I Am Awake

I am awake tonight, at 2:26 in the morning, for a reason.  I am reading a book that I was told would change me and move me – a book which moved some people I love to begin the adoption process.  I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and it has shaken me.  It has made me realize that I am awake, and grateful for that fact.

This book is about a woman in Africa who, after losing her family through tragic circumstances, begins to take children off the street into her home.  She accidentally becomes a mother to dozens of children who are desperate for a mother’s love and in that, finds purpose and a calling higher than herself.  The book is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Growing in faith in Christ does not happened in a vacuum.  There are parts of me that have changed as my heart has changed.  My desires are different.  My perspective is different.  The things I love are different.  As a child, I felt a certain way about things.  Now, in many things, my feelings are the opposite.  There is a Brooke Fraser song, Shadowfeet, that says it this way, “I am changing, less and less asleep.”  I think that is what has changed in me – I have grown less and less asleep to the true nature of things in this world as Jesus has captured my heart.

For me, in particular, I have been awakened to the reality of what is happening to children in our generation, particularly in Africa.  I am not asleep, while around me I see a world of people who seem to be slumbering.  Everyday, all day, I am aware of the reality, not shown much on television, not discussed often in polite conversation, that today 24,500 children will die under the age of five from easily preventable diseases and/or hunger.  That is 8.8 million Rebekah’s and Grace’s per year.  And what is particularly heartbreaking is that in Africa, they are preceded by the death of their parents from the widespread devastation of AIDS.  So these sweet babies live in a world where first they see their dad get sick, waste away, and die, and then they wake up one day and their mom is dead in the bed beside them.  And they get out of that bed, at 4 years-old, and go next door to tell someone that their mommy has died, but nobody will touch them because they are an AIDS orphan and therefore stigmatized.  So they begin to wander, living in doorways and alleys, scraping out life alone at 4 and 5 years old desperate for a mommy’s touch.  And they think that nobody knows this is happening.  They think the entire world lives like this –  hungry, frightened, alone.  They don’t know that there is a world where money is plenty (and it is), where food is plenty, where children grow up under the watchful care of both parents.  They don’t know that this world exists because all they see is the world where they band together in little groups of kids because much of the adult population has been wiped out.  And yet, by and large, our world sleeps while this happens.  The virtual goods industry in the US topped 1 billion dollars in 2009.  That is sales of things that do not exist outside of a virtual world.  We watch “reality” shows that are anything but reality.  People have told me, “We need to take care of our own.”  These people are our own – they are humans suffering and dying.  In God’s kingdom, there is no national border, nor racial border.  As Believers, we don’t have a choice – we have to help them.  We are told to look after the widows and orphans, those who are hurting and helpless.  That is why we are here.

And so I am awake.  Most of you reading this blog are awake as well and you know what I am talking about.  Sometimes when I talk about it, or blog about it, people treat me like I am a loveable hippy idiot. I’m sure you have gotten that look, “Oh there she goes with her causes again.”  But I know that this knowledge means I am awake, by God’s grace, and I am grateful that it haunts me. I am drawn to others who are also awake, and who together will help me push back the darkness crouching around the children of our world.  It is such a joyful thing for me to connect with other people who are not content with sleeping.  They are the friends who energize me as I walk this road and fight this fight.

Because this is our fight as Believers.  It isn’t to be the nicest people on our block with the shiniest kids.  We are here on earth, filled with the Spirit of the Living God, for a reason. And that reason is bigger than ourselves and our own little kingdoms and 401k accounts.  We are to push back the darkness and battle for the helpless.  To bring heaven to earth and be light in this incredibly dark world.  To feed people.  Clothe them.  Tell them about Jesus.  Help them discover the abundant life.

My friend Kelli Jones (also awake) recently went to China to work with orphans and is now beginning the adoption process.  She wrote a blog about her experience and something she wrote has solidified this entire concept to me.  She said that she expected, when around the orphans, to feel a sadness.  A sense of loss.  I have often wondered if I would feel that – particularly when leaving an orphanage.  But she said that she found, instead, a powerful sense of the Spirit of God surrounding these kids.  Psalm 68:5 says, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  He sets the lonely in families.”   This verse was validated in her trip to the orphanage.  God’s presence hovered around His kids – like in small measure Justin’s presence hovers around our kids when he takes them to the park.  His job as father is to guide them, protect them, care for them, love them.  It was God who filled that role for these kids, and in addition He gave them joy and peace in the midst of truly difficult circumstances.  It made so much sense when I read it.  That’s why we are awake and why we are drawn to the orphan – that’s why this moves us.  Because it moves Him.  Because He is there and when we feed, clothe, love, help the orphan – we join in the work He is doing.  When we press into them, we press into Him.  How sweet of our God.

This excites me.  I am awake!  I will someday see my husband, one of the most amazing fathers I’ve ever been around, as a judge finalizes his adoption of just a few of these children.  And I will see the mantle of fatherhood shared from God himself onto my husband’s shoulders.  I will see it for Bill Jones, as they adopt.  I will see it for my brother Joe, as they adopt.  But adoption is only the completion of a part of our calling.  Once you are awake, your job never ends.  You don’t just do your part and then fall back asleep.  Those of us who are awake will always be giving, always be advocating, always be straining to do more to help those who are dying.  Proverbs 24:11 says “Rescue those being led away to death.  Hold back those staggering towards slaughter.”  You don’t retire from this – this is our life and purpose and calling.  I think of Major and LaRue Speights, two of the most Godly precious people I’ve ever known, or Claude and Janice Thomas, some of my personal heroes.  Both couples are lifelong ministers of the Gospel who personify this concept of pushing back the darkness.  They live lives of light in a dark world and God is continually opening doors for them to do greater and greater ministry as they follow Him in obedience.  That is the life we have signed up for – that is the awake life.  And I am so grateful for it.  Yes we will face trials, yes we will encounter opposition, yes we will have days of doubt and will fall and fail countless times.  But we are awake, and with His power and His grace, we will stand.

I’m not totally sure why I’m writing this one – but maybe it will encourage someone else who is awake but who is feeling alone in their calling.  Or maybe someone who is not awake is reading it and this will be used to shake them from their slumber.   I know, from the comments I receive, that the typical person who reads this blog is wide awake and fighting the darkness with all their might.  But if someone stumbles onto this blog who simply does not get why this is a big deal, please do three things.  One, take a moment and pray that God would begin to move your heart for what moves His heart.  It will feel silly at first, but God answers prayers and before long, you will find your heart is changing and growing to see things the way He sees them. I know because I did this – and God changed my mind and my heart. Two, log onto Compassion.com and select a child to sponsor.  For $38 bucks a month you pay for a child to go to school and hear about Jesus around the world.  It will wake you up, I promise.  I also have done that – and I credit Compassion for opening my eyes to the world.  And three, start looking around and doing something.  Maybe read the book, maybe volunteer to help at a shelter, maybe work in the nursery of the church you’ve attended for a while but haven’t served.  I promise that all around you are opportunities for you to help bring light to this dark world, and once you start doing it, you’ll fall in love with it.

Life is too short to live it asleep.  Through God’s grace, we can wake up.

Orphan

I am working an event for Christian Retailers in St. Louis this week.  It has been a great show with interesting sessions and no technical difficulties (yay!).  I have worked this show for three years and I found something unique about this year that thrilled my heart.

The Christian world really is awakening to the needs of the orphan.

Finally.

My husband and I have been on that track, we have many friends who are on that track, and we are seeing some churches on that track – but this week confirmed it for me – God is doing something across Christian culture in the name of the orphan.

This show is interesting – there is a sampling of people from every possible denomination and persuasion of Christian life represented.  It isn’t too often that you see conservatives and charismatics, traditionals and radicals, people in bonnets and headscarves and tattooed from head to toe all sharing the same space and interacting and worshipping together.  If they believe in Christ – they are here.  So it is a cross-section of people who you rarely see gathered in one place.

And speaker after speaker, singer after singer, sales rep after sales rep talked about the orphan. Even my crew, mostly people who do not share my faith, a wonderful hard-working motley crew of agnostics and atheists, noticed it.  And strangely, many of them were adoptees themselves or had siblings who were adoptees.  It was great for my crew to see that side of Christianity – to see the hearts of Believers that care for the least of these.

People who have a heart like Christ.

courtesy of adoption.net

I am so glad my crew got to see that – so often they see the dark prideful underbelly of Christian productions/events.  You ever wonder what technical people think about Christians – well, you wouldn’t want to know.  Techs watch every move and know who are divas, who are living double lives, who are one person on stage and another when my guys are putting a microphone on their lapel.  They have seen it all – so I was grateful when they got to see heart after heart touched with a love for those “being led away to death… staggering towards slaughter.

Don’t get me wrong – It still wasn’t a perfect show – there were still egos and issues.  They’ll never see a perfect Christian because there is no such beast in this world.  But this year it was better.

You guys who know me well know my bias – my mind and heart are centered on the orphan.  My desire to adopt is so ever-present that it is almost painful sometimes.  So I know I am hyperaware  – but in one session, 5 of the 6 performers talked directly about the orphan.  And my host was an adoptee.  That is not a coincidence.

God is doing something pretty powerful.  In high school we talked about knowing God’s will and someone once told me “You’ll know God’s will when you see where God is already moving and you join in.”

God is moving in the hearts of people to give the orphan a home and a family.

And we have the chance to get on board.

And I just have to wonder if this movement isn’t going to be how God redeems the reputation of Christianity in the United States to draw some people to Himself.  Let’s face it – we have a crap reputation.  And most of it is well-deserved.  We have not been about love and justice and peace, we have been about behavior modification, capitalism, and judgment for far too long.  But one thing we are beginning to get right is the heart for the orphan.  And the world isn’t necessarily getting it right.  Yes, I know there is Angelina Jolie, Madonna, and Sandra Bullock.  But I just googled the word “Orphan” to try to get a good picture for this post.  Almost every response was a screen grab from the awful movie Orphan that came out last year.  Pages and pages and pages of that awful image.  How sad that when you google “orphan,” you don’t get pictures of the 147 million actual precious human children who are going to sleep tonight on the street or in an institution or in a temporary facility, but instead you get a visually disturbing photograph from a horror movie.  We as Christians are supposed to be salt and light in a dark world.  How much more counter-culture could we be than if we reject the distorted idea presented in that film that the orphan is somehow unfit for a home or dangerous.  What if we sacrificed to show redemption and love to these tiny precious children who the world fears because of some jacked up horror movie.  The verse I quoted earlier  Rescue those being led away to death.  Hold back those staggering towards slaughter is just one of the verses the Lord has given Justin and I as He has called us to adopt.  The reality is that if most of the orphans are not adopted, they will die or be institutionalized for the rest of their childhood.  They are at tremendous risk for attachment disorders.  They often are the victims of trafficking and many enter the sex trade.  They are staggering towards death.  And they have done nothing to deserve that.  They are like my Bekah or my Grace – they deserve safety and love – they deserve to be cuddled and kissed and allowed to sleep in the home of parents who adore them.  If Christians around the world would be known as the force that gave homes to every orphan in the world, if we would just take the cause of the orphan seriously, there is no telling what we could accomplish and the lives that would be literally saved.  If we would stop investing in buildings and start investing in people – we could get somewhere.  Maybe instead of being known as the people who don’t “believe in” homosexuality and dislike liberals and don’t cuss or drink – we could be known as a force for good.  Maybe that could turn our reputation around and people might then be interested in the God we say we believe in.   Now not all – Jesus said we would be hated because of Him, but maybe some.

Maybe people like my guys.

I named this post Orphan because maybe someday Google will pick it up and it can be just one post that presents the cause of the orphan in a positive truthful light.  Maybe it will be clicked and bump at least one site about that terrible movie into the gutter where it belongs.