Sunday, February 18, 2018

Playing the Game

Have you ever tried to go to the Government website and read the bills they are voting on?  They're pretty much unreadable to the random citizen.  So much legal talk and ridiculous loop-de-loops.  How are we ever to know what in the world the laws are? 

One thing I have heard mentioned that I want to look at briefly is the idea of having multiple topics in each bill.  I think it becomes a big messy part of the political "us vs them" debacle.  Let me try to present a scenario to simplify what I think is happening.  I'm going to call the political parties simply A and B, and make up a ridiculous bill. 

'A' proposes a new bill to better fund firefighters by adding a 25 cent tax to every block of cheese sold.  Also in this bill is a provision for putting a clown on every street corner in NYC, and it will be paid for by a $1/day tax added to all citizens living in California.  'B' is in favor of the firefighter portion of the bill, but thinks the clown half is stupid and they can't in good conscience vote for it.  B has more voters, so the bill is not passed, then A takes to the media and claims that B wants your house to burn down. 

Have you seen this happen?  It is a big part of the spreading of misinformation.  I've even seen one party write up a bill and one or two members of that party say they won't vote for the bill because of just one or two points included in it.  I just don't understand why they mix in so many unrelated things.  Why can't we just have one bill about the firefighters, and a separate bill about the clowns?  Then A and B could agree on passing the firefighter bill, and the clown one is less likely to pass.

I realize that bills are not this simple, any topic is going to include a lot of complicated details, but I don't understand when unrelated things show up.  It becomes a game.  We'll give you this point if you'll give us that one.  Trading votes.  Not ok. Can we make them stop?  Can we make them limit each bill to one topic?  How can we ensure they are voting in the best interest of the people instead of their party lines, or donor pressure? 

Similarly, the topics of term limits, or pay raises, or donor money, how do we the people get the lawmakers to pass these changes that theoretically would 'hurt' them?  I feel helpless to change the system that I have no faith in.  States just keep electing the same people every time, nothing changes.  They get better and better at playing the game and lining their own pockets.     

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Manipulated Morality

Before delving into political topics, I want to explore the idea of morality.  Our personal moral code will determine most of our political stances.  What determines right and wrong?  Why do people change what they believe to be right and wrong?

As I've said, I grew up in church, so I was raised with a Christian view of morals.  Over the years I've seen others who claim the same code suddenly shifting on certain topics.  They switch sides so to speak.  Did the Bible they believe in change?  Is the Bible wrong?  This has disturbed me, but I have begun to understand how it is happening.

A few years ago a friend asked me to watch a "documentary" called The Bible Told Me So.  It was a series of stories about people who had come out as 'gay' and were then badly mistreated by their church or other Christians in their lives.  They were truly awful, heartbreaking stories.  Story after story pulling on the heartstrings of the viewer.  At the conclusion, the film made the case for homosexuality being acceptable because these people were mistreated by the church.  I found that to be faulty logic.  It's like saying that if someone is abused by the police after being caught committing a crime, he's no longer guilty of the crime.  That is an incorrect assessment.  The crime is still a crime.  (No, I'm not saying homosexuality is a crime.)  They are two separate issues of wrongdoing.

I've watched as church after church publicly turn away from what the Bible says in order to be 'compassionate' or up to date with what the secular world is believing currently.  I've seen stories of people leaving their church after a family member says they are gay.  I get it.  I wrote another blog a few years ago that looked at the idea of sin and how we seem to perceive it vs how the Bible talks about it. Click here to read  I think this plays into this scenario.  People often equate 'sinner' with 'bad person.'  When someone you know and love says they are gay, and you know them to be a good person, it doesn't add up.  The evidence is not convincing.  You don't want to believe this person is now a bad person.  That is all faulty reasoning. In this other blog I note that sin is often presented as an outside entity, an enemy of humanity.  So what if we believed that?

Our emotions can be used to deceive us, to pull us away from our previously held moral code.  Having a loved one become involved in a sin, something we believe to be wrong, can cause us to question what we think.  That was the whole point of the documentary I watched.  "Look at how hard life has been for these people.  How can you tell them they're bad people? "  The Bible talks about us being "slaves to sin."  Would you call a slave a bad person?  No, you wouldn't.  So why do we let the devil convince us that sinners are bad people?  They are not bad, they are being attacked and destroyed.  That is the picture I get from the Bible.  Sin destroys us and those around us.  The enemy of our souls has been deceiving us into accepting slavery and celebrating it.  I say no more!  Sin is not our friend!  Sin must be called sin, truth must reign over emotion.  If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, we have to choose to believe it over our ever shifting emotions and experiences.  Maybe our Creator knows best how we are to function.  He wrote the owner's manual.

How about other areas of life.  It is still generally accepted that you shouldn't cheat on your spouse.  But it happens all the time.  Attraction steps in and offers up a temptation.  Society has been shifting away from solid morality and toward emotional leading.  Therefore, if I'm attracted to someone, I should be totally fine to go after them, even if I'm already married.  I'm pretty sure that most people are not going to be ok with that.  Your spouse is going to be hurt.  Some people are attracted to children apparently, yet we expect them to control that attraction or go to jail.  Sin is sin because it hurts people.  When you let emotion override morality, people get hurt.

Sometimes our kids can push us to the limit.  Sometimes we want to strangle them.  Sometimes a relentlessly crying baby makes us want to shake them and scream at them to stop!  Those are emotions that are very real, but hopefully we have a moral foundation that stops us from hurting our child. Some people cross that line.  Some people feel even justified that they abuse their kids or spouse. On the crime tv shows I watch, often the murderer gives a reason for killing the person that in their mind is completely ok.  This is a dangerous road to walk.  When emotions lead, we get into trouble and someone gets hurt. 

The particular sins that an individual is tempted with seem to come with a lot of evidence and convincing arguments (lies) to get a person to step into the jail cell.  Hey girl, you dress like a boy, you like sports, you've never had a boyfriend, maybe you're a lesbian.... I heard that one in high school.  There was more to it than that, but the "evidence" I was being presented with seemed true.  But... I knew what the Bible said.  I knew this "evidence" couldn't be true.  At the time I didn't have much understanding of the tactics of the devil, so this war for truth raged on for many years. It was almost 15 years later when I finally gained the tools to understand and fight this lie off.  I needed to hear what God thought, I needed to be given another explanation for what I was seeing and feeling.  I did finally get that freedom!  Jesus has shown me truth that negated all the "evidence" that Satan had been throwing at me to keep me in prison.  His illusion of truth crumbled in the face of real Truth. 

I've seen it over and over in my life.  Emotions, attractions, temptations...  they all seem right and correct and truthful at first, but when I choose to remember what the Bible says about those topics, I have to look for another explanation.  I have to choose what God says over what my emotions are saying.  The enemy of our souls is prowling around looking for someone to devour.  He is a liar.  He has been growing his deception skills for a very long time, so it isn't surprising that his lies are convincing.  This is why it is so important to know the Word of God.  He created us, He loves us, and He laid out a way to live that will cause no harm to us or to others.  Will we believe Him?  Or will we believe our ever shifting emotions?  The devil is a manipulator, but if we choose to stand on God's Word, believing He is right in spite of our current emotions and the pile of evidence, we will be set free.  The Truth will set you free! I know this, because I have experienced it.  The mountain of evidence melted in the light of The Truth of Jesus Christ. 

"I freed a thousand slaves.  I could've freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."
-- attributed to Harriet Tubman, but evidence is lacking

Regardless of its authenticity, I believe this quote rings true.  The deceiver has enslaved people without them even realizing they are slaves.  When we choose to believe emotion or anything else over the Word of God, our morals begin to slip.  Political circles use emotion driven narratives to convince us of their point of view.  I was listening to Ben Shapiro recently as he discussed how television has been used for years to manipulate how we think.  They have constantly pushed the moral boundaries, slowly boiling us into complacency.  The way he put it, they give us characters that we like more than our own families, then they have them act in ways we wouldn't approve of, but since we like that character, we start to shift what we approve of.  That is exactly my point.  When we love someone, we don't want to label them as bad.  I would like to point out that we all have both good and bad in us.

Ben Shapiro video - the long explanation

Doing one bad thing does not make us a bad person. But if we shift our view to see that sin is slavery or a prison, when we see someone we love acting in a way that we deem to be wrong, we can compassionately do our best to help them see what they're doing is hurting them or us.  That's what Love does.  We're being told that love accepts everyone for who they are and everything they do right now, but in reality, Love guides us to become the best version of ourselves.  Yes, He loves us as we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us as we are.

So looping this all back around to my upcoming focus on politics, I've been thinking about how the culture shapers use emotion to shift how we think.  I think it is important to be aware of this manipulation.  We must know what our personal moral codes are and practice standing firm in the face of emotional manipulation.  We need to base our beliefs on fact, not emotion.  I like to think about things before I'm in the situation where I'll need to respond.  Like they told us in youth group... decide how far you will go on a date before you are in the back seat making out.  Once those emotions get stirred up, it's too late to decide what you believe in.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


I've mostly tried to avoid politics, but recently I've started paying a little more attention.  I can't do too much because it usually makes me angry.  Too much fighting, not enough listening.  Two sides with dramatically different worldviews, so no obvious way of coming together and agreeing on anything, so they just fight and it is ugly and getting us nowhere.  I've been thinking recently about just sitting down and writing as I explore this ugly world of politics.  Maybe no one will read it, maybe it's just a way for me to sort out my thoughts, who knows?  I want to lay out my personal thoughts, and I would love for others to share theirs, as long as it is respectful.  Civil dialogue is the only way we are going to see change. 

I believe that we each form our beliefs based on our own experiences.  What we are taught as children is of course very big in the beginning, but as we grow and experience more variety of experience in life, our thoughts can change.  How often do we really stop and think about our beliefs?  I like to talk to people who challenge me to think about what I really believe is true. 

I come from a Christian worldview.  It's not just a random set of unproven beliefs, it is an experience based knowledge of the goodness of God.  My relationship with Jesus most definitely affects how I believe life should be lived.  As a kid, I watched other people do the things I was taught were wrong, and I saw them live through the consequences of those actions.  For me, this validated the Bible's set of rules.  They made sense.  God is a good Father, and He's trying to show us how to avoid getting hurt.  As I got older, those beliefs grew even stronger.  I began to see His hand in my life, bringing me blessings and answering my prayers, and how following Him led me into better and better places.  Bad things do still happen, but I can almost always trace them to someone somewhere making a choice to go a different way than God's way. 

I enjoy watching movies that offer up an ethical conundrum.  When it doesn't seem like there is a good choice, what do you do?  The most clear example is the gladiators of ancient Rome.  Kill or be killed?  That's a pretty horrific choice.  Jesus said to turn the other cheek, so will I lay down my sword?  I don't know.  I don't think any of can really know what we'd do in such a crazy situation unless it happens, but I enjoy thinking about what would be the right thing to do in God's eyes.  That thought process colors all of my political choices. 

I have a few ideas on what way to go with this.  I could tackle current topics as the arise, or I also thought about going to the official Republican and Democrat webpages and reading through their basic platform and working though the issues they stand on.  I could also just randomly pick out big hot button issues to explore.  Or a mix of these ideas....

Monday, November 6, 2017

Faith vs Fear Pt 1

Fear is not your friend.  We all face fear every day in some form.  It is probably the greatest tactic the enemy throws at us. In this part I am going to focus on the fear that causes us to make choices that go against our own values.  These thoughts were sparked by the recent sexual assault accusation explosion in Hollywood.  People are asking why no one came forward earlier, why they won't name names.... 

I have spent my life observing people, so most of my thoughts on this come from that place.  Maybe a little from tv and movies too.  I enjoy ethical dilemmas in fiction.  I enjoy pondering those seemingly no-win situations.  What is the right thing to do? 

How many times have we heard someone say "I know it was wrong, but I didn't have a choice!" ?  I'm sure many of us have been there.  I want to suggest that we always have a choice.  The choices may not look good to us, but we always get to choose. 

Let's start big.  Gladiators.  They are slaves, stripped of all rights, thrown into a fight with the choice of "kill or be killed."  Tough choice.  Most would fight and try to be the one left standing in the end.  But is that right?  Fear of death spurs most people to defend themselves.  I wonder if that justifies killing another human being? 

I watch a lot of crime tv shows.  Many times the murderer ends up admitting they killed the person because they were about to rat them out for something.  Fear of getting in trouble for something smaller led them to commit murder. 

How about fornication?  How many times have we heard of a girl who slept with her boyfriend because she was afraid he'd leave her if she didn't?  Fear pushed her past where she was comfortable.  What about abuse?  Why do people stay with their abusers?  Fear of being alone is a big one for most of us.  We will stay in horrible situations because at least we have someone to be with. 

Our school experience presented us with the idea of peer pressure.  Drink this, smoke that, wear this, don't wear that....  No one wants to be rejected, so we learn quickly how to fit in, blend in, don't stand out, don't be yourself.  The fear of what other people think of us probably shapes our behavior more than anything else.  We don't want to be rejected and outcast. 

Lies are easy.  Have you ever lied to keep from getting in trouble?  Probably.  I know I have.  I think we would all say that lying is wrong, but yet we've all done it.  Why?  Fear.  Fear of getting in trouble is often the reason. 

I think a lot of us break our own moral codes at work for fear of losing our jobs. I know I've been asked to do things I didn't think were right.  There were times when I caved, and times when I stood firm.  When corporate comes to visit and inspect, we are expected to pretend everything is going according to the standards.  We hide the mess, we make everything look perfect.  It's all a lie.  I ran a department for a time, and when the visit came, I told the truth.  It got my bosses in some trouble.  Next time the visitor came, I was cornered beforehand by two bosses trying to coach me on what to say.  They realized I wouldn't lie, so they were trying to give me ways to tell the truth that would still sound like a lie to the visitor from HQ.  I had to reach a place of trust in God that kept me from that fear of being fired.  Once that fear is gone, you are free to do what you think is right. 

I think you get the idea.  Fear of so many different things can cause us to go around the boundaries of morality that we believe in.  But what if we held the line?  What if we chose to do what we know to be right, even if it costs us? 

Jackie Robinson is my hero.  He was so much more than a baseball player.  Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, asked Jackie to play ball and have the courage to not fight back.  If you've seen the movie, you know just a small picture of the abuse he took on the field and off.  All of us would probably consider it justified if he did fight back.  But he didn't.  And he won.  He won their respect and acceptance by "doing the right thing."  If he'd lost his temper and hit someone, even one time, I don't think he would have accomplished what he did.  I think it would have been years before another black man would be given a chance to play. 

 Fear will not lead to anything good in the long run.  Fear is simply a tool of the devil.  His plan is to destroy you, so why play his game? 

It is my belief that we would be wise to take a look at our own idea of what is good and what is important.  Work with Papa God to determine what your priorities are in life and then determine to not violate those priorities. 

When I moved to Redding, I did so to attend Bethel church.  My job had me working at 4am, so my ability to go to evening services was hampered.  I had a choice.  Church or work?  I could skip church so that I could work, or I could go to church and be really tired in the morning at work.  I was not very consistent with that choice, eventually I just skipped evening services.  I got a second job that kept scheduling me on the night I had home group.  I quit that job because it violated my priority of connection with my home group family.  I needed the money, but I chose my priority of relationship over money. 

If you are a parent, do you choose time with family, or working more hours to earn money to support your family?  That's a hard one.  Does your job ask you to cheat or do things that are illegal or dangerous?  Do you refuse?  How many horrific events in history could have been stopped by someone who chose to stand up and do the right thing instead of "just doing his job?"  How many times has fear of being fired or worse kept people quiet?  How many of those young starlets in Hollywood slept with some creepy old man because their aspirations to fame were bigger than their disgust at this man?

Knowing what is most important to you and determining not to violate those things will help you to stand strong in the face of fear.  I'm not at all belittling the power of fear, but I'm choosing to put my eyes on someOne that is way bigger!

In the next part I will share some of how I have learned faith over fear in a couple areas of my life.  I still have many parts of my life still bound in fear, but I hope that in reviewing the times it's gone well, I will be motivated, and hopefully you will be too, to trust God with everything. 

Faith vs Fear Pt 2

What does it look like to trust God?

Since I moved to California in 2012, I have been on a journey of learning what it means to walk by faith.  I'm nowhere near perfect in it, but I am learning in small bits how to apply faith to my life.  I've been feeling prompted to write this for awhile now, and finally I am up at 4:00 in the morning because I can't ignore it anymore.  This is a part of my life I don't share often because "that don't preach."  This is a hard path, but I want to share how the hard path has worked out for me. 

A lot of the perception of faith is that we just believe stuff with no evidence. That is not true.  I've heard it said "faith is an action" or "faith is spelled R-I-S-K." This I have come to understand.  In part.  It means to take what the Bible says and step into it before you see the proof.  To do what He says to do, when we have no control over the outcome. 

My journey began with a trip to the dentist in July 2012.  I had discovered a small painful bump on my gum, just above my front tooth.  Root canal.  I just knew it.  The diagnosis came as I expected it would.  I've had two other root canals and they cost around $1800 without insurance.  This time it would be more.  This tooth that was in trouble held up one end of a bridge, so not only was it a root canal, but an entire bridge replacement, three new teeth.  I had dental insurance, and even so, the estimate I was given was $3500.  I was new in town, working very few hours, barely making it.  No way I could come up with that much money.  Scary.  What will I do? 

The thought came to my mind, "this is an attack on your finances."  I have been moving toward living in Uganda full time, so I had to pay off my credit card debts before leaving.  Adding $3500 to that debt would not be helpful.  In that moment, I had the idea to say no to the diagnosis.  I made a choice to trust God with this situation.  For me that looked like refusing to go back to the dentist, and going to the Bethel Healing Rooms every Saturday for prayer.  I also cancelled my dental insurance.  My actions were faith.  I was saying, "God, all my eggs are in one basket.  I'm trusting You to take care of me like You promised." 

It has now been over 5 years and I have not returned to a dentist since that day.  Sometimes that tooth flares up and hurts, but it usually can be prayed away quickly.  I've had other teeth get cavities, and then get better.  Each time something shows up, I re-up my statement of faith in God's provision.  I'm doing my best to take care of my teeth, and trusting God to do the rest.  My teeth are by no means perfect, but I'm not in pain very often and I see progress in their healing.  And I didn't pay $3500. 

In the summer of 2013 I had to find a new home.  I had my cats with me, so every place I answered an ad for told me no.  I was in a temporary place until mid August.  I had a specific date I had to be out by.  About two weeks before that date, I felt God say "stop looking, stop responding to ads."  That was a very difficult thing to hear.  But I listened.  Highly stressful time.  I can't say it was my high level of faith, because this was a crazy difficult two weeks for me.  But something in me believed God had spoken, so I was acting (or not acting as the case may be) on what I'd heard. 

The day came where I had to be out.  I had all my stuff packed and my friends were coming at 4:00 to get my stuff out.  I sat there with no idea what I was going to do.  At noon I got an email from someone I didn't know.  Apparently I'd contacted her about a room in the early part of the year.  She asked if I still needed a place.  I ran to meet her roommates and the place was great, the people were great, and they said I could move in!!  No cat deposit, no rent due until the next month...  Awesome! 

The next test came in regards to my finances.  I think it was sometime in 2013 when I felt God was prompting me to stop using credit cards all together.  When you only get scheduled 12 hours at work, the credit cards are what hold you over.  Not using them was a scary idea.  There have been multiple tests since then.  I'll just stick to the two that stand out. 

I was saving money to go visit my best friend in Hawaii in 2014 when my car started acting up.  It felt like a transmission issue which I knew could be very spendy to fix.  Credit cards jumped to mind, but I felt like God was telling me to get my Hawaii money ready.  That was heartbreaking.  Going to visit my best friend was so important to me.  I took my shoebox full of cash to the auto shop with me, ready to sacrifice something I wanted more than anything in order to follow God's prompting.  After a stressful time in the waiting room,  the mechanic came back and handed me my keys.  All done, no charge.  ???  He said there appeared to be some brand new hoses installed in there.  I had not had any work done, and no hoses that I knew of.  So.... did God just fix my car?  Maybe.  :)

Fast forward to 2017.  Tax time.  I had been hired as an independent contractor, so I was self employed and I didn't know all the money I was supposed to be holding out from my paychecks.  I had my taxes done mid-March and ended up needing about $1000 more than I had set aside.  My paychecks were not giving me much extra at that time, so I didn't have room to cover that much.  I looked at my credit cards, decided which one to use to pay my taxes.  But wait.  I''m not supposed to use them.  In another leap of faith, I went and paid the tax guy his $200 fee and placed my faith in God to provide yet again.  I started driving with Lyft to try to earn more money.  Within that next month, I paid my taxes, I paid the quarterly tax that was also due the same day and we'd not expected to be able to pay that at all, I paid the tax guy, and I bought 4 new tires for my car.  In other words, in one month, aside from my regular monthly expenses, I paid out $2200 that I didn't previously have!!  I can account for about $700 of it with Lyft and some gifts, but that is it.  The rest doesn't make sense.  But God. 

I'll stop there with my examples.  I hope I've given a good picture of what I think it means to live by faith, at least in part.  I only have done this in these couple areas.  Money and health.  Other areas I struggle a lot.  But I hope to take what I've learned and find ways to transfer that faith into other places in my life. 

Our choices matter.  I  think that what I get out of all this is that God will let us take care of our own lives as long as we want to, but when we decide to lay it in His hands, we get to experience our Good Father taking care of us.  We can work harder, sacrifice more, hurt more, and carry the stress of life on our own shoulders if we want to.  Or we can exchange our yoke for His and let Him carry the load.  The Bible says we are to have Faith like a child.  Does a little kid worry about paying the mortgage?  No, he trusts that his daddy has that covered. 

The trap in this life is the lie of "I can do it myself."  Maybe you think you can.  Maybe you have been.  But I am suggesting there is a better way.  Maybe I could've picked up a second job and worked hard to pay to fix my car.  Maybe I could keep using my credit cards and just hope to get out of that slavery some day when I get a better job.  Instead, when  I chose to listen to Holy Spirit, I got to see my Heavenly Father step in and provide for me.  That is truly a miracle!  What I'm suggesting is that we don't see a lot of miracles because we keep trying to do everything ourselves.  We have too many back up plans here in this country.  Too many other options before we even think about going to God.  I think that when we remove those things as options, we open the door to see what God can do.   

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life of Adventure

Some people say Christianity is boring.  I would counter that if Christianity is boring, you're doing it wrong.

Let me lay out some of my life story.  I was pretty content in my small Washington hometown.  I never wanted to leave.  I figured I'd just stay there forever.  When I was around 19, life took a bad turn.  I had a major internal crisis and I realized I'd reached the point of having to make some decisions.  I had grown up in church, but when the rubber hits the road, what we believe comes to the surface and shows us what is true and what isn't.  This was the season of my life that I decided to own my own faith.  I decided that Jesus was the only way.  Thus began my personal adventure.  I'm not going to talk about the spiritual, personal, internal stuff, I'm going to tell you about the external adventures I've had since I started following Jesus.

When I was 25 I moved over to the Seattle area to do a ministry school called Master's Commission.  I spent a year with about 20 other young people, learning, serving, and growing in our faith.  During that year we worked at Microsoft conventions to help pay for our year.  We got the comp rooms from MS in the nicest hotels in town.  I got to do this in Anaheim, Dallas, and twice in New Orleans.  Pretty cool huh?  We got to spend some time at 6 Flags New Orleans for free with hardly anyone in the park, so we didn't have to get off the rides at the end of a cycle.

At the end of our year, we hopped in 4 vans and took off on an amazing 6 week roadtrip around the USA.  I believe we touched 39 states on that drive.  We were running on very little money, but we still got to see some amazing stuff.  My favorite was Niagara Falls, which we had the pleasure of viewing from the Lady of the Mist boat.  We were also in Washington DC for the 4th of July, so I watched the fireworks from the front lawn of the Lincoln Memorial.  We hiked a land bridge in Kentucky, we visited an aquarium, visited a beautiful waterfall around Ithaca NY, and we drove thru downtown NYC.  We saw lots of cool stuff from the road, but these are some of our stops that stand out in my memory.

During that year we also worked as camp counselors at a soccer camp.  The man that ran that camp was a great guy, and I connected with his vision.  After I graduated, he let us know that he was taking a group to Uganda for a soccer based mission trip.  I signed up.  After some time it hit me how crazy that idea was.  I don't like new things, I don't like being dirty, I don't like strange food, I'm no good with interacting with new people.... the list went on and on.  I tried to get out of the trip, but that didn't happen.  So I ended up flying across the pond to a whole new world.  We ran into London during our layover, so I saw Buckingham Palace and rode the Tube.  Uganda was a shock.  So unreal.  Ended that trip with a safari.  I'm sure I don't need to explain how incredible that was!  Not just the Savannah, but a boat safari on The Nile River.  I didn't totally enjoy the trip, but God had planted a seed that would grow up later.

6 years later I ended up going back again, this time for 6 weeks during the South Africa World Cup.  This trip wasn't long enough.  I fell in love with the people and the village where we spent most of our time.  We did another safari, and on the way back I spent a couple days in London alone.  I was able to take the Tube into town and walk all over taking pictures.  I even saw the Lion King (broadway version) !!

A couple years after that I was led to move to Redding California. Another crazy adventure.  As soon as I got there, I got signed up to go back to Uganda with a team from Bethel church.  That trip was quite different, but again one of the most amazing two weeks of my life.  I got to take a short day trip back to the village from 2010 with my brother Alex and meet his then 4 mo. old baby Elijah.

2015 I moved further south to Yuba City and quickly quit my long time job at Target.  I decided to just chill for a few months and figure stuff out, and ended up cashing out my 401K money and flying to Uganda for 2 and a half months and building a house.  This time I lived village style, no western comforts like toilets and running water.

Along the way I've made stops in South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, Rwanda, and Rome for my flights, no exploring though.  All this for a little girl that planned to stay in Wenatchee all her life.

What am I saying?  If I hadn't chosen to go where I felt Jesus was leading me, none of this would have happened.  I didn't know that I would love traveling the world because I'd never done it.  I didn't know that I would end up going to Uganda 4 times and planning to live there.  If I'd let my fears stop me back in 2004, where would I be now?  What would my life look like?  

I write this all as a way of expressing my gratefulness to Jesus for knowing me better than I knew myself and leading me into a life of crazy awesome adventure!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What I learned this week

I have had some eye opening but difficult revelations over the last few days.  It started when I was asked to do a 3 day fast before a prayer/counseling meeting.
Ug.  I hate the topic of fasting, I don't really get it, and I really like food.
 I've tried fasting and it didn't work, I didn't make it...
What's the point anyway?

I've never understood the reason, so that made it really difficult for me and I usually gave up after a few hours.  I felt like I was trying to gut it out on will power alone, and that seemed silly.  It just seemed like we were supposed to sacrifice in hopes that God would do something we were asking for.  That is manipulation, and probably not a good plan with God.  I've heard so many different teachings, I wasn't sure what to think, so I gave up on it.

This time was different.  The lady that asked me to do it was going to meet with me to talk about it first, but when that time came she said she felt like I was supposed to pray about it myself and see what God would reveal.  The day before I was supposed to start, I hadn't really looked into it, I'd just decided on some things to fast.  But then... I was on You Tube and a video came up on my suggestions called "The Atomic Power of Fasting" by Dan Mohler  Ok then.
- If you're interested.  It's long, but really good.

It was long, so I'll just share what I got out of it.  I am a slave to my carnal self.  I have a job, but outside of that, I pretty much just sit around doing whatever I want.  I seriously lack motivation to do anything other than whatever I feel like at the moment.  I live a comfortable life.  While there are plenty of angles to this, I suddenly saw more clearly how self focused I am.  I have a ton of free time at this point in my life and I use it to watch tv and do other similar mindless pointless things.  I don't see anything wrong with those activities by themselves, but my constant feeding on them is not good.  As I listened to the teaching and began to see, I was reminded of good ol' Romans 8 (Thanks Pastor Kevin for making us memorize that one)  vs 5-8

  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Whoah.  That's intense in light of what I'm now seeing!  I had just recently tried to do some basic physical exercises and found I could no longer do them.  My body was showing me the results of sitting on my butt for months.  It is shutting down.  That was a physical demonstration of this truth, but I'm pretty sure it applies in many areas of my life.  

So I went into my semi-fast with this in mind and quickly found myself feeling better, my hope levels lifted, I felt motivated to do something!  I didn't do a full food fast, I just had a small breakfast, a salad for lunch, and then skipped dinner and all snacks.  I also chose to cut out tv/movies and attempted to stay off Facebook.  I added to my life more trips to the gym.  I think that even that little effort was beneficial.  I had fallen into a stupor.  I had become a slug.  Breaking away from that for even just these 3 days was a big deal for me!  Where before I had been feeling awful, hopeless, unmotivated,  tired....  I made a quick turnaround and now I see a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.  

Back to my title, what does this have to do with Christianity?  I think a lot of us got into it for selfish reasons.  To feel better, to go to heaven, to fix our problems, to get cool stuff....Yet the message of the gospel is the opposite of that.  Jesus told His disciples to lay down their lives, pick up their cross, deny yourself, die to yourself...  It's not about us.  It's all about Him.  Loving Him, serving Him, serving other people.  In fact, one of the few places I can think of where it talks about fasting it says...
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" Isaiah 58:6-7

What?  To choose to do something other than meeting your own needs.  That makes so much more sense in light of the whole Bible than starving yourself in order to manipulate God!  It's the whole point of everything!  We were saved so that we could love others.  It is for Freedom Christ has set us free!  Not so we could indulge in every carnal desire that crosses our minds.  We have to break free from the chains of the flesh.  Wow.  

So I know that this isn't new to many people, and not even new to me intellectually, but as happens sometimes, it just hit me fresh this week and really lit up my inner lightbulb.  Being a Christian is not marked by church attendance, tithing, missions trips, moral behavior, a cheerful disposition, or a perfect life.  To be a Christian, a follower of Christ, is to lay down my own desires and take up His heart of Love.  That's what Jesus did.  He is our example to follow.  He set aside His Godhood, became a tiny baby, born in a stable and grew up, lived the human existence and owned it.  He loved the people that society scorned, He took abuse from the religious leaders, and ultimately died the most painful death for the sake of mankind.  If that is our example, how can we imagine that Christianity is just about getting us to heaven?  How can it just be about fixing life's problems so we can be happier?  This is hard.  Simple, but hard.  But I hear it's worth it.  :)

This is what I learned this week.  Now the hard part, walking it out.  I've been on this journey with God for about 20 years now.  I grew up in church, but 20 years is about the time I began to own it, not just go to church because my parents went.  I have believed in God my whole life, but the Christian life is a journey.  It's been tough, it's been fun, it's been painful, and it's been full of joy.  Like any adventure, it varies from season to season.  What will the next season hold for me?  God only knows.  I'm choosing to trust in Him  to mold me into the person He designed me to be.