Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Normally at this time of year, I am rummaging through after Christmas sales looking for drastically marked down Christmas decorations… and with most Christmas clearance down to at least 75% off, my Christmas decorations collection typically grows in leap and bounds the week after Christmas. But this year is different… as we prepare to move to Haiti sometime in 2010, we are examining what possessions will make the move with us. We have a price estimate of $1.50 per pound so sadly I’m not sure any my Christmas collections will be making the cut. Except for clothing, everyday practical items, and some sentimental items, we will sale or give everything else away.
Knowing that we will spending the majority of our Christmases in the Caribbean from now on… I wonder how hard it will be to feel in “the Christmas spirit”? The familiar Christmas decorations, tree, and lights might all be long gone. The weather wont be cold and any dreams of a white Christmas will be dashed. On top of that, sharing Christmas with all of our extended family will not be likely.
But knowing all that… I have reexamined what Christmas is all about. While decorations, family, and things like that may symbolize or remind us of Christmases past, all these things are not what Christmas is all about. When all the stuff (lights, trees, gifts, food, family, friends) may be gone, it all comes down to Jesus. Jesus is enough! If we have learned anything from this journey we are on, it’s the undeniable truth that Jesus is always enough. In fact, it may be refreshing be free of distractions that divert our focus from the true meaning of Christmas… Emmanuel (God with us). And if God himself is with us, what else could we possibly need?
PS this picture is of a small nativity set I brought the first year Jake and I were married. I bought it at “dollar general” when even a dollar was hard to come by. Somehow it has held up through the years (even through the toddler years when playing with baby Jesus was quite popular). And if any “Christmasy” things make the cut, this will be it!
Monday, December 21, 2009
One quick post before going to bed... probably the last one of the year.
But just wanted to say how super proud I am of the people in this picture. Some of our former students (many of them home from college for Christmas) came over and hung out tonight. We played intense games of catch phrase and spoons but more importantly catch up on what God has been doing in each other's life.
We have been in youth ministry for over a decade... and MOST rewarding part by far is seeing our former students live out their faith after leaving our ministry!
I feel like a proud momma but indulge me while I brag on these young adults whose faith exceeds my own at times...One of these amazing people just got home from spending the week serving and pouring herself out in mission work in Haiti. Another one shared about how he has been selling coffee in his community to raise money for malaria medications and to cover cost so he can spend the upcoming summer serving in India (where he is being called to full time missions). Another is just wrapped a clothing drive she organized and is getting ready to load up her car with clothing she has been collecting for precious people she loves in Africa. Another is considering spending 9 weeks of intense discipleship this summer with the organization Kaleo in Panama City Beach. One just back from serving several months in Peru. One has spent the last year serving our country overseas in the army. Another is working a "grown up girl job" now after recently completing an internship with TOMS shoes (which provides shoes for children in poverty). Some have been at bible college and quite a few others have been living out their faith in state colleges (which is a huge mission field in itself).... all this to say that I think God is raising up a generation of world changers and I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to be a small part of that.
One of my favorite worship songs called "Hosanna" talks about seeing "a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith"... when I look at this picture and hear about what some of things these amazing young adults are doing... I see a beautiful picture of a generation changing the world with selfless faith!
Nights like tonight is what I will miss most as we move onto a different kind of calling in mission work but I wouldn't trade it for the world! It has been one of my greatest joys to serve in youth ministry for the last 11 years and it will continue to be as we go out together to "set the world on fire"
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Over the last few weeks, I can not count the way that the body of Christ has made my family’s life so blessed!! So I just had to blog about it…
Right now, our family is in the fund raising portion of our efforts to become full time missionaries to Haiti. We were warned by other CSI missionaries that this phase would be the “most challenging part” and they were exactly right! It is extremely awkward and humbling to ask people you know for support. It is challenging to try to share our heart and passion in some promotional materials that we are trying to create about the work we will be doing in Haiti. Given our present economy and my own personal corks when it comes things like financial planning/ security… relying on God ALONE to provide for our families livelihood through His people is a very scary place to be! But God is teaching us soooo much in this season about His faithfulness and the way He has intended his church body to function.
We have been AMAZED by the response of some of our sweet brothers and sisters in Christ and the way they have volunteered and eagerly came alongside to help this dream of ours become a reality. For example, an elder in our church who is a graphic designer has designed some amazing brochures that really communicate our heart for Haiti and the work God has prepared for us to do there. Another man from our church family is a web designer. He has volunteered to help us maintain our website (www.starfish4haiti.com). We contacted a very talented photographer about taking some family and team portraits and because she shared our heart for missions and the Lord, she not only scheduled an appointment for us right away but insisted waving her normal portrait fees. Another old friend who is a video/media pastor used his talent to put together a short video for us that also beautifully shared our heart for Haiti. And I could go but basically God has been blessing our socks off in the way His children have volunteered their gifts and time to help us on this journey we are currently on. There are many different parts of the body of Christ and when those parts come together with a common goal (to further God’s kingdom), it is a beautiful thing!
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, our house was broken into. It could have been WAY worse but some things were stolen that would have made Christmas morning kind of a downer for our kids. But upon hearing what happened, some of precious church family offered to replace some of the items that were stolen. Some students in our ministry even sacrificed and pulled together their own resources to bless our family in a special way! And we were once again blown away by the generosity and love of the body of Christ!
In our Sunday school study of “Crazy Love”, Francis Chan challenged us a few weeks ago by these thoughts…
“Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment? Try to imagine what conclusions you would come to if you had no prior church experience. The things in church services might make sense to the American church-attendee, but they don't make sense biblically. Picture yourself on an island with only a Bible. You've never been to a church-you've never even heard of one. The only ideas you have about church are what you've read in your Bible. Then you enter a building labeled "church" for the first time. What would you expect to experience as you entered that building? Now compare that to what you actually experience when you attend church. But what if the church looked like this?
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
It describes what the world is waiting for. I used to look at this passage as something that was wonderful but could never happen in the twenty-first century. There are just too many cultural obstacles for the Holy Spirit to overcome. He is powerful enough to raise the dead, but not powerful enough to form a sharing and loving body in our individualistic society. I doubted God's ability to stir a body of believers to love tirelessly and give without restraint. I reasoned that this type of fellowship was probably not intended for our time. Besides, we don't have time to love like this.
This last year our church has done a lot of studying of the New Testament church and it has been challenging to say the least. The church, as a whole, has a long way to go but there are breath taking glimpses of us “loving tirelessly and giving without restraint.” In the world we live in, it is easy to become jaded and judgmental of hypocritical Christians but from where I am standing … the body of Christ is a BEAUTIFUL thing!
PS Please don't be the appendix!