Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love at Lovefield

Last night Alyssa VanderWall and I were "jokingly praying" that I would meet somebody in the airport today on my way home to Birmingham that I could give my support packet to and that I wouldn't need to buy anymore support packets...

Well due to a crazy series of events I ended up in the Dallas-Lovefield airport for 7 hours, ended up at a bar watching the Argentina-Switzerland game, and ended up standing across from two men from different parts of the United States that were in Dallas on a business trip. After watching the game with them, and talking with them for an hour or so before the USA game started, learning about the companies they both owned, they asked me what I do. After sharing my testimony with them and sharing with them about YWAM, one of the men said, "hey give me your address and I will send you an iPhone! Obviously you need a new one (my iPhone is shattered)!" Humbled and thankful for this providence. Then he asked if I would come sit down with them and share more about YWAM. I happened to have a support packet in my backpack. After pulling it out and showing it to him he asked if he could keep it! (of course I let him keep it!)

Right before the USA game started I had left to go to the bathroom then came back to the bar and he said to me, "well my partner and I were just talking and we really want to support you and what you are doing for God with more than just a new phone."

I just CANNOT BELIVE IT. Even in our "joking prayers" He hears the truth of our hearts and sees a way to bring the Kingdom together by sovereignly not letting me get on my 2 pm flight to Birmingham and having to stay until 7 o'clock. Just saying yes to God who loves us and cares for us more than we could ever ask or imagine.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Lete: Blessed

She had her whispy black hair pulled back in a tight little pony tail. Wrinkles across her forehead, a story for each one, and her white uniform collared shirt tucked neatly into her pants.

Another night, another drive around LAX, take busy people to all the places they needed to go, oh the places they go. Her devotion had gone unnoticed. Nobody knew her story. Nobody cared to know her name. But tonight.

Her name is Lete. And she is the LAX taxi driver who has been faithfully devoted to driving that taxi for 5 years. Her journey began in a far different place though: Eritrea, Africa (north Eastern Coast of Africa). Never having gone to school, she worked on a small farm her whole childhood. Her family lived impoverished though, and she knew there had to be a way to take better care of them. So 17 years ago she had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles, California and find work. With knowing no English she filled whatever jobs she could and tried to learn English as fast as she could. She lived with her sister, and sent the money she made to her family in Eritrea.

"Do you like being a taxi driver?"

"Well it's a job."

"If you could be anything you want to be what would you be?"

"I don't know."

"Do you have any children?"

"No, no children."

"Are you married?"

"No, no I'm not."

"Do you want to be married?"

"I mean i don't know, I chose this, I just want to take care of my family back in Eritrea so they aren't poor."

One of the most sacrificial selfless women I've ever met. One of the greatest sisters in Christ I have ever met. And thousands of people have gotten in and out of her cab and have moved on with their lives, never knowing that they missed one of the most "blessed" women in the world, and never knowing that their definition of "blessed" may be a bit skewed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:3-9 ESV)

She has had a broken spirit, she has mourned for her countrymen and her family, she is meek, she hungers and thirsts for a right relationship with God, she is merciful, she is pure in her heart, and she is the peacemaker in her family.

And many people will sit in her taxi cab, never knowing that one of the greatest examples of Jesus Christ was sitting 2 feet away from them and was named Lete.

So I dare you to let Heaven invade earth today and listen to a stranger's story.

Tonight I was thankful for Los Angeles traffic (even at 10:15 pm), and honored to meet such an incredible woman.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Freedom of Forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

-C.S. Lewis

Shouting out the name of Jesus from the highest rooftops in the darkest places.
Reviving my soul to its original degree of joy and laughter.
Bringing life to me again so I can share the love of Christ with everybody who the Lord calls me to love.

These are all things that living in the freedom of forgiveness can do to one who simply obeys the Lord's command: to forgive.

"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12)
"forgive, and you will be forgiven..." (Luke 6:37)
"bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13)

And they are COMMANDS they are not a choice or an option.

And last but not least: "Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).

This last scripture is the one which convicted me the most when I was praying and asking the Lord for forgiveness. Peter says how often will my BROTHER sin against me, and I forgive him? The greek word for brother in this context is adelphos which means 'a brother whether born of the same two parents or one parent; having the same national ancestor, a fellow believer; brethren in Christ.'

Not only are we supposed to forgive those who hurt us period, but also we are called to forgive our BROTHER who sins against us seventy times seven.

Every day this verse would haunt me. The longer I hadn't forgiven my brother, the greater the weight grew. And I couldn't possibly continue carrying it day after day. Like I said before, living in unforgiveness is living in bondage.

And it is all about will and emotion. I continued telling myself that I would forgive him, even when my emotions were not following, and finally one morning my emotions obeyed my will. It wasn't that I didn't love him anymore, it was that I still loved him. I loved him and Jesus enough to know I couldn't continue in the chains of bitterness. My heart could no longer hold anything against him or over him, the towel had been wrung dry. And I was ready and willing to love him again, not wishing anything bad to happen to him, but to love him purely as a brother and friend.

But there are many faces to forgiveness. Even though I felt like when I forgave him on January 4th that that would be the end of forgiveness, it wasn't. Every day I have to make a decision to live in the freedom of forgiveness. This means there can be no harsh words that can come out of my mouth about him. When I speak of him my conscience can and must be clear. Because he is somewhere in the world right now living a life that is honoring to Christ, obeying God's will and learning to love Jesus better. For me to speak evil, unkindness or bitterness over him would not be loving him well. In fact it wouldn't be loving him at all. We think that in some sort of weird sick way we can bring redemption to our circumstances by holding bitterness and anger over someone who has hurt us, but in reality we are only holding it over ourselves. My brother in Christ, I know, did the hardest thing he probably has ever had to do, and he had to live with the hurt and pain that he knows it brought me. But me continuing to hold bitterness over him, just makes me continue living in the chains of un-forgiveness, and most of all it doesn't represent the Christ, who forgave every sin that I have ever committed or ever will commit, well.

I said yes to learning to love my brother in Christ in a way that left me with a broken heart, but I can safely say on this side of things, my love for people is more genuine and rich now than it ever has been, because it better reflects the glory of Christ. To love fiercely the way Christ did is to risk getting hurt.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So keep loving fiercely, with the risk of getting your heart broken, knowing that at some point it will be broken again, but forgive more than you don't. The freedom of forgiveness is a precious gift the Lord has given us to learn and be and walk according to His ways.

Forgive somebody today, it's a very good thing.

You can read the first two parts to this blog here:
When a heart breaks (Part 1)
Rotting un-forgiveness (Part 2)

Someday I pray, I will be able to forgive those who hurt me even while I am in the midst of the pain and suffering as my Savior did, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

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Monday, June 2, 2014

rotting un-forgiveness

A continuation of the previous story found here: When a Heart Breaks

When can I climb out of this dark, cold, wet well Father, when?

Thus, many nights of tearful begging to the Lord continued...

But there was a hope deep inside of me. There was a hope hidden in the inner part of my heart where my deepest desires hid. The hope of the living Christ inside me. The hope that no matter how far I tried to run away from Him, He would still draw near to me. A hope that no matter how far I felt away from Him He was still near to me.

And all I knew was that I couldn't continue on the path I was on, but that I needed to be surrounded by beautiful Jesus-lovers that would speak the Truth over me even when I didn't want to hear it. I needed to be surrounded by people who would not judge me for what had happened, or that would think they could fix what had happened.

And the Lord gave me YWAM Denver. So I quit my dream job and set out on a journey to YWAM Denver to do a Discipleship Training School with 49 other broken students. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew I needed to find out if God, the God who "allowed all of this crap to happen in my life," was actually real. I needed to know that I know that I know that He was real, alive, and that He had never forsaken me.

So there I found myself on top of a mountain at a YWAM base in Eagle Rock, Colorado with a bitter unforgiving heart.

And the worst part about having an unforgiving heart is KNOWING that you have an unforgiving heart.

It wasn't that I hadn't forgiven him, I had said every morning since I woke up after that awful day in July that I had forgiven him, but my heart had told me something completely different.

Bitterness and un-forgiveness was deeply rooted in my heart, and it was going to take an open heart surgery to get it out. So every morning the routine continued, "Lord, I forgive him, I no longer want this inside of me, please don't let me be bitter towards him. Please let me move on. Please let me love and be loved by others again. Please let me feel you fully again, I know this un-forgiveness is hindering me from you." But I was saying out loud "I forgive him I forgive him I forgive him."

And month after month of praying, fasting, and pleading, still I saw the un-forgiveness in my heart. And it looked as bad as it felt. It looked like short-tempered, rude, snide remarks towards people who I knew were just trying to love me. It looked like the rolling of my eyes when somebody talked about their boyfriend or the so called 'love of their life.' It looked like testing my leaders and teachers to see whether their love for me was genuine. And it looked like me pushing people away that genuinely loved me and cared for me.

And it couldn't continue. It drove me crazy carrying the weight of unforgiveness in my back pocket. It made my feet heavy like I had a ball and chain connected to them. It made my shoulder hunch over as if I was carrying a barbell on my shoulders with a 100 lbs on each side. It made my creative fingers  stiffen and not be able to create. It was disgusting. And like any sickness it drove me crazy.

I praise God every day that I had such an incredible group of people surrounding me who cared for me more deeply than I ever understood. If it wasn't for them I never would have experience the freedom of forgiveness that I experienced on January 4, 2014. I woke up early with a ready and expectant heart.

There I was laying in my bed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, praying for the very guy who had broken my heart 7 months earlier. And there in that moment the Lord said, "you have forgiven him. It is over, and all un-forgiveness and bitterness has left your heart."

A series of laughter, and crying continued after that as I rejoiced with my team in everything the Lord had done in me. And a sweet moment of worship of my most holy and worthy King on top of a building looking out over the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

to be continued..

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

When a heart breaks.

Our hearts break for so many things all of the time: sex-trafficking, orphans, widows, break-ups, cancer, death sickness in general, but we can and will rejoice and give thanks in the midst of those things.

One year ago today I got engaged to my best friend, and the person who "I thought" was the love of my life. It was perfect in every way it could have been, beautiful, and the most loving thing anybody has ever done for me. God was glorified. Being surrounded by friends and family in that moment was incredible, especially having them affirm that we should one day soon get married. And like any other soon-to-be bride the wedding planning begun the day after. However it wasn't easy. The pressure to make everyone happy in planning the date was real and awful. After 6 weeks of being engaged to my best friend, planning a wedding, and buying a wedding dress, he very unexpectedly called it off. With a broken mortified heart I laid many nights in my bed weeping and unsure how I was going to go on with life. I loved him, and yet I could not make him love me.

A few weeks later I took some time off work to drive to Colorado with my dad. There were many nights and mornings on top of a mountain watching sunsets and sunrises, asking the God who created that view, "why on earth would you ever do this to me or allow this to happen? What good could ever come from this?"

And the response:
Silence. Cold, dark, eerie silence.

When our heart breaks our Father's voice is sometimes eerily quiet. And the silence is much more devastating than the event itself, because in that very moment when we need to hear Him, see Him, and feel Him, He feels impossibly far away.

Eli Eli lema sabacthani? (Matthew 27:46)

But we know the rest of the Psalm that Jesus is quoting (Psalm 22:22-26), the Psalmist ends up rejoicing and exhorting his listeners to "fear the Lord and praise him!"

Yet day after day after day, there was silence.

When can I climb out of this dark, cold, wet well Father, when?

to be continued...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Darlin'

My Darlin',

It's your second birthday in Heaven! I miss you more today then I did yesterday but the Lord has been so good to me and given me so much joy today. I had a birthday party for you! Definitely wasn't the same without you here, but I know you received the balloons in Heaven! And I know Jesus held you extra tight today. I can't imagine what it feels like to be held by Him (I'm sure it's much greater then the times I held you :).

It's been two years since I last saw you, and your love is still teaching me things often. When Jesus let me be your mom for the last 6 weeks of your life, He knew what He was doing, and He knew I needed a precious soul like yours in my life. It broke me, but Jesus has made me whole, and I am thankful.

Our Father spoke to me this morning. He told me to believe this truth about you today my darlin':
"What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body; there is also a spiritual body." [1 Corinthians 15:42-44] You are imperishable! And you are treasured. And I am treasuring His Word today and forever, holding it close to my heart.

He is good.

Happy Birthday my beautiful darlin' Daughter!

Hope you had an extravagant birthday in Heaven with many angels praising our Jesus with you!

To read about the day EG went to be with the Lord: click here
To read about her first birthday in Heaven: click here

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

God's Not Dead

God's Not Dead

Went into this movie not expecting to be challenged so much. However almost immediately after the movie had started the Lord challenged me, "would you be willing to stand in front of this full movie theater and share the Gospel after this movie is over?"

I continued thinking about this question the Lord had asked me, and continued watching the movie.

But He kept stirring my heart and challenging me to love all of those people well by sharing with them.

Then the main character in the movie-Josh- quotes C.S. Lewis,
"Only real risk reveals the quality of one's belief."

"Was it worth the risk Lauren?" the Spirit inside of me asked.

What was I really risking? It's not like I would ever see these people again. No, the risk was nobody responding to the Gospel, nobody responding to what I would say. But the Lord is so good to us, and doesn't hold us responsible for how people respond, just to whether we said it or not.

I do believe that Jesus Christ is the "power of salvation to all who believe" (Romans 1:16). So it was worth the risk.

The movie ended, I went down the stairs and stood in front of everybody, yelling over the music "if anybody wants to know how to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior you are welcome to come talk to me and my lovely YWAM friends."

Nobody came, but that wasn't the point right?

The point was for me to be obedient to what Jesus had told me, that is what I will be held accountable to.

That's what we are all held accountable to. Not whether people accept or reject the Gospel, but that we were willing to share it with them in obedience to Christ.

After all, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15).

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