Monday, August 31, 2015

Open Wide the Doors

If you had been at our house Saturday evening, you would have heard a lot of laughter and stories and trash talking – in two languages.

Saturday evening we invited friends over for dessert and games. We had the best of times. I made pumpkin pie, because it is a favorite of my friend Beatrice. Okay, I didn’t make pie, I made four pies because we had nineteen people in our home. We were eleven messy children plus eight adults around the table. Afterwards even Molli, our faithful Labrador, couldn’t get the floor clean.

After the adventure with pumpkin pie and a lot of talking and laughter, we moved outdoors for a rousing game of corn toss. Did I mention seven of our guests arrived in the United States three weeks ago? They are newly arrived Congolese refugees. They had never been to our home or tasted pumpkin pie or seen whipped cream shoot out of a can – our daughter Rebecca made sure they were very, very skilled with the can of whipped cream before the evening’s end.

They had never played corn toss or seen a golf course. And did I mention we can’t speak to each other without an interpreter? None of these things seemed to matter as we laughed – sometimes uproariously – and trash talked each other over a spirited game of corn toss, at which they excelled!  And by the way, trash talking requires no interpretation.

When the sun disappeared, we returned to our living room and before they left, our new friends said they wanted to thank us for inviting them into our home by singing a song and praying for us. They then sang two beautiful songs in Kinyaranda, and we knelt together as they prayed.

After nearly three years sharing life with our friends from Africa, I recognize this kind of easy togetherness and laughter and sharing of lives is not normal. I didn’t realize integration between cultures and languages and colors is not the norm. In my naiveté I thought that in twenty-first century America we were all the same. Sadly, I now know my white American home is likely the only white home our friends from Africa are likely ever invited into. This breaks my heart. Why, I wonder do we require such sameness in our friendships? How boring. How small we make our world.

Recently in the children’s bible study, which Kevin and I teach weekly in our home, we studied the fruit of the spirit – or in non-churchy language – the characteristics of God. We learned that when God’s spirit lives in us – as it does for every believer who accepts Jesus as savior – we are filled with love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. 

I love my friends from Africa so much. I just do. And I know this is only a gift from God. It’s not me. It is God’s spirit in me that fills me with love. Left on my own, love for myself overrides any love I might have for another. But God has given me this amazing gift. Love for others. I am so grateful. My life is fuller and bigger and more complicated and joyful and sometimes confusing. And there are lots and lots of birthday parties! I would never go back to my one color, one culture world.

What is holding you back today from casting a bigger net in your relationships? Do you want to open your heart to this bigger world? This rich love? Let's make our worlds more colorful.

“Above all, maintain an intense love for each other.” 1 Peter 4:8

“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Ephesians 4:32

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Why and Why and Why - Those Easy Questions Children Ask

A few weeks ago at our children's Bible study one of our sweet kids asked, "How did sin happen?" Specifically, this ten year old wanted to know how did Lucifer go from being the most beautiful angel in heaven, to being the founder of sin and evil. There were three adults around the table and ten children. What followed was a great discussion.

We came to this conclusion. Lucifer wanted to be the boss. He didn't like that God was more important than him. He then convinced a lot of other angels that life would be more fun if they were also more important than God. If they could be the boss too.

Fast forward millennia later and we see the same thing playing out all around us. It is the reason for most of our pain and suffering. I want to be the boss of my husband. He wants to be the boss of me. All manner of trouble and pain follows. Brothers want to be the boss of sisters and sisters want to be the boss of brothers. And so it goes.

Take this to a global level and war and genocide follow. It isn't complicated, but it is tragic and millions of men and women and boys and girls live daily in pain and suffering.

Letting go of the desire to be in control is not easy. In Christian speak we call this letting go "dying to self." It is choosing to put my desires in the backseat and my husband’s and my children’s and my neighbor's in the front seat. It is saying I love you more than I love myself.

It isn't complicated but neither is it easy.

Rightly ordered love is the secret to a holy and fulfilling life. St. Augustine

When we genuinely love God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds, and all of our strength, this sacred love will transform our speech, convert our actions, and inspire our worship. Scott McKnight, The Jesus Creed