Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trusting Truth- 40 Days of Psalm 37 (Day 40)

"The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him." -Psalm 37:40

Wow! The year is over. Can you believe it? We have so much to be thankful for, so much to be grateful for and so much to look forward to. Thank God I decided to weed through my thought life on the blog this morning as I was interested in seeing what I became neurotic about these last twelve months (if you know me personally, the term neurotic is almost an understatement once I get caught on a subject). I'm so grateful that during this time of reflection I was able to recognize that outside of my own hand written journal this blog was true therapy. It became my way of asking myself to answer my own hard questions, challenging myself to search for truth and drawing a line in the sand that I was going to press into the truth of God in Christ even if it makes me seem nuts. My blog life became the area in which I could no longer lie, I could no longer deny and I could not run away from what I had typed. If I said it, I was going to have to answer to it.

Another great aspect of this personal blog review was that by His grace I was able to see that I/we never finished "40 Days of Psalm 37". In my defense, it wasn't that I actually forgot about the importance of going over this Psalm, but honestly, I have been on such a search for truth within the Christian culture (or lack of truth), that I unfortunately began to compartmentalize my "transformation" time with God as something I didn't need to share on the blog (even though that's where the Psalm 37 series stemmed from) and turned to asking questions about the way we Christians have been transformed by culture as opposed to God's Spirit. Just to be clear, my hope in leaving the Psalms series was never to make you feel bad about the way we've done "things" in our walk with God but instead to challenge brothers and sisters in Christ as well as anybody who stumbles on to this little blog (if they're a friend I'm aware it was out of pity) to search for truth. I pray that my questions and answers always turned them to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Today's Psalm truly encompasses the answers to all of my questions and supports my thoughts about Christ as I've pressed into Him over the past year. It also sums up the entire series of "Trusting Truth...". Today's message of Psalm 37:40 is that we need to be reminded of where our eternal security lies and how much we can trust the Triune God to deliver us from finite evil. He is the only eternal security available in a world that is sure to burn. The author David states this so clearly and if we are to read the entire Book of Psalms the way it was written (without chapters and verses) we would see the beautiful, passionate, truthful, hopeful and authentic confessions of a man who knew the truth of God's love and eternal plan of salvation even as he struggled with depression, enemies, fear, violence and uncertainty in his own life. His words in the Psalms are a constant reminder of God's constant unchanging love for us, even in the midst of our sin, trial and denial.

From the point of view of a realist (I don't consider myself a blind optimist or pessimist) the year 2010 promises to be one of hardship, turmoil, suffering, uncertainty, fear, and downright panic in the lives of those who don't know Christ (as well as those who say "Lord, Lord..." but never have truly known Him). We live in a world dominated by those who desire power, money and control and that will not change no matter who is in office or running big businesses. In my opinion this passion to rule the world through politics has less to do with their position as much as it has to do with their eternal condition. Without the only One who is a refuge in the time of need, the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the One who causes all of creation to sing of His majesty and the One who makes His eternal Kingdom an option now through Christ; those who don't truly know God must continue in the darkness of a finite life trying to catch the air in their little finite hands.

I don't claim to be the Old Testament prophet type but these coming days of 2010 and beyond promise to be extremely difficult for followers of Jesus. We can expect to be persecuted, made fun of, mocked, starve, and even be killed (Sound familiar to somebody we know and love?). We can also expect continued disunity within the "body" as we love the Lord but don't look to Him as the Head that directs His members. Because of our forgetfulness of who wants "Headship" we lose sight that we are to be the expression of who he is, and resort to being an expression of who He'd want us to be if WE were Him.

With these coming days of tribulation I hope that we don't see this season as a reason for us to rise up and "try harder" to bring people to Christ through our own efforts of great teaching, evangelism, or through politics in the wisdom of the world. Though these things may be a great plan to man our own wisdom and hurried nature is never the best plan to God. Plus, for the record, I'm not sold on our own best ideas of marketing Christianity to the masses which have failed miserably in their attempts to bring people to actually know Jesus as opposed to hear about Him constantly.

Instead, I'm hopeful that we will be transformed by the "renewing of our minds" instead of by one great book by a Christian author who seems to be in touch with one area you are passionate about. I am hoping that we begin to become the ones who are willing to trust and obey God even if it means turning the other cheek so that the "slapper" may know the love of God. I pray that we will take on the mind of Christ in every area and be transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we may live out the love of our risen Lord. And while I oppose gay marriage, I am never actually for the gay bashing that goes on because of it. I truly do find it hard to understand why is it that we reach out in love to the drunk in the street, the witch doctor in Africa, the drug addict on skid row or the corporate millionaire who just lost His wife to cancer but our Western culture of Christians has decided to hate gays? Does that mean we need to "save them"? No! God is the enabler of the heart. But it does mean we need to love them, in spite of their lifestyle. In case we forgot, Jesus wasn't worried about positions, race, creed, religion, or social status, so we need not be. "Repent and follow me" was a message to the Pharisee as much as it was the Samaritan woman. All I can say is that our response and action towards those not like us should always be from the transformed version of us, not in our Pharisidic Christian version that picks and chooses the laws and sins we think need the most treatment.

In my opinion, the coming year is a time in which we don't need to figure out how to get Christianity right and instead need to re-focus on becoming like Christ through the transformation by His Holy Spirit and through communion with the rest of His body who serves under His headship. We constantly need to be reminded that "winning souls" has nothing to do with us or what we've done and instead has everything to do with Him and what He's called us to do corporately. We need to remember that loving people has to do with a calling from God to be the love of Christ to a world in the darkness, and not as another way for us to try harder to make God love us more by doing what He asks. He can't love you any more than He already does! Lastly, we need to remember like David tells us in this Psalm that we have an eternal refuge in God, we have the eternal answer to death in Christ and that we can put all of our trust in a God who promises to deliver us no matter how difficult things may get. The message of 2010 is the message Jesus gave a bunch of ragtag guys in the 1st century,

""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26)

Friends, brothers and sisters, the call is to trust and obey. To allow God to be God and us to be an expression of His love as we come to the end of our "self's" for His sake.

May your new year be prosperous in the relationships you build, in the truth you obtain, in the love you give and in the light you walk in! See you next year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A.W Tozer with the Quote of the Day...

"If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of [the twentieth] century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom." - A.W Tozer

I had to share this quote. I feel it would be a disservice to only share things that "I think" without helping you know where some of these thoughts are coming from. I'm aware that I might have shared this before but it sure blesses my soul and I hope it moves your mind like it moved my own. As I can't say enough I love the Lord Jesus and I love His Church more than anything. From the inside out I desire to be transformed into Him so that the world may see and experience His love, grace and freedom. I love that we have the opportunity to be his DNA through belief, faith and then transformation. There is so much more freedom in Christ when we follow His word as opposed to the word of those who want Christ to be and look like their idea of a "perfect God", or even worse, share a created Christ that appears like the perfect American Christian with all the answers to the "problems" of life.

In this world we see "test tube babies" all the time. I just watched the movie, "My Sister's Keeper" in which a child was genetically engineered to perfectly match the organs, blood type and bone marrow type of a sister dying of cancer. Sadly, many of us have become "test tube babies" in Christ. We have genetically engineered our Spirits through our own effort and knowledge to look like, act like or feel like what we think Jesus to be or want us to be. Through great teaching, great books, great vision, great worship and great ideas, our culture has helped us to be "great Christians". Unfortunately, Jesus has so much more for us. He wants us to literally be Him, sharing His DNA. He even tells us how to be transformed into His death to self.

Though the ideas of "Fire and Brimstone", "What would Jesus Do" preaching, and the push to "serve" (though many times out of guilt or shame) may marketable in the pulpit, make you feel better about yourself and may even be considered "good" things; It must be said that these good things are absolutely not the best things, nor is it God's plan for His children. As Oswald Chambers says, "Good is the enemy of the best", and as a culture who desires instant gratification, we accept the good as fast as we can get it even at the expense on missing out on the best things God has for us.

I encourage you to not fall into the trap of selling your life solely out to "movements" because they "feel" right even if they are using the name of God or Jesus. I pray that you don't follow Preachers simply because they say the right things about God or about something you are passionate about and scratch your itching ears. Be sure to "test everything" against God's word and allow yourself to be the person whom God can transform into the likeness of His Son as we trust and obey in Him.

Note: I also want to say that by seeing things like movements and great preachers as "good" vehicles that can be used by God, we never lose sight of the best thing which is Jesus our Savior, Lord, King and Bridegroom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The "Three Gospels" According to our Culture

Two days ago I came across a great blog post/article regarding the "Three Gospels" of the church on Frank Viola's blog. As I read this bit of wisdom and knowledge I not only became aware of how I've consistently treated my relationship with Christ (and others) in a way that doesn't prove my allegiance to the King but also how I've been foundationally wrong even though I aim to make God's Word the ultimate authority in my life and constantly write and live with the "best of intentions". Unfortunately the "best of intentions" is usually driven by my own guilt, shame and condemnation and those intentions spring out of a desire to make things right. Of course the desire to make things right, work out our salvation and live like there is not grace even though we sing that it saves us is what defines legalism.

Being a "legalist" is something I've battled with in my walk with Christ over the past seven years. As I've gained more head knowledge through reading, conversation, "doing" ministry and knowing the right people I've missed out on the transformation of my heart that Jesus offers and Paul of Tarsus speaks of. As most of you who read this know, my goal in this blog is to encourage you to abandon yourselves, discern the truth and trust wholly in Him through obedience; unfortunately many times I get so caught up with being "right" in the way this life takes form that I fall back into my legalistic ways.

So, without boring you any further I encourage you to click on this link (or on the title of this article) and check out Frank's blog.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doing, Playing, Being or..."Areing"?

I have a confession again this morning. The confession is not that I've sinned, but the confession does involve missing the mark. In fact, my confession has to do with the realization I've come to in the way I've wanted to "fix" the church as if it's mine. Like those who've come before me, I've tried so hard, in my own power, with the best intentions to fix the way we Christians "do", "play", and now the way we try to "be" the church. I've realized through a revelation in my quiet time this morning that I've decided to try and do brain surgery on something (the church) that only needs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We don't need a new brain, we just need to re-train the one we were given by the God.

Christmas is a funny season for Christians. We, most of the time, out of the goodness of our hearts love to show those our love by buying them gifts. It's a beautiful thing to show people how much we care for them by giving them something we know they need or have said they want. As a person who loves to give, I never feel better than when that gift is received with grace, love and appreciation. Most of the time it is in a smile that I see I've done right, or in a few words like "I love you", but more than anything it's in the way I'm treated as a result of what I gave. When we give a gift out of love, and the response of the recipient is to simply receive this gift in love, and then respond by just accepting the gift as opposed to feeling like they must pay me back, my mission has been accomplished. In the same way, when we are just able to accept/receive God's gift of new life to us, and the death of sin, as well as the taking on of the DNA of Christ as his Church and bride that gets to live in His perfect Kingdom then we will begin to experience the freedom of who we "are".

This morning i realized as an advocate for "being" the church, I am part of a group that is still striving to "do" it right. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am already part of his Church and that is where freedom lies. Freedom is never a response of guilt but of love. The same way that Eve was Adam's DNA since she was made from his rib, I am part of Christ's DNA as I am a member of a church that was born out of him and I can find freedom in accepting who I am in Christ. I truly believe with all my heart that a revival and revolution is coming from within the body as we begin to see, in glimpses, how God sees us. The beginning of that revival comes from the fact that we are worthy to be loved, worthy to accept forgiveness and worthy to be a member of the Church regardless of what we've done in the past. If we are to believe in a God that is all knowing, all loving, all powerful as well as everywhere at the same time, then we have to believe that God knew of our sins before we would commit them. The proof of him being aware of that sin is the sending of His only begotten Son to take those sins to the cross so that we may have fellowship with Him.

Nothing surprises God! Nothing! Your sins of omission and your sins of commission do not catch God off guard. But...what pains God, what hurts the feelings of God is the fact that in spite of his gift of forgiveness for sin, in spite of his gift of new life and a new marriage with Him through Christ, we have responded in finding out how He we can "repay" Him. If I can urge Christians one thing this Holiday season it is to learn how to be a great receiver. When we learn how to accept a gift, we learn how to appreciate the giver and the thought of his present. When we aim to "repay" for what was given, it becomes more about us and what we can do to show we're worthy of such a thought. It's hard to accept but you are worthy of God's love. It's hard to accept but you are "His Masterpiece" according to Ephesians 2. We can't make ourselves any more of God's masterpiece by playing the part of His Masterpiece. As His church and bride we are perfect in His sight and therefore we can begin to experience the freedom of Christ when we see what we already "are" instead of what we need to do, be or play the part of.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Perspective and Confessions of an Ordinary Guy

About a week ago I wrote about saving a word like "amazing" for those special moments in life in which God speaks to your Spirit and your Soul. After my meeting this morning, the only word that comes to mind is "amazing" when I begin to describe what God spoke to me through the conversation, the love, the growth, and the understanding I developed as I spent some time with my Brother-in-law. A little background on the relationship is that my Brother-in-law has been an integral part of my everyday life and most importantly in the development of my Faith over the past six years. We began dating our wives at virtually the same time in Jan/Feb of 2004, we were there for each other through the times that nobody else would have a clue what it's like to date or marry a triplet (did I mention our wives have the same DNA?), we have prayed numerous times together, have spoken the truth in love to one another when it wasn't easy, have taken numerous trips together and have basically shared all of our lives together. Whenever you end up marrying "multiples", you have no choice but to become as close as brothers. However, over about the past three to six months, as he has engaged further in his position as a youth Pastor and i felt the Spirit of God moving me to question the makeup of the institutional church, we have slightly drifted apart in our ability to talk about "all things Jesus".

So, after he read multiple blog posts over the past month or two when it appears that I have been filled with the spirit of a renegade for the deconstruction of the institutional church, he decided it was time we meet and talk about the "elephant in the room", especially since in many ways it appears I'm calling for an end to his job as we know it. He noticed that even though I was and am posing important questions to those in the church, those who work in the church, those outside the church and anybody else who reads this blog, I have rarely included myself in the problems that I'm blaming on the "institution" and somehow separate myself from the very thing (the Church) that I'm trying to put back in to what we currently refer to as "church". Ironically, just last night as I was praying I felt something tell me (not audibly) that though my deconstruction may be correct and even important, unless I aim to build back up what I'm tearing down, then all I'm causing is disunity within the body of Christ (just as much of a sin as leading people to worship where they attend on Sunday instead of Christ or the creation of "churchilebrities").

So, without getting into personal details and with the encouragement of my brother-in-law it's time to clear somethings up...

1) Do I hate the church? Absolutely Not! I'm a member of the Church and recognize that I don't use the word "we" enough when speaking about the Church. I'm incredibly passionate about the body of Christ and truly believe that the revival and reformation that followers of Christ are hoping for will most certainly take place within the "institutional church" as we know it. This may mean a breaking off of some of the members to pursue house churches and just as likely it will be a reconstruction of how we "do" church by the Holy Spirit. This doesn't make you or me "emergent" or "emerging" but it does mean an end to the fear that we must be "relevant" within culture or fear that we are letting down John Calvin or Martin Luther. The Kingdom of God is above all Earthly cultures and wisdom and I expect that by the power of His Spirit, the culture of the Kingdom will regain its influence, power and attraction as the body hands the power back to the head who is Jesus Christ. I don't have all the answers to how this will work or what it will look like, but I know that it's already happening. I also know that it won't happen out of the wisdom of man (me included) but instead by the wisdom of God (see 1 Cor: 2 and 3).

2) Do I hate you if you work at a church? Absolutely Not! I feel terrible as I read anything that I've written or that others have written that aims bazookas and chucks grenades at those working "in the church" (guilty at times). Though i would not be true to my study of Scripture if I denied the fact that I don't believe in a paid "clergy", I don't know if that is the BIGGEST problem within the institution and I don't believe it's something that MUST be fixed. If it must be fixed, all I can say is that it's a God sized problem that can only be fixed by God himself. For the record, I do believe that a teacher should be paid a "fair wage" as Scripture says, I also believe in the financial support of missionaries which in my opinion now includes local churches due to the lack of those actually following Christ in America, and I believe in the cheerful giver who has the ability as a follower of Christ to prove that God has total control of the money he allows him or her to make (that's a tough one personally). With that being said, I only hope to encourage you, edify you, exhort you, and serve with you as part of God's "Royal Priesthood". I have realized that even though I am trying to raise important questions, I may have demeaned your current calling and in no way am I in a position to do that.

3) Do I believe that we all need to attend a church? Without getting fully into the semantics of the word "church" today, the answer is YES! Surprise coming from me? Let me be very clear, all followers of Christ are called to be part of a community of believers that without question meets together and lives life together. We are called to serve together, take communion together, pray for one another, edify each other, exhort one another and give to each person as they have need. With this being said, this doesn't mean that there is only way to experience church and that is by going on Sunday. It should also be said that showing up at a Starbucks with a Christian friend and reading the bible is not the same as "going to church" and should actually be referred to as fellowship which is also extremely important to sharing life together within the body. I must also note that most of my issues with the institutional church have to do with the squashing of the Spirit of God that is in so many of the "congregants" by the traditions of our liturgy. As we sit in pews, fall asleep, cheer, raise their hands, listen, think, or whatever else we do during a service time we are rarely encouraged to do anything but fill compartments of the "church life". Therefore, I'd urge the institution to let go of their tight grip on programs, methods, being relevant, being up to date, or being concerned with offending people and instead trust God that the building he wants to speak through is his people who come together as "living stones" (1 Peter). By allowing for this, even within the institutional church, we actually build one another up and become a real family. I doubt people at home aren't allowed to talk with the exception of 5 minutes of pre-planned time on a Wednesday night and I don't see what that should be any different whenever a community of believers meets together no matter the day of the week that they meet.

Is Jesus the only way? Yes! Not because I'm saying it, but because He did. "If God says it, that settles it" as my mentor always says. Next question!

Do I always think I'm right, and if you disagree should you stop reading the blog? The only person who is always right is God himself! I aim to be clear that when I pose questions, they are just that...questions. Many times I will give opinions, but more often I aim to present facts. It's a fact that the institutional church is on the decline and house churches are on the rise. But, that doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit isn't in both. I realized this morning that there is an adrenaline seen in my writing when I get passionate about something and instead of being constructive, it is often times destructive. Please know, that in all humility, I don't always believe I'm right, but I do believe God is always right. Therefore, if I'm stating a fact, it's not always because I want it to be that way (see the Jesus question above) but because God states it SHOULD be a certain way. I also want to be clear that the institution, the house church movement and the missional church movement are all part of God's sovereign, eternal and moral wills. Anything we do inside of those wills of God are ok. In other words, we may disagree on some little things but our questions when reading the work of somebody else should not be whether or not we're personally offended. The question that should be asked is, "does this piece of writing offend the God of Scripture?" and if you answer no to that question you would then ask, "what can I personally do to remedy my own situation and relationship with Him"? Just so you know, most of the time the answer is to let Go and give everything to God. We have to get over ourselves enough to allow His Spirit to transform us because we can't transform ourselves into the image and love of God. It's not easy for me to be right in my head when I'm writing, only to be corrected by a friend, a reader or God. But we're all after truth and leaning on tradition and comfort never helped anybody grow in Christ.

I'll stop right here for now. If you have any more questions for me, comments for me or anything else I'd love to hear from you whether by email or by comment. The most important thing I was asked this morning was "Ryan, what are you hoping this blog actually does? Is it your ministry?". The answer to that question was that I hope I can be the hands of Jesus as I type that pull people out of the rut of being a "Christian" on paper but have never seen the Spiritual Transformation that produces the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Personally, I'm embarrassed to say that in my own life, things like anger and pride continue to have a hold on me. There are places and areas of my life that I need to let go, places where I still must come to the end of myself and places in which I block the presence of the Holy Spirit. I don't apologize for asking hard questions or making you uncomfortable, but I do apologize for creating any disunity in the body because of my lack of focus to "Be completely humble and gentle; patient, bearing with one another in love. Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:2-3). I hope that from here on out this blog becomes a dialogue in which revival and reformation can spring up within all aspects of the church and the resurgence of God's people to influence a culture as opposed to us being transformed by it. My aim is never to be relevant, Jesus wasn't worried about relevance, he was concerned with truth. Truth is what sets people free and the truth of our freedom comes by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Amen!

The Riley Project Update...

After conferring with my most trusted ally (my wife), we've decided that we will decrease our food budget by $4 a day for the 25 days of Advent in order to give $100 towards "The Riley Project". I hope you all will consider some way that you can sacrifice something yourself (even something small), in order to help fulfill Riley's dream.

I also forgot to mention that on the Goodfellow's blog there is a link to make donations. Please use that link directly in order to help give water to those who don't have any. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Support "The Riley Project" for Christmas (or whatever you celebrate)

Two days ago, on the day before the beginning of advent a friend of mine posted on his blog that his family of six was going to eat rice and beans every night for 25 days leading up to Christmas. Knowing his desire to share the love of God with this hurting world, I had to dig a little deeper in order to find out what was behind the beans and rice. As I read further, I saw that the beans and rice meant so much more than going on a low caloric, high fiber diet to look great in Christmas card photos. Instead, Blake and his family have decided to partake in a well giving ministry headed up by his eight year old daughter Riley, hence the name "The Riley Project". Her goal of raising $5,000 in order to give clean water wells to the places on Earth in which people die from a lack of good drinking water is within reach as she only needs $800 more. When I saw how close she is, and how I easily spend $800 during Christmas time on food and gifts "in the name of the birth of Jesus" yet rarely share the love of Him, I realized I could possibly help.

So with the permission of Blake, I'm posting his blog below regarding the "Riley Project". I hope you will consider what he and his family are doing in order to take small steps to combat selfishness during this season and instead spread hope, love and actual life. It was Christ who is able to give us eternal life, and instead of focusing on the finite things like toys and food which both waste away, the thought of giving life through water to the starving and thirsty during the time in which we celebrate the birth of our "living water" seems appropriate.

On a side note as you consider helping I'd like you to realize that during the Holiday season Americans spend $450 Billion dollars celebrating the holidays. This means more consumerism which is just as prevalent in the "church" as it is outside (if not worse), and an additional 12 pounds on the average human belly (per another study I read outside of the blog). If we decided to gain only six pounds, that is most likely worth a minimum of $50 that we could donate just by eating half as much (less cookies, Starbucks, muffins, candy, etc...). Also, within the "church" I can't help but be discouraged during the Holiday season to see so much money wasted on the unnecessary construction of more "church" buildings including an embarrassing $120 million dollar project in Dallas. But I have to ask does God really need "bigger barns" to attract people? What a waste! During this Season I can't help but think that we have lost sight of what it means to be Jesus to the lost, the hurting, the widows, the helpless, the meek, the Poor in Spirit, and the like. Instead of trying to make buildings and cutesy messages to attract people, maybe, just maybe we can become eternally attractive as we bear the image of our Savior in the way we love.

Please take this as a small challenge to walk the walk. By no means am I saying you must do this or else you're selfish, instead I'm just asking you to consider it. And oh, by the way, even if Jesus means nothing to you, or being a Christian is silly, or maybe you're a Jew, Muslim, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist or something else, if you can find it in your heart to do something truly "good" during this season then please consider helping the dream of an eight year old come true. Starting now until Dec. 24th figure out a way to even donate a dollar a day to give water to those who have none. Please contact me if you want to help or contact Blake directly through the blog below. Thanks and have a wonderful Holiday season!



This article below was taken from

rice & beans and the Riley project

As I shared in my last post, we have realized that we have so much (too much) and that we can no longer sit comfortable while others are suffering. We have also become pretty disgusted with what Christmas has come to mean in America. It is all about consumerism and spending money and giving to people (us included) that already have more than we need. We do not want to raise our children with a sense of entitlement. We want, as a family, to focus on Christ's birth at Christmas and find ways to honor Him with this season.

The Riley Project is close to being finished (although Riley says that she will never be finished raising money for wells). Riley has about 800 more dollars to raise to reach her goal. We are ready for Riley to reach her goal because we are ready for over 250 people to finally have clean water. They are dying while they wait (I know that sounds dramatic, but, well, it's the truth).

So, during Advent (November 29-December 24) our family will be eating rice and beans every night for dinner. We will be donating the money that we save on groceries to The Riley Project. We can't take credit for this idea. I first saw a blog where a family ate rice and beans for a month and gave the money that they saved to a friend's adoption. Then, our friends Kinzi and Jay approached us with the idea that they would fast and give the money that they saved to The Riley Project and asked us if we wanted to participate. As we discussed it and threw around ideas, we landed on eating rice and beans for Advent. I honestly can't think of a better way to both prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth and raise more money for the well then to sacrificially give of ourselves in this way.

In many ways we are very excited about rice and beans and what it will teach our family. But we are also very selfish and really, really don't want to eat rice and beans for 25 days straight. It's not going to be fun. I hate beans. But every night, as we eat our rice and beans, we will think of those we don't have anything to eat, we will think of those who are going to get clean water, and we will think of Jesus who sacrificed much more than us.

I mean, really, who am I to complain about eating rice and beans when there are millions of people who would be beyond thankful to know that they were getting rice and beans every night?

Who am I to think that I deserve more than rice and beans?

We are asking anyone who wants to, to please join us in giving something up in order to give to The Riley Project. You don't have to eat rice and beans for 25 days. You can eat rice and beans for a week or one night. You can give up Starbucks or Coke and give the money that you save to the well. You could come up with your own idea. I am also giving up my nightly ice cream which is a really, really big deal for me. We already had a family give up eating out for a month and donate their saved money to the well. We have so much that we can give up.

(I also just wanted to say that you can participate for any reason- it doesn't have to be in preparation for Jesus' birth. This is just one of our reasons. You obviously don't have to be a Christian to give sacrificially. In fact, most Christians are really bad at sacrificial giving.)

So, after 25 days of rice and beans, on Christmas Day, our family will write a check to charity:water for the amount of money that we saved. It would be so beautiful if the final $800 needed to build this well was raised by Christmas Day because of sacrificial giving on the part of people all around the country.