Delighting In The Details…

I was tired yesterday. The past few days have been exhausting and the last thing I wanted to do was to go shopping. But groceries were needed and so off I went. I decided that while I was out I would also go to the local teacher supply store with the intent of just looking around. I needed to pick up some classroom décor and a few other items for my upcoming year of teaching in Guatemala but thought I would just check out the selection and get some prices for future reference. I was surprised to see a sign on the door that said they are going out of business in just a few weeks.

As I walked in, I was greeted by a lady who I later found out was the owner. She said, “Did you see our Facebook post this morning?” I said, “No, ma’am, I did not.” She replied, “When you get to the register, tell me you saw it.” I smiled and said, “OK.” I didn’t realize that by telling me to do that she was giving me 50% off of everything in the store. It was already marked down to 40% – but if you said you saw the post just for April Fool’s Day you got the additional 10% off. I walked out with an abundance of supplies – more than enough for my classroom and some to share – for pennies on the dollar.

As I chatted briefly with the owner, I explained to her what I was doing – transitioning for a year from church ministry to classroom ministry in Guatemala. And I found out she is a fellow Christ-follower. Her shop’s closing is a heart breaker for her – but she was delighted to know that the supplies she offered at the prices she gave were a huge blessing to me and will bless other teachers and kids in Guatemala as well. We both walked away from that encounter marveling at the goodness of God and His mysterious ways.

—-

It was stressful. Last week a very young friend of mine had to have emergency surgery, his second operation in just a few weeks’ time. As I walked into the OR recovery room, I was very surprised to see a familiar face sitting at the monitoring station near his bed. It was the exact same nurse who had taken such marvelous care of him three weeks ago. I don’t know how many beds there are in the recovery area but it is a huge children’s hospital, ranked 5th overall in the US. So there are a lot! As it turns out, she was not the nurse assigned to his bed but was doing lunch coverage for all the nurses. And so it just so happened that she was the one to greet me as I came in.

Same event, different story… My little friend was in the ER prior to surgery, miserable and dwarfed by his huge bed. His exhausted Mom was doing her best to comfort him while we all waited to find out what was going to happen next. As we were hanging out, the very young doctor came in to check on him. She looked at me and asked, “Are you his grandma?” Considering that I am only 7 years older than his Mom, it provided us with a good laugh – which was so needed!

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 (NLT)

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.” Psalm 107:43 (NLT)

“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4 (NLT)

Every detail of my life.
Of your life, too, if you are a follower of Jesus.
He sees.
He knows.
And He is at work.

Yes, you are one of billions.
And yet, He is big enough to know you intimately.
And small enough to meet your greatest need.

He knows how to direct your steps.
When you need a deep discount.
When you need a familiar face.
When you need a good laugh.
He knows.

And He is always at work.
Even when you cannot see Him.
Even when you do not feel Him.
Even when the enemy is filling your head with lies.
And your heart is questioning His goodness.

Even then, He is at work in your situation.
Cheering you on.
Eagerly anticipating how you will choose obedience.
Choose trust.
Choose to place your hope in Him.

He is a gentleman, though.
If you choose to power through on your own strength, He will let you.
If you choose to not obey, He will allow it.
If you choose to not access all of the amazing promises He has given, He will not force you.

But you will reap the consequences.
You will miss out on the blessing.
He will still love you.
But you will have trouble seeing it.
He will still be at work.
But you won’t acknowledge it.
And He will still offer peace beyond understanding and joy in every circumstance.
But you won’t feel it.

But even then, He will patiently wait.
Renewing His mercies every morning.
Holding open His arms, willing to carry you through.
Waiting for you to turn your face toward His.

He longs to be your everything.
Will you let Him?
The choice is yours alone.

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On Doing What Comes Naturally…

Nothing in their experience prepared them for what they saw as they scouted out the land.
The area was lush and green.
Bursting with fruit.
Bumper crops everywhere they looked.

Good land that God had declared to be theirs.

But this good land came with walled cities.
And behind those thick walls, enemies.
And not just any enemies.
Gigantic ones. Literally.
With strong armies backing them.

Naturally, they were afraid.

So they did what came naturally.
When they returned to Moses they reported all their eyes had seen.
Along with all their hearts felt.
“Great land! Horrible enemies.”
“Enormous fruit! Impossible odds.”

And ten of the twelve spies reached the same conclusion: This is a suicide mission. We cannot conquer this land. We give up.
And they inspired the people to give up as well.

They were right.
Naturally, they could not do it.
They did not have what it took to possess an entire new land filled with walled cities, strong armies and giants.
Naturally, it was impossible.

But two of the spies didn’t do what came naturally.
They saw the same circumstances.
Experienced the same impossibilities.
And chose to do what came supernaturally.

They chose to take God at His Word.
He had told them He would give them the land.
He had led them thus far, doing miracle after miracle along the way.
So, while fear was the natural response, Caleb and Joshua chose to go with the supernatural one.
Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it; for we will certainly conquer it.” (Numbers 13:30)

But the people did what came naturally.
They tallied their resources.
Compared them to what they were up against.
Left God out of the equation completely.
And gave in to fear instead of faith.

Which led them to rebel against Moses, and ultimately against God.
They refused to be obedient. And paid for it with their lives.
All because they did what came naturally.

I like to think that if I had been one of the twelve spies, I would have been a Joshua or Caleb.
I would have looked at the impossible odds and said, “God’s got this. Let’s go!”

But knowing me, I probably would have done what came naturally – fretted, feared, and forgotten God.

Because the reality is, that is what I do now.
When faced with my own personal walled cities, giants and massive armies, I most often choose the natural response rather than the supernatural one.
I tally my resources.
Compare them to the problem at hand.
Leave God out of the equation.
And give into fear instead of faith.

I might sugar-coat it with terms like, “I’m not worried, just concerned.”
Or, “God, I trust you with my finances but let’s see what I can make happen here.”
Or, “God, I know the pattern you set is for me to work six and rest one day, but if I don’t work today it won’t all get done.”

But those responses are just as faith-less as the ten who said, “We cannot.”

Naturally, I want to see all the outcomes before I proceed.
Naturally, I want to be guaranteed success.
Naturally, I want to guard what is mine, protecting, maybe even hoarding my resources since I don’t know what is coming.
Naturally, I want to put up barriers between you and me, walls around my heart, because I have enough to be concerned about without thinking about you.
Naturally, I want things to go my way, according to my plan, in my timing.
Naturally, I want to walk by sight.

Supernaturally, that all looks different.
When God commands, I obey and leave all the consequences to Him.
When God directs, I let Him define what success looks like.
Because God says give, I give generously, trusting Him to provide.
Because God says love, I let down the walls and let you in, knowing He will be my protector if that is needed.
Because God is God, I choose to surrender completely to His plans, trusting that His timing is perfect and His ways are always right.
And because God loved me enough to send Jesus to die in my place, I can put my hand in His and walk forward with confidence, even in the darkest night and the scariest places, without knowing what is ahead.

None of that happens naturally.
All of it is only possible supernaturally.

But here’s the thing.
Living naturally feels safer.
But it always leads to death.
Death of dreams.
Death of possibility.
Death of trust.
And even physical death.

Doing life my way, without His guidance, care and provision is never a good idea.
Because my vision is limited.
My own power is minimal at best.
And my resources are non-existent.

Doing life His way feels much, much riskier.
And therefore scarier.
But it is actually much safer.
Because it always leads to life.
Abundant life.
Supernatural life.
And life that keeps multiplying, spreading from person to person.

Doing what comes naturally is easy.
I just react.

Doing what comes supernaturally means remembering that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
It means taking every thought captive to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Being in constant conversation with Him through my day.
Finding out what His Word says about a topic.
And then applying it to my daily life.
Regardless of how I feel about it.

But here is the incredible thing.
When I do that, He does the heavy lifting.
When I live surrendered to Him, He provides the power to get the job done.
When I seek Him first, He carries me through.

So I get all the power I need to live His way.
AND I get the abundant blessings along the way as well.
The giants get conquered.
The walled cities fall.
The enemy army is repelled.

And I get to enjoy the fruit of HIS labors.
Seeing Him use me in spite of me to bless others.
Experiencing the peace of knowing I am not in charge.
The joy of knowing He’s going to provide everything I need.
The love I need to be able to love others in His name.
And so much more.

Today, I don’t want to do what comes naturally.
I want to constantly and consistently do what comes supernaturally.
Will you join me?

Am I Worthy?

She meant well, I am sure.
And in some ways her message sounded really good.

It was an online devotional and the topic was our worth.
Our value.
Our worthiness.
And where we find it.

Her message and mine are for the same audience – those who have chosen to say “yes” to God’s call to be a Christ-follower. If you have not done that, this devotional doesn’t apply to you.
But if you have, please keep reading.
This message is so important.
Because we get it so badly wrong most of the time.

She hit the first part of her message out of the park.
Exhorting us to not find our identity or our value in appearance, talents, or gifts.

But then she blew it.

She said that my worth, our worth, is found in how well we love and obey God.

And, oh, that sounds so good in some ways!
After all, the Bible does call us to holiness.
To right living.
To righteousness.

And in a world – and yes, in a global Church – that is getting holiness so badly wrong, it sounds good to say, “Your value comes from how well you follow the Master.”

Jesus did say things like “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies”.
And He meant every word.

Paul did exhort us to put off a whole bunch of bad stuff and to put on a whole bunch of good. (Colossians 3)
He did challenge the Church over and over again to be holy.
To deal strongly and directly with sin.
Even while loving the person sinning.

And God even says, “Be holy as I am holy.”

The standard is high – very, very high.

But here’s the thing:
Keeping God’s standard is not where I find my worth.
My value does not come from how much I love God.
Or how well I obey Him.
My value does not come from keeping the rules.
Or living righteously.
It does not come from getting it right more times than I get it wrong.
From giving unselfishly.
From loving others.
Or even from how well I love God.

YES, I should do all those things.
Strive for them.
As Paul put it to the Galatians, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”

BUT.
That is NOT where I find my worth.

How well I live for God does not define my value.
The sum total of my good deeds does not give me my worth.
Even how well I obey doesn’t add to my worthiness in the eyes of God.

My value, my worth, and my worthiness have absolutely nothing to do with me.

My value is found in ONE place and one place alone.
God.
God made me.
And then He chose me.
Sought me out.
And called me to be His kid.

He redeemed me.
And He clothed me in HIS righteousness.
Because ALL of mine is filthy rags. (Isaiah 64)
Before Christ.
And even after.
If it is MY righteousness, mustered up from some sense of adding value, making God love me, being good enough to be His kid, then it is garbage.

My worth does not come from how I live.
How I love Him.
How much I obey.
How well I follow the rules.

My value comes from Him.
And only from Him.

He calls me Child.
Princess.
Beloved.
Redeemed.
Forgiven.
Loved.
Daughter.
Friend.

And He called me those things from the moment I chose to follow Him.
They aren’t earned titles.
They were bestowed.

Not because I am good.
But because He is.

Not because of my righteousness.
But because of His.

Not because of my response.
But because of His character.

And that right there?
His choosing me…
His loving me so wholly…
So completely…
So utterly without condition….

THAT drives me to want to please Him!
To love Him as He loves me.
To serve Him.
To demonstrate to Him just how awesome I know He is.
To share this unconditional, matchless grace with everyone I meet.
To bring honor to His name by my actions.
To shine His reputation by how I respond.
To love the people He loves.
To serve as Jesus served.
To make my life match the model Jesus lived.

So then my actions will become more and more like the standards set forth in the Word.
But not because I am trying to be worthy.
(I am incapable of that.)
Not because I need to earn His favor.
(I can’t do that either.)
Not because I am striving to be more fully loved by Him.
(That is impossible.)
And not because I want to please other people who love Him.
(Also impossible.)

But solely out of my gratitude.
My joy in being forgiven.
Set free.
Deeply and dearly loved.

The more I see God for Who He is, Who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture, the more I realize that I am NOT holy. NOT righteous. NOT worthy of His love.

But the more I see God for Who He is, the more I realize how much He loves me.
In spite of me.
And that every good thing I have ever done or ever will do is only because of Him.
So my response is the only one that I can give – deep, heartfelt gratitude and love for Him, which is expressed by doing the things that please Him.

If you are attempting to find your worth in any other way, believe me, it won’t work.
It doesn’t matter if you are doing life your own way in rebellion against God or if you’re trying to be the very best religious follower you can be – both will leave you empty.
Your value has NOTHING to do with you.
Not your appearance.
Not your personality.
Not your actions.
Or your inactions.

Your value is astronomically high.
Because the God of the Universe calls you His own.
Because the Creator of all things calls you valuable.
Because the King of All Kings laid down His life for you.

Do you believe that?
If you do, it will change your life.
How you respond.
What you choose to do.
And not do.

But it will never change your worth.
Because you cannot be more loved than you were from the very beginning.
He loved you fully and completely before you answered His call.
He cannot love you more than He did then – and He will not love you less.
So will you live a life of love in response to His love? If you do, it will change the world!

A Tale of Three Warnings

A Tale of Three Warnings

I was warned.
But I didn’t listen.

It was Saturday morning and I was headed up to Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. to visit a wee little friend.
Although I have been to the hospital many times, I still like to put it in my GPS just so I have a heads up about what turns to take.
And, of course, the GPS always provides several ways for me to go.
None of them are pretty.
So I usually pick the one that I know best.
It is somewhat familiar territory so I feel like I have the best chance of getting in and out of the city unscathed.

But Saturday morning, the GPS didn’t give me three options as it normally does.
It only gave me one.
My least favorite option of the three because it involves the Capital Beltway, which always feels to me like a game of Russian Roulette with cars instead of guns.
I knew there was a marathon happening in the city on Saturday.
But I thought, “Oh, it will clear out before I get there. Runs happen early in the day. I’ll be fine.”

I opted to ignore the GPS and go my own way.
All seemed well.
As I smugly thought, “See, this isn’t so bad.”

And it wasn’t.
At first.
So when the GPS announced part way there that it had a faster route even on this known way, I hit “Ignore.”
After all, sticking with the familiar was much safer.
I knew what lay ahead.
I knew what lane to be in and when to be in it.
What turns to take.
And I was only a few miles away.
So how bad could it be?

Until we stopped dead in the 395 tunnel under the city streets.
Five lanes of brake lights at that point.

And again, the GPS tried to redirect me.
There was a ramp out of the tunnel onto an unfamiliar street.
However, I was three lanes away from that ramp – and the traffic on it was already a string of brake lights as well.
So I decided it was easier – better – to stay where I was.
Stick with the known rather than risk the unknown.
After all, how bad could it be?

I was less than two miles from the hospital.
And it took me the better part of an hour to go those two miles.
Two stinking miles.
SO. FRUSTRATING.

As I sat in the tunnel, breathing in exhaust from hundreds of other vehicles creeping along with me, I was very, very frustrated.
Yes, with traffic.
But mostly with myself.
Why did I decide I knew better than the GPS?
THREE TIMES I decided I knew better.
Even though it is a “real time” device.
With a bird’s eye view.
Containing knowledge I did not have.
A perspective I could not see.

Did I make it to the hospital?
Sure.
But I could have saved myself A LOT of time and trouble along the way.
If only I had heeded the guidance system and its warnings.

——

As a believer, a Christ-follower, you and I have an amazing “GPS” device for life.
In fact, we have two!
The Holy Spirit of God lives inside.
And the Living Word of God.

The Word, the Bible, is like a road map, telling us in advance the best ways to go.
What to avoid.
What to embrace.
How to live.
Over and over again, I see studies published that confirm what God has always said.
Like, couples who live together before marriage struggle more after marriage.
Or children grow best in intact, nuclear families.
Forgiveness benefits the forgiver.
And we do best when we don’t try to carry around stress.

All of these are things that God said long ago in the Bible.
And all have been confirmed by social scientists.
Imagine that!

But here is the thing – not only do we have the best way to live mapped out for us in His Word, we are also equipped with a real-time, eye-in-the-sky, all-knowing Guidance System in our souls.
The Holy Spirit.
Indwelling every Christ-follower.
Willing and able to direct us in the very best ways to go.

I don’t know another person’s heart, motives, or thinking.
I know what they show me – but only God sees the heart.
And so I have to trust the Holy Spirit to guide me.
First by applying the principles of Scripture to the situation.
Then asking Him for His wisdom, which He has promised to give. (James 1)
And then by letting Him “speak” to my heart through nudges, whispers, repeated confirmations, circumstances, wise council of godly people, Bible verses – so many ways.
And when all those things line up with Scripture, when they are repeated or even when I just have a deep peace in my soul about what I am “hearing”, I know His voice.
I know He is guiding.
And I know I need to obey.
Even when what He is asking me to do seems risky. Or even foolish.
Even when it is off the path I normally would take.

But here’s the thing.
So often I don’t hear Him.
Because I choose to not listen.
Or I hear Him, but I still choose to go my own way.
Or worse yet, the world’s way.
Listening to the voice of culture rather than The Voice of Truth.
The whispers of my feelings rather than the call to love for the sake of Love Himself.

Just like the streets of D.C., I am often on unfamiliar ground.
I don’t know what I don’t know.
And it feels risky to obey those promptings at times.
So I often choose to stick with the familiar.
The known.
The seemingly safe.
My way instead of His way.

And every single time that I do, I end up regretting it.
He is good and so I still end up getting to wherever it is He needs me to be.
But it takes longer.
I end up frustrated along the way.
Damaged.
Or at the very least, disturbed.
Making a tough situation worse because I thought I knew better.
Instead of resting in His love, trusting His heart, and walking in obedience to Him.

King David, who knew a thing or two about ignoring God, going his own way and reaping the consequences, wrote this in Psalm 32:
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.””

My rewrite and my prayer for you and me:
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like Kathy who ignores the GPS,
who ends up frustrated and stuck because she thinks she knows best.”

This week, may we spend time studying the Map that is the Word of God.
Getting to know His voice.
Yielding to His prompting.
Following His lead.

It’s the only safe way to live!

The Next Chapter: Destination Guatemala

So this chapter of my story begins when I was a little girl.

Every night my Dad read to my sister and me from a biography or autobiography of a hero of the faith. Sometimes they were people like Corrie ten Boom, who survived the Holocaust and went on to do amazing things for God in the second half of her life. But often the stories were those of missionaries, people like Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, who pioneered the giving of the Gospel to the Auca people of Ecuador. Jim, who laid down his life for the sake of love, famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Out of this reading time and through the influence of other godly men and women I met as a child, I developed a deep love for world missions. I came to understand that Jesus meant for us to take the gospel wherever our feet take us – and that for some, our feet are destined to travel far and wide. All of us have been given the charge by Jesus: “Go into ALL the world…and make disciples…” Some go to the furthest places; others send them there; all Christ-followers are intended to be a part of this Ultimate Assignment.

As a pre-teen, I came to understand that I have been given both the natural ability to teach and the spiritual gift of teaching. I often call it “the spiritual gift of kid”. At the time I thought that meant that I would be a school teacher for the duration of my working life. I had no idea all of the ways God could use that “gift of kid” outside of the classroom walls. But one of the deep dreams of my heart that started at age 12 was to teach missionary kids. I truly thought that I would teach in the American public school system until I got fired for sharing my faith and then I would go live and work at a school for missionary children somewhere in the world.

Because here’s the thing: I could go be a missionary anywhere in the world and make an impact of some sort. But by teaching the kids of missionaries, I am multiplying my impact. Instead of me being involved in one work, in one field in that place, I am positively impacting 20 or 25 works because I am teaching 20 or 25 kids. And I love how exponential that is!

Fast-forwarding through my life… God closed the door to classroom teaching in a completely different way than I ever dreamed He would. He did it 16 years ago so that I would accept the assignment of being the Director of Children’s Ministries at South Potomac Church. It has been a job that I cannot believe they pay me to do most of the time. And God has done amazing things in our children’s ministry over these years.

But the thing I am most grateful for is what He has done in me. Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on until the day Christ returns.” And He has been faithful in the work He has done in my life as I have walked with Him. He has changed me from the inside out time and again. He still has plenty of work to do, too. But this past fall, He used a book and a friend to reveal to me that I have been listening to some lies of the enemy in my life since my early 20’s. As I let go of the lies and started reveling in “the Voice of Truth”, God started doing some other amazing things.

This particular chapter started in early January. I was sitting at a restaurant in Guatemala with some friends, enjoying my vacation. Someone said something about me working in Guatemala and I replied with my typical smart mouth, saying something like, “That could only happen if everyone here spoke English.” My almost-50-year-old brain has struggled to learn Spanish and keeps mixing it up with Japanese, the language I learned in my 20’s. I didn’t think much of it at the time – it just seemed like a bad joke in the midst of some silliness.

About two weeks after that, I was talking with a friend about a responsibility that was sitting heavily on my shoulders. It was one of the many things that made me feel like I could not leave the area for an extended period of time without there being major negative consequences. All of a sudden, she looked at me and said, “What if our Bible study group took on that responsibility?” I was amazed – and am very grateful that they have followed through.

The very next day, I was having lunch with another friend who was a children’s pastor in her past. She had asked to meet and one of her main reasons was to tell me that she and her husband had decided to start attending South Potomac, my church. She asked if there was any way for them to be involved in ministry and I assured her there was.

That was a Friday. As I sat and had my time with the Lord the following morning, it struck me that for the first time in 16 years I am knee-deep with awesome volunteers in our children’s ministry. Among them, I have three people who are all more than qualified to do my job. I thought, “Any one of these ladies could do this job alone – but if all three do it, no one has to carry a very large burden.” I then wondered aloud to the Lord, “Is there a place in Guatemala where I could serve, using my gifts and abilities, that wouldn’t require fluency in Spanish?” I want to become fluent – but I know I am nowhere near that yet. I also know that living there will help me to become fluent. So I did a Google search for teaching English as a second language in Guatemala – and instead found a school for missionary kids, located in Guatemala City.

That started the next steps in the process – finding out if this was God’s direction or my own hare-brained scheme.
The first hurdle? The school website said they require a minimum two-year commitment. So I wrote and said, “I can only do a year if I come, would that be OK?” And they said, “Yes.”

Next hurdle? My teaching certificate expired ten years ago. So I asked, “Is that OK?” And they said, “Yes, for one year.”

I then asked my assistant, Tashia, for her permission to go. My leaving for a year saddles her with more than she is currently carrying. And she said, “Yes, you can go.”

And one by one, I talked to the stakeholders in my life, asking for permission to set down my responsibilities here for a year.
And one by one, they said, “Yes”.

Until finally it was time to ask the elders of my church for a year’s Sabbatical and the permission to go do this crazy adventure.
And they said, “Yes”.

So I officially applied to the school and have been hired for the next school year. I don’t know yet what grade I will be teaching. I do know that I will be living at the school in a dorm with other single female teachers. And I know I have to report to work on August 1st. I am sorting through the thousand and one details that have to come together as this happens. And God is providing every step of the way. He has given me sign after sign that this is right. This is of Him. And this is the next chapter.

Many, many people have asked, “Are you coming back?” And my answer is, “That is my plan.” I can only teach a year without doing something (like grad school) about that expired certificate. I have familial and financial ties here that will pull me back. But even more, I do not feel like God has released me from my job at South Potomac for good. Of course, He is always welcome to do whatever He wants in my life and He can change my itinerary whenever He chooses. That is part of the great adventure that is following Him!

So, there it is. My official “telling the internet” of my plans. If you are a Christ-follower and a person who prays, I would love for you to pray for me, for South Potomac, and for the kids who are going to be “mine” next school year. I will continue to post here on this blog throughout the year. If you don’t want to miss any posts you can sign up with your e-mail so that you get notified when they come. If you want more detailed monthly updates with specific requests, let me know and I will add you to that e-mail list.

And yes, I am raising financial support for this as well. I need about $4,000 to cover summer and outgoing expenses and then I will need $2400 each month to cover my expenses here in the US and there in Guatemala. All giving can be done through my church, http://www.southpotomac.org and is, of course, tax deductible. But I truly need your prayer support more than I need your money.

I am looking forward to what God does over the next 5 months as I prepare to go, as well as how He is going to show up during the year I am gone. I know that this is not always going to be easy or fun. There will be hurdles, spiritual warfare and situations that bring me to my knees. But I am excited to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads, knowing that obedience to Him is the best way to thank Him for all He has done.

Destination: Guatemala!

Sacrifices…

I am currently reading Leviticus, the book of laws that God gave the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. As I read it, I find that I am so grateful!
I am thankful that I do not have to travel to a certain location, like the Tabernacle, in order to be forgiven.
I am grateful that I don’t have to bring a sheep, a ram, a bull or some pigeons to be made right with God.
And that I don’t have to talk to Him through a priest.
I am thankful that I live under grace and not under The Law.
And I am grateful that Emmanuel, God with us, became The Way to God the Father so that the Holy Spirit of the Living God can live inside of me, making my body His temple and my heart His home.

But as I think about the sacrifices and offerings the Israelite were required to bring to God, I am reminded that there are still sacrifices to be made.
Still items to be brought daily, in an act of worship, before the Living God.
Not because He needs them.
Or because He needs me.
But because He is worth them.
Worthy of any sacrifice I can bring.

Here are three daily sacrifices that the Words says bring Him great delight:

First, a sacrifice of praise.
Sometimes, praise springs up naturally in my heart and to my lips.
A beautiful sunrise
A snuggly baby
A scene of beauty
Or an act of kindness

These things can all trigger me to say, “Wow, God, that’s awesome! You do such good work! YOU are so awesome!”

Those things are not a sacrifice of praise.

But when things aren’t going my way…
When I am tired – physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually…
When someone disappoints me, again…
When God disappoints me, again…
When I do not understand His ways…
When I do not like the answer He gives…

That is when I must bring Him a sacrifice of praise.
You see, a sacrifice must cost me something in order to be a sacrifice.

And in this case, it often costs me things I don’t want to pay.
Like my control of a situation
Or my need to understand
My need to be understood
My pride
Or my selfishness

In order to praise God IN ALL THINGS, I must lay down myself.
I must lay those things down.
And I must yield to His higher ways.
I must submit to the idea that He is God and I am not.
And I must choose to remember that He is good. Even when He is not who I think He should be, He is good.
Even when His timetable does not match mine, He is good.
Even when He seems far, far away, He is good.

A sacrifice of praise forces me to lay down my need to control, my need to be right, my need to be needed, my need to be vindicated.
Because it puts God back in first place where He belongs.
Not because I understand Him.
Not because we are on the same page.
Not because He has done something I like.
But because He is good.
Because He deserves it.
Because He is worth it.
Worth laying down me to focus on Him.

Which leads to the next sacrifice – the sacrifice of obedience.

I don’t actually like a lot of what Jesus said.
I want to explain it away.
Make it say something slightly – or even vastly – different.
Like, instead of “Love your enemies” I want it to say, “Pray for fire and brimstone to come down on your enemies.”
Instead of “Pray for those who hurt you” I want it to say, “You can ignore, shut off and distance yourself from those who hurt you.”
Instead of “Forgive as you have been forgiven” I want it to say, “You deserve to hold a grudge because they hurt you.”

But regardless of how I feel about any of it, what He said, He said.
And He said, “Obedience = Love”.
He said, “If you love me, you will obey me.”
He said, “If you follow me, you will live as I live.”
He said, “If you say you love me but don’t live this way, you don’t really love me.”

So, for HIS sake, I will bring a sacrifice of obedience.

Which once again means laying down my pride.
My selfishness.
My right to be angry.
My right to be vindicated.
My right to be heard, understood, loved, needed, appreciated.
The list goes on and on.

But when I lay down me and obey Him, I am bringing something far more valuable than a lamb.
Something far more valuable than any material thing I can bring.

Which brings me to the third sacrifice.

The sacrifice of priority. The giving over of first place.

Whose kingdom will I look after first?
His? Or mine?
Whose agenda will I choose?
His? Or mine?
Whose reputation will I seek to exalt?
His? Or mine?

Who will I make a priority?
Those I like? Or those He loves?
Who will I seek to glorify?
Him? Or me?
Who will I live for?
Him? Or me?

Again, this takes laying down myself. And blocking my ears to the messages I constantly hear all around me – and even in me.

“If I don’t look after me, who will?”
“Gotta take care of number one!”
“I am enough.”
“Make a name for yourself.”
“You can do it!”
“If you believe it, you can achieve it.”
“Dig down deep in yourself and you will find all you need.”

In contrast to what the Bible says:

“God, You alone are my supply.”
“God, I will make You number one in my finances, my time, my talent.”
“God, I am not enough. But You are everything I need.”
“God, I want to live for Your name, Your glory, Your fame. They don’t need to know my name – they need to know YOURS.”
“God, I can do nothing without You and everything in You.”
“God, I believe YOU can do anything. Please do what You will.”
“God, I am empty and unable to meet my own needs. But You can supply all that I need – starting with my need to lay down me and lift You high.”

Three sacrifices.
Or really, just one.

Paul begged the believers at Rome to get this.
He said, “I beg you to lay down yourself on the altar. You can only do it by God’s mercy. But do it. It is the only reasonable response to what God has done for you. And here’s the secret – when you do it, when you lay yourself down, God shows up in big ways. He’ll change you from the inside, out. He’ll transform the way you think. He’ll show you all you need to know to keep following Him – all the best ways to live. You really can trust Him!” (Romans 12:1-2, in Kathy-phrase)

So glad I don’t have to be a sheepherder or a cattle farmer to be a Christ-follower.
I don’t need a pasture full of lambs, rams and cows to follow Him.

But I do need to bring a daily sacrifice.
Of praise.
Of obedience.
Of priorities.

I am prone to climbing off the altar.
But I know from experience that it is the only place to find real life.
Real joy.
Real adventure.
Real abundance.

So once again, today, I lay me down.
So I can lift Him high.
Will you join me?

You? Or Me? On Following God’s Own Fool…

Who is more important, me or you?
Whose feelings should matter the most to me, mine or yours?
Who should I look after, you or me?
When it comes down to it, who goes first, you or me?
Who gets the last piece of that yummy thing, you or me?
Who gets first choice from the delicious feast, me or you?

When you get praised and I don’t, who is more important, you or me?
When you get the raise and I don’t, am I happy for you or sad for me?
When you succeed where I have failed, how do I react? Is it about you or me?

When I love you but you don’t love me back, what do I do?
When I put you first but you put me last, what do I do?
When I pray for you but you revile me, what do I do?

The world screams, “You have to take care of you. After all, if you don’t, who will?”
Jesus said, “If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, learn to be a servant of all.”

The world shouts, “You have rights! Stand up for yourself! Stand up for your rights!”
Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself by assuming the form of a bond-servant.” A human. An innocent criminal, sentenced to death on my behalf.

The world says, “Don’t give too much! They’ll take advantage of you.”
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

The world says, “You only have to love those who are lovely – those who look like you, think like you, act like you.”
Jesus said, “I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven… For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have?”

Impossible stuff.
I can’t put your needs ahead of my own.
I might lose out if I do that.

I can’t love you more than I love me.
They’ll say I’m weak if I do that.

I can’t “consider your interests ahead of my own”.
I won’t get what I need in that equation.

After all, I have to look out for me, right?

But what if…

What if God meant it when He said He would supply my needs?
What if He meant it when He said that He would vindicate me?
What if God takes the job of being my Shepherd incredibly seriously?
What if my life rests on His reputation and not my own?
What if I decided to risk loving as He loves?
What if His power really is at work in me, giving me the strength to do the impossible?

Will He really have my back?
Will He really take care of me?
Will He really be my shield and my defender?
Will He really fight for me?

Or is He a liar?

The way I live…
The way I love…
The way I give…
Those are my answers to that question, is God a liar?
The choices I make and actively live out declare what I believe far more than my words ever will.

Do I believe God and therefore live His way, even when it is risky?
Or do I only say I believe?

Do I trust Him to keep His promises, even when everything in me screams I should protect myself?
Or is that just lip service?

For me, it comes down to this:
I have been greatly loved.
Completely forgiven.
And thoroughly gifted.

Therefore, I am going to:
Live fully, trusting God for the outcomes.
Love boldly, risking rejection, pain and hurt.
And celebrate joyfully all the glory He gets in the end.

The world will call me foolish for that.
But I will choose to follow “God’s Own Fool”, as Michael Card sings.
Here are the lyrics and a link to the song.
May you and I choose to “believe the unbelievable and come be a fool as well”.

God’s Own Fool
Michael Card

Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind

For even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon’s to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong

And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell-
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well

So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you’ll have the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam

So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see

So we follow God’s own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
And come be a fool as well