Newsletter – 12/30/11

Compassion Weekend

On December 10-11, Journey Church had their annual Compassion Weekend. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, so during Compassion Weekend we intentionally reach out to show our community that we love them. This year, on Saturday morning, we were privileged to have members from the Boston Youth With A Mission team teach us about sharing our faith. Then, in the afternoon, we passed out free peppermint patties and also did random acts of kindness in Harvard Square. After dividing us into small groups, Pastor Kent gave each group a certain amount of money. Grace, Katherine, and myself prayed and asked God to show us who we could bless that day – after buying a gift certificate for a group of girls at a frozen yogurt shop, we felt that God was leading us to go into the Holyoke Center. Katherine saw that one of her friends was working there, so we decided to surprise her and other staff workers by buying their favorite hot drinks. Watch this video to see their reactions:

Journey Church was also blessed by a visit from Nancy Clark, Director of Women’s ministry for Elim Fellowship . Nancy is a powerful prophetic voice within Elim Fellowship – she shared a very timely message for us on Becoming A Prophetic People. Here is Pastor Kent’s summary on what it means for us to be a prophetic church – great teaching on how prophecy can be used in a supernatural and yet practical way. God is truly preparing His church to be a voice in our city, region and world!

UniteBoston’s top 7 Highlights from 2011

This Year UniteBoston:
1 – Made personal connections with over 60 churches and ministries representing the diverse congregations of our city
2 – Published 52 e-newsletters highlighting events, service opportunities, and information for Christians in Greater Boston, circulated to over 1300 members
3 – Promoted 281 Christian events
4 – Partnered with ministry contacts to house dozens of Ivy League students in Boston for the Closer Conference
5 – Launched UniteBoston.com on April 30, 2011 which has been visited 8,757 times by people from 37 countries and 699 cities
6 – Enabled 135 members to post needs and resources on our web forums
7 – Facilitated food donations from a local grocery store to support a church’s Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for the homeless
Thanks for your support! I am grateful to have you in my life! 
This month, I so enjoyed being able to spend time with my Nana and Papa and other Steinhaus relatives in Albuquerque, as well as spend about a week at home in Flagstaff, Arizona with my family. It was so great to be able to hang out with my sister, mom, and dad. I love you guys!

Truly, everyone’s prayers, support and encouragement has meant so much to me. I have been so blessed by the number of people who have been willing to partner in prayer and finances for God’s work throughout Boston. I’m currently at 50% of my total monthly support – praise God! If you’d like to learn more about this opportunity, please email me – it would truly be an honor to have you on my team!

May you be filled with Christ’s love and joy in this New Year! 

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He came like a Winter Snow – A song by Audrey Assad

I heard this song on the radio the other day…Audrey Assad is my newest favorite artist – she writes Christian music that is fresh and with great harmonies. This song emphasizes the fact that Jesus didn’t come as a king, He came as a little baby, born in a stable. It’s quite humbling when you think about it – that the creator of the universe, would choose to enter our world this way.

The lyrics include: “You came like a winter snow. Quiet and soft and slow. Falling from a sky in the night to the earth below.” A beautiful poem that is put to music. Enjoy!

10 Reasons Why I Love Christmas

10. The way Christmas smells – pine boughs on doors, cinnamon and spice fragrances filling shops and stores

9. Playing monopoly with my sister early on Christmas morning before everyone wakes up – a tradition since we were kids to pass the time before we were allowed to open up our stockings

8. Time off from work – a needed chance to rest, relax, and be together as a family. I love my family so much and cherish every moment I get to spend with them.

7. I can say “Merry Christmas” to customers at work, which is the closest thing I can say to “Jesus loves you.” :-)

6. The luminarias that light up the streets in the Southwest around Christmas time. My parents organize the Flagstaff annual luminaria event, which is a 2.5 mile loop of 350 houses with 7,200 luminarias.

5. Wearing my maroon and olive green clothes – my two favorite colors!

4. Christmas cards – an excuse to re-connect with friends old and new, and express how much they mean to me

3. Two words – “Honey Ham.”  So much better than turkey! 

2. My mom’s Christmas Eve posole – a Steinhaus Family tradition. Posole is a Mexican stew with hominy (corn) and green chile, traditionally served on Christmas Eve to celebrate life’s blessings – recipe below

1. Hearing the name of Jesus sung in store intercoms throughout the world – He is the reason for the season. He is why we have Christmas lights, trees, parties, gifts, cards, pageants. If there was no Jesus, December 25 would be just another day. But God sent His own son, to be birthed in a manger  as the light of the world, to rescue us from our sins so we can be in a relationship with God. Jesus gave us the greatest gift we could ever imagine – Himself – and the greatest gift that we can give Him in return is our lives in complete, humble devotion to Him.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

The video below describes kids who really “get” the true meaning of Christmas…

Also, here’s my mom’s posole recipe – we always eat it on Christmas Eve but it is good any time of the year!

Traditional New Mexican Christmas Eve Posole

Ingredients:
-24 oz hominy corn – either frozen or dried (reconstitute as directed on the package). You can use canned too but it’s not quite as tasty.
-1 pound boneless pork chops
-1 onion
-2 cloves garlic
-2 cubes chicken bullion cubes
-1 bay leaf
-1 T oregano
-1/2 C green chile
-salt and pepper to taste
-limes, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, avocado, tortilla strips – optional garnishes

Directions:
1. Cut pork into bite-sized pieces, braise with oil in large stock pot 2′ each side
2. Add one chopped onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves, sautee 1 min
3. Add 8 cups water, chicken bullion cubes, hominy, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 2 1/2 hours until corn is tender but not mushy. Add more water as needed.
4. Add oregano, green chile, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Garnish as you would like. Serve with four tortillas.

May you be filled with joy and love as you gather with friends and family today to celebrate the birth of our savior!

The Opportunity to Bless

Now I love Chinese food. The spicyness of the curries and General Tso Chicken, the way you slurp down the  chow mein noodles, and there’s nothing quite like the crispy orange chicken fried deliciousness. One of my favorite things about Chinese food is the fact that you get a fortune cookie after the meal to top it all off.  I’ve never put too much into fortune cookie messages because they are rooted in Chinese philosophy, which is against the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but it seems to me that every message I got could apply to anyone, so really it’s not predicting anything at all.

But last week I had lunch with my friend Becca – and I realized that God can speak to us through anything – even fortune cookies!

After explaining my vision, she felt that God was leading her to write a check to contribute to my work in the area, which I was really blessed by! Then we opened our cookies. My cookie said, “New financial resources will soon become available to you.” Now that’s cool, huh?  It blows me away to think that God had divinely orchestrated that we would meet that day, decide to eat Chinese food, chose those exact cookies, and I would open that cookie to describe exactly what had just happened!  I’m always amazed at how God works things in the natural realm to confirm what is happening in the spiritual.

But the even cooler thing is that Becca’s fortune cookie said, “Good things are coming to you.” You see, the bible promises us that: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) He promises that as we give, it will be given to us. When we choose to bless others financially, it engages our hearts, and God honors that by blessing us in return. Indeed, a few people who have contributed to my ministry work on a monthly basis have said, “Kelly – I’ve been giving to you but somehow it comes back to me by the end of the month.” How awesome is that?

I have to continually remind myself to hold my money and possessions loosely – after all, they aren’t really mine, they’re God’s who has given me a chance to steward them. Generosity was very much a part of the first Christian church in Acts: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to anyone  as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35). I would like to see this to happen again today within the body of Christ – taking only what we need and giving away the rest.  We could do so much more as a society if we start sharing and giving more, if giving large sums of money becomes less of an abnormality and more of a standard practice. Indeed, self-sacrificial giving is the biblical model that Jesus has given to us, and it starts with us as Christians.

It’s been said that money the root of all evils. But rather than this, I believe that money is the root of all joy. With money, we have the chance to bless, to share what we have, to contribute to the needs of others. The more we give, the more we get! What a joy!

Where might God be asking you to give today?

Author’s note: One week after this, my family ate Chinese food again, and my fortune cookie said, “You will never need to worry about a steady income.” Now that’s interesting, huh?

Dreaming with God – My bucket list

At our small group a few weeks ago, we shared our hopes and dreams, things on our heart that we were dreaming with God. I put together a “bucket list,” things I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime:

Traveling – Things I want to see/do:
-Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
-Sky dive over the Great Barrier Reef
-See the seven natural wonders of the world
-Go to Israel and Jerusalem and walk where Jesus walked
-Live with local people in every inhabited part of the planet (1 month+) to see the true condition of our world
-See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
-Hike a good portion of the Appalachian Trail

Skills that I want to learn:
-Learn a song on the ukulele or violin
-Learn to cook culinary dishes from around the world
-Learn how to say greetings (hello, goodbye, how are you) in every major world language
-Learn how to surf and catch at least one big wave
-Write a book
-Compose a song that is hummable and catchy
-Create a piece of art that is wall-worthy

Others:
-Find raw cacao beans, then roast and bake something with them (I love chocolate!)
-Complete an Ironman Triathalon
-Lead someone to Christ and help disciple them in their relationship with Jesus, for life
-Watch an abundance of sunrises and sunsets
-Kiss in the rain
-Get married and have a family (this is contingent on the other half :-)
-Live in the mountains (The stunning kind that totally surround you with beauty)

And my big dream:

I dream that the Christian church would come together around Christ – working together in unity, as one body, casting down all denominational and ethnic walls. I want to see the city of Boston transformed by Christ’s love.

In looking back at these, I learned a couple of things about myself – first is that I’m a big dreamer! My parents always taught me to dream big. I realize that I’m very adventurous and outdoorsy, but I have an artsy side too. My pastor Kent said that you know when a dream is a God-dream when it’s way bigger than anything you could accomplish on your own. So yes, uniting the Christian community in Boston is definitely my big, God-sized dream. I would have said that you were crazy if three years ago you told me that I would be in Boston, working in ministry. But I know that God placed this dream in my heart, and the bible says that if God is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31)

The caveat to this is that my bucket list is always changing. I hold all of these things loosely, because I know that it’s “not my will, but His be done.” When I think about other dreams that I have had (teaching outdoor education in a school in Colorado, making the national rowing team,) I have seen how God molds and shapes who we are and who we become. That’s the cool thing about living for Jesus – there’s a pruning that happens where as you live for Him, He takes away your desires, and replaces it with His. This might sound scary but it’s actually quite freeing. I feel more freedom, peace and joy doing what I do now than I ever have before. He knows you in and out, He knows your gifts, your experiences, and He wants to use you to change the world. So why not give it all up and surrender your life to Jesus? It’s more about God being here with us and dreaming with us, than us looking upwards to dream with God…

Philippians 3:8 “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (NLT)

So yeah, that’s what I’m dreaming. Now tell me – What is on your bucket list?

“It’s not your birthday anyways” – Alternative ways to give this Christmas

A few years ago, I saw this video called the Advent Conspiracy – a different way of looking at Christmas –

Then last Thursday, I went to a gathering put on by the Boston Faith and Justice Network (www.bostonfaithjustice.org/) entitled “Just Giving – A reflection on Christian generosity and creative gift ideas.” At this event, a dozen young adults shared about how their understanding of the global poor had affected the way that they practiced Christmas. They shared about the tension between wanting to give generously and find the perfect gift, and yet how purchasing material items can be so consuming during this season.

Since the event, I’ve been thinking about Christmas, about how Jesus gave himself incarnationally to us, and how we can use what He has done to display the true meaning of Christmas. I was inspired by the alternatives they suggested in being intentional in the way our Christian values affect our purchasing during Christmas time:

Give the gift of clean water – 
Did you know that lack of clean water kills more people per day than anything else? Ryan Scott McDonnell shared about how one church small group decided that rather than to purchase presents, they were going to contribute money to non-profit organizations. After researching, they pooled their money and decided to contribute over $100,000 to two organizations, including Living Water International, which builds wells throughout the world to give people access to clean water.

Make something homemade – 
The unique thing about homemade gifts is that not only are you giving a gift, but you are showing the person how much you care by giving your time and talents to create the gift. Some cool homemade gifts that were shared at the gathering include:
-ornaments made out of bike parts (a gear shifter makes a great cross!)
-Writing a song or poem and giving a CD recording
-Making a youtube card of a video sharing why that person is special to you
-Homemade canned jam or other treats – I’m making homemade chocolate truffles and cards for people this year

Give the gift of your talents –
On Christmas Eve last year, instead of exchanging gifts, Julie’s family did a talent show together – including a magic show, poems, rapping, and even a Spanish lesson. Julie shared how Christmas can be a turbulent time for her family, but doing the talent show together was able to bring them together as never before. Although she was skeptical of the talent show idea at first, now they can’t stop talking about surprises that they will share with one another this year!

Give the gift of a new life –

My Grandma's Christmas present to me last year was Moises, a young boy from Bolivia

Last year, my grandma gave me the gift of a sponsoring Moises through Compassion International. Moises is a young boy in Bolivia – we pray for him and write him cards periodicaly throughout the year. It’s so cool to know that together we’re helping Moises to receive proper food, clothing and an education.

Give recycled gifts –
I’ve recently found a new love for thrift store shopping. Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s fun to search through the randomness for the perfect gift. A new thrift store opened up just a short walk from my house called Boomerangs, and all of their proceeds go to AIDS Action Committee – so not only are you finding a cool gift, but you’re helping to end AIDS worldwide! At the event, someone made a whole bar set using only items they found from a thrift store. Also be sure to check out Freecycle, a website where people are giving away stuff they don’t need and people looking for items – all for free!

Give your time –
At the beginning of December, my friend Megan’s Pastor Larry Ward always gives a sermon entitled “It’s not your birthday anyways!,” explaining about how Christmas should be focused on giving ourselves to one another, just as Christ came to give himself to us. On Christmas morning, everyone in her church (Abundant Life Church in Cambridge) goes to the Salvation Army to relieve the staff to spend time with their families. Then, they pass out presents and serve the guests in the Salvation Army a large warm Christmas meal.  I love the idea of engaging in community service on Christmas Day, having the day focused on serving others rather than ourselves.

Christmas in Boston - In the background is Park Street Church on the right and the Boston State House on the left

Christmas in Boston is quite beautiful! Check out this picture of the Boston lighted Christmas tree downtown.  I love my city!

Yes, Christmas isn’t about us – it’s not our birthday anyways. The question is – this Christmas, how can you give yourself relationally to friends and family and loved ones?

What can you do to give more presence rather than more presents?

How can you use what God has given you to bless the world?

Amidst the busyness of life…God!

If you’re in Boston, you’ve probably noticed that we have had some extraordinary skies here – rainbows of colors to bring in and close each day. I was working at Trader Joe’s the other evening when all of the sudden I looked out the window and there was an absolutely stunning sunset. One thing you’ll learn about me is I am a huge nature girl – and there’s nothing I love more than a good sunrise or sunset.

I pointed out the window and asked the manager if I could go and take a look outside – upon approval I stepped outside and  lo and behold it was incredible! Deep reds and lucious pinks combined with a bright orange filled the horizon by the Charles River. If a tropical popsicle could be expressed in the sky, this would have been it.   I got really excited and wanted to see it up close and personal. I looked to the right, then to the left, then ran (literally) across the Trader Joe’s parking lot, across Memorial Drive to the edge of the Charles River. Here’s what I saw:

This was taken with my camera on my non-flip non-smart phone :-)

I stayed here, praising God for His beauty and wonder, and the verse from Psalm 19 came to mind:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

I’m starting to appreciate that the skies are God’s language to us, God’s whisper into our hearts, a love-letter sent from heaven. A beauty in a sunset like this causes us to look up and remember that there is more to life than just us, just humans and buildings and cars and the busyness of life. Sometimes I think that God sends us beautiful sunsets just to say, “Hey guys! Here I am! I’m bigger and more beautiful than the buildings. And I made this sunset for you just because I love you!” For me, beautiful sunsets make me stop and think about what is really important in life.

But when I looked at all the cars rushing by, I wondered how many stopped to even notice. When I went back into work and asked customers in my check-out line, only one person had seen it. And I started to wonder – how many times do we miss God’s intricate handiwork because we are too busy? When is the last time I took time to examine the intricate beauty of a rose or a drop of dew on the grass? Jesus, may I never become too busy to appreciate Your handiwork. Open my eyes to see you in this world…