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October 13, 2012

I remember the day I submitted my paperwork to go on this trip. What am I thinking? Why would I want to go to the other side of the world, especially with a group of people I do not know? What am I getting myself into? Is it even safe to go on this trip alone?

Over the weeks of waiting and planning there were many times I wondered if I had made a mistake. I wondered if I should back out of the trip. I wondered if there was a different plan. Even as the trip approached and plans were uncertain for the trip and opportunities were opening up at home where doors had seemed closed but I had really hoped to be involved, I questioned, not God, but myself and my wisdom. I did not want to lay out plans and ask the Lord to bless them, but I wanted to follow His lead.

All through this trip I had watched, listened, and taken things in, wondering why I was here. A large part of this trip was to cast vision for churches to connect with ministries and orphanages. Being fairly new in my church I am not aware of how I would even make the leaders aware of the needs here, let alone get them to start a partnership with a new ministry to help those half way around the world. So why was I here?

Until Tuesday, October 9th, I had never entered the doors of an orphanage. The first orphanage I ever visited is in Nolinsk, Russia. It is a location for 7-16 year old children, located in a village of about 11,000 people, and was founded in 1668. The orphanage has been around for many years, and houses about 40 children. I had images of orphanages from stories and pictures of other locations. I thought I knew what to expect.  A couple from my team had spoken of the orphanage their church had supported for the last ten years. It had recently closed, scattering the children to various other orphanages after problems including abuse had been discovered. The conditions have been tragic there.

We entered Nolinsk with caution, not knowing what to expect. What we found was an old but lovely and well cared for building. The children were housed in rooms with 3 to 6 children per room, and there were additional rooms for athletics, gatherings, a library, housing coats and shoes, and meals. We toured the building, occasionally seeing a few of the children, but mostly just looking at the facility.

As I watched the children, I began to notice that while they looked healthy and well cared for, they were someone reserved. I had been warned that Russian’s withhold their emotions and are not very demonstrative, so I wondered if it was a cultural issue.

That wondering changed as I looked in the faces of the children, really looked, and I caught their eyes.

Something changed when they knew I had actually seen them.

Something more changed the moment I reached out my hand and was able to lightly touch the shoulder of a young lady. She looked toward her leader, wondering if it was okay to respond, but I could tell how much she wanted to engage with me.

As the day went on I was given the opportunity to share with the orphans in a few different contexts, coming to know their names, hear about their studies and extra activities, and participate with them in a few of the activities.

I began to fall in love with these young people. The picture in my head of orphans were young children, under 10, without parents. Many of these children were teenagers. These were the kids I knew how to relate to, and loved.

Not being a parent, I had always from trips and activities with children because I didn’t know much about how to relate to them, but I know teenagers, and love being with them.

I sat in one room, sharing with some of the children through the assistance of Kos, a tall thin Russian man who served as my interpreter. Each sentence had to be repeated back and forth since we did not speak each other’s language, but I quickly found that there was a language these kids knew that I could speak.


As I looked in their eyes, and engaged in true eye contact with them, they responded unlike any other children I have met. They desperately wanted to be seen, known, and loved.

As I shared with these children, I asked their ages. Two of the children shared that they were 15. I looked at them with love, but also with fear. This young man and young lady were petite and gentle in spirit. They spoke to me with respect and grace, but also with a certain lack of confidence.  Within a year or at most two, these two young people, who were still children in many ways, were going to be sent away from this orphanage and expected to live much like an adult.

I highly doubted they were ready.

My heart went out to them. How could I help? What could I do?

It has been days since I was at that orphanage and still my heart goes out to them.

I looked at the young lady’s face and wondered what her life had been like. She had been at that orphanage with her younger sister for three years, but what happened before then? Were they in a family, or in a different orphanage? Had she already experienced loss, pain, trauma, maybe even abuse? I wondered what her future holds, and if she will be safe or if she will experience something like the sex trafficking we came here to learn about and stand up against.

Before we left, I was able to share with her a little and to give her a big hug. As I held her in my arms I gave her my heart, and it is my prayer that what she found was hope. Hope, not in an American who came from half way around the world to love her for a day, but hope in a caring and compassionate Father who brings even the most unlikely, those asking why they are there, to be His vessels of love.

I remembered back to what the director in Moldova had said when I asked, “What have you seen that makes the most difference to these girls?”


Orphans from “real Russia”

October 13, 2012

We left the warm weather of mid-fall in Moldova to a dreary gray and cold day in Moscow. Winter has already hinted at its arrival, but no snow has fallen yet. As we arrived and started to move through the city, I immediately sensed the changes in culture between these two countries that had both been a part of the U.S.S.R. at one time.

Chisinau (Kishinaw), the capital of Moldova was a city of 723,000-795000 people. It ha approximately the same latitude as Seattle. Contrastingly, Moscow is a bustling city of 11.5 million people. It is the 6th largest city in the world, and the most northern mega-city. There was a stark change between the poorest country in Europe to a city that holds more billionaires than any other place on earth.

Although both countries have clear signs of their roots dating back to the age of Communist rule and a different government structure, we saw much older and deeper roots in Moscow. There were many police and military officers throughout the city. At one point we jumped off the subway train too soon only to find we were at the stop for the KGB offices. And the structures were large, plain, and powerful, a sign of Stalin’s influence that still exists throughout society.

We had enough time to go to Red Square, the city landmark that might be the most well known across the world. As we wondered through the square I began to love the sights of the architecture and history that are not present in the Pacific Northwest. I wondered though why the stone square was referred to as Red Square. Was it due to the massive Kremlin wall that was red stone? Was it due to the various red buildings that also neighbored the square? Was it due to a history that I was unaware of, possible one that contained a bloody event which had at one time stained the square?  Carefully I asked our three Russian guides, leaders of Children’s HopeChest in Russia, which is also called Nadezhda Fund (Hope Fund).

I was told that the word for red is very similar sounding to the word for beautiful.

And it was beautiful.

It was also imposing.

At dinner time that evening we left the city of Moscow to head north to the Kirov region. I was told on several occasions that this is “real Russia”. Kirov, formerly known as Vyatka, is about the same latitude as Anchorage. It was founded in 1181, and was the administrative center along the Trans-Siberian Highway. Kirov region was the defensive center where many of the ICBM missiles were stored and chemical weapons were made. It was a place of exile, where many were removed from mainstream society, and sent to this region. In fact the region was closed to everyone, including Russians until 1993. There were some unscrupulous people sent to the area, but many were people that rebelled against communist rule such as authors, poets, musicians, artists, engineers, architects, and some other professionals. This created a rich culture in the region, one that still exists today.

Our purpose for coming wasn’t for the culture though, it was to see the orphans, and to learn about their plight.

There are a number of orphanages in the region. They are split into three different age groups: birth to 2-3, 2 or 3 until about 6, and 7 to 16+. We visited those that were for the older children because we were most interested in learning about what happens as there is less chance of being adopted and how the risks grow when they graduate.

There are many days of risk and fear in an orphan’s life, but the day of most risk is the day they graduate from the orphanage. I learned that some orphanages ask the children to turn in their coat and all their belongings, things given to them by the orphanage, and then they are turned away with nothing but the clothes on their back. Thankfully there are some structures in place where they can continue on to school and have housing, but further education is not a viable choice for every student.

About 15% of the children commit suicide in the first few months after graduation, some even before they graduate because they know what lies ahead. Many others end up in human trafficking or crime. These are the statistics Children’s HopeChest is trying to change. Through partnerships where a church sponsors an orphanage and each of the children in the orphanage, more resources are poured in the location and relationships are built that help tremendously.

I didn’t get to experience much of “real Russia” outside of the orphanages, tech schools, and ministry center we visited, but I saw the needs in the culture, the people, and especially in the children. They longed for love, connection, and recognition. About 90% of the orphans are not true orphans without a relative to take care of them, but instead are social orphans whose family is absent or unable/unwilling to be present every day to care for the child and provide them with a safe, loving, and secure environment in which to grow. I heard of one story where a young man’s older sister tried to pull the family back together and get him to live at home, but he choose to return to the orphanage because he knew it was at least a warm and safe environment that was not inconsistent and abusive. The orphanages provide a safety net for the children who have absent parents or provide protection from abuse.

Orphanages are not without their problems, but it provides a place where some of the children who would not otherwise stand a chance in a world that was not ready to treat them with the best of love and care.

What makes the difference?

October 8, 2012

As I sit here reflecting on the last three days my heart is jumbled up. I am filled with hope and promise, while also knowing of the great needs and problems all around me. I am struck by how little I can do to help, but am also aware that I can do something, anything, to help.

We came on this trip to learn about and address the needs of human trafficking.

To many people I know, that phrase refers to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, but that is not the only issue. There are huge numbers of people who are trafficked for their labor, forced to work off a debt they can never repay. Many of them having to live where they work, and not knowing any other part of life.

Back home in Portland, Oregon, I have become networked and involved with trafficking, although I have realized this week that I am not doing enough.

One of the questions I get from a lot of people is …

How can this happen? What causes it?

The stories here in Moldova are very similar to what I know from the US. The answers to the questions are complex and confusing.

Y., at the age of 8 was first raped by her father. By the age of 12, her mother was selling her to other men. Imagine the betrayal and confusion that causes in a young child. The people God has placed in her life to raise and protect her are hurting her and turning her over to others for abuse. They are not protecting her, encouraging her, empowering her, guiding her, and teaching her to be a beautiful and self confident young lady. Instead, because of all she experienced, she become angry and aggressive, fighting for her life. She was trafficked an abused for a number of years before being rescued and brought to a shelter for help and hope.

After about nine months at the shelter, Y decided to leave to be with her boyfriend. She left her belongs and departed. Those at the shelter allowed her to leave, knowing that she needed the freedom to make her own decisions. A few months later, Y showed up at the center again. Obviously a few months pregnant, she came seeking her belongings, wondering if they had even kept them. Not only were her belongings still there, but she was greeted with welcome smiles and open hearts. She asked if she could return to the shelter. Not only was the door opened to her, but she was welcomed in with such love and grace that it began to change her heart.

After all the abuse Y had experienced, she had asked shelter staff where God was when she was abused and why he didn’t stop it. They didn’t have answers to that, but they taught her about Him and about His love, grace, and care.

People began to see a difference.

Since returning to the shelter, Y has become a mother, a leader, and a Christian. Her life has been transformed and changed. She knows that she is supported and loved.

I asked the director of the ministry what he has seen that makes the most difference in the girls lives.

His answer was simple….


An unwanted place

October 7, 2012

Have you ever been somewhere you didn’t want to be? Someplace you wished you could leave?

I think most of us have, and usually in a short time we are able to leave. We leave, got to a place where we are comfortable, feel safe, or enjoy the situation. There are however many in this world who do not have that freedom.

Imagine living in a place where 70% of the country would like to leave. In fact, over the last 10 years 50% of the workforce has left the country to find work abroad, most of them illegally. What remains in the country is mostly funded from those who work abroad.

Today, we saw some of the poverty that exists firsthand. We visited two lovely families in their homes. Seeing how they lived without water, with little ability to heat their homes, and one home had no electricity at all which also meant no refrigeration or laundry. Both families had infants in the home plus older children.

Would these families leave if they could?


Moldova is a country with a lot of problems including poverty, alcoholism, political and governmental changes and control, and a high rate of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. They have the third fastest internet connection in the world, which had led to other problems, such as possibly being a lead supplier of child pornography.

This afternoon and evening we visited with survivors of human trafficking and those who work with them. These ladies have experience both slave labor and sexual exploitation. One of them we figure was affected by these tragedies for more than 15 years, being taken from her own country and forced to do what others demanded of her.

As I have shared with those who are serving these people who are affected by poverty, depression, abuse, and tragedy I have wondered what kept them here to serve. They work very hard, and are positive and hospitable people.

There is only one answer, their love for God. They have learned, even in their own brokenness, that there is a Love far greater than what they can offer. It has changed them, and it causes them to pour out what they have for others.

I hope that the love I hold for others is as apparent and real, and that it will impact lives to this same level.

What do you give to someone who has all they need?

October 5, 2012

I remember the day I wrestled with the question….

What do you give to someone who has all they need?

My thoughts at that time were about finding a Christmas gift for my dad, someone who was hard to buy for. He did not have many interests outside of work and time with family, and I, being the person I am, wanted to get him something with meaning.

What do you give to someone who has the ability to get or purchase all want and need?
Is there anything I could give that would be meaningful?

Those questions have changed my life.

Not because of finding a Christmas gift for my dad, but because the questions were about to transform my life and relationship with God.

I love God, and I want to share with Him. Because I love Him, I want to give something to Him or serve Him. I can love and serve people by doing kind acts, purchasing them gifts, or doing and saying special things.

How do I demonstrate to God that I love Him?

What can I give to Him that is meaningful? After all, He is the creator of the universe and all it holds!

As I wrestled through my thinking that day I came up with one key turning point … If I truly love someone, I start loving what they love.

So started my journey of learning to love what God loved. First, I had to figure out what he loved most. It didn’t take long to realize that what He is most passionate about and loves the most is us!

This began a journey of learning what it means to love God and love others with all I am, a journey of giving my life away.

Today, that journey has led to a trip to the other side of the world. A trip where I will be working with ladies who have experienced great loss, pain, and trauma due to human trafficking. A trip where I am committed to learn about making a difference against injustice and standing up for what is right.

On the plane ride, I have been reading Christine Caine’s new book, Undaunted. Christine and her husband have started an organization called A21 that is rescuing girls, and hopes to provide a place of safety and recovery for them. Christine shares of a time when she met a group of survivors, and they asked.

Why are you here?

Why didn’t you come sooner?

Those questions are what will be on my heart and mind tomorrow as we have the opportunity to meet some of these ladies.

Will they trust me? Why haven’t I done more to help them?

There is no time like the present to start.

For today, the only answer I have is that I am here now and I want to do my best to give God what he wants most, for me to love on these ladies and others I meet with all I have available.


August 23, 2011

Sometimes we trip, stumble and fall in life. It happens. We make mistakes, and sometimes we have to live with the consequences. We tend to think of consequences as negative ramifications; however, there is a way to change toward a better future. We may have done a face plant, but we do not have to live with sand or mud on our face, a scarlet letter on our chest, DUI plastered on our forehead, convict proclaimed across our chest, or failure written on our heart.

What if we failed forward?

What if our failures propelled us toward something different? Something that was positive, hopeful, and promising? What if our failures caused us to examine ourselves and make changes? What if our failures moved us toward people and community instead of away from it? What if our failures helped us to learn responsibility, humility, and grace? What if our failures helped us to become a better person, a person who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around us?

Do you know Mike Tyson’s story? He failed. His past is one of poor decisions and behavior. They were not small things done in the privacy of his home or life, but they became nationally publicized actions of wrong behavior in his career (biting an opponent), his personal life (rape and abuse), and his finances. At one time, he was a leader, a role model, and a very famous person. Then a series of mistakes led him spiraling down, down, down, until he hit a very low point in life.

That is not where Mike’s story ends though. Mike held on, and although it took time to show to others, Mike fell forward. Through time, hard work, and a great deal of humility, Mike has started a new life while taking responsibility for his past. He is not running and hiding from what was, but he is believing in what is and what can be.

Mike and I have something in common. Mike’s story may be known to others, while my story is more personal, but the bottom line is we both failed.

Failure hurts!

There is no easy way through it. Mike’s failure not only hurt him, but it hurt others too. In my story, I was hurt by others and I allowed that hurt to grow inside of me. That hurt led to fear, brokenness, and insecurity. It led to doubts, questions, and lack of trust. It kept me from believing that God could make a difference. My issues did not just hurt me, but they hurt others. I disagreed with and was somewhat rebellious toward someone I truly cared about and respected, damaging that relationship and those of others around us. Even worse, though, I disagreed with and disrespected God.

Besides failure, Mike and I have something else in common. We have chosen to take responsibility for our past, and to allow our failures to motivate us to move toward a different future. There are days I wish I had a story like Mike’s, a story of a moral failure. My story led to being removed from my church with a charge that I was unsubmissive and did not belong in the Body of Christ. Failure can lead to shame, and there is tremendous shame when even in your greatest need you are turned away from the Body of Christ.

I changed, repented, and have overcome the issues from my past; however, I still am walking through the ramifications of putting my life back together. Mike is on that journey too. It is a hard journey, with many, many obstacles, but there is one thing that is helping us, God. Second chances are not always offered by men and women, but God has promised us that if we repent, turn from our past, and believe in him, then we will be forgiven.

I have never met anyone famous. I don’t know if I even want to since there are so many expectations tied to such a meeting.

I think it would be different if I were to meet Mike. He is not just someone famous; you see I know we have something in common. We both sinned. We both have had our lives changed by God and because of that, we are different people. We were given a chance for new life, a life that matters.

I don’t know for certain what Mike believes. Some say he is a Christian. I have heard him testify of his belief in God. What I do know is that Mike has a past, yet he also has a future. He is trying to be a different man, and I would be honored to spend eternity with him as my brother.

We all fall at times, but when we fall forward onto our knees, confessing our sin, repenting of our past, and finding freedom and forgiveness through Christ, we find a very different future.

I have learned that I will fail, but from now on, I will fail….forward. We are never beyond second chances. 

This post is a part of the Never Beyond poster series led by People of the Second Chance. This series is asking us to ponder and rethink who we consider beyond a second chance. Please check them out at their website, or on Facebook.

Designed to…

August 20, 2011

When we meet someone new, one of the first things we share about ourselves is our name. Each week at my church we stand and greet each other saying our name and listening to the names of those seated around us.

Our name is part of our identity. It is something that travels with us through life. Some people change their name, become known by a nickname, or choose to be known by their middle name instead of their first name, yet we all have names.

We also all have a purpose. If we talk with others in a social setting for more than just a few moments one of the very common questions is what do you do for living. Are you a teacher, a manager, a pastor, support staff, a sales person, a paper pusher, or a stay at home parent. There is something (maybe multiple things) that we spend the majority of our time doing. These shape us, but are they who we are?

I am in the process of looking for a new job.

In that process, a lot of time is spent thinking about and talking to others about what you do for a living, what you enjoy doing, what type of a job you want, and what you were designed to do.

What do I do for a living? I am a project manager.

The answer to what I am designed to do is very different. What I am designed to do is revealed in how I do my job as a project manager. 

I am an obstacle mover, an equipper, a motivator.
I turn ideas into reality.
I see problems as opportunities.
I help others do the best they can do.
I open doors, empower miracles, and move mountains.
I  create, dream, lead, launch, drive, remove, confront, move, comfort, guide, point, give, support, and release.

We are created by God, and he has designed us with a purpose. We have been designed to do something. The first thing each of us is created to do is glorify God. We do that through different means, but each of us can bring him glory.

I am learning that when we live out what we are designed to do, that is what brings God the most glory.

In my day job, I am a project manager. In other roles through volunteer and ministry work, I am still an obstacle mover, equipper, and motivator. I thrive when I help others do the best they can do. I work to open doors, empower miracles in others lives, and move mountains.  I live a life of action where I create, dream, lead, launch, drive, remove, confront, move, comfort, guide, point, give, support, and release.

It looks different in my different roles, but I am designed to love, launch, and lead others.

What are you designed to do? Are you living it out in your job, your home, your family, your friendships, your service, your relationships, your life? 

Creativity Opposed

August 12, 2011

I was 14 year olds, and trying for a dream, but my dream did not develop as I had hoped. I remember feeling so disappointed and discouraged. Then came along Kirsten. She said four little words that changed my entire view of the world at that moment.

I believe in you!

In the face of my circumstances, those four words gave me hope. They encouraged me to believe. They gave me something that I lacked….courage.

This year I made a goal to be intentional. To make my decisions and actions with thought, passion, and purpose. However,  few months ago, I again faced some circumstances in life where dreams did not develop as planned, where hopes were derailed, and were I lacked courage.

Adversity has a way of revealing our true character.

The circumstances I faced were not just disappointing, I felt opposed. This time there were no words of “I believe in you”. Instead the door was closed, and I was turned away. I wanted to fight back.

Over these last few months as I have worked through the adversity there is a price I have paid that I had not seen coming.

I felt opposed, but what actually was opposed was my creativity.

Creativity takes space, freedom, energy, passion, enthusiasm, and confidence. 
Creativity comes from down deep, and when our heart, purpose, and actions are opposed, our creativity is opposed. 

I believe in the Body of Christ. We all have a role, a place, and things to share that are valuable to others. I have a heart for others. I want to see others excel at their purposes and their dreams. I want encourage them, support them, and help them build the confidence and courage they need to excel.

As leaders, managers, parents, teachers, neighbors, spouses, friends, and even as servants we are in a role to build up others. Every day we pass by people we could encourage. We have the ability to release the creativity in others. To free them from any opposition or adversity the might be facing.

This week I saw a movie trailer that posed a couple of questions. “How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing less will do? How do we inspire everyone around us to do the impossible?”

Where can you be inspiring others to use and explore their creativity? It might be as simple as four little words. 

I believe in you … Go for the gusto … Reach for the stars …. Live to the fullest … You are so talented … Dream the impossible dream!

Freedom moves us to act

July 4, 2011

Today, July 4th, is a day to remember and celebrate American freedom. Sometimes I wonder if we do more of the celebrating and less of the remembering. Freedom is a gift, a precious gift, but like most gifts there is a cost, and the cost of freedom is often very high.

I have been thinking about the freedoms we have that others may not  be able to share. Sometimes that is due to cultural and political issues, sometimes it is due to persecution, or poverty, or war, and sometimes it is due to their own choices.

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to take action against injustices
  • Freedom to vote
  • Freedom to purchase resources, including housing, water, electricity, medical care, and food
  • Freedom to choose our relationships
  • Freedom to learn, grow, and change
  • Freedom to own property and belongings
  • Freedom to go where we want
  • Freedom to celebrate, rejoice, be joyful
  • Freedom to love, forgive, show mercy

On the east coast of America it is already evening and many have been eating and celebrating for hours, anticipating nightfall and the darkness that makes fireworks spectacular. At each celebration I hope there is a remembrance of those who have paid the price for these freedoms we celebrate.

Freedom came with a cost.
Freedom came with loss of life, blood, resources, and relationships.
Freedom came by giving up time with family and friends, comfort, health, and safety.
Freedom came when someone made a choice to stand up for what they believed was right, even in the face of wrong.

As we remember those who paid that cost, I hope that we also are moved to a place of wanting to do the same for others. May we seek to bring freedom to those who are abused, imprisoned, broken, and lost. May we seek to be a hand and heart of hope and light when the darkness of circumstances seems overwhelming.

July 4th is a day of remembering and celebrating, but may it also be a day where we are moved to act. A day where we see the fireworks and celebrations and we dream of a future where there is even more to celebrate.

Is there some new way you are moved to act?

Story, Imagination, Creativity all rolled together into….

May 31, 2011

When you think of stories, imagination, and creativity, what do you think of? 

Children’s books? Movies? Science Fiction? 

Art? Movies? Books? Music? Photography? Acting? Poetry?

A Christian conference? Wait…..what?

Imagine a conference where this is all brought together in a multi-sensory experience, designed to inspire, and entice your creativity.

STORY was designed for the creative class of Christian leaders. A place to connect, to dream, to refresh and inspire them to new places.

Oh, you don’t see yourself as one of the creative class because you aren’t a leader on a worship team, or guiding others along a creative process? I know EXACTLY how you feel. When I walked into STORY 2010 I wondered why I was there. What had I gotten myself into? Why was I alone and attending a conference in Illinois when my entire community was back home in Oregon and I wasn’t leading anything creative with anyone. Two days later, I was so blessed and changed by what I had experienced.

A fire starts with a spark. A movement starts with one step. A dream starts with a stirring of the heart. 

Take a look at STORY.
Consider it, pray about it, dream about it.

Allow your creative side to tell you if there is anything you could learn, dream, or do differently.

The early bird discount for the conference ends today, May 31st, so if you are ready, take a risk and come along for a wonderful, imaginative, creative, and inspiring experience. There is still room, so if you are not ready today, keep dreaming and investigating. Revisit the site and consider coming along for an imaginative and awakening experience. I am sure you will be inspired!

Struggling to Understand Grace

May 2, 2011




It is a word I have heard many times in life, but to be honest, I don’t understand it.

That is kind of hard to admit. As a Christian, especially one in leadership, I feel like it is something I should understand. But…sadly, I don’t.


Such a small word, but such a big concept.

I belong to a movement of people called, People of the Second Chance. We believe in unleashing radical grace, liberating love, and overthrowing judgment. A group of members of this movement are part of something called the Grace Mob. We reach out to others in need of love, encouragement, hope, and grace. Many times this takes the form of words through email, twitter, or cards, but occasionally we find practical ways we can assist someone in need.

I love what the group does, but I honestly wonder how much of it is about grace. I think a lot of what we practice is really just love and compassion. It has left me wondering if I really understand grace.

If I don’t understand grace, then how can I unleash it toward others?

If I don’t understand grace, then how can I accept it from Christ?

Grace is defined in dictionaries as: 1) favor or good will, 2) a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior, 3) mercy; clemency; pardon,  4) favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity. 5) the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. 6) moral strength

Mercy, pardon, unmerited favor. . . . How is this different than love and compassion?
This week I have accepted a challenge to *BE* an active demonstration of love and grace to the people in my life. I am faced with constant ways that I can love others and demonstrate that in tangible and radical ways, but grace. Glorious, wonderful, amazing grace.
How can we demonstrate grace?
How can we understand grace?
How can we teach grace to others and encourage them to also be people that live and demonstrate grace?

Holes in My Gospel and Thinking

March 13, 2011

I am in the midst of reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (President of World Vision). At the beginning of the book he tells a story of Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners Magazine. While at Divinity school he and some of this classmates cut out every Bible passage and verse that dealt with poverty, wealth, justice, and oppression. They were left with a Bible that was full of holes.

Other authors such as Tony Compolo ( and Tom Davis ( have also inspired and called Christians to live out a biblically based faith that matches scripture.

As I have been reflecting on Stearns story and message I am left considering how closely my life matches with scripture. Are there parts of scripture that I know but refuse to align my life with?

  • Do I hold other things as a “god” in my life above the Lord?
  • Do I keep the sabbath holy?
  • Do I take a day to rest my body, mind, and spirit?
  • Do I follow where the Lord leads, or do I make my plans and ask the Lord to bless them?
  • Am I living a call to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 NIV) and to “go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19 NIV)?
  • “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)
  • Is my heart turned to other things besides the Lord? “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20)

I want to live a life based on truth, on scripture, and on God’s wisdom. It is hard to swallow how far I have to go, but I am thankful that God is forgiving and patient, caring more about who I am becoming than who I am today.

If you cut out everything in the Bible you do not believe or are not willing to apply in your life, would your Bible be full of holes?

What is it we are not willing to believe and/or apply?

Believing Plus More

February 28, 2011

Some days it is tough to believe…. in me, in others, in good things, in more.
Yet, that is what is needed. 

Other days, choosing to believe comes as easily as breathing.

I have been reminded lately though that just believing isn’t enough.

I can believe my car will start, but I still need to turn the key to make it happen.

I can believe that the orphans and fatherless will be taken care of, but someone needs to take action to make a difference in their life.

I do believe that I have things I can change in this world, but they will never change unless I take action.

Believing may be tough some days, or easy on others. Either way, believing alone is not enough.

What do you believe in enough that you are willing to take action on this week?

The darkness of prison, the need for light

February 27, 2011

Paul knew what it was to spend time in prison. He was likely in a dark, cold, wet, drafty, polluted, stench ridden location. There were no comforts of home. The prisoners did not have rights or entitlements. Injustice was enacted against prisoners without thought.

Most of us do not think of prison very often. In our modern-day terminology it is a concrete building with metal or stone fences enclosing people who have been convicted of not following societies rules. It is a place that is removed, set aside, and avoided.

In reality, many of us are living in prison every day. The prison of unforgiveness, the prison of expectations, the prison of need. We are living lives of such brokenness that each day has moments that are difficult to walk through. Memories haunt us. Situations are avoided. Conflict lingers, causing us to rethink things.

In Matthew 18, we are told of a story where Christ was sharing with the disciples about forgiveness. It is a much more important issue than most of us realize. Rather than working through issues, we continue to live broken lives, refusing to let Christ enter into the conflict and bring healing. Like the unmerciful servant we have been forgiven, a debt that is far more than we could ever repay.

““But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” ” (Matthew 18:28-35)

Are you living in darkness? In a prison of your making? Are you living in a prison of unforgiveness from others?

Sins, brokenness, pain, and need that are left in the darkness will suffer, fester, and grow causing us to wither and die. They need to be brought into the light.

That is exactly what Christ came to change. “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,  to comfort all who mourn”

When we let Christ enter into our pain, our brokenness, our need, we find freedom and release. There was darkness, there was a need for rescue, hope, light, and redemption. We knew what it was to live in darkness, in prison. Through Christ, our lives can be changed. My life has been changed, and with incredible joy I love to share about the amazing things He has done and is doing in my life.

Thank you Lord for seeing me as I really am, releasing me, and changing my life. Now, as my life overflows I get to share that joy and hope with others!

Anxious thoughts…when the place you most want to be, feels like the most unsafe place in the world?

February 19, 2011

Anxious thoughts.

We have all had moments where anxious thoughts rise in our heads and hearts. Something makes us feel uncomfortable, ill at ease, alone, or unnerved. The future may not be known, past circumstances weigh on our minds, or the present situation is tense or uncertain.

The ideas of danger, misfortune, or worry actually cause a response in our body, our mind, and our spirit.

It can keep us safe. It can prepare us for greater danger. It can also keep us from trust, hope, peace, and joy.

Trusting God

King David was one of the strongest men in history. He led a nation, he fathered a family, he guided a people, and he also had an incredible need for God. One thing is very clear from David’s story. He was a man who made some bad decisions, that lacked wisdom, guidance, and peace, yet he knew where to turn when he had a need in his life.

In Psalm 139, David turned to God saying, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” He didn’t hide his need for God. He was not a perfect man, and he knew that he needed the Lord to provide direction and guidance, and bring peace to his anxious thoughts.

A moment of anxiety or uneasiness usually doesn’t create a lasting effect. Sometimes we can even laugh about it after the fear or adrenaline has passes.

What happens though, when anxiety goes a  little extreme?

The uneasiness turns to fear. The uncertainty moves toward confusion. Adrenaline overpowers the body.

A moment turns to something more. A little turns to a lot. Something small turns into something big.

That is what can happen in a car accident, a disaster, an assault, a war. The body, mind, and or spirit is traumatized and it responds to the extreme.

This is the ground where Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is created.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is based on anxiety. The causes are not completely known, but it can occur after a major event of stress, trauma, or threat. A person does not even have to experience the event but only needs to see, or be affected by it. Certain events may produce stress or anxiety in anyone, but that doesn’t mean everyone involved will experience PTSD. It depends on your temperament, your resources, your perceptions, and your state of mind at the time of the events.

However what if you do experience PTSD?

That is the question I have had to wrestle with, because I live with PTSD.

I live with anxiety that is a little out of control. I live with a body that doesn’t always respond the way I want it to. I live with a mind that can get frustrated or confused more easily than others. I live with doubts and questions. I live with a constant reminder of the trauma of my past.

However, like David, I also live with the knowledge that I need the Lord to provide direction and guidance, and bring peace to my anxious thoughts. I live with the knowledge, the hope, and conviction that Chris holds the answer to my anxiety.

PTSD is something that only about 7-8% of American’s experience in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to wrestle with this disorder. Sometimes it lasts for only a short time, while others may suffer from the effects of PTSD for years.

There are three main groupings of symptoms experienced by those who live with PTSD.

  • Re-experiencing of the trauma (troublesome memories, flashbacks, nightmares and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma)
  • Avoidance of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma or a general numbing of emotional responsiveness
  • Physical symptoms such as sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, hyperarousal and hypervigilance (excessive watchfulness)

My anxiety comes from trauma in my past. I re-experience the trauma, over and over again. I experience many of the physical symptoms where my body responds to triggers that remind it of something threatening, even if it isn’t true. When that happens, I have to work hard to bring it to a place where it is calm and relaxed. Places, people,and experiences remind my mind and body of the trauma.

Good News Bad News

The best way to cope with PTSD, is to avoid situations where I might be reminded or triggered and where my anxiety and responses accelerate.

Veterans with PTSD may never be able to return to war. Abuse survivors avoid contact with their abusers or situations that remind them of where the abuse occurred. Those who experienced a plane crash or train wreck may never choose that mode of transportation again.

We look for places to feel safe. Places where we are accepted. Places where positive and uplifting things bring joy and hope instead of anxiety.

We make choices that provide a sense of security, often living in a place of comfort and security rather than taking risks and stepping out into the unknown.

This trauma, stress, anxiety, and the ongoing ramifications of living with PTSD may be the event that leads a person to ask questions about religion and faith. Faith, and church may be the place that is needed to bring the peace, hope, and calm that is needed in the healing process.

The question I wrestle with is, where do you go
when church is what triggers your PTSD.

My trauma came through the church, through abuse.

Where do you turn when church is the place you most want to be,
yet it feels like the most unsafe place in the world?

Capitalism, Charity, and Recreating Society

February 15, 2011

We live in a society affected by Capitalism. It is so present throughout our culture that most of us could not separate out what is capitalistic and where it started.

Charity is also prevalent throughout our culture. We are asked to give to causes, to support non-profits, to participate in food/clothing/goods drives, and to help organizations meet their goals to do something to better society. The question is why do we give?

A few days ago Tom Davis from Children’s HopeChest posted this video on his blog. It presents some challenging thoughts about capitalism, charity, giving, and the motivations behind it. It pushes us to think if even well-known and strongly supported models may not be doing the good we think they are.

One of the responses to that post raised some questions that really affected my thoughts after viewing this video.

  • Does God need charity? We are all created in His image, might charity steal the image of God in people?
  • Can true charity exist when there is no pain, risk, and/or suffering in my giving? Should the point of charity be – I put myself in a place of suffering so that others don’t have to die; so others might live.
  • Does Jesus call us to stop suffering or join others in suffering?

Is charity hurting or helping? Are there other models that work better?

Is there a way to recreate society? Our church? Our family? Our own thinking?

Love…a call to action

February 15, 2011

Today the American culture has celebrated a day for love.

Love is most often referred to as an emotion, a feeling, a thought, a belief.

Scripture presents a different view of love. Love is a call to action.

One of the most well-known verses in scripture tells us, – –

“For God so loved the world that … ” (John 3:16)

Love moved God to action.

Love should move us to action.

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39)

Loving others should not be about how we want to love, but about how they need us to love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Where is God asking you to love in an active and tangible way?

The Known Or Something the World Has Never Seen

January 14, 2011

Sometimes the news stories I encounter make me wonder, in good and exciting ways. I love the creativity of the human spirit, and the fact that there are incredibly talented people on this earth who bless my life.

I encountered one of those new stories this week. Google, the search engine company, has pulled together a symphony of musicians from all over the world. They are talented musicians, some playing instruments that are known to me such as the guitar, tuba, trombone, and clarinet. There are also other instruments such as this Guzheng player from China. The Guzheng is an instrument that a lot of the world has never seen or heard before.

I recognize I am a lover of music, so my opinion may be biased, but I think this is a beautiful instrument.

As I watched Su Chang play, I thought about creativity and innovation.

Most of us may be talented, and be able to accomplish things that are known, established, or standard. It is the truly creative and innovative people who look at life and come up with new and unknown ways to do things.

I want to find that creative and innovative side, where we move our dreams into reality. I want to at least consider those thing the world has never seen or heard before.

Here’s to dreaming!


January 12, 2011

This past year God has shown me a very powerful word in scripture; a word that can limit our faith.

In the New Testament, there are five places where “if” is used in conjunction with “possible”. These scriptures point out how fragile and weak our faith can be.

Jesus warned us about the future when he said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” (Mt 24:24)

In Matthew 9:21-23, “Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

At the beginning of Luke, we are even shown how “if” is tied with doubt and questions. Nothing undermines our faith more than doubts and questions about the character and identity of God. “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.” (Lk 3:15)

Paul uses these two words in a slightly different context when he challenges us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Ro 12:18)  Paul knew it there were those that would oppose believers. Even other religious individuals would oppose those pursuing Christianity, but he also knew that with Christ, “everything is possible for him who believes”.

The fifth occurrence where if and possible occur together is said by Christ himself. Even he had questions and maybe even doubts, but he also had faith.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Mt 26:39)

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  (Mt 26:42)

Christ shows us how we need to respond. Even he asked, “if it is possible”, but then he continued with accepting God’s will. He responded to his doubts and questions by honestly sharing them and then moved past them, choosing what he knew was the best thing.

Where are you saying “if”? Are you asking if something is possible? How can you move past your doubts and questions, being honest about them, and choose what is best instead of living in the lack of faith that can come from over using IF?

One Word

January 12, 2011

Last week I posted about my One Word for 2011.

I did not know at that time that God has been working on Alece’s heart and her connections to move One Word into something more than just a thought in her life.

Through Alece, OneWord2011 has been established. It is tied to her main blog Grit and Glory

As she says, “One little word can make a big difference.”

I have seen many others post their “One Word”.  Here are a few of them.















Do you have One Word that is driving you to this year? Is the Lord trying to speak something to you?