Monthly Archives: May 2013

Practice What You Preach

There are times in life when you have to practice what you preach. Now, I don’t mean to assume that I don’t normally believe that I have to do so. But bright and early in the morning I will be put in a position or should I say, given an opportunity, where I will have no other option than to practice what I preach. I will get up on a stage in a beautiful theater, Mt. Baker theater to be exact, and I will challenge 8 churches to believe in God for Big things in our city and our world because He is powerful and can change lives! As I do, I will be literally practicing what I preach.  I appreciate your prayers and this was my prayer to the Lord today.

 

I sat in my car and I wrote down all the reasons why I was scared, nervous and not cut out for this. And as I prayed the only words that came to my mouth were these words. God, be the power I proclaim. If God can speak through a burning bush, He can be powerful enough to speak through me. If God can speak through donkeys He can be powerful enough to speak through me. I certainly cannot challenge the Church to believe on God to be powerful if I cannot believe on Him that HE could use the likes of little ol’ me. So here it goes to practicing what I preach. God be powerful and to Him to be the Glory! More on how it goes later…..

Authentes

While on a mission trip in India with a team from church, my husband experienced something rather strange and unforgettable. One particular day, the team decided to travel an hour outside of Calcutta to one of Mother Theresa’s
orphanages. While serving there, a very friendly boy was walking around talking with the Americans. This boy walked up to Rob with a big smile and said, if you can imagine, with an Indian accent in English, “How are you, I am fine.”  How are you? I am fine? This boy looked like a two year old, but the orphanage had estimated his actual age to be 4. He was malnourished. He was in an orphanage with 15 kids and 2 caretakers and he was there because his parents had either died or abandoned him.

How are you? I am fine?

This boy was anything but fine. He had obviously been introduced to this surface talk by an English speaking group or individual (most likely an American missionary group) and was saying this over and over again to whomever he ran across. This is not surprising because we, as people, and perhaps specifically as American people, are very familiar with surface talk. When we meet people at a party, on campus or at work the first question that people ask is What do you do for a living? (As if we can be summed up by our J- O- B.) It is a question we can pull out to get us further down the conversational road until something else comes up. In the realm of surface talk, there is always: What’s new? what’s up? and How’s your week? The classic surface talk is when people ask “how are you?”. And we answer I’m fine. I find it bizarre and even dysfunctional that when we go to the grocery store we use this phrase with the checker, when we get a call from someone we say these meaningless two words, and when we walk into church we even say “I’m fine”, regardless of our current state of “fineness”.  When asked “How you doin’?” we say “Fine”, yet we live in that very moment like the malnourished orphan in India!

Many of us aren’t fine! Some of us are paralyzed by a web of lies that we have spun. Or we are crushed by a shattered dream. We are tired because of our own attempt to be perfect. We are far from fine. And it doesn’t matter what’s new.  It doesn’t matter that we got a new cell phone. It doesn’t matter that we just returned from an adventurous vacation. It
doesn’t matter that we just changed our hair color. It matters that we are being consumed by lustful thoughts that won’t go away. It matters that we feel enslaved to other people. It matters that we have more bitterness than love in our relationships. And no we won’t have a great week because we have to confront someone we love. We won’t have an awesome week because we are living another week doubting our faith, and doing that alone. We won’t have a great week
because we have to carry immense pressure on our back. Many of us aren’t fine, yet we are constantly trying to convince people we are fine, independent and in need of no one’s help.

Like the orphan, we also are being taught canned answers. How sick is it that we live in a culture where many of
us would rather fake independence than value authenticity? How sick is it that we would rather fake strength than value being real? Somehow this inauthenticity has snuck into Christianity. The very people whose foundation is laid on the belief that we aren’t fully whole, we aren’t right in of ourselves-people whose foundation is: “I’m a sinner in need of God”  –we have in some ways turned Christianity and the church into a place where we are supposedly tough, confident, pillars of strength that have it all together. Who are we kidding? So many of us as Christ followers don’t share what is really going on in our lives. Instead, we try to drop hints of devoutness in our conversations, prove to people how well we are doing and how spiritual we are. I know I do this and maybe you do too.

The word authentic originates from the Greek word authentes, which means; author; coming from the real author, of original or firsthand authority, meaning the one it really is. In a sense, being authentic is not just knowing your story as it is, but telling your story as it is. Each one of us has a story. Everyday adds adventure, romance, mystery, and drama to our story. We have opportunities all the time to connect with people, by keeping it real. Being alone in our stories is a very lonely, disconnected place to be. It is a place where we feel far from people and far from God. I don’t think God is impressed with our inauthenticity and our false images and our put together fines. I actually believe that the more authentic we can be in telling our story as it really is and the more we enter into each other’s stories as well as allow God to enter our stories, the more our stories will experience God’s grace and transformation. Let us be an authentes people.

Live Differently

John 8: 1-11 

Jesus was teaching at the temple at dawn and I don’t know about you but I am a firm believer that nothing good ever happens at dawn…so Jesus must have been that good because there was crowd gathered there. And in came these religious guys…. These teachers of the law and Pharisees- they were the guys everyone looked to so as to know what a life following God should look like. They walked in dragging a woman like a trash bag! It is as if they looked at Jesus and said “Jesus meet ho – ho meet Jesus.” Awkward! She was caught in the very act of adultery! Like the Puritans who used to make women who committed adultery wear the scarlet letter A to identify them by their wrongdoings-these religious men were identifying this woman as a complete slut right there in front of everybody! Talk about a walk of shame!

In the day and culture this took place, if someone committed adultery it was believed that they should be stoned. So these guys put Jesus to the test:“we should stone her, what do you say Jesus?!!” They were using her as a tool like a lot of other men probably had, but they were doing it this time to accuse Jesus.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 At this, those who
heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus 
was left, with the woman still standing there.  

Alone with Jesus, she is probably still wondering if her punishment awaited her and look at what Jesus says….Does He say, “once a slut always a slut” or “you made your bed now lie in it” ? No! He says… “Woman, where are they? Has no one  condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. Neither do I condemn you. You don’t deserve to be called all the names they called you or you called yourself. You don’t deserve to be identified by your wrongdoings. You won’t get the punishment you expected! Jesus put behind her what identified her. Jesus put behind her the things others held onto. Jesus put behind her all the shame and all the guilt. And then He laid before her a new direction and way to go….

Go and sin no more.

I have always read this in a negative light. Go and sin no more! But as I studied it, one commentator says it translates go and live differently. The thing about Jesus is that He loves us so much so that he can’t leave us where we have been. His love would be no love at all if this story ended with Jesus saying the words: Neither do I condemn you and then she returned to this relationship and this way of living that was destructive and painful for her and her family. Jesus loves us too much to leave us there. Not just in adultery…Jesus loves us too much to leave us in our judgmental religious stuffiness. Jesus loves us too much to leave us in our insecurities. Jesus loves us too much to leave us in our unhealthiness. He loves us too much to leave us in our empty pursuits. Living differently are words we all know we need to live out. Jesus says to us what he said to her. Go and live differently. We talk a lot about believing in Jesus, but Jesus believed in her.

He believed in her that it was possible to live differently than she had been! Think about that… God believes we can experience change and transformation to go and live better lives! I am sure this woman and her children and their children would look back and be forever grateful that Jesus collided with her and didn’t just leave her where she was but instead put her A behind her, turning it into an arrow beckoning her forward in a new direction!

Still True: Christine Stone

 I have watched Christine experience these personal collisions and all the while hold onto Jesus and wrestle through her deep questions, pain and fear. She is a beautiful woman who inspires me to hold onto what is still true about God in the midst of circumstances that tell you otherwise.
– Willow

Still True by Christine Stone

I am a firm believer that colliding with Jesus is a lifelong process. As I look back on my story, I see numerous accounts of Jesus pursuing me to get me in a place where I can believe the truth about who He is, who those around me are, and who I am. This process continues today– I know He’s not done with me yet and I’m so thankful for His persistence. The part of my story I write about now involves a literal collision–a car crash to be exact. Here’s how Jesus entered in…

Just under three years ago, on a sunny afternoon in late September, I was on my way to work. At the time, I worked for an after school program. The school zone lights were flashing, indicating a 20-mile per hour speed limit. I was scanning the roadway in preparation to make my final right turn when I saw a mother and her three children stepping into the crosswalk. I stopped for them, waiting for them to make their way across the street when I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a car speeding toward me. I could tell the car was coming too fast, but with an extra lane in the middle of the road, I felt sure it would go around me. Instead of passing, the car hit me, forcing my vehicle forward into the family in the crosswalk. The mother was flung up on the hood of my car but I heard only the thud as my car went over the two year-old girl, killing her on impact. Words can’t explain the horror of getting out of your car knowing what you’ll see and knowing there is nothing you can do to change it.

I knew from the beginning that little Sarah’s death had not been my fault. But that did not keep me from running the scenario over and over in my mind, searching for a way out, a different end to the story. The teenage girl who hit me was being tried for vehicular homicide. During the trial, I returned to scene of the accident before my testimony in court to see if I could remember any more details. I wanted to know exactly what had happened. Exactly what went wrong. My friends and family and the investigating officers assured me there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome, and I eventually came to believe them. But what about my God? Was there nothing He could have done? I thought he was all-powerful? All knowing? I thought he cared about my
safety. I thought he cared about the little children. And now I was seeing her body on the sidewalk, not knowing what to believe.

Tragedies like this shape our view of God. I questioned what it meant for God to be in control. If he had the power to save Sarah, why didn’t he? If he was in control, how could he let this happen? The things people said to me, trying to bring comfort, wounded me even further. They said things like, “God let’s these things happen to teach us lessons and grow us.” Would God really let a child die to teach me something? And if so, what was this thing that was so important he was trying to teach me?

Tragedies like this shape our view of others. I didn’t know where to direct my anger. It’s human nature to look for someone to blame for the pain we’ve experienced, as though blaming someone else will bring the justice we seek. But too often we forget that those we blame are also experiencing hurt. Would bitterness really solve anything? I wanted to blame the other driver but couldn’t get past the fact that anyone else, including myself, could have made the same mistake. She did not intend for this to happen. None of us had asked for this.

Tragedies like this shape our view of ourselves. I didn’t feel like I could include myself as a victim. A family had lost their daughter,
and that wasn’t my experience. I didn’t feel like I had a right to the pain I felt. It paled in comparison to theirs. I was just the girl in the middle. Yet I was also angry that my life was being interrupted by this awful thing that I didn’t ask for. Suddenly I had to deal with paperwork, appointments, emotions and painful memories that I wanted nothing to do with. My view of myself was
complicated—a messy mix between being victimized yet unworthy of sympathy.

Driving or even riding in a car became intensely difficult. I began to believe that if I did everything perfectly, then I would be in
control of the road. I always used my turn signal, avoided difficult turns, and planned the easiest and safest routes, sometimes hours before I got in the car. I would never get hit again, nor would I ever hit someone else.

I was in two more car accidents within just 13 months of that accident. The first happened the following January on the ice. It was a
minor accident but still totaled my new vehicle and aggravated my injuries from the accident just three months before. With the money from my insurance company, I bought a less expensive vehicle and a plane ticket to Africa. I had felt called to Africa for years now and was excited to see how God would use me at an orphanage there. On a day trip to a national park in South Africa, a deer darted across the road. The driver did not see the animal until it was too late. The brakes locked and the car skid into a concrete block on the side of the road. I was hospitalized along with the 9 year old boy who was sitting next to me. Injuries were minor, but the emotional impact was not. I struggled with the fact that I had gone to Africa to serve God, and he let me get in  another accident. Again, I was forced to confront the very thing that had caused the most distress in my life.

There is a story in Luke 8 of a woman who collides with Jesus. This woman had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. When the woman in the story first got sick, she didn’t know what was ahead—that she would be in bondage for 12 years and suffer greatly before being set free by Jesus. Maybe I’m just at the beginning of my “12 years”, the beginning of a long period of struggle. But that doesn’t change who God is. He is the same God as He was before Sarah’s death. He is the same God today, after three car accidents.
Maybe I will deal with driving anxiety for many years to come, but that doesn’t change who God is. A child died that day. But God is till the Giver of Life, and Sarah’s life did not end on the sidewalk. I have painful memories and intrusive flashbacks, but God is still my Healer. I cry, but God is still my Comforter.

Over time, I began to see my situation through “kingdom eyes.” I learned that we can’t let our circumstances tell us who God is. I saw evidence of God’s character on a daily basis. God’s comfort shined through the friends and family who showed up to cry with me. God’s love was obvious in my faithful boyfriend, now my loving husband, who prayed with me in the ER and in the months following. God’s kindness was evident in my dad who helped me navigate the insurance maze. God’s compassion was revealed through the health care providers who helped strengthen my physical body. And God’s healing was demonstrated through the counselors who helped me work through pain and anxiety.

The court case ended with the young driver being convicted of vehicular homicide. I didn’t feel relief. I just felt sad—sad for her
because, as angry as I was, as unjust as everything felt, I had  to believe that she was in God’s care just as I was, just as Sarah was. I now understand that she is a wounded young women who will probably know no greater pain than for what happened that day.

Having a true and healthy view of God, ourselves, and others rarely happens overnight. Despite the sick woman’s miraculous healing in Luke 8, I would imagine she had to fight the voices that were still calling her unworthy, unclean, undeserving of being healed. She would have to fight to hold onto the truth that she is loved by God, valuable, and called as God’s child. In the same way, I have to fight to believe that God is Sovereign, that I am in His beloved child, and that he loves the girl who hit me just as much as he loves me.

A few months into my healing process, I looked at past entries in my journal. I was curious to see what I had written in the days
prior to the accident. On the day before the accident, I had written these words: “I am a princess of the High King.
A daughter of God. My life is priceless. He takes pleasure in me, my personality, my sensitive heart, my physical body. He has plans for me.” 
And now looking back with the perspective I have and the chaos the following months would bring, I can say with certainty that those words are still true. Those words are still true of me, they are true of the teenage girl, they are true of little Sarah who is with Him now, and no matter where you find yourself today, those words are true of you. I hope that you will push forward with me to believe it.

Enough: Allison Lindsay

 “You are not enough.” are words many of us hear all day long. We hear it when we get dressed, when they don’t call back, and when we didn’t get the job.  We hear these words and they call us names all the time! Allison shares her journey with these words and now lives being able to believe and tell people otherwise!  She is a witty, compassionate, thoughtful and beautiful young woman….Listen to her story…
– Willow

ENOUGH by Allison Lindsay

My life has had its share of earthquakes, windstorms, and fires, but, as Elijah experienced in 1 Kings 19, “after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” My collision with Jesus came in such a whisper.

It was the summer before my senior year when I was invited to join a Bible study with a group of women – some I knew better than others. We sat in a giant circle in a living room of a beautiful house, something so unfamiliar to us as a group of college students. I was excited, but skeptical, as Willow introduced the idea of our Wounded Collisions study.

I have always been a quiet person, jokingly describing myself as “painfully shy” in high school and the first few years of college. Through the college ministry I was involved in, along with the first true friendships I had experienced since elementary school, I began to open up. Though things were looking up on the outside, on the inside I still felt unsettled. Unfinished. Incomplete.

“You aren’t enough,” my brain told me, “You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t funny enough. You aren’t beautiful enough.” I worked my way through life situations and relationships with this soundtrack in the back of my mind and the pit of my stomach, always thinking, “What if this is true? What if I will never be enough?”

During this time, I lost my grandmother and was denied from a job to which I felt called. I graduated from Western and started a full time job at a daycare, feeling unaccomplished and lost. Sure, there were things I wanted to do, but as people moved away to start their new jobs, marriages, internships, and schooling, I felt stuck. Just as the Lord asked Elijah in a still, small voice, I also asked myself, “What are you doing here?”, only to respond with excuses.

However, my experiences in small group started whispering to me. I remembered the woman at the well, who’s past Jesus knew well before she started talking, and yet he still offered her the living water giving her eternal life. I remembered the man, a tax collector, who climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus, who was chosen by Jesus. I remembered the woman, who, after hemorrhaging for twelve years, gathered up her courage to touch Jesus’ tassel – and was healed! I remembered the paralyzed man whose friends were so convinced of the Lord’s redeeming grace, they lowered him through the roof to bypass the crowds.

Surely, if these men and women were enough in the eyes of Jesus, then I must be as well! God spoke to me in a whisper, through moments of grace, kindness, and support from friends, mentors, and family. He began to replace the soundtrack of inadequacy
with messages of hope, joy, and belonging. Where I felt unsettled and incomplete, my collisions with Jesus left me feeling whole. I finally felt the calling for which I had searched for so long.

I made a scary move away from Bellingham, started school, and jumped into a new community. I started running half marathons. I opened myself up to a new church community and small group, allowing myself to be known by others. I just graduated from  nursing school and am so excited to start my career and mission as a nurse, caring for people experiencing their own type of wounds.

As I pray for my “daily bread”, I pray for confidence and focus. I pray for strength to continue in the direction the Lord has placed on my life. I pray for the whisper, which after the earthquakes, windstorms, and fires, speaks so clearly to remind me, “In Me, you are enough. You will always be enough for My kingdom.”

Hokey Pokey with God: Maddie N.

I ran into Maddie a few years ago when she was a college student. I had the great privilege of having front row seats to watch Jesus run into her life and radically change her!  Read her story.
– Willow

Hokey Pokey with God by Maddie N.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home – neither of my parents are religious. Oddly enough, my parents sent me to Catholic school from 1st through 7th grades. Pretty quickly I developed my own set of beliefs that differed from my parents’ and spent a lot of my time learning Bible stories and attending mass. I believed there was a God but I didn’t feel any real personal connection with Him. In my mind, God was this big guy in the sky who watched my every move and got mad when I lied to my parents.

When I moved across the country and left my sheltered Catholic school, I left God in the dust.

In the spring of my freshman year in high school, I had just gotten a boyfriend and thought that dating him would fill a void that I felt in my life. He had grown up going to church but he stopped going and stopped caring. I remember one day he asked me if I would go to church with him. I didn’t really think much of it so I said, “sure.” Before I knew it I was standing in a church singing worship songs and watching what looked like a light show – very different from my Catholic church of yesteryear. Somehow in that experience I must have signed up for a small group because I remember the next week going to some random girl’s house with a bunch of other random girls I’d never met before talking about some guy named Jesus. I remember telling some lame joke about a woodpecker drilling a hole in Noah’s ark and no one laughed so I was no longer interested. I stopped going and so did my boyfriend. It was like Gone in 60 seconds: Christian edition.

Fast forward four years to my freshman year. I was so excited to be in college and to have the “true college experience.” I didn’t
really know what that looked like but I assumed it involved making tons of friends, partying, and boys. After all, that’s what they show in the movies. I started going down a path headed straight for this “true college experience” and when I look back I see faded memories of parties, kissing random boys I didn’t know, and prioritizing my social calendar over anything academic. I never really enjoyed these experiences but I kept going because I thought I was supposed to – I thought “this is what college is for – a time to experiment and have fun.”

One night when I was applying my makeup, getting ready to head out to another party, I heard a voice in my head say, “This isn’t you. This isn’t the life for you. You deserve better than this.”

I didn’t know this then but I know that was God meeting me in one of my darkest and messiest places saying – “come and follow me.”

In the midst of this brokenness my freshman year of college, some girls on my floor in my dorm would, without fail, invite me to a Christian college ministry. I decided to join them one week and was more focused on looking the part and looking like I’d been a Christian my whole life than actually being present and open to what was happening. I thought I was so sly being a pretend-lifelong-Christian but the only person I was fooling was myself.

Throughout my sophomore and junior years I continued to go to the college ministry every once in awhile, started going to church
sometimes, and went to small group every week. I loved the friends I had made and the community I was beginning to become a part of, but I still had remnants of my “other life” on the side. I remember having a conversation with one of my non-Christian friends about the fact that I went to church. She asked, “So you’re not one of those Christian people are you?” I didn’t really know what she meant by that but I knew that if I said I was she would think differently of me so I said “Nope. I just go to hang out with some of my other friends.” I was basically doing the hokey-pokey with God where I put my left foot in and then pulled my left foot out, and then put my right foot in and then pulled my right foot out – and then out of nowhere God pushed my whole self in and shook my life all about.

Eventually, I was faced with a decision: which life will I pursue? I could no longer have one foot in each life – I needed to choose. I
chose Jesus. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I surrounded myself with amazing and supportive friends. I immersed myself in the Bible and became really excited about learning more about Jesus. I read books, went to church and started really wrestling with my questions and my doubts. And through all of this I began forming a deep personal relationship with God. I always thought that choosing to follow Jesus and choosing to make Him the center of my life would mean that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun and would have a boring life. Oh how I was wrong. Pursing Christ has provided me with such complete joy and fulfillment. It was like I had been legally blind my whole life, seeing the world blurred and distorted and then God restored my vision to view the world anew. I was seeing people and situations differently, I felt more patient, I felt more kind, I felt more loving, I felt more ME than I’d ever felt before.

I realized that partying and boys can’t fill the void I felt in my heart and in my life – only Jesus can fill that. And I realized that as I
was pursuing Jesus, my desires to be accepted through partying and boys had significantly decreased. All of this is to say: Jesus completely transformed my life. He walked up to me in the middle of my brokenness and offered me hope and a new life in Him. I started to cultivate a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus – something that I’d never had before. I realized that throughout all of my experiences, God didn’t change. I changed. God remained the same through it all. Most amazingly of all, I realized that God wanted ME. I learned that God doesn’t just pursue those that are put-together, that have all the right answers, and have been Christian their whole life. God tracked me down just how I was – broken and messy – and led me toward a life with him, whole and restored. His beloved daughter.