Monday, July 30, 2012

Photo of the Day: Sinai Sunrise

After climbing all night...I realized the journey up was totally worth it.

Bar Hopping for Jesus

The title of this post caught you eye now didn't it? I thought so. Now, before you go accusing me of being a heathen, just take a moment to read the whole story.
Let’s start out with the knowledge that the Lord works in mysterious ways. He has this habit of using the under-aged (Mary the pregnant unwed teen), the unqualified (Moses the stutterer with anger management issues) and the unlikely (Paul, murderer of Christians).  God's presence isn’t confined exclusively within our church walls or within the hearts of people who have it all together.  Thus, we should not be surprised to find Him popping up doing the most unusual bar hopping.
God going bar hopping!? Yup, that’s what I said. I discovered this surprising truth in the favelas (slum towns) of Brazil in 2008 while on a short term mission trip. I learned of this from a couple of missionaries who work in those communities.  However it is important to note that these communities are ruled not by the neighborhood association, but by networks of drug lords.
Tourists do not enter.
The police do not enter.
Yet, these missionaries can. How, do you ask? By bar hopping...for Jesus. Below is the account of my first-hand experience with this unlikely technique for spreading the gospel.

Favela (slum town) of Sao Paulo, Brazil. 2008.
First, a few things about favelas...

These favelas are full of the most intense poverty I have yet to experience. They lay on the outskirts of major cities like Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo. Homes are stacked upon homes & made out of trash and scrap metal. In many favelas, human waste flows through the disorienting maze of streets and alleys. Though they are part of Brazil, they are governed by their own laws and enforced by the guns of the local leaders. Cash flows from the trade of illicit drugs and prostitution. It makes sense that people don't include a stop to the local favela to their vacation itineraries. Yet, there we were, about to walk onto the turf even law enforcement won't go near.  We were advised beforehand to remove any jewelry or sunglasses, put away our cameras and to carry $50 in our pockets. When I asked what the money was for, I was told in a very matter-of-fact way, that we had the money in case we got assaulted or kidnapped. (Seriously?!? What have I gotten myself into?)  Apparently, you have a much better chance of getting out of such a situation  if you have some money to give the assailant. Thankfully, it never came to that. So, with all that danger, going in there to spread the Gospel seemed unlikely. But we did- and we could because a particularly intrepid missionary I know, went before us to prepare the going bar hopping.
No, he wasn't there to get drunk; he was there on a mission. He did it because he needed to meet the leaders to get permission to enter the favelas. So, he began regularly visiting the many neighborhood bars to establish a connection with the men in power.  He would express to them that he and his family wanted to come in and do something for the kids and families in the favelas. He let them know he was there to help the people. And surprisingly, they let him. (Lesson I learned from this: Just because someone has been sucked into a lifestyle of drugs or prostitution or something else pretty awful, doesn't mean they don't want something better for their kids.)
Slowly but surely, slum by slum, he was granted permission to come inside-being shadowed closely the whole time of course.  His family began to enter the favelas and do after-school programs for the children. Over time, he earned the trust of the leaders and as a result, the Gospel is being spread among a people the rest of the world has written off.
This isn't a ministry technique you're likely to find in most churches. It's messy. It's dangerous. And it's worth it.
Jesus regularly went among the unclean, uncircumcised and unaccepted-the cast offs of society. He could be found in the company of prostitutes, con men and lepers. So, why do we expect people to clean themselves up and jump in a pew in order for us to reach out to them? We should instead follow His lead and take hope to the darkest corners of the world where people need it the most.
 "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."~ Mark 2:17
I thank God for people like those missionaries who were moved by the calling of God on their lives to do something so unorthodox. It sure give me hope that God can do something through me. If God would use drug lords as a means of spreading the Gospel, don't you think He can use you too? Maybe your ministry won't be very traditional. Maybe people will give you a hard time. But maybe, something extraordinary will happen.
 As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your waysand my thoughts than your thoughts.  ~ Isaiah 55:9 
Faith in a Favela
Hope in the Favelas

Monday, January 30, 2012

One Dress and Little Faith

When Faith was a little girl she owned one dress-just one. She and her mother had to dig in the Ugandan soil for potatoes just to survive.
When I was a little girl, I had dozens of dresses. My mother was able to stay home with my sister and I in our California home because my dad was able to provide for us all.
Though we grew up on opposite ends of the spectrum, Faith and I were both extraordinarily blessed - just in very different ways.
Emily, Faith and Natalie in front of Tororo Rock. Uganda, 2005.
One day while little faith was wearing the only dress she owned, a missionary gave her a new dress. She was ecstatic- overflowing with unbelievable joy that she now had two dresses! TWO! That meant she had one to wear while she washed the other. She was bursting with unbridled delight.
But then something happened that tested little Faith. Her mother sat her down, and told her gently that since she had been blessed with a dress, she needed to give her old dress away. She explained that a blessing has to be passed on.
Of course, little Faith was distraught! How could her mother say such a things? She finally had 2 dresses. It wasn't fair to ask her to give one away. It was not easy for her and many tears were shed, but she did indeed give her old dress away.
And today, Faith does not regret it one bit.
Upon hearing this story I was forced to ask myself an uncomfortable question:
What would I have done?
If I found myself just fighting to survive, and then told to give away one of the only two things I owned, I have a sneaking suspicion I might have become more than a little jaded and indignant. I imagine I would have stomped my feet and locked away my treasures, ready to fight to the death to protect what was mine. I wouldn't be feeling particularly thankful or faithful in a time like that. But Faith’s mother insisted that she give, and instilled something very valuable in her daughter’s heart.
We have grown so accustomed to our blessings that we often forget just how much we have. We hoard our earthly treasures, terrified of losing them, all the while craving more. Despite our abundance, we struggle to grasp faith –perhaps because we’re holding onto everything else so tightly.
Yet, growing up with so little, Faith learned to treasure something intangible and trust that her Lord would come through for her. She clung to the promises of God-after all, they were all she had. And she found the Lord was faithful. To say that life was a struggle would be a massive understatement, but that struggle shaped her in such a beautiful way. She is a now a woman who is grateful for each day and each breath. She has a little thing called faith.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


In general, we think of time in a linear fashion. Past. Present. Future. And along this line, movement must be in the forward direction. I have thought often, that perhaps this is not so. What if all of time exists simultaneously and we can only experience it moment by moment. Could this maybe explain deja vu? And how about God? And prayer? Our God is omniscient. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Eggshells and Elephants

Eggshells and elephants. Two seemingly unrelated topics, right? Wrong! Most are familiar with the concept of an "elephant being in the room". When there's some obvious topic, monumental in its grandeur that is awkward. So naturally, no one talks about it. We pretend everything is fine but we carefully tiptoe around the gargantuan pachyderm as though on eggshells.

This past week, there is such an elephant present. (Make note of my "responding with grace" blog) Everybody knows this awkward damned unpleasant topic affects me (particularly the individual that placed the pachyderm smack in my life space) yet, we'll talk about everything else. Or worse, there are simply peculiar looks shot my way or evasive glances. I have to say, I hate when I feel everybody looks at me differently. And in general I say screw tradition let's just get this out in the open and deal with it. Unfortunately, I know that if I even acknowledge said elephant, I will not be able to hold back the floodgates and that discretion on my part may be, no, is best. You see, this in fact someone else's elephant, and I'm afraid that he will need to be the one who addresses this. I will be gracious and loving to everyone around me despite the awkward house guest. I think in this instance I shall just wait ans respond graciously, all will be revealed in time- I just have to trust. And hope the elephant doesn't poop on me.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Friday, September 5, 2008

Find My Rest

Do you ever think, "if only this or that" or "when such and such finally happens" then you'll finally be happy or at peace? I guess its no wonder we get so shaken when our ups go down and our stroll through life turns into a roller coaster. If our peace is dependent on other people, then disappointment is what we can expect. Real peace lies on the foundation that doesn't change. Why do we build such grand castles in the sand? We invest our hopes and dreams and joys there-until the tide comes in. And we can get ourselves awfully worked up over things when we really don't have to. I think we complicate them. When, if we simply trust God we'd realize that worrying does not do a thing! Worry and hurting doesn't change what is-but prayer does. God does. He needs to be our point of reference. I guess we'll find our rest when we are able to genuinely seek Him first. To want Him most and stop looking all around.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace"

That's all I have to say about that.

Responding With Grace

I am having more and more moments in which I feel I am growing up. In some ways this is great, but in others it makes me want to scream and join the lost boys of Neverland who never have to. Would that I could fly to the second star to the right and straight on till morning! Part of this maturing, is learning to respond with dignity and grace. Currently, I am faced with an awkward hurtful situation-and it is one which I cannot address or change. Thus I am challenged to accept what I cannot change-and to do it with grace. So much of me wants to throw a temper tantrum, sink to that level, play dirty, cause a scene and snub. And there are many that would encourage me to do just that. But I can't! I am called to live a life worthy of my calling. I don't want to fit into the mold of stereotypes. And if I am indeed becoming the woman I hope, I must trust that God is in all of this and will hold my heart no matter what. I have sensed that small voice saying to me "Do you trust me?" If I really do trust Him, there would be no need to stew or act out as part of me wants to. In general, my heart is on my sleeve and it can be fairly challenging holding things in and guarding my heart. Right now, I must hold back and not become bitter or angry. I have to be resigned. But I must continue to exhibit the love Christ would have me show and let my heart rest...and boy is it hard!

"This is where you go from being a child of God, to being a woman of God"-said to me amidst the rocking curves of this roller coaster

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's Right With You?

Have you ever just needed a good jolt to remind you that the sun is still shining? That you don't really need to wander aimlessly in the depths of despair? Well, what started out as a fairly charming line of a love song, became also a joyful & loving reminder of how great life really is. Just a simple phrase that a very dear friend would ask me when I seemed to be lacking in perspective:

"What's right with you?"

Yeah, so I admit, I am one of those glass half full "praisalleuia-for-the-glass!" kind of people. But even we, the annoyingly happy, can get discouraged. In fact, it has been occurring with a noted increase in frequency lately which is none too thrilling. So, as I deal with hurts and frustrations on a now more regular basis I need to remember all those things that are right with my world.

Dimensional Love or the Divine Paradox

For some time I have been pondering this, and well, its just about time I finally wrote some of it out! Is it just me or does an awful lot of the Bible seem initially contradictory? There seem to be so many paradoxes I often have wondered just what to make of them. Think about it: God is the lion-and the lamb. He gently loves a child yet a word from Him is mighty enough to make mountains tremble and storms cease. He is holy and righteous, but also forgiving and kind. He can be a judge or an advocate, a friend or a father. At one point this put me in a slight conundrum. How could this be? How can God possibly be merciful and at the same time a fair and righteous judge? But He is. I've seen several illustrations of all these varying aspects of God. One quite effective, if somewhat cliche, is that of a diamond or precious gem. They have facets, yes? God too has many sides, and we can't always see them at once. While we may see a new side, the gem didn't change-only our perspective. Remember, He is the great I Am. He is. That's a rather all encompassing phrase. While so many adjectives describe our Lord, not one covers it all. So-He is. At certain times we will see a particular aspect of God's character. There may come a time when we see Him as our chastiser and judge. Yet, He is still merciful and loving. He's our Shepherd, our Friend and also our Husband. I'm sure I could never find an end to the different aspects of Him. Lately, I have begun to see Him in some new light. Particularly as the bridegroom-something I knew, but didn't really know. It seems as I grow I become more aware of God's workings. And that's the way it should be. So, like a diamond has various dimensions so does God-and God is love.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

When we first start out in anything we have a very elementary knowledge. As we continue on whatever course that may be, we will see things we had no concept of at the first. Things will be unveiled and revealed. At the beginning of someone's knowing Jesus, it is easy to know Him solely as Savior. Then, we see Him as Lord. The same God that brought down fire and judgement is the same that left 99 to find you. So, God doesn't change-He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I think as we journey forward we begin to see that there is more to our Lord than we ever imagined. Some days I must remember that He is slow to anger and abounding in love. Some days I need to know His power and might. Some days I need boldness. Some I need meekness. Some days I need Him to give me more words, others I need to rest in the quiet. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He meets all our needs.Who knows what we might discover if we try go grasp each of those pictures of our God.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Believing ON

You may ask, "Do you believe in Jesus?"
Many many people will respond in the affirmative. "Sure I believe in Jesus".
However, believing in Jesus is not enough. Oh really? You ask. Indeed. My pastor pointed out that there are places in scripture that tell us to believe ON Christ. Mhh, I'd never given that much thought. What's the difference between believing in and believing on?

To believe on something is to put your full weight on it. It is trusting that the object of your belief will hold you up and keep you from falling. Resting fully.

Let's use a cheesy illustration, shall we?

Suppose there is a chair in the room you're in.
Do you believe in the chair?
Why of course, it's right here.
Now sit in it.
If you trust that you can sit on that chair and it will not crumble beneath you, then you believe on the chair. If on the other hand, you decline the offer of that seat as you question the weight capacity of said chair then you are not. You see there is a difference.

What would our faith look like if we took this same perspective to our Lord?

Many believe in the existence of Jesus-but when push comes to shove, what does that belief really mean? Is there any weight to it? So when in comes to the pain or questions in our lives do we put them fully on God or do we hang on, trying to maintain control? If we are believing on Him there is no need to worry, no need to manipulate or strategize. We can lay back in the arms of our Savior and know that His plans and purposes will come to pass.

Be still and know that He is God.

In Him we will find our rest.