Saturday, March 24, 2012

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Captured Words Photography

It has been a beautiful day. I don’t know about you but when the weather is nice I seem to get distracted easily. I like to notice the new sights of Spring as I am driving along.
The trees and flowers blooming.
The home improvement projects going on.
The people driving by with their car top down.

And then I jerk back to reality.
I am driving and I need to pay attention to the road, not everything happening around me. Break lights can pop up suddenly, yellow lights turn red and cars suddenly change lanes. Paying attention isn’t a suggestion, it is a necessity. A life saving necessity. I need to concentrate on getting to my destination.

I think as Christians we need to remember there are things we can easily be distracted by. Just today I have had so many issues come at me; each one vying for my attention. Each one seemingly more important than the last. Here are just a few:

Bible prophesies. End times are coming. Have been for over 2000 years. Should I dig in and study deeply, find out every single hidden meaning, or should I just trust Jesus and keep on going. He wins in the end after all, right?

What about politics? As a Christian I should believe a certain way about a certain issue, right? And if I do then I should certainly vote for a certain politician who stands for my certain beliefs… The issues are urgent. My vote counts. Have I called my Senator/Representative/Mayor/School Board Member yet?

Raising my children. They should be smart, humble, respectful, obedient, modest, happy, self motivated, hard working, fearless, bold, friendly… And if they aren’t whose responsibility is it? Do I need to have another heart to heart talk?

Modesty. I need to be sure I am modest in my appearance. Because it is my fault if a man is tempted by me and my blue jeans. (Didn’t I hear that from a Muslim man as well?) So can I wear a tank top or not? What about shorts?

Stewardship? Do I really need those new curtains? Or should I send more money to my neighbor’s kid who is going to Honduras this summer? If I just give money am I doing enough?

Can I just offer one piece of advice?

Pay attention to the road.

What is going to keep you moving along? What is going to get you where you need to go? What is life or death? I have my top four listed here for you. Just trying to keep it simple.

#1 “In the beginning God…” Put God first in your life. Every morning wake up saying, ”Hello God, here I am ready to know you better and obey you more. Show me how.”

#2 Get to know Him more by reading His book. It’s a best seller, available in many languages with or without pictures.

And in the sequel (New Testament) you can find out about #3 His Son, Jesus. Very powerful Guy. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV John 3:16) Get to know Him better.

#4 Everyone else on the planet. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (NIV Matthew 28:19) Everyone needs to know Jesus too. Hear His words, see Him alive in someone’s life by their actions. Have the chance to breath eternal life for free.
And you know what?
                                 That’s stinking IT.

That’s all you need to worry about. Because if you worry about:
                      His Word,
                                              and telling/showing others about those 3,
                                                                                      then you have got it all DONE.

What about Prophesy, Modesty, Politics, Children, Stewardship, Organic Food, Save the Dolphins, Attend Bible Study, bla…bla…bla…bla…

In the grand scheme of things they don’t really matter as much as we let them matter.
(you have no idea how much I want to SCREAM that sentence, but I will be restrained)

All that matters is keeping your eyes on the road, keeping everyone else alive and reaching your destination. Can we strive to keep important things important? Can we just agree that we need to keep the focus on Jesus and stop fretting and beating each other up over the small stuff?

First things first.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What If You Never Accomplish a Thing

Is it any wonder that we cannot accept grace?
 I am beginning to wonder if it really is a blessing to be born a North American. All the advantages at my fingertips. I probably wont ever be homeless or starving.
I probably will always have health care for me and my children.
I probably will always have electricity, heat, ac, internet, tv, phones, clothes, shoes, any food I want.
I have spent thousands of dollars on my entertainment.
I can pursue an education from the time I am an infant until I am dead.
I have every advantage I need.
Therefore I should be perfect.

Well, maybe perfect is too strong.
Excellent. No limitations. No obstacles. No excuses. No pain no gain. No room for second place.
Good isn’t good enough.
Get the “A” in order to get the GPA. Get the GPA to get the scholarship.
Get the scholarship to get the degree. Get the degree to get the job. Get the job to get the money.
Get the money to get the power.

This makes me tired.
Not that I don’t like order and success. But really…everyday, in every aspect of life?

Perfect: education, job, car, house, spouse, kids, social life, spiritual life, retirement, death… oh, and you better look young and healthy while you do it all.

Christians are different. They don’t demand perfection. They accept.

 If only!

The Church seemingly has bought into the exact same North American definition of success. Bigger, slicker, smarter church is what people need. Make it appealing, easy, and comfortable and they will come. Study your demographics, target the people who will grow the ministry, give them what they need to make church fit into their lifestyle, and they will come.
And the more the better.

Was that the purpose?
Was religion the intention?
A Christian “lifestyle” that can be marketed and created and nurtured through more and more “stuff” (media, music and coffee)

I just want to find rest for my soul.

I want someone who loves me if I never get a degree or a scholarship. I want to be respected if I never live in a tony neighborhood or drive a shiny new car. I want to be forgiven without my offering being counted.

Captured Words Photography: Samuel D Burton

North Americans ask, “Why is God so real to Believers in Africa or South America…and not here?”
Why indeed.

Perhaps because He is the God who loves you truly madly deeply

                                                              if you never ever accomplish a thing.

                                                               That is the Jesus I fell in love with.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

And Nobody Cared

I just finished watching The Grapes of Wrath. The movie was made in 1940 with Henry Fonda and based on the award winning novel by John Steinbeck. I remember first reading the book in 11th grade. It was so tender and told the character’s stories so well that I completely missed the Socialist undertones that everyone said were there. I simply saw a family falling apart; hungry, honorable and just looking for a second chance. They needed a little help and then they would be able to overcome the devastating effects of the Great Depression and go on to be a success again. From the comfortable place of  years later I could easily see that outcome, but I am sure for those who lived through it, those were frightening times.  The numbers tell the tale today: 24.9% unemployment. That is one out of every four families… Two and a quarter million children between ages 10 and 18 went to work to help support their families and many many went hungry. I am sure it seemed as if there was nowhere for a family to turn for help. In the movie the mother of the family sums up their experience by saying,
” For a while there it looked like we was beat, good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too. Like we was lost and nobody cared. “
I cannot imagine how it was to live through that. But our country learned a great lesson and many government programs were started in the 1930’s to make sure children didn’t starve and didn’t go without clothing, shoes, and simple hygiene. Laws were passed to ensure that a terrible calamity like the Depression would not take its toll on the most helpless of victims, the children, ever again. Our country like very few others in the world has stood by that ideology ever since.
But I think everyone of us has felt a little of what Ma Joad said when she voiced her sense of loneliness and hurt, of being so helpless and alone in her desolation. Every one of us has had a time of trial when we thought, “There is no one out there who cares about me and my family. There is no one to help.” But the truth is if you are American, there is a lot of help. From the state programs that began 70 years ago to private groups who reach out to families in need.  Help is available.
This is beginning to sound like a Socialist treatise for government programs and big government. Couldn’t be farther from it. This is about defending the call to helping children everywhere.
You see, often whenever I speak about the needs of children from other countries someone somewhere will say, “What about the kids in your own backyard?”
Indeed, what about them.
I don’t often get into it but this time I am going to lay it all out.
First of all, I cannot answer for everyone who works with overseas non profits groups but for me and my family, we do care for the kids in our town. I am the mom whose house is always open to whosoever will. I hosted the big slumber/birthday/Christmas/Easter/Graduation Parties. I drove other kids to church. I bought extra Christmas presents for those who needed them. I have baby sat for single parents for free, I have given away a ton of shoes and clothes. Not bragging, Im just stating a fact. And I bet that 99.9% of everyone who works in Christian ministry to children overseas does the exact same thing. Because we love kids, no matter where they are.
Secondly, we need to help the kids in third world countries because their “Great Depression” has been going on for far too long. Economic distress, wars, famine, persecution. And they have no government to figure out how to protect them. There have been improvements in some places and some governments are trying, but mostly it’s too few too late.
There are children dying.
Every hour of every day.
For no reason other than the fact that we, who have most of the world’s wealth, can’t figure out how to live without a $4 cup of coffee everyday and share some of what we have.
A mother’s heart talking about the emptiness of being in need and feeling abandoned and alone should wrench  your heart, not just because they were true for our own people years ago, but because there is a mother in Rawanda tonight saying the same thing.
And Peru.
And India.
And Honduras.
Lastly, Jesus. This is only for those who have a close, personal, talk every night, kind of relationship with Him.  Why should we care about the children around the world not just at home? Because Jesus said to. 
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 18:10 ESV)
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
(Luke 18:15-17 ESV)
And of course there is His great command to us all,
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
So, should you care about Joseph Kony? Yes, he has done unspeakable things to our children. But you know what? You should also care about the children today who will be on the street looking through the trash for something to put in their bellies. And little girls who will be marketed for sale to the highest bidder. And the little boy who is huffing glue to forget about the pain and the cold.  And the nonprofit ministry who is crying out to God to supply the money needed to buy just a little more rice so all the kids can have one more meal tomorrow. And the national pastor who is tucking in five extra little ones who showed up looking for a place to sleep.
I know this country is full of great loving caring people who can and will take care of their own children and have enough left over to bring a few extra into their hearts as well.
There are so many groups who would love your $4 a day. Here are a few of my recommendations.