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}

Updated with Winners: Congrats to random commenters Leslie, Becky, Chelsea, Kendra and Lindsey

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.

God’s Mission for the Family is Expanding God’s Family

I wasn’t even home yet when I heard words that made me cringe.

“I love what your family is doing, but we could never do that. We are just too _______ [insert one of 1000 reasons].

The statement makes me uncomfortable, but I also understand it.

I feel the same way about 365 days a year. “I can’t do this mission. Our family is too human. We don’t know what we’re doing, I can’t even keep up with laundry. I yell at my kids. We are argue and live this grace thing out in ugly ways some days…”

My list of “I can’t and I shouldn’t” is endless.

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But living on mission doesn’t start with doing something for God. It begins with what He has done for us.

The question isn’t Is my family called to a mission?

That question has already been answered.

It’s simple really. God has called all of us-families included-to welcome others into His family.

God’s mission for the family is expanding God’s family.” -Ann Dunagan

We are called to GO.

Click to read in its entirety at (in)courage….

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

It only takes a couple of minutes of watching the nightly news to recognize our world is a scary place.

I was on my way home from Ethiopia with my daughter when 20 Ethiopian men lost their lives on a beach in Libya. Their crime? The same as mine. They were Christians.

I have to point out the elephant in the room and ask: Do we really care?

I loved walking the streets of Ethiopia and visiting groups of women we are partnering with through Fair Trade Friday. It feels safer than Kenya. It’s not as heavy or oppressive, I whispered to my daughter as we stood in a dump as tall as a mountain and held hands with children who were digging for food.

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Now, I’m sitting in my home safe and sound and one country I visited is in mourning and the other one is burying hundreds of college students massacred by terrorists.

And honestly, I don’t ever want to leave home again.

I’m finding my rhythm, catching up on hot baths, laundry and sweet tea. It’s easy to slip back into the comfort of easy living.

I know God is not safe. He asks us to go further than we think we can go and do things we think we cannot and believe in the impossible.

Sometimes following Jesus is scary as hell, even when God asks us to stay right where we are.

I find staying is as hard as going some days. I’m lulled into thinking I’m safe. I’m sucked into the culture of more stuff, bigger and better and I find it’s actually easy to forget how the rest of the world is living.

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Or dying.

And then some days, I’m haunted by the suffering of people around the globe. They aren’t really different from my family. There are moms wondering what’s for dinner. And dads who travel to look for work to take care of their families.  But what can my family really do to help the poor and oppressed, to remember the persecuted church suffering when my own government mostly ignores it?

And how in the world can I raise kids who are grateful for what they have when they don’t even realize the freedom they enjoy?

It’s a question we have to ask ourselves in our entitled culture.

Because while Christians are losing their heads in Libya, it’s too easy to turn off the news and pretend the most important thing on our list is shopping for summer clothes or deciding which Vacation Bible School to attend.

This week, Glen Beck (like him or not), said this and I agree, “So often we cry out for justice. We raise our hands on Sunday. We call for the enemy to be crushed, but then we retreat into our humble abodes, castles by global standards, and go about our daily lives. And we get busy, honestly busy, wrapped up in our own day and our own chaos, honestly busy, and we forget that the second part of justice is mercy and compassion. That’s our job, to show mercy, to have compassion, to kindle it in our heart and the hearts of others…. [Why do we do nothing?] We feel helpless and we don’t know what to do, so we do nothing.”

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

Some believers are called to go. Some are called to stay. But we are all called to do something. Nothing is not an option for my family or yours.  And there are many things we can do with our families to actively become a part of this story God is writing in our tumultuous world.

1. We Can Pray For The World :: Prayer is generally first on our list, but last on our lips. When we get up in the morning or lay down at night, when we eat or worship, walk or workout, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. For years, off and on, this book has educated our family on how to pray for the world.

2. We Can Hang a World Map :: It may sound simplistic, but when my son was a baby, we wallpapered his room with an enormous world map. What started out as decor, turned into a resource. For years, we congregated in his room and searched the life-size map for countries we learned or talked about. And before I traveled across the ocean the first time in 2010, we all put our fingers on the word Kenya and prayed together. I have a globe collection and maps hang all over my house now. Hang a map in a high traffic spot in your house and refer to it. Pick a country and pray for it. You never know where it will lead you (without even leaving your home).

3. We Can Host a Global Party In Our Home :: One of the reasons I love Fair Trade Friday so much is because it is empowering and employing around 1000 women in 16 countries–all in the name of Jesus through on-the-ground faith-based non-profits. And now, Mercy House is expanding our home party line and taking applications to host a free global Fair Trade Friday party in your home, so you can see and touch and buy products made by women all around the world. I hugged and loved on women in two of those countries this week and with tears in their eyes, they thanked me for a job that is providing food and rent. This is a beautiful way to see the world and change it. Learn more about hosting a party today.

4. We Can Talk About World Events :: Our first inclination is to protect our kids from the bad in the world, but this doesn’t always mean we should shield them from current world events, especially if they are old enough to read, overhear the news or attend school. Silence can breed fear and ignorance. Educating them is different than scaring them. When we prayed for Ethiopia last night at dinner, we talked about recent events and cleared up misconceptions. I’d rather my kids hear the truth from me than be afraid of what they overhear from someone else.

5. We Can Eat a Meal to Remember :: Whether it’s rice or beans on Mondays, a visit to a global food market in your town or an attempt at a new recipe for something you can’t pronounce, we can remember the world (and experience it), through food. Last week, my daughter and I sat in homes of women and ate our fill of injera and shiro. Yesterday, we attempted our first coffee ceremony and just the smell of the coffee I brought home, took me back to the small home where I was served with great love. I dare you to expose your kids to the world through their dinner plate.

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6. We Can Complete a Family Service Project :: Last year, Mercy House mailed out 20,000 prayer bracelets as a reminder to pray for the most oppressed people group in the world: women. Your family can do something to support them! Order a kit for $10 today and share the bracelets with your family and friends. 100% of the proceeds go to help us reach women all around the globe.

7. We Can Redeem Consumerism :: Shopping is as much a part of our culture as tea is a part of Kenya. A couple of years ago, I would cringe when people referred to our consumerism.  Just look at the empty Lilly Pulitzer racks at Target. I can’t stop people from buying. I won’t even try. Instead, I want to challenge people to buy something that changes a life. Give a gift twice. Support a woman with a purchase. Teach your children that cheap things aren’t always free.

8. We Can Practice Compassion and Mercy :: When our family prayed for Ethiopian Christians this week, my husband reminded us we should also pray for the Islamic persecutors. We are tempted to ignore or be prejudiced against what we don’t understand. But we can show compassion and mercy to everyone. Especially those who are different than we are. Is there a better way for our family to shine Jesus than this? Child sponsorship is a beautiful place to start.

9. We Can’t Pretend For Another Minute That Our Freedom is Free :: Without a doubt, I believe perspective is the greatest gift we can give our children. If their only view is an entitled world where they get everything they want, we will most likely end up with entitled children. But if we are going to compare ourselves to those around us who have what we want, we also have to balance our view by comparing ourselves to those with less than us. This shift is eye-opening for our families. It’s where gratitude is born.

Do we really care? Can we really do something?

The answer is yes.

The One Thing We All Have In Common {Giveaway}

Congrats to the random comment #25 Misty and #151 Nicki!

I’ve met women from all around the world.

Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been amazed at the differences-from the foods we eat, to the way we live.

Some walk with jugs of water on their heads, while others scoop it from a river or catch it in rain containers on their roofs.

Some cook at stoves with propane tanks sitting at their feet, while others lean over a jako and stir their pots over charcoal.

Some go to the bathroom in pit latrine, while others use a concrete hole in the ground or a bidet.

Some wear scarves covering their heads, while others wear bright traditional fabric or second hand clothes from the market.

one thing we all have in common

There are more differences than I can count.

And yet, we share important things in common: We have hopes and dreams and we would do anything for our children.

harmony bracelet-1This universal language of motherhood is breathtaking. It’s the dance of sacrifice and bravery and it’s the same in every language.

I met an Ethiopian woman a few days ago who had given birth the week before in her tiny hut. Her little 8 year old was in the sponsorship program we visited and told us her mother was very sick. When we visited her home balanced precariously on the side of a steep ledge, she was feverish and desperately sick with mastitis in her infected and swollen breasts.

And yet, in her suffering, she continued to feed her newborn baby, even when she wasn’t able to feed herself.

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Because that’s what mothers do.

We sacrifice.

We put our kids before ourselves.

We give them more than we had.

We risk our lives if it means giving our children the chance to live.

Love in any language is the same.

And that’s the one thing we all have in common.

state leather cuff webToday, The Vintage Pearl, a long time friend and supporter of Mercy House, is helping me celebrate this beautiful thing called motherhood. Join me in remembering our sisters around the globe and this precious thing we have in common.

The Vintage Pearl is giving away two $50 gift certificates. Please leave a comment mentioning a mother in your life that has inspired you.

Use code “WATF15″ for 15% off through 4/24. Today is the last day to order to receive by Mother’s Day.