search

Tonight as I finish my day, I am reminded the hearts that search for God in courageous ways, surrendering who they were and embracing who God has created them to be is an honest time for us to search the same in our own hearts and remember our journey. Where it is, where it was and where God is leading us. 

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” [Jeremiah 17:9-10 MSG]

As I graciously accept the gift of sharing and storytelling tonight from a new friend, I also find myself incredibly thankful for how God has connected us as his people. Supernaturally linked through common love of Jesus. A community of Kingdom walkers. I am mesmerized by unique calling in each of our lives, the humility to answer that calling and the voice we all seek in discernment. 

Jesus, thank you a million times over for allowing the pain and shame of our stories to be redeemed and merged through you as The Storyteller. Speak into our lives. Dig deep into the roots of who you have created us to be. Bless us with your peace while waiting for your timing. Give us courage and strength to surrender the parts of ourselves that make the vision of your Kingdom dull and hazy. Expand our capacity to love beyond ourselves. Allow us to see each other as equals in your Kingdom, with no barriers through language, poverty, spiritual gifts or education to live as believers in the God who reigns over the entire universe. Search our hearts, remind us we are yours and the fight is already won. Amen

practice

Thirst for culture and language is a large part of who I am. During my time in China, my favorite class was language class and learning the characters of Mandarin. Over the years I have spent some time trying to make sense of Russian. I will never forget the trip to Kurlovo in Russia when I’d picked up enough phrases to make it sound like I spoke fluent Russian. Little Dima got in my face and just kept jabbering. I think I understood every 10th word. When I said in Russian, “I don’t speak Russian!” He told me “Yes, you DO!” And thought I’d created a new game to play. Ha!

And now I find myself having spent enough time learning and submerged in Creole that I can translate small conversations between visiting Americans and the kids in the villages. Emphasis on SMALL conversations. However, definitely at the point the kids think I speak more than I actually speak and tell me all sorts of things I have not a clue what they are really saying. Contractions in Haitian slang will be the death of me!

But the key to all of this is practice. I spent almost seven years learning French in school and university, but could not have kept a conversation going even if someone held a gun to my head!

Really great practice for me is when a lot of the kids like to test me. Lovesonnes is on a color phase, and yesterday he kept at me with saying a color in English and I would tell him the Creole word. Easy. I know my colors well! Then we switched to animals. Not so good there!

One of the things I cherish most at the villages is knowing the kids. One of my friends has been sick for a couple of weeks. Tacura has slowly been healing, and yesterday was the first day in a while that he was completely back to his highly energetic, goofy, lovable self. He was on my back and would shimmy up to where he could rest his head on my shoulder and put his cheek next to mine with our ears pressed together so it sounded like I was in a tunnel when I talked. Then he was acting like he was driving a car and squealing like a horn…in my ear. Good thing we have a good friendship and I know how sick he’s been, or that screaming *might* have been annoying.

At one point he asked to go to the cafeteria and we sat in a quiet corner where he started asking me questions in Creole. He knows my language limits and phrases things so I understand him. It was precious time spent with my friend, but also excellent practice for my language skills.

Before we left last night, a new American friend was holding Onelson…who was almost asleep. Everyone else is getting on the bus and she looked at me with the question of “Do I just put him down?” We took him to his room where he decided he wasn’t that sleepy, as toddlers do, and kept saying, “No!”

Tacura thought this was hilarious, but they live in the same room, so this was not new to him. Soon, Onelson was out and dead weight. Tacura immediately, started pulling the American’s arm while tip toeing making hilarious contortions with his face down the room length, simultaneously holding his finger to his lips…the international sign of please shut up. I hadn’t seen that animation in his face and eyes in weeks, as I stood in the doorway I couldn’t help but smile at this sweet scene that transcended language barriers.

Language barriers have never bothered me, and I fully acknowledge I am unique in that trait. I find myself so thankful for practice with my American friends, and translators who get that I am at the point where I am just going to go for it and say the sentence in Creole that they will need to correct.

But even more so, I love the quiet, memorable moments of when I practice language with the small friends in my life that speak Russian and Creole…all because it leads to a deepening of trust and being known within the relationships God is nurturing.

wise

We’ve concocted a beautiful little children’s story out of Jesus’ birth.

You have a barn, a mom and dad, and then there are some sheep, donkey, probably some goats and in my mind there has to be a rooster there somewhere. Of course, don’t forget the angel, they are very beautiful in the Christmas pageant every year. There are some raggedy shepherds too, naturally they smell awful.

The fact that Jesus’ birth can be brought into the lives of children in a visual way that makes them excited every year is wonderful. But as we grow older, I think we have a tendency to get too comfortable with that version of Jesus’ birth.

Some of the events surrounding his appearance in our world were life and death. Herod killed every single boy that was two years and younger in all of Bethlehem and its vicinity. It was a massacre. How the parents must have felt as the soldier forced their way through the town, killing as they went house to house.

It’s intriguing how God chose shepherds for the angel to appear in front of on that hillside. They were the lowest of low, the dirtiest of the dirty. People avoided them because they smelled of sheep. And they were terrified when an angel appeared to them, who wouldn’t be, honestly? Yet, they have the highest honor of an angel appearing with news of the Messiah.

Finally, my favorite part of the nativity scene as an adult…the wise men.

Somehow over the last several years, God has morphed that imagine of kings on camels majestically coming into the presence of the baby Jesus into this beautiful image of men so full of hope for God to restore the world and so full of faith to travel thousands of miles to see the Messiah in person. Men who were most likely proclaimed as crazy by those who knew why they were following a star to an unknown destination. They chose extreme risks in their adventure over continued study of the scriptures. They chose to hope with reckless abandon.

If these wise men were high and mighty where they came from, at the feet of baby Jesus they find themselves in complete humility and in awe of the honor of physically being present with the Messiah.

I see them as dusty and road weary. Exhausted, but supernaturally energized at the prospect of seeing the Messiah they had only read about in the scrolls of the prophets. They had traveled a long way to reach that point in the journey. How many different animals had they ridden? How many miles had they walked? How many new experiences had they had? How many challenges did the face? Or attempted robberies on the road?

The wise men put a lot of faith in hope in following their maps and the stars for thousands of miles. I could never imagine every challenge they faced on this crazy adventure as they crossed in and out of new cultures.

The star the wise men followed was hope that they carried with them for a new world, and a hope that carried them through a long journey.

That hope is just as real today as it was thousands of years ago. The wise men must have had so many questions and a million reasons to turn back, but they put their trust in how God spoke through the prophets. They remained focused on the one God who would send a man to redeem creation, and bring all back to the heart and grace of the one who sent him.

May you embrace the supernatural hope, extreme adventure and tunnel vision to Jesus today as you embrace inspiration from three wise (albeit crazy) men.

beloved

‘Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.’ [Ephesians 5:1]

Beloved. Say it out loud…it even sounds intimate, right?

A few years after Jesus and I agreed he really did mean more to me than just a guy who people told stories about, I was at a youth event with several girls. It was Drake Relays week, and I was balancing college fun with wanting to be present with these ladies. We did the normal crazy stuff. My hair was put into thousands of mini-braids. We laughed, and we took time to meet with our Savior. One of the activities was to be still and present with God, and ask to hear what name God called us…a name that comes directly from him massive heart for us. Strangely enough, as a young, new believer and so incredibly thirsty for God’s unconditional love, I heard ‘Beloved.’

I honestly cannot believe I even just typed that in a blog post. It was so long ago, but when I saw the word of the day from Rethink Church, I couldn’t help but be right back in the skin of who I was then.

I was young and naïve that this life would be easy, but oh so in love with Jesus. All of the little pieces of me that I felt were empty, lost and depressed he covered and filled to overflowing with his love for me. No one else would ever be able to fill those pieces of me. No one.

God calls me Beloved, not just because of his heart for me, but more for who he has intimately created me to be. For my laughter. For the intricately weird set of gifts and experiences he has given me. For my indignation at how people treat the least of these. For my rebellious nature when people try to lead without Holy Spirit discernment. For my passion in seeing his kingdom being built. And yes, friends, even for my mouth and all the times it gets me in trouble, cussing and otherwise.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” [Colossians 3:12-17]

I am his beloved, and I love that intimacy with God, especially when intimacy means being loved, known and wanted through deep relationship.

And especially when it means being a part of something bigger than myself along with other weirdos who claim their inheritance of being chosen by God, digging deep into his word and seek God’s peace to soak their souls.

Maybe Lent for me this year is so much about the heart of Jesus and drawing closer to his heart for me that I cannot help but reflect back on who I was when I first fell in love with him. All so I can see clearer where his love will take me in the future.

As his chosen ones, holy AND beloved…friends, what name do you hear when God calls you?

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.

remember

Confession of the day: I was a choir nerd.

I know…it’s a surprise…no one was expecting this alarming confession.

Kidding aside, today I remembered a lyric from a song we sang our senior year from ‘Seasons of Love’ from Rent.

‘Remember the love.’

That particular song is forever etched in my memory. Little did we know as we stood on that stage at the end of our senior year belting these poignant lyrics ready to tackle the big, wonderful world that less than a year later we would be singing it at a funeral for one who had stood with us, our arms around each other in solidarity.

Events around that time wrecked me in some pretty substantial ways. As happens to most 19 year olds when they experience the death of a 19 year old friend. When the date rolls around every year I always find myself reflecting on who I was then verses who I am now. I’ve had a lot of pretty insanely awesome experiences.

Almost a year ago, I moved to Haiti on a date that caused me to evaluate my life and who I wanted to be in this world. In ways only orchestrated by God, this place has given my soul rest and a place to belong. God has used Haiti in insanely cool ways over the last year.

Haiti has healed me in ways I could never have imagined.

Haiti has stretched me in ways I never could have dreamed.

Haiti has made a lot of realities in the orphan window of this world very vivid.

Haiti has shown me how real this world is and how big of a bubble surrounds the States.

Haiti has brought a myriad of new people into my life that I couldn’t possibly imagine doing life without.

Haiti has shown me that it is okay to be confident and embrace the weird spiritual gifts and skills I have, and that they come not only within my calling, but with purpose.

Haiti has broadened my capacity to love in ways I didn’t think possible.

As I think back over the last year, I think that is one of the things I am most proud of that God grew on me. My capacity to love. Real. Genuine. I want to know what God does in your life…love.

I think of Johnny running down the side of the church when he sees me at the other end and the massive grin on his face.

I think about Lovely and how she waits for me at the end of the bus until I walk off the bus, then sticks to me like my shadow.

I think of crazy God connections with people I am only with for 5 days…and then they join my community in KC.

I think of how distance has strengthen friendships I have, when rational thought says they should weaken.

There are many opportunities to love during a day…and we are blessed with at least 365 opportunities in a year. What are we doing with them?

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” [Luke 6:32-33]

Remember to love.

Not just remember the ways you are loved and the people you have loved, but remember to love others. Even those the world says it is a disgrace to love. There are no limits or restrictions to God’s love, so why would we put limitations on the love we show others?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35]

Remember to love.

 

 

‘Seasons of Love’ from Rent:
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments so dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure – Measure A Year?

In Daylights – In Sunsets
In Midnights – In Cups Of Coffee
In Inches – In Miles
In Laughter – In Strife
In – Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure
A Year In The Life?

How About Love?
How About Love?
How About Love?
Measure In Love

Seasons of Love.
Seasons of Love.

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Journeys To Plan

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure The Life
Of A Woman Or A Man

In Truth That She Learned
Or In Times That He Cried
In Bridges He Burned
Or The Way That She Died

It’s Time Now – To Sing Out
Though The Story Never Ends
Let’s Celebrate
Remember A Year In The Life Of Friends

Remember the Love
Remember the Love
Remember the Love
Measure In Love

Oh you got to you got to remember the love,
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure, measure your life in love.