Monday, April 28, 2014

The Ladies of the Meadow

This semester at my university has been my very favorite so far.  I've always had sweet roommates, but these girls are my dearest friends and full of so much life and Christlike joy.

In Texas, wildflowers are blooming.  Spring is here.

We decided to have a little photo shoot.

You should have seen us trying to fit that white bench into the back of the car.

A few weeks ago, we adopted our darling white rabbits, Obadiah and Boaz.  We decided to bring them along since they are now members of our college family.  The rabbits loved the field of purple wildflowers even more than we did... although they preferred what was green.

Sammy has a wooden statue (I call it an idol, although none of us worships this object or thinks of it with anything other than a confused fondness).  Its name is Daisy and it always finds a way into our photographs and day-to-day lives.

Boaz didn't mind his new found friend.

My cousin gave me a doll head for Christmas a few years ago that has an especially creepy feel to it.  Combined with Daisy, we have quite the household.

The funny thing is that our house is nicknamed The Meadow, due to our love for flowers, our spacious backyard, and our four adopted rabbits.

The ladies of The Meadow took photos in the meadow.

The day before Easter is the perfect time for a spring photo shoot.  Bunnies, flowers, and best friends.

These precious ladies love Jesus and it is wonderful to join in celebration with them that Jesus is alive!  He has risen and He is coming again.

Easter is not about the rabbits and eggs, but God created our sweet bunnies.  He painted the wildflowers across the Texas fields like the stroke of a brush.  And He put better friends in my life than I had ever hoped to have.

Kelsey is the photographer among us.  It was her Nikon that took these pictures.  She is one photogenic lady... and Boaz is one photogenic rabbit.

And Sammy.  I have beautiful friends.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter.  We sure did.

One year ago: Books and Orange Juice
Two years ago: She is a leader.
Three years ago: Letter to Little Me

Monday, April 21, 2014

David's Story

Let me tell you a story about a family living in a small village a few hours outside of Eldoret, Kenya.  It began almost five years ago.

Helen was a widow.

Exhaustion was evident in her eyes as she gathered her youngest children to come outside and meet my dear friend Barbie and me.  We were searching for children that would match with Christian Relief Fund's sponsorship program: partial or total orphans, children who were in desperate need of support.  Helen's family sure seemed to fit this description.

In rural Kenya, many families own small sections of land.  They grow maize and kale to sell and to eat.  Because Helen could not afford fertilizer, her quarter-acre of land was failing.  We had to venture through paths of towering corn in order to reach Helen's mud hut... but her house was placed in the middle of what looked like an empty clearing, shriveled and bare.

"Helen's husband died seven years ago," we were told.  I couldn't help but feel confusion.  Helen was the mother of ten children, three under the age of seven.

The truth is, Helen loved her children more than anything else in the world.  She could not bear to watch them starve, so she sold her body in exchange for food.  Prostitution has so many consequences, like the potential to contract HIV/AIDS, but another problem was that Helen continued to become pregnant again and again... and with more mouths to feed, she felt increasingly desperate as she struggled to feed her family.

To read the rest of this story, go to the Christian Relief Fund blog!

One year ago: CURRENTLY
Three years ago: Inspiration

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen

Creation by my lovely roommate and friend, Kelsey

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"  Then they remembered his words.  -Luke 24:1-8

One year ago: 20 Weird Facts About Emily
Two years ago: Trust in the Lord.
Three years ago: Hypnotized Kittens
Four years ago: Poverty: Education

Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Things: Wildflowers and Dust

1.) It's springtime, which means that the wildflowers have come out.  My favorite flower is the bluebonnet, and I'm thankful to attend university in a town where these beautiful flowers blanket the roadsides almost wherever I drive... and sometimes even in my own backyard!

2.) Almost every day, I feel a twinge of homesickness for my hometown.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being in college.  I love my home here, my friends, and my university.  Not a day goes by (except maybe during finals week) when I don't thank God for letting me go to school in such a beautiful, friendly place!

But I love my family and friends back home so much too, so I always have a feeling of being torn between two beautiful places.

Not this week.

Severe dust storms hit during the spring.  My Facebook feed is often covered with shocking photos of the sepia-toned sky.

Photo credit to NewsChannel10

On days like that, I am thankful for the rainy spring weather and blooming flowers in my college town.

3.) My sponsored son, David, used to be the coolest four-year-old on the planet.  He lost that title when he became... the coolest five-year-old!  Happy birthday, sweet boy.

4.) My house has a "Kenya Corner."  In that corner is our "David Jar."  (My roommates and I like to name things.)  We are trying to save a little money to buy David's family a pair of goats.  Goats are huge to help the status of a family in an impoverished country.  They provide milk, meat, and they have babies that the family can sell.

Usually I put my pocket change in the jar at the end of the week, if I have any.  Recently my roommates made a rule.  Kelsey and Kendall love chocolate (Sammy and I do not), and to get ready for summer, they have committed to eating only one piece of chocolate each day.  Any more and they must put a dollar in the David Jar.

It looks like David is will get his goats in no time!

5.) It's been a while since I've shared a picture of Jack.  One of the saddest parts of being away at college for months at a time is not having dogs to come home to at the end of the day. 

What's been on your mind?

Three years ago: That glimmer of hope

Monday, April 7, 2014

When the Gospel Calls for Tangible Compassion

In Luke 4:18, Jesus declared that He had come to "preach good news to the poor."  He was fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah 61, which says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners..." 

I grew up in the Bible Belt of Texas, surrounded by church camps and Sunday school and a Christian bubble so impenetrable that it may as well have been made of iron.  There were great benefits to this, such as receiving a strong foundation in my faith, as well as Biblical knowledge that has helped me so much in my personal growth with the Lord.  But there were also limitations to living in the Bible Belt.  "Sharing the gospel" often meant something along the lines of going to the park and talking to neighborhood kids, giving away tracts, and altar calls.  As a young Christian, I understood sharing my faith in less of a discipleship context and more of a "Here is what Jesus did for you; want to pray the prayer now?" context.

I found my faith in Jesus over the summer before I entered high school, and people continually asked me afterward to reduce my experience to a single prayer.  "I understand you know Jesus now, but when did you pray the prayer?"

Looking back, I cannot recall the single prayer or instant when I became saved.  I realize there was an ultimate decision that was made at some point during that summer; I just don't know when.  However, I can clearly remember a transformation in my thoughts, actions, and heart.  I was no longer my own.  I felt both the freedom and calling that came along with that revelation.  Joining the kingdom of God did not come down to a simple recitation or a repeated prayer for me personally, but it changed every aspect of my life, and everything I once valued above all else was turned upside down.

"Good news" was a term I heard over and over again growing up.  Jesus is the Good News, and this is true.  But placing a "Good News! Good News!" tract in the hand of a hungry homeless man on a street corner before hopping back in my air-conditioned car and driving away felt a lot less joy-inspiring than expected.

In forgotten corners and impoverished places, good news can be hard to find.

The United Nations Development Programme reported in 2008 that there are three billion people living in poverty.  Half the planet.  What good news has the hands and feet of Christ brought them?  What gospel has the 147 million orphans in the world yet seen?

Good news comes from Christ alone, yes!  But He has commanded His Body to break chains of slavery, to feed the hungry in His name, and to live out our faith with actions and not only words.

Richard Stearns said, "Christianity is a faith that is meant to be spread- but not through coercion.  God's love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated.  Our job is not to manipulate or induce others to agree with us or to leave their religion and embrace Christianity.  Our charge is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God's love in tangible ways."

The gospel that is all too often embraced in my Christian, American, comfortable community is missing a chunk of Christ's call to bring good news to the poor.  In Matthew 6, Jesus tells His disciples how we ought to pray.  In verse 10, He prays, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  We are not only winning souls for heaven.  The kingdom of God is eternal, but it is also right here, right now.  We have been called to extend revolutionary love and mercy to the earth.

Let us allow the poor to experience the gospel through tangible compassion along with spoken truth of what Christ did for them.

I want to share my faith in boldness and in truth.  I want to proclaim from the mountaintops that my Savior loves unconditionally and paid the price for our sins.  But I also want to live the gospel.  I want to preach with my hands and feet, with all that I am.

In my own town, I don't just want to stand on the corner and share my faith; I want to live alongside people and love without condition.  I pray that they will see the good news of Christ through how I live just as clearly as they hear about Him from what I say.  And when I go to the nations, I want to bring good news with my actions just as much as with my words.

Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, serving the widow and the orphan.  This is demonstrating the good news of Christ's radical love.

Let's share the gospel with both words and action.  Let's bring good news.

"If the gospel we preach is not first and foremost good news to the poor, then it isn't the gospel of Jesus." -Brian McLaren

Two years ago: My Letter Box
Three years ago: Are you alive?