They're Listening

I've not been the best version of myself lately. I've been grumpy with no particular reason to be. I've snapped at my kids and just been plain ole yuk! Last night I was feeling a little better and Collins and I were playing on the floor. He was being particularly endearing and chatty, laying flat on his back on the kitchen floor. I couldn't help but kiss and smooch his face. He's just so yummy. As we were laying on the floor face to face I said, "Collins, where did you get such beautiful eyes?" He quickly replied, "from Jesus and he lives in my heart." My eyes welled up with tears and my heart melted. "Who told you that?" I said.  "Daddy," he recanted. David was standing above us and confirmed that he had, in fact, told Collins a few nights ago. 

Isn't it just like God to drop that pearl of joy right when my attitude was yucky and I didn't feel particularly close to Him? As a parent I often wonder "are the boys listening? Do they know what/who we live for? Do they know to love others? Are they getting IT?" It can be discouraging to pour into children with thoughts like these. This simple, yet precious conversation with my almost 4 year old {sigh} reminded me that they are listening. They do see us and notice our moods and how we respond to stress and he bedtime stories and snuggles and fun. 

Here's to you, oh discouraged parent. Keep the good fight! Be encouraged that your children notice and listen, even when it doesn't seem so, and in due time it will bubble up in overflow. 

Why Isis Wont Keep Me From the Mission

382 wounded. 129 confirmed dead. We were all stunned that Friday night as we watched the shooting reality of another terrorist act unfold on the streets of a beloved city, Paris. To this point it's been easier for me to distance myself from terrorist acts. This time was different. I had just landed from traveling to Kenya less than five days prior. My sister had just flown through Paris the month prior. This time it hit a little closer to home. The world was mourning with the families who lost a loved one that night. As the Nationals responded over the weekend to the terrorist acts footage was shown of people gathering and holding signs saying "not afraid". Their immediate boldness after such a personal, heinous act was like nothing I had ever seen. It's been in the background of my thoughts since I saw it. People joining together, praying for peace, praying for Paris. 

In the coming days travel will require more and more precaution, but it won't change the Mission. The lost are still all around us, worldwide, hungry for the knowledge of the hope of Christ. What the world needs now is scores of Christians who LOVE relentlessly, HOPE unabashedly and PRAY continually. 

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”

1 Peter 5:8-11 MSG

4 Keys to a Healthy Community & Legacy

"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ... For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

-Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10-14 (ESV)

In my family we say that "readers are leaders" - So I encourage you to go back and reread the full book of Jeremiah with fresh eyes. But so for now... 

Jeremiah was so God-inspired that in this letter to the tribe of Judah during their time in Babylonia, he detailed at least 4 keys to having a healthy community and legacy of faith.

1) LIVE LIKE THERE IS A TOMORROW.

It may be old now, but for a while it was a popular saying and life-mantra among young people to just spout off "YOLO", which is you only live once. As a grown-up with a degree in writing, this makes me utterly cringe every time I heard it anyway - but then to consider it as a motto for someone's life. It broke my heart. 

If we live like there is NO tomorrow, we aren't planting any seed. If we aren't planting any seed, we will be so frustrated and discouraged when no harvest comes. I don't just mean the classic seed-planting analogy for evangelism either, I mean generally investing in our futures by the everyday choices we make. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? That's an investment for your future. What education choices are we making? How are we interacting with and coaching up our volunteers? These are all investments into our future.

We can't ignore the unbeliever in the marketplace but then be frustrated when they don't go deeper in their faith. We didn't plant anything there, so we don't have a right to expect that harvest.

 

2. BE COMMUNITY MINDED.

Jeremiah employs them to pray for their cities and government and any leaders they have. Verse 7 says, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have deported you. Pray to the Lord on its behalf for when it has prosperity, you will prosper".

God promises to bless the community where we work, which includes US inside that blessing. In our church we've begun a new campaign this year to be FOR our city. We even use the hashtag, #ForAugusta. I wish I could list for you the many many salvation stories we have seen from just changing our focus from our church, to the city where we work. Lives are truly being changed and people are moving closer to God. He keeps his promises even though it rarely looks like what we expected.

3. WE HAVE TO MODEL KNOWING GOD'S VOICE.

This is the first generation on our planet that does not require teachers or leaders for information. We have the news, internets, radios, telephones, cable tv, and so on. We don't need each other for information necessarily - We need each other to be examples of God's love and big grace!

We need to live out our lives as examples for one another in the various seasons of life. If no one ever sees a believer publicly walk through depression, how will they know that they have permission to do that in a godly way? If no one ever sees a believer publicly walk through the loss of a child or a divorce or failing out of college or declaring bankruptcy or the loss of a job, how will the new believers that are watching realize that it's human to experience the feeling associated with these things? We need each other simply to learn experiences from each other - not information.

4. THE LIFETIME OF YOUR HARVEST MAY BE LONGER THAN YOUR LIFE.

God keeps his promises. He set the laws of planting and harvesting in motion. If you have planted, there will be a harvest. The promise is coming but it may not happen in your lifetime. The sign of a selfish believer, and certainly a selfish leader, is the practice of planting seeds and wanting to be the one to harvest every single seed that you planted.

At my parents' house here in Georgia, we have apple trees that my father planted. It takes fifteen years before an apple seed will grow to produce a tree and then start budding apples. It is very difficult for me to imagine that type of patience but I thank God for a father more patient than I am. He has the forethought to plant trees that my sister and I will inherit and, by then, should be bearing fruit steadily - but he may never taste an apple from those trees.

Think of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt or the years between that and reaching the Promised Land. Each one of those brave leaders that set out with them in the beginning had passed away before the promise was fulfilled. Think of those same Israelites and the promise of the Messiah and the many many generations that passed before Jesus arrived to rescue them!

I believe that Jeremiah, in Chapter 29 was encouraging the people to create an environment for each other that was safe to grow in, safe to make mistakes, and safe to try new things. What Jeremiah knew and wanted to teach was just how important it is to know, understand, and TRUST the timing of God. 

Our Executive Pastor, Kevin, tells each of us often, "There's nothing you are going to do that will sink the whole ship". It's so freeing and reassuring. He's saying, "I trust you to do your job and if you mess up, we'll survive and fix it. No worries!" For a new hire, that's liberating. For a person who has been here for a while, it's refreshing over and over again. 

How are you fostering trust and being community minded? In what areas can you afford to live like there IS a tomorrow and model knowing God's voice?

-Meagan Balram, Worship Leader at Stevens Creek Church

His Voice Over the Hand Dryer

The other day I was in a store and a young child got locked in the bathroom alone. The mother left her two other children and ran to her daughter- determined to get to the child, who was panicking. Apparently the mega hand dryer was running and the light had timed out, all adding to the visceral fear the child was experiencing. The mom called for an employee to come unlock the door and in the few seconds the child was still in the bathroom the mother kept saying, "you're okay. You're safe. I'm out here. Can you hear me? I'm here for you." Sure enough, the door opened and the mother and child embraced affectionately. The mother knelt down on one knee and said "did you hear me in there? I was talking to you. I was trying to help you all along even though it was dark and loud and you couldn't see me."  The little girl shook her head, she hadn't noticed her mothers voice at all when she was locked in the bathroom. The mother looked intently in the child's eyes and said "no matter what- always- I will come for you. I will protect you. I am here for you." It was about this time that I noticed my jaw hanging open in total awe of what I had witnessed. As I clasped my jaw shut a tear fell from my eye. 

How profound this interaction was! I couldn't help but think about the strong analogy between this and our interaction with our Father when life is loud, dark and we can't see His face. That's how life is 98% of the time right? All the while the Father is standing so close saying "you're okay. You're safe. Can you hear me? I'm here for you." 

I'm reminded of the story in Luke 15 of the lost sheep. In the message it reads, "Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

This is our Christ, our Savior, Father to all.

A Small Gift Can Make A Big Difference

by Kelly Hennings

March 30, 2015. The best day of my life. 

My husband, Wes, and I welcomed our first baby, Graham, into the world! The next 6 months were all of the typical first time parent milestones. I remember driving one day with Graham asleep in his carseat thinking how wonderful my life is. “I have everything! A husband I love, a beautiful child, my dream job, we’ve just moved into our forever house, a wonderful church.” How blessed am I?

Then, for a reason I didn’t know at the time, my thoughts went to something Pastor Marty said in a sermon “You’re either in a storm, just coming out of a storm, or about to go into a storm.” I tried to think for a moment which described me, but then we got to our destination and the thought left my mind.

Little did I know I was about to enter a storm that I’m still in today.

Psalm 107:29, “He calmed the raging storms and the waves became quiet.”

This part could be a much longer story, but I’ll sum it up: at Graham’s routine 6 month check-up the pediatrician was very concerned about his muscle tone and highly suspected he had pneumonia.

We were admitted immediately to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia where eventually Graham was diagnosed with a genetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is basically ALS in babies, but so much worse. There are different types, we learned, and Graham had the most aggressive, the most deadly, Type 1. About 90% do not make it to their 2nd birthday, however when we got the official diagnosis we were told “you have maybe 2 months, he might make it to 1 year if we’re lucky.” We made it 10 more months.

2 Timothy 4:17, “But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength.”

The main concern (there were so many) was Graham’s ability to breathe since his muscles were always working overtime to complete basic life sustaining tasks.

Graham was unable to swallow without aspirating into his lungs, so he was tube fed. He was unable to clear his own secretions so he was suctioned around the clock. He was unable to cough, so we had a machine that did that for him. All of a sudden our lives stopped and everything was about keeping Graham well.

If you cannot cough or handle your own secretions then getting a cold is very serious. For Graham, it was life threatening. Therefore, anytime he had a cold we were in the hospital. At first we were in a ‘regular’ room, but as his disease worsened each trip was to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

James 5:15, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.”

We made such frequent visits to the hospital (almost always in an emergency situation) we had a hospital bag packed at all times with pajamas, a change of clothes, travel toiletries, and all of Graham’s medical information. Those were the basic necessities. Fortunately, we also had friends and church family who would bring us all the luxuries the PICU rooms don’t offer, and more importantly, let us know we weren’t alone.

Each hospital stay became longer and longer and eventually we were experts in converting a sterile hospital room into a makeshift living room, dining room, bedroom, and little boy play room. A list organically formed of all of the little things that make a room with tons of medical equipment and 1 chair feel the most like home.

Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”

While in the cumulative month that we spent in the hospital, I also noticed other families. It’s impossible not to.

I would see families come in after an accident, having no indication when they started their day that it would end in the PICU. Most I didn’t talk to, just exchanged sympathetic glances. Until one night, I walked into the waiting room for a drink from the vending machine.

I saw a woman sitting alone on the couch with the hospital breast pump sitting beside her. In the early days I was pumping in the hospital too and let me tell you that adds a whole other level of uncomfortable to a hospital stay. I asked her if she wanted a drink and she came over and we started chatting. Her baby was on life support, I can’t remember how old she was but she was very tiny.

The woman told me her story of feeling pulled between her 2 other kids at home and the PICU, how she and her husband just pass each other either from work or handing off children. She cried as she told me her story. I cried with her. There was nothing I could do to make her situation better, but I could tell she was grateful for the gesture and more importantly someone to talk to.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

I don’t know what happened to this woman or her baby but I do know there are so many more with different details but the same story. That’s where the idea for hospital packages for caregivers (for Teddy Graham Thursday) came from.

There are so many programs in place for the children in the hospital (which are wonderful) but many kids, including Graham, can’t benefit from them because they are so sick or so young. Many times the caregivers in the most stressful situations are forgotten.

Matthew 25:40. “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”

 

This blog post was originally written by Kelly Williford Hennings for Stevens Creek Church website.

Highlight Reel

Have you ever looked at someone and thought, "gah, they have it all together..."? I sure have. It's very easy to do when we scroll Facebook or only see someone casually at church. I watched a television show tonight about a woman who had lost 156 pounds. She exercised, changed her diet and maintained a high level of accountability with her trainers. After she lost the weight the show rewarded her with skin removal surgery. The whole one hour show was very inspiring, which spanned 365 days of this woman's weight loss journey, however, at the end of the interview the woman shared some interesting thoughts. She said, "lots of people are saying how great I look and they feel inspired, but it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm in therapy to help me change the way I think about food and my family has been rocked to the core with all the changes." It felt like there was more that the woman chose not to disclose in the interview because she seemed so burden, heavy laden and not joyful as I would have expected. She seemed to have experienced a deep, memorable pain as a result of her goals and dreams. It's easy to see someone walk across a stage at graduation or get a new job or lose weight and think they are lucky or have it all together, but what you haven't seen are the late nights studying, the endless job applications or the day to day sacrifices to lose the weight. It takes time, effort and dedication to achieve these things. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt and says, "comparison is the thief of joy." 

One of my favorite preachers, Steven Furtick, says, "the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "God doesn't look at things like humans do. People judge by what's on the outside, but God looks at the heart."  In the Christan Barnett translation it says don't look at someone else's Facebook feed for what their life is like, call them up, have a conversation- that's what God does! Only through relationship can we understand one another's journey and glean from it and that's not done through social media, but through quality time with one another. 

 I'm challenged by my own thoughts to engage in real relationship. Skip the chit chat next time and I dare you to ask some real questions of your friend, roommate or spouse. Engage them, get to know them. Ask someone what they thought of a recent book they read or what God is teaching them in this season. For it's through relationship with others that we are changed and, in turn, can point others to Christ. 

3 Lessons From Jesus on How to Love Your Neighbor

3 Lessons From Jesus on How to Love Your Neighbor

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s the second greatest commandment. One of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And something we all want to do.  (Well, most of the time.)

If you sponsor a child with Compassion International, you’re great at this. You spend so much of your heart and gifts to bless a child in poverty. But what about when the neighbor you’re asked to love isn’t that cute, smiling kiddo on your fridge?

What if it’s someone different? Someone you disagree with? Someone inconvenient? Someone you don’t like?

What Does It Really Mean to Love Your Neighbor?

Thousands of years ago, Jesus was asked that same question. So He told a story about a weary traveler who was robbed, beaten and left alone alongside of the road (Luke 10:25-37). An ordinary man saw him and kept walking. (He was probably busy.) A very religious person ignored him, too. (There was probably no one around to notice his good deeds.) But the person who actually stopped and did something was someone a bit unexpected.

That person was the Good Samaritan. We all know the story — a kind person stops to help another person. But it means a bit more. In the story, the traveler and the Samaritan could not be more different. They came from different cities. They had very different views.

Some might even say that these two people would have hated one another. Yet despite their differences, the Samaritan chose to love his neighbor. Even though the neighbor wasn’t really his neighbor at all.

Our neighbor isn’t just the person next door. Our neighbor is the person God has placed right in front us. And no matter how different, how inconvenient or how unexpected, we’re asked to love.

What Is This Thing Called Love?

I Corinthians tells us that if we have all the right things to say but don’t have love, we’re just making noise. If we’re super smart, or perfectly religious but not loving, we’re not that great. If we’re giving and sacrificial so we can post it with a killer photo, we lose out. Instead, love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is patient. Kind. Content. Humble. Selfless. Forgiving. Joyful. Protective. Trusting. Hopeful. Consistent. And it never fails.

It’s not something you think about. It’s not something you talk about. It’s something you do — with a heart that leads people to the greatest example of love this world has ever seen. Though it’s an old story, there are three simple lessons on how to love your neighbor we can learn from the Samaritan.

See People.

Whether they move in next door or cross your path for just a moment, stop and see the person in front of you. Look them in the eyes. See them not for who they appear to be, but in Whose image they are created — no matter where they’re from, what they look like or what they believe.

Do Something.

When you see a need, don’t keep walking. Stop and do something. The Samaritan put differences aside to care for the stranger and get him the help he needed. You might not have the money to pay for someone’s medical care, as the Samaritan did, but you do have unique gifts, skills and insights that no one else can bring. How can you use them to help the neighbor God placed in your path?

Live.

In the story, the Samaritan didn’t just drop the traveler off at an inn. He made sure that he was taken care of for the entire course of his healing. Loving our neighbor isn’t a one-time act. It’s a way of life — one that proves compassion and points back to Jesus every single time.

Living a life of love isn’t always easy. Trying to embody all the traits of love listed in I Corinthians is a tall order. But it’s something we can all strive do together because Jesus first loved us.

It simply starts with a choice. Choose to practice patience today. Throw away that list of grievances tomorrow. Show some kindness the next. Keep sending encouraging letters to the child you sponsor. And when you see a need? Remember the Samaritan.

Let’s choose to live our lives in such a way where our response to the second commandment becomes a first priority.

Compassion International is dedicated to loving our neighbors in 25 developing countries around the world. Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name through child sponsorship is just one of the ways you can love your neighbor.

**This blog was originally written by Jen Wilson, awriter for Compassion in Global Corporate Communications.

Waiting For Hope To Appear

I've been drained lately. I just feel at the end of myself, which is likely right where God wants me. nevertheless, its painful, scary and uncomfortable to say the least.

This morning I was sitting reading in Lamentations. I had forgotten how much I love this book of the Bible. The author of Lamentations officially remains nameless to my understanding, but many believe it was Jeremiah. In Hebrew Lamentations means "how". I've often asked God, "how did this happen?" Or "why am I going through this?" You may have asked this same question, as a result of yours or someone else's sin or poor decision. 

Lamentations 3:25-36 MSG reads-

"God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, 
To the woman who diligently seeks. 
It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. 
It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through hard times. 
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. 
Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. 
Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. 
Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. 
If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. 
He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way."

Maybe you have messed something up lately or maybe a relationship you have isn't working. Perhaps you feel God is far away or absent altogether. Maybe you're waiting for a God-given promise. There is  hope. I love what this passage says about entering the silence when we are seeking God for something. I know my default can be to phone a friend to gab about the situation before I talk to God about it. 

Nevertheless, take some advice from the "lamenting" book and go off by yourself. Pray about it, and whatever you do- don't ever stop waiting for hope to appear.  

Will's Heart Behind Serving

 

Why do I volunteer/Serve?

This question has been asked of me a million times, but I never have been able to give a complete answer until now. My generation has been defined as the generation with an entitlist mentality and just wanting handouts. The thing is, I do not want to be defined like in this way. Even if the other individuals within my generation choose to be.

I will stand up for what is right no matter the cost. I will be the most positive person within my group of friends because the world has taught us that we can never be fully happy. I choose to live life fully every day, not for myself, but for others. You see life is too short to be only concerned about yourself. When I was five, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and was treated at the Children's Hospital of Georgia. I remember the constant sickness and thought I was never going to get through the traumatic experience because the odds were already against me. That was my crisis, but the only reason I was able to survive was because people refused to give up on me.

People all throughout the world are facing some type of crisis. Africa faces a water crisis on a daily basis, but every time someone mentions providing aid, those listening shut them down because they think that they can not provide resources to Africa because they are an ocean apart. It's time to start cultivating ideas and making them become a reality. If you feel like something is wrong, voice your opinion but also make a solution. 28Bold has provided a solution to a major water problem, not just within Africa, but throughout the entire world.

Now you're wondering why do I serve/volunteer within my community?

Everyday I commute from Harlem to Augusta. I serve within Stevens Creek Church, the Augusta Dream Center, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, and 28Bold. I give all that I have to these organizations and yes, I do fall short sometimes, but I want to be known for what I have done to leave the world a better place. I will keep being the light that people need in their lives because people matter. This motto of #PeopleMatter was introduced to me when I started attending Stevens Creek Church. At first I didn't understand it; all I wanted to do was be focused on myself. I only cared about my own ambitions and goals. Life was miserable, but I soon realized the more I focused on my relationship with God and others; life would make a complete 180º turn. I am an advocate for multiple organizations within the city of Augusta, but I want you to realize that if you feel that you are going through life alone, you have teams of people rooting for you.    

It’s time that you take your next step into your calling, because you will truly be your happiest when you do!

--Will McCoy, 28Bold intern 

 

I need Africa more than Africa needs me

You may have heard the title before. Its a phrase that I have adopted from the Mocha Club- an organization commited to giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to support projects in Africa. 

I am often reminded of how little the people of Africa (as a whole) have compared to Americans. Many experience levels of suffering that is impossible to describe until you have seen it for yourself, then when you see it, it is difficult to believe. One of the great impossibles is reconciling the joy they have with the suffering and difficulty they face. It is a joy that comes from somewhere deep, somewhere other than the framework I have experienced in life. 

If you have never been to Africa you may have only seen the images on television, which many times depict sadness, depression, even misery. Prior to going to Africa I bought into that lie- that Africans were unhappy, discontent in some way with the place life had brought them. Reality is, in Africa I encounter a joy unmatched- a peacefulness to the trials and struggles- a place of family and fun, where people love to dance and sing. Where despair should thrive I see people laugh and play and children kick a soccer ball made from trash. In Africa they do not have reprieve from struggles by doing a "girls night" or getting a manicure- relationships and faith alone provide joy. Yet, more people in the world have cell phones than have toilets- many of whom are in Africa. 1 in 7 people do not have clean water in the world. The average total water use per day for 1 person in the United States is greater than 100 gallons. In Africa the average person struggles to find 5. 

In my current reality I am stressed. I am quivering under the pressure of my responsibilities right now, but I know that my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I'm ashamed at the lack of faith I have exhibited at times, but I also look forward to new beginnings and fresh starts. Its daunting. I'm uneasy with change and, it seems the older I get, more emotional over change and letting go; starting anew and letting little ones grow older. On the contrary, the thought of freedom and exploration of the new is exciting, for I love a good challenge. My prayer is that what I have learned in my head will begin to have a trickle-down effect to my heart. I do not want my desire for "the next thing" to determine my level of joy. I write this with tears forming at my eyes. 

Hear me that I am not saying Africa does not need me, it does. It needs all of us. Mother Theresa once said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."  I've come to know that "I need Africa more than Africa needs me". Africa has taught me that the possessions in my hands is not as valuable as peace in my heart. Join me on this journey.

Heart Hole

My aunt had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. At 52 years old she has none of the risk factors for stroke, so we were shocked to get the news the stroke had been confirmed. As it turns out she has a large hole in her heart, which she did not know was there previously. She suffered a debilitating stroke with hearing loss and loss of feeling and movement in her left arm. While her brain has almost completely healed and her hearing and arm movement has been restored, in a couple weeks she will undergo heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart. This way her heart will pump blood efficiently and she will be at a much less risk for having a stroke in the future.

As I was thinking about her impending heart surgery it dawned on me that often times we can walk around in life with a proverbial heart hole. Not knowing the hole is there we walk around with risk of being attacked; risk of death even. Without the intensive work of the Lord in our heart we will walk around like a ticking time bomb.  This heart surgery, both physical and spiritual, is necessary to sustain life. Without it, this heart hole prevents someone from living fully free.

Holes in our spiritual heart can be there from a past hurt, bitterness, or even just un-managed anger or laziness. The bible says in psalm 34:22 "God pays for each slave's freedom; no one who runs to him loses out." I just love that scripture. Its basically saying that if we make ourselves vulnerable and allow the work of the Lord, he will restore us, give us freedom from sin and hurt. In Galatians 5:13 it says "It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life." So, its obvious this is God's desire for our lives- to live whole and free. 

As we approach Easter, the holiday of celebrating our Savior's new life and the new life He extends to us, I challenge you to examine your heart for any holes that it may have and allow the Lord to do heart surgery. For it is then and only then you will live free.

To my aunt Sherrie, you're beautiful and I'm so glad you're still here with us.