29 September 2009

A Quiet Conversation - and Distant Thunder

NOTE: Yes, this looks different than my normal blogs. It's a book review. You'll see them pop up from time to time. Enjoy. And if it moves you, read.

“I feel written.”

The story slowly unfolds, like a lazy morning. Like life, actually.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a story about stories – about the distinct moments of life we so often take for granted that define and refine us. It’s a story about life, and whether that life will be memorable or meaningless. Written as a meandering walk through his own experience of transforming his life story into a movie, Miller captures the essence of our own walks through the day-to-day as we stumble to find purpose.

Miller’s voice is as comfortable as back porch conversation during a rain shower, yet provides moments that, like a sudden thunderclap, shake the ground – and a person’s core. “People love to have lived a good life,” he shares, and we all nod in agreement. “But few people like the work it takes to make it happen. Joy costs pain.” A distant rumble sounds.

Miller is a word painter, but not like the imagery painted by Max Lucado or other more mainstream authors. Rather, he washes words with familiarity and humor and self-deprecation. When he references the movie Rocky, it’s easy to envision the beautiful frailty of the main character long before he became a hero. When he writes about his failed efforts to write a fiction novel, the struggle between author and character come to life. He writes of ambition and wrong turns and dishwashing liquid and bicycles and how pain makes a story rich and full.

Perhaps this book resonates with me in a unique way because of words spoken only recently to a group of teenage girls in an orphanage in Guatemala. They had heard my personal testimony of sexual and physical abuse, and cried as they saw the story as their own. Yet the story didn’t end. The girls listened intently as the story moved to redemption and restoration – of a loving husband and a family and an adventurous life ministering to orphans just like them. “Each of you is a book, waiting to be written. The question is, who will hold the pen and craft the words of your life? You can attempt to write your story. Or you can give that pen to the One who knows the life you were created to live. When God takes that pen, your story is forever changed. You are given hope that does not disappoint.”

“The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories.” In his latest book, Miller shares a depth of character found only in living life fully. And he challenges us to do the same. Take the time to sit and listen – to both the conversation and the distant rumble.

19 September 2009

Dancing with Orphans

I’m home, in my own comfortable bed in my own comfortable home, drinking Starbucks and snuggling with my pup. For the first time in a week, I’ve slept more than 4 hours. For the first time in a week, I’ve not bounded out of bed to travel to do work with orphans. And I must admit - it’s awkward, like the feeling you get after being on the water for a while. Being here, in this comfortable life, feels like anything but that right now. Last night, as I wept, I asked my husband, Brad, if it would ever get easier. He smiled and responded, “I pray it doesn’t.” So this morning, as I rest, I close my eyes and think about dancing with orphans.

Yes, dancing. You don’t have to be around me very long to know how difficult it is for me to be still. Dancing for absolutely no reason at all is natural. Dancing for any good reason at all is complete joy. And in Guatemala, there was dancing. Oh yes, there was dancing.

Looking back at my blogs, my story from Manchen is a bit incomplete. You see, as the team left our makeshift prayer room and turned right to walk to the girls behind bars, I turned left. It wasn’t that I wanted to be by myself – one of the girls we had prayed for was leading me. Holding my hand, she walked over to the concrete ledge surrounding the courtyard, motioned for me to sit, and then snuggled in beside me. She spoke no English, but her desire was clear – she wanted to be held. We sat for a few minutes, my arms wrapped around her, singing to her softly in my very broken Spanish. Two girls who had heard my testimony and received prayer walked over and asked to join us. Then two more girls came and sat on the ledge. We hugged and smiled – and the questions started.

“What does your husband look like?”
“Is your son handsome? Is he single?”
“Where is Texas?”
“What do you do in the United States?”
“Where have you been in Guatemala?”

We sat together, huddled around my iPhone, looking at photos of my family, our pets, our home. I showed them pictures of the foster care kids we took waterskiing earlier in the summer – and though I stumbled through my explanation that the girls in the picture were orphans from the United States, all the girls understood. We looked at pictures of sunny days and snow and friends. And they saw pictures of Cerecaif and Cabecitas. We stumbled through the conversation, with so many “how do you say/como dice” moments mixed in. And then, the question was asked “What music do you like?”

And the dancing began. My small group of beautiful girls and I laughed and danced together to “Jai Ho,” the theme song from Slumdog Millionaire.

Fast forward 24 hours. The team has traveled back to Guatemala City, and has delivered Happy Meals and humanitarian aid to the 13 children at the Buckner Baby Home. We’ve seen Danny, a precious boy who wants so much to have a forever family – his two friends are being adopted and he now asks if anyone will love him enough to take him home. There’s Milagro, a tiny girl who wasn’t expected to live – now walking around with a huge smile on her face. There’s Crystal, dumped at a hospital with severe medical conditions. She’s laughing and speaking in English and Spanish. The children at the home are well cared for, receiving medical treatment and lots of love. We’ve gone to the grocery store to purchase everything we need to have a cookout and bake cupcakes for the teens and house parents at the Buckner Transition Homes. And the “host” home is now filled with the fragrance of chocolate in the oven and burgers on the grill.

Our special guests arrive – each one an orphan who has “aged out” of the system and given an opportunity to go to university or trade school while living in a safe and loving environment. I recognize at least a half-dozen girls from our visit to Manchen last year. They are literally “glowing,” so grateful for a home and friends and support and freedom. The kitchen fills with teens, and with Brynn and Stacey’s help, frost and decorate the cupcakes – a new treat for many of them. We set up the buffet for hamburgers and hotdogs while “Grillmaster Jim” works busily outside with his assistants, Christi and Mandy. Phyllis and Denny Scheminske, friends who live in Guatemala City and are helping our team, bring plates of tomatoes, onions, guacamole and cheese to the table. More than 60 people – teens, young moms, house parents – are being served. Courtney prepares bouquets of roses for all the house moms, talking to our interpreter, Melissa, and Oscar, one of the young men who is now in trade school. Patrick tries to capture every moment on camera while Ryan plays soccer with the guys. This is a party.

The house is filled with that wonderful blend of talking and laughter and sports on the television– and soon, a new sound is added. Music. This isn’t a party – this is a HOUSE party. On the patio, the girls are showing everyone their dance routine to “Single Ladies” by Beyonce. The music is an invitation – a bridge that crosses language and culture and age. I look around, and there is dancing everywhere. Joyful, unfettered dancing. From toe-tapping to full-out spins and twirls, we are all dancing with orphans.

So again, here I am now, resting in my uncomfortable comfort as I reflect on our time in Guatemala. And I laugh a bit as the tears flow – my foot is moving to the sound of the music in my mind. There’s such sweet liberty in the dance. It’s in that dance I feel truly free. Thank You Lord for that freedom.

Thank you to my amazing team: Patrick Lockerman, Mandy Cortina, Christi Uckerek, Courtney Nowakowski, Jim Shields, Brynn Paine, Ryan Nowakowski, and Stacey Yellen. Thank you Phyllis and Denny for joining us on the journey. Thank you Victor and Andrea for interpreting in Xela. Thank you Berta and Melissa for your tireless care for us. Thank you Buckner for your work in Guatemala. Thank you to those who contributed through prayer and donations. And thank you Guatemala, for opening your arms so we could serve.

16 September 2009

Words fail.

It’s difficult to think that I – a person who always seems to have something to say – am at a loss for words as I reflect on this day. It’s not that I don’t have the desire to tell the story of Manchen; rather, it’s that, despite best efforts, there are simply not words adequate to describe the awe-inspiring moments we shared with the girls who live there.

For those of you who don’t know about Manchen - it is a teenage girls’ home in Antigua. There are currently 100 young ladies ranging in age from 10-18 living in dormitory style housing. Many of the girls have fled abusive situations, and some have been living on the street. There are a number of pregnant girls or young moms. One mom, only 13, was removed from abuse – Manchen is considered to be a safe place for her and the tiny baby boy she holds in her arms.

For months, I had been praying about how we should spend our time with the girls. Searching for teaching materials proved futile – everything designed for teens in the United States approached challenges from an upper-middle class point of view. My sweet friends didn’t fight over clothing or who had the cutest boyfriend or nicest car – they struggled with the pain of sexual abuse and gang violence and drug addiction. When I thought about Manchen, my heart focused on one word: treasure.

These girls needed to be told they were indeed beautiful – a prized possession of incomparable value. They needed to know they were God’s treasure. And they needed to know they are not alone – there are other broken and beautiful people who have experienced healing and redemption. That passion to share led to a bible study written just for Manchen. “A Treasured Life” walked the girls through a journey of hope. From designing charm bracelets to help them see they were like jewels or precious silver in the eyes of God to talking about what being treasured feels like – and then honoring people in their lives who have encouraged, loved, and supported them, each element of the lesson allowed the girls to not just listen but interact with the concept of “treasure.” Even a special time of painting fingernails was used to reinforce the importance of inward beauty.

All of the activities were written around a bible study focusing on three main points:

Christ is our most prized treasure
The Bible is a wonderful treasure given to us by God
We are God’s most prized treasure

Personal testimonies from members of the team would be shared when we got to the third point. The stories shared with the girls wouldn’t be the usual fare – my own personal history of sexual and physical abuse would be told, and I prayed there would be a testimony for each of the three bible study groups at Manchen. I felt the Lord saying “the walls will be broken down when the girls see they are not the only ones.” And God, being truly wonderful, ensured that two other women with stories were on the trip.

We arrived at Manchen at 2pm, and were greeted by the sounds of cheers when the large wooden door was opened. Those who had been to the orphanage before found familiar faces, and those who were new quickly found friends. The magic lens of the cameras served as instant ice-breakers. The chant “Photo, photo, photo!” transformed the courtyard into a pep assembly. Gathering the girls all together, we introduced ourselves and shared what the afternoon would hold. We asked how they defined the word “treasure,” and the answers were shouted out “jewelry, money, gold!” We then gave our own definition:

“Anything or any person who is highly treasured. A thing or person of incomparable worth.”

We showed the girls a gift we had brought to them – a frame adorned with a hodge-podge of items that had been donated and dug out of junk drawers back home. Jewelry, beads, old computer parts, keys, scrap metal, pieces of broken china, toys. The frame helped them see the amazing beauty in a tapestry of both things of value and things discarded.

The girls were then split into three groups: pink, turquoise and purple, and the teams rotated from one activity to another. I wish I could say the transition was smooth – but all Hell broke loose. We didn’t have enough translators, several of the girls rebelled against wearing the bandanas and joining in the teams – with a team of nine, we were clearly outnumbered. I looked at Brynn and Christi, my partners on Team Turq, and said “I know God is here. Now it would be nice if He would show His face.” I looked around and other team members were praying as we all worked to calm the chaos. Then, as if a gentle breeze swept over the orphanage, the chaos ceased. Every girl listened attentively. They asked questions and shared stories. Even those who at first didn’t want to participate ventured over. On their treasure sheets, they wrote down names of friends. They wrote down names of family members. They wept as they remembered life with a mom and dad. They carefully threaded each bead as they made their special bracelets, many of them snuggling up next to the team and asking for help. Team members held babies so the young moms could participate in the activities.

Let me interject here that this seems so much more like a diary entry – again, I find myself failing miserably at finding words. But this was not a “day in the life” moment. This was a miracle in the making.

As we shared the bible lesson, the girls were quick to share “Jesus is a treasure,” and “The Bible is a treasure.” But then the tone changed. They leaned in with piercing eyes, holding each others’ hands as the testimonies were shared:

“My step-brother sexually abused me.”
“I had an abortion.”
“My alcoholic father only told me he loved me once.”

We spoke of Christ’s redeeming love, of His remarkable ability to heal, to restore innocence, to truly love in a way that doesn’t hurt. We spoke of our lives then, and our lives now – and how He has taken every broken piece and written His name on it, saying “This one is mine.” We talked about being a masterpiece, like a fine work of art in a museum or the best music ever written. Girl after girl said “your story is my story – please pray for me.” We prayed, and held each sweet girl so tightly – the young girl who just found out she was pregnant and the precious teen who had been removed from a brothel and the beautiful teen who had run away from home and just wanted to see her mom again. Tears flowed. Lives were changed.

We said our goodbyes to the girls, bringing out the frame we had shown earlier – now with a mirror mounted inside so each of them would be reminded of the treasure inside them. As we prepared to leave, a special needs girl ran to our interpreter, Melissa, pleading “I want Jesus, please pray for me!” Peeking her head out of the computer room, our teammate Courtney yelled “Everyone, please come inside – we need to pray!” The young prostitute sat inside. “She has decided she wants to live her life in Christ, and she needs prayer for healing.” That computer room became a room of healing and restoration, not only for her but for at least a dozen young ladies. They waited patiently outside as we prayed for each one. The line continued to grow and grow. I held one young lady who simply wanted to be a “difference-maker” and end the curse of abuse and violence. Her warm tears fell on my arm as I hugged and whispered “Jesus te mo” to her.

We had noticed earlier a group of girls behind barred windows in the corner of the orphanage. Berta, our Buckner trip coordinator and interpreter, asked if we would go and speak to the girls. “They are the very tough ones – the violent ones. But they can be redeemed, and they keep crying out for prayer.” The team responded, and held the girls hands through the bars. Four precious girls asked Christ to be the Lord of their lives. And bracelets worn by the team as examples became the perfect number of gifts for those girls. In total, more than 10 girls made decisions for Christ. Dozens received prayer for healing, deliverance, restoration.

God was indeed there. And everyone saw Him.

Precious Pain

It’s Tuesday night – or to be perfectly honest, it’s very early Wednesday morning. Though I should be asleep, my head and heart are full as I reflect on a painfully precious day. It’s Independence Day here in Guatemala, and in every city, town, and village, the celebrations have been taking place for days. Concerts, fireworks, torch runs, marathons, festivals, dances, parades – it seems the entire country joins in the festivities. That liberty, however, wasn’t celebrated in the places we served.

We returned to Cerecaif, our van filled with bags of supplies. A small army of boys ran to our van, and then carefully carried the duffel bags and sacks into the orphanage – one smiling and singing “Leche! Leche” when he saw large bags of powdered milk. Part of our team completed a painting project we began on Monday (see “Beauty for Ashes”) while others distributed humanitarian aid, school supplies and groceries.

The heartfelt gratitude of the workers was precious. Saying “goodbye” to the children was painful.

We travelled to Antigua, where we visited the Hogar de Ancianos– or the Cabecitas de Algodor , loosely translated as The House of Cottontops.” Three of us had been to the home for the elderly before, and each had special memories of residents there. For Courtney, it was a former architect, disabled after a construction accident, who loved to draw. For Stacey, it was a wheelchair-bound gentleman with a passion for good conversation. And for me, it was a 102-year old woman who loved Jesus and loved to tell everyone she met about it.

The heavy wooden door opened into the entry of the home, and we stumbled over two beds that had been set up where plants and a bench had once been. Large piles of clothing, old mattresses, and wheelchairs dotted the walkway around the small center courtyard. Something had changed.

Courtney immediately saw her “boyfriend,” who greeted every woman on the team with a sweet kiss on the cheek. She presented him with a portfolio of draftsman tools, and his eyes filled with tears of joy. Stacey’s gentleman quickly engaged in a deep conversation about history with Jim, himself a history buff. And Ryan was introduced to the now 103-year old woman was sitting outside her room. Other familiar faces sat in chairs or shuffled across the courtyard as we gave away the slippers and caps. Many shared stories of days gone by, of careers and families and life in other places.

As we neared the rooms, the stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. Rooms that once held two or three people now were filled with six or seven beds. Most residents were in those beds, many unable to walk or care for themselves at all. Some beds had sheets and blankets ; many had nothing to cover the bare mattress. We learned that two other homes had been closed, and residents from those homes had been transported to the Hogar des Ancianos. Some newer residents had simply been “left” by family members. With little to no financial assistance, the House of Cottontops has been struggling to keep its residents fed.

Holding the withered hand of a sweet grandma was precious. Knowing that grandma has no family visiting her was painful.

So, I lay here – my heart aching for the fatherless, no matter their age. Knowing the Lord God Almighty says “I’ll be your daddy,” and wanting desperately to comfort each and every one. I’m so thankful for those who are here in Guatemala, caring for the fatherless day in and day out. I’m thankful for the amazing team here with me this week, living out their faith. And though it’s sometimes difficult to say, I’m thankful for the painfully precious days – it’s through them I am centered, refined – and focused on Christ alone. And it’s through them I’m reminded He is Lord, He is Healer, He is Comforter.

14 September 2009

Beauty for Ashes

It’s Monday – our first full day of ministry in Guatemala. Our journey takes us to Cerecaif, an orphanage 20 miles from Xela. The orphanage was founded by a Mexican family, and serves children who have been removed from abusive environments. Seventy-two children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, live at Cerecaif, and receive very good care and education. Unlike the government orphanages, this “home” is staffed with volunteers who give their time 24 hours a day – their only payment is room and board. Nine workers, in addition to the orphanage director, serve the children. The cinderblock and stone building sits on sloped land in the shadow of tall mountains. There is no playground or park – the children play behind the orphanage on land also used to raise goats, chickens and sheep. It’s a very unassuming place on the outside. The kids wear hand-me-down clothing, play with donated toys, Inside the simple structure, though, there is evidence of “beauty for ashes;”

At first glance, a girls’ bedroom is a bouquet of pink flowers, ruffles and dolls. Look more closely, and the transformation reveals itself. Cabinets used for clothing are recycled cardboard boxes. Bedspreads are crafted from fabric remnants. Even the beautiful floors are designed from scrap tile. Things others would quickly discard have become treasure for boys and girls. And we would be given the opportunity of assisting in the very transformation process - as we paint walls and borders, letters and numbers and borders and butterflies. There are hearts and flowers and baseballs, soccer balls and footballs. And all the painting coordinates perfectly with those fabric remnant bedspreads and cardboard closets.

Our time at Cerecaif doesn’t end with painting. Time spent with the children singing, praying, studying the Bible, practicing their memory verse – “Fear not for I am with you” – and designing special t-shirts transform a cold, rainy afternoon into a joy-filled time for everyone. The children’s smiles and hugs, their willingness to accept us and embrace us, are true beauty. The transformation is within us now, our hearts at once crushed by the plight of the fatherless and filled to overflowing with love to share with each child. Watching our team minister, I’m reminded of a Shane & Shane song that seems right for this moment.

Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone and make it Yours

I delight myself in the richest of fair
Trading all that I've had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You're the richest of fair

Let the Music Play.

I’m awakened to the sound of music. Xela’s city square is adorned with Guatemalan flags as the country celebrates its Independence Day. And the melodies, juxtaposed with the sound of car horns, whistles, and cheering, carries my mind back just a bit. To Sunday. Because Sunday was a symphony.

The composition began with a visit to a local church – where we were embraced and accepted with hugs, kisses, and warm words of encouragement from the entire congregation. Songs selected for worship were a special gift to us, so we would know the English translation of each one. We were even asked to sing. And sing we did, humbly stumbling through “Holy, Holy, Holy.” While standing there, singing in English as the congregation joined us in Spanish, I couldn’t help but think of “every tribe, every tongue, every nation,” one day in unison singing to the Lord God Almighty. Every language will blend in harmony, and we will all understand and be understood. Oh, what a day that will be!

As church ended, a new movement was added to Sunday’s symphony – laughter. Mandy, a team member full of reckless passion, had joined our trip praying to be overwhelmed by the Lord’s love and mercy. His response to her prayer touched everyone – an older woman hugged her tightly, whispered words of support in her ear, and slipped a ring on her finger. Her face lit up, tears streaming as the laughter began. “A gentleman from the United States told me about Jesus,” the woman shared. “I love your country, and love its people. Please don’t stop telling the Good News.”

The afternoon brought new refrains as we journeyed along winding roads, climbing every upward. Singing seemed so natural – “The Revelation Song, “Little is Much,” “From the Inside Out” played as our ragtag choir joined in. “He Knows My Name” and “The Song of the Beautiful” evoked tears as we reflected on the plight of the orphans. And as we neared Xela, a city truly nestled in clouds on the mountain, we loudly and proudly practiced “Sapo,” a song about a frog.

We ventured carefully up the narrow cobblestone streets leading to our hotel, a few of us reflecting on our time spent in this city a year ago when we traveled on a Shoes for Orphan Souls trip. Our arrival at the Bonifaz hotel brought new music – preparing for the ministry to Cerecaif, an orphanage with 72 children, all removed from abusive circumstances. We painted t-shirts and wrote memory verses on index cards. And we were reminded to fear not. To love wholly. To allow our hearts to be wrecked by those sweet faces.

Sunday had no coda, because the symphony continues – outside our hotel and inside our hearts. New movement. Let the day begin.

13 September 2009

Close your eyes.

They say pictures speak a thousand words.

But when there are no pictures, words will do. And they will do well.

We are in Gautemala - 9 of us, on a journey to minister to babies and children and teenagers and the elderly. Nine of us, all wanting more than anything to glorify God and see Him in each and every moment.

Patrick Lockerman
Courtney Nowakowski
Jim Shields
Stacey Yellen
Christi Uckerek
Ryan Nowakowski
Brynn Paine
Mandy Cortina
and me.

Each of us want to experience the fragrance of the Lord. That sweet, sweet aroma of His hope and salvation. What might that fragrance be like? Perhaps it is

dirt and diesel blended
spice and flowers
baby cream
homemade tortilla soup
focaccia bread
coffee with warm milk
morning dew
freshly cut grass
tropical fruit
hot waffles
black beans and sour cream
a mountain of candy

Pictures will come soon. For now, savor the fragrances. We are.

03 September 2009


“I look up at those million-dollar houses on the hills, and then look at our $500-a-month trailer rental right here on the shore of the lake. This is my view every day, this is my swimming pool. Really, I think I’m the rich one here.” - A woman, as she watched her young daughter laugh and play in the waters of Lake Austin. Her small trailer sits in the shadows of custom homes and planned communities, and is walking distance from Lake Austin Spa, one of the nation’s most luxurious retreats.

I believe she’s right.

02 September 2009

By Life - Faith and Deeds

James 2:14-26 (The Message) Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? 18I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department; I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands? Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"? The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend." Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works? The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

I was taught years ago that the word “believe” is best defined by two words: “by life.” Perhaps this is where the old adage, “actions speak louder than words” comes from. I'm reminded of a statement I read a few years ago in a magazine, “You always find time to do what’s truly important to you.” Those words haunt me often when I’m having a stare-down with a junk drawer or contemplating all the reasons why going to the gym just doesn’t fit into my day.

And so it is with faith and works. I have read James 2 so many times over the years, have heard it preached over and over again - have even heard song after song reminding me that “faith without deeds is dead.” And more often than not, the missives sound like a Biblical motivational speech. Usually said in the “you must live out your faith” sense, I am challenged to “get off the couch” and prove out my faith by doing something. Anything. Faith becomes that junk drawer or that gym – a “thing” that needs to be done, an item that need to be checked off my “look what I believe” list. I think specifically about James 1:27 and Isaiah 1:17 – verses about caring for widows and orphans and fighting for justice. It seems that simply being obedient to these scriptures would definitely show the world my faith in God.

But, as I stumble down this road of life in Christ, I’ve noticed something.

Well, to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t me who noticed it first – it was a friend. This friend isn’t a “sweetness and light” guy; rather, he dances on the edge most every day, disgusted not with God but with the church and religion and the “trying to live a good life” life. He looked at me, and said, “Why do you do what you do? Are you just that good? Or are you just that bad?”

I looked at him, and it hit me.

None of the “things” I have come to be passionate about – those James 1:27 and Isaiah 1:17 things like orphan care and mentoring and advocacy for outcasts – were things I placed on a list. I haven’t determined to show everyone my faith in God by doing any of them. In fact, I can’t prove much by doing anything – there are plenty of people who do good things for others without so much as a tip of the hat to the Creator. Rather, I’ve found in my own life that, if I am truly pressing into Christ, the desire to "do" becomes organic – it literally is brought to life in me. I can't NOT do. Instead of proving my faith, my faith is proven. Deeds become the flesh-and-blood personality of a “me in Christ, and Christ in me” faith. They cannot be separated, because neither is complete without the other.

So again, I reflect on the word “believe.” In my life, “by life” is a most perfect definition.