Beauty For Ashes Uganda Update


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Ok, friends! I just chatted with Brandi to get updated numbers and info for the gift bags for the mamas in Orobai village. Brandi is headed to Uganda next month with Beauty for Ashes Uganda and they will be hand delivering our gifts!

These are going to the mamas you’ve supported the last couple of years with mosquito nets, cows, chickens, tuition for their kiddos to go to school… Now we have the chance to send them small gifts and words of encouragement!

There are 34 mamas in our village now, so we need 3 dozen of several things:
Travel sized hygiene items (many of you have already been collecting these)
Boxes of pencils
Deodorant
Pictures of family with notes of encouragement
Candy (dum-drums, other hard candy)
Any other small items that will fit into a small gift bag (a paper lunch sized bag)

You can bring things to church, message me about meeting up some time, or you can make a monetary donation and we’ll go buy things. It would be great if we could collect enough to help provide for mamas in other villages as well!

Message me with any questions, and thanks in advance for your support!

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A Cry For Justice: Domestic Abuse and the Church


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A blog site addressing domestic abuse and the response of the church has picked up my series of posts about boundaries and healthy relationships.

If you have experienced domestic abuse of any form (physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological), you will find a safe haven of support there.

If you work in the church, I would encourage you to check out their posts and learn more about domestic abuse and how we can be a voice of support for women who are suffering in silence.

As always, there are points on which I would engage them in further discussion concerning the strength of their arguments against those with whom they disagree, but I appreciate and support their courage for talking about an issue that has been kept covered up in the church for much too long.

The church should be a safe haven for the hurting, and place to seek the Christ who cleans our wounds and heals our messy hearts. The ultimate goal of A Cry for Justice is to both offer support for those facing abuse and equipping for those in ministry to provide support in the church for them.

Check out their work and join the conversation!

Why Human Trafficking?


Several people have asked me recently why I have become so involved in the cause to educate people about human trafficking and the overwhelming need to shine a Light of hope into an incredibly dark and scary part of the world in which we live.

The answer is relatively simple:

I watched a PBS documentary called Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I read the book. I met people right here in my hometown who were involved in rescuing people from trafficking. I heard and saw the stories of those caught in this nightmare of hopelessness, and I thought, “How can I not be involved? How can I not speak out?”

As a believer, I prayed God would send me like minded believers to work with. A friend began posting on Facebook about a group in India that was involved in raids and rescues of young girls from brothels in India. The same friend then introduced me to Brandi McElheny, the founder of She’s Worth It. One day, Brandi shared her “crazy idea” for the She’s Worth It Campaign with us on Facebook, and a group of us were crazy enough to believe God could work through a rag-tag group of men and women to change the world.

The video below is painful to watch (it is not associated with Half the Sky or She’s Worth It, but the info is accurate and powerful), but it’s reality, everyday, for the children who are being filmed by an undercover camera crew. Everyday, people around the world risk their lives to go into brothels to gather evidence like this so that raids and rescues can take place.

I would ask that you watch this and, painful as it is, let this reality become a part of your reality. We believe that Christ came to set captives free, that He commanded us to seek justice and to care for widows and orphans. If you watch this video and are not compelled to act, I would ask you to check your heart and your claim to both love and obey the One who purchased your freedom with His life. Watch and then act, with your prayers, with your time, and with your money. To donate, go here.

What about the Isaiah 54 Woman?


1 “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. 4 “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5 For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. ~Isaiah 54

Christmas Eve 2012 was about as perfect as a Christmas Eve could be.

I spent the morning doing homework at a coffeehouse I have frequented since high school.

I went to Go Fish and had a blast at work chatting with and wrapping for a host of delightful last minute holiday shoppers.

I attended the Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols at Covenant Presbyterian Church and was so proud of my dad as he participated in the service for the first time. I saw my high school basketball coach and his daughter, a precious former teammate and old friend, and met her husband and two little girls and marveled at how time has flown.

My parents and sisters and I continued our Christmas Eve tradition of fine dining at a local Waffle House. Nothing beats the conversation and the people watching at a Waffle House on Christmas Eve.

After hanging out with them for a while longer, Val and I went to Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s Episcopal downtown. For this Southern Baptist girl who grew up in a country church at which farmers often had to leave the service because their pigs had escaped and followed them to church, there is a richness and unity in the liturgical service that I am drawn to every year. I saw two more of my dearest old friends from high school and spent a few precious moments catching up with them.

When I arrived home around 1:30 Christmas morning, I had a full and worshipful heart. I had spent the evening singing praises and hymns of deep and rich theology (Have you ever actually read the words of most Christmas carols?), and I could not wait for the next morning, to hear my dad read the Christmas story from Luke 2, to watch my niece and nephew open their gifts and then to enjoy one my favorite Mason family traditions– the Christmas Seafood Feast.

I made an unscheduled stop at my grandmother’s house that morning, and while she couldn’t remember our names, she remembered that my cousin and I were her oldest and youngest “grands” and, according to my standards, that meant she was having a good enough day to get her out of the house, so, after a bit of protesting from her and convincing from us, we brought her to Christmas at our house

Things occurred just as expected, with the exception of my dad cutting lunch short so the grandkids could start opening presents. That was amusing.

Life was as Americana perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting. Until about 4:00 pm. That was when my brothers, their very pregnant wives, and their precocious precious toddlers left, headed out to other families and other activities.

And I was standing alone in my parents’ front yard.

And that’s when the dark cloud of mental assault hit me. What was I going to do the rest of the evening? Read? Research? Further my education and theological training? Rebel against looming due dates and go see a movie? Go home and continue the unexpected and rushed packing job I am doing?

I tried fighting the impending feeling of loneliness and loserness by throwing myself into Isaiah 54 mode. The Proverbs 31 women had left with their families, but the barren woman was going to sing for joy while I furthered the work of enlarging my tent and raising my spiritual children.

But there was no joyous song in my heart.

So many things have been written in the last couple of years about liberating women from the unrealistic expectation of being the Proverbs 31 woman, about releasing wives and moms everywhere from the unattainable standard of this perfect wife.

But as I stood in my parents’ yard, forcing a smile and silly waves and throwing and catching kisses with my babies, I was pitching a toddler sized fit in my head, with myself and with God. The grass is always greener on the other side, and at that moment, I would have traded my Isaiah 54 for some Proverbs 31 a thousand times over.

The deceptive, depressing thoughts came flooding:

“Must be nice to go with your own family to celebrate more. Too bad you’ll never have a family of your own.”

“Keep doing that research and earning those degrees and publishing your work. It’ll keep you busy, but it’ll never be anyone’s pride and joy like those grandbabies your brothers keep producing.”
I chided myself: “How dare you not be content in your singleness! Spiritual offspring is an eternal matter and counts much more than biological offspring. The love of Christ is better than the love of man. It’s better to be single and serve the Lord. Is being in the ideal position to do what you’ve been called to do not good enough for you?”

As I fought back tears and the physical feeling of being kicked in the stomach, I thought, “No, I don’t want to be the Isaiah 54 woman. Right now I want a husband to help and love and minister alongside, and I want kids to love and train and disciple. I don’t want to read 5,000 pages of school work or finish an overdue thesis proposal, or raise money to save families in Uganda, or prepare lesson plans for units coming up at school. I don’t want to ‘enlarge the place of my tent’ or ‘stretch my tent curtains wide.’ I’ve opened myself up to the vulnerability of ministry, and it’s a pain I don’t want anymore.

I don’t want to be the Isaiah 54 woman right now.”

As I pitched my hissy fit, I decided to go for a run to clear my head and adjust my attitude, to keep my body busy while my heart and mind had it out with God.

While I was running, three Scriptures were impressed upon my heart: one was a prayer for an old friend, but two were for me. The first was the “dare” God first placed in my heart when I completely surrendered my life to Him:

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8

It’s a passage God brings to mind every time I doubt His direction or ask myself what in the world I am doing with my life. He reminds me, “Just try me. Trust me again and I will not fail you again.”

The third passage has become a life verse of sorts for me. When God dared me to try Him and I did, this verse became my response to His faithfulness.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3

I have tasted the world, and it was bitter.

I have tasted the Lord and His way is better. Better than life. Better than anything in this life.

I had forgotten, ever so briefly, those two truths: God offers Himself to us fully, because He knows there’s nothing in this world that will satisfy us like Him.

So what of the Isaiah 54 woman?

Does she need to be liberated?

Only from the deception that we are to be the dutiful Stepford wife of Christ.

I share this not as a pitch for sympathy or encouragement (because the thoughts were taken captive, made obedient and the moment has passed), but because I know I can’t the only single girl out that there that sometimes has this moment and just needs to know it’s ok to have those times when you’re not ok with being single.

Be like the Psalmists; cry out in desperation. Express your frustrations and your selfish desires. Have a spiritual hissy fit.

But keep being like the Psalmist and renew your mind with the Truth of his Word and faithfulness.

Being an Isaiah 54 woman is reason to sing for joy, and sing I will, even on the days my heart deceives me, even for a moment, into thinking there is anything, at least in this season of my life, that is better for me in this life.

How Do We Establish Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?


Boundaries define who you are and who you are not.

Boundaries often provide unhealthy individuals guidelines for change.

So how do we evaluate progress in setting boundaries?

Here are 17 questions you can ask yourself. In some of these areas you may find you are strong, and in some areas you may need to work toward developing and strengthening for protecting your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

  1. Am I able to say no to an unhealthy request?
  2. Am I able to understand that my happiness does not depend on other people?
  3. Do I find myself continually involved with people who end up hurting me?
  4. Can I choose individuals whom I can trust?
  5. Do I consider my opinion to be as important as others?
  6. Do people take or use things of mine without my permission?
  7. Can I ask other people for what I want or need, or do I fear making these request?
  8. Do I go along with other individuals, rather than voicing my desires?
  9. Do I feel proud of being an individual with unique qualities?
  10. Do I really believe I was created in God’s image?
  11. Have I found the balance between helping others and meeting my own needs?
  12. Am I able to determine what I think and what I believe?
  13. Am I able to make effective decisions?
  14. Am I able to get out of a relationship that continues to hurt me?
  15. Am I able to stay out of other people’s problems?
  16. Can I separate my own feelings and thoughts from others?
  17. Do I grasp that I am not responsible for other people’s behaviors and feelings?

Developing healthy boundaries may be a new venture for you and is likely to be a challenge. The checklist we just covered hopefully will help you become aware of some areas in your life in which you need to establish or strengthen boundaries that are needed in your life.

Don’t become discouraged–you can develop skills that will help you honor and protect what belongs to God. Developing these skills will have a huge impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

So I say to each of you, God bless you as you continue toward improving your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Scripture offers safety –you are safe in the cleft of the rock which is God.

The Psalmist uses the imagery of protection in the word rock, in fact it is referred to 24 times.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliver: My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge—He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2, MSG

References

Cloud, H. &  Townsend, J. (1995). Safe People: How to find relationship that are good for you
    and avoid those that aren’t. Michigan: Zondervan.
Hawkins, D.,(2007). Dealing with the crazy makers in your life; Setting boundaries on unhealthy relationships. Oregon:  Harvest House Publishers.
Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publisher, 2004. Print
The Message. Colorado: NavPress, 2006. Print

Identifying Goats, Part Three


8. “Goats” have a negative versus positive attitude. Their glass is half empty.

From the old TV program Hee Haw:
Gloom despair and agony on me deep dark depression excessive misery. If weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all.

Gloom despair and agony on me.  The theme song for some people’s lives. They have allowed this tape to play over and over again in their head until it’s all they see or believe.  They desperately need you to manage their lives, to make them happy, to fix their problems, to be miserable when they are miserable—-they need you, without qualification or reservation—- over and over again. Sensing their need and not wanting them to be miserable, we rush to their side. We cannot fail to be influenced, whether for better or worse, by the people we choose to be a part of our lives. If constant drama and trauma and pain are a part of a friend’s life, and they expect you to experience each one with them without seeking a way to break the pattern, you will become exhausted and your own attitude and spiritual well-being will be affected.
Good company builds up our hearts.

Good company encourages us to step outside the box.

Good company is not threatened by our success.

In reality, healthy individuals help us to progress toward Christlikeness.

As you spend time with individuals, deciding whether or not the relationship will be good for you, you have to remember it takes time, objectiveness, seeking counsel from your friends who are spiritually grounded, to determine the health of a relationship. Sometimes it even means you may lose the relationship.

Take inventory of your relationships:

  1. Am I more loving since entering into this relationship or becoming more detached from family and friends?
  2. Am I more honest, or am I becoming compliant?
  3. Am I more forgiving or more idealistic, overlooking faults and concerns?
  4. Am I maturing or regressing?
  5. Whose needs are being met?

9. Unsafe people gossip instead of protecting your confidentiality.

There is nothing more painful or hurtful than having our most trusted information betrayed by someone to whom we had entrusted ourselves. In my counseling practice I have seen individuals who are incredibly wounded because someone violated their confidentiality or trust. The wounds are deep, often leaving permanent scars.

A gadabout gossip cannot be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity will not violate a confidence.” Proverbs 11:13, MSG
Mean people spread mean gossip, their words smart and burn.” Proverbs 16:28, MSG

10.Unhealthy people are highly self-centered and self-obsessed.

They have an “ I versus We” perspective on life.

They see or hear no one else.

They are bad listeners and give little no consideration to what others have to say.

They are inconsiderate and have little compassion.

They will cut off conversations and bring the focus back on themselves.

It becomes their earnest desire to be seen and heard more than anyone else, making them oblivious to the opinions, suggestions, and advice of others.

Any conversation they participate in either pertains to them or eventually turns back to them.

They view others as a means to get what they want.

They have a tunnel vision which starts from and leads back to them.

They are driven by the fear of losing control.

Last, they tend to be moody and unpredictable.

They may be nice one minute and the next minute explosive.

The ten characteristics described in the previous posts are just a few of the unhealthy types of people we encounter on a daily basis. Whether or not we choose to enter into, or continue in, relationships with people who live within these patterns is a determining factor in our own mental, spiritual, and even physical health. In our next post, we will look at why healthy boundaries in relationships are so important to our own health.

The Protecting Shadow of Jesus


I read a student essay today that I wanted to share with you all.

The question was: “With which anonymous person in John 7-9 do you relate most and how does this specific story fulfill John’s purpose for writing as stated in John 20:30-31?”

A basic “reflect and let me see you get it” essay. I wasn’t expecting anything too terribly profound. Then I read this.

I hope that, when I grow up, I love Jesus half as much as this 9th grader. She chose to write about the woman caught in adultery:

“I relate to her because I’ve been caught sinning, maybe not as publicly, but I know the humiliation. I also know the feeling of Jesus’ shadow over me, protecting me and standing between me and my accuser. It doesn’t make the situation any less humiliating, but it does help me realize that I don’t need man’s approval because I have a Savior that will back me up every time.”

God has me “teaching” these kids b/c I have SO MUCH to learn from them. What a beautiful description of our Savior.