truth

Note: I’ve felt led to share an open letter to my community of Jesus’ loving, sarcastic speakin’, community driven and radically living ladies who laugh with me and love me despite my inherent ability to sometimes be an asshole. Friends, three years ago this month I followed a crazy whim that the Holy Spirit had put on my heart to experiment with a small group Bible Study using the Tangible Kingdom Primer. Since that moment, we have had so, so many crazy adventures together, intense prayer and read some books we know we don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole again, as well as some we keep recommending to others. But best of all we have waded through the muck and fell headlong into God’s heart for his Kingdom to be realized through loving others and genuinely caring about those around us every day. The unique thing about our DNA is that our focus has consistently been grounded on the perfect cornerstone of Jesus Christ. He is our launching pad into incarnational living that is creating each one of us into storytellers who perpetuate the stories of The Storyteller. We have seen friends sit among us and then move on by their own choice. We have seen family members pass away. We know each other, and not just know in the general sense, but known in the way God has created us to be open and honest with each other within community. We have countless crazy Kingdom stories. We have become excellent listeners. We have struggled through so many aspects of life together, responding each time by encircling our friend while carrying, motivating and loving them through the shit this world throws around. We have celebrated victories in life, jobs, friendship, marriages…because if a group who calls themselves Fondue Crew doesn’t know how to celebrate, who does? I know we all realize this…but I think it is important to remember where our roots are, and how we have been grown together with Jesus at the core in order to see where God is leading us. So many times as groups grow, they get to a point where they think they have learned all they will be able to learn from each other and feel they need to move on. Other times individuals believe that they don’t really belong any more. Sometimes the group gets too big and someone gets a brilliant *sarcasm* idea to multiply and grow new groups, only causing division because it was an idea of man not Spirit. Other times the ‘B’ word slides in and convinces us we are too busy for that weekly check-in and storytelling. When our group had just formed, I bought a book, ‘Community is Messy,’ but I never read it. Mostly, because I knew our foundation was built of the power of the one who reigns over the entire universe and if it got messy, we would draw on that power to figure it out. I’d never felt as intense discernment as when I felt the pull to start this group stubbornly centered on Kingdom life and living incarnational lives, telling Kingdom stories with a commitment to only do studies or activities pulling us deeper into that sent life. God was doing a lot in my life and redefining what I thought mission was into what God meant it to be, and he was calling me to share that ‘doing’ mission was not his heart and that Kingdom vision was right at the center. The one tie that truly binds us is our deep, passionate, loyal love for the One whose grace saves…the Master Storyteller. The stories we tell point to his Kingdom and without those stories to glorify God we are not living the lives God has called us to in this world. I am in a dual state of extreme gratitude for how we encourage each other, but also a feeling of disconnect, which goes against why God formed our community. We are strongest together when we are weaving our lives into His Story. What I do know is the world we fight for puts us in direct conflict with the forces that fight against that world being realized. It makes us susceptible to so many things. We cannot ever let ourselves believe the lie that we are separated from the community God has brought us into. We must believe the truth of God’s heart, the truth of his Holy Spirit leading and the truth that there is a purpose for our community. When we start listening to the lies that we don’t have time, it’s been too long and it will feel weird to be back or you feel uncomfortable with someone in the group…we allow ourselves to believe the lie that we are better on our own and we don’t belong in community.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12, NIV]

For months I’ve been allowing myself to believe the lie that my voice doesn’t have the right to speak alongside your voices. Allowing myself to hear I’ve been gone for too long. Without time spent with you, without knowing what is happening in your daily lives…I’ve allowed myself to believe that I am too far away, I am not needed and I am separate. Within those thoughts, I’ve been holding on to some things I felt God wanted us to hear. But it is time to share God’s truth… Friends, we have failed to fortify ourselves against spiritual attack and we are getting picked apart. We are digressing into our own minds and not being honest about where we are at right now. Myself included. We are loved by the giver of life, so intimately, that we are chosen. We must embrace this truth as a community, but also individually. You are chosen.

“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” [1 Peter 2:4-9]

We need to trust each other explicitly and know that while we first trust Jesus, we without a doubt we have each others’ back. That means honesty and not hiding away when things get tough. We need to actively communicate our struggles with each other and know we are supported. We need to hold each other accountable to telling Kingdom stories and living Kingdom lives through blessing others, listening well, being present, committing to prayer and seeking growth in God’s word. We need to realize how uniquely we each are made, embrace those differences and celebrate how specific our gifts are as we use them to fit together into God’s perfect puzzle. We need every single one of us.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” [Ephesians 4:11-16]

We are uniquely called to love deeply all those around us, yes, we will be assholes, but our intentions remain pure. It means conversations with people at work, school and on long drives that we wouldn’t normally jump into. It means spending money a different way. It means being outside our comfort zone. It also draws on a willingness to surrender ourselves to allow God to use us. It means transformation. It means we will sometimes get hurt, but it also allows us to love and encourage each other through that pain. We need to commit to reconciling our relationships with each other through love, and live gracefully. We need to shelf excuses that keep us secluded from community. We need to stop the busy, acknowledge boundaries and know that God seeks to use us everywhere we go…while discerning God doesn’t mean for this community to be sacrificed on the altar of busy. Everything we have been through, read and learned has led us to this specific time and place to be what God needs from us…BUT we are asked to listen and filter out the busy to hear. We have served side-by-side in various aspects: Harvesters, Russia, Haiti and Spofford. We keep seeking the voice of God on where that ‘one thing’ is in this world for us to dive in together, but we are truly a beautiful image of God because our eclecticness is unique. How many times have you looked around our group and thought, ‘How did we all end up here?’ What God has brought together has meaning, and it is special. We are all different and each called in a different way, and I am convinced God will make us strongest when we use our differences. I am convinced that it isn’t that we have one thing for us all to be about, but God has made each of us about different things within a common passion. We each have an innate passion to champion those in this world that are forgotten. It looks different with each of us, but each of us is doing this within our own calling. I could look at each of you right now and call out that area where you are living to champion those the world forgets. We are called to community, and that community is called out as individuals…to then come back to community to heal, share and love deeply in a safe place. This world is hard. God knows it is drowning in sin, but he also knows there is an end with his victory and he has given believers a place to retreat back to and feel safe until he has healed this world.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord and in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:14-22]

The truth is, friends, I need you in my life. I need you to keep reminding me that God has built us together to be a dwelling for the Holy Spirit. I need you to point to the Kingdom when I miss it. I need your stories. I need our community, because I know I cannot do this life alone…and honestly, I really don’t want to, even if you are two plane rides away. Community is messy, but we are called to life lived together. I am beyond blessed to have you all in my life cheering me on and championing who God has called me to be.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same king of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Peter 5:6-11]

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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?

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.

jesus

‘Who do you say I am?’

Jesus asked his disciples this in Matthew 16:15, and since it came on my radar last weekend I cannot get it to stop playing on a loop in my head. Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:13, ‘Who do people say the son of man is?’ and they go on to list what everyone else is saying about Jesus. Then Jesus turns it back on them and makes it a bit more personal.

‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter immediately answers, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

There is so much in that simple statement. Fulfillment of prophecy, the Trinity…hope…life…

When the disciples were left on their own to propel the stories of Jesus out from that place, there was a moment when they were faced with the decision of being who God has created them to be and fully accept who Jesus is, or turn the opposite direction and forfeit life in God’s Kingdom and the eternal life promised.

When we choose to pursue life in God’s Kingdom, we find ourselves in unique positions to answer Jesus’ question to the disciples.

‘Who do you say I am?’

This question has been annoyingly consistent at running on a loop in my head, I even challenged my community to mull it over…you know, just so I’m not annoyed alone. I hate doing things alone, which is why I love community so much.

Jesus is community. He gathered a group of friends, walked through life with them and drew people in with genuine kindness and never treated someone differently based on the wrongs they had done in their life. He calls us to the same…to gather and walk through life with a group of friends in such an authentic way that others are drawn to what they see in the community God has given us. We gather to be honest, loyal, supportive, faithful and actually, to completely call each other out on our shit when we need it. And for the moments when that happens in a setting of genuine community and relationship under the model Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-20, then we are able to work through that together as believers should when their community is built on the perfect Cornerstone, Jesus himself. Life with Jesus is 100% inclusive and 0% exclusive, I realize that is redundant, but more people need to live their life with the 0% exclusive mandate. We do not judge sin. We do not judge the level of belief a person professes. If we are not a visible image of who Jesus is, then how is anyone being drawn to the intimacy of his Kingdom? When we present ourselves as judgmental, exclusive, rule-driven, hateful and disloyal to each other…that is NOT the image of Christ.

Jesus is love. Unstoppable love to be more accurate. Unrelenting. Pursuing. Intimate love. Personal to who you are. His love will never leave, and you could never do anything to make his love separate from you. His love will never force guilt on you in order to be worthy of it. It is never dependent on how much good you do. It flows out of him like a colander. You could never plug all of the holes quick enough to make it stop flowing. Even in your anger and you don’t want Jesus or his love anymore, he doesn’t stop it from pouring over you. His love is perfect, and actually drives out fear. His love covers me constantly, and is at times so tangible that I am overwhelmed at my true unworthiness at receiving it. But I am so grateful for those moments and intimate reminders that I belong to him. He chose me.

Jesus is healer. I think it is hard to recognize Jesus’ healing without having experienced it firsthand. That incredible miracle of healing on body, mind, and soul…healing on every aspect of who we are as humans is so supernatural it is completely incomprehensible. It’s not just the incredible miracles that we read in the Bible, but how individualized it is to us as his daughter or son. Chipping away at protective walls we spent a lot of time fortifying, yet so tender, because he wants to use us through the walls we’ve built.

Jesus is peace. He is the peace. Your peace. My peace. Complete peace. It takes on so many different meanings in scripture. In 2 Chronicles 14 is means to be at rest and free from conflict. In Ephesians 2:14, more like tranquility, harmony and reconciling relationships. The most important part is that Jesus says he left his peace with YOU in John 14:27. Jesus knew he wasn’t bringing physical peace to this world, but he did know his peace would be left with those in this world.

Jesus is Savior. God born in flesh to sacrifice himself for the nasty shit we sink ourselves into on a daily basis. No need to point fingers…unless you are more than ready to have some pointed in your own direction. Jesus was the ONLY perfect human, and the faster we accept and honor that with our lives, the less pressure you put on yourself to be perfect. You are not responsible for 50 conversions this week…you aren’t even responsible for one. And if you happen to be present for a life transformation moment, you most certainly do not get the glory, it all goes to him. The small group that you are part of doesn’t need the perfect image you want to put up as a façade. They want the real you. The one who is just as much of an asshole as the people you are gathering with. Your façade of perfection just makes them feel like more of an asshole, and they don’t need that pressure if they are already admitting faults. You will screw up, and it is ok. Jesus wasn’t selective when he took on the sin of the world. He took it all. Every last bit, but you have to stop trying to keep some of your sin to yourself. When you hold back, that’s on you, not him. He wants your transformation and growth to reflect his sacrifice.

Jesus is present in Spirit. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples in John 20:22, and they were blessed with the physical presence of that moment. However, ALL believers have access to the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:5 is says that God’s love has been poured on us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Jesus said he would send a comforter, a guide, helper, counselor, advocate, truth…and Holy Spirit is all of those things. It is not something to be afraid of, and definitely not something to ignore, because it is a piece of how Jesus is still active and present with us now. This piece of Jesus is like home for me. It’s the gift of grace that guides my decision making, sends me out and gives me words for those that Jesus needs to speak into. It is my connection to Jesus that is most substantial at times.

Jesus is sender. Some of his last words to his disciples were that the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Jude and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Ironically, those church pews that tend to be pretty sticky and very comfortable for most believers were never a part of the sending plan. He was adamant that his people would be scattered and that they were sent out. It wasn’t a byproduct of a plan, it was THE plan. If you have never read the sent language of the Bible, dust off that Bible and get to it…start in John.

Jesus is empowerment. He left his disciples to propel his message forward, and calls every single person who believes in him to do the same to make the kingdom of God attractive to others so people would be drawn to God’s heart and grace. He didn’t tell the disciples, “Guys, hold down the fort and I’ll do it all when I get back.” Instead it was the freedom of, “Friends, you have a lot of work to do. Go out. Tell my stories. Be my love. Always point back to who I am.”

Jesus is a rebel. His presence as a baby incited Herod to kill all of the boys age 2 and under in and around Bethlehem. He pissed off the Pharisees. He said he would cause divisions in families when only part of a family chose to follow him. He tossed the tables in the temple when he saw the blasphemy that was occurring there. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and all of the people that fell into the forgotten and despised part of society. Honestly, how popular would be in our world as that rebel? But it is who he is, friends.

Jesus is a storyteller. He was a master at it, actually, but also, a master at confusing people with parables. But the bottom line is he told stories that pointed to God’s kingdom and made people struggle with what that meant. He didn’t give all the answers, but he pointed in the right direction.

Jesus is victory…and hope. As believers we do not fight, pray or exist in this world for God’s victory. He’s already won. We fight WITH his victory, and that victory has us put our hope in a world that is fully renewed, restored and reconciled to God. At least, that’s the victory I am fighting with in this shitty, sinful world that rips people apart instead of draws them together. The enemy’s goal is to separate us, because we are worthless apart from Jesus and separated from each other. Our true strength is in being unified under the peace of Christ and fighting as one body.

Realistically, who Jesus is could go on for eternity…and really does. But, for where I am and who God has created me to be, this is who Jesus is for me.

It is our responsibility as a body of believers able to answer who Jesus is to a world that is desperately seeking his truth and unconditional love. How is he real? How is he present? How have I been transformed by him? Why did I choose him? How does my life look different? Where does my joy in a hurting world come from? Where does my story merge with his story?

If you cannot readily answer those simple questions, then you are not telling Kingdom stories when the opportunities arise to draw people to God’s heart and you are not pointing to the one who is Truth with your life. Gauntlet thrown.

 

voice

I know God’s love. I know the freedom and acceptance that comes with God’s love. I like to think I know his heart…not just for me, but for others, especially when I make life choices based on where I am called to love others for him. But sometimes we need to know his anger, his utter disbelief and how much his heart truly breaks at the sin surrounding his beloved children.

Recently I was in church being used as a jungle gym. Schnider would not sit still. We had already gotten a drink of ‘dlo’ before I sat down in church, and his frustration at my not taking him again, when he knew I could understand what he was asking for in Creole, was very real. But he didn’t want to go alone. Instead, he sat. He pouted. He shifted. He stood on me. He stood at my side. He laid his head on the bench in front of us. He put his head on my shoulder. He moved my water bottle. He flipped through the pages in my Bible. He sat again. Then he stood on me.

There’s a pattern here. He did not want to be alone. He wanted someone with him. And he was not ready to sleep…yet…

In the midst of all this shifting, I found myself getting annoyed that he couldn’t get comfortable. Relax already, friend. I am here for you.

But also in that exact thought was this awareness that someone had left him. For whatever reason…reasonable or wholly unreasonable…Schnider had been abandoned through whatever situation had landed him at the village. And that awareness flooded me with pain that this was not right. This wasn’t how it was meant to be.

As much as my heart broke in that moment for this little guy, as much as it breaks for all of the orphans God has placed in my path over the last ten years in a myriad of places, I find that God’s heart breaks a million times a million more times for those who are abandoned. For all children, adults, anyone…God’s heart breaks for the ways they have been abandoned and made to feel they are unwanted, unworthy and unloved.

It is absolutely beyond my comprehension how anyone could choose to leave a child, and this is coming from someone who does not even have children. I am profoundly sad for who the world calls orphans. Parents die, or cannot provide for them. Grandparents, aunts, uncles…no relatives to choose to take care of them. I think God shares in my disbelief. I think God feels that utter disbelief when the connection created through birth is ripped to shreds when a parent, through death or stripped of dignity for whatever reason, leaves their child as an orphan.

God did not create us for this. He created us as whole beings, meant for his Kingdom and to live as Kingdom walkers. He created us for love, and the sin of this world breaks love.

In Isaiah 58, God is calling out his people for fasting and not meaning it.

‘For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God…you cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.’ [Isaiah 58:2, 4]

I have been seized by this passage for four years this month. Obsessed is probably not even a strong enough word for what hold this passage has on me. It starts calling everyone out on how they say they know God, but only for set apart times and not with their lives. Then moves into what God does want them to be doing…that they are not actually doing.

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’ [Isaiah 58:6-7]

I remember asking a friend what he thought the beginning meant, ‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’ His response has stuck with me, ‘Be loud. Talk about what God has been opening your eyes to in these verses.’ With those words, he ignited something in me. I realized I had a voice and I wasn’t using it the way God wanted me to be using it.

Granted, with that advice, over the last four years my voice has been met with resistance, anger and disrespect, yet also love, camaraderie, understanding, awakening and more than anything else a trueness that many of us are speaking the same Kingdom language.

But we need to be speaking that language louder. We need to be calling out the things in this world that fight against the heart of God.

Our silence is our acceptance.

I adamantly refuse to accept that God wants children to be abandoned by their parents or left alone in this world after their parents are gone, but that is my voice and my calling, and consequently where I find myself living. Refusing to be silent is part of what landed me in Haiti, allowing God to use me to love his kids and journey with others being ignited to the same.

What are the things you show you accept through your silence?

God has given us a voice for the abandoned, lost, lonely, broken and outcast. Where your voice takes you is between you and the Savior you serve. It will make you cross paths with people you never thought you could meet. It will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge your status quo. It will transform you. It will also draw criticism from others who profess to believe what you believe. But the bottom line is God is calling on you to use your voice.

‘Shout it aloud. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’

I am called to use my voice for the orphan, and I will be shouting that from the rooftops while annoying all within my shouting distance. I refuse to let the world tell orphans they are worthless, no one wants them and they deserve to be an orphan. God’s heart is for the orphan. God’s heart is for them to be made whole by being a part of his Kingdom family. I choose to be used as a jungle gym, then a soft place to land and sleep. I choose to love with abandon. I choose to love with whatever amount of God’s love I have flowing through me. I choose to go deeper, and I choose to know God’s heart…even when it breaks me.

amazing love

My daily rhythm changes with the tide of incoming teams from the States. Team in country? I am occupied and my day revolves around them.

And I love it.

I love their enthusiasm. I respect their perspective of what Haiti looks like to them. I am genuinely anxious for God to move in them while they are here. And I am always expectant of the relationships God will create and continue throughout a weekend a team is in country with us.

But the best part? I get to take them to the villages of the Pastors we support.

That’s right, ladies and gents, I get to play with kids.

May 26 started off with a gathering of prayerful people before breakfast, a lazy journey to load the bus and off to visit Paula Coles, which is one of our GO Exchange partners. Paula is a courageous, stubborn, delightful woman who has such great vision for what Haiti could be in the world through art, accessories and clothing. All with recycled materials she makes these incredible bags, pillows, wallets, computer cases, iPad holders…so much! Clearly, it’s a good stop. Today I told her, “If I walked in here and there just ‘happened’ to be a blue/lime green/black accessory bag in here I think I would say to you, ‘Paula I need to make a purchase.’” Her response? Perfectly timed, by the way, “Then there will probably be one in here the next time you come.”

Next stop: Leogane. And hang on to your hats, because Leogane is always a doozy. And when I say doozy…the Holy Spirit is going to be moving.

Pastor Claude’s kids are wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Well, I am a bit biased because I’ve got a buddy at Leogane who I am always excited to see, and who is always looking for me when the bus shows up. Oh, that Chales. Stealing my heart. It’s really not fair. But completely fitting in the context of the Kingdom I serve.

And that day was no different.

I was sitting on one of the pavilion levels, and he immediately saw me and sat next to me taking my hand and scooting to where his entire right side touched my left side. Someone brought a speaker and the next thing I know, ‘Happy’ is blasting throughout the pavilion. Kid are dancing, Americans are boogying and Pastor Claude is bouncing his shoulders with kids on his lap.

All I could think was that this song is so appropriate for this exact moment that I don’t want it to end.

20140527-080611.jpgAnd then it got better.

Coloring was involved. After Chales had finished coloring his mouse, I needed to check with Pastor on a few things so I was standing talk when I realized my left side had turned into an excellent place to write on the coloring sheet.
As I look down I realize he is writing his name out, ‘Chales Herode.’

Then next came, ‘to Stephanie.’ Then ‘global,’ referring to Global Orphan Project. Quickly followed by Claude’s village name and Leogane. At which point it was handed to me with the biggest grin. So proud of himself. And I was so proud of him. It wasn’t perfect writing, but it was perfect to me. (Side note: Said picture is currently residing on my ‘Wall of Awesome’ in my room at Jumecourt.)

I always let Chales lead me. After all, I’m an in the moment gal. He’s not done me wrong yet! Yet…

20140527-080539.jpgHe is leading, and I’m following and he sees Pastor reading out of a picture Creole Bible. There are a lot of kids crowded around the Pastor, so he sees an older girl looking at another one, and starts watching her read the pages and say what the stories are about.

But he won’t let go of my hand. So here I am awkwardly standing behind him, trying desperately not to be in the way of the Bible viewing and he won’t let go of my hand, then tightens his grip.

While the speakers start playing…

Amazing love, how can it be?
That you my King would die for me.
Amazing love, I know it’s true,
And it’s my joy to honor you in all I do.

When was the last time you felt the presence of God in such a tangible way that it took your breath away?

Honestly, that question is for you…because down here I’ve lost track in the best way possible.

It is hard to describe the supernatural spark that happens when you find God’s amazing love legitimately flowing through you to love a child you barely know and are not related by blood ties.

It truly is amazing love.

Love that is unconditional, and flows freely from our Savior.

I didn’t make a connection with Chales. Or Johnny. Or Takyra. Or Alyosha and Kostya in Russia. Nothing I could ever do on my own could create that feeling. It is unexplainable.

20140527-081709.jpgFive days later I found myself at Leogane again, and showed Chales a photo of his picture hanging on my wall in my room at Jumecourt. You would have thought a celebrity had walked into the compound. His face lit up like a Christmas tree, his smile was the BIGGEST I have EVER seen it, and his countenance…friends, he knew he was known and loved and our friendship isn’t just about me showing up to hold him for a couple of hours. It was absolutely a moment that God was not only in…but supernaturally creating. It was beautiful.

God made those Kingdom connections and he nurtures those connections in order to further his Kingdom on earth.

The good thing is…I am only on week eleven and there is plenty more time for God to nurture some amazing love down here and it truly is my joy to honor God in all that I do.

 

 

 

 

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renmen

Love.

If I use it I mean it. I don’t throw it around easily, so when I say it I care about that person a lot.

I’ve been the one on the other end of ‘I love you’ who awkwardly goes, ‘uh, yah, well…me too.’

I think that too many people throw around that ‘L’ word without even thinking about it.

We are not talking about a word that conveys just liking something, or kind of thinking that you are probably at a point that you love someone. Or worse, they said it and I have to say it back.

We are talking about real love. Love that asks for nothing in return. Humility. Surrender. Unconditional. Sacrificial love.

Love manifested as human, crucified, dead, buried, resurrected and ALIVE.

That definition of love far exceeds any version used in describing ice cream. No matter what country, or how hot it is!

Many languages use specific words for specific types of love.

In Creole there is love, love for each other and being in love with someone who is a bit more than a friend.

In Hebrew there are seven different ways to refer to love. The main three are love for God, love for a friend and love for someone who is well…you get the gist.

But in English, there is only one word for love of all forms. See where we get confused with our uses of love?

Several weeks ago, I was at Leogane at one of the villages we support. The kids were playing a game with me and asking, ‘Renmen Jezi?’ Love Jesus? Well yah! ‘Renmen Dieu?’ Love God? Of course! ‘Renmen Satan?’ Hold the phone, what? Non!!!! Which was heard with a resounding cheer by the kids. Over and over we went, other kids would get called over, “She understands! Ask her!” they would tell them.

I got a crash course in the word for loving another in Creole that day.

The next week I was in one of my favorite places, other than the villages, I get to take teams near Petionville in Port-au-Prince. Papillion had started screen printing shirts, and I found one that said ‘Renmen Ayiti.’ All because of the kids at Leogane, I immediately knew what it said. ‘Love Haiti.’ It’s a safe bet that I now own it.

The reason I don’t use ‘I love you’ carelessly is not because I have a cold, black, crusty heart. It is because the intent behind it, and the belief, should not be tossed around as if all love by our American definition is equal. I am intentional with my love. I don’t just say it to make someone feel good, I say it because I mean it and every element that should be backing up those words will be the relationship I have with that person.

I love Jesus, with every fiber of my being actually, and most days, my love for him is completely backed up by my actions. Most days.

Last weekend, I was at the village next door with a team and hanging out with some of the kids that I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of months. Takyra is one of those fellas, although I most often refer to him as the bubble ninja from my first weekend here. He’d been standoffish the last couple of times, but I’d also been spending intentional time with a special kiddo while his American friend was in the States.

There I was…in the heat of the day, spinning Takyra around until we are both so dizzy neither one of us could stand upright. But his laughter, oh, friends, his laughter…it is contagious. You cannot hear his giggle and not join in the fun. For the first time since I got here, I had to use our bus as a safety zone so my head would stop spinning, because Takyra kept wanting spin after spin after spin. Giggle and spin. Giggle and spin.

I got off the bus, spun him again and he landed giggling and came in close for a hug. He looked up at me with these beautiful brown eyes and whispered something I couldn’t understand. I leaned in closer so he could repeat, and still could not hear him. I said, ‘Mwen pas comprend.’ I don’t understand. He repeated and I still wasn’t getting it.

Laughing…I repeated, ‘Mwen pas comprend!’

He looked at me. Smiled that gorgeous smile of his, stepped back confidently and said loudly, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’ While gesturing with his hands at himself, then pointing at me.

All of a sudden…it clicked. I knew this word! Renmen. Love.

I love you.

My mind scrambled. Did he want something? I didn’t have anything, we’d been spinning in circles for about 20 minutes and he knows I don’t bring ‘stuff’ with me. Just myself. He’d said it so quietly at first…did he know what he was saying? Of course he did. He speaks Creole. I’m the language idiot.

After all that finished racing through my head, I just leaned down, wrapped him in my arms and whispered, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’

IMG_3330His grin sparkled as his small hand wrapped within my own while he led me to sit down on the steps…in the hot Haiti sun. Some things you just have to sacrifice a piece of yourself for and in this instance it was redhead skin in the hot Haiti sun. With our sweat joining into one big stream, he landed in my lap, and we sat there until it was time for me to head back home…just over the wall. I’m overjoyed to see where God will take our friendship, and what our friendship will look like over the next year. I never imagined I would feel this attached after just two months. But then again, I know my God does crazy things once you surrender the pieces of yourself that don’t reflect him. And however many times it has happened…in Haiti or Russia or wherever…it is completely supernatural, and it asks for nothing in return.

Love comes down to our ability to let God supernaturally flow through us so we are reflecting God in all aspects of presence, time and sacrifice in all forms. Some more extreme in the case of our Savior’s sacrifice, and others are simpler when it is a sacrifice of comfort or time. Real love requires a lot of surrender, and an ability to be honest with who you are when the other person is around. Somehow, God strips off every layer of who I am when I am among the orphans of our world. What is left behind is a woman who chooses her Savior every day and chooses to share the love of her Savior with others.

It all comes to love, and really meaning what you convey. Asking for nothing in return. Constant. Reliable. Intentional. Unconditional.

Renmen.