The Heart Issue

Another shooting took place last week.

Friends and Family are grieving.

I am angry. I am saddened.

And social media is flooded with anger and sadness.

And what has become platitudes.

Thoughts & Prayers has become the throw away line. Something an intern can tweet out quickly when a tragedy occurs.

Following it is this is a heart issue. I don’t disagree that this a heart issue. From the accounts of Nickolas Cruz he had a history of disturbing behavior. Several times over the years tips and complaints were placed on him. Investigators from DCF cleared him.

Absolutely his heart lead him to take his gun into the school last Wednesday. Evil exists and it will rear its ugly head no matter what is done.

But by posting or saying it’s a heart issue, it then negates any examination of our own hearts. Of the things that we seek out for security. It points to the other instead of facing the truth of our own hearts and motivations.

I too am also examining my heart as I walk through this anger and sadness. It hasn’t helped watching things unfold, as details emerge from that day.

There is so much anger. Comment sections devolve into name calling and dehumanizing each other. Our words matter. The heart behind our words matter.

When it’s said this is a heart issue, I too believe we must also examine our reactions. The things we post, the comments made reveal where our own hearts stand. How we care and treat each other . What is it we want to believe about the other side? What will be lost if we learn we aren’t entirely right or wrong.

As I work through all of this I pray. I believe in a big God who can do anything. I believe in the comfort He can bring to us . In the Hope only God can bring.

I also believe in action. In calling for change in our laws. In having real discourse with each other to really understand our fears on either side. Because This doesn’t need to happen, this isn’t inevitable.

Love and Hate

I attended church yesterday with a heavy heart, the events of Saturday in Charlottesvile, VA at the forefront of my mind. I was not however surprised. Racism is something that will always exist in this broken world. My pastor spoke that love and hate are intertwined. I cannot disagree, love is powerful and can be good. It means caring and wanting the best for the thing I love.

But

What do I love so much that I would hate? It’s a valid question. If my family or friends are hurt, I hate what hurts them.

So

As I look at my newsfeed on various social media outlets, and I look at the chilling photos of well dressed white men holding torches and seig heiling ( not sure of the proper verbage for it). I wonder how much do they love the idealogy of whiteness to hate the rest of God’s creations?

For we are all image bearers. My saviour was not white. He was on earth a middle eastern Jewish man who brought salvation to all.

One cannot be of two minds. You either love God and therefore love all. Or hate God and love the few. What you love is what you are most passionate about, what you expend time and energy on. If you are more passionate arguing on social media about things that attack your comfort than  in working to love God and others than perhaps its time to reevaulate what you are truly loving. The heart is a decitful thing, and idol maker and can lead people away from God.

This weekend’s past events in addition to other events have made it evident that there are many who love the idealogy of whiteness over all. The death of Heather Heyer happened because a man so full of hate drove into a crowd on purpose. Because what he loves overrides the diginity of others. Because what he worships was being attacked in his mind.

I pray for him to repent and have  a Paul moment ( Act 9:1-19). Paul was a man called Saul who persecuted Christians until Christ intervened, causing him to be blinded for a period of time. When he was able to see again, he saw the truth of who he had been and became someone new. I truly believe that people can change, to learn to love something beyond their own comforts.

My first inclination is to hate these people right back. I am angered and saddend but not surprised. I must fight against this because how can I claim to love Christ if I hate who he created? How can people meet Jesus if I am not willing to see them as people in need of Him?

I love God and therefore I fight against hate. I will do so by how I know best, my words. I will continue to work in my community loving people because they need love. I will engage in hard conversations and not back down. I will listen and read as I have been. I have much to learn and much to love. Most of all much to be in prayer for my own heart, my community and this nation.

I pray for there to be more love of God then of self preservation.

Books I have been reading

Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Bryan Fikkert

The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Trash  The 400 year untold story of class in America by Nancy Isenberg

 

Holy and Good

Yesterday I celebrated the Resurection with all my family. It was a great day all around. Full of laughter, friends, food and most of all a needed reminder that I am living not for today but the promise of everlasting life. This is why I am a Christian.

I cannot explain the mystery of why I am so certain that all this is real. All I can say is that I have felt since I was small child that there is something bigger than myself. Watching over me, caring for me, loving me. No matter what has was going on in, I was protected and safe.

You can read more about my journey in this post

I am in a posture of learning for this year and from this place I see I am surrounded by so much pain. We all carry unseen scars that lay hidden behind learned coping mechanisms. In this pain that I too carry, there is Holy and Good.

I have always believed in the Holy and Good. In something greater than myself, a mystery beyond my full understanding. Even in the midst of my hardships and pain throughout my life, this I have always believed in. It has been nearly ten years since I stepped forward during Easter services longing for Christ. In that time I have faltered and failed God many, many times. The struggles and hardships have shown me the Holy and Good.

When the noise from the world seems only full of vitral and anger, I believe in the Holy and Good. It is there, in the corners that are not easily seen. I think too there is confusion over something being hard, and if its hard it cannot be good. I have walked through hard and seen my friends and family do so too. Hard does not mean that good work is not being done.

[Tweet “By leaning into the pain of my life, holy work is done and good has come from it”]

By leaning into the pain of my life, holy work is done and good has come from it This is the work that sanctifies me and prepares me for what is ahead in this journey for me. My life is not just about today but also tomorrow. Today will be forgotten and I shall be made new. So I live for that day in great anticipation, in the Holy and Good.

Isaiah 65:17

“See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.

 

 

Unexpected Places

I never once imagined that I would end working with kids. I played teacher as a kid but I also played doctor, super hero and WWII spy. ( In a way it’s understandable to see why I enjoy writing fiction so much!). But working with kids as a career? NOPE. Or at least that was what I believed. Until I met my friend Mary Ann who works with Greater Miami Youth For Christ in a program called KIX ( Kids in Christ). It is an afterschool program (among several ) that reaches into a few neighborhoods throughout Miami. Through my friendship with Mary Ann, I started to volunteer off and on over the years. Helping out with homework or being there for the teen program on Friday nights.

Last year though, I was offered a position as staff. It was an answer to a prayer, a second source of income and feeling the God moment in it. Have you ever had a moment where there was no hesitation to say yes because it just felt right? This was one of those moments for me. I knew I was going to say yes to this and I began work with the second and third graders three days a week.

Let me tell you something, it has been the hardest job I have ever had but by far the most rewarding. These kids they just get into the heart. One in particular reminds me of myself. She has a bit of imagination and I see the story teller emerging in her. I get her, I was her at her age. I lacked confidence in my abilities with Math homework ( and I’ve only just begun to encounter this Core Math stuff too). Working each day with my girl is one of the highlights of the day. Seeing that moment when she gets it, especially after fighting hard for the answer is a victory. Her victory.

I have been told that God qualifies us for the work He needs us to do. This is why this time in my life could not have been planned by myself. I did not feel confident in being able to do something like this in my life. But God is greater than my doubts. This is where my trust in Him comes in for my life. Trusting Him in this place has been a huge lesson for me. I’m still learning and I’m not the greatest every day but there is grace in this work. As I learned a few years ago, work is worship and worship is work.

The desire and heart of Greater Miami YFC ( and YFC nationwide and international) is to reach the youth. Kids and teens in communites of all kinds bringing the love of Christ into their lives. The neighborhood that we minister  in is one of the largest Habitat communites in the country. It is a tight knit community that often has dealt with crime and violence. A few weeks ago a young lady was shot in the face by her ex boyfriend waiting for the school bus. She survived but she may lose her right eye.

This is the reality of what these kids deal with day in and day out. But by being able to come to KIX afterschool or  for teen events gives them a respite. It gives them a place to point to and say there is safety and love inside that building. I am grateful to get to be part of it. To plant seeds of hope in Christ and loving on these kids. I look forward to the next victory my girl has this coming week.

I would love it if you could dear reader take a moment to click on the link for Greater Miami Youth For Christ to learn more about what we do in our vast city. Perhaps you would like to get involved with your local chapter or even donate to KIX ( just look for my name under the donate tab). Most of all I would like your prayers for this neighborhood and many like it through out our country. For these kids to find a place of hope and love in the name of Christ.

 

 

Ask and You Shall Recieve…

Last year was a long, hard year. Not only because of the stress of the election ( and its outcome) but also personally. For the past few years I have chosen a word to define the year and for 2016 I had chosen Stretched. What was I thinking when I chose this word ( or did it choose me?)! In years past I have picked YES, LOVE, and BOLDNESS as my words. While I encountered challenges in those years with them, always learning and growing with them, never have I been as challenged as I have been this year.

I liken it to praying for patience, I don’t know about you but when I have prayed for that in my life it shows my lack of patience! It’s like God is saying alright, you really don’t know what you are asking for here but I will answer your prayer. I have been challenged and stretched in various areas of my life, from learning how to work in a ministry, leading young adults at church, getting some kind of grasp on my financials and being pushed out of my comfort zones. I say zones because there is always more than just one isn’t there?

The biggest and most recent is moving out of my sister’s house. It wasn’t something planned but it had to happen when it did for the sake of my family and future relationships. This was hard and painful and for a most of last month I was in survival mode. In the end it has all worked out, I have found a new place to live, with friends whom I am growing closer in relationship with each day.

Another comfort zone I had was in ministry. For several years I have served at my church in the area of stage design. For many of those years it either myself or myself and one other person. Which meant I HAD to do everything otherwise things would not get done. Anyone who serves at church knows that this was not a healthy place to be in. This year I have learned how to delegate ( this has also become my new favorite word!) with my team. This has meant me letting go of wanting to be in control of how the church looks each week and trusting what my team is doing with it. It has meant placing others in charge in preparing for Easter and Christmas Eve services. This has been so freeing! Letting go of control ( when I believed I didn’t have control issues oops!) is the best gift.

The best way to put it is that God stretched me this year by having me see where I needed to also let go. It didn’t mean I needed to take on more but had to jettison what wasn’t helping me grow in relationship to him. Letting go doesn’t mean one no longer cares but also sees that others care as well. If I take on everything I am not allowing someone else to also serve God.

As I reflect on the words for each past year, I see a larger word behind them. Namely trust, in order to say YES, I have to trust. Same with LOVE, BOLDNESS and STRETCHED. I have to trust God and His providence, not mine.

As I prepare my heart, mind, body and spirit for the new year this is where I sit. In adoration of what God does all the time in my own life and in the lives of others around me. I am not sure of a word for 2017 as if yet or at all.

In A Place of Learning

1 Corinthians 15: 58

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast,immovable,always abounding in the work of the Lord,knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Recently I learned that I have a lot to learn. It was during a during a breakout session while attending a conference  for Youth For Christ. We were discussing what works in doing ministry in the city. I am new to working with a ministry serving in my city. I work for Miami Youth For Christ as a tutor for elementary school kids in the KIX program ( Kids in Christ).I have served at church leading small groups, organizing the young adults and helping lead setting up each Sunday. But this is a different kind of work.  While I have volunteered over the years with this organization. Last fall I was offered a position as staff. All of it is work for the glory of God.

I struggle with not feeling qualified to do this work. That somehow I need to do have done more to be here. To help kids with their homework while showing them the love of Christ. That I don’t know enough to do this work. But then I remember that God qualifies me. He is the one who created me to do this kind of work. In the talents and abilities. In creating a patience within me that I have doubted was there. Most of all recognizing that I have a lot to learn is a good place to be at. It means I am open to learning more, being able to forgive mistakes I may  WILL make during this school year.

I look forward to what this year will bring. Hanging out with these kids during the week. Helping them play, learn and understand who they are in Christ. Getting to be a part of this is a huge blessing. God is at work in this place, in the community we serve. He is there during the games, laughter and learning. He has provided this safe place for the kids to come and us to love on them. The scripture at the top of the post is an encouragement from our staff training. To see the bigger picture of what God is doing in this place as we do this work in this mission field.

If you would like to learn more about this ministry, visit the Miami website of Miami Youth for Christ.

Would you pray for this school year? This community in Miami and this ministry to serve God well. For His love and truth to shine through their lives. I would appreciate such prayers!

 

Prayer Is The First Action


Prayer is a powerful thing. I have seen its power in my own life and those around me. Amazing things have happened, blessings that come after trials.

But prayer is misunderstood. Either the belief that prayer fixes everything, instantly. That if we do not get what we ask for then it is all bollox.  When we view it as an all or nothing easy fix then we in turn limit the power of prayer. Boxing it in to specified parameters, not allowing for God to work.

A friend once said she never says Amen, because she saw praying as continual and never ceasing. I have adapted this same attitude in my prayer life.

Prayer has been the most transformative act of my life. By seeking God continually, I have been challenged to change and grow. I learned so much of who God intended for me to become. I cannot imagine my life without prayer.

It is not to say it is easy to always believe. When bad things happen to ones we love or long for good things for ourselves. Then there is another shooting, or bombing. A flood or storm sweeps a town away. Hashtag pray for _________ begin to surface throughout social media. Or some variation there of.

It seems to proliferate so much that it can become trite, no matter how heartfelt the message. What can it really matter to post it? Does #prayfor_________ lose it’s intention the more we post it?

The answer is that grey area in between. Between what we want and what God is doing. This is where the tension lies doesn’t it? We want things to be better, so we pray. We want things to be good or go well, so we pray. We plead why and get angry, so we pray.

Prayer doesn’t give us what we want but what we need.  This can be a hard pill to swallow. Getting what is needed as opposed to what ww want isn’t nearly as fun. It’s not about that instant result but instead one that comes from time.

I believe in the power of prayer. That miracles do happen and this life is less than when prayer is left out of it.

Prayer should be our first action but not our only reaction. If anything, prayer should push us into action.[Tweet “Prayer should be our first action but not our only reaction. If anything, prayer should push us into action.”]

Prayer is powerful. I have seen its power in my own life, working in the most unexpected ways. It can be hard as we see the same things happen again and again. As news becomes seemingly more grim, the idea of prayer without results we want is a hard one to understand. It is one of the mysteries of prayer, that at times there are no instant or easy answers. Pray can sometimes feel as if one is treading water, not going forward or going backwards. Other times prayer moves mountains, things change or move in ways that God’s hand is undeniable.