Saturday, June 30, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Jeanine

Today's blogger for The 40 Day Fast is Jeanine. She works for Youth with a Mission, a great organization that I've been familiar with for many years, through various friends and acquaintances. Once again today, Jeanine's cause highlights heartbreaking and grim realities from our world, but also several different organizations that are working to change things. Please visit Jeanine's blog today and join us in another important way that we can make a difference in so many lives.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Stephen

Today's fasting blogger is Stephen. He writes:
As we live in the tension of the already-and-not-yet of the Kingdom of God, as we embrace its paradoxical nature and hope and wait for everything to be made new, let us live our lives today as evidence of the redemptive work of Christ so that others may hear and see the echoes of His Kingdom in all we say and do.
I've had the pleasure of spending time with Stephen, and he is another young person who gives me tremendous hope for the next generation, and what they are doing for the Lord. Please visit Stephen's blog today and join him in rebelling against indifference, as he highlights another great cause.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Stephanie

Today's blogger for The 40 Day Fast is Stephanie. She is discussing a very important issue which, quite frankly, is oftentimes the elephant in the middle of the room that nobody sees, or wants to see. We have all had friends or family members affected by this (or perhaps you yourself were), and the need for help and healing is tremendous. Please read Stephanie's blog today and prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you do to become an agent of help, hope, healing, and change in the lives around you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From Callousness to Healing

When I decided to take part in The 40 Day Fast, I knew immediately what organization I wanted to highlight. I prayerfully considered, and God confirmed it in my heart.

But the cause I wanted to focus on that this organization was helping with was much tougher for me. Not tough to decide on -- once again, that was easy and I believe the Lord has impressed it upon me. But it's tough because I need to make a very humbling confession about it right up front: For most of my adult life, I have been extremely calloused, cynical, apathetic, and sometimes downright mean and hateful about it.

The area of need I will be discussing is HIV/AIDS. The organization is Compassion International.

As I was studying the statistics, I was quickly overwhelmed by the gravity of the problem, but I'd like to highlight a few quick facts:
  • Since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in 1983, more than 25 million people have died from this deadly disease.

  • Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

  • More than 12 million African children and 15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

  • By 2010, it's projected that more than 25 million children worldwide will be orphaned by AIDS.

  • There are 14,000 new HIV infections each day: around 2,000 of those daily infections are in children younger than 15 years of age and 6,000 are in young people ages 15-24.

  • Currently, 38.6 million people in the world live with HIV; 24.5 million of those live in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • 2.3 million children younger than 15 years of age live with HIV.

  • Nine out of 10 children living with AIDS are African.

  • Females are 12-20 percent more vulnerable to HIV transmission than males of the same ages.

  • Every minute a child under 15 dies of an AIDS-related illness.

  • Each month, more people die from AIDS than were killed in the Southeast Asia tsunami that shocked the world in late 2004.

Sources and lots of additional facts and information: Here, here, here, here, and here.

How We Can Help
Okay, so the statistics are sobering and grim. But the whole point of this is healing, hope, and solutions. Compassion is an excellent choice for many reasons: They are Christ-centered. They are child-focused. They are church-based. Compassion provides a unique opportunity to help because they build credible and lasting relationships with people in the affected communities. Some practical steps available:

-Please consider sponsoring a child in a HIV/AIDS affected area. As you browse the child profiles on the web site, these are the ones with the red ribbons on the photo.

-If you have Flash installed, Compassion has a very nice portal on their site which also highlights this cause, provides direct links to relevant pages, and has a nice "Send to a Friend" utility to make it easy to spread the word to your friends.

-You can make a donation to Compassion's AIDS Initiative, either a one-time gift or a monthly commitment to help care for AIDS orphans.

-My wife and I sponsor a girl named Lidya in Ethiopia (an HIV/AIDS affected area) whose father has died, and whose mother is very sick. Please join us in praying for Lidya and her mother.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I spent many years with what was quite frankly a wrong heart regarding the people suffering from HIV/AIDS. I was told it was a judgment from God against sinful sex, or drug use, and I chose to believe that there was nothing I could do about it anyway. I heard about it so often in the news that I chose to harden my heart and close my ears. Eventually, I had to repent and acknowledge that the heart of Jesus was broken over this, and that if I really want to be part of His ministry on the earth, I need to be willing to extend His Grace freely to others, just as He has done to me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Kristin

Today, Kristin is the featured blogger for The 40 Day Fast. I actually met Kristin in person some weeks back after church one Sunday morning. I wasn't expecting it, I was quite shocked to look up and see her and Brody walking in my direction, so we exchanged a few quick words, and I let her know that I am a reader of her blog. (What a great couple they are -- she's this cute little thing with big piercing eyes, and Brody looks like this big intimidating mountain-man who could probably be really scary if he wanted to. Okay, but he's not scary at all, he's like a big teddy bear or something... uh, yeah. But he could be scary, that's my point.)

Kristin is another great example of why I, as a member of a slightly older and often-cynical generation, still have so much hope for the future. Seriously. For somebody who is still very young, she has so much wisdom -- and has great advice about instilling important values in our children.

Please read Kristin's blog today, as well as additional excellent information she has provided about an organization called HEART.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Shaun Groves

Today's blogger for The 40 Day Fast is Shaun Groves. I want to try and be careful not to fuss and gush too much over Shaun, but here's the simple and honest truth: Nobody has had more influence in my life in the last few years than Shaun. He often pokes good-natured fun at himself, and makes jokes about being a soft-rock star. And while Shaun's music is great, and I own his CDs, the truth is that I just generally don't listen to music that much these days. So it's not Shaun's music that has influenced me -- it's his writing.

Shaun is always challenging me, always challenging my preconceived notions about things, always asking pointed questions that have no easy answers, always inspiring me to dig a little deeper and to consider more carefully what the Kingdom of God really means to me, and what effect that Kingdom should be having on my life if I truly believe in Jesus like I say I do.

Please visit Shaun's blog today, and join me in being challenged and inspired.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - SAM

Todays' blogger for The 40 Day Fast is SAM. I have to admit that this is one of the things I'm really looking forward to during these 40 days, is getting to meet new people and be taught and challenged by new viewpoints. So please visit SAM's blog today and meet another person with an important story to tell, and important causes to highlight.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Brant Hansen

Yesterday, things got off to a great start for The 40 Day Fast, as Kat highlighted the problem of hunger-related death in the world, and more importantly, offered a practical way that we can start to do something about it -- one child at a time, through Compassion International.

Today's fasting blogger is Brant Hansen. An important personal note for me regarding Brant is this: It was Brant's trip to Africa last year that deeply moved and challenged me to start sponsoring children at Compassion International. If you've never read that Journal, I highly recommend it.

Then, you need to visit Brant's blog today. Brant has traveled to some of the most poverty-stricken and hopeless places in the world, and is a fantastically talented writer. If you've never read Brant's blog before, please trust me when I say that you need to bookmark it, and return often. You'll be glad you listened to me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - Kat

Today kicks off The 40 Day Fast. A group of bloggers, led by Kat (who organized this and is also the blogger fasting today) will each be taking one day to highlight specific causes and areas of need in the world, as well as the practical ways that we can all can help meet those needs.

So please visit Kat's site today as she provides useful information and inspiration. We really can be agents of change and have an impact on lives around the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Time to Simplify

Do you ever grow weary from the endless striving? Ever grow tired of yourself, the sound of your own voice, the disappointment of your own shortcomings, the constant grinding and thinking and analyzing?

I sure do. And I'm feeling that a lot lately. The sad thing is that I'm not sure I know how to simplify things. I'm craving a return to the basics. Ironically, I'll probably end up seeking some complicated way to accomplish it. You know, like 10 Steps to a Simpler Life or something. And by the time I reach Step 5, I've already made things so complicated that I've given up on it.

I'm thinking that I probably try to complicate things because then I don't have to actually do anything. I can just talk about it endlessly, and get a warm and fuzzy feeling, and feel like I have done something useful by thinking and talking about it.

I really liked a recent quote by one of my favorite bloggers, Shaun Groves, who had this to say when a young man wrote him an e-mail asking for advice about what God's will was for his life:

Whatever you decide to do for a living, decide to love God more than yourself, love the poor and the sick and the hopeless more than your own happiness, love the intern as much as the boss, love your kids more than a promotion, love your wife more than your laptop. This is God’s will for your entire life. To pull this off you’ll need to buy as little as you can. The more stuff you own the more you’ll feel you have to work, the more depressed you’ll be when work isn’t fun, and the more you’ll equate God’s will with what you do for work, and the less time you’ll have to discover all the other things life is supposed to be about.

Brilliant. It seems to me that this is reminiscent of Jesus' words in Matthew 22, "'You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'."

There's nothing at all wrong with intellectual pursuits, and studiously searching for more knowledge, and trying to make it all make sense and find out how we fit into the big picture. But there's a time and a season for every event under heaven. And for me, right now seems like a time to peel back the layers of complexity and return to the basics.