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This week I've seen myself reacting to small things with big emotions- primarily anger. A disappointment was met with sadness and anger. An annoyance met with frustration and anger. An unexpected barrier at work triggered- you guessed it- anger. Why was I so volatile? Why did I have such a hair trigger? At home I wasn't feeling this way, but ministry and work were another story. So I've been thinking about it and praying, trying to figure it out.

In one instance I have been actively working to support a ministry for several years. After being away for some time, I returned only to feel like all the progress that was made had been undone. Ways that the ministry had developed in recent years to embrace new people and young families were nowhere to be seen. Not only was I saddened, but I was mad. I felt so disappointed and my hope for the ministry was shaken. I had to take a step back and make myself right with God, because in the moment I wanted to go off. I have to remind myself that even if I feel "sent" to support something, doesn't mean I am in charge or ultimately responsible for the results. I needed to let go of my urge to control.

Another time I was feeling Hulk-ish was when I was so looking forward to a time of spiritual refreshing and again I was disappointed. I had been putting my hope and expectation in others providing a spiritual experience for me. When their efforts fell short, I was indignant. I was disappointed and felt gypped of an experience they somehow "owed" me. When I saw what lay beneath my reactions, I was ashamed and had to repent. No one "owes" me anything. If I want a spiritual experience it is up to me to ask, seek and knock, not to nurture a sense of entitlement.

My last bad reaction came through the work I do for the restoration home. An expensive and important project I had been working on seemed like it would be delayed, causing a domino-effect which would affect colleagues and a partnering church. When others came in to trouble-shoot, I got defensive. Feeling like a failure, I wanted to drop the whole project. The problem wasn't the project. It wasn't the other's efforts to push past the roadblocks we were experiencing. The problem was my need to feel successful in my job and defensive when others stepped in to help.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 5:22-26

How about you? Do you experience sudden anger that you later attribute to a desire to control? Or to a sense of entitlement? Does your pride put you on the offense when things don't go the way you want? This week has been eye-opening. It's a reminder that I have a ways to go in "crucifying my flesh." But the realization is hopeful too; if I want to grow past these immature reactions, the Holy Spirit is available in me to produce a different kind of fruit in my life. In the meantime, I will fix my face, check my heart and move forward with grace for myself and others.

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This Mother's Day I was reminded of all the ways I am included in family. My Saturday started at my dear friend Nora's house. Eddie, the kids and I went out to the farm where she and her family live and spent the day with them. They killed and BBQed one of their sheep for a feast with fresh salad, beans and tortillas.  Many years ago, Nora and her sisters lost their mom and a year or two ago Nora decided that I would be her new mom. I kind of blew it off, saying something like, "I'm too young to be your mom!" But Nora meant it. This Mother's Day, she had us over, she honored me, gave me gifts and I suddenly realized that Nora needed a mother and God had provided her one in me.

Later that night, I was sitting in our church as the men and young people had prepared a special dinner for all the moms. I was surrounded by my church family and was so proud to see Eddie and the kids serving the food and helping out. During that dinner I got a call from one of our former foster sons, Jairo. He called to say Happy Mother's Day, but also to share the news that he finally got his Green Card after 9 years of trying his case in immigration courts. What a celebration! What great news! And, by the way, could I help him with another form he needs to fill out? I realized then that, even though he moved out of our house 5 years ago and we live thousands of miles away, I'm still his American mom who can help him navigate scary legal forms and #adulting.

The Holy Spirit began to whisper to me, "He sets the lonely in families."

The next day, Mother's Day (Sunday), our guest preacher said that Jesus prioritized family and creating family with those who share the faith. Again, the verse, "Father to the fatherless, defender of widows....He sets the lonely in families" echoed in my spirit.

Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;

Holidays are the times when we miss our loved ones the most. Missed birthdays and celebrations are a sacrifice our family makes to do the work we do in Belize. Our precious niece, Ziya turned 5 this weekend and we missed it. Last week I missed the passing of my dearest cousin, Christine, who was only 45. I prayed for Christine's family from afar and wished I could be there to grieve with them.

Nora and Jairo aren't the only ones whom God has provided a family for. I'm reminded that I, too, have been lonely and I, too, have been set in a family. If Nora hadn't invited us out, I would have stayed home on Saturday wishing I could spend it with my mom or mother-in-law. God set me in Nora's family, so our family wouldn't be alone on Mother's Day. He set me in Jairo's family, so I would have someone reach out and call me, giving me great news and work to do. He set me in my church family, so I would have a community to pray, praise and serve with. He has seen my loneliness and provided for me. He leads me out of my prison of loneliness, isolation, depression with singing.

Lately our nuclear family has been through a hard season and God has sent us friends and family to shore us up in our sadness, confusion and loneliness. Our family is big and deep and wide. It spans oceans and countries, cultures and languages.

How has God provided a family for you in your times of loneliness? How have you been family to an orphan, a widow, or someone else in need?

*Photos from our Mother's Day celebrations will be included in this month's newsletter, coming out the first Tuesday of June. Sign up on our website to get monthly updates and read monthly blogs like this one.

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The passage in John 21 where Jesus reinstates Peter has been living in my head rent-free since Easter. Before Jesus' betrayal and death, Pete had insisted he would be loyal to Jesus until the end- only to deny him three times when the pressure turned up. In John 21 we see

the resurrected Jesus take Peter aside and put his finger on this point of shame and call Peter into new levels of selfless service to God and others.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."

There is so much to dig into in this passage, but for this blog I want to focus on Jesus' call to pivot away from self-love, self-sufficiency and self- preservation. Jesus says love me, serve others and give your life away for this cause. When Peter denied Jesus on the eve of his death, I'm sure so many fears and emotions were swirling around his head. To identify with Christ would mean to potentially share the same fate; to deny him meant Peter would live to see another day. Self-preservation isn't a bad thing; it's very human to want to protect yourself from alienation, discomfort and pain. But in following Jesus, we are called to surmount the pull of self-preservation.

Jesus' insisted that Peter take care of his followers. "Feed my lambs." "Take care of my sheep." "Feed my sheep." This was more than Jesus asking him a favor, Jesus was reminding Peter that he had work to do. It wasn't time to go back to the life he knew before following Christ (being a fisherman); he had a higher calling.

Today, in my life, Jesus asks, "Do you love me more than these?" Do you love me more than the pull to put yourself first? Do you love me more than comfort and convenience? Will you feed my lambs? Will you protect the innocent? Will you forget your former life, moving ever deeper into the waters of selflessness?

To Peter, Jesus issued a warning. "18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Unlike Peter, it is unlikely we will be martyred for our faith. But there is a death in our nature that takes place when we pick up our crosses to follow. Our nature says to look out for number one. It says to do what we've gotta do to survive. It puts limits on how, who and when we will serve. Agape love, the selfless love of God, is what empowers us to choose selflessness, choose others first and walk the path that Christ took. The ministry I work for, Agape International Missions, is named after the kind of love that forsakes all else in service to the least of these; the lambs.

Like Peter, you may already have decided to drop your nets and follow Jesus, but along the way the cost of following got pretty steep and you faltered. Maybe you turned back to your former life. Maybe you denied Jesus in your heart, words or life choices.

You may have walked away, but Jesus still calls you. He calls you because you have a destiny you can't achieve on your own. You'll never get there by choosing comfort or choosing self. Will you feed His lambs? Will you follow?

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