Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 31

I am SO excited to share with you what God has done!!  I told you about going through my jewelry and putting three auctions on eBay to raise money to send to World Vision for my sponsored child's birthday.  After reading the initial information from World Vision about the birthday parties they give each year in the communities where they have sponsorships, my goal for the auctions was to get $130.  Honestly, I thought that seemed to be quite an aggressive goal, but I was willing to go out on a limb and trust God to do His thing!

Oh, ye of little faith!!!  When my three auctions closed yesterday, the sales totaled just over $215!!!  Can I even tell you how excited I was??  Is that God doing "exceedingly abundant" works or WHAT??!!  I received payments today and plan to send it on to World Vision tomorrow.  Praise God!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 26

I have to admit from the start of this post that I am getting a little weary.  We are in Day 26 of this quest through "The Hole in Our Gospel," and I am in week 9 of Beth Moore's "Believing God" Bible study that I am leading on Sunday afternoons.  These could either one be time consuming on their own, so when you add them together...whew!  I've really had to stay on my toes to keep up with them both, but oh, how it has been worth it!!  God has wowed me throughout them both, often intertwining scriptures used and lessons taught so that I get it from both directions!  Only God could take two studies that are so different from each other and orchestrate them to be in my hands at the same time, teaching me similar lessons from two very different angles.  I love it when He does that!  It really makes me perk up my listening ears, too, to get the same message from so many different places!  Yes, God, I AM listening!!

So...I press on, believing that God, in His all-knowing ways, has a plan.  And I don't want to miss it!!

I have to update you on my eBay auctions that are raising money for me to send to Honduras for a birthday party for my World Vision little girl.  The auctions are exactly at the halfway point.  There are three and a half days left in the three auctions, and the bids are currently at exactly half of what my goal is to raise!!  I've done some little happy dances these past few days as I've watched the bids go higher and higher!  I can't wait to see the final bids Monday afternoon!!

Today's focus in our six-week quest is on light--being light in a dark world.  We were challenged to come up with an acronym for LIGHT that describes how God wants us to use our hands, feet, heart and head on behalf of the poor.  Here is what I came up with:
L:  Love them by faith--"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."  Galatians 5.6 (want to know why that verse was on my mind?  Because it was the key verse for today's lesson in my Beth Moore study!  :o)
I:  Include them in my life.
G:  Give sacrificially to their needs.
H:  Help them with my actions, not just with my money.
T:  Teach them about the love of God.
I have never gone on any kind of mission trip, but that is what was on my mind as I was thinking about this acronym.  I have been thinking and praying about the right opportunity that God might have in store for me.  You can be sure I'll share all about it when that time comes around!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 24

The quest continues!  The challenge for yesterday was to select one or more items you can easily live without and sell it (or them) on eBay.  Then the money you earn can be sent to a favorite charity.  After a little thought, I ended up at my jewelry box.  If you know me, I have lots of jewelry and LOVE it all!  But after a little pondering, I realized there were many pieces that I have not worn in a really long time--years for some of it.  I went through everything and found about 20 pieces of jewelry that I could stand to part with.  I posted it on eBay, and we'll see what happens from here!

Not coincidentally, in yesterday's mail, I got an envelope from World Vision.  Inside of it was a birthday card for me to sign and return to them so that they could send it to the little girl I sponsor in Honduras (who happens to share my birthday!  :o)  Also included with the card was a note explaining that I could send a designated amount of money along with the card, and they would use that money, combined with contributions from other sponsors, to throw a birthday party for my little girl and the children in her community.  Many children in poverty have never celebrated their birthday.  Can you imagine if you were never able to celebrate the birthday of one of your children??  I can't.  But I can try to imagine how much joy it would bring for my little girl and those in her community to get to experience a real birthday party, complete with goodies and gifts.

So guess where my eBay money is going to go??  I'm praying for big sales!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 21

I am playing "catch up" now after being out of town for several days, and I've been reflecting some on what all we've covered and experienced thus far in the first 21 days of our study on "The Hole in Our Gospel."  (I can't believe we are half way through our 42-day study!)  One of the quotes that arrested me--for lack of a better term--from the very beginning of the book is "Are you willing to be open to God's will for your life?"  I immediately wrote that on a notecard and posted it on my bathroom mirror where I see it multiple times each day.  (Some day I'll have to take a picture of my bathroom mirror for you--it's where all the important prayer requests, Bible verses, quotes, etc get posted so that I will see them each day, and it's become quite full!)

"Are you willing to be open to God's will for your life?"  That's a scary question.  At times, it's a no-brainer to me.  Of course I am open to God's will for my life.  I want what He wants for my life.  Why would I want anything else?  At other times, however, that's a question I tend to want to run away from.  But what if His will for me takes me away from the places that I am used to?  What if His will for me is uncomfortable? (chances are, it will be)  What if His will for me is not what I want?  What happens then?

As a preacher's wife, this question brings even more questions to my mind.  When is He going to call us to move on to a new church?  What if it's sooner than what we want?  What if it's not as soon as we want?  What if I'm not ready to start packing boxes again or preparing my kids for that transition?  What if I was ready two years ago to move on?

But at the end of the day, my answer is absolutely, unequivocally Yes, I am open to God's will for my life. Here's what Renee Stearns had to say about this when her husband, who authored "The Hole in Our Gospel", was being called to be the President of World Vision:
"If we turn our backs on God's will for our lives, what makes us think we'll be better off?  Maybe God is saving us from something we can't know--one of our kids getting into trouble, losing your job, a terrible accident, or worse."  --"The Hole in Our Gospel," pg. 89
So maybe we feel like God's will might take us somewhere uncomfortable, even unsafe...what makes us think we will be more comfortable or more safe turning our backs on God's will??

While he was in the belly of the whale, Jonah said in Jonah 2.8:  "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."  I don't know about you, but comfortable or not, I certainly don't want to miss out on one ounce of grace that God wants to bestow upon my life.

So, YES, God, I am willing to be open to your will for my life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 17

I am out of town for a few days, but I wanted to share a quote from today's reading in "The Hole in Our Gospel."  In my mind, it's food for thought and should make us all think about what we should be doing.
The Bible is clear from the Old Testament through the New that God's people always had a responsibility to see that everyone in their society was cared for at a basic-needs level...It is not our fault that people are poor, but it IS our responsibility to do something about it.  God says that we are guilty if we allow people to remain deprived when we have the means to help them.  --Richard Stearns, pg. 123

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 14

When we started this six-week quest, I wanted to include my children in it as much as possible.  So we talk with them about the topic that is being addressed for a particular day, and when videos are provided for a certain day and are appropriate, we show them those as well.  There are times that we never know whether a lesson we have attempted to teach them has actually stuck or not.  But some of what we are talking about in regards to this six-week quest is, in fact, sticking.

Many, many times since we began talking with Benjamin and Hannah about the fact that many people in the world do not have access to fresh water, they include in their prayers, "Please, God, help those in Africa who don't have clean water."  (Don't you just know God must smile to hear words like that come out of the mouths of His babes??) 

Just last Sunday, as we were getting ready for church, Benjamin came into the bathroom where I was putting on my makeup and asked me why he couldn't take two dollars to church for the offering instead of just one.  If you know me very well at all, you know I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan.  We do his "Financial Peace, Jr." system with the kids, which is basically just a way of teaching them the life lessons of working to earn your money and then taking care of your money wisely.  The way we have our kids set up right now is if they do their designated chores each week (there are five of them that they can earn money for), then they earn five dollars for the week.  Of that five dollars, one dollar must go to their "giving" envelope, and then they typically choose to put one dollar in their "spend" envelope (for gum, piece of candy, etc.) and the other three in their "save" envelope for whatever they are saving up to buy.  So I explained to Benjamin that if he wanted to give two dollars to the church each week, then he would need to choose how to divide up the rest of his money, and that two dollars going to the church would mean one less dollar for him to either spend that week or save.  He barely even missed a beat and said, "Well, Mom, it's more important for me to give to the church than it is to spend money on myself.  So I want two dollars each week to go to the church, and the other three can go into my "save" envelope.  The church needs my money more than I do."  I just melted into a puddle right there.  I'm so grateful that my kids are "getting" it.  God is good.

Shifting gears a bit, I wanted to share this quote with you that I came across this morning as I was preparing my lesson for Sunday School tomorrow:
"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."  --Flannery O'Connor

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 13

After being challenged to read the first two chapters of "Same Kind of Different as Me" yesterday, I finally put the book down a little after midnight.  I was about half finished at the time.  I picked it back up today, along with a box of Kleenex, and finished it just over 24 hours after I began.  Once again, God has removed a blind spot in my life and showed me yet another way He expects me to love on His people.

If you have not read this book, it's another one I would highly encourage you to read.  I don't want to say too much about the book because I would hate to spoil any of it for you.  Just know that you will turn the last page with a different mindset than you had when you opened the first page. 

I had someone say to me that she expects a movie to be made out of this book--I think I agree.  I would be the first in line to see it. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 12

Our challenge today was to read the first two chapters of the book entitled "Same Kind of Different as Me."  This is a book that someone gave to Mark a few years ago, and I tried to read it then--and didn't get very far.  Honestly, I have no idea how hard I tried to get interested in it.  I just remember picking it up off Mark's desk, skimming a few pages, and then putting it down.  Since I am trying to immerse myself in this study in order to learn as much as possible, I was determined to give it another try today.

Mark brought the book home from his office at lunch, so as soon as the lunch dishes were taken care of, I promptly sat down with a cup of hot tea to try again to get interested in this book.  The first thing I learned right off the bat was that this is a true story--I had no idea of that before today.  I began reading, and before I even realized it, I was on Chapter 4--and our challenge was to read chapters one and two!  I guess you can say I'm hooked.

I'm glad to have been encouraged to read this book because it opens up another area of discussion that we don't always like to consider as being "discussion-worthy"--the homeless.  I don't yet know enough about the book to tell you that I've learned much, but I do know that God loves homeless people just as much as He loves me.  I also know He expects me to reach out to them when He prompts me to do so.

I looked at the website for "Same Kind of Different as Me" and came across a FAQ section.  One of the questions and its answer really stood out to me and answers a question that many of us struggle with.  This is what it said:
Question:  "What do I do when a homeless person asks me for money?"
Answer:  "If God puts it on your heart to respond, then give them money, and don't judge them for what they do with it...that's God's job and you will receive the blessing."  (from www.samekindofdifferentasme.com)
Just as with everything we encounter, I believe our job is to be obedient to God's calling on our life.  The results and whatever follows is God's business, not ours.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 10

A few quotes from today's reading that might give you some food for thought, as they did me:
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."  --C.S. Lewis
"Christ is an all-or-nothing proposition, and one way or another, every one of us has already made a choice about Him.  We have either committed our lives to Him whole-heartedly, or we have not...If Christ is Lord, then nothing He asked us to do is optional.  His teachings become the operating system of our lives.  So central was this truth that every action, every decision, every aspect of my life would now have to be defined by Him."  --Richard Stearns, "The Hole in Our Gospel" pg. 83

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 9

I don't know about you, but I have lived my comfortable life as a middle-class American with many blind spots, especially in regard to my faith and what God expects of me outside of my comfortable little life.  Over the past several months, however, God has been removing these blind spots and showing me both the needs that exist in this world and the responsibility I have in doing something if I want to truly be a follower of Christ.  Many of these blind spots have been removed as a result of reading "The Hole in Our Gospel."

Here are some statistics that we were made aware of today, compliments of World Vision.  Do they bring you to tears like they do me?
  • Out of 1,000 babies born in the United States, 6 will die before their fifth birthday.
  • In Haiti, 80 will die before their fifth birthday.
  • In Myanmar, 104 will die before their fifth birthday.
  • In Afghanistan, 257 will die before their fifth birthday.
  • In Sierra Leone, 270 children will die before their fifth birthday.
If I had been born in Sierra Leone instead of the United States, the chances of me having buried both of my children by now would be pretty substantial.  Benjamin is seven.  Hannah is almost six.  The thought of not having them both with me right now is more than I can stand.

So what does God expect of us?  Something.  Not nothing.  It will look different for all of us, but He expects us to do SOMETHING.

For this precious friend, her family's "something" is adoption.  They are waiting for an orphan from Ethiopia to join their family.

For these sweet friends, their "something" is moving to the mission field in the Philippines so she can be trained in midwifery.

For some, it may be sponsoring a child through an organization like World Vision.  For someone else, it will be another avenue of being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world.  Your "something" will look different from my "something."  But we all must figure it out.  The sooner the better.

"This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."   --1 John 2.5-6
**For more statistics like the ones above, go to www.holeinourgospel.com.  Click on "Poverty Statistics" under the "Resources" tab.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 7

As I have been preparing the lesson for Sunday School tomorrow (also over "The Hole in Our Gospel"), I have also reflected on this first week of our six week quest.  There is a passage of scripture that God has managed to put before my face several times over the past few weeks (always a sure sign that I better sit up and pay close attention!), and it is from Isaiah 58.  The people in this passage had been trying to do what they thought they were supposed to do in order to get right with God.  God, however (as He always does), saw through these people's actions and into their hearts and knew their motives were shallow and insincere.  After telling God all they had been doing for Him, including fasting, here is God's response:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  (vv. 6-7)
Pretty straightforward stuff.  Now hear God's promises that follow that directive:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  (vv 8-11)
As Richard Stearns says, "This is a vision of God's people transforming God's world in God's way."

Whose way have I been following:  mine or God's?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 6

Our challenge for today was to skip eating out this week and buy one or more chickens for families in need.  One chicken can provide a family with fresh, nutritious eggs every day, plus extra eggs to sell to others.

We did an altered version of this challenge.  We were going to be spending today two hours away attending a funeral, making a hospital visit, going to a doctor's appointment, and running a few errands.  By the time we did all of this, we ate both lunch and dinner, as well as a snack, away from home.  So Mark suggested that we take the amount that we spent today on food and spend that much on this challenge. 

We are not extravagant in our eating out, but we still spent more in one day than many families in this world spend on food in one month.  So after perusing the World Vision gift catalog, we chose to purchase a goat for a family in need.  According to World Vision, "Goats nourish hungry children and families with healthy milk, cheese, and yogurt. Goats also give a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market.  A healthy dairy goat can give up to 16 cups of milk a day. Goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk and is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients that growing children need. Goats are practical animals — flourishing in harsh climates while producing valuable manure to fertilize crops and vegetable gardens."

From World Vision website
Isn't this boy precious??
"If you can't feed 100 people, then just feed one." --Mother Teresa

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 5

Focus of the day:  hunger

Personal action suggestion:  Think about a day in your life when you were really, really hungry.

I've thought about this for a few days now (I am so excited about this study that I cannot help but look ahead, so I always know what's coming and have been thinking about it before it gets here!).  I honestly cannot think of many instances where I was really, really hungry.  I remember feeling absolutely famished after delivering both of the kids, but I had probably been without food for, at most, 12 or so hours.  I had a similar feeling after my surgery a few months ago, but again, I had only been without food for 18 hours or so.  I did a three-day fast once, but still drank liquids, so even that does not qualify as extreme hunger.  For whatever reason, I am blessed to have never been in a position that I was truly starving.

According to World Vision, "Every three seconds a child dies because he or she was hungry."

That is almost more than this mommy's heart can take.

We, as wealthy Christians in America, can no longer ignore issues such as these.

"If you can't feed 100 people, then just feed one."  --Mother Teresa

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1.27

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 4

From the Hole in Our Gospel "Personal Action Journal":
Is there enough money--among the richest people in the world--to eliminate poverty?  Are you rich?  Could you help?
There are websites you can go to that let you enter your annual income and will then tell you where you stand among the world's richest people.

Eye opening.

Our family is a one-income family.  That one income comes from a United Methodist pastor.  We live in a small town in the Panhandle of Texas.

We are among the top 1% of the world's richest people. 

The top 1%.

There is such a disparity between the rich of this world and the poor of this world that it is almost unimaginable.  And we are far from rich.  We are extremely blessed and very well provided for, but we are not rich.

Unless you talk to the family in India that sleeps seven family members in their one-room mud shack that is smaller than my bathroom and attempts to live on less than $2 a day. 

Then yes, we are rich.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel: Day 3

Today our focus is on our possessions and that much of the world's poor can fit all of their belongings into a small suitcase.  Our challenge is to select just FIVE of our possessions and pack them into a small suitcase.

This has taken a lot of thought for me to decide on five items.  I've thought a lot about how many of our possessions are wants, not needs.  There are many, many things in our home that I could certainly live without.  I've thought of the boxes that are stored in the garage, full of things I think I need or might need someday.  There are many, many things I could stand to get rid of.  Simplification is something I've thought about a lot the past several months.  Today's challenge has made me consider it to an even greater degree.  Much of the time, our excess stuff simply weighs us down and actually causes us stress.

After pondering my five items throughout the day, here is what I came up with:

The Bible and the toothbrush were easy and are pretty self-explanatory.  They were followed pretty quickly by the blanket.  Curling up with a blanket is a very comforting thing to me.  It would serve as warmth when necessary and could also serve several other purposes if need be.  It could be a curtain, clothing wrap if need be, or tablecloth. 

The final two items took a lot more thought.  I finally decided on the laptop after Mark suggested it.  With the beauty of today's technology, I could keep in touch with family and friends and do so many other things by having a laptop.  I thought all day and couldn't zero in on the fifth item, so I finally decided I would choose a change of shirt.  (I could have overanalyzed this whole exercise, which would never have resulted in any decisions, but I just had to take it at face value and decide.)

Can you imagine living life with only those five items?  Life would certainly be simpler.  Not easy, but simpler.

What would you pack?

**Nearly 3 billion people (half of the world's population) live on less than $2 a day. (World Book, 2004)