Monday, June 10, 2013

13 Minimum

I've been thinking about this post for a long time now, trying to decide just what I wanted to convey and how I wanted to express myself. I frequently have thought that I don't want to step on any toes, and I want to with wisdom encourage those who are reading. But the more I think through this, I stop worrying so much about your toes. And though I want to encourage, I also want to admonish.

To do this, I am going to use what I'm familiar with. I can only share with you my own personal compassion, convictions, and experiences. And even though I've been thinking about this for some time, this post arose from a desire to vent and therefore I make no promises regarding its coherence and brevity! *Fair Warning*

My topic today is simple....

13 years.

Why, you might ask, did the concept of 13 years frustrate me enough to want to verbally vent in the form of a blog post? Because one year ago I returned from Uganda having made a very important commitment to a 5 year old. And when I do the math, this commitment will last (yes, you guessed it) 13 years!

You see, in Uganda the school calender is year round beginning in January with three terms that conclude in November/early December. Children begin school in what they call baby class, then they complete middle and top class before attending primary 1-7. Next there is secondary 1-4 (much like our high school). Then students who wish to attend University must complete what is called A-level which is two years. So if you do the math, that is up to 16 years of school and that's excluding college. (To those school aged readers: Makes our 12 year system look a whole lot better, right?)

All of this to say, that at 22 years of age, I made a commitment to a five year old to guarantee her ability to complete 13 more years of school. Thirteen years from the time I made that commitment I will be 35 years old. Kind of puts things into perspective doesn't it?

In our society, we are so very quick to give. This is evidenced by the immense outpourings after natural disasters. I heard recently that an entirely separate fund had to be created on behalf of the Boston Marathon Bombing victims because so much money was coming in from kindhearted people all over the nation. This, however, does not tell the whole story. In a few weeks, the fund will not be news worthy, this post will be forgotten, and those one-time donations will be just that, one-time. For true lasting impact, we need to grasp how important committed, long-term giving is to the projects we love.

My hope is that you'll find ways to be loyal supporters of the causes that touch your heart most. Sacrifice should be difficult. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be sacrificial. If your giving doesn't hurt, give more. I don't think you'll ever look back on your life and think "I wish I'd given less..."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

One of Those

In the American Christian vernacular Satan isn't a figure we spend too much time talking about. Actually, talking about Hell is kind of taboo in our culture despite our deeply rooted Christian heritage. According to the most recent polling I could find from 2009, USA Today says that only 59% of Americans believe in Hell compared to the 74% who believe in Heaven.

These statistics are baffling. From what I've read, Hell is clearly distinguished in the Bible as a real thing, and Satan appears more than once. (Refer to the book of Job in the old testament and Matthew 4 in the New) Though I don't know the statistics, I would assume that even fewer people believe in demons. Again, demons and evil spirits are frequently mentioned in the bible.

So why do I bring this up? Why talk about something American Christians are clearly uncomfortable with. Well, because I think it's relevant. I think that sometimes it's necessary to confront the things that make us uncomfortable in order to grow. That said, this blog isn't to try to convince people that Satan, Hell, and demons exist. Actually, I want to encourage you with something that is pushing me to live a life in Christ. And by living a life in Christ, I'm referring to knowing him intimately as my friend and Savior.

The heading in my bible over one of my favorite stories in Acts is "The Sons of Sceva." In case you're not familiar with this passage it begins by describing that God was doing some extraordinary things through Paul in his ministry. Things like healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. Then it says,

"Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, 'I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.' Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this." -Acts 19:13-14

I'll pause there. I want to point out that I could write multiple blogs on the power of the name of Jesus. So powerful, that even Jews who didn't believe in His authority, saw what speaking the name of Jesus could do. But this is a topic for another time. I'll continue,

"But the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?'" -Acts 19:15

Let's break that down. Part 1: "Jesus I know." All throughout the Gospels, it is the demons who have no problem recognizing who the Son of God is. This part is pretty self-explanatory. The demons know Jesus, and don't you forget, they tremble at the mention of his name. Part 2: "Paul I recognize." Think that through for just a second. They (demons) know Paul's name. They recognize him. They know that when he speaks the name of Jesus, he comes with the authority found in Christ. Paul was someone who the demons knew by name.

Part 3: "but who are you?" It's a good question. Are you someone that the demons know by name? Another way to put that, are you living your life in such a way that your relationship with Christ is evident to everyone including the enemy?

In Matthew 7:21-23, Christ gives a chilling warning that I think we would do well to heed.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

The sons of Sceva had it half right. The name of Jesus is powerful. But they lacked the most important part.

1) I want to be one of those people who Satan and the demons know by name.
2) More importantly, I want to be one of those people who lives in an intimate relationship with Christ.

My question to you, "but who are you?"

Monday, January 14, 2013

Remember Your Creator

The words of Eccelsiastes 12 have recently made a rather lasting impression on me. They begin with instruction, and continue into an inevitable and grim picture of our last moments. I've had the wonderful privilege of working with the youth at my church on Sundays for the past few months and I'd wager that may be the reason this passage jumped out at me.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"... (Eccl 12:1)

This is my heart for our youth,
this is my heart for our young adults,
this is my heart...

It reminds me of a passage in Psalms that Lord recently introduced me to. It's funny how He does that sometimes. In this particular instance I think He was calling me out on my commitment to Him. You see I'm not of the opinion that the God of the universe desires for his creation to show up and fill a pew on Sundays, attend one, maybe two bible studies throughout the week, and consider that preparation enough for an address on the streets of gold. Take David for instance, the psalmist wrote,

"when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;" (Psalm 63:6)

I don't know about you, but the image I see here is of a lover thinking of his love as he begins to drift off to sleep. And I'd bet that love is the first thing on his mind when he wakes. Kind of puts some perspective on that simple "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer doesn't it?

My point:

What if we learned in our youth, the importance of knowing, really knowing, our Creator "before the silver cord is snapped, ...and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it"? (Eccl 12:6-7) What if we obeyed the command of Ecclesiastes 12:13, "fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man"?

What do you think this should look like in your life? Do you know your Creator in the intimate way David spoke of in his Psalm?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So I'm a pretty big advocate of God's perfect timing. Don't get me wrong, I know He doesn't need my approval of this character trait of His, but I think in general we spend entirely too much time telling God how we want things done on our schedules only to discover that His schedule was the right one all along. (I'm thinking Sarah and Abraham here...)

Recently, I've been...

RESTLESS. It took me a while to pin down the correct term, but I think this is it. Anyone still keeping up with this blog -bless you if you've put up with my four month absence- has read posts that come from a place of being absolutely sure about what I have to say or what I'm doing. And I think this best explains my absence, for approximately four months I've been in an unfamiliar season of the "un-sure." The next step I'm supposed to take hasn't been perfectly mapped out for me as in years past. The next goal, the next big thing, or dream, or passion, well, basically the next anything seems completely lost to me.

In my last post, I said, "so I'll go!" And this sounds exciting. And yes, I've been weighing my options on some places I could go. Distant places, think foreign. Yet, I still have felt no release in my spirit or in my mind that lead me to believe that any of those plans of mine are the proverbial "right" ones. Which is a really STRANGE place for me to find myself in. Still, I'm learning that it's ok. It's ok because the God I serve is a good dad. He told me He has a plan and you know what? I believe Him.

I happened to read through a great blog last night from one of my favorite missionary bloggers that in response to being asked what advice she would give people interested in missions, she said "Get a job!" Now to some reading this, you may think, "well duh!" After all money makes the world go round right? But for me, money has never been a stopping point on my dreams. Basically, my life where money is concerned has always looked like this: I have no none, but God will provide. So an apparently obvious answer to you, looks to me like the biggest epiphany I've had in weeks. Don't get me wrong, I have a job, but I've never looked at it from the perspective of a long term commitment to achieve the long term commitment I want to make to Christ. I hope that was clear as mud...

Basically what I'm trying to convey is that for all my big plans and dreams there is a perfect time that God has set aside where He will accomplish those things in my life. He gave Abraham the dream that his descendants would outnumber the stars he couldn't count. I don't think that my dreams are just happenstance. No I choose to believe that they are valuable and meant for a certain time under heaven. Hopefully, this restlessness won't hang on too much longer, but in the interim, God, help me to seek You out daily. Reveal to me Your plan as You see fit, not as I feebly demand it.

Thanks for putting up with me while I've been M.I.A. As a token of my appreciation, I offer this awesome Gift: (Get that play on words? If not, go back and read my older posts!! haha)

Look who graduated kindergarten and will be starting Primary 1 in January! I just wish I could have been there!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Cleaned My Room

My room is clean for the first time in my adult life. This is no exaggeration. And not only is it clean, but it's incredibly organized. I purged recently. I highly recommend this every once in a while because let's face it, we as a human race like to lay up treasures on this earth. In my 23 years I've collected an abundant share of things just waiting around for moths, rust, thieves and such...

Anyways, said all of that to say, it feels darn good walking into a clean organized living space that is all my own. Inside my room, I'm surrounded by the familiar: small things, such as photos and personally chosen decor, that make my room uniquely mine. On a bad day, my room is there for me.  I like my room. I feel safe in my room. Today was no different. Upon walking into my room a few moments ago, I was greeted by the new feeling of ease and joy that my clean room now holds for me. I began to ponder, while looking in my now organized closet for my Africa flip-flops, just how good and safe I felt in this space and how much I didn't want to have to leave this place for risk of suffering discomfort that my room would never ask me to suffer as long as I remained within its four walls.

It's here that my thoughts quickly turned to my possible future plans and the thought crossed my mind that if I just wouldn't leave, if I just wouldn't go and do, if I'd set aside my crazy notions of adventure and the pull of the world located across the Atlantic, I could remain within these safe, comfortable four walls forever. This thought lingered for about two seconds before I realized that this was a cleverly disquised attack from the enemy. This is a lie from Satan that isn't meant to comfort, it's meant to destroy.

You see, recently I spent four months in a 3rd world country living outside of my American born comfort zone. And I've garned through various conversations since my return that most people, in addition to thinking I was a little nuts, also think that I've gotten the "bug" out of my system. They think I've trotted off to do this thing, did what I set out to do, and now I must be planning better for my future. Surely now I'll settle down, get a 9-5, find a husband, and start a family. And don't get me wrong, this is all very tempting, but this "bug" I seem to have caught is a whole lot more than a 24-hour flu. Instead, it is deep and stirring, its the awakening of a call I believe we are all designed with, a higher purpose than we can conceive within our own imaginations. And it's lasting. This bug is more like an allergy or intolerance that you never grow out of. It requires a complete lifestyle change and perspective shift. No longer can I rest within the four strong walls of my bedroom with all its familiar comforts. In order to really live, I have to not just read these words below, but I have to take them to heart and act on them.
         "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." --Jesus, Matthew 10:37-39

This whole attack on my thoughts comes right on the heels of a pretty big decision I've made for my future. Today I listened to a timely sermon about making decisions and taking action against indecisiveness that stops kingdom growth in its tracks. This further confirmed my decision and as I was pondering the next season of my life and all of the exciting challenges it is sure to contain, that is when the devil decided to strike. Funny how he does that. But this is no laughing matter. Sure I could choose to remain in my world and my room in America, and maybe I could live a successfull life full of generous giving and security. But that deep stirring desire for more, that thirst for something holy could never be quenched by settling. So, I'll go.

Don't let the devil cheat you out of God's divine purpose for your life. Trading your unique role in His kingdom for Satan's false promise of safety and security in a chaotic world that he is not in control of anyways makes no sense.

With love,


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Be Free

I don't know how you feel about tattoos, and for the record this post is by no means meant to encourage anyone to go out and get a tattoo. (Disclaimer?) But recently, I got my first tattoo. What do you think?

You might be wondering why in the world I would get the two small, seemingly insignificant words "be free" permanently tattoed on my body. I'm assuming, of course, that the Africa outline makes a little more sense! So let me explain...

When I look at this tattoo:
1) I am reminded that I am free in Christ Jesus.
          "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." -Galations 5:1
2) I am reminded of my Uganda team. "Be Free!" was a common phrase among the members of my team. We exercised freedom with each other through open and honest conversation and actions. Yes this sometimes meant expressing hurts, annoyances, joys, and craziness!
3) I think of the need for Christ's freedom to reign supreme in Africa, and I make it my prayer.

Welp! There you have it. These are the reasons I have permanently inked my body. And today, nearly a month later, I still LOVE it!!!

In case you're interested, I have a few updates on life as of late. Today I start my last semester of my years as an undergraduate college student. This pretty much means that as far as life plans go, I have a solid plan through...December when I graduate for the second time. After the first of the plans. Yup! Sounds realllllly responsible doesn't it. ;) Don't worry though. God has a plan and He is working it out in me. To give you a heads up, I may actually know my plans for next year. I'm not ready to reveal them quite yet, but here's a hint...

...they involve Europe, leadership, missions, Spanish, French?, community, growth, direction, and of course God!

I'm also currently teaching a bible study class with the youth at my church on Sunday. I'm mentioning this because after some of the prayers I heard come out of those kids mouths today, I'm guessing you're going to be hearing more and more from me about Sundays at JWC (Jonesboro Worship Center). These kids have some AMAZING gifts and a phenomenal call on each of their lives and I can't wait to explore those more throughout the rest of this year. I just get the feeling I'll be "dwelling in hope" through them for a bit, and I couldn't be happier about it!

Until next time...Go in peace! ;)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In Conclusion?

It's been 58 days since I said goodbye to my teammates at the Atlanta airport. I really should have written sooner, but to be honest, I've been busy. And to be even more transparent, I've been unable to write or say anything real about the conclusion of my time in Uganda, about the conclusion of the community I lived in, and about the next steps in my life. It's been easy for me to ignore because upon returning to the states I was thrust into Miss Arkansas preparations. My first appearance was only three days after my plane landed in Memphis. Since that time, I've been happily engrossed in getting ready to compete for the title of Miss Arkansas. That competition will begin just three days from now, and as I am putting the final touches on my prep work, I am realizing that it is important for me to say some things about my trip now that it has ended and before I leave this weekend.

So here goes...

To my team,

I miss you people! We first live together again in Lira with these ones of Sankofa around the corner! I thought about writing this blog as just another blog written to random readers comprised of my friends and family and who knows who else, but I don't want to miss this opportunity to address you specifically. So, that being said this note is to you.

Thank you for the constant encouragement, the strength you gave me, and the never ending prayer and worship we lived in together. I thank God everyday that He brought us all together in His infinite wisdom and divine grace so that we could live together, learn together, and reach this world for His glory together. I'm not going to lie. It has been difficult being back in the U.S. without you around for feedback. I know this is just another part of God's plan and that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven, but grieving the loss of our season in Uganda is just plain tough. 

On a brighter note, I am pleased to be praying for you all as you enter into the next season of your lives. Whether it's a new job opportunity with an amazing organization with ties to Uganda, medical school, nursing school, college, worship leading, returning to Uganda, getting married, or leading more people all over the globe with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is an honor for me to join with you in prayer about these next steps in your lives. I can't wait to see what God has in store for all of us, and I'm just praying that one day it will include us all being in the same place again, even for a short time.

Apoyo Matek #besties,


 Family of Pastor Thomas Amone

I cannot say thank you enough to all of the people who supported my trip to Uganda. Whether your support came in the form of money or prayer, you have been a part of God's plan for my life and for that I am truly grateful. I'm not finished with this plan that God has for my life. In fact, I hope that I'm still fully walking in it and that in this next season you will get to see more of that. I'm probably not done writing about my experiences in Uganda either. I've learned too many things and I am still learning things from the first four months of this year and on some occasions I may be apt to sharing those with you. Most of my communications over the next few weeks can be found on my pageant blog

Finally, I want to leave you with a reminder. I think it's a healthy reminder for all of us who have ever allowed it to get stale in our lives. I pray that this word ring truer with every day and every breath in our lives so that we may more fully discover our purpose in this world as followers of Christ.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." -Matthew 28:19-20

Go. Baptize. Teach. Make disciples. Repeat.

That's all I've got for now, but I'll be around!

Obanga mi gum