Apr 202015
 

It is actually crazy to think that it has taken me this long to write a Mission Monday on a ministry that is such a huge part of my life. When the thought first crossed my mind the other day I was frustrated with myself that I hadn’t done one yet, but later the very same day I felt like Christ showed me why He hadn’t brought it to mind until now. His timing is perfect, as He constantly shows me and yet I have to constantly remind myself.

Just over one year ago, God placed in the position of being the Executive Director of Alpha Pregnancy Resource Center. Alpha has been serving its community since 1992, offering healthy relationships education, free pregnancy tests, pregnancy options information, parenting education & support, and post abortion help. As I prepared for last year’s annual fundraising banquet, which was themed around the history of Alpha, I was in awe of all Christ has accomplished through this ministry since the very beginning. It is an amazing ministry, and it is humbling to step back and see that He placed me here “for such a time as this”.

While I was previously aware of Alpha through my church, I had mentally boxed in what the ministry did in a small, neat package. But it is so much more than I could have ever realized without experiencing it firsthand. Even writing that statement brings tears to my eyes. I have seen how whether someone believes in Alpha’s ministry or is against Alpha’s ministry, it is easy to box in what we do. We try to encompass it all by saying “We not only serve and care for those that come in for pregnancy options information, but we continue to serve and care for them as they continue through their pregnancy and parent their child. It is important to us that we not only speak life in regards to the baby she is carrying, but also to the mother as we foster hope and support her.”

So what does this mean? It means that every person who walks through our doors, or calls on the phone, is viewed as priceless and we want to serve them as Christ would. Christ saw each person as an individual, unique and beautiful. He served and ministered to people on a personal level, he didn’t categorize people and lump them all together. He truly saw each person for who they are, and treated them as the priceless gem that they are (whether they realized they were priceless or not).

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  John 4:7-29 (NIV)

So yes, while it is easy to list the services that Alpha offers (as I did above) and try to put the ministry in a neat, little box, it is so much more than that. I wish I could even vaguely list some of the things I have seen Christ accomplish through Alpha, but truthfully in such a small community the chances are too great that part of the story (even vaguely) could point to a specific client and we love our clients too greatly to risk that. What I can tell you is that I have lost count of the number of times that after a client leaves my eyes fill with tears and I am thanking God for how He is working in that client’s life and thanking Him that He allows us to be a part of that.

There is not a short supply of those that do not believe in what Alpha does, and recently it seems Christ has been showing me more and more of the firestorm against ministries such as Alpha. I knew that Alpha is not one of those ministries where a majority of people, Christians or not, agree that it is a great outreach and much needed. Instead, there is a defining line when it comes to the sanctity of human life and therefore there are those that vehemently believe that what we do is wrong. It is not difficult to come across biased blogs and articles about pregnancy centers in general, and see the comments of hatred that not only attack pregnancy centers, but also personally attack those of us involved in the work. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding it, but then I have to remind myself that it goes back to not being able to truly see what we do and that they also have mentally placed what we do in a tiny box and they have decided that it is evil. And honestly I don’t believe there is any point to commenting the truth, because until someone is willing to take a step back and be open to researching it for themselves from a neutral perspective then they are not going to hear anything that goes against what they have chosen to believe as truth. While it is difficult to read the comments and articles, it is a good reminder that this is a spiritual battle.

The tiny box that those who are against ministries like Alpha have placed us in is one of being an agenda-driven, pro-life manipulator and the service that they have an issue with is providing pregnancy options information. The truth is, whether you agree that it should be or not, abortion is as much of a legal option as adoption and parenting. That means that every pregnant woman that walks through our doors has three options- abortion, adoption, and parenting, none of which are easy. The truth, that those who oppose pregnancy centers do not see, is that we recognize that she has three options and that she still has three options when she leaves. She is going to choose one of the three options, and she is going to choose the one that she feels is best in her opinion. Right or wrong, we make decisions from our limited point of view at the time. It is easy to look back and think that we should have handled a particular situation differently, and often we can regret decisions we make. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read or been told that those on the opposing side do not want to talk about all three options, they want to talk about abortion which makes sense from the standpoint that is the only service of the three that they offer.  But women are smart and there is no reason why they should not be encouraged to take a step back from the crisis they are in, examine their lives outside of just this moment in time, look at all of the facts, and make an educated decision. That is what we help each woman to do with offering pregnancy options information. This life or death decision is too important to not offer each woman all of the facts. She can still choose any one of the three options legally, but it will be a decision that she didn’t take lightly and will know all of the potential risks. I understand that both sides of the abortion issue see the “facts” differently and disagree on what is true, but I pray that those against pregnancy centers will begin to see us by our love. It is out of love for each client that walks through the door that we offer help and education before they are in the situation of having an unplanned pregnancy. Out of love that we want to help each individual client take a step back and look at the big picture of her life and situation and make an educated decision taking into account all of the facts and risks. Out of love that we stand by her through her pregnancy and through parenting with education and support. And out of love that we offer support and help to heal if she chooses abortion and finds that she regrets that decision and is hurting.

You see, “pro-life” isn’t about being against abortion. It is about being for love. It translates into how we view every facet of life. From serving as a foster parent, to orphan care, to adoption. From how we view and treat someone who is homeless to how we view and treat a troubled teenager or someone society views as inferior. From speaking life to someone contemplating suicide to fostering hope in a hurting child. It is being for someone, not against something. It is about seeing every person, no matter how small or vulnerable, how Jesus sees them. Priceless, deserving of love, and worthy of His death on the cross.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

“Babies aren’t constructed in the womb like a Chevy on an assembly line.  They develop more like a Polaroid picture.  Indeed, until a Chevy gets all the parts attached, it’s really not a car and can easily be scrapped to make something else.  However, like a developing Polaroid picture whose image is hidden for a time, a baby has all of its humanity at conception even though you can’t see it until it’s fully developed.” -Roland Warren

Praying like a Child

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Mar 292015
 

Recently I arrived at my sister’s house just as my niece and nephews were about to go to bed, and immediately the kids exclaimed they wanted me to tuck them in. So as they said good night to their parents and shuffled off to their beds, I tucked in and prayed with each one. Now the boys pray themselves while I hold their hand and bow my head, but my three year old niece often wants whoever is tucking her in to pray. So I asked if she wanted to pray, or wanted me to, and she requested I be the one to pray. I prayed, kissed her good night, and left her to go to sleep.

It was not until a couple of days later that I realized a detail about the way I had prayed with her that night. I had prayed from her point of view. I had prayed for “mommy and daddy” in speaking of her parents, and “grandma and papa” in referring to my parents. This realization brought to mind how the Holy Spirit prays for us when we do not have the words.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)

When I am too weak and worn to know what to pray, I can just humbly say that to Jesus in prayer and I know the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf. When I am too brokenhearted to even form that many words, Christ knows my heart and I can just go to Him and cry. Even when I am so elated and in awe of something He has done in my life, and I can only get out a thank you, He knows the words of my heart.

“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4 (NLT)

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Galatians 4:4-7

John MacArthur wrote, “Abba is a diminutive of the Aramaic word for father. It was a term of endearment used by young children of their fathers and could be translated to “daddy” or “papa”. The Holy Spirit brings us into a personal, intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, whom we may approach at any time and under any circumstance, knowing that He always hears us and lovingly cares for us, because we are truly His own.”

Much like my niece trusted me to go to God in prayer on her behalf, God wants us to go to Him as a child goes to a loving father. What does an intimate and personal relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit look like? Do you get the picture of a child running to its father, climbing into his lap and throwing their arms around his neck while burying their head in his shoulder? In either instance of elation or brokenness this illustration applies, there are only changes the child’s emotion, not the relationship to the father.

Mar 222015
 

Recently I began experimenting by eating more vegetarian or vegan meals than meals that include meat. While there are a variety of reasons why, I realized the journey I took to get to this place mentally. What is funny is that I can remember, even as a teenager, my family joking around that I would probably be a vegetarian as an adult. Yet it wasn’t until just recently that I began experimenting with eating this way. As I began to wonder why I had continued cooking and eating meat, even though there are aspects that I dislike, I realized it was just habit and what had always been. My family was one that most of the time dinner was centered around a meat, and so I had begun to continue this way of thinking even though I could choose differently. First it had to get to the point where I hated preparing meat each evening for dinner, then I began to just leave the meat out, and finally realized that I needed to experiment with vegetarianism and veganism so that I was still getting enough protein.

All of this made me think about how much the way we are raised, what we are taught, and how we are trained to think impacts us. We are conditioned, not necessarily purposely, to think and act a certain way. Our upbringing, our families, our culture, and our experiences all play a part. How often do we just take it on as our own and not even question if it is right for us, or in some cases even truth?

I have heard so many stories recently from people who have come from very tough family situations and very hard places. I don’t even want to begin to compare my upbringing to the stories I have heard. While my family was and is far from perfect, I was blessed. But to know these people, and some of their story that led them to where they are today, it is amazing to see how resilient God created us to be.  It is awe-inspiring to think that out of trauma and struggles Christ can show us truth, heal us, and pick us up and place us on a different path.

Much like my continuing to eat in the same ways my family did, I can see other areas of life where I just took on what influential people in my life thought and how they acted. I can step back and see negative things that were said to me that I took on as truth. I can see opinions that were formed on issues that I had never actually taken the time to research the facts surrounding them. There were issues that I was influenced to believe were black and white, and other issues that were grey with no right or wrong. We absorb the thoughts, actions, opinions, and influences of those in our lives as we grow up and are formulating our way of thinking.

One example is my identity in Christ, which has been a struggle for me since placing my faith in Christ. I had taken what everyone had said about me my entire life, good and bad, and internalized it and formed my own “truth”. Christ has shown me His truth and who He says I am, but I still default to the old way of thinking at times. Christ has brought others into my life that have been in the midst of an issue, that I was taught was black and white, and has shown me how it is not about the issue but is about the humanity of each person and what are their individual needs. He has shown me His truth and the black and white of issues that previously were grey. He has taught me that even when the majority of voices in my life say something is right or expected, it is wrong if it goes against what He says. As well as times that He has placed me on a path that had the majority of people around me telling me how wrong it is and reminding me of all the reasons why I should not or cannot do it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8

“To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:2-7

I want to be someone who lives with passion and conviction, not complacency. I want to take things I have accepted as truth and size them up to the Word of God, and hide His truth in my heart forgetting that which is false. I do not want to carelessly accept that which society or others preach as truth any longer. I want to recognize truth and see the world through His eyes and with His heart.

Waiting beyond my Pride

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Apr 112013
 

First off let me just apologize for not blogging much in the last couple months (or maybe at all). I am not off to a good start to my new year’s resolution about blogging more. I plan to carve out some time each week to be better at that.

It was a rough morning. My family received some disheartening news. It involved a loss that we had felt for months, but this morning we received confirmation of one of the worst scenarios we had suspected. It was a day of mourning and tears. But amongst the tears God showed me some things about myself. I already knew, from reading Rose Marie Miller’s ‘From Fear to Freedom’, that I tend towards an “orphan” mindset. My sinful tendency is to try to rely on myself rather than God, to try to solve problems on my own, and try to take control of my own life.

I saw today that my pride of trying to be strong, trying to shield others and carry the burden alone, and trying to take control is not just in my relationship to God. It is also with my family. God showed me a picture of what it looks like when I try to do all of the above with Him, through my father. My natural tendency when I received the news was to not tell my father until he was safely home from work, even though I drove in an emotional state. I think to myself maybe he shouldn’t be told every detail , out of my control issue I typically want to know everything there is to know even though I regret it later if it is bad news, so then I want to shield him from that heartache and stress. When the loss first occurred I didn’t want to talk about it because it was too emotional, and talking about it meant verbalizing all the worst case scenarios that had entered my mind and that I had forbid myself to think.  There were a couple instances where it naturally came up and I said I couldn’t talk about it. Probably due to the instant tears, people didn’t press. I probably wouldn’t have talked about it this morning with friends at bible study if I could have hidden it, but that is impossible when your eye lids are swollen to three times their normal size due to crying and your whole face is red and puffy.

But none of the above is what showed me how my pride in this area affects my relationship with God. What illustrated that was my siblings’ natural tendency to call my father at work to tell him immediately, and talk to him about it. They ran to our father, I ran away. They wanted him to have all the information we had been given, I wanted to shield him from the heartache. My family tends to talk about all the information and process together, I tend to grieve by myself and process alone. It was in seeing the reaction of my siblings that God whispered it was a picture of how I shut Him out at times. He knows that He has produced growth in this area of my life, but He wanted me to see there is still much more growth needed.

I don’t want my pride to be a barrier between my heavenly Father and me. I want to run to my heavenly Father instead of away when I am heartbroken and mourning. He is the only One that can truly comfort and heal a broken heart. I know this, and I eventually bring it to Him, but I need to bring it to Him sooner. He can handle my raw emotion and my messiness. He is waiting for me to turn to Him in those times, and embraces me once I choose Him.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30