Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December Newsletter.

We interrupt this sporadic blog series to bring you the link to the most recent One Vision International newsletter. http://freepdfhosting.com/bee064e62e.pdf Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The 18th Thing I Love.

#18 - Cooking.

Cooking is a pretty recent obsession for me, but over the last few years my love for it has steadily grown. I wish I had the time and money to cook every night! But I get to cook at least once a week when Savannah comes over for dinner. I get daily recipes from a wonderful website called AllRecipes.com. If you like cooking, you MUST check it out. You can search by type of food, by ingredients, by a specific recipe... You can save them in your own online recipe box, print out shopping lists, or print the recipe. And it's all free! I also get a fun little magazine called Everyday Food. I HATE dealing with the subscription department, but everything else about the magazine is great. And they are running some specials right now if you're interested.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure what it is about cooking that appeals to me so much. Maybe it's the whole idea of "creating," the need for which is in all of us in some capacity because we are made in the image of the Creator. Maybe it's because it nurtures my unmet need to be "motherly." Maybe because it allows me to care for people on a basic level. Maybe because I'm halfway decent at it and enjoy the praise that comes from people whose bellies are happily full. It's probably a mixture of all of those. Oh, and throw in there the fact that I love food! My sister said in one of her posts that I feel the need to use a brand new recipe almost every time I cook. I guess she's right. There are just so many out there! How can you keep making the same ones unless they are simply all time favorites?

Here's one of my favorite recipes that I've stumbled on in recent years. It is SUPER easy and cheap, not to mention it tastes like something you'd get in an Indian restaurant! Orange Curried Chicken I use boneless chicken breasts and cut them up into bite sized pieces so they can be eaten in true Indian style. I serve it with sticky rice, edamame, and fake "naan" bread, which I make by buttering Mediterranean flat bread (you can buy it in the deli/bread sections of most grocery stores) and heating in a skillet. Enjoy! If you've never tried cooking, give it a try! It may turn out to be your favorite new hobby.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 19th Thing I Love.

#19 - Hot Beverages.

When it's cold or rainy outside, one of the most perfect things in the world is to snuggle up underneath a blanket with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. When you've had a bad day, a White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks may be just the ticket to cheer you up. Or when you've had a great day and need a small celebration, it might be time for a Caramel Latte from Panera. Regardless of the circumstances, there is something incredibly comforting and relaxing about holding a steaming mug of something yummy in your hands, pulling your feet up into whatever chair you've sunk into, and breathing in the aroma. The only thing that can make this little scenario better is a roaring fire in the fireplace. Those of us that aren't lucky enough to have a fireplace, though, can still enjoy the rest of the aspects with just two minutes in the microwave and a tea bag or packet of hot chocolate mix. The best things in life may be free, but this great thing costs less than $4 (considerably less if you go the homemade route instead of Starbucks or Panera). That's not too bad for a moment of tranquility. Plus, it comes with sugar and caffeine!!!

P.S. A little hot chocolate tip for you. Always make it with milk. If you don't have milk, use half water and half creamer! Very tasty. And you should probably add a little more hot chocolate mix than the package suggests. Two tablespoons? Try two HEAPING tablespoons! :-) Add marshmallows or whipped cream (from the spray can, of course) and enjoy!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The 20th Thing I Love.

#20 - Live Music.

There is not much in the world like watching an amazing musician and performer. To see anyone doing what they were created to do is a wonderful experience. But there is something specifically about live music that has always moved me.

I got to go to the symphony for free last Thursday night. I love classical music, and hearing it live always makes my soul feel as if it could float out of the building. As the strings played their sweet notes over the intricacies of dozens of instruments, I lost myself to a world of imagination. In moments like this, I see pictures and scenes flash before my closed eyes. I let emotion wash over me. I try to feel what the composer was feeling when he wrote those notes so many years and so many worlds ago. It takes me back in time. It ushers peace and contemplation into my soul. It gives me a time in my life where I can relax and simply enjoy the gifts that God has given to those around me.

There are certain kinds of music that effect me profoundly when I hear them live, even though I may not ever listen to CDs of that style. There is just something about the live performance that changes things. Next I really want to see someone who can capture all the beauty of the world of jazz as I sit at a corner table in some intimate little hole in the wall.

Some other shows that I've thoroughly enjoyed include (but are definitely not limited to): Blindside, Scratch Track, Slow Runner, Nathan Angelo, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Bleach, Switchfoot, Skillet, Jennifer Knapp, P.O.D., Jim Brickman, Fundamental Elements, and Half Price Hero. If any of them are touring near you, go see them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The 21st Thing I Love.

#21 - The Sky.

I don't even know where to begin. I have been obsessed with the sky for as long as I can remember. When I used to write songs, almost every single one of them had some sort of sky reference in it. I cannot watch a sunset or sunrise without having an emotional reaction to it. A huge part of that is the fact that the vastness and beauty of the sky always reminds me of our Creator, and makes me thankful for the beauty he has given us. The Bible says that the "heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1). God has given me so many lessons in the skies, speaking clearly to my heart in front of the entire world.

The ever-changing beauty of the sky constantly amazes me. Many times I have almost run my car off the road trying to take a picture in order to capture its grandeur. Each moment holds something different than the one before, and different than any other moment in history. I think the sky is the reason I love the ocean, the mountains, and many of my other favorite places in nature. When the sky reaches down to touch the earth, whether over a vast ocean in South Africa or atop majestic mountains rolling over the countryside of China, the people who see it are moved. We are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

Take the time to notice some of our beautiful sunsets this fall. The last week or so has been full of amazing ones.

The 22nd Thing I Love.

#22 - I love John Piper.

No really. I mean, I wish the man had unmarried sons so that I could have him as a father-in-law! Seriously, though, I love his depth of insight, his perspective, and his heart. He finds a way to bring glory to God in every aspect of life, and his theological insights are dumbfounding. If you've never read any of his books or blogs, you definitely should. They are slow reads because each sentence basically knocks you over with its theological implications, but it's well worth it.

You can get all of his sermons and a lot of his writings for free at www.desiringgod.com.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The 23rd Thing I Love.

#23 - I love football.

While this has not always been a true statement, it has been profoundly true the last 5 years or so. It all started when I began cheering for UT because of a classmate who played on the team. After being a part of Neyland Stadium at capacity (over 107,000 people), I was simply hooked.

I attended a football chapel as part of Love United Gospel Choir and was deeply impressed by the heart felt prayer of a man named Gibril Wilson. Then he went to play for the NY Giants, and my true obsession was born.

The hard hitting, the intricate rules, the players that stand out as examples to young men everywhere, and the Manning brother commercials are just a few of the things I LOVE about football. I don't remember what Sunday afternoons in the fall were like before football. Thankfully, I don't have to.

GO GIANTS!!! 3-0, baby!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The 24th Thing I Love.

#24 - I LOVE in depth Bible study.

If you've never participated in a Bible study where you watched meaning scream into your heart from a few verses (or even a few words), you are missing out. You read a verse that seems pretty straightforward, or maybe boring, or maybe over your head. Then you begin to break it down. Maybe you look up the Greek or Hebrew words to find out what the author was really trying to get out. Then you watch the Scripture literally come alive before you, tugging at your heart, waking up your mind, giving you a glimpse into a meaning and understanding you never could have imagined from a few tiny words.

It is incredible the way that no matter how deeply you delve into the rich treasures that lie within Scripture, you can always go deeper the next time. You can always see something new that you never saw before. And as God reveals his purpose and character in the Bible, we shift from seeing it as a rule book to seeing the most beautiful love story ever written, motivating us to live from the inside out. "We love because he has first loved us." 1 John 4:19

These pages, so full of life, beauty, and meaning, were written for me! They are to be kept close to my heart, treasured like a middle school girl treasures her first love note. But where human love will fail us, the One who wrote us this love letter is always faithful, and he loves us more than we could ever dare to hope. His love letter is full of truth as well as love, without trite promises and unrealistic vows. Every thing he said in the Bible... he can back it up. I hope you will take a few minutes to go deep into a scripture today and fall in love with the Bible and with God.

P.S. If you want to be part of a Bible study like this, drop me a line and I'll do what I can to help you find one in your area!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

25 Things I Love

So, I'm stealing this idea from Tara-Leigh Cobble, a girl I've never met but feel like could be one of my best friends. She is doing a blog series on 25 things she loves, in no particular order. So I am going to do the same.

#25 - I LOVE my friends.

Again, let me reiterate that these are in no particular order, because my friends would be much higher than number 25 were they ranked!!

God has given me the most amazing, incredible friends anyone could ever ask for. If something bad happens in my life, there are dozens of people I know I can call and rely on to love me, listen to me, pray for me, and point me to Christ. Praise God. I couldn't live this life without them. Many of you live entirely too far away, by the way.

One of you (I don't know if you will read this or not) may be feeling like you let me down. But let me tell you that I cannot even begin to comprehend the love that God has given me for you. As long as God continues to forgive me, I pray that he will give me the grace to do the same. All I want in this world is for you simply to come home to rest in the arms of Christ. I'll be here when you do.

"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:10

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:12-14

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Little crosses.

"The offenses which come against us do not cause us to sin, they simply reveal what sin is already there and needs to be addressed. And so, may we praise the Lord for the little crosses in our lives which if handled by the Spirit can bring greater peace and deeper wisdom to us."

Wow. For the rest of that blog, click here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I miss football.

This video is hilarious!!!

Me too, boys. Me too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

God’s presence in the godforsaken.

I've heard Haiti described in many ways. I've heard it called a "black hole" for donors and ministries because of its crippling generational poverty. I've heard that it is a "God-forsaken" place because of voodoo's grip there. Yet as I stood on a balcony in the Dominican Republic, looking out over the mountains and valleys of Haiti, I felt something different. God's presence with and unique passion for the downtrodden and oppressed are undeniable. Why, therefore, should we be surprised to find him there? As bolts of lightening sprinted rapidly across the sky and a gentle breeze whispered through my hair, I gazed at the power and beauty being displayed in front of my eyes, over the Haitian landscape. And in my spirit, I heard the Lord say, "See? I AM in Haiti."

"To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." - Deuteronomy 10:14, 17, 18, 21

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lessons in Love and Community.

We were not meant to live life alone. We are designed to be a part of a community. (Please take a moment to read this incredible blog talking about the importance of such things: To Write Love on Her Arms.) God created marriage, family, and the church to meet these needs in part. But most of all, he gives us the opportunity, through the death of his son, to have a constant, meaningful, fulfilling relationship with him. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He puts people in our paths, if even for a short time, to encourage us and point us toward him. But even these beautiful things like family and friends and church will pass away. Nothing is constant except the love of our Creator. He is without time, and without limits. He not only loves us, but he IS love. We cannot even begin to love unless we first accept his love. He gives us relationships to teach us about our relationship with him.

I have learned so many deep lessons about God's love. I learned one when my heart was broken, realizing that the way a person turned from me is the way that I turn from God. The Rocket Summer has an incredible song that says, "I will say that I'm true to you. But I'm a cheat. I don't understand. So I'll run to you." That lyric resonates so deeply with me. We cheat on God all the time. We promise to love him and serve him out of gratitude (not obligation) for the love that he has lavished on us. Yet we turn to other relationships, material possessions, or the worldly pursuits of success or pride. We cheat on him the way a spouse or boyfriend cheats, saying from one side of our mouths that we love him while kissing the enticement of sin with the other.

Another lesson I've learned from the same relationship, now redeemed through God's forgiveness and mercy, is the way that God can love us despite our mistakes. I learned to love with grace and forgiveness when God allowed me to share a bit of the pain he feels at our cheating on him. Now I learn the other side, as I see my constant failures, selfish desires, and the perceived need for control that I so desperately fight, and I know that I am loved despite my shortcomings. I feel the love that flows over me no matter my current state, whether that be one of insecurity, selfishness, or any other offense. I can do nothing to earn the love of God. He can love me no more than he already does. He can love me no less than he already does. This is a lesson that I am continuing to learn from a man that loves me in a way I never imagined being loved.

No matter God's plan, I am thankful for the lessons that he continues to give me. I am thankful that he has designed us to live in community, constantly growing and helping others to grow "as iron sharpens iron." I am immensely thankful for each friend, love, acquaintance, or even sunset that brings me closer to God and mirrors a part of my relationship with him, helping me climb closer to the goal for which I am constantly striving - to be more like him, to love more like him, to learn to rest in the love that he has for me.

To read a truly wise woman's words on what God has revealed to her about his unchanging love, click here: Kerry Hasenbalg's Blog.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Completed project, One Vision, and more.

Well, I actually finished my orphan care project and thereby my job at ProVision. I was beginning to doubt that it would ever happen! If you're interested, I would love to send you the final project. It's called, "In the Image of God: An Overview of the Needs, Strategies, and Trends in Orphan Care." Just send me your e-mail address and I'll e-mail you a pdf. I presented my findings to the staff one week ago today (my 26th birthday, which I have long dreaded truth be told), then realized with a jolt that it was my last day at that job. That was sad, but luckily, I had basically zero time to process. ha ha

The very next day, last Tuesday, I began my job at One Vision International! Can I tell you how much I love my job already? Granted, I haven't really done much yet (other than have a giant ordeal trying to get our tax exemption at Staples just now - they are the antithesis of an easy button). But it's exciting just to be here. Oh, and there's the added bonus that my work computer is a Macbook. Yeah. Nice.

On Saturday, I'm taking a group down to the Dominican Republic to see where we've been working. This means that I get to meet the 45 kids or so that will be moving into the orphanage that is currently being constructed in Jimani. (Or just outside it? I'm not quite sure.) I cannot wait! Also, this trip includes the entire Denton family, which always means fun. In the meantime, I'm trying to get a filing system set up, write some boring documents about how many vacation hours we get and stuff like that, get an office phone, and create organizational systems, application forms, etc.

My sister and I are enjoying the house. My amazing cousin Bekah and her friend Ashley came to stay with us last week, and I miss them already! Amy became addicted to Guitar Hero to the point where she is going through withdrawal and listening to the classic rock station just to get her fix. You should probably mock her for that. While you're mocking her, you should check out my new profile picture and mock her for that too.

Well, I just wanted to let you guys know that the transition is complete! I shouldn't be moving offices, homes, or jobs anytime soon! Praise God. In the last six months, I have had three different jobs, four different offices, two different living places (and almost no living place), and who knows what else. Hopefully this is the beginning of some sort of consistency. ha ha And yes, I realize that as soon as I say something like that, the world turns upside down. I think mine is turning upside down in a good way, though.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Orphan Care Project.

That's right! Get it here first. :-) I'm writing my giant orphan care project this week and thought I might post a few excerpts to get some feedback as I write. (This means that you need to leave comments quickly, as I should finish writing Thursday or Friday.)

If anything doesn't flow well, if you get bored and can't make it to the end, or if you catch any grammatical errors, please let me know! Also, although you'll see my footnoted citations (which did not copy and paste well, as you can see by their formatting inconsistency), you don't have access to my bibliography, so don't charge me with plagiarizing! Just ask me for the source. :-)

This section is the "Biblical Mandate" to care for orphans section. It's a little theology heavy, which I did not intend. Let me know (especially you, Bryan) if I'm making any theologically off the wall statements.

"I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me – and I think He has – I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God."1

~ Abraham Lincoln

The Bible is full of reasons why we should care for the orphans in the world, and there are many verses that explicitly tell us to do so. Perhaps the most commonly quoted is James 1:27, which says, "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."2 Deuteronomy 10:18 says that God "defends the cause of the fatherless."3 Isaiah 1:17 tells us to do the same. "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."4 But even without these verses, what we know of Jesus and his character in Scripture tells us that he cares for the people on the outskirts of society, the weak, the downtrodden, the vulnerable. Even his choice of friends and followers reflected his heart for the marginalized. Upon his return,

"He's going to separate us into two groups – those who saw the hurting… and helped, and those who kept on walking. Interestingly, the people God says we are to help are those who can never repay us – orphans, the elderly, and widows. They're vulnerable. When you give someone something without any expectation of getting anything in return, Jesus said, this is what I see and feel. In other words, whatever we do for the least of these, we're doing for Him. It's not our job to figure out if the parents were good or bad for abandoning their child. It is our job to see the need and help."5

Also inherent in our need to care for the vulnerable is the dignity with which we were all created. Believing that every person is unique with God-given dignity is the first of seven statements developed by Fuller Theological Seminary, VIVA Network, World Vision, and other leaders in the field as part of a Biblical framework presented in the book Understanding God's Heart for Children. The framework.6 is an incredibly helpful tool in looking at our theological reasons for working with orphans and other vulnerable children. The discussion put forth by these ministry leaders is one that is necessary so that we can all work together toward the same end results and vastly increase the effectiveness of our efforts. Addressing the issue of this innate human dignity (innate not of our own worth but rather the worth of the One who created us), Alemu Beeftu said,

"Dignity is not about capability, giftedness, culture, social conditions, or economic status. It is God-given. Accepting human dignity is recognizing and honoring God the Creator and Redeemer, as well as Jesus Christ, who came as a child to save us. The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is proof of human dignity. He was born as a child and grew up with uniqueness as an individual person to do the will of his Father. Affirming and celebrating the uniqueness of individuals is acknowledging God's purpose and destiny for them, determined by God, for the praise of his name."7

This intrinsic dignity comes from our divine Creator. He chose to make us in his image, giving us the privilege of seeing his reflection in the faces of the people around us. In his work with orphaned and abandoned street children, Dr. Chi Huang was once asked if he was there because he loved God. He responded, "Yes…That is the underlying reason for most of what I do in life. I'd rather be here than anywhere else in the world. Because I like to see children enjoy being children again. Because I see the face of God in every child."8 This theme was also a central one for Mother Teresa, who was known for seeing the "face of God in every suffering human being."9

Romans 8:20 says, "Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse."10 This includes families. These broken families become the orphans and widows, the vulnerable and abandoned. "Collectively, we face the challenges to parents and families: pain, suffering, broken relationships, civil conflict, chronic poverty, and disease, because all of God's creation has been impacted by Adam's sin."11

"…life in relationship with God was intended to be full of care and protection. The problem with this idyllic scenario is that our experience with children living in risky environments mocks the ideals of God's created order…. what do we offer children who suffer the cruelties of poverty, abandonment, and abuse?"12

When we find ourselves overwhelmed by the sorrow in this world, by the injustice in the lives of the innocent, by the horrors inflicted upon people made in the image of Christ himself, I think it is natural to ask the question, "Why?" Our sin has wreaked havoc on the world. But in the midst of the stench of iniquity, we must know two things. First, no matter how broken our hearts are at the state of the world, God's heart is infinitely more broken. And second, heaven holds the promise of restoration and healing. But even while we find hope in the promise of heaven, for the sake of "those suffering today, we cannot be 'blinded' by the light of heaven. Instead, we must be diligent in our work to cry out against injustice and seek as churches and individuals to rectify the injustices that others face."13

John 14:18 says, "No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you."14 He has given us the opportunity to be his hands and feet, reaching out to the ones he promised not to abandon. To love the ones God loves as he would love them is not an easy call. There will be both success and failure. But to deny our responsibility to them, to turn from what God has commanded, is a fate far worse than the most dismal failure made while trying.

"She savors the razor slash… until she finally feels something other than heartache and emptiness. I have failed. Failed tremendously. I could not draw the girl out of Mercedes; I could not make her feel loved. Perhaps the toughest maneuver of the streets is to accept love. Should I take up the responsibility of teasing out the youthfulness of broken children? If I don't, who will?"15

1Alexander, R.

2 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

3 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

4 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

5 Bentley, L. M., 137-138.

6 To read all seven statements with a few sentences of commentary, see Appendix B.

7 Douglas McConnell, 12.

8 Dr. Chi Huang, 225-226.

9 Crossette, B.

10 The Holy Bible. New Living Translation.

11Douglas McConnell, 67.

12 Douglas McConnell, 15.

13 Douglas McConnell, 150.

14 The Holy Bible. New Living Translation.

15 Dr. Chi Huang, 50-51.

Friday, June 6, 2008

In Memory of Maria.

By now, I'm sure that all of you have heard about the tragic death of Maria Sue Chapman, the youngest daughter of Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman. If you haven't, you can find the story here.

The site below has links to blogs about the beauty that can come from such tragic suffering, the story of Maria's short but full life, pictures from her memorial service, and more. For those of you who, like me, feel connected to this tragedy because of the light Steven Curtis Chapman has been in our own lives, this site has resources that not only help you articulate grief for our brothers and sisters, but recognize the power of God and the beauty there is in his ability to work all things together for good. Definitely take time to read some of Kerry Hasenbalg's blogs that speak into this grief from her own experience of losing a daughter. The tragedy of this world is unspeakable, but God be praised for his joy which sustains and his peace that surpasses our understanding.

Remembering Maria

"We can cry with hope. We can say goodbye with hope. For we know our goodbyes are not the end." ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, "With Hope"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Charles Wesley Article.

Okay, I apologize for posting two blogs in two days after posting nothing for a month, but I just can't resist posting this article. It is such an incredibly stirring account! No commentary. Just read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Charles Wesley's Radical, Fruitful Risk

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When Invisible Children Sing.

"'I have been looking for you,' I tell him. 'You can't find me. I am invisible.'"
~ When Invisible Children Sing

People are not invisible. They simply are not. We can choose to believe that they are. We can ostracize them until they believe they are. That is the story reflected in the quote above.

A little boy has lived his whole life unseen by the people who are supposed to not only notice him, but love him, care for him, sing over him. He finally agrees to come to an orphanage where he can be educated and safe after living his whole life on the streets. Then he stabs another child and regresses back, shrinking into the familiarity of perceived invisibility. But God sees us all. We need not shrink from him. He sees us with our good and our bad intermixed. We are not good people. "No one is righteous, not even one." Romans 3:10. But when he sees us, full of fault, he sees the blanket of righteousness given in the sacrifice of his holy and pure son. He sees the love the he has lavished upon us so that we may be his children (1 John 3:1).

Maybe you feel invisible. Maybe you do not cherish the lives of those who do feel invisible. (I think we all fit both descriptions at various times in our lives.) But God's love shines through. Not only are you loved, but you are known and loved. He sees you. He loves you. You are not invisible. There is hope. There is unceasing potential in someone who knows he or she is truly, unabashedly loved and is freed to love others the same way that Christ loves us. God, may that be the aspiration and prayer of us all. Let us receive your love that we may give it.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." ~ 1 John 4:18-19

Friday, May 9, 2008

Enemies of Injustice.

The following link is to a speech that was given in front of 22,000 college students at Urbana 2006. It is a call to become an enemy of injustice. It is very well written, and its stories of rescue and redemption brought me to tears. It is well worth the small amount of time it will take you to read it.

Please read it
here and leave me a comment letting me know what you think. If you are like me, you will want to find some way of expressing the deep emotion it provokes in your spirit. I pray that it moves us all to not only feel, but to act.

"He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for
precious is their blood in his sight." ~ Psalm 72:14

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Headlines from my life.

There are a lot of things going on in my life, and I haven't spoken to a lot of you since many of these new developments. So, this is a catch-all update blog. Hopefully this will prevent me from forgetting to tell someone something important and telling someone else twice instead.

Item 1 - Friends.
Jason and Ryan are both out and doing very well. It is crazily wonderful to have them around again. Ryan is working at the car dealership with my Dad and Jason is working a few different jobs, still looking for something dependable and steady. Both are saving up for a place to live. Jason just bought a car and Ryan is still trying to save up enough money to get his driver's license reinstated. Please continue to pray for them as they adjust to life outside the walls and try to carry their responsibilities with honor, integrity, and strength and love rooted in Christ.

Item 2 - Residence.
My sister and I are buying a house! I think most of you probably knew that already. We were supposed to close yesterday, but our mortgage basically exploded over the weekend (while we were both out of town) and we had to run around like crazy people all day yesterday trying to fix everything. Hopefully, we are all set at this point and lack only the final walkthrough. We are supposed to close Friday afternoon, and we'll be moving all day Saturday (the 10th). In true Smith fashion, we began packing last night! Feel free to come lend a hand! :-)

Item 3 - Work.
My job at ProVision is going well. I have two more months in which to finish my orphan care research and write a large document detailing my findings. I just got back from the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit last weekend in Ft. Lauderdale. It was incredible to be around people who are passionate about the same things I'm passionate about. And it allowed me to soak in information from people who have been doing this for longer than I've been alive, which is always a great resource. I could write a series of blogs about the conference alone (in fact, I might post my summaries later). My work is also moving offices, which means that I not only have to pack and move everything at my home, but also at my office. ha ha

Item 4 - Future Work.
Details are still being nailed down (which makes me nervous, as I'm a habitual planner), but the plan is still for me to begin working full time with One Vision International in July. If you are interested in financially supporting the administrative needs of this organization (i.e. my salary), please contact me for more information on how you can do so. There are also many opportunities to get involved with One Vision, including pancake breakfasts, a golf tournament, and of course, tons of different mission trips happening this summer! Let me know if any of this peaks your interest!

Item 5 - Family.
My grandfather passed away last week after a long and painful battle with cancer. He loved the Lord with all his heart and was a faithful servant, loving husband, and incredible grandfather. His love for us, his passion for the gospel, and his unremitting sense of humor will be deeply missed. But we are thankful that he is no longer suffering and is with his Lord, Savior, and Treasure Jesus Christ. Desiring God had a great blog this morning about the death of the apostle James, and it really helped me as I think about my grandfather and his life. I was unable to go to the funeral because of the conference (a very, very difficult choice for me), but my family told me that he was buried with one of his favorite books that I bought for him. Even though I know material things mean even less now than they did when he was alive, it helps me feel closer to him.

Well, I'm trying to think of anything I've forgotten, but I'm coming up blank. My sister and I are both under a lot of stress right now, so if you get a chance, say a little prayer for us! I'm sorry if I've missed any of your calls recently. Hopefully this helps explain (though not excuse) my recent lack of communication. Leave me some love!! Yes, I equate blog comments with love. I'm high maintenance and irrational like that. :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Be still and know...

Hundreds of words are swirling in my head, and I know that I will be unable to capture even a fraction of them here with any sort of clarity.

I could write about the millions of hurting children in the world. I could write about three that I know and love particularly. I could write about the intricate ways that God orchestrates the details of our lives so that we have ample opportunity to get out of our own ways and into his. I could write about a recent resurgence of feelings of inadequacy that all but cripple my ability to work or be the type of friend I am called to be. I could write a book of apologies for my failures to love my friends and family the way that Christ loves me. I could write of my greatest hopes and my greatest fears (the greatest fear being - of course - the inability to attain my greatest hope).

But instead, I will write this: God is incomprehensibly in control of his creation. When all the words, stress, thoughts, fears, and failures threaten to consume your mind, know that you can rest in the mighty arms of the one who made you, the one who knows you, the one who loves you beyond any sort of measure, and simply be there, at peace, resting in his ability to cover any inadequacy, any mistake. Know that in him, there is peace, love, joy, and comfort when all the swirling makes no sense.

"Be still, and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Response to a Friend.

I wrote the following note as a response to a friend asking for some advice about a relationship that she is considering. As I read back over it, it served as a tremendous reminder to me. I thought I would include it (without her personal details, of course) in case any of you might be interested in reading a bit of my take on this kind of stuff. You’re probably not interested, but those are the kind of self involved, grandios notions that blogging encourages, right? So, here goes.

"...As far as [this guy] goes, I would be really careful. It is so easy to fall in love with potential and then end up being hurt by reality when someone chooses not to reach their potential. Believe me. I have been through this time and time again. If you have questions about [his] spiritual strength, I would take that VERY seriously. That is the cornerstone of a relationship (I know you know that), and if he cannot be a spiritual leader and encourager in your life, you will be fighting a very steep battle in order to try and grow spiritually yourself.

He does not necessarily have to be able to pick you up when you fall. But he needs to be strong enough to point you to the only One who really can pick you up! If he tries to help you on his own, without pointing you to the never-ending, compassionate strength of our Heavenly Father, you will both fail.

Anyway, you know my take on this kind of stuff. This is always my question - Do you glorify God more together than you do apart? Do you have a closer relationship with Christ because he is constantly challenging you to grow spiritually? If not, I have to ask if this is truly the guy for you.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I always do the right thing, even when I know what I should do. Enter every relationship I’ve ever had. But that is the standard. Not holding myself to the standard that we have been given as Christian women is the reason that I have been heartbroken time and time again. And if a guy ever meets that standard, I will know that the relationship has God’s blessing - that he has designed us to be together.

Anyway, that’s all just a bit of rambling from my opinionated little brain. Hopefully it’s not too off the wall for you. I’d love to talk more about this with you, though. I know sometimes it can help just to talk things through."

I know that it is so hard to be lonely. It’s so easy to long for someone with whom to share your life, to talk to about your day, to wipe away your tears. Disney taught us to look for Prince Charming in order to live happily ever after. And it can be devastating when he doesn’t show or doesn’t turn out to be so charming. But know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for our lives, whether or not that involves a guy. In his plan, we find value, fulfillment, and purpose for our lives. With those things, you don’t miss having a hand to hold quite so much. And if you are following the path that God has laid out for you, that is the only place where you will meet the person that he intends to be a part of your path. Follow Christ, and everything else will fall into its perfect place and time.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Real Life Hero.

I just listened to a story on NPR’s Storycorps (a very cool segment) that I thought I would share. Talk about going the extra mile! This story inspired me and reminded me of the kind of person that I hope to be. This man’s simple actions in the midst of his daily life have probably transformed a life forever. Changing a life - that can not be overstated. It is why we’re here on this globe. Some may not believe in greater purpose. But stories like this inspire me to keep striving to be more like Christ, to be less consumed by my own life, and to be aware of each and every tiny moment with the power to change the course of history.

We so rarely think of our daily decisions as impacting anything substantial. But when you turn around one day and ask how you got here, how you ended up at this point in your life, I believe you are forced to look back and see the impact that each tiny decision had in bringing you to your current state. Writing a letter to a stranger can lead you to your best friend. Turning left instead of right can save your life. Going to one meeting can introduce you to your future boss and put in place a path for the rest of your life. Live each moment as if it matters. Because, believe me, it does.

God, in his sovereignty, has orchestrated our lives into a complex puzzle of choices and "coincidences" that we cannot understand because we cannot see the complete picture. So it is up to us to simply be faithful and carefully consider each step along the way. We often will not understand. But I am grateful for a God that is so high above me that I cannot fathom his ways. If I, in my limited mental capacity, could figure him out... well, he would not be God.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to ramble so much. Listen to the story here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Update on Kenya.

This blog is a follow up to my earlier blog, "In Common Bond United." If you didn't read that one, I basically gave a very brief overview of the situation in Kenya and posted a couple of relevant articles. For those of you who have been faithfully praying for our brothers and sisters there, I wanted to provide an update. The government and opposition leaders have signed a power sharing agreement brokered by Kofi Annan. This is wonderful news, and will hopefully allow the country to put the violence of the past two months behind them. But there has been so much damage done. Last I heard, over 1,000 people had been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Please continue to pray for this beautiful country, that they will reconcile and come together as a nation and see each other as people made in the image of God. We thank God for this victory, and pray that it is the first of many to come. Below is a link to the NY Times article on the peace agreement.

Kenya Rivals Reach Peace Agreement

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Story of Stuff.

I thought this was an interesting video that others might like to see. It's about 20 minutes long, and it deals with issues that we should all care about as consumers, and most importantly, as stewards of this earth. Make sure you click on the resources link after you watch the video to find out what we can do about issues like these. Let me know what you think!

The Story of Stuff

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lincoln article and quiet time input.

Going through my seemingly infinite amount of daily e-mail subscriptions, I came across a good article written by John Piper yesterday in honor of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. My favorite part of the article is actually a quote he includes by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a man who was imprisoned in Joseph Stalin's "corrective labor camps." It's a great article, so check it out here: Abraham Lincoln's Path.

Not only did I want to share that, but I wanted to ask all of you a question. I am nearing completion on a three year long study reading through the whole Bible in my quiet time, and I'm trying to decide what to study next. Unfortunately, the plan was only for one year, but I'm a horribly sinful person who often prioritizes things like the snooze button over my quiet time. Plus, I tend to want to read one verse over and over and think a lot about that instead of reading chapters at a time like they suggest. Anyway, I wanted some help from you guys as I decide what to do next. So here are my questions.

Do you have a regular quiet time?
Is there a basic outline for what you do?
How do you pick what you read in your quiet time? Do you go book by book, topic by topic, verse by verse?
Do you use external materials in your quiet time?
How the heck do you get out of bed in the morning?

I really do want you guys to answer. You can send me a message if you don't want to leave a comment. Happy commenting!

Monday, January 28, 2008

In common bond united...

For those who may not be aware of the horror that is sweeping the nation of Kenya right now, I wanted to post a couple of the more recent articles I've found.

Right after a botched election almost a month ago, hundreds of people were killed as anger and political unrest divided the country along tribal lines. The violence in Kenya is continuing, and appears to be increasing after a few weeks of smaller scale protests and attempts at peaceful demonstrations. The elected government and the opposition, who claim to have won the election, still refuse to work together to put this behind them and move forward.

Please continue to pray for Kenya. The first article paints a picture without much hope, but read on to the last sentence. There is always hope to be found. We just have to remember where to look for it. The second article provides an even more up to date look at what the violence is doing to this beautiful nation.

Ethnic Violence in Rift Valley is Tearing Kenya Apart

19 Burned to Death in Violence in Kenya

These are some of the lyrics to the Kenyan national anthem, and a fitting prayer in this time of struggle.

Oh God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders
...Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Bowl Contest Essay.

So, Lindsay sent me a link to enter a contest to win a trip to the Super Bowl if you can make a case that you are the Giants' biggest fan. I entered even though I didn't feel quite worthy, having never even seen the Meadowlands. This is the essay I included with my submission. I thought I should at least get a blog out of it, since it will likely not make it past round one of a contest with people who paint their bodies ane wear next to no clothing in freezing weather. Oh well. Go Giants!!!! Here's the essay.

I love football, and I was very impressed by Gibril Wilson when he played at Tennessee (where I went to college). When he got drafted to the Giants in 2004, I started watching them. I loved Eli Manning, too, and they went to the team at the same time. Thus began the passion. The more I watched, the more I loved this team. They went through adversity and countless challenges, but still managed to work hard enough to keep their heads above water. Eli Manning has more pressure on him than probably any other player in the league. Not only does he have all the pressure of a quarterback, but he has the world's biggest shadow to live in. Make that two shadows. He has borne the burden with class and dignity, never taking a cheap shot when it presented itself, always choosing to keep his mouth shut and let his character speak through his actions. He has a strong, quiet leadership and a tremendous work ethic, and we are seeing that pay off. The Giants may not have the talent that the Patriots have (although that point could be argued), but they have the hearts of champions. This season is the stuff of legend. No one thought they could do it. But regardless of the prospects of the team in any given year, if you're a true fan, you stick with them. And now here we are. At the Super Bowl. Playing the yet unbeaten Patriots. Win or lose, I am proud of this team and the amazing journey they've begun together.

I can tell you all about how I'm the only person I know who's a Giants fan, how I stopped a complete stranger in a store because he was wearing a Giants sweatshirt, how I huddle around my computer watching live scoring updates on Sundays when no one in Tennessee will broadcast a Giants game, how my dog has a Giants jersey that he wears religiously in the playoffs, how I skipped out on a baby shower to watch the Giants play Dallas, or how I refuse to invite people over to my house to watch the games because not only are they not cheering for the Giants, but I'm afraid they'll talk through the game and make me miss an important play. But the fact of the matter is that I love the Giants because of the great men that make up this team - men that are worthy of the stardom that they have earned play by play. And that's why I am the Giants' biggest fan.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy MLK Day.

There is something very sad to me about Martin Luther King Day. It's not simply the fact that this day forces me to remember that my heritage lies in a faulted people who have endlessly abused their power and forced many beautiful, unique, people made in the image of a God that should unite us to endure hatred stemming from our self-righteous ethnocentrism and ignorance. I cannot help my heritage, however much it grieves me. I can only strive to fight ignorance and injustice in myself and those around me, working forward toward the heritage that I wish to leave and not living helplessly in the one from which I came. So ultimately, that is not what saddens me on this day. It's the fact that now, in a time when our culture is supposedly "enlightened" and "unified," we do not celebrate this day the way that we should.

This day should be a day to rival all holidays. This is the day to honor a man who went on to change the world. This is a day to remember what he stood for, and what happened because of him. This day proves that each of us, when we follow the path God has ordained for our lives, can make a difference. A difference that matters. A difference that can reach the corners of the earth in its impact. Yet many do not celebrate. Some justify their abstention saying that this man was flawed, and he was. All of us are. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." When all of us are imperfect, is imperfection any reason not to celebrate the good that can come from this world of bad?

A friend sent me this link to a blog that John Piper wrote about MLK Day. You can view it here. Also, you might want to take about 20 minutes and watch the entire "I Have a Dream" speech. Many of us have probably never seen the whole thing. You can watch that here.

Take a few minutes today and think about what you stand for. If you don't know what you stand for, think about the fact that the ability to not know what you stand for is a luxury in and of itself, when so many of the people in our broken world are born into a position where they grow up having to stand for something or else being stood upon. People say that ignorance is bliss. That may be true. But at what price does our bliss come? Who pays the price while we ignore the injustice in the world?

Ask God what your purpose is. Ask him to help you to fulfill that purpose. Know what you believe. Act on it. "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Friday, January 11, 2008

GoodSearch and GoodShop - Help Raise Money for One Vision International!

Many of you have probably heard of GoodSearch, but I wanted to tell you about it just in case you haven't. It's a great way to help raise money for your favorite charity, and it doesn't cost you a cent! Everytime you need to search for something online, go to http://www.GoodSearch.com instead of Google.com or Yahoo.com or whatever search engine you currently use. Then, they donate one penny to your organization for every search you do!

One Vision International has just signed up for this program, so if you are not already using this to support another charity, please consider selecting One Vision as your favorite charity. (Simply visit http://www.goodsearch.com and enter "One Vision" in the lower search bar underneath the box that says, "Who do you GoodSearch for?") If all One Vision's supporters use this only one time per day, we could raise over $1,000 this year! It may not seem like a lot, but a penny here and a penny there adds up very quickly.

It's really easy. You can even add it to your toolbar so that you don't have to go to the website everytime to do your search. Instructions for that download are here: http://www.goodsearch.com/toolbars.aspx. It's a trusted organization that has been successfully helping charities raise thousands of dollars since its beginning. You can read tons of reviews on their website to learn more about their credibility.

Also, they have just added a new feature called GoodShop. You can access it from the same page, http://www.goodsearch.com. Just click on the shopping tab, then click on the link of your favorite store. They currently are partnered with people like Gap, Target, ebay, Amazon.com, Half.com, Barnes and Noble, PetSmart, Delta, Hotwire, Macy's, and more! When you access those stores sites through the GoodSearch page, the stores donate up to 37% of the purchase to your charity! It really is an amazing concept, and a really easy way to help increase funding for young organizations like One Vision International.

Please consider helping us out this way. It doesn't take any more effort than the search you're currently using, but it means so much more. Don't hesitate to ask me if you have any questions! Also, please feel free to copy this letter onto your own blog, post a bulletin, or send an e-mail to your friends and family asking them to support One Vision as well. The more people who use it, the bigger impact we have! Thanks everyone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reflections and Resolutions.

I've been trying for weeks now to remember what my New Year's resolution was for 2007. Tonight, as I was lying in bed trying to convince my brain to power down for the evening (a process that is taking longer and longer the older I get), it came to me in a whirl. I actually wrote a blog about it last year around this time.

Last year, because I was determined to escape the seductive grasp of comfort that seems to be constantly wooing all Americans, I said this:

"I have found myself getting comfortable in my life and my routine. I never want to be comfortable for the sake of comfort. I don't want to wake up one morning and realize that I have been making decisions by not making them, allowing life just to happen to me. I want to be proactive in seeking and following God's will for my life. I want every day to be lived on purpose, choosing to actively be a part of God's bigger picture, whether I understand it or not. Therefore, my resolution and prayer for 2007 is that God will show me some big decisions this year - ones that will impact the rest of my life and keep me on the path he has for me."

As the memory of this prayer flooded over me tonight, I found myself amazed at how God prepared my heart so that I would be ready for what he had already planned to show me this year. One of my favorite verses has long been, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). Oh, how true this is. As I look forward to 2008, I am incredulous at the opportunity that God has laid before me as an answer to my prayer of 2007. On March 1st, 2007, barely three months after praying this prayer, I found what very well could be the door to the rest of my life.

It unfolded in ways I can only appreciate by looking back. Next week, for those who may not know, I begin a six month internship as a research assistant with ProVision Foundation. I will be researching orphanages and other non-profits overseas, studying success and failure in the field in which I have long felt called to work. Then in July, I will begin implementing what I have learned, working full time for One Vision International.

I am still working out a resolution for this year (although the alarm clock thing I mentioned last year is a sensational idea - I think I might try that again). But for now, my prayer is simply that God will prepare me for the path he has laid before me. I feel so blessed and amazed to see that my dreams came true so quickly after I asked for them. God truly has granted the desires of my heart. I pray that he will increase my delight in him, and allow me to follow wherever he leads.

May my dreams and desires be reflections of Your plans for me.