I celebrate the day...

Though my heart is a flurry of excitement with the idea that I may have my first White Christmas tomorrow, that is not the reason I'm celebrating this Christmas season. I also can't wait to give my mom the present I've had in mind for a couple months now, but that's also not why I celebrate. Nor is it that I totally know I'm going to get this great dress (I didn't peek... I was there when my mom bought it), but again- I have a completely different reason for my joy tonight. That joy is totally all Christ. But when I look at the fact that He was born with a purpose- to die on a Cross- it's kind of depressing. My mom told me about a kid in one of the sunday school classes at her church. They were telling the Christmas story in sunday school, and while everyone else was happy, he raised his hand to ask:
"Wait... is that the same Jesus who dies on a cross?"
His teacher replied that yes, indeed it was. And with a sad look on his face, he raised his hand to ask another:
"But... why would God do that? Why did He have to make His son die?"

It's a question that perplexes me to this day. Why us, God? What makes us worthy? Nothing.
But in it all, God gets the glory that He deserves. Because Christ was born in a stable and died on a cross, God was glorified above all.

So why do I celebrate? Because Christ was born as a sacrifice for my sins. Because He died, I live. I not only live the life I was given when born of my parents- but I live a life that has been bought with his blood and is being sanctified. I can walk with Christ personally because He was born fully God and fully man. And above all, because God is glorified in the birth of a baby, so pure, by a virgin named Mary, in a humble stable in Bethlehem.

One of my favorite Christmas songs:

"When the babe was born.
In a manger on the hay.
God saw a veil torn.
He saw Good Friday.
He was born to die.

Gold laid before the Christ.
Incense, His presence is sweet.
Myrrh to signify victory over death's sting.
He was born to die.

It came in a dream.
To Joseph late one night.
That Herod sought the King.
But could not take His life.
He was born to die.

He said, "You won't take my life.
You won't take my life.
You won't take my life...
I lay it down."

We came here today
to celebrate His birth.
But let us not forget
why Jesus came to earth.
He was born to die."

- Thanks, Shane and Shane.


Setting My Crate On Fire

Chenn yo kase koun ya mwen lib,
Jezi so vele det mwen peye!
Ak anpil fos gras li renye-
La mous san fin, gras infini.

Dave Edwards told a story the other night about Henry Box Brown: A slave who shipped himself in a box to an abolitionist office in the north so that he would be free. For 27 hours days he was trapped in a small wooden crate, handled without care because that was the price of his freedom.
He went on to discuss how we ourselves were once slaves to sin- confined in our small wooden crate। However, Christ paid for us to be set free. With His blood, His death, He opened the lid on that crate and offered us a helping hand out of it.
We are no longer slaves to sin, but some of us still chill in our box. Others have been let out... but, like I have so often, hold on to that box, or move close to it, so we can climb back just in case we need to.

But, as Dave posed, would Henry Box Brown ever have gotten back in his box? No way. Not a chance. He was set FREE- so why would he choose to hold on to the bondage that held him in?

It was a story I needed to hear. I am so guilty of holding on to my crate that Christ let me out of. Little things that I know I need to let go of in order to be fully bonded to the Lord and not be held under sin. But I'm working to not only run from that box, but I'm lighting a match to set it on fire. This box can not and should not contain me- for it is not my master.

What's in your box? And why are you still holding on to it?
Set it on fire with me.

Romans 6.1-14
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."


Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

How long, O Lord, must I fight for joy?

The sorrows that bind me are so heavy sometimes. Father, I'm tired of fighting- I am becoming so weak. My heart aches for You, for Your will, Your people--
please, my GOD, have mercy on me!

I'm beaten, broken, bruised, bleeding, Lord, for your Name- for Your glory! I have rejoiced in my suffering and in Your never-ending grace... even still, I know there is a purpose:
I know You are exalted in my brokenness.

My Father, my Creator, my Saviour-- rescue me now from my sorrow. Deliver me into the hands of mercy, freedom, joy. There is power in Your hands, blessed Redeemer.

But Lord, if it is Your will that I continue to fight--
My King, I will fight.

I will be broken and used up for as long as I live.
And in that darkness,
I will fight for strength, for peace that only comes from You.

Holy One, remember me.


Worried about Obama's Speech?

A couple tidbits from authors who are not me regarding the speech and authority.

First. John Piper's blog from today:

I am stunned at the outcry against the President of the United States speaking to the youth of this nation about the importance of education.

I am embarrassed by the governor of my home state saying, that the president’s plan to address them is “disruptive . . . uninvited . . . and number three . . . I don’t think he needs to force it upon the nation’s school children.”

This speech seems, for me, to be an answer to a prayer that I have prayed for the president repeatedly.

Father, the condition of our schools and families is so broken that nothing seems to be working, especially for the poor in our urban centers. Help our president to have the courage to use his amazing place of influence to speak into this situation in such a way that boys and girls would take their studies seriously and put school above sport and homework above hiphop and graduation above gangs.

O, Lord, create a culture where it is not cool to fail. Give our President the courage to call all children, especially ones who feel hopeless about academic work, to fight for knowledge the way gangs fight for turf.

And as the President plans his speech, help him to feel as helpless as he really is to meet the greatest needs of the children, so that he turns to Jesus who alone has the answer for the ruin and the wrongs of our cities. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I hope my daughter hears the speech.

Secondly, an excerpt from a devotional book my dad has been reading. It's called Thoughts from the Diary of a Desparate Man by Walter A. Henrichson, written in 1999. The passage for today seemed very appropriate:

"If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,
for calmness will lay great offenses to rest." Ecclesiastes 10.4

God does not promise you that the authority He will place over your life will be good. Sometimes he puts you under the authority of rash people who are capricious in their behavior. When that happens, you must avoid two things:
First, don't become the slave of authority. You are solely the slave of God. Observe, inquire, and form opinions, but remember that you belong to Christ.
Second, don't despise your authority or rebel against the "system;" it is God-ordained. "There is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained by God." (Romans 13.1)
Wardlaw said, "The weak reed, by bending in a rough wind receives no hurt, while the sturdy oak is torn up by it's roots." When authority is brash and unreasonable, don't resist it. Keep your mouth closed and God will quiet him down. "The Lord shall fight for you and you shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14.14) Solomon continues by suggesting that a wise person maintains objectivity and observes what is happening. It is difficult to place things in perspective during such times. Wisdom sees things as they are and responds properly rather than reacting.
Maintaining power over your spirit is a higher virtue than proving that you are right. You can only do this by remembering that God placed the authority over you and will not allow him to harm you.

I just encourage you to pray for our President rather than simply curse him. God is still God whether the leader of our nation is Republican, Democratic, Communist, White, Black, Asian, Jewish, Christian, or Athiest. God is still in control.


Will I See You With My Hair Down?

This is in response to an excerpt from Authentic Beauty, posted sometime last November?

It's what I’ve always wanted- that perfect dress that Chelsea once said I would never find- I have it. The soft white fabric glows under the mid afternoon sun. Each detail is just how I imagined it to be- with its flowing skirt, sweetheart neckline, and satin champagne ribbon at the waist. I hold out my hands to examine the sleeves made of a delicate lace pattern.

That’s when I see them. The chains that have bound my hands for so long are in striking discord with such a tender dress. My hands are rough and calloused, showing years of toil; my wrists, scarred from bumps along the way, but both are hidden by the satin gloves that match the ribbon. As I glance down at my bare feet, I notice the chains surrounding them as well.

“How will he love me?”

I stand in the middle of a dirty parking lot, between two oversized vans.
“Surely” I think, “Surely this is no place for a wedding…”
As he nears me, I can’t quite make him out. Suddenly, the wind picks up, blowing dust all over my dress, and I feel so worthless.

“How will he love me?”

Someone walks behind me, slinging a backpack over my shoulders. It's so heavy, and the weight causes me to fall, ripping the bottom of my dress.
I stand watching him walk towards me- this tattered mess of a bride- hoping he can love me, as a tear trickles down my face.
I look down at the ground as to hide my face from him, knowing that I can not be the beautiful bride I had planned on being. I can feel his presence as he stops in front of me.

The tears stream down my cheek as guilt and shame fill my heart. I have messed up so much, and I don’t deserve him. He takes my hands, removing the gloves carefully, revealing each scratch and blister.

“I’m sorry” I cry, still unable to look my true love in the face.
“Beloved,” he whispers, “I am yours, and you are mine.”

His gentle hands reach up and pull the veil back from my tear-streaked face.
“I love you, Janelle,” He says as he lifts my chin.

I look at Him, his eyes so full of love and concern.
His words dissipate my fears- I know that He loves me truly and deeply, and in this moment I am His forever.

I look back at my hands as He holds them and I see no scars, no chains on my arms, and my feet- free to run and dance. The dress once again glows a soft white, no dirt or tears in the fabric.
I no longer stand in that dusty parking lot, but at the edge of a river. The hills rise up around me, flowers pink and yellow in full bloom. Sweet smells fill the air, and a bird flies above, singing out its glorious song of praise.

I feel beautiful once again. He who calls me His precious bride takes the backpack off my shoulders and puts it around His own. I begin to protest, but He simply smiles and repeats,

“I love you, Janelle.”


Kenya Dig It?

Yes, it is the most overused Africa-related pun. Not that I know too many, but I'm sure I could find a few.

Anyway, this is a 2am post because I can't sleep. . . what's new?

I just want to ask for your prayers:
This summer, I will be volunteering at Maisha International Orphanage in Kisumu, Kenya.

While we are in Kenya, we will spend a few days in Nairobi and then help at an arts and culture camp there in Kisumu (actually started by an OU student!). I will also, hopefully, get to meet the girl I have been sponsoring through Compassion Int'l-- Elizabeth! She is 5 and will turn 6 on July the 5th, and, oh man, she is as cute as can be. She lives just outside of Kisumu so that will be freaking awesome! The trip total is a little under a month- from June 3 to the 25th. (I'm semi bummed because I'll be coming back just a few days before my 21st birthday! How a-stinkin-mazing of a birthday present would it have been to be there on my birthday?! Hahah.

Am I freaking stoked? Heck Yes. Does this feel real yet? Heck No. 

Here is the deal- I have to raise a stink ton of money in only a couple of months due to coming onto the team so late in the game. I need your prayers, and if you so desire, your financial support. I will be sending out support letters soon, so if you want me to send you one, facebook me your address or email it to me at hope4afrika@yahoo.com. 
On second thought, I may just post it as a note on facebook or send it out as an email to friends around here to save some printing costs... hmm.. 
But, send me your address anyway. :)

So that is a quick update. I did write a bit in the past couple weeks in journals and such- some that I would like to share with you. So... something is coming. I get a D- for keeping up with this, but I'm not quite failing yet. 


The past couple days have helped to remind me why I do what I do- what it is the drives me to be a music teacher.


Where to pick up again

So much has happened since my last post, I'm struggling to find myself motivated to pick back up. I have some things scribbled in my journals, but never complete blogs. And the only ones that are complete... well.. I would never put up on here.

This past semester was rough, to put it lightly. Think heavy-duty-sandpaper kind of rough. 
There were things that were out of my control, and others that I only made worse with my attitude and my laziness in dealing with them. Still others that could have been altogether avoided had I done things differently, and I'm finding it hard to not beat myself over things in the past. 

I promise I will have a new blog up soon. The Lord has been working, my friends. He's been working in my life, and in the lives around me.

For now, I'm simply asking for prayer. Prayer that I can find the words to write to express what I have in my head- because it's there... it's just not wanting to be splayed out for the world to see; to hold me accountable.