More than Bible Stories & Memory Verse!

I was that child who attended church since birth! I knew many Bible stories… I memorized many verses. I was even in every church play starting from kindergarten. I was your model church child. But in my 30’s I had an epiphany. Nobody sat me down and explained the gospel to me! Of course, i heard stories of Jesus dying on the cross for my sins. But nobody made it personal for me. Somehow I actually came to believe in Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior along the way (by the grace of God!) but nobody from the church asked me if I believed in Jesus… they all just assumed that I did because I was a model church child. Sure… it worked out for me… but this isn’t going to work for every child, I know… because I have friends and cousins that went through the same “program,” and they don’t have a personal relationship Jesus today!

DSC02836I just spent 2 days with three of my aunts. One aunt is an overseas missionary, and she told me this story which left a lasting impression. She had a 5th grade boy come to her church for three months from the next town. She loved him and his personality. She was so please to see him come to church regularly. But one day, he stopped coming… and almost a year later, a new girl from the same town started coming to the church. When my aunt inquired about the boy who had stopped coming, she was told that he had died due to drug overdose at the age of 11! My aunt’s heart sank. She wasn’t even sure if he had heard the gospel. She knew that he had been taught lots of Bible stories… but she didn’t know if during the time he had attended, if he had been personally introduced to Jesus Christ. From that day forward, my aunt decided that they needed to share the gospel with every new child that comes to her church…

This applies to churches in the US too. We need to seize every opportunity we have with the children in our ministries. In most of our churches, kids are dropped off by their parents… they come whether or not they want to come (yes, I know some kids absolutely LOVE coming to church to the point that they make their parents bring them…) But we have this unique opportunity that most adult ministries don’t. Kids come to us (I know this isn’t the case in all churches)… and if we don’t seize the opportunity to share the gospel with the kids that come to our ministries, then what are we really doing? i’m not saying that we have to talk about the Easter story every week… but we need to create opportunities to share about God’s greatest love and grace because you never know who has never heard, especially when you have new visitors. Bible stories are important! Memory verse important! Having fun is important! Building relationships is extremely important! But the most important thing is their salvation… our children’s ministry MUST be about teaching more than Bible stories and memory verses… it must be about the gospel!

Chicken… Really???

What was I thinking?  I don’t know… maybe I wasn’t… I admit it… I get crazy ideas every now and then, and then I just go for it!  Once when I was in 5th grade, I decided around 10:30 pm that my room arrangement was all wrong.  On a school night, I decided to move all the furniture around in my room all by myself!  I was up ’til about 4:30 am… and my grandmother walked into a brand new room the next morning at 5:30 am.  Yup, she thought I was nuts!

I admit it… I’m scared to limit my food intake to seven items for the next month.  And those who know me probably would have thought I would pick crab, sushi, beef jerky, coffee, diet coke, noodles, and smarties!  Yup, I could probably do really well on these 7 things for 4 weeks!  But obviously, this journey isn’t about indulging in things i love.  It’s not about sacrificing everything I have either.  If you look at my list, I still have the potential to eat fairly well, and be full every meal. I’m just simplifying my life (which is what I’ve actually been trying to do for the past year–just never thought to do it this way).  As Jen Hatmaker says in the book, “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”  It’s a personal challenge, and seeing what God will do during my next 7 months of this journey.

I admit it…  this morning, my first thought was–why did i choose chicken???  I don’t even like chicken that much?  Why didn’t I choose spinach over lettuce so I could have it raw or sautéed?  You can’t sauté lettuce???  What was I thinking?  I retraced my steps of logical reasoning in choosing these items last night.  When I first started thinking about my seven food choices, I thought about Feed My Starving Children, an organization that I had volunteered with on few occasions.  They package food for those near death of starvation… and their food package includes powder form of chicken and soy, dehydrated veggies, and rice.  I knew that’s what I needed to get my balanced nutrients… so I decided to put down chicken, rice, and tofu.  And to be honest, of all meat choices, chicken really is my least favorite–but it’s probably the most consumed meat in third world countries (that’s my guess, I have no proof-so don’t quote me on that!) so that also helped me feel comfortable choosing chicken.  And the next three items, lettuce, zucchini, and avocado are just because I recently went to the market and bought a bunch of these items… and I didn’t want them to go to waste since I have to start this journey in a day!  So I really didn’t think that through all that much… but I realized that I probably needed fruit of some kind… and grapes are the easiest to wash and go… so grapes!

I admit it… I thought about changing the items today… before I start tomorrow!  But as I sat with my list… I decided that commitment is a commitment!  So as I indulge in my homemade pasta with grape tomatoes, mozzarella, & basil right now,  I’m excited for what God will teach me during this time… and while this might feel a bit devastating for someone who really loves the taste of different foods on my palate, let’s put things into perspective–i’m not starving myself… and few would kill to just have seven items to eat!

I’m in top 1% of wealth in the world…

I may never be in the top 1% of wealth in America… I drive by super nice homes in Beverly Hills, which is only 10 minutes away from where I live, and think “I will never experience their house or lifestyle… I will never drive those luxury cars… I will never carry purses they have (I love purses)…”  And then I snap out of it…

I’ve been to Bolivia, the poorest South American country, and talked with a woman who chewed on coca leaves to lessen her hunger pains while feeding her three young children.  I’ve been to townships in South Africa, and witnessed people burning tires for warmth and children who lined up outside the gates of a local community center for their one and only daily meal.  I’ve interacted with 800 children in slums of Dominican Republic who came to see the Americans who would give them candy and juice.  I’ve seen, touched, and hugged over thousand children who live in poverty.  Every time, I feel incredibly blessed for what I have… and somewhat helpless in terms of what I can do to help eradicate extreme poverty around the world.  I try to do my part–I’ve donated money, I’ve tried to raise awareness, I wear and gift TOMS shoes, I support kids through Compassion… but it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough…

and yet… when I’m in the comforts of my Los Angeles life, I want more and more and more… I want a specific purse that I saw online so bad that I can’t think about other things until I have it (I do have a sin-purse story, which I shall share in a later blog).  I want mouth-watering, melts-in-your-mouth sushi that mounts to more than what I make in a day.  I want to try every new restaurant that opens up in this cool, hip, foodie city of LA.  I want a bunch of new apps for my iPhone and iPad.  I want more and more and more… and I’m convinced that I’m super poor because I don’t live in a nice condo, townhouse, or a house in a rich neighborhood.

I’ve been following Live58 for close to a year now… I read “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stern this year… and just 3 weeks ago, I met a woman from Wisconsin (I think) who was on her first month of “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”  I was intrigued… and I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept of the book.  So I finally bought the book and started reading it this week… and just as I was reading the intro, I just started crying.  The tears were streaming down not because of all the poor kids around the world… but because I realized that my heart was filled with so much greed and envy… and I always saw myself as poor–not rich.  I remember taking a survey on how rich I was compared to the world few years back, and when it told me that I was in top 2% of world’s wealth, I dismissed it–telling myself that I was still poor in the US.  But the truth is, I’m still rich in the US.  I have never experienced extreme hunger.  I have never experienced lack of shelter or clothes.  I may still live in debt (that’s another story), but I am still richly blessed with everything I need and some things I want.

Because I have an obsessive-compulsive personality at times, on a spur of the moment, I decided to take the 7 challenge!  Jen talks about having a Council in her book… but I personally felt compelled to not think about it too much… but just to do it, and invite people along the way as I go through my journey.  I’m not personally super legalistic on what I can do and can’t do, so I’m not 100% sure how this will play out… For instance, I get invited to people’s houses for dinner every  now and then for ministry purposes–I wouldn’t impose my 7 things to eat on them, nor would I reject the food they serve me.  However, I plan to do my best to stick to the 7 foods as much as I can.

So, if some of you are following along, and want to taste a little bit of what I’m doing… here it is:

For the month of June, I will pick seven foods to eat.  This is a huge challenge as I LOVE food… okay, that’s an understatement… MY LOVE LANGUAGE IS FOOD!!!  So I’m probably starting out with the hardest one… but here it goes! And just to put it out there for those who are willing to keep me accountable, here are my seven foods:

  • Chicken
  • Rice
  • Tofu
  • Lettuce
  • Avocados
  • Zucchini
  • Grapes

and just as the author was allowed to use salt, pepper, & olive oil… I will allow similar cooking oils, condiments, and herbs.

So here it goes…  and I will document every now and then about how it’s going!

missing opportunities…

Back in November 2011, I was so sure that I would be spending this exact week in Costa Rica with Lifetree Adventures / Operation Kid-2-Kid and VIVA Network loving, hugging, playing, and sharing God’s love with hundreds of children.  So much has changed in the last four months.  I’m back in a local church.  My weeks are filled with meetings, meetings, and more meetings.  We’re talking building plans, ministry programming, budget, logistics of day-to-day ministry stuff… and all I want to do right now is to be in Costa Rica with my friends and seeing God at work outside of my comfort zone.

I truly struggle with spending so much time and energy on all the logistics of getting ready to do ministry in the states, when I can be using that time and energy on actually  meetings the needs of people in tangible ways with less red tape, bureaucracy, and long process.  Don’t get me wrong… I think it’s important to have process just because that’s the way everything works in the states… but I can’t help but to think if that’s what I’m suppose to be doing here.  I have to trust in God’s sovereign plan, and believe that He has me exactly where I am for a reason.  But it’s hard for me to know that I’m missing out on some great opportunities.  I believe in seizing every opportunity, and obviously when I’m committed to a local church, I can’t do it all (no matter how hard I try…)  so that’s my brain vomit for tonight… It’s really hard knowing that I’m missing opportunities… and this won’t be the last, but only the beginning.

With that, I’m just staring at some of my favorite photos from my last Operation Kid-2-Kid trip with Lifetree Adventures.