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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Love Does...So I Will Too

So, there I was in Barnes and Noble last Saturday with the gift card my friend Zen bought me for my birthday in June. We didn’t have a B&N in Tennessee, so I was literally REVELING in being back inside a bookstore that serves Starbucks and entertains my children.  I decided to spend my precious $25 on one funny book, and one Christian book. Now, I know that people can be funny and Christian, but I mean a book by a comedienne.

So, right off the bat, I grabbed Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? because everyone I know thinks it’s hilarious, and I happen to love Mindy Kaling. So, then I was on to a Christian book. I hadn’t really decided which one to buy. I thought of buying the revised version of Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted, but it was sold out. So was Shauna Niequist’s new book Savor. Everything by Jennie Allen was gone, and I have Ann Voskamp on my kindle.

Then something caught my eye. A bright blue book with balloons on the cover. I recognized it because I had seen it at IF:Austin. The book is called Love Does and the author is Bob Goff.  I got to hear Bob and his wife Sweet Maria (Yes, that’s what he calls her. Yes, all the time.) speak about being married, and being joyful with your spouse. It was so awesome to hear them discuss being married for such a long time, and how they worked with one another to be in a happy, joyful, whimsical marriage.  Bob was awesome and gleeful, and I wanted to read the book, but I forgot to grab it from the IF Shoppe because of the Jen Hatmaker Experience. So, I grabbed it last Saturday.

From the moment I began reading, I was captivated by Bob’s ability to love other people in a crazy, ridiculous, consuming way. Bob doesn’t just say “I love you,” Bob shows his love for people through his actions.  You guys, Bob is nuts in such a good way.  The thing my friend Heather and I picked up on (through our two sentence Facebook conversation about the book!), is that Bob doesn’t hesitate. He sees people who need to be loved, and he loves them. He doesn’t pray about it, or wait for permission, he just DOES.

I have to admit something here. I’m not so good with loving people. I have great intentions, but then I hesitate, or I get busy, and I don’t love people the way I should. But here’s the thing—I need to change. If I want to love like Jesus, I need to love well, love loud, and love without conditions. Everyone who meets me should think I’m nuts in a good way!

The problem is, when you put yourself out there, not everyone is going to think you’re so great. People will judge you, or think you’re a Pollyanna, or that you’re fake. I have issues with people-pleasing, so the struggle is, in fact, real.

But here’s what I figure. When I get to heaven, God isn’t going to be tremendously concerned with the amount of people Becky Yurisich didn’t offend. He’s going to care about how much I pleased Him. How I was (or wasn’t) a “good and faithful servant.”  So, I choose love. The crazy, loud, Jesus-type love.

When you’re almost to the end of the book, Bob says something about taking the next step toward loving people. He said not to worry about having the whole plan in place, but to just take the next step. So, today I took my next step by sending an email to my new pastor requesting to start an Embrace Grace group at our church. Because I feel like it’s important to make unwed moms-to-be feel loved in church instead of shamed. Because I love babies, and want their moms to choose to let them be born. Because Jesus would love these moms, too.

My “plan” to begin an Embrace Grace group may never get past this first email, it may get shot down before it even begins. But you know what? I will continue to love people the way Jesus did, regardless of whether I’m leading, serving, parenting, or wife-ing (it’s a word, I promise). Everyone we encounter deserves our BEST KIND OF LOVE. The Jesus kind. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Be a Part of the Solution!

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:18

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
James 4:17

I read those verses during my bible study this morning, and I knew it was time for this blog. "Why?" you ask. Because God isn't white, or black, or purple, and I think it's time we realized that we are all His children. 

You guys, I am a peacemaker (okay, a chicken). I loooooathe conflict, and do my best to avoid it at all cost. I try not to debate. I hate disappointing people. Y’all, I won’t even negotiate when buying a car; I have to let Joe do it.  I HATE CONFRONTATION.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes being a Peacemaker means confrontation is unavoidable. When countries are at war, the leaders must confront each other in order to work out a treaty in order for their side to be heard. When friends are in an argument, they have to sit down and work out their differences. Peacemaking doesn’t always mean you sit on the sidelines and wait for peace to happen. Sometimes, you have to step into the fray.

So, today, I jump in with both feet. I am literally hurting in my chest over the lack of peace in our country. I’m not even talking about ISIS (which is a WHOLE other blog). I’m talking about what we are doing to each other.

Y’all, we have got to stop yelling.  

The past couple of years have been some of the most divisive in our country’s recent history:  George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin, Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice was also killed by an officer. The Chapel Hill murders took over headlines, immigration has been challenged, and the SAE Chapter at OU chanted their now infamous words. 2014 gave us #blacklivesmatter, #policelivesmatter, #handsupdontshoot, and #icantbreathe.

Let me be clear. I am in no WAY an expert on racial struggle. I’m about as white as you can get. I grew up in Northern Idaho, where there isn’t much diversity.  As far as I know, I’ve never been prevented from an activity or event based on my race.  This lack of experience, though, caused me to make excuses for myself: “If I don’t have any experience, how can I be a part of the solution?”  “How can I talk about things, I have no background in?” “I’m not racist, so I’m not contributing to the problem.” “I don’t want to offend anyone.” And my personal favorite, “This is America. Everyone gets the exact same opportunities.”  

And then the IF:Gathering Racial Unity Table happened. At the IF:Gathering, seven women of several different backgrounds sat around a table and discussed racial stereotypes with one another. They talked about various things they thought they knew about someone based on their assumptions. Someone from that table said these words: Assumptions create barriers.”

Y’all, by allowing ourselves to assume things about people, we hinder our society. If we open ourselves up to having meaningful relationships with our neighbors regardless of what we infer about them based on a movie we saw once, or what we hear about them in our media, we may be able to create real, authentic relationships.  By investing in those relationships, we can tear down barriers and create change!

Before, my thinking was controlled by ignorance and fear. I didn't know how to enter the conversation because it didn't seem like anybody was engaged in one. Then I realized that maybe I can start a discussion of my own, and be a champion for others.  I can be a part of the solution. I can be a peacemaker.

When I see something happening that isn’t okay, I can use my voice to say something.

When I see injustice happening right in front of me, I can cry out for equity.

When I see hurting people, I can do my best to soothe them.

When I see my fellow human beings suffering and I ignore it, I am sinning against God.

Friends, racial tension is only getting worse. We’re hearing about it every day. We can no longer hide behind our ignorance when there is so much evidence pointing to the fact that there is still racial inequality in our precious country: College students are hurling racial slurs, and people are using horrible words to describe our President and his family. One side of our government is in favor of refusing to allow children amnesty from horrible, war-torn nations, and some of our citizens shun people of Middle Eastern descent who moved here to escape the oppression of their home countries.

We can’t simply say that the racial divide ended with desegregation because it didn’t. Due to systemic racism, minorities in our country continue to experience higher infant mortality rates, perform lower academically, and earn lower incomes than the average white person. If current trends continue,  one in three black men, and one in six Hispanic men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes, compared to one in seventeen white men.

When we see these truths, and we know what we're facing, we have the power to become Peacemakers!  Not only do we have the power, we have the responsibility. If we want a peaceful country, we need to engage in peaceful dialogue with people who are different from us!  We need to hear their experiences and learn from them. We need to share our hearts as well. Most of all, we must see another child of God when we engage with each other. Friends, if we show kindness, love, and respect instead of indifference, ignorance, and intolerance, we can be a generation of Difference Makers! 

So, here I am. The White Girl who didn’t think she was a part of the problem, the solution, or even the discussion.  I’m taking my stand as a Peacemaker, because remaining quiet only adds to the problem.  What is happening isn’t right.  We need to make a change for ALL PEOPLE. Will you join me?

***Cool Stuff Below***
I happen to have an awesome resource to help you get started.Latasha Morrison, who led the IF:Gathering Racial Unity Table, has written blogs (much better than mine!) on this topic and created a Racial Unity Guide. These tools can help us all be a constructive part of the conversation! YAY!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Praying the Big Prayers

Hey friends! I know it’s been a while… I’m currently freaking out about some things I feel God is telling me to do, and I’m a disaster, and I couldn’t string any words together to create a cohesive, sane blog. So, I figured it might be best to just stay quiet until I could write something that made sense. Because nobody likes to read crazy, right?! Right.

So, a few weeks ago, I wrote about #Pray703, and I’ve been praying every morning at 7:03 for the past month or so. Let me tell you something: that prayer time, despite the before school chaos, has become one of the most precious times I spend with God. My kids even know that you don’t bug Momma during her 7:03 prayer.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t read Ann Voskamp’s “Be Courageous” prayer every morning. I don’t want it to get too repetitive, so that I become numb to the words. Instead, I choose a group of marginalized people to pray over each day, along with an idol that I am going to lay down out of honor for those people. I promise this will make sense in just a minute.

I wanted to outline what I’m doing, in case it might be helpful to you, and also to bring awareness to people you may not think about regularly. They’re people I didn’t pray for or think about much, until I realized that God is calling me to love ALL THE PEOPLE. Not just the ones I can see, not just the people in my life, but everyone. Especially the ones that may not have anyone else to pray for them.

So here it goes:

Monday-Sex Trafficking Victims:  (Cast off the idol of helplessness—the feeling I can’t make an impact)
Each Monday morning I pray for the women, children, and men (yes, men are trafficked) who are victims of human trafficking. These people are modern day slaves, whose bodies are bought and paid for in order to perform sexual acts. They’ve been lied to, coerced, and kidnapped. Ripped from their lives and dragged into a world where they are purposely hooked on drugs, raped, and mistreated in ways that most of us can’t even imagine.  They never see financial gain from the acts performed against them, even though huge money is made in the sex trafficking industry.
A couple of weeks ago, something new was on my heart. I started to also pray for the traffickers, and for the people who pay for sex. I prayed that their hearts would be changed. That they would see how their actions are hurtful to these young, scared people. That when they looked at their prey, they would see the faces of their sister or their daughter instead. That God helps them realize what they’re doing is profoundly wrong.

Tuesday- Starving People: (Cast off the idol of wastefulness—the idea that I can just throw away whatever we don’t eat, because we can always buy more, or get more from our pantry.)
Every 3.6 seconds a person dies from lack of food. Most of those people are under five years old.  Tuesdays, I pray for those people. I pray for the mommas and daddies who work hard for a few pennies, and who still don’t have enough to feed their families. I pray for the mom who looks at empty cupboards while her babies cry from empty bellies. I pray for the big brother who goes without food, so his baby sister can eat today.  I pray that we, as a collective people, bring enough attention to them that we’re able to help everyone eat. I pray for the souls of the dead.

Wednesday- Unborn Babies and Their Moms: (Cast of the idol of superiority—that I have made better choices, or that I am better than someone else.)
Somewhere out there, a girl is discovering she’s pregnant. She won’t have any support from family or friends, and she’ll be making decisions about what to do with her baby. I am praying with fervor, that she’ll choose adoption or to keep her baby. I’m praying for a Godly person to come alongside her to be a friend to lean on, and I’m praying for God to give her heart strength and peace.  
I also pray for us as a church. That we show compassion instead of passing judgment. That we love instead of criticize.  I feel passionately that if we show love and support instead of disdain, that we can help lower the abortion rates in our country.
Last, I pray that our love and support doesn’t stop when these babies are born. That we continue to show kindness to women and their babies as long as they need it. Again, without judgment and with lots of compassion.

Thursday- Modern Day Slaves: (Cast off the idol of ignorance—to understand that my lifestyle contributes to the enslavement of others)
Thursdays I pray for the men, women, and children who are enslaved in order to make cheaper clothing, chocolate, coffee, and cell phones for people like me. When I think of a young kid taking a machete out and chopping up cocoa (and hopefully not his fingers) so that I can have a Hershey bar, it breaks my heart.
Along the Ivory Coast, thousands of young children are enslaved by people who have told their parents they’re taking them to go to school, and have a good job. Some parents sell their children to these people.
I pray for these slaves, their captors, and my own selfishness. I pray that I don’t let the excuse “there’s nothing I can do” creep in. That I control my purchases, and consider the impact they could have on the lives of people I’ve never met.

Friday- Victims of Domestic Violence: (Cast off the idol of apathy—that they should help themselves, and that there’s nothing I can do.)
I pray for the victims of domestic violence. That God will give them strength, and help, and peace. I pray that I, along with others, will understand why someone can’t just leave. I pray to not victim blame, and to have compassion for a situation that I don’t understand.
I pray for any children who are abused or neglected. Who see things no little one should ever have to see. Who have witnessed the unthinkable. I pray for former students who have shared their stories with me. I pray their new homes are better, or that being back with their parents really is what’s best for them.
I pray for the abusers. I pray that their hearts are changed, and that they realize the impact they’re having on the people around them. That they’re not only bruising bodies, but that they’re bruising hearts. I pray for change.

So, there’s my Monday-Friday #Pray703 Plan. Saturday and Sunday are a little bit different. I do read the Be Courageous prayer on those days, then I pray about what that means for me, and what God wants me to do.

One of the most difficult parts of praying for big things is that you never get to know whether your prayer is working. I may never find out if my one little voice changed the heart of a sex trafficker, but I believe it does. I believe that when we pray, God answers. Even if we never get to see it. What if we all prayed for the same stuff? That’s more prayers God would answer. More hearts and lives changed. More people impacted for Jesus.

Will you pray with me?  If you’re willing, I would love for you to share your big prayers in the comments box!