Friday, September 9, 2016

The Other Side (Our Compassion Experience.)

 Slum : a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district inhabited by very poor people.  synonyms:hovel, rathole, ghetto, shantytown, skid row

I was a naive twenty year old walking down a lower middle class tree lined street in Santo Domingo with the directory of Young Life Dominican Republic talking about life and ministry in a foreign and third world setting when we turned the corner and I saw for the first time in my life a slum. I had been on Mission trips to a very impoverished Indian Reservation in North Dakota to paint homes and hold a revival,  the back woods of Kentucky to build houses and the old mill villages of West Virginia to reroof and conduct VBS but nothing could have prepared me for what I would see that day. As far as the eye could see were one or two room shanty homes built of cinder blocks, bricks and tin roofs. As most American teenager poverty tourist I got out my camera and began to take photo after photo as my guide described the nearly 70,000 people who lived in these barely livable homes. Later in the week I would accompany her to a Young Life rally right in the heart of the slum, hosted in the back space behind one of the leaders shanty houses. The home was dark with only a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling and it had two rooms, one was a make shift kitchen with a small wooden table the other the bedroom was covered with mats and thin blankets on the floor. Out back there were Christmas lights strung up over the falling down fence and dozens of children sitting on the dusty ground singing Bible School songs. During the evening I had to use the bathroom and the owner looked at me nervously and embarrassed for all he had to offer was an outhouse shared by multiple neighbors. I tried to reassure him it was of no consequence to me but in reality out in the dark of that out house my eyes were opened to how the other side lived and and they would never close again.  

Tonight  my kids were able to go to the same slum I went to 18 years ago only we didn't fly on a plane, we drove to a church parking in Rock Hill, SC. They were hosting the Compassion Experience and without leaving our own figurative backyard we got to see how the other side lives. For the experience a huge truck folds out into a giant tent transformed to look like two different impoverished countries. As you enter you are given head phones and you listen to a former Compassion child tell his/her story. They are stories of hardship turned redemption through their personal experience with sponsorship. The little boy Jonathan from the slums of Santo Domingo tells his journey of selling juice on the streets, battling the temptation to join a gang, the struggle to forgive his absent father and the Compassion school director who through his forgiveness of Jonathon showed him the forgiveness of Christ.  My children were wide eyed like their mother years before as they walked through the home of Jonathan in the slum of Santo Domingo. They touched the holey pair of ladies shoes Jonathon had to wear to school each day much to his embarrassment, they examined the jug of juice he would attempt to sell on the streets,  they opened the money box revealing two small coins not enough to even feed him for the day.  Like I did years before they got to see how the other side lived. 

After my kids saw how the other side lived they saw how the other side found hope. 
The compassion expereince doesn't just leave you in the dimly lit room of the slum with barely enough food to survive and clothes stained and too small for you to wallow in the reality of poverty they move you on to show the you the hope that it possible. You walk from the home of the child to the compassion center or school the child was a part of. The room is bright and cheery the walls are covered in Bible illustrations and scriptures and the story continues as you hear about how the child's sponsorship gave them the opportunity to rise out of the darkness into the light though education, food, medical care and most importantly the message of the the love of God. 

And the story goes on to explain where the child ended up and how they today our contributing back into their own community. They speak of the sponsors who wrote them letters and reminded them of Gods love with each note. They tell of how their story was changed forever by a single decision from a person who lived on the other side. The side with running water, the side with enough food to always fill a tummy, the side where education is free, the side where it is really easy to forget the other side where these basic needs are not readily available.  

My kids exited with eyes more open than when they entered, sure they didn't walk the actual slum like I did back in 1999 but they still got to clearly experience how the other side lives and I am so thankful. We were able to engage in some awesome conversations tonight about poverty, hope, Jesus, sacrifice and privilege and I believe more conversations will come.  Tomorrow the kids asked to do something we haven't done in a while, they want to write our Compassion Child Martha, so tonight before I go to bed I will lay out markers, crayons and papers and we will send a little hope to the other side because the other side sent us hope through the story of a slum boy named Jonathan. 

A few ways to HELP!!
To be a story changer of a child on the other side go HERE and choose a child!!
To Find a Compassion experience near you go HERE!
To Inquire about hosting the Compassion Experience go HERE!

Please if you end up doing any of the above please leave a comment or send me a message on social media letting me know I would love to hear the exciting news!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back to school, lets pray.

The symptoms are foggy brain, breaking into a sweats, random crying spells and feeling like you got hit by a school bus. It can only mean one thing it's back to school time. Between supply shopping, meet the teachers, car pool line instructions, new teachers, assistants and EC teachers names to remember for four different kids, back to school night, PTA fundraisers, binders and notebooks and emails from all the teachers communicating slightly differently from one another my brain is fried and I officially feel extremely overwhelmed. This afternoon my kids came in asking about their summer work packets to turn in. Friends, I barely have a memory of said packet coming home at the end of the year and these concerned kids didn't ask about them all summer and they certainly didn't work on them, so unless they  want to dumpster dive and find the packets and then do a summers worth of math work sheets tonight I don't think they are getting the 5 extra points for turning it in.  Mercy... back to school is going to do me in. 
If you are feeling like me overwhelmed, anxious maybe even fearful about the school year I have a solution and it does not involve an organizational chart and ideas like packing lunches at night, my answer is prayer. Two years ago I wrote #12prayersforbacktoschool for a year long series called #12prayers. I wrote the back to school prayers for us to pray over children for their school year. Pray one a day for 12 days or you can have a day of prayer for your kids, set an alarm each hour through the day and stop to pray a different prayer each hour. I am doing my day of prayer on Monday and trusting it gets my heart in the right place, trusting Jesus instead of myself for this school year.   

All the the prayers are in this post below our 2016-17 school year forced family photo's.

12 prayers for back to school

I am so glad you are here to join me as we go before the throne for our children's school year. I hope these prayers and scriptures allow you to trust Jesus more with the beautiful and precious lives we have been entrusted.

"Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God."-Philippians 4:6

#1: For your Spirit/Isaiah 44:3
"For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants."

Lord, we pray you will pour out your spirit on our children. We pray that you will provide your spirit where they are lacking just as you pour water out on thirsty ground. We pray they will find their satisfaction, sufficiency, and sustenance in your spirit. We pray now for our children who do not know you as their Lord and Savior. We ask that this would be the year they bow before you. We pray they would see the depth and darkness of their own sin, as well as the incredible beauty of Jesus.  We pray that the years of Bible stories, sermons, lectures, and heart-to-hearts would finally click, and Jesus would become their Lord and Savior. Give these children your spirit, Lord, we beg!

#2: For discernment/Romans 12:2
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

God, we pray for discernment for our children. We ask that they will not be conformed to this world, but that they will rejoice in their differences. We pray that you would renew their minds and transform them to look more and more like you. We ask that you would give them the ability to test and approve every situation. We pray they would clearly know right from wrong and would stand for good no matter what. 

#3: For Spiritual protection/Ephesians 6:12 
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

1 John 4:4

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Heavenly Father, we pray that our children will put on the full armor of God, enabling them to resist the evil one. May our children believe that "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world." God, we pray for a spiritual hedge of protection around our children. Give them the grace to believe and stand firm in Christ no matter the opposition or enticement. 

#4: For godly friendships/Proverbs 13:20
"Walk with the wise and become wise,

    for a companion of fools suffers harm."

Proverbs 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

Jesus, give our children your wisdom in choosing friends to surround themselves with this year. We pray that their closest friends will be like-minded followers of Christ. We ask that their friendships would give them the opportunity to honor and model Jesus for one another. We pray that as iron sharpens iron, so they will sharpen each other. We ask that these relationships be salt and light to those around them, that their depth of real intimacy through Christ would draw others to you, Jesus. 

#5: For them to show honor and respect/Titus 3:1

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good."

Lord, we ask that our children would show proper respect for the authorities placed over them. We pray that you would help them recognize that all authority comes from you. We pray they would  be submissive and obedient, ready to do every good work you have called them to.

#6: For their witness/1Peter 3:15
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
Ephesians 6:19-20
"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

Our God, make our children a great light in the darkness. We pray they would open their mouths like Paul and fearlessly proclaim the beauty of the gospel. We ask that they would exude so much hope that others would smell the sweet fragrance of Christ on them. We pray they would have a clear understanding of the gospel and be able to communicate it to others. We hope and pray that many of our children would  lead other children to a saving faith in Christ this year. 

#7: For hard work/Colossians 3:23

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

Jesus, we ask that you would help our children to be good students who work hard in their studies. We pray they would not work out of guilt, pride, resentment, or any other sinful motivation, but that they would work out of a loving heart for God. We pray they would see that work is good and that they were created for it. We ask that you would help them to enjoy work and do it for your glory, not for the glory of men.

#8: For spiritual maturity/Galatians 5:22
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Father, we pray the fruit of the spirit would grow in our children. We ask that your sanctifying spirit would transform these children through the good times and hard times this year. We ask that you would NOT keep all difficulty from them because we know that we often grow the most through hardships. We ask that any difficulty they do encounter would be used to make them more mature in Christ. We pray that the eventual end of their hardships would be love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control flowing out of their lives.

#9: For their teachers/Proverbs 3:5-6

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight."
Ephesians 6:7
"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people."

Lord, we lift up our children's teachers, asking that they would have wisdom, love, patience, diligence, and energy. We pray that they would trust in the Lord and not in their own understanding. We pray that you will make their path straight. We ask for the salvation of teachers who do not know Christ. We pray that you would reveal yourself to them this year, even using our children to demonstrate and speak the love of the gospel. We also pray for all the mommies who are teachers-- that you would give them an extra dose of your grace to hold both roles. We pray they would trust you to provide what they need to do both jobs to your glory. 

#10: For leadership /1 Timothy 4:12

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

Jesus, would you help our children to be true servant leaders? Would you allow their speech to be life-giving to others? Would you allow their conduct to mirror you and the great men and women of faith? May they love people well, thinking of others over themselves. Would you give them strong faith, trusting in you through all things? Lastly, would you grant them purity, protecting them from the sin of this world that so easily entangles? 

#11: For your grace and forgiveness/Ephesians 1:7
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace"

Heavenly Father, our children will need your grace and forgiveness this year. They are going to screw up. They are not always going to love you with their whole heart and love others better than themselves. God, would they see their need for forgiveness and find it when they ask? Jesus, grant them your grace and may they not look to themselves to be able to do it all right. May they look to you!

#12: For Jesus to be their teacher/Isaiah 54:13

"All your children will be taught by the Lord,

    and great will be their peace."

Lord Jesus, we pray that you will be our children's number one teacher this year. We pray they will see you in all they are learning, whether it be their alphabet or algebraic equations.  We pray they will see the glory of God in all  their studies, activities, and friendships. We ask as you teach them, Jesus, that you would grant them great peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My dirty little secret.

So I have a dirty little minivan is disgusting. I know what you are thinking, "my car is dirty too, who's isn't with kids?"  I have heard you all apologize for your car with a picture book a match box car and a few raisins scattered on the floor and I have wondered why the heck are they apologizing because mine is covered in single shoes, enough toys to stock a store, crumpled school papers, floaties, goggles, a mildewing towel and then the snacks. Oh the snacks...that's what started the problem. You see we have squirrels in our yard who have become addicted to pretzels, Cheerios, veggie straws, peanut butter sandwich crusts, french fries, and the list could go on.  At first they just collected the crumbs which fell from our proverbial minivan table but then they got bold. They started to get into our van if the door was left open for a while to feast on the smorgasbord of treats. A few times the children were buckled in and we looked to see a little nutty rodent sitting on the edge of the sliding door enjoying the discarded Cheetos. Twice I have opened our door to have a squirrel run out after being trapped for an hour or two. Then the animals began to think all cars that pulled into our driveway held such amazingness so they began to get in the cars and trucks of people visiting. It was getting out of control and then last night it all came to a head. 

     It was 11:15 pm and I went to the van to grab my phone charger when I reached in I heard a squeak. I thought surely I am hearing something. I shut the door and then decided to open the sliding doors to just double check. I opened them but nothing came out of the van. Then I heard another squeak and and a tcktcktcktck. I still wasn't convinced it was in there hoping it's under the van. I went inside to get Dave and with a eye roll he slipped on shoes and came out. He opened the doors again and still nothing, he poked around again and then we heard another tcktcktcktck. Oh crap there was a squirrel. But where was it? After following a trail of poop and chewed up pieces of carpet on the floor board, we discovered the squirrel had trapped himself in the dash of my car. This would be the point where we might have said a cuss word. All the commotion got our neighbor Calvin's dogs barking which led him outside to quiet them. He saw us and asked if all was ok. We answered, "oh just the usual squirrel stuck in the dash board." He told us he would put on some clothes and head over. Now at this point the squirrel had been in my car for around six hours so the sounds of the trapped squirrel  became more and more labored. It was clearly hot, tired and scared. Panic filled my mind, "What if this thing is stuck and it dies in there!? My car will smell of rotting squirrel! How do you recover from that? Does insurance cover  dead squirrel stuck in the dash?" About this time our neighbor arrived and I profusely thanked him,  he replied, " that's what neighbors are for." I am not sure squirrel fumigation from a car dash at midnight is in the same level as borrowing a cup of sugar, I think it set him at a level called super duper neighborly. The men proceeded to take my glove compartment apart which was slightly terrifying since their face had to be in squirrel biting range. Even after the removal of all the things that could be removed on my dash there  was still no sign of the squirrel except the pathetic sounds of a thirsty dying rodent. I called a wild life rescue number while the guys continued to try and scare him out.  After I left a messaged with the the rodent removal folks I got desperate, I decided to exorcise that squirrel,  I cried out, "In Jesus name, squirrel  come out of my van!" Dave was in the drivers seat and Calvin was in the passenger banging on the dash when for the first time we heard him skitter, he moved  and was no longer on the right side. But where was he!?? One more hit of the dash and the squirrel flew out over Daves feet and back to the wild! 

     The three morals of this story are:
1.) if your van is disgusting beware animals may move in
 2.) if you are a squirrel and you go in a van full of snack food crumbs thinking its is heaven it might become your personal hell and you end up trying to gnaw your way through the plastic of the sliding door desperately trying to escape.
 3.) Prayer works 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Faithful Ordinary.

#prayfordallas #altonsterling #prayfororlando #prayforiraq #prayforbangledesh #prayforsanbernadino #prayforpakistan #prayforbrussles  #prayforparis #prayforcharleston #trayvonmartin #walterscott #blacklivesmatter #bluelivesmatter

"In those days, Israel had no King and every man did what was right in their own eyes."  -Judges 21:25

I do not think in my lifetime I have ever felt these words are more true. This scripture for months has been heavy on my heart with each attack or killing the truth of this verse has been pushed deeper into my soul. The night after the Dallas attack my heart could take it no longer I felt in despair, right before I went to bed I looked up this verse and as I read it the Spirit reminded me of another scripture which starts out with these words from the same time period, "In the day when the judges ruled there was famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons...these took Moabite wives, the name of one was Orpah, the other Ruth." In the days when everyone did what was right in their own eyes, in a day when no one followed a King, in a day when injustice, brokenness and tragedy seemed to be the rule  God's sovereign hand was on a young girl named Ruth. When the the people thought there was not King in the land to follow she followed the true King of Israel through the simple decision to care for her Mother in Law. In this story God provided for two widowers through a Kinsman redeemer named Boaz. They were restored by him financially, socially and emotionally. One family preserved. But we know this preservation was far greater than just a single family, it was even bigger than the preservation of Israel, it was about the preservation of the whole world. For from the line of Ruth and Boaz would come King David and from David's line would come the King of Kings, Jesus. John Piper says this about the story of Ruth. "It's a story that shows how "God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform." It's a story for people who wonder where God is when there are no dreams or visions or prophets. It's for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith. It's a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it's a story for people who can't imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives of faith. "
It is a story for Dallas, it is for the black men wrongly killed, it is for Iraq , Bangledesh, San Bernardino, Pakistan, Brussles, Paris, Charleston, it's a story for all of us. It is a story reminding us even when it appears no one honors the King, God is still in control, God is providing for all those who walk faithfully through a Kinsman redeemer named Jesus. Ruth had no idea the savior of the world would come from her blood, she simply did what was right in Gods eyes. Even though she herself was a widow she chose to forfeit her future, considering her Mother in Law, Naomi better than herself. She declared her allegiance to her Mother in Law and called the God of Israel her King. She left her family and went to a foreign land to do whatever she could to provide for Naomi. She was faithful to what was in front of her. She had no plans to help save Israel, certainly no plans to participate in the redemption of the whole world and the eventual destruction of all that is evil, she simply was faithful to her King. When we hear of tragedies every day, it seems there is no king in the land and everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes it is easy to despair. But when despair threatens to paralyze you remember Ruth an ordinary faithful girl who chose to follow the King when every one else believed their was no King in the land and do the same. Like Ruth look for who God has put in front of you who needs you and be faithful. For He delights to use the faithful, ordinary to participate in the saving of the world.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Baby Shower for Ben's Friends!

Our son is an orphan for only 18 more days but his friends at Morning Star and Jiao Zuo City Childrens Welfare Institute remain in the care of the PR of China. He will come home to his sailing themed nursery,  a playroom full of toys, an art closet full of fun supplies and most importantly a family who loves him but his friends will remain. His friends at Morning Star have been like family to Ben and we want to leave them with some new toys and items that can just make the daily routine for his caregivers easier.  Morning Star does an amazing job with their resources making their house a home for these children but they still have many needs because they put the majority of their money toward expensive, wonderful workers, heart surgeries and long hospital stays. Because these children are medically fragile many of them are developmentally delayed so we would love to bring new learning toys!  Our family has already collected a bunch of Melissa and Doug toys for them but we would love to add more to the suitcase.  We also received an email from Jiao Zuo City Children's Welfare institute where Ben lived the first 6 months of his life highlighting some fo the items they need, including clothes, cleft pallet bottles, bibs,hand towels and toys.  It is a huge orphanage housing hundred of children so our items may not make a big dent but every item helps. So, in honor of Ben's upcoming adoption we are throwing Ben's friends a shower Amazon Style! We have created a Baby Registry with items you can buy and have shipped straight to our house. We will host this baby shower for 3 days and then need to close it, so we can assess what we have and pack up for China! Thank you for considering helping us shower these children with love!! 
PS There are 2 or 3 things we will add to our items we are bringing for Ben mixed in the registry list, so don't worry he is not completely left out of the shower fun! HAPPY SHOPPING! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Repent for Orlando

“Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil one could almost believe one's own secret sin didn't matter.”-Corrie Ten-Boom

In recent years when I have heard the news of mass shootings, statistics on abortion, hate crimes toward  minorities or homosexuals, terrorism, human trafficking, crimes against children and other evils the spirit has been leading me to a place of repentance even before I pray for the comfort of the victims. It might seem a strange thing to ask forgiveness from God for something someone else has done but it has proven to deepen my understanding of Gods grace and love.  In western cultural we view the world as an individual, when evil occurs we point to the person obviously culpable but we often disregard where we as a society may be at fault. Our connectedness is real and our responsibility for evil in this world is real. We are all children of Adam and Eve and we participate unknowingly and sometimes knowingly in the greater evils of this world. If you have viewed pornography you have personally offended God, violating yourself and the person you are viewing but have you considered that you also have contributed to the culture that created human trafficking? When you click on that website you might feel guilty but do you think about your responsibility for a child enslaved and  forced to do unspeakable things?  When a Islamic extremist goes on a shooting spree you might cry out about the injustice of an evil religion but have you reached out to Muslims in your community in friendship or prayed for ISIS and those who seek your destruction? If not then is there a place for you to repent? When you hear people justify the murder of 53 people created in the image of God because they disagree with the lifestyle of these people and you do not defend them is your silence contributing to the hate which caused their blood to be shed?  
Millard Erickson said this, 
"On the personal level, a healthy and honest look at any corporate sin promises healing and transformation if repentance is involved. Our gracious Father who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world (I Tim 2:6) desires us to repent from our sins and depend on Him (Jn 15:5). A healthy understanding of the horrid and deep extents of sin will help us to recognize sin and deal with it. Ignorance and naiveté of corporate sin will only limit the depths of our transforming relationship with our Savior. To ignore and disregard the weight of corporate sin is in itself a sin, the sin of omission and self justification."

Let us not miss our responsibility no matter how small in this massacre in Orlando, let each of us repent.  And may repentance come with action and change,  ask God how he might want you to reach out to the homosexual community and the Muslim community in light of this tragedy.  
O Lord be gracious to me; heal my soul for I have sinned against you.  Psalm 41:4
You have shown me what is good and what is required of me but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you my God. -Micah 6:8