Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Belief.



"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:3


If I put my name in there, does it still work?


Romans 4 talks all about Abraham having faith, and how he was credited as righteous not because of what he DID but because of what he BELIEVED... because of his FAITH.
"Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness."
Romans 4:9
Now, I know Abraham and Sarah (Abram & Sarai) made some not-too-good decisions smack dab in the middle of "Abraham believed God."
Decisions that have affected the entire course of the world to today.
But, Romans 4 doesn't mention that. It says that because of his belief in God he was credited as righteous.


What about me?
In my trusting and believing and moving forward, I know I've made some decisions and said some things that aren't exactly in line with the path God has for me to walk out.
In fact, I almost did it again just this morning. Trying so hard to have wisdom and discernment and make the right decision that I come close to making the wrong one.
Or I do just flat out make the wrong one.


But, it says that, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Lord, I believe You... I simply believe You.
Even amidst my misses and my near-misses, I believe You.


I guess I must subconsciously think that believing God will keep me from making some of those stupid human mistakes.
Except I'm human... prone to mistakes.
So, maybe it's not that believing Him will keep me from all of that stuff. It obviously will keep me from some major stuff, and listening to His voice and direction will keep me walking where I need to walk.
But, I'm still going to lose my cool with the kids from time to time.
I'm still going to give the wrong response to a friend and have to go back and apologize and go from there.
I'm still going to forget to put some things on the calendar and miss the event with no good reason for doing so except my forgetfulness.
And I'm still going to face the stuff of this earth and not always have the right attitude.


Believing God will help me amidst all of that, but it doesn't always mean I'm going to be immune to all of that.


Neither was Abraham.


My silly human mistakes and missteps don't mean I suddenly stop believing God...
or that I wasn't believing Him.
I think instead we just walk out each day WITH that belief... that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He will do.
And justification by faith is thankfully a whole different ballgame.
Because if it were justification by works, I think I'd die under the pressure of each daily mistake I make.


"Angela believed God, and it was credited to her as righteousness."
"Faith was credited to Angela as righteousness."


Not because of anything I do that makes me righteous, but because of my simple belief in the One Who Is Righteous... my faith in Him to do what He said He will do.








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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Where We're Going: Swaziland, Part 3



Some friends recently went to exactly where we're going in Swaziland (we'll spend most of our time at the Gege CarePoint).
Over the next few days I'll repost here, with permission, Glenn Packiam's thoughts on his experience.
To read all four posts at once, you can go to Glenn's blog
To read more about our family going and different ways that you can help us get there, go here.
If you go to New Life and would like to sponsor a child at our CarePoints, click the Ask Angela link on the side and email me for more information. (I'm the sponsorship coordinator.)
Read Part One HERE.
Read Part Two HERE.


Part Three: "Luck Bearers"

[NOTE: This series of blogs is a compilation of reflections from our NewLifeSundayNight trip to Swaziland in March, 2012. A separate absolute monarchy surrounded by South Africa, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. 60% of its population lives on less than USD$1.25 a day. Our church is partnering with Children's Hope Chest to "sponsor" two communities where orphans and vulnerable children abound. I will say more on this partnership and how the model works in Part 4 of this blog series. My goal in writing this blog series is primarly to help our church understand the nature of this partnership, and to find ways of getting involved.]


It is the strange way of the Spirit that whenever I write a book, I find myself having to live it out in new ways after its release. When Butterfly in Brazil came out, New Life Church experienced an unexpected transition and I had to put to new practice the ideas of staying faithful right where I was. When Secondhand Jesus released, I found myself beginning a long journey or renewed theological study and liturgical discovery that has shaped my own spiritual formation in fresh ways. When LUCKY came out last year, I couldn't help but wonder how the Spirit would lead me to live out in new ways the message of receiving and participating in the Kingdom that has come, is coming, and is yet to come. Little did I know, it would come on a trip to Africa.

IMG_1028Each day in Swaziland, we made home visits. Our team split up to make most of these visits, so my stories are of the ones I was on. The first was to a woman named Sophie. She said she was 90-years old and had been bed-ridden for almost 50 years by a grotesquely swollen left leg. Matt Howard began by thanking her for allowing us to come and visit her. As he asked more questions we learned-- with the help of an interpreter-- than she had been married to a pastor who had been habitually unfaithful. He had abandoned her when she became sick. As if that were not bad enough, each of her four children had died suddenly, just as their careers in the city were beginning to take off. Now here she was, lying on a mat on the floor, trying to care for her grandchildren. When we presented her with a bag of supplies-- candles, matches, rice-- a large bag of beans, and a large bag of corn flour, she burst into tears.She told us she knew God was faithful, that He was her provider. We prayed with her as we fought back tears of our own.

IMG_1050At another visit, we met a grand-aunt who had travelled miles across their "mountains" to check in on her 20-year old grand-niece who was the sole provider for her younger siblings. Jennifer Randolph shared the story of Jesus calming the storm, bringing a word of encouragement that Jesus is with them even in their storms. After presenting them with the same supplies and gifts of food, the old woman shared her own fear of a storm that would melt away the mud home her grand-nieces were living in. Storms are not simply metaphorical for her.

IMG_1092On another occasion, we met an old couple who were caring for the orphaned grandchildren. The grandfather was broken as he shared how he wished he could work the field and provide for his family, but his body was just too frail now. Chris Burley shared beautifully about how God fed Elijah with ravens. Somehow these stories took on a more earthy feel as sat on the rotting wooden bench outside, staring at people who would likely starve without raven-like intervention. It occured to me to say to them that we are like God's ravens,bringing them rice and flour and beans and candles and more. As we gave them the gifts, the grandmother began to weep. She said she had just been praying Psalm 23, trusting God to be their shepherd to provide for all their need. And now, we had come.

IMG_1093At another home visit, we met a grandmother who was tasked with providing for seven grandchildren by herself. She said life had been very hard without a man in the home. Her grandchildren would have starved if not for the CarePoint. She had no thought for her own need; her whole concern was only for the children. When we gave her the gifts of food, she looked away to hide her emotion. "It's like I always tell my grand children," she said in strained English, "I wash the pots and get them ready, but what goes inside, God will provide." (Our team reflected on these words later, recalling something Jesus had said about having never seen such great faith in all of Israel.)

IMG_1149One of our last home visits was about a mile away from the CarePoint in the Mankayane community. We had to hike through rocky trails and tall, whipping grass, to this home. Somewhere halfway up the hill-- the locals called it a "mountain" but Coloradoans know better-- with a 10Kg bag of corn flour on my shoulder, it hit me: we are "luck-bearers" to the world's "unlucky." We are announcing the good news that God has not forgotten them, that they-- the poor and powerless-- are lucky for the Kingdom has come to them. 
You see, we may not be able to feed every hungry mouth. But that is no cause for despair. Every bag of rice we bring is a sign that a great feast is coming. "Blessed are those who are hungry now," Jesus said, "for they will be filled." We could see on every grateful face that the Kingdom had come to them...the poor are blessed for the Kingdom of God is theirs. Yet, there is so much more to be done. The Kingdom is yet to come. And we cannot bring it. Only the King can bring the Kingdom. So we pray, "Even so, come Lord Jesus."
And we carry a bag of corn flour and beans and rice, and say, "This is a sign that you are not forgotten, that God sees you, and that a Great Feast is coming one day, and you-- yes, even you!-- will be filled."
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Random Outfit Post



I feel like a wear this outfit constantly.
It's one of my no-brainers.
The scarf or boots may switch, but the rest of it stays just about the same.
I talked about that a while ago, I think. How it's good to have a basic outfit that you just add different things to.






pulling it all together...
denim: H&M Sqin
oversized gray tee: Old Navy Men's XL
cardi: Forever 21 sale
green scarf: Streets of New York (Okay, that just sounds stinking cool. "Streets of New York.")
boots: Thrifted
belt: Thrifted
earrings: Kenya
hair: messy braid
Where are my leather bracelets? Why do I not have them on? Oh, for shame.


The basic outfit here is the skinny jeans with boots, an oversized shirt with a cardi.
I belted the shirt because, really, it's oversized. I got it last Father's Day when Old Navy was having that ridiculous sale and these were something silly like $4. (Shout out to my friend, Jessica, for alerting us to the amazingness that was that sale.)
And, if I'm telling more of the story, we had bought XXLs for Nate and Larges for Taylor, and somehow wound up with this XL when we got home.
So, naturally, it wound up in MY closet. Hee-hee. (Now, how would that happen?)
And now I need to go back and get more because it is SOOOOOO comfy.


I can't even remember where I thrifted this belt from, but the end has been cut. It looks like someone else's DIY.




And now, off to make more tutus!!! Africa plans are coming along.
We're in charge of the faithfulness and God is in charge of the multiplication.
I remind myself of this daily... okay... a few times daily... alright, hourly.
(Honestly, it's every few minutes.)


And now, I will look at you in a mischievous manner...




And now, I will flex my muscles...



And now, I will really go back to making tutus...






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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Where We're Going: Swaziland, Part 2



Some friends recently went to exactly where we're going in Swaziland (we'll spend most of our time at the Gege CarePoint).
Over the next few days I'll repost here, with permission, Glenn Packiam's thoughts on his experience.
To read all four posts at once, you can go to Glenn's blog
To read more about our family going and different ways that you can help us get there, go here.
If you go to New Life and would like to sponsor a child at our CarePoints, click the Ask Angela link on the side and email me for more information. (I'm the sponsorship coordinator.)
Read Part One HERE.


Part Two: "More Than a Face on the Fridge"


[NOTE: This series of blogs is a compilation of reflections from our NewLifeSundayNight trip to Swaziland in March, 2012. A separate absolute monarchy surrounded by South Africa, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. 60% of its population lives on less than USD$1.25 a day. Our church is partnering with Children's Hope Chest to "sponsor" two communities where orphans and vulnerable children abound. I will say more on this partnership and how the model works in Part 4 of this blog series. My goal in writing this blog series is primarly to help our church understand the nature of this partnership, and to find ways of getting involved.]


IMG_0992When the children began arriving at the CarePoint, we all stopped. What beautiful faces. Many had come from school, ready to eat. The CarePoint at the Gege community can only afford to feed these children three meals a week at the moment, so the meals are as filling as possible: rice and beans or a corn flour mash ("pop", they call it) with beans. The children ate with grateful haste.

IMG_1018
Then we sang with them. Rebecca Jackson, one of our team members, had written a simple kids song the night before that quickly became a favorite. Then it was on to an hour or so of games for the boys-- soccer!-- and crafts for the girls. 


IMG_1058
IMG_1058









Each afternoon at our two "sponsored" CarePoints were like this. Songs and a Bible lesson, then face paint and dance parties and soccer games and Captain Ball. Our team did an amazing job not only in organizing and leading these activities, but in being present and attentive to the children. I watched Matt Howard, a mechanical engineer, jump around like a monkey, getting the children to chase him; I saw Sarah Rieves find the quiet child who kept to himself and sit him on her lap; I saw Alyssa Gordon holding the little ones; I saw Jason Pederson, an architect, make stories out of the "Jesus Storybook Bible" come to life in front of the children; I heard Rebecca Jackson narrate the whole story of Salvation from Adam to Jesus with clarity and simplicity and love; I watched Jenn Randolph lead a hundred children in dance moves with a felt cut-out teddy bear; I saw Chris Burley paint faces for an hour and give a word of hope to a widow.
One of our team members, Jennifer Randolph, a dance teacher and our children's director for NewLifeDowntown, said to me that first day, "Children are just children, all over the world." I had been thinking the same thing. From our first day at Gege, I kept looking at the faces of the children, imagining my own 7-year old and 5-year old girls, my 2-year old son. What if this were them? These children did not choose to be born here, to parents with HIV or some other disease that ended their lives early. Watching them laugh and play and sing made you realize the hope we associate with children: maybe life will be different for them. Maybe we can, in some small way, help.

IMG_1063On our second day at Gege, I met the boy that we sponsor. Mbageni. He was quiet and shy, but smiling. He told me his age and what grade he was in in school. The conversation-- if you call call it that through broken English-- lasted all of 3 minutes. But when it was over, I was a wreck. I had seen that face on our fridge a dozen times. We were happy to help his community by sponsoring him. But there was no way to prepare for this. Seeing his face, his smile, hearing his voice, knowing now what he ate-- as a luxury!-- three times a week, having visited homes that may be like the one where he stays....there was no way to prepare for that.
I had to walk off for a few minutes. Tears began streaming down my face. The only prayer I could manage was, "Thank you, God." Not "thank you" for what we have; but "thank you" for letting me share in Your work. Thank you, God, for letting me see this boy, for allowing us to shine Your love, for bringing a small thread of hope to his life through us.
These children are more than a face on the fridge. They have names. And stories and fears and hidden dreams. They are like children everywhere. They don't think about the future because children live in the moment. Parents are supposed to think about a child's future, but many of these children have none. But that does not mean they are forgotten. The Lord sees them. The Lord knows their names. And now, through the work of these local pastors and Children's Hope Chest, through the churches in America who "sponsor" these communities as a whole, and these children in particular, they have something new: hope.


Note from Angela: We had our children read Glenn's post on his Swazi experience. When my eleven-year-old daughter, Brittney, finished reading she just sat quietly at the kitchen table for a few minutes.
"Mom? So, we get 3 meals a day plus snacks, and these kids only get 3 meals a week?"
"Yes. A few of them may have other food to eat sometimes, but for the majority the only meals they get are the ones from the carepoint."
"So, our Tebo may only get 3 meals a week? But, he would get more if people from church would sponsor these kids?"
"Yes, that's exactly right."
Her eyes filled with tears. So did mine.
We have committed to this community. We have work to do.


(Me and Ian with Tebo's card that sits on our fridge. The kids are so excited to meet him!)


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Monday, April 2, 2012

On Fruit-bearing and Storms



It's been so warm here in Colorado Springs these past few weeks.
Warm enough to notice that the a/c in our trusty little (paid-off) '96 Saturn really needs recharging. (And for me to mentally complain about it all the way home from Denver.)
Warm enough for all of my kiddos to have mild sunburns and browning faces.
Warm enough that leaves have started to emerge from tree branches in our yard.
Including blossoms... on our peach tree.


I've apologized to our peach tree over and over.
She sits right outside our kitchen window, and the story is she will produce a TON of fruit in years when all of her blossoms actually make it to the summer. So much fruit, in fact, that the weight of it will pull down her branches and they will break if not constantly tended to.
So, I've been apologizing, because this warm weather has been in March.
March.
If you've ever lived in Colorado Springs or know someone who has, you know that snow comes in April and May... which is why our beautiful peach tree's blossoms rarely make it to the summer, to where they can bear fruit.


Hence my apologizing.
(Because she can hear me, you know.)


Today I sit here watching storm clouds roll over Pike's Peak and down those majestic Rocky Mountains.
There's sleet and snow in the forecast, along with lows in the 20's.
We've come up with a little plan for our peach tree that involves an extension cord, my little heater dish and potentially a tarp.
We probably won't be able to save all of the blossoms, but maybe we can help her get through with enough to bear some fruit this summer.


And because this is only the beginning of April, we'll face these fruit-stealing storms for the next two months.
(Don't get me wrong, I love the snow. But, I also love peaches picked out of our kitchen window.)


I think back to what the previous tenants said...
"...so much fruit that the branches will break."
I'm seeing the storm come in.
And despite our best efforts, our pretty peach tree will lose some blossoms.
Except that... she will probably be better for it.
If she bore all the fruit she was capable of bearing, she would lose branches in the process.
Or maybe we could say if she bore all the fruit she was capable of bearing, she would need an extensive support system and our family being constant in our harvesting of the fruit so she wouldn't lose any branches.
We can't be that this summer.


So, maybe the storm isn't altogether a horrible thing.
We'll work to get her through it, it will take some of her blossoms, and she will bear fruit without her branches breaking.


I was chatting with a wonderfully lovely friend just recently. I was out in Michigan, speaking at a women's retreat for the second year in a row. I love that because I come back and already have relationship with many of the girls!
My friend and I were chatting about life and callings and... there was a spark in her eyes at what we were talking about. But it was also with a frustration that storms had been passing through her life lately, and she hadn't been able to bear the fruit she knows she is capable of bearing.
It's frustrating to feel limited, to feel those dreams burning inside you and think, "Oh, the fruit I could bear, if only..." To feel hindered by the storms... the changes in seasons... that keep passing through.
But I wonder if, like my beautiful peach tree, my beautiful Michigan friend is actually better off for the storm.


Because in the storm we have friends that come around us, helping us reach the other side with some of our blossoms.
Yes, the storm still takes some of them, but I know I serve a God who wants me to bear the most fruit I can... in the healthiest way possible.
If my peach tree bore all the fruit she was capable of bearing this season, she would lose some of her branches, because she won't have the necessary support system.


I wonder if God knows my amazing Michigan friend has people around her to get her through the storm, but not the necessary support system to bear all that fruit without losing some of her branches.
I bet God knows.
In fact, I know He does.
So many times I've lamented "lost fruit," only to stop and realize I didn't have the capacity at that time to stay standing under the weight of all I thought I could have done.
Maybe, like hatching eggs, I should only count the fruit I have already produced... the fruit I am producing in a healthy way... and stop counting the fruit I could produce, if only...


And we prepare for the storms, because we know they will come.
Storms will always come.
We can rejoice for the fruit that is saved because we walk through the storm together.
And maybe... just maybe... we can trust that "fruit lost" may have been for our benefit... so our branches will continue to grow stronger, and we can keep on bearing fruit.







*************************************************




...in other news, this post makes me think of this...
which may derail any spiritual mental conversations you were just having.









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