A Shark Tooth, Dreads & Stories

Stories. 

If you haven’t encountered a story lately, let me urge you to go find one.

I’ve learned that one of the most profound ways to get to know someone is to ask, “hey, I want to hear your story, Can we meet up this week?”
I’ve yet to be rejected from that offer. Why? Because everyone has a story and everyone knows that their story is worth telling and being heard.

This week I got to sit down with two different young people after extending that very offer. I sat and listened as they told me who they were, how God has invaded their lives, their pains, their joys, their passions. And when they were done, I asked them more questions.

10001410_10152007135368017_1297237047_nIt’s not necessarily the stories that are the goal. It takes genuine listening, interest, and concern for the relationship to go further than just the story.
When was the last time someone sat with you and listened? Had interest in the seemingly trivial in your life?
I’ve learned that being that person is refreshing for me and for the other.

This weekend I was sitting in the plaza when a guy with dreads dressed like a gypsy selling jewelry approached me and asked if I could break some money for him. I helped him out and he left. Shortly after he returned and thanked me. He offered in return to give me one of his handicrafts or a story! I thought for a bit, and spotted a giant shark tooth around his neck. I chose the story.

And I learned about more than just megaladons….The gift of a handicraft would have faded, torn, or been lost eventually. But the story remains. His life experience being shared was far more intriguing than a bracelet. And I’ve made it my goal to always choose the story over the temporary.

What is my view of evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship? ….Stories.
And why not? We’re all playing a role in the greatest story ever told…
Grace. Redemption. Hope.

Don’t worry you’re a natural at listening to stories already, that’s why you love movies & music : )

So let’s get out there and be people of the Story!

Tattoos, Beer, 2 Nomads & Jesus

77984_822992131050238_532856104_oI played guitar for the 1st time at a Spanish service on Sunday. It was a great experience, and I finally started to feel “plugged in” and at home in a church here!

Surprising to me, two new lovely friends came to the church to support me!
After the service they invited me to go eat lunch with them.

On the way, my friends tell me we are going to go visit a friend of their’s and eat at her house. Then they ask, “She isn’t a Christian, is that ok?”

We arrive at a grocery store to meet her and pick up some food for lunch. And with this friend stands two red-headed guys. They’ve clearly been traveling. Shaggy hair, tan lines, worn clothes and tattoos. I learn they are from Austria and Switzerland traveling South America together. We use Spanish and a mix of English to interact.

When we arrive to the house we eat plenty of great Bolivian foods , the guys drink plenty of Bolivian beers, we listen to cumbia music and talk tattoos for hours. We then take a walk to a river and enjoy the sights and festivities in the park nearby.

When it was time to go, I started walking back to the bus stop ahead of the rest of the group with my new Austrian friend. I ask him about his travels, his family, and culture. I then ask about his beliefs. His faith. His insights from so much experience around the world.
He pulls ideas from several major religions and forms his own morals, then asks me, “Betani, what do you believe?”  …… “Well, I’ve just about tried it all. But I follow Jesus. Only Jesus.”

We all start to walk home, chatting about our unique lives and stories.
And when we begin to part ways I hear my name with an Austrian accent, “Hey, Betani! Quieres beber una cerveza y hablar más mañana?” (Do you want to have a beer and talk more tomorrow?)

— Why tell you this story?  Because I’m convinced that the time I spent with these new friends was a blessing, but also a blatant opportunity to be a witness. I hope my friends understand that they don’t have to ask me, “is it okay that they aren’t Christians” before we go and hang out with someone.

Yet how many of us would be “okay” to go from leading worship to sitting around a table of cigarettes, tattoos, beer, and lots of swear words? Let’s not forget that “being like Jesus” looks a lot like that.

Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32

In the midst of discipleship, conferences, and building church leaders let’s not forget to make disciples. Friends, I can’t wait to decline more beer and marijuana so that I can talk about the grace of Jesus who still sits with the people we avoid on Sundays.

Jesus is Turning Around

Mark 5:21
Jesus is on His way to heal, along with his disciples.
A crowd has gathered along the way.
In the midst of the crowd is a lawbreaker.
According to the Mosaic law, she is unclean.
She is meant to be isolated.
Away from all others in society.
This is what is demanded of the law.

She has been bleeding for 12 years.
She “spent all she had” to find healing elsewhere.

She comes behind Jesus
reaches for the hem of his garment
and she encounters glory, in the form of divine healing.

“But, Jesus turned around.”

He wants to find the woman!
Yet, the woman hesitates to reveal herself.
What if Jesus rejects her?
What if there is judgement and condemnation?

How many of us are unwilling to reach for Jesus or return to him because we have convinced ourselves that there will be judgement and condemnation?

But the opposite is true!
Because of his grace and your small measure of faith, God is passionate about revealing his acceptance and approval to you and me!

The best way to “make disciples” is to lead the to the hem of his garment and after they have spent all other hopes, their faith will make them whole.

It only takes one touch
And one Man who turns around.

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Believe for More

“Some of us are working pretty hard at something that is hardly working. Why do we spend so much time and energy on spiritual exercises with few effects while the rest of the world sleeps in on Sundays? Why are some of us getting up before dawn to have a quiet time with effects drained to the dregs by noon? Why are we running out of ink in our high-lighters marking Scriptures that rarely jump off the page and onto our pavement? Why are we doing everything we can to convince others to do something that hasn’t worked terrifically for us? Why won’t some of us admit that for all the practical purposes the present belief system of most Christians isn’t working?”

“Why have we accepted average? Are the few effects most of us see and experience all Christianity has to offer? Is this it? All we can expect? If so, someone out there needs to feel sorry for us.”

-Beth Moore [Believing God]

Renewal Across the Table

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The last year has been full of life’s highs and lows.
Isaiah 61: 3 adjusted my focus:

bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy 
instead of mourning,
a garment of praise 
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
the display of his splendor.

There have been days that I have been in mourning due to my own sin.
There have been days of mourning from the sins of others.
I spent nights on the floor, weeping, broken & desperate to be held by Jesus.
Other nights anxiety made me physically sick.

I would read promises like Isaiah 61 & wonder when they would come true.
Or think maybe they were simply ancient poetry.
Or perhaps I wasn’t “favored” enough by God to be given these things.

Only when I stopped looking for Jesus in a rushing wind from heaven did I see the reality of these promises in my life.

My crown of beauty was given to me in the shared experiences of beautiful godly women leaking the grace of Jesus.
My oil of gladness came through the tears & long embraces of sisters who cling faithfully to the victory & justice of the cross.
My garment of praise came as the ability to laugh & awe. Listen & empathize.
The strength of an oak tree was countless friends like, Paige, Lissy, Angie, Hannah & Brandon who rooted me in the Father with love & compassion so I could get off the floor and display the Lord’s splendor.

I’ve learned, sometimes we’re so focused on renewal from the sky that we forget God is working on the ground. 
Jesus is in the embraces. The moments where words fall short. The everyday struggle to get up and go to the store. The very people sitting beside you. The doctor’s diagnosis/prescriptions. The gut-wrenching conversations & tearful stares from across a table.

And when you finally realize the blessings of Isaiah 61 all around you, you’ll see Jesus all around you too. It’s one of the most beautifully real things you’ll experience this side of heaven!

Take hold of the renewal right in front of you, and stand in the daily victories!

Look around, what has God given you?…it might be just across a table.