But First, A Word from God

I love books. The fact that I currently have a stack on my bedside table just to read in the next couple of w

I review books as a blogger for a publishing company and I find solace in roaming through bookstores and piles of old books in thrift stores. My library card could have caught fire with how I burn that thing up using it so often.

scripture-and-psychologyBut the problem occurs when I put the words of even well-intentioned Christian authors ahead of Scripture. I can read about getting out of a pit, about loving others through what I do, and realizing the freedom I have in Christ. Yet, if I am not digging into His Word first? Well, then I am robbing myself of actual Truth.

Since Secret Church I have kept coming back to one particular area that David Platt taught on-the goodness of the Bible. And y’all, it is good. It brings us to Him directly instead of us relying upon another to reveal something to us. Just this morning I was really wanting to pour back into the book I am currently reading on friendships instead of the digging back into the book of Acts. Then I realized that I was placing more emphasis on someone else’s words, even a fellow sister in Christ, instead of Scripture itself, God’s very word to me.

There are days when I don’t feel like digging into His word, the hard of it. The messy of it. But it’s His truth, His divine words for me and for you for our lives and for His glory. When I put other’s words ahead of His? Well I start making myself a disciple of that person rather than of Him. (p. 125, Secret Church) I also miss out on the purpose God has for me for my life, because it is right there in Scripture. I give the glory that He is due and give it to that author, that writer, even to myself.

Please don’t hear me say that reading is bad, or that using resources by authors to draw God’s word out is a bad thing. But we first must come to His Word instead of that book. We have to devote ourselves to digging into what He says about Himself to then see how to become more like Him and less like ourselves.

Love, Silence and Refugees

Almost four months ago I sat at a small table in a refurbished warehouse/gym on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy. I was a foreigner in a land I didn’t speak the language, but was welcomed with open arms by a community as I sought to get to know them and how they served. At this table sat several members of our team, along with an Italian citizen and two refugees from Ethiopia.

That night we were assisting the home church with a fellowship time for the refugees, as they were in temporary housing adjacent to the church. Bologna had turned into a holding place for many refugees seeking asylum and assistance from Ethiopia mainly, and were seeking to work and provide in order to bring their families into the safe haven as well.

That night the refugee crisis came right up to me, not just on a tv screen or a story shared in social media. That night among the 11 men who were there only 2 spoke English, the other nine speaking French…but none speaking Italian. They had no means of supporting themselves while they waited for the paperwork and government red tape to clear them, they were simply¬†there. And the church was seeking to honor them, their humanity and our love for our neighbors by opening up their doors and hearing their stories, giving them a place to be and feel like a human once more.

As I sat at that table, I wanted to run and do something else, be somewhere else because the stories were hard, they were real, and they were sitting right in front of me. One 17 years old, without family, sent out to escape to a better life outside of war and poverty, telling us about his favorite thing to eat-a stew his mother makes. I thought of my nephew, just four years younger, and how I pray he never knows that life but these do. The other man was 30, years of running and war were very apparent in how he talked and in his eyes.

For almost four months now I have thought back countless times to that cold night in Italy, sitting in that room with those men, and hearing their laughter as we played musical chairs…simply to take their mind off of the hard and into enjoyment for a time. I think about their feet, in flip flops that didn’t fit as Italy was heading into fall, and clothes that were a couple of sizes too big but all that they had. I think back to the smiles and frowns, the heartache and unsaid words of worry and despair.

I sit here this weekend and grieve for my country. A country of privilege that has decided to turn their hearts towards hate and doubt, to throw up arms and walls rather than choose to work through the fear-mongering to the root of the problem. A country that no longer sees the refugee as a person but something to hate and despise. That is not me, nor is it the God I love. When I love my neighbor as myself, I don’t get to define that neighbor nor how to love them. It does mean I welcome them, even when it hurts, even when I don’t want to do it and it means that I love instead of judge.

I am thankful that I live in a country which provides such profound freedoms, but I now begin to see that the things we have sat silent on, thinking that they’ll right themselves, have instead turned to ugliness and hate, to rhetoric and headlines. When you give refuge to the least of these, you are giving it to God Himself…regardless of belief or religion. We are called to love as He loves, to love those who don’t look like us, to love those that seek harm. Love doesn’t give boundaries or policies, it simply does.

Love means sitting in the hard and putting a face, a name, humanity to crisis. Love means standing when those around you call you to sit. It means stepping up for those who cannot, those who have been told to keep quiet. Love means filling the gap between it all to show His love for them, for us, for all.

For me, to hear the refugee and shrink back means that I am disobedient to the call to love that Christ Himself has given Himself for. The call to redeem the downtrodden, the outcast and the forgotten isn’t done through me but through Him, but when He calls me to love He calls me to be His love to them, for them. It means not being silent, not allowing the ugly to win and fear to see victory. To go beyond quoting the Scripture but living it out for those who do not know it, who need to see it as living Truth and for obedience to the One who first showed us how to love.

Do The Thing.

Tap.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll.

Tap.

Scroll, Like, (Ugh, why would you put that out there?), Scroll, Scroll. LOVE.

Tap.

I think the majority of you can ascertain what that is describing, as we all seem to tap and scroll, like and judge on our phones these days.

We see people doing amazing things, putting themselves out there and jumping at opportunities. We see people out having fun, pursuing dreams, and everyone seems to be in a happier place than us. Am I right?

Lately for me, I have used social media as a means of procrastination. I have read posts, looked through photos, found streams of hashtags all in the name of research for my writing. But not much writing has been going on. Instead it’s a whole lot of scrolling and a whole lot of unproductivity. It’s lost time and momentum, and instead supplanted a whole lot of self-doubt and questions.

I wouldn’t say I have become jealous or envious of others’ pursuits as several years ago I prayed through that as I saw others advancing and decided to celebrate them over feeling left out or rejected in any way. (I’m mature, I know)

No for me, it’s getting bogged down in the distraction of it all. In the taking a break to clear the mind and finding myself flipping through four forms of social media I have at the ready of my finger tips. Trust me when I say I do love it, it has connected me with people and broadened my perspective on certain things, discovering new ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have been challenged to see.

But y’all, it’s my excuse these days. I use it when I should be fighting through writer’s block, when I should be digging into His Word, when I should be sitting in the quiet stillness of life. This isn’t a proclamation of social media fast (you all can stop that at any time because it’s okay to just do it). It’s a call to accountability, that I need to do the thing I am called to do instead of choosing distraction.

you-must-do-the-thing-resized

Distractions are so good, they feed our selves in such ways that bring us delight in the moment, a reprieve from the hard/difficult/uncomfortable/quiet. I am chief of these in pursuing y’all. I even said last night to my friend that I watch entirely too much television, and then commenced to starting the next show on my DVR. Instead of writing. Instead of taking time to dig into Scripture that God has put on my heart. Instead of praying for that friend who came to mind earlier in the day. Instead of cultivating relationships in and around my life.

Maybe you’re like me and seeking out distractions from dealing with life, a call that has gotten to be difficult, loneliness in the midst of a season of quiet, expectations unmet or unrealized…a place where God isn’t providing how you expected or how you defined. It’s gotten hard or quiet and you just want to be distracted by the noise of the world-good intentioned, but still distracting.

For me, I have to do the thing. Not what my flesh desires but what I know deep within, obedience. Obedience to the thing that is greater than what I desire in social media, television, inherently good things…to the Lord in this moment, just now…for today. It’s not easy, nor will I get it right 100% of the time, but for just this moment when I’d rather reach for my phone or remote, I go empty-handed to Him. To His call. To His Word. To time spent with Him.