Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Light Shines Brightest in the Dark - Reflections on a Trying Week.

This has been a hard week and a half for me.  As a life long holder of minority opinions, a possessor of a deep God given sense of justice and care for the less fortunate, and an always growing personal understanding of the God of the Bible and how much He loves this world, the events of this past week and their global impact have caused me unbelievable grief.  I have struggled both inwardly and externally to process what is going on in the world and try to understand how in the HECK we got here?  I wonder if you can relate?  I have questioned God, questioned myself, questioned the church, and spent far more time than is normal for me on the verge of tears.  Every story I read, every photo I see freshly reminds me that these are real people being affected... mommas and daddies, siblings and friends, aunts and grandparents... hurting and displaced in the world right now the vast majority for reasons that are not their own.  And while I know the truth is that has been true from the dawn of time for some people group at some point in the world, right now, its Syrians, and instead of welcoming them with open arms an reliving in some small way the pain and fear they are experiencing, our nation just wrongly called them dangerous and slammed the door in their faces.  These are victims, and are leader is treating them like they are not even human.

In my attempt to find sanity and connect with the Lord on all I was feeling and processing, I headed into nature to walk and worship and pray and LISTEN.  I needed some wisdom from outside myself on what the Lord is up to and how can this possible be happening in 2017 on our watch?  Before my walk I was reminded of this passage from Matthew, and the verses had been running thru my head all morning.


As someone who professes to know and desires to follow the God of the universe, I take God at His word and therefore believe that the Bible is true, and that Jesus meant what He said.  In the verse above, when asked point blank what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "Love God, Love People."  But He doesn't just leave it there... He goes so far as to say "Love others AS YOURSELF."

What does that mean??  That means if I want a safe home for me and my family, then I ALSO and EQUALLY MUST want that for you also.

If I want food and and jobs for me and my family, then I ALSO and EQUALLY MUST want that for others.

If I want access to eduction for me and my family, then I ALSO and EQUALLY am commanded by God to want that for others also.

If I want healthcare and access to doctors and medical treatment for me and my family, then I ALSO and EQUALLY MUST want that for others in the world.

If I want FREEDOM and the option to choose my Religion and to practice what I believe, then I ALSO and EQUALLY MUST want that for others in the world as well.

I could go on and on and on, but I feel like the point is clear.  The Bible tells me I am to love my neighbors AS MYSELF.  It doesn't say neighbors I agree with or that share my religious beliefs or sexual orientation or political view..... It says AS MYSELF.  And I know that if I was forced to leave everything I knew and loved, everything I had spent my life building because crazy people came and made things so unsafe there was no other option but to flee, I would PRAY and DESIRE for someone to care and to come and to love on me and my kids.  To be the blessing we needed in those dark, dark days.  To meet needs we could not possibly meet in our given circumstances.  To believe in me and to care enough to be inconvenienced until I was able to make heads or tails of the chaos that had been inflicted upon me and my family.  And since I know that is what I would want for me, and because I believe the Bible is true and Jesus didnt make a mistake in its writing, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that it is a SIN to see my neighbors around the world suffering and to care more about my comfort and conveniences than about them.

If their suffering does not move me to sacrifice and action, I. Am. Wrong.

And so, this is the frame of mind I am in when the Lord meets as I am crying out to Him about all I am seeing and feeling and wanting Him to fix.  And His response is so clear.

"Jordan, my plan is that this will be My Peoples finest hour.  Light shines brightest in the DARK.  I know things seem dark now, but be assured I have given My people, who are called by My name, every thing they need to shine brightly in these dark days.  If they will rise up and stand alongside their brothers and sisters in the world who are hurting... If they will be inconvenienced for the sake of the Gospel they say they believe, more people will SEE ME CLEARLY that you can even comprehend.  I haven't left you.  I haven't left them.  I am here in the darkness, loving even those who do not yet know Me, and encouraging those who say they do to RISE UP and make me famous simply by how they LOVE the hurting and voiceless right in front of them."

I can not even put into words the peace that came over me when I realized the opportunity that exists for a massive global display of LOVE to emerge from these dark days.  We can all do something.  We must love our neighbor.  We do NOT need Washington to do that!  If you, like me, say you are a Christ follower, we must be inconvenienced for the sake of the Gospel we say we believe.  The time has come in our generation when we must put action to our words, and step out in faith loving people like NEVER before,  knowing the God of the universe created and loves every single Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic, and otherwise just as much as He loves YOU.  This is not a time to sit back and hope the world gets better.  This is the time to Love wildly and without abandon knowing the stakes have never been higher.

Our job is not to save people.  Only Jesus does that.  Our job is to LOVE THEM WITHOUT CONDITION.  And every single one of us is capable of Love.  And I do not have to agree with every decision you make in order to love you deeply.  We are all human.  Flaws are part of it.  My job is to LOVE my neighbor as I love my own flawed self.  The rest isn't up to me.

Find an organization that is helping refugees and ask what you can do to actively help them in their efforts.  Use your business to fundraise, sell somethings you don't need and donate the money, make cards with your kids and send them along with care packages, donate gently used items to a resettlement organization in your neighborhood, and on and on the list goes... Ask the Lord to show you what you are to do, and be willing to do whatever He brings to mind.

Jennie Allen just posted a LOT of options to look into on her blog! Check out for more info!! 
http://www.jennieallen.com/can-love-refugees-today-complete-list-organizations/


If this is going to be the churches finest hour, what I can promise you is this.  You don't want to miss it because you were scared or it was too inconvenient.  Oh what a tragedy that would be!

Light shines brightest in the dark.  Have HOPE that the King is still on His throne, and then Shine Bright in these dark days my friends!!  Never ever has the world needed it more.




Monday, September 19, 2016

Buyamba Uganda- An organization worth supporting.


(Reflections on my recent visit to Uganda)

Several times in a lifetime we have an experience that changes us forever.  I mean, really changes us.  Introduces us to new ideas, problems, or issues in the world that we can never again NOT know.  We can pretend that encounter didnt happen, but really, we know it did.


Over the past 10 days I have had one such experience.  I have been in Africa for the first time in my life, and it was beautiful and hard and refreshing all at the same time.  If ever you get the opportunity to visit, I highly suggest you cease it.

Personally, I had the opportunity to join a mission trip with my church to help at a children's camp for orphaned and needy children in Uganda.  The organization we partner with is called Buyamba Uganda, and these people are the real deal.  Talk about a group of people who LOVE GOD and LOVE KIDS!?  Their passion for Jesus and wanting each child to know Him well is incredible!  I was fortunate enough during this visit to get to have real educational conversations with several of the family members who work full time for Buyamba, which their father started, and their genuine passion for helping these children change the course of their futures is unlike any I have encountered before.  Talk about a family who practices what they preach!!  The Dongo family, who's father started Buyamba Uganda, is a living example of what it looks like to take the word of God to heart and act it out.  I can only pray that one day the Lord will help me to take Him and His word as seriously as they do.  Thank you, Dongo's, for being a living and active example to me of living like Jesus.




If I am honest, one of the things I was most nervous about coming into this trip was being perceived as the "rich" white people coming in to save the kids and meet all their needs as an American saw their needs.  I think so often I have seen or heard about mission work gone wrong, and was fearful of being seen in that way.  Therefore in the lead up to our departure, I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would give me eyes to see His children as He sees them, not as I would see them, and I am so grateful He answered that prayer 1000x over.  While these children have next to nothing materially, maybe a change of clothes and some other basic items, most of which they can carry with them in a backpack or plastic bag, they have a JOY I have never seen in an American child.  It was something you truly have to see to believe.

These kiddos lived in the village near camp, and I found them carrying water back to their home from the creek down the hill.  They laughed and laughed at this white girl with her camera!  But when I asked if I could take their photo, they were giddy and smiled huge! :)   (In other news, what kind of neck muscles would you have to have to carry that much weight on your head!!??)  





This is me and a sweet girl called Praise, who was glued to me all week.  
I fell in love with that sweet face. 





 These are photos of my class for the week.  The bottom is Diana, one of my amazing 
facilitators who helped with the crowd control and translation!  She is the best!  


With that said, one of the things I found most refreshing while we were in Uganda was this.  I asked several different leaders at Buyamba what THEY SAW their children's greatest need as being.  As an American, it would have been so easy to look at the material things and believe what the kids need is clothes and toys and/or other misc items...  However, I was slightly surprised and extremely delighted to hear 1 of them say LOVE, and the other 2 of them say EDUCATION.  Neither of which is a material possession.  The gal that told me love explained that because most of the children come from broken homes, the parent or guardian they do have is working long hours for next to NO pay and simply doesnt have the time to love on and encourage the littles in their care.  Therefore, the kids are rarely held and hugged and loved on.  This was apparent during our visit as so many of the kids just wanted to be touching you all the time.  Hugging, holding your hand, sitting on your lap, etc.  The other 2 who said education talked about the hope that education gives a child.  Education to them means that while things are extremely hard in the present, they have a hope that things can change in the future.  Many of the leaders and facilitators who either work for or volunteer with Buyamba today are children who once attended God Cares school as children thanks to the sponsorship of a family in the states.  The stories these adults told about what they have overcome was hard to stomach at times... broken homes, parents addicted to one substance or another, siblings who died due to neglect or mistreatment, parents or guardians who literally were unable to put food on the table for days on end, and the examples go on and on and on... And yet, thanks to the work of Buyamba, and the education they received at God Cares school, they have been able to change the course of their lives.  Many are now attending college, and they are giving back at the same organization that made such a life changing impact for them.  It is a cycle of hope that brings me to tears.  And its an organization that is worthy of our prayers, our time, and our financial support. The quote below seems to sum up my thoughts exactly.

“I am blown away that my God, who could do this all by Himself, 
would choose to let me be a little part of it.” 
- Katie Davis, Amazima Ministries

You see, I have been convicted for quite a while that in the Bible God does not "suggest" we take care of the orphans in the world... He commands it. (James 1:27) Yes, that can look differently for different people, but I do believe that if we claim to know Jesus, it is our responsibility to care for those he cares about, and more than that, to do something about it.

My hope is that in sharing this experience with so many of my friends and family, that we will be able to get 10 children sponsored as a result of all I learned.  The list of children waiting to be sponsored is endless... For $35/month you can send a child to school, build a relationship with them, send them letters, emails, photos, and even if you would like one day go and visit them!  To most Americans, we waste more than $35/month on non-sense most months.  This $35 could change the life and course of a real little person and their family forever.  Now that I have seen the children, looked into their eyes, and am forever changed as a result of this experience, I am asking you from the bottom of my heart to consider joining me in supporting the work of Buyamba and the children they love so well. As a student at God Cares, the students are taught education as well as discipline when necessary.  They are given Godly role models to look up to who love them and lead them well, and who are also willing to discipline and disciple when needed...  It truly is an organization where ministry is done well.

And please hear my heart.  I dont want you to feel sorry or bad for the children in Uganda that need help.  The God of the universe loves them far more than I/we ever can, and He WILL provide for them with or without us... so we dont need to feel sorry for them, but we GET to be apart of a solution that can make things better for them!  And that is what I am hoping for in sharing my experience with all of you.  Its such an exciting prospect!!  I hope you will prayerfully consider joining me in it.

You can learn more about Buyamba at http://www.ugandabuyamba.com/

Below are more photos from my trip.  Photos of real life taken with my very own phone.  Thanks to the many of you who supported me financially thru this journey.  I pray you will continue to pray for and partner with the work happening in Uganda.  It is definitely God's work.

I feel like I write about my trip for days, but for now I will leave it at this.  I will write more soon.


Stella and Shadrach... 2 of my loves from the week!!  Stella was such a joy and encouragement to me as she translated loads and explained many cultural difference to me with grace!  <3  



This little girl was carrying her things across camp.  I asked her if I could take her photo, b/c who doesnt carry their bag on their head??? :)  Precious!



Here is the play ground at camp.  The kids were all over this thing every chance they got!



A view from our bus as we drove towards camp.



Just some boys walking their goats. :)  



The primary school!  Grateful to God that this place exists.  


 The view from the top floor of the school.  



One of the walls in the schools classroom.  



My new friend Thanks Dongo, who's family is on the front lines 
doing God's work loving the children of Uganda. 





Sunday, June 26, 2016

Learning to Swim

Beginning last summer, I had several different opportunities to take my lovely friends children to the pool.  I dont know if you have ever had the opportunity to teach a child to swim, but it can be total chaos, particularly in the early stages.  Tossing any hope of technique right out the window, the initial goal is to simply move from point A to point B and still be alive at the end of it.  We attempt to teach the child how to move in ANY type of forward motion, and while they are getting the hang of moving both arms and legs at the same time while not guzzling to much water in the process, it can look like a total mess.  I remember my dad taught all 3 of us kids how to swim, and dad was a giant.  But, he was also not easily moved by tears or drama.  Dad taught you what to do, and then he expected ( read "forced") us to let go of the wall and give it a go.  He knew we werent going to drown, looking back now I know of course that is b/c he wasnt going to go far enough that he couldnt easily get to us if we were in trouble, but that we wouldnt learn unless we let go of the wall and applied the skills he had just taught us.  When it came to learning life lessons, necessary skills, and all things safety, one thing I remember from childhood that is still true today mind you, is that we kids could not tell dad "I cant."  He wasnt buying.  "Oh horse!" would most likely be his reply to that nonsensical statement.

As I was driving to church this morning, the thought came to me that walking with the Lord has so many parallels to a child learning to swim.  Just like an earthly father teaching his children to swim, the Lord loves us so much He wants us to learn life skills and get better at doing certain things over time.  And just as a child who is learning to swim for the very first time, the beginning is messy and the sole goal of the whole experience is survival!  All I can focus on in that moment is getting to dad and grabbing on for dear life.

This visual reminds me of the first time I had to walk thru something incredibly difficult in my personal walk with the Lord, trusting Him in new ways that were stripping me down to the heart of what I believed... It was MESSY.  It was HARD.  It was PAINFUL.  But guess what?  I got better.  I got better at trusting my Father.  I got better at reading the signs and learning the skills necessary to survive in new territory.  By the end of that season, much like a child who has just learned to swim but continued to swim all summer, I wasnt nearly as afraid.  I wasnt the same person who had started the summer not knowing how to do this.  The next time we get in the water again, we remember what we learned last time.  We get a little more brave.  We swim a little bit farther.  And it starts looking a lot less chaotic.  Perhaps we even learn to roll over onto our backs and float for a while when we get tired in the middle of a long swim?

Just like my earthly father wouldnt let fear keep me from learning to swim because he knew how much I would miss out on in life if I didnt have that skill in my back pocket, how much more does our Heavenly Father who created every single thing about us know what we need?  To a child who has never swam before, holding onto the edge of that pool looking at their dad 12 feet away feels like an impossible ask... Even as an adult, I have been in that place.  When God is asking me to learn or grow or trust Him in a new way, and I am standing in all I know and understand I am thinking "You want me to do WHAT??"  Child learning to swim or adult on the verge of something new and scary, the thought processes are the same.

But you know what else is the same?  Our Father is there, standing ever so close by, believing that even tho its hard, the reward will be so worth it.  And thru this painful but loving process, we, the child, we get better.  We learn to trust.  We improve our technique.  We grow in confidence.  And one day, thru the lessons we learned, we can teach, encourage, support, and love the many coming after us.

If I can learn and grow and get better at this... SO. CAN. YOU.

Dont stop in the middle of the pool.  Dont throw in the towel before your miracle.  What are you walking thru right now that you can learn from and grow so that one day you can love on and encourage those who may come behind you?  Has there been any one particular take away that has kept you grounded during this season of growth?












Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thy Will by Hillary Scott

This is a brand new song that has spoken deeply to my spirit in the midst of hard days recently.  I wanted to include it here because I know it will have a profound impact on so many of you as well.  It raises such good questions about what our response should be when we are walking through life with the Lord and things do not go the way we thought they would go.  

How do the lyrics speak to you?  In what ways can you relate to the message in this song?


THY WILL

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done (x3)
I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So
Thy will be done (X3)
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done (X2)
Thy will
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
So
Thy will be done (X3)
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done (X3)
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Illusion of Control

When I was in college one of my favorite new shows on TV at the time was Survivor.  Not only did I love seeing all the different places in the world the franchise videographers showcased so beautifully, I loved watching the interactions of so many different personalities attempt to work together for a common goal.  Sometimes they did that well, but often times, it was a total calamity.  We see with challenge after challenge, and day after day, differing personalities, compounded by incredibly tough living situations, limited food options, and poor or total lack of sleep really exposes the raw heart of each and every contestant, and more often than not, the picture is not very pretty.

Clearly, as it just completed its 31st season, Survivor is not longer a new show on TV. :)  I recently discovered many of the old seasons on Netflix and started watching it again, just for fun. One thing continues to jump out at me over and over again, and it has reached a point where I actually laugh every single time it happens.  In the private interviews done with every single one of the Survivors, over and over and over and OVER again you hear them make a comment to the effect of, "I am in total control of this game."  At any given point you may hear 2-3 different people make an almost identical comment, and every time I chuckle and roll my eyes, because as we watch the game, albeit edited and after the fact, one thing continues to be clear.  They are almost always about to have the rug pulled out from under them.  As is to be expected in a game called Survivor, who's sole purpose is for 1 of the 20 contestants to win $1,000,000 leaving the other 19 people with nothing, every single person there is looking out for themselves, and their position in the game is almost never as secure as they think.

As someone who has seen many a season of this game now, I would expect that as the years went on and the contestants saw more and more of the shows seasons unfold before them (making what I would expect to be a fairly safe assumption that the people who apply to be on the show are in fact super fans and have watched every single episode before going for the SOLE purpose of learning what has and has NOT worked for other people in the past), they themselves would be more cautious of speaking with such certainty into a camera.  Perhaps even more ideal would be not only they not say it, but that they not be so naive as to believe they are in that kind of control??  I mean, as a viewer I sit there and totally laugh, saying to my TV, how can you be that aloof??

But now we have arrived at a place where the truth begins to hurt, and in a moment that if it was to be captured cartoon style would be the stick figure with the bubbles appearing over her head, it occurred to me that while I was laughing at this blatant cluelessness on a TV show, the experience is actually one that I am totally guilty of as well.

All to often, when things are going my way; work, school, family life, social life, pick your x life, I begin to live as tho I am in control of my own life.  If people were to ask us, on camera or off, we would honestly say and believe, I am in control of this game (of life) right now.  We make decisions as if that were true, we set our expectations, both of ourselves and of others as if we have a plan, and we are incredibly frustrated when hiccups arise and wrinkle or all together toss out "our plans."  We were in control!  What the heck is happening to my plan?

Even as I write this post I feel like it sounds so arrogant, but I know deep down that if I am honest with myself, I live this way far more often than I'd like to be true.  When things are going my way, and life is happening on my terms, I get comfortable and begin to live and operate out of a false sense of being in control of my life.  I have a feeling many of you reading this can relate to this truth as well.

I am not sure if you are reading this blog with a church background or context or not.  For me, as a believer in Christ, I am grateful for the truth of Scripture, and for the many ways it points me back to my Creator when I find myself slipping into and operating out of a place of false security. Proverbs 16:9 is so clear that we can plan and plan and plan, but at the end of the day, God is the one in control of how the cards fall.  For a control freak such as myself, for most of my life to date, that has been incredibly hard to accept, and yet, every single time I got to the other side of the hard thing I did not choose, I have been able to look back and see the hand of my loving Heavenly Father holding me every step of the way.


In what ways can you relate to living with a false sense of being in control of your own life?  














Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Facing the Giants

I am not sure if you have seen this movie or not, but its one that I need to watch at least once a year. Sometimes more!  Yes it has a ton of cheesy bits in it, and I laugh at loud at some of those even tho I have seen it at least 20x, but the overall message is so encouraging to my soul.  I think thats because I can totally relate to the pain and struggle of the characters.  I know exactly what it feels like to battle the idea of trusting the Lord, even when nothing looks the way we want it to look.  When work isnt going well, and God isnt bringing us the spouse or kids we feel like we deserve, and money is tight, and on and on and on... Those moments, when every thing seems to be up for grabs, and we get to choose if we really believe God is who He says He is.  

One of my favorite scenes from the whole movie is when coach makes Brock crawl across the football field, blindfolded, with a teammate on his back.  The part of the scene that always brings me to tears is when coach Taylor, crawling alongside Brock on the field, is in his face, screaming, challenging, encouraging Brock to keep going, no matter how much pain he is in.  He sees the potential in this natural leader on his team, and he calls out the best in him, even when the player cant see it in himself.  

This scene always reminds me of the people the Lord has put in my path, who encourage, challenge, and continue to point me to Jesus when I am unable to see the path for myself.  Those people are so critical to my survival in this world.  Life is so crazy sometimes!  These seasons come to all of us... Sometimes they are months, sometimes they are years and years long!  But, no matter how long the season, the friends that surround you on your journey will always be either your lifeline, or they will aid in your destruction.  

My prayer for each of you this week is that you will be reminded of how faithful the Lord is, even when nothing appears to be going as you would choose.  God dosent see the world the way we see it, and He isnt limited by the things we find limiting.  Miracles happen every day.  Lets take God at His word, and see what amazing things come of that.  He may not change the circumstances around you.  But He will definitely change something within you.  And you can be assured of this.  No matter how He chooses to work, it will ultimately turn out for the better for you.  :)

I'd love to hear your stories of trusting God with big things! 

JG





Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why Hello there, friends... Its been quite a while...


It is nearly impossible to believe its been 8 years since I wrote my last entry.  As I decided to reenter the online world of Thinking Out Loud, my initial plan was to start from scratch.  However, I soon realized that I really like both my blog's name and url... and I was pretty impressed with my 8 years ago self for being so clever!  SO, I gave my page a little (or, dare a say BIG) face lift, and I am going to push forward, continuing to explore this planet and all its complex realities while attempting to keep from of mind the reality that no matter where I find myself, we are all, Far From Home.  



And with that summary of how I got from there to here clearly in place, I proceed.
Obviously, quite a lot in life has changed in the 8 years since I last blogged.  Yet oddly enough, quite a lot is much the same.  Life is so funny that way. I am told aprox 3-4 times each year that one of the things people love most about me is that I say what other people are thinking... The older I get the more I realize that's not always a good thing, and therefore I am constantly in an internal battle to balance speaking freely and tempering that every so forceful urge at points to say whatever comes into my brain.  I am coming to terms with the fact that this will likely be a life long battle of mine... my own cross to bear if I can say, and I am learning to be OK with that.  But, as with almost everything in life, some people love that about me, and others (usually my own mother included) could do without that pesky little trait... and truth be known, the older I get, the more comfortable I am becoming with the validity of both those perspectives.  :)  We all have areas we can grow, right?   
But, being that that trait does tend to come more naturally to me than most, my hope is that in some way I will be able to connect with the many others of you in the world who often find yourself holding minority opinions, and not quite sure how to engage those points in the world.  

I, am not a people pleaser.  I never have been.  Its not how I am wired.  I spent a large part of my life feeling like this was a bad thing and I was less valued or important because I saw things differently.  And, truth be known it will likely take a lifetime of walking with the Lord and doing life with grace filled and loving people to undo that damage completely.  So, know this, precious readers, whoever you are: 


This is a safe place to learn.  To grow.  To ask questions!  And to be loved not because of, but in spite of yourself.  I will never be ok with rudeness or disrespect.  But thoughtful and challenging questions or perspectives...that friends, is how we all become better at this game of life.  I do believe there are absolute truths in the world.  But I believe there are far fewer of those than many others would like me to think.  I think there is LOTS of grey, and I believe that most people really are doing the best they can. 


I am excited to start this journey with you.  You are welcome here.  Grab a coffee.  Read.  Ask. Know you are valued and loved. 


I look forward to getting to know you.