Thursday, July 22, 2010

If you could RESCUE, would you?

I know that so much clamors for our attention. There are so many things to donate to, so many organizations doing great things. Many of us have our budgets laid out each month to support organizations that are making tangible differences in the lives of people all over the world. And, many of us don’t. For many of us, money is tight.

I’d like to challenge our view of “tight” however. Please know I’m not making light of anyone’s financial situations. I view my financial situation as tight right now too. BUT…

I still find money for Starbucks runs, eating out and a few other things that cause me to realize my financial situation is NOT tight. In fact, according to I am in the TOP 0.61% richest people in the world!

Um, excuse me???? I’d encourage you to check it out and see where you fall on that scale. I think what you will find will give you reason to pause. It gives me reason to stop complaining. It gives me reason to think about the situations of other people in the world and recognize that even if I am struggling…I AM WEALTHY. I have a roof over my head, a car, food whenever I need it (and then some!) and everything I “need”. I think that it’s too easy to come up with excuses NOT to give. I’d like for you to consider laying aside those excuses today because there are ten girls in India who need RESCUED from a life of rape and abuse. Please go HERE to read more about their unthinkable situation. We are hoping to raise enough money by the end of the day TOMORROW. Just think…you can help rescue little girls from their abusers with your Starbucks money and eating out budget. Are their lives not worth our sacrifice??

My friend, Tom Davis wrote earlier this morning that “We cannot stretch out our hands and arms to serve the poor when they are clutching tightly to our things.” Ouch. That hurts because I know that I clutch my things. My cable, my hair products, my shoes. I CLUTCH them…you’d be hard pressed to pry my hands from them. But I have been forced to stop and pray and think this morning. All of those things bring me fleeting pleasure. Being able to rescue little girls from a life of torture and darkness gives me GREAT joy. For their freedom I will give. Will you consider joining me?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spent Extravagantly

I just got the email below from Vince Giordano, Ben's new boss and our dear friend.  I was challenged by his words and thought you might be too...

Those of us who spend our time focusing on the poor, the oppressed and those who serve them are sometimes confronted with grim realities. The fact is that there are too many problems out there...there are too many children that need help...there are too many women and children who are stuck in sex-trafficking and too many people starving. So, you read a book or you adopted a child or you went on a trip and you were overwhelmed with poverty and injustice. You never imagined that things were so bad. You couldn't believe how cheap it was to solve individual problems - medicines for less than $10, mosquito nets for $5, school fee that are less than your monthly starbucks budget. You thought to yourself - I have to do something - I am GOING to do something.

You return to America or you finish your book and your mission begins. You start telling your spouse or your best friends. This is unbelievable - we have to do something now. We have to act. Some of them seem interested but most of them try to wait it out hoping you will get over this latest obsession. But you know in your heart this is not an obsession - it's a calling. It is a new awareness that the kingdom of God has to extend out from you and reach the least of these. You keep going.

Your friends initially tolerate you and then some just quietly phase you out but you are undeterred initially. You press on KNOWING people will want to make a difference. You start reading the Bible with fresh eyes and asking yourself why you had never seen that or read that before? Why did I not hear this in church? You listen to sermons with fresh ears and you hear the repetitive beating of a drum that seems to resound with a self-centered rhythm. It isn't supposed to be all about me is it God? Why are we only focused on making our great lives even better when kids are starving, when young children are being prepared for sexual exploitation every two minutes? I guess that will all just go away if I can truly develop the purpose driven life right? Or if I just keeping doing more bible studies with my accountability group?

For some of us, the hard reality is that we simply need to move on from some of our old ways and old friends into the fullness of the gospel. The true religion that we know He is calling us too. You won't be popular but quite frankly neither was Jesus among the religious crowd. You may find yourself test the patience of some of your closest friends who would just rather plan their next big vacation and not hear about the sexual exploitation of children or starving kids or children who are alone and with love or hope. That stuff is just too hard and depressing and doesn't fit with the trajectory of my life that God is making so pleasant and easy.

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that everything we do will have an eternal impact in the lives of individuals and it matters. Your small choices can make a big difference in the lives of the hurting. The bad news is that you will not be popular, it will not be easy, you will lose friends, people will tire of you constantly beating the drum for the cause of justice. People will avoid you and criticize you and tell you to lighten up. But, I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to be a louder voice than you have ever been. I want to challenge you to scream for those who have no voice. I want to challenge you to ask God to use you in places and in ways that others don't want to. I want to challenge you to fight against the apathy that plagues our churches and society. I challenge you to be His hands and feet to the least of these. I challenge you to allow your life to be a seed - which falls to ground and dies and in so doing it produces much fruit. I challenge you to swim against the current of our church culture that seeks to find comfort in a personal gospel and personal salvation and passionately pursue God with a reckless abandon for those that are helpless.  I pray that we would have the spirit of a warrior that has counted the cost and said with boldness - Lord I give you my life today - ALL of me - spend me extravagantly on the poor and the oppressed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jonah and I

One of the hardest parts of the changes that have happened in my life over the past year or so is the PAIN that comes from engaging with those who suffer. Well, maybe I said that wrong. It’s not the pain itself that is hard to handle, but what to DO with the questions that the pain raises. It can just be so confusing some days. I was telling my friend that this past year has been filled with so much personal and spiritual growth…that I have been grappling so much with exactly what my faith means…that I have been stretched more than ever before in my life. I feel more aware of God’s presence in my life…more alive, and yet I have felt so doubtful at the same time.

It’s been this mixture of finding TRUE life in loving the broken, the hurting and impoverished, while at the same time feeling angry and confused about why they are in the situations they are in to begin with…why God seems so silent sometimes.

Then this week we got word that friends of ours in India were getting ready to take the police on a raid to rescue 8 GIRLS from different brothels where they were being sold for sex. YOUNG GIRLS. The police, however, said they would only rescue two of them. Not all eight. WHAT???? I can’t wrap my mind around that. So, they went on the raid but when they got there they discovered there had been a tip off and the two girls had been moved. There would be no rescue for them after all. Not even for two of the eight.

So I of course started my musings…”But, God…there were so many people praying for them to be rescued. Why didn’t you answer? I KNOW that you want them to be rescued because that’s your very nature. You LOVE. You PURSUE. You do not RELENT. Could you not just smite the creeps who sell these girls from the earth? Would you? PLEASE??? Why must they continue to be allowed to even live??”

Then I read the story of Jonah today in the car. It goes something like this: God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell the people there that God hated their wickedness. Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah so he went the opposite direction, got on a boat, there was a big storm and Jonah got thrown overboard, got swallowed by a big fish, got vomited out on the beach, then went to Ninevah and did what God asked. (He sorta took the long way to get there). But the thing that hit me today was that Jonah wasn’t necessarily afraid to go to Ninevah. He didn’t WANT to go because he knew the very nature of God…he knew that he was going to tell the people of Ninevah that they were wicked and that they would change their ways and God would have compassion on them and not wipe them from the face of the earth like Jonah wanted. Jonah wanted them to get what they deserved... a lot like I want the “bad guys” to get what they deserve so often. Jonah got angry with God that He didn’t just wipe them all out. In fact, in chapter 4 verse 2 Jonah says to God essentially “This is why when you told me to go to Ninevah I went the opposite direction to Tarshish – because I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”.

Nice move, Jonah. You’re ticked off at God for being gracious and compassionate.  Smooth. So, Jonah goes outside the city and sits there in the sun to see what God does. It gets hot and God sends a vine to grow up and give him shade. Jonah was happy about the vine. But then God sent a worm to eat the vine in the night and Jonah was ticked off that the vine had been destroyed. Then God says “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Ninevah has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. Shall I not be concerned about that great city?”

Whoah. That hit me. Who am I to question God? I didn’t create or care for those 8 girls who didn’t get rescued. God did. He made them. He knows every second of their pain. You know who else’s pain He sees? The people who hold these girls in slavery. The people who violate them. And His nature is to have compassion on them, not to wipe them off the face of the earth. In my finite human thinking this ticks me off sometimes. I too, feel like Jonah. Just get rid of them, God! Please! But God LOVES the people He made…even (and especially maybe?) the ones who are SO lost in life. And let’s face it…I’d rather have a God who abounds in love and compassion any day than a God who doesn’t. Where would I be if it weren’t for that???

God’s awfully good to put up with me thinking I can give Him a hand with running the world. I’m sure He is sitting up there shaking his head at me thinking “Amy, if you only knew even a fragment of what I know…”

There’s so much I don’t get about this world. And let’s face it…so much I don’t get about God. But I know that He’s good. And I know that He knows every child by name who is suffering tonight. I know He can meet their needs in ways I cannot. So, tonight I am asking God to give me a compassionate heart…not just for the people who suffer needlessly in the world, but for the people who cause the suffering. They hurt too. God, help me to ABOUND in love and compassion just like you.