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!
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!!!
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).
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!
I am a nurse and most importantly mom of 6 precious children( 2 are homegrown, 1 on loan,& 3 are hand picked). Drew (age 15) Ashlyn (age 13) We have adopted 3 Haitian miracles Jimso (age10), Jackson (age 13) a&Jedone (age 14) We also have a foster daughter who is a constant source of joy!We are passionate about orphan/ foster care. My husband is the lead pastor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City.