Subtitled: Lesser Things

[Caution: a more personal blog than usual]

A few months ago I met a guy. We had mutual friends in common and so after I confirmed that he wasn’t “some crazy,” we started talking. The circumstances that brought us to be in the same place at the same time were so improbable that it could not have been coincidental. I was convinced God was at work. It was a great few weeks until one day *poof* he disappeared. To use a Harry Potter term, he apparated. I was left desperately trying to figure out what I had said or what had gone so terribly wrong. Why had he so completely pushed me away? I well and truly struggled for a while.

This week as I was praying on my way to work I was reminded of two lines from a song. “And all the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.” Honestly, I cried. God’s love is so great that He doesn’t give us lesser things. The Father wants only the highest and best for His children. As I’ve pondered this over recent days I realized that it’s not that good things aren’t good, but good things may be less than something even better.

As humans we like to fill our lives with more, even “good” mores: people/relationships, technology/hobbies, career, food, etc. But sometimes in our pursuit of more, we can find ourselves with less. Connecting with the wrong people, be it in relationship or just community, causes heartache or worse. The “perfect job” that we’ve been striving for comes at the expense of family time.

Sometimes when we pause and examine our lives, we realize that less can indeed be more. What you have right now, as imperfect as it is, may indeed be better than if you were to add “more” or pursue “better.”

In my own life and situation I know that my job isn’t perfect, it’s not the top of the hierarchy but I enjoy going to work each day and it pays enough to cover my bills with a little left over. Yes, I could go for something “more” to allow for “more” left over, but in that pursuit I may find myself infinitely less happy. As much as I desire a hand to hold, I know that the wrong relationship isn’t going to add to my life but diminish it.

There are times we might be frustrated with God and what we think He should be doing but isn’t, but as the song goes, He hears “each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.” Be reminded of that.

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Subtitled: A Wondrous Exchange

The soundtrack to my growing up years was either Sandi Patty, Psalty the Singing Songbook, or Luke Garrett. My dad’s choice of “Polish Polka” was always overruled. Recently, one of the songs that Mom played called “Wondrous Exchange” came back to mind.

“A wondrous exchange, a wondrous exchange / An offer so great I can scarcely believe / His crown for my shame, His loss for my gain / His death for my life, what a wondrous exchange”

On the day of my 18th birthday I started working in retail. It was my life until I went to seminary almost five years later. One thing I encountered on almost a daily basis was exchanges. Or even more appropriately titled “even exchanges.” If a shirt came in and wasn’t in bad condition, you could exchange it for something of equal value. If you wanted something better, that option was available to you, but for a price.

In thinking about exchanges recently I was stuck anew by the magnitude of not just the song, but what Jesus actually did for each of us. Him for me: Holy God for wretched human. Prince for pauper. Perfection for corruption. This wasn’t remotely an “even exchange” policy – this was exchanging something dirty and tattered for new perfection. But the catch is, there was a price… but He paid it.

Quite frankly, it doesn’t make sense! Why would God allow this vastly uneven exchange in the first place, and even more than that, why would He offer His own Son to pay the price?! And yet, God wonderfully, mercifully, and miraculously is a God who does things that don’t make sense, at least in our finite human minds.

Throughout our lives there are snapshots that don’t seem to make sense in the moment but weeks, months, even years later we understand exactly what He was trying to accomplish. Things that don’t seem to fit in the puzzle at the time, fill a perfect void in later life when we realize there was an edge piece missing, or maybe a bigger picture entirely.

I don’t always understand what God is doing, in fact I dare say I am confused more often that I am confident. But when I think of the wondrous exchange paid for me, I realize that I am right where I’m supposed to be: relying on a God who sees a bigger picture, and always wants he best for me.

 

Subtitled: In Heaven’s Eyes

Normally, when you see a post from me, you can assume it’s my thoughts, my story, and/or the things God is teaching me along this journey called life. This post is different though. It’s not my story but one I am merely privileged to share because it is a story worth sharing.

I met Amos, age 10, at the Sandi Patty / Veritas concert in Marietta, Ohio. He sat across the aisle from me – front row, with yellow roses in hand. It was his third time seeing the “Forever Grateful” show and he had come to see “Miss Sandi Patty” one last time before she retired.

After the concert this little boy who “never knew a stranger” gave me a huge hug and even kissed the right side of my face. He was just the most adorable little guy I’d ever met! I got to know Amos’ mom Tina after the show and she shared with me a little about Amos’ background.

And I have the privilege of sharing it with you. Written by Tina, this is Amos’ story:

Three Sandi Patty concerts? Three? Yes, three! Obsessions are common for people with the same disabilities as Amos. Most of his friends obsess over Darth Vader or professional wrestlers. My son obsesses over Sandi Patty, and yes, I reinforce that obsession. Why? Well, the obvious answer is because I don’t want him obsessing over Darth Vader or professional wrestlers, but mostly because I am thankful that he has chosen someone of such character and class to be the primary focus of his life.

First, who is Amos? The sad answer is that nobody really knows. He was born in China, but we have no idea when. Abandoned outside the orphanage gate, a doctor guessed that he was eight months old, and assigned him the birth date of December 21, 2006. Then, eight years of being hated and abused in every way imaginable followed. I had no idea that Amos even existed until I “just happened” to be at the orphanage to adopt an older girl who was about to “age out.” It was then that this little boy walked up to me, took my hand, looked deep into my eyes, and said “Mumma?” In that moment, my heart sank. “Who? What? How?” were all questions that rushed through my mind, but the biggest question was “God, why?” Along with my new daughter, I left the orphanage that day with a little boy’s “birthday,” a name, and more questions than answers.

Miracle after miracle happened. Despite violating several state, national, and international codes, my home study agency, my adoption agency, the United States government, and the People’s Republic of China all consented to the adoption! Oh, and Amos wasn’t even officially available for adoption. I’m sparing you the details, but want to make sure to emphasize that each of these is a huge miracle that can only come from the one true God!

Then there is the money factor. Most people have automobile debt and credit card debt. Well, I have adoption debt. I’m not okay with that, until I think of all that my son went through. To put it into perspective, as soon as I signed the adoption papers the orphanage director looked at me and said “you never should have signed that – he’s a bad bad boy.” No, he is a very precious boy who is gifted at playing drums, brings such fun and laughter into our home, and is “Mr. Personality.”

So, yes, I take him to lots of Sandi Patty concerts. And, lots of tears flow from this “Mumma.” Why? Because during those three hours, my son is loved for who he is. During those three hours, everyone only sees the good in my son and not his issues. During those three hours, my son is free from the demons of his past. During those three hours, this “Mumma” gets to watch her son just be a happy little boy loving life. So, yes, I will continue to take him to as many Sandi Patty concerts as possible.

“Mr. Personality” is a testimony of God’s provision and how every single person is fearfully and wonderfully made. And, his story isn’t complete since God is writing it every day!

There are 153 million “Amos'” in the world. Not everybody is called to adopt, but we are all called to care for orphans. If you are called to adopt, know that nobody is ever “ready” and it’s never “a good time.” But, think of the other side of that coin…it’s never a good time to be an orphan. If you are not called to adopt, there are so many fun ways to serve orphans. Organize a clothing drive, collect a card shower to send to tired and underappreciated orphanage workers, partner as a prayer warrior for a specific orphan, etc. The possibilities are endless! Just as I didn’t know that Amos even existed, many others don’t know if we don’t share.

Feel free to contact me – I’ll gladly answer any questions!

#orphannomore
#mrpersonality
#mylittledrummerboy
#itsjustanextrachromosome
#downsyndromeadoption

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Subtitled: This Is My Church, My Family

The Salvation Army is first and foremost a church. It’s the church I was born and raised in, the one in which I dedicated 10 years of full time ministry. It will always be a part of me, but it’s not the focus of this post. You see, for 18 years I have been ministered to by Apex Community Church. In February 2000 I was a freshman trying to figure out life at Wright State University. My friend Renee invited me to the young adult ministry at her church. From the first moment I walked into the ministry of Apex, I love it. People my age worshipping God! A speaker who was young and fun but also a fantastic preacher. As my college years rolled on, God blessed this little group and it flourished.

In January 2003, God allowed this former young adult ministry to open its doors for the first time as a new church plant. It was around this time that I had to physically stop attending due to various reasons, but my heart never left. Even during my own ministry, as I gave to the people God had ordained for me, I was being refuelled by the podcasted sermons of Apex. When I was back in Dayton on vacations I would still attend as I could and always felt the sense of coming home when I walked into the large sanctuary with an ugly orange carpet.

In July 2013 I left full time ministry. Suddenly, I found myself without a home, without a car, without a job. At the age of 32 I was back to living in my parent’s house. It was just like being that young freshman trying to figure out life again! But God was exceptionally good to me – blessed me with a job, a car, and in time, a condo complete with mortgage payments! And one other thing He blessed me with? Apex.

When I moved back to Dayton, the choice of church was a no-brainer! This community wasn’t just my church, they were my family. I immediately got plugged into my then-boyfriend’s House Church. These people loved me without knowing me. Eventually, they grew to know me, and still they loved me! When my romantic relationship ended I found myself in a temporary house church before finding a perfect fit with the (now named) Great Commission House Church. I had switched from Sunday Gathering Services to Saturday night and got plugged into the prayer ministry. There were significantly less people attending on Saturday but the faithful (and even not-so-faithful) attendees became family. Bill who would always ask me about my beloved Seahawks. Steve and Naomi who were my co-prayer ministry partners. The large sanctuary with an ugly orange carpet was filled with faces that became so dear to me.

Life settled into a routine, though that is probably the glossy word for a rut. I had my pretty compartmentalized life: work. Home. House church. Exercise. Quad. Saturday service. Time with my biological family. In truth, I loved my life. I still do.

But God in His wisdom shook things up at Apex last year. So much so that the sermon series for a few weeks was honestly called, “Welcome To Our Mess!” This church, this family that I had grown to love was rock at its very core. This is my journal entry from around that same time.

“There are moments on every person’s journey that force you to stop and take stock of your life. One such moment happened at 6:10 on a Sunday evening. Though I had seen something coming for about eight months, when the battle began, everything changed. My entire world shifted. The first 24 hours were brutal. The attack was a complete surprise both in tactic and intensity and truthfully, I am not sure we [as Apex church] were well prepared.”

But in retrospect, God was doing a great and mighty work in my church, my family. Continuing from my journal, “[In a short time,] people were repenting. Lives were being transformed through confession. Prayer and compassion and grace were the primary weapons being used against the enemy. The Holy Spirit was moving and working and Satan had to be getting overwhelmed. And even today, though the battle still has its moments, little hot spots here and there as with any large scale attack, already people are celebrating The Lord’s victory.”

The Lord Is Victorious.

The last 18 years have been a crazy journey in my life as well as that of Apex Community Church! Moments of great and glorious celebration. Flourishing ministry. There have also been missteps along the way. Yes, even times when foundation are shaken, but here is the truth: Apex wasn’t built on people, it was, is, and will forever be built upon the Solid Rock.

And that is why I feel so privileged to call Apex not just my church, but my family.

Subtitled: A Waddling Christian

My Mom’s favourite animal is the penguin. Truthfully, I never think about penguins much until it snows. Well, it snowed here in Dayton today. Not much but enough to cause a major number of traffic accidents and probably just as many slips and falls. Thus my semi-regular winter reflection of penguins, and more specifically, their waddle. [Go head, picture it in your mind – cute aren’t they!] Waddling is more gliding than walking. It’s about staying grounded versus stepping away from the surface. Though not all, most penguins have to icy conditions to navigate. The ground is solid per say but as figure skater Alexei Yagudin once said, “ice – it’s slippery!” Penguins have adapted to this and thus know how to stay upright – ground your feet and waddle along, don’t try anything fancy!

On most days, we as human don’t waddle, but simply walk. We assume there is going to be a solid foundation where our next step is. We don’t actually think about walking until something comes in our path that makes us take notice- winter, for example. When the ice is there, no longer are we assured of our steps, so we take caution and “waddle” to make sure we stay grounded, upright, and physically intact. We know that when it’s slippery out, as long as you don’t try anything fancy, you should be fine.

Can I take this imagery one step further? How often as Christians do we fail to ground ourselves in God? There we are just walking, skipping, or even running merrily along our lives. We take for granted that He is the solid path beneath us and at some point stop relying on His stability because we’ve learned how to navigate this path – we believe we can do it all on our own. We just need to touch base every measured distance to say that we have connected back with our firm foundation. In time, we place more reliance on our own abilities than on His.

Is this making sense?

How much better off would we be if, instead of relying on ourselves and just coming in contact with the Saviour periodically, we waddle. Making sure to ground ourselves in Him every baby step of the way. Keeping our foundation sure by staying as connected to Him as possible. Knowing and relying on Him, instead of ourselves, to keep us standing tall, standing strong. I think that is what I want to be.

People may think I am weird or funny, but I would rather be a waddling Christian grounded in Him than anything else. I pray my desire is to stay connected to Him as much as humanly possible. To know that when the way is slippery, I can keep moving forward easier knowing that I waddling with Him and not skipping merrily along on my own independence.

So I leave you with two questions: Are you a waddling Christian? Do you desire to be?

Subtitled: Fear Not

As we reflect on 2016 and turn our gazes to 2017, someone asked “what have you learned this year?” I really took that question to heart and have pondered it. I could easily summarize 2016 as simply “weird” but that doesn’t really give me guidance for the future. So walk with me here for a bit…

We mourned many deaths in 2016. It seemed each time you turned to the news someone was unexpectedly passing away. But in the midst of mourning, new babies arrived. Lesson learned? Don’t get caught up in the dark but always search for the light. We need to embrace the feelings we have but not stew in them – if we get stuck in the sadness and depression that comes with death then we can easily miss the joy and happiness of life.

Another lesson I learned this year? There’s often more than meets the eye. Rarely is life merely on the surface. Most of the time there are layers upon layers that need to be peeled away to get to the heart matters. This can be a very painful and messy project, but living deep is so much more rewarding even if it’s harder. Yes, we could live the easy life of superficiality but in all honesty, that’s not really living.

For me this was also a year of unexpected discoveries. If you know me at all, once I find something I deem worthy, I am passionate about it (my glossy word for obsessed.) In spring I started taking tennis lessons. I signed up with mostly a “what the heck” mentality, but quickly discovered I enjoyed it and spent every Tuesday/Thursday for 18 weeks on the court! (Please do not mistake this for being good…) Over the summer I discovered “Me Before You” and devoured both the book and movie many times over. The beauty of this is that roundaboutly it brought reconciliation and closure to a situation that had shadowed over me for years. By November I was thoroughly obsessed with a musical group called “Veritas.” (If you’ve not listened to them yet, please, please, please, do so!) I saw them live and was absolutely captivated and will be seeing them again in 32 days (not that I’m counting…) Just this week I fell in love with a triple-threat by the name of Juan Pablo Di Pace. His voice is incredible and his acting and dancing are on par too! Looking forward to more from him as well as more discoveries in the year to come!

It was also a year for completely new things too. I bought my condo last summer, but this year brought a rambunctious addition: my cat Sir George. He is a delightful little thing even if sometimes a little annoying and my three year old niece is enamoured with him! Speaking of nieces, I am now an Auntie again. Elizabeth Angela arrived earlier this month and she’s a wonderful tiny bundle of joy. I was baptised this year which will probably surprise many of you, but alas, when I joined a baptist church, it was a natural progression thereof. Concurrent with that I found a new “house church” (a form of “small group” with lots of depth) that I absolutely love. I call them family because I truly feel like that is what they have become.

So what have I learned this year? Well, I guess my answer is: fear not. Things definitely don’t always go the way we hope or plan. There are countless lessons and surprises along the way. It’s how we roll with these changes that shape who we are as individuals and in the bigger picture, as a society. If we cocoon ourselves away and never love, never learn, never grow, never take the chance to succeed or fail, then we will never live. I’m not saying abandon all reason and wisdom, but embrace the life He has granted you and “fear not” for what is to come. It might just be so much better than you possibly could dream.

Subtitled: Ode to Christian Music

A friend posted these lyrics by Hillsong United this morning:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

I posted a little heart and commented, “Love that song.” But only after auto correct changed it from “Live that song.” Almost instantly I thought that maybe “live that song” would be a more appropriate response!

You see, worship music isn’t meant to be just heard, but lived. Christian music isn’t intended to be background noise on the way to a destination – it’s part of the destination! The music before the sermon, the radio that buzzes in the car on your way to work, the iPod that blares out while you’re running on a treadmill… these are all part of the destination because unlike secular music which might have the power to change lives, solid Christian music most definitely does have that power to transform! When we stop “loving” it and start “living” it the world changes, families change, individuals change.

Lest you think that I am merely talking about what might be categorized at “modern” music, let me illustrate with the well-known classic:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now, I see

You have probably sung this countless times in your life, I know I have. Yet, does that last line of the first verse challenge you? “Was blind, but now, I see.” For myself I fear that at times I still live blind. God wants to show me vivid colours of what could be but I quite frankly like my shades of grey with only pops of colour. There are times when the dark hidden chambers of life beckon me back and admittedly, at times I have found escape in them. Life can see easier in the lost darkness than the found brightness of light.

Christians, it’s time we stopped disrespecting song writers, musicians, and God Himself with trite words sung in patterned tones. It’s time we started reading the song lyrics, being challenged by them as much as any sermon. It’s time we move past “love that song” to “live that song!”