I Got Suckered By A Scam Artist

I walked past the shivering transient without really seeing her. I barely glanced up as I hurried to get out of the rain. I rushed through the door into the hotel lobby, but my steps slowed when I heard a baby cry. Turning my head, I looked more closely. The woman sat huddled under the overhang. She had a little boy on her lap and a stroller by her side. The stroller was covered with a blanket and plastic bags stuffed with odds and ends overflowing from the basket underneath. She held a cell phone in her hand and stared at the screen, seemingly oblivious to the wailing of her infant. I watched for a moment and then walked away. I was cold and tired, ready to check in to my room and get some rest after a long day of training. As I handed the hotel clerk my credit card, I argued with myself. She might be waiting for someone. There are plenty of other people here who could help her. She has a cell phone. If she can afford a cell phone, she can afford a room. As I finished my transaction and turned to grab my bags, my eyes were drawn back outside. It was dark and I could barely see through the rain, but the screen from her cell phone cast a little bit of light. Her toddler was now running up and down the sidewalk. He splashed through the dark, stomping his feet in the puddles. She didn’t seem to notice him as he played. She is oblivious to everything around her. She is probably on drugs....

When Your Convict Neighbor Shows Up Drunk To Church

Several months ago I learned an ex-con lives fifty feet from my front door. I share my response here. Thank God for grace, huh? We have been slowly making connections with Richard. A plate of muffins here. A dish of enchiladas there. Fixing his computer. Inviting him to church. Sharing a cup of coffee. One encounter at a time, we are loosely stitching together a relationship. Richard has come to church with us several times since Easter Sunday. Each time, I silently pray that Jesus’ love would pierce Richard’s heart. And each time, I am reminded that we can not limit our witness to Sunday mornings. We can not place all of the burden on our pastor’s shoulders. It is our responsibility – yours and mine – to witness to our neighbors. God placed us exactly where we are for a reason. He desires for us to share His love with everyone we come in contact with. And maybe that looks like inviting them to church. Or maybe it looks like a plate full of muffins. We can not minister to the soul of a man without also ministering to his body. It would be easier if this were not true. My life is busy. I have a lot of tasks on my to-do list. Baking muffins for my neighbor isn’t exactly my top priority. I would prefer to simply be able to extend an invitation for a Sunday morning service, sit silently next to him in the pew, and leave all of the hard work to my pastor. But it is not my pastor’s responsibility. It is mine....

As we approach Sanctity of Life Week…

January 15-22 is National Sanctity of Life Week. There will be much talk of the staggering statistics of abortion, and they ARE staggering… Over 56 million babies have been aborted since Roe Vs Wade. Statistically, 1 in 3 women have had an abortion. If you are one of the “1 in 3,” this is for you. Let’s face it, if the ONLY thing you wanted to do was go back in time and make a different choice, you couldn’t. Abortion is a permanent answer to a temporary situation that leaves you with the aftermath of a choice that you should never have needed to make. The fact that you chose to have an abortion is terrible. Letting Satan use that choice to keep you in bondage to shame and guilt for the rest of your life is an absolute travesty, and because we DON’T discuss it, Satan is able to whisper terrible things to your already battered heart. The truth of the matter is, what happened was and remains terribly wrong. Even so, there IS hope. For the non-Christian struggling with the aftermath of abortion, please know this… Forgiveness is available to you. Healing is possible. You CAN be restored. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all our sin. That includes all sexual sin and abortion. Nothing you have done is beyond His power to forgive and nothing done to you is beyond His ability to heal and restore. If you are searching for “something” to fill the aching and longing in your restless soul, that “something” is Jesus. Only He can quiet the demons you face. For the Christian....

The Other Side of Christmas

*originally posted December 20, 2012 Our nativities are beautiful. Even when we briefly lament that there was “no room for them in the inn” and that Jesus had to be born in a stable, our nativities are clean, peaceful, idyllic. We imagine the animals keeping watch and the wonder as the shepherds come. We think of little woolly lambs. But it probably wasn’t clean. Because stables smell, we can assume it was smelly. Joseph was probably frantic trying to make a bed in the straw and figure out how he was going to deliver the baby when that was usually left to other women. There were probably bugs. I don’t share that to ruin all nativities for you. We can go back to those pristine images in a bit, but bear with me for a moment. It just seems to me that even those early moments and years of life pointed to the kind of life Jesus would live. Even before birth, Jesus did not have a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). When Jesus was a very young child (people disagree on if he was an infant or around two) his family had to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). They fled in the middle of the night, probably traveling as light as possible, frantic to get away. And the reason they had to flee? Herod wanted to secure his throne by killing the foretold king of the Jews. While God forewarned Joseph and he got Mary and Jesus to safety, other mothers and young boys were not so lucky. It is sometimes referred to as the slaughter...

Seeing you, being seen, and seeing Him

My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, and so on. I told her these things knowing she had different opinions, and she shared a little about where she’s coming from. We could do this because we were in a safe place—we both knew we were loved, differences and all, and we trusted each other to listen with an open heart. It was a really healing moment for me. A reminder that differences don’t have to divide us. One thing Tami and I have always had in common is we hate to be misunderstood. If you want to be mad at me, fine, but only if you’re basing it on the things I actually did or what I actually meant. We can’t rest until we’ve corrected mistaken impressions. A big insight I’ve had lately is along those same lines: We all want to be seen and know that we’re heard. [I promise this isn’t about the election… bear with me. REALLY. I promise. It has a God point and doesn’t take a stand about sides!] I’ve heard analysts say that many thousands of people who supported our President-elect voted in large part because they felt like he understood their plight and was on their side. They supported him because for years they’ve felt overlooked by our government and media and now they feel...

Just Be With Me

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from the literal stench of death, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the holistic, embodied suffering I was about to come face to face with. I shuffled my eighteen year old body across the cemented field, fighting back tears as I smiled at the very bodies of dehumanization. Women literally left to lay out in the sun, crapping in their pants, and scratching the lice in their hair until they die. If there was anything that was going to strip any “savior mentality” view of service and missions away, this was it. Lotion bottle in hand, I was here to just love these women; there was literally nothing effective or practical that I was equipped to do. That sounded more romantic than it felt as I sat down next to a woman whose sun-leathered body looked older than her eyes told me she was. I motioned that I could rub lotion on her hands, if she wanted. Without hesitating, she pulled down a piece of fabric that could barely be considered basic clothing and patted her arms. Looking into her desperate eyes, I began rubbing lotion on her arms and chest, smiling awkwardly and fighting the urge to find a corner that I could lose it in. Suddenly and without warning, she...

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...

The Difference Between “Us” and “Them”

In my high school Persuasion and Control class, the teacher quietly distributed sheets of paper, then instructed us to work on our own to answer the questions on it: Who is “we”? Who is “they”? We (and probably they) use those words often, but what do they mean? There were a few other questions on the assignment, but they all stemmed from these two. After several minutes of personal reflection, we began discussing, and it was one of the most animated, perspective-changing, convicting class times I remember from high school. Our world was small at the time, but it didn’t seem that way. We had groups in high school, as I assume most do, and the open discussions about what we thought about ourselves, what we thought about others, and what we thought about what others thought about us surprised and unsettled us. The internet was just beginning to creep into our daily lives, so we didn’t have access to as many viewpoints as people do now. But I’m not sure that would have mattered. After all, we have access to a lot of information now; we can easily get to know people around the world or around the corner who are very different from us. Yet we still separate ourselves. Separation helps us feel protected, worthy, and justified. It helps us determine our identity, as we often deteriorate others’. “We” still define “us” and “them.” So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave...

Get Over Yourself

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV Listen, I know when you first read the title you were probably taken aback a bit, but I hope you hear my heart on this–sometimes we really do just need to get over ourselves. We live in a world where it’s all about ourselves and what makes “me” happy. The problem starts when we live a life that is only focused on ourselves then we can become entitled, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes downright ugly. When our thoughts and lives are filled with only thoughts about us and our needs/wants, then the rest of our relationships become strained or even nonexistent. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who only thinks about themselves. So, what’s a person to do who is struggling with this? First, I’d say get a copy of Tim Keller’s book, “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”. It has radically changed my thoughts on this whole concept. In his book he talks about a gospel-humility that takes thinking of ourselves right off the table. How do we even do that? Through lots of prayer, lots of patience and lots of practice. I read this book over a year ago and it’s still been something I wrestle with daily, but something that I intend to keep on wrestling with and working through. We spend our days scurrying around trying to fill our lives with more of stuff to make us happy, but the reality is that the “stuff” we long for isn’t really going to bring us the fulfillment we...

Behind The Makeup

Over the years I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry at the local church. Most of the time you hope and pray that what you are doing is making an impact, but truth be told you never fully know just what that impact is. A good friend of mine, Michelle Garrison, shared this with me a few weeks ago and I immediately knew that this was something that needed to be talked about with you as well. This is something that many of us wrestle with, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that I talk/write about more than anything else: Girlfriends, vulnerability and being real with each other. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure, but something incredible happens when we start to get behind the makeup. I pray you are as encouraged by her words as I have been…she is not an author, speaker, or even someone that likes to be in the spotlight, she’s a real woman, doing real life and trying really hard to live out her faith and I just love that about Michelle. Her words are from the heart and I know that it will challenge you as much as it did me. As I assessed my face in the makeup mirror this morning, I was so thankful that I was able to hide my imperfections under the mask of makeup. The day before, I hung around the house and wore no makeup. It is amazing how good you feel when you look all put together. On that no makeup day, I wasn’t feeling at my best. Then, my thoughts...