Monday, April 19, 2010

Reminder: Worst Blanket Ever Up For Auction!

Don't forget about my worst-blanket-ever auction!  There have been a few bids already, so don't miss your chance to be the proud new owner of the worst blanket ever!  (Remember, there's a twist - I do NOT receive the proceeds!)

Bidding is open until midnight on Friday, April 23rd.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prayer: Then and Now

I mentioned in my previous post how Acts 6 kinda stopped me in my tracks the other day.  My last post was only half the reason for my stoppage.  This post is the second half.

Jesus had just died, risen, and ascended to heaven.  His Church was now taking root and disciples were springing up like dandelions in my yard.  But a minor problem was brought to attention by the Greek Jews:  their widows weren't receiving any food and the Hebrew Jews were.  So the Twelve disciples gathered the other disciples together and said,
"Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them... (v 3)"
And so the matter was settled.  The issue was small enough that the disciples felt it wasn't worth the energy of having everyone try to resolve it because there were bigger responsibilities at hand (see verse 2).

Here comes the part that snagged me.

What exactly did these disciples feel was so important and deserved their utmost attention?

"[We] will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (v 4)."

Two areas that demanded their full focus, that determined how they spent their days, that drove their Mission.  One of them:


They gave their attention to prayer.

And I can't help but wonder what the Church would look like today if we gave our attention to prayer.

If even just the leaders of our Churches gave their attention to prayer.

Not just praying for thirty seconds before meetings, for five minutes during Sunday service, for ten seconds before lunch.  Not just "God-bless-this-time-and-heal-the-sick-amen."

Devoting our attention to prayer.

Did you know the disciples - 120 of them - spent probably ten days praying and waiting to receive the Holy Spirit?

Ten days!
"They all joined together constantly in prayer (1:14)."
How many of us pray even ten minutes for a single thing?  How vastly different would our lives look if we truly devoted ourselves constantly to prayer?  If, instead of praying for thirty seconds before a meeting for guidance to make decisions...what if we spent the meeting praying until God provided an answer?

What if, instead of praying a single prayer for healing or blessing or the Spirit's power...what if we got on our knees and prayed until God answered?

Can you imagine the power He would display through our lives?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

They Had a Mission

My reading in Acts this morning kinda knocked me off balance.

In general, as I read about the early Church and its believers, I can't help but notice a joy and enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel that feels quite lacking in my life.  I'm loving reading about these first followers of The Way and how nothing could stop them.

Today I started in Acts 6 and made it all the way through verse two before I had to stop for a moment.
In those days...the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables."
A complaint had risen amongst the believers.  Greek widows weren't getting fed, but the Hebrew widows were.  The disicples go on to work out a plan to take care of this need, but what gets me is the initial response.

"We have a task at hand, and we can't be hindered by the details.  A few of you will stay here and work out the conflict, but the rest of us need to keep moving forward with the Mission."

I'm so convinced we do things backwards.

Make sure the music has enough hymns.  Do fun things to keep the youth coming back.  Keep doing all our regular programming, because that's the way it's always been.  This person did this.  That person said that.  On and on we go, trying to take care of all the details every time a person raises a fuss.  We have to keep everyone happy, because we want everyone to have a positive church experience.  (Am I stepping on any toes yet?)

I like to make sure I pray for the right amount of time, read the right amount of Scripture, and worship the right amount of worship.  I stress out when things don't "feel" smooth or good, when I can't focus to pray or read, when I oversleep and miss my time with Him. 

And in the midst of all our chaotic circles we run around ourselves, we totally lose sight of the Mission.

The one thing that used to take priority over every other detail.

That's not to say that the things I listed above aren't important, nor are they ineffective at helping to complete the Mission.  I'm also not pointing fingers at any specific congregation.  I'm simply putting into words what I've observed my whole life, both in the Church and my personal journey.

Jesus didn't become sin and die on the cross so we would have more numbers in our pews, so we would run Sunday morning service to keep everyone happy, so that all the details could take precedence.

No, He did all that so every man, woman, and child might have the opportunity to know Him and be saved.  He saved us so that we might share that salvation with others, whatever the cost.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Worst Blanket I've Ever Crocheted Up for Auction

This is the worst blanket I've ever crocheted:

Actually, it's only the second blanket I've ever crocheted.

But it's still the worst.  As you can see, it took me until the last ten or fifteen rows before I finally figured out what I was doing.  Up to that point, I couldn't count well enough to keep the same number of stitches in each row.

I started this little guy with the intent of giving it away to someone in need of a blanket, to meet both a physical and spiritual need.  And it's not that someone couldn't still benefit from it...but I think there's also something to be said for sharing quality items.  Honestly, if I were to hand this blanket to someone in need, I would feel ashamed, and I would be afraid of sending the message that they weren't important enough to receive a quality piece of work.

Not to say there wasn't a lot of time and effort put into this blanket, because there sure was.  I started the thing back in October, and I spent many hours crocheting on it while I weekly interceded for others in prayer.

But all is not lost.  I have a Plan B that I just created, which is as follows:

Poor little blanket is now up for auction among my blog readers.  This is how it's going to work...
  • Place your bid in the comment box.  Bidding will remain open for two weeks and close at midnight on April 23rd.  Highest bidder wins.
  • Winner will NOT send me any money!  Instead, winner will commit to using that money in ONE of the following ways:
  • Winner and I will communicate via email so I can arrange to ship poor little blanket to him/her (I will pay for shipping)
  • Blanket is then property of winner to do with as he/she pleases
 Here is a close-up of the blanket so you can see the details a little better.

Dimensions:  62" long x 36"-46" wide (depending which end is measured)

Happy bidding!

(P.S.  When I was praying and crocheting, I also prayed for the recipient of the blanket, that God would prepare their hearts to know Him more and that they would grow in Him.  Also that He would meet their needs and make Himself known in their life.)

(P.P.S.  Blanket is gently used by Gracie and may arrive with some cat hairs attached, but I will do my best to lint-roll them out.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beep - Beep - Beep

I've been convinced for years that I have some sort of undiagnosed disorder.  I've suffered from symptoms for probably twenty years, and nearly every day I have to accommodate and adapt.

Since it's undiagnosed, I can't tell you what it's called.  But I can tell you my symptoms:

I can't wake up long enough to get out of bed in the mornings.

In high school, my dad would drag me out of bed by my ankles, to which I responded by curling up on the floor to resume my sleep there.

I awoke my first morning at college to my roommate throwing a stuffed animal at me because my alarm was going off...and off...and off...

Last week, after finally reaching an all-time personal record of hitting snooze for an hour and a half and not remembering most of it, I decided it was time to do something about my problem.  (I was only ten minutes late to work, because I schedule time for hitting snooze into my morning routine.)

Sunday night I set my alarm for half an hour later than usual and set it on the floor across the room as far as the cord would reach.  This (in theory) would force me to actually get out of bed to turn off the alarm; therefore, no pre-allotted snooze time needed.

This has worked fairly well so far, but each morning I tolerate listening to that horribly irritating beeping for a few more minutes.  Today it was eight minutes of beeping before I got up to turn it off.

The hardest part of this new routine comes the night before.  It absolutely goes against every fiber in my body to turn out the light and go to sleep with my snooze button sitting beyond arm's reach.  I cannot graciously handle the lack of control over when my alarm is going to go off.

Which is funny, because it would still go off at the same time regardless of where I put it.  But I can no longer control what I do about it.

And you know, I'm sure there is some profound spiritual application to this story, such as letting God have control over circumstances...but at the moment I'm a little tired and can't quite come up with a smooth or coherent lesson.  So I'm going to let you enjoy the story and draw your own conclusions and applications.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lenten Review

I gave up facebook for Lent.

I've never participated in Lent before.  I grew up eating fish sticks every Friday for school lunch because my Catholic classmates couldn't eat meat on that one day of the week.  In high school, I listened to friends talk about giving up pop or candy or other things for this mysterious religious practice, but I never knew much about it myself.  My Baptist heritage didn't teach me much about it.

This year I decided to partake.  Life is so hurried, and months come and go before I'm even aware of them.  Easter is my absolute favorite holiday, and I didn't want it to suddenly come and go without being ready for it.

So I decided to give up facebook, as it was probably the largest time-sucker of my day (minus my job).  I was quite successful and have not logged on once in the past forty days.  (After my dad died, my brother would read what friends had posted on my page, so in that sense I may have cheated a bit.)

But the main question is this:  Was my participation in Lent successful in drawing me closer to Jesus?

I have to admit, I'm not sure I can say that it did.  Each time I consciously avoided logging onto facebook, I was reminded that Easter was fast approaching.  So it did help prevent me from being swept away in the hustle and bustle of daily life, and I was much more aware of my favorite holiday.

But I did not substitute my time online for time with God.  I found other things to do, and I realized how much time I waste online.  But I can't say I deliberately spent that extra time in prayer, meditation, Scripture, or anything else holy.

Is this something I would do again?  Probably.  Is it something I will do as a spiritual discipline rather than a religious activity?  I sure hope so.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Restore NYC

A few months ago God burdened my heart with the reality of human trafficking.  As I learned more and read statistics and saw pictures, I desired more and more to help.  Here is some of what I've found:
  • Over 12 million people worldwide are trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation
  • Each year, 1 million children worldwide are exploited by commercial sex trade
  • Each year, over 200,000 children in the U.S. are at risk for sexual exploitation
  • Of the women trafficked, 30% are victims of forced labor, 70% of sexual labor
  • NYC alone is home to more than 2,200 children who have been sexually exploited.
  • Average age of entry into prostitution: 12-14
  • Total yearly profits of human trafficking: $32 billion
I started to look online for ways I could be directly involved with rescuing women and children out of this horrible form of slavery.  But the more I searched for ways to be involved, the more overwhelmed I became with the hugeness of this issue.  I'm not in a location where I can just walk into a brothel and buy a girl's freedom.  Googling local brothels seemed like a great way to look suspicious, and most aren't dumb enough to reveal their locations anyway.  There are hundreds of organizations already fighting this battle, but all I could do for them was give money.

Then a friend pointed me to Restore NYC.  This is a non-profit organization based in New York City that seeks to provide support and healing to women of sex trafficking within the city.  They're doing everything I can't, and I like that a lot.  In fact, their current focus is to create a safe house for these women, because no such place currently exists in NYC.

Not only are they offering an escape and a safe place to go, Restore is also committed to walking hand-in-hand with women through their entire recovery.  They will seek to meet immediate physical needs of food and clothing, restore spiritual brokenness, and provide training and education for the women to return to society successfully and independently.

To offer hope to broken and shattered women, donate here.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Every few months I will feature an organization that is dedicated to carrying out Christ's Mission here on earth.  My purpose in this is to raise awareness of various needs throughout our world and to challenge my readers to join together and participate in helping these organizations carry out the Mission.  All throughout Scripture we are commanded to "look after orphans and widows" and "share with God's people who are in need" (James 1:27, Romans 12:13).  Most of us live in abundance.  It is our duty and pleasure to help those with nothing and thus share the love of Christ.  I will donate financially to each organization as I present it here, and I ask and encourage you to do the same.  (I know I have at least eleven readers who receive my posts via email.  If each one of you donates $20, that quickly becomes $220 that will go out to reach all corners of the earth.)

Thank you.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Out of Suffering Comes Hope

Four weeks ago I spent the weekend in a hospital room and watched my dad die a horrible death from a horrible disease.

I would watch him try unsuccessfully to sit up, watch his hands shake from weakness as he tried to hold his own water bottle, watch his lungs struggle for each shallow breath.

I watched these things, and I would plead with God.  Please, God, take him soon.  This is too much suffering.

And almost immediately, the Father would gently remind me of another - of His own Son.  Images of Jesus filled my mind.  Jesus, beaten and bloody, bruised and dirty, exhausted and wounded, hanging on a cross.

He reminded me ever so softly that this present suffering does not compare to the suffering Jesus endured.  The dying body of my dad isn't even a shadow of the dying body of Christ.

This is why I rejoice this weekend.  This is why last night's church service left a heavy weight on our souls.  And this is why, as the weekend passes, the joy of the LORD will build in my heart until I cannot carry it any longer and it bursts forth like the glorious Sunday morning dawn!

Four weeks ago my dad left his earthly home on the farm and moved into a new and glorious land that shines bright with the glory of God.  He celebrates Easter in the physical presence of those nail-scarred hands and the spear-pierced side.  I celebrate here in the Spirit, in the new and living hope given by Jesus on that cross, in full knowledge that I, too, will one day stand at His side and see those scars that bore my name.

He is risen!


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