wow. Anything? What would you ask for if God gave you freedom to request something from him?

World peace? A million dollars? A friend to finally seek God’s grace and love? Discernment? To be the most famous person ever?

There are a lot of Haitians looking for the letter ‘T’ on Prestige beer bottles right in a contest to get a free car. Would you ask for a car?

“Solomon answered, ‘You were extravagantly generous with David my father, and now you have made me king in his place. Establish, God, the words you spoke to my father, for you’ve given me a staggering task, ruling this mob of people. Yes, give me wisdom and knowledge as I come and go among this people – for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?’ God answered Solomon, ‘This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for – wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus – money, wealth and fame beyond anything the kings before you or after you had or will have.’” [2 Chronicles 1:11-12, MSG]

Solomon could have asked for anything. But God recognized Solomon’s heart when he didn’t ask for something frivolous. He wanted to honor God.

There is something here we can learn from when Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge. How many times today have you, sometimes subconsciously, asked God for something?

Perhaps, help me not strangle this co-worker, or maybe your kids? How about for a car to get out of your way because you are in a hurry? What about asking for more time in your day with a loved one who doesn’t have much longer to be in this world, or even that you find yourself too ‘busy’ to be with those you love? Maybe it is patience you ask for? Careful on that one, God tends to give you situations to grow your patience instead of actually just bestowing it on you.

I ask a lot for God’s voice to be clear and discernment to be what God needs me to be for those around me. I’ve also asked for wisdom, because who has enough really? We can always use more wisdom, but never once have I asked for knowledge. I’d never really thought about it until I read Solomon’s request a few months ago. Possibly, it is because I have a significant amount of faith in the Lord I serve, coupled with a relative easiness at the mysterious parts of God.

Solomon wanted wisdom and knowledge to lead well. I wonder at those who lead around me, if they frequently ask for wisdom and knowledge. In the areas I lead, I know I haven’t…and I cannot possibly be the only one who hasn’t asked.

Solomon didn’t lead perfectly, but he started out with his heart in the right place. None of us could ever lead perfectly, we all sin after all, but what characteristics of leadership could we commit to improving ourselves? Maybe it is wisdom and knowledge, but maybe it is in hearing the voice of God and discerning where the Holy Spirit would have you lead people.

Let today be a day you commit to having your heart in the right place…and if I end up failing today, in the uncanny tradition of David and Solomon…God will still love me tomorrow.

 

speak

Courage and cowardice.

Strength and weakness.

When you think about it, the prophets of the Bible at one point lived each of those extremes.

Moses said no thanks in the beginning and eventually tells God, “’Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Lord, please send someone else to do it.’” [Exodus 4:10-13]

Isaiah had a vivid vision and was brought to his knees in humility, hearing God speak, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah 6:1-8]

Elijah got to a point he wanted to die after all the other prophets were killed, and hides in a cave, where he hears God speak, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” But the best part of the cave is that God tells him to go stand outside, then:

“And behold the Lord passes by, and a great strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was no in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” [1 Kings 19:11-12]

Samuel thought God’s voice was actually his mentor’s voice and when he finally got clued in he said the scary words a prophet can never take back, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [1 Samuel 3:10]

Examples of the prophets hearing the voice of God could go on for paragraph after paragraph. It was their calling to be a mouthpiece for God and to speak his words. Even on that level of being known and hearing from God there is still a common factor…they were all still human and their actions show that in some revealing ways, but it didn’t stop God from using them.

Some would say I am a mission-junkie…others know it has matured into more Kingdom-junkie, and I would definitely say I have become a prophet-junkie and that has a lot to do with really loving how God used the prophets.

I am constantly mesmerized by their ability to speak words to people in their own culture that were so incredibly painful to hear. Words full of truth, yes, but painful words at that. They were calling people back to rightness with God, and back into God’s heart, but the people didn’t want to hear that their behavior was too far outside of what God had instructed them to do. They didn’t want to hear that worshipping idols would really have consequences. They didn’t want to hear that their social indulgences of sex, prostitution and debauchery were wrong.

The words God had the prophets speak fell on deaf ears, and the Old Testament is full of stories of God trying to bring his children home.

God is still speaking now, and friends, God is still trying to bring his children home.

Can we honestly say we are seeking to hear his voice? When God speaks those words…do we even recognize it?

Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God because it hadn’t been heard in thousands of years. He had no idea what it sounded like. Thankfully, his mentor instructed him to listen and say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Wise words from an ailing priest with sons that continually made him look bad…(cliff note) Samuel’s first prophecy was to tell Eli that God was going to carry out everything against his family that he said he would, because Eli knew his sons’ sin and did nothing.

But the real question is…are we living in that time again where God’s voice hasn’t been heard in thousands of years? Or are there people who clearly hear the voice of God speak and we ignore them? Label them as crazy?

Elijah stood at that cave entrance dejected, dishonored and alone. But God showed up. Not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire…but in a whisper. I have the fortunate timing of being placed where I can hear a whisper, but I still have to be an intentional listener with plenty of discernment time available.

What would happen if we all breathed out what Samuel did once he realized who was talking to him in that dark room where the voice of God woke him up? What would our lives look like if we intentionally spoke out as Samuel did, “Speak, for your servant is listening?”

Much courage and strength are needed to speak those words.

May God grant you that courage and strength, friends.

 

follow

Imagine being a part of the Jesus’ crew and the crazy roller coaster of emotions that had in the end. Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Messiah had been present with them, then taken away, put on trial and nailed to a cross. Next thing they know…he is alive and standing in front of them. Resurrected. Alive. Whole. Then he sends them out as his witnesses to tell all of the stories they had in their story arsenal about what Jesus did on earth, while he is with the father until it is time to come back and make everything new.

It’s a lot to absorb, so what does Peter do?

“I’m going out to fish,” he tells his buddies in John 21:3 and then their response is, sure, why not, let’s go fish.

John 21 has been creeping up on me for several months, and I keep wondering at why Peter was driven to go fish in that moment. Jesus had proven himself resurrected! Alive! So Peter goes fishing?!?!

Was it a complete departure from what God was calling him to? Did he feel unworthy of that calling? Take a number, friend. We’ve all been there.

Was he in denial of the calling Jesus had placed on his life to be a witness to all He had done?

Was he still doubting his own belief? His faith?

Was it a desperate need to do something comfortable that he knew how to do without thinking? Did he just need to get away?

Did they need to raise some money before they went out? As a friend has suggested in the many conversations I’ve had surrounding John 21.

Peter had Jesus right in front of him…resurrected. He had the Holy Spirit breathed in him to wholeness. Jesus had SENT him out.

And then Jesus shows up again.

While the guys were fishing, Jesus shows up in true Jesus fashion telling them after an extraordinarily long night of fishing without catching a single fish to put the net on the right side of the boat. “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” [John 21:6]

And then…then they recognize their Messiah.

After enjoying breakfast with each other, Jesus singles out Peter and starts quizzing him. Jesus ends up asking Peter three times if Peter loves him, and Peter seems to get more and more hurt as each time progresses. However, the statements that Jesus makes after each question are important.

“Feed my lambs.”

“Take care of my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Peter loved Jesus, but Jesus also already knew that Peter loved him, which means we look at the statements Jesus gives Peter. Jesus was leaving, and he had been training and pouring into his disciples to take care of the flock after he left. Jesus knew life would get very hard for the flock of believers that followed him. He also knew his disciples were ready to care for them and continue to pour into them as Jesus had poured into the disciples.

Subsequently, Peter gets a specific instruction to follow Jesus. Many times we look at the verses that say, ‘Follow me’ and get all excited about how we are supposed to follow Jesus and use it as an anthem to bring others into the fold. But, friends, when we choose to follow Jesus, we don’t choose to follow him halfway and the path of Jesus leads straight to the cross where he was nailed. Jesus wasn’t giving a pep talk, ‘Hey bro, don’t forget to follow me when it gets really hard and the path it a bit too zig zaggy for you.’ No, Jesus was telling Peter, ‘Your path leads exactly where mine did. Are you ready for that? Because it’s coming, and you will die on a cross.’

It gives the order to ‘follow me’ a more intense meaning. Jesus was not joking around. Then to add to all of that, Peter gets a bit jealous that John is hounding in on his one-on-one time with Jesus:

“Peter turned and saw that the disciple that Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’” [John21:20-22]

I think the part that God keeps hammering into my head is that we have a tendency to look at what God is doing in those around us and how they are being used by him. We all want that moment alone with him, without anyone else interfering in our conversation, but even in that moment, Peter questions what will happen to John. Jesus just told Peter that he will follow Jesus to his death, and Peter gets distracted by how John will be used.

Jesus tells him simply, “You must follow me.”

It’s not complicated. It is a bit terrifying. It is also very plain, no loop holes there, right?

Which leads us to examining ourselves…for most of us our world we live in is way beyond crucifixion in the literal sense, but what about the figurative sense? How plainly do we take the mandate to follow Jesus? Do we fight it? Do we go into denial? Do we simply claim we heard wrong and take a different path? Do we give up and decide it isn’t worth it? Does a someone who claims to be a believer hurt you and completely turn you away from Jesus?

We live in freedom to ask questions, but weigh it carefully against rebellion against God in how deeply you delve into getting answers. God doesn’t owe us answers, and demanding them makes us rebellious against his sovereignty. He deserves our faith. He deserves our love. He deserves our lives lived out for his Gospel to push forward in this world.

In the end, what matters is that we chose to follow Jesus down the path he asks us to go for him.

“You must follow me.”

place

We have a lot of things we say about home.

‘Home is where the heart is.’

‘Home is where you are.’

There are so many others, but I think what I am beginning to realize is that home isn’t so much an exact place for me anymore.

Home is living.

Living with purpose. Living in the place wherever God has me. Living life with an extraordinary community that doesn’t put restrictions on distance. Living free within God’s grace and calling. Living through abundant laugher.

When we choose to live within God’s Kingdom, we choose to be different. We choose to represent radical love. We are still present in this world, fight for justice and are relatable to others, but we choose to live within God’s Kingdom.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:19-22]

When we are built as a dwelling place for God, it is not a geographical location. It is by the Spirit and that’s as far from a GPS location as you could possibly get.

And that looks like an eclectic community God has brought together. It looks like a group of strangers coming to Haiti who will have crazy Kingdom connections by the time they leave. It looks like a neighbor saying to you, “There is just something different about your family.”

Home for me truly is being open to the Holy Spirit creating a dwelling place for God in me, my community and those around me. And that’s a pretty amazing home to find your place in this world.

covenant

I can be a word nerd.

Sometimes it gets uber ridiculous, especially when I am studying God’s word. I have no education in Greek and Hebrew language, but when I am reading the Bible I get stuck on single words and have this crazy desire to know what the original language’s intent was when written.

Micah 6:8 brings us to one of many verses where prophets are calling out the people on how they have broken the covenant with God. They haven’t held up their end of the agreement. Several years ago I discovered something rather unique about Micah 6:8. Here’s the translation we hear most often:

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8 NIV]

For believers who are passionate about justice and seeing God’s Kingdom here on earth, there is a lot to cling to in these loaded words.

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Who can argue those instructions?

I fell in love with this verse even more when I discovered the original Hebrew intent for the word ‘mercy.’

Unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.

Take a minute to let that soak in…

We are not talking about loving the type of mercy that you have pity for another person. We are talking about a covenant relationship built on loyalty, love…kindness.

As God creates conversations around me about how to engage this world with Gospel intentionally it always comes back to pouring into the relationships around you every day. It’s not a mission trip for a week. It’s not just taking cookies to the new neighbors when they arrive in the neighborhood. It’s not about checking off the Jesus box for the week.

It IS about loyalty to those around you and sticking it out when life is completely shitty.

It IS about the covenant relationship. The loyalty and love that explodes when God creates friendships, family and community. A covenant relationship is not surface, and the sacrifice and commitment it takes for that type of relationship is hard work. It’s hard trusting someone enough to allow them beneath all of our complicated layers…but once we do, the genuine community that develops is Kingdom igniting. All bets are off and God is going to do crazy, insane things.

It IS about unfailing, unconditional love. The type of love that lives in the grit of our lives and doesn’t go running the opposite direction when it gets even dirtier. The type of love that sees redemption and transformation through sin, and doesn’t get stuck in the measurement of sin.

Love mercy.

I live for the day that we take seriously the things God says throughout the entire Bible and the Holy Spirit in this world.

I live for the day the sacred covenant in relationships springs forth a deep genuine love for one another.

I live for the day others look at my life and can visibly see the respect, commitment, loyal love and devotion I have to the relationships God has placed in my life.

I live for the day my life reflects the character of Jesus while choosing to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

And for all you word nerds out there, check out these verses where ‘mercy’ is translated the same as Micah 6:8…Psalm 5:7, Hosea 6:6, Micah 7:18, Micah 7:20, and Zechariah 7:9. I really, really love the Zechariah verse.