Finding what you’re looking for

Christianity

We sat at the kitchen table sipping coffee and eating breakfast. Our daughter has been homeschooled through junior high, and our visiting friends were talking to her about starting 9th grade this fall at our public high school.

Our friend, Mark, told us the story of when he was in college. He said that his college was ranked the number three party school in the U.S. by Playboy magazine. He continued on, explaining that one night at this very school, he had a life-changing experience: He went to an outing with a friend and came to know Jesus Christ. He learned that he was in need of a Savior, and Mark has never been the same since. He later married Pam, had children, and has served as a missionary Bible translator in Nigeria for about two decades.

Mark explained to our daughter, “You will find whatever you are looking for as you enter public school. I was at a school with a nationwide reputation for partying, and I found Jesus. If you’re looking for Him and like-minded people who love Him, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for the party scene, you’ll find it. Decide ahead of time what you will look for.”

Great words of wisdom for all of us. What are you looking for?

Don’t waste your cancer! Or any trial for that matter…..

Cancer, Christianity, Jesus, suffering

In 2006, Pastor John Piper announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He responded to his diagnosis with the following:

“This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.”

These challenging words are an excerpt from a letter to Pastor John Piper’s church.  Click here to read Pastor Piper’s entire letter to his church announcing his trial with cancer. It will probably rock you a little bit, as it did me.

As an American Christian, most of the time I have the wrong attitude about trials. We often feel forsaken and forgotten when we have a serious illness or undergo some sort of major trial. I have definitely felt that way lately as I’ve had an ongoing health trial. Piper reminds us that this isn’t the case, and he gives some great practical applications in his 16 page booklet Don’t Waste Your Cancer. You can download the PDF form and read it for free from desiringgod.org website.

This is a great booklet if you are suffering with a chronic or terminal illness, or if a loved one of yours is afflicted with sickness. It may just give you a huge shift in the way that you view trials, especially medical ones.

Who do you live for?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, Uncategorized

photo by philipwagner.com

Who do you live for? Maybe a better way to ask is this: When you make a decision, who’s best interest is in play?

Or who are you trying to please? It may be yourself, a loved one, people you don’t know but want to impress, or maybe your Creator.

Reading the opening line of Galatians 1, once again I am impressed by Paul’s strong declaration about himself:

Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father….(emphasis mine)

You gotta love Paul! He was a zealous murderer and persecutor of Christians….then he becomes a Christian, is radically changed by God, and goes on to write bold introductions like the one in Galatians 1.

Not only that, he goes on to ask the harsh question in verse 10:

Am I  now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Ouch. Let’s be honest, no matter how much you love God, this is a human dilemma that we all deal with sometimes. The reality is that sometimes we want to please ourselves, or even people that we don’t know. I think that’s kind of normal to feel sometimes. But our feelings shouldn’t rule us. Furthermore, the more we know and love God, the more we are zealous for pleasing Him.

I know this is kind of rough news. Sort of like the reality that if we want to lose weight, we have to eat right and exercise. Ask anyone who’s lost & maintained weight in a healthy way and maintained it. Yep, same annoying answer. Or, if you’re a runner, and you want to improve your time, how do you improve your time and run faster? You guessed it, by running faster.

The answer to getting off of the treadmill of please me, pleasing others, and the insatiable demands of insecurity that surrounds pleasing others is this: Know God more. Spend time with Him. Read His word. Believe what He says. In doing so, we start to believe the truth about who we are and who God is, and that frees us from caring so much about what others think and pleasing our own flesh.

So, pour a hot cup of coffee, and sit back for little bit this morning with your Bible and your Maker. Maybe you’ll think a little differently today.

Perspectives on Kenya, part 3

Christianity, Photography

Danielle anda little girl play with the ukulele

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For this post, let’s make it a thousand plus a few thrown in for good measure! Most of the photos speak volumes, but I’ve added my two cents along the way.

We taught 6th through 8th graders to play ukulele throughout the week. This is my favorite picture from our time in Kibera.

We did crafts with the younger students

Stickers are fun accessories

Children wait in line to be served lunch. They are served in the container that they bring to school. You can see that some use plastic lids for plates.

Curious eyes

The innocence and curiosity of some of the younger children is so sweet.

The Kibera New Hope compound overlooks another compound with a chain link fence separating them. This is a child on the other side of the fence.

A boy on the other side of the fence from New Hope compound.

The students look out of their classroom to watch us enter their compound on a school day.

You saw this adorable boy in an earlier post, but I love this one of him watching me.

The outhouse bathroom on New Hope compound is a hole in the ground called a cho. I lost my sunglasses in the cho on our second day there!

Game day was a blast for the elementary kids. They had some crazy relay races around the compound.

In this relay, they had to run from one point to another with a ball between their heads

As we said our goodbyes on our final day, we could promise the Kibera children that we’ll see them again in heaven, if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here Danielle says goodbye.

Our trip leader, Buddy, reminded us several times during our time in Kenya: It’s good to love on the kids and enjoy them, but only one thing will last when we leave Kibera. It’s good that we played games and did crafts, and that many will enjoy playing ukulele after we are gone. However, the only lasting thing is the truth that God loves them, and that they can live forever with Him through a relationship with Jesus.

Danielle kissed by a giraffe

We had a day of rest during our 11 day trip to Nairobi, and we got to visit a giraffe park.

I seriously considered whether or not I will lie on my death-bed and regret not kissing a giraffe. I decided that I would only regret not taking pictures of my daughter with the giraffe. Besides that, I’m good!

great photo by Danielle

Perspectives on Kenya, part 2

Christianity, Photography

Our friend showed Herschel this video last night, titled “I need Africa more than Africa needs me”. It struck a chord with me, especially so fresh from being there. The impoverished women and children that we spent time with were much more joyful than I am at times in affluent North America.

Many of the children we were with at Kibera in Kenya are poor beyond what we can imagine. Some families have received scholarships for the $5 monthly school cost at New Hope, because they are that destitute. Yet these children possess joy that surpasses circumstances.

Preschool girls are giddy about receiving a new dress

I have lots to learn about photography. I’d love to get input on how to change the lighting in the above pic so that you can see her face more clearly.

Although many of these children have suffered beyond what we can imagine, there is joy in their faces

Can you see the joy?

They love to have their picture snapped so they can see themselves on the digital screen

Let’s hear it for the Fonz!

May God help us be able to practice what Paul says to the Phillipians in chapter 4:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.

Wanna know the secret to contentedness? Check it out in your Bible. The answer is in verse 13.

Perspectives on Kenya

Christianity, Photography

Here are our perspectives on our 11 day mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya. We were sure that God had planned this trip for us (me and our 14-year-old daughter, Danielle) and we couldn’t wait to see what would unfold during our time in Africa. Click here to read about how we knew this was the trip for us:

https://coffeewithchristine.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/cake-for-kenya-and-for-jesus-name-sake/

Beautiful sunrise the morning of our departure. Danielle and I early in the morning…not so perky but excited about the adventure ahead

Just at the crack of dawn we met up with our entire team of 17 people. We had great diversity among us, with ages ranging from 14 years old up to early 70’s, and lots in between. Our mission was to bring 100 ukuleles to the students at New Hope School to the slum, Kibera, in Nairobi. Our team planned to teach 6th through 8th grade students how to play the ukulele, ending the week with a uke concert for the community. We planned arts and crafts for the younger students. Most importantly, we would bring the good news of Jesus Christ, that He died to save us from our sins.

Here we are! All 17 of us. Our trip there was long and we had to be rerouted in the U.K. We found out pretty quick how important it was to be flexible and not grumble. This is extremely hard for me when I’m sleep-deprived, but we coped and arrived 48 hours later.

Kenya Airlines, the Pride of Africa

We were picked up in Nairobi and rode a bus to our guest house, which is similar to a bed and breakfast.

Riding the bus to and from points was one of my favorite things about our trip.

I loved the bus! On the bus, we rested, laughed, journaled, prayed, and sang. The first few days we practiced ukulele on the bus. We soon started to wear out of that and it got a little quieter. Our guest house compound was very lush and pretty, in sharp contrast to the Kibera slum, which was dry and dirty. Below are some photos from our compound, showing that there is so much beauty in the little things, if we only look for it and appreciate it.

All of the nature pics above are by Danielle. I’ll show my blossoming photography skills below and in later posts. Notice the difference in the picture quality, comparing the pics above from the ones below. Can you tell which camera is better?

Below are a few images from our first two days in Kenya.

The Kibera children greeted us from far outside their compound and escorted us each day

The children were fascinated by the ukuleles and couldn’t keep their hands from touching, even as we walked up to their compound

The entrance of the Kibera compound has a swing set, and this little boy is enjoying it!

Another view of the inside of Kibera New Hope School compound

Danielle loves the little ones

The beautiful faces of Kibera

Christianity, Photography

Kibera is one of the poorest and largest slums in Kenya, with an estimated one million people per one square mile. The last week and a half Danielle and I spent our days at Kibera in Nairobi, with the children at New Hope School. Here are some of the beautiful faces of the Kibera children:

We brought 100 ukuleles and taught the junior high students all week. It was amazing to see how quickly they learned!

Curious onlookers kept peeking into the building while we took a break for lunch.

Think about it

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, joy, Multiple Sclerosis

Think about what you are thinking about. Is it worry, or fear? I heard it put this way recently: Worry is telling God that you think He can’t handle things correctly.

Fear is crippling and will consume us if not proactively fought. We must think about what we are thinking about. I am learning that peace and freedom from fear are my choice….what are you choosing to think on and meditate on? If we are not intentional, fear will be like a roller coaster that we didn’t mean to get on. It will strap us in and take us wherever it wants us to go.

We choose whether or not to get on the roller coaster of fear. If we aren’t proactive about our thoughts, they’ll take us for a ride we may not want to go on…

Check out this song by Hillsong, Forever Reign. It helps to focus my thoughts on Jesus when I am struggling with fear:

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling addresses this beautifully:

Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace.

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:6

Tired of being afraid? I am. After a few months of absolute freedom from fear, it came back fiercely lately since undergoing medical tests to diagnose some neurological issues. Fear & worry seem to be the things I struggle with the most.  The past six months have been up and down and I have struggled with fear and the unknown during lots of tests for multiple sclerosis. So far the tests are inconclusive, as MS is very difficult to diagnose or completely rule out. In the moments of peace that I experience, I have joy and peace that it really doesn’t matter whether I have MS or not…my life is not my own and it belongs to Christ who gives me life. In my worst moments, I run with my imagination and fear the unknown and worst debilitating scenarios that MS can cause. What goes on in our thoughts is our choice. You and I must choose to think on truth; if we don’t, fear and worry can take us for a ride.

Walking through uncertainty

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, spirituality, Uncategorized

Are you waiting on something in your life? Maybe you are waiting to hear an answer or praying for change. It could be a loved one that you are praying for and waiting for the miraculous, because that’s what it’s going to take for real change. Maybe it’s a diagnosis or maybe you’re seeking God’s direction and you have been waiting, eager to hear from Him.

If you are walking through uncertainty, and waiting for an answer in some area of your life, then you may enjoy this. Today’s reading for the devotional, Jesus Calling, really nails what we need to be thinking on when waiting. As you read, picture God saying these truths to you:

I want to be Central in your entire being. When your focus is firmly on Me, My Peace displaces fears and worries. They will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert. Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold. There is no fear in My Love, which shines on you continually. Sit quietly in My Love-Light, while I bless you with radiant Peace. Turn your whole being to trusting and loving Me.

2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 John 4:18

photo by christianbook.com

This little devotional book has been a great source for me lately. Do you ever have those days when you want to sit down with your cup of coffee and read the Bible, but you don’t really know where to dive in? This book has one paragraph reading each day. As I’ve been waiting for answers in several areas of my life lately, this devotional give me a great starting point with truths from the Bible, worded as if Jesus Himself is speaking them. It gives additional Scripture references that help you to dig further. Check it out!

What if we really believed what God says?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, love, new creation, religion

Have you believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That He died for your sins and mine, that He was raised from the dead, conquering death and sin? If so, we can walk in a glorious reality. So often we don’t, though. Do you find yourself just shuffling through life, or maybe racing through it? Same old stuff, different day…it shouldn’t be so!

What if we really believed what God says? What if we not only believed it, but knew it, deep down in our soul?

If you and I believed and knew God’s lavish love for us, then we would act and feel differently.

What if we really knew and believed that we are made new when we are in Christ; how would we think and what would we spend our time doing?

What if we were truly free from caring about what others think, and only concerned ourselves with what God thinks about us?

Maybe our lives would be more compelling and maybe we’d walk in the freedom and abundant life that Jesus promised us.

The apostle Paul illustrates this in a tangible way that is challenging. Remember that before he was Paul, he was Saul of Tarsus, murderer and zealous persecutor of Christians. Imagine that there must have been times that he would reflect on some of the horrible deaths that he had been party to. Surely that would invoke guilt or shame from anyone. Instead, Paul had a radical change of heart and behavior. He went on to be a missionary and wrote a large portion of the New Testament, including many letters to other believers. What’s really mind-blowing is the way Paul describes himself in the introductions that he gives in these letters. I think if I were Paul, I probably would have started my letters awkwardly, something like this: You probably remember me, I used to be a murderer. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to kill you or anything, I just want to talk to you about Jesus.

Instead, it seems like Paul was able to grasp the reality that God had made him into a completely new and different person. Paul didn’t define himself by his past, as significant as it was. Check out the first few verses of Romans and how it seems that Paul knew and believed God.

Here is how Paul describes himself:

a servant of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and

set apart for the gospel of God—

He goes on to describe Jesus in his introduction:

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Don’t you love that Paul is firm in his belief of who he is in this introduction, and then he introduces Jesus? Powerful! So I want to believe and walk in this truth, that I am a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, may you believe it too!

God, help me believe you. Help me know you more.