standing Brave, it’s what she does

Singing in the midst of life’s engulfing fires, fighting back the treacherous storms of her heart & dancing through the unforgiving pain of failing strength… there she stands. She is brave. Braver than most. Fierce as lions. It’s just what she does. Simply because that is who her Creator made her to be. A mighty warrior, a celebrated princess & a light in the darkness of fear.

Who do you know that matches this description? I have been blessed to have so many strong women in my life. Some are family, some are friends & others I have scarcely met for moments. All of them encourage & inspire me with their talent for finding their moment. That moment of grace where Father steps into your situation & just takes over your response to it. When you face that which is meant to destroy you, without giving in or falling back. The day you finally stand tall, despite the attacks & the traps of the enemy. Bravery. It’s not the absence of fear or even the presence of courage or strength. It comes from something truer, deeper. A place of forgiveness & grace. A place of knowing, of been there/done that. It comes out of surviving & choosing to thrive. This, this is the difference that sets apart the lucky ones that made it out somehow from the BRAVE ONES that chose to never give up or give in or give out.. ever again.

I’d be writing for hours if I sat her listing all the people (guys too) I know that are the picture of bravery tonight. Instead I will tell you about the three I am praying for as I go to bed. Please, if you pray to our Father in Heaven, mention these dear ones to Him. He will know them, so I will leave out their names.

  1. A dear sister who has stood BRAVE in the Valley Fire that continues to rage here in CA. Her family evacuated from the area only moments before their home was completely destroyed. They have only the clothes on their backs with them. Every “thing” they ever owned is gone… She & her husband pastor a church, which was also overcome by the flames. The cement steps & metal railing are all that remains… Yet she is working tirelessly to put aside her own needs, in order to tirelessly care for those around her who are also facing the pain of loss & starting over. So very brave. Because she has spent time with her Father, she walks confident in KNOWING who holds her tomorrows & who restores all “things” in His time. He gives her beauty for the ashes she surrenders to Him. Beyond what she could ever even ask or imagine. She just KNOWS. The confidence of knowing makes her brave when everything around her is in ashes. There is a peace that she knows, beyond all human understanding. The soft voice of the Spirit, telling her He is never letting go of her. Surely she must BRAVE the winds that throw the flames, as she hears only the voice of peace that guides her ‘home’. A place she knows not where. But she casts aside all doubt, in exchange for bravery born out of past experience. He will DO what He said He will do.
  2. A friend who IS my sister. (If you don’t have one, I’m praying you will soon!) This week she BRAVELY walks into new things, a new job, which brings a new lifestyle of sorts. It stretches her. It strengthens her. It launches her out of her comfort zone fast & furiously. Yet she embraces the challenge & confronts her old thinking in order to make room for newly improved approaches. She takes time to evaluate the why & where of questions like ‘How did I get here?’ & ‘Where should I be going next?’. Instead of running from the change & newly found accountability, she took on even more by telling me about it all. Knowing full well that I will also ask her ‘So how’s that going?’ in the days & weeks to come. All this while raising her children in the fear of the Lord, & serving her husband & her mother in every way. She exemplifies a life of prayer & trust. Brave is the one that walks WITH the Lord, following His lead even into the high waters where her feet cannot stand. She has an understanding that others have not reached. One that comes only from being carried through the storm(s) once (or twice) before. The fear of the unknown is not a stranger to her, nor is it a crippling distraction. Rather, it is simply a reminder to refocus on the One who leads the way, remembering that His way is straight & narrow, & there will always be grace enough to travel it. And she REMINDS HERSELF that she will never walk alone. She is BRAVE, because He is WITH her always. She is His & He is hers.
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  4. My daughter. From the moment we first saw her face we knew, this one is BRAVER than most. Tiny, frail & weak. Yet full of such power & fight. She will not back down or give up on herself or her love. She survives. At all cost. Her world has been capsized more times than I care to count. Her heart has learned to fight love to protect her, & now it’s learning to let love in… to heal her. What whirlwinds have tossed them about, She & her heart. Often they have been bruised & battered by the very ones they thought would treat their wounds. But her Creator has placed a love in her, deeply knitted into her soul, that no evil or pain could remove. Buried in the rubble of breaking trusts & stolen dreams, that love is emerging & reaching for the light. Every day she finds new strength. She is tiny, but so very fierce in wanting only to love & be loved. She has felt the Father’s touch. I see it in her eyes. I saw it before I met her & it shines brighter each day. Surviving is her gift, it birthed in her a BRAVE SPIRIT that will not quit. What horrors & sorrows she has felt, we may never know. But the love that spills out of her we recognize. The Author of her soul has written her new song. She sings for me sometimes, a song of forgiveness, a song of renewal. She sings to Him too, praises & anthems of His glory & goodness. She bravely lifts her head & walks on broken legs, into the safety of His presence. Each day we see her overcome new obstacles that once stood between us, she is not waiting for ‘someday’, she walks on. One foot after the other, with a band of brothers following close behind. Her steps are not always sure, but she will not sit still while there are stairs to climb. Up & out of the sadness, she climbs higher than she could ever dream. Far beyond what her strength allows, she swims to the depths of grief in order to bring it all to the surface. The Spirit that dwells in her deepest parts is guiding her to wholeness & healing through His mercy & grace. Not every broken part of her can be casted like her legs, but she is LEARNING that she WILL BE MADE WHOLE one day. From the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. Ten she will dance in the freedom that come from understanding how He brought her out of bondage & pain, & into the freedom of His love!

Think of the ones that inspire you friends. Tell them. Encourage them. Then go out & find that strength to face some things that are meant to destroy you. Walk in the knowledge of He who made you. Tell the mountains to move & the giants to fall. Be strong & courageous, in the face of your fears friends… BE BRAVE…

-JK

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ramblings of Encouragement in the real world

Do you ever have moments where the words you speak to encourage others end up being just the ‘life breath’ you needed to get you through your own day? This has been happening to me a lot lately. What gets me is the truth I speak to others came out of me… but I needed to hear it… again. So often we learn things, even well enough to internalize them & live it out… but we forget that we know them when we are discouraged & we simply try to ‘journey on’ feeling worn out & pulled down by the weight of ‘toughing it out’. I’m not sure I’ve learned to do it differently, just that today I am acutely aware of the truth that is IN ME & I’m choosing to allow it to encourage MYSELF in the Lord today. One day at a time, we all are learning new things, & then some days we are re-learning all over again. Like reading a favorite bible verse & suddenly getting completely new & fresh revelation from it… Today I choose to learn good & beautiful things, not forgetting the ugly & evil I have learned – but rather replacing it & vowing to leave it behind me. “Not turning back, moving ahead – I’m moving, moving forward!” (love that song!)

My recent Facebook musings that were meant to encourage others & have also encouraged myself:

Encouraging yourself in the Lord-

Last night someone asked “What do you do?” My answer is simple: I do the things that I have heard/seen with my Father in heaven. (John 8:38) (ie. serve the poor, care for widows & orphans, etc.)

“And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “ Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.” -1 Kings 18:36

Know that your Father has gone before you & made every way straight, including this one…

Yes, the price of a life (cost of adopting our daughter from China) – but the truth is… she’s worth that & so much more to her Father in heaven. We know that He wants to give her good gifts, we know that He led us to her & so we trust that He will also provide the ransom for her rescue!

Encouraging others in the Lord-

When talking with others about their faith walk (or lack thereof), it’s important to hear them out & get a feel for where they’re coming from. A person’s background tends to really color how they think & what approach will either interest them or turn them off the topic completely. Listening to them also give you time to pray & wait on the Holy Spirit for the right words – a critical step! Usually it helps the other person to relax & know that you are a trustworthy friend that will love them unconditionally, if you interrupt at every turn they will begin to feel like it’s the ‘all about YOU’ show instead of you & them sharing together… Never come right out & tell people they are wrong about their faith/theology unless you already have a long standing & trusting relationship – like a best friend… Anyone else you are ministering to will immediately shut down. Conversation over, no second chances. Try a more gentle way of showing them new ideas, allowing them to choose them for themselves.

It helps me a LOT to think of people as children who have never been taught. If I can choose to be gentle & loving in everything I say, then I will get through to them faster & with more impact than any other approach. Not sugar coating, but affirming the things they DO get right & suggesting new ways to think, as a new concept… like “have you ever considered what God was looking for when he created man? Do you think maybe he wanted companions that would be in relationship with him?” That might help a person rethink their idea that if they are a ‘good person’ they don’t need to really worry about reading the Word, praying or even knowing God enough to have any kind of relationship with Him.

It’s also very important to “speak life” into & about the situation. Especially when you talk to people you want to encourage & edify (teach). If they feel preached at though, they will say forget it, & then your conversation (& opportunity) is over. Listen to the spirit for the balance. Sometimes not talking & just hearing them out will give you so much more insight, for your prayers & for the next conversation. Treat every conversation as a divine appointment. Assume that God’s been working on their heart & that He will provide you with the right words that THEY need to hear…

I often think we over complicate talking to people. If we can simplify then we can hear the holy spirit telling us how to get to the heart of their issue. Rather than debate or argue… choose to teach in love… People get defensive & shut down when they think we are correcting them, but they listen when they feel affirmed because we are approving of something & then we slip in new ideas, challenging them to think for themselves & search the Word out for answers. Teaching them to apply God’s truth & Kingdom principles to their own lives. In essence, you wouldn’t spoon feed your 10 year old, you teach him to do that himself when he’s young. Likewise, you hope that the lessons you teach your 16 year old will help him choose wise actions when he’s working his first full time job at 25. What if he couldn’t choose well, because he had never learned to think it through for himself? Would he know what to wear? How would he wake up on time & find his way to work? Would he forget to get his lunch?

God has commanded that we make disciples, that can also go out and make disciples… He didn’t say to go out & correct people all day w/o teaching them how to self-correct. We don’t have time to be everyone’s Mommy right? So let’s remember to point to Jesus & teach them how to read the map, rather than being their personal guide while they sit in the backseat & stare out the windows of life, never learning to navigate or drive on their own. Don’t worry about reaching the masses, speak to people one on one, build relationship & walk through life together WITH them, in doing so you will make a disciple who will do the same. This is how we reach the world with Jesus’ hope & truth, by loving & teaching one by one. {1×1}

One last thing, an important thing I learned many years ago: If you feel you are in over your head with a conversation, like it’s gone beyond your personal training or knowledge of God (or the other person’s theology has you caught w/o an answer… ie. talking with a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness or Muslim person etc.)… PRAY silently, find a graceful exit & seek Godly counsel from someone you trust! Take this as a chance for YOU to grow & seek out wisdom & training for the specific kind of conversation needed… We don’t send soldiers to the front lines without serious & extensive hands on training from masters of their skills… why would we try to fight a spiritual battle without the right tools & weapons or without excellent training? We are talking about the life/death of people’s souls. Let’s take it seriously friends!

Serving Others/Getting Hurt –

Q. – How is it that you can walk with people through the death of a child and siblings, the death of parents and in-laws, adoption of children, disabling injuries, marriages that are almost destroyed, drug and alcohol addictions, and when as soon as you say something they do not agree with, you are suddenly their ‘former pastor’??? How do we inspire loyalty?

A. – I know people that are living this daily, they are called to a community that didn’t ask them to teach them, doesn’t want to be challenged & pretty much thinks they have all ‘arrived’… being new in a town/country is lonely/hard enough, but each time they think Father has finally sent a true friend, they’ve been mistaken…  —  I have experienced this at times myself. In the midst of it, I was so blessed in growing even closer to Him. Looking back, I am blessed now, in how He is able to strengthen/protect our marriage/family in EVERY season, despite the adversity set up against it/us! As for loyalty, we need to point others to Jesus, not ourselves or our programs. If we can model loyalty to Jesus rather than man, then we are already halfway there. Like you would redirect a child, constantly be redirecting the people you serve. Remember to be a SERVANT leader as Christ is, & remember that if it is Christ they should be loyal to, then you can take it a little less personal when they walk away from you so easily. Let’s just pray they don’t completely walk out on HIM! We all need to be constantly re-learning to KEEP HIM as our BFF, our source & the only one we strive to please & be loyal to! Be encouraged friends, He SEES our struggle & He’s walked it Himself, He gives new grace for each day… Amen?!!

Bear with me friends, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. I’m still learning all of this, I have certainly NOT ‘arrived’ yet! – So, it’s good to repeat it to you, as that helps me do it better myself! – I’d love to hear from you all, the truth is “Iron sharpens Iron”, we are meant to encourage & strengthen one another – just not made to depend on each other for our entire faith walk!

-JK

gifts of Love for Christmas

Are there any people around you that may need help this Christmas? Is there someone who you could bless? I know it’s a bit last minute, but I want you all to think outside the ‘gift boxes’ for just a minute…
In the bible, Jesus encourages us all to take care of the poor, the orphans & the widows. Our family has spent time this week serving the poor, bringing them groceries & meals & even a very special gift to one young family that we wanted to encourage. The boys & I are also planning to use some of our leftover chocolates (we got a HUGE box from friends!) to wrap up & give to our neighbors here on the 51st floor of our apartment tower. We will wrap them up in some tissue paper, put a handwritten note & a story about Jesus (in English & Cantonese) inside & tie a pretty bow on the outside. We hope to catch each of them when they are home, but if not, we’ll leave it by their doors… Seems like such a ‘country’ gesture in this slick & fast moving city – but maybe, just maybe it will open a door to new friendships right down the hall! This is how we teach our children to love others, think of others & have a servant’s heart like Jesus. One day, we pray they will become servant leaders, in many ways – they already are… Makes a Mama proud to hear them brainstorm how to bless those around them instead of themselves!!
I’ve been spending so much time looking through pictures & files of “waiting children” on all these adoption websites. It makes my heart ache because so many of them aren’t even in that “too fragile to handle” category with their Special Needs… but there they sit, waiting for someone to call Mom/Dad because their conditions sound/look so scary… While praying for God to show us the RIGHT ONE for us, the one He’s already chosen for us – thinking of ways that I can make a difference for another family RIGHT NOW… that makes me smile & lightens my burdened heart just a little. A lightened heart is the gift that God gives back to us when we give from our hearts & even our brokenness & sacrifice in the midst of our own pain & need. That is part of the Christmas gift that IS Christ! You see, He gives us a choice to become more & more like Him everyday. He’ll do the work in us, but only if we choose it!
This year, instead of buying tons & tons of gifts for your family… instead of over drawing your credit cards… instead of sitting on Facebook all day “Sharing” things that other people did or said… think about how you can give something from your heart, even if you don’t have the money or the time to give a store-bought gift. Most likely you do though.

christmas is love

Here’s some ideas on how to help &/or to find a few extra dollars. Use these any time of year, not just at Christmas! If you still think you just need to share on FB – then please share this post so others can ‘pay it fwd’ & ‘be blessed to be a blessing’ while sharing the love of Jesus just like you! I dare you to try some of these & see how Jesus’ love flowing through you just might actually change, heal & bless YOU! Be transformed friends! – Be sure to tell us how it went in the comments – your story will inspire countless others!

Time & $ Saving Gift Ideas:

  • skip a few trips to Starbucks to pay for a gift for a poor family in your community. Ask your church if you don’t already know who needs help. {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • get the kids involved, explain that one less gift for each of them = they can pick out one gift for a child in need. Call a children’s hospital & see what age kids they have with few visitors. A prayer & a smile go a long way!  {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • keep a ‘help the poor’ jar all year – throw all your loose change in, it adds up quick. {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • with the money you save, help the kids fill a box (or 2 or 3) for “Operation Christmas Child” with Samaritan’s Purse. (for info & drop off locations go here.)

  • call a local church & sign up to help their holiday outreach. {No $$$!}

  • ask if anyone know of a clothes collection.  {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • go out for dessert instead of dinner or skip a few McDonald’s trips. (remind the family who the saved $ will go to, “remember, you’re helping me buy/make cookies for the neighbors!”)  {No ‘extra’ $$!}

  • give plates of cookies to neighbors, using a real plate – say something like “just bring it back when you’re done!” – when they do, invite them in for coffee & maybe a new friendship will emerge.  {NO TIME shopping!}

  • keep only ONE of those store-bought boxes of goodies (chocolate, popcorn, etc.) that you get at all the various work, church, scouts & family parties – open the rest, divvy it up in left over cellophane or tissue wraps & hand them out! Works great with a ‘track’ about Jesus & a hand written note saying you’re praying for them! {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • send the kids out to rake leaves or shovel snow – give them cards to hand out when they are thanked “I’m blessed to be a blessing! Merry Christmas!” {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

  • call your MOM! (or someone else’s Mom that is a blessing to you!) {NO TIME shopping & NO $ spent!}

I could probably go on & on, but the point is for you & your family to get together & make YOUR plan! Then PRAY for the people you’ll be blessing. Then go out & DO IT! I guarantee it will get you all smiling & totally help reduce your stress! The whole point of Christmas is Jesus! The whole point of Jesus is LOVE – HIS love for ALL of us – so go SHARE ABOUT THAT!!!

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Mathew 25:40

-JK

straight to God’s heart… in Unity

Why do churches compete for numbers or fame? Why do ministries jostle for position with the pastor & hope they are granted more resources than the others?? Aren’t we all working towards the same goal?? Can’t we do that by working together & sharing the resources?? Don’t the arms HELP the hands as i type? Don’t the feet HELP the legs to walk??

Friends, the Church is like the body. Each member has been designed for a specific role, that purpose can often function alone, but can always accomplish more when working in UNITY with all the other members of the body (church)…

This is true for each individual in a church. Also for each ministry. And again for each church with in the Kingdom. We all have our ROLE to play, but when we do it together (instead of in competition or in isolation) we are tapping into a powerful Christ authored unity that sets us on the path to doing ‘Even Greater Things’ than Christ Himself while He taught on Earth…

1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12

“This is how we look in GOD’S hands!” -Wesley, 7yrs