Christians and Viral Stories: A Caution

lakewood-church-flooding

Photo courtesy of Lakewood Church

Last night we had a prayer service at our church for Houston. When I got there, my friend Anna said, “You know we are praying for Houston tonight, right?” However, what I heard her say was, “You know we are praying for Osteen tonight, right?”

We laughed… but, yes. I prayed for him too.

I do not agree with much of what he preaches, but I still do not understand why some Christians will share information that attempts to discredit other Christians. By calling out Christians as hypocrites, especially in a false news story, you damage the good that other Christians are trying to do.

Common sense should have told many people that there was much more to the story than a big-time Pastor not opening up his church doors to people in need. If people would have paused for a moment, instead of immediately clicking “share”, perhaps people would have logically considered other reasons the church may not have been immediately opened as a shelter – instead of jumping on the “he’s such a hypocrite” train.

A rule of thumb I use for any viral news thread… wait 24 hours before sharing – if it is even worth sharing by that point. I check the credibility of the sources, consider their motives, and I do my best to cross-reference the information. This gives time for the real story to come out and facts that may have been missed, skipped, or altogether left out of “news” stories in an attempt to bash or discredit someone.

The reality in this situation is:

  1. With a history of their building flooding, Lakewood had online services on Sundayand cancelled classes all weekend, so as not to endanger people with the flooding that was expected to affect their building and the safety of people traveling to and from the church.
  2. Lakewood had flood damage. How can you house people when the building may not be accessible or safe?
  3. By the time the story went viral, Lakewood had not yet been asked to provide shelter from the City of Houston. Rather, they were asked to point people to other shelters that were smaller and more manageable.
  4. Lakewood had already partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to do what they could to help flood victims.
  5. As soon as they were asked by the City of Houston, Lakewood opened up as an emergency shelter.

Friends, let’s be cautious of viral news stories and how we share them. Let’s give a little more time for the stories to flush out and the truth to be told. Often times a story will end very differently than where the story began.

How to Conquer Your Fear

These last few months have been filled with many temptations to live in fear.

IMG_2736Our 9 year old daughter’s Love Project for Operation Christmas Child gained national attention a couple of months ago and it’s been quite the ride ever since. Jordyn set out to personally fill 1,000 shoebox gifts, while creating a Youth Challenge to have kids across our nation fill as many shoebox gifts as they could. Her goal was to gain 10-20 churches/organizations to support this challenge, and to have 5,000 shoebox gifts made. She exceeded both her goals, by collecting enough items to personally pack (with the help of local family and friends) 1,320 shoebox gifts, and ended her Youth Challenge with 5,161 shoebox gifts filled.

It’s been overwhelming to put our “baby girl” out there to the world. I remember sobbing before God when we were trying to decide whether or not to allow the interviews to begin to take place. I wasn’t ready. I was scared. I really liked laying underneath the radar. But, really… the root of all of my anxiousness was fear.

I had no doubt God was asking me to release this fear, so that I would say yes to this adventure. But, it seemed the more scared I got, the tighter I held. It was gripping, even suffocating at times. Finally, I was reminded of a Bible verse that has more meaning to me than I have space to explain here:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

In Chapter 1 of Joshua, we see that the LORD was commanding Joshua to cross the Jordan River with the Israelites. His mission was to lead the people to the land God had promised to Moses. However, it was flood season and the waters were high and raging. But, God spoke these same words to Joshua years ago and Joshua listened. Be strong… be courageous…

Here are three ways God used Joshua to help me overcome my own fear.

  1. Joshua chose to keep his loyalty and faith in God. He had to have known that leading the Israelites across the Jordan was a crazy-only-God-could-do kind of assignment. And, yet he chose to believe that His God was big enough to do this.
  2. Joshua chose his attitude and responded to what God was asking him to do. There’s no doubt in my mind Joshua was filled with anxiety and fear. Yet, he still took that step and chose to trust God. (And, spoiler alert, when Joshua took that step, God blessed his faithfulness.)
  3. Joshua chose to release his fears, so he could be courageous. You can’t be courageous and fearful at the same time.

This led me to understand that in order to conquer my own fears, I needed to follow Joshua’s example. I needed to make the choice to keep my faith in God, to choose to change my attitude so I could respond to what God was asking me to do, and to choose to release my own fears so that I could be courageous.

Since choosing to be courageous, Jordyn (and I) have had so many incredible opportunities and experiences that would not have come up if we had said no! If our daughter has taught us anything with her Love Projects, it is that “God is a really BIG God and there isn’t anything we can’t do if we trust in Him.” Today, I choose to put my faith in that kind of wisdom!

Because She Lived

Eight years ago joy and heartbreak collided quicker than my husband and I could process.

Kylie 6.11.2007 039Our Kylie Joy was born and lived for 80 minutes. There is a raw pain of holding your child in your arms, knowing there is nothing you could do to save her life. Through sobs, I told her it was okay to go to Jesus. As if she somehow understood my words, she turned her head slightly towards my voice, took her last breath, and died.

She never had to see the brokenness of this world. In fact, I’ve often wondered if the very first time she opened her eyes, she got to gaze upon her Savior. What an amazing first sight.

People often ask if it gets easier.

Does the death of a child always hurt and sting? Will you ever be the same again?

Time helps.

I am better today than I was 8, 7, 6, even 5 years ago. Do the memories still relapse and sting? Of course! And when that happens, I take one day at a time; sometimes one hour, or one moment at a time.

Like a vase that has been broken and pieced back together, those of us who have experienced child loss will always carry the scars of our child’s death. One cannot know this heartbreak and remain the same. But, that doesn’t mean that the LIFE of their child can’t still be beautiful and filled with purpose.

In order to die, one first has to LIVE.

Because Kylie LIVED, I am more compassionate. I am a better friend. I can walk beside someone else in the midst of this suffocating grief. I understand how short life is, and do my best to cherish what I have. I steal hugs and kisses, and cling to my husband. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I try to keep short accounts. I forgive easier, and let go of hurt quicker.

Because she LIVED, I know there will come a day when I too will take my last breath on this Earth. And, when I open my eyes, I have no doubt I will see my little girl – running as fast as her little legs can carry her into my arms once again. I’ll tell you – all those reunion videos will have nothing on this moment!

But, until then, I have a purpose – to love God and to love others. To allow my life, broken pieces and all, to help bridge the gap between this broken world and God’s love.

Happy Birthday Kylie! We love you so much!!

Want to Know God’s Will?

Did you know it can actually be EASY to know and understand the will of God?

DO what the Bible says to do.

DON’T do what the Bible says not to do. 

Yesterday, in our Women’s Bible study, Pricilla Shirer said it this way, “Are you being diligent to accomplish the tasks God has already entrusted you with?”

If yes, you are in the will of God.

If no, you aren’t.

We often ask God to see the BIG picture, to understand everything in advance and then make a decision of whether we will have faith and obey. However, seeing the BIG picture is probably not in our best interest.

Pricilla went on to share this:

If God showed us everything now, we’d do one of two things:

1. We’d rush toward the events and try to fulfill them before it is time.

OR,

2. We’d recoil in fear.

These were good life lessons for me yesterday. I need to work to be more diligent with the gifts God has already entrusted me with today, not place my energy in what He may (or may not) entrust me with tomorrow.

For me, this means:

1. I need to organize my time and day better.

2. Sometimes I need to say “no”.

3. I need to prioritize my time and let some things go, even if these events are “good things”.

4. I need to cherish what God has already given me, instead of waiting for the next adventure.

5. I need to stay busy to accomplish the tasks He has already give me.

I am in the process right now of making three lists.

1. The “events” or tasks I  do each week.

2. Decisions we are in the process of making.

3. Any other added stressors in our life, whether good or bad.

Once I am done with these lists, I will evaluate where I have been spending my time, energy, and emotional strength to see if I am being faithful in these areas. I will also look to trim my lists down so I can truly prioritize my time efficiently. If I cannot be faithful with what God has already given me, I should not be asking for (or wanting) more!

Q. Are you being obedient to what God has already entrusted you with?