February 13, 2012

I’m sorry, John.

Yesterday morning on our way to church, a homeless man approached me on the subway.  With no regard for the game I was playing on my cell phone, he loudly greeted me, “Hi.”  I look up and say hello, noticing that this man is certainly not in his right mind.  I see Adam turn on “protective husband mode” immediately.

“My name is John.”

Hello, John.

John goes on to explain that he knows a lot about the Bible, that he lives on the train and goes to Coney Island so that he can stay alive.  John throws several expletives in and seems not only mentally unstable, but angry.  Then he says it,

“I’m sick of the way people are treating me.”

His words are like a punch in the gut.  I give John a dollar, tell him to please get something to eat.  And then Adam and I both say to John, “John, we’re sorry for the way people have treated you.”  John looks right at us, says thank you a couple of times, and goes on his way.

And then I watch him approach others.  I watch others blatantly ignore him.  I watch people give him looks of utter disdain and disgust.  I wonder how he deals with that and think it must make him feel less and less human.

But then I watch him sit down.  Adam tells me someone has just asked to pray for him.  So John sits down and this man prays for him and gives him a dollar.  Off John goes again.

At this point I’m crying, realizing how many people like John I’ve neglected.  And I pray that Jesus would give us eyes to see the Johns of this city, the ones who are sick of the way people are treating them.  I pray we would help where we can, bringing physical healing and also the healing words of an Almighty God and a merciful Savior.

I turn my Bible to the parable of the Good Samaritan and read the very words of Jesus.  Who was the man’s neighbor?  Not the priest, not the Levite, but the Samaritan–the one who showed mercy.

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)

I’m sorry for the way people have treated you, John.  And I’m sorry for all the times that person has been me.

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January 10, 2012

Sponsorship is more than just money.

The first time I sponsored a child, it was through World Vision.  Her name is Ruvimbo and she lives in Zimbabwe.  If I’m being entirely honest, my initial motivation was guilt.  I had been asked to sponsor a child and I felt bad saying no.  I have not always been the best sponsor to this young lady.  I have not written regulary, I have not prayed for her regularly, and there have been times I’ve forgotten to send in the activities World Vision sends me to forward to her.  I am far from being a perfect sponsor.

Last January, when I returned from Ethiopia for the second time, I decided to sponsor another child, this time through Compassion.  My motives were different this time.  I had met my friend Howie, and suddenly realized that sponsorship involved a real child.  I resolved to be a better sponsor (I’m still far from perfect), and knowing I’d return to Ethiopia again, I decided to sponsor a little girl in Ethiopia.  I chose Tigist for a few reasons: 1. She was 3 and I love the idea of being with her as a sponsor from such a young age through the time she graduates; and 2. she lives in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and I knew that would make it an even greater possibility for me to visit someday.

I knew the basics of sponsorship.  I sent pictures and letters.  I received the same in return.  My monthly contributions were automatically withdrawn from my bank account.  It was wonderful to sponsor two girls in Africa and I loved receiving letters from both of them.

Then, last week, I met Tigist and the reality of sponsorship deepened even more than when I’d gotten to know my friend Howie.  Standing in front of me was a sweet little 4-year-old girl who knew exactly who I was.  When we got to her house, my picture was hanging on the mud wall above her bed.  Her mom told us she hadn’t slept the night before, she was so excited.  She had gone around to her neighbors with my photo the day before, declaring that Brittany was coming to visit.

At first, this made me feel like kind of a rockstar.  But now, I’m humbled by the responsibility of sponsorship.  The responsibility I have to love and support and encourage this child that God has entrusted to me through sponsorship.  A responsibility to pray for her and her family, and to point her to Christ in the words that I write.

Can I encourage each of you to consider sponsorship?  There are kids all over the world living in poverty and you can be a part of changing their lives.  But before I romanticize it too much, let me also ask that you consider the weight of sponsorship.  As I told you, I didn’t in the beginning.  I entered in for the wrong reasons and I did not support Ruvimbo as I should have.  Sponsorship is much, much more than the money coming out of your bank account.  The child you sponsor is real, and you are so very real to them.  Sponsorship is a commitment– of your finances, your time, and your prayers.

Sponsorship is weighty, but it’s beautiful.  And it once again reminds me that it is truly better to give than receive.  Except I have to say, I often feel like I get so much more than I give.

I’ve learned that I’m not some distant figure through whom money is channeled.  I am real in Tigist’s life.  And she, more than ever, is real in mine.  Once again, I’m compelled to be a better sponsor.  To love, encourage, and pray for Tigist and Ruvimbo and share with them the love that God has lavished on me in Christ.  They are listening.

“Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Mark 9:37

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

January 9, 2012

Answered Prayer.

Up until my trip to Ethiopia last year, I had resigned myself to the fact that the man I married may be supportive of my love for Ethiopia, but that he probably would not share the same passion for it.  It’s silly, now that I look back.  Thank God, He did not let me settle for that.  As I dated Adam, I saw God begin to put a love for Ethiopia in his heart.  It started out as a small seed, and I am overjoyed and so thankful because I have seen that love sprout into something beautiful.  This is an example of what answered prayer looks like:

 

Adam told me that he knew on our first day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that he wanted to visit again.  The love and compassion that God has placed in his heart through his faith in Jesus is awesome.  During our two weeks in Ethiopia, I watched my husband grieve over brokenness, rejoice in redemption, laugh and play with orphans, kick a soccer ball around with boys who used to live on the street.  I watched God continue to conform him to the image of Christ.  Adam encouraged me, prayed with me, and reminded me of the faithfulness of God.  Often I have heard people said (and said myself) that the goal of marriage is to be more effective for God’s Kingdom together than you would be on your own.  I can confidently say that God has united Adam and I for His purposes and His glory.  I can hardly imagine what He might have for us next!

I can’t wait to share more with you about what God is doing in Ethiopia, and I pray that the things I share would touch your heart and that God would call you to action.  We live in abundance and God’s word says that to whom much is given, much will be required.  Let’s seek Him together and live out the gospel in word and deed.

October 6, 2011

It’s all about Jesus.

Seeing as I haven’t blogged in nearly two months (consistency has never been my strong suit with this blog!), I thought I’d share some thoughts from my journal on Philippians 3.  Philippians never ceases to challenge and encourage me.  And the third chapter (like all of the Bible), is so chock-full of good, deep stuff.

In verse three, Paul talks about putting “no confidence in the flesh”.  For Paul, it almost seemed right to put his confidence in the flesh (his works and accomplishments).  Often it looks right and noble, but when compared with the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, it’s garbage.  As Isaiah said, our righteousness is filthy rags before a holy God (see Is. 64:6).

Where am I putting my confidence?  Is it in myself and my ability to follow the letter of the law and to be a “good person”?  Or is it all in Christ, whose righteousness is imparted to me by faith?  Do I believe that His reward is mine?  Do I believe that I am now righteous and blameless before the living God?  Do I rest knowing how God sees me (adopted and beloved) instead of “saving face” before man?

May I press on and press in to more deeply know Jesus and to more deeply understand who I am in Him.  May I come to realize even more the worthlessness of pursuing the law in the flesh, recognizing my inability and helplessness apart from Jesus, and in that may Christ become all the more beautiful, glorious and wonderful in my heart.  Jesus is a teacher, yes– but more than a teacher, He is a Savior.  He is my Rescuer and Deliverer.  No amount of teaching could change the condition of my soul.

Paul moves on to talk about forgetting what lies behind.  Not forgetting what God has done, but letting go of those past accomplishments and deeds.  No longer finding safety or hope in those things and instead looking ahead to JESUS.  Not dwelling on past wins or losses, failures, etc., but knowing that all that matters is Jesus.  Dwelling on anything else is futile.

If we get nothing else from Philippians, let alone all of scripture, let us know this one thing:  It’s all about Jesus.

August 15, 2011

Overjoyed.

On February 18, 2011, I underlined and dated three verses in my Bible:

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalm 37:3-5

I sensed the LORD was telling me at that time to quit “planning ahead”.  I was discontent with a lot of aspects in my life and had been trying to re-work everything to be what, in my limited understanding, would honor God the most.  I was reminded that He asks for faithfulness where I am now and that it is Him who prepares me for what’s to come.  I don’t need to know and control the future, because He knows it and He’ll carry and sustain me through everything.  I clung to those verses for weeks (and still do).

Two days before, on Feburary 16, 2011, I met Adam.  (If you can believe it, I wasn’t the one to remember this day.  He was!)

On March 13, 2011, I went on my first date with Adam to the Bronx Zoo.  From what I knew of him, I liked him.  I thought he was cute.  But I could never have known all that God would do.

Yesterday, on August 14, 2011, just five months after that first date, Adam asked me to be his wife.  I said yes!

I look back at the past five months and I see God’s faithfulness written all over our lives.  I see two weak, sinful human beings relying on God’s grace and being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I see mistakes being made and grace being shown.  And God has reminded me that He provides good gifts to His children, to those whose hearts are fully His.  I see how He prepared me, not by making me a good girlfriend or wife, so to speak, but by teaching me to rely fully on Him, to wait on Him, to trust in Him.  He had me stop trying to peek around the corner to figure out what was coming next and taught me to dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Not that I do it perfectly, but by His grace, He has enabled me.

The coming months will inevitably be exciting, and the past five certainly have been.  I am praising Jesus for every moment and pray that whatever we do, Jesus might be glorified and made beautiful through it.  This is all about Him, all about reflecting the gospel to the world, all about displaying His love.

This morning I am thankful for Jesus and the gift of being able to serve Him and make Him known.  This morning I am thankful for a man who loves Jesus first and foremost and who loves me well because of it.

To God alone be the glory.

August 4, 2011

Hope for Addis

Head on over to the Mocha Club blog for a post I wrote upon returning from Ethiopia in January:

http://blog.themochaclub.org/articles/2011/08/04/ethiopia-2011-trip-blogger-brittany/

Women At Risk is bringing the hope of Jesus to women in Ethiopia.  Addis is a living, breathing testimony of grace, redemption, hope and healing.

 

July 15, 2011

A promise fulfilled.

But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Matthew 10:19-20

Lately Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (Acts 26) has been blowing my mind.  The boldness and courage Paul has in the face of those who had imprisoned him and could very well kill him is incredible.  Paul says he considers himself fortunate to stand trial.  Fortunate!  Can you imagine?  That boldness comes through the Holy Spirit.  It is not Paul speaking, but the LORD speaking through him.  And it’s both powerful and beautiful.

“In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today…”

Acts 26:2

What makes it even more beautiful to me is that Jesus promised the disciples testimonies such as this.  He promised them that when they were persecuted and imprisoned that He would give them the words to speak (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12, 21:12-15).  He specifically told them not to prepare beforehand but to trust that He would speak through them.  So when we come to Acts 26, we see Jesus fulfilling this promise in Paul’s life, and we can be sure He can and will do the same in our lives.

“So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.  And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve Godnight and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from theJewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem andthen throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer,and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 26:4-33

How often I rehearse what I can say in situations X and Y.  “Oh yeah, if they ask this, I’ll say this.  But if they ask this I’ll say this.”  That mental preparation is time wasted.  Not to say that you or I should not know our God and His word inside and out– we should!– but it is the Holy Spirit who speaks through us in those moments of questioning.  We might come up with some pretty clever responses ourselves, but it is God’s words that have power.  Just look at King Agrippa’s response:

Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

Acts 26:28

May we consume His word daily, seek Him diligently in prayer, and then trust that in every moment the Holy Spirit will equip us with all that we need in order to make Him known and bring Him glory.  Jesus’ promises are true and trustworthy.  Just ask Paul!

July 12, 2011

Genet’s Gift

This morning I’m thinking about my friend Genet.  Truth be told, I don’t know much about her.  I don’t know how old she is, though my guess is she’s a few years younger than me.  I don’t know her story, though I know it led her to Women At Risk, and I know the pain and tears I saw in her eyes as I heard other women tell heartbreaking stories of abuse and violence and abandonment.  I don’t know where she is today, though I know the God who is pursuing her, the Savior that died and rose again to give her new life.

On our last day at Women At Risk in Nazret, Genet pulled me inside, sat me down, took my hand, and put on my wrist a small silver bracelet.  Then she looked at me, and in her broken English, said, “I love you.”

Genet’s gift to me was not extravagant, but it was heartfelt.  She can’t afford much, and yet she gave me that gift.  That is humbling to me.  Incredibly humbling.

It reminds me of the widow who gave next to nothing in the offering, but Jesus commended her above the rich men who gave an abundance.  Why?  Because it cost her everything.  The rich man’s offering didn’t require much sacrifice; he still left with wealth.  But the widow gave everything she had as an act of love and devotion. (Luke 21:1-4)

Genet’s gift is a beautiful reminder that the best things we receive are not those that are the most extravagant or that required the most money, but those which came at greatest cost to the giver.

And then I think about Jesus.  I think about salvation.  And I’m reminded that it came at an unspeakable cost to the ultimate Giver.  The Father gave His only Son.  Jesus gave up everything, including His life.

Will the love of Christ compel us to give until it hurts?  It is not something we must force, but rather something that flows from our understanding of how much Jesus sacrificed to give us life.  As we look to Him, as we get to know Him deeply and intimately, we are transformed.

I am thankful this morning for Genet’s gift because it points me to Jesus.  I am thankful for Genet because she is a living example of the power of Jesus to transform lives.

Will you join me in praying for Genet this morning?  Pray that as Jesus continues to transform her life, that she would continue to point others toward Him.  Pray that He would sustain her and provide for her.  Pray that she would know Him more deeply with each passing day and that her eyes would remain fixed upon Him.

I’m praying for you this morning, whoever may be reading this.  I’m praying that you would know Jesus and receive the gift He places before you– Himself.    All we could ever need is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is the Giver and the Gift.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15

June 23, 2011

Random thoughts for your Thursday

I’m really, really sad that I’ve been such a terrible blogger as of late.  I’ve got a lot of blogs in the draft stage, but I’ve come to a halt on most of them and need some fresh inspiration.  Prayers appreciated! :)

In the meantime, here are some random thoughts for your Thursday:

  • I’m quite certain I could live off a steady diet of hummus and guacamole.
  • I’m late to the show, but Greek yogurt is crazy-good.
  • I got stuck on 95 North approaching the George Washington Bridge for over 4 hours Saturday night/Sunday morning.  A trip that should’ve taken Leah and I 35 mins took over 5 hours.  How is that real life?
  • Before getting stuck in traffic, I enjoyed seeing DISPATCH perform live at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.  I have to be honest, I only knew a song or two prior to the show, but those are some talented guys!
  • I’ve been thinking a lot this morning about how quick we are to apologize for God’s character, and how often we’d rather change Him than to change ourselves… but He’s perfect!  May we seek, by His grace, to be more like HIM instead of trying to make Him more like us.
  • My sweet friend Kathryn will be here in 8 days.  I can’t wait to see her!
  • This weekend I’ll be in Vermont with my boyfriend, Adam.  He’ll be meeting lots of family members, including mom and dad, for the first time.  I’m not worried about it at all… they’re going to love him!
  • I’m seeing Owl City tonight.  I have a feeling I’ll be standing in a sea of 16-year-olds.
  • Adam and I are probably going to Ethiopia at the end of this year.  Please keep us in prayer!

Lastly, remember my friend Kat who is spending the summer in Ethiopia? Well, she’s there!  Keep up-to-date by visiting her blog: www.katssweetlife.com  Visit the “Kitty in the City” section to read about her time in Ethiopia.  I love hearing about her adventures and feel like a part of me is there with her.  Keep her in your prayers, friends!

May 17, 2011

A Quick Hello

To the few of you who faithfully read my blog (Hi mom!), I wanted to let you know that I am, indeed, alive.  My blog game has been pretty weak lately.  I’m still trying to figure out my niche, or if I even have one.  I haven’t done a post relating to cooking or baking in way too long.  Probably because I tend to bake the same things over and over again.  Perhaps it’s time to add some variety.  After all, variety is the spice of life, right?

In the meantime, check out this 5 minute documentary entitled “The City of Addis”.  It captures the city and its people so well, in my opinion.  The four ministries showcased are not ones I was previously familiar with, but I love what they’re doing and I hope to be able to connect with them on future trips.

The City of Addis – A short documentary from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.