Friday, April 4, 2014

Mexico Mission Trip - Spring Break 2014!

My hubby and 14 year old daughter recently got back from a ten day mission trip to Tecate.  This is Savanna in front of the home they helped build:




The proud new owner is a woman with two daughters and three grandsons who has never had a home before.  She couldn't stop crying as she thanked God for her new home.  And when she was done, she made fish tacos for forty people!

video


Steve and Savanna were profoundly moved.  They really bonded with the people in the community they served, and Savanna is already talking about going back next year.


As for Cruz and I, we went the opposite direction - north, up to Bellevue, and spent a good long week with my sister and her family.  This is her precious baby daughter:

She was really taken up with her cousin.


We bonded over stories, strolls in the park, swinging, and shopping. I dare say we wore her out at the mall. And you better believe my sister had to tear me away from her when it was time to go.  



We had fun on our separate adventures, but I am happy to have the four Hawks back in one nest. I hope your spring break was full of God's richest blessings!

Amy


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Girl at the End of the World - a Story of Religious Abuse

Over spring break, I read this book:








Girl at the End of the World, by Elizabeth Esther,  is the tremendously riveting and emotional story of her childhood, and final escape, from a fundamentalist cult.  I couldn't put it down.  It is stunning, brave, and relevant for everyone in the church.  Although Elizabeth's story is extreme, religious control is ubiquitous.  Many of us have been hurt by it, and can identify on some level.  In Elizabeth's case, her grandfather (who started the church) used his authority to control and manipulate people, placing himself in a position where others were not permitted to question him. The congregation was instructed to behave, dress, think, and even raise their children in a certain way.  Non-compliance resulted in swift church discipline and/or ostracization, promoting an atmosphere of judgment and accusation instead of  grace, kindness, and freedom.

Early on in our journey, Steve and I experienced a similar phenomenon in a church where the lead pastor was having an affair, but had elevated himself to such a position of rule, that there was no one left in his life with permission to ask questions. We felt deceived, disheartened and betrayed. If God puts authority over us, as Romans 13.1 says, then why do so many get hurt? As I brought my questions to Christ, He taught me about the ways that the enemy gains control in the church, using truly anointed leaders who succumb to the devil's influence.  The Bible says that our fight is not with man, but with the powers of darkness.

The devil is primarily a legalistic, controlling, manipulating being.  He comes to steal our peace and joy in Christ and turn it into religious performance.  How can we tell if the powers of darkness are operating in our church, in the form of religious control?  Here are some signs:
While we are to honor those in positions of authority, we are not obligated to stay under leadership that is untrustworthy, or under which we feel controlled, oppressed, intimidated, or manipulated.  The fact is, Jesus came to set us free from religious control:  For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5.1) The Body of Christ is waking up to the damaging effects of religious control, and wanting no part of it.  In Elizabeth's case, when she began to realize the effects that domineering legalism would have on her baby daughter, she gained the courage to flee. Parents, are your children in a safe place to learn about the real Christ?  The Christ who does not put pressure on them to conform or perform, but who instead invites them to  laugh, dance and discover the true joy and freedom of knowing and loving Him? In your church's atmosphere, are your children allowed to be who Christ made them to be?

Elizabeth, thank you for being brave enough to share your story.  I think this book is really important in this hour in church history, as it exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness.   May God use it mightily to bring profound healing and freedom to the Body of Christ!

And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Corinthians 3.17-18, The Message

Monday, March 17, 2014

Freedom on a Trampoline

We got a trampoline!  Actually, my son, who just turned twelve, got a trampoline for his birthday.  I was against it at first...but the testosterone in my family swayed me.  We got one of those supposedly super-safe ones with the mesh enclosure and fabric over the springs, so you can't slip through them.  So, we'll see.  Anyway, we bounced on it all weekend.  Cruise did ALL the flips!  Steve did some Daddy flips!  Savanna and I did various leaps and jumps!  So festive!  So fun!  We haven't laughed that hard as a family in a long time.    Totally, totally worth it.

Cruz

Then, yesterday while the kids were at school, that darn thing kept beckoning me.  I could see it out of the corner of my eye every time I walked by the kitchen window. There it stood, delicately sprinkled  with last nights' dew,  glimmering in the sunshine.  As I tidied up the breakfast dishes, I glanced out at it again and it whispered, "Amy, come jump!"  "Oh, no," I said, "I am a mature, responsible 40-something year old lady.  I don't jump on trampolines by myself in the middle of broad daylight, for all the world to see.  You must understand, we haven't been on this property long, and don't have it fully landscaped yet.  We are at the end of a cul-de-sac with no trees, no fence, NO VISUAL BARRIER.  In other words, "What Will The Neighbors Think?"

See what I mean?


But the trampoline would not take no for an answer.  "Remember how fun I was yesterday? ... and the sweet moves you did, with the wind in your hair?  And how it felt like you were flying?"





Sweet Moves/Flying


"OK," said I.  "But only for five minutes.  I have work to do today."  (I didn't, really, but it didn't know that.)  I walked out in my socks and glanced around, like some stealth spy.  I didn't see anyone, so I climbed on and started bouncing away.  And then, it happened!  As I jumped, I morphed into a kid again!  I was only twelve years old myself, jumping on a trampoline in the middle of the yard, with absolutely no visual barrier to protect me from the suspicious eyes of the neighbors. And yet, I did not care!   I jumped high!  I jumped low!  I twisted!  I turned!  I developed a sweet new move I call, "the twisty-turn."    I leapt, I did the splits - hey I used to be a gymnast - I did some moves a forty-something year old mom of two has no business doing on the trampoline.  And it was fun!  My neighbors pulled up.  "Hey, guys!" I waved and shouted.  (We don't know them very well, and now we probably never will.  But that's ok.) The man gave a sort of unsure half-wave.  The woman looked at me, mumbled something (maybe hello? I don't know...)  and went inside.  It made me laugh even more!  FREEDOM!   The whole thing made me think of this verse:  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1.10)  Because, let me tell you people, like Eric Liddell, I FELT the pleasure of God!  Jesus likes to jump on the trampoline, oh yes, He does.

I jumped until my legs gave out and my hair hung in strings.  In full sight of all the neighbors.  And I didn't care.  I went inside and reveled in my new found freedom.   The beauty of it is that even three years ago I would never have done such a thing.  So unrefined!  So silly!  So crazy!  This is the effect God has had on me.  He came to give me life, so I could live it to the fullest.  No neighbors are going to stop me.  I thought to myself, rather smugly,  "If the kingdom belongs to the childlike, bring it on, Lord!"   I thought again about the twisty-turn maneuver.    I thought about how much I would like to bounce the next day.  If I had more practice, I could probably do a flip!  I thought about what a spectacle I would make out of myself, day after day, flipping and bouncing and twisty-turning in front of all the neighbors.  Then I went upstairs into my husband's office and asked him to buy me some trees. 

 Still, progress!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

In It To End It


 
 We

 Are

In It


To End It.



 
God got me riled up about sex trafficking a few years ago, when this book landed in my hands quite by accident:



It is the story of a Congresswoman from Washington state who was commissioned to investigate human atrocities in India.  Nothing could have prepared her for what she witnessed in Bombay.  Young girls, some only 10 and 11 years old, in cages.  Forced to serve between 20-40 men daily.   I sobbed my way through the entire book, then handed it over to my husband, who sobbed his way through it.  Now we are taking steps to become involved with the ministry she started as a result: Shared Hope International, out of Vancouver, WA.   (Did you know Portland has one of the highest sex trafficking rates in the nation?)

Here are some other anti-trafficking organizations our family has been involved with:

The A21 campaign (Abolishing slavery in the 21st century.)

As Our Own (Rescuing endangered girls and placing them in a safe home for life.)

As I was investigating the horrifying truth about sex trafficking, and feeling overwhelmed about what I could do given the magnitude of the situation, God used this verse to inspire me:

 Rescue the perishing;
    don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
    will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
    Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

 (Proverbs 24:11-12, The Message)

I decided even if I could only give or do enough to rescue ONE enslaved girl, it would be worth my time and effort.   In 2012, I ran a half marathon to raise funds and awareness for As Our Own.  It was a challenge for me physically, but I raised a lot of money and it was one of the best things I ever did. I won't stop running, and talking, and educating my children, and using every platform I have, until those girls (and boys) are free.


The average age of trafficking victims is just 12 years old.*  If we all got involved, and sponsored just one child, we could end it in this generation.  Are you in?   #inittoendit  #enditnow 

*source: http://www.thea21campaign.org/content/the-facts/gjekag

Thursday, February 20, 2014

When Church Becomes an Idol

This post was inspired by Donald Miller's recent article about why he doesn't regularly attend church, and the ensuing internet debate.  I agree with Donald that "church" does not have to take place in a church building.  In fact, for many well-meaning, devoted Christians, church can inadvertently become an idol.   It did for me.   

At the time God called our family of four into a season of rest in Him, I was serving as the connections director, prayer and healing coordinator, small groups consultant and women's ministry leader of a large church. Yes, all at once.  I thought Jesus must be very pleased with me.  Moreover, I was pleased with myself.  Then, we moved and He took me out of church life altogether.  It was a shock to my system, because I was used to being there every time the doors were open. In fact, I almost felt guilty when I wasn't there.  I found out later that He took me out of religion, to get the religion out of me.

It took me a while to embrace my God-imposed retreat from church life, but once I did, I found it refreshing.  We worshiped as a family, not just on Sundays, but whenever we felt like it.  My husband played the guitar, and the kids and I sang and danced.  It felt easy and free.  Our kids could be themselves, they didn't have to act a certain way, and we recognized an anointing on both of our children that we may not have noticed in a more structured church environment.  In our home, we could sing when we wanted, laugh when we wanted, and if someone had a verse to share, they shared it.   It was completely Spirit-led, and for the most part, unstructured.  There were no rules and no restrictions.  The kids learned to listen to God and to speak out what they heard Him saying, like it was no big deal.   We rested, and we grew deeper in love with Jesus.  We were hungry to be taught, so we enrolled in an online bible course called In Christ's Image Training.  After 13 years of active church life, it was heavenly to take the classes on our own time.    It was a precious, precious, season.

  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 
Matthew 11:28-30, The Msg

God eventually called us back into a church fellowship, where we love and serve and connect and do life with others.  But that year or so away was the best thing we ever did.  None of us are the same.  We are stronger, and have our identities firmly rooted in Christ - not in church,  church activity, ministry, or in other people's expectations of us.   I learned during that time that  Jesus would rather we are free in our relationship with Him, than in a yoke of slavery to religion. 
  
From my own experience, here are some signs that church may be an idol:
  • Our public zeal for Jesus exceeds our private passion for Him.
  •  We worship in church but never at home.
  • We think our Great Commission is to invite people to church.
  • We spend more time at church, with church people, than we do out in the world.
  • We attend church because we are worried what people will think if we don't.
  • We haven't shared the love of Jesus or prayed for any sick to be healed or captives to be set free recently, but we have managed to attend every meeting/gathering/social function/outreach/prayer time our church has had to offer.
I'm interested in your church experience.  Have you ever felt led to take a break from church, and if so, what was the result?  Did it affect your relationship with Jesus positively or negatively? Did you go back?

God bless you in your freedom with Jesus, and to worship how, when and where you want to!

Amy


Friday, February 7, 2014

"I love the way You hold me"

Last Sunday my kids sang a duet in church.  They did a wonderful job!  Here is a 15-second snippet:






I'm in a season of trusting He is there, even when I can't necessarily feel His presence, and the words of the song have been playing in my mind all week.  Here are the lyrics by Jamie Grace:

I've had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don't have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin' what to do
I know I should be working but I'm thinking of you and

Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That's when your smile comes around

Oh, I love the way you hold me, by my side you'll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I'll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

I love you more than the words in my brain can express
I can't imagine even loving you less

Lord, I love the way you hold me
Whoa, oh, I love the way you hold me
Whoa, oh

Well ya, took my day and you flipped it around
Calmed the tidal wave and put my feet on the ground
Forever in my heart, always on my mind
It's crazy how I think about you all of the time

And just when I think I'm 'bout to figure you out
You make me wanna sing and shout

I love the way you hold me, by my side you'll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I'll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

I love you more than the words in my brain can express
I can't imagine even loving you less

Lord, I love the way you hold me
Whoa, oh, I love the way you hold me
Whoa, oh


Sometimes things don't line up exactly the way we have planned.  That's when we have to choose to believe His word to us over our present circumstances.  I know one thing for sure.  When we cry out to Him, HE WILL RIDE THROUGH THE HEAVENS TO HELP US!  “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty."  (Deut. 33:26)

How is God "holding you" right now?


Amy

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My clay jar feels more like a tube of toothpaste

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)





My husband accuses me of toothpaste tube abuse. He pushes the toothpaste up gently from the bottom. I crumple and twist impatiently until the toothpaste comes bursting out in a glob on the counter.   In the midst of some recent circumstances out of my control,  I've been hard pressed, definitely perplexed, persecuted and struck down.  My clay jar is not feeling strong.  It feels more like a twisted, stomped on, cracked tube of toothpaste.  

I have taken my complaints to the Lord.  He said this:  Consider it pure joy... whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith  produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4)

Ugh.   Why can't I be "mature" without trials?

As I was complaining praying to Him this morning and telling Him I felt like an abused tube of toothpaste, I felt Him say, "what is coming out when you are squeezed?"  I reflected, and then I told Him what has been bursting forth out of me lately:  Anger and self-pity, stemming from a victim-mentality.

And here is what He said (in a nutshell), "You can be powerful, or you can be a victim.  But you can't be both."  

Oh.

I think I'm re-learning something I already knew.  Call me slow to catch on, but God is using these various trials to refine my character, so that the next time I'm squeezed, hopefully what comes out of me looks more like Him and less like me.  That is why He tells us to count trials as joy.  If we choose to, we can actually gain Christ-likeness in the midst of them.   

The only thing I can control about these recent trials is my reaction to them.  Therefore, from now on, I refuse to be a victim.   I am resolved to be powerful, not pitiable.  I am resolved to be faith-filled, instead of "woe is me."  I am resolved to let this latest trial do it's perfect work.  Although outwardly my clay jar is being relentlessly squeezed, inwardly, through faith and perseverance, the kingdom of God is being built up inside of me.  Next time the enemy puts the "squeeze" on me, I have a feeling he will be surprised at what comes out.  Faith. Power. Perseverance. And that's the idea. 


Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

How has God worked a trial in your life for good?


Amy

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