It’s a rainy Monday morning in Nashville, but I’m not complaining because my red and green leaf lettuce transplants need the water and I need an excuse for a hot cup of PG Tips. Also, it’s Bible Study night for me at The Village Chapel and it’s easier for me to stay in and study on cozy mornings like these. At any rate, I’ve been wrestling with something that’s pretty prevalent in our culture – even in our Christian culture, maybe especially in our Christian culture – and I wonder if I’m alone. Now that we live in this strange new world of social media, there is an extra pressure to make ourselves known. The idea of self promotion is not new, but today it feels not only familiar but “essential”. Social media for promotion is being touted not only as an extra resource but as our responsibility. Books are being written and conferences given on how to make ourselves known, heard, read, downloaded; how to promote our work; how to increase Twitter followers and Facebook friends; How to ramp up blogger comments, and on and on…No doubt these are some well thought-through resources with wise insights about how to leverage a brand new medium that has the potential to reach people in once impossible to touch corners of the world. Surely these books are especially useful when a message is worthy of being heard, read or watched. BUT, (and I’m just throwing this out there)…
If something has felt “funny” to you in your spirit about trying to get yourself “out there”, if you’ve ever felt like you’re striving, competing with others, feeling left out, comparing yourself, feeling “less-than” or, maybe worse, “better than”, than here’s something remarkably freeing I read this morning… I was in Luke 14 reading about Jesus’ 40 day temptation in the desert, where Satan tempted Christ to depend on earthly bread, turn His worship away from the Father, and even test the Father. After this grueling journey through the desert, hungry, this is what we read happened next in Luke 4:14, “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread…”
In light of this platform-building-thing with which I’ve been struggling, I was grabbed by the italicized phrase. “News about Him spread”. WHY? Because He marketed, promoted, Tweeted, got tapped for a huge conference, blogged, found a great manager? Not exactly. Because He emerged out of a crushing walk through the desert in the power of the spirit. Huh, not the way I would have thought news would spread. Interesting that the combination of suffering in obedience coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit were the wings that carried the news like a trending topic on Twitter or a New York Times Best Seller.
Again, not that any of these aforementioned resources are inherently bad by the way – they can be good disciplines and resources when used in the right spirit; It’s just that in the Christian realm I believe good news can spread independent of what we spend so much time thinking we must have. A good song, an insightful blog, a clever Tweet will come and go, but a person who walks in the power of the Spirit, well now, that’s rare – and news about what God’s doing in their lives tends to spread in ways mysterious. And more importantly, the news we need to worry about spreading is not the news about ourselves but about Jesus. Ah, double freedom.
So this morning I am dwelling on what obedience looks like in the face of temptation; I’m dwelling on what it takes to walk in the power of the Spirit. And I’m so moved by the counter-cultural truths of Luke 4:14 that I’ve decided to use social media to blog about it… go figure.
Happy Monday to all of you… Walk humbly today. Walk in the Spirit. Make Jesus known…
Our Winners for the Beth Moore Simulcast Giveaway were Midge and Mary Ann! Thank you all for your encouraging posts. He really does redeem lives. He really does rebuild and renew us. So thankful for our graceful and merciful God!
In case you were wondering who got the Olympic medal for world’s worst blogger this summer, I took home the gold. It was a proud moment. But I’m back with great news about this Saturday, September 15th. You may have heard that one of my all-time favorite bible teachers, Beth Moore, has a simulcast on this day, but you might not have realized that you can be part of this special event in your own living room, on your porch, in your pajamas, eating sugary muffins or bagels with cream cheese. Yes! If you want to involve your friends, which I highly recommend, you can invite them over, or better yet invite yourself over to their house if they have a cushier couch, or stronger coffee. You get the idea. HERE IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE THIS A REALITY! (PS – I know college football is on, but this is a perfect time for TiVo, or just remind yourself that there will be college football games on every fall Saturday for as long as America endures. What Beth is going to share will only happen once.)
Listen, I’m urging you to tune in this Saturday because I believe Beth’s specific message will have a profound effect on your everyday reality. She’s touching on an issue every single one of us deals with, something that keeps us from living the full life Jesus came for us to enjoy. Also, I happen to be passionate about her teaching, because her teaching of the Word has literally changed my life – or in keeping with the name of her ministry, you could say I am Living Proof of what God has done. If I could distill the intricate, sometimes agonizingly slow, changes God has worked in my heart, I would say I am living proof of God’s love because He has healed an extraordinarily anxious, even angry, soul into one of peace and greater wholeness. I have by no means arrived – not even close – but the profound transformation that’s taken place in my being could have been accomplished by none other than Jesus Himself.
So… here’s what I’m thinking we should do: Comment on how you are Living Proof of God’s love. This is a great exercise because it forces you to reflect on what God has done in your life, and it encourages others in their journey. Also, we just so happen to have TWO FREE simulcast registrations to give away, and we’ll randomly draw those from those who comment. (We’ll do this Wed at noon, so be sure to get your comments in before then.)
I know there are so many events to attend at this time of year. I’m actually speaking in Portland, TN on Saturday and will love being with the women who will be there! But if you don’t have any other in-the-Word commitments this weekend, I can’t encourage you enough to hear Beth’s heart, no matter what your knowledge of the Bible or even the Christian faith. There are NO prerequisites necessary. You won’t want to miss this, I just know it.
I’m back from the Amazon and so grateful for all of your prayers. It was an amazing trip as always. Though each trip is different I’m convinced that anytime we avail ourselves to those in need – and receive from them what we ourselves desperately lack – we are blessed. We were able to build a very large chicken coop for a village that desperately needed a sustainable food supply. And when I say “we” built a chicken coop, what I mean is that skilled people from Brazil and our team built it and I cheered them on from my hammock while sipping out of a chilled coconut. This may have happened once.
My hope is to write a book about how God has transformed my perception of the American Jungle we all navigate by visiting the one in Brazil, so I’ll save my stories for later. In the meantime, I want to highlight a couple unique opportunities for online Bible study this summer. Many of you already know that Beth Moore is taking her online community (open to anyone) through a study I wrote called Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break (details here). This begins Tues, June 26th on her blog. I love Beth’s heart and teaching so much I can barely take it, so this is an enormous blessing to me and I pray it is for you.
In other fun news (if slaying false gods is fun), I found out that Kelly Hancock from the blog Faithful Provisions will be leading her online community through my very first study called No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols (June 25-Aug 20). Kelly H. will do blog posts every Monday beginning on June 25 as well as live Facebook chats on Tuesdays. You can find more specific details here. This study is deeply personal to me since I wrote it during a difficult season of having to let go of what was taking the place of a vibrant relationship with Christ. Though quite painful (seriously kinda tough), the freedom, joy and fullness of His Presence has far exceeded anything I had to part with – there is no comparison. If you’re struggling with peace, joy or freedom, it’s possible that you’ve sold out a piece of yourself to someone or something other than Christ. If this is you, Kelly Hancock’s online group might be a help and encouragement. Regardless of your summer plans, check out her blog which has tons of practical advice on shopping, saving and budgeting. You’ll see why so many people follow her site religiously.
There are so many other studies to pick up this summer. My dear friend Lisa Harper just released a study on the book of Malachi. She happens to be one of my favorite people, and she brings me tomatoes from her garden so you can’t go wrong here. Another one of my favorites, Angela Thomas, has a great study out called Brave. Priscilla Shirer has several, most recently a study on Jonah. Tammie Head recently released her first study called Duty or Delight and I hear it’s great. Currently I’m going through Beth Moore’s study on James, and I’m loving it. There are so many to choose from. My encouragement this summer is to get into Scripture one way or another, simply because it contains words of life. And who doesn’t need some life?
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about your summer study plans. I’d love to hear from you. Also, if any of you have any garden advice for sprawling tomatoes plants that are threatening to take over what I used to refer to as “my” backyard, please let me know.
***Ordering information for Nehemiah or No Other Gods. (If ordering the NOG study make sure you choose the one that says “study”).
I’m off to the Amazon Jungle tomorrow morning but had to post a garden progress pic before I left. (This growth is only over one month – I’m in awe on a daily basis.)
Oh, yes, you noticed the new fence. Well this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and now that I have tomatoes at stake (pun possibly intended), I decided to go for it. As you can see, I salvaged some bamboo on the side of the road and made a bean tepee – because I spent all my money on the new fence and am turning cheap. I used some of the branches growing around the old chain-link fence for another mini-trellis in the lower bed for soup beans. I also discovered some brick where my yard was torn up for the fence. This find was the perfect excuse for making another mini bed (not pictured) for another tomato plant along with purple bush beans. My friend April says I’m erring on the side of junky. My neighbors think I’m odd, and somewhat strange garden-y people are beginning to identify me as one of their own. More on this upon my return.
In the meantime, I would love your prayers as I seek to help build a garden of another sorts in a jungle village called Puru Puru. A few of you may have seen the interview from Session 4 of Nehemiah with the pastor of this village sharing about a soup kitchen he and his wife had built. A group of us will be working with Pastor and Mrs. Paiva to add onto this kitchen as well as build a sustainable chicken farm for their village. We’ll also be planting some vegetables, so I’m hoping my “vast” garden knowledge might come in handy.
More than anything, I am longing for Jesus to show Himself to us along the river this week. Please pray with me toward that end. Currently the Amazon river is at one of its highest flood points in all of recorded history. Many are starving and losing their homes. I truly wrestle with why I am able to live where I live, where gardening is more for fun than for livelihood, and where I get to put up things like privacy fences and use water that a timer turns on and off. It’s a mystery to me. One that I often don’t know what to do with.
In the meantime, I am going through Beth Moore’s study on the book of James, and I am comforted by the fact that in the first few verses James reminds us of how important the poor are to him – and should be to us. I am grateful the Bible reveals that riches are not lasting, but what we do through Christ will never fade away. Thank you for your prayers.
If everything dies, this will be my first and only post, but so far green foliage is incrementally moving upward, each day stretching just a little closer to the sky. I feel it is now safe to blog about this garden venture because of the initial growth, but also because financially speaking I’m upside down about 30 years worth of prolific vegetable production, so my garden is an investment I’m motivated to see through. Pretty much if I don’t eat squash and pole beans everyday that I’ve personally grown until I’m in my sixties, I will have lost my retirement.
Here’s how it started. Exactly 18 days ago I was having brunch with two friends, April and Mary Katharine. Somehow we stumbled upon the topic of homegrown tomatoes, probably because this word gets used often in my vocabulary. I can be talking about almost anything and, bam, the word tomato pops out.
“How about I devote tomorrow to help you build raised beds for a garden?” my now forever best friend in the world, MK, says to me.
My articulate response to her proposal went something like, “That sounds amazing. I’m freaking out backwards.”
April was fit to be tied because she was scheduled for a job the next day and was suffering from what my friend Paige calls FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Having no idea what I was talking about, I assured April that there would be years and years of opportunity for her to contribute to what was about to explode in my backyard.
You should know that at this point my backyard was known only for grass, general blah-ness and an occasional firefly. But I’ve always had higher visions. In fact, starting a garden has been a dream of mine over the past few years, ever since I started canning tomatoes from our farmers’ market and subscribing to a CSA, ever since I devoured Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, along with a couple books by Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin. For various reasons I could never get started, partly because I’m the type of person who thinks I need a doctorate in photosynthesis before I toss my first seed in the ground. Friends are a tremendous resource for me when I get locked down like this.
“If we think we have to know everything there is to know about gardening we’ll never get started”, Mk said. This felt like wisdom to me, so the next day we set our alarms – because farmers rise early – and we tore off to the farmers’ market in a blaze of ignorance. Though I was smitten with the burgeoning vegetation roaring in the display beds of the market, I couldn’t even think about seeds or plants yet. I had to get my beds built and the proper soil put in those beds. Fortunately I met a really helpful store manager named Aaron. He seemed to enjoy me at first until he realized I was an unlearned gardening wackadoo. I think the only reason he put up with my myriad questions was because he sensed that my unharnessed fanaticism may lead me to plunk down the money for enough untreated cedar and organic soil to keep him in business until Thanksgiving, as well as to destroy the shocks of my Jeep.
My friend and I loaded up and made 3 round trips, pulled into my backyard and unloaded each time, put together cedar rectangles, wheel-barrowed bags of soil to those rectangles, and dumped them in one bag at a time. As the day wore on and my muscles fatigued I’d slam the bags of soil into the wheelbarrow, gravity would take over, and then the wheelbarrow would take off with a shaky, pale, 30-something woman tearing off behind it. After 140 excruciatingly dense bags of this, I was beginning to rethink this whole garden “adventure” and my friend was rethinking her friendship with me. Turns out that drilling screws into cedar boards and unloading a zillion pounds of manure and worm castings made “going to work” on a Monday look pretty enviable.
After two beds of bordering on illegal amounts of labor I decided to hire my neighbor Manny to build and fill the third bed – this drove up the cost, but again, think of all the money we’ll save if we eat our own vegetables everyday until we’re 109.
Here are the first two beds before Manny built the third one. (There were only supposed be a total of two but I’ll explain the “need” for a third one in post #2. Assuming everything lives that long.)
Here I am celebrating what looks to be pretty much nothing, but it’s all about the hope of what’s to come…
After these two beds were built and filled with the proper soil, I began to obsess about what I would plant in my raised beds. Tomatoes of course, but what varieties and what tomato plant gardener could I really trust? (Heavy stuff.) I had my deep bed for tomatoes and my shallow one for other vegetables like squash and zucchini, beans, peppers and eggplant. Mary Katharine also insisted on okra, cucumber, artichokes, and jalepenos, so these were big dreams we were chasing. And for you gardeners out there, you know they were big dreams limited by small spaces, but I discovered this soon enough.
Next up, my adventures with Lisa Harper to Marrianna’s Heirloom Seed Farm, along with a few spiritual lessons God’s already shown me from elements like plants and dirt. Pretty amazing stuff it turns out.
Would love to hear about your gardening successes and obstacles, especially anything about tomatoes…
Summer is almost here, that lovely season when some of life’s chores begin to wind down over barbeques and underneath the sun’s warmth. For me, the joy of summer is slower days and lingering evenings, a time when you can breath deeply, hopefully taking some extra time to listen. And seek. And be still. And maybe even extend yourself.
Thinking about this makes me especially excited that Beth Moore will be highlighting the book of Nehemiah for her summer blog study this year. Beth is one of my all-time favorite Bible study teachers who I’ve been learning from since my college years. She’s authentic, remarkably funny, passionate, and a continual reflection of how Jesus loves and changes us. She’s just ridiculously fun and amazing.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What about shipping? Orders that contain 1-2 books take 5-9 business days to arrive. Orders of 3 or more items ship Priority Mail and will arrive in 2-3 business days. If you need expedited shipping or have a special shipping need, please contact Sarah Smith at 615-410-2282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Does every study include a leader guide or do I need the kit? Great question! Every study has a leader guide in the back, so you don’t need the kit to get the leader guide.
- Do I need the DVD Kit for Beth’s Summer Study? The DVD Kit is not essential for the summer study, however, Kelly’s teaching sessions will enhance your experience. You can click here for more information on the DVD Kit (note the Kit comes with 7 DVD sessions and a Nehemiah study book).
- Do I have to do this study in a group, or can I do it alone? Either one. If you have a small group you’d like to gather together for this study, that’s ideal. But if you’d like to do it alone, that’s great too.
If you have questions regarding this process or experience any difficulty in placing your order, please contact Sarah Smith at 615-410-2282 or email email@example.com.
A Note From Kelly About Writing Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:
While studying the book of Nehemiah I loved how the book encouraged the process of rebuilding. Whether rebuilding a piece of our own life or the life of someone else, God’s heart for the sometimes messy process of rebuilding is what Nehemiah is all about. It’s an extraordinary story of what God can do with a compassionate heart that’s yielded to His heart of love and redemption for people everywhere – People God placed on Nehemiah’s heart, people He’s placed on your heart.
As a few of you know from my writing, God has done much to rebuild the broken places inside me while inviting me to be part of the restoration process in the lives of a few in my community, as well as those I’ve met in the Amazon jungles of Brazil. Never has life been this exhilarating, because when God calls us to tangibly love people it’s because He loves people, and studying Nehemiah reaffirmed this remarkable truth in me – A truth that will absolutely change our lives if we’ll believe it and get out there.
If you don’t already have summer Bible study plans, I’d love for you to come along for the Summer Siesta Bible Study Ride with our dearest Beth Moore…
Our boat pulled up to the cement school in the village of Chita. I remember it being extra hot that day, the kind of heat that zips you in like the footie pajamas you used to where as a kid. The Amazon air has a way of clinging to you like no other place on earth.
We arrived with our myriad soccer balls, blowup animals and colorful crafts, all of which the kids couldn’t wait to kick, bend, glue and whatever else kids do while squealing and fluttering around like hummingbirds. At one strategic point in our visit, we gathered all the children and moms together for our official program which consists of a ‘rousing’ puppet show, a few songs led by me in my lousy Portuguese, some words from a team member about how God’s love tangibly collided with his or her life, and a time of prayer led by my Dad. Pretty straightforward stuff if you grew up anywhere near Christendom.
Gloria, our Brazilian spitfire, closed our time by explaining to the 30 or so moms and kids that if anyone needed prayer to come forward where a few of us were ready to pray over the needs. Before she’d completed her sentence, a four year-old boy sprung from his chair, clutched his mother’s arm and determinedly led her to the front. Yanno was so little that I was certain he didn’t understand what was happening. I was thinking faithless thoughts like, maybe he thinks we asked for kids to come forward for candy.
He shyly explained that his family had lost its home and barely had any food. He said his mom Mara was sad, words she confirmed with slight nods and a hopeless gaze. We prayed for their physical needs and committed to helping them however we could. My Dad explained the beauty of the gospel, how forgiveness through Jesus would forever change them. Mara and Yanno welcomed this Savior into their lives that day.
When Jesus makes an entrance in the middle of standard, Christian camp fare, I don’t know why I’m so jaw-dropping shocked. I couldn’t fathom that a boy so young could understand that God was his Answer. How guilty I am of motioning through the mechanics of a program, misplacing my expectation on the process rather than the Person of Jesus who said, “Let the little children come unto me.” Of course a four year-old could get it!
As we made our way toward the boat for the next village, I hated to say goodbye to Yanno. I felt a strong sense that he needed to be blessed, unofficial as anything I could bring him seemed. So I placed my hand on the top of his prickly-haired head and prayed a blessing over him – it was just the two of us. He must have been wondering what this shockingly white woman was doing with her hand on his head and why her speech was so strange and unrecognizable. I asked God to set Yanno apart like King David. I don’t know why that specific plea, though my urgency for him to be blessed has now become clear:
A few days ago I received an email from Gloria entitled, “Yanno, The Boy From Chita.” She relayed to us some tragic news that while Yanno was in his new house with his Mom and baby brother, Mara was struck by lightening in front of him. After vainly trying to shake his mother awake, he picked up the baby and waded through the river until he found a fisherman who could help.
Yanno is seven years-old. Mara would not be revived.
Gloria has since discovered that Mara was baptized weeks before the lightening struck her. She had gotten back with her husband and the family was attending a jungle church in the village. These expressions are powerless in and of themselves, yet when attached to Jesus they are vibrant signs of a heart transformed by Him. Mara knew Jesus and He welcomed her into His presence that day.
I’m not writing to saddle you with despair or sadness, we have enough coming at us from countless streams. I’m writing out of the discovery that comes from a story like Yanno’s that is still being told. I have no idea why if God had the power to lead us to this boy, He wouldn’t use that same power to thwart the lightening that struck his mother. Without a satisfying answer, I believe that the Spirit who led that little boy to the front of the room for prayer three years ago, was the same One who knew what Yanno would one day face. When God whispered in my heart, “Put your hand on that child’s head and pray for him because he’s special” I didn’t know why I was praying, but God knew.
And now I know too.
Yanno and his family will need our support over the coming years. I pray I will be able to see him when I return to the Amazon this June. I pray His experience of Christ and His church will be ever sufficient in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.
Dear Father, thank you for sending us ahead of such loss. And as we now come behind it, may Christ and His church be the filling Yanno and his family desperately need. Amen.
*A few friends snapped family photos that day in Chita. This is probably the only picture Yanno will possess of his mother and him. A gift Gloria will bring to him on her next visit.
I just returned from the first ever Abundance Event in Houston, TX. Next stop: Minneapolis, MN on April 27-28. I’m taking a moment to write about it because it was that awesome. Because I’m hoping you’ll be able to gather with us for one of the remaining three Abundance Events of the year (Event Info and Video Here). First off, it was amazing to be out on a “work” weekend with friends: Angie Smith, Lisa Harper, Tammie Head, Jen Hatmaker, Angela Thomas, Travis Cottrell, Jennifer Rothschild, Keely Scott (Compassion), Melanie Shankle (BigMama Blog), you get the idea. It was like summer camp without the smores, although we did sneak Tex-Mex in there.
What I loved most was that the event provided an amazing blend of highlighting the abundance God came to give with the call to give our abundance away. There was opportunity to give in big and small ways, especially since many local ministries unique to Houston were represented. Since Christ called us to be co-laborers with Him and not just spectators, Abundance offered a tangible way for us to be involved with international and local ministries. Oh, and if you came on dead-empty, there was no pressure to do anything but simply receive the abundance of Christ’s love. Brilliant.
The whole gathering meant a lot to me after spending the better part of last year in the book of Nehemiah where Nehemiah himself left the abundance of his prestigious palace to serve his brothers and sisters in the broken down city of Jerusalem; It meant a lot to me after spending some time in the Amazon regions of Brazil where I’ve encountered a great deal of poverty. But, here’s what’s cool – it meant a lot to me this week when I had a pile of unexpected expenses, some plumbing problems, mice in the house (I’m still recovering from the assault on my hygienic sense of well-being), a fleeting health concern, etc. I came back encouraged and strengthened by the speakers, singers, testimony givers, and dynamic women in attendance. I’m not alone. You’re not alone.
The weekend made me grateful for LifeWay and their persistence in seeing this event off the ground, not for their/our abundance but so the abundance of Christ can be shared in very tangible ways that include US as participants. So, my encouragement to you is if you have the ability to make it to Minneapolis, Atlanta or Greenville, SC for one of the remaining Abundance Events, put it on your calendar! I’m telling you, this is a special one. Oh, and if you’re particularly weary and empty and feel like you’ve got nothing to give, definitely come.
“And you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Never do these words of Jesus mean more to me than when I’m in the jungles of Brazil. I’m not sure what constitutes the ends of the earth, but if ever a region deserved this title, the jungle would have as good a shot as any for ends-of-the-earthness. I just returned from my fifth trip there in connection with a ministry called Ray of Hope. They’re a local, on the ground mission in Manaus that exists to serve the people who live along the vast and glorious river we call the Amazon.
My experiences there have forced me to rethink the various elements of my life, thus my Christianity as a whole. So here I am, attempting to blog about this latest trip while it’s fresh on my mind, while I can still smell the scents of the Amazon and my spirit’s still buzzing with the excitement of meeting people who are living the Christian life in ways I’ve scarcely encountered. More than anything, I want to write about the unrivaled joy of serving with my family, my mom in particular this time.
Yes, my mom came with us for her first time, the trip’s first miracle. How shall I put this? My mom doesn’t do bugs. She doesn’t do camping, roughing it, excessive heat. She really doesn’t do roaches the size of rodents, leaping tarantulas, or scorpions that lurk in people’s shoes (people meaning us). And when smartypants people say, “Well, most tarantulas aren’t dangerous”, I want to respond with, “Does this matter when the spider is the size of your face?” The whole Amazon caboodle is not really my mom’s cup of tea. Actually, tea is her cup of tea, as in Earl Grey in an English cup that’s perched on a coffee table inside someone’s home that has central heating and air. Going to the Amazon was a tremendous act of obedience on her part, one I don’t take lightly.
As the boat pulled up to our very first village, I turned to my mom, “Mom, I need someone to share a testimony for the families today, can you do it?” Mom gave me a mom-look that said something along the lines of I am bodily present in the jungle, can that be enough for now? But my mom is a quiet spiritual giant, and I knew how effective it would be if she shared how God had taken hold of her life as a young high school girl desperate for a relationship with a Savior she knew nothing of at the time, even if she was just settling into her surroundings. My mom is subtle and unapologetically what-you-see-is-what-you-get; when she shares how the Lord transformed her heart, you listen.
Please imagine the swell in my soul when I watched her share her testimony with the jungle village of Sao Tome while wearing her hot pink Living Proof Live t-shirt. Some of my favorite worlds collided in that one moment. Now imagine my joy when, after she shared, a man and a woman stepped forward to give their lives to Jesus. The young man had been someone Ray of Hope had known for years, but never had he expressed interest in becoming a Christian. Today was the day.
Having my mom in the jungle meant much to me on layered levels because I knew she wouldn’t have chosen this trip. She went in obedience to God and she went out of love for Him and her family. As Nehemiah mentioned being “very much afraid” in chapter 2 while approaching the king to request permission to help rebuild Jerusalem, so my mom had her fears but she didn’t let them paralyze her from seeing what God wanted her to see and doing what He wanted her to do. Had she stayed in her familiar and comfortable surrounding she would have missed an encounter with a young husband and wife with HIV. Through tears, the mother thanked my mom and dad for starting a church that would, on that day, help them build a home in a village that once shunned her family because of her and her husband’s disease. It was a moment of eternal joy. A memory no one can steal from my mom or me ever.
As my mom and I walked away from that village – I have no idea where my dad was, he tends to go off exploring unannounced – I thought about my parents’ legacy. How 38 years ago my mom agreed to move to a tiny, no-name town in VA to begin Reston Bible Church with my dad. 38 years, thousands of people, hundreds of collective mission trips, countless people who’ve come to Christ later, that decision blossomed in a village called Acajatuba where hard working saints from that same church showed up to build a house for a suffering, believing couple who otherwise would never have had a home. It was a memorable walk to the boat.
I don’t know if you have a family of your own. I am not married and without children so my blood family consists of my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and I count my two star in-laws in there as well. My chosen family is a few dear friends who I shudder to think of life without. These are the family members I am blessed to serve with, a joy more furious than the Amazon River itself.
I have no idea what God has put in your heart to do. I would never suggest it be a particular continent, city, or street, only that you seek Him hard for the people to whom He’s called you. I know He has inexplicably commanded us to love people, serve them, teach them, give to them in a way that points them (and us) back to His saving grace. He has not asked us to do this alone but in the context of community. Go get it.
On Feb 1st, my 3rd bible study releases,Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break. On Feb 3rd, I leave for the Amazon jungles of Brazil for the 2nd Annual Jungle Pastor’s Conference that several dear friends and family launched last year with Ray of Hope. Without being overly dramatic I feel attached to Joshua’s words to the Israelites before they were to cross the Jordan, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” This is a sacred time as I look back over a year of studying and writing about Nehemiah, with two trips to the Amazon thrown in. It is not lost on me that 3 days after this study releases I will have the privilege of meeting up with 65 modern-day Nehemiahs, 40 of them pastors and 25 of them pastor’s wives. We will gather together for the 2nd time in jungle history to study, worship, fellowship, catch piranha and eat a lot of tapioca. (I am personally packing Kind Bars this year.)
I can’t describe in a blog post the impact that last year’s conference had on me, though I am contemplating writing a book about my adventures. More on that when I recover from the pounding I took from Nehemiah (half-grin). In the meantime, it would mean so much to me if you think to cover our time in prayer. Essentially my dad will be doing the lion’s share of the teaching, while I and a few others will be teaching the wives – okay, in reality they will be teaching us by their very presence, it’s just how it works over there. Many of these Brazilians will leave several days ahead of time because it will take them that long by boat to get to where we’ll be. On my side of the equator I just don’t know this level of zeal for God, His Word and His people. Like I said, they will be teaching me.
On another note, please, please join us for tomorrow’s (Feb 1st) free webcast that begins at 11 AM (CST). I hear Beth Moore, Lisa Harper and a couple other surprise guests will be dropping by to say hello. I can’t wait to share with you in person what this book has meant to me, and the word is we’ll be doing a little cooking on the “show” as well. Rumor has it that Lisa Harper will be showing up with onion goggles. What more needs to be said.