Category Archives: inspired to act

Penelope’s Pantry: a real life loaves and fish story by Willow Weston

At our last Collide gathering for women we centered around the passage in Scripture where Jesus uses one lil’ boy’s lunch to feed thousands. We were hoping to get the message across to women that God can use what we already “have” to do amazing things. We don’t have to be like other people. Our story, our experiences, our giftings, our learning lessons and our resources can be used by God to impact this world. We don’t have to go out and get more degrees, or more talent or a new body. We don’t need to get more money, a new career or a new personality. God doesn’t need us to go out and get a better lunch. God can use what we already have to pull off something big.

In an effort to communicate this, our ministry team studied this passage of Scripture and then we brainstormed how we could teach this message. We invited women in different seasons and places in life who were using what they had to do amazing things to come and share their stories. And boy did we hear amazing stories! One woman used her passion and the ability to throw a garage sale and a concert to greatly benefit refugee families. One women used her cancer to start and grow what is now an international organization called Knitted Knockers that blesses women with breast cancer all over the world. And then we had lil’ Miss Penelope…

We interviewed seven year old Penelope on the front end of the night. Her and her kindergarten teacher, Tammy, came out on stage and Penelope shared her heart to feed hungry people. She shared how one day she came to school with hand written cards inviting all her classmates to bring food for her pantry. She had started a pantry to feed people who were in need of food. Her class rallied around her dream and her family built a pantry that is now visited regularly.

Penelope shared her story but what she didn’t know was that we had a big surprise in store for her at the end of the night, and this surprise was going to take an actual miracle. Penelope’s teacher took her out for ice cream with no idea what we had planned. Meanwhile, women brought bags of food when they checked in at registration. But then we felt led to invite women to get out their phones and “phone a friend.” I challenged women to text their spouses, their roommates, their teenage drivers and their friends, asking them to empty their pantries or go to a store and then drop off as much food as they could rally at the front steps of the church we were inside of.

Now you have to know, that as the invitation was coming out of my mouth, I was actually thinking “This might be a bad idea…What if no one does this? What if we have this big surprise at the end of the night for Penelope and there is hardly any food to surprise her with?” But we believe that the same God who used the lil’ boy and his lunch in Galilee thousands of years ago is alive and well and He can use us too, so we entered into a real life loaves and fish story.

Throughout the rest of the night as an artist painted an amazing painting, as the worship team led us in worship, as women shared their stories and as women stuffed Knitted Knockers to bless women with breast cancer, bags and bags of food kept showing up and were placed on the stage. I am told that at one point there was no room for cars to stop in front of the church because there were so many cars dropping off food. Roommates were stopping by, family vans were pulling up, even a motorcycle stopped in. It was amazing just watching this little miracle unfold.

At the end of the night, after hearing how God can use anyone to do amazing things, people who doubt their abilities, people who don’t feel ultra tight with the Big Man upstairs, people in pain, people who are old and people who are young….God used nearly 500 women to make one little girl’s dream of feeding hungry kids this summer come true. We invited Penelope back on stage blindfolded and we all yelled “surprise!” To her shock, Penelope stood in front of a sea of food! I am told that she was so overwhelmed and happy that as she walked up the aisle to find her mom, with tears in her eyes she said “I can’t believe they would do that. That’s so much food!”.

That same night two women were moved so much so that they decided to start their own pantries to feed the hungry. So not only did Penelope’s pantry multiple in size, but also in number. Now more and more people who need food will have a place to get it all because the God who multiplies loaves and fish multiplies what we have . May you personally be encouraged that God can use what you “have” to do amazing things.

If you want to get involved locally in feeding those in need or find yourself in need, here are a few of the places doing this important work:

-First Baptist Church: Every Tuesday, help provide the community members a healthy and yummy meal at First Baptist

-The Food Bank: If you need food and live in Bellingham or want to volunteer to help those who need food, check out the food bank.

-Shuksan Middle School: Hot meals are served 4 nights a week to children in our community and their accompanying adults. For more details, see their website.

-Penelope’s Pantry: If you want to donate food to Penelope’s pantry,  the address is 208 S Washington, Everson 98247

Where in your community could God use what you “have” to do amazing things?  Is there something you’ve already done with your lil’ “lunch”, or want to do, and would like to tell us about it? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at info@wecollide.net!

Just that one by Willow Weston

We just had an open house in our new office! (I will share some pictures in this post from it!) It was such a lovely turnout of people who came to celebrate with us God’s continued writing of the Collide story. It has been a story of God taking nothing and making something. It has been a story of God taking pain and writing redemption chapters. It has been a story of God using women to do things they never thought possible. It has been a story of basement to building, and now having a space to minister out of and call home.

One of the staff’s favorite part of the open house was the one woman who walked in unexpectedly. She works in the building we now share. She has no experience with Collide but knows some people who do. She walked in and we handed her a key, as we did everyone, and said “Welcome home.” She stood in our storage room so blessed by this sentiment. She was surrounded by people who have led worship, fundraised, cooked, guided women into counseling, led our mentoring program, painted beautiful art, shared their stories, and given of their money, all in the hopes to touch and impact lives at our events and gatherings. And here she stood with a key in hand and a “welcome home” because she wandered by and walked in.

I don’t know her story. I don’t know her pain. I don’t know her journey with Jesus. But I do know one thing, God cares about her life. If she would have been the only one who showed up to the open house, it would have been well worth it. She was supposed to be standing in our kitchen surrounded by all these Colliders.

I went home after the open house and as I was saying goodnight to my kid, he mentioned that he was pretty concerned about a friend at school who hasn’t been there in weeks. He said he has tried texting him to make sure he is okay. He asked me to do something. I have to admit, I was tired and it was late and what could I do anyway? I called my husband Rob in and expressed Aidan’s concern.

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to write someone you barely know off as “Not your business” or “Someone else’s concern.” It’s easy to assume they are “fine” or someone else is “surely looking after them.” It was easy to approach this conversation with my son with this kind of laissez faire trust that someone else is doing something about the kid who hasn’t been to school in about a month. But there was something that rose out of Aidan’s gut. He had a passion and a fierceness about him that wouldn’t let his parents off the hook that easy.

Just that one.

You know what that is that was coming out of Aidan? It was an absolute determination that aligns with the heart of God. Just that one matters. That kid who hasn’t been to school, his life matters. And yes, maybe a teacher or a principal or a social worker or a family member has it figured out. But maybe they don’t. And his life matters enough for us to be certain.

God is a God who cares about just one. He will run until He is sweaty and wheezing to catch up to someone. He is called the Hound of heaven. He chases people down and stalks them like crazy. God isn’t going to be ok with one lost kid absent for days for who knows what reason. God loves all His kids. And when I immerse myself in the parable Jesus told in Luke 15 about what God would do for just one, I can’t help but wonder if Aidan’s inability to go to sleep at peace until he knew this kid was okay, isn’t how we all should be?

The one coin mattered so much to the woman, that she searched and swept to find it.

Only one sheep escaped. Still the shepherd has 99 others. 99. That’s 99 percent retention rate. That sounds pretty good to me. It’s not good enough for God. Jesus describes God like the Shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes out finding the one, because just that one matters.

The father waited while his lost son plundered his father’s wealth and turned his back on him. As soon as the father saw his son trudge back ashamed, the father ran like heck and bear hugged his son with all the love and grace He had within Him. The father could do nothing else but wait and watch in the hopes of that one son being welcomed home.

Just that one.

Welcoming people home is the business of God. That is what He is all about. He is a God who is always welcoming us home, wherever we have journeyed, whatever roads we have traveled, whatever choice led us down a dark alley, whatever victory found us on the peaks and whatever fall skinned our knees on the way back uo. If there is even one person who isn’t at home in your life, are you finding yourself like my husband and I making excuses and justifications why they will figure it out, why your voice and efforts won’t matter, why someone else will help? Or are you finding yourself unable to be at home within your own hear,t like Aidan, until you know they are safe, sound, taken care, and know they matter?

Perhaps chasing people down, handing them a key, welcoming them home to a space they can stay awhile, making it known you notice their absence, perhaps all these kinds of things are at the very heart of God. Perhaps they are the most spiritual things we can be up to and when we are, it is then that people who need it most, will know God always invites them home. And perhaps, when we enter into this kind of work we will be most at home, too.

I know what my family is doing this afternoon. We are being urged to do the work of making sure that even just one knows they matter. Let us all be inspired by a God who is not at home until we are. Let’s go hand out some keys.

running to keep up with God by Willow Weston

collide-retreat-2016-jen-fox-003

Every time someone asks me what Collide is, I am almost speechless. And I am rarely speechless. Ask my husband. Part of the reason why it is so hard to answer that question is that Collide has changed and morphed so much that I am often dumbfounded. I feel like I am just running to keep up with God. He is the Hound of Heaven chasing men and women down with ferocity. He is a sprinter when there is a place He needs to be and a person He wants to meet. But He is also a marathon runner who races with endurance and strength and a capacity for the long haul of any man’s journey. He is a God on the run trying to run into people. And the more I look for what He is doing, the faster I feel like I am hoofing it.

The opportunities that God has laid before us continue coming in like crazy! So many lives are being changed, so many areas of ministry and programs are starting or growing and so many people are being added to our numbers. We just spent an amazing weekend at the leadership team retreat with 27 women who have committed their year to serve God and women with us. It was amazing to hear the stories of these women and how God brought them to Collide and the way He met them uniquely. For some, the idea that they would serve on a Christian leadership team is something they never imagined and yet the story God is writing in their life has them doing just that! For some, God drew them into Collide through our counseling program and a helming journey and now He is going to use them to meet others in their pain. For some, they left the team after serving for a time and came back realizing that being apart of something bigger than themselves is the greatest privilege any of us can ask for.  As these women filled my living room and belly laughed, danced, told stories and vulnerably shared, crying together, I sat back amazed.

collide-retreat-2016-hand-holding-jen-fox-055-760x290

I remember sitting in a counseling office as a 30 something and the counselor asked “What brings you in today?” So typical, I thought. So I began to explain to her the child like fear triggered within me in an instant brought on by something as simple as a doorbell. That knock had reverted my adult self back to decades ago certain that I would get hurt. My pain had caught up with me. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t yet let God in as a mother and minister. It was more like I hadn’t let Him into heal all the spaces and places within me that had bruises and infection. Not so much because I didn’t want God to come in but because I haven’t known all the places in which I bleed. Maybe you are like me too and have moments where some dumb thing triggers a deeper wound, a bigger insecurity, a darker secret that you locked away for way too long and without a trigger screaming at you, that wound sits there and gets sicker and bleeds more not even knowing it.

It was that day in a counseling office that Theeeee counselor showed up. I didn’t hear a thing the lady I paid said. But God spoke to me and gave me a vision and a concept for my pain and His healing that changed the trajectory of my life. God took the pain that led me into that office and turned that spiritual concept into a mentoring relationship that turned into a bible study that turned into what now is this thing called Collide. I am speechless.

collide-retreat-2016-jen-fox-001-683x1024

I often joke that I don’t know how I got a full time job I didn’t apply for. But I did! God is on the move and I continue to try keeping up with His pursuit of people. At every turn I see God intervening in our world meeting people where they are at and inviting us to take part. I think maybe that’s it. Collide became something out of nothing because despite pain and weakness or any pesty insecurity, a few women said yes to what God wants to do to reveal Himself to people. It has been one yes after another yes after another.

Yes God, you can heal me. Yes God, you can use me, even me. Yes God, you are powerful where I am weak. Yes God, you can meet people, all people, right where they are at. Yes God, you can provide all that we need. Yes God, you aren’t afraid of getting messy. Yes God, I will get messy too. Yes God, you are the Rescuer and you can use me to throw out buoys. Yes God, you love women, I will love them to. Yes God, you sacrificed, I will too.

I remember the day God told me to challenge a small group of women I was leading..we had been colliding with Jesus for a few years together. He said “I am tired of us 4 and no more bibles studies, its time they teach the message.” And I wrote on a piece of paper the word “Collide”.  When I looked at it, it had always been a verb and now it was also a noun. I had no idea at the time what that meant. It was a thing. It wasn’t like I was brainstorming what to call a future organization or ministry. It wasn’t like I was trying to create or start “something”. It wasn’t like I even wanted to go into women’s ministry and love chicks with poodle purses and thick stench perfume, who use a lot of tissue. When God said this, I was like, “God, You are asking us to believe upon You to do something bigger than ourselves?” And like Jesus always does, He said “That’s what I do.”

collide-retreat-2016-jen-fox-053-760x507

The same Jesus who took the little boys lunch and fed thousands, He still uses what little we have to do something even Greater. The same Jesus who ran into the slutty ho at the well and used her to change her village, He still runs into chicks like me with skeletons in the closet and calls us to get in closets with other chicks and come out together. God wants to use us to do something bigger than ourselves. But it will take your yes. And this Collide journey has found me in living rooms, in churches, in coffee shops, in emergency rooms and in hearts watching people say “yes” to what God can do through them.

I might be speechless and I might be running to keep up, but more than anything I am overflowing with gratitude that I, the girl who often feels broken, has collided with Jesus and in the midst of Him healing me, He also chooses to use me to help heal others.

God is good.

All the time.

collide-retreat-2016-jen-fox-062-760x507

What you now see and explore on this web site will soon be gone. It will be the past, a memory, what once was. And very soon, this space, wecollide.net will be a more current picture of what Collide is. As God has grown our counseling program, our mentoring program, our church partners, our team, our gatherings and events, and our VISION, we are trying to stay current with keeping you in the loop with who we are. So stay tuned for an up to date picture of what Collide is. If I am speechless, the new website won’t be.:) And neither will God. Keep colliding friends….and keep saying “Yes.”         – Willow

Greater Things Part 3 by Willow Weston

“Greater things,” the two words Jesus used to describe what His disciples, His homies, are capable of. Is that you? Because Jesus said you can do even greater things than He did. That’s a radical statement coming from the One who turned water into wine and restored lepers and rose Lazarus from the dead. So either Jesus is blowing smoke or you are underestimating your potential. This 3 part series called Greater things challenges our confidence problem and helps us see that God always uses unlikely people.

In fact, God promises His power is made perfect in your weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Not in strength. Not in armies. Not in crossfit. Not in titles. Not in flashy lights. Not in beauty and perfection. Not in dolla dolla bills ya’ll. You think that’s ludicrous?

So is a rod.

So are 5 stones and a slingshot.

So is a prostitute with her long list of tricks and the pain that led her there.

So is God on a tree.

Hanging there.

For you…

and me.

Salvation came through through pain.

suffering.

humility.

weakness.

wounds.

Why would you be able to bring it any other way?

Isaiah 53 describes what the Messiah, the ONE who could come and change the world, what He would look like: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 

by his wounds

Funny, even God Himself didn’t use force or arrogance or the highest rung on a ladder or lots of letters after his name. He didn’t use a perfect family line or a position of power or wealth or worldly ideals of strength to impact the world. God used not a crib but a manger. God used not a “because I told you so” authority, but a “I’ll show you so” humility. God used not a long line of Christian nobility, but instead a family tree that was about as crooked as can be with harlots, ho’s and heathens that birthed His DNA. God used not a throne, but a cross. God used not success but suffering. God used not a strong hand of punishment nor a power play, but instead He laid down His life in a salvation move that was well played. And yet we think it’s going to be by our clout, our titles, our awesomeness, our cool factor, our magnetism, our put togetherness and our strength that changes lives? Who are we kidding?

What does God use to change the world?

Wounds. Jesus wears them like a shirt on His back. He stays there taking on our abuser’s abuse. The anger that was lashed out on us lashes Him. He wears the wounds that caused those wounds and those wounds my wounds have caused. He takes on the molestation and twisted confusion. He takes on the names they called us. He takes on the despair that leads young people to give up. He takes on the agony, the grief. He wears all of our wounds. He says with His life “These won’t keep you from me. These won’t separate us. Your wounds won’t have the final say. Mine will. My wounds will heal you. My wounds will set you free. My wounds will define you. My wounds will determine who you will be.”

God isn’t running from your brokenness. He wiped brokenness all over Himself. Your brokenness didn’t keep Him from saving you, it sure as hell isn’t gonna keep Him from using you!

God will use your pain for good. 

I love what Joseph- who was betrayed and abandoned by his own brothers and then used by God to reconcile his family and help people in famine- said: What you intended for harm, God intended for good.

I get it, I promise I do. Some of you have been abused and you still live in fear and your fear is paralyzing your destiny. Some of you, man, you don’t trust anybody because people haven’t been trustworthy and your trust issues are holding you back from great things. Some of you have been hurt by the Church and those wounds are keeping Jesus and his call on your life at a distance. Some of you are sure your mess will keep following all of your dreams so you’ve stopped dreaming. Some of you have been told you don’t have what it takes to do great things and you have started to believe it. You can believe all those lies because our brokenness lies to us.

We have a God who enters brokenness and purposes it. We have a God who can take everything you have ever been through and He can, instead of writing you off, write the best stories with your pain. Your story of abuse can set free someone who is being abused right now. Your parents’ divorce can comfort someone whose family is falling apart today. Your struggle to like what you see in the mirror can come alongside young women and keep them from going down the agonizing road you have. Your pain can point to His pain and His pain is what heals. God does His greatest work through pain. His and ours. Allow Him to meet you in your brokenness and use you there.

Jesus’ very presence challenged my confidence problem when I was a young college student doubting I could be used to do great things. And He continues to challenge my confidence problems. Everything I saw in Him made everything in me turn around. I went back to the pastor and said “God told me Never say no to what I can do through you. So here I am taking Him at His word that He use even me.” And that was when I became an intern at a church for God’s sake.

The pastors threw me in with the wolves. No training. No Bible 101. No speech class. All I felt I had in my pocket was pain and Jesus meeting me there. So up on a stage with a mic, I spoke a piece of my story. A girl came up to me afterwards and said, “I know what it’s like to hurt too. My stepdad beats me.” My very first lesson as a pastoral intern was that God used my pain to engage hers. She wanted my Rescuer. We wanted Him together. The day I turned around, putting my confidence in the greatness of what only God can do, was the beginning of experiencing greater things.

place your confidence

You want to change the world? You want to impact a generation? You want to live out your God-destined dreams? You can! Your confidence needs to be not in your self and what you can or can’t do. Your confidence needs to be in the greatness of Jesus Christ to meet you in your brokenness and use you there too. Turn around. Lay down your confidence and your insecurities. Lay down your failures and your past. Lay down your wounds. And pick up the greatness of Jesus Christ. You can be confident, He is all you need to do great things!

 

Greater Things Part 2 by Willow Weston

greater things

A few days ago I shared part 1 of 3 parts of this series called Greater Things. I opened up about my great sense of inadequacy to believe God could use me. God met me on a trail when I was walking home from class in college and spoke to me in a way that I knew I would have to decide when I stepped off that trail if I would follow Him or go my own way. When I stepped off that trail I knew what I was being called to do….

I applied to be an intern at my church.

I was sure they would find out who I really was and turn me down lickety split. On my 3rd interview, I sat down across from the Senior Pastor and he asked me if I was willing to try preaching. I said “Me? No way! Never! But I’ll clean toilets, greet old women, play dodgeball and talk to sassy teenagers about Jesus, but I will NEVER speak up front and actually have something to say that will change lives. Plus they will see my butt. And no one needs to see that.” They turned me down. Of course they did, I thought. I had an opportunity to do greater things but I walked away because I couldn’t believe God could use me…

Are you walking away from opportunities to do greater things because you struggle believing God can use the likes of you? I think you want to change the world and I think you think that the very thing that it’s going to take is the very thing it’s not. Some of you are waiting. You are waiting to get cooler. You are waiting to get tighter with the Big Man upstairs. You are waiting to sound more spiritual. You are waiting for a degree. You are waiting for your wounds to go away. You are waiting for your insecurities to be replaced with a strong self-confidence.

And you can wait until you’re blue in the face honey, ’cause you being more isn’t what’s gonna change lives. What’s gonna change lives is Jesus Christ and when I see Jesus Christ change lives it has little to do with what you’re waiting on. When I walked away from the opportunity to do something only God could do through me, I kept thinking about Jesus…

Jesus fiercely challenges

Jesus fiercely challenges our confidence problem.

Every thing I saw in Him told me that I was wrong. I was believing lies. I was letting my past determine my present. I was letting my wounds win. I was letting my insecurities call me. Are you doing that?

Everything in me wanted to turn around and take God at His word, counting on Him to be who He has always beenAnd who God has always been is a God who uses unlikely people. Throughout history God has used fraidy cats, punks, failures and big bad sinners with painful stories and sketchy pasts to change lives. God picks the least likely.

If God used the people we would use, then…

  • Goliath would still be bullying people. Instead God used an insecure, unequipped, young man who stepped up and didn’t let insecurity in what he didn’t have get in the way of what he was called to do. God used David to pelt an oppressive monster straight square in the eyes with a mere pebble to rescue His people.
  • Gideon’s people would still be oppressed while he put his confidence in his sissy baby self. Instead, God found that unlikely wimp hiding in fear, peeing his own pants and God used him to set His people free!
    The 5000 hungry humans would still be hangry but instead God chose to use an unlikely little boy’s lunch to feed a small city.
  • The Israelites would still be slaves for Pharaoh, the Red sea never would have parted and we would be missing one of the best Disney movies ever if Moses would have let his stutter and disability determine what he was supposed to do with his life. Instead Moses allowed the call of God to be louder than his weaknesses and that saved a nation.
  • The 5000 hungry humans would be hangry right now if God hadn’t chosen to use an unlikely little boy’s lunch, 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish to feed them.
  • The Philistines would still be oppressing the Israelites had God not chosen to use the jawbone of an ass to turn them into Philly steak sandwiches.

You can sit around until you’re 105 saying “I’m too.” I’m too young in my faith. I’m too much of a disappointment. I’m too stained. I’m too plain. I’m too different. I’m too weighed down with baggage. I’m too ungodly.

I’m too? God’s too.

God’s too BIG! God’s too SUPERNATURALl! God’s too MIGHTY! God’s too POWERFUL! God’s too AMAZING! God’s too everything you’re too not! If you think its unlikely God can use you, you are in the right place. That’s where Moses was at the burning bush. That’s where Gideon was in the winepress. That’s where Joseph was in a hole his brothers threw him in.

unlikely is

Unlikely is God’s middle name. It is there people will know His first. God uses unlikely people so we know it’s Him and it’s when you start to believe this, it will be you He uses! It’s often when you are peeing your pants, when you are stuttering, when you are a harlot, it’s in that kind of unlikeliness that God does His greatest things!

God confounds us.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…

The word shame is more accurately the word confound which means to: bring to ruin, destroy, baffle, frustrate, throw into confusion or perplexity. God will confound you by who He uses. God will surprise you. God will not be predictable in His power. His power cannot be made sense of by man. So then when He uses nitwits, depressed artists, recovering drug addicts and shy people, only God gets the props. “It must have been His power,” people will say.

God wants to confound people with your life. Will you let Him?

Come back Tuesday and be continually encouraged that God can and will do greater things in and through your life!

 

Greater Things Part 1 by Willow Weston

I recently found myself speaking to a room full of young people, young people who want to change the world, young people who want to do great things and yet struggle to believe they can.  The next few posts will be some of what I shared. I hope you will be blessed, but even more, challenged by what God can do through you and your life as you read this 3 part series of posts! – Willow

greater things

I think you want to change the world. I think you do. I think there is something in you that hungers to do something about all the injustices. I think this generation is looking around at a political crisis, a racial crisis, a sex trafficking crisis, an environmental crisis, a spiritual crisis and something is rising up in you. It hasn’t boiled over yet, but it’s gettin’ real hot. And I think you’re tired of suicides and school shootings. You’re tired of bullies and dysfunction in your family. I think you’re tired of seeing the people you love wounded and messed up and seeing their mess spill all over the place. And mostly I think you’re tired of being made to feel like you can’t do much about any of this.

What I really think is you, like me, want to see lives change. You want to see hope restored. You want to see light in the darkness. You want to see your dad set free. You want to see addicts healed. You want to see teenagers know they matter. You want to see your friend believe about herself what you already do. You want to see people come to Jesus in droves because you know to your core that He is the only One who can do anything about all this mess.

You want it. That’s maybe why you‘ve said to Jesus, “I need you. I’ll follow you all the days of my life and serve you.” Jesus said in John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” Jesus said his disciples can change the world. Is this Jesus just blowing smoke? Let’s by faith assume Jesus isn’t a poser and that He isn’t blowing smoke. Let’s take Him at His word. If it be true, why isn’t it a reality in our lives?

We live in a world and even a Christian culture where we have begun to elevate the strong, the seemingly perfect, the “successful”, those at the top of the ladder, and we disqualify the insecure, wounded and weak. We think the people who go to Seminary and have lots of letters after their names are legit and those of us who need to read the picture book Bible are illegit. We’re pretty sure that the guy with the guitar and the girl with the angelic voice are more equipped than those of us who have no rhythm and little gifts. We think the voice that booms from the front with big obnoxious confidence and a mic must really be God’s instrument, and the kid in the back slumped down on his seat,  insecure and questioning himself, will get little play. We think the people who came from perfect Christian families are the people who will do the greatest things and those of us who need weekly counselors to hash out our issues won’t be capable of much greatness. We think that if we are a hot mess, we’ll need to undergo a spiritual bleaching before we can help clean up anyone else’s mess.

See we are confident God uses our God swagger, our hipster hipness, our unwavering faith, our right answers, our education, our knowledge of the Bible AND obscure bands, our magnetism, our born-with-a-silver-spoon, well-to-do, accomplished, trending selves. We have a confidence problem.

Our confidence is in the belief that we must really be something for God to use us and confident He won’t use us if we aren’t. As long as we have our confidence in our own confidence we will not change the world. Instead we will be impressing ourselves and each other with our small bouts of self glorifying success  and we will be held back by our sicknesses and deep rooted strongholds. So our confidence and lack of confidence in SELF will both be the very things that halt the power of God through us to change the world!

The week I became a Christian, two guys came through my line at Haggen, where I checked groceries to pay for my long island ice teas in college. They were buying massive amounts of baby food. It turned out they were youth leaders at the church I had just given my life to Christ in. And of course they were playing some obnoxious game with whirled peas and carrots that was going to explain the Trinity or something. They eagerly invited me to come be a youth leader. I thought to myself, there is no way! I have never been apart of a youth group, let alone qualified to lead at one. I wouldn’t have a clue how to make a 15 year old play with baby food and turn that into a bestie friendship with Jesus. I thought, I am not even tight with God. I am a slut and I really like to drink Peach Schnapps and dance to Bob Marley. I mean how could God use a girl from an irreligious background with skeletons in the closet, lots of baggage, a load of insecurities, little knowledge of Jesus and no church background? What a wounded mess. I didn’t fit the profile.

But these two men were convincing so I showed up at a rowdy youth group for the first time… as a leader.

I often felt insecure to help people for God. I was sure I didn’t belong and I wasn’t good enough. But the more I showed up to help the kids, the more Jesus started helping me. And these crazy things started happening. I started waking up in the middle of the night with words coming out of my mouth and stories that I had to write down to help struggling high schoolers. I met with the youth pastor and his wife to ask what they thought was happening to me.

They looked at me and said, “We believe God is calling you into vocational ministry.” “What’s vocational ministryyyyyy?” I honestly had no idea. They answered, like duh, “It’s when ministry is your calling and your career.” Stomping my feet on the inside, I said “Noooooooooooooo!” I was pursuing a business degree in college so I could be a leader in the corporate world and make the big bucks and boss people around. I was planning on marrying the guy I had been dating for years and I was going to bring Jesus with me. He was my new friend and He could come along. I wasn’t a Jesus follower. I was a Jesus dragger.  Maybe you can resonate. This was one of my first invitations from God to live a life doing something greater than what I had been.  Start following and stop dragging.

If you

One day after class, I was walking on the arboretum trail above campus and words came out of my mouth. It was my voice, but God’s words. And He said “I want to use your life to proclaim my power. Sure you believe in me but I want more than that for you and from you. When you get off this trail, you choose, are you gonna go your own way or follow me?” When I stepped off that trail I knew where I was going…

Stay with me and on Friday, we will step off that trail together ….. – Willow

 

 

 

Think Pink and think Make a Difference

IMG_5419

Ian McDevitt and friends

I got an email a few weeks ago from my son’s teacher. She messaged the entire class’s parents as she does every Monday morning. Only this particular Mondays’ message was different. It still had details about what book they were reading and what ancient civilization they were studying and what to expect our kids to bring home for work that week. But at the end, in what I would say was a paragraph full of hope in a place there often isn’t, this teacher announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

She wanted to let us know that she let the kids know at school that day, but she shared her news with such a strong grip on hope. I read it as though I could never write it. Not that way.

That night Aidan came home sad and concerned. He said kids were dressing up in pink the next day and he was brainstorming what to wear. He decided to take one of his dad’s not so white, white undershirts, cut off the sleeves and beg of me to, in pink pen, claim “I’m strong, but not Sherwood strong.” So I got my crafty self to work.

aidan and sherwood

Sherwood, of course is his beloved teacher and boy is she truly loved! The day he sported this shirt to school I had to pick him up afterwards. As I waited in the car for the bell to ring and kids to file out, it was like the doors opened and puked pink. I saw pink hair, pink ribbons, pink fairy wings, pink wigs, pink sunglasses, pink socks, pink tutus, pink mustaches. There was pink in every shade on almost every kid! It was crazy!IMG_1774

This reigning pink support of the entire school was incredible and perhaps what is even more incredible is that it was inspired by a 6th grade student. And I got the cool opportunity to sit down and talk to Ian McDevitt about what inspired him to come up with this all out pink day for his teacher.

Ian is one of those kids that when you are talking to him it feels like he has an old soul, like the kind of kid who you know has big plans for his life and you can’t wait to watch his story play out. He went home that tuesday and the next week was spirit week and he says that the 6th graders were scheduled to wear orange, the 7th, green and the 8th, blue. And he couldn’t shake that his “by far the best teacher” he has ever had was diagnosed with cancer. He wanted to give back to her what she has given him. He describes Mrs. Sherwood as a teacher that “works so hard, checks on you, cares how kids learn and cares about everyone.” Ian just wanted to make her feel important.

So he went home as a 6th grade kid, wrote a rough draft and brought it back the next day and asked the principal, “nervously, sweating and wondering if it would be approved,” if he had permission to suggest the whole school wear pink rather than the other colors that were planned. The principal, who is awesome thought this was a great idea, helped Ian’s rough draft shape into something Ian could communicate over the intercom in 20 seconds and officially the next day became “Think Pink Thursday”.

IMG_8628

Ian wasn’t sure if anyone would actually do it and he says when he got to school and the bus turned the corner of D street, he saw “a beautiful view of Whatcom Middle School. It was a pink mob! It was amazing to see!” He got off the bus and people were posing for pictures and making hearts with their hands and dying each others hair and Mrs. Sherwood’s room had been filled with pink balloons and even Mr. Marsee, Ian said, was wearing a pink shirt! Mrs. Sherwood was overjoyed by the support and showered in pink and hugs and love which will mean so much on the journey to come!

I listened to this young man share. It struck me that every student heard the news. Every student was sad and concerned and families prayed and brought flowers and reached out to Mrs. Sherwood, but there was something about Ian that made him step out and do something when it wasn’t asked or expected of him. So I asked him “Ian what inspired you to do this ?”

His response?

“No matter how small you are, you can make the biggest difference.”

Wow.

I think we could all learn from Ian’s example. No matter how limited we feel, our efforts can create an abundance. No matter how young we are, we can impact the world. No matter how ineffective we think we are, we can have an effect.

IMG_8452

I love his example and his challenge and thought his story should be told. To simply give ourselves the permission to impact sadness with support, to put pink back where there has been black news, to start a pink mob because a fantastic teacher needs to know she is loved, to make a difference in someone else’s journey, that is powerful.

Think, make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all did…

Mrs. Sherwood has written her story of the journey she is now on and  you will be gripped by her perspective and her hope. And that perspective will feed yours.

Raising Compassion

compassion

We have partnered with an orphanage in Haiti over the years that we had a personal connection with as well as with a local ministry that does amazing things in our community for at risk youth. Both of those partnerships were founded before we had kids and Rob and I found ourselves recently wanting to invite our kids into engaging in helping other kids. We knew we wanted Compassion to be the recipient of that partnership and so I sort of came up with this plan.

And I am just being honest. The way I planned it in my head, was that I was going to call them to the dinner table and bring over two small bowls of rice and beans. They were going to look at the minuscule offerings and wonder where the roasted pork tenderloin, brussel sprouts with bacon, rolls and spinach salad were. These kids have grown up eating like prince and princesses rather than paupers. I was sure they would start grumbling and complaining and then we would look at them like “Realllllly?” It would be then that we would lead them to the couch to watch a few videos from Compassion about kids with real problems. Our kids would realize they are spoiled and that would last just long enough to be ok with the idea that maybe they should look outside themselves and help others.

This was how I was sure it would go down. And my certainty was dead wrong.

I called them to the table. It was November and during the month of November, our dinner prayers are written on leaves as we practice gratitude to God for whatever it is we are thankful for. Every night the kids take forrrrrevvvvvvverrrrr to write their thankfulness out. Rob and I sit over the waft of foodie deliciousness waiting to eat while they write novels. Sometimes Rob catches himself getting annoyed by their abundance of thanks because it takes soooo long. I laugh. This particular night was no different. They were thankful for family members, listing each name, dogs, sky, food, friends, rain, teachers, football, gymnastics, squirrels, God, tutors, you name it. After we shared our gratitude, I brought over the rice and beans. I stood there awaiting a response. They looked down and then looked up and then said it…. “Where is the silverware?” I said “We aren’t eating with silverware tonight because there are people who have no silverware.”  They said “What are we having?” I said, as planned, “Rice and beans.” And their response? “Yessssss! Rice and beans! We love rice and beans!”

compassion must be

Ok, so maybe that part didn’t go as planned. As we ate with our fingers, pinching our beans into the rice, we talked about kids who have little to eat if anything, kids who don’t know when they will get their next meal and our hope to be apart of changing that story. I told them we were going to sponsor a Compassion child that night and they were so excited! I asked them how they would feel about eating beans and rice once a month in honor of that kid and taking the money we would save by not eating meat and side dishes and putting that toward the feeding of our child. Aidan said passionately ”Once a month? Let’s do this at least 4 times a month!” Rob said this was poverty according to a foodie and I needed to make the beans and rice not so delicious, less garlic and herbs, he suggested so the kids groan more. Their zeal and excitement were surprising me, yet they weren’t being called to sacrifice much at that point.

There was great conversation that pushed the edges of our worldview into greater expanse. And to be true Rob had mentioned early on that when he went to India, he experienced that people ate with one hand and used the other to wipe. So of course there was a moment where Rob looked at Aidan and said “Dude you just used your wiper hand to grab your beans.” We laughed like crazy, but then we started talking about the toilet paper we take for granted. And God knows we need more toilet paper than normal when we eat beans.

We sat on the couch and listened to stories of real people in other countries and what they face on a daily basis. We saw them experience help, food, shelter, education and love because of people who began to care and give and invest in them through Compassion. We looked through the hundreds of names of kids in countries all across the globe that are in need. We finally found our girl. Her name is Mary Mbuvi. She lives in Kenya and is the cutest thing ever. She was born on our anniversary and lives in an area that is widely affected by AIDS. The kids wanted to sponsor her. We said “This costs $38 a month to help feed, cloth and educate her. What will you sacrifice?” They agreed to an amount that they would work for and give and we did as well. This was a really important moment as a family where, together, we made a decision to each sacrifice to collectively help this girl.

raise compassion

I realized some things that night with my family that I would like to share with yours.

We are called to raise compassion. 

You aren’t just born with compassion. Compassion comes from engaging other peoples stories and allowing them to hit you. Our kids had been called to have compassion on the playground, on mission trips, at home and with strangers many times before. This time was only different because it was in a land far away for a girl they have never met. Part of our job is to raise compassion within our kids. Compassion comes when we ask our kids to walk in other peoples shoes. Compassion comes when we don’t just shelter our kids from truth, but open their eyes to the hardship of other people’s experiences. Compassion comes when we ask our children what they can do about what they see, whether what they see is in their own school, their neighborhood or across the world.

Kids are more compassionate than we give them credit for.

My kids surprised me! They have so much to give! They were ready to care, to help, to sacrifice. They want to do more than this. They have talked about Mary everyday since sponsoring her. I think the surprise is not that my kids had compassion, but that I expected them not to.

The very definition of the word compassion is this: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Compassion is not just feeling badly for another, but doing something about it. What I didn’t give my kids credit for is that they would want to do something  if doing something was going to require sacrifice. It almost felt as if they responded with hearts that said “We have been waiting for you to ask of us what we know we have within us!” My job as a parent is to draw out what is already there.

We, as parents are often the cause of killing compassion.

We pad our kids with all the comforts they could ask for. Our idea of sacrifice is when we say no to buying candy in the grocery store. We ask little of our kids in the way of helping others. We pass hurting people everyday in front of our kids. We don’t like simplicity or rice and beans or sacrifice and so we ask it not of ourselves or our kids. The person having the hardest time at the table was not my kids, it was me.

If I want to raise compassion, then I need to have it indwell within me.  

I have a feeling if your family is not engaged in the pain of others and sacrificing to bring healing to that pain it is because you don’t want to sacrifice, you don’t want to have to slow down, you don’t want to have to give up, you don’t want to have to have your worldview expanded. Am I preaching? Yes….. to myself.

We raise compassion when we live it. That night at that table, my kids had compassion. We just finally awakened what was already there. The more I collide with Jesus, He awakens within me this deep sense of compassion for others and this deep awareness that I have a long way to go to live and breathe the kind of compassion He did.  I want Jesus to raise in me compassion so that I can raise it in my kids. As the Psalmist prays “Let your compassion come to me that I may live…” It is compassion within in me lived out that brings life, real life, both to me and those who receive it. So I pinch my beans and rice and I pray for Mary Mbuvi and let my kids teach me again and I keep running into Him, needing His compassion as I hope to hand it out to others.

I invite you to join our family in extending compassion and sponsor a child in need of help….

 

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

she gave out of pain so others might find healing

demiinrainby dj

It was a fall evening several years ago when I was rushing out the door to my kids open house and my phone blew up. I wasn’t planning on answering it, but when it goes crazy and is ringing off the hook, its almost like someone is screaming at you “Everyone and their brother is calling you! Something is wrong! Answer yourrrrr phoooooonnne!” I picked it up, it was one of the girls in the Collide bible study at the time. She said you need to come to the hospital right away. One of the girls in our group had gotten in an accident. She was hurt, but not critical. But it was a bad, bad, bad accident and a little one died.

Meeting teachers and seeing self portraits in the halls of the kid’s school, though sweet, was no longer where I was going. It wasn’t even a question. I loved this dear girl and I drove as quickly as I could to go be with her. I was greeted by the other girls in our bible study and then by this young woman’s father. He was relived and he was concerned. What she had gone through, of no fault of her own, was now going to follow her wherever she would go. I walked back into her room, both afraid of what I would see and unsure of what I would say.

I found myself sitting at her kitchen table the day after the hospital released her. The images, the sounds, the moment of going through the motions of one’s day to seeing the end of one’s life and trying to make sense out of the horrifying chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, these were all verses in the conversation that played out. And that conversation has continued playing for several years. Sometimes it was, “Why? Why God? A child? Why me?” Sometimes, it was the panic and the anxiety that was continually trying to lure her into staying put, remaining indoors, going nowhere for fear something bad might happen. Sometimes the conversation surrounded the other characters and their pain and anguish and what responsibility is hers to relieve those burdens. Needless to say, we had many conversations, we prayed many prayers and watched God’s story unfold within her and without her.

It was in these conversations, that I remember this very brave, faithful and wounded young woman recognizing the great need for healing and help. She very wisely sought a professional counselor and that pursuit was like God’s Hand coming down and grabbing hers and walking her toward a better story.

A few weeks ago she sat on my couch. It was a new conversation. She was being given a large sum of money from the accident. She didn’t want the money. There was nothing the money could do to take away the pain, the memories or make the loss of a child ever be ok. That was clear. She had fought receiving the money for months and agonized over it’s lack of redemption. But God, again had spoken to her, she said, and she now knew what she wanted to do with part of that money. She wanted to give it to Collide to provide for other women who needed counseling for their pain. I absolutely couldn’t believe it! There isn’t a more beautiful picture than a woman who is choosing to use her pain for the sake of other people’s healing! That is what our Lord does. He trades His pain for our healing. This young woman is one of the most Christlike people I have ever met. It is because of her story that so many others will now be able to tell better stories.

We have created a Collide counseling program in which women who come to our gatherings will have the opportunity to say yes to God’s invitation to walk towards health and healing all because of this great gift! I am in awe and overjoyed at the stories that will come out of this story! Let us be inspired to be a people who give out of our pain, so others might find healing!

If you want to donate further to this fund to help other women walk towards healing, you can do that by clicking on the donation button to your right. We will certainly partner with your generosity to connect women to our network of counselors. 

 

 

 

 

Kicks for Kids

I run into a lot of people who struggle with what it looks like to follow Christ and be like Him in their public sector jobs.  So often I have found that following Christ just looks like meeting needs as He brings them before you. That is what Jesus did. He ran into people in need and met those needs whether it was physically, spiritually or emotionally. When I heard about what Tom and Kristin are doing for kids, I just burst out in joy. Here they find themselves doing life in a local elementary school and a need was brought to their attention. It wasn’t enough to feel sad or to pray, but they got this idea to help kids who have no shoes for P.E. Read their story and even consider entering it!- Willow

Forgiveness title slide

“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for you he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9. 

Do you hear that great news?! We are rich – abundantly rich! I’d like to take a moment to consider my life…

First of all I know Jesus Christ, he has redeemed me, saved me and made me new. The overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace that fills my life daily could never be replaced. Secondly, I have a husband who loves the Lord with all of his heart, works hard to provide for our family and is committed to me. I also have these three crazy adorable children who I love fiercely. I have friends that I can call for fun or tears, a mom who loves me unconditionally, a roof over my head, food to eat, clean water to drink, a closet full of clothes and a rack full of shoes. To say I’m RICH is in my opinion an understatement. I tell you all of this not in the hopes that you think my world is perfect… It’s anything but. If I were to write another post I could share of all of the trials and heartaches that I face… But, that’s not what this is about.

You see, I want to share with you how rich I am. And I want you to take a moment to reflect on just how rich YOU are! Being rich is a wonderful blessing and yet for me it is also a heavy burden. A burden you may ask? What a strange way to think about being rich. Let me tell you why…

My husband has the amazing privilege to work at a local school called Roosevelt Elementary. This school has so many children who come to school every day without clean clothes, a pair of shoes that fit or food to fill their bellies. I see this and this is why I am burdened. God makes it clear that if we are rich, much is expected of us. “…When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Luke 12:48

This burden is heavy and it can feel overwhelming when trying to tackle these huge needs alone. Here’s the great news – I’m NOT ALONE! We are all called to the same thing! What can we do you may be wondering? Let me fill you in on an idea!

Last month my husband and I’s church tried an experiment with Roosevelt Elementary. The school requested 25 pairs of shoes for kids to use when they come to PE. So many children show up with shoes that are either in disrepair, falling off or simply don’t have tennis shoes. Period. It is difficult for them to engage in a meaningful way in PE. These children all too often feel unworthy and 2nd rate because their families simply can’t afford to buy them new shoes. Our church brought in 48 pairs of shoes! How awesome will that be for 48 children attending Roosevelt?

I posted the request for shoes on my FB page and heard from other teachers around the district at Title 1 schools (low income schools) requesting shoes as well. How awesome is it that the public sector is coming to the church for help! YES! What if the people who read the Collide blog and the women who come to the next Collide event decided to show the love of Christ by the simple act of giving shoes?! I get excited just thinking about it!

So here’s my charge to you: “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2. Will you consider being a part of this story and donating some shoes? (details below) We will distribute the shoes to the Title 1 schools around the Bellingham school district. Kids will know that they are cared for and schools will know that Jesus is alive and working through those who love Him! Thanks for your consideration! – Kristin Gresham

 

Taking Part:

What: donate a pair of tennis shoes (sizes 11-13 Toddler/1-5Youth boys or girls. New or in like-new condition.

Where: Bring to the next Collide October 25th or mail to Collide: P.O. Box 30651 Bellingham WA 98228