Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Candace Jeffcoat on Injustice.

Candace Jeffcoat (http://www.iamonlyonebutiamone.blogspot.com/) is by far my oldest friend and an incredible person. God has been doing some pretty radical things in her life lately, and the passionate revolution that has begun in her has quickly influenced me. She's done a lot of research on fair trade and the injustice of sweatshops and this is what she's found:

In the last few weeks I have become very aware of where my clothes/food come from, and the more I have looked into it the more I want to change it. Most of the stuff we buy is made in sweatshops. The truth is sweatshop workers are incredibly exploited; they don’t earn a living wage, or receive any benefits. They have very poor, unhealthy working conditions often working 60-80 hours per week (with no overtime) and receiving verbal and physical abuse. Most sweatshops employ children. I know most of the people reading this are probably appalled to hear this, and most people have no clue what is going on, but 85 percent of the following stores’ items are made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops:

The Gap
Old Navy
And Kohl’s

These are just a few stores/companies that mainly use sweatshops. After finding all this out I was on a mission to find stores that do not use sweatshops; it is A LOT harder than you would think. After hours of googling I have only found a few online stores,

www.fairtradecertified.org and

are pretty much the only sites I’ve found so far. Pretty sad? I know! And a few days ago I found out the Chaco shoes were made in the USA but have now been moved to a sweatshop in China because it is cheaper for the company. This problem is getting bigger, and bigger. Sweatshops are everywhere China, Nicaragua, Mexico, Asia and many more places.
I know I’m just beginning to understand the injustices involved in the creation of many of the things I use and buy. It makes want to do something about it.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” – Edward Everett Hale"

"Let it be Said of Us..."

"...That we gave to reach the dying

let it be said of us

by the fruit we leave behind

let it be said of us

that our legacy is blessing for life."

The month I spent living with a Romanian family and playing with beautiful, lice covered gypsy children taught me more than just how to live on two showers a week and make Earl of Grey tea. It taught me a different way to minister. How so? Well, when I let the five day AIM training camp in Gainesville, Georgia I was PUMPED UP. As my team and I got our last bit of Starbucks in the Atlanta airport before leaving the country I was literally SHAKING from excitement--and the caffeine. I had just spent the past five days getting to know my awesome team better, sitting in during multiple sermons and ministry workshops a day, praying in a completely new way, and worshiping God in on the freedom you can have when you're surrounded by your brothers and sisters in Christ. I was ready to take on Romania!


My look on ministry has always been that you go somewhere like Jesus calls us to do, and then verbally share His story. With absolutely EVERYONE. Everyone. And if I didn't, I had failed in someway. But then you get to Romania, and hardly anyone speaks any of my language and besides my limited Romanian vocabulary (which consisted of the valuable words "bashina" which means "to pass gas" and "forte buen" which means "very good"), I had ultimately no way to communicate to these people. Problem. How was I going to shove the gospel on these people when I had basically no way to hold a conversation with them?! That realization created frustration and the feeling of uselessness in my heart. What was the point of me being here? What could I possibly do?

Plus, all the things we PLANNED to do in the country while we were at training camp (create a VBS program) didn't happen. At all. A lot of my days in Romania were spent helping our host family out around their house, cooking, cleaning, exploring the village, and watching lots and lots and LOTS of Romanian soaps while playing lots and lots and LOTS of card games.

This was not what I was expecting. What of the gypsy families and their caravans and campfires? What of meeting new, different people and sharing the gospel with EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM? But then, I saw...I was expecting something completely opposite of the situation I was in and I was only expecting God to work in the way I had planned. That wasn't what the Lord had in mind, in the least. My amazing leaders began to tell me and my teammates about just loving and serving people, not holding an emotional revival. All that is good at the right time and place, but Romania wasn't the time OR place. My team and I were called by our Father to just simply love and serve our contact family and the people in the village around us, to die to ourselves every single day and SWEEP that room for the third time that day or PLAY that same game of cards with the same two boys who always cheated. It sounds so easy in retrospect, but it really, really wasn't.

And I failed and failed over and over again. My laziness and flesh battled with me nearly every single minute. I was tired, I just wanted to journal and process...but if I had just journaled and processed the entire month because I was exhausted, I wouldn't have the good memories I do of me cleaning the kitchen with Sanda and Rita and Laura, or playing games with Lisi and Beni.

And I finally saw that I wouldn't be remembered by the Romanian and gypsy people by the way I shoved Jesus' story with them every opportunity that arose, but I would be remembered by the way I tried to shove Jesus' LOVE through my ACTIONS every opportunity that arose.

"And they'll know

we are Christians

by our love, our love

yes they'll know

we are Christians

by our love"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So I'm in Love.

So I'm in love, just in case you didn't read the title. I truly am, it's weird.
Let me explain.
Last night I flirted with sin; and some things that while I was in Romania, the Lord showed me I was making my idols and then convicted me to give them up and devote myself to Him. But it's hard to drop things cold, and it's likely that you'll mess around with them even after you're determined not to. Thankfully, even though I was looking back, God didn't strike me and turn me into a frickin' salt pillar or something like that like He did to the wife in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah who looked back while they were running away. And thankfully, no damage was done. I should have been in a mess; but I couldn't freak out. I felt...I felt very calm. Strange. Why did I feel calm after what I had just done?
And then I realized. I was calm because I had no interest in doing what I had just done ever again. Ever. Period. Why? Because I have had a chance to experience the perfect love of Christ, and everything else compared to it is such a let down. Nothing else is sweet, or like it. Nothing else will do for me, now. And with this realization came the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach, and the knots in my insides; I wanted to yell and dance and tell somebody (my best friend was asleep and her phone turned off, though, so that was a fail). It was all familiar, I've experienced the butterflies and screaming insides and craziness of being in love before, but never like this. This was like nothing else. Because this was finally something perfect. And my heart wouldn't stop beating at nearly an alarming rate.
I'm totally in love with Jesus. And I really, really like it.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Because of Him, I Can be a Small Boy With Fish.

I recently read the book Radical by David Platt (I recommend it, it will shake you). The book was beyond incredible--I could kinda go into a monologue--and it really opened my eyes up to new views and the extremity of what it means to live like Christ demands us to. In the back of the book, David Platt has a thing called "The Experiment." It's where you promise to try something for a whole year, like praying for the entire world. Or reading through the whole bible. Or...to set a budget for each month and give all your money that doesn't fit into that budget to ministries, or wherever the Lord leads. That means no unnecessary purchases. *Sharp intake of breath* I don't like that one. So, of course, that was the one I promised to do for an entire year.
I sometimes do things that I regret later.
Little fact about myself: I'm a shopaholic. Really. Don't laugh. Shopaholicness is just as extreme as alcoholicness. I love to buy things, very expensive things that I don't have enough money to pay for and end up in debt over. It's fun. But after I saw the scars and hopelessness of poverty firsthand in Romania, I couldn't sit around and do nothing to prevent it anymore. I couldn't buy that cute white, t-shirt to go along with my five other cute, white t-shirts without thinking of the little, beautiful children I danced and played with who--some--wore the exact same thing the entire three weeks I was there.
So I made a budget and promised God that I would stick with it.
Now, confession. I didn't honestly think that this "giving up unnecessary purchases" was going to be hard because I didn't think I was going to have any money. My dad cut me off from my monthly allowance this summer, and since I'm too young to have a real job, my only income comes from when I occasionally babysit. So I wasn't worried. Until I made that promise, and then I was worried because...ALL OF A SUDDEN I WAS VERY RICH! (For me.) I was getting babysitting jobs, we got some money from the insurance company for cleaning our house after the fire, I was noticing spare change lying around everywhere, etc. etc. Crazy things! It was obnoxious because it was like, "Oh, of course this is happening NOW. Thank you, God!" (Are you catching the sarcastic edge?)
So I hid all the money away in the back of a drawer and wouldn't even look at it, because I didn't want to be tempted. And it worked, I knew I would be led by the Lord to give my money to something eventually, and I could hold out until then. Except, nothing came along...really, nothing. I mean, sure, I could have just tithed it all the very first Sunday after earning it, but I was sure that my Father had a specific thing in store, if I would just be patient.
Another confession: I'm not patient. I hate waiting. I hate not knowing why I'm even waiting! This was a struggle.
And then, I found out that someone that knows a person I know--isn't that complicated--was leading in a week from then a ten-day mission trip to Villa Tecii, the same village I stayed in while I was in Romania. And they were going to be ministering a lot in the exact same gypsy village that I fell head over heels in love with this summer. And if I rushed, I could get my money to him before he left and then he and his team could use it it buy the children of the village clothes and food, or toys. AHHHHH! This was impossible; this was incredible; this was GOD. I couldn't stop smiling, I was beyond happy. Not buying those really cute scarves had been totally worth it. Totally.
That night that I found out that my money would be able to help the beautiful children I miss so much, I read verses like Matthew 6:20-21 "
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." And then also the story in Mark where the little boy gives Jesus' disciples his lunch, then Jesus blesses it, miraculously multiplies his tiny offering, and feeds millions. So I started praying, really hard, that God would do something ridiculously crazy, like tell a millionaire to walk up to my house and give me thousands of dollars within the next two days. Or that the money would double over night, or something weird like that.
But it didn't happen. And I couldn't help but be a little disappointed as I mailed it that week because I was sad that the Lord hadn't doubled my measly $80 so that it could help those kids. I mean, didn't He want to help them?
Fast forward nearly three weeks and the team returns home. It turns out that they used my money to buy the kiddos fruit--which is kinda a rare treat there, we didn't have it nearly at all the whole three weeks we were there--and secondhand clothes. But that's not all, there's more...I was told that me sending my pretty much pathetic $80 inspired the team to use their own money to help buy the Posmus gypsies $200 dollars worth of food! OH MY GOSH. Just as I desperately prayed that God would take my offering and multiply it, He did! And in a way I never expected, too--isn't that how it always is?
How great is our God? SO GREAT. That's how great. In His greatness, He uses me and my offering, a small child with a few loaves of bread and pieces of fish, basically, to feed the multitudes! Yeah, that's just how great He is.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I've got my memories
They're always inside of me
But I can't go back
Back to how it was
I believe it now
I've seen too much
But I can't go back
Back to how it was
Created for a place I've never known

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

Belief over misery
I've seen the enemy
And I won't go back
Back to how it was
And I've got my heart set on what happens next
I've got my eyes wide and it's not over yet
We are miracles
And we're not alone

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I've got a brand new mindset
I can finally see the sunset
I'm gonna call it home

This is Home
Now I'm finally where I belong
Where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I've been searching for a place of my own
Now I've found it,
Yeah this is home
Yeah, this is home

Now I know, yeah this is home
I've come too far
No, I won't go back
This is home.

I miss Romania. That's all.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Somewhere in The Middle.

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle you'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who you're making me
Somewhere in the middle you'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender
'Cause I'm losing all control

Have you ever given great notice to the fact that Jesus Christ has always been a completely sell-out kind of dude? Because I never did before. But, you can't read the gospels and specifically the callings of each of the disciples without it finally clicking. "Oh! ...So when he said sell everything and leave everyone and follow me, he actually meant sell everything and leave everyone and follow me. I would've never guessed!"
Sometimes my selective comprehension or just pure stupidity amazes me.
Of course, it might not have ever hit me what the cost of being in a relationship with Jesus would be like, because until now, I've never been open to knowing. Now, I can't read my Bible for longer than ten minutes, or pray for longer than two, without getting very, very uncomfortable. It never used to be like this! Since when did He become so demanding? But then, something else hits me, an actual profound thought among all my stupidity and selective comprehension, "Yes, He is demanding a lot of me; He's demanding my life. That's His right, though, since I gave it to Him years ago..." When we accept the Lord into our hearts, we pray that He will forgive us our trespasses and that He would take our life--it's our sacrifice to Him.
But now I see, my sacrifice isn't on the altar before my God, it's in my open palms...which are not stretched out towards heaven, no, more like pulled close to my sides as I try to turn and put my body in between God and my life.
If it it not all His, is any of it at all?
Thanks to Romania, I learned that my relationship with Christ isn't supposed to be all comfortable and feel-goody. Oh no. Apparently it's supposed to be all consuming and very uncomfortable. And at first, that revelation blew my mind and excited me. Until the inspiration required some action. And cue the whining starts, "God, are you sure that you want to ask that of me? I mean, it's harmless! You don't need to overreact here."
If it distracts you and keeps you from Me, then it's not harmless.
"But, but...I want this!"
And I want it, too! Now, give it to Me.
I'm stubborn, though. And I can never just do the easy thing; no, I have to fight it. So I do, and soon enough I'm walking hand-in-hand with that "thing" I'm unwilling to give up, just pretending to be oblivious of my Father's obvious hurt and displeasure.
What is it in me that wants to be called, but doesn't want to answer? What is it in me, that can begin something with such zeal and passion, but then somewhere in the middle, burn out, become bored, and then discard the entire thing?
Will I always be caught in the middle?

Lord, I feel You in this place
And I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights
When I am caught in the the middle
Caught in the middle


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Am a Loved Prostitute. Really.

So have you ever asked yourself, "Why does God asks so much of us?" Because I do, and am. No, no, I'm not asking like this, "Gee God, why do you always want me to do so much stuff?" More like, "Um, why God do you demand that I give You all of me? Why do you want my heart? All of it, yes, I know. Why do you want me?"
I have many friends who are happily dating semi-wonderful guys, and their whole attitude on the relationship is very carefree. But I can't be carefree, because all those verses in Hosea about the prostitute leaving the prophet Hosea again and again to return to previous lovers and a life of slavery, practically are branded permanently into my mind. And when I think of those verses, it's not the prostitute who is leaving Hosea, no, it's me leaving God for empty things and people. But why? I whine in my selfishness. Why can't I overlook those verses like so many people I know and they not have the affect on me that they do?
I can't comprehend why Jesus wants all of my love when I am so reluctant to give it! It's ridiculous, it...it doesn't make sense. So I'm just going to leave it alone and do my own thing and everything will be OK, because he loves me and is forgiving. And then he literally smacks me in the face with Matthew 8:19-22, in which Jesus tells two potential disciples that in order to follow him they have to drop everything, be willing to not live anywhere, and not even attend their own father's funeral. And then there's Matthew 16:24-26 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them. What good will it
do for people to win the whole world and lose their lives? Or what will a person give in exchange for me?"'
And I read that, and I get all excited and passionate about completely selling it out for Christ; until he points out something in my life and says, "Now, give that up. Just be consumed with me." And the whining and questioning begins all over again.
I just can't understand why he wants to much...of me. Until I remember, oh wait, he wants me because he loves me; and he knows that other people and objects will not satisfy me, or even make me happy. So that's why he wants all of me, because nothing else will do.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Something Different

July 8th (Thursday) 2010

9:59 p.m.

"My heart feels as if it has broken out of my ribcage and is spilled over the endless roads, fields, hills, and poverty stricken people of this country. Oh my gosh, the people! The gypsies! They are an incredible race. Yesterday, the Bible Study we attended fell through because nearly the entire village was so hungry that they had all went into the forest in search of mushrooms to eat. The mushrooms here are gas-y and gross; but that the only edible thing they can afford. (Mainly because it's free.)

In the past twenty-three days I have seen hungry children sing and dance. I have seen orphans with the ever present possibility of being turned out of their only place they can call home loom over them as they play and embrace one another. I have seen young sisters begging, shoeless and their holey garments hanging off their skinny frames. I have seen too much.

"The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." -Psalm 34:2

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." -Psalm 147:3

One morning, a week or so later, while I was praying and my heart was heavy, the Lord led me to Psalm 113:7-9. It was morning and I was sitting silently on a hill as the sun rose over the villages beneath me. The verse says, "He lifts the poor from the dust. He lifts the needy from the garbage heap. He seats them with influential leaders of his people. He makes a mother who is in a childless home a joyful mother." I was reminded that even when no one seemed to care or see, our Father saw and cared. Just because no one else seemed to noticed the broken old grandmother begging on the corner, she wasn't unnoticed. Even when no one was holding and playing with the Posmus children underneath the trees, they weren't unloved. Our Father in Heaven has watched over them since the day they were conceived and He will continue to until they breathe their last breath. My leaving Romania wouldn't change that.

And after that, I could bare leaving. For a time...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Applies to me?

Dear diary,

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
"Love never fails..."
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

I could probably recite this entire passage to you just because of the fact that I have heard it repeated and read aloud all my life (a lot of times, it was used to scold me), and because of it's familiarity, it eventually lost its power and impact on me. Sure, love is patient, love is kinda, etc. etc. Same old, same old. They became well known words to me, just words.
Until this summer. I spent a month in Romania with an incredible team of eight other people who took quickly took the role of my brothers and sisters and awesome role models. Each morning of the entire month our leaders had us do a quiet time for at least an hour. I have probably never read the Bible or prayed as much as I did in that one month. You can't truly read the Word without finding new meaning in the verses you've known all your life. As you dig deeper, it takes on a whole new form to you--or at least, it did to me. I realized that the lie I had believed that only some were called, was just that; a lie. All the words that Jesus spoke to his chosen disciples applied to me, too, for I am a disciple. And if those words, didn't all the others, too? Maybe?
As I reread passages that had grown stale to me, I was shaken. My favorite chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, was no longer a feel-good read about this awesome love. All of a sudden, it was a challenge, and command that I realized I didn't meet. I love people, really, I do. But I love people selfishly, I love them on my terms in my own way and when I want. My, my, my. But wait, aren't I supposed to no longer live, but Christ live in me? And I'm pretty sure that Christ lived patiently...and with kindness...and even unselfishly.
Whoa. Revelation.
So hold on, if Christ loved and loves like that, aren't I also supposed to? And then it hit me; I was called to love. Absolutely everyone. My family, my friends, Maurice the homeless man, my enemies, and even people who hurt me. And oh yeah, I had to pray for them, too. Uh-huh. ...No way. Because it feels like every time I pray for the people I despise the most, God shows me something within my own life that is wrong! And I struggle, and I fight because after all, aren't I the one who's being good, the better person, because, I mean really, I'm praying for those people and getting over myself. But it's not enough, because it's of me.
I never fathomed that I would be called, to hard things and awesome things. I never thought that I would be called in the first place.