Thursday, July 24, 2014

37 Birthday Wishes

One month from yesterday is my 37th birthday. Birthday's aren't a big deal to me, most of the time, but this morning I had an idea. Thanks to an email from Crowdrise, one of the best social media crowd-sourcing fundraising sites around, I was reminded about my upcoming birthday. The email suggested I do something different, something not for me, but for someone else. Raise funds for an organization that I'm passionate about or, in my case, people. Little people to be exact. Children. Children who are being raised in poverty all around the world. Children, who with just a little bit of financial help, can rise above the poverty they're being raised in and find hope. Hope through feeding programs. Education. Medical attention. Most importantly, hope in Jesus.

So for my 37th birthday, my wish is to see 37 children sponsored through Compassion International! Sponsoring a child through Compassion is simple and costs only $38 a month. That $38 helps feed and educate a child living in poverty. It helps bring medical services to them as well. Best of all, it brings the hope of Jesus to a child who otherwise might never hear the gospel.

A couple of years ago I began sponsoring a little girl from India named Mounika. She is super-sweet and smart. It's such a joy to write her letters each month and to receive letters back from her. Though we're thousands of miles a part, I know that she (along with her family) are being taken care of by the staff of Compassion. They're being prayed for, encouraged, and supported in their journey through life. 

You, too, can sponsor a child through Compassion. All you have to do is CLICK HERE to visit my Compassion website and click on the "sponsor me" button. Or, you can go to Compassion's website and view children that are waiting to be sponsored there.

Some of you may already sponsor a child through Compassion or another child-sponsor program. That's OK. If you want, maybe you can consider sponsoring another child. Or help spread the word about my 37 birthday wishes and invite your friends to sponsor a child!

Whatever you do, don't do nothing. Help make my wishes come true!!! Because, really, it's not about me... it's about 37 kids out there that need hope!!!

If you plan on helping make my wishes come true, leave a comment. Thanks!! :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Penny Wise: A Book Review

About the book: Penny Wise introduces us to yet another family in "the neighborhood"---the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change!

The third in the Windy City Neighbors series, Penny Wise is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of "parallel novels," each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters' lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street---a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

Purchase a copy: 

About the authors: Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set. As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

Find Neta and Dave online: website

Blog Tour: Check out what other bloggers are saying about Penny Wise

My Review:

Penny Wise is like peeking into my own life at the moment! This summer I am super busy, going from here to there, with barely any time for myself in the meantime. They're all good things. Work, outreach stuff, church, small group. But sometimes I feel like I'm in over my head and barely have time for myself, not to mention, my husband.

If I'm being honest, even writing this review is being done in haste as I'm in the middle of making dinner. And, to top it off, I haven't even finished the book because of my jam-packed schedule!

Here's what I know of Penny Wise... it's well-written with an insightful look into the life of super-busy Michelle Jasper, her family, and the neighborhood of Beecham Street! It considers the demands of living, working, and loving Jesus in an urban world. Penny Wise goes beyond the surface and challenges the reader to recognize what's important in life and go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. 

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Penny Wise in exchange for my honest review.**

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Welcome to God's Living Room

Our #CrazyLoveChicago team met at my house early on a Wednesday morning. We piled our suitcases, blankets, and pillows into the back of Jeannie's SUV then buckled ourselves in and drove off towards Chicago. The six-hour drive was peppered with excited conversation, flowing from personal questions to anecdotal stories to wondering what the next few days would look like. Even I, the veteran missionary who lived and served with YWAM Chicago for 2 years, didn't quite know what our team was to expect during our short 4 day trip. But I answered the questions as best I could, telling stories of my own time there years ago.
Windmills in Layfatte, Indiana

As we drew closer to Chicago, I wondered for the thousandth time what God was going to do in and through our team. I knew our schedule was going to be jam-packed, filled with one ministry opportunity after the other. I had a sense of what we were going to experience, the people we were going to meet, the excitement of doing new things and stepping out of our comfort zones. But I didn't know exactly what was going to happen!

This is actually a view of the city as we're leaving

As we drove into the city, my heart was overwhelmed. The day had finally come. This day that I'd prayed for, longed for, and planned for 10 long years. 

When I left Chicago 10 years ago, I knew God wanted me to come home to Ohio. To work with the local church and get people excited about missions, both within the local community and overseas. Not to mention cities. (I believe God has an amazing plan for cities, but that's for another post!) I also knew that He wanted me to return to Chicago, bringing with me teams of people who had a heart for showing crazy love. 

It may seem silly, but for me, this #CrazyLoveChicago team was a dream come true. An answer to prayer.

The YWAM Chicago staff knows how to show hospitality!
We arrived at YWAM Chicago just in time for dinner followed by an orientation led by Jesse and some of the other staff. Jesse shared a powerful message on the parable of the sower that personally struck a chord and set the tone for the entire outreach. 

The next morning, our small team joined another team that was in the city and we all set out for our first ministry opportunity: prayer at Daly Plaza. Daly Plaza is home to a courthouse and numerous business offices. In the summer, the plaza hosts a farmers market along with daily entertainment during the lunch hour. We meandered around the farmers market for a bit, gazing at the Amish cheeses and the fresh produce. We talked about how we were going to approach people and how weird it was going to be. Armed with only a business card and what little bit of courage we could muster up, we split into teams and set out to pray for people.

Approaching anyone and asking them if they'd like prayer is intimidating in and of itself. Especially if you're an introvert and asking anyone for anything is out of your comfort zone. But try doing that in a bustling city plaza during lunch hour and it's so much worse. Yet this time, I felt no fear. I was out of my comfort zone, sure, but it was oddly easy for me. Maybe my past 2 years of experience was what made it easier. Or perhaps it was the realization that I would likely never see these people again. I don't know. What I do know is this: God had gone before us and prepared the hearts of those He wanted us to pray for that day.

Our first divine appointment!

Overall, our team ended up praying for over 100 people during the one-hour lunch break at Daly Plaza! Even though it was weird and awkward and we struggled to connect with people at times, God put people in our paths that day that needed prayer. Myself and Tabby prayed with several people from various walks of life. We prayed for a police officer, a street musician, a homeless man, a couple going through financial troubles, a grandmother, and a retired long-distance cyclist. Folks with real needs, physical and spiritual. 

Picture for a moment a king sitting on his throne, robed in fine linens and adorned in precious jewels. Those who seek to enter the throne room cannot do so without an invitation. Even then, they must bow low to the ground to show respect and honor, indicating that they are lower than the king. Now imagine being a child of the king. The child needs no invitation to see the king, his father. Instead of bowing low, he runs with wild abandon to the throne, jumping in his father's lap!

The Bible says that as children of God, we can boldly approach His throne. (Hebrews 4:16) Because of Jesus, we can come to Him with confidence. When we pray, we are simply talking to God, our Father. We are approaching Him with confidence and talking to Him about our day, thanking Him for the gifts He's given, asking Him to meet our needs and those of our family and friends. It's like we're sitting in His living room having a conversation. 

Here's the cool thing -- when we prayed with someone, it was like we welcomed them into God's living room!

For some of the people we prayed for, it was their first encounter with God. Maybe it was the second, third, fourth, or hundredth. Wherever they are on the God-spectrum, He knows. But on that day, as we prayed, He welcomed them into His living room. Whether they were far from Him or one of His close friends, in that moment, He was there.

Praying in a busy plaza may not be the everyday norm for most people. I know it's not for me. Yet I was reminded that God wants to meet with us. He welcomes all of us into His living room. To make ourselves comfortable. And to invite friends.

Maybe asking people if they need prayer isn't your thing. That's OK. But be open to it. Allow God to nudge you to pray for a co-worker or friend or stranger in the line at Walmart. You never know, they might just allow you to pray with them, thus ushering them into God's living room.