Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How far will you go?

Tonight I had the good fortune to go to Vicksburg High School and participate in an event called "Field of Faith".  This evening was put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and well attended by athletes from all over our area.  Some drove quite a distance, I heard.

One man was encouraging these young men and women to consider the "why" for the way they do what they do.  His "Why" is Jesus Christ.  Mine too!  Then he challenged us to stand if we were willing to commit to spending more time reading the Word of God.  Again, I'm in.  I'm totally in. I noticed most everyone was standing.  Awesome!  He gave an invitation for anyone who needed help with prayer. A few folks were brave enough to leave their seats to get up and ask one of the youth ministers to pray with them.  That took some courage to stand up and admit you'd like to live for Christ in front of all those people!

So when I got home my attention turned to Syria.  My heart is heavy for the people there.  My only experience of the Syrian people is a kind and loving dear friend who has kind and loving parents that still live in Syria.  Today, in many places in Syria, a man at gunpoint will ask some terrified soul if they are a Christian.  If the answer is yes, he will be given the option to convert or die. Then that person will summon the courage to choose death rather than deny their Savior.

My mind goes back to the football field in Vicksburg.  What if the speaker asked those kids to deny Christ or die, how many would have the courage to stand up and proclaim Christ as their Savior and prepare to meet Him? Several did at Columbine with guns pointed at their faces and their testimonies are riveting.  How many would look around and see what everyone else is doing and follow the crowd?  It's easy to be a stadium Christian.  It's easy to fly under the radar, and sit with your friends and go through the motions.  But what would you do if today your life was required of you? Imagine just for a minute that the gun is in your face.   He died for us, are we really willing to return the favor?    

How far am I willing to go when the rubber hits the road?

My prayer for everyone at the rally tonight, and everyone who reads this (and also for myself) is that our faith isn't something we say, but something we are.  I pray that our faith is such that we become physically incapable of denying the Lord. The Young Church is strong and capable and incredible.  These young Christian men and women should be looked at as the empowered body of Christ that they are!  Thank you to those who encourage my children (because I think of ALL of them as my children) in their lives of Faith.  Thank you so much to those living the example of one who says yeas every single day!  I pray that our faith is strengthened by our brothers and sisters in the stadium, and around the world.  Martyrs will be made today.  Let's honor them by showing true Christian love to everyone we meet.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Poor Kid

"Hey Mrs. Swager, how much money you got?"

I get asked this question every time I work the cafeteria with the 3rd through 5th grade students.  It's not a rude commentary on my wages, or a judgement of me of any kind.  It's a game we play.  I then respond, "I don't know, you tell me." Then I produce the contents of my pocket, and the kids count my change.  Some of them see this as a huge challenge, and they really scramble to get chosen to give me the answer.  There are days when there isn't much there, and they all know that the value of lint and chap stick count for nothing money-wise.

So I got asked this on Friday, and I responded as usual, and this one kid says, "Hey, can I have that?  I'm poor."  I can't go about giving kids money, poor or not, but I responded without thinking it all the way through, and I hope I didn't hurt him.  I know his family and they don't have much.  I know he lights up a smile on his Mom's face.  What I said was, "Lots of people are poor. You have something that counts more than money."  He was irritated by this answer and started talking about how hard his family has it.  I believe him, but there's something else I know.

We are all poor.  We are all rich.

When this kid looks at my life, I'm sure he thinks, "What would you know about poor? Your kids have clothes that fit and you have food for dinner.  You have a house without wheels, a yard, a garage, a bike, a TV, all the toys and games kids could want!  Rich!"  If you ask my kids (on some days) they will point to the things we don't have and all the times Mom says no because we don't have the money right now and think: poor!

One of the speakers I heard this weekend said that if you have Love plus a million things, and I have only Love that you don't have anything more than I do.  This child is rich.  His Mother loves him.  This child is poor.  She doesn't always provide what he needs.

It has occurred to me that this child does not know he is loved.  I can see it, but perhaps he doesn't.  Perhaps their lack of the necessities translates to no one caring in his young mind.  Maybe he can see that to his parents, any money is beer money, no matter what the kids need.  I'm sure I only hope for the bright side of his life, and I don't want to think about how mean things get when no one else is around.  Thinking back to the conversation, he seemed confused at my comment.  This thought rips at my heart, and I pray it's not true, and it changes me.  It will change the way I perform my job at school.

No child left behind?  No.  Maybe instead we should shoot for "No Child Left Feeling Unloved and Unvalued."  THEN we will teach them to read out of love.  THEN we will teach them what they need to know about the world around them so they can spend their lives making it a better place.  THEN we will teach them how to COUNT the change in our pockets, and CREATE change in their families, and in our our community.    

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God."

My hope for this blog is to broadcast far and wide how great God is, but I am ashamed.

I only came to realize this today.  I'm not ashamed to call myself a Christian.  I'm quite proud of that.  I'm not ashamed to proudly proclaim that I am a CATHOLIC Christian, whether others agree with the Church's teachings or not.

I am not ashamed to shout from the rooftops the wonderful way that God spared my life and allowed me to survive my Cardiac Arrest, which was nothing short of miraculous!  Having received such an incredible gift should have me giving up my day job to stand on the street corners and tell every passing motorist that God loves them SO much.  If they knew just how much God REALLY TRULY LOVES them, they'd park their car and spread the word with me!  I'm not even ashamed to do that!

I'm ashamed of the other part.  If I had hours to give my testimony, there are the other parts that we don't talk about in polite conversation.  There are parts of ALL of our testimonies that we just kind of brush over or avoid all together because they require us to admit to the truth of the choices we've made.  We have to admit that we are weak and broken. We have to admit that we have problems leaving the juicy bits of life alone.  We have to admit that we have made horribly bad choices, and throughout the consequences of those horrible choices, God has loved us and held us and carried us through to a life we never dreamed could be so good.  I'm ashamed to admit that I've chosen the wrong path again and again, knowing it was wrong and hurtful, but "I do what I want" was my motto, and no one (even GOD) was going to tell me differently!

I can't tell you how BLESSED and FORTUNATE I am to be where I am now, if you don't know where I was then!  I am ashamed of who I used to be when I was so lonely, unloved and afraid, and turned to alcohol to numb my thoughts, and allowed myself to be treated like an object that didn't have any value.  But if you don't know that part of my testimony, then the goodness of God's mercy is watered down. How can you know the depths of God's goodness if you don't truly know the depths of my badness?  For God to save a Godly person isn't really why Jesus came here in the first place.  He came for those of us who were drunkards and carousers, losers and lowlifes.

 The really spectacular part of my testimony is that God saw fit to hold ME in His warm embrace.  He let me feel how His pure love could heal and perfect everything within me.  Then he sent me back to live it. He saved me, but he also healed me.  I have nothing to be ashamed of, because I can now boast that God is loving and merciful enough to show compassion to the likes of me!  I can't tell my story if I give in to shame.

God, I pray that you will give us all the strength to be honest so your true goodness can be known!