Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Think About Rethinking It

It’s time to get honest.  And real.  I don’t always “practice what I preach”.  But that ends.  Right now.

For years I’ve all but begged people to give more of themselves.  At Christmas time especially, when the materialism I despise overtakes so many of us.  Myself included.  When people ask me every year what I want for Christmas, I tell them to buy a water filter for a family, feed the hungry, something, anything, but purchase a gift for me that I do not need.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like to get gifts as much as the next girl.  I still get giddy when I’m ripping pretty paper to shreds while wondering what’s in the box.  But I like to give more than I like to receive and for some reason (must be that whole “love like Jesus” thing) I consider it a GIFT to myself to give to those in need, to share the Gospel, to love.  Only once in my life has anyone given me such a gift.  Last year, a friend gave me a Christmas gift.  It was a check made out to AAB to purchase a water filter.  Best Christmas gift.  EVER.  Seriously.  Call me crazy, but her gift to a family I love in Guatemala was an incredible gift to me.  I can’t help it.  I was made for this.  And you want to know something?  I think we all were, but somewhere along the way (you know, that whole sin and fallen world deal) we lost what it’s really all about.

So here I’ve sat every year for years complaining about how people need to give more of themselves to those that really need it instead of buying that one size too small sweater, a picture frame or a candle for the person that really doesn’t NEED anything at all.  Because let’s face it.  Some of us think we are in need.  New flash: chances are, we’re really not.  I’ve seen real need and it ain’t pretty, folks.  But every year that I’ve complained about how I want people to donate to others on my behalf, I’ve gotten myself caught up in what I so dislike and have filled my shopping cart with those same gifts that people do not need or want that half the time go unused and sold in yard sales six months later.  Never once have I done the very thing I’ve asked people to do for me.

No matter what anyone says, I do not “do enough” because I believe you never can.  There is always more that I can do because that love just never stops overflowing me.  Some say that we do not need to do this because churches and organizations around the world do this kind of stuff.  To that I say, WE ARE THE CHURCH and since we have one of those organizations, we’re pretty much that, too.  This is our job.  If everyone left it up to someone else the world would be in more chaos than it already is.  So this year I am doing what I’ve begged people to do for years.  Instead of worrying about trying to find the best gift for that person that has it all or, dare I say, enough, we’re doing Christmas the way we think it should be done this year.

I love to give gifts and remember, I like to receive them.  There is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts.  NOTHING!  So don’t blow up my email account or voice mail with “you’re a scrooge” messages.  Trust me, there will be plenty of presents under my tree this year, I will thoroughly enjoy whatever gifts I receive and the super excited 4 year old in our house is getting his much anticipated visit from Santa, but this isn’t like Christmases past.  Everyone that usually gets a gift from us is still receiving a gift.  You’ll get a small happy…maybe something special that we know you really want or could use or some of your favorite fresh baked cookies and along with that, you’ll be receiving the gift of knowing that you are feeding a starving child, giving the life saving gift of clean water, sharing the Message of Jesus (imagine that….is Christmas about anything else??) in countries around the world.

These are the organizations we will be using to give Christmas away.  If anyone wants to join us, please do.  You can find gifts to give from $5 and the maximum is unlimited.  Why don’t you consider still purchasing that gift for someone, but make it $5 less than you planned and donate a $5 Bible to someone that doesn’t have one instead or spend $10 less on that person’s gift and donate a mosquito net on his behalf?  It’s that simple and so easy and there are many options.  I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t give gifts, I’m simply asking you to consider spending a little less on the material things and give something that is really needed to people around the world.  The first, Lemonade International, is a ministry in Guatemala.  You can provide children with shoes (and a local shoe maker with an income…you know we love that!!), help pay a teacher’s salary and more.  Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International do not need any introduction.  Across All Borders is not doing anything specific for Christmas this year and I am not even advocating specifically for our ministry, but of course if you would like to give the gift of a clean burning stove, Bibles, feed children, etc., through us, you can visit our website to make a donation.

You know (or maybe you don’t because I can’t imagine that anyone would intentionally ignore this on purpose)…Americans spend more than 450 BILLION DOLLARS a year on Christmas!  To me, that spells INSANITY.  Americans must be living in some kind of blind dream world.  Because do you realize that experts believe that just 20 BILLION dollars is all that is needed to make sure everyone on the planet has access to clean water??  Water is just one of the world’s issues, but imagine what the world would be like if just for one Christmas we gave everyone in the world clean water and used the remaining 430 BILLION DOLLARS on other issues.  Talk about alleviating poverty and imagine how many people would be reached with the Gospel!! 

Yes, I’m a little crazy.  I’ve never denied it.  But I’m not crazy in the way some people think I am.  I may be considered generous, but never will I be generous enough.  I may love the poor and oppressed, orphans and widows, but I will never love enough.  And even though I’m crazy, I am not crazy enough, because the reason behind my generosity, my love, my craziness is a Savior that gave it ALL and clearly laid out for all of us how we are to live our lives.  It’s that simple.  I take Him seriously and literally.  He takes care of our little family of three and has called us, just like He has called everyone else, to give ourselves away for the Kingdom’s cause.  How can we ask others to live this way if we do not?  So here we go.  Will you join us?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Not A Typical Thanksgiving

This year we did not celebrate Thanksgiving as usual.  Far from it.  There was no watching the Macy’s Day parade, cooking all morning and running around at the last minute getting every thing ready for family, watching football all afternoon, napping and eating again.  No, this was not our typical Thanksgiving.  Most Thanksgivings I am more concerned with getting to wherever we’re supposed to be on time or making sure the pie turns out just right.  But today…

I looked into the eyes of a 20-something Muslim woman that is paralyzed from the waist down and listened to her story.  She was eight years old when her parents were murdered in front of her eyes and when she was raped, shot and left for dead in Somalia.  As I hugged her I wanted nothing more than to take her pain away, past and present, and prayed that she will one day understand that there is hope in the One that came to save her.

I shook hands with a boy that arrived just two days ago from Sudan and I wondered what he must be thinking about his new home.

I knelt on the ground and rubbed the back of a woman from a small country that borders Nepal as I tried to understand what she was saying.  In the end, I think she was overwhelmed and eventually calmed down as she got used to all of the activity.  Later I smiled as I watched her making a necklace and taking extra plates of food back to her room…something I’m sure she was never able to do during her 20 years in the refugee camp in her home country.

I spent time with a Muslim family in their living room.  They fled Somalia not long ago.

I was on the verge of tears when during a prayer a woman we were serving walked over, grabbed my hand and bowed her head to pray with us.

I was reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel.

And tonight I am praying for each and every one that we served, those that I was fortunate to meet and those that I did not.

We spent the day with others from our church serving at a local refugee community that houses refugees from ten countries.  Some are Christians, but the majority are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religions.   We played games and did crafts with the children, served lunch, distributed food and necessity bags and shared the love of Jesus in words and action.

In the end, as we prayed, I couldn’t help but look around at those that had come to serve and the Christian refugees that had joined us, hand in hand, in prayer and thought…this is what heaven must look like.  In heaven, it won’t matter what country you were born in, the language you spoke, the color of your skin.  A huge circle of brothers and sisters from literally all over the world joined hands today to give thanks to Him.  We saw just a glimpse of heaven today.

Everyone that knows me knows that my heart is in international missions, but my passion for missions started right here in this country when I was child serving wherever and however I could.  Today I got the best of both worlds.  This was the best Thanksgiving I have ever had.