Thursday, August 9, 2012

Because It Matters

I want life to slow down. Even though the FL summer holds on until October and the rush of school won't come for another year, I'm not ready for the changes that come with fall. It's ironic because I always advocate for change, but when it's right around the corner I get cold feet.

Change itself isn't the fear; it's the doubt that it will have any impact. It's the berating whisper that what we do doesn't matter. For instance, do I really want to put all that work into finishing my Master's? I wonder about the impact that it will have on our lives in the future. I honestly don't know if I'll ever be in a classroom again. 

It's the voice of why bother. 

All I know is that sitting barefoot in a warm room in Cambodia, surrounded by shelves of anti-trafficking resources, awakened a part of me that refuses to slumber again, even in the face of Educational Statistics. Looking back at all the small decisions and big leaps that have made up the tapestry of my life, nothing has been wasted. All is finding it's purpose. I suppose that's the beauty of being the workmanship of God. 

When doubt sings the siren's call of comfort, refuse to listen, even though continuing on as always would be so much easier. Why bother pursuing friendship with someone that's different; it's too awkward. Why put yourself in an environment where you feel completely out of place? Other people will step in. Such lies will only bring the bitterness of regret that rot the soul. What we do matters; we were created for impact. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Perspective of Trees

A few weeks ago I threw on some stylin' clothes and headed downtown by myself. Sure, Matt dropped me off on his way to run an errand with the kiddos, and it only lasted twenty minutes but still. It was twenty minutes of pure bliss. I walked around cute shops that I had no idea existed and looked at pretty fair trade jewelry and local art, while sipping on a latte from a non-chain coffee shop. I was, like, the definition of hipster and discovered that my little town has way more character than I realized. Kuddos to myself and Lakeland. I didn't know we had it in us.

I know I wasn't nearly as cool as my twenty minutes in heaven made me feel, but it did allow for some perspective. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past several weeks; it's nothing huge, just that unsettled feeling of grey that can come from trying to wrap your mind around a lot of heavy stuff all at once. Time has to be a part of the processing equation. Learning to live well doesn't happen overnight.

Beauty and lightheartedness add such a necessary dimension to life, often overlooked when needed most. It sounds ridiculous but looking at these small pieces of art almost took my breath away. It's as if I'd forgotten that creativity is part of our make-up; it's innate. We are works of art, made to create, cultivating beauty wherever we are. Beauty speaks in so many different tones that we can fail to recognize it. It's in simple deeds of service and hospitality, good conversations with friends and our children's laughter. There's time for creating works of art simply to add beauty to this world. All of these can be acts of worship. No matter how much our world has been distorted by ugliness, it's not a true picture of how it's supposed to be. Art, no matter the form, is a sign post to something bigger. It awakens the ever present longing for the Giver of all good things; all life is art.

Those minutes gave me a fresh perspective, for a moment. I saw the masterpieces in my littles sitting in the backseat and in the love of the man sitting next to me. I let myself just be for once, not worrying, planning or thinking of anything beyond drinking in the life in front of me. We drove around for quite a while, as we've done a lot lately. We drove down quaint brick streets with big oaks in neighborhoods that are rich with history. It made me long for that connectedness and thankful for all the time ahead to plant our own trees and watch them grow.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

They Shall Be Called the Children of God

The last couple of weeks has me thinking a lot about identity. It doesn't take much to see that we're a culture obsessed with labels, whether ones we identify ourselves with or ones that we ascribe to other people. Subcultures and communities are built around them, but they also serve as a way to push us away from each other. Bumper stickers are a great reminder of this. I can size you up in ten seconds to determine whether or not to give you a pass for cutting me off. You got a Jesus fish? Well forget the road rage, we're on the same team! A CoExist sticker? What now? I'll CoExist your tail for the next five miles.

Totally kidding.

I think maybe we do operate like that sometimes though. And well, I do want to be identified with Jesus.

I want to be known as a child of God.

I think.
Most of the time at least. I want to be identified as a child of God in the way Jesus described a child of God. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."  Matthew 5:9

The peacemakers, aye?

If I want to be identified as a child of God then it's important that I am a person who is actively seeking peace with others. Actively seeking peace with others, it seems, requires a posture of humility, which probably won't involve defending my rights. In fact, I can't think of any time that Jesus talked about defending his.

"Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God, and died a criminal's death on a cross." Philippians 2:6-8

How's that for rights?
Sometimes, to actively pursue peace, we have to give up our rights and close our mouths.

When the soldiers and officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees came to arrest Jesus, Peter tried to defend him with a sword, cutting off a man's ear. Jesus not only told him to put his sword away but healed the man as well. Then, he was subjected to all kinds of insults, abuse and a criminal's death. He could have shown his power by having the angels come and slay every one of his enemies. But this wasn't the way his kingdom was built. The offensiveness of Jesus is in the fact that he shows us that the power structures of this world are not really where power is found. It doesn't mean we don't stand for anything. Jesus defended others all the time. He stood for those that had no voice to stand for themselves.

The widow.
The orphan.
The diseased and crippled.
Those caught in sin and those known as sinners.

And yes, Jesus stands for us.
In our helplessness and shame.
In our sin and lowliest of low places.
Jesus stands for us.

This is the God I am so proud to know. The God that actively sought peace with humanity through giving up his rights and dying in our place.

Maybe being a peacemaker looks less like standing up for him, and more like standing with him. Taking on his posture.

Giving of ourselves.

Yes, I want to be labeled a child of God, but I want God to be the one defining the terms.

What are some ways that we can be active peacemakers?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Standing for Justice with a Collective Shout

I'll be honest. All this chicken talk has been wearing me out. It's been so loud and polarizing in a way that makes me wonder if we'll ever get it right. Really, do our voices ever change things anyway?

I suppose it depends on the battles we choose.

A couple months ago I sat in a room with five incredible people talking about ways to stop child sex slavery and exploitation. During the course of the conversation, Glenn Miles, Love146's director of Asia Prevention told us about a book that was sold on called Age of Consent: A Sex Tourists Guide. The basis of this book was to inform people about the varying ages of consent in different countries so as not to get in trouble with the law while engaging in sex with children. It wasn't buried in some shady back room bookstore, it was the first book to come up under a search for sex tourism on Amazon's site. And yes, these are the kinds of materials our right to free speech protects here in America. Thankfully that doesn't mean that there's nothing we can do about it.

The book description stated,

"In some countries it is even illegal to have sex outside of marriage, with severe consequences if you are caught doing so! On the flipside, there are many countries on this planet where the age of consent is as low as 12 or 13... This $3.49 will keep you out of jail, possibly the most important few dollars that any red blooded testosterone pumped traveller will spend."


There is an obvious connection between child sex trafficking and exploitation and sex tourism. The fact that type of material is so readily available on a popular site like Amazon is sickening. While people like Glenn are over in Asia fighting this atrocity, we're over here pumping out ideas on how to make exploiting children easier.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Love146 launched their new Task Force Community website. When viewing the site, one of the first things to see was an "Action Opportunity," which encouraged people to contact Amazon and ask them to protect children by removing the ebook from their site and consider better screening options for the products they sell. As Amazon has responded well in the past to situations like this, Love146 urged people not to boycott, but to respectfully explain their position. A sample letter was given, along with the phone number to contact Amazon. What a great reminder that our posture towards people is important. 

The phone call took five minutes of my time, and the woman on the other side of the line was equally appalled that such a book would be sold by Amazon. I went on with my day and logged onto facebook tonight to see that the huffingtonpost had picked up the story and by 8:35 tonight, the book was off the site. 

Oh my goodness. 

Just like that, it worked. There was no need to badmouth Amazon; they heard.  Obviously, my one voice was not what removed this book from Amazon's site. What did remove it was the collective shout of many voices that were willing to speak up to protect the most vulnerable. As my friend who was part of the initial conversation two months ago put it, "From idea to change in 60 days!" From opportunity to action in 24 hours. 

I know my friends over at Love146 are flying high right now, as well as every individual and task force that was a part of this. We really can make a difference in this world. Our voices matter. Using them is meaningful, even when everything else seems to say, "It is what it is; why bother trying to change things?" 

What a lie. 

So thankful and motivated right now by this beautiful glimpse of seeing that our voices, raised together, can bring about change. Small steps make a big difference. Next time I consider walking away because an action just seems too little and insignificant, I'll remember this moment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Glimpses of Green: Revised.

When I named this blog, it was an invitation to step into our lives. We are, after all, the Greens, and this was a glimpse into our daily. As I've continued to use this space, it's evolved into something a bit different, however. The name has taken on an entirely different meaning for me. So much of the past year or so of my life has been discovering what it means to embody the life of a new creation, and seeing how the extravagant love of God reaches into our world to make all things new. Through my eyes, these glimpses of green have become less about what the Greens are doing on a daily basis to more about the glimpses of renewal that God is creating. It's a glimpse into the greenery of new life that is springing up all around. Hope in darkness. Beauty in ugly messes. Love where hate makes more sense. I also see those glimpses of green in our everyday life as we raise our two littles. Surely it's there in sibling rivalry and reveling, the chaos of the terrible twos, and working through loving a spouse in word and action. But the green of renewal moves far beyond our front door, to a world where children are freed from the bondage of sex slavery, the hungry are fed, the no ones become someones, and the someones realize they're no ones.

When our lives are awakened to this new reality, there's no going back. Why would anyone ever trade the real for imitation? Once you taste the goodness of God, how can you ever settle for anything else? Yet we do.  All the time. We long for Egypt when we've already been set free. This space is for walking through it honestly, through doubts and questions and mistakes, knowing in our humanity we all are life-givers and takers. We're messy and beautiful. We're moving forward but are no closer to arriving. We're only given glimpses, small signposts to the reality of Kingdom life. The someday promise that God is going to completely restore all the brokenness of this world with his healing hand. All nations, all tongues, and tribes will rejoice together in his goodness....someday. For now, we see it in the fight against injustice and systems of oppression. We see it in creative solutions and those that choose to help the poor instead of exploit them. We see it in relationships that choose love over power struggles, and parenting our children patiently instead of exasperating them. Most of all, we hear it in the sweet name of Jesus, through the sacrifice of the cross, and the power of the resurrection by which all people are drawn to bow before the King. These are the glimpses of green that I want my life to inhabit.

So here, I'm camping out, learning as I go.
Always learning.
Always hoping.
Always searching.
And always praying that there's others who will join me.