Monday, August 18, 2014

The 7 Experiment

Just a few weeks ago I found myself caught in another internal battle. A Facebook status was the culprit this time.

Cape Town winters bring rain and chilly temperatures that you can never.get.away.from. I'm not a huge fan of winter. Look, I used to sleep with the windows open in the middle of summer. I don't really like air conditioning, and used to wear jackets inside during July (my northern hemisphere friends understand this). Yeah. So when winter comes here in Cape Town and it rains for 3 days straight, I get in bed under my 6 blankets and binge drink peach rooibos tea. Yum.

This particular time, I found myself laying under those six blankets with my favourite new tea cup in hand while I listened to the rain hit the window. I felt contentment and happiness. The Facebook status I was considering posting... "Falling asleep to the sound of the rain.... happiness."

And then I felt sick to my stomach. I hate to say it, but I delighted in something that posed itself as the biggest problem so many families and individuals would face that same night. I sat in bed, warm, covered, sheltered from the rain, while others lived in make - shift shacks that leaked, flooded and left them cold and wet in the rain. In their own homes they found themselves exposed to the rain.

The only thing that separates me from them is a concrete wall and a major highway. I can look out my kitchen window and see the homes that are affected by circumstances like this, and yet I was delighting in it in some odd way.

Me and donuts have a tight relationship. Basically I'm in love. And the glory of it all is that I can get a donut at almost any garage (gas station) or shop that I walk into. I probably do it way more than I should. But I just can't help but wonder how much money I've spent on indulging in food because my stomach had a craving. I'm not saying it's wrong, but in light of the fact that approximately 13 million people die of starvation each year I can't help but realise my money could go to a cause more worthy than my cravings. 13 million people dying from starvation each year is worked out to an average of someone dying of hunger every 2.5 seconds. Just think about that.... 2.5 seconds.

Each Sunday night I drive home from church. No my car doesn't have air conditioning or heating, but I drive past about a dozen people making their beds under a bridge. They sleep in the cold, in the rain, susceptible to danger, after long days of begging at the robot (traffic light) for money.

On Mondays after I finish my lectures, I head to the office that I volunteer at and spend a few hours helping in any way that I can to abolish slavery in the 21st century. I write e-mails, I answer questions, I find case studies of men and women who have been forced into prostitution (or should we call it rape). And then I get to go home: to that same house and bed, with the easy access of comfort and the option to live in "blissful" ignorance to all that is happening around me. I have the choice to ignore injustice, extreme poverty, and the daunting realities of the world today. I have the choice to think along the same lines as that ignorant Facebook status portrayed. The heart behind that potential status essentially said... "I'm delighting in all that I have and the convenience of getting all that I want, while others are unnecessarily suffering, but I'm happy."

Every single one of those stories are comprised of people. Men, women, and children who are made in the image of God and who have worth and value. Those people house potential and should be given the opportunity to live the life God desires them to have.

Something in me tells me there is so much more to living a life all about me. I look for freedom in the comfort of my excess, but I end up being chained by all that I possess (I'm not intentionally rhyming).

....The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God's word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. Matthew 13:22

Other translations say choked out... I don't want our lives to be choked out because we are concerned with the worries of this life, and the lure of wealth and pleasure... rendering us fruitless. This life we have here is short, and one day we will stand before God with empty hands. We don't get to take all of our stuff with us, He is all we need.

"I think we forget that the purpose of our life is not to be comfortable. It's not protection. It's not stocked cupboards. It's that Jesus would be glorified at whatever cost. The cost won't be too much if Jesus is glorified through our lives." - Louie Giglio 

I don't just want to see myself or others spend a part of our time and money as social justice activists, I want to see God's people spending all of their lives in that way. It's not just a thought we should consider, but a clear command we should be obedient to.  In the long run, what truly matters? Our shoe collections, or the way we have loved people? Allowing our stomachs to be our god, or helping to equip people to provide food for themselves - the ones who currently live on less than 1 dollar a day. What truly matters is not how we spend our life for ourselves, but rather how we spend ourselves on behalf of those who we would consider "the least of these" and the last, but God considers the first.

Over the next few weeks me and a friend will be working through a Bible study called The 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess

It's going to be tough. Through this Bible study we will spend time fasting and re-evaluating the
amount of excess we have concerning 7 different areas of life: clothes, spending, waste, food,
possessions, media, and stress. For each of these items we will spend about two weeks limiting each to seven items, challenging ourselves not only to fast during this Bible study but to truly conform the way we live and the way we spend our time and resources and how that can benefit others and shine the love of Christ.

Over the next few weeks that we do this study, I'm going to write about the journey and all that God is teaching us. Maybe you've contemplated the same things as I have about all the material possessions we seem to pile up, and if anything I pray that God would lead you and I both to better understand His will for us on this earth. I pray this is a challenge for all of us and yet at the same time, so encouraging.

We're waging war with excess. Join us :)

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot 

Monday, June 23, 2014

goodbye 20, hello 21.

At the end of this week I will get to celebrate the 21 years that I've been able to live so far, and the excitement of the new one to come. The highly anticipated 21st birthday :)

In South Africa there is a culture of adulthood that comes with a 21st birthday. You become a man or a woman when you turn 21. Now, in America I felt that I became an adult at 18 (especially with that whole moving-to-another-country-on-my-own-thing), but I ended up having another 3 more years before anyone would even think of calling me an adult. Boo.


And I'm going to claim 21 as my entrance into adulthood.....all sophisticated and wise, and stuff like that.

As I was thinking about the excitement of another birthday, I couldn't help but reflect back on all that I've learned in the past 20 something years of my life and all that I wish I had known when I was younger. So, to celebrate this beautiful thing called life, I've written a list of 20 things I've learned over the years: things that I never want to forget and things I had wished I'd known earlier.

Also, please enjoy some random pictures of Paris, mainly Notre Dame :)

1. Chocolate is wonderful. It is scientifically proven to help you study, and it helps with any type of heart break. Eat it and don't be ashamed.

2. Stop being lazy and do what is expected of you. You have responsibilities. If you don't do them, you're only making life harder on yourself. So do them in a timely and productive manner.

3. No matter what happens to you in life, there is always a way to make it work for your good. Seriously, the worst of the worst can make you feel like the world is over, but I promise you that you can have victory over it and make it your crown. There is good in everything, and you have the opportunity to welcome it.

4. Be brave. If you're afraid of doing something, close your eyes, focus your attention, and embrace the beautifully terrifying and unknown opportunities before you. There is always a reward in facing your fears.

5. Enjoy the moment you are in. Don't rush ahead and think about what is happening next, or tomorrow, or worrying about that one thing, but rather work on enjoying the moment that you are in. Take in your surroundings, the smells, the colours, the mannerism of the people you love. Enjoy this moment. Have fun.

6. Learn how to be semi-organised, even if it isn't your natural tendency. Or at least get into the habit of putting things where they go. This really will help you to be more productive, and minimise your stress.

7. Real life happens outside of Instagram and Facebook. I know, it's crazy to think about, but it's not necessary for the world to see moments of your life for them to be valuable, memorable, or desirable. The amount of likes doesn't determine the significance or excitement of you or your life.

8. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn how to talk to all types of people... the old, the young, the shy, the loud, the awkward, and.....the painfully awkward. Talk to them. Build relationships. It helps you in the long run, I promise.

9. Learn to say no. Learn how to know when it is the right time to say no, and when you're just being selfish and should actually say yes. It's a tricky thing to figure out, but you can do it.

10. It's okay to cry. Our society has put a negative connotation on emotions, but the reality is some people are emotionally wired. Embrace your emotions, wallow in them for a bit, and then allow them to turn into compassion. If you are lonely, think about other people who experience the same thing. If you are angry because of an injustice, use that to motivate you. Allow your emotions to help you empathise with others.

11. Take vitamins and drink water everyday. For real. Also, get outside and walk or something. Hello exercise!

12. Realise that a busy schedule and full social life does not always make you happy. Spending time on your own is so fulfilling. Learn about who you are without trying to find yourself in the midst of other peoples opinion of you.

13. Please please please never forget that you are whole and more than enough on your own. With Christ in your heart and the satisfaction of knowing Him, you do not need anything else to complete you. No reputation, no group of friends, no husband/wife, no beauty, no wardrobe, no job, no amount of money. Nothing. His grace is more than sufficient. 

14. Be open minded and learn. Learn about the world and the people in it. Seek to better understand people from different backgrounds, cultures and religions. Make friends with them. Help them. Allow them to help you.

15. Pay attention in that high school foreign language class. Seriously. Actually, just pay attention in all of the classes you ever take. Knowledge is power.

16. Do what you desire. Learn about yourself and the dreams and talents you have. Grow your strengths. Dream of changing the world in your own way, and don't stop until you accomplish it. You have opportunities all around you, take them.

17. Evaluate your beliefs. What do you truly believe? Do you believe that because you've been told to believe it, or is it your personal conviction? Find where you stand and stand strong.

18. Continually challenge yourself to be teachable and to grow.

19. You will never be liked by everyone. Please learn that and accept that it doesn't demean your worth or value. Not everyone will understand you. People will be difficult. Maybe you'll be difficult. Conflicts will arise, but you are you and and you are beautifully imperfect, perfected by a God who is absolutely flawless.

If there is one thing that I really don't want to forget, it is that life is short. I may not have a life full of many years, but I have today, and I want to take today as a gift and live it intentionally.

"I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinarily, ordinary life." - About Time

20. Please please please never forget that life is short, and you only have a small amount of time to impact the people around you. Love everyone you come into contact with and reflect the heart of God in all that you do. Never get too busy to remember that you have a purpose here, and that is to know God and make Him known to the world.