Transformation

The Greek word “metamorphoo” is the root word for metamorphosis. It can also be translated “transformation”. Metamorphosis is what happens to a butterfly in its cocoon; a radical transformation takes place.

 

Cru, a faith-based non-profit, illustrates the transformation that takes place with circles, like this:

 

 

 

 

 

When you open your heart to Jesus, a dramatic transformation takes place.

Life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. But, how you respond to life becomes different. You are no longer alone in your efforts to make it through life. And that is huge.

Not quite a year ago, a couple attended the Weekend to Remember getaway at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. And heard this message clearly for the first time. They were separated, living in different homes, heading quickly for divorce. When they heard that they could have a personal relationship with Jesus, both responded enthusiastically. Within days, they moved back in together. They’ve continued to weather storms and struggle with challenges, but instead of doing so alone, they can lean on Jesus and they still have each other. It is a beautiful story of transformation.

Now, Justin and Crystal are trying to encourage other people to attend the Weekend to Remember. They shared their story here.

You can read more stories of transformation and learn about how you can go from the top circle to the bottom circle here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Trust…

It’s been less than a week since I was surrounded by beautiful and precious Ugandan children, cheering and reaching out to touch me or hold my hand. It was an amazing experience; life changing, to be honest. But not because of the cheers of children or the temporary rock star status I enjoyed. The transformation came because God helped me see a little more clearly just how very blessed I am.

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Bubbles transcend culture and language. Children always love them. 

You see, I was born in America, to loving parents who have been married my entire life, to each other. We weren’t rich by American standards, but growing up I never lacked for what I truly needed. Though my husband and I are technically poor by American standards, we’ve never lacked for what we’ve truly needed, either. And our children, though their childhood has been defined by a certain level of sacrifice, have experienced abundance in many ways that can’t be measured by dollars and cents.

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Kait, a team member, surrounded by beautiful Ugandan orphans.

Children in Uganda aren’t so lucky. Many families in Uganda are broken; men have twenty and thirty children with different mothers and children often grow up without a loving or even engaged father. Of the approximately 38,000,000 people in Uganda (a country the size of Oregon) almost half are 15 years or younger. Uganda is considered the epi-center of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and many children have been both infected with HIV/AIDS or are orphans because of it. And Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world. The average Ugandan lives on $30-60 USD a month…less than $1000 USD a year?! And while many things are still within reach for those men and women who bear God’s image as much as any American, some things we consider essential are not, like education and basic health care.

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A classroom at one of the orphan schools we visited…dirt floors, holes in the walls, and a leaky roof.

It has been surprisingly difficult to come back home. It took a few days for me to understand my irritability. But it boils down to guilt. I feel guilty that God put me in America. At least two of my children are alive because of the access we’ve had to health care. If they’d been born in Uganda, they would be dead. 

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These two beautiful girls lost their mother two months ago…adjusting to life as orphans…

The really difficult thing is, the mamas in Uganda don’t love their children any less than I love mine. Their hearts don’t ache any less because death is a way of life in their world.  The real difference is, they don’t have the luxury of grief, because life is so very hard.

 

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This young mother was abandoned by the father of her precious babies.  With no means of support, she is struggling to meet their basic needs. She loves her babies as much as any mama in America…but without the same opportunity for help.

What do I do with this? Being impatient with my children won’t make the suffering of Ugandan children any less. Nor does it bring glory to God, in whose name I went to Uganda in the first place. In my quiet time, praying through my grumpiness and struggles, God brought to mind Jeremiah 29:11. And it struck me with a completely new meaning.

You see, Jeremiah 29:11 is written to a people in bondage, suffering for the sins and choices of generations of Hebrews who refused to honor God’s Law. They have just been told that the false prophet promising release in two years is lying and not sent from God; rather than going home in two years, everyone who can understand what is being said will die in captivity. God, through Jeremiah, tells His people that they will be in Babylon for seventy years. Then He says that He knows the plans He has, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give a future and a hope.

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That same God has a plan to prosper and not to harm His people in Uganda. Even though their lives are so very hard, filled with so much “challenge.” And I don’t understand. It doesn’t seem fair, and honestly, I don’t like it. But God doesn’t need my permission. He is bigger than I am, and has a perspective that transcends time. So, in the words of Lauren Daigle, I will trust Him

Privilege

Privilege.

Yes, I know that is a controversial word. One that is greatly misunderstood by many, and the source of frustration for many others.

I also know that because of my privilege, Valerie Castile’s nightmare will never be my own. No late night phone call will pierce my heart, no frantic voice on the other end of the line will fill my head with words that don’t make sense, words I don’t want to hear.

Because, you see, my sons are white.

As the mother of white boys, I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll make it home safe. I’m not afraid for them to play with guns in the front yard or to run down to the neighbor’s house to play. I’m not afraid. And that is HUGE.

In an interview with CNN that was quoted in this Washington Post article, Philando’s mother said, “The key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police is to comply…Whatever they ask you to do, do it. Don’t say nothing. Just do whatever they want you to do…“ She went on to say, “I made sure my kids understood the difference between being law abiding, and that the police were there to help.” (bold & italics added).

How many of you have had conversations like that with your children?! 

I. Never. Have. And I don’t need to…because of my privilege.

How many white churches have made public service announcements to help their men make it home safe?  WE DON’T HAVE TO!! BECAUSE WE. HAVE. PRIVILEGE.

We have the privilege of not mourning. We have the privilege of not being afraid. We have the privilege of not being aware. We have the privilege of silence.

To borrow and take some liberty with the words of William Wallace in Braveheart, “What will you do with that privilege? Will you speak up? …Speak and you may face opposition, harassment, misunderstanding, or worse. Stay quiet and you’ll stay comfortable. For at least a while. But dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that to walk with your brothers and tell the world that they can complicate our lives but we’ll still be a voice for those who don’t have one?!” 

I may not be a very effective spokesperson, or have a very big platform, but I refuse to be silent anymore. Will you join me? Will you help advocate for those who face a fear most of us will never understand? How, I don’t know. But we can find out together.

What If…Questions Worth Asking About Harambe and Cincinnati Zoo

The world is in an uproar over the shooting death of Harambe, the gorilla that was killed over the weekend after a four three year old boy fell into his enclosure. The world has literally gone crazy over the event, villianizing the mother, and crying out for justice for the seventeen year old gorilla.

Matt Walsh, a conservative blogger, tried to bring a different perspective into the discussion by reminding us of how many unborn babies were killed the same day Harambe died. At least one of the responses to his blog post was truly horrific; too horrific to even describe beyond saying the responder doesn’t value human life the same way I do. And has interesting taste in drinks…

The vitriol is pretty intense. People have incredibly strong opinions about the zoo, the parents, and even the value of the life of that little boy. But let me ask a question…

What if the boy had died? 

Think about that for a minute. Not how many babies were aborted on Saturday (though that number is gut wrenching and horrific). Not how terrible the mother was to be taking a a photo with her phone instead of keeping a vice grip on the arm of her three year old son (but consider that if she had, someone may have reported her to Child Protective Services). Not how terrible it is that a majestic and rare gorilla is dead. Think about it…

What if the boy had died? 

Or, what if it had been your child in with the gorilla? 

Think about the consequences of that outcome…

Then think about SeaWorld…a trainer (an adult, mind you, not a child) was killed by Tilikim, the “Killer” Orca at SeaWorld in Florida in 2010. The tide of public opinion is turning against SeaWorld and while they haven’t gone out of business yet, their popularity has certainly taken a hit. And this over a woman who willingly chose to swim with a known predator. They’re called “Killer Whales” for a reason…

We can all throw stones at people when they fail to meet our expectations. But, most of us would whither under our own standards of accountability. And let me ask another question…even if the mother was neglecting her son (though I don’t think she was), what difference does our judgement make? 

Racing to pronounce judgement on the mother, her young son, or the zoo staff will not change the outcome or bring Harambe back to life. It just won’t. Why are we investing so much energy on something that can not be changed?!

And, more importantly, what can we change about the circumstances leading up to Saturday’s tragedy? That is a much more valuable, if complicated, question, with few (if any) easy answers…

Memorial Day

Memorial Day…

a day for remembering…

For some, it is a day of fresh grief because the pain of loss is still new. For others, it is a day of solemnity and a deep awareness of the cost of freedom.

The focus of Memorial Day is to honor our military fallen.  Since the birth of our nation, over 600,000 have given their lives so that we can enjoy the luxuries of 21st Century America; cell phones, fast food, holidays, quiet evenings at home listening to cars driving by instead of hiding behind fortified walls listening to gunfire. We live in one of the best places on earth (political campaign slogans aside) because of the sacrifices of men and women most of us have never met. We don’t even know all their names. 

But someone does. Every single man and woman who has laid down their lives for the sake of our freedom left someone behind. Someone who loved them. Someone who may still feel the weight of their loss every day. They say being a spouse or family is the toughest job in the military. What we celebrate today is part of the reason why.

My father is one who knew the reality of that difficult job description…his biological father, Fred Garcia, was killed in November 1943, in a plane crash at Love Field in Texas. Having just taken off, his plane was filled with fuel, so there was little left…we have the flag from his casket, and an old photo. That’s about it. But my dad still has memories…

Most of his memories of Fred have faded over the years. After all, his dad had been off fighting a war, and my dad was young. They didn’t have time to make many. The one stark memory my dad has is of officers in wool uniforms approaching the door, that fateful knock, and his mother’s tears. Not quite three (but obviously quite aware), my father wrapped his arms around his mother’s legs and said in his best grown up voice, “Don’t worry, Mama, I’ll take care of you.”

This is the picture we need to remember on Memorial Day…families without fathers, children growing up without mothers, someone missing from the latest family photo. We need to remember, in the words of Abraham Lincoln,

What solemn pride must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”

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The question now is, what will we do with the freedom that has been purchased at so great a cost? Will we head to the lake to BBQ dogs or steaks on the grill? Or will we remember the sacrifice made by so many?

Safe Harbor

There is an old saying, about a ship and a harbor. It goes something like:

A ship is safe in the harbor,

but that isn’t what it’s designed for

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The Midway, San Diego, CA all rights reserved 2016

Safety. Security. Calm waters. I think we all appreciate, and even prefer, those idyllic havens. I certainly do! And only recently has God begun to show me just how much those safe havens are costing me.

Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship, created for good works, that God prepared for us to do (emphasis added).  He has work for me to do…work that requires leaving my safe harbor and venturing into the great unknown. Only it doesn’t seem that great, at least not from my view. A desire for safety makes leaving a safe harbor less than appealing. And in our culture, it is generally discouraged as well.

Yet, my heart longs to be a faithful servant, and to be used to bring glory to my Lord and Savior. Competing desires. Confusing desires. A desire to be safe, and a desire to engage beyond my level of safety. But engaging  beyond my level of safety requires vulnerability. And vulnerability is scary…very scary.

You see, an overwhelming fear of failure has controlled many decisions in my adult life. Some may find that surprising, but it is true. If success is not assured, or at least very likely, I am very risk averse. Very, very risk averse.

The same is true if the path forward is not very, very clear.

So, to have the Lord “calling me out upon the water,” as the song goes, is very, very scary. It has forced me to look deep into my heart and ask myself the question, what would my life look like if I wasn’t afraid to fail.

The wording of that question is very important. As is what I am not asking. No mitigation of risk in that question. It isn’t “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” That isn’t what I’m wrestling with. The struggle is, what would I do differently if I wasn’t afraid…afraid to fail…afraid to make a mistake…afraid to be exposed as the fake that deep inside somewhere a voice whispers I am? What would I do if I wasn’t controlled by my fear?

At this point, that question remains unanswered. God is still working on my heart. He is convicting me of my sin (anything not of faith is sin, Rom 14:23) and gracious working to pry my fingers from the idols of false security I’ve been holding onto.

God has given us some amazing examples in Scripture, examples of men and women who faced fear and refused to be controlled by it. One of the most encouraging examples, for me, are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnigo before Nebuchadnezzar and his golden statue.

Don’t tell me those men were not afraid. They had to be! What normal human being won’t firebe afraid when faced with certain death. And might I hightlight that King Nebuchadnezzar probably chose the fiery furnace because of the intimidation factor?  Yet, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were so confident in the Lord and committed to serving Him that they didn’t care.

Whether God protected them or not, they were going to honor Him.  Wow.

It is so easy to take for granted the courage of Bible heroes, insulated and removed from the situations as we are. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I wonder if that hasn’t happened, to a degree, with this amazing story; we’ve become so familiar with it that the reality of the situation is lost on us. We’re not watching the flames dance through the opening in the furnace. We haven’t seen a king execute anyone recently. We have no context for the very real danger and threat faced by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnigo.

Even Jesus, before his final hours, wrestled…not with fear, but with the reality of what He would face. And yet, every single one of these men, and many more heroes and heroines we’re not so familiar with (thinking of Hebrews 11 and the Hall of Faith), faced fear with courage, more confident in the One they worshipped than in their own perception of reality. 

How incredible is that!?

That is the kind of faith I want. Not the kind that only take chances when there is a fairly high certainty of success. No…I want the kind of faith that takes a step of obedience, even in the face of fear and doubt and confusion and…not being confident of the outcome; stepping out even if I might (or probably will) fail…that’s the kind of faith I want…faith that can help me to (in the words of Winston Churchill) move from failure to failure with no loss of momentum.

No loss of momentum…

Loving and Losing

I have spent the majority of the last twenty years either pregnant or nursing. And raising children.

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Image courtesy of Siriani Photography. Copyright 2011

Now, half my children are mostly raised. One daughter is married, one taking a gap year between high school and beyond, a third is a senior finishing her AA through a dual-enrollment program, and a fourth is an accomplished freshman athlete. My parenting responsibilities with them are basically done. And that is difficult…more difficult than I imagined.

 

Obviously, I am not the first to face this transition. Nor will I be the last. To be honest, though, I wasn’t prepared. Time has gone too quickly. Even though I’ve treasured as many moments as I could, even though many told me the years were short, even though they aren’t all gone yet, time has gone far too quickly. I wish I could get it back.

That realization, however, doesn’t prevent me from wasting time with my other children. My youngest isn’t even five years old yet. And stretched out before me are too many choices, too many obligations, too many opportunities to miss out, on something.

When I started my parenting career, nobody told me how painful this journey would be…how I would, at some point, no longer be able to control every aspect of my children’s lives, and how badly that loss of control would hurt. Nobody warmed me that being a mother was like wearing my heart on the outside of my body, with little protection from damage.

Nobody warned me.

That I remember…

Honestly, even if they had, I don’t know that I would have been able to understand. It’s like trying to explain flying to someone whose never been on a plane, or trying to explain snow to someone in the Amazon Rain Forest, or trying to explain giving birth to someone whose never been pregnant. It is very difficult to do.

So, I will pass on to other mothers the warning I wish I’d received…that parenting is painful, if you’re doing it right. And that pain is a sign that you’re doing a good job, you’re “fully vested” in the process. You see, if you were parenting and your heart wasn’t involved, that would be a problem. Can you really parent well when your decisions are based on how to protect yourself from pain?  Probably not…

And, in the end, that shouldn’t be the goal. Not if we truly love our children.

There is an old poem, the author of which I can’t remember. Nor do I recall the context in which I first heard it, but the concept has stuck with me for years. The basic gist is, the real test of love is for me to give someone the freedom to reject me. That is what we do with our children; we pour our hearts into them, investing countless hours, incredible passion, and unimaginable amounts of money, only to watch them walk away. Whether they embrace the values we so diligently tried to instill, or practice the lifestyle we modeled, or engage in the endeavors we invested in is totally up to them. What they do with what we’ve given is, in many regards, a test of our parenting…and regardless of the outcome, there is a level of pain.

The question is how to respond to the pain?

How we answer that question will, to a large degree, determine what kind of relationship we enjoy with our adult children. If we withdraw and guard against further heartache or disappointment, our children may interpret that behavior as rejection and respond in kind, ultimately ending any hope for a health relationship. If we stay engaged, give freedom, and keep our hearts open, a whole new relationship can develop, a beautiful relationship built on mutual trust and vulnerability.

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Image courtesy of Marchauna Rodgers. All rights reserved.

We’re still in the building stage. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that I want to stay engaged with my children, in spite of the pain, because the pain of no relationship is far greater than the pain of a different one.