Monday, January 31, 2011

Help train Pastors in Mozambique

My friends, Zach and Lyndy Szmara (and their son Isaac) are missionaries. I met Zach when we were both Intercultural Studies students at Asbury Seminary. Zach started off as a fellow student I found both brilliant and experienced (having already served a short term as a missionary). He has now become a friend who I seldom get to see now that he and Lyndy are living in Marion and raising support full time. My hope is that I will see him even less as the Szmara's hope to be full time missionaries in Northern Mozambique beginning in April. I am telling you about them now, because I want you to consider joining their team and helping them raise the last bit of support they need.

The main reason Zach and Lyndy are going to Northern Mozambique is to train pastors. The church is exploding in Mozambique but there are not enough pastors to teach the new Christians. There is something like 70 churches in northern Mozambique with only 3 trained pastors between them. The people in Mozambique are hungry for God. It is harvest time. Please help Zach and Lyndy get there and begin training these new Christians who have heard a call of God in their life to be in ministry.

This is the link to their website, The Extension Chord. Please check it out and donate, even just $5 or $10. Every little bit helps. I know these people. I will vouch for them. They are going to do great things for the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Failed New Years Resolution of the Ladies of Kresge

I have this routine I go through the five working days of the week. I wake up at seven, shower, eat a bowl of cereal while I watch Sportscenter, get dressed and then walk to work. For the first six months of my life in Kresge, the showering part was fine. The water in Kresge borderlines on scalding if you turn it all the way hot. Over the summer there were times when I had it on the lowest setting it would go and it was still nearly unbearable. Once the school year started and there were 250 other people using hot water, the shower leveled out. So, long story short, I have always had hot water for the shower.

That is, until three weeks ago. From Jan 10-Jan 21 I did not have much hot water. Some days It would start hot but within 5 minutes would be cold. Some days it would stay mild the whole time, warm enough to shower but not so warm that I was not paranoid that any second I would be in freezing water. Some days it was just freezing. As I said, this went on for about two weeks. However, this week the water has been very hot the entire time. I have a theory as to why this is.

I think that some of the ladies of Kresge made a New Years resolution. They were going to be responsible adults and wake up early. They would not hit snooze until 7:55 then frantically dress and run to class. They would shower and eat breakfast before their 8 o'clock class. Because they did this, they used up the hot water that I usually use during my routine...for two weeks. As the days wore on, less and less of them made the attempt. The lure of sleep outweighed the desire to get up early. Slowly, one by one, they gave up. And now my routine is back to normal.

Thank you ladies of Kresge. Thank you for giving up. Thank you for hitting snooze. My mornings are so much better because you do.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Reading List: Book 2

China: The Hidden Miracle by Ross Paterson and Elisabeth Farrell

China: The Hidden Miracle is a book delivered in two halves. In the first, we follow the story of Brother Ye, a Chinese Christian who is arrested and imprisoned for his faith. Using his story we learn about the horrible persecution that Chinese Christians face as well as the incredible miracles God is doing inside the country of China. The second part of the book explains the cultural/political/religious history of China from 1949 until 1993 (the year the book was written) and gives ways that the reader can support the Church in China.

The book was often encouraging and challenging. Regrettably, the writing was sub-par which took much of the punch out of the stories the author was trying to tell. Many times it felt like the bare minimum was being told.

The most important thing I got out of this book was a renewed desire to pray for the world-wide church. Prayer really is powerful and God really does respond to the prayers of his people.

In the end, if you are looking for a book about the church in China and the incredible things happening there, I would suggest Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. That book was simply one of the most influential, challenging, and uplifting books I have ever read.

Disposable income

I read an article recently that has haunted me. I read it the day it was posted and it has been lingering in my mind ever since. The below are the parts that have caused me the most trouble:

Do you think one day we will be held accountable for every dime we spent on sports, and every minute we spent watching sports? If you are not aware, there are some terrible things going on in the world—oppression, starvation, slavery—the sorts of things we as Christians are supposed to be standing up against. How many times have you heard that nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day? That’s $730 a year ($732 on Leap Year). Or to put it into perspective, about $500 less than I spent on season tickets this season.

Will I get a pass on this at Judgment Day? Will Jesus say, “You spent more money on football tickets than 3 billion of my children lived on in one year, but I understand, those games sure were exciting, well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Of course you can get as legalistic with this as you want. I spent just as much on the cable and Internet bill as I did on football tickets. Is it OK for a Christian to have cable when children are starving in Africa?...Perhaps it’s a question of comfort. If you have disposable income to spend on sporting events, maybe your life has become too comfortable.

Disposable income. I know some people will immediately scoff and say, "I don't have disposable income." Yes you do. Its the money you spend at McDonalds, the movies, the mall, paying for gas to drive anywhere other than your job, etc. We have it and more often than not we use it on ourselves.

Now, Abby and I have a way to keep our disposable income spending down. Its called a budget. Within that budget is "Aaron's Fun Money" column and "Abby's Fun Money" column. (For a full explanation see Fun Money). The only way I can feel comfortable with us even having fun money is if I know we are giving away at least the same amount of money or more to charity, and that does not include tithe. So the way we determine our fun money amount is: total amount set aside to give to charity this month divided by 2. Then Abby and I each get that amount (roughly). This keeps me sane.

Then Christmas came. I got quite a bit of cash for Christmas. I was excited thinking, "I get to buy myself lots of stuff!" Then I read that article and it reminded me that Christmas is not my birthday and I will be accountable one day for the things I spend my money on. What a sobering thought.

For me, as I ponder all of this, what I think it means for me is that I need to find a worthy organization to be the recipient of some of my Christmas cash. But is that the answer or just a way to assuage my guilt?

To read the full article that started this mess:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Reading List: Book 1

Transformers: Exodus

I know, my first book isn't super intellectual. It was purely a guilty pleasure read. I said I would put a book review up of each book I read in 2011, and review it I shall.

Transformers: Exodus gives us the history of Cybertron from before Autobots and Decipticons existed through the time they leave Cybertron and make their way toward Earth. I grew up watching the Transformers TV Show. I loved the 1986 animated movie (still do). The book caught my interest because it promised to show us how Optimus Prime and Megatron came to be the leaders they are. The book sets up a number of intriguing and exciting plot lines that ultimately fall flat due to execution. I will give only one example: Megatron begins as a rebel who is trying to overthrow the oppressive caste system of his planet. Optimus shares his ideals and they become friends, ultimate becoming co-leaders of the anti-caste movement. This is good stuff. Anyone who has ever seen any form of the transformers know Optimus and Megatron are mortal enemies. They hate each other. But, wait, what? They were once friends? This opens the opportunity for the author to really develop their friendship. To show them grow together, then slowly apart, with some event leading to a violent break between them. Instead we get 30-40 pages of weak build up with an unconvincing event leading to a lackluster "betrayal".

The author also failed to ever establish a consistent form of measurements or terms. In using words like "cycles" and "orbits" he tried to help the reader feel like they were truly reading a foreign history. Instead, the inconsistencies make reading a juvenile novel feel exceedingly difficult.

I was hoping that Transformers: Exodus would be the Silmarillion for the Transformer mythology. Not even close. Hey, Hasboro, let me take a crack at this thing. I promise to do the mythology and its characters more justice.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Personality of a 6 Week Old

This morning I was thinking about Eli's personality. He is only 6 weeks old. At this poitn he should still be in Abby's belly. He is not supposed to be born for another 40 days. And yet, here he is in the real world, doing things other baby's do. So, anyway, his personality. Some babys cry long and loud. Some babies coo and babble a lot. Some babys just constantly move their arms and legs. Not Eli. Eli doesnt make much noise, rarely cries and though he does move his arms and legs, he prefers them in close. He does have something that sets him apart though: he is constantly making faces. He moves his eyebrows, wrinkles his forehead, scrunches up his nose, and moves that mouth! It is so fun to watch. He makes me laugh a lot.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eli Update: Jan 10, 2010

Most of you have Facebook, but not everyone does, this is me updating you on Eli if you do not (I'm looking at your Shane and Stacy Erb.)

Yesterday we were able to give him a bath. They bath Eli once a week but we had not been offered an opportunity to participate until yesterday. It was wonderful. He really liked having his hair washed and his scalp rubbed, but hey, who doesn't right?. The best NICU nurse in the world was there to walk us through each step. Her name is Rhonda.
Look at him. He is just so happy.

We were also able to measure him and he is now 15.5 inches long. He was 13 in long when we has born which means he is growing at approximately .5 inches a week.

He looks so relaxed there.

Don't mind me, I'm just super strong and stuff.
Looking right at his mama.

So, the long and the short of it is that he is doing very well. The doctor stopped by today and told us that he is doing "amazing." He took his entire feeding via bottle twice today and breastfeed at lunch better than any other time so far. They are going to remove his nasal cannula today, which means he would be breathing 100% on his own with no help. PLEASE pray that he does well and will not have to go back on it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Amazing Support

If you read the blog or know me at all, you know Abby had seizures, our baby Eli was born 12 weeks early and is still in the hospital. What you may not know about is the amazing support we have received from our friends, family and community.

1. Prayers: From day 1 we have had an incredible number of people praying for us. It has been humbling, overwhelming, and has brought us more comfort than anything else could. We have even been told of people on different continents who are praying for us. It truly displays the incredible grace and love that the body of Christ has, that people who do not know us would stop and pray for us simply because they heard of our situation from a friend. I was told of several offices that stopped work to gather and pray for us. Students told us of classes that began in prayer for us. Like I said, it is overwhelming to me. Thank you for praying.

2. People ask about Eli: This might seem small, but it touches my heart. Everyone Abby and I meet asks us how Eli is doing and I think each one has been a sincere question, not a polite question that they feel obligated to ask. I appreciate that people care enough to ask. Abby has had some fun instances where she has bumped into people she has not seen since high school who ask about Eli. Thank you for asking.

3. Financial Support: People have been incredibly generous to us. Within days of the birth, there was a fund set up at First Southern Bank called the Baby Eli Wilkinson fund. Apparently anyone can walk into any First Southern Bank, ask for Aaron Wilkinson and this fund will come up and they can donate to it. I don't know who set it up, I don't know how anyone found out that it existed, but people have definitely been donating to it. Abby and I have deposited all the money people haven given us on Eli's behalf into this fund. Last time we checked there was $1815 in there. Wow. Praise God.

People have given us help in so many other ways: gifts cards to restaurants and gas cards have been a huge blessing. Abby and I now drive to the hospital in Lexington twice a day. The gas adds up and we often do not have the energy to cook, so the gas cards and restaurant cards have allowed us to, so far, do this without spending money. That is a HUGE blessing. We have also received Visa gift cards, Gap gift cards, Wal-Mart and Target cards, Babies-R-Us cards, and so much more. THANK YOU! Thank you for giving.

4. Support from Asbury University: I just have to say this; Asbury has treated us better than I could have ever imagined. This place has shown itself to be more than a place to work. It has really proven itself as a place of community. Abby's boss and my boss have been so nice, understanding, and generous. We have been contacted by two Vice Presidents and the President herself. All of our co-workers have pitched in and helped carry the load when we have needed to miss work. Human Resources went above and beyond to help explain our insurance, sick-time, vacation time, etc. Thank you Asbury, for being not just a place to work, but a community that cares about those who work here.

I just wanted people to know about all of this. It blesses my soul each time I think about it. Maybe it will bless yours as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The 20 books of 2011

In my last post I mentioned that I hope to read at least 12 books that I own this year. I also said that I would likely read more than 12 and consider it reasonable to read about 20. So, here is the list of the 20 books I hope to read in 2011 in no particular order. Ten are fiction and ten are non-fiction. I will probably alternate between fiction and non-fiction and may at times have two going at once. I will post a book review when I finish each.

1. Transformers: Exodus by Alex Irvine
2. The Pilgrim's Regress by C. S. Lewis
3. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
5. The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. by George Steiner
6. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
7. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
8. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (This will most likely be done as a book on tape during travel season in the Fall)
9. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
10. Lord Foulgrin's Letters by Randy Alcorn

1. Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
2. Being White by Harris & Schaupp
3. The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
4. Lords of the Earth by Don Richardson
5. China: The Hidden Miracle by Paterson & Farrell
6. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
7. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
8. Heaven by Randy Alcorn
9. Reflection on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis
10. The Challenge of Jesus by N. T. Wright

My friend Ryan is doing this "No book buying for a year/Read a book I own each month" thing with me. Check his blog out.


Here are my New Year's Resolutions:

1. Finish reading the entire Bible.
I attempted this last year and got through approximately half. I should be able to do this pretty easily and I would still be pretty happy with finishing the entire Bible in two years.

2a. Do not buy a book for an entire year.
I own a lot of books. Right now I have approximately 330 books on the bookshelves in our living room. Of those 330 I have read approximately 140 which means I have read approximately 42% of the books I have out on my shelves. I would like to have read at least 50% of the books I own. So my plan is to stop buying books this year and...

2b. Only read books I own.
This will help me creep closer to the 50% mark. I think need to read around 35 books to reach that. If I read 35, that would be great, but I am going to start with a much more modest goal of 12. That would be one a month. I think reading 20 is a reasonable and attainable goal.

2c. Do not go to a thrift store for a year.
An interesting little note is that, of the books out on my shelves, approximately 37% of them have come from thrift stores. When I go to thrift stores, I do so to hunt books. So, if I am trying to not buy books, I need to stay away from thrift stores. Basically, the only reason I can see myself going to a thrift store is for clothes for Eli or funny clothes for a theme party.

3. Blog once a week.
Thinking Mondays will be my "update the blog day."

4. Fast for 26 out of the 365 days in 2011.
Basically this would be one day every other week. This is something I did when I was in India and it worked well. I am allowing myself to do occasional 3 day fasts and that would count toward the 26 day total.