Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crazy Love

In September, I read a book called Crazy Love (Francis Chan). A small group of girlfriends and I had been reading together all summer and this was our latest choice. I had wanted to read it for some time so I was really looking forward to it. Boy, oh boy. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. That book stirred me up so much that there were times when I had to put it down and just close my eyes and sit with what I'd read for a few minutes. I told JD I needed him to read it so I could process it with him.

A couple of weeks later, JD and I hop into his truck to head to a fall festival and I notice a book in his console. I truly love to read, so I pick it up and ask, "What's this?" He says it's the next book selection for his Friday morning men's group. I skim the cover and turn it over and read the back cover. I'm instantly intrigued because it sounds much like Crazy Love. Coincidence? Of course not. The tag line reads: Taking back your faith from the American Dream. Wow. Makes you want to read it, doesn't it? So I ask JD if he's started it and he says not yet, so I offer to start reading aloud. Just 20 minutes of reading spurred a deep conversation between us. Sure, there were points that were tough, but we yearned to read on. I didn't think another book could stir me like Crazy Love did, but Crazy Love turned out to be just a primer to this second book. It's title is Radical byDavid Platt. I couldn't put it down. And it helped that JD was reading it too.

I read it in a few days and felt God using its message to really stir something deep inside me that asked, "Why am I here?"


Not the "Why am I on this planet?" I've wrestled through that question plenty over the years and definitely know the answer. I was thinking, "Why was I born in America? After all, there are two things people can't control: the zip code they're born in and the family they're born into. So why in the world have I been so blessed when so many others in the world have nothing?" Not even a family.

I've felt almost ashamed or burdened at times by being born in America. Maybe 'unworthy' is a more appropriate descriptor. But I've come to realize there's nothing to be ashamed of or burdened by -- if I'm trying to live the way I should be. I believe God has put every single one of us who are American here because He wants to see what we're going to do with our position in this world...all we're given, all our blessings, all our needs met, wanting for basically nothing including peace and health. He puts us here so we can respond to the rest of the world. I'm no Mother Teresa. I will never serve the Lord in the capacity that she did. I will fall short and struggle the rest of my life with the vortex of American life and wanting to fit in. But I can at least try to be obedient to the direction God wants to take me. That's all I can do. Whatever that may look like. No matter how scared I am. And there are times (especially presently) when I'm scared.

As I'm sure you too have been, I've been taken aback with the thought of the many people in the world who have so little, who are suffering so greatly and are truly struggling to just figure out their next meal. I've asked myself why I'm not that person. Why I wasn't born into a war-torn, truly poverty-stricken, disease-ridden country.

But then the thought passes and I walk into the Starbucks I was driving to and order myself a tea miso with soy milk.

Ponder this: if you earn more than $50,000 per year you're in 1% (read: one percent) of the world's population. I did not write $500,000 per year. I wrote $50,000 per year. Let's be honest, in the United States, especially in our middle and upper-middle class suburban communities, if you earn $50,000 per year, you're probably living paycheck-to-paycheck and are more than struggling to make ends meet. However, you have running water, electricity, a car, a bed, enough food to eat to probably overfill your belly, and very likely cable and a cell phone. We can't even get our heads around being 1% of the world's population. That should boggle your mind like it does mine. (I got this stat from Radical, but couldn't for the life of me find the page to reference it).

So these books rattled me. And I find it not a coincidence that God brought them to my awareness within weeks of each other. I'd like to share some of the journal entries I wrote during the time that I was reading Crazy Love so you can know the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing at this time.

With the exception of sharing them with JD only recently, I've never shared entries from my prayer journal before, but have experienced others sharing theirs on occasion. For the longest time I thought it is something I'd never share because it should remain between me and God, but when others have shared theirs with me, I've felt like we were on sacred ground. I've felt grateful that others have let me have a glimpse into that precious time between them and the Lord, so it's compelled me to share a bit with you.

September 15, 2010 (my first entry after starting Crazy Love):

Romans 1:20
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen; being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

Heavenly Father, this book Crazy Love is rocking me - may it rock me the way You want it to. May it not establish doubt or confusion, but deeper love and adoration for You. Protect us from false thinking -- and that Crazy Love won't convince unbelievers that its not possible for a God as big as You to love little ole us. Convict our hearts as You'd wish. Do a mighty work -- a stirring -- in all. Make it a call to action. My prayer is that I'm somehow doing a might work for You down here. I feel like I'm often just punching my 'Christian time clock.' I want to love others more deeply -- break my heart for those who are broken and need You. Let this not just be about throwing scraps of money and our 'leftovers' at the needy. Make it greater than that. And clearly I'm going to need to be more persistent to see things through.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the scriptures I write down sometimes in my journal are ones that I recently heard and wanted to look up and read more closely. Or I read something that made a scripture reference (I often read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers in the morning before I start my prayer time). Often times, God will take me down a trail where a scripture will lead to another...and to another...and then another. It's pretty cool. ____________________________________________

September 16, 2010

Ecclesiastes 7:2
"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart."

Father, my heart is heavy due to the messages of Crazy Love. I pray that it will settle as You wish. I do truly want to see You as You deserve to be seen, revere You, love You -- Oh, how I want to love You more (help me to love You more). But I am struck with almost a paralysis of the heart right now. I'm so overwhelmed with how inadequate I am that I feel like my meager attempts at pleasing You and 'living the Christian life' are futile. Show me what to do. Show me that it's okay for me to sit here each morning in a 'scheduled', ' routine' fashion to seek silence, stillness and conversation with You. Show me if it's okay to do things as I have been and really the only way I know how. Father, deliver YOUR message through this book -- make it what You want it to be to us. ________________________________________________

September 20, 2010

Father, I pray for the stories of people I read about -- poverty, discrimination, war, torture. Oh Lord, prostitution of little girls. Only Your grace is sufficient to heal those wounds and to restore each person to wholeness. May Your power move in countries around this globe! May the church be a sleeping giant that really is awakening! May we, each of us as individuals, respond and act toward change.

I praise You, Father.

I can only imagine how hard it would be for me to cast my sights upon other areas of the world and other people around the world if there were pain and strife in my home and marriage, so I pray for those I know are hurting...

September 23, 2010

Ecclesiastes 5:19-20
(one of my favorite verses!)
"Moreover, when God gives a man wealth and possessions and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work -- this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart."

Thank you, Lord, for awakening me through Your Word, books like Crazy Love and people's personal testimonies. Stir me for You and serving You. Give JD and I radical (did I really just use the word 'radical' when I hadn't even discovered the book yet!?) hearts. May we not fit in here -- may we not care. Use us, Lord.

On September 24th, I got an email from a friend of mine. She and her husband have adopted seven children and have three biological children. They're in the process of adopting a son, Isaac, and have been waiting for almost two years for him. The country he's from is no longer allowing adoptions and there are over 60 families who are waiting for the children they have been promised who are oceans away in another land. My friend and her husband have met Isaac and he knows they are his parents. What a crushing situation. Here are her words (another example of something God used to stir me):

I cannot imagine a lifetime without you, Father, and I believe, like we need you, these children need human families to love them. I cannot wait to tell Isaac about your love and who you are, to tell him about your Son and what He has done for us. That You sent Him for us, to redeem us. These children need you. My prayer for all orphans who never find homes (and the numbers are endless it seems) is that they will one day be exposed to You and Your Word, because above all else, ALL ELSE this is the only saving that really matters. The physical does not matter, for it is worthless without You, without the spiritual saving. Oh Father, I don’t even know how children who live in those conditions will not ask why You would allow this to happen. How can they not question You, and yet, I know the answer. The answer is that Jesus is the head. The Spirit is in us, we are His body and it is we who take the blame for not being there for all those children. Oh Father, the need is overwhelming, more than one even knows how to wrap our minds around, but we are the church and we need to be there and we’re failing, I’m failing. Lord, you can raise up the people it takes to bring You to the lives of all orphans. There are more Christians than there are orphans, and yet, so many remain who have never even had a loving touch, let alone heard about who You are and who Your Son is. It is pure and undefiled religion, you tell us, to take care of the orphans and the widows (James 1:27) and so often I wonder why the rest of that verse is ignored. It says we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. I’m no scholar, Father, but I believe that it is the worldly things, the things that are not eternal that stop so many of we who love you from taking on the orphans’ and the widows’ plight. Is that what you mean by being spotted by the world? All those worthless things that take our attentions?

What strikes me about this email (among other things) is when it was sent. I remember the impact the email had on me when I read it, but until I went to find it to post it here, I didn't realize that I got it right in the midst of all the stirring I was experiencing. This is how God works. He knits and weaves Himself through our lives.

When I finished Crazy Love, I was confused and restless and torn. Enter Radical.

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