An Orphan’s Voice


http://www.kennethjordanphotography.com/

This poem is dedicated to children all around the world that have been forgotten.

Children who have no voice.

Children who have been victims of injustice, war, disease, abuse, lust and greed.

Children who God asks us to defend.

I wrote this poem based on David’s writing of the 68th Psalm where he says, God is a “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.”

I wrote this poem with the children of India, Africa, Mexico and our own inner cities in mind. You will see a piece of each of them in the poem.
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AN ORPHAN’S VOICE

My mama’s sick, my daddy’s gone
My bellies empty, I’m all alone
I can’t grow food, the ground is poison
Religion says, it’s the path I have chosen

My papa lives in a new steel home
It’s a solitary place, no room to roam
His hug feels good, I need to cleave
I have to go, and he can’t leave

The man with car, driving up the street
He gives me things, always bitter sweet
I will find love, even if it hurts
Pain has become, the way I feel, the way I divert

He says he loves me, I want to believe
He beats me sick, my skin starts to bleed
My actions compromise, he’s gonna make me rich
I need a new definition, love shouldn’t feel like this

I sweat with fever, mosquito’s rage
Can’t get a net, it’s a two week wage
Rain forgotten, water brown
It’s all I drink, intestines pound

Church round the corner says they have good news
But only open an hour a week, I am confused
They say that Jesus loves me, I better get in
I tell them, I need to experience God, with bones and skin

Gunshots past my window, sunset brings a brand new show
I survive another corner, I survive another go
I’m told there is a God, I’m told he’s a father
I’ve been burned before, I’m not gonna bother

New job in the city, there’s a new hope pending
I’ve been lied to once again, now I’m a slave never ending
My parents think I’m safe, I’m making a living
I’m used everyday, more animal than human being

I have no value, I have no worth
Accidents happen, including my birth
I have no future, I have no sight
But I will survive today, I’m ready to fight

I need a dad, I need a mom
I need a house, I need a home
I’m one of millions, yet all alone
I’m looking for a place where love is shown

I’ve heard of children, with gold in their hand
I want to go there, this forgotten land
Where a bitter pill will make me better
Please someone notice, I’m praying for a letter

I want to go where children aren’t fatherless
Where my bellies full and the streets are harmless

I want to go where love doesn’t hurt and mosquitos don’t kill
Where churches are trading and Grace is the deal

I want to go where I’m safe, no longer looking behind me
Where I can find God, my heavenly father, who places the lonely in families

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Some other writings and poems about justice by Ken Burkey
http://kenburkey.com/2012/10/19/hope-for-haiti/
http://kenburkey.com/2013/07/24/what-will-be-said/
http://kenburkey.com/2013/05/20/from-charity-to-justice/

6 Paradoxes of a Leader

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Paradoxes can be funny like when comedian John Stewart said, “Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn up by religion” or when Yogi Berra said, “Nobody comes here anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Paradoxes can be funny but they can also be very important in framing an effective leadership strategy. Soren Kierkegaard talked about the huge impact paradoxes can have in our thinking when he wrote, “One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.” 

I love what Danish Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr stated about how things begin to move forward when a paradox shows up, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” 

Jesus was the ultimate paradoxical leader and turned the religious institutions of his day upside down when he stated “…that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat. If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life. If you serve me, you must go with me. My servants will be with me wherever I am. If you serve me, my Father will honor you.” John 12:24-26

Lots of paradoxical statements in those three verses!

To be a paradoxical leader you have to learn to embrace the subordinating conjunction “while”. “While” means 1) at or during same time: at or during the same time that  2) even though: in spite of the fact that.

Here are six paradoxes that every effective leader must face. The question is, how do you live out the “while”?

PARADOX #1 You must be building and recruiting and investing in leaders and getting out of the way, WHILE still being in the trenches.

PARADOX #2 You must be the inspiration, positive, optimistic voice for your team, WHILE making sure you take care of yourself when you are discouraged or drained.

PARADOX #3 You must invest in other people’s gifts and talents, helping to bring out the best in them, WHILE making sure you are growing and stretching and getting better at your gifts and talents.

PARADOX #4 You must do something for a long period of time (consistency) in order to grow an organization that has deep roots, an enduring vision and a sustainable future, WHILE making sure you try new things that allow you to get out of your comfort zone and to experience other passions in your life.

PARADOX #5 You must be a big picture, structure building, org-chart expanding leader, WHILE remembering that the most important part of your life is about close friendships, family and a personal faith.

PARADOX #6 You must never get too high or too low, knowing that leading is a long journey, and that it’s not a sprint but a marathon, WHILE remembering that every moment counts and every encounter is sacred and all you have is the present.

Would love to hear how you live out these paradoxes and what it looks like in your life or organization.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
― Carl R. Rogers

The World’s Most Powerful Weapon

“Society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces.  If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”  ―Victor Hugo

30 million African kids are missing primary school because of conflict and poverty, according to UNICEF, though they say the numbers are probably a lot higher.

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As West and Central Africa struggle with extreme poverty and civil wars, according to Sarah DiLorenzo of the Associated Press, Burkina Faso has made extremely good progress of getting kids into school and keeping them enrolled. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/30-million-african-kids-missing-primary-school-24175665#.U6CNZLbIiXU.twitter

I can testify to the truth of Burkina Faso’s progress first hand, having visited many schools and Compassion International projects where sponsored children are not only guaranteed an education but also mentored and additionally educated through their local Compassion project.

When you go on a Compassion trip to see the impact of sponsorship, people usually want to observe and interact with the very young children, because of their energy and innocence, but I would recommend you take the time to visit and interact with the older children who have been in the program for years.

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Just recently I was in Burkina Faso and got to spend an afternoon with sponsored children from the ages of 13 to 18. It was very inspiring. You could see the impact education has had on them.

These students have such an advantage when it comes to navigating the world of jobs, careers and providing for themselves and their families and ultimately breaking the cycle of extreme poverty.

I love that Compassion has every sponsored child put together a career path which includes an education plan that will compliment and enhance their future vocation.

As we sat in classrooms, we asked students what they wanted to do as a career and every student had a plan. Doctor, nurse, teacher, policeman or woman, lawyer, farmer, business person, veterinarian, pastor were just some of the occupations these children from very extreme poverty backgrounds were shouting out to us.

What sent chills down my spine as the students were sharing was, because of Compassion, these students know Jesus and so as they lift themselves and their families and communities out of physical poverty, they will also be the influencers to introduce their communities to God’s grace.

Because they know the teachings of Christ, they won’t bury their talents, but will offer their education and their blessings to those around them, especially “the least of these.”

My wife and I have three sponsored children from Burkina Faso. Larissa, Lionel and Issouf.

KennethJordanFamily

Larissa, 13,  looks like a beauty queen, but wants to be a police woman. Don’t mess with her!

Lionel, 15,  is an amazing soccer player, but has cut back on his play to focus on his studies as he wants to go to medical school.

Issouf, 15, who is the oldest in his family, has decided to stay in school to become a policeman, when it would be very easy for him to drop out to get a job right now to support his single mom.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Nelson Mandela

Compassion’s impact and effectiveness is staggering.

Independent studies have found that sponsored children were up to 40% more likely to finish secondary school than non-sponsored children, they were up to 80% more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children, they were up to 75% more likely to become community leaders as adults than non-sponsored children and they were up to 70% more likely to become church leaders as adults than non-sponsored children. http://www.compassion.com/news-releases/first-ever-independent-study-on-child-sponsorship-finds-strong-impacts-from-compassion-internationals-program.htm

I’ve been to Burkina Faso three times now and I see how those statistics are true, but I also know that spiritual, physical, emotional, social and academic education doesn’t just accidentally happen. It happens INTENTIONALLY, and that is what Compassion International is deeply committed to and that is why I am deeply committed to them! http://www.compassion.com/

Photos by Kenneth Jordan http://www.kennethjordanphotography.com/#!theland/c1q5b

KennethJordanGirlEducation

I’m Not Happy Today, Please Forgive My Bluntness

girl education 1

I’ve got one life, one chance, one opportunity

The world says, “Eat, drink and be merry”

One life, one chance, one opportunity

The church says, “Retreat, judge and be petty”

#Justice

 

One life, one chance, one possibility

Yet people are more concerned about their standing

Comfortable lives, self-absorbed priority

While history records, 60 million girls missing

#PreciousInHisSight #HalftheSky

 

Violated lives, the numbers are stunning

World’s exploiting children, sex for money

Church still talking about feelings and ethics

Yet 1 in 3 children under 5 do not officially exist

#everynewborn #birthregistration

 

Ego, insecurity, fame, it’s all the same

Christians with opinions, yet not in the game

Every 1.5 minutes, a woman dies from baby labor

And 18,000 children under 5 die every day

#savinglives

 

I’m not happy today, please forgive my bluntness

Too many meetings, addressing the superfluous

Too many feel good, please like me, teachings

While 80% of girls from Niger are married before 18

#endchildmarriagenow

 

Whose phone is the smartest, 1st world problems

While epidemic rages, rampant female genital mutilations

The rich become richer, the poor become statistics

Tell congress to end the back log of 400,000 untested rape kits

#endthebacklog #NoFGM

 

Girls forced to give birth too young, fistula’s the effect

They become untouchables and husbands and families reject

It comes down to justice, the prophets loudly declared

It comes down to “What’s so scary about smart girls?”

#BringBackOurGirls #fistula

Life Is Long, Yet Deceitfully Short

Priorities

Life is long, yet deceitfully short
My to-do list is busy, a detailed report
I’ve got all day, yet where did it go?
Good times seem fast and bad times seem slow

This day the Lord has wonderfully done
I forget to rejoice, worried bout what’s to come
It’s all about choices, priorities become destiny
What you put first, will control your legacy

We are made for each other, yet often alone
I know a thousand people, but not one profound
I talk at a distance, 140 characters, it’s a safe place
But what my soul longs for is more face to face

My radio’s blaring, can’t hear God’s voice
My eyes are distracted, can’t see His grace
My mind is numb, can’t learn from above
My heart’s been fooled, can’t taste His love

I know what to do, it’s actually clear
But it’s more than knowing, procrastination’s my fear
I’ll do it tomorrow, fired up for the next day
Most dangerous word in the dictionary might be…SOMEDAY

For centuries humans are born, they grow up, grow old
“No urgency, you’ve got plenty of time”, we’re told
But the question ends up being the same ol’
“How did this happen? Where did all the time go?”

Got to hang with my grandma, she’s 98
She taught me the right way, the way to be great
After a century of living, she would tell you that life goes fast
She would tell you God loves forever and He forgives your past

She was a foster mom before there was a foster system
Married to my grandpa, 68 years, God I miss him
A grandma, so many times over, we’ve all lost count
She just keeps on going, must of drank that water from the fount

A lifestyle of serving brings us an eternal inheritance
She led by example, I’m blessed by my heritage
She believes in the One, where the cross wasn’t the ending
She believes in the One, so she will live, even after dying

It’s not about busyness and schedules to fill
We have just enough time, to do God’s will
Wisdom says, “Our time is a shadow that passes away”
“Life’s short but it’s the longest thing you’ll do” they say

So choose what you do with the end in mind
If this is all there is, then do everything you find
But if the end in mind is an eternal existence
Then remember the words of Jesus who said, “Serving is the beginning of never-ending greatness.”

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Thank you Grandma Norma for showing me what really matters in life. (She will be 99 this summer and the doctors say she has the blood work of a 40 year old.)

A Piece of Me Died Today, A Piece of Me Lived

My sister Rhonda, would have been 55 today. I miss her so much. I posted this poem about a year and a half ago. Still as fresh and emotional today.

kenburkey


These are some thoughts that I have been experiencing over the last week: Life is truly a journey.

I wrote this on a plane coming home from my nieces wedding. Becky is a beautiful bride and her mother, my sister Rhonda, was a beautiful soul.
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A piece of me died today, a piece of me lived.
A piece of me tried today, a piece of me didn’t
A piece of me cried today, tears full of stain
A piece of me lied today, avoiding the pain

Life moving fast, never ending the same
Voices of reason, always getting the blame
A wound ignored, a heart who needs mending
It makes wrong choices, leads to bad endings

I’ve lost a sister, now it looks like I’ve lost more
It’s hard to explain, if you haven’t walked through that door
The sadness is deep, because the memories are good
I need…

View original post 213 more words

Measuring Success in the Church World: We’ve Gotten it All Wrong

leastofthese

One of the more difficult and controversial things to do in the church world is to determine what the right measures of success should be.

What is success and how do I measure it?

Is it the number of people attending weekend services?
Is it the number of people getting baptized each year?
Is it the number of Bible studies people are going to?
Is it how much people are giving?
Is it the quality of music?
Is it the eloquence and popularity of the speaking?

I guess, all of these could be and should be a part of measuring whether a church is going in the right direction, yet…

I’ve known churches that were growing in numbers and were unstable, unfocused and unhealthy.
I’ve known churches who were in a season where lots of seeds of hope were being planted, yet not a lot of people had crossed the line of faith, and the question is: Does that make them unsuccessful? “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7
I’ve know rich churches, due to being surrounded by a strong economic community, wasting and underutilizing their precious resources.
Music, speaking? If it is an end all rather than a tool to propel people towards justice, mercy and humility, then it is a banging gong and clanging cymbal.

Church growth experts have said, “You measure by attendance.”

Discipleship movements have said, “You measure by Bible knowledge.”

“If having an orthodox theology is enough, satan is saved… Jesus wants more than theology” Tony Campolo

Jesus said, “You are measured by what you did for the least of these.”

American scholar and leadership guru, Warren Bennis wrote, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. “

The main way we measure success at Green Valley Community Church is by answering the question, “Is the vision, that every Christ follower should be using their time, talents and treasures to serve the least of these, being translated into a practical, biblical, active reality?”

And though I love that our attendance is growing and many each year are getting baptized and most are taking the time in small groups to grow deeper in God’s wisdom and our offerings are generous and our music is really good and hopefully our sermons are informational, inspirational and practical, I STILL FEEL LIKE THE GREATEST DIAGNOSTIC TEST FOR A HEALTHY CHURCH IS: Are more and more Christ followers engaging in being a voice to the voiceless, are they, with their passions, giftings, experiences and resources, living out what Isaiah chapter 58 calls the true fast?

This last Saturday, at my church, I was able to see a clear answer to that question when over 300 volunteers showed up to spend an entire day learning how to be better at serving and caring for our community and world.

From children’s workers, homeless activists, car mechanics serving the underprivileged, pastoral partners, transition home organizers, Celebrate Recovery and Landing volunteers, foster care sponsors, teen-age student leaders, food and clothing directors, funeral and grief share supporters, the list goes on and on and I’m leaving out so many…they showed up in masses to learn how to better serve the least of these.

OVER 300 people showed up to learn about the skills of boundaries, listening, praying and healthy crisis intervention. They attended breakout sessions learning about mental health, mandated reporting and what poverty looks like in our nation and world.

We were hoping for 100. We were hoping that if some of our core leaders would show up for the training it would be a success.

When over 300 showed up, my staff and I celebrated two things:

One, in the words of Warren Bennis, the vision to serve the least of these, is clearly more than just words at Green Valley, but it is becoming a reality.

Two, we celebrated that the biblical structure of the church, understanding that we are the body of Christ, and that we all have gifts and passions to live out, is also becoming a reality.

When the whole body is working together offering its time, talents and treasures towards justice and mercy, SUPERNATURAL things happen.

Most of the time, when this isn’t happening, it’s because church leaders are not teaching and modeling Biblical structure.

I have always said, “Leaders who help release people’s passions allow love and hope to go viral. Leaders who try to get all the credit stop that possibility.”

It’s funny, there’s a lot of debate and confusion in the church world these days, about how to measure success, but I am starting to see that the scriptures are very clear:

“Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help…Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” Isaiah 58:6-9

Would love to hear some of your thoughts.

Twitter: @kenburkey

Where Do You Find God?

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The writer of Hebrews says “God rewards those who sincerely look for him.”

All human beings have one thing in common.
It’s to connect to their creator.

That’s why humans can act extremely strange and erratic.
They may act in destructive ways to deny that desire or they may act in strange ways to try to fulfill that desire to connect.

There’s an old song “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places.”

I think that in our world, in religious circles and even in my own life, we are many times looking for God in all the wrong places.

Sometimes I’m looking for God in a worship experience or in a teaching or in a class or in a particular religion but I am reminded of the words of Jesus:

“I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

The words seem so simple, the instructions uncomplicated.

I was just recently in Seattle and I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus called, he wants his religion back.”

Embarrassingly, religion spends billions of dollars every year on buildings, politics, programs, rituals and war, trying to find God when the truth is God is around every corner.

He’s the homeless person needing shelter.
She’s the abused mom looking for safety.
He’s the dying aids patient hoping for someone to care.
She’s the prostitute begging for intimacy.
He’s your neighbor wondering what life is all about.
It’s your co-worker fighting depression.
It’s the forgotten elderly couple who children never visit, barely getting by on their social security check.

Tradition says that when St. Francis of Assisi turned his back on wealth to seek God in simplicity, he stripped naked and walked out of the city. Now I don’t recommend the stripping naked part, but the story says that he soon encountered a leper on the side of the road. He passed him and then went back and embraced the diseased man.  St. Francis then continued on his journey and after a few steps he turned to look again at the leper but no one was there. For the rest of his life he believed the leper was Jesus and I think he was right.

JESUS IN ALL HIS DISGUISES.

Author Max Lucado says, “Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion amidst the ill. If we want to see God we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see them, we will see HIM.”

If that is the case, then it’s easier to find God than we think.

A Hidden Epidemic

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There is an epidemic of low self-esteem in America today.

Many are highly successful on the outside but inside there is a gnawing question of “Do I really matter?”

In our society we tend to judge our worth by our appearance,  income, possessions or popularity.

The problem with these judgments is that none of them are stable.

Beauty fades, fashions change, incomes shrink and popularity wanes.

We are good at creating universal standards on temporary cultural fads.

Joseph Stowell, in his book “Fan the Flames”, writes, “It was absolutely amazing. I was in West Africa, and the missionaries were telling me that in that culture the larger the women, the more beautiful they were thought to be. In fact, a young missionary who had a small wife said that the nationals had told him she was a bad reflection on him– he obviously was not providing well enough for her. A proverb in that part of Africa says that if your wife is on a camel and the camel cannot stand up, your wife is truly beautiful.”

Low self-esteem leads to destructive addictions, crushing depression, compromising relationships and self-absorbed narcissism.

High self-esteem comes from building your identity on something that won’t change. And the one thing that does not change is what God thinks about you.

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who lived in Jericho and one day Jesus came visiting Zacchaeus’ home town.

If there was a man who had deep seeded low-self esteem, it would be this guy.

Zacchaeus had the trifecta of low self-esteem.

1) He was self-conscious about his short stature. He was so short that he climbed up in a tree to try to see Jesus when he was walking through his town.

2) He was unpopular, in fact, he was pretty much hated by everyone in Jericho because he was a chief tax collector meaning he would collect and keep as much taxes as he could get as long as he paid Rome its due. He was more like a mafia extortionist than a legal collector of taxes. His family had disowned him, he was not welcome in the local synagogue and he was viewed in a class of people worse than murderers.

3) He hated himself because when you have a guilty conscience, you can’t feel really good about yourself.

Here is a guy with a lot of money and an empty soul.
A lonely, miserable man, desperate for things to change.
And one day things did.
He had an encounter with Jesus and learned how much he mattered to God.

The story about Zacchaeus shows how God feels towards us:

FIRST, no matter how invisible you feel, JESUS SEES YOU.

Zacchaeus climbed up in a tree to see Jesus, but Jesus walks past thousands of people on the streets and walks right up to the tree, stops and looks directly at Zacchaeus.

Can you imagine what Zacchaeus is feeling when Jesus sees him?

He’s thinking, “Well, here it comes, judgment! I’m going to get what I deserve. The Son of God walked right over to me to tell me all the wrong things I’ve ever done and the punishment that I am going to receive.”

But Jesus didn’t judge him or condemn him.

Jesus walked over to Zacchaeus to let him know that he knew exactly where he was at.

God knows exactly where you are at today. He has not abandoned you. Even though he knows every thought you have had, every word you have uttered, every deed you have done, good or bad, he has constantly kept his eyes of love upon you.

The deepest expression of love is attention and God’s attention span for you is eternal.

Jesus not only NOTICES you…

SECONDLY, no matter what others think of you, JESUS VALIDATES YOU.

Zacchaeus’ life of crime and corruption had nullified any credibility of character and yet Jesus came with a completely different kind of opinion.

Jesus not only walked up to the tree and saw him, but he called Zacchaeus by name.

Zacchaeus must have been shocked that Jesus knew his name.

Jesus not only knows where you are but he knows who you are.

The crowd had to be shocked for two reasons. 1) That Jesus knew his name, and 2) What Zacchaeus’ name meant.

Zacchaeus means, “PURE ONE.”

The crowd must have thought Jesus was joking.

Zacchaeus was everything but pure.

Zacchaeus must have been shocked too. He probably had been called every dirty name in the book over the years but he probably hadn’t heard his real name for a long time. “Pure One” was a name he had given up many compromises ago.

In spite of Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus validates him.

Jesus says, “Beneath the emotional hurt, shame and insecurities and amidst all the bad choices and the hardening of your soul, I see a pure one. Zacchaeus, I created you for purity. I didn’t create you to be a crook. You are the pure one.”

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

Masterpieces are not mass-produced.
When God made you, he broke the mold.
You are one in 7 ½ billion!

Maybe you have had some horrible things said to you growing up. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister.” “I’m embarrassed to be around you.” “You will always be a slut.” “You’re fat.” “You’re dumb.” “You’re a failure.”

And those voices and phrases play over and over in your mind and they define you and paralyze you.

A defining moment in all of our lives is whether we choose to believe what other people say about us or what God says about us.

It will deeply affect our self-esteem and determine our destiny.

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and then validates his masterpiece by saying, “You are the pure one. I see all your potential no matter your failures, hurts and shame.”

Jesus not only NOTICES you and VALIDATES you…
THIRDLY, in spite of our past, JESUS WANTS A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

Zacchaeus was lonely, insecure, bitter, resentful, full of guilt and shame and yet Jesus not only sees him and validates him but he goes one step further and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner.

“Come down from that tree quickly, Zacchaeus, I am going to be a guest in your home today.”

This is an invitation to enter into a deep, intimate relationship.

This was scandalous and incomprehensible!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked all the way through town, past thousands of onlookers, to find the biggest criminal in town to say, “I’m going to your house to be your guest. I see you, I validate you, I choose you!”

The crowd’s reaction was fairly predictable: “All the people saw this and they began to complain, ‘Jesus is staying with a sinner.’”

Zacchaeus may have been thinking the same thing too: “I’m not good enough! Jesus, you don’t know the things I have done.”

We have all felt that way, haven’t we?

The reality is that none of us are good enough, but gratefully, our relationship with God is not based on our goodness but on God’s compassionate love for us in spite of all we have done.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah when he said, “I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of Who I am. I will not hold your sins against you.”

Jesus said in John 3:17, “I was not sent here to condemn you, but to save you.”

That’s called grace.

Grace is when God gives you what you need not what you deserve.

Zacchaeus received undeserving, scandalous, mind-blowing grace.

How should we respond?

The way Zacchaeus did.

The Bible says, “So he came down at once and he received him with joy.”

He couldn’t get down fast enough

Zacchaeus took Jesus up on His offer for a relationship. And he began to change.

Luke 19:8-9 “Zacchaeus stood and he said to the Lord ‘I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor and if I’ve cheated anyone I’ll give them back four times the amount.’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today.'”

Dr. Charles Cooley, the Dean of American Sociology once said, “Your self esteem and self worth is determined to a large degree by what you think the people or the person that matters most to you thinks about you.”

I encourage you to make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life. He SEES you, VALIDATES you as a masterpiece and wants to offer you grace and be in a RELATIONSHIP with you forever.

Muchas Gracias

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“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude is the discipline of being thankful for all the good things we have in life. And for most, the list of blessings is very long.

The problem is, as humans, we tend to focus on the things that are not going well in life.

Will Rogers once said, “The Pilgrims gave thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. But now, neither government nor nature can give enough but what we think is too little. If we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo, and some government relief, why, we feel that the world is against us.”

Our culture is consumed with having more and I think it has a lot to do with the philosophy that getting just a little bit more will bring us happiness.

QUESTION: “How much will be enough to satisfy our souls and fill our hearts?” How much?

There was a woman who went into a life or death surgery. She wasn’t sure she’d make it through. During the surgery she heard this voice say, “You still have 42 more years to live.”

When she woke up from surgery she called the surgeon over and said, “I’m going to live a long time now so while I’m here I think I’ll have a little extra work.”

She had liposuction, a tummy tuck, a face lift, some injections. She had a friend come by and color her hair. A few days later she was discharged from the hospital.

As she was walking out she was hit by a cab and killed.

She’s standing before God and said, “I thought You said I’d live 42 more years! How come You let that cab hit me?”

God said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you.”

The prodigal son was the story Jesus told about this young runaway boy. He shuns his dad, takes his inheritance and leaves his home with a pocket full of money and has a bar room full of friends.

If CNN had sent a news crew to that bar and asked the young man, “What’s life like? How are you now enjoying this life of rebellion, your plunge into decadence, in this moment?”

At that moment the young man would have said, “It’s the best decision of my life! In this moment my life is filled with pure pleasure.”

It wasn’t until sometime later – we’re not sure how long – the prodigal son’s pleasure ended. He ran out of money and his friends ran out on him. He was homeless, he was unhappy.

Living for pleasure only – pleasure at any price – is like jumping off a tall building. The first 95% of the fall might be sheer thrill but that last 5% is going to get you!

Pleasure is not bad. But even positive pleasure is temporary.

For example, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? How long until you’re hungry again?

What’s the best night’s sleep you have ever had? How long until you were tired again?

What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had? How long until you needed to be kissed again?

Another thought about gratitude, is that it is hard to be grateful when you are holding on to grudges.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.”

Resenting other people’s success, your heritage, your economic status, your hurts and abuses of life will rob you quickly of any type of joy.

Comparing and resentment go hand in hand.

Celebrating your God given uniqueness allows you to be grateful for your irreplaceable gifts and distinct reason you were put here on earth!

Don’t let others determine how extraordinary you are. It’s up to you!

People are far more talented and brilliant than they give themselves credit for.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind
don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  

~ Dr. Seuss

Another thought about gratitude, is that to be truly thankful, it must be INCLUSIVE.

Job said, “If we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?”

Author Henri Nouwen wrote, “To be thankful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only thankful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

I call it “Learning to find joy in the TENSION of life.”

We are taught that when we are without challenge and problem-free that then we will finally be happy.

Living in the tension means that we live every day facing and feeling the problems and hurts and challenges of life, while celebrating and thanking God for all the good things that are going on.

Stephen Covey writes, “Fish discover water last. They are so immersed in the element that they are unaware of it. So it is with many people who become so immersed in an abundance of blessings and opportunities that they are unaware of them until they stop, pause, and reflect and allow gratitude to emerge. Sadly, too often it takes the force of circumstance rather than the force of conscience to stir up our gratitude.”

Gratitude: A sunrise, a rainfall, the smile and embrace by someone special, a glass of red wine with your spouse, God’s amazing Grace, the food on your table, the laughter of children, the step you just took, the breath you just breathed, the wind blowing past your face, a celebration with friends.

Tony Campolo tells a story about getting on an elevator in the Empire State Building in New York City, “It was one of those express elevators that goes fifty floors without making a stop. The elevator was filled with briefcase-bearing, somber business men on their way to “heavy” meetings. As I got on the elevator, a feeling of fun ran through me. And, instead of turning and facing the door, as we are all socialized to do, I just stood there facing the people. When the elevator doors closed, I smiled coyly and announced, “We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while, you know.” And then I added, “What do you say we all sing?” The looks were amazing, but they all ended up singing. You should have been there as a dozen or so businessmen threw aside their put-on seriousness and joined me in a ringing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” By the time the elevator got to the fiftieth floor we were laughing. Being a Christian on that elevator helped some men, made numb by the affairs of this world, discover a little joy that can happen when we celebrate together.”

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Emit gratitude as though it was done”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Take the time to fill in the blanks:
I am grateful when…__________________________
I am grateful for…____________________________
I struggle with gratitude when…__________________