You Don’t Have to Have the Answers

It is hard to update and explain because so much is happening, and I feel like I could write about it for days, but the first thing I need to express is just that I’m being stretched. I know the stretching is for my good, and I’m proud of how we are expanding to overcome and coping with all of the changes and challenges of the past month, and we are so grateful for the people who have surrounded us with love and support. I really do trust that we will be fine eventually, but I still would love to know what is next. So I’m stretched. Stretched in not knowing, stretched in learning to receive, stretched in balancing gratitude with healing.

We have now lived in the beautiful treehouse (as Lucy has named it) for a week, and let me tell you, we love this place. It is an apartment in the upstairs of a metal barn on 10 acres in Northwest Houston owned by very generous friends who took us in with love.  It is fully furnished, and although it isn’t a longterm solution for us, it is an incredibly generous short term solution that allows us to live together with privacy. I don’t think I could pick a better place for us to heal and rest and decide what is next. It is a bit of a drive to the girls’ school, but we don’t mind it. The girls are staying in a room right next to us, which has been helpful as nightmares are still a concern (for all of us, really, but for Grace and Lucy most of all). Nearness to the kids is a gift right now.

Along with nightmares, we all continue to be a little jumpy and easily startled, and each of us is processing in our own way. Lucy constantly wants to play hurricane, I’m usually Harvey, she’s Irma. I know this is normal to play through it, but we are watching all of the girls carefully to help them navigate the effects of the storm. It’s hard for me as an adult to process all that’s happened, I can’t imagine Lucy’s little 4 year old mind. So we are working to communicate and give each other grace.

As we have started to look ahead, we have realized how different we all are in the way we view change. Rebekah and I, the adventurers, pretty quickly started dreaming about what is next, maybe moving somewhere, enamored with the freedom of options. Justin and Grace, the cautious ones, immediately clung to every ounce of stability. They needed some things in our lives to be the same and to steady us. I had to realize, as the parent of a special needs child, that I needed to listen to Grace when she expresses concern about the future.

We don’t talk about this publicly very often, but our sweet girl has overcome so much. We moved to Katy on the advice of her psychologist and neurologist, because Katy ISD is one of the best districts in the city for special needs children, and that decision has paid off. Grace is extremely smart and high functioning, and most people wouldn’t even realize she has special challenges, but in her last school environment she did not do as well. Now, my child is thriving in school, not only excelling in academics but socially as she builds precious friendships. Within weeks we saw a marked change in every aspect of her life, affirming our decision. So when we had to move out of our home after it flooded, and we started discussing possibly moving districts or even schools within the district, it was incredibly stressful for her. At first, I did what every parent does, I gave her thoughts the weight of a child’s in adult decisions. But Justin and I quickly read the fear under her words, and we realized we are seeing our daughter succeed in ways we have rarely seen in her life. So continuing to support her is incredibly important to us. After thought and prayer, we decided that getting her back to her classroom and her friends and giving her stability was our top priority. This house was an immediate gift in that direction, as was the response of our school district after Harvey. Twelve thousand Katy ISD students have been immediately affected by the flood, many of those displaced. The district has worked hard to accommodate us even though we now live far away. The state has officially declared our family homeless, which was humbling and super weird to have happen, but it allows our kids some benefits like school stability and extra support that are necessary to us right now. Wherever we live, Grace has a place in that classroom, and for that we are really grateful.

We are working hard to find a permanent place to live close to, but on higher ground than, our damaged home. Because of the number of homes flooded in Katy, the rental market is insane. After really discouraging web searches, Justin looked at 4 homes in one evening, all were immediately spoken for, unsuitable, or quickly raised prices to a point where we could not afford them. When you have so many damaged homes, everything gets snatched up really quickly, and then there are the people who use the natural disaster to turn an unreasonable profit, and we won’t be a part of that. Our amazing real estate agent is helping us with options either to buy or to rent, but that market is suddenly very challenging. If you are the praying type, we could use it.

But despite the challenges, we are persisting in every attempt to take our girls back home to Katy as quickly as possible. As soon as we have updates on that front, I will write again. But for now, we are healing and growing in this beautiful peaceful treehouse. God is good to us. I feel His peace and provision in ways I didn’t imagine possible. People have been remarkably kind and generous, I can’t tell you how loved and supported we feel. The Church is doing what the church does best, loving on hurting people. It makes me proud and teary and humbled, at a time when I needed to see it, honestly.

For months, I have been learning about daily bread. Each day, I get what I need. I’m trying to learn to not worry about tomorrow or next week or next year, but to be grateful for today’s provision. This entire experience has been the culmination of that lesson. What do you do when you can’t do anything but trust? You trust.

Nichole Nordeman, one of my favorite artists, put out an album right before Harvey came through and upended our world, and I have clung to it these past few weeks. Right now the anthem of this part of the journey is Hush Hush, and every word of it rings true for where we are.

 

“One cup of water at a time, ’til you remember you are mine. I’ll love you back together.”

I don’t need to have the answers, but I know they will come in time. In the meantime, I feel loved and safe, and I recognize how miraculous it is even to feel this way. I’m grateful. Thank you for reading our story, and for loving us through it. YOU are a big part of why this isn’t a negative experience for us, and we are thankful for you.

 

With Eyes Fixed

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is an active, exploring four month-old. We love this stage, where you can see on her little face her focus and concentration as she learns about the world around her. I also love this stage because she is showing signs of attachment to me as her mom.

photo-21She will be looking around, checking out her surroundings, and something loud will startle her or scare her. If I am in the room, she will turn to me and stare into my eyes before she reacts. If I look at her, smile at her, talk to her in a sing-song voice, and draw her close, she will smile and return to what she was doing because she knows she is safe. If I don’t give her my attention or draw her close, her bottom lip will stick out and she will begin to cry. It is the sweetest thing. This is a very healthy sign of her attachment to me and her understanding that I am a secure base from which she can explore her world (see Bowlby’s attachment theory).

I was thinking about this today and saw a definite correlation to what I, as an adult, look to when I am afraid. I will be going about my day, busy exploring my world… and something scary will happen. Government shutdown. A terror attack in a major city. An unexpected expense. Something in one of my kid’s behavior that seems abnormal. And it unsettles me – it makes me anxious. The fear starts to spiral.

Until I look into the eyes of my Father. Until I remember that He is in control, that my days are in His hands, and that I have a destiny beyond this world. Then I can calm down, secure in the fact that the God of the universe protects me.

Every time I find myself frantic and anxious it is an indicator that I have forgotten to look to my Father. That I have left my primary attachment relationship. When I am making lists and plans, trying to mitigate all the negative circumstances in our lives, feeling alone and abandoned, my fear defines me.  But when I check in with Him first and settle my heart with the knowledge that He is FOR ME, suddenly the very real, and very scary things in our world lose their power to define me.

I need to fix my eyes. I need to seek His comfort. I need to let His Spirit remind me that I am His, and I have no reason to fear. I need to learn from my little Lucy and look to my Protector.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

Raw – A Response to Newtown

I’m raw. I feel bruised. The light seems too bright, the noises too near. Today, the fact that this world is not our home is overwhelming. We took our girls, 3 and 5, to a restaurant last night and I felt exposed and fearful. I saw adults look at them with kindness and sadness, and even that made me want to hide them away. I live half a country away, my girls are safe, and I feel traumatized. I cannot fathom how people in that tiny town in Connecticut feel, especially the ones who woke up today to realize that the nightmare of yesterday was real and that their home is truly empty. I ache for them.

It is like we are all grieving. And the stages of grief are flowing over us.

Courtesy WKOW

Courtesy WKOW

Denial. Yesterday I kept praying that the media was wrong, that they’d somehow find the children okay. That a survivor would be found. That somehow this was all not really happening.

Anger. I confess – I’m furious at everything. Furious at our enemy (damn you. Your end is certain, and I pray it is soon. Jesus has won.). Furious at sin and the death that has wrapped itself around humanity since the garden. I am READY for its power over us to be OVER. Furious at the killer. Furious that he could get his hands on weapons that are that lethal and quick. Furious at our broken mental health system and the casual culture of violence as entertainment. Furious at everyone who is racing to defend their position instead of putting everything on the table to FIX THIS and STOP IT. I’m livid. I just want it to stop. I hate this fear.

Bargaining. I want it not to be true. I keep analyzing it thinking what would have happened if one factor had changed, wondering why and how someone could EVER do this, and even looking at my own kids and begging God to somehow spare them the hurt of this broken evil world.

Depression. I can’t stop crying. Yesterday a scary part came on a movie and Bekah curled up next to me and said, “Mom, will you protect me?” and I prayed “Jesus please” as I cried and held her tight. I just keep imagining those rooms and what those babies saw and felt. I see my Grace’s kindergarten classroom in my head as I read the stories and my heart breaks for those parents. How do they go on? I pray and I pray all day and although I want this to lift I know that for thousands in Connecticut this won’t lift for years, if ever. So I pray and I ask the Lord to somehow supernaturally let my sadness ease someone else’s – let me, from afar, bear another’s burden and lift their sadness. That maybe a parent or a family member or a counselor or a first responder or a teacher or someone in that town will be able to breathe today because I felt a little of their weight on my chest.

Acceptance. I don’t know how any of us are supposed to ever accept any of this. It is fundamentally against all I believe – life and hope and love and the promise of the future. I am grateful that Jesus drew little kids to himself and I believe that those children are with him tonight, and that gives me a small measure of hope, but honestly even that doesn’t seem enough.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

So what do we do while we grieve? How do we lift this sadness? Should we even want this sadness to lift? I don’t know. How can we help these broken families? What do we do with this helpless feeling?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

We’re trying to process and yet protect our kids from even knowing it happened. We are letting each other cry and vent. We are praying with all we know to pray for the families in Newtown. We are holding our kids tight. We are trying to shine light into a world so dark, and asking the Lord to renew our hope even in the midst of this sorrow. I know Jesus is the answer – and I pray that somehow in this people will turn to him and find comfort and hope. We are asking the Lord to return soon, and to give us strength in the meantime. We are worshiping and praying – listening to hymns of hope and strength. We are sad and sorry and just trying to stand despite all of those feelings.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

Gasoline or Water?

A Pastor I once worked for taught me a brilliant lesson about dealing with people, and it has revolutionized the way I see misunderstandings, conflicts, and flare-ups in relationship. It is even helping change the way I parent my kids and relate to my husband.

My Pastor used to say that we all carry around with us a bucket of gasoline and a bucket of water, and wisdom is knowing which bucket to throw on the “spark” of a given situation*.

See, conflicts don’t just explode out of nowhere. There is a spark. Most of the time that spark is small and commonplace – a miscommunication or an unmet expectation, a tone or even a look. And we have a choice in how we deal with that spark. Do we escalate, react, “take it to the next level”? Do we bring the gasoline and burn that thing up? Or do we walk away for a minute, process, deal calmly, ask questions, speak kindly. Is water what we employ to deal with the spark?

It sounds simple, but don’t forget it is a spark. Sparks lead to fire, and we have all been burned. So reaction is actually the normal, default mindset. Your adrenaline gets going. Your fear kicks in. Your instinct to protect and defend flares up. The “us” versus “them” sin-nature we all possess shifts into high gear.

  • You get an email that seems to attack you, and other people are copied on it. Gasoline or water?
  • You have a child throwing the fourth fit in 20 minutes. Gasoline or water?
  • You have worked hard all day, and immediately upon arriving home, your spouse starts in. Gasoline or water?

I think gasoline is easier, at least in the moment. It is quick, definitive. You feel strongly that bringing the gasoline is justified. But most of the time, after it is over, all you are left with is a charred mess.

Ashes.

Whereas water, well, water is harder. You have to stop. Slow down. Pray. Breathe. You have to try to warp your mind to see things from the other person’s perspective. You have to speak kindly, even when you are being spoken to in a harsh or disrespectful way. Water doesn’t come naturally – it’s entirely supernatural and only really possible when we get our eyes off ourself. But when we work at it, we see things differently. We can suddenly see that an angry reaction to an email will only provoke more angry emails, and a child who is exhausted cannot reason, and a tired overwhelmed spouse sometimes just needs to vent a second. Sometimes our relationships are worth humbling ourselves and choosing the water, because it restores what is broken.

Gasoline or water?

This is a gasoline world. Sound-bites flying, reactions spouted-off, rage and offense the default reaction to any perceived slight.

But we serve a water Jesus. He did get angry and bring the gasoline twice that we know of from Scripture, but it was rare and incredibly justified. Most of the time, peace, mercy, grace, and love flowed from him like a never-ending stream of water. He died refusing to fight. He had enough gasoline at his fingertips to torch the earth, and yet he held it back.

And when he breathed his last, the earth grew dark. And I have to wonder, do you think it rained?

 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

*I believe my Pastor got this illustration from John Maxwell’s book “Go For Gold”

I’m not as fun as I used to be

This morning a woman named Tara, who I follow on Facebook and who I have really grown to admire although we’ve never met, posted that she was told she wasn’t as fun as she used to be. See, in her everyday life, she sees children starving and women traveling hours to get simple maternity care down in Haiti, and then she reads New York Times articles about hot-dog eating contests where the winner eats 65 hotdogs, and it is annoying and even repulsive to her.

And she has every right to feel that way. That disparity should bother her and us – it should get under our skin. And if talking about it makes us less fun, well then we should be less fun.

I live in an area where there aren’t just houses around us, there are amazing estates. And oh how I love them. Giant beautiful houses on multi-acre lots, with land and pools and ponds and horses. And I love to drive around and look at them, imagining moving our kids into a place like that. I love to imagine a day in the future when we get a pool, or imagine taking our kids on a grand beach vacation. I badly want a minivan with the fancy doors that open with the touch of a button, and every time I walk into a store all the lovely clothes and jewelry entice. There are things in our world that are beautiful and alluring and it is easy to covet what we don’t have.

Sometimes I can go weeks imagining and planning a future that has more, bigger, faster, nicer.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

And then I get home and I read this article about one of the ministries my friend Tara is associated with. Please take a moment to read it. Please. This is real and they need help. This ministry lost 9 children in the past 2 1/2 weeks, and they have a desperate need for money for ICU nurses. They don’t even need much, less than $6000. Please click the link and check it out. Together we can help them accomplish this.

And seeing that changes me. It makes me mindful, and some people would say not as fun as I used to be. But you see – the world has grown smaller and the hurting are harder to ignore. Because of the miracle of technology, I can be in the car, driving past the beautiful houses, and I can pull over and use my amazing iPhone to jump on Tara’s blog (or any number of other blogs or Facebook pages of ministries on the ground around the world) and I can see what their exact needs are. And I can click the Paypal donate link, and send money to relieve those needs right then. The starving have a voice now, and we have to close our eyes to not see them. We have to willfully ignore the little girl that weighs 14 pounds at 5 years-old. But when we look, when we really look, when we see them not just as hopeless situations but as opportunities to take care of the least of these as Jesus commanded, then the things we covet start to look a little faded, a little showy.

This stuff does bother me, and the dueling desires in me, the desire for beautiful things and the desire to make a difference around the world for Christ, they battle all-day-long every single day. And it makes me a little less fun. I don’t blog about Pinterest projects or cooking ideas, I blog about this stuff. Because it is on my heart and mind and it is something I am battling through. I have to mindfully, willfully ignore and combat the pull to materialism in the world around me. And I can fail miserably. There are still many days where an Amazon box arrives at my house full of things I don’t really need or I’ll spend all day researching Honda Odysseys (those vans are stinking amazing). And there are days where I take a slow drive past the beautiful houses, imagining owning something like that. But on those days, I say a little prayer. It isn’t selfless – in fact it’s pretty selfish and small sometimes. I say something like this, “Lord, this world is not my home. This world is not my home. Help me remember that. Please forgive me. Help me not to covet and allow me to make a difference in this world. Use me to rescue people and share your love and bring you glory. Please don’t let me be enticed by things I do not need. Please set my mind on things above. I know it sounds crazy, but please give my kids a fancy mansion in heaven with horses and ponds and pools and land. Let them draw the skies and dance across fields (without fear of snakes or bugs or allergies). I believe we want the beautiful things for a reason, we were made to want them and we have a future full of them, and for that I am truly grateful. Please help me to wait and to trust you that the unseen greatly exceeds the seen.”

It is hard to fight my nature, and because of that, I am not as fun as I used to be. But I wouldn’t change it. Because this is real and the world is small and the hurting are all around us, and we can make a difference around the world with just a click.

I did a little search for verses about materialism – and wow are they tough. They make it clear that this isn’t a “harmless” struggle – this is life or death stuff for our souls. Here are a few of the verses I found – and there are many more. Lord change our hearts and help us to desire what you desire. 

  • Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
  • “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” Matthew 25:31-46
  • This is the kind of fast day I’m after:  to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—  firm muscles, strong bones.  You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. Isaiah 58: 6-12 (Message version)

An update: The ICU Nannies were funded for the first 6 months! Praise God! http://www.realhopeforhaiti.org/?p=7991

The Quiet Danger

On Friday my dad and I took my girls swimming. Grace is learning to swim, and fearless in a way that makes every adult around her nervous. Rebekah wears one of those swimsuits with the life vest installed in it (which she calls her chubby tummy) and is terrified of going under the water. Grace swam from me to my dad, and at the same time, Bekah had reached for dad and was crying because her face had gotten splashed. So dad is juggling two kids, one of which is screeching. We get Bekah situated, and I turn around to see that Grace has slipped under the water. Her head was about 2 inches under the water and she was looking at me with this look of panic but unable to get herself up to breathe. I grabbed her up, she coughed up some water, and within seconds she was raring to go again. But the image of my little girl, underwater and in such danger without making a sound, has rattled me for days. Although she was only under a few seconds, that image of her little face in the water has haunted me.

I used to work for a ministry who had Proverbs 24:11 as their theme verse. Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. It so impacted me because, especially when dealing with kids and teenagers, it perfectly defined the state of so many students. For years I have seen teenagers staggering toward slaughter. Pushing boundaries, making quick thoughtless decisions, damaging themselves in some attempt to impress others. And I have felt like my calling was to prayerfully help hold them back from destruction. To somehow restrain them just enough until they could come to know Christ or reach adulthood and begin to make wise decisions. Many of my students are now lovely and responsible adults living lives worthy of their calling (having kids themselves which makes me thrilled but also feel very old). Others have lost their life, and I have mourned their loss. They quietly slipped away and I long for the day when I will see them again so I can tell them that they were loved, despite how alone they felt. I pray they have found the acceptance they longed for in the arms of our perfect Savior. For years I wore around my neck the emblem of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, given that title because the legend behind his life is that he helped a child across a river swollen from rain, getting the child to safety. I saw that as my call long before I had children.

Then I became a mom. And this calling moved into my home in a literal way. Keeping my children safe became a daily, constant, intensely personal battle. They have choked on food and given themselves medicine and tried to pull away from me in a parking lot and fallen out of baby beds and just Friday, one of them quietly slipped under the water. And thank God so far we have been able to hold them back and protect them well, but it is hard work and we can seriously let fear rule our lives if we let it. I am thankful for the grace of a God who saves. I am grateful for every missed loss. I am aware of just how much we are blessed.

But still that image of the face underwater has made me pause this week, has made me grateful, and has made me more aware. We are constantly, as parents, in need of mercy and miracles when it comes to our kids and the task we have been given. We are constantly, as members of the body of Christ, in need of wisdom when dealing with children and teens. Because whether it is our own children, or the children around us in our churches and in our communities, we need to realize that their default condition is not stagnant, but is headed downstream toward destruction. We need to actively, vigilantly, and prayerfully, engage to be forces that turn children toward Christ and toward life and away from the destructive pull of this world.

Because when kids are in trouble it isn’t always loud and they don’t always call attention to themselves. Sometimes they are quietly drowning, and they need our intervention. They need us to see them and recognize their need. Then we can help. We can pull them up, help them get their breath, tell them we love them and we are rooting for them, and help them swim to safety. We can be instruments of change and of life in the lives of the kids around us. I am grateful God allows us to be a part of such a worthy mission. May He help us do this task well with wisdom and grace beyond ourselves.

*That call to carry children across danger is also why we support Compassion International and other ministries aimed at helping vulnerable children around the world. When there isn’t a parent around or able to do the work of protecting children, ministries like Compassion and World Vision step in to fill that role, and obey this command. There are forces in this world aimed at the destruction of children and families, and these ministries actively fight those forces with the love and life of Christ. So we give what we can because it is important and children need someone fighting for them, helping them before they are led away to death.