holy heartburn; an invitation

pre-script: I have been doing some writing for the Gathering blog and so posted this piece there in response to Jeff's Sunday sermon. Sorry for the duplicate!

As I listened to Jeff speak on Matthew 25:31-46 this past Sunday, I realized I drastically misunderstood God’s call for us to serve the ‘least of these.’ The severity of the passage is evident in the language, but the heat rising in my chest seemed like more than realization of the weight in such a responsibility.We heard about the overwhelming amount of ‘least of theses,’ awareness without action, and the passion of service.


It just takes a brief look at some of the alarming statistics to feel the overwhelming wave.

  1. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.Source 1
  2. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.Source 2
  3. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.Source 3
  4. According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” Source 4

I’ve had the conversation so many times with myself, “Seriously, Caroline, what can you really do to fight AIDS?” “Yeah, but I should probably help somehow” “But even if you help a little, the problem is so huge, it’ll never get better.”

How depressing! That’s the trouble. Instead of looking at the problems of the world and saying, “How can I serve?” we look at the problems and say, “How can my service possibly make a difference?”

Our focus is all wrong. We are accustomed to getting a decent return on our investments. I don’t want to be a part of anything that isn’t successful, so every time I serve I should be able to see results. But, wait a minute, does God call us to serve for success or just to serve unto Him, for His glory?

awareness without action
Jeff called us out. We all know - we’ve all read the headlines and watched the nightly news. We can’t escape the knowledge that there are people in need around the world.

“It’s not an issue about awareness for most of us … people watch the news and then go on eating their dinner”

So, if I do decide to break my routine and serve as unto the Lord, what really is the right action? Instead of gravitating toward popular movements and giant foundations, what if the right thing to do is make it as personal as you possibly can.

“Many people know about poverty, but very few know the poor by name.” John B. Hayes

When Jesus says, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,’” he’s talking about getting real personal. And, here’s the thing, it will be much MUCH more rewarding (for the Kingdom and for yourself) if you break your routine for personal service.

passion; an invitation
This holy heartburn I feel rising in my chest is not condemnation for all the times I have “gone on eating my dinner.” No, this holy fire is in response to the greatest of invitations. Service has, quite unjustly, received a bum rap because it appears weak to the world. Yet, what Christ offers in salvation is a share in His suffering and a share in His future glory.

The way we describe and define passion today is very different from its original meaning, which is ’suffering’ and ‘agony’ and to have compassion is to ’suffer with.’

Even as I write now, I’m feeling again the heat rising in my chest. And, now I am sure that service is not penitence. It’s not our payment for all God’s mercy and grace. It’s not piety. Service is an invitation to know God; to share in the sufferings of the ‘least of these.’

The Kingdom is already and not yet. And in this tension, God has extended an invitation to us to take part in HIS ultimate redemption story.

as servants.

So... if you dig this serving thing, check out Compassion in previous post!

Change a child's LIFE forever!

You know all those ridiculous TV commercials that show children starving in the middle of Africa. And then they ask you for money? DON'T do it.

Do this instead - find out about Compassion. Because it's not about throwing money at the poor - it's about sharing hope. If we are truly about the 'least of these' let's show them!



Oh dear!

I am quickly going to write a post tonight about my most recent tears over this movie, Bella. Tragic and ordinary. Ugly and beautiful. Lonely and communal.

When we've come to rest all there is at the river's edge, we become aware of our brokenness. Jose and Nina are broken creatures. They each lived not ignorant or innocent of the world in all its white-washed charms. So, we wait on our seats to see what they make of it.

We are each one tempted to make homes in white-washed tombs. But, see there is a choice.

There is life!


day one

Well, today was the first day of LeaderShape and I am completely and utterly exhausted! It brings back so many memories of my summer counseling at Covenant Harbor... I had forgotten how much energy is required!!

Because I have absolutely no capacity to think or write at the moment, I just want to give a little blog space to a cause I care about: Compassion International. Now, you can help out this amazing organization just by using Search Kindly as your search engine in the month of May.

Read this!

the world is bigger on FM 969

I almost gave up. I had driven back and forth so many times on FM 969 that I was tempted to stop at the roadside, knick-knack garage sale and head back home.

I drove in and out of several drives until I saw a wee-bitty sign poking out from an overgrown entrance. Austin Samaritans shared the sign with another local non-profit and between the two of them, the inches were precious.

I wound my way around the curves into a ghost town. The layout suggested maybe a school or education center, but the weeds had long declared this territory. I finally came to a cluster of cars, and, relieved, saw the most-welcoming registration table, where I signed a form saying I wouldn't hold anything against anybody if something happened.

This weekend my church organized Serve Austin at local organizations; to build capacity through service, to be obedient and effective as servants, and most of all to magnify the Lord. And that's how I ended up in a deserted school on FM 969. Not too long ago, Austin Samaritans moved their warehouse operations to a small portion of this school. From this humble space, they collect surplus medical supplies to ship to Nicaragua, where a hospital anxiously awaits every box.

Nicaragua, I learned, classifies 85% of their population as being below the poverty line (defined as $1/day). Next to Haiti, its the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

As we sorted today, we came across medicines, sterile needles, infant formula, x-ray film, syringes... the list is endless. As we worked, we speculated at the reception of this package. I came upon some loose cottonballs and instinctively wanted to trash them, but thought about how resourceful I would be if I didn't know cottonballs were so easy and cheap.

We are so flippant with surplus! Every single thing sorted today would have been in the garbage dump, completely useless and adding to the alarming amount of waste. But now, with the vision of a few to bring first the transformation of Christ, the people in this Nicaragua hospital might understand how the true gospel is to care for the orphan and the widow.

I just kept thinking, "This should be every day."

And so, as I meandered out of the hidden drive, I wondered at all the acts of service and all the giant foundations and galas and bake sales. For some reason it struck me that so much was happening in this little place just off of FM 969 with out any hoopla.

The world outside is still consumed, wasteful, and self-absorbed, but in this little place the world is a little bigger... and purpose a little greater.

One Hen

This is the story of how one hen changed the life of a small boy, his family, his community, his country, and West Africa. The story of one hen. I shared this with my Student Service Council students this past Friday to help create a vision for next year... to challenge them (and mindself) to continuously stretch our idea of community and humanity outside borders. Did you ever think microfinance would make it into a children's book? I certainly did not!

Well, last night after the 3-hour meeting with the Student Service Council I literally ran to the store to pick up a few things before jetting home to have a few minutes to breathe before the wonderful 6th grade girls started showing up. That's right. We had a slumber party! I haven't been around such screaming and laughing since, well, since I was their age. It was a headache easily endured for the sweetness of this dear group.

This morning we made cinnamon apple pancakes from scratch and they were delicious! I finally got everyone off in time to take a shower and meet up with my friend Joy, who was hosting a tea party for her birthday.

I. am. exhausted.

social JUSTICE activist

I just finished reading the Boundless article called, "Intruder Alert." It's not exactly a light topic to read over my short lunch break, but the jumbled argument for abortion sounded so much like conversations I've had lately about relativism, perspective, and rights.

Social justice is a buzz word. You've probably heard it, had conversations about it, maybe you've even been fired up about an issue or two. You are not the minority, it seems. You and everyone else are frustrated with the way things are.

If you ask a fellow frustrated trailblazer why s/he is passionate, one might say, "I believe we have the potential to make things better in this world. I really think that we can see positive change." The level of intellect varies, but the popular opinion of activists is that they feel called to take some action.

Hmmm. This conversation recently got me thinking. ... about definitions. My high school English teacher Mrs. Brown (though she might be horrified at my abuse of grammar) would be glad to see rhetoric forced to its definitions. Because, you see, in the words of my dear chaplain Trygve Johnson, "Words create realities." If we live in a world created by vague rhetoric, the reality is just as muddled. Empowering phrases of social change easily draw a crowd, but one has to ask what lies underneath.

What is justice? Dictionary.com writes,

1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.

So, I guess we define just as something right and good. I guess that would also mean that we've defined (by default) something as wrong and bad to say that it needs to be changed. I wonder if social justice activists see the world this way - that there are wrong things that need changing to become right.

Why do we need change?
Change doesn't have to be from something good to bad or from bad to good. Change can be from something to something different. This is the perspective I met in my conversation. This person held the belief that social change doesn't define actions as wrong, but merely suggests something different. Okay, I said. What need is there for something different? How do we determine what needs to be different and what needs to stay the same?

If said social activists believe they are fighting for the rights of humans around the world, what is the motive? After my conversation today, my friend suggested that maybe life is absent of truth (its only perceived by individuals, through unique lenses) and all we are left with is cold, hard responsibility.

Another interesting thought. I guess then I ask - why are we responsible? What motivation do we have for doing anything good? Why not just be responsible for ourselves? I can determine my own absolute to allow all my vices, chide myself every once in awhile to make sure I have drawn the line somewhere, and live without worrying about the burdens of others.

I'M a social JUSTICE activist
The absurd thing... the ironical thing... is that I am a social JUSTICE activist. You see, I believe in justice by its definition. I believe that there are things I have done in my life that are wrong. I believe that I have done things in my life that are right (though precious few).

I believe genocide is wrong. I believe abuse is wrong. I believe child slavery is wrong. I believe the treatment of the beautiful Dalit people in India is wrong.

I believe that caring for the orphan and widow is right. I believe that loving one's neighbor is right. I believe that providing for basic human needs is right. I believe that my sponsored Compassion child Dinesh in India receiving education is right.

I am a social JUSTICE activist because I believe that is right as well. How do I know these things to be true - am I so presumptuous to think I have the answers? Absolutely not. I will never know why God poured out His grace. I will never know why He sent His one and only Son to redeem the INJUSTICE - everything wrong in the world past, present, and future. God sent His Son Jesus to be the ultimate social JUSTICE activist - that He would define Truth absolutely because He was Truth.

How else can we fight for change?


http://downloads.thespringbox.com/web/wrapper.php?file=ISupportCompassion.sbwCompassionMake a DonationSponsor a Child Get this widget!
I'm a Compassion Advocate. Sometimes this admittance is sad, because I feel like I have so failed. Well, after my regional team meeting yesterday I have new energy to do what I can to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.

I'll have to expand more ... but check it out!

faith and international development

faith and international development.

hmmm. so I just got back from a conference with the above title. i guess in my mind missions was synonymous with things like justice and "development." If that were only true! I found out so much about how many Christians have forced their minds into compartmentalizing these things - like a nice organization system. They can open some drawers and close others. Then step away and look at how neat and packaged everything is.

In no way am I saying that all Christians are like this. .. But I guess it goes back to something I learned at a Student Council conference in HS - We have been so easily conditioned.
We truly have. We are conditioned to feel passion and pity for those less fortunate, but only enough to think about them sometimes and contribute monthly, maybe yearly gift towards some NGO or FBO working on those types of things.
Even being interested in missions - a desire so vague - can be a crutch with expectations of exemption from dealing with these issues, because, if I'm for real, then i'll be "out in the field" someday. and isn't that giving enough?
wow. that is self-centered and true. and so far from what our Lord and Savior teaches!

In the past, I've heard arguments against serving social needs, because the danger is that spiritual needs will be neglected. One of the organizations represented at this conference offered a 25/28 vision. Matthew 25 talks about caring for those who are sick, without food, without clothes. This is where Jesus is and where we are called to serve. Matthew 28 talks about how we are to go out into all the world and preach the gospel.
Both mandates. Both important. They go hand in hand. The horrible thing is that when the church is not fulfilling the former part of this mandate, not only does it reflect bad on the body, but it leaves people all over the world feeling empty - no matter which side (giving or receiving) they would be on.

You see, lately I've also been learning about how we are made. We are made relational. At our very core, or spirits are relational because we are made in the Trinitarian image of God. God's design for our service includes sacrificing parts of ourselves for other people (as He has shown us in the ultimate sacrifice). We are blessed when we are obedient to both commands to bring relief through social justice and the Word in evangelism.

I could go on about how these things are inseparable. We were not created to fold away the social needs of God's children and shut them in a drawer while we neatly unfold our evangelism.
I picture a beautiful mess of humility being the art of service. God's design cannot possilby make perfect sense, but His mandates sure give us guidance.

I'm pretty sure no one even knows this address yet, but I am content to just diary my thoughts. These things have been a long time coming.