Sunday, August 24, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
P.S. I still need the funds for a plane ticket home. If you'd like to support me, and help me make it home for both of my sister's weddings, click the donate button on the right side!
P.S.S. I'm flying standyby from Atlanta to Brussles on the 16th. Pray that there will be an open seat on that flight (as of yesterday, there were still 40-something seats available).
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Ok, so the book’s subtitle is “Living a Faith that Bleeds.” You’re probably wondering what the heck that means….does it mean I have to die, or get wounded? No, not necessarily. Faith does require some sacrifice. But faith also brings life. “Living the Red Letters life is living a transformed life—a life where the needs of the poor and the diseased rank high on your “what’s important” list.” (see post on Chapter 8)
This chapter provides specific ways that you can get involved and make a difference in the world around you. It’s up to you how you want to respond, but the point is, do something.
Pray Daily. Commit to pray daily for those who live in poverty and live without hope. Pray for the orphans, widows and homeless. Pray for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Five for 50. This is a comprehensive plan to bring Chrsitians from all across the world together in solidarity with the soon-to-be 50,000,000 people living with HIV. There are 5 steps, each requiring alittle more sacrifice than the previous.
- Give 5 minutes a day to pray for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
- Give 5 hours a week to fast for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
- Give 5 dollars a month to the Five for 50 Fund to support worthy causes.
- Give 5 days a year to travel overseas to help alleviate poverty and suffering.
- Give 5 people an opportunity to join you on your journey.
I could do an entire post on each of these topics. But, I’m going to include things that are practical and, dare I say, easy. That might sound bad, but you have to start somewhere, right?
You probably know by now how I feel about prayer…its crucial! I am a firm believer in ‘going and seeing’. I encourage everyone to take a trip—go and walk and live among the poor. Find an organization that bleeds like you, and join them. If you need somewhere to start (and you bleed for orphans, but even if you don’t), I invite you to join forces with Orphan Relief and Rescue! I invite you all to travel to Liberia—to experience life in a 3rd world country, to meet the children who have suffered through so much, yet still are filled with joy, to smell the smells, shake the hands of the beautiful people, to eat the food, to sweat (a lot!), to put your hands, feet, heart and wallet to good use!
Do like me, and start a blog. Share your stories, opinions and insight with others. Invite them to join you in living a faith that bleeds. Share with people what you’ve experienced. Raise money and donate it to one of the many fantastic organizations out there. Go on a mission trip, or support the missionaries who are living in the trenches. Change your living habits. Adopt a child. Learn as much as possible, and share what you learn with others.
Ok kids, it’s time to get up and get moving!!
[This chapter tells the stories of 4 ordinary people who stepped outside of their comfort zone and followed Christ to reach the neglected and hopeless.]
It’s all too common that we think we’re just ordinary people. We have nothing to offer. We can’t be used by God. Surely we can’t do something extraordinary. We don’t have the time or the resources. We aren’t spiritual enough. We aren’t capable. God would never choose to use me.
Those are all lies! Lies from the enemy. Lies to discourage. Lies to dissuade. (John 10:10-14)
Every step you take towards following God is another step into a whirlwind of life filled with absolute joy and blessing. Your faith will increase. Yes, you will be stretched and pulled, but you will grow and blossom! I will be honest, in the moment, it can be painful or uncomfortable, but when you can look back and see all that God has done in and through you—you simply can’t beat it!
It’s time to get movin!
Just reading those verses enables me to rest and take a deep breath! It all sounds so reassuring. I know I need some reassurance sometimes…especially if I’m tired, worn out or burned out. But hear it again: come to me, get away with me, recover your life, real rest, walk with me, work with me, watch me. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (how amazing does that in itself sound?) Keep company with me. Live freely and lightly. Deep sigh.
[Now that I just took that deep sigh. I just found out that one of my precious children in Liberia passed away a few weeks ago. Ok God, I need some reassuring.]
This brings me to the opening line of this chapter:
Make a mental list of the top five things that matter most to you.
I’m sure the popular answers are things like family, friends and your relationship God. The thing is, do our lists match God’s? What do you think would make God’s Top 5 list? Tom wonders if the 5,500 Africans that die everyday from preventable and treatable diseases makes the list. Or what about those suffering from HIV/AIDS? How about 143 million orphans around the world? What about the orphan girl in Liberia who battled sickness for months and still passed away?
What breaks God’s heart should break our heart.
I understand that we all have commitments to our families, friends and jobs; but what about our commitment to Christ? We might not be able to solve all of the problems of the world on our own, but we can use the resources God’s blessed us with to make a difference. We can pray—that’s the most important thing, and there’s no excuse as to why we can’t do that! But there are other things we can do too, like influence, serve, advocate, protect, provide, act, love, inspire, encourage...
Why do we always think that our little effort won’t matter? What if we lived like every little action mattered? Every little thing does matter; it matters so much that it can mean the difference between life and death, free or enslaved, sick or healthy, hungry or satisfied, unsaved or saved. Are we, as Christian, going to move, or are we going to sit comfortably in our silence?
Check this out: Elie Wiesel, author and Holocaust survivor wrote, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
WOW! What a statement!
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then those “sheep” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” –Luke 4:18-19
Can you believe it? It sounds pretty crazy. God has chosen you—and me—to do all of the things in Luke 4?! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself freeing prisoners and giving sight to the blind. Maybe I’m not capable of literally doing those things (or maybe I am?), but I’m pretty sure I’m capable of figuratively doing those things. Either way, we are biblically obligated to do such things.
What is justice? [pulls out good ‘ole Webster]
Righteousness. Equitableness. Moral rightness. Lawfulness. Justness. Fairness.
Tom Davis defines justice in three ways:
1. Justice is giving to those who have nothing.
Biblical justice is about making sure the weak are protected and showing the love of God in a practical way. Translation—it’s about people who have giving to those who have not.
2. Justice is action.
Translation—standing up for those without a voice, making things right, sacrificing our comfortable lives to serve those that are in need, praying for justice to come to those who need to be set free, getting up and doing something when you see injustice….
3. Justice is love.
This is what God is all about! This is what being a Christian is all about. Love God. Love each other. Love ourselves. And we do all of that because He loves us. How much we love others reflects our love for Christ. We all know that we are being watched closely…what will our actions be, how will we react, will we love? Our visible acts of love are what the world needs.
My God is a God of love and justice. As a believer, we are called to love. We are called to seek justice. We are called to move. Are you (and I) moving, seeking, acting, following, freeing, preaching, sharing…? We are all called and equipped to do all of these things. The question is, are we ready, willing and available for God to use us to do these things? You don’t have to be smart or rich or beautiful or popular or successful to be used by Christ. Actually, God likes to use people who are not any of these things…He’s a fan of using the ordinary to do extraordinary things! Phew—I’m relieved that I don’t have to fit into a mold in order to be used by Him!
If you feel like you are not capable of being used by Him, or maybe you feel intimidated…the task seems too daunting or overwhelming; first you need to leave the excuses and doubts in the dust! Then, start praying and asking God to equip you, to give you confidence, to open your eyes, to give you divine appointments, to be filled with His love, to have more compassion, to be His instrument…
When I’m in Liberia, and things are hard…or heartbreaking…one thought keeps me going. I always think what life would be like if I was born in Liberia, and I was one of those children living in a horribly dirty orphanage, with very little food and very dirty water, with one outfit on my back and a leaky roof over my head. If I were one of those children, I would hope and pray that someone would feel compelled to stand up against the injustice and fight for me. That is why I fight for the kids…because I have a voice, I have capable hands and feet, I have an army of people supporting me and praying for me, and I have a God who loves me and who pursues me and has compelled me to follow after His heart.
Giving up or going without things that the world says you need to be happy and successful is sometimes difficult, I admit. But, giving up those things and running hard after God and His perfect plan is the most rewarding, amazing, exciting way to live your life!
Also check out James 2:14-17 and Matthew 22:37-40.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
If you're in the Atlanta area, the AIDS Experience will be at Heritage Christian Church off Redwine Road in Fayetteville August 15-24. Did I mention that it's free?!!
The exhibit is traveling all over the country, so if you're not in Atlanta, click here to find out if it's coming to your neck of the woods. And in case you're lazy...stops include CA, NC, PN, NY, IL, ND, MA, MN, IA and WA!!
I would recommend going through the experience, and then signing up on a later day to volunteer. The only way this thing happens is through people volunteering to man the experience. I also recommend that if the Experience is coming near you, that you make an effort to go...you will not regret it!
How does God feel about the children who are suffering? Read Psalm 139.
As Christians, what matters to Christ should matter to us. God identifies himself with the poor. In Matthew 25, He is the poor. I agree with Tom, that when we meet Jesus, we will be asked how well we took care of the orphan and the widow. It’s also a test as to whether everything we’ve heard and learned throughout our Christian life made it to our hearts…thus, making us act.
In his book, From Wild Man to Wise Man, Richard Rohr says: I would say that if you only think about Jesus, “believe” Jesus and believe things about Jesus, not much new is going to happen. It is the risk of “acting” like Jesus acted that reconfigures your soul. We are converted by new circumstances much more than by new ideas. Or as I like to say, we do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
I don’t believe we, as Christians, will ever think differently about the world around us until we live a life the reflects the severity of the situation in the world around us. If we live like no one is starving, dying from AIDS, or living without the hope of Jesus, then we will never be compelled to do something about those things. If you walk and live with the poor, you will be moved into action. There is no way you can see, experience and touch poverty without being changed.
So back to God caring for those who are suffering. After you read Psalm 139, go and read Jeremiah 29:11-14. If I could only share one verse with the people I meet in Liberia, it would be Jeremiah 29:11. I feel like this verse embodies the Christ I know and love…He has plans to care for us, to protect us, plans to never leave us, plans to give us all a hope and a future. Most people who are living in poverty need hope…they need to know that there is a God who loves them and who has not forgotten about them. I think for most of us, we put our hopes in people or things. People who are suffering also put their hopes in people…people who will care for them, love them or will provide for them. People who live like Christ and who will share the hope that they have in Jesus. Even if it feels like it, God does not abandon us…think, I will never leave you nor forsake you. But sometimes, we need to be reminded of that by a 'physical, live and in the flesh Christ'. So, ahhumm…I’m pretty sure that’s where you and I come in!
My last few discussions on Red Letters, by Tom Davis, have been filled with statistics. I hate to just keep throwing numbers at people because I’m afraid that it’s overwhelming, and you will just feel helpless. I know that the feeling of being overwhelmed is a popular excuse….“there’s so much to do, I just don’t even know where to start.” I think that’s when apathy begins to set in. Another excuse is that we’re just too busy. We juggle family, work, school, church, friends and hobbies so we don’t have time for anything else. When is the last time you spent some time doing something for someone else? Sure, maybe you took your child to the park, or you spent the evening over coffee with a friend who’s having a tough time…those things are enjoyable and easy…right? When is the last time you did something for someone else when it was hard or uncomfortable?
For some reason, I’m thinking about the whole luke-warm Christian thing. What if we’re just luke-warm people? If we see injustice, and do nothing. If we see someone in need and look the other way. Edmund Burke, an 18th-century philosopher once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” I think Edmund is spot on! We must act!
According to Tom, most of us live in a world of shadows, and we live life hoping to stay in the shadows of comfort and safety. He also says that the two things that keep us lurking in the shadows are discomfort with interruption and fear. (Hmm...sounds like my earlier posts) People are afraid of loss….loss of anything…money, jobs, status, family, friends, reputation, ourselves. And if you’re like me, you constantly play the “what-if” game…what if I look stupid, what if the person is ungrateful, what if I get too involved, what if it changes my life, what if it’s unpleasant, what if my money is involved, what if it is painful, what if it costs me my life? Wouldn’t it be great to never play that game again because you’re living your life fully trusting in the God of the universe?!
“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (Luke 6:38)
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
And in the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
That’s God’s plea bargain…if we honor the things that are on God’s heart, then He will take care of the things on our hearts. If you take care of the orphaned, abandoned, widow or stranger then God will bless you. “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the works of your hands” (Deut. 24:19).
At the end of the chapter, Tom writes about the inadequate response of the church. I’m not going to dig into that, but he does make a good point. He says, “I wonder how much digging it would take to find the church in its purest form—people whose love and compassion for God overflows into the lives of the most needy.” Maybe some of you are saying, “that’s my church”…and maybe for others, this will serve as a challenge. We need to stop being complacent as Christians and as the Body of Christ. We need to run—quickly—from being luke-warm!
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-18)
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I know I have posted this video recently, but this post is for a super special little man named Isaac. I've been keeping up with his recent spinal surgery through his mom's blog. Isaac is your typical, fun-loving Liberian kid...so naturally, he loves to dance! Since his surgery, he has been unable to dance, so in order to (hopefully) put a smile on his face, a bunch of his blog readers are sending him videos of them dancing. I might live in Liberia, but I'm pretty white! Although I'm sure my dance skills would be extremely entertaining, I decided that he might like alittle taste of Liberia. So, Isaac...here's some dancing for you.....
I hope you feel better soon Isaac. I'm praying for you and your Ma! And remember, God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!
Monday, August 4, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Little known Ashley factoid: My biggest fear in life is toenails! I'm about to gag just thinking about it. If you want to know why...uh...maybe I'll save that story for another post.
[This chapter is heavy on statistics again. The numbers make you think, though.]
pan·dem·ic (adj.): of a disease) prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.
[I decided to consult Webster’s this time]
Pandemic. When you try to associate that word with a number, it’s difficult to do. I admit, my brain just automatically says, “wow, I guess that must be a lot of people.” No, but really…it’s A LOT of people! What pandemic am I talking about, you ask? I’m talking about the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Did you know that although Africa is home to only around 10% of the world’s population, it is home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV? That means there’s approximately 24.7 million people living with HIV, in Africa alone. 12 million African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In Asia, an estimated 8.6 million people are living with HIV, while India has 5.7 million infected people. There are almost 1 million people in the U.S. who are infected with HIV, and what’s even more crazy is that a quarter of them don’t even know it.
So, I’ve given you all of these numbers (thanks to Tom’s research), and I know most of you are thinking…ok…so…what do you want me to do? Today, I’m not suggesting you take a particular action, I’m simply asking you to ask yourself one question.
How would Jesus respond to this pandemic?
[P.S. I’ve always been interested in not only working with orphans in Africa, but I’ve been interested in working with orphans affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS. So even though there’s a lot of statistics, these numbers are giving me even more of a reason to do something. I hope the numbers have the same effect on some of you.]