Just wanted to quickly tell you about a cool offer from my friend, Jen Gordon, of The Hope Deck.
A couple of years ago, before I met her, Jen went through some really difficult circumstances in her life, but was blessed enough to have a group of good friends to see her through it. Later, one of these friends challenged her to make something good from all of this mess.
She’s a graphic designer, so she created The Hope Deck as a thank you gift for these friends. It’s a beautiful set of cards with a different Bible verse on each one. In fact, those friends selected the scriptures that were used.
She kept getting more requests for The Hope Deck, so now she’s making them commercially. She’s almost out of the original run, so she launched a Kickstarter a couple of weeks ago to get more printed. This second run will be enough to start selling them in stores, through affiliates online, and things like that.
Typically, a Hope Deck is $23, but for the next three days you can get two for $24. And they are super nice quality!
I’ve enjoyed having mine, and thought some of you might be interested as well. You can use them yourself as prayer cards, postcards, recipe cards, reminders, decor, and things like that. Or you can buy a bunch to keep on hand for gifts. Due to the nature of the cards, they work for pretty much any occasion!
I’m really proud of Jen, and am praying this is a successful campaign. Please join me in supporting her!
I’ve taken several vacations by myself, but New Year’s Day marked my first personal retreat. And it was time. Actually, it was way overdue.
At the end of last year, I was exhausted in every way, and had chosen RENEW as my word/theme for the year. I really wanted to cling to that word, but needed a catalyst to help get me there. So, I used some hotel points to get away. I knew if I stayed home I’d find too many distractions.
Rome, Georgia, ended up being the destination. And I was able to check in early and check out late, to maximize my stay. I had my computer, a few books, and a ready heart. (And, of course, a change of clothes.) I’d already been collecting resources that I wanted to work through, but as I predicted, ending up following a few rabbit trails, too.
My original intent was just to spend the night and fit in all my retreat activities into that 24 hour period. But I was tired and kept stumbling upon new resources so I ended up extending the retreat through the weekend, at home. Being able to focus at the hotel proved to be a great starting point, though. It gave me the energy and determination to keep up the work . . . but there may have been a pedicure and couple Netflix breaks. I mean, come on, we’re talking about 72 hours here. I’m not a monk.
These are the primary resources that I spent time with:
They are awesome, and I’d recommend any of them. They greatly enhanced my retreat, and I believe, came to me at just the right time.
There are also a few (hopefully) regular practices that came out of this weekend, which I believe will help to keep me RENEWed during the year. The first is The Five Minute Journal, mentioned above. I hate journaling, but this one was recommended on a podcast I listen to, and it sounded like something I could do. It’s just a couple bullet points to answer each morning and evening, and there is an introduction that shows the reasoning and science behind the questions. So far, even in my most groggy morning state, I’ve been able to keep up.
The second is meditation. I’ve tried it before, and failed miserably. My mind is constantly going 90 miles an hour! But like journaling, I know the benefits and want to reap them. I need to be able to clear my mind and listen in silence. That will do me a world of good. And meditation is one of those things that kept popping up around me in various ways at the end of the year, so I knew it was time to try again. The blog post mentioned above by Rick Warren also speaks in-depth to the practice. (Funny note: I have a book called The Will Power Instinct that I started several years ago. But the first chapter says that you have to be able to meditate for 10 minutes to continue the book in order to get the most out of it—so, yep, I’ve never finished. Maybe this is the year!)
The third is, well, to borrow another Rick Warren-ism, purposeful relaxation. The second half of that blog post was what I actually went online to find, and strangely, it was paired with meditation. I’d heard him speak on the topic before at a conference, and couldn’t remember exactly how it was phrased. I love the way he puts it: divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually. Honestly, it’s going to be hard. I’m a multi-tasker. But for me, one of the best ways to do this is to unplug for a while. I’m usually connected even when I travel, so there is usually a nagging feeling that something needs my attention. It’s going to be a hard lesson to learn, and hard to fit into life when there is always something pressing. However, as he notes, if Jesus felt the need to do it, I should too. So, I’m trying to weave more of this into my life.
And that’s it! That was my personal retreat. It was wonderful. Another lesson that came from this time was just how valuable it was, and that this is something I should continue however I can. I usually try and fit books and articles and podcasts into the busyness, but having this dedicated time for it, with a specific purpose in mind, was well, RENEWing.
The reality of life hit me hard just after my personal retreat. Of course it did. Of. Course. It. Did. And it was frustrating because I wanted to keep the good vibes going. Life was interrupting my zen! But I realized that I wouldn’t have been prepared for it without this retreat. So, it’s already served me well in ways I couldn’t predict, and I guess that’s just another reason I should continue.
I was reading the book of Ruth the other night. The intro talked about Ruth being full of everyday miracles. “God usually works in the ordinary events of everyday life. Miracles do happen, but God regularly accomplishes His purposes and blesses His people through routine occurrences. If we learn faithfulness in the everyday, we are equipped to be faithful when the miracle or crisis comes . . . The everyday and the ordinary can have breathtaking eternal results.” (NLT Study Bible)
Overall, Ruth is a pretty ordinary story, especially when compared to the plagues, tumbling walls and fire-consumed altars all around her. But God is there. He is always there, whether we see or feel Him. Perhaps that’s why so many find comfort in this book. It’s a good reminder to find God in the everyday-ness of life.
Most of life is lived between big events, but there’s still plenty worth celebrating or at least noting. He created us to live fully, and that means the in-between as well. You and I friend, and loads of others, are living in-between what we want our story to be about, what we want to be known for. The days are made up of errands, laundry, bills, work, too much television, long commutes and trying to see all the Oscars Best Picture nominees. (Just me on that last one?) But books aren’t comprised of just a first chapter and last chapter. There are all the words and phrases and sentences in between, sometimes beautiful and sometimes sorrowful, and we can choose to live them or skim over them. We can boldly add more exclamation points, or resign to suffer more footnotes.
There will undoubtedly be days that we just skim by. And that’s okay. Neither of us is perfect. But I pray we will live every syllable with the freedom we have been given.
April 4, 1968, changed history forever. It was no longer the life of a man, but the legacy he left behind. A woman lost her husband, four children lost their father, and the world lost one of the greatest leaders it had ever known.
Martin Luther King Jr. is a personal hero of mine, so I always take a moment to remember and honor him in my own way. For the last few years that’s meant listening to his “I Have A Dream” speech on YouTube.
If you have 15 minutes, I’d encourage you to listen to it again. It never fails to bring me to tears.
This year, though, I decided to listen to his “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech, the last one he gave. I’ve heard excerpts from it before, but as it’s about 45 minutes long I don’t know that I’ve heard the whole thing. Once again, I found him not only inspiring but somehow comforting.
I’ve always been drawn to the stories of Moses, Abraham Lincoln and MLK. Liberation and abolition were a part of my heart’s vocabulary before I truly understood what they meant. There was just something beautiful and righteous about helping others gain their freedom. I admired them for their actions, though I am saddened they were even necessary.
Personally, I still have a really hard time even processing the Civil Rights Movement. I am always baffled by the fact that it was in full swing only a decade or so before I was born. I just can’t fathom that life existed at all, but much less right before mine began. How was/is that kind of hate tolerated? Where does it come from? Why is it encouraged? I have sat and thought and shed tears wondering what I would do if I were in any of their situations. I have prayed with every fiber of my being that I am the kind of person would have fought for those people. It would have been ugly. It would have been hard. It would have been painful, mentally, spiritually, and quite possibly physically. But it would’ve been the right thing to do.
I can’t remember where, possibly in David Batstone’s book, Not For Sale, but someone spoke about the 27 million slaves in the world today, and then asked a question like, “When your children asked what you did to help them, what will you say?” I sat with that for a while, and then I smiled. I finally had the answer to the question that I wondered in my heart for so long. I now know that I am a part of the solution. I know that I wouldn’t, that I couldn’t, ignore it. I would never knowingly be part of the problem, but it would be easy enough to sit back and let someone else take charge. Except that, for me, I can’t. God has built it into me. Ignoring it or doing nothing wouldn’t be easy. It would eat at me until I acted on it because it’s part of my God-given design. I am, and always have been, an abolitionist. And now is my chance to prove it.
Today, listening to MLK’s speech, I feel I identified with him more than ever before. And while there are probably a hundred lessons to learn, I will share with you four that meant something in particular to me right now with where I’m at in life. If you’ve got 45 minutes, below is the speech in it’s entirety. It’s pretty remarkable. Or you can read it here.
1. IF YOU HEAR THE TRUTH, PREACH IT. For me, this means telling others about modern-day slavery. It is a message God has put within me to share. Yes, others can and will do it. But I won’t let them do it without me. It is “a kind of fire shut up in my bones.”
In his speech he said, “We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, ‘When God speaks who can but prophesy?’ Again with Amos, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Somehow the preach must say with Jesus, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me. And he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”
Amos 7:14-15, “But Amos replied, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to my people in Israel.’”
2. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS. This lesson is very timely because my friends and I at Not For Sale Georgia released a Purchase With Purpose guide this fall. It’s filled with 250+ companies that care about social responsibility and are striving to ensure that their supply chain is slave free. I want to buy better, and I want to teach others to do the same.
In his speech he said, “Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with the white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget collectively—that means all of us together—collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine… That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.
We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country and say, ‘God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask that you make them the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you’re not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”
3. BECOME DANGEROUSLY UNSELFISH. I, by nature, am selfish. But I want to change that. It’s part of the reason I’ve chosen my theme for the year as SIMPLIFY. I know once I personally have less, I’ll be able to give more. Like many of my friends who have been on mission trips and humanitarian trips, I have had the privilege to spend time with some people who have very little. As you’ve probably heard others say, they are almost always quite happy, and they eagerly share what little they have with you. How many middle to upper class Americans does that accurately describe? I’m guessing the Rx tablets at the doctor’s offices would say very few. If I don’t care as much about my “stuff,” then I won’t care as much about having less or sharing it. Hmmm, I’m pretty sure there’s a Beattitude in there somewhere.
In his speech he said, “Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school—be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together. Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” He then goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-27, following with, “And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question, ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
4. I, TOO, HAVE GLIMPSED THE PROMISED LAND. I believe when MLK made this statement he simply meant that he had seen the capacity for what’s good, and what’s right. And he saw that change was on they way. I, too, am privileged to see that on a regular basis. More and more people are becoming aware that slavery is not an issue of the past, but one that continues to the present. It is no longer conversations of one or two people, but thousands. Event audiences are growing, people are asking questions, and moreover, they are asking what they can do. A motto of Not For Sale is to end slavery in this lifetime. I know some days, that seems an insurmountable task when you hear the number 27 million, or the heartbreaking story of a child sold into that life, or the number of Johns (perpetrators) even in your own community. And then, there are those glimpses of the Promised Land when you hear the story of a rescue, the birth of a new survivor. I do not know if slavery will end in my lifetime. I hope so. I pray so. I just know I have to get in there and be part of the fight.
In his speech he said, after describing the bomb threat to his plane, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
This speech took place April 3, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated the next day. When I finally sit and have a conversation with MLK in Heaven, which is on my list, I won’t ask if he’d do it all again. I know without a doubt he would. After all, he’d been to the mountaintop. Who would want to come down from that? He did what God put inside him to do. There is no regret in that. I know there are moments he would like to have seen, like his children growing up, growing old with his wife, and hanging out with friends. But he fulfilled his mission. He did what he existed for. How amazing is that! I want that!
Today is a special day.We don’t just honor a life. We continue his legacy.
Why do I fight the battle of an abolitionist? I do it because my heroes did it. I do it because my God specifically designed me for it. I do it because I can. I do it because I must. I do it because in the midst of the darkness, there are glimpses of the Promised Land. And they make it worth the fight.
2 Kings 6:16-17, “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”
27 million. It’s a lot. But there are more on our side than on theirs. God, whether you open my eyes to see it or not, I know you and your armies are there. I have faith.
I am not just living a life. I am continuing God’s legacy, just as Martin Luther King Jr did. Whether my name is celebrated by only one, or one million, I fight.
I heard a sermon last week proposing that each of our lives were the 67th book of the Bible. These were the books that almost anyone would be willing to read whether they knew Christ or not. He went on to say that we have had to result to shiny marketing and clever slogans because our lives weren’t transforming or interesting enough to tell about Jesus o their own. No one was attracted simply to our lives. This was a sad statement, not just because of the words but the truth behind it. (I wish I could remember who said it but I heard a lot of sermons last week!)
Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by John Eldredge. I love that man because he speaks in movie metaphors, the language of my heart. He said something to the effect that we have reduced Christianity to tips and tidbits, do’s and don’ts. The heart is gone. The passion is dead. What happened to the people who would tear back roofs to be near Him and His power? He continued to say that John 10:10 doesn’t say that He came to give us more to do, but to give us an abundant life. We have stopped truly living, and what appeal is there in that for people who don’t know Jesus? Where is the adventure and attraction of our Christian lives? I have to admit, sometimes I wonder how interesting it would look to me if I hadn’t grown up in it.
This has been a lot to chew on over the past couple of days. Honestly, it’s kinda been rolling around in my head. I have always used my life as a default witness technique. It was always safer and easier. But have I been wasting my time? Did I just prove my own point? Do I look any different than any other Average Joe walking down the street? If not, what is the first step to improvement? If so, how can I be sure?
I’m supposed to be made in God’s image. Therefore, my life should reflect His goodness, His grace, His love, His adventure. Ironic that we strive for comfort, and yet He is anything but comfortable. We yearn for adventure, but most of us are only okay with it when it’s portrayed on screen. What kind of message are we sending?
Guess I have some editing to do in my own life. I don’t like to read. I really have to force myself to do it. But maybe that’s exactly what I need to keep in mind. I need to attempt to be a book even I would read. Yikes.