Life.  Some see it as a randomly assigned smattering of days with no purpose.  Others believe in divine appointments they rarely keep.  For most, ordinary.  But it doesn't have to be.   What if we dared to go the narrow way? Join me in taking THE FAITH DARE.

Caution: Participating in this challenge might force you to give up some of the things (people?) dearest to you. This challenge could change your life.  Join at your own risk.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Powerful video

One of the most powerful videos I've seen in a while...

God, give me your heart for your much so that I am moved to act on your behalf.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

FAITHdare ends...but the journey continues

My dad always told me, "ASH, when you commit to something, you commit to finishing it." I don't like quitting. Sometimes, though, it is better to quit than to keep on going. For reasons I will not share here, and after much prayer and consideration, I have decided that FAITHdare needs to come to a close. I am sad to stop halfway through. I don't want to stop halfway through. I DID commit to finishing FAITHdare when I started it. But it has been made clear to me that it would do more harm than good to continue. Please do not let the end of FAITHdare end your journey into a deeper and more vibrant faith in a God who can move mountains and change wayward hearts. Take the time to explore in your own hearts and in conversation with God the topics we had left to go! Thank you to everyone who has journeyed with me thus far...God has changed me in ways I could not have predicted. I pray He did the same in some of you! I have made connections through FAITHdare that I never would have made had I not entered this journey...and I am so grateful for them! You all are a special group of people...I have been challenged and encouraged by you! Stay faithful on the journey!

You can always find me over at, where I write about anything and everything that is on my heart!

I will close the way we started:
"Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple...In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27, 33).
Though the cross may seem too heavy at times, remember the hope and reward to which you were called! Onward, onward we travel!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

So, I'm getting kind of tired of hearing my own voice = ] Any last wisdom, thoughts, ideas, etc. about this topic of possessions and the kingdom of God? Any recommended further resources? How has God worked in your heart in this area? Please share! Next week we move on...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

FAITHdare #24: Dream Big

"The more you have, the more you have to lose. The longer you have, the more you become dependent on the available resources. Wealth moves us to depending on resources where once we were depending on resourcefulness. If we are not careful, what we have can establish the limitations of what we can imagine" (from Wide Awake, by E. McManus).

Today in my church, an observation was made: The more we have, the more anxiety we seem to have. Funny, isn't it? As we get more stuff, we suddenly have dilemmas that we don't really need to have...Should I wear this outfit, or THIS outfit? What in the world am I going to make for dinner? Or should we go out to eat instead? Which car do I buy? Do I put my child in baseball, or soccer?

Have you ever wondered how many of our "problems" are of our own creation? What if we only had one outfit? No more dilemma. What if we only had enough food for the next meal? Poof! Tough decisions fly out the window. And on and on... For most of the world, there is no choosing which outfit to wear or which meal to cook. "The more you have, the more you have to lose..." And so we become anxious. How do we keep from losing?

Perhaps what we don't realize is that we are being choked. "...Others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Mark 4:18-19). Is your stuff choking you? Is your stuff hindering your growth as a follower of Christ? Do you find yourself anxious about many things, things that you don't even need?

Do you need to do some weeding?
I want to be able to dream God's big dreams. I want to be free to go wherever He calls me, whenever He calls me. And I realize I need to be careful to avoid accumulation of stuff, because "what we have can establish the limitations of what we can imagine." If I get too comfortable in a nice house, with plush things and all the comforts of the "American dream," dreaming God's dreams becomes increasingly difficult as I begin to rely on resources in place of the Source of Life.

I want to be free to dream big with God, don't you? In order to do so, though, we are going to have to expand our worlds. "When you invite God to give you a dream for your life, you will find God expanding the parameters of your concern" (McManus). When you are feeling anxious about how to keep from losing all the time, it's hard to be concerned about those outside of your world.

This week, I am inviting you to dream big with God.

FAITHdare #24:
What can you and God do together with your possessions? How can you use the resources God has given you to expand His kingdom, to care for those who have less? Dream big with God!

If you're a music person, this song came out this week and totally spoke to my heart. If you have a minute, check it out!
"Father break my heart for what breaks yours. Give me open hands and open doors. Put your light in my eyes and let me see that my own little world is not about me."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Please pray

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog this weekend was an interesting start to the week, and a LONG story that I will have to share later = ]

Until Sunday, I want to send you HERE, and ask you to pray for Namukosa. How easily we forget..."To whom much is given, much is required." Please don't forget.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

FAITHdare #23: [Guest post!] To whom much is given much is required

I am so excited to share another guest post with you all = ] It has been a joy to watch God moving in the life of my friend, Julie. I pray we are all challenged by the way God is moving among us!

FAITHdare #23:
What is God calling you to?

"To whom much is given much is required.

I had heard this so many times in my life and for more than 30 years of it I believed it never
applied to me. I never saw myself as one who was given much. I grew up in a middle class
family and had a dad who did an incredible job of providing for our family, but in my immature
mind I was always busy looking at those who had so much more.

As a young adult, my outlook didn’t change. My job as a reporter left me with a meager salary
while my friends were free to spend as much as they wanted. And the feeling of playing catch-
up to the American Dream only deepened when I married my husband, who was 8 years behind
those his age in earning potential.

The first several years of our marriage was paying off his debt from bachelorhood, struggling
through the stresses of financial insecurity, and seeing the ugliness of sin and selfishness drive
some of our arguments over money. Secretly, I would walk the streets of our little town gawking
over the big, beautiful historic homes and wondering when and if we’d ever be able to move up
from our two-bedroom bungalow.

When was God going to pull through for us? When would Jeff finally get a career he liked
that paid the salary that would give us that house. That mini van. That image. When?

I had accepted Christ in my kindergarten Sunday School class and had watched the Holy Spirit
move in my life and transform me as a child of God. But God would allow me to live with this
obscure view of money and possessions for more than 30 years before His grace would step in
and say it was enough.

It happened two years ago. My husband came home from work and shared how he had
heard a great radio broadcast from Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion International.

“I have always thought it would be great to sponsor a child for each of our children,” he said as I
prepared dinner in the kitchen.

“That’s nice,” I said, but inside I was thinking something else. What?! Sponsor a child?! We
need to get a little further in our little life here before we can give up more than $30 a month.

But at the time, God has been teaching me and Jeff something different: obedience. So, a
couple of months later when we were at a Michael W. Smith concert and he started talking
about Compassion, I looked at Jeff and said, “If God is laying this on your heart, we need to do

We raised our hand and a woman handed us a packet. A boy from Rwanda, Africa, the same
exact age of our oldest son. At that moment, a journey had begun and I didn’t even know it.

I spent the next week, wondering how the heck we were going to pay this monthly fee.

Seriously, how? And then God grabbed me. There I was walking into Target getting ready to
spend $40 on a bag full of non-essentials and God said, “This is how you’re going to pay for it.
The same way you pay for stuff you don’t really need to get by.”

From that moment on, the Holy Spirit moved like wildfire throughout my heart. I got on
Compassion’s website and was extremely moved by these children. I read up on our little guy in
Rwanda and was deeply convicted about the state of our own home and my heart. Here, I was
so proud of how we were going to help this little guy, when actually he was helping me. God
literally took my face and turned it from looking at all that I didn’t have, to what I did.

I became obsessed with what I could give to God. We sponsored another child (this time
the age of our middle child) and I even became an advocate with Compassion. But it wasn’t
enough. I lay in bed one night crying to God. What else can I do? I had been so ignorant for so
long. And then I felt God turning my eyes to my engagement ring. I felt this overwhelming need
to sell it. To show God that only He mattered. Not only had the ring cost a lot, but it now was a
symbol of who Jeff and I used to be. When we bought it, we were part of a mentality that bigger
was better. That wasn’t me any more.

I prayed about it and asked God to soften my husband’s heart. He did and the day after
Christmas, my husband drove from jeweler to jeweler to find the best deal. He sold it and right
after he came back from depositing the check in the bank I donated it to help orphans. It was
the best feeling in the world. And the first, but not last, time I would feel a bit of what I call
eternal joy.

Since that time, I have found that the only joy I experience is when it comes to investing in
God’s kingdom. A year ago this month, God began a new journey in our hearts: this time
adoption. It came out of nowhere, but has taken us to places in our faith that I would have
never gone had I not followed His call. It may be a year before we see that journey come to
completion, but in God’s eyes it’s all wrapped in one. For the place we will go to pick up our
son is the same little country he used to open my heart and eyes in the first place: the beautiful
country of Rwanda.

I now live my days thinking less of my things and more of God’s kingdom. My joy comes not
from something new for my home, but from the new little ribbon we buy Maria, the girl we
sponsor in Tanzania. For after this world burns up, there’s only two things that will go with us to
eternity: God’s word and His people."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

FAITHdare #22: Unburying Ourselves

A year ago yesterday, my dad went to be with Jesus. And yesterday, as I was reflecting on everything my dad taught me, I was reminded of his other-worldly perspective. I'll never forget coming home one day to hear about how my dad's wallet had been stolen out of his car. His response? "Whoever stole it must have needed it more than I did!" Oh the joy he embodied as he lived with so little tying him to this world.

You might be wondering why, after spending a month of FAITHdare focusing on money, we are spending the next month on possessions. Pretty much the same thing, right? Maybe. Sort of. What I want to point us to, though, is the reality that our relationship to our things could be very indicative of our place between this world and the next.

Luke 12:15-31 (NIV)

15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

We live such complex lives, filled with busyness and THINGS. We seem to be obsessed with getting MORE, with storing up "goods" in bigger "barns." Are we also storing up eternal treasures?

I find that the more I have, the tighter I cling to it all. Remember this? I have to admit there have been days this summer when I have thought about how nice it would be to "freshen" my wardrobe. But they have been few and far between, and vastly overwhelmed by days where I am consciously and unconsciously grateful for how much simpler my life is without a closet running over with new outfits and accessories.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus commanded his disciples to take nothing with them when he sent them out (Mt. 10:9-10)? Have you ever gone on a vacation without packing ahead of time? Sure, you may not be as "comfortable" without your entire bathroom cabinet with you, but you sure have less to worry about. What if we similarly uncluttered our lives? Would we have more time for things of eternal value?

What if we had only one set of dishes per person in our families? Maybe more time could be spent in family conversation around the table {instead of in the kitchen dealing with load after load of dishes}.

What if we lived with fewer clothes? Maybe we could spend more time serving our neighbor {instead of washing and sorting through loads and loads of laundry}.

What if we had fewer television sets and media games? Maybe we could spend more time instructing our children about the things of God {instead of sitting for hours in front of a screen}.

What if we just plain had LESS STUFF? Maybe we could use more time seeking out the heart of God {instead of dusting, cleaning, tripping over, stressing about, looking for, breaking up fights over, and coveting THINGS that won't last anyway}.

Have you ever thought about your stuff with a different perspective? Ever thought about living with half of what you've got, and what that would do to your eternal perspective? Have you ever taken inventory of all that is standing between you and seeing eternity? Maybe it's time.

FAITHdare #22:

Take a walk through your living place, noticing all of your things. What do you have that you are afraid to get rid of? What do you have that you forgot was even there? What are you "storing up" that could be used instead for kingdom purposes? Take action as you feel led.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

FAITHdare #21: What's Left?

I live so often with a perspective of immediacy...rather than one fixed on eternity. I think my relationship with money all comes down to this one simply complex factor: Do I desire Christ above all else? Do I LONG for Him, for the day when I will see Him face to face? Because if I do, all else--money, investments, retirement accounts--will fade in comparison. It's not rocket science. We have been given the pearl of great price...what are we going to do with it?

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Mt. 13:45-46).

This is our last week looking at our relationship to money. I love what Cindy shared with us last week...and I think it reflects this parable. We are clinging to our land and our houses and our furniture, when we could easily trade all that JUNK in for a treasure that will NEVER spoil, perish, or fade. Will you choose to live with that perspective, or will you continue to cling to earthly things? Choose THIS DAY whom you will serve...for you cannot serve two masters.

I would strongly urge you to take an hour this week (if you are married, do so with your spouse!) to really examine what you are doing with the earthly resources God has placed in your trust. Are you hoarding them for a day you have not even been promised? Are you wasting them on todays that will soon be yesterdays? Or are you investing them in LIVES and RELATIONSHIPS that whisper of the kingdom of God here among us? Don't wait any longer...for tomorrow will vanish before you know it. What will you have left when you stand before the King?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

FAITHdare #20: Do you trust Him?.....GUEST POST!!!

I'm beginning to wonder if all it comes down to one question: Do we trust Him? In the garden, Eve bought into the lie that God was withholding something from her. Isn't that what we, deep down, think? Does God really have our best in mind if He asks us to give up everything to follow Him? I pray that you all would begin to wrestle with that question this week, as my new friend, but already dear sister in Christ, Cindy, shares her journey with us. Be moved by the Spirit, and share your reflections!


“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly. I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”~ John Newton

How and when God chooses to open our eyes is a great mystery to me. But I know by His grace He does it, because it has happened to me.

It was my last day in Uganda, Africa, in 2006, and I was ready to be back home. My husband and I were sitting in a tiny church office where hand-written posters about Jesus hung on the walls. We were talking with our good friend, a Ugandan pastor named John, when a small frame stepped in to the doorway. There stood a young boy, obviously malnourished, head down, muttering something we couldn’t understand. He appeared to be about 8 years old.

Three times we asked him to repeat himself, but he spoke so softly, we couldn’t make out the words. Finally we looked at John and asked what this little boy was saying.

“Will you pay my school fees?”

A thousand things flashed through my head at that moment. The first being, this little guy is starving. Why is he asking to go to school? A Mirinda grape soda had just been ordered for me and arrived on a tray, icy cold with a straw in it. I handed it to him.

I asked him to come stand by me so I could hear him. He took two steps to cross the room and was by my side. “What is your name?” “Vincent.” “Vincent, what class are you in?” “S4.” Disbelief. It is not possible that this small boy is a freshman in high school. So I repeat and clarify my question. “How old are you?” “13.”

At that moment, I remember thinking that if I did not take care of this little boy, I would be the most evil person on the planet. That was my exact thought.

Fast forward 4 weeks. I’m back at home hiking a small mountain near our home. At the top, I look down and see the large custom homes sprawling across beautifully landscaped yards with swimming pools. As I look left to see the homes, I notice my strong desire to live there. How could I have an appetite for this after what I had seen? I am remembering Vincent, and I am, possibly for the first time, acutely aware that I am in the midst of a struggle. I did not want to want those homes. But I did. And my desire for them did not vanish, no matter how hard I thought about Vincent.

Mercifully, God took us back to Uganda just 4 weeks later. We visited Vincent and his mother in their tiny shack of a home. Vincent’s mother was widowed, and she ran a food store the size of a small closet in front of her home. We learned both Vincent and his mother had AIDS.

This time in Uganda, I noticed something. I noticed that when I was in the midst of poverty, my want-er stopped wanting. Maybe not entirely, but it lessened. Interesting.

Back home to the U.S. again after 11 days. It’s now August of 2006. I had just come face to face with abject poverty twice within two months. Sometime over the course of the next year, I sat in a chair in my living room, looking at our gorgeous wood floors, crying, because there lay $20,000. $20,000 that I walked on, but could have fed Vincent and a whole host of other children.

But nothing changed. Like good Pharisees, we still gave our 10 or 15% to God, because that’s what we had been taught to do. But nothing changed in our lifestyle. We didn’t give any more because of what we had encountered. We had been involved with this ministry in Africa for more than 10 years. We had now seen firsthand the desperate need. We had met Vincent and visited his home. But in my heart, there was a battle that was not yet won.

In 2007, we began reading a book by Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Eternity. I had grown up in the church and had gone to a Christian school. But this book was a compilation and study of what God’s word has to say about money, and I had not heard anything like it. My husband and I sat there reading one night, and he shook his head sadly and said, “I’ve been a terrible steward. If I were God, I’d fire me.”

“For the word of God is living and active, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

In 2007, God began teaching and molding us. I discovered that it is His Word and His Word alone that brings conviction that leads to change. I knew all about poverty in my head, I advocated against it and wrote about it, even running a small non-profit organization, and I had seen it with my eyes, but it was His Word that pierced me, that revealed the true condition of my heart, and that began to change me.

That same year, thanks to the book!, we made a decision to sell our home. The instant we made that decision, I thought: “Well, at least if we have to go live in an ugly home, I will still have my beautiful brand new furniture.” By this time, the Holy Spirit was moving rapidly in my life, and I was almost instantly convicted. I couldn’t believe it. Now, not only would I be selling our home that we had poured a year into re-modeling and decorating, but I would be selling the furniture that I dearly loved and had spent countless hours shopping for and purchasing.

At this point, it really became a grit-your-teeth-and-do-it thing. I knew in my head that Jesus said to love my neighbor as myself (which I was clearly not doing), and that if I loved him I would obey His commands.

And for me, the process was a bit like ripping off a bandaid. I was scared to do it. I was afraid of the pain. But when I took the bandaid off, it stung, but only for a moment, and the sting was followed by lasting relief. The process of selling our home took more than a year. And it also took more than a year to sell our “stuff”—furniture, home décor, jewelry, you name it, I sold it. With each item that left the house, I felt a bit of a sting, but each time, the sting lessened.

And in the middle of this process, I discovered something HUGE. SATAN IS A BIG FAT LIAR. He had lied to me my entire life, and I had believed him. I believed that having nice things would make me happy and that parting with my things and my pretty house would make me sad. I could not believe the new freedom that was beginning to emerge in my soul. To this day, I cannot believe it.

I learned that God is totally trustworthy. That He tells the truth, and when He says that friendship with the world is enmity with God, it is true. And when He said that we cannot serve both God and Money, it is true. And when He says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and that through this craving some have wandered away and pierced themselves with many pangs…it is true. I had pierced myself with many pangs, needlessly.

But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Exclamation points, mine J)

He came and he set me free from myself. He set me free from my love affair with the world. Really and truly free. I didn’t know this kind of freedom was possible. I realize now that I was in bondage. It really does feel like I’m born again, for the very first time.

One of the last things I did before leaving that house was to dump my collection of home magazines and magazine clippings. It was an act of worship. And it was completely freeing. I recalled what I had learned in Uganda. That when I was staring poverty in the face, my want-er became less active. I realized that these home magazines presented an opportunity for idolatry. They in no way focused me on His kingdom, and the love of beautiful home décor distracted me from my purpose and reason for existence.

“But, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

And I know now that all I need to do to obtain that freedom is to obey. Obedience is followed by blessing. And sometimes we just need to grit our teeth and do it, but we will never, ever be sorry that we have followed His ways.

A few months ago, a friend of ours had a garage sale to raise money for orphans, and I looked around our home to see what else could be sold. I grabbed all of the little items that hadn’t sold before—picture frames, fake plants…a bunch of less-than-$10 items. There on my kitchen counter sat my beautiful paper-towel holder. I felt the familiar sting. (Seriously, how can one love a paper-towel holder?!) But I know the drill now. I picked it up, put it with the pile of things, and it sold. And you know what? I don’t miss it!! I am happy that $8 went to feed an orphan rather than sit and look pretty on my counter.

I am thankful beyond words that He loves us enough to pursue us, to change us, to open our blind eyes. Though I’m sure the scales have yet to fall off in many areas, I can still say with John Newton, “I was once blind, but now I see.”

Vincent is alive, and though still suffering from AIDS, he is on ARV’s that help abate the toll on his body. He is sponsored by one of our friends and attends school. His brother and sister are sponsored as well.


Monday, July 12, 2010

FAITHdare #19: Eternal Investments

To be honest, I'm having a hard time coming up with "money dares." Why? You'd think with my verbosity I could come up with SOMETHING, but I think Jesus pretty much gave the greatest "money dare" anyone could ever issue, and so that leaves me with, well, reflection over HIS dare:

"'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven'" (Mark 10:21).

Now I know someone is going to say this, so I might as well say, I am not taking this verse "in context." But this verse reminds me of another passage, Ecclesiastes 5:10-15:

10 Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.

11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
except to feast his eyes on them?

12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.

13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,

14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when he has a son
there is nothing left for him.

15 Naked a man comes from his mother's womb,
and as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
that he can carry in his hand.

Tonight I was talking to someone whose family is spending a large sum of bonus money earned through work to bring two orphans into their loving home. This someone's family has already adopted (more than once), and many would say, "You've done your 'duty!' Use that money to take a vacation!" But you know what I realized as I was talking to her? She and her family are really getting the good end of the deal! They are investing in things that last...not in vacations and television sets and grand homes, but in lives! They GET IT! They are taking the ultimate "money dare," from the lips of the one who gave up His LIFE so that we really can invest in what matters--ETERNITY! This family can be certain that, should their lives end tomorrow, they have invested in kingdom wealth--a wealth that will not fade, spoil, or perish.

If you take a good look at your life, can you honestly say at the end of the day that you are investing your short-term, earthly wealth in eternal things?

Because I don't think I can say it any better than Solomon:

"Naked a man comes from his mother's womb,
and as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
that he can carry in his hand."

If you were to die tomorrow, would you have any investments to cash in when you stand before Jesus? Or did you leave all those behind?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

FAITHdare #18: Revisited

This week, as I was reflecting on what I wrote in the last post, I began to wonder WHY we are so hesitant to give. Here are a few reasons I came up with:

We can't fathom living without our comforts.

We don't think we will really be making a difference.

We don't know who or what to support.

We are lazy and just don't take the time to think about it.

We think we are entitled to what we have.

Can you add to this list?

Friday, July 2, 2010

FAITHdare #18: Lifeboats and Missing Out

How would our spiritual lives change if we actually had to trust God to provide the things we need?

You might say, "Well, we do have to trust God to provide!"

And I would say REALLY? Do we really? With all of our savings plans and investments and 401k plans? Do we really have to trust Him to provide? I am certainly not sitting here nervously biting my nails, wondering where my next meal will come from.

Check out Matthew 6: 25-34. Can we even apply this scripture passage to our lives today? I just finished reading a biography on the life of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India more than 100 years ago. She did not save up money for a rainy day, or store it away so she would have a lifeboat if storms hit. Rather, she used it to do God's work, to care for His lost children...trusting that He would provide her next meal. And here we can barely "afford" to sponsor a missionary, or give a small percentage of our income to the poor, while we sock away piles of money in our children's college funds and our retirement and "rainy day" accounts.

Are we missing out on some of the sweet fellowship with Christ that comes with a day-by-day dependence on His providence for our most basic needs? I think about our brothers and sisters around the world, many who do not know when they will eat again, when they will find clean water to drink, or where they will sleep that night. They have no choice but to lean on Jesus, to converse with Him throughout the day in abiding fellowship that is their only source of sustenance. Are we missing out? Maybe while we are sitting in our lifeboats, we are missing out on the most refreshing of swims. I can't help but wonder if our panic with the faltering economy is born out of a history of comfort. Most of the time, we have very little concern for how our basic needs will be cared for. I am what many here would call a "poor college student," and yet I have so much. And because I don't have to wonder how I will eat tomorrow, I am shaken when I am faced with even the slightest lack of anything.

I do not say all this to condemn myself or anyone else reading this, only to share what has been on my heart. While we place so much importance on saving and investing and, in a sense, hoarding, I wonder if we are missing out. We pity those who have not, while maybe we are in the most desperate state of all and do not even know it.

So I guess this is not so much a "dare" as it is an invitation to ponder and pray, then to share what is growing in your heart.

Friday, June 25, 2010

FAITHdare update

We are now more than 1/3 of the way into the FAITHdare year. God has shattered my world in the past 4 months. Before I forge ahead, I want to do a "roll call" of sorts...can you please leave a comment on this post letting me know you're still with me? Doesn't have to be anything profound, just even your name, so I know how many people are still in this journey. Thanks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

FAITHdare #17: Poverty and the Heart of God

"Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him" Psalm 49:16-17.
Thus begins the FAITHdare month that will leave most despising me, the month focusing on money. Why is money such a touchy subject? No doubt, it was a touchy subject with those who came into contact with Jesus as well. The Bible includes hundreds of scriptures about money, a topic that seems to not only be on the hearts of men, but on the heart of God as well. So where do I begin?

Just like any other graduating high school student, I was excited to identify and pursue careers that would offer me success I like nice things; I like comfort. So I began to look into careers that would provide me with both. Certainly money was not the center of my decision making process regarding colleges and majors, but it was most definitely a piece of what was factored. What I hadn't factored, however, was God's work in my heart.

He confronted me with verses like:
"He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich--both come to poverty."
-Proverbs 22:16
"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"
-Matthew 19:21

"He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."
-Proverbs 28:27
I began to look into the reality that plagues the world around me. I was shocked and horrified. Here's what I found (all statistics found HERE and HERE):

The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.

Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

1 in every 2 children worldwide lives in poverty.
2.2 million children die each year...because they are not immunized.
The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.

Global priorities in 1998?
$8 billion on cosmetics in the US ($9 billion is estimated to be enough to provide water and sanitation resources to all)•$12 billion on perfume in Europe and the US ($13 billion is estimated to be enough to provide basic health and nutrition to all)
$17 billion on pet food in the US and Europe
$780 billion on military spending worldwide

Friends, when did our cosmetics, perfume, and pet food become more important that caring for the lost? When did
become more important than THIS?

I don't claim to know much of anything, and I'm certainly not perfect, but I wonder...Can God be pleased with an obligatory offering, a small fraction of what we have, when His people are dying from starvation and preventable diseases? Can He?

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
-Ezekiel 16:49
Are we much different than Sodom? And what became of Sodom?

"He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."
-Proverbs 14:31
Are you showing contempt for your Maker?

Friends, I live on so much more than $1 a day. What if, for a week, I lived the way most of world lives and gave away what I don't spend? I am NOT perfect in this area, but God is continuing to open my eyes and work in my heart. Will you let Him do the same in you?

FAITHdare # 17
Live on under $2/day for one week (or as close to it as possible) and give the money you save to the poor (if you don't know where to contribute, consider giving to THIS ministry...a ministry one of our own is a part of!)

If you are interested in pursuing this topic more, watch THIS...or open your Bible! God has so much to say about wealth and the poor! And if you have something to share with the rest of us, please feel free to do so...just please don't eat me! We are all learning and growing!

Friday, June 18, 2010

FAITHdare #16: Revisited

Selfishness. Greed. Pride.
Just some of the sins that plague me from day to day...sins I long to repent of, to continually bring before the altar. Problem is, those very sins often keep me from giving them up...make any sense? In selfishness, I am consumed by MY life and MY the point that I sometimes forget to even utter "hello" to God. Because of my own ugly pride I often convince myself that my sinful behavior really isn't that bad. Despite the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross, Repentance finds its spot on the back of the shelf...its garment, dust. May God stir in me a renewed sense of justice, that my eyes may be opened to the very things that grieve Him. I think I just might go pull Repentance off the shelf, dust it off, and take it to meet the sins of my heart. What about you?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

FAITHdare #16: Humble Repentance

I pray I will never cease to be amazed and grateful when I think of the cross. When pride creeps in, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "I'm not really that bad." Well, to put it lightly, I am. Praise God I have a Savior who has taken away those stains!

Does that mean I no longer need to repent for my sin?

I don't claim to have extensive theological knowledge in this realm. I only know that, in my life, pride tends to nip at the heels of a lack of repentance. How about you?

Do you take your guilt and shame and daily lay it at the foot of the cross? Do you have a habit of repentance?

I admit that I don't. But I need to.

FAITHdare # 16: Humble Repentance
Create a daily habit of repentance.

For those of you who faithfully practice the spiritual discipline of repentance, how do you do it? What does repentance look like in your life? How do you balance attitudes of humble repentance and acceptance of grace? Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

FAITHdare #15: Revisited

"I stopped the day I found out..."

I have mentioned in the past that I recently started volunteering at the local crises pregnancy center. Through my time there, God has shattered my mirror. You see, pride is sinfully selfish. It is the human problem. It starts before we even know what it's called...

And it takes a God-sized miracle to replace it with humility.

I have been humbled by my interactions with these beautiful girls that walk through our doors at the center. I was almost brought to tears when a girl told me she stopped smoking the day she found out she was pregnant. Not a big deal? It is when she explained that she NEVER wanted to have kids and sobbed when the doctor told her the news...

She was humbly and unselfishly loving a baby she never wanted in the first place.

I was so proud of her. And I think that kind of pride is okay

Sunday, June 6, 2010

FAITHdare #15: Pride-free Church

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

One of the greatest gifts God has given His people is the gift of community. One of the most poisonous deterrents to God-centered community, however, is Pride. {Judging eyes and hearts. Long held grudges. Deadly secrets.} Any of those resound? In what way does Pride worm its way between you and faithful accountability with other believers?

Have you ever wondered what Church would be like without Pride? Would our faith communities be teeming with men and women free to expose the heart wounds they have hidden for years? Would we find ourselves in healthier relationships where "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" are not just words? Would we be experiencing the journey of relationship with Jesus in new ways as we shared struggles openly? What would a Pride-free Church look like?

What if we stepped up to the task of building such a Church?
Are YOU allowing yourself to be vulnerable with the brothers and sisters God has placed around you?
Are YOU pleading with God to remove any judgments clouding your view of the Church?
Are YOU seeking out those who have only suffered condemnation from the Church thus far?
Are YOU taking the initiative to resolve conflicts immediately so that bitterness does not flourish?
Are YOU pursuing accountability?

Don't you think it's time to start? What's stopping you? PRIDE?

FAITHdare #15: Pride-free Church
Pray that God would place one initiative for a Pride-free Church on your heart. Take steps toward fulfilling that calling...whether that means finding an accountability partner, contacting someone to pursue reconciliation, inviting an "unchurched" person to church with you...Whatever it is, do it with this in mind:
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Friday, June 4, 2010

FAITHdare #14: Revisited

What did God teach you about pride and humility this week? Please share!

Monday, May 31, 2010

FAITHdare #14: Humility means ____________

Pride means I am more important than anyone else.
Pride means there's no way I will talk to the homeless man on the street, or that person sitting next to me in church, or my neighbor.
Pride means I deserve what I have.
Pride means my needs come before those of my family.
Pride means I get all the credit.
Pride means "Look at me! Listen to me!"
Pride means I don't have to admit to my mistakes.
Pride means "I haven't done anything wrong!"
Pride means I can indulge my wants without having to think about anyone else.
Pride means I am the coolest thing around, and you all should know it.
Pride means I can flaunt what I have and take note of what you don't have.
Pride means what you think of me is more important than just about anything.
Pride means I wake up in the morning thinking about myself.
Pride means I go to bed thinking about myself.
Pride means "I'm tired so leave me alone."
Pride means "I'm busy!"
Pride means "That makes me uncomfortable..."
Pride means "Someone else will do it."
Pride means me, me, ME.

Humility means you are more important than me.
Humility means I will take care of your needs before my own.
Humility means I wake up in the morning thinking about how I can bless others.
Humility means I go to bed at night thinking about how I can bless others.
Humility means I am scared out of my mind but I am going to talk to _______.
Humility means I am exhausted but I am going to go the extra mile to bless ________.
Humility means I will do _________ even though it makes me really uncomfortable.
Humility means I will be friendly to _______ even though it will ruin my reputation.
Humility means I will apologize to __________ without making excuses...because I was wrong.
Humility means I will give credit for ____________ to God instead of taking it for myself.
Humility means I don't deserve what I have, so I will give _________ to __________.
Humility means I can be free from consuming thoughts about what you think of me.
Humility means I will give up my comfort for _________.
Humility means turning the other cheek.
Humility means letting others say what they want about me without having to correct them.
Humility means dying on a cross for a crime you never committed.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3).

FAITHdare #14:
Fill in one of the blanks above...without drawing attention to what you are doing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Hi FAITHdare friends! Just a quick note to let you all know that FAITHdare: Revisited and FAITHdare #14 will be postponed this week...expect to see them sometime Monday. I will be out of town until then. Keep your eyes open for ways to love the lost!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

FAITHdare #13: Because He Loves Us

this is our last week focusing on the lost, and I feel lost. because we've hardly touched it. 4.5 billion people.

what more can we really do? we've prayed for the lost, sought out the lost, shared our story with the lost, love the lost. and yet there are still so many without the hope of Jesus.

What do I do?

Does it ever just feel too overwhelming, like you can't even imagine where to you just don't? I know the feeling. this isn't God-breathed scripture, but I love these words from Helen Keller:
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

God has something planned just for me. He has given you and me both unique gifts and talents, equipped us for every good work He has planned for us to do. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something...the something He has called me to do.

Jesus did not call us to go it alone, to take on this lost world by ourselves...and I am so grateful! But He did ask us to surrender to Him, to submit to His call on our lives in obedience.
to stay connected to the vine. are you connected, or do you feel like this "going to the lost sheep" stuff is a solo project?

you can't do it alone. you can only love the lost because He is pouring His love over you like a drink offering. are you drinking it up?

I've really struggled to figure out what "challenge" to put before you this week as we conclude our month focusing on the lost.
so I'm just going to leave it up to you and God.

FAITHdare #13:

1) Watch the video below.

Ask God to give you eyes for the lost this week, and respond in obedience...are you praying for, GOing to, sharing your story with, and loving the lost? Where is He calling you to go?

Friday, May 21, 2010

FAITHdare #12: Revisited

I am going to be brutally honest.

I've struggled this week.

Throughout this FAITHdare journey, I have learned so many lessons. One of them is this: I can do nothing on my own. At least, nothing worthwhile. So the crucial action on my part is a continual surrendering to God...spending time with Him daily...keeping a constant prayer window open...begging Him to give me eyes to in His love so that I can love others the way He calls me to love them.

I shrivel and die when I am not surrendering.

And this week has been...well, one of those weeks. One of those weeks when I feel like a two-year-old, staring up into her daddy's face and saying, "NO!!!!"

And yet...He loves me still.

I am so thankful for that.

All this to good intentions to love someone extraordinarily this week didn't pan out. Why? Because I didn't surrender, and I'm, in my old nature that is S L O W L Y dying, lazy.

When you're not with the lost you can't love the lost.

So today I'm humbled, begging God to bring me to my knees in surrender. 'Cause it's only there that anything will get done.

What did you do to love someone this week?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

FAITHdare #12: The will know us by our love

"A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

They will know us by our love.

Really? Because I think our love looks a whole lot more like hate a lot of the time. Or maybe just disinterest, or judgment. Are you known by your love?

The book Under the Overpass (Yankoski) is a fascinating and challenging account of two college students, followers of Christ, who take half a year off of school to "become" homeless. They, in all possible ways, live a homeless life. They leave their families and stuff and money and go to the streets, meeting many different people along the way. I was blown away by their account, particularly their retelling of how the Church reacted to them. Here is one incident they recount:

"We still had a few minutes before the service began, and Sam had an idea. 'I'm going to ask the pastor if he can help us out with some food. My stomach is growling.' He got up and walked away, but was back shortly, looking disgusted. 'You wouldn't believe what just happened,' he said. 'So, I went and asked the pastor if he could help us out, if he could hook us up with someone who could feed us. I told him we didn't have any money...You know what he said? He said, 'That's not what we do here. We're here to worship.'"

Later, they muse: "'Why do we so often overlook obvious ways to show the love of God we so loudly proclaim? If someone's thirsty, give them a drink! If someone's hungry, feed them! Who is going to show the world Christ's love if not the church?"

One of the things that disturbed me most about their account was their admission that drunk people stumbling out of bars were more kind to them than men and women coming out of churches. WHAT?

How is it that someone walking down the street will feed a homeless man, but a church will bar him from even entering to worship? (something that happened many times to them)

Where is our love?

My story will be ignored if my life, my actions, do not compliment it. I don't know if actions speak louder than words, but they can certainly be a roadblock or a catalyst.

Jesus did not just say cool things. He didn't just self-righteously tell sinners to stop sinners and ignore them after that. He LOVED sinners. He cared for PHYSICAL needs so that a door would be opened for Him to minister to SPIRITUAL needs.

"You will know them by their fruits...A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits" (Mt. 7:16-20).

Are you known by your fruit? Are your actions complimenting your words? Will the lost know you are a disciple of Jesus by the way you love others?

FAITHdare #12:
Commit to loving the lost this week by performing at least one "act of random kindness." See if you are noticed by your love.

I'll leave you with another passage from Under the Overpass:
"...The 'love your neighbor' part of Jesus' teaching starts with simple actions and small opportunities that are available to each of us. Little things DO mean a lot, especially in the kingdom of God, where giving a drink of cold water has eternal repercussions. And I am convinced that the more committed we become to impacting one person at a time--whether through a cup of coffee or a genuine conversation--the more we'll prepare our hearts and our churches to respond at both a community and national level" (Yankoski).

Friday, May 14, 2010

FAITHdare #11: Revisited

A story can be the thing that changes everything. Maybe that's why Jesus always taught in parables.
Have you written your story?
Have you shared it with someone?

Consider sharing it here.
Thanks to those of you who have already shared! To read my story, go HERE.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

FAITHdare #11: Storytelling

Personal stories are powerful. They are the tie that binds then and now, the link that explains the in-between. Because they are personal, they cannot be refuted. No one can say, "I don't agree with what you said; that didn't happen!" A testimony tries to explain what often cannot be said with words alone.

And everyone has one. I used to think my story was boring, that surely no one would care to hear what Jesus has done in my life. Now I can look back and see the way in which God has refined me and woven the gold thread of His hand through my life. Everyone has a story. For some, a story means near-death adventure. For others, a story is more what would have been than what is. Everyone has a story.

What's yours?

1 Peter 3:15-16 says: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

Always be prepared to give an answer. Are you ready? Being ready obviously involves a whole lot more than a personal story, but don't you think that's a good place to start?

FAITHdare # 11:
Write out your testimony by answering this question:
How has Jesus changed your life?

Keep it somewhat short, full of gentleness and respect. Are you ready to share it?

Friday, May 7, 2010

FAITHdare #10: Revisited

How did you spend your "time in another context?" My prayer was/is that God would be ministering to YOUR hearts through interactions with people you perhaps would not have otherwise spent time with. Please share your experiences with the rest of us! I will share more about my time with the girls at the crisis pregnancy center soon...God is blessing me so much through my time there! And I am so thankful for all of you who have joined me on this journey...while I perhaps entered this project thinking of the ways God would use it to reach other people, more than anything He has changed, encouraged, grown, and blessed ME. I am so challenged and encouraged by everything you all are learning and sharing...I pray the same is true for you! Please share away!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

FAITHdare #10: GO!

Go to the lost.

As Jesus is sending out His disciples, He starts out with that simple command: Go. But if you are anything like me, "going" looks a whole lot more like sitting and attitude of, "if someone comes to me, I'll be more than happy to love them and serve them! But they need to come to me, cuz there is no way I am going THERE."

Jesus could have easily taken that strategy. After all, He had people flocking to Him without even trying! But Jesus goes out of His way to CONNECT with people.

Take a look at John 4:1-26.

Jesus could have easily taken His drink and moved on. He could have condemned her. He could have quickly told her all of her sins and what she needed to do to rid herself of them and then moved on. He didn't, though. He met her on her level and LOVED her.

It is impossible to meet people on their level if you are never with them. And if you never meet people on their level, it is hard to love them the way Jesus tells us to. Which is why, I think, Jesus commanded us to GO.
But where?

Jesus went straight to "the lost sheep of Israel," and He commands His disciples to do the same. Jesus went to the neediest, the poorest, the most despised, the sickest. What about you? Do you spend much time with the needy, the poor, the despised, the sick? Or do you find yourself WAITING in your safe home, your safe neighborhood, your safe church?

Are your ready to GO with Jesus? To CONNECT with the lost? To serve them and show them what LOVE looks like? It's easy to throw words at people, to tell them how they are wrong and what they need to do to get right again. But to love them with the heart of Jesus? That's hard. That takes time and effort and lots of hurt. And it's exactly what He commands us to do.

FAITHdare #10:
Spend some time this week in another context.

We tend to gravitate to security. (At least, I do). Jesus invites us to abandon security in His name, and I am inviting you to do the same. Consider spending some time this week with people you would not normally spend time with. How about visiting a nursing home, or a jail, or a homeless shelter? How about a "bad" neighborhood? Or maybe even just a neighbor that is hard to love? Spend time with the hurting and lost, and SERVE them. Go without an agenda and see what God can do through you. You might be surprised.

For a couple of weeks now I have been spending time at the local crisis pregnancy center. Already I can see how God is changing my heart toward the hurting, and as I shared a couple of days ago, being WITH the lost makes PRAYING for them a whole lot more meaningful. I am excited to see how God is going to work IN me through my time with these beautiful girls I am meeting.

Won't you consider stepping outside of the realm of comfortable and into a life of reckless faith?

As you GO, please share with the rest of us where God takes you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

FAITHdare #9: Revisited

This week I learned that praying for the lost is a lot more meaningful when you are spending time with the lost. It is easy for me to forget about the world if I am not in the world, but when I am building relationships with those outside of faith, praying for them comes naturally out of love.

What did you learn this week? Take the time to share!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

FAITHdare #9: Crying

Do you believe that salvation is dependent on faith in Jesus?

Up until a couple of months ago, had I been asked that question, I would have quickly responded with a resounding "Yes!" Then I was confronted with my reality: I was claiming a truth I did not profess with my life. If asked, I would have been quick to tell you that Jesus is the only way to God. But I wasn't living like I believed that. I was living out the "all faiths are created equal" mentality that has infected our society.

Are you living like a universalist?

Here's the reality: If we truly believed that salvation was dependent upon Jesus, that thousands of people will die today and go to an eternal hell because they did not give Jesus lordship over their lives, then our outlook on life would change. There are really only 2 options when you truly believe something like that. Either you keep living like you always have because you sincerely WANT those people to go to hell, or you shift the focus of your life intentions toward doing what it takes to reach those people with the love of Jesus.

I have to be honest. I have been living like a universalist. I have been living in intentional ignorance to the eternal condition of those around me. Recently, God has been breaking my heart and opening my eyes to this reality in my life.

Several years ago I heard a message that I will not soon forget. The speaker recalled the sinking of the Titanic, a tragedy marring history. Yet, he reminded us, the greatest tragedy that day was in the half-empty lifeboats floating away from the wreckage. Friend, you and I each have "lifeboats" in salvation through faith in Jesus. Are you choosing to ignore the screams of those dying in the wreckage of sin, or are you seeking to fill the empty seats in your lifeboat? If you or I had the cure for cancer, would we not be quick to reveal it? If we chose to keep it as a secret, would we not be selfishly choosing to allow thousands upon thousands of people to die from the disease each year? Yet this is exactly what we are doing, on a much larger scale and in a far more serious matter. Shouldn't we be screaming from mountaintops and emptying savings accounts for the purpose of buying plane tickets to the most remote corners of the earth? Shouldn't we be professing God's love to our neighbors, our coworkers, the homeless man on the street corner, our children's friends?

"Some wonder if it is unfair for God to allow so many to have no knowledge of the gospel. But there is no injustice in God. The injustice lies in Christians who possess the gospel and refuse to give their lives to making it known among those who haven't heard. That's unfair" (Platt).

As we spend the next month examining our attitude toward those outside of faith in Jesus, I want us to be intentional about seeking out the heart of God toward the lost.

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me I will see that she gets justice so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'
And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'" (Luke 18: 1-8)

We need to start crying out for justice. We need to start praying for the unreached around the world. As I was researching for FAITHdare this month, I was completely overwhelmed. I found an organization that offers prayer cards focusing on each of the unreached people groups around the world. I downloaded it. You know how many cards there are? Over 6500. More than 6500 prayer cards. These cards represent billions of people who are living outside of faith in Jesus, many who have never even heard His name! BILLIONS! And here I am, comfortable in my life of self-indulgence and ignorance, reflected in my prayer life. How about you? Are you persistent in praying for the lost? Are you praying for opportunities to share God's love with the lost? Are you praying desperately for the lost to meet Jesus?

FAITHdare #9:
Make a daily habit of praying for the lost.

There are many ways you can do this. You can choose to pray for specific people in your life who are without Jesus. You can download those 6500 prayer cards (HERE) and pray for the unreached around the world. You can use a world map and choose a specific area each week to focus on in your prayers. However you do it, ask God to give you His heart for the lost.

Maybe you already pray for the lost. Would you be willing to share with the rest of us how you do that?
Only when we have been given God's vision for reaching the lost can we truly start to live to reach the dying.

Take a minute to look at this video devotional:

"Let's show them the love that we've received!"