The Color of Grace

The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams is a great book. 

Be warned: It’s intense and some of the stories are tough. 

Bethany is the founder of Exile International. 

She works with former child soldiers to overcome their grief and trauma using art therapy. 

These kids, despite their pasts, are full of hope, a hope that what’s in front of them is better than anything in their pasts. 

These kids love God and thank Him everyday–even though many are orphans living in an impoverished area. 

I walked away from the book totally wrecked…

The redemptive power of Jesus Christ is much more powerful than what we see and hear about in the West. 

There is no difference between the Jesus of the developing world and the Jesus of the West. 

Only a difference in the mindsets of the people. 

 I encourage you to check out The Color of Grace. 

Just be prepared for your perspective to shift. 

Reminders of love

I’ve received several blessings over the last few weeks.

These reminders of God’s love and faithfulness have brought me tremendous joy. 

  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • A piece of gum (given with a big hug)
  • Chocolate
  • A pen
  • Lunch 
  • A piece of cake

I am thankful for friends who are so thoughtful!

I am thankful to my Father who knows that my heart delights in fun reminders of encouragement. 

What reminders of God’s love have you recently received?

Escaping ISIS

I watched a documentary today that cemented my feelings and beliefs about Christianity’s role in helping refugees. 

PBS Frontline did a special last July on women prisoners of ISIS. 

Escaping ISIS documented the fate of the women and children of a particular sect of Islam, the Yazidi, who ISIS views worthy of being decimated because the Yazidi make the Islamic faith impure. 

When ISIS went into their villages, they killed the men and captured the women and children. 

There is a small group of Yazidi men who are working diligently to free their relatives from ISIS, creating an underground network of spies within and without ISIS territories. 

The saddest part of the documentary was watching the story of the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:2-11) with a horrible ending. 

ISIS leaders filmed a woman accused of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death. The woman’s father was present and she asked him, “Father, can you please forgive me?” 

His response broke my heart: “God will not allow me to forgive you.”

The woman continued to ask for forgiveness, sobbing, as the leaders began to stone her. Her father joined in as well. 

For anyone who believes that God and Allah are one and the same, you’re dead wrong. 

The One True God is a loving and forgiving Father. His heart beats with love for us. 

This woman was killed and there was no forgiveness given to her like Jesus extended in John 8.

I understand that there’s no way the countries of the world can take in all the refugees. 

I understand it is dangerous to allow the refugees into our countries because ISIS infiltrates the refugee camps. 

But we as Christians can NEVER hate Muslim people. We can NEVER give up being involved in creative solutions to reach out to the refugees. 

I saw the tears of the women who recounted their brutal treatment under the ISIS regime. They lived in fear every day of their captivity. 

In fact, many women kill themselves because they feel utterly hopeless to escape the torture of the ISIS regime. 

There was an 18 year old girl who said, “I don’t know if I will ever be free from my fear, the nightmares that haunt me.”

I screamed at the TV, “Yes, you can be free! Jesus can heal your broken heart!”

This documentary has wrecked me…

The Muslim world is crying out for help, for hope. Don’t let ISIS win by poisoning your heart toward these people. 

A faith that can rest 

My hometown bank is awesome. There are bigger and better banks, yet the personal service makes staying with them worth it. 

On Monday I called to have a problem with my account straightened out. 

The branch manager told me not to worry about the issue because he was personally handling it. 

I still called back today to make sure everything was squared away, which is when the manager said:

“Thanks for the call, but I’ve got this.” 

In that moment, the Lord said to me, “I feel the same way when you ask me for help and then check back in. I’ve already told you that it’s being handled.”

How many times do we ask the Lord about the same situation ad naseuam? 

I do it a million times a day! 

God’s not mad when we come to Him again and there are times when it’s appropriate–there is a Bible verse that says to put God in remembrance of His Word–but His quiet comment echoed like this:

Where’s your faith?

There is great peace in knowing God is your provider. You can rest, catch your breath, with the assurance that He won’t leave you hanging. 

The example that resonates most with me is resting in a hammock. Nothing beats the coziness of a hammock in the shade. It’s the best place to relax!

God’s often telling us to put our faith in Him and relax. 

Our response is often wringing our hands, staying up all night, and asking God a million times when He’s gonna move. 

His response?

“Thanks for the call, but I’ve got this.”


Redemption Stories, Part 2

I enjoy listening to other people’s stories, especially men and women  who really love Jesus because of their redemption from a rocky past.

I think about the lady who annointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and washed His feet with her tears…

All of her sins were forgiven! She was so thankful. 

I know that I can look back  over my life and see all my past sin, pain, guilt, shame, and hurt–I’ve been healed from so much!–that God’s goodness is overwhelming in comparison. 

Some people get really uncomfortable about such open displays of gratitude. “Can’t you tone it down a little?” they ask. 

All Jesus says is, “It’s okay. I really appreciate your act of worship, your sincere devotion.”

There are many Christians who feel like they did Jesus a favor by accepting Him, but what did we have to offer?

Enough baggage to fill a cargo plane? 

Empty attempts to gain the approval of others?

In Romans 8:17, it says that we are joint heirs with Jesus, meaning that we are each other’s inheritance. 

This is awesome news for us because it means that all of God’s blessings are given and not earned. Though,  it got me to thinking:

Jesus got the bum end of the deal. 

 I don’t mean this disparagingly, either.  It’s just that in light of His great sacrifice it’s hard for me to be real uppity about how awesome I am. 

Without Christ, I am nothing and I have nothing, so all I have for Him is gratefulness and a heart full of worship.

This is why I get so excited to hear redemption stories and to share my own. 

We were redeemed at great cost and the chance at a do over is more than we could ever imagine. 

Overflowing Love

When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples, He told them not to take anything–not even an extra change of clothes!

The early church sold all of their extra stuff (they shared everything else) and dumped the money at the apostles’ feet. 

The widow in the temple gave everything she had. 

Paul teaches us the secret of contentment: Do all things through Christ who strengthens you whether you’re broke or rich. 

We’re told to not covet in The 10 Commandments and by Jesus Himself. 

We’re told to seek The Kingdom first because God is the supplier of our every need. 

And I could keep going with examples!

I’m packing up to move and I wonder if I’m too greedy…

Am I willing to give everything away?

To share everything?

To see my life–time, giftings, possessions, and money–as simply a means to help others?

I want to say yes. I want it to be an all-the-time truth, but I struggle…

Can’t something be mine?

Here was God’s answer:

Yes, the one thing no one can take away is your relationship with Me. What else do you want?

Ouch!

God is an all-in kind of Father. He gave us everything He had. Nothing was held back from us. 

I want to be that kind of person. 

I want to be all-in. 

My life was so empty before my relationship with God. No amount of success or approval or stuff could fill the void. 

My response to His great grace is that I want to live a life stripped bare of anything that keeps me from being full of Him, of His overflowing love. 

Redemption Stories

unityThere is great power in our personal stories (Christians call this their testimony, but story fits just as well here).

I heard several after Mr. Kirk Dubois finished up announcements on Thursday. He invited students up to share how they ended up at Rhema.

Looking at my fellow classmates now, you would never know about their pasts. Coming to Christ radically changed their lives–and the lives of many of their family members as well. 

Today is Good Friday. At 3 PM, Jesus died on the cross. He was falsely accused, mocked, and ridiculed. The events of His Crucifixion were foretold in the Old Testament and by Jesus Himself.

Isaiah 53 says:

He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed (MSG).

What gets me in this passage is Jesus was “a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand”. The King James calls Jesus a Man of Sorrows. 

Many people claim that no one understands their pain, their suffering.

First off, that’s simply not true. There are others (probably more than you realize) who can identify with you. 

Secondly, Jesus knows your pain.

Blow by blow Jesus was beaten and all of His blood was shed.

Our sins are the reason Jesus willingly laid down His life. 

As you observe Good Friday, maybe even for the first time, meditate on these truths.

Our stories were redeemed because of Jesus’ sacrifice.