Thursday, September 10, 2015

When more than any message, miracle or ministry, the World needs a new heart

Who would teach their children that success actually starts with deadly failure? Not unpredictable failure or trial and error failure, but expected failure? Unbearable failure? Life taking failure!?

I see a crowd on the distance: men, women, children, rich and poor. They follow a man, longing for a better life. Maybe this man will bring freedom from their conquerors, feed their hunger, heal their wounds, bless their children and transform their lives. But this man's message does not sound very promising when he says: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

In those times, the only reason to take up a cross was if you were going to die. How can such a depressing message bring hope? How can success flourish from failure, deadly failure?

Regardless the doubts, the crowd keeps following him. He amazes them when giving sight to the blind, movement to the paralytic, food to the hungry, healing to the sick and life to the dead . He also states that he is the Son of God, therefore how could failure be part of God's success plan?

Three years have passed. I see another crowd on the distance: men, women, children, rich and poor. They rant loudly to crucify the man they once followed. The crowd has decided that their leaders are probably right, despite doing only good, this man is a threat. He was not their hero, after all. 

Jesus takes up his cross. As he follows the path that will lead to his death, none of his previous followers are taking up their own crosses, at their own will. Not the blind with restored sight, not the dead brought back to life, not the multitude healed, not the thousands fed, not the little children blessed. No one. Zero. 

Failure is knocking at his door. Life threatening failure. Sounds of mocking voices echo across the path, they bring up his failed message, failed followers, failed mission and failed life. Apparently, the Son of God has failed. Failed to make even one single follower pick up his own cross. 

Yet, He is not surprised. He knows that more than any message, miracle or ministry, these people need a new heart. 

Only a new heart will produce beating for life. Only a new heart can echo transformation. Only a new heart can move followers to pick up their own crosses, at their own will.

Nothing was a failure. It may have looked like one. But in that cross, and in his resurrection, Jesus transforms apparent failed followers into a multitude that no one can count, apparent failed message into the World's most read words, apparent failed mission into salvation to all humanity and apparent failed life into victory over death.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the lord, or who has been his counselor?... For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever."

In that cross, He bled his own heart so that you could have a new one. His. Heart. Full. Of. Love. The only love that can carry crosses.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When you Need an Identity that is Above Rainbows and Flags

Identity. We are all after one. The one that makes us different or the same. The one that adds value, meaning and purpose to life. Special. We want to feel special amidst the other 7 billion. That we are not just an extra dot in the text; that we really matter. 

And we search hard and deep for it. We fight for it, we press for it and sometimes we hurt for it. Because deep inside we believe that happiness will follow. But what if we are after too little, too low and too plain?

What if we stopped settling for whatever happiness is defined these days, and looked up for sure, secure, real, eternal happiness? What if we raised our identity above the clouds, above the rainbows and flags, above the visible, and into the wonderful?

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. God's way is perfect. He has the perfect identity in Himself for you. He wants to embrace you into His arms, His family, His identity, His love. To seat you above the clouds, above all flags, above the rainbows. Where the rain won't touch you, and the storms won't hurt you, where the sun will always shine bright and strong, because His light can't stop shinning. 

That is the identity I want my kids to be after. The one that does not stop at the clouds, the one made real by real love and real blood and real sacrifice. The identity in Christ that does not settle for smaller, lower and plainer lies. An identity that can't be moved, doubted, wondered or changed. Secure for years, and years, and years, and eternal years to come. 

That is the only identity I will settle for. Nothing less, nothing lower, nothing under the clouds. Because when you got the real deal, why do you need anything else? 

Don't settle for less. Don't believe the lie that the fruit will satisfy. It won't. It didn't before. Lift up your eyes, more, and some more. Can you hear Him calling you by name? Amidst the other 7 billion? Can you feel His hands reaching to lift you up higher? Higher than you could ever fly by yourself? Can you see that His hands are hurt, pierced and scarred for you? 

God's way is perfect. Don't settle for anything less than perfect. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When raising awareness for all the enslaved girls is not optional

Tomorrow my baby brother Pedro turns 33 years old. As a gift to him, I write this post.

Pedro was four years old when he became my brother. Through adoption, he was welcomed into my family, finally leaving behind all the suffering, abuse and neglect he had been enduring. (His adoption story can be read here).

And this week, the hard truth hits me for the first time in my life: You see, my brother is the son of a prostitute. That far away foreign world from where he came from, the one I did not grew up inside, the deeply chained one by poverty, marginalization, sex trade, child abuse, human trafficking and drug business. This week it hit me that this distant world is also part of me, because it impacted and still impacts my life too, deeper than I had ever realized before.

The reason my brother cannot see, walk, speak and did not develop like other people, is heavily influenced by the fact that he was born on the wrong side of the tracks. The one where darkness is the norm; and light, the exception. And it hurts.

It hurts to know that someone so dear to my heart had to go through all that he did because he was conceived inside the wrong womb. The womb of a girl whose body did not belong to herself anymore. The girl that could have succeeded given the right circumstances. The girl that did not got to know love. The one not for sale.

My son is four years old. The boy that was born in the right womb. The boy that was born on the right side of the tracks. The boy that spent his first four years playing and laughing, instead of hurting, lacking and crying. My son did nothing to deserve being born in the right home as much as my brother did nothing to deserve being born in the wrong shack. But he was, and because that shack only knew darkness, he can only see darkness.

There is a light that is brighter than the darkest chains. What if I could go back in time and gently pull that girl out of the darkness? Share with her the good news that God loves her more than she ever knew? That there is true freedom, awaiting to break any chains?

What if I could go back even further in time? Make sure that such girl was loved, cared for and raised with dignity? Make sure she had enough food to eat, a good education and a safe roof over her head, so that she did not have to sell herself and bear boys headed for suffering?

What if it is not yet too late for all the other girls? For all the other Pedros? What if the cycle of slavery can be broken for girls, before it hurts even more? Before it takes the sight out of the children, the hope out of the future, and the beauty out of the story.

I am not proud to know that my country, Brazil, has more than 250.000 girls enslaved in the sex trade. Girls under 18 years old. Children being sold. And while I may be tempted to look the other way, I know deep inside that they are all part of me, there is no us and them. The chains affects us all.

My gift to my brother this birthday is to raise awareness to girls like his birth mother. So that no more boys inherit darkness the way he did.

Friday, April 3, 2015

When Easter is all about cracked eggs

You never hear enough about the cracked eggs. The ones that did not make it to the store, the ones that did not become cute little beings, the ones not chosen to be decorated on Easter activities.

Cracked eggs just don't look right. Out of the dozen, the cracked ones stand out as outliers. They usually rot pretty fast, start smelling bad, and are the first ones to be discarded. They are not pretty.

You never hear enough about the cracked people. The ones that did not make it in life, the ones that did not become someone dignified, the ones that were not chosen to be on display.

Cracked people just don't look right. Out of a crowd, the cracked ones stand out as outliers. They usually have rotten lives, sometimes they smell, and are the first ones to be discarded. They are not pretty in our eyes.

And yet, Easter is all about cracked eggs. Cracked people. Easter is about undecorated eggs, falling apart eggs and abandoned eggs. Made whole. Invited into a family. 

The tomb is empty, death overcome, salvation brought unto the world; and where is Jesus? He is sharing the biggest news of the entire Universe with a cracked woman. An outlier.

He was probably around there when John outrun Peter to reach the tomb. He was aware when Peter went inside the tomb and saw the linen cloths. However, he waited. He waited for the rush to be gone. He waited until the only ones left were Mary and her tears. 

He steps closer because blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Mary knew about cracked eggs. She also knew about the One that brings cracked people back together.

He calls her. The first words of a resurrected redeemer are: "Woman, why are you weeping?" Weren't there any more important matters in the world, for the Son of God to deal with, after everything He had gone through? A crying woman, an outlier? 

When was the last time I reached for a cracked person and said: "Come, be part of my family." The drug addict, the prostitute, the robber, the homeless, the one out there. "Come, you are welcome to be part of my family".

That is what He says. "I am ascending to My Father and your Father", Mary. We are family now. You, the cracked woman that nobody cared about, and me, the most important being, the Creator of all things. We are family.

Where is God this Easter? He is still reaching for cracked people. One by one, bringing them into His family. And He also uses cracked people to do the job. He choses Mary to go and tell everybody else about the good news.

You may not have seen them on the newspaper or the magazine. Most times, when Jesus reaches for cracked people and when Jesus uses cracked people, there are usually few respectable people around to take note. And yet, in an upside down kingdom, Easter starts at the bottom, with the cracked ones.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The only New Year's Resolution you really need

Every new start begs for change. Hopefully change that brings a positive outcome. Even when the new start is just a new number on the calendar, it feels like a new chapter, empty lines ready to be filled with potential successes, conquers and positive experiences. Thus it is the New Year. Time to reset, turn the page and start the chapter anew.

The man Habakkuk made the discovery that it wasn't by raising but by lowering his material future expectations, that true happiness would follow. That even if the next chapter was filled with depressing words scribbled between the lines, such outcomes would not influence his emotions.

He said:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls..."

Well, basically a future without food, money, safety, enjoyment, prestige or success. Basically facing death, starvation, sickness and pain. I suppose his expectations could not go lower than that.

And yet, he concludes, even if all the above happened:

"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation."

Why? How is that even possible?
Maybe it was because he understood that...

"God, the Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.

I stare again at my New Year's Resolution mental list and suddenly the items stated one after the other have lost their importance. What would it matter to tread water at the valley's creek, when I could be up on the mountain! What would it matter if the fig tree blossomed, if the vines had fruit, if the olive tree produced, if the fields gave food, if the flock multiplied, if the herd filled the stalls, but my strength rested on lower places?

A new year means the beginning of another round trip around the Sun. Not around itself. Not around the moon. Around the light. Around the source of life. Around something bigger, stronger and brighter. 

The higher place cannot be climbed with degrees, a fit body or material possessions. The higher place requires different feet, a different walk, that moves up, that faces the light, the source of life, someone bigger, stronger and brighter. 

And He is the only New Year's Resolution I really need.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A time to be born

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... So why the rush? I ask myself. Why to impatiently wait for hours not in existence, moments not yet threaded and events not yet unrolled?

Maybe my daily training in fast feedback is not benefiting my growth of patience. Fast food, fast Internet, fast lights on, fast hot shower, fast mail. Who has the time anymore to plant the seed, watch it grow, respect the seasons, harvest the fruits, prepare the bountifulness?

 Who has the time anymore to light the candle, hold a feather and dip it, flatten the paper dancing the ink into the space, fold it and seal it, walk the dust path to the mail building and drop the message meant to warm somebody's heart across an ocean, hoping there would still be a breath of life when the paper reaches the hands?

A time to be born, and a time to die,
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.

And I read over and over again, as we move along lines during our family reading, "My hour has not yet come, my time has not yet come..." Nothing happens by accident. The time to be born, the time to die... Time is important, relevant. Time must be respected.

Time is not in my hands. The time maker holds time in His hands. I wish I could hold time back and stop the fast growing happening every second inside my kids. Too fast! Those first nine months felt like forever, but as soon as they proclaimed their first cry, the minutes have raced.

And yet where am I rushing for?

If today is the time to live today?

If today is the time to accept today?

If today is the time to be thankful for today?

"My times are in your hands" said David. There was a time to be a shepherd boy, there was a time to fight Goliah, there was a time to run away from enemies, there was a time to be king and there was a time to die.

The hands that hold time don't make mistakes. I make the mistake of rushing, being anxious about tomorrow, sometimes without any palpable reason, maybe only for the fear of losing today.

And that is why He offers the antidote for feeling trapped in time. Eternal life. Today is the day to receive it, He says. Because with eternal life, future extends beyond death. A future taken care of, meticulously prepared, arranged since eternity past.

The hands that make time, were pierced in the appointed time, to embrace me and my finite lifetime into Him and His eternal time. 

Today is a time to embrace,
A time to seek,
A time to keep.

And because He lives I can also face tomorrow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to raise children to be successful in marriage

"No, not until you're satisfied, fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone..." read the poem.

I still remember how much those words impacted me, when I was in my early twenties looking around for my "prince" to make me happily ever after.

The text keept on saying: "with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me; to having an intensely personal relationship with me alone; discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be planned for you."

God. He was letting me know that no matter how perfect is the prince, there is no one on this earth that would fill a hole the size of God in my heart. And to place such a burden upon any one, would be unloving and selfish.

Ten happy years of marriage later, the message is as fresh today as the day I read it first. The secret for a successful marriage lays in becoming first and foremost completely satisfied with God and then from such a place of fullness of love and satisfaction, I can extend my love to my husband next, and then to my children, to my neighbor and to the world. 

True lasting love is not the same as a romantic passing fling. The first kind of love is a daily selfish-less choice, God centered, from an eternal perspective. The second, a transitory selfish feeling, self centered, from a narrow perspective.

The samaritan woman at the well was with her sixth partner and she was still thirsty. Statistics show us that the success of a marriage decreases with every next spouse. Only living water can fill the love tank up. 

In an age of consumerism, marriage has become another product for the sake of happiness seeking. Shop around for the best one, and if it does not work out, run back to the store and start shopping again. The more individualistic a society becomes, the more marriages fall apart. Because after all, it is all about me, right? 

That I may have the wisdom to teach my children that inside an entire universe, and inside an entire timeline that runs back and forth into eternity, they are not the center of either one. So why should they live their daily lives as if they were?

There is a center to the universe and there is a center to the timeline, and there is a center to which we should center our entire hearts around. And when God is at the center of two people lives, everything else falls into place, including their marriage. That is the secret to be successful in marriage.

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