Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thank you, C.S. Lewis

It's good to be reminded of simple truths.  I would like to copy the whole chapter that I just read from Mere Christianity onto this blog but I won't.  It was about HOPE.  First of all, I was reminded that in order to help others in a meaningful way, I need to be focused on my future hope which is heaven.  I can't expect to aid in the social problems of our day if that is my sole purpose.  I will probably just end up discouraged and depressed.  It would be far better to enter that kind of work with an eternal perspective.  Like I said before, this is so simple that you many wondering why I'm even blogging about it!  But in my desire to find ways to help those who are oppressed, I sometimes focus only on the here and now. 

The second, and probably most meaningful insight I took away from this chapter could be a life-changer if I let it be.  You know that old feeling of discontentment that always seems to creep up.  It does for me anyway...  And lately I've struggled with it more than usual.  Well, if I could take that feeling and remind myself that it's because I AM NOT MADE FOR THIS WORLD!  Then I could get my HOPE set on the right thing.  I could get my priorities right.  Lewis put it this way, "Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage." 

If I could blend that with what Ann Voskamp keeps reminding me: to give thanks for every grace-gift from God, I would truly be a different person.  There were some people long ago who understood these truths.  They "were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth."  Hebrews 11:13

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Less than a Dollar a Day

That's how much money I spend to get my sweet tea fix at McDonalds, well, 7 cents more to be exact.  Hypothetically speaking, if I were to buy one every day, that would be about $33 dollars a month.  And then throw in a few coffees or $2 drinks at restaurants and it adds up quickly.  Would it be pushing it to say that if we all added up the $ we spent on frivolous drinks throughout the month it could possibly hit $38?  Maybe a little, but it goes to show that $38 a month may sound like a lot in the beginning but it's really not. 

But the power of $38 if used in the right place?  If you choose to sponsor a child you could provide much needed education for a child who might otherwise have to stay home and work.  In a country where many children die before age 5 because of preventable diseases caused by dirty water, you could save a child's life by providing clean water for them.  Sponsorship also provides medical check-ups, nutritious meals, health and hygiene training, and the message of love and hope through Jesus Christ. 

(I started this post a long time ago but never finished it.)  I think as this new season begins where we realize how much we have to be thankful for and how we like to shower those we love with gifts, it would be appropriate to think of ways we could spread our blessings to those in need.

Compassion is just one of many organizations that you could give to during this season and make a big impact in the life of a child or family living in poverty.  If sponsoring a child on a monthly basis is not for you, you could give a Christmas gift by going to Compassion's Gift Catalog.  Hope you will check them out! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

What in the World is God Doing?

I don't know where to even begin with this post but I do know that wherever I turn, whatever I read, whomever I talk to... I am reminded of God's heart for the poor and oppressed. 

Psalm 82:3~Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Psalm 146:7~He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.

Isaiah 1:17~ Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58:6~ 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?
Luke 4:18~ The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Proverbs 31:8-9~ Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

It's funny how sometimes the thing you've been praying about and trying to figure out for years has been right under your nose the whole time.  I was first acquainted with Compassion as a freshmen in college.  Compassion's president, Wes Stafford, spoke  to us about children in poverty and how something as simple as a monthly sponsorship could change a child's life forever.  We often just think of poverty as having little or no money but it's also and mindset and a lack of options.  And it can become a lifestyle passed down through generations unless the cycle is stopped.

Child sponsorship not only provides much needed education, healthful meals, clean water, etc., it also has the potential to build relationships between sponsors and children that can last forever.  Imagine the impact you can have as you not only provide material benefits for your child but also love, encouragement, and belief in their God-given potential. 

I have known about this organization for over 10 years now but God used a little book and an amazing, Grace-filled  Mom from Canada to inspire me to make my child a priority in my prayers and my letter writing and also to start speaking up for children in poverty.

Hopefully there will be more posts to come on this subject...  Micah 6:8~ And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Persecuted Christians

My husband has taught a few Sunday School classes at our church over the years.  When asked to teach again this spring quarter he had a hard time deciding on a topic.  Finally, a few weeks before he needed to make a final decision the topic seemed to be clear.  Global Issues- How Christians need to be informed about what is going on in the world and find ways to be involved.  He asked me if I would be interested in helping with it.  I'm not the public-speaking type, but I am interested in learning more about these issues and sharing that information with others.  Our first topic is Persecuted Christians so I thought I would write a brief overview. 

According to Open Doors, Christians are being persecuted for their faith in more than 60 countries as we speak.  It's just so hard to imagine as I sit in my quiet kitchen that men, women, even children are being beaten, kicked out of their homes, raped and tortured- all because they choose to believe in Jesus Christ.  The top five worst countries for a Christian to live right now are:
1~ North Korea
2~ Saudia Arabia
3~ Afghanistan
4~ Iraq
5~ Somalia
If you go to Open Doors you can find a world watch list with the 50 worst countries for persecution.  You can also find specific information about countries, prisoners, laws, etc.  Some other websites that are very informative on this topic are Voice of the Martyrs and International Christian Concern.

It seems to me that praying for the people who are suffering is the first and most important thing I can do.  Hebrews 13:3 states," Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."  There are many  more verses in Scripture that speak about suffering for Christ's sake and remembering those who are. 

I think ICC summed it up well when they said:
"All over the world, a war is being fought. It’s not a war that you will see on CNN, or on the cover of Time magazine.
It isn't even one you can see with your physical eyes. It is a spiritual war, where the gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading into and throughout all the nations while the world and unseen spiritual forces battle back to keep out the light. Who are on the frontlines of this war? Your brothers and sisters.
In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million. The persecuted church suffers in the forefront of this war in order that the church might be established where the gospel is either non-existent or oppressed by other religions.
From Indonesia, to India, to the Horn of Africa, believers are economically marginalized, denied education for their children, beaten, tortured, raped, imprisoned and sadly even murdered for their faith. The oppression is limitless, and usually unseen by the world. Visit our persecuted countries page to see where the majority of persecution takes place."

Oh let me not turn a blind eye to what is going on in the world!  It will be far to easy for me to forget about this in a few weeks and go back to my own problems.  I want to keep Matthew 25:41-46 in the forefront of my mind as I continue my journey through life. 

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’   “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

I didn't know until recently that there even was an International Women's Day.  Without getting into the history of it which you can read here, I do want to briefly state that I am totally in favor of bringing equality to women around the world but I also believe that there are God-given differences in men and women that are worth celebrating.

So, in honor of women around the world I would like to share a few facts that I am learning.  According to the International Rescue Committee:
"Violence against women is one of the most widespread of human rights abuses. One out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime. During times of war and conflict, sexual violence is used to terrorize and humiliate women and girls. Survivors often suffer further victimization by family and society. The International Rescue Committee works to break this cycle of violence by helping survivors to heal, delivering care to victims of sexual assault, and by bringing women together for mutual support. Through innovative skills programs, we help women gain economic independence. In all of our programs, the IRC is committed to the full empowerment and participation of women and girls."

Shared Hope International is a Christian organization that works to end sex trafficking.  They focus on educating activists to prevent trafficking in the first place, restoring women who have been victims of sex slavery, as well as working through public policy to end trafficking.  In 2012 this organization trained 1100 people to intervene on behalf of vulnerable children.  They posted 21 billboards to make people aware that this is happening.  They worked to give 171 women the job skills they need to live independently, and gave 147 women and children safe shelter.  (Information taken from here.)  And one more staggering fact from this website: "100,000 American children are exploited through the commercial sex industry each year. The average age a child is first exploited is 13 years old."

I could go on and on listing organizations that are working to help women.  Here are just a few more that would be worth your time to check out: A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission, and Opportunity International.   Facebook has also been a great way for me to follow some of these sites and keep up with what is going on.

I want to point out one more fact regarding women around the world.  After reading Half the Sky last year, I was blown away with the sheer amount of suffering women face simply because they do not have adequate health care.  You can visit Half the Sky and read for yourself more about what they are doing for the cause of women but I would highly recommend the book.  In fact, I think I'm going to read it again and maybe do another post on it.  I have never been able to forget the story of a woman who had terrible health consequences simply because she did not have the pre/post natal care that she needed.  Maternal care is such a great need in poverty stricken areas.  It's so sad that for many, what should be joyous time of bringing new life into the world often becomes a life threatening situation.

There are so many great organizations out there it is difficult for me to pick the one I want to be involved in.  I struggle with figuring out how to take what I read and put hands and feet on it.  I often feel sad and frustrated after reading about the plight of the suffering but I don't always know how to handle that burden.  Often I just push it away and try to forget the sadness by focusing more on my life.  I want to know what I am supposed to do as a result of what I learn.  Hopefully I will figure that out on this journey.  One thing I do know for sure is that God has a heart for the oppressed.  He talks over and over in the Old Testament about defending the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed.  "The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."  ~Psalm 103:6

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why this Blog~ Starting Again

6 “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?
7 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 them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 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,
10 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.
11 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.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
 Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. ~ Isaiah 58:6-12

I have been thinking about these words off and on since summer.  I know I'm not doing nearly my part when it comes to reaching out to the oppressed.  I have compiled a list of verses that remind me of what I should be doing and why.  But.... I still know there is more I can do.  It's so much easier to stick my head in the sand or stay busy with my own little life than to get dirty trying to help those who are less fortunate than me.  I've heard it said lately or maybe read it somewhere that guilt is not enough incentive or the right incentive to move me into action.  Rather I should act because of love.  God's perfect love moving through my imperfect self to reach out to others.   

So, as part of my goal of getting out of my comfort zone and figuring out how I can seek justice for the oppressed, I am going to try to start blogging again.  I started this blog in the first place with the idea of shedding light on injustices that I read about.  (It turned into a family blog for a while but that's o.k.)  Writing is more of a discipline for myself since I don't have many readers anyway:)  But it's one step in the right direction of educating myself and sharing what I find.  I hope to write about books I read, current events, ministries, and people that are out there making a difference.  Some of the causes I want to learn more about and find a way to get involved in include: orphans, human trafficking, sex slavery, abortion, persecuted Christians, and women around the world who are living under oppression.

Honestly, one of my biggest hurdles right now is that I can hardly step foot in my bathroom much less leave my house without a toddler hanging on my leg.  I would love to travel the world or volunteer at a shelter but that is just not going to happen right now.  I want to be a globally-minded mother but the truth is I spend most of my days changing diapers, quelling elementary arguments, trying to cook healthy meals and attempting to keep my house in a relative state of cleanliness.  I want to teach my kids to think about others and realize that they are blessed beyond measure but I seem to have trouble getting them to obey and be respectful to me!  I want to quit thinking so much about myself and start praying for those who are hurting and suffering. 

I will close this post with a quote from a Christianity Today article by Chuck Colson and Catherine Larson that I posted a long time ago, "...when we refuse to commit, we miss out on one of the great joys of life. When we obsess over ourselves, we lose the meaning of life, which is to know and serve God and love and serve our neighbors."