Archive for February, 2011

February 25, 2011

We need to hear the gospel, too.

I read this blog this morning and couldn’t not share.  It’s a beautiful reminder and encouragement.  Here’s a snippet:

It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. A taste of this wild grace is the best catalyst for real change in our lives, not another list of rules. When we desire to grow, to BE better in some way, we take these steps and we throw ourselves into them and we may be better for a short time, but after a while we just fizzle out and find ourselves either back to where we started or maybe even worse than before.

Head on over to Little Pieces of Ordinary to read the rest.  You’ll be glad you did.

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February 23, 2011

The Cause: Meet Howie.

I want you to meet my friend Howie.

This beautiful little girl is 9 years old and lives in the village of Ambo in Ethiopia.  I don’t know much about Howie’s life, to be honest.  I know that she has a father and a little sister, Gifti, who is 7.  I don’t know what happened to Howie’s mother.  I know that Howie is quiet, somewhat shy, loyal and loving.  I know that she held my hand wherever we went and I could always count on her being by my side in Ambo.  I know that Howie is enrolled in Compassion sponsorship and that, through it, she is enrolled in school, is involved with the local church, is fed and clothed, and has hope for a future.

I know that there are children like Howie across the globe whose lives are full of difficulties and who need to know that there is hope for them, there is a future for them, that they are capable of more than their circumstances might allow.  Circumstances (in this case, poverty) should not prevent these children from having goals and dreams for their future.  Poverty lies to them and tells them that they do not matter, that they are not capable, and that their life is worthless.  Did you hear me?  That’s a lie.  The worst kind of lie.  It destroys the spirit of a small child who ought to believe that nothing is impossible.  Who ought to know the love of a great God who created them in His image.  Who ought to know of a Savior who fought for them, died for them, and now lives for them.

Our words have power.  The book of Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).  We have the ability to speak life or death into the lives of others.  And whose hearts, minds and spirit are more sensitive and malleable than a child’s?  Child sponsorship gives us a chance to speak life into children who are surrounded by death, both literally and figuratively.  We can use powerful words to build them up, to encourage them, to dispell the lies of poverty and the lies of the enemy.  We can replace those lies with our words about a loving God, a gracious Father, an all-sufficient Savior.

Someone out there in the world sponsors Howie, the sweet girl who became my friend and later called me mother Someone else out there believes in Howie like I believe in Howie.  I believe God has plans and purposes for her life, and He is using the work of Compassion International to bring those things to fruition.  I look at Howie and I see one of the “little ones” Jesus spoke of.  I see a spirit that ought to be encouraged and talents that should be nurtured and cultivated.  I see a little girl who God can use for His glory.  And I see those possibilities become realities through the faithfulness of a sponsor.

What can YOU do?

The world is full of boys and girls just like Howie.  It’s overwhelming to consider how great the needs are in this world, but you can start with a single child.  A child looking not for handouts, but for opportunities and hope for their future.  You can pour into that child and build a relationship that will last a lifetime.  And remember: your words and your love will carry much more weight and meaning in the heart of a child than any amount of money you could give.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion
Sponsor a Child

If you’d like to know more about Compassion International, visit their website.  I also highly recommend reading the book, “Too Small To Ignore” by Wess Stafford (President & CEO of Compassion International).

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Mark 10:14

“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Matthew 10:42

What about you?  Do you sponsor a child?  If so, tell me about him or her!
Where did you first learn about child sponsorship and how did you decide to commit to sponsoring?

February 19, 2011

Much is required.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48

I look around me in Ethiopia and I see intense poverty and lack of what we would consider basic necessities.  I am reminded of the opportunities I have been afforded simply because I was born in America.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I spend time with sweet children, children without a home.  I pray that God will raise up mothers and fathers for those children.  I am reminded of the blessing of the family I was adopted into.  Even more so when I hear of the millions of orphans in this world.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I hear stories of women whose circumstances have brought them to the streets of Ethiopia.  Women whose bodies and very dignity are sold for a price to men who take and take from them, abuse them, and throw them aside.  I hear horror stories.  I am reminded that I am blessed not to know that kind of pain, that God has kept me safe for 25 years.

To whom much is given, much is required.

I see a world that is lost and dying.  I see people trapped in bad relationships, in their own thoughts, in sin.  I am even more aware of the freedom I have in Christ.  I realize what a miracle it is that He saved my life from a path of emptiness, selfishness and ultimately destruction.

To whom much is given, much is required.

It’s hard to see so much pain, so much suffering, and know that you can hardly identify with it.  It’s hard not to ask, “Why?”  I so easily could have been born into poverty.  So easily could have been an orphan.  So easily could have been abused.  So easily could have continued in my sin.  But I wasn’t, I’m not, and I didn’t.  By the grace of God.  As I bring those difficulties and, honestly, frustrations, before God, He reminds me:

To whom much is given, much is required.

The challenge lies in not settling in to a comfortable, me-centered life.  The challenge lies in resisting the cultural tides and be willing to give and serve in a way that requires sacrifice.  The challenge lies in being bold and not shrinking back when an opportunity arises to speak into the lives of others the things that truly matter.  The challenge lies in knowing that all that I have is a gift from God and truly loving Him enough to use those gifts to bring Him glory.

I have been given a voice, so I will speak.
I have been given finances, so I will give.
I have been given hope, so I will share it.
By His Spirit, for His glory.

Because to whom much is given, much is required.

 

“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:33-34

February 19, 2011

In my element.

So much joy.

 

(Thanks to my awesome team leader, Missy, for the photo!)
February 15, 2011

Gewadegna

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

Gewdegna… Amharic for “friend”.  I miss my friends today.  I miss them and yet I am aware of their influence in my life nearly every day.  I am aware of how God is using them to challenge me, to teach me, to change me.  I am also aware that so many of my friendships would not exist if it weren’t for Christ and the boundaries and barriers He breaks down between us.  I am struck by how different some of my friends and I are, and with others, I am struck by how very alike we are.  God uses both constantly in order to teach me about Himself.

I miss my friends in Ethiopia.  I saw a picture of some of the boys in Ambo the other day.  I saw the faces of Berhanu, Danny, Kaiyo and Tura and I thought, “Goodness, I miss those boys.”  I remembered sitting on the bus in Ambo pulling apart a loaf of bread and dipping it in Nutella with Kaiyo and my teammates and laughing at how aggressive we all were in getting to the Nutella first.  I also remember Kaiyo, ever the gentleman, making sure we got our lunch before he did.  Kaiyo, the boy who scrapes up just enough money to rent a small room with two of his best friends, the boy who probably struggles to eat (if he’s able to at all), and he made sure we got our meal.  Yes, my friends have a lot to teach me.

I miss Kathryn, my kindred spirit and my sister.  I find it mind-boggling that God orchestrated the events of our lives in order to bring us to Ethiopia to serve Him alongside each other.  I’m thankful as we continue to encourage each other, share our struggles and our fears, and grow in grace.  When I think of Kathryn, I think of that C.S. Lewis quote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  I am reminded through our many lengthy phone calls and Skype sessions of how the Lord uses the people in our lives to teach us and challenge us and encourage us.  I am learning that although transparency and honesty with others can be scary and difficult at times, it is in those moments that God teaches big lessons and brings healing.  He also reminds us we are not alone.

I miss so many of you today, friends.  I want you to know how thankful I am each day for you.  I want you to know that Christ’s love has been on display through you.  I want you to know that you are a gift.  I pray I can be as loving, encouraging, gracious, humble, patient, faithful, honest, gentle and kind a friend to each of you as you have been to me.

Whose friendship are you thankful for today?

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

February 12, 2011

Microwave some dessert!

Here I sit on a Saturday night in Queens, craving something chocolatey and delicious.  I’m not quite in the mood to make a full batch, nor do I want a pan of brownies or a few dozen cookies calling my name.  (You know how that goes… willpower out the window in a flash, am I right?) I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about “mug” desserts lately.  My roommate has an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe she makes quite a bit.  Anyway, I consulted my good friend Google and found a recipe for a mug brownie that sounded SO easy, so I went for it.


(I know, this photo doesn’t make it look appealing… I took it on my Blackberry and it does it no justice.  I’m not even sure why I posted it.  Please don’t let this deter you from making this. Really.)

Brownie-in-a-Mug

(I found the recipe here and used the alternate version towards the end of the post)

4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla

Combine all of the ingredients in a large, microwave-safe mug, making sure there are no lumps.
Microwave for 1-2 minutes (depending on your microwave–I cooked mine for 1 minute and 30 seconds.)  Let cool and enjoy!

Now let’s pause for a moment.  In my mind, a single serving brownie in a mug sounded like the wise choice for someone trying to lose weight.  Again, no full pan of brownies calling my name.  Just one harmless brownie, right?… Wrong.  I’m sorry.  I want to tell you this is a great option for those trying to be healthier… however, when I plugged this into the Weight Watchers points calculator, I nearly had a heart attack.

17 points.  Yep, you heard me correctly.  SEVENTEEN! (WHAT?!)  To put this into perspective, I’m allowed 31 points per day.  Thus 17 points is more than half of my daily allowance.  Oy vay.  Good news is, I get an extra 49 points to use throughout the week wherever I choose.

Having gotten that out of the way, however, this brownie was ridiculous.  It was so incredibly easy and yummy and decadent and ABSOLUTELY fulfilled my chocolate craving.  While this won’t be something I treat myself to daily, it’s definitely worth a splurge every now and then.  (I also think I could handle halving the recipe as the serving was pretty large.)

Try this the next time you need a chocolate fix.  And just don’t think about the calories!

February 11, 2011

The Cause: Hope & Restoration for Women

I’ve decided to start a new theme here on the blog which I have (just now) named, “The Cause”.  Every so often I will feature a different ministry I’m passionate about and invite you to join “the cause”, whether it be contributing finances, praying or being an advocate in your own communities and social circles.  Today’s cause is Women At Risk (via Mocha Club).  Here’s a description of the ministry from the Mocha Club website:

Women and children are often the most exposed and abused victims of injustice, especially in the war-torn areas of Africa. In Nazaret, Ethiopia, Mocha Club helps rehabilitate women in Ethiopia who were forced into a life of prostitution as an attempt to escape their situation of poverty. The “Women At Risk” program provides spiritual, emotional, and psychological counseling and helps them find alternate means of income to support themselves and their children.

Friends, this organization is so dear to my heart.  I have spent time with these beautiful women, I have heard their stories.  I have seen how God has brought beauty from ashes.

Meet some of my beautiful friends:

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So, what can you do?

  • PRAY – Pray that the LORD would provide the financial means to continue to minister to the women in Ethiopia.  Pray that He would use their time at Women At Risk to transform their lives with His gospel.  Pray that their hope would be found in Jesus and that they would know they are loved by their Savior.  Pray that the sins and pain of their past would no longer have a hold on them; that they would know God’s forgiveness that was bought for them on the cross and that they would trust that they are made new and clean by the perfect blood of Jesus!  Pray for the staff, that they would pursue holiness and seek to glorify Jesus in all of their words and actions, and that His love and grace would be reflected by them to the women they serve.
  • GIVE – Partner with Mocha Club to financially support the ministry of Women At Risk in Ethiopia.  You can join my team, Hope for Addis, and give as little as $7 a month to transform the lives of women.  Or, if you’d prefer, you can start your own team!
  • BE A VOICE – Tell others of the needs of these women.  As you pray, invite others to pray with you.  As you give, invite others to give alongside you.  Share the stories of these women and share the work that God is doing in their lives.  Invite others to be passionate about the cause.

If you have any questions about the organization, or my time with the women, please ask!  Thank you in advance for your prayers and generosity.

Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

February 10, 2011

A Keeper of His Word.

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

Let this verse sink in.  God is a keeper of His promises and His word.  All His work is done in faithfulness (Psalm 33:4).  Now, let’s take a deep breath, be still, and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

February 3, 2011

This morning.

This morning I woke up in a warm bed, in a warm apartment, to the alarm going off on my Blackberry smartphone.  I woke up healthy and with air in my lungs.  I got out of bed and used a bathroom that has indoor plumbing.  Then I filled a tea kettle with clean water and turned on the gas stove with the turn of a dial.  I ground coffee beans with my new coffee grinder.  I poured cereal in a bowl and ate breakfast.  I drank my coffee with fat free half and half.  I sat on a comfortable couch with a roof over my head and opened up my expensive laptop.

Do I see how much I have to be thankful for in the above paragraph?  Do I also see how much I could very well do without?  Do I recognize the abundance?

I don’t say these things in an attempt to create guilt.  Really, I don’t.  But I needed to be reminded.  Maybe you needed to be reminded, too.  The apostle Paul said, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18).  My life should be filled with thanksgiving.  Not just for the material possessions I mentioned above, but for all things, and, above all, for Jesus.  Everything I have is a gift from God.  The more I cultivate a heart of thanksgiving, the more I recognize that, and the more apt I am to be generous with what I’ve been given.  Why?  Because I understand that it was never mine to begin with.  All I have, and all I am, is God’s.

The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The LORD is maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2

For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’
Deuteronomy 15:11

 What are you thankful for today?

February 2, 2011

Those faces…

I can’t even look at a photo of an Ethiopian child without my heart nearly bursting out of my chest and my eyes welling up with tears.

Is this normal?

In other news, my new books arrived in the mail today!  Where do I begin?