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Stand with Secret Believers This Christmas

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 | 2 comments

Today, through a sponsored partnership with Open Doors, I’m sharing their message about something important to know. This is a season when many Americans have already begun decorating their homes for the holidays, a lovely tradition most of us take for granted. Please read and then act if you feel led to support this worthwhile initiative.

In North Korea, celebrating Christmas is illegal and believers must celebrate the birth of Jesus in extreme secrecy or risk arrest and life in a hard labor camp.

For the citizens of Brunei, celebrating Christmas can get you five years in prison and owning a Bible will get you nine.

In countries like Somalia, Christmas was banned several years ago. An announcement goes out every year reminding citizens that it’s illegal.

And in countries like Saudi Arabia, churches, crosses and Christian meetings of any kind are illegal all over the country.

All over the world, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus in late December or early January. But in many places, like Somalia, Iran, North Korea and other areas where it’s dangerous to follow Jesus, openly participating in Christmas can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. For these Christians, celebrating Christmas must be done in secret. There will be no parties or gift exchanges, and no church services or worship gatherings allowed. In places around the world, Christmas can be a time of fear and isolation instead of a celebration.

One believer from a Muslim background in Southeast Asia says, “We can’t celebrate Christmas openly…We can’t go to church and join in the celebration. Why? Because we are wanted by the government. Some of us can’t even tell our families we are Christians.”

Nevertheless, faithful Christians remind themselves that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to illuminate that light and remind isolated Christians around the world who must worship in secret that they are not alone … that the worldwide Church stands with them.  

You can make a difference today for secret believers this Christmas in specific and practical ways:

  1. Pray with them.
    Visit OpenDoorsUSA.org/SecretChristmas for prayer resources from secret believers around the world. You’ll find videos, prayer points and unique ways to connect to your persecuted family.
  1. Enter their stories.

Open Doors has created two resources to help you explore the stories of the persecuted church and to connect with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. You can download a free Secret Christmas eBook and even a Secret Christmas children’s book to read to your kids this holiday season.

  1. Join the fight

Don’t make persecution a seasonal issue, make it part of your daily life. It’s in the very DNA of the church to care for those who are suffering. Through Open Doors you can download a Prayer App, sign up for regular prayer updates and stay connected to the stories and needs of your persecuted family.

Together, we can make a significant difference in the lives, families and ministries of secret believers this Christmas and beyond as we stand with our persecuted family.

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Have We Forgotten That Love Is Kind?

Jun

20

Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 | 3 comments

 

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant,
is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (CSB, emphasis added by me not Jesus 🙂 )

 

It should never be a surprise when lost people behave like lost people, but it is shocking to my core when those who profess Christ act like lost people. Is it wrong to expect more?

Salvation doesn’t guarantee sinlessness, so it’s not that I expect perfection from believers. But it breaks my heart to hear the vitriol spewing from opposite viewpoints of the hot-button issues of our day. Blistering lava destroys what it touches.

Pick any comment thread of your favorite news outlet or open a tab for Facebook or Twitter. Why would anyone value what you have to say if it’s mean or rude? Why would I listen to anyone who pummeled me with contempt while trying to make their point? It was disconcerting to me when Tsh Oxenreider, a good friend and trusted colleague, posted a thoughtful and reasonable essay, Child-Parent Separation at the Border and What You Can Do, only to be hammered on Facebook. Those who didn’t agree with her thoughts were angry and loud; when I skimmed comments, no one who disagreed seemed kind.

Recently I was startled by the effect of wearing my Kindness is Golden tee shirt: strangers talked to me. No lie, half a dozen people  initiated a conversation with me about what it says, telling me why they agreed with the sentiment, why we need more kindness, or even about similar tee shirts they own. It was weird. Now, granted, I was in a place where I encountered more people than usual (an airport and then hotel lobby with lots of folks taking advantage of a free continental breakfast), but it was interesting to me so many different people (diverse men and women) approached me.

 

Who knew my tee shirt was an invitation to conversation? I suppose it’s because it demonstrates something important:

Kindness is powerful because kindness is an incarnation of love.

 

When you lead with love, I will listen to you. You have instant credibility with me. When you lead with love, as manifested in kindness, it tells me that you value me, you care about others, you’re listening as well as speaking, and what you have to say warrants my listening…even if I don’t agree. When you are hostile, antagonistic, or condescending, the effect is la-la-la (fingers in ears) I-can’t-hear-you. I don’t even mean to do that; it’s a by-product of being disrespected.

In John 13:34-35 (CSB), Jesus could not be clearer: 

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Loved people love people. Could it be that many of us are simply forgetting how dearly we’re loved?

Galatians 5 has a compelling passage describing the difference between walking by the Spirit or walking in the flesh–

By the Spirit:

  • desires what is against the flesh
  • you are not under the law
  • you’ll bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (verses 22-23)

By the flesh:

  • desires what is against the Spirit
  • plagued by sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (verses 19-21a)

It sends me to my knees….

Dear God, help me remember love is kind.
Slay my fleshly ways that I might walk by the Spirit and bear fruit.
Bring conviction without condemnation to Your people
leading us to love first that the Church will be known by its love,

by Your grace,
for our good, Your glory, and the advance of the Gospel,
These things I beg.

 

I affiliate-linked to my tee shirt since folks wondered where I got it…and when I saw the necklace above, I HAD to include it :). 

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Purpose Power Summit 2018 || Why you *need* to check it out (plus, a fun GIVEAWAY at the end)

Feb

27

Posted by on Feb 27, 2018 | 25 comments

~ Giveaway has ended – Heartfelt thanks to all who entered!
Congratulations to Susan G. for posting the selected comment!

 

When Mimika Cooney reached out to me to participate with the Purpose Power Summit she was putting together, I carefully (prayerfully) evaluated if this was an #OYTO opportunity or something I should politely decline. But as soon as spoke with her (gah! that irresistible South African accent) and understood her vision for the online event, I was in.

Empower and equip women to step into their life’s calling? Check.

Content from a team of gifted, talented, inspiring speakers? Check.

Free and virtual, meaning you can watch at your convenience and from the comfort of comfy clothes? Check check.

Free gifts from each of the speakers? Funnest check of them all.

The #PPS2018 runs from February 26-March 9 and you can register for free here to access all content.

 

If you’ve never taken part in an online conference, this is the perfect one to try. Mimika emails links to new speakers daily, and you can download all the freebies as soon as you register.

Some of the speakers will be familiar, some will be new to you, but all of them have something of value to speak into your life.

 

If you’ve been toying with an idea, are questioning where to serve, or need a creative spark to light your fire, please take advantage of this summit. Why you might not be able to watch every minute of every video, the time you invest will pay you back in ideas and inspiration.

My video goes live on Tuesday, March 6th at 2:00pm EST.

 

I’m sure you’re marking your calendars now. No, seriously, add it to your calendar, let’s watch together, and then discuss. I cannot wait to see how the segment turns out…and my sincere hope and prayer is that those who do watch will be inspired, motivated, and ready to take a next step, no matter what that “next step” is.

 

With the conference coming up and knowing new friends might discover my blog, I reached out to DaySpring to see if they’d provide a giveaway. To my delight, they agreed to provide two sets of gifts:

 

Added: Each bundle will include a “Wear One, Share One” necklace set!
What a fun opportunity to keep one and gift one to someone special. #OYTO 

If one giveaway is good, two is twice as nice! Details to enter:

 

  • Recipient will receive a copy of the A Moment to Breathe devotional, an A Moment to Breathe devoional journal, and a Courage Clip Frame & Art Print Set.
  • One winner will be selected randomly from comments to this blog post; a second winner will be selected from comments to my Facebook post with this graphic.
  • Comments made 2/26/18-3/9/18 are eligible.
  • Must be a subscriber to robindance.me and live in contiguous US.
  • Note: first-time commenters will have to be approved, so please know I will do that as soon as I can! 🙂 (if you notice yours doesn’t show up right away)
  • You’re welcome to comment both on Facebook and this post; but eligible to win just one bundle.

 

Thanks to DaySpring who has offered $20 off any $60 purchase to all PPS2018 attendees:
Use the code #PPS2018 at checkout!

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Doing The Thing You Already Know To Do

Feb

23

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 |

 

It was the first time my small group would meet her, this dear friend of our dear friend. On more than one occasion Monica had shared wisdom and insight she had gained from Sandra, and we were eager to know her, too. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” and Sandra had that ability even when her “iron” came through another person.

 

Jesus knit us together in no time, and small talk went deep. We were sisters, in it together, sharing so many things in common, understanding from the inside out the Holy wrestle. The way of Christ is simple but it’s rarely easy. He invites us to a kinship of suffering, and I find myself wondering sometimes is that so we can better know Him, or did He slip on skin and fill that earth suit with bone and blood just to feel the way we feel?

 

Sometimes I see Jesus as a circle and it tells me, “Always.”  And, that’s (beyond) enough.

 

On this morning, we made space for important things. This group will put their ugly out there and remain safe; we love each other to healing, we lift each sister’s chin toward Hope. Though Sandra wasn’t a “regular,” we knew she could handle the ugly and wouldn’t hold it against us, the way we’ve all experienced with other women at some point in our lives. We learn and relearn that some women thought to be safe, aren’t, so when we find a few who are, we hold tight.

We meandered our way onto the topic of forgiveness; it was me exposing one of my scars, how I had been wounded by someone I thought I could trust. I explained I had forgiven her but hadn’t forgotten, and then what Sandra said next I wasn’t expecting.

*

*

*

Please continue reading A Hopeful Thought About Forgiveness over at (in)courage.
(I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments – here or there – and as always, 
thank you in advance for sharing this post!

 

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Oh, lovely day

Feb

15

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 | 4 comments

i.

Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.

 

I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.

 

Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.

 

There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.

 

For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.

 

Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.

 

So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.

 

Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close. 

 

I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.

 

The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders.  But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.

 

ii.

If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.

 

Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.

 

I thought about Sarah often throughout the day, all of it a testament to her strength and resolve. Teary moments threatened a few times, but I banished them quickly. There’s a time for all that, but not during the Valentine Tea. In a gesture to bind together old tradition with new, I read the intro from Emilie Barnes, “An Invitation to Tea.” It perfectly expresses the heart of our Tea, and Sarah had always included it.

 

I wish I had taken more pictures, but here’s the thing about that: I haven’t figured out how to be fully present and live behind a camera. It’s one or the other but not both. The more accurate thought is I wish I had more pictures, but my mind’s eye still sees each precious face and my soul remembers every connection.

And, this, to me, is where Body Life is so beautiful–I don’t think we ever necessarily talked about God but we flat out lived it. Not to pat ourselves on the back – good googlie-mooglie, heaven forbid that! – but sometimes we need to recognize that living the gospel IS preaching the gospel, and all at once this little tea party tradition sparked something new in my heart, and I’m curious if it will smolder to ashes or blaze into fire.

 

Time tells that kind of thing. If it’s the real deal it’ll burn.

 

iii.

 

Can you scooch over here and let me admit something? I’m not quite sure how to say it, and I sincerely, truly, really really hope you hear me….

 

I’m worried some people who find their way to these words will feel their eyes turning green. Maybe they’ll wish they could’ve been there or feel void in their own lives, or maybe they’ll compare home or friends or gifts, or, I don’t know what, but click away from the page feeling less than or lonely.

 

If that’s you, darling…and I say this gently but firmly: stop it.

 

That’s the enemy of your heart talking, and I promise, his is a convincing voice. Don’t believe the lies.

 

I’ve felt the angst of all that. I’ve swum those dark waters.

 

I have wasted years wanting things never intended for me.

 

Wasted. Years.

 

I loathe a victim mentality. What I hadn’t realized was me envying or coveting what someone else had was me playing the victim. Blech. The wallow is an ugly thing and accomplishes the work of your enemy by distracting you from the Lord has for you.

 

For you.

 

Be the one to BE the one. Ask a neighbor to come over and serve her leftovers for lunch; she cares more about time together than what it is you’re serving. Get a group of people together to go see a movie and dessert after. Stop wanting what other people have and create community by gathering together the people who are already around you.

 

Bloom where you’re planted. If you can’t be with the ones you “love,” love the ones you’re with. Okay…so now I’m resorting to song titles and clichés, but if the shoe fits wear it. (I’ll stop now…. ~ smile ~ )

 

Give from your void.

 

Give.

 

We could mine the spiritual dimensions of all this til the end of time – thoughts on contentment and joy and satisfaction and a million other things, but I’ll leave it at give to give and not give to get. I’m convinced that giving to give (glory to God, blessing to others…) brings greater gain than giving to get could ever accomplish.

 

The Valentine Tea Party is about giving who I am and what I have, which gives glory to God. The gain to me is an abundant satisfaction in learning that me being me is more than enough. It’s what the Lord has been trying to teach me for a long, long while. He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of, you know, creating me, if I didn’t matter to this world.

 

The same applies to you.

 

Click away knowing that who you are is more than enough, and get busy discovering who and what it is that God is prompting in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Runs Through Your Mind When You Wake Up At Night?

Jan

28

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 | 1 comment

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

As We Think, So We Do

For years I’ve battled insomnia, trouble with both going to and staying asleep. Over the past six months I’ve seriously addressed it every way I know how–medically, physically, holistically, alternatively, and spiritually (prayers welcome), and while my sleep quality has improved slightly, it’s still an issue. It’s not a question of whether or not I’ll wake up between Bedtime and Rise and Shine, it’s how many times will I awaken.
On good nights I’m able to fall back to sleep relatively quickly, but the roughest nights have me tossing and turning for hours (yes, I know I should get up for a change of scenery, but apparently knowing what I should do doesn’t necessarily translate into doing it–a whole ‘nother post for another time.).

When I’m wide awake at two in the morning it usually goes like this:

  1. Relax and try to keep the dream you were just dreaming going, to fool yourself into thinking you’re still asleep.
  2. Get mad because you can’t even remember the dream, but you know it was a good one and you want to know how it ends.
  3. Become increasingly irritated that you’re awake.
  4. Decide to take advantage of being awake by praying for every person on your prayer list, and even a few more who come to mind…

and it is right about there my mind begins to wander off track (anyone relate…?).

Recently I’ve been convicted about the direction my thoughts were taking. A new series I discovered on Netflix offered a steady diet of…

 

Click here to continue reading As We Think, So We Do over at {in}courage today.
I think most of us can relate…

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