As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Letter of Love

How often have we heard the Bible compared to a love letter? Even days ago as I sat in a counseling room with a client at RPC, the lead counselor said, "God's Word is a love letter to you." But when life is going great, how often do we really need a love letter?

Maybe it's just me, but there are days when I don't need someone to love me. The days when I'm pretty much in love with myself. Oh, Jessica, good job! You rock this girl! Those are days when I don't search for hugs and can lay my head down a sleep well having never once uttered or heard the words, "I love you." Some days, we just don't need a love letter. Then there are days we do.

There are days when I desperately need that compassion, that acceptance. Days when I curl up on the couch with my head resting against my mother's shoulder just because I need to feel loved. When I'm sick. When I'm sad. Those days. I can walk into the kitchen and, much to the shock of my mother, ask for a hug. I need to feel loved.

The great thing about God is that He loved us most during our worst days. The days when we looked Him in the face and said, "No! I don't want You to love me. I don't need You to love me!!" He still loved, and gave, and loved some more. If that is the case, imagine how much more readily available that love is now to those of us who accepted it. Yet, there are still days we don't want to be loved. Still days we wake up and see that Bible and think, "No thanks. I'm good. I don't need You today." Still, He's there. Talk about faithful.

But it's more than just being there. He is in love with us. Actively, constantly, loving us. This morning, as I reflected on His love, I thought of Hosea, and how Israel actively ran from God searching for another lover and God would pursue her and bring her back to Him. Then, my mind rested on Psalm 139.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Even on the days when I look at Him and say, "Nope, sorry. Don't need You today." He doesn't stop thinking about me. He is in love with us. Doesn't that blow your mind? It blows mine.

We look at Him and say, "No! I don't need Your help, I can do this on my own!" and all the while He waits, loving us, thinking about us, never giving up on us. That is a love like no other, at least none I have ever experienced, and even on my best days, that is a love I need.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Open Doors

This morning I prayed a pretty weird prayer. Taken out of context, it could be gravely misinterpretted. My prayer? "Please let her want an abortion." I know. I know. Let me explain. One thing working at this pregnancy center has taught me is to test God. Does that sound strange? I have learned to willingly, even enthusiastically, jump into uncertain situations only because I know God will be big in those situations. It brings to mind a verse I first heard years ago while in college.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. Psalm 107:23-24

Since first reading that in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, I have found it a great challenge in my faith to step away from the shallow waters and be willing to launch out into the deep. Today, I was itching for that chance.

It is week three of my internship at the pregnancy center. Before today, I had sat in on three client sessions. Two were positive and wanted to carry, a third was negative. Not really hard stuff. Not difficult. You just share in their joy and give them information about our resources. While that's part of why I am there, it is not part of why I am there. I received my schedule for next month this morning. I will officially begin counseling on August 11. That is my first shift (so if you are thinking of me between 10-1, pray for me). I realized though that I am really not prepared to counsel an abortion-minded client. Hence this morning's prayer, "God, please bring someone who wants an abortion." After all, that's why the entire clinic is there!

Our first client this morning was Spanish-speaking, so I answered phones. Our second was obviously pregnant, only seven weeks away from her due date, just needing a positive test. (Yes, I know, it's weird). The lead counselor's native language is Spanish and she told me, "I have a hard time with the English speakers so if you want to talk to her, please do." Well, I can't counsel on my own yet, but God was paving the way for client number 3.

She is my age, just a few months older, and by our calculations, is five weeks pregnant. She wanted us to give her an abortion. It wasn't even, "Well, I'll have to think about it." No, it was, "Give me the abortion pill please, I can't have this baby." The lead counselor deferred to me, and, after a brief moment of thinking, "Oh my goodness! I have to change her mind!!!! WHAT DO I DO?!" I found comfort in one thing alone, "Jessica, just give her truth." That's what God reminded me of as I flew around the clinic talking to nurses trying to figure out some of the side effects of the abortion pill (which are many).

The lead counselor barely spoke at all, only redirecting back to our training when the room grew silent. In that visit, all of my years of interest in pregnancy and child development (I used to want to be an OB, for those who did not know that about me) came rushing back. I was able to explain ectopic pregnancies and explain the risks of the abortion pill, all the while helping her understand that we were concerned about her (which we are) not just her baby. An hour went by and there were tears as she realized that this was not a simple solution. There was no, "Just take this pill and it will all be better" option. Either way, her life would change.

I moved from the chair to the couch beside her, holding the box of tissues as she cried. I cradled a fetal model en utero as I explained why the pill wouldn't fix an ectopic pregnancy and how an ectopic could kill her. We encouraged her to wait for an ultrasound, told her that her baby's heart would have started beating... today. We assured her that she still has options. She still has choices, and still has time, even if she eventually does get an abortion.

She left still leaning strongly toward abortion, and, oddly enough, I wasn't discouraged. Don't hate me for that. It's simply the truth. God works in their hearts, we can't. I read her evaluation form and one thing brought confirmation. When asked if she would refer family or friends to us, she said yes. That, to me, is a big deal. This girl is not a Christian, fully agrees with abortion, and we dealt with her in a way that made her feel loved and respected, not condemned or looked down upon.

It was yet another door I have seen God open in the past couple days. Literally, in the last few days, He has begun answering the cries of my ministry heart. Yesterday, I received an e-mail offering a freelance editing job for 2011. The beautiful thing about freelancing is I can do it whenever. Then, this morning, I have my first abortion-minded client, and it wasn't even like I got to observe, God gave me the opportunity to counsel with a senior counselor supervising. That never happens! He put all of my worries at ease. Then, to top it all off, I get this e-mail today, from the young adult group I am associated with:

If you've ever asked yourself these questions (or similar ones): "Is she really homeless?"; "If I give him a dollar will it go towards drugs?"; "God's word says to provide for those in need, but how?"; then come to the interest meeting on Sunday, July 25th at 6:00pm in the Green Room (downstairs). We'll be looking at God's heart for the homeless and developing a practical way to share Christ's love throughout Silver Spring.

Now THAT's what I am talking about. A proactive outreach to those we are called to reach. This group is amazing, and I am so grateful to be part of this ministry. They developed an outreach to a bunch of skater kids in the city. They saw an opportunity ( and chose to use it. Three days, THREE DAYS after reading that article, they had a ministry group at that park sharing the Gospel with those kids. That's what we are called to do, and I am proud of them for stepping up to the plate and answering that call.

Fact is, doors sit open in front of us every day, but they open both ways. On one end, God may lead someone to us through an open door. On the reverse, He may lead us to someone. We don't have to work at a place like a pregnancy center to reach out to people. The world is all around us, not locked away in a cage for us to visit every now and then. We live in it, and it's time we start impacting it. Pray for God to open a door, and He will.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When the Earth Shakes

It's a good thing I am a morning person or I would have not appreciated my room being rattled around at 5:04 this morning. It lasted only a matter of seconds but was significant enough to wake my entire family and me. My sister sat up in her bed and I could make out her eyes looking at me in the dark. "Was that an earthquake?"


I had gone through a small list of possibilities before drawing that conclusion. Thunder- no, it was felt more than heard, besides, the sun was rising. A car crashing into our house- while that would have been exciting, again, there was no noise other than our furniture hitting the wall, creating a low rumble. So, I drew the conclusion, that either WWIII had just begun or we had an earthquake. I got up walked into my mom's room and stood in the doorway. I was there for a matter of seconds before she just said, "Yes, and yes."

It actually isn't the first time I have experienced one. I had a similar thing happen as a young girl at my grandparent's home in Ohio. That one was strange. My grandmother's china cabinet just began to rattle. It rattled so hard, I thought the dishes were going to fall out. I didn't really feel anything (maybe they have a super strong house), but the china cabinet went crazy for quite a decent chunk of time. I remember telling my family and many of them thought I was nuts. When it came out on the news later, all I could think was "told you!" Of course, the young mind thinks, "I could have died and you guys didn't believe me." (I did a little research and there were many earthquakes in Ohio during that time, all were over 4 on the Richter scale.)

Being a science-minded person and understanding that there just aren't any major fault lines in the area, I went down to flip on the news. The news had no clue anything had happened. It was hilarious.

"Umm... we're getting phone calls from all over the area that there was some sort of shaking, or tremor. We thought it was construction in our building, but we will figure out what it was for you."

A bomb could have just gone off (definitely on my list of possibilities) and they thought is was construction.

It sent four news stations on a simultaneous scramble for the break. First place is awarded to Fox News who stopped their story on the Apple iPhone 'scandal' (which was running simultaneously on every station-- boring) to bring breaking news that DC had been struck by an earthquake fourteen minutes after the fact. The epicenter was just a few miles north of my house. 3.6 they are saying, not bad enough to cause damage but enough to scare a bunch of Eastern Sea Boarders. Now the search is on for the reason why and if we are in continued danger. TV off.

I crawled back in bed and an interesting thought crept into my mind. A praise and worship song I learned when I was little: "The earth shakes at the sound of His voice, the nations tremble before Him..." A smile crept across my face.

"At the sound of His voice." God was apparently speaking this morning at 5:04, and one of the most influential areas in the world heard Him, they just don't know it's Him, or won't acknowledge it is Him. One newscaster even said, "Wow! That was a humbling experience." Humbling because, for once we finally realize how much we can't control everything. But I know the God who can and does.

So, around 6 o'clock, after giving it much thought and reflection, I turned on my side, snuggled down in my sheets and recalled Psalm 4:8, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety." For the next two and half hours, that is exactly what I did.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dream Giver

Last night, a man from our regained his sight, met his Saviour and left behind his wife of exactly 21 days.

They were an older couple, both over 50. He had spent his lifetime dreaming, hoping, praying for a wife, and God granted him that wish. Ironically, a month ago, it was the bride we were worried about losing. She was very ill and in need of surgery, so the wedding was pushed forward and held on a Sunday evening after church. The following Thursday, she had her surgery... and survived. They had plans of him finishing school and then embarking as an evangelistic team.

I had the privilege of photographing their ceremony, and overnighted the pictures to the bride today, with a card of sympathy. What a mixture of emotions. To have pictures capturing a day of love and joy coupled with a card expressing sorrow and loss.

We just never know, but our God does. He alone is the one who holds our dreams and with them all the power to make them come true. He alone has thoughts that are higher than ours, timing far better than ours, plans more meticulous than ours and dreams far greater than ours. He has it all, and chooses to delight Himself in us. Just over three weeks ago, plans were being made for a wedding. Now, we plan for a funeral more than likely in the same sanctuary.

What an overwhelming comfort to know that our God knows.

To many it may seem cold and harsh. What kind of God would do that? Let a couple get married only to snatch away the groom before they could celebrate even one month together! But, as believers, we have a different perspective. At least I do.

I like to see it this way, and you may disagree, but I know that my God knew when Dale would struggle to take his last breath. My God knew. My God knew that the desire of Dale's heart was to know love, to have a wife. I choose to believe that my God knew Dale's time was coming and said this, "You know what, my son, you have waited so long. Before I call you home, I will give you this one last dream." He did.

For that, there is nothing but praise and adoration offered up to the Giver and Fulfiller of Dreams.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Put on Your Grace

Bear with me. This is raw, unfiltered, unorganized and completely not thought through. Again, courtesy of my Tuesday night Bible study, which is quickly becoming the highlight of my weeks, so much so that I may have to request to have Tuesday nights off for July and August. This is Bible study, my friends, at its core.

Tonight, we continued our study in Colossians 3 with the idea of putting on the new man. How often do we just whip past that?

Yea, yea, put off put on, blah blah blah...

Hold the phone. Seriously. Stop. Think about that. Put on, like putting on clothes in the morning. The question was posed to the group.

Why this analogy? Why putting on clothes?

Shame on the writer in me for not stopping and thinking about that before.

One man in the group said, "It's an act of the will. Your clothes just don't fall on you, you have to choose them and actually put them on." The simplicity of that statement made all of us chuckle, but the depth of it caught many of us off guard. We choose this. Hello! We choose it. Excuses are now gone. I can't hide behind the "well that's the way I was made excuse" because, while that may be true, it is irrelevant. I am commanded, because of who I am in Christ, to put on attributes that reflect Christ.

More than that, I am to wear them. We have this willful putting on of the clothes, but we have to wear them. Would it make sense for me to dress in a nice black pant suit and then cover it up with grungy jeans and a holey t-shirt and then go to work? When the boss questions my wardrobe choice what do I say, "Oh well, I am wearing the right clothes underneath." Does that make sense?


But how often do I do that? How often I hide behind the "Well, I am a really nice person once you get to know me" line! That's not how it is supposed to be. Someone should be able to meet me and say, "Wow! You are a really nice person" and then, after knowing me, be able to say, "Wow! What I saw was real." But it's all flip-flopped, and I am sure it is that way for so many of us.

That isn't how it is supposed to be! Put on your grace. Put on your compassion. Put on your humility. Put on your kindness. Put on your patience. Wear it proudly (if that ain't an oxymoron) and boldly! Quit running around in your old clothes with a Heavenly wardrobe at your fingertips.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Beauty in the Broken

Ever have one of those weeks? One of those weeks when you hit the end of the road and there is this mirror. You see yourself and think, "Wow... I look horrible..." (figuratively-speaking). This week has been one of those weeks. There has been the high of being in the fellowship of Christian friends only to come crashing down as the Devil has assualted harder than he has in recent months. What was beautiful has been broken.

The past twenty-four hours have been difficult. Frustrating, and now... humbling. Even in the moments of our putrid weakness, God still has the ability to use us, in spite of ourselves. As I bore assault after assault at the hand of my heart and all its devices, God was preparing the restoration. My mind finally cleared enough to look at my ministry e-mail to find two e-mails. Two e-mails sent while I was in the heat of my battle, while my defenses were crumbling, and if I had only taken a moment to pull up and cry out to my God, I would have taken a moment to remind myself of all He is and He has done. I would have checked that e-mail and the battle would have ended.

But we are stubborn. So stubborn. I fought on, late into the night. Damaged, weakened, broken.

Then, God reminded me, through those e-mails, after I had long since given in, that He still has a plan, a purpose and a reason, and that in spite of nailing Him to His cross yet again, He still chooses to shower His grace on me enough to use me. He still chooses to take the broken and make it beautiful.

"So faithful. So constant. So loving, so true, so wonderful in all You do. You fill me, and You see me. You know my every move, and You love for me to sing to You.

I know that You are for me. I know that You are for me. I know that You will never forsake me in my weaknesses. I know that You have come down, even if to write upon my heart. To remind me of who You are.

So patient. You're so gracious. So merciful and true. So powerful in all You do. You fill me, and You see me. You know my every move, and You love for me to sing to You.

Lord, I know that You are for me. I know that You are for me. I know that You will never forsake me in my weaknesses. I know that You have come down, even if to write upon my heart. To remind me of who You are."
~ "You are For Me." Kari Jobe.