Why We Are Leaving…and Where We Are Going.

Where do I begin…
For months now I have been battling this thing inside of me.
If I’m honest this urge, this calling, this prompting, this restlessness has been there for much, much longer…for both Shanais and me.

Do you recall what happens when you run from God?
If not, just ask Jonah…

There is a deep aching sadness in the leaving…
There is a sadness in the walking away from what is known and moving into what is presently unknown.

I believe the Lord has brought the story of Abram to me over and over again while we have been in this process. The story is about a rich man named Abram. He had lots of family and friends. He had it all. He was not in want for anything. He was comfortable. And then one day God tells Abram to travel out of his known lands and to live in the unknown places. The uncomfortable, unfamiliar lands…the place where he had no friends. The place where there would be no safety.

It was a giant leap of faith.
He had to trust his Creator.
He had to have faith that God would provide the friends, the comfort, the safety. And so he and his wife Sarai went. They traveled into the unknown land with alien terrain and different customs and people. God reminded Him of His faithfulness. Abram and Sarai were both transformed in the leaving. Sure, there were roadblocks and bouts of their own personal faithlessness, and yet God remained faithful to them. Abraham became the father of many nations. Sarah the mother.

When we do not rely on our own resources and lead from our own comforts we are inclined (sometimes forced) to rely completely on the Lord’s provisions instead of our own. It can be dangerous and yet also liberating, because our resources are limited and our experiences to what is known. What we know personally. We can be comfortable in our frames of reference…and yet God’s frame of reference is so much more infinite.

Back to this restlessness…
I could rely on my own resources…and limit my faith journey.
I could remain in what I know to be comfortable…and run the risk of becoming stagnant and run the same familiar patterns but not really delving any deeper. I could remain here (and here is an amazing, place called home)…but I feel it in the core of my being that God is calling me out of this. It is a leap of faith. It is extremely scary. It is heart-aching. Yet, I will follow Him. I will trust that He knows what He is doing. I will lay all of me on the altar and allow God to use me.

Where are we going?
I didn’t set out to find this.
I wasn’t searching for this kind of work.
It’s not something I am completely familiar with.
We are moving to Southern Alabama.
I will be working in one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama.
Have I ever lived there? No.
Do I have any family there? No.
Do I have friends there? No, not yet.

The ministry? – I will be running a Christian Foster Care organization. It’s a huge leap for me. (I keep saying I and me, and what I really mean is that it is a HUGE leap for both of us – Shanais and me.) We are both stepping out of our comfort zones. We are not abandoning God’s mission in this world, but rather embracing it more deeply. I am a fourth generation Salvationist, and you don’t realize how difficult this is for me to do. And yet, I am doing this, and I have a deep sense of peace about it even though it is scary.

Of course there are questions:
Will I do this for the rest of my life? Answer: I don’t know.
Will I come back to the Army as an Officer? Answer: Maybe.
Am I walking away from my faith? Answer: absolutely not!!
My church? Answer: No.

God’s kingdom is so much larger.
God’s love encompasses so many people, both lost and found.

What can you do?
Please Pray!
Would you pray for us?
Some will not understand why we are doing this.
Some will consider it abandoning our calling…I don’t see it that way at all. Rather we are embracing it more deeply. Some might even disagree with us and the decision we have arrived at. That’s fine, we understand.

I hope that I can count on you to still be a friend and a prayer warrior.
I believe God’s love is greater than any one organization or church. He can call us from one place to another and we can still remain in His will for our lives. Some remain called to one place, others to multiple places.

This might change how you view us, but I hope not.
We are still ministers of God’s love and grace. We still call Him Lord of our lives and we still desire to serve Him.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us while in this scary transition. Thank you to the leaders who have guided us along the way…we love you and are forever in your debt!
We are simply trusting that God knows what He is doing…and there’s nothing simple about it.

God Bless You.
-Scott & Shanais Strissel.





Featured post

Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

Featured post

Pentecost – A Sincere Fire…

I love researching the origins of things.
One of my favorite docu-shows is ‘Mysteries At The Museum’ where they tell stories and uncover some mysterious tale from long ago that I never knew existed. I think my love for television shows like this has to do with knowledge and better understanding the world around me. There is this hunger for understanding who I am as a human being and that of this creation around me. I would imagine in some way you are the same as me in this search for truth and understanding.

No photo description available.


I recently came across the etymology of the word “Sincerely”. What’s funny is I know the origin story, but I liked the erroneous version of its origin better. I think I like it because I think it speaks to me on a spiritual level, and carries with it a deep connection of awe and wonder for me.

The story goes like this:
In the Middle Ages, painters would use wax to conceal blemishes in their artwork. It was a technique to cover up these mistakes so that the painter would not have to start over and could sell these paintings to potential buyers. No one would know what was under the surface of the wax, nor would they notice unless they were to carefully analyze the surface of the canvas.

Zest It Cold Wax Painting Medium Review - Jackson's Art Blog


Thus, when a painter would paint their masterpieces they would sign their paintings with ‘Sincerely’ at the bottom in order for the buyer to understand that the artist had created this masterpiece “without blemish”, or without the use of cover up wax. This was a guarantee of honesty, vulnerability and transparency…

Regardless if the origin of the word “Sincerely” didn’t come from these painters and artists, I find the context here to be absolutely stunning and profound. Painters did indeed use wax to cover up blemishes on their canvas and many times without owners ever knowing that they made a mistake.

This is how the Lord has whispered into my heart this week as I approached Pentecost this year. For the first time in fifteen years I am no longer an ordained minister. For the first time in my career as a pastor, I have found a sense of emptiness that had been occupied by busyness and it was all my own doing. There were times that I covered over mistakes on my canvas. Times where I could fool everyone else of my sincerity and yet there I was waxing over the obvious blemishes without ever acknowledging them to anyone, let alone God.

This isn’t some sort of deep confession of moral failure, this is an admission of pride and arrogance. I was the painter covering things up and feigning my innocence. And through it all God wanted and still wants my sincerity.

Many of us approach Pentecost, the day where God’s holy presence literally fell upon those in that upper room with a certain amount of wax covering our canvas. We cover up the mistakes and pretend that God doesn’t see them. Perhaps deep down we know that He does, but as long as we keep fooling everyone else, all is well. But you see that isn’t the way things work with God. He wants us blemishes and all. He desires our vulnerability and our honesty. He wants for us to admit to Him that we haven’t got it all worked out yet. That’s okay. He wants us to stop pretending to be some thing we are not. God longs for us to just take the wax off of our canvas’ and SINCERELY come before Him with contrition and reverence.

So let me ask you today, how sincere is your relationship with God?
How honest are you being with your walk of holiness? How much are you truly striving to live like Jesus every day? I know that there is so much to unpack here. I know that perhaps you will have to do some soul searching. Don’t wait to do it by saying “I’ll get around to it”. Don’t hesitate to come before the Father spiritually naked and without wax. He sees us completely and already knows. So if we truly want to experience Pentecost today in our lives, we MUST be sincere in our minds, hearts and lives.

The Way of Love | Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Federal Way


Something more to ponder on this day of Pentecost.
God Bless you today!

https://pastorsponderings.org/2013/11/22/catching-fire-at-pentecost/

The Problem with Rebirth is YOU (and Me)…-And The Journey There-

The night had grown dark as the shadows fell upon the buildings of Jerusalem like thick blankets, cool and sleepy. Creeping along the side roads and alleyways, Nicodemus made his way to the house where he knew Jesus was staying. He did not want to be seen, after all, as a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, he had a reputation to uphold…and yet he felt compelled to seek out this Rabbi.

Perhaps Nicodemus witnessed Jesus, red faced and angry as he cleansed the Temple when others had turned it into an ancient Walmart; Or perhaps he had witnessed or even heard through second-hand knowledge of Jesus’ miracles. Regardless of the ‘why’, Nicodemus had to seek Him out.

Nicodemus stands sheepishly at the door momentarily seconding guessing himself before finally knocking. He hears someone stir from within, and the voices that had been loud and jovial only a moment ago, quiet down as if to wonder who could be at the door at such a late hour. Wide eyes peer out as the door cracks open, for a moment there is silent, shell-shocked surprise as the homeowner recognizes Nicodemus standing there. Why would a Pharisee come here, and why so late?

As if in reply to the silent question, Nicodemus asks politely, “Is the teacher Jesus here?

I can almost envision a flurry of questioning and worried looks from within. Questions like, ‘Is this Pharisee here to harm the Master?’, and ‘What could he want?’, or even, ‘What can we say to make him leave?’ Finally the owner leads Nicodemus to the roof, where the cool breeze of the evening makes this space the most desirable place in the house.

Jesus is seated there, perhaps looking out upon the city, pondering…or perhaps He knew Nicodemus would come and so he was simply waiting.

Nicodemus, nodding gratefully to the owner seats himself beside Jesus. In a way of greeting, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law and Rabbi in his own right calls to Jesus, ‘Rabbi’ in a manner of respect.
Rabbi, we know that you are a teach who has come from God…”
-(John 3: 2)

Such a public declaration in the daylight would most certainly have tarnished his reputation or worse, and yet here in the privacy of the dark Nicodemus pours out his heart and speaks plainly to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Imagine the scene, as Nicodemus declares that which is nearing blasphemy to the ears of his fellow Pharisees, and yet here in this quiet evening space, he speaks to what He knows in his heart is true. He has arrived at “God must be with this man – Jesus”…and Jesus is about to take him to the very feet of God himself. For a moment there is a pause in the conversation as Jesus collects himself and then looks at Nicodemus with the wisp of a smile, and he says, “This is the truth that I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

For a moment this puzzles Nicodemus.
What could that even mean? How can one be physically born again? It is not possible! A Rabbi who is used to telling stories to teach a point is completely lost when Jesus uses a very similar method. Nicodemus finally speaks and asks his question, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!

Then Jesus looks at Nicodemus as if he can see into his very soul…and perhaps he could. Perhaps in all of his many years as a Rabbi and religious law enforcer, Nicodemus has never seen or heard of such wonders from one man. Perhaps somewhere in his heart and soul, the words of Jesus are being heard in a much different frequency. It is the frequency of truth, life and the source of all love. Perhaps in this very moment the creation has caught a glimpse of the Creator and there is a skipping of a heart beat and an inward ‘leaning in’ as if in response to a hunger that has been reignited once more that was only known in his younger, more eager days.

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, and this time Nicodemus physically leans in, as if to catch this moment and words with his hands, mind and heart. Jesus speaks of the heavenly things and Nicodemus barely grasps the earthly ones, and yet from this night on, he will never be the same. Soon, the truth of Jesus’ words will reverberate in his mind as he witnesses Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The truth has set Nicodemus free this night. Where there was once doubt, certainty begins to grow. Where there was once earthly wisdom, heavenly wisdom is now craved. Nicodemus may have come under the cover of night, but will soon perhaps declare in the daylight his new found hope.

I wonder where we are in all of this.
Do we have all of the head knowledge the earth can give us and yet we come up short when it comes to grasping this faith that Jesus offers to us? How do we comprehend so new life? Is there room in our understanding of faith to find rebirth?

Perhaps some of us are still figuring things out.
Maybe others have begun that late night stealthy walk towards Jesus, hoping no one will see us as we explore. Still, perhaps others have met Jesus and have put their trust in Him.

Wherever you are on this journey, please know that Jesus is waiting patiently for you…but don’t wait too long. Don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate…because one day it will be too late. Grace truly does have an expiration date.

So where are you on your journey today?

Something more to ponder today.

Finding What We Seek…

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

There is the old testament story about a woman named Hannah.
Hannah did not have any children of her own and she desperately wanted a child. So after one of the Jewish celebrations, Hannah goes to the temple and fervently prays to God to give her a child. She prays and weeps and is in deep anguish over this heartfelt need to be a mother. As she is praying and weeping, the priest Eli sees Hannah there, and he thinks she is drunk because her lips are moving but no words are coming out. So Eli goes and confronts her and even tells her to throw away her wine.

Imagine that for a second, this woman is crying out to God in one of her lowest moments and she can’t even catch a break without having Eli confront her in judgement. Hannah doesn’t lash out though, she just tells the priest why she is there and that she is not drunk. Hannah outlines her heartache and even says “I am very discouraged and I am pouring out my heart to the Lord.” (NLT translation).
The priest responds by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you the request that you asked of Him.”

Scriptures then tell us that Hannah goes home and is at peace and starts eating AGAIN. Let’s stop for a minute and recognize that in Hannah’s distress she had stopped eating and was so discouraged in her heart.

Have you ever been there?
Have you ever been so heavily burdened that you lose all appetite and thoughts of self-care?

One such moment comes to my mind in my life. My Wife had just tragically lost her mother in a horrible accident and for the next couple of days in the midst of our mourning we couldn’t eat and we barely slept. It was gut wrenching sadness and heartbreaking pain. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3)…and in our lives, most of us have experienced those times of mourning. I believe Hannah felt a certain kind of mourning in her life as well and that is why we are made to understand in 1 Samuel 1:9-28 that Hannah was not eating…or probably sleeping. Her heart was so heavy and burdened with this deep longing and sadness for a child.

In the Seeking – We Find.
Hannah sought out God in this dark moment of her life.
She knelt before God and didn’t care if anyone else was watching, and as she poured out her heart to God, and He was there listening.

Praying for Women to Hunger for God · TWR Women Of Hope


It had nothing to do with a priest answering Hannah’s pleas…although Eli certainly did that. There wasn’t some sort of mystical words that Eli spoke that eased her heart. Rather, it was Hannah’s faith in the God that she prayed to that allowed her to find peace again. There was a certainty that filled that place where her mourning had been. Faith blossomed while her mourning decayed and faded away.

There is a truth of us in this.
David certainly found it when he wrote this:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” -Psalm 27:4

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, ALL these things will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). But it starts with our seeking.
Are we willing to search God and know Him? To truly know Him?! Not know of Him. Or about Him. But to truly KNOW Him?

What does it look like in our modern day to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”? Let me give you a hint: it’s not just about going to church, but that’s a great start. It is about allowing God to dwell in your life every moment of every day. To literally breathe Him in and out in your actions, thoughts and words. So much so that your old self-induced life fades away to be replaced with a self-less holy one that reflects Christ completely.

Then, when we are heavy burdened, when we face daunting days of uncertainty (that can seem be insurmountable at times) we can seek God. We can know Him, and we can get up from our places of prayer and be rejuvenated in life by His spiritual nourishment, provision and love.

Questions to Ponder today:
What is currently weighing on your heart?
Have you prayed about these things to God?
These prayers can be spoken out loud or silently. They can be written down or thought in your mind as you go about your day. But one thing that truly helps is that you verbalize your burdens to the Lord. Even though He already knows them, speak them to Him.
Lastly do you trust that God is not only listening to your prayers, but that He is in your life and is a participant in it?

May we find what we seek today…and may we be seeking God as well purposely strive to dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

-Amen.

Something more for us to ponder today.
To God be the glory.

Foster Parents & COVID19 -Unlearning Habits MAYBE…

(I have been learning a lot lately.
How to speak a new organizational language.
There are still so many abbreviations, and slang, and culture…and I only have eight to ten hours in a day to devote to it.)

Life right now is more than interesting.
Sometimes frightening.
Sometimes heartwarming.
Sometimes gut-wrenching…
especially when you hear some of the horror stories of cases our caseworkers are laboring through…things I cannot speak of for both reasons of confidentiality and because I can’t even put it into words. Questions swirl in my mind.
Questions like “how could a biological parent do such awful things to their own kids?!”

But I digress.
(Perhaps I am avoiding that subject altogether right now…maybe one day…)

Our Foster Parents are saints (well most of them anyway).
But sometimes habits are hard to break.

For example:
There are a couple of our elderly foster parents who are so used to being extremely independent and social. They love to get out of the house and spend some time shopping, but really what they enjoy doing is connecting with people they have known their whole lives. Isn’t that what small-town life is all about? Knowing that neighbor across the street. Or that friend you’ve known since high school. This is a small mostly rural community, albeit a very poor one at that. And this is the worldview and context of our dear elderly foster parents I am trying to broadly introduce you to.

Who is dying from coronavirus? More black people die in major cities


A trip to the local Walmart is an excuse to say “hey” to a neighbor, a friend or family member. It is the original social media platform for walking up to somebody and talking face to face in close proximity, because to do otherwise is “Southern” for rude…and no one desires to be rude around here especially these aforementioned foster parents.

But things have changed.

COVID19 is a pandemic.
People have died and/or continuing to die.
It targets many, especially the elderly and those with a susceptible immune system.

Stay at home orders still linger, and for good reason…
and yet we still have a couple of stubborn,
well-meaning elderly foster parents who venture out.

Why?

Because these old habits keep them grounded in life.
It is their life-line to sanity, when back at home fostering children with special needs and those with deep emotional scars can sap away that same sanity to the point of sleepless nights and paper-thin hearts.

They have been told to disconnect.
to stay home.
to become socially distant.
to “lay low” for their personal safety.
and yet, almost humorously (as humorous as times in a pandemic can get)
these face to face socially depraved saints are venturing out.
They are seen wandering the isles of the local Walmart store shopping for both food and fellowship.

Some times habits just can’t be broken, especially when those habits are physical and emotional lifelines. And so, with handbag slung on shoulders, and a need to converse where phone lines and texts cannot reach, they go out and fill their empty carts and replenish their social tanks.

African elder care Stock Photos, Royalty Free African elder care ...


Of course we know the dangers.
All the while reminding them of children back home they have agreed to foster.
Of course we express these concerns to them (countless times)…
but sometimes habits trump the risks and their cars can be found parked in the local asphalt lot adjacent to their anchor of community connection.

Something more to ponder today.
Until next time.

Look What I Discovered Today…(Amazing Grace on the Wind)

For the past two weeks I make the morning and late afternoon drive between Prattville Alabama and Selma. It is a forty six minute drive each way. The scenery will beat any urban bumper to bumper drive hands down. There are rolling pastures of green all splendidly infused with waving deep purple wild violets. They bend and bow in the wind as if in a southern Alabama greeting long lost to the world.

Driving down this two lane highway, where the speed limit is 55 miles an hour, but the raging trucks blow black billowing smoke from their diesel engines as they speed by at 75…I am unperturbed because I am attempting not to miss a single detail of this pastural marvel.

To the right there is a deep shadowy canopy of trees, all purposefully planted years and years ago as cows lazily graze beneath them. There is a bountiful buffet of grass and their bellies attest to this fact as they chew on their cud. I see all of this as I speed by at 60 miles an hour.

Further on down the next curve in the road are workers in blue coveralls and up with the sun as they attempt to raise the frames of a barn. Their labors will soon provide roof and shade to tractors and the large green harvester parked near by. There is a slow steady rhythm to their movements as they languish underneath the heavy beams, ensuring they fall into place only to hoist up another one…on and on down the line.

Lastly I reach the next hill top on the country road and find myself before a bronze historic placard. The placard prominently announces the entrance to an old country church. A United Methodist Church by the name of Ivy Creek. Its name matches the long, majestic driveway curtained on each side by trees and ivy. The old iconic white washed walls with steepled bell-tower top marks years of use and if you were to listen very carefully one can still hear the old church bell, long since removed, calling mournfully for its ancient parishioners and the ghosts of church services of yesteryear.

Perhaps many of the old oaks that line the dust gravel path contain within their own rings a time stamped record of the numerous times “amazing grace” has wafted on the wind and embedded each note and each refrain sung into the porous grains…,embedded so deeply in fact, that the sap running down on the outside of the bark could joyously proclaim the occasional “Hallelujah” to the wind as it passes by.


The sun, golden and new in the morning sky, kisses the side of the old chapel as if God himself has declared that “it is good.” And deep inside of me there is this longing to be caught up in one of those sun rays, golden and resplendent, fresh and new…I want to hear God whisper “it is good“…of me.
I breathe this simple moment in, as I stand all alone at this entrance to this church with its shadow lingering over me. This little glimpse of paradise has been grasped at for just a moment…I am filled with a deep sense of love and warmth in this new day.

And then I get back into my car all the while whispering “Amazing Grace” to the wind.

Unpacking Selma…

A little over two weeks ago, my wife and I and kids relocated to Alabama. As we previously wrote, this wasn’t an easy transition, nor are we moving to a place where we currently have family residing there.

But here we are…and there is a lot to unpack.
I am working in one of the poorest communities in the country.
It feels like a mission field…and yet despite the whole “stay at home order” the people I have met (from a relatively safe distance) have been really friendly and polite. It must be a Southern thing.

Before I took this position, I met the board of directors along with the chairman of the board. He explained to me that Selma’s history is both a blessing and a curse. That despite the nationwide fame for the horrific Bloody Sunday incident on March 7th, 1965 which thrust Selma into the forefront of the civil rights movement, Selma has one of the highest poverty rates in the country – a curse of living through such a deeply entrenched historic moment…it tends to seep into the very foundations of the sidewalks and old yawning New Orleans styled buildings on Broad street, and on over the grotesquely named ‘Edmund Pettus’ Bridge (named after Edmund Winston Pettus who was a senior Confederate army soldier and an active Ku Klux Klan grand dragon member…for real?! – yes, the very same).


People don’t tend to forget those moments in history, nor should we. And here I am, working in the shadows of that history. I say that not to sound like a martyr, but rather an observer of a place which seems to be frozen in a time capsule. Many of the families who serve as foster parents for our organization are bridges of hope and love in such a cursed climate. They take in children regardless of race, creed or color. Many of the cases contain horror stories of abuse, while these would be saints work to help heal deep wounds of children who should be too young to know such hurt.

I am soaking all of this in right now.
There is certainly sobering brevity in it all.
But there is also levity from our amazing case workers who work tirelessly to ensure all children we serve are protected, cared for and have an opportunity for a better life.

I am just checking in to let you know that we are still here.
Even though we have changed addresses and zip codes, and yes, even uniforms…we are still here serving people in need. I am so thankful thus far for this journey. There will most definitely be days when I question everything. There will be speed bumps along the way, and maybe a flat tire or two…but God is good. He is still on the throne, and even in this time of great uncertainty with COVID19 (I’m sick of even saying or typing it)…We have the assurance of God’s very presence with us no matter where we are, or where we serve.

Until next time.
-From Selma AL.
I’m still Pondering…

In Order To Truly Love, We need this….

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” -Philippians‬ ‭2:5‬ ‭

Do you remember the golden rule?
Perhaps your parents taught you this principle of treating others the way that you want to be treated.

So how’s it going with that?
Especially when someone pushes all your buttons?
When someone cuts you off in traffic.
When someone talks down to you in a condescending way…

Then this golden rule becomes so much harder doesn’t it?
It is much, much easier to treat people nicely when they treat you nicely, but when they don’t all bets are off.

Let’s add other believers to this…
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the hardest people to love…(now get this) – are other Christians. Why is that? Aren’t we working for the same cause? Aren’t we all loving Jesus? So why is it so hard to love other Christ-followers sometimes? Could it be that we all have some sort of idea how to best serve Jesus and if some other believe has a different view then watch out. You see, we sometimes think that our way of worshipping or serving Jesus is the only way and so we protect that methodology to the point that it (not Christ) becomes sacred. And so we fight tooth and nail for our method of service and worship instead of coming together in unity and working in our diverse worship and adoration of Jesus.

How do we change our mindset?
Could it be that the walls that need to come down in our churches and in our Christian world view has to do more with the battle of our minds and preconceived notions of what honors God in our practices? Could it be any more simple that this: That we simply love…others…with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts” involved? What would the Church look like if Christians lived and loved out Philippians 2:5 in the real world?

What is the mindset of Christ?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭‬

Jesus’ love and mindset was to disciple those around Him and He was willing, more than willing to lay down His life for those He called friend. And He calls all those who would seek Him – ‘Friend’.

Does our love for others resemble Christ’s love? Christ’s mindset?
Do we take this ‘golden rule’ to the next level in our relationships with those around us?

The Cold Hard Truth:
There will be those Christians we may not agree with.
We might find that our personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes are vastly different…BUT…can we love them and have the same mindset as that of Christ. Can we love them regardless, or in spite of all of that? What we might find is that in the process of seeking the very mindset of Christ, in our every day life – we are given the very heart and love of Christ to love them more deeply and more genuinely.

May our relationships and the way we love others be the very mindset as that of Christ’s.

Something more to ponder today.
Blessings on you today!

Woe To The Fruit-Inspectors…

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Imagine that…
The church people…
The ones who were supposed to know better…
The ones who considered themselves holy…
The ones who went to church school and memorized the Bible…

These Pharisees got hung up on appearances.
These Pharisees that were so caught up with the outside of the cup rather than the inside…(Matthew 23:25)
These hypocrites and actors confront Jesus because His disciples were doing something that wasn’t churchy…

How often do we identify as the Pharisees?
(And maybe we don’t even realize it…)
How often have we been overly critical of other church members?
How often have we criticized visitors at church or people in church who perhaps didn’t look or act like we think they should?
They just weren’t “churchy” enough.
Perhaps we don’t say it directly to them (because we can be cowardly critics) but we utter it under our breath or to our spouses after we say our amens and we are in our vans headed to Sunday lunch.

Jesus walks with what appears to be a bunch of unruly disciples.
and they are doing something that the Pharisees didn’t like. They thought surly disciples should act better. Perhaps Jesus’ reputation was on the line…but Jesus could care less what those Pharisees thought about him or his disciples. They were knit-pickers…fruit inspectors instead of producers of fruit…

Do we know fruit inspectors in our churches? In our corps?
In our Divisions? In our Territories? Are there knit-pickers among you who have driven people away from church? Are you the knit-picker? The fruit inspector? Did God really call you to do that? Who gave you the authority? Are you God?

If we are honest we have played the fruit inspector.
We have assumed that power and authority when it really wasn’t ours to assume. We have unconsciously or consciously judged people based on their appearance and I hope we recognize it and have asked for forgiveness for it.

To the fruit inspectors in the pews who are unrepentant I say shame on you! You hypocrite. You Pharisee. You are what is wrong with the church today.

To those who have been criticized and wrongly judged because of appearances…because you were pickin’ fruit on Sunday (or whatever it may have been)…I want to say I’m sorry that you were hurt, that you were judged and that those who took it upon themselves did that to you.

What is in your heart?
Yes, there will always be “church etiquette”.
Yes, there will always be church politics.
Yes, there will always be spoken or unspoken rules of church (for better or worse).

But what matters most in what is in your heart.
Do you love Jesus?
Do you strive to live for Him?
Do you desire to love others and help others to see Jesus?

Man’s laws aren’t necessarily God’s laws.
Church sometimes puts God in a box and try to make Him conform to our desires and patterns of “what is acceptable”.
We have interpreted what God wants, and sometimes we have failed.

But Grace…
God’s grace is for everyone.
God’s grace covers our grain pick’n…and our lack of understanding of churchy politics. God’s grace sometimes turns man’s concepts and authority on its head. I’m not saying that we should celebrate anarchy in the Church, but I am saying that we sometimes place the practice of worship and what is proper (in appearance) before the act of ACTUALLY worshipping God.

So woe to the fruit-inspectors out there.
Woe to the appearance judges.
Woe to the gossipers and slanderers.
Woe to the hypocrites and outward do-gooders just to be seen.
God knows.
(That’s a lot of woes – but perhaps its needed)

He knows your heart, and I know He is not pleased.

What I must caution all of us cheering on this post is this:
Be careful that you aren’t the fruit-inspector.
It is easy to say “ah yes – those people”…and then realize we too have fallen into this trap.

Guard your heart.
Be aware of the trappings of becoming a Pharisee.
Be careful that your heart, mind, soul, body is God’s and God’s alone.

Final Thoughts.
If this resonates in you – good!
If you have been hurt by fruit-inspectors please know this – you aren’t alone and that the Church is more than those small, narrow minded few. You are loved. You are God’s child. He calls you by name. He desires for you to worry more about your heart and to disciple others, more than what you look like and how you dress.

Something more to ponder today.





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