Friday, December 11, 2015

Down with Perfectionism

I'm a perfectionist and it really sucks. I always want a clean home, nutritious meals, wonderful family time, better writing, quality time with Bo, and fruitful ministry. Trying to keep all this perfect wears a person down. Do you share this struggle?
Where is the room for God's grace? His tender mercy and love? How can God protect and defend you if you're trying so desperately to do it yourself? Our hands are so full juggling, we're never open to receive from him.
Perfection is boring. It doesn't exist. I'm so over it and I hope you are too.
Every day I tell my son and daughter, it's okay to make mistakes. Mistakes happen. Mistakes just give us the chance to love each other with more grace. God loves you even when you fail.
Mistakes and failures, God can work with. He loves to redeem our failures. If you have failed recently, thank God for his grace, let him love, forgive, and set you free.
This blog is so not perfect. I have all these great ideas, but it's always in progress. Ahhh, oh well. I'm going to sign off with an imperfect post with no glossy photos.
Have a beautiful weekend. You are more than loved then you could scarcely fathom.
Peace, your imperfect sister in the faith.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Woman of Faith I admire - Mrs. Krista Bump

John, Krista, and their lovely children
Here on the ol' blog, I'd like to feature some of the amazing Christian women that inspire, encourage, and uplift me to follow Jesus and love others without fear, but rather, with simple, wholehearted devotion.
Krista is one of these women. She and her husband, John, have two biological children, five adopted, and have fostered fifty children.
When I last visited her, she had just adopted her last child, a beautiful baby girl, Valayeh. I noticed how sweet these two were together. Everywhere Krista moved Valayeh followed her with her eyes. She often stretched out her arms to Krista wanting to be held. It was like the sun rose and moon set with Krista. Love is a powerful force. Were all desperate for it and this little girl was finally, getting her fill.
Valayeh has fetal alcholol syndrome. When Krista stood with the doctor discussing her future he outlined some pretty bleak facts, but concluded saying, "but I think overall, she'll be okay." Krista responded, "Even if she never walks, she'll be a treasure, because Jesus loves her." He was taken aback. That's fearless devotion.
I'm telling you friends, if more mothers had the strength and courage to love their children like that, this earth would be transformed.
As Krista and I were chatting she held Valayeh in her arms.
"God knew what he was doing giving me this girl," she said.
"I know," I said, "He wanted to bless and shower her with love." Krista smiled and said,
"I was actually thinking he wanted to bless me with her." That is simple, loving devotion.
How does Krista do what she does? How is all this possible? The fearless, loving devotion of Christ. He showers us with his love, so were able to pour it out on others. The love we give reflects the love we have received

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thankful





Life is not about success, achievement, or status. It's not about pleasure, control, or comfort.
Life is about our relationship with God and our relationships with others. 
On our death bed we won't be thinking about work on Monday or another slice of pie. We'll be thinking about God and our loved ones. And, on Thanksgiving that's what I'm most thankful for. 
The gift of life, the gift of Christ, and the gift of family.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving with the fellowship of Jesus and loved ones (and pie would be good too).



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Time to Live


When Bo and I worked among International Students, they frequently commented on how obsessed with time Americans were. One student said to me, “What is time to you, really? You are all so obsessed with it, that you never really live it?” Perhaps he was on to something. As a culture, our perception of time seems to rule us.
I never felt this time pressure more acutely than I do as a young parent. There are so many goals, projects, and ministries that I want to do, but can't. On any given day, I would love to achieve so much – work-out, write, spend time with my family, and be attentive to my spiritual life and community. I feel like I am fighting the clock and straight up losing minute by minute.
The paradox is that all these goals we're working so frantically to achieve often suffer because of our obsession to get them done in time. In the spiritual classic, Beginning to Pray, Bishop Anthony Bloom described how as a doctor he was obsessed with time and seeing as many patients as possible. Toward the end of the day, he was always exhausted and behind schedule. Until one day, he decided to forget about time. He focused on each patient and each problem, without worrying about the clock. He finished ahead of schedule. The spiritual lesson is clear: dedication to the moment God has placed us in takes precedence over our perceptions of time and success. Think of Jesus. I am often awestruck at how present he is in each moment. Healing, teaching, at dinner with Pharisees or sinners, he remains attentive to the time God has placed him in. Think what this might look like for us? Could we enjoy our friends and family? Might our work be better more engrossing and fruitful? Our relationship to God richer?

I believe hidden under our idol of time is a deeper idol: fear. Were terrified that were not good, worthy, or successful enough. We are striving to make our time newsworthy and worthwhile. Hurry up, we think. Hurry up, if we can just get this done, all will be well. Oh, it is almost funny. As if our little lives and projects make the sun rise and the moon shine.
The truth is, we are not that important and our time is God's time. Mary did it best. Martha was obsessed with work and achievement, but Mary was content to waste time with Jesus. She understood the truth: Time with Jesus is the meaning of all time.
So, what is the remedy to our obsession with time? An understanding of who we are and whose we are. We belong to God, the maker of all time and things. He is more than pleased with us and we can rest in that fact, giving him all are days and minutes.
So much more could be said on this topic, but I am going to go waste some time with Jesus and my family. I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Latest Awesome Read

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons inspired and encouraged me. Here is what stood out:
1) I can always be close with my son. Without doubt, I will one day have to let him go, probably somewhere in his teen years, but I can still have a lasting relationship with him for years to come. The key is to let go and let him be the man God has called him to be. Check my ego, step aside some, and let him do his thing. I was encouraged because I've seen so few examples of healthy grown - up mother-son relationships, but she believes that this really is achievable.
2) Any mother can be a good mother. Single moms, married moms, stay at home moms, working moms, poor, rich, etc. can all be great moms. She gives so many examples of moms who undergo intense tragedy - they've lost their husband, their job, were abandoned, or their child was abused, but they are still able to be a good mother and love their children. In fact, you often saw how the tragedy when the mother didn't give up, but faced it with love and endurance could bring fruit in the lives of the family.
3) It confirmed something that I know is true, but often forget: Motherhood is a holy and esteemed vocation. It is God's work and it is damn important - so don't get too dispirited on all those challenging days. Sometimes I need a reminder not to be a lazy, grumbling mother, but to thankful and aware that this is good thing I'm doing and God is pleased.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Further Update and Call to Pray

In my last post, I touched on the faith of South Sudanese refugees, but to go a bit deeper, and provide more context, here is an update on the current situation in South Sudan from Rev. John Chol Daau in his own words:


South Sudan is currently facing numerous post-independence challenges. Although, government structures are established and functioning gradually there are still greater challenges straining efforts for nation building. These challenges hindering progress include but not limited to poor governance, rampant corruption, violation of human rights or injustices, and protracted inter-communal conflicts and the ongoing war between government and rebels. Efforts for peace negotiations between the government and rebels to end the more than one and half year war have not yet bear fruits to reach peace agreement. Many civilians are vulnerable to preventable diseases and with no access to basic services.
I know how many of you are committed to prayer and John has asked us to pray. Lets pray that peace, reconciliation, and justice will reign for the future of Sudan, the people in refugee camps or displaced camps, and the ministers of the gospel who are faced with enormous challenges, nothing is too great for our Lord.
Lets pray that our own faith will be emboldened to stand alongside our brothers and sisters. Remembering, we never have to travel far to find the poor and needy. They are always with us. In our neighborhoods, churches, and schools. They need advocates. Men and women who are willing to stand along with them.
Personally, I am praying to do my small portion to the best of my ability. I don't think I'm some great leader or savior to the poor and the oppressed, but I would like to do a little more for my neighbor in need. Ill let you know how that goes.
Thanks friends for all your support.
It is as Mother Theresa said,
"In this life, we cannot do great things. Only little things with great love."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

God's Word Alive and Active: a Pastor's Report from South Sudanese Refugee Camps

Here in the West, knowledge is everywhere, easy to find. It only requires a quick google search. If you are Christ follower, you have your choice of churches to attend, ministry opportunities, Christian programs for your marriage, teenager, or child. There are books, blogs, and materials to strengthen your faith. For my friend, Rev. John Chol Daau and his brothers and sisters in the refugee camps along East Africa, such opportunities for theological advancement are a holy privelege, one that he and his colleagues are working tirelessly to bring to his people. When you are a refugee or displaced person, life in the camp is closed. Access to programs, libraries, the internet is often impossible. Knowledge, wisdom, training, the opportunity to attend classes, or visits from friends are precious indeed. 

In that we are saturated with information, we often take it for granted. John's ministry reminds us how the revelation of Christ and the wisdom he brings is something that changes lives. Something that people live and die for. Something that builds and restores cultures. John is working to bring theological training to teachers and pastors in various refugee camps, where computers, and electricity are scarce.

God's Word is alive and active...

Ayilo 11 Refugee Camp South Sudan





Traditional "Prayer Synagogue" South Sudanese Anglican Church


I am proud of the work he is doing and excited to see how God always meets his people, whether they are learning God's Word in a Anglican style cathedral or South Sudanese style synagogue, whether they are learning through dance, word of mouth, or their smart phone, Jesus always finds a way to reach us and his Word is always the same, "I have come so that you may have life and have to it the full," (John 10:10). 

How can we share the wisdom we have been given? Who can we reach? Who, in all the dribble of information we receive, is still longing for the life-giving truth of God? The person of Jesus is alive and active, working through all mediums and cultures to rescue his people. If we know him, lets share him with others. If we've been blessed with the wisdom of God pass it on.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Time Together One of Great Joys of life

Spending time with your spouse, is one of the great joys of life. Don't let the devil, the cares and concerns of this life, rob you of this joy. Spending time together is a part of God's call and his redemptive plan for humanity. The world would love to crush this desire from us, making us at odds with each other and Creator. Jesus created this world for our good pleasure and gave us, one to another, to enjoy it.
At the beginning of the summer, Bo and I felt led to commit to a weekly date night.  Since the birth of our daughter 3 years ago, we have put spending time together on the back burner. There were always a lot of little reasons not to go out together. We didn't have the funds, she was sick, she hadn't had enough time with us, or we were too tired. We had trouble finding babysitters. Then our son came and even more excuses.
Four months ago,  after this crazy prayer session, I had a sister encourage me to spend more time with Bo and it has made a huge difference in terms of how we feel about one another, our relationship to God, and our relationship to our children.
I know how stressful it can appear, but make some changes, and spend time together. I'm the most hovering mother on the planet and if I can do it, I know you can. I never would have dreamed that my children would be at the point of cheering when the babysitter walks through the door.
There are so many reasons to not enjoy each other's company, but the reason to is so great.
If you're single, spend quality time with someone you care about, who gives you life.
If you're broke, try swapping nights out with another trusted family or spend money on a babysitter and go eat chips at the park. We go to really cheap places or picnic.
If you're in a crisis, all the more reason to carve out some time together.
One more thing, we like to go to church and sit in the nave and pray at the beginning of our dates. The still, quiet time with each other and God is like a cool drink on a hot day. Seriously, try it.
And, one more last thing, I think it's pretty okay if you have a fight on your date night. If you are a busy family, chances are you have been suppressing a lot feelings as you try to get through the week. Putting too much romantic pressure on the date, just makes for a lame time. The whole point is to just try and connect to one another,
Please tell me what you do on your dates (not everything, of course), but the highlights!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Proof of God's Love



I asked my husband to do a guest post this week and I was so moved by what he wrote. I think there is a tenderness in his tone, that reflects the tender heart of God. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Blessings to all,
Lilly.

As many of you no doubt already know, my wife and I had a new baby boy, Joshua Robert, on September 4, 2014. He was 7 pounds and 2 ounces at birth. We are excited and overjoyed at this new addition to our family. And we are excited to introduce him to our community as well. Needless to say, lots of things are happening in our world these days.

One day, I was carrying Josh. I use the term “day” loosely here. Sometimes, the days and nights seem to blur together. I was soothing him, trying to help him sleep. When I do this, it is also a moment for me to pray or to worship, singing hymns. I can remember that in this moment, I was contemplating on God’s love. He has blessed my family yet again. Josh is proof of God’s love, as is Lydia and Lilly. But even deeper than that, I was contemplating God’s own son, Jesus Christ. I love my children very much, but even that love pales in comparison to the love that exists between the Trinity. The love that God the Father has for the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the mutual return of that love between them, is quite simply boundless. It is infinite. It is therefore so much bigger than my own limited love for my family. Limited only because I am human and flawed. 

As I continued to ponder this, I distinctly recall thinking that God sent his son to be here among us. His love knows no bounds. And we are included in that love. So he came down from heaven to be among us. He came to unite himself to us. He came to redeem us. He came here to die for us. That fact astounded me. God sent his son here to pour out his life for us. I could not imagine losing my son, but God’s plan involved sending him here purposefully in order that he might die on our behalf. Such is the depth of God’s love for us. I can remember in that moment being awed by this fact, made all the more real as I held my son. 

All of this reminded me of the song “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” The words come back so much stronger now. “How deep the Father’s Love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That he should give us only Son, to make a wretch his treasure.” The Father’s love,  the Trinity, is turned outward and directed at us. And it is the sacrificial kind of love. In the Greek language, there is a different word for the different kinds of love. Agape is what is talked about here. Love so great that it makes sacrifices for the beloved. It is the holiest kind of love. It is divine love. God is all powerful. There is no being above him. No one is higher or more powerful than God. And yet, he demonstrates great humility and love. He came to save his beloved by dying for us. In Philippians 2:1-8, Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to be humble as Christ is humble. Christ is God, and yet he did not lord that over anyone, but became a servant to all, even to the point of dying on the Cross. 

Not only do we have this amazing fact, that God himself poured out his life on our behalf, but we also have it as an example of to how live. Sacrificial is what we do for each other. This is what we do for our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We pour out our lives for the sake of others. We do this because God did it for us first, and by doing this, we serve God.

This thought process all stemmed from holding my son that one day. God can come to visit with us and speak with us at any time. It was a real moment of communion with God, one that I share with you in the hope that it will give you strength, peace, and joy.
                                                                                                                                                                In Christ,
                                                                                                                                                                Fr. Bo+

Friday, August 7, 2015

Frenzied Break-Downs and Surrendering All



I traveled to Iowa by airplane with my two year old and nine month old babies by myself. It was two different airplane rides. Lydia was in this phase, where she liked to run away from me, and Joshua hated to sit still. I knew all this going into it, but I was like, “yeah, I can do this.” Plus, I really wanted to see my sister.

When I finally arrived, I was covered in sweat, fig newtons, spit-up, and other unmentionables. There had been wailing and lots of running away, with me frantic in tears and chasing. 

I know there are some moms out there that have lots of children. I am in awe of you, but it was such an overwhelming day for yours truly. By the time we finally arrived at my sister’s home, my children and I got very sick. We all broke out in feverish chills. I spent three hours trying to console them and put them to sleep. It was late in the evening, bordering on eighteen hours of travel time. Finally, I borrowed my sister’s keys and put them in the car for a drive. 

Driving and scatter-brained through the small town Iowa streets, I heard the sirens behind me and at once realized I had on my brights and I had been driving around the same neighborhood six times in a row. My hair was ratted, my pj's be-speckled with baby goo, and I had tears running down my checks. I knew I looked and was driving like a crazy lady. 

The officer came to the window. I explained my seeming insanity and he walked off to check me out. At this moment, I felt really low. It wasn’t just the day. Things were catching up with me. The demands of motherhood, ministry, and marriage felt huge. All the goals and projects I have set –up for myself felt crushing and I knew I was failing and that life was slipping me by. Lots of striving was coming to a head.

I let my head flop onto the steering wheel and told God how mad I was at him. There was more weeping and wailing. Thankfully, my children were by this time asleep.
“God, I’m so angry at you right now. You never cut me a break and my life is so freaking hard and I never get any of the things I want.” It’s hard to read and write these words, because he has given me things that I never dreamed I would have – mostly himself. But these were my honest thoughts and unfortunately, these were my spoken words. I was very mad and so tired. Striving is a temptation I struggle with. I am always striving to make things better, be better, do more, and friends it really is hell on earth.

“I just can’t take it anymore. I am giving you everything. I surrender all to you right now. I surrender all” I shouted. Then, I felt a welcomed peace. I knew at once, that I didn’t need or have to do the vast majority of the things I slave away at and that only one thing was required of me, handing life over to Jesus. Surrendering all to God is a wonderful thing and we can do it hourly if we need to. He’s always there to meet us.
 
I didn’t get the ticket either.
 
 What in your life are you constantly striving for? What burdens are you continually carrying? Some of us are struggling with things that loom larger than life - cancer, greed, violence, broken relationship, and all kinds of hurt, temptation, and sin. God knows are struggles. Let’s hand all that striving to fix things over to Jesus and let him bless us with his peace and presence. 

 

Friday, July 24, 2015

How We See Others



Often we view people in the light of our negative experiences or history. We think they’ve failed me in the past, they always do this, they never…” We believe the worst about them. Sometimes it’s important to ask ourselves, how do I see this person? Do I believe and hope the best in them and for them? Do I see them with the eyes of Jesus or my own limited sight?
We are called to see, believe, and hope the best in those around us. Even when they’ve disappointed us in the past, perhaps, especially, when they’ve disappointed us in the past.
The funny thing is, how we see others changes how we act toward them. When we know that everyone around is the beloved of Christ, we are more careful to act accordingly. Hoping the best in others can and will change our relationships with them, bring us all one step closer to redemption, breakthrough, healing, and love.  
Years ago, I was by all evidence a screw-up, but someone saw past all this, and chose to see me through the eyes of Christ. She said, “I had a vision of you and you were a holy woman of God.” These words have never left me. How we see people changes everything.
Who in our lives are we seeing falsely? Who do we need to take a better, different look at?  Let’s see that person the way Jesus does: his chosen, beloved in whom he has never given up hope on.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Loving the Most Annoying People in the World



We are all on a love journey. We’re in a process in which Jesus is teaching us how to love more selflessly, more radically, in essence – learning true love itself. 

Often we talk about loving our neighbors and that’s well and good, but friends, our neighbor is often closer than we think. They are our spouses, children, siblings, and parents. It can be so challenging to love those closest to us, because no one can hurt, aggravate, disappoint, or frustrate us more than those. 

The Bible says, put up with one another in love (Eph 4:2). This is a holy, righteous thing and it requires patience, forbearance, long suffering, and sacrifice. We can’t do this alone, it needs a divine action. God pours out his love in our hearts, so that we can love the most annoying people in the world – the very ones we love the most (and we’ve annoyed a few I’m sure).  

Thankfully, it’s often in those relationships in which we are required to give, and give further still, that God does his best work in us. We become more like Jesus. We are shaped into a more giving person. One who preserves in love and as St. Paul writes, “perservance leads to character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us (Rom 5:4). More than this, we have authentic relationships in which we experience, mutual, joy, faith and hope –a part of heaven on earth.
Most importantly we learn to love and this is the greatest reward there is, save one – that God loved us first and all this love is his eternal gift to us. 

Is there a person or situation in your life that is asking more of you than you thought possible? Are you trying your best to put up with each other in love, even when it is mind-blowingly difficult? You are not alone. He is with you and strengthening to love truly.
Blessings on the journey friends and as always, have a fabulous weekend with your loved ones!
Lilly.