Thursday, March 31, 2011

I use to judge books by their covers, but now I don't have to...

In grade school I was never much of a reader. To be completely honest, I failed one six weeks of Reading in 8th grade because I refused to get 21 AR (Accelerated Reader) points. I would have to read like 4-5 large books to get that many points and I had plenty of other things to do with my time. After all, I took part in every sport possible (including boys and cheerleading, gasp!) But, there was something about being made to read that I despised. Plus, I always said God gifted me with the ability to speak (too often, too much) and my mother would probably say, "I couldn't shut-up long enough to sit down and read a book."

High School came and went, I made good grades without ever reading too many books. Just the ones required for AP English (In Cold Blood, All the King's Men, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.), but some of these I only skimmed for the required answers. And again I had little time to devote to reading while editing the school newspaper and yearbook, starring in the school plays, managing my role as class officer as well as student council and playing musical chairs for friends. It wasn't until uni that I really discovered the JOY that comes with reading. Bit of a late bloomer...I know. Yet still it was difficult to pick up and enjoy a leisurely read when I had a fatty pile of homework staring me in the face. Yet I managed to find some of my favorite reads during these years; What is the What, The Poisonwood Bible and Sense & Sensibility to name a few. But the truth is...I would only read new books. I didn't like books with ugly covers, hence why I would never check books out from a library. They almost always had to be new.

Then, I met my Kindle. I never thought I would be one to conform.. There's just something that happens when you crack open a new book and dive in, especially the smell. However, after having searched for a couple of books in Hong Kong and facing utter disappointment once again, I looked into purchasing a Kindle. After reviewing the pros and cons for a couple of weeks, the cheaper cost of ebooks and the 1 minute delivery had me sold.
It's great!! This past month alone I've read 4 books. The freebies are a definite seller, too. All those classics that I skimmed through in High School I can now read for free! They have Kindle apps as well, so I can read on my device, computer or even my phone if I wanted to go blind. I can even loan books to other Kindle users for up to two weeks. Overall I think it was a great choice. As light as it is I seriously can get lost in reading. Literally. I missed my stop on the train. Twice. I'm especially going to be thankful when I'm packing my bags for vacation and I don't have 10 extra lbs. of books, but instead I have 50 books on one device! The best thing about it all...I no longer have to worry about the covers.

Ellison has had trouble getting me to turn off the bedside lamp at night lately. I found this quote on the Kindle FB page and I think it sums things up quite nicely, "My husband said I loved my Kindle more than him, I said not more, different."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Outreach for the Unreached

As most of you know, I went to ETBU in Marshall, TX. Marshall isn't the richest area in Texas and it definitely has its fair share of downtrodden residents. Every time Lana and I would drive to Wal-mart I would see him. The brittle old man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign begging for money. It's not that I have a problem with giving away money, but I've been raised to be cautious about such things. In my mind I didn't know what he would do with the money, but I knew if I gave him some food, he would eat at least one meal that day. We would pull through Wendy's drive-thru and I would order a Baconator with a large Dr. Pepper. It's what I would like to eat, so I figured he would too. We'd drive over to where he was sitting on the ground and he would come over and grab his food. He never said much and we didn't either. Just maybe a heart-felt "Thank you" and we might call back "God Bless You."

But it wasn't enough. Throughout God's word we see where Jesus not only met physical needs, but he addressed the spiritual as well. However, I've noticed that I'm caught in the middle. Let me explain.

I've been volunteering for over 2 months now at a local organization called "Christian Action" working with refugees and asylum seekers here in HK. While my work there is worthwhile and the bonds I am making with many of my students are growing, many feel the organization fails to live up to its name. Although they were founded by Christian members, most of their staff aren't Christian and from what I've experienced there hasn't been any form of evangelism on the part of the organization staff themselves. They are clearly focused on the physical.

On the other hand, I've been attending my church in HK for over 2 1/2 years. The church itself focuses on the spiritual side of Jesus' mission, but for the most part ignore the poverty, addiction and physical needs around them.

So one focuses on the physical and one primarily on the spiritual, why not both?

The need is there and we can meet it. I've been longing for a community of believers who are willing to make a large impact in the world and will live out their faith as true disciples. Verses such as 1 John 3:17 ("If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no put on him, how can the love of God be in him?") brought me to my knees in tears last week. How can the love of God be in him? Strong words. How can the love of God be in me if I ignore such things? How can it be in you?

I laid on my bed broken and praying that God would change my heart (see this post), but I also cried for my Church. I prayed God would challenge us in a way that would awaken our eyes to the call from Christ to "do for the least of these" and that we wouldn't ignore His command in Matthew 25:34-46.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I prayed and continued to pray and I left the rest up to God, because I knew the message had to come from someone higher than me to catch attention of the congregation.

Then, this past Sunday morning we made it to worship (even though I was reluctant to get out of bed because of my killer allergies) but I'm glad I did. Our pastor began his message entitled "Do Something!" based off the passage James 2:14-17.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
This was the answer to my prayer!!!!!!! Amen!! Pastor challenged us to act. I could hardly contain my joy and I teared up in the service and cried a good hearty praise at home in my prayer closet (aka: shower)!! Amen! God answered my prayer directly and I can only pray now that we, as the congregation, will be receptive.

Our pastor has probably had this sermon prepared for at least a week or two, but God chose to stir the same desire in my heart that very week. Grateful. And what a better way to put our faith into action than an opportunity to serve??

Ellison has been organizing an opportunity for youth and adults to feed 180 homeless in Sham Shui Po on April 1st. While at the first meeting we had a few youth and their parents. It was a HUGE start for our church. This week our meeting after the sermon produced a few more who were willing to challenge themselves and stand up to make a difference for the Kingdom. We will have over 20 people coming with us this Friday to meet under the bridge in Sham Shui Po. The act is simple, but I pray the impact will be everlasting.

I've recently been reading an amazing non-fiction book called, "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. You can review it here. It's a great challenge for those of us who claim to be Christian to examine what exactly we're doing to make a difference. A MUST READ (if you haven't already)!!!

Please pray for our Project 180 on Friday and for our church as we continue to uncover the truth of discipleship and the need for evangelism.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday Night Fun

For well over a year now, Ellison and I have been hosting a group of people over at our flat just about every Thursday night to watch American Idol. We love it!! Not only do we love the company, but we love being able to serve in that way. With the exception of Greg, most of our visitors are exchange students and we love to give them a little taste of home by making dinner. I wouldn't really say I'm a good cook, but I LOVE to bake. A couple of weeks ago I made some Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats and they were gone in about 10 minutes. This week I found a recipe from one of my favorite blogs for Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies. A cookie made out of a cookie. Amazing, right? I had everything except the Oreos in my kitchen cabinet, so I gave it a shot. I made a half batch which actually turned out to be about 32 cookies. That's a half batch? Crazy. Anywho, they were gone in about 20 minutes. 5 people ate 32 cookies in 20 minutes. WINNING!

Here's the recipe. (Half-Batch)
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 11 Oreo Cookies broken into pieces
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter, and sugars until well combined. Add egg and vanilla until mixed well.

2. Place flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl, stir to combine. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients then stir in oreos and chocolate chips until just combined.

3. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked, but still soft. Let cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk!!

They turned out perfectly!!

See the Oreo and the chocolate chips? The Oreo cream added a great color contrast!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Philippians 2:13

This is going to be a long one, bear with me. I'll begin with a post from my old blog that was written on April 9th, 2008, almost 3 years ago...

"So, I'm just going to throw this out there for sake of prayers. I've been struggling...

Hong Kong, a city of 7 million people...most (meaning an extremely large percentage of the population) do not know Christ. Prior to my departure for Hong Kong I began praying that God would help me to adjust into a culture that is predominantly non-Christian. Now that this place has more or less become home, I feel as though I've become accustomed to the fact that these people are lost, and for some reason I wasn't bothered by it anymore.

When did my heart become so comfortable with the fact that these people are living their day to day life without knowing Him? I'll tell you how..

Recently, I have been looking at some friends' pictures from mission trips they have taken. Always to poverty stricken lands. Children with no shoes, no parents, no homes. Families living with no clean water. My heart breaks every time. I find myself wiping away tears for countries I have never even been a part of, but what about the country I live in?? I live in one of the richest areas of Hong Kong. Hong Kong in itself is an extremely wealthy region. It appears that very little do without. Outwardly they appear as if they have it all together. It would be easy for me to take off to some African country or to some South American village and be broken every day...but just because the majority of Hong Kong isn't physically wasting away doesn't justify their need for The Truth.

God has called me to minister to these people for the time being and I pray that God will break my heart for the people of Hong Kong. I pray that I wouldn't walk past all the skyscrapers and Gucci stores without being drawn to show and tell of His love and mercy. Because who am I to decide the eternal fate of these people?

Fast forward to today, I've finished my year of study abroad in HK, gone back to the US for a year and now I've been back in Hong Kong for a year and three months now. I wish I could say I believed and lived the words that I wrote then, but not much has changed. Another year in Hong Kong has gone by and I can say that I've done little (if nothing) to further the Kingdom of Christ...and to be honest it's me that's wasting away spiritually. It all goes back to 2008.

During my first semester abroad in Hong Kong I was given an incredible experience to serve on staff at a local church as the youth ministry assistant over the summer full-time and stay an extra semester at school and serve part-time. Amazing, right? Well, that's what I thought.

However, soon after I began working things starting to go downhill. To make a lloooonnnggg story short, I was caught in the middle (on both sides) of difficult situation within the church. After months of an emotional and spiritual battle between friends, coworkers and loved ones...I was pretty much working full-time and going to school full-time (and not doing a good job at either.) Thankfully, everything has since been resolved but friendships were inevitably damaged and some lost. Because I was only "caught-in-the-middle", no one seemed to wonder how everything effected me and to some extent I never processed my feelings, sadness or stress properly. I just swore I would never work at a church again.

After that last semester, I returned to the United States and ETBU only to experience a difficult case of reverse culture-shock. And for the next year I would find myself spiritually exhausted, emotionally empty and out-of-place... so much, to the point that for the entire year I didn't attend church.

You read that correctly, I didn't attend church for a year. I somehow justified my need for congregational worship with the excuse that I went to a Christian school and I talked about Jesus in my classes. Somehow through it all, God continued to guide me through a healthy relationship with Ellison and at the end of that year we were married and I moved back to Hong Kong.

So it's 2010 and I began attending church again (more or less because I had to) and regardless of my attendance I had lost what it meant to be a true disciple of Christ. For the most part, I wasn't truly engaged in Sunday school or any other form of bible study for most of 2010. (If members of my church are reading this they are probably thinking, "I had no idea." But that's because most of us don't really know each other.) My heart was hard. I wasn't feeding myself and I wasn't being fed. Something needed to change..

Since the beginning of this new year I could feel something stir inside of me. I was longing, but I didn't know what for. Like I said, I had forgotten what it meant to be a true-disciple. I began by reading a short devotion everyday. One verse and one little passage. Then I began reading parts of a book or two and praying. Ellison needed a girl's SS teacher so I decided to step up only to realize that it would throw me even deeper into God's word. In the end it's exactly what I needed. I'm on a come back to Christ, however this time it's different. I can't settle on a mediocre Christian lifestyle.

Since becoming a Christ follower in High School, I've always had a desire for a deeper sense of Christianity than what conventional church in the US was offering and HK church isn't really different. I've always desired to read the word for what it is, nothing watered down, just a pure hunger for truth, but I've settled for a COMFORTABLE version of Jesus and the "lifestyle" that comes with believing. But that's not what the Bible calls for at all...through his word, I am beginning to see clearly what Jesus says about being his disciple and that's not what my life looks like at all. Does yours? Because it's pretty RADICAL.

Now you're thinking, "Oh okay, she's read the book..." Yes. I have. And I'm sold. Platt's book Radical has put into words and made sense of these desires that God has laid on my heart and it came at just the right time. After diving into God's word and praying for a change in my heart it's finally come and I can't just set back and do nothing about it anymore. Christ gave all and he asks all.

I'm praying and longing for a community of believers who will step out of their comfort zones and join me as I discover more about true-discipleship and what it means to live missionally.