Category Archives: Faith

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.

Lessons From Camp

This past week was amazing. It was a week of leading at my Church’s camp. Our third since we began nearly three years ago. The week is hard, mentally, physically and spiritually draining. All of it in a such a good way. Seeing how much these teens go all out from serving the community, worshipping and having fun is a balm for my soul.

I was asked this year why I lead at camp each year. There are multiple reasons I continue to sign up to serve each year. Part of it is that I did not get to experience this as a teen myself, coming to believe in Jesus in my late twenties. Getting to help out at camp these past four years has shaped my in my walk so much.

It was at the first camp that I felt compelled to lead the young adults ministry. A ministry that continues to grow as the young adults grow in relationship with each other and Jesus. It was at camp that God stretched me the most. Showing me where I lacked as a leader and what my strengths are in that. During camp  I get to observe our students pastor how to lead well and lovingly.

The week at camp is hard. It pulls me out of my comfort zone. Physically it means less sleep, being out in the hot sun and talking more so than one ever thought they could. Mentally it is draining in dealing with all the situations that come up, not to mention that our lives do not stop. Spiritually, it is challenging and hard because you want the teens to know Jesus. For them to continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus after camp is over.

All of it is worth it.

I love seeing how these kids embrace serving the community. They sign up knowing full well that this week is full of early mornings, hard work, and late nights. Our church comes together to help serve at the worship services, preparing lunches and serving dinner.

[Tweet “It is a such a beautiful thing to truly be in a community. We are a body of broken people seeking Jesus together.”]

It is a such a beautiful thing to truly be in a community. We are a body of broken people seeking Jesus together. Camp would not happen without everyone contributing in some way for it to happen. For that I am grateful.

Now we all recover and sleep for a week.

Getting Through A Hard Day

Mother’s day is coming up next week. It can be a day wrought with emotions and tough to get through. Whether it is a longing to be a mother or missing yours. Or a mother missing her children. Perhaps the pain of hoping and trying for children, only to continue waiting.It can become a day to avoid attending church or engaging with people. It can be too much, too hard.

Know that God sees you and loves you in this. That he too grieves for what you grieve. Some years I feel the loss of my mother more and others not as much. This holiday was created to honor our mothers. All kinds of mothers, from those who gave birth, those who raised and loved on us. The women who have invested in our lives. It is about stopping to take a moment to acknowledge these women is important.

If it hurts too much because of loss or loss of hope it is ok. Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do to get through the day. No matter what that looks like for you. Whether it is being with your church family or friends. Or holing up in the house with your favorite people or even Netflix. You will get through this day. I can’t promise that this will dull the ache you feel, at least not right away.

In this hardship, God is with you. May you be comforted by him, know that you are being loved through this by Him and those in your life.

For those of you who get to celebrate the day with family, enjoy your time together. Eat well and laugh together, creating memories is not about planning something ahead but enjoying the moment. These times in our lives to simply be with the ones we love are fleeting.

Beyond any gifts that can be given, ones time is certainly priceless.

My Easter Story

This is Holy Week, a time to reflect on the reality of the death and resurrection of Christ. I can’t help but also reflect on my own walk. I have always believed in something bigger than me, caring for me. As a very child I pictured this in the form of giants that I could not see. These creatures had control over all of us as well as the world we live in.

One could say that I have always had a rather vivid imagination.

My family for the most part are Catholic. In which I was raised as well. Baptized as a small child, receiving communion and having my confirmation at thirteen or fourteen. I honestly cannot recall.

My family was fairly active in church. We attended mass on a weekly basis.My grandfather, whom we called Pops taught CCD and was also a lay Eucharist  minister. He brought communion and holy water to those in local nursing homes. My sister, who would later be the first to leave the Catholic church also taught CCD classes for a time.

As a teen I had no interest in God. Attending class but not being fully present. I counted the minutes until I could leave. Or spent my time making fun of a video played for us. After the loss of my mommy and a few years later my Pops, we stopped going altogether.

It was a slow, subtle stop. First it was a Sunday here and there. Then none at all. Easter and Christmas we still attended mass, well most of us. I didn’t mind whatsoever at that time.

Who needed God when I had anger, food and television? After all it was all I needed at the time. Still God pursued me. Despite myself and being resistant he pursued and protected me. I managed to get to the edge of things but never completely over.

I began to attend mass again but kept people at arms length. I wanted to hold onto my anger and live my life how I wanted to live. It was what I knew best. But still I longed for more. In the end, the Catholic faith was not where God intended for me to be. 

Easter Sunday, eight years ago that all changed. For months I had attended services at my sister’s church,  a Baptist Church. Seeing as I was only used to the rhythms of a mass, it took me awhile to grow used to this church. I still kept my distance, willing to attend but not engage beyond the surface.

As much as I did not want to admit it, I longed for Christ. I was wrestling with God and what it could mean to follow him. Because I understood I would leave behind so much of what I knew.

Towards the end of Easter service, the pastor invited those who wanted Jesus to come forward. I found myself standing up and walking towards the front. In that moment I felt Jesus with me, in a physical way I had not since I was a child. 

So began my imperfect walk with Christ. I resisted a lot of the things God wanted for me. I admit I still do. I couldn’t quite believe that God wanted me, that he loves me as no one else ever can. But he still pursues me. Caring for me through so much in these years.

Believing in His truth has made it possible for me to become the person He wants me to be. If you feel God pursuing your heart, please stop running. Let go of what you think comforts you, as those things don’t linger . Jesus is the only one who sustains. 

That is my Easter story.  Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

 

When Anger Rules

This past week I stopped off at a national chain coffee shop for breakfast. It was quiet in the store and though the day was rainy, I was feeling good. After ordering I stood aside waiting on my sandwich and coffee, thinking about the day ahead.

When Suddenly a woman started yelling in my direction. No, at ME.

I was a rude and selfish person because I had jumped ahead of her in the line. Horrified, I apologized immediately. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize you were in front of me.”

She replied, ” That’s because you only think of yourself!” Then she left. She reserved a few more parting words for me as she drove away. Words full of anger that I didn’t hear.

I couldn’t argue against that last accusation. I had been thinking of myself though not in the mean, malicious manner she insinuated. Caught up in my own life and day, missing that another person was ahead of me in line.  

Two things struck me about this encounter. The first being that I too didn’t  react back in anger. Something I would of surely done in the past. For years anger was my companion in life. It feels good to get angry and stay angry. It can feel powerful too. In the end it is highly addicting.

I would of wanted to prove her wrong by shouting her down. Which would of escalated things. But I was calm, not because of any technique or something I’ve read. But because of the Holy Spirit working within me.

I’m a passionate person. Feeling emotions deeply, I am rather empathetic. God made me this way, to care, to feel immensely. While just a few years ago I would tapped into my anger towards this person, I did not.

It takes a lot of energy to be angry and stay angry. Once the high is gone, I was left with the reality of my life at the time.

My anger these days is reserved for injustice, hatred and sex trafficking. God is using my anger in new and more positive ways. A favorite song lyric of mine is “break my heart for what breaks yours.” (Credit Hosanna by Hillsong United).

 

The second thing that struck me was how much more upset she bacame after I apologized. After I said “I didn’t realize you were there.” Perhaps that felt as if I were saying you don’t matter. Maybe that reopened an old wound for her.

Maybe taking me to task was her way of saying “I matter”. Because as I engaged with her, I didn’t feel as if this were about me at all. That my thoughtless act said more about who she is than anything else.

Perhaps she is trying to understand why it bothered her so much. I know there have been times when my anger baffled myself. I wasn’t willing to dig deeper, below the surface. Because what awaited me there was the scary truth.

Afterwards, I prayed for her. Prayed that she would long for more in life. That the rest of her day would be filled with joy. I prayed for myself, praising God that my reaction was calm and to not look back in anger. That it no longer has such a hold on my life. [Tweet “anger can often be revealing “] Often the person or people it is directedd towards in the moment have nothing to do with the greater issues at hand. 

Something I continue to learn day by day. Handling my emotions in a less volatile manner, seeking God in prayer and leaning into those times.