Operation World

I’m not much of a prayer. Let me be clear. I kind of stink at it. I do pray, typically daily, sometimes more than once. But I rarely feel it like I should. Don’t get me wrong, I think prayer is a vitally important part of the Christian life. I take requests for prayer seriously and in many ways it is one area that stretches my faith more than much else. So in this light, I offer something new for you to join me in in 2011.

I got the book Operation World for Christmas. It combines an exhaustive list of the world’s peoples and places with a brief overview of the countries and prayer requests for each.  Its goal is to get Christians praying all over the world to help make the Great Commission happen. For a geography-loving, Jesus-loving person like myself it is truly awesome. But as I note above, prayer isn’t my strong suit. That’s where you come in.

Do you love to pray but find yourself at times at a loss for things to pray for? Do you have a heart for the peoples of the world? Do you want to help bring about the Great Commission? Here is my proposal.

Using Twitter and the book Operation World I will post prayer requests daily. The book has a prayer calendar that through the year goes over every country. Starting New Years day I will post the country’s name along with a specific request for that country. Depending on time and traveling constraints I will do this multiple times a day to keep people informed.

Some of you are probably questioning my use of the Twitter platform but I like it for a few reasons. One is it is short and concise. Two it is easily accessible via mobile devices. Prayer can happen anytime, anywhere. Twitter allows for that in a great way.

So what can you do? First Join twitter and follow me. My twitter name is XCwaterboy. I know this is a reach for many but trust me. You don’t have to get heavily involved and it truly is a simple, quick way to get my prayer updates. It’s super quick to register and there are tools if you want to find friends or other people to follow on the site. Second, join in! If you know something specific about that day’s country, post it! If something hits you while praying about the day’s topic, post it to share with others. I’ve decided two good hashtags for this are #operationworldprayer or for short #owp. Add that to any Twitter post and people will see it.

I would love to see this grow into a vibrant, large, exciting network of people praying about the world and the Great Commission. So starting on New Year’s Day, Operation World begins. I hope you will join me!

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Giving and the Holidays

It’s about a week till Christmas and everyone is in a veritable frenzy of activity. A brief look at my Facebook newsfeed reveals the parties, shopping, exams, and other things people are trying to get done so they can enjoy themselves come that special day. One thing that is hardly ever mentioned however is the topic of money. And I’m not just talking about all the gifts that are being bought. This time of the year is vitally important for charities of all stripes who are desperately trying to meet their bottom lines before the year is out. People are most generous this time of year and of course you can make sure you get that nice tax break if you write your checks in time. As someone who has raised a small, if significant sum of money over the past three years to fund my time overseas as a missionary, I can say money is a dicey subject. As a Christian I think it is even tougher to deal with.

Firstly is the idea of tithing, that is giving ten percent of all you earn to some  type of charity, or commonly, your church. This rather basic Biblical, Christian concept of giving  is surprisingly not well known or ignored in my experience. I remember a few years back explaining tithing to a good non-Christian friend of mind. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. 10%? of every paycheck? That is a lot of money! I forget what he thought might be appropriate but he was probably thinking that 1-3% would be more tolerable. Christians are expected to give a larger piece of their money than many in society. I realize many secular folk give much more than 10% and many Christians simply don’t tithe, but this has been a big part of my experience so it bears mentioning.

Secondly, is the number of people who are asking you for money. Around the time I started fundraising for my year in South Africa, it seemed like tons of my Christian friends were getting into short-term missions as well. It seemed like every month I was getting a new letter or email for someone’s trip. Some of these people were just acquaintances, but many were close and dear friends. I really wanted to support them all in doing something meaningful and also similar to what I was doing, but how? You can’t give money to everyone right?

Recently there was a good op-ed in the NY Times about giving and how to be careful of shady organizations that use more money for overhead than whatever their “work” is. Each major religion was singled out but it was especially troubling for me to see big “Christian” organizations misusing peoples funds.

My first major point of this entry is being charitable need not mean being stupid. Do your research. Give to organizations, ministries, and people who you trust and care for.  My second point might seem a bit contradictory but it hit home for me so I think it is worth noting. Best advice I ever recieved about giving is as follows,

“Just once give money away without forethought. Just do it without any planning or concern or care.”

Now again, I don’t think the point of this was to be stupid and unwise with your money. Supporting a bad charity or group does nobody any good. However I think the underlying point is incredibly sound. The work of charities, organizations, ministries, schools etc. is vastly more important than my own material well-being. To be able to live without a constant thought or care for money I think is an incredible blessing and very difficult for those of us living in the relative wealth and comfort of America. I know I am not there yet by a long shot. But if I could leave you with one thing this holiday season it is this: the money you give away will do far more good than any amount you keep over the course of your life.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a blessed New Year!

Some Thoughts on Bullying…

Bullying has been all over the news recently. The main cause has been a rash of suicides by teenagers who were bullied for being gay or being perceived as gay. It’s been troubling reading all these stories. On one hand I connect personally with a lot of the articles. I grew up unpopular, not for being gay but just different. On the other hand I never experienced extreme feelings of depression or suicide. I’ve never had any desire to harm myself.  In addition I read about some of the physical abuse these kids take, some on a daily basis , and it really is shocking. I got in my share of fights and dealt with lots of verbal abuse but I never went to school scared of a certain group of kids.

The response to all this media attention has been a glut of anti-bullying laws across the country. This is great. Here I want to offer what I think is one major cause and enabler of bullying. Hopefully by verbalizing it adults, teachers, coaches and other leaders will be more aware about seeing and dealing with bullying in their communities.

For many teachers and leaders in my life growing up I was just a big question mark. I wasn’t fat or stupid. I didn’t look different. I talked a bit differently but not in a significant way. I was good at sports. And yet for the most part, outside of Christian events, I was almost invariably on the outside looking in. I remember hearing a teacher discuss to another in 8th grade that, “the kids just don’t seem to like him.” The overwhelming sense I got from leaders in my life was of resignation and indifference. This indifference is where bullying has the potential to grow into the tragedies we have been seeing. In almost every case I read there is some point where for once an adult actually sees the bullying taking place, yet instead of helping the victim or punishing the perpetrators, nothing is done. “The boy needs to toughen up.” “Some kids just don’t fit in.” This is often the breaking point for many kids. They come to believe adults won’t help them and so they retract and internalize until they can no longer take it.

I thankfully never had a severe breaking point. Church, sports, and family gave me more than enough respite from my crappy social life. I’ m also not asking adults to become our overprotective nannies, watching over us 24 hours a day. All I’m saying is if you see bullying or some other form of abuse, stop it. Don’t ignore it or shrug it away. Step in and use it as a teachable moment for both parties. If more adults in our communities do this I think bullying and the tragedies resulting from it will invariably go down. Stopping bullies wouldn’t have made me cool or popular but it would have made my day-to-day life that much better and given me a healthier psyche growing up.  Some kids today need that, a lot more than even I did.