I’m not as fun as I used to be

This morning a woman named Tara, who I follow on Facebook and who I have really grown to admire although we’ve never met, posted that she was told she wasn’t as fun as she used to be. See, in her everyday life, she sees children starving and women traveling hours to get simple maternity care down in Haiti, and then she reads New York Times articles about hot-dog eating contests where the winner eats 65 hotdogs, and it is annoying and even repulsive to her.

And she has every right to feel that way. That disparity should bother her and us – it should get under our skin. And if talking about it makes us less fun, well then we should be less fun.

I live in an area where there aren’t just houses around us, there are amazing estates. And oh how I love them. Giant beautiful houses on multi-acre lots, with land and pools and ponds and horses. And I love to drive around and look at them, imagining moving our kids into a place like that. I love to imagine a day in the future when we get a pool, or imagine taking our kids on a grand beach vacation. I badly want a minivan with the fancy doors that open with the touch of a button, and every time I walk into a store all the lovely clothes and jewelry entice. There are things in our world that are beautiful and alluring and it is easy to covet what we don’t have.

Sometimes I can go weeks imagining and planning a future that has more, bigger, faster, nicer.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

And then I get home and I read this article about one of the ministries my friend Tara is associated with. Please take a moment to read it. Please. This is real and they need help. This ministry lost 9 children in the past 2 1/2 weeks, and they have a desperate need for money for ICU nurses. They don’t even need much, less than $6000. Please click the link and check it out. Together we can help them accomplish this.

And seeing that changes me. It makes me mindful, and some people would say not as fun as I used to be. But you see – the world has grown smaller and the hurting are harder to ignore. Because of the miracle of technology, I can be in the car, driving past the beautiful houses, and I can pull over and use my amazing iPhone to jump on Tara’s blog (or any number of other blogs or Facebook pages of ministries on the ground around the world) and I can see what their exact needs are. And I can click the Paypal donate link, and send money to relieve those needs right then. The starving have a voice now, and we have to close our eyes to not see them. We have to willfully ignore the little girl that weighs 14 pounds at 5 years-old. But when we look, when we really look, when we see them not just as hopeless situations but as opportunities to take care of the least of these as Jesus commanded, then the things we covet start to look a little faded, a little showy.

This stuff does bother me, and the dueling desires in me, the desire for beautiful things and the desire to make a difference around the world for Christ, they battle all-day-long every single day. And it makes me a little less fun. I don’t blog about Pinterest projects or cooking ideas, I blog about this stuff. Because it is on my heart and mind and it is something I am battling through. I have to mindfully, willfully ignore and combat the pull to materialism in the world around me. And I can fail miserably. There are still many days where an Amazon box arrives at my house full of things I don’t really need or I’ll spend all day researching Honda Odysseys (those vans are stinking amazing). And there are days where I take a slow drive past the beautiful houses, imagining owning something like that. But on those days, I say a little prayer. It isn’t selfless – in fact it’s pretty selfish and small sometimes. I say something like this, “Lord, this world is not my home. This world is not my home. Help me remember that. Please forgive me. Help me not to covet and allow me to make a difference in this world. Use me to rescue people and share your love and bring you glory. Please don’t let me be enticed by things I do not need. Please set my mind on things above. I know it sounds crazy, but please give my kids a fancy mansion in heaven with horses and ponds and pools and land. Let them draw the skies and dance across fields (without fear of snakes or bugs or allergies). I believe we want the beautiful things for a reason, we were made to want them and we have a future full of them, and for that I am truly grateful. Please help me to wait and to trust you that the unseen greatly exceeds the seen.”

It is hard to fight my nature, and because of that, I am not as fun as I used to be. But I wouldn’t change it. Because this is real and the world is small and the hurting are all around us, and we can make a difference around the world with just a click.

I did a little search for verses about materialism – and wow are they tough. They make it clear that this isn’t a “harmless” struggle – this is life or death stuff for our souls. Here are a few of the verses I found – and there are many more. Lord change our hearts and help us to desire what you desire. 

  • Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
  • “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” Matthew 25:31-46
  • This is the kind of fast day I’m after:  to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—  firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. Isaiah 58: 6-12 (Message version)

An update: The ICU Nannies were funded for the first 6 months! Praise God! http://www.realhopeforhaiti.org/?p=7991

Kisses from Katie

Oh my friends – I just finished a book that absolutely shook me up (in the best way possible). Kisses from Katie – the story of a girl who followed the Lord to Uganda at 19 years-old. I had heard about this book, and this girl, for a while. So I came to the story with expectations and assumptions.

And they were blown out of the water.

Katie’s perspective on life and ministry is unbelievable and yet absolutely right in every way. She takes the Bible and Jesus seriously and she is changing lives as she follows Him and says “Yes”. I actually cried reading it (and that’s unexpected for me), I highlighted more than half of it, and followed Justin around reading parts. It’s the kind of book you have to put down and process because it so changes the way you think and relate, and it makes you want to do something meaningful with your life.  She says over and over (and I believe her) that she is an ordinary girl saying yes to an extraordinary God, and He is working extraordinary miracles all around her. It’s not just about justice or mission, although it certain is one of the best books on justice I’ve ever read. It’s about faith and life and possessions and purpose and motherhood and pain and how God intends us to live our days on this earth.

Please get this book.

I struggle to know a passage to share, because truly, so many were absolutely precious and profound, but here’s an example of why this book will forever be one of my favorites:

“I learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred school children and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year-old. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for. 

Many days, I am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need and the incredible number of people who need help. Many days I see the destitute, disease-ridden children lining the streets in the communities I serve and I want to scoop up every single one of them, take them home with me, and feed and clothe and love them. And I look at the life of my Savior, who stopped for one. 

So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can only do what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” 

And another passage I loved here:

“I do not know my five-year plan, even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. Some call it courage; some call it foolish; I call it faith. I choose to get out of the boat. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Lord may we choose you every moment of every day. We want to be fully committed to You. We want every day to become a day we say “yes” to You. We repent for lukewarmness, from mediocrity, from normalcy. We want to shine so brightly for You that others can’t help but see and feel Your love. Let us look at every encounter as an opportunity to show Your love. Lord, on the days where helping just one more person seems like too much, help me to choose You. on the days when Satan whispers, “You can’t save everyone, why are you trying?” let me choose You. On the days when it would be too easy to pop in a movie for my children instead of reading Scripture with them, let me choose You. When harsh words are easier to find than kind ones, let me choose You. Father, like Paul, I know what I want to do, what I should do, and yet I find myself failing and discouraged. Thank You for Your grace. Thank You that You who sit so high would look low upon people like me and use us as a vessel for You. How blessed we are to even be called servants, to be able to share in Your kingdom and share Your love with others. Thank You for the cross, where You have given us peace and holiness. Father, we long to say Yes to You.”

Here’s the video trailer of the book: 

Brace yourself friends… this one is beyond challenging. I pray we will be changed.

Team Sims Rocking the World

The Lord is doing a GREAT work in the Sims family (my side of the family), and I am so grateful – so I thought I’d share for those of us who love us and pray for us.

First – My brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Lori, are expanding their family through adoption! I cannot TELL you what an encouragement it has been to see the Lord call them to this, confirm this call in them, and begin to fulfill it. It has knit my heart with theirs even more to share this calling and to understand the urgency of caring for precious children that the Lord loves. They have faced the opposition we are all warned comes with obedience to this call – but I have loved seeing them handle it with grace and assurance that Jesus is bigger.  So – allow me to “cyber” introduce you to them, and if you can, check out their blog and if the Lord leads, give them some encouragement through comment love. It’s a hard road, and in times like this support from the “church-at-large” becomes invaluable.  http://teamsims.blogspot.com/

Second – my sweet sister, Jess, is coming home from the World Race! If you don’t know what that is – it is an 11 month mission trip through 11 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.  I’ve written about her before – when she began her journey 11 months ago, and I’m so proud of how she has finished strong.  She returns home next week and if you would, keep her in your prayers. She has big decisions to make, and wants to follow the Lord in courage wherever He leads her. I am so excited to again be able to pick up the phone and call her whenever I want to! She is my best friend – and I have so missed being able to share my days with her. But I am also so proud – she followed the Lord in obedience (like Joe and Lori have) and I know He is going to continue to use her to change the world.

Third – my parents are doing better than I’ve ever seen. The Lord has done a HUGE work in both my dad and my mom’s heart, and consequently in their marriage and our family. They are very active at Gateway Church and I have seen the Lord use that church to do a new thing in their hearts (Isaiah 43:19).  It has been amazing to experience and it has confirmed what I always have known to be true (but so easily forget) – the Lord pursues our hearts and when we surrender, the blessing of His Spirit flows to bring life into death and light into darkness beyond what we ever imagined possible.

He’s a good, good God. We’re blessed and I am very very grateful.

My One Thing

I just finished watching “It Might Get Loud” and was totally inspired and challenged.  For those of you who have not seen it, it is a documentary of a meeting between The Edge (U2), Jack White (The White Stripes), and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin).  It is the story of these three men and their dedication to their craft as three highly influential and very diverse guitarists.

Each of these men started off impressed by people who came before, and each is deeply dedicated to the perfection of their craft.  The documentary shows them playing old records and tapes of artists who inspired them.  There is a scene where Jimmy Page is in a room filled with 45s, Records, CDs, tapes and he walks that room not as a collector but as a student.  He listens to old records and knows every note – you can tell these are the things that moved him to write and record the music Led Zeppelin produced in the 70s.

None of these three men started off as an amazing musician.  Each of them began life in a relatively average way.  But because of a gift from God, a little courage to take creative risks, and a lifetime of hard work, they have become living legends.

They are each extraordinary guitarists.  If I was a person who used the word “epic” – it would apply here.

It made me think.  I have always been a person of many passions.  I never related to people who didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up.  I wanted to be everything.  My problem was narrowing it down.  In my life I have had many jobs, I have sold wigs and traded stocks, made graphics and edited video, been in ministry and traveled to produce massive corporate events. Even now I am in school with my purpose being a complete career change.

I have always related to the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” and struggled with the question of whether or not I will ever be truly extraordinary.

This documentary made me question, again, what my one thing is.  Am I, in my random weaving life of careers and jobs, average at everything because I haven’t specialized?

During the three months of therapy that changed my life, my therapist asked me what was my purpose in life.  I looked at her blankly and said, “to help people?  That’s what makes me feel fulfilled.”  She looked at me and simply said, “No.  Your purpose as a Believer is to bring God glory.  Until you figure that out and start to live like it – you’ll be miserable.”  At the time, I struggled to understand.  It seemed too simple and yet incredibly difficult.  But even tonight, her words rang true.

If my purpose in life was to perfect one craft, one career, or one skill, then yes – my randomness absolutely would hamper my success.  If Jimmy Page had continued to pursue painting as well as music professionally it is likely he would have been, at best, moderately successful in each.  But I am a bit different.  If I really believe that my purpose is bringing God glory in the places He leads me – my winding road then becomes a tool He uses to make my one thing stretch into many diverse realms.

So I have to watch myself here and not measure my success as the world measures success.  I was not a great stockbroker, or a great graphic designer.  I will hopefully be a great nurse, but that is not my primary goal in my career change.  My definition of success, my documentary at the end of my life, will be the people I have influenced in the many spheres in which the Lord has allowed me to roam.  I haven’t always understood this, and certainly haven’t always been faithful.  I remember with shame years wasted in selfishness where I was no light, love, or encouragement for anyone.  But I press on, forgiven, and asking the Lord to redeem the years the locusts have eaten and somehow even use those years.

At the end of my life I pray that people were turned towards the cross:

  • When I was an Admin at a brokerage firm
  • And a Communications Director
  • And a video girl
  • And a single woman
  • And a wife
  • And a mom
  • And a Facebook friend
  • And a blogger
  • And a student
  • And a nurse
  • And an adoptive mom
  • And even an unemployed person

Do I really believe that I can bring God glory in those realms?  Yes.  By His grace and in His power, I can.  If at the end of my life, those things have been accomplished by God’s grace and for His great glory, well then, it just might get loud as I rejoice in finally having found and accomplished my “one thing.”

The documentary is fantastic.  As a creative person – it made me want to paint and write and be fearlessly brilliant.  Watch it – you’ll be inspired.

The Other Brother

This one promises to be a long one – but it is a long time coming so thank you for bearing with me. Let me start with a story that so many of us know – the story of the Prodigal Son. But in case you don’t remember, here’s the story Jesus told from Luke 15:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

You may know this – but this was a parable. So although on the surface level the story was about 2 brothers and a father and a homecoming, on another level the story was about the salvation of people across the world and how regardless of when we come to faith in Christ, we have the same reward (eternal life with him) because it is not our righteousness, but the righteousness and generosity of our heavenly Father that “earns” us our reward in heaven. So what Jesus was saying here, at the depths of this parable, is that the guy who serves Christ from the time he is 6 until he is 86, giving all he has and working to serve Christ for 80 years, is basically equal to the guy who lives his life selfishly but on his deathbed transfers his trust to Christ and lives a life following Christ for 11 minutes before passing from this earth. Jesus is saying our righteousness is a free gift. Period.

And truthfully, on the surface level, this story has never felt “fair” to me, and I have always related to the older son. Isn’t that strange? Not sure if I’ve ever heard anyone admit that – but if you read this blog often then you know me and you know I try to confess sin on this thing whenever it comes to mind. And here it is – another of my sins I am here today to confess – resentment.

Resentment the feeling of indignation at some act, remark, or person regarded as causing injury or insult.

I looked up resentment in the thesaurus – and the synonyms shamed me. acerbity, acrimony, animosity, animus, annoyance, antagonism, bitterness, choler, cynicism, displeasure, dudgeon, exacerbation, exasperation, fog, fury, grudge, huff, hurt, ill feeling, ill will, indignation, ire, irritation, malice, malignity, miff, offense, outrage, passion, perturbation, pique, rage, rancor, rise, spite, umbrage, vehemence, vexation, wrath

Resentment is the name of the emotion the older brother experienced in the story of the Prodigal Son. And I can’t blame him – this guy was faithful, he labored and stayed and cared for his father, he watched his father broken by a son who rejected him, he picked up the pieces when his brother walked away. I’m sure that while his brother was gone, he bounced back and forth from missing him to hating him for what he had done. I’m sure he had times where he imagined the scenario of his brother coming crawling back home – and in his wildest imaginings he never anticipated a celebration like the one his father was throwing. His feelings were natural, right? I can see how he’d feel that way. But we have to be careful – as Believers in Christ, we don’t have the liberty of allowing our “natural feelings” to dictate our responses. Christianity isn’t about natural feelings – it is about the supernatural dying of ourselves in surrender to a God who loves us and allows us to be a part of His story. Resentment is certainly a natural emotion, as old as Adam and Eve. I wasn’t around then, but my guess is that resentment is what drove Cain to kill Abel. And we can be lulled into thinking that resentment is only a “natural” response to an injustice – but there is nothing natural about resentment. It is a serious sin not only against the person I resent, but against the God who calls me to peace and love.

Here is how this plays out for me – and how I have come to battle it in my life. I am the oldest of three kids – and it isn’t false humility when I say that I am the least remarkable of the three. My brother is a handsome, personable, hilarious, charismatic guy. I have yet to meet a person who knows my brother and doesn’t love him. He is a great husband and he loves his wife as Christ loves the church. He is active and involved in his kids’ world – they adore him. He is a 6 foot 5 inch tall fireman with a Masters Degree from Texas A & M. People are drawn to him and naturally follow him. My sister is, literally, a miracle. Doctors said she would never be born, but she was, and she is captivating. She is beautiful inside and out, gifted, precious, artsy and together. She sees and captures the world in an innocent powerful way through her photography. She graduated from Texas A & M and is now overseas on a long-term mission assignment. People adore her – I truly don’t know anyone more loved than Jess. So I grew up with both of my siblings pretty much revered in our family – and that feeling is justified – they are both remarkable people. I never felt smaller – just ordinary by comparison. I love my brother and sister. They are absolutely my best friends. I love talking to them and processing my day-to-day life in this world with them. I do not want to resent them. And yet sometimes I do.

So what do I do with that? What do I do when my own mind seems to be trying to drive a wedge between me and two people who I adore? Why do I, a mostly secure 34-year-old, still bristle when one of my siblings gets attention over me? And it isn’t just my siblings that fall prey to my resentment. Friends, co-laborers in ministry, other women who get placed into positions of leadership – all can be subject to my resentful heart at times.

So what is that?

I think it is further evidence of a broken world, a heart born to sin, and an enemy who wants to divide and conquer.

So how do I defeat it? How do I push away the spirit of resentment?

First of all – I acknowledge the lie. I am not, in any way, in competition with any other human on this planet. We are all 100% equal and it does not take anything from me when another gets praised. So that feeling of competition and of resentment – it is a lie that needs to be battled. Just like we battle thoughts of lust against anyone who is not our spouse, or thoughts of hate towards someone who wronged us, we battle this. We do not sit idly by and allow these thoughts to rule and reign our life. Because they will, if not fought, rule and reign. Anything, if left alone, gravitates towards death and decay. Only by fighting these lies and these thoughts, dragging them into the light, and confessing them to the King of Kings do we have any hope of victory.

Second – I acknowledge the battle and therefore, the enemy. I have found, and this is a recent discovery, that the times when I resent someone the most are the times when I should press into that person. If we know we have an enemy who is everyday trying to thwart anything good we may do for the Kingdom of God, and we know that only in community can we grow, then we have to realize that the enemy is going to build walls against our community with people who could help us grow and accomplish the things God has for us to accomplish. So how does this work? It means I take note when I start to resent someone, because our battle is never against another Believer. For example, a few weeks ago I had this sneaking feeling of resentment against my friend Kelli after she told me that she and her husband were looking into adoption. This left me feeling confused and frustrated with myself- why would I feel this way when I love Kelli and love adoption? Oh yea – I forgot – we are in a battle and we have an enemy. So I confessed that feeling and I fought to get in community with Kelli – I call her and we go to coffee and we discuss adoption and we realize we can help each other. I have a role to play in her adoption, and she in mine. We begin to feed each other books and encouragement and begin to work together on our common goal of adoption. Don’t you think that is why I resented her in the first place? Don’t you think the enemy of our souls saw the power in a relationship between two women who genuinely want to rescue those being led away to death, so he tried to sow resentment into my mind to thwart that idea?

I have found this principle to be really powerful in my day-to-day life. When I resent Joe for his charisma, I realize his charisma is a gift from God in his life and I also benefit from that gift. His gifts bring God glory and equip him to do what God called him to do. His faith would be severely tested if we was a follower as a fireman, but as a leader he can draw men to Christ instead of being drawn away. It benefits our family because he is a natural leader, and we can follow his lead and doors will open to us. When I resent Jess for her “miracle” status, I realize she is the greatest gift the Lord has ever given me, and I myself have benefitted from that miracle more than anyone else. Why would I resent what has only blessed my life? She is overseas doing missions and she shouldn’t even be breathing – so think of the lives touched by our miracle. When I look at people this way, I begin to see how irrational this idea of resentment is in my life. I begin to see how dangerous these wedges are between us and I begin to dwell in gratitude for the gifts the Lord has given people close to me, gifts that I directly benefit from when I am in Biblical community with these people.

I realize that I am not threatened by the gifts and grace given another. Ever.

Third – I confess this resentment as sin. It is not my brother’s problem that he is amazing, nor is it my sister’s. It is not Kelli’s problem that the Lord has moved her family to consider adoption. Those are all incredibly wonderful things. This junk in my head is my problem. And I need to confess it and fight it and choose to love the people around me that the Lord is blessing. I choose not to be a child stomping my foot because I didn’t get chosen first. I will not be that person. I was a child, but I am an adult now, and I will act like one. So I confess my sin and shame and ask the Lord to cleanse me of this nasty, awful sin of resentment. It is not okay to feel this way – and I will not allow it to continue.

Fourth – I trust the God who made me. He has given me gifts. He has made me who I am. He has breathed life in me for a purpose. And with a spirit of gratitude I need to thank Him for who I am, how I have been gifted, and the doors He has opened for me. I choose not to constantly have my hand out whining for more, or comparing myself to my brothers and sisters. I will walk with my head up because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I trust His heart that He has a reason for blessing me with some things and blessing others with different things. My perception of others being more remarkable than me is just that, my perception. There are likely things in me they find remarkable, and I am grateful. After all, we all have the same Spirit living inside of us who makes us remarkable.

Fifth – I get in community with remarkable people. I have had times in my life where I wanted to be friends with the “cool kids” – and that is not what I am talking about. Around each of us, in our spheres, are people who are incredible in a spiritual sense. They are wise and wonderful and listen to the Lord and follow His ways. Those are the people I need to be in community with. I don’t compete, I don’t resent, instead I get near them and I benefit. More and more I am convinced that Biblical community is the only way to grow in faith. So we have to get to know each other. Talk on the phone. Go to coffee. Jump into each other’s lives. Allow these people to speak into our lives (James 3:17). Let them help us process our junk.

Sixth – Fight the wedge. Watch for it, be sensitive, be prayerful, be vigilant, and no matter how we feel, don’t allow a wedge to be placed between us and another Believer. The wedge is a tactic of the enemy and our sinful hearts. It is there to divide us – and we are all one body. We cannot allow division. So we fight the wedge. Even the tiniest part of the wedge. Because once it is in there – it is not a big deal to slide it up until what divides us is overwhelming.

I always wonder if there is more to these stories than Jesus told – mostly because I like happy endings. So I always wonder if the older brother stomped off but maybe after a while, once he cooled off, maybe he came back around and sat at the head table with his brother and father and enjoyed the feast. Because I have realized it doesn’t hurt others when we are tangled up in resentment – it hurts us. The older brother was so mad at his younger brother that he stomped off and missed the party? How silly – I’m sure the party was a blast. We have to acknowledge that resentment, like unforgiveness, is a poison in our life and our soul first and foremost. And we have a choice – we can run off and dwell in resentment, away from our Father, or we can grow up, trust His heart, and join the party. Because that is what we do when we turn from resentment and spend time with the people the Lord has blessed – we get to join in the feast. And when we do – we realize that God is good and that life is sweeter in community with Him and others.

And on the deeper level of the parable – I am grateful for the even playing field only made possible by the cross of Christ. I would NEVER want a scenario where I have to earn the love or forgiveness of my Father because I would never be able to do it and I would be cut off from His grace for all eternity. The Bible says “There is none righteous” if we measure by our inherent righteousness. The Lord set it up in a merciful way – because of the blood of Christ, we who are in Christ whether for a moment, or an hour, or a lifetime ALL have access to His grace. I am so grateful for the Prodigal Son and the promise of salvation hidden between the lines of this story. The deeper message of this story is the same as the surface one – God is good and life is sweeter in community with Him and others.

Jessica the Brave

If you don’t know her and love her already, let me introduce my little sister, Jess.

Jess is 11 years younger than me – and she really is a walking miracle.  When we were little, my mom was very sick when she had my brother, so she was told it was not safe for her to have more children and her tubes were tied.  Joe and I didn’t know this – so we would pray for a brother or sister all of the time growing up.  When I was 11, the Lord answered our prayers and gave us our miracle little sister – my mom was one of the very small percentage of women whose tubes grew back after they were tied.  And I know it is silly, but it is true when I tell you that Jess, since conception, has been very special.

She is one of those people who is a light.  She is beautiful and wise beyond her years, compassionate, loving, joyful, sweet, humble, and loves the Lord with all of her heart. Although there is a huge age difference between us, she is my best friend.

In a month, Jess is leaving for a great adventure.  A 11-month mission trip to 11 countries.  You can follow her blog here.  The Lord has called her to it, provided a way for her to go, and she is following Him in obedience.  I am incredibly proud of her.  It is going to grow her and stretch her and change her in ways we can’t imagine.  I think it will be one of the absolute highlight years of her life.  On one hand I am very excited.  But what I think the Lord has showed me in recent days is that the way will probably also be difficult.  Eleven months.  Jess is kind of a homebody.  She loves her nieces and nephew and hates to go even weeks without seeing them.  Much will change in the eleven months she is gone.  And she isn’t going to resort locations – she is going to hard places throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.  She will see great suffering.  She will hold sweet orphans and then have to leave them.  I believe she will join in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His name and His glory.

I watched this amazing video from John Piper about suffering yesterday, and then I did a quick word study of the word “suffering” this morning.  It really is a privilege, if we can wrap our minds and hearts around it.  And it seems that suffering somehow unlocks a completely new and amazing level of intimacy with Christ.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:2-4

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:19-18

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:11-12

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

I am very proud of my sister.  She has sacrificed to do this – she has sold almost everything she owns and given it all to the Lord.  I know this year will be difficult.  She will suffer.  But she is going to have the privilege of living out, in small measure, the suffering of Christ.  And I know that through her sacrifice, the love and freedom of Christ will flow onto all of the precious people she comes into contact with.  Many of them will meet Him because of her sacrifice.  And I will, from here, be praying for her and try to join her in walking that suffering.  Because only in realizing that our treasure is in heaven and this world is not our home is true purpose in life and joy in Christ to be found.    And Jess is on the right path – she gets it and I am so blessed to be her sister, friend, and supporter.  She is, in leaving and following Christ, a greater model for my children than she ever could be staying here and playing with them everyday.  We will make sure they know what their aunt is doing and how important it is and how right it is, and maybe someday they will follow in her footsteps.

I respect my sister.  Though she is terrified, she is brave.  Although she is shy, she is bold.  Although she loves being at home, she is leaving to live in a tent for a year.  Although she is weak, He is strong.  This change in her is all because of Christ.  And that is beautiful.