Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On This Path Towards Counter-Cultural Living

What does it look like anyway?
Yes, this path towards counter-cultural living, the Jesus-way --- what *does* it look like? This thought has hugely been on my heart and mind since our return from the Philippines this past summer.

With our Compassion child, JD and his family. It's so cute that JD would only hold my boy's hand. ♥

"When the worlds of poverty and wealth collide, the resulting powerful fusion can change the world."
~ Shane Claiborne.

Yet, there are days, like this past Sunday at church, when I could hardly sing these words as they flashed on the screen because the sheer intensity of their meaning almost consumed me...
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose.
Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine.
Then, Author and Professor Mark Buchanan, the guest teacher at church this past Sunday, started teaching on these verses from Romans 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Yes, those verses. In fact, the entire twelfth chapter of Romans is pretty counter-cultural. Well, the entire Gospel is pretty counter-cultural! But let's just start with reading Romans 12 today, shall we?

You see, this is the thing --- the beautiful thing about this whole counter-cultural way of life is this... 
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Mark Buchanan pointed out to us that, as Christ-followers, we are called to be radically generous, to be radically hospitable and to be radically kind.

He said...
Radical generosity is... going further than just giving our stuff, our money and our time. It is making our life the very gift.
Radical hospitality is... going further than just inviting people over. It is inviting people to share in our very lives.
Radical kindness is... going further than just practising charity. It is overcoming evil by the good that we do.
We get to say an unconditional YES to God, because He said an unconditional YES to us.
We get to see the world through the heart of Jesus.
This is the thing that got me... the utterly beautiful thing that gripped me to the core: We get to do this. We get to live this. We get to say YES to God. This *is* the counter-cultural way of life!

In the days after the calendar turned to the New Year...
Our family has had a few opportunities to literally live this out. I can honestly tell you that, when push came to shove, it certainly did not come naturally nor was it easy... but one thing is sure and true: Obeying God and walking the Jesus-way is always life-giving and joy-inducing!

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when this mama sees her girl obey Jesus and follow Him right into a certain community where oceans rise {though it was intensely heart-wrenching to release her to fly}... and we end up welcoming this little boy from that very same community into our lives on the first week of this New Year, into our Compassion family?

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when both my kids earmark all of the money they received as gifts at Christmas towards sponsoring this little guy and two others in our Compassion family?

Johnrel from the Philippines, my girl's 2nd Compassion child.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when, after writing to this boy for almost one whole year, he becomes available for sponsorship... and even though it means tweaking our family budget once again, we welcome yet another child into our growing Compassion family... for how can we not embrace him and call him our very own?

Patrick from Rwanda, our newest Compassion child.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when hubby and I take our kids to drop by Matthew House, a home for refugee youth, because they would like to give away the movie gift card they received at Christmas so that these refugee youth can have a fun afternoon out together... something they rarely have?

Near where the Matthew House youth home is located.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when our family can spend the first Sunday of the New Year volunteering at a Compassion Sunday event, even though it meant missing worship with our own church family... and as a result, seeing 55 children released from poverty?

The drive to the Compassion Sunday event.

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when we get to share in the lives of our Compassion children through the letters they write to us and we get to spend a Friday night writing letters back to them?

Letters from our Compassion children!

For how can it not be life-giving and joy-inducing when my kids choose to spend their Saturday afternoon at Matthew House with their youth leaders to learn more about the youth's stories and to befriend them?

Matthew House's youth home.

Life-giving and joy-inducing... for how can it not be?
For this is what it means to be a Christ-follower... it is to offer our very lives as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

For it is living, in pure grace, and embracing that what God does for us is the best thing we can do for Him --- it is the way to worship Him

For it is the only way to live as Christ-followers, not because of obligation or duty, but because... it is the only way we can live out that freedom for which Jesus sacrificed His very life for. It is saying YES to living this counter-cultural and radical way of life and saying NO to the patterns of this world.
Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love. For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself..." - Galatians 5:13-14.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hello there, 2015!

10 days into this brand new year...
And I'm just logging into this space for the very first time. Well, Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a great Christmas, one full of hope and meaning and joy and peace.

Just the other day, we were reflecting on our Christmas and the whole family whole-heartedly agreed that it was one of the best ones we've had in recent memory! Not only were we able to have a quiet and restful couple of weeks, we were also blessed to have been able to celebrate it in an others-centred and counter-cultural way!

And, in case you missed it... here is our family's year-end newsletter.

New Year's Eve family selfie.

On this Saturday after the first week back to school and work...
I am sitting here at almost two o'clock in the afternoon not wanting to get out of my pajamas! I guess I am missing the relaxed pace that we had over the Christmas holidays and I'm wanting to recreate and relive it. :)

The quiet and rest during the Christmas break also afforded me much time to think and to reflect... it was a balm to the soul for this introvert mama! I used much of that time reflecting on Bible verses to find one that would serve as a guide for me in this New Year... where a One Word can be found which would give this New Year a name.

You see, for the past few years...
I've chosen to focus on a One Word at the start of each new year and God has used each year's One Word to guide and steer me... for which I am truly grateful!

My One Word for 2012 was soar...

Soaring birds. Downtown Toronto, Summer 2011.

For 2013, it was surrender... 

In a reflective mood and deep in thought. ~ Cape Cod, Summer 2012.

And it was still for 2014...

By the Christina River, Wilmington (Delaware). Summer 2013.
Being still and capturing the beauty of God's creation on camera.

This year, it is once again an "S" word... 
I am starting to wonder what my fascination is with words starting with the letter S?!? :)


In my quiet reflection, I felt God saying to me, "When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me." --- from the verses found in Jeremiah 29:13-14.

Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, Montreal. Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014.

But this time, my One Word didn't just get highlighted in one verse during my reflections. The word seek jumped out at me in Matthew 6:33 too, where it says --- "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

And in Matthew 7:7 where it is written --- "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Seek... seek... seek... 
- attempt to find (something).
- attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something).
- ask for (something) from someone.
Yes, upon reflecting on the meaning of my new One Word... I've come to realize that it truly is what my heart and soul is craving to do this year.

2014 had been a year of many revelations, awakenings and changes...
- Work, for both hubby and me, has taken on new normals... new normals that we are still trying to embrace and understand.
- My girl is finishing high school, has started driving and will to go university this September. My boy started high school and is now quite an independent young man. My days as a work-from-home and stay-at-home-mama looks vastly different these days.
- God continued to write our family's story in ways that are vastly higher than our own... leading us to places where we wouldn't dare go ourselves.
- With our beloved Papa's home-going to heaven, we've been reflecting on the brevity of life... even when one departs this life having lived 85 beautiful years!
- God continually challenged us to keep our eyes open and to be brave... and He went on to show us more brokenness and more beautiful things and what our role in all of this should be!
- And He continued to write some more of our story and used it in a way that blew us away... such wild grace!
... and I have suddenly found myself, at the start of this New Year, in a place of seeking what God's next steps are for us this year and for the longer term.

And so, I will seek... because...
"When you seek Me in prayer and worship, you will find Me available to you. If you seek Me with all your heart and soul, I will make Myself available to you," says the Lord.    

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