just a smile?

Late last week, a blogger whose posts I frequently read, challenged fellow readers to step up and serve others in their community this holiday season.  His challenge was simply for us to not try to focus so much on yourself (as much of our society does) and your family, but to reach out and actually make a difference in someone’s life.

One of his readers commented back to him saying that he/she helps the “least fortunate” just by “acting as if every encounter I have outside of my ‘Christian bubble’ will be with someone who has never met someone so overjoyed by the love of Christ”.  While I do not disagree that we should always exemplify the characteristics of God and should be full of Christ’s love when we meet others, I do have a slight problem with this being a solution to helping out the least fortunate.

Every week at The Friendship House, where I volunteer, I encounter many people who have run out of money.  Most are losing their homes, out of work, disabled, elderly, or hungry.  I see children who who can’t get well because their parents cannot afford medicine.  I see woman humiliated and crying because they’ve never before had to ask anyone for food.  Men, living on the street or in hotel rooms, beg for a jacket as the weather turns cold.

Now, what would happen if I just listened to their stories, and then joyfully smiling only offer them the hope of Jesus Christ?

I would lose my entire Christian testimony!  A Christ-follower does not mean only offering them the opportunity to accept Christ as their Savior.  Just because I lead them in a prayer, does not mean that all their troubles disappear, that food falls on their tables, or their light bills get paid.  A Christ-follower would listen to their stories, cry with them, and then offer them food (or money or clothes) first!

I heard it said once (sorry, I cannot remember where) that before you can talk spiritual matters with someone, you first need to take care of them emotionally and physically.  Until someone’s basic needs are met, they won’t listen to you.  And I’ve found that to be true.  Show them first that we care about them, then explain why we care…that Christ compells us, that his love moves us to help.

Isn’t this what Jesus did?  Most of the stories we read of Jesus shows him reaching out to meet the physical and emotional needs of the crowd.  He didn’t start out by saying “repent first” and then I’ll heal you.  He healed them FIRST and then, once they were physically taken care of, he brought up their spiritual life (Go and sin no more).  He didn’t just smile & act overjoyed with love; he got his hands dirty to meet their needs…showing love through action.

Guns-N-Roses & Dr. Pepper

I don’t drink soda (except for the occasional Root beer), but most of my family members are addicted enjoy the occasional Dr. Pepper. I know they’re not alone.  So as my gift to you, I pass on this bit of information…it should make many of you quite excited.

Guns-N-Roses newest album, “Chinese Democracy”, began production in 1994 but never released.  In March of this year, the Dr. Pepper company made a promise that if the long-anticipated album “dropped” in 2008 they would provide free Dr. Pepper for everyone.

Fast forward to this coming Sunday – Chinese Democracy will go on sale.

So will Dr. Pepper follow through on their promise?  You betcha!  Starting Sunday morning at 12:01 am, coupons for free Dr. Pepper will be available from the Dr. Pepper website.  But you’ll have to hurry and not forget – the coupons are only available for 24 hrs.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s where I got the stories…

Fox News

Yahoo News

Believe me now?  Then sit back and be a pepper, Dr.’s Orders.

Tuesday Tributes

The more I become involved in local outreach and mission opportunities, the more I become acquainted with various ministries around the globe. Starting today, and every Tuesday from now on, I will introduce you to a ministry that I regularly follow. My goal is that you will begin to pray for these ministries, and perhaps find one (or more) that moves you to action – either by getting involved physically or financially. Most of the people behind these ministries work long, hard hours; some even put their own lives at risk. Let them encourage you as they’ve encouraged me.

Today’s Tuesday Tribute: HOOKERS FOR JESUS

The sex industry is booming in America. Pornography, strip joints, and prostitutes line our streets and entangle millions of people in its web. It’s a messy business where addictions and abuse abound. For many involved, it’s a trap they can’t escape.

For over 11 years, Annie Lobert worked as a prostitute and exotic dancer in Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Minnesota. What started out as an alluring lifestyle – parties, money, presents, fame – turned into a spinning web of drugs, abuse, and sex. On the outside, she lived glamorously and felt powerful, but inside she raged with shame, loneliness, and feelings of worthlessness. She longed for love…real love. And she found it in Jesus Christ. Annie tells her story in great detail on her website. You can read it by clicking HERE. She holds nothing back as she reveals her deepest struggles and the ugly truths of the sex industry.

Now, as a passionate Christian, Annie’s one desire is reaching out to women and men “who are currently associated with or working as prostitutes, porn stars, pimps, and exotic dancers in order to help them transition successfully out of the sex industry.” Her Las Vegas ministry, Hookers for Jesus, offers services and programs that are “mission driven and are designed to minister healing and restoration of individuals and families affected by sexual abuse and trauma linked to professional and consumer involvement in the sex industry.”

Hookers for Jesus guides prostitutes, pimps, dancers, and porn stars into a life of freedom, walking with them throughout the entire journey. The sex industry workers do not just hear the message of Christ and then are abandoned to figure out everything else on their own. Hookers for Jesus offers continual guidance and help, including “case management services, criminal justice support; juvenile offender mentorship; community awareness seminars and workshops; individual health and wellness programs; skills assessment, retraining, and career development assistance; and human services programming.” They also minister in prisons, on the streets, juvenile detention centers, and even adult entertainment conferences!

An exciting event currently taking place is the opening of a new home for women. This home will serve as a transitional house for women seeking a safe environment as they fight to leave the sex industry. The Destiny Center just opened its doors in October and will begin accepting residents this month!

There are many exciting things happening through Hookers for Jesus. God’s faithfullness has abounded as they find creative and effective outlets to minister to this virtually unreached group of people. Please go to their website www.HookersforJesus.net and spend time looking around. Pray for them. Get involved!

Thanks, Annie and Hookers for Jesus volunteers, for giving yourself over so selflessly to this ministry and for getting your hands dirty so that lives can be saved!

how to deal

In July, when Josh announced that he was ready to return to Texas for good, I knew that I was in for some emotionally hard times.  I had my dream in my grasp, and then it was suddenly threatened to be taken from me.

This experience was not my first.  It happened once before in 2001.  After attending a missionary training school in the Czech Republic, Josh and I returned home to begin pursuing full-time mission work in Ukraine.  After looking into it a bit more, Josh decided that the timing was not yet right for us to go do full-time work.  I was devastated…so much so that I allowed myself to listen to Satan’s lies about worthlessness and discontentment.  I didn’t have a career or a plan of what I was going to do.  I became bitter and angry towards my husband for taking away my dream.  I felt like a horrible person and hated myself, my marriage, and my situation in life to the point that I became suicidal.

So when Josh mentioned that he wanted to come back home to Texas this summer, after only 4 months in Ukraine, I remembered all that I had gone through 7 years before and knew there was only one thing for me to do if I was going to survive this 2nd heartbreak – run to the throne of God and allow him to carry me through this fire.

As Josh was contemplating the move, I drowned myself in scripture, worship, and prayer.  From those moments with my Lord, I received 2 very distinct and profound words:

1.  Proverbs 14:1 – The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands. This verse has hit me harder than any other verse.  Through it I came to realize that no matter what decision Josh makes (at the time, whether to stay in Ukraine or return to Texas), success will ultimately be on MY shoulders.  If I want my “house” – my marriage, my relationship with God, my ministry – to stay strong and thriving, then it is completely, 100% my responsibility to see that it stays strong.  It is MY actions, MY words, and MY attitudes that will determine the outcome of any situation.  As the head of the household, Josh is to make the decisions that he sees best.  But it is my response to his decisions that make or break my “house”.

I really had two reactions to Josh’s decision to come home:  fight it with all my might to stay in Ukraine, or submit to his decision and return quietly.  Which one would build my house and which would tear it down?  I chose to quietly follow.

2.  No matter what I pray concerning the entire exodus back to Texas, I hear one phrase over and over again, “It’s going to be okay.”

And it has.

Let’s say Thanks

No matter what your opinions are about the war in Iraq or the way President Bush has handled the war, our troops serving in this war zone (and those in other countries) deserve our respect, support, and prayers.

My father-in-law sent me a link that caught not only my attention, but made me excited to see that there is a company that supports our soldiers and is making it easy for YOU to show your support as well.

Xerox has set up a website where you can send a free personalized postcard to an American soldier serving overseas.  It only takes a few moments to choose your card (created by children and teenagers around the U.S.), write a simple thank you (or choose from one of the prewritten messages), and then submit it to Xerox.  They will then print and mail the card for you.  I did it and it only took me about 2 minutes…an extremely small amount of time, especially compared to the months and years of time that many soldiers spend fighting in foreign lands.

Don’t hesitate.  Go right now to Let’s Say Thanks and send a card to one of our troops…or send several!

National Blogging Month – a little late

November is national blogging month, which means that bloggers are to try and post something everyday. I know, I know…I’m 14 days behind.  I almost didn’t do this, but I really need something to motivate me to write everyday; so I thought I would try to finish out the last 16 days with some writing.

It seems that the only thing I’ve really been posting are updates…I’ll go a week or two without saying anything, and then I’ll just write down what’s happened in my life.  My goal is not to just bore you with mundane everyday details of my life back here in Texas, unlike when I lived in Ukraine and mundane, everyday life wasn’t so boring.  But, now that i’m here you really don’t want to hear about my trip to the local grocery store because, well, you all have the same experiences.  I hope to get back to the place where my writings have some benefit…where I’ve learned a lesson or am questioning something or had a unique experience.

I’ve probably had a few of those experiences lately, but i haven’t really been contemplating them.  My life is so full of unanswered questions and foggy confusion that I’ve really just been focused on getting up in the mornings and making it through the day.  It’s not a deep depression where I’m struggling with my existence, it’s more that I have big life-altering decisions to make, and I don’t know what directions to choose. Over the next 16 days I’m sure you’ll hear more about what I’m facing.

I’m so thankful that I’m surrounded with amazing friends and a patient, supportive husband.  I really don’t know how I would be making it through without them to encourage me and keep me level headed.

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