Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go after them.

For the last several weeks, I have been able to view this city I love from a new vantage point: one I had read a bit about and sought to know more of, but one whose faces I did not yet know. God has used it to churn and twist and bend my heart in new ways and like anything else that is good, I just want to share it. I hope you know that is where my heart is in writing... When God pokes and prods and teaches and refines and convicts, I just want to bring others into it. Maybe so I am not alone, but mostly just because I want us to act together as an army. I believe that when we operate as He created us to, in dependent communion with each other, His glory is achieved and we are one step closer to Heaven on earth. I ask the same of friends and family and people I don't know so that we can learn from each other and go after knowing the heart of our King and living to honor Him together, as one.

It was my first ambulance ride-along.  As a student, my abilities were limited but I was so eager to see what all of this was about. I had considered and wondered how I would respond to the difficult--the types of things that I'd heard make or break you in this world of emergency medicine. Will I freak out if I see something really gross? Will I be able to maintain composure during an intense call? Is there anything that will send me into the fetal position and thumb-sucking mode? Do I know this stuff well enough to remember it even in a stressful environment? None of those possibilities had been left unconsidered in this ever-wondering mind of mine. But God brought something different. 

Patient after patient after patient that day... chief complaint? Tired of living. Weary and weighed down from the world. Exhausted and "out of options." Bearers of burdens that were crushing their frame as minute succeeded minute. Their tears first gathered in the corners of their tired eyes and then fell long, hard, and unhindered. My eyes ached to join them in their tears. Instantly upon looking at their faces and holding their hands, their trouble felt to be my own. Jesus does that. He lets us get into the muck with people and hurt with them because it helps us love them a bit more like He does, I think. The God of all comfort and compassion comforts us so that we can comfort others. As with everything we receive from Him--our testimony, spiritual gifts, joy, comfort, they are for a greater purpose than simply our own benefit. They are for the good of the church-the world-and well ultimately and above all--HIM!

Each of these sweet new friends had different stories, varying ways of acquiring this pain that was now crippling them to what seemed to be the point of no return. More than performing any medical intervention or procedure, I wanted to cup their faces in my hands and tell them that this is not all there is. Something better is available to us. In this world we will have trouble, but our hope lies in the unshakeable truth that He has overcome it all and has prepared a place for us where our pain will not even be remembered, because we will see His face! I did get to tell them a bit of that but I hope and pray for the opportunity to continue the relationships and walk with them through the hard and the happy too. So far I've been unsuccessful in finding them, but I am not giving up easily. 

But here's my point (I am such a rambler, thanks for bearing with me) .... God showed me in these moments, they are there. People who are hurting are all over the place, especially in Atlanta--specifically the parts we try to avoid. I think God wants us to go after these people. I think it's cool and awesome and beautiful when we can attribute those "coincidental" meetings and friendships to His providence and guidance and all of that pretty stuff. But I think He wants more of us than to just let Him interrupt us. I think He wants us to be a more active participant and go after these people. I think the Holy Spirit is eager to guide us in the freedom of following where He is faithful to lead.

I wondered about how ambulance dispatching worked in this crazy busy city and now I know. We split up and go all over Atlanta to specific "posts" where the emergency stats are high. We don't wait around in the station and hit the accelerator when we hear that somebody needs our services. We go out there where people are prone to needing us and sometimes we just wait. Sometimes we drive in circles. But we are waiting or circling with purpose. We are waiting with our eyes open. We are circling with a trust that when something happens, we will be ready to quickly come to their aid. 

I think God is using all of this to continue showing me how He wants us to live, which I am grateful for. Honestly, before now I was content with the chance meetings and cool relationships that have seemed to have come out of nowhere--just simply Him interrupting my daily living to add someone into the day who needs some loving. Those are great, but He is convicting me that that's not enough. He wants us to use our brains and to go to these places where we can guess that darkness is thick. Sometimes we might just be circling for a little while. We might not be welcome there and we might spend more time waiting than we do in activity... but I think this is still right and good. 

Atlanta is aching for Jesus. Drive around with your eyes open if you need confirmation of that. Pass by the intersection of Peachtree and Pine after dark one night. Read the newspaper when you wake up in the morning--I can guarantee a lot went down while you were sleeping. Check out the high school drop-out rate at schools around our city. Visit the Fulton County Jail. Drive on Metropolitan Parkway in broad daylight and try to avoid hitting any of the drunk/high people who accidentally find themselves in the middle of the streets. Sit for 3 seconds inside the Emergency Room of any local hospital. Look under the bridges for the people sleeping as you drive under them. Check out the tents set out under overpasses that serve as a community for some of our Atlanta neighbors. Notice all of the cars in the parking lots of strip clubs and "massage parlors" that are spread all across our city. Go spend time in the Intensive Care Unit and meet all of the people who are on their last days of life and do not know Jesus. Recognize that your neighbor with 8 of the nicest cars money can buy has more than just a healthy love for something worthwhile. As thick as the darkness is in the brothels of Mumbai, the same darkness rules in pockets around our home city... 

Some mornings I pray that God will put someone in my path who needs to be loved or needs to hear the gospel. Sometimes those opportunities present themselves and I thank Him for them. But He is adding to that in my mind and heart and He is telling me to go look for them myself. To seek them out. To go where I can guess to find them instead of just waiting for them to come to me. Like the ambulances intentionally place themselves in areas where they can be of service, let's do the same. And let's remain faithful in the waiting and circling that might come along with that, too. Because Jesus is the kind of guy that went after people... He sought them out and came to them in their distress... He came after me and He used others to do the same and the result is His glory. Let's do it--they're everywhere. Let's get up in their business and give ourselves to them generously, in love. 

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of Hell." ~ C.T. Studd

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

two letters

This is gonna be quick, but I feel a pressing to say it, so I will ... I have been encouraged and want to encourage others in the same way I've received and I want to charge you to do the same.  Because we have power. What we do here carries weight because Jesus decided it would and we can do small things that God can make big things, if He wants. And that alone is a big thing. A really big thing. 

Someone said a two-letter word that almost instantly took my breath away today. If she could have seen the tears spring to my the eyes when she said it, she probably would have been caught off guard by the seemingly out of the blue response to a simple expression. It was a woman I did not even know minutes prior and it was over the phone, which was being pretty uncooperative in keeping a signal strong enough to let our sentences connect. 

As happens quite often in this following Jesus adventure, He has led me to a place where I am utterly clueless and not only 100% dependent on Him (as should always be the case), but beautifully in need of counsel from people who have walked something that I have not. Honestly, my reaching out usually requires the prompts of others who might be equally clueless, but have the wisdom to offer at least the advice of seeking out assistance. I want really badly to walk this life with others, but most of the time all I really have is that desire and a prayer for His love for them. What I mean is, I don't know much about much. Hang out with me for more than 30 seconds if you don't believe me. I have walked this earth for a bit, but most of the time my landscapes have been flowers and fields and blissful ignorance and a good majority of the way, my eyes were not even opened. 

It still doesn't make sense how we were connected, but when her calm and steady voice met my quivering and exasperated attempts at communicating a big mess of words and pictures and thoughts and ideas and emotions that were somehow supposed to be transferred from my head and dreams and heart and mind into sentences, I could feel the grace in my bones. 

I laid my burden on her table... my rambling, 5th grade vocabulary, way too easily distracted, disorganized mess onto her and there was no hesitation in her voice when she responded with "Okay, we......." We. She said "we." ................referring to her and me. And these people that I have no idea how to love. Does she even know my name? Who cares. She said "we." She signed up to go along for the ride. 

The rest of our conversation included a lot of Jesus and a lot of the people He loves and a little of us (thank God for that). In the moment she linked arms and said "we", she became community that does not need to know anything about the other beyond the fact that we are on the same journey and that means we're in this together. That means He created us for each other, because He knew we'd need each other as bad as we do. And also because He thinks we're great and wants to love us more through each other. 

I am yelling this, so be glad you have the buffer of a computer screen (and miles) between us. WE is how He wants us to live with each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He wants you to look at your hurting sister and say "Yeah girl, I am with you." To man-pat (you know the hug with firm back pats) your struggling brother and say "We are going to get through this, man." To nod your head-still digesting all that your friend just shared but saying "Ok. We will figure this out together." Save the advice. The knowledge on this "subject matter" as I so often seek. The experience to claim empathy, even. It's not a requirement. Go with them. Walk. Do. Be. Weep. Rejoice. TOGETHER.... as was His plan all along in forming us to operate as a body. No part is meant to work to full potential without the other.

God can do so much with your little. The little you have to offer to someone--give it freely. Err on the side of giving too much (it's supposed to hurt), even when what you have to give seems like a drop in the ocean... He is able to make big things. Move huge mountains. Dry many tears. Heal deep wounds. All of it. It's His business. Link arms with those around you and walk this stuff out together. It's beautiful.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Kids are my jam. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are my people... the ones He created me to pour my life into day in and day out. I like them all, but most especially the ones whose bodies are fighting sickness or whose hearts are fighting deep hurt or whose minds are fighting the lies the world has spoken to them. The majority of my most precious encompass all three. I don't have huge and lofty aims of rescuing them from these battles, but I do have huge and lofty aims of walking with them/carrying them while Jesus fights the battles for both of us. All of my dreams (the ones He so beautifully writes in each of our hearts) are centered around them and they are most definitely the greatest source of laughter and joy in my life.

My childhood prayers were of finding a baby in a dumpster or a bag on the side of the road. I have vague memories of crying in my bed from exhaustion of looking and not finding, as an 8 year old. (haha, makes me laugh looking back...) When I was a teenager, I remember being irrationally attracted to teen pregnancy because it seemed to be the, perhaps unconventional, fulfillment of a desire that I had felt strongly since childhood. (too bad that didn't work out, haha... i'd have a 10 year old right now!) I logged hours researching how to manage school and a child if I were to adopt as a college student with zero-source of income. (haha, another good laugh-especially for my parents) I later fell in love with Kenyan babies whose moms and dads had died/left them and thought it completely ridiculous that God would allow such deep desire to be a mom to go unmet, even when the need was there waiting to be fulfilled. And the "need" had captivated my heart in the form of tiny brown fingers wrapped around mine and little diaper bottoms scooting on the dusty floor and friends on their death beds who grasped my hand and asked me to take care of their precious ones they were leaving alone in this world and babies naming me "mama" unprompted and hearts that professed the ache for a caregiver to call their own. I remember navigating my way through Nairobi by taxi, alone and in search of someone who could answer my questions on how to make it possible to be a mom to these kids. I remember being angry that I was not yet the legal age to even be considered... because I was ready, I had been ready, why not now? The list goes on and on, but the product is the same: no children "belong" to me today. 

All that to say, where I am today, I spend less time with children than probably ever in my life. Days go by where I do not interact with even one and some days a quick grocery store run provides my only source of contact. But my point is that this is good. Not because I look back and say, "thank God He didn't let that happen... this is so much better" because honestly, I don't feel able to say that most days. With my finite mind and narrow vision, I can't really understand why I am not living in Kenya with a house full of hooligans who call me Mom and are no longer titled "orphan".... but I do trust that He is good, so this is good. 

This life is that of a follower, not of a leader. If I were the leader, I would have "my way" by now, surely. I would have fought hard enough to achieve that which I saw best for my desires to be met. The thing is, when my eyes are on Jesus, I don't trust myself more than I trust a man in a ski mask who asks to hold all of my belongings. Trusting myself is pure ridiculousness...but I do trust HIM in me. And the only way for this to happen, for Him in me to be the hope of glory as promised, is to assume the humble role of follower, rather than leader. I try the leader thing often and I can say with learned confidence, following Him is the greatest adventure that exists. No greater outcome can be reached, no more beautiful dream fulfilled, and no better story written if not accomplished by and through Him. He is the master of creativity and adventure and passion and joy and when I try to take the reigns, I am choosing the mudpies over a holiday at sea. (read this CS Lewis wisdom, if you haven't).

So today I am following. I don't enjoy the ride every day... I ask Him a lot of questions and wonder at His judgment some days... I squirm away from the painful, forgetting He does some of His greatest work in these places... I ask Him to fast forward or rewind, so that I can be back to a place of familiarity or confidence... but in all of these instances, He so graciously reminds me that following Him is believing this: 
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

He is so so so sweet for this. There is no ground we will ever step on, in following Him, that He has not gone before and prepared for us. Yes, there are times He says "go" but He is not just pushing us from behind, He is ahead of us with His arm outstretched. I miss this so many times... I envision Him pushing me off the diving board, saying "go" and cheering me on as I go to carry out the mission He has appointed me. I think my vision is distorted in these moments because His voice is never getting dimmer, as I get further and further "ahead" of Him -- eager to go out and LIVE as He asked me to. His voice is actually getting louder, as I get closer and closer to where He is calling me to. Yes, He (thankfully) pushes and yes, He (graciously) cheers, but He never leaves our side for a second.

He has led me into some pretty odd places lately--ones I never would have tried to pull Him along into... ones I would have been happy to bypass, honestly. But oh man, the joy in seeing His hand!!!! It is unreal. So many things or relationships I never, ever would have signed up for. I am pretty uncomfortable here. I don't know how to walk through life with a man (could have stopped this sentence here, ha) who has spent the majority of his life in a jail cell. I don't know how to pack four kids and a breastfeeding baby into my car and leave their mother in the dust because the children are not getting the care they need. I don't know how to be a light in the darkness of my own city where my upbringing has made me more of a foreigner than a friend. I don't know how to love (well) my family on the other side of the planet, when I do not have any idea when I will make it back to them. I don't know how to do more than just ache with people who are hurting over things I did not even know existed, like choosing to sell your body to provide for your family. I knew it happened, but by choice? I don't know how to love more than a few people well at the same time... and sleeping too. I do not understand how they can both happen. :)

This is a beautiful place to be, sometimes only because I know I followed Him here. I think that's okay. Kids are still my jam... my God-given jam. :) But right now, He's stretching me and asking me to give loving some other (larger) people a shot. It's hard, but it's good. I'm not very good at it, but that's good too. It's good because I don't have much to cling to besides Him. I got nothin. Jesus' dependence on God as HE walked this life really humbles me... "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also." (John 5:19) If Jesus knew this utter dependence so well, let me thank Him for the humble role of following... it really is the greatest adventure.