The Lenhart Family

Friday, December 19, 2008

Power of Presence... God with us!

I know my days of listening to Christmas music are numbered and that makes me sad. I love the emotions of Christmas music and the way it just seems to totally melt my heart and prepare me for what Christmas is really all about. Ashlyn had a Christmas choir concert the other day and it took all the self control I could muster to keep myself from embarrassing her by sobbing like a baby as they sang “Silent Night”. But today I was listening to this song by Joy Williams called “Here With Us” and it got me to thinking about the mystery of God stepping into our life as an infant boy Emmanuel, God with us.

I am the world’s biggest scaredy cat when it comes to a lot things. But over the years, I have noticed by the calming effect of having my husband with me. Somehow his presence makes whatever fear I am facing seem not so intimidating. Like for instance, when I gave birth to our children and had back surgery… as long as Jake was with me, I was fine. If he stepped out of the room or even threatened to as a joke… I would start freaking out and let my fears reign. Even when we went to Haiti, in the middle of the night, when I had to make the scary trek out of the tent and down to the bathhouse with the voodoo drums playing in the background and the darkness of the night… sometimes I would wake Jake up and ask him to go with me. His presence makes me feel safe and somehow protected.

“Presence is a noun, not a verb; it is a state of being, not doing. States of being are not highly valued in a culture which places a high priority on doing. Yet, true presence or "being with" another person carries with it a silent power — to bear witness to a passage, to help carry an emotional burden or to begin a healing process. In it, there is an intimate connection with another that is hard to come by in our fast paced hurried lives.

I have heard people who experience great loss and grief talk about how a loved ones presence during that time was their lifeline and what made their grief bearable. Somehow having someone you love “just there” with you makes whatever burden or fear you are facing smaller.

I have not hesitated to be in the presence of others for whom I could "do" nothing. In nursing school and in my experiences as a nurse, the power of presence is confirmed at all spectrums of life. When Ashlyn was in the NICU after birth, I noticed that the premature infants who have involved and loving family visiting and caring for them daily made a huge difference in how quickly they got better. Their family’s presence directly impacted their outcomes. And at the end of life, those with family there as they cross over from one life to the next seem to have more peace as they do.

I have heard a lot about the various names of the Lord. There are tons of studies devoted solely to the names of God. . Throughout the Bible, there are over 100 names and titles are given to Jesus. And whether He is called "Bright morning star, Wonderful Counselor, the Alpha and the Omega, or the Lamb of God", each of these names and titles is rich with meaning. They all say something significant about who Jesus is. Yet at this time of year, all I can think about is the name given him in Mathew 1:23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, "God with us."

His presence in our society is felt and experienced more intensely at Christmas time. And although every generation claims that that the days they are living in the most dark and scary… I truly feel like these days are indeed among some of the most frightening. Our economy crisis and the amount of global unrest is enough to make all us scaredy cats (like me) want to run and hide. Yet God’s promised presence is the lifeline I will choose to cling to. Whatever dark moments or scary night the next year may hold, God has promised His presence. Deuteronomy 31:6-8 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." The bible is full of similar promises of God’s presence as the prescription for fear and discouragement.

As powerful as my husband’s protective presence is…. My God’s presence is even more reliable and powerful. I am so thankful for His presence not just on Christmas day but everyday!!

“Here With Us” Joy Williams
It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small,
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King,
You're here with us
You're here with us

It's still a mystery to me, oh,
How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel's symphony,
But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
Here with us
You're here with us
(Ohh, mmm, here with us)

Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem
A baby born to save, to save the souls of man

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
You're here with us
You're here with us

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

There are no words for that...

English always has been my favorite subject. I love to read and I love to write…. Basically I just love written words. But there are some things and some circumstances in life, where there just are no words to describe. Looking back at some of my journaling from the week we spent in Haiti, there seems to one phrase written over and over, “there are no words for that.” So as I try to somehow describe what we saw and experienced in Haiti, please remember the reoccurring phrase / theme throughout my journal was “THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR THAT!”

Coming back this time, it was the first time I returned to Haiti since adopting Jimso. Before any group goes there, they are warned not to give hand outs to beggars you encounter on the streets because you will not ever have enough and if you do you might be swarmed by needy people. On my first trip, one of the most difficult things to do was to say “no” to the beggars we encountered. But this trip saying “no” had a new and unexpected dimension to it. We were barely off the plane and had just found our seats on the bus that would take us to the orphanage, when I was approached by a little boy who stood outside my window asking for food and clutching his stomach. I tried not to look directly at him because I knew I had been told not to give anyone anything but for one brief second our eyes met and it took my breathe away because it was as if I was looking into the eyes of MY OWN SON whom I had left at home just several hours earlier. It was haunting to looking into the eyes of a little boy so similar in so many ways to my own son. It was gut wrenching to shake my head no and look away. My thoughts then went to the “What if’s” of Jimso’s life. What if God had not brought Jimso into our lives, what if he had not brought him to GVCM, what if he was still living on the streets alone? The “what if’s” have a way of consuming your thoughts if you let them.

There are no words to describe how much I love the people of Haiti. They are just completely beautiful to me. I have read in the book of Ruth where she proclaims to her mother in law Naomi, “Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." I do not understand the how’s or why’s of it… but I know that I feel a divine connection and love for the people of Haiti. Maybe it has something to do with the adoption but I know God has placed a devotion in my heart to this nation and its people that will connect my heart with theirs forever.

Although we had many work “projects” throughout the week, the time we spent with the precious 57 orphans is what made the trip worth all the hard work it took to get us there. You see… We’re all born with a Love Bank that resides with our hearts. Our life experiences and everyday contact with others will either make deposits into our account or withdrawals from our heart. Throughout our childhood, most of us have the privilege of having loving parents and caring families who are continuously making deposits into the love bank that resides with our hearts. But the precious children we spent the week with had not been given some of that opportunity and if you could look inside their hearts, you would a love bank account that had been negative and in the red for years (work with me here, remember “there are no words”). These children were desperate for love and attention. Throughout the week, we learned to pick our seats wisely because within seconds of sitting down, we would find ourselves with at least 4 or 5 children planted in our laps just wanting to cuddle. In fact, they would even push and fight their way to find a coveted spot on your lap. My lap, although big, could not accommodate all the children reaching their arms up for me to hold them. There was no such thing as personal space or alone time, and I loved every minute of it (even as the introvert I am)! The first few days, the communication and language barrier was felt. But the more time we spent there, the more that barrier disappeared until I didn’t even notice the fact we spoke different languages. English wasn’t spoken in our play, Creole wasn’t spoken either. Love was spoken.

Another highlight of our week for me was spending time with Jimso’s biological brother Jedone’. For those who do not know, Jedone’ is Jimso’s 12 year brother. If only we had known about him before we adopted Jimso, he might be living with us now. But having the opportunity to spend the week with him was priceless. He is such a beautiful boy, with lighter skin and eyelashes so long that curl up. He looks a lot like Jimso… but they are polar opposites in their personalities. Jedone’ is shy and soft spoken and extremely sweet. He is the leader of the pack with the older boys and is such an amazing helper. I watched to parent some of the younger boys all week and wondered if he did that with Jimso when they were together. He loved the pictures I brought of Jimso. He proudly wore a button of Jimso’s soccer picture all week. And wanted to show all his friends the pictures of his "petite fray" (little brother). We also had the privilege of meeting with Jimso’s biological mother one morning. I tired to express our gratitude and what a blessing Jimso is to our family but once again “there are no words for that” and I felt completely inadequate. Haitian women are not emotional so I tried with every fiber in my being not to overwhelm her with emotion. She expressed how pleased she was with adoption and absolutely loved looking at the photo album we brought her. We brought her some gifts but honestly nothing we gave her would have felt adequate. She said she knew God had a plan for Jimso’s life and GVCM taking him in when she could not care for him, and us adopting him was all part of that plan. I can not wait until Jimso is old enough is accompany us on a mission trip there. I want so badly for him to feel connected to his culture and for him to understand where he came from and for him to share our love for these precious people.

In my lifetime, I have celebrated 30 Thanksgivings, but none of them will ever be as memorable as the one I spent in Haiti. For the life of me, I can not even remember what I did last thanksgiving but I will NEVER forget what I did 11/28/08. We treated 97 gravely ill people in an impromptu medical clinic. People who were willing to wait all day to be seen by us. Some of them had never been seen by a medical professional in their entire life. My thoughts and prayers are still consumed by them but especially by a few in particular… the women who had a terrible infection resulting from an abortion she had a few days earlier; the young mom who was so septic she could hardly walk, let alone care for her baby; an elderly man with heart disease and blood pressure so critically high he could have had a stroke at any moment; the two young children with malaria; the young man withering away from what seemed to be AIDS; patients who had critically high fevers like 104 or 105 yet continued to work all day as if they were fine; a young mother who was so blind she could not see the medication syringe well enough to administer the necessary antibiotic it to her young children that we had to teach the 4 year old daughter how to give it to herself and her younger siblings. There are no words to describe those kinds of health care needs. And once again, I felt inadequate. Most of what we saw was all so preventable and treatable yet it could be fatal in circumstances like these. I can’t wrap my mind around it. Nor can I look into their faces and pretend anything about their circumstances is just, fair, or right. I hate the starling fact that in our world, your place of birth drastically determines your quality of life (it determines your access to health care, access to education, access to clean water, ability to feed yourself and your family). We ended our Thanksgiving with homemade pizza for dinner with the orphans. They weren’t sure what to think of it but in the end, I think they liked it and it was the most memorable Thanksgiving of my life.

The day after Thanksgiving is usually a day full of shopping for me and millions of other Americans but instead we got to meet our friend Bob (the 8 year old boy we sponsor through Compassion International). He has incredibly sweet and meeting him face to face and seeing the difference just $30 a month can make was incredible! I am completely amazed at that organization’s kingdom work! Seeing this kind of extreme poverty everyday… it would be so easy to just get overwhelmed by the vast needs that exist, yet they are truly making a global difference.

The day we left the orphanage was the hardest day of the entire week. OShellie cried as she said goodbye to Chelsey… which opened a floodgate of tears for us all. And as we tried to say good-bye, express to them our love, and promise them that this goodbye was not forever… the language and communication barrier seemed to reemerge.

Adjusting to life at home has been difficult. Once again, I left a huge hunk of my heart in Haiti and trying to adjust to life without that part of my heart has been hard. This week I found some little friends, named scabies, have taken up residency under my skin. Someone asked me “Now that you got scabies, do you regret cuddling so much with those orphans?” To which I honestly replied “No way… I regret not cuddling more. I wish I would have taken shorter showers, spent less time eating, and made more time for what mattered most... loving on those little kids.” My lap is empty, my heat is hurting, but there are no words to describe how much that week meant to me!”

“Once our eyes are opened, we can not pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act!”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Haiti Mission Trip Highlight Video

Its so hard to put 5 hours of video footage and over 1000 pictures into one song length but I think Jake did AWESOME job! It's also very hard to describe with words all we experienced but this is a taste of it!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grown Up Christmas List

Jimso came home from school Friday and told me that he had written a list to Santa at school. He told me that he asked him for a guitar and a microphone and a video camera so that he and Ashlyn could make a Jonas Brothers music video. Then he said Santa would be delivering the gifts on “Thanksgiving” morning (this is only his second Christmas celebration in his 7 years of life so he is still a bit confused on the details and how this whole “present day” works).

Listening to Christmas music is one of my favorite’s things to do (I started in October). One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Grown Up Christmas List” (I know old and cheesy but the cheesier the better when it comes to Christmas music). Here are the lyrics…..

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well, I'm all grown-up now
Can you still help somehow?
I'm not a child, but my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself, but for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in that blind belief can we ever find the truth

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end

This is my grown-up Christmas list
This is my only lifelong wish
This is my grown-up Christmas list

Coming back and transitioning to American life after visiting a third world country is difficult. You look at some of the “stupid” ways we spend money in our consumer driven society and endless pursuit to desire more “stuff”… and you can’t help but think of the faces of poverty and how much wiser it would be to invest in causes other than our own. Coming back from Haiti at the peak of Christmas advertizing has in some ways haunted me. Advertising (and even our own delusions) has seemed to reclassify luxuries as necessities. The other day I was watching a Disney show with my kids and all the commercials seemed to send the same message… material possessions will bring joy and fulfillment. These commercial seem to scream that these products would somehow satisfy our deepest needs and inner longings for love, acceptance, security, and fulfillment.

I had the privilege of spending Thanksgiving week in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere last week… and I honestly say that those people are some of the most contented and most fulfilled people I have ever met. They have nothing in the way of material possessions yet they have more faith and more joy in their little pinky than some of us have in our entire beings. I desperately want to be like them… I want to look to people and the Lord alone for my sense of security, love, and acceptance. I want to be like them and like the apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” If tomorrow I woke up and EVERYTHING was gone (my house, my possessions, my health, my family), I would want to be able to say that my God is enough and He is all I need. One of my favorite worship songs says “Rich or poor, God I want you more than anything that glitters in this world. Be my all, all consuming fire. You can have all my hands can hold….”

I have been leading a small group through a curriculum called “Hope Lives” and it looks at poverty and what the bible says about the poor and marginalized. This morning, I asked my Sunday school students, in light of all we have studied, to come up with a grown up Christmas list. Here is my list:

1.Every orphaned child would have someone to tuck them into bed each night and tell them “I love you!” (every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS, if 7% of people who claim Christianity would adopt one orphan per family then there would be no orphaned children globally)

2.That this present generation would be the ones to stand up and say “Your place (country) of birth will NOT determine your quality of life in regards to your access to education, health care, food/water, shelter, and other basic human needs and RIGHTS.

3.That every person would have access to clean water (currently 1/6 of the worlds population does not, 1.1 BILLION people)

4.That we would be passionate and persistent about eliminating global health crisis’ like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, malaria, tuberculosis, etc. (malaria kills 1 million children per year, most of them under the age of five, 2.3 million children are living with HIV and only 10% of them are being treated, one child dies every 5 seconds due to hunger related causes)

5.Children and other victims of abuse would find their voice and we would not tolerate those who intentionally inflict pain upon children. (300 millions children are subject to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse every year, 1.2 million children are trafficked every year for sexual purposes)

6.As Christians, we would embrace our calling to be the church that God dreams we could be. We would be more like the first church and like that described in Acts 4 “All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.”

7.Everyone on this planet would grasp the fact that love ALWAYS trumps hate, good always beat evil (at least in the end) and that we would birth extremists of love not hate!

This list is far from complete…. But they (my small group)had even better things on their lists .So what is on YOUR “grown up Christmas list????”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WWSD- what would Sam do?!

Last night I was talking to my sister from Seattle on the phone (if you can even call it talking since somehow we have both lost our voices at the same time with respiratory infections). She was telling a sweet story about my five year nephew Sam. Every time he has piano lessons, the teacher gives him two gummy bears at the end of his lesson. Over the last several weeks, sweet Sam eats one and then gives his little brother Ben the other one.

My sister watched him do this for several weeks before telling him “Sammy, I’ve noticed that you share your extra gummy bear with Ben and I think that is really sweet that you share without anyone even asking you to.”

To which Sam replied VERY seriously “Mom, sometimes it feels good to eat BOTH gummy bears myself!! But when I share with Ben it feels good too and that good feeling lasts even longer because Ben really loves gummy bears and I see that it makes him so happy.”

I wish we all could adopt Sam’s attitude of giving. I wish that when we see other people’s needs before us, we would soften our hearts and ask ourselves, “What would Sammy do?” I have heard it said, “The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away!” To someone who has never experienced the joy of giving away something you really treasure that statement sounds ridiculous and just plain stupid. But for people like Sam who know what it feels like to give away something you really treasure, it is a feeling far greater than whatever limited and fleeting happiness is associated with that treasure we are holding onto.

Kurt preached on Sunday about the parable with the talents… Matthew 15:14-28 says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'you wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

I can imagine if I am dealing out talents, I am going to trust people with hearts like Sam to receive the most because he has proven himself to be giving. God also reminds us in Luke 12:48, “Much is required from those to whom much is given” (NLT).

At Sam’s last piano lesson, his little brother Ben did not come to pick him. My sister secretly watched to see what Sam would do when given the opportunity to indulge in the extra treat for himself without anyone really knowing…. But Sam simply stuck the extra gummy in his pocket and then made a b line for Ben when he got home so he could deliver the yummy treat to its rightful owner. Every though Ben did nothing to earn that treat (he doesn’t spend the time learning the piano and practicing); Sam was sure to give to him. That’s giving and that’s grace and that’s what we need more in our lives!

Monday, November 17, 2008

collecting shells or souls? BON VOYAGE

The first time we went to Haiti back in 2005, I didn’t know if we would EVER recover from all the things God revealed to us during that trip. Our comfortable life was turned upside down by everything we saw and experienced there. Thankfully, we never did “get over” it… God changed our entire life goals from that point on. After we saw what we saw with our own eyes, we were morally obligated to change and “recovery” was not an option. Princess Diana had it right when she said: “You can’t comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable.” God changed our comfortable life forever during first precious those days we spent in Haiti. We realized that proof of our love for Christ was not best reflected in merely going to church, singing praise songs, going to bible study and prayer meetings, or teaching a Sunday school class (although those things are important), but in genuinely loving and serving the sick, the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. I used to be able to ignore those statistics of extreme poverty but once the numbers have faces and stories associated with them… it haunts you. You begin to value what God values, to love those in this world we have been conditioned to ignore, and to see with His eyes.

Jake teases me with the truth that our “retirement” plan has drastically changed since that week… no more traveling in a RV to visit the grandkids… no, we will probably spend our golden years surrounded by Haitian orphans and singing hymns with the accordion playing in the background. John Piper is also to blame for ruining my retirement… In his book “Don’t waste your life”, he tells these stories….

“Three weeks ago we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards had both been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over 80. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: To make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing 80 years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon. The brakes failed, the car went over the cliff, and they were both killed instantly. And I asked my people: was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great vision, spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the glory of Jesus Christ—two decades after almost all their American counterparts have retired to throw their lives away on trifles in Florida or New Mexico. No. That is not a tragedy. That is a glory.”

“I tell you what a tragedy is. I’ll read to you from Reader’s Digest (Feb. 2000, p. 98) what a tragedy is: “Bob and Penny… took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” The American Dream: come to the end of your life - your one and only life - and let the last great work before you give an account to your Creator, be “I collected shells. See my shells.” THAT is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I plead with you: don’t buy it.”

If I have a choice between the two stories above, I choose the first scenario. I want to go out like that... unashamedly loving people and eternally changing God’s kingdom rather than living a comfortable life for my own kingdom. When I stand before I want to hear Him say “well done!” and if all I have to offer is a handful of collected sea shells, I may “get in” but what a waste?! I want to spend my life gathering souls not shells!

But lately I have heard a familiar friend named “fear” whisper doubts and suddenly I find myself wanting to revert back to the wimp I used to be. But God is an amazing mathematician…. There are 365 promises in Scripture that begin with the words “FEAR NOT”!!! Umm coincidence? I don’t think so! One for every day of year that I feel tempted to stay in my comfortable SAFE SHELL of a life. God has showed me over and over again that the safest place in the world is the center of His perfect will for me! And because the risen Lord lives inside of me, He goes with (and usually before me) wherever I go. When I enter a scary and dark place, I bring the light of the world with me. I bring the God of the universe! In and of my little wimpy self, I do not have much to offer. My piece of the puzzle for changing the world is very small but put together with all of the pieces of the body and God will change this world one person at a time. God has entrusted one piece of the puzzle to me, and all he asks is that I am faithful to work on that one part.

We leave for Haiti in less than a week. Jake and I have been as excited as kids on Christmas Eve the last few days. Watching God’s faithfulness unfold before your eyes is exciting stuff!!! He has done more than we could have imagined or hoped for already and we haven’t even left yet! One of the hymns we learned in Creole on our first trip talked about going on a journey home one day and the words “Bon Voyage” were repeated over and over. Please keep us in your prayers the next few weeks and BON VOYAGE!!!

PS~ I need to really need to be focused in prayer and my facebook fetish is one my biggest distractions… so I will not be getting back for a while until we get back December 1st Happy thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

UNITED STATES... the morning after

Yesterday was either a difficult and disappointing day or a day of great hope for you depending on what side of the fence you are on (or well defined party line we have created). But the good news, according to one pastor I respect, is… God is on His throne and the political commercials are off the air and the annoying robo- calls have seized!!

Personally my first voting experience in Oklahoma was a bit frustrating. There are two different precincts voting at the same location. So I asked an election official which of the lines was for my precinct, he told me that both precinct where in the same line. After standing in a line for 45 minutes, the same man comes by informing people that the line I was in was for precinct 432 only (not mine). Two hours later, I cast my vote and felt proud because I had done my civic duty and relieved because some people in the other line (my original line had been waiting almost 4 hours) I made it out in time to pick Drew for his doctor appointment and much to my disappoint and frustration, their was a precinct at his school (two blocks away) with no lines at all. Go figure! I was a little frustrated and kind feeling sorry for myself and the other people who had the misfortune of being in a large precinct when I was reminded of something I had seen on the news a few days earlier…. In one South African election people waited for 2 DAYS to vote. I am so thankful that our vote wait time can be measured in minutes or hours, not days! I had also heard about people waiting for hours in the rain earlier in the morning, only to fill out ballots that were too soggy to read. Suddenly my little in convenient wait in the warm sunshine where I could vote without fear of repercussions wasn’t such a downer. Our voting system may be flawed but it as close to perfect as possible (kinda reminds me the words “in order to form a more perfect union”)

After months of a very heated and emotional campaign/ election season, I needed some comic relief as we watched the results start coming in. And as much as I love my kiddos, they still have a lot to learn about politics and geography so through some conversations with them; we had some good belly laughs….

One of my little darling (as if) asked “Mom, if they announce Barack wins tonight… does that mean Bush has to pack up his things and leave the white house as soon as they announce it?”

Another one asked, “Do you think Barack will run a victory lap holding up a #1 finger around the White House if he wins?” I replied, “No he’s not even in DC, he’s in Chicago.” To which they then asked, “Oh then do you think he will run a victory lap around the Eiffel tower?”

Jimso came home from school just beaming and proud because he got to vote in a mock election … I asked him if he voted for McCain or Obama and he looked puzzled and said “Neither, I voted for the donkey! And he won!”

Even in the midst of silly and humorous conversations last night, I was really excited to talk to Jimso about what this election could mean for him. While race did not influence my vote personally...regardless of how you feel about Obama, I think we should be so proud of this election’s significance and the history was made for our nation. I can confidently tell my beautiful black son that he can be ANYTHING he wants to be when he grows up. And nothing or no one can limit what he can accomplish!! Regardless of how you voted, our entire nation can celebrate the milestone of our first African-American president. We can all embrace this profound opportunity for deeper racial reconciliation and social justice.

I naively woke up this morning thinking the election is done and all the ugly emails of hate and fear would have seized… but sadly I opened one of the ugliest ones yet!! So if you claim the name of Christ, I am personally asking you to quit smearing our reputation in the mud by sending and forwarding messages that do not honor God. Jim Wallis has said, “As Christ followers, it’s more about how we live on November 3 and 5 than how we vote on November4!” As Christians, we ALL have dual citizenship. We belong to God’s kingdom first and foremost! I pray our hearts can be steadfast set on furthering His kingdom, not our own. We can not USE Jesus for our own personal causes or agenda or kingdom. Jesus is not a republican nor democrat nor an American. We might join His side but he does not join ours.

God is in control!!! He reigns! No one comes into power or leadership without God putting them in that position. "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which GOD has established. The authorities that exist have been established by GOD." ~ Romans 13:1

Regardless of whom you voted for, it’s times we put our differences aside and PRAY for the leader that God has established. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

If your candidate lost, “suck it up buttercup”, and be obedient to what God has called you to do now. If your candidate won, don’t gloat, but recognize what our nation needs most right now is to once again become the UNITED states… not the red states and the blue states.

I personally tucked my children into bed last night with renewed hope. I know that my God is in control and we are so blessed! While my personal hope is ultimately in God, I also have high hopes for what this administration will do for our nation (with our prayers supporting them every step of the way).

Monday, November 3, 2008


Spiritual wisdom from OutKast~ Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture…

I have heard it said that as Christians we should always be attempting to do things that are so big that they are sure to fail without God. That if we attempt to only do things that we are capable of accomplishing in and of ourselves (without God’s mighty hand) then we are not doing BIG enough things for God. So lately I have been trying to dream big and set those goals high but it’s so hard. I am a typical type A personality kind of person. I want guaranteed results and want to map out every step along the way from point A to point B before I even step out in faith. But God is showing me over and over that is not how He works.

When God placed a burden on our hearts to return to Haiti, I was excited but really unsure how He was going to work out the logistics of everything. It was like a Polaroid picture… I knew God had a plan but the final picture was really unclear and blurry yet. After praying about it, we felt called to go and Drew (our oldest son) was really on board about coming with us this time. Financially the timing could not have been worse. I remember sitting in our first team meeting, discussing cost, and thinking “what in the world are we doing?! How can we presume to lead a group of individuals to a third world country when we do not even have the money to pay for our own passports at this point?”

Somehow I am still surprised at how surprised I get over God’s faithfulness (does that make sense?) You would think by now, after He has proven Himself faithful in my life over and over again, that I would expect nothing but faithfulness… yet the closer we get to having our trip fully funded the more surprised and amazed I am. And it’s not just financially… yesterday our team had a spaghetti fund raiser lunch at the church. At one point in the afternoon, I looked around at everyone working together as a well oiled machine, and thought “God this amazing! This team you have put together works so well together already! Our personalities jive and I just love and have so much fun with these people!” I can honestly say that there are no other 13 people I would rather by serving with… and I just know God has put together this group to do AMAZING things for Him in a few short weeks.

But it all starts with a willingness to put no limits on what God can do in our lives!!! And a willingness to cast aside our own fears and little quirks in order to gasp a hold of what God has for us to do. Jesus’ life on earth began with one young woman who was willing to say “I am the Lord’s servant and am willing to accept whatever he wants!” ~ Luke 1:38.

Less than three weeks away from our trip, that Polaroid picture is starting to become clearer and IT’S BEAUTIFUL! Figuring out how the picture ends up and knowing all the details along the way, isn’t my part. My part is just following Him wherever He leads. We are still a bit unsure of what kind work will be doing (either hurricane relief/ rebuilding or orphan care) so there are still some blurred lines but I know that our main goal in whatever work we end up doing will be to make an invisible God visible to a country that may not recognize Him yet. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity (while we are Haiti and really everyday) to make the invisible God visible through me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Busy is our banner...

Earlier this week, I got an email that asked "what if Jesus had been in such a hurry that he walked past the woman at the well and said, “How are you?” then just walked right on by?"

And then this morning reading this is my bible study I came across this.... "I think of how Jesus lived. I've heard many a sermon on what a busy man Jesus must have been. I'm not so sure about that. He had demands pressing on Him from every direction, but he wasn't busy in the same way we are. He wasn't running from meeting to meeting or from practice to practice. He very well might have spent many nights sitting with a group of friends over dinner, lingering for hours and hours, just talking about life. By today's standards, that might even be called lazy and self indulgent. But what mattered to Jesus was PEOPLE- listening to them, loving them, and helping them. He was busy with the slow work of taking time to care for people. He was never too busy too stop and help someone. I want to be like that. But in my dreadfully busy life, I hear myself singing along with that Veggie Tales song from the story of the Good Samaritan: Busy, busy, dreadfully busy.... Much much too busy for you"

It made me think of my little brother, Aaron. He annoys the crap out of me because he refuses to live on anyone else's time table or schedule and he's hours late to almost everything. But he always has time to love on and listen to people. I admire the way he always make time to love the people in his life and is willing to set aside his own schedule to step inside other people's life!

This week I have been "dreadfully busy" and distracted by things from people. Last night me and the kids (not Drew) played hookie from some other responsibilities we had... we went to library, borrowed a radio Disney CD, and then had an impromptu dance party (really I walked in on Jimso dancing and then Ashlyn and I joined him and got our silly on). It was the most fun I have had in months! Putting aside running from meeting to meeting or thing to thing and just enjoying the precious people in my life is something I need to do more. And by the way, dancing to the Macerena, Kung Fu Fighting, and the Cha Cha slide is a pretty good aerobic workout too!

There is a quote from Spurgeon that I love... "A good character is the best tombstone. Carve your name on hearts <3 not marble."

Sometimes we just need to slow down and take time for what matters most in life.... PEOPLE!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CHCC YOUTH- Sunday school electives....

TONIGHT we will have sign up's for our new fall Sunday school electives!!! We are going to limit the class size to 12 students per class. If the class you want is full this time around, don't worry you can catch it next time (we will be rotating through several times). Here are your choices (drum roll please)....

1. Be Transformed~Taught by Dusty Crabtree and Dondi Rodgers

In the "Be Transformed" series, we will be exploring common beliefs we have, whether we realize them or not, about our salvation, God, and ourselves and how those beliefs affect us. We will work at replacing the lies we've believed with God's truth, which is truly a freeing experience! The last few lessons also deal with letting the Spirit live through you and helping you control your emotions. I'm excited to be able to share these life-"transforming" lessons with you

2. Road Trip~ Taught by Belinda Lechtenberg and Rob Sisk

How much time do you spend each day thinking about yourself and what you need/want? How much of your life is focused on you? Well Road Trip is your chance to get out of the box and serve other people. Each week we will take a road trip to a new destination and do something entirely for someone else... what kind of road trips well..... it could be pulling weeds, serving communion, washing windows, rocking babies, singing...... you name it we can do it!!! This class is for the brave adventurous types!!

3. Hope Lives~ Taught by Tiffanie Lenhart and Christy Ausley

Jesus said the poor would be with us always. But he never mentioned ignoring them. POVERTY. The sheer size of the problem pins overwhelmed Christians to their couches. What can we do? Where should we start? And is the occasional short term mission trip enough? This 5 week series will show you God's heart for the poor, prompt you to examine your own heart, and hopefully move you to respond. This is a video and discussion based study that has an optional daily devotional for purchase for those wanting to go EVEN deeper into God's heart and God's word. By the end of the study, you will DISCOVER what keeps you from engaging in global issues, EXPLORE what scripture really says about the poor, UNDERSTAND the true nature of poverty, DRAW CLOSE to the poor through prayer, and RESPOND to God's voice as he speaks to you about poverty.

4. God is Here~ Taught by Jake Lenhart and Tristan Swang

What if your God connection was always on? You know that perfect feeling? That life is good moment on the open highway with the windows down and the radio up, when the perfect song comes on and you sing along with the carefree, top of your lungs abandon? When you and contentment and life well up from somewhere deep in your soul? What if you could live that way? A 17-century monk named Brother Lawrence figured out how, and wrote about it in the devotional classic, The Practice of the Presence of God. He found a way to connect with God moment by moment, to experience the joy of His divine presence every minute of every day-whether during deep, contemplative prayer or while washing a sink full of dishes. In this class we will unearths that 17th century wisdom and remixes it into a 21st century guide to everyday life. We will explore how to take Brother Lawrence's original writings, and apply it to your life today and show you how to connect with a God who's always available.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


One of the things that we learned in our foster care parenting classes is the importance of establishing structure and a concrete set of rules for our family.... that way when new children come into our home, they have a set of clear expectations to refer to. At first I thought it was kind of dumb (especially since we will be doing infants) but the idea has really grown on me. Everyone needs and craves rules and boundaries in life. Josh Mayo wrote a really good book about growing up as a youth minister's family called "Help! I'm Raising My Kids While Doing Ministry" and in that he too suggested establishing a family creed.

A few nights ago, Jake and I were watching Glen Beck interview Rev Run (from Run DMC and Run's House) and although he presented a lot of ideas I do not agree with.... he also suggested that you run your family much like you would run a business (with family meetings, family manuals with policies and procedures). So after stewing on it a bit, we came up with a Lenhart family creed (more like goals for our family and the kind of atmosphere/ culture we would like to see in our home and less like "rules" set in stone). So here is what we have come up with so far....

Lenhart Family Creed/
Rules for Family Life

1.Choices in life are everything! Every choice has a natural consequence (good or bad). Parents are here to guide you and empower you to make healthy choices that will lead you into becoming a responsible adult. We choose our destiny. Choose joy. No person or circumstance has the power to impact your happiness without your permission to do so.

2.Daily time with the Lord (although sometimes unfeeling or routine) is the cornerstone of your spiritual walk and the “oxygen” of life. We must fight and protect each other’s quiet time and spiritual wellness. We must go to battle for each other in prayer daily and remember that we have an enemy who would like to devour us (especially by attacking the family unit).

3.LOVE IS SPOKEN HERE! Ephesians 4:29 guides our daily conversations. We only speak words that build each other up and encourage each other. Our home is a refuge and a safe place for each other and others.

4.In regards to all media influences (music, TV, movies, books, etc), Psalm 101:3 is the standard, “I will set before my eyes, NO vile thing.”

5.All relationships require grace; therefore grace (unmerited favor) will be given freely and DAILY.

6.Because we are painfully aware of our shortcomings and weaknesses, we need to embrace correction (constructive criticism) and the art of apologies. Every proper apology consists of three components: admitting the wrong, asking for forgiveness, and then asking what I can do to make the situation better.

7.No member of this precious family is here by accident. God has hand created this family together for greater purposes and greater things. Though friends come and go, family is FOREVER! We remain deeply committed to each other. The Lenhart family is your God given anchor in life and your “cheering squad” that is always in your corner in life’s battles.

8.In a world of self centeredness, we choose to “throw the one starfish back in.” Our daily prayer is to be “Jesus with skin on” to those around us. Knowing that treasures of this world are temporary and could be gone tomorrow; we choose to invest in people rather than things. We are very blessed and according to Luke 12:48, “he who has been given much, much will be required”. We have a responsibility to care for the people and things God has loaned us or entrusted us with.

9.Priorities determine all decisions (whether big or small). God first, family second, work/ school/ friends third.

10. Finally, we are not our own, we were bought at a price and must remember “he is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose."

Monday, October 6, 2008

If Momma aint happy...

The last few days I have been evaluating my parenting skills and falling short of my own standards. It kind of started on Saturday when I was trying to overcome a case of guilt because on that day I missed not one but two of Jimso’s soccer games (which then lead me to realize that although he has been playing soccer for 4 weeks, I have attended 0 , count them, 0 games). All week long, I found myself having to be in two places at one time and since cloning myself is not scientifically possible (yet), I came to realize some things are going to have to change before I lose my sanity and /or my children end up in a lifetime of therapy due to my poor parenting skills, poor time management skills, and my inability to say “no” when I need to. Here’s a sample of parenting report card lately…

• I lose my temper because my youngest son has taken 45 minutes to brush his teeth in morning and thrown a severe loop in our tight morning schedule = Bad Mom

• My daughter and oldest son actually want to spend time hanging out with me in the evening= Good Mom, but I have too much to do and don’t make it in there until its already past bedtime= Bad Mom

• I send lunch money (BEFORE I start getting ugly notes about the negative balance) and fill out the field trip permission slip on the first day it comes home (which I have graciously volunteered to help with)= Good Mom

• I am 20 minutes late to my son’s football game, sit and cheer obnoxiously on the opposing team’s side of the bleachers, and embarrassingly insist on waving at him until he realizes we are in fact there = Bad Mom

• Because of a schedule that is completely unmanageable, I have yet to have one meaningful conversation with their Dad all week long = Bad Mom

• My baby reminds me that he loves me to the “moon and back” as I tuck him into bed= Good Mom

Whether it is my own perfectionist standards that I am failing to meet or that annoying little Proverbs 31 woman that seems to be reminding me over and over how short I am falling, I don’t know but I do know that this particular season we are in is teaching me to slow down or else. Sometimes saying “no” to one thing means being able to say “yes” to something else that matters most (which usually mean my precious family). Proverbs 31:28 says, “Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:” I learned this weekend at DIVA day, that the word for blessed in that verse means is “Asher” and means “happy”. If you asked my children or husband to describe me in the last few days, I am pretty sure “happy” would not be on the list. But when they are grown up and look back on their childhood and the woman that raised them, I hope that they would describe me as “happy.” Not tired, not worried, not stressed, not organized, not clean, not really busy…. Just happy. I want them to be able to say “my mom was really really happy”. Cuz we all know, “if Momma aint happy, aint no one happy”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

my dirty flip flop feet

I hate getting dirty! And having dirty feet drives me insane! As much as I love flip flops and camp, the two do not go together well. But I think lately God has been calling me to get dirty in Jesus’ name. And today He confirmed that call to dirty feet. I was at a women’s bible study this morning and a lady came in late… I really don’t know how to describe her other than to say that she wasn’t the typical “church lady”. It was easy to tell that she had experienced a tough life and in need of some help. She apologized for being late and then explained she had to walk over a mile to get to church and just underestimated how long it would take. She shared how she was out of work, out of money, and just trying to get by. As I sat there, I wondered if the shoe was on the other foot, would I be willing to walk over a mile in the brutal Oklahoma summer heat for a ladies bible study? Sadly I don’t think I would. As she was leaving, I chased her down to give her my number so that next time, I could give her a ride. In my efforts to catch her before she left, I ran through a mud puddle in the parking lot. I am proud to say my pretty pink flip flops are now a bit brown and dirty. But I also made a new friend who will be coming with me to church tomorrow morning!

Somehow over the years, I have molded our awesome God into a more comfortable god. Living in obedience for Him is not supposed to be comfortable at all. It is going to require me to get out of my comfort zone and break a sweat moving mountains. I am going to have to be willing to get dirty and befriend people who are a lot different than I am. We should all be able to say confidently that we are willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to reach the lost and hurting people in our world. Our God has a sense of humor and so lately He has been calling me to get my flip flop wearing feet dirty.

It reminds me of the story in Mark 2:1-12, in which four friends were so desperate to introduce their friend to Jesus that they broke through a roof and lowered him down into the room that Jesus was preaching. I once heard this story taught and the teacher said that the roofs in that time were made with manure. So these friends were sooo determined to help bring their friend to Jesus that they were willing to literally go through some crap to bring him there. They were WAY more dirty than I am comfortable getting. When we were cleaning apartments on our mission trip in Nashville, I remember cleaning one bathroom and looking down at my shoes and realizing that I was standing in S*** or fecal matter. Jake and his crew experienced something similar in their apartment when the tenant they were serving told them that he had been sick and unable to ambulate to the restroom so they had to clean the “buckets” to he had been using to dispose of his waste. But as much as I hate being dirty, I have come to realize that it’s totally worth it (and usually temporary because God made us all washable)! God has been opening my eyes to so many opportunities to serve Him and even though these things might require me to move out of my comfort zone and get a bit dirty, I have never felt more clean and pure!

Give Me Your Eyes~ Brandon Heath
Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black tile
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breath in the familiar shock
Of confusion and chaos
Are those people going somewhere?
Why have I never cared?
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Wasn’t it far beyond my reach?
Give me your heart for the once forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide what’s underneath
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
To ashamed to tell his wife
He’s out of work
He’s buying time
Are those people going somewhere?
Why have I never cared?
I’ve Been there a million times
A couple of million eyes
Just moving past me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong
Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way you see the people all alone

Sunday, August 24, 2008

my big fat Greek heart <3

“Weak willed woman or Greek Goddess?”

This weekend, I went to a woman’s conference that one of my favorite authors, Angela Thomas, spoke at. We had an extra ticket and all week long I was kind of stressed about what to do with it. I knew God wanted it to be used by a person who needed encouraged but I had no idea who. Needless to say, about ten minutes before it was time to leave, the ticket fell into the hands of one my precious friends who really needed some extra encouragement this week. I just LOVE how God orchestrates even the little details of our life like that!! All weekend, Angela spoke so many amazing truths over us but after the last session I have been asking myself over and over “am I living like a weak willed woman or a Greek Goddess?”

The session was centered on these verses in 2 Timothy 3:1-7…. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”

Lately it seems like God has put a lot of people in my life like those people described in the first few verses. People that love themselves and money, who are proud, unforgiving, and slanderous, lovers of the pleasures of this world, and who have a form of godliness but deny its power. I know how to spot these broken people because I lived like one for a long time. It says that people who live like this have no power (and I think that they love those things in efforts to try to compensate for their lack of power and the helpless less they feel in life). But there the part that shocks me is that Paul says to Timothy “HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM!” I don’t know that just seems a little extreme to me. Shouldn’t we love them and be a part of their lives so we can help restore them from their brokenness? But in then on the other hand, I know how discouraging it can feel to be friends and love people who are loaded down and feeling helpless like that.

The weak willed woman opens the door and invites people like that into her life. Last night I was talking to a former student of ours who is going into full time ministry and Satan is just trying to wreck havoc in that person’s life. I told him that as someone going into ministry, he now has a huge target on his back and to expect one attack after another to come at times. Satan is sooo familiar with our weakness, he loves it attack those vulnerable parts of our life. The weak willed woman has many of those areas in her life. We ALL have different weakness, but Satan plan is the same regardless of where our weakness lies. His plan is always to do whatever he can to distract us and pull us away from the call God has placed in our lives.

So Angela gave us a list of characteristics of weak willed women and I have been trying to evaluate how many of those would describe me at times…..

She can be consumed by fear. Are my fears bigger than my faith?

She can be self absorbed at times. If I think more about myself and my circumstances than God… I am self worshiping.

She can care too much about what others think of her.

She can walk around downcast and beaten down or the other extreme and be very loud, out spoken, and brash. Usually the woman who put on the front of being loud and the demanding to be the center of attention are doing that in efforts to hide her weakness.

She can have no personal ambition and plenty of suggestions for what other people should do with their lives.

She can be unsure of God’s love for her or she knows it but doesn’t live like it.

She can have an empty soul and live in perpetual disappointment because no one can seem to fill her empty cup.

She can hold a grudge and bitterness for years.

She can play with gossips but as a church lady under the umbrella of prayer requests.

She can secretly indulge in her obsessions (shopping, TV, internet)

She can be easily hurt or offended.

She can be spiritually knowledgeable but lost inside.

She can have a critically negative spirit. She finds the cup of life to always be have empty and can point out flaws in everything!

She is unable to distinguish between the accuser’s voice and God’s voice.

But we have a choice before us…. to live life as weak willed women who are empty and helpless or as a Greek goddess. The challenge is to live like Greek goddess not like those in ancient Greece but like the characters who starred in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. The movie is centered on Toula (Fotoula), a Greek-American woman, who falls in love with a non-Greek American. Toula’s big Greek family is the center of her life. Throughout the movie, homely Toula is transformed by the love of her new man and by the fact he calls her beautiful. Eventually Toula finally begins to live like she believes it. The Greek family at the center of the movie loves those God has placed in their life with so much passion and with their entire beings. They love and live like God has called us to do… with our WHOLE hearts.

I want to be that kind of woman. One who loves until it hurts and then loves some more. One who is free to love with a heart that is completely whole all because I was courted by a very determined carpenter from Nazareth. One who has confidence in herself because she knows that there is one man who is completely crazy about her, call her beautiful, and adores her in a way that enables her to love others without fear.

So get up and dance you weak willed woman… OMPA!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


“Lessons from a modern day smurf...”

So last night Ashlyn woke up in the middle of the night with a funky stomach thing going on. Once we got her settled back in bed, I was wide awake (trying to keep my own dinner down) and the early morning television selections were pretty bleak. So I began watching a news piece about the blue man. The story has been on the news a lot but basically this guy named Paul Karason started to self medicate using a treatment called colloidal silver, which is made by extracting silver from metal. After years of injecting it and rubbing it on his skin, he has permanently turned BLUE!! But the part of the story that is absolutely mind blowing is that he claims he didn’t even notice the change!!! He said “the change was so gradual that I didn't perceive it and other people around me likewise. It wasn't until a friend I hadn't seen in several months came by to see me and he asked me 'what did you do?”. So I as watched stunned, I’m thinking “dude, are you BLIND? you are completely as blue as a smurf! How could you not notice? Do you own a mirror? And how could those closest to you not notice either?!”

But spiritually we can backslide so easily, I have been there myself. We can make small gradual changes here and there until the person looking at us in the mirror is not even the same person we were just a few months ago. I have seen it happen too many times. Recently I have watch helplessly as friends who once loved the Lord with all their hearts changed right before my eyes into someone I don’t EVEN recognize anymore!

When I am backsliding, I pray that I have real friends who love me enough to tell what I NEED to hear verses just telling me what I WANT to hear. I want to have friends who look me straight in the eyes and say “Tiff! What did you do? You are blue as a smurf!” Friends who love me enough to open my eyes to the gradual changes that are turning me into someone I don’t wanna be.

I went to a Casting Crowns concert last year and I love their new CD. On it is a song called “Slow Fade.” It is about how “little” sin in our life can take us on a slow fade away from God. With each step away from God, the Holy Spirit’s voice in our head and tug at our heart gets quieter and quieter, until eventually we don’t hear it at all anymore. Each and every little compromise we make in our faith is one step closer to collapse. Fortunately, we have a merciful and loving God who is always faithful to welcome us back into the arms of grace.

"Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns
Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day
Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

“So, if you think you are standing firm, BE CAREFUL that you don't fall!” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12

“BE CAREFUL then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” ~ Hebrews 3:12, 13

Monday, July 7, 2008


So on the way home from Wisconsin, I read this book called "Butterfly in Brazil". It was about the butterfly effect (which in essence refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado) and how when we do small things for God, it can produce big world changing kind of results. But we have to all start out by being faithful in the small things that God has asked us to do. No one who has radically altered history intended to do so, they just wanted to be obedient and faithful in the small things that mattered most to them (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, etc) Lots of us dream of dramatically changing the world for God, but many don't really try to do it. Instead of waiting for great things to happen, we should be asking God, 'What do I do about this idea now?'... Everything that God has put inside us must be expressed and acted on here and now—or it will never multiply and grow. The little things we do now can be transformed into big things for God. The book uses the biblical story of Nehemiah as a backdrop for his discussion of the secrets of creating lasting change, which he says is small, local and gradual. Nehemiah was a meager cup bearer long before he became a prophet who rebuilt Jerusalem. He was faithful in the small things!!! We have to stay focused, recognizing that change must be accompanied by love and that it will ultimately cost something. When everyone is faithful with what they have to do, right where they are, over long periods of time, together we make an impact large enough to change the world.

I love it when something I am reading is confirmed in other places too. Tonight we had a corporate prayer night at the church. So after deciding to be faithful in the small things (even though I am desperately in need of some down time), we went. And Kurt was talking about Nehemiah!! We positioned ourselves around the church property and prayed for protection and revival within. It was powerful night and I'm so blessed to be a part of the small things that lead to big changes!!! (PS I am so proud of all the students who poured their hearts in prayers as well, God is taking our small things like 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and multiplying them into big things!!)

Friday, June 20, 2008


After two weeks of camp, weeks of camp preparation, and perpetual busyness…. I desperately need a Sabbath day of rest. So today, I will stay in my pajamas all day and be completely lazy without any guilt. I will play with my kids and snuggle up with a few good books and movies. Rob Bell describes day of Sabbath like this….

Sabbath is a day a week (as if) to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it’s not.

Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love the most.

Sabbath is a day that I remember when God saw the world it was good.

Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.

Sabbath is a day when I remind myself I am not a machine and I am fully human.

Sabbath is a day when at the end I say “I didn’t do anything” and I don’t add “I feel so guilty”.

Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get a hold of me.

I am freeing myself from the need to be supermom, superwife, superyouthpastorwife and whatever “super” I have tried to be lately… I am taking the day off and it starts now :-)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lessons from my 6 year old

I have three of the most precious children in the world but I’m not gonna lie, they can really get on my nerves every now and then. Somehow when I am with them with 24/7 in the summer time, those annoying tendencies are a bit magnified. Yesterday it was only about 10:00 am and I had reached a breaking point already. Jimso has developed this annoying habit of screaming at the top of his lungs “MOM! MOM! MOM!” whenever he needs the littlest thing regardless of where I am in relation or proximity to where he is. So after explaining to him (for the 100th time), that when he needs me for something he is to walk into the room in which I am in and kindly make his requests known rather than yell for me across the house I got to thinking…. “Man, whenever I need help, I wish I could just stop what I am doing and yell out a distress signal and then someone magically would come running to where I was and provide whatever assistance I may need at that time. Boy that sure would be nice!” But in some ways we never have to outgrow that kind of child like dependence because we have a faithful God who never tires of our calls for help and has promised to hear us each time we cry out to Him. In fact, scripture is full of promises that speak to this matter...
· “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” ~ Psalm 34:17
· “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” ~Psalm 55:17
· “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” ~Psalm 72:12
· “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” ~Isaiah 42:14
Lately I have been listening to some of my old CD’s like Nicole C Mullen and I love the lyrics to this song called “Call On Jesus”….

I'm so very ordinary, nothing special on my own.
Oh, I have never walked on water,
And I have never calmed a storm.
Sometimes I'm hiding away from the madness around me
Like a child who's afraid of the dark
But when I call on Jesus,
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles' and soar
When I call on Jesus,Mountains are gonna fall'
Cause He'll move heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call
Weary brother, broken daughter,widowed, widowed lover, you're not alone
If you're tired and scared of the madness around you
If you can't find the strength to carry on
When you call on Jesus,
All things are possible
You can mount on wings like eagles' and soar
When you call on Jesus,
Mountains are gonna fall'
Cause He'll move heaven and earth to come rescue you when you--
Call Him in the mornin', in the afternoon time
Late in the evenin' He'll be there
When your heart is broken,
And you feel discouraged,
You can just remember that He said He'll be there
When I call on Jesus,
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles' and soar
When I call on Jesus,
Mountains are gonna fall'
Cause He'll move heaven and earth to come rescue me

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Struggling with the "GO" part

"Jesus never says to the poor and the lost, 'come, find the church.' but He says to the church 'GO into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, and imprisoned,' Jesus in His disguises." ~Tony Campolo

I'm still struggling with the "GO" part and how I can practically do that as a little stay at home mom trying to love on my kids but also change the world...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Where would I be if the Lord had not...

Ever had one of those times when you are reading the Word and something just stands off the page, grabs you, and hits you right in the heart? Today I was reading Psalms 124 and this part of verse 2 just hit me hard… it says "if the Lord had not been on our side". It got me thinking where would I be if God had not became real to me and had not delivered me from the pit I was living in before I knew Him. I have no doubt that my life would suck to put it bluntly. I would be divorced and probably making a mess out of my life with the help of "substances." I would be a horrible mother and I shutter because I know that Jimso would not be a part of my life. I would not have finished school and would probably be repeating the same dysfunctional cycle of life that my family has been trapped in at times. I would be contining on my quest searching for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places.

But thankfully God had another plan for my life. Thankfully he saw me, delivered me from the pit, and is creating something beautiful from what was the mess of my life 12 years ago…..

"You are Everything" by Matthew West~

I'm the one with two left feet
Standing on a lonely street
I can't even walk a straight line
And every time you look at me
I'm spinning like an autumn leaf
Bound to hit bottom sometime
Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won't let me fall
You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can't believe is happening
You're standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is Every day is filled with hope
You are everything that I believe for
And I can't help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within Every single beat of my heart
I'm the one with big mistakes
Big regrets and bigger breaks
Than I ever care to confess
Oh but, You're the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be
More than just a beautiful mess
You're everything good in my life
Everything honest and true
And all of those stars hanging up in the sky
Could never shine brighter than
Jesus, You are You are everything

Winter is my least favorite season

The last few days have been absolutely freezing cold. We have had glimpses of spring but right now we are in the middle of another winter blast of artic air. It's cold and another ice storm may hit tomorrow.

Everyone has seasons to their life. Just as I can not wait for winter to be over…. There are seasons and storms we go through in life that we can not wait to be over because we can hardly stand to endure another moment of that present season. Spiritually difficult seasons are times in which we have to fight to remain rooted in Christ. Why does God allow seasons like that in our life? God uses those times that require all the fight we can muster to strengthen muscles we will need for the next season of our life.

Today I read in my bible study, "If yesterday's wimp is going to become tomorrow's warrior, something has to happen today!" Psalm 126:5,6 says "those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, HE WILL SURELY come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves."

God has been reminding me over and over that I will never endure a season of tears that can't turn into a harvest of joy and no matter what kind of season I am presently in…. He is right there with me in the midst of it. Sometimes I want to give up but God promises me that there is a harvest on the horizon at the end of this season. Winter is my least favorite season of all but this season will not last forever and what is being sown is priceless. Paul says in Galatians 6:9 "Do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." So I'm not giving up but He never gives up on me.....

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near
And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We’ll live to know You here on the earth

When I am overwhelmed...

I am a person who gets overwhelmed easily. If I am trying to juggle too many things or have a big "things to do list", I am the first person to throw in the towel and quit. Flying home on Monday, looking outside the airplane window made me realize how small I am and how small the little world I live in is in comparison to how big God is. The everyday stress I deal with is nothing in comparison to what others are dealing with or have dealt with. And NOTHING compared to what God can do if I just let Him deal with whatever I am facing that particular stressful day. I have nothing in my life, no need that will require more strength or more power than God exerted when He raised Christ from the grave.

Ephesians 1: 18-20 says, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

I love this new song by Sara Groves called "When the Saints" because it reminds me of biblical examples and even examples of modern generations of people who were faithful and pressed on. It reminds me not to give up when small little things seem like great big impossible things……

When The Saints - Sara Groves
Lord I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones and I can't let it go
And when I'm weary and overwrought with so many battles left unfought
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in I want to be one of them

Lord it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind
it all can overwhelm me but when I think of all who've gone before me and lived the faithful life, their courage compels me
And when I'm weary and overwrought with so many battles left unfought
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord
And when the Saints go marching in I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul
I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear
I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying mans side
I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down that door
I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load
And when the Saints go marching in I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in I want to be one of them I want to be one of them I want to be one of them I want to be one of them

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." ~ Hebrews

Sticks and Stones

Jake and I took the kids to the zoo yesterday. Because it was cold outside, we got to see some of the animals up close as they were inside the buildings rather than outside. We briefly went into the Pachyderm exhibit (oh my goodness, it smelled sooooo bad). But I was fascinated by the rhinoceros' skin. Looking at one up close for the first time, I noticed how incredibly thick and hard its skin was. I'm sure God made it that way for a reason…. As a mean of protection from some kind of predator or harsh element. It's was pretty cool

But just earlier this week, I was telling a friend of mine that sometimes I think I don't have thick enough skin to be in ministry. I was frustrated by some hurtful comments said that I had taken too personally (it's hard not to take anything said negatively about our ministry personally because we pour our hearts and lives into it). But unfortunately God did not make us as humans the way he made the rhinoceros. Sticks and stones do hurt and wound us at times.

I am reading a book about Mother Teresa and came across this quote that speak volumes on this subject. It says…

"If we were humble, nothing would change us- neither praise nor discouragement.
If someone were to criticize us, we would not feel discouraged.
If someone were to praise us, we would not feel proud."

Unless I can somehow miraculously grow rhinoceros type of thick skin, I am pretty much out of luck. But since that doesn't seem to be an option, I guess I will have to settle for working a little harder at humility and applying this quote into my life come praise or discouragement.

Fight Club~ Y'shua 2008

Fellow Fighters~

This weekend was incredible! I want to hold on to everything we learned and experienced but I hate how quickly I can forget what God is trying to teach me. Just thought I’d put out some fight club truths we learned this weekend. Please add some more to this list if you can remember any I already forgot…..
  1. If we are going to win this fight, we have to remember our focus. We will NEVER win this fight of faith if we do not stay focused... Remember "BREAKDOWN"
  2. The moment you start saying "yes" to God, you enter this fight. And the more you say "yes" to God, the more intense the fight will get. Once you say "yes" to God for the first time, Satan places a target on your back. He chooses you and you have to fight at that point. If you have accepted Christ as Savior, consider yourself enlisted into the battle. Now you must fight and you must choose whether you will become a soldier or a warrior.
  3. A solider is a position and a warrior is an attitude. Historically a solider is someone whose profession was fighting. They are paid and trained to fight. There is nothing wrong with being paid to fight. Our soldiers in Iraq are currently engaged in battle and they are drawing a salary. But if we are going to win a war, soldier must become warriors. A warrior possesses the dedication money can’t buy. A warrior is someone who fights not because of what they can get but because of what they can give. A warrior is a solider with a "die for the cause" attitude. A warrior will do whatever it takes to win or obtain victory. A solider signs up to join a fight, a warrior stay until it is finished.
  4. 2 Timothy 4:6-8, "As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing." Paul poured out his life in fighting for his faith!! And it’s apparent from this verse that at the end of his life, he didn’t have regrets about it. He didn’t say "man I wished I would have taken more time off, taken more naps, rested more." NO WAY! He said "I have fought the good fight, I finished the race, and I remained faithful!" When I stand before, I pray that I can have the same kind of confidence Paul had and say to God "man Satan may have thrown some punches but I finished strong, I fought the good fight, and I remained faithful to you and your cause God!"
  5. Because when we are in the middle of a fight it is easy to forget WHO we are really fighting and who is really the enemy in the battle. Satan wants to confuse us! He wants us to think each other is the enemy, when in fact he is your only enemy!! Warrior Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 "for we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against might powers in the dark world, and evil spirits in the heavenly places."
  6. Remember "you are not my enemy!"
  7. Jeremiah 20:11, 12 says "But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior. Before him my persecutors will stumble. They cannot defeat me. They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated. Their dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, you test those who are righteous, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets. Let me see your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to you." If we have committed ourselves to this fight and to this cause to become warriors, we have been promised that God will always stand beside us as the GREATEST warrior. We can not be defeated! The enemy may be able to throw some pretty powerful punches that hurt and wound us but he will NEVER be able to defeat us!! In fact he will be humiliated in the end!
  8. YOU ARE NOT AN ARMY OF ONE!! If I had to face some of my battles alone, I would have surely failed. I am and will be forever grateful for the warriors that I have the privilege of being in the platoon with!!! If you see a fellow fighter in the midst of a battle, lift up his arms for him as Aaron and Hur did. Encourage each other as we are running. Not try to trip each other. Friendly fire kills. And we need all of us to finish strong!! We can not finish this fight alone.
  9. We are on a battleship not a cruise ship. Both are vessels that float on water. But their purposes are VERY different. Sometimes as Christians we dress ourselves in sundresses and sandals (spiritually speaking) when we should be in camoflauage and boots. It is time for us to get our gear on and prepare for battle!! God would never send us into battle without armor on. It is armor that we should be very familiar with.
  10. The helmet of salvation WILL save your life one day. Roman soldiers never forgot their helmets before going out to battle. The helmet protects your head and your mind. Most battles truly begin and end in the mind!! Every behavior we exhibit begins in our mind. Make sure your helmet of salvation is on. Just like Anna shared each night at campfire, the enemy wants to bombard us with lies and deception. But the key to take every thought captive!
  11. The next piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. Got any of those in your closet? Romans soldiers used those to protect the tender part of his body much like the bullet proof vest police officers use today. The breastplate protects vital organs including our hearts. If we are going to win any battle, our spiritual hearts must be protected. What are you putting into your heart?
  12. Next we are to put on a belt of truth. For the Romans soldiers, the belt was really important because it held the weapons that the soldier would need. Truth has a way of holding things in place. His truth must be our foundation if we are going to wage war against the enemy.
  13. During the times of combat, the enemy would launch arrows, not just arrows but arrows on fire, at the soldier. These flaming arrows could inflict serious damage but the Roman soldiers shield was leather soaked in water so that when the arrows hit the shield, it was extinguished. You and I have an enemy that throw flaming arrows at us and the only way we can extinguish them is by raising our shield of faith.
  14. Last year at Y-Shua, we came home as a body of Christ. This year, we came home as an army ready to win this fight of faith.