Monday, March 7, 2011

Scholarship Winner


Mountain View
“A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel back to our beloved Africa. Actually it isn't "our" Africa. We weren't born on that continent, and we don't live there now. However, the times when we've had the good fortune to go there, we have felt very much like we're "home". While we were there in 2009, we went to see a man named Joseph Cummiskey. We had met him on a previous trip and had heard that he had started an organization called Uganda Hands for Hope in the Namuwongo Slums. The Namuwongo Slums rest on the edge of wetlands in the capital city of Kampala. Their primary area of focus is to provide assistance and opportunities to the children and families of the slums so that they will eventually be able to lift themselves out of poverty.


Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope
Link to Uganda Hands for Hope:


When we met up with Joseph, we toured his facility then were taken on a little excursion into the slums where 7,000 people are packed between the bottom of a hill and a swamp. Many are displaced refugees who have fled ethnic and political violence in places like northern Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most of the residents are single parents.

As we walked through the slums, hungry goats wandered freely as they searched for rare spots of grass. A puppy looked up at me with a defeated gaze as it trudged aimlessly across my path, its ribs clearly evident beneath its fur. Residents of the slums approached a makeshift market stand leaning precariously at the edge of the dirt path. I can remember having to step carefully across the ground cluttered with piles of garbage, open sewage, and pockets of standing water. We were told the homes made of mud, cow dung and straw were constantly at risk of collapsing under heavy rains and flooding. As I took in daily life in this community, the monster of inequity, unfairness and need roared in my face.



Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

People have commented to me in the past that they refuse to go on mission trips because they fear moments like these. They don’t want their hearts to be ripped out. I agree. It’s much easier not to know. But is it right to live unaware? Is ignorance what God intends for us?



Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

 
In a mundane, comfortable life it is easy to slip into apathy. How many times do the experiences in our everyday lives break through the barrier of indifference? How many times do those experiences deeply move us? Was this experience in the slums what it means for God to break my heart for what breaks His? To share in His pain? To grieve over the suffering of His creation? There was truly something holy and intimate about that moment as He allowed me to feel His heart.

As I struggled to absorb all that I was seeing, I thought of the car that waited for me across the street. It was my means of escape from this nightmare. Beyond that car, was a plane ticket that would take me away from this continent. Beyond this continent lay a home country where there is abundance and infrastructure and social services for the poor. In that country is a comfortable home with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a soft, cushy bed with warm coverings and soft pillows where I can lay down at the end of the day. But the residents of the Namuwongo slums are stuck in a lifestyle they cannot escape.

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope
        The Namuwongo slums are a dry and barren land in need of hope - the kind of hope that is not dependent on circumstances. The kind of hope that’s available to everyone – rich and poor. The kind of hope that is eternal and unfailing. It is the hope found in Jesus Christ and the future He provides that is free from all this worldly struggle. I felt an urgency within me to share that hope with these people.

"In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade - kept in heaven for you . . ." 1 Peter 1:3-4

"And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev. 21:4


Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

        As I considered the desperate need for Jesus, other needs screamed louder . . . the need for adequate shelter, food, sanitation, health care, education, and more. If I truly loved these people enough to share the good news about Christ, how could I overlook their daily pain and suffering? If I professed to love God, how could I bypass the needs of those He loves and created in His image?

      Then I wondered . . . how would these people receive our claims about a God who provides when they struggle daily just to survive? If they cannot see God’s goodness in their surroundings, would they be able to receive the verbal news Christians profess of His goodness? Would they embrace the truth about God or would they reject that good news based on their suffering? Would all of my words about God’s mercy be lost in their quest for food and survival? Hunger makes it difficult to focus, to play, and to work. Survival instincts kick in. Every thought, every act, and every breath is centered on finding food. How would these people receive the news about the “bread of life” (John 6:35) when they are so desperate to find bread?

      When Jesus began His ministry, he taught in the synagogues and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. As He taught and preached, He was confronted with the immediate physical needs of the people. Because of His compassionate sensitivity to human need, He often “healed every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).  Whether it was healing a leper, helping the lame walk, or feeding 5,000 hungry people, He did not teach to the exclusion of immediate physical and emotional needs (Luke 7:22). He sincerely cared about (and addressed) the needs of the whole person. The news about Him spread and many people from the surrounding areas came to Him (Matthew 4:24-25).

      We can talk all day about kindness and compassion, but to many they will only be empty words. Life has taught them differently. Some in our world today have been so severely damaged that they believe kindness and compassion don’t exist anymore. They don’t trust anyone and believe there’s only one person you can rely on - yourself. To them, the world is cold and uncaring. Some see Christians as a bunch of people who want to tell them what to do and how to live. The church has alienated them and doesn’t seem to know they exist. Church buildings are just pretty little playgrounds for perfect little people who don’t have a clue what real life is like. So words are empty. You can speak of the love of Christ all you want – but it means nothing. What they need is to be shown. Only then will the words become real.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18


      How might the world respond to the good news of Jesus Christ if we were to share the compassion of Christ through our actions and not just our words?

      Our mission trip scholarship finalists have allowed God to break their hearts with the things that break His. They are courageously taking action as they make themselves available to God and allow Him to demonstrate His love and truth through them. 

      Many votes came in for our finalists and each one of them is deserving; however, the person receiving the most votes at The Warming House is:

Kristen M. 

      Kristen will be traveling to Brazil in June. Congratulations Kristen! You will be receiving the $2,000 scholarship.



      Congrats also to Alexandria, Aubri, Shantell,  and Terry/Janna who will be receiving $250.00 for their trips. Please prayerfully consider supporting these individuals personally. Their cause is most definitely worthy.

      I want to thank our scholarship participants for allowing The Warming House to be a part of their journey, and I thank you for voting. It's been a great experience.  Hopefully, we can do this again next year! As you missioners go out, we'll pray for you and expect God to demonstrate Himself in big ways - both in your life and in the lives of those you serve.




Fireside

Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.





 As parents, we love our kids and want what’s best for them don’t we? That’s why we taxi them to practices, games, dance lessons youth group, and other activities – endlessly! We do our best to provide for their needs and give them things for their enjoyment. As you do these things for your kids, have you ever considered the benefit of balancing all that you’re doing with something very different – something that isn’t focused on them? What I’m talking about is something that helps them look beyond themselves toward the needs of those around them.

 As we help our kids become increasingly aware of the struggles of those around them, they develop gratefulness for what they have, gain a new perspective about their own struggles and life situations, and develop a heart of compassion. I can tell you that there’s a very special and unexplainable quality within kids who have a heart of compassion. Truthfully, God is the one who develops compassion within us; however, as parents, we can work in harmony with His purposes by doing what we can to make our kids aware of the life situations of those who are struggling and by giving them opportunities to help someone else.


 Each of you hears stories of suffering on a daily basis. Sometimes the number is staggering and the needs are overwhelming. There’s a story I heard this week that hit me hard. I have never met these people, but I can’t get them off my mind. I will share their story with you then humbly invite you to consider sending notes of encouragement to TJ and Tanya. If you want to, you could use this as an opportunity to teach your kids compassion by sitting down as a family to share this family’s story with them, then have each family member write a note or draw a picture that will bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to this couple who needs it so desperately. (This might also be a good opportunity for a youth group, Bible study, or Sunday school class.) To TJ and Tanya, your words will be like water on dry, sun-scorched land, and your family will be a beautiful reflection of God at this dark time in their lives. What a privilege it is for God to use us to wrap His arms around those who hurt.

Here’s their story and contact info.

 TJ was driving his son (and only child), Taylor, back to college for the start of his last semester at Texas A&M. The weather was stormy and icy. Another car t-boned them. TJ tried to save his son by throwing his body over Taylor. When the ambulances arrived, Taylor had already reached his home in heaven. TJ is currently in a wheelchair and sling because of injuries to his collarbone and leg. On top of the tremendous emotional trauma of this loss, Tanya and TJ are experiencing great financial struggles. Medical expenses (no health insurance), student loans that now have to be repaid, and funeral costs are all adding up - and their only car was totaled. There are more details but out of respect for their privacy, I have left them out.

 Although this is an extremely difficult time in their lives, TJ and Tanya are standing strong in their faith and continue to trust in God. If you would like to send notes of encouragement, you can send them to:

TJ and Tanya Gillespie
c/o Cornerstone Baptist Church
Attn: Shaun Wilkerson
P. O. Box 130
Trenton, TX 75490

"Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
To weather the storm.

And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world will know
That we're not alone."

Lyrics from Matt Maher's song "Hold us Together" (See my playlist)


“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (New King James Version)



Pinecones and Twigs
Just like gathering nature’s treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you’ll find here – a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.

In my last blog, I announced that those who subscribed to my blog would be entered in a drawing for a Sunshine Earth video. Congrats to winners Lisa, Suzy, and D Macchio!


Before winter leaves us, I want to share my favorite soup recipe with you. It's comfort-licious. This recipe doesn't have the healthiest ingredients, but it's so worth the splurge!


Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 whole chicken breasts (cooked and cubed)
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can Rotel
1 lb. Mexican Velveeta cheese
2 cups milk

Simmer all ingredients in a crockpot for two hours. Serve over tortilla chips crushed in the bottom of a soup bowl. *Don't allow soup to bubble while simmering.

This is a great accompaniment to any meal - or it can be a meal all in itself. I have served this with quesadillas or taco salad.


A Steaming Hot Mug
Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out

Submit your stories (150 word maximum) to thewarminghouse@gmail.com and I will select some each week for publication on this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God’s compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you’ve done to teach your children compassion; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ. Can’t wait to hear (and share) your stories here at the Warming House!

So good to have you here at The Warming House. Hope to see you again. Until then . . . stay warm and cozy,

Lisa

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