One Small Box

Safety.

I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.

But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.

Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.

I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?

I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.

And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.

Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.

We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.

ItemstoSend

We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.

But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.

We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.

“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”

“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.

“That will only help a couple of people.”

And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.

A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.

Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.

$38/month for our sponsored children is small.

My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.

But it all feels so small.

I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.

“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”

My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.

offering

I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.

My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.

My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.

Want to be small with me today?

 

A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:

Provide relief for Syrian Refugees

Sponsor a child through Compassion International

Host a child who needs to see a picture of family this Christmas

Throw a Shoe Cutting Party 

When matters of faith require action

candy

I’ve kept quiet on some of the events that have occupied the attention of our world for the past few weeks. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say on the matter – it’s simply that I’ve learned over the years I don’t always have to interject an opinion.

There are certain topics, however, that captivate me in such a way that I cannot remain silent. I will not be shamed into discussing anything online unless I feel really led to speak on it, and in this instance I’ve found that I cannot keep quiet.

A video began circulating this week of Victoria Osteen, wife of Pastor Joel Osteen, speaking to her husband’s congregation of 10,000 about why they should “do good.” The first time I watched the 36 second clip, I laughed out loud. It wan’t an amused, “Oh isn’t that funny” sort of laugh. It was more of an incredulous, “Did she really just say that out loud?!” sort of laugh.

I watched the clip a second time, and I could not keep my jaw from dropping. From the platform of her pulpit, she may have made one of the boldest, most heretical claims of faith I’ve ever heard, and I could not wrap my mind around such thinking.

In the past nearly seven years since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve tamed a lot in my approach to what I see and read online. I realize more now than I did when I began that words and meanings can be taken out of context, and that the internet, while teeming with good things, can also be insidious and wretched, and wildly unforgiving.

In short, I’ve learned to withhold judgement.

So although my first reaction to her video was to feel true indignation at her horrific message, I quickly stopped, and I reminded myself that sometimes I say stupid things, too. Sometimes I mean to say one thing, and something entirely different comes out of my mouth. So I opened up a new window, and I did a little search to see if maybe my assessment of what she just preached was misunderstood.

I’ve long had a weary opinion of the Osteens. I do not believe in the idea of the prosperity gospel in any way, shape or form. I do not think that God is at all concerned with my happiness, or with my every day being a Friday. There is zero evidence in scripture to support such claims, and so I’ve always taken Joel Osteen quotes with a grain of salt. They are feel good fluff – kind of like cotton candy. Fun to eat, but will rot you from the inside out if you consider it nutritious.

I decided to look up a few more videos of Joel and Victoria Osteen speaking, and I read excerpts of their books available online. After doing that research, I feel much more confident in my assessment of that now infamous Victoria Osteen clip.

It is, indeed, blasphemy, and I do think that the Osteens believe that message with all of their hearts.

Dear Church of God, I come to you begging that you use discernment in such matters of faith. We cannot give ourselves over to this belief that God is  pleased only when we are happy. We cannot for a second accept the notion that we do good, “not for God, but for ourselves.” To believe that it’s about us is not worship – it is destructive, self-serving and the very worst of a Western faith system.

God wants my yes. He wants my obedience. He wants me to give and love and pour myself out for others, not because it makes me feel good or look good or seem “good.” He wants me to pour myself out as a praise offering to Him – so that He gets the glory. I don’t want the glory – I really do not, because it would be a cotton candy faith that dissolves the second I’m faced with any sort of challenge.

Last year was a pivotal year in my walk of faith. For most of 2013, I fought hard against depression. I was angry and confused, and I clung to my God not because He made me happy, because most of my anger was actually directed at Him. No – I clung to Him because I needed to know that He was real. I needed to know that even in the darkest moments, He was who He said He was.

He did not fail my meager test of faith. Indeed, He has proven Himself faithful not because of me, but in spite of me.

The notion that God is glorified when we are happy is a slap in the face of His true nature and character, and I pray that all of us would have eyes to see, and ears to hear, the false teachings of our time. Do not be deceived, fellow believers, by these fluffy, sugary words. They do not hold weight in a world that is crying out.

They hold no weight for the Christians in Iraq being systematically targeted and slaughtered.

They hold no weight for the children of Israel and Gaza.

They hold no weight for the orphans in Russia, or the poverty stricken villages in Africa.

They hold no weight for the single mom fighting to put food on the table.

They hold no weight for the grieving parents who stand at the fresh mound of dirt that covers the body of a beloved child.

God is for you for no other reason than because of His never ceasing goodness and love. Not because of your deeds, your “goodness,” your happiness, or your false beliefs in yourself. The God of the Universe longs to have all of you so that He may be glorified through you, in both the good times and the bad.

It’s all about Him.

It’s all about Him.

Don’t look. Don’t deny. Don’t ignore.

Yesterday I clicked on a link. I shouldn’t have done it. The warning at the top of the link told me exactly what I would find in the article.

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES.

It was an article on the current terror of evil sweeping across Iraq, where ISIS has issued an ultimatum to the Christians: “Convert to Islam or die.” In my safe, bubbled American mind, I didn’t really believe that the images would be that graphic. I’m used to having my news sugar-coated. It is a benefit of living in the land of the free, after all.

The images were the worst I’ve ever seen. In all my research on the holocaust, and the horrible images that I ingested as I researched World War II, I’ve never felt a reaction quite like this. I was sick, immediately. I shut my computer and walked through my house in absolute horror.

Friends, the atrocities being committed in the Middle East are the most base, wicked acts of evil imaginable. I will not even link to the articles posting graphic pictures here.

As I walked and prayed, I begged God to help me understand – to give me the right words to process such unthinkable crimes. I pleaded with Him to erase the images of beheaded children, but I know in my heart I will never forget that sight. And perhaps I shouldn’t.

Every day, I scroll through my Facebook feed and see opinion after opinion on the current situations plaguing this broken world. We fight behind our screens, from the comfort of our quiet homes, over whether Israel should continue to bomb Hamas, or whether two heroic doctors with Ebola should be brought back home. We argue immigration, and we stake our claim on the right response to any and every situation.

It’s so easy to take sides from the safety of our homes. It’s easy for Christians to be passive when our children aren’t the ones dying brutally for our faith. It’s easy to condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza when we aren’t the ones with rockets pointed at our heads. It’s so easy to tell one another to “turn the other cheek,” but what does that mean when you are being systematically targeted by terrorists?

I don’t have the answers to this, but I know I can’t pretend it’s not happening. I can’t erase those images from my mind, and I cannot escape my own human reaction to these images of children being beheaded by ISIS or chained to fences by Hamas.

There isn’t a hell hot enough for the monsters committing these crimes.

That is the very real, and very base reaction I feel every time one of those images flits across my mind’s eye. I will neither defend the condemning thought, nor will I try to justify it. I will simply feel it, ingest it, and move forward in prayer for these desperate people.

The desperate people of Israel defending their land.

The desperate innocent in Gaza trapped between Israel and Hamas.

The desperate Christians in Iraq enduring the worst form of persecution imaginable.

I will pray for them, and I won’t try to dissect what’s a right or wrong way to respond to such events. I will not condemn Israel for defending herself, though I do pray that the leaders of that land can find a way to fight without stepping into the trap that Hamas has set by using children as human shields.

I won’t look at the images coming from Iraq again. I simply can’t. But I won’t forget them, either. We can’t ignore this. We can’t pretend or deny it isn’t happening. We can’t be content to simply live ignorantly in our bubble. And we can’t deny that something needs to be done to stop this – something swift, immediate, and drastic.

Peace is such a lovely word. We cry out for it and we pray for it, but I don’t know that we will ever truly understand or see it this side of heaven. Let’s not pretend we have all the answers for these countries who are warring. These situations are so far beyond what we can even comprehend.

Join me in praying for this desperate world, my friends. And please, I urge you not to ignore what’s happening, but I also encourage you to heed the warnings on the articles you see online. Don’t deny the problems. Don’t ignore the evil.

But don’t look if you can help it.

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