I am Second is one of those things that you want to visit every once in a while for a good dose of raw honesty. Here’s a powerful one.
Today has been one of those unexpectedly blessed days. I know… it should be blessed. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. But this one was special.
This morning, I texted several close friends, some missionaries and some people that I work with just to share how grateful I am for each of them. It wasn’t meant for a response, it was just a moment of reflection on the things most important in my life – people. But what happened was so touching. Literally all day through big meals and lots of family time, I’ve been receiving messages back in thanks and thankfulness too… And with each connection, a smile and burst of happiness and joy has overcome me. I am blessed.
Certainly, in material blessings. But much MUCH more so in relationships. What a beautiful day to sit quietly surrounded by family and feeling so connected to those I love most even if they weren’t directly with me. I think THIS is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be.
I was thinking of this when I read an article this evening that Rich Mullins wrote back in 1996. It all seemed to come together when he said, “… I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested His Presence; a Presence that is more than convincing – it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. “If I be lifted up,” Jesus said, “I will draw all men unto me.”
Today, I am counting blessings of so many people who point me to Jesus, live it out every day, and inspire me to be better.
I’ve been in limbo for a while now. Since August really, moving back and forth and not really sure where I’m going to call ‘home’ next. And that’s ok. I’ve learned a lot about having open hands through this. I’ve learned a lot about trusting God. About the permanence of Him and not of my own comfort. About where my foundation really is.
Moving teaches me a lot about the Gospel. Because the Gospel was so much about leaving everything and following Jesus. And even in the places that we call “home”, not getting attached, not placing our foundation in things or places here.
(Picture source: Moods of the Moon Tumblr)
It reminds me of an old poem from Red Moon Rising that has embedded in my memory…
“…People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence. They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying. What is the vision? The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes…” - from THE VISION.
This step looks hard in different ways. This step looks like a whole new chance to learn about faith and life decisions and trust. And this step looks good. I see the faithfulness of God here. And He is good.
Oh, and it looks like I might be moving to an actual home of my own sometime soon… which is kind of exciting
I was in IL for a dear friend’s wedding this weekend and was very close to tornadoes sweeping through Washington, IL. So prayerful for friends and church family right in the middle of that. It makes these before/after photos from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines that much easier to grasp. Life is so fragile. So many reasons to pray.
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the and of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” -Deitrich Bonhoeffer at the Conference at Fano, as Hitler takes power
It would seem to me then, that peace takes bravery. And bravery consists of honor and passion for a cause. What better description of a life for Christ is there than that?
I have had so many conversations already today, and my heart and mind are swirling. I am overwhelmed by the grace and beauty in so many mentors and friends in my life. I could spend so much time sharing about the ways these people bless and inspire me. They remind me of the importance of vulnerability and fellowship. They challenge me to be a better daughter of the King.
I feel in a constant struggle to take these words to heart. But the more I talk with people have journeyed much longer and more intently than I, I find this to be the common thread in each discussion. “I shall not want…” Only Jesus. My core, and my rock.
I was talking with someone I work with recently about being too busy. It’s so easy to get so tied up in doing these very important tasks that all too easily our priorities get out of line. And so I’m trying to stop in moments and let the phone call come, let the conversation stop my schedule for a while – and just be present.
This is harder than it would seem at times. I’m holed up at 11:30 pm trying to get my notes from several mission meetings this week unscrambled from scribbled notes. As if I were holding up the world and if I missed something, it’d all come crashing down. Not likely. See, what that conversation drew me towards was the reminder that more important than my perfect, timely notes where I didn’t completely forget the conversation, is the people behind them.
The unreached in Southeast Asia and a very special missionary family there. Missionaries from my church that I’m working with a group to support. High school kids that we are trying to point towards Jesus. Orphans and vulnerable kids who desperately need hope. These are important things – these scribbled notes and seemingly endless meetings. They hold priceless and rich conversations about how to support and grow for the vulnerable, the unreached, the searching.
But if I don’t take time to keep it all in perspective, it’s just scribbled notes that are trying to be intelligible. When my head is too full – to busy – I forget the heart that holds it together. And that is why being too busy can hurt me so much. That is why being present with people, with each mission that God’s placed in front of me in the moment, makes all the difference. I don’t do this very well sometimes, but I’m very thankful for the wisdom and shared struggles with those close to me who can remind me of the things most important…
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” -Jack Kornfield
Incidentally this was NOT a haunted corn maze, much as a title might suggest but rather a dramatized story of three people’s deaths. Two went to hell and one to heaven. The corn maze walks you through the scenes in a very realistic and moving drama. (It’s still going on in the area here.)
We took the SOS crew – High schoolers from our church. Despite freezing, we had a really great time, and it provoked some really neat conversations too throughout the evening. And as someone who’s been a believer for many years, I am so thankful for clear representations of the choice that makes all the difference.
An entire community of churches near us put it on. And I thought that was one of the neatest things… these people get it. Coming together with a single focus of reaching a community…
Now that’s a cool version of Hell’s Maze
I am consistently challenged by the words of writers like this who are working cross-culturally. After reading When Rich Westerners Don’t Know they are being Rich Westerners I feel the need to share this response. Jones writes about Westerners and how we act (or react) to different cultures. She wisely puts forth example after example of times when we as Westerns have just missed the boat – and maybe a few times when we’re learning we don’t have the answers… I’d encourage you to read it. It’s eye-opening.
So much of my job is meant to be a bridge between worlds. But reality is, in my American office with my American surroundings, I don’t always do it right. And so I want to share this – partially as a testament that I’m trying, and partially as a call to myself going forward – to respond well, to respond carefully – but to never be afraid.
Here’s Five Things I want to share about My Culture and Theirs:
1. I view other cultures through my first worldview – hopefully a little less each day. I spend time briefly each year with friends and co-workers in Haiti. But I don’t understand so much of it. It’s really hard to lay aside what I know of the world and experience it from a different background set of experiences. I don’t know if I will ever fully do that – I don’t know if any of us fully can leave our first worldview completely. But through God’s grace, even in my ineptitude in other cultures, I can first and foremost always respond to every experience and every story in Christ’s love. And through that, I think many of my cultural blunders become far less… I will make blunders. But I pray that the heart of my stories and my experiences are always founded in grace.
2. These experiences are worth sharing. But I always want to do so with a clear understanding of my American lens, that I am a guest and there are things I don’t understand. I am not an expert in their culture. I think it’s really easy to read something like the “Rich Westerners” article and feel like I just royally screwed up whatever good I was trying to do by writing or sharing compelling stories I’ve seen in another culture.
So here’s my thought: I need to be sensitive to share as accurately and as respectfully as I can, but don’t let it paralyze. Those who live in a culture that isn’t their first and those who are deeply connected to other cultures hold a valuable thread that connects the world. Sharing that, tender as we must be, helps all of us respond better. Perhaps through our honesty, carefulness and openness, fewer Westerners will make the mistakes we are so quick to condemn in others.
3. The world isn’t so big that we can’t relate to people no matter what culture we come from. In fact, sometimes I think we might make the differences in cultures seem so scary that we don’t want to bridge them at all. Certainly, it’s easier to stay in our first cultures. But I believe some of the beauty that we will face in Revelations 7 has to do with the fact that we can embrace differences and come together in something cosmically beautiful and glorious. We NEED all cultures. Don’t let the fear of misunderstanding them keep you from embracing them.
4. There is beauty everywhere. And there is also pain. My next door neighbors, the people right outside the door to my office, and the economically poor in other countries. Calling injustices and wrong things as we see them isn’t wrong. There are horrible, hateful things that happen, and often in developing countries that we SHOULD be a voice against.
But we also must remember to paint a realistic, well-rounded picture. I’m throwing this challenge out to myself first – for every story of pain and hardship I tell, can I also find one of good and beauty? Am I equally seeing the good and the bad?
5. I’m going to keep learning. I’m finding great, immeasurable pleasure in learning more every day from some deeply wonderful people around the world. And through each blog post, each conversation and each story, I want to learn to respond better, more fully, more completely. Not as a Westerner. But as a child of God who seeks to embrace what the world is and pour out His love in all I say and do.
I loved reading about this Graffiti Art in Cape Town, South Africa. It holds a double meaning… it’s both beautiful on its own and yet full of deep, cultural struggles and responses. I think about how life reflects that as well. What we say and do is something on its own, but it always reflects something deeper happening inside.
I was at a campfire Friday night with our SOS crew (mentoring high school kids), talking with some recent high school grads about what they’re going through in college now. And as they talked about being faced with standing up for what they believe in (many of them for the first time), I thought about the Cape Town art. What we say and do (or don’t do) says something. But it always reflects something deeper that’s happening in our lives.
This quote from Eric Metaxas’s book Bonhoeffer explains this concept well… “Martin Luther said, ‘We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.’ That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live.“ – Timothy J. Keller
I want to dive deep with God so that what flows out in everything I say and do reflects Jesus. That is so clear to me as I think and speak and do life. In the stressful times, and in the relaxed times… dive deep, and let Him flow.