Thursday, October 21, 2010

Girls and beauty. What does God think?

What does God have to say about beauty? Is it okay to desire to be beautiful? How far is too far when it comes to dressing well, seeking to be thin, whitening our teeth, accessorizing? Is it okay to want to be fashionable? How is it possible that some of us are called to be models, and our career is built on our appearance- while others of us are called to completely lay down our appearance and move to foreign places, spending all our time caring for the needs of others.

It can be so confusing to have such a plethora of gray areas... women in Africa are adorning themselves in vibrant colors and fabrics, excited to honor God for giving them their precious bodies and treating them with care. While people in the West are also adorning themselves with rich clothing yet we do it to the point of idolizing the gift that God has given us, rather than honoring the Creator of the gift.

So much time is spent seeking to be beautiful in the eyes of people, at the cost of appearing lovely in the eyes of our God.

I have learned in my experiences that the answers to these questions lie in our hearts. It becomes a question of "Who do you worship?" God or the world? When you see another person, are you scanning them up and down, reducing them to simply a body, clothing and make-up? Or do you appreciate the life or courage, or hope, or joy that lies within the person? When you look in the mirror, is it your reflection that determines your beauty? Or have you decided before looking in that mirror that your God has declared you beautiful, and no matter what you see in that reflection it will not hinder God's unfailing truth?

We grant so much power to mascara and lip gloss. Jewelry. Clothes. One day we dress well and we feel happy. The next day we run out of the house without straightening our hair and we are a wreck all day long. One week we do well exercising and that gives us the power to be nice and love well. The next week we allow a few extra pounds, that no one else sees, turn us into a stressed out, and selfish person that no one wants to be around. With mascara we are confident. Without we are shy. With jewelry we are bold. Without it we seclude ourselves.

Trusting God with our beauty does not mean that we never dress up, and we walk around looking like slobs. But it might mean for a season you stop wearing make-up and allow God to speak to you about what He sees when He looks at you. For some people God says, "Dress up sweet daughter, you are letting yourself go because you don't believe my truth." For others He says, "Lay it down precious one, you are caring too much about what the world thinks and not believing my truth." Sometimes you waver from one to the other.

What is it for you? Who do you worship? What are you believing about yourself? The truth of God? The lies of the world? YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Overweight. Underweight. Dressed up. Dressed down. Makeup. None. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Trust Him with your body. Let Him do what He wants with it. He desires that we be healthy. Skinny may not be healthy if you are only drinking coffee and skipping meals. More curvy may not be healthy if you are overeating and using food for comfort. It is about health. It is about Jesus. He is the Creator and definer of beauty. Trust Him. He can take care of you.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Pr. 31:30

"All beautiful you are my darling, there is not flaw in you." Song of Songs 4:7

"The King is enthralled by your beauty, honor Him for He is your Lord." Ps. 45:11

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shaun Hover is such a hunk!! (this is the latest update my sweet husband sent to our supporters)

Stepping out in boldness is never comfortable, natural, or easy but the Holy Spirit gives us the power to obey God's commands and to preach the gospel! Will you please take 2 minutes right now to read this story of God's awesomeness.

"Jesse, we've got an hour before tonight's meeting, let's go!" 

Jesse Ruggles and I have been investing into the teens who hang out at the P-Rod skatepark with every spare hour we get.  We don't take teams with us into this park yet because, frankly, its not safe. But since we have skateboards and we know how to ride them we have become "homies" with everybody there. 
Last saturday we spent a couple hours skating and connecting with everyone. It was a successful day, but as we prepared to leave we felt that God was prompting us to step out a little more in boldness. We wanted to pray for these skaters, some of whom we had just met for the first time. We started coming up with all kinds of excuses to avoid stepping out like this but the Holy Spirit gave us the boldness to silence the fear, discomfort, and excuses. We went up to every person at the skatepark and boldly said "Uhh...um...so yeah we um...we're followers of Jesus Christ and we love him and we love you and we want to pray for you guys before we leave so uhhh we're gonna' go over to that picnic table and pray for anybody who wants to come" 
We got mixed responses but when the uninterested guys saw the other skaters coming over with us they decided to come too and before we knew it about 15 to 20 skaters gathered at the table for prayer. I wanted them to see Jesus as more than the glowing white guy in the pictures with the halo floating over his head.  "Do you guys know what kind of people Jesus hung out with?" "Do you know what kind of neighborhood Jesus grew up in?" 

As we pray with them, the heavens don't open up, crippled people don't run around, and no doves descend from the sky but something far greater happens; the number one felt need of these teens is the need for family, for belonging. As we come before the Lord together hope arises in them and they feel like they are part of something, part of a family that God is building in that community and it's awesome!

A bunch of them stuck around to ask us more questions and hear more of our personal testimonies. After we left the park one of the kids, Isaac, texted me and said "Hey do you think I could come to church with you guys on wednesday?"

It's amazing what God will do when we simply allow him to work through us. The devil is already working full time so we have to be bold to fight the good fight for the sake of our future brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus already has the victory so go ahead and step out in boldness today!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Filthy, disgusting, rotten, garbage

Trash.
Filthy, disgusting, rotten, garbage... everywhere. The stench, the 100 degree weather, the mist, the animals, if it weren't for the barefooted children it would have been way too much for me to handle. There was one little boy, maybe five years old, uncomfortably carrying his malnourished baby sister as he walked towards us over one of the heaps. A few little girls were skipping excitedly- wearing dirty mismatched high-heeled sandals that they had obviously found in the waste. In the distance we could see some men and women digging through the wet debris with their bare hands. As Westerners, we were repulsed by the scene, but as Burmese refugees, this was life.



In May of this year I visited a team of students for a couple weeks in Thailand.
Upon arriving the team took me to a place that at this point in the trip had been their "favorite ministry", it was a big disgusting garbage dump that was inhabited by a wonderful community of Burmese refugees. From my understanding, these precious people were kicked out of Burma, but then not welcomed in Thailand. So Thailand allotted them this land to live and work on, and they were welcome to stay as long as they maintained the place.

That is what we as a team witnessed them doing, they were living and working on this dump, and everyday when the garbage trucks arrived to dispose of the newly acquired trash, the refugees would race over to the fly-invested pile and begin sorting all of it by hand. The sight was disturbing, and yet through it I experienced an unexpected revelation of God's love.

That night as I laid down to sleep I could not shake the images that I had seen. Then I began to have what felt like a dream, though I am aware I was very awake.

I imagined myself walking into the dump and witnessing again the horror of their lifestyles. Then in my dream I began to run to the people and tell them about the United States, "You do not have to live like this! It is possible to dream of being somewhere else. Someplace clean! Where your children can be healthy! You can rest and not fear death all the time!" Then I started pleading with people, hoping they would listen to me, "In America it is beautiful and we have water.. and fruit.. you can play, you don't have to work all the time! You could experience that if you wanted!"

Then I imagined the people looking at me, they were so totally immersed in their own lives they hardly responded. One of them turned to say, "Sorry I am trying to find myself better shoes that my friend has. I am trying to make a name for myself." Then I looked down at her muddy mismatched shoes and was appalled as I tried to figure out how she could really mean what she just said. I watched and saw that the people were all piling up their trash, trying to get the biggest piles, striving to outdo their neighbors. The men were trying to collect more trash and do it faster than the others, the girls were trying to get the more sparkly trash, everyone was lost in their worlds of garbage and no one would take a minute to listen to my cries. They were all preoccupied with what they could see, they didn't dare listen to my explanation of how things were where I was from. I shouted "This is trash! This is death! People are sick! You can choose to get out of this! Please listen!"

Then in my dream I felt like I was interrupted by God Himself. He showed me that what was happening in my dream is exactly what happened when Jesus came to the Earth from Heaven! He came from this beautiful place full of love and peace and made His way into our dump of a world. He pleads with us to listen as He offers us healing, hope and points out the devastation of our state of life. He offers us a different way of living, lovingly inviting us to trust Him, and we say, "Sorry Jesus- I am too busy piling up my trash, trying to be better than everyone else, making a name for myself here in this dump." Then we are off, leaving Him behind, as we get busy storing up homes, cars, money, status, people, and chasing after an array of empty things that lead us to empty places.

Isn't that amazing! We get so consumed by the here and now, that we do not even respond to God when He offers us a Way that is far greater than anything we could ask for or imagine. We get bound by comparison and greed- always seeking to be the best in this life, while disregarding the reality of eternity.

In Phillipians 3:8 Paul says,
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. (New Living Translation)

Walking with Jesus is inviting Heaven to this Earth, daily living out the prayer
 "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on this Earth, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."