to the grown-up and middle schooler who feel alone in Christ

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I remember being you very vividly. I remember taking at least 30 minutes in the morning to choose an outfit, and then end up wearing a “safe” choice anyway.

I remember the shallow lunch conversations, and the anxiety that came with the 10:30 AM break where everyone huddled in circles, and I wasn’t sure that I would be included today, and I was afraid that trying to include the outsider would leave me lonely.

I remember wanting so desperately to talk about this Jesus with my friends, but not so sure how to start the conversation, not so sure if the conversation was even welcomed.

And finally, I remember when my life was turned around. When I decided that I was done buying into the lie of exclusion and empty conversation, and Christ equipped me with the courage to include the outsiders. When God took me by the hand and showed me how to love those that were deemed “unloveable.” When I finally took a risk, and being the goober that I am, wrote a letter to two friends telling them that I wanted to talk about God and pray with them, praying that they would feel the same way.

God was faithful, and when I look back at October of eighth grade, nothing but the image of fireworks goes off in my mind. I was not alone. Those friends did care about Christ, and they did desire deeper relationships. Those connections were out there all along, and I had just never trusted Christ’s goodness enough to believe that He would really provide something so rich. I’d adventured upon communion with Christ and others like I’d never known was possible.

I know junior high seems so paralyzing sometimes, that it’s a competition of who’s the least awkward and the most prom-queen like. Chances are you aren’t the cheerleader or jock and even if you are, you feel this constant nagging to fit-in, be known, be loved. This nagging feeling that if you even talk to the weird kid that you might end up on the outside. This unspoken but evident dread of going to a basketball game and not being a cheerleader or the all-star. This unspoken expectation that (if you live in the Bible Belt), you can’t deny Christ, but you certainly can’t talk about Him openly either.

Middle schooler, He made you for more than this. Those deep connections and deep friendships that you long for are out there, and you are not alone in that longing. He didn’t leave us in this world alone. There are such things as rich, genuine relationships. He made you to put down your pride, embrace the outsider, invite the uninvited, unite yourself with others, and realize Christ laid down His position for the sake of others.

It’s going to be uncomfortable, but sometimes it just takes twenty seconds of courage, and it’s undoubtedly worth it. It’s worth the communion He promises.

And middle schooler, you might not be happy to hear it, but you must know:

The reason I remember being you so vividly is because I still catch glimpses of you in myself and those around me each day.

This insecurity and unsettled heart won’t end in this life. Many will just become more deceiving with their exclusions. They will sneak gossip into supposedly “deep” conversations to make themselves look better, casualize lust in “boy talk” or “girl talk” in the name of romance, and praise the Christian culture while denying Christ’s teachings with their lives. And you will probably catch yourself believing, even participating these things for a moment.

But stop yourself and do not give into this self-serving culture. Forget your pride, and include and love others with no hesitation. Humble yourself, and seek to understand those that feel excluded. Pray for the excluders, knowing that the only thing that separates you and them is knowing Jesus.

There is light at the end of this tunnel you now call junior high, but you eventually will call life.

In the midst of temptation and this new awkward mess of society, remember His promise to us: this life will pass– and all that remains at the end is what was done for Him.

Each time you choose Him over this world, He will grow in you, and community will grow around you.

And you’ll begin to realize this one truth that will anchor your soul for the rest of your days:

You were never really alone to begin with.

Sincerely,

A grown-up middle schooler

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Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death –
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV, emphasis mine)

a black musician thawing arendelle: the power of loving your enemies

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Last night at RUF, I heard the most amazing story. I was floored. I’m not much of a hand-raiser in worship, but honestly, I couldn’t keep my hands down after hearing this story.

The gist is this: a black musician Daryl Davis in 1983 met a man at an all-white wedding reception he was performing for one evening. The man happened to be part of the Ku Klux Klan and gave Davis the number of Roger Kelly, the former Imperial Wizard of the Klan. Through conversation, the two became friends, and Kelly along with twelve other men eventually quit the group.

Guys, this man is black. He was either hated or considered highly inferior by these men. These people were part of an organization that sought to kill and persecute his race just years earlier, or sought to, in the least, make them second-class citizens. This was not in 2017… this was just a few years after the Civil Rights Movement.

All of this, and he decided to be their friend.

That’s the last thing I would choose to do. I wouldn’t even THINK “maybe I should befriend with these people.” I would immediately choose to give them the truth, to claim righteous anger, to voice my opinion, to show them my humanity, to fight for justice.

Yet this man, in all humility, chose to be their friend.

And because of that humble and gentle love, because of his kindness, walls of hostility and hatred were torn down.

Jesus talked about it a lot. Praying for those that persecute you, eating with the people that are different, loving your enemies, loving all neighbors as yourself, letting someone slap your other cheek when they’ve already damaged the first… I’ve always taken these statements, accepted them, without really choosing to do that in my own life. In fact, though I accepted them because they come from God, I’ve always been frustrated by them. I don’t want to be slapped on both cheeks. I don’t want my friends to be slapped on both cheeks. I want to fight back in the name of justice and righteous anger.

But Christ says that true love is being committed to care for those that hate you.

This is the kind of love that changes hearts.

So what does this look like for my life, for your life, friends?

The fact is that, I’m not persecuted in my everyday life. I don’t have many people coming and slapping me on the cheek. I don’t have that many “enemies” in the traditional, conventional sense (that I’m aware of, lol?). I live in the Bible Belt of America, where if you don’t claim Christianity, you’re probably the odd ball out. I don’t have to face much objection in my everyday life.

But there are those people that I am hostile towards. There are people that I don’t want to be associated with. There are those people that are rude. There are those that make unjust social accusations against me. There are those people that I want to see brought low, that misunderstand me. There are those people to whom my heart has grown cold as I watch their actions, the way that they treat other people, the words they choose, their callus political agenda. There are those that I do not want to call “friend.” And if they fall into these category of “not friend,” then the fact is that these people are (at least the closest thing I have to) enemies.

And you know what? The real Enemy loves this. It excites him when I choose to stay away from these people, instead of drawing nearer to them with a humble heart. He would love me to chose to hate Donald Trump. It would thrill him if I channelled hatred toward Hilary Clinton. It would make his soul happy if I considered myself superior to people that were not my race, and he would simultaneously love for me to hate racist people. Satan would be exhilarated that I chose to avoid the girl that has the RBF instead of asking her for coffee. He would take great pleasure if I hardened my heart towards people that look down on me because my blonde hair and enthusiastic attitude causes them to view me as unintelligent instead of approaching them with grace and a humble heart. These divisions and avoidances would make the chasm greater, and that’s exactly what he wants.

Our real Enemy would be delighted that we would choose to hate our earthly enemies, and relish that we would seethe in self-induced isolation from all those that we felt misunderstood and scorned by.

But this is the power of Christ, that while we are enemies, still defiled, still hostile towards God— He comes to us, and pulls us into His everlasting love. And we are reunited with Him. 

And now, what other might call “loss” (getting slapped on the cheek twice, being gossiped about, being called naive), we consider gain. Because in those moments, we get to love like Christ did for us, and we get to do this for others. Though we endure this present pain, we will be reunited with others and Christ by love. 

When we rejected Him, He chose to eat with us.

When we called Him “enemy,” He called us “friend.”

When we killed Him and caused Him to be descended to hell….

He called us “beloved” and claimed victory.

 What a God we serve, that to truly win over our enemies, we befriend them.

I will leave you with an analogy I realized in Chemistry class Friday. I’m sure it’s not original, but I was so blown by this. Our generation LOVES Frozen (for the most part), but why? What do we love so much about this story beyond the music and medieval theme?

It’s a story of the gospel.

(Note here: many fairytales and stories are, but check out details in this one. Also, spoiler alert if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen Frozen yet. Please don’t read this if you haven’t. It won’t make sense and then you’ll know the end and I will just be really sad and might have to consider this post a fail.)

Think about it… a girl is born with this curse, a curse that causes her to hurt people, hide, and puts a wall between her and the world. Her sister, out of great love for her, constantly and gently tries to coax her into communion with others, and she might open up sometimes, but mostly she’s hostile and hard.

Her curse is found out, and she runs away. She builds her “kingdom of isolation,” all the while not realizing that her sister hasn’t given up on her. Elsa is the source of Ana’s pain, and she still runs after her, careless of her own well-being. She climbs over mountains, travels through valleys, encounters wolves, and finally reaches Elsa! Ana enters Elsa’s isolated castle, only to be rejected by her and struck in the heart, causing Ana a slow but evident death.

Elsa is captured, by trying to run from the one person that loves her the most in the entire world, and Ana is dying because of her. But Ana, when faced with the choice to save herself or save her sister, chooses to sacrifice her whole life for her sister, becoming a cold, lifeless figure to save her sister’s life– the same sister that caused her pain and grief her whole life, yet she took delight in selflessly loving her.

But then, against all odds, she is unfrozen. And Elsa realizes the solution to all her problems is what she was running from: love. She releases it into the air, and everyone is reunited.

Love thaws.

So what do a black musician, Princess Ana, and Jesus have in common?

They know this truth: love really is the most excellent way.

So go out, friends.

He has given you every spiritual gift necessary.

He has sent you to fight with prayer, petition, friendship, love…

and thaw the Arendelle of your life.

In Him,

Mary Madeline

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:38-48

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

o come, emmanuel: a great hope in the midst of utter seasonal distress

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O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s time to celebrate our Savior’s birth stress about making this holiday season perfect for the family and making sure everyone is here on time and the decorations are gorgeous and everyone has the perfect gift and the all the food is delicious and everyone is happy and laughing and the weather must be cold because that’s what Christmas is suppose to be and there must be good music that everyone likes and this must be the best Christmas ever.

Beyond prayer, breathing exercises, and the Christmas excitement that I really do embody, this is the mode my mind automatically switches to when I first think of Christmas: it has to be perfect. And I have to make it that way.

However, this Christmas season I really decided that I wanted to experience the Christmas season in its entirety by celebrating advent leading up to the day. As my home girl Taylor Swift says on her Christmas album , I just had this itching feeling that “Christmas Must Be Something More.” (yes, that was a promotion 😉 )

But really… it has to be more than the rush of anticipation and excitement that I get come Christmas Eve’s eve when family begins to come into town. It has to be more than the happiness of gift-opening and gift-giving that is great fun but eventually fades with time. It has to be more than cute little songs and spreading Christmas cheer by “singing loud for all to hear.” It has to be more than having a fun and jolly holiday season that eventually ends, continuing on with the daily grind. It has to be more for those people that don’t even have anything, any time, any food, any place, any gifts, or anyone to engage this Christmas season with.

In the years post-Santa belief, my heart has yearned with an angst that screamed, “Where is this great promise that You told us about, God? Where’s the gift? Where’s the rescue from this constant struggle to make it perfect, make it right? Where is the something more, Jesus?”

And in this season He has whispered to my heart, “it’s in me.”

You see, the media is constantly feeding us this idea of “Christmas magic.” That someday, somehow, someway the 25th of December makes the universe turn on our side and there’s no pain on this day. Family issues evaporate into thin air. Money suddenly appears blowing in the wind towards you in your time of need. Death doesn’t happen. Everyone is cozy indoors. Candles are lit and the whole town sings in perfect harmony to “Silent Night.”Christmas miracles are real if you only believe. One saint hears you and the other 7 billion people on this planet and handles all the requests in one 24-hour period. At least for 24-hours, everything can be a perfect miracle.

But it isn’t. By prayer, reading the Bible and various Christmas books, and candid contemplation, this is the conclusion I have arrived at:

Family issues are present and even more evident when everyone is together. Money is a problem, and it’s impossible to afford what everyone wants or even what one person wants. People die just days before or even on Christmas morning. Many people still go without shelter. Some hungry people still go without food. You find out that the magical saint they told you about for years isn’t even real. Everyone is singing “Silent Night,” but your heart is burdened with the weight of utter disappointment. Nothing is perfect– not even for 24 hours.

Yet into all of this mess:

the cycle of subtle sorrow and disenchantment and misunderstanding and loneliness

the madness of a season where the world tells us “this (community, family, food, gifts, decor, singing, etc.) will fulfill”

the tireless chasing of unsatisfying fixes.

Into all off this, a child is born.

And He is called Emmanuel.

And the government rests upon His shoulders.

And He is called Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

And He has come for our rescue.

He has come to be something more.

He has come to be the miracle.

Isn’t it just like humanity, to pervert a season with false hope when authentic hope is offered to us? Yet isn’t that just like our God, to come to us when we are at our ugliest? In the time of year when our fickle hearts look to everything else to fulfill, He enters into this mess of this world– the world that has abused His birth for profit and toxic fixes.

His love is that strong.

This season, I’m begging you: don’t take hope in “Christmas cheer” or other false hopes that this world so easily tries to sell us. Though initially enticing, it will leave you disappointed. I hate it for people that do buy into that; this season will leave them feeling beyond hope.

Instead, take hope that Love came down. If your heart is whispering “there must be something more,” your heart is right. There is something more, and it came to us. He came to us. He knew what He was doing. God entered into this unforgiving, racist, rude, unmerciful, nasty, paralyzing world in order to bring us into His kingdom of eternal love. This is our greatest hope: He came to live among us so that we could dwell with Him forever.

In the midst of this temporary mess, Christ came to be with us for eternity.

He didn’t disregard our anguish.

He didn’t say “I’d rather not.”

He didn’t leave us to the strivings of a deceased Saint Nicholas.

He didn’t abandon us to the grave.

He didn’t allow us to live in fear and loneliness.

The God of everything came to Earth because He knew we needed something greater.

And He came to be our something more… forevermore.

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“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.”

– Isaiah 9:1-7b

the responsibility of our speech

( As a casual reminder, I want to emphasize that all my posts are written specifically to Christians. If you don’t consider yourself a Christ-follower, by all means, please read! I just want you to recognize the context of my posts.)

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In the couple months, midst all the political speech, I have not had much to say about political matters (except in private conversations amongst my friends). I have felt that mostly everything that needed to be said had been, and there wasn’t much I should add to the conversation.

However, it’s come to my attention that there is something that needs to be said, and it’s about ‘saying’ itself.

As citizens of the United States of America, we have the right to words. Any and all words that we choose, at any moment, in any format– we have that those. (And boy, have we exercised that freedom.)

But as Christians, we also have one responsibility:

to love.

Let that sink in for a moment, brothers and sisters.

You have one responsibility, one calling, one holy work, one task above all else:

to love God and love others.

Now, love is not simple. You will never hear me claim that it’s not a complex action, but remember that we have a perfect example of love and a whole book to help us figure out what it is.

And in that book, I have yet to come across a time when it said that this is love:

to curse the governmental authorities

to call a fellow human stupid

to demean and discount the sufferings and concerns of another’s experiences

to associate a political party with Christ

or to claim that anyone not agreeing with your political agenda is subhuman.

On the contrary, the Word tells us that love is, though truthful, simultaneously patient, kind, gentle, hopeful, humble, forgiving.

So before you post your next status, share that article, or state your opinion to a peer, ask yourself:

Is this truthful?

Is this kind?

Is this gentle?

Is this hopeful?

Does this extend grace?

Is this something Jesus would say?

And act accordingly to your answer.

 

Lastly, may I remind you that there is wisdom in listening to your enemies.

There is wisdom in praying before speaking.

And, perhaps the most downplayed of all,

there is also much wisdom in choosing to say no words at all.

Choose carefully.

In Him,

Mary Madeline

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A gentle tongue is a tree of life. – Proverbs 15:4

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. – Proverbs 17:27-28

[There is] a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. – Eccelesiastes  3:7

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. – Titus 3:1-2

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of Jesus. – Colossians 3:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

white christians: the danger of passivity & a call to repentance

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This one has been brewing in me for a long time. It’s been a long process for me, a lot of unlocking areas of my mind that I didn’t realize needed unlocking and pushing buttons that I wasn’t sure even existed. It’s been countless hours of hard conversations about racial issues and endless stories told in history class. It’s been extreme frustration, wondering why I didn’t care enough, and being utterly convicted at the fact that I have been passively oppressive/racist my entire life.

I’m prepared for the opposition I might receive for this post. It’s going to make you uncomfortable, more than likely, if you are white. So if you want to live a comfortable life, you should just stop here, but if you want what Jesus wanted for us—a completely uncomfortable but full and righteous life—keep reading, friend.

 

We are oppressors.

 

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. Our ancestors did all the enslaving; they were the ones to separate the families. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were the ones denying our fellow African Americans education and suffrage.

Yet we see the drugs, violence, homicide rates, poverty, broken families, and wonder: Why? Why is the African American community so broken?

I was recently told by an elderly black lady about her mother, who at an orphan at the age of 13, was denied the right to education simply because she was black. She worked as a housemaid (as a young, orphaned teenager) to earn her keep and finish high school, only to be told that teaching was her only option as a career simply because her skin was darker. (audible story)

Clyde Ross worked his entire life and served his country for his family, only to be completely cheated out of his home because of a greedy white man who also cheated plenty of other Afro-Americans in Chicago. (Clyde’s story here)

Not to mention those people who wanted only to not be under the authority of men who could separate their families in a matter of a few days. (The story of Mary Meachum: a little history here)

This is only an insanely minute portion of the injustices that past African Americans have faced.

Now, if you’re like me, your initial reaction to this is “well I didn’t do that; that was my ancestors. I haven’t oppressed the African American population.”

Well, let me offer the truth: there are no innocent bystanders in this.

I stand by this claim:

If you, as an able white Christian American, have not fought to right the repercussions of the injustices done to the African American community, then you have taken part in this injustice.

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This isn’t an idea of my own. Jesus specifically expresses the danger of passivity in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Samaritan didn’t directly cause the man on the side of the road to suffer, but when he cared for the man, he fulfilled the most important law: love your neighbor as yourself.

If instead, he had chosen not to care for the man, he would be disobeying the commandment of Christ and ultimately choosing sin over righteousness. Instead of being the hands of healing, he would have been a participator in the man’s anguish.

So, yes. As an able white Christian, if I have ignored the cry of the oppressed (in this case, African Americans), then I have sinned greatly against God and my neighbor.

They have been and are oppressed. Sure, it might look different now, but the odds have been stacked against blacks since the beginning of America. I strongly believe that an extremely high majority of us have set aside, subconsciously thinking, well just don’t be poor; work harder. Just own land after being slaves for your whole life and owning nothing. Just outsmart the real estate owners who won’t sell the house to you. Just take out the loan that the banks won’t give you. Just go get paid for the jobs that you won’t receive. Just read, write, and count, with all the quality education you haven’t received. Just be confident in the skin that our society has deemed inferior. Just ignore the fact that your family has been torn apart by drugs and alcohol because we pushed many of your people to illegal measures and the habits have been passed down to the following generations. Just get your act together.

It’s hard to admit, I know. I don’t like admitting that I have done wrong. I don’t like saying that it was me that has been the oppressor. I don’t like seeing my race’s sin and the repercussions of it on the innocent kindergarteners in the low-performing 99% African American public school, but I can’t ignore the truth: As a person who previously did not actively fight against the oppression of the black community and instead stood on the side-lines, I have been the oppressor, and I have not shown the great and unconditional love of Christ in this situation.

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A repentant church is one with an open heart, one ready to let go of sin and to hold fast to true righteousness, even if it hurts us. A repentant church takes up its cross and bears the weight of our brothers and sisters. Repentance brings action, and action precedes healing.

So, this is my confession to you, African American readers:

I am deeply sorrowed.

I am sorrowed that I have not spoken out more harshly against the casual racism that infects my small-town smalltalk.

I am sorry that I have subconsciously perceived you—my fellow brothers and sisters—as “others.”

I confess that I have been the by-stander, and as a result of my lack of action, you have had to claim the title of disadvantaged. 

I repent of my barely-shaken apathy simply because I was on the upper hand of the deal.

I cringe and lament at the fact that I have subconsciously judged your character on the basis of skin color within the first glance of you.

I admit that I have not fought hard enough to make your voices heard, to fight for your equal treatment, and to make it known that your lives matter.

I’m sorry for my ignorance for so long; my belief that somehow, you didn’t work hard enough or didn’t care enough for the advantaged life that I have received.

I weep at the fact that I when I look at the sweet children from the Bible Club, my sweet two-year-old friend with a toothless, shy smile and a gentle spirit, that I have not fought enough for her right for quality of life as an American—really, as a human.

I pray, Lord, that You help me see the depth of my heart more and look to You more each day for the ability to see all colors, shapes, and sizes completely equal and to love them without restraint just like You do.

 And this is my challenge to you, fellow white Christians: let’s lay down our pride and humbly confess of the passivity many of us are guilty of. Then, we can step forward and fight for that justice God’s speaks of and loves so much. Then, we can set things right.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'”  – Matthew 25: 41-45

“The people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”   Matthew 14: 15-17

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7: 9-10

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan,as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:29-37

 

the danger of dreaming & never doing

Last year, I wrote a post about the importance and goodness of dreaming (see here). In this post, I am encouraging you to not stop there, but to continue through with those dreams, not settling for false sensations, because we were made to live for the gospel, not a trailer of it.

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our days

I think most of us have probably been there.

We dream of the day when we will  ________________.

You fill it in. Pray without ceasing, live without a certain sin, climb that mountain, go to and serve Africa, pray deeply for that person, donate that money, write that book about that thing that needs to be heard, adopt that child, visit that place and care for that person, start that ministry…

The danger of all of this dreaming, along with the virtual sensations we have through modern technology is that it’s so easy to have the illusion of doing. Getting a little taste of our God-given desires can come so effortlessly through the endless inspirational articles, sensational pictures, heartfelt videos, and what have you found on the big World Wide Web. While it’s great to share these experiences, watching and reading all these things can give the illusion of reaching ___________, without really achieving it. Leaving you and me with a placebo instead of the real thing, and never knowing the fullness of Christ in that situation that we deeply yearn for. 

I’ve been thinking about the effect of this lately. The endless articles, telling me why I so need to travel when I’m young, what I should do in college, how I should read the Bible, which way to pray, how to simplify my life, etc. The list never ends.

And all the while, the world that is telling me, “Go! Do it all! Be the adventurer! Climb that mountain Make those A’s! Go to that med school!” isn’t doing much of that adventuring and mountain climbing themselves.

So I’m beginning to discover the danger in all this telling, writing, speaking, etc. without the doing world that we so often participate in, fellow Christians. It’s really a toxic cycle, this talking and never doing, this dreaming and never pursuing.

So all these thoughts are running through my mind, and I decided to see what Jesus said/did about this, and I began to discover that Jesus almost always began his words with action. He healed, and then ministered. He performed miracles, then he preached. He restored, then he gave his benediction. And those times when he didn’t act and spoke only, was usually to his disciplines who had seen it all anyway.

He knew that words without action were toxic, empty, and never fulfilling. 

He knew this world needed much more restoring than an “it’ll all be okay.”

He knew the crowds were much more thirsty for real water than a picture of a stream.

He knew that his children needed much more than good intentions.

He knew humanity was in much greater need of redeeming sacrifice than the thought of it.

I’m sure that there are multiple reasons that we don’t “do” as much as we talk about doing. Maybe we aren’t sure where to start. Maybe we aren’t moved enough. Or maybe it’s simply because we are just darn lazy.

As for me, I know the reason. I am so afraid of “doing” because I’m not sure where it leads. God promises it’s a good place. He says that so much joy is found in the struggle of doing, but my heart is so afraid of the unknown, of rejection, of failure. My heart can’t let go of what it knows in this toxic cycle of dreaming without doing.

St. Francis of Assisi once said “Preach the gospel, and when necessary use words.”

Choose to believe it or not, but we are living in an anti-Christian world. Very few of those that claim Christ love even a little like He does.  And the people of my generation, and really any person with a rational mind, have learned that talk is cheap. Although beautiful, it requires very little sacrifice. I’ve begun to learn myself that sure, the little things matter, but the big things matter the most. The big things say the most, because this broken world needs much more than a hand full of change thrown into the offering plate. This world is oozing blood, and no cutesy Hello Kitty bandaid is going to fix this gap.

This world needs men and women who tackle this hurting word with gentle passion, deep love, unwavering faith, and a yearning for true righteousness.

I could tell you what that looks like, but that might be for a different post. I think I need to figure that out a little more myself before I try to tell you. Just know God is faithful, and His kingdom stretches far and wide– so don’t hold back.

So dream on, dear friends. Dream, dream, dream, but I beg of you: don’t stop there. Don’t let fear get in the way. He didn’t give us that spirit of fear, but one of love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Just do it. Do, do, do it.

Because He didn’t just consider us His children; He made us His sons and daughters.

God didn’t just say He was going to send us a Savior; He sent us a Savior.

He didn’t just accidentally go to the cross; He gave himself up for us.

It’s time that we give ourselves up to a God that didn’t just intend to.

He did.

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What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2: 14-17

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6: 11-12