Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Act

     Today was one of those days when I felt God speaking to me. I read Our Daily Bread each morning as part of my quiet time. I feel that it helps to open my eyes and mind to God's word. The title of this morning's devotion was titled "Acts of Kindness. A little while later one of my friends posted on Facebook the exact same sentiment. Now based on what he posted I am sure that he read the same devotion also BUT the fact remains that God brought it to my attention twice to make sure I got it!
What was that thought? David McCasland wrote "One act of kindness may teach more about the love of God than many sermons." The devotion told about some men who were traveling when they found a family stranded by the side of the road. They helped them with getting the car running and giving them some money for gas. Obviously they were thanked over and over but their simple response was that they were glad to help out and do it in Jesus' name. How simple was that and yet it spoke volumes.
     Often we try to win people to Christ with lengthy explanations, theological discussions or sermons that are often more condemning than beneficial. Sometimes we try to over explain the Gospel to the point that others do become turned off. On a negative note sometimes our actions even turn others away from what we want to show. Even as Christians we are sinful by nature and to a non-believer out actions sometimes negate what we truly want to show. The interesting point is that One Act can make a world of difference when done in the name of Jesus. When we reach out and help those that have a need in His name then He glorified and a difference can be made. Sometimes we just need to look around and see what we can do. I look at the work Compassion does and it is all done in Jesus' name~that is what is making the difference. People are reaching out and caring and hearts are being changed. One final note to think about-an act of kindness can be like throwing a stone into a pond. Watch the ripple effect and see what happens. God is so good! Blessings <><
    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One of Those Calls

   Every once in awhile you get "one of those calls"- Compassion lets you know that your child has left the program for one reason or another. I am expecting in a few months the final letter from our first sponsored child, Linda, as she graduates out of the program. That one will be a hard one as she is the one that started our adventure with Compassion. However we recently got a call that I never saw coming. Compassion called to let me know that Jeyelly had left the program and was now living with her boyfriend. I was literally floored. She was our second sponsored child that we literally had handpicked. We were on a Sponsor Tour on the day the the children were being photographed for their child packets. I picked her on the spot and we became her sponsors. We visited her three additional times and hosted her Quinceanera. We prayed and encouraged her. I know her family life was not the best as her parents did not live together. She was not encouraged to go to school ( she missed an entire year) and I know her mother was not as grounded in her faith as we had hoped. We offered what we could through the sponsorship and letters. I must admit that I was really not surprised but was shaken never the less. I mentioned it on Facebook and had lots of encouraging posts and comments. 

    The thing is you wonder if you really made a difference. I can only pray that she knows God, her family, and of course ourselves really do love her. We will stand by her no matter what. I would have loved to see here continue in the project and go to the University. However I know that God has a plan for her and always has had one. We were part of that initial plan and perhaps the seed planted will grow and thrive in her. We will write our final letter and encourage her not to stray too far from the path. We will probably cross paths again in a few years as we plan to return to Honduras to host her half sister's Quinceanera. I know Compassion's program works so I rest assured that no matter what God is still working in her life. It is hard to get a call like that but then again how often do our own children sometimes disappoint us with their choices or decisions? It really is no different. You just need to trust in God. Blessings <><

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Upper and Lower Stories

       I mentioned several posts ago that my church would be doing a study on "The Story". This book takes the bible and places it in a historical/chronological order in order to tell God's story. It takes the key points and characters and and outlines it from Creation to Revelation in a narrative form. What is God's story? It is basically the plan he had to have a relationship with his creation. We were created to commune with God. He is our Lord and master but he wanted to be able to have a relationship with us and to dwell among us. That in itself is amazing. That is how everything began and yet we managed to mess it up.

       We are only heading into Week 5 of the study and I have learned an interesting concept which is what this post is about. You see in the story there are actually two stories. The Upper Story and The Lower Story. The upper story is God's story and plan. The lower story is actually our story. In the beginning these two stories would actually be one story running together in Eden. However as I said we messed it up and the two stories diverged. However they are still intertwined until the very end where they will join together as one.

      Let me give you an example of this through the life of Joseph. In his story he is abused by his brothers, sold as a slave to gypsies traveling to Egypt, becomes a servant to Potiphar, falsely accused and thrown into jail, interprets dreams for the Pharaoh and becomes second in command and finally creates a conservation plan that saves both Egypt and Israel. Interesting story filled with ups and downs. I am sure many times Joseph was wondering what was going on and where his life was leading him. In God's story He has a plan. He is going to make Israel into a great nation. Israel would be his chosen people and a would redeem the world. They would be an example and the path to salvation. This is the overall Upper Story-God's plan to bring us back to Him. The Israelites would need to survive a famine in order for this part of the story to continue. God put everything in motion through the Lower Story to keep things intact for the Upper Story. Do you see what he did there? The Upper story is written all the way through to the end. The Lower story interacts and intertwines with in to bring it to conclusion.

     How does this relate to us? It is important to remember that each and everyone of us has a story that is being written and that it relates to God's story. We may feel lost, afraid, unwanted, unloved and not worthy. However that is not true. God loves us and is using us to bring His story to fruition. This is something that I am trying to remember now on a daily basis. "How does my lower story relate to His Upper Story?" I may not understand it fully but as I meditate on it I can begin to bring my story more into line with His. Each day I need to pray that I am growing closer to what He wants with my life so that as I finish I can end being blessed and knowing that I have done what He wanted. That my story has contributed to His in the way He wanted. <><

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Relationships

   

I have learned through my work with Compassion as well as my mission trips that relationships are truly our "Kingdom work". This is what we are called to do and for what we are created to do. From the very beginning God created man to have a relationship with Him. Eve was created to have a relationship with Adam. It continues onward. Before I became a Christian I knew there was something missing inside of me that needed filling. That was my relationship with God. In fact being a Christian is not about following rules and being good. Rather it about having a relationship with our God and growing from there. All the rest begins to follow as we grow deeper in our relationship with our creator.
    
     Karen and I work diligently when speaking to potential sponsors (through Compassion) to explain that it is not the dollars but the relationship that is important to the child. As the child is sponsored and begins to attend a project they begin to grow in a relationship with caring adults as well as learning about God. Sponsors who write further that relationship and in fact create an entire new relationship where a child is valued and cared for by someone they do not even know. The program works as I have seen children blessed by those letters. On the other hand sponsors who do not write hinder the relationship and often leave children wondering why they are not being written too. For a child in poverty a letter and a relationship is a treasure thing.

    This post comes as a result of my recent trip to Romania through Remember the Children. One of the gifts I received on this trip was being blessed through forming relationships. I came back with a renewed sense of how important relationships are.  My work with Compassion and which I constantly speak of is being "relational". I can speak well of it but this trip brought it home to me. Seeing children climb into the laps of team members, seeing the gypsies dancing with us, seeing an elderly orphan cry in happiness at being baptized and seeing strong family units that are put together through God brought it all home. A smile or silly face can bring sunshine to a dreary day. A hug and a smile can bring light to a child's eye. Sitting down with an elderly orphan and just listening (even with a language barrier) can be life changing. Handing out those Christmas boxes to children began a relationship with them and the local church that proved they were loved and cared for.

      Just remember that it is our calling to be relational to everyone we encounter. Just taking a minute to "step into" another's  life and letting them know we care and are there for them can be life changing. <><


Monday, December 30, 2013

Hold Me Accountable (to my resolutions)

     Here we are coming to the end of another year. I am not sure where 2013 went but it really has flown by. We are a day away from starting out a brand new year. As usual it is time to set those resolutions that we quickly break. I laugh out loud at this because each and every one of us are guilty of setting those goals and then being discouraged as they fall by the wayside.

      I am going to do something here and ask for accountability. I am placing three goals here in writing on my blog. I challenge anyone that comes across this post anytime during the year to ask me how I am doing and am I continuing in my resolutions. I am keeping it simple and setting three goals that I wish to work on this coming year. God, Family and Self are the three areas that I am addressing.

     The first, I am most excited about as it will be the focus of the first eight months of this year. My church is doing the study "The Story"- the entire church from children to adults will be aligned at the same time studying the same lessons. It is my resolution to remain true to this study as well as committing to a deeper quiet time with God. This year in addition to meditating on my readings in "Our Daily Bread" I am going to be doing a daily meditation from an "Experiencing God" devotional. I hope to grow closer to God and find better direction in my life with all three of these.

       Secondly I want to be a better husband and father to my family. I obviously am not perfect and would like to concentrate on making my actions count for more. I need to watch the tongue and let things go. I want to continue to grow the relationship Karen and I have. I know God has things planned for the two of us and I want to be more in tune with that calling.

        Finally there is the matter of self. I am now middle aged and need to pay better attention to my health. Already I have started this journey by getting a physical (which I put off for too long) and need to work on getting back into shape. I can stand to lose 20-30 pounds and of course need to get back to the gym. This starts with the New Year. I am committed to this.

      All three of these are probably your typical resolutions but it is my plan to make them a reality. I am going to start out gently with baby steps. I will do my quiet time each day without fail. I will watch my words and think before I speak. Finally I will commit to going to the gym a minimum of 3 times a week for at least 30-45 minutes. I can grow from there. All I ask is that you hold me accountable. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Wishes

   It has been a little over a week since I have returned home from Romania. My heart is still filled with many mixed emotions and I know God is working on my heart. My ministry is and always will be with Compassion International. I believe in their mission of releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name. I have seen the difference that sponsorship makes in the children's lives. In the past two years I have been blessed to travel to Mexico with Southern Mexico Missions, traveled to Honduras to see my sponsored children and then partnering with Remember the Children in Romania to deliver Christmas boxes of Hope. Each of these trips, though different, are similar in that we brought smiles to children. That perhaps is the greatest gift of all.

     With an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education I know the importance of reaching out to children in their early stages of development in order to make a difference. Giving hope and helping them reach their potential should be every adults focus. This is my wish for this Christmas. As we prepare to sit down in our comfort with our families I pray that we take a minute and remember those that 'have not". Offer a prayer, sponsor a child, make a contribution to some fund that will assist those less fortunate. This year reach out an make a difference. Please!

     My specific prayer this Christmas that I will offer up this Christmas Eve will be for each of my sponsored children. May they know the potential they have and continue to strive for that. I will pray for Southern Mexico Missions that they will continue to reach the unchurched and spread the Good News. I will pray for the continued growth of the Christian church in Romania. I specifically  lift up the new friends I have there and pray that they will continue to be encouraged. Finally I ask prayer for direction in my calling. I would love to be 100% working for God and I know what He has placed in my heart. I pray for openings if this be His will. Please join with me in prayer. Blessings <><
    

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Romania~ Part 2 (Hearts of Gold)

  • Today our week begins to come to an end. So many amazing memories and stories to tell. I know one thing though. As usual I am coming away more blessed than when I entered this amazing country. I have been touched by the welcomes we have received, the hugs and the smiles. Several amazing moments are standing our for me right now:
  • In all of the churches we visited the children had taken the time to prepare a song for us in English. As bad as our attempts to speak Romanian have been they were amazing in singing to us in English. Funny thing is often we would try to say something to them in their language and they would respond in English. 
  • Going into the schools to celebrate Christmas and tell the Christmas story. Again each of the schools had prepared a presentation for us. Can't do that back in the United States. 
  • Sitting in a church in a remote village when the pastor walked in and up to me and said "Chuck, how are you?" Standing there with my mouth open he explained he had "friended" me on Facebook. Amazing how much smaller the world has become but equally cool because I now have friends overseas. I have added several friends including including Pastor Danny (who we are partnering with here) so that we can pray and make a difference together. 
  • Going to a church that was dead three years ago and walked in to 175 children clapping and cheering for us as if we were celebrities. Talk about a humbling experience. 
We have had several members get sick, I had my phone stolen and we are exhausted but overall I would say our hearts have been poured into. As we begin our journey back to the States I leave a piece of my heart here as well as new friendships.