Biblical Truth

Serving in the LITTLE

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Some days life, family, ministry is BIG and FULL and feels so significant.  Other days it's unseen and small and tedious.  This is life and it's both grand and ordinary.  But this life is also our gift to GOD and how we treat both the grand and the ordinary says something about how we worship this God.

Luke 16:10 says, "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities."

This scripture isn't just about money but it's really EVERYTHING in our lives, because everything we have is a gift from God and we must be faithful in what we have been given.  Lately I have noticed that my life is SUCH a gift and the places God has allowed me to be in ministry are SUCH A GIFT.  I feel like things are growing and evolving and I just want to honor God in it all and be faithful with what I have been given.  GOD help me be faithful!!

There is a little boy in our road named Logan.  EVERYONE knows Logan.  Logan comes to our front door EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  He is looking mostly for Keller, but he is just looking for attention, love, someone to listen to his stories.  My time daily talking to Logan is very little but in God's eyes it's also VERY BIG.  God wants us to be faithful in the huge moments but also, and maybe especially, in the little moments with Logan.

God has just moved in my heart to tell me that He sees how I am sewing into the big things and especially into the little things.  Our hearts are not most revealed when we work hard at the big things that everyone sees and notices, but our hearts are truly known when we give everything in the little, the things no one will see or ever hear about.  It's GOD that we are doing this all for and HE is the audience.

Serve with beauty and boldness in the LITTLE.

 

Doing GOOD

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Thousands of women and I attended the Hillsong Colour Conference this past week in Cape Town, South Africa.  God certainly did spectacular things there and exceeded all expectations.  But what truly made my heart sour was nothing related to the production, world-class speakers, or epic and memorable moments from the stage.

This was my seventh Colour conference to attend, and as usual I had the beautiful privilege of hosting women from Ocean View for the stunning event.  Since it is a world-class conference it would be something out of reach for most of the families of Ocean View that support themselves and so many other around them.  Year after year, Hillsong Church has graciously sponsored a group from Ocean View so they woudn't miss out on the appointment with God.  Not only does Hillsong help sponsor our tickets, but they also provide transport, welcome the ladies as if they were royalty, and feed and personally host us throughout the entire conference.  They truly go above and beyond and it makes us feel like the most exclusive guests at the conference.

During one of the sessions where we were hearing about the incredible and inspiring work of people around the world for the kingdom of God, I sat listening with my Ocean View sisters and was overcome with emotion.  I don't have to travel around the world to see brave and sacrificial work done by the people of God, I only need to look to my sisters in Ocean View.  These women serve and love in ways that I could never imagine and each have a story of life in Christ that moves me.  They inspire me greatly and I found myself deeply grateful for their time at the conference to be refreshed and renewed for what God had for them to do in their lives.

What an honor to be a part of a church that truly considers others and shares what God has given us to those outside.  They love and care for the Ocean View community and I count it as such a privilege to help host these stunning ladies.  May we NEVER neglect doing good!

“Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

-Hebrews 13:16 ESV

The Season of Silence

Nichole Nordeman has this incredible song called 'Seasons' that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.  She talks about the seasons of the weather and how it is the same with us in God.

"And everything in time and under Heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath

And still I notice You when branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter" -Nichole Nordeman

Lately I have found myself in a season and it's one I don't particularly like.

There is a season I also don't like and it's winter.  Winter is harsh.  It's dark.  It's cold.  It's tiring.  These words can describe the season of life I have been through in many ways, as well.

Seasons can be hard, and they can feel like they are never ending.

But recently, when I was talking once again to God about my current season, I heard him whisper sometimes extremely important.  He whispered, "It's a SEASON."  

Season.

This was a loud whisper because my particular season had been a season of SILENCE.  But what was so stunningly important to hear from God was that it was a SEASON.

I immediately thought of the four seasons of weather and later this song. 

That whisper was life to me because it was not God telling me he was taking away my circumstances, or going to now speak really loudly, or change all the things in my life that I don't like.  But it was God reminding me that what I was facing, for me a season where God was glaringly silent, was just a season.  And while seasons come and they come with a vengeance, while they can be slow, and dark, and cold and painful, they are only a season, and they eventually END.

Seasons are beautiful because they come and then they go, and at the end something new begins to sprout up and grow. 

So I wait in my season and I look out the window, I rub the ground with my feet, and I look over the mountain for the spring breeze in the air.  Because my season is just a season, and I am promised by God that something NEW is about to grow.

 

"And everything that's new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
And what was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green

So it is with You and how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be as You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring" - Nichole Nordeman

 

 

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Learning to Shine

March 2, 2015

We are working with young girls and guys all over Ocean View and feeling so excited about it so just wanted to share today what it is we are doing!

Hillsong Church has written a curriculum called Shine and Strength and we are partnering with them to teach these programs in the schools of Ocean View, and have done two Shine Women courses already at our church.

What is Shine and Strength??

“Shine is a collection of personal development mentoring tools for girls and women, designed to develop an understanding of personal worth, strength and purpose and to help girls realise their full potential.”

“Strength is a unique personal development and group mentoring tool for boys and men, that uses an inspirational, practical and experiential approach to learning.”

These programs are powerful and fun and based on biblical concepts that really come alive when we are sharing them.  For the community of Ocean View, many young people don’t really know their value and worth because of the many challenges they face before of poverty, gangsterism, violence and hopelessness.  These young people have so much potential for bright futures but often they don’t recognize it in the haze and peer pressure and negativity that can surround them.

We have found the young people are SUPER open and really enjoy coming to the course.  They take it seriously and share openly.  What a GIFT it is to us!

We look forward to continuing to expand the program and work with all the guys and girls we can get our hands on.  God is growing our team to lead the course and opening doors so we can reach more kids.  Please be praying that God would continue to use us and help these young people to SHINE!

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Choose Kindness

February 12, 2015

This is a story that needs to be told and I have labored for four weeks to write it because it’s painful to recall all the details. But I share it as a cautionary tale and to inspire us to CHOSE KINDESS.

We flew from the United States to Cape Town, South Africa as a family in January as we have for the past five years of our lives with our children. Kieren is a pro at these trips and has no problem with the unbearably long travel, but Keller, now being diagnosed with autism, was going to struggle with it more than most children. Breaking up his normal schedule, not sleeping in a bed, being in close quarters and having to sit for hours and not understanding the entire situation are a few of the challenges we faced. We worked for months to prepare Keller for the changes and travel and truthfully he handled most of it incredibly. What we did not foresee was that our greatest challenge would be from the flight attendants working on our flight. Their job description reads as such:

“Flight Attendants are responsible for the safety and service of our passengers. Duties Include food and beverage service, assisting passengers with disabilities, answering inquires and operating mechanical and safety equipment.”

We have a son with a disability and even notified the airlines before, but because autism is a processing disorder in the brain, it is not visible. The flight attendants on our flight were doing their jobs of feeding us, making sure we were buckled, and keeping the order among the passengers. They however, did not know Keller had a disability and quickly became visibly aggravated but his odd behavior.

In the second hour of a long flight I was hurriedly chided for allowing my son to watch his DVD player without headphones. Not only did this flight attendant not even look at me when barking her instructions, she did not know the situation of my disabled son and his inability to use headphones because of his anxiety. I was then wounded and the exhaustion mounted as the hours went by.

In hour five of our flight my son became incredibly anxious and inconsolable and was screaming and crying for an extended period of time. I tried to calm him in our seat, but it was dark on the plane during the ‘sleeping’ time so I tried to go to the galley area to rock and calm him there. This is where it got ugly. I was attempting to rock my wiggly and screaming (huge) two-year-old near the bathrooms as a flight attendant sat in her fold-out seat. She pretended not to notice me (IMPOSSIBLE) and continued leisurely reading her newspaper. Finally she was fed up, loudly folded her newspaper and looked right at my inconsolable son saying, “SHHHH. People are trying to SLEEP on this plane.”

I lost it. Well on the inside I lost it. I wanted to punch her and scream and fall into a crying mess all at the same time. I did none of that (as moms we put our own feelings on hold to work out at a later time).

I looked into her eyes and said sternly, “I am sorry, but my son has autism and he is doing the BEST that he can.” She was visibly and immediately startled and fumbled around with her paper then blurting out, “Well… uh… I have that too. I mean… uh… I have nieces and nephews… I mean… I WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP!” And she stormed off. My heart was broken, I thought completely, until literally a minute later another flight attendant walked towards me with her food cart and harshly said, “You need to move now, we need this area.” NOW I was done.

I went to my seat holding my (STILL CRYING) son and WEPT with all of my being. My husband was obviously very concerned but it took me a while to even get out what happened. I have never cried from such a deep place. I have never MOURNED from such a deep place.

In those moments, I didn’t want my husband to go and defend us, I didn’t want the women fired, and I didn’t even want to ever share this again. I just wept for autism. I wept for my son who had to struggle and fight daily just to interact with the world in a normal way and how much he is unfairly judged for it. I wept for the many ignorant people who do not know about autism and see the incredibly brave people who live with it daily. I wept that someone was mean to Keller as he was doing the best I could. I wept because I was also doing the best I could do. I wept because Keller has autism and it’s not fair and it’s not right. I wept.

Eventually Keller quieted and eventually I too quieted. As my tears began to slow I immediately felt the love and presence of God around me. Even though this world can be deeply and unimaginably UNKIND I know personally a God who ALWAYS moves towards me in kindness. Our God is love and our God is kind. Always. In this instance Keller and I deserved nothing but kindness and to treat us otherwise was hideous, but even when judgment and anger is DESERVED in our lives, my God still moves towards me with a kind heart. It is revolutionary. In those quiet moments I felt my God with me calming me, holding me, and speaking His words of truth over me.

If I could find these flight attendants and get my revenge I would turn it down. These women were tired and grouchy for their own reasons. Yes they should have helped me, yes they should have checked on me, and yes they should have been kind. But they weren’t. Life happens and people aren’t always kind.

If I could speak with these women now, or anyone on an airplane, I would explain to them about how brave and special my little Keller is. I would tell them that unfortunately he was born with autism, and so his brain doesn’t process the way our brains process. He gets anxious, he gets overwhelmed, he gets confused, he gets loud, and he gets exhausted. I think we would all be if we had his brain and I think he is a HERO for living such a beautiful life despite his disability. I would tell those women that families like ours fight every day and we are always scared of the judgments and the looks. We are also tired and we are also overwhelmed. But we are PRIVILAGED to raise and love this sweet boy with a unique brain and every person he comes in contact with is also privileged. I would tell them to look twice before being harsh and ask questions before judgment. I would say sometimes people need an extra smile or an extra napkin or an extra hug. We are all fighting in our own ways, and kindness can change everything.

I would say that we all need to CHOOSE KINDNESS.

I believe that my life raising Keller is an invitation to the world.

It is an invitation to open our eyes and hearts to those who are different than us. Those who struggle. Those who fight daily. Those who are weak and those who need a little extra help. Instead of seeing the ways those people burden us, what if we looked for what they brought into the world that we would never know without them in our midst. Keller and his autism help me notice every little detail and cause my heart to be thankful for life and love. Without his diagnosis I would have undoubtably missed so many beautiful and sacred moments.

The moments when people are KIND to us, when they help us, when they forgive us, when they love Keller for who he is, for who WE ARE, are the most precious treasures I have received. And I recognize that my God moves towards me with this kindness and love EVERY SINGLE MOMENT. I am in awe. I am humbled. I am thankful. It is all I need.

All we need is for this world to CHOOSE KINDNESS.

Will you?

Listening in Ocean View

November 3, 2014

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14 ESV

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Fun and exciting new developments are happening in Ocean View.  We are recognizing a gap where God is asking us to step in and we are taking the plunge to love others.  We have been serving in the Ocean View High School over the past year running the Shine and Strength Courses that are written by Hillsong Church, teaching girls and boys of their inner worth and value through Biblical principals.  These courses have been hugely successful and really welcomed by the school and students.  However, we always left feeling there was MORE that needed to be done.  MORE that God wanted us to do.

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“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” -Proverbs 12:15 ESV

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Over the past 9 weeks I have been overseeing two students from Azusa Pacific University in California who are here doing a study abroad program and needed an internship.  They volunteered in various places in Ocean View doing counseling, and OV High was their primary place to serve.  They met with a few students and counseled them but it showed us that SO MANY MORE are needing someone to listen to them.

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“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” -James 1:19 ESV

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So we are making plans and moving ahead.  My ‘WE’ is myself, Chevonne Lawrence, the Ocean View Methodist Youth Pastor, and Hannah Ross, our volunteer from Raleigh,NC who is here working with us in the View.  We are setting up structures in the high school so we will regularly have ourselves and other counselors in the school meeting with students who are in need.  Students will be nominated by their teachers if they are showing problematic behaviors or signs, and they can also nominate themselves to speak with someone.  We will also be weekly encouraging the teachers at one of their faculty meetings in order to support and connect with them.  Furthermore, we will continue our Shine and Strength courses and even start to do MORE!  Lastly, we are setting up a room at the Methodist Church that will be a counseling room; safe and private for any who want to counsel those in needs.

Really exciting stuff.  This has been on my heart for years and now together with my team we are setting up structures to actually help those in need and let them know we are here for them.  I can’t wait to see how God works and can’t wait to share it with you!

The Crossings

October 28, 2014

Lately I have been feeling super nostalgic.

I am reflecting back on the past five years of mission and ministry here in South Africa.

This week I found an old CD and put it in during dinner and play with the family.  Suddenly the last song stopped me in my path and shot me back to five years ago right as we were finishing our preparations to move our lives here to Africa.  It is called “The Crossings” by an artist named David Wilcox.

The song speaks about starting a new journey and the moment you are standing at the crossroads looking at both what you are leaving behind and what could be ahead.

I remember literally crying my eyes out listening to this song as I looked into the abyss ahead not having any idea what could be ahead in our world as we moved to Ocean View.

Five years later I can’t imagine what life would look like if I HADN’T crossed that road into my new life in South Africa.

It encourages me to continue looking ahead to the ‘new worlds’ in my future.

I will be in South Africa for a long time in my future, but God always has new roads, adventures, and challenges ahead.  Are we willing to cross over and take the leap of faith into the unknown ahead?  I hope we are.

“The Crossings” by David Wilcox

We set sail from the harbor
On the trade routes of old
Where the tall ships of spices
Bring the bright dreams of gold

There are towns full of travelers
Where the stories are told
Of the lost and the longing in the little known language
Of the wayward and bold

On our way to the crossings
We had to leave where we’d been
‘Cause the roads we came over had come to an end

So we meet here as strangers, bonded as friends
We were torn from the fabric
But the threads of our lives are beginning to mend

And the hardest mile to travel
Is that first away from home
When we wonder at the hunger of being alone
But then these tears flow with laughter

With these friends we never knew
They’ve been waiting at the crossings
For this to come true
The world of wonder set in motion is waiting for you

There are clues in the legend and gifts in the signs
That lead to the treasure we’ve been searching to find
Like a map newly written of an ancient design
We have come to the crossings
Like the travelers before us, through the ages of time

And the hardest mile to travel
Is that first away from home
When we wonder at the hunger of being alone
But then these tears flow with laughter

With these friends we never knew
They’ve been waiting at the crossings
For this to come true
The world of wonder set in motion is waiting for you

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RESTORES

September 24, 2014

“He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3 Amplified Bible

This scripture recently pierced through my heart.  Psalm 23 is a passage normally read at funerals and one I personally often overlook and think very little about.  But this scripture was read in our women’s group recently and it hit me hard.  Our God is still in the business of restoring and refreshing our lives.  Even mine.

Here is what I realized about being restored.  To be restored means you actually have to STOP before God and invite Him to restore you.  Just as you can’t have your brakes changed in a drive-through car repair shop, so too with God you have to STOP and give him the time and space to refresh and renew you.  That is super hard, right?  Why can’t God just renew us in the quick five minute devotional that we throw him daily… most days?

So after a CRAZY year that God has given us I have made an executive Prince family decision and we are going to MAKE SPACE during the last half of this year to rest and restore.  We are going to open up our lives, get away and invite God truly into us to make us new and whole.  No drive by hail-Mary prayers for us, but together we are really going to seek Him for restoration.  We are getting away, we are going on outings, we are praying more, sleeping more, and just looking for HIM more.

So how can you too open your life for restoration and refreshment?  Our God is in the restoring business but we have to come and give him the space.  Invite Him in.

Always a Conquerer

This weekend I was scheduled to preach at Ocean View Methodist Church once again, something I am privileged to do every month.  It is something I look forward to every month as I love teaching an building God’s word into my church community.  But this month I was a little nervous about it.

This would be my first sermon at OV Methodist since D-DAY (Keller’s diagnosis day) and I was unsure of my steps.  I have wondered in the past two months on many occasions if I would get up to speak or lead at something and just fall into an overwhelming crying spell in the middle of a sentence.  It hasn’t happened, but I have wondered… I wasn’t sure if I could get through an entire sermon, but more I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to listen to God’s voice for my church and then write a sermon.  It takes a lot of my heart and mind and emotional space and I take it very seriously.  But in praying about this sermon I felt led to move forward and began praying through the sermon.

I felt two things should be said.  I first knew that I should just tell Keller’s story and confess where we were emotionally.  We had told our church of Keller’s diagnosis but not much else, and I wanted to share.  The facts of the diagnosis are important but I also wanted them to know of their pastor’s broken heart and unsteady future.  But second I felt God wanted me to share His simple truth that He is with us in dark days and difficult times.

Sharing my story of Keller’s diagnosis of autism NOW is hard because the story isn’t finished.  We don’t know the last chapter and I have no idea if it will ever be tied up in a nice bow.  I hate telling stories in the middle when they are still hard.  I like the finished version where it’s OVER and I am DONE and my heart is put back together.  But this weekend I felt God telling me to tell the story now.  Tell it from the darkness.

From the ‘not yet.’  From the wanting and waiting place.  From today.

However, even in the dark, there are many things to claim and celebrate, and God led me to the end of Romans 8 in preparing to share my story.  In these days though, Romans 8 is hard to believe at times.

Paul writes, “ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” -Romans 8:37

I don’t feel much like a conquerer these days.  I feel like a survivor.  I feel like a crying mess.  I feel like a barely making it momma.  I feel like we are getting by.  But a CONQUERER?  Where is the conquering and victory in TODAY??   The tomorrows might have victory stories, but TODAY?

God has simply laid it on my soul that the victory in today is HIM.  HE is the victory.  HE is the conquering of my situation.  No matter how dark it feels and look HE is with me.  He is loving me, fighting for me, and blessing me with his presence.  

HE IS THE TREASURE.  HE IS THE PRIZE.  HE IS THE VICTORY.

Where are you needing a conquering spirit in your life?  Because Jesus says we are MORE than conquerers because He is with us.

Hallelujah and AMEN.

(See full sermon notes below)


The RISK of Love

There is such a great risk in loving.  We all choose to love people in our own ways, wherever God has planted us.  But it is difficult and messy and RISKY.

I love brownies but there is no risk in that.  They always love me back with their chocolatey goodness.  I know what I am getting.  People are not like brownies.

When we love we put ourselves out there and we never know what we will receive.  But TRUE love is loving and giving all without knowing what will come back.

This week our Ubuntu son Zakhe who has been living with us for the past three months has moved out.  I will not belabor the details out of respect for him, but it did not end well with us, and he was happy to move out of our home.  He made mistakes, we made mistakes, and in the end our family was just too much pressure for him and not the right space.

So if you are counting we have taken in two kids from other communities (Ntokozo and Zakhe) over our four years here and invited them into our homes and families.  Both started great and both ended in a fiery disastrous crash.

I loved Ntokozo deeply and when she left our home in 2011 I was devastated.  Now we have an incredibly deep relationship with her and are ‘family’ for sure even though she doesn’t live with us.  God has completely redeemed that story.  We love her and she loves us.

With Zakhe I am not sure how the story will end.  I know that we love him very much, but he is working through many things and isn’t sure how he feels.  We hope that by moving him into the black township in our area with another coach he will feel less pressure and be able to become a healthy and vibrant part of the Ubuntu community.  The story is still being written right now.

I will say that personally this journey with Zakhe has been exhausting and devastating.  God told me to take in one of the boys in January and Zakhe was placed with us.  I tried not to have hopes in him or our relationship but fell in love with him and it’s not a good relationship at this moment.  I am heartbroken and confused.

However, in my heartbreak haze there are a few things I know.  I know that God loves ME and I know that I love because of the love of Jesus deep in my soul.  We don’t love because it’s deserved or returned.  We just love because we are loved.

So I will continue to risk and continue to love.  I can do that because I am loved by the Greatest Love in the universe.  God’s love defines me and fills every part of my being.

“We love each other because he loved us first.” -1 John 4:19 NLT

Keep risking love.

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”  -Henri Nouwen