"I believe in the love of God, it is an orphan's wildest dream, it is a Narrow Little Road, it is an ever widening desert stream" ~ Red Mountain hymn

"This narrow little road may be filled with both abundant joy and humiliating sorrow; surely, even its promised Divine acceptance cannot assure it's travelers absense of profound rejection. Indeed, this narrow road may be filled with a great many things, but the one thing it truly lacks is regret!" ~Debbie Sue



Sunday, November 20, 2011

the journey beyond your best

These last few weeks were such a reminder again of the Lord’s nearness as my good. As I drove to work on Thursday, I had some of my favorite music playing when suddenly I was singing (like no one was watching, of course) a completely different tune than the cd in my car, and the words coming out were an overflowing of God’s Spirit through a grateful heart; I always feel so incredibly thankful when He invades my heart and beautifully orchestrates in such an intimate way; it is an ever-constant reminder of His grace and that nothing flowing out of me is beautiful unless it comes from Him. That was clearly evident by some of the nasty bitter thoughts that poured out of my nature later that morning. Oh that we would be dependent every second so that life-giving streams may continually flow from our hearts!

I have been utterly struck lately by the thought that our lives truly are characterized by who we are, and who we love; the choices and beliefs we embrace, and the people that we let into that process are daily determining the kind of man or woman we are now, and the person we will be in the future. And as far as who we love, just take a true glimpse into the 5 dearest people in your life, and see how much of them is reflected in the way that you talk and act, the things that you treasure and believe, and even the likes and dislikes you uphold. It’s strange, isn’t it? We often spend our whole lives trying to be unique amidst the crowd, only to find out that most of our life turns out to be a pretty clear picture of who we chose to emulate.

So, yeah, we should explore the things we love and not be afraid to stand out among our friends or even the world, but more importantly I see the need to truly examine our own hearts and the people that we are following.
I will be the first to say that I have some unbelievable heroes in my life; most of them you will never find on the page of a history book or on a stage to win the Golden Globes, Country Music Awards, or Nobel Peace Prize (though some of you certainly have the talent to do so). Rather they are the remarkable individuals in my daily life who have loved me through times of loss, and have shared with me even the tiniest of joys, and surely the greater triumphs of life. They are the ones who speak truth to me when it is hardest to hear, and the ones who never give up on me when I disappear into myself. Yes my friends, if I have any heroes, it would be you; you are my heroes every single day.

With that said, “Are these the people I should be following or emulating?” Um… perhaps. The Bible does use Paul to express this in a phrase, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Are they the people profoundly shaping the woman I am, and speaking into the woman I am becoming? Absolutely. Are they the ones responsible and truly determining who I will become, and why I get up in the morning? Absolutely NOT. In fact, may it never be!

My dear friends do not be mistaken; do not confuse the river from its source, or the signpost from the path of life. The one is meant to lead or flow into or out of the other, but they are not the same. In fact, confusing their likeness for equality is a grave endangerment. Consider this, no matter how amazing your leaders, friends or heroes are, they are not the spitting image or even slightly a perfect reflection of who you want to be, and they are certainly not where your hope may be found.
When I think of the One person- the only Hero- I strive to imitate, it’s Jesus; simply purely even irresistibly, Jesus! He is the one I want to look like and act like, and have shape the woman I am and ever hope to be. HE is the reason I got up this morning, the reason I press on through the deep valleys of life, and the reason I have been shown undeserved grace despite my often wicked, selfish, and unbelieving heart. He is the only spitting image of the very God I love and who I hope to be. Maybe you think I’m silly or ridiculous, or even some sort of crazy radical. That’s fine; I’ve been called much worse. However, if you do think I’m crazy or out of my gourde, I ask you this in response:

How many of your friends or even your heroes would implore you to give up your possessions, your rights, your body and your very life if you wanted to follow them? However, those same friends would have to be willing to visit the guilty in prison and even be willing to give up their very own life for a criminal on death row. I ask you, how many of your heroes would keep silent while someone tortured them unto death; in that final moment of despair they would cry out a prayer of forgiveness on their behalf rather than a punishment. Would those heroes also give up all their power, status, fame, and fortune to humbly and intimately know you and the true condition of your heart? Do your friends encourage you to forgive your unfaithful partner or the undeserving thief that walks among you; yeah, I do mean the betrayer that defrauded you yesterday or last week and made your heart sink in ashes. Would your friends call you to walk away from the illicit lover or captivating image that is wrongfully stealing your affections? Finally, would your greatest of heroes and your most faithful of friends challenge you to stand up to injustice alone when all your strength is finished, and call you to believe once again in beautiful and impossible things? Would they make the greatest sacrifice of love for you; giving up their only child, or their very own precious blood in exchange for your freedom?

Beloved of God, do not close off your ears to what you have heard today but rather listen and look intently into the law of true love that brings freedom. If your friends and those whom you esteem most highly do a fraction of these things, then it is both lawful and beneficial that you continue walking with them through the seasons of life. However, if they happen to do all of them, then they are the greatest of heroes and the most precious of friends, and only they (or rather Him) should be followed.

Here’s to a life of following Jesus!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sonje Bel Jezi

"Sonje Bel Jezi" is so much more than just a beautiful Haitian Creole phrase... it's a profound truth and powerful tribute as well as a life-shaping story branded on my heart and body that will inevitably change those around me as it has radically changed my own life.

"Sonje" is the Creole word for REMEMBER. For those of you who know me well, I'm sure you have heard me share the significant affect that this one word has had on my heart over the last 7 years.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, this one word is referenced hundreds of times (almost as much as the word LORD) and in almost every context it is used to express REMEMER YAHWAY, Remember the LORD, and do not forget all the ways in which He has led you through the wilderness of life.

That truth of His presence through every circumstance and deep ravine in life strikes something so deep in the core of who I am; it's hard to even touch on it at risk of truly failing to express the hope and value I've received at being called His child, His sheep, and His beloved through the reality of His known presence and nearness when I call out His name.

Just think of it... the one for whom He will leave the 99 sheep to go after the lost wayward soul is me, it's you, and it’s all of us in our broken times of wandering wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (the 5th book of the Hebrew Torah- also known as the book of love) this beautiful truth is conveyed in such a way that my heart cannot resist it's captivating affection toward me, well, toward us;

"You shall always REMEMBER how the Lord your God has led you through the wilderness, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, to show you what's in your heart and whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, and tested you and even allowed you to hunger so that He might feed you with manna (represents: bread, truth, hope) that neither you nor your parents had known before. He allowed such things to teach you that man does not live by bread only but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."

Is it just me or is that a truth that is worth putting your full weight into, or maybe even permanently tattooing on your body? :)

So let's take a look at the rest of the story of this little phrase, shall we? I told ya it was weighty, and I meant business...

On June 25th, 2010 I wrote my first blog post ever as I prepared to share with the world my adventure to follow Jesus to Liberia, West Africa. In that post, I shared an encounter that had changed my life forever when Jesus allowed me to meet Him in a special way in Haiti.

As a young teenager without Jesus, I ventured off with an organization to feed orphans in Haiti. Before we traveled, we were clearly informed not to bring candy or we would be bombarded by the multitudes. In my rebellious 12 year old mindset, I interpreted that rule as

"well then, I will only bring one pack of skittles."

Quit giving me those stern eyes through the computer, I know, I know, it was wrong.

Well, after a couple days in Haiti I met a little 2 year old girl named Lovely in a bordering village called Bordmere. She lived in a little hut with her 5 or so siblings and they all slept sideways on one big mattress. After meeting this precious orange-haired bright-eyed child, I couldn't help but spend every spare moment of my free time frolicking over to her village to hug, dance, giggle and play with her.

After lovingly looking back over every daily encounter, it is evident that God truly wrecked my life in such a beautiful way on that trip through little miss Lovely!

When I looked into her eyes I saw an indescribable beauty that I'm confident was the radiant reflection of Jesus. It's quite possible that Lovely was an angel that God brought to this earth to take me one step closer to His love and salvation. The day before we left I ran over one last time to share with her the gift that I had been saving for one special child; yep, the rebellious pack of skittles. When I marched over there and offered her that sweet little package, the look in her eyes taught me that never had she received such a sweet gift. Her eyes grew huge and then she danced lightly on her feet doing a fancy toddler jig, and then took off into her house like a flash. I stood shocked and nervous about the 6 children that would soon parade out of the house expecting to "taste the rainbow".

As they all ran toward me with a posse of their friends, my heart sank. Then the scales fell off my eyes and my heart as I watched what unfolded next. This- what should be self-concerned- toddler joyously ripped open her gift and in turn passed out every single skittle to all the children around her, and never thought twice about keeping it for herself.

At that moment, they tasted the rainbow, and I tasted Jesus; I wholeheartedly experienced the Gospel in a profound way, and my life was never the same.

In honor of this child's life, and her death*, and the irreplaceable role that she played in so powerfully teaching me (and now so many others) about Jesus-

the tattoo on my left wrist honors and rejoices "Remember Lovely, Jesus!"

*She was embraced into the arms of Jesus the year before I was able to return back to her village; her family shared with me her tragic story of being crushed by a cinderblock during a house building project for their family. God has truly made beauty out of this precious child's ashes. Her life was not lost, but rather truly remains established both on earth (as long as I live and her story is told) and in Heaven.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

beyond your best x3

Personally, I've been feeling a little wiped out lately, and I think a lot of it has to do with the truths we will walk through today. I hope it leaves you feeling more encouraged and empowered to live a life of character that is driven by hope, acceptance, meaningful relationships, and intentional moments.

Perhaps I'm not the only person who has watched seemingly successful, attractive, pleasant, driven, well-spoken and well-meaning (even self-proclaimed "godly") people take a long hard plunge straight into the ground. I've also seen the pain from the fall change their lives and shake their relationships tremendously; and most of the time it doesn't seem to be for the good.

How does this happen to us and where does it start?

I think for many of us, it starts undetected the moment we learn that a false appearance gets us something we want; be it a gift or earthly treasure, a desired response of acceptance or approval, or even a new relationship altogether. We learn that by being good, fake, perfect, popular, cool or playing any "right" game will get us what we want or make us who we think we should be based on others opinions. We start to value this twisted desire over the truthful presentation of who we really are and who God designed and desires us to be.

The Bible says it like this... "Each person is tempted when they are dragged away and enticed by their own evil desire."- James 1:14.

I don't know about you but I know I have willingly been dragged away time and time again; sin always takes me farther than I want to go and keeps me longer than I plan to stay. The previous verse says "Do not be fooled, God does not tempt others to sin, nor can He Himself be tempted toward evil" and thus whatever a man sows he reaps.

I can remember stories I made up as far back as kindergarten and as near as yesterday; it may not be a "full-out lie" but even a twist or fabrication of the facts is the same thing; it's really any behavior or word spoken with the intention to make me look or feel better. It's stupid, or evil as James says, but yep, I still do it, and nope, I'm not proud! LIES/MASKS reap self-condemnation and emptiness.

Let's pretend for a moment that some of you do this too. And if you are similar to me, then you feed the evil mask monster by hiding your motives, weaknesses, habits, fears, agendas, confusion and pain by hoping that others will buy the image of confidence you are selling to the masses. Shoot, I mean even our recreation can become a driven effort to prove significance instead of a source of relaxation and rejuvination. Or am I seriously the only one who does this garbage? With this thought in mind, I invite you to truly ask yourself the same question that has been ruining me for the better:

What things have you said or done lately that seemed to provoke that desire for instant acceptance from yourself, others or even God? Now ask, Did you get what you wanted? And how did it make you feel? (Truthfully answering these questions is the first step on this new ladder we are intending to climb.)

For most of us this seeking approval pattern started in childhood, and these manfactured appearances are not easily broken, but there is hope for us my friends. I promise. Because above the surface of this performance-driven earth (that drains our spirits, minds and bodies) is a loving God who uses every life experience, good and bad, to renew our minds, give us hope, and shape us uniquely for His beautiful purpose.

The truth is that we all learned how to hide (we've been learning it since Genesis 3), but we can also learn how to be found, and to actually delight in true approval that is not dependent on the stories we tell, the changes we make, or the image we project.

If we begin to pursue God for true approval rather than worldly exaltation and acceptance, we will find ourselves on a very different path; indeed, we will find ourselves climbing the character ladder- the ladder of hope and divine acceptance- and every step will reveal the substance of our faith.

Enjoy the climb!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

beyond your best part 2

When I say busy, I mean busy... we all get caught up right?

In my first series blog writing I said that I would be sharing these truths from this book over the next six weeks, but I also said that we are all so bombarded with the work that is before us that it is hard to invest in learning and education... well, let's just say that I'm right there with ya folks and this adventure may be either a few months or a year to get through this amazing book. Either way, I hope that you enjoy the truths that surface in the midst of pursuing new life together.

I promised that I would explain more of the difference between the success and character ladder this time around, so here is a brief description:

Our world is keen on pursuing whatever opportunity gets things done, at whatever cost, that makes you look good and brings maximum affirmation and acceptance; that my friends is the success ladder. We can so easily become seduced to ignore the immanent submerged dangers until they irrevocably rip out the bottom of our well-built plans. If you are wondering what a few WARNING SIGNS might look like, here's just a few:

Needing to impress others
Strained relationships
A nagging sense of failure
Becoming defensive at slightest criticism
Hiding your skills while fearing discovery of your true self
Lacking the will and strength to trust God wholeheartedly

These belief systems leave us with a consistent feeling that we are making good time but have no idea where we are going...

Many of us set sail, indending to accomplish something significant, only to find that we have unknowingly drifted off course. We are undoubtedly aware that change seems urgent, but we never feel any closer to where we need to go. In overwhelmed desperation we begin to try anything and everything to get back on the "right path;" whether it be a new relationship, a different job, a better house, a baby, a nicer climate, stronger will-power, or the latest self-help program- all become, in turn, just one more heartbreaking, dry attempt at a prodigal child finding their way home.

This book offers an amazing opportunity to climb a completely different kind of ladder... yes, you will be a lot higher up which means that there will be a lot more risk involved, but I can truly promise that the risk will be worth it!

Mostly because you will find yourself no longer facing the risks and the steep climb alone, but rather you will be learning- alongside others- how to live within safe environments of trust. These types of environments are meant to envelop us and awaken our hearts; to nurture all the well-designed plans that God has for us and draw in a community that integrates our hearts and hands to nourish our relationships with God and others.

This is definitely "life work" my friends. I believe that wherever this climate exists, there is both safety and protection guided by submission and reverence for Christ and for one another. Productivity and creativity can blossom- which is really the deepest longing in my heart- especially for me with JAMPACT Studios. Trust will flourish and character will mature. Let Christ be lifted up!

Trust me friends; life can be transformed from self-promotion and protection to character and life-giving vulnerability. I wish I was there but I'm not. Together, we will begin to experience the kind of character that transforms our lowly bodies and empowers our capacities while truly keeping them in check. We will become people of character rather than just people of worldly success.

I invite you to explore these principles my friends; not just in theory but in action.

I believe that we must all reckon with character in the end, for it strikes the last blow in any battle!

Friday, August 12, 2011

beautiful broken adventure

This has been quite the last few years for me. I've been trying to come up with a few words that might describe the journey but its been a long time coming.

How do you describe... a life of choosing to love even if it makes no sense to you or those around you, making another nation your home and willingly giving up your comforts and securities, fumbling over your own insecurities and failures, changing your mind one hundred times, walking away from what the world deems successful, giving into temptation, falling in love with a culture, losing family and friends to terrible disease, seeing a dream more clearly than ever, breaking off a future with someone, facing a life threatening illness, and starting your life somewhere new... how would you describe that in a few words?

Here's my best shot...

beautiful broken adventure!

To be honest, most days I wake up still wondering what on earth I'm doing in Boise Idaho with an HR/Recruitment job that I have nill educational training in and yet totally love with a passion (mostly because of the people I work with).

I think about my dreams and the passions that fill my heart nearly every second of the day- teaching, writing, psychology, travel, and using the arts to both shape my own character and help lead others toward life and joy- and I can't help but wonder how this beautiful broken adventure has shaped who I've become and where I'm heading with these dreams that won't surrender.

Maybe you are not like me. Maybe you never sin or wander or feel lost. Maybe you feel like you have it together and all that is good is on your side. You are strong, vibrant, successful, peaceful, attractive, confident, and worthy. Perhaps you wake up everyday convinced that you are on the right path- exactly where you need to be- and you move confidently forward each day knowing that against all odds you've already succeeded, and yet paradoxically consider yourself one step closer to where you are going (ultimate success and fulfillment). Maybe you don't care what other people think and you refuse to compare yourself to those around you. Yep...maybe you have wings and a halo. I've seen you and met you before (mostly in magazines, tv shows, and even churches). You are mankind's unrealistic expectation- our Master- and you invade as many hearts as possible with the intent to discourage and then destroy.

Or maybe you are like me... confidently at rest about very few things and totally confused about everything else. Or perhaps you hold dear one truth that gets you through each day; for me, the evidence of the love of God poured out on my life.

I truly hope for your sake that you feel more certainty about your life and your future and where you are going than I do, but if for some reason we are more alike than different, let me share with you a few words of comfort and hope that I've learned along the road on this beautiful broken adventure.

Though I don't know specifically where I'm going, I do know one thing... I'm loved deeply and so are you! That's a truth people, and it's worth holding onto. This thought alone brings tears to my eyes when I really stop and consider the depths, and the implications.

Each day I wake up often confused about where I'm going and how I'm gonna get there. Yes, I constantly question how I'm investing in my future, my finances, my health, my love life, and if I'm running away from anything God has for me.

Friends, the truth is, I feel consistently bombarded with thoughts about what I'm supposed to do, where I'm supposed to be, how I'm supposed to live and yet when I stop and quietdown I realize that I'm absolutely confident about one thing... who I'm called to love... today.

So what does this mean for you and for me?

For me, it means that I have a choice to make. I can spend my life looking back at the past, at the hurts, at the disappointments, and I can also waste fleeting moments fretting about an unknown future... OR I can deeply love and invest in the souls that I interact with on a daily basis. I can stop looking back. I can face my fears and cling to what is good. I can embrace truth. I can love with all my heart even when it hurts and makes no sense. I can live with joy in the moment. I can let my heart truly be at rest. I can change lives. I can do the impossible. Better yet, I can BE the impossible; that peaceful, joyful, loving, vibrant, godly woman that I long to be with all my heart!

Sure I have dreams. In fact, sometimes I feel like I have more dreams and goals than hairs on my head (especially since I have been losing so much hair from malaria and probably stress/worry). A beautiful woman in my life said today that "life is short." Trust me she knows. And I've had my fair share of reminders the last few years myself. So let's not lose sight of why we are here. Let's not look with regret on the relationships or choices that invoked love or passion in our hearts, or walk away from the moments we have to plant those seeds of love in others today!

LOVE be with you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

beyond your best 1

I just started reading this amazing book given to me by some dear friends Dr. Paul and Rebecka in Liberia called "Beyond your best."

So far its been rocking my world just challenging me to re-look at the current way that I am doing life and how I measure success. This incredibly healing book has begun shaping and motivating me in certain directions when it comes to life, work, school, and relationships.

The arching premise is that if you take the "y" out of "your success" you begin to build an incredible future while climbing the "character ladder" rather than the "capacity ladder."

I will explain more in depth the differences between the two in my writings over the next 6 weeks. I would certainly highly recommend the book to anyone but I know that so many of us feel so swamped that we believe that we can't even set aside time to encourage, inspire, and challenge our hearts through reading or education (even if self-taught). Well that thoght process is toxic friends and in reality, no one is responsible to motivate our behinds or stir up our souls.

So I've been thinking if I could just take little notes as I go and encourage/challenge you with the gems that I have personally found, it might draw you in or at least tilt your thought processes enough in the midst of the daily grind that you just may find yourself willingly stirring yourself.

This whole book is really about making things not necessarily easier, but simpler for sure.

Starts with some words spoken in Scripture that Jesus makes very clear; "unless you become like small children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

So lets start by thinking about the simple and elemental ways of a child. Children generally understand the important things- the profound things in life. They don't spend their days picking truth or love apart like pulling the pedals off a daisy until the beauty is gone or at least unrecognizable. They simply accept truth and love with their hearts when they trust those who are sharing it with them.

So I guess we have to deal with the question "Do you legitimately trust Jesus?" to move forward in an open and honest direction with the topic.

Once we deal with the realities of what a life of trust looks like we can begin to ask oursleves some harder questions like....Will practicing the principles I learn through this journey of climbing the character ladder lead me to deeper, more loving and meaningful relationships? Will applying these ideas inspire vision and hope in myself and those I influence? Will wearing the lenses of trust, truth and hope help me to see who I really am and help me become all that God intends me to be?

Here's a start...

"If we take care of our character then our reputation will take care of itself"

Monday, July 4, 2011

If it's not love, tell me now

These last couple weeks, even months, so many thoughts and dreams have been pouring into my mind, even faster than I know what to do with. I feel a passion, a yearning in the depths of my being to live for God, to do something great for His kingdom with the gifts and talents that I've been given. However, even though I am often overwhelmed by this unbelievable joy and passion, I also continue to struggle as I feel stuck, confused, and worried about certain areas of my life.

It can feel so lonely in moments to have a good majority of my friends and community be married and/or living life with a companion. As I look around me its also a struggle as I see many of my single friends feel like they are not good enough, ready enough, or just not trying hard enough to get "out there in the game" and that's why they are lonely and without companionship and meaningful relationship. At the same time, I continually hear married friends fearfully and bashfully admit that they are married and yet feel incomplete, confused and lonely as well, and they silently bear that deadly confusing burden.

At the heart of these feelings and beliefs, I see an idealistic unreal assumption about love, relationships, and wholeness both in the marriages and the single lives that I walk among. If we are married we dont fully sense this idea of oneness, connection, mutual understandin/ support, and identity in or with our spouse, and for many who are single I hear the same descriptions but about friendships, relationships, dating etc.

Perhaps this idea of what creates those realities in our lives is a little warped... or even perverted entirely.

Why is it that so many of us feel like we are missing out on some BIG love purpose connectedness "thing" in our lives? Why do so many of us feel confused about why we are here, single or married, and what we are meant to be doing with our time, talents, money, resources, relationships, and ultimately our lives?

Are we missing some very core basics to living a fulfilled joyful abundant life that is grounded, balanced, simple and yet extraordinary?

Isn't that what most of us are longing for; it's really anything outside of the manotony of a lifeless, passionless, stuck human existence, right?

But its so much more than that for me. I don't just want to be unstuck; I want to be vibrant, and I want to make a difference in my world. I want to be both cherished in this life and remembered in the next. I want to leave something of value for the generations that I leave behind. I'm sure I'm not the only one desperate for these things, right? Absolutely not. I know I'm not because I've spent days even years worth of my life having conversations about these desires with many of you my dearest friends and family.

So... why ARE we stuck? Why are we lonely, propelled inward staring at an empty abyss, confused about our mission, and looking for something to live for?

Have we just not been told or experienced firsthand some reasonable answers to live purposefully and passionately? I wish I could answer all these questions in a nice little email, but I'm writing this because I believe these are the thoughts and questions of my generation, and they run as deep as the oceans that continually sweep away cities across the world. In the same way, these waves of tolerance and confusion are sweeping away the hearts of my generation and burying them in the ground beneath our fast pace, fast food, no truth, entertainment nation.

So then, what is the hope for my generation; a generation that wants very little to do with institutionalised corprate church/religion, is relating and learning 90% of the time through media and technology, and yet wants to be genuine, passionate, connected to the earth and humanity, and wants to live for a great cause.

The reality is our children and grandchildren will be absolutely lost if my generation doesn't start not only answring these questions, but living out some answers that make sense of all these longings in their hearts.

I don't feel like I can answer them with this generations current ideals of "anything goes (idea of truth)", and relative moralism. It's like I'm going to have to tell my children "Good luck, I hope you find any path that works for you, but I have nothing concrete to offer. Just make sure that you accept everyone and everything, stand for nothing, but make sure you have a few things you oppose." SCARY!

Unless we can all come together and acknowledege one common ground, what will our future kids in generations have in common other than the same stuck, confused, lonely way of survival that most of our world is teaching?

Do we realize that by not teaching anything, we are teaching something BIG, and it's devastating our futures?

Maybe we could start and unite over a simple message, one that all of mankind has been programmed to long for... like perhaps LOVE!

Love yourself, honestly and truly (take care of the one body that you have with honor and respect- think about what you are ingesting both mentally and emotionally). If you can agree on some kind of universal language like LOVE then be about the things that promote it... like justice for the oppressed, encouraging triumphant survival in the midst of terrible circumstances in the context of loving community, enjoying the beauty of the world you live in, and standing unwaveringly for principles and truths that both promote and create love ... and if you can admit that you are indeed a spiritual being then find a way to LOVE and be as intimately acquainted with that which nurtures and forms your spirit as possible (and for me thats my loving God and creator).

Is it possible that we can unite together as a generation and decide that we are at least going to unite by each passing on one thing to those around us no matter what; and that's love!

Here's a few lyrics that came out of me this week through the processing...

I woke up this morning, my eyes burning and my heart pounding aloud
I laid awake last night wondering pondering just what this God's about

Then I went to church this morning, a man called "pastor" stood before the crowd

He posed the same big question and my heart shuttered and these words poured right out

At the end of my life, there's but one thing You require, it is love, if it's not love, tell me now

Oh at the end of my life, yeah there's but one thing You've required and it is love, if it's not love, tell me now
tell me now if it's not love, if it's not love oh tell me now


LOVE truly is the most powerful message. I could care less if it sounds corny. It's not easy, but it's simple. For those of you who claim Christianity it's 4 words: LOVE God, LOVE people. And this is how we know love... feeding the hungry, taking care of the orphan and widow, thinking of others more highly than yourself, and how you love eachother.

Friends, LIVE intentionally, and realize that you have been created with a purpose in mind; that you would LOVE God passionately with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and that you would LOVE the world (your neighbor) with all that God has created you to be.

Cheers to LOVE, cheers to you!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

faded red

For those of you who are wondering about the subject line, no I'm not starting a band though I think that "faded red" would be a very sweet name for one.

Actually I'm sitting at the base of magnificent Mt Adams in a little town called Troutlake, WA. It's one of those towns where the landmark that reminded me where to turn right off the highway was a llama named Eek.

For a few summers I was involved with a camp Jonah Ministries- it's a relational outdoor crazy adventure camp (and no it didn't rub off on me at all:) Every year they have a theme and this year it's...

"GET REAL- relationship not religion"...

...and this is on all their faded red camp t-shirts. So there's one good reason for the subject.

The theme they have chosen is tight (or heavy, awesome, sweet action) and right away I thought to myself YES what a great theme!! I always heard people say that phrase when I first entered the church scene but I had no clue what it meant.

"I mean come on, how does God want or physically have a relationship with people and how can you say it's not about relgion? (Just look at our world, I thought, of coarse it's about religion)." And the next thought was usually, "even if He does, why would He want relationship with me, I'm not churcy or even anything special? In fact, sometimes I just feel like church people are fake and playing a stupid game and trying to pretend like they are good kids when we all know they are faking." And to be honest, I also kinda pictured God or Jesus as a mad father-guy up there just waiting to smack me when I did something wrong; I wasn't all that convinced that He cared too much for me or for relationship.

But I guess that's kind of the point of the theme isn't it?

You can't really trust a person or believe they are being honest when they say how much they really genuinely care about you unless you risk finding out the truth by being in a legit relationship with them. The proof lies in the relationship, not the statement or the religion.

The hard part about this proof for me is how our world (especially Western world) views relationship to start out with. Relationship is posed as something we fall into rather than pursue. It's something that happens to us rather than something we seek out or intentionally invest in. Most of our earliest relationships begin either out of convenience, a specific need in ourselves we are trying to have met, or possibly a common interest (and we don't always mature out of this junior high mentality, do we?). If we are being honest, this is how most of us learned how relationships begins; it's no wonder the negative affects when passing these thoughts over into romance and religion.

Real relationship with Jesus and with people is not something that happens to us, or a thing that we just fall into and out of, or a convenient friendship that will end when the summer does (or the school year, or whatever the season might be).

Relationships that are the strongest, the most genuine, and life-lasting are the ones that we seek out constantly and invest in appropriately; the ones that we pay careful attention to maintain (out of love, not obligation or expectation), and the ones that we let change us and grow/challenge us and teach us in positive ways (even when it hurts).

Did you know that those relationships actually exist? It's true and they exist with people and with God... just another faded red lesson.

As I've shared previously, I'm leaving Portland for this season. Portland is the "City of Roses" and it has been my beloved home for 7 years. I associate roses with red. Though I have so many incredible memories in this lovely red roses city, and relationships that I intend to invest in deeply even once I'm gone, I sense that Portland itself is faded red in my life for the time being. Don't misunderstand me, I could never give up or stop loving the color red. In fact sometimes when a color fades, it's not that we've given up, it actually means that we have truly loved it well, just like a faded sweater that we still sport around town even... you never know when faded might come back in style right?!

Here's to getting real, enjoying relationship, and learning those faded red lessons...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

give me sunshine

Well, hopefully this is the beginning of a new era in my blog journey. I haven't been able to write much in the last few months since arriving stateside and healing up from that little malaria hiccup (*note- yes a wee bit of sarcasm).

I'm currently at my lovely friend Mermaid's little place in the wine country. No that's not her real first name (in fact, I don't think she's even too stoked that I still call her that :) but maybe you might remember her name from one of my first posts ever. She lives in Newberg which has the cutest welcome sign...

"Welcome to Newberg- a good place to grow!"

It got me thinking. Not only is that phrase perfect for this season that my lovely friend is embracing, but I'm exploring and accepting it for myself as well. Maybe I'll make my own sign...

"Welcome to Boise- a good place to grow!"

That phrase caught my eye because it poses an assumption and an expectation... doesn't it? Either, if ya plant something it will grow
there, or if ya move there you will grow ( at least that's how I read it ;)

However, the phrase also resounds with a lot of responsibility.

When you move to a place expecting to grow, the assumption is that change is a comin' and we should expect something new- and the new assumption is usually positive (ex: I'm gonna grow and it's gonna be good).

And yet, I just keep thinking that expectation without responsibility leaves us feeling empty and confused.

I mean think about it- most soil can grow at least something, but it doesn't mean you should eat whatever comes up, or that it's healthy for you.

You have to stir up the soil to see what it's really made of, and you have to enrich most soil to expect any type of good produce, and obviously those
seeds you plant have to be good too.

But in an honest moment, most of us don't always take the time to sew good seeds, or get dirty, or labor hard to do that rough stuff that will make the soil and it's fruit REAL good.

We most often just shove some seeds in the ground and then yell at the sky "give me sunshine" and expect good things to grow. I know I've definitely done some of that the last few years.

The truth is, we all expect things from life, from new environments
and opportunities, and from the people who surround us; but we so often
forget that life and relationships are what we make of them- so often
dependent on how we actually invest in and nourish them- not what we expect of them.

Life doesn't just change or grow because you move.

Relationships don't flourish or change because you get more
expectations... if anything, expectations without responsibility or
communiation is no different than taking someone by the hand and then
lovingly asking them to jump off a cliff with you... yeah, never
really ends well!

So with all that said, Boise is next for me, and I'm investing in some good
tools to plant well there :) I'm making some intentional moves toward growth and relationship, and I'm hoping that from all across the world you will join me on this adventure of planting on purpose...

Just some thoughts from the wine country!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

a lil perspective

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening...

I'm realizing that you will all be reading this post at different times of day across the world. After this whole malaria thing my perspective and my love feels bigger, stronger, wider, deeper, and even wiser; after seeing, feeling and hearing so many miracles and receiving countless letters and confirmations that 10's even 100's of thousands of people were affected by this and praying for me across the world, I know I will never be the same; we will never be the same!

I had such an amazing time of rest, recovery, and resolution in DC, Boston and Boise. I thank those of you who spent hours apon hours visiting and caring for me in the hospital (especially my amazing mother), praying for me from far away, challenging me to see Jesus through it all, encouraging me to cling to hope and to God's promises, supporting me through many changes and confusion, listening to me while I fall apart and burst into tears over the pain, and guiding me with truth coupled with deep love through these last couple months.

It's been a sweet bumpy rollercoaster, and yet it's amazing to see the things that come out when we are jolted and tossed around by life.

At some point I will blog more extensively about what I saw and the crazy things I experienced through this trial, but for now here are just a few things I learned and postive things that have come of this...

relationships made stronger, people seeking Jesus and praying more and praying harder (even for the first time), family having changed persepectives, nurses seeing the strength of Christ through our weakness, knowing the depths of Christ and His sufferings in a deeper more personal way, doctors coming to an end of their human understanging and looking for an explanation outside themselves and science, unity in the body of Christ... it's just a glimpse...

I could barely see or understand much of anything that was going on when I first entered the hospital (everything was blurry and fading in and out, sounds were muted, slow and far away)... 104.4 temps,
seizures, lack of blood and oxygen, and medication will do that too ya. I wondered if I was dying. It all looked and felt a lot like those scenes you see in movies before people "see a light" or whatever. I was freaking out because I couldn't communicate with my words and no one could understand me when I tried...

but what I could do was listen, and listen I did indeed!

And I realized in those moments that I hadn't been doing much of that whole listening thing the last month/months or so previous... henceforth why I was terribly confused, neurotic, planning like a crazy person, and changing my mind with every toss of the waves. Definitely not what Jesus intends, and it
doesn't have to be this way when we are simply abiding in His love.

Let's just say, during those 24-48 hours, being only able to listen changed my life, and my persepective.

As a result, I saw who was around me in the moment and how I could love them, I received things from Him and others that I never could have had I been well, I embraced people and life knowing that they're both fragile mysterious and often unknown, I heard in my heart the tender voice of the Lord and what He wanted most deeply for my heart and my life, I felt His presence and the awareness of an opportunity for people to
know Jesus deeper and for His Glory to be displayed, I heared His voice...

"I'm not finished with you yet." That definitely led me through those first 72 hours for sure!

There is so much more I would love to share but this is what I have processed so far. For those of you who want to know how to pray further for me, please pray for healing in my right hand and wrist (if you missed my last update- my nerve and tissues were damaged by a blown vein and a lot of poisonous medication).

I'm currently traveling the Portland area till the first week of June, and overall I'm getting lots of rest and time with friends and family here! I will be in and out of the Portland area throughout the summer. More of this to come, but I am moving to Boise officially in August, and will be living communally with a very lovely couple (The Hartmans) while I finish the remainder of my undergrad, Lord willing!

An official introduction to the Hartman's and their compound will be in the mix in the next couple months. I will be living in a tree-house like cabin on top of a chicken coup that also poses as a green house and mini brewery. I call it "green chicken brewery"... it's a household name :)

"For the joy set before Him..." Hebrews 12

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Malaria is real

I know it's been a while, but a lot has happened since I left the land of Liberia.

On April 5th, I flew into Washington DC where I had the most amazing week with a very dear friend of mine. It was total culture shock when I barely wanted to leave the house in April because it felt like winter; what am I saying, it was winter! 2 days after I arrived, I didn't realize that I was flying way under the radar until a police officer showed up at my friend's door begging me to call my mother... true!

On April 15th, I wrote an update email saying that I felt really strange Tuesday night the 12th after I slept at my grandparents and that I got a little fever, and thought it was an airplane bug. Well, for the rest of that week, I continued to have fevers at night and feel normal during the day. I was achy and tired, and had a bad headache on and off (not uncommon for me normally so didn't think much about it.) A few days in, I had a passing thought, "I hope this couldn't be malaria," sure seems similar to what I saw in Liberia.

Well it turns out that most strands of Malaria have a two week incubation period where the parasites can be attacking until you notice any symptoms; they are fairly easy to treat and yet they remain in your system like a virus and come back throughout your life. The most serious strands- like the one I had- can be dormant in your system for months, attacking your liver and your blood cells until your body literally shuts down.

By tuesday 19th of April, my fever had been 103-104, and then I had two seizures and was taken to the Emergency room. When I got there, I was delerious and incoherent for pretty much the next 48 hours. My liver was failing, my blood was toxic, and my vision and hearing were extremely impaired. Everything hit so hard and fast out of nowhere. My mother was called and told I was in ICU in critical condition and she dropped everything and flew in to MA and came to the hospital to stay with me around the clock in the ICU.

Because I was very confused and continued to have a high fever, I was incontinent and had a "poop pouch" and a catheter (sorry for the graphic details). At one point, two nurses tried to pull me up in bed and forgot about my catheter and ripped it which led to a lot bleeding, a tear in my bladdar, and a urinary tract infection.

Malaria attacks your liver and your blood, and so I was not having my blood filter correctly and was very jaundiced. All my blood counts were fatally low so they had to keep giving me more blood transfusions. Just an example, my plateletts were 18,000 when I came in, they are currently more like 300,000 now.

My hemoglobin was around 2 and is supposed to be between 12-17. You get the picture, right? My blood was 11% parasites which is so toxic that they had to give me mega doses of a cemo-like drug which killed much of my other cells (which led to 4 blood transfusions). When they gave me the drug through an IV in my right hand it infiltrated which means it stopped going into the vein and went into my tissues instead which damaged nerves, tissues and tendons in my right hand and arm (still my biggest prayer request as my right hand is still usably impaired at the moment.)

I'm sorry it's been so long since I have written, but now you know why. The Lord is sustaining me and will continue to heal my body each day. I truly look forward to seeing many of you in the upcoming months, and I thank each of you for your prayers and support through this season. I am healing up amazingly well, but I still have quite the healing process ahead of me.

More words, stories, and lessons to come...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

turning the page

We have one more night of the Festival and one week from today I leave this beautiful country that has been my home since August 2010. For some of you that's nothing compared to the time that you have spent in Liberia (or other third world countries), and for others of you that's way longer than you could ever imagine or desire being in a third world country.

There are many beautiful and inspiring memories I am taking with me on this next adventure; from hiking for Jesus and holding precious malnourished babies to watching thousands of Liberians worshiping together at SKD stadium. Yes, I do consider rest and recovery just as much a part of God's adventure; in fact, if we claim to love Christ, rest is a commandment not just a novel idea.

I have been so convicted lately by God's commandment from Genesis to Hebrews to rest in the name of the Lord. It's so easy to busy oneself to the point of inner turmoil, emotional exhaustion and physical detriment for the sake of the cause or "ministry." God calls this idolatry and hardness of heart- No really, He warns us against such things, and reminds to us warn others. In Hebrews 3 and 4 He says that many people in Scripture who don't enter His rest, don't enter because of their unbelief and disobedience of this command. He also doesn't expect us to convict ourselves but says that the Word of God is what is the active agent who shows us our thoughts and intentions for why we serve, and why we don't rest- it's rooted in pride, self-reliance, and disobedience. That's been hard for me to swallow but I'm so thankful that God allowed me to do this type of work to really understand how this unbelief through not resting can eat away at us, and even twist our view of theology into something that looks a lot like achievement or performance theology to make God and others happy.

Once again, that's exhausting and it's far more than that- it's idolatry.

I have been reminded of God as being the Good Shepherd- the one who leaves His 99 sheep to run after the one lost sheep.

God hasn't forgotten any of us, and He has certainly not forgotten Africa, or Liberia.

 He doesn't look at any one person or Nation as a lost cause, and no one is beyond His reach- there are none who deserve forgiveness and yet there is not one whom He will reject who calls on Him in repentance.

 I have seen His steadfast love in this country, and He has been teaching me to walk in this steadfast spirit.

 I have seen Him as a God of hope, as one who restores amidst even the most ugly and devastating of circumstances.

I have felt Him as a God who is near to the brokenhearted, as a comforter in time of need, as a redeemer and a friend.

 I have followed Him as a God who promises to expand our borders, to do more than we could ever imagine, to lead us in something new and even better than that to make us something new!

I have known Him to be a lover and a healer- a God who restores, who tears down so that He may truly rebuild and make beauty out of ash heaps (and He does, He really does).

He's a God who never gives up, never walks away, never leaves us in despair or without hope, and He's a God who always finishes what He has started!!

We tell God thank you o, I tell God thank you.

Maybe after I've processed some I will share about the festival and its impact on Liberia. For now, let me just tell you, that as I watched these 13 small kids perform this drama in front of 30,000+ kids, I realized something deep down in my heart... their message was for me! God used me as a drama director and a writer to speak a message to my heart that perhaps I needed to hear more than anyone else. And the message...

"God wants your heart Debbie Sue, He wants all of you, and He doesn't want you to change one thing. He wants you to bring your real heart to Him no matter how it looks, and He wants to be the One to change it and heal it- over and over again He wants to heal it." Perhaps this message is for you too!

I have loads of pictures and videos that I can't wait to put in an artistic package for those of you who want to see a glimpse of God's Story here in Liberia. I also know that God's timing is perfect and when our aim is to please Him, He will lead us forward and guide us continually into new life for His Name's sake. So thank you for partnering with me on this incredible adventure thus far, and I'm so excited that this is just the end of the beginning :)

Hopefully I will write again here and there before May, but until we speak again, may God bless you and keep you and may His face shine upon you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

72 hours

I continually thank you for all of your prayers during this time!

We have less than 72 hours before the Festival begins. Franklin arrived yesterday to greet us at the office and it was so encouraging to see how the whole staff received him with such loving affection and high energy. I never cease to be amazed by the joy and thanksgiving that these wonderful Liberians have considering all that they have and continue to walk through. And yet I'm continually encouraged by their vulnerability as they walk through these trials and don't pretend like their troubles don't exist. They are a people who pray, many of which know the scriptures well and yet can't read, but they are not afraid to bring their burdens honestly before God's throne... it can be quite alarming to the soul in certain moments!

To be honest, I am tired and overwhelmed. I'm fighting migraines and body pain daily, and learning with every new step just how much I need Jesus moment by moment. It's not enough to pray for an overall grace! There's a passage that commands all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him (I know I fit into this passage). But the part that really strikes me is that He knows that we WILL get weary and heavy laden, and He bids us to come. It's no surprise to Him or He wouldn't have commanded it. Also, that passage ends with... "And I will give you rest (also something I desperately need)!"

There's those moments in life where our strength, happiness, and ability come to an end. However, the Scriptures make it clear that only in those moments do we begin to see the true strength, joy, and power of God's Spirit working in and through us. So, despite the pain, the heartache, and even the moments of feeling depressed, I press on... I move forward in the calling in which I've received... I acknowledge my need and my weakness... I confess my sin, denial and self-allegiance... and I once again throw myself on the mercies of God! (Please read Hebrews 12 with me)

I may get a chance to write one more update before I leave Liberia, but know that my consistent internet access ends with this post. I will be out of commission in the internet world until May. Until then, thanks for your prayers... I mean it when I tell you that they are the ministers that are waking me up each morning to live another day for God's Glory!

I guess this is a great opportunity in the next month to catch up on some of my previous post ;0)

Friday, March 18, 2011

sneak peak of JAMPACT

For years, I have passionately rambled on before many of you about this crazy dream that God put in my heart as a young teenager. For some reason Jesus decided to take me all the way to Africa to get me to finally write it all out on paper and start taking some major steps toward making this dream a reality.

So here is just a sneak peak (excerpts) of the proposal I have written in the last month.... thanks for reading, and for encouraging me all along this journey! 

                                                            J.A.M.P.A.C.T. Ministry


OBJECTIVE:

JAMPACT’s objective is to pursue a wide variety of both partners and supporters in this endeavor to spread the name of Jesus throughout the world through creative arts and discipleship. We consider partners to be both individuals and institutions (including churches and organizations) that are willing to be publically linked and broadcast as not only supporters of JAMPACT’s vision and mission, but also as investors in this endeavor across the world. We consider our supporters to be any individuals, churches or organizations that are committed to praying, following, and/or financially supporting this ministry whether it be a one time gift or consistent contribution commitment.

As the initiator of this ministry, the global vision for a Creative Arts Training Program and an Art Discipleship Ministry started in my heart when I was 13 years old. I envisioned a ministry that would make a lasting impact on the world, especially in lives of upcoming generations. My childhood and the years that followed into my adolescence were filled with a depth of grief that is hard to put into words. It has only been through my experience with profoundly hurting individuals, devastated cultures, and the love of Jesus Christ through His children and the creative arts that I have gained a voice and begun putting words to God’s Story in me.

GOD’S STORY/ REDEMPTIVE PLAN :

 (insert personal back story)
Poverty, disease, and death are three inherited life-sentences that all of mankind cannot escape without a Savior. I am not denying that certain countries and individuals are remarkably more affected by these global tragedies than others. However, as a Christian, I believe that the Bible clearly explains each of these devastating realities as primarily a spiritual problem with secondary physical and emotional implications. Eph 2:1 states that we are all dead in our transgressions, that we are incapable of living again or responding to the love of God without the redemptive intervention of a Savior. Scripture professes that all of mankind has moved away from God, and chosen to live our own lives apart from His love. Despite our rejection and self-separation, He has made a way for us to be healed and reconciled through His Servant’s willing sacrificial death. I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that this Servant was Jesus Christ who was pierced for our transgressions, who took on our diseases and death in His own body, and became poor and sick with grief among the peoples of the world in order to empathize with the physical and emotional poverty of His children. Therefore, poverty, disease and death are human spiritual and physical problems with only one real solution; Jesus Christ. Only through Christ, His triumphant victory over death, and through all those whom He chooses to use, will mankind ever be offered the hope of passing over from spiritual death to new life.

THE VISION:

In light of the Gospel just proclaimed, JAMPACT is writing to specifically address our experience and understanding that the creative arts can have not only a profound influence on leading all kinds of peoples to new life, but can fruitfully disciple them into mature believers who glorify God with all their hearts, minds and bodies.

God has made every human being in His image, and thus we are a reflection of His infinite creativity. He has shown Himself to all of mankind through the extravagant beauty of His own Nature and His Creation; even to the point that He declares that “man is without excuse in knowing His existence” (Romans 1:21). As a response to this truth our vision, question and proposal arises:

If we are made in God’s image, and He is infinitely creative, how then should we respond to His love and His calling to love others, as creative beings?

Let us address that we are not stating that the so-called “creative arts” and being “creative imitators of God” are synonymous. It is quite possible that there are more forms of creativity in the world than there are species of animals. We simply acknowledge that being creative is intrinsically an expressive and responsive language among every individual soul and nation across the world. Therefore, “In whatever you do (including however you choose to reflect your creative nature)… Do it all for the Glory of God!” ~1 Cor. 10:31

INTRODUCING THE MINISTRY:

Now that I- the visionary- have shared my personal back story, God’s spiritual calling on all believers, the Biblical reasoning for pursuit of JAMPACT Ministry within that calling, and our team’s understanding of the need that will be met through this program, let us unpack the meaning behind the name: JAMPACT

JAMPACT: Jesus Arts Movement (through) Performance Academics Culture Training:

Let us start by saying that our name is “jam-packed” with purpose, intention, and double meanings. For instance, J.A.M. is meant to be read and understood in two different yet very important ways. First of all, the “Jesus Arts Movement” is a phrase, and more deeply an actual movement, that we would love to see spread around this planet for the Glory of God. We dream of seeing a generation unleashed before God, with their creative gifts and talents, dancing (movement) and worshipping Him with contagious freedom in their hearts. However, the three words are also meant to be separate (Jesus-Arts- Movement) because they represent what this ministry and the people within it are avidly pursuing both separately and together. We are all learning various forms of art and movement (dance), but together we are actively seeking the same Jesus and the same eternal movement toward Him through creative outlets.

At JAMPACT, we dream of seeing lives transformed through hearts and minds that are jam-packed with life-changing truth because of trained God-honoring facilitators whose classes and performances are jam-packed with creative students who are being equipped to imagine then create a world jam-packed with the love of God and the truth of the Gospel.

(If you would like to read the full proposal or are interested in joining as a partner or supporter in this ministry, please contact Debbie Sue directly at dsuefreebu@gmail.com)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goodbye Ganta

I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers during this amazing but absolutely crazy month of March.

For those of you who have been praying for the rural life festivals in Liberia these past 2 weeks, God has answered your prayers and has done remarkable things in the hearts of so many children of God. Tens of thousands of people heard about the new life and deep love offered through Jesus Christ, and angels rejoiced every night as hundreds stepped onto that narrow little road that leads to life…

oh what an unbelievable story to be a part of (literally)!

In fact, I would go on to say that if the stories you hear me share in my own life or in the Scriptures seem possible, normal, or even remotely believable (except by faith) then you are probably not truly hearing His words or seeing the powerful hand of God at work. That's why He repeats over and over again in the first 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) after sharing such stories,

 "He who has eyes (of faith) let him see and he who has ears let Him hear."

A few nights ago I read in Psalm 16, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!”


I couldn’t help but be reminded of this truth while I watched the hearts of hungry and deeply hurting Liberians joyfully bring their burdens to God’s throne of grace with confidence (truly, imagine the multitudes that were running toward the "alter" dancing and singing and praying with tears of joy in their eyes).

The most amazing part to me was personally praying with those who fully understood that God's Message was one that would feed their hungry souls and carry them into eternity; that it didn’t necessarily promise money or new things (but rather endless eternal riches in Christ), or an immediate change in circumstances (but instead a loving friend, a Savior, a guide, a comforter, a peace, a fortress in times of trouble, provider in times of need, and a sure future in Heaven).

I believe that so many heard the true Gospel and came ready to respond to God’s promise “for He satisfies the thirsty soul and fills the hungry heart with good things” (Psalm 107:9) and He promises to bring peace throughout the raging storms of life-

“Oh Lord, You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You!” Isaiah 26:3

One image that stands out in my mind was from the first night of the festival; RV Brown from Tampa FL (the largest most passionate evangelist I’ve ever seen in my life) had just spoke of his unbelievable encounters with the mercies of God, his undeniable healing and his miraculous transformation only through Jesus Christ, when this image pierced my heart like a sword. Suddenly, I watched an aisle open up amidst the crowd of 5,000+ people as two men faithfully carried this terribly crippled blind woman to the front to receive prayer and healing in Jesus Name. As Rev. Brown prayed for her and declared that Jesus was the only true Healer, I couldn’t help but be reminded in my spirit of a story in the Gospels (Mark 2:3-5) where four men lowered their paralyzed friend through the ceiling into a jam packed room so he could have a chance to meet and be healed by Jesus. The Healer ("Good God Almighty- as RV Brown would say) recognized their faith and healed the man immediately. How undeserving are we who believe to partake in any such power and yet Christ declares it so (2 Peter 1:3).

As I remember all that I experienced this last weekend in Ganta, I can’t help but allow these tears to freely flow down my face.

I was reunited with so many of the lovely smiles that had embraced me and taught me in ways I could never begin to fully express. I was able to walk about 5 miles throughout the surrounding communities I lived among and just pray that God would continue to grow the seeds that were planted during my time here- that He would continue to bring hope and healing to these beautiful people. I hopped on a motorbike (fully taking in that moment of awestruck wonder and breeze on my face) and said goodbye to many of my previous co-workers and me dear kiddos at Hope for the Nations. I couldn’t believe how the children had grown and my heart melted into the red dirt road as I saw their sweet smiles and joyful hearts running toward me; I knew in that moment that the Jesus I love is the same God today who declared Himself to Hagar in Genesis 16:13 as the God who sees her. That day, I knew that despite the pain and sickness and even death that so many of my dear friends are facing in Ganta that Jesus would never leave them or forsake them, but that He would heal them in every way He has promised this side of eternity, if they would put their whole faith and trust in Him alone.

Oh friends, these truths have definitely been penetrating my heart deeply the last few years, and especially in the last few months. Not only have I had several people close to me die, but God has allowed me to face some emotional afflictions and devastating rejection while being continually plagued by a physical “thorn in my flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). I say this only to boast in the fact that Jesus has remained absolutely faithful to me and to His character through it all. This previous passage goes on to say,

 “(Apostle Paul speaking) To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great truths… there was given me a thorn in my flesh (given by Satan, allowed by God)…three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away but He said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness!’...

...Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I even delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in physical difficulties...

For when I am weak, then I am truly strong!”

sharing and declaring

Hi, my name is Debbie Young and I'm a grateful believer in Jesus Christ!

I'm currently recovering from pride, lying, self-reliance, cheating, judging others, stealing, over indulging, and worrying (and probably many other things that didn't flow out of my mouth immediately).

It catches us a little off guard when people share the real deal, right?

And yet at the same time, it's suprisingly refreshing to hear people be so honest about both the realities of their struggles and sinful hearts as well as the reality of the redeeming love that is slowly ridding them of all that they are not proud of and replacing it with a deep love for Christ and for people.

Well this is the courageous life that people are living all across the globe; particularly through a program called Celebrate Recovery. I'm sure there are innumerable amounts of churches containing programs that are overflowing with “grateful believers” but I have found few as physically powerful and emotionally and spiritually life-changing as CR.  http://www.facebook.com/#!/celebraterecovery

Anyway, just a little shout out to God's work through this program throughout the world!

However, there is still more to SHOUT today...

this morning I woke up to news that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan, and 59 tsunamis are being traced as the world watches to see where the aftershocks might hit next. Then I was reminded about the riots and massive amounts of homicides going on in Libya and Egypt. Then I started thinking about the 70,000+ refugees that have taken up indefinite residence in the land of Liberia (I am currently living in); refugees that have come to escape the riots and obvious movements toward war in Ivory Coast.

Then I started to pray.

I was reminded of many scriptures where Christ himself declares that this world is coming to an end and that all of the devastations we see happening around us are merely the labor pains inducing serious warning not to be ignored.

The current global state of crises as well as the holistic condition of humanity should ignite urgency in our hearts; if it doesn’t, we are more than likely either in a self-imposed position of denial or ignorance.

NEWSFLASH: I’m not kidding you when I tell you that just 10 seconds ago my co-worker Matt walked into our office declaring an emergency that one of our staff’s entire village was just destroyed by fire (and there only remaining belongings can fit under a towel).

All of these painful realities should indeed compel us to pray, and even more so move our feet to act!

But my friends, if we are those who belong to Christ, then it shouldn't cause us to worry or to fear. If you find yourself worried or deeply troubled by all that is going on in the world, the Bible has much to say about a HOPE that is far greater than all these devastations; and if I believe the Scriptures to be true then I would be undeniably wretched to keep my mouth shut about the only truth and hope that I know.

Today I leave to travel 5 hours into the bush of Liberia for my last visit before I head back to the States. In the last week or so, there have been two evangelistic life festivals happening in rural parts of this nation. Over 5,000 people have attended, and hundreds of people have found new life in Christ. However, though it is "DRY" season here, the rains and winds have picked up heavily in the last week (in fact, one night already had to be cancelled because it was literally impossible to keep the festival going).

We are at war my people! And it's a much greater war then what we are watching on tv. Now is not a time to be swallowed up in worry and fear, or any of the things that we can't control.

The one thing we can control is the daily responses of our own hearts to the truth and realities we are being faced with everyday, especially the reality that our life here on earth is short and we only live it once!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

more to camping

Have you ever gone camping?

In the States, especially in the Northwest (where I’ve spent most of my life), it seems like the thought of never having been camping is as unheard of as a Liberian who has never eaten rice.

I used to love to camp when I was kid. Short 3 day trips in the woods were exhilarating. It seemed to be a great opportunity to learn the art of fishing, cooking in the wilderness, and toad catching. I think there was also a certain attitude of rest, quietness, escape (getting away from the noise and maybe the trials or stresses back home), adventure, and even downright euphoria settled in for a short while.

When I was in high school, I did whitewater rafting ministry and learned a totally different form of camping, and in the process learned different and deeper lessons as well.

These camp outs were more like weeks and months at a time living on beaches in the lovely northwest mountains- seasons of life that I call silence or solitude even though I consistently interacted with staff and campers.

I rested in those quiet places long enough to begin to hear the screams of my own heart (screams for love, trust, identity, hope, and purpose) that were previously muddled by the naturally imposed noise and clutter of my busy life.

For all of us those seasons can be moments when we begin to truly hear and accurately see both the things that need to come into our lives- and bring with them positive changes- and the things that we need to give up or get rid of in order to grow and be healthier people. More importantly we begin to hear and trust the voice of the Good Shepherd (Jesus), to sense His love and nearness as our good, and as a response to His tender love and faithfulness we begin to gleefully throw off all that hinders us from intimately knowing HIM.

With the images of these different seasons in our minds, I’d like to reflect on how we can take pleasure in this “camping out” (rest, adventure, silence, reflection and solitude) in our spiritual lives as well.

Have you ever gone camping in the Scriptures?

Perhaps you’ve taken a short 3 day adventure (what some of us may call a retreat) where you just rest and drink in His truth and refocus your heart and mind on the things of God? Or maybe you’ve gone even deeper into Jesus-into the wilderness or wide open spaces of life with him- and have found yourself camped out with Him in the Scriptures fully delighting and drinking in all that He is and promises to be, as well as who declares you to be in light of His truth.

For the last year, I have been camped out in the Scriptures, and more specifically I have repeatedly revisited a book called Romans (primarily chapters 12-15).

These chapters speak of genuine love, true respect/honor, forgiveness, hope, identity, injustice, joy, judgment, endurance and patience.

In times of heartbreak and brokenness God spoke “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

In moments of darkness, rejection and persecution He invaded my heart with the truth “Abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good…weep with those who weep… repay no one evil for evil but leave it to the justice of God… owe no one anything but to love each other… make no provision for the flesh to gratify it’s desires… we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak… for Christ did not please Himself but rather stated ‘the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’.”

Through these chapters and so many others like them (all throughout the Bible) He has given me a purpose and a vision by powerfully declaring “those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard (until now) will understand!”

Today, we have entered the season of lent, and I would like to invite each of you to come camping with me during this season. It’s not just a short 3 day trip but it’s more like the second camping adventure- the one that requires new things to “come into our lives and bring with them positive changes, and the things that we need to give up or get rid of in order to grow and be healthier.” That’s what lent is all about.

During this season, we all have a chance to acknowledge our own sin and to begin anew; to follow the Good Shepherd and become more like him, to camp with Him in His majestic mountains of truth and faithfulness, and to rise from death to life with Him through the same power that raised Him 2,000 years ago!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

another look at road signs

Spend 30 seconds with me and read the quoted words below… tell me, what do you see and what do these words mean to you?

“STOP” “YIELD” “CROSSROAD” “Rest Area (next exit)” “Detour” “Men at work” “Welcome to…” “Thanks for visiting…” “SPEED LIMIT” “WRONG WAY” “DO NOT ENTER” “DEAD END” “BLIND DRIVE” “Curvy Road ahead”...

In case you just read the first few words and then breezed past the rest, let me encourage you to read them again. Perhaps you read them and thought “why is Debbie writing about road signs for driving?” Well, all I can say to that particular question is I like signs. I’m not just talking about road signs, but you know “sign” signs. Huh, like “I’m waiting for a (quote) sign (unquote) to happen.”

No, it’s not really just about signs. I do have to admit that I tend to be one of those people who is moved by seeing repeated words, hearing repeated numbers, or looking for repeated images. I’m always looking for direction, for truth, for life- I’m looking for the WAY (and most commonly doing so by watching for all the “signs”).

But, to be honest, that’s not really what this writing is about. Don’t worry “I’m coming to it” as we say here in Liberia!

I’m captivated by signs for sure, but more importantly I’m driven by learning lessons amidst the beauty of life, the common normality of it, and yes even in the seemingly mundane (like “Road signs”)- I’m always looking… looking for lessons… looking for truth… looking for life.

So, with that said, let’s look back at those road signs again, shall we?

Here’s a glimpse of what I see…

“STOP”- Debbie Sue, stop driving your life on your own, stop planning every moment of every day, stop sinning deliberately, stop worrying about tomorrow, stop looking at life in terms of the impossible, stop depending on your own strength… STOP!

“YIELD”- Slow down! Yield to the Spirit of God and not circumstances or mankind. Yield to Christ by following- immediately. Yield to others, truly notice them, and consider their needs and how Jesus can use YOU specifically to care for them.

“CROSSROAD”- Big decisions are ahead; decisions that you know will take your life in a certain direction, and yet others are leading you into the unknown. Some of us are questioning which road is the “right” one while others are just realizing they have been on the wrong path and need to get off. Some of us stand in silence staring at that ominous C-sign and we are frozen maybe even terrified desperately trying to figure out which way to go- which way leads to God or maybe simply to happiness- to get to LIFE, to get to TRUTH!

“DETOUR”- It’s been said that the only thing certain in life is change. Sometimes I hate change. Other times I thrive off it. Sometimes I just get plain ticked off when I’m driving through life and that sign just seems to jump up and catch me off guard; in that moment, all I can think about is the fact that the stupid sign made me late or cost me somthing, but I don’t consider that it saved me from the torn up mess of a road on the other side (maybe just a mile away).

We can’t always think of detours as signs that are derailing life; most of the time they are what protect us and guide us and give us a chance at getting back on track or maybe even on track for the first time- the track to new life!

Are you catching my drift dear friends? Those road signs really can be used to teach and to learn, right?

As I said earlier, “I’m always looking for direction, for truth, for life- I’m looking for the way” and for the first time I’m truly seeing all these signs because I’m not the one driving the car.

Just imagine with me that this Jesus - the One who declared HIMSELF the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE- is not only the one who is driving but He is the Word of God made flesh (the very road map) that I am reading as we drive along this road together toward LIFE everlasting- toward JESUS everlasting!

Are you beginning to see how beautiful and wonderfully crazy this unknown road is because the One who is the way, the truth and the life is all the "knowing" that we need?

It’s wonderful only because if and when we truly believe this truth, our search for LIFE, for TRUTH, and for direction ENDS in Jesus… and true LIFE (the journey of faith and trust and following Him alone) just BEGINS.

So, I repeat my question, “What signs are you seeing lately?”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

fasting miracle- Isaiah 58

I have so many thoughts and feelings running through my head right
now! I still can't believe that I will be flying to DC on April 4th.

I'm definitely feeling God's overwhelming peace about that decision even
though my heart is deeply saddened to be leaving these dear dear people.

God has been showing me pieces of what He has taught me here in Liberia and giving me a glimpse of His purpose during this season; such an overwhelming answer to prayer for me!

He is continually walking me through the process of showing me how He has grown me up and healed me in countless unfathomable ways.

He has given me a dream and vision for not only my life but has lit up the path before me, step by step, with His Word and His Truth.

I have been fasting and praying on and off the last couple weeks with several dear friends around the world- most of us have been living or traveling in different countries overseas and we have all been praying for direction in "what's next" and how to love God purely and fully in the now.

As I have been praying and now fasting and reading Scripture daily, I have been feeling very strongly that Portland and finishing College are both a part of this next season for me, but my hands are open and if things change then I want to be absolutely willing to change directions in a moment with the Spirit.

I've been intimately pursuing the Lord in so many new ways (one of which is fasting), and today for some reason I felt a quiet almost irresistible conviction that I should consider finishing my Educational Ministry Degree at Multnomah University in Portland.

To be honest, I've been wanting to pursue more schooling at a University known more for their arts programs. For those of you who walked with me through my story at Multnomah, you understand why this urge seems to be coming from somewhere completely other than myself. For those of you who weren't a part of my life during that indescribable season, I think it is best summed up in the statement-

I serve a God that brings beauty out of ashes.

The last few weeks I've undoubtedly tried to think through everything about this next season logistically but as I mentioned in a previous writing-

"I think God would blow up the word realistic if He could!"

I felt like the Lord was once again asking me to stop my crazy planning and just listen for a few moments.

So I have been obeying Him in that and today the thought of Multnomah felt like it was something just whispered right in my ear- like a sweet passing breeze along a stream of water- something I never thought possible!

Something in me felt like I should have freaked out but instead I was totally shaken by such an invading peace.

So I went and looked at the MU website and with each page and interaction with the descriptions of their vision and mission, I felt more and more excitment rise in my heart. It felt like that rekindling passion of a first love (ok maybe a little different that that)!

Oh friends, I don't know what God has planned for this crazy life of mine, but "I'm tired of living in fear" (check out the lyrics to my song about this under the entry "I am found" on this blog).

I know that Multnomah is a lot of money that I don't have, and I never imagined ever wanting to go back there, but please pray with me as I want nothing more than to follow the heart of God for my life and to entrust Him with all the crazy even seemingly impossible details!

CMA school project journal

Samaritan’s Purse Local School Development Project
Managed by Debbie Young

Background and Description of Need:

Coopers Farm was one of the biggest private rubber farms in Liberia until the recently-ended 14 year Civil War completely destroyed the flourishing plantation. The devastation left those formerly employed on the plantation desperate and languishing without any hope for the future. The area quickly became very poor and overtaken with witchcraft which began its oppression under “secret society” rule. In 2004, Reverend Alphonso Dean saw the need to reach the area with the love of God and the hope of the Gospel. His vision was to start a free Christian School for the children in the community. Today the school operates solely on faith. The children carry their mud blocks, stones or buckets to school to sit on due to their lack of chairs and desks. SP has welcomed the opportunity to encourage the school, the community, and Reverend Dean by providing the means to acquire new furnishings and learning supplies for the students.

Evangelism component:

The Christian Mission Assembly School teaches children to read and write using the Bible as a primary textbook. The teachers are having an amazing evangelistic effect on the lives of the children, their parents, and their community at large.

Our Response and Expected Outcomes include:

SPL will provide $5,025 to rehabilitate and upgrade the Christian Mission Assembly School with internal furnishings and school supplies in order to enrich the education given in Todee Junction, Coopers Farm, Margibi County, Liberia

Project Started January 31st, 2011

We pray that each of you will join us in prayer as we seek to reach out to these children and their community for God’s Glory.

CMA Project in Cooper’s Farm (the journaling begins)...

History of Coopers Farm:

During the war, the rubber plantation at Coopers Farm was destroyed leaving all the workers and farmers without jobs and without means to support their families. The community was deeply under the oppression of Juju followers (*African traditional religion- combo of animism and witchcraft). Pastor Dean’s church had a vision to bring the Gospel to this community. As the message of God’s truth was spoken and the believers grew, they decided to plant a church. They trained a pastor and put him through Bible School and several years after the church was planted he passed away (his surviving family still lives in the house built and provided by the church). They later trained another pastor and he has been leading the congregation ever since. In the last couple years they began to realize the Gospel was spreading and that if God was going to rise up new leaders to keep this village for Christ than the children need to have a place to be trained in righteousness and basic education. Thus Christian Mission Assembly School was built for just that purpose. They have persevered against many trials, and God is continually blessing them for their endurance and their faith.

First trip to Cooper’s Farm CMA…

February 1, 2011. The Country Director (Kendell) and I met about this project today and he asked me to take on the responsibility of managing it. We are both super excited about what God can do with the $5,000 we have to invest. We are partnering with a local pastor, Rev. Alphonso Dean and his church community, to rehabilitate this school on Cooper’s Farm. We also hired a contractor today, Peewee Johnson (a capable honest man who helped build one of our last school projects in Lomata), and we are both confident in his work and his character. It’s going to be amazing to see what God will do in just a month’s time to change the lives of an entire community for years to come. What an incredibly humble experience and indescribable blessing to be a part of God’s story here in Liberia! Pictures to come soon…

February 3, 2011. Pastor Dean and I drove out to Todee Junction (Cooper’s Farm) and it was about 51 mi to reach. We measured the distance from the farthest village that the kids walk from and it was a little over 4 miles. I learned that the school is free (biblical education and basic learning skills) and it currently has the means to bring in students up to 8th grade. When we arrived on the campus, I noticed that there were no doors on any of the classrooms, and that all the steps were missing, causing kids and adults to climb about 2ft into the classrooms. There were approximately 40-50 kids from the community attending. Less than ¼ have uniforms or sufficient school supplies. (*There is currently no meal program offered each day for the students which means most of them probably don’t eat a sufficient meal each day). Two of the 6 classrooms have dirt floors that need to be cemented. Portable or built-in chalkboards would be helpful. All five classrooms need furnishings (mostly desks for the older students, and benches with built in table tops for the younger). There is a latrine about 50 yards away from the school and a church next door for their chapel sessions. The only hand pump on the campus is spoiled and grown over with a large amount of brush. If there is any surplus of money, then desks for the teachers and a layer of paint would be a great finishing touch. The teachers seemed kind, eager to help, and so excited about the renovations. The students were mostly quiet but incredibly welcoming. Every time a visitor comes they all stand at the same time and with one voice they welcome- “Good morning visitor, how are you this morning?” It seemed that a sense of quietness and even sadness lifted among the teachers and students as they saw Pastor Dean; he obviously has been a great support to them!

February 7th, 2011. This morning Peewee and I sat down and discussed all that we hope to accomplish, Lord willing, with the funds that we have. Today Peewee and I drove out to the school grounds and did the measuring for everything that will need to be built or reconstructed (such as cement stairs for the classes and built-in chalkboards) in the next three weeks. We also considered how many desks we could fit in each classroom and had to discuss the Nation’s enrollment requirements for each anticipated class, and then adjust our vision accordingly. Today, we also put a down payment on all the furnishings and they wood craftsman have already begun to design the desks. All in all, it was a very successful day!

February 14th, 2011. Peewee and I have not only put together a comprehensive budget but we have already purchased and transported the first set of materials that are needed up to Todee; thanks to our amazing movement and logistics staff (not to mention, the amazing support of the Country Director)!

February 18th, 2011. I made a trip up to Todee today with one of SP’s Water and Sanitation’s (WATSAN) pump technicians. It turns out that the well needs extensive work done but SPL’s WATSAN department is hoping to put this school on their upcoming project’s list. That would be such an answer to prayer for this school and its’ community. After a week of working up there, Peewee informed me that he has been getting sick from the only water they have to offer him. I pray that a new well will be a part of this community’s future. Despite the water struggle, he was elated to inform me that the pastor, teachers, and many of the church and community members have jumped in to assist in any way they can. He couldn’t stop laughing and smiling as he told me “I have never experienced a community like this. They are so willing to help with everything and it makes me glad to give up my time for them!”

February 21st, 2011. Peewee called me this morning and bursting with joy as he told me that his team and the community have already finished all the cement work (2 new floors, stairs for all the classrooms, and they had enough leftover cement to install chalkboards in all the rooms instead of just two). They were also able to reconstruct new door frames for each classroom. He told me that he spoke with the wood craftsman and the furniture is over halfway done and should be completed by next week! I can’t believe how quickly this whole project is coming together and how committed all the people are who are involved; it is absolutely inspiring what a small group of devoted servants can accomplish by faith and hard work.

February 28th, 2011. Peewee came to my office today and told me that he has finished all the cement work, and that we have enough money to paint the inside of the school as well. So today we purchased the supplies to go and give this school a brand new face. This is such a huge answer to prayer! I was informed today that all the new furnishings will be ready by midweek. I’m just so amazed by God’s hand of provision throughout this entire project. I received an email today informing me that SP’s “Gifts in Kinds” Program is offering us two full tubs for the school full of composition books, school supplies, and teaching manuals. Not only is God providing the greatest needs of this school but He’s graciously giving us all the extra requests that we desire for these kids and their community. On behalf of the community and the school, I urge you to continue to pray for clean water for this school and its community! Once the furniture is complete, our whole CMA Project team will head up to the newly renovated Christian Mission Assembly School and joyfully celebrate with them.

March 1st, 2011. Today was once again such an amazing testimony of God’s grace and provision over this project. Our furniture is on schedule to be finished tomorrow, and more excitement is arising around every corner. I just found out today that not only did we have enough funds left over to paint the whole school, but we have enough to provide a desk and chair in each classroom for the teachers. These teachers have been standing every day for up to 8 hours laboring for these kids, so you can imagine the look on their faces when we told them they would have a place to sit in between lectures. My heart is filled with such delight and thankfulness to all who have made this project possible!

The story thus far... Photos still to come...