Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent Ponderings {First Feast Sunday}

It's feast day...
Yes, it is... and a chicken is currently roasting in my oven as I compose this blog post. For this season of Lent, I am taking on the challenge of cooking all of our family's meals and refraining from eating out or buying take-out, even during feast days. On feast days, I have decided to make special meals instead... thus the roast chicken!

You see, we love eating out... and at times, it has become excessive... many, many, many dollars spent in restaurants that can be and should be spent helping the least of these. Now, don't get me wrong... I am not saying that eating out is wrong. What I am saying is that, at times it can be!

When it becomes "I deserve to..." or "I am entitled to..."

It has also become mundane... un-special. We eat out and consume without even giving it a second thought anymore... like it's a normal part of life... when in fact, it isn't!

The goal isn't to not set foot in a restaurant ever again. Far from! Rather, the goal is, that after this season of Lent is over, we will see eating out as a treat... as something that is special, to be enjoyed, to be thankful for... and to be mindful of many of our brothers and sisters who are the least of these, who don't even know what a restaurant is, let alone set foot in one!

As I read through A Place at the Table these past four days and practiced the discipline of cooking simple meals at home each and every day... I have become very aware of my own vulnerabilities. As Chris Seay wrote on Day 1:
... when we strip away the many comforts of our dietary pleasures, we may not like what we see in ourselves. 
In time it will become painfully clear that we are not the pilots of this ship. Submissions to our King is the only way forward.  
The only way forward...
Yes, in just four shorts days, I have realized that submissions to our King is truly the only way forward. As Chris puts it, "How will you stand up to your Pharaohs on this journey?"

Yes, we are slaves to many Pharaohs... including to our many comforts. The thing is... there are many of our brothers and sisters who are the least of these who, not unlike us, still live in slavery today... yet, there is no way they can stand up to their Pharaohs without our help.

I sincerely believe that it is through our submissions to our King, through our daily giving up of our many comforts, through our standing up to our Pharaohs... that we can, in turn, effectively help to free our brothers and sisters from the slavery that they are prisoners of.  

Chris writes about this on Day 2: 
When I look at the shelves of chocolate in my local convenience store, I know that much of the cacao farmed across the globe comes from children who are forced into labor due to unjust debt. But I ignore it.
Modern-day slavery --- it is what's been pressing on my heart these past few days. Cacao farming is just one example of many forms of slavery. How about the coffee and tea we drink? The sugar we sweeten our coffee and tea with? The clothes we wear? Let's not even talk about human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution and pornography!

Friends, modern-day slavery is real. A crisis and an atrocity that we can no longer ignore! 

The thing is...
There are extremely simple things that each and everyone of us can do to help in the fight to eliminate modern-day slavery.

Such as buying only fair trade chocolate products. The Camino products are regulars in our home and I highly recommend them!

Such as switching to fair trade coffee... a staple in our house! We buy coffee from by Level Ground Trading, a company not only committed to "investing in job creation and organic initiatives," it also "provides school scholarships for over 200 children."

Such as checking this website first to learn how our favourite brands relate to trafficking and other labor abuses. I've found this website to be extremely helpful when buying clothing and footwear. Speaking of which, how about wearing our clothes and shoes until they are totally worn out before buying more so as to minimize our slavery footprint?

And how about human trafficking?
Just last week, on February 27, was Shine a Light on Slavery Day organized by End It Movement.

Personally, I once thought that human trafficking is just too big a battle to fight... that I cannot somehow do anything significant.

But, my girl has shown me the flaw of my thinking! In the Fall of 2013, she started an initiative called Freedom Creations. In this blog post, she writes about how Freedom Creations was born!

Because of Freedom Creations, my girl has taught this mama how to knit... for freedom! Last week, on End It Day, I posted this photo on social media... it made my heart skip a beat as I realized that there is nothing too small... nothing too mundane... nothing too insignificant that one can do to help in the fight for freedom!

Even something as small as one stitch... can fight for freedom!

You see, Freedom Creations in its short six-months of existence has raised over $1400.00 for International Justice Mission Canada! Yes, that's over $1400.00 to fight for freedom... all done one stitch at a time!!!

This is from Day 3 of A Place at the Table:
When we begin to take courageous steps to end poverty, modern-day slavery, and the water crisis, our actions easily multiply because of our influence on the people in our lives. When entire churches begin to feel a truly familial connection with the least of these, the world will never be the same.
The world becoming a better place... that, friends... is my prayer! Is it yours, too?

By the way, friends... this blog post has taken longer to write than anticipated. In between the time that it took to start and finish up this blog post, our family has had an awesome time of worship with our church family, celebrated with a brother-in-Christ who got baptized, and had the yummiest roast chicken we've had in a long time!

Chris wrote in today's reading...
... it will be a beautiful day of worship and an important part of our fasting journey.
Yes, today certainly was that... and more!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent Ponderings {Day 1}

During Lent this year...
I will be reading through Chris Seay's book, A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor, with my fellow Missions Coordinators from over 15 different sites of our church, The Meeting House.

I love this community of Missions Coordinators, all of us volunteering our time, passionate about and committed to leading and encouraging our church family into being the hands and feet of Jesus to people living in the margins of our society, both right here at home and globally.

It is not my first time reading through this book. In fact, this will be the third time! I had to really sort out in my heart that I wanted to do this again... not because I have to, just because my fellow Compassion Coordinators are doing so. And, I've come to the conclusion that... yes, I want to do this again! What I am most excited about, in addition to reading it in community this year, is the fact that God transforms me in a fresh way each and every time. Exciting!

Another reason why I love this book is Chris Seay's partnership with Compassion International in writing this book. It's no secret to those of you who are regulars on here that my family and I love the ministry of Compassion. In fact, all four of us are fully trained Advocates!

What Lent isn't...
So, in pondering whether or not I wanted to go through this book again for Lent this year, it really helped me to think through what Lent isn't.

I've found this blog post by Eugene Cho to be most helpful in sorting out the motives of my heart. The title of the blog post makes me chuckle, every single time:
Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee. I asked you to give up your life to me.” ~ God.
Witty, yes! But honestly... soul-searchingly well-said!

And Eugene posted this on Facebook yesterday:
What we need isn’t more religion.
We need Gospel.
And by Gospel, I’m not speaking of a self-help, pop spiritual psychology, but a Gospel that cuts into the heart of humanity with a grace that compels us to not just merely salvation but a life committed to justice, reconciliation, and redemption.
Isaiah 58 speaks of fasting but fasting that God is not pleased with. It’s a fasting that caters to our own eyes, flesh, and pleasure but not the kind of fasting that God invites us to:
a life broken and transformed by the things of God.
Yes, that is why I am observing Lent this year, yet again... it is to cultivate a life broken and transformed by the things of God... to be that pencil in His hand.

So, here's to the start of 40 days of solidarity with the poor.
Will you join me, friends? I love what Lysa Terkeurst writes in the Foreword...
... this journey isn't about our power, strength of character, or self-control. It is a journey of surrender to God that will usher us from rut dwelling to transformed living. 
In the process of being transformed, we will become more and more aware not just of our hunger but of the hunger of the world. 
We will sit down at the table more eager to ponder those we might serve instead of pouncing on the plenty to which we've grown so accustomed. So very tragically accustomed. God help us. 
A place at the table. Indeed, a place at the table for God and for remembering those less fortunate. But even more so, a place to stop the rut of constant inhale. Taking in, taking in, taking in. It clogs the soul. So for 40 days, let us learn to exhale with great thanksgiving. 
For pondering what God might bring close during this fast. For this place where our souls breathe and dream once again.
That, friends... is my prayer too! Join me?

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When God Writes A Story

This quote...
We are a pencil in the hand of God. It's not about us. ~ Fred Katagwa, as quoted in the book What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart.
I've been chewing on it this last little while... a pencil in the hand of God... like God writing a story. What does that exactly look like?

Two weeks ago, my favourite blogger Ann Voskamp, who is also a friend and fellow Compassion Advocate... together with her hubby, took their whole family on a trip to Guatemala. The story she wrote from there gripped me. It's breathtakingly beautiful... looks exactly like a story God writes when a family takes that step to be a pencil in the hand of God.

The Voskamp family's story so resonated with me because it is, in many ways, very similar to our family's story... of a thousand God-things happening when we don't even realize it...
Of a Compassion Child Development Centre being the end result of our very meager offerings {and quite beautifully, with Ann playing a part of our family's story as well}...
Of God choosing to use weak and unqualified people for Kingdom purposes...
Of a family forever damaged and forever changed and being the most blessed in the process, just because we're willing to be a pencil in the hand of God
A few days after reading Ann's story from Guatemala... 
A film crew from our church descended upon our house. They're filming curriculum material and wanted to share our family's story... of how it feels and what it means to be a pencil in the hand of God.

As the cameras rolled and words came out of my mouth... 
My heart simultaneously filled with deep gratitude and immense joy, with endless thanks to our Heavenly Father, who relentlessly pursues us and is so amazingly gracious in all His ways... 

Because, you see... perhaps just merely six short years ago, I wouldn't have recognized this family whose story I am telling in front of the cameras! Yes, this wasn't always our family's story!

Photo Credit: Natalie Frisk

While we were involved with both global and local missions and were serving the "least of these" here and there a couple of times each year, we were too comfortable and were missing something very important and were stricken with "affluenza" and were suffering from entitlement

We didn't know first-hand what it means to crave a life that tastes like Christ. We were full of faith but weren't obedient. We were addicted to comfort and were indifferent and unconcerned.
Rebel against your own indifference. ~ Bono.
But God is always good...
And He never let go nor gave up on us, and is, even as I type this, still perfecting the good work that He has began in our family.

We have been forever changed... broken and damaged, yet it is the most blessed place to be.

Our story... is a grace-story, one only possible because of God's amazingly beautiful wild Grace. Being a pencil in the hand of God... it isn't always easy, yet it is the most blessed place to be!

Because, when it's all said and done, it's not about us... it's God's story!
It doesn't matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark. You can do it. Jesus did. He is the example, the eternal Truth we love because he loved us first. We serve because he served first. ~ Jeremy Cowart, What's Your Mark?
:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for these past two weeks... #3171 - #3188:
:: The many opportunities to be a pencil in the hand of God! 
:: Great end to my boy's basketball season, quite possibly his last one.
:: Serving at Coldest Night of the Year with our church family.
:: God's answer to prayer regarding some turmoil and uncertainties surrounding one of hubby's business contacts.
:: AIDS Care season at our church in full swing right now!
:: Grad photo day for my boy... where did the time go?!?
:: God's strength and healing touch as we endured a few weeks of colds and flu in this household.
:: A great deal on a pair of new winter boots for me. Yes, winter is hanging around much longer around these parts this year.
:: March! A new month... and Spring is just around the corner!
:: My boy demonstrating his speed cubing skills at a birthday party and getting "paid" in the form of a donation to Compassion Canada's Philippine Disaster Fund! So awesome! 
:: An opportunity for me to help a friend create some digital marketing graphics and, same as my boy, getting "paid" in the form of the same donation to Compassion Canada!
:: Another opportunity for hubby to advocate for Philippine Haiyan relief by speaking on behalf of Habitat for Humanity Canada at a Social Justice Series event held during Lent at a local church.
:: Another Compassion child sponsored via our family's advocacy. 
:: Several opportunities to engage our church's littlest ones and to teach them about being the hands and feet of Jesus! Such an awesome privilege!
:: Tax season... despite all the paperwork that comes with it.
:: Sunny winter days... makes the cold a little bit more bearable!
:: God's faithfulness, even in times when we are not. ♥
:: Writing letters to our Philippine Compassion daughters, Rechelle and Florianlyn!

In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
Gratitude is the only appropriate response to Grace.
~ Bruxy Cavey, Part 2 of Life 2.0 teaching series at The Meeting House.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!