Hard

It’s hard to get back in the swing of things when my mind is still full.  Fall break is over and the students and I are slammed back into reality – them with tests, papers, midterms and catching up on all of the schoolwork they didn’t do on fall break and me with CROP Walk looming this Sunday and …. (I don’t even want to talk about the to do list right now).  As many of you know, we spent the break in New York City at the Church Center Building across from the United Nations doing a seminar through the United Methodist Seminar Program on Human Trafficking.

I have been taking groups to New York to the Seminar Program since 2005 and have never been disappointed.  I am consistently amazed at the quality of speakers, intentional dialogue, provocative and thought-provoking worship, and the entire program.  We have studied Inter-Religious Dialogue, Immigration, Race and Urban Poverty, Homelessness and Gentrification.  I can’t say enough what a special treasure the seminar program is and what a blessing it has been to me and the students I have taken.  It is rare to have the opportunity to delve into a relevant topic and look at it from an intellectual and faith-based perspective and I have seen a lot of transformation and action come out of our experiences.

To say this one was a particularly “heavy” seminar is an understatement.  We have done a lot of different topics over the years but I’ve never felt so physically and emotionally exhausted as I have with this one on human trafficking.  There are so many things that struck me over the past couple of days.  We had tremendous speakers from a variety of organizations helping combat human trafficking from legal standpoints, consumer standpoints, rehabilitation, etc.  That this issue is not something far away in a distant land is crucial for people to understand.  That this is an atrocity in our world, in our nation and in our communities is an understatement.  I was thankful that many of our speakers didn’t just talk about this as an international problem or a New York City problem, but they brought up cases where this has happened right here in South Carolina.  WIS in Columbia reported on one such case here http://www.wistv.com/global/story.asp?s=12066724.  In getting back from the trip I’ve been amazed at the people in the area reaching out and lifting up other organizations right here in our area combating this issue.

I couldn’t help thinking about my husband Mike’s comments on The Tudors mini-series and him saying over and over how crazy it was that women and children were treated in such awful and manipulative ways back then, and realizing that there are plenty of women and children being treated just as unbelievably awful today.  When you hear statistics it sometimes doesn’t get under your skin.  It’s often hard for us to soak that in because it’s just numbers.  There’s an African proverb that is on the bulletin board above my desk and I wrote it down after a CROP Walk one year.  It says, “Statistics are numbers without tears.”  Statistics are numbers without tears.

The most powerful thing that we watched was a movie called Very Young Girls.  I really hope we’ll be able to show it at Winthrop next year.  There’s a trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fX6EaHuRCg.  I warn you before you watch it – it’s hard to watch – it’s hard to hear – and it’s not using “church” language.  But then again, what is “church” language?  I know that talking about some of these things is pushing the envelope and I know these are areas that are beyond taboo and not polite in normal conversation, but if we as a church aren’t talking about them, if we’re not engaging them, if we’re not trying to do something to combat this issue in real and tangible ways, than we are just as guilty as condoning.  We can’t turn a blind eye and just work on things like hunger and homelessness when all of these things are so linked together.  It’s not pretty and it’s certainly not easy but if we don’t educate, than we’re a part of the problem.

One of the neatest parts of this seminar was getting to meet the author of The Blue Notebook, James A. Levine.  He was one of the most down-to-earth and sincere people that I think I’ve ever met and this is one of the most beautiful and difficult books I’ve ever read.  Check it out.  All of the U.S. proceeds from this book are donated to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and the Naitonal Center for Missing & Exploited Children (www.icmec.org).  By merely meeting a young girl and seeing this reality for a moment, he wrote this moving and powerful story that gets into your head and your heart and definitely under your skin.

I feel like I need to throw up beware warnings throughout this blog and any time I talk about this topic and maybe that speaks to something else entirely.  Preaching a bit about it last night at a revival, I admit made me pause – especially since there were some children in the congregation.  And yet, I can’t help but say something.  If you hear the stories of some of these girls and when you read the facts and see the magnitude of this problem and how it’s not just the story of India and Thailand but it’s our story too – we have to speak out.  That’s what Levine did.  He couldn’t just have this experience and not say something.  And every little bit we do, helps.

A wonderful guy who helped a District UMVIM group do some work at Wesley left us some more info on this topic including information on what our government is doing about this.  This info can be found at www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.  You can also call the trafficking information and referral hotline if you suspect someone of being trafficked – 1.888.3737.888.  It also gives you information about clues to look for and key questions to ask.

I can’t entirely articulate all that I feel on this issue and I don’t know if the students can yet at this point either, but I do invite you to learn more.  There are some facts below from the seminar.  And below that there are some links from some of the agencies and people we heard from.  Dig in.  Get educated.  Help spread the word.

Questions and Answers on Human Trafficking

What is human trafficking?  The UN defines Human trafficking as “ the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Who are the victims of human trafficking?  Victims of human trafficking are people forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Victims are usually women and children, but men are also trafficked for various reasons, including forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Where does human trafficking happen?  Human trafficking occurs all over the world. It does not require crossing international borders.  Victims of human trafficking can be either nationals or foreign nationals. Many victims are trafficked and enslaved entirely within their own country.

What are some of the factors that lead to human trafficking?  Poverty, isolation, inequality, natural disasters, conflict and political turmoil are important factors in making certain populations more vulnerable to being trafficked. However, trafficking is a criminal industry driven by 1) the ability to make large profits due to high demand, and 2) negligible-to-low risk of prosecution. As long as demand is unchecked and the risks for traffickers are low, trafficking will exist regardless of other contributing factors.

What is the total annual revenue for trafficking in persons?  The total annual revenue for trafficking in persons is estimated to be approximately $32 billion, making it one of the top 3 illicit activities in terms of profits in the world along with the illegal sale of narcotics and arms.

What forms of trafficking are most common?  Sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%), followed by forced labor (18%), such as domestic service, agriculture, factory, restaurant, and hotel work.

How many people are in modern-day slavery?  There are an estimated 27 million people currently in modern-day slavery around the world. According to UNICEF, an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.

How many people are trafficked across international borders each year?  There are an estimated 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year. The US is
the second highest destination in the world for trafficked women. An estimated 20,000-50,000 people are trafficked into the US each year.

What is the UN doing about human trafficking?  Many UN agencies are working to end human trafficking. In 2007, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes established the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) “ based on a simple principle: human trafficking is a crime of such magnitude and atrocity that it cannot be dealt with
successfully by any government alone. This global problem requires a global, multi stakeholder strategy that builds on national efforts throughout the world.”

http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/ – Check out the Chocolate campaign; have your church celebrate Freedom Sunday, check out your purchases wutg Free2Work.

http://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/

http://www.ecpatusa.org/

www.worldhope.org

www.salvationarmyusa.org/trfficking

www.iast.net

Your Love

I’m sitting in my office this morning not really knowing where to start.  There are preparations that need to happen for our Fall Break trip next week to New York for a human trafficking seminar, the protest we’re going to tomorrow, CROP Walk next week and the next, and Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.  I am feeling discouraged and frustrated and tired and I have to admit, a little angry.

Angry?  Do you ask?  No idea.  Maybe it’s all the layers and layers of things that have been heavy on my heart.  Maybe it’s feeling like it is always one step forward and two steps back.  Maybe it’s being tired of constantly being pulled in different directions and feeling like I’m having to absolutely fight tooth and nail for so much.  Or maybe I’m just melodramatic.  Could be.

The text I’m preaching this Sunday is Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 where Jeremiah is writing the remaining elders and all the other folks in exile.  It’s an encouraging text in my mind because it shows yet again that even as the people are in exile, God is with them.  They face the consequences of being in exile but God encourages them not to just sit and wait and do nothing but be miserable, but to settle in there and not just put roots there but to pray for this place and these people that they have been exiled to live with.

I also find it fascinating that this passage comes before the oft-quoted verse 11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  It continues on to verse 14 speaking of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of the present circumstance or consequence. 

Everywhere I look there is an answer to prayer whether it be for my health or for our new air conditioner or the improvement with Enoch’s speech delay or the countless people stepping up to help Wesley.  There are blessings all over the place and I am thankful.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not human and discouraged and frustrated and angry at times.

The awesome thing about our God is that we can be angry.  We can be frustrated to be in exile.  We can be sad or yell or whatever.  And as Romans 8 on my bulletin board says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes….”

A friend posted this video on my facebook wall the other day and I LOVE it.  We can get bogged down by the overwhelming to do list, the people that just aren’t happy with anything, the neverending demands for our time and attention, and our stark insecurities and inabilities but it all boils down to God’s love.  All of the petty who likes me or agrees with me this week or am I in the cool crowd or not or the I’m just doing the best I can.  God’s love is that thing that to me answers all the questions that roll around in my brain.  All of the fears.  The what ifs.  The wish I could have done better with thats. 

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Oh Christians…

So it’s been pop culture Christian overload lately with Glee last night – Dear Cheezus (one of the main characters praying to a grilled cheese sandwich that happened to be burned with the face of Jesus into it – very random considering that the news was covering a woman who found the face of Jesus in her MRI but neither here nor there…) and watching the movie Easy A a few weeks ago. 

Christianity is so often a parody or stereotype but I’m glad to see television, movies, and media really trying to engage in the conversation even in random ways.  In Easy A Christianity becomes the hate/bashing/judging yuck of quintessential stereotypes, and yet I think that’s how a lot of people associate us.  If I was playing family feud right now (new obsession thanks to my wonderful students who hounded me until I accepted an invite) what would the number 1 answers be for – describe a Christian?  I hope we would not do too terribly, but I have a sinking suspicion that it wouldn’t be all that great.

A recent Pew study just came out in Christian Century and it was saying that one of the challenges for declining worship attendance/church membership is that the group that most self-identifies as having “no religion” are 25-34 year olds http://ow.ly/2OFU9.  It’s a good article and I like that it is looking at worship attendance instead of typical church membership because it seems that less and less people want to actually “join” even though we are great at “joining” things and “liking” things on facebook.  There’s just something about doing it in real life that seems to freak people out or turn people off or make them think that there’s this big commitment or wapow! sudden change that’s going to suddenly happen.

The study also looked at why people are attending church less frequently.  Is it demands on time?  Is it lack of commitment?  Is it cultural/social/any kind of relevancy?  Is it a time or schedule thing?  Is it inconvenient?  Does it not meet our criteria of being a “good enough” use of our time?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s all of these and a ton more that no one wants to admit or say outloud. 

I had lunch with a student today and we were talking about Wesley.  In case I haven’t told you this is what some would call a rebuilding year for us.  I kind of don’t like that language and am not sure if I even want to type it, but we graduated a huge group of seniors last year and in many ways those were our leaders – the people that showed up consistently and really rocked it out.  That can have a big impact on a group.  Trust me.  We’ve also had a lot more people with night classes and schedule changes and blah, blah, blah.  Bottom line – you can’t please everyone and there’s no good time for everyone to meet.  Maybe we should just move it to Sundays at 11 am – just kidding.  Anyway in our conversation we talked about the balance of wanting Wesley to not be a place of stress or people feeling like they have to come even if they’re swamped with schoolwork, etc. but also the kick back of not wanting Wesley to always be put on the back burner of whatever comes up in the many other activities these students are committed to.  You want to give grace and you want people to not be overwhelmed, but then again do you want to make it so easy for them to pop in and pop out that they miss what it means to be committed to something?

Is that how we treat our congregations or worshipers?  Do we notice when some of them are missing or just randomly show up once every other month?  I’ve never been someone that says we need to bow down to the sticker chart in the sky of how many times we’ve been to church over the past year, but I also think I’m a bit guilty of not taking seriously the commitment of being part of a community of faith or of realizing that worship, community, and the body of Christ matter more than we sometimes give it credit or rationalize away.

We know we can turn to the church when the chips are down and we don’t know where else to go, but where do we go when we’re happy or things are going well or when life just gets too busy?  Is “church” the first thing to get cut from the to do list, when a better offer shows up?  Nope, we’re not getting extra brownie points here, but we’re missing out too.

You don’t just go to church for the numbers or the “memberships.”  You go because there’s something about intentionally sharing and being in community with people you wouldn’t necessarily spend 10 minutes with outside these walls.  There’s something about letting your guard down and being family that is sacred.  There’s something about breaking bread and opening up to someone that can’t be undervalued.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always convenient.  It will often challenge you.  And maybe sometimes you do feel shut out, unwelcome and frustrated.  But you don’t chuck it all over the little things – or it must not have meant that much to you to begin with.

Watching Glee last night and still actually being within that age range that the Pew study was talking about – I don’t  think it’s that people don’t care about religion and maybe it doesn’t even have to do with commitment level (even though I think this has some to do with it for all ages), but maybe our Christian story is not as clearcut for everyone.  Take for example Donald Miller’s blog post about the Blue Like Jazz movie http://bit.ly/aUcLb2 .  It’s hard to find backers for a “Christian” movie that’s not a typical clear-lined story.  I hear completely what he is saying.  But there are a lot of Christians that don’t have a hallmark movie story.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the hallmark movies or those of us that fit that mold, but there’s also nothing wrong with a little Lifetime thrown in either.  Just kidding.  I’m not advocating the drama, but I’m saying that maybe our Christianity sprinkled with a little pop culture (GleeEasy A – don’t forget Saved – and many more) speaks more to the fact that people are trying to sincerely search, question in deep ways, and claim both a brain and a foundational belief in the Gospel.  It seems like the conversation is changing – but I’m not sure that everyone is realizing that or if it’s changing at all for some folks.

Christianity doesn’t always fit neatly into certain parameters, and I don’t think Jesus did either.  But he did challenge and he did call forth something different – something not always easy and something you had to commit to.  May we not just show up for worship or believe on the inside, but may we also live out, question, challenge and nurture our faith in a variety of ways!  Looking forward to continuing the journey with you!

So if Family Feud asked you to describe “Christians” what would you say?

Leading a Protest?

I have been to a protest or two in my time.  I’ll never forget marching with my family and other United Methodists to bring the Confederate flag off the state house.  But it’s real different going to something organized by other folks and going to something where you’re supposed to be the “organizer.”  That is a little scary. 

I think I’ve written on here about some of my favorite put your money/time/lives where your mouth are people – the folks of the Jubilee House Community that live outside of Managua, Nicaragua working with some amazing people in Ciudad Sandino in one of the poorest areas in the second poorest country in our hemisphere.  Winthrop Wesley has been visiting JHC/the Center for Development in Central America for over a decade now and over the past three years, three of our delegations have worked alongside the Genesis Cooperative.  Genesis is a group of mostly women who have worked for close to four years to build a better life for themselves and their families.  They have been building the building where they are going to house their spinning cooperative by hand.  And it looks great!  Except there’s no equipment.  Really, really long story short and much better explained on their blog (http://jhc-cdca.blogspot.com/) an American company has taken their money ($150,000) and has yet to deliver.  This American company happens to be in our great state of South Carolina and within driving distance from Winthrop.  So off we go on an adventure today and off we will go on an adventure on Friday…

Again – never led a protest before.  Wisely a beautiful 70 year old fellow protester brought some noise makers (ie. tamborine and drum) and we did bring some signs, but we’re going to work on making them bigger so people can read them.  Again – never led a protest before.  We’ll be ready on Friday – don’t worry.  Now we’re prepared.  To be honest, in pulling all this together it would have been easy to think of a gazillion reasons why driving to Greenville and back today was not the greatest use of our time…but in thinking about the women that we have worked alongside – making cement, using a giant machine to make them into blocks for the walls, twisting rebar and shoveling dirt, doing more digging, wheelbarrowing, and shifting than I’d like to remember – we had to go.

These women have stepped out in faith for close to 4 years as they have worked to make a sustainable future for themselves and their children.  I know that times are tough in our country, seriously, I know.  But I also know that we talk about this American dream where people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, where people can work hard and build a better life for themselves, where people can create something that’s not just temporary, but can give them new life.  These women are trying to do that.  They’re not asking for a hand out.  This isn’t going to provide just one free lunch to someone (even though for many that is a significant act of love).  This is going to provide them a means of living – a way to provide for themselves not just for a couple of days but for a lifetime.  You know the teach the person to fish story…

I’m not arguing this politically, I’m not arguing this economically, I am not even entirely arguing this theologically – I’m just saying that I believe amazing things can happen when people give voice to the voiceless.  And I’m saying that it is not just a convenience, but a responsibility to have a voice.  We may not have all the answers and we’re certainly not lawyers, but we do know the Jubilee House Community and we do know these women – and they are worth speaking out for.

Here are some pictures of some Winthrop Wesley students working on the spinning plant alongside the amazing people of Genesis.

As Mike (JHC Mike, not husband Mike) has said – the JHC/CDCA would survive if this deal fell through and this guy totally crooked them out of the money/equipment, but these women – this Genesis Cooperative – would not survive.  The close to four years without any compensation that they have worked would have been for zilch.  I can’t even comprehend that.  That’s why they and we are fighting.  That’s why the call has gone out to us – people with a voice here in the US – to speak out on behalf of these beautiful, tenacious, and strong women.  In a world of spending, spending, spending and shopaholics galore – we have got to put our money, our hearts, and our voices where our mouths are and not just talk about truth and justice, but we’ve got to live it.

Thanks for your prayers for these women!  And for these JHC folks!  And for all those both around the world and right around our corners that are worried about where their next meal will come and how they will provide for their families.  We are not just helpless even in the face of what seem like insurmountable and giant problems – we have voices, we have mighty prayers, and we have all sorts of means and resources whether it be poster board and markers or a phone call.  May we use them.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

I have been totally slacking on the blog but things have been busy, busy!  This summer I started reading Sophie Kinsella/Madeline Wickham books.  I admit that I’m a little of a book fanatic but it takes me a while to find an author I like and then I’m all in.  I read her Twenties Girl in an airport in May and have loved her books ever since.  They really should make a movie on Can You Keep a Secret?  Hilarious and priceless.

Anyway, even though I love her writing, I have been hesitant to begin the Shopaholic series.  Not because it doesn’t look cute and yes, I know about the movie, but I’ve never seen it.  I just saw that there was a whole series – Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic and Sister, Shopaholic and Baby…wowzers.  As a sometimes, if it’s the beginning of the month and there’s still a little bit of money in the account, shopaholic – I knew that starting to read these would just feed that shopaholic tendency and I was correct.  When I first preached a sermon about this two weeks ago I had only gotten the first book and read it but now I’m all the way to Shopaholic and Baby and I don’t even entirely know how I got there but they were just so good!

The lectionary has been following 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy a good bit over the past couple of weeks and I’ve enjoyed looking at those texts and pondering them.  Paul’s instructions to Timothy are both practical and full of love.  He’s not just mentoring Timothy in a hands-off let me tell you what to do way, he’s actually being honest and truthful about highs and lows and good and bad with him.

In 1 Timothy 6:6-19, the thing that stood out the most to me was this talk of contentment.  Contentment is one of those things that people long for and try all sorts of things to attain, but it often can feel a little elusive as well.  There’s just something about that Shopaholic tendency or that joy from a purchase especially if it’s on clearance or buy 1 get 1 free – something about that feeling of satisfaction that gives us that momentary satisfaction of feeling like heck yeah, I just got something really fabulous and now I feel good about myself – where I am and who I am.  And it’s something that we sadly can pass down.  Enoch, our 3 year old, now can ask for Target by name – and that is a sad, sad thing.  I don’t want him to just be looking for the next shiny toy.

There’s so much in our society that supports this thinking – from The Secret craze – the law of attraction that we can will things into being if we believe them and call them towards us.  Or even things in a Christian context – like the Prayer of Jabez craze less than a decade ago.  There’s something about these mindsets if you just believe enough, if you just do blank enough then x, y, z will happen and your life will be perfect. 

But it just doesn’t seem to always work like that.  Or maybe it just does for Oprah.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you will something to be so, or how much you want something – it ain’t happening.  Stuff is not permanent.  These things that we’re grasping for are not permanent.  Even the very cute purple pocketbook that I got on sale at Target and am holding out to use because it is adorable – is not permanent.  It will tear up and be filled up with junk and worn out just like all of my other pocketbooks.

Paul is asking Timothy to think about wants versus needs.  We all know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – like basic human needs such as shelter, food, etc. to more advanced emotional needs like self-esteem, respect and creativity.  One of the students last week was writing a paper for her psychology class and it was all about what shapes one’s personality.  In many ways she was asking – where do we find contentment?  Who tells us who we are?  Who do we listen to?  Whether it’s parents or friends or peer group or media or whatever – who tells us we’re okay.

I had another student yesterday email me questions for one of her classes about style and appearance.  I admit this took me by surprise.  The questions asked about daily beauty routines, how long these things took, and what products did you use.  It also asked about how celebrities or media affected these decisions.  I admit, when I thought about it – there are some days I am lucky if my hair gets brushed and there’s no make up and just trying to survive and get the kids dressed.  But then there are other days – board meeting days, days when I know I’ll see people other than my loving students and on those days I do try to take a shower, pick out my clothes well, and put on some make up.  Her last question struck me though – what is your self-esteem without make up and style and what is your self-esteem with it?

What determines how we feel about ourselves?  What determines if we are satisfied with our lives?  Where do we get this elusive contentment?  For the shopaholics out there, you can’t buy contentment in any store.  Sadly you can’t even order it on Amazon.  It’s not that it’s sold out, it’s just not for sale.

Billy Graham asked people to take out their checkbooks and then said, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.”  That is scary.  Or maybe it’s not for some of you.  There aren’t many things that we buy that we don’t need or is not a basic utility or food but yes, there is an iced white chocolate from The Coffee Shack on my desk right now.  It’s delicious.  It’s supporting a local business.  It probably has calories out the wazoo but who cares – there’s caffeine.  And I need this drink today.  We’re going to a protest later on behalf of some amazing women in Nicaragua – and I need the energy.  I need this sugary goodness.  I need this instantaneous gratification that’s only going to last me a few more sips.  That’s throwing around a lot of “needs.”

What is the deal with that?  How do we trick ourselves into thinking/manipulating/justifying/rationalizing these things in our minds?  Paul is not giving Timothy a recommendation for happiness here, but he’s talking about being content.  Having “enough.”  What does enough look like to you?  If you were like the guy/girl in the movie Leap Year and the fire alarm went off – what would you grab?  What really does make you happy – not just for a moment but forever?  What makes you even more than just happy – but content?  Family?  Friends?  A job you love?  Volunteering where you feel alive?  What is it?  I hope that Enoch knows and that his Mommy knows that life is much more than the next purchase and that spending an afternoon playing fireman or school bus or hiding in the tent or going to the “choo choo” park or “big” park is priceless.

How do we get past the hugely loud message being played back to us from all sides that we have to have ______ to be satisfied?  That we have to have ______ for a meaningful existence?

Our first commandment is to love God.  And as Christians we’re not just giving and sharing and opening up to our neighbors what we have just because they’re our neighbors and that’s what we’re called to do – we’re sharing from our abundance because we love God.  We love the One who calls us each by name and says that God’s love is more than enough for each of us.

Do you spend each week waiting for the carrot at the end?  Do you say to yourself well when _____ happens, then I’ll be able to do _______.  If I could make a little more money than I could give to x, y, z.  When I pay off such and such, then I’ll be able to….  When I’m not so busy, then I’ll sit down and ask myself – what in my life really brings about this joy that can’t be taken away by chance or circumstance? 

Sometimes we lose our way.  Sometimes we lose ourselves.  Sometimes we lose sight of what we have and the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in the abundant life that Christ gives each of us.  Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

God is faithful to us – even when we crash.  Even when our priorities are topsy turvy and our checkbook is blaringly obvious upside down.  Who’s approval are we seeking?  Friends, co-workers, parents, supervisors, “those” people – or are we striving after the Gospel of our Lord who spurs us forth giving us all the reassurance in the world that we are children of God and that is more than enough?  We have to be those supports for one another.  One thing I’ve learned even from reading this crazy Shopaholic series – sometimes you have to say a strong but loving word to someone.  We need those people that can call us out – in love and grace – but calling out nonetheless.  We need people to say – hey – what are you doing?  What really matters?

May we continue the journey of discovering who we are in God’s eyes and being sure in that.  May we also pick up and love our fellow journeyers as we all walk this road together, remembering that we’re not just called to the lost and the poor around the world, but to those in our communities right beside us who are struggling and looking for answers.  May God be faithful in our searches that gives us satisfaction and contentment much more than any fancy pocketbook, awesome car, or even the perfect ______.

Here’s Toby Mac’s “Get Back Up.”

God loves us no matter what and gives us the Word and direction we need…..even when we don’t know where to turn and we’re wondering what in the heck happened.

Here’s Kerrie Roberts, “No Matter What”….