Sunday, August 10, 2014

Serving in the Trenches

I guess I had a pretty radical conversion, or so it seemed.  The moment it clicked felt like someone flipped a light switch and I went from walking in darkness to being surrounded by glorious light.  There was purpose.  There was comfort.  There was forgiveness.  There was restoration.

Put me in coach…I’m ready to play.

But I wasn’t going to make a decision of faith in my twenties so that I could merely walk into church every Sunday morning.  I wasn’t saved to sit in a church pew…I was saved to follow Christ. 

And what does that mean but to follow Him into dark places…to rescue captives…much like myself…with glorious light.  Light I now possessed. 

We can be literal captives…innocent children forced into human trafficking…malnourished orphans trapped by poverty…or we can be slaves to sin…greed…pride…power…success…complacency…self-sufficiency. 

Either way…we’re not free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:31-36

Since I missed my calling as an FBI Special Agent, partnering with Christ to bring His Kingdom on earth has a certain appeal to me.  I do radical well.  Call this farm girl to urban ministry…and sink or swim…I’m diving in.  Globetrotting around the world to love the orphans and feed the hungry…I’m on the next plane out.

So when the Lord called me to suburbia…imagine my delight…

Now please hear me when I say that I dearly love my husband and three bonus stepchildren and would agree to hang my hat wherever they reside.  But for the past few years…I imagined that hat would be hanging near my mosquito net…somewhere in Northern Uganda…not tucked safely away in the suburbs of Central Iowa.

Me with Lexus and stepdaughters Karrena and Brea
I watched God’s not Dead the other night and the local pastor in the movie was a bit disenchanted with the 'everyday' ministry and a bit envious of the 'trenches' the visiting missionary served in daily.  It struck a chord in my soul…the trenches I miss and long for.  But just as God had plans to use that local pastor right there in the middle of his community…I know the Lord has plans for me here…

What does it mean to radically follow Jesus anyway?  When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the Law, he replied “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love God, Love people.

Loving our neighbors in the trenches of Northern Uganda and Central Iowa alike.

What about you?  What are the ‘trenches’ you desire?  What’s hard about where your current ‘trenches’ are situated?  What are the unexpected blessings?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sending Lexus...

In a culture where we've seemingly dropped the moral's refreshing when a feel good story comes our way...because the truth of the matter is...we still love big stories -- especially when they are true.

We love when the underdog wins...extravagant generosity prevails...hope is restored and lives are changed.

These stories captivate us as they are told on the big screen or dance across our news feeds.

But do you know how those stories are written?

One day at a the seemingly trivial details...from people just like you and me...

They are written when we choose to engage in the lives of those who may outlive our own.

Big stories are pieced together...

     when small details collide.

Unfolding as big screen possibilities...

     only after they become daily realities.

Would you like to write one such story with me?

Her name is Lexus.  Created to bring vibrant colors to His world...

But the prologue asks us to first paint the color of hope across hers.

She was a 12-year-old girl, helping her mom run children's programming the summer of 2007.  I was a farm girl fresh in my faith and fresh out of my John Deere career -- pretending like I knew what I was doing in urban ministry (I assure you I did not).  I led the kiddos in Jesus stories and song and I-surely-hope-not-dance.  She thought my voice was annoying and was not impressed by my dance moves but I convinced her to sign up for summer camp nonetheless.  Hiking the woods by day and counting the stars by night was much more my forte than those city streets ever would be.  I taught her how to swim...and the rest is history...she's been teaching me ever since...

  • What it means to mentor a young girl...
  • How to live a life in a manner worth following... (by following Christ)
  • When to pray instead of offering advice...
  • How to share the darkest details of my past...knowing it would impact her future
  • And most importantly how to laugh at myself and my white-girl dance moves and embarrass her with my misused street slang

After 6 years, I hope I've left a mark on her for the cause of Christ...but the truth of the matter is...she's done the same for me.  It's the way our Father designed it to be.

She has a be an bring glory and honor to His name through the talents He's gifted her.

And in our hands we hold the palette of hope...

          the pen to this story.

Will you put it to the paper and write with me?


I've committed to sponsor Lexus to attend the American Academy of Art in Chicago to refine her God-given talent.

What does this support look like?

  • 3 remaining tuition payments of $1318.50 each (due the 1st of November, January and March)
  • 7 remaining housing payments of $895 each (due the 1st of each month through May)
Through much determination and prayer - Lexus was accepted, enrolled and is now attending this school.  We diligently sought and prayed for a more affordable housing option - and when none came - we walked through the only door that opened.  In full disclosure - I freaked out after taking on this kind of financial burden...and I only found peace when the Lord quietly spoke to my soul..."I will provide as it is needed."

Maybe you are part of answering this prayer?  Will you help send Lexus through school?

  • I've opened a separate checking account (in my name) to manage her tuition and housing expenses.  I'm trusting that by the time I need to write each check, the money will be there through the contribution of myself and others.  If you would like to contribute any amount, one-time or monthly, it would be greatly appreciated.  I will share full transparency with all donors as requested.  Please note, these donations are not tax-deductible.
  • As an alternative, if the Lord gives you a special burden and you feel like pouring out extravagant generosity to cover an entire tuition or rent payment - those payments could be made directly to the school or housing facility.  Since payments must be made in their entirety - anything less will likely need to be routed through the checking account so I can process the full payments.  However, if you feel more comfortable giving directly - I'll work with you to find a solution.
That's all folks.  That's the story we're writing.  Please spread the word and let me know if you can help write a chapter!  

Contact info:  Please email me at for all inquiries and commitments so I can provide additional information.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wrestling for Truth

I didn't set out to change the world - not even my little corner of it.  I simply decided to follow Jesus - and that made all the difference.

There are some scriptures that need to be lived...breathed...touched...wrestled...before they can ever be appreciated or understood.

I've long wrestled with Matthew16:24-26...

Then Jesus said to his disciples,  "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

For as long as I can remember all I ever really wanted to be was a farm wife and mom (well ok besides the occasional obsession with becoming an FBI Special Agent)...and yet that barefoot and pregnant train derailed as soon as it pulled away from the station.

While some dreams die hard - others refuse to die.

And yet the pages of my story continue to turn and the trajectory of my life has been radically altered.  For as it turns out God has in fact enlisted me to change the help bring His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  And so I've set out to breathe light onto the streets of my community and change the face of African agriculture.  It looks nothing like I expected...more than I could have ever imagined...and yet ever different from the dreams of my heart.  It's living in this space...between the broken dreams and the new purpose...where the scriptures comes to life.

It's the place where I pick up my cross daily...

 follow Him

Where I lose my life...

          ...only to be found

Where I seek first His kingdom...

          ...trusting the needed things will be given to me

And where I delight myself in Him...

          ...knowing He will give me the desires of my heart.

Traveon and Tyvon overlooking Lake Michigan

I wonder...will you meet me here?

Are you living in the unknown...the space in between...

standing on the edge of the cliff and staring out across the fog.

Sometimes there aren't easy answers...there is only choosing to press in, to live, breathe, touch and wrestle (with the scriptures)
          until they are not only true on the page...but have become true in your heart.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Sunday, September 8, 2013

He's coming for you

Trying to introduce you to a relationship with Jesus is not the same thing as narrow-mindedly pushing my beliefs on you.  But I know sometimes it can come across that way.  And I'm sorry for the bad experiences you've had...with me...or other Christians...or the church.  I think the most devastating realization a true believer in Jesus Christ will ever have is if we come to find our actions have somehow led anyone further away from Christ.  I shudder the thought.

But the truth of the matter is...we probably have.  We're human...we're broken...we make mistakes.  The only thing that sets us apart is the fact that we've met the One...the only One...who covers all of our iniquities by His grace.

Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.  ~ D. T. Niles 

If I stop trying...I've stopped caring.  And I know you probably don't care -- and wish I would stop.  But. I. Can't.  Not as long as I have breath.

God created you -- for a purpose.

Above all -- to have a relationship with you because He loves you.

And nothing you've done...nothing...negates His endless pursuit of you.  

If you are...
     the poor...the downtrodden...the widow...the orphan...the abused...the passed by...the heartbroken.

If you are...
     the rich...the successful...the sufficient...the everyday normal...the girl next door.

If you are...
     the murderer...the liar...the secret sinner...the addict.

He's coming for you -- to set you free.  Free from sin -- free from the futile -- free from the aimless search to belong.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1-4

And since He recruited me to His team...I'm coming too.*

Regardless of the walls you build - the resistance you give - your indifference and your mockery.

He's coming.

Because He loves you too much to stop.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

*Fellow believers, let us invite the Holy Spirit into our evangelism efforts.  Being Jesus to one person might mean passing a book to an airplane seat companion in one instance and praying for a friend or laying out the Gospel in another.  It doesn't mean we need a bullhorn on a street corner.  Perhaps we should start every morning on our knees -- asking God to use us to reveal Himself to others as He sees our families...our co-workers...our neighbors...and strangers.  The only formula I know for evangelism...starts with prayer...follows the Holy Spirit...uses our obedience...and God shows up to do the work.  God is chasing His people...we are His mere instruments...let's not get this the other way around.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our hands to play...

There are a few pivotal hands we'll be dealt in our lifetime...but it's up to us how we play them...if we choose to play them at all.

In the fall of 2006, on a plane headed westward, I returned from a foreign land with my heart completely rocked.  I had spent 10 days on the ground playing and loving the fatherless and orphaned.  At 30,000 feet in the air, I felt like I was ascending from the trenches…yet couldn't shake who i was leaving behind.  Not only the forgotten and abandoned...but the missionaries who had planted themselves the hard places, among the least of these.  In a moment of revelation…I was dealt my pivotal hand...if those missionaries weren't there being the hands and feet of Jesus…who would be?  There wasn't a long line.

In a decision that seemed settled before the beginning of time...I offered the rest of my life to be used by my Heavenly Father…however He the hard places...on behalf of the least of these.

It was a decision that ultimately led me into neighborhoods I had previously never tread and into foreign lands I'd only read...but most importantly it led me closer to heart of the Father.

Some of us are born into a place of privilege...while others a place of struggle.  May I suggest our Heavenly Father knew exactly what He was doing when He planted you there?  There is a reason for your circumstances...healing for your heartache...and a home for your generosity...

There are purposes for your life that extend far beyond this earth and into the eternal.

But it's your hand...
How will you play it?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'   
Matthew 25:34-40

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The world needs men!

Despite the fact that Traveon slept most of the way through church with his head in my lap, I instigated the routine post-church question when we reached the car..."What is something you learned today?"  To my surprise, he responded without delay...

"The world needs men."

Yeah, we really do.  Godly men.

Our pastor gave a pretty strong call to action for "men to be men" - to lead their lives, wives and families with courage, boldness and conviction.  To serve humbly, out of love and have compassion for the vulnerable.  To be the kind of man worth following.  I think every least in her spirit...said amen.

I've had a journey with a particular scripture over the past few years.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Ephesians 5:22-24

I imagine doing the first read-over will stir a variety of did for me let me tell you where my journey began...

I was probably in my early 20's...a few years before Jesus came on the scene (of my heart)...when I first caught this scripture being read during weddings...and I had but one thought..."I will absolutely not have that scripture read during my wedding."  I very much marched to the beat of the I can do anything you can do better drum and I was certainly not going to sign up for a subpar position on Day 1 of my marriage.

But Jesus...

I have a good friend and sister in Christ who has battled this scripture with me several times over the course of our friendship.  She's had some hang-up's with submission and experienced an abuse of the definition in the past.  Naturally, this is going to raise a red flag.  And then she looks at me, knowing that I'm very driven and strong-willed, and therefore can't understand why I'm at total peace with it.  Not only can I imagine this scripture being read during my wedding someday...but I hope and I pray that my marriage would becoming a living example.

How's that for a 180?

But I'll take it a step further, I actually think a lot of women would be willing...and do I daresay, even desire, to submit to Godly husbands.  And I'm not referring to the guy who merely drags himself to church on Sundays...but rather...the kind of man who refuses to sit on the sidelines...who leads his family with courage and honor...who puts down the childish ways of the world and puts on the ways of God.

Let's keep reading a bit further onto verse 25..."Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." Did you catch that?  Christ died for the church.  He loved her. That. Much.  And He calls husbands to love their wives with the same intensity.  I'd imagine submission becomes just a tad bit easier when you've been swept clean off your feet.

When the pastor finished speaking, he invited the men who were making new or renewed commitments to the Lord or to their come to the alter.  And within was lined with men of God.

The world needs these men.

As I was holding back tears, taking in the sight of surrender at the alter, I leaned down and whispered in Traveon's ear..."You are going to break the cycle in your family Traveon, some day you will grow into a courageous man of will be a faithful husband and a devoted father."  He looked up with a continuous nod...wanting the truth of those words to indeed prove true.

You see, he may be growing up fatherless...but he is not without a Father.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  Ephesians 1:4-5

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unsafe Territory

I've wanted to be in the FBI, CSI or some form of investigatory law enforcement for as long as I can remember.  But among other factors, I allowed my dad, who likely didn't want his daughter to continually put herself in harms talk me out of it.  I can't help but to think he'd rethink that decision if he could have predicted where I'd end up...continually running into dark spread the light of Christ.  He'd probably prefer I carried a gun.

I don't want the territory where my feet tread to be safe for the kingdom of darkness.  There is a war for our souls on this earth...whether you ever choose to acknowledge it or not.  Our enemy will use whatever tactic necessary to keep us apart from God and move us toward destruction...through sin and bondage...apathy or deception -- he doesn't care which.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy...John 10:10

And so, I want to speak TRUTH where the Father of Lies has spoken...I want to bring freedom for those in captivity...I want to walk in the authority of Christ and disarm the enemy.

And this means running toward the darkness...armed by His grace and illuminated by His glory.

I want to leave everlasting footprints on those He's given me...

Those neighbors who live beside me...the co-workers who work beside

...airplane seat companions...the hungry...the lost...the broken...even my enemies.

While I often don't get to see how their stories play out...I witness and serve as the Holy Spirit would lead me...sometimes with words...often with actions...fighting for the vulnerable...feeding the hungry...intersecting His Kingdom the moment their path crosses mine...

and trusting Him for those He's 'given' me...

It is a transitional year for many of the dear ones He's put in my path...and I don't know what their futures will bring.  I've been on my knees for these sweet souls with tears streaming down my face more times than I should probably admit...and I'd do anything to keep them safe and protected from the enemy.  But I can not control their decisions, the circumstances which will surround them, or the spiritual journeys they must embark.  I can only take every opportunity our sweet Lord reveal them....through me. 

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  John 17:6

  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 6:12