Sunday, January 29, 2012

Multitudes on Mondays: Health and Fresh Food

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of decision making and paperwork and busyness. (Cleansing sigh) But that is quite alright. It all started with tons of paperwork for the adoption class. Then came conversations about possibly sending our oldest to private school next year instead of homeschooilng. Then I started obsessing over who we might adopt. I think the paperwork might have triggered some of this, but it might just be my obsessive nature. Some of the dynamics are changing with our current homeschooling. Then there were meals to be made for sick friends and friends with new babies. And this was all capped off with a 5K, which raised $7500 toward completing a community center/school in Haiti! All of those are good in their own way, but just a bit mentally and physically tiring. And all of those could be the topic of their own post, but they won't be today. (Although I may use this blog as a therapy session about the private school decision, which is still weighing very heavy on my heart.)

No, today, I want to tell you about food. This was also part of my mental and physical drain, but also a huge help in energizing me through all of this. I spent several hours (HOURS!) cooking one day last week. This is a big deal because I do not like to cook. I do not like being stuck in the kitchen for a long time. I do not like cleaning up the mess. I do not like that I labor and toil and usually burn and ruin our dish. I made a turkey this past Thanksgiving. I first bought the free range bird at our local health store, which was not cheap. I then thawed it in my fridge for days. I removed the neck and other nastiness from the cavity and then patted it dry. I stuffed it with herbs and veggies and basted it throughout the cooking. And I overcooked it. Yep. It was the driest turkey ever. Thank God for yummy cranberry sauce. But, I do like that I now get a box of organic produce every week. I love that I cook and labor and toil to give my family the best for their bodies and minds. I do like that my children are learning that food's main purpose is not to quench some craving or be some magical explosion of flavor but is to nourish. And I do like, o.k. love, the moments when something does turn out amazing and there is a magical explosion of flavor in every bite. I also love when my 4 year old exclaims, "We are having ______ for dinner! Thanks, mom!" And I love watching my 2 year old shovel down greens and beans and other food that I would have pitched a fit about eating. But even more than all of that, I love that my heavenly father has given me these things.

Have you realized that there is at least one "superfood" in each area of the world? The middle east has olives, South America has acaia berries and quinoa, North America has blueberries and sweet potatoes, Asia has shitake mushrooms and soybeans, and the list goes on. Our God is just amazing. And just think of all the intricacies that go into how our bodies are formed and function from conception on. We grow in our mother's womb without any need to breathe or eat. Our umbilical cord supplies all we need from nutrients to oxygen to waste secretion. And then the instant we are born part of that is blocked off and the lungs start working and breathing. Babies come out knowing how to be fed and new moms know how to feed and it is all so amazing. God is an amazing planner and provider. There is such harmony to His creation.

I am reading Leviticus right now. I am trying to do a "Read the Bible in a Year Plan", but I am currently moving at a snails pace. Instead of the 3-4 chapters that I'm supposed to be reading a day, I am reading 1-2 chapters every day or two or sometimes three. Leviticus is not an easy read. It has to be the most boring book in the bible. But, like my produce, it is good. It is spiritual nourishment. I do find it intriguing how God covered so many details about health. In Leviticus, health deals more with spiritual cleanliness, but it also deals with actual cleanliness. There were instructions about mold and rashes and food. Anything unclean had to get sent outside the city to get burned. They didn't know about bacterial or viral infections back then, but God did. He gave all these instructions about how to offer sacrifices, what animals to eat, how to wash before eating, how to discard mildewed items, etc. He was covering them with His laws.

But now, we do not have to live with those same guidelines. Peter had that vision in Acts 10: 10-16, where God tells him to eat animals that He had forbidden in Leviticus. Peter refuses and God replies, "What God has made clean, do not call common." So, there is something more important than simply bacteria and viruses. It all points to allowing God to provide and protect and lead. I have this theory. I think that when we obsess about food and health (or anything really) it becomes an idol, and that is obviously not good. But, if we utilize the things that God has provided for us, we might have fewer stumbling blocks. Our bodies and minds and even emotions will have the nutrients they need to be more stable so that we are able to focus more on Him without distractions. Health certainly should not be some legalistic thought process, but maybe if we take in what God has provided, then we will be able to live longer, fuller lives. I mean, we never get things quite right. Look at baby formula. We study breast milk and try so hard to come up with a formula that is scientifically equal to breast milk, but we can't. God's knowledge is so vast and so amazing and so sufficient. And I am so grateful for all that He provides me with - even when it requires more time in the kitchen. :)

Ok, here are some of the gifts I've noticed from Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare:
79. Dinner with old and new friends
80. Cooking fresh, healthy food for friends
81. Great conversations about all the many changes
82. Stuart winning 2nd place in his category!
83. My sweet mama friend cherishing her 2nd little bundle of joy - so confident and precious.
84. Friends who take my 10 year old for the afternoon so he can play with peers - even when they must be so tired.
85. Sweet worship time - praising Jesus
86. Encouraging words from and to my new Shalom friend
87. Boys listening, tempers subsiding, birthday celebrated

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Conversation with My Love

This is just a snippet of why I love being married to my husband:

On the way home from adoption class tonight, Jon and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Jon:  We have a ton of paperwork to fill out, but it's not that big of a deal when you look at the reward.
Me:  Yeah, this is our work time - kinda like pregnancy and labor. haha
Jon:  Yes, I know all about that. I've been through it three times.
Me:  I hope you have kidney stones one day so that comment can be true.
Jon:  laughs

Now, I just have to say that I really don't wish kidney stones on him. I just wanted to make a point. Plus, that silly banter is common between us. I just love how we can joke with each other and not take everything so seriously. It took a little bit for us to get used to each other. He has a unique sense of humor, which has helped through 3 labors and, most recently, a Sunday afternoon jog. He makes me laugh more than anyone else and I adore him. I should also add that he is such a calming influence in my life. I had my weekly anxieties about where bedrooms will go and how much work we need to do on our home and how we have no budget for any of this, and he just calmly put that all into perspective. I am blessed!

Me and Jon this summer in Washington DC. Love him!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Multitudes on Mondays

I'm calling this "Multitudes on Mondays" because that is what Ann Voskamp calls her list of gifts, which she posts on Mondays. And since I am posting these to both encourage you with the things God is doing in my life and to pay homage to Ann Voskamp because of the impact her book had on me, I thought I'd call mine the same thing.

But, before sharing my gifts this week, I want to share a revelation I've had because I am most thankful right now for the ways God is drawing me closer to Him and teaching me about Him. I think I need to start with a little background, though. I was at the lowest point I have ever been about 5 1/2 years ago. I had miscarried our 2nd child (our first was 5 at this time) and had major anxiety that developed as a ripple effect from the miscarriage. The anxiety soon turned to suicidal thoughts, but I desperately wanted to get through all of it. It was just that the anxiety was so severe that I just wanted it all to stop. At my lowest, I cried out to Christ, and He did intervene, but there was still so much healing to be done. Soon after this, our church broke up, so my support system was dismantled. I searched for years for something to help me grow closer to Christ. I wanted some person or some event or some thing to help me to get past the big wall blocking my relationship with Him. See, part of the anxiety stemmed from a lack of trust in who God was. During this time, my husband was also constantly seeking God's will for his life. He felt uncertain about career choices and how to fit certain passions he had into his life. He wanted more. But I recently began to realize something. We spent all of that time trying to feel better about life. We were searching for something to give us contentment and to make life better. And we were making everything all about us. The problem was that Christian faith is not about me or even about you. It is about Christ. I've mentioned similar things in previous posts, but there's more. 

After reading a few different books and learning who God actually is as opposed to who I thought He was, I began to desire to read God's word more. I finally started a bible in a year plan this past November. I chose to read it chronologically, which of course starts with the Old Testament. The Old Testament, for those of you who maybe stay away from it like I did, is not all sweet and pretty; it's a roller coaster ride. It is full of death and destruction and hope and promises and anger and wrath. As I started reading it, I realized that I was going to have to make a choice. I was either going to have to come to terms with the fact that God is not really all good or I was going to have to embrace how just and perfect He is and how evil humanity is. (I opted for the 2nd choice, which was aided by another book I've been reading called Radical by David Platt.) I also realized that there is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament. Well, at least throughout Genesis, Job, and Exodus. (I'm almost to Leviticus.) God being glorified is the greatest purpose. He doesn't bless Abraham just for Abraham's own good. Sure, Abraham was loved by God and benefited, but God blesses Abraham so that all peoples on earth will be blessed through him. He picks Abraham for no particular reason (that I could tell) and chooses to use him to reveal God's glory. And then when God rescues His people out of Egypt, He hardens Pharaoh's heart so that God would gain glory for Himself and so that the Egyptians would know that He is Lord. And gosh, look at Job. Job suffers in every imaginable way just so God can show His glory and prove a point to Satan. If God was a human, He would be arrogant and well, evil. But He is not. He is a perfect God who is the creator of everything, who is merciful and loves perfectly and judges justly. And the greatest good is for His glory to be revealed to all of creation. 

So, when we come to know Christ and as we try to find meaning in this life, we either do so in accordance with His plan, which is to reveal His glory to the earth, or to our own individual plans, which usually revolve around our own desires. I think, too many times, our Americanized view of Christ is that all of what He's done is simply for us when it is actually for His glory. Yes, He loves us. Yes, He has taken away our sins. Yes, we are blessed immensely. Yes, He has pursued you and me. But it is not just for our own good. It is for the good of the whole earth. See, God's grace does not only give us salvation; His grace transforms us so that we can go and make disciples of all nations. So, if we want to truly find contentment and purpose and godliness in this life, we have to think less of ourselves and more of others. Isn't that a funny paradigm? To be internally joyful, we need to give externally. To find happiness in a loveless marriage, we need to show love to our spouse. To find joy in parenting difficult children, we need to show them unconditional love and acceptance. To find peace in a tiring, thankless job, we need to serve those we work for and with and offer them more of ourselves. 

All that time my husband and I spent trying to find contentment was wasted in thinking about ourselves. And once we started thinking about others and partnering up with God's mission, things started falling into place. Now, this is just the beginning of trying to live a truly selfless life, so my prayer is that this will remain true for us and that we will stay steadfast to God's plans. As our pastor mentioned today, it has to be a daily choice to partner with Him. I will be praying that all Christians will jump over the daily hurdles and choose to follow Christ and give externally so that He may be glorified. Will you join me in my prayer? 

And here are some of the reasons why I want to give God all the glory (Remember, you can see January's Joy Dare by clicking here, which will also help you follow along with my list):
The 12th - 34. Crisp, blue Florida sky
                 35. A paved path around the lake, good for perfect morning runs with a sweet friend.
                 36. My bible on my table next to my chair in my bedroom all set up by my hubby for my bedtime     
                      bible reading.
The 13th - 37. The 10 year old telling story after story while washing dishes.
                 38. Sweet Mrs. V telling my 4 year old how much she loves him.
                 39. My 2 year old laughing on the swing.
The 14th - 40. True remorse and apologies from my 4 year old
                 41. Realizing that it is all about God's glory while listening to Kari Jobe sing "Revelation Song"   
                      just like the angels. 
                42. Watching my 10 year old act so mature while spending an amazing evening with just him. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Here we are."

I'm noticing some ripple effects from Jon's trip to Haiti. They are little things that could be easy to miss, but I'm trying to pay attention to the little things during this hectic time in our lives. The biggest little thing is that we haven't argued since Jon got home. Not once. I think I've gotten frustrated at something not being picked up once or twice and did my cleansing sigh, but that's been it. But it doesn't stop there. There are more hugs and cuddles and kisses these days. There's less complaining and exhaustion and more embracing this life and these boys - even in the moments that are hard and when we feel lost.

I didn't expect all of this. I thought he'd come back and we'd continue to pull up our boot straps and get to the work that God's called us to. We have adoption classes and are now committing to church on Wednesday nights and we desperately want to see the boys at the foster home once a week. But with that trip came some perspective and some faith that we as a married couple have never experienced. And I didn't even experience it first hand. But Jon has this way of communicating with his eyes. He is reflective and doesn't over react and is very steadfast. So, when he tells stories about the women bringing water so that they - the Americans - can flush a toilet, or about the guy with the bone disease sharing Christ with him, the one who came to share Christ, or about pouring sanitizer on another guy's open wound who doesn't react to the sting of that, or about the kids in the city playing in filth, then I feel like I'm there and that I can feel the weight of it. He misses them and can't wait to go back and I can feel his loss.

And so now I'm finding joy in our every day because we have begun to realize - to really realize with our hearts and our habits and our emotions, not just our heads - that life is much more than the here and now and the chaos and the desire for perfect parenting and a tidy home and constant integrity at work. And Jon is coming home from work eager to get back to what's real and important. Of course his job is important. It is the means by which we eat and have shelter and can give to others. But it's only important on a temporal level. He's now eager to get back to the things of eternity. He lights up when he sees the boys and is more patient in his discipline. No matter how tired he is from his hectic days at work, he wants to be present and to get back to the simple things that matter most. I keep thinking that this contentment won't last. It never does. But part of me knows that there's been a real shift. We are walking on holy ground. Just like Moses, who was just doing life and tending sheep, we were just fumbling our way through this life. But God showed up and His presence made this place holy. And then He spoke, and all we did was say, "Here we are." And He's taking us, who are ill equipped and ill prepared and full of doubt, to be a part of His plans.

Jon and I are easily tempted to try to take the reigns again. We started trying to strategize about ministry. But God whispered, "Just be there." We started to question and wonder what strengths we have and what we should try to focus on as we move forward with certain plans. But God whispered, "Just have a willing heart." I know we will mess up, like Moses did. And I doubt that we will be remembered like Moses or be a part of something as huge as Moses was. But that doesn't matter. It just matters that we are privileged to be a part of what God is doing. It matters that I have been able to speak truth to my 10 year old and watch his heart soften in those moments. It matters that I have been able to fill my 4 year old with confidence and self worth. It matters that I have been able to set good boundaries for my 2 year old while still embracing the remnants of babihood that's left. It matters that Jon was able to look into the eyes of those Haitian men and call them a friend. But mostly it matters that we have learned to say "Here we are, Lord."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Adoption Journey Begins!

We had our first adoption class last night. Well, it was technically orientation. We are going into all of this so blindly. There were so many forms to fill out. Do you have excessive debt? Um, can we talk about this one later? What kind of dog do you own? A very sweet pit bull. How many extra beds do you have? None. Give the names and social security numbers of everyone living in your home. Oiy! Yes, this is all definitely blind faith. Sometimes I am tempted to say, no, now is not a good time. We have about nothing in savings and don't really know how we pay our bills some months. We don't technically have the room for another child, but have ideas on some possibilities to fit in another child or two if we can just save some money to pay for that. I'm fine with not having much and learning how to get creative to pay the bills. I enjoy not having cable. I love giving to the charities we give to faithfully and holding everything else loosely. I love that my kids love their dog (even though her stinkiness and stubborn disposition drive me a little nuts most days.) I think it's character building to tell my kids that we can't have certain things because it is not in our budget. I am pretty open with our finances, so they know that we spend about half of our grocery budget on fresh organic fruits and veggies so that they will be healthy and that we live on a tight budget so that I can stay home and home school them. Well, maybe the 10 year old knows that. The little ones don't care if we go to the park or to the place that costs money, but they'll get the picture one day. But when you try to explain all of this on a form that asks specific questions, is easy to doubt and to just wait until all is in order. I have to remind myself that God's word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (psalm 119). He sometime reveals just enough for me to take the next step. All I need to do is follow Him and trust that He will guide (as if that's so easy for a control freak like myself). It may not be the easiest path that He takes me on, but it will be the best one. I am about to research how to install dry wall. Yes, this is all so character building!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Joy Dare

"Isn’t that what Aristotle said– 'We are what we repeatedly do.'
Then Christianity isn’t an act — but our faith is expressed only in our habits.
A habit of not complaining, but the habit of giving thanks; the habit of not worrying, but a habit worshiping. The habit of repeatedly giving God praise that our lives might become a prayer. Small is always the leverage of large. It’s one moment after the other, the small moments that turn a life. It’s the small actions that can change a life.
It’s habits that can imprison you and it’s habits that can free you and when thanks to God becomes a habit, so joy in God becomes your life.
Maybe a life needs change over and over again — that constant turning to God? Not so much resolutions but revolutions.
And in this keeping habit of keeping a gratitude list?"

And this is how Ann Voskamp lures me in - with these words and these questions and these ideas. She goes on to talk about starting her list of 1000 gifts all over again. She wrote out over 2000 gifts already, but she's starting over at 1. Why? Because it is life changing when you learn to give Christ all the praise and make Christianity about Christ. If you haven't read her book, One Thousand Gifts, you should! It is transforming! But at the very least, I'd like to encourage you to look around you and start writing down the gifts that God has given you. When you keep tabs of Gods gifts and thank Him for them, then amazing things can happen. Ann talks about the things she learned as she went through that process of searching for God's blessings and learning to live a life of gratitude. And I can vouch for her assessment. My faith has grown so much after I started to take the time each day to reflect on the things that God has blessed me with. My pity parties did not happen nearly as often, and the ones that I did have were much shorter. My faith in God increased exponentially. My understanding of God increased exponentially. And I've started to make my faith less about me and more about God. Isn't that who we are supposed to honor and glorify? There are some options for making your lists of gifts. In her book, Ann shared that she would keep paper with her throughout the day and when she'd notice something that was a gift from God - a bird singing, children playing, a full moon, whatever - she'd write it down. I tried that, but would forget my paper, so I started spending time every night before going to bed reflecting on my day and would write down my gifts then. Another thing you can do is to look for specific gifts. On her blog, Ann included a Joy Dare where she listed things to search for every day. The idea is to search for God's gifts, to expect to see God's glory. You can print that out here. I'm going to do my best to share with you some of the blessings in my life every Monday. Mine will be from Ann's Joy Dare, so feel free to compare my gifts with her dare if your curious. I would love to hear some of the gifts God has given you!

1. A heart that aches for others
2. A passion for my children
3. Transparency
4. Cool days perfect for playing on swing sets
5. My husband home and safe and transformed
6. Grandma's fruitcake
7. "You have loved us, so we love all"
8. "Thank you for daily bread, through us fill the empty"
9. "All is Grace"
10. A bed good for warm, cuddly children
11. Warm cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast
12. Clear, blue skies
13. Radical and all the truth that I've learned so far
14. Easy brown rice with tuna and peas that got gobbled up and enjoyed.
15. My sweet friend and her sweet girls
16.Burt's Bees Chapstick
17. Leftover chocolate candies
18. One more year of my beautiful sister's life.
19. A husband who runs slow and stops often with me.
20. In-laws who are available
21. Hugs hello from my boys
22. Sunny days for walks with sweet women and boys
23. Energy even when there are bags under my eyes

24. Shadow puppets with the 2 year old

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Isaiah 53: 3-6

My husband came back from Haiti last Saturday, just in time for us to celebrate the New Year together. I am smiling while writing this because rolling in the New Year together is not much of a tradition for us. We usually cuddle up on the couch and then quickly turn the channel to watch the ball drop - if we are still awake. And we also do not usually make resolutions, but we somewhat did the next morning. There was a newness to this New Year. Maybe there was more of a newness to our family. This New Year's Eve, my husband and I cuddled up on the couch and looked at pictures from his trip to Haiti while he told me stories about his trip. He told me how exhausting it was to work as long and as hard as they did, but how proud he was that they completed their goals. He also told me about the people he met. There was a guy who acted as a guard at night and then helped to build the community center during the day. Jon wasn't sure if or when he slept. He told me about meeting our sweet Maceline, the girl who we've been sponsoring. He said she was quiet and shy and so sweet. He thinks that she does not have 10 other siblings like we originally thought, but maybe other relatives living with them, which makes me even more amazed at her mama. He also told me about this kid he met, who looked around 13 but is actually 18. He could not finish school because he did not pass a test and did not have the money to retake it. He was always there to help work and was never looking for a hand out. Jon decided that we would sponsor his education as well. He told me how the women and some of the children would walk 4 miles down a mountain to get water and then bring it back on their heads - for them! He told me how easy it was to feel loved and accepted by the team and the people in the Chaufford community. They all worked together so well and appreciated each other so much. There were so many more stories that would take way too long to type now, but all of them were so heartwarming. We still turned on the tv to watch the ball drop and then gave each other our midnight kiss. However, the next morning, things were a little different. After breakfast, Jon talked to the kids about his trip a little. He read some scripture and then we talked about what we could do to grow closer to Christ this year. We agreed to read the bible more, pray more, be more loving and patient with each other, and to try to find ways to minister to others outside of our home. Our 10 year old came up with most of those.What a beautiful start to the new year!

 We then listened to a sermon. It was on Isaiah 53: 3-6.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.

What a passage. That really puts things into perspective a week after Christmas. The pastor went on to explain how Jesus' suffering brought healing to the whole world and that Jesus asks us to suffer like Him and to serve like Him. Yes, that is the whole meaning of Christmas, isn't it? The manger points us to the cross. Jesus took on our sin and our transgressions so that we may be healed. He then calls us to be servants like Him, who are willing to suffer for His causes. The pastor goes on to say that we are invited to become a people of God and to suffer for Christ in ways that we've never thought of before. I was a little tired at this point in the sermon after our late night of pictures and stories, but I fought to pay attention and to listen to the ways that God is calling me to be more like Him. I know how desperately I want and need to be like Him. So, the ways the pastor says we might suffer are to use our ten year old car for another year so that we can save money and give to the poor or visit a sick friend, but if we don't have time to visit, then email or text or something to let them know that we are thinking of them. Another way we are told to suffer is to invite a divorced friend over for wine or to a show instead of always doing things with other couples. Smiling at the cashier at the store might be another way to be more Christlike. Hmm, I don't know that I would call these things suffering. The pastor went on to say that these things are not spectacular, nothing like what was required for the Jews in Babylon or the Bonhoeffers in Germany, but that is not where God has placed us. God has us where He has us and we should be healers to the people in our lives. I have to say, I was a little disappointed at this take on what it means to suffer for Christ. I wonder if maybe God has placed us in similar places as the Jews in Babylon and the Bonhoeffers in Germany, but maybe we don't acknowledge it. Maybe if we just look past our day to day, we can see the suffering that so many people are feeling and that we are called to step into.

Now, I do not want to come across judgmental, it's just that when I read those verses about how Christ was pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities, I felt stirred to do more than simply keep my old car for another year. Aren't we called to do more? And aren't we promised more? Matthew 5: 46 - 48 says, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." It doesn't take knowing Christ or understanding the cross to be nice or generous. Even the pagans and tax collectors do that. There is more to being a Christian than that. Look at verse 48. It says to be perfect. What? How? That cannot possibly be the difference in how a Christian acts. I for one am nowhere close to being perfect. But in Luke 11: 11-13, Christ says,  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” That is how we reach perfection (or get as close as is earthly possible). We accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. See, Christ does not call us to be servants and to suffer because He would like to burden us. He is not sitting in heaven laughing at how miserably we fail at perfection. He invites us to experience His presence in fullness by calling on the Holy Spirit! He has given us the gift that keeps giving, the well that never runs dry! When we look at the cross and all He did for us and then respond to that with a deep desire to serve Him, then He pours out His blessings

But the thing is, we probably don't even realize what the cross is all about. I'm not sure that I fully grasp it. He wasn't just physically crushed for our transgressions. He was not sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane because of the physical pain that He was going to incur. No, it was much more than that. He was spiritually crushed for our transgressions. He took on the wrath of God that we (as in all humankind for all eternity) deserve for our sins. The only way that I can stand justified before God is because of Christ. So why is it that we are content to take that knowledge and to just try to be a good person? Isn't that short sighted? If we truly accept what Christ has done for us and understand how much we need Him and how much He wants to bless us, why do we settle? I don't think we take the time to stop and think of what our lives could be. I think we get sucked into our routines and so often slip into survival mode and don't realize how much more there could be to this life.

We are invited to become a people of God. Throughout the bible and all of history, God takes the weak and the lowly and the unlikely and He uses them to reveal His glory. When we die to ourselves, we give ourselves the opportunity to be a part of God's glory being revealed. This sounds like cliche' Christian talk, but it's so much more than that. We can partner with Christ in the work that He is doing. That doesn't mean that we have to go to Haiti or quit our jobs. But it does mean that we have to die to ourselves. When Christ called people to follow him, he told them to do so wholeheartedly. He told one person not to go back and bury his dad. He told another not to go and say good bye to his family. He wants our undivided devotion. He wants all of us. We are only healed when we die to ourselves and cling to Christ. See, God does have us in the same place as He had the Jews in Babylon and in the same place as he had Bonhoeffer in Germany. He has us in the place of utter dependence on Him. And through that dependence, we will see ways to heal others. As I work my way through the bible, I am realizing that to partner with God means to let God use you to do the impossible. It means that when our cushy but tiring, American life feels too full to do something radical, God will open the doors for you to do His will if you seek Him. Let me give some different examples of how we might suffer for Christ. You might see a homeless guy trying to stay warm on a bench and feel prompted to take your last $20 before payday and buy him a blanket and dinner. Suffering might look like taking your only week vacation and using it to go minister to a single mom by doing some home repairs for her. Suffering might look like losing a night or two of sleep to make some meals for a family who has lost a family member - or gained one. Suffering for Christ requires seeking God and doing the things that are impossible in our own strength. And really these things are not "suffering" either, not when you put them next to the example of suffering and serving that Christ gave us. If we look outside of our normal day to day existence that is not spectacular, we will see how dire our world is and what God is calling us to do, and that will be spectacular. We will have the amazing privilege of bringing others healing and peace. I'm going to leave you with a few sentences from David Platt's book, Radical, because he has a better way with words than I do. Enjoy!
"Would you say that your life is marked right now by desperation for the Spirit of God? . . . The power of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us and as a result we have no need to muster up our own might. Our great need is to fall before an almighty Father day and night and to plead for him to show his radical power in and through us, enabling us to accomplish for his glory what we could never imagine in our own strength. And when we do this, we will discover that we were created for a purpose much greater than ourselves, the kind of purpose that can only be accomplished in the power of his Spirit."