Some Justice News

Hot off the presses!  :)

1.  I’m Raising Money for The Covering House

You guys have heard me mention The Covering House before as one of the two charities that Wes and I give to monthly.  They are raising money to open a safe home for girls under the age of 18 who have been victims of human trafficking, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, etc.  They have a full-scale care plan in place created by psychologists and social workers that is designed to bring healing to these girls and to help them lead a normal life once again.  They have received enough requests for help to be able to fill their home twice over with victims, but they can’t help anyone at all until they can actually pay for the house.

They just launched The Covering Campaign to raise the rest of the funds they need to buy and sustain the home for 6 months.  Once this capital is raised, they can start helping girls recover.  So thats where we come in!!  I’ve started a fundraising team to help them reach their goal.  Please go to my page to donate and spread the word like crazy!!  Be a part of rescuing girls from slavery.  This is justice!  Even just $5 or $10 will help.

Here is the link to my fundraising page: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/sarahardis/the-covering-campaign-2012-covering-st-louis 

Go donate now!  Then come back and read #2 below.  :)

2. Some…Ehem.. Career Changes

Well, I’ve officially resigned from my job at Wildweek.  Gasp !  I’ll still be working there for a while – probably through the end of the summer – as I am training my replacement.  So, my dear Wildweek friends and youth pastors, we don’t have to start saying goodbye right away.  But I’ve been praying seriously about this for a little over a month and I feel it’s time to step away.  I love the work of WW with all my heart, but God wants me to have more time to dedicate to the poor and oppressed.  I don’t have a new job lined up and I won’t start looking until we know for sure when my replacement here will be able to start on her own.  I don’t even have a clue what my new job is supposed to be, other than I need to devote a large chunk of my week to serving the suffering.  So we’ll see!  I’ll keep you guys posted.  I feel a little like Abram venturing out into the wilderness with some vague concept of the promise land in his mind and completely dependent on God to lead him there.  Who knows where I’ll end up?

So, please pray for the Covering House and the dear girls suffering in the motel rooms and truck cabs.  (And donate so THC can get them out!!)  And please pray for me as God draws my heart further and further away from those work and affirmation idols.  Yeah, quitting a job with no other job lined up is doing a doozy on those idols right about now.  (And on my sleep.)  Pray He be glorified in everything.

Quick to Blame, Slow to Pray

Sorry I’ve been a litle MIA lately.  I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus for the last couple of weeks, and it’s totally rocking my world.  But most of the things God is showing me through it haven’t really been blog material.  And since God has been dealing with me about my work and approval idols over these last few weeks, I’ve come to find peace in not blogging as often as I did.  It’s good for me .

But what I read and prayed about today in Exodus 17 seemed like a good thing to share with you guys!

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
(Exodus 17:1-7 ESV)

So God pulls off this amazing rescue mission for His people, who have been slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years.  They are free now and their leader, Moses, is leading them through the wilderness to the land God has promised them.  Already God has performed miracle after miracle for these people.  He sent plagues to convince Pharoah to let them go; He parted the Red Sea when the Egyptians pursued them; He turned bitter water sweet in the dessert; He literally rained bread down from heavan when there was no food, etc, etc.  Surely these people must have no doubt that God is mighty and on their side.  Right?

Wrong.  As soon as another promblem arises, they start complaining to Moses. The people have still not learned to trust in God as their provider.  Instead of praying and crying out to God to provide when they get thirsty, they complain and grumble to Moses.  And we can’t sit here and shake our heads condescendingly, because we do the exact same thing!

It is far easier for us to complain about our leaders than to seek God for help when something goes wrong.  That is one of the costs of being a leader – people are going to consistently blame you for their problems when they should be learning to turn to the Lord.  Let this not discourage you.  Moses was not doing anything wrong as a leader.  It says in verse 1 that he was clearly following the commandment of the Lord.  Moses wisely understands that their grumbling does not mean he has made a mistake, but simply that the people have not yet learned to depend on God.   And he does know the right course of action to take when there was no water – he cried out to God, even though the people wouldn’t.  And God, yet again, is faithful to provide.

We (I, especially) must prayerfully be wary of this tendency in our own hearts.  When something goes wrong, is our first reaction to blame the person in charge or to seek God in prayer?  This can apply to anything – problems in our church, problems at work, problems in our nation.  Christians should not be so quick to blame – we should be quick to pray.  Maybe the problem has nothing to do with poor leadership, but simply God wanting to teach us to depend on Him.

St. Patrick’s Prayer

I know, I know, St. Patrick’s Day was last weekend.  But I just ran across this prayer of ol’ Saint Paddy yesterday, and it brought me to tears.  I just had to share it with you guys, and there is no way I’m gonna wait 361 days to do so.   I hope it blesses and challenges you like it did me!

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Amen!!

Following Him into the Storm

And when he (Jesus) got into the boat, his disciples followed him.  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
(Matthew 8:23-27 ESV)

How many times have you followed Jesus into right smack-dab into the middle of a humongous storm?  More times than you can count?  Me too.

Things are going along just fine, right?  Nice and comfy.  You have your systems in place, it’s not perfect, but it’s predictable.  You and God are good.  You and spouse are good.  You and church, you and work, you and kids, etc, etc, all just fine.  You love Jesus and do your best to love people, too.  Comfy.

Then BAM the Holy Spirit starts tugging on your heart.  Suddenly, you can no longer take the status quo.  Nothing has changed but at the same time EVERYTHING has changed, and you know God is calling you to action.

So you start praying a little more ferverently and reading the Word a little more intentioanlly.  You start dreaming up game plans and sharing them with your inner circle.  God is calling you into that next chapter – He’s telling you to cross that lake.  And you’re nervous but super excited as well.  You know for sure that this new thing is His will and you can’t wait to see how He’s going to move.

The day comes. Jesus gets on the boat He’s been preparing for you, and you happily follow.  You smile to yourself.  I had a happy, comfy life and I’m giving all that up to follow Jesus across this lake.  He must be so proud of me.  This is going to be so awesome.

Maybe you get a couple of months of calm waters.  Maybe only a couple of weeks or a couple of days.  But before you know it, the waves are crashing over the side of the boat and you are looking around wondering where in the world Jesus went.  God, are you seeing this?!?!  This is a storm!  You led me here!  I’m being obedient!  I was comfy!  Why on earth did you lead me into a storm?!?

And then the questions start rolling in, one by one, beating at your resolve as the icy waters beat at your raincoat.  Maybe this wasn’t God’s plan for me afterall?  Maybe that wasn’t Jesus I saw getting onto the boat?  Or worse, maybe that was Jesus and He’s just as helpless against these winds as I am.  Maybe all this big talk of a big God who can solve big problems is empty.  What I have gotten myself into?  I had a good life.  I should have listened to my mom/aunt/boss/friend/grandpa who told me this was a bad idea.  What am I going to do???  How am I going to fix this?

And then, depending on how prideful you are, this next part might take a long time or a not long at all.  I’m about as prideful as they come, so for me this takes a very very long time.  I grit my teeth and do my very best to fix the storm.  I yell and shake my fists.  I batten down the hatches and zip up my rain boots.  I go after that dang storm with all I have.  I got myself into this mess and I’m gonna deal with it.

Finally, once I’m completely exhausted in every possible way, I hang my head and crawl over to Jesus’ side.  I sheepishly nudge His shoulder as He sleeps.  When He wakes, I tell Him I’ve done all I can, and I can’t calm the storm.  By now I’m thoroughly convinced that getting on this forsaken boat could not have possibly been His will, so I apologize for getting on the wrong boat and ask Him to please stop the rain.  Because my feet are frozen and I just want to be comfy again.  I am perishing here, Jesus.  I need Your help.

And then he smiles and chuckles a little to Himself.  “My love, why are you apologizing?  This is exactly where I wanted you.  You think this storms means this wasn’t the boat I had for you?  I led you to the boat and I led you to the storm for a reason.  I wanted you to see Me do this.”  And with quick flick of His wrist, the rain stops, the wind dies down and the storm is over.

He pulls me to my feet. “O, my Sarah of little faith.  When will you trust Me?   When will you  learn to turn to Me as soon as the rain starts and not as a last resort?”  I hang my head, silent.  I have no answer for Him.  But as He grabs my hand and points my gaze to the shore, I see that we’ve arrived at the other side of the lake.  As I follow Him off the boat and into our next adventure, I know my faith is a little stronger, my pride is a little smaller and my heart is a little more surrendered.

Kony 2012 and Christ’s Return

Kony 2012 is sweeping across America right now.  It inspires many mixed emotions in me, as I’m sure it has everyone else.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this video.  It’s haunting.

I love seeing our generation take a loud stance against injustice and I love how popular that has become in our day.  Of course, I share the same concerns some have expressed in the blogosphere about the misleading nature of the movie and the lack of the “Ugandan voice” in the film.  It’s a much more complicated issue that Invisible Children makes it out to be, and that is a bit unnerving for sure.  (Very large propaganda red-flags went off all over the place while  I was watching the movie – demonized enemy, over simplified description of the conflict, etc, etc).   The most balanced blog I’ve come across is this one, which points out the concerns without setting out to completely delegitimize organization (which for sure has great intentions and is doing great things in Uganda.)

So how does a follower of Christ respond to all this?

It facisnates me how so many aspects of our faith are a balancing act.  There are countless issues where camps on one side push against camps on the other side, and the truth in the Word lies right there in the very middle.  Leaning too far to one side or the other leaves us in the land of false doctrine, so we must be constantly seeking God to keep us right there on the fine line of truth.  It’s like steering a canoe.  You contantly paddle left, then right, then left, then right to keep going straigth.  Too many paddles on any one side gets you stuck under a tree on the bank.

Justice is one of those issues.  Yes, we need to be actively fighting for justice in this world right now AND yes, we need to be longing for the future hope when Christ returns and sets all things right.  We can’t stop fighting and just set our eyes on the clouds.  But we also can’t delude ourselves into thinking we’re going to be able to bring true peace and justice on our own.  So we fight and cry out to God to lead us, but we also simply cry out to God to return, knowing that we will see some victories in this age, but when He returns every tear will be wiped away.  Christ’s coming is the best possible solution to the LRA problem.

So since I tend to lean on the “fight for justice now and don’t wait for the coming” side of this issue, I need to remind myself more that praying and longing for Christ’s return is not a waste.  So here are a couple of scriptures that do so.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ 
(John 14:27-28 ESV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
(Revelation 22:12-13 ESV)

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 22:20 ESV)

My Idols

Well, I guess you might have noticed, I took a week off from blogging.  God has been dealing with me lately about my idols of approval and work.  Last Sunday He led me to take a week and not DO anything for Him or on behalf of Him, but to just spend my time WITH Him.  So all last week instead of blogging or studying or journaling or anything that could be work, I just spent that time praying, meditating on His word and soaking in His presence.  It was lovely.  Lovely and heart-wrenching.

God revealed a lot to me about my specific brand of idolatry this week.  Basically, I have an approval idol.  I need people to like me, to agree with my life choices, to be proud of the person I am becoming.  When those things aren’t true for a specific person or group of people, I kind of die on the inside.  I become anxious and obsessed with getting that person/group to like me; it keeps me from sleeping and it hinders my prayer life.  I’ve known that part of it for a while now, and I’m constantly praying for God’s help to find my worth and affirmation in Him alone.

What I didn’t realize before this week was how work plays into that.  I use my work as the primary way to gain the approval I crave.  And this plays out in basically every area of my life.  With my job, of course, I try to be the best, most efficient worker so the rest of the Wildweek crew will find me invaluable.  At home, I cook for Wes, do his dishes and laundry, and just overall try to be the best helper he can imagine so that he won’t imagine being with anyone else.  I use the amount of work I do for him as proof in my own mind that I’m a good wife, worthy of love.  And with my spirituall life, I constantly keep a running list of the ways that I’m being missional and adding value to God’s kingdom.  When I feel down or far from God, I remind myself of this list of all the good things I’m doing for Jesus and that comforts me.  That list of my work for God assures me that God and other Christians have love me – look at how productive I am.

If I were to stop working (for Wildweek, for Wes, for God), I would have no value in my own mind.  I would be worthless and undeserving of love.  Wow.  That is about as far from the gospel as you can be.  The gospel says nothing we do, nothing we produce is going to earn us love.  We are completely unable to work towards our salvation.  The love God has for us is a gift that’s free for us because Jesus already paid for it on the cross.  Our value has nothing to do with what we do or build, but 100% comes from the fact that we are God’s creation and God died for us.

And the gospel also says that any good we do on this world is not ours to claim.  Any good we do is not from us, because we are nothing but wretched.  The good we do, the things we build for God’s kingdom are simply more free gifts from Him.  He gives us the ideas, the abilities, and the resources to carry it out.  Gosh, I know I’ve blogged that exact sentence before, but I still don’t believe it in my heart.

So what I was doing is taking my work (which is a gift from God), and sacrificing that work on the altar of my approval idol.  My loving Father gives me lovely gifts, and I immediately turn around and offer my gifts to my idol.  I use those gifts to build up my own pride and sense of worth, rather than letting His gifts fuel a humble gratitude and worship to Him.  I take the glory for the work He does through me, rather than letting His work point the glory back to Him.

I scorn the love and approval He bled for me on the cross and insist on earning love and approval by myself – using the very gifts He died to give me!  “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 ESV)

So clearly, I don’t have a simple verse or two to wrap up this post, since I’m still right in the middle of it.  If you struggle in a similar way, I don’t have 3 steps for you to follow to get better.  Ha, the fact that we would want 3 easy steps to take to fix ourselves feeds right back into the problem, doesn’t it?  All I know is I can’t fix myself.  I am desperately begging God to fix me, and I’m not sure what all is going to have to be broken down in my heart and in my life for that to happen.  But I welcome it.

Eternal Perspective

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
(Romans 8:18 ESV)

The truth is if we are followers of Christ, we’re going to spend eternity in pure joy.  Not 100 years or 3 million years.  Eternity.  It’s difficult for to us to ponder this for very long, I know, but it is true.

Think of the time in your life you have felt the most loved and accepted, the time when you most felt part of a tight-knit community that truly knew you and completely valued you.  That, dear friends, is only barely scratching the surface of the love, acceptance, and sense of community you’ll feel in heaven.

Think of the time in your life you were the most healthy. Perhaps it was back in school playing your favorite sport.  For me, it was dancing.  Your body was fit and strong; it could run fast and jump high.  Remember the joy of feeling your blood pumping and your muscles burning as you executed all of the right moves, hit the marks, and flew through the air.  That feeling of being alive and healthy doesn’t even come close to the way we’ll feel when we run and jump and play in our glorified bodies.

Think of the time in your life you felt the most pleasure.  Pure physical pleasure that was not in anyway marred by guilt or past pain.  Perhaps on your honeymoon or wedding night.  This might seem a little weird, but I know deep in my soul that there is no pleasure we could find here on earth that would compare to the pleasure we will feel in the very presence of God.   Not even close.

Guys, if we are following Jesus, if our eternities are secured in Him, we have more to look forward to than we can conceive of.  All of the dissapointments in our life that we face today – I never got married, I never got to travel, I never got to play in the championship game, I never had sex, I was never the CEO – none of those will matter to us in the least bit when we experience the pure joy of heaven.

There is only one thing we can do and experience here in this broken body on this fallen world that we can’t in do heaven.  And that’s to be a part of God’s mission of redemption.  Right now, this tiny little blip of a life we have on earth, is our only chance to interact with nonbelievers for all of eternity!  It’s our only chance to lace up the combat boots and go to war against the evil one and his weapons of cancer, abuse, neglect, and all the other ways he destroys lives here on earth.  Now is our only chance to be God’s hands and feet as He rushes into the darkness and rescues His beloved into the light.

Everything else we could work for, our own successes and recognition just DOESN’T MATTER.  Why would we fight for our own comforts and pleasure here on this dusty, dirty world, when that pleasure is nothing compared to what we will have for eternity in heaven?? It makes no sense, right?  Down on earth, we have the opportunity to eternally impact souls, and once our short lives are over, we’ll never have the opportunity again.

So whatever we have to suffer for this mission, it’s worth it.  Whatever we have to sacrifice in our lives to see people come into the Kingdom, it’s worth it.  Whatever temporary trials and hurts we have to endure here truly are nothing in comparison to the flood of joy and pleasure and love we will experience in heaven.

See, when you have an eternal perspective, everything changes.