Friday, May 25, 2012

Created vs. Creator

How often do we focus on learning about the created instead of the Creator? What more might we learn about ourselves if our attention shifted to the One who made time, space, earth, and dwells within us? Do I want to know more about me or more about God? The answer to that question is a  measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with serving myself or serving Christ - accumulation or sacrifice? Do I fix my eyes on the present or the eternal?

How often do we focus on learning about the Creator instead of the created? What more might we learn about God if we shifted our attention to his creation and studied His masterpieces? Do I want to spend my life reading books and acquiring knowledge about God or do I want to see Christ at work in my own life? The answer to that question is a measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with giving to Christ than honoring what God has already given - service or gratitude? Do I fix my eyes toward heaven or do I enjoy the gift of the present?

How often do we choose one or the other, created vs. Creator, putting God in a box or time with him on our "to do" list? What more might we learn about Christ if we listened continually to the Holy Spirit that resides in us? Does the choice have to be Jesus time vs. me time? What if Christ was my constant companion? The answer to that question is a measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with trying to find time and space in my life for God or do I see God as active and present in all that I do and say? Do I fix my eyes toward religion or my friend Jesus?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Most Important Person in the World

 Who is the most important person in the world? If I were being disgustingly honest, I'd have to say the answer is: me. Sometimes it's nice to give the "Jesus" answer. But since we already know that he died and rose again, let's not, for the sake of my argument, count Jesus as a person in the world. Nope, I'm not even going to go for what seems like an upstanding moral answer and say, "my child." 

I don't think I'm alone in this "me-ness." I'm going to venture to say that there is no other person on the planet that you care about more than yourself. This isn't all bad, self-preservation is an important part of keeping our kids and families safe. If we aren't in a safe place, how can we keep our children safe as well? We want to live. Our schedules, priorities, finances, behaviors, and attitudes proclaim this as truth. We do a lot for our children and families, but that's because they are OURS. I can just hear those seagulls on Finding Nemo, "Mine, mine, mine." At the root of taking care of our children and families is the desire to have our own lives maintained and preserved in the way that we want them. 

If you were to set up a hierarchy of important people (people you care about) in the world, you'd probably be at the top. A close second would come your kids and spouse, then parents, siblings, BFF's, and so on. I'm guessing it would be a pretty long list before you got to your mail carrier or the grocery clerk. If you continued the list to include every person on the planet that you knew, how would you choose #567 and who only made it to #629? And then the kicker...what about the billions of people on this planet that you don't know? How do you rank those people? Do some countries or continents hold a more special place in your heart than others? 

These types of questions rage through my brain when I try and think about what it means to live out love. We talk a lot, as Christians, about love. We want to love like Jesus loves. We say we want to care about everybody and follow Christ. We hold in high esteem the Bible passages about the last being first, welcoming children, and loving our neighbor as ourself. But then when I look at the world, the church, and my own life, I see a very different way of living. 

Too often I see self-preservation as a higher priority than love. This comes down to simple things like the hot water supply in my house. If I'm the last one in the shower on a Sunday morning, I don't say, "Oh, isn't it nice that my precious children and husband got a warm shower? I don't mind that mine is freezing cold. I'm just so delighted for them." Instead my reaction is, " guys used up all the hot water and now I have to freeze!? Jerks. Thanks a lot." I am most important. My needs and my desires are more important than theirs. If I'm out running errands or perhaps on the way to meeting, I don't stop for a person with car troubles on the side of the road. Nope. I gotta be somewhere, I've got something to do. Plus, I don't want to stop and get out of my nice safe vehicle and help a stranger. What if that stranger is dangerous? Yikes. Nope. Must self-preserve. If I hear of a storm in the mid-west that wipes out a small town, I don't sell my house, pack up my family, and head to tornado alley to rebuild a farmhouse for a family I've never met. That kind of love is extreme...and extremely inconvenient. What if a child in Africa is dying of hunger or a preventable disease? Well, that's nothing new. That happens thousands of times every single day. Every day. The news doesn't even cover those deaths anymore. Almost like those children aren't important at all. 

At this point my head starts to explode and I think, "Ok, wait a second. It's normal to be irritated by a cold shower. Aren't we supposed to live and love in the the place where God has placed us? I don't even know how to change a tire or build a farmhouse. I'm supposed to serve out of my strengths, my God-given gifts. Don't start in the "starving kids in Africa" talk. We are supposed to serve out of love not guilt. We can't all be Mother Teresa." God is God and I'm not. Yeah, yeah. I know. 

In the middle of all those thoughts that I don't know how to reconcile, God brought me a piece of peace. In heaven love will reign. In the palm of God's hand our names are inscribed. But they aren't written in some gigantic list with Jesus at #1, Moses, David, and all the other Bible bigwigs at the top. There is no hierarchy of love. In heaven you and I will care just as deeply for our child as we do for the child of a prostitute in India. We'll love that farmer from East Africa just as much as we love our father or our best friend here in America. In heaven, a place without sorrow, a place of perfection and everlasting joy, we will see everyone as most important. I'll finally be able to lay down my selfishness and I won't have to worry about self-preservation anymore. 

One last thought - What if Christians believed?: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just A Tour Group...I Don't Think So.

One year ago Alan and I got on a plane, flew to Houston, and met a bunch of people from all over the United States who sponsor kids through Compassion. We boarded a plane together to Honduras and came home 10 days later with the most amazing group of friends. Every month since last May's Compassion Sponsor Tour, the group has kept in touch by email, Facebook, and most importantly prayer. What was planted in the Houston airport, grew in Honduras, has been nurtured by a year apart, and flourishes today as a testament to the power of prayer.

I think God wanted to give each one of us a gift. A love of children, a desire to help those in poverty, and a commitment to share hope in Jesus Christ brought us together. Now it is not only the memories we made in Honduras that keep us connected, it's the friendships and true concern for one another that have bonded this group into something that none of us expected. It's a gift. A blessing.

In the months since our trip, not a week goes by that I don't either receive an email from a member of the group or at least have them pop up in my Facebook news feed. I pray for my friends and I know they pray for me. Maybe that sounds a bit obnoxious to you. Perhaps you're thinking, "Good grief people, get over it, move on, the tour ended 12 months ago." Or, "Why not plug in to a community of prayer partners that at least live in the same state!"

I agree, to some degree. It would be nice to have a community of local prayer partners that really cared for one another the way this group does. In many ways I do. I have lots of friends in town with whom I can share my heart. I belong to a congregation and a Bible study where I can be honest. So, I don't want to diss what God has given me in my own neighborhood. But (oh, there's always a but) what I've experienced with the Honduras tour group of men and women age 16-65+ is a more faithful connection than anything I've been able to find here. How can that be?

It's a matter of prayer. It's the kingdom at work. It's seeing the Body of Christ alive and active. It's shared vision amongst a group of highly diverse people. It's not accepting that distance makes it too hard to stay connected. It's being intentional. It's love. It's cherishing the gift. Honoring the blessing.

We write our prayers, we ask for prayer, we ask for prayer on behalf of one another. We send notes that affirm and letters that empathize. We make plans for the future, remember the past, and live life fully in the present. We share our heartaches and hopes and admit our successes and failures. We visit one another when possible...we make it possible. And again we pray.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

From the Moon to the Garden of Eden

Today our family watched a documentary called, "In the Shadow of the Moon." I've seen several films about the Apollo moon landings, but this one ended on a particularly spiritual note. Each astronaut gave a "testimony" of how the experience of space travel had revealed to them the existence of a Creator. One spoke of having an epiphany while seeing the moon, sun, and earth out the window of the command module; he realized that we are all connected. Another was so struck by God's handiwork, that he gave his life to Christ soon after returning to earth. These seems like fairly typical responses from someone who has been off the planet for awhile, but the line that grabbed me by surprise was from an astronaut, so taken by seeing earth from space, that he described the whole planet as "the garden of eden." The WHOLE earth...I've never really thought of it that way. I've imagined a lush garden - full of fruit and nut trees, various veggies, and juicy grape vines created for Adam and Eve. I pictured it with borders. Maybe even a nice bright white picket fence.

The whole earth... hmm, now I've seen pretty scenery in the midst of poverty-stricken countries, and I often take a look at the acres of farmland near my home and feel grateful that beauty fills the earth. But to rethink that the Garden of Eden described in the Bible, actually is a way to describe Earth, this was an epiphany for me! It makes sense and it also encourages my desire to find ways for humankind to do our share of joining in God's redemptive work. There are no borders, no fences containing what God has made for us to share, love, and enjoy. When God created Earth, it wasn't just a gift for Adam and Eve, but for you and me. Too often, in the part of the Garden of Eden that I live in, we've made the gift just about us. Instead of sharing the gift, we've claimed it as our own. We have exploited other parts of the Garden, and the people who live there, for selfish gain. We continue to destroy vast portions of it in the name of greed. I'm part of the rich, white, American culture that cares more about personal comfort than I do about the Garden. I want out.

Or do I? There are times when I'm just so sick of it all. Then I look at my new 400 thread count sheets and say an "Amen." I run late to an appointment and I'm glad I have a car instead of a horse, or just a pair of sandals. This world that we live in, that we've created, that we put borders around to keep out those who aren't "one of us" is a sickening mess. But it's still the Garden of Eden.

I ordered three books from Amazon last week. I'm remembering how the fact that I have the luxury of buying $37 worth of books is a extreme luxury that the vast majority of Garden dwellers can't afford. The books arrived in the mail today and I'm tempted to set aside all other priorities so that I can immerse myself in:
Just a Minute by Wess Safford, Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, and A Place at the Table - 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor by Chris Seay.

I live a life of mediocrity, wanting to make a change, but not secure enough to really do so. I live with a desire to learn more about how to eradicate poverty, but I do so from the sanctuary of my suburb. I pray that God will continue to create, grow, and produce a Garden of love and compassion in my life. And as he does, I promise to share.