Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gospel tattoos: A daily reminder.

"Though my flesh and heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and portion forever."
Psalm 73:26

By Karin Berdal

I have been thinking of getting a tattoo for many years - there have been many ideas that have gone through my mind about what I would get - but in the end - I couldn't picture myself being my grandmother's age and having it.

Plus I don't know what parts will sag with age more than others.

Then - came this.  I loved it from the beginning and then with last fall being a particularly difficult one, it had much more meaning to me.  So - without telling anyone but my mom and Andrea M {and eventually Dan right before I got it - not to defy him in getting it - it was going to be a surprise.... but then there is a long story with that  : ) it's pretty humorous!} I got it.  In Vegas of course when Andi and I were there ;)   I knew she would be a good rock for me in this - I was rather nervous.  She knew everything I wanted in it {color, size, location, etc} so that when I was asked a question, I'd timidly answer - then look to her for a re-assuring nod.  Which is exactly what I needed.

And this is such a great daily reminder to me, that every day I have God's word symbolically written on my left arm reminding me that every day I fail; every day HE forgives me; and every day to come is planned out and walked before me by a Savior who loves me no matter how far I stray.

I don't think I'll ever get another - one's enough.  And even one this small made me even more amazed at how people can tolerate getting large sums of their bodies done.... like leopard man here...

Woohoo! I couldn't do that.... Too many scabs and itchies!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Loving with Abandon: My Summer in Uganda

By Laura K.

My name is Laura, and I am an expert at procrastinating packing.  I can think of a million other things to do, such as clip my fingernails, stare at a wall, write a packing list, type my packing list into a google doc, watch the shows I've missed on hulu (no, it's fine - I'll just have it on in the background), tell my roommate a funny story I've just remembered, go to Target for those last couple things I need (for the 7th time today), bake cupcakes... to name a few.  Procrastination is a not a good skill to have - especially if one has a big trip coming up.

In just a few weeks, on June 13 to be exact, I am packing my bags and heading to Uganda for the summer.  I will be spending my summer serving Jesus at an orphanage run by Rafiki Africa Ministries.  Volunteering at an orphanage is something that God laid on my heart a long time ago, but I didn't ever actually expect to go.  Thanks to prayer and google, I was connected with a ministry that has been praying for nurses and teachers to come as short term missionaries.  As a kindergarten teacher, I was excited to hear that I can be a blessing to these missionaries.  I don't want to do missions work for me - I want to go for Jesus. 

I teach Sunday school here at Hope CC, and when I told my Sunday school kids about my trip (and after we clarified that the orphanage I am going to is probably not going to be exactly like the orphanage in the musical Annie) I told them there are three main reasons I am going to Uganda.  I will tell you the same three reasons:

1.    To tell people about Jesus
2.    To teach children
3.    To see what God is doing in other parts of the world

I'm thrilled, scared, nervous, anxious (the good kind), and excited to get on that plane in a couple of weeks.  I can't wait to meet these precious little children that I have been praying for by name for so many months.  I don't know what God has in store for me, but I'm excited to find out.  I'll be keeping you updated each month here on the Women at Hope blog, but you can also follow along on my personal blog: merrydays.wordpress.com as I venture out on this summer missions adventure. 

God loves the fatherless, and throughout Scripture we find encouragement to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  Psalm 82:3 says, Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute."  Matthew 19:14 says, "but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'"  1 John 3:16-18 says, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth."  James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says."  Wow - easier said than done.  But, I guess that is the point.  Loving others, showing mercy, taking care of those who need us to come along side them at this juncture in life - it takes intentionality.  It isn't going to happen by accident.  Obviously going to Uganda isn't the only way to show God's love, mercy, and goodness to others.  But I am really grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord with the gifts, passions, and talents that God has given me.  This isn't a two month and your done gig though.  I also need to be intentional in living that sort of life here in the States.

This spring I was part of the Women at Hope's Beth Moore Bible study on the book of James.  I learned a ton, and through the Bible study, God really affirmed His call on my summer.  James teaches a lot about social justice issues.  He teaches the importance of providing for those in need, looking after the orphan and the widow, and loving others.  The orphanage that I am spending my summer at is a small orphanage.  It opened its doors just a couple years ago and right now cares for 13 children.  I questioned whether I should be going to such a small orphanage.  In Beth's teaching (I like to think we're on first-name basis.  I think she'd agree), Beth reminded me that it isn't my job to save to world - that is God's job.  He is big enough for it.  (I definitely am not)  My job is to love those God puts in my life, and these 13 orphaned or abandoned children are definitely people God has put in my life for me to love.

My mom laid down some ground rules for my trip.  Two of which include: I have to come home, and I'm not allowed to bring any children back with me.  I know it is going to be hard to come home.  I want to fully love these kids with Christ's love, and when it is time to say goodbye, I'm not sure how I'll be able to handle that.  But I have been reminded that even though it might hurt - it is worth it - to share Jesus with people who need Him, and to bring support and encouragement to those who need it. 

I enjoy reading missionaries' blogs.  I love travel, I love learning about other cultures, and I love learning about what God is doing around the world.  Katie Davis is a missionary in Uganda.  In her blog, The Journey (kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com), she reminds us that we can't save anyone.  That is Jesus' job.  But we can love with abandon.

First Corinthians 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done in love" and Ephesians 5:2 says, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  I have been thinking about this lately.  What does it look like to love with abandon?  What will it look like for my summer as a short term missionary in Africa?  What does that look like in my job as a teacher in a low-income area of the cities?  What does that look like in my relationships with my friends and family?  What does that look like as a part of our church community? 

So I ask: Will you join me this summer on a journey to love with abandon?  Wherever God has you... living in Christ's love and striving towards selflessly loving others?  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gospel tattoos: Integration of influences.

By Jordan Anderson

I got this tattoo, a combination of a treble clef and a cross, on my honeymoon. I wanted to integrate two of the most influential things in my life into one tattoo: music and Jesus.  The cross is much more than just a symbol for me; it's a reminder that the most sacred symbol for all of Christianity is a torture device, and Christ endured it to "save me from wrath, and make me pure."  The treble clef represents a large part of my personal story, especially growing up being in band and choir.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The search for gospel friends.

Over the past several years I've gotten to meet with lots of you Hope ladies. What I've found out is that you guys are awesome! You have amazing stories, super-fun life experiences and great insights. 

I've also learned from many of you that one of your main desires is for closer relationships, or gospel friends as we call them at Hope. I've been there and totally understand. Sometimes developing gospel friendships is hard work, and if we're honest I think we have a tendency to flashback to our middle school days and fear that if people get to know us, they won't like us. 

I wanted to write the best blog article ever encouraging you guys in finding gospel friends, but then I got the following blog post in my email and decided that Anita (the author of the following article) said everything I wanted to say. Please keep reading and be encouraged that you can find great gospel friends at Hope who would love to laugh with you about your middle school days and journey with you in the life you now lead.  

-- Rachel L.

What Women Tell Me: The Need for Connecting in Community

By Anita Lustrea

If you polled a group of women to find out their deepest needs, I can almost guarantee that longing for deeper friendships would rank near the top of their list. A little more than a year ago the radio program I host, Midday Connection, conducted an online survey to determine women's points of pain. Over 2,300 women responded and, of the macro themes in the survey, relationships were in the top three. As we drilled down to the most common sub-themes of pain, the longing for deeper friendships was number one across all demographic lines. Women are desperate for female friendships and often don't know how to initiate or develop them.

The fix might seem like a no brainer-go to a women's ministry meeting at church, join a small group, or take an art class. Go places where women go and get to know them. But unfortunately, it's not quite that easy. One hindrance to closer relationships is the masks we wear. We are afraid to let others get too close. "Surely they wouldn't like me if they really knew me," we often say to ourselves. But we need to move past these thoughts and live into who God created us to be instead of living into the expectations of others (which is often what we choose).

Another barrier is that many of us have been burned by relationships that were choked with too much responsibility, maybe even ones that were co-dependent. Sometimes we've not seen friendships modeled for us in our family of origin, or we've lost a spouse due to divorce or death and we are afraid to try again. Whatever the reason, we need to pay attention to the risks of living without community. The Harvard Medical School Nurse's Health study that reported those who had the most friends over a nine year period cut their risk of early death by 60%. Yes, you read that right....60%!

In addition to simply finding friends, however, we need to find safe people to be in community with. Henry Cloud and John Townsend give a great grid in their book Safe People. A safe person, they say, has three characteristics: they draw us closer to God, they draw us closer to others and they draw us closer to our authentic selves.

Here are some practical steps on initiating and developing friendships:
  1. Invite 1 or 2 women to coffee. If they say no, ask someone else.
  2. If you have younger children, invite someone to a play date in a park.
  3. Don't judge a book by its cover. Get to know someone's story. You will be blessed and might be missing a gem of a friendship otherwise.
  4. Start praying for God to provide a friend. I've talked to countless women who have seen God answer this prayer.
  5. Look for "safe people" and run yourself through that same grid. Are YOU a safe person?
  6. Sometimes when we are desperate for a friend, we "throw up" all over them the first time we get together. Friendships need to be mutual, and if they are to be a two way street, we need to slowly allow someone to get to know us-not tell all in one sitting.

We are created for community. We are made in the image of a Trinitarian God. The pursuit of God and the pursuit of friendship go hand in hand. The two greatest impulses of our souls are upward and outward because we simply reflect the design of God. It's no wonder that we are craving a deeper experience of friendship. And friends are essential to life and growth. Yes, reaching out can be risky, but my guess is that the person you reach out to is also in need of a warm smile and a future friend!

Anita Lustrea is the Executive Producer and Host of Moody Radio's "Midday Connection". She has authored,
What Women Tell Me, available in the FullFill Store.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gospel tattoos: Branded inside and out.

By Danielle S.

When I was in high school, my sister, who is 3 years older than me, was going through a phase of wanting a tattoo because a friend of hers had gotten one. Well, I thought it was a dumb idea and I remember telling her that, "I just don't think that I could ever find anything that I would want on me forever."  Well, I was wrong.  I have since found 5 somethings that I wanted on me forever and am hoping to have a 6th soon.

So, what changed?  It started in college.  My first tattoo was honestly a spur of the moment thing.  (There isn't a picture of this one and it really has a story of its own that you can ask me about some other time.) I was on vacation with a friend and we had talked about getting tattoos somewhat jokingly and then we walked right past a tattoo shop. So, we went in.  As we were sitting there looking at the books of different tattoos and deciding what we were going to do (and trying to determine if we were crazy or not), I knew that it had to be something that really meant a lot to me. I came across some Japanese symbols and found one that means "trust." I knew that was going to be my first tattoo.  Trust is something that I struggle with and something that God is continually teaching me to do...to trust in Him completely. It is a constant reminder to myself that I can, and need to, trust in Him completely, no matter what happens to me in this world.

The other tattoo I will tell you about is my second tattoo. My second tattoo is an ichthys, otherwise known as a Jesus fish. Inside the fish are the Greek letters IXOYE. These letters, in Greek, are the first letters of the words that mean "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.”  I sometimes regret this tattoo because I feel that it has become very cliché and overused. It is something that, to someone who is not familiar with the lettering, needs some explaining. This becomes a great gateway to being able to talk about my faith. I am definitely the "Jesus" girl of my family and am the one my family would least expect to have a tattoo. Having these tattoos has opened a lot of doors for conversations about my faith and my Savior! My faith and my Savior are things in my life that will never change and are now branded on my heart and my skin. (Super cheesy, I know.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gospel tattoos: His Blood for Mine

By Dave Hammond

Honestly, the story of the tattoo on my leg starts with very selfish and prideful motives. In high school I wanted to look cool. I talked of getting a tattoo, but could never find just what I wanted, or come up with a design on my own. It was only after my honeymoon when my wife and I got matching tattoos on our backs that the idea of another tattoo started to grow on me again. 

I was walking through the “Lakehouse,” a house on Lake Nokomis where I lived right before I got married, when I saw some calligraphy by Phil Hintz. We both graduated from the U of M with Religious Studies Majors as well as being housemates for a short time.  I shared my idea with Phil of creating a tattoo that shared the gospel with the simple words, “his blood for mine” and he encouraged me to find a verse that reflected this concept.

Eventually, 1 John 1:7 became the theme verse for the tattoo. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, covers over all of our sins.” We had to cut the verse down to just the second half so that the words would be legible. Phil wrote the verse in ancient Greek and twisted it into the form of an Ichthus fish, the ancient symbol Christians used to mark that they followed Christ. My wonderful bride, having now a total of three tattoos, was excited for me to get another. She saw the design and gave me the gift of a tattoo for Christmas.

Now whenever someone sees my tattoo I get to share with them the four things it reminds me of: 

1. Jesus’ blood was paid for my sins.
2. I spent time in school studying the scriptures I am going to serve God with.
3. I am a follower of Christ.
4. My smokin’ hot wife loves me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Run 5K to raise 5K for LDI

by Laura S.

Every spring, one of the events I look forward to most is the LDI 5K for 5K ($5,000). Things I enjoy most about this event are seeing the runners emerge at Hope, the major competition, the supporters show up who NEVER run, group walkers, weather surprises, eating food together and watching people win prizes.

This event is for all people: Runners, walkers OR supporters of LDI. This is LDI’s one fundraiser used to gain funds to supply needs of developing leaders at Hope CC.

I often get asked, “Laura, what is LDI?” My thirty-second response is this:'

“LDI, Leadership Development Institute, is Hope’s unique ministry of church based training to develop leaders for the gospel in biblical thinking, Christ-like character and ministry skills. People from Hope become church staff for one to three years, devoting their service to ministry and classroom learning. All the money raised goes to supporting this ministry."

We would love for you to support us this weekend by being a part of the 5K race to raise 5K. Here are all the details:

LDI 5K Saturday May 12th
9:30am Registration
10am Kid Fun Run
10:30am 5K Run/Followed by Walkers
11:30am Awards and Prizes
12:00pm Cookout
$50 minimum to register. Prize incentives for raising additional funds. RSVP on The City and sign up here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gospel tattoos: Left side. Weak side.

By Alisa N.

I’ve always loved inspirational movies. I’m the person they target with those films—I get riled up, hopeful, and cry at all the right parts. I remember loving Remember the Titans as a kid especially when Julius and Gerry begin to become friends and have their chant “Left side. Strong side!” This comes to mind every time I think about the placement of the tattoos on my left arm because in fact, my left side is my weak side. And I have tattooed reminders of that weakness from Scripture and the strength that the Lord offers.

I remember being very young and coming across Isaiah 41:10 (NIV, 1984):

So do not fear, for I am with you; 
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

There was something about it that kept me coming back—the way it read or made me feel or something. I know it took a while for me to understand the meaning. Then as a teenager I began writing dates next to it because it was the place I went when bad things happened and I needed comfort. Like when my brother tore his ACL while we were on a missions trip and when a youth group friend was hit by an SUV (and somehow survived) and when my dad left for Iraq. I chose my left forearm because it reminded me of the tattooed numbers on the arms of those imprisoned in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Anyone who survived likely saw that mark as a reminder of the event and I pray also as a reminder that they survived. We have all survived things, mostly likely to a much lesser degree than what I mentioned but that does not make it unimportant. I wanted to live with the reminder that I survive by the righteous right hand of God and that in him strength can outweigh fear.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Women's Brunch 2012

Thank you to the Men of Hope who sacrificed their time (and their sleep) to treat the Hope ladies to a beautiful brunch this morning. You did an awesome job! The extra bacon was very much appreciated (wink, wink) and the sparkling grape juice mimosas complimented the tulip centerpieces better than even Martha Stewart could have planned. 

Thank you to Jill and everyone else who helped organize this year's brunch.

Also, a special thanks to our guest speakers, Laura and Molly, who spoke candidly this morning about some very personal ways the gospel has impacted their stories. We truly appreciate your honesty and we are so blessed to have you both as a part of the Hope family.

Photo courtesy of the lovely Katie K.

Photo courtesy of the awesome Katie K.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Katie K.

Photo courtesy of the super cool Katie K.

Photo courtesy of the stealth Katie K.

Photo courtesy of Karin Berdal (who is also really cool)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gospel tattoos: Stained glass inspiration.

By Dharma A.

I became a Christ follower midway through my sophomore year of college at the University of Minnesota. I was encouraged by some high school friends to attend a Campus Ministry group gathering, and agreed (hesitantly and a little terrified) to go along and check it out. I was surprised to see such a large number of students my age excited for "church" and Jesus-y kinds of things....all of which I had never seen before in my experience with church and God. The Lord quickly grabbed onto me and brought me to Himself through the encouragement of friends and through being taught how to read the Bible and grow my faith. That's where my "Story" begins. 

I look at my tattoos (of which I have 6) as a story of my life.....each one describing an important milestone or piece of what makes me who I am. From my first representing my initial birth into my Christ Life, to family, friends, music and my career. The one I am sharing with you today reminds me of where I began as a believer and how that beginning faith was raised and nourished in the family of Hope CC. 

I was sitting in church one sunday looking at the stained glass windows, inspired by their beauty and history. I was at the same time itching for some new ink (that's what happens when you get a tattoo, you always want another) and found it fitting to have my spiritual home be the inspiration for my next piece. Taking portions of several different windows, I drew up my own stained glass art and then it was onto the tattoo shop! 

Every time I sit in the sanctuary and look up at the windows surrounding me, I am reminded of how God brought me to where I am today and am comforted that He loves me too much to leave me there. I know he will forever be molding me and refining me as a child of Christ, which is amazing and graceful and always leaves the door wide open for more stories to be inked onto my bodily canvas.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gospel tattoos: You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same.

By Shannon M.

I became a believer on October 2007 at the ripe age of 22.

I squandered my teenage years and the first few years of my twenties seeking fulfillment in anything that might satisfy me. When I finally came to the realization that Jesus was what had been missing in my life and made the decision to give my life to Him, I was certain that my desire for fulfillment in other things, places, and people would stop. But it didn’t. 

Even after coming to know the great salvation of the Lord, my flesh longed for things that I now knew were wrong. It was during this time that my struggles between flesh and spirit seemed overwhelming. I thought I sucked at being a Christian. Maybe I wasn’t even really saved. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough to follow Jesus the way the Bible commanded me. It was during the first of those two years that I got this tattoo—fighting daily against the desire for sin in my life and struggling to hold on to the truth of the Gospel. 

I knew that Jesus really was that good, but I didn’t believe that I was good enough. Through the last five years I have held onto the truth of these words, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) and “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all my sins, past, present, and future.  And in understanding the magnitude of the gospel in Christ’s love for all, I began desiring Him more than anything else. I’m not saying that I don’t still fight daily against sin—we all should be working every moment of our lives to mortify sin—but in drawing nearer to Christ and holding His truths in my life, more often than not, my desire for Christ now defeats my desire for sin. You want to know the most amazing part for me? That He knows the depths of my heart today in the same way that he did five years ago or twelve years ago and does fifteen years from now, and through it all, His love for me is the same.