The garden is planted and new flowers are in the ground in our yard. It’s starting to get hot and since those precious little blooms are fragile in this big planet, they need some extra love and care. Love and care – that’s what I’ve needed recently because I’ve had feelings that can overwhelm me. Love and care- it’s what so many others need around the world.
That’s what I was thinking when I stood at the sink in a daze as water started to fill the watering can. Things quickly changed though and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Lately my heart has been heavy for this world, for America, for the church, for the broken and lost. Either I’ve been more observant or it’s become pretty blatant, or it’s been made more obvious with a purpose. How can we not notice, hear, read, or see riots raging in Maryland, lives taken in a church in Charleston, human slavery escalating, ISIS control overtaking, militant leaders and terrorists craving destruction, our country’s foundation shrinking? Seeing the world’s rebellion, hunger for power, devastation, and Biblical prophesies, many Christian leaders around the world are calling people, especially America, in all forms and fashions – in box office movies, TV series, blogs, books, world and nationwide to local Christian teachers – to repent from turning away from God and go back to our country’s Biblical foundation. They are calling believers to be awake, alert and on our knees.
Have you been ignoring some or all of them like I’ve tried to? I’ve tried. Really hard. I want to live like it was in the 1950’s where everything seemed hunky-dory – (well maybe the simplicity of living back then with a smart phone so I can keep in touch with friends and read encouraging blogs. Wouldn’t that be the best of both decades?) I’ve purposely tried forgetting everything I hear in the news that’s sickening and worrisome and focus only on joy. Focusing on joy isn’t a bad thing because it’s actually a command and necessity in life, but it’s also not good to be ignorant and pick out just the parts of the Bible that make you smile and feel comfortable.
Honestly, more than not, I’ve felt numb or even inadequate. I’ve been crying a lot lately. And here I go again. My heart has become broken more than ever before. Listening to the news and stories the past few years, I’ve been so numb and don’t want to be. I’ve been so comfortable and I still haven’t taken too much effort to be uncomfortable. Why am I feeling so burdened? I’ve never felt like this before.
We are to be broken. Even though as Christians, we’re made whole through Christ, we’re still to be willing to be broken in the name of Christ. It’s so easy in our society for us to say we’re not allowed to be broken, though.
I pray that I will stay broken instead of be numb and comfortable. It’s so hard to live by it though. So hard in North America. So hard when it’s been drilled in my mind to be like everyone else. I remember hearing someone say, “We live in a fish bowl,” where everything is in our own bubble or bowl apart from the rest of the world. We live in a safe neighborhood, can go to the grocery store whenever we need something, we go to a good church, host small group each week at our home, our son plays on a soccer team and daughter performs in plays. While on the other side of the world, ISIS is killing husbands and dads while women and children are being displaced, abused, sold as slaves, raped over and over and are sewn back together so they’ll feel like “virgins” again and the cycle repeats itself.
I’m starting to ram into that glass bowl over and over wanting to break the barrier of selfishness and do something. Even if I only make a dent, I want to try.
I’ve been hearing the rawness of particular women’s lives through Ann Voskamp and her experience in Iraq a few months ago where she spent three hours in a shipping container where four women are living with their children. Their home is now an empty shipping container because it’s a place to hide. She wrote about her experience (read here) that day and it blew me away. It was so powerful, within 48 hours of posting it online, $500,000 dollars was raised to help defy ISIS! That’s a JOY!
A couple of days after Ann posted that experience, there was a simulcast of her along with the ministry she partnered with to meet those women in Iraq, called Preemptive Love. After listening to the conversation between Ann and Jeremy, the founder of the ministry and who’s been living in Iraq to reach to the people in Jesus’ name, said not only are we to love and help those in need, but we’re also to love our enemies. Whoa. Why should we love those who crucify people, behead, flog and burn them to death just because they won’t turn to their ways? Why should we love people who say anyone who doesn’t follow, hurt and kill others, all in the name of Allah, will painfully suffer?
But, Jesus says, “...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)
Then Paul tells us, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
I’ve never really thought I’ve had an enemy. I want to be nice to everyone and be on everyone’s good side, not to ruffle any feathers or risk being hurt. That’s probably so I can be comfortable. But, as a Christian in this dark world, I don’t need to be on the enemies’ good side and not ruffle any feathers. I want to be strong and courageous. I need to take risks, with love in mind, even though our enemies want to physically, psychologically or emotionally hurt others and cause fear. Giving into those tactics, gives them a win and I don’t want that.
I can’t ignore it anymore. That’s what we’ve been doing in this Western world. Something Ann said at the live simulcast hit home, although I’ve heard something similar to this before. This time it made my heart feel wrenched. What if when I get to heaven and Jesus looks at me and says that I chose to be a numb and riskless Christian in my little bubble instead of doing what He told me to do, I’d sob. He’d ask me if I was judgmental of people who didn’t live by God’s Word instead of love them. Did I always put others before myself and help them with their needs – whether it’s a place of refuge, food to eat, or finances to help support their children, provide an education so they can have as good a life as possible? Was I a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or give a hug to make her feel loved? I’d weep because I often ignored them; I disobeyed God and hurt Him.
God doesn’t want us, His believers, to have “normal” lives, but to be broken so we’ll cling to him.
All of that was flooding through my mind when I was standing at the sink in the garage filling a watering can with water to pour over those newly planted flower and vegetables. I was praying. I was praying for repentance and salvation. I was praying for my kids and being a parent in this day and time and asking God for guidance on what to tell them about what’s going on in this world without scaring them (even though it’s hard for me not to be).
The watering can kept getting fuller and fuller. Then God’s Spirit spoke and said, “I want your can to over flow with Truth and love. Just like you’ll water those new plants, I want you to pour hope-filled promises into the lives of people who need God – and that’s everyone on your path. Give others Truth, love, grace, assistance, prayer – whatever I call you to do at that time. I want you to overflow with that deep joy into the lives of others by being an example.”
“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:171
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
“It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 (NIV)
I long for God’s grace and glory to overflow from my heart and mind to my fingertips on this keyboard and even my lips. I want to fix my eyes, even though I can’t see the entire picture, not on what is temporarily seen but what is unseen.
Even though the not-so-good news that’s all around us, I’ve also been more aware and it’s beautiful to see how so many people are committed to serving Christ and being like Jesus to those in need…anyone who needs Jesus. I see men and women getting their hands dirty, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing shelter, daily needs, and taking risks to rescue slaves and paying extra attention to kids who come from broken homes. I see thousands of women joining together over tables, in prayer and on a mission putting their passion on the front line and doing something – what God has called them to do to point others to Christ as our Savior.
Here’s ways YOU CAN HELP. Even though I commend and prayerful support to the Preemptive Love ministry (mentioned above) on the ground providing health, school and jobs along with physical needs, I know another ministry, Feed the Hunger (FtH), in Alamance County, NC is also partnering with another ministry, World Help, stationed in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq to pack and take ISIS victims meals. This summer, FtH, here in Alamance County, can physically use our hands and/or financial support for ISIS victims by joining with them to pack meals. It’s tangible. It’s doable. Most of us probably aren’t able or called to move to Iraq but we can help by providing some very needed meals.
Ann’s words are convicting: “…People of the Cross are to be witnesses for the suffering, and responders to the victims, and testifiers of Truth, no matter the cost, no matter the risk, because Christ is The Truth — and where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever hide or cover-up the Truth?
I don’t want to fear telling the Truth and anything. I don’t want to fear that Christ isn’t capable of redeeming everything because I know HE CAN. I honestly feel an urgency – do you? I know I’m not the only one. Daily God’s Spirit reminds me that persecution and suffering is REAL. HE is real and so is the Truth which includes warnings, preparation instructions and that Satan, hell, and heaven are real. The Truth promises God’s love and grace for all of us, how He’ll redeem us when we repent, obey and worship only Him and His Son Jesus Christ.
God, let me – and us as the Body of Christ – see the people who are hurting others the way You see them. You see them in Your image. They are the image of God. You love them. You don’t love what they’re doing and it’s not impossible for them to take off their masks, put down their guns and surrender their lives to Christ. Miracles can happen when we pray. Paul proved it can happen. He was like an ISIS, on the mission to hurt and kill Jesus-followers, and then became one of the most outspoken Jesus-lover. Let us all be passionate Jesus-lovers, Christ-followers and Spirit-led risk takers.