I finally got rid of my doubting spirit and have again a heart set course for joy. Praise God. I was in a funk and I'm so thankful those don't last forever! I have to share a wee-little story about my time in funk-city. I was riding the bus down last week, after staying after for Bible study. I sat in the front and let worship songs be an escape for awhile until a student came and sat next to me. She had questions about this and that and finally she asked (could it have been because I was obviously weeping?) me, "what's up?" I just said I was sad. I was sad about how deceptive life can be and how glittery the world looks and how so many people I love make the wrong choices. I was sad because I couldn't stop it, but also sad because I knew I wasn't doing enough. I was just sad.
Then (as if revelations such as these come so quickly and gently) she said, "Well, I bet that's how God feels when He looks down at us... only magnified."
.........whoooosh. This is the perspective I needed!
Today, please let me hook you up with a few things that are inspiring and interesting and accessible through this little monster called the internet.
You probably know I just finished Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Well, I didn't use any of his internet resources for this book (even though I really liked using them when our Bible study read through Crazy Love). But, now I find out that there are some great resources there! Also, I happened upon this "trailer" on vimeo and I think it's worth checking out. It just might convince you that you should pick up the book too.
Let's just say you are like my dad and in the car a lot. And let's also say you wouldn't mind having something intelligent to listen to (other than, let's say, radio talk and country music), then you should definitely check this out: Christian audio allows you to download one FREE book each MONTH! That's right - it's free! I'm all about getting things for freesies and this month I think it's a gem, so I'm sharing it with you. It's a book by Mark Driscoll called, "Religion Saves."
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I just keep feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of the pain and suffering in Haiti. I know there are tragedies and disasters around the world every single day. Sometimes, we are struck with a disaster that seems so complete. This is one of those times. I just wanted to give a few links where you could go for info, give donations, and keep up-to-date on news and how to pray.
Compassion International is an organization that has proven themselves faithful to God's call to serve the poorest of the poor throughout the world. When a crisis happens, I know Compassion is already on the ground and already working with churches in the country that they have developed relationships with. I know when I support Compassion, I am not just giving money to a haphazard medical mission, but a structured organization with a pure heart fueled by God's design.
Paste Magazine is giving away a BUNCH of free songs to download if you donate through them or if you donate at all through any organization you can reach the free songs. This is a way artists are supporting the cause too.
Mars Hill Church is sending a team down with photographers and videographers to bring back images so people can see and respond. Read the story below.
The Mars Hill Blog | Blog Archive » Haunted by Haiti
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Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center has great pictures and blog to follow. Click below to see more from their blog.
The Gospel Coalition Blog has posted some really great, honest articles that give some perspective. I especially liked the article, "Live with Haiti in Your Heart." If you feel yourself stuck in a strange place of apathy and guilt, read this article.
Living Water International is an organization whose goal is to bring water to people all over the world, and also the living water of the gospel. Their goal is to repair 500 wells damaged by the earthquake. Click here to see how you can help. My family used our Christmas tithing money to support this great cause!
"We Will Rise Up"
This song is an anthem and a challenge to the church to rise up in the midst of hurting and pain to heal the world with the power of the Lord. Click on the link below to download it.. hopefully it works, it's a link from twitter. If not, go to NationsBeGlad twitter and they posted it there.
For me, the "Christmas spirit" in recent years is less fluttery and less emotion-driven. Especially these last two in Honduras with it being so warm and just very, very different. I am attaching new sentiments to this time of year. I am finding incredible joy in giving and reaching out and loving. I'm sad for the years I thought Jesus' birth was about me, so now I feel in a frenzy to flip everything around.
I was thinking about all the memories and traditions I hold close to my heart... and thinking that I would someday want to create a home much like my parents did for me. Even if it took me years to understand the beauty in this season, I so cherish the moments I can look back and see how every Christmas pointed in the direction of heaven.
Sure, it may SEEM like more fun to have your head glued to a TV screen or stuck in endless shopping lines, but I prefer really living and cherishing these moments with the people I love.So, here are some of our family Christmas traditions I would like to share with you:
- Christmas caroling to neighbors and friends... this is one of my most loved. We stuff ourselves into the van with gifts for each house and then every one - from dad to brothers to sisters to mom - lift our voices for sweet choruses of joy! (sometimes they don't sound so sweet but we have fun and we hope those listening do too!
- Cookie decorating contest. This is serious business. Every year the "rules" are brought into question because it's so competitive and everyone is trying to find their edge or angle to seize the championship title. William and Christina have by far the best workmanship. Samuel and Bethany always somehow are a judge favorite. James is the best sport about the whole thing and always comes out my best friend:) Me... well, let's just say my cookies are pronounced "abstract."
- Mom (in our younger days and now all of us) baking in the kitchen while others wander in and out and end up plopping down on the linoleum floor for some of the best conversations ever.
- Christmas Eve dinner: potato soup for the "kids" and oyster soup for the parents, anadama bread, cheese and crackers, egg nog (recently switched over to light), sparkling grape juice:) and tapioca pudding... So simple and so good!!
- Candelight service at church - my favorite part is when we all file out of the auditorium into the fellowship hall singing "Silent Night" the groups in the two separate rooms inevitably find different tempos, but we all get back on track in time to fill that cozy space with joyful song.
- Opening gifts with my parents and siblings... one at a time because every gift has a story
- Watching the little red tin on the dining room table grow every year with our tithes and offerings that will go toward a worthy cause.
- It may not be the same every year, but you can bet it is a tradition to invent some crazy outdoor activity. One year I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I had my brother hook up a rope behind the four-wheeler and I rode behind it in the yard! Another year, my brothers and a few friends went sledding... on a picnic table... down an ice hill... without shirts on. When we were younger, it was always piling into the pick-up truck and finding a good soft sledding hill where we could use our saucer sled and plastic pieces. I do remember a few bruised bums when we tried a gravel road :)
- Christmas with Gram and Gramps (Sponsler) on Christmas day is a favorite. We get there early for a brunch and then munch all day and lay around nursing our stomach aches :) The presents have become less important and the time spent together PRIME.
- Nichols Christmas. Whew! How do I explain it? Can you picture homemade doughnuts (which begin before 5 am with Aunt Jane's preparation)? Can you picture the reunion of aunts, uncles, cousins (I'm sure we're over 60 people in all now) who haven't seen each other in awhile but still feel like we never left? Can you picture a day full of laughter and storytelling and the annual "aunt walk" and random road trips to the dollar store? No, you cannot picture it, but it is amazing!
Okay. I have to stop at 10 because I could go on forever and tomorrow is a BIG day. I am going to the garbage dump. Why? You ask.
Well, because people live there. Every day, all year round. The garbage dump is their reality and there's a beautiful light called Amor y Fe y Esperanza (Love and Faith and Hope) that seeks to love and care for and be Jesus to these people. There is a school with 138 children and we are delivering 138 gifts with the name of each child.
God is so good. I can't wait to see His face in these children!
Many of you are probably already aware of the situation here in Honduras. If not, please read as much as you can from as many news sources as you can (preferably some in Spanish) so you can understand the fullest story. I don't want to re-hash what you can read in reliable news sources (see: www.online.wsj.com), but I would like to share some pictures I've gathered from the internet and the news sources I'm reading/consolidating to get my information.
Before all of the chaos of Mel's return, graffiti and demonstrations were the extent of tensions here. After his arrival, the graffiti/demonstrations have climbed to extremes and so have the tensions.
This is an example of what some of the Mel supporters (La Resistencia) are doing on the streets. Mel's return, he rallied his supporters outside the Brazilian Embassy with the words, "I am here for the restoration of democracy," which I think should seem strange to many people, because it is exactly democracy that calls him to account for illegal acts. He also said, "From now on, nobody gets us out of here again, so our position is homeland, restitution, or death." Apparently, he is prepared to die in an effort to again become president of this country. I wonder what good that would do us - a very determined and a very convicted, dead president.
The police, admittedly a rough lot, have united with the military to try to contain the violent protestors. They are using tear gas and water cannons (at least that is all that is being reported) to keep vandalism and violence at bay. Though we would hope the military has only the best interest of the common citizen in mind, it is likely they too have their own agenda and methods to end the unrest. Some of the Resistencia seem to have little care for who their actions effect. USAToday reported that some protestors stormed an ambulance and attacked three Red Cross workers, accusing them of being part of the coup. Meanwhile, the UN delivered hot dogs to Zelaya and supporters inside the Brazilian Embassy (msnbc reports) because, of course, nothing else was available in a city under curfew.
On Monday, the city of Tegucigalpa began this curfew (which basically means we are confined to our houses under the threat of being detained by military if we leave) at 4 pm. Originally, the curfew was to be imposed until the next morning at 7 am. On Tuesday the curfew was extended to 6 pm that night and then until the next morning. We were reading as many reports as possible when we could get an internet signal, as we do not have cable, and in one report I read that Honduras is losing $50 million every day its citizens are not allowed to work.
Though Emily and I live in the city (and within 7-10 minutes walking from the Brazilian Embassy), our neighborhood has been very quiet. We learn about the riots from friends who call worried about us and our location. We were somewhat skeptical of their reports until on Wednesday we were allowed out for a window of time in order to get groceries and visit the pharmacies. As we drove around the city - with the rest of the curfew-abiding citizens - we were surprised at the patience (at times) combined with fear we saw in the people.
(One of my students took this picture in a local grocery store, where her family had gone to get the necessities for an undetermined amount of time. The store ran out of sugar, eggs, bread, and all the staples and the people were starting to get in a frenzy. When the cart came with bread, the shoppers became out of control and people were crazy to secure a loaf.)
We later learned that Mel supporters had not only stormed several grocery stores in the previous nights (where curfew was imposed), but left them vandalized with broken windows and nothing on the shelves. They even went to the extremes of digging up rocks on the cobblestone street to throw at cars parked on the streets and in parking lots. They moved on to gas stations and fast food restaurants as well, even taking the little money collection bottles at the counter intended for "Kids with Cancer." (Cadena Nacional - a local news station reported this with footage I cannot find)
Originally, we believed the government released us from the curfew because it would be extended (and the nightly news then reported) indefinitely after we secured food and medicines. Now, however, we speculate that we were encouraged to get groceries because of the irrational nature of the Resistencia. We woke up this morning, Thursday, and the curfew was not extended. Though this was a surprise, the only reason we can see is that those of us acknowledging the curfew were not the people making trouble. The mob of protestors who ignored the imposed curfew was only growing and the problems were increasing the past couple nights. The government wanted us to have access to groceries before the mob stormed more grocery stores and made more chaos in the streets (that's our guess).
Though I'm sure I do not understand the whole ordeal, I do know that Zelaya is being encouraged by what he calls the "international community," basically Venezuela, United States, Brazil, and Nicaragua. However, without the support of the United States, many speculate the Zelaya's return (commended as valiant by Hugo Chavez) would not have been possible. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the persistence of Obama, Clinton, and other international leaders to bring Zelaya back into power is absurd if not embarrassing. Though an official, current Honduran Constitution is hard to come by, we do know that Zelaya's actions warranted a response. The response his Congress chose, though it may not have been best, may have been one of few options. And, now that we see the tension and unrest resulting from Zelaya's presence here, we might more fully understand their desire to have him exiled.
Reports today from Bloomberg.com say Zelaya is now telling supporters that he knows of a plan (by the current government) to storm the Brazilian Embassy and kill him, claiming it was a suicide. Michelletti's office, of course, denied these claims and pointed to these extreme statemtns as Zelaya's methods to incite the mob.
I could go on and on, but I encourage you to do your own research and then join me in prayer. Though I am definitely not in favor of Zelaya, I know there is corruption on many if not all sides in this crisis. I have friends and students who believe (though not in favor of Mel or the violent protests) the Resistance campaign is only calling for due process and adherence to the Constitution laws in full, not only when it benefits the other party. Unfortunately, this is not a crisis where we ask, "whose side are you on?" but one with complicated details that begs the question of lesser evils.
Please pray that Christians will unite as one in prayer. Also, as we are kept from school these past three days, pray for the teachers and staff whose purpose right now can only be to remain diligent in prayer and faithful in communicating with students. Pray for the students, that they would not fear, but know of the Love that casts out all fear that comes by way of the world. Pray for the people here, who are struggling after missing days working - it hurts on every level, from business owners to the cleaning maids.
I have added links to photos and videos below.
Slideshow at Wall Street Journal
Slideshow with captions at Washington Post
Video in Spanish with footage from ransacked grocery stores
News article from Wall Street Journal (the publication we are most following here)
Well, here are a few things to help us figure it out.
This youtube video shows the chronology of recent events here in Honduras.
This article is an interesting look at the impact recent events and controversy has had on Honduras as a country. We need your support!
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Don't worry - I am working on many of things to share with you. It has been a crazy amount of time and I wish I could tell all of you everything. My weeks at home were more than I could have hoped for. Every memory and conversation and face and prayer encouraged me in such fantastic ways. Thank you all for being so wonderful! Those I saw and those I didn't, I am just reminded of my roots in family, friendships, and most of the Body of Christ.
I will write soon!
These are a few pictures from our service project at the orphanage, Sociedad Amigos de los Niños.
These are pictures from the students who translated for the mission group from Dallas, Texas. We were in an orphanage and also a public school... a first for many of my students.
The mission group had an outreach event one evening and I was able to get a group of students to go and help translate and fellowship. They were expecting about 50 local teenagers and what they got was somewhere around 150! God is so very, very good! One of my students was able to share her testimony with this group, many of whom are caught in various struggles and looking for HOPE.
Then we heard the message about how one light can shine in the darkness (and it's rough), but many lights can bring hope and healing to the darkest of places. We wrote a drama and some of the students helped act it out to the song, "Go Light Your World." At the end the students were invited to the front to light their candles to symbolize the light in their hearts. Many stayed after and prayed, hugged, cried, and just loved on one another in our most vulnerable states.
Guess what? You can download this audio book for FREE on Christianaudio.com!! Every month, they offer a different book for absolutely free. You better believe I'll be taking advantage of this offer monthly! :) This month's book "Not for Sale" is exactly what I want to be knowing more about. With information like this, we simply cannot plead ignorance when it comes to caring for those in distress. The knowledge is out there... we just have to read it.
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So, this past weekend I was at a staff retreat. Apart from the ridiculous work of getting old-timers to catch the camp spirit... I absolutely thrived! I love camp!
It made me remember all of the fabulous weeks at Covenant Harbor in Wisconsin (where I spent one summer during college) and Hidden Acres in Iowa (where I spent one/two weeks every summer growing up) and thank God for the blessing of fellowship with believers out in His creation.
One of the night events was a talent show, and in typical Nichols fashion, I was in three groups (all thrown together on the same day, of course! :). Heather and I performed a parody of Freefalling... which we had masterfully adapted to We Love Honduras, complete with anecdotal verses that had the crowd laughing (at us or with us, I'm not sure). Then, a group of talented ladies sang "Love Song for a Savior" by Jars of Clay with some sweet harmony.
And my favorite was a duet performance with my friend Heidi, the high school art teacher and fellow lover of good music, the song, "To be Alone with You" by Sufjan Stevens. I loved it so much that I thought you should hear the real version by Sufjan himself.
I'm in a box with a worn, engine-red FRAGILE sticker clinging to the corrugated cardboard.
Okay, so it may not be that dramatic. But, as I try to pack my thoughts with my Christmas gifts, between the few clothes I'm bringing back to the States, I'm wondering just how this transition will go.
For two weeks, more or less, I'll be in the US of A. I'll be hearing English everywhere, zipping around in cars driving at reasonable speeds, and (heaven forbid) stopping at stop signs.
Just this evening a family from church invited Heather and I to dinner. We knew they would ask our preference for the restaurant, but like any good guest we deferred ... which is why we ended up eating at Chili's for the first time since we've been here. When the server gave us our menus, I didn't know what to do: SO MANY CHOICES!
I've heard that going back to the States can be a shock. Some of my friends here said they stood in front of the chip aisle for 20 minutes, just to stare at all the options and then she couldn't decide on anything. Another friend had a similar problem with Cheez-its. It may hit me in the cereal aisle, I don't know.
It seems so strange to jump in and out of life within a matter of weeks. I feel I'm finally getting accustomed to a certain routine, to my role exactly where God has placed me for this time. It's funny because modern technology continues to make the miles smaller and smaller. A few decades ago, someone doing what I am doing would have to wait months for mail (well, I still do sometimes) and might be lucky to make the occasional phone call.
Now, I sit here writing on my laptop and checking to see if anyone is available to talk on skype. How things change! In some ways the technology makes it easier to be away from the ones I love and in other ways the option of travel makes it harder to set my feet firmly on this Honduran ground.
One thing I'm not confused about: my anticipation in seeing my family! I am full of joy already at the thought! I better finish up tonight before I get too soft.
Do you have any advice for re-entry? Post it here!
I don't know about you - but there are certain things around Christmastime that make me feel so grateful for this life. I've compiled a short list, but not in any order and definitely missing things. I hope this brings back memories (or gives you ideas for this Christmas!).
1. White Christmas
2. Home Alone
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. A Christmas Carol (both the original AND the Muppet version)
1. All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey
2. Happy Holidays by NSync
3. Soundtrack to Charlie Brown Christmas
4. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (acoustic style)
5. ALL the Christmas carols with all the verses ... so beautiful!
6. Whatever Christina and I end up performing for church
1. trying to snowboard for the first time behind a four-wheeler
2. road trips in the middle of snow-storms to Chicago and Indianapolis
3. sledding down a hill on a picnic table
4. hot chocolate, tea, coffee - anywhere, anytime
5. cards, cards and more cards (especially at my friends the Kolts')
6. board games with the fam!
7. COOKIE DECORATING contest (I always lose, but sometimes I manage to get some award for creativity)
9. baking and cooking ... and being in the kitchen when it's being done
10. breakfast! early mornings are the best!
11. Looking at ridiculous Christmas displays
1. Christmas caroling to neighbors
2. cousin sleepover with all the girls
3. Christmas Eve service with candle light "Silent Night"
4. Christmas Eve dinner before the service and gifts afterward
5. Christmas day with G&G Sponsler, and whatever day works for the Nichols masses
6. DOUGHNUTS with Jane at the Nichols'
There are too many to list! Oh, how thankful I've become by the bottom of the list. Wow! Please feel free to add your Christmas countdown favorites here and let me know if I've missed some of my own!
Check this out - I took this class in college and it DID rock my world.
See if you can find one in your area and then SIGN UP. God will work wonders with your willing heart!
I was thinking about this after doing a bible study with my girls group a few weeks ago. We had been talking about the tongue, and how to keep our tongues under control. It was a decent discussion, but some of the girls' take-away thoughts left me thinking, "wow, they really don't get it..."
That got me thinking... the worst thing that can happen from this Bible study is that these girls go away, not gossiping, not slandering, not complaining... but not KNOWING the God who created the universe. You know? Because although one less gossiper is better for the world, the girl is no better without Christ.
WHICH got me thinking... you know, being a Christian isn't about being good. It really isn't. And I think that the fact that people have gotten it all a little confused has messed up a lot for God's Kingdom. The confusion between goodness and holiness, the confusion between being a good persona and being a sold-out soldier for Christ, this has not done good things for God's cause.
For really, we should not be known for being boring and good.
We should be known for our mercy, our love, our sacrifice. We should be known for sold-out service for our great King. We should be not good, but a revolution of Christlikeness.
And my Christ? Well, he was definitely not just nice. He changed the world.
This morning, I spoke in chapel to 7-12 graders about the spiritual battle we find ourselves in every single day.
Today the theme was, “whose side are you on, anyway?” and it really forced me to do some thinking. To be honest, I’m not sure why I spoke today and not someone else. I know there are teachers on staff much more capable. But, last night, as we were praying in the 212 room, I felt like I needed to just be obedient and trust the rest to Him.
The previous days focused emphasized that we are "in a battle," we've been "called to fight," and we are "equipped."
Today, as I asked the question, "Whose side are you on, anyway?" I focused on these four points:
There’s no middle ground
The battle is BIGGER than you
God HAS WON the victory
You are redeemed for a purpose
I just want to share the final point with you today, as it is fresh on my mind and pressing on my heart.
redeemed for a purpose
"When Jesus redeemed sinners, he didn’t say, “Sit here and don’t sin.” NO! He said GO! and sin no more! (John 8:1-11) You are His ambassadors, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, as though Christ were making His appeal to the world THROUGH YOU. God is making His appeal through you - do you think his plan is for you to be silent? Is that why you’ve got all this armor?
What are you going to do with your redemption?
2 Timothy 2:3-4 says, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer."
When a soldier wakes up in the morning, he doesn't ask "what do I feel like doing?" No, a soldier doesn't meddle in civilian affairs - he is concerned only with pleasing his commander. Be ready, soldier, to endure hardships, be ready to pass on Truth and teach others. Be ready, soldier, to please your commander.
But, to please God you have to know God and what it is He requires.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
If you claim to be in the Lord’s army - then your commander requires you to ACT.
walk humbly with God.
Justice is bringing the fairness of God to the unfairness of the world.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We don't deserve salvation, but God has offered it freely. How can we do the same?
To walk humbly we must truly believe that we are unworthy of this relationship with an Almighty God, but honored to be enlisted in His service.
This morning, some of you know that you have not placed your faith in Christ as your Savior. You know that you are walking around without any armor, unsure of your allegiances.
Some of you may have said the words of a sinner's prayer hundreds of times, but your life bears no fruit.
Some of you have that personal relationship, but you not really sure what to do about it.
Wherever this morning finds you, know that there are only two choices - to fight for God or fall prey to Satan. Take your pick. This morning - whose side are you on, anyway?
I showed this short movie, featured on the 24-7 prayer website, shows an example of someone doing what our commander requires.
My honorary nephew and God-son (Tina said I could call him that if I wanted... I definitely want... dang those protestants for not assigning God-parents!)was a sock monkey for Halloween.
I could just die from his cuteness. I love him so :)
What were YOU for thanksgiving? Post your costume ideas with pictures! We'd love to see them! :)
"It's become "cool" for evangelical Christians to distinguish themselves by insisting that they're not one of those close-minded fundies who base their vote primarily on a candidate's position on abortion and gay marriage."
These are the first two lines from an article over at Boundless (Focus On the Family).
The article is called Cool Compassion, and I think it's a must-read before the election coming up. When did being passionate against abortion become the one issue it's uncool to care about? When did environmentalism climb up the ladder of importance to something that should be weighed the same as life?
Check out the article. Then pray about making a decision about who you're going to vote for.
In the current age of the internet, mediocre musicians have an easy time gaining a substantial following. The media only encourages their mediocre melodies because shallow is much easier to sell.
Josh Garrels is about as far from shallow and conventional as you can get. Born in the midwestern United States to a musical family, Garrels never really attempted anything conventionally. His first formal musical venture was with a group of interns in a missionary house in Muncie, Indiana.
His father a music teacher, Garrels grew up around all types of instruments and spent hours experimenting with different sounds influenced by rock, acoustic, funk, hip-hop, and folk. Possibly for this reason, his own music refuses to be pinned down to any certain genre.
The song “Freedom” describes his own journey out of a youth of drugs and alcohol into a transformational relationship with Christ. “...time to start livin’ and get a reason for the rhyme/I don’t wanna be dead wrong on the deadline/standing on the dark side and all out of time/like a blind pantamimes fantasized/climb up his own ladder to the sunshine/nothing’s mine that has been given/and no one’s alive now that ain’t been risen.”
Garrels’ poetry calls out to others still lost as he was. The rhymes weave unique stories through the fabric of complicated musical masterpieces. In his most recent work, Jacaranda, he does not stray from his truly original style. Although, this time his originality is attracting a few more ears.
Check this out- found this at RuthAnn's Blog