Made In Mexico

You never really know what people are going through unless you take the time to probe. To listen and befriend.  Behind the carefully ironed outfits, the smiles that say, “I’m fine, thank you!”.  Behind the snapshots of a family celebration on Instagram or Facebook.  I think it’s safe to assume that everyone that you come in contact with is facing some kind of personal battle. Something hard. Something that is breaking them or causing a knot to form in their stomach.  Big or small, there is always something. No matter how old or how young.  That means any act of kindness can take on a meaning you never imagined possible.

I’ve never felt so disconnected and alone in my entire life!” I tell him. We are sitting in our living room after a long day, our grown children with their plans. Coming and going.  It’s actually kind of fun and rewarding to watch them live their lives. Spreading their wings. But at times it can feel like we’re being left behind.

Elisabeth Elliot said, “In acceptance lies peace.” Simple. I love that. I am taking it one day at a time. Praying for peace. Choosing to accept the season we are in and be the best I can be in, what seems like, the hardest season yet!  I find that the older I get, especially if you are in some type of  “leadership” position, people often forget that you are no different than they are — that you need encouragement just like those who are younger.  Out of sight–out of mind?   That is often the case.

But then someone bursts through your front door. “Here! We brought you something from Mexico!  We thought of you while we were on vacation!”  A small act of kindness that says you have value, we missed you, we are grateful for you, you are cherished. And you realize that the voice that has been whispering in your ear, “You are alone. You are disconnected!” is not the voice of truth.  It is a feeling, but not a reality. And God has used His people to remind you. God has used the church to remind you.

Wrapped in brown paper, I take the small package from her hand.  “It was made in Mexico!” she says!  And I pull from the wrapping a small, handmade cup.  Beautiful.  (I have a weakness for coffee cups!)  I love it!  Not only because it is beautiful and handmade, but because it was given to me by a young woman who has allowed herself to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  It reminds me that I am not alone.  It reminds me that she values me–that HE values me.

I was remembered. HE has remembered.

When I woke this morning and I felt that knot in my stomach that has become my daily companion,  the reality of this season of life hit me again. My first reaction was to give in to depression. “I will not allow this to grip me today!”  I make my way to the kitchen for my morning cup. There it sits on the counter.  The reminder: “You are valued. You are not alone.”  I make an espresso and I send her a text with a picture: “Perfect for espresso!

I am a part of the body of Christ.  The Church.  And no matter what season of life I am in, my purpose is to know God, to make Him known, and to show the world that I am one of His by showing His love.  Bearing burdens. Blessing others even when I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Because you never really know what people are going through.  You never really know.

I think it’s safe to assume that everyone that you come in contact with is facing something hard. Something that is breaking them or causing a knot to form in their stomach. That means any act of kindness can take on a meaning you never imagined possible.

Self-Supremacist or Christ-Supremacist?

Whose fault is it – The President, politician, reporter, social media, our culture, white people, African Americans?  Would things be different if we had a different president?  I’m appalled.  You’re appalled.  We vent on Facebook about how sad it is and how ignorant people are.  We are saddened. Scared. Angry – and maybe a bit self-righteous?

Look in the mirror.

I have a question for you – and be honest, okay?

  • Have you ever passed someone on the street, in the grocery store – in your church – who looked different than you do?  When your paths crossed, did you look at them and quickly divert you eyes to look somewhere else? Did you have a thought or an attitude that would be considered “racist”? A thought that was critical, unloving, and instantly placed you in a higher place than the other person because of how they look, walk,  talk, what they believe,  because of where they are from,  or because they are a different color than you?

Have you? I have.

What we are seeing take place in our country – the racism,  riots, rallies, and violence – all of it is actually an extreme example of what we all have present in our hearts.  All of us.  The pride, hate, and ignorance is present in every one of us.  Oh sure, you may bring the thoughts captive, speak truth to yourself, remind yourself that everyone is equal in God’s sight.

But we have to remind ourselves!  Self-righteousness is present in all of us. It’s there.

White Supremacist? That may not be you. But take the time to evaluate your heart. What group of people do you think is better than another group?  Maybe it’s never left your heart or thoughts, never been verbalized publicly. Or maybe it has, but you’ve never held a rally or waved a sign that says, “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!”; and you’ve never run your car into a crowd of people that don’t agree with you…but it’s there.

In any self-righteous heart attitude that looks down on another, you reveal yourself to be a Self-Supremacist.

“This is the newly-adopted mantra of the “White Supremacist” movement… “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US”!  Oh, the richness of soteriological irony: as one with European DNA, my only hope in life and death is knowing that, when I stand before the throne of judgement, indeed I have been replaced by the One who chose to come down to Earth as a Middle-Eastern Jewish man! JESUS is the Only One who can claim the title of Supreme. Through His broken and bloodied BROWN flesh, He has redeemed for Himself a people-made up from many nations and languages, followers living under the banner over all creation = “CHRIST IS SUPREME!” (Col. 1:15-20) 

We are the “Christ-Supremacists”!  We do not carry torches that bring only more darkness; instead, we are the torch-bearers of The Light that is life to all men. (John 1:1-4)  Our identity is no longer in our own ethnicity, but now securely resides in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We bow underneath the tearful prayer, “You Must Replace Us“!” ~Annie Locke

Oh Father! Please forgive me for the part I play – even if it’s just a heart attitude – in this crazy mess we find ourselves in. Please change my heart that it may be completely free from any unkind, unloving, critical, prideful, self-righteous,  and – yes – even racist thoughts or attitudes that may be present.  My identity is no longer in anything but the person and work of Jesus Christ. I bow beneath the tearful prayer, “You Must Replace Me!”

He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

We are Called to Care for One Another

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Community, according to Webster’s online dictionary, is the following:

A group of people living in a particular local area. A body of people having common rights, privileges, or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations. Common character; likeness.

The word “community” is used quite frequently these days. I understand why it is used and that the concept is important, but I wonder if, by using the word “community”, we may be cheating ourselves out of what really needs to be the focus:

Learning how to function as the body of Christ. 

In the body of Christ, each individual has accepted the undeserved gift of Salvation. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are covered and we are in the process of sanctification. Then we are adopted into a family – GOD’S family!

  • Sanctification: the process of becoming holy and perfect.
  • Adoption: Once we become a Christian, God brings us into His family. We become His children.

Ephesians 2:19 tells us that we are members of God’s household. This is not a normal, earthly family. We have been plucked out of a lost, dying, disconnected world and placed in a family. The family of God. We were never meant to live independently from each other. If that were the case then we would not be referred to as “the body” of Christ. No part of the body can function on it’s own.  Hebrews 10: 19-25 tells us to cultivate our relationship with God and then to nurture and cultivate our relationship with the body.

The body of Christ includes every single one of us who has been drawn into a relationship with Christ. We stand on level ground.  At any given time, we should be able to turn to any person who is a member of the body of Christ and know that we will be cared for. Taking the time to remember our calling enables us to look beyond ourselves and see everyone as being a member of a family – whether it be online, in our church, or in our friendships.

19 Ways We Are Called To Care For One Another

  1. Pray for one another (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; I Thess. 5:17;James 5:16)
  2. Encourage one another (I Thess. 5:14, 2:11)
  3. Edify one another (I Thess. 5:11)
  4. Exhort one another (urge to pursue some course of action; warn and advise) (Hebrews 10:25, 3:13; Phil 4:2, I Thess 4:10)
  5. Admonish one another (warning, reproof, teaching ) (Romans 15:14, I Cor. 4:14, Col. 1:28, 3:16, I Thess. 5:12, 14; 2 Thess. 3:15)
  6. Love one another (John 13:34)
  7. Care for one another. (I Cor. 12:25, Phil. 2:4)
  8. Bear with one another (Romans 15:1, Gal. 6:2)
  9. Forgive one another (Eph. 4:32)
  10. Help one another physically (Gal. 5:13) and materially (I Tim. 6:17, 18)
  11. Worship with one another (Heb. 10:24-25).
  12. Be devoted to one another. (Romans 12:5).
  13. Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  14. Rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15)
  15. Serve one another (Galations 5:13)
  16. Carry one another’s burdens (Galations 6:2)
  17. Encourage one another (I Thess. 5:11)
  18. Offer Hospitality to one another (I Peter 4:9)
  19. Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16)

When we live this calling we become a light for a lost world to see and a haven for our family members. How have you been living out your calling?  How have you been blessed by a member of the body of Christ?

What Can I Do About Racism?

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself…” Leviticus 19:34 

It was one of those hot, humid days when the weather man says, “A high of 89 degrees, but it feels like 99!” The automatic door slowly swished open as my squeaky-wheeled cart led me into the cool grocery store. I was greeted by the chill of the air conditioning, the welcoming scent of coffee brewing, and the smell of deli fried chicken.

As I mindlessly began my weekly grocery shopping, an overwhelmingly helpless feeling began to settle over me. A twinge of fear entered my heart.  “What can I do?” I thought? “What can one, middle aged woman do to make a difference in this mess we find ourselves in called ‘racism’? How will they know I’m not one of those people who hate?”  I am tempted to put my head down, make no eye contact, do my business, and move on.  Yet I know that is not what God wants me to do.

This chaos that traces back to the beginning of time – division, racial tension, and angry, hurt people – It has always been around in one form or another. “Lord, what can one person do?” I pray. And a still, small voice whispers in my ear.  The answer floods my heart and mind:

“Every human being longs to feel as though they are valued.  Every time you interact with a person, no matter who they are, leave them feeling like they are valued. Look them in the eyes. Listen to them. See them.”

Simple.

The knot in my stomach slowly disappears. I ask God to expose any hidden places in my heart that may harbor even the smallest hint of racism. I ask Him to give me a heart that values each human being that enters my life, no matter how brief the stay.

After placing the last item on my grocery list into the cart, I make my way to the check out line. Unloading the food onto the counter, I glance up and greet the young man who is bagging my groceries. I make eye contact and ask him how he is doing. He tells me about himself. He says it’s been a long day and that he’s tired. He tells me about his mom and about his dog. We laugh and I tell him I have a son about his age.  I thank him for his work. We say good bye.

A middle aged woman and a 20 something, African American man had a short conversation about their lives.  Both felt valued.  Both looking past age and skin color.

God is teaching me that He can use me to  make a difference – one valuable person at a time.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  John 13:34