Life, Love, & Giving

Finally posting my final post for #itsaboutgiving for Compassion International.

I only recently started blogging with Compassion, the #itsaboutgiving was my first assignment.  The goal of this campaign was to raise $20,000 for children in need around the world.  As of December 17, we (all Compassion bloggers) had only raised $532.

Our final assignment is to raise $100 for children in poverty.

That’s really not a lot.  10 people giving $10.  5 people giving $20.  1 person giving $100.  100 people giving $1.  There’s a lot of ways to break it down, but it’s really not a lot of money for one person.

If you are like me, you probably have a lot of different ministries, charities, and other groups on your radar.  This time of the year, my Facebook feed looks like a giant list of needs that need to met, money needing to be raised, and a reminder of how much need exists in our world today.  Simply overwhelms me at times.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to give back.  It’s on pretty much everyone’s mind.  But the need for some remains throughout the year.

Compassion serves children — many of whom do not have parents or they have parents who are unable to provide their most basic of needs — water, food, shelter, and schooling. Compassion steps in, through amazing, generous people who give, to stand in the gap for these beautiful children.

They live in places where Christmas is another day to scavenge for food, not feast.  A day to walk miles and miles to find water, often times contaminated and dirty.  There is no tree.  There is no rushing to open presents, because there are no presents.

When you give through the Gift Catalog, local partner churches in these countries are able to personally hand these children a gift, one that will meet their needs and to share the love of Jesus with these children.

It’s not too late to give.  Can you give just $10 today to help these children?  Be a part of the solution, stand in the gap for these children and help meet a desperate need.

You are the solution.  Each of us has a part to play in this bigger picture of the world.  What is your part?

God bless you, dear readers, as we finish 2012 and look forward to beginning 2013.

Letter to an Investigator

Blog for Rescue
The Exodus Road is such an amazing organization.  They specialize in covert operations to free victims of trafficking and bring the traffickers to justice.  They have presented an awesome opportunity for you to be a part of this journey.
I can only imagine what it is like to be an investigator in these dark, scary places.  Where your life could literally be on the line at any given time.  How difficult it must be to gather evidence to form your case, leaving victims in these brothels until the police can arrest their captors and bring them to justice.  And what about when the system doesn’t work?  Your case is dropped and the criminals get off.  How discouraging.
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Laura Parker, an Exodus Road staffer, wrote in her open letter, “Thank you for pairing action with conviction, and thank you for your sacrifice on behalf of the oppressed. I know that you seldom get thanked or recognized, seldom get the pats on the back that you very much deserve, but please know from this family, you are a bit of a hero.  A lot of a hero.  Because you do the work that so few have the guts to do. You stay up late at night, and you choose to expose yourself to things the rest of us want to ignore.”

And they are extending to you an opportunity to write a letter too!  Handwritten letters (our preference) can by mailed by January 5 to:

The Exodus Road
PO Box 7591 Woodland Park, Colorado 80863

OR you can simply submit your letter online.

They will print, translate, and deliver the letters in person to these AMAZING investigators in January.  They will also make copies so each letter gets to each investigator.

A simple gesture that can reach so far.  These guys rarely (if ever) get a thank you — especially from strangers around the world!!

I would like to challenge my readers to send a letter — my goal is 10 letters.  I will be writing one and my daughter too.  So, if just 8 of you sent a letter we could meet that goal.  Comment or message me so I can see if meet this goal.  It only takes a few minutes but could provide needed encouragement to keep these guys going!

Watch the Video

 

Unity — Reflecting on Making Jesus First & Living Second

Reflecting on Week 7, Day 7: Unity from Doug Bender’s new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First {buy it here:  Live Second and bonus! If you buy before December 15, author Doug Bender is offering an amazing bonus which you can find here.}

Check out: John 17:20–23

I chose this topic to finish my posts, changing my original selection to this instead  in light of the Sandy Hook shooting that took place yesterday.  (#sandyhook)

I have spent the last two days wrestling with emotions, praying, and crying — and enjoying the beautiful moments I have had with my daughter.

Events like Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Clackamas, Virginia Tech, 9/11 — they all impact us.  They remind me that evil exists and that we can’t fix everything.

But Jesus can.  He can take begin the healing through our pain.  He is the great Comforter.

A beautiful thing happens after tragedy — people come together, they pray.  A resounding call to prayer went up yesterday.  People that are not usually one to talk about faith or prayer were praying, attending vigils, thanking God for their life.  This gives me hope for our future — that people realize where healing and comfort truly comes from — God.

My daughter, Fiona, spent the night last night with her grandparents.  She had heard about the shooting earlier in the day (she is home schooled).  Apparently while she was at my parents, they must have been watching the news.  She came home and definitely wanted to talk about it.

She said she wanted to call her friend right away to make sure they knew what was going on.  Then, the tears began to fall.  She said that if she was back at her old school, she would feel terrified to return.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but the pain that she was feeling almost surprised me.  I didn’t expect to hear her fear.

She wanted to try and find a vigil to attend.  She wanted to feel that unity and solidarity of community to overcome that fear.  To be a part of something bigger, to feel like she doing something.

Our country has felt so divided through the election and politics.  For a brief moment, we all stop to feel each other’s pain, to hold each other and comfort one another.  And realize God holds the key.

While I know that this feeling of unity may not last, it encourages me to push forward — that healing comes through unity.  And that Jesus can unify us.  But we must do our part.  And that really begins with living second.

Love Jesus.  Love others.  Live Second.

Known — Reflecting on Making Jesus First & Living Second

Reflecting on Week 9, Day 7: Known from Doug Bender’s new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First {buy it here:  Live Second and bonus! If you buy before December 15, author Doug Bender is offering an amazing bonus which you can find here.}

Check out: Psalm 139:1–6

I chose this topic to continue my posts because I think it’s powerful.

Do you ever feel like you wear a lot of different “hats” in life?  Work/career, family, friends, church…

I know that I do.  My “hats” change from time to time, but there is always a lot of them!

Throughout my life, I (like probably everyone else in the world and throughout history!) wanted people to like me.  To be successful.  And smart.  And funny.  Beautiful.  And so many times, I haven’t felt that I was these things.

I felt like I couldn’t be myself, that I needed to be more like someone else.  There were times when these feelings really began to feel like truth in my heart.

When I was about seventeen, almost eighteen, I met this guy.  He was pretty cute, seemed nice enough.  And he liked me.

Well, I hadn’t dated very much and really felt like I was not going to find anyone who really liked me just because of me.  (Oh, if I only knew then what I know now!)

Shortly after meeting him, I told my parents about him.  I am from a small town and my dad actually knew his step-dad.  About a week or so into our dating, his step-father called my dad and cautioned him that I should not date him.  In all my infinite wisdom, I simply felt like no one wanted me to be happy, that his step-dad must have it out for him and is trying to sabotage this for me.

As teens can be, it’s all about us, right?  Adults don’t know anything.

Well, one evening I was visiting him at his home, watching movies and having dinner.  Quiet night at home.  It was winter, shortly before my birthday.  That night I had asked him if he would come to my party and he agreed.  My heart was full, as only a seventeen year old girl’s can be at the simple thought of a birthday date.

Then his friends arrived, unexpectedly.  He asked me to go into his bedroom and wait in there.

I had no idea why, but I went.  I sat in there, listening to him talk to his friends.  Wanting to leave, but he had made it clear that he did not want me to come out under any circumstance.

I could hear their conversation and he began to talk — suddenly his words struck my heart. He was making fun of me.  He was ashamed and embarrassed of me.

Humiliated.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Wanting to run away, but feeling so trapped.  I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t stay.  Each word was like a knife to my heart.  All of the things that I thought were unlovable about myself were being validated.

Finally they left, he came to the door and said that I was free to come back out and finish the movie.  No apologies, no embarrassment for his words, just statements.

I left.  And I never seen him again.  But his words, they stayed with me.

My heart was broken.  I, of course, broke up with him and told my friends that I just wasn’t interested anymore.  I couldn’t utter what had happened.  I couldn’t tell them what he had said.  And I thought every guy after him probably thought of me like he did.

Many years later, after a lot of hurt — a lot of mistakes and bad choices, I learned real truth.  I learned what God thinks of me.  I have forgiven that guy (in truth, I can’t even remember his name — only his words and what his room looked like that night.) and I no longer think that all men are like him.

My identity is in Christ.  I don’t hide anything from Him.  I don’t have any secrets with Him.  I can be me.  All the time!  It’s freedom!  I can tell him my fears, my doubts, my brokenness with no fear of being shamed or ridiculed.  Only forgiveness and love.

While I still prefer people to like me, it doesn’t make me doubt my worth if they don’t.  If I fail, I am disappointed — but I know that I am not a failure.  I would like to think that I wouldn’t have stayed in that room if I knew then what I know now.  That I would have never even gone in that room.

To be known by God, as only He can know us is life altering.  He knows your heart, your thoughts, you can’t hide anything from Him.  And there is so much freedom in giving that to Him, in accepting His amazing love and the freedom that brings.

{Not my creation, I found it on Pinterest}

Love Jesus.  Love others.  Live Second.

Advocate — Reflecting on Making Jesus First & Living Second

Reflecting on Week 7, Day 3: Love from Doug Bender’s new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First {buy it here:  Live Second and bonus! If you buy before December 15, author Doug Bender is offering an amazing bonus which you can find here.}

 

Check out: John 14:16–21

I chose this topic to continue my posts because of my career, advocate is a word that I am  very familiar with and I thought it would be great to connect it with Jesus and living second.

My previous job title:  Advocate.

I think of all the names of God:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, Bright Morning Star.  I don’t usually think of Advocate.

As I read through today’s devotion, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made this connection before.  It became so clear to me, that the Holy Spirit is EXACTLY that…our Advocate.  Wow.

In the social work world, especially when dealing with court stuff, you will hear the term advocate.  I served as a CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem).  I served as a Shelter Advocate.  A Transitional Housing Advocate.  A Life Skills Advocate.  (You can see why I connected with this word!)

In the devotional, Doug Bender, writes, “For those who call God their God, he grants an advocate, a lawyer who stands guard over our case, who helps in our time of need, who advocates on our behalf.”  Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

“For those who call God their God.”  This is a special gift from God to His children!  In the CASA program or at the shelter, our advocating was a gift to those who were our clients.  We didn’t advocate for everyone, just “our own.”  But all you really had to do was meet our criteria and ask.  It’s the same.  God’s criteria:  call Him your God (and all that goes with that too!).

“He grants an advocate.”  You don’t have to pay for an advocate.  They are gifts, granted to you.

“A lawyer who stands guard over our case.”  Think of lawyers for a minute.  An attorney who accepts a case, stands up for you — regardless of fault.  They fight for you.  They stand guard over your case.  They talk for you, when you can’t talk for yourself.  They are willing to jump into the mess you are in to help you.  An advocate is exactly like that, minus any financial gain.  They are willing to do it because they believe in you!  Because they care for you!  With nothing to gain for themselves.  They stand guard, they speak up.

“Who helps in our time of need, who advocates on our behalf.”  This is the most critical piece.  Our time of need.  When do we get attorneys?  When we are in need.  Why was I appointed as a CASA?  Because the child had a need.  As a shelter advocate, my clients were homeless and victims of domestic violence.  They had need. Advocates come when there is need.  When we can’t do it on our own.  They hold our hand, they speak words we cannot speak for ourselves.  They give us a voice again.  They give us strength to carry on through our need.

In my work, I often worked with immigrant victims of domestic violence.  Oh, how I love these women!  They often were at a greater disadvantage because English was generally their second language, our court system was even more confusing to them than to most.  They had been lied to, told that no one would help them, or worse — that we would hurt them.  So, to be given the great privilege of working with these beautiful women was an honor to me.

I have seen tears stream down these women’s faces.  Pain and sorrow.  The privilege to say for them what they could not say.  To get to know their hearts.  To protect their secret pain.  To hold their hand.  To do battle for them.

An immigrant client had an appointment with DSHS.  Due to language barriers and general lack of understanding, the case worker kept insisting my client meet certain requirements.  My client, more than happy to do that but legally unable, could not find the words to explain her predicament.  The ability to step in and clearly convey this, not only helped them develop a better working relationship, but helped both of them reach their goals.

Another client, working with immigration, did not want to share her most painful story.  The torture of reliving the abuse.  The humiliation she had felt.  The gift of being able to stand for her and with her, gave her strength to get through those most painful moments.  She is thriving now!

Doug Bender goes onto write, “He helps. He guides. He remains. He is with us, whenever, wherever, forever.”  Wow.  What a tremendous gift we have been given.  A helper.  A guide.  Someone who NEVER leaves us or forsakes us.  Someone who fights for us.  No matter how ugly the attacker, how evil the force — He is there for us.  We have been richly blessed by this gift.  The only requirement — that we call God our God.

Love Jesus.  Love others.  Live Second.

Giving in 2012

Let’s get the basics out of the way…I strongly encourage you to check out Compassion’s catalog.  You can purchase gifts and make donations that give life and bring God’s love and light to a dark world.  As you read and think about what giving Biblically means in your life, I encourage you to consider Compassion.  They are a fantastic organization doing great work around the world for “the least of these.”  #itsaboutgiving

Question posed:  What does it look like to give Biblically in today’s culture?

Our culture has changed dramatically over the last decade or so, with the boom of technology and growth of the internet.

When I was younger, to give meant getting a name of the giving tree at the local mall or dropping some coins in the Salvation Army bucket.  I was not exposed to the need beyond my community.  I knew it existed, but I didn’t REALLY know the need.

Now, we are bombarded by awareness of need and tragedy.  My Facebook feed has more requests for donations than status updates.  Every time I open my email, I feel the need that exists.

But then are we desensitized by the overwhelming nature of things?  I remember hearing statistics the first time, the shock and horror that I felt.  Now hearing the number of orphans in the world, doesn’t get to me the way that it once did.  Sure, I feel the burden — the desire to be a part of the solution.  But it is different.

So, getting back to the actual subject — giving Biblically.  What I think is most beautiful is that Biblical giving has never really changed.  It’s the same.  God’s expectation’s of us are the same — how they play out is different, but the basis is the same.  And it’s the same for me and you.  God expects us to give sacrificially.  (Check out my post on sacrifice for more thoughts on that.)

We are so blessed.  Abundantly blessed.  Check out this for a great reminder of just how blessed we really are.

In America, we have resources at our fingertips that millions and millions of people around the world, do not have any access to.  Water for instance.  Can you imagine getting through the day, cooking, cleaning, drinking, laundry, dishes, everything — on a couple of gallons of {dirty} water?  That you spent hours hauling for miles?  We think that we have busy lives.  Imagine what you would have to give up if you had to walk a few miles each time you needed some water.  And that using that water could cause your family to become ill, even die.

Question:  When you think of giving, do you feel joy or obligation?  Does handing over that money make you happy?  Or do you give just enough to not really feel the sting?  That you don’t really need it, so it’s ok to share?  What if God asked you to dig a little deeper…to give a little bit or a lot more?  Would you feel joy then?  Is giving money harder to give than purchasing a gift for a needy person?

Think about what God has said about His expectations of your giving (my emphasis):

  • Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. ~ Deuteronomy 15:10
  • There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. ~ Proverbs 11: 24-25
  • He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. ~ Proverbs 28:27
  • And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” ~ Mark 12:41-44
  • And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” ~ Luke 3:11
  • In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” ~ Acts 20:35
  • Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
  • If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? ~ James 2:15-16

Reading God’s Word about giving is refreshing and convicting.  This is truth, no matter our outward circumstances.  We are to meet the needs of others.  Even in our own poverty.  We should give until it hurts (Francis Chan).

I will leave you with these quotes about giving…they are pretty powerful.

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” ~ Richard Braunstein

“Remember this—you can’t serve God and Money, but you can serve God with money.” ~ Selwyn Hughes

“As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor. It can keep a missionary actively winning lost men to the light of the gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values. Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.” ~ A.W. Tozer

Give this Christmas and throughout the year.  I challenge you to follow Francis Chan’s words about Biblical giving and give until it hurts.

Love — Reflecting on Making Jesus First & Living Second

Reflecting on Week 7, Day 3: Love from Doug Bender’s new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First {buy it here:  Live Second and bonus! If you buy before December 15, author Doug Bender is offering an amazing bonus which you can find here.}

Check out: Mark 12:28 – 34

I chose this topic to kick off my posts because when I think of living second, I think of loving God first.  And I also think of loving others before myself.

When I was younger I used to think of love as being this amazing feeling, you have it all the time.  Everything is happy.  Everyone is happy.  Life is good.  Love will make it all better.

Then, I got older.

Life happened.  I realized that life is not always happy.  That love sometimes doesn’t last.

But love can last.  Even through the icky stuff.  It’s that euphoric, over the top feeling that will never last.

Every relationship I have ever had (parents, siblings, children, dating, etc) goes through changes.  It’s that ebb and flow of life.

There is a person in my life, whom I love so much.  I have known them since before I had memories, they are a big part of the fabric that makes up my life story.  My life wouldn’t be what it is today if they were not a part of it.  But our story is not all happy.  There has been deep and immense pain in this relationship.  Broken trust.  Some of my greatest pain has been born from this person.  Times of not feeling love.  Times when I really truly felt that I didn’t ever want to see them again.  Deep wounds that have healed, but left a scar on my heart.

Thankfully I have another person in my life, who also loves this person and loves Jesus.  They consistently spend time in prayer for us.  Offer a shoulder to cry on when they pain gets too much.

But healing has come.  It happened slowly.  After a devastating event, I cut myself off.  No calls.  No visits.  No nothing.  I did not want to see them or talk to them.  This went on for six months (an eternity for us).  Through the prayers of a small little girl, my heart began to heal and soften.  Contact was made.  Redemption.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, but it gets better most days.

Over the years, a lot of reading, and even more prayers I have learned a significant truth.  Hurt people hurt people.  And only God can bring the kind of healing that will mend those hurts.  But sometimes people are so shut off that they don’t want to hear about or from God.  It’s easier to wallow in their own hurt and self-pity.

That’s where love comes in.  Our love for them.  Our love for God.  I could not love this person in my life the way that I am able to without God.  Humanly, I couldn’t do it.  It’s too hard.  But God breathes this beautiful love for them into my heart, that sustains even when the happy love feeling is no where to be found.

And because God has given me this beautiful love, I can show them that love.  But I had to make a choice.  A choice to accept the love God has for me.  A choice to show that love even through my own pain and hurt.  And sometimes I don’t make the right choice.  But thankfully God continues to work on me and His love is unconditional.  Available.  And it redeems the broken.  Overcomes the wrong choices.  Offers healing.

In the devotional, Doug Bender, writes, “Love is not a feeling.”  Amen.  It’s not a feeling at all.  Sometimes it comes with a feeling.  But love itself is not a feeling.

He goes on to say that love is, “The reason for our creation and the foundation of all relationships.”  If we don’t accept that, our life’s purpose will be unfulfilled.  Our relationships will end without that foundation.  Life is meaningless without God’s love.

I hope that you have chosen to accept God’s love for you.  To live for Him first and foremost.  Because in living second, there is immense freedom.  There is joy where it seems impossible; hope in the darkest of places; and healing in the most shattered and broken places.

Love Jesus.  Love others.  Live Second.