Identity

Tonight, a friend and I spoke to a group of high schoolers about identity. It was a good lesson, a good tag-team. And I think maybe a few kids might think about it again :) But really, teaching is so good because it forces me to tackle myself head-on and get to the meat of the issue. There’s no better way to clearly define your own identity is than when you have to explain it to someone else.

Found on tumblr.com

Found on tumblr.com

In ways probably typical to an American teen, I struggled with self-worth. It didn’t take much to see that the world around me thought I wasn’t enough. Wasn’t trendy enough. Wasn’t pretty enough. Wasn’t thin enough. I thought my identity was mostly in the “was nots” of my existence. It was debilitating.

But Christ was working too… and those self-worth issues slowly gave way over the years to grace and a gentle nudging. It was a start… a start to the realization that the Bible was true when it talked about finding our identity from the Spirit within. These verses became a beautiful mystery in my heart, ones that I would ponder many times (and still do).

Mark 8: 34: 38 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I love the journey that teaching about things like this takes me on… It’s with a full and thankful heart that I could honestly say tonight these words.

I think if you ask anyone who’s sold their life out for Christ and lost their identity in him, they’d tell you that they’ve never felt more alive and full and whole. Somehow, Mark 8 happens “whoever loses his for my sake and the gospel will save it.” I have never been more sure of who I am, where I belong (not this world) and what I believe than in this growing, crazy journey of dying and following. And that is far more assuring that a list of credentials and “identity” scams the world keeps trying to throw at me. 

Identity. Perhaps ambiguous. It’s personal and scary and something that can only come from deeply within. And I think perhaps one of the most liberating pieces of self to uncover.

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Becoming Miracles

This quote has been speaking volumes to me. I’ve had it stuck in my bible for a long time and flip to it periodically… It really hits home in those moments when I feel stretched to the very limits of my stamina and capabilities (which seems often lately) that this comes alive for me:

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle—you shall be the miracle.” – Phillips Brooks

Portrait of Haitian woman

Perhaps in my weakness, Christ can really be made stronger.

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PS – In light of just returning from Haiti, I’m finding this very interesting. It’s a really great site packed with info: http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/haiti/

 

A Full Heart

Village kids, Haiti

I’ve been traveling to Haiti since 2009. Words can’t contain the love I have for the children, my friends and ‘family’ in Les Cayes, and my work with Loving Shepherd Ministries. It is my joy and privilege to be a bridge between cultures – to tell the stories of radical redemption in the lives of extremely vulnerable children. I have seen both the depth of need and the depth of new life and sometimes just feel overwhelmed to be allowed such a powerful look into this big big world.

With Judel at the beach

 

I could go on about so many things from the trip in particular. But I’ll leave it to a few pictures that I’m holding out as my favorites. Precious, precious memories.

Welsch, Haiti

 

My buddy

With kids in Welsch, Haiti

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Tesse with Loving Shepherd Ministries

 

Philippians 4 is close to my heart with the fitting message: “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice!”

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Electricty, Heat & Simple Moments

The power’s been out since about 6:00 last night. But they finally got a generator working enough that we could get electricity in the bedroom. And you start praising God for willing handymen and working fans.

It’s really the simple things.

Areal view flying to Les Cayes, Haiti

Areal view flying to Les Cayes, Haiti

We sat out under these radiant stars for hours after dark – gazing at the sky because outdoors was far cooler than inside. And I think about how much we are made for those moments. I come alive in this – feel the most connected to God when stripped of my comforts and left to watch huge shooting stars in the tropics outdoors.

It’s really the simple, gloriously majestic things. When suddenly you don’t care about the sweat or the discomfort and are totally immersed in the beauty of the moment. 

Earlier, we giggled with some little boys and snapped silly pictures and talked about excitement for VBS… well, I rambled in English and threw in a few Creole phrases. I think the point got across. But in that broken communication, I again see that language isn’t always necessary. We say so much without it.

with Loving Shepherd Ministries, Mt. Zion Home of Hope family

with Loving Shepherd Ministries, Mt. Zion Home of Hope family

This work is simple – and yet so complex. It’s a smile. A silly expression. A big bear hug. A willingness to sweat alongside them and listen. To give and serve and combat generations of injustice and extreme poverty with a lot of learning and a lot of mistakes along the way. And somehow watch as God takes that willingness and runs with it.

God is alive and moving in Haiti.  And in this sea of inspiration, I find that simple is often far better.

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Anticipation & Prayer

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships – so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people – so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war – so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world – so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen. -Franciscan Benediction

This prayer weighs on my heart as I look towards a couple of weeks in Haiti. There are such rich emotions when I think about this country.

I look forward with eager anticipation for another year to celebrate what God’s doing with nearly 300 Haitians (formerly orphaned children, adoptive parents and a great staff). This is a privilege, and one I don’t take lightly. There is also much suffering. It abounds in the stories and scars on the children’s faces, in the huts and in the gaunt faces of villagers.

The more I go, the more I learn about both. And as I weather that range, I pray for a heart that continually learns to balance this tension with grace. 

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The Franciscan prayer? It resonates with me and with many that I work beside daily. We want to be broken by the bittersweet emotions- because it’s there that God is providing the greatest miracles every day.

It is a tension I long to more fully embrace.

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PS – Follow LSM’s social profiles to journey with me over the next couple of weeks on the LSM Blog and Facebook page. I’ll also be updating (less frequently) here. Stay tuned!

Refresh

Last week, I left work behind and set off with my family for upper Michigan. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to leave this on the desk at home and walk away.

leaving work behind

Michigan with my family is a reoccurring breath of fresh air that lingers – full of laughter, picturesque scenery and miles of beach to walk.

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In such beauty, it is not hard to find yourself refreshed. With each photograph, I was reminded of the art of creation, the unmatched beauty of nature – and my thankfulness for a family that loves well and a laughs plenty.

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Life is blessed and so good, full of promise, joy and purpose. And standing at the edge of a lighthouse at sunset, I remembered that.
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In Every Conversation

We hosted a fun 4th of July party with some great friends, and some not-so-familiar faces too. Memories were made around tables with good food, fun and late night conversations. And that trend continued over the whole weekend – new faces and the opportunity for many conversations. And I wondered… am I building the kingdom up? Am I showing others Jesus in how I present myself and how I treat or talk about others? (Honestly, as I write this, I just cringe a little, knowing how often I fail at this.)

Do I leave people with a desire to know Jesus? Not a religious tout that’s shoved down someone’s throat. The Gospel is never spread that way. But do I leave people with a longing to have their own personal relationship with Him because they see the joy and wellspring of life flowing out of me and blessing them? As I contemplate my weekend and all those opportunities… I wonder how many are missed ones.

(via ibreakps3andinternet-deactivate)

(via ibreakps3andinternet-deactivate)

I don’t have any great answers for how to live this out consistently, but I did read a great message from the book Upended by Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe last night that I think fits well.

“The vision of the kingdom provides the definition of success to guide our apprenticeship. For Jesus’ apprentice, truly great communication is found in serving others well through our communication. In God’s kingdom – where much of what our broken world prizes is flipped on its head - true greatness is found not in glittering success, but in meeting the concrete needs of others.

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all.

That is our barometer, the measure of triumph. Have we met others’ needs through our presence and words? Have we built them up? Have we nourished and encouraged and spurred them forward to love and good deeds? Are they better for the brief encounter, stronger for that conversation, empowered by what we have said and done?”

I don’t think I’m alone in this desire and tension to spread God’s love and joy. I’d love to hear from some of you… do you feel this tug too? How do you live out your faith in every conversation? How do you draw others to Jesus?

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