Friday, 31 August 2012

Wisdom Meets Passion

Wisdom Meets Passion by Dan Miller and Jared Angaza is written by a father and son team.  It blends the wisdom of the older Baby Boomer generation and the passion of the younger to show how you can live a meaningful life.  The older generation put a lot of emphasis on secure jobs and retirement plans while the younger generation wants to make a difference in the world.  This team of authors shows readers how to blend wisdom and passion to live a purposeful life and do work that matters.

Wisdom Meets Passion is an inspiring and motivational book.  There are lots of inspirational quotes throughout the book, but the authors never use them to make up for lack of content. I appreciated the perspective on non-traditional forms of education and entrepreneurship, as well as Dan's emphasis on having a clear, specific mission statement for your life.  He encourages readers to blend their passions, talents and skills and apply them to do work they love.  I could also identify with the challenges he faced through his conservative Mennonite upbringing and I believe he addresses these challenges in a respectful manner.

I did not agree with some of the theological ideas in this book.  I admired Jared's passion and life of service in Africa, but I was a little turned off by his great emphasis on philanthropy without much of a focus on Christ.

Overall, I enjoyed and learned a lot from this book.  It left me inspired and caused me to reconsider applying my skills and talents to pursue an entrepreneurial venture.  I would definitely recommend this book to people who have a desire to live above the mediocre expectations of this world and try new things.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher through and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Feeling Restless?

Have you ever felt restless and discontent as a Christian?  Have you ever felt that God has a greater purpose for your life, but you just don't know what it is?  I've felt that way many times.

I learned why Christians often feel this way while reading a book by IJM's founder Gary A. Haugen.  It's called Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian.  Although I wouldn't say he has the answer for all cases of Christian discontentment, he brings out a truth that is so simple, obvious, and get so profound.  Gary has it right when he says "Earnest, gifted, mature Christians--we feel like we're all dressed up with nowhere to go."

The fact is, we as Christians have not been created and saved for the sole purpose of our own spiritual growth, and to grow in our careers, churches and ministries.  And yet that's all so many of us are doing.

"If we believe, for example, that our own rescue, redemption and sanctification in Christ is itself the ultimate destination, then the answer to the Now what? question is--well, nothing . . . Indeed, the idea that there is nothing beyond our own spiritual development isn't meant to be satisfying--for our rescue is not the ultimate destination; it is the indispensable means by which God works out his plan to rescue the world."

We have been rescued to be rescuers to a hurting world, but because so many of us aren't willing to do that, we continue to be discontent.  It's not that we don't know the commands of Christ, or don't want to do greater things, or help those in need.  The problem is that we are only willing to follow Christ as far as it's safe, as long as we feel in control.  As soon as there's more risk, warning signs, and we're not guaranteed to come home to our comfortable, North American lives unscathed, be back out and decide to stay safe.  We have a yearning to be brave, but we want to be safe.  The truth is, we can't have both.

I appreciated Gary addressing parents specifically in this book on two levels.  For one, he encouraged readers to relate to the problem of human trafficking from the perspective of a parent.  There are so many parents in the world who helplessly have to watch their children suffer, and all they need is just a fighting chance to give them a better life.

Second, he addressed parents who's children want to go out and do significant things with their lives, but they won't let them because they want to protect their children.  But children are disappointed to realize that their parents have poured so much into them only to keep them safe.  Gary says that these children will either perish in their safety or they will go looking for adventure in all the wrong places.  I appreciated this because I have dealt with a lot of frustration in this area and I think parents need to see this.

"Are we raising our children to be safe or to be brave?  Are we raising our children to be smart or to be loving?  Are we raising them to be successful or significant?"

I was inspired by this book.  I was inspired by Gary sharing his own life stories and appreciated him sharing his fears in starting IJM, afraid of it failing and end up looking like a fool.  Since I'm pursuing an IJM endeavour at the moment, this was a great encouragement to me.  I'm often afraid that something won't work out and I'll only end up looking like a fool. I will leave you with his words that helped me to keep going.

"When I am fifty, do I really want to look back and say, Yeah, I sensed God was calling me to lead a movement to bring rescue to people who desperately need an advocate in the world, but I was afraid of getting embarrassed and so I never even tried?"

Thursday, 16 August 2012

What Are You Saying? Part Three

This post is a continuation of What Are You Saying? Part Two.

In Parts One and Two of this series, I shared two stories about what people say by how they dress, one pertaining to women, the other to men.  Although I asked a lot of questions about what people say, I hope to pull things together here and perhaps provide a few answers.  Remember, these are a lot of thoughts I've pondered and are not to be taken as if I think I have it all figured out.  I also realize I am speaking from the limited perspective of a young, single woman, but I do hope you will take some things into consideration.

First of all, in regards to my first post: What do girls say about themselves when dressing in such an exposing manner?  Now, a lot of it is just so engrained in our culture.  We live in a society that screams sex and fashion caters to that idea.  Walk into most stores in the mall, especially in the summertime, that's what's available.  It's what's in, it's what's considered hot, it's what makes you popular, so why not buy it?

The problem is that our culture has stripped girls of the ideas that their bodies are worth anything more, that they actually have value as a person, that some guys actually will love them for not dressing like the rest of the crowd.  I really do believe that the average young woman wants to be treated respectfully, wants to be wanted for more than just sex, but since the pressure is so strong, they just cave in, follow the crowd and try to deal with it.

Girls, let me tell you this.  You do have value.  God created you for Himself, and although your sexuality is a gift, it is meant to be saved for your husband.  And yes, there are men who will still love you.  They will love you for who you are, not for your body.  I have on a few occasions read Yahoo articles of men giving their opinions on popular women's fashions.  They actually don't want to see that much.  They don't think such skimpy clothes are actually attractive. And these weren't Christians saying this either.  Let that encourage you.

Maybe I'm wrong in thinking this way, but if you dress with decency, you are a lot more likely to be treated respectfully. But it would be wrong to expect that if you revealed everything.  I have very little sympathy to offer a girl freaking out over a guy looking up her mini skirt.  I can only be shocked that she's so offended when there's so little hidden in the first place.  No, his actions aren't right, but frankly, she's only inviting such behaviour.  So, in short girls, dress with dignity and it will likely change the way people relate to you.

On to my reflections on Part 2.  I was afraid of writing this because I wasn't sure how people would feel about me speaking to men.  I think I can safely say that our culture and the modern belief system has influenced men's fashions as well.  You may think there's nothing exciting about T-shirts. But a shirt like the one I described in my last post says a lot about a common belief in our world--that it's okay and even enjoyable to abuse women. That it's pleasurable to not only have sex, but to make your partner a torture victim.  They find satisfaction in another's pain.

In regards to the particular incident I witnessed, that man was screaming a few things, perhaps without realizing it.  In addition to suggesting there was something pleasurable in a woman's suffering, he was also saying that his wife wasn't enough.  That she didn't fulfill him.  He had to look to other things for pleasure, and I doubt it was limited to a T-shirt.

I often read the Old Testament and wonder how some of those women felt that were just one of many wives.  I personally don't know of one woman that likes to share her husband, although I don't rule out the possibility of it happening.  Polygamy does still happen, but I honestly don't think that the thought thrills too many women.  Most wives don't want to have to compete with an another woman, or images on a screen for that matter.  I recently read an article where doctors were going so far as to say that men need variety, need an occasional fling with someone else, and their wives should just be okay with it.  No, no, they shouldn't!

I'm writing from a single perspective here, so I don't know everything.  I won't tell the men reading this what they can't wear.  But I do know that most women want to be enough for the man in their life.  They don't want to share, and rightly so.  To the young women reading though, I will say this. You can be confident that God wants nothing less for you than to have a faithful husband, sexually satisfied by you alone.  You don't have to settle for less. You're not asking too much.

In closing, I want to encourage each reader to ask yourself once in awhile, "What am I saying by what I wear?"

Monday, 13 August 2012

What Are You Saying? Part Two

This is a continuation of What Are You Saying? Part One.

I observed something else on that day in the grocery store, namely how men dress.  Now immodesty is never addressed as much of a mens issue, but it's there. When I think about men and immodesty, I think of men with sagging jeans, exposing most of their boxers, complete with the belt that is not there for the purpose of keeping their pants up.  Rather, it frequently only achieves drawing more attention to the mid-section.  Difficult not to notice.

I usually don't have much sympathy for men who complain about shopping, but I have come to understand some of the challenges they face.  There's a lot of shirts out there with stupid stuff on them, as well as downright disturbing.  I observed this in the checkout line as well. A man was wearing a shirt with a woman on it.  She was hot alright.  Blonde, slim and dressed in only a blue skimpy bikini.  Typical, right?  Not quite.  This woman had chains wrapped around her.  From the way her head fell back and the weary expression on her face, she didn't even look conscious.  She had an evil, demon-like creature holding her up, his lustful face at her neck.  This image plastered the front and back of the shirt.  Perhaps you are surprised by the detail, but the image is fairly vividly burned into my mind.

Now I could talk about the message this shirt portrayed.  It spoke sex alright, but it also spoke of pain, torture, suffering, lust and evil.  What hurt me most though wasn't the shirt but rather the man wearing it and those around him.  This man was shopping with whom I assumed to be his wife and daughter.  I hadn't noticed something like this before.  Perhaps I assumed only single guys wore stuff like that, not married men.

I hurt.  I hurt for that man's wife and child.  What did they feel?  What was it like for a woman to be out in public with her husband wearing something like that?  For a little girl to be seen with her father like that?  Was his wife okay with him wearing that, or did they have an argument about it before leaving the house?  Was he a dominating husband who wouldn't be told what he could or could not do, who would wear what we wanted, with no thought of how it affected those around him?

Although I can't say for sure, I believe I saw pain and shame on that woman's face.  She looked embarrassed.  I had to wonder many things?  Was she even loved?  Was her husband faithful to her?  Did he have some private, or rather public life that she was ashamed about?  Did she, unlike the young woman flaunting her body, believe she was worthless because of the way her husband treated her?  Did she feel like she wasn't enough?  And what about that man's daughter?  What will that girl grow up believing about men?  About what girls are worth? 

What was he actually saying?

To be continued....

Friday, 10 August 2012

What Are You Saying? Part One

I'm starting a short blog series on what people say by what they wear.  This idea came to me after writing about my observations of people one day while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. It's not meant to be a series on modesty, or even just what people say about themselves by the way they dress.  I want to dig a little deeper into a few ideas that we may not always think about.  I'm not saying that all my thoughts are true.  They are thoughts and questions, so please don't take offense by what I put out here.

I was waiting in the checkout line on a busy Friday afternoon, on probably one of the hottest days of the summer and most people were dressed accordingly.  To be honest, I get annoyed sometimes when people always complain about immodesty, but I can't say it doesn't bother me.  I just don't vocalize it very much.  I often become very conscious of what people around me are wearing, especially when I'm out in public with a man.

On this day, I certainly did notice it.  Immodesty can be amusing, as strange as it sounds.  It's funny to see how girls act when dressed in such delicate outfits.  They try to hold everything together without anyone noticing.  A young woman walked by me wearing a pair of short denim shorts and a loose fitting, but very short yellow top exposing several inches of her tanned midriff.  As she was carrying a basket of groceries in one hand, she was trying to inconspicuously tug at her shorts with the other, which seemed a little big around the waist.   Now, I must say that a lot of girls who wear such exposing outfits are really not as hot as they think they are.  You notice this as well when you go to the beach and see how many larger women wear such exposing swimwear.  But that's besides the point.

What I thought about that day was how women who dress like this actually disrespect themselves.  Now I'm not sure how to explain this in a way that makes sense.  I don't know why some girls dress the way they do.  Do they simply want to be cool and comfortable?  Do they really think their bodies look that awesome, hot or sexy?  Do they do it because it's expected of them?  Or out of rebellion?  Do they want the attention from guys?  I'm sure for many of them, that's what they crave.  But do they know what kind of attention they're actually attracting?  If they knew, would they still want it?  Or would they be disgusted?  Would they get defensive and say "Well, they don't have to look!"?

Or is there deep down actually a lack of self-worth?  Do they really believe their bodies aren't worth saving for their spouse?  Do they think they're worthless trash, only wanted for one thing?  Do they wonder if perhaps they really are just something they're always called, so they might as well look the part?

Whatever is causing them to dress the way they do, I believe many girls lack respect for themselves.  They have somehow been convinced that their bodies, their sexuality, aren't something sacred, but rather to be flaunted for the world to see.  They have been convinced they have to look that way in order to be accepted or "loved".  If they don't, no guy will ever want them.

What the girl doesn't realize is that the right guy who will truly love her, not lust after her, will respect her for what she doesn't show the whole world.  He will love her for not flaunting her body and sexuality. He doesn't want what she shares with everyone who passes by, but what she can give to him alone in marriage.  And that's beautiful.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Value of One

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by numbers and statistics concerning human trafficking that you wondered how it's even possible to make a difference?

I just finished reading Terrify No More by Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission.  This book centres on one of IJM's rescue operations in Cambodia, with other stories dispersed in between.  In a village called Svay Pak, a hot spot for Western sex tourists, children as young as five are rented out in brothels to be abused and forced to perform sex acts for strangers I won't detail.  IJM's investigators went into Svay Pak on numerous occasions, gathering evidence and video footage, and documented the names, ages, and pictures of children held there, what they were required to do, as well as documented the brothel owners and pimps who ran the industry.  From a human standpoints, rescuing these children would impossible, but they put their faith in God and prepared for their mission. In March 2003, IJM put their carefully laid plans into action and rescued 37 victims and saw 13 perpetrators arrested.

I appreciated that Gary put the painful reality of these abused children into perspective.  "I could write the stories about girls who have cried to us, 'Where were you three years ago when I was brought to this place?  Why didn't you rescue me then when it would have mattered?"  We cannot begin to understand the horrible circumstances children and women are forced into when they are sold into brothels.  They're not just statistics.  They are living, breathing individuals crying out "Where are you?" and each one matters!

I think in our culture, we easily forget the value of one. We can't really grasp problems of such a large nature, and the statistics often don't help, especially with our ideas about what results or success should look like. It might even get to the point that even when someone does do something about it, it seems insignificant.  We may be tempted to say something like "Sure, some good guys raid a brothel and get a few girls out, a pimp or two get sent to jail.  What's the big deal?  There's still millions more."  And we forget or undermine the value of one person, one child who doesn't have to subject her body to such cruel treatment anymore.

In Terrify No More, I was reminded of the importance of one.  "Each of these is worthy.  Each of these is made in the very image of God and to the extent that we have extended such love to even one of the least of these, we have extended such love to the very Maker of the universe.  And we, for a moment, could experience the eternal resonance of why we existed on the earth at all."

This reminded me of the parable of the lost sheep, how the shepherd, who has a hundred sheep and loses one, leaves the ninety-nine on the mountains to find the one that went astray.  Also the Bible tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice when one soul comes to repentance. When I look at the life of Christ, I see a man who ministered to crowd of thousands.  But I also see a man who took the time for the one.  The one woman in the pressing crowd, who having touched his robe, felt His healing power.  The one man oppressed by a demon.  The one person who was blind.  He never overlooked the one in the midst of the crowd.

That's because one matters!  It's not about the numbers.  The little girl rescued from life in the brothel probably initially doesn't care how many millions of slaves are still in the world!  She most likely will later on, but for the moment, she's happy that she's free.  She can enjoy being a child and playing with toys.  The one woman rescued doesn't have to worry anymore which customer may infect her with HIV.  Yes, they have a long healing process ahead of them, but for one, life has changed. 

Remember also that when victims are rescued and perpetrators are convicted and sentenced to prison, other traffickers will know that can't keep doing what they're doing and get away with it.  The sex tourists realize the party's over.  This will have greater impacts and prevent other children from being trafficked.  Eventually it will hurt the industry.

Let us not lose heart when we look at the suffering of this world.  Don't become paralyzed by statistics, but go into battle and seek out the one.  Change the life of one.  And I believe that by doing that, God will bless and multiply your efforts to reach out to many more.