The Marvelous Cornerstone

standard April 12, 2017 2 responses

Last fall I sat on the Southern Steps in Jerusalem. These steps are remains of the Temple, God’s dwelling place on earth. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had butterflies in my stomach, sensing the Lord’s presence, knowing that I truly was on holy ground.

(The Southern Steps leading up to where the Temple would have been.)

(Part of the original wall. The first layer is almost as tall as I am.)

(Ruins of the Temple.)

These were the same steps that Jesus and other Hebrew boys would have climbed as a child to sit under the teaching of a well-respected rabbi. They are the same steps where the Jewish Pilgrims would gather to sing the Song of Ascents, moving up step by step as their lips sang the praises of Psalms 120 through 134. And they are also the same steps that supported Jesus’ feet as His authority was challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders within days of His crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus. God in flesh. The maker of heaven and earth who spoke creation into existence. This very same Jesus is now being disrespected on the steps of His very own Temple.

And in response Jesus tells a graphic story of a man who owned a vineyard. The man makes all the necessary preparations in order to have the vineyard succeed and he then leaves the vineyard in the hands of capable farmers. When the man sends one of his slaves to collect a portion of the harvest, the farmers beat him and send him away empty-handed. This happens again and again until eventually the farmers start killing the slaves until the man is left with only his beloved son to send. He thinks, “Surely they will respect my son.” But, of course, they didn’t. They killed him and threw him out of his own vineyard. Despised and rejected.

As you and I read this story from Mark 12, we have the hindsight to know that this exact thing will happen to Jesus just days later and we want to shout to the chief priests, “Don’t do it!! He’s the Messiah! He’s come to save you, His chosen people.” But the actual audience doesn’t get what Jesus is telling them. However, He knows just how to get their attention…by quoting Scripture. Jesus asks them point blank, “Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And immediately the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders would have known that Jesus was quoting Psalm 118. It’s a Psalm that they would have known in its entirety. Listen to what it says and allow the magnitude of Jesus’ point to register within your spirit:

This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:20-24, emphasis mine)

How many times have we woken up to a beautiful day and said, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,“? I know that I’ve used it thousands of times, especially when trying to wake up my children. And on another note, I’ve always wondered why Good Friday was called “good” when it was the day that our Savior was brutally killed and thrown out of His own creation. But I never thought to put the two together. How could the day that Jesus died on the cross be a day worthy of rejoicing?

Sitting there on those Southern Steps is when I finally realized that the day that the Lord has made, the day that was worth rejoicing over, was in fact Good Friday!! Yes, it was the day that the cornerstone was rejected, but it was also the day that salvation came for all people. And it was totally the Lord’s doing. This is so profound!

Jesus Christ alone is that cornerstone, the firm foundation on which we place our hope. The cornerstone should not be your parents, or your spouse, or your kids, or your friends, or your job, because Lord knows they will let you down and your foundation will crumble. There is only One who will never let you down and His name is Jesus. Don’t be like the chief priests and reject the very One who gives life. Put Him at the center of your life and build around Him.

As we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord this Easter weekend, I pray that we will remember the magnitude of the rejected stone who endured so much on that Good Friday. It truly was a day to rejoice and be glad.

Because that chief cornerstone was rejected, you and I have an opportunity to receive our salvation. Because His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, you and I are able to enter through the gate of the Lord. Because of the Lord’s doing, you and I have a reason to rejoice. And the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ is so very MARVELOUS in our eyes!

(A replica of a cornerstone in Jerusalem.)

Do All Lives Matter?

standard July 17, 2016 5 responses

Recent events have left no doubt that our country is broken and hurting.  We are especially heartbroken in Louisiana today at the news that three police officers have been shot and killed and three additional officers are injured during a senseless ambush attack in Baton Rouge. This attack comes on the heels of the loss of Alton Sterling, an African American man who was shot and killed as he wrestled with two police officers on July 5, and the loss of five Dallas police officers in a sniper attack on July 7.  Everyone’s emotions are running high. We respond with posts bearing hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter, each with extremely valid reasons of why these particular lives do matter.  The #gaylivesmatter community is saying, “Don’t forget about us…we are hurting too.”  So we come up with an all-inclusive #alllivesmatter.  And, yes, all lives DO matter.

So, what is the solution to all the chaos we are currently facing and how can we do our part to promote healing?  And where is God in all of this?

When Paul was writing the Book of Philippians, he was facing days of uncertainty and dire circumstances (think oppressive Roman imprisonment).  Yet the over-arching theme of this book is for the church at Philippi to have JOY and UNITY despite their circumstances as Paul was striving to do in his own life.  He gives these simple instructions that also applies to our current reality as much as it did to the early church.  The solution lies in these words:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5

Could it really be that easy? Well, I suppose it depends on what your definition of “easy” is.

Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, is used in this verse as an adjective meaning that not only are we to be considerate of others, but we are also to treat people in a manner that is “fitting, right, or equitable.”

The word for all is πᾶς meaning just what you think it does: each, every, whole, ALL.

God is telling us that we are to treat each and every person that we come into contact with on a daily basis with consideration and view them as equitable in God’s eyes.  Whoa! Take a minute and let that soak in.  If we are all equitable in God’s eyes, then why are we still stereotyping each other? And therein lies the rub. We all want to be viewed as if our life matters and we want to be treated in a fair and equitable manner.

But most definitely, killing is not the answer; anger is not the answer; retaliation is not the answer.  Love is the answer; peace is the answer; gentleness is the answer.

But why can’t I just live my life and you live yours? Why do I have to be considerate of others and their feelings?

The answer is this: Because the Lord is near.  This does not mean the Lord is near as in the Holy Spirit is among us (even though He is), but this is better translated as “People get ready! Jesus is coming!” 

If we really believe that all lives matter, then we have an obligation to not only be considerate, but also to be the Light.  Pointing others to Jesus, telling them of a Savior who values their life so much that He gave His own life.  Ultimately, Jesus is the answer.

So, you see, healing is never “easy,” but you and I can do our part to show the world that all lives matter by doing these two things in our everyday lives:

  1. Let your gentleness be evident to all. To the black police officer who took a vow to protect you. To the young white man you pass on the street. To the person bagging your groceries. To your gay coworker. To the waitress serving your food. To your spouse. To your children.  To ALL.
  2. Let your light shine. The world is watching and waiting to see how we will respond. Resist the urge to speak out judgment or condemnation on others who are different than you.  Rather speak the name of Jesus…the Name above all names…the only name that saves.

He is near and He is the original author of life.  His desire is that everyone (all) would come to repentance and know Him as their Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

He is a God who truly believes that ALL LIVES MATTER. 

Top 10 Things I Learned in Seminary

standard May 25, 2016 7 responses

My graduation from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was just a little over a week ago and in case you couldn’t tell from my social media posts, I’m just a little excited to be done!  I thought I would share with you, Dear Reader, a few things that I have learned these past three years while obtaining my Master of Theological Studies.IMG_3303 (1)

#10: A Theology Class is NOT a Bible Study.  At the beginning of my very first class the professor had us stand and give a brief explanation of why we were in seminary.  I remember that I was excitedly telling everyone how I had led a Bible Study for years and I felt like attending seminary would help me go deeper in my walk with the Lord.  And then I felt like an idiot when the first slide on the lecture was: This is a theology class.  Not a Bible study (open mouth, insert foot).  But, the good news is that I did indeed get a chance to “go deeper” into God’s Word…even if it wasn’t in the way that I was expecting.

#9: Sometimes the appropriate theological answer is “both/and.”  Is Jesus fully God or fully human?  Is the Lord a God of wrath or a God of mercy?  To these questions and many more, the answer is “both/and.”  It is confusing, I know, but remember when God said this in Isaiah 55:8-9?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Yeah, sometimes you just have to reconcile the answer to “both/and” and let God be God.

#8: Learn to see Jesus in the Old Testament.  News flash for ABR over here!  For all my thirty-some years I had kept the OT and NT completely separate: Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant; Law vs. Grace.  Not realizing that Jesus is written all over the pages of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  Not only was He spoken of in the OT, but He was there!  At the creation of the world, in the Garden of Eden, in the fiery furnace, just to name a few.  I’m telling you, this was an exciting revelation for me.

#7: The key to passing is usually just to turn something in.  Seriously.  I am a perfectionist and it was killing me to get everything turned in on time and and in perfect Turabian format (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself blessed).  But the more I progressed in my studies, the more I realized that the professors had their own lives too (gasp!) and they only wanted to know if you read/understood the material.  I’m not saying don’t do your best, especially on the big assignments, but I wish someone would have told me that the majority is just busywork and if you turn something in, you’ll pass.IMG_2889

#6: The difference between mercy and grace.  Mercy is when God DOESN’T give us what we DO deserve (i.e. death).  Grace is when God gives us what we DON’T deserve (i.e. eternal life with Him).  Isn’t that beautiful?

#5: When interpreting the Bible, context matters.  Oh my, did they ever drill this into us.  This is an entire class in itself, or at least a separate blog post, but the main point is this: when you see that inspirational Scripture hit your news feed, be aware that there was specific author who wrote to a specific audience during a specific time in history.  Yes, God’s truths are timeless, but if you will read your Bible in context, you will be able to draw out so much more for your own personal application.  That said, if all you can manage right now is a quick verse/devotional, then check out the First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries and do that daily!  Let God’s Word permeate into your spirit and you’ll be surprised how the Spirit will bring it to mind when you need it.

#4: Get yourself a mentor.  Quickly!  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed someone more seasoned than me to help me pull my head out of the clouds and keep my feet on the ground.  This person for me was Brother Jerry.  Over several cups of coffee he reminded me to cultivate an intimacy with the Almighty (see #1 below for more info).  But you don’t have to be going through seminary to have a mentor.  Find someone who will invest in you spiritually and then be willing to pass that knowledge along as you grow.IMG_3304 (1)

#3: It takes a tribe.  And lots of screen time if you have young kids.  No kidding, there is absolutely no way I could have done this without the support of my family and friends.  For every single one of you who prayed for my papers/tests, listened to my sermons, watched my kids, or shared my blog, please know I am beyond grateful for you!

#2: You don’t have to “be in ministry” to have a ministry.  I mean it, Y’all!  You do not have to have a seminary degree to lead a Bible study on your lunch break at work, to start a prayer group at your kid’s school, to volunteer at the women’s shelter, to write a blog/Facebook posts to encourage others in their walk with the Lord, to be a mentor to the younger generation, etc.  You have a specific calling and purpose.  Pray about what God would have you do for His glory and then step out in faith and DO IT.

#1: Spend time WITH God.  There’s a little joke out there that the word seminary can be interchanged with the word cemetery.  A tragedy can occur in the way that what is meant to be an opportunity to teach students the deep things of God sometimes results in the driest spiritual season of his/her life.  This happens because the student is so busy learning ABOUT God that he/she fails to spend time WITH God.  I’ll admit that this happened to me.  It wasn’t until my last year of seminary that I carved out a specific hour each day to read and pray, and I am convinced that it made all the difference in the world.  Especially with how the Lord helped me finish.  I’ll tell you like Brother Jerry told me: take time to cultivate an intimacy with the Almighty and prepare to be amazed as He opens your minds to great and mighty things!  c48bd8a8270b6d9ade2686872764f934

Hands and Feet

standard March 25, 2016 Leave a response

It’s been over two weeks since Northeast Louisiana was drenched by torrential rains and flooding.  We received over 24 inches of rain in a short amount of time and the water had nowhere to go, except to flood entire neighborhoods and homes.

635933246945251768-20160311-Flooding-1305

Evacuations were issued.  The young and the old were leaving by boats in the middle of a severe lightening and thunderstorm.  Some waited it out, only to find that they would be trapped inside their home for days until the water slowly receded.  It was especially sad to see home after home filled with water and belongings just floating among the rain soaked walls.

IMG_3870

IMG_3875

But as the sun finally began to shine on our community, so did the church.

It didn’t take long before disaster relief teams were formed and entire church bodies were mobilized and sent out to the neighborhoods that were hit the worst.  I witnessed one such congregation come to the home of my friend whose home had been flooded with several feet of water.  These men and women worked swiftly and tirelessly to remove her furniture, rip up her stinking carpet, salvage what they could, and sweep out the remaining water.  And when they were done with her home, they moved on to her neighbor’s home, and then the next home.

They did not do it for pay or recognition.  They didn’t even do it because they had a personal relationship with the homeowners.  They did it because they believe that they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

IMG_3881

IMG_3882

And then came the food.  In the south we believe that feeding others is one of the top ways that we should show each other love.  And we did it well.  Those that flooded in my neighborhood had both lunch and dinner delivered faithfully by the local churches and volunteers.  One church I know provided over 10,000 meals to the surrounding community.  I was blessed to be able to work on my own church’s cook team and I’ll just say the eatin’ was good!  Hands and feet of Jesus delivering meals.

IMG_3892

Image

“Hands and Feet” was the term that I heard over and over again throughout these past few weeks.  St. Teresa of Avila painted this beautiful picture that I believe encapsulates our community so well:

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Today as we reflect of Jesus’ death and the nails that pierced His own hands and feet, I am thankful to be a part of His body.  A body that believes in extending love and compassion to others.  A body that does not sit idly as neighbors suffer, but are willing to get their own hands and feet dirty.  A body that reflects His light.

Happy Good Friday, Friends! Thank you for being His hands and feet!

It’s Just a Season

standard January 27, 2016 Leave a response

Our family has a saying that we commonly use if things in our lives start to get crazy and we begin to feel overwhelmed:

“It’s just a season.”  

I have always loved this expression because it helps remind me to take a deep breath and remember that whatever I am going through is just for a season and this particular season won’t last forever.  My dad also says, “It’s not eternal,” which is essentially the same thing, but it helps put things in a spiritual perspective.

I wonder if you’re feeling like me today and you need the reminder that the season you are currently in is not eternal, even if it may feel that way at the moment.  Maybe you are a young woman waiting on Prince Charming to make his grand appearance into your life and you are beginning to think that he should learn how to stop and ask for directions based on how long it’s taking him to get to you (Been there!).  Or maybe you’ve just had your first baby and you now have firsthand knowledge of why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic to break down the minds of criminals in the prisons (Can I get a witness?!).  Or possibly you have a loved one serving overseas and you are counting down the days, hours, and minutes until he/she is safely home.  You tell yourself, “It’s just a season, right?”

That’s exactly right.  And thank the Lord, we are not alone in all this.  Solomon (as in the wisest man who ever lived) did some pondering of the seasons as well in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season,
  a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
  A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
  A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
  A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
  A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
  A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
  A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
  A time for war and a time for peace.

The wonderful thing about these verses is that every “low” season has a counter “high” season. Part of living in a fallen world is dealing with hard or low seasons, but if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are guaranteed victory.

Are you in a time of planting in your job or at home?  There’s good news! A harvest is coming.
Is God telling you to tightly hold on to something, or is it time to let it go?
Has your heart been torn apart by a severed relationship? Your God can tenderly mend it.
Are you rightfully grieving an unthinkable loss?  Take hold of the promise that you will dance again.

It’s true. For everything there is a season.

But here’s the best part!  Solomon goes on to tell us in verse 11, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  

Isn’t that the truth?  Even though we cannot see how this season will work itself out, God sees! And not only does He see, but He makes the result beautiful.

The takeaway from today’s Reflecting Light is this: should you find yourself in a challenging season of life, remember that God is in control. Take a deep breath in and release it slowly.  Close your eyes and repeat after me,  “It’s just a season.”  And then believe in your heart of hearts that everything is made beautiful in its own time. 

Keep Shining

standard December 31, 2015 Leave a response

Can you believe that another year has passed us by? Wow! That went quick.

It feels like just yesterday I was nervously hitting the “publish” button on my very first blog post here at Reflecting Light waiting to see if anyone other than my family and besties would read it.  But you did and I am beyond grateful for each and every word that you read!  You will never know how much your comments and encouragement and shares have blessed me.  Each one touched my heart and I do not take your kindness for granted.  It is a true gift.

15fc53cae50a1a678bf086d00af9d42d

Looking back, we tackled some controversial topics such as True Love Is Not Grey and America the Broken, but we also had a lot of fun with Back to School Blues, Southern Snow Days, and Shrimp & Grits.  We explored different theological truths such as Joy, Peace, Forgiveness and How to Pray.  To be sure, there were plenty of technological challenges to overcome (i.e. upside down pics, unattached media, etc.), but for the most part I had so much fun putting the posts together and I learned to give myself lots of grace (which is hard for a first-born perfectionist to do).

But most importantly, I hope you saw the LIGHT of Christ in every post that you read.  It is only because of Him that we exist and have our being and I pray that He was glorified.

05c0c9998be6e03519133c0f888a536e_edited

 

Looking ahead, our future looks bright! Each one of us has an opportunity to reflect Christ’s light in a way that is unique and will touch the lives of others.  The way that you reflect His light in your everyday life is different from the way that I do and that’s what makes each one of us valuable and beautiful in His eyes.

What do you say we take hold of 2016 and use it as an opportunity to continue REFLECTING LIGHT in our everyday lives?  Keep Shining, Beautiful One. This world needs YOUR LIGHT.

Taking Baby Jesus Out of the Manger

standard December 2, 2015 5 responses

Christmastime is here! One by one the boxes come out of the attic and treasures from years past are rediscovered.  A handmade ornament here.  A special candy dish there.  A picture of your child screaming while sitting on Santa-from-the-Mall’s lap.  Oh, the memories.

One thing that our family likes to collect is nativities.  We have several from around the world: Peru, Israel, and I even brought back one from El Salvador this year.  We have full sets from Willow Tree and Fontanini.  We have big ones and small ones.  Like I said, it’s our thing.

As I carefully unwrapped one manger scene to display, I was thinking of the sweet baby Jesus asleep on the hay and what an amazing gift it is that heaven came down to create this scene.  Everything is so serene, so tender and mild.

But I wonder, how content are we to let Jesus stay in the manger?  

The beauty of the nativity is that Jesus was born to provide salvation for ALL PEOPLE.

Luke 1:77-79 states that Jesus came for this reason:

to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Jesus did so much more than just being born on that Holy Night.  He grew up and He provided the world with what they so desperately needed…salvation and the forgiveness of their sins.  He came to provide LIGHT and PEACE.

In light of all this revelation, I decided to give myself a little Christmas Challenge.  I started with reading the Christmas story in Luke, but instead of leaving Baby Jesus in the manger, I will continue reading one chapter per day.  By Christmas Morning, Jesus will have died for my sins, been resurrected from the grave, and ascended into heaven. How sweet is that?!  I would love for you to join me in this challenge too!

This Christmas let’s take Baby Jesus out of the manger and make Him Lord of our life.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

Looking for Jesus in the Storm

standard October 14, 2015 5 responses

There once was a couple who took a cruise along the Caribbean where they were looking forward to a few carefree days of rest and relaxation. When they boarded the ship they met their room steward whom they instantly liked and they thought it was clever how many creations he could produce from bathroom towels. One night a storm started brewing, causing the woman to be a little nervous. Her husband, ever the optimist (and a heavy sleeper), assured her that there was nothing to be scared of and rolled over to catch some zzz’s. A few hours later he woke up to the boat rocking and he noticed that his wife was not beside him in their small bed. A tad alarmed he sat up but to his relief she came through the door. “Where have you been?” he asked? She calmly replied, “I was out looking for Jesus.” Well, by this time the man was wide awake. “Jesus?! Is the second coming happening?” She answered seriously, “No, Honey. Remember our steward’s name is Jesus? I was just checking to see if we needed to do anything in case the storm got worse.” This made the man chuckle, “Oh, you mean you were looking for ‘Hey-sus.’” And it was then that they realized that they were speaking of two totally different Jesus’. One had the ability to show them where the lifeboats were located, but the other had the ability to BE the lifeboat!

I was laughing hard when my friends told me their “lost in translation” story, but it got me thinking of the time that the real Jesus calmed the storms for the disciples when they were afraid. The gospel of Matthew tells the story like this:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)

I wonder if any of you have been in this same situation: you are cruising through life at optimal sailing speed when suddenly a FURIOUS storm appears and threatens to drown you in an instant. I know that I certainly have.

It’s one thing when there’s a chance of rain and you are prepared with your rain boots and umbrella, but it’s a totally different experience when a dangerous storm comes out of nowhere, leaving you not only drenched, but also scrambling to keep your head above the water.  As you’re gasping for air you decide to do the only thing you know to do. You go to Jesus and wake Him up. “Lord, please save me! I’m about to drown!”

Then you notice that He’s already awake. He says to you, “Do you really have such little faith in Me? Why are you so afraid?” You list out your reasons for being afraid, but as you speak them out you start to realize that He is bigger than all of your fears. Every single one.

And with a simple rebuke to the wind and the waves, the storm subsides and everything is completely calm. You begin to trust Him again to hold your today and your tomorrow. You bow down in reverence as you ask yourself, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

He whispers to you, “Of course they do. My name is Jesus. The One and Only.”

El Salvador: Land of Physical Poverty Yet Spiritual Wealth

standard September 30, 2015 5 responses

Last week I testified to God’s faithfulness to allow me to participate in a Mission/Vision trip to El Salvador with Compassion International.  I had mentioned that it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was! Just knowing that I almost didn’t get to go made the whole experience extra sweet and special for me.  I soaked in every moment.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”

Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

IMG_5657

El Salvador is a beautiful land with rolling hills and lush landscape, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Ireland of Central America.” But despite its geographical beauty, it is a place where poverty runs rampant as do the gang members.  The problem seems to lie in the educational system: public grade schools are conveniently located to the students, but the high schools are sparse, requiring extra transportation costs.  Many of the families cannot afford this extra cost so the child drops out of school making them an easy target for the gangs to pick up as a new initiate.

Our group of women could feel the oppression as we drove through the littered streets.  Gang signs were present on poles, marking their territory lest anyone else try to lay claim.  We were told to put our cell phones out of sight or else they would most likely end up on the black market.  An armed guard or police officer was stationed at most of the establishments we visited.  The average family monthly income in the rural areas of El Salvador is $120.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s only $1,440 per year to support an entire family.  Yet even through all the impoverishment, I saw a land of hope.  And that hope lies in the faces of the children.

IMG_5687

The first Compassion center we visited was extremely new, only a few months old.  Casa de Pan (House of Bread) is run by Carlos and Candy who have a passion for the children and love them with an agape love.  You could see the gratitude that Candy had for the Compassion sponsors and she teared up several times when describing how much this center means to each child that visits it. It is a place where they can come twice a week to receive a meal (of which they usually save as much as possible to take back to share with their families), tutoring for school, and a chance to hear about how much Jesus loves them.  Most of them do not hear from their parents that they are loved, much less that they are smart or valuable. The center tries to teach them that they have a hope and a future in Christ.

IMG_5700

(The children sang “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” in English.)

After we visited with different families in the community, we returned to Casa de Pan to pray over those running the center.  But oh my were we in for a treat when Candy started praying over us with the rest of the center members praying out loud at the same time. The Compassion interpreter did an excellent job of translating, but it didn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong that it was all we could do to try to keep it together.  We had been to church…in the purest way! Praying for one another, lifting each other up to Jesus, knowing that He will supply every need.  These people are desperate for the Lord and it spills out into their everyday life.  It was a rich moment that I hope never to forget.

The Prayer at Casa de Pan

As I was leaving, I slipped Candy a $20 bill and told her that it was for the offering plate.  She was crying and telling me “Gracias, gracias, gracias!”  It struck me that I had spent more than that on a pedicure before I left, of which the paint was already chipping off.  I am sure that the twenty dollars I gave her went a lot further and will have a much more lasting effect than a pedicure ever could.  Candy had told me that through the church she and Carlos feed the entire community on Christmas Eve.  When I asked her where the funds for that came from she said, “The Lord always provides.”   That’s what I would call being “spiritually wealthy,” wouldn’t you?

archive-sep

If you are interested in sponsoring a child from El Salvador, please contact me or visit compassion.com/elsalvador.  Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Top 5 Reasons Why We Love Reality TV

standard July 29, 2015 Leave a response

(Disclaimer: This post is neither meant to endorse nor condemn any of the following mentioned reality shows.)

As Americans we can agree on one thing: We love our Reality TV.

Why is it that each week we are willing to be glued to the television, faithfully setting our DVR so that we won’t miss a single episode of these so-called “reality” programs? Let’s examine the possibilities together, shall we?

1. We enjoy the competition.  To me, no one invokes the competitive nature in a person better than Survivor.  For over 15 years they have been engaging their viewers with who will “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast” this season.  The basis for the show is pure genius: vote out your tribe members one by one, but know that they must like you enough at the end to cast a vote for you to receive $1,000,000.  And if the end player has to lie or cheat to get to that point, so be it.  As Jeff prepares to tally the votes they assure him and their tribe mates that they would never act like that in “real life.”  It is just part of the game, or so they say.

2. We feel like it can make us smarter or teach us something new.  Don’t you feel as if you learn so much by watching a few episodes of Shark Tank?  I do.  The ideas and products that these people pitch to the sharks and how they are bold enough to ask for $500,000 in exchange for 10% of their company is simply amazing.  I always feel so sorry for some of the entrepreneurs who get chewed up by Mr. Wonderful.  And I often find myself talking to the screen, “Barbara, you should take that deal! Ohhhh, Mark would be a perfect fit for that business.  Don’t you dare say you’re out again, Robert!”  Yes, I usually receive sideways looks from my business-savvy husband when I do this, but I feel smarter.

3. We crave a good love story.  How in the world does ABC continue to have such a strong audience for The Bachelor or The Bachelorette when it clearly highlights the cattiness of women, the jealous nature of men, and uncomfortable rejection week after week?  The answer is simple: because we want to see a man pursue a woman and we believe wholeheartedly in love.  Never mind the fact that these potential couples are dating in NON-realistic settings and their love story rarely makes it past the “After The Final Rose” episode.  Yet we continue to hold on for the next “Sean and Catherine” or “Trista and Ryan.”

4. We know that our friends are watching, therefore we need to be “in the know.”  I realize that I don’t have the time to invest in watching a full two-hour episode plus a 30 minute “Results Show” per week of American Idol, The Voice, or Dancing With the Stars.  But I know that the next day in my Facebook news feed all my people will be talking about who got eliminated from AI or who Blake stole from Adam or how darling that couple was when they danced.  Is this really a good enough reason to waste my precious nighttime hours with my family? No, but sometimes it can be fun to watch with them.

5. We want to escape our own reality by watching someone else’s.  There is a reason why Duck Dynasty has made MILLIONS since it first made its debut in 2012.  That is because it provides an entertaining escape from our own lives by watching these self-proclaimed “rednecks” navigate the in’s and out’s of running a family business and blowing up things in the bayous of Louisiana.  And even though the Robertson’s will admit that not all that is portrayed on the show is truly their “reality,” they have wisely used their success to proclaim the name of Jesus.  Interestingly enough, the stars of Duck Dynasty and I live 30 minutes apart from each other, yet our realities couldn’t be any more different.  However, the one thing we do have in common is Jesus.

In the end, I think we can all agree that reality television is NOT reality, entertaining as it is.  However, you and I do have our own “reality show” to live in which WE are the “stars.”  Philippians 2:13-15 says,

“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.