February 2014 archive

The Power of LIKE

(******I apologize to those who are on my subscribe list. I accidentally hit publish Tuesday instead of save so you all got a partially written confusing post. My bad!*******)

Lately I am starting to see my future middle-aged self seep into my current life in the form of ginger ale, salt and vinegar chips, puzzles and of course, watching documentaries. You don’t get this cool, this early, without trying! (finger gun, finger gun, blows imaginary air. Oh yeah!) You can imagine how my attention was peeked when I saw mention of an interesting documentary that aired on PBS recently. The documentary is called “Generation Like“.

The synopsis reads “Thanks to social media, teens are able to directly interact with their culture — celebrities, movies, brands — in ways never before possible. But is that real empowerment? Or do marketers hold the upper hand? In “Generation Like,” Douglas Rushkoff explores how the teen quest for identity has migrated to the web — and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with them.”

The documentary goes beyond just the marketing aspect of teens and social media. It also explores, in detail, the obsession of teens (and LET’S BE HONEST 20 and 30 somethings) have with being “liked”.

Liked as in the measurable little button you find on Facebook.

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He is kin to the “retweet” button on Twitter and fraternal twin to the “Like” button on Instagram just to name a few of the most popular social media options.

The show highlights the social and emotional power of having what you post or say be “liked”. So much so that is the driving force and currency of self esteem. Careful, methodical thought is placed on how things are phrased, what product, movie, TV show, song, clothes are endorsed, what photos are used to represent yourself, etc…. As the likes, comments and retweets start rolling in the emotional “high” is visibly seen and felt. Self esteem is bolstered, worth established, value is in tact, ticker tape falls…you did it….you are liked by the general public…(most of whom a user has no idea who they are). You have now earned the right to take up space in the world. TODAY. Just today. You have to do it all over again tomorrow.

I got to be honest.I made it through about half of it before I started to feel like I could vomit. I’m not kidding. The more I watched the sicker I felt in my stomach. I was torn between feeling guilt (rightfully so) and feeling sad and horrified for my children. I know I’m not selling you on this documentary but I think it needs to be watched. I’m sure I will revisit the second half soon but for now I am still digesting the reality of what I saw in the first half.

Let me try to unpack in front of you.

Guilt. I felt guilt because I know I am a part of Generation Like. I may be almost 38…but I am on social media in some form daily.

I peaced out Twitter a few years ago so that’s not my main vice. Facebook….I have to be honest. I am pretty selfish and self serving on it. I rarely click my home feed to read or look at other people’s lives. I find I can’t stomach it. I am APPALLED at what people post as status updates or questionable photos that assault me. INTIMATE glimpses or heck…full views…into their personal lives and marriages. People say AWFUL and hateful things about their spouses as they go through bitter divorces or break ups. Full fledge arguments over politics, religion, sports, policies. People can be ugly, mean, boastful, rude, crude, ignorant, showy, and BORED!!! Help me out Someecards.

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Now before you get all huffy and defensive about Facebook. I do see there are times, albeit VERY rarely, when FB is a good and noble thing. I have seen major calls to prayer on behalf of others suffering, sick or dying. I’ve seen money raised for amazing causes like adoption, medical bills, disaster relief, missions, etc. I love seeing people I care about get engaged, married, or that they had children. I mean if we are truly friends then I celebrate your life’s “high moments”. That is…IF I click my feed.

You want to know my honest use for FB? To sell items in my house to help de-clutter and generate cash, help sell our home when we move, let people know on the rare occasion I blog, or when we have needed serious prayer coverage for family and to put up pictures of my children because my parents don’t live local. That’s it. I admit it. I am a giant user of FB. It isn’t that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t care about 95% of what I read or see on FB therefore I can’t click the newsfeed and get sucked into the voyeurism that is packaged as “status updates” and “albums”.

My social media affection belongs to Instagram. Yeah…I’m a “grammer”. I gram. You gram? Out of all the social media outlets this one “feels” the most intimate and succinct. I truly love instagram it feels more like a little community. Facebook, TO ME, seems to be this bizarre collective of people from my past and present that I have ZERO relationship with or much in common. I could probably shave off 90% of my “friends” and they would never know. Beside the initial friend acceptance where you quickly scour their page for photos and do the “size up”. Have I aged better? Oh they are divorced already. Wow, five kids…that’s crazy! I’ve never once revisited. It’s just true and probably sounds horrible. I’m just being honest people!

You are probably saying (with a little bit of a snarky tone if you are protective of FB) “Then why don’t you close your account Kelly? Or unfriend those people?” Touche! I’ve begun my shave down process actually. As much as I’d like to close it down 100% the 10% of the people that are my true friends and real community…well I DO want to read their thoughts and see their pictures. I want my parents to see their grandkids growing up. As much as I’d like to fight it….MANY people use the “group” option to plan events that I would otherwise not hear about. It seems to be a necessary item in my life but one I need to do a major overhaul on.

My last statement on guilt is that I understand the power of LIKE. I might not be 15 but I do CAREFULLY select what photos I am willing to use to represent me to the general public. I want to die a thousand deaths when someone tags me in a photo and I’m sitting with horrible posture or my saddlebags are in full effect, or my recessed chin is kicking. How dare ANYONE in cyber world know I have flaws. Say it isn’t so.

I know that I too, usually subconsciously, but sometimes fully aware am calculating the “likeability” of what I have said or posted. I feel inflated or deflated at the response or lack of response generated. I start to question my taste, my thoughts, my physical appearance. REALLY???? I let, often times strangers determine my worth!! I’m still learning I need to always keep my motives in check.

The fact is I am abundantly blessed with “like”. I have a husband that ADORES me, children that love on me even when I am fully RAW with coffee breath, stinky body, greasy hair, mismatched clothes…man they just love me. I am surrounded by some of the best darn girlfriends on the planet. My “sisters”, my Hur’s and Aaron’s. I AM LOVED. Beyond those physical people in my life I have a Heavenly Father that calls me “Princess”, “Daughter of the Most High”, “Heir”, “Friend”. I am unconditionally loved. I have all of that security and eternal security around me and yet at times I can get caught up in wanting more currency of “likes”.

Finally I feel sad and horrified by the documentary.

My knee jerk watching was to have a good ole fashion technology burning in my back yard and move my family to a remote island. Yeah…that will solve it. TECHNOLOGY = BAD, EVIL, THE DEVIL. I may be a little extreme in my initial emotions. I’m thankful for my steady eddy husband. I think the mama bear in me was coming out. As I watched this table full of teens help one another find the perfect Facebook profile and discuss the drive for “likes” I got so sad that one day my children could possibly sit around with their friends and try to concoct a way to be “liked” by others. That they would not know and truly believe that their worth is found in Christ alone. These kids spend HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS a day on the computer on social media, stalking celebrities, being on fan pages, playing games, and God knows what else in private etc….

They are sick and dying a slow heart and mind death. We parents are all standing around with life jackets, buoys, and rafts but not throwing it out to them. “What can we do?” we say? We hang our heads and throw up our arms in defeat. “It’s just the way it is right?”. I mean the line in the documentary that stabbed me in the gut was, “Technology isn’t going away, it’s here to stay.” I already know this but somehow the potency of that reality suffocated me. It’s probably because my kids are getting older and the reality of social media, cell phones, laptops will all be on the table for discussion before I know it. Chloe actually said to us the other day “When I am nine I’m going to get a cell phone.” Cue my head shaking furiously back and forth and then exploding like a femnebot on Austin Powers. “Yeah, sure be happy to get you a phone, you want a Mac too?” SAID NO GOOD MOM, EVER!!! This led to an important discussion though. Where did she even get the idea that a kid could have a cell phone? That devil school I’m sure (I’m being sarcastic here)

How does a Christian parent find the line with this? It is unrealistic to expect to shelter our children 100% from technology. I mean my three year old was unlocking and flipping his way around my iphone when he was two. He tries to drag his finger across the TV assuming it must be touch screen as well. Reality….he probably will only know a touch screen world. My reality…I have a dirty TV screen.

So I can sit here with my thumbs in my ear shaking my head back and forth saying “lalalalalalalalala” but it doesn’t make it stop. There is also a bigger picture and a more disturbing reality than what age a kid should have a phone or laptop. It’s the fall out from technology that makes me hold my kids tighter. That is fueling the decisions we are making for our family right now.

Chew on this FB and Twitter lovers. Really if you click on the link there are TONS more “facts” if you can stomach it.

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I’ve only shown you one chart. Search “technology addiction” and you won’t leave your computer for days from news reports, to psychological reviews, stats, articles, videos. This is an addiction of epidemic proportion and growing. You have to get your head in the game parents, pastors, 20,30 and 40 somethings. What will you do about this? What part do you play in this.

The greatest victim in the wake of technology addiction is REAL LIVE RELATIONSHIPS and COMMUNICATION SKILLS. We are raising a generation of children unable to communicate to a human face to face. They can not articulate feelings, offer comfort or sound advice, understand the longevity and work that relationships take, the art of forgiveness and grace. Our children are so severely relationally crippled. The very essence of what makes a relationship work: commitment and communication has been sacrificed on the alter of technology. What tragedy.

I have two WONDERFUL women in my life that I call my “pure friends”. They have never tweeted, they don’t Facebook, “gram” or “pin”. They only recently, in the last couple years, learned how to text. You know what they do instead. Wait for it, wait for it…the pick up the phone and CALL ME to see how I am doing and then wait for it…wait for it…they LISTEN to what my words are. The intentionality of their friendship is so incredibly refreshing that I almost forget what it’s like to have such a stripped down, technology free friendship. They remind me that it is very possible to not engage all the technology options and social media outlets but instead focus on loving and investing in people directly. What a revolutionary idea. I am so BLESSED because of their deep and abiding friendships in my life. I honestly think that is why I LOVE traveling to third world countries. You can’t use any technology and people TALK all day to one another….like face to face. Not facebook to facebook. ZING!

I do not want my children to be emotional and relational lepers. We honestly don’t have that much technology in our house and are probably some of the rarer Americans that have a tiny TV. We don’t have cable, our kids can’t use our phones, TV or computer without us. But…that’s not enough just having limited options.

We want to teach our kids how to be listeners, how to be compassionate, how to use their resources and supplies to bless others. We want them to be kingdom minded which comes in the form of service, putting others first. That’s why we have small group out of our home. We want to model it first before we ask it of them. Our front door is a revolving door of people all week. We are so close to the age of taking our older two on a mission trip where we feel they could actually be a part of the work at hand. I seriously can’t wait to get them out of the country and show them how big our God is, how beautiful people are, how great the need for them to rise up and take hold of their giftings and start serving is. I long for my children to get “it”. When we KNOW who we are in Christ then we won’t have a head on a swivel turning to the left and the right as Psalms says…our children will be looking straight ahead. If they get kingdom vision early enough then the false lover of technology and the addition of getting “liked” by strangers will look foolish, false, a waste of time, laughable. I feel the answer is in showing our kids “a better way”.

Know that my heart and tone of this post is not accusatory. I’m not over here shining up my halo. We aren’t doing it all right, our kids aren’t perfect little human beings following in our perfect parenting footsteps. If my toddler gets ornery at the grocery store you better believe I shove my iphone in his face for 15 mins so I can finish up and hightail it out of there. If we have adults over that are opening up their huearts to us and our kids are being loud crack heads in the other room then YEAH…we put a movie on and shove popcorn down their throats. We are learning to incorporate and balance technology. We are arming ourselves for the battle ahead for our kids. I feel the answer is simple. Use technology as Jesus would use technology. Would Jesus whip his phone out while you are sharing your heart in front of him and check FB, or tweet about the awesome meal he is having or stop your conversation and take a quick photo for Instagram? Not even close. I’ve been guilty of all of the above. I miss those moments to fully engage all the time. I’m aware of it and I am in battle stance for myself and my children. I hope I can boldly say to them “Do as I do kids” and not shamefully say “Do as I say, not as I do.”

How about you? What do you think about the technology addiction epidemic? How are you actively combating it personally and in your home? Id love to hear thoughts or suggestions!

The Upside Down Kingdom~ The Trilogy is Complete

If Peter Jackson can milk “The Hobbit” into three parts consider my pail almost full.

When I start writing I have a general idea of what I want to say, but until I actually get started and uncork my brain I don’t realize how much is bottled up inside me. Aren’t you thrilled for me to pop a cork on some more topics? I’m so very sure you are.

The message of God’s upside down kingdom is so life changing that I have a hard time not going on and on. It is the cornerstone of my theology and really the lens in which I see the meaning of this life and especially relationships. We have all been given charge of our own little kingdoms. My kingdom is called “Kelly” and in my kingdom things are extremely ordered, calm, quiet, everything has a place, everyone around me is like minded and witty, my world is esthetically pleasing, and I decide the order of my day.

But…

I birthed three kingdom Kelly destructors. Their unbridled kingdoms continually bump into and threaten to destroy my kingdom almost on a minute to minute basis. I have to tell myself each day that they don’t wake up setting out to thwart my kingdom, even though it feels that way. Alas, they seem to be armed with tiny little needles that continually poke holes into my air tank and slowly deplete me of all defenses. I’m fairly convinced they actually put together a plan of attack every morning around 6:15am. Now if I were managing my kingdom as God would run my kingdom of “Kelly” then I would counter these attacks and assaults with a mature, gracious, calm, loving and positive response. That is the goal each day…respond as Jesus would. Sometimes I am in the spirit, but truth be told 9 out of 10 times I seem to respond like a numb nut. 100% reactive. So I fail and try and fail and try and slowly I gain ground. I am not without hope. I’ve seen progress in me, be it ever so slowly.

Every day we encounter countless other kingdoms. The person driving 10 below the speed limit, the coffee barista that gets our order wrong. Let’s be honest. NOBODY gets my coffee wrong in my kingdom. The slow check out clerk. In my kingdom I get the shortest line, the most cash register savvy associate and heck, I even get an unexpected discount on something. But as we all know the reality is you tend to get the person in front of you that needs a price check or the “trainee” cashier that is beyond flustered or my favorite, the super chatty cashier that’s in NO hurry and hell bent on being your new BFF. Our patience and grace begins to get tiny little air holes. Tssssssssssssssssss……..the air hisses forth. Sure, we put on a nice fake smile the first time the cashier nervously glances at us or we humor the chatty cashiers first couple of personal questions… I mean, we are a Christians, and isn’t that what we do? Bless us! No, bless you! (wink and a nod)

Eventually, we shuffle our weight back and forth, maybe add a subtle sigh or make a show of looking at our watch. Passive aggressive is a much more noble road to take. We subconsciously set a magical time limit on our outer patience. Our kingdom can only take so many assaults, only so much air can be lost before we retaliate. I mean didn’t you know I only planned seven minutes for this quick milk and bread run? Don’t you know that I don’t care that you bought these same razors with a coupon last week when they were on sale? Don’t you know that you are taking precious time from my kingdom agenda? Don’t you know??? How we grossly misread people. How little grace and time we are willing to invest in others when we’ve set a different agenda.

True confession. I try to get up five times a week at 6:00 am to have a quiet time. (blows hot puff of air on the back of finger nails and rubs on shirt) Now, don’t be too impressed, it only took me 35 years before I committed to a regular quiet time. Remember my three little kingdom wreckers? We will protect their identities and call them “Shmoe, Kennett, and Zhett” so nobody will know who I am referring to. Well ever since we moved “Zhett” into a big boy bed and out of the crib he has turned our mornings upside down. He’s popped my little morning bubble and gotten the other two in on his scheme. He looks so irresistibly sweet right? Don’t let those giant eyeballs fool you. He’s a professional kingdom wrecker.

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Imagine me curled up in my favorite chair, white fuzzy blanket draped over my lap, sipping amazingly strong coffee in my favorite mug, the “Word” open. I’m in the zone. Above me I hear all the signs of “awakeness”. The noise machine goes off, little feet start milling around and sooner, rather than later, the first argument of the morning begins. God help us for the emotional, don’t back down boys we’ve been given. They love hard and fight hard and nary in the middle.

I calmly but firmly shout up the first warning from my chair. “Guys, find something to play with and don’t fight.” (we have a rule that no kids can come downstairs before 7:00am, we are tyrants, we know) Some mornings we might get another 10-15 mins before the next fight. Mostly, they seem to wake up with both fists in the air having their own kingdom clashes. In “Kennett’s” kingdom he should be able to wake up and play Legos in bed for awhile without a pesky little brother ruining EVERYTHING!!! Yeah Kennett, do me a solid and maybe your brother will do one for you!

Next thing I know I have read the same verse 10 times because Im getting drawn into their arguments. My blood pressure is pulsing through my temples at a rapid rate and now I am full fledged screaming from my “spiritual chair” all sorts of crazy threats and punishments while trying to separate fights from a floor away. The sleeves roll up, I slap the Bible down and stomp louder than I need to go upstairs and start regulating.

“MOMMY IS TRYING TO SPEND TIME WITH JESUS!!!!!!!”

I’m probably scarring them for life. They can tell their therapist some day how every time their mommy read her Bible she got angry. Oh man, sad but true. So, a little glance into our “perfect” family. A kingdom reaction fail on my part. I know this is a phase with the kids getting up so early and I’m sure in a blinks time we will be dragging them out of bed and yelling at them for sleeping too late but for now….we are struggling people and they have us bested most of the time. I will say, the other morning alternative is them all lined up on the staircase with their faces poking through the rungs staring at us all horror movie creepy like. It’s alarming to be silently stared at while you read the Bible.

Where am I going with this? Good question. This is the “wrap up” post, right? I am going to put this topic to rest today. I talked about Spiritual disciplines and how those brought me and continue to bring me into a much deeper and richer relationship with Jesus. They also laid the foundation for me to understand Christ’s greatest message of the kingdom and how it is here and NOW and we choose to live it out or not. We can stagnate each day depending on if we decide to hold the reigns of our life, or hand them to Jesus. Through His transforming power we are able to continue to move forward and mature in the kingdom, love others more than ourselves and take ordinary opportunities and turn them into extraordinary moments. Life in the kingdom is so good, but beware….it will change you. I talked about missions, and in particular Mexico and Cuirim House. It is such a perfect picture of how simple it is to live like Christ. To love the unlovely, the marginalized, the invisible of the world. At first all you’re thinking is “Look what I will do for you” but what you don’t see, because it’s so sneaky, is that YOU are the one that gets changed and blessed. You are the one transforming through this process of loving others more.

The men and the women I was blessed to rub shoulders with over my week in Mexico left me awestruck. I know people get all enamored with celebrities and athletes. They study them and look up to them and for the life of me I don’t know why. They aren’t “heroes” like I would define a hero worth emulating. Let me show you some giants of the faith.

They serve and serve and serve and serve some more, for the joy set before them. I was so blessed to spend a few days of my life ministering along side of them.

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This is the kids cafe.
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Oscar and Ana's church

Oscar and Ana’s church

Finally this is Carlos. I want to write a whole post on him, his story. He deserves a book about his life. He has overcome alcoholism, their family was homeless, and about 18 months ago they buried their only son, David, who died of cancer at age seven. This family has known the bondage of addiction, the fear of homelessness and unemployment, the joy of coming to Christ and the devastating loss of a child. They so fiercely cling to Christ regardless of circumstances. They claim God’s goodness and are dedicated to serving the unlovely of the world. They do this with JOY in their hearts. Their three daughters are passionate followers of Jesus. Carlos is HILARIOUS!! Seriously, if you are funny, you have my heart. Cuirim wouldn’t be the same without Carlos and his family.
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On our final night at Cuirim a “restaurant” was set up in the upper chapel to serve Brian and Kirsten, Oscar and Ana, and Celiaa and Carlos. A formal dinner. Afterwards our team prayed over them individually. Finally, Carlos brought the thunder with his prayer. It was powerful and extremely emotional. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but there is no mistaking passion, conviction and urgency. The wives of these men were weeping. This is one of those moments in my life I will never be able to recreate and I do not know why the Lord allowed me the privilege. It is a frozen moment of awe to be singing “Be Thou My vision” in a Celtic Monastic chapel in the center of a slum, while laying hands on the matriarchs and patriarchs of the gospel of Nogales. My hand is on the shoulder of a hero.

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I just attended the “IF GATHERING“. It was so incredible and encouraging. There were approximately 12 speakers. One of my favorites was Jen Hatmaker. She spoke about the transforming power of “mercy” when you open your life up to extending mercy. She also ended with this simple but perfect illustration. We’ve all been given an instrument to play in this life. Mine is different from yours, yours from mine. It’s made up of our gifts, talents, passions, burdens, life story, spheres of influence, unique family compositions and calling God has put on us. You DO have a calling and a ministry whether you have a “title” attached to it or not. Nobody is exempt from service in God’s kingdom. She called these our “instruments”. If you play your note and I play mine, and she plays hers, and he plays his, and on and on we play our notes…we will make up the song of the kingdom. We will be the ones changing the world together in our Judea’s, Samaria’s and beyond…. BUT YOU HAVE TO PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT. Too many of us live in fear, bondage, uncertainty. We clutch our instruments with an iron clad grip, we don’t eve attempt to even puff a feeble breath of air into it. We live life seemingly “safe” and controlled, yet sadder in complete selfishness. I’m learning to blow harder into my instrument, to make my note storm the gates of heaven for the lives of those around me. Will you play with me? Will you play your note next to mine? Will you manage your kingdom like Jesus would and love others more? Are you willing to live differently?

The Upside Down Kingdom- Part Two

Hey you’re back! Great!!! It’s me, the one trying desperately to be succinct in her writing. I mean the topic on the table is THE KINGDOM OF GOD. If Dallas Willard needs 288 pages in his book to explain it I may be justified in having monster posts. Even then, I am just hitting the high points.

We are talking about Christ’s greatest message preached in his three years of active ministry. Parable after parable, sermon after sermon, proclamation after proclamation “The kingdom of God is like this….”. He talked about the kingdom of God being here…like now…not 2000 years from now…but NOW. With him and through him we have the ability to live in reality of the kingdom of God. It is available through relationship with Jesus regardless of your circumstances. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN or better yet does it mean what I think it means???

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Seriously, I am no theologian. People start using big $5.00 words and my eyes glaze over and carnival music plays in my ears. I’m not dumb but my brain does not compute a lot of what I hear explained and debated. I’m highly visual and kinesthetic. My faith has always been rooted in my experiences. I KNOW them to be true and real and unshakable but I’m pretty sure Peter meant what he said in I Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” I had the revering down, not so much the giving an answer part. And so I continue to muddle through my learning on how to articulate kingdom living.

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The prevailing thought of Jesus’s day (and really nothing has changed much) is that those that had wealth, power, beauty, health….well those people were obviously “blessed” and God’s favor rested on them. They had the finger on the pulse of God and he lavished them with good and abundant blessing because of it. The thing with Jesus and his upside down kingdom is when he stepped into the Synagogue or stood on a mountainside the proverbial record scratched. In one of his most famous messages, more commonly known as The Beatitudes or Sermon on the Mount, he drops an atomic bomb on the status quo of that day. (Matthew 5)

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

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“There is no human situation that excludes one from being blessed in Jesus. The world and its evaluation of who wins and who loses will not have the final say. In Jesus, God has the last word. These pronouncements of grace. announce that:
those who have little or no hope,
those who appear to have little to offer to the world,
those who are on the fringes of society (and religious society in particular),
those who live in ways that the world considers weak, unproductive, and unsuccessful,
those who are considered the “losers”
God’s blessings may be yours in Jesus! No human condition, no matter how hopeless it may appear, no matter how despised by the world, no matter how “unsuccessful” or insignificant others may deem it, disqualifies anyone from God’s grace in Christ. Those who follow Jesus may participate in that new creation reality now, no matter what their present condition. God’s grace is available to all. All are welcome. All may come. The blessings are here for you in Jesus.
The only thing that transforms us spiritually is the action of following Christ. You seek to follow, you fail and you learn. But in order to engage in following, you have to have a clear understanding of life in the kingdom of God; that you are accepted by the grace of God in Jesus and that lays the foundation for as much true doctrine as you can manage and as much manifestation of the Spirit as you can stand.”

THAT is the kingdom message. That is the reality we can live out of. THAT is the welcome mat to our freedom.

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Now I may be showing images from our Mexico trip last summer but these words ring true not just for those obvious suffers of our world, the invisible and the marginalized. Christ came to FREE THE CAPTIVES, that excludes no one.

That’s you, the one that’s addicted, the one with the secret wound that paralyzes them in fear and unforgiveness, you who are wealthy and deeply unsatisfied, you who are starving yourself or purging food in a desperate attempt to control or be thin, you who are SO busy you stay in a constant state of numbness to your pain, you who are sipping your $4.00 coffee judging everyone in the coffee shop, you…you who are despairing about your future, agonizing about your past, you are racked with jealous, pain, and emptiness. You who are tired and the thought that nobody knows your pain is crushing and defeating you. The kingdom of God is here, it is available. This is good news. This was my good news many years ago. It’s still my good news as I break free from other areas of bondage.

For so long because of the types of churches I grew up in and the university I attended, by no fault of their own I promise you, I understood the words of “service” and “ministry” to define only those that were up front leading, in charge of things or perhaps overseas as a missionary. THOSE are the people in ministry, serving in the kingdom. The rest of us…well we are NOT doing ministry. We are helpers of sorts to those doing the real thing. It kept me in a very “us and them” place in the body of Christ. I kept thinking that until someone would slap a title on to what I was doing and it had a clear classification endorsed by a church or organization. I wasn’t doing ministry in the kingdom. How sad for me. How I missed it.

So living in the reality of the kingdom means that when we begin our relationship with Jesus we allow him to rule and reign in our life. This is the process that allows us to make changes that conform us into his image in thought, action and deed. He taught us how to live this new life by the way he lived His life on earth. The expectation is that we would do these things because that’s how we become more like Christ. Well that makes living in the kingdom very simple. Do the things that Jesus did because Christ dwells in you and has giving you the power to accomplish these things and knowledge of how to do them. Do we all agree that Christ lived by one rule and one rule only. Love others more. LOVE them. JUST STINKING LOVE THEM! This is not rocket science. This is not hard. It just takes you setting aside YOU.

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“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

This is why Ryan and I went back to Cuirim House in Nogales, Mexico along with part of our small group. This post would be a novel if I took the time to explain what Cuirum House is and the BRILLIANCE of Brian and Kirsten Donohue to start this ministry in the slums of Nogales, Mexico. Cuirim is gaelic for “incarnation”. This is a VERY incarnational ministry. Brian is one the the first true mentors in my life since 1995. His life message to everyone who comes to work at Cuirim and to the people of Nogales is the kingdom message of Christ. They LIVE it out every single day in the most basic and simple acts of love and giving. Cuirim is a tiny plot of land in the hillsides of Nogales in the forgotten slums where squatters come to try and stay alive and usually never leave. Cuirim is a beacon of light on the hill.

Brian and Kirsten Donohue singing together before chapel at Cuirim House

Brian and Kirsten Donohue singing together before chapel at Cuirim House

I can sit here and tell you what all the Americans did when they came to poor, 3rd world Mexico. We did do those simple kingdom acts that Jesus says “do in MY name.” Part of me can get snarky because I’m protective of this ministry. I don’t want it to come across like “look at these noble acts us Americans did for one week of our life.” I also don’t want to take away from the fact that the BEAUTY of Cuirim is that you see how BARE BONES kingdom work is and how insanely impactful it can be. WE did help multiply the efforts of Cuirim while we were there but as much as we gave the receiving was ten fold.

We fed the hungry.

Kids Cafe feeding over 100 kids EVERY day and sharing the gospel.

Kids Cafe feeding over 100 kids EVERY day and sharing the good news of the kingdom.

We played with children who are barely looked at and touched let alone played with. The abuse level is astounding in the slums. Unemployment and alcoholism rule the households there. The kids are left to wander the streets most days, many of them put in charge of tiny babies.

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Kids Cafe

Kids Cafe

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We had the honor of helping one family dignify their home by coming and painting the interior and exterior of their three bedroom shack. Don’t ever call yourself “poor” because you can’t go to full priced movies or eat out every weekend. You don’t know poor. If you are reading this entry on a computer or smart phone. You aren’t poor. You just aren’t. This woman, Charo, allowed us to come in her home, move her precious belongings and paint. WHAT BLESSED ME TO THE POINT OF TEARS is when I looked outside and saw her sitting there fanning her newborn reading her Bible out loud to him. Periodically, she would look up and flash us a huge smile and say “gracias”. Thanking me? Oh no, this was my blessing. Her kitchen is an “after” shot. We were told that the blessing of having a home that is painted on the inside is so they can spot scorpions and centipedes so they won’t get stung. It’s just scrap wood and plywood houses but some how that fresh paint made it look pretty. You could see her joy and pride about her home. Just took a few of us a few hours.

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Charo's house

Charo’s house

One of my favorite things that Ryan and I got to do was offer a simple gift. A portrait. We have been praying about how we can use our photography for more eternal purposes and not for profit. You never realize what a luxury a photo can be. Everyone seems to have smart phones or digital cameras at their disposal and pop off more photos than you could ever begin to use. A photo is a record or time. Many of these families left all their belongings and traveled to the border to try and cross and never made it. They have no images of their children, nothing to pass on, no record of time or place. It was too simple not to do it.

Ryan took our Instax to the Kids Cafe one day to take polaroids of the kids. You would have thought we gave them a sack of gold. They were going crazy when they realized this white rectangle we handed them turned into an image of them within 60 seconds. It was precious. I only wish we had thousands of rolls of film to shoot.

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We also began wandering around with a translator door to door to see if anyone would want a family photo. People were leery at first but over a few days we started to see them come around and agree to let us photograph them. One family held up their finger for us to wait while one of the men ran into the house and out he came carrying the matriarch of the family. They told us she was 100 years old. WHAT AN HONOR to photograph her and her family. Multiple generations together.

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I can hardly stand to look at this next image Ryan grabbed because it makes me well up. The joy when people see their picture on the back of the screen. She told her best friend after she saw this image “Girl we look good!” How sweet is that?

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That was not a sacrifice and therefore we want no kudos. It was a super easy and obvious way we could be a blessing and give something from the resources we have been given.

GOD BLESS you if you are still reading. Would you believe it if I were to say there is a Part 3? Well there is. I know, I know…put a sock in it Kelly but I just can’t. I need to bring this back around and that will happen next.

The Upside Down Kingdom- Part One

I watched my brother’s roommate, BJ, zip up a backpack stuffed with a water bottle, snack, bible and a few other little things. “Where you going?”

“Just driving out to the parkway to spend the afternoon in solitude and hike.”

“Really? By yourself? How come?” says 22-year old me. The Kelly that couldn’t stand to be alone in thought for more than a millisecond.

“To spend time with Jesus, be in nature, slow down for a little bit, pray, get some exercise, hear from the Lord. You should do it Kelly. It’s so good.” Off he went and there I sat.

GO ALONE…..TO THE WOODS….FOR SOLITUDE??? A dueling battle between fear of aloneness and yet a strong desire to understand solitude began to rage inside me. Can fear and curiosity coexist together? They seem to be at odds.

I don’t think BJ will ever know that he was the one….the one that gave the final shove to the boulder of Kelly that had been sitting on a spiritual plateau. A safe, perfectly manicured, legalistic, narrow minded, swiss cheese theology little cliff. He pushed my rock off and started it rolling in a direction I could never have imagined.

I went to a pretty famous Christian (read Baptist) University back in the mid/late 90’s. Maybe you’ve witnessed my awesome profile and my adorable third born on one of their commercials.

Oh yes…that’s me picking up Rhett from the crib and playing peekaboo at the end. We’re adorable. Also my beautiful sister-in-law is the lady on the couch with the laptop. Our five minutes of fame was a family thang! Seriously, after all the filming they did that’s the part that made it. One of my major insecurities…my profile. It’s like Jesus made me accept it because it was playing on ESPN, FOX, Food Network and all sorts of networks daily. YOU WILL ACCEPT YOUR CHIN KELLY!!!!

Anyways, I’m not bagging on any denomination or my crescent moon profile in this post. The fact is I had heard the term “spiritual disciplines” somewhere along the lines of getting my religion degree but I had no idea what it meant and that it was an expected and GLORIOUS part of the believer’s life. I was SO missing out.

I’m incredibly thankful that starting my sophomore year of college I began attending a little church plant, about 7 years old at the time, called Grace Evangelical Free Church. It’s really where I got my spiritual sea legs. It’s also where I was introduced to authors like Dallas Willard. He is one of the most gifted men of our time on teaching “kingdom living”. Did you know the greatest and most often taught message of Christ in his three years of ministry was on the Kingdom of God? Did you know that it is here, available, and begins at salvation? We can live in the reality of heaven on earth by being disciples of Christ, by taking steps to live our lives as Jesus would if he were in our shoes. MIND BLOWN. This took me many years to truly understand what kingdom living really is but I can go back to certain tipping points in my life and nod my head up and down and say “YES…YES that’s when I started to move in the right direction in understanding.”

nogales, Mexico

Nogales, Mexico

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Solitude was one of the first disciplines I ever stepped out in a conscious manner and executed all because BJ said “Do it.” It wasn’t BJ though, it was Jesus readying my heart to go the next level with him. So I did it. I grabbed my backpack, (gotta look the part of an “outdoorsy” person after all) put snacks and drink, bible, journal, fun pen, camera and drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is before I had a cell phone (can you EVEN imagine??? The depravity) In all honesty I was terrified and if my mom had known I drove to the woods alone I would have probably been made to watch some horrible 48 Hours episode about girls being abducted. I’m not making light…these things happen but still… I was heading for a very public, park-like setting. Baby steps to solitude in the woods.

I made sure I was in screaming distance of the visitors center but I remember doing a little bushwhacking to get to a flat rock that overlooked the James River. It was a warm, sunny and gorgeous fall day. I carefully laid out my journal, bible, and pen (at perfect space intervals like a good OCD person would) and there I sat. I was waiting for my lightning bolt to strike. Maybe God needed a little more time to show up. I grabbed my disposable camera which happened to be a B&W roll because I was SUPER artistic and nothing says artistic like B&W. I’m embarrassed to say that I took a picture of my hand on the rock with the river in the background…hahaha. I’m dying laughing even writing about it because I probably thought it was so DEEP at the time. Eeesh…Kelly!

After my little photo shoot was done I sat on the rock and let myself finally just think. I honestly can’t remember what I started thinking about because this is literally 16-17 years ago….but I do remember just staring at the water below and my mind slowly started to clear and I began to journal. This was at a point in my life that I was struggling deeply with past wounds, in a very sinful relationship with a guy, had a paper thin theology on who God was and what life was about, was thoroughly confused on what I was doing now that I was a big, bad, college grad. The gentleness of the Lord is astounding to me. No matter where we are at, no matter how infantile our theology, our misunderstanding of His character, our poor choices and secret sins…God is there, meeting us where we are at, communicating, wanting to be found, standing like any parent does when their child is hurt…arms wide stretched with love and compassion in their eyes. My Abba, my heavenly Father…he was with me on that rock and he dipped his finger into my soul that day and like a paint can that’s settled and separated he began to stir me round and round. My no substance, no depth, no color paint can. God had plans for me, plans I could never dared dream of. Round and round I needed to go. A little light was ignited in me and I tasted and I saw, like Psalms 34 tells us, that the Lord is GOOD and I wanted more.

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I think I spent a few hours just sitting, praying, thinking, journaling, reading my Bible and then I got this WILD thought. I mean it was WILD because Kelly at 22 was packing some serious extra weight on herself. I was a good 40 lbs. overweight and I did not exercise. All of a sudden I wanted to run. RUN I SAY. I still don’t understand it myself. I don’t know where the stamina came from but I got up, put my back pack on and I started running down a trail, then another trail and another trail. Soon I was well in to the woods (sorry mom, it just happened), drinking in the colors of the leaves, exploring a cool little cave, another small stream, an old wooden bridge, on and on it went. I felt alive.

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Eph. 5:14

I wish I could say that that was the day I turned my life around but it wasn’t. In fact it was another six dark, heart-wrenching years before my true emancipation from sin and my past happened. What did start that day was me taking steps towards truth and light. Just one practice of a discipline led to me trying the next discipline. Regular scripture reading and memorization, worship…like REALLY worshipping (my hands were up baby!) tithing, fasting, etc… I wanted more of Jesus.

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My favorite area that God blew the doors open on was missions. I went on my first missions trip to the slums of Nogales, Mexico in July 1999 as a senior high youth leader. Everything changed, all bets were off on what I “thought” I wanted to do with my life after that trip. After I went to Mexico the next year was Kazakstan for a some total of about six months of my life. I also served on a short term team to North Cyprus and have since visited multiple other countries. I got the bug to go and serve out of the US and it was the greatest gift the Lord could have given me. The photos peppering this post are from a return trip back to Nogales, Mexico last summer with Ryan.

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Fun fact…did you know that the United States makes up just 4% of the world’s population? That means 96% of the world lives VERY differently than us in America. NINETY-SIX percent, people. Get out of your own way and realize that we are a minority. If you only experience God and church in the US then you are missing out. I learned more about the Lord from watching other people in 2nd and 3rd world countries abandon EVERYTHING for Jesus, than I ever could have learned in the wealthiest nation on earth; my country. God LOVES the world, He loves diversity, He loves hearing his name sung in every language. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. It has been my PRIVILEGE to hold hands with people from all over the world and listen to them sing from their toes worship songs to the Father. There are not enough words to describe that honor. It is my picture of heaven that I have tucked into my heart.

My sweet, sweet Anna. How we wept when we said goodbye. What a woman of God and faith!

My sweet, sweet Anna. How we wept when we said goodbye. What a woman of God and faith!

This post comes from a fire in my belly. It’s long…I’ve just resigned myself that all of my posts are going to be long. This topic of service in the kingdom is my greatest goal and passion while I live and breath on this earth. I’ve misunderstood it and overcomplicated it for far too long. Let me give you a little taste of Dallas Willard.

The enemy in our time is not human capacity, or over activism, but the enemy is passivity – the idea that God has done everything and you are essentially left to be a consumer of the grace of God and that the only thing you have to do is find out how to do that and do it regularly. I think this is a terrible mistake and accounts for the withdrawal of active Christians from so many areas of life where they should be present. We all know that Jesus said, (in John 15) ‘without me you can do nothing’. We need to add, ‘if you do nothing, it will be most assuredly without him.’

We are a glutinous people group. We are consumers and takers of “stuff” and this translates just as much to the church as it does to people, places and things. Our churches are full of metaphorically fat, unhappy, overly-critical, self-indulgent, pessimistic, lazy, takers. Am I being too harsh? I’m not trying to be, I’m really not. The most available statistic on church MEMBER giving is from 2011 where members give on average 2.3 of their annual income. Chew on that. Does that make you sad? It makes me sad.

To quote Ghandi. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

There is hope and it comes from living in God’s upside down Kingdom. This is for Part Two.

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