Loosen Your Grip

There are several things that I am passionate about in my life.  There are two organizations in particular that I have invested my time and energy in because I feel so strongly about their mission.  One is Operation Christmas Child.  The other is Compassion.  April 21st will be promoted as Compassion Sunday at our church.

Compassion is one of the highest rated charities around.  When you sponsor a child through Compassion not only does the child benefit through educational assistance, health and hygiene education, and supplemental nutritious food, but the relationship that is built through letters and correspondence is priceless for the child….and the sponsor.

For years, child sponsorship was something that I thought would be a good idea, but there was always something causing me to wait.  Thinking we needed to have a little more income or thinking that there were other things that demanded my money and resources first caused me to delay making that decision.  In February 2008 I was following the stories of a group of bloggers who were in Uganda for Compassion.  Their compelling stories caused me to start thinking seriously about sponsorship.  God said to me that it was time to stop thinking and start doing!

Mwajuma

Mwajuma

I’ve had such great joy watching Mwajuma grow from a little 9 year old into a beautiful 14 year old young lady.  Last year we added little Fai from Thailand to our sponsorship family. And just today, I was matched with Rosette from Uganda to serve as a corespondent sponsor.  Rosette is sponsored, but due to circumstances that I do not have the details for, she needed someone that would commit to write to her and encourage her on a regular basis.

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Fai

It is such an honor and privilege to invest my life into these 3 little girls from far places.  One of the things God has taught me through sponsorship is that when I loosen my grip on my money and resources my hands are open and in a far better position to receive the blessings that He so wants to give.  We don’t need as much as we think we do.  When we treat our stuff like we should, as all belonging to God, it’s far easier to give away.

If you would like to know more about sponsoring a child through Compassion feel free to pop on over to a special page that I’ve set up for Compassion Sunday 2013.  Or you can go directly to the Compassion website by clicking here.

Luke 12:48b “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”

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Wasteful

One of the topics that we dealt with during our recent study was all about waste and the environment. To be completely honest with you this topic wasn’t really a part of my life. I really didn’t think about the amount of trash we generated as a family. Several years ago we began taking part in our garbage company’s recycling program. We dutifully put out our recycle bin every Wednesday. We had a bin for papers that we took to the school’s recycling dumpster. So we were doing our part….right?

I grew up with the mindset that radical environmentalists were all left-wing liberal, tree-huggers with their priorities in the wrong place. I mean, don’t go around littering, but just don’t go off the deep end. The Bible is full of verses about God’s creation detailing its complexity along with the Lord’s commands to care for it. If we believe that the earth and everything in it is God’s creation then when did it become OK to abuse it?

This was the total amount of trash that went out in our garbage during the week I studied about waste.

This was the total amount of trash that went out in our garbage during the week I studied about waste.

The week that we studied and discussed these topics really made me think about how I had been neglecting God’s wonderful creation. I began to go beyond just tossing my trash in a recycle bin and think about how to reduce the amount of trash we were creating. One of our biggest transgressions was the amount of ziploc bags we would go through in a week. Between the two kids’ lunches I would use 6-7 bags each day. I bought a few inexpensive divided containers and began using them. I did away with the juice boxes and drink pouches and instead sent juice in reusable containers.

We’re continuing to make improvements on how we use our resources. Electricity and water are conserved. Thermostats are turned down. Maybe a compost bin will be in our future.

Again, as with so many other areas of change, it’s easy to think, “What difference will my small changes make?” Maybe a little; maybe not much. But that doesn’t alleviate me from the responsibility of doing my best to care for God’s earth. As I recently read, sometimes you need to do something just because it’s the right thing to do.

Give it to me straight

Give to the poor, help the needy, be generous….these are statements that we all know we should live by.  However, we can so easily get wrapped up in our own day to day lives.  Pay the bills, work down the “to do” list, keep up with our busy calendars….and before we know it days, weeks, or even years go by and we wonder if what we’re doing really matters.

I think our Christian lives can get that way too.  Go to church, read the Bible, say a prayer…check, check, check.  We drop into a routine and feel like we’re doing what we should be doing.

One of the passages that has been part of my recent bible study group’s reading is Isaiah 58:6-10

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. 7 What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. 8 Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. 9 Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, 10 If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

In the passages prior to these the Israelites were basically saying to God, “Look at our fasting!  Look at what we are doing!  Why don’t you answer us?”  God responds in a very straightforward manner; telling them exactly how they should be living.

It can become very easy to point to what we are so busy doing and say, “Look at this God! Look at what I’m doing for you”  After all, I give money to my church, I attend every week, I volunteer regularly with different ministries.  Isn’t that enough?  While these are all good things, if that’s all there is to our Christian walk then we’ve missed the boat.  God laid it out plainly in Isaiah.

These verses have really challenged me lately.  They are one of the driving forces behind why I choose to become more involved in Compassion.  I have seen what investing in the life of a child can yield.  The benefits for the sponsored children are great, and the benefits to the heart and soul of the sponsor are immeasurable.

Do I get it right every time?  No.  But my perspective is changing, my views are being challenged, and I (along with my friends) are growing!

Unexpected day of rest

Our Sabbath day was wonderful!  Beginning with our enjoyable Shabbat meal followed by joyful worship services that included 5 baptisms, and completed with a day with our church family and friends the day was everything it should have been.  So this morning I was ready to hit the ground running.  Monday is one of my days off from work, but I had a morning appointment and several tasks to attend to.

Enter a 7 year old with a fever.  When that happens whatever role I needed to play for the day…employee, volunteer, photographer…faded away and my role simply became “Mommy”.  Appointments were cancelled and tasks delayed.  My phone alarm still rang with the pauses for prayer that I am working on keeping for this week, but I prayed silent prayers while cuddling a sick child.

The day was quiet and slow, and at 1:00 PM you would have found both of us wrapped up in a home made quilt asleep in our recliner.  The little one because her body was fighting off illness and me because my body was rebelling against an hour lost to the time change.

Too many times we won’t slow down when we need to.  We push through sickness and fatigue to keep whittling down our “To Do” list.  Sometimes all that is needed is that extra unexpected day of rest.

Shabbat Shalom

Continuing with this week’s theme of stress and taking time to slow down and focus on communing with our Lord, I prepared a meal to celebrate Shabbat.  The Jewish Shabbat meal takes place on Friday evening with ritual, blessings, and family.  Our meal would be on Saturday evening as a way to welcome the Sabbath.  I took some elements of the traditional Shabbat and made them our own.  We invited some friends to join us.  Out came the best dishes, napkins, and tablecloth.

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I thought the table looked beautiful.  We began with the tzedakah which is a box (or in our case a small jar) passed around as each person places some coins in as a way to remember that we are to give generously to the poor and needy.  We collect change throughout the year to use for shipping costs for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  I lit the candles, and we remembered that we are to be lights in the dark world.  There was a blessing said over the drink (traditionally wine, but in our case grape juice) and bread (a traditional loaf of challah bread).  One element that I thought had a lot of meaning was a blessing said over each child.  We washed our hands in a basin and recited the Lord’s Prayer together.  We enjoyed our meal, not in a rush to get to the next thing but slowly taking time to talk about the day, our lives, the children we sponsor in far reaches of the world, and sharing fun memories.

It was such a wonderful way to welcome the Sabbath.  What better way to welcome a day of rest and worship than with friends and family.  We also had time for an after dinner craft.  The girls and I put together an Easter garden that I had seen on Pinterest.  Our crosses and empty tomb all came together, now we’ll see if we can get the grass seeds to sprout.

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And to you….peace on the sabbath.  Shabbat Shalom!

The Night Watch

Montana_10_bg_061905This week our group is trying to pause 7 times during the day for prayer.  I haven’t hit all seven yet, but I’m improving.  Last night I was up late, so I paused around midnight.  This is the Night Watch.  All the lights in the house were off.  The only light was coming from a single candle that I had lit.  I opened the curtain on the back patio door and could see the lights reflecting off the snow still on the ground.  This time of prayer became very powerful and meaningful.  People and circumstances began coming to my mind.  No one person or situation specifically, but those circumstances that I knew someone had to be facing in the darkness of the night.  Situations like:

  • The parent sitting up with a dying child
  • A father desperate because it’s so difficult to provide for his family
  • The person in such a dark pit of hopelessness they are considering taking their own life
  • The police officer who is in a dangerous situation
  • The mother rushing to the hospital because they’ve received the call no parent should ever get
  • The parent who doesn’t know where her child is
  • The child being abused
  • The widow facing the silence of a lonely home

Each time praying that the Lord would flood their life with His mercy and strength.  Knowing that those situations were playing out somewhere in the night while my children were safe, warm, and asleep down the hall made my prayer even more urgent.  And for just a brief time I kept watch.  Kept a silent vigil for all those hurting in the night.

Slow Down!

We’re entering the final week of our study of “The 7 Experiment”  This week is all about stress.  As I started this chapter when I read the original book I had a different idea of how this would play out.  I figured that Jen, the author, would go into a plan of attack on paring down our activities and reassessing what we actually spent our time running around and doing.  While I believe that we probably should all do that, the focus of this week was stopping to take time to spend with the Creator.  Pausing 7 times throughout the day to pray; each time with a different focus.  I’ll admit right after I post this I’m going to go set a few alarms on my phone, because I’m not remembering to do this very well.

The other focus of this week is the Sabbath.  I’ll be the first to admit that my Sundays sometimes do not feel very restful.  Between our four family members, we have a full morning of worship services followed by more than one practice of some sort.  Throw in ministry meetings, trainings, and visits and the result is our family all back under one roof around 7-7:30 in the evening piecing together some dinner and then getting ready to face another week.  I don’t have an easy solution for this dilemma.

shabbat_table

This week however we’re going to try something new….a shabbat meal.  Jewish families would welcome the Sabbath on Friday evening at sundown.  With a focus on giving thanks, slowing down to enjoy the family, and beginning the Sabbath with praise it has a great appeal.  Obviously I’m not Jewish, but I believe there’s still a lot to be gained from the practice.  Our meal will be Saturday evening as a way of moving into our Sabbath.  I’m still working out a few details, but I hope to share this meal with some friends.  Hopefully we’ll find the peace and focus that comes from slowing down, unplugging, and resting.