Five years. Healing. Hurt. Love. Faith.

Five years ago today I lost my only sibling and someone I loved and admired very much. During those first weeks and months the tears flowed endlessly and still today, the pain is just as intense, but it comes less frequently (although still too frequently). I once read someone’s account of losing a loved one and it was spot on. Grief is like a tsunami that pours over you with enormous pain. In the beginning, the waves come regularly and frequently. Over time, the waves come less often but the intensity of pain when they hit is still as strong as those first hours and days.

Much has happened since that awful day. I wonder what Greg’s life would be like if he had lived, and as much as I would wish him back in my life, I wrestle with knowing he is healed and where he ultimately  intended to be—with our Lord in Heaven.

Recently a friend from my small group in church passed away. She was a mighty athlete competing in iron man challenges, but unfortunately was diagnosed with a somewhat rare and terminal disease that took away her abilities to live in the manner she was used to. We prayed for several years for a cure so she could be healed but in the end she went to the Lord too soon. Later, my wise small group leader said our prayers were answered because when she went to Heaven she was healed. She now has a glorious new body and feels no pain.

I remember many prayers I asked God for concerning my brother.  I wanted his relationships to heal, his body to heal, and for him to find peace and happiness. And while he left us too soon, God healed him. He now feels no pain, he is with our Savior, and is awaiting us all in the Kingdom.

My parents, his children, and I miss him every single day. He was a glue and stable force in our lives. He was an amazing role model and I really wish he was still around to be an example of God’s love in his children’s lives. The way he lived his life and accepted me for who I was and his love led me to seek Jesus as an adult. God was in my heart but I was wandering lost for many years until my adult relationship with Greg took off and I saw how God could bring peace, a feeling of content, fun, and love in my life.

He affected many people in a positive way through his mission trips, work with Campus Crusade for Christ, volunteering at church, and being a solid base of support for friends, family, and others who just happened to cross his path.

Greg’s kids and our family and his close friends meant the world to him. He struggled those last years of his life, but was giving his all for his family regardless of how life was hitting him. I will never forget God giving us that last day. Greg called to ask me to come up to visit for no reason—just hey let’s get together. That was a week before he died. I really felt like God gave me that last day to see him and have fun before we would be separated for the decades I would have to live without him before God called me home.

I still spend nights crying because he is gone and because of the fall out of being separated from some of my family members, and for the kids and my parents missing their father and son. But, I will always be grateful to God for giving me the best big brother a girl could ask for.

In Greg’s memory, our family created a charity called the Masterpiece Fund. We are honoring the character and principles my brother stood for by giving funds to people throughtout the world who need love and support. Greg’s last bible study included a scripture reading from Ephesians 2:10 which inspired the charity.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for long ago.”

The pain of loss we feel when loved ones die is why we must remember to respect all life. Whether friends or strangers. If death of loved ones didn’t hurt so much we would not respect life at all. I think we need to remember that the death of strangers is as much of a pain to someone else as our loved one’s passing means to us. In honor of Greg, let’s remember what Jesus asked us to do.

“I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you.”

John 13:34

When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in?

The Masterpiece Fund has a mission to help people. Spiritually, physically, emotionally. Jesus asked us to do two things—love God and love each other like He loves us. He didn’t specify they had to look like us or speak our language to love them.

I have a lot of genealogy information on both the Crowe’s and my mother’s family. My ancestors came from France, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and England. Some came in the 1600s, others in the next two centuries, but all came across the ocean in ships with very little and worked hard and made their mark in our history. Many became soldiers, politicians, inventors, missionaries, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and settlers. People who made important contributions to our country. A lot of them faced oppression in their own countries and many experienced persecution and discrimination when they came to America. But now, because of them, I am the recipient of “white privilege.” Just think of what our country could be missing out on if we keep out our future scientists, leaders, teachers, inventors, and entrepreneurs from becoming citizens or even allies and friends in regions that are hostile to us.

The Masterpiece Fund’s most recent donations were given with the hope that our brothers and sisters around the world who are fleeing their homes—places they want to stay and return to, but are forced to leave, will receive help and loving support. These desperate souls are risking their lives and giving up everything they have because the alternative is death and torture from their oppressors.

The Masterpiece Fund has made two donations, one to the International Rescue Committee and the other to the American Refugee Committee. This is not a political statement, this is an effort to reach out to human beings who are already suffering and for some, losing a chance to find safety in my homeland.

I love my country and I try to help people living right around me when I can.  I appreciate my countrymen wanting to feel safe and secure. But I don’t want us to live and act out of fear. Fear is the enemy’s weapon. And I also think some American’s don’t appreciate just how rich and fortunate we are.  I see so many people spending time, money and resources on things that are silly or superficial, and keep thinking how much some of us look like the people on Hunger Games who lived in the Capitol. And the districts are the poor countries of the world. How much time and energy do we spend on extra clothes and accessories, entertainment, following the going’s on of celebrities? How many conversations do we have about petty concerns and ignoring the plight of humans who really need our attention, our prayers, our money, our compassion, and our defense? I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy life, but we can still be extremely happy and satisfied on so much less, while sharing with others to lift them up. I don’t believe the government should be forcing people to share—but rather I wish people would do that of their own volition. Compassion and love for others that comes from the heart is what Jesus wants for us. See the many biblical references on how we should treat foreigners and refugees below.

Here is some information on the two highly rated and wonderful organizations the Masterpiece Fund supported:

International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC delivers lifesaving care to people fleeing conflict and natural disaster. Year after year, the IRC is one of the highest-ranking nonprofits for accountability, transparency, and efficient use of contributions. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.  Read more about what they do and how they help with healthcare, education, training, counseling, legal defense, and more.

American Refugee Committee

American Refugee Committee is and always has been about amazing global citizens taking action to change our world. ARC works with its partners and constituencies to provide opportunities and expertise to refugees, displaced people and host communities. They help people survive conflict and crisis and rebuild lives of dignity, health, security and self-sufficiency. ARC is committed to the delivery of programs that ensure measurable quality and lasting impact for the people they serve.

Our Lord, Jesus was a child refugee as his family fled to Egypt to escape evil oppressors.

Mathew 2:13

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

“‘Suppose an outsider lives with you in your land. Then do not treat them badly. Treat them as if they were one of your own people. Love them as you love yourself. Remember that all of you were outsiders in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

“He stands up for widows and for children whose fathers have died. He loves outsiders living among you. He gives them food and clothes. So you also must love outsiders. Remember that you yourselves were outsiders in Egypt.”

Mathew 25: 34-39

“Then the King will speak to those on his right. He will say, ‘My Father has blessed you. Come and take what is yours. It is the kingdom prepared for you since the world was created. I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger. And you invited me in. I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me. I was in prison. And you came to visit me.’

Then the people who have done what is right will answer him. ‘Lord,’ they will ask, ‘when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes and give them to you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Are Americans becoming tribal? An election perspective from a neutral God.

With so many Americans in mourning and scared after the results of the recent election, National Community Church Pastor Mark Batterson talks for a few minutes about criticizing through creation. Write new stories, make new movies, write new books, and spread love and hope even to those you don’t agree with or don’t like.

At about 14 minutes our family guest pastor delivers a comedian-style sermon that hits home for us even though he discusses the tribal problems they deal with in Africa. America is seeming tribal right now so it’s relevant to us all. And really interesting and funny!

Say YES to Gracism

Every year around this time, many of us are sent requests for charity donations. This year I have been drawn to the plight of those less fortunate even more so than usual. And as I have been complaining and crying because I feel so sad about the lack of compassion from so many people—and the downright unconscionable violence against so many throughout our planet, I have had a nagging feeling tugging at me.

This morning in church we had a guest speaker, Dr. Anderson, who leads a huge multi-racial congregation in Columbia, MD. His sermon was about Gracism (that’s Grace with a Big G—because G stands for God and when you put God in front of any problem, he’ll provide a solution). He read from Corinthians—the body of Christ being made up of all human beings—regardless of their race, culture, religion, language, gender, age, height, etc. All of us need each other. Whether you are in a more “powerful” position or you are struggling to survive, all of us need to lift one another up, stand with each other, rejoice with each other, and love one another. We are all parts of the body each with our own unique gifts from God.

And so I thought it was time to put some more action behind my words. I like to give to charity and I probably do the average amount of giving. I’m not completely materialistic but I do enjoy having a few nice things. The other day I was talking to my parents and was getting really upset because of the number of people who are letting fear get in the way of doing what’s right. And because our society is obsessed with some seriously stupid material junk that we waste our money on. I kept thinking—why can’t people set aside buying just some of this junk and instead give that money to people who are without the basic human needs like food, shelter, safety, and dignity. My parents and I then went on to talk about what we might want for Christmas and I felt like a hypocritical jerk.

So I’ve decide to make a pledge. I’m going to call it, “Say Yes to Gracism.” What does this pledge entail? I’m going to say YES to all requests for charity from now until the end of the year. When I say charity, I mean any legitimate organization that uses donations specifically to help people or animals in need. This may open me up to a lot of mail or calls but I’m going to look at that as a positive. It will mean more opportunities to pass along God’s blessings and to hopefully lift up others one dollar at a time. I may not be able to give a lot to everyone but the more I give the more I will be blessed. Not by any material gain or promises of a good life, but rather by the Holy Spirit working in me to make this a better world.

I’m not writing this for any accolades or atta boys or any kind of recognition at all. This is all GOD’s doing. He has blessed me with an inordinate amount of privilege and I’m just giving back what He has given me. I’m writing about this in the hopes that other people will take this pledge with me. One of my gifts is writing this blog. Maybe not a big deal but it’s what I do and I’m using it to try to do good.

What are your talents and gifts, and how will you use them this season? Will you sacrifice one holiday decoration or toy or box of junk food and use that money to give the gift of life? Will you say YES this season? If you want to take this pledge with me, please let me know so we can spread the work of the Holy Spirit and tell others how they can help. Tell me who you are giving to (not the amount) and how you have been blessing others. Tell me what kind of sacrifices you are making and how you are putting the spirit of Gracism in place in your world.

And just in case you might be hesitating because I’m talking about my faith—please don’t let that stop you. Saying YES to Gracism is an act of compassion, love, empathy, and concern for other human beings. You don’t have to be a Christian to do any of that. You just have to say YES and give a little of yourself to help someone else on our planet. Simple as that.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Unity and Diversity in the Body

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by  one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

 

Build a better world, one human being at a time.

Over the past several months I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about the refugee crisis in Syria. I did not realize how bad it was until very recently a statistic and call for help had me in tears. Twelve million people have been effected by the violence in Syria. TWELVE MILLION HUMAN BEINGS. This is the worst humanitarian crisis we’ve seen since World War II.

I sat through church today thinking about how to help. I can give money and will. The Masterpiece Fund is giving a substantial donation to World Vision, an organization that has so far helped two million refugees. They need our help. I know you may be thinking, “I give all the time to various charities.” Or, “I need the money for [fill in the blank].” As I sat in the hot tub at the gym after taking a nice Sunday swim I gave praise and thanks to God that my family and I are not frightened for our lives, aren’t walking a thousand miles to try to reach a country that will let us in, that we don’t live in shacks without clean water or food, and that we have amazingly blessed lives. I definitely don’t need so much of what I have and can spare some cash for human beings who have nothing and are fleeing for their lives.

Can you look around at all you have and give thanks? Can you look around at all you have and think about how you would survive without most of it? I think you could easily. I think the tiniest bit of sacrifice can make a huge difference in one person’s life.

Please pray for these people and do whatever you can to help. Here is a link to World Vision where you can donate and where they have information about the crisis that I will copy below.

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give

Fast Facts:

  • Nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes by the fighting; half are children.
  • At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • Increasing numbers of refugees are making dangerous attempts to reach Europe. About 51 percent of them are from Syria, the UN Refugee Agency says.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • Since the beginning of this crisis, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.
  • In response to the migration toward Europe, we are now also providing aid in Serbia.

– See more at: http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/syria-war-refugee-crisis#sthash.VfndRQhZ.dpuf.

Mathew 25: 35-36

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

YOU can make a difference in a human life. Nepal needs us.

I read a Facebook post today that made me overwhelmingly sad about the evil that pervades our world. In the midst of a devastating crisis in Nepal where thousands have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been injured and lost their homes, there are enemies of God and man taking advantage of victims and enslaving young women to work in the human sex trafficking industry.

How do we as individuals so far from the disaster combat these demons and help our sisters (and brothers) survive this tragedy? Well for starters, there are angels and saints at work who ARE helping these people—getting them medical aid, food, shelter, and protecting those who have been enslaved and abused. As I see it there are several ways we can help them.

  1. Donate money to a reputable charity. The Masterpiece Fund has just made a donation to Christian Aid. They assist mission workers who are onsite and helping right now in the dangerous trenches. As they explain it… their local Christian workers know how to get aid to people deprived of their homes and come alongside the shell-shocked survivors in their trauma. The ministries that Christian Aid assists can inexpensively purchase food, water and tents from local sources and effectively get the supplies to those in need, even carrying large bags of food on their backs up the steep mountainsides. Your tax-deducible gift today helps victims of these devastating earthquakes in Nepal. You can make a difference in their lives through material provisions, and – more important – the gospel.Donate today at christianaid.org/Nepal or to any organization you believe in.
  2. Spread the word about this atrocity and let your network know there IS something they can do today that will directly impact a human being in need. If your daughter, niece, granddaughter, sister, or friend was taken and beaten and raped on a daily basis, how much would you do to get her home and in the safety of loved ones? Another thing to consider, the culture there unfortunately puts blame on the girls and they are often disgraced and disowned by their own families.
  3. Pray. And pray some more. I have recently been reading a book called the Red Sea Rules and the author mentioned the power of earnest prayer and the power of group prayer. When two or more gather in His name and pray for His grace and mercy, miracles can happen. I ask you to pray with your families, small groups, on your own throughout the day, and with your congregations. In fact, I’m going to call on all of you readers to pray for the Nepalese victims.

I call on everyone—Christian or not—to pray to God every day for the next week (or more if you will) at 8 am and 8 pm. Let’s raise our prayers to heaven at the same time—whether you are still in bed just getting up, brushing your teeth, driving to work, watching TV, etc. You don’t have to be in a quiet place, just start asking God for help for our brothers and sisters.

I will be praying the following and ask all of you to put your heart into asking God to save the Nepalese people.

Lord Father, we love you and thank you for all the blessings you give to us on a daily basis. You truly provide for us and we are grateful for your mercy, grace, love, and support. We ask you to forgive us our sins against each other and you. Lord Father in your ultimate and merciful power, please lift up your children in Nepal who are suffering from the effects of the earthquakes. Place your protective arms around them and keep them safe from the slavers and traffickers. Allow the missionaries and rescue workers to reach them with provisions, love, and support. Give them the tools and the words to make a difference in the lives of the victims. Stop your enemies from taking girls and abusing the people there. Open the hearts of the families of the abused girls so they can come home to love and protection of their families. We ask for your full blessing on the victims and ask that you help us get the word out to others throughout the world who can add their support and prayers. Thank you Lord and may we be filled with your Holy Spirit each and every day.

If you have ideas on charities or prayers please submit your comments. Love and peace to you all.

Proverbs 14:31

“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Psalm 82:4 

‘Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

Your generosity is another person’s miracle.

I’ve been coming across many references of God’s and Jesus’ miracles recently. For example, I visited many sites of their miracles on my trip to Israel this summer, our current series at church is based on my pastor’s latest book, The Grave Robber, and my small group is discussing a bible study called Miracles: Signs of Gods Glory.

Today Pastor Mark was taking about the miracle of the fish and loaves. I love this miracle and it is an inspiration behind my family’s charity, The Masterpiece Fund. We believe that God will multiply the generosity of others so that we can bless more and more people who need support and comfort.

And while Pastor Mark preaches about how much more we will be blessed the more we give, he makes sure to note that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme and the blessings may not come back via financial returns. Blessings come in many forms—a sense of what is important in life, becoming content in what you have and not chasing after material things, the spiritual lifting of your heart knowing you’ve helped another person, and yes, sometimes God just plain provides what you need, just when you need it.

I have witnessed God’s blessings many times. There have been many stories from people I know who with an ounce of faith were rewarded many times over. Here are a few examples.

About 10 years ago, a friend of mine was suffering from cancer and was unable to work. Our friends created a fund to help his family pay some bills while he was getting treatment. One friend only had a few dollars left in her checking account, but felt overwhelmed by a sense from God that everything was going to work out. He had always provided for her and she just knew by faith that it would work out and it did. A week after she sent that check, her boss told her she was getting a mid-year promotion and a raise.

Another friend lost his job a few years ago. Even though he was out of work and cutting the budget pretty deep, he continued to tithe. He kept watching his spending and praying for a job, but he also had faith that somehow God would take care of him even though the savings was drying up. Just at the time when the checking account was about to empty out, he received a significant financial gain via an insurance policy that had been contested for two years. It came at the exact time when it was most needed.

About 2,000 years ago, a little boy who most likely was poor, offered up his lunch to Jesus. Jesus used that little boy’s generosity to multiply those fish and loaves to feed thousands of people. Multiply is the key word here. God can do more with our small offering than we can possibly imagine. Don’t discount Him—after all, with just a mustard seed of faith, He can move mountains for us.

We each have gifts we can offer. Sometimes it’s financial and other times it’s giving our time, support, love, a shoulder, a place in our homes, a phone call, a laugh, a prayer, help repairing a faucet, carrying a heavy load, healing a broken arm, and so much more. Anything you can do to give that will benefit someone—whether they are a rich neighbor or a poor orphan—your kindness is making our world a brighter and more blessed place to live in.

Go ahead and test God on this. Give with your heart for the purpose of glorifying God and helping others. Keep a gratitude list and pretty soon you’ll start seeing the blessings pouring in.

Be someone else’s miracle. Here are a few ways you can be part of the loaves and fishes miracle that continues today.

The Masterpiece Fund
This fund invests the generous donations of people like you and uses the interest gained plus the donations to give to Kingdom causes. In its first year, we have given to the International Justice Mission, The National Community Church’s Dream Center, and the New Life Bible Camp.

Redeeming Grounds
This organization partners with coffee growers in highly distressed areas such as Columbia and buys their coffee at above-market prices. These farmers are able to get out of growing coca (cocaine) leaves and help restore their communities and share the Gospel.

National Community Church Missions
There are a number of mission trips that are organized by members of National Community Church. These mission trips help people around the world. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in tears as I witnessed three beautiful girls standing up front next to one our campus members testifying to their faith. Our church member missionary makes frequent trips to Nigeria to help the people there who are being persecuted and in this case, kidnapped and harmed. A few months ago, terrorists captured 300 young girls and held them captive. The world was appalled. Three of those young women had great courage and jumped from moving vehicles, leading several other girls into some scary woods where they trekked for several days before finding safety. And now they are safe in Virginia with hope for a wonderful future because of missionaries willing to go into these violent regions.

Luke 6:37-38
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”