Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joshua- by Jessie Blowers

Most people say that all life is precious; but many people don’t really believe it. I was one of those people, until five years ago.
I was always taught that children are a blessing, and, with a family of eleven, my parents certainly believed it. But I wasn’t so sure. Yeah, kids are great, but they are a lot of work. Believe me, I know. As the oldest of nine, I had tons of practice “being mom” and resented it.
It was early spring when my mom came to tell me I had a new sibling on the way. The purple crocuses in our front yard were peeping from beneath of crust of ice, and the cornfields behind our house were a mosaic of muddy cornstalks leftover from last season’s harvest. Everything was hushed and expectant, eagerly awaiting the first hint of spring.
It was Thursday evening. Having finished my homework, I was sitting on my bed, busy writing my pen pal a letter. My mom’s voice interrupted my thoughts—could she speak with me for a second? Of course, I said “yes”; my mom and I are best friends. She plunked down on the side of my bed, a curious smile tugging at the corner of her lips. She had news, that was evident, but what she said didn’t make me happy.
“You’re going to have a new brother or sister,” she whispered, her brown eyes shining softly.
I can’t hide anything from my mom. To her surprise, I began to cry. Then it all came tumbling out: I didn’t want another sibling; more kids were just more work; I knew I was selfish, but I didn’t care; and, especially, I didn’t want another baby!
Dear mom, she was surprised and not a little concerned, but didn’t scold or ridicule me. She just listened; and my heart ached. I knew as well as she did that my attitude stunk. We prayed that night, just the two of us, for Christ to change my heart.
As the weeks passed, my heart did begin to change. In fact, the closer we got to our baby’s December due date, the more excited I became. During the summer months, I proudly announced to all my friends at camp that I was soon going to have eight siblings! Of course, they thought I was crazy—who on earth would want eight siblings—but I didn’t care. They eventually caught on and rejoiced with me.
 After three months, my mom let me come to the hospital to see our baby’s ultrasound. On the dark screen, I could plainly see a darling figure with a tiny head, arms, and legs. All of our baby’s organs were now developed; its hair and fingerprints were just forming; its heartbeat could now be heard; and its body, at a mere three inches long, weighed only a few ounces. The wonder of seeing this little person only increased my anticipation. 
By the sixth month of my mom’s pregnancy, she had become concerned about our baby. She hadn’t been nearly as ill the first few months as with her previous pregnancies and wasn’t feeling the baby move much. This seemed strange, but the doctors said everything looked great—only a few more months.
One night around the supper table, we discussed names for our baby. A girl’s name was settled: Abby Grace; but what about a boy’s? My dad liked “Joshua”. Yes, “Joshua” had a nice sound, but what for a middle name? I suggested “David”—“Joshua David”. It had a handsome, manly ring to it. It stuck.
By November, autumn’s azure sky turned to early winter’s slate gray; the fields, from their harvest’s golden glory, faded to a drab, frozen brown; but remnants of the sumac’s fire still hid in the hollows of our creek, and the cedars’ green accented the mild landscape. My mom began to prepare for the baby’s arrival. A white cradle and a few felt baby blankets found their way into the nursery. She would wait until two weeks before the due date to unpack any clothes.
Towards the end of November, my parents left for a weekend away. By the time they returned, they were both worried. My mom had not felt the baby move for too long. They were going to the hospital for another ultrasound. The morning of the ultrasound, I walked the three blocks to the office where I worked part-time each week. All morning I prayed, “God, please, let them find a heartbeat.” When I returned home for lunch, I answered a call from the hospital. It was my dad. The sadness in his voice told me all before he related what the doctors had said. The doctors had performed an ultrasound, but it was too late. Our baby was gone. My mom would stay in the hospital overnight for our little one to be born, stillborn.
The next morning, we drove to the hospital to see Mom and Dad. Dad told us all about our baby, a sweet little brother, Joshua David. Though beautiful, Joshua’s spine had not developed correctly, a condition called spina bifida. He had been paralyzed from the waist down, accounting for why he had moved so little during Mom’s pregnancy. He had had dark hair and only weighed 2 ½ pounds.
The following days were a blur, filled with cards, kind visitors, and a deep, hollow sadness in my heart. We held a memorial service for Joshua on a lovely morning following the winter’s first snow. The sun’s rays turned the icy spruces to silver that morning and the snow to a carpet of a sparkling diamonds.
Joshua’s death touched me in a strange way. Without uttering a word, he taught me that every life is created for a purpose. Joshua’s purpose was to teach me that I must not take for granted those God gives to me—because I may not always have them.
Before Joshua came, I took my younger siblings for granted. Now, my attitude is changed, and I love them to death. Yes, they are still lots of work—with endless sticky fingers, runny noses, and spilled milk—but their blessings far out way the troubles they cause.  Kisses at bedtime, cards with “I LOVE YOU” scrawled in big crayoned letters, and adoring eyes that follow my every move are treasures I can’t replace.
Because of Joshua, a tiny, handicapped boy whom I never met, I am a better woman. All life is created with a purpose. All life is precious. I know that now.

Jessie Blowers is a young woman passionate about pursuing Christ through her Biblical role. She resides in Lincoln, NE, and—when not studying for her Business Administration degree—loves spending time with her family and mentoring younger girls.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Outside the American Dream....

One thing that I have realized since coming back from Africa is that the America is very comfortable. Even in the American church I see that we are very comfortable. We never had to worshipping in secret because the fear of being arrested or tortured for our faith. We've never had to live without heat or worry about dying of AIDS or malaria,or not being able to have medicines or see a doctor. Everything is at our finger tips. Because we are used to living this way-it becomes the norm- we think everyone lives this way. The truth is that we are the ones who aren't normal.

More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day. (2006 United Nations Human Development Report)That won't even buy you a drink at Starbucks!

I think I thought the same way most Americans think. 'Live a good long, happy life, live safe and comfortable.' After seeing poverty, seeing their faces, holding their hands and seeing their love for God and others- poverty isn't just a statistic- it's people. I will never be the same. My life will never be the same. My view will never be the same.These people who have NOTHING- who don't have a car, nice house, designer clothes, who don't worship in a luxurious church building but in a field or mud hut, who don't have access to a hospital or medicine or even a Bible in their language- they are the ones who have the most JOY! They are the ones who are smiling the most, laughing the most and singing the loudest! The ones in poverty. Poverty is horrible- millions die because of it. I'm not saying that poverty is a good thing. But believers in poverty is what I am talking about. They have so much to teach us and for us to learn and glean from their lives.

In America, we are rushing around, always on the go, we complain about everything- the heat,the cold, the slow drivers in the fast lane, our sickness, our food, how bad we have been treated, our clothes etc. I am SO guilty of this! We think we deserve to get the best out of life. To go get a 4 year degree then onto grad school, make a six digit salary, build a huge house and drive a Lexus. That is the American dream. I think (as a bleiever) it is the wrong dream.

God blesses abundantly. It is a blessing to have a nice home, a car to drive and a good job. But in America it has become an idol. To live the American dream and live happily-ever-after.

We say we have enough God in our life but not enough stuff, money, cars, house etc. We pursue earthly treasures while we say we are pursuing God. Are we only following God to keep us out of Hell? Because if we were really sold-out for God our lives would look much different. All the world has to offer wouldn't matter anymore and all that would matter would be to live to glorify God and make HIM known. I am so guilty of this. Eric Ludy says this:

"There is a simple truth in the kingdom of God; The more beautiful and stunning you are to this world, the more disagreeable you are in the eyes of Heaven. Or the inverse could be stated; the more lovely you are to heaven, the more disagreeable you will, by nature be in the eyes of this world. Heaven and Earth represent two contrary systems and they are at odds one with another."
-Eric Ludy "The Bravehearted Gospel" pp.97

When I look at the American church after being in Africa- I can't help but think of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus answered, "You can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments." (v.17)The rich young ruler had kept all the commandments. What did Jesus ask him to do? "Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect,go,sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (v.21) He couldn't do it. He would rather have his possessions, riches and comforts on this earth over eternity with Jesus!

Is the American church a bunch of rich young rulers? Is our possessions getting in the way of truly following Christ? Are you will to give it all up? Are we too attached to our possessions, riches and comforts where if we were asked to give it all up would we walk way like the rich man because we are too attached? Is our possessions and comfort and safety so important that we would rather live in the comfort of luxury than truly follow Jesus?

Jesus doesn't call for us to live the American dream. To live for wealth and possessions and stuff. He may bless us abundantly but it is not our purpose. He calls for us to TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW HIM. To leave everything behind and follow Him. He may call some of us to be missionaries in Africa, Asia, South America or other places in the world. Or He may call us to live in America and shine His light to the hurting and needy here. Whether in a third-world country or in America each and everyone of us has this call on our life. TO FOLLOW HIM. What is our response? Do we walk away back to our earthly treasures or do we abandon everything a RUN after Him?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Reason for the Cross

            I think about the Cross a lot. People die within our lives every day it seems, but who are they? An aunt, a mother, a friend, a political leader, an actor, or someone else we know of. Jesus was a son, a brother, a friend, and a leader, but above everything else He was God. Yes, God![1] The Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Wonderful Counselor, the Almighty, and the Great I AM. This perfect and holy Son of Man was beaten and torn for us! It wasn’t the death of a man which we would soon recover from the sorrow of; it was the death of our Creator and that is something we will never forget or “get over”.
            Sometimes we want to fall at the throne of our Savior and kiss His feet, but would we have kissed His bloody nail pierced hands or wiped away the dirt and sweat? Sadly, most of us wouldn’t have. Many of us would have denied Him like Peter did[2] and we would have walked away just so we didn’t scar our precious minds. Don’t turn away! Stare at it! Stare at the Lamb of God bleeding and crying out. Hear it, taste it, see it, smell it, feel it; but whatever you do, don’t turn away from it.
            What should our response to such an experience be? We should weep in shame so profoundly that our entire being shakes. We should raise our hands begging God to explain why He would pay the price for us. Most importantly we should respond with the greatest love our hearts have ever known.
            Christ’s blood fell on the road to Calvary for that sole reason: love. God loved us so much that He sent His Son, a part of Him, to this Earth as a helpless child, made Him live in this world of sin and hate, and then allowed Him to hang on a tree as a criminal so that we, the sinful and disobedient, would be freed from bondage and able to enter the Holy Gates of Heaven! [3] Heaven! That is where God sits on His throne. I don’t belong there; I’ve cheated, I’ve lied, I’ve murdered, I’ve stolen, I’ve coveted, and I’ve hated. But God knows I’ve fallen, He knows everyone has[4], but because of His unfathomable gift of love it isn’t about what we’ve done.
            So, how do we, the body, get our hearts back to the true love Christ desires from us? Our stubbornness tends to keep us from seeing anything wrong with ourselves, but from God’s viewpoint we’ve got a lot messed up. Two points I want to make that we seemed to have degraded are Belief and Action.
            Belief. What do we believe? Have we entrusted our knowledge to the Word of God or have we relied on a denominational doctrine? I often wonder if our churches are too clean. Are the blood covered feet of Jesus walking on the floors, is His cross dripping onto the pulpit, are the dirty and hungry allowed in, or do we keep the insides of those four walls spotless? Our belief should be like that of the criminal who hung beside Christ on that fateful day[5]. He witnessed the sea of red and he smelled the sweat and tears, yet He believed in that man. He knew deep within His heart that all of Jesus’ turmoil was for him and he accepted that Jesus. The criminal didn’t see a painting of the Lord perched upon a cross appearing to be clean, he saw the Holy One beaten into an unrecognizable state and suffering greatly. If we could make ourselves see as he did then there is no way our beliefs could remain where they are.
            Action. We enjoy our lives and that is wonderful. God wants us to be happy and joyful, but we are missing out on one of the greatest joys: Service. When Christ was here He was not served, but instead He served others[6]. He wants us to continue His work for the broken, widowed, orphaned, and hurt[7]. Simon was forced to lift a heavy burden on the day of the crucifixion[8], but what he accomplished in that grueling task of carrying the cross of Christ was an example. An example for all of us to pick up our heavy and wearisome crosses and follow Jesus Christ wherever He goes[9]. The cross should not shrink to become lighter or be tossed to the side for an occasional vacation, but instead it should be taken up and carried every day of our lives.
            As soon as we believe in the true sacrifice and take up our own crosses, then we see the Resurrection. Beautiful Christ coming forward made new so that He can embrace us and make us new in Him. Then, we get to enter into the greatest love relationship the world has ever known. And that is the reason for the Cross.

[1] John 1:1-2
[2] Matthew 26:69-75
[3] John 3:16
[4] Romans 3:23
[5] Luke 23:40-43
[6] Matthew 20:28
[7] James 1:27
[8] Luke 23:26
[9] Luke 9:23

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome To "Radical Love"

Well, It’s here! Welcome to Radical Love! I (Mariah) am so excited to see how God will use the blog/website!

God has blessed me with some wonderful godly, women in my life. Some I see on a regular basis others are across the country and I have not met face to face. But all have impacted and blessed my life.
A couple months ago, God laid on my heart to start a blog with a couple of these women. So here we are today! So let me introduce them to you! You can find more information on each of the girls on the “Who We Are” page. We will be adding more girls to our family soon, but here are our wonderful girls as of now:

Hayley- Is one of my best friends! She has been a constant and faithful friend and sister in Christ. Her love for the Lord is so evident in all that she does.
Devan- went to Bible college with my brother Aaron last year and has become a sweet friend of mine. She is such an encouragement with her sweet spirit and love for Jesus.
Joanna- and I met through a home school website. Through I have never met her face to face; I can clearly see her heart for the Lord and desire to serve Him.
Rachel- I also met Rachel through the home school website. She has been such a blessing in my life. Her giving spirit and faithful prayer and support has been incredible!

I love reading blogs, but a trend I have noticed is that they are fluffy and flakey even narcissistic at times. Everything is about us, our lives, what we are doing, how important we are… etc. I do understand that some blogs have purposes… a young mother writing about her kids and parenting, a college student writing about her fun times, a newlywed couple writing about their life… etc. I totally understand all of that but still I think blogs can be a place to show off who we are and how great we are. That is not our goal here.

Even Christian blogs or websites that address issues for young women have the tendency to be shallow and uncontroversial. With the Lord’s help and guidance this will not be said of us!

In our generation-media and the world has affected us. Our viewpoint and worldview on how we live. We tend to live in a way that is ‘normal’ rather than live in light of God’s word, letting it affect every area of our lives. Dictating our choices, beliefs and standards.

There is a reason that the divorce rate of Christian church goers is the same to atheists. There is a reason that teens in the church are sexually active. There is a reason that college students are walking away from their faith. It’s because they have not fallen in love with Jesus Christ. They have not fully surrendered to Him.

When that has happened there will be a difference. When believers are in love in Christ there will be a radical difference in the way we live. Not just being able to say the right answers but believe and abide by the truth.

When we are in love with Christ we will long for His glory not ours. Our worldview, our lifestyle, and our purpose will be all about Him.

By no means are we perfect or have this down. But we feel called to share with you how God is molding us and shaping us. We want to challenge you, encourage you, and call you out from a mediocre Christianity to a life in full surrender to Jesus Christ- by that living your life with a Radical Love for Jesus and for the world.

This will not be a warm and fuzzy blog. At times it may step on some toes. You may think that we are being too literal, too radical, too bold, or not politically-correct. What we are doing is calling people back to what Jesus commands us to do and be. If I recall correctly, His message was not warm and fuzzy and it was not politically correct. He was literal, straight forward and He did not teach what was comfortable and popular.

So please don’t expect a pretty little fluffy jot about how to be more spiritual.

So are you ready??

Let’s be RADICAL!!!