Controversial Generosity

My wonderful roommate, Marianne, & I at the Child Ambassador's Conference

I just spent a fabulous weekend at a conference for World Vision Child Ambassadors (of which I am one). We are volunteers who aim to talk to others about World Vision’s child sponsorship program.

It was a wonderful weekend of refreshment and encouragement for me in my ministry of finding sponsors to change the life of children in need.

  • We worshipped together
  • We watched some incredibly touching videos
  • We heard from amazingly inspirational speakers like Max Lucado & Marilee Pierce Dunker (daughter of World Vision founder Bob Pierce)
  • We learned more about the history of World Vision (started in 1950) and the nuances of how some of the different programs work
  • We got down to some nitty-gritty statistics and logistics (half of the world’s population – 3 billion people – live on less than $2 a day)
  • We got some great new ideas and set some goals
  • We were able to meet and bond with other Child Ambassadors from around the country

More of what I heard and learned this weekend may come out in some future posts, but one of the highlights for me was what Max Lucado spoke to us about. I have heard him speak numerous other times, but this time, he told us that he had taken what he was going to speak about and chucked it out the window, feeling that the Holy Spirit was leading him to share with us a message that he’d be sharing with his church in the near future. It was essentially a sneak peak of a brand new sermon from Max Lucado.

“Un-Scrooge Your Heart”

We all struggle with fighting off the threat of stinginess from taking over. “We ought to give… but don’t give too much.” “Serve others with our time, but we don’t really have that much time.” “Forgive, but not all at once”…

But our God is controversially generous. He has fun doing good. He has never been about stinginess or holding back or giving simply what is sufficient. (See Romans 2:4, 1 Timothy 1:14, 2 Corinthians 9:15, 1 John 3:1, James 1:5, Psalm 107:9, Psalm 23, Luke 6:35…)

God lavishes generous amounts of grace on us every day of our lives. And “grace is the seed out of which the tree of generosity grows.” It only makes sense that since we have received so much grace and generosity, we must bubble over to others. We must give because we first received. We must heed the call to live a life of controversial generosity.

That is a taste of what he talked about. And then, at the end, Max asked us:

How long has it been since you gave a gift that was controversial? (of stuff, money, time, etc)

Does this convict anybody else like it convicts me? I’m not even sure I can think of one good example, sadly.

How long has it been since you gave a gift that was controversial?

Remembering The People We Met in Haiti

Today, January 12th, marks the one year anniversary of the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti. Over 200,000 people were killed and a million are still living in tent cities (there are more living in tents now than there were 2 months after the quake).

It has also been 6 months since we were there in person, building houses for 2 families who had lost everything. It was a powerful, challenging, heart-wrenching week. To read the string of blog posts that I wrote about Haiti and our time there, click here.

To read a quick sampling of posts from our week there, here are a few of my favorites:
We Came Back Changed
Haiti Wrecked Me
Redefining Scripture: Psalm 46

So today, as I think about the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I am remembering (& praying for) the following faces:

These are the children we played with on the beach that first day – hand slap games, silly songs, etc. (Click here to read that fun story.) So full of joy & curiosity. It was an immediate lesson that language barriers didn’t matter. Children just want to be loved on.

This is Fabianca. She was one of the children from the beach. So spunky. Those earrings that she is wearing are mine. She was pointing to them, admiring them, and I bent down for her to take a look. Before I knew it she had slipped one out of my ear and was putting it in hers. So I said okay, they are hers now! I was glad to share!

This boy hung out with us all day at our first construction site. He was a perfect example of how the children just wanted to be loved and touched. He kept hugging me & talking about how we were all his friends (a word we did learn in Creole). Throughout the day he would take my concrete-covered hands and either brush or scrape them off. He even scraped some out from under my fingernails. An incredibly sweet gesture.

Below is Simone & Pastor Joseph. Simone is the lady that we built the first house for. She was going to live there with her father & brother. I can’t help but wonder how they are doing today. And Pastor Joseph is the pastor at the church in Petite Goave that we were there partnering with. He & his family are the most extraordinary people. They are a true light there in Petite Goave, Haiti. Always taking care of everyone else in the community. Many other people are always living with them. They truly embody what it means to live in community & in service to others. We felt so attached to them by the end of the week. It’s amazing how attached you can get to some people, even after a matter of only a few short days.

And this is Katianne. In our brief encounter, she’s one of the people there that had the most impact on me. Both of her legs were broken in the earthquake. We saw a picture of her in the days after, all bandaged up, laying in front of wreckage. She was one of the saddest looking girls I have ever met. We tried so hard to get her to smile. Katianne’s story really made it personal. We didn’t get a lot of personal stories from people while we were there, so hers hit me hard. Read the rest of her story & the impact she had on me here.

So on this day, I want to remember my Haitian friends and the million people who are still displaced, who have lost homes and so many loved ones. Please join in me in praying for them and for doing anything we can to continue to help.

For some quick facts on the status of Haiti now, one year later:

  • A year ago an earthquake rocked Haiti, leaving more than 200,000 dead, more than 300,000 injured and more than a million left homeless and spread across the city in 1,300 tent camps.
  • A year later only 5 percent of the rubble has been removed, impeding reconstruction efforts.
  • There are more people living in tents today than two months after the quake.
  • As many as 2,000 children orphaned by the quake have been sold as sex slaves.
  • A cholera outbreak killed more than 3,600 since October and infected more than 171,000.

I pulled these from the article “Haiti: One Year Later“. I encourage you to read it and to also read these articles for more information:

Haiti One Year Later: Faith and Doubt, Despair and Hope
Haiti a year later: Every glimmer of hope balanced by a tale of despair
One Year Later: A Prayer for Haiti

Most of these photos were taken by Jason Welch. Check out his photography blog here.

Thoughts for the New Year

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions. Never really have been. But I do like to make some overarching goals. Last year I said I wanted to get my hands dirty – to get more involved in serving others, face-to-face, not from my safeguarded normal distance. I think I did an okay job at it, but really need to do that so much more. So that one will continue.

This year one of my goals is to really figure out how to, and make it a priority to, really bask in the Lord’s Presence. To study and memorize Scripture more, not just read it. To have a deeper, fuller prayer life. I want to walk closer with the Lord and be able to discern His voice in my daily life. I want a stronger sense of joy & peace that has nothing to do with my circumstances, that can only come from a close relationship with Him, and I want that to radiate out of me and be clearly evident to others. This is clearly more than just a one year process, but at least I can focus on getting better at it this year.

I am currently reading Crazy Love, by Francis Chan (finally!). It is an excellent book. I am only halfway through, but I already want to re-read it and do some serious underlining. I will have to write more about it later, in a separate post, but one of the chapters that really got to me talks about the “profile of the lukewarm” Christian. Reading it was like a serious punch to the gut. My friend Maegan Roper did an excellent job of recapping this chapter. So I’ll just link you over to her blog here if you’re interested in reading more. He goes through a series of characteristics that profile the lukewarm and here are just a couple that made me wince. Lukewarm people…:
-give money to charity and to the church, as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
-are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones.
-rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion.
-will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give.
-do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account… They don’t depend on God on a daily basis, their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health…

I’m afraid I am far too lukewarm and I don’t like it.

I wrote a post in September (you can read it here) about one particular lesson I was learning: Before God reveals to us our grand life purpose, he has some testing and refining to do in us. I feel like I am in a season of testing and refining, and this is definitely part of that. I want to be ready when called upon… to be trusted with my grand life purpose. Much of that means that I need to be a better disciple.

So I have also decided to read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young this year. It is a 365 day devotional written from the perspective of Jesus talking directly to us. Each day there is a page long (or less) entry to read. January 1st started off with a bang. Just what I needed to read as encouragement to kick off this year of being a better disciple:

Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into the new year. Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind… I also know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence.” -From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

I’m off to one good start at least. I told you in my “Craving Scripture” post how I started the challenge with my church to read through the New Testament from October 1st to the end of the year. I’m glad to report that I kept up and finished on time! First time I’ve ever gone straight through the New Testament in order, and that quickly. Now I want to go back and do it again, this time slower, so that I have time to soak in the words and really study them. I’m also going to work on picking out significant/favorite verses and committing them to memory.

To my family & friends – I give you full permission to check up on me this year. Ask me how I’m doing with this goal of basking in the  Lord’s Presence. It’s a lot to work on, but encouragement and accountability definitely helps.

What goals have you set for the new year?