Saturday, January 26, 2013

What I Am Reading


I once heard a pastor say that anytime you read the Bible and you come across something Jesus said to do that you should make every effort to do it right away.  That way you do not get into the habit of just reading the Bible without actions.  Francis Chan compared it to asking his daughter to clean her room.  He said it wouldn't matter if she came back to him an hour later and said, “check this out dad, I totally learned what you asked me to do listen, “Please go clean your room’” but hadn't actually cleaned it.  He wouldn't be okay if she got a bunch of friends together to study about what it would look like for her to clean her room and he wouldn't care if she could say it in both the Hebrew and the Greek.  What he asked was for her to clean her room, so the only thing that would matter is that she did it.  That seems so silly but it also seems to perfectly fit the world we live in right now.  We have easy access to the Words of Jesus and we memorize them and we study them (both important to do) but if we do not actually do them then it is all meaningless.

Right now I am smack in the middle of reading 2 books that have me wrestling with these thoughts.  One is Multiply by David Platt and Francis Chan.  It is a great book because it gets to your heart and questions your motives on living as a Christian and reaching out to others.  It asks you questions and makes you think about the fact that Jesus very clearly said to “go make disciples” and yet so very few Christians do.  When you ask me, “what would it be like to stand before Jesus and tell Him that you didn't do something He very clearly commanded in Matthew 28?” it really makes me think!  I pray I don’t have to find out because I am making choices now to follow His Words with action and not just thought.

The other book I am beginning is Seven: an Experimental Mutiny against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  If you have read any of my blog posts about bypassing "Getmas" this yearbeing ringless, the yes club, AD living as an American or the best gift I can give, you know that God has been working on me to change the way I view the world and what I have, to stop living as an American Christian and start living as a follower of Christ.  In this book I will be paring down one aspect of my life, every month, for 7 months.  These are the categories: food, clothing, shopping, waste, possessions, media and stress.  Honestly, I am not sure which month I am more nervous about.  However, I think this will be powerful because my focus will be taken off of the everyday and put back on Christ!  I wasn't fully sure how to approach the book at first but the desire to actually live through and not just read it was cemented in me after I heard David Platt teach on Ezekiel 16:49.

Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”  Ezekiel 16:49

So pride, fullness of food, abundance of idleness (hello Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) and a lack of reaching out to those in need is part of the iniquity of Sodom?  I have to admit just reading that verse makes my stomach queasy.  Those are all things I struggle with on a daily basis.

I am looking forward to the struggles (no really, I am) and transformations that I will experience over the next several months both in learning about making disciples and in cutting away the excess in my life.  I am sure there will be plenty of posting about it too. 

So, what do you think of all of this?  Of following Jesus’ Words in action and of cutting away the surplus in our lives that weighs us down so much more than we know?   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Born for This

I have a quote that will not let me go. Ever since I read it 2-3 months ago it is on my mind. Constantly.

"Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't matter" -Francis Chan

I think that part of the reason this holds on to me so tightly is because, in general, I am a successful person. I don't mean that in a prideful way. I just mean that God has blessed me with talents and skills and when I use them, more often than not, the end result is more good than bad.  So that being said, most things that I work towards or try to do end up successful.  I think that is why this quote won't let me go.  The idea that I could work my whole life towards things that in the end are a giant, gaping failure is terrifying.   

I am thankful that this quote has taken root in my brain because it is helping me hone my desires and fears.  It has become a beneficial fear.  Much in the same way that fear of fire keeps me from sticking my hand in the fireplace.  The idea of fearing that my life's work will be worthless to God is helpful to me as I make decisions along the way.  I believe it is important to think about the day that I will stand before God and give an account of what I did with the life He gave me.  Maybe this is what is meant when the Bible says we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).  The idea of failing at life in Jesus' eyes definitely makes me tremble.

The hardest part I keep finding is translating that into my everyday.  Some days feel like I am getting it right but for the most part I feel like an impostor.   Do you know what I mean?  I have these desires but from the outside my life probably still looks the same.  I guess I have to get out of my mind that for me to follow Christ means I will be in a jungle in India (not that it couldn't mean that <-- see there I go again!!).  In all seriousness, I do believe that in this year Jesus will be more real to me than ever before and that my life will reflect Him in a way that it never has.  I pray that I can be used in a beneficial way to reach out and love those that need Him.  Meet physical and spiritual needs.  Bring others alongside to learn more about Christ and how to live for Him in their daily lives. I know I am still figuring out what that looks like on a daily basis while washing clothes, cooking dinner and playing chutes and ladders but maybe as I grow in all of this I can turn around and reach down to pull others up with me.  I am still praying about each step but I believe the answers will come because I know the One who has them and I have the Book He wrote to help me along the way.

In the end I have to push out the thoughts and frustrations that I have about life not looking drastically different because if you look close enough it has begun to change.  I am viewing people with a love that comes from Christ and not myself.  I am purposefully making small choices with my lifestyle that I pray will benefit those that do not know Him.  Slowly He is putting me in places to be used for His purposes.  Maybe not all at once and maybe not as quickly as I would like, but it is happening.

A few weekends ago I heard a song by Mandisa and, just like the Francis Chan quote, it has stuck with me. I believe it is my anthem for this year.  It is written about Esther and it is called Born for This.  


Feels like I've been holding my breath, trying to still my restless heart
Everything hangs on my next step, finding my nerve, playing my part
I found shelter underneath His crown, found favor inside His eyes
Rock this boat, and I just might drown, honesty seems to come with a price
There's a time to hold your tongue, time to keep your head down
There's a time but it's not now

Sometimes you gotta go, uninvited
Sometimes you gotta speak when you don't have the floor
Sometimes you gotta move, when everybody else says you should stay
No way, no, not today
You gotta ask, if you want an answer
Sometimes you gotta stand apart from the crowd
Long before your heart could run the risk
You were born for this
You were born for this

I'm leaning on the ones before me, my father's father's dreams
I'm standing on the top of their shoulders calling the One delivering me
There's a time to hold your tongue, time to keep your head down
There's a time but it's not now

Sometimes you gotta go, uninvited
Sometimes you gotta speak when you don't have the floor
Sometimes you gotta move, when everybody else says you should stay
No way, no, not today
You gotta ask, if you want an answer
Sometimes you gotta stand apart from the crowd
Long before your heart could run the risk
You were born for this
You were born for this

One step, one move.
Born to trust You.
Made to lay my
Life before You

Sometimes you gotta go, uninvited
Sometimes you gotta speak when you don't have the floor
Sometimes you gotta move, when everybody else says you should stay
No way, no, not today
You gotta ask, if you want an answer
Sometimes you gotta stand apart from the crowd
Long before your heart could run the risk
You were born for this
You were born for this
You were born for this
You were born for this
You were born for this





















































Sometimes I write posts like this and I wonder if they are more like therapy for me and less beneficial for you.  Maybe or maybe you are here because you can relate to something I am experiencing and feeling.  I am stopping right now to say a prayer for you.  If I can pray for you in a specific way just leave a comment and at the beginning write "private" and I will not post.   

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Highly Recommended, Must Read Book

I was listening to Francis Chan the other day while making copies for work.  I didn't have the video showing on my screen but was listening to his words and catching most of it as I was working.  As he was talking he said something like "when I read this book to prepare for today's teaching" and it caught my attention.  I immediately stopped what I was doing and clicked over to see what book he was talking about.

You may not know this about me but I LOVE to read.  It is my absolute favorite thing to do.  I love learning, studying and digging deep.  So, when I heard that Francis Chan had read a book I assumed it was one I definitely needed to read.  One of his books, Crazy Love, is my absolute favorite.  As I brought up the video I was thrilled that I could see what book he read, obviously recommended and that I could buy and read it too.  Do you know what book it was that he held up while talking?  

The Bible.

Of course it was.  Do you know for a second I was disappointed?  You see, I already read the Bible, I wanted ANOTHER book that I could read that would impact my relationship with God and help me grow.  Yep, somehow I thought that there just might be another book out there that would grow my relationship with God more than HIS WORD.

How foolish.

The whole experience gave me a chance to examine my heart and the way I see things, especially things like the Bible and its value in my life.  Maybe it's my familiarity with it that has made it seem less valuable?  There are definitely things I take for granted like my health, water, food and shelter because these are things that I have always had and never had to experience going with out.  Honestly, I don't believe I can recognize their true value until I am without them.  Could be the same with the Word of God?  I think about my brothers and sisters in China that would treasure a Bible of their own and the freedom to read it.

As embarrassing as this post is to write I am thankful to have had the experience and be able to share it.  I pray that God will continually give me a deep love for His Word so I can give it the respect, awe and adoration it deserves.

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Best Gift I Can Give...

**Updated Below 1/15/13**

Sometimes you have a dream of doing something special with someone. Sometimes you think about that day and what it would look like. Sometimes your heart becomes overjoyed at the thought of sharing something of value with your daughter, or a precious child. Sometimes your view on all of the above can change quickly and drastically for the better. I am not talking about a hypothetical situation, I am talking about a very specific moment I was excited to experience in the future.

When I was a teenager my parents gave me a beautiful aquamarine ring for my birthday. I loved it. I felt like the most important girl in the world when I would wear it. It was gold with tiny diamonds on either side of a beautifully cut stone. I thought it was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. It has been a long time since I have worn the ring. It has been safely tucked away in my jewelry box. Waiting. Waiting for my Bug. Her birthday is also a blue stone month birthday. I have been thinking about the special day when I could give her this ring, talk to her about its significance and have it represent a covenant between us. I've pictured her face when I pull out this ring that has been so special to me and I give it to her to wear and keep as her very own. What a special bonding moment for mother and daughter, the start of a new family tradition.

But now that isn't going to happen, at least not in the way I had originally thought.  

Together (with the Bug) I have chosen a different moment to cherish. The moment we gave our ring to help give another little girl fresh water. I sat the Bug down and showed her the ring.  I put it in her hand.  She put it on her thumb and then ring finger.  She oohed and ahhed over it. We talked about how pretty it was and she said she liked it very much. Then I told her there was a person that could use this ring to help others.  They could sell it and give clean water to someone that didn't have anything safe to drink. She looked at me and then, with maturity far beyond her years, said "we should give it to them". I held out my hand and she placed the ring in it. I am thankful the picture turned out because my vision was pretty blurry.  Later that day we went to the post office and put it in the mail.



 The decision wasn't made quickly.  I prayed and asked God what I had that I could give so that others wouldn't have to suffer.  This ring kept coming to mind and after thinking and praying I decided there was a more important gift I could give my daughter than a beautiful ring to wear. Instead, I could give her the gift of modeling and teaching her what it means to truly love someone. What it means to love Jesus and what it means to love our neighbor.  I know she is only 3 and doesn't fully understand what we did but I have to believe that a seed was planted deep inside that will bloom in His time.

I want my Bug to know that Jesus is a treasure so great that He is worth giving everything we have.  I didn't want this beautiful ring to sit in a jewelry box for another 10 years when children just like mine are dying from a lack of clean water.  The day will come when she is older and together we will go choose a ring for her to wear as a physical reminder that she is called to live a life that glorifies God with her heart, her soul, her mind and her body. Now, I am also excited that in those special moments I can also show her pictures of her perfect little hands holding this ring and tell her the story of giving it to Jesus together.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.   Matthew 13:44

I love you Bug, Mommy



If you want to know more about radical giving go to www.withthisring.org, you won't be sorry!


Update 1/15/13: I heard back from With This Ring.  They said that the jeweler appraised the ring and that it appraised for enough to provide water for 7 children!!  You may not think that is very much, when truly there are so many little ones that need water, but for those 7 it is the difference between life and death.  Will you join me?  Imagine what we could do if we all gave?!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

27 Million


There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't look at the dirty/ugly/hard things of this world.  I would feel guilty as I would listen to my friends Kathleen and Gideon talk about the genocide in other countries.  I just couldn't bring myself to even think about it.  It was as if, as long as I ignored it and kept it at arm’s length, it didn't really exist.  I honestly think that I didn't believe that my heart or my faith could handle it.  I have come to learn that my faith can and is the only way to handle it, and my heart definitely cannot and that is okay because no matter how much it hurts, I cannot ignore it any longer.  I am still figuring out what I, little-stay-at-home-mommy-me, can do.  But I DO know this.  I can no longer live like it doesn't exist.  I have to do something. 

I heard a story told about a church in Germany during the time of the Nazis.  They said they could hear the trains go by carrying the Jewish people to the concentration camps.  They could hear them crying and screaming as they went by so they would always arrange their services so they would be singing hymns when the trains came by.  They would sing at the top of their lungs to drown out the voices of those being taken to slaughter.  Repulsive.  The whole story makes me sick.  I think, how could someone do that?  How could they turn a blind eye and deaf ear?  How could they do that in a church?  

And then I look in the mirror.  

I run to the store and plan birthday parties and go out for pizza like this isn't happening.  I gather in a church and sing songs to my Savior while someone is being sold for sex in that very moment.  I have to ask myself, how is what I am doing any different? 

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”  -William Wilberforce

There are 27 Million Slaves right now, more than ever before in history.  Young girls, as young as 4 years old, and on average in the early teens are sold in sexual slavery.  Kept in cages and forced to perform sexual acts with anywhere from 15-30 men a day.  There are children trapped in sweat shops, brick yards and rock quarries.  This is happening all over the world and in our own back yard girls and boys are having their lives stolen from them. 

There are places all over the globe where parents have to choose which children to feed and which children to let die of starvation because if they try to spread the food out to all of their children they will all starve to death.  There are places where new born babies, with the umbilical cord still attached, are left in the dump because the mother thinks it is easier to part with them at that point than to watch them suffer and die.  There are thousands upon thousands of children going to sleep tonight hungry or in torment from drinking dirty water that is filled with parasites.  This is real.  This is happening now.  This is not okay.

I have a 3 year old little girl.  She is a joy and a blessing at every turn.  She is smart and funny and full of life.  I want only the best for her.  I want her to grow up safe and happy.  I couldn't imagine having to watch her suffer or die but, for a fact, this is a mother’s reality right now as I type this.  Oh God.  Oh God.      
    
How can I live like this isn't happening?  What can I do?  There’s a lot of things but here are 2 to start with. 

1)   P R A Y – pray like my life depends on it, because someone else’s does.  Here is an amazing resource that is available for free until Jan 6th.  It is a prayer guide for praying for survivors of sex trafficking.  https://wellspringliving.org/events/40-days-prayer-guide

2) Become informed.  There are so so so many ways to do this.  Here are just a few depending on what information you desire:

a.      www.slaveryfootprint.org This is something I did a few months ago and it was an eye opener for sure.  You answer some basic questions and it tells you how many slaves are working for you.  I think you will be surprised the answer.  I know I was and it is making me think about the products I buy on a regular basis.  It also gives you the ability to contact companies about their ties to slavery. 

b.      888-3737-888 – know this number, program it into your phone.  It is a human trafficking hotline.  Check out http://www.polarisproject.org/ for more information and specifically spend time looking at “Recognizing the Signs” so you can be prepared to help someone just by calling this number and reporting what you see. 
c.       www.withthisring.org This is probably the 3rd time I have posted this website.  It connects you to others that have decided to make the choice to live and give radically, the way that Jesus’ calls us to.  It is, in a way, a support group for those that want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as we walk away from the American Christian lifestyle.  It isn't just about engagement rings, it is about being radical and providing physical water and spiritual water to those who desperately need both.    

This is just scratching the surface.  As I come across other amazing information opportunities I will post them for you.  I know that this post/blog can be depressing and has become quite repetitive.  Part of me wants to apologize for that but I am not going to.  I know it is not human nature to seek out repetitive, sad things to read but until these topics become well known and the followers of Jesus stand up and join God in this battle (for it is truly His battle) I will keep sharing what is on my heart and I hope you will share it as well and keep coming back and we will keep growing together.  We can make a difference today.  Will you commit, right now, to begin praying for those that are kept in bondage?  If you will, please leave a comment that says “I’m in” (or something like that).

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

By His strength we can rejoice that we are given this day and the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless.