Our Culture’s Confusing Message About Courage

I was wide awake by 6 AM on Saturday morning.

I made a cup of strong Ethiopian coffee and drank it black, while the rest of the house slept.

Snuggling up on the couch with a cat and a blanket, I opened my Bible and my laptop and I started thinking about the words I planned to share at The Refugee Project fundraiser tea this weekend.

I stared at the blank screen and typed the first word that came to mind:

Courage.

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I wrote down a few thoughts and turned to Google for a familiar quote I couldn’t quite remember.

I was surprised to find Bruce Jenner at the top of my search for the word courage. 

I didn’t watch his interview the night before, but apparently nearly 15 million people did.

But I only feel compassion for a confused man who decides to become a woman. And I believe God loves him either way and will do anything to let him know it.

The two words most associated on social media with the interview were courage and bravery. And that makes me think that maybe our culture has confused courage with compassion?

We ache for miserable and unhappy people and feel compassion towards them when they do something to change their situation, even if we don’t agree with the choice. This is compassion and it’s good.

I may not understand Bruce Jenner’s choices or agree with them, but I don’t have to in order to feel compassion for him.

What is courage? 

Our culture says it’s when someone is brave enough to pursue happiness for themselves at any cost.

But we aren’t promised happiness in this life. Especially if we are following Jesus.

When I think of courage, I don’t think of a confused former Olympian turned-reality-show-star declaring he’s now a woman. No, instead I think of Tee Mo, a precious refugee lady with a tiny voice and a bulging belly, about to deliver her third child.

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Bravery is this woman who lives in a small apartment with more than a dozen other people in heart of Houston and tries to learn and understand her new home. She left the dirt floors of the refugee camp she was born into in Nepal so her children would have opportunity in America.

When I think of courage, I think of her showing up for weekly ESL classes and working her fingers to crochet something she can sell in order buy diapers for her baby.

When I think of courage, I think of her family and friends digging in rubble, searching for life under collapsed buildings in her homeland.

When I think of courage, I think of first responders and soldiers and people who run into danger to help someone they don’t even know.

When I think of courage, I think of the 100 clergy from all denominations linking arms and walking with the protesters against violence in the streets of Baltimore.

Because no matter what our culture says, courage isn’t thinking about ourselves. It’s not choosing a path that makes us happy at any cost. No, bravery is revealed when we lay down our lives to serve someone else.

This is courage.

Yes: One Year Later {Huge Giveaway}

A few weeks after turning in my Rhinestone Jesus manuscript, my memoir about obedience to God, I visited refugees in Houston, relocated by the United Nations an hour from my home.

I was deeply moved not just by their poverty, but by their courage.

But I argued with God the whole way home.

What can I do to help them? I’m so busy. I’m already living out my yes.

But I’d been down that road before and I ended up with the question I couldn’t answer: How can I not help them?

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And so God used my own book about obedience to help me say yes again. 

That was over a year ago and that yes led to another and Fair Trade Friday was born and more than 1300 women are currently linking arms with Mercy House every month to empower and employ women all around the world like this Ethiopian artisan group we visited last week (they loved their Dayspring bags!)

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That yes led to my husband quitting his secure, well-paying job to lead the growing organization we started in 2010. It has led to helping more pregnant girls in Kenya.

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His yes led me to my next… a parenting book about gratitude and entitlement-possibly my most challenging yes to date. Because kids are hard.

A few weeks ago, I turned in my parenting manuscript and our family turned in an application to Catholic Charities to begin the process to foster an unaccompanied minor from a refugee camp–just typing those words–makes my heart pound.

But its been the small, daily yeses that have drawn me closer to God.

Yes, you can have more ice cream. Yes, I will forgive you for lying about cleaning up  your room. Yes, I will play Legos with you.

I keep thinking I’m done answering yes. But He keeps asking and pushing me deeper.

I’m not very good at faking brave. Every yes has scared me to death. Every yes has stretched me further than I thought possible. Every yes has drawn me to the feet of Jesus.

Every yes is without regret.

One year ago today, my book was released to the world. A few of you have sent words and stories about your yes to God. And it’s encouraged me to keep saying it. So, obviously, I completely blame you.

Here are 9 reasons other moms think you need to read Rhinestone Jesus today:

  • It will make you feel better about your messy marriage, motherhood and mission
  • It will challenge you to find that place where your passion and skills collide
  • It will inspire you to parent with intention and lead your family to find their greatest purpose
  • It might lead you to have a good cry (we all need that occasionally, right?)
  • Hopefully, it will cause at least one hearty belly laugh (and I’m not just referring to the scary picture of me with a home perm holding a doll)
  • It will stir up gratitude for what you have instead of disappointment for what you don’t
  • It will make you want to say yes to God today, right where you are
  • It will help you evaluate what matters most
  • It will support this ministry

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To celebrate, brave words and small yeses, big hopes and quiet dreams, I’m giving away FIVE prize packages: a signed copy of Rhinestone Jesus, Dayspring’s bestselling letterpress letters that spell the world “yes”, Dayspring’s gorgeous Micah 6:8 poster, a paper bead necklace created by the maternity home residents in Kenya, a bracelet from a Mercy House community outreach and Dayspring’s “Change the World” tablet decal.

To enter, tell me about your yes. (Remember, there are no big or small in Kingdom living. Every yes counts).

You never know who it will inspire.