Tag Archives: the orchard

Then what can stand against

“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?”

Almost two years ago now, Michael and I felt really led to pour into the city of Aurora.  (See our initial thoughts)  Now here we are, two years later, right smack dab in the middle of where we felt God’s leading.  And I have had times of uncertainty where I needed God to remind me of His calling.

Fear can be a sneaky little thing.  It can rob you of your joy, it can mislead and deceive.  If I am not regularly seeking God’s voice, I easily slip away from what I know God has shown Michael and me. I begin to let fear and the desire to be “like everyone else” overtake me. When “everyone else” goes one way, it makes it so much harder to go the opposite. 

I realize that God has a different journey for each family, but very steadily and very clearly God has directed my thinking again, and brought me back to His heart for our family.

I love Aurora.  I love the diversity, I love the unique community, but most of all I love it because it has become the unlovable.  So many times Michael and I have heard things like “stay away from Aurora, the gangs are there”, or “go anywhere but Aurora for schools, the ratings are terrible”, or “it’s so dirty there”.  Instead of fleeing shaking our hands, shouldn’t we go to this place deemed unworthy and make it better?  Embrace it?  Love it?  “Be the change we want to see in the world”?

Not fear Aurora, but LOVE it.

“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”   1 John 4:17-18

As this has been stirring in my heart, I have been doing Isaiah lessons that I missed during the year while on maternity leave.  The FIRST one I did, God filled my heart with His presence.

In Isaiah 36 (and 2 Kings 18:1-16) during Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria had attacked and captured the cities of Judah.  Assyria’s field commander sent the people of Judah a boastful, threatening message basically saying that God cannot save them and Hezekiah was deciving them in thinking so.  He taunts them repeating over and over not to listen to Hezekiah, that God cannot deliver them and their trust in Him in worthless.  He goes on to promise plentiful food and drink, and bountiful land if they surrender and turn their backs on their god.

Hezekiah’s people had a choice: to trust God would do as He said He would and deliver them, or to go with the Assyrians willingly and abandon their calling.

This was exactly where I was.

Was I going to trust God would carry my family, or was I going to willingly surrender to the taunting and let fear dictate my path?

For me, the hardest taunting is when it has to do with my kids.  The dreaded “low scoring Aurora schools” issue.  But you know what?  I’m okay with the low ratings.  When I think about my grown sons going out into the world, the number one thing I desire for them is that they know Christ and bring Him glory.  Michael and I are intelligent -for the most part :) – and involved parents, who look for ways to come alongside our children on a daily basis to foster their growth and learning.  But their intellect and academic excellence is NOT is what drives my heart for them.  I want them to love people- all people, not just people “like” them- and to embrace diversity.  And that I believe is the heartbeat of Aurora.

Later that day as I was letting God’s words flood my heart, I read this blog post by someone I have come to highly respect and be encouraged by through her blog, besozo.wordpress.com:  Betchya your kid is smarter than my kid

I could not have said it better!  God used Bre’anna’s writing to be an incredible encouragement to my soul and confirmation to what He has called our family to do.  Academics are great, but morality and character development are so much more…

The cry of my heart is for my children to fall so deeply in love with the Lord that everything they do displays His splendor.  In Aurora and beyond.

Inked

Last year, our pastor Scott Hodge did a series called “Inked” at our church The Orchard.  The tagline was “life beneath the surface” and the whole series dug into deep life subjects.  Each week a new person would be profiled in a video clip, explaining their tattoo and it’s signifigance to their life.  The idea was that our lives are “tattooed” all over the place with things God has done.  There are signifigant changes and monumental moments that make a mark we won’t forget.  When we look at that moment, we think of all God has done/is doing.  The same went for these people’s tattoos- it was a reminder of a signifigant “God moment” in their life.

Tattoos are a hot topic among Christians, some think they are wrong, and I respect their view…however, I encourage you to read this article which sums up my perspective.   Tattoo and The Bible/ Sacred Ink

This past year God has brought me on such a profound heart journey.  I’m so thankful for the work He continues to do in my heart. I guess my theme for this year would be “letting go of my plan, and embracing God’s best”.  One way I’ve done this is by embracing my role as a wife and mother of three sons.  I know this is a huge responsibility, and I take it very seriously.

My friend Miranda, my Aunt Debbie, and my sister Elli, and I decided we all wanted to go together to get our tattoos.  The whole experience fills my heart with SO much joy.

#1  I was engraving my signifigant God moment on my body, to represent what God had already engraved on my heart.

#2  I spent time with (and loved) a group of people at the tattoo parlor that I’m sure the “religious” people would have avoided

#3 the artists were the nicest people ever, and loved Simon.  They said, sure bring him in!  We all have kids!

#4 even at 3 weeks old, Simon witnessed me embracing diversity and loving as Jesus does.

See how I'm gripping my finger so tight...it hurt just a bit :)
Simon was totally alert the whole time. My Aunt Debbie said, "He's found his calling!" haha!
Michael Trevor Elliott Simon, "MTES" engraved on my heart, soul, mind, AND body


Not simply heart tuggings- my heart is pounding right out of my chest

God has really brought me to a deep place in my relationship with Him.  It all started this summer when I was really faced with the  unknown things out of my control, having to choose to really put my faith in action.  I really feel God was leading me out of complacency and into a deep, meaningful surrender.  So many things have been flooding through my heart the last few months, and I just really didn’t know how to put it into words.  I still really don’t, but I’ve been wanting to blog about this for some time now.

A lot of the stirring inside me has been the direct result of what God is doing through our church home, The Orchard.  God has really ripped up my heart through Scott’s teaching and leading.  We have been doing a series called, Not Like Me, and Michael and I both really feel like this series was created specifically for us!  We have been so challenged.

At the close of the series today Scott asked three questions.  The verses he presented us with resounded in my soul and I felt God calling me to action.  Not just part of my heart, but my WHOLE heart.  All of it.  To me that means, my everything- my time, my talent, my treasure, my family.  All of it should bring Him glory.  That is all that really matters.  That is the heart of the gospel.  To bring Jesus glory.  So I thought about those questions…I wanted to respond to it and not just go about my life as usual.

James 1: 22-25 (NIV)

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

1)  Where is your Nazareth?

John 1:45-46 (NIV)

5Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

Nazareth was not looked on as a great place, it was really looked down upon and avoided.  But it is from Nazareth that God did a beautiful thing- He brought out of it the Savior of the world.  For me, I feel like my Nazareth are the places that I am afraid to take my kids, or where I am afraid to go alone.   It is the area with not the best schools or nicest houses.  It is where everyone tells me to avoid because I can do “better”.

2) Where is your Pain?

1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25  (The Message)

8For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

I realize that to some reading this, you may think I am crazy, and that is fine.  I have struggled with the doubts before wondering just how “real” this Jesus can really be.  I understand the scepticism.  But also know the real, tangible power of Christ in my life and ultimatley the fire burning in my heart and my soul as He brings me deeper.  That is something that my critics cannot take from me.

3) What is in your hand?

Exodus 4: 1-5 (NLT)

1 But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” 2 Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. 3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. 4 Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. 5 “Perform this sign,” the Lord told him. “Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”

Many of you know our house hunting woes (but really, they aren’t woes.  We are grateful that we are fortunate enough to have the means to be able to purchase a home and to be house hunting…)  What looks like loss, Michael and I really feel like has been gain.  When we chose the house in Montgomery, we were looking for the best schools, the safest neighborhoods, and really the nicest house we could afford.  All the “appearances”.  When we lost the bid on the house 5 months later, little did we know what greater purpose God had behind it!

It was just about the beginning of the Not Like Me series and we were really bummed about losing the house.  But then God started tearing apart our hearts.  Why were we looking in the areas we were?  Because we thought God could protect our kids in those areas only?  Because we wanted to be around people “like” us?  Because people in our lives were telling us to avoid certain areas due to demographic and stereo type?

The journey God has brought me on has really forced me to address all of these issues in my heart.  Really, the number one thing God wants from me is my heart.  He wants me to know Him and bring Him glory in everything I do.  So what do I do primarily?  I am a wife and a mother.  If my sole purpose is to bring God glory so that the others around me will see a glimpse of Him and hopefully fall in love with Him as well, then won’t He take care of the rest?  Isn’t God sovereign no matter what part of town we live in?  Aren’t Trevor and Elliott ultimately in His hands no matter what school they attend?

So Michael and I have changed our home search.  We are looking in Aurora, the very place most have lead us away from.  I want to come along side other moms and love them.  Really just love them.  No matter where they are coming from in life.  I want my boys to embrace diversity and see beauty around them in everything.  I want us as a family to have one mindset- to bring Jesus glory by loving people like He did.

They showed a video today at The Orchard in which our pastor, Scott, and his friend Caleb took us to a part of Aurora that is looked down upon.  A lot of the kids are in broken families and just want to have an adult presence in their lives to truly love them.  Caleb said something that really hit home, he said, “This is where Jesus would be.  This is where He would be hanging out all the time.”  And Scott said, “What really gets me about that is that, yes, this is where Jesus would be…but yet it is where I am not…”

I want to be where Jesus would be and where He is at work currently…I want to embrace the little children that aren’t ever embraced.  I want to show people the real Jesus that isn’t judgemental and doesn’t discriminate.  When I die I want there to be Christ followers and those that don’t know Christ to say, “She loved people.  She lived her faith that she proclaimed.”

So I am praying for a home in Aurora, right where God wants us, so He can do mighty work through our family, so that people would know Him, and He will be glorified.

“….So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart oh God
Completely to you

So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
So I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours…”

The Stand by Hillsong United




From tolerance to unconditional love

Disclaimer:  An honest look into my heart!

I like to consider myself a kind person.  I usually smile a lot, and try to be encouraging.   But I really struggle with truly loving people without agenda.  I let my pride get in the way of love a lot,  and I constantly have to battle with my heart/mind to choose humility and extend grace to those around me.  I really need God’s help moment by moment to drop my competitive spirit and be willing to be “the least of these.”

I have been so fired up about what God is doing through The Orchard.  I  really encourage you to visit one of the weekly gatherings (Sat at 5, Sun at 9 & 11) to check it out for yourself.  I promise you, it is probably the exact opposite of your last church experience. :)  It is such a diverse community and I love it!  I feel like the new series, Not Like Me, is exactly what The Orchard embodies- which is EXACTLY what Jesus embodies.  It’s all about loving God and loving others which is God’s own heart.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

Check it out:
www.theorchardcommunity.com and click on the far right “Current Series” to watch the video.

So my new goal is to move past simply tolerance of others (like me and not like me) and embrace unconditional love.   To choose humility and extend grace in ALL situations.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina=Divine Reading

Reading, Reflecting, Responding, and Resting

(Thanks for teaching us this Scott Hodge) :)

Psalm 13

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Look on me…

desperation.  helplessness.  frustration.  guilt for selfishness/pride.  the end of me.

your unfailing love…

there.  always..  perfect.  safe.  better.

God your ways are better- for You are unfailing.  You will not fail me.  I trust your unfailing love.

Shane & Shane – Psalm 13