Friday, August 24, 2012

Girlcott #2: Girl on a Mission

Okay, I know I said I would start small, and I had an idea in mind that I wanted to do for this week's girlcott, but then I read something on Facebook, and all of a sudden I knew with that sort of “only God could have given me this idea” feeling that this was going to be my girlcott this week. I am so excited to share this with you that I was literally bouncing off the walls explaining it to my husband last night. The thing I'm supporting today doesn't even fit into just one specific category, so I'll try to keep my list of things we're supporting as brief as possible, despite my excitement. Okay, here goes:

As a Christian, I support...
… missions.
… faith in God's provision.
… human worth.
… basing our identities in Christ.
… believers encouraging one another.

Before I explain those, let me introduce you to a woman I know. Even at first glance, she is hard to ignore. She is tall and thin, with a graceful boyish figure and a ready, mischievous smile. The first time I saw her, she had a mohawk, dyed in various colors, and was sporting it as proudly as any punker ever would. Being a former punk myself (way back when!) this immediately drew me to her, and I was eager to become friends with this fearless young lady who sported a brown belt in Tai Chuan Do. As the weeks and classes passed, we got to know each other a little better, and I learned many things about this woman. She loves to laugh, and is incredibly ticklish. Despite that, she is tough and disciplined, and eagerly takes on even black belts with an energy that cannot be squashed. She has a several sisters and an older brother and loves them with quiet but fierce loyalty. Perhaps most striking to me is the fact that she is incredibly unique, and fearless. Something I've always struggled with as a woman is the concept of how others view me, a question that can feel literally disabling on my worst days. But this young lady walked into the dojo with her head literally shaved, and as everyone else blinked in surprise, she just grinned and went to practice her katas. Whenever we have a Bible study that she feels led to comment on, she does so with an insight and directness that speak directly to her close relationship with the Father. And she is such an encouraging person to be around. Every time we run laps (which is pretty much every class), she is there smiling at me or giving me an encouraging high five or “Way to go!” at the end of it that almost makes ten laps of high-knees worth it (almost). Her beauty, faith, courage, encouragement, energy and discipline in the dojo have all inspired me to do my best and try my hardest, even when being the oldest or least in-shape person in the room has made me consider quitting. And if my experience with her is any gauge, I'm sure she has the same effect on every person she comes into contact with.

Now a few months ago, I learned that this young lady is planning on taking a mission trip. I don't know about you, but when I hear about young people taking a mission trip, my first thought is the type of “mission trip” I took in college: spending a few days working hard at painting houses in an orphanage in Mexico, then take the rest of the week to head out to the beach and shops (oh, and “hand out tracts,” of course). In other words, there's often an equal amount of tourism and evangelism. Perhaps we could even coin a new word and call it evango-tourism. Regardless, while it's a wonderful thing, it tends not to require much commitment on the part of the missionary. Even if they do spend the entire week working their kiesters off, it's only a week, and then they head back to the comfort of their normal lives, secure in the knowledge that they did their time for God and will be blessed accordingly. So I'm sorry to say that was the first thought I had when she said she was raising money to go on a mission trip. Evango-tourism. But then she went on to explain that she would be leaving to live in Thailand for six months, and my eyes popped wide, my shallow little idea of “mission trips” flying out the window like a fat startled pigeon. She explained further, that she was being sent by a group called Adventures in Missions to go work with an organization called SHEThailand (Self Help and Empowerment), a ministry that focuses on forming relationships with girls and women working in the sex trade in Thailand, helping them to discover their worth in the eyes of their Heavenly Father and providing a new life for them through jobs making jewelry with the ministry. I went onto SHE Thailand's website and read some of the testimonials, and was so struck by the beauty of what this ministry is doing. Trust me, if you read those testimonials, have a box of tissues close by. The stark realization of the treatment some of these women, children, and “lady-boys” are exposed to on a nightly basis is horrific, and the friendship, faith, and hope they find through forming friendships with workers in SHE is a touching picture of redemption through relationship.

And this woman, this fastastically quirky, confident, strong, beautiful, and faithful woman, wants to go be a part of this. Only one problem: she still needs $1300 to pay for her trip. Is she worried though? Well, yes, we all tend toward worrying when time is coming up and we don't know what will happen if we don't make the cut. She hasn't been able to ascertain exactly what will happen to her next six months worth of plans if she doesn't raise the money. But whereas I would be practically frantic to still be a thousand dollars short two days before I leave the country, this cool cucumber merely uttered a prayer request and smiled her usual mischevious smile at Tai Chuan Do on Tuesday night. She knows it is in God's hands, and she trusts his provision as much as she initially trusted his calling for her to go. She knows he will provide.

So what do I want to do about it? Well, I've already been giving money to help her meet her goal. So far I've given her three weeks worth of my “allowance”, $60 in total. And I wish it could have been more, but I found out about it rather late and didn't have the chance to manage my cashflow as I wanted. But as I mentioned before, I have other resources: I have a blog and a Facebook. And I have such great respect and admiration for this woman that I am determined to help get her over there to Thailand, because I look at her and just know that God created her for this express purpose of giving the same encouragement and confidence to other women that she has given to me. So I am dedicating this Girlcott to my friend, Gloriel, to help her raise funds for her mission trip. She leaves Monday, so not a minute can be spared if we want to help her get over there and working for the Lord. I encourage you to take a look at your wallet and bank account and prayerfully and sacrificially consider if you can spare any amount to give to her. If you can, then go to the following website and follow the instructions below. If you are unable to do so, never fear: you can still help! Gloriel has asked above all for prayer, that she receive the money before time is up, that she be safe and effective in Thailand, and that the women she is working with will see God through her. So whether or not you give, and before you even leave this page, would you please say a prayer to God in thanks for His having created such a wonderful person, and asking Him to protect her and use her extravagantly for the glory of His kingdom? And if you want still more to do, here's an idea for you: check out SHE Thailand's onlinestore, and consider buying some of the beautiful handmade jewelry for yourself or a friend, and help to support these victimized women as they form a new life based on God's love for them (this stuff would make some excellent Christmas gifts!).

To donate toward Gloriel's mission fund:
  1. Go to her Adventures in Missions Online Donation Page
  2. Under “Choose Program”, select “The Passport (formerly Real Life)”
  3. For the Participant's name, type in “Gloriel Taylor”
  4. Enter the amount you would like to donate (NOTE: While they do accept debit and credit cards, the most effective gift is in the form of a bank note, since it bypasses the card charges to the recipient, so if you are able to do so, I would recommend it.)
  5. Select “Continue”.
  6. Fill out all the information on the next page (this is just so they can charge your account and send you a receipt).
  7. Say a prayer that the money would be used effectively and thank God for sending His willing servants out harvest the souls that are crying out to Him!

I'll be checking back to see how much people are donating, so if you'd like to list the amount you've donated in the comments, I'll keep a tally here: 
$60 so far! ($1300 still needed.)

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

พระเยซู“สิทธิอำนาจทั้งสิ้นในสวรรค์และในแผ่นดินโลกทรงมอบไว้แก่เราแล้ว ดังนั้นจงไปสร้างสาวกจากมวลประชาชาติ ให้เขารับบัพติศมาใน พระนามของพระบิดา พระบุตร และพระวิญญาณบริสุทธิ์ สอนเขาให้เชื่อฟังทุกสิ่งที่เราสั่งพวกท่านไว้ และแน่นอน เราจะอยู่กับท่านทั้งหลายเสมอไปตราบจนสิ้นยุค”

Friday, August 17, 2012

First Girlcott: The Word of God

(For my initial brainstorming on the meaning of and purpose behind a girlcott, see the previous entry.)

Okay, so I promised myself that however tempting it might be to launch into some epic girlcott for huge sociopolitical reform or something, I was going to start small, in order to encourage myself and others that change actually is possible, even with the limited resources and time of a SAHM. So my first girlcott ever is a total no-brainer:

As a Christian, I support the Word of God!

There is one scripture I've based pretty much my entire faith and Christian life off of, and it is 2nd Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That pretty much says it all right there. If we're working through girlcotts to try and show what we are for, we should of course start with the Word of God, the Scriptures.

And frankly, I would never have had the idea for girlcotts if I hadn't been really delving into the word lately. Now I don't know about you but the hardest part for me about reading the Bible every day is pretty much my lack of familiarity with it. If I don't have a study of some sort of plan, I never know where to begin, or what sort of verses would be useful for me to review and apply for what I'm going though at the time. And that's probably the best thing I've discovered about the Youversion Bible app: the reading plans. Currently, I just finished the 3-day Book of James reading plan, I'm halfway through the 5-day Parenting focus, and I've read 0.8% of the one-year Chronological Bible Reading Plan. In fact, several of the verses I included in my initial idea post on girlcotts were pulled from my Youversion Reading Plans. So it seems only fair that my first girlcott, a movement to support something that glorifies God to a watching world, would be supporting a tool to help Christians get more into the word of God.

I promised myself I'd actually look into things I supported, though, so here's a bit of the associations and affiliations I found connected with LifechurchTV, the organization that produces the Youversion Bible app, and as always, if you have more information, please feel welcome to share it with us in the comments!

LifechurchTV is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, an originally Swedish religious movement with Lutheran roots that is now a pretty fast growing evangelical movement in North America. I checked them out on Wikipedia, and I know you're probably rolling your eyes, but if there's one place you can usually find any dirt on something or someone, it's that gossip-based website. Anyway, I couldn't find a problem with it, and even if I had, the app is free, so they don't gain any money or anything from it. It is simply an effort to help people get more into the Word of God daily, and contains many different translations of the Bible so that pretty much anyone of any denomination can use it.

Being as how it is a free app, that also kind of limits what I can do to support it, but I haven't actually written a review for it on the app store, so I'm going to go do that, and will probably recommend it to anyone I happen to bump into today who owns a smartphone or tablet. If you have a smartphone, I encourage you to download it and start getting into the Word or check out their topical or other reading plans. And if you don't own a smartphone; no worries! A regular old Bible works just as well, and you can still check out their reading plans online or download the app onto your PC or laptop using their Windows 8 app. Biblegateway is also an excellent website to read the Bible in different versions and does offer a few reading plans, though not as many. Anyway, I'm going to continue reading my daily Bible plans, and I'll see you next Friday for the next girlcott!

Can you think of any other ways you could support the Word of God to a watching world this week?

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Girlcott, anyone?

So I've been thinking a lot lately (read: nearly obsessively) about ways to live out the things I believe as far as how Christians could improve their behavior in the world and in the Church. For those who haven't been following my Facebook status feeds, etc., here's the low-down:

Obviously, with the elections coming up as well as the whole Chick-Fil-A Gay Rights fiasco recently, Facebook has been a hotbed for sociopolitical and theological arguments, even moreso than usual. My feed is constantly flooded with articles, status posts, and pictures that seem to contribute to the utter polarization of almost every issue under the sun. This friend is reposting a picture that encourages everyone to "Like if you support traditional marriage" (the picture portrays a young, mid-twentiesish white male and female embracing-- not exactly what I have in mind as "traditional marriage"... at least not so exclusively),
and that friend is posting a viral meme that says "You’d never see that many Christians lined up to help at a food bank or homeless shelter. And that’s something Jesus actually said to do" (a statement that is at least as factually flawed as it is emotionally provoking). 
Then of course, you have the comments, for or against what is being stated/posted. We wont even get into those except to say that they are often apparently knee-jerk reactions motivated by fear or anger (on both sides), and are often downright rude to both the poster and anyone who happens to agree/disagree with them. Now I'm not saying that these are the only things being posted on Facebook, nor are they largely being posted by one group or another. In fact, the most disturbing thing I've seen is the fact that it is literally impossible to distinguish one "group" from another, based on what they are posting/commenting. Nowhere is this more disturbing than when Christians, or at least people who claim to be Christians, are posting things that are meant to shame thier own church and ridicule at least the majority of their fellow Christians.

Now maybe I'm just being old-fashioned. I never could get into the spirit of passive-aggressive demotivational posters, and politics (or really any subject that turns kind, reasonable people into slavering narcissistic maniacs) has always turned me off. But it seems to me that the Church, at the very least, should be following Jesus' command to "Love one another," if for no other reason than to attain his promise that thereby everyone will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). If we can't even manage to love other Christians, it's no wonder that the world sees us as cold, heartless bigots. 

Part of the problem, I think, is that in our attempt to avoid being silent in the face of sin and temptation which permeates our culture (and has always permeated every culture since the Fall of Man), we get into this knee-jerk naysaying mindset. We are slow to approve of any good thing the world comes up with, but we know what sin looks like, and we choose to speak up against it at the first opportunity. I definitely got into this mindset as a baby Christian: I was new in my faith and just beginning to understand how differently I would have to live now in order to please God. And like a child who has been told by thier parents what words they arent allowed to say and then hears another adult say it, I spoke up at the most inappropriate of times, claiming that "That's a sin" and "God told me that's a bad word/thing". I understand why we do that: it is because we fear sin and the death it brings, emotionally, physically, spiritually, sociopolitically, and every other "-ally". And rightly so. James 1:17 tells us that sin produces death, and death is something mankind has feared since it first entered our world. I would also like to believe that the reason Christians are so keen to correct the world is that not only do we care about others' souls, but we also recognize that "no man is an island," so to speak, and every sin committed by a person affects those around them to some extent (even if they seem like private sins that don't hurt anyone-- for more on that line of reasoning, C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is an excellent read!), and so we are concerned not only for the sinner, but the others that they are influencing. 

But the reality remains that Christians are very much known for what we are against (i.e. homosexuality, pornography, atheism, etc.), rather than what we are for (i.e. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, sacrifice, purity, generosity, etc.). True, the media delights much more in giving face-time to Christians protesting things, and you'll rarely hear in any major newspaper about Christian groups ministering to homosexuals dying of aids, building homes for and feeding the homeless, or giving away their earthly possessions to those less fortunate. But that shouldn't be an excuse for us. If we were truly living in such a way as to show those things we value and live for, the media would not be able to prevent that message of God's love from getting through. And that's the crux that I've been personally stewing over. I want to live in such a way as to show what I believe: that there is no God but YHWH, and that he is GOOD and LOVING, and MERCIFUL, and JUST! I'm tired of being an "anti" Christian; I want to be a "for" Christian. 

Anyway... I came up with a tentative idea. Bear with me, it's kinda silly, but here it is: a girlcott. 

No worries, this isn't me going all feminist or anything, but rather a play on words for "boycott" meant to indicate that what I'm doing is the exact opposite of it. I was thinking that maybe for a month (to begin with, and maybe more if it catches on), I would pick something weekly to support that does exemplify those things I am for: love, peace, generosity, etc.

Now, I've talked before about how I am a woman of somewhat limited means to support the things I believe in. I don't have a lot of money, and with a kid and an at home daycare (not to mention only one working vehicle), I have pretty much no time to go out and volunteer my time in lieu of money. But here's what I do have: I have $20 a week at my disposal, which my husband has encouraged me to set aside from my regular income to do with as I wish. I have a love of baking, knitting, and making jewelry. I have a Facebook account and a blog, which, as I have indicated above, are both effective means of spreading a message, at least within my own social circle. And I have a God whose imagination and innovation far surpass my own and whom I am certain will be willing to bless any effort I make to glorify Him. So...

Starting this week, I am going to start a Girlcott, supporting things that glorify God and the things He stands for with any and all of the resources at my disposal. Who's with me? (This is the part where you raise a victorious fist and cheer.)

Do you have any suggestions for things I can look into girlcotting? Remember, they have to meet the criteria of being described using most or all of the fruit of the spirit!

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23