Pray for Kenya

Thursday, April 16, 2015

As you may or may not have heard by now, Kenya is hurting right now. They are mourning the killing of 148 people during an attack on Garissa University in Eastern Kenya on April 2 while 79 other people were injured, and some are still missing. This attack (and many others over the past three years) wasn't just an act of crime, but a deliberate move from the Islamic militants from the Sunni Al-Shabaab terrorist group targeting all non-Muslims (largely Christians), and seeking the execution of "disbelievers".  These specific Somali Al-Shabaab terrorists are believed to have gotten into Kenya by way of the Dadaab Somali refugee camp in Kenya. In the past Kenya has accused Islamic militants of hiding in Dadaab camp. Now in a response to this most recent attack, Kenya wants this camp and all of its residence (over half a million people) removed from its borders, giving the United Nations only three months to do so or they will make it happen themselves. Deputy President William Ruto has stated that, "the way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa," when referring to the attach on April 2.  

This is a really sad and difficult time for the people of Kenya and as believers our response should be to kneel down in prayer. We know from scripture that there is power in prayer and that God has promised to give us the desires of our hearts if we ask for them. Here are some specific areas that I invite you to pray for:

* Pray for the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing of those injured and affected by the Garissa attack.

* Pray for justice. Pray that the gunmen responsible for this attack will be found and held accountable for their actions.

* Pray that the Sunni Al-Shabaab terrorist group. Pray that God will begin to touch the lives of these individuals. Pray that their hearts will be softened and that their eyes will be opened to the truth; that they may turn from their wrong doings and repent before the Lord.

* Pray for the political leaders of Kenya as they respond to this attack. Pray for wisdom and discernment.

* Pray for the Christians in Kenya. Pray for their safety. Pray that they may be filled with God's spirit. Pray that they will not turn away from God out of fear, but rather run to HIM and rely on His strength. Pray that they may be filled with courage, perseverance, power, wisdom, and love.

* Pray for the UN refugee agency as they try to move the Somali people of the Dadaab refugee camp out of Kenya. Pray that the UNHCR act swiftly and wisely, finding a safe place for the refugees.

I urge you not to take such prayer lightly, but to believe that God hears our prayers and expect Him respond. All throughout the Old Testament we see God's faithful followers dropping on their knees pleading with God on behalf whole nations and cities. The God that listened to them and answered their prayers is the same God today. Seek God and come before HIM with an earnest and humble heart as you pray for the people of Kenya.

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Pray for the Nations

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I have always been really interested in other countries and cultures, but recently I have taken an interest in actually keeping up with world news and current events. As I have begun paying closer attention, my heart has been breaking for the lost and hurting people and for the courageous Christians who continue to stand by faith while facing trials and persecution. My own heart has been softened and my response is to want to DO something. That something is PRAYER. God hears our prayers and He answers our prayers. I have decided that every month I will pray for a different nation that I will pray for, I urge you to join me. Every month I aim to share information about a nation/current event that we can intercede in with prayer. 

I invite you to join me in prayer and to share any prayer requests that you may have. We are instructed to pray for one another and to lift each other up. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people" (Ephesians 6:18)

Keep an eye out for my first post in the next couple of days. God bless!

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His Eye is On the Sparrow

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life can be overwhelming at times. Bills start to pile up, work isn't going too well, health issues arise, school/work loads become stressful, relationships become rocky, and on and on. When we experience these overwhelming stresses and worries, we tend to allow them to take over our lives. We fret and grasp at straws, trying to keep our heads above the raging seas that are our problems. These worries become all-consuming thoughts and we try to figure out how we are going to get out from underneath the dark storm clouds that are pressing in from all sides. All too often our full devotion to God is the first thing that we allow to slip by as we try to regain control of our lives. Perhaps we start to tithe a little less (or stop tithing all together), we stop doing ministry work, and cut back on attending church services and doing our daily Bible reading and prayer time. We do these things thinking that we need to be saving up our money in order to pay off those bills and we need that extra time to get ahead of our problems. However, more often than not, we find that it still isn't enough; and here's why: We are relying on our own strength and power. The good news is that God is much bigger than our problems and He wants to help us carry them. We just need to rely on Him and have faith that He will take care of all our needs. When we let go of the reigns and begin to fully trust in God by giving Him all of ourselves, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will provide for you (Matthew 6:33).  Scripture assures us of this. 

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" ~Matthew 6:25-26
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." ~Luke 12:6-7 
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." ~Matthew 10:29-31 
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." ~Psalm 81:10 
 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~Matthew 6:33-34
Psalm 84:11, Philippians 4:19, John 14:13-14, Lamentations 3:22-25, 1 Timothy 6:17

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"Do You Truly Love Me?"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This morning I was reading John 21 and verses 15-17 suddenly meant more to me than they have ever before.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." ~ John 21:15-17 
Perhaps you have never heard of this part of scripture before or maybe you have heard this story many times. Either way, I encourage you to really pay attention to what Jesus is saying here. But first, lets get some backstory. Simon Peter is one of Jesus' twelve disciples. He was with Jesus from the beginning to the end. Simon Peter loved Jesus, he was devoted to Him. He even cut off the ear of the high priest's servant when Jesus was being arrested (John 18). Yet, despite all of this, after Jesus was arrested, that same night, Simon Peter denied being Jesus' disciple three times. Take note, Simon denied Jesus three times and Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times. This wasn't a coincidence, Jesus was reinstating Peter and inviting him back into grace, effectively wiping out the denials.  

Each time that Peter replied, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus responded with a call to action, "Feed my sheep." So often we are just like Peter, when things get heated up and we are under pressure from the world, we deny Jesus. I know that I myself have been guilty of this way too many times. I haven't ever right out said that I wasn't a Christian or verbally denied Jesus, but my actions and often turning a blind eye is just as much a denial as saying it outright. The good news though is that there is grace. When we are ready to stop denying and to lay aside our lives to love Christ, he is there at the proverbial beach with us; asking "do you truly love Me?" If your answer is, "Yes, Lord", then Jesus instructs you to "feed His sheep". 

 When you love someone, it shows through your words and actions. Parents enjoy showing off pictures of their children and bragging about their achievements. Spouses talk about each other to others. Women like to post pictures of the flowers that their husbands brought home as a surprise or brag on social media when they come home to a clean home, folded laundry, or prepared dinner. You talk about your friends and family to others all the time. That's just what naturally happens when you love someone, they tend to make it into the conversation often. The same ought to be true of Jesus if you truly love Him. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, "feed my sheep." He isn't talking about physical food (though we can care for others' physical needs as well), He is talking about feeding people the Bread of Life. If we truly love Christ, then we should be sharing Him with others. He should be coming up in our conversations. We ought to be sharing stories about what God has done, both in and for the world as well as in your life personally. 

Have you ever known someone for a while and then suddenly discovered that they are married or a
parent. When that happens, it can be somewhat difficult to imagine, or even believe, that they are a loving husband/wife or mom/dad when you have never seen pictures or ever heard them even mention their spouse/children in passing. It just doesn't seem to fit into the person that you know them to be. The same is true of Christians. If we never talk about Christ, His works, or His grace, it can be difficult for those who know us to imagine or even believe that we truly love Jesus. When you love someone, you want to talk about it and want others to know about them and even want them to know that someone personally. So why don't we act this way about Jesus Christ, who IS love?

This is what hit me hard this morning during my devotions, and has been on my mind all day. To love Jesus is to feed His sheep. My heart has been softened and challenged to begin taking proactive action towards speaking about God and my love for Him. This won't always be in the form of an hour long religious discussion with an atheist, but will always come out with words of love. 

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Organic Christianity

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We are now living in a society that is putting a growing interest in "organic living".  We try to eat organic foods, apply organic beauty products, and clean with organic cleaning products. Why? Because we are becoming more aware of how dangerous and bad all the artificial flavoring, scents, and chemicals are for us. We want to live long and healthy lives.  We want real, untainted, ingredients in our foods, hair and makeup supplies, and household items. It seems like everyday I am coming across a new article warning us about companies that are diluting or altogether, replacing real ingredients in foods and products we had previously assumed to be safe and healthy. So what do we do about it? We spend a little extra time learning about where our food and products come from and what's in it. We are willing to pay the cost (often considerably more expensive than non-organic) when we know that what we are getting is good and real.  We change our habits and begin to deny ourselves the sugars and chemicals that are so addicting, because we know that the temporary gratification is not worth it in the end.

Yet, sadly, this great movement of organic and real living doesn't seem to be active in the Christian church and spiritual lives. Like so many of these large companies that are creating harmful products with the intent of making more to sell to more, many churches are doing the same. We are diluting the truth of Scripture to reach more.  Not only are we diluting the "ingredients" (truth) of Christianity, we are adding harmful ingredients to make it more enticing. The church is "evolving" in an effort to stay relevant in today's culture. But that is exactly where we are going wrong. To say that the church needs to change in order to keep up with society is (to be completely honest) to say that God needs to change to keep up with us. How incredibly arrogant!

These diluted truths and outright lies that we are spreading in order to get our numbers up in church attendance needs to stop. In our attempt to stay relevant and reach more "consumers", we are harming people, just like those "big, bad companies". It's time we move towards Organic Christianity. The dictionary defines the word "organic" as: of, relating to, or derived from living matter. The very core belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and His power is in us. Meaning that Christ and His Spirit are a living matter. That is to say, we as CHRISTians are "of, relating to, and derived from [Christ]".

Organic Christianity, like living organically takes new habits and work. You have to throw out the bad and discover what is good. This takes time and perseverance to read the Scriptures, and to read the "ingredients labels" in life to know that what you are putting into your mind and spirit is good and real. You have to deny yourself and your cravings for those sugars and harmful chemicals that are put in foods to make you addicted and crave them. It takes discipline to educate yourself, carefully reading all labels in order to make the right choice.

Organic Christianity takes ACTION. When you learn about products that are bad for you, you get rid of them, make sure you never use them again, and you share your new knowledge with others to make sure that they know too.  Believing that processed foods are bad for you and that organic products are good is not enough. The belief itself is not a ticket to a healthier life. You have to DO something about it to live organically. The same is true of Christianity. To believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the Earth is not enough. Belief alone is not a free ticket into heaven.  You have to do something about it. If you TRULY believe (not just intellectually, but with your whole being), you will WANT to be moved into action. To believe in Christ and to really accept Him as your Lord and Savior is to believe in all that He says. And Christ has called us to action.

Christianity today has become diluted and distorted so as not to inconvenience us. Here's the truth, Christianity is not easy. It was never meant to be easy. In fact Christ tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 to "enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that lead to life, and only a few find it." To live an organic Christian life means to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Christ. (Mark 8:34-35) Like living organically, it isn't going to be easy. You have to watch out for the false prophets who will dilute or distort the truth (Matthew 7:15-20). Like you watch out for some products who claim to be organic, but aren't truly 100%, by reading the labels and researching the ingredients; you have to carefully examine the words people are saying and compare them to Scripture and what you know to be true.

Organic Christianity comes at a cost. And that cost isn't small. It will cost you your life. To be an organic Christian is to die to yourself so that you may live in Christ and appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3-10). When you die to yourself, you will be renewed in the image of God. As such you ought to look different from your old self. Like changing to an organic lifestyle makes you look different by losing weight, having brighter skin, stronger hair, improved mood, and more mental clarity; Organic Christianity should make you look different (healthier).

You aren't going to be liked by everyone. Some will likely call you "extreme" and you may find yourself prosecuted when you refuse to stand down from the truth and insist on sharing it with others. Being an Organic Christian isn't going to be comfortable, but we know that living for this world only provides temporary gratification and isn't worth the cost in the end (James 4:4-5). If you truly believe that Christ is the Lord and you know that to do His will is what is good for you (like you believe that organic living is good for you), it is only natural that you would go all in. To really, truly, live organically, you have to go all in and do it right. To be 100% organic, you can't live all organically except for your secret stash of Twinkies.  The same is true of Organic Christianity. You can't be an Organic Christian while still dabbling in sin. You have to give it all up and deny those desires. It's not easy, but neither are we doing it alone. That's the great part of it. To be organic (of, relating to, and derived from Christ) means that we have His spirit and power in us. We are called to action, but we aren't called to it alone (Ezekiel 36: 26-27)! Amen!

So, I pray that God moves in your hearts, as He has in mine, and leads you to a spiritually powerful, joyful, and healthy life of Organic Christianity!

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Keeping That New Year's Resolution

Sunday, February 15, 2015

We are now in the middle of February (crazy how fast time flies!). Perhaps you find that you are already struggling with or giving up on your new year resolutions.  A study conducted by the University of Scranton reveals statistics showing that 45% of Americans make new year resolutions.  Of this 45%, 64% keep their resolutions past January and a sad 46% keep them past six months. From my own experience of many failed resolutions throughout the years, I have discovered that the main difficulty is that I expect immediate change.  I don't think I am the only one either. Many people set resolutions and try to change their behaviors and habits immediately.  Unfortunately, its usually not that easy and we tend to give up quickly.  Another problem with many resolutions is that they tend to be pretty vague, such as: read more, get fit and healthy, learn something exciting, enjoy life to the fullest, be more successful. What exactly does any of that actually mean to you?

Now before you despair and resign yourself to becoming one of the 54% that fail at attaining their new year resolutions, let me give you some new insight and encourage you to actually keep those resolutions.  The best way to be successful in attaining your resolutions is to turn them into goals. Where a resolution is often seen as a sudden change in behavior, a goal is something to work towards. This slower, but steady approach will help you to make those resolutions into reality. So, here's how you can change those resolutions into goals:

1. Define your resolution
What is it you want to achieve? If you want to lose weight, how much are you trying to lose? If you want to "get fit and healthy", what does that mean? Are you looking to lose weight? Tone up? Eat better? Do you want to just look good or are you trying to improve strength and stamina for some kind of competition or marathon? If you want to "read more", how much more are you wanting to read? And what are you wanting to read (self help books? fiction? journal articles? news?)? If you want to "be more successful", what does success mean to you? Money, career, or social? These are all things you need to think about. If you want to achieve something, you need to know what exactly you are reaching for. If you are running towards an unknown destination, who can blame you for eventually giving up? So, take some time to actually think about it clearly. Develop a goal in your mind with a clear definition.

2. Create a plan of action
Changing habits and developing new behaviors doesn't occur overnight. To make a permanent change, you need to take baby steps. Now that you know what your goal is, begin to write out a plan towards achieving that goal. If you are wanting to eat healthier, you may want to ease into it. Chances are good you will give up quickly if you try to completely replace all fast food with salads immediately. If you have really bad eating habits, it will be easier to develop and keep healthier habits if you start small and then begin to build on it. Your taste buds need to learn to appreciate those fresh veggies, but it will take some time, so pace yourself. If you want to read more, maybe you can plan on reading one book a month. If you want to "be fit and healthy", create a game plan for how you are going to do that. Are you going to join a gym, do yoga, run, walk more? Again, start small and build on it. If you know where you want to go and actually have a plan to get there, you are much more likely to be successful in your endeavors.

3. Get support
Tell your friends and/or family about your goals and share your plan for achieving it. Never
underestimate the power of encouragement and accountability. You might find someone who is willing to join you in achieving the same goal. If you're trying to eat healthier, it will be so much easier if your husband and kids are on board with the plan. If you want to read more, you may find a book club enjoyable and helpful. If you are wanting to learn something exciting, like scuba-diving, it will be even more exciting to have a buddy along. For me personally, I have set a goal of training for a marathon. Although my husband hates to run and isn't training with me, he is very helpful and supportive by keeping me accountable. If he sees that I haven't gone for my daily run, he will gently encourage me to go and remind me of my ultimate goal. Having people around you who are aware of your goals and are willing to encourage you and keep you accountable can be the difference between success and failure.

So, there you have it. I'm not saying that it will be easy, but things that are worth achieving rarely are. Just remember to keep going. Everyone makes mistakes and may face some set-backs, but that doesn't mean you should give up. Give it your best and remember that we are all working projects. Once you have achieved your goals and sustained them, you will find that you have also grown your character. By seeing your goal through, you will have likely all learned patience and perseverance. You may also have developed some creativity and flexibility while developing and acting out your plan of action.

I know that you can attain your goals. So even if you may have already started failing or have already forgotten your resolutions, I encourage you to pick those resolutions back up and turn them into goals that you are serious about achieving. It's not too late. And by the end of the year, I believe you will be happy and proud of what you can do!

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More Than Color... It's a Cultural Thing

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Within these past few years, the many cases concerning cop brutality such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, and Michael Brown have now gotten me thinking. More than anything when I look at these instances, all centering on the deaths of black men in result of white cops, I see a cultural problem rather than a racial one. 

In November, I attended a Phi Sigma Pi (History Honor Society) meeting in which we discussed the anniversary and the effects of the 1964 Civil Rights act. The sponsor, after presenting his presentation, recognized a fellow colleague and teacher who  decided to attend, as she revealed to us the topic of civil rights was close to her heart. The older African-American lady who he introduced as a past and present Civil Rights activist was  involved in the cross nation boycotts and protests, that started back in the 60's. After receiving her permission, he began to ask her questions concerning her experience fighting for Civil Rights and what she thought civil rights looks like today. In response to his first question, which was “How far do you think we’ve come today”, she literally said that nothing has changed except blacks don’t have their shackles and chains on anymore. He continued to ask her questions including what she expected of today’s generation in which she responded that she was extremely disappointed in the blacks at our high school because they continually ignored her and did not acknowledge her as being a successful, black educator. She continued by saying that in her day in age any chance of spotting a black educator was rare and that respect was guaranteed from fellow African-American pupils. The sponsor asked her a few more questions and ended with “how do you view yourself in today’s day and age?”. She replied that she was a racist, but in elaboration clarified that her definition of racist meant she was in favor and loved all races. 

After the sponsor's questioning ended, he opened the room of students up to asking any questions and the class composed mostly of white students stayed quiet. It was at this point that I found it very necessary to provide my opinion on what she had said. When I raised my hand to speak, I’m sure the lady expected a fellow black to share in her self-pity and provide my personal stories of discrimination, but that didn’t exactly happen. First, I began to say that while in the nation’s past instances of white  superiority and racism dominated the country, today holding those same grudges would get us nowhere. And while we shouldn't forget the past, passing the blame of earlier generations on current ones was detrimental to any attempts at progress. I then began to say that in my own life, I had seen far greater instances of racism from black Americans than I ever had from caucasian Americans. I brought up the point of African-Americans constantly asking me why I am so “white”.  However, I have never been asked by a white person why I’m not so “black”.  I told the story of an African-American, who after discovering I was adopted by a Caucasian family, asked if my parents beat me. I continued by saying that when we had first moved the U.S, my brother Joel a sophomore in high school had been confronted by a couple of black kids riding the bus to school, who after approaching him asked if he was afraid of them due to the color of their skin. He replied, “no, of course not”, explaining that he had lived the past eight years in South African and had two younger sisters darker than them from Africa and if anything they should be afraid of him (nailed it, a Joel). I ended my speech to the lady by saying that I, as a student, black or not, would never acknowledge her or wave to her in the hallway because of the color of her skin. I said that I would acknowledge her or wave to her because she was an educator and a superior, and that was the respectable thing to do, regardless of color.  After I finished talking, it definitely left both her and the class in shock.

What really shocked me is what she said about nothing having changed for African Americans. From my perspective, a lot has changed for them and they are definitely treated as equals, and perhaps even better than other races in this country. Take for instances African-American scholarships, magazines, television,and theatre. They've secluded themselves off from the world, but still expect to be a part of it.  While it  partially has to do with their race, they've basically isolated their culture from other American cultures. They've even isolated themselves from other black cultures in the world from Europe and Africa. Being from South Africa, I don't associate myself with African-American, not because I've blended in with white Americans, but because their culture and practices aren't what  I have been taught to be. The lady also said that she taught her teenage sons, how to approach and be around white cops. They needed to be respectful and obedient and do everything the right way. They had to watch out for themselves and look for trouble. Well, of course. Black or not, confronting cops will always end in chaos; and if you look for trouble in the world you can always find it. The truth is that my parents never taught me to look for trouble growing up and I'm just as black and maybe even darker than her sons. I was raised to be obedient and respectful of all authority and now as a teen have nothing to fear for the future ahead. Eventually, one day, I won't be able to hide behind the curtains of my Caucasian family. I'll go out into the world and have to establish my own reputation, not as a black or dark-skinned, but as a person.

Being a third culture kid has definitely opened me up in instances like these. After seeing so much of the world, I'm not always so inclined to have an instant stand on topics. Where as some people are narrow minded and limited in what they've experienced, I've seen a lot of cultures and have a widened understanding  for things that happen.  I think this can be said for a lot of Third Culture Kids. What people need to realize is that the problems of this world today are not always racially targeted. The problems of today are from pride, selfishness, and a lack of faith. The broken relationships we see and experience in society are definitely due from more than's a cultural thing.

Written by Grace Ingram
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