21 April 2015

changing everything

For the many of you asking, we were hiking and camping near Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills in Logan, Ohio...here's the link if you are interested!  We've been going there since I was a kid and have always loved it!

Team Emmaus is doing so well...things are really starting to heat up (like, in the 90's with a whole buncha humidity) as the school year is starting to wind down.  Everybody is covering and helping out so well, and we are missing their fellowship and friendship so much.  And look at Claudin's baby Christie!!  She is already changing so much...I HATE that!!
Meanwhile, Matt is off in Lexington, KY this week for a few days of meetings at Francis Asbury Society with OMS's Theological Education department, and we are missing him and praying for some great days with some awesome ministry partners.

I took the girls tonight to Sofie's first ever movie-theater experience to see Cinderella.  The fact that Sofie can't sit still for a 20 minute movie at home SHOULD have been a hint that the movie theater wouldn't be all that different.  When Cinderella appeared at the ball, Sofie shouted out at the top of her lungs, "MOMMY, YOU HAFTA BUY ME THAT DRESS!" sooooo, she was paying attention.  Lily was mesmerized and it was a gift to me how kindness and courage and forgiveness were such central themes...you never know :)

If you're not yet sick of my cross-cultural adjustment ramblings, I think I've come to a conclusion. 

This past weekend, we were hiking through Old Man's Cave and talking to Mary and Carl about how shocking so much of what we were seeing was.  

Yes, Lily and Sofie go to bed to the sound of voodoo drums, and yes, they see and experience people bathing in rivers and begging for food, the butchering of pet cows and the eating of cats, kids playing naked and peeing on trees.  I get why these things would seem shocking things for small ones to find normal.

But they do NOT hear foul language, nor see abundances of kid-inappropriate tattoos, public displays of too-much affection, incredibly immodest dress nor have ANY exposure whatsoever to any kind of homosexual or transgender or...I can't even describe some of the confusion I'm seeing...living.

None.  While Haiti may be deep in traditions of curses and fear, relatively consistent moral standards also run deep.  Among Christians and non-Christians alike, abortion is still seen as horrifying, homosexuality still seen as unacceptable, the idea that there IS no God is still seen as absurd, and while it's expected that friends kiss their greetings and pack 20 in a truck, physical intimacy is kept incredibly private and/or secretive.  

So for a 6 and 3 year old, we're having a really hard time explaining these things they've never heard or seen before.  Explaining what.  Explaining why.  Explaining that we can't explain.  Trying to point them towards honoring God in loving all others, honoring God by walking in holiness, honoring God in a world that...just.  DOESN'T.

I mean, yeah, it's hard living in Haiti or living in America.  

But what's HARD is living on earth.  Living set apart.  Living holy in an unholy planet, living light in a dark dark world, living honor in a disgraceful and shameful globe.  

Every day, every decision, every moment. Every relationship. Every action.

THAT is what's hard.  

So hard, in fact, that it's easy to find ourselves excuse-thinking, "Surely God knows how hard it is, and doesn't require all that He SAYS He does.  Surely if God knew what a challenge it is to live set apart, He'd have lots of grace for my foot in the world.  Surely God gets it and doesn't really expect all that cutting off your hand, holy as I am holy, perfect as I am perfect, set apart, 'friendship with the world is hostility toward God' stuff."

This, beloved, is our danger zone.  

I sound like Matt here, but ANY time we find ourselves justifying that surely God does not mean what He says, we are on a slippery slippery slope.

ANY time we find ourselves thinking that the narrow, unpopular, rough path that He outlines in His Word is NOT the ONLY path...is not the path of TODAY, surely...we are on thin ice.

If I've learned anything from ANY culture, it's that all of it falls at the feet of a rare and precious and universal truth: GOD IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS.  

And we're to live as He tells us to live.  We're to look the way He's told us to look, and showed us to look when He sent Jesus.  We're to die as He's told us to die, to sacrifice as He's told us to sacrifice, to crazy as He's told us to crazy, to NOT BE AFRAID as He's told us to not be afraid.

We see in our Bibles and throughout history a million ways a million people thought little exceptions wouldn't matter, little compromises wouldn't break the bank, little lukewarms wouldn't really be spit out.  

I'm not talking about never messing up.  David is always our best example of that, isn't he?  I'm not talking about never messing up.  

I'm talking about being whole-heartedly after God's heart.  NOT whole-heartedly after OUR heart and life and desires that we hope God will bless...NOT whole-heartedly after pleasing the world's heart that we hope God will understand.  

I'm talking about being with our WHOLE hearts entirely about, invested in, passionate for, consumed by, obedient to, sold out to GOD'S heart.  HIS heart.  HIS way.

And while we can talk all day about what that means about Voodoo or tattoos or nudity or language or holding hands, the majority of what the Bible fleshes out is HEART stuff.  

Cringy stuff.  Less obvious stuff.  

I'm ever convinced, today, that we've just gotta be faithful, gotta be obedient, gotta be nuts and GOTTA be laying down our hearts in the face of that cringy stuff and CHANGING.  Every day.  

No excuses.

My day ended today with James 4 (which had me working through some of that cringy stuff in my life) which ended with this:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

This cross-all-cultural truth blew my whole two-culture struggle thing out of the water.  

Blows all our excuses out of the water.  All our compromises.

If we're in the Word, if we're following Him and also living in this world, if we're seeking His heart in ALL situations...then we know the right thing to do and if we don't, we're living in our sin.  

If we know HIS way and choose OURS, we're embracing our sin.  

If we know Christ and choose the World, we're lost, family.  

A lot...a lot...a LOT of people don't know what is right.  Don't know God, the standard of what is right.  THAT is to be our great concern every day.

But we do. And so the sin we must be focused on casting out each day is NOT voodoo drums nor dark tattoos, not foul-language nor appalling behavior, not homosexuality nor stealing chickens...but mine.

The way to address all the sin around me WHEREVER I am is to ask Him to address MINE.  

Powerfully, severely, completely, transformingly.

Then, my utmost concern is that many, many, many do not know Him (and perhaps many do not know Him because we who do cling so easy to our hidden sin and make it comfortable.)

SO.  All that to say :)  

As I've strained to adjust these past days, I am reminded all over again that what really matters is not between America and I, Haiti and I, or the world and I: but HE and I. 

And God and I, whole-heart?  When God said, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," He meant it.

THAT can change e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.


  1. I love so much of what you are saying here (and always do!)

    And I imagine this is not on your list of priorities right now, but I feel led to say a few things about the LGBT confusion. It pains me so much to see the church coming down so strongly on the "traditional" side of this issue without true, honest research into what the scripture says. I have been researching and praying over this for the past few years and believe that the current stance against homosexuality is a result of biased church tradition, incorrect translation, and lack of proper contextualization. When you dig into it, there is so much going on here. I feel it is important for us to look honestly at this because of the many, many individuals this position is hurting, especially LGBT Christians. Again, I know you are wanting to rest and probably have many things you would rather do, but if you every have some spare time (I know, I know, unlikely! :), I can't recommend this video enough: http://www.upworthy.com/every-biblical-argument-against-being-gay-debunked-biblically?c=ufb3
    It is a fantastic introduction to the "debate" that is thorough and accessible. Also the book "What God Has Joined Together; The Christian Case for Gay Marriage" had a huge impact on my understanding and I would absolutely recommend that.

    I believe Christians should stand in stark contrast of the prevailing culture, no matter what culture that is. But I think that means through our radical grace, love, community, stewardship, social justice efforts, approach to poverty, etc. This issue has become the face of "standing against the culture" and being on the side of acceptance has been deemed giving into the culture. But maybe, this is just something we got wrong. It's happened before. (The Bible was used for decades to prove how wrong interracial marriage is!) I don't want to assume you haven't researched this, it was just the impression I got from the way you wrote.

    Thanks for your thoughts and I hope your time in the states continues to be restful, despite the cultural confusion. (Here I am thinking the move from the UK to the US was hard!)

  2. I really appreciated this blog, Stacey. You said what a lot of us are thinking and feeling.