Every Thunderstorm starts with a single raindrop. Together we can storm out this evil. No more child trafficking. Stand up and scream.
My journey with living on Mission began the summer of 1983. I was watching T.V. with the other kids at the house of my brother in law’s best friend, Keith Green. I knew Keith as the crazy Jesus Freak friend of my sister who’d come over, bang on our piano and make me laugh. I also knew Keith and my older brothers and sisters had all been addicted to the drugs that was wreaking havoc on my family. Yet now, none of them could talk of anything else but Christ as their Savior. They talked nonstop abut their brokenness and how God was healing them. I coveted what they had. It was more than a belief, it was a testimony. They seemed to know what life was all about. At nine, my mission was still figuring out how to win at the Rubik’s Cube while stuffing a whole pack of Hubba Bubba in my mouth. But that day, sitting in Keith’s living room, I overheard him say something to my sister that stuck with me for the rest of my life. He leaned over to her, his blue eyes staring down at me and said, “Is your sister saved?”
My sister Alyson smiled at me and said, “Yes, she is.”
I looked at her and then pretended like I was still watching Tom and Jerry with all the other kids, but I could feel my ears going hot. I was so excited that my sister had called me a Christian. Of course I loved God, but was I really adult enough to be a Christian? I kept listening.
“I can tell she loves the Lord.” Keith said. “She’s going to be a Godly woman.”
And that was it. Those words spoken casually, yet prophetically in conversation, struck a chord in me. When I arrived back at school that September and my teacher asked me to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up I said, “A Missionary and a Veterinarian. I want to help people and animals.” At nine I didn’t know much about the exact qualifications I needed to possess to become a “godly women”, but one thing my sister and her hippie friends showed me was; a godly woman lives for those in trouble and anyone, even a nine year old, could become one and have a mission. In fact, there was no other way to live as a Christian.
That first step as a nine year old, was only the beginning of a life long battle to live the call to “Go into all the world”. Everything in all heaven and earth tries to prevent us from living missional as Christians. I believe the enemy of our soul actually finds greater satisfaction in seeing our God given gifts disabled, then listening to the Atheist’s boastful speech. Yet everything in all heaven and earth is also at our disposal for the battle. “I do not leave you as orphans,”says our Leader in John 14:18. Every weapon the enemy uses against us to disable our missional call, has a counter weapon.
For the next thirty-five years, that nine year old “godly-woman-to-be,” that “hopeful-missionary”, would face every possible tool the enemy could muster up to drive her from the mission at hand. The mission to lead the weary to a Refuge and the broken to a Strong Tower wasn’t going to be had until she herself clutched that Refuge and stood under that Strong Tower.
- At age 12, drug addiction would end my parents’ marriage and cause my family to become homeless, begging for money from relatives.
- At 15 I’d be sexually assaulted while walking home from school.
- At 29 I’d face the paralyzing pain of infertility.
- At 40 I’d face my first bout with cancer
With every attack of the enemy against our call to mission as believers, comes a counter attack from God equipping our souls. God’s desire is that we’d move beyond simply going on mission to truly loving those we are called to give to. In the words of Amy Carmichael, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” I know it was in the trials that my missional life took root in the Love of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 declares, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Everyone of those blows by the enemy, made me more effective on mission than before.
Here are some missional edges born from those battles:
- At age 12 I learned compassion for those addicted to and broken by substance abuse. Homelessness became a matter of the soul rather than an absence of a building and set me up for living 12 years in a foreign country, planting and replanting my life among the unchurched.
- At 15 I found the well worn path of Christ toward forgiving my enemy, something God was going to ask me to do for a lifetime in Ministry and Mission.
- At 29 and while facing infertility, our first Church plant was born. “A church for those who don’t go to church” we called it. It was here I learned what true missional living was about. I had to minister amidst my pain and not hide it. Living a missional life means inviting others into our most vulnerable places and loving there. Right there. Even amongst the blubbering.
- At 35 my infertility lead to the greatest blessing of all, a house full of kids! Without the childless mom, there is no one to embrace the motherless child through adoption.
- At 40 cancer gave me the gift of a few more days living a Missional life by slowing me down long enough to listen to the unchurched around me. It gave me time for those outside the church as they came into my home to care for me!
Mission is waiting for us amidst our trials, our fears and our insecurity. In the (very awesome) book Reaching The Unreached, Peyton Jones writes, “Unless you’re scared, you’re not on mission.” Being scared is what happens when we step out. It’s the first step. Being humbled by our compassionate God toward a world crushed under sin, is where our effectiveness takes root. And until we fight through those battles set up just for us, I don’t believe we have the compassion that is needed for a life lived on mission. In fact, our mission, like a dessert rose, will often blossom out of our most wounded places.
The challenge to the Christian, especially a Christian who has been in the church for a number of years is, we may feel unable to reach a world who seems to be speaking a different language. We know the church is often labeled by the unchurched as, unapproachable in our Holy, do-gooder robes. We often watch helplessly as the unreached withdraw from us, uninterested in being our mission. Here is where the lie lives. We are still in as much need of a Savior as they are. In fact, there is a much smaller chasm between the church and the unchurched than the enemy would have us believe. We are just as desperate. Sometimes we are just barely clinging to shattered pieces of our hope and Faith. When we stick around an unbelieving world long enough, we begin to see that all those areas we’re asking God to heal in us, are the very spots He is going to minister through us. Yet we need to be brave enough to not “Other” those we call our mission. We are called to be open and honest about our own trails and our own areas of much needed sanctification. Unfortunately, the Lyrics from the band Frightened Rabbit, sums up the attitude of many unbeliever’s toward us:
“While you read to me from the riot act way on high, high
Clutching a crisp New Testament breathing fire, fire.
Will you save me the fake benevolence, I don’t have time, I’m,
Just too far gone for a-tellin’, lost my pride, I don’t mind,
So leave me alone.
Aw, you’r acting all holy,
Me, I’m just full of holes”
This young man had an encounter with a Christian that left him feeling judged. He didn’t feel loved and he most certainly was not related to. In the end, this talented young Scotsman took his own life. His story has been haunting me lately. What if my sister and her friends had never really paid attention to my nine year old soul? Or what if they merely lectured me? What if they had simply wrote me off as too young, or not ready to receive yet?
I know the exact times in my life where I would have walked past a man like the song writer and judged him, “othered” him and labeled him as unapproachable. And I know the times in my life where I would have stopped and listened to his hurt. It would have been the times I was going through my own ache of soul and being shown tremendous love, grace and compassion from God.
Let me sum it up this way. There can be no mission outside of us, if there is no mission happening within us. Don’t despise your trials and temptations believers and think you can’t be used amidst the storm. It’s part of your witness. It’s part of your testimony and it’s where mere giving for the gospel’s sake, transforms into loving with gospel strength. As the church, “We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ.” (Eph. 2:10) Our trials chisel our beliefs into a testimony. That testimony is the heart of our missional life.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 1John 1:4
Here we go again. My kids floor me with their thoughts on faith, race, contradictions in humanity, and today…Marshmallows. Don’t get me started on the argument about batman and Jesus both needing to wear underpants. In the words of my 3 year old, “DIST-GUSTIG!”
Today’s insights on what makes a Christian, come from my 8 year old…
“Mommy not all the kids at my school are Christian.”
“No baby. They wouldn’t be. A kid doesn’t become a Christian just because their parents are. They have to choose it for themselves.”
“Yes. But you made me a Christian.”
“No, you don’t have to be one. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean you have to be one.”
“Yes it does.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes it does”
“No it doesn’t”
“But you made me one. So now I’m one.”
“Baby, another person can’t force someone else to have faith. You have to decide if you believe Christianity is the truth.”
“But I do… because you made me a Christian.”
“Do you want to be a Christian?”
“Yes. Of course. But that’s because you made me one. You took me to Church. You pray with me.”
“Yes, I will always pray. I will always hope you see Christianity as the truth. But I will love you no matter what. I can’t force you to love God. Love is not forced. Not if it’s a true relationship. And Christianity is a relationship with God. A love relationship.”
“Yes, but if you didn’t take me to church, I’d not become a Christian.”
“Well, like Keith Green said, ‘Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger.’ ”
“But what about Marshmallows?”
“What if I want to be a Marshmallow? I could eat a lot of marshmallows.”
And there you have it.
Children raised in a Christian home 101. What about Marshmallows?
It’s the ultimate church kid question. What about…?
To be honest, it’s the ultimate human question. What if I were to do this? What would have happened if I had been raised in a different home? A different country? With different parents? Could I have become a Marshmallow? Just M A Y B E?
Even the child of an Atheist will ask these types of questions ( maybe not the marshmallow part, that kind of crazy is reserved for me) and we have to be ok with it. No matter our belief system, our children will one day do their own soul searching. Yes, we provide our own wisdom along the way. Mostly, I pray I don’t provide her with dogma and legalism, but a soul searching heart that digs deep, is sometimes confused, but also comes back around to find her peace in God. I don’t want her to have her mama’s relationship with God. But her own.
She doesn’t have the same relationship as I do with her father. That would be just plain weird. She has her own relationship with her dad. Based on her interaction with him. So I hope it is with her God.
So as her mama, all I can really do for her spiritually is pray for her, “God speak to her soul. Be near to her. Let her know you in a deeper way than I ever have. Help her to love truth and search hard after it.”
And I rest in that…maybe a few protection prayers after she eats all those Marshmallows too!
But yes, I want her to think about Marshmallows! I want her to think about her Atheist friend and her Muslim friend and anything else. As all good parents do, I will teach her according to what I have learn to be true. In the end though, I want her to know why she doesn’t believe in certain things, as much as she knows why she does believe. Covering all her beliefs, like a candy shell, I pray will be love…even to those who don’t want to be Marshmallows.
And if one day, she walks up to me and says, “Mama, I am going to be a Christian And a Marshmallow!”
I will love her just as much and say, “Ok Babe.”
Some people enjoying looking at the wood while avoiding the forest. I suppose it’s the same kind of characters who still find the old adage, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” both humorous and wise. How the vision of a soapy baby sliding over a window ledge followed by bath water, ever got absorbed into our wise English sayings, is beyond me.
It’s funny because who would be so idiotic to forget to take a baby out of the bath before chucking the water? But wise because you know some poor, overly stressed soul, must have once done it for the saying to have been born. I suppose it’s just a clever and slightly kinder way to say, “Don’t be stupid, stupid.”
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” someone snarked at me today. Really? I wanted to snark back. Can’t you find some twenty-first century wisdom for me to hang onto lady? If I got rid of my baby with the bathwater this evening, that’d mean she’d have to swirl round and round the base of the tub, like a cartoon character, until she was swallowed down the drain along with the last bit of bath water…so no. No I won’t. It’s physically impossible. Thanks for the advice though.
…And so we persist to cary on with old traditions, even when they no longer translate. Why? Cause we like the heart of the message. Sometimes in life it is nice to see things for what they no longer are, but what we have traditionally explained them to be. Just as it’s sometimes nice to look at the branches of the tree from the tree. Resting in it, on it, among it.
Life is about perspective. I’ve been told I’m a wood-looker. An old saying sayer. I like to crawl right up close to things, especially religious things or political things and try to find a new perspective I’ve somehow missed. Maybe I’ve missed it because I love my traditions. Maybe I’ve missed it because of my own sociological or emotional blind spots. Logically I know we all have these. So I look. I climb right on up into the tree of thought and shave off a small piece of bark and prob.
Right now I’m doing this to the Christian church in America. Really this means I’m examining me and my place in it. Because I am part of it. But I feel as small as Zacchaeus, and as desperate to see Jesus. How is it that we can be surrounded by Christ followers, yet still not see Him?
I was out of the Christian church seen in America for about twelve years and now I’m back. Maybe it’s still culture shock, but I feel very lost as a believer in America. I don’t get it. I am part of it. But I don’t understand what we think we are or what our mission is. Or what our message is. I’ve been a part of the American Christian movement now for five years. It seems we are really, really, good at trading Christians from our churches. And really, really, good at making fun of ourselves for our perceived weaknesses. But I’m not sure if we know who we are anymore. In the words of the Spice Girls, “What do we want? Really really want?”
So I did what I do and I went hunting for perspective. I pretended for a week I was no longer a Christian. I lost my faith. I knew very little of Jesus and even less about the Bible. And I tried to start over from scratch.
I decided to:
- Listen to our talk radio, music, and adds
- Look at our social media
- Observe what Christians talked about the most. Learn their favorite movies and topics.
What did I find?
1. Talk radio, music, and adds I was told how to get out of debt by the Christian radio, and also how I could boost my evangelical witness by injecting botox into my frown lines and how to transfer my IRA into and IRA equivalent.
I was informed how to think about Zionists, vote Republican, which people groups to stand against and who to be afraid of and how America was pretty much going to hell in a hand bag cause it was no longer run by Evangelical Republicans…like it use to be…
2. In Social Media
There was self help, religious group promotion, promotion of sales items, books, magazines, personalities, not as many Charities as I had thought I’d see. A lot of church groups, but virtually no free Christian material being promoted.
3. Christians top topics
The irritating qualities of those close to them, food intolerances, money, politics, weight loss, weight gain, health issues, debt, the end of the world.
Media favorites : Apocalypse, reality shows, talent shows, food shows.
Then I listened to the non religious.
- The non-Christian talk radio, music, adds
- Looked at social media
- Observed what they talked about most.
It wasn’t too different. Less Republicanism and Zionists, but the same passion for politics, food, diets, debt, and “reality” shows. Same promotion of books and selling of material on social media. A few more good works groups promoting green living and charities.
What do we want? Do we really really want as a Church in America?
It seems we want to be thin, free from interpersonal responsibilities and conflicts, financial security, and more “me time”.
So what did I do with my Christianity after this week of research?
Well I definitely didn’t Throw the baby out with the bath water, but I did try to make a conscious effort to not be sucked into the American Christian culture vortex. I chose not to be political on Facebook, but to be more intentional in the spiritual encouragement I was offering, AND feeding myself with. I opted for less “reality” tv and more reality….and I thought. I’m still thinking.
What do I want? What do I really really want?
To understand Christ’s heart for this world more. That’s it. He Loved it so much that He gave up EVERYTHING for it. And I’m suppose to be following His lead.
Anything that does not lead me in that direction is a waste of my “me time”.
More Questions to think on:
Has the church as a whole in America become the Temple?
Are we one big money table that needs to be turned over?
Are we just trying to find new and better ways to make money in Jesus’ name? What does us knowing Jesus mean to the life of those nearest to us?
Song of the month: You Do All Things Well by: Tenth Avenue North
“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (Matt13:16)
Sometimes I think that this life is one giant parable, teaching us about God’s reality.
An over excited driver ran me and my children off the road just before Christmas, redecorating my Honda. A giant, and I mean giant, Eucalyptus tree branch flew across the road and landed on my friend’s truck as she drove me away from the car repair shop. A metal ladder came crashing off the car in front of me on the freeway as I took Liberty to school, challenging my Anakin Skywalker racing-reflex skills… My husband fell down a flight of stairs, and a non-trick- two gallon bottle of water appeared to jump off our refrigerator onto our kitchen floor as I watched Tv….who needs T.V right? Anyone want to hang out with me?