Month: February 2012

Twenty Seven Million

“We’ve got to rise up. Open our eyes up. Be her voice, be her freedom. Come on, Stand up!” ~ Matt Redman

You might not have noticed that I didn’t post a human trafficking update on the 21st this month. I waited until TODAY for a very special reason. Today, the new single, “Twenty Seven Million” was released on itunes in the US. It was released yesterday in Europe, and quickly became Number 4. Why all the hype about a song? Music shapes culture. It shapes people. I can be moved to tears by a song, led into worship by a song, made to laugh, or even get angry by a song. (There’s some really bad music out there.) The leaders at the A21 Campaign know the influence music has, and decided to leverage that influence by producing a song to raise awareness of the over 27 million people, (mostly female) who are right now in the very real bonds of slavery.

In the past, when I heard the word, “slavery” unwanted thoughts would come to mind of how black people were once owned as slaves here in the US. Also thoughts of how the people of Israel were forced into slavery by the Egyptians, Babylonians and others came to mind.  But never, no never did I ever think of the slavery that goes on right now. Today. Never before did I realize that there are more people enslaved today that ever before in history. How did we let this happen? I thought society had come much farther than that. Aren’t we above this? Apparently not. While we have been asleep at the wheel, millions of our daughters and sisters have been stolen or tricked into a life of sex slavery with no hope of escape.

Often problems of this magnitude overwhelm us. We think, “I am one person, what can I possibly do to change what is happening?” We tell ourselves that we can’t do anything. Hope that maybe someone else with more money, or time, or influence is hearing about it and helping. We shake our heads and talk about how awful it is, and what a shame it is. Then we move on to the next thing we have to do.

Maybe as one person, you can’t do much. Except for today. Today you can buy the song. What can buying one song on iTunes do? The song rose to Number 4 yesterday in Europe. People notice that. It makes them curious. Because of the song’s popularity there, more people bought it to see what all the attention was about. More people became aware of what is going on right in their back yards. Somebody with more time, more money, and more influence became aware of the plight of 27 million women worldwide, and now they are going to join the fight. All because tons of people bought a song for $1.25.

I think Americans can do better than the Europeans. I think Americans are more compassionate than Number 4. It will take less than five minutes of your time and only a buck and a quarter. The song is really good. I listened to it seven times in a row and cried every time. I’m going to post the video here. Please still buy the song.

The video was filmed at the Passion Conference at the Georgia Dome. 42,000 college students raised $3 million dollars for an organization called Not For Sale and their fight against human trafficking. Alone, we can do little. Together, we can change the world.

Hello Spring!

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

Well, we’ve hardly had a winter this year….. HURRAY!! I’m not a fan of winter. I don’t like shivering. I do like winter clothes, though, but I would sacrifice my scarves, cute jackets, and boots for warm, sunny days any time. The best thing about winter is how it makes me never take for granted the long hot days of summer. As mild as this winter has been, I still look forward to signs of spring. In fact, because of the mildness of the weather this year, I’m already seeing it happen in my yard.

Last fall my mom offered me some iris and daylily bulbs my dad dug up from their yard. I grabbed them up and brought them home. I like iris and day lilies. I especially like free iris and daylilies. Our back yard is really beautiful. We have several large boulder type rocks that sit on our side sloping yard. I planted my bulbs in among those boulders. I figured they’d be safe from my son’s lawn mowing, and they’d be a nice contrast to the big rocks.

Like the rocks in my yard, the squirrels grow really big. Believe me, it’s like an episode of “Land of the Lost” back there. The squirrels have no real enemies save for the few feral cats running around, but I think even the cats are a bit wary of squirrels the size of themselves. As I watched the squirrels nosing around and gathering nuts in my yard, I began to worry about my bulbs. Would they dig those up and eat them? Would enough of the bulbs survive to make my yard pretty in the spring? Only time would tell.

Well, about two weeks ago, God did what He does every year and flipped the spring switch. The day I saw my iris and daylilies pushing up through the ground made me smile. Dozens of them now about six inches tall reaching for the warmth of the sun to nourish them.

I don’t even know what color they will be. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just glad they survived to come up out of the ground to make my yard pretty. They were planted in rich, dark soil with good drainage. They are in a rare area of my yard that gets full sun. Perfect conditions for greatness.

Could be you are destined for greatness, too. Are you coming out of a winter in your life? Are you ready for spring? If you are a child of God, the conditions are right. He wants you to push through and reach out to Him. He has carefully picked out your spot. He has surrounded you with all that you need to thrive, and He has mindfully watched over you. You may not even be sure what your blooms will look like, but He knows, and He can’t wait to see you shine.

It’s Not About You

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? Matthew 18:12

I learned something very important this week. If I stay out late at a concert and then have to get up for work at 5am the next morning, I am going to feel all of my forty-four years. I suspected this fact was true, but I confirmed it so this week. My husband scored tickets this week to the NeedToBreathe concert at the Alabama Theater. It was a last minute thing. As in he texted me that he got them at about 5pm and the concert was at 8pm. Immediately, I knew, “This is going to be painful in the morning.” It was. Who am I kidding?It’s now the second morning after and I am still feeling it.

I’d do it again, though. The concert was that good. If you haven’t heard of NeedToBreathe, then shame on you. I’ll plug the opening act, too. It was Ben Rector, and for an opener was surprisingly good.

As I sped home to get ready for my exciting night on the town, I was listening to the local Christian radio station. Most of the time, I would like it if they just stopped talking and played more music. Here’s why. They were talking about the NeedToBreathe concert on this station. This group is a unique group in that they really are hard to define. Most Christians who have heard of them want to claim them as theirs, but the band itself just says they are a rock band from South Carolina.

So, the DJ was saying that there have been questions raised (among Christians) as to why this “Christian” band often plays venues that serve alcoholic beverages. (*gasp*) The DJ read a letter from a woman who attended a sold out NeedToBreathe concert in Tuscaloosa. She wrote that she and her husband bought tickets to the concert because they wanted to enjoy a nice “Christian” night out. But when they got to the concert they saw that beer and other alcoholic beverages were being served. (*gasp* again) From that she determined that the group, NeedToBreathe, must no longer be a “Christian group” and expressed her profound disappointment in that.

I was really impressed with how the group responded on the air during an interview on my local Christian station. I was so embarrassed that they were even asked this, but it is the buckle of the Bible belt, after all.

Here is the answer the band gave. Lead singer, Bear Rinehart, told the DJ that when they were starting out, they played in churches and found that none of their lost friends would show up. So, at some point, they decided that they were going to have to go to them. That meant playing in venues that served alcohol. Being the son of a preacher, Bear’s parents were not pleased at first, but the group pressed on with what they felt they were called to do.

They are happy for Christians to come enjoy their positive music. Music that often points to God in heaven without speaking in a language those outside the church don’t understand. It’s positive, thoughtful music that happens to be really good.

So to the lady in Tuscaloosa, and to everyone who thinks it should be about them. It’s not about you. As I sit in the horrible traffic every Sunday at my church and wait for twenty minutes just to get in line to leave, I remind myself. It’s not about me. It’s about them. I could go to another church where no one ever walks out of darkness and into the light to follow Christ. I’m not being snarky about this, but honestly those churches don’t have traffic problems. The point is, He wants us to go get them and bring them with us. Sometimes that means you have to go where they are because if you wait for them to come to you, it’s often not going to happen.

As a follower of Christ, God loves me as His own chosen child, but His heart is longing for His missing ones. It’s not about me. It’s about them. We have to stop making it about us. He’s telling us to go get them.

Just in case you’ve never heard NeedToBreathe, here’s my favorite. (Okay…I realize that’s all about me, but it’s still a great song!)

Cheesy T-shirt Love

This has been a great week to be married. At least for me. Valentine’s Day was a sweet time of getting away together with Matthew, and being just the two of us again… although we did spend quite a bit of time talking about our kids. Go figure. This weekend was the annual Ignite Marriage Conference at our church where Jimmy Evans, from Marriage Today, came to Church of the Highlands to lead us into more healthy marriages. So yes, this week I am loving being married. It’s not that I don’t usually, but I really do this week.

My daughter was relegated to the house to watch after my youngest son during the conference. She saw this as an opportunity to cut a deal with me. I don’t pay her for babysitting her brother. That’s just part of being a family. Sometimes you have to step up and tend to the littlest. So what was the deal? In exchange for her babysitting duties, she wanted a t-shirt from the conference. I told her they were marriage t-shirts. “You’re not married.” I pointed out. But she had seen the t-shirts in the church bookstore and picked out one that said, “Indestructible” she liked. Okay. It was talking about marriage, but I agreed to get her the shirt.

As I perused the shirts on sale at the conference, I noticed some really cheesy ones. They had ones that said, “I love my husband” in pink as well as “I love my wife” in blue. While I do love my husband, I couldn’t see wearing a shirt that said so. But it did cross my mind to buy one for my daughter. I thought it would be funny. I ended up getting her the one that she had asked for.

But the thought continued to nag at me. What if I had gotten her that shirt? The cheesy one. No, she’s not married. She’s only fourteen. She’s not even dating yet, and if her dad has anything to say about it, and he does, she won’t for a long time to come. But what would be so wrong with the idea of her proclaiming her love for her husband? I don’t know who he is, and neither does she, but the Lord does. To pray for him now? To prepare her heart to love him now? What if she actually began to love him now? What would be wrong with that?

I have prayed for my kid’s future spouses for a long time now. The older they get the more specific my prayers become. My kids are all unique personalities and they will all need very different spouses to live out life with. I pray for each of my sons’ wives to love Jesus with their whole heart, and to love my sons with an outpouring of that love. I pray that my daughter’s husband be a man after God’s own heart and that he both cherishes and nurtures her. I pray for the homes they grow up in. I pray that their hearts are guarded and that they remain pure in body and spirit.

So maybe I should have gone with the cheesy shirt for her. With half of all marriages in the US ending in divorce, it couldn’t hurt for her to begin readying her heart now to love her husband. Who knows, maybe if she does, he’ll have an easier time getting past her dad. And maybe if she does, she’ll love being married one day as much as I do.

Hopeful Romantic

I am married to a hopeful romantic. By that, I mean he is hopeful that I will be romantic, too, from time to time! We are not often guilty of joining in on the Valentine’s Day hype, but this year, I must say my Valentine went all out. He booked us a room at a really nice resort hotel and we ate dinner out at my favorite restaurant. It was an afternoon and evening full of sweet romance.

We will soon be married twenty-two years. I know to most these days that sounds like a lot of years, but when I think of our lives together, it doesn’t seem like all that long at all.  Still, we’ve done a lot of things in those twenty-two years. Seminary, ministry positions, four kids, umpteen moves, deep loss, and amazing blessing. All of it together. All of it growing us as a couple. Some of it making those gray hairs pop out, some of it carving deep laugh lines in our faces, but all of it part of our journey together.

We live in a society where so often we are willing to trade our old models in for new ones, be it computers, cars or spouses. “Til death us do part” isn’t really taken all that seriously these days. The “no fault” divorce opened up a flood of people claiming “irreconcilable differences” as cause to put asunder what God had joined together.

I know that I have been blessed in my marriage. I know that it has lasted for twenty-two years only by the grace of God. Matthew and I are so very different from one another. He’s so organized and I can never find my keys. His careful thoughtfulness and my humor and whimsy sometimes seem like two different sides of a coin. Those differences can sometimes frustrate, but they also provide the completeness in our relationship. We have been knit together in this marriage relationship and to undo it would be nothing short of an amputation. In no way could the one become two again without deep scarring.

It is this reality that we have to consider as we enter into marriage. In all honesty, I hadn’t a clue to these things when I married Matthew. Like most young brides, I cared more about the dress and the cake, than the marriage to follow. All I knew for certain was that God had laid His hand upon Matthew’s head and told me, “This one.” I trusted those long-term details to the Lord.

And I think that’s the key, really. For love to be lasting, it has to have God’s hand on it. Only He knows the future a couple will face together. It’s struggles, pains, and its joys. Without that third hand in the relationship, differences will become irreconcilable, and ‘til death do us part will come to mean the death of the love and not the death of the spouse.

The Bible tells us that love comes from the Lord. (1 John 4:7) That He is Love. (1 John 4:8) Apart from Him is no good thing. (Psalm 16:2) Apart from the Lord nothing that requires love shall endure. We can’t under our own power generate enough love to sustain a marriage. Matthew cannot, on his own, look past all my flaws and still after twenty-two years want to take me to a resort hotel for Valentine’s Day. The love we have is finite. It has conditions. But the love that flows freely from the Father keeps no record of wrongs. Is not jealous or boastful or rude. It is love beyond conditions.

Instead it always protects, always hopes, and always endures.


All These Things

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

So I turned on the television to find out that Whitney Houston had died yesterday.  I’ve not kept up with Whitney in the last several decades except to hear occasionally about her unfortunate relationship and drug issues. I do remember her beautiful voice singing, “I get so emotional baby, every time I think of you…” There wasn’t a better theme song in the eighties for love struck teenage girls than that one.

Whitney grew up the daughter of a gospel singer. She grew up singing in church, but then someone discovered her, and took her away from all that. She went from singing praises to super stardom seemingly overnight. Her life took a turn. I didn’t know Whitney’s heart, but if appearances mean anything, she turned away from her first love. I have to wonder what would have become of her if she hadn’t. What would her life look like now?

We are all the sum total of our life choices. Every step we’ve taken in life has brought us to the place we are now. Every step toward God, and every step away from Him.

Our world has lost some super stars recently. Michael Jackson. Steve Jobs. Now Whitney Houston. While no one disputes their talent, neither can anyone dispute their troubled lives. The steps they took away from God. The steps that took them outside of the parameters God set up for their safety and well-being.

Their talents were God given, and yet they seldom used them to glorify the One who gifted them. They used their talents to further their own agendas. Sure, we all were entertained and blessed by those talents, but that’s not why they had been gifted in the ways they were. If our sole purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, if we are gifted in any way, it is then to turn around and give that gift back to Him for His own glory. Not to glorify ourselves.

In 2009 Whitney released a song called, “I Look To You”. She sings about how when nothing else is left and her strength is all gone, she looks to God. She never says His name in the song, but the implication is there. She hadn’t totally turned away from her first love, but neither had she given her gift completely back to Him.

The lure of this world is strong. It’s promises huge, but it can never deliver.  It promises us that more will make us happier. More will make us popular. More will meet our needs. More will make us the envy of all. The lure of this world is a lie. The truth is that He is all we need. He will supply our needs according to His riches in glory. It’s God’s riches we should seek. Not the riches of this world that will fade away and decay. Our charge is to seek first His kingdom, and then all these other things we think we must have will be added to us.

Stickies On My Computer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Sometimes I write my prayer requests down. Do you? If you don’t, can I ask you to start? Some people call it their prayer journal. I call it stickies on my computer. (There’s not actual stickies on my computer, it’s a program… but real stickies could work, too.)

Here’s the thing about writing down the things you pray for. Sometimes you forget what you’ve asked for, and when you asked for it. So when that answer comes, and it will, there’s no “ah ha” moment of recognition that God really did answer you and meet your need. The opportunity for a faith-growing moment can slip right by us.

I recently pulled up the stickies on my computer to take a look at my requests. I went back two years to the time when I moved back to Alabama with my family. To be honest, that was a less that stellar time in our lives. We were happy to be back in Alabama, but the circumstances surrounding the move were bad. I had a whole bunch of prayer stickies back then.

On 6-28-10 I had nine prayer requests. As I revisited each one, and was reminded why that particular thing was on my mind at the time, I began to notice a trend. Seven out of the nine things I had brought to the Lord, had been answered. Two are still in the works. Still, seven out of nine… cool.

Sometimes we feel far from God. Sometimes we wonder if He hears us when we cry out to him. If we can go back over time and revisit the things we have brought to Him, see where He has worked and where He is still at work, we can be reminded and reassured of His faithfulness to us.

There are three or four young men at our church (all in their twenties and thirties) who have taken time out of their lives to spend have a cup of coffee with my oldest son. All of them godly men. All of them speaking truth into him over a cup of Joe. I was telling my friend how thankful I am for these men. She quickly reminded me that was an answered prayer of mine. (She’s as good as a stickie on my computer to remind me of answered prayers) She was right. That is a constant prayer of mine for all of my kids as they become teenagers, and seek other people besides mom and dad to advise them. I pray they seek wise counsel, and it helps if the kids think the counsel comes from someone cool. God was able to provide both. Of course He was.

Are you needing some confirmation in your life that God is at work? Having a hard time seeing it? Write down your requests. This does two things. The act of writing them down forces you to have more clarity. Learn to be specific in your requests. Sometimes we think our prayers must have a wide sweep, but how cool is it to see how specific God can be in His answers to us? Writing our prayers down also helps us remember them, revisit them, and see over time what He has done in us, for us, and through us. These are faith-growing moments.