Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today Is the Day the Impossible Happens

If you had asked me seven years ago, I would have said, "It's impossible!" that:

  • I would travel the Northeast in a van with Jack Hanna and some very pampered animals to help write his autobiography.
  • Through Jack, I would learn about Frederick, a teenage boy in Rwanda who chose death over harming complete strangers.
  • Frederick would live through the genocide, having his hands cut off, and a suicide attempt.
  • Frederick, all the way in Gisenyi, Rwanda, would meet Americans who would fly him here to get new "fingers."
  • Charlie Gibson would cover Frederick's story on Primetime.
  • Frederick and his business partner would find the means to build a gorgeous community center, preschool, and primary school to pull "people like me" out of the darkness of society.
  • The community center would revolutionize the way disabled people were treated in that corner of the world.
  • Frederick would embark on a bicycling campaign, through the steep hills of Rwanda and beyond, to show that "disability is not inability."
  • He would answer the phone.
  • He would trust me with his story.
But Luke 1:37 tells me that "nothing will be impossible with God." And I am seeing that truth in all of its glory today. 

Please, take a minute to get to know Frederick. If nothing else, his story will convert you to a believer in the impossible.

If you're in Middle Tennessee, you'll have two opportunities to meet Frederick in person and shake hands with the impossible: 

We'd love to see you there.

He also has an extensive tour scheduled in October throughout Southern California. Comment below for more info.

Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Addicting **Guest post from Laura L. Smith**

Today's post is from my dear friend and fearless writer, Laura Smith. Her fiction is raw, relevant, and real, tackling tough issues for teen and college-age girls. (I talk about why she writes what she writes here.) But more importantly, she is a wise counselor, an unconditional friend, a faithful cheerleader, and the sweetest soul. Get to know her; you'll be the better for it. OH, and as a bonus, if you comment below, you'll be entered to win a signed copy of It's Addicting for yourself or someone you love.

What are your little addictions?

Mine include:
  • Starbucks
  • Music
  • Nail polish (no chips please, different colors on toes and fingers)
  • Exercise (I don’t care with who, or what or when, but I crave it.)
  • My phone

Maybe yours are: 
  • Nachos
  • Getting all As
  • Your job
  • A sport/instrument/club/activity
  • Instagram
  • Your bestie
  • A TV show
  • A relationship
  •  Chocolate

Our lists could go on and on with the fun little interests, innocent cravings, and even important responsibilities and relationships we’re “addicted” to. But how do you know when a passion or interest becomes an “addiction”? When do these things that fill our minds and hours become modern-day idols?

When we over-desire them.

See, it’s not wanting them that’s the problem. God created coffee beans and cocoa beans and the guy you have a crush on (yup, husbands count too). He created your brain and your body and wants you to use them to glorify Him. 

But when our little addictions create tension with our family, our wallet, our values, our faith, when our innocent little craving becomes more important than God, when we OVER-DESIRE it, we’ve got a problem.

How so?

I often plot out my morning to include a stop by my local Starbucks. I love my coffee. I get excited every morning when the aromatic smell wafts towards my nose, when the bold, rich flavor hits my tongue. And this is okay. God wants us to have pleasure, to enjoy this world and this life. He gave me taste buds that are receptive to the flavor of an iced venti with mocha and nonfat milk. But when I skip my quiet time with Him in the morning to make sure I get a coffee, when I’m late getting my kids to school or I show up late to a meeting, because I “needed” a coffee, this is a problem.

Do you have a friend you adore? Someone who makes you laugh and truly gets you? It’s great to spend time with them, to text them throughout the day about funny things, things you’re stressed about, or to plan weekend adventures together. But when you lie to someone who’s close to you so that you can go somewhere with that friend or to cover up for that friend, there’s a problem.

See the pattern?

So how do we rein in our addictions? How do we keep our pleasant little everyday desires from becoming something we obsess over?

First, we can ask ourselves if we are seeking affirmation from these things we adore. Because we do sometimes, don’t we? We seek affirmation from the coolest nail art to the fastest time on the 10K to the most followers on Twitter. We do. 

But our entire identity, all of our affirmation, should come from Christ who created us.

That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Gal 5:26MSG

Once we wrap our arms around this truth, we need to turn it over to Him in prayer.

When I have a morning where my Starbucks craving will stretch my wallet, make me late, or cause unnecessary stress, I can say, “Jesus, You are the only thing that truly satisfies me. Please let me drink You in this day, and feel You working in and through me. Let me taste Your goodness. Amen.” And then I can brew myself a cup in my Keurig and be thankful.

When your friend wants you to do something that compromises your values--whether that’s gossiping or drinking or blowing off an assignment--and you’re craving their acceptance, pray something like this, “Please Jesus, I long for companionship, for love. I know that You are my constant companion, that You love me always. Please remind me of that love. Please fill me up with it. Let me realize it is better and fuller and more satisfying than any earthly relationship.”

And then turn to the ultimate truth of your Bible (better yet, memorize a few verses) that will remind you of these things: that Jesus is enough, that in fact He’s everything we need. That we should crave Him, long for Him, seek Him and seek to please Him, and we will be valued and loved and treasured.

Here are some that help me:
  • For you formed my inward parts; 
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV) 
  • God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special. (1 Thessalonians 1:4 MSG
  • It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. (1 Corinthians 4:3 MSG)
  • For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

But sometimes it's more helpful to see these principles in action. Kat, Claire, Hannah, and Palmer--the characters you'll meet in my new novel, It’s Addicting--encounter their own types of addictions, fun little things that seem innocent enough. And I hope that as you read about them, you'll learn, as they do, how to overcome your over-desires by putting some of these principles to work.  

How about you? What innocent cravings sometimes take over your life?