Bitter Reflection

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

I was having lunch recently with a group of ladies and found myself in a lively conversation with a friend across the table about bread.  I had just received a bread maker for my birthday, and was getting ready to share a really funny story about the first loaf I made, which ended up looking somewhat like fried chicken.  Clearly, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and I was having fun retelling my experience.  But there was someone sitting with us who is a bread expert and began sharing a litany of reasons why my bread turned out so terribly.  Of course, I knew it was probably this or that, and truthfully I have made great loaves since then.  I was simply sharing a funny story.

The woman continued talking about her experience as a bread maker, using her own grain, milling it, making bread often for her family, etc.  She definitely knew her stuff and received a lot of respect for her knowledge.  But what she didn’t know was that I’ve been there, and I’ve done that.  As a matter of fact, I believe I still have a 10-gallon bucket of Prairie Gold Wheat stored away in my basement somewhere.  When I had more time for such domestic pursuits, I enjoyed the labor of making bread from scratch.  And it’s not that I don’t agree that freshly milled wheat is healthier than anything store bought or otherwise, it’s that my story was washed under the table by a bread baking expert, and I was left feeling as if I just lost a battle of domestic one-upness with the resounding, unspoken opinion that one isn’t a serious bread baker unless she mills, kneads, forms, punches and bakes her dough by hand using the Bread Beckers’ no-fail 5-loaf recipe.  I assure you, competition is fierce in the kitchen!

But this is one example of many that I’ve noted these past few weeks.  I wonder why I’m just now beginning to see things from this lens?  I don’t read the KJV, therefore I’m not a real Christian.  I take my car to an automatic carwash, therefore I’m ruining the paint.  And occasionally I accidentally grab the dinner fork to eat my salad.  Sometimes I just like living dangerously.

Last year I have been told that I don’t breathe right, that I should let my hair go gray, and that I should not wear heels.  I’ve also been told that my camera is mediocre, that I work too hard and don’t weigh enough, that I should have more children, that my children are sheltered (really?), that I’m too old to run, and that I must turn off all electronic equipment as I board the plane.  Okay that last statement was a rule, not an observation or opinion, but what consistently amazes me are the people who feel brazen enough to express such opinion of what I need to do to be a better person, or at least a person who is good enough for them.

What’s really at the heart of this is that I not only am victim to such judgment and criticism, but I have also been the perpetrator.  How sad, when I look back, that I may have offended or belittled someone because they didn’t meet a standard of living that I should expect of them.  My own comments and observations are no better than those thrust upon me, and I find myself swimming right along with the sharks looking for the next person to give my “good advice” to and form into my image of who I think they should be.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken note of these things lately.  Perhaps it’s time to swallow the pill of bitter reflection and chase it down with humble pie.  It certainly doesn’t taste like cheesecake, but it’s good for the soul.

Yet I think we sit in a majority pool of judges. We go to bed with a great idea and wake up with an ego.  We spend weeks perfecting a subject and become experts overnight, elevating ourselves to places no man should ever tread.  We fall prey to sins of aesthetics, materialism, knowledge and ideals.  We judge.  We determine that the Holy Spirit has left the building and it’s up to us to right the world, when in reality, we have kicked the Holy Spirit from the throne and put ourselves in His place.

And who are we to judge?  Evidently, we forget.

There are a lot of theological responses and practical applications I could make here, but the verse which continues to resonate in my head as I form these words is from Philippians 2:3.  Paul warns that we should do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but consider others more important that ourselves.  This is exactly what Jesus is talking about when He challenges us in Matthew 22 to love our brother as ourselves.  But Paul goes further in Philippians to not only look out for our own well-being, but also the well-being of others.  If you define the word well-being, you will see that it means comfort, joy, abundance, and contentment.

Think about life on a pillar.  Judgmental man cannot possibly reach the ground and wouldn’t want to anyway.  He likes the pillar.  It took him a lot of training and hard work to get there.  He earned it.  Plus, you can’t beat the view, especially at the dawning of a new day or the resting of the sun on the horizon.  People are amazed he ever made it up there, so they look upon him in awe, and that’s the part he likes best: to be admired.  It doesn’t take long, however, for him to get a sense of loneliness.  And while he’d love to just climb down that pillar and join the rest of society, he can’t.  He’s an expert, you see.  He has made a name for himself.  So instead of reaching down to his brother, he begins making observations from his place on high.  And then, from his view, he believes that if everyone just lived life the way he does, then they would all be happy.  So he stands tall on that pillar, pulls out his bullhorn and begins making judgments, one after the other.  Some are funny, and people laugh.  But his judgments fiercely grow.  They are brash, bold, determined and presumptuous.  He forgets God because he has become his own god.  He is no good to the people and certainly no good to himself.  Sadly, he has forgotten the God who loves him so and left his first love, trading it for a very shallow love of himself.

Paul was warning the Philippians in chapter two not to become high and lofty, to leave their judgments of others behind.  He uged them to look out for others, providing them with encouragement so that they too could enjoy a life of cheer and abundance.  Oh, how we tear down the frailest of hearts when we wrongly judge or accuse others!  How we rob others of joy and peace of mind.  God forgive us!

Paul gives a few more final commands to be obedient for God’s will and good pleasure, and to do things without grumbling so that we will be made blameless and presented without guilt.  We are to hold fast to the word of life until the end of time, until the day of judgment, so that we will not be guilty of vain pursuits.  We are to shine! And this is the exact recipe for living a life of humility and allowing the Holy Spirit to do His good work not only in the lives of others, but especially in our own lives.

So this is a new year and a new day.  It marks an opportunity for humble reflection and genuine transformation.  Let’s all strive to make it a year of humility and simplicity as we look after the well-being of others, building them up and considering them better than ourselves.  Let’s make it our year to shine!


Humility (Revival – Day 3)

Humility For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the Spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” -Isaiah 57:15

Word Study:

  • says (to declare)
  • exalted (to be lifted up, praised and elevated; extolled)
  • lives (to reside; a permanent stay)
  • forever (perpetuity; eternity; eternal existence)
  • Holy (God’s name is holy, sacred and pure)
  • dwell (to reside permanently)
  • contrite (bruised; humbled; broken; discouraged)
  • spirit (air for breathing; soul)
  • revive (to live anew; to recover)
  • contrite (the “to be” form of contrite (above). Indicates God as the causing agent)

Has anyone ever promised to do something for you or be with you always only to turn back on that promise? Broken promises are powerful. They can leave some people with so much hurt and regret that their entire lives remain suspended in that moment of grief. And suddenly that broken promise becomes the idol, the very thing which keeps someone from knowing God. They simply cannot recover and ultimately choose a life of misery. Very often these people blame God for their misery and they feel that if God really loved them He would not allow this thing to happen. Then God is put in a box of their own making. He is no longer God but a mere figment of something that doesn’t exist.

In this verse we see a solid promise, but before Isaiah delivers the promise of God, he establishes God’s credibility as the Promise-Giver. He calls God high and exalted: to be lifted up, praised and elevated above all. I think sometimes we allow ourselves to be shattered by broken promises because we have put people on a high and lofty place. We mistakenly put them in the place where only God can exist. And while Christ tells us to consider others better than ourselves, He clearly does not say that they should be pedestal dwellers. Only God has the authority and credibility to be in this high place.

Isaiah then reminds us that God will never leave us, that He exists eternally. People simply cannot make this kind of infinite promise. Either by separation or death, there is a point where we are either sinners, mortals, or imperfect. And while some promises are never meant to be broken, there are some which were never meant for mortal man to make. There is a feeling of stability in this promise from God, and something which we can wholly trust.

Finally, he establishes God’s character as the only one who is sacred and pure, giving us a sense of peace, a sense of knowing that God will stand behind his Word. How refreshing! This is the place where our souls are healed, where we will find peace in any circumstance. By this truth we are made whole and filled with both assurance and expectation.

Then God speaks. He tells Isaiah that He resides in His holy place forever and permanently. He will not be thwarted. This gives Him the authority and credibility to be our King who ultimately rules over all things. We realize by these very words that we are the lowly ones, we are contrite. We have no place in His kingdom outside His very mercy and grace.

Finally, God casts His gaze on the lowly and contrite. He sees the humble sinner, the bruised child. He sees us. But instead of turning away in judgment, he looks upon us with such sweet loving-kindness and compassion. Here, he unites the divided line of Kingship and Kingdom, of high and low, of heaven and earth. He looks upon His children and promises that He will never leave us. But not only will He never leave, He is also the Reviver of hearts! He stands ready to cherish and heal, to come close and lift up. We can choose to remain tormented by a myriad of broken promises by imperfect man, or we can choose to relinquish our pride, release people from their sins and wrongs against us through a forgiving spirit, and cling to God’s pure and holy promises which are never broken. The key is humility. The choice is ours.


God’s Word (Revival – Day 2)

God’s Word

O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy word is very pure. Therefore, thy servant loves it. -Psalm 119:97; 140

Word Study:

  • love (desire; delight; to be fond of; covet)
  • meditation (reflection; devotion; meditation; prayer)
  • pure (to refine; purge away impurities; sincere)

We are to have an attitude of desiring and delighting God’s Word.  It is to be our devotion for reflection, meditation and prayer.  As we devote ourselves to these good things, we will be refined in character, and our impurities will be purged by the pureness of the Word.  If we don’t practice the habit of daily reading the word and meditating on God’s law, then we will not know Him, and we can be subject to temptation which can easily lead astray.  The Psalmist found that his appetite for the Lord grew stronger as He meditated on the word.  May we all read this verse and praise the King in the same way!

Sweet Lord, I do love to study your word and delight in the truths it reveals.  Your word refreshes my soul and gives me joy.  It reveals your nature and your love, and with it I am your creature.  Continue to work the Holy Spirit within me to beckon me to your word so that by it I may know you more intimately and love you more fully.  Continue to teach me to love others, and keep me at your service. -Amen


Genuine Salvation (Revival – Day 1)

Genuine Salvation

“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)

Word Study:

  • man (anyone)
  • in (fixed position in place, time or state)
  • Christ (Messiah)
  • new (fresh)
  • creature (a creation of God)
  • old (having existed for a very long time)
  • behold (see)
  • things (all things in their totality but also each thing within that totality)
  • become (to form; to be made)
  • new (to renew and dedicate into a qualitatively new use)

When we finally choose to let go of the old there stands genuine repentance.  What choice!  And the old is replaced by a newness, a freshness which is regenerative in the mercy and grace of Christ.  What comfort!  In unpacking some of these words, I was intrigued by the word “in.”  Here we see a Greek translation which means fixed, and fixed in place, time and state, reminding us that when we are in Christ, we are permanently His.  What promise!  But our Salvation is not merely fixed in a physical form, it is fixed for a purpose, for God’s use and for His good purpose.

This verse shows us that it is not enough to merely believe, but to also practice the belief and live out our faith as one who stands ready for the work of the Lord.  There is no such thing as stagnation in the spiritual life.  If one is not moving forward with God, then he is subject to temptation and evil.  Revival begins with salvation, but it is also the daily living IN and FOR our Father.  It is regenerative and fresh, leading us as His dear children in the work of reconciliation of His people and restoration of the Kingdom until Heaven and earth meet.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me a life which is daily new and fresh in your mercy and grace. Thank you for this precious salvation.  Make me ready for your good work, Lord, in sharing your truth with others and encouraging the lost to know you as their Lord and Savior.  Help me to daily spend time with you, building on your love and truth so that I may not falter, so that I may be an encourager to the brethren, spurring them on to your good work.  Keep me free from evil temptation and fill my heart with joy when there are trails so that I may live humbly and be ready to serve you in all my days.  -Amen


REVIVAL

Today I am beginning a series of posts relating to revival based on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ (Revive Our Hearts) and Tim Grissom’s (Life Action Ministries) 12-week study entitled, Seeking Him.  The authors write,

“Revival is the sovereign work of God.  He chooses when and to whom He sends it.  It is also true, however, that there are things we can do to prepare for revival in our lives. Being prepared for what God has determined to do is a pattern we see throughout Scripture. For example, on the eve of their passage into the Promised land, Joshua charged the children of Israel, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). In the same way, we can prepare our hearts for spiritual renewal.”

On week one, day five of the study, we find a list of 16 words or short phrases with supporting scripture, all related to personal revival, therefore, I am blogging each day’s work for the next 16 days.  I actually began this project in late November, but sometimes it takes me quite a while to digest these scriptures and unpack these words, and some days I simply don’t get to the study, but I have a commitment to complete it, and am excited to see the work of God in my life as I do.  Already I have been blessed by this, and decided to blog my journey so that you may be blessed as well.

So, I pray this work blesses, encourages and strengthens you in some way.  In any case, dear brethren, I welcome your comments, exhortations and correction.  I read recently that in all we know, we are typically 50% wrong.  The problem is, we don’t know which 50% of what we know is wrong.  So I’m counting on your insight and wisdom to lead me and help me to know the right from the wrong, not for the sheer knowing of it, but for the living by it.
And if together we can learn to live righteous and blameless, spurring revival in the hearts of one another, then the LORD Himself is to be glorified and praised.  That is my hope and prayer.

John Piper once said this in relation to knowing and living in truth:

“Discernment is not created in God’s people by brokenness, humility, reverence, and repentance. It is created by biblical truth and the application of truth by the power of the Holy Spirit to our hearts and minds. When that happens, then the brokenness, humility, reverence, and repentance will have the strong fiber of the full counsel of God in them. They will be profoundly Christian and not merely religious and emotional and psychological.”

May we all live as those who are discerning in the Word and humbled by Truth so that we may always be ready for wonders revealed today and those to come. -Amen


5k Inspiration

One of my goals before my next birthday is to run a 5k. Honestly, I don’t much like running, but I’ve always been intrigued by it and I do like how it makes me feel when I’m finished. So I’m torn every day between the going and the staying. There’s always plenty of work here for me to do and I can always use that hour to delete something from my task list (or add a couple more). But I have a goal, and October 16th’s 5k is quickly approaching.

On my ride to the gym today I was thinking of these numerous deadlines, trying to sort out which ones can slide for a couple of days while I accomplish the more pressing ones. It’s a constant juggling act. And as I was just considering taking the next exit to ditch the workout and head home to my computer, a bug flew in my car window and landed on my steering wheel. It took him a moment to get his footing, and just as I was about to shew him back from where he came, he was off and running the full circumference of the wheel like a true athlete! I laughed out loud, and half expected him to tuker out and fly away. Amazed, I watched him take another full run around my steering wheel and then another! He didn’t waver, and he didn’t let the cruise control button distract him, he just ran his little heart out. He finished his little 5k at the top of the steering wheel, turned toward me and flexed his wings. I respectfully congratulated him. He slowly walked half distance around the steering wheel again and landed at the bottom, as if to say, “I’m staying here  until you get to the gym. We’ll ride this out together.”

I parked the car and quickly got a snapshot of him before he flew away. It’s my inspiration for the day. Don’t you love his athletic colors? There’s untold beauty in that kind of resiliency.


Petunias

Returning from Russia brought many happy moments, and some sad ones, too. My poor garden wasn’t doing so well when I left, and the eleven days of neglect while I was gone produced weeds in abundance and dry, brittle twigs where flowers once were. I shook my head as I gazed on the dead petunias. As beautiful as petunias are, they aren’t as hearty as they look. Their deep jewel tones and delicate blossoms delight my eyes in the Spring, and I plant them in abundance. But they don’t stay that way, and I’m hopelessly deceived into thinking that they are stronger than they really are. These dear flowers need pruning, watering and weeding more than any flower in my garden. More than that, they need protection from the rabbits who live in the bushes and find their blossoms to be a delicious treat. I don’t always consider these things when I plant petunias. I am enchanted with their beauty alone and assume they will grow and remain alluring simply because that’s what I expect of them. I don’t consider all the work it will take to keep them beautiful and thriving.

And such is the way with people. God gives us a gentle lesson with the petunia. Are we too eager to fill our lives with the beauty of others yet so blind that we neglect the care and keeping of them? I think we certainly believe that people need right relationships with God, but we fail to realize that phileo love is just as important to God as agape love. God created us for one another for accountability, fellowship, companionship, intercession and love so that we can be in authentic, life-changing relationships with one another. He delightfully shines through us to affect each other in the most incredible and penetrating ways. And like the petunias in my garden, it requires a lot of work, but the returning beauty of the blossom resonates a life filled with love.

This is a great lesson for me as I strive to fulfill the role of friend and mentor in a way which pleases God most so that we can all grow to know and love Him more. By caring well for others I believe we can change the world, one petunia at a time.


Katie’s Request

We arrived at the correct location a few minutes early, and found our seats among people who were more our age. I don’t know why we do things like that, we just do. But a young girl with a delightful smile immediately greeted Melanie and me.

“Hi! I’m Katie!” she said, as she extended her hand. We introduced ourselves and felt a sense of warmth and welcoming.

The YWAM base was three years’ new in our area, and I had been anxious to visit ever since I heard of it. When there was an invitation for community night, I didn’t hesitate to reserve a spot. When Katie turned to the next newcomer, I turned to my right and introduced myself to the young girl sitting next to me.

“I’m Katie,” she said quietly.

“Oh, tell me,” I joked, “are all the YWAM girls here named Katie?” I laughed. “If they are, it will make meeting people a lot easier!”

Katie smiled humbly and said simply that there were only two. I could tell that it wasn’t a natural thing for her to begin talking to random strangers. She was quiet and shy, but very sweet. I asked where she was from and we chatted a bit about a location I was familiar with until my son came along and sat in between us. I introduced them and as they began talking, I turned my attention elsewhere. But I kept thinking about Katie.

We had wonderful praise and worship, led by Libby (who after the event immediately pegged me as my daughter’s mother). After praise time, we heard from a dynamic speaker who challenged us to be confident in our faith. It’s a good challenge, solid and foundational to the Christian faith. Quoting scripture after scripture with whimsical ease, we were freshly reminded that God’s mercy and grace makes us holy, not anything we do. It’s amazing how we always go back to the doing of our faith, while in the back of our minds we track brownie points as if we’re competing with the rest of Christianity for God’s favor. Will we ever learn?

The time ended with prayer and we filed into the main lobby for beverages and snacks. I visited for a bit with a couple of students at the DTS, and just as we were about to leave, I spotted Katie. I really wanted to say goodbye to her, so I walked across the lobby and told her it was good to meet her. I then asked how I could pray for her. She seemed surprised that anyone would even ask. She thought for a very long moment and looked up. “Please pray that I can trust God more,” she said.

Katie could have asked for a million things. As a YWAM DTSer she could have asked that God provide funding for her outreach or that He would multiply the time she needs to complete her homework. She could have stated that she wasn’t sleeping well, that she missed her family, or that she was having a personality struggle with one of her fellow roommates. And in all these possible requests she could have even said, “Pray that I trust God to …” but she didn’t. She purely and simply requested that she trust Him … more.

The drive home left me astounded. This was no small request. It’s the stuff that bears witness to a living and active spirit within this precious human soul. In his book, Trusting God, Jerry Bridges writes, “Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings, but of my will.” He later adds, “We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s love in happiness. We should instead look for them in His faithful and persistent work to conform us to Christ.” Katie was asking to be conformed to Christ. It was a bold and courageous prayer request, and one which I have no doubt our God will take delight in answering. I would like to see Katie again one day. I think she could teach me much about the humble Christian faith, girded by solid trust.

Father, I pray for Katie tonight. May you fill her with a peace which surpasses all understanding, a faith that is strong and unwavering, and trust that in all things you are in total control. May she become strong and courageous in your sight, a woman of honor, dignity and value. May the things that move you move her, and may she be intimately acquainted with your voice whether she’s on the summit or in the valley. I pray, Lord, that she can learn to trust you more. And may we all adopt this very prayer request as our own.


The Turkish Pastor

Istanbul, Turkey

I attended a leadership conference this week which focused primarily on the leadership principles of Christ.  It was both refreshing and challenging.  In the conference we had many nationals attend.  There were experts and field workers from Nepal, India, Africa the US and Turkey as well as many aspiring students.  The Turkish man I met is a pastor in Turkey and has had great influence in his nation among the protestant Christians.  In a nation of 72m people, there are only four to five thousand protestant Christians.  My friend has much work to do.

I mentioned to him that I was preparing my church to pray for Turkey this Sunday.  The day marks three years since three men were tortured for three hours and then murdered, or martyred, simply for their faith in Christ; one American, two Turks.  All three of those men were friends of this Turkish pastor I met, one was his best friend.  How penetrating.

Please consider engaging your church, Sunday school or prayer groups to pray for Turkey this Sunday.  You can download information and prayer points from the Pray For Turkey website.

Even if you get this information later, you can still pray.  The nation needs our prayers and our loving intercession.  And please pray for my friend, Ramazan as he continues to faithfully carry out the call to evangelize and offer the hope of the Gospel to a lost and oppressed nation.

Grace and peace be yours, my friends.


Immobile

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes the word dysfunction as abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group. The prefix, dys, means bad, abnormal or difficult. So we can say that dysfunction is the impaired functioning of something or someone. It can happen out of trauma or tragedy, but in a human it can also occur out of disobedience, oppression and depression as well as trauma and tragedy. The outward behavior becomes the dysfunction making one immobile in some areas either physically or mentally. It is the inability to grasp some realities of life. And very often, it becomes a safe and protected prison.

The Visit
God inoculated me to the horror of her standard of living, which has seen very little joy in quite a many years. It’s incredible how dysfunction can sometimes literally make one un-functional. We walked in to 2, 3 and 4 feet of trash strewn all over the house. Dirty dishes filled the kitchen which has long passed in seeing a home-cooked meal. A hall bath was so decrepit that an out-house would have been a kingly choice. Television and computers are their only source of entertainment. A 150lb dog can only lie on a tiny spot on the floor, embedded in her prison of trash and decay. Tufts of dog hair float by on the little walking paths and cling to our shoes as if looking for a way of escape.

Cleaning House
Our first trip was made in the evening, our second in the daylight. It’s amazing how light can reveal what the darkness hides. We learned that she got angry one day and threw away all the trashcans in the house. People were there all day long on that cold winter day. The neighbors were stunned. An informal neighborhood meeting was called. Janis was not invited. We quickly surmised that in this neighborhood people don’t come to help. It’s easier for them to huddle in their garages and talk up a story. Outlandish and preposterous would be the idea of helping a neighbor, and one would nearly be ostracized for suggesting such a thing. They watch us from the windows of their homes as condemnation and disgust flow from their chimneys of judgement.

Family Life
Mrs. Greer is in a nursing home, becoming weaker each day with Alzheimers disease. She calls me Angie, and I don’t correct her. I only know her as the roommate of a friend I visit weekly in that hospital. I bring Mrs. Greer chocolate kisses and talk to her about the news. I touch her tiny hand and smile. I see fear in her eyes, but lately she sleeps a lot. Lately she doesn’t eat. She may not make it to the end of the year. Janis weeps over her mother’s situation. I took her to see Mrs. Greer last week and the entire floor was alive from the cleaning personnel to the nurse’s station, shocked that Mrs. Greer had a visitor. Everyone came around to see. No one knew it was her own daughter.

Janis’ husband left when the two boys were young. He doesn’t visit them. They, too, are immobilized in this prison. We gave her food, prayed with her and invited she and her two sons to church. One attends, the older one, angry and confused, refuses. The boys cannot drive because there’s no money for car insurance, and they don’t work. The older one has a small income from his work on the computer. He stays in his room most of the day. The younger, more attentive to his mother, is eager to earn a living outside the home; eager to change. A friend of mine paves the way for teaching, mentoring and employment.

Blame-Shifting
Janis blames everyone for her situation, from the doctor to the plumber to the neighbor next door. And anyone who has gotten into a situation like that would blame others. Like alcohol to a drunkard, it is the steady consummation of denial which soothes the wretched reality of dysfunction. The home starkly reveals her story and voices of anger and misery cry through heaps of trash. Apathy and hopelessness is the reply. Tears stream down her face. She is ashamed. I kneel before her and pray.

Expectation
It’s a really tough place. I have seen worse, but in the expected places: the poor and homeless areas of town or the slums of Mexico. Not in a place like this, though. Not on Scotch Road. And I am humbly reminded that none of us are too far from these places. With our hells and our heavens merely separated by a thread we walk the fine line of paralyzing dysfunction every day, every moment, and with every choice we make. Our only hope is intentional and deliberate obedience and intimacy with Christ. What we witness in Janis’ home is the outcome of slow decrepitation. We only see the results. The process of declination must be a living hell.

We will visit often; there is much work to do. But we have hope in Christ that He will bring joy to these sullen hearts and, like a fresh wind, breathe new life into this home.

A movement is beginning to occur in our hearts and theirs. May we serve Him with irresistible anticipation for the extraordinary.  May the neighbors take note.

Oh Lord, make us all sensitive to the hells of others. The trials and tribulations which affect the kingdom can wreak havoc on our souls.  May we not turn a blind eye to those in need, to those living in constant shame. Fill us with courage and strength, patience and expectation.  Give us words to share and ideas to embrace as we, in turn, embrace those who so desperately need a touch of your mercy and loving-kindness.  Make us willing vessels.  Humble us to serve your kingdom.