Challenge 74: Obey the Unexpected

A few months ago I was asked to be one of the teachers for a Bible study series at my church. The subject was obeying God and I was excited about the prospect of teaching something that I have purposed to do over the years with the result of great spiritual growth. My sister in the Lord who was in charge of coordinating and teaching lessons in the series said she asked me because she had witnessed my obedience to the Lord and the fruit thereof. Though she and I both thought that this ministry opportunity was a natural for me, I hesitated, telling her I wanted to pray to make sure this was where God would have me. Let me tell you: It just seemed a perfect fit to be able to teach what I preach and strive to live, but when she asked me I literally felt a block in my spirit. It was as if a hand raised to halt the flow of my inner desires. My mind was saying, “Of course you’ll do this,” but my spirit was clearly saying, “Hold up. Wait a minute.” I knew before I prayed that even though this assignment looked like it was for me it probably wasn’t for me. When I prayed I got the same halt in my spirit and I sensed the Lord saying, “I have something else for you to do.”

I declined what seemed natural for me to the great disappointment of my friend. A few weeks later, after having a death in her family and feeling the pressure of having to coordinate and teach the lessons, she asked me to teach one lesson. I told her that I probably could do it, but let me check. I checked with my husband, who thought it would be okay. “It’s just one lesson,” he said. “Yes, that’s what I thought, too.” But knowing that I was teaching a lesson on obedience I wanted to be sure that I was being obedient so I sought the Lord again. I could barely get out my request when I sensed him saying, “I already told you you couldn’t teach.” And with that, I had to tell my sister, again, that I couldn’t teach.

Maybe you think I should not have even sought The Lord the second time, already knowing what The Lord had said. But then there are those who would have done what I did and yet others who would have listened to their heart instead of The Lord and taught the class. Whatever one of these inclinations, we all have to beware that we often display our love for others when we show our love for God by obeying The Lord.

When I obeyed The Lord my friend got an example to use in her lesson on obedience and God’s grace to be able to study for, develop and teach lessons, and identify others to do so. Sometimes our love for God calls us to do the unexpected or even not do the expected. This is a way of unconditional love: doing what is needed despite the circumstances. And that should be dictated by God. My friend’s circumstances suggested she needed my help and I wanted to help her out of her circumstances, but God decided otherwise. God’s decisions may be hard for us to follow, but to obey Him means to love Him and many times, by extension, means to love others (John 14:15).

We should know that 1) just because we helped someone in the past doesn’t mean we will help them in the future; just because we helped someone before doesn’t mean we were supposed to help them then; and 3) just because we love and respect someone and understand their challenges doesn’t mean we will do what they want us to do. Knowing these three will help us follow The Lord when we hear The Lord’s voice and hesitate to obey because of our history or allegiance to someone. We have to obey God in all things, even the unexpected, and we are likely to get unexpected but necessary results.

Take a Risk Challenge: Seek The Lord to see what unexpected action He might have you do or expected action He might not have you do. Obeying beyond human wisdom truly is a radical act of love.

There’s still time for you to join Soul Delights’ Natural Health Tour to urban farms Saturday, April 26, 2014, from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Currently, I have a discount for Your Fast for Life™ only and free admittance on the tour with a regularly-priced Your Fast for Life™ membership. Get more details on the website or simply sign up below.
NHT Flyer_Final_3-1

The next scheduled Your Fast for Life™ session for everyone, including groups of 10 or more who receive a discount up to 30%, begins Monday, May 5, 2014, but you don’t have to wait until then. Sign up today with our new Your Fast for Life™ Flex Program, which allows individuals and groups to begin the program when you choose. Individuals receive a 35% discount now until Wednesday, April 23, 2014. You can also join Your Fast for Life™ for the regular $100 price and attend Soul Delights’ Natural Health Tour for free (a $35 savings).

Individual Discount
Choose a food plan

Natural Health Tour
Choose a food plan

Challenge 68: Walk in Your Strength

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

For the last few months, about four to be more exact, I have watched out my kitchen window this black plastic bag blow in the wind as it hangs from a bare tree branch high in the sky. This bag, the thin, flimsy one you get from the beauty supply store, has weathered wind, rain and snow storms and is still hanging high, is still on display for all to see. It has not been ripped from the bare branch, hanging on to seemingly nothing but withstanding nonetheless. I think this bag is there for me. As I wash dishes, fruits or vegetables, get a glass of water, prepare meals or some other necessary but mundane task, I have to look out the window to see my wonder. I wonder how it flew so high, how it got stuck and how it hasn’t yet been ripped away. My wonder is strong and resilient, no match for a storm, and hangs and blows to remind me I can go on.

I, made in the image of Christ and strengthened and directed by His Spirit, have everything I need to push past the mundanity, to stand square against adversity, pray through calamity, speak out against perversity, claim my sanity and know it is well in my soul. God, I believe, gave me this bag as a reminder of who I am and throughout the years has given me and all of us souls to remind us of who we are and what we can do. As we celebrate Black History Month, I reflect on the black souls who have fortified me when I think about their life contributions. One of my favorites is anti-lynching crusader, journalist, and suffragist Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931):

One had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” – Ida B. Wells

This quote glibly expressed Wells’ drive to fight for what was right in spite of the odds against her. Watch the video here and be inspired to (continue to) make it your business to fight injustice wherever you believe God is calling you.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week, in addition to fighting injustice on your battlefield, remind someone of who they are and encourage them to use their strength to fight injustice. Walking in strength and fighting injustice truly are radical forms of love.

Challenge 49: Love as God Commands

Photo courtesy of Sacrosanct Gospel

Photo courtesy of Sacrosanct Gospel

For so long I had my life figured out. I would go to school, study journalism, be a journalist and travel the world as a foreign correspondent. I’ve told you before that I didn’t care if I married or had children. I just wanted to fulfill my career dreams and if that’s all I had, I would be content. Well, none of that, except for going to school, turned out like I thought. I am a sometime journalist, have never traveled the world as a journalist, got married and have three children. My plan for me didn’t work, but God’s plan is what is working. You would think that after my career plans got nixed for God’s plans, I would just allow Him to tell me what will be and simply embrace His plans. But you know that’s not how most of us do. We know what we want, how we want it and when we want it, and this includes just about everything, including who and how we love. But even that, as God has been impressing upon me lately, must be done according to His plan.

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…” (1 Peter 1:22).

“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you…” (Luke 6:27).

So God tells us to love those who we are connected to and those we are not, those who are in the Kingdom of God and those who are not, those who love us and those who don’t, those whose actions we like and those whose actions we don’t like. This, I believe, includes everyone we encounter. And then God tells us how we are to love them. We are to love

  • As Jesus loved us (John 15:12)
  • With a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)
  • Fervently (1 Peter 1:22)
  • With forbearance (Ephesians 4:2)
  • As we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39)

We don’t have a choice because all these verses are commands, not suggestions, and they are our guide to love. So when we would rather not deal with someone who is not connected to us, who is not a Christian, whose actions we don’t like or who hates us, we have to love them. We don’t get to plan our escape from those we don’t care for, but we instead must decide how we will love by using the five ways listed above. Our lives belong to Jesus and, as such, Jesus decides what the plans are for our lives, even plans to love others.

Take a Risk Challenge: Choose this week to love someone with a pure heart, fervently, with forbearance and as you love yourself (which all encompass how Jesus loved us). Doing either of these is truly a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

A warning about coming spiritual warfare
A revelation about the depth of the spiritual warfare
A friend who makes chocolate trip cookies and shares
Time at Woodside Bible Church-Detroit
The Watermans
Kendall’s amazingly hilarious story
Time in the sun with Renee
Talking with Carla
Shoes from Sharon for Justus
Justus saying he wants “to go to Mexico, California, Trader Joe’s and Target”

Challenge 44: Be Silent like Jesus

Mouth taped

“…Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time….” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

These verses are quite challenging when we’re trying to love others God’s way instead of our own, but they are definitive in the approach and explicit with the outcome of humility: 1) Be subject to each other; 2) Let humility guide you; and 3) Let God’s power help you walk in humility. if you do, God 1) won’t oppose you for being proud; 2) will exalt the humble in due time; and 3) will give grace to the humble.

We are prone not to help one another out of humility and allowing the power of GOD to help us do so. We can be guilty of helping each other out of pride, constantly reminding others, like I said in the last post, of our great sacrifice to help them. When we do this, we are not operating in God’s strength but out of our own supply and our supply can cause hurt feelings, resentment and even shame. Jesus is our greatest model of humility, and when we look at His life, we find an incredible amount of self-denial for the TOTAL good of others. I say TOTAL good because if he had just died on the cross for our sins, we still would have a way to eternal life. But what good would it have been to us if God constantly reminded us about this great sacrifice that He was making on our behalf?

What if Jesus told all the Jews who demanded His crucifixion and mocked, spat on, beat and ultimately crucified Him, “Do you know who I am? I am God, who left my home in glory, to come down to earth to take on flesh to experience all your human experiences, good and bad. Where I come from is perfect but I gave that up for you. I came to die on the cross so you wouldn’t have to continue to live miserable lives. I’m going to die for you because that’s the only way you will be saved, but it is really hard for me to have to suffer for you.”?

Of course Jesus would NEVER have said that but He would not have been prideful in saying any of it. See, biblical humility means recognizing your pitiful state and your inadequacy and that you need God to help you. That definition could never fit Jesus because He is God. But what if He, in His humanity, had reminded us of the magnitude of His sacrifice? Would His lack of humility in loving us make us feel special? Would we want to show Jesus gratitude for His sacrifice? I don’t think so. I think we would give obeisance to God only out of fear and not loving reverence for a God who loved us so much that “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8) and never said a word in defense of His innocence (Luke 23:9).

Likewise, I believe our lack of humility in love not only makes people feel bad and not want to show us gratitude but it also makes them less inclined to show us love. So we must remember to walk in humility in relation to our enemies and friends, when we are just showing common courtesies AND when we have to love them intentionally in a huge way. If you don’t, you both may miss the blessing God intends to give to you and them. I am experiencing this mutual blessing. Recently my family extended a huge offer to friends and they accepted it. We were all prayerful about the offer because we knew that we would each have to make major adjustments to our lives that could cause major inconveniences and ultimately negatively impact our relationship. I praise God that we followed God’s leading and have trusted Him for the outcome. Not only were we able to bless our friends but I am experiencing so much joy as we have shown biblical love by having “all things common” (Acts 2:44).

As we seek to love with humility, let’s remember that Jesus, who didn’t have to be humble, did so and walked in subjection to God the Father. And Jesus, as the song writer said, “never said a mumbling word” in His defense. We have the power, because of the Holy Spirit within us, to be silent like Jesus so we can bless others for their TOTAL good.

Take a Risk Challenge: Pray that God will keep a watch over your mouth to prevent you from telling those you are helping just how much you are sacrificing to love them (Psalm 141:3). If you do, you might just receive, as I did with my friends, an unexpected blessing.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Flynn voluntarily cooking
Not cooking a full meal in four days
A midday rendezvous
Clothes shopping with the family and getting a lot for a little
Justus clinging to me on the porch while Nate played in the sprinkler
Not having to cook a full meal in six days
Flynn saying he enjoyed our family outing to the clothing store, a place he usually dreads going to with the entire family
A surprisingly content-rich blog post regarding organic products
Words of advice for Tabitha when I knew I didn’t have any
Flynn taking the boys to get haircuts and shopping, giving me much needed alone time

Challenge 43: Love with Humility

About two months ago I taught a workshop on prayer in the sanctuary of a church and I felt the Lord telling me to sit down for the presentation. I sat the entire time. Last week I taught a workshop on prayer in a conference center and I felt the Lord telling me to take off my shoes. I had bare feet the entire time. As I have been thinking about the similarities of these two incidents—workshops on prayer and positions of humility—I was only making the connection between the type of teaching I was doing with the position that I had been commanded to be in. I simply thought God was trying to communicate that teaching on prayer required that I demonstrated the humility necessary when praying. While I still believe this is true, I began to get a bigger meaning of those two acts when thinking of my service for the past two years to my mother.

Recently, in addition to the errands, phone calls and bill payments, she asked me to cut her toenails and scrub her heels. In essence, she wanted me to give her a pedicure. My mother has NEVER been prone to get pedicures and probably has had less than 10 in her entire 71 years. She would cut her toenails, but never thought much of the importance of grooming her feet beyond that. You may remember me writing about how the Lord spared my mom’s life several times after extreme health issues. After a long hospital stay and rehabilitation work, she is alive and physically stable, but her body is weak. Because of her feeble condition she can’t reach to cut her nails or otherwise really groom her feet. So when she asked me to do so I KNEW she was really in need. I got my tools and headed to her place.

I got on my hands and knees, even laid on my side to get to parts of her feet that I couldn’t reach (because she couldn’t lift her leg to make her feet easily accessible). So as I laid and kneeled I soaked, scrubbed, cut, shaved, smoothed, dried, creamed and polished various parts of her feet. All the while, we talked and laughed, strengthening our bond. Four hours later, even with more work to do, she and I were pleased with the outcome; she was grateful and my heart felt good. And after those times of teaching on prayer, my heart felt good just like when I cared for my mom’s feet. The obvious connection to all these incidents is humility, which is the message of service, which is the message of love.

No matter the act of service—whether teaching in front of crowds or helping the weak, like the elderly or your own children—humility is required. Too often many of us may do an act of service and murmur and complain about what we are doing. We tell the person how we hope they are grateful for what we are doing, mention that we had to rearrange our schedule to help them, keep looking at our watch, huff, roll our eyes or something else like that. We constantly remind them of how great we are for helping them and how pitiful they should feel for having to have us help them. This is not loving service but is lording service which is not really love at all (Mark 10:42-45). The key to love is humility and humility shows in service to others.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:4-8).

Our Lord Jesus, God Himself, served us willingly and because of Him, our world is eternally better. Let us seek to make someone else’s world better by following Christ and loving others with humility. They will be grateful and your heart just may feel good.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week when you serve someone, commit to doing so without murmuring and complaining but with humility.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Listening to Selah in the early morning
Praying with Flynn, Joshua and Nate
A visit to Nana’s and helping her feel at ease using her alarm system
Carla forgiving me for forgetting to edit her blog post
An early evening family nap
Receiving an unexpected email from LaSonjia telling me of her admiration of me as a woman of God
A Spirit-filled and fulfilling conversation with a friend
Watching The Wiz with the boys
Lunch at Leo’s Coney Island with the family
Having a kind waitress

Challenge 42: Embrace Your Family

Like many young ambitious girls I knew early what I wanted my life to be like: I would be a professional writer or professor and travel within that line of work. Perhaps a husband would come; maybe there would be children, but what I really knew was that I would be a career woman, working outside of my home. After a short stint as a journalist and academician, I felt the Lord pulling my heart home. I loved my job as a speech instructor and didn’t believe I would leave the workforce after six years in the position, but God’s calling me was so clear. I followed God’s leading though my heart didn’t settle with my body. My heart finally caught up about a week ago when I was on a much needed getaway alone.

I was looking forward to my time away from the demands of motherhood, marriage and ministry. I told my three boys and husband that I really needed a break from all their testosterone energy; I could be alone with my estrogen whims and simply be okay in my own space. On my two-night bed and breakfast stay about a 45 minutes drive from my house (a gift from the women I spiritually mentor), I planned to ride my bike, shop, read and watch an independent film. As soon as I arrived, I settled in then immediately unloaded my bike, rode downtown and continued to engage in my plans. I reveled in my day as I got to stroll leisurely through the town, find some bargains and laugh through a quirky movie. When I got back to my room, I tried to read but no longer wanted to. I was satisfied with what I had done and was now ready to go home.

Where did that feeling come from? I was looking forward to my break. I was in much need of a break but on day one I was ready to go home and be with my family. My trip was already paid for and I had an appointment in the area in two days so going home was not an option. I talked to my husband, went to bed and the next day decided to take advantage of my time and watch some movies on Netflix. Unbeknown to me, each movie, though different genres and story lines, had the same basic meaning: no matter the differences, oddities and distances of family members, the love among them can be life sustaining. And this is the message for us all: Whether natural or spiritual relatives, we need the love of family. Whether high-octane or subdued, familial love can fuel our tanks and keep us going, even if we need to discover that, like I did, after a short break.

Take a Risk Challenge: Take a break from interacting with challenging loved ones, reflect on the value of their love and reengage them as God leads you, remembering God doesn’t desire us to avoid our relatives who need us (Isaiah 58:7).

One Thousand Gifts List

Justus being content in church service
Nate napping in the car for an hour
An enjoyable boat ride with good food, family and entertainment
The breeze coming off the water
Seeing and talking to Wanda Stubbs
The boys squealing in delight
Staying in my pajamas until 4:30 p.m.
A sweet daughter saying I’m a good mommy and appreciating some mothering I give that she didn’t get from her mother
Realizing that holidays aren’t the same with my extended family and coming to grips with that
Finding “Good Hair” on the Xfinity Play Now option

Challenge 41: Vacate for Others’ Sake

One of the best ways you can empower yourself to radically love others is by taking a break. I’m on vacation for two weeks and looking forward to being refreshed to be my best. I plan to return here in two weeks.

Take a Risk Challenge: Take whatever break you need–coffee break; snack break; an evening walk break; a movie break–this week and next so that you can be empowered to show others radical love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Talking to Flynn in the wee hours of the morning
Justus’ repetitive ‘Daddy’ and his dancing upon Flynn’s return
Sleeping in and the boys sleeping and even later
A leisure day of cleaning
Painting my toe nails and liking my mint green
The Yarbroughs coming to dinner
Salmon grilled and seasoned to perfection
Playing Dominoes with Flynn and Vince
Alabaster Ministries Bible study “I am Powerful”
Getting a prime parking space at church

Challenge 39: Find the Good in the Bad

Audience appreciation and speech appreciation are what speakers and listeners must consider when they are in a speech context. My teachers drilled this into me in school and I drilled this into my students. Speakers must appreciate their audience and tailor their speech to fit that audience. Listeners, on the other hand, should seek to find something they appreciate about the speaker’s message, even when the speaker didn’t tailor the speech to fit the audience. This is training listeners to be objective, to examine more than one aspect of the speech presentation, to sometimes just look for the one good in a bad speech.

Recently I thought about my training as the Lord has challenged me not to dwell on the negative but instead focus on the positive: “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8-KJV).

After making sure I knew what each of these words meant in the original biblical language, I literally listed aspects in my life that fit under each of these areas. I frequently read these to help me stay positive if I find myself prone to dwelling on circumstances that will make me blue. Some of the points I dwell on are the good that came out of a very challenging change in my life.

I had been in deep fellowship with a sister and over some time we had become close. We shared family struggles, ministry challenges, hopes and fears. We encouraged and rebuked each other, prayed for one another, studied the Bible together and couldn’t wait until the next time we talked. We had begun to work together on some ministry projects. One day we had a disagreement based on something I initially said. She decided we could not go on with a ministry assignment, and I was crushed. We had become extremely close. I wondered how she could misunderstand what I had said. How could she not understand my heart? I accepted the change in our ministry relationship and ultimately our friendship. Was it hard for me to move on? Certainly it was, but what has kept me moving forward is remembering God’s word and dwelling on the fullness of it:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Romans 8:28-KJV).

This classic verse isn’t one that we should just quote to soothe others or ourselves right after a deep conflict but one that we should fully embrace for its amazing restorative powers. This verse speaks to God’s will for our lives, what He has allowed or what He initiated. If His Holy Spirit didn’t direct us away from a conflict knowing the tough outcome awaiting us, God had a plan for us as a result of that conflict. Remember, God is good so whatever we face will ultimately lead to good for us. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he says “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” When we, who are the ones called to fulfill God’s Kingdom on earth, love God He promises we will bring forth fruit (John 15:7-10, 16). So when bad happens in our life—in my case the change of a friendship and ministry assignment—we must continue to love God by loving others, even those who hurt us, thus allowing God’s word to abide in us. We can love the one who hurt us by seeing how the tough situation might work for our good. I was able to see how I had allowed my friendship to become an idol in my life. Now with the shift in my relationship, I focus more on God and less on the blessings that He gives me. Had she remained in my life then, I would have looked to her more for direction than I would have to God. I would not have seen that I was heading down a path of depending on man more than depending on God. I now know that God prompted me to write the email the way I did because He knew what her reaction would be; He knew that our relationship wouldn’t change apart from an act of God. Though our split split my heart, I was able to examine her message and appreciate how it was from God and for my good.

Your situation may be one where someone was just pure evil toward you and we know that didn’t come from God, but the scripture doesn’t lie. Whatever your situation of use or abuse, it will work with other circumstances in your life for your good. Once we see how the tough interaction can work for our good, we can know the person who hurt us may not remain in our lives but the interaction will help us grow in an area for the glory of God. And knowing this can help us treat that person with the love of God.

Take a Risk Challenge: Examine how you have benefited from someone who has hurt you. Show them radical love by sending them a note, calling or visiting them. If interacting with them is dangerous for you, show them radical love by praying for them. Those who have done the most egregious acts are in desperate need of a healed soul and God’s love would have you to even pray for them.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Flynn playing tennis consecutive days
Not being stressed out caring for the boys solo
Tabitha and Tanina coming to assist me with housework and the boys
Joshua saying, “Mom, I love you” unsolicited
Joshua asking me to sleep with him “just because”
A yearning to spend time with God despite my being sleepy
Making three types of lasagna and they all turned out good
A rich conversation with Carla where we rejoiced about God’s prophecy manifesting and His opening ministry doors for her
Nichole and Asha visiting and having dinner
Justus purring when I hold him

Challenge 38: View Humans Correctly, Part 3

My new sister Jodie of Liberia and I at the World of Women Praying Convocation

My new sister Jodie of Liberia and me at the World of Women Praying Convocation

She has a name for everyone and a stereotype for some, this woman, a Christian I know. I challenge her when she refers to Koreans and Arabs in a derogatory way or stereotypes the way Caucasians and Asians drive. She’s only beginning to see something wrong with her views and speech, having historically held her positions because some of her observations seem to be true. Unfortunately she is not the only Christian who has these views. We know of all types of horrendous acts Christians have done to other humans and have even tried to justify them in the name of Christianity. We may not realize this, but when we attack others based on their race, nationality or ethnicity, we have gone beyond xenophobia (an intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or foreign things) and into Jesus hate. But when you remember that an attack on another human being for any reason, especially based on intrinsic factors like skin color, ethnicity or nationality, is an attack on the Lord Jesus Christ, you should quickly seek to lay aside your opinions and dreadful actions and seek to really be like Christ.

I know my calling some of you Jesus haters may seem harsh, but consider some of my favorite scriptures: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (n)either is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. . . .” (Acts 17:24-26).

When we focus on God 1) made all things in the world; 2) gives all life; 3) gives all breath; 4) gives all things to all; 5) made all people from the blood of one man; 6) determined when we would be born; and 7) determined where we would be born, we see that any attack on another is an attack on people God intentionally created. They breathe the same as we do and want the things we want. My sister Jodie from Liberia wants to impart self-esteem in the young girls she works with; my sister Passion from Zimbabwe wants equity for the small churches in her area; my sister Elna wants social justice for all races in South Africa; another sister wants adequate funding for schools in Kenya; a sister from Canada wants to go deeper with the Lord; and a mother from India wants her daughter free from sexual oppression. These are just some of the women I experienced this past weekend at the World of Women Praying Convocation (WOWPC) with sisters from just about every continent, every skin color and every age all loving Jesus. “God has a woman all over the world,” declared WOWPC Founder and Organizer Rev. Dr. Cecilia Williams Bryant to highlight the diversity of Christian women from around the world who love Jesus. And when you love Jesus you love who and what Jesus loves. These women exemplified that by coming together with others who didn’t all look like they looked but all had Jesus in common. They set aside whatever xenophobia they may have had to connect in the spirit to effect change in the natural among nations.

Whether we come into contact with people of other races and nationalities who love Jesus or don’t love Jesus, our mission has to be the same: for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. This can be done when we view all humans—Jesus loving ones and non-Jesus loving ones—in the light of Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We, too, must love the world, not willing that they be eternally separated from Jesus. One way we can do that is to change our views about others not like us and think like Christ and our xenophobic talk will fade away. When our thoughts become thoughts of love, our talk becomes talk of love, and actions to bring others to Christ will follow.

Take a Risk Challenge: Examine yourself for xenophobic ways, renounce what you find and seek to display at least one act of love to someone culturally different from you.

One Thousand Gifts List

Being included on a group email though I’m the group newbie
Getting home safely from the movies
Taking the children to the fireworks display
My sister noticing that Caleb was missing and being able to grab him before he walked in the street
The children continuously thanking my sister and me for taking them to see the fireworks display
Avoiding the heavy traffic and big crowds for the fireworks display
Loaning my car for a week to someone in need
Chasing the boys around the house
Flynn and company arriving to Wheaton safely
Flynn enjoying the RZIM conference

Challenge 35: Love Beyond Your Limit

When your days are long and nights even longer it’s hard to do what you have to do and even what you want to do. That was the case for me this weekend with my son’s lemonade-popcorn stand, a graduation open house, my church service, lunch and a youth service at my sister’s church and a special dinner at a spiritual daughter’s house. Though participating in each stretched my physical limit, they each increased my spiritual blessings. You can’t top spending time with the Word and those who love the Word and you. Each brought me great pleasure and I’m glad I chose to show radical acts of love:
Curt and Rhonda at Joshua's 2013 Stand

Joshua and Lemonade Day Crew

Joshua's stand 2013

Minetta and Rhonda at Joshua 2013 stand

Nichole Kim and Rhonda 2013

Take a Risk Challenge: Despite your feeling you’re at your physical limit, hang with that friend, visit that loved one, attend that party, assist with that move. You will be stretched to be physically present to support another, but your stretching is truly a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

A rain of Catalpa flowers
Tiny worm-like jumping yellow bugs-how God could put life in something so miniscule
Sky-towering trees
Squirrels jumping from limb to limb, trunk to trunk and tree to tree
A perfect weekend
A husband who believes in and supports me to allow me to take a writing trip on Father’s Day weekend
Being at peace
Justus being overjoyed to see me
Still breathing easy from the retreat
A meal lasting for three dinners