Monday, May 21, 2012

You're going to GHANA? Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

***I tried REALLY hard to have a cup of coffee in my hand for this post, really, I did. I made a great cup of coffee around 4 intending to sit down with it and blog but my 'free wifi' at my apartment here in Fayetteville decided that it wasn't a good time for me to use it so I couldn't blog. I get what I (my parents) pay for I guess. What is important is that I am now able to blog after a couple weeks of not doing so!***

I am sure most of you know that I am going to Ghana in a couple weeks. The more people I tell, the more surprised they get. My teachers from high school couldn't believe it, my friend's parents were beyond surprised, and the more I tell it to people the more nervous I get! It's getting so close to my trip I am starting to worry! Of course I have been praying for my safety and asking others to pray for my safety. Going abroad without parents is a scary thing. The thought of going to Africa as pale as I am is even scarier. The title of this post has been a common response to me revealing that I am going to Africa, as I expected. Sunburns for me are no joke, my friends can tell you I have got a great routine down for not getting burnt. Let's hope that carries over to Ghanaian sun!

Sunscreen jokes aside, I am still very nervous about going to a 3rd world country as a white, well off, American. The thought of being pick-pocketed is a concern, the idea of trying new foods that wouldn't meet restaurant regulation in America is another. I'm not exactly "roughing it" as some people think when they hear I'm going to Ghana, I'm staying in hotels and resorts, but they don't exactly fit the US definition of 'hotel' and 'resort'.

I started (and just finished) reading Francis Chan's book Crazy Love towards the end of my semester, I have been wanting to read it for a while, especially since I saw him speak in Atlanta this past Winter and I was finally able to do so. Last night, I came across a section that I know was targeted at me, I just know it. The chapter was about obsession, the section was about our obsession with safety. Chan writes that when we pray to God something along the lines of-please keep me safe in my travels, and let me return home safely, we have "elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God's best is..."

What an incredible thought. This was such a needed realization that came at the right time for me. I have been praying for the Lord to keep me safe thinking that should be His will, what could be above my safety? But Chan challenges me, and all others who have fallen short of asking God to follow through with His will before our own, to ask God to bring us closer to Him. If that means risking our safety, shouldn't we sacrifice a little?

I'm not saying that I'm going to neglect my safety or my well being by not bringing sunscreen, or eating raw food, but who am I to ask God to put safety at the top of His predetermined list of things to do for me? It works in more situations than travel. Sometimes God has put me in a situation where I was scared, or I didn't know what was coming next, maybe not the safest  of all situations but that meant that I leaned more and more on Him, and His timing. This is His goal. For me to rely so heavily on His plans that asking Him for safety wouldn't even cross my mind. I should know that a little risk is worth having Him to back me up, keep me going. He knows what is best.

So as I get ready for Ghana, please keep me in your prayers. And as you pray, I would hope that my safety isn't your first or biggest concern. God has that covered. I would love for you to pray that I continue my journey with Christ through this trip to Africa and I rely more on Him than I ever have before.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Citizens of Heaven"

The following is a piece written by a non-believer about Christians. It is anonymous and we read it at camp a couple years ago. It is what I try and live by. Take time to read it all the way through, I'll share my thoughts at the end!

"For Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect or have some peculiar lifestyle...THey live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the wonderful and certainly unusual form of their own citizenship. They live in their own native lands, but as aliens; as citizens they share all things with others; but like aliens, suffer all things. Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country. They marry and have children just like everyone else; but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, not a shared bed. They are present "in the flesh" but they do not live "according to the flesh." They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws, and go beyond the laws in their own lives. They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are short of everything and yet have plenty of all things. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared.. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given a new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility. To put it simply- the soul is to the body as Christians are to the world. The soul is spread through all parts of the body and Christians through all the cities of the world. The soul is in the body but not of the body; Christians are in the world but not of the world." 

Wow...what high expectations huh?? Like I said before I got this letter in print from my 'boss' at camp when I was there as a server in high school. From the context it seems to be pretty old, speaking of Jews and Greeks, but stands the test of time as it can be applied to the present day. Being in this world but not of this world is a very hard thing to do, and I know I, and probably every other person has fallen short in doing so because we are well...human.

God has promised that "all who believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) That's great! It doesn't matter the sins that we have committed or are going to commit, as long as we live knowing that Jesus is the son of God, we will be citizens of heaven in the end. What a lot of people do, myself included, is think, "well if I'm going to be forgiven for this sin, it's ok to do it, as long as I know that it's a sin." Well is that really being a Christian? Shouldn't we be striving for perfection? Now we all know that there is no such thing as the perfect person, we all sin, but we should be always wanting to live a Christian life, meaning avoiding sin when we can. To be in this world but trying your darndest not to  commit worldly sins should be the goal of any Christian.

Like I said before, I have fallen short of being in the world and not of the world, and I know it will happen again, because I'm human. But trying to always improve, always live in a way where if someone were to meet me, they would know I'm Christian-that's the life I want. Despite my sins and despite my shortcomings, I hope that all who meet and know me, know me as a Christian. It takes more than wearing a cross around your neck to be a Christian, and I'm going to try and do that.