Allow the Sifting

Being sifted stinks, let’s just be honest. Spiritual growth, in many ways, is like the growing pains of our youth. As the bones grow, the muscles and tendons get stretched and it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes actually painful. And yet, we have to grow. In our spiritual growth, sometimes God allows Satan access to us and while that may seem very unfair and unkind, there is an amazing purpose. It’s important to remember that no matter what the enemy may throw at you, you are never outside the reach and hands of God. In John 10:28, Jesus tells us that nothing ever gets close enough to actually remove us from His protection. 

Let’s have a little lesson on wheat. No, I’m not a farmer, but I did do a little research on wheat sifting because I needed to understand why on earth it is important enough for God to allow it in my life. Wheat has two parts: chaff and grain or edible wheat. The chaff is what protects the edible wheat as it is growing so that it can actually develop into something edible. The chaff is basically a necessary evil in that, it will be removed later but for a time it is critical to the growth of the grain. Sifting wheat involves a two-step process: threshing and winnowing. In threshing, you basically beat the chaff loose from the grain. In winnowing, you remove the chaff from the grain and you now have an edible product. 

So, now that we understand sifting wheat a little better, let me tell you how Strong’s Exhaustive concordance defines sifting: “prove by trials; by inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow”. Yikes, right? Sounds like a horrible process that I would personally like to opt out of except, in the end I know I need the sifting in order to fulfill the purpose and plan God has for me. Of course, as with all things related to our relationship with God, we could actually opt out and say no because God is all about free will. I don’t have to grow, and neither do you. I can stay in my nice, neat little box and never grow and never have much impact. If I truly believe God could never love me more or less based on my actions, I can choose to not be sifted. However, that means I won’t be used and I won’t be living the very best life I have available and personally, I don’t want to live like that so I move forward with the season of sifting.

It’s a season, not a forever. Sifting is about God, with the help of our enemy, removing the walls we have built in order to survive so that we can become the grain that God can actually use. Sifting is seasonal in wheat and in our lives. It’s also repetitive so you can just bank on it that you won’t be sifted only once in your life, God will bring it as often as He sees there is value for your development. For me, I used anxiety to build up walls that kept me safe as a child, but those walls needed to be torn down as an adult. My childhood wasn’t safe for me so, I used anxiety and fear as protection. When my step-dad would fly into an alcohol-induced rage, anxiety and fear kept me quiet and cowering in a corner so that I wouldn’t get hurt. When my mom’s friend sexually assaulted me when I was 17 years old, anxiety and fear kept me from telling anyone so that I wouldn’t get blamed. Do you see a pattern? My chaff, fear and anxiety, helped protect me but it also lied to me. My chaff kept me silent, withdrawn and ineffective. What I thought was keeping me safe, did help protect me in the moment, but it also built a wall around me. I had to go through sifting to get that false protection off of me so that I could really grow in God and find my voice.

My sifting began last fall with an invitation to apply to be a student through International Project and learn how to reach people across cultural lines. The application process is challenging because it is long and you write about yourself, get interviewed and have friends who know you be interviewed about you. Fun! The process exposes things you really don’t want to talk about and, thus begins the threshing. As I progressed through each round, my fear and anxiety got stronger and the voice of “shut up and sit down” louder. When I got invited to go out to New York City for a site visit and round of in-person interviews, I nearly said no. My fear and anxiety had me convinced that I wasn’t able to go because I couldn’t afford the trip and I didn’t like to fly. For about a week, I was in a nearly constant state of anxiety. Instead of backing away, I said yes to going and yes to God. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t want to fly but, I knew this was something I had to do so I prayed for provision and strength. You can probably already guess what happened…God provided and strengthened. He didn’t do either right away, but as I stayed in faith and faced my fears, He slowly started the winnowing process and removed the chaff I no longer needed. Through my obedience to the process of sifting, God has freed me to fly, take elevators, take subways and now, relocate to New York! The old habits of resorting to fear and silence are still there, but they are ghost pains. They are no longer real, they just linger.

Here’s the deal, you have to allow yourself to be sifted or you will never fully realize all that God has for you. In Luke, Jesus tells Peter that Satan is wanting to sift him like wheat and He acknowledges and Peter may fail. He also goes on to say, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”. Jesus believed in Peter and guess what, He believes in you. Jesus is sending me today to tell you to hang on, be encouraged and allow yourself to be sifted. When the process is over for this season, you will encourage the people coming behind you and, you will live a more full life. You will be sifted to be a blessing. (Ps…that’s a tattoo a friend of mine has on her arm!!)

If you are struggling with the sifting right now, post a reply and I’ll pray for you. Don’t go through the process in silence and alone. Just as a farmer doesn’t sift one kernel of wheat at a time alone, you don’t need to go through the sifting process alone. Remember, just as Jesus prayed for Peter, He is praying for you. He’s never going to leave you are forsake you so allow Him full access to your life. 

Shalom,

KA

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Walking in Their Shoes


You know that saying, “walk a mile in my shoes”? My daughter and her classmates got a great, first-hand experience of this today. She is a student of American Sign Language (ASL) and their assignment today was to not use their voices all day long. It’s called “voices off day” and everyone participates as part of their class final. They each wore a small sign around their necks that they could show people explaining why they weren’t talking. All of their teachers, and their parents, had to sign off on a sheet stating that their student/child didn’t verbalize during the day or evening. 

I asked my daughter how the day went and she said it was much harder then she expected. She said she almost cried several times because she felt completely isolated outside of her sign language classroom. She felt like no one really understood her and that it was so hard to communicate, many times she ended up not saying anything. We talked about how people who are deaf, or unable to communicate in the way most people around them can, must feel day in and day out. This was a just a 24-hour experiment for these kids, but lots of people find it hard to communicate as part of their everyday lives. And as most of us know, communication is key to living a life where you feel valued and valuable. 

What I love about this experience is that it provided an opportunity to bear the burden of another person and to walk in their shoes, even if only for a short time. If it makes a great enough impact, it creates greater compassion and understanding next time these kids run into someone who doesn’t fit in to what would be considered the “norm” of the social setting. Let’s face it, we could all use a little more compassion in life. I may be the most popular person in one setting, and a complete outsider in another. How I treat people when I’m on top should reflect how I want to be treated when I’m on the bottom. The only way to show compassion well, is to bear the burden of the other people…walk in their shoes.

Miriam Webster defines compassion this way: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” This idea of showing compassion,  bearing one another’s burdens, is why I am so drawn to people who we might consider outsiders or different. We all want to fit in, and sometimes our current situations make that virtually impossible except when someone shows compassion. This is why I love to spend time with homeless people. I can’t change their financial state or their lack of housing and basic necessities, but I can spend time with them and make them feel less alone. I can enter their story, be present in their situation and possible distress, and connect heart-to-heart. For the moments we are together, I can help to make them feel less alone and they in turn, make me feel like part of their tribe and that, for my heart, is glorious.

This same heart of compassion and bearing one another’s burdens is why I’m starting to get involved with cross-cultural work. People come to America for all kinds of reasons but the primary driver is freedom. They are looking for a way to live in greater freedom with greater options for their own futures, as well as the futures of their families. Unfortunately, some people were, and are still today, forced to come to America in the bonds of slavery and now that they are here, they too desire freedom and greater options for their futures. There is so much richness in cross-cultural communities because when we can live out of compassion, we can learn so much from each other. No hidden agendas of forcing people to conform to our expectations. Instead, hearts wanting to learn each other’s stories, bear each other’s burdens and turn our lives from us-and-them to all. All included. All cared for. All valued. All loved. Each one walking in the others shoes together as we move forward. Each one connecting and building community. 

Jesus loved all people. He loved the most unlovely people in society in His time here on earth and guess what…He still does. No one is beyond the love, grace, peace and mercy of God. No one. Jesus loves and calls out to all people regardless of every single difference we might have. Walk in someone’s shoes and while you are doing that, invite them to walk in yours.

Shalom,

KA

This Is Me

This is me. I’ve been writing this blog for several years and mostly what I do is teach. I teach about scripture and how I’ve applied it to my life and, hopefully, I get you to see how to apply it to your life. That’s my nature, to teach about God, and now I’m going to change things up a bit and start to share more of my story and how God is woven all throughout it. I’ll still teach about scripture since honestly, it’s what I think about most of time. 

I was born in the late 1960s so I’m quickly approaching my 50th year here on earth. It’s been a bumpy, painful, challenging, beautiful and joyous journey and while I could be cliche and say something like “I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it has made me who I am today and I like me!”, the truth is…I would take away the traumatic events if I could. The problem with that, however, is that I really do like who I am and who I am becoming and honestly, the trauma is what brought me here so I guess, in the end, I would keep it. But there are days when it overwhelms me and I find it hard to move. I’m betting, and I believe this based on my sphere of friends, you have days you feel like that too. 

As with many of us born in the later half of the19060s, I come from a broken home. I know that’s supposed to mean that my parents were divorced but let’s be as honest as possible in this space…many of our homes were broken regardless of the marital status of our parents. My generation had parents breaking out of the mold, revolutionizing sex and drugs and redefining freedom. They didn’t want to do it the way the generations before them had, so the rebelled loudly with amazing music, questionable fashion and poor choices. Many of my peers, myself included, ran around trying to figure out where we fit in to the new family type that was emerging. Single parents. Dating parents. Remarried parents. Remarried again parents. Absent parents.  My generation is the pioneer generation for children of parents who didn’t stay and that has brought a type of generational PTSD to our world. And honestly, it hasn’t changed much as we’ve grown up and so now, many of us are ourselves single parents, remarried parents, remarried again parents and even absent parents. 

I’m a single mom who parents with ridiculous intention toward my daughter. I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours understanding trauma, defining my own trauma and trying to help her frame her trauma so that the effects are lessened. I know the mistakes my parents made so I try to not make those which just means, I’m making new ones. I try to show her faith in every moment. Faith that God never leaves, never forsakes and never loves less than 1 hundred-million percent at every single moment. I’m not revolutionary in many ways except when it comes to love. I love my daughter unconditionally and she knows it. She may question many things about me, but that I love her and support who she is as a child of God and a follower of Jesus is solidaly set. It’s not always easy and yet, it’s always rewarding. I believe that my job as her mom is to help her figure out how to live in faith and discover why God created her and what He is calling her to do.

That’s a bit about me as a mom, here are a few other facts about me: I’m an alcoholic who started drinking when I was 13 years old and stopped when I was 42 years old (I’ve been stone sober for almost 7 years!); I have PTSD that manifests itself in anxiety and sometimes I get so overwhelmed my brain actually stops doing basic things like be able to read; I have been in a few significant and abusive relationships (praise Jesus, single and happy to be now); at the age of 48, I still struggle to be authentic and ok with my decisions but I’m getting better at both; I love people fiercely; I have an amazing tribe; Jesus is my everything. About 4 years ago I went through a year of training and therapy on trauma. I went in to the program not able to name my own trauma, and I walked out not able to NOT see trauma everywhere. In that training, God completely tore me apart in the most loving and painful way and started a long journey of rebuilding. Rebuilding is hard work, it’s the tough work of life where you cry, get angry, scream, yell, name, bless and let go. It’s terrifying work and, it has become my war cry for people: ENGAGE YOUR TRAUMA! It’s truly one of the most loving things God will lead you to do and you will both hate it and be grateful for it. 

So, I take all of my training, all of my reading, all of my praying, all of the Jesus in me, and I move through my days trying to love the people around me. My heart’s purest and most base desire is to love like Jesus loved. No strings. No hidden agenda. No boundaries. Just love and acceptance of where you are when I encounter you and a desire to know your story. And let me be clear, I don’t want to know your story so that I can help fix your story because I’ve learned that isn’t my job. I want to know your story because I want to figure out where you need love and help you get that because when you feel loved and safe, you will allow God access and He will help you by bringing healing. 

One last thing as I close…I love you. I don’t know most of the people who read my blog personally but can I just tell you with all sincerity that if you reached out to me, you would find someone who loves you in the darkest spaces of your life. I have been in dark spaces and I have felt the shame those spaces bring and that is why I can say with assurity, I love you. The greatest thing I do in my life is show people love and the only way I do that is because I am empowered by Jesus. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves his been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

This is me. 

Shalom,

KA

Keep Dreaming

When I was a little kid, not 100% certain what age but under 10 years old, I watched a movie called Godspell. It was filmed in New York City (NYC) and it immediately just captured my heart! In the opening scene of the movie, there is a song playing calling people our main characters out of their daily lives and into Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain. There they find John the Baptist who baptizes them all in a lovely, fun water-fight type moment. There is complete joy and total acceptance in that scene. There is also deep and rich diversity. I fell in love with NYC in that moment and only grew to love it more over the years.

Fast forward 4 decades or so and I found myself this past April in NYC for the first time. I’ll admit, I was nervous about going there because I had built the city up so much over my life that there was every possibility it could never measure up. My daughter was my tour guide of sorts as she had already been there the last summer with an acting troupe. As we flew in, it was a cloudy and rainy day so I couldn’t see the skyline immediately. On the drive from the airport to where we were staying, I kept staring in the direction of city and finally, the skyline could be seen. My heart lept out of my chest and the tears started flowing. I was finally in NYC!!! 

In the days that followed, I realized that my heart was home. Our first excursion took us to Brooklyn and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As soon as we got out of the car in an area just on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, I felt like I knew the place, even though I had never been there. We walked around a little bit and found a cute bakery called Cranberries. The smells and sounds were joyous to me and I really couldn’t even believe we were there. As we walked up the steps to the bridge, all of Manhattan sprawled out before us, I was again struck with the deep peace in my heart and the awesome sense of home I was feeling. In a city of over 8 million people, I had complete peace. 

The second day found us back at the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning and then a walk through the city and on up to Central Park. As we entered the park from 59th, on our way to the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields, I was again moved to tears at the deep sense of home I felt. All of my life had led me to this moment, this place, in this city and I was undone and the beauty and love I felt for NYC and from God. God planted the seeds in my heart for NYC as a child and here I was, standing in the middle of a dream coming true. I already cry easily and this moment, this moment brought a flood of tears.

The rest of the week was filled with both purpose and play. See, the main reason I was in NYC was to meet people from a ministry called International Project (IP). IP is a spiritual organization that seeks to train people on cross-cultural relationship building. They believe strongly in honoring an individual’s culture and building a loving community of people who desire to follow Jesus. There is never a plan to change anyone or force another way of life on anyone because their heart’s greatest desire is just to love people like Jesus loves them and build a community that is culturally specific to the group involved. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and I love that so much. IP has a training program for people who want to learn how to live with a cross-cultural focus and then they have a network of home churches around the 5 Burroughs of NYC. 

I believe the love of Jesus, and the heart of Jesus Himself, has no barriers. ALL are loved and ALL are welcome. There is no culture or people group Jesus isn’t interested in and because of that, followers of Jesus must also be as willing to love all and reach out to all. There is so much we can learn from people of different backgrounds and traditions and I don’t really understand why, but I know that we have this tendency to fear what is different and I find that so sad. I want to know and understand other cultures and other people groups because maybe I have something to offer them, and even better for me, it’s highly likely they have something of offer me! Our differences don’t have to scare us, they can intrigue us to learn more. 

I hope you are asking God to bring the dreams of your heart to life. Psalm 37:4 tells us that God will give us the desires of our hearts and I believe that is true. I believe fully that God plants seeds in our lives and hearts that when they grow, are our dreams and so of course He will make those come true. It requires faith in His ability, willingness and timing. My dream to go to NYC grew over several decades and only when God knew the timing was right, did the dream get fulfilled. I had to be in the right space and place with Him in my life for NYC to have the impact it had and I’m so thankful. Whatever dream you are waiting on, don’t give up. Keep asking, seeking, knocking. Keep dreaming.

Shalom,

KA

But seeing the wind…


But seeing the wind… I am convinced that stepping out of the boat, responding with “yes” to the call of God, is the easy part. Walking on the water is the place where our faith is tested. We see this truth in several places in our lives. Saying yes to getting married and being engaged is the easy part; staying married is the test. Being excited at a pregnancy is the easy part; parenting well is the test. I can think of a few other examples but I think you get the point, embarking on something new when you KNOW for certain you hear God’s voice is easy; staying in faith as His call unfolds and the storm is raging around you is the test.

Peter is a great example of this truth. In Matthew 14, we see Peter say yes to the call of God and then falter. Peter sees his best friend and leader, Jesus, walking on water and he is instantly drawn into the miracle of defying science. No one can walk on water! And yet, here is Jesus out strolling on the waves. And in case walking on water isn’t amazing enough, there’s a storm raging. Peter and his companions are terrified and believe Jesus to be a ghost, but Jesus speaks and assures them He is no ghost. Then Peter does what Peter does best, something crazy. He sees Jesus working in a new way and he is eager to join in so he says “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” I love Peter! He just wants to do what Jesus is doing, be where Jesus is working and all he asks is for a call. So of course, Jesus says come and Peter hops out of the boat and starts walking toward his Lord.

Saying yes to a call and taking the first couple steps out of your comfort zone requires an initial level of faith. To believe something is possible when you are just starting out has a level of excitement and amazement that is temporary and yet, so necessary because it is what propels you forward. Can you image what Peter was thinking when he first stepped out? I’m sure his thoughts were all jumbled and his adrenaline was likely off the charts. He was stepping out into this new and exciting miracle, eyes fully focused on Jesus. Everything and anything was possible at that point. But seeing the wind…

The Bible doesn’t say how many steps Peter took, but at some point in this new journey, he took his eyes off of Jesus and he saw the wind. He saw the storm around him and he started to lose the focus on the call and on Jesus. His brain and what he knew to be true from an earthly perspective took over and he started to get afraid. At that moment, the moment when the storm around him was raging and he felt most vulnerable, he had a choice: stay focused on Jesus or, focus on the storm. Peter chose the storm, got scared, and started to sink. Jesus isn’t going to let him drown so He immediately scoops him up so that he is safe. Then Jesus asks him a very simple yet very powerful question that I never want to hear Jesus ask me, “Why did you doubt?” My heart sinks at just reading those words! Nothing externally changed, Peter’s faith changed. 

Here’s the deal, faith is hard and staying in faith is in even harder. There was nothing easy about Peter’s decision to step out of the boat, that required faith. He could see God working, Jesus walking on water, and his heart wanted to be like Jesus so he asked if he could join and Jesus said yes. He felt sure of his call to walk on the water, his faith was strong. And then the storm got his attention and he faltered and he sank. So many of us step into our calling but we don’t hang on to our calling because we get scared and we lose faith. When that happens, there is no condemnation from Jesus, only a simple question, “why did you doubt?”  If I had been Peter, I would have responded with something like “well, the storm got too big!” I would have forgotten I was already out in the storm with Jesus AND walking on water. The storm didn’t come up when Peter stepped out, the storm was already around them. Peter’s perspective on the storm changed because he went from relying on the safety of the boat to relying on the safety of Jesus. That’s when faith grows! 

Faith grows the most when you have no one else to rely on but Jesus. And I believe fully, that is a call for every single follower of Jesus. I am convinced Jesus wants all of His believers to trust only in Him because in that level of trust, we find all that we need to step out and keep walking. It’s scary. It’s stormy. Friends and family may think you are nuts. The world may tell you there is no one on earth what you are doing is going to work. And above all of that storm, Jesus is saying “come”. 

What is God calling you to do? If you are certain it is God, step out and keep walking. What has God already called you to do and you sank? Peter didn’t lose his ministry in this moment with Jesus so don’t think you have lost yours if you faltered before. God’s call on your life only goes away if you make the choice not to follow. Forget the storm and the scary stuff and go. Go answer His call and watch Him meet all of your needs. God isn’t bound by anything so believe He is able and be part of the miracle! 

Shalom,

KA

No Plan B

In Joshua chapter 3, we see the Israelites are faced with what appears to be an insurmountable problem: an overflowing river. To set the scene for you, they have just spent 40 years crossing the wilderness on a massive journey to the land promised to them by God. Most of these people grew up in the wilderness and have never known a home that wasn’t a moving caravan. They have seen God lead them by day and by night as well as provide for their daily needs. They are well acquainted with His power. They are at the end of the a journey that many did not survive. The idea of entering the land God promised to them has with it, I’m certain, mixed emotions. It’s a new kind of unknown and will require a new kind of faith. 

The leaders have gone through the camp and told everybody to get ready to move once they see the priests who carry the ark of the covenant move. In Joshua 3:5, Joshua addresses the group saying, “…tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Next we see a beautiful moment between God and Joshua where instructions are given. Joshua then repeats the message and tells them that as soon as the priests are standing in the river, God is going to stop the river from flowing. Keep in mind that the Jordan at this time of year is overflowing. Rivers are already moving and an overflowing river typically moves faster. On a good day, you could swim across the Jordan in this place if you weren’t carrying anything heavy with you. This is the entire nation of Israel with all of their belongings! Swimming across is definitely not an option. I don’t know about you, but believing that God is going to stop this overflowing river would take an entirely new level of faith.

The people do exactly as they are told. The priests carry the ark up to the banks of the river and they dip their feet in the river and stand still. Can you imagine what they are thinking? I would be trying to hang on to every ounce of faith hoping that God isn’t going to wipe us out. The laws of nature and physics say they have no way across this river! How on earth is God going to stop this river from flowing? This is where faith has to scream loudly over doubt and remind us all that God is not bound by the laws of this world, He operates in the laws of heaven. Heaven doesn’t care about the river in front of them because nothing is too big for God. The priests and all of Israel are at a critical place, the place of no plan B. If God doesn’t show up, there is no other option.

“…and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water…the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away…completely cut off. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.” (Joshua 3:15-17) YES! God prooved Himself faithful one more time and His people were safely on the other side of the river. What seemed impassable became passable once God stepped in. “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

What are you facing today? Have you followed God well and have a river in front of you that feels too big? Here’s the truth, God isn’t going to call you, bring you through the desert and then leave you. Your entire journey is part of His plan and He has every step covered, you just have to keep believing. No matter what He asks of you or what you face, grow your faith in the God who created you, called you and provides for your every need. There is no plan B. Faith and obedience are the only plan. Dip your feet in your river and watch God provide a way.

Shalom,

KA

What If We Had No Faith


Hebrews 11:1 in the Amplifed bible says this: “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen (the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses). I love the detail in this translation with words like “title deed”, “confirmation” and “divinely guaranteed”. Faith makes absolutely no sense whatsoever from a human, earthly-minded point of view. It’s crazy! And yet, faith is exactly what is required to follow Jesus.

So, what would happen if some of the people in the Bible didn’t have faith? Let’s take a look at just a few people who change the world because of their faith.

Noah 

Noah was a man who walked with God and found favor in the eyes of God (Gen 6:8 and 6:9). On an average day, God came to Noah and told him to make an ark that would hold his family plus two of every creature on the earth (Gen 6:14-21). While I’m certain everyone around would have thought him to be absolutely nuts, Noah did what God told him to do (Gen 6:22) and in that obedience, God saved his family and repopulated the planet. If Noah hadn’t been willing to have faith and follow God’s plan for his life, I’m certain God would have found someone else and then, we would know his story and not Noah’s. Through Noah we see faith at work in the midst of complete uncertainty and we see salvation. Through God in the story of Noah, we see a promise of life which we are reminded of with every beautiful rainbow. 
Abraham

Abram, soon to be renamed Abraham, is living life with this clan and God said to him “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12:1) God didn’t tell him exactly where to go, He just told him to go, pack up your entire household, and set off for a land that will identified later. Abram’s faith in God in this moment sets the stage for a miraculous life where God fulfills His promises over and over again, no matter how crazy they may seem. If Abraham hadn’t followed God at this pivotal point and set out for an unknown land, he wouldn’t have ended up with the children he had, and we wouldn’t have the same lineage of Jesus. Abraham’s faith in God, thousands of years ago, impacts us today.

Moses

Moses was a man who gave up his royalty to go back to his blood-line and identify as a slave. (Exodus 2) Then Moses encounters God in a deeper way through a bush that is on fire but not consumed and hears God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:11) Moses tries to talk God out of this call and yet, in the end, he is obedient. If Moses hadn’t followed God, we wouldn’t have Passover, we wouldn’t have the Ten Commandments, we wouldn’t have seen God part the Red Sea and so much more! Basically, we wouldn’t have as many real-life examples of how God does the impossible. 

Disciples

Every disciple of Jesus left their homes and families in order to follow an unknown traveling teacher with no guarantee and no plan. They faced ridicule and being misunderstood because they believed so strongly in the message of Jesus. They made mistakes along the way and, they did miracles. If people like Peter hadn’t followed Jesus, we woudn’t have the Church as we know it today. It’s not perfect, but it is important to our faith and our culture.

Read through Hebrews 11 and look up the stories in the Old Testament. There are so many examples of how God steps into the mundane and makes a miracle. God is not always about the safe route, He’s about the radical route, the route of faith. In the end, it is critical to grasp Hebrews 11:6 if you want to follow God well: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him”. If you can believe God is able to save you and take you to heaven for eternity, wouldn’t it stand to reason He is equally able to provide for you today? 

What is God asking you to do today that you have put on the back burner because it just seems too crazy? I’m not saying every wild idea is from God, I am simply saying that God may ask you to go way outside your comfort zone and you have to determine if you are willing to increase your faith to meet His call. Pray. Get people who know you really well to pray with you. Share your dream with trusted partners. For me, I have a group of about 10 people who are always praying for me. I have a smaller group of 3 people who know me better than any other people on the planet and those 3 people pray with me and speak into my life. They don’t always agree with me and that’s what I need. We push each other to increase our faith and to test what we are hearing. We hold each other accountable and we seek the best for each other. If you don’t have a community like this around you, ask God to bring people to be a support to you and you to them. Don’t let fear hinder your faith, you can bet that God is waiting in the wings to do amazing things through you if you will just believe.

Shalom,

KA

Loving the Fringe

“Fringe” as an adjective, means not part of the mainstream or unconventional. (www.dictionary.com) God has been causing me to fall more and more in love with people on the fringe of society because I don’t see this as a demographic the Church, as a whole, is reaching out to regularly. I see lots of emphasis on marriage, on support for mom’s who get to stay home with their kids and families with married moms and dads…all good, don’t get me wrong, but we are leaving a lot of people out. We’re leaving out the people on the fringe and those are the people I am most drawn to. These are often also the people who are hardest to love because they don’t easily or quickly love back.
I don’t know who you think about when you think of the fringe of society, but I think of folks like those divorced, those who have divorced parents, single moms and dads, those who are homeless, those on government assistance, those who have been or are currently addicted to drugs or alcohol, those overweight, those underweight, those with anxiety and depression, people of a different culture, people of a different skin color…this list keeps going but you get the jist. These people feel left out and unloved because they are different. They look at their lives and they instantly compare themselves to others and they feel like the don’t measure up because people not on the fringe say things like, “bless your heart” and think  “there but for the grace of God” when they hear their stories. They wonder what they did wrong that their lives didn’t turn out as they had dreamed as a kid. They wonder if God can actually love them and use them. Now, I’m not judging the Church, we’ve done some AMAZING things to help folks on the fringe, but we go to them out on the fringe and we never invite them into community. It’s time to start inviting them in.
I’ve been praying about this a lot lately. I believe that God has laid this demographic on my heart for a reason and I’ve never really understood why…until today. I’ve prayed many times, “Why me, God? Why are you drawing me to the fringe when all I want to do is fit in.” Oh, there it is, did you see the paradigm shift? I’m desiring to fit in instead of accepting that I AM PART OF THE FRINGE. I’m from a home of divorce. I myself have been divorced twice. I’m a single mom. I’m a redeemed and recovered alcoholic. I have PTSD. My list could go on and on as well, but again, you get the jist. I’m drawn to the fringe because I am just one part of the fringe so of course, God would use me to reach what I know.

I think Jesus lived on the fringe. He wasn’t part of the religious group of His day. He wasn’t what anyone expected. He didn’t ask people to clean up and then follow Him. Jesus went into the dark places of the world and He had dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors and other people who society didn’t quite know what to do with. He called the fringe to His side and He accepted them and He loved them. Jesus loves the mainstream AND the fringe, and He died for both.
I believe that we, as the Church, need to love the fringe and create opportunities for them to feel like part of a community. Keep our programs to make marriages better and, add a program to reach out to those who are single adults. Keep our programs to make our parenting skills stronger and, add a program to address the world of the single parent. There needs to be an emphasis on helping build a whole community, not keep the fringe “over there”.  This is going to shake things up. This is going to be radical. We will run the risk of a heroine addict sitting next to us in the seats. We will run the risk of reaching people with the love of God REGARDLESS of their present circumstances. We will run the risk of identifying with people who don’t look like us. Worst of all, we’ll run the risk of actually loving all people, just like God has commanded. Yikes! We’ll actually BE the Church and the Bride of Christ! Awesome! I’m in!
God gave me a saying many, many years ago and I didn’t really know what to do with it but now I do. “Love All. Judge None.” This is a choice and it is a risk and, it is Jesus. This is radical and it is dangerous because our boxes are going to break open. This is also ridiculously needed in our world today. It’s time to shake things up and love those who do
Love All. Judge None.
KA

Love is a Choice (1 John 3:11-24)

Love, in this passage, is about making a choice regardless of the other persons actions or behaviors. It’s not the heart palpitating, moony-eyed love that we feel when we first are attracted to someone in a dating scenario. It’s not love that is caused by a DNA connection in a family. It’s a choice we make to be like Jesus and love those around us regardless of their actions or behaviors. I don’t know about you, but this kind of love is really challenging sometimes for me. And yet, it’s the kind of love Jesus has shown us and that He expects us to show others. It isn’t based on merit, it’s based on choice. The catch is, we are directed in this passage to make that choice for everyone around us.

Do you have people in your life, or personality styles, that you find really hard to love?

John starts this passage off by telling us what love is not. Love is not what Cain showed us when he was vengeful against his brother, Abel, and killed him. Then John goes one step further, which Jesus did also, and tells us that if we even hate someone, we have followed Cain in murder. And as if that isn’t strong enough, he goes even one step further and says that eternal life doesn’t reside in someone who is a murderer. Yikes! Now, before you start to think that you’re safe because you’ve never actually hated anyone, let me tell you what that word means in the original text: to esteem less. If you have ever thought less of someone, you have made a choice to not love them because the love of God places no judgment on anyone, therefore everyone is equally esteemed, no one less. I dare say we have all thought less of someone and in that thought, have not loved them as Jesus has loved us, unconditionally.

John then goes on to give us some examples of how we are to love the people in our lives in verses 16-18. We are to be willing to lay our lives down and to lay our needs down. Both of these actions are sacrificial and isn’t that just exactly the example Jesus showed us when He sacrificed His place in heaven to come to earth, and then sacrificed His life on earth so that we would have a place in heaven. By His actions, He showed us how to love people who spit on Him, called Him names, beat Him and betrayed Him…He made the choice to die so that they, and we, might live.

What are your actions saying to the people in your life? Are you loving in deed and truth?

I so appreciate how John reassures us as he wraps up this set of verses because I don’t know how you think, but I over-think. I read verses like these and I start to replay all of my conversations and interactions, directing them to see if I treated anyone less than I should and therefore, didn’t love them well. I can send my brain into a tailspin in seconds! John reminds us that God knows our hearts better than we do and He will use our hearts to inform our minds. “God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything;” (v20). This is where I stop and pray, asking God to show me if I need to make changes or make amends or, if I’m handling interactions well. My heart will guide me, if I need to make a correction. If my heart does not send me a corrective action message, I can continue on boldly before God. All of my requests end in yes and amen when I follow God’s desire for loving those around me.

We end this section with a reminder that we are commanded two primary actions: believe in Jesus and love one another, just as Jesus Himself commanded. If we will allow ourselves to be ruled by God fully, we can truly live a life of love for all people. One where we treat everyone equally and show love, grace and mercy that is never based on merit and always based simply on existence. When we love like we are commanded and empowered to love, we bring heaven to earth. This love, God’s love, is the only love that has the power to change lives. In all situations, we have the ability to choose this love and I pray that we do. The enemy is taken out completely by this love. The world needs this love.

Shalom,

KA

Failure isn’t Disqualification: Peter’s Comeback

From the moment Peter arrives on the scene, he captures my attention. In the gospel of John, chapter 1, Jesus meets Simon and immediately changes his name to Cephas or Peter, meaning “rock”. Here we see Jesus setting the tone of the relationship and it is actually really important to remember that Peter is foundational to the long-term ministry of Jesus. In the first moments of their relationship, Jesus gives Peter his calling and though he doesn’t understand the name change at the time, he will.

I want to look at one of the moments in the life of Peter where he failed and yet, he wasn’t disqualified, cast aside by God and, he didn’t quit. The disciples have just seen Jesus feed thousands of people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Not only did He feed them, they had leftovers! The disciples are tired at every level and still processing the recent news that John the Baptist was killed. The conditions are not necessarily optimal but, they are with Jesus and changing the world.
Jesus, always One to show us the example of good self care, needs some time alone so He sends His followers off across the sea while He goes to spend some time with His Father. The weather isn’t great and the guys in the boat are getting battered by waves and wind. It’s the middle of the night and I am certain they were cranky. I mean, I would be! Then, out of nowhere, they see something that I am certain made them doubt their sanity. They saw Jesus walking on the water coming towards them! Just stop for a moment and imagine that scene. First, they are so far out that there is no earthy way Jesus could even be where they are considering the length of time they have been moving in the water. Second, Jesus is WALKING ON WATER. I probably would have passed out if I’m being totally honest.

Here is where I start to fall more in love with Peter. While most people would have been running away from someone walking on the water (let’s just be honest, it’s terrifying!), Peter is more attracted to the power of Jesus. The disciples are convinced they are seeing a ghost and they are filled with fear, but not Peter. In the midst of fear, Peter hears the voice of Jesus and he finds deeper faith. Only faith could have caused Peter to utter his next words, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Peter knows the voice of his Leader and Friend and he is firmly set in faith that he has recognized the voice and that Jesus is fully and without doubt able to allow Peter to walk on water. Jesus has only one response and it is truly a reward for his faith, “Come” (Matthew 14:29).

Can you relate to Peter in this moment? Have you had an experience where you just knew it was God and though it seemed crazy, you followed what you heard?

Peter then steps out of the boat, deeper into the storm, and walks on water toward Jesus. Now, stop here for just one moment and picture the face of Jesus as Peter would have seen Him. Here’s what I picture: deep love in His eyes, pride beaming all over His face as His friend walks in faith, a slight smile on his lips. Peter and Jesus have a moment that is so deeply special and lovely it can nearly bring me to tears if I think about it for a while. Peter is the hero of the story in this moment! He stepped out in faith and it was a HUGE success! End scene, go home. Oh but wait! It doesn’t actually end in this glorious moment. Peter starts to sink.

Peter, in what is the absolute human condition, takes his focus off of His Leader and Friend and puts it on the storm and in that moment, he loses faith and he loses footing, but he doesn’t lose his future. He starts to sink and scramble and I’m certain is filled with tremendous fear. Sometimes, it takes greater faith to stay the course, not stepping out of the boat. Peter had the faith to step out, he just didn’t have the faith to keep going when the storm around him seemed to be too much. Instead of keeping his eyes firmly planted on the goal, Jesus, he looked around, saw the storm and tried to keep going in his own strength. God will never give you the power to step out and not give you the power to keep going.

So let’s do a quick recap: the disciples are caught in a storm on the water, they see Jesus walking towards them on the water, Peter jumps out of the boat and he walks on the water, Peter sinks. For many, Peter’s bravery was in the stepping out of the boat but I would invite you to put your sanctified imagination hats on and look a little closer. I would suggest that Peter was most brave by letting Jesus save him and then getting back into the boat. As with many of the daily small details, the Bible doesn’t tell us what happened next but as we all know, it wasn’t a movie so the scene didn’t just end with Jesus saving Peter. Jesus would have had to carry Peter back to the boat, and then Peter would have had to face his friends.

Now, I know we like to think of these men, the disciples, as pillars of the community but let’s be honest, they weren’t. They were rough-and-tumble men’s men and I’m 99% positive at some point, maybe not right that moment, someone said something like, “Hey Peter, nice swim you took there!” Or “Wow Peter, way to make Jesus have to save you!!” I’m certain Peter had to face a little ridicule based on his actions and what we know about Peter is this…he stayed. Because I know that God allows freewill, I can say with assurance that Peter had the option to stop following Jesus at any moment. They all did. Peter could have been so undone by the public failure that he retreated back to being a fisherman. Praise God he didn’t!

Have you made a mistake or done something in public that fills you with shame or regret and you felt like, or perhaps you did, walking away from God’s call on your life?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill. Peter didn’t let this failure stop him from fulfilling the destiny for which he was created, to be the rock on which Jesus built His Church. (Matthew 16:18) Was Peter brave for stepping out of the boat? Absolutely. Was he even more brave for getting back into the boat, facing his friends and then continuing on with them and Jesus? A million times yes!! Without Peter, we have no Church as we know it today. Peter shows us that we can be human, make mistakes, fail, and Jesus is still there to pick us up and keep us going. I don’t believe Jesus ever mentioned what happened to Peter again. Jesus knew what Peter was capable of and He knew what Peter was called to, remember, He gave him that call the first time they met.

Each of you is one of two people: you’ve failed and quit or, you’ve failed and gotten back up. If you have failed and quit, please hear my heart. Jesus is waiting to pull you up, bring you peace and healing, and relaunch you. Your calling doesn’t have an expiration date so don’t think He won’t use you. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that will stop God from using you except you. If you let shame and guilt rule, then you let the enemy win. Please don’t let him win. Failure only has power when we allow it to hold shame and we keep it a secret. Let your secret out! Ask God for help and He will provide it.

If you have failed and gotten back up, praise God. Share your story loudly. We all need to hear how other people have failed and gotten back up to keep moving forward into their calling to bring glory to the Kingdom. We all fail at one point or another, the more we share our stories of both success and failure, the more we realize they are really both the same. Stories of success are never easy stories and in many cases, the failure was needed in order for the success to be realized.

Shalom,

KA