Rae Dunn, Jesus, and a Washing Machine

IMG_5697.JPG

Am I the truly the last one to the Rae Dunn Party? I have only recently discovered it’s magical lure when my sweet friend gifted me a mug engraved with“Sing” after she read my blog on how I’m struggling to sing.

Apparently, RD is the latest craze and people are clamoring and clawing their way to select stores and clandestine gas station rendezvous to get their hands on more of this imperfectly perfect pottery.

Now, much to my chagrin, I am too.

Days after unapologetically jumping that pottery bandwagon, I’m sitting in my car in the black, wee morning hours (which, if you know me, should already clue you in I’m no longer thinking rationally) waiting for Home Goods to open their doors so I can rush in and deploy some rusty high school basketball skills and “box out” any obnoxious Johanna Gaines wannabe’s so I can beat them to the latest installation of Rae Dunn goodness.

The longer I sit here in the parking lot, the more I feel something disturbing in my soul. I’m feeling queasy about this shopping virus I’ve caught. Honestly, the real me – the healthy me – knows this is not what I want to be about. It’s not what I want to do with my precious time. It’s not where I want to spend our money or my energies either.

Furthermore, I need more cute mugs about as much as I need another hysterectomy.

But as I wait in my warm car and contemplate all this I ask myself, “So if this is not who you want to be, then why are you really here, Cindy?”

I should be at home. I have a long messy list of people in real need waiting for me back home: several friends in the midst of difficult, serious trials who could all use a loving phone call, my junior-high discipleship girls begging for an afternoon of my time, my widowed mom needing a “check-in” because I just don’t do that enough, a friend in Morocco hoping for a call as she faces a mountain of paperwork in an attempt to move their family to Canada, and a hard-working-tax-season husband who I desperately needed to reconnect with over a lunch date. And the list goes on…

People. All these people who are important in my life. People I love dearly and care passionately about their wellbeing. But yet, I’m escaping the responsibility of caring for them to instead chase down some stupid Rae Dunn dishes.

Why?

**********

When our lives were flipped upside down – almost 20 years ago now – Paul and I prayed every day that our lives would better reflect that which we said we believed. Specifically, we wanted our lives to reflect that PEOPLE are always more important than THINGS. At that time, we knew we had been spending too much of our time on things (whether buying things, taking care of our things, saving for more things, scrolling and dreaming about things or just talking about our things) we KNEW this was not the way of the kingdom. So we fervently prayed God would flip that on its head.

For the most part, He did.

So what the heck am I doing here in the Home Goods parking lot about to buy more THINGS while PEOPLE who genuinely need me today wait???

Many smart people have been able to hone in on this pervasive problem that is mine today and name it.

Jon Acuff, the bestselling author of Do Over and Finish calls it a “Hiding Place” – an activity you focus on instead of your goal or living out your true calling. Steven Pressfield in his highly acclaimed book The War of Art calls it the “Resistance” and describes it as a “toxic force that deforms our spirit” and keeps us from our truest selves.

That is definitely true for me. I’m hiding, resisting and avoiding. I’m avoiding the “messy” things in my life by running to a store. Because this is brainless, instant gratification. And, let’s be honest, there’s no REAL cost (because I believe if something costs you only money, it’s really no cost at all). Shopping is just dang easy.

The way of Jesus – the way of loving people with all of me – is rarely easy.

And as far back as Bible times, the earliest followers of Christ struggled with the same crap:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15 -20 

The apostle Paul doesn’t really go on at this point in the text to tell us how to respond when this happens, except to acknowledge it IS SIN living in us.

And we KNOW that we cannot overcome sin on our own. It’s just not possible.

We sin. We need a Savior. Period.

Holiness begins with knowing just how unholy we are. So that’s where we begin.

We acknowledge we are a sin-full people. We confess. We come clean.

WASH. RINSE. REPEAT.

Jesus – our holy washing machine.

I’m so thankful for a Savior who operates my rinse cycle – who puts my car in drive and pulls me out of the Home Goods parking lot so I can go home and do that which I know I’ve been called to and made to do.

Anyone else care to bravely share what things they do that they do not want to do? Are there things that pull you away from that which you know is right to do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Ain’t Your Sexy Valentine

 

images

Clean water crisis. Human-Trafficking. Immigration. Orphan care. Affordable Housing. Failing Education Systems. Gun Violence. Teen-age pregnancy.

Sitting in this hip coffee shop I can hear twenty-somethings all around me talking about what’s wrong with humanity and how they aim to fix it. Millennials are raising the bar for the rest of us. They’re hyper-aware of societies ailments and far more actively involved in finding solutions than previous generations.

Yet increased awareness presents a serious problem that’s pervasive in “woke” people of ALL ages: It has become the “in” thing to do. Buying TOMS shoes, a week at an orphanage in Central America, sending bottled water to Flint, Michigan, and filling food baskets at Thanksgiving – all such Facebook-worthy ways of serving Jesus. I can’t even count the times I’ve seen a Facebook or Insta post with a white, middle-class high-schooler/college kid surrounded by raggedy-clothed, dirty-faced black/Asian/Indian/Hispanic orphans from their recent short-term “missions” trip abroad.

But if we engage in something that’s uber trendy, we must stop and ask ourselves: What’s my motive?

Write a check. Angel tree. Annual service day at a soup kitchen. Donate clothes. “Like” all the posts by the latest hip justice organization. Put said organization’s sticker on our computer. Run a 5k for awareness. GoFundMe pages. Youth groups spending a day in the inner city. Wear a trendy justice t-shirt. Carry a cool mug inscribed #endhumantrafficking.

And why? Why is there such a BOOM in this movement?

I’d like to suggest we’re crazy about this movement of increasing awareness because it’s easy.

Easy. Appealing. Quick. Non-habit forming. No sacrifice.

One could even say these approaches to following the way of Jesus are somewhat “sexy”: We are seen. We are heard. We look good and feel good with our “service”. Others think we’re incredible. Sexy, right? In fact, we could post any of those hot service opportunities on Valentine’s day with #mytruelove and everyone will think we’re holy.

I’m not bashing those experiences or remotely suggesting they be stopped. I most definitely feel there is a place and a time for such things. The problem, as I see it, is that we (Christians) are mostly looking for a quick, non-painful way to appease our Jesus-driven consciences and we’re much too quick to flaunt it for our own acclaim.

We Christians are FAR less likely to do the long, hard, costly, sacrificial and unnoticeable work that is the backbone of the Christian calling.

But Jesus said:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

He straight-up told us: It ain’t supposed to be easy, friends!!!

Jesus did all kinds of hard, subversive, and not very Facebook worthy things. He hung out with those marginalized by society. He touched people that nobody else would touch. He shared meals with those no one else would. He went to places nobody else would go. Jesus didn’t do sexy things.

If Jesus had a Facebook page, we’d probably scroll right through his posts. It is THAT mundane. THAT uncomfortable. THAT un-sexy.

To go all-in for Christ will most likely lead you to hard, toilsome work with basically no recognition. It’ll be costly and time-consuming. It sometimes costs money, but can also cost friends, reputations, and safety. It’s not usually quick and easy and it’s not usually comfortable.

When I think of the un-sexy way of Jesus, I think of some of these people:

  • A neighbor who has invested YEARS into the life of a troubled, fatherless, high-schooler who doesn’t appreciate it and throws away every opportunity provided for him. But our neighbor refuses to give up and pursues him with relentless love and care. Not sexy.
  • My friend who has visited her father, uncle, and aunt, twice a week, every single week at the local nursing home for over 10 years! As their ONLY living relative, they wouldn’t get a single visitor if it weren’t for her. Not sexy.
  • We know a guy who after Hurricane Katrina sold everything and MOVED to New Orleans. A lot of us did sexy things for Katrina-victims and pasted it all over social media. Our friend LIVED there for two years. Not sexy.
  • We have friends who live in Honduras. They run an organization that works to abolish corruption within the extremely corrupt Honduran government. The work is dangerous – an attorney from their organization was shot and killed in broad daylight by gang members. This work is COURAGEOUS, costly, takes decades, slow progress, and sometimes exasperating. Not sexy.
  • There are many schoolteachers who CHOOSE to work in some of the poorest districts in our city. The pay is poor, their resumes won’t ever be impressive (failing students make teachers look bad – no matter how awesome they really are) but they believe in making a difference in the lives of kids who just maybe need a break in life. They will do this for 20, 30 maybe 40 years and they may never see the fruit of their labor. Not sexy.

The un-sexy work Jesus invites us into may be long-suffering, toilsome, tiring and expensive, but we’re not doing it for ourselves – it’s UNTO HIM!

  • What if we mentored troubled kids – any age – and stuck with them through ALL THEIR GROWING years?
  • What if we volunteered with Kids Hope and actually gave a kid hope?
  • What if we joined a refugee/immigration settlement organization and spent the next FIVE years mentoring a new family?
  • What if we talked to our neighbors, learned of their suffering, and prayed with them weekly?
  • What if we made homemade casseroles and brought them to the homeless camps (trust me, they exist) every week?
  • What if we enter in to the roller-coaster life of the mentally unstable – the bi-polar friend, the depressed sister-in-law, the suicidal teen, the homicidal neighbor?
  • What if we mentored those in troubled pregnancies?
  • What if we helped pay the heat bill every winter for a family who heats their home with the stove?
  • What if we gave up eating out for six months just so another family could EAT?

You know what I think would happen if we did some of these things? We’d be tired. We’d be involved with these issues for a really long time and get frustrated with the slow pace of change. We might even get angry at those we are serving. We’d want to give up and quit over and over and over.

But we’d be doing the work of Jesus, for HIM, and for His glory. Not ours.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

This is the way of Jesus. And it ain’t sexy.

Don’t make Jesus your sexy Valentine.

A View Into the Syrian Refugee Camps

Is it time? Can I finally share about my experience in the Syrian refugee camps? I’ve patiently waited until the repugnant things surrounding our country’s midterm elections were over. But I was getting impatient…

People are literally dying as the richest and most powerful country in the world spends millions of dollars on campaigning and fighting over leadership roles. Can’t we all just agree that people shouldn’t die violent deaths? Can’t we all just agree that people shouldn’t have to flee their country just to stay alive? Can’t we all just agree that children, orphans, widows, and those being oppressed should be cared for? Even if we don’t agree on who delivers that care, we DO agree they need care, right???

A few weeks ago I went to Lebanon and worked with a medical and dental team to deliver health care to Syrian refugees living in camps in the Baqaa Valley. I’ll be honest, I’m a political junky and watch and read all the things – both left and right – always trying to figure out where I land…   So I can assure you, no one – and I mean NO ONE – was talking about the Syrian refugee crisis for the last two months. The biggest humanitarian crisis of our day and it’s not in the news?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

So I’d like to attempt to just give us a shot of reality in the arm:

Lebanon, a tiny country along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, with slightly more than 6 million people, now has within its borders over 1.5 million Syrian refugees. That’s one FOURTH of its population. That would be the equivalent of America taking in 81.8 million people (one fourth it’s population of 327.5 million). But, in reality, America has given a dismal 33,000 Syrians a place of refuge. That’s less than one ONE-HUNDREDTH of a percent! Does anyone else see a problem with this?

And whether we hear about it or not, the crisis definitely continues and is far from over. Every morning I would wake up and look east to the mountain range that separates Lebanon from Syria and shudder at the thought of what was happening just beyond my view. That very week, just over that mountain range, the Assad regime was pressing into the Idlib region of Syria with such force and violence that another million people or so were forced to flee.

We didn’t hear the gunfire, smell the fires, or personally feel any danger – but we didn’t need to in order to feel the reality of the tragedy. The traumatized faces of the Syrians gave us all the horrific details we needed to know.

**********

My first reaction to the refugee camps surprised me. They weren’t quite as bad as I feared they’d be. To be honest, in terms of blatant poverty and extreme living conditions, I’ve seen people in the world who have it worse – but that’s not really saying much. Those sleeping in the streets of La Limonada Guatemala, Egyptians living off their “finds” in Garbage City, and inhabitants of the vile slums of Mumbai would maybe be grateful to live in such “fine” structures as these Syrian refugees.

Make no mistake, this was squalor. But even squalor has an unspoken caste system.

The Syrian’s “fine” structures are self-constructed tents made from government issued tarps (taken from billboards, I presume, because the walls of every home looked somewhat like a Wal-Mart ad) and pieced together by flimsy strips of scrap wood. Doors didn’t exist. Or windows. Or furniture. Nor did I see any kitchens – or anything even resembling a place to cook. Some homes had cement slab flooring; others were dirt. I shuddered to imagine how they survive winters where temps dip down below freezing and snowstorms are common. I never saw a bathroom either, but certain smells from certain areas told me they probably just go “wherever”.

I was also surprised to hear most of these Syrian refugees were actually just squatters – pushing the limits of the “goodwill” of the Lebanese. They didn’t live in government, or UN sanctioned camps (in fact, only about 10% of all refugees do), but instead, they simply erected their little clusters of homes on the perimeter of farmland, along deserted streets, or wherever they could get away with it. Many farmers and landowners charged them rent, and most of the Syrian squatters were paying someone something for either use of land, water or electricity. Paying them with what? I wasn’t sure. These people truly had NOTHING.

I anticipated busting into tears upon seeing their living conditions. Surprisingly, I didn’t. However, what brought me to tears, time and time again, were the stories. We heard innumerable accounts of loss, devastation and unspeakable violence.

After a week of hearing hundreds of stories, there was no doubt that every single family had been traumatically affected by the atrocities of the Assad regime. Every single person we talked to had lost someone: mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend. Everyone knew of devastating loss. Usually by gunshot, burning, or slitting of the throat. Families were usually forced to watch the murders.

Can you imagine if EVERYONE in your community had either seen or heard of a violent death of a loved one? Can you even imagine the PTSD? Can you imagine the stone-cold faces of a whole community who have witnessed such evil? I can. I saw their faces.

An elderly man told us how the regime stormed into his village and led everyone out into the central courtyard. There, they slit the throats and cut off the heads of many leaders in the community. They forced the women and children to watch as they pounded the heads into stakes placing them all around the central square. Then they threw everyone out of their homes and burned the homes down to the ground. This gentleman was now blind from the smoke damage and trauma.

We heard from a young man who clutched his younger brother as he breathed his last breath after being shot by the regime. This happened after he had already lost both parents and two sisters to the violence.

One woman who had just given birth to her thirteenth child was sitting next to her 18 yr. old daughter who was also holding a new baby of her own, and she told us: “We must have lots of children, to replace all those we lost in Syria.”

We met a young man who had been ruthlessly beaten about a month prior because he had decided to follow Jesus. His jaw had taken so many blows, he could no longer fully open his mouth, chew or swallow. Our dentists assessed him, but could not provide the oral surgery he needed. He wept as we encircled him and prayed for him. He said, “I still chose Jesus over the religion that told Assad to kill so many.”

Our medical team treated many people with typically non-serious health issues like lice, scabies, high-blood pressure, asthma, diarrhea and bronchitis. However, with lack of proper treatment, hygiene, and follow-up, we knew many of these problems would keep coming back. It broke our hearts that we were unable to give them more than a months worth of medication. What happens after that month is up? I am personally on strong chemo-like medication that is keeping me alive. These Syrians? When their month is up… what then? We could only pray another medical team would come next month.

We gave a Syrian doctor medication for his high blood pressure. He said he couldn’t work in Lebanon because they would not recognize his Syrian medical license. He also had no equipment, medicine, or money and so he couldn’t even help the people who lived in the camps around him. He helplessly reached out his hand and thankfully accepted the months worth of free medication we could supply. His eyes were all watery.

We saw two young children with hydrocephalus, an easily treatable disorder where water accumulates around the brain. However, with no money and no hospital that will offer treatment like that for Syrians, the children suffer with heads about four times their normal size.

Our two dentists saw around 30 patients each per day. They have learned over the years that it’s too time consuming and futile to fill cavities, do root canals or place crowns. Most in the camps aren’t brushing their teeth – which could be from lack of toothbrushes and toothpaste, or just ignorance in some instances. I believe it is out of exhaustion and desperation that they’re simply allowing their kids to eat candy all day long. These were largely educated people (they were NOT stupid!) who knew about proper dental care and prophylaxis – but they were to the end of themselves. And they didn’t even care anymore about saving their teeth. A few months of severe tooth pain and you don’t care what kind of gaping smile you’ll have, you just want that tooth gone. So, primarily, our dentists pulled teeth. All day long. By evening, their arm muscles were twitching from the exertion.

Our medical team saw between 100 – 150 people per day. The Lebanese team we partnered with had developed a fairly advanced notification system where the clinic sends out just enough SMS texts into the camps to let them know exactly how many patients will be seen in any given day, hoping that only a couple hundred more than that would show up. Our team would triage the patients in the lower level of the church to determine who would, in fact, be seen that day and who had to be asked to leave. Most of the people said they waited about six hours before being seen – often outside in the hot sun. We did our best – but it was never enough. One day we sent away over 100 people. There was no way our team of 9 medical/dental people could meet the needs of all the refugees of the surrounding area in Zahle, Lebanon in the Beqaa Valley.

Our week was over quickly and we had to leave before everyone was seen or healed.

I never thought about it before, but Jesus, too, must have felt sick to his stomach whenever he left a city – leaving behind so many sick and hurting, lost and lonely, giving up hope. Many just desperate to just touch the hem of his cloak.

Desperation. That’s the thing we felt the most in Lebanon. Desperation veering into hopelessness. I knew we could offer some medical attention to a lot of people, but I had no idea how we’d extend hope. We listened to their stories whenever we had the chance and, I think, that was sometimes better than the medication we handed out.

For seven years this complex, devastating, and dehumanizing civil war has raged on in Syria. Many of these refugees have just been sitting for seven years. Sitting and waiting. For years they have waited, hoping their country would simmer down and they could return home. Their wait turns to boredom and desperation. They have depleted all their life’s savings and they are skunk poor. Many Syrians do try to seek work in Lebanon. Most are rejected. Due to historical ill will between the two countries, the Lebanese are not very welcoming or loving to the Syrians. Some will, however, be fortunate to find hard field labor the Lebanese don’t want to do. Sometimes they get paid, sometimes they don’t. Some of the luckiest Syrians find work in the towns, but they never get paid enough. They will gladly work all day for a half-days wage just to work. But there just isn’t enough work to go around.

But, tragically, most Syrians just continue to sit and wait…. Wait in their tents made out of advertising tarps. Wait while drinking contaminated water and watching their children die from preventable diseases. Wait for the dental team to arrive so they can get their rotten teeth pulled. Wait for the UN or some generous NGO to bring in food supplies. Wait for the local church to open up their clothing warehouse so they can clothe their kids. Wait, huddled around an indoor fire in the middle of a tent while the snow flies outside. Wait while their old people die of diabetes and other treatable illnesses. Wait while dad gets older and weaker, mom grows grey and tired, and while their children grow up without toys, without birthday parties, without ice cream, without parks or museums, without books, without an education, without hope.

Wait, wait, wait…

Whenever I had the chance, I would ask the Syrians, “What do you want us, as visiting Americans, to learn? What do you want us to take away from this encounter with you?”

Without exception, they would answer, “Tell your people, tell TRUMP and tell everyone you know that they must do whatever it takes to stop this war! We just want to go home! We are desperate. Please, Miss, please. Tell everyone. We just want to go home.”

I’m well aware how the enemy of our souls has attempted to create an impassable chasm between the worlds’ religions. It is from the pit of hell when people of differing religions chose hate as their default instead of a posture of humility, love, and a longing to understand. I personally feel it is entirely irrelevant that the Syrian crisis largely involves Muslims. Did you know, incidentally, many Christians are refugees, too? Approx. 85% of the Syrian population is Muslim, 12% Christian and 3% Druze. The bottom line is this: There are humans – image bearers of the one true God – suffering unspeakable atrocities as we sit here in America and spend countless hours gripped by unwinnable social media debates, ridiculous political posturing and antics of a leadership that has become the laughing stock of the world.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, the Screwtape Letters, the demon Uncle Screwtape is coaching his demon nephew, Wormwood, on the subversive art of keeping Christians from being and doing good in the world. A paraphrase of Screwtape’s message is this: “If you can’t get them (Christians) to sin, then just keep them busy and preoccupied. No matter how petty the preoccupation, distraction is the best tool to ward off participation. This will keep them from doing that which the enemy (God, in this case) has called them to do.”

Dare I suggest we’re more distracted by ridiculousness than ever before in history?

So what is God up to, calling us to, inviting us into, that Satan would work such long and hard hours to keep us from seeing???

Syrian refugees anyone???

**********IMG_7842IMG_5139 (1)IMG_5236IMG_8316IMG_5193IMG_5261IMG_8186IMG_5155IMG_5227IMG_5221IMG_5199IMG_5233 (1)IMG_8037IMG_7859IMG_8313IMG_5133 (1)IMG_5145 (1)IMG_5289IMG_8318

If you desire to learn more, I strongly suggest the reading of these two books:

“We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria” – by Wendy Pearlman

https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062654618/we-crossed-a-bridge-and-it-trembled/

“A Hope More Powerful than the Sea” – by Melissa Flemming

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-More-Powerful-Than-Sea/dp/1250105994

 

And if you feel so led to donate to the ongoing work of the medical/dental teams that continue to serve in Lebanon four times a year, you can give here:  Global – Living With Power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happened when we opened our HOME to Muslims

IMG_1135A few years back our family of six spent four years living in Morocco. In a country that is nearly 100% Islam, we made many Muslim friends. A couple weeks ago, one of those friends decided to visit our family here in Michigan. She traveled with her 18 yr. old daughter who was coming to America for the first time.

Although we were virtually surrounded by Muslims while living in Morocco, it was an entirely new twist to have Muslims living with us – experiencing every-day life with us. This was far more up-close and personal.

 

What I learned made me uncomfortable. But probably not in the way you’re thinking.

 

My friend came bearing gifts – for me, my husband, the kids – even for our sons who no longer live home. She got up early and made coffee. She stayed up late and made Moroccan fried bread. Whenever I wasn’t looking, she did the dishes. She listened for hours and gave me counsel on life’s hard stuff. She would sneak off when we were at restaurants and secretly pay the bill before I even had a chance to object. She sat and listened to our kids rattle on about silly things she knew nothing about: American football, homecoming festivities, travel sports, and Tim Allen. While in Chicago, we were walking back to our hotel late in the evening and we encountered at least 5 beggars in the streets. She stopped to give money and/or food to each one. She even went into a market and bought a fresh loaf of bread for one beggar.

We watched TV, You-Tube, and American sports together. And she made me laugh ‘til I nearly peed my pants.

IMG_1172

Three times throughout the week (although I know there were many more) I found her kneeling, facing East toward Mecca, head bowed low to the ground in prayer. Every time it stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed in earnest. Life in America is busy, you know….  

And, perhaps most remarkably, both my friend and her daughter went to church with us. They were not concerned in the least that our church might rattle their faith – they simply wanted, out of respect to our family, to fully experience our culture, our lives and our religion. They understand Christianity (at times, I fear, better than I do…) and they didn’t have questions about it. They just wanted to honor us by attending church.

My friend and her daughter oozed love for me and my family and our community – as well as the strangers in their midst – throughout their weeklong visit. Then, even after returning home, they mailed us beautiful Christmas gifts to thank us. Muslims, who don’t celebrate Christmas in the least, sent gifts to US just to bless US on our holy holiday.

 

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I call that love.

 

I am being haunted by an old Sunday School song. “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Really? Will they know we are Christians by our love? Will our behavior be so exemplary, so unique, and so incredibly loving that people will unequivocally be able to recognize what faith we ascribe to simply by our actions?  

What haunts me is that, in many ways, my Muslim friends are better at loving than I am.

 

Which begs the question: Did WE know THEY were Muslim by their love???

 

If you’re jumping to defensive mode and screaming “HELLOooooo!!!! ISIS!!!!” as proof that “they” do not love – well, I get that. Undoubtedly, there are factions who are acting in the name of Islam and represent the antithesis of love.  These people need to be stopped.

But something I learned in Morocco that is important for us to understand here, is that many Muslims in the East equate Christianity with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING coming out of America. They observe things such as: our greed and materialism, our divorce and abortion rates, the Kardashians, The Bold and the Beautiful, all-things Hollywood, our massive gun violence, or George W. Bush (whom they can only see as someone who indiscriminately blows up people and cities), and conclude: “See! That’s what Christians are like!” They are unable to separate the actions of our country from our dominant religion (Christianity) because in their home countries there is no separation of religion and state. To be Moroccan is to be Muslim. The king of Morocco is also the head religious leader. As is true in many Middle Eastern countries. So it is no wonder that, to them, everything coming out of America (and let’s be honest, most of it ain’t pretty….) must be Christian.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my Christian faith identified by the actions of Lamar Odom, Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. Or how about the Unabomber, Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh?  Or what about people that blow up abortion clinics out of religious conviction or priests that rape little boys?

Please, world, don’t equate me, a devout follower of Jesus, with these people!  

Some may counter and argue that these people cannot possibly be true Christians anyway…. but that is entirely beside the point because again, in many Eastern Muslim minds, all American actions are Christian actions.

And yet, in some ways, that argument completely makes my point! Because, likewise, it is entirely unfair for Americans to judge the whole of Islam based on what our Westernized media chooses to report – which is only reporting the extreme actions of extremists.

But if you get to know the people, the regular, ordinary, every-day people that live and work and teach and heal and farm and shop and play soccer and have babies and read books and cook meals and go to school and watch movies and all the millions of other things that you and I do, well, these people are fully as good at loving as you and me. They are. I’m telling you, they are.

IMG_1381IMG_1314

If you don’t agree, perhaps you’d be willing to ask yourself a few questions:

How many Muslims do I know personally?

How many Muslims have spent considerable time in my home?

Where do I get my information about Muslims?

How many Islamic countries have I visited? What was my experience there?

How many people do I hang out with regularly that practice a different faith than my own? Do they know how to love? How do they express love? Do any of them love better than me?

Will they KNOW we are Christians by our love???  Will the title “Christian” ever represent to the world “a distinctly caring, self-less, and sacrificially giving people who love regardless of race or religion?” And if it did, would my own loving actions, kindness, and generosity be so recognizable so as to set me apart from the “world” and allow them to quickly identify me as a Christian???

I’m afraid, that for me, the honest answer is “no.”

So, in response to the hate that is being spewed from the media, our Facebook feeds, and many people with big microphones, I think those of us professing a faith in the resurrected Christ should ask ourselves, “Will they know we are Christians by our love?”  A chief yearning in my life is that my family, my church, my street, my community, my state and my nation exhibit a Christ-like love to our fellow mankind. I’m nearly to the point of despair at how miserably we’re all failing. And so, this is what I’ll do – which is really the only thing I can do – I’ll sing that great song of the season: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!”