Monthly Archives: November 2015

11/17/15

When you want to Live Love Large in a World Hurting.

This.

This post hit me in the gut. Hit me right between the eyes and wriggled its way to my heart, where it welled up and challenged me, encouraged me, made me emotional, courageous, and blessed all at the same time! Ann Voskamp’s full post can be linked to here, but I am sharing a portion of it right here right now for all of you. Perhaps it is what your heart needs to hear as well?

So, first, for some context.

Ann is traveling and going through Chicago O’Hare airport when she sees the news, the news of the horrific attacks in Paris, France from this past Friday afternoon. News we are all still reeling from. Deeply affected by.

A Love Letter about Beautiful People & Living and Loving Large in a World with Terrorists: A Movement of #Giftivists

“There I was standing there in the line with passport in hand on a Friday afternoon in the busiest airport on the  entire planet, looking into weathered and young and searching eyes of a torrent of passing people, and I was falling head over broken heart in love all over again with teeming, beautiful humanity. That you can find beautiful people wherever you seek to see beauty. That I believed that we know the last line of this cosmic story and His beauty saves… And that I was this smiling fool nodding at everybody, that I couldn’t stop looking into the eyes of the wanderers and the sojourners and the weary travellers because I never get over it:

Smiling at anyone is to awe at the face of God.

Smiling at anyone is to awe at the face of God.

I was going to say that too: The whole hurting world needs more of us to take up the ministry of smiling.

We need more grinners and winkers and nodders and laughers and smilers to go walk the streets and the airports and the bus stops and the restaurants and the stadiums, we need more of us to go around all day looking into eyes of all the regular people and smile in awe at the face of God. 

Then I stepped through security.

And the world blew up.

It’s flashing on every TV monitor: Attack in Paris. Bloodbath in Concert Hall. Bodies on street at Restaurant. Explosions in Stadium. Suicide Bombers. Death toll rising. There are flashing sirens on every screen. Red, bloody sirens in Lebanon and Syria and Yemen and and Iraq and Japan.

I put my bag down. Stand with bearded strangers and soft and supple old ladies , shoulder to shoulder, struck dumb in the face of  struck down.

Walking to gate G20 — all I can hear on every speaker, like a relentless haunting through the airport, no matter where I walk: Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack.

And I can feel this inner heart attack, see it in the faces of sojourners pressing past me:  How can the same responses of the  past, retaliatory bombings with collateral damage, yield different results?

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same things repeatedly & expecting different results?

How does a misplaced desire for revenge not take a dark day in history and make it darker?

How can we find a collective response to terrorism that doesn’t horrifically kill civilians on foreign soil, that doesn’t radicalize another generation, that doesn’t trap us all in a relentless cycle of violence and blood and desecration of the image of God in each other? Force may be needed, but, please God, what else? 

Sure, go ahead and trace the dollar trail, lean hard politically and legally on those funding ISIS even indirectly. Freeze their bank accounts deeper than the North Pole in the midst of a January blizzard. Go ahead and globally gather overwhelming diplomatic and legal pressure on every single government that is complicit by their silence, because their oligarchies want to stay in power.

But whatever we do, what will prevent desperate people attracted to the ideology of ISIS from joining their forces and the forces of evil? Who has answers? Humanity, by God, needs answers in the midst of all this insanity.

We need to do more than vent hashtag outrage, do more than change our Facebook profile pictures — because this current climate doesn’t need comfortable social media slackivists — it needs committed and humble and risk-taking real activists.

I’ve sat on the dirt in Iraq and I’ve looked into the wild eyes of young Yezidi girls, fleeing from ISIS, the violence of ISIS bullets that tore up their father’s faces burned into their memories. That’s the beginning of what ISIS want, suggests,

Harleen Gambhir, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, interviewed by the New York Times:

The goal,” Ms. Gambhir said, “is that through these regional affiliates and through efforts to create chaos in the wider world, the organization will be able to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.”

The goal is —- to perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war

This isn’t Diablo III and a gory video game flashing up massacres on the screen. Nobody is playing games here. There is a global entity who has killed 400 people, screaming little children and kind people who had coffee that morning, thought about what they were having for dinner, and kissed someone they loved and didn’t linger long enough —- 400 regular folk killed around the globe since the 1st of October by ISIS —- an entity whose goal in blowing apart husbands and wives and our belly laughing children?  Is to perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.

The goal is — to bait us into fear and fighting and war. The goal is lure the world into a bloody armageddon, to snap shut the trap that has us all in this cycle of steal, kill and destroy. 

Look: We are weary of war. But we are not weary of freedom.

We are tired of terrorism. But we are not tired of courage.

We are worn down with the headlines. But our strength is not worn down, our faith is not worn down, and our hope is not worn down.

We have all been experts at making enemies — but what, in the name of all things holy, can make us better at making friends?

When I get to G20 in Chicago O’Ohare, there’s one beautiful woman already there at the gate.

She’s swaying her baby to sleep in her arms. The world’s on fire on all the screens around her and this mama’s hushing all the fear and worries away in her little girl fighting sleep and dreams. She’s wearing a black abaya. I gently smile and nod toward her little one in arms. The mama smiles shyly, framed in her black hijab, strokes the sweat damp curls off her little girl’s face.

The world may be burning down and taking up arms and somehow, someway, right here, we all can do something to link arms. Let the world do what it needs to do —- but in the midst of a dozen burning screens and flashing sirens and deafening calls of attack —-  a Muslim mama at G20 smiles over at a grinning, nodding farm hick and there’s a perfect love that casts out all fear, there’s an immoveable truth about we are a people of Love, not fear, and there’s not attack of the enemy that can make the people of the Cross cower in fear and hate and close their doors to Love. 

And maybe that’s all? 

The way we fight terrorism is to refuse to be terrified. 

(Doesn’t He tells us this more than anything else, because He knows this is salve for our weeping wounds: Do Not Fear.)

The way we fight acts of war is with acts of kindness. 

(Doesn’t He tell us to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good, because  He knows that being ignited by hate is like holding a flame in your own hand and wondering why you feel burned.

Being ignited by hate is like holding a flame in your own hand and wondering why you feel burned.

Do not try this at home or in the privacy of your own soul.

Doesn’t He tell us “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of EgyptDeuteronomy 10:19.

Doesn’t Jesus Himself say, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. 

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity.

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Jesus, Matthew 5)

The way we fight terrorists —- is by being giftivists. 

Doesn’t this make us a brave kind of activists when it feels like all hell is breaking loose? 

The Giftivists are activists who believe that radical acts of giving can change the world.

What has ever changed the world more than this: For God so love the world, that He gave. 

It’s the Giftivists who believe that every human being is a gift, made in the image of God, the Great Giver — and to destroy or dehumanize the gift of a human being to is to desecrate God.  It’s the Giftivists are the activists who believe that scarcity is a myth and abundance is the Truth because your Father is the God of the universe and He made enough for every soul’s need — but not for anyone’s greed. 

It’s the Giftivists are the activists who believe that radical acts of generosity counter radical acts of inhumanity. 

Humanity is at its best when giving —-because when we give, we are most like God.

Humanity is at its best when giving —-because when we give, we are most like God.

But in a world stripped of grace, cynics can laugh at these things, can mock these things, can swiftly and mercilessly deem the Giftivists as losers, and forgivers as weak, can let Fear devour all things Christ within them, because in an ungenerous and unforgiving culture its too easy to fall for the ruse that giving and forgiving isn’t actually the greatest of His ways in the world.

“The best gift we can give each other  — is our own generosity,” is what Miroslav Volf, the Croatian theologian whose father slaved through a communist labor camp,  and who is definitely no lightweight as the Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. And he can can testify:

“With that ‘indescribable gift’ called Christ, God gave us a generous self and a community founded on generosity. 

Such a self bestows gifts freely. 

It gives because it delights in the Beloved and can’t endure the need of the needy. 

In giving, it subverts hierarchies and transforms rivalries into mutual exaltations. 

And in all of this, it forges lasting bonds of reciprocal love. At the most basic level, generosity itself is exchanged in all our gift exchanges: 

My generosity is reciprocated by your generosity, and the circle of mutual love keeps turning.

The professor of Theology at Yale knew it:

Giftivists are the activists who subvert evil with a radical generosity that transforms any rivalry. 

Giftivists break bonds of retaliating destruction by forging deeply connective bonds of reciprocating love. 

Giftivists break vicious cycles of violence with virtuous cycles of benevolence.

God is the ultimate Giftivist, the ultimate Giver and Forgiver, and we are Giftivists as we follow Him, but ultimately, we are Givers and Gifters and Giftivists because the Greatest Giver Himself is in us and working through us.” 

SO many causes worth aligning your time, energy, and efforts with. So many good things to be involved in with Kingdom work, but we can all subvert evil with radical generosity, kindness, and gentleness of spirit.

We can all share a smile a little more freely.

We can all practice forgiveness a bit more. Forgive more easily. More readily.

Make friends.

Encourage others.

Lift high the name of God in all you do.

Live out your God-created identity.

Be a #Giftivist.

xoxo……

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11/13/15

This is Not the End.

I have always loved stories.

Reading them. Telling them. Listening to them. Watching them unfold idyllically on the silver screen. I think it is the reason I studied Communication in college and sought after a career in Broadcasting before the Lord called me in another direction. And I still believe it’s the fuel for writing this blog. But at some point, I realized a painful truth. For every story, there isn’t always a happy ending.

There are some prayers I feel I have prayed until I am blue in the face pleading Him for a different outcome than the one unfolding before my very eyes. Isn’t there another way?!?

There are some stories, some memories in my past that I cannot bear to replay or relive because they leave me broken. Used up. Desolate. Needing to be filled.

I look around me and my heart is broken for what we have become. But, I am reminded too look up and not out because the story is far from being finished.

He is the Author and Finisher of our faith and only He can close the book’s binding and decide when the story has reached its climax and fulfillment.

I find great truth and encouragement in this post from Jennifer Dukes Lee’s site, The Love Idol Movement. Her book was so revolutionary for me this year and I cannot read enough of her thoughts.

I pray your soul and mind find encouragement and rest in this truth as well.

… For those Times when you don’t see a happy ending to Your Story…

“For years, I have kept a little slip of paper tucked between the pages of my Bible. It says: “Keep reading. It’s not the end of the book.”

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I found that piece of paper again the other day, somewhere in Isaiah, and it brought me a great measure of needed peace.

Because there’s so much turmoil right now, almost everywhere I look.

The world has been filled with so much ugly, so much sad, so much pain.

We’re gripped by the threat of terror, by the horrific images of people being driven from their lands, by gun-wielding people who have no regard for life in schools and on campuses.

And people all around us are struggling, grieving, aching. Dying.

But I held that slim scrap of paper between my fingers — a reminder that we are mid-story. 

There really is a Happily Ever After. 

And that Happily Ever After was most assuredly secured with three nails, two beams, and one astonishing Son of God who loves us so much.

The story isn’t over. Not your story. Not the story of your wandering child. Or your cancer-weary mama. Or this busted-up world. Or the story of God. That story? His story? Stretches out into forever.

And there are things we cannot yet see.

We’re moving toward a grand and glorious finale. God is reconciling everything to Himself. And He is not an absentee landlord of Earth. He is here. And He sees.

I read these words in Ephesians this week: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone”{Ephesians 1:11-12, The Message}.

He’s working it out. Even if it isn’t making any sense right now. He. Is. Working. It. Out. In everything and everyone.

One of the greatest joys of being a Christ follower, is reminding each other that for all the brokenness we’re living under, a remedy exists. The Happy Ending is coming. We’ve got to remind each other that the story isn’t over:

“It’s not the end of the Book.”

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