Compassion Sunday 2017

This last weekend I had the privilege of hosting my first Compassion Sunday event at my church, after years of thinking about doing it. I’d never felt like I was ‘connected’ enough at a church to host one, as I was in college or moving around annually. But this year, I decided I’d had enough with the excuses and was ready to give it a shot.

The result? Three kids (for sure) were sponsored! Along with another 10 or so child packets being taken home for people who were considering sponsoring a child. That leaves me with 13 child packets left that I’m trying to find sponsors for- any one of you interested? I’m planning on sending about half of them to my parents who will share about Compassion Sunday at their church, too. Nothing like a team effort!

It was really neat to see the way that God moved in people’s hearts through a short 3-minute video, along with me speaking about my experience abroad visiting a Compassion project site- again, for only a few minutes. I had numerous people come to my booth after the service, thanking me for sharing and talking about their own sponsored children, along with lots of people who wanted more information about sponsoring. One man started to tear up as he told me how God had used my words to speak his heart, and that he was going to pray about sponsoring a child.

…All after only a few short minutes on my part?! WORTH IT. Worth it for those three kids who are now being helped out of poverty and who are building relationships with their sponsor and local church. Worth it for all of the seeds that were planted to help even more kids as people are ready and able to in the future. Worth it for me to experience God moving in people’s hearts after only a small effort on my part to do big things for the Kingdom of God. More than worth it.

To having the faith of a mustard seed,
Ronnie

P.S. Thanks for reading! I haven’t been blogging lately, but am planning on having some more posts coming out soon- so stay tuned!

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Giving Tuesday: Help Haiti

In honor of Giving Tuesday, “a global day dedicated to giving back through non-profits around the world,” I am choosing to give help to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The devastation that this storm caused will take continuing awareness, support, and effort to rebuild what has been destroyed and will be no quick fix. This aerial footage shows a glimpse into what life looks like in Haiti right now:

In light of this, I am choosing to donate to Compassion International’s efforts in Haiti, as I have firsthand experience of the work that they do. I also sponsor a child in Haiti, which ties my heart to this country even more.

Here is a more personal video of what life is like for a young girl, Angeline, after surviving the hurricane:

If you are interested in offering help to Haiti, I have three suggestions:

  1. As people of faith, we can be lifting this country and its people up in our prayers. God calls us to remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are going through various trials as if it were we ourselves who are experiencing them- “to weep to those who weep.” I am inspired by the way Angeline gives such a bold testament of faith in God after everything her and her family have gone through. Losing seemingly everything has only served to strengthen her faith in Jesus. We as the Church need to be coming alongside Angeline (and many others) to be the hands and feet of Christ in these times of need.
  2. Give out of your abundance. The average American has way beyond just our basic needs met, and we are called to share our excess (and much more) to bless others. Compassion International has a disaster relief fund, with a specific focus on Haiti for Giving Tuesday this year. Click here if you would like to donate today.
  3. Change a life forever: sponsor a child in Haiti. I cannot say enough about how sponsoring children through CI has changed my life. If you need any more info…read my blog! The Bible teaches us it is more blessed to give than to receive, and this has held true in my own life. It has truly been a joy to sponsor children around the world and build relationships with them through writing letters and sending pictures, and I hope you consider doing the same. Click here if would would like to sponsor a child today!

To raising up those who are cast down,
Ronnie

Hurricane Matthew, Haiti October 2016

The End Is Just The Beginning

That’s the name of another article I just had published in Converge Magazine today. It’s some of my thoughts on how reaching the point where you feel completely stripped bare, as if you’ve reached the ‘end of your rope,’ can really be just the beginning of finding God- either for the first time, or for rediscovering him in an even deeper way.

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This picture was used for my article in Converge Magazine and was taken by Al_HikesAZ.

Because sometimes it takes falling on our faces to recognize that we are not meant to be self-sufficient, but to lean on and depend on Someone who is so much greater than ourselves.

So in that sense, pain, trials, and suffering can actually be blessings in disguise, as they can lead us to the cross- a place where we turn to a repentance that leads to salvation.

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while- yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” 

-2 Corinthians 7:8-11

To summarize it succinctly from an excellent book that I read recently: “There’s something that I learned when I was homeless: Our limitation is God’s opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothing you can do, that’s when God takes over.”

It is for this reason I hope you recognize the end of your rope not as a place “of no return,” but rather as being your chance for a new beginning- to live the abundant life.

To finding Him amidst finding ourselves stripped bare,
Ronnie

My Hiding Place

“You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverence.”

-Psalm 32:7

Do you ever just feel a deep need to get away from it all? Amidst the hustle and bustle of life I’ve come to find the need for a place of solace and solitude, a place I can call my own to regroup my thoughts, meditate on Truth, and simply just be. As I’ve been so many different places in the past few years it’s become a little hunt to try to find what my new ‘hiding place’ will be, a place I can let myself be drawn to where it’s only me and God.

While I was in Texas for the past year, these railroad tracks came to be just that for me- somewhere super close by and yet with no one else to be seen.

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

-Proverbs 3:5-6

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When living in a house with 8-10 people (especially including screaming children) at Casa de Esperanza, sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air to clear your head. Coming to this place I was often reminded of how the Lord is directing my steps on this path that I’m walking even when I can’t see it, reminding me that I can trust him with everything- past, present and future. Do you have such a place that you can withdraw to in order to be so refreshed and rejuvenated?

I had no idea what I would be doing after leaving Texas in August. I had previously been very intent on making sure I had something lined up upon leaving, but once I decided to give that up and trust that God would provide a way for me, it wasn’t too long afterwards that I was directed somewhere- back to working at a camp that I had worked at several years prior!

So now I’m off once again on a new adventure, resting in the ultimate Hiding Place as I seek to serve him wherever he leads me. I can’t wait to share more about it with you all in the months to come!

To hiding in Him,
Ronnie

Donald Miller: Three Qualities of a Hero

A few weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of getting to listen to Donald Miller speak on the title of this blog post: Three Qualities of a Hero. Might sound a bit cheesy, but it was no reflection on the substance that Don had to offer his listeners. (If you want to listen to the whole talk, check it out here– it will be even better than just reading about it!)

While Donald Miller is typically most well-known for being an author, he also runs a business that studies the art of stories and helps people and companies learn how to tell (and live) their stories well. The three qualities that he shared with us were based on his study, and were found to be underlying any good story that involves a hero.

As an introduction to his first quality, he highlighted the fact that both the hero and the villain in a story have a backstory of pain. If the hero isn’t struggling with something, or have gone through a painful experience in the past, then we simply won’t be able to relate to the hero; the hero needs some kind of challenge in order for the story to make sense. Likewise, the villain also has to have some reason as to why they are so bitter/angry and are taking it out on the world, causing others to suffer.

The difference between the hero and the villain with regards to their backstory is how they deal with their pain, what they do with it. What ultimately sets them apart is that the hero chooses to redeem their suffering and turn it into empathy and serving the world, rather than using it as a fuel for vengeance to be taken out on the world. Donald says that it’s really an attitude that distinguishes them: One is humble- “I really didn’t deserve a great life in the first place, but I’m thankful for what I’ve got.” And the other one is a bit arrogant- “I deserved a great life, I didn’t get it, so I’m going to go take it.”

It’s a choice that we have to make. We can either self-identify as victims and remain stuck there, or take that victim-hood and redeem it, turning it into something that is powerful and positive. (To elaborate, that’s not to say that you haven’t been victimized in life, just that you don’t take on the self-identification of ‘victim.’) Donald encourages people to “Identify your pain, the hard things you’ve been through, circle it, and figure out how that pain can qualify you to serve the world. In other words, use your pain. Not choosing to be a victim, but choosing to do something with it. We exist to change the world, and victims do not change the world. Your pain, your mistakes, qualify you to be a leader.”

Because “What if God chooses the people of the world who intuitively feel that they are disqualified for leadership? What if what he’s doing doesn’t require you to be what is defined as the ‘textbook leader’? What if all those self-doubts actually qualify you? Those of us with these heavy backstories are the people who are the right characters to do something really powerful.”

The second quality is that a hero takes action, rather than being reactionary. So easily people fall into the trap of ‘learned helplessness,’ where people begin to believe that they can only respond to life as it comes to them, instead of taking the initiative to create and do good things in life. The truth is that God gave us not only the gift of life, but the gift of agency, to go about our lives filled with purpose.

Donald challenged his listeners to think about our lives as if they were a movie, and if someone were to turn over the back of the DVD case (back when those were more of a thing!) and read the summary, would people be able to answer the question, “Joe wants this ___”? What is important to you? What do you want to accomplish with your life? If people can’t answer that question, then there might be some adjustments we need to make in our lives. If we merely react to our lives, we will not be transformed, and a hero always transforms throughout a story- whether they are fearful at the beginning and are courageous at the end, choose to face their problems instead of running from them, etc.

And lastly, a hero has to be submissive and leaning on a character that comes into the story- “the guide.” This character helps the hero along the way, but most significantly comes into the story when the hero is so deep into trouble they can’t get out of it and can’t do it on their own. The idea that a hero is independent is false; heroes need guides for wisdom, strength, someone to help show us the way. The main difference between the hero and the guide is that the hero always goes through a character arc where something in their character is transformed for the better, whereas the guide doesn’t change- at least in the story with the hero. Life is about you transforming.

Donald concludes by saying, “Now isn’t this comforting? In order to be heroic you’ve got to have a painful backstory and struggle with self-doubt, right. You’ve got to want something good for the world, and you’ve got to not know what you’re doing and depend on a guide. Just like God has no interest in making any of the people in the Bible look perfect- he just exposes them- it doesn’t take perfection to be on a heroic journey. The hero role is not the glory role; it’s the role that transforms.”

He challenged us to think about: What if our sense of meaningless comes from the story that we’re living? How can we write a different story with the life that God has given us? And that if we choose to do so, we may yet find ourselves reading Scripture differently, as we go to it finding that we need it- we need a guide, or we’re not getting out of this. And then what if that story is the story that you tell- and after watching the ‘story reel’ of your life, people sit there for another ten minutes because they have this sense of gratitude that maybe life can be different than they ever thought it could be…

Maybe this is what it means to live a ‘heroic’ life.

To choosing the higher road,
Ronnie

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