Sunday, May 2, 2010

the only thing that counts...

Galatians 5:6 has really been getting to me recently. To be fair, I was already pretty messed up because of all the stuff we've gotten into by becoming a foster family and from reading the book Guerrilla Lover by Vince Antonucci. But then when he used this verse in the last chapter it has just hung with me. 

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself though love.

Now how on earth are we supposed to get around that? The answer is we're not. If we want to be what we claim to be--followers of Jesus Christ--then there's no avoiding the outward expression of those beliefs with not just random acts of kindness, but a life characterized by unselfish compassion. James 1:27 has been hounding me about it for years (or probably decades, since the Bible I used as a teen has this written in the margin: dirty hands, clean hearts). 

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

It's in the Bible practically everywhere you look yet it's hard to find when you look around the church. I guess that's not true. I do see people serving each week for an hour or two or giving generous amounts of money, but I guess what I mean is that I want to see that on every day of the week. That we the church would give our WHOLE lives to Christ and not just the few hours per week we decide to allocate to our Creator. That we would get our hands dirty up to the armpits and allow the way we express our faith as love to bleed over into every single thing we do. 

So here's my big ask: come get dirty with me. Let's go live out our faith as a group that boldly carries the message of His great love and mercy into our world. Let's pick someone or a group of someones that God has placed into our paths and just literally love the hell out of them.

For Brannon and I, it has become profoundly clear that who that means for us is our foster daughters' mom. She sincerely wants to be a good mother to her girls but she doesn't know the first thing about it. And as much as Brannon and I would love to just fill that gap, we have found that our efforts are always going to come up short. We can never push hard enough to get that plane off the ground. 

So, I would like to invite all of my friends, in person, online, and otherwise, to come join us on this mission. We will send out an event invitation on Facebook and then ask some of you in person. (If you haven't friended me on FB, please do.) We'll start off by getting together over a dinner party and just share the details of the situation (no physical family to speak of and no Christian family but us). Then we'll brainstorm what we need to do to love her. Then we'll figure out which people are going to be good project managers or administrators and who will be good movers and mentors and chauffeurs and phone callers and givers and everything else that she needs. Then we'll just do it. And we'll keep doing it not just until she gets her girls back, but until she has developed her own permanent Christian family (which of course by that time may include some of us). And all along the way we'll meet, and party some more, and hold each other up, and walk alongside each other, and laugh, and cry, and just generally become more like Jesus. 

So come and go on a mission with me. It will be really hard. It will seem slow and frustrating. You might lose interest in TV or sports or whatever other hobby you may have had. But you'll feel more alive than maybe you've felt for a long time. And you'll be living the life that is really life. You'll come to know God better than ever. Plus, you'll get glimpses of the face of Jesus over and over as the body of Christ comes together and does what we were called to do. What we were made to do.

Pray about it. Ask God if this is what He wants you to devote a season of your life to (because I'm not just asking for a couple of hours a week). And if this particular journey isn't your next step, then ask God what yours is and jump into it with both feet. And share what you're doing with us to encourage us along the way. 

Who's in?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

guerrilla love attack

Today was Gabby's birthday party. Back around Christmas, someone from work anonymously gave our family a big gift card to Incredible Pizza which we saved for today. (Didn't sound like fun during the Daniel Fast and this seemed like the best way to make it a memorable event!) Well, memorable is exactly what it was. Not only did Gabby have the time of her four-year-old life, but I think we executed a near-perfect ambush on their mom Ashley and her friend James. After sending out a message to my LifeGroup, some family, and close friends, we ended up having over 40 people and an seemingly endless mound of presents to demonstrate very tangibly just how much God can love a displaced little girl and an aimless young mom.

Some tactical wins to share from this attack:

  • Ashley visited a different campus and got to see that God is there to welcome her into His house even on a different side of town and with all new people. 
  • Her friend James who gives her rides (she's never even had a drivers' license) has never stayed any of the previous times. This time though, he came to church and sat with us. He seemed to have a fine time and commented on how much he liked the security for the kids. 
  • Gabby got to feel what family really feels like at a birthday. The only people she could call family before was her mom and her mom's step-dad who lives in another state. Anyone else she's ever known as family has demonstrated something far different than God's love than what she saw today.
  • I got a text this afternoon from Ashley who asked me to "tell my people thanks." She said she had a really great time.
  • On our way back home, Brannon and I were talking about how overwhelmed we were with the number of people who came and how cool about it all everyone was. Then he said he just realized that all of those people came as much for us as they did for Gabby. We are so tremendously blessed and grateful for friends that would dump the money on food and games but also on presents for a little girl some of them had only met once. 
  • Like I did on the first week we had the girls at a Christmas party for foster families, we saw the face of Jesus again today. It's so beautiful to see the body of Christ unite around a mission of love and awesome that God would honor even a relatively small group of 40 believers and incarnate His image for a misguided young mother.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

my new favorite blog

God brought me across the path of a remarkable lady named Deborah Shropshire recently. She is a pediatrician who oversees the care for the shelters OK County Department of Human Services (I don't know her exact title, but it's a big deal). Her blog is so gripping and informative and inspiring to me and is about all that God has us in the middle of right now. I'd love you to check out Fostering Hope Project.

Monday, March 1, 2010

famous blogger mention

I saw my famous blogger friend in Atlanta in November. To be fair, I became friends with him shortly before his meteoric rise to fame so he was just a regular blogger at the time. As fun as it is to catch up with him, it is even funner (that's a word in my book) to read about it in his very famous blog. Since I know many of you can relate to this topic, I give you:

Stuff Christians Like #719 Pastors Who Mess You Up

Sunday, February 28, 2010

talking it over

At our church, we're several months into a campaign called Talk It Over. Basically, it's just offering opportunities and prompts to get people to talk about the message they hear on the weekend and process it until it becomes a personal action step. It's basically trying to determine what God is saying to you personally through the message. Anyway, what I've come to recognize in the process of going through the feedback we get about the videos and discussion questions and study guides we've been sending out, is that the vast majority of people really never talk about anything that matters.

Weather? Check. Sports? Check. Hobbies? News? All of that is so surface really. Even things we get heated about like politics and the economy won't really matter a few decades from now. So instead of getting people to talk about the message, our first step is to get people to just dip their heads under the surface and get used to talking about something that really matters. To get up close and personal about what's going on in them spiritually.

One thing we've found that as really pushed that envelope for us is having the foster kids. They are like a breathing billboard for something that matters. Everywhere we go, even with complete strangers, we end up talking about stuff that matters. Today even, someone I would have normally just talked gardening with and left it at that ended up sharing about her own past with an abusive home.

So then, short of passing out foster kids at the door as people leave church, what have you found gets people to talk about important matters in your life? What gets you to open up and let your guard down? Or do you? What have been your experiences recently with Talking It Over?

Friday, February 5, 2010


On Wednesday, God brought a woman into our LifeGroup that was an encouragement, was able to provide key information and contacts I need, and was just a wonderful new friend and resource. Then a guest post on my pastor's blog gave me just the right framework to really get my boys excited even more about this adventure God has called us on. Then tonight, as a friend's going-away party we met another lady who is also all of those same things the first woman was (plus she's neck deep in fostering too). At every turn it seems God keeps bringing people across our path and even reconnecting us with people we already knew that are joining the story of this rescue we've stumbled into.

A lifetime ago, I was a dancer. People who know me today probably can't imagine me with pointe shoes on let alone tap shoes. What's weird though is that I'm not at all the kind of person to enjoy just dancing at a party or with my husband or anything at all un-choreographed. I would dance on a stage in front of any size audience as long as I already knew the steps.

And that's how I've lived for a long time. Dancing only the steps I already knew. Staying in my own circles. But now, the music keeps beckoning me to just dance without knowing what comes next. And it has been wonderful. But even in the swirling dizziness of it all, I keep noticing little patterns and rhythms in it. I am starting to realize that I am dancing a waltz that was choreographed long before I ever put on my first ballet shoes. It isn't just aimless and accidental. It is what I was made to do. It's what all the hours (or years in my case) of warming up at the barre has been preparing me for.

So what about you. Are you dancing with Him? What is your dance like right now?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

the power of forgiveness

Only one thing is more powerful than the destructive force of bitterness. And that is the cleansing force of forgiveness. I don't know how God made it possible for people who are victims of horrible abuse and mistreatment to be able to forgive. But I am thankful that Jesus made a way. Do you really think about the amazing gift that we were given when we were forgiven? I don't. Not very often anyway.

We spent a lot of time this weekend coming to terms with a world so lost and broken that it would hurt innocent little children. But God made a way for us to overcome it. But the road is the way of forgiveness not bitterness. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Have you ever experienced shame? I mean, not just momentary situational embarrassment, but looming humiliating shame? God showed me a tiny glimpse of it in a way I didn't expect.

So I've written about have two foster daughters. Along with the girls come a mound of paperwork. But one set of forms ended up with me receiving the WIC vouchers that they qualify for. I thought that sounded great at first. I mean, it's a whole new bizarre thing I'd never dealt with before. The first time I took them into our grocery store, a young woman patiently explained how to use them. I had the girls with me and we talked a bit too about them. No big whoop. The next time the checker was a woman who mentioned that it had been seven years since she had to deal with WIC (meaning personally). I couldn't help but notice her very rotten front teeth, probably from drug use or just years of poverty. But then today, I went without the girls. The checker was an older man and he sort of took his time ringing the stuff up. Two men waited patiently behind me in line. A woman told them there was no waiting in another lane, and I found myself secretly wishing they would move on. I realized I was ashamed of being seen as using the WIC vouchers.

All the way home God talked to me about shame. The kind of shame I've honestly never lived with. I mean, I've had some things I wished no one would ever find out or things that I wish I could take back, but I thought for a moment what it would be like to be that checker who had all her teeth rotten only a few years out from depending on public assistance knowing that someone was judging her past every time she opened her mouth. What about my foster kids' mom who has to admit she got her kids taken away from her? What about all of the people living in the darkness of a past they can't get away from? Those people are all around us. Or they may be us at times. And it just broke my heart to think how oblivious I am to it most of the time.

This is the song that I pray for those who are living in shame. Our God is able. His grace is more than enough to shatter the darkness that holds people prisoner of their own sin and shame. His mercy is able to heal the broken hearts of those who are living in the shame of someone else's sin they were a victim of. He can break addictions. He can restore relationships. He can clean the deepest stains.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Post on Swerve

Hey go over and comment on my pastor's blog today. I got to write a guest post so I wrote about something I've been wrestling through here for the past year.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


When we first got our foster kids in December, even though we'd been warned about being overly idealistic and told all the horror stories, I have to admit I was secretly optimistic. I held this naive hope that somehow this time would be different. That we'd be able to build a relationship with their mom and lead her to Christ and get her life on track serving God and send them off to a godly home. I knew that was against all odds, but since my hope is in Christ and not in those odds anyway, I kept praying for that outcome.

Today we took our foster kids' mom to church with us at the campus that is closest to her house. She happily went with us as we checked her girls into their LifeKIDS rooms (neither one cried thank you Jesus). She accepted a Krispy Kreme and coffee. She sang along during the singing part. She filled in the visitor card when they said to. She listened and took notes during the message. She scraped together her change and money and gave "her tithe." She raised her hand and prayed along as the Campus Pastor led a prayer of salvation. She checked the box on her communication card for "recommitting her life to Christ." She picked up a What's Next Kit. She prayed with the volunteer that handed those out. She talked to the small groups pastor about getting into a women's group. We picked up the kids. We took her to lunch at McDonald's (thank God for indoor playgrounds) and took her back home. I just got off the phone with her because she called to see how they did and we talked all about the message and how much it spoke to her (We "Talked It Over" actually). She had already watched the DVD that came with her new Bible. She expressed her gratitude and receptiveness to us being a part of her life even after she gets her kids back. We now have a standing arrangement for every Sunday morning to repeat the whole thing again. So, naive? Maybe. But I'll take that any day of the week.

So now I guess I better explain the title. Pastor Craig said the word better about a hundred times. Because he was basically trying to make the point that we really don't live like we believe what God has for our lives is better than what the world has to offer. At one point he said, "Some of you are questioning, 'I'm not sure about all that.' But you are the ones who have never tried it. Those who have tried it know that it is better."

I'm here to testify that living life God's way is better. I few months ago, it would be hard to imagine that anything besides spending my Sundays in my pajamas with the only stress of the day being grocery shopping. I mean, that's why we go to church on Saturday evenings, so we don't have to do anything on Sundays. But getting up early, leaving two kids with a sitter, and schlepping two foster kids across town to spend all morning with their mom is better. It certainly doesn't add up on paper. But I know it for a fact. It is better.
Better. Better. Better...

This song, The Desert Song by Hillsong, was one of the songs to today's worship set. It WAY spoke to me and I had never heard it before. It ended like this:

"This is my prayer in the harvest, when favor and Providence flow.
I know I'm filled to be emptied again. The seed I receive I will sow."

I pray that God will give you the courage and strength to turn your back on the world and pour your life out as an offering to Him. We're not there yet. Sometimes we feel tired and weary and discouraged. But even so, it is better.