Innocent As Doves

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The Scriptures
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Matthew 10:16-20
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Today, it’s just been on my mind to bring our attention back to the armor of God and the fact we need to be wise like serpents, innocent as doves.
I want to speak to the first part, being wise like serpents. Going to Malta helped bring to my attention how much I don’t know about my own country’s politics, the refugee crisis, trusting God, and even God’s word. I feel like I’m doing “better than the average U.S. citizen.” But, in reality, I don’t know very much. And I’ve realized when it comes to engaging in conversation with others, it’s important to have a handle on topics like these.
I.e., talking with my dad about refugees. Having facts and knowing the what the constitution says helps me to better articulate and defend my stance culturally and based by our country’s laws. Knowing about the situation with refugees abroad also helps and is a tool in dispelling the fear which the current administration seems to use to get support to make the calls it’s trying to make both about refugees and immigrants in general.
The second part, being innocent like doves…that’s a hard one for me because I’ve thought in the past it means to be naive. I don’t want to be naïve. But being innocent doesn’t mean you’re naïve. I think it means we guard our hearts and take our thoughts captive. What we put into our minds affects the lens through which we see the world and view the Bible—and it has the power to jade us.
I.e., rape. I know rape is in the world. I know it is destructive. I’ve seen it damage lives. And I’ve seen God redeem. But, what I don’t need to do is read the part of a book or watch a TV series which details a situation of rape. I don’t need to invite that in my mind to “know” about rape. I’m thinking of a book one of my youth group girls was reading. I haven’t read it, but I see how she struggles with her sexuality, her relationship with God, and for a period even suicide. I also see how her parents are okay with exposing her to things that are a bit mature for her age.
Compared to another one of our girls who is aware of what happens in the world, but her parents are careful to protect her from exposure to things which are dark, damaging, fracture her relationship with God. She’s being taught to be innocent, not naïve (or judgmental), and to take her thoughts captive.
Both of these girls come from solid Christian homes. I can’t say for sure that what each of these girls has or hasn’t been exposed to has been the big factor in who they are today, but I think it’s clear it has played a role. No barely 12-year-old girl should be reading intimate details about sex or rape. And while I may think not allowing your 12-year-old to watch Harry Potter could be a little excessive, I see how this other young girl is being shaped to cast her thoughts on what is good and to pursue God in all things.
Which leads me to the Armor of God. If we are sheep among wolves, if we are God’s people aware of the spiritual battle around us, we need the armor of God. We need our faith, especially when we don’t have answers to why God is still good in hard situations, but know that he is. We need the encouragement of salvation when doubt comes into our minds if we are truly loved by God. We need to know the scriptures, not just where to find them in the Bible, but to really be so in-tuned we can recite them when necessary. We need the breastplate of righteousness because frankly, the world is watching.
And with the armor of God and I think it’s important to ask, do we believe in spiritual warfare? Do we believe the world we live in isn’t just made up of cold, hard facts or only what we can see?
When I was talking about spiritual warfare with my friend who’s in Ecuador, she mentioned how we leave ourselves open to it. Every morning we can either be aware that it’s there and pray, or we can disregard it and leave ourselves open. Praying against spiritual warfare isn’t just for the days when we can sense it, but even when we don’t suspect it.
With all of this said, I want to encourage each of us to really grab hold of the scriptures, of God, and for what it means to put on God’s armor as well as to be wise like serpents, but innocent as doves.

Leaving with lessons: my last blog post

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Today marks my final hours as a Writer for Mission Network News. It’s going to be really odd not coming in every morning, figuring out what happened over night and gathering stories from all over the world. It’s going to be odd not getting to talk to unbelievable missionaries and inspiring speakers every day. It’s going to be odd no longer writing about God’s work around the world in a news setting. But I will take with me everywhere all I’ve learned here. Before I take it though, I wanted to share a few bits of it with you. The following is a shorter list than would ever suffice as a thorough explanation of how MNN has shaped me. But here are some of the major things I have discovered:

God is doing far more around the world than I could ever imagine. 

It’s impossible to work at MNN and not have a change of perspective. Every single story we write talks about how the Gospel is spreading worldwide, yet there are millions of stories that go untold. As I write every day about God moving in Mozambique, Iran, China, Brazil I see how small my view of God’s work is. He is not just working in my life, or my church, or my family. He’s appearing in dreams to Muslims who’ve never met a Christian. He’s booming his church in nations actively persecuting his followers. He’s working in the hearts of young children, drawing them to himself, and then using them to bring their families into his kingdom as well. He’s rescuing victims of trafficking, abuse and neglect. There are amazing stories in America to be sure, but the longer I’ve been here, the more I see there are amazing stories everywhere. God’s hand is moving in every nation, and I’ve gotten to be a part of it through writing and prayer.

Prayer is not just an item to check off the list; it IS the list. 

In every single interview I’ve done, pastors, missionaries and ministry CEO’s have asked for prayer. Prayer for lights to go on in young, dark hearts. Prayer for church movement in closed nations. Prayer for dictators to rearrange their hearts. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that “prayer is the most important thing.” I can’t say that hearing this over and over — and then hearing how God answers — has transformed my prayer life into something like Christ’s. I can say though I am at least much more likely now to get on my knees while writing a story, or more likely to remember Syrian refugees while I’m praying in the morning. I never would have thought to pray for Muslims during Ramadan if it weren’t for hearing continuously how vital that is. As Doug Hutchcraft recently told me, God says he knows our prayers before we speak them, but he doesn’t say he’ll answer them before we speak them. I guess we had better pray.

Missionaries are not unapproachable weirdos. 

To those of us not on the missions field overseas, missionaries can seem a little out there. People that voluntarily live in huts and eat local bugs? Weird. But the more I’ve talked to missionaries the more I’ve seen that they are ordinary people who have simply responded to God’s Great Commission call. What I find is that most missionaries are really easy to talk to, but often have a much deeper faith than mine. Possibly because their faith has been stretched in ways mine has yet to be. I’ve also discovered that missionaries come in every form: electricians, agriculturists, translators, teachers, grandparents, young families. The list is never ending, and there’s a need for people in every working field somewhere. You’d think God specifically planned our likes and dislikes for ministry or something…

I am often envious of the persecuted church. 

This probably sounds really strange. I don’t mean I wish I were being beaten, tortured, attacked, bombed or raided. But I have discovered many things about the persecuted church in the last four years that have made me admire those suffering for Christ more than any other believers. For one thing, an interesting phenomenon takes place worldwide: the more persecution the church faces, the more it grows. This seems to be the case about 90% of the time. As God’s people are targeted, more people seem to want to know about Christ. Take Iran, for example. It’s 5 on the World Watch List but has probably the fastest growing church in the world.

Secondly, those who have been persecuted for their faith are often strongest in their walks–even without access to Bibles or podcasts or church buildings. We have had people in the MNN office who, when asked  how we could pray for the persecution to stop, have laughed in our faces. They ask not for an end to it, but for wisdom in responding in a way that reflects the Lord, and for opportunities to share his name. It’s not that these believers enjoy persecution or want it. They just take John 15:18-25 seriously. Personally, I think if someone beat me for telling a friend what I thought about Jesus, I would be a little scared off. Believers who are not able to practice their faith in the open, who would rather face physical hardship than spiritual loss, have become the greatest examples of faith to me. I am envious of their zeal and faithfulness to the Creator.

I have a responsibility. 

To give, to pray, to do. I am not off the hook for the Great Commission just because I live in America and am not a “missionary.” If I have more than I need, I’m responsible to help fund God’s work through missionaries. I’m responsible to help those in need around me. I’m responsible to pray for those suffering as if I myself were suffering. I am not any less called to spread Christ’s name just because missions work is not my full-time occupation. As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to be a light–wherever I go.

Heaven is going to be filled with unbelievable people. 

Ok, I knew this before I started working here. But I’ve met some of my favorite ever Christians here. The people working at the ministries we partner with are incredible examples of dedication to Christ. I am going to miss interviewing these exceptional believers. But whenever I think about that, I stop and realize I’m going to get to spend all of eternity with Tom Doyle, Todd Nettleton, York Moore, Carl Moeller, Ron Hutchcraft, Mark Lewis, JP Sundararajan, Teresa Flores, Ruth Kramer, Greg Yoder, Sharon Felton, Lyndsey Gammage and the list goes on for pages. Praise God that I will have eternity to get to know all of these people better, to keep sharing thoughts and experiences, and to rejoice together in the work of the Lord. I would guess I’m far (relatively) from dying, but when I do leave the earth, it’s going to be a grand reunion!


Thank you to all who have read my stories, believed in my abilities, and responded to the call of the Lord as a result of MNN. My final plea: keep “doing” for the Lord. Let MNN be your guide in how to do that; they’re pretty good at it.

God’s comfort

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My family still wrestles with what feels like very fresh grief over my dad’s passing last September. There are moments where things hit us and we feel this ache of his absence.

We know that he has gone to be with his Heavenly Father and no longer suffers from the limitations of this mortal coil. It’s just that sometimes, we miss him. It’s at those times when something happens that reminds us of the hope that we have in Christ our Savior, of our purpose here as followers of Christ, as co-laborers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

These reminders serve as encouragement to fight the good fight, keeping our eyes on the prize. I was thinking of my dad today and decided to read some of the devotionals he used to write for the ministry to which he dedicated his remaining years, Transport for Christ. When his health could no longer allow him to serve onsite as a chaplain, he wrote encouragement to the truck drivers and the chaplains in service.

I can hear his voice in these words. There’s great comfort in his reminder. I share his words with you so that you may also take comfort in a greater plan, and in the hope that comes from trusting God is in control:

“Most of the time, when we grieve, we grieve over something that’s happened in our lives. But there are also times when we grieve over something that hasn’t happened or “what might have been.”

Unrealized expectations and dashed hopes can paralyze us with sadness. We mourn for what we could have had, could have done or could have experienced. We live in a fog as we struggle with our unmet goals and dreams.

Are you wrestling with accepting something in your life? Mourning a shattered dream? Instead of focusing on what might have been, try focusing on what is and what could still be. Revising your dreams isn’t bad. It’s realistic. And the sooner you do, the sooner the weight of grief will let go. The fog will lift. Hope will return.”

Why next week should have us on our knees

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North Korea is the eeriest kind of horror-film setting I can think of. Terrible things are happening elsewhere–thousands are dying from senseless fighting in Syria, children are forced to use machine guns in Congo, girls are pruned for prostitution in Thailand–but North Korea seems to be the only nation that has found a way to control its citizens’ minds.

I get a cold, disturbed feeling any time I write a story about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. On the best of days, the nation’s outrageous propaganda can seem humorous; on other days, the emaciated faces of starving people playing through my mind represent the worst of tragedies. I am no North Korean expert. Apart from a handful of documentaries I’ve seen and news articles I’ve written, I know little about the intricate inner-workings of North Korea. But in all of my news writing, interviews and research, I have come to the conclusion (as undoubtedly many others have) that North Korea is in its own homemade category of crazy. I don’t mean that in a funny way, I mean it in a psychotic, manic and disturbing way. North Korea is number one on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians–it has been for ten years–but it seems to me to be leaps and bounds ahead of Afghanistan (number 2 on the list) or Saudi Arabia (number 3) in its terrifying restrictions. Christians caught with a Bible in North Korea–which claims to have freedom of religion–can not only be sentenced to prison, but their children and their children’s children can carry that same sentence. Just for owning a Bible. There are an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 believers in North Korean prisons. Those who are not in jail for their “crimes” live incredibly meager lives. Believers have said that although it’s the norm in North Korea to be starving, Christians potentially suffer the worst. They are often the last to get any sort of food aid when it’s distributed.

“Oppressive” does not begin to describe a place where children are encouraged to rat out their parents for owning a copy of the Scriptures, where every person is forced to worship the “god” Kim Jung-un, where Christians are viewed as Western spies, and where even private worship can be punishable by death without trial. It seems almost too horrifying to be true; simply unreal. And yet, we serve–and our North Korean brothers and sisters serve–the same God who kept three men alive when thrown into a furnace for refusing to bow to a false god. The same God who set an entire people free from slavery by defying natural law and parting a sea. The same God who has broken the bonds of death itself. Surely our God can rescue His people from the grasp of human leaders in North Korea.

But will He do it if we do not ask?

Open Doors is calling on all believers next week, April 23-29 to get on their knees and pray for the most oppressive nation on earth. To pray for safety of believers, for the Gospel to spread (as it IS doing!), to pray for leaders to turn to Christ and for true freedom to reign. We advocate so many giving opportunities and prayer guides at Mission Network News that it’s impossible for all of us working here to do them all. But this is one I cannot, in good conscience, miss. In an article airing on MNN on April 17, Jerry Dykstra tells us that North Korean believers have said the only thing keeping them going is knowing they have the support of other believers’ prayers. Thus our prayers will have a dual effect: both beseeching the Lord of the universe to find favor with our North Korean family members, and encouraging our brothers and sisters that they are not alone.

To join in this week-long prayer effort–purposely coincident with North Korea Freedom Week–visit You can also view a 19 minute Open Doors video to learn more about Christians living underground in North Korea here.

Christmas dreaming

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I have a (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with Christmas. As I write this, I am listening to Louis Armstrong sing “Cool Yule.” I have not one but THREE Christmas stations on my Pandora radio station list, and I have been listening to Christmas music since about July–regularly since September. I taped a big snowflake to my computer screen yesterday, and contemplated taking out my red and green paper chain for decoration. I decided against it, as my desk is pretty central to the office. Don’t want to raise too many eyebrows.

My passion for the holiday season is so severe that I’ve taken a considerable amount of time to think about why I am this way over the past few years. I’ve discovered there’s just something about Christmastime. There is something pure, warm and delightful that surrounds the Christmas season that I constantly long for and can never quite describe.

The following is an email I wrote about a year ago this time to a friend who shares my deep love for the season:

I feel as though I write about this every single time I write you a letter or send you an email, but that is only because I know that you are the one person who truly understands my bizarre and pressing obsession with the wonder that is Christmas. I know I might eat my words about the weather, but right now I want nothing more than to watch the snow fall outside my window as I work and gaze into the cold night sky. I want to sit by a fire and forget that there is so much to do and so much begging for my attention. You know, I think my constant longing for Christmas has something to do with the peace and calm that it represents. There is no running around at Christmas. Ok, I know that’s not true; there are shopping and relative visiting and holiday parties to attend among other things. But on the best of Christmas nights, the house is warm, joy blankets every room, and sweet peace provides me with the invitation to just sit and soak it in. Every time I begin to get overwhelmed with life I run back to that beautiful place that is Christmas, remembering that there will again be a time that I can breathe and forget the numerous things that seem to tear life from my arms. I think what I’m really chasing after is (to borrow the old adage) the Christ that is found in Christmas.

The more I reflect on it, the more I realize the reason I burn to be near a fire with snow falling outside and family all around is indeed rooted in an innate desire for Christ, the Prince of Peace. Christmas feels like home. Christ feels like home. Christmas–to me–represents rest. Christ gives us rest. Christmas is about love. God is love. It’s all the “magic,” if you will, encompassing the birth of God into humanity. And I cannot get enough–no matter what month it is.

So indulge me. Take a minute to listen to your favorite carol, and reflect on Christ’s incarnation on the earth, when he left all that is good and pure and holy to dwell among all that is evil and tainted and sinful. Take a minute to rest in the immense promise God gave us by humbling himself on earth, not only coming here, but living to someday die for all of us. Reflect. Rest. Rejoice! You too might find we could all use a little more Christmas in our lives.

testing our sanctification

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There are some people in our lives who test our sanctification.  They hide barbs in their conversations, they open their mouths and pour out contempt on you.  Most of the time, smart people will back away from toxic relationships like this, but sometimes you can’t cut off all connections…sometimes you are related by blood.

I have one such person in my life, and every time there is interaction, I wonder what it will cost me later on…I voiced this thought to a friend of mine and she suggested I take a look at Job.

I was wondering what Job had to do with irritating people, but then Alistair Begg connected the dots for me.  He was talking about suffering and the fact that God is Sovereign–which means that He allows suffering but He is not the author of evil.

There’s an interesting distinction there:  He created the world and it was good….but sin entered and it became imperfect.   He gave us choice to love Him freely—and that’s what this whole story is about.  Do good because you love to do good, not just follow the rules.  It’s a choice to obey.  It’s a choice to disobey.  Obedience has great rewards, and disobedience carries natural consequence…but God is not the author of evil.

When we choose to love God in the midst of suffering (especially when it’s at someone else’s hands), we experience love that is more like Christ’s love–it’s richer, deeper and much more fulfilling…it fills your countenance…there are people I know who have born the consequences of someone else’s sin…and they do it wearing the sweet aroma of Christ…it makes a HUGE impact on everyone around them.  You know who I’m talking about, right?  They’re the people who are so sweet, you could never imagine them any other way.  When they share their testimony, you hear about alot of things that would break most people, shatter most families, and yet, here they are, praising God for His hand in their lives….thanking Him for the sorrow.

I’ll admit I was filled with skepticism when I first met a woman like this.  I was unwilling to believe that she was so content with all the stuff that she had experienced.  The longer I knew her, the more I wanted to reflect Christ like she did…and the more I talked with her, the more of Christ she shared with me.   Before she died, she told me ‘Nothing comes easily in this life.  But the struggle is part of the blessing.  It’s the real test of the light of Christ.  The more you succumb to bitterness, the more your heart closes off to the hope that is in Christ.’

Her words came back to me over and over again when I began walking a difficult path seven years ago.  Grace is never cheap.  Suffering gives us the opportunity to experience intimacy with Him, that transformative power of His sufficiency and His presence that can only come when we love Him and trust Him in all circumstances.

It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.  Pain is like black paint in a Vermeer painting.  It’s dark, but it highlights the Light–these are opportunities He uses to draw us into Christ-likeness.   These people who test your sanctification?  Let them.  Let God.  Bring it!

my bricks

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This will be a bit of a ramble. I’m flexing my ‘stream of consciousness’ fingers starting…now.

In the daily hustle and bustle of a newsroom, it’s easy to overlook the non-emergency things until they become emergencies.

Some of you might even be thinking ‘been there, done that’…and I find myself taking shortcuts to speed up the things that I have to get done in order to get other things finished.

There are some days I go home and fall into bed exhausted and while drifting off to sleep I find myself thinking “Can’t call it a day yet! I’m not unconscious!  I still have to…..ZZZZzzzzzzzz.”  We joke about this in my family…we’ve even given it a nickname: ‘dooobee’—as in ‘do a lot’ and  ‘busy as a bee’.  In the story of Mary and Martha, I totally ‘get’ Martha.  As a kid, I was always mad at Mary. ‘C’mon! Come help get this meal together! It’s not fixing itself!’ And when she didn’t move, calling in the reinforcements and asking Jesus to get her off her hiney…only to have Him side with her??   I was bafffled. (We’ll get back to this later)

The reality of it is that there are too many times I fall into the Israelite’s way of thinking: I am the sum of the bricks I made today.  You do that too many times, and you start to believe it.  There are a lot of bits in the Bible about rest…it even starts early in Genesis with God setting aside some critical time to REST.  Yet much of His creation is frenetic with the doing, and lost in the ‘being’…which is what happens when you rest.

In the quiet of rest, you can actually hear things.  You can hear our Heavenly Father telling you what a beautiful child you are…or maybe He might be whispering that answer to the question you keep asking (like a toddler: ‘now? now? now? how about now?’).

How do rest and bricks travel down the same road of thought?  I’m not really sure they do.   The bricks can create a false sense of worth, which leads somebody like me into thinking I have to keep producing in order to be valued.  Rest helps me re-new…and I can understand worth far better when I’m being spoken to by our Father through the Word.   Ah…Mary and Martha.   Mary understood knowing Christ.  If she knew His voice and understood what He was saying, it was much easier to obey.  Martha understood the doing end with her servant gifting.  As those gifted this way know, it’s very easy to take on too much and then stress over the details, even if it was originally meant to serve Christ…not being able to BE with Christ prevented her (and us) from the depth of relationship we sought in the first place.

This has to have a conclusion…so I’ll wind up by saying take the REST seriously.   We are not the bricks we make because our worth was summed up in the death and resurrection of our Savior.  Just sayin’.





On the air with Janet Parshall

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I had a great time this afternoon with Janet Parshall on her broadcast called, “In the Market” on Moody Radio. I always enjoy my time with her. And, I know why.

Janet is the kind of woman who appears to be very passionate about what she does. Because of her passion, she studies the issues she talks about. She doesn’t ask insignificant questions, she asks probing questions to get passionate answers to encourage the church to do something about it.

Sometimes I wish I had a two hour show to talk about the issues facing missions and evangelism around the world. More importantly, to talk about issue that will motivate Christians to do something for God.

If you didn’t get a chance to listen to our conversation tonight (Tuesday, Sept 14), you can. Listen to it at

On the Air with Janet Parshall

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I’ll be on the air with Janet Parshall today on Moody Radio. She’s hosts ‘In the Market’. She ALWAYS asks great questions. My prayer today is that God will use both of us to encourage Christians to get out of the pew and do something for God. We have many issues to discuss today:
1. Pakistan floods
2. Ramadan begins tomorrow
3. Afghan medical team execution
4. Kenya Constitutional referendum

Lots to chat about, not enough time to get it all in, I fear.


Urbana ’09 – Day One

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December 27, 2009 is a day many missions minded individuals have been looking forward to for a long time. It only happens every three years. I’m talking about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana ’09 Student Missions Conference. It’s been the largest student missions convention in North America for decades. This year [for the second time] it’s being held in St. Louis, Missouri.

The conference got started just like ever other Urbana I’ve been to — with praise and worship and an incredible challenge to set the ton for the week. This year’s conference is called, THE WORD BECAME FLESH, taken from John 1. Listen to this audio story here in mp3.

Urbana ’09 Opening Session Story

In the mean time, enjoy the photos, too.

A young man worships God during first session at Urbana '09

Young man at Urbana '09 worships during opening session.

The Urbana '09 Worship Team leads the 16,000 people in worship.

The Urbana '09 Worship Teams leads the crow of 16,000 in worship.

The stage at Urbana '09 in St. Louis, MO

The stage at Urbana '09.