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In My Hands

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Be careful what You promise God. Watch carefully Your words when You tell Him that He can have everything…do anything…ask anything. Because He will. Did you really say you would go ANYWHERE? Did you truly promise obedience to WHATEVER He would ask of you? Are you ready for the answer should He respond right now? Are your shoes on?

We dream of doing big things with God; a grand future and a great name. However, He is saying to you today: what is in your hands?

One of the greatest joys I have right now as a missionary is watching our leaders find their places of ministry where they fit. I watch musicians play with passion. I see those who are great with kids come alive as new ideas are put in their lap. I see those who are passionate about youth take to the stage with confidence and fire.

God sent one of my greatest challenges to me while at the hair salon. As I watched my friend execute with absolute excellence her gifts as a beautician, God said to me, “Look at what is in your hands.” Do I perform with absolute excellence the gifts that I have been given?

Surely, such excellence is obtained through the simple method of hard work. Yet, so few of us are willing to invest the time and energy it takes.

As I stood in the humid air of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, surrounded by people burning with passion for the Kingdom, I found myself asking God, “How can I be a part of this? How can I be a blessing to these wonderful people?” He simply responded, “Look at what is in your hands.”

God’s plan for your life doesn’t start “someday”; it starts TODAY. Your calling isn’t out there years from now; it is in the here and now. God wants to do something in you RIGHT NOW. Do you get it? He wants to use you RIGHT NOW. So stop dreaming about the grand person that you could be one day if things were different…if you were different…and open your eyes to the great treasure that has already been placed in your hands.

Lord, I’m sorry for the skills that I have been afraid of, for the open doors that I have neglected, and for the callings that I have ignored. I choose to be faithful with what You have placed in my hands TODAY and in what You have asked me to do TODAY, knowing that You are shaping my future…knowing that the story you are writing is better than anything I could have written for myself.

Take the paintbrush. I’m all Yours.

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Looking Back

The other day God reached out and used some wonderful people to meet a very real need in my life (shout out to Eileen and Troy Easterday and Juanita Smith). As I sat in tears at God’s goodness and willingness to provide for His children, I started to look back and think about all the hundreds of people that God has brought alongside me in my journey and calling. I wanted to write a post to thank just a few of these hundreds of people, because I, like many of us, do not always do a good job of conveying to others the impact that they have had in my life. A lot of people come and go in our journeys, but some people stay and make a lasting mark. If I were to highlight everyone, it would be a very long blog post. If I did not mention someone important, I apologize.  Know that you are so very important to me!  In all of this, I encourage you to look back and not only recognize the key people in your story, but also thank them for the role they have had in making you who you are today. 

I grew up in a wonderful family with great parents (David and Marlys Weber). They have been very involved in my life and have given me many opportunities to learn and grow in a variety of ways. Throughout everything, they have been not only my biggest supporters, but also faithful and wise advisors. I am so blessed to have them in my life. I admire them because they live lives worthy of admiration, and anyone who knows them would agree.

Some people that I consider my “second parents” are Stan and Eleaner Aubrey. They were my pastors for the first several years of my life, and Eleaner was my first Spanish teacher. These two people adopted me as their spiritual daughter and invested so much of their time and wisdom in my life. Much of what I learned about ministry and life I learned in the first few years of my life with them. I love them like I love my parents, and I miss them terribly when I cannot be with them.

Obviously, both sets of my grandparents had a big impact on my life as well, and I was probably closest to my mom’s dad, Lauren Blincow, who passed away when I was a junior in high school. I grew up in his carpenter shop, sweeping sawdust in my free time and painting toys that we would make together. We would go for drives singing silly songs and we went fishing and golfing (and when my grandma wasn’t there, he would even let me drive the golf cart). He taught me different card games and also how much I do not like fried green tomatoes. We spent time in his garden and at the park. I loved the weeks that I would spend at his house, and as an adult now I am amazed at the energy level he had to spend time with me. It makes me appreciate so much more the times we spent together.

I also loved spending time with my Uncle Russ and Aunt Lanita Evans. I loved “helping” with my aunt’s paper business and doing electrical maintenance runs with my uncle. We would play games at night and watch movies together. I remember going on walks and hikes with my uncle and we would talk about the deep mysteries of life. They also taught me so much about love and marriage by their example.

Another childhood friend that I consider one of the most important people in my life is my friend Bonnie Bley. Although she is probably in her 80’s now, she continues to be not only an example of what it means to have a vibrant relationship with God, but also someone in whom I can confide absolutely everything. She has challenged me to always seek to go deeper with God and to love people as God loves them. I could honestly write a book on all the ways this wonderful lady has touched my life. Perhaps someday I will.

I spent a lot of time in my growing up years with my neighbor Marion Young, an elderly lady who took me under her wing. We spent all our time PLAYING. She had a cocker spaniel dog named Tinkerbell and we would take her for walks and drives and taught her all kinds of tricks. I would spend hours at her house every week, and considered her one of my best childhood friends. She passed away a few years ago, and I miss her so much.

Joe and Susan Sukraw have been in my life since I was born, and they have been a constant encouragement to me. In high school when I was trying to figure out matters of spiritual warfare and other things that I couldn’t share with just anyone, they were there to talk to and to point me to wise teachers and theologians who have greatly influenced me. I am so thankful for their continued friendship (and their kids who I have adopted as my brothers and sisters – Josh, Ben, Hannah, and Nathan).

In high school I had some teachers that made a great impact on my life – for example, Tom Hammond, my favorite English teacher who passed away while I was in high school. He encouraged my writing and critical thinking in ways that no other teacher ever has. He saw something in me, and he graded me hard because he knew that I had potential. Kelley Hansen, my Spanish teacher who is the only reason I still speak Spanish, modeled to me a love for the language and the Hispanic culture. Bob McFarland, my biology teacher, invested so much into me in a personal way. We had such a good time with him that my group of friends would often meet in his classroom after school and laugh until our sides hurt.

College was a difficult time for me on many emotional and physical levels. It is true in my case that few friendships have been closely maintained from that time. However, two of my best friends – Joanna Henry and Brandon Chapman – came into my life during that time. These two people mean so much to me. Joanna – you and I have been through SO MUCH together. I am sure we will be friends for a lifetime. I also spent a lot of time with my mentor at the time, Martha Latham. She taught me so much about passion for ministry and how to love kids that struggle.

While I worked at Mount Rushmore one summer during college, I went through a season of big growth. Who would have ever thought that one of my best friends Rachel Hull would still be such a good friend today? I remember those nights we would stay up late outside in the woods in the dark talking about EVERYTHING, that time we almost died, and how much we complained to each other to keep each other sane. HA…we are such different people now, but I am so thankful that we have grown up together. 

One family that means so much to me are Benny Sánchez and Yussepy Leonardo, who I lived with in the Dominican Republic for four months. These two people invested so much into me, and they loved me although I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was not very mature in many areas. I am so blessed and honored by them, that we have stayed good friends throughout the years, and I am excited to see them again in September!

My Kansas family – Steve and Linda Weber, Andy and Ashley Weber, Jamie Rice (and BRIE) and Tom and Gracie Ewing – truly took me under their wing not only while I was in college, but have continued to be a constant blessing and encouragement to me. I consider Steve one of my main mentors, and the ways that he has invested in my life are so valuable to me.

I am so thankful for Derri Smith, director of End Slavery Tennessee, who took me under her wing while I was in Nashville and believed that God can and will use me in my calling to work with victims of human trafficking. She showed me what it means to have passion and love for those who have been so broken. She also taught me what it means to have hope, and to know that our God can heal any wound, break any cycle, and use anyone for His purposes.

You want a reason why I was able to come to South America to serve as a missionary? First of all, when God calls, He provides. One of the main ways that God provided for me was through Pastor Cliff Transmeier, who not only supported me financially and rallied the Nebraska District behind our church plant, but he also went WAY OUT OF HIS WAY to encourage me personally and in ministry. I am so thankful for his influence in my life.

Now that I am with Extreme Nazarene Ministries, I have many more people in my life that have made and are making a huge impact on my story and journey. I am so thankful for Brian Tibbs, our director and also my friend and mentor, who is one of the most genuine people I know. He has been such an encouragement to me and has shown me that I am more than just a number in the organization. He has invested time in helping me develop and grow in my calling. Sheli Gartman has made a HUGE impact in my life. We have spent hours talking through and working through so many things. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading, she spoke firmly and powerfully into places in me that needed to change, and they have. I consider her one of my dearest friends and mentors, and one of the reasons for the many changes that have taken place in me. I am thankful especially to Amanda Duerre, David Morrison, Brandon Doerksen, CJ Childs, and Sheena Green for being such amazing friends and confidants through the ups and downs of ministry. Also, thank you to my sponsors who have not only given money, but have also stayed active in my life. You mean more to me than I could ever express.

So many people have encouraged me to develop in my gifts and talents such as Rod and Debbie Miller, who have always encouraged me to sing, Carla Freeman and Rhonda Swanson, two amazing piano teachers and friends, and Karen Ramsey who is a constant encouragement in my writing. Thank you so much for making such an impact on my life.

I feel like I could write Hebrews 11 for my story…there are so many more people who have been integral parts of my journey, but I do not have time to tell about them all. It truly takes a village to raise a child. All in all, thank you to the many people who have invested in me in the past 26 and a half years. I love you so much, and I hope someday that I can be as much of a blessing to others as you have been to me. Keep it up!

All For Love

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This morning I had the opportunity to listen to a devotional given by one of our disciples. This lesson had not been pre-prepared for him; he gave it out of the overflow of his own personal relationship with God. And it was powerful.

In life, it is a common temptation for things to become routine, and ministry is no different. We attend and lead several services and Bible Studies a week, with some at odd hours like 4am on the day after our day off. I can’t count the number of times I have resolved to simply survive, my eyes on the clock just waiting for the moment when I can make my grand escape and do “what I want to do.” As the time draws closer to the end of our contract, that temptation grows stronger as our hearts start to make the transition from here to wherever we will go.

However, today God used my disciple to remind me of the heart of the mission: love. It should be the reason for everything we do. It should be the standard by which we govern our lives, and the motivation behind even the things that we wouldn’t personally choose to do. Am I serving out of obligation, or out of a supernatural awareness of God’s love for the people to whom I am serving? Am I leading because that’s what my contract tells me to do, or am I aware of the honor that I have been given to even be here, doing what I do?

Perhaps it’s easy to look at someone in ministry and say, “Of course it’s an honor to be there,” but I have held many different kinds of jobs that I didn’t like one bit. It was a drag to get up in the morning and go to work. Does the concept still apply in these situations? Absolutely. Once we have given our lives to Christ, every moment should be an overflow of the love we are constantly receiving from Him. After all, our lives are a gift that God gave us out of His love for us. Does the life we give back to God share the same caliber of passion?

Great reminder. Much easier said than done.

And what about our hearts? We can serve God on the outside, but on the inside be harboring bitter feelings toward God or our leaders. People can only see so much of who we are. We spend a few hours in public, but many more hours behind closed doors. We can fake a good face, but at the end of the day our relationship with God is only between Him and us. Am I giving Him my love or only my reluctant obedience? Does the sacrifice I am offering smell pleasing to Him or is it offensive? We can walk a good walk, but God knows the intention behind the actions. He knows the heart behind the service.

I want every moment of my life to be all for love of my Savior. I pray that I would not seek to simply survive my tasks, but that I would offer my Lord the best of me. God, please forgive me for often serving out of obligation rather than love. Please change my heart to reflect Yours.

As I Really Am

“You see me, and You know me, and You love me through and through.”

-United Pursuit Band “Through and Through”

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Generally when I go through a time of spiritual attack, Satan goes after one specific area: my perception of who I am. Why is that?

There are different struggles that we face as humans in a broken world. One of those would be the comparison game. Am I as thin as the girl next to me? Is my skin that flawless? Am I as smart as the other applicants? Am I as talented as other people at my job? Like it or not, questions like these cross our minds probably more than once in a while.

Sometimes we find ourselves at a different point where it doesn’t even matter to us as much what other people look like or are good at, but we start to have misconceptions of ourselves based on past actions or perceived flaws. Maybe they are based on true weaknesses. These statements generally have the words “always” or “never” in them. “I always mess things up.” “I am never right.”

So we pretend. Usually we don’t even know we are doing it. There’s the simple thought inside, “Well, if I just let myself go, I would be too much for someone to handle.” “If I truly was myself, I would be rejected by this certain person whom I really want to like me.” “Last time I was vulnerable, I walked away feeling like an idiot.”

I heard the story today about this guy in the Bible named Jacob. You can find his story in Genesis. His name means “deceiver.” You could say the jealousy that he had toward his brother got the best of him, but it most likely was simple human nature with the desire to be special and have the best that fueled his deceitfulness. One day, his dad decided that since his time was short, he was going to bless his older son, Esau. He sent him out to hunt, and Jacob used the opportune moment to steal from his brother what was rightfully his brother’s to have. He dressed up in Esau’s clothes, mimicked his brother’s stew, and claimed another identity. That day, his father blessed him, but as Pastor Steven Furtick says, “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.” 21 years later as Jacob was heading back to reconcile with his brother, he had a wrestling match with God. “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” he cried. God responded, “What’s your name?”

There comes a point when we must confront the “face in the mirror”, whether we like what we see or not. Last night in our Bible study as we talked about the subject of our fears, one of my disciples said, “It’s a scary thing to go too deep with God, because you are confronted with who you really are.” I wonder how many of us maintain a busy lifestyle or several superfluous friendships simply because we are running away from having to confront who we really are?

The day that Jacob wrestled “the angel”, he was given a new name: Israel. So why does the Bible continue to call him Jacob sometimes? Why, many years later, when God gives Moses instructions on what to tell the Israelites, does He tell Moses to say, “I AM has sent me to you. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and JACOB”? Why not the name He Himself gave Jacob: Israel?

Could it be that God loved him as he really was, character flaws and all? Could it be that God blessed Jacob, not for who he pretended to be or who he could be if he changed, but as he really was?

I have often dreamed of someday maturing into a person that I would like. I would be that charming girl who never talked too much or shied away from intense situations. Inadvertently, I dream about someday becoming the girl that God could love and use for His purposes, when the truth of the matter is, HE LOVES ME AS I REALLY AM, not who I pretend to be or who I want to be. He loves the girl who is maybe a little too honest and innocent. He can use the shy girl who would rather be a wall flower than in front of a group of people. God is not limited by my perceived “character flaws.” He is only limited by my reluctance to accept His love for me as I am.

So I will wrestle the angel and I won’t let go until He blesses me. Why? Because I want to be done with the desire to be different in order to be loved. Because I recognize that God can’t have His way in my life until I allow Him to love me as I really am. Quirks and all.

What could that mean for you? Have you accepted His love for you for who you really are? Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable before God; you might be surprised by the outcome.

Hidden Talents

Yesterday, God broke my heart when He shared with me a parable from Matthew 25:14-30:

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Coins

Many call this the parable of the talents. Would we ever imagine ourselves to be the wicked servant who hid his talent in the ground? I wouldn’t ever want to imagine that…but that’s exactly where I was for the past four months.

I am called to write, and I have known every day in the past four months that I have been going against that calling by not writing.

You see, it’s simple. I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel like doing it. However, obedience has nothing to do with feelings. Obedience has everything to do with decisions.

I know that God has a plan for my life in writing. And Satan has thrown everything he can against me in relation to this calling. Tonight a few arrows got through. However, I am fighting back with obedience to what God has asked me to do today. I will no longer keep my talent hidden.

Sometimes we are afraid to make a decision to obey because we don’t know if we can consistently, day after day, do what we are asked to do.

You know what? I know that I can’t. I have come to the end of myself so many times to realize that I need God’s leading and push every single day. And you know what? I’m just going to be obedient today and trust God to help me to be obedient tomorrow.

Lesson for today? God has given you a talent. He has invested something inside of you. Are you hiding it or investing in its growth?

Laid-Down Lover

Recently I have been passing through the waters spiritually for many reasons. I grew up with a unique awareness of spiritual warfare. I spent years being tormented by evil. I was rescued from the devil’s house…I cannot portray how literally true that is for my life. But let me tell you, until recently I just didn’t grasp how necessary intercessory prayer is. We are in a place in our ministry where everything literally depends on prayer and on the movement of God’s hand. Without it, we are fried. I believe with all my heart that God has HUGE things in store, and there is a growing awareness in my heart that if I don’t answer the call of God to go deeper in prayer, I might miss being a part of it. There is a growing awareness in my spirit that if we are not covered daily by the prayers of others, the battle will be much more difficult. I think that I have often underestimated the power of the enemy, and I have not understood what it truly takes for salvation. I have been so lazy in my prayers for those in my life, but that just shows my selfishness and lack of love for others. Only recently as God has been growing in me a love for people, have I been willing to start to go the distance for them in prayer. The plans of the enemy are big for those God has called to have major roles in His Kingdom. It is not enough to be called…that is just where the fight begins. The devil has committed to go the distance to bring us down…we must be more willing to go the distance to grow closer and closer to God and to bring others before His throne. If we could see the intensity of all that is happening around us in the spiritual realm, we would be MUCH more serious about joining the fight. And do our prayers really matter? More than we could ever imagine. Does how we pray matter? More than we could ever imagine. God has given us so much authority, yet we walk in everything but that authority. We pray chicken prayers. We doubt. Say what? It’s true! It is rare to hear a prayer truly spoken in faith. However, now more than ever, we can’t afford to be weak in prayer. We can’t afford to be satisfied with “good enough.” Call me radical. Call me an extremist. I don’t care. I am a Jesus follower, a laid-down lover, and a radically driven disciple of Christ. I don’t want to be anything different.

Corrections in Character

There is hardly anything more frustrating than dealing with character flaws.  I can say without hesitation that what I desire is to be a pure and holy woman who is everything she was created to be, who is driven by overflowing love and wholeness.  I want to be a woman that is so close to God that anyone who encounters her knows they have just been in His presence.  I want to be the ultimate encourager and the kindest person I know.  However, I also want to be powerful.  I want to be a world-changer.  I want to make a difference.

But you know what?  At the end of the day, forget the rest of the world; there is so much that still needs to change in me.  I recognize a depth of pride that makes me ashamed to even admit I have.  I’m going through a season where God is breaking that down in moments of forced humility.  It’s painful.  It’s angering, not just at the situations, but also at myself for struggling so much to let my selfishness go.  In this struggle to grow in holiness, I think my attitude has grown worse.  I am praying that is a sign that something is about to change inside my heart.

The refining fire is hard.  There is nothing pleasant about it.  However, what gives me hope is that I know the things that I am being shown are being revealed to me by God.  I have learned the difference between Satan’s attack and God’s conviction.  Satan attacks by bringing shame and hopelessness.  God convicts by pointing out an area that needs improvement, but also by giving a plan and pouring out His love in the process.  The thing that is interesting is that often God and Satan may be focusing in on the same character flaw – the difference is in how they do it.  I saw both sides tonight.  Satan is always so condemning.  He is the accuser.  Jesus is a Savior, a lifeline, a refuge.  The thing about grace is that it finds us in our brokenness but refuses to leave us there.

I just want to have a pure heart before my God.  I want to love Him with a sweet innocence.  I want to be all that He has called me to be, and that desire will lead me down a road of brokenness before Him.  How do I appear when I kneel in the presence of His holiness?  I am a sinner in need of grace and compassion.  I deserve judgment, but God does not desire to give me what my actions deserve.  Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

So God, here is my prayer:  Forgive me for the things in my life that do not please You, whether it be actions, thoughts or habits.  I don’t think there is a more applicable prayer than what King David prayed in Psalm 51:7-12:  “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Oh, give me back my joy again; You have broken me – now let me rejoice.  Don’t keep looking at my sins.  Remove the stain of my guilt.  Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.  Do not banish me from Your presence, and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.”

There Are Days

There are some great moments in ministry. There are days when it is obvious how much it is totally worth every bit of effort and every bit of sacrifice.

Yesterday was not one of those days.

Yesterday was one of those days that breaks your heart; where you can’t even cry because you are just in shock. I think if anything, I haven’t realized how cunning and powerful the enemy of our souls can be. I haven’t prayed hard enough for my contacts. It’s the hardest thing in the world to watch someone come to Christ in a powerful way, to see God do so many incredible things in their lives, to live life with them in many ways and to give a part of your heart to them just to watch them walk away. I can’t explain the horrible emotions I experienced. I just wanted to throw up.

However, at the same moment that the emotions began to rile up within me, I was reminded of God’s unrelenting love and His irrevocable call. I was reminded that the battle is not over for this family; it is just beginning. I was reminded of the power of prayer and how the deep love I have for these people must set the hurt aside and pray powerfully against the enemy’s plan for them. I was reminded of how much I still believe in God’s dream for their lives and how I’m not going to be satisfied with what I saw yesterday.  This is not the end of the story.  I will not walk away dejected. I will walk straight to the throne room of God and wage war.

Is there someone you know that has chosen to walk away from the life God desires for them? Don’t stay in the place of sadness and defeat. The battle is just beginning! Commit to intercede for them like never before! If you truly believe that the light is stronger than the darkness, declare the light of Christ over his or her life. Allow the deep emotions you feel to propel you to a deeper level of intercession. This is war. You are Christ’s soldier. Now go fight.

Love Always Looks Like Something

Here’s a free ticket for five minutes inside my brain.

Over the past couple days, God has been blowing me out of the water.  He has invited me into a depth of His heart that I have never experienced before – a profound hunger and necessity for His presence.

One person I have been learning a lot about lately is Heidi Baker.  She is a missionary in Africa.  It would be impossible to sum up all that God has done through her life in anything short of a biography.  By her obedience to the voice and presence of God, she has literally transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of orphans and has inspired people around the world to step out in faith and obedience.  She has founded over ten thousand churches in Mozambique.  I am one of those that she has inspired and is inspiring right now.

She has made some statements that have captivated my heart today.  One of them is that there is no fruit in our lives outside of intimacy in the presence of God, and if there is intimacy, there is fruit.  If you think you have experienced intimacy, but there is no fruit in your life, you have not truly experienced intimacy.   What I deduct from this is that the number one passion and hunger of our lives should be for the presence of God.  Looking out the window of the bus this afternoon I wondered:  How can I seek God right now in my life to the point where His presence flows through me so strongly that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and chains are broken?

Heidi told a story in a sermon about a friend of hers from Sri Lanka that had fasted for 68 days and was so full of the energy and presence of God that he ran inside a Buddhist temple and the Buddhist priests immediately fell on their knees and began to worship God.  That same presence lives in me!  Why have I not totally and completely fallen in love with it?  Why do I not spend every moment I can in God’s presence?  If it is true that there can be no fruit in my life apart from the intimacy that I share with God, then I should give everything inside of me to figuring out what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Another statement that has been haunting me today is Heidi’s life motto:  stop for the one.  She has many important meetings, but she is nearly always late, because she encounters a blind beggar, or a small child in need, or the wife of a Muslim priest who needs help peeling peas.  If we could wrap our minds around Kingdom priorities, it would astound us the differences we would be called to make.  Most of us would say that a church service with over a hundred people is more important than the lady selling fruit at the bottom of the stairs.  However, Jesus showed by His example in many instances that sometimes stopping for the one was more important.

I think about my own schedule and our goal of raising up leaders and such.  All great stuff.  There’s nothing that we do that is not great.  However, have I lost my passion for the poor?  Have I been walking so fast in my MINISTRY that I have missed the beggars on the side of the road, people that most would call “not worth it”?  These people will most likely not become leaders in our church in the next year, but if what I can get out of somebody is my only motivation for giving them the time of day, then I am way off base.  I am what you could call a hypocrite, and not because I have consciously decided to be one, but because I have bought into the efficiency scheme.  It is not the most efficient thing for me to do to go to the park and sit with those selling popcorn and popsicles, but what would Jesus have done?  I have a feeling that He would be down there almost every day.  It’s just so much like Him.  To what point do I reflect the character of Jesus?  What am I teaching my disciples?  I want to teach them to love the least of these…with all their hearts.

As I was looking out the window of the bus, I saw two men totally passed out drunk.  One man was laying face down in the middle of a park.  Some might look at them and think, “Why can’t they get their lives together?”  However, I think Jesus would look at them, and like the Bible says so many times, “have compassion on them.”  How many times have we taken the time to know their story before judging them?  Here’s the kicker:  what am I doing for them?

Heidi Baker says that love always looks like something.  The key is to ask ourselves, “What does love look like in this situation right now?”  I am building a friendship with a lady named Luz.  Luz is a beggar on the sidewalk downtown.  She literally cannot do anything else, because her legs are horrendously swollen due to some kind of water-retaining illness.  We asked her today where she lives and she told us she lives in a hotel.  Then we asked her, “Do you have any family or friends here?”  She replied, “No, I’m alone.”  I gave her the apples that I just bought.  In my mind and heart, love looked like apples in that moment.  That was what I had.

Another person that marked me today was a young lady that can’t be older than 18.  She was holding her baby.  She didn’t say a word to me, but her eyes told her entire life story.  Street kid.  Orphan.  Abuse.  Sadness.  Looking at her, one phrase came to my mind, “tormented soul.”

The other day I sat in a theater behind an orphan that was about 10 years old.  I gave him some pieces of paper and a pen so he could draw before the concert began.  He gave me his pictures and I realized in that moment that I didn’t need a degree in psychology to understand that this child had experienced extreme torment.  I have seen demons in my personal life.  This child drew one.  Even in the picture where he attempted to draw flowers, there was evidence of oppression.  I don’t know where he is right now, but my heart still breaks thinking about an innocent child growing up even knowing about these things, let alone experiencing them.  Who gives a demonic picture they drew as a gift?  A child who has known true torment.  A soul that is crying desperately, “Save me!”  And you know what?  People who suffer are all around us.  We just have to open our eyes.

And it should break our hearts.  Why?  Because it breaks God’s heart.  We have to come to the point where we understand that suffering is not from Him, and that we are responsible for doing something about it.

Love looks like something.  Sometimes love looks like bread or apples.  Sometimes love looks like a hug.  Sometimes love looks like giving money.  Sometimes love looks like spending time with someone.  The problem is that I don’t ask myself what love looks like often enough.  It isn’t comfortable to hang out with beggars.  It isn’t easy to have a conversation with them many times.  However, those aren’t viable excuses for looking past them quickly and being on our way.  God loves them just as much as He loves you and me.  Jesus died for them the same way that He died for you and me, and His heart goes out to them every day.  Stop for the one.  It’s worth it.

Did you know that God LOVES the poor?  He is passionate about them!  Heaven is for them!  I could go on about this stuff all day…but all this is to say:  what does love look like for the people around you?  When people look at your life, will they say it looks like love?  Are you HUNGRY…insatiably HUNGRY…for the presence of God?????  If not, BE INSATIABLY HUNGRY for the presence of God.  Miracles still happen today.  Why do we not see them very often generally?  Because we are not overflowing with God’s presence and love.  We are satisfied with a morsel from the table of God when we could be feasting every day from the King’s plate.  Think about that.  Now go live the difference.

Called to Love

Exactly 19 days ago I began a prayer journey with God.  I wanted more passion in my life.  I wanted to desire Him more.  I wanted to radiate His presence in my life to those around me.

As I have told some of my contacts, it is amazing how quickly God answers that prayer.  He honors that prayer.  He loves that prayer.  He gets excited about that prayer.

But true grace from God means that He gives us what we don’t deserve and refuses to leave us where we were when He found us.  Talk about a journey of introspection.  He has taken me through the ringer.  However, today He turned my focus from me and what is going on in my life to those around me.  He reminded me that true passion and holy desire are based out of love.  Do I really love the people I am ministering to?  Do I look at people and recognize God’s unrelenting love for them, even if I don’t know them?  Do I desire opportunities to show God’s love to those around me?  Do I pray for these opportunities and for the people I will meet each day?

As we all know, love isn’t a feeling but rather an action.  I can be having a bad day, but I am still called to love those around me.  I can have a lot going on in my head, but I am still called to take notice.  I am still called to care.  We never go on vacation from following Christ.  We are either in it for the long haul or not in it at all.  And why did Jesus come?  For love.  Why do I do what I do?  Well, it certainly isn’t for the money.  It is definitely for love.  God told me today:  If you’re going to lead with love, then LEAD WITH LOVE.  How’s that for a simple and yet profound statement?

We know when someone truly loves us.  We see it in their eyes.  We see it in the way they sacrifice their time and the things that are important to them.  We see it in the little things.  We can only pretend to love someone for a short time before the truth comes out.  True love is unmistakable.

So what do I want to communicate this next year in South America?  I want to communicate love.  But first, I need to truly love the people of Ambato.  That is something that I have been praying for.  I want God’s heart for His people.  I want His heart for His city.  So Lord, teach me how to love.  Flow through me.

How about you?  Do you truly love the people around you?  Do you love your city?  Have you sought God’s heart for your city?  Do you pray for opportunities to show that love that only comes from Him?  When it comes down to it, it’s not the size of our ministry that matters to God; it’s the size of our heart and our employment of God’s love in our lives.  Don’t steal it all for yourself.  There’s more than enough to go around.  You are called to love.  So do it.

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