30 September 2015

Of Opening Our Eyes

A few months ago, through one of the series of rabbit trails my brain follows, I was inspired to research a phenomenon related to World War II of which I had not previously heard in detail: what was known as Kindertransport.

The idea was simple: Europe was falling to the Nazis daily and people from within could see that the future for the Jewish community under Nazi rule was bleak, so they endeavored to get them out of there. Great Britain agreed to accept them, but only the children. And, surprisingly, the Germans agreed to allow the children to leave, as well. Thus, over the course of nine months, thousands of Jewish children were funneled from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Most came to Great Britain, but some also traveled to France, Belgium and the Netherlands, where they would also later need escape. Some were accepted into homes, but many did not want the added burden of more mouths to feed, so many more were sent to children's homes in the country.

Thousands of children. Sent by their parents to a future unknown. The vast majority never saw their parents again, or even their home country. Parents forced to make this choice - put their children on a train, promising a holiday in England, not knowing what the soldiers on the streets would do the next day and if they'd ever wipe those tiny noses again.

Babies. Babies left in the arms of teenagers to travel by train or boat to the arms of a stranger. Babies who might not even know they had a family to search for by the time this ordeal was over. Babies who might not even know they were the only survivors of a grand heritage of heroes.

It broke my heart.

That these families had to be torn apart because the only hope for survival was in the children - because no society in Europe wanted an influx of workers that would put their own population out of work.

From where we sit now, knowing the fate that awaited the Jews left behind in the countries where the parents and grandparents remained, we weep. We weep knowing these European nations could have done more. They could have opened their doors wider. They could have stretched their food further. They could have done something more to prevent millions. Millions. Millions of Jews from facing a fate we don't even want to fathom.

I'm sure it seemed comfortable here on this side of the ocean, watching poor Europe fall apart, glad it wasn't happening here.

Because America wasn't doing anything, either. A nation forged on the backs of refugees, explorers, those who saturated a continent with travelers from foreign lands. They didn't want to accept even the children. The handfuls accepted were done so begrudgingly, with very little government support or assistance.

If they had known. If they had known, would it have made a difference?

If those soldiers had seen the trucks piled with emaciated Jewish bodies, the mass graves, the gas houses, the work camps. If they had seen them earlier, would the nation, all the nations, have responded differently?

I wondered. And I wept.

Yet, here we are. At the culmination of what has been called the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. It is a watershed moment for us, as a nation, as a planet.

Have we learned our lesson?

Or should we continue to wait as these thousands upon thousands of individuals and families see something so horrific happening in their own country, their home, that they would risk their lives, traveling treacherously on a journey many won't even survive, taking almost nothing with them and then abandoning the miniscule amount of possessions they did carefully select, for the sake of survival. They can see it, what we refuse to see. They understand the risk is worth leaving behind what is happening.

And here we sit, on the other side of the ocean - or some even on the other side of a sea, or a border, or a fence - and we think, we're glad it's not happening here.

At least it's not me who has to decide which of my children will survive.

At least it's not me hearing the sound of my husband calling my name over the waves as he drowns.

At least it's not me living in an empty shipping container wondering what will happen next.

A month and a half ago, I was privileged to visit the home of Corrie Ten Boom, one of many heroes of the era in which these Jewish people needed protection from communities that had never before given their heritage a second thought. We saw the living room where she welcomed these people of God and the very hiding place where six were concealed and protected from a dire fate while she and her family were arrested. She was the only one of those arrested in her family to ever return to that home, that living room, that Hiding Place.


As I spoke of this experience with a friend who has seen decades more of this life than I have and has the wisdom to prove it, she mentioned in her soft voice, "It always makes me wonder what I would have done."

And as I considered the news with which I had been bombarded for months of a situation in Europe I would rather pretend isn't happening now, I spoke honestly, "I think I would have closed my ears to it." Because that is what I do now. That is what I do when this crazy life inside my own home swirls around in my head and I can't even think straight as far ahead as to what will be for dinner - to the point I put a box of Star Wars macaroni and cheese on the counter in front of my face, so the next thirty-seven times I stop myself to ask that question, I'll remember the answer. How on earth could this crazy, hectic brain ever even wrap itself around what is happening a world away? And I've told myself it's ok. It's okay to close my ears to protect my mind, my sanity, from going awry. For the sake of myself and my family, I need to shut it out.

I told my friend that day, "It's hard enough just to focus on living my life, let alone think about what others are having to endure." and then I paused, as I heard my own words, "Maybe," I continued, "that's the problem. I'm trying to live this life in the context of what's going on and I can't make that work. Corrie Ten Boom had to be willing to change the way she was living in order to make a difference."

Maybe rather than fitting this truth about the tragedies into the context of our lives and, after realizing the piece just doesn't fit neatly into any corner of our minds or hearts we can find, tossing it out as someone else's piece, someone else's problem, we need to come to the reality that perhaps our lives need to change to fit the context of what is happening a world away.

We can't keep living in ignorance and hoping the world will change. Hoping those escaping horrors we would rather not contemplate will find somewhere to land and someone to lend a hand, as long as it's not us.

It's time for us, as the church, as humanity, to say we won't let this happen again. Not on our watch. We won't watch millions die because we would rather close our eyes than see what's in front of us. Because we would rather seek entertainment, comfort and numbness than do what it takes to let the truth set in - to feel the blood on our hands as we have rejected those who cry out.

What will you choose? As we walk in Christ, let our answer always be that we will choose love. And a love that is not just in word or in speech, but in deed and in truth. Love with your actions, your very life. Love. And act.*


*For those unsure of where to start, please visit wewelcomerefugees.com or samaritanspurse.org/refugees-europe

24 September 2015

Of Faith, Hope, and Love

A friend texted me this week, mentioning how she lost her book, For the Love, the day before our much-anticipated book club (well, she’s a mother of three and care-taker of a fourth, so, let’s be honest, it was lost long before then). I offered to share, no worries, before she corrected herself:  it was the book What Love Is – our morning Bible Study book - that was lost. 

“Lol – there’s a lot of love going on!”

And it couldn’t be closer to the truth. You could definitely say, God is speaking to my heart about a lot of things lately – but the greatest of these is love.

After working since January to memorize my way through Colossians chapter 3, I was inspired to study the rest of the book – because when the chapter starts with, “If, then, you have been raised with Christ,” it leads one to wonder, well what brought us to this point? How did we start this discussion about being actually raised, brought to life, with Christ, or, more accurately, in Christ – where my life is now hidden, as the verses go on to say.

And so I duped my small group into studying it, too, so I would have more motivation to follow through. Because that’s what small groups are for. And you know it’s God’s will for this study to happen when one member of your small group says, “Actually, I wrote the study notes on Colossians for the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible when I was in seminary.” Because of course he did.

And then, I cracked open my study Bible, aforementioned study notes, and journal and spent an hour and a half on four and a half verses – two of which were Paul and Timothy introducing themselves, which you know is weird when the man who earned that doctorate in New Testament something-or-other, the one who literally wrote the notes on the subject asks, “An hour and a half? Really?” Yes, really.

But that wasn’t enough, apparently, because God has been confirming this lesson continually in the past week and a half, so because we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), I’m going to share this lesson with you – in a whirlwind of a blog post that will hopefully be much shorter than an hour and a half, so buckle up.

It all starts in Colossians 1, verses 4-5(a) – “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”  I noticed, after reading these verses, in both sets of study notes I had in my possession, this sequence of attributes was a favorite topic of Paul – faith, hope, and love. Which sound pretty and look all spiritual on our walls, and may have been turned into fancy wire ornaments by, well, me. But I didn’t know this was a specific Pauline (see? I totally could have gone to seminary) theme. I needed to know more about this, because as another small group member stated, when someone in authority mentions something multiple times, it’s important to them (We have a lot of smarties in our small group).



So, I looked up every cross-reference listed* in the notes and made a three-part list, to see what, exactly, Paul had to say about faith, hope, and love and what they actually meant for him, other than a great theme for wall d├ęcor.


If you happen to have spare time, I highly recommend this activity, but if you don’t, I boiled it all down in my journal to this:

“Faith, Hope, and Love are the foundational pieces of genuine Christianity. Faith in Christ Jesus, Love for others (pouring/overflowing from the love poured into us by the Holy Spirit [Romans 5:5]), based on our one hope of salvation and righteousness awaiting us in Heaven.”

So, this love, that is a strand in this cord of Christianity, isn’t just a love for Jesus, which is wonderful and necessary, but a love for others – as 1 Corinthians 13 says, our faith and our acts of service are useless without it. And this love partners with our faith, based on the foundation of hope.

I wrote more (shocking, I know):

“What’s beautiful is, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:8, faith and love protect our hearts in spiritual warfare, while our hope protects the head. Hope is the knowledge we have of what’s coming. Faith and love are the emotional outpouring stemming from that knowledge.”

So, this knowledge, this hope is what protects our minds from the attacks of the Enemy, while our faith in Christ and resulting love for others protect our hearts.

I don’t know if this is exciting or interesting to anyone else, but it was surprisingly mind-blowing to me.

But, then, let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 13 – as I considered this in Bible Study the day after verbally vomiting all of the above on our small group, I was reminded of the final verse, “Now these three remain, faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.”

Well, but, really?

Our hope, our knowledge of salvation, and our faith in Christ, are inferior to love?! And, specifically, as Paul emphasizes multiple times, love for people? Not our love for Jesus?

As I pondered, the truth hit me, or, more accurately was whispered to my heart. Our love poured on others – that love that was once and continually poured into us by God through the Holy Spirit – is the outward demonstration of that inward faith and hope. That is how we show what we believe and what we know to a world that can’t see our hearts or our minds – and, more importantly, can’t see God

But they can see our love.

And it’s that love that will draw others into Him – as they gain their own hope for salvation and faith in Christ.

Love is the key to all of this – it’s the seed we plant for others.

And, let’s remember, as another beautiful friend pointed out, our outward demonstrations of love look different for each person. Remember The Five Love Languages? Those are important – so don’t think that just because you’re not good at showing self-less acts of service or maybe your words of encouragement aren't as eloquent as someone else's you have failed in this regard.

You show love to others the way God designed you to do, so long as it comes from a heart of faith and mind firm its knowledge of salvation.

And, so long as it’s a pure love reflecting the love of Christ – the kind of love that lays down its life for another – which doesn’t always mean stopping a bullet for someone else, but it may mean sacrificing your “me” time (not always, but when necessary, yes), sacrificing your possessions, your money, your self-righteous need to speak out in defense, your culture-driven need for perfection. Sometimes it means not having a clean house because a child needs some personal attention. Not getting the sleep you so carefully planned out because a friend needs someone to talk to. Not living in comfort so that someone else can just live.

This kind of love – the love that so perfectly reflects the love of a Father Who sent His Son into a dirty, dying world so that this loved Son could be the replacement for these dirty, dying people in their death. This kind of sacrificial, self-dying love isn’t just what draws the world to Him, it’s the pure evidence of Christ in us.

It is not optional.

As that author of WhatLove Is so beautifully put it, while discussing 1 John 3:23, “We can’t separate loving others from our belief in Jesus. Both are intertwined. Our confession of Him will lead to action, and true love in action will result from our knowing Him. Belief without love can make you a Pharisee. Love without belief can make you a humanitarian. But if you have both, you’re a child of God” (Kelly Minter, p 103).


I couldn’t have said it better.



*For your own study, these are the cross-references I looked into:
Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 1:15, 4:2-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Philemon 5 

03 September 2015

Of Being Fully Known

Recently, a favorite artist of mine, JJ Heller, released a new album. And along with it, journals highlighting lyrics from said album. Without having listened to any of these new tunes yet, I chose based on what these words spoke to me. And this is the cover I opted to receive:



"Fully known by the Author of space and time."

It was a few days later, after receiving the package in the mail (half the fun of on-line shopping, am I right?!) and putting that CD on repeat in my kitchen (yes, I still listen to CD's as my primary form of musical consumption - which is why most of what plays in my kitchen is 90's/00's Christian pop/worship/hip hop - you know, whatever I managed to find under the "Christian" tab in the Wal-Mart CD aisle), and hearing that song multiple times that I finally realized why the words meant so much to me.

I have always had a fascination with filling out surveys. Questionnaires, worksheets, forms.

I like paperwork. I know, that makes me a freak, but if you give me a blank line to fill out, I get a little giddy. And if you're asking for information about me? Well, watch out.

I mean this. Really. You know those hour-long meaningless email forwards that used to make the rounds (back in the days before Facebook almost obliterated email)? "What's your favorite color?" "What time is it now?" "Ice Cream or Popcorn?" "If you owned a purple elephant in Madagascar, what would you name him and what color would his tusks be?"

Yeah, those ones.

I did every. single. one.

Because I loved it. As an introvert with an extrovert side she tries to hide because she thinks others just aren't interested, the opportunity to reveal parts of myself that I find fun, quirky and interesting, while not overtly boring others (hey, it's their choice to read through the answers) is a win.

Notice: I have my own blog.

I haven't changed.

I still like the idea of telling others about me while not forcing myself. If I'm speaking to you, you feel compelled to listen, and worse, yet, I might be able to tell if you wished I would just shut my mouth or are put off by what I've said or who I am (because I've seen the look a time or two). If my written word bores you, you can look away and I wouldn't even know. Which is good, because you may have already done so.

And underneath all of this, this eagerness to share myself quietly, and with many (many) words, to others, is a desire to be known. To reveal who I am, what I've done and things I enjoy, in the hopes that others will accept me and think I'm someone worth knowing.

Yet, here is this God.

The One, True God.

Creator of all the universe.

The Author of space and time.

The One Who formed me in my mother's womb.

And He knows me.

I am fully known. I didn't need to fill out a survey or tap into my witty side (that I like to pretend is there). I don't need to forward the answers to 20 people or send Him a link to the words I've spent the last hour typing.

He knows me.

And still loves me.

Because it's not just the cute, quirky stuff. The odd talents and fun facts, fascinating experiences or interesting tastes. He knows the ugly. The stuff I paint over and try to hide with my bubbly banter. He knows the depths.

Fully known.

And He still loves me.

And if I have this, this love from the One who formed me, Who has seen my ugly. Who has not just seen the ugly, but has picked me up, brushed off the dirt, washed it in the blood of His own Son, and declared me beautiful - if I have this love. From the one who knows me fully and chooses me anyway - why am I still seeking the approval of anyone else?

Whose opinion on this wide, roaming world, filled with sinners - liars, cheats, gossips, back-stabbers - sinners, like me, could possibly matter anymore than the one who has already declared me worth knowing?

Thus, I choose to live loved, in full recognition that I already have the love and acceptance - all I could ever ask for - from the One who knows me inside and out - deeper than any being on this earth.

It's this love that has freed me, to be the real me, uhidden and unpainted. Just me. Loved and accepted.

By the Author of space and time.