The Truth About Religion

I am a church child of the 80′s.

I wore this pin, remember?

I did all the stuff Christians do.

And then a few years ago, I realized I was spiritually fat.

I was well-fed, plump on a lot of religion, but lacking obedience.

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Faith has always been a huge part of my life. I guess I would characterize myself as full of faith but lacking in obedience. I believed everything Jesus said; I just didn’t always do what He told me.

But when I began to say yes in my mess, that’s when I started to slim down.

Getting fit is uncomfortable. It can be painful and stretch us further then we thought possible.

It makes us stronger.

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When we started rescuing young pregnant girls in Kenya, many orphaned, we hired young and old widows as housemothers to help us help them.  And somewhere in the mix of helping orphans and widows, I discovered the truth about religion.

It’s not so much about what we believe, it’s also about what we do.

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We can’t really separate the two. One without the other is dead.

And when we find a way-some way in our busy lives and busy world- to serve the least of these, we find God. Every time.

When we step out of our comfort zone and serve another human, it’s a spiritual act of worship.

Religion is so much more than a check in a box. It’s being the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s about fulfilling what we were created to do. It’s about focusing on what matters. It’s about bringing God glory.

Faithful widows like Jessica, Winfred and Judy spend their days serving the least of these.

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“Thank you for helping these girls,” Judy grasped both my hands last week in Kenya.

“You’re helping us, too. We love our job and we need it,” Jessica hugged me tight.

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My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

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As I watched widowed women love orphaned girls and fatherless babies, I saw Jesus.

I found true religion in an unlikely place.

And I’ve never seen a more beautiful site.

 


WFMW: Say Yes to Your God-Sized Adventure Today

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Kari for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Twenty-two years ago, I didn’t have a clue how to say yes.

For me, life was all about maintaining a well-organized home, driving a new minivan, enjoying the perks of being a stay-at-home mom, vacationing to beautiful places, and trying my best to make my children happy all. of. the. time. I loved providing them with the pleasures of a comfortable life with the best toys, activities, and experiences.

But, if you peeled back the layers you would have found a mom who was self-centered, overly busy, stressed, and unhappy. I was messy on the inside. I wasn’t feeling satisfied. I didn’t feel adequate in any area of my life. But, I was too embarrassed to admit I was a mess, even to myself.

During this season, I delivered my son at 21 weeks gestation, who took his last breath in my arms and with his death, I lost all the hopes and dreams I had for him and my family. I found myself depressed without a purpose in my life. I was lost in my sorrow. I felt like I was failing miserably as a wife and mom.

“God uses our brokenness for His purpose. What He puts back together heals stronger.” #RhinestoneJesus

As God started healing my heart, He started to challenge me in ways I had never experienced before. To my surprise, He put in my heart a desire to adopt. My focus started to shift from people, places, and things to surrendering my heart. As we began to say yes to God as a couple, our dreams began to change for our family. In 2008, we adopted the most beautiful baby girl, Zoie Senait from Ethiopia.

However, it was unnerving feeling unsatisfied living the “yuppy” lifestyle. How was this possible? We had already shared 16 comfortable years in our marriage, but God started to convict us to fully surrender to Him.

It was a tough battle and I fought it every step of the way. I questioned God. We already adopted our daughter from Ethiopia…what more could you possibly want from us? (What a dangerously stupid thing to ask God)

“Hardships in life shape us, struggles define us, and both ultimately prepare us for the future God is calling us to.” Kristen Welch

God was faithful and He started prying every single one of my fingers off the stuff I was clinging so tightly to. But, I still wasn’t willing to say yes with full abandonment.

  • I didn’t want to let go of my home.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my comfort.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my husband’s salary.
  • I didn’t want to let go of my stuff.

When you surrender fully to God’s calling, you must be willing to give up your lifestyle, your reputation, your everything. When you give God control, He must take ALL of it. You have to give Him your mess.

As my hubby and I started sayings yes, God started us off on a new adventure. We spent the next 5 years leading mission teams to love big on orphans. We built up our ministries, Simply Love and Man Up and Go. Our passion was living out-loud James 1:27. But, He wanted more from us.

If God asks you to let it go– do it! Be obedient. Do good. In 1 Timothy 6:18 Jesus requires us to be rich in good works, be generous, and ready to serve.

We said yes again, and sold our home, quit our day job, sold our stuff, and started on a radical God-sized adventure that transformed our family forever.

We lived in three 3rd world countries for 15 months. First, we served in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia serving a slum community and leper colony. Next, we spent 2 months in rural Haiti living in an orphanage and sharing the gospel to the lost and caring for the sick. Finally, we headed to Nicaragua hosting mission teams, loving big at a re-nutritional orphanage, and building homes in the poorest communities.

Honestly, our time living abroad were some of the best days and some of the messiest days of my life. I felt vulnerable at every turn.

We are now back living in the states, and my husband has a new job with a bigger platform than we could have ever imagined to reach men, women, and families world-wide to live for Jesus. Together, we are sharing our story to encourage others to serve the Great Commission, be lovers of Jesus, and loving people.

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So, how do you say yes to a God-sized dream?

Here Are 7 Ways to Say Yes…Today:

  1. Pray Through: Pray like your whole life depends on it. Start asking God to transform your heart to be a lover of Him and prepare for God to change everything, your dreams, hopes, desires, and passions. If you ask, He will be faithful. There is nothing He won’t provide for you to live the purpose He created for your life. Remember, prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading. You don’t want to head off in the wrong direction.
  2. Commit to Fasting: This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare you soul, mind, and heart to say yes. When you take the time to give up something (like food) and focus with prayer and fasting, God WILL reveal his power and miracles to you.
  3. Make Sacrifices: What are you willing to give up? It doesn’t mean you have to sell your home and give away all your stuff, but it does mean you will make sacrifices to say yes. It does mean you will live obediently, no matter what the cost may be. Watch out! When you are willing to give everything up to serve and love Him, God will change everything.
  4. Take Action: Real action takes movement and when it’s time to move forward, DO IT AFRAID and move! If we aren’t willing to jump in the adventure with both feet, we miss out on the plans He sets in motion for us. If we move too slow, we find ourselves slacking back into old habits, old fears, and old living.
  5. Remember His Grace: Here’s the thing, we will always be messy. We are sinful by nature and will constantly, consistently, and miserably fail. Grace is the gift of favor and love from Jesus because we don’t deserve His love. We don’t deserve His undeserving redemption. I don’t know about you, but that takes the pressure off all our big fat failures.
  6. Remember the Battle: Satan wants to discourage us, make us feel like failures. He kills our dreams, steals our ambitions, and destroys our spirits. It’s not God that’s not putting us back in the game, it’s us allowing satan to keep us out of the game through what he does in our minds, filling our thoughts with despair, guilt, shame, loneliness, and failure. Take every thought captive! (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  7. Make Jesus Famous: Give Him full control of your life. Say YES right now– today to follow Him the rest of your life. Full surrender. Complete obedience. Every adventure will be different. Look different. But, it will be a God-sized adventure. Nothing is better than loving and knowing Jesus.

Sisters, our “stuff” was never designed to make us happy. Our joy does not come from materialistic things. True joy comes from saying YES to serving and loving and caring and blessing and helping others with your gifts, talents, and passions.

 

unnamed-1Bio: Kari Gibson is the proud daughter of marriage and parenting guru, Gary Smalley. She learned at an early age how to dream big and pray bold and love people. She is the author of four children’s books, Mookie’s Secret, The Very Scary Cave, Mookie and the Too-Proud Peacock, and Mookie the Berry Bandit.

She has spent the past 6 years leading mission teams to Haiti, Uganda, and Ethiopia mobilizing others to go and love and serve big. She married her high school sweetheart, Roger, who is the senior director of adult and family ministries for Assemblies of God. Roger & Kari live in Springfield, MO with their three super-kids Michael, Hannah, and Zoie.

Kari blogs at My Crazy Adoption and writes about everyday life–marriage, family, parenting, faith, adoption, orphan care, and all the other things that celebrate the craziness of life and loving big.


The Real Threat to Marriage

Frustrated. Irritable. Tired.

I blamed it on jet lag and dirty hair. And rightly so.

But still. It’s always’s something. We can always find a reason for an interruption in happiness. Even when we are rested on the best hair day.

We stood at an airport in between time zones on the other side of the globe and in a hot minute, my soulmate was hinging on becoming my arch enemy.

Ah, love.

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There’s no guarantee we’ll be happy in marriage.

As a matter of fact, most days we can find a hundred reasons not to be.

And I’m not really talking about the big things like financial ruin, pornography, adultery and differences we can’t reconcile.

I understand marriages end every day with good reason. I understand the choice isn’t always ours.

But if we’re keeping track and letting the small things add up –those dirty socks on the floor, that burned dinner, the lack of romance, the mood swings– our marriage could be in danger.

Big or small–we can conquer all of these with God’s help.

I’ve seen marriages overcome the worst. And I’ve witnessed them end over insignificant irritations.

Because maybe the biggest threat of all is when we simply stop trying.

When we give up.

Quit.

Stop participating. Stop communicating.

When we refuse to forgive the small stuff, bury our feelings, give our spouse the cold shoulder and punish them with the silent treatment–

We always, always lose.

I read an article about a couple who on their 20 year anniversary dinner reminisced about their lives together and then when they got to dessert, they talked about who got the house and who got the kids.

There wasn’t a big reason for the split. They were growing in different directions, didn’t feel connected or happy anymore.

And while it may sound surprising to give up over so little, I think the threat is all too real. Leaving is often easier than staying.

I’ve been there:

We would falter and fail and taste brokenness like we couldn’t imagine. My solid marriage would be unrecognizable, a lot like the pieces scattered around me.- from Chapter 3, the testimony of my marriage in Rhinestone Jesus.

Here’s the thing–no marriage is perfect. Not your neighbors or your pastors. Not mine or yours. How could it be with all that humanity? Some days we don’t feel happy, or loved, or loving.

But we fight. We love. We keep forgiving.  We keep working on our marriage.

Because struggling means we are both trying.

And that beats quitting any day.


Coming Soon

There is an amazing story—and invitation behind these pictures.

It starts in a slum at the base of the hills where our new home is located.

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I can’t wait to tell you.

 

Here’s a hint: It includes fair trade, shopping, and empowering another dozen young mothers in the slum with hope, opportunity and Jesus.

 

Coming soon!


WFMW: The Hardest Yes of Motherhood

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I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from Erin for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

The word “mess” is a familiar one to me. I’ve never been the best at keeping things well organized, but add three boys and all the Legos that come along with them, and I’m usually surrounded by messes. When I read the concept of saying “yes in my mess” in Kristen’s book I thought, “I can do that. I’ve been doing that for years.”

It turns out our messes aren’t always just physical, though, and it is often the relational, spiritual, and emotional messes that prevent us from saying yes more often to God and His plans for us.

I’m writing this during a break in packing my oldest son for camp. He’s eight and this is his first year going to church camp three hours away from home for four days. This may have been my hardest “yes” as a parent so far, and not just because I’m going to miss him or because he’ll be so far away and I worry.

Erin Yes In My Mess Post

My relationship with my eight-year-old has been quite messy for the past year or so. I am sure it’s not that much out of the ordinary. Many other moms of eight-year-old boys have reassured me of this. I asked his permission before telling this story because it is his story as well, but honestly, I don’t know if he feels the mess between us as much as I do.

The relational tension between us is two-sided, but I’m owning up to my part today. I’m creating a lot of mess with my own expectations and a desire to hold on to control of my family. Yuck. I hate to admit that, but this is where my “yes” came in to play.

Several months ago, my firstborn came home from AWANA talking about church camp and how he was finally old enough to go. “Can I go?! PLEASE?!” I was happy to hear him excited, but my mind quickly swirled with thoughts of him being too young and not ready and the camp being too long and too far away. This seemed like something very much out of my control.

Besides the control thing, I couldn’t help but think about where our relationship as mother and son was…and how I didn’t want it to be this way just before he left to be on his own for the first time. I had to make the decision to send him to camp or not in the middle of that mess. This was just about the time I was reading Rhinestone Jesus. As I wrestled with this balance of feeling God leading me to let my boy go and the feeling that I wanted our relationship to be “right” before I released him, I read this…

“God didn’t wait for me to get my life together before I said yes – He accepted my willingness in the middle of my mess.”

That’s just what I did. I said yes in the middle of my mess. I’m not writing this to tell you what happened on the other side. We’ve been working on my expectations and his respect for me, both making progress but with lots of room to grow. He leaves for camp tomorrow morning and I really have no idea what God will do through this. I only know He is working on me through this whole experience, asking me to let go so that He can shine. And I trust that He will.

“God wants us right in the middle of our mess because it’s the perfect place for Him to shine through our imperfections.”

 

 

Erin Mohring enjoys life in Nebraska with her husband of 11 years and their three boys, as well as reading, running, and movie nights with her guys. She writes at Home with the Boys and is the co-founder of The MOB Society, a site for moms of boys, by moms of boys.