It's not quite a quiver full, but it's a start!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Passion in Marriage...and it's not what you think...

Imagine with me for just one minute what your idea of the "perfect" Christian couple is. If you grew up in the church like me, your idea probably looks something like this...the husband and wife missionary team who travels to foreign lands teaching together, standing strong together, being amazing together, and bringing their children along for the journey. Or maybe it's the husband and wife team who lead a Bible study together each providing the perfect balance for everyone in attendance making them the perfect teaching duo. Or maybe it's the husband who preaches every Sunday with his beautiful, faithful wife sitting on the front row smiling up in pride at him knowing that she is his supporter. In every single scenario I always imagined of the "perfect" couple there was a theme...togetherness. I always imagined that the perfect Christian couple ministered together. That God brings two people together, instills in them a united passion, and grants them the opportunity to live out their calling side-by-side.

What happens when, like most of the Christian world, you marry someone who has a different idea of ministry than you do? What are you supposed to do when after you are married God instills in your spouse a passion for international missions and instills in you a call to your home city? Do you need to fall on your knees and pray because obviously something has gone very, very wrong and one of you is not hearing the Lord speaking clearly? Despite how it may feel, it does not make us any less of an amazingly godly couple just because we are called to different passions, because we feel like God has not granted us a "united" ministry front. Yes, God does call some couples to service together, and He calls all of us to support eachother, but for most of us our ministry is still a very personal and separate calling even after we are married.

It does not seem as glamorous to have your husband traveling to foreign lands while you stay home with the children. It doesn't seem as "important" to lead a woman's Bible study while your husband is running a homeless ministry that you feel no call to. What does it say about us, our lives together, our love for eachother, when we don't even share the same passions? If we don't even feel passionate about the same ministry then surely we cannot be as "great" of a couple as we had previously thought. Surely we are not one of these Christian power-couples we desperately desire to be. Oh, sweet wives, the devil is so alive in that thought. It is a thought that has taken me so long to break through, and the freedom that has come from breaking free from this ideal image is truly amazing.

How I wish more churches would teach us the truth about God's calling, the truth about passion. Husbands and wives although bonded together by the Lord, are still very different people with very different backgrounds and very different interests. Even if on the surface you seem to have a lot in common, the direction that our passion can take us can seem to be a million miles apart. After my husband and I were married I noticed one very large difference. Ok, well I knew we had this difference, but I always thought that when we got married God would magically give us the same passion and we would work together in it. That this difference would come together for our "ministry".

My husband is very, very quiet. He is shy, laid back, not serious at all, and does not feel comfortable carrying on a long conversation. And here I am...Miss Exclamation Point!!! My entire life is like this !!!!!!!!!!!!! I am excited all the time, love to talk about anything and everything, the complete opposite of laid back and I take everything very, very seriously. It works out so perfectly for us as a couple and our marriage has benefited greatly from these differences in more ways than I ever could have imagined. But what hasn't benefited is this imaginary ministry life that I had planned for us.

I have always felt a call to ministry. Always. When I was in seventh grade, I went before my church and announced that I would be going into missions. I had no idea what that meant at the time, and it took a long time for me to get past the idea of this "mission calling" and start just living. Living my life as if every single moment is a calling. Living my life as if every single person put before me was someone to wittness to (although I still struggle with that...which is surprising given how outspoken I truly am). When presented with any ministry opportunity I am all in, in fact I seek out these opportunities. It is just my heart, it always has been. I am a teacher and an encourager. I may not have the gifts of helps or hospitality or healing, but I can lead in a way that has always been an undeniable gift from the Lord. Even as a middle schooler I had already begun leading and teaching others. Well, my husband has such a teacher spirit, so I automatically assumed this meant God would be calling us to like-minded ministry. Given these "power-couples" I had grown up around I always pictured that was what it looked like when God had placed a call on your life, and I knew that as Christians we both had a call.

The funny thing is, I have begun to meet the most amazing godly couples that have completely changed my view of how passion in ministry can look in a marriage. Having passion for different areas is not a weakness, it does not say anything about your life together or your spiritual life. You see, I always felt that if a couple was on the same page spiritually then God would bring them to the same place. And by same place, I felt that meant the same ministry. Some of the most amazing foreign missionaries I know go alone, while their spouse stays behind. Some of the most amazing teachers have husbands or wives who would never get up in front of a crowd to save their life. I know women who have passion for issues that their husbands have no desire to be involved in. These spouses don't stay home from mission trips or steer clear of these opportunities because they don't care about them, or even because they are "not in the same place spiritually" as their spouse, they just have different calls of passion.

So if you are like me, and many, many other Christian couples who have different passions in ministry don't let it make you feel like you are any less of a couple, or that your passion is any less important. I am called to women's ministry, to moms, to teaching. Oh, how much easier it would be if my husband felt called to men's ministry, to fathers, to teaching. We could do it together, side-by-side, and look so cute while we do it of course. But the fact of the matter is my husband, no matter how much I could try to "convince" him, just doesn't have this passion. His passion does not go hand-in-hand with mine. In fact, he's not yet felt called to ministry at all. But you know what we are called to as a couple? We each are called to the passions that God has placed in us and to support those calls in eachother. Not everyone is called to ministry, and those of us who are should support those who aren't. He is called as my husband to support me where God is leading me and he does, oh, yes, he absolutely does. I am called as his wife to support where God is leading him and I absolutely do.

In times when our passions seem to be in conflict with eachother we need to take a step back and try to see the way in which they can work together. We need to be able to each follow our own passions in marriage without our relationship feeling threatened. We need to be able to answer the ministry calls God has placed on us without any fear. We need to maybe reevaluate the idea of what passion looks like in a marriage. Different passions towards ministry does not represent weakness in us as a couple, and it certainly doesn't represent weakness in us spiritually. Instead it represents our strengths in the way God can use us best, and as spouses we should be able to see and encourage those differences as well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Passion for Mommy Teachers

We have been exploring passion and just how wide of a range there is in what we can be passionate about. I absolutely love that about passion. We each have our own calling, our own "specialty", and all of it knits together perfectly for the good of society as a whole. As always, I love guest posting on my friend Jessica's blog. Jessica has a great mommy passion: teaching! She is passionate about teaching children, and recently discovered that she is mostly passionate about teaching other mommies how to teach their children. Her mission is making sure every parent is their child's favorite teacher, and she would love to see every mommy instilling in her children the life-long gift of learning. Whether your child is in a clasroom setting or you school at home, our job as teachers never takes a backseat.

Life is all about learning. It is a never ending journey, a journey that has no limits to how far we can go. We are the ones who make the boundaries of learning, and we can make them as narrow or as wide as we would like them to be. I choose to make my boundaries wide, and I hope I can teach my children to do the same. Today, I am sharing on her site how to take an ordinary, every day moment and turn it into a great opportunity. After all, I'm trying to turn this ordinary responsibility into an extraordinary opportunity!

Join me for my "Real Life Lesson" at The Mommy Teacher!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Testimonies for Passion

Ironically, Thanksgiving was a time for me to reflect on the hard things. The strange thing that came out of all of these testimonies of trials was the pure joy that was found in all of them. Rising above our circumstances, remembering the calling through those times, becoming restored because of it all. We each have our stories, we each have that moment (or moments) in our lives where we can go one of two ways. We hope and we pray that by sharing our trials, by sharing our stories, that we can catch someone before their trial, that we can catch them in the midst of it, that we can catch them before they make the decision to go the wrong way. We pray that we can teach the lessons that we were only able to learn in our pain. We are passionate to share these lessons, passionate for people to understand, passionate because God has given us the ability to see that all things work together for good. We are passionate for people because we are those "people". We are all broken, imperfect people trying to help other broken, imperfect people. We are all trying to live extraordinary lives while in the midst of ordinary circumstances. We are passionate for life, passionate for others, passionate for God, because somewhere along the way something happened that reminded us that we cannot live our lives lacking passion.

A dear friend of mine shares her amazing story about a moment in life when God became real to her. It's moments like this that remind us why we are passionate for life.

Grow Up - Christine testimony from Istrouma Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Created for Action

The sum of our faith is only as great as the sum of our works simply because faith in and of itself simply does. There is a reason passion actsThere is a reason the passion of Christians acts the most.The simple nature of faith is that it cannot remain inactive. It must work.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

We were created to act, created to do good works. We are the hands and feet of God, we are His messengers, we are the way in which others come to know Christ. If we were created only for salvation, why is it then that we are not taken up into Heaven right after? We have all heard that if you are still breathing, you still have work to do. What is that work? We are called to the works of Christ.  All of this wraps up simply into the reason we do good is because of our faith. Because God has created us and called us to do these works. Passion acts, because passion is the heart of God moving the heart of His people toward the things that grieve Him. Doing works becomes natural when our heart of stone is replaced with the heart of God because the heart of God never stops acting.

Our actions do good because as a Christian the fruits of our Spirit are produced in what we do. The fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control are left as a trail behind us leading others to follow in that direction. The more we follow after God and walk in Him, the more the fruits will be produced.

The more we bring the passion God has placed in us into our family and to global social issues and to our careers and to our friendships, the more action we will do for those causes. The more action we do the more fruits will be produced. The more fruits that are produced the more change can happen. Passion is the seed that leads to change. The seed that grows fruit, the fruit that brings revolution, the revolution that brings life. This happens simply because we were created for action. Just like our faith, our passion cannot remain inactive. It must simply do. We must and we will simply do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Passion's Weakness

On my journey of passion I've talked about the revolution that can be brought about by passion, a specific cause in which passion can make a difference, I've unintentionally showed how our emotions can negatively impact a cause by spreading the wrong information, and I shared passion's purpose. That all leads into what I have been thinking about these last few days...the Achille's heel.

It began with the Kony video. A small spark of the "hop on the bandwagon" movement. It really got me thinking about passion and what drives it. Is it something we are shocked into, dragged into, stumbled upon, or already caught up in? Is it a desire to stay ahead of the game, so that we seem like a better Christian because we are "passionate" about a cause? There's the word that has begun to haunt me these past few weeks. Ever since I started this journey with my eyes being opened to human trafficking and the absolutely evil forces that are at work in the world, then to have that knowledge fueled by the revelations of the Kony video. The ache in my heart just grew until I thought I couldn't stand it anymore. These people, these victims, these children, these families. But I kept hearing one word over and over and over, cause. I even used the word a few times myself. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being passionate about a cause, but is that all we are passionate about? A cause?

Are we more concerned with having our name tied to a "hot button" issue or a "trendy" topic? When we passionately spread our information out to others, are we even focused on them as people, or are we just focused on "converting" them to our side? Here is passion's weakness: the cause. I have seen too many people get so caught up in a particular cause that they forget they are dealing with people. They get so caught up in the information that they forget about the victims. Passion can be a good or bad thing. God instilled passion, when we keep our own emotions in check, can be amazing. Passion fueled by our own desires and letting our emotions lead, can be devastating. I see people so passionate about a cause that they don't even realize the harm they are doing rather than the good. How many times have we had a passionate person want to talk to us about their specific cause and we get beat over the head with information and are never allowed to disagree without feeling ashamed? How did that make us feel about their cause? That is not passion for people, that is passion for a thing. We do not need to be investing all of our time and efforts into things. Things don't bring change, people bring change. We can't bring change by hauling people over to our corner kicking and screaming. No, a cause is just a thing, do not be passionate about a thing.

I am not saying that if you are passionate about one of these causes that you are not passionate about people, and I think it's very easy for us all to spot the difference. There are several ways to tell if you have become more passionate about the actual cause rather than the people behind it.
  • When talking about your cause to others are you thinking about the people who are actually affected by it?
  • When sharing your information how do you feel if someone disagrees with you about it?
  • Do you feel that your cause is the most important cause and that everyone else should be as passionate as you are about it?
  • Do you even remember why you became so passionate about this in the first place?
  • What is your #1 goal when it comes to your passion?
  • If the cause you are passionate about came to an end tomorrow would you be relieved or feel empty because you no longer have something to fight for?
What good can we do for any particular cause if we are so absorbed in the cause that we forget the names and the faces behind it? What good can we do if we can't even recognize the people we are trying to explain it to, or get upset when not everyone feels as passionately as we do? What good can come when we have become so engrossed in the cause that we forget what it was that brought us there in the first place? What good can come if we are fighting simply to fight rather than fighting to bring it to an end? What good can we do if we are fighting for a thing rather than for people? So bringing me to my last point, is it a people-driven issue, or a people-created issue?

Is it an issue that will really, truly, absolutely bring freedom and life to people, or is it an issue that someone has created because they believe that it should be done that way? Are we trying to spread awareness because something is truly wrong or just because we believe that it is wrong. Yes, those things can be mutually exclusive. There are many things that people believe are wrong about religion, does that make it actually wrong or just believably wrong? Beyond asking ourselves is my passion about people or is my passion about a thing, we need to be asking ourselves is the cause I am passionate about focused on people or focused on a thing.

Our passion will never amount to anything if the issue we focus on is about a thing rather than on  people. Our passion will never amount to anything if we ourselves are focused on a thing rather than on people. Ultimately our passion should always be about people. God's call of passion on our lives is always about the issues that grieve His heart. It is how He stirs the hands of His people into action.  Passion is about going out and doing, about respecting others and inspiring them. It grows through its actions and inspires others to change. It brings hope, joy, and eventually revolution.

What revolution are you striving for?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Passion's Purpose

We can all think of someone who we would define as "passionate". They have an issue that they hold close to their heart and they advocate for it no matter what. Their feelings go beyond usual feelings of empathy or sympathy for others, and is turned into action. We can also think of someone who we would define as "excessively passionate". Someone who is argumentative with anyone who disagrees, someone who pushes their own opinions without stopping to hear what anyone else has to say. In fact, though we describe that person as passionate I think what we really mean is "stubborn" maybe even "self-centered" maybe even a little bit "extreme." It's hard to define passionate without having to include those other categories as well, and since I'm on a journey of passion I figured I need to define what passion is to me when I use it in my posts. A person who is argumentative, although seen by the world as a "passionate" person, to me does not define true passion. However, a person who longs to share information about the cause they hold so dear without forcing it on others, without condemning them for holding a different opinion, without becoming argumentative, that is true passion. A person who has true passion understands that the importance of the information they hold is more important than winning an argument.

Another aspect that is important to me when defining passion is the reasoning behind that passion. Maybe something tragic happened so they become passionate about making sure that never happens to someone else. Selfless truth. Maybe something amazing happened and truly changed their life and they want everyone else to share in it. Excited, sharing truth. On the other hand, maybe they are hopping on the bandwagon of a "popular" topic that caused them to feel something. Emotional truth. Maybe they feel that their way is the right way and that if you do it any other way you are wrong. Judgemental truth. There are so many other examples, but they all come down to this: motivation. What is the driving force behind your passion?

The world has a slightly different view of passion. Ok, maybe not different, so much as "falling a little short." The world sees passion as an emotion the drives someone to do something. And their actions will, hopefully, lead to something happening. Passion is the seed that brings change, but not because it is based on anything emotional. In fact, my recent post about Kony is a perfect example. It was one of those moments I felt emotionally charged over something and didn't care to see beyond my feelings. I still do believe with all my heart that we should be actively trying to bring restoration to those effected by Kony and the LRA. However, my feelings led me to share a resource that was actually harmful to the cause. It's a perfect example of why when it comes to issues that we feel led to, we need to seperate our emotions. Or we need to at least make sure that it is not our emotions controlling us. If we don't keep our emotions at bay it has the opportunity to destroy the work we can be doing for that cause. No, passion is not an emotion. Passion is a calling.

Like everything God has brought into our life, passion goes beyond just a feeling and into the actual heart and call of God. When we as Christians begin to feel passionate about an issue, I believe it is becasue we are feeling the heart of God lead us into a direction that He is calling us. A passion for missions. A passion for charity work. A passion for a new job. A passion for motherhood. Passion is God's way of leading us, directing us, and keeping us exactly where it is He wants us to be. Every Christian has a specific passion that they feel toward a specific thing, but all of our passions are rooted in one purpose: the love of God.

God's love restores, God's love heals, God's love saves. Each of us has a specific calling on our lives. If God called us all to the same passion then there would be some seriously neglected people on the world. We cannot all feel called to foreign mission when we have so many who are lost in our own backyard. We cannot all feel called to human trafficking and seek to free all 27 million who are enslaved when we have children who need us to teach them. We cannot all feel called to hunt out Kony and the members of the LRA and rescue the over 30,000 children they have kidnapped and trained as soldiers. These do seem like huge numbers, but there are 7 BILLION people in the world and over 2 billion of them have never even heard the gospel. No matter what our passion is, no matter what God calls us to do, it is rooted in this: bringing the love of God to the world. That is how we are going to actually bring a change. We could completely end slavery, we could shut down the NRA, we could adopt every orphan from around the world, end abortion, but it would all mean nothing if we did not do it with a heart for the gospel. It would mean nothing if we save these people from the temporary pain of this world, and leave them empty when it comes to the eternal saving grace of God our Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The next 27 minutes...

I had posted the widely viewed Kony 2012 video as an example of passion. It is an amazilngly touching video about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), and I posted it in an attempt to shed light on the evil forces that truly are at work in the world. When I posted it, I was not even considering that it was linked to an organization, I was simply focused on the issue. The issue definitely needs attention, but I can no longer in good conscience leave the video posted knowing what I now do about the organization itself. I know that everyone who has not seen the video is now curious. I know that we are all adults here and can make our own decisions based on the facts given to us. I do feel like this video is a great resource when it comes to opening our eyes to the issues of Kony and the LRA despite it's sensationalism and despite the fact that the organization itself it not one that can be trusted. I still do not feel comfortable keeping the video on my blog. I did realize that there was some controversy about Invisible Children and did post links including information about this controversy, but I feel like the controversy that has recently been brought to light is too important and the issue too emotional to leave the video posted. If I knew that I could leave the video posted simply as a visual for the issues regarding the LRA then I would, but I cannot in good conscience leave the video up knowing that some viewers may donate to Invisible Children based on the video.

The controversy actually runs a lot deeper than I realized when I posted it yesterday. Yesterday, when I posted the video, the controversy seemed to be based on the percentage of donations actually used for the cause. Later it was brought to light that Invisible Children actually supports other violent organizations and is backed by "Anonymous" a group that has declared war on America, Christians, and Jews. It appears that they do not truly care about Uganda and it seems they simply chose an emotional topic that they could use to gain noteriety and funding. It truly does sadden me. It saddens me that a very good resource that could have been used to spread awareness is now useless based on who produced it. Bearing all of that in mind, know that I am asking that if you do watch the video that you do not donate to them. Simply watch it as a way to educate yourself about the evil that still exists in the world and the true need there is for Christians to remain involved in global social issues. I am truly sorry if I mislead anyone in regards to the video. I did state that I was not pushing them as a reputable charity or asking anyone to donate, but I feel like I did not do as responsible of a job as I should have when it came to actually doing research before I posted. And, of course, it deeply saddens me that when it comes to a serious topic that needs attention that one would need to research a charity that claims to support it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Somebody's Someone

This month I am embarking on a journey of passion in order to fulfill my resolution for revolution. One area that this passion is going to hugely impact is human trafficking. There are more people in slavery today than there has ever been in any other point in History.  I pray that hearing this will spark a little something in all of us. Human trafficking is not a particularly "new" concept for me. It's something that a few people I am close to are involved in, but it has never been something I have thought about. Ever. It seemed so far away. But God, in His infinite ways, has been stirring up this desire all around me, bringing the heart of His people closer to the heart of His own desires. And as I sat in a room with other moms drinking coffee, enjoying a little quiet time, and began hearing a little bit about human trafficking in my own city, God did His thing.

The day before, I had heard a few staggering statistics about my city. We are #2 in AIDS cases, #1 in Syphilis, #2 in Chlamydia, #5 in Gonorrhea, we have a higher murder rate than Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles. These statistics blew me away. Blew. Me. Away. It broke my heart for the people around me, absolutely broke my heart. Then here I was sitting in this room listening to one of the women discuss an upcoming fund raiser for an organization she started a couple of years ago to fight human trafficking. God's working, the preparation He had done so that I would be ready to accept this seed, began to take shape. I began to realize that this was not a "far away" problem. I began to realize that this does not just affect everyone else. This has the very real possibility to affect my own family, my friends, my children. Does that make it more important? No, but sometimes that's what it takes to wake us up to a situation isn't it. My city is one of the top 10 cities for human trafficking. The youngest confirmed victim of sex trafficking in my city is 6 years old. My state has the highest rate of child homelessness of all the 50 states, with 30% of homeless shelter youth and 70% of street youth falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation. All of these stats were taken from my friend's site and there are many, many more stats that will make your heart break. This is not far away. This is in my city, my state, my country. This isn't in the red light district in Amsterdam where prostitution is legal. This isn't in a third world country where people are living in such hopelessness that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get out. No, this is here in my backyard. In fact, there could be a slave right next door.

We heard of a girl, who shares her story in the book "The Slave Next Door". A young girl who was lured in by a 17 year old boy at her school. A boy she saw every day, boy who was nice to her, a boy who offered to drive her home, but instead took her to his home under the guise of "dropping something off on the way". This girl was then drugged and raped and beaten by some 20 men, pictures were taken, and the next day the threats began. She was given copies of the pictures. They threatened to tell her father, who was an affluent business man and very involved in the local Catholic church, and threatened to get him fired. They would call her every night, and she would have to go. She would sneak out under the noses of her parents while they were sleeping and do whatever it was they were calling her to do. She was not a runaway, she was not unloved, she was not homeless. She was a scared young girl who didn't know what to do, so she did the only thing she could think of to protect herself and her family.

This is where the passion for human trafficking and my passion for mothers merge. There are 27 million people in bondage worldwide. 99% of them have not been rescued, but 100% of them are somebody's child. We were told of the handlers who roam the malls seeking out "targets". They seek out the girls who feel insecure, the girls who are seeking to be validated. It's something as simple as telling a girl she has beautiful eyes only to have her say, "No, they're not." What does this mean for us as moms? This is not meant to be an overwhelmingly scary realization. Yes, this is a heavy and uncomfortable topic, but we serve an Almighty God who protects us, who guides us, and who is immensely more powerful than any harm that can come to us. This means that we, as moms, hold all the power, that we can change it all.

It begins with us. It begins with our children. We can transform this horrific cycle one family at a time. It means raising our sons to respect women, to value them, to understand that women are not objects to use, but people to be adored. It means raising our daughters to recognize their true value, to understand the importance of modesty and respect, to teach them the difference between affection and manipulation. If we raise up men who love and respect women, women who love and respect themselves, and wrap it all up in a love and respect for God our Father, we can end this cycle of slavery and abuse. It's hard not to get caught up in the vastness, the severity, the devastation. We may not all be called to go in and rescue these girls from their lives of slavery. We may not all be called to host fund-raisers, to start organizations, to hit the streets, to "get dirty". We may not all feel "passionate" about human trafficking. But as moms we are all called to raise up the next generation, and as moms that's something we should all be passionate about.

Passion is the Seed That Leads to Change

It all starts with an idea. That idea causes our hearts to beat faster, our brains to work harder, and our hands itch to dig in. We want to "get dirty". This leads to an ongoing relationship with that idea. We begin to live it, to breathe it, it becomes an all-out passion in us. This passion, this constant desire to act on this idea, the willingness to do whatever it takes to get it done, is the seed that leads to change. Once the seed of passion has been planted in us there is no going back.

This month I am going on a journey of passion. Sparked by that moment I saw the seed on passion being planted in my friend, knowing the importance that moment will have on the Kingdom, I am excited to be digging into passion and exploring what impact passion has on our desire for revolution. After all, I did make a resolution for revolution this year. My whole inspiration for this year is action. Not just determining a course of action, but actually taking that action. This year it is all about a sudden, complete, and marked change. The way this change is going to happen is through passion. When God has been preparing your heart, when it becomes fertile soil ready to welcome the seed of passion, and when that seed of passion is planted, revolution is right around the corner!