Answered Prayer: Clean Water!

My very first official race was a 10K that represented something immense, the achievement of a goal I had never even set out to accomplish. I believe that God blesses us and we should share our blessings. And because it was such a momentous symbol of God’s incredible transformation in my life, I wanted to do something productive through the race that would help others.

So, I started a fundraiser for WaterAid, an organization that helps provide clean water and sanitation to communities around the world that are suffering from fatal yet completely preventable diseases. No child should die from diarrheal diseases or parasites when it is possible to bring them clean water.  Anyway, I digress. I started out with a goal of $5,000. .

After a few weeks of very discouraging results, I realized that I had failed to incorporate God into this effort. I was doing it for him, so to speak. But I failed to ask him to bless my efforts. So, I posted a prayer request about my fundraising effort for WaterAid through every avenue available to me, including this blog. And boy did he bless me. The $5,000 goal I began with was adjusted to $2,000 when I ended up being the sole fundraiser. I leveraged every fundraising piece of knowledge I had gained in my career to try and persuade people to support my cause.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to raise even $10. Largely with the support of my church members, especially our priest and church secretary I was able to surpass my goal amount of $2,000. It was difficult and discouraging at times, but I praise God because it led to a sense of awareness in my church community. In fact, a year later, some of the members still ask me about it.

The power of answered prayer.

What makes a marriage work?

This post really resonated with me so I’d like to share it.  Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or married; I think we can all benefit from the message of friendship as a key component of marriage.  Take a look, it’s a good read 🙂

THE #1 THING WE’D HAVE CHANGED IN OUR MARRIAGE

Taking a Break from Dating

Ever gone through seasons of just giving up on even thinking about your love life? I know I have. This is a great post simply because of its vulnerability. Sometimes you just need to hear that someone else gets it. Take a look!

Wasted Time: True Love’s Saboteur.

More than you can handle

(Image taken from: followpics.net)

This for all of you who are tired of hearing people say that God never gives you more than you can handle. I’ve been stumped by that phrase as well and I just love the God-given wisdom that shines through this article.

Take a look – Yes, God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle 

Death and Community

Shock. Loneliness. Overwhelming grief.

Those are just a few of a multitude of conflicting emotions that hit us hard when someone dies. Last month our church lost one of its founding members. More importantly, a wife lost her husband, two sons lost their dad, and a daughter-in-law lost a father who treated her as his own. A community lost one of its own.

Death often acts as a catalyst for reflection. For me, it is always a reminder of three very important things – (1) community is a strange phenomenon and (2) what meaning have I given to my life? and (3) remember the bigger picture.

Community: While I watched people pay their respects to a man I barely knew (despite having grown up with him), I was hit with these reminders again. Youth members set aside finals, hectic work schedules, and even long distances to support these two young men who are experiencing a loss difficult to comprehend. Some of us may not even be close to them; we stumbled with what we could possibly say; but we tried to be there and show that we care. Former members no longer attending our church took the time on a work night to honor a man who did a lot to help without saying much. A community often split by church politics, judgement, and gossip, came together as one in recognition of the value of this individual and the grief of his loved ones. It’s both beautiful and disturbing. There is incredible beauty in the ways in which many gave of themselves in order to help and support the family. It’s also disturbing to know that there is so much potential for our church and community to be stronger on the good days rather than  just the bad ones and to not know how to make that happen. Having recently felt that God is calling me to stay in my home church and work to revive it; this was an especially difficult reality.

Meaningful Life: When a fellow classmate died my senior year of high school, our entire class was deeply affected.  There was one thing that stood out for all of us in our memories of her – her smile. Her smile reflected inner joy. That was the first time I dealt with death on a more personal basis and the first time I asked myself “How would I want to be remembered?” As the viewing progressed, stories were told of a man who was always willing to help and work hard, who shared his faith with others, and who served “behind the scenes”. I know more about the kind of man he was now than I ever did before. His life reflected meaningful and humble service. His life reflected Christ.

I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves – What mark do I want to leave?  I believe that when we look at life from that perspective, it helps us realign our goals with what God wants of us. My answer is that I want to be known as a woman who went out of her way to help others. That desire has manifested in the career choices I’ve made as well as the role I believe God has given me in ministry.

The Big Picture: Last but certainly not least, I sat there struggling to hold back tears at the sight of his loved ones falling apart and I looked back on my day and felt ashamed. I was so irritated that morning at having to deal with a 3 hour commute due to traffic, struggling to find someone to answer questions for my research project, and stresses from all corners. But what is all that in comparison to the grief I witnessed that night?

We’re so busy questioning God that we fail to recognize his eyes see it all and yet he loves us enough to listen to our rants. Why do we get mired in the details instead of looking at the bigger picture?

 

Death puts things into perspective. Why can’t we hold on to that perspective on a daily basis? 

A Request for your Prayer

Clean Water!

Clean water is something we often take for granted but for many people it means more than just a liquid comprised of H2O. It can help kids gain an education, allow women to earn a living, and ensure a steady income for families in dire need. How? It’s simple really. Have you ever been sick and felt completely incapable of functioning? Imagine repeatedly getting sick from infectious diseases because of dirty water. These diseases can stunt growth in children and prevent adults from being able to work for a steady income. Each year millions of children die from entirely preventable causes. Something as simple as clean water can transform entire communities! 

So, I have a very important prayer request for you. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m running my first 10K this June. I also decided to raise money for an organization called WaterAid with an ambitious goal of $5,000. I honestly did not think I’d face such difficulty raising money but the response has been almost nonexistent.

The other day I was thinking about what I could do to turn the tide and I realized I hadn’t asked God to help me – silly me! I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before! So, I prayed this morning asking God to bless my efforts and now I’m asking you to join me in prayer. I don’t want your donations, I just want your prayer. I know God is more than capable of making my measly efforts fruitful beyond imagination.

So please pray that God will bless me in this effort to raise money to save entire communities with a much needed resource – clean water.

Deuteronomy 15:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Give generously to them 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.

You shall not covet your friend’s Facebook status

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

Did you see that last part – “…anything that belongs to your neighbor”?

For anyone who’s been part of the social networking world, we’ve all hit that point where we don’t even want to log in anymore. Whether it’s because we’re lonely and everyone else seems to have great fulfilling relationships or if it’s because others appear to be achieving all of the goals we have yet to even reach for, social networks have the ability to showcase the best of everyone’s lives. We often forget that just as we wouldn’t display our weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the entire online world, neither would the friends we’re connected to online. I’m not about to declare to the entire world that I’m doubting my decisions about school or work or my love life; are you?

For the most part, that is a highly unlikely scenario and if people do post about the negatives it’s not an in-depth exploration of the emotions they’re experiencing. So, the next time you feel disheartened because everyone else seems to have it so together, remember that everyone has their struggles. They just choose to share them privately.

God provided that last commandment not only to protect your neighbor, but to protect you! He knows it eats us up inside when we allow ourselves to start comparing our lives to those around us. He also knows how easy it is for us to lose sight of his plans for us when we’re too busy looking at what’s going on with everyone else.

Take a look at this great article about social media envy.

Lonely in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “lonely in a crowd”? Such a startling truth in such few words. Have you ever experienced that feeling? As if you’re interacting with the world but there’s still something missing? A sense of being disconnected overwhelms your heart and there might be nothing wrong technically, but everything feels off?

I’ve felt this way after a long period of not interacting with friends or when I’ve felt neglected by a friend. Perhaps you’ve experienced it after a break-up or maybe you’ve recently moved and have yet to establish yourself in any sort of community. Or maybe you feel everyone else is moving forward and you’re standing still struggling to be okay with the changes taking place around you.

Whatever the reason, the feeling of isolation is awful. There’s no other way to put it! It can be absolutely paralyzing; you may feel completely incapable of doing anything because you are so caught up in your loneliness. I did what I could – I asked a few friends to pray for me and then I poured out my heart to God via my journal. Result? No relief! I’m still feeling this angst and ache. Perhaps I’m missing the point?

In my search for answers (and peace), I felt I was being told to go in different directions. One article (Living with Loneliness) made me think I should just accept this state because it is a reality of life; until we can experience the complete fulfillment of finally being united with our Father. In Doing life or doing lunch?, Reagan Perkins doesn’t talk about being content in your loneliness at all.  Instead, she takes a practical approach to dealing with being in different life stages from those that are part of your circle with the recommendation that the community learn to accommodate the life changes of its members. For those of us with a growing number of soon-to-be-married friends, that might mean reworking our expectations of how involved our friends  will be in our lives.

Finally, I found Fabienne Hartford’s Lonely but not Rejected article confusing. While I agree that ideally we should only measure our worth in Christ, I don’t know how to apply what she’s talking about practically. According to Hartford, receiving affirmation through God alone allows us to serve others and love those who are hurting. I agree that we should seek to be satisfied in God and I agree that he can fill us up so that we can fill others up. But isn’t it possible that God provides affirmation through those around us? How do you peel yourself away from needing the validation of those around you? What does it actually look like to receive affirmation from God?

Maybe the spiritual side of loneliness is different in all three of those articles because it can mean something different for everyone. Perhaps it has a different purpose in each person’s life – something specific that God is asking you to pay attention to.

I know it’s not wrong to focus our energy on the relationships we have with family and friends. It’s not wrong to stay busy making plans with everyone. However, at the same time, it’s important to remember that the emptiness you feel inside is meant to be filled by God. Perhaps I’ve been allowing my time with friends to be one of my “idols”. Maybe I’m not devoting enough of myself to my relationship with God? Have I given too much time and importance to specific friends? Or is this just a part of life that I need to accept? For now, these questions are all the answers I have. I’ll just keep bringing it back to God and in the meantime, ask him to give me strength and peace.

Lamentations 3:25-30

New International Version (NIV)

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

Update – March 24, 2013:

I wanted to update you all about how God convicted me during church service today.  Yesterday, I wasted almost half the day reading romance stories (a particular weakness of mine).  The reason I say “wasted” is because I know I have a lot of things I should have been doing with that time. I plan to write about my procrastination skills in a future post but getting back to the point I was trying to make – I felt guilty about how I’d spent my time yesterday. So, I talked to God about it this morning during service and he spoke to my heart with this realization: In an effort to escape from the awful feeling I talked about in this post, I was once again trying to fill a void with something other than him. My “loneliness” story in this case was in fact about placing idols before God.

I said in this post that perhaps God was asking me to devote more of myself to him but instead of working on actually doing that, I actively sought to veg out via fiction. I think a lot of us can identify with the temptation to escape into a fictional world whether it be through TV, gaming, or reading. We want to avoid what’s stressing us rather than deal with reality. Sometimes, that’s ok. Sometimes we just need an hour to let it all go and give our brains a rest. However, when that turns into hours of time spent in front of something that takes us away from life, we should take a step back and ask whether that behavior is healthy. In my case, I realize I was replacing one idol with another. So now I’m asking God to help me fight against this tendency I have to escape and instead focus my energy on being productive for his purpose and also building my relationship with him.

Related post: Idolatry TODAY

Christian Hypocrisy or Humanity?

 

I started this post more as a “venting session” than with the intention of posting it. (I wasn’t quite sure of its fate in terms of seeing the light of day.) However, as I wrote, I found myself being led to some conclusions that I want to share.

Annoyed. Irritated. Irrational?

It’s especially difficult to be “not okay” with someone and to also not feel like you can address the issue with them because 10,000 negative consequences will take place (mostly in the form of drama and hurt feelings). In addition, you’re not allowed to vent to someone else, right? That would be gossiping, right? So, what’s a girl to do?!

For someone who is not at all the type to enjoy secrets or drama; I find myself having to deal with a lot of it as I get older. I just want to publicly protest here and say, “Wasn’t this supposed to end in high school because I really don’t like having to deal with this nonsense.” The worries about who’ll be offended by what, keeping tabs on who knows what information, and trying to make sure that everyone’s expectations are met – I hate that! I don’t think anyone likes it of course, but I find it particularly exasperating.

Do you ever wonder what you’re supposed to do with that feeling? I don’t think God has a problem with our anger or irritation. It’s what we do with it that matters. But that’s my question! What do I do with it? Sometimes we know that we should give ourselves time to cool down, especially when we suspect that our reaction may be irrational. However, what about those times when we feel justified? What if we legitimately believe that the way we’re feeling is a normal reaction?

I’ve often found myself in this situation; all that irritation is just stirring in my heart and I don’t know what to do with the negative energy. Meanwhile, the fact that I’m feeling this way is adding stress to my life and I don’t know how to get rid of it. On top of which, it’s frustrating to find myself yet again in a state of discontent. “Didn’t I just get done thanking you Lord for how at peace I am? Is this some sort of joke? Are you trying to be ironic? Because I think you’ve achieved that particular goal.”

I suppose I should talk to God (rather than asking him rhetorical questions out of frustration) – bring him my irritation and ask him to set me straight? I think that’s the right answer. However, I have to admit that there’s a part of me that likes to hold on to my anger. Some ridiculous part of me that feels self-justified and so proud that I don’t want to let God take it away. I want to revel in it and feel entitled to an apology or something equally ridiculous.

As I wrote this, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, look at you. All these people (meaning a few friends) are giving you credit for sharing your faith and personal growth with others as a youth mentor. But your reaction is so immature. Where’s that wisdom and maturity now?” Well, just because I’m Christian and I have a pretty solid relationship with God doesn’t mean I’m unflappable. I make mistakes too! I stumble and I fall all over the place and the only thing holding me together is God.

That conversation in my head led me to reflect on several conversations I’ve had about how Christians are not immune to the temptations that “non-believers” face. It’s very true and although we can strive to be better people, that doesn’t mean we don’t fall victim to opportunities to be less-than-stellar. I think it’s important to remember that in our faith journey. God asks us to pursue humility not only because he wants us to serve but also because humility allows us to see our own weaknesses.

It allows us to self-evaluate and recognize when we’re allowing ourselves to follow the “ways of this world”. It requires actively checking yourself and remembering that those “great” qualities you have are more about God than they are about you. The words that pour out of you into someone else’s life (whether in person or on a computer screen) are from God. The wisdom, communication skills, and empathy – they all come from God. Whatever skills you have, they are his gifts to you, to be used for his purpose. So enjoy that sense of accomplishment at being part of God’s work, but don’t forget he has made you capable.

I often hear others criticize fellow Christians for being hypocritical. I get it, hypocrisy is incredibly off-putting and especially difficult to understand in people you hold up to certain standards. However, just like me and my temper tantrum displayed above, none of us is immune to human weakness.  We’re just as susceptible to temptation and the devil is always looking to get us where we’re most vulnerable. That doesn’t excuse our sins but perhaps it puts those verses about judgement in perspective. Rather than be upset about a fellow Christian’s “hypocrisy”, we have a responsibility to them out of fellowship-love. That responsibility is to build them up and not tear them down (as Paul says in Romans 14). Remind one another of the humility and self-evaluation God wants us to embrace.

When fellow Christians “fall down” from the pedestal we’ve put them on, let’s try not to focus on their hypocrisy but instead remember their humanity.