Friday, December 23, 2011

Giving The Advent Conspiracy

This is the second year I've been aware of The Advent Conspiracy.  If you've never heard of it, you can watch this video:
[AC] Promo 2011 - International Justice Mission from
 Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

Worship Fully:  That's the first exhortation.  Boy, I love to do that.  It doesn't get any better than sitting at the feet of Jesus.  God's Holy Spirit massaging your heart, loving you, forgiving you, accepting you and blessing you for how He made you!  We try to give to God, but we can only give what He gives us first! 

1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

Spend Less:  Years ago, I latched onto the idea that a handmade Christmas was more meaningful than a gift card.  (But of course I would never turn one down!)  The Spend Less idea was not a hard one. Most of us want to do that, so we save the big money gifts for the kids and just do handmade things for grown-ups.  I made jewelry for my mom or knit a scarf. I made a quilt for my husband last year.  Even the "rush to get things done" pressure can mount with that.

Give More
:  My friend invited me to her house for a "baking party."  I had never really heard of one, so it seemed fun.  As she was showing a couple of us how to make cinnamon rolls, she began to share about Advent Conspiracy and the idea of giving your time instead of spending.  Her idea was to give us this skill (that was a talent of hers,) in place of a gift that we may not ever use.  I, in turn, blessed my neighbors with some warm cinnamon rolls when they had just gotten back into town from overseas for Christmas.
She inspired me.  I realized that since we couldn't entertain large groups this year (due to Victor's condition after the accident--see past posts), that I would forgo that for the intimate gathering of two or three.  A friend and I set aside time to knit together.  Another friend and I prayed together.  The Advent Conspiracy was changing lives in small ways. 

But what about the next one, Give More? Giving time is less convenient than spending money on someone else (except the hemming and hawing, standing on one foot then the other in the overwhelming department store deciding what to get for Aunt Martha.)  So giving more to servant groups that feed the poor, provide water for remote villages, care for orphans and widows is an AWESOME thing to do.  I do it whenever I can.

But here's the deal.  What if you lost your job? What if you have health issues that don't allow you to work?  What if you don't have insurance?  What if you can't even pay the bills?  What if you work for yourself and don't have any business right now?  Can you still do Advent Conspiracy?  What if you are putting everything extra you get into getting out of debt?  You are trying to do the right thing.  You are wanting to follow all of the pastor's exhortations to tithe and give over and above that.  God will bless you.  God DOES bless you.  It's a a spiritual principle--a challenge from God even.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.    “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
   “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. Malachi 3:7-12 (Today's New International Version)
Who wants to rob God?  Not me!  How do I give more when I don't have much?  Well, you have to ask God what He wants you to do. You may not fit into the "traditional giver" category.  I used to be there before I got married.  I thought, "I get a regular paycheck and if I write that first check to God before anything else, it doesn't hurt as bad." It helped me stay faithful.  And I felt good about that.  I was doing the right thing.  I was obeying the Bible and my pastor and God Himself.  Only I hadn't really talked to God about it.  I just "praised God with my checkbook."

I can't do that right now.  Sure, I hope I can get a regular paycheck in the future. It certainly feels more secure.  But maybe God is calling me past that.  Our churches are asking us to give to them for very important ministries.  But what if God has whispered another ministry in your ear?  What if he nudges you to put your last $5 into that homeless guy's cup?  What if an orphan has captured your heart and you feel led to adopt them (online or into your home?)  Are we still robbing God by not bringing the tithes into the conventional organized storehouse? Or is the storehouse more borderless than we have been led to believe? 

I haven't really mentioned the word faith, but that's what I'm talking about.  Living by faith.  Not the kind that originates from you.  The kind you stir up because you want something (for unselfish reasons of course!)  I'm talking about the "faith that comes by hearing."  I like the Amplified Version for this:
Romans 10:17
So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself).
I'm pretty literal about this. Aren't we to hear the very words that come from God's lips?  God, Jesus, Holy Spirit--Trinity God--whichever personality is interacting with us at any given time.  What I'm trying to say is DO NOT FALL UNDER CONDEMNATION if you cannot manage the tradtional giving model. But LISTEN TO JESUS.

How do I do that, you may ask.  For some, reading the Bible is the only sanctioned way to hear God.  I'm not going to get into that here, but if you do read a lot of the Bible, you can see that God spoke to His people most of the time. Just ask Him to speak His direction to you and stay still enough to listen...
“Be still, and know that I am God.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Some are more organized than I am and use a journal method like the Communing with God Ministries. (

Love All:  Well, I'm trying to do that right now.  I'm taking time out of my Christmas push to write these words to encourage those of you who may be struggling with the Give More part of the Advent Conspiracy.  See I said "Christmas push" cuz I'm still struggling to simplify.  I want to, but it's all these other family members that expect something...  Here's where the Love All begins.  It's a balance.  Only your time with the Lord can help you do that.  I find I get into more difficulties with others when I haven't spent time receiving God's love earlier.  Remember,

           1 John 4:8
           Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I want to Love All.  I know you do too.  But it's all these difficult humans that get in the way!  But in the presence of God is Love.  And we all know that...
1 Peter 4:8
[Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since] covers a multitude of sins.
I am going to love you more by stopping since I know it's only a day until the Christmas celebrations begin.  Your time is precious and I respect that.  Receive the Love of Jesus this holiday season.  Sacrificial, wonderful, giving, precious, fulfilling love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

       Yes, I know it's not PC to say that, but I say it loud and proud.  Ok, maybe I should be more meek and mild about it. I just want people to know where I stand.  Not as a rude, culturally insensitive person, but as a person who is uncomfortable with the genericization of the Holidays.  (Yes, I made up that's not in anyway.) If you are Jewish, I want to wish you Happy Hanukah!
      So, where was I?  Oh yes, Merry Christmas!  If you are reading this, you might have gotten my Christmas card link: And you found us!  Congratulations to those of you to whom the blog-o-sphere is new.  I discovered this world when Victor was sick and I put out the notifications on how he was progressing on Caring  I still have not closed that account if you wanted to go back and read anything about Victor's recovery last spring.
       From late June until now, I've been occasionally posting on this site.  So in lieu of the Christmas Card letter, I am saving trees and labor by posting this update of how our family is doing this year. With pictures. 
            Daytime Christmas tree                                                                   Nighttime

Mia agreed to let us color coordinate this year with the ornaments, so it's silver and white, with blue, green and white lights.  I've really enjoyed that for a change.   We also had a snowflake (recycled plastic soda can holders) theme on the windows.
I'll try to get a daytime picture for the next post.  
If you've been following us on Facebook, I've been posting about this GIANT snowman down the street...that reminds me of the Tasty-Puff giant on the first Ghostbusters movie.  Yes, it is 2+ stories tall!  Today I drove by and he was headless...scary.

So, the halls are decked...

The  neighbors have sent over the Christmas cookies...
You've got the cards, now let's talk about our year.  Lately, I've been calling it our wilderness journey.  It started on May 14th when Victor decided to trim the tree in front of our house.  He fell and the rest is on the Caring Bridge site.  I do not want to rehash that today.  I want to talk about getting out of the wilderness!  Victor is still recovering.  His memory is great--the only thing he cannot remember is the 3 weeks right after the accident, but that is God's protection on him I believe.  His rib fractures and scapula have healed. His third lumbar was chipped, so if he overdoes it, he gets some back pain.  This is an excerpt of an earlier blog post:
     "His inner ear is still bothering him.  He says it feels like there's water in there.  He doesn't hear well out of the right ear and the left ear is very sensitive to sound.  So one minute it's, "What did you say? I can't hear you!" and the next minute it's, "You're too loud, can you move back a little?"  The worst part for him is that he is nauseous ALL THE TIME unless lying down AND DIZZY.  So, poor guy, he walks around like he's on a sailing vessel."   We ask you to continue lifting Victor up to Jesus. 
    Though V is not working right now, don't think he's not busy.  I have the most organized house in the neighborhood I'm sure!  He does all sorts of things around the house and yard, just pushing through the nausea.  He's really trying to do his best.

     Mia is in high school now!  She played soccer this fall for the Westbury Phoenix team.  It keeps her in shape and the teams she plays are quite challenging.  But each year they improve.  They won more games this year than last.
Nice block or nice dance step--you pick!
      She goes to school 4 days a week.  At Home Ed Plus she takes Science and Algebra, and at Schola in Sugar Land she takes French and an integrated History, Literature and Christian World View Class called The Great Conversation.  She's such fun and funny too.  Here's a picture from her 14th birthday.  Yes, that's from the shaving cream fight.  Like most teenagers, she spends much of her time in her room, on her smart phone or photo-shopping--not buying photos (for you old timers,) but using the photo shop program to alter photos.  I need to get her altering my photos! 

      My son Mark is still studying at Home Ed Plus.  He loves Vintage Video Games and factoids about them.  He's started collecting a few.  His favorite new place in Houston is Game Over, a vintage video store.  Vintage makes old things sound cool, right?  Mia shops for vintage clothes and Mark for vintage games.  I feel vintage these days! Ha, ha, ha! 
Here he is at U of H Tech Camp

At a friend's birthday party racing go-carts.

At Thanksgiving with Bitsy our cousin's dog (in Austin.)
      Then there's me.  I don't blog as much as in the summer because I teach writing to 2nd and 3rd graders. I lead worship at a women's bible study on Tuesday nights taught by my good friend Brett who is back from India for the year.  I teach Spanish to high school kids, and tutor writing to other ages too.  But I've reached the stage of life that I'd heard most of my friends with teens moan about--chauffering.  I take Mark to tutoring, Mia to Schola, and go though a tank of gas a week!  Spending much of the time in the car gives me time to pray, worship, listen to teachings and stories on cd.  Mark and I are listening to the Hardy Boys when I take him places.   I actually spend a lot of my time helping the others in this family to succeed.  That's a wife's/mom's job right?  It's just that it's probably one of the most time consuming and difficult jubs on the planet.  I need a lot of grace to do better. 
     Well if you've gotten this far, you've got more time on your hands than I do! Ha, ha...  If you want to keep up with us, then please join the blog or just come back and visit from time to time. I pray you and yours have a very Merry Christmas.  Thank you for being our friends and supporting us through this wilderness year.  We are trying to learn from it so as to not stay here much longer.  So this is my verse for 2011:
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 2 Cor. 12:9