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Being Seen

Jill1Hi. I’m Jill, a writer, speaker, editor, pastor, and all-around person in need of grace. Particularly now, since currently, I’m working on moving my blog and website information over to this lovely and venerable site. But for now, if you’d like to read current or past blogs, please visit me here.

I talk about a lot of things on my blog and in my books and articles. But usually, they focus on a few main topics. Fear, faith, empowerment (particularly of women and the next generation), caring for those less powerful, and trying to live freely the abundant life God has given us.

To let you know I know what I’m talking about with this fear and empowerment thing, let me give you some background.

warriors-together4I’m the kids who refused to step too far into the back yard after dark. The woman who slept with a nightlight when I was twenty. The person who would still rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a really close acquaintance of mine. For too long.

Yet there is God, telling me to live “adventurously expectant.” To look at each day and ask, “What’s next?” And that enthusiasm isn’t supposed to lessen when today’s “next” wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. Or when we’re terribly certain tomorrow’s will be worse. “Fear not” may be the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. What’s happening here?

I don’t want to live life as a grave-tender, so wrapped in fear of what might be that I lose the time in between. I want to live an adventure for God’s kingdom, and I want to do it with you. I want to know who I am, and I want you to know who you are, because of who He is.

I want us both to know the identity God put in us when he created the imago dei in the garden. He hasn’t rescinded that deal. I want to see you and hear you and know you–and I want you to know He already sees and hears and knows you.

To prove I’m serious, here’s your first story.

I’m terrified of spiders. If you don’t believe this, you’ve never seen me run out of the shower shrieking because there was an eight-legged creation of God on the tile wall. Which is a good thing. No one should see me run out of the shower. Ever.

I hyperventilated if I saw a picture of a spider. But before leading my fist mission trip, I decided, no more. Time to face it. It can’t be as bad in reality as in imagination. Sure it can’t. Totally believed that, except not.

Spider (1)I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.

Seriously, God gave me such a calm that the whole thing was kind of surreal and interesting. Plus, I made sure to get it on video. Because, you, know, this is not going to be repeated on an annual basis or anything.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.

The Lord knows I’d lived through way worse than spiders by that time, anyway.

So, let’s join one another. I can’t wait to see what happens here.

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PS– I’d love it if you want to hit the button to subscribe or shoot me an email to be put on my mailing list!

Straight Outta Context

29542-img_0057When I was on the debate team in high school, we learned one helpful reality—if you look hard enough, you can find a statistic to prove just about anything. See, in debate, you have to be ready to argue either side of a position at any moment. So, you learn to find “truth” that can be looked at from several different angles. Depending on the source, there is “proof” of anything we want to find proof of.

That this is so has never been more evident than in the last couple months.

Yet, don’t we Christians play that game just a bit, too?

–How many times have you had someone tell you they found the perfect scripture verse for your situation? (And how many times has it not been perfect at all but seriously guilt-inducing? I see those hands.)

–How often have we wailed, “I don’t understand why God didn’t keep his promise! I claimed that verse as my own.”

–How many people have told you, in trolling comments or in your face, that whatever you are doing, want to do, or are contemplating doing, it is wrong and this is the one verse in the Bible that proves it?

Well, maybe I get that last one more than you do, being a female preacher and all.

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When it comes to truth, how often do we play Bible roulette, able to find a verse for any situation that will prove anything we want it to prove? Is that dealing honestly with God’s word? Or is it our debate-style proof of what we already wanted to believe?

Yes, God can and does give us the word we need to hear on certain days for particular times. But what if we’re sometimes playing finger roulette with the Holy Word, finding it simpler to open and point to what God wants me to hear that day than to pursue both a deep and broad knowledge of His story and our place in it?

Like finding a Shakespeare quote on Pinterest and thinking we know all of the Bard’s work now.

Like randomly picking a guy off of Tinder and being sure this is The One.

(Seriously, do not do that.)

That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. Acts 17.10-12

See what they did there? They heard a good thought. They liked it. Then they searched the Scriptures. They figured out how this new idea fit with God’s whole story. They determined if it checked out against all they had been given.

They sought context.

I mean, if we really want to play stick-the-finger-in-the-Bible and find our verse for the day, what happens when these come up?

  • Go marry a prostitute and have children with her. — Hosea 1:2
  • Throw the first stone. — John 8:7
  • There is no God. — Psalm 14:1
  • Go to Bethel and sin.— Amos 4:4

You can see the problem.

But what about a few others, a few we are far more used to taking on their own and making, can we say, almost idols out of?

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.—Philippians 4:13
  • Judge not, that you be not judged.— Matthew 7:1
  • Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.—Proverbs 22:6

Do those words you keep using really mean what you think they mean?

When Philip came across the Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scripture, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Then, he gave the whole story.

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Why does this matter?

There are a lot of teachers out there. I try to be one of them. The reality is, some Christian teachers are dishonest. This should not surprise us. Some plumbers, carpenters, doctors, and lawyers are dishonest. Some people in any profession will tell us lies. Some will mislead us out of the best of intentions, maybe not even realizing they too are victims of pick-and-choose verseology. Some are so wrapped up in their particular belief or cause that they cannot see the big picture.

The truth has nothing to do with the size of the person’s audience or the feeling you get when you hear him or her speak.

The truth is in the whole story.

It matters, because in a world of alternative facts and fake news, we need more than ever to know what the whole arc of God’s story has to say about something. We do not need to know one or two or five carefully chosen verses planned to sway an argument the way a person wants it swayed.

God help us, we do not want to live our faith out by a few verses we like best and miss the rich context God has for us.

So how do we do that? How do we be like the Bereans (that sounds like a great dance move, by the way) and find context to the story?

Ask questions of the teachers you listen to and read.

  • What is the writer saying?
  • Can he/she draw that conclusion?
  • What is the context of the verses he or she is using? Is it valid?
  • Is whole of scripture in agreement?
  • Does this contradict any command of God?
  • Would Jesus say this? Seriously, would this ever come out of Jesus’ mouth?
  • Does this make logical sense?
  • Would believers I respect agree?
  • Is there someone who teaches the opposite? What does that person say? How do they inform one another?

When reading Scripture, read large bits of it, not just a verse-a-day devotional.

Make a reading list for yourself so you can get a but of the whole picture progressively. Like this one we use at our church:

  1. Mark
  2. Paul’s letters–Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
  3. Genesis
  4. Acts
  5. Proverbs
  6. John
  7. 1, 2, 3 John
  8. Romans
  9. Exodus
  10. James
  11. 1 and 2 Peter
  12. Jude
  13. Ruth
  14. Luke
  15. Isaiah
  16. 1, 2 Corinthians
  17. 1, 2 Samuel
  18. 1, 2 Timothy
  19. Titus
  20. Matthew
  21. Deuteronomy
  22. Hebrews

keep going!

Keep it in context. God didn’t put verse numbers in, after all. He gave us a love story, a whole one.

Alternative Facts and Truth We Can Touch

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What is truth?

Pilate asked that question before he washed his hands clean of the guilt of crucifying Jesus.

But he is not the only one.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. — Marcus Aurelius

If this was a man’s belief in the first century, perhaps the notion that we can choose our own truth isn’t as new as we think it is. Certain politicians may lean on it (a lot) more than others, but apparently truth bending and fact creation has been with us since, well, since a snake in a garden said, “Nah, that’s not at all what God told you. I know.”

And if we need more evidence, consider the eerily accurate prophecy of a famous futuristic writer:

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history. — George Orwell

As we’ve been discussing truth here for the last month, and as the world has been discussing truth and lies and “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it’s easy to wonder where to look for facts that are not created by the whim of fallible humans with an agenda to push.

What is truth, indeed?

While we scurry around looking, let’s look at one great aspect of truth we often forget.

Truth is a person.

I AM the way and the truth and the life. — John 14.6

This is truth on a whole new level. We are used to truth as an idea. Truth as a set of rules. Truth as a logical explanation, like those proofs we had to do in freshman geometry. (I loved proofs. I find I am in the distinct minority for this affection.)

But truth as a person? A god-person? How do we even wrap our heads around that?

If Jesus IS the truth, then all searching for truth ends in him. All that I don’t understand is clear through the truth I can know. All things that claim to be truth have to be held up next to the one life that WAS truth.

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If they waver next to Him, they aren’t true.

See, I think God knew that we would need truth with skin on. I think He knew we would never understand the truth until we met it. In person. I think that once we fall in love with a true life, we will recognize it whenever and wherever we see it. We will settle for no less.

We can hold all the rules, create dozens of propositions, and read systematic theology cover to cover. (Trust me, I have.) In end, though, here’s the thing. It is we who must be true, not static words and rules. This is the most important thing truth does for us.

Truth gives us a relationship where we discover true living

We needed to see a true life to live a true life. In relationship with the Truth, we discover true living. The closer we get to him, closer we get to being true people.

Being true people is more important than knowing truth.

One day in high school I looked at a friend and thought to myself, I don’t know all the details about God, but I know the truth about him is there. Right there, in her.

She lived a true life.

I want the kind of life that others will see and say—I’m not sure what truth is, but I know it when I see it. And I see it there.

When we live lives of truth, cascading with transparency and integrity, Jesus tells us we will be telios—complete, lacking nothing, at peace. Can you imagine the effect of that kind of truth on others?

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This is the biggest reason truth is important. Because truth is a person. Truth is a relationship. Knowing that person, having that relationship, gives us true lives, something far more valuable than any win in any debate I ever entered or score on any apologetics test I ever took.

When we are confused by alternative facts, fake news, and subjective but vehement opinions, remember. Hold it up to the One who lived true. Can it stay there? Or does it wither away next to the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

We can handle the truth because the Truth made himself ultimately handleable—to be in flesh and blood and skin and sweat what we needed. He made Truth accessible.

Bedrock, Lasers, and English Papers

img_7471Remember outlining? That junior high English class exercise where you had to put everything you were going to say in a paper in an organized, neatly lettered and sub-lettered, torturous form?

I taught that. Please don’t hate me.

Outlining Truth

As a writer, I know the power of outlines. As a preacher, I know people do not want to sit through a sermon that was not outlined. I’ve sat through too many of those myself. If a writer does not know where she is going, she’s going to end the article, or sermon, in a vague mess of excess stuff.

If a life isn’t lived with an outline, it’s going to end in a vague whimper of, “Yeah, I guess I’m done now. That was it?”

I don’t want that.

Truth gives us that life outline. That’s one of the answers to the “why” question of our age. Why is truth important? Because we don’t want a vague life.

Truth matters because if it is timeless and steady, we have an outline for everything else. If not, we waver through life like a bad research paper that never finds its objective.

Truth gives us a framework

img_3688I learned about building skyscrapers this week. First, engineers build a steel framework for the building, sunk into the bedrock below. Then, walls are actually hung on the framework, like giant curtains in the air. It’s a fascinating idea. The stronger and better built the framework, the higher it can soar, and the more curtain walls can be hung.

There is so much information bombarding us at all times. TMI is the plague of the 21st century. How do we know what to choose from the chaos as truth we will hang our lives on? How can we grow higher and farther unless we are hanging new information on an absolute steady framework dug deep into bedrock?

If I do have that, everything else I find in life, every bit of information or challenge, can be tested by its fit on the building. Yes, this stays—this will help me soar higher. I can hang it up. No, this goes. it drags down. It doesn’t fit the framework.

Truth matters because it gives us something to test everything by to know what rightly fits when building our lives.

Truth offers light

Sixteen years ago, a surgeon cut a cancerous thyroid from my neck. To do this, she used a headlight that shone with laser-like focus on the part of me that needed cutting out. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable with a surgeon who was going to forgo the light and just reach into my neck in the dark, find something the felt “thyroidish,” and pull on it. There are important things in the vicinity of the thyroid, like a trachea, aorta, larynx, and facial nerves. I prefer a surgeon who uses a light in that dark place to see exactly what needs to go and what needs to stay where it is.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. John 3:19-21

God’s truth shines in dark places and says—yes, this is real. This is good. Keep this. No, this is garbage. Yank it out. This is useful when so much garbage is being tossed at us on a daily basis, and we have to find the good bits in between. Light is invaluable.

To follow Jesus inevitably puts us in light, because He is the light of the world. Without fail, it forces us to see the reality of ourselves. Through His light, we see the truth about ourselves, the world, and our place in it.

Truth tells us our place in this world, which is valuable help in a world that tells us we are kings and queens of our own destiny.

img_7421I’m grateful for an outline. I don’t want to waver through life unsure of where I hope to end up.

I’m thankful for a framework. I want to be able to build my life higher, better, stronger, and I can only do that when it’s based on a scaffold embedded in bedrock. Embedded in truth.

Yes, we disagree on any things. Christians disagree on a lot of things. But there is a framework.

We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

We believe He was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting.

We believe. These things stand. These things are what all else hangs on. These things are true.

Where do you need truth today to hang your hope and dreams and on? Where do you feel like things around you are crumbling and you could use something to hold them together? Where do you want to grow higher and better? Find your outline. It’s holding what you need.

Drive It off the Lot

IMG_6100My dream car is a four-door, bright blue, Mini Cooper with a white hood. Preference for the little checkered rearview mirror backs, too. It’s a fairly undemanding dream, right? If someone handed me the keys to that car and told me, “Take it. it’s yours. Go anywhere you like, explore all the places you want to go, just follow the rules of the road,” is that restriction? Or freedom?

God gives us the keys to our dream life and says, “Go. Explore. Grow. Learn. Have fun. Just follow the rules so you stay on the road.”

Set Free for What?

As we continue the discussion I started last week of truth and what it means, we need to grapple with the idea of what the truth sets us free for. One of the reasons many people see talk of truth and freedom and sin as restricting is the narrow insistence that our freedoms are only from sin. It’s that word ‘from’ that sticks. They know, instinctively, that freedom isn’t free it it’s only away from something. It has to also be toward something.

I have a friend who got out of jail recently. He is free from his cell. But he is not free. Because of his record, he can’t get a job. He can’t find housing. He lives in the woods scrambling for food and praying for a break. (This too-common situation, by the way, is the real reason for the recidivism rate.) This is not freedom. There is no toward.

There is a whole lot more than freedom from sin—there is freedom toward the Kingdom.

Our gospel has been too small to accommodate that reality.

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If we believe the Son has set us free from our sinful lives, what are we supposed to do with those lives? If we believe that “The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death,” (Romans 8.2), what will we do with that life-giving power?

If we believe that we have been given the keys—not of a shiny blue Mini Cooper but of the kingdom of God—what are we opening the gates to? If we believe the church was destined to destroy the gates of hell, what are we waiting for?

Logically, that last part is not going to happen after we all fly away to heaven.

What Are Your Keys?

If you believe you have been given keys—keys to use your gifts toward something—where are you going to drive? Have you spent more time trying to avoid evil things than trying to create good? Not that the former isn’t a worthy goal. But if I’m going to act like the image of God in this world, I need to remember that God is a creator. His first order of business was to create life—life that he then called good. Shouldn’t I consider that a priority for me, then, as well?

The great thing is, when we start to create good around us? The evil we were afraid of usually has to back off. There isn’t room for it anymore. There is just too darn much good going on.

Is God giving you the keys to move toward life? Real, heart-pulsing, gate-bashing, meaningful life? Then what’s stopping you from driving off the lot with them?

Today, let’s create good. Let me know what you create. I’ll work on it over here.

Handling the Truth

img_8885“You can’t handle the truth!” I watched Jack Nicholson’s face bulge in the trailer to A Few Good Men as he yelled that iconic line. I’ve never seen the movie, but I got the point. The truth is complex. Nuanced. Potentially too dangerous for the Tom-Cruise-character person asking to know it.

His isn’t an isolated opinion. I suspect that’s part of what’s behind a lot of the assumptions today that there is no truth. In reality, seeking truth, and finding it, could be scary. It could change us. It could demand things. And we could find out after all that we were wrong anyway in believing it.

If it’s really as nuanced as we suspect, it might be better to just let it lie and assume it’s nuanced enough that we can get by with whatever we cobble together.

Truth is tricky. Lack of truth is trickier. But the trickiest question of all—

If Christianity is the truth, why does it matter to my life?

Truth sets us free

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8.31-36

It’s not the expectation of most these days that Christianity sets people free. The majority of onlookders would accuse it of restricting freedom with all its rules and regulations. Religion isn’t freeing—it’s smothering.

They have a point. When the truth is handled wrongly, it does smother. Paul warned Timothy he’d be ashamed before God if he could not “correctly explain (handle) the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2.15). Can we handle the truth? Sometimes not, when we consider all the ways we have used it to hurt people rather than love them.

Yet Jesus says that the truth will set us free, and if his servants don’t always handle it correctly, that does not mean Jesus’ words are nullified.

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Tension

When I was a child, my two cousins, my sister and I decided to get ourselves into trouble. Kids do this at times, I hear. Especially kids who don’t have the benefit of a Christian upbringing. We went to a drug store, stuffed some candy bars into our pockets, and left. At least, the three of them did. I had no pockets, so I did no stuffing. Not ten feet out the door, security came and hauled our bums back in, gave us a scare, and had our parents pick us up. Everyone was in big trouble except — me. No goods were found on me; I had done nothing wrong. Technically.

But the guilt of fully intending wrong and participating dug at me and would not let me go. I had no freedom to enjoy the afternoon. I was miserable, though unpunished. Only a full confession to my mom brought the freedom my soul needed that afternoon.

Truth is freeing. There is no freedom when we are living in lies, or living a lie with our lives. Even those who say they don’t believe in truth have to admit—there are parts of their hearts they don’t love, aspects of their lives that don’t pass the test of looking oneself in the eye in the mirror. We all want freedom.

There is tension in the lines of our lives, like there was tension in the line between me and my parents, until our lives are true. Jesus asserts that our lives are not ever going to be true until we come to him for forgiveness and power to live in the rightness that we know.

When we live lives that are lies—lives that are not true to our created purpose—there is tension. We have no freedom. We know this, we feel it, even as we argue that there is no truth.

God’s Gift of Truth

img_8763Far from being restricting, truth is a gift from God. It frees us to know exactly what we need to live true lives, not to have to guess, to communicate without tension with the Creator of our souls.

If the truth of God says don’t lie—we are free to live in authenticity and real relationship with others when we submit.

If the truth of God says don’t gossip—we are free to love others well and not worry if anything we said will be overheard and misunderstood.

if the truth of God says don’t covet or envy—we are free to be thankful for what we have, not worrying about what we don’t and being truly happy for others’ good fortune.

That’s hardly restricting.

That’s a truth that sets us free.

We Stood for Refugees. Literally.

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“Well, when we planned this event earlier this week we thought we’d have about forty people and we cold hold it in our offices.”

The World Relief spokesperson looked out at the crowd of an estimated 800-1000 people.

“I guess we were wrong.”

I’ve rarely been as proud to be a Jesus follower as I was that night. In response to the previous week’s executive order halting the refugee program for four months and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, God’s people stood up.

For some of us, we stood up because there was nowhere to sit. The megachurch pews were packed out, people lined the walls two deep, and it was probably a good thing no fire marshals were present. At the end of the evening when staff workers asked refugees among us to raise their hands, everyone stood in a show of solidarity and respect. Refugees received a standing ovation.

I have to admit, I cried. It’s been lonely lately, fighting for the least of these among us, the ones Jesus told us were a stand-in for him in this world. It’s been a turbid sea of misinformation, deliberate lies, and anger. So much anger.

So to see that there are so many ready to stand and fight that same fight was overwhelming. I know not all showed up in support. Some needed more information. Some were curious and/or concerned, wondering if their security was threatened. But clearly, hundreds of people had only one questions—what can we do to help?

Here’s the important thing—whether you belong to the group who wants to help or the group who questions why, you are a welcome and needed part of the conversation. None of this can be talked about from only one side. So as a World Relief volunteer (not as an authorized spokesperson) I’d love to have that conversation. Above all, I want to have the conversation in a Christlike way—“full of grace and truth.”

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So if you have questions, I hope this helps. Especially, if your question is “What can I do?”

First, there are the usual questions.

Isn’t it good to have secure vetting process? Isn’t that what this is all about?

Yes, it is good. It is imperative. No one is safe without a good vetting process for refugees, us or them. However, the process is good. It is tight. it takes almost two years (and that does not count the many years some people wait in refugee camps before their process begins.) You can get a brief overview of what happens in this process here.

A terrorist hoping to get through as a refugee would have to travel to a refugee camp, prove his refugee status before being allowed to stay, wait for years until allowed to apply to the UN, hope to be among the less than one half of one percent admitted to the US, go through a two-year process of interviews and biometric and medical exams, and get past Homeland Security. Good luck with that. Student and tourist visas are so much faster.

Might we let in terrorists?

Since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up systematic procedures for admittance, there has been not one refugee implicated in a major attack in the US. Not one person has died. We have resettled over three million refugees and not one has killed anyone in a terrorist act. That’s a pretty good record. Surely a system working that well, even if it needs scrutiny, did not need a total shutdown while that scrutiny was being accomplished.

According to the CATO Institute, “ The chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year.” That is one person among half the world’s population.

Meanwhile, the chances of dying or watching one of your loved ones die in, say, Aleppo, is approximately 100 percent.  I’ll let you do the moral math on that one.

Why don’t we take care of our own first?

We should take care of our own. We should take care of anyone in need. Americans have the means to do so—we just don’t have the will. This is not an either-or question nor a zero-sum game. We are not required to choose. I can care for anyone and everyone.

You know what I notice? People who have generous spirits tend to be generous on lots of levels. They have open hearts (and schedules and wallets) for many. Conversely, folks who tend to questions why we help others, who appear just a bit . . . ungenerous . . . in their speech and criticisms? They don’t tend to be helping anyone. It’s just kind of a pattern.

Because we have the means for both. We do not have the will.

What does the Bible really say?

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Bangladesh / Rohingya refugees from Myanmar / A grandmother and her granddaughter. Teknaf, Cox’s Bazaar District / UNHCR / G.M.B. Akash / June 2006

From the covenant with Abraham, God told his people to bless the nations. As the Israelites pursued their Exodus under Moses, God repeatedly commanded them to remember that they were once wandering refugees. They were once the foreigners. They were once the immigrants. And they should remember that and treat the foreigners among them with welcome, kindness, and respect.

When the Israelites were exiled from their land, God laid two charged against them. They committed idolatry, and they refused justice to the oppressed. The prophets recite the realities over and over—God will judge those who do not remember that they were once or, easily could be, those needing welcome, kindness, and respect.

To which Jesus adds, love your neighbor as yourself. And btw, your neighbor is everyone. No exceptions.

To deny this as an overarching theme of scripture is to be reading a very different Bible than the one I studied in seminary.

What can I do to help?

Good question! Resettlement agencies will face a huge shortfall of funding with this EO. They will be forced to shut down some operations and lay off staff that are currently serving refugees that have come in the last several years. So first, donate to the organization of your choice. They need it desperately. Mine is World Relief; your choice might be different.

(And hey–if you want to donate by contributing to my “Walk for WR fund” go ahead! I would appreciate it! I’m excited to be doing this walk. Because it’s Worlds Relief, and because they’re not making me run.)

Second, let your congresspeople know how you feel. Call. Email. Write. Keep watch over the situation.

Advocate. Educate yourself on the facts and then tell people. Nicely. Gently. Like Jesus would. Not the Jesus who took a whip to the temple (because we are not Jesus and not really authorized to do that) but the Jesus who used words to heal, reconcile, and educate. Fruit of the Spirit, people.

Volunteer. I’ve had the privilege of bringing refugees from the airport to their new home. It’s a joy-filled trip! I’ve also had the joy of purchasing the things they will need to start a new life and setting up an apartment to welcome families home. Families need “friendship partners” to come alongside the and help them learn the ways of this confusing culture. They need volunteers to teach them English and help them navigate the citizenship process. They need advocates in churches. The list is long. I’m excited to be finishing my training as an ESL instructor. It isn’t hard, and it doesn’t take long. I put it off for years, sure that I didn’t have the time, or the personality, for this work. Until God kicked me and reminded me that those are very first world worries in a world where people have lost their children, spouses, countries, and homes.

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Is it scary? Yes. I am an introvert among introverts, and talking to strangers, especially strangers who don’t speak my language, is so far out of my comfort zone. But seriously, how far are they out of all that has ever been comfortable?

Five Useful Questions for Making Decisions — Plus One

50c07-img_4474Decisions, decisions. That’s what we’ve been talking about for the past five weeks. Decision making. Fear of making a decision. Fear of not making a decision. We’ve covered five great questions to ask ourselves when we are looking at decisions, risks, or ideas. The five questions were originally posed by Gretchen Rubin here.

To the five questions already covered, I would add this one:

Is this decision irreversible?

If I decide to do (or not do) this thing today, does that mean I’ve committed myself to it forever and ever amen? No chance of reprieve or plea of insanity?

Often, we convince ourselves it is when in fact, it’s not. We get ourselves all worked up and terrified to take one direction because we’re sure we can never change course. We’ll be stuck. It’s like we don’t remember there’s an “off” button on the blender as well as an “on.” Once we start the whole dang thing going, we’ll get sucked into that mix forever and never be able to extricate ourselves.

Now, this may be true if you’re a strawberry. It’s tough to put a strawberry in the blender and retrieve it before it’s strawberry banana surprise puree. But you are not a piece of fruit. You have options.

Well, sometimes

In fact, some things in life are irreversible. If you decide to get pregnant and succeed, you’re going to have to go through with it. To my knowledge, “control-alt-delete” has no effect there. Likewise, once you decide to say “I do,” you did. If you decide to jump off a cliff into the ocean and partway down think better of it, you’d definitely better still know how to swim.

But not that often

But those things are big, rare, life-altering things that, by their nature, happen infrequently. Most things can start out one way and then bend down the road a bit when the need arises. Why do we forget that we have control over changing our mind?

Case in point—our trip to Europe a few years ago. We had planned a detailed itinerary (and by we I mean I, seeing as I am the only one who plans vacations and the other four usually follow like lemmings to their doom). But because of transportation strikes, unavailable trains, and the French being, well, French, things didn’t always go as planned.

217b8-p1010448We detoured. We traveled in unexpected manners. We changed course as needed, still focused on the final destination, but the journey took lovely twists and turns we would not have found had we believed our original itinerary decisions to be unchangeable.

Yet so often, we refuse to start because we’re not sure we will finish the course exactly as planned.

–Why go to college? I’m just going to change my mind on what I want to do.

–Why start writing a book? I may find out I was all wrong half way through.

–Why volunteer for this organization? I may not have the time or passion for it later.

Yes, this could all be true. But does changing your mind down the road totally negate the part of the journey you already took? Does the fact that we never got to Geneva toss out all that we experienced in Paris and Barcelona?

We refuse to make a decision because we’re afraid it may not be the perfect solution forever. Here’s the revelation–

Nothing ever is.

img_2769Everything adapts. But if we fear starting because we may not end where we thought, we’ll never get to Paris at all. And what we learn in Paris may have been the whole point. That, and what we’ll learn in the detour.

In fact, when faced with something that I can’t make a decision on, I always ask myself two questions:

Will I get the chance to do this again?

Will I regret not doing it now?

If the first answer is no and the second yes, you know the decision that has to be made.

There–actually eight questions to help make decisions in the new year. I hope and pray you find them useful in the coming months. I’d love to hear about your decisions and risks for 2017!