Tag: justice

Now The Work of Christmas Begins

Those of you who subscribe to this blog know that it is my heart to create environments and resources that help us draw closer to Jesus and others. Often that sounds really good, but living it out? Ahh that’s the tough part!

Someone recently said that January is like the “Monday” of months. It may include the excitement of fresh starts, but also the “Ugh, it’s back to work…” Boy I hear that!

This morning I opened an email from a friend that included this poem.

 

If you’re like me, you read this and say, “YES! AMEN to that!” It sounds so right, so noble, so inspiring.

But then we ask, “But how? Little ol’ me? How am I going to do that?”

Yes, God may call us to BIG, DRAMATIC actions in order to achieve the work of Christmas and I want to be ready and willing for that.

But for most of us,

  • finding the lost may look like greeting a stranger at church
  • feeding the hungry may look like preparing care kits for the homeless with fast food gift cards
  • releasing the prisoner may look like extending grace to someone who has wronged you
  • rebuilding the nations may look like supporting refugees (check out renewproject.org or preemptivelove.org)

 

 

  • bringing peace among the people may look like reaching out and getting to know someone from a different faith, culture, or political party – asking questions and listening well. Or advocating with your congressperson.

Big or small, may we be open to doing the work of Christmas every day.

 

The God Who Rescues

For the past couple of days I’ve been at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering in Washington D.C.

John and I have been privileged to partner with IJM, fighting on behalf of the oppressed in the name of Jesus since Gary Haugen started this organization.

If you know anything about IJM you know that they are committed to prayer – not just talking about it, but doing it as if their work depends on it. Because they know it does.

The Global Prayer Gathering is full of reminders of God’s character, praise for His faithfulness, hard stories, and lots of prayer.

One of the stories that has impacted me the most over the past two years comes from Ghana on Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world. There, experts estimate that tens of thousands of children work in Ghana’s fishing industry and one IJM study found that 60% are likely slaves. So, we have been praying and IJM started laying the ground work for rescuing these child slaves.

Three years ago when they were doing research and putting in place necessary partnerships with government agencies, they came across a slave in a wooden boat on Lake Volta named Gideon.  Gideon had been brutally abused, trafficked when he was 11 years old. He begged IJM investigators to take him with them, but they couldn’t until systems with local law enforcement were in place.

Can you imagine how hard it was to leave Gideon behind that day on the lake? Continue reading

How do You Carry a Tree?

Fourteen years ago we took our daughters to Africa for the first time.  We spent a month there on a sabbatical.  One day we saw a woman walking down the road with a tree balanced on her head.

Yep, you read that right.  A whole tree.

You see people balancing a lot of unusual things on their heads (or on their bikes) in Africa, but this was the first and last time we saw a tree. (apparently it’s not THAT rare cuz I was able to Google this picture!)

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That night, our daughter, Maggie, walked into our room, carefully balancing a book on her head.

“I’m working up to a tree.” she said.

Since then, Maggie’s “tree” has been a dream of helping underprivileged girls and women around the world to be healthy and happy and to carry their own dreams. Continue reading

Carry-Ons and What You’re Reading

It’s Fearless Friday, but I don’t feel like writing about fear. 🙂   

John and I are leaving today for a couple of weeks in Zambia and Tanzania with our church and World Vision.  Not to be braggy, but we kind of pride ourselves on our ability to travel light.  We rarely check bags, but always use carry-ons.

The one place this proves problematic for me is with books.  Now when the Kindle came out I was thrilled because I knew it would be a great resource, at least when we travel. Think of all the space we could save!  157 books in the size of less-than-one!  Never mind the fact that it takes me 39 days to read just one.  I’m an optimist.

John has adapted well to the Kindle and uses it all the time, but me?  Well, I’m too tactile, too visual, and maybe just too remedial.  I need to be able to flip back and forth, to review what I’ve read and quotes I’ve underlined.  I also have this weird thing about wanting my full sized Bible with me that has all my notes and dates and underlines.  I just seem to “know” it better than other Bibles.  We’re old friends.

Bottom line?  I just hate using the Kindle and only submit when absolutely necessary.

Which brings us to this trip.  I have so many books right now that I’m excited about reading!!  Here are a few that I’ve finished and some I’m looking forward to. Continue reading

The Most Brilliant Investment You Can Make

Those who know me know I am NOT a money person.  I’m not a good budgeter.  In fact, I don’t even have a budget. (gasp!)

I’m generous, but not particularly responsible.  I don’t understand what a “short sale” is, and I’ve never done my own taxes.

Once a year when John and I meet for lunch with our financial advisor, Jay, my eyes glaze over unless he uses the silverware and cups and plates as visuals to try to explain the state of our finances.  Note to Jay: Cartoon characters would be helpful as would talking fruits and vegetables.

A couple of years ago, though, I got super excited because I had always really wanted to try my hand at the stock market and the guys said, ok.  I was sure this was my ticket to the promised land of limitless generosity, and, let’s be honest, a limitless clothes budget.

So, I asked a friend who’s a whiz in this area and excitedly bought 500 shares of a stock that I was assured would do great (because it was “diversifying” – my new stock word).  I put the “stock tracker” app on my iphone and was thrilled as I watched it go up and up and up.

Around that time I was in a worship gathering focused on Micah 6:8 “He has shown all you people what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

And in addition to high-lighting the needs around the world, they suggested a lot of ways to respond and bring the kingdom – the world that God desires, like back in Eden before we messed up.  Where everyone has justice and all the hungry are fed and all the thirsty have clean water and everyone cares about everyone else.

In what I felt was a moment of divine inspiration I thought, “Aha!  My stock!  My vibrant, up and up stock!  Before I know it, it will earn enough for me to buy a well!  It’s Yours, Lord, all Yours!  Clean water for people who need it!  Bam, done!”

That was in early April 2010.

On April 21st, we awoke to the news of the BP oil spill and my up and up stock went down and down

And SERIOUSLY down.

Yep, that’s my stock.  BP.  And I was like “Um, Lord, did You miss the ‘It’s all Yours‘ prayer?  Do you not want kids in Africa to have water?  What’s the deal here?  I was down with being part of the ‘Your kingdom come’ plan!”

What do we do when we invest time or money in something that we think is of God, for His kingdom, and it just doesn’t work out the way we anticipate?  The way WE plan?

The passages that I read in the Bible about the kingdom of God are filled with weeds and stones, and pesky birds, and delinquent workers and some imagery I don’t fully understand.  It’s not all easy-peasy “Occupy Garden of Eden.”

But here’s the important thing I see over an over again.

We’re told to invest in kingdom stuff no matter what.  The stuff that makes the world more like heaven on earth.  No matter how crazy or hopeless it seems.

You may be a kingdom-bringer serving, in your cafeteria or a courtroom, or on Capitol Hill, or in Congo but never see the eternal dividends this side of heaven.

And there’s the outer kingdom that we can see, where justice is restored and the hungry are fed, but there’s another kingdom to be restored.  This inner kingdom where we’re on the throne and we need to hop down and let the true king take His rightful place and transform our character.

Maybe I thought I was investing in the outer kingdom, bringing water relief, but God wanted to invest in refining my inner kingdom, allowing me to be in a position to trust Him and His ways when I don’t understand.

If it’s a kingdom investment it’s a good investment, seen or unseen.  The Lord reminds me with 1 Cor. 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

What are some of  the (even little) ways you’re investing in (or SEEING) the outside/inside kingdom of God?

Love Wins

I’ve already admitted what an idiot I am when it comes to having any concept of the problems in the Middle East and honestly, if I read the words “Middle East” in a blog post a month ago my eyes would probably have glazed over with boredom and I would have moved on to something more interesting…like Downton Abbey or Anne Lammott’s new book.  But in talking to some of the folks traveling with me, I’m relieved to discover I wouldn’t have been the only one.

There are so many basics that I (and many others) just did not comprehend.  I needed a coach to say “This is a football.”  You know… get that simple.  So maybe you’re like me a month ago and you’ve already stopped reading, but in case you haven’t, I want to tell you one thing.

There are walls everywhere here, separating Jews from Palestinians…people who say they love God.

I’d love to tell some stories of people who have been impacted by the walls, but today, I thought I’d just share some pictures and let them tell the stories.

And then, this is what I read this morning…

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace and in His one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who are far away and peace to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 3:14-18

Why Christ is at the Checkpoint

As I write this I’m sitting in Bethlehem, as in “Oh little town of…” in Palestine.

My husband John and I are here for a conference called Christ at the Checkpoint, a gathering of Palestinian and Israeli Christians trying to pursue peace.

Confession:  I am an idiot when it comes to the politics of the Middle East.  I’m just trying to keep my head down, my ears open, and my mouth closed.  I want to learn all I can and I figure it will be a win if I don’t inadvertently cause an international crisis.

There are people from all over the world here.

In our devotional time yesterday the speaker asked us to turn to the person next to us and guess how many churches are represented.  I guessed 50.

The answer?  One.

And one of the most powerful experiences for me?  Singing How Great Thou Art.

In English.  In Arabic.  In harmony.  Simultaneously.

It’s one thing to sing together.

But here in Israel it’s something very different to actually live together in a place where there is deep pain and misunderstanding and anger and injustice between Palestinians and Israelis.

Both literally and figuratively this is represented by walls and checkpoints separating people who say they love God.

Let me tell you about a new friend I met the other day.  Charlie and his wife have two children, and are expecting their third child next month.  You would think that would be a great thing.  And it is!

But…  It’s also complicated, and very hard for me to understand.

You see Charlie is a Palestinian Christian living with his family in Bethlehem.  So that his child can have the privilege of Israeli citizenship, Charlie’s wife needs to deliver their baby in Jerusalem, just a few miles away.  But for that to happen, Charlie and his wife will have to wait at the checkpoint at the wall that separates  Bethlehem from Jerusalem.  Separates Palestinians from Israelis. Jews and Christians and Muslims, separated by one of many walls and checkpoints dividing the land.

The guards at the wall have been known to keep women who are in labor waiting until they deliver their baby at the checkpoint (some stillborn with out a doctor).  Because they can.  They are the ones with power at this point in history and they can.

Hurting people hurt people as they say.  Those who have been the most oppressed are often the worst oppressors.

And I keep thinking of my friend Sherrie, whose baby shower I went to the day before I flew here.  Sherrie, who is due at the same time as my new friend, will zip down the Crosstown with her husband to Southdale Hospital in about 10 minutes.

No walls.  No checkpoints.  No guns. 

Two pregnant women in different worlds.  This is a very small example of a huge reality of walls and division.

In this different world, Palestinians who have to go to work in Jerusalem line up every morning at many checkpoints, sometimes coming as early as 3 a.m. to wait for hours, and hours, enduring humiliation, treated as second-class citizens.  Trying to get to work to support their families.  It’s not fair.  But then nothing much seems fair for anyone here.

Here’s what my small brain can take in:

It’s about us’s and them’s.  Power and weakness.  Gain and loss.  History and violence and land.

The Palestinians have been mistreated by the Israelis.

The Jews have been mistreated by the Arabs.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews have ALL behaved badly.

At the end of the devotional study the other morning, John Ortberg made this observation:  Jesus’ categories weren’t “us” vs. “them”.  They were “holy” vs. “sinful” and we’re all sinful so He “crossed over” to our side to save us.  All of us.

And as true as that is, it’s still not nice or neat or in any way “easy.”  I really don’t understand so much of this.  And even those who do understand a little more than me recognize this is a God-sized problem.

When I asked Charlie if his NGO had hired any Israeli Christians his face registered pain and he said, “No, not yet.  But someday.”  Christians working through pain towards reconciliation…a God-sized problem.

Shane Claiborne had a great line in his talk the other day:  When injustice has a name, it comes with responsibility.  Now you know Charlie’s name.

Will you please pray with me for God’s peace in this place and in all the places where you are experiencing walls of division and injustice?

Confession, Serena Williams, and Justice

Confession #1: I used to look down my nose at women who played tennis, deciding they were snotty rich suburban women who had nothing more meaningful to do with their time.

Confession # 2: I started playing tennis this summer and am on a team of the worst players in the universe. (http://awakemysoulblog.com/2011/10/03/youve-got-this/)

Confession #3: I’m enjoying it.  I think it brings balance to my life.  And I think I also have a meaningful life outside of this sport, so either I was wrong before, or I’m deluded now and I really am a loser.

All that was prelude to Confession #4:  Today I lost a match that I thought was totally unfair, and I was totally ticked, and it was really hard to be Jesusy about it.

Why was it unfair you ask?  Because I was playing against SERENA WILLIAMS in the “worst-players-in-the-universe-league”!!!  Clearly Serena got confused and went to the wrong court!

Ok, maybe it wasn’t ACTUALLY Serena Williams, but it might as well have been.  The girl I played belonged in this league about as much as Serena would have.  She was a ringer and she took this deal veeeerrrry seriously.  Like U.S. Open seriously.                  It was a grave injustice.

This made it hard:

  1. not to get killed as tennis balls rocketed towards me at 200 m.p.h.
  2. to pray “Come Holy Spirit, help me to be gracious” WHILE I was dodging the balls coming at me, AND saying “Great shot” repeatedly through gritted teeth.

It struck me as quite bizarre that God might be using this stupid tennis match to actually form something in me…

  • To submit to something that felt unfair.
  • To put my pride to death and resist reporting her to the highest authorities in tennis world for public censure on the nightly news.
  • To humble myself to listen receptively when she told me after the match all the mistakes I had made.
  • To genuinely affirm the talent I saw in her.                                                                   (Lest you think I handled this with Mother Theresa-like poise and grace, I did call and rant to my daughter Maggie after the match)
  • Probably most important, it prompted me to do something for people who are TRULY experiencing injustice by taking action in the International Justice Mission’s campaign to stop Human Trafficking.  http://www.ijm.org/justice-campaigns/tvpra  (You can too!  If I can do this ANYONE can!)

When have you gotten angry at something that hasn’t been fair?  Is it something you’ve challenged, or covered with grace?

I think both are appropriate in different situations. How do you determine when to do which?

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