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Don’t Need Any More Stuff This Holiday Season? How About This?

 Christmas gift

Ever since the health adventures in June and reading The Hole in the GospelI now view acquiring more stuff very differently. When there are 800 million people on the planet who don’t even have safe drinking water, it’s a little difficult for me to construct a wish list full of stuff I simply want and don’t actually need. If you don’t have enough to eat, you can survive for a while. But, if you don’t have enough to drink, you die within 48 hours. In addition many of the world’s diseases are greatly reduced when people have safe food and water sources.

Doesn’t seem important to you because of this year’s recession and the healthcare issues in our own country? Well, consider this. When we take care of people we have not even met around the world, we say a LOT about who we are as a nation. We, in essence, are SHOUTING compassion, generosity and kindness when we donate to causes that help people in developing countries or put a roof over the head of someone who’s been trying to get off government aid for years. It’s detente at the grass roots level.

Still not buying it? That’s okay. This is America and you’re entitled to your opinion. But, keep in mind that you, yes you, even with your meager income and having a dependence on government aid yourself, are still far wealthier and more blessed than the average 3rd world person. Why? Because you can read. Yes, read. Most of the world finds this a luxury.

When my kids were little, they would create their Christmas wish lists around this time of year. They were adorable and got posted on the refrigerator. Many were done in crayon with childish scrawls and pictures for anything they didn’t yet know how to spell. With the relatives living far away, having them on the refrigerator was handy for me, so that I could relay them to their very generous extended family.

When they became teens, they often wanted things that none of us ancient adults could even figure out. We might spend hours looking for something in the toy aisle only to learn we needed to be in the video game and electronics section of the store. Thus, we moved the “Christmas wish list” system to email, with each person pasting links of their hoped-for item. This worked splendidly.

However, even with this system, duplicate purchases often happened or sizes weren’t right. The wrong color was purchased. The link didn’t work, as expected.

Enter Amazon has taken their wedding and birth registries up a notch and now allows you to make a wish list for any gift giving occasion. What’s even cooler? They allow you to ship that item right to the recipient’s door, often free of charge. And the recipient can put in notes about size, color, or reason for wanting that particular item, right beside the item.

What’s that? What you want isn’t available through Amazon? No problem. You can add a browser icon that says, “Add to Wish List.” So, all you have to do is go to the web page containing what you want, click the browser icon and voila: your item is added to your Amazon Wish List.

So, why am I rattling on about Christmas wish lists when I just said I want everyone to contribute to charity around the globe? Because you can use that oh, so handy little icon to have your loved ones and friends contribute to worthy causes around the globe–causes you get to select yourself! For my wish list this year, I have asked for donations to, World Vision and Habitat for Humanity.

Now, don’t worry–I’m still enough of a material girl to put down some other items that are just for me, but if my donation items are the only gifts I receive this year, I will be just fine. Why? Because I don’t have to dust, sweep, or clean a donation to a worthy cause. Because I already have safe water to drink. Because I already have enough to eat (so much so, that I have to exercise it off!). Because I already have a roof over my head and warm clothing on my pudgy, vertically-challenged bod. Because people I don’t even know will have a merrier Christmas just because of one little browser button.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” –Matthew 25: 35-36

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a truly giving Christmas shopping trip! 🙂



Slow Reader Thursday: The Hole in our Gospel


Warning: Get 2 of your favorite beverages first. You’re going to be here for a while today, but I promise it’s worth it.

How would you react to the following U.S. news headline: 100 U.S. Chartered Jetliners Crash, 26,500 children killed? And what if that headline was repeated the very next day and the next and the next? I think our media would drop everything and cover the story and the FAA would probably shut down all of our airports until the cause and the solutions were found and implemented. We’d all be scared to travel by air and re-work air travel plans. We’d donate to aid organizations with overwhelming amounts of money.

And yet this is happening…day after day…after day. That’s how many children died yesterday from completely preventable causes related to poverty. And yet the U.S. news media refuses to talk about it. Even our churches often don’t talk about it.How do I all of know this? Because of Richard Stearns.

Richard Stearns has written a book called, The Hole in our Gospel, that has permanently changed my life. Stearns was the CEO for Lenox China. I say, “was” because he is now working as the President of World Vision International. When he was approached to be President by World Vision International, he was, to say the least, reluctant. Even being a Christian didn’t help his resolve. He liked his life in a luxury industry and didn’t feel he had much to offer World Vision. Becoming President of World Vision meant taking a 90% pay cut and moving his family. But, he did it because God wouldn’t let him not do it.

Stearns‘ main point is that we tend to ignore, through our media and through our busy lives, the needs of those in the world around us. And this is not Biblical. In fact if we went through our Bibles, page by page, and literally cut out every reference to helping the needy and working for justice in our world, we’d literally have a Bible in tatters. It’s replete with such references. So, what do we tend to focus on? I don’t know about you, but I tend to focus on the passages that help me have a better life, at least one with some peace in it.

But, I think God would not be very happy with me for focusing on those passages, even though I’m sure God is happy that I’m at least reading my Bible for once! And here is why:

1. Over 914,000,000 people do not have enough to eat.

2. Over 1,000,000,000 people do not have clean drinking water somewhere near where they live.

3. Over 1,000,000,000 do not have even basic health care. That probably means they don’t have a Band-Aid for when they cut their finger.

4. Every 5 seconds a child under 5 dies from a hunger-related issue. I have four children (3 biological, 1 in-law) if the next four to die were all mine, my children would all be dead within 20 seconds with this statistic. I wouldn’t have time to even react to the first death in that amount of time.

5. 800 million go hungry every day (That’s more than 2 times the U.S. population.).

6. American Christians make up 5% of the total Christian world population. The U.S. only contains 4.5% of the world population.

7. Yet, we control half the world’s wealth.

8. That 1/2 of the world’s wealth amounts to about 5.2 trillion U.S. dollars. Even now.

9. That figure in # 1 or # 2 could be eradicated if Americans just gave 1% of their income to causes that try to address world hunger and provide safe drinking water. For me, even with my paltry graduate assistant job, that would have been 30 cents per day. I spend more than that on my soft drinks each day.

10. Over 70 children in my little town do not have enough food to eat on the weekends. Their nutrition primarily comes from school-provided food when school is in session. That’s a maximum of 2 meals a day for 5 days a week during the school year only. And let’s be honest, school lunches only provide minimum nutrition.

Does it really matter whether a hungry person’s government leader is a dictator? Does it really matter whether or not that hungry person knows my God or even hates Christians? Does it really matter if that person made a lot of bad choices? I don’t think so. My God loves everyone. Even the U.S. says that all are equal.

I know, at my house, 1% is do-able, even now. Let’s be honest. Even if there were an all-out media blitz on this crisis, we would be really fortunate if half the households in America tried to give 1%. But, even if I double or triple that amount to cover those who won’t contribute, we’re still talking a maximum of 3% of my income. I think I can live on 97%! And yet those of us who call ourselves Christians and are supposed to tithe 10% of our income only tithe 2.58%. And only 2% of that actually reaches impoverished people. And those who do not believe in God actually contribute more than that. Yes, that’s right.

I think, when we see these HUGE numbers, we think there is no way we can eliminate world hunger. So, since we can’t help EVERYONE, we’re not going to help ANYONE? Just because we don’t know them? My family and friends are better than that. My country is better than that. I hope 1/2 the world is better than that.

Point to Ponder Challenges: So, let me suggest some worthy places to send your pocket change and some ways you can change these “headlines”:

1. Send that change to your local church. Our church is supporting the Backpack Buddies ministry to provide food on the weekends to those 70+ children I just mentioned. I’ll bet that as the word spreads, we’ll find more children who need this kind of help. If you live in the area, our church would love to have your church involved, too. Through our denomination we also support hunger and safe water causes around the world.

2. Send that change to World Vision International–Mr. Stearns’ organization. They’ve been doing this right for decades and have a multitude of ways to help you put that pocket change to the best use. In fact, under his leadership, they have lowered their administration costs and increased aid to over 100 countries.

3. Start a birthday campaign at–If you read yesterday’s post, you know I love this idea of creating your own web page on their site and starting a fund to build safe water wells in various parts of the world. You will be amazed at how a few bucks can quickly supply a whole family with clean water. They will even track where your fund’s money went and report it to you. And did you really need another birthday present?

4. While at the store buying your groceries, throw an extra can of soup or green beans in the cart. Then, take said can to the local food pantry or church.

5. Can’t afford even 1%? Then, how about 2 cents? How about giving 2 cents a day for 365 days? If everyone in the U.S. (right now) sent in two pennies a day to help take care of others, we would raise     $ 2,303,640,487 at the end of the year. And guess what? We didn’t have to raise taxes or cut government spending to do that. And we didn’t have to wait for any politicians to vote on anything. Because children are dying while they are making up their minds and we don’t have time for that nonsense.

6. Fund a micro-loan. World Vision now has a way for all of us to fund small business loans to people in 3rd world countries for as little as $ 25. By funding these loans, impoverished people create small businesses that usually lead to increased health and prosperity for everyone in that person’s or persons’ community. One couple took a $ 300 loan and turned it, in time, into 11 businesses that greatly improved the wealth of their whole community. Talk about eradicating poverty for good!

7. Are you on Facebook? Are you on Twitter? Do you blog? Then, tell your friends about the need for help for these people and tell them what you are doing or intend to do. If you like the idea of 2 cents a day, how about saying, “I put in my 2 cents worth. Have you?” We know how social media can spread good works! What if it spread across the world and even half of us did this? That would mean over $ 25 billion for aid to people who truly need a miracle.

8. Buy Stearns’ book and read it. I promise it will change how you perceive your world, if nothing else. After reading this book, I am no longer complaining about the cracks in my ceiling, the chipping paint, and the appliance that won’t work. I also no longer have any desire to own a diamond tennis bracelet or a pearl necklace. The fake one I have will do just fine. And I’m going to stop whining about people dinging my car with their cars at the Walmart parking lot.

If you click on the highlighted words above, they will take you directly to links where you can get started doing these things right now! Why? Because children are dying while you’re reading this…that’s why.

So, today do your best to become holy by becoming holey and make the hole the one in your pocket or wallet where your change used to be….not in your Bible. Go make me proud to know you. Because I am. And Mr. Stearns? Thanks for leaving Lenox.


Lessons Learned from a 9 year old…


I originally posted this on FB on 8-16-11. If you want to see an update about Rachel’s effect on people she didn’t even know, go here:

Today I watched Today…like I do every “today.” Why? Because I just start my day that way. That’s what I’ve done all my adult life. It’s as normal for me as drinking my Keurig cup of coffee in the AM…essential, if you want me to be civil to you later on in the day.

Now, 9 times out of 10, I begin to tune out after the 7:30 am hour because it’s mostly “fluff” stories after 8 am and 1/2 of them are about raising toddlers, making fattening food, and shopping for the little black dress. I’m a little past the toddler stage at my house–since the youngest is graduating from high school this spring. And I’m a little past shopping for the little black dress. I prefer to shop for little black workout pants now.

But, today was different on Today. 🙂 Long after the 8 am hour, they told the story of Rachel, a 9 year old little beauty with a really big heart. At 5 years old Rachel decided to donate her long hair to Locks of Love….on her own…no prompting from the parentals. She did it again a few years later.

For her 9th birthday, Rachel decided she didn’t need any birthday gifts. Instead, Rachel wanted…water…for children in Africa. She set up a web page on to help her accomplish that feat. All on her own…no prompting from her parentals. She set a goal of raising $ 300 and that amount would create water for 3 families or 15 people. Rachel was a tad disappointed that she only raised $ 220 by her birthday, but told her mom that she wanted to do the same thing for her 10th birthday.

Less than a month ago, a huge “pile-up” crash occurred on the Seattle highways near Rachel’s home. Rachel was critically injured in the crash. As her mom realized that Rachel probably wasn’t going to survive the accident, she decided to reopen Rachel’s web page so that concerned family and friends could donate in her honor. Very quickly, Rachel met her $ 300 goal.

Word spread about Rachel’s page and soon Seattle talk jocks were talking about her page. As one DJ talked about her page on his show, he kept refreshing her page every few minutes. As he did, the amount raised on Rachel’s page kept going up $ 1000 each time!

Soon, the folks at noticed Rachel’s giant leap in donations and took great interest in her story. Sadly, Rachel passed away. But, the donation page kept going up.

Eventually, there were comments on her page from…Australia! As of this morning’s piece on the Today Show, Rachel’s water page total was…over 1.14 million dollars! One donor commented, “Soon, there will be too much water in Africa.”

Just now I refreshed Rachel’s page and…the total is now over 1.42 million dollars. Rachel’s page is set right now to help over 57,000 people! In other words, Rachel has met her goal 3000 times over!

The reality is that hungry people can survive a lot longer than thirsty people. And the reality is that we have the technology and ability to change the lack of clean drinking water today for people all over the world. All we need is the funding to go do it! Think about that as you drink your bottled water today.

Update: While Rachel’s water campaign is over, she wound up helping 60,000 people. Her wells are being built. Click on the link above to see Rachel’s mom visit the folks that are benefiting from her unselfishness.

“And a little child shall lead them…”

“When I was thirsty, you gave me water…”

Point to Ponder Challenge: The other reality is that all of us could do exactly as Rachel did–set up a water campaign as our birthday wish for this year and ask people to donate to it. Click on this link to do that today. And I will challenge myself to do the same if…five of you go and do it and submit a comment below giving me the link to your campaign! We may not help 60,000 people like Rachel, but if we help 1 person each, we will have taken care of an entire family! 

Tomorrow’s Post: The Holey Gospel…and no, that wasn’t a typo.