Archive | giving glory

7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?

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what the transfiguration taught me about blogging

smart phone photo

One day, Jesus and I walked to the top of the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, showing me all of His glory. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and they started chatting it up like old times. And I said, “Jesus, it is a good thing I’m here, because I have an iphone and this totally needs to be on Instagram!”

Besides the fact that it was actually Peter and not me, this story is pretty much a retelling of the true transfiguration story in Matthew 17. The actual scripture sounds just as ridiculous.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

It may sound like a stretch, but this is what the transfiguration taught me about blogging. Peter has just seen Jesus Christ transfigured and Moses and Elijah, both long-dead, standing and speaking, and yet it isn’t until God Himself speaks from a cloud in heaven that Peter falls on his face. First, as my Bible says in the notes, he desires to set up an appropriate memorial for this moment.

I love that it says that God interrupted him. Memorials are all fine and dandy, but Peter was, as is the often the case with myself, missing the point. God commands Peter and the other present apostles to listen to His son. They fall on their faces and, when they look up, see nothing but Jesus. This is exactly as it should be. We hear from God and fall down and worship, seeing only Him. And yet, I think we have a tendency to go with Peter’s first inclination.

Something amazing happens: a mountain top moment. I hear from God! I witness a miracle, receive a message, see a vision. The next thing I want to do is blog about it, tweet about it, instagram it. I want to share with the world immediately! What great blog fodder that was, God! Now I’ll help you out by spreading that message to the world via social media! It’s a good thing I was there, because this needs to be documented!

Here God, let me tag you in this picture so all the world may glorify you! Let me hashtag #thewondersofyourname that we might worship you! Let me get the SEO just right on this post so we might share your good news! And then God knocks me on my face and says, “This is my son we’re talking about. Listen to him.”

And I lie there panting in the dust for a moment before Jesus touches me and says, “Rise and have no fear.” And for a beautiful moment, I’m actually focused on Him.

Not focused on being a Christian, but on being in the presence of Christ. 

It is so much easier to talk about God and tweet about God and use God as a marketing tool than to actually see Him. It is so much easier to “live the Christian life” than to fall down in his presence and listen to him.

As they walked down the mountain that day, Jesus and James and John and that guy Peter with whom I often relate, Jesus tells them not to tell this story until later.  It was not the time or the place to whip out the smart phones. It was not their story to tell. He would be glorified later, He assured them. And after seeing him “transfigured before them,” his face shining like the sun and his clothes white as light, you’d think they’d trust him on that one. You’d think I would too.

We serve an unseen God who listens to the prayers of unseen people in unseen places and works unseen miracles. Everything that happens on this earth is preparing us for an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Just wait for that weight of glory, beyond all comparison. I don’t think social media will even cross our minds when that day comes.

P.S. I understand the irony of this blog post about something God taught me. That’s really not the point either. We are told to share the things God teaches us, but more importantly, we should worship God. He put this on my heart many months ago, perhaps this was the right time to share? 

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a month since meggie

EP phoebe and meggie in my bed

It’s been a month since Meggie left, a month since I penned a teary letter to her. The adoption process is hardly moving. It reminds me of a spider, dragging it’s prey up a wall. If you’ve ever witnessed these efforts, you know what I mean. If not, I’ll just tell you it involves a lot of struggle, a lot of falling to the ground and starting over, a lot of patience on the part of the spider as well as the paralyzed victim.

To tell you we miss her would be redundant, but life goes on. As a matter of fact, amidst the absence of our baby sister and the wintry weather and the constant stress of trying to build a house with our bare hands while still keeping our “real” jobs, things have been quite joyful. I spoke briefly with a good friend on Sunday with whom I’d really like to catch up, and I found myself wanting to grab lunch with her just so I could reassure that I am quite happy and content in this season.

I appear to be getting singler and singler, which is apparently the most prevalent cause of discontentment in young women today, but I am also becoming wiser and wiser, stronger and stronger, less and less susceptible to every passing wind and therefore, in generally better spirits. As much as I loved being very young, it’s kind of a relief to just be “young” now. Growing up is hard work.

To conclude the personal update, I love writing more than ever and I am rekindling my love of visual art. The desire to create visual art is perhaps just as strong as the desire to write, but the craft is much more difficult for me. I’ve been writing in my journal and preparing this and that for various blogs and sketching and piddling with watercolors. I think I need to share more of my illustrations, but it still makes me uncomfortable. It’s taken me long enough to become confident as a writer. Sharing a sketch is like starting all over again in first grade.

What I will do with these thoughts and words and lines and dots, I am not sure. I am praying diligently and practicing, and I think that’s obedience for this season.

Another thing that has kept me busy and happy is The Serve Team. This team was started by the college ministry I’m involved in last semester. The idea is that a group of students gathers each week and goes and meets the physical needs of those in our church community, primarily senior adults. I really look forward to this throughout the week. We do anything they need help with: pull weeds, wash windows, vacuum, make repairs, trim trees, organize, move furniture, etc. The best part is getting to know the older generation, hearing their stories and gaining wisdom from them. They’re also typically sweet and appreciate, so we all leave on a high.

I woke up a couple of weeks ago with an idea in my head and the leaders in our church were kind enough to bring it to life. On Sunday, about seventy widows received a Valentine’s rose after church. It was a memorable time for me.

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My older sister and her husband have now been living with us for almost eight months. Everyone has been a trooper, squeezing in and making due with the little room and privacy we have to offer. The men in the family are literally building the house by hand, so it isn’t any wonder it’s taking a…while. They all toil at it in their minimum spare time, and it slowly makes progress. It does look like a house now…just not a very warm, safe or comfy house.

I leave you with an recent excerpt from my journal and a promise to come back again soon to write more:

“My world is swirling with robins. The extremely low temperatures have graced us with a massive migration of birds. Jays, sparrows, juncos, doves, cardinals, wrens, titmice, crows, chickadees and more, soar and dive across every window’s view. This seemingly long Winter will soon melt away and Spring will be here in full force. I am looking very much forward to sunshine and wildflowers and cheerful, uncomplicated clothes. However, I also have appreciated this frosty, feathery season.”

everly

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on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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