You know, sometimes God says things to me with such strength, such PUSH, that I am crazy not to hear Him and insane not to move with Him. He makes me laugh out loud, because He knows. He knows He has to speak to me in a thousand different ways, and loud enough that even if I choose to avoid giving Him my full attention, I most certainly know what He’s telling me.
Lately, this is what I’m hearing: Faith should move us to a radically different life. We should not only pay lip service to the idea that people in need matter, we should do. something. about. it.
Not kidding—the song I was just about to write about just came on the radio. I love God so much.
It would be foolish to try to find the beginning of this conversation that God and I have been having, because that’s not exactly how it works. Don’t get all nervous. I’m not telling you that I hear a booming voice in my head. I’m exposed to things—scripture, music, experiences, people, books, things people share, photographs, movies, feelings—and before I even realize it, there’s an echo. Everything resonates at the same frequency, and I feel such overwhelming joy because I’ve heard.
It’s a bit like the night Jupiter was most visible in the night sky, and we put the kids in the car and drove them out to a field in the country to see. We talked to them all the way there about the planets and the stars and about why Jupiter was most visible on this particular evening. When we got out of the car, we stood behind them, describing what they should see, turning their shoulders gently to orient them in the right direction. God “speaks” to me for a long time with a thousand different spiritual nudges, preparing me, and then, when He has me in the right space, He gently turns my shoulders so that I can see more clearly. And the kids’ reactions that night were a bit like mine often are, especially when what He’s saying is uncomfortable or especially challenging.
Zoe (whom we thought would LOVE this—she’s a science NUT), glanced at the spot we pointed to and then kept looking all around her, complaining about the darkness, distracted by the field itself and the idea that something might creep out from among the tobacco plants. Adam had understood our simplified version of the conversation, we thought. But as we got ready to leave the field, he kept looking up and said, “Fireworks?” So, it turned out that he thought we were in the field for an entirely different, much more exciting (to him) reason. Riley looked in the right spot and definitely saw Jupiter, but she got stuck on her questions. “But… Mom, I don’t understand why is Pluto not a planet anymore? I don’t understand why we don’t have a telescope with us so we can see Jupiter shaped like a planet? Dad, which planet is closest to the sun?”
Sometimes, I’m too distracted by my fear to move. Sometimes, I have my own ideas (ones I think are more exciting) about why I’m standing there looking. Sometimes, I get stuck on my endless questions about how, when, and with what energy and resources I’m supposed to act.
So, the song. Matthew West recently released a song called My Own Little World, which Kevin and I loved immediately. It sticks with me like a hard shove because it’s so uncomfortably accurate.
In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
I try to stay awake through Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
it’s easy to do when it’s
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world…
…Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me…
About a year ago, Kevin spent a week of his summer in Baja, Mexico on a medical mission trip. He came home with photographs of children who live in houses made out of trash bags and torn plastic with dirt floors, and he wept telling me about the generosity of the people he met there. They have nothing, but they honored him with gifts for giving them 4×6 prints of his photographs. Before he left, we gathered supplies to send with the group. Things we depend on, like medicine and access to doctors, are things these people do without.
A good friend of mine is in the Ukraine as I write, where she and her husband are getting to know (and preparing to adopt) a 12 year-old orphan whom they already love as a their son. She writes about his life, what she sees, what he says, and I am moved to tears. These children have nothing of their own. When they’re 18, the orphanage will turn them out on the streets. The state can’t afford to support them past that age. Many of the young women turn to prostitution to survive, and many of the young men commit suicide because they have no hope for a better life. These children don’t have the educational opportunities our children have. Their new son, at 12, will come home knowing addition and subtraction and multiplication up to 5 but without any knowledge of division. He’s small for his age, maybe some because of genetics and some because his diet is limited in the orphanage. One day recently they brought two pizzas and a few drinks to the orphanage to share with their son and two of his friends. They were unable to eat because of the other orphans outside the door looking into their private room. Their new son picked up his drink and one of the pizzas, and took it outside the door to the other children. This boy has so little, and yet his attitude is almost always positive and his heart is huge. When they asked him about life in the orphanage, he didn’t launch into a list of complaints. He just said simply, “This is not a home.”
Recently, Max Lucado published Out Live Your Life, an amazing book in his easy, good-humored style about living a life that makes a lasting difference. Kevin is reading it now, but along the way, he’s shared parts of it with me and I’ve scanned the pages. In a chapter titled Let God Unshell You, he writes,
May I show you my clamshell? …Better than body armor, thick as an army tank. Think of it as a bunker for the soul. In here the world has no hunger or orphans. And poverty? This shell comes factory coated with a sadness screen. Racism? Injustice? They bounce off my shell like rain off a turtle’s back.
Let me tell you how good this baby is. I went to a convenience store this morning for coffee and a paper. I was standing in the checkout line, minding my own business, when I noticed the fellow in front of me was paying with food stamps. He wore a baseball cap, baggy khakis, and flip-flops and had three kids at his knees. Close enough to detect his thick accent, I pegged him an immigrant. I can typically stir up a good smirk and pigeonhole these people as fast as you can say, “Burden on society.” But this family started getting to me.
…About that time the cashier shook her head and returned the food stamps. Apparently their value wasn’t enough to cover the purchase. The father gave her a confused look. That’s when it hit me. I can help him out.
…Then came the involuntary reflexes. My left hand lifted to signal my willingness. The other dug in my pocket for money. That’s when I snapped to my senses and realized what was happening. I was under a compassion attack. I immediately lifted the lid of my shell and climbed in. I noticed other shoppers had already taken cover. I barely escaped. What would we have done without our clamshells?
He goes on to write about all the things we say when we are confronted with the vast need in this world. We all have our own issues and burdens to bear. We’re busy. We’re strapped. But then, as Max Lucado points out so well, we’d have a hard time selling that argument to the Jerusalem church after God “unshelled” them at Pentecost. “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).” There’s a note on the first page of the book that says that 100% of Max Lucado’s royalties from Outlive Your Life products “will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.”
So now Max Lucado is on tour with Toby Mac, Michael W. Smith, Jason Grey, and Third Day to raise sponsorship for World Vision. It’s called the MAD (make a difference) tour. And KLOVE radio, of which I am admittedly a huge fan, has launched an initiative called Go M.A.D. Go make a difference. They’re encouraging listeners to share their stories under the topic, How are YOU making a difference? A few days ago, I was watching a Beth Moore video with some dearly loved friends and sisters, and Beth Moore challenged all of us. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Are we growing? Is any of this stuff we’re doing making a difference? Because if it isn’t, what’s the point?? We might as well all go home. We’re a privileged people. If you can read and buy books, you’re among the most privileged people in the world. So, what are we going to DO?”
It doesn’t take 10 minutes reading in the Gospels to figure out that Jesus didn’t just talk about people in need. He touched the leper. Literally. He healed the sick. He provided food for the hungry masses. He ate and drank with the lowest members of Jewish society. Every day for Jesus, right up to the cross and then the clouds, had one directive: Go make a difference. All for God’s glory, even to the point of redemption. To walk in His footsteps, I can’t just pay lip service to loving those in need. I have to go out and do it.
I’m not sure yet exactly how many tangible ways this truth will be realized in our lives in the coming months, but I can tell you this: It occurred to me the other day that my children need medications every month and we don’t have any difficulty getting them or paying for them. We are warm, well-dressed, well-fed, and we have a beautiful home, recently redecorated. My daughters circle “wishes” in toy catalogs. Every season, I give away boxes of clothes that no longer fit them. Riley is an ace at multiplication and division. We have book shelves full of books. Last March, I purged load after load of excess and took it to Good Will, and still, we have plenty. I’m so very thankful for our blessings. I know the hand from which they have come. And I’m so convicted.
This passage from Luke 12 is commonly known as The Rich Fool:
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We have so much. And there’s so much need in the world.
Recently, I saw a bra in the Victoria’s Secret catalog that was studded with diamonds and other precious stones. The catalog boasted about it’s design by a world-famous jeweler (??never heard of him) and touted it’s price tag: 2 million dollars. Then they said, “But if you can’t afford that, perhaps you’d be interested in our less expensive version.” $250. For one bra. I’m sorry if this offends you, but sometimes our excess is disgusting. There are children in this world who think 1 banana is a feast (ask Kevin, he handed some out in Baja).
So, we’re going to go m.a.d. at the Three Ring Circus. One way or another, we’re going to move with God on this one. The first, and perhaps the smallest way (God only knows where He will take this), will be with gifts and gift-giving. If you’re one of those wonderful people who loves our family with gifts, we humbly ask you to join us in this effort. Don’t panic if you’ve already done your shopping. Every way that you show your love for us matters, and some of you pour a lot of love and thought into your gifts, and that means so much to us. But here’s what we’d like to ask you to do in the future. Make a donation in our names to World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, JDRF, Autism Speaks, The Autism Society of Wake County, The Epilepsy Foundation, Camp G.R.A.C.E., Eastern European Mission, Palmetto Bible Camp, Carolina Bible Camp, Baja Missions, Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Organization, the American Red Cross, or any other worthy group that works to meet the needs of those in true need, and tell us what you’ve done and how our Lord has been glorified. Let that be your gift to us, and look out—it’s probably going to be our gift to you. OR, do something for someone in real need, small or large, in honor and love for us and more importantly for the glory of God, and tell us what you’ve done. Write letters to us about your experiences and share photographs. Write letters to our children that they will treasure forever about what they mean to you. Go m.a.d. with us, please.
Inspire us with your stories. Tell us: How do you go m.a.d.?