Thursday, February 28, 2013

there is a thief who comes to steal ...

... he comes into thoughts and feelings with evil motives to rob you of your joy, peace, love, strength, clarity, light, and courage.  Replacing his strongholds of fear, doubt, condemnation, and indifference in place of what he's taken.  

And this happens so subtly you barely realize until it's already done within the recesses of your mind.  In the depths of your heart.  Of mine.

Been there?  Yes. We all have.  We are none of us immune to this thief.  We live in a place where he has been permitted temporary reign.

But we are not citizens here.  We are made for somewhere Higher.  Created for something more than endless days of this robbery. If you listen carefully, your heart will whisper back to you ... I long for more than I've known.  There must be Someone who can restore all that's been stolen.  Someone who can protect me from this daily con artist.

And your heart is right.  Jesus came to brace you, and embrace you.  There is indeed a Redeemer who can guard you.  Take control of this thief and make him give it back.  

photo credit: Hays Cummins

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." - Psalm 51:12

Restore - give back, make right, put back

Joy of Salvation - is there a greater joy than this hope for eternity with Him, when the enemy of my soul is removed and destroyed?  Is it any wonder this is our helmet, the guard of our mind and thoughts? (Ephesians 6:17)

A Willing Spirit

Breathe in me,
O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me,
O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too may be holy.
Draw my heart,
O Holy Spirit,
that I love only what is holy.
Strengthen me,
O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then,
O Holy Spirit,
that I may always be holy.
 -Augustine of Hippo (Algeria/354-430)

To sustain me - until He comes again. He is coming again.  I promise.  Even better - He promised.  (John 14:28)  And not like a thief to steal my joy, but like a Rescuer-Thief, come to steal me back from my captor. "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

When I feel the snake slithering back into my brain with thoughts and whispers of condemnation, fear, and confusion, do you want to know one simple thing I've learned to do?

Helmet check.

I am forever saved by His blood, which was a free gift of grace and He is coming back for me someday. Thank You, Jesus.

And once again, gratitude has sealed me.  Saved me from being robbed.

It's Thursday, and I'm thankful again today.  Most of all for my Salvation.  Oh, God I'm saved!  And not only that - safe!

And, as if I needed anything more, He keeps giving ...

"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" -Romans 8:32

Here are a few of my all ...

- the privilege of soothing J's belly pain when cramps from that bug kept him groaning through the night ... and Your healing

- chicken curry, jasmine rice, and naan bread

- close snuggles with my Guy on the couch - a perfect Sabbath thing to do

- sunshine streaming in onto the couch and floor, and a few moments to bask in it

- forgiveness when I have good intentions, but a less-than-great delivery of them

- Your healing also for little A

- fifth-graders singing Battle Hymn of the Republic in music class - Your praises rising here, even in public school!

- Psalm 14:2 - and that You are looking for me as I search for You too.  We find each other in Your presence, wherever I am!

- grocery shipping with my Guy, and for his help

- K's independence to wake up early and finish her essay

- the gift of surrendering my burdens to You and Your strength when I don't have it

- funny videos of little L on fb

- millions of snowflakes all around the windows of C's sunroom, and shared coping through the winter - gratitude

- J walking with a book in the hall

- this quote in my devotion:

"We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves.  Beware of sitting back, and saying, "It can't be done."  You will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward Him." -Oswald Chambers

-  this song -  there is really nothing like your love

Lord, You've given me all these things and I'm thankful.  This gratitude the seal on my Salvation, and my helmet.  You guard me and I would be nothing without Your love.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When you buy the lie ...

... what you've purchased fills your hands.  Like Eve, clutching dripping, sweet fruit with all ten fingers.  And what could God give her that way?

Today I cry tears of broken anger and sometimes that's all I have.  But tears are powerful prayers.  And prayer is powerful fighting.  So, once again - all I have left ... is all He wants.

Some Tuesdays I ask you to give.  Some I ask you to open your eyes.  Some days I ask you to go.

Today I'm asking you to pray.  With me.  Stand in prayer as three.  Because He's here too.

"A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." -Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

Prayer is my only weapon today. I'm glad it's the only one I need.

What are we praying? Let's tackle this together.

Satan's biggest lie: You Can't

  • do anything different with your life
  • choose
  • find worth
  • escape your chains
  • hold hope
  • be rescued or restored
  • have another identity than the one given in pain
  • be loved
And he sells this lie.  His price: varies and is ever-increasing, until you own nothing, not even your own soul.  It might seem a trifle at first, and what you buy might even be fun and seem worth it.

But Jesus offers something else.  He stands in a safe, Self-drawn circle and invites you to enter. What He sells is Truth:  YOU CAN
  • take victory
  • have freedom
  • receive healing
  • find an identity for which you were created
  • hold hope
  • keep restoration
  • know true love
The cost: Already Paid.  His Blood. He holds His good wares out and offers them for free.

And what do we do?

Buy the lie. (*scream*)

"They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself..." -Romans 1:25 (GNT)

And our hands become so full of it, we can't even see over our chains to Jesus's offer any longer.

This was my vision this morning.  The one that made me cry these powerful-prayer-tears.  Jesus offering His blood.  And us - choosing sin instead.  It's been me. I've broken His heart too.  It's been the guy addicted to p**nography, and the girl who chose to be in the video too.  

But not everyone has made the choice to reject Him.  Because they haven't even been given a choice.  Girls and boys, before they could discover His love have been stolen and sold.  They are helpless and hopeless and they are the victims, and they matter just as much as my own daughter and son.

This is why I fight. To free them long enough to offer them that choice.

Tuesdays we fight, and today it's all about prayer-war.  I'm girded up with my Armor, are you?  Here a weapon for you, powerful against every lie:

"I was chosen and sent to help the faith of God's chosen people and to lead them to the truth taught by our religion, which is based on the hope for eternal life. God, who does not lie, promised us this life before the beginning of time, and at the right time he revealed it in his message. This was entrusted to me, and  I proclaim it by order of God our Savior." -Titus 1:1-3 (GNT)

How do we pray, and what do we pray?

1. For truth to be PROCLAIMED.  In boldness by you and by me and by all of His redeemed ragamuffins still on this side of eternity.  (see above)

2. For lies to be exposed and silenced. Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed. - Proverb 12:19 (NLT) 

3.  For hearts to be opened.   I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us! -2 Corinthians 6:13 (NLT)

This week I found a blog written by a survivor of human trafficking  {Stones Cry}.  On this post she details how we can be praying.  Here's a portion:

"Survivors desperately need people who will pray for their healing with the conviction that, without their prayers, she may not make it.  However, knowing that prayer is important is completely different from actually praying effectively for this issue."

4. In gratitude for the victories He is already making possible as we fight, and has accomplished in many rescues, restorations, and recoveries.  Like when FreedomRocks!  :

For more rescue victories to thank your Father for, see the full stories of Exodus Road.

5.  For the roots of these lies to die.  Poverty. Greed. Exploitation. Prejudice. Fear.  ... Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. - Luke 10:19 (NLT)

Lord, today I pray as one humbled my my own refusal to receive.  I know You paid the price for me, Jesus.  And I want to receive with open hands all that you have for me.  Help me to put down every sin and hindering stronghold so that my hands and arms are ready for You and all of You.  Lord, as we pray for the victims of human trafficking, each soul You know.  Please help them to find the safety they long for.  Guide them to rescue, and give them Your healing restoration.  Send Your light and Your Truth to break down every lie and half-truth.  Show the community of freedom fighters how to fight with wisdom and zeal.  Guide us to be effective Gospel-proclaimers as we reach into the darkness with Your Love-Light.  Come against the oppressors with Your wrath and Your vengeance.  And bring them to Your grace too.

photo credit: Bill Longshaw

Monday, February 25, 2013

Havah: The Story of Eve {book review Monday}

Happy Monday, here's a book review ...

Telling the story of Eve is like telling the story of all of humanity.  I admire Tosca Lee for tackling it.  As a fellow [aspiring] writer of Biblical Fiction, I know how hard it can be to walk the fine line of fictionalizing the Truth in a way that captures interest while preserving original content.  I honestly believe Lee nailed it in Havah, The Story of Eve.

I could summarize the plot here ... but you already know it.  Immense joy of reveling in first creation; Man, Woman, and God abiding in the beautiful garden of bliss; a lie from a forked tongue and grief to God never before known; struggle to survive in the world without His constant presence; the marvel of first son and then second; the horror when one killed the other; burden of being the mother of all; joy of knowing the love of one man for a lifetime (or dozens - she lived hundreds of years); and pursuing the journey back to redemption.  If you are looking for a surprise ending, this might not be the novel for you, but if you're looking for a fresh look at the oldest story ever, you're in for a literary treat!

Lee's writing is deeply poetic, laden with metaphors and descriptive language - she brings the story of creation to life like none other I've read before.  I especially enjoyed her depiction of Adam and Havah's love, from the sensual beginning through the tumultuous middle, and to the persevering end.  Reflective of the first couple, we see our own gender differences, and the struggle-filled joy of becoming one.  Also, Havah's thrills and trials as the first mother caused me to reflect in gratitude about the blessing it is to learn from other moms before me.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"And I know the God made the heart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one mortal chamber."
"No, it wasn't that I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be alone with the One. The one who scaled then careened from the heights of the Mount. The One who raised up the man from the mud. The One who fashioned me from a part of the man and knew me more intimately than even the adam. ... I was more alive than the first day I drew breath. Than the first time I lay in the adam's arms. I was alive as one can only be in the presence of the One."
"I squinted at him./ Death. Evil. To know as a god, the serpent had said. Had I not craved all things of God, all knowledge?/ I lifted my eye again to that tree. This time, instead of seeing the fruit, bursting with juice upon it, I saw the answer to every unknown thing, the satisfaction of a craving deeper than hunger./ I couldn't remember anything so beautiful."
"Even then, I loved him. Even then, wished I could undo every memory of hurt from him.  That I could give birth to Hevel [Abel] again, knowing that in his second chance, Kayin [Cain] would never resent him. Perhaps even then the One would still reject him, but at lease we could let be, knowing that the One did as he pleased, whether we knew the reasons or not."

Happy reading, Friends!

"The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too." - Genesis 3:6 (NLT)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reading and Writing with you ...

Fridays we write together, but before I get to our prompt, I wanted to also touch on two other themes I'm blogging about lately:  1. Book Review  2. Radically Simple

I finished My One Word this week, which I might not have had it not been that I wanted to complete it for a review here in the nest, as well as for the sake of Simple.  Yes, painful as it is, I'm simplifying my life by reading one book at a time!  *gasp*

This book is wonderfully balanced and theologically spot-on, as well as extremely relevant to our culture and our desires as a church to be more like Christ.  I appreciate how authors Mike Ashcroft and Rachel Olsen have included both personal experience and dozens of unique testimonials from MOW participants over the years.  They outline in practicality how God can change our lives and grow us to maturity if we will allow him to focus our intentions.  They describe not only how to choose your word (with the Spirit's guidance) and also how to follow through for an entire year on one concept rather than making several resolutions that will most likely fall flat.  Ashcroft and Olsen also detail how to make the most of your intentions and involve others in holding you accountable to the change you are aiming for and God is doing in and through you.  The writing is straightforward and concise, making it both an interesting and quick read, to have you off and running with your word.  I appreciate the way Scripture is woven throughout as confirmation to these ideas, and also how they allow voices of others to shine through as they explain their own words and experiences with the change ensued.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"There's power in words. Beauty in words. Grace in words. Words create movement. They craft nations. They seal a marriage. They cast vision. They make us laugh. They focus our attention. They expand our horizons. They stimulate our creativity. And they script our possibilities."  [shocker]

[of the MOW FLOW] "It awakened something in me. Not a compulsive desire to change born out of being sick of the way I was, but a desire to live an authentic life that flowed from my relationship with Christ."

"We're so busy with the surface-level things of life that we forget to number our days and ted to our hearts. We become so preoccupied with getting our lives to a manageable point or a better future that we miss both the moment right now and the reality of a coming eternity"

"To claim we can make ourselves into anything we want is to deny that we are the created not the Creator. Reality is we are made by God, for his purposes. How much potential can we truly have apart form Him?"

"The aim is for you to use your one word to get into focused posture and remain there while you depend on Christ [to mold you]."

"Your reaction or mindless drift into temptation happens in a moment. You must create the space in that moment to see what is happening and then to make a decision. The key is to isolate and examine the specific thought or belief that's driving your desire in that moment. Take it captive; identify it. Then stack it up against the knowledge of God."

"When God delays, we will tend to distrust. We will lose focus. We fill int the suspicious gaps with what we would do if we were God."

"We try to live our lives from destination to destination, but the condition of our heart is measured in the moments in between."

I hope you'll enjoy My One Word too!

And now for our writing prompt, since it is Friday, after all!

photo credit: google images

When my grandchildren ask about me and my generation, I would like to tell them ...

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” 
― Maya Angelou

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If I could tell you a secret ...

... it would be this: you don't have to wonder - God does love you.

Want proof?  Breathe in.  Now exhale.

The mere fact that we have breath shows us we are created, protected, and known.

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
    He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
    life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is He who says,
‘I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
    I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
    as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.’” 
            – Isaiah 42:5-6 (NLT) 

If you have anything good, it is because He gave it to you.  If what you see in your hands doesn't seem good, perhaps He is in the process of teaching you what His definition of good for you really is.  If you see evil around you, it could be His demonstration of how He can make good for you and through you, even out of the worst.  Because if He can show you that, you'll have no choice but to trust and praise Him.  Which is always His end-game.

How do I know this secret?  I found it here.

And what do we do once we know about this love?

Why, give it back, of course!  With a heart of gratitude

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief." - [Paul to Timothy] 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NLT)

I keep counting this Thursday and every day, of course.  Counting His love demonstrations for me every day, and counting with naming the endless love of my God is truly what gives me strength to do His work.  Here are a few, and perhaps you're counting by now too?  I sure hope so.

- for gifting T as a wonderful writer, and my privilege to edit with her

- flickering flame on a candle, and the reminder of Your presence with me

- "Who has first given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine." (Job 41:11) ... Lord - You owe me nothing, and I too am Yours.

- Sisters ... know that prayer is more important than your breathing because your soul is more important than your life." -Ann Voskamp
- for the privilege of being exhausted for You, and for renewing, refreshing, and reviving me. "All my springs are in You." -Psalm 87:7 (MSG)

- food when we're all hungry

- for healing some insecure, hurt, bitter emotions in my heart, and the privilege of putting the control of my feelings into Your loving hand

- a warm, breezy day

- chocolate-chip banana bread, blueberry turnovers, and coffee

- writing together with my friends, and hearing some beautifully creative pieces

- the sleek, dark braid in a little girl's hair

- for the gift of humility, given to me through a time of dark sifting, when I was required to learn how to hear Your voice, and practice listening carefully

- for femininity and the privilege to stand up for the rights of girls and women

- song birds in my trees, and the bidding of impending spring ... soon, please, Lord ...

- silly giggles with little J, and her sweet hands, cheeks, and belly

- Your goodness over me, and the way you prove Your love and make good on Your promises

Jesus - thank You.  Your love is enough, and even more.  That you gave me Your life on a cross, and then gave me ALL OF THIS ... I am just bent low in praise.  I know now what love is.  Will You teach me even more?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fighting the evil root of injustice

I've been a wounded soldier. Too broken to care, too weak to fight, and too betrayed to stand.  In the middle of that, I wondered if God was ashamed of me for putting down my weapons for a season of unknown days.  When you spend time in the infirmary, healing takes as long as it takes

During the past year, God has brought me through spiritual rehabilitation, and I'm amazed at His love when I see just how weak I was by juxtaposing that with the strength I feel with His blood rushing though my veins.  I can't believe how strong I feel.  Can't believe the joy I have in wielding these weapons and shield again.  I'm astonished that I can do this again and I know it has nothing to do with me. Everything to do with His grace.

And so when I tell you that I fight on Tuesdays, I hope you know that I'm fighting every day.  Fighting against the devil and his evil schemes to rob me of all of this.  Fighting for my thoughts and my feelings to once again be brought under the submission of His peace (Phil 4:9).  I fight for justice, and I also fight for me.  I wage war in my prayers for my family, my husband/shepherd/leader, my family-flock, and the down-and-out all around.  Having risen from the hospital bed with a new heart, fresh with confidence and His power as my constant companion - I can't really even express how ready I am.  

Because I get to do this.

Today as we fight in prayer and awareness and action, let us once again visit our fictionalization of a real human trafficking story - that of Anna.  I'm writing her story here in 4 parts (about one per month as insert into my Tuesday series) for you, my reader.  Because I want you to know.  I want you to picture an individual soul among the 27 million victims of this horror.  Why do I want this for you?  Because God's heart is for people - one by one and all of us, and I want us to open our hands in willingness to let Him shape our hearts like His.

For Part One of Anna's Story click here

[2] ... Anna woke with a start as the bus lurched to a stop.  Three men stepped up into the vehicle and surveyed its passengers with menacing eyes full of scrutiny.  Two of them were large with rough beards and dark hair, and the other was smaller but just as foreboding as the others, with cold blue eyes and a nasty scar running the full length of his cheek.  Anna shuddered once again in fear and shifted in her seat as her stomach began to growl in hunger again.  Her lips were dry and she longed for a drink of anything.  

     "Let's go - out!" the smaller man barked.

One of the other girls, the one with light blonde hair, mustered the courage to speak. “Where are we? Is this were we get on the plane for America?”
            The blue-eyed man looked at the man who had escorted the girls and taken Anna’s papers when they left St Petersburg.  They glanced at one another and chuckled.  Blue-eyes asked, “What did you tell them, Kristof?”
            Grinning ear-to-ear, Anna’s once-trusted “friend” replied, “They’re going to America to be nannies, remember?”
            Changing his chuckle to a full-out guffaw, Blue-eyes looked back at the girl who had spoken and then clenched his teeth.  “You belong to me.  All of you.  And you will do everything I say, or I’ll send Kristof here to kill your families and feed them to my dogs.  He has your addresses in Russia, so don’t even dream of trying to run.”
            Anna shrunk in her seat and tried to stop the tears of fear running down her cheeks.  It was worse than she thought.  Her stomach began to swim, and she tried hard to swallow down all she couldn't bear.
            Kristof spoke again, this time to the five girls.  “The first gift of your new life is this,” and he held out a long rope.  The girls looked at one another in confusion. “Tie each other’s hands. The tighter the better.”
            Anna took the rope cautiously and began tying the girl next to her.  Blue-eyes took a gun out of his jacket.  “If one of you gets loose and runs away, I’ll shoot the one who tied her.  If you cooperate, I’ll give you a drink of water.” 
            Fine way to turn us against one another! Anna thought.  She tied the pretty blonde’s hands next to her while silently pleading with her eyes for forgiveness.  Horror struck all of them as they realized that without money, passports, or even a single word of this foreign, Asian language, they were absolutely hopeless.  

            The next days for Anna and the girls were worse than anything they had ever imagined a human could endure.  Once taken to an individual room that was little more than a jail cell with a small, dirty bed and one shared bathroom under constant guard, Anna was informed matter-of-factly that instead of caring for children, she would be entertaining men every night with no respite aside from a few hours in the morning to eat and sleep once the brothel’s clients had tapered.  In order to be “trained” for this work, they were subjected to repeated beatings and rapes every night for an entire week by the two dark-haired men, Blue-eyes, and Kristof.   Each night Anna pleaded for them to leave her alone and each night they were increasingly rough.  Screams came from the rooms around her and she knew without seeing that her travel mates from Russia had all been subjected to the same torture.  She stopped screaming after the third day and stopped crying after the fifth morning, as her shame and fear gave way to numb submission and hopes for death.

            Anna had lost count of the days of her imprisonment, but after what her best guess told her was about two weeks later, she overheard an American client refer to this place as Laos, and Anna began to hate herself.  Without the courage or strength to escape, she hated her body that man after greedy man stole.  In fear that Blue-eyes would be true to his threat to feed her dear grandmother, siblings, and mother to his dogs, Anna hated her memories of them that kept her from running.  She hated her light skin that caused her to be chosen first and most often every night from among all of the sex slaves.  She hated her own hands for trusting Kristof with her passport, and most of all – she hated herself for being a girl - weak, vulnerable, alone, and afraid.  Denying all hope and semblance of emotion, Anna tried to escape within the recesses of her own mind as she battled the deep desire to end her life and the nightmare she couldn't end.

... [more of Anna's story to come soon]

Human trafficking is our generation's nightmare.  More slaves are reported today than at any other time in history.  This globe cries for justice and you and I can no longer stand by and hope someone else stops it.  It's up to us.

So perhaps you're as fired up as I am, and maybe - just maybe - you want to do something too.  How about this:

India Rescue Mission and Exodus Road.  No gimmicks, just rescue.

Want to help too?  What better thing do you need to buy for $10 than freedom for a human being?

Bust 7 brothels in India, Rescue 40 girls 

Another interesting organization I found just today is fighting the root of this evil of sex trafficking: demand.  What would our world look like if God changed the hearts of men and brought them to a life of pure sexuality?  I can almost picture it.  Can you?  Maybe this will help ...

Unearthed: "The heart of the problem is the heart of the human being."

Lord, today my prayer is for all of us as humanity.  For young women and boys and girls trafficked all across this globe, I plead for rescue.  For men and women who care, I ask for courage, wisdom, and strength to fight.  Because we get to. For men, I pray for new hearts that want You more than they want the perversion our world offers.  For You - I ask You to show us how to overcome our sin so we can all glorify and thank You.  Because You really are worthy of every breath to be praising You.  I love you Jesus.  Give us faith.

Friday, February 15, 2013

when giving gets hard ... [re-post]

This week has been ... real.  I've been spending more time with faces than with screens, and  ... I'm okay with that.  I'm still reading (so I can give you more book reviews on Mondays), still fighting (more to tell you about Anna, and the fight for freedom on Tuesdays), still learning to live radically Simple (part of the good pruning this week has been felt here in the nest, yes?), still thankful on Thursdays (and every day), and still writing - preparing more prompts and encouraging words for more Fridays ... But this week has been about faces, not screens.  Thank you for grace.

Today I have a re-post for you, though. Something to think about if you're weary (which I know many of you are - thank you for the vulnerable trust of honesty).  I don't know it all, but I do know two things from previous experiences in the pit of weary:  we can't give up, and Jesus Christ is a never-empty fountain of life.  We know the source for our re-filling.  If we keep going back to Him, we don't have to stay in the weariness pit.  Take it from one who knows.

So, without further ado ...  "when it's hard to give" [from November, 2011]:

"Sometimes it's hard to give." -Cynthia Aldrich, Missionary to Haiti as we rushed around her table at dusk trying to get the right sizes of baby clothes to mothers waiting outside her gate.

So when is it too hard to give? When do you stop giving because it gets too complicated? Is it when the people in need are starting to abuse your generosity and rely less on God and their own part? When is the moment when giving gets too difficult to keep giving?

I just want to throw this out there. Argue with me if you must.

Sometimes it's hard to give, but it's never too hard. We keep on giving.  Because we're never really as empty as we feel.  When we know the Fountain, He can always pour us full again.

It was hard for God to give. Does that shock you? Do you think it was easy for Him to give manna and quail to his whiney, gripe-y kids? You assume ease for Him to deliver His people into the land of milk and honey, defeating tribe after tribe, just so they would turn away from Him and worship the very idols He hated? You don't think God has feelings too? Think again.

In the book of Hosea, God laments the betrayal of His people as they had turned away from Him to worship other gods and had abandoned His love and plan for them. He demonstrated it through the prophet, asking Hosea to marry a prostitute as an object lesson to the people. Being the obedient man of God, Hosea took Gomer as his wife, who subsequently left him to go back to her life of sin.

" 'I will punish her for all those times when she burned incense to her images of Baal, when she put on her earrings and jewels and went out to look for her lovers but forgot all about me,' says the Lord." -Hosea 2:13 (NLT)

But God had Hosea rescue her again, proving his love for her and His love for all of us, His Bride.

" 'But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there . . . I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.' " -vs. 19-20

God gave. And then He gave again. And then He gave some more. His people have never been thankful, really, myself included. I've trampled the Cross in disobedience and thought He would be done giving me grace. It was hard for Him, but He gave once again. His mercy is not cheap. The high price of His blood is no small trinket, rather the greatest gift ever known. And on my face before Him, He gave it again. It is in His character and nature to give and keep giving, no matter how hard it gets or how complicated people make it.

And so we should do likewise. To one another. To the poor. To missions. To the brokenhearted. To prisoners. Give, and never stop. Like Him.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

yes, even today ...

It's honesty time, Friends.

As much as I write and talk and preach and text and journal about hope and joy ... it slips through my hands too, sometimes.

I went to bed last night grieving, grumpy, and frumpy, and I woke up the same.  Too much to do, always running late, never enough time, letting myself down ... and tell me where Simple is supposed to fit in?

I'm not sure how many times my heart will be able to break and mend, break and mend, break again ... but I am sure that this hurts.  To listen to an hours-fresh widow plead to wake up from this nightmare, to hear of regrets over time not spent with a dad ... to pray for the mom to keep the baby so a friend can adopt the precious little bundle, only to learn that abortion claimed another bloody point today ... to endure another slug to this gut - I have emotions too.  With angry fists I pound the bathroom counter this morning, and though my lips and tears are silent, my heart screams it louder than a bullhorn.

"Is there anything good in this world?"

And He doesn't have to answer.

I already know there is.  Looking down at my fists, I'm already repentant, knowing the problem is not His blame.  These hands have closed again.  Of course there is good in this world.  I've counted nearly 2500 gifts, and it's only been over a year since I started.  I wonder how many I could have counted if I'd begun sooner.  So many.  Books and books of them.  Thousands and thousands since I've come into this forsaken, fallen planet. This place where I am not a citizen.  This very place where I can still receive good, because He is good, gives good, and defines good. But my hope is that I belong to a place much higher.

Of course it's not His fault and though I'm allowed to despair, I'm not to be despaired.  That is not my identity.

"Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today the "third day" and He has still not done what I expected? Am I therefore justified in being dejected and in blaming God? Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not of the answer." -Oswald Chambers

And when what we want is Him, we'll never be sick.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

    but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life." - Proverb 13:12

"Take delight in the Lord,

    and he will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4

photo credit: National Geographic

My delight is in Him, and He gives me Himself.  I'm not sick because I have the hope I want - though I don't have the results I pleaded for, I do have Him.  So I have hope for joy, and He's all I need.  My hands are opening again as I preach this to my own soul.  There are good things in this world, and I've seen them, held them, written them, thanked Him for them.

Here are a few:

- Your freedom that reigns over every place I'll surrender, and hope for Your Majesty to come even more in my life

- brown ribbon and more paper for more gratitude, always more - for all this grace

- pretty souvenirs from India, brought from my Guy

- listening for long minutes after the service to J, T, and others  - a wonderful testimony of Your loving hand at work

- for this breath and the next: "He's the One who runs the earth! He cradles the whole world in His hand! If He decided to hold His breath, every man, woman, and child would die for lack of air." -Job 34:13-15 (Msg)

- " ... a plain and simple life is a full life." -Proverb 13:7 (Msg)

- humility ... "anyone who thinks he is something when he is nothing deceives himself." -Galatians 6:3 (NASB)

- for binding the enemy's lies and loosing Your truth over me (Matthew 18:18)

- audio clip from IRM's founder: a brother with many rescued sisters, and many more to rescue

- encouragement from You through my Guy to keep pressing on in obedience, regardless of results

- warmth in the cold weather, and strength to keep hoping for spring

- J finding a good book to read

- privilege to minster to R and her family

- a bit of sunshine this evening, and a lovely sunset tonight of orange, blue, and violet

- for Your unending love, unconditional faithfulness, unsurpassed power ... and that I get to know You

- science experiment about crystals with J

- for opening Your hands of goodness to me, and for opening my hands again to receive it - more of it, all of it.

Lord, forgive me again for clenching and pounding fists.  I find myself in so much trouble and trials when I close these hands.  May I learn, once again, the power of opening them in trust, believing that you WILL put good into them.  Please accept these open-handed thanks.  You are still Good, even today.  You are so very worthy.  My gratitude is all I have that You want. And it's Yours.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Together we can make a different place...

Well, it's Tuesday again, and I've been doing some more research.  I want you to know what we're fighting against here.  I want us to look.  And really see this.  For what it is, and for what it could be if we don't give up. One thing today - a warning: Some of this might leave you changed.  And now, one more thing - a prayer [we'll need it]:

Father - You know this is happening today and You refuse to turn a blind eye.  Thank You for Your eyes that see, and cry.  Thank You for Your hands that are holding the wisdom of what it will take to free this generation's slaves.  And for sharing it with us.  I pray that at least one and hopefully many of my readers today will allow their hearts to break for the oppressed.  Give us Your soft and compassionate heart, Lord.  Take these stones and breathe life into us again today.  And help us to shine Your light into the darkness and bring hope to these precious lives.

First: a video about the real statistics, and the hope to change them:

Twenty-five years.  Keep fighting.

Next, some real stories of children trafficked - horrors no human being should ever face.  This is injustice in its finest hour, and I won't look away until we usher this hour of slavery out of our present and into our past.
I want you to read the entirety of  this e-zine, but if you only have time for one page, flip six times to the dps (double page spread) that begins "Sometimes menus are handed ..." {and then come back to me, Dear Heart}

And now tell me you aren't angry enough to punch a wall.  I am.  If you ask me, this is what the Bible refers to in Romans 1 as "inventing new ways of sinning":

"Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents.  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy." -Romans 1:29-31 (NLT)

Finally, today - here in the nest - we take a big-picture look at the numbers, but we remember that each number is a person. A soul with a future.  A heart with dreams and hopes. A living, still-breathing individual for whom the Father's heart breaks.  May we, like a friend this past week, see a vision of the one among all of these numbers ...

image credit: 

Ready to fight, friends?  Are you ready to armor-up? Then here's your orders:

1.  Pray. Pray. Pray.  Every day - ask the Father to rescue these lives and give them a place, a family, a friend, a church, and open door to Jesus and eternity. For more prayer prompts, see the Human Trafficking prayer guide from A21
2.  Speak out.  Do you have a blog, website, facebook, twitter, or tumblr?  Get these facts out there - because I must believe that if people knew, they would change.  They would fight too.
3. Donate - many non-profit organizations, faith-based ministries, and businesses are working on the front lines of rescue, restoration, and freedom, but they need our help to fund them.  I can't think of anything better to do with my money than free a slave. Can you?  Here are a few I like, but I encourage you to do your own research.  Just don't let it stop at research.  We must work together to make this happen.  

The Exodus Road:   click here

A21: click here

f.r.e.e. International:click here

Oh, Jesus - injustice breaks us and we allow ourselves to be broken. Because that's what You did. Like bread, Your body was torn, and in our gratitude we choose to love those You love.  If our hearts need to bleed for this injustice, we'll surrender to that.  If we need to cry a few more tears to move our feet to action, we'll let those tears fall.  If we need to sacrifice some financial comfort for the sake of freedom - thank You for the privilege of sharing in Your sacrificial suffering. Please ... Oh, God would You please end this.  Let us see Your glory as You demonstrate Your great rescuing, redeeming love.