Thursday, October 28, 2010

There's No Place Like Uganda

There really isn't. Not that I have extensive world-traveling knowledge. (Well okay, I guess I have been to five different countries, but England, France and Israel are hardly an equal comparison to Uganda.) I'm not the only one who thinks this either. My feelings that Uganda is a place with a unique way of getting into your heart and soul is a sentiment shared by a number of world-travelers I know. The people of Uganda have so little and yet are incredibly openhearted, especially for a country that has been through so much war and devastation. It is hard to put into words, but once you've been there, you understand.

I watched the video from my last trip in 2006 and was filled to the brim (meaning I cried a little) with joyful anticipation at returning. (You can watch the documentary I made about the trip here. I would recommend letting the video load completely before playing.)

Oh, in case you missed the announcement - Devin and I are traveling to Uganda in March to serve with some pretty incredible people. One of which is Katie Davis, who not only started Amazima Ministries, but also has fourteen adopted kids. Yes. Fourteen. Oh and by the way, Katie is in her mid-twenties and a single mama. I'll say it once more - fourteen adopted children. Needless to say, Devin and I are honored to have the privilege of working along side someone who exhibits the sacrificial love of Christ so fully. (read Katie's blog here

Amazima (which means "truth" in the native language of Luganda) runs a number of programs including a feeding program that provides meals for some of the poorest families in Uganda (it only takes $0.15 to provides one meal). They also offer sponsorships for over 400 orphans and provide them with education, clothing, food, medical care and Biblical discipleship (sponsorships are only $300 for a whole year click here to learn more). A number of other projects are also run by Amazima but the one thing the all have in common is that they care for the needs of the "least of these" and spread some serious doses of Jesus-love while doing it. I am giddy with the thought of working in some of these programs.

While in Uganda, we will also be running a VBS-type program for some of the orphan homes in the area, including Canaan Children's Home which is led by Pastor Isaac Wagaba. Pastor Isaac has an incredible story of survival during the terrorist reign of Idi Amin (a.k.a. the "Butcher of Uganda"). As an outspoken Christian, Pastor Isaac was on Amin's "death list". After being shot and left for dead in a mass grave, Pastor Isaac heard a voice saying, "Isaac, I have saved your life so that you may save the lives of my fatherless children...Isaac, I will be the father of those children through you." This was the beginning of the vision for Canaan Children's Home.

I mean, wow. I can hardly believe that these are the kinds of people we get to serve with. Incredible.

More news to come in future posts!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Wish You Would Have Kept More

*Part Six of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work... You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." - 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,11 

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you may have seen me mention a time or two ... or three ...or four, the journey that my husband and I are on to live off of less in order to give more. This idea that God blesses us with material possessions, not so we can horde it, but so that we can give it, is something that God has truly being digging deep into my soul - over the past few months especially. Which, I think, is wonderfully ironic because it's those same few months that my husband has been without a job.

All this to say, I loved - L.O.V.E.D - chapter six in Radical. God has been opening my eyes to the needs of the world's poor so much lately and this chapter was such an exciting encouragement to me.

Let me take a pause to say, however, that I do not have this materialism problem solved. HA! Hardly. But man, oh man has God been changing my heart in this area. I'm a work in progress, but what a work He has already begun!

So here's the deal: I have a lot of stuff. Even with my "little" 878-square-foot, two bedroom apartment, I have a lot more than the majority of the people in this world. I have a lot of stuff that I don't even need and even when I give a good chunk of it away, I still have excess. I don't worry about where my next meal is going to come from or where I'll find clothes to wear or a roof to sleep under. I am blessed... However. I must remember that God has blessed me not so that I can have more, but so that I can give more (Radical, page 127).

Recently, through God's impact in my heart, I have begun to look at my possessions in comparison to the lives the money spent could have saved. Wow does that shake some sense into me! Even when I gather up items to donate or sell, I have to shake my head at my foolishness. This stuff, when I sell it, is worth so much less than what I paid for it. It makes me realize how much money I waste on stuff I don't need or even like enough to keep for more than a few months or years before I end up selling it or giving it away. Had I not bought those things in the first place, that money could have made such a difference to someone in need - someone who will now only receive the small re-sale percentage of what that the item is now worth. 

Am I (or David Platt) saying that having possessions is wrong? Not exactly. Possessions themselves are not inherently evil -  but the heart (my heart) that seeks after those possessions is wicked beyond belief. Yet, a heart focused on giving rather than possessing is made from an entirely different matter. I love how Platt puts it on page 126:

“We don’t sell them [our possessions] or give them away because they are sinful… We sell them and give them away because Christ in us compels us to care for the need around us.”
There is so much need. More than we could even comprehend honestly. Example: “In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday morning, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food” (Radical, page 115)

Numbers and statistics can be so overwhelming, but that is not an excuse to do nothing. There are needs that we do see and when we turn our backs on them in order to continue on in our comfortable, stuff-filled lives, how can we say that the love of God is in us? (1 John 3:17-19)

It is so simple (I won't say "easy", because life-style change is often difficult) to start making a difference and honestly, once you start - once you open your heart up to the needs and name and faces of the poor of this world -  it changes you and that change and that urgent sense of generously becomes a joyful, addiction of sorts. 

So, here are some other numbers and statistics for you to consider:

Fifteen cents can provide a child in Africa with a hot, nutritious meal (click here for more information). Sometimes, I don't even bother to pick up fifteen cents when I see it lying in the parking lot.

One dollar (the same one dollar I would spend on french fries) would provide one African clean, safe drinking water for one year (

Forty-dollars can buy a goat for a family living in poverty and provide them with sustainable income as well as fresh milk to nourish their own families. (click here for more information) I know that one step into Kohl's or Target and I am in serious danger of easily blowing forty dollars on excess stuff-that-I-don't-need.  

Last one (this just thrilled me when I found this out): David Platt mentions his church using their excess of $500,000 to partner with twenty-one impoverished churches in India to help feed starving children. Well guess what program that was? Compassion International's Child Survival Program (I have a thing for Compassion in case you didn't know). Which means that you and I and our churches can go here right now and start making the same kind of impact that Platt's church is having! Wow - so exciting!!

I could write gobs and tons and oodles more on this subject, but I'll leave you (and myself) with this powerful thought:

“I wonder at some points if I’m being irresponsible or unwise. But then I realize there is never going to come a day when I stand before God and he looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’” (Radical, page 123)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Joy-FULL Update!

I wrote a rather passionate blog post a couple months ago how we should respond when we hear about and see the suffering of the poor in this world.

Remember this little guy? 

How could you forget, right?

Well, I just read some amazing, awesome, God-is-SO-great news. In His great mercy, and through the work of Serving His Children, God flat out saved the life of this little one. This is that same little boy today:

Can you believe that?? Absolute miracle. Little Katoya is happy and healthy and ready go home to be with his family again. A child that should have died - would have died- without the intervention of a compassionate God and His compassionate servants is alive and thriving and I just couldn't help but share this joyful news.

Death by starvation is preventable - but we all must join together to help make a difference. Click here to read more about the work of Serving His Children and how you can help .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Left My Heart in Uganda, Africa

Six-to-eight-weeks and $120 later, I can officially travel internationally as Jennifer Hanson! The final piece of the puzzle that is changing-your-name-after-marriage (which ::ahem:: guys don't have to deal with) has been completed (over a year after my nuptials) and I can now (only if needed of course) quickly leave the country at a moment's notice. (Why do we say that any way? "Always have your passport ready in case you need to quickly leave the country." Sounds so sketchy.) (And while I'm at it -why is the majority of this paragraph in parentheses???)

Why would you need to "officially travel internationally"?, you may be wondering (or not). Well, I am so glad you asked (or didn't).

Devin and I have sent off our paper work to go to Uganda, Africa in March 2011!! We'll be traveling with Visiting Orphans and will have the opportunity to work along side the amazing Katie from Amazima Ministries (who I've mentioned many times on this blog). 

I traveled to Uganda with BreakDown United back in 2006 and I left a piece of my heart in that beautiful, precious country. Plus, I have two little pieces of my heart living over there - two amazing girls that Devin and I will have the joy of meeting in person for the first time during this trip.

One of the little beauties that I met while in Uganda in 2006
(© Jennifer Hanson 2006)
I am so excited for this trip - so excited to love on some precious people, so excited to serve as the hands and feet of Christ and so excited to see how God provides as we raise the hefty chunk of change we need to get ourselves over there. I have been longing to return to Uganda for over four years and now that I can start counting the days (150 by the way) until our trip, I can hardly contain my joy!!

I'll be posting more soon about what we'll be doing while we are over there and some of the super-awesome ways we'll be raising support. Can't wait to share it all with you! 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27

P.S. Devin, the photographer, took my passport photo so that I don't have to look questionably deranged for the next ten years. Excellent marital benefit.

P.P.S. Confession: When I wrote Goals #63 and #93 I honestly thought it might be a bit far-fetched to accomplish them in the allotted time. Ha! Silly Jen. When God tugs at your heart to do something - He provides a way! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Compassion Sunday: Update

Thank you to anyone who prayed for these ten kiddos in need. We were able to find sponsors for Seylin, Omar, Kokou and Fancy this morning! Plus, two more families said they were going to head home and sponsor a child online. Praise the Lord!!!
Please say a prayer that sponsors will be found for Jose, Patricia, Abdul, Aaron, Nareerat and Irankunda. As sponsors where not found for them today, they will go back into the system to continue waiting for sponsorship. I look at the pictures of the remaining children and my heart churns with bittersweet feelings. I am overjoyed that I had the privilege to help find sponsors for four (hopefully six) children in need. Those four (six!) kids will be so impacted by the support they'll receive from their sponsors and the sponsors will be so incredibly blessed as they learn about their child and watch them grow. Your heart and your perspective changes when you begin to fall in love with a child living in such harsh circumstances. So I am filled with joy in that regard, but my heart is still aching as I look at the sweet faces of the six children who were not sponsored.

I did have a great time chatting with some other people in our church who sponsor children through Compassion International, or similar organizations. It was like a little mini-family reunion as we all shared and "bragged" about our sponsor children and encouraged each other to make the most of this privilege by sending letters, cards and pictures to our sponsor children more often. It was so exciting for me to share face-to-face with people why sponsorships like these are so important to me.

I have a long history with Compassion. When I was growing up, my parents sponsored a little boy from Haiti named Ethney who was just a few years older that me. I loved sending letters and pictures to him and we grew up together through the correspondence my family shared with him (I even had numerous dreams about being in Haiti and playing with him). My parents sponsored him all the way through high school. 

Then, when I was twenty-three, I went to Uganda, Africa and was able to witness firsthand the poverty these children are facing. The lack of food, water, clothing... The lack of opportunity or hope that things will ever get better. When I returned home, I began sponsoring Nazziwa, a sixteen-year-old girl from Uganda. Older children are always harder to find sponsors for, which is why I picked her. Plus, since she is older, I've been able to have some really meaningful conversations with her through the letters we've shared over the past four years. Then, two years ago, added a second Ugandan sponsor child, Barabra (who is now seven). The past four years of being a Compassion sponsor have been such an honor. I've gotten to know these sweet girls and hear about the things they are learning about Jesus. With Nazziwa especially, I am able to encourage her as she grows into a young woman of God. It is an incredible blessing and privilege.

The problems of this world and the enormity of poverty can seem overwhelming, but changing the world can begin with one child. It can be with me. It can begin with you


Friday, October 15, 2010

Compassion Sunday

This Sunday, October 17th I am hosting a Compassion Sunday at my church to find sponsors for some precious kids in need through Compassion International (if you read this post, then you know how passionate I am about this cause). 

When I opened my information package for the presentation and saw the faces of the children I'll be trying to find sponsors for, my eyes filled with tears and my heart just plain hurt. I had to remind myself that it is through GOD's work that sponsors can be found, not through me (thank goodness!).

So, can I ask you to do something for me? I have packets with ten pictures of ten beautiful children who all need sponsors. Sponsors that will help them to receive an education, food, clean water, medical care, as well as learn about Jesus and be loved on by some amazing Compassion workers at the child centers they will attend. I'm going list the names and ages of these child here. Would you please pick one and pray for them? Pray that someone in my church would be moved by God's compassion for these little ones and to become a sponsor.

Seylin is thirteen years old. She lives in Honduras.
Omar is four years old. He lives in Mexico.
Jose is eleven years old. He lives in Bolivia. 
Patricia is nine years old. She lives in Brazil. 
Abdul is four years old. He lives in Peru. 
Aaron is eight years old. He lives in the Philippines.
Nareerat is ten years old. She lives in Thailand.
Irankunda is six years old. He lives in Rwanda. 
Kokou is ten years old. He lives in Togo.
Fancy is eight years old. She lives in Uganda.

If you are reading this beyond October 17th, would you please pray that God will continue to tug at the hearts in my church and that they will choose to have the honor and blessing of sponoring a child in need?

Thank you so much friends!

"But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" - 1 John 3:17

Love is in the Hair

Goal #40: Grow hair out 

What is it about getting engaged and married that makes women want to grow their hair out long?

And what is it about actually becoming married that compels women to chop all their hair off? 

And how is it that men seem to be nearly unanimous in their preference for long haired mates? (My sister-in-law came up with a great answer to that one. "Why do guys like long hair so much? Because they don't have to take care of it!")

I've always maintained that, once a woman is married, she has less time to dedicate to fixing her hair, as her time is now spent serving her husband (yeah, that's it). So, it is for the husband's benefit that she chop off the luxuriously locks which she labored to maintain during the wooing and wedding time of her relationship with him. At least, that was the excuse I gave Devin when, a couple of months after our wedding, I went from this:

To this:


Yeah. He was a bit shocked to say the least. I asked him what he thought of my new do and he said something to the effect of, "Um... well... It's not my preference." Ouch. (In all fairness to him though, I might as well have asked the dreaded, "Does this make me look fat?" question.)

So now that you have some context, there was a very specific reason why I put the goal "grow hair out" on my list of 101 Goals. That reason was my husband. I decided that it was more important to me that I present myself in a way that my husband fines attractive rather than being stubborn about having my way in the area of clothes, make-up or hairstyle. I'm not trying to sound all anti-feminist (well, maybe a little), but I am starting to realize the great value that exists when a wife dresses in a way that pleases her husband. There are certainly exceptions (one of them being a husband who asks his wife to dress (in public) in a immodest fashion ... or in neon orange legging from the 80s and a purple fur coat... I would eliminate that one as well), but in general, dressing in a way that pleases our husbands should bring us joy and be something that we want to do as wives. For me, wearing my hair how Devin likes it was a fairly simple way for me to show him love by submitting to him and letting him know that I wanted to be attractive to him.

When I came to this epiphany (brought about mostly by Martha Peace's book The Excellent Wife), I decided to ask Devin which hairstyle and hair length he found most attractive on me. He told me, and I started growing out my hair to reach his "preferred" length again. Here is the result:

Turns out, the length and style he finds me most attractive in is actually the look that I feel the most attractive in. Go figure.
But now I have a question for you:  
1) What are your thoughts on a woman dressing to please her husband? 
2) At what point does a girl or woman begin "dressing for her man"? Is that an appropriate behavior to encourage in dating relationships (specifically young, high-school age) or should this attitude be reversed for marriage?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Goal #54- COMPLETE

Goal #54: Live six months radically frugal

Well, we survived and thrived during our challenge of living six months radically frugal. The final month was rough, as we were completely down to one income. We very nearly spent more than we earned - which is completely against the rules in our household (and something that has never once happened the entire time we've been married). I'll be watching this month's budget like a hawk to make sure we don't risk this happening again. Despite being down to one income, all of our needs have been met and I am so grateful for how God prepared us for this.

During this goal, I learned a ton about how to find great deals and how to make our money stretch. I never got around to the whole coupon-ing thing... but its on The List, so I'll have to do it sometime or another. 

So now that we have completed our six-month goal will we go back to living a little less frugal (because honestly, we were already pretty frugal to begin with)? Nope! Absolutely not. We are going to continue to live just as frugally (if not more-so). Even if our current financial circumstances didn't mandate frugality, we would still want to live this way because out of all the things I learned while living radically frugal, this lesson was my most treasured:

Living frugally allows me to give more generously. 

And that is something I never want to change.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Charles and Michelle's Wedding

Goal #91: Shoot at least five weddings with Devin (2/5)

On October 2nd, I had the pleasure of photographing my friends Michelle and Charles' wedding along with Devin. Michelle was the (incomparable) stage manger from my theatre days and she planned her wedding in a way that only a stage manager could. It was so fun for me to hear her describe her wedding with theatre jargon. Her wedding coordinator was (literally) a stage manger. Her dress and accessories were prepared and watched over by a "costume mistress." There were even "prop managers" and "set designers" in charge of the decor. I was thoroughly amused by this and it added such a unique, personality-infused touch to this wedding.

Charles and Michelle were such a sweet couple and capturing their love on camera was such a joy! Not only that, but photographing weddings with my husband is pretty much my new favorite thing in the world.

Here are just a few of my favorites shots from the day. Too see more, head over to Devin's photography blog.


Congratulations Charles and Michelle!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Disciples: Simple but Difficult

*Part Five of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

After many weeks of frustrated tension during this online book club, chapter five of Radical finally starting to address the “okay, but now what?” questions brought about by Platt's critiques of American Christianity. This may be the first chapter in Radical that I can honestly say I really, really loved.

Platt looks at Jesus' final words to "go and make disciples" and writes that this command was truly meant for all of us to follow. Which is something that I think I've always known in the back my heart, but since I never saw a good model of that in the church, I just sorta pushed it to the side with a shrug and assumed "disciple-making" was for those in "real" leadership potions, not for little ol' me.

But even then, my experience with "discipleship" in the churches I've attended has been one of two things: There were the mega churches who were so focused on having programs and sermons that would bring in more and more people, but seemed to be filled with half-heart hearers of the Word and there was very little real growth (spiritually speaking). Then there were the small churches who focused so much on ministry within the walls of the church - ministries geared towards blessing the blessed - that they rarely stepped out to minister to people who weren't in the church. When dividing time and resources at these small churches, it seemed that serving the needs of church members always trumped the needs outside of our little community of believers.

At least from what I've experienced, we seem to have lost the "go" part of Jesus' command. We focus on bringing people to us or keeping ourselves away from the "bad" things of this world (including lost people), but very few of us actually go.

“According to Jesus, disciple making involves going… Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a command for us to go to others to share the gospel. A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every context where we find ourselves.” (Radical, page 94)

I agree with Platt that this lack of going is largely due to a church culture that doesn't actively encourage everyone in the church to make disciples, but rather leaves it to just the "leaders of the church". If you're a talented speaker, you preach. If you're a wise teacher, you lead a Bible study. If you like kids, you run the children's program. But what about the rest of us?

“One of the unintended consequences of contemporary church strategies that revolve around performance, places, programs and professionals is that somewhere along the way people get left out of the picture.” (Radical, page 90)

Platt challenges readers that making disciples is simple and simply something we all should be doing. How? By loving on people, serving people, going to people and meeting them in their world, touching their needs and making deep, lasting relationships with them that can then grow into a discipleship where they are learning from us - their friend - how to become a disciple themselves. We don't tell them about Jesus and then leave. We don't invite them to church and then let the pastor do all the teaching, or tell them to sign up for a church class - we invite them into our lives and demonstrate for them what it looks like to follow Jesus on a day-to-day reality.

While the principle of discipleship is simple, the execution is difficult. It's difficult because this form of discipleship (which is modeled after Jesus' relationship with his twelve disciples) takes time and effort and means that we have to open up our lives to others. We don't do that a lot here in American. (Example: Have you ever noticed that no one makes eye contact with each other when passing on the street? When did that start and why are we so closed off as a society that even a simple "Good morning" to a passing stranger feels awkward?)

 “Making disciples is not an easy process. It is trying. It is messy. It is slow, tedious, even painful at times. It is all these things because it is relational. Jesus has not given us an effortless step-by-step formula for impacting nations for his glory. He has given us people and he has said, “Live for them. Love them, serve them, and lead them. Lead them to follow me, and lead them to lead others to follow me. In the process you will multiply the gospel to the ends of the earth.” (Radical, page 93)

I have never seen the command to make disciples executed as Platt describes, but oh how I want to! It sound so wonderful (hard, yes - but glorious). I'll be looking for opportunities and praying for ways to make this a reality in my own church culture. It is lacking currently, but a change can start with me.

I'll leave you with my very favorite except from this chapter. This is what I would love to see my our church culture look like:

“[When] the world is our focus, and we gauge success in the church not on the hundred of thousands we can get into our buildings but on the hundreds or thousands who are leaving our buildings to take on the world with the disciples they are making.” (Radical, page 105)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What does my heart REALLY ache for?

After publishing this post last night, I continued to ponder what it really means to have a heart for the world. I read a few of the other posts on Radical and came across one that really made me stop and think about my motives for reaching the hurting of this world - whether here in America, or overseas. Sandee over at We Are Family (who by the way is an adoptive single mama of four) wrote this statement:

"I want to have an ache for the lost souls. 
Not just an ache for tragic circumstances." 


This is one area that I am realizing is inconsistent, if not incomplete, in my own life. I ache for the tragic circumstances around the world, and do what I can to raise awareness and to help those in need, but do I boldly (or even meekly) tell people about Jesus? Not really, no. I seem to care more that people are living in uncomfortable (and even very, very harsh) circumstances than care that, if they don't know Christ as their Savior, they will be separated from God for eternity. My perceptive, even a noble one that aches for the poor, is still skewed towards the things of this world.

Now, it is obvious throughout scripture that God has a heart for the poor and that those who love God are to care for the poor, the needy and the forgotten.

"But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" - 1 John 3:17

Out of obedience to God and out of love for those He has created, we as Christians are to care for the least of these. But with our concern for a person's physical needs, must also come an even deeper concern for a person's spiritual needs. This is something I think I miss a lot of the time. Yes, I exclusively support ministries that address both the physical and spiritual needs of those they serve, but I am ashamed to say that the physical needs are what pull at my heart the most.

It is here that I must check my motives.

Do I do things out of obedience to God in order to bring Him glory so that others might believe in Him, or because I want to help someone in a difficult circumstances? The latter is not wrong, but if it is done without the focus being for God's glory and salvation, than it is only a temporary fix to an earthly problem. A fix that may not have any impact on the real need - person's spiritual well-being.  

Something to think about.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Smoke-Screen Calling?

*Part Four of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

I'm going to stay honest here and confess that parts of Radical chapter four made me really angry and really offended me.

I was angry for a good chunk of this chapter because I felt like Platt was condemning people who felt called to stay in the United States and minister, rather than going overseas to minister. As someone who really does feel called to minster to the United States -- to challenge the Church here; to shake some sense into Christians here; and to show the culture here what Christianity should look like --  I was really offended by what I thought Platt saying.

Fortunately instead of doing what I felt like doing - which was to throw the book across the room (mature, I know) - I continued reading and got a much needed wake-up call of my own when I read the following:

“The statements [of "God has called me to minister to the United States] may sound spiritual, but when we probe deeper, they seem more like smoke screens... They are smoke screens because most of us really are not very concerned about the needs right around us. Most Christians rarely share the gospel, and most Christian’s schedules are not heavily weighted to feeding the hungry, helping the sick, and strengthening the church in the neediest places in our country.” (Radical, page 75-76)

Ouch. Well! There's a thought. A rather convicting one at that.

So now instead of throwing a book, I have a convicted confession to make: Even though I've felt and said out loud and been convinced of my calling to minister here in the United States - I have done very little to act on those convictions. I've done some things, even many things by some standards, but have I made it my calling? Not really. Have I made it what my life is all about? No. Even after my Time Out two weeks ago very little has changed in my life in regards to reaching out to those around me.  

Do I still think its my calling? Yep. Do I think I'm just too chicken to embrace it and act upon it fully? Yep. Is that gonna stop me from getting serious about letting God use me here in the United States? I hope not. Because Platt makes the beautiful point that mankind was created for two expressly intertwined purposes (purposes that I don't want to miss out on): To experience God's grace and to extend His glory to the world. We can not (and should not) have one without the other.

“We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. Our hearts resonate with the idea of enjoying God’s grace. We bask in sermons, conference, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose [glorifying God], the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.” (Radical, page 69)

To paraphrase the rest of Platt's point here, when the message of Christianity is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” – the central focus of Christianity is YOU. The biblical message of Christianity however is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life that will bring Him glory in ways that only He could orchestrate.” This make the focus of Christianity God and His glory, not us.

With that said, let me return the to idea of being called to minister in a particular area - whether here or oversees. This is where Platt started speaking my language. He challenges Christians that our mission should not be focused only on where we feel "called" to minister, but also to the world as a whole. Our heart should be for the whole world because God's heart is for the whole world

“In light of all that we have seen in scripture, certainly God has given us his grace to extend his glory not just to areas of need here but to areas of need around the world. Not either here or there but both her and there… We have created the idea that if you have a heart for the world and you are passionate about global mission, then you move overseas. But if you have a heart for the United States and you are not passionate about global mission, then you stay here and support those who go. Meanwhile, flying right in the face of this idea is scripture’s claim that regardless of where we live – here or overseas – our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known to all nations...There is a God-designed way for us to live our lives here, and do church here, for the sake of people around the world who don’t know Christ.” (Radical, page 77)

This is where Platt and I were on the same page and where I think I finally started to understand the message of this chapter. Because yes, I have a heart for America, but I have a heart that aches for the hungry in Africa and for the orphans in the Ukraine and for so many others around the world that need the love of Christ in their lives. 

I am compelled to minister to those who claim Christ here in America partly because I think there are a lot of church-goers who have been mislead into believing they are saved and I want them to truly find God. But perhaps even more so, my heart is to minister to American SO THAT American can minister to the world. I want to challenge Christians to truly start living like Christ SO THAT fewer babies lie alone in orphanages and fewer people die from drinking unclean water. This is why my heart beats for America -- because I can envision the difference we in America could make if we let God use us for His purpose and His glory!

::Deep Breath::

So do I think that I use the words "I'm called to minister to America" as a smoke-screen excuse to stay safe and comfortable sometimes? Yes I do and my actions at times attest to that. I also know that God has given me a passion that reaches far beyond my little apartment in Phoenix, Arizona but that currently Phoenix, Arizona is where He has placed me and I want to make the most of where I am - for the sake of the community around me and for the sake of those around the world. I'm guilty of ignoring that passion far too often, but this chapter has really served to put things into perspective.

I was created to experience God's grace in order that my life might show His glory throughout the world. Now, what am I going to do about it? 

"Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me."
- Psalm 31:3

Monday, October 4, 2010

Goal #43 - COMPLETE

Goal #43: Have a weekly date night with Devin for at least six months

Can I just start our by saying that I completely adore my husband? He is not only handsome, creative and loving, he is fun to be around! We had such a blast on all of our weekly date nights and I just plain like him a whole bunch (and may even still have a bit of a crush on him). Some of my favorite dates that we shared in the last six months were this one, this one and this one - just to highlight a few.

For our final date (for this goal of course, many more to come), we headed to the place of our nuptials - Papago Park - for a sunset picnic. We partook of our packed sandwiches at the very spot where we said "I do" and where shared our first kiss almost exactly one year earlier. It was a perfect way to complete this goal. (Yep, you read that right. We didn't kiss until we were married. It. Was. Awesome.)

Our Ceremony and where we shared our picnic dinner during this date
Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Our First Kiss - it was a good one, let me tell you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast Cancer Awarenesss Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in memory of my beautiful friend Lisa, I will be offering my Pretty in Pearls beaded cross for $20 (includes shipping to U.S. addresses) and donating 10% of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

Click over to my Crafty Notions blog for all the details!

A little about the honoree, Lisa:

Lisa was mom to two of my good friends when I was in high school. She was one of those moms who loved inviting people into her home and always took the time to snag you for a meaningful conversation while you where there. Lisa was such a huge influence on me in regards to what I picture when I think of an adoring wife, a loving mom, an open-hearted hostess and a woman of incredible faith. She loved God with her whole heart and that loved spilled all over everyone she came into contact with. She was someone who truly impacted me and one whom I strive to emulate with my own life. I truly, dearly loved, and felt loved, by this woman and thinking of her still brings tears to my eyes, even years after her death. She was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.