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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision (Part 1)

Why Weekend?  What and why?

I have been trying to figure out when I will be blogging and if I will have occasional themes.  A part of this internal discussion was whether or not I would post on the weekends or not.  I know a lot of blogger don’t.  I just didn’t know until we were driving home from LA’s grandparents’ house (a long enough trip to have thinking time).  God gave the the thought about a weekend theme.  And that is the theme of “Why”.

“OneCupofJoe guy, ‘why’ is not a theme.”

Yes, by itself it is not a theme.  But my “why” is going to be a challenge.  These challenges are going to be based challenges God has been pounding my heart with as of late (and more that I have no doubt will continue to come).  They will vary from week to week, for the most part–except the first two, and will usually hover on issues in our world at large.

I have decided not to rest solely on the “Christian Spin” for this…actually I am going to avoid that as much as I can.  Why?  Because, though I do see everything I will write about as things Christians need to take a stand and fight for, I see all of these things as human issues that we all need to view a little more closely and work together to make changes.

That said, I will probably have my normal references to God and faith, especially when it comes to why I have taken on some of these causes, but please read on.  It is just a means to explain how I got there and have been challenged by these issues. However, these things are challenges that we all have to face.

There is so much hurting and need in the world.  It is not fair for us to hoard the resources and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself.  I think it is almost just as wrong for us to wait for governments to step in and fix things.  To paraphrase something I heard at a meeting about adoption and foster care this week, “These are not government problems, they are [HUMAN] problems.”  It is time for us to step out of our comfort and reach out to those less fortunate around our world (which is a vast majority of the residents of Earth).

So, I will start with my first “Why”.  This is going to be a two-parter.  I will delve into it more next week.  Because you have soldiered on through the long explation of my weekend theme, I will reward you by just dealing with the “set-up” of this challenge.

Why is there so much EXTREME POVERTY around the world?

Early this year, mid-January to be exact, God caused a radical transformation on my heart. Through a variety of sources and ways, he pretty much changed my perspective on almost everything. I will write more on this later (be on the look out for “My Time Travel Testimony”). One of the things that he changed is how I viewed the rest of the world in the light of poverty.

Now, I have always had a want to help those in need. I have sponsored children through both Compassion International and WorldVision (seperately most of the time, but for a little while at the same time). I have given to various ministries, worked at an emergency boys shelter for three years, and currently work at a school in a low-income area (going into my sixth year there). Despite all of this, God needed to teach me WHY this was important and lead me to take these things even more seriously.

I would love to get in to the Biblical reasons for why people in extreme poverty should be important to you, but like I said, I am going to take a different perspective. I want to appeal to believers and non-believers alike. I want to grip your human heart and make you want to reach out to the world because it is the right thing to do.

Did you know that as members as the “civilized industrial west”, statistics say that we (almost all Americans…even those considered poor) are a part of the 20% of the world’s income earners. 80% of the world lives off of less than $10 a day!! $10!!! But even more shocking…just under 50% of the world’s population lives on around $2.50 a day. WE PAY MORE FOR A BURGER FOR ONE MEAL.

Let me just say this. This is wrong! So wrong that I can barely stomach it. Even as you read this, can you believe it? And guess what? As bad as many people in the US may have it, even our poorest would be considered blessed in most of the rest of the world.

Before I move on, I will just say that I am by no means saying we should not support the poor in our country. Not in the least. I am even more motivated for those around me than I ever have. BUT, the rest of the world needs to be a part of your “giving/caring deal”. You CAN NOT just pretend the extreme poverty in the world is not there. You can’t. You just can’t.  (If you do want a perspective on poverty around us, though,  check out these blog posts: Saul 1, Saul 2, Saul 3, and Final Reflections on Saul.)

Now back to the numbers. Look at them again. Around 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50. A lot of people pay more for a cup of coffee. If I lost $2.50, I probably wouldn’t tear up the house to look for it or retrace my steps for the day (maybe, but not likely). This is insane. The fact that 30% of those who live off of more than $2.50 still live on less than $10 should make us all really take stock of our lives. 80% of the world makes a living on less than $10!! I would look for $10 if I lost it, but I wouldn’t cry over it if I didn’t find it.

“But, OneCup guy, these people don’t need as much to live on, so it is not as bad as you are making it out to be.” True and false. Yes, it takes less for most to scratch out an exsistance, BUT it still takes more than $10 a day…and way more than $2.50!!

I won’t get into the statistics on mortality, health, nutrition, and education this week, but just know, that you really can’t excuse being okay with the disparity between the top 20% and bottom 80%! You can’t. You just can’t.

If I am not mistaken (and I am pretty sure I am not) we live in a time of unparalelled resources.  Why are there so many people literally dying becuase 20% of the population lives in extreme comfort?  This is not okay.  This is something we can do something about.  Seriously.  What can you give up?  What can you do without?  What can you sacrafice?  It is more than easy to help.  There are so many organizations out there…they just need the resources we are hoarding.  Think about it.

I am going to be pushing WorldVision because I believe in them, I love the way they do what they do, and know they are making a difference, but I don’t care who you go through.  Just do something.  Your comfort is not worth other people dying for.

Okay, I have set this up. I will get into the just mentioned stats next weekend. I just hope your eyes are opened a little.

If this is something you would like to follow up on for yourself, let me lead you to WorldVision’s website (www.worldvision.com). I will talk much more about this organization next week, but the heart of their mission is to change the dynamics of poverty around the world one community at a time. Check them out. Please sponsor a child if you feel so led. Please do. And let me know if you did, I want to encourage you in this! It is an awesome thing!

Oh, and click on the picture to find out a really cool thing going on with WorldVision for the next week or so.  Awesomeness!

To be continued next weekend!

Performancing Metrics

 

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The Monitor and the Incredible Yelling Boy

I am a teacher. This is summer. I am home. I know, I know, teachers have such a cushy job getting off at 3:30 and getting summers off. I won’t get into all of that here, but as most teachers I work hard and consider the summer “comp. time.”

I say all of this in order to “brag” about the fact that I have gotten to spend all three of my two-and-a-half year-old son’s summers with him. I call it our Daddy/Son Summers. I love it. It is not always relaxing, to say the least, but it is good and worth every minute of fun and fustration.

Before I continue, let me throw this in…from this point on in the blog I will be referring to my son as NB and my wife as LA (per LA’s request to leave their names out of it).

Okay, where was I. Oh yes. As a father, even early on, I realized that I was going to learn a lot more about myself and my relationship to God than I was ever going to be able to teach my little buddy NB. Summers have become almost a time of self-reflection as much as they have been quality time for me and the boy. Many a lesson has been learned through our relationship.

This is the story about one that happened this week.  And it is a message that hit me like a thud to the back of the head…God likes to teach me that way A LOT.

Our daily routine this summer has usually boiled down to this:  get up, eat, drive Mommy (LA) to work, find a “man-venture” to go on (usually the Zoo, park, or just stopping at various stores), home, lunch, nap, “learning time”, then pick up Mommy from work and spend the evenings together.  Did you see that list?  There is little to no daddy-down-time built in, except for during the nap.  Nap time is my time to get things done or rest.  Best case senario is that I am not tired and can actually do some things that need to get done (including grab a shower since that is not quite penciled into the formerly stated schedule).

The length of naps vary, but I can usually count on a minimum of 2 hours.  This means I need to budget my time wisely.  So if I want to rest a little while and get anything done (especially the shower that LA would prefer me to have each day), I need to keep a watchful eye on the ticking clock…and I need to be honest, I almost always choose to take a little bit (or a lot) of rest time during this alloted span.

Occasionally, NB’s sleeping schedule does not agree with mine.  When this happens, I have to get creative.  It has not been too often, but it has happened enough that I have had to start teaching him how to play in his room by himself.  What I will do is go into his room, talk to him about needing him to stay and play, make sure he has plenty to play with or books to look at, and then listen closely to the monitor (or turn it way up if I am taking a shower).

The day that this story happens, NB did not seem real jazzed about this idea.  He wanted to come out his room and hang out with Daddy.  So, I talked to him a little longer and even gave him a special treat by having the dog stay in there with him and keep him company (you have no idea how much he LOVES that dog!  I will have to write a blog post just about that someday).  He seemed to get a big kick about that, so all seemed good to go.  I told him I loved him and that I would not be long, and then reassured him that if he needed anything I would hear him through the monitor and be right there.

I proceded to prepare to take the required daily shower.  Before I could move much past stepping into the bathroom I hear, “DADDDDDDY!”  I wait a few seconds.  Nothing.  I took another step into the bathroom.  “DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY!”  I rush to his room.

I get there, and he is just grinning at me.  “What’s wrong, buddy,” I ask.

NB lifts his arm and points, “Ebow (elbow for those that do not speak two year-old).  Bed hurt me.  Bad bed.”  He points to the footboard.

I go in an look…and of course see nothing.  I talk with him for a second and figure out he bumped his elbow on the bed.  I comfort him, scold the bed, and then encourage him to be careful.  I again reassure him that I am just on the other side of the monitor, and then am off to attempt my shower.

This time, success.  I am able to take a quick shower (we’re talking like five minutes here…I knew the boy was getting antsy, so I needed to try to just get as clean as I can in the shortest possible amount of time).

All seems peaceful in the Land of Two…until I am in the process of drying.  There is a stirring.  I hear talking.  I assume he is talking to the dog.  As I start to get dressed, it happens.

“DADDY!!  ALKJGJDKGJ ADLGKJG DIGNDOITMG!!!!!!  DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY!!!!”

Okay, that middle part is not what he said, but I have no idea what the jibberish there was, so that is my interpretation.

I hurry to throw the rest of my clothes on.  The whole time I am getting dressed the “daddy” and jibberish continues.  Actually, it started to get kind of funny.  It started to become clear that there was nothing really wrong and that he was just trying to get my attention.  He got louder and louder and the talking became more and more random.

I stopped worrying and slowed down with my getting myself together.  I was even able to make sure that I put on deodorant (something else that LA prefers me to do each day, as well).  The yelling continued, but I knew everything was okay.  He would have to learn to wait.  He had everything that he needed and there was no imminent danger.  He needed to learn to trust me.

I went to his room, and of course he was estatic to see me, but before we played I talked to him about not needing to yell to get my attention and how he needs to trust that Mommy and Daddy are aware of him and are looking out for him (the best you can do with a two year-old).

About the time that the yelling became funny over the monitor is when God smacked me in the back of the head.  He spoke to my heart and said, “Dude, that is you.  Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you know that I hear you?  Why don’t you think I am in control and will move when I need to move?”

This is all of us.  We get anxious.  We get worried.  We doubt God.  We don’t trust his timing.  We think he forgets about us.  We start to wonder if he is really there.  We start lashing out.  We scream and complain.  We get caught up with the worries of this life and stop believing God has it all in his hands and he knows.

He is there.  He is God.  And he knows.  He will be there when he needs to be.  We need to trust that.  Matthew 6:19-34  Be encouraged!

Oh, and for another perspective on this, please check out this post by my friend Bill Moore, “That Guy“.

Performancing Metrics

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Gospel and Faith

 

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Debt-Limits, Deficits, and the Paul Plan

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Before you skip this blog because you think it is going to be about politics, please consider reading.  Politics is not the point.  God gave me a pretty cool spiritual insight based on all of the debate going on in our government.  Please read on to the end…there is a point!

For those of you who may live under a rock, let me rehash the current dilemma in the Ole USA.  The government is currently running at a sizable deficit (fancy talk for more money being spent than is being brought in).  Though, most families in our country are living in a deficit, spending slightly more than we are making (i.e. credit card and loan payments being a reality), our country is spending a lot more than it is making.  Which brings us to the predicament that is eating up most of the “news hour” on any given station.

With a lot more money going out than coming in, just as I mentioned is the case for most American families, Uncle Sam (the US Government) has run up a large debt (in the sum of trillions of dollars) through borrowing money (like the aforementioned loans most families have to pay on).  The only problem is that our loan payments are compounding the “money going out” issue.  Roughly 40 cents of every dollar that goes to our government is sent back out as interest on the loans it has taken out, and that doesn’t count any money to pay off the debt or payments to other government programs and obligations.  To be able to pay all we need to pay, the government has to take out more loans and run up a bigger debt (which, yes you guessed it causes bigger payments to be paid and more interest owed).

At some point in US history (I am not sure when), Congress decided to put a “cap” on how much debt our country can have.  It takes an act of Congress to raise this “cap”.  This is the “debt limit” you keep hearing about.  The current debate is whether or not to raise this limit, how to increase revenues (money coming in), and how to cut spending (and everything that comes along with this).  The republicans want to increase the limit by the smallest possible increment, not raise any taxes, and drastically cut spending.  The democrats want to increase the limit as much as possible, raise taxes for revenues, and only cut spending on what can be done without affecting many people who rely on government programs.  I am not going to chime in on my thoughts on this, this is not my reason for writing today.

God used this whole government issue, along with something from the Bible, to speak to me in a pretty profound way this morning.  Okay, get your Bibles ready: Romans 3:9-19 and Romans 6 (yes, the whole chapter).

Here is the thing.  We are all up to our eyeballs in debt to God.  Sin (falling short of who God is and what he expects…or as Watchman Nee said it is the act of leaving God’s path) puts us at odds with God.  Sin makes us have to pay a price to be made right with him…the price to pay is our “debt”.  Every sin deepens the hole we have to dig out of.  Every time we “fall short” of who God is, we are even more indebted to him.

A lot of people think, “Alright, then I will just live right and do the right things from now on.”  This is a GREAT endevour…but it does nothing to make any of our “debt payments” to God.  Not sinning will only keep us from getting deeper into debt.  Even if you could spend the rest of your life as godly as God expects, you still have a price to pay.  The first half of Romans 6:23 says that, “The wage of sin is death.”  We owe God death.  You can’t pay for that by not sinning anymore.  You can’t.  And, unfortunately, the bad news is that even death does nothing to make us “right with God.”  It only pays our sin debt.

We can try to stop sinning, go to church, give all of our money to the poor, go to another country and tell others about Jesus, or anything else you can think of to try to balance your debt, but it won’t work.  The payment is still due and you aren’t impressing God.  The only way for the debt to be paid AND allow us to be right with God is for someone who doesn’t have to pay the debt for themselves to pay it for you.  To die for you.

Tadaa!  That is why Jesus, God’s son (fully God and fully man), had to come, live, and die for you.  He did not sin.  He did not have pay with death for his own sin, so his death can be a payment for your account.  And even better news, HE WAS SEPARATED FROM GOD FOR YOU.  Not only did he pay the debt, he took the “interest payment”.  His sacrafice allows you to be made right with God.

“Mr. OneCupof Joe Guy, how do you know this makes us right with God and ends our separation?”  I know because the tomb Jesus was laid in was empty a few days later.  Jesus was raised from the dead!!  This means the price was paid, punishment was carried out, and Jesus left the debtors prison with the keys in his hand!  All you have to do is put your faith in the fact that this is true!  Read the book of Romans and see for yourself!

Okay now back to the debt debate and to bring this all home and tie this one up.  This is where Romans 6 comes in as a whole.  Once we have put our faith in our debt being “balanced”, does that mean we can go on sinning and living like we did?  No, of course not (to quote Paul)!    We can’t keep running up the debt!  If we do, it was never balanced for us in the first place!  If we are truly free from our debt of sin (and the power it had over us), we will be changed.  We will live and “do the right things” because our hearts (and the Spirit now living there) will drive us to.  Our actions will be from internal motivation of acceptance by God and not the external motivation of trying to pay off our debt to him!

As for our country, who knows what is going to happen (well, God does), but I don’t think it is for me to obsess about.  I think I need to focus on the debt debate in my heart and life…and thank you, Jesus, it is not a long debate!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Gospel and Faith

 

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The Great Coffee Famine of 2011

About two and a half weeks ago I was challenged to do something.  My chiropractor has been talking to me for years about drinking coffee.  He knows that I have been drinking way too much (several cups a day), and he pushed me once more to give it up.  We talked about addictions and the health effects of coffee drinking.  It is a diuretic, and without coffee I barely drink enough water every day already (putting aside the recent news that the minimum amount of water that have come up in the last couple of weeks).  Long story short, he convinced me that coffee has been putting me in a water deficit.  On somewhat of a whim that day, I decided to stop drinking it cold turkey (mmmmm…cold turkey).

Now, let me in on how big of a deal this is for me.  I love coffee.  I don’t just drink it because I like the caffine boost, which I do…decaffinated coffee is pointless to me.  I actually love the experience of drinking coffee.  Smelling it.  Breathing it in.  Tasting it.  It doesn’t matter how hot the temperature is outside, a cup of steaming hot coffee gets my day off right.

More than this, I love coffee enough to be very picky about my coffee.  It must be black (nothing in it), and it must be GOOD coffee.  I am what some may call a “coffee snob.”  I don’t like it from resturants, for the most part, and I usually feel like I have to make it myself to have a good cup.  I will go out of my way to buy great coffee beans, and I even have a coffee pot that will grind the beans for me.  I can smell the delicious aroma of great coffee in my mind as I write this.

I obviously have a passion for coffee.  The problem was, and I agree with this, my passion was a borderline addiction.  The other side of my love of coffee is the amount I would drink.  I am pretty sure my average was hovering between four to six cups on a normal day, and possibly a lot more on some days, especially during the school year.  This was not a healthy relationship with my beloved drink, to say the least.

It was hard, but I committed to stopping.  On Facebook I gave updates on the progress every other day for the first week or so.  My body took awhile to adjust, but it did.  I stopped thinking about it.  I stopped wanting it all the time.  I was even able to make a pot for my parents when they visited without being overly tempted to drink some.

I made it from one trip to the chiropractor to the next, about two and a half weeks.  I was very proud of myself, but something occured to me.

I had a sudden realization, I gave up coffee but somewhere inside of me I was always thinking about it…even if that thinking was only thinking about how well I was doing in not drinking it.  This seemed odd to me, so I started to think about my motivation for not drinking coffee.  As I did this, all I could come up with is that I drank too much and it kept me from drinking enough water.  This did not balance out with my obvious love of coffee…something God created and is okay, in moderation.

A story about Peter in the book of Acts came to mind when he was challenged by God, in Acts 10.   Summary of the story: Peter was praying, a sheet came down from heaven covered in animals, a voice said “Kill and eat”, Peter said, “I have never eaten anything unclean”, the voice said “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  The story goes on to talk about how God opened the Gospel to the Gentiles and did so through Peter (and Paul).

I know it is a bit of a stretch, but it showed me something in my approach to coffee.  It was focus.  There was no real, hardfast reason for me to give up coffee outside of the vague idea of too much coffee and not enough water.  It made me think about coffee all of the time, even more so than I was thinking about it too much.  Coffee is not a sin.  It is not something to battle over my flesh with.  I was fighting it in my own strength, and in doing so it almost made it want it more than I did before.

Here comes the big lesson.  Sin.  When I focus on fighting my sin on my own, in my own strength, I fail most often.  I focus on the Law.  The Law that makes me guilty before God.  My reasoning is that I need to follow the Law and because sin puts me in a “deficit” before God.  That is the WHY I am battling my flesh.  This makes me focus on it even more, and more likely to fail.

I need to realize I do not have to fight against sin.  I am dead to sin.  I am dead to the Law.  The Law was fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  I do not have to battle my flesh to be made right with God.  Jesus “balanced” my “deficit” with God.  I battle with my flesh, not because I HAVE to, but because I now can, sin no longer has a hold on me.  I can discipline myself now because I am free to and because I am given power to do so by the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead and who gives me the strength I do not have.

Coming back to coffee, I have decided to have one cup a day.  No more.  Less is okay.  I will drink extra water on the days I drink coffee.  It is no longer a struggle.  I can have the taste I love, but it now longer has the hold on me it had.  I am not focused on it because I now have a balance.  Mmmmm…coffee.

This, by the way, is the inspiration for the name of my blog: One Cup of Joe.

Performancing Metrics

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Sin

 

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