Last week a little boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. A little boy with a red t-shirt and teeny tiny sneakers. A little boy with a family, friends; a little boy with a name. Aylan. Sweet Aylan, child of God. While I wish it was an image I never had to see, I looked at the picture of this precious child and thought of all the plans God must have had for him, what he liked to do, what made him laugh before the brokenness of our world drown him in the sea.
I have to believe we are better than this. I have to believe there is something we can do so no other child ever dies in such desperation. So no other child is born into war, poverty, hate. Four other children drowned that day in the Mediterranean. At the end of 2014 there were almost 20 million refugees and half of those were children. That number has only grown. How many more Aylans have their been? How many more does there have to be before we stop turning our heads because it’s just too hard to see. This is real life. This is happening now in our world. In our time.
Child abuse, neglect, pornography, babies organs harvested for money. Isis. Refugees and immigrants risking their lives and the lives of their children for a chance at the resources we greedily cling to. Children gunning one another down in our streets. It’s almost too much to bear. We are better than this.
When our bodies are lying in the ground, what will our community remember about us? What kind of emotions will it evoke from those that knew us? Will we have made an impact? Will our neighbor, our family, our community, the next generation be better because we lived?
Will they remember our judgment? Our condemnation? Our US versus THEM way of thinking? Will they remember that in our passion for Jesus we forgot that we are not the ones that were sent to save? Only He can. Will they wonder why our response to the unborn was swift and vehement while some of us did little for the orphan and the hungry, the homeless and the sick? Will they question why we lifted our voices the loudest toward gay marriage and worried so little about the dysfunction in our own?
There are businesses directed solely at planning your will, your estate, your riches. Our society focuses on the influence of the famous and the fortunate. What about our legacy? I want to leave a legacy. Don’t you?
Let’s leave a contribution that can’t be measured or held in our hands. Let’s leave a legacy of love. Of empowerment. Of peace. Let’s influence those around us in the way we live our lives. Let’s point to Jesus in how we love and let the Holy Spirit handle the saving. Let’s invite others with open arms and be thankful we don’t own the burden of judgment. Let’s shine His light. Let’s quit putting all of our efforts in to the things of this world and pour out our gifts and talents in to the lives of those around us. Let’s invest in the lives of our co-workers. Let’s reach out to those that are different than us. Let’s embrace the otherness of one another and see it for what it is, God designed beauty.
Let’s leave a legacy so when we are gone our children remember that we didn’t turn our face from the toddler that washed up along the shore…that it brought us to our knees as the tears fell. Let them know we felt it in the pit of our stomach. Let them feel it too. Let them remember that we fought and kicked and screamed through the brokenness and the heaviness and the muck…that we walked right in the middle of it with others. Let them know that we loved large. We shared Jesus. We gave to the point of sacrifice. And although we couldn’t change the world, we tried to change the world for one. And then the next one and then the next and we lived our lives in a way that others might want to do the same. Anyone can leave a trust fund. Let us leave a legacy.
Guest post over at the blog for White River Christian Church. You can find it here.
STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT…
Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight….
In the wee hours of the morning I wrapped myself in a comforter and lay on our deck to watch the meteor shower. The typical nearly empty sky was filled with as many stars I’ve seen since Africa. I was at once reminded how small I am and how big our God is…That in the vastness of all of this, He loves me. He loves me so much that he knows the count of the hairs on my head. Each one of those stars in the sky, He can account for. I hope and I pray that the love I feel from that would be a love that each of us would know. A love that every life deserves. A love, that if every life would be connected too, would change our world. I’m blown away by His goodness and grace, by His perfect design.
Most evenings the haze of the lights from being ‘in town’ block out what few stars there are. But not this night. I could not count them if I tried. It’s just like God to hint out how full He makes life. He can take the emptiest of days and make them full; just like this night sky. He can turn the most horrific of experiences in to a victory. I believe he can take the battered and the bruised and turn them in to warriors for others. I believe he can take the gruesome and bring Glory. I believe He can connect every life to Him. Every experience. He can bring beauty through ashes.
So many people search this world for fulfillment. They search for it in relationships. They look to another to complete them. Some turn to pornography to fill a deep need and others alcohol or drugs. We try to backpack across Europe to find ourselves. We may search for gratification in the work we do…even in service to others. We fill our lives with distractions and busyness because of the discomfort of being with our true selves. To sit alone with our feelings reminds us of how distant we allow ourselves to get from our Savior. We long for contentment and peace; so we search for it. But there is only one source. Connection to Christ.
I walked out on this deck a broken wreck of a mess. I am completely undeserving of His love for me; of the sacrifice He made. But He offers it freely to each of us. To every life. He loves the beggar and the giver the same. The black and the white. The conservative and liberal. He loves the righteous and the sinner. The Sauls before they are Pauls. The 12 Disciples were a conglomerate of weakness and sin, but He chose them, used them and loved them. It isn’t about who they are but who Jesus is. Then and now. Jesus wants us to be connected to Him. And it doesn’t matter who you are or who you aren’t, He loves you too. He loves those that offend you and disagree with you and those that you don’t like just as much as He loves you and me. Every life. He died for every life. He longs to know each of us. And He can use all of us.
The Cross connects every life to Christ. As soon as we can grasp how much God loves us. As soon as we can grasp how undeserving we are of it. As soon as we can grasp that He loves each of us that big…as soon as we can do that, the world will change. Because when we feel this love, we offer His love. When we realize we are as much in need of a Savior as the person next to us, the judgments melt away. When we accept His grace, we can offer grace. We can connect every life to Christ.
I watched over 30 shooting stars and 1 tricky airplane before sleep started to call again. I lay there thinking how can I stay this connected to Him. How can I help others feel this connected to Him? Lord, let my life reflect you to others. Let my love give others a taste of yours. Let my life and my work and my service glorify you…so that my connection with others would connect them to my great God so that they would know Your great love. That in the vastness of the stars…the world…the universe…that in the vastness and greatness and bigness of all of that, you know them by name. For that, I praise you.
Sometimes our quiet time doesn’t look like the Instagram picture of the coffee mug and our Bible. Sometimes it is lying on our deck in an act of worship to God. It could be in the car on your commute to work. Maybe it’s in the shower, sitting in peace or praying aloud. Maybe it’s silent tears when the words don’t come. Maybe it’s playing Barbies when you would rather be doing anything else or cooking dinner when you are too tired to stand. It all connects to Him. Connect your life so that it is all worship to God. Allow Him to be such a part of your life that the quiet time and the prayer time isn’t necessarily a time set aside in the morning or the night but it becomes your life. Allow Him to fill your life like He did the night sky. That all you do, you do in love, in His name.
…I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.
I've been quiet over here because I've been lending my voice to the blog for White River Christian Church. I thought I'd share them here from time to time.
MERCY IS MESSY
When I look back on my life as a Christian, echoes of mercy bounce off the pages of the journey. From the age of 15 to almost 20 I lost my ever-loving mind. I like to blame it on the frontal lobe and point to study after study that shows this biological force for making good choices isn’t fully developed until our late 20’s. My parents never bought that either. For years I blamed them for moving me to a new school when I was 15. The truth is, I loved Jesus but was more concerned with what I wanted in life than what He wanted for me or who He called me to be. Through all of that, and still now, mercy brought me to the cross.
Recently there was all of this news about kids getting in trouble at a school function for underage drinking. People in the community pointed fingers and called for punishment. Some shook their heads and asked for understanding. Somewhere in between neon leg warmers and the Twitter/social media craze, I was a teenager. Life as a teenager is hard. It was hard then and it seems even harder now. There will more than likely be moments when you want to look at the teenager in your life and flick them in their forehead while a question mark appears in one of those cartoon bubbles above your head. At the beginning of my senior year in high school a friend and I were arrested for underage drinking. I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Not joking. I got kicked off the homecoming court and had to sit out several tennis matches. I was dumb. I made a really stupid choice and took a few sips out of a good ole red solo cup at my first college party. My parents were embarrassed and angry. My coaches and principal were disappointed. I let my friend’s parents down that trusted my friendship with their daughter.
If that wasn’t enough, I also dated a guy in high school that was a fixer upper. Lord bless my momma and daddy for all the projects I brought through the door. This particular one, he was the stuff of parental nightmares. My mom found a letter one day that I know now as a parent would have brought intense sadness. You don’t raise your daughters to allow people to treat them that way. Yes, ma’am you taught me better.
More than any punishment or scolding or finger pointing because of my choices throughout those years, the one thing I was offered that changed me was mercy.
I remember my Principal coming to my home several times to tell me and my parents that he knew I was a good kid and I wasn’t my mistake. My parents gave me consequences but they also helped me move past it and gave me opportunities to gain their trust back. My friend’s parents continued to love me and I spent as much time in their home in high school as I did my own. I truly believe the way my parents handled that letter they found saved me from becoming the lead in one of those afterschool hallmark specials. I won’t ever forget my momma telling me she forgave me and Jesus forgave me and it was time for me to forgive myself. Mercy.
I don’t share all of this so you have fuel with which to roast me someday. I share this because I came to care very much about God’s will for my life. I believe, in large part due to the mercy shown to me by others because they understood fully the mercy given to them in Christ. I share this because there isn’t a single one of us without sin. I could just as easily share mistakes I made just this week. My mistakes, my sin, re why Jesus came. I need a Savior. I need His mercy. We all do. I am thankful that God chose not to stand upon His throne with crown in hand and exclude me from His love. I am thankful He chose mercy and joined me in the mess of my life. I am thankful for believers that chose to love me through my mess. Mercy is messy. Loving others well is messy. We are called to the mess.
You can judge the kid and their parents for making bad choices or the Olympic athlete transitioning from male to female. You can talk about the next door neighbor whose marriage is struggling or the guy at the work functions that drinks too much. You can point your finger and shout your rules and stand on the claims of your values or you can show mercy. You can show love. You can share Jesus. That changes lives. It changed my life. Judgments, ridicule, shame, don’t belong in the Gospel.
Jesus never stood on a mountaintop pointing down at sinners condemning them. He saidcome to me and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
And God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumblesat just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”also said, “You shall not murder.”If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:10-13
Jesus came for me. Jesus said he loves me and you, the transgender Olympian, the teen making poor choices, the gossip, the housewife coveting her neighbor’s life, the man drinking too much to escape life’s responsibilities…I love you all…even the one sitting back judging all the others. I paid the price. Mercy wins.