03 November 2014

Out of focus

I had an epiphany tonight - I think my life, my perspectives, have gotten out of focus.

I was doing a little online preview-Christmas shopping, whatever that means, and thinking about what new toys the Stepping Stones might like for Christmas (as if they didn't have enough toys already).  After a little while, I shut the browsers down and decided to look through my photos - I was thinking about a new project-ish and I wanted to see what I had in my pictures (that part doesn't matter).

I clicked on my 2007 photo album, and the very first folder is my mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in spring 2007. I clicked on the folder and started looking through all the pictures. At first I was looking for a few pictures that would make great photo magnets, but then I got side tracked.

By the stark poverty. By the bare-footed and dirty children playing in the dirt road. By the lined-faces of the people who work hard just to eek out a meager living. By the one room tin-roofed homes that housed a family of six, or eight, or ten. By the horse-pack laden with fire hooded plodding down the main road that ran by the mission.
The school next door to the mission - children could only attend if they could afford the uniform and supplies (which a lot could not).

A house in the Colonia outside of Tegucigalpha

A typical house. Usually they have no running water, only one light bulb and an outhouse that is not attached, out back. The sink you see on the rock wall was used for anything that might involve water - such as cooking, bathing and laundry. Water trucks delivered water twice a day.
By the beauty of the flora and fauna. By the joy on the faces of the mission workers. By the presence of God in the midst of adversity (when there was near mob incident in front of the mission on one of the days and everyone on the mission team just started worshipping God right there). By the friendship and comraderie in Christ felt by those on the trip and those who work at the mission and those in the colonia. By the joy of God - being in the midst of it yourself and seeing it in those around you - even those who had next to nothing.

Language barriers were not a problem for the two young girls who came on the trip with their moms, nor for the children of the colonia.

Building the walls of one of two houses that our team built the week we were there.

And I wondered - what happened to that person who packed a single backpack and small bag to travel to Central America because God said "Go" and I just obeyed what He said. What happened to that person who left a lot of those clothes at the mission because there were people who needed them more? What happened to that person who just worshipped God with abandon, no matter who was around or what was going on? What happened to that person who was eager to work hard just to please the Lord and not anyone else? What happened to that person who cared more what God thought than anyone else and didn't let anyone get in the way of that relationship? What happened to that person who used to carry verses around in her purse and pull them all-the-time to review them?

I'm not entirely sure. But that I want to be that person again. I want to be alive for Christ like I used to be - not weighed down by cares of the world and able to just live for Him.

Some of the people are angry with the missionaries, some of the people were protecting the missionaries.

In the meantime, a lot of woman gathered together and started praying.

And we worshipped.

The mission feeds most of the children in the colonia lunch - for some, it is their only meal.
One of the ladies who received a brand new house (for her and her ten children).
It's not that I was that person solely during that week I spent in Tegucigalpa - I was like that all the time. And something happened. I have changed into someone I used to despise, caring more about materialism that relationships, things than people. I'm so caught up in the latest project, or who's saying what on Facebook, or catching up on my latest TV show that I'm missing my purpose. And more than that, I'm missing my relationship with Christ. I used to make it a priority and now I don't.

I realize that I've fallen a long, long way down. But now I'm here on the bottom and I'm looking up. I realize what I need to do. Now, I just need to go and do it. Please pray for me.

01 November 2014

Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold

Children are our future, and all too often in today's society, they are ignored, or pushed to be adults before they are ready, and more than that, they face a plethora of experiences that children just should not have to face. In Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, Johann Christoph Arnold cuts through the noise and distraction surrounding these issues, getting right to the heart of the problem.

Our society views children as a burden, or worse, as something to be owned and controlled, and children are suffering for it. Touching on issues of violence, over-testing in schools, poverty, over use of the medical system to "cure" children, and even the systematic removal of play from a child's world, Arnold writes eloquently, but more importantly, truthfully, about how these issues are a terrible detriment to children. Children do not have time to not play in today's world- and yet they are only children once, and for a short time. All to often, children are being robbed of the very qualities that make them children: innocence, a fresh look at life, the ability to see and touch hearts, and to teach adults new lessons about life.  At the very core of all of this, is the view that life is not sacred.

But what can be done? Plenty. Teachers and parents can advocate for children, we can guide them and we can cherish and protect that innocence. We can not push them to be adults, we can let them learn in their own way - and if we don't know how that way is, we can discover it with them. And most importantly, we can not give up on them - ever.

I thought Arnold's book was very enlightening and it was the answer to the problem that so many are raising about their children - how can we help them? The answer is so simple, yet incredibly profound. We can slow down, we can love them more, we can spend more time with them, we can cut back on the materialism in our lives that so consumes us, we can show them that the value of a person lies in who they are, not what they can offer up, as if they were some possession to be owned and used, and most importantly, we can cherish the time that they are children. That time does not last long, and it is certainly worth the amount of sacrifice that we have to give - whatever that might look like in our lives: whether it's one parent staying home and not working, or cutting back on the amount of screen time in the home, or taking a walk when our child asks, instead of saying we are "too busy" with whatever is occupying our time. The Bible teaches us that children are a treasure, an inheritance, and it is time, in our homes, in our schools, and in our society, that we start believing that with all our hearts and then act on that belief.

Disclosure of Material Connection: The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”