Tears Worth Shedding

Two killed on air
Nine killed in church
Man stabbed in broad daylight
Suicide bomber kills forty, injures hundreds
Bomb hits China
ISIS beheads thirty men, kidnaps ten children
Terrorist attack hits England
Threat level rises in US

The news is full of the bad and the worse. Having a client who watches the news 14 hours out of the day, I hear so much negative news that I teeter on the brink of apathy.
I don’t want to not care.
I want my heart to break as God’s does.
I want my eyes to overflow with the shared pain of the world, as well as that heartbroken family, who just got the news their beloved soldier was killed on his way home.
I don’t want dry eyes and a hardened heart.
These deaths that blaze across the shimmering screen are worth tears.
Children being abused are worth getting angry about.
All are worth being prayed over, all are worth crying out to the God who knows all and mourns all.
These are tears worth shedding for the blood that flows, hearts breaking, and the pain felt.
Help me, Lord, to always love as you do.
Help me to the point I feel the sorrow you feel for your lost children.
No matter the actions of the body, the soul is always worthy of tears.

1 Timothy 1:5
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Muddling God’s Love

I was talking to a friend the other day about what we struggle with in regards to our relationships with God.

She mentioned how she feels that while she believes she’s forgiven, she doesn’t necessarily always feel loved. She says it is because of how her parents always said they loved unconditionally, but it was when she acted a certain way or got a certain grade, that she felt she was loved better.

I, on the other hand, feel loved unconditionally and forgiven, but not always worthy. I was blessed with a family that has always loved me unconditionally, so that’s not what influenced my relationship with God, but rather living in a society that always picks on the different. My history in Special Education and the way ‘typical’ people treated those in the program has influenced me to the point where I believe God doesn’t always see me as worthy.

Other friends say that they struggle with God’s love because their father disappeared from their lives, or due to the abuse they survived at the hands of their mother. I’ve heard of some people who struggle with God’s love because of how someone sexually abused them or terrorized them in a different way.

The thing the really strikes me about this observation though, is not that God’s love is hard to accept, but rather how our broken relationships affect our spiritual relationship with our Father. We put on God all of the brokenness that others have placed on us.

Our relationships with other people influences how we see God.

Horrible acts, indifferent attitudes, unreachable expectations, all done by another human, paints God in the same color we see those who do us wrong.

Because we feel the brunt of the actions in this physical realm, we expect God to do the exact same thing.

This is how sin disrupts our relationship with God.

Because of “Bob’s” abuse, “Sally” doesn’t trust men. God is spoken about as a Father. Sally doesn’t trust God because he is a man.

Because of “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s” legalistic way of running their home, “Billy” thinks God is only a judge and never loving, that he expects you to follow all the rules and to never do anything wrong.

Because we have men and women who profess love in God, but condemn one another, non-believers think God hates everyone.

Our sin is the barrier that hurts our ability to fully trust God’s character.

What do you struggle with in regards to God’s character? Do you know?

I think we really need to be honest with ourselves and to take a deep look at how outside relationships have hindered our ability to fully rely on God.

The next question we need to be honest with ourselves in regards to is, how do we help muddle God’s love for those who are watching us?

Our actions will always affect another.

Hope Overflowth- Reflections on Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Joni & Friends Twin Rocks Family Retreat, 2014

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How do you describe one week out of your year that manages to change your perceptions, your attitude, your spiritual health, as well as teach you compassion, joy, and hope, all while giving you a peace that you so very rarely are able to get in the ‘outside world?’

I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out.

I had the wonderful pleasure of serving at Joni & Friends’ Twin Rocks Family Retreat (Oregon) again this year. I was already planning on what supplies I needed to gather for next year, before that camp was even done. I do believe that I officially have gotten the bug for this amazing ministry. Serving at this camp has a way digging it’s way into the heart, and promptly enlarging it, much like the Grinch’s did when he found out the meaning of Christmas.

I have always had a passion for awareness towards disability. But, this camp, it continually shows me that my passion is so small in comparison to the deep passionate love God has for his children. He also uses it to force me to learn and grow with every exposure to people who are considered very different from me. Well, at least different to me by the world’s consideration. He uses it to teach me, that in my brokenness, I am still loved.

I wish I could show the emotional peace that came over these parents and campers of special needs as they stepped onto the campus. Campers who are caught within their disability and seem to have little awareness of their surroundings, relaxed and smiled. The frantic energy that comes with some levels of autism seemed to lessen it’s ferocious grip on young minds, loosening the tongue so they were able to communicate more than they usually do at home. Parents who are exhausted from any small amount of travel due to their need to be extremely diligent of their loved ones, are revived. Parents who have become cautious around strangers due their protective attitude regarding their child, feel free to laugh and shed tears with other parents who understand.

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Hope seemed to infuse these precious people as soon as they came through the loud welcoming crowd at the entrance to the camp. Here, hope was given out as if it was candy. There was no need to hold on to it as if we were misers, wanting to build up our pile of gold. Instead, we shared it, we showed it, we gave it away. It was because God was filling us with that joy and peace that only were given to us by him. We were, as our motto was this year, ‘overflowing’ with hope. Because we were overflowing, we felt no need to keep it to ourselves.

Our Bible verse can be found Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I think it was the perfect verse for these weary travelers through this life. Our speaker did a wonderful job of showing that this hope is not a wish that we make. But rather this is a hope based off the knowledge that God is good, that he has only the best of plans for us, that he has proven himself trustworthy. Our hope is not on the outcome, but rather based on the very God we pray to.

To hear that from the lips of Brian, whose doctors had given up on, due to an accident that left him with 3rd degree burns on 97% of his body, carried more weight than it would from a pastor of ‘normal typical’ means. Here was a man who by all rights could have become very bitter by what life has supposedly given him. Rather, though I’m sure it took time and prayer, he became a man who spoke passionately about the God who loves him. To see this man, his wife, and his children, so vocal about God’s love and grace in the face of such a horrid accident, was eye opening to my own responses to the situations of my life.

The hope that God provides has the power to change lives. It is not about wishing vaguely on something that we thought would help us. Godly hope is about trusting God to keep us and not forsake us. He never will.

These parents and campers see that hope more clearly than most of us do. The typical person is stuck on what we think is important, while these souls are focused on just surviving the day sometimes. It’s not that they are closer to God than we might be, but there is that possibility that they might have some of the blinders that we have, removed.

Another wonderful thing to see at camp is the willingness that these strangers have to get involved in the joys and struggles of other families. I believe we had nearly half of our camp families new to the ministry this year. These families who had never been exposed to each other, welcomed one another with love.

That love was echoed throughout the volunteers who come and give of their time and money to serve these families. We have families who travel all the way from Pennsylvania, just for the joy of serving. We have 20-somethings who save all year to go to two or more of these retreats, just for the chance to make a difference. We have teens who by all rights should be goofing off at the beach, working hard to bring laughter to a child who is shut off from the world. We have 70+ year old who should be enjoying her retirement, chasing after a boy with a big smile on her face. We have leaders, who they themselves should be there for respite , due to family members with special needs, plan for this week all year long, and work themselves to exhaustion just to help.

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This camp is run off of love. If you have never experienced this short of love that is so sacrificial in nature, you are truly missing out. This is what God’s love looks like. This is what the church should look like, where everyone can come as the broken mess they are and find acceptance. Nobody comes to this camp with everything perfect, because that is not what this camp is about. This camp is about offering hope to weary people. It’s about showing them that they are not alone in their love for their children, nor in their willingness to fight for their right to enjoy life. It’s about a beautifully sang song having just as much excitement and clapping as does a boy who throws a ball. It’s were whatever talent you bring, is used and accepted, because God gave you that talent. No matter what it might be.

This camp is about rejoicing in exactly who you are right this moment. Not about trying to force you into some mold that will never fit. No one fits into those molds, we just pretend a little better that it doesn’t chaff or pinch. Never try to fit in. Every person is born to stand out and shout loudly of the Creator God. That’s what I love about this camp, it helps us learn how to rejoice in those differences.

So I urge you. Give hope to a weary family near you. Tell them about Joni and Friends’ Family retreats!!

Please look at Joni and Friends website for more information regarding the amazing ministries available through them (including the Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, Cause 4 Life, etc…) 

Joni and Friends is celebrating 35 years of disability ministry- listen to Joni Eareckson Tada’s radio program which can also be found on the website. 

You can read about my first experience serving at a Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat last year here and a revisited post here