social justice

All I Want For Christmas . . . is a leg

We were making jokes about it –calling ourselves the #hospitalhomeless, the Piedmont Squatters–my sister and I.  We’d arrived at the hospital before 5am for our mom’s heart surgery.  Our bags were filled with granola bars, bottled waters, and pretzels.  Trust me, the Occupy movement had nothing on us.  We had no intention of leaving until we were sure mom was in the clear.

We knew the cafeteria was a death trap, so we thought we were in France when we found a little cafe that sold baked goods and soups.  It would be a home run for our mom when she was feeling up to eating.  Faith took a panoramic picture of the shelves topped with muffins, croissants, and lemon-chicken orzo soup so we could tempt mom to eat when she woke.  They gave complimentary oyster crackers out too.  (We love a complimentary packet of crackers!  Come by it honest.  When mom felt up to examining her hospital tray, she may have refused to eat their cardboard sausage and rubbery scrambled eggs, but she snatched up their packets of Splenda “for company” and had us put them in her bag.)  We figured out that if we really were homeless, we would come to the hospital to live.  There are bathrooms, loads of empty waiting rooms (some with actual benches), and the complimentary oyster crackers.  One could, in theory, survive.

While we were crammed into our waiting room chairs, we did our annual family name draw, and everyone had their kids make a quick list of things they might like to have for Christmas.  We congratulated ourselves for multi-tasking while we waited for news on our mom.  We even did some Christmas shopping then and there, on our smartphones.

Christmas Shopping.  Check.

The first night, while mom lay in the ICU with wires, chords, and IV’s dangling from her like tinsel on a Christmas tree, we sprawled out on 3 chairs and a coffee table attempting to get some sleep.

The Hospital Homeless

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That was us.

There we were in a state of the art hospital with a top medical team from Europe treating our mother, temperature controlled rooms,  countless food options, and no real needs in the world.

The irony escaped me at the time.  It wasn’t until later, after we’d been discharged, after mom had spent a week convalescing at my house, when I went to send my Haitian Sponsorship Child, Rosemine, a Christmas gift (another item checked off my list), that I remembered.

Haiti.

A part of planet’s population separated by miles and by privilege, by needs and by wants, by governments and geography, and by homes or the lack thereof.  Really, truly homeless.

A nation with wants far different than ours.

a meal.

a home.

a parent.

a leg.

an arm.

hope.

Real Needs.  Not Wants.

Because to be hospital homeless for them would be paradise.  I’d forgotten that 96% of Haitians have no access to health coverage or basic healthcare.  We fuss and fight over healthcare access here in the states, but for a mere $400 we could supply a new leg for a real-live human being who doesn’t even care if they get free annual wellness checks; they just want to be able to rejoin society and walk.

The Haitian Christmas list?

To walk.

To eat.

To go to school.

To fall asleep under a real roof.

God forgive us all.  It isn’t what we have that is wrong, it is that we are unwilling to share.  No one is asking us to feel guilty for being born in a privileged country with resources at the ready.  That’s not the point.  The point is this:  We, you and I, are privileged so we can provide.  We’re granted blessings to give blessings.  We have access so we can open doors for others.  We’re not meant to hoard but to help.

Perhaps you’d like to see what Mission of Hope is doing to help?  Here’s one glorious glimpse into the prosthetic world.  When the earthquake ripped limbs from bodies like pages from a notebook, Mission of Hope decided to step in.  The going rate on the ground in Haiti for a prosthetic is around $400.  It would take the average Haitian 1/3 of a year to earn the money to pay for a prosthetic–if they bought no food, shelter or other necessities.  In reality, most natives will never afford a prosthetic rendering them permanently helpless, marginalized members of an already suffering society.  Three prosthetic labs remain on the ground today in Haiti, and Mission of Hope’s lab is the only one giving custom fitted prosthetics at no cost to the patients.  No cost.

Here’s the beautiful thing.  The head prosthetist?  He’s a man by the name of Nono, a native Haitian who first visited the lab seeking a prosthetic for his own son.  And the funding?  Well, it comes from people like you and I, yes.  But do you know where else it comes from?  3 Chords–another arm of Mission of Hope that employs disabled Haitians, pays them a living wage, and uses the profits to fund the prosthetic lab.  It’s a purposeful reversal of the cycle of poverty and disability into a cycle of life and hope.  MOH is empowering marginalized Haitians to self-sufficiency and equipping them to empower their fellow Haitian.  The prosthetics lab serves over 500 people currently. You can learn about this incredible work in a video interview I did on the ground in Haiti.

CLICK HERE

Perhaps this year as our families begin to make Christmas lists and look at Black Friday sales, we could begin with a real need–a Haitian need.

You can give so easily RIGHT HERE.

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My mom walked out of the hospital on both her legs.  Her surgery, covered largely by health insurance, was successful.  Hers is a story typical of those blessed to be born in North America.

But whose story can you and I change this holiday season?  A lot of times you hear people say things like, ‘they have no hope over there.’  But they do have hope, you know?

There hope is over here.

With you and I.

In our wallets.

In our bank accounts.

Let’s give together.

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

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Of Flossing and Faith

Don’t forget to floss.

It was a text from my sister.  She helps me get my act together.  Basically, she sees the important areas where I’m dropping the ball and provides a support structure to assist me.  For example, I have about ten million photos in digital form.  She got hold of my phone, uploaded the Groove App, and set my photos to be printed and delivered to my house  monthly.  (Whatever. How was I supposed to know it was that easy to get my dumb photos in albums all along?)

So, the flossing thing.  Well, I’m just going to be honest about this.  I am very good at brushing my teeth.  By very good I mean I brush them about 100 times a day.  I love brushing my teeth. I even occasionally get tweezers and use the sharp edge to scrape off any plaque that has formed.  (It turns out I am not physically capable of making dental appointments, so I have to take annual cleanings into my own hands.)

But flossing?  I can’t do it.  I don’t know why.  I’m not good at remembering, and I hate doing it.  There are a lot of reasons why I fail at this particular important body-care ritual, none of which held up to my sister’s scrutiny, and so she is now texting me reminders.  I will admit that I do have some receding gum issues (self-diagnosed because you know . . . I don’t make appointments and also google. So who really needs a dentist when you have tweezers and google?)

The truth is that I’ve never been great at body care.

When people started using essential oils to treat illness, I bought more tylenol and ibuprofen–chemical cure-alls (and cheaper).

When the doctor said I should rehab my knee for 6 months, I went for 3 and called it good. (Okay, I’m regretting that.)

When people said our food was full of chemicals and hormones, and we should only eat carrots and wheat grass, I was like, “I’m already married to Doritos and Coke Zero is my middle name, so I guess I’ll just stay the course.”

But over the years I’ve begun to realize, when one part of the body doesn’t work properly, other parts begin to suffer.  So I’ve got some issues . . .

The good knee that compensates for the bad knee is mad at me now.

The hip above the bad knee also filed a suit against me.

There is the arm flab that flaps as I wash dishes reminding me I was supposed to do light body weight exercise to stay toned.

And of course there are the receding gums pointing fingers at the unopened floss in my vanity drawer. Who knew flossing would really turn out to be “preventative”?

(Just know that while I fail in some areas, I do have skills.  My underwear drawer is folded and color-coordinated, for example.  Also, if you are in a crisis, I am your girl.  I will show up with coffee, cinnamon rolls, and a dart gun in case the crisis involves killing someone.  Also, my purse always has all the things.  All. The. Things.  I’m talking a nail kit, lighter, tylenol-ibuprofen (see earlier), gum, lotion, chap-stick, tissue, fan, tweezers (see earlier), toothbrush and paste (also see earlier), notepad, screw-driver, knife, deodorant, protein bar, bottle of water . . . boy scout level preparedness happens in my purse, people. )

Regardless of my skills in filling purses, the reality is that I stink at flossing and other forms of caring for my physical body which, it turns out, is all connected.  Every part of it affects the rest of it, including my gums.

I think Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He called Christians the body of Christ because it turns out there is this great cosmic-collide of souls that occurs when people put their faith in Christ.  We all end up IN HIM.

Literally. All the Christians.  All over the planet.  All in the same Container–Jesus.

In Christ, you who once were far have been brought near.–Ephesians 2:13 

For we are members of his body.—Ephesians 5:30

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.–2 Cor. 5:17

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.–Gal. 3:28

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.–Col. 3:3

My husband just took a trip to Houston to help with disaster relief.  There were 6 guys in a van for 15 hours one way.  It’s a long time to be that close to one another, a long time to be in one vehicle.  No exit or escape.  And we, you and I, we are IN JESUS.

In HIM we live and move and have our being.–Acts 17:28

We want to experience the abundant life that Christ came to give.  It’s like going to Houston required getting in the van.  To have life, the believer must grasp that it exists only in CHRIST.

So, we’re all about that, right?  I love being a new creature IN CHRIST.

But here is the rub.

I’m not alone IN HIM.  I am not a lone ranger–just me and Jesus loving this new life.  I exist IN HIM along with all the other believers from all over the globe. 

The believers in my local congregation?  They’re in there.

The believers from the other churches in my area?  They are in there too.

The believers I fell in love with in Haiti?  In Jesus.

The believers I don’t like?  Yep, jostling around right beside me in Christ.

The believers who don’t like me?  Can’t escape me.  We’re together in Christ.

This merging of identities called the mystical union is the miraculous rebirth of those from different places and spaces and colors and perspectives and ideas into a single kingdom where all men and women are born on equal footing and equally loved.  In Christ.

It’s a kingdom no human government will ever be able to legislate into existence.

It’s a kingdom no human will ever accomplish, and yet it includes any human willing to die to an old way and live IN CHRIST.  When lived out according to biblical instruction, it is the answer to divided nations, to a war-weary refugee crisis, to all the lives mattering movements, and to hunger and thirst.  

When we fully fathom and allow this thought–that all believers are together IN CHRIST–to form, we begin to operate in a different way.

We begin to see the need for flossing.

Because there’s no separating portions of the body.  I once read a book called, “How to Quit Church Without Quitting God.”  Fascinating read.  Tragic misunderstanding.

Believers can’t quit the church–it’s a living, breathing organism whose head is Christ.

We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.–Eph. 4:15

If we quit the church, we must understand, we’ve quit Christ and ourselves because we ARE the church and the church ONLY EXISTS in Christ.

The church–as we know it–is a building (lots of them in fact), a structure organized by human hands and minds.  However, THE CHURCH?  THE CHURCH is a body, not multiple bodies, and it includes Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, blacks, whites, people who believe differently about doctrine and politics, and most of all, it includes sinful, needy humans.  Just like you.  Just like me.  

From whom (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.–Eph. 4:16

And so here we are . . . us Christians . . . with one body in which we’ve all been stuffed like hay in a scarecrow.  And God himself placed us, uniquely, perfectly, for the purpose of His fame and our growth.

And you, me, and all the rest?

We aren’t separate congregations competing for members.  We are congregations connected in Christ seeking heart conversion of all mankind . . . together.  Not separate.

We aren’t churches divided by doctrine. We’re doctrinally diverse disciples drawn together in LOVE in Christ, determined to grow up not into dogma, but into the Divine Deity of Christ.

We aren’t offended individuals gripping grudges like addicts on heroine.  We are a people who find ourselves encased in a new reality where we are renewed and reconciled, a reality where we release unforgiveness and hold tight to the healing Holy Spirit’s fruit of forgiveness.

Perhaps the real problem with the church is not that millennials are leaving or the carpet isn’t the right color.  Perhaps the real problem with the church is when we become disappointed and disillusioned, and in turn begin mass exodus, we are in effect dismembering the very body to which we belong.  We dismember ourselves and wonder why we are bleeding.  We’ve forgotten our existence is in Christ.

Christ knew we would have a hard time remaining in the body and gave some extensive instructions about how we should treat one another.  In other words, He gave us body-care instructions . . . little flossing reminders.  Because, it is by this–how we treat one another–and this alone, that the world will know we are true disciples of Christ.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.–John 13:34,35

Perhaps we’ve forgotten this fact:  Body care is critical.  Scripture speaks on this around 60 times in the “One Another” passages.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.–Romans 12:10

Bear with each other.

Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.–Colossians 3:13
Teach…[one another] 
Admonish one another.–Colossians 3:16

Be kind and compassionate to one another.–Eph. 4:32
Make your love increase and overflow for each other.–I Thessalonians 3:12
Love each other.–I Thessalonians 4:9

I cannot accomplish the “One Another” passages if I am not in relationship with my fellow believers.  I’m left wondering if we could grasp this grouped together existence where we are no longer identified by blood type O or A or B but by the blood of Jesus Christ that replaced our old DNA with the Divine, if we could grasp this grouping, perhaps the world would be willing to grasp Christ.

Because if we can truly love one another–the way Christ loves us–wouldn’t that be the irresistible food for which every soul hungers?  Authentic Christianity will involve relationships with all believers, and anything less is the generic version.  It may cost less, and be easier to obtain, but in the end, it’s not the original.

Flossing isn’t convenient.  It’s not even pleasant.  It is work.

Living IN CHRIST in committed community with other believers–it can also be work.  It can be unpleasant.  It can be downright devastating at times, but it is also our reality–like it or not.  It is good for us.  When we surrender to it, it is refining, restorative, and reflective of God’s love.

It’s preventative.

It prevents lost people from further rejecting Christ because they see genuine love.

It prevents me from reverting back to old ways and contributes to my transformation.

It prevents me from living dead in my sins and equips me for new life.

Only in this type of community, where I accept and embrace all the believers on the planet, will I grow up into the head who is Christ.  It’s a miraculous method of growing.  It doesn’t require a new Bible study, a new app, another conference, or a high-tech worship service.  It requires me committing to remain in the body.  It requires me committing to do my part.  It requires me recognizing that my spiritual gifts are not to be consumed on myself but to be shared with the body.  It requires me laying down my desire to have things my way and submit to one another out of  reverence for Christ.–Eph. 5:21.  It requires me determining to care–truly care–for all of the body.  The body in my personal local congregation, the body no longer attending any congregation, the body in Haiti, the body in Puerto Rico, the body in Houston, the body in Indonesia.  A well-cared for body is a body that understands it is no longer its own, it has been bought with a price, and is a temple of the very presence of God.  It carries Christ’s presence, the Sacred Solution to a spiritually starving mankind, wherever it travels.  Every part matters in this body.  No part can be discarded, rejected, cast off, or walk off voluntarily because it is joined by the unbreakable DNA of the Living God.

So, perhaps we need a text message, you and I?  A little reminder?

Don’t forget to floss.

While We’re On The Topic of Standing and Kneeling

In a world where a debate rages around a game played every Autumn Sunday on artificial grass, some lyrics and notes, and a piece of cloth made from strips of red, white, and blue, let us be a beacon of light that draws people’s eyes to the real issue at hand. Because in the end, folks aren’t really talking about flags and anthems and pigskin balls, are they?  

Of course not.

What we’re really talking about, the heart of the matter, the fulcrum on which positions rise or fall is actually just this:  I am here.  I am human.  I have a beating heart.  I matter. Somehow, we’ve bought into an idea that by allowing one to matter we must diminish or minimize another when in reality, there is enough room, enough space on the sprawling planet for all the hearts that beat to matter supremely.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality . . .” (Acts 10:34,35)

God invented the idea that everyone gets a fair shake, that there’s enough love for everyone.  He’s limitless; He’s love, and therefore, there is enough of Him and enough of love for all the humans.

But as a society, it seems sometimes, that we live by the law of scarcity.  We allow ourselves to be controlled by a cataclysmally crushing view that there’s not enough respect and justice and love for everyone, that we have to fight to get what is our due. We’ve bought into a liar’s lament that we live in a land of lack instead of a land of plenty, a land where when one is esteemed, another is diminished.

So we’ve begun to categorize and compartmentalize because if I am to treat you less than a human being deserves, I must first somehow separate you from me.  So, I’ll call you black, and I’ll call myself white.  Or you’re a soldier and I’m a civilian.  Or I’m an independent, and you’re a republican.  And now, there’s room for me and mine to self-preserve, and if it comes down to a brawl, well, you’re in the other box, so we’ll come at you guns blazing.

But dad-gum, we’ve missed it.  We’ve flat-out missed this one thread that ties us all together–the heart that beats.

We’ve forgotten the hearts of humanity–we all have these hearts that beat and pump and keep us alive on this planet.  And it’s actually the heart that matters in the end.

My dad, he had his heart stopped and started several times last week.  Apparently his short-circuits.  The wires misfire and his heart races to catch up to the fireworks exploding inside his chest.  He lands in the ER where they know him by name, and they shock him.  They stop the beating in the hopes of stopping the misfiring, and then they restart him in the hope that he’ll catch the rhythm again.  The rhythm of a healthy beating heart.

And I think we the people may just need a restart too.

Because we’re beating to different rhythms and forgetting that hearts don’t beat to black, and they don’t beat to blue.  Hearts don’t beat to flags or anthems or nuclear weapons. Beating hearts got their start back in a garden when God breathed His breath into the nostrils of the first man.  And the first man managed to get out of sync pretty quickly, and hearts have been misfiring ever since.

See, we have this tendency to zoom in on color or politics and miss the heart of the matter entirely, don’t we?

The person who refuses to stand is broken over a broken world-a world they feel is unfair and unjust, and frankly, in truth, they aren’t wrong.  The world has been unjust and unfair and unkind because it began beating to the wrong rhythm.  Their heart is broken, and they’re fighting for air and breath, fighting to find the right rhythm.  But the rhythm can’t be found in a football stadium anymore than it can be found in congress.

The rhythm is found in a person–Jesus Christ.  So whether we kneel or whether we stand, if we don’t know Jesus Christ, we don’t truly have hope.

And while a debate rages on in our country, people lose loved ones, hurting heroes give up and commit suicide, people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, children starve, and places like Puerto Rico remain destroyed.   And the followers of Jesus? Well, we followers of Jesus become distracted and ineffective because we forget the real needs and focus instead on a stadium full of padded athletic elites. Let us not forget that a world filled with needs is our stadium, and we stand for our anthem by walking across the street to our different skinned/same-hearted neighbors’ home and asking them to dinner.  We take a stand by feeding hungry humans.  We take a stand by holding the hand of a bereaved mother as she grieves an early parting.  We take a stand by insisting that the standard by which a life is valued is not the color of the life’s skin, the vocation, or the sexual preference of the human but by their beating heart.

It is the heart that matters.

Jesus always stopped and restarted the heart first.

Let’s make sure we get first things first.
Let’s stand for the true anthem . . . the anthem for which one day every knee will bow

Let’s stand for Jesus.
Stand for love.
Stand for peace.
Stand for long-suffering.
Stand for kindness.
Stand for patience.
Stand for gentleness.

That’s the restart we need.

Let’s do that in our classrooms at school, in our workplaces, in our sporting events,  in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our communities.

As believers, we pledge allegiance first to Jesus Christ. And that should inform every other decision we make. If all believers stand well for Jesus Christ, these issues of inequality and injustice will be resolved as more and more people walk in the light. The flag represents a nation that affords us freedom, yes, but Jesus Christ affords us ultimate freedom and eternal hope. That can never be taken.

Some will read this and assume I don’t care about our flag.  They’ll be wrong.  That flag represents a nation that has given me the freedom to write these words freely.  The soldiers who have fought and defended that flag are men and women whom I love and want to stand and cheer for every time I see them.   A dear friend just said goodbye to her husband as he takes another tour across Afghanistan.  She’ll raise children alone while he bravely defends our ability to have these debates openly and without fear of retribution.  For that flag and those men and women, I’ll absolutely stand.  All day.  Any day.

Others will read this and assume I don’t care about the reality of systemic inequality that does exist in our country.  They too would be wrong.  I will stand all day every day for those who are measured by anything other than the equal ground of a beating heart.  On this planet, all humans are created by God.

He NEVER makes a mistake.

Each is worthy of life because the author of life in His great perfection and sovereignty breathed it into humanity. He gives life.

It is ours to respect, honor, and cherish.

Unborn life, aging life, colored life, poor life, different life.

All life.

All worthy of standing for.

Because Jesus–my flag, my anthem–came that they might have life and have it abundantly.

So, while we’re on this topic of standing and kneeling, perhaps we could do a stop and restart.

Let’s kneel to our God and stand for His ways.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Teach me your ways, O Lord;
    make them known to me.
Teach me to live according to your truth,
    for you are my God, who saves me.
    I always trust in you.

 Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love
    which you have shown from long ago.
 Forgive the sins and errors of my youth.
In your constant love and goodness,
    remember me, Lord!

 Because the Lord is righteous and good,
    he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
 He leads the humble in the right way
    and teaches them his will.
 With faithfulness and love he leads
    all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.

 Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins,
    for they are many.
 Those who have reverence for the Lord
    will learn from him the path they should follow. (Psalm 2:4-12)

Election Fires: The Only Christian Response

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The mountains surrounding my home are ablaze. We’re 2 months without rain, and the hills are crying out for water.

Once when I was a child we had a brush fire accidentally get out of control out off of Smyrna road where my dad built a cabin with his own hands.  Our six acre parcel, mostly wooded, stood to go up in flames and with it, everything my parents had.  My job was to stand with a green water hose stretched as far from the house as possible and saturate the ground with water.  But now, during the driest 60 days in north Georgia’s history, there are acres–nearly ten thousand of them–desperate for water while raging hot, furious flames cross the land that has, until now, cocooned my childhood in a caldron of oaks, maples, sassafras and buckeyes.

My garden hose lies coiled like a lifeless snake now, powerless against the inferno.  People are pleading and praying for rain.

Remember Sherman and his flames that licked up the south like a ravenous dog?

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He lit a fire with the barns, the homes, and the towns from Atlanta to Savannah.  He was gasoline to a war-weary, deadly dry and thirsty land.  Our soil drank his fuel and we were lit up for two weeks.  It was hell on earth . . . literally.

Little survives a hungry flame.

My husband spent years learning fire’s greedy nature.  She’s a desperate, desert traveler demanding destruction as she quenches her thirst.

And water, when there’s enough of it,  will stop her.  Water will quiet her savage screams for satisfaction.

A country laid to waste with the blaze of a man determined to win.

And when the flames were silenced, I have to wonder, were the smoldering embers worse than the blaze?  Where could we go from that devastation?  What solace, what comfort could be found?

The nation was divided by an imaginary line.  Brothers had fought against brothers.  Mothers wondered if it was one son’s bullet that silenced the beating heart of another son.

A nation that went to war–for state’s rights, yes.  For freedom’s sake, absolutely yes.  For life.  For liberty.  For the pursuit of happiness.

A civil war.

A nation divided.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.  Mark 3:24

And our nation, y’all?  It’s divided in these days, is it not?

An election that split our nation with hungry flames that lapped up our Facebook feeds and consumed the media with a heat that melted  and ravaged relationships.  People once friends bound by some past history saw that very history consumed in smoke and fire–the flames of a battle fought for values, for morals, for rights, for the futures of our children laid waste, did they not?

And we, the United States of America became ash and ember.

We were consumed.

We were.

I have known the devastation a fire can dole out.  The trailer where my mom and dad made their home in frigid New Hampshire caught fire one night when hay and furnace ignited angry flames anorexic with hunger.  They swallowed my home when I was just wee.

And after a while, when there was nothing left, my parents decided to start fresh; they’d need to move.  I was brought back to these quiet mountains where the dogwood’s pale white petals stretched and yawned as they awoke each spring.  Here in the Appalachians my parents would begin again.  Begin anew.  I barely spoke then.  Words were still taking shape on my lips, but a soul understands when it’s survived something.

And this soul knows that fires can be survived.

This soul knows that nations can be reunited after Sherman’s fire has cooled.

This soul knows that rebuilding will begin with a move.

And Christians, it’s our move.

This, followers of Christ, is our moment.

There’s no denying the destruction any longer.  But if we want to stand, we must reunite this nation.  Jesus taught us the pattern for reuniting, did He not?  He left heaven.  He came to be WITH us.  Then he laid his life down as a bridge to unite us with our Father.  If this nation is not to be divided, it will be our job to lay down our lives and be a bridge.  It’s our model and anything short of Christ’s ways is not of Him.

We have rebuilding orders.

1. Give Grace

Let no filthy talk be heard from your mouths, but only what is good for building up people and meeting the need of the moment. This way you will administer grace to those who hear you. Eph. 4:29 

Grace–that blanket of acceptance and love that holds no strings, knots no one up in per-requisite requirements, and simply says, “My favor is yours because I’ve been unconditionally and lavishly favored by The Grace Giver.”  If we are followers of Christ, we will dole out grace upon grace because:

We have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. John 1:16

Our words, our posts, our memes, our responses–they will quiet flames if they are only good for the building up of people, for the meeting the needs of the moment.

We will rebuild our nation as we BUILD UP those who disagree with us, not just those who agree.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

2.  Stop the Bleeding

Be completely humble and gentle.  Be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Eph.4:2

War means death and injury.  There are always casualties–those we find wounded and bleeding.  On both sides of the equation, we’ve wounded.

If we claim Jesus, then we will gently, patiently, humbly mend wounds.  That means having a conversation with people we don’t understand.  It means asking why they are hurting.  It means asking why they are angry.  It means identifying the wounds and finding the right salve.  No wounded human needs to be told if they are right or wrong in that moment.  We don’t attack a man trapped in a car, legs broken, and blood gushing from his stomach and tell him why his belief system is wrong.  We STOP the bleeding.  We ask WHERE does it hurt?  This is the bearing with one another Jesus wanted and modeled.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

3.  Cover

Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.  I Peter 4:8

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Will I cover or will I stir?

When Noah was vulnerable and drunk, a low point in his life, he had two sons with the decency to walk in backwards and lay a blanket over his naked and bare body, two sons willing to cover that terrible moment in time. The other one exposed him.

Which son will I be?

Will I let love be the the blanket that suffocates, that quenches and quiets this inferno?

I can continue to declare why one side is right and another side is wrong.  I can continue to expose what this side or that side said.  I can be a billboard of blame or I can be a blanket of love.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

4.  LOVE ALL

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43-48

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31

There is no real alternative for a follower of Christ.  There are those who will say love isn’t love if it doesn’t tell people why they are wrong and insist they repent.  There are those who will say love is the weak response of a wimpy Christian.  And to that I will say this:  Love is what God demonstrated for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.  And if we do not love, we cannot share truth.  We earn the right to share truth by first sharing love.  Anything less DOES NOT find its source in God.

Love is patient

Love is kind

It does not envy

Love does not boast

Love is not proud

Love does not dishonor others

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not easily angered

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

God is setting this standard.  Let us lay down our weapons.  Lay down our matches and our kindling and our gasoline.  Let us pick up our hoses and cool one another with the refreshment that comes from Living Water that flows out of the love of God.  What’s done is done.  The flames have had their thirst drenched with the dredges of our most base selves, now let us rise from the ashes and leave the wrongs to be blown away in some soft, spring wind.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

And isn’t the truth just this?  We’re made to make our God’s name famous.  He’s different, isn’t He?  Different than all the other things mankind has found to worship?  Different because He defeated death, defeated evil, defeated all that we despise so that we might be like Him.  Isn’t the truth just this?  God loves.  The God of the universe loves mankind, and it is he and He alone that is a consuming fire satisfied only when He is reunited in eternal relationship with His creation.  Is not that the truth?  God wants us all.

Love always protects

Let us come together and protect now in this moment when there are vulnerable human beings who are afraid.

Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Love alone remains.

When the flames are quieted and we sift through the wreckage, what will we salvage?

Love alone remains.

May this be a reminder to my brothers and sisters who claim Christ–In this moment, we carry the water hose.  We carry Christ.  He does not keep a record of wrongs.  He does not boast.  He is not prideful.  And He invites everyone to His table.  His banner is love.  His invitation is to all mankind.  We are His written and irrevocable invitation to come to Him.

We either invite mankind to come to Him

or

we stone them with our words.

I remember well standing feet from my home pulling as hard as possible on that cool green hose.  I stretched as far as it would reach while hot smoke rose up the hillside making my  cheeks pink and my throat burn.  I’m stretching now too, reaching as far as I can with the water I have.

Wildfires ablaze, and I want to be the rain.

Christians, be Living Water with me.  This is the moment that will define us for years to come.  We will be known by our response.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2:12-17

We have a job to do. If we consider ourselves redeemed we have one work–to share the gospel–the good news, the coolest water to thirsting mankind.  This is when we know we’re not like Sherman.  He pilfered and looted his way home. We’ll not continue the wreckage, will we?  We’ll stop here and now, and we will rebuild.

We will pick up our hammers and our nails and our boards, we will walk to the homes of those who voted differently, those who wanted some other outcome, those who are bewildered and perplexed and frustrated and angry and even possibly hateful because they are hurting, and we will ask to rebuild their barns, their homes, their lives.

We will do just what Jesus said to do.  We will.  Because it is our identity.  It is who we are, and anything less DOES NOT find its source in Christ.

And if you happened here today, and you are frightened.  If you happened here today, and you are hurting because your person didn’t win and you see this as the potential beginning of the end.  If you happened here and you’re angry, can I just say to you, that there are countless believers devoted to bridging this gap.  Please don’t throw out Jesus because someone who claimed Him misrepresented Him.  The Jesus here in this blog is the only Jesus of the Bible.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Christ.

Please don’t turn from God because someone tried to beat you over the head with Him.

God?  He’s near you in this.  He’s with you in this time.  And so are we.  Where can we begin to rebuild with you?

He invites you.

There is love.  It’s something different.  It’s called Living Water and it is free, abundant, and all consuming.

Let the flames be extinguished.

Let love rise from ash and form a bridge that unites.

It’s our move, Christians.

Let’s carry the hose that extinguishes flames, and once they’re silenced, let’s go build bridges.

Because in the end, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

When I look out over the horizon, I still see the smoke hanging herself over my mountains.  And I pray for rain.

But on this earth, we are that rain, aren’t we?

I think so.

img_1243.jpg

 

Values Voting: A Christian Asks Questions

In our home, when there are disagreements, they always come down to values.   (What? You thought pastor’s families didn’t have disagreements?  Hah, welcome to the truth.)

I value order.  One of my boys values order.

My husband does not.  One of my boys does not.

Needless to say, sometimes the disorderly 2 in our home begin to take over.  In any given moment if I value order over harmony and peace and you happen to be over—welcome to the fireworks show!  I’m not saying anything new, really.  James already said it himself—Why are there fights and quarrels among you?  Because of YOUR desires that battle within you.

We tend to value what we desire.  The tricky thing about values is that you can value one thing, I can value another, and neither of us is necessarily wrong.  But humans often try to canonize their values.  And sometimes that’s dead, dead wrong.

In fact the only, ONLY time it’s right is when we can attach scripture that speaks directly to that value.  Then and only then is it divine because it’s source is God, not our personal desires.

So I live in a place where God and country are supremely held values.  I live in a place where the words conservative, republican, and Christian are often considered synonyms.  And I live in a place where truth is sometimes mistaken for a republican platform.

I do.

And don’t misunderstand me or my heart.  I’m not pointing fingers.  I love this land we still call Dixie.

But truth only comes in the person of Christ and his written Word.  And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, than I have to wonder if we who claim Christ are certifiable.  The louder we shout the less we are heard.

And unborn babies still die.

Because we are fighting for platforms instead of souls.  We’re fighting Washington when the enemy is Satan.  We’re fighting politics instead of making disciples.  And to one another we speak a language that is understood and makes sense.  We share values.  We speak the values.  We cheer for each other.  It works.  But only with one another.

Meanwhile, to a world that doesn’t share our values, we are a resounding gong and a clanging cymbal.  We aren’t taken seriously not because what we value is wrong but because we’ve confused values and truth, platforms and inspiration.  Our narrowly defined values are not reflective of the broad heart of God.

We have.

I’m in no way suggesting we change scripture to include things that go against God.  I’m well aware that God’s Word is clear that it’s a narrow path to eternal life–But that’s because the path is a person–Christ.  Access to the path is available to all humanity.  What I’m saying, and hear me on this, is that WE AS CHRISTIANS NEED TO ADJUST OUR VALUES TO TRULY REFLECT SCRIPTURE and we need to communicate Christ’s invitation not our condemnation.  We don’t change values from the outside in.  God transforms values when He gives us a new heart and fills us with His Spirit.

Is it possible in our zeal to obey we’re coming across as self-righteous?

I’m reminded of the Pharisees.  The religious right of Christ’s day.

Sincere people.  Following the rules.

They crucified their Messiah.

They did.

But they had their values.  They honored their sabbath.

And they missed the point.

Jesus.  Anointed to save.  Anointed to include ALL.  The Messiah of not just the Jew but the Gentile too.

Jesus.  Enough of Him for all mankind.  Enough of Him to cover our failures in his cloak of righteousness crafted out of His shed blood.  Enough of Him to take us as we are and begin the renovation of our values once we are a part of His eternal family.

God had Isaiah write these words.

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote,” 

They take my breath away–those words.

What exactly does my reverence for Jesus Christ consist of?  What values have I thought were scripture when in fact they were tradition?  Could I be guilty of having a heart far from the values of my Savior?

Indeed, I could.

I often wonder had I lived during the time of Civil War here in Georgia, would I have stood beside a black woman and held my hand out to her and her babies?  Would I have invited her into my home?  Would I have let my husband travel north and fight against the south?  Would I have discerned the tradition of the south’s faulty thinking?  Or would I have sipped sweet tea and blessed their hearts all the way to the cotton fields?  Would my values then have reflected the heart of God or the culture of the day?

And where am I erring now, Lord?  Show me. Because I understand that where my treasure is, there my heart will be also. 

So that’s it, then, isn’t it?

I must treasure the things God treasures if I desire my heart to be near His heart.

Treasure the things God treasures.

And now I get the chance to vote for the things I treasure . . . the things God treasures.

And I have questions.  Many questions as I consider this election taking place here in America.

  1. If I am to vote my values, then is voting for the lesser of two evils actually voting my personal values?

Is it?  Is voting for a third party throwing away my vote because statistics tell me that is so? Or could it be that if I vote for someone who I do not believe is fit for the office, it is then I’m actually throwing away my right to vote? Is not a vote in its very nature the casting of a ballot for the person or thing which I most want and believe will be best? Is not this idea that I have only two choices a hijacking of my preference under the threat or fear of losing? Woven into the very DNA of democracy is the component of risk—I may or may not get what I personally want, but I will get what the majority want. Except if we keep buying into the idea that voting for a third party is a throw-away, than we are no longer even getting what the majority want. The majority is a fallacy created by a system perpetuated by fear. One person may place a high priority on the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will align with their personal values  while another may place a high priority on quality of life that universal healthcare affords. Both are related to life. Both.  So we vote. We say what we personally value.

I have to wonder if it is possible that we only throw our vote away when we QUIT saying what we value and instead say what we fear or worse, say nothing at all.

  1. Do we equate character with belief systems? In other words, if a person believes differently than me, does that automatically give me the right to call their character into question?

Here’s an interesting thought:  Mother Teresa. My theology/belief system and hers do not 100 percent line up in every area, yet her character was without question pristine. I mean, hello? She probably has an entire wing of heaven designated for her. Character, it has been said, is what you are when no one is looking. Belief and faith systems are the hooks on which we hang out future and around which we shape our lives. Though faith can influence character, character can still be exemplary regardless of our faith system. In fact, ask a devout Hindu about character.  A truly practicing Hindu will spend their life trying to make good choices because their reincarnation depends on it.

  1. Can God redeem both republicans and democrats?

I’ve often heard the argument that God can change Trump’s heart. True, and I hope my view of God is large enough to recognize that He is also able to change Hillary Clinton’s heart, because after all, He has worked in my own heart. Here’s God’s desire:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4).

He loves ALL. I do not have the right or rank to assume only some are worthy of His redemptive power.

  1. Am I expecting the government to carry out the mandates of my faith? In other words, am I saddling the government with the instructions Christ gave specifically to me and the church as a follower of Christ?

If I demand healthcare for all and refuse to help the person without healthcare to cover their cancer treatment costs, am I not a hypocrite? If I demand welfare and refuse to help my neighbor find a job or pay their electric bill when times are tough, am I not a hypocrite? Is it possible that much of what we call “big government” exists because too many (not all) of us who claim to be followers of Christ care little for our neighbor and much for our own comfort. Is it possible that the very source of change I long for in my country begins with me obeying my God’s instruction?

  1. To what extent does God value life? Have I allowed culture within church or society to limit or direct the value that I place on life?

This is worth repeating-worth dissecting.

To what extent does God value life? Have I allowed culture within church or society to limit or direct the value that I place on life? In other words, am I concerned about black lives because culturally we see a trend toward movements such as Black Lives Matter? Am I concerned about abortion because traditionally, the church places high emphasis on this act? Am I less concerned for refugees because many people equate the word refugee with ISIS at worst and at best with a potential threat because of guilt-by-association-ethnicity? When God said to care for the foreigner among us, did He mean that literally? Did he mean it literally when he said the only pure and faultless religion is the one that looks after widows and orphans? Doubtless the republicans have shouted loud their disdain for abortion and Planned Parenthood.  And rightly so.  But let this be said: Hillary Clinton has stood for life too. She championed the cause of foster-children, at risk children, and healthcare reform for children. Were I ever to meet her, I’d thank her for that. I would. The living also deserve life. Children are a voiceless, defenseless lot worthy of a champion. And what candidate is willing to stand for those in sex-trafficking? What candidate is willing to stand for those in slave labor? What candidate is willing to stand for the refugee, the orphan, the homeless? Let us insist on life, PERIOD. And absolutely, let us fight for those precious unborn. All life. All of it. Because this is the extent to which Jesus valued life.  He died for it.  Martyred so we could all live eternally with Him.

I have come that you (ALL of you) may have life and that you may have it to overflowing.

Life for all.

  1. Is God concerned about making America great again? Is that a value He expressed in scripture? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that maybe, just maybe the rise and fall of America is lower on God’s priority list than, say, making His personal name great.  In fact, when we work harder at championing America the Beautiful than we do sharing the Creator of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I have to wonder if our hearts are far, far from Him.

May I just say something specifically to my precious Christian friends knowing that you know my heart?  We have to be far more careful than anyone else on the planet. The world is watching just as they were the day Jesus hung from a tree, thorns piercing his flesh and the air slowly seeping from his body.

He called no one a name.

He ranted at no one.

He asked only that God forgive.

His work was redemption and when it was complete, He said, “It is finished.” As followers of Christ, our work is the same—that of redemption. We ARE indeed ambassadors, but not for any political party. We are ambassadors for Christ. Jeff recently preached a sermon reminding our home church of that—put on the uniform of an ambassador.

How would Jesus want us to represent Him in this election? Were Jesus on earth, I wonder how He would refer to human beings. How would he refer to people with different opinions than himself? When being crucified he wouldn’t have been wrong to call out, “You murderers!” But He didn’t. He did not do that. I wonder, would he refer to people using titles that describe their belief system? Would he refer to people by their sexual preferences? Would he refer to them by the color of their skin? Would he reference them by their political parties? Their socio-economic status? It pains me that a human being, a flesh and bone creation fashioned to bear the image of God would be categorized by anything other than God’s category: Image-Bearing Creation of the Most High God who made each of us for His pleasure and fame.  When we choose any label other than the ones God gives us as acceptable ways to refer to mankind, we are robbing ourselves and others of our God-given identity.   Remove God from humanity’s identity and we lose. Every single time.

I think about the people who may read this blog, and I want them to know that regardless of my political perspective, my spiritual perspective is this: There is room in my heart and at my table for ALL of God’s creation. Sure, we may disagree on things. My belief system will impact how I live. It will impact how I relate. It will impact my values.  It will impact how I vote. But it will never entitle me to assume I have the right to judge or condemn another human being nor will it entitle me to assume I am superior because my beliefs are different. In fact, my belief system puts all human beings, myself included, into one category–a being fashioned to bear the image of God, a being divinely loved and supremely wanted by a Savior who stopped at nothing, including death to have a relationship with all of us. Let us be so careful to recall our Savior and represent HIM well especially during this intense time in our nation.

And may our values find their source in The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

And may our platform be His Word.

Meanwhile in Haiti: A Christian Perspective on Donald, Hillary, Elections, and Life

The media got swallowed today.  By a video tape some ten years old.
Hurricane Matthew began to settle, yes.
But the rising and falling of storm surges is not really the reason we tune into coverage of a hurricane, is it?
Isn’t it the people who will be impacted that we really care about?  Are they not the real reason we tune in?
Because if that’s the case, then isn’t NOW when the coverage should REALLY begin?
But Donald and Hillary’s war swallows the airwaves.
Meanwhile in Haiti, the death toll rises to over 900.
Meanwhile in Haiti, the number of children without parents, which was 400,000 give or take, has now increased.

haiti-hurricane-3

And meanwhile globally, the number of orphans is somewhere between 143 and 210 million.
But really, who is counting?
Apparently not CNN or FOX News.
And in the United states alone?  415,000 children filtered through the foster system last year.
But again, who is counting?
Because what’s a life when we’ve got crass, crude comments from a man no one would ever have considered nominating for High Moral Character Man of the Year anyway?
What’s a life when we’ve got Benghazi?
What’s a life when politics reign and evangelicals and non-evangelicals get swept away by the hurricane that is an election?
An election trumps a life?  Really?
I can’t speak for non-evangelicals, but I do know that evangelicals were never once called to get tangled up in civilian issues.  In fact, 2Timothy 2: 3,4 speaks directly to this:
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
One could argue the affairs of this life are things like careers or boyfriends and girlfriends.
Or one could accept that maybe, just maybe, the believer has a purpose more fine-tuned and more specific than anything that begins and ends here on earth.
Maybe the purpose Jesus mentioned when He was with us on earth?
And He said to him,  ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  (Matthew 22:37-39)
Maybe the purpose Jesus mentioned when he left us?
“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)
Maybe the purpose the Spirit of God inspired when James wrote:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.( James 1:27)
Jesus.
He’s problematic for us if we take Him seriously.
Because he
DOES
NOT
FIT
With the shouting and the screaming and the name calling and the condemning and the judging.
He doesn’t.
His response to sin?
Christians?  Our SAVIOR’S RESPONSE to sin?
HE
GAVE
HIS
LIFE
He forgave.
He redeemed.
He restored.
He did not name call.
He said, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (John 8:7)
It’s inconvenient because His responses would apply to both Hillary and Donald.
Both.
And that’s not convenient when we want to amp up a political party to the height of holiness.
As if one is more holy than the other.
Really?
A manmade thing?
Let’s reason.
Let’s think.
No.
None, no not one is righteous. (Rom. 1:10)
Not one.
Not me.
Not you.
Not Donald.
Not Hillary.
Do we REALLY think we are so holy that we can verbally throw stones?
And you know how people say things like, “It’s a distraction tactic!  Stick to the issues.”?
They are SO very right.
It IS a distraction tactic, but not by the media, bless them.
By the enemy.
Did we already forget that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood?  Our battle is not with a democrat or a republican, a male or a female, a homosexual or a heterosexual.
Our battle is against principalities and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
And may I just ask this question?
Who among us has spent as much or more time making disciples this week as we have spent listening to political commentary?

Really?

Because that, my friends, is the distraction.

It’s a distraction from the marching orders our Savior gave us.

Love.

Feed.

Restore.

Heal.

Make disciples.

Then teach them.

Then make more disciples.
There are some 500,000 homeless here in the United States alone.
Are we, the believers, caring for the poor?  Actually DOING the caring?
Focus.
Focus on the priorities of Jesus Christ.
YES, he values life.
Life of the unborn.
Life of the born.
Life of the lesbian.
Life of the drug addict.
Life of the orphan.
Life of the lost soul.
All of it.
Every, single bit of human life because every single human life carries an eternal soul.
Do politics matter?
I understand that’s a bigger question than I can answer when philosophers and theologians have battled and wrestled and discussed this for centuries.
But ultimately, Jesus made this comment about politics, Give to Caesar what is Caeasar’s. (Mark 12:17)
And the Holy Spirit inspired these words:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2
So, believer?
We should pay our taxes.
We should obey the law.
And beyond that . . . well, now we have to stick to the Bible.
And the Bible tells us that God said:
It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. (Daniel 2:21)
Now that is a political game-changer, is it not?
Because it turns out it isn’t elections that put kings in place.

It is our God.

And it isn’t about a leftist agenda or a right-wing agenda; it is about the agenda and purpose of our sovereign God.  And if somehow the democrats or republicans can demote our God’s supreme authority over elections, then our God is absolutely not worth our time.  If we elevate the right or the left to a position of authority over God’s purposes, then we have deified a donkey and an elephant.  We who claim to worship the one true God have literally created an idol out of an abstract political machine.  This is not Bible-believing. 

We get so worked up over civilian affairs and somehow assume there are new answers.  We discard the Bible and wrestle the issues like a steer in a rodeo when we could be putting feet to the instructions of our Savior.

In the end?

OUR GOD WINS.

Not Hillary. Not Donald.

YAWEH God.

And then the Holy Spirit added, For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.  (Romans 13:6)
Somehow, this repositions the establishment, the media, and the republican and democratic candidates to servants not of one another, but servants of the MOST HIGH GOD.
Why?
Job knew why.  I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
No election gets to thwart God’s ultimate plans.  So, what IS the purpose of God?
Jesus said this,  I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. ( John 5:30.)
Then he died.
He rose.
He redeemed all mankind.
The purpose of God?
That all mankind would be in a relationship with Him.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.( 2 Peter 3:9)  God desires all mankind to be in a relationship with Him.

Do we vote?  Of course we do.  But we do not allow an election to derail God’s purpose in our lives.  Politics may be complicated, but our marching orders are simple.  Our gameplan is already outlined in scripture.  We just need to obey.

More than anything I’m pained by this:
That evangelicals are more known for endorsing or condemning mere human beings than for finding homes for the 415,000 children in foster care in the United States.
That evangelicals are more known for political name-calling than we are for uniting and sending aid to Haiti where cholera, malnourishment, and homelessness will take human lives like a thief in the night while we’ve fallen asleep at the watch.
I am a follower of Christ and I neither endorse Donald Trump nor condemn him.
I neither endorse Hillary Clinton nor condemn her.
Were I to meet either of them, do you know how I would view them?
How God would desire me to view them?
As human beings made in His divine image.
They are not my enemy.
They are not the enemy of the United States.

And they are certainly NOT the enemy of evangelicals.  They are the very people evangelicals should develop relationships with!

They are mere fallen human beings.
JUST
LIKE
ME
Just like me.
Were I to meet them my goal would be the goal Jesus gave me, Make disciples.
Only Jesus can transform.
Do I accept the words of Donald Trump caught on tape over a decade ago?

Goodness gracious, a resounding and resolute NO.  Absolutely not.

And were I to meet him, I’d say this, “Mr. Trump, your comments were absolutely wrong.  You did NOT value female life.  You saw it as an object with which you could pleasure yourself instead of a reflection of the image of God.  You were so wrong and you will give an account for that.  But not to me. In the words of Jesus Christ, ‘Go and sin no more.’  Want to have coffee and discuss this Jesus that said He wouldn’t condemn you, but He’d give you a drink that would so satisfy your thirst that you wouldn’t go looking to women for your soul needs again?”
And the same could be said to Hillary of Benghazi.
Believers, let us join together in a single voice that insists on this one thing:

We will BE ABOUT OUR FATHER’S AGENDA, and under no circumstances will we be known for spewing venomous talk, angry rhetoric, hateful facebook posts, mean-spirited mudslinging, or shaking a proverbial self-righteous fist of condemnation at either candidate.

We will love all humanity.  That is what Jesus Christ did to the point of death.
He loved.
Does the election matter?  Of course it does.  We do in fact stand to lose civil and religious freedoms.  We do in fact get to vote our values, our beliefs, our priorities.  I understand about Supreme Court Justices, and I understand about losing religious freedom in the name of political correctness.
I also understand that my God is sovereign.  and if He’s sovereign than not even the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice I don’t agree with can change HIS PURPOSES.
So, does the election matter? It matters tremendously.
But there is a far more important value that all believers should fight for.
Eternity.
In the end, I don’t get to take the president with me to eternity, but I do get to take souls.
Go.  Make Disciples.  Instead of making enemies, make a cake and deliver it to your neighbor.
No more distractions.  Instead of being side-swiped by the latest scandal, deliver the scandalous grace of Jesus.
No more name calling.  Instead let’s call out to the name of above all names.
No more condemnation.  Instead let’s connect sinners to living water.
There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1)
Let us be about our Father’s purposes.
Let us do that.
Because wouldn’t it be amazing if the media had to report this:
“Surprisingly, our ratings dropped when we shifted from covering ways to help victims of the devastating Hurricane Matthew to what we thought was a big ticket political scandal.  Surprisingly evangelicals quit watching because they were busy helping the hurting.”
So, meanwhile, in Haiti—there are ways we can help.
Consider giving to this organization where the money can be specifically designated to Hurricane relief and every penny will go directly to just that:
http://www.newlife4kids.org/
  • Maintaining our Children’s Home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti of 130 children. We continue to be a “Rescue Center” for abandoned, handicapped, orphaned and children with severe malnutrition and disease, nursing them back to health.
    2) We have a staff of forty including nanny’s, a doctor, two nurses, physical therapists, cooks, etc…
    3) Our children’s home budget is over 160,000 per year as we also have much medical costs and unexpected emergencies.
    4) We provide all medical care and schooling for the children. The young adults go through training programs and trade school that they might reach they’re full potential, spiritually and naturally, and become Christ centered and productive citizens.
Or consider giving to this organization:  www.mohhaiti.org where you can also designate your funds.  They’re replacing tarp shelters with block homes.  They’re educating Haitians.  They’re giving  Haitians prosthetic limbs FREE OF CHARGE.  They’re providing medical care.  They’re providing food.  And there’s no CEO making hundreds of thousands.
Perhaps the best thing a believer can do in a time like this is turn off the TV and the news and turn to our original mandates.
Love.
Let us be found loving.

It’s what our Father does, and it is who He is.

Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.  He that does not love does not know God, for God is love.  Beloved, Let us love one another.  (I John 4:7,8)

The Haiti Blogs: When We Can’t Make Sense Of It All

It’s raining today in our North Georgia mountains–one of those long, soft, misty spring rains that just won’t stop.  My boys are going camping, so the rain is  unwelcome.  It’s a trip far into the woods to celebrate a big birthday for one of their friends.  It’s been on the books for probably 2 months.  We’ve had gorgeous weather all week, and now rain.

I’m watching it wash my cars, water my plants, fill the low spots in the yard, and drown out all the earth worms, and I’m praying, “Lord, would you hold it off for the boys?”

And I remember.

Like the rain washes the fogginess from my brain.

The tin roofs in Haiti.  How many of them were there?  Tin held down with rocks and broken cement.  Tin salvaged from other projects.  Tin filled with holes.

My boys may be wet tonight while they camp, but they’ll come home to a dry house.

For so many Haitians, home is flooded wet when rains fall.

DSC_0904

Me–a child of God, sitting dry under a shingled roof.

A Haitian baby–a child of God, sleeps with belly distended from hunger in his mother’s arms while she squats under a 12 inch overhang waiting out the storm.

A friend–a child of God, sleeps in the hospital tonight.  Cancer’s been removed, but what treatment lies ahead?

A husband in Ecuador–a child of God, mourns his wife’s death.  An earthquake swallowed her life’s breath.

We don’t make sense of these things.

We can’t.

We can’t explain why survival is a hobby and past time for my youngest boy but the only way of life for the boy who begged me to sponsor him back in Haiti.

We can’t explain why the lump in my breast a couple months back was just a fatty cyst but for another it is cancer.

We can’t explain why one child is born without a heartbeat and another is born, lungs filled with air, heart pumping, and healthy.

We can’t explain why one good parent raises a child who aces all the tests and rises the corporate ladder and another good parent raises a drug addict.

We can’t explain why one is accepted into the program and another is denied despite her tremendous effort.

We just can’t.

But I know them.  These people.  I know they love Jesus.

And I know Jesus loves them.

I do.

I remember His Words–they were about His people the Jews, but we were grafted into this beautiful love that is our Savior.  We get to savor these words too.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”(Isaiah 43:1-7)

We get to savor our Savior who gathers us from the east and from the west.

We get to revel in our Redeemer who calls us by name.

We get to cry out to our Creator who promises that we are precious in His sight.

We get to live out of the love of this God who says He formed us, He made us, and he crafted us . . .

for

his

glory.

The intended destiny of the cancer patient and the orphan and the hungry and the hurting and the healthy and the wealthy and the successful and the homosexual and the heterosexual and the Arab and the American is that they were ALL–

Every

Single

One

created to bring this one and only God glory.

We don’t have to share skin color or socioeconomic status to share the same purpose.  I have to quit understanding in human terms like Middle-Eastern or African, upper-class or poor, educated or illiterate and begin to understand others as God does–mankind.  Created beings created by a Creator for His own pleasure and glory. 

HE said it Himself.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
    and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
    I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
13     Yes, and from ancient days I am he.  (Isaiah 43:10-13)

He said in no uncertain terms this beautiful declaration of destiny.

We are HIS Witnesses.

We were chosen

to KNOW

and

to BELIEVE

that HE AND HE ALONE is the LORD and there is no salvation apart from HIM.

From always–

from eternity past–it was always HIM.

By HIM and THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM all things were created.

It’s all for Him.

All to make HIM famous–He’s the one that rescues, that brings salvation, that carries us through the fire, that keeps us floating when the river rages, that carries us across oceans deep.  He doesn’t always heal on earth.  He doesn’t always grant physical provision on earth.

But there is one thing He does do when we can’t make sense of it all–we can know this one thing–He holds us in the palm of His hands.  Nothing can pluck us from His hand.  (John 10:28)

He holds us–our souls when the earth shakes and the rain wont relent.

That He does.

The rest?

The rest we will have to wait to fully understand.

Until then–He won’t relent from this relentless love.  It’s WHO HE IS.

from ancient of days.

And us?  Those of us who call Him Savior?

We get to bear witness to this great truth–

that we know the one true God because He’s redeemed us, He’s called us by name.