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Archive for the category “Mercy”

Why Refugees Matter

June 20th is World Refugee Day.

I’ve been thinking about this day for several months.

Darfurian Refugees in Chad. (Photo Credit: European Commission DG ECHO- creative commons)

Darfurian Refugees in Chad. (Photo Credit: European Commission DG ECHO- creative commons)

There will be events, festivals, awareness campaigns, celebrations and times of contemplation. It’s a global day to celebrate refugees and to reflect on the trials and difficulties that they face on a regular basis. It’s a day to advocate for peace to end the violence and persecution that so many people face around the world.

I had big plans for World Refugee Day. I was going to write an eloquent piece and submit it to Huffington Post or another site that accepts guest blogs. My professional life revolves around refugees, and on many occasions my personal life does as well. I love my job and I love my calling, and I love to write. I was going to combine those elements and write a piece that would be perfect, poignant and striking. It would have the perfect blend of emotional appeal and factual information. It would compel the reader to take action to ‘welcome the stranger’ to our county. Did I mention that it was going to be perfect?

But I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it because to be honest, I’m kind of exhausted.

So instead I’m sitting at my computer on the eve of World Refugee Day, struggling to come up with words to type. I haven’t had time nor even energy to blog in months, because life is just so crazy. Working in the human services can be incredibly challenging and draining, and it’s also challenging to work to help and serve people who have been through so much in their lives. Trauma and pain are ever present in many refugees’ lives, terrifying experiences are woven in the fabric of their life story. The busyness combined with the sheer magnitude of fully understanding the plight of refugees can feel overwhelming.

But it is worth it.

Photo Credit: United Nation Armenia (creative commons)

Photo Credit: United Nation Armenia (creative commons)

I was reminded of that very fact just the other day. I was talking to a young man who felt comfortable enough to share his story. His family fled a war after his father and younger sibling were brutally killed. He, his mother, and his other siblings fled to the coast and got on the first boat they could find that would permit them to travel. They didn’t know where the boat would take them, they just knew that they had to get out. After a month long journey, they ended up in a foreign land where they didn’t speak the language or understand the customs. They lived as stateless citizens in this second country for five years. They were discriminated against because of their racial background. They weren’t permitted to work because of their status in this country. Several years into their new lives they were finally able to apply for refugee status. And several years later they found themselves on a plane headed to Atlanta, Georgia.

As I listened to my young friend share his story, I could hear the pain in his voice. At one point he paused and quietly said “This time was very hard for me.” But as he continued, I began to hear the hope in his voice. He has big plans. He wants to go to college and become one of the first lawyers from his ethnic background in Atlanta. He is so proud to be a United States Resident. He already talks about taking the citizenship test in a few years. He and his family embody the reason our country was founded. They faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds to make a new life. They live simply and are building their new life. My friend proudly told me about how they saved up to buy the couch I was sitting on as we ate chapati bread in his apartment.

Friends, refugees matter. They comprise a small population of our immigrant population in the United States but it would benefit all of us to seek them out and form friendships with them. They work long hours at really difficult jobs to make ends meet. They are patriotic and proud to live in the United States. They pay taxes and save money to open businesses in their community. They remind me of my own ancestors in many ways. My family is a eclectic mix of many different nationalities- most of whom immigrated to the United States to make a better life for their families. Some fled persecution, famine or other difficulties. They worked hard to start fresh and to create their own ‘American Dream’.

We are a nation of immigrants, and refugees are a beautiful picture of what makes our country great. Amidst the busyness of my life, the stacks of paperwork and the struggles that come from walking the journey with refugees during their first few days in America, I am reminded of this picture. Refugees matter to God, and they matter to me. They are an important part of our country, and I am so proud, humbled and honored to know many of them.

If you want to get to know a refugee family, let me know. I’d love to introduce you to some of my friends.


Beautiful Grace


What images come to mind when you read that word? Dirty? Disheveled? Unkempt? Mismatched? Out of place? Worn and torn? Whatever comes to mind, it probably involves something that is less than perfect, less than ideal. It is probably something that would not be considered beautiful.

When I think of ragamuffin I think of the late Brennan Manning. Manning was a priest, author, and called himself a ragamuffin. He was an example of grace and second chances. He was an alcoholic who struggled with his flesh, sometimes very openly. But regardless of his struggles, he loved Jesus. He loved his Abba, and he was painfully aware of God’s grace. His writings were raw; the stories he told clearly came from a long life filled with both joy and pain.  And I’ve heard that his relationship with his ‘Abba’ was intoxicating and contagious. I wish I could have met him.

My high school youth pastor first introduced me to Manning’s work. I tore through “Ragamuffin Gospel” as a naïve, sheltered and judgmental 16-year-old girl. It was unlike anything I had ever read. I was raised in the church and was there nearly every time the doors opened. My church was grace focused but along the way somehow I missed the truth of the radical, unrelenting, beautiful grace that Manning wrote about. A father who runs to us despite our shortcomings. a father who forgives and loves despite our sins and prodigal natures. That book began a journey for me- a journey that I’m still taking to this very day. I was salvation based but much of my worth came from my works. I judged others whose deeds were not as ‘good’ as mine or whose sins were ‘worse’ than mine. Manning wrote with such passion for the holy grace that God gives us.  It has nothing to do with what we do, but rather who we are- Abba’s Children.

I just finished reading Manning’s final work- Prodigal. Tears sprang to my eyes as I read the story of Jack Chisholm. He was the ‘people’s pastor’ of a nondescript but all too familiar megachurch in the United States. He fell from fame because of one fateful night. Everything fell apart, leading Jack on a journey of true grace. I won’t ruin the entire plot for you, but it’s an incredible story of forgiveness and redemption.

We all fall from grace; we all do things to miss the mark. We hurt each other, we hurt ourselves, and we drift away from the grace filled life God has for us. We all do it, but the church tends to cast judgment on others. Like I mentioned previously, we judge others whose sins are deemed ‘worse’ than our own. But we are all ragamuffins. We all mess up. All of our shortcomings are the same. We judge others while hiding our own sin and pride. (Well maybe you don’t, but I know I sure have). But our shortcomings are there, and they aren’t perfect, they’re rags.

Friends, none of us are perfect. But it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it matters who you are. You are a child of Abba- our heavenly father. He doesn’t hold your sins up against you. He doesn’t weigh your good against your bad to make sure you are heavier on the ‘good’ side. His arms are open wide for anyone who wants to sit in his perfect grace.

Rest in that grace today friends. There is nothing more beautiful than Abba’s love and grace.

War on Christmas

colorful_christmas_messageFor the past several years I’ve heard the term ‘war on Christmas’ tossed around. Shoppers are offended that store clerks wish them a “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. People are up in arms about keeping “Christ in Christmas” while wracking up the credit card debt to buy numerous presents. I’ve written about the culture wars in our society before, and the “war on Christmas” is yet another battle within this nasty culture war. But guess what?

I don’t really understand the up in arms about this so called ‘war on Christmas’. Christmas happened, no one can take its truth away from us.

And the Christmas we celebrate in the United States really isn’t a reflection of the way Jesus probably would want his birthday celebrated. We are stressed during the holidays. We spend too much money buying way too many obligatory gifts for too many people. We run from place to place, push through crowds of people and are generally in such a rush that we can miss out on the truly important things in life.  And in the midst of the chaos, we get mad at the over worked, underpaid store clerk who doesn’t wish us a Merry Christmas. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want the word Christmas to be associated with the chaos in the malls and the billions of dollars spent on excess and materialism. As a Christian I don’t want to force my holiday on the Jews, Muslims and Hindus that live in the United States. They don’t force their holidays on me, so I shouldn’t force it on them. This pettiness is not what Christmas is all about.

But before you call me a scrooge and roll your eyes at me, let me tell you what I think Christmas is really about.

Christmas is about the birth of a little baby who grew up to save us all. He lived a life in poverty and healed the sick. He raised the poor up and was a rebel against the ruling authorities of the day. He made statements that flew in the face of human nature and gave his life for us. He gave the ultimate gift. Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus, who loved the outcasts and the sinners. Christmas is about spending time with the people we love. It’s when we take the blinders off and look around at the people who are hurting in our world. It’s about giving gifts that give back- things that truly matter. It’s about serving the poor and being sensitive to the needs of the brokenhearted.

Photo credit: thebettermom (creative commons)

Photo credit: thebettermom (creative commons)

I hope we can focus on the eternal things of Christmas. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t buy gifts for the ones we love (Gift giving is my love language so I spend plenty of time planning those perfect gifts for family). I am saying that the gifts, the shopping, the spending shouldn’t be our focus. I’m trying to personally take time over these next couple days to sit and be still before God, thinking about that beautiful holy night thousands of years ago. I’m going to read the scriptures and think about Jesus. I’m going to look for more opportunities to serve others. I’m going to reach out to friends who are hurting to make sure they know that I care. These are things we should be doing all the time, but the holiday season is a great time to start this habit.

I’m certainly not perfect at all of this, but I’m trying. My heart has been heavy for the hurting this season and my mutiny against excess has me frequently thinking about people who are in need. Much of this season has flown by, but there are still a few days left to turn this holiday season around to where it focuses on the things that truly matter.

What are you doing to keep the focus on the truth of Christmas this holiday season?

Grace in the Waiting

Photo Credit: John-Morgan (creative commons)

Photo Credit: John-Morgan (creative commons)

I love the Advent season. It’s such a beautiful time of reflection as we remember the coming of Jesus two thousand years ago.  I love to remember the birth of Jesus. I love to think about that night so long ago. It probably wasn’t nearly as shiny and pretty as our nativity scenes. It probably wasn’t very silent, but it was perfect. It was the perfect picture of grace.

Advent is also about waiting. It’s a few weeks of observing that period of anticipation of the coming of Jesus. Jesus came as a baby, and he’s coming again soon. He completed the story that God crafted from the beginning of time. The Christmas season, the season of Advent, is a beautiful time to remember and to wait.

Anticipation and waiting are truly part of the Christian journey. We wait for the completion of God’s promises. We wait for God to come through and show us why we went through our trials. We wait for our trials to end. We wait on good or bad news, jobs, spouses, and children. We have desires in our hearts but sometimes life seems like it’s mostly times of waiting. And many of those seasons of waiting can also be categorized as trials or storms. We may feel like we are alone in the storm, wondering if God has turned his back on us or has fallen asleep (See Mark 4:35-41). But as my pastor Louie said this morning:

“Life is full of storms, but storms are full of Jesus.”

Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting, but this season can also bring pain as we wait for times of peace or remember loved ones who are no longer with us. Or maybe money is tight and you don’t know how to explain to the kids about the lack of presents this year. Maybe you are far from home and feel alone. Maybe you’re struggling with a diagnosis or a deep loss. Just remember that in this season, there is grace. There’s grace in the waiting. God has given so much grace to us and loves YOU so very deeply. He is there in the storm, and he’s there in the quiet season of waiting.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Cor 12:9

Rest in the grace of God this season. Take quiet pauses to remember the coming of our Lord. And if you are going through a storm this season, remember that Jesus is right there with you. The tiny baby in a manger that we will celebrate in a couple short weeks is the creator of the universe, died for you, and is now walking this journey with you.

(Author’s Note: This post was inspired by a recent talk by Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church. A video of his message can be found at

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