Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sharing the Cross

There will always be things to challenge us. 
The real problem lies in that there are always two paths to every choice. 

Sometimes, we think we know poverty. We've seen the pictures, we've donated the money, we've done our part. Haven't we?
In Uganda, we stayed and visited at some very nice schools (at least, nice schools for Uganda.) The students are always dressed in clean uniforms, there's a beautiful landscape all around, and everyone is happy and excited to see us. The children run out beaming, waving, and calling "Mzungu, Mzungu!" (White Person)

And in that setting, poverty seems picturesque and idyllic. Everything's just perfect. All is right.

At least, so I was deluded. I never really knew what it meant to live there.

One day, we were herded up like a bunch of grumpy sheep and we squeezed into the school truck. From there, we drove around the Ugandan countryside. I was informed previously, that today we would be visiting, personally, in groups of two, the homes and families of the students of Our Lady of Guadalupe School. So, after some hours of driving back and forth like a drunken circus (I can only imagine what they thought of us!), I found myself in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Africa, with only my aunt, a six pack of pop, and 8 chipati to survive.

The student we were visiting, Emmanuel, lead us down a dirt path to his humble home. There we met the rest of his family, none of whom spoke English, and he showed us around. Communication was difficult as he spoke rather poor English, but we managed. This was the first time I ever stepped into typical African home. I wasn't totally surprised, but it did change my perspective.

By American standards, they had pretty much nothing. You could probably fit their house into my bedroom, everything was dark and the rooms extremely small. I think they were cooking a couple corn cobs outside, where my aunt had handed a bunch of licorice to the kids.

In reflection of that day and the rest of the trip, it's made me question myself. Why me?

Why am I the one who gets to live in an affluent country? Why do I get the chance to succeed, to have an excess to give? Why don't I have to walk miles just to get water for the day? Why don't I only get two meals a day, consisting of porridge and beans?

You could feed a child lunch today for 2.2 cents. TWO POINT TWO CENTS, PEOPLE!! That's about eight freakin dollars a year. I spent more than that, just buying a burger in the airport.

Why? In the overall view of things, life ain't fair. These are children. They haven't had a chance to do anything wrong and yet...there they are. They get so hungry that they have to leave school because they can't even concentrate.

I just made $50 today playing the organ. Technically, I could feed 2,272 children today with that. But what am I supposed to do? Sure, I can give them something today, but tomorrow they'll go hungry just the same. I'm not big enough to feed the world.

In my mind, that's not justice. That's not mercy. That's cruelty. Sure, I can understand pain. I can understand redemptive suffering. But children can't. They're not old enough to understand. To them, it's just pain.

But we're not called to understand. We're not always meant to make sense out of the bad things of this world.

What's necessary here is trust. Right now, faith doesn't mean believing that God exists. Faith means believing that God is good. Either He's a loving father or He's not.

Remember the student's house I told you about? Written in chalk on the wall in one of the dark, dirty rooms was:
"God bless us."

They know who God is. If they can look up to Heaven and call out in faith of His love, how can I dare question that? 

Some things are greater than we can understand. Yes, it's true that some are burdened with heavier crosses than others. But the way I see it, sometimes we're given lighter burdens, to help others carry their own. 

I might not understand, but I don't need to. God knows what He's doing. At times, it might seem hopeless, but you and I can still spread light in this world. 

Because with God,

Anything is possible.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Pearl of Africa

Alright, I'm back. I'm alive.

I survived

I'm going to depart from my usual structure of posting, mainly because I wasn't thinking much about it. Jet lag is always an adventure, (usually involving excessive sleep), and then there were parties and all-day film shoots at obscure castles. You'd think my life would simplify, but no, it hasn't. As such, this overwhelming whirlpool of busyness broadsided me by surprise and thus, postponed most opportunities to write something. 

I do, however, intend to get a grip on this unwieldy life of mine and make it follow what I want it to do. We'll see how it goes. Anyways, let's get started.

Basically, going to Africa was one of the greatest experiences of my life, to put it simply. In Uganda, there was change, challenge, and choice. Things happened there, big things. Every day was packed with adventures, challenges, and lessons. More happened in a day, than I usually experience in a week. And frankly, I miss the difficulties each day provided. I need them. In Africa, there were absolutes. Concrete, maybe even harsh realities that presented me with two choices.

Either close my eyes or take an honest look at myself and change.

It was not a comfortable experience, but I loved it that way. It was not easy and honestly, how could I have believed it would be otherwise? Now that I'm home, that feeling of being stretched, of being challenged, has lessened somewhat. And I don't know if that's a good thing. I'm scared of losing all that I learned there, of backtracking. The problem is not being too uncomfortable, but rather being too comfortable.

Since I'm already very late in posting this, I'll try and summarize the trip as coherently as possible. If you want to ask me questions about it in the comments, I can probably answer in a more in-depth manner.

After hopping off the plane in Entebbe, we visited the only zoo in Uganda and boated across Lake Victoria. Then, we headed to St. Kizito's High School where we stayed for the rest of the trip. From there, we constructed a playground for a school of some 550 young students and dedicated it in honor of my uncle, who passed away many years ago. We also helped with the construction of a Science Lab by transporting material for the builders by hand. At the same school, we dedicated a soccer field that four members of our group had raised $10,000 to construct. Once it is fully completed, it will be one of the nicest soccer fields in Uganda and several professional teams there have already asked for permission to play on it. Other than that, we built relationships with the students of the nearby schools and handed out many supplies for the villagers close by. In addition, we visited the site of the Uganda Martyrs, Namugongo and the National Mall of Uganda in Kampala.

Of course, that's a very brief summary of what happened. There were many personal, individual events that occurred throughout the trip, but that would be hard to fit all into one post. I'll most likely be sharing more about what I learned from it over the next few weeks, but until then,

I'm going to bed.

(And before you ask "Where are all the pictures?!?!?" Have no fear, I'll be posting them on Google Plus soon.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Despite the Fear

Due to my absence in Africa, I've enlisted the help of Jonathan @Fishingforideas for a guest post. He was gracious enough to provide his take on the subject of courage...


Everyone’s afraid of something. Be it what others think of you, what your future holds, or even how you’re going to do on chemistry finals, fear is always there to take a hold of you. It’s ready to wrap you in its vise before you can think twice.
That brings up a good question, though. Is it okay to be afraid?

And I would say, absolutely. Think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He was so afraid and anxious that he sweated drops of blood. If our perfect and sinless Savior was afraid, then I think it’s safe to say that being afraid is okay.
But as Christians, what’s not okay is when we let our fear control our actions. What’s not okay is when our fear becomes so strong and powerful that we can’t summon the courage to do what God wants us to do.  What’s not okay is when our fear becomes more influential in our life than God.
When Jesus was in the garden the night He was crucified, sure He was afraid! I think we’d all agree that we would be afraid also if we were in that situation. But the point is: He trusted in His Father so much, that He was able to overcome His fear and accomplish God’s will.
And that’s a beautiful picture of what we as Christians should do when we’re afraid. We can take our cares to God, trusting in Him always. Drawing strength from Him.
And then, even if you’re still afraid, that’s where you find the courage to step up and do what God’s calling you to do.
Because the point isn’t sucking it up and being brave. The point is trusting in God despite your fear, and stepping out in faith that He will use you how He wants. Because God might not always take away your fear. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was afraid when he went to the cross. He didn’t want to be beaten and scourged and hung on a cross to die. But He chose to trust in the Father even though he was afraid.
And that’s when God can use you. When you’re so in tune with His will, that your fear takes a backseat. Sure, you might still be afraid, but when you’re confident that God has a plan through it all, your fear suddenly doesn’t seem to matter very much anymore.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, even when you face fear, you can always cling to faith.
And act in that faith according to His will, despite the fear.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Be Strong and Courageous

Hey, so I'm in Africa right now, so here's a guest post instead!
See you soon!

Hey there! *waves cheerfully* I’m known in the blogosphere as Blessing Counter. Just an ordinary country gal with an extraordinary view on life ;) I’m a Christian saved by grace, a daughter of the King. Ummmm….not sure what else to add to this. Oh! Well, if you’re interested in knowing, I’m 16, the oldest of 7 (soon to be 8), a lover of words, and I blog at Counting Your Blessings One by One .

When Thomas first asked me to write a post on courage, I was a little hesitant at first. Well, hesitant and a little awed at how God was working this out. You see, I was (and still am) struggling with this very thing. At this very moment, I’m learning to trust in the Lord and, well - have courage to be bold. So this will kinda be a retelling of some of the things the Lord has taught me in being bold for Him :)

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been very, very shy. Multiple times my parents have reminded me “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). This verse has been impressed deeply into both my mind and heart.

A few years ago, I thought that being shy was okay, since that’s how God made me, right? Well, yes and no. Now I don’t think being an introvert is wrong, no indeed! The world needs introverts just as much as it needs extroverts. But just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we should go into hiding and live like a hermit. Over the years, I’ve realized that it becomes wrong when timidity keeps you from spreading the Gospel to others. For what did the Lord command us? “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15),  and “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalms 96:3) Timidity shouldn’t be what holds you back from telling others about the awesome glory of God and His everlasting love for mankind.

There’s a certain amount of trust needed in being courageous. There are problems like wanting to do something but being afraid of what others will think of you. Or wanting to make new friends, but afraid of betrayal. Or thinking of telling the Gospel to someone, but afraid of making mistakes or the situation taking a wrong turn. What do we do during some of these scenarios that we will inevitably encounter during our lifetime? Trust in God! Know that our dear heavenly Father is watching us and He loves us for who we are. Not what others think we should be.  When things seem to be falling into a deep, dark hole, trust that God has everything in control. God has a reason for all these things to happen, even if it doesn’t look like it.

Same goes for trials. Life is hard. That’s the honest truth. You’re not the only one who struggles; everybody who ever lived, lives, or will live on this earth will struggle. Problems and temptations surround us every day. But God gives us courage to endure - Praise the Lord! Even when times seem to be impossibly difficult, know that God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. And we can use this courage in the Lord to help each other. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, and as Paul says, “[we should] encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). So don’t be daunted by the trials of this world. Even when things are getting dark, don’t worry. Have courage! The Lord is there for you. We are there for you.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Where Courage Leads

I'm living my life every day and I've noticed something.

It's not the big things that scare me, but rather, the small ones.

Perhaps that's just due to my ignorance. I've never really faced any massive faith-shaking challenges so far. Maybe, I'm unafraid of them merely because I don't know them for what they are.  But what if there's more to that? What if courage means more than just facing the biggest things that challenge us?

What if it's the small things that have the most influence on our lives?

After all, most people don't lose their salvation overnight . Most people don't reject God consciously out of malice or ingratitude. They simply don't care. Often, we're just washed in a sea of distractions and the blustering winds of temptations.

We're too busy working on the "important" stuff. I'd be praying, but wait, let me finish reading this blog post. Or I need to practice my piano, right now. Gosh, man this garden sure needs to be weeded. I'm sorry Mr. God, but I just have absolutely no time for you right now. (or ever, for that matter.)

Sometimes the hard things might just be the easiest ones to accomplish. How many of us would be jumping for the chance to go on a missions trip? How often will we donate money to great causes? How often will we volunteer for some sort of parish project?

How many of us will give up our music, our books, our blogs, our hobbies to offer our assistance around the home? To pray more than five minutes today? To read the Bible intentionally, not just reading some great quote off the internet?

See, courage isn't just facing the giants where they stand; it also means wading in the water to pick up five smooth stones.

It means saying no to those things that pull us away from good deeds, from better relationships, from a stronger faith.

It's fine and dandy to change someone else's life, it's harder still to change our own. It's easier to change where we live than to change how we live. It's easier to forgive than it is to say sorry. And that takes faith, it takes trust.

We have to acknowledge that the time we spend with God, the time we spend with others, is more important than any other thing we will accomplish today.

There's a line that's been pounded into my mind a thousand times. Yet, every time, it really is a rule a life to live by. Not just to think about, not just to apply selectively. It's something to have the courage to live out every day.

"Never let what you're doing, be more important than who you're doing it with."

Don't just pray because you have to, because that's what "good" Christians are supposed to do. Don't give money just because you need to be charitable. Don't give a second of your time to other people, if you can't even live peacefully with your own family.

Don't change the world, but leave yourself out of the equation. If you want to show real commitment, real love, real charity, then change your life in a way that directly affects your immediate lifestyle and surroundings. If I can fly halfway around the world to minister to the poor, but can't crack my Bible open in the mornings, then something is wrong. If all I can do is change the external aspect of my life, then I'm in bad shape.

I don't care how kind you are to your friends or strangers and yet treat your family like dirt. I don't care how much money you give if you can't find the time to be helpful in your daily life. It doesn't matter if you can quote the entire Bible for me but won't put it into practice.

It was not remarkable that Jesus died on a cross, but rather that He chose to. We are all called to do something. We can do great things with no love, or we can do small things with great love.

If you want to truly change someone's life for the better, then change your own first.

That takes real courage.

That shows real love.