It Happens in a Blink

What is it about humanity that leads us to look for happiness beyond our grasp? I heard a thought-provoking country song the other day that caught my attention. That is normally an oxy-moron in my book—country songs aren’t often thought-provoking. But instead of lamenting about x-wives’ boyfriends and beer-less nights, the singer realized that happiness had been in his hands the whole time, even while he was out searching for it elsewhere. Why is it that we pine and complain about what we don’t have? Will it be too late when we discover that what God gave us will make us the happiest?

Forty years ago, the Lord saw fit to bring a baby girl into the world that He knew would change my life forever.

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She has always been the utmost example of happiness to me. You couldn’t offer Christa a million dollars to convince her that she doesn’t have the perfect husband, children, job, and house. Her world revolves around them, and therefore, they depend on her. It is a beautiful cycle of life. You’ve met the person who would drop anything for a stranger, but wouldn’t lift a finger to play a game with their kids. Why is this? I have pondered the reason for this. Why is it that we consider our “ministry” in the church or in the community but not in our own families? Is this perhaps why pastors’ kids are often alienated to this “Christian thing” while their fathers care for the church? Could it be that the Salvation Army bell ringers’ kids are starving while they’re feeding the community? Is it possible that I have been peering through binoculars to see the needs all over the country, while neglecting my own parents, siblings, and roommates? It so easily happens. And before we know it, our opportunities are gone.

It is coming up on the sixth year anniversary of Tyler’s passing. A fifteen year old helping his friend move…a tragic car accident…a night that hasn’t faded in our memories. I often think that I would like to go that way…doing something heroic. The only difference between me and him is this…Tyler was a hero to his family as well. In my correspondence with his sweet mother, I can see the bond between Tyler and his family. Even while he was serving at camp last summer, he would text her and tell her how much he missed her, but how much God was doing at camp. And yet Tyler blessed so many people, not really by doing anything extravagant, but just by being himself. Just by being real. Just by loving Jesus and letting His joy spill onto everyone he met. Maybe that’s the key…not trying to make a difference but just being the person God wants me to be and letting Him bring people to me. I definitely know God led me to Tyler, and my life hasn’t been the same since the day that I said hello to him. Or since the day that I said goodbye to him.

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So maybe it doesn’t matter what ministry I pursue, or what level of success I attain in other people’s lives if I am a failure in my own family’s eyes. So while all the texts and emails come pouring in from people who need me, I will put down my phone and turn off my computer…and give a piece of myself to my own family.

A gift they haven’t gotten for a very long time.

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The 1 Thing Radical Really Definitely Has to Look Like—Right Where We Are

The 1 Thing Radical Really Definitely Has to Look Like — Right Where We Are

by Ann Voskamp

aholyexperience.com

No one just straight up tells you that the things you’ve seen — become what you see.

That you’ll close your eyes a thousand nights from now and it will all be real again — where you were and what they wore, that one look, that one moment, that one frame.

That you’ll see the world through what you’ve seen of the world and there’s no going back ever again and you get tinted by what you’ve touched, you get changed by what you’ve been shown.

And I can close my eyes and I’m laying on some steps under a Haitian sun.

And there’s never enough wind for the way the earth burns close here and I shield my eyes and Levi asks me what I just asked him:

“What’s the one word you’re going to carry home from Haiti with you, Mom?“

And I want to roll off that step and dig my hands into this piece of the blurring planet and you can’t drag me from here, can’t make me leave my kin, and what if you find your home with people who only have a home in Him? But I lay still. Take this deep breath. No matter how scared you are about what everything means now, you can’t scare a kid. So I stare up at the sun. And when it comes, I murmur it like a plea: radical.

“Radical? What do you mean, Mom?” Levi leans over me like the shade of a tree.

And I want to loose this heart howl — that I have no idea, that I’m wild to become because it’s got to be more than doing but actually becoming, that radical has to be the Christian’s new normal, that radical isn’t radical but the regular to the disciple of Christ, and what if we’re all fooling ourselves with the American Dream instead of waking up to the Christian Reality and His Kingdom Come?

God forgive.

God forgive all the lukewarm blood.

“It was those boys, wasn’t it?” Levi kneels down on the step beside me stretched out like it’s time to be an altar.

“Yeah…. yeah, Levi, it was them too.”

They’d wanted to tear a Bible up, for crying out loud.

They’d taken the Bible the Farmer had in his hand to give to the boy who could read —- and these 3 boys in Minotiere who have never owned a book, who have never had a Bible of their own, they’d decided amongst themselves in this grand generous gesture — to split the Bible between the three of them, to tear the Bible down its bloody spine so each of them could carry a bit of the God-breathed home under his arm.

They were going to rip up a Bible so they all had a bit of God.

I’d looked into the Farmer’s eyes and shook my head: all three of those boys had decided that it was better for them all to have less, so they all had something, than for one to have everything and the rest have nothing.

And at home we’ve got a bathroom in the basement, 2 on the main floor and one off our bedroom, a garage, and 20 Bibles on how many shelves, and who is ready to have less so we all have something, or do we all want everything so most get nothing?

We’ve got all of God. Why not share the rest?

Or maybe we don’t — because we don’t really have Him at all?

I have no idea. I have no idea about anything.

I just know that we carried 3 Bibles back with us to Minotiere the next day. And after we picked up the garbage, after our hands got dirty, I sat in the street under a relentless sun and pulled a Haitian Jesus Storybook Bible out of my bag and asked if anyone could read.

His name was John Peter. He read regally. Like every word was a decree. Especially the lines about “I will bless you” — benediction, that word rolled off his tongue.

(Want John Peter to read to you too? See video I shot of him here).

When he looked up from Abraham, after he’d read the same page out loud twice, benediction twice, I said it was his, the whole love letter of God. He held it to his chest.

“Where you from?” His halting English startled me.

“Canada.” I looked into his eyes. Benediction.

“Ottawa?”

I smiled. The boy knew his way around this globe. “No, near Toronto.”

Somebody hollers that it’s late. That it’s time to go back to the mission. And we stand and John Peter walks beside me, half step ahead of me, toward the bus, Bible clung to his chest.

“You love Jesus?” His voice sears me like a brand.

I stop in the middle of the street.

John Peter turns. Our eyes hold. The words choke out like a chest pounding.

“With all my heart.” As if that makes any difference? Like it’s meant to?

And it’s right there, Paul’s words, one’s I’m memorizing, that I pound on my chest like a repentance: “God, whom I serve with my wholeheart in preaching the gospel of his Son… “

And that’s what preaches the gospel: it’s the arteries that preach the gospel, a whole heart.

That the best preachers embody gospel, make words move through their skin and their synapses, and the best sermons are the flooding whoosh of a heart wholly living it, a life poured out.

Give me preachers who can also lay aside microphones and make the whole of a body be a megaphone of grace and truth and Christ.

That’s what Paul said, “I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.” And there are prayers to be made eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in the kitchen hungry, you in the nameless streets needing love, you in the nursing home, you in the mudroom, you around the corner needing a meal and a long hug and a longer, lingering ear.

Make a whole host of us who will preach this gospel on our knees, with dirt under our fingernails and tears in our eyes and there will be no applause and there will be no sound, only this ringing of a hammer in our ears, the way a life lays itself down. This gospel preached most clearly in the going lower, always lower, this surrender to a suffering love, this biting of too-quick tongues and getting down and washing feet.

Give the world that. Be that.

And maybe — your life doesn’t preach the gospel of Christ as much as your life gets gripped by the gospel of Christ. And then Christ becomes your life and your days breathe the realest sermon and Christ exhales His own Amen.

And John Peter nodded his august head.

What does my whole pounding heart testify?

After the three Word-starved boys who were ready to tear the Bible back at the spine to share God, and after the majestic John Peter and his benediction and his Bible clung to his chest, and after Levi pierces me down with what I am going to do about all of this, I find my shaky legs and pack our bags because there are these plane tickets mocking my heart.

The boys and the Farmer haul our bags down to the dining hall.

We donate our water bottles, work gloves, empty suitcases to the mission. We wait for the bus. There is less than an hour left now. There isn’t much time left now.

I wander back up to the guest house. I drag my hand along the chain link fence that gives way to the razed foothills and fields that cry.

Two Haitians hack a way at long dead grasses with these rusting machetes.

And when I climb a few steps out of the sun, into the shade of the now empty guesthouse portico, that’s when I see him come up out of the grasses.

Up out of nowhere, out of nothing, out of badlands, a hilly mile from the road, this child on the other side of the fence.

This dark and dusted child, he’s crouching on just the other side of a chain link fence.

The men just keep swinging, whacking their clanging machetes, slicing everything down.

I step off the step. The boy crouches closer. What in the holy name of God am I doing in a world where I am on one side of a fence and a lone child is on the other? Who’s building these fences? And what if it’s me? I take another few steps, slow, not to scare him, and I kneel, fingers through a chain link before a child, and how did I get here and what am I going to do now? It’s more than one rolling mile down to the road and any gate in this whole stretch of wire.

He points to his lips.

His dry-white chapped lips. He opens his mouth, and he points a dirty finger to his mouth and those cracked lips and do I see what he’s saying without a sound? The whole rotation of everything slows. My mind races. My fingers can’t get to him. I’ve got nothing. Everything’s packed, donated, given away. There’s only —

There’s that one Creole children’s storybook bible we’d left in the guesthouse, left for the next guest to give away, and I motion wait.

I fly up those steps on where I’d whispered “radical” like a mad fool, and I grab the Bible off the shelf, and there I am climbing up a chain link fence to get a Bible to a child. The boy climbs the other side. We’re both hanging on by our fingers, trying to reach through everything that needlessly separates us, and our fingers touch. Touch.

I reach through the barb wire at the top.

I give him all I’ve got and it’s God.

And I’m just fool enough to believe He’s enough and something aches in my gut.

The Bible drops into his open hands and the boy drops to the earth and everything else falls away.

The boy’s cracked lips part and he breaks into this gleaming smile.

And I don’t know what we’re all here for, but it’s got to be this.

It’s got to be those Words that he holds in his hands, it’s got to be about being bread for the begging, it’s got to be about being willing to be broken and given and giving away. People are dying here people.

People are dying because they are wild to see Jesus and know that there’s really more to all this than any of us can see. People are dying here because they need to find the very real space of their own souls and find the very real Saviour who can fill it and all their hollow space. People are dying here because they need bread and we’ve got it in our hands and we either don’t think it’s real bread or we really don’t care.

Why be ashamed of the gospel? Why not be brave enough to use words? Why not be brave enough to break open your own broken life and be real because He really broke Himself for us? Is Christ bread and are people starving to death and if we know it, why won’t we open our hands? Love is always good news.

Never doubt that there’s a love letter to bind up all the brokenhearted and it’s signed with the scars of the Wounded God. Lay your weary head down on it, feed on it, break it and share it with all the hurting world, everywhere you go. Love is always good news.

Preach the gospel and use your words and your hands and your heart because they are all necessary.

When that one lone child walks away carrying all I had, all the bread of the Word of God, I had stood there watching him through the chain link fence, watched him walk away into all that vast emptiness with bread in his hands.

The machetes swung behind me, rolling back the earth and the sky and everything right to the bare radical roots.

Radical — that word that means “of roots.”

This Word, this Book, has to be the radical root of anything that will grow up to radically feed anybody.

I stood there watching the boy walk away, till he was smaller and smaller and gone, till I could see him no more.

No one told me that I’d see that boy again in all my dreams.

How he’d open his mouth and point to his parched lips and you could hear it, clear as day, like the heavens come down—

“Then if you really love Me? Feed My sheep.”Image

A Tribute to The Coke Zero

I have recently been so inspired by Ann Voskamp’s writings. Her words are hard to digest, but absolutely worth any effort put forth to do so. She has gotten me hooked on writing down things that I am thankful for. I’ll admit my list started fairly elementary.

Food.

Clothing.

My bed.

Then my wild creativity took over and produced more lively entries.

Black and white comforter.

The perfect gold purse.

Perfectly plump pears.

(That ones makes me giddy. It’s amazing what a mere adjective can do to a plain old noun! And alliteration is the the perfect touch.)

Now, I have moved from corny to classy.

Bare toes digging into a plush rug.

Rocking babies to sleep. And not rushing for the sleep to come.

The scent of a new detergent.

The sound of Baby Einstein in the livingroom. Because there is nothing on that could be more worth watching than a totem pole playing classical music and making my little ones giggle.

To be honest, I guess I just didn’t realize that life was passing me by.

In conjunction with reading 1,000 Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, I found out that I would need a biopsy of my cervix to determine why the past two tests had come back irregular. I never once remembered the feeling of fear, but the unknown was fear in and of itself. Not fear for myself. Fear for Brandon. For my friends. For my ministries. I questioned whether I had fulfilled all that I was here to do. Had I made my life worthwhile? Did I have any regrets?

The things I regretted were things that I had no control over. Getting married older… But I was better for it. Not having children… But the time with Brandon had been precious. Not making more money… But the money I had made had been well-earned and I had a blast making every cent of it. Not working harder to mend relationships…. with people who thought nothing of me.

Reading that book did cause me to regret one thing. That I COULD change.

And that was the NOW.

I was always living in the past or living in the future. Rarely did I live in the now. Did I look around with gratitude. Did I take notice of the breath I was currently inhaling. Life had passed me by and I was now 26 and potentially at the end of my life. (If not death by cancer, death by chocolate.) I had things to show for it. But I wasn’t entirely happy. I would give a lot to go back and relive my childhood, now knowing the good that God was bringing out of my mess, the beauty He was making of my dust and ashes. I would never have said that I didn’t trust Him. But my life didn’t show that I did. I complained. I was bitter. I was broken-hearted. No wonder I had to wander in the wilderness for a few years before I could actually appreciate my husband. And life.

Some of you have been alienated. Left. Abused. Betrayed. Disappointed. Hurt. Unloved. Unforgiven. Unaccepted. Unsuccessful.

Life is hard. The world is cold. We’re barely young. And then we’re old. (You’re welcome for putting that song in your head.) It’s easy to shut down our emotions, which really only shuts out the positive emotions and allows the negative ones to settle in deep. It’s easy to put red tape around our hearts. To let one especially heartbreaking relationship paint the rest of the humans a pale shade of gray. To never allow vulnerability again. To stay where it’s comfortable. To keep our circle small and to remain indifferent to the needs of others.

The attitude of ingratitude makes us self-centered. My needs are all that matter. No one has met my needs, so I don’t have any time to meet anyone else’s.

The world’s solutions only create discontent.

Diets leave me feeling deprived. Entertainment never removes the problems that I come home to…only postpones them. New marriages change the other person but don’t change me. (Maybe I’m the problem. Unfortunately, I go with myself into every relationship.) Addictions leave me empty and craving more. It is never enough.

Gratitude, on the other hand, savors the Coke Zero when there are no calories left for a Cherry Coke.

Gratitude is the body of exercise because it is still able to move around instead of being bed-ridden.

Gratitude is the hand of generosity because of all that’s been handed to it.

Gratitude is love in the face of hurt, because of the Ultimate Love that gave Himself for those who rejected Him.

Gratitude is thankful for the alarm, because it means life.

Gratitude is rest at the end of the day, because a day spent thankful causes a good night’s sleep.

Eucharisto. Giving thanks. Even on our worst days, we have joys to count. It will revolutionize your world, in all areas. Give it a try. It’s free. Try counting your blessings instead of sheep. You’ll be amazed.

When you want what you have, you’ll soon find that you have what you want.

So tell me.

Just, exactly, how good IS your life?

http://www.aholyexperience.com

Umbrellas

I want to be as good as an umbrella on a wet day –(H. E. Bates)

Had any wet days recently? Who were the people you ran to? Which people popped into your mind first? Those people are treasures. Make sure they know it.

A lifetime spent consumed with kindness is a content life. The people who have made the biggest mark on the world have been people who lived for others instead of themselves. People who offered. People who loved. People who served. I am determined to add the word “kind” back into my vocabulary. It may be outdated and King James Version-ish, but I love what it stands for. 

Kindness:

1. the practice or quality of being kind

2. a kind, considerate, or helpful act

People most often show up when life is rainy. Some call them fair-weather friends, but I prefer to call them stormy friends. We all know those people. The people that show up on your caller ID. And you groan inwardly. Or hit ignore. Or both. The reason you feel that way? Because they want something. While you have your mental list going, let me ask you: who groans when they see your name pop up?
Even the sweetest of people can overstep their boundaries. You could hashtag this in many ways:
#takingadvantage
#moocher
#leech
#schmooze
#freeloader
#needy
#toomuchofagoodthingisabadthing
I love illustrations. If one metaphor is good, two are great. I found a quote on Instagram last week that stuck with me: “Don’t feel bad if people remember you only when they need you. Feel privileged that you are like a candle that comes to their mind when there is darkness.”  That is a great perspective for those people that suck the life out of you.
But turn this scenario around…. don’t be the one who only seeks out others when in distress. YOU be the candle that others can run to, the umbrella that others can hide under.

When someone does something for you, make it a priority to return the favor. Pay when you say you will, and pay more than you agreed to. Or, pay what you agreed on, and then send them a gift card. If you don’t have money to pay, make a meal for them, order them pizza, or at the very least, send a thank-you card or call them a few days later to tell them how much it meant to you.

There is someone in your life that would love to hear from you. That would love to talk with you…just….because. That would love to get a text from you…that is not asking for help or a favor. Someone would be blown away if you asked what burden you could help to carry or take off of them. Or if you just asked them what you could pray for.  I find that I offer more times than they actually take me up on it. That costs nothing, but goes a long way. (Since I have unlimited text.)

Kindness only goes as far as you keep the ball rolling. Never take for granted the people that have made your life what it is. If you start by simply responding to the generosity of others, you will soon be motivated to initiate your own acts of kindness.

And by all means…. stop talking about yourself all the time. A person whose world revolves around himself is a very small planet indeed.

Our world is made up of self-declared gods and goddesses. It is truly rare and wonderful to find someone who looks beyond their own sphere into another’s. You could be that person. People will not remember you for all the things you did to promote yourself or your abilities. They will, however, remember you for your random acts of goodness. You don’t have to be a millionaire to accomplish this.

A smile and a pair of rain boots goes a long way.