Day 3: back to the heart

April 14, 2010

This morning God brought me back to the heart of why we’re doing this. His heart.

His heart beats with so much love for each person, whether rich or poor, whether here in Canada or elsewhere in the world. His heart is that people would come back to Him, would seek Him, would cry out to Him and find healing in His name. The Bible says, “The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13)

God is not just a far-off deity or some great ideas written down on paper. He is real. I know because I have encountered His presence; I have experienced His healing; I have seen Him miraculously answer prayer.

I also know because of the Bible, truly the most incredible book ever written: it is ancient, but still speaks directly into people’s lives; it is historically accurate and verifiable; its archaeological evidence includes more manuscripts than any other ancient book; it has been studied by thousands of scholars over thousands of years and yet its content has not been exhausted; it is a subject of unparalleled controversy, yet cannot be disproved; it was written by over 40 authors, who lived at different times (over at least two thousand years) in different places, and has been translated into thousands of languages, but its message remains the same.

And the message is this: God is real, all-powerful, and good. He created and loves all people, and calls them into relationship with Himself. People ran away from God and chased after evil, which destroyed them. Because of His deep love for all people (and all of creation), God came to earth in human form — Jesus Christ — to bring people back to Himself and free them from evil’s grasp. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you can have forgiveness and restored intimacy with God if you call out to Him and believe in Him. God calls everyone who believes in Him to love Him with all their hearts and lives, to love and forgive everyone around them as much as He has loved and forgiven them, and to be humble and truthful.

That is the heart of the matter.

I want to be clear about the purpose of the one dollar a day challenge. I’m not aiming to become a “better person” or “get good karma” or “gain enlightenment” by doing this challenge. I’m also not trying to appease God, punish myself, make myself holy, or make you think I’m a good person. The goal is not even to fundraise or raise awareness, though that would be great. The goal of this challenge is love.

Love for hurting people; love born out of empathy and community, leading to intercession (bearing someone else’s burden as an act of mediation/prayer). That’s the kind of love God first showed us through Jesus.

Today God dealt with some ugly pride in me. He reminded me that this challenge is merely a warm-up lap or training exercise for a marathon. The value of the warm-up will only be determined by how I run when the warm-up is done. You see, the difficulty in doing this challenge again is I feel a greater temptation to become lazy in the familiarity of it, depending on myself and my past experience rather than on God. Because of that struggle, I’m realizing the danger of having a little bit of knowledge; it’s easy to grow proud and overconfident, to think I understand and respond to poverty better than I do. In fact, doing this challenge may be a dangerous patch for the serious problem of poverty, if I allow complacency to tell me that the challenge alone is enough of a response.

Eating like a poor person doesn’t improve my character or help poor people; it just makes me hungry (and possibly more irritable). True, it alerts my senses to the plight of the world, but if I don’t follow through, that empathy can rot into a false sense of understanding and helpfulness while the world’s cries remain unanswered. My life has changed a lot since the first one dollar a day challenge, but now I feel compelled that it must change even more. To be completely honest, that scares me.

Have I let my heart break for the world? Then my actions will show it. So call me to accountability, friends!  🙂

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our joy complete.

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”    …

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” – 1 John 1:1-7, 3:16-21


Day 1: Confession

April 13, 2010


I’m a wimp when it comes to hunger.  Seriously.

Cause really, I’m eating like a queen — this week included.  That’s the crazy thing.

I’m healthy, I can drink clean water, and this time around, the food even tastes good (thanks to green onions, tomato sauce, and chicken soup base!).  My stomach hurts, but I don’t have parasites.  I crave food, but I have everything I need.

For those who are curious, today’s menu:

Breakfast – oatmeal with cinnamon

Lunch – lentil soup (water, lentils, tomato paste, carrots)

Dinner – brown rice, egg, green onions

What amazes me the most about many people who live in poverty is their generosity.  It’s easy enough to be generous when there are no painful aftereffects, but these people are generous when it hurts.  I remember having dinner with people in Mexico who voluntarily spent their year’s savings on a meal for our team.  Similarly, Craig Kielburger told a story about a young beggar girl who received an orange from a foreigner, and shared it joyfully with the other children.  And those are two stories among many.  Talk about role models.

I learned today that I can be quite selfish sometimes.  When I’m feeling hungry, sharing food with someone else is very difficult.  The desire to share is definitely not a natural response when it means my own needs won’t be covered.  And that is merely at a level of discomfort.  For some, the consequences of giving are much more severe.

I once read a book about acting that said, “True character is revealed under pressure.”  That’s a tough one for me, because I tend to get irritable when my stomach is growling!  But it makes me think of the impoverished people I’ve met with a profound level of respect.  I am inspired by their strength, by their enduring joy, and by their capacity to love selflessly — a capacity I can hardly begin to understand.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus (John 13:35)

Lord, teach us how to love.

I need it

August 10, 2009

This weekend has been very humbling.

On Friday Ben was reading through a chapter of John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” and he shared a few thoughts from the book with me.  The chapter was about recognizing and celebrating our smallness.

From our conversation I have a better understanding of why we did this challenge.  We did not do this challenge because poor people need our money, or because other people need this challenge.  We did the challenge because we need it.  I need it.  I need to have my eyes opened, to have my heart humbled and broken, to be in a place where God can work on me.

The truth is, God doesn’t need our money, our prayers, or our devotion.  He doesn’t need us at all.  But we need Him.  And He knows that.  We pray, not because God needs our prayers before He can work (after all, Jesus said even “the rocks will cry out” if people don’t praise Him), but because we need to focus our hearts on God and abide in Him before we can hear and respond to His voice.  Because we need to know God hears and responds, not due to our own worthiness, but due to His very nature of love, mercy, and grace.

And here’s another truth.  People in poverty don’t need our money to be happy.  Most of them are, shockingly, happier than the average millionaire.  God can work miracles in their lives whether we are part of them or not. But we need to give to the poor, and we need to love the broken and outcast.  Otherwise our hearts will shrivel and our faith will wither.  Our selfishness and greed will overcome us and choke out any capacity for love.  We will miss out on what God is doing.  We will not be able to call ourselves His followers or even have a basic understanding of what that means.

I am just starting to get this.  I am nothing — worse than nothing — apart from God.  On my own, I cannot supply anyone’s needs, or give anything of value.  But God leads me through the challenges I need in order to make my heart receptive to Him.  Then, when He works, He calls us to have the privilege of being part of it.

Lord, lead us on.  Humble our hearts so we can respond to Your voice.

What’s Step 2?

August 1, 2009

hey everyone,

So now that our first $1 a day week is over, I am going to use this blog as a way of telling you about simple challenges, organizations and projects that you can get involved with on various levels.  The goal is to counteract the paralysis of information overload by providing… (drumroll please) more information!!!  ha.

Seriously though, I know what it’s like to read a book about poverty or watch a gripping movie about social injustice and walk away thinking, “Wow, that was sad. I don’t know how to begin to respond, so I think I’ll go home, have a snack, and try not to think about it anymore.”

Today we have more opportunities than ever before to make a positive difference in this world — and we also have unprecedented opportunities to get totally distracted from life with all kinds of toys, addictions, and fantasies imaginable… and miss the whole point. It’s a constant struggle for me to stay focused on Christ. To give up my comfortable routine, my convenient luxuries, my immediate concerns and emotions. To take up my cross and follow Jesus when people around me tell me I’m crazy, I’m risking way too much, it’ll never work. Faith often seems ridiculous to spectators and critics — but then again, so does dancing!

I have a small challenge for all of us today. It seems easy, but it will take a concerted effort. I promise I’ll do it too.

Instead of reading this and then going on Facebook or checking your email or playing games or going to the fridge for a snack, or whatever else you were planning on doing, put down everything in your hands right now. Find a clearing on your floor (which, if you’re anything like me, may be difficult), and kneel down. Close your eyes (after you finish reading this!) and ask God: “God, how do You want me to respond to all that I have seen, read, and heard today?”

Then wait. Be silent. If God puts something on your heart, some way that you can reach out to someone or help another person, do it. It may sound silly, or it may sound difficult, or it may be very humbling. It may also be incredibly simple. Take one step at a time.

Ready… set…

Let’s go.  🙂

“…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”  – Amos 5:24

“Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”  – Proverbs 21:13

I’d like to share the words for a song I’m in the process of writing.  It’s still quite a work in progress (and it looks a bit funny here on paper without the music), but it’s the best way I can capture what I’m feeling about this whole journey.

For those of you who are non-Christians: “the body of Christ” is a phrase commonly used to describe the church, in part because our calling is to reach out to broken and hurting people in the same way Jesus did — and thus be His hands and feet.


(by Vanessa Dyck)

How do I fit you in
To my world of business suits and office chairs
To my two-storey house on a cul-de-sac
And my idea of what is fair
You live so far away
From my chocolate cakes and coffee breaks
But I think of you when my stomach aches
Of your dark eyes and the storms inside
And your tiny hopeful face

And I’m hiding, cause I’m troubled by what I see
But I’m seeking, cause it doesn’t make sense to me

How could we be the body of Christ
And not answer
The cries of a world that’s pleading
for the hope that we can give

How could we be the body of Christ
And not rescue
The widows and the orphans
With the abundance we’ve received

When will we be the body of Christ?

Let’s play hide-and-seek
I’ll hide you in the TV screen and flip the channels aimlessly
Or take a different road when you’re bleeding in the ditch
Sometimes I hear a preacher speak
About your needs and how you’re unreached
But I don’t know what to do
Cause there’s so much stuff I’ve got to lose
And this Good News I have makes me nervous too

So I’m hiding, cause I’m troubled by what I see
But I’m seeking, cause it doesn’t make sense to me

And I wonder will God forgive us for our closets full of clothes
For our overpriced expansion plans and the starving nation’s bones
Will we pray He looks the other way while we build our fancy homes

Or will we be the body of Christ
And answer
The cries of this generation
With the hope that Jesus gives

When will we be the body of Christ
And let go of
Our money and possessions
To find the life we’re made to live

When will we be the body of Christ?

Last night we watched the movie Faith like Potatoes. It’s based on a true story about a Scottish farmer in South Africa (Angus Buchan) who has what most of us would consider ridiculous faith in God. But the problem isn’t with him; it’s with us!

He prays for things and they happen — not because he’s anything great, but because he simply asks God and trusts in Him.  That humble yet courageous faith inspires me.  I think we would see a lot more miracles in our lives if we had two things: true faith in God and true dependence on Him. I’m not saying suffering and difficulties wouldn’t happen — but when they did come, we would see them much differently.

I find it so amazing that God listens to us.  And all we need is “a broken and contrite heart.” Humility. No wonder God loves the poor and the outcasts so much.

Then what?

July 26, 2009

So what happens when these 7 days are done?

Stay tuned on our blog for updates about the challenge, as well as advice, resources, and recipes that can help you if you are interested in joining us.

Eating rice, lentils, oats, and carrots for a week really isn’t that difficult.  Yeah, there are challenging times, but the experience is well worth it.  Worth every dollar. (ha)

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in doing this, let me encourage you to go for it.

Here are a couple simple tips to get you started:

– we realized a few days in that we could have bought less rice and spent the money on other food.  Tomato sauce, salt, and garlic would have been very helpful.  Chicken boullion would have been nice too.  We found that a cup of rice each was enough for lunch and dinner for a day (more than enough for me, but not quite enough for Ben, so it balanced out), and oats in the morning was really cost effective.

– lentils are a GREAT idea.  They are an easy source of protein, and if you’re trying to get a sense of what people eat overseas, lentils or other beans/legumes are often a staple.

– soup is also a great idea.  Some friends of ours recently sent aid packages overseas, and they said each package was a soup mix that included rice, lentils, a teaspoon of dried vegetables, and a teaspoon of chicken boullion.

– the bulk section at the grocery store may become your close friend.

– when rice and lentils start to get a little boring, try boiling about half a cup of dry lentils with lots of water and about 4 chopped carrots.  Then puree the soup mixture, add a tiny bit of salt, and pour the mixture over rice.  On about Day 5, this tastes AMAZING.  Special thanks to Erin for telling me the idea!  We appreciated that a lot.  🙂

– we chose dried foods that don’t need to be refrigerated because we wanted the experience to be as close to people’s experiences overseas as possible.  If you would prefer to choose other foods, though, that’s totally up to you.  A dollar a day will probably get you a lot further than you expect, as long as you use your creativity!

Cheap-yet-satisfying foods:

most of these are pretty obvious, but we wish we had thought of some of them at the time…

– canned tuna or other canned fish

– dried beans and lentils

– pasta, oatmeal, and rice (any food that expands in water is a very exciting concept when you’re living on a small budget)

– tomato sauce/paste/etc.

– garlic

– carrots

– bread

– refried beans and tortillas


July 26, 2009

Almost done! One more day to go…

But this is only the beginning — I can’t go back to my old way of life now and forget what I’ve learned and experienced.  Ben and I are talking about different ideas for how we can live out these lessons in the future.

Still, I am looking forward to eating chicken and fruit and cheese and yogourt again.  🙂

Yesterday (Day 5) was the easiest day so far.  It’s amazing how our bodies adjust.  The hunger pains have subsided quite a bit from what they were in the first few days.  God is giving me strength, and He helped me to get a lot done at work yesterday, which I was really praying about.

The one thing is that I’m feeling a tad moody.  I think that’s the most difficult part right now.  I had a bit of an emotional incident today (should I admit that?).  But God always gives us encouragement right when we need it.  One of our friends who just came back from Swaziland was telling us about his trip and meeting the awesome people there, and how his heart and perspective has been changed by them.  He said impossibilities don’t matter; people pray instead of worry, and God does miracles in their midst.  He also said the orphans there are an inspiration to him.  They are thankful for even one meal a day.


Lord, thank You for all that You have given us.  And thank You even more that joy, peace, love and laughter don’t depend on our bank accounts or the food we eat.  Thank You that You have placed beauty and wonder all around us if our eyes are open to see it.


July 23, 2009

This morning was tough.  I’m definitely feeling weaker and more lethargic than usual.  But eating oatmeal is getting a lot easier and more enjoyable!  (I normally don’t really like it, but it’s starting to grow on me…)  I’m also drinking a lot more water than usual, which is probably a good thing.  I’m craving yogourt, fresh blueberries, and cheese… mmm, and some spicy chicken curry… And by the way, microwaved lentils taste a bit like hard-boiled egg yolks.

Actually, I think I’m feeling more thankful right now than I ever have before.  Ben and I have been talking about the abundance we have in our lives, and reflecting that the temptation to think materialistically is much lower when we’re hungry all the time.  We’ve been inspired to think of ways to reduce our regular grocery bills, and the new slipcover I had wanted for the couch now seems significantly less important.  It’s eye-opening to drive past street after street of malls and shops and consider how much stuff we have that we absolutely don’t need.  Meanwhile, a plane-ride away, people are eating rice and beans everyday.  What I’m feeling right now is not guilt, but shock: shock that, as a culture, we have an overabundance of information yet we are painfully blind to the world around us — and blind to the realization that, were we to step out of our shell, being a true disciple of Jesus and meeting the needs of those around us could fill our hearts with the joy, excitement and purpose many have been searching for.

My eyes are starting to open.  It makes me want to give everything away.

That thought scares me, makes me want to tightly clench everything I have accumulated over the years.  But at the same time I can feel my grip starting to loosen, one finger at a time.

Lord, loosen my grip on this world.


July 22, 2009

Wow, I’m so thankful for the variety of foods we can enjoy in North America.  It has only been 3 days and already I’m realizing how much of a wimp I am!  This is definitely getting challenging for me.

That said, I’m learning a lot.  When food isn’t such a big part of my life, I find it much easier to call out to God and rely on Him for strength.

I’ll write more later — I have to go to bed.  We’re getting tired earlier now.


July 21, 2009

The further in I get with this, the more I realize how little I understand about poverty.  Even though I’m eating small rations of rice, oatmeal, and lentils, I still have access to clean water 24/7 (and I’m drinking a LOT of it, by the way!), I still have a safe place to live, a nice bed, a great job, an education, and an “end” of hunger in sight.

Yesterday was really tough sometimes.  It was quite different eating for survival rather than for enjoyment and flavor.  I’m also getting used to the constant feeling of hunger.  Even when we eat, we don’t have enough food.  That’s a foreign feeling to me.

Today I feel like I’m settling into more of a routine.  I’m eating lunch right now, and rice and lentils have never tasted so good!

On Sunday afternoon Ben and I started the challenge.  We went to the grocery store with $14 cash ($7 each) and walked straight for the bulk section.  We got some oatmeal, rice, lentils, and a small bag of carrots.  I’m normally a fairly careful shopper; I like to compare prices and look for deals.  But it felt different knowing that we didn’t have enough money to buy the amount of food we would normally eat.  So we had to make much more careful decisions. Should we get carrots or tomatoes as our one vegetable?  Even getting carrots meant that we couldn’t get as much rice, which might be more filling.  It sounds really shallow writing about this experience, but I learned a lot from it.

Mostly this is showing me that poverty happens to people just like me.  Their stomachs hurt just like mine does (and actually much worse than mine does).  They get thirsty just like I do.  They would probably enjoy ice-cream just as much as I do; in fact, they would probably even appreciate it much more.

Being in this situation actually makes me want to give more.  I keep thinking, why am I buying all this extra stuff when people are feeling hungry and malnourished every day?  Why am I concerned about being malnourished for a week, but not concerned that they have been malnourished their whole lives?  I’m seeing my own selfishness a LOT more clearly.

At the same time, I also feel God’s presence with increased intensity throughout the day.  It’s amazing.  This morning when Ben and I woke up, we both felt really lethargic and hungry.  But there was a lot less distraction clouding our prayer time.  We felt more desperate for God, and when we cried out to Him for strength, we were overwhelmed with the joy that filled our hearts.  Now I understand why people go on long fasts.

Isaiah 58