Saturday, April 21, 2012

And the Light Bulb Went On...

One of the projects my daughters had to do in their first grade class this year was a special service project. Each child had to come up with an idea of a way to serve another individual or group and then do a poster presentation in front of their class.
Of course, my girls chose The Cupcake Kids!!
But here’s the really neat thing…even though our girls’ mom and dad have been doing this thing in Uganda for two years now and they’ve done gazillion of Cupcake Kids sales (even my 2 year old knows when I whip out the cupcake pans to say “Cupcake Kids”!), it wasn’t until this service project that the lightbulb really went on.
Here’s the comment their teacher emailed me last night:                                                                                                                                                          Just a quick note to tell you that Brooke and Taylor each did a great job yesterday sharing about how they have been serving God and orphaned children of Uganda.  The other children really enjoyed the cupcake shape of Taylor’s display and the cupcake background of Brooke’s display.  They both provided a very good explanation of how the money that they earned would provide the children with the chance to eat healthy food instead of posho and to sleep on clean mattresses instead of ones that were bug infested.  They both seemed very proud of their displays and super excited about presenting which was very sweet to see.
I’ll let their projects speak for themselves…..(taken directly from their poster project)
by Taylor & Brooke Harty
These are the ingredients to make the cupcakes.
We are making the cupcakes.

We are selling the cupcakes.
We made $900 for the kids in Uganda!

Instead of eating posho,
they can eat healthy food.
These are their old mattresses…..
….these are their new mattresses!
Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"I Love Me Some Me"

"For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."  Gal. 5:13.

Joy and I have taken the Crown Financial class 3 times.  I wish I could say we’ve got our finances totally under control, but in all honesty it’s a work in progress.  The good news is that we’ve come a long way.  Whereas we use to not track our spending, we now track just about everything... almost everything at least.

One of the lessons that left a lasting impression on me (each time we took the class) is that all spending decisions are spiritual decisions. In other words, when I choose to spend money a certain way, I'm choosing not to use it for some other purpose.  No matter how you look at it, that has spiritual implications.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought of our tithe as the first fruits devoted to God and the rest was MINE to do with as I please. 

1 for You, 9 for me! 

When you put it that way it sounds unsettling.  But thinking of it that way helped me realize that none of it is mine – it’s all God’s.  I’m only watching over some of it for a little while. 

Although Joy and I continue to struggle with how we spend money, we have shied away from several purchases over the years.  We certainly want nicer things (you should see our sofa), but on some occasions (emphasis on some) we’ve decided against a purchase (mostly lifestyle choices) in hopes that we may be able to use the money to serve other Kingdom purposes.  

And we've been grateful to see God's hand through it.  Here are just a few blessings we've received by choosing to spend less on ourselves:

1.    We have been free to give more to other ministries.
2.    We have been free to travel to Uganda to minister with SixtyFeet.
3.    We have been free to help friends, family and others in need of financial support.
4.    We have been free to help other missionaries or those in seminary.
5.    We are free to adopt!

Honestly, I can’t imagine giving up these blessings for anything, especially for some of the junk we spend money on.  And man can we buy some junk.  As I said, work in progress.

The way we give says a lot, but the way we (Joy and me) spend says a lot as well.  In many cases, it can speak to a love affair we have with ourselves.  The tithe can become just another item on our list or budget that we check off before we focus on our true love... us.  The NFL receiver Terrell Owens (known for his high opinion of himself) once said, “I love me some me!”  Don’t we all... don't we all.

Here are are some great principles grounded in Scripture that have helped Joy and me (from Randy Alcorn's "The Treasure Principle" - which I highly recommend).  I pray they speak to you as well.

1.    God owns everything
2.  My heart goes where I put God's money
3.  Heaven, not earth, is my home
4.  Giving is the only antidote to materialism
5.  God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving

Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's No Place Like Home....

We all know the story of little ol' Dorothy being swept away into a far away land and encountering many strange things.

This isn't just a fantasy story to my friend Sara.  It's her reality.  Almost 12 months ago, she was swept away to a far off country called Uganda.  While there, she encountered many strange things....some things amazingly awesome.  And some things not so good.

I originally told y'all a bit about The Ribben's story back in October.  If you want the full story (which is their's to tell), check it out on their blog, Let Love Guide.  I warn you, though....grab a box of Kleenex before you camp out.  You'll need 'em.  Trust me.

For days on end, Sara and Andy have been visiting "The Great and Powerful Oz" (a.k.a. the Appeals Court) and presenting their case.  And finally, Oz granted a positive ruling in their case.  And they even got their official papers from the US Embassy giving them access back home.

The only thing she's missing are her ruby slippers that she has to click in order to get back to Kansas, or in her case, Santa Barbara.  You see, the plane tickets they purchased expired today.  Yup, lass than 24 hours from the time they were to board that big hot air balloon and travel back home.  I'm sure Sara knows how Dorothy felt as she saw Oz float away.

And now they have to purchase tickets to fly 5 people half way around the world.  Tomorrow.  Translation....they are having to come out of pocket lotsa coin (pronounced kah-wan).  And having lived over in Uganda for the last year (go right ahead and read into that "Andy has not had a  year's worth of paid vacation") and two adoptions....they're lacking the said coin (still pronounced kah-wan).

But, the great thing is that Sara doesn't put her faith in a little man behind the curtain.  She puts her faith in a Living God Who works miracles!  And this Wonderful Lord uses everyday folks like you and me to work His miracles.

So, will you help Andy and Sara (and O and B and N) come home?  All you have to do is click this donate button and say to yourself, "There's no place like home....There's no place like home....There's no place like home....."

To donate, please visit Let Love Guide and click on their paypal "DONATE" button on the right sidebar.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moving On

I'm thinking Scott needs his own blog. He enjoys posting way too much. No, wait...maybe it's a good thing that he keeps posting. Seems lately I don't have a spare moment to write. Plus, he's always got something good to say!

Over the past 3-4 months, we’ve been talking about moving.  As our four girls grow our home has felt a little snug, and you may have heard that we’re in the process of adopting.  So we thought it might make sense to get into another home to accommodate our growing family.  And given the fact that interest rates are at all time lows and home prices are severely depressed, it would probably make sense to buy now, right?
After some serious prayer, fasting and long discussions we reached the completely opposite conclusion.  Rather than move into another home as our family grows (and incur some more debt along the way), we’ve decided to stay put (and dramatically reduce our debt along the way).
Here’s how it went down.
A home we’ve had our eye on for nearly two years dramatically came down in price.  By like 50%.  It got to a point where we had to seriously consider doing something.  So we sprang into action.  Call the bankers, check.  Gather funds, check.  Re-run the budget, check.  All set.  
Not so fast.  We need to pray and seek Godly counsel.  So often we proceed with our plans and ask God to bless them rather than seeking His will first.  As we did, God spoke to both of us – with a megaphone!  
God calls all of us in different ways.  Resources can be allocated in a variety of ways to serve in the Kingdom.  We felt a deep conviction that God is calling us to be free.  By that we mean, totally free of debt so that we are fully available to serve Him in any way He wants.  
As we considered our move, we realized we would be less free.  We would be tied to the figurative chains of a larger mortgage, a bigger home, and more stuff making us less available to go somewhere to serve or to give more.  The thought of not being able to go to Uganda as often, or not being able to give more to friends and family in need was simply not palatable to us.
The question we kept asking ourselves was which scenario would draw us closer to Christ? Which alternative would deepen our relationship with Him and help us model humility and sacrificial giving to our children? For us, the answer was clear.  The move felt more like a distraction from what Christ was calling us to.
By staying put and paying down our debt, we hope to free ourselves for service and greater giving.  We want to say (sincerely), “Here we are, send us!”  And we feel like He has big plans in store.
So here’s where we ended up.  We’re staying put and over the next 3 years we hope to pay off ALL our debt.  That’s right – debt free in 3 years. Can we pay off all our debt in 3 years?  No way.  Apart from a miraculous move by God, I can’t fathom any possible way to do that.  But that’s the beauty of it.  Only God gets the glory.  And by the way, the adoption is still on.
Some have said this is silly.  Specifically, someone recently told me we don’t HAVE to do all this.  It’s not necessary and it’s kind of crazy.  But if after prayer and fasting we feel God calling us to this, then what kind of servants would we be if we disobeyed.  Why seek His will in the first place.
So we’re moving on… sort of.  Hopefully moving past some of the trappings of this world and more in line with His will and His specific plan for our lives.  We can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Immeasurably More

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen."  Ephesians 3:14-21

God never ceases to astound me.  
And yet, I'm so glad He continually amazes me,
because it's then I remember just how AWESOME He is!

You remember a couple of months ago when we asked you to Dare to Dream with us?
When we had some very generous donors step up and give $60,000 to SixtyFeet in order to help us make Mama Catherine's Children's Home a reality?
When we announced that we wanted to match this donation, dollar for dollar?

Well, God IS able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
He turned that $60,000 into

Please join us in humbly praising and thanking our gracious Lord!

Want to read more?
Check out the SixtyFeet blog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not My Economy

First, I want to thank you all for supporting SixtyFeet and the Giving of Life voting. Unfortunately, SixtyFeet did not win one of the top 3 grants....but we did win a $2,000 grant!  I have to confess - the human side of me was seriously bummed out.  Like we lost, or something.   Uhm, hello!!??  Not the case at all!  We won $2,000!  And three other amazing non-profits won crazy amounts of money for Kingdom purposes!!  As I rethink it with a more Kingdom mindset, we are all winners, really!

So, that brings me to my ask...

There's another chance for SixtyFeet to win several thousand of dollars by virtual voting and WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Cultivate Wines is a company that gives away 10% of their profits each month to non-profits that benefit education and basic human needs.  There are really 4 winners - the first gets $10,000 and the three runners-up get $5,000 each.  Would you please help SixtyFeet win one of these grants?  It's super easy!  All you have to do is register and then vote.  But it gets better!  You can vote once per day!!  I've had some friends set "The Give" page as their browser home page just to remind them to vote while others have set a reoccurring alarm on their smartphone...the website automatically pops up on their smartphone screen, they tap it, go to the website and voila!  

And, if you feel so called, you could go one extra step by blogging about this (feel free to re-post what I've written to save the creative juices) or simply email it to a bunch of friends.  

Voting ends New Year's Eve, so that gives you 11 votes!  

Thank you all for your support and catching the vision in helping these precious children half way around the world!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Humble King

...and another post by Scott.  I think he has officially hijacked my blog!  Really, it's okay.  I don't have the time to blog anyways!
The Humble King

Amy, our third child, recently started calling me “the humble king.”  It was pretty sweet.  Unfortunately, I had to burst her bubble and let her know there’s only one humble King and it ain’t daddy.  If only I were that humble!

It got me thinking about humility though. What does true humility look like? I once heard that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.  I think that pretty much sums it up.  Christ is the perfect embodiment of this; a true King who set aside everything to become nothing for the sake of others. 

But it’s hard to find that type of humility these days (even in the church).  I don’t see it very often, especially in myself.  In fact, I see the opposite quite a lot.  I see people pursuing positions of honor, people who love praise, and people who seek after wealth and then flaunt it.  Rarely is any of this truly forsaken for others.

Yes, we still give to others, but we often do it out of abundance while we continue to gratify ourselves. Where’s the humility in that?  It’s like saying Christ could have stayed in Heaven and redeemed humanity from there without sacrificing anything.  

So little Amy has encouraged us (in her own way) to embark on a mission of humility.  Not in our own strength or to receive any praise.  We want to think of others more and of ourselves less.  We want to live humbly for others and before others to glorify the One who gave up everything for us. 

What will it look like?  We’re not entirely sure, but we can tell you what it won’t look like.  It won’t look like the rest of the world.  If we want to be closer to Him we need to identify with those things that manifest His character:  humility and sacrifice are but two.

This time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ.  Honestly, it’s really hard to even fathom the reality of what we celebrate.  The Creator of time and space, entered time and space.  The One who created man became a man. The One who is infinitely more, became less. He descended from the heights of glory into the depths of humanity, not escorted on a chariot or by angels, but in the lowliest way possible.  Without a place to even lay His head, He poured Himself out as an offering for His people – sinless, bruised, buried, risen, glorified.

Now that’s a humble King.

“though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  2 Cor. 8:9