Dave Ramsey called me “STUPID”

I will never forget that day. I found myself in a tough financial situation, and needed some advice. Who better to get financial advice from than Dave, right? I called the number, I waited for what seemed like hours (but was more like 20 minutes), and an operator asked me my problem. “I don’t have health insurance and my daughter was recently hospitalized, I need some advice.” I couldn’t believe my blessing when I heard her say, “Hold on. We will patch you thru.”

What? Deep breath. (Okay, a few deep breaths and a quick prayer.) “Hello, you’re on the air…” It wasn’t an all together big thing to be on the radio, I cohosted a local radio show, mostly it was the knowledge that I was talking to THE Dave Ramsey. I began to share with him my problem, stating that my husband and I had been without health insurance for a little over two years, and we were suddenly stuck in a situation with medical bills that we weren’t altogether prepared for. I didn’t get much further. “What!?” He was appalled. I don’t remember the exact next few words, but he finished it with “Of course you are in a bad situation, you are stupid!” He rattled something off about finding an endorsed insurance provider right away and to never make that stupid mistake again. No time for response, the music played, the endorsements started and the show was over.

It was my turn to be dumbfounded. And then, I was angry.

Stupid is one of my least favorite words in the world. You can call me ignorant, unwise, naïve, but don’t call me stupid! I wanted to call him back, not in a fit of anger exactly, I was biting back tears of explanation. It wasn’t stupidity that led us to make that decision. It was faith!

My husband and I have never been in debt. We learned early on that you only buy if you have the money. You never borrow what you can’t pay back. Even then, we lived on a budget and were frugal; money wasn’t something we were stupid with. We weren’t living in “envelopes” but we were very aware of our expenditures. My husband was offered a new job, he had crunched numbers and looked at our present income compared to the adjusted income, it was driving him insane, almost literally. He was trying to figure out how I could stay at home with our kids, a priority for us, and him still take this job that would eliminate a 45 minute commute that he felt was wasted time that he’d rather spend at home.

One Sunday he was in that same state of mind, crunching numbers, a constant calculator running digits through his brain, but he was on stage at church singing with the praise band. It bothered him that he couldn’t even worship without numbers cropping up, so he prayed, “God, what do you want me to do!?” He says the answer was practically audible, “Don’t take the insurance. I will take care of your family, but invest in My House.” Weird, right? Absolutely. But any responsible child of God doesn’t hear that message and say, “Nah.” In His heart he replied, “Yes Lord,” and IMMEDIATELY the numbers stopped.

So we began a journey of faith. Two kids aged two and four and we opted out of health insurance. Stupid? According to Mr. Ramsey it was and by no means something we would haphazardly recommend to others, but we were absolutely convinced that God would take care of us. And He did, for exactly two years.

My husband admits that at the end of that time he felt that God was leading him to be insured again. He began looking and talking to people but procrastinated in making a decision on acquiring insurance for our family. Then, one of our daughters got really sick with double pneumonia and was hospitalized with white blood cell levels that the doctors were convinced were fatal. We were told we’d be in there for a week at least, probably 10 days. Even as we filled out admission papers, I trusted and believed that God would to take care of us. Three days later, to the doctor’s documented and utter amazement, my baby was healed and discharged. Three days and $6,000 dollars later, we had accrued debt that we weren’t prepared for, slight as it was compared to what it might have been!

It was that debt that led me to call the debt guru. It was that debt that God used to show us that it was time again to be insured. It wasn’t a fear thing. It was just very clear that our provision was shifting. And, in those two years, we had done as we promised by investing in His house.

But that isn’t the end of the story… this is the part that I want to tell Dave, “God used that debt to show us what our next steps should be financially, and in less than 6 months time, we not only had paid off every bit of that debt, but my husband’s employment changed and our income increased and that additional amount we were having to pay separately for the girls’ and my insurance didn’t seem to dent our budget!”

This isn’t a story about health and prosperity. This is a testimony of faith and faithfulness. A confession of being weird (never stupid!), and realizing afresh that God sometimes asks us to do the ridiculous, but in the end, He will give you wisdom and understanding that is like foolishness to the world. We continue to live weirdly. We happily live below our means so that we can do more for His Kingdom and His people. Not because we have to, or because we expect His blessing, but because we have seen that there is nothing in this world that can compare to serving God.

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The day He swallowed my death

*WARNING THIS IS ABOUT SUICIDE AND MIGHT BE CONSIDERED GRAPHIC

“Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death?” 1 Corinthians 15:51

In our community we have suffered the loss of 5 teens through suicide in the last 6 months. That’s been almost one a month. So, in an effort to share encouragement and to speak life into broken hearts, we are choosing to make May Suicide Awareness Month and having a huge, free concert this Thursday (June 2) with Building 429, Royal Tailor Band, and Hayley Masters!

I have a vested interest in this venture. Eighteen years and about a couple months ago, I was convinced that I would be better off dead. The heart-wrenching and overwhelming fear of my future, years of bearing the guilt and shame of a past that I couldn’t come to grips with, and the feelings of isolation and “no one will understand”, were all climaxing to a point where suicide seemed like the best choice.

Unlike some might think, one very rarely just wakes up one morning and decides to take his/her life. It’s a very deliberate murder of self. Much thought goes into this – the hows and whens and wheres actually are very well thought out. I wrestled through all of those options, and luckily for me, I lived in a foreign country where handguns were not easily accessible, so a blade or a knife to the wrist seemed to be my best bet. I had thought it through and was well aware of the “failure rate” of that type of suicide so I studied my arms and wrists intensely so that I would know exactly where to drive the blade, what blade would be best, and whether or not a knife was necessary. I chose a weekend where I knew that I would be alone in the dorm, because honestly I didn’t want a peer to walk up on the scene and be traumatized. (Strange. I thought I was being thoughtful.) I chose the community bathroom, because there was a large sink drain in the floor and I would run the water so that it would drain away the blood more quickly so I wouldn’t have to endure the sight of blood for long. I knew it would hurt my parents, and come out of nowhere for them because I had worked so hard to disguise my depression and my anguish, but I also figured that they had two other daughters that would fill that void for them. They would be fine. It was the best plan for everyone.

I remember the walk down the hall. The blade was securely in my hand, and my tears were blinding me. It felt very much like a march to the gallows…even if I was my own executioner. I turned on the light to the bathroom and made my way to the sink. I said my goodbyes in my head, I cried for each of my family members and wished my friends life’s best, then just as I was about to jerk the blade into my flesh, I saw something in the sink faucet. I was crying so I wiped away the tears thinking that I was mistaken, but then I saw that it was a face. I leaned in to take a closer look and noticed it as the precious face of my then toddler niece. Funny, I didn’t think I was going crazy. It was a welcome sight. Then I heard the following words, “For her.” The moment freaked me out. I pulled back and got angry and became once more resolved with the blade when I heard, “NO! You must LIVE for HER!” I know it sounds crazy, but I knew exactly Who was speaking to me in that moment. The Power and Authority in that Voice was so strong. I dropped the blade and fell to the floor, “God, help me! I beg of you, help me!” I heard the door creak at the end of the hall down from the bathroom. I pulled myself up from the floor and wiped my eyes. I was a master pretender. If someone were coming, they would never know what was about to happen. But, no one came. In that moment that I stood and waited for the door of the bathroom to open, all I could hear was my heartbeat, and with every beat of my heart those words echoed, “For her, for her, for her, for her…” I looked at the blade, where it had fallen just about two feet away from me, and I stared at it. I looked at the faucet, where I had seen her face. I looked at my wrists. Then, I remember, squeezing my hands in a fist, dropping them to my side, and walking out of that bathroom.

I felt two things as I made my way down that hall – “I’ve failed”… and “Now what?” I got back to my room, turned off the light, laid on my bed and waited. The next morning, there was a knock at my door. My friend, Joy Conrad, had made something for me. She brought it to my room. She laid it in my hands. It was a picture album. She had hand-stitched the front with the words “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” But, instead of pictures, this book held about 20 3×5 cards, and written in hand on each one of these cards was verse after verse of God’s promises to me, His love for me, His desire for me, and His purpose for me. She had no idea, but that was the beginning of a long climb out of a dark pit.

It began with that book. I found the energy to move one step into life. I acted the part of the perfectly healthy teen while I was at school or with my friends, but when I got back to my room, I would sit on my bed, facing the window, and I would sit in silence…letting my heart speak to it’s Creator. The next week, the silence turned to words. I would read those scripture verses out loud and let their power fill the room. The next week, the words were replaced with songs, simple heart-felt songs that echoed my Father’s heart back to me. We stayed in that place for a long time, singing to one another. It probably sounds crazy that I knew He was singing to me, but I knew that He was…He was singing through me and to me… and as we sang, life began to grow brighter. Slowly but surely, I began to write…my feelings, my fears, my heart, my life song…whatever I was thinking. Never knowing that He had given me my purpose in that.

Last night, as I watched and listened and my heart grieved for those lost and those desperate and those considering, I wept. But mingled in with those tears of sorrow, were profound tears of joy as I nuzzled my husband’s cheek and thanked Daddy God for rescuing my life. It’s no wonder I’m passionate about teen girls…and for the heart of broken women of all ages…it was more than for my niece that He saved me that day. He saved me for every her that He would allow me to meet…and in time He has filled me with a powerful love for them, that refuses to let them believe that they are anything less than worthy! He saved me so wonderfully that year that even the pain that came after that time, and the pain that I recently endured, and the pain that I have yet to endure, in the end, all seem worth it, because with each revelation of frailty, I’m reminded that He is Strong and He is with me, and in those moments of stillness, He is still singing over me.

Spirit, Opportunity, and Destiny!

I think that the church could stand to learn something from NASA. No, really! I was diligently searching the web for a recipe of something healthy and tasty for dinner..ok,ok…I was taking a break from writing and wondering how on earth I devoured an entire Almond Joy without realizing it! Anyway, the title of an article on my homepage caught my eye. NASA: Mars rover, phone home after yearlong sleep. I decided to investigate the story behind the intentionally vague title. I clicked on the story link with visions running through my mind of E.T. holding his (E.T. WAS a HE wasn’t he?) glowing finger in the air and saying, “E.T. phone home.”

The article was about the attempts of NASA to contact the stuck Mars rover Spirit. Spirit became stuck in a sand trap in April 2009 causing it to be unable to fully tilt its solar panels towards the source of its life, the sun. NASA has continued attempts to contact Spirit on different frequencies and at different times of day in hopes of somehow reaching the rover to find out what happened and how to fix it.

It is fascinating to me that even though Spirit’s twin rover Opportunity has continued to operate without problems, NASA still cares enough about Spirit to keep searching for that which has been lost. I know another well known “astronomical observer” that cares about the lives of lost explorers, His name is Jesus Christ. In Luke 15:4-7 Jesus tells us how heaven rejoices more over one sinner repenting and accepting salvation through Him than it does over 99 righteous people who are secure in the faith!

Many people would have already given up on Spirit after a few days or months. Most after an entire year. But not its creators! They have remained faithful to their creation! There have been many, many people who I am quite sure wanted to give up on me. Daddy God who is MY Creator and Savior has NEVER given up on me! He, like NASA, is constantly helping me to free myself from the sinful sand traps of this world. He uses every “frequency” around me (media, dreams, other people, prayers, etc) to try and illicit a response to His Call to serve as I was created to.

But what about the church? Have we become too joyous over being one of the 99 that we forget the 1? Do the lost get our words and thoughts of pity but nothing else? Do we give up too easily? Jesus encourages me daily to remember why I was created (to serve and please Him), what my primary mission is (to do my part of the Great Commission), and to see Him in EVERY face that turns my way!

No brothers and sisters we cannot forget the 1! The one in your life that causes you to turn the other way at work, the one who stays in an abusive relationship because she doesn’t realize there is any other type. The one who finds release through cutting because she doesn’t know that her Savior has already bled FOR her. The one who simply cannot accept that those who look upon his tattoos and piercings with such judgmental disgust without even knowing his name or his story could worship anything other than themselves.

I think it is time that the Body of Christ learned a lesson from NASA. God’s Beloved should always remember that while NASA’s “Opportunity” will eventually cease to function, OUR opportunities to serve will not, and while the Mars rover named “Spirit” may very well be dead, we do not have to let the Spirit within us follow suit. Thank you NASA for reminding me that Daddy God’s Hand can indeed be seen in everything if we just take the time to look.

The 99 + the 1= 100% ;~)

I’m sorry, Francis…

I was talking to some young adults a while back, and they were discussing the holiness of God, His majesty, His power, His Supreme Authority. I was soaking it all in, seeing this realization of holiness and the awesomeness of Almighty God, when one of them said, “Francis Chan said: ‘Is this the God that you fall asleep talking to at night? You should be prostrate, in a position of total servitude as you call on the name of Almighty God!’”

Yes and no.

Let me explain. There is no doubt that we need to recognize the God with Whom we are conversing. We need to see Him as God, acknowledge Him as Creator, and come to Him humbly – understanding the Power that He possesses and the Greatness that He is.

He is greatness.

But, the beauty of this majestic, all-powerful, all-consuming, all-knowing God is that He is so kind and good and loving that He lets us come to Him, at the end of the day when our hearts are heavy and our words are gone and our strength is depleted, and requires nothing of us….but to be, and if we fall asleep, He tucks us in.

There are moments, when I am determined, when this passion rises up in me and I run to God, adamant and intentional, entering His throne room with vigor and energy, not to be disrespectful but so that He sees that I am DESPERATE to be heard. Does He shut the door, and bar the gates and tell me to go away until I “get my attitude in check, young lady!” Praise God, no! He opens wide His ears, gives me all His attention and in the process I learn yet again how Great He is and how small I am.

There are other moments when I humbly come before Father God and whisper off a list a mile long (including but not limited to every soul that crosses my path and asks for prayer) that I’ve neatly written on a million 3x5s, as I struggle through names and procedures and dates and circumstances. Boring? Yes. Is He bored? No. Because it’s long and tedious, does that make Him any less interested? No. In fact, it’s my heart that draws Him in…my heart wants to say it all just right (the perfectionist in me) because even though He knows the details, I want to know that every detail was spoken. Perhaps He laughs, but I know He listens.

Then there are other moments, when my child is sick and my heart is heavy and my prayer is covered in a kiss on her sweet head. God sees that kiss, and He interprets the kiss for what it is – a prayer of the heart for my sick child. I don’t have to say, “Lord, heal my baby!” He knows she is sick, He knows I long to see her well, and He hears the unspoken. Words are not needed, nor do I need to kneel beside her bed and lay prostrate before God begging Him to hear my cry…I have at times, and that’s okay…but I don’t HAVE TO.

Then, there are these moments, which are in abundance…where I am tired and weak. When my heart is encumbered and smothered by so many needs and so many people and so many hopes and so many dreams and so much hurt and so much desperation that I simply cling. This is the God that lets me. The same God that is all-powerful and all-mighty and all-knowing, is all-loving. This same God, Creator of the universe, is the same God that gives me the right to call Him, “DADDY”, and as such, He allows me to come to Him…as a child. And as I child, I pull up to His enormous side, hide my face in His arm, and simply moan, “Daddy.” And this same great big God, soaks in all my emotions, hears all the words that aren’t said and all the feelings that are tearing me apart, and He gives me breath. His breath fills my chest with hope and mercy and love and grace and comfort, and when I leave that place, I take His breath with me…to blow it on others…so that they might know how much He loves them.

So, I’m sorry, Francis… though He is worthy of so much more than a mumbled prayer at night…He accepts it, because that’s what Daddy’s do.

P.S. I hope this doesn’t change the whole me wanting a mansion next to yours thing? 😉

About cats and dogs

I had a friend that used to say, “I’m God’s cat.”  He would say it in an air of disappointment, in a voice of defeat, and he made it very clear what he meant.  “It’s like EVERY time I get something good …God waits until I’m practically holding it in my hands, assured that its mine and He snatches it back.”  I always got sad when I heard this.  God is not like that.

I have suffered disappointments and heartache in my life.  I have been disillusioned and deceived.  I have been hopeful only to face to a heart wrenching outcome.  But, I would never be so selfish as to say “I’m God’s cat.”  That’s a very self-seeking statement, because it indicates that you know best.

God is not a snatcher.  He doesn’t lure or entice.  He doesn’t invite us in so He can slam the door in our faces.  No, my brother, you’re not God’s cat…you’re the devil’s mouse.

I cannot remember a single moment in God’s Word where that character of God expresses itself.  I see a just God, a kind God, a patient God, a righteous God, a loving God, a forgiving God, a merciful God…not a mean God.  Ever.  Even when we are deserving of meanness and unforgiveness and wrath and anger and all those other things, He still meets us with grace.  He doesn’t dangle it in front of our faces until we leap, and then jerk it away…He continually offers it.  Scarred hands open, arms wide, yearning for us to accept.

No.  We are not God’s cats.

I prefer to say that I’m God’s dog.  It makes far more sense to me.

Four months ago we adopted the sweetest little puppy.  That’s a story in and of itself, but it took exactly one minute for us to fall in love with her.  She’s precious…and of course then she only weighed about two pounds, so she was fragile and tiny.  She was too little to do much else than eat and sleep, and pounce every so often at bugs so small we couldn’t see them.  Immediately she added light to a very dark time in our hearts.  We all did our part loving her and protecting her and caring for her needs, but when she was tired out or felt afraid or needed space…she came to me. I would scoop her up in my lap, nuzzle her little nose to my face, coo at her and talk to her, or pet her and let her rest on my chest to listen to the thumping of my heart, and she would be soothed.  As she grew her needs changed.  She was more independent, more feisty. Knowing I was standing beside her or behind her she would venture out on her own more, barking at neighbors she saw as threats, jumping higher, and becoming more brave and courageous with each passing day.  She’s growing still.

One day, as I was cooking she stood by the stove, watching me at work, smelling my creation, but she didn’t whine or beg she simply watched (and licked her chops from time to time!)  After the family ate, I reached down and handed her a meat laden pork chop bone.  If you can say that a dog is thrilled about something, this dog was thrilled!  She took that bone and carried it to her corner and gnawed it dry.  She knew that she had been given a real treat.  She was thankful for it.  Cherished it.  And even now, has it hidden in the house.

I think that’s more how we are with God and how God is with us.

He loves us and protects us and nurtures us and provides.  When we are weak, He is especially attentive, just waiting for the moment when we crumble and finally allow Him to lift us up.  When we are tired or afraid, we have only to look for Him and He is there, scooping us up and placing us on His chest so that we can hear the heartbeat of life as it beats in Him. He is our hiding place.  In that place, He comforts us and reassures us that we are His and that He has us safe.

As we grow stronger, He gives us that space, allowing us to explore our world, face our enemies, and find the courage to be brave.  All the while, He stands beside us.  We watch Him, as He is our Master.  And, as we watch, we understand that He is up to something good.  He sees our obedience and our hunger and so He lets us enjoy it, not faking us out with a pretend game of fetch.  He intentionally hands that gift over and watches us happily devour it, savoring each bite, until there is nothing left but the memory of it, and so we hide it away.  He loves that!

But here is the thing, we are adopted not as cats or dogs, but we are adopted CHILDREN of the living God.  Not abused or neglected children but nurtured and protected.  Unlike me, when His children get up at two in the morning calling Him, He doesn’t mumble and complain.  He leaps and runs to help us!  With Him there is no menial task, there is no passing glance, no dangling or snatching.  He loves us.  Those that run and jump in His almighty lap yapping and begging (like me) and those that have been hurt so many times, they’d rather disappear in the colors of His robe; Daddy loves us all.