The X

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I love a good speaker—one who has been crushed, beaten round and round until they’ve earned their spot on the stage. This is not to say I’m glad for the pain they’ve felt, or hardship that got them to this point, but I recognize the value in their journey. It’s the stuff that shapes a grain of sand into a pearl.

About seventy of us mothers sit forward at our round tables and listen to this speaker who grew up in a Christian home, but answered the call of the piper instead. She gave us her story—the one so many know—of chasing the bits of pleasure the world had to offer. The nice clothes, the “free” living, all the stuff that looks so good on the outside, but eventually leaves a person empty.

“How do we prevent this from happening to our kids?” someone asks. “What could your parents have done differently?”

She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Well, I can’t say for sure. We went to church, but we never prayed together, we never really talked about God. We were Sunday Christians.” She pauses and thinks treasure photoa bit. “But I don’t know if that would have made the difference or not. Some of us just have to go through the journey.”

Heads nod, eyes fall to laps and we all let that settle within us.

Maybe we all have prodigal seasons—the family, the job, fear of the words we’ll be called when we become more than Sunday Christians. And knowing our kids may have to go through hardship to find their answers weighs heavy.

As a child, an apple tree in the shop yard served as a treasure-hunting ship. I would balance on the leave-frilled branches with a friend, searching the distant skies for treasure. Would it come in with the waves? Would we need to land and tread across the wilderness in search of it?

Little do children know what real treasure is, or the battering they may have to go through to find the genuine stuff.

But finding it is worth everything—it’s worth the pearls we become—it’s worth putting our concerns in the hands of the Treasure Maker Himself.

This woman is a warrior—she had to go through the journey to find the true treasure—she’s one of those that bear the most judgement from others, but becomes the trailblazer who finds that giant X on the map, only to find that it’s been a Cross all along.

Are you a journey-maker? Tell us your story in the comments.

Dreaming

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I hate today. I’m on the couch as I write this, sipping out of a water glass my sweet four-year-old can’t fill quick enough. This is the first time I’ve had a fever since I can remember, and I’m unproductive. What a waste. A big, fat, ugly day filled with piles getting bigger, research not getting done and muscles getting flabby. I consider my weights in the closet—the ones I haven’t used nearly enough because the past few months of busyness have leached a good portion of my time. I curl up under my tea-sloshed blanket and scowl.

I don’t have time for this.

I sift through my email and social media. Everyone seems to be thinking about success today. What is it, really, and how do you know you’ve found it? Am I supposed to consider this as I camp out on my couch, not getting success done? I click on another blog and there it is again.

I just finished reading a book on the meticulous ways to map out a novel before beginning writing—“this is where you find success”, the author said. I think I yawned 2.5 million times before I was half-way through. I couldn’t give that book away fast enough. And extreme organization is a great way to suck the life out of a story if that’s not how you’re wired. I’ve tried it. Success is not found in changing the way God wired you.

Several years ago, someone insinuated that I needed to go back to school. My job didn’t pay enough, it wasn’t prestigious enough, and they insisted I would find success in getting a degree like theirs. They said my idea of advancing in the arts was unrealistic.

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Thankfully, I ignored them—otherwise I would never have completed and published my novel (and since then, that person’s priorities of prestige and $$$ ended up landing them in a world of hurt). Success is not found in a bank account or in the opinions of others.

My daughter keeps a notebook everywhere she goes—in the car, on her bed—being a sensitive soul, she needs all kinds of creative outlets to express herself. When her glass is half-empty a little too long, I encourage her to write about the things she’s thankful for. Somewhere along her words, she finds her answer—and I find mine. I pick up the paper she handed me before school this morning and delight in her wisdom on the art of ballet. Here is a condensed version of Chloe’s rules for being a successful ballerina:
Be good.
Keep your back straight.
Don’t bend your knees unless your teacher tells you to.
Keep your balance.
Have strength, courage and Faith.
Never give up.

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There it is—in the word she capitalized—Faith. That’s where success is. I think many of us feel like a good portion of our time is spent in between Good Friday and Resurrection Day. It’s dark, confusing, and feels like all we have invested our time and energy into has been sealed inside a dark tomb—going nowhere fast.

When success comes, it looks nothing like we thought it would. There are scars. The steps we take from now on require strength, courage and a whole lot of Faith. But someone carries those scars for us, and He’s not the product of human realism. He’s supernatural.

So there’s the answer. Our only option is to dream big.

What is your dream?

Beginning

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He said, “It is finished,” and a miracle bud formed,
Blossoming into our holy garden.

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Photo by John Hoopingarner

It blooms within the belly-laughs of children,

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Dancing among the shadows,

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And finds its way over the fences we’ve built.

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It curls through our fingers
And in the way He made us to create.

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There is beauty here

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  Here

"That's why God made the cat. We illustrate honesty. And brilliance. And divine beauty..."

And here 

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in this magnificent garden.

"fallen leaves in living water"; photo credit, John Hoopingarner

“fallen leaves in living water”John Hoopingarner

Keep your eyes on The Son,

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And you will smell its perfume forever.

Photo John Hoopingarner

Photo John Hoopingarner

It Lurks About

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Me and my friend, Mike, used to eat his mother’s homemade beef jerky with the garden hose aimed directly into our mouths. The spices from the jerky were so pepper-hot that it was the only way we could enjoy the exquisite flavor without misery. Garden hose jerky is still at the top of my list of favorite food.

Of course, garden-hose water is on the banned list now, but we were kids who swam in cricks more often than swimming pools, ran around in rattlesnake-infested (vile creatures) country in the beastly sun of Arizona summers. We built forts in a rusty-nail junk yard. We thrived in danger.

I’m sure our guardian angels were the elite of the elite.

As a teen, some of my friend’s parents didn’t want them to drive their nicer cars to my house…it meant a dirty car and possible Arizona pen striping—something about the washboards and alignment…so not only was my way of living dangerous due to rattlesnakes, cat claw bushes and garden hoses, but the dirt road was a factor too.

Save it for the garden.

Save it for the garden.

Evidently, proper civilization is devoid of dirt, sticker bushes and snakes (I saw many of you partake of the garden hose—guilty!).

Some of this uncivilized living must have tattooed itself onto me. For several years, after I moved to “the city” (to my husband, the Phoenician, it’s still the country), I was designated as the evening bug squisher at work. These people were afraid of bugs! Once, I was called outside to confiscate a tarantula from the employee smoking area. OUTSIDE. They, with cigarettes to lips, carcinogens flowing freely into their bodies, saw danger in a tarantula outside.

I said no. And laughed. Or I might have rolled my eyes, but I let the tarantula have free reign in his home (Isn’t nicotine supposed to have a calming effect?).

Have you heard about the dangers of microwave popcorn? Ingested both in city and country, this delightful movie-watching snack can damage your brain. Why isn’t it on the banned list (air-popping it is the safe way to go)?

So danger might be a frightful beastie—to some it has fangs, to others, it’s a scratch in the paint or a tongue-on-fire, but either way, it’s always lurking about—we might as well focus on the good part and enjoy it like the child within us.

Are you also a reformed garden-hose junkie? Leave your confessions in the comments.

Pheonix-in-Training

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My little girl is a fully loaded palette. On some days, she is mellow blue-violet, sitting at peace in front of her desk full of glitter and paper scraps. She hums sugar-sweet and creates art. Learning to be content is a beautiful thing indeed—this tells me my daughter likes who God made her to be. I thoroughly enjoy blue-violet Chloe—she fills our home with a lovely glow.

Very often, her rosy-pink lips spill out “I love you”—this is a wonderful contagion—but watch for that pea green bit of stinkerdom—she hisses when not getting her way. Pea Green Chloe is often found in time-outs.

RED. RED TEMPER, RED PASSION, RED AWESOME-IMPOSSIBLE. RED CHLOE is the most

Chloe doesn't need wind-she will make the wind.

RED CHLOE doesn’t need wind-she will make the wind.

challenging, for sure, but deep within the center of this fire is where I need to stay cool-azure, because a red poker meeting red coals can have explosive consequences.

What to do when she’s an overbearing ball of energy? The house cannot contain this splash of red, nor can the most patient of people—it’s a parent’s heart being tested. Something is trying to burst out of her when she’s this red—is it a need to create something big? Is it simply pent up energy? Is her cup brimming over?

Trying to control RED CHLOE fills her with bitterness, and dampens the thing that makes her shine. I think RED CHLOE needs a special kind of canvas, only we haven’t found it yet. Sometimes I send RED CHLOE outside to challenge the trampoline. In the warmer months, it takes a few miles of bike riding to calm the flames. Ballet helps.

Maybe this red streak is simply homeless passion. I guess that’s why parents are supposed to be shepherds rather than drill sergeants—so that we guide rather than extinguish their red-streaks.

Is this that thing in all of us that decides our future? We are God’s creation, and although we can be shaped by people/events in our lives, we ultimately choose this way or that way—maybe this is the difference between becoming the phoenix and those floundering in the ashes. What do you think?

Cataclysm Mission International

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Happy Monday! It’s time for a cataclysm. How do I get involved, you say? Read on.

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Together, We Can
By Nikole Hahn
www.cataclysmmissionsintl.com

There are only a few agencies who do online mission work: Global Media Outreach, GodRev, Jesus Central, Jesus.net, and Billy Graham. There are also cyber-missions training organizations located here. In twelve years of being a Christian, I had no idea of their existence. Global Media Outreach, for instance, has been an organization since 2004. Why didn’t we hear about it in church?

Technology is growing fast. Just the other day, Focus on the Family shared some stats on social media usage, and my first thought was, “If 144.8 billion emails are sent out every day and 900 million people are on Facebook, why isn’t the Gospel spreading faster? Why isn’t church becoming MORE relevant?”

A few problems have been observed:

1. No engagement. We’re apt to share things or post statuses rather than engage. Engagement over time translates into real life relationships with church, possible discipleships, Salvations, and/or a need met.
2. People are engrossed in distracting issues, like focusing on the Mark of the Beast rather than on reaching people for Christ.
3. Online passion is being misunderstood for anger.
4. People don’t verify an article before posting it online; thereby discrediting them as a viable source or friend.
5. A lot of Christian leaders online are building their brand or church, or trying to “sell” their blog or book rather than connecting with other Christians to come together to spread the Gospel.
6. We don’t have time for more than a two-second like. One writer accuses the social media world of being relationaly lazy.
7. Denomination separation. A person once approached me on the sidewalk and said, “Is this a Baptist church? I only go to Baptist churches.”

But the big one?

8. People base what they believe on what the internet says. In over eight years of being online, I have read many negative posts about church, and seen how some use negativity in the name of “authenticity,” to try to bring people back to church. A lot of positives are happening in the church, but you wouldn’t know it by looking online.

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In August, 2014, I created Cataclysm Missions International (CMI). CMI launched in January of this year. I am excited to build this organization. Cataclysm, by definition, means a great deluge. I want to bring the online world to church (traditional, small groups, or house church) and/or into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and the people in church online. This is a holistic ministry in which we seek to help people we don’t know through spiritual and physical means.

In other words, if one of our Online Social Media Missionaries finds out a family can’t pay a bill, that person contacts an organization in the unbelievers area and connects that family with another real-life Christian ministry who can continue to build relationships with the family in need. CMI is a friend to the unbeliever and seeks to unify the worldwide church on the essentials, using the blog as a way to educate and equip the everyday Christian to be better online.

Surprisingly, it is not America that is sending the most missionaries to the unreached people groups of the world. Back to Jerusalem reported that more people spent money in 2013 on clothing for dogs than they did on foreign missions. Granted, our economy is in a state of distress but that shouldn’t stop us from being a part of the living church in our own communities. CMI is designed to be inclusive to all classes through the use of social media.

The average person spends 6.75 hours online per month. CMI only asks that one hour a week would get spent using your social media in an engaging manner. It is CMI’s goal to mobilize every Christian to get proper training and to use their one social media account in a missional way.

Would you pray for our organization?

We need:

1: Writers (Former and Current – Missionaries, Ministry leaders, and pastors. 27 positions available).
2: Online Social Media Missionaries (People who work online to reach people online who are unbelievers, in cults or false religions, and who are hurting).
3: Community Volunteers (volunteers who are our hands and feet on the ground).

Please approach your pastor about us, and help us spread the word. Volunteer job descriptions are available on our website. If you have any questions, please email me at admin@cataclysmmissionsintl.com.

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Meanwhile, would you also pray for me as I apply with WorldVenture, a missionary organization? I hope to help the regular Sunday church attender to realize that Matthew 28 applies to all of us, and we work better together. So whether Baptist or Lutheran, Missions Door missionary or WorldVenture missionary, please consider volunteering with us. Expand your influence and remind people that the church is a living, growing body of believers worldwide, not a building, and we need each other.

Why Shredded Cheese is Awesome

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It’s spring break for us this week, and we’re about to set out on a few adventures, but before I go, I want to mention something I’ve learned lately. I’ve been A LOT busy, I mean, overloaded-times-a-thousand-busy, and one of the things that has helped keep me in smiles has been my kids. Children know how to live–they laugh, they have no problems throwing the norm aside and being themselves. So while I take a break before finishing a few (thousand) projects, here is a breath of fresh air from writer, Jeff Goins:

We are not born embarrassed. Fear and self-doubt are habits we learn, often from those who have teased us into compliance or forced us into conformity. And at some point, if we are going to discover why we were born, we must unlearn these habits.“-Jeff Goins (click here for the entire article)

Here it is: permission to be you, from every angle. Have a blessed week.

Hats And The People Who Wear Them

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My little guy wears many hats. His crocheted Yoda hat works well for cool weather, the blue and white striped fedora works well for going out, and his pumpkin stem hat goes on for sleep. He has a shelf full of them, one to identify every kind of event.

I have many hats too. I love them despite the guaranteed hat head—after years of sun damage, a hat is much more valuable to me than stylish hair. Vanity got me nothing but skin cancer.

But the hats I wear most come with valuable names: Mommy, Wife, Friend, Writer, Artist, Employee of that other job, and the not-so-valuable names: scrubber of floors and bathrooms, scooper of the litter box, cleaner of hairballs, puke, random pee puddles, and anything gross and sticky.100_2432

What usually happens is the need to pile on multiple hats at once. This is where blessed, too busy, and exhausted morph into one hat. I call it: Huh? It’s kind of like a fedora and pillbox hat in one—half stylish and the other half—not so much.

This hat is heavy, but it’s the hat-in-fashion because we’re supposed to wear it with pride, right?

Wrong.

I have another hat—one that our culture laughs at. It does give me hat head—that pressed down circle around my head. I think many of you wear this hat too (it’s called The Crown)—but like me, you probably keep putting on Huh? because we think it works better to take everything on ourselves. And despite the pillbox influence, people think Huh? looks more stylish.

When The Miracle of Rain came out, someone in the publishing industry sent me an article on how authors are supposed to manage their time. “I have a newborn baby”, I said. “I’ll do my best, but…”
“Read the article,” he said.

So I did. I read how this woman became a bestselling author because she marketed her book full-time, wrote full time, was a full time mom, held down a full time job, went back to college and managed to stay in shape. I’m serious, this woman claimed to have done it all—full time, wearing her extra-strength Huh? hat.

Me thinks her hat was fiction.

The person who sent me that article? I don’t work with him anymore, and I will never put on that hat again because what it does is squeeze your brains until they fall out. And then you have another sticky mess to clean.

But The Crown is light. And it works for you when you need to rest.

Wait—what’s that word?

Rest.

So disregard those brain squishing Huh?’s and the people who pawn them. They’re nothing but bling for the pillbox. The Crown? Well, the Maker of your crown said that people will indeed mock you, but that’s okay, it’s only because they’re tired and unable to see what they’re really wearing.  It’s been said that when the whole kingdom wears their crowns, they light up the world. I think our world could use a little more of that.

Sheesh

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Hi friends! I’m still catching up with last week. In fact, last week is still chasing me.

Really, it’s holding a flaming torch underneath my feet saying, “You’re not finished with your work yet.”

Even Raphael can’t fight this one for me–he’s gone into hiding.

DSCF1319So have a blessed week, and I’ll see you next Monday.

Noah and Goliath

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My son tears through the house with his cape on. I still see a chubby-cheeked baby, but he is not. He is Superhero Noah. He is Thor, defeating the villains, Spiderman protecting his home from invaders.

When I sit him down to practice his letters, he frowns. Even S for Superhero doesn’t capture his attention.

“I need to get the bad guys, Mommy.”

I admit, I have concerns about him starting school in the fall. Is he ready? His legs don’t want to be tamed, they want to run, they want to pedal his bike…he is energy wrapped up in uncontrolled blond hair and smears of ketchup.DSCF1156

He does love books though. He will soak in a story—sitting still—and learn from any kind of adventure, especially if there is some kind of battle.

But if it’s not akin to The Very Hungry Dinosaur or Tyson the Terrible, he has no interest in learning the traditional way.

We read about David. David is a superhero for sure—small guy beats huge giant—Noah is all kinds of excited about that.

Something pops out at me about this story so I dig into it a little more—I even open a book I had waiting on my kindle and begin making my way to the heart of this small King, because no matter how often I have heard about him, flannel-board memories keep popping up and it loses something.

Until I focus on the slingshot.

It’s the slingshot. David doesn’t bat an eye at the seasoned soldiers or worry about his lack of experience. He doesn’t even consider that he doesn’t have a sword like everyone else has.

He hasn’t been schooled in battle. He is a harp-playing Shepherd.

I don’t think he cares about what he lacks. No—he draws upon who his God is, and the tools that God has placed before him and pulls out all he has.

Thump. He kills Goliath with a child’s toy.

I’ve decided not to worry about Noah (as long as I think of David). Because God gave him those busy legs and fighting spirit, and somehow, somewhere down the road, he will face a giant. And hopefully he will remember who God is. Hopefully he will remember that who he is and what he has is more than enough.

What’s your slingshot? Tell us in the comments.

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