My One and Only Fabulous/Imperfect Life

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

What Will Be Said?

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WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation blinded by wealth where poverty cannot be seen.

A generation who talks about feeding the hungry while paying for Weight Watchers because they can’t stop eating.

A generation that believes in sheltering the homeless, as long as they’re not near their over bloated homes.

A generation that worries about their growing status and expanding pleasures while children are worried about empty bellies and fragile futures.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

A generation that is more globally aware than any other generation yet is obsessed with celebrity reality shows and stock market results.

A generation that is technologically brilliant yet socially stunted.

A generation that knows things ARE getting better but is afraid to finish the job.

A generation that is torn between self-indulgence and self-righteousness.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

There is enough food for everyone.

Churches have more roofs than there are homeless.

Most diseases that kill are preventable.

The lack of education is fixable.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We prayed for the poor while building bigger barns.

We preached for justice while closing our eyes.

We fought sex trafficking while watching pornography.

We judged the homosexual while worshipping our idols.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We ignored building God’s kingdom while building our own.

We gossiped of our brothers and sisters while singing songs to our Creator.

We multi-tasked and networked while sitting alone.

We opened our mouths to poverty while closing our wallets to solution.

BUT WHAT COULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We tithed, creating a mass of wealth that stunned the world and ended extreme poverty.

We adopted the orphan, ending the foster system as we know it.

We supported organizations like International Justice Mission, declaring that the end of slavery would happen on our watch.

We sponsored children around the world ensuring them an education, antiviral HIV drugs and an introduction to faith.

WHAT SHOULD BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We decided that the gates of hell would not prevail and good would win over evil.

We decided that the most important part of a church service is what happens once we leave the parking lot.

We decided that it doesn’t profit to gain the whole world but lose our soul.

We decided that God is close to broken hearts and crushed spirits.

WHAT DO I HOPE WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

We shunned consumerism and found joy in minimalism.

We ignored the American dream and pursued God’s pleasure.

We simplified our lives so that others could simply live.

We preached always and occasionally spoke words.

WHAT WILL BE SAID OF OUR GENERATION?

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.”
―Bono

The Antidote to Loneliness

Alone in a Crowd

Loneliness can be found at every level of society.

The rich can be lonely as well as the poor.
The busy as well as the idle.
The young as well as the old.
The crowded as well as the isolated.
The leaders as well as the followers.
The wedded as well as the single.

Loneliness has less to do with the quantity of people in your life and much more to do with the quality of people.

Loneliness has a lot to do with our soul.

First, our western culture keeps us so busy and focusing on the surface of things that we don’t value the investment and time that it takes to cultivate deep friendships.

Quality friendships demand time and re-prioritizing.
Quality friendships do not happen quickly or easily.
Quality friendships move beyond the, “What’s in it for me?” and requires a commitment of selflessness and humility.

Quality friendships are the antidote to loneliness.

William Shakespeare wrote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Helen Keller wrote, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Quality friendships motivate your character to mature.

These kinds of friendships make us want to be better people.
These kinds of friendships challenge us to grow our moral fiber.
These kinds of friendships are not always easy, but they are invaluable.

When I’m around my friend Eldon who sponsors 21 Compassion children, I want to be a more generous person.

When I’m around my friends Tom and Janis who work passionately and tirelessly with the homeless, I want to be a more caring, less judgmental person.

When I’m around my friend Mike, who believes in the power of prayer, I want to be a more faith filled person.

When I’m around my friend Kevin, who is one of the most selfless people I know, I want to be a better friend.

When I’m around my friend Ginger, who loves the broken-hearted and the grieving, I want to be a more empathizing person.

The writer of proverbs compares these kinds of friendships to how when iron sharpens iron, there is friction and sparks result, but the long term result wins out over the short term pain.

These kinds of friendships are rare.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, invest in them.
If you do, thank them for what they do.

Quality friendships also respect and treasure your soul.

These kinds of friendships look past the “What can you do for me?” question and attaches great importance on how that friend is doing on the inside.

What fears are paralyzing their soul?
What sins are strangling their soul?
What unmet dreams are saddening their soul?

Quality friendships go to these deeper places.

James wrote in the New Testament to confess your fears, your sins, your feelings to each other and pray for one another and the result will be the healing of your heart.

Do you have people like that in your life?

If you do, value them, invest in them and thank them.

Quality friendships ultimately encourage your journey.

We live in a very negative, tear one another down world.

The hostile environment of the work place, the cyber bullying of the internet, the ridiculing comments and judgment of the school yard can drive us to deep discouragement and low self-esteem.

As people of faith, we are supposed to be the contradiction to our mean spirited culture.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to spend our days “thinking of ways to encourage one another toward creative outbursts of love and good deeds.”

Child expert Kevin Heath wrote, “Four very powerful words to say to your child: I BELIEVE IN YOU!” yet I would argue that those are the words that are used often in all deep, quality, life-giving friendships.

During one of our summer camps on our campus, we had over 450 grade school students, who needed to know that someone believed in them. I thought I would try something.

After lunch, the students would line up, single file to go outside to the water games or to the gym for sports, so on the first day I stood at the front of the line and as the kids begin to file out, I tried to tell as many of them as I could how special they were.

As they walked by I would point at each one and say, “You are amazing, you are spectacular, I love how smart you are, you are awe-inspiring, you are stoopendous, you are truly remarkable, you are superb, you are wonderful, you are magnificent, you are astounding, you are grand, you are splendid, you are outstanding, your are perfecto, you are impressive and you are groovy!”

You get the idea. On the first day, the kids were looking at me and thinking, “Who is this man? Stranger danger.”

But by the third day, the kids were lining up with anticipation of what they were going to hear and they would yell out to me, “Pick me! Pick me!”

As humans, we were created for encouragement and our culture has abandoned this practice and our souls are dying of starvation.

Do you have people in your life who encourage your journey?
Do you encourage other people’s journey?

Let’s try practicing what the writer of Hebrews taught us. I have never met anyone who has said, “Please, stop encouraging me, I’ve had enough!”

People will rise to the level of expectation that we give them.

Jesus was the master of this. He came to a loudmouthed fisherman named Simon, and he told him that he was going to rename him Peter (Petros-rock) and that he was going to be the foundation of the church and the gates of hell would not prevail. And over time, Simon began living like Peter, and he was never the same.

Speak encouragement into the people around you and watch them rise up to the words that you have given them.

God created us to be in deep, meaningful relationships.
Don’t neglect one of life’s most essential needs.

Find people who will motivate your character and do the same for others.
Find people who will respect and treasure your soul and do the same for others.
Find people who will encourage your journey and do the same for other.

You will see loneliness slip away and purpose and meaning follow.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Mother Teresa

Anybody in the mood for some GOOD NEWS?

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According to my friend, advocate for children and the executive producer of 58: The Film, Dr. Scott Todd, there is some exciting news: http://www.live58.org/ http://www.amazon.com/Fast-Living-Church-Extreme-Poverty/dp/1936899000/

In the past 8 years, the number of kids dying from measles has declined by 78 percent because we are completing the work of immunizing every child.

22 countries have cut their malaria rate in half in only six years. They did it with insecticide-treated bed nets, access to better medicines, and spraying to kill mosquitoes.

Globally, malaria infections have decreased by nineteen million per year and malaria deaths have dropped by 140,000 per year between 2005 and 2009.

We used to say that 40,000 children die each day from preventable causes. In the 1990’s, that number dropped to 33,000 per day. By 2008, it dropped further to 24,000.

The number of children dying before their 5th birthday has been cut in half and we did it in a generation using a wide range of practical strategies, from creating access to clean water to training skilled birth attendants.

Every day there are 19,000 fewer children dying of preventable causes—every day!—despite the fact that the total number of births is increasing.

1/3 of the children who were uneducated because of poverty can now go to school. Literacy rates are climbing. Those gains were made in less than ten years.

The spread of HIV has been curbed. New HIV infections have been cut 16 percent globally.

Until 200 years ago, every nation on earth had an average life expectancy of about thirty years.

Today, many countries have a life expectancy of close to eighty years. We have more than doubled the average length of our lives. This is not only true in prosperous countries. Throughout the world, even Africa, the average life spans have nearly double what they were two hundred years ago.

The same trend is true for poverty. When we were living for only 30 years, over 90 percent of us were also living in extreme poverty(Living on $1.25 a day or less).

Poverty and short life go together.

Today there are about 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. And that is good news. In 1981, 52 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today that number is 26 percent.

We have already cut the percentage of people living in extreme poverty in half! And we did it in one generation. And that is with only 9% of American Christians tithing.

Do you see our potential? Do you see our power? It is time to raise our expectations!

Scott C. Todd PhD exhorts us from his book Fast Living, “The question is not, ‘Can we end poverty?’ The question is, ‘How can we end poverty?’”

Mother Teresa in her book, No Greater Love says, “If our poor die of hunger, it is not because God does not care for them. Rather, it is because neither you nor I are generous enough.”

Watch this short video:

Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

Graphic of a digital sound on black bottom

Songs have a way of marking the seasons of our lives.

From cheesy love songs during our teenage years to one hit wonders that we can’t get our of our minds to songs of healing and hope during tough times to songs that challenge us to live more courageously, music is a powerful source of motivation, entertainment and influence in our lives.

These are some of the “Worst” and “Best” lyrics that have motivated, entertained and influenced me.

Best “Picture of Heaven” lyrics

Earth Wind & Fire “Wonderland”

Come on in and enter as a child
Always wear a smile
Love and laughter here all the while
The flag of salvation waves around
Freedom here abounds
The joy in the sound
Calls my name – on this day

Leave behind your shame and your disgrace
Here they have no place
You will wear the garment of His grace
The rising sun will never set again
Sorrows at its end
And every word that spoken shouts amen
Take me there

Best “Challenge to Live Life at its Fullest” lyrics

OneRepublic “I Lived”

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Best “Sarcasm About Religion” lyrics

Eagles “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture

And we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middle men
And he shepherds his flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games
And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We have faith above all
Unless there’s money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture
Nobody’s calling them for roughing up the kicker
It’s a frail grasp on the big picture
Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture
All waiting for that miracle elixir

Best “Honoring Of Fallen Heroes” lyrics

Bruce Springsteen “Into The Fire” Tribute to 911

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

You gave your love to see in fields of red and autumn brown
You gave your love to me and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Worst “Love Song That’s Really About Stalking” lyrics

The Police “Every Breath You Take”

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

(Very creepy!)

Best “Promise Of God’s Healing” lyrics

The Reel “Come Back Home”

It’s hard to come back home
when you’ve never really had one
never really had one

Is that why you
keep running from love?
You never really felt it
cause it never really lasted

The very hands that held you
Only let you fall
But…

Love is reaching out
with His arms now
strong enough to hold your pain
His hands won’t let you go
no, your not alone
He won’t ever walk away
His voice is calling out
with a love you’ve never known
“Come back home”

Best “I Was Born To Give You My Entire Life” lyrics

U2 “Magnificent”

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise …

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent
Magnificent

Worst “Pick-Up Line” lyrics

NSYNC “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You”

Your love is like a river
Peaceful and deep
Your soul is like a secret
That I never could keep
When I look into your eyes
I know that it’s true
God must have spent…
A little more time
On you…
(A little more time, yes he did baby)

Best “Lifting Children out of Poverty” lyrics

Audio Adrenaline “Kings & Queens”

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

[Chorus:]
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

I would love to hear some of the “best” and “worst” lyrics that have influenced your life.

The Power of a Letter

Esther

Esther

Marcos

Marcos

Angie

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esther and Marcos work at the Compassion Office in Lima, Peru. They help process letters between sponsors and sponsor children. They were both sponsor children themselves.

Angie lives in Ica, Peru. She has just recently been sponsored.

I wrote this poem after meeting them.

The three of them taught me about the power of a letter.

Compassion published this on their website on April 8th under their blog section.  http://www.compassion.com/

The Power of a Letter

Esther grew up poor in the country of Peru
She wanted to dream but didn’t know how to
Her stomach often empty, holes in her shoes
Poverty doesn’t ask, it’s not something you choose

Marcos had a mother, she did the best she could do
Life was hard, his belly hungry, in the sands of Peru
He longed for a father, he longed for a dad
He grew into adolescence, he grew into sad

Angie’s sister was sick, her 4 siblings prayed
Their face full of tears, while at church they played
Momma held her tight, through the Peruvian night
But her sister grew weak, and gave up the fight

Esther found hope, she found God’s love redeems
She found a church that cared, they told her to dream
They gave her food that filled, and shoes that were whole
She discovered new skills, new purpose, a new soul

Marcos learned to read, to write and to finally understand
That he had another Father, who loved him and had a plan
The church taught him, fed him, quickly growing tall
But he still struggled and wondered the meaning of it all

Angie hugs her momma, she squeezes out the grief
She tells her sis is in heaven, it’s the core of her belief
Her dry mouth is thirsty, water comes once a week
She’s thankful for the church, it delivers her relief

Esther has a new friend, a sponsor from another land
They say they really love her, yet letters they never send
Everyone else seems to get one, a new one every day
She sits, watches and wonders, will one ever come my way

Marcos brain is spinning, he’s wondering if life’s worth living
He doesn’t know where to go, is another day worth giving
But his new friends who sponsor, who write him quite often
Remind him of some wisdom, and his heart begins to soften

Angie’s roof is leaking, it’s made of straw and hay
But her smile is a sign that she’ll make it one more day
Her house is very fragile, but she is standing strong
Around the world a sponsor is telling her she’s not wrong

Esther grew into a woman, with great faith and passion
She grew as a leader, it’s what was taught by Compassion
She struggled not knowing her sponsor’s opinions
So she made a vow it wouldn’t happen to other children

Marcos read the letters, memorizing his sponsor’s scriptures
It brought healing to his mind, and to life a clearer picture
He now makes sure that children receive the same gift
By processing words that give them an affirmative lift

Angie is still young, she will have a sponsor for years
But she is still yet to get that first letter, so she fears
Will she be like Esther, waiting day after day after day
Or will it be like Marcos, receiving words that will light her way

The good news is Jesus lives in Esther, Marcos and Angie’s heart
Their sponsors gave willingly and it played a huge part
But don’t underestimate the power that a simple letter can make
God’s wisdom does not return void, it’s a gift you can’t forsake

So if you sponsor a beautiful child made by God’s own hands
Write a letter today and tell them about God’s amazing plans
Write them a scripture, one they will surely memorize
Maybe it’s Jeremiah 29:11, God’s promise they will thrive

The Day After

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It’s the day after Easter and I wonder what is going to happen?

This weekend thousands of churches put on their best show, with worship leaders showcasing their finest music and pastor’s doing their best to wax eloquently.

Lots of time, energy and resources were put into these services to make them the best they could be.

Many of the services came off in a spectacular way, but sadly, these kinds of services do not happen the rest of year.

This weekend hundreds of millions of people around the world went to church in light of the tradition of Easter.

Most people who would consider themselves Christians or believers of God made it a point to find a church and take time to hear and be reminded about the ramifications of the resurrection.

Many people, I am sure, enjoyed the music and were moved by the message, but sadly, they will probably not return next week, or the week after that, or the week after that.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the churches that took so much time and energy to present the Easter message in a spectacular way are working just as hard on this next weeks music and message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders know that their will be broken, hurting people showing up to their church this week who didn’t make it to church last week who need excellent moving music and a passionate, deeply thought out message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders realize that their will be some people returning this week after being moved and encouraged by last’s weeks Easter service.

I wonder what they will experience?

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the people who attended and were motivated by the Easter service will take the time to come back and learn more about God’s grace.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if that motivation will lead to different behavior?

Will they choose Grace over the prison of legalism?

Will they choose to forgive rather than remain in the dark room of bitterness?

Will they choose to serve others and turn away from the emptiness and dissatisfaction of consumerism?

Will they choose to work on their vices or will they fall back into destructive patterns that tear away at relationships?

Will they choose to be less fearful or will they play it safe, running as quickly as they can back to their comfort zone?

Will they choose to allow their heart to be broken for the poor or will they guard their heart, staying distracted by the busyness of their culture.

Will they choose to save an extra $1 or so a day and sponsor a child thus introducing them to their savior Jesus, removing them from extreme poverty, saving them from fatal diseases and protecting them from the horrors of child slavery or will they buy things they don’t really need to impressive people they don’t really like?

Will they choose to make a new habit of coming weekly to church to learn new things, to make new friends and to grow new strength that can only happen by worshipping together?

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide do they really believe that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus do die for their sins and whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

The word “believe” that Jesus used is the Greek word “pisteuo” which means, “to trust in, to cling to, to rely on, to commit to.”

Over 80% of Americans believe intellectually about what Jesus did and said.

But Jesus says, to believe means to trust him with your life, and to rely on his Grace and to commit to his ways.

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide if they really believe(pisteuo).

It’s the day after Easter and these are my questions.

It’s the day after Easter and this is where the real work begins.

Just a few thoughts bouncing around my head and my heart

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An epidemic of loneliness is creating inhuman actions.
We will never be able to fully do life over the internet.
I can listen to a sermon online, but I can only become fully human by rejoicing and mourning with real people.
The world needs you. And we need each other.
As Desmond Tutu once said, “No one can be human by themselves.”

Make decisions this week based on what is right, not on what is convenient or popular.
Convenience and popularity has led to a weak, shallow culture.
No more blaming, whining and making excuses.
Blaming is the “kryptonite” of taking responsibility.
Take responsibility and make the most of every opportunity.

We play it safe, because it is easy, usually successful, thus preventing failure.
The fear of failure is really the fear of rejection.
Hindsight is 20-20, and it’s what your critics are full of.
Check your ego at the door, and take a chance at doing something great.
As Bono once said, “It’s status that kills you off in the end, not ambition.”

When we live in impatience, we miss out on the beauty and details of everyday life.
Patience is being fully alive in the moment; not waiting for things to get better so you can live. It is experiencing the fullness of time.
In order to be patient we must live a life of curiosity.
Life is beautiful if we slow down long enough to look people in the eye.

Judging makes us small.
Learning from those with different backgrounds makes us humble and smart.
Every creed, every color, every background, every culture, every nation, it is God’s great kaleidoscope.
We are much more the same than we are different.
All colors and creeds are born with a God-shaped hole.

Most people experience happiness, which is based on shallow, fun events or circumstances, sometimes numbing to ignore pain, fear or the hard things of life.
Happiness is ok, but we are never fully alive until we experience joy.
In order to experience joy, you first have to be willing to go to some dark places.
It’s in those dark places that you experience a strength greater than your own.

Poverty looks different in different places.
In Africa it looks like physical hunger, broken bodies and abuse towards women and children.
In American it looks like relational hunger, broken families and abuse towards women and children.
We must fight local poverty accordingly.
We must fight global poverty accordingly.
We are responsible for both.

We are far more powerful than we want to admit.
With power comes responsibility.
If I want to be powerful then I must take full responsibility of the time I have, the abilities I have been given and the resources that have been loaned to me from God.
It is easy to choose not to be powerful.
Choosing not to be powerful is the most selfish decision you will ever make.
One life. One original person. One opportunity. Don’t play it small.

Don’t try to be well-rounded. Lean into your strengths and passions and ignore people who want to put you into their small world.
The problem is that in this world, everybody wants to be somebody else.
It is an insult to God to want to be someone else.
Being unhappy with our looks, shape, abilities and status is telling your Creator that He does not know what He is doing.
Look in the mirror and be overwhelmed by the artistic ability of God.

Praying for our enemy drives us closer to God.
Hating our worst enemy pushes us away from God.
Forgiving doesn’t let those we are forgiving off the hook.
Forgiving prevents our hearts from becoming hard and brittle.
Forgiving allows us to hand that person over to the justice of God and He is much more capable than I am at determining what is fair.

Why can nothing in this temporary life bring us true joy and contentment?

Answer: “God has planted eternity in the hearts of men” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Pay attention! Pay attention! Pay attention!

The gift of life is all around you.
Listen to the wisdom of a child.
Don’t miss yet another spectacular sunset.
Compliment a total stranger.
Smile, it might hurt, but it won’t cost you a thing.
Laugh, they say it’s the best medicine.
Cry, for God is collecting them in a bottle labeled with your name.
Sing, turn up your radio and sing as loud as you can, as Henry Van Dyke observed, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”
Dance, even if your kids run screaming in embarrassment to their rooms.
Worship, for it’s a great reminder that someone much stronger and loving is in control.

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Just some thoughts bouncing around in my head and heart these days. Let me know what you think and what is bouncing around in your head and heart.

…is not this the kind of fast I have chosen:

Fasting is the denial of self to allow us to become more sensitive to God and more passionate towards the things God is passionate towards. And then to act on those things.

Fasting does not change God. Fasting changes us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Recently around a thousand people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.

Most of us are not worried about whether we will eat enough today. In fact, most of us are worried that we will eat too much today.

I know there are hungry people in America, but compared to third world hunger, even hungry Americans have great access to food.

For most third world countries, rice and beans are a delicacy, yet in America, we take these nutritional staples for granted.

Rice and beans may be a step down for us but it is a delicacy in poverty stricken nations.

In Haiti moms have come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

Haitimothersdirtcakes

A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents.

By eating these dirt cakes, patties, Haitian children almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites.

The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a 2 cent de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually, thus drastically stunting a Haitian child’s mental and physical development.

When I shared these facts about Haitian mothers and children, our congregation was humbled and broken.

We handed out a starter pack of rice and beans at the end of every service, with a list of things to pray for during the fast and a list of organizations they could support.

At every meal people prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.

Because rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, we were not really sacrificing too much.

But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught many how to simplify. It taught many to be more thankful.

After the fast was over, many realized how much food Americans waste, and how we should and could eat more simply.

wastedfood

Since that week of fasting, grocery bills have been less, because people learned they could still eat well, with a smaller budget.

Since that week, a 20 thousand square foot organic garden was started on our churches property by people who are passionate about people eating healthy food.

It was interesting how children led the way.

One family was going to fast one meal a day, on rice and beans, until their 8 year old son, broke down and told them in tears that if they were really going to be like people who are hungry, they needed to eat rice and beans for all three meals. The family followed his lead.

One woman during the “fast” realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion International.

That one week has made our church more compassionate towards the things God is compassionate for.

The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That one week taught us that true fasting is always “accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”

We are doing a better job of following the words of Mother Teresa, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

I would challenge churches to try this “beans and rice” fast. It will change you and bless you..

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This is the information we handed out with the starter pack of rice and beans:

“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families:

>One person in seven battles hunger every day.

>More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year, and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

>About 5.6 million deaths of children worldwide are related to under-nutrition. This accounts for 53 percent of the total deaths for children under 5. Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

       >923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year.

Sources: http://www.wfp.org, http://www.unicef.org, http://www.who.int, http://www.un.org

WHAT CAN I DO?
>Fast and Pray for those who are hungry (Join us for a 5 day fast of eating rice and beans, while praying for the hungry and discussing ways to solve hunger with family and friends. Let us know about your conversations and how the fast has affected you by posting your experiences on GVCC’s facebook page. Remember, rice and beans are a delicacy in third world countries.)
>Sponsor a child through Compassion International. (Sponsored children and their families are given proper nutrition through education and balanced meals. For more information go to Compassion.com)
>Tithe and get involved with GVCC’s Saturday Morning Café. (GVCC is able to buy groceries for our Saturday morning giveaway for 10 cents on the dollar. Your tithe allows us the buying power to have adequate amounts of food. Plus volunteering in the Café will help you see and understand the face of hunger.)
>Volunteer and help support GVCC’s organic garden. (This garden will help supply the hungry of El Dorado county with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Food that is not often available to the hungry.)
>Be a voice for the voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8 says to be a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who cannot be heard. The hungry need more voices to speak up for them.)

A Prodigal’s Progress

ArtRembrandtSon2

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”