Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Every Life is Worthy of Life

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a Christian Music Festival about 45 minutes from where I live. Four days of my favorite music and thousands of other Christians really encouraged me. But nothing impacted me as much as the words of a speaker there.

A prominent theme throughout the festival was the ministry of Compassion International--an organization that helps people sponsor children with material (and spiritual) needs around the world. While talking about this ministry, the speaker--Bob Lenz--got on the topic of the poor and how many people consider them a burden or inferior to society. He went on to include those with mental disabilities in his examples of how cruel some can be to humanity. Then he told a story that really caught my attention. I bought a T-shirt afterwards that summed up what it was about. The front says "T4-Hitler was wrong" and on the back it reads "Every Life is Worthy of Life-Bob Lenz."

T4 was the abbreviation for an address in Tiergarten (a borough of Berlin) and the name of a program instituted by Adolf Hitler from 1939-1941. During that span of time, Action T4 oversaw the murders of 275,000 people...lives that Hitler deemed "unworthy of life." These lives included adults and children of various nationalities. Many of them were pulled from mental asylums. Many of them were pulled from their families.
For a short while, those in charge of the program got away with the killings, leaving their loved ones with no word of the victims' whereabouts. The adminstrators justified their actions with euthanasia. They claimed mercy killings were the patriotic thing to do; they freed up space, money, and energy for soldiers fighting in the war. Society would no longer be "burdened" with taking care of the now-victims.
The truth was that Hitler wanted to rid the world of those he saw as "unfit for life." His policy of racial hygiene did more than affect countless Jews and Gypsies, it exterminated those with deformities and both mental and physical disabilities.

WWII was over and done a long time ago, but the issues behind T4 still live. In America, 4,000 babies will be murdered today. How long before our nation's elderly and those with special needs are treated the same? How long before people use mercy killings as an excuse to rid society of those they call a burden?
God calls us in Proverbs 31:8-9 to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Individuals with mental and physical disabilities are not disabled in every way. They are enabled to do the incredible things that God prepared for them in advance to do. They need us as their advocates, as do the poor and needy.

*It took just one messed up person to murder 275,000 lives. It can take just one humbled person to save that many and more.

"If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Never forget...Every Life is Worthy of Life.

In His Hands,
Ellie V.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Are You Looking at the Beam, or Along It?

Recently I've been struggling with a topic that other Christians can possibly relate to. As followers of Christ, we are instructed to boast only in Him, but I sometimes feel guilty taking pleasure in certain things of this world. I'm a girl, so I'm into clothing and hair, and I love to watch movies and use technology like cell phones and computers. I try to keep myself in check in all these areas--i.e. focusing on inner beauty and being cautious about what movies I see--and I know that it isn't necessarily sinful to enjoy these things, but I wasn't sure why. Then I read chapter 3 of Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper and got a better understanding of material things in relation to keeping Christ first. The main verse that was quoted in this particular chapter was Galatians 6:14: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

This Bible here makes it pretty clear that as new creations set apart from this world, Christ should be our single boast. Does that make it wrong for us to have fun dressing up or texting a friend? Can Christ still be our only boast then? Piper lays out a beautiful explaination that addresses this whole concept. He elaborates about how God can be glorified through all the blessings and aspects of our lives. To refrain from quoting everything he said, I'll just repeat an illustration he used from C.S. Lewis that I found particularily eye-opening.

These are Lewis' words: "I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, nintey-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. ~From "Meditation in a Toolshed"

Jesus has blessed us with many wonderful things for our enjoyment, but the clincher is where we're looking. If we're looking "at the beam" in Lewis' case, we fail to acknowelge our Creator--the one who has, in fact, bestowed us with our great gifts. If we're looking "along the beam," that's quite a different story. In the latter example, our focus goes past the object of enjoyment and straight to God. In other words, we're worshipping the Creator instead of the Created.

I could go on, but I think I'll stop here. I just wanted to share this particularily insightful piece with you.

Matthew 6:21
Ellie V.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What is a "Rebelutionary?"

Reb-el-u-tion-ar-y n. An individual committed to rebelling against a culture's low expectations by doing harder, more "difficult" tasks for God's glory. (First introduced in the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.)

When I was a little girl, I said a prayer. I prayed a lot of prayers when I was younger, but for some reason this specific one has always stuck in my mind. I still picture myself standing exactly where I was--in my room, looking into my closet--blurting out these words, "God, I want to be a good teenager."

I'm not sure how old I was, but on that particular day I was thinking about a teen in our church that had recently landed herself in a lot of trouble. I didn't know any details of the story at the time, but I did know that what this girl had done was wrong and that it fit right into the "rebellious teenager" stereotype. I didn't want to follow in her footsteps and hurt my family like she had.

The day I turned 13 wasn't magical by any means. I don't even recall what all I did to celebrate. To me, the years ahead appeared very mysterious and unpredictable. (They still do, but Proverbs 3:5-6 continues to strengthen me.) It took awhile before I got used to the idea of growing up. My primary goal for this section of my life had changed from wanting to be a good teenager to merely surviving it. God used a wonderful book to change that whole mindset.

My parents gave me Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris for my 15th birthday. I read it in a few hours. With each page, my understanding and excitement grew. Christ hadn't called me to merely "survive" the teenage years; He wanted me to use them as a tool that would glorify Him. Instead of simply being a good Christian girl that didn't do all the indecent things associated with most teenagers, He wanted me to be known for what I did do...hard things that went over and above the expected.

With that in mind, I was prompted to think. what kinds of things did He want me to do? I already read my Bible, went to church, participated in Youth Group, and sang on the Worship Team. Wasn't that enough? Very gradually, Christ opened my eyes to the other beautiful things he had in store for me during this chapter of my existence. Through His Word I have continue to grow and mature in my relationship with Him. I've begun to look at the world and Christianity through different eyes, and He's filled me with qualities I know I could never achieve on my own.

I have by no means "arrived" and I am convinced that I won't until He returns (1 Corinthians 13:10,) but this brings me back to my blog title.

I wanted to be sure to include the word "imperfect" because I have this terrible obsession. Other firstborns will know what I am talking about when I call myself a perfectionist. My parents could see it in me early on when I would throw tantrums if things weren't just so. Today is no different, although I've graduated from tantrums to a bad attitute instead. My perfectionism is a blessing in many ways, but in others it is a curse. Oftentimes throughout the years I would fall into the trap of "being righteous" for God instead of relying on his grace. Over and over again I would get frustrated and discouraged because I could never measure up and earn my salvation. Recently I've come to closer grips with the grace of God and his boundless unconditional love. I'm not perfect, but I am saved, and what a joyous relief that is!

I don't want this blog to be about myself. I desire it to be a tool used to convey the depth of God's glory and grace. I hope my stories will serve as both an encouragment to you and a testimony of what Christ is doing in my life.

Stand Firm (Ephesians 6:13)

Ellie V.