"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.