Peter and I

John 13:37-38  

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

John 18:17, 25-27  

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.  He replied, “I am not.”... 

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

I'm sure Peter would rather we skip over his part of the story in this Lenten season.  He made a promise and three times denied Christ—not really something you want the whole world to know.  The thing I can't move past in Peter's denial, is how easy it would have been to try and justify his three responses. 

"Lord, you wouldn't want me to die right?  I had to lie so I could keep living and doing your work."

I wouldn't blame Peter. I probably would have done the same thing without instantly seeing it as an act of betrayal.  Actually, if I'm honest with myself, I've stood where Peter has and come out with the rooster crowing.

"Lord, I didn't mention you because I didn't want to make my friends feel uncomfortable. You wouldn't want me to lose friends right?  Then I'd have less people to witness to about you."

Justification and obedience rarely go hand in hand.  And the ease with which I can justify is overwhelming.  

But, Christ knew. 

He knew Peter would betray Him and still His love remained consistent.  He took up the cross.  He walked forward toward His death.  And His love for me remained consistent.

I have a hard time understanding the depths at which

God so loves the world. Not only did He love the disciples, those He taught and spent time with—those who betrayed Him.  He loved the high priest. Loved the Sanhedrin. Loved the man who literally hammered the nails into Him. I can't imagine what it sounds like to hear a swarm of people you love beyond all comprehension shouting, "Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!" Without excuses or resistance, going to die for them.  

Christ (always at His best), covering me at my very worst.

"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  (John 18:37)

To those who don't know Christ, hearing His call to come and die is ludicrous.  But when your sin—your justification—becomes clear, the truth becomes clear as well.

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My Dominican twin

Sometimes when I go on trips, I like to keep some of the special stuff a secret; the moments that were so monumental to me that if others don't understand or if I can't communicate it correctly I might be disappointed.  But, sometimes these moments are too good, too hard, too simple and too beautiful all at the same time that no matter what someone else takes away from them, they need to be shared.

This moment was one of them.

The third day I was in the Dominican I met my "twin".

Her name is Jenny, she's 23-years-old and born in July, just one month after me.

We sat down to talk about some of the other children so I could share their stories with

VisionTrust

donors, but the conversation somehow turned to her own.

She was born in Haiti, taken over to the Dominican and placed in foster care.  A woman came and raised Jenny as her own when she was still young enough to forget about the foster home.  At first she treated her well because she was her only girl.  But, when two more sons came along, Jenny started asking questions about why she was darker than the others.  Her "mother" told her to stop asking, but as time went on grew frustrated with Jenny and began to abuse her.

[[I don't speak Spanish, but as I waited for everything to be translated I sat on the edge of my seat staring at Jenny, recognizing the emotions in her face and tone as she let me into her life.  Even though at this point I didn't verbally understand why she was crying, it didn't come as a surprise to see the tears.]]

One day as she was sitting on her porch a woman walked by and then slowly turned around to meet her gaze.  "You need to leave this house," she said.  Confused, Jenny asked her what she meant.  The woman responded, "I am a Christian woman and God is telling me that you cannot accomplish what you need to accomplish in this house."  The woman invited her to church and with permission, Jenny attended.  Over time she and this woman (a psychologist) became friends.

Concerned for Jenny and what she was seeing, the woman sat down with Jenny's mother.  But her mother, feeling threatened, forbid Jenny to ever see this woman again, securing this command by locking her in her aunt's house.  For months the only time Jenny's door was opened was for food.  One day it was accidentally left unlocked, so she snuck out and made it the psychologist's home.  Finding her missing, Jenny's mother called the cops and said the woman kidnapped her.  When Jenny straightened out the situation she was taken into protective custody to be placed in our partner orphanage a year later when she was 14.

There's no need for me to explain why her story impacted me so much.

...why the fact that without a birth certificate she can't attend college to become what she wants (a psychologist) makes me feel helpless and frustrated.

...why when I asked her if it was weird to feel like a mother to so many kids at the home and she said, "No, I'm used to it," made me feel so selfish.

...why when I asked her how she felt about God throughout all of this and she responded, 

"I know God has never forsaken me.  I know He has been with me since I was born.  If He wasn't with me I wouldn't be here today,"

it humbled me beyond words.

Jenny told me her story and is allowing it to be re-told because she believes the children she loves might be helped by those who hear it, and I pray they are.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I guess it's inevitable that in my pursuit of leading the elusive "extraordinary life" I assumed the twenties would provide, I've encountered change in its many types.

Type 1: Subtle, almost unnoticeable over weeks or months; the low hum of continuous change, constantly at work in the background.  By the time I saw the signs I was squarely in my twenties, wondering how the inevitable effects of such change had never occurred to me before.


Type 2: Small and insignificant, but so quick that I forget to take notice until all that's left is the soggy leftovers of what once was.  When I take for granted all the little, but oh so good things, expecting them to hold consistent, this change jolts and humbles me to reality.  


Type 3: The big ones.  Those changes that simply cannot be ignored, no matter how hard I might try.  Friends moving, getting married, getting divorced, having babies, changing careers, losing loved ones.  A constant reminder that a shift has occurred and we all seem to be running at a different pace.







Throughout it all, I've realized as much as I often hate change in any form, I've come to rely on it: on its steady hum, its humbling nature, its giant set-backs or steps-forward.  More than anything I've come to rely on change's ability (whether good or bad), to remind me of God.  It reminds me of the things He has given me control over and the things I can never control.

It forces allows me to let go of all my expectations of what I thought life would look like at this point and simply move forward in the hope that "there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." (C.S. Lewis)
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Confession: Mark 2:3-5

"And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 

(Mark 2:3-5 ESV)

Now at first glance it seems to me like this guy got a pretty raw end of the deal. Jesus had been physically healing all these people, in fact in Mark 1 he'd been healing up a storm. Yet, His first response in seeing their faith in Mark 2 was to heal the paralytic's sins.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the guy came expecting to be healed physically, which Christ eventually did. But, if Jesus had left it right there, if He said, "Your sins are forgiven" and left it at that, would the guy have been disappointed?

If I'm being honest, I might have been.

There is so much physical brokenness in this world and it's what I tend to focus on. Yet Jesus' first response of joy and love and excitement in seeing these men's faith was to heal the spiritual. Because He knows, above all, the spiritual is the most important. And the spiritual leads to the physical.

How often do I pray for physical healing over spiritual?  For the things seen above all that I cannot see and comprehend? But it's so very clear that Jesus came, thousands of years ago as a small baby, to heal our souls first and foremost and in His compassion He often chooses to heal us physically as well.

But this is the challenge. To live, whatever happens in life, with the reminder that the spiritual condition of my heart, of the heart of those around me, is so much more important than anything else. And in this world, it seems hard to do.

(PS- Obviously I am not saying to ignore the physical needs of others, because caring for someone physically is a tangible way to love to others.) 

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From patience to passion

This past year I've felt like God has been teaching me what it means to be patient. Patient in

-my job

-my friendships

-my "stage of life"

-my plans

Patience has at times been nagging, frustrating and discouraging.  But, it's also been comforting, promising and restful.  I came across this verse in 1 Timothy 6:6 the other day, "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment." In my own life it seems I can't disentangle patience and contentment.  And the contentment that I've found in patience really does make me feel closer to God.

I once read a blog where someone said they picked a new word every year that they felt like God was laying on their hearts. I didn't pick patience intentionally (trust me), but God has been faithful in teaching me it anyway. And even though I still have a lot more to learn about patience, I feel like He has given me a new word...a word He'll teach me to live by.

Passion.

I don't know how He's going to do it, because (confession time) I've been feeling a lack of passion lately in almost every area. But, on my trip to the Dominican Republic I felt a glimpse of that passion once again. And it was so sweet and at the same time freeing.

So, (raises glass) to a new phase of learning to be passionate in the midst of patient contentment...here we go.

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"Livin' the dream" in the DR

It's easy to pinpoint the good when major parts of a trip were terrible or even just ho-hum. But, with my recent trip to the DR, it's so hard to pick just one "best part."

(If you don't know, here's the skinny...I work for VisionTrust International and sometimes have the privilege of going to see the sweet kids we work with in-person. This time I helped take a group of CRU students from all over the country to the Dominican Republic.)

If I have to pick I would say "the best" was getting to see the Kingdom of God show up every day. See how I did that? Picked a general best, so I could tell you all the best moments that took place within that umbrella. Tricky huh? Well, here it goes...

This picture was the first "Kingdom moment" that God brought to my attention. I took it on the first day we spent at the Transitional Home when I had the chance to sit down and just look out at this awesome team of people loving on kids in the heat of the day. I can't really describe it, but it was a moment of pure joy, a little glimpse of what's to come. The picture might not seem special, but the moment was beyond words. 

On our last day at the orphanage we got to spend time with some of the older girls. We played Soularium with them and heard their thoughts on life and God (I can't wait to write a whole blog on their wisdom). After Soularium the team and the DR girls discovered their shared love of Hillsong and broke out into praise worship in English and Spanish. Another sweet glimpse into the Kingdom.  

Our last full day in the DR was spent with some sweet girls from another one of VisionTrust's orphanages. These girls have had hard pasts, so we weren't sure what our pool day with them would look like. It was awesome. They were so excited to spend the day in the water, hanging onto our backs, teaching us Spanish, jumping off walls...it turns out you don't have to know a lot of Spanish to understand they want to be dunked after "uno, dos, tres!" 

These girls are an amazing testament of what God and the love of some good people can do to restore joy and trust.

They're a beautiful picture of the Kingdom.

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I think this picture describes my CRU team perfectly. In case you were wondering, this is them "riding a roller coaster." They were so fun! Whether it was creating a video based off of Call Me Maybe, playing signs, getting stoked about Latte Losers or talking about the Lord, there was never a dull moment. They were from all over the country, but bonded with each other so quickly. I was blessed to be a part of their team and to see the Kingdom of God at work through them.

Yolo!

Meeting in the mess

 I'm wondering if I've toned down Jesus

I've started reading Messy Spirituality again for Ironman and it makes me feel like I have. And maybe it's not just the book, maybe it's just life. I'm really good at falling into normal, every-day Christianity, reading my Bible and praying.

But to what end? Every time I do is it to get closer to the Lord? If I'm being honest, not always. It's because I should.

Maybe I think that God is looking at my mess from a distance. At least, I think I treat Him like He's answering my prayers from a distance. In reality, when I really think about it, He lives in it: He lives in my mess of insecurity, vying for His spot in my heart, my soul. Patiently, but at the same time actively moving to take over my whole self.

Is that true? Yes. But, how does that change my prayers? How does that change the way I live?

I think it comes down to this: God is not fragile. He can handle the truth of who I am even when I can't. And if God is not fragile and His Spirit dwells within me, maybe I'm not as fragile as I've led myself to believe. Maybe I can handle more.

More what? Honesty? Change? Questions? Maybe just more of life...more adventures, more risks, more living.

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