from The Message:

Flowers

Luke 12: 25-28“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

So Many People

You should know that Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is following me on Twitter. Me and 33, 203 other people! Still, I enjoy reading his blog and this week he posted some great perspective. In the middle of trials, instead of asking why, he as learned to ask What does this make possible? I love that. (Just so you also know that he appears to be rather normal in other respects, he notes in the comments that this question can be asked too soon to someone actually in a crisis – just keep that little tidbit of advice in mind.)

Being on the other side of a trial is a wonderful place to be – you are surrounded by perspective. When I see others just walking into a trial it is tempting for me to accost them with my hard-earned perspective, thinking maybe I could spare them some of the struggle. But that isn’t true, is it? We call them personal trials for a reason. Even though we can help each other through them with support and prayer and encouragement, the true gift of a trial is something gained as an individual.

I could share story after story of the many changes in my habits and ways of thinking during our time of crisis with Claire and her twin sister, Ellery, who died shortly after her birth. (Admittedly not all changes were good. I attribute eating for comfort to those difficult days when a trip to a restaurant was a cool oasis from the desert of our hospital surroundings. Very hard habit to break.) One thing that surprised me the most was how much bigger my world became during that season.

I had been raised in wonderful Christian home and active church. I loved it there and I grew spiritually. However, it was a small world. That can be good in some ways, but for some reason it had made me arrogant. I lived, worked, and learned with all the same people. I began to think we could do anything if we tried hard enough. But I was wrong.

When I experienced placenta abruption at just 23 weeks into my twin pregnancy six years ago, not only could no one in my church help me, no one in my TOWN could help me. I had to ride in an ambulance two hours before we reached the University hospital with staff prepared to  help. Then for 115 days I met person after person who had sacrificed years of their lives and  thousands of their dollars to acquire the skills and knowledge that were being applied toward my tiny baby girl’s healing.

We realized so many things in that hospital. Among them, we were rich in friends. Also among them, God had even prepared complete strangers to be part of our story. His world is so much bigger than ours. I would never wish for someone to go through the things we went through in those days, but I’m so thankful for the perspective. I’m thankful for a bigger world and a bigger God. Who knows, God might even be able to use Twitter!

*You can follow me on Twitter, too. Click here.

What Do You Think?

I’m reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Do NOT be deceived by this title; this is not fluffy Christian-positive-thinking-affirmation type stuff. Chan’s words are challenging, sometimes nearly offensive. And it really has me thinking.

As an example of the kind of challenge Francis Chan is throwing out to the Christian community, here is a question – accompanied by a video of his wife with an abandoned baby in Uganda – he posed on his own vlog:

why is my life more valuable than this baby’s? Someone asked me recently why I don’t save money for emergencies, or retirement. My answer was how can I justify saving for myself “just in case” something happens to me when something IS happening to so many already. 29,000 kids will die today of preventable causes. If I’m to love my neighbor AS myself, why spend so much time worrying about me?

What do you think?

Something I’ve Been Up To: Small Group Exchange

I’ve recently become a contributor for a website called Small Group Exchange. The site offers study products, such as books and DVDs, specifically suited for small groups of the Christian variety. You’ll also find helpful articles and videos for leaders. I’ve always been involved with some kind of small group in church, and I find it one of the most challenging yet helpful tools for spiritual growth. That growth won’t always be comfortable or easy, but, like going to the gym to exercise, it is almost guaranteed to work if you do it right!

My bio picture sits right between Erwin McManus and the band Flyleaf – what a fortunate first initial I have! (You’ll have to scroll down to see it.)

Check it out! I have reviews here and here.

Love for Lyrics

Yesterday we sang “Amazing Grace” and I was struck by the beautiful paradox of the first line of the second verse:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.

If you hang around Christian theology discussions very long you’ll know the grace vs. works debate is HUGE! Where do you stand – once saved always saved or progressive sanctification? I know a guy who said the best advice is to live like you are saved by your works but to believe like you are saved by faith alone. I realize it does matter; what we believe affects the way we live our lives, but I also think the entire discussion is bigger than any one of us can pin down in a three-point sermon.

That is the awesomeness of God, really. Rob Bell has an sweet demonstration of God’s otherness in his video “Everything is Spiritual“. He explains that God lives in an entirely different dimension than we do – one not limited by time and space. He uses the analogy of a human interacting with a family who lives only in 2-D, on paper. Like Flat Stanley. Imagine how many things would seem strange to the 2-D family if we tried to enter their world in our 3-D forms. Bell used a white board marker to illustrate the way the truth of God can be hard for us to pin down. As he holds up the marker and asks what shape it is in 2-D.  We realize it looks like a rectangle from that perspective. But we know in 3-D it is a cylinder. Bell says, Yeah, God is like that.

So, back to grace and works and the lyrics to the old hymn:

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.

Yeah, grace is like that.

Pets: Our Privilege

This is our new puppy, Oso (Spanish for “bear” – a tribute to his Cuban heritage):

osoada

We got a steal of a deal on him because he was an older puppy and not AKC registered. Normally a puppy of this breed, the Havanese, can run between $600 and $2,000. We paid $150. And, no, I didn’t do all the things you are supposed to do when you buy a puppy. I didn’t check out his parents or his home or his papers. I actually picked him up in a Kum N Go parking lot -  much like a drug deal, really. But he’s a wonderful little guy. We needed him. And this week our vet checked him out thoroughly and declared him a “perfect dog.”

oso

Funny thing is, when I mentioned we were getting a new puppy, my Egyptian colleague asked about our other dog, not knowing he had died shortly after a car hit him in front of our house. He went on to explain his interest in the Western attitude toward pets compared to the Eastern attitude to which he is more accustomed. I could only assume he meant our sometimes over-the-top affection for pets that makes us dress them in little clothes and buy memorial stones when they pass.

Yes, that is what he meant. Growing up, he had both a dog and a cat, but he only kept them because he shared his own food with them. Buying dog food or cat food is unheard of in Egypt. In his homeland it is also a common occurrence for the police to walk the streets and shoot stray dogs just to be rid of the nuisance. My friend shook his head and smiled, “It’s terrible, really, I don’t know why we are this way.”

Then he told me a story he meant to be funny, but it broke my heart instead. Last year when our pastor visited Egypt with my colleague, they stopped on the street to visit with a cart driver and his horse. This job, much like a rickshaw driver in China or Thailand, is a job for the poorest of the poor. It is no way to make a living. Our pastor took an apple given to him by his Egyptian hosts and began to feed it to the skinny horse. What he didn’t know was that the Egyptians called this apple an “American apple” because it is imported and very expensive. As our pastor let the horse take a bite, the driver anxiously turned to my friend and asked him to ask our pastor if he would please save some of the apple for him instead. No matter that the horse had already bitten into the flesh, the driver longed for a taste of that kind of extravagance.

“So, having a pet is a privilege of the rich, isn’t it?” I asked my friend.

He smiled at me sheepishly, as he does when I try to dissect something he would rather leave as a simple anecdote, “Yes. It is.”