Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cynical about “the least of these?”

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit,

I can be a little cynical about helping “the least of these.”

mother and child

A thousand questions come to my mind, especially after eight years of work in Haiti…

  • Am I enabling a cycle of poverty when I give to the poor?
  • Don’t people need to reap the consequences of their own poor choices?
  • If I can’t commit to long-term discipleship, is it worth getting involved?
  • Is it possible for me to make a difference?
  • Where would I even start?

But from what I can tell, God’s mandates haven’t changed,

despite my compassion fatigue and cynicism.

The truth is, these are hard issues for every last one of us.

Who wouldn’t prefer to linger at Target, on Facebook, or in conversation with a friend over

research on wise giving, foster care, or the local rescue mission?

lonely girl

But do we know what we’re missing?

Have we forgotten the most incredible phrase of the verses that we can say in our sleep?

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,

you did for me.

(Matthew 25:40)

Do we believe that? Do we understand God’s caste system?

Watch this. It’s well worth your time.

http://

Are we willing to be moved?

Will we ask God to burden us and cure us of depraved indifference?

What opportunity is before us?

Where could we start?

I’m surrounded by friends who have allowed God to move them.

They’re doing the hard work… moving past emotion to become the hands and feet of Christ.

  • One family just opened their home to foster a baby.
  • One family is adopting from India.
  • One family is adopting from China.
  • One family provided months of childcare, transportation, resources, and friendship to a low-income single mom and her toddler.Indian girl

What will I do?

What will you do?

My questions — our questions — are valid. They merit answers.

But they must be addressed rather than ignored.

  • Let’s do the research.
  • Let’s read Scripture, articles, books.
  • Let’s make the phone calls, check out the websites.
  • Let’s commit the matter to prayer.

But then let’s do something.

Our time here is so short! We have work to do… the good news to share.

Reaching out to the lost includes, but reaches far beyond physical needs…

We have the hope of eternal life.

We have Jesus!

He is the answer.

Let’s not waste the time we are given.

Resources on Poverty and Giving:When helping hurts

To give or not to give

The poor will be glad

kisses from katie

Resources for helping victims of human trafficking:

the white umbrella
Websites for helping victims of human trafficking:

wellspring-living-logo

millstonemission

Help for the modern-day orphan of South Florida:
4kids

hopechildren's home

Help for single moms in crisis pregnancies in South Florida:
his-caring-place

first_care

Please leave a comment if you have suggestions for people in your area.

What are your local organizations that need volunteers, mentors, donations, projects, prayer?

Have you been given much?

homeless

I wasn’t sure if the woman was drunk, or high, or ill.

I was almost home when I saw her stumbling along the sidewalk alone.

She had a few bandages on her arms and some papers in her hands.

As I watched, she sat on the sidewalk, then changed her mind and struggled to her feet again.

By this time I needed to make my turn. I wrestled with whether or not I should stop and help her. She was probably at least 50 years old, weak, and not in the least a threat to me.

Why shouldn’t I help her?

But what could I do? I looked in my car for something I could offer her — food, water? Nothing.

My heart pounded with that “I-think-God-wants-me-to-do-something” urgency.

I hurried home, stuffed some healthy snack food, bottles of water, and a business card with info about our church into a paper bag then drove back to see if the woman was still nearby.

“God, If you really want me to do this, then help me find her,” I prayed.

And there she was. Again, striving to stand after a short rest.

I put my hazard lights on and pulled up beside her.

“Ma’am are you okay?”
She mumbled something I couldn’t understand. She was clearly not okay.

I put my minivan in park, and got out to talk to her.

The cuts and bruises on her face told me she’d been the brunt of someone’s recent anger.

I asked her name.
“Robin.”

Her speech was slow, as if it pained her to move her mouth.

“Robin, did someone hurt you?”
“Yeah, but I left him. I reported him.”

“Did you get help?”
She claimed she’d spent the last week in the hospital and showed me her dismissal papers, but she was so dirty and ragged, I couldn’t imagine where she’d been between her release and now.

I asked where she was going.
“My cousin’s house. I’m almost there.”

I offered her my bag of water and food, but soon realized there was no way she could continue her walk with an added burden, no matter how small.

“Can I take you there?” (What in the world I was getting myself into?)

I opened the door for her, and she sort of fell into the seat.

I felt ashamed and ridiculous to find myself wondering if this was a safe thing to do.

This woman couldn’t stand, let alone do me any harm, yet my adrenaline was pumping as if I was taking a huge risk.

We got to the stoplight and she tried to get out, intending to cross the street and reach her cousin’s house on her own. Thankfully, I was able to persuade her to let me take her the rest of the way.

“The rest of the way” became a little nebulous. After we turned the corner, she had no idea where to go. We cruised the neighborhood for a few minutes to jog her memory, but she was lost.

I stopped and knocked on a random door to see if the residents might happen to know her cousin. Not surprisingly, they didn’t.

Our last resort was an elementary school. School had just dismissed, and I spied a policewoman overseeing the pick-up line. I prayed she’d be compassionate and helpful.

We parked, and I helped Robin ease out of her seat. If I let go of her arm for a second, she threatened to topple.

The policewoman assured me she would take care of Robin from there. She began an online search for Robin’s cousin. I gave her my phone number “just in case,” and said goodbye.

I don’t know what happened to Robin after that. I prayed for God’s hand to bring hope and healing.

But I wonder now, just like I wondered that day… if that policewoman hadn’t taken Robin, what would I have done?

Would I have “dared” bring her home to meet her glaring needs before seeking further help?

Would I have let her interrupt my day for more than 20 minutes?

Where is she now? Back on the street?

Where would she be now if I had allowed my relationship with her to extend past those few moments?


Sunday night at “BLING,” our middle school girls’ Bible study, the first question in our book was,

“How we can we store treasure in Heaven instead of on Earth?”

The girls’ answer: “Give to the poor.”

But do they — do I — know the poor?

Are we stirred up when we read about a young woman who adopts 14 orphans and lives alongside the lost and needy in Uganda?

Do we hear about the modern-day orphans of our cities and long to do something?

Does the issue of human trafficking make us wonder if we could do anything to bring healing to breaking hearts?

Are we ever a little sickened by the excess of the “much” that we’ve been given, and wonder just for a minute if perhaps we’re not doing the “much” that is required of us?

Do we really believe…

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

And

… to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

(Matthew 25:40, 45b)

I don’t have all the answers today. (As opposed to every other day… ha!)

But I pray that God won’t let me be content with “going through the motions” of Christianity.

For more — way more — provoking thoughts and applications on loving Jesus with our lives and not just our words, I dare you to read Jen Hatmaker’s book: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

How has God challenged you lately to use your much?

(And that’s not theoretical — I really want to know! You have no idea how many people might grow and be challenged by what God is teaching you!)

Seeing the gifts in special needs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow has a special needs child or adult

come into your life?

For most of us, it’s not by choice.

For some it’s the prenatal discovery of an extra chromosome, for others the shocking diagnosis of a child’s autism.

A few have watched a tragic accident transform their loved one, while others have encountered unexpected issues after adopting.

Some are simply trying to relate to the non-verbal child in Sunday school or the wheel-chair-bound neighbor next-door.

Whatever your situation, it’s not easy. It’s a whole new world.

Like most people, I did not walk into this world on purpose. I would never have picked myself as the right mom for a child with special needs. But God knew I needed to be that mom.

When we chose to adopt our twins from Haiti, the only knowledge we had was second-hand. We saw our normal-looking boys pictured online, learned as much as we could about them, and after bathing the decision in prayer, decided to make them a part of our family. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

It was adoption and we had a choice once we knew — yes, but even when we technically could have backed out, God confirmed in our hearts that it was in reality His choice for us.

In the dark heat, only hours after entering the country that first time in 2001, we were introduced to our sons. Justin seemed mortified to meet us. In a photo of that incredible moment, I was the picture of joy and he of abject misery. But his only issue was shyness. As for Jaden, well, Jaden gave the phrase “out of control” deep new meaning. We had known he had a lazy eye, but we hadn’t known about his crippled left arm, nor — slightly more significantly — his special needs. After he’d been in Jarod’s arms for an entire two seconds, we knew we were destined for exhaustion. If I’d ever met a child whose behavior could accurately be compared to the infamous “Taz” of the Looney Tunes world, this was he.

(From Chapter 1 of In a Sun-Scorched Land, my memoir-in-progress)

Jaden, now 14, has a degree of autism, cerebral palsy, regular seizures, and severe developmental delays, due to brain damage from a traumatic birth.

Jarod and I have had to answer a lot of questions from the rest of our kids about why God allowed Jaden to be born with all of these problems.

I don’t know why.

I do know that because of sin, our world is broken. Life isn’t what it was originally meant to be.

When I see another seizure start — when Jaden topples like a tree, scrapes his head and elbows yet again, and then returns to “normal,” to utter the same phrase he’s repeated all week, “Wagon pretty!,” my heart hurts for him.

I long for the day on the other side of eternity that his pain and limitations will be shaken off for good.Jaden

But…

But, I also am deeply grateful for the beauty that God brings out of brokenness in special needs children and friends.

I love dropping Jaden off at his middle school and being greeted by the other kids that belong in his “Exceptional Students” class.

One girl hugs me as if I’m her long-lost mother.

A tall, handsome boy, to whom I’ve never been introduced, waves and smiles like we’ve been best friends forever.

And the dark-haired boy with peach fuzz on his upper lip lights up and bellows, “Hi Jaden’s mom!”

When I leave them, I walk past all the “normal” students far too absorbed in their iPhones and friends to give me a second glance or a smile.

It is the ESE kids that leave me full of joy and life.

Their exuberance and love are gifts from God, reflections of His own nature.

They bring my attention back to what’s real; what truly matters.

Jaden forces us to slow down and enjoy the little things.

When dirty dishes line the kitchen counter and there are about thirty-seven things left on my to-do list in the two hours before bedtime, Jaden asks me to ride bike with him. Watching the sunset as we pedal along reminds me that a quality life is not defined by a completed list.

When he gleefully hands his plastic piggy bank to the cashier at Walgreens to pay for his baby toy, I see her heart melt a little, and I know the people standing in line behind us are forced to think about life a little differently.

Of course one of the most beautiful things Jaden does is help the rest of us to become less selfish, more Christ-like.

We’re called on countless times each day to pause our “important task” and give Jaden yet another high-five or fist pound. We are learning to build him up by cheering him on each night when he sings his bedtime song. We let him pull us by the hand to see the prized toy displayed on his unmade bed and act like it’s the most incredible thing we ever saw, even though he showed it to us five minutes ago.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve rolled our eyes, groaned, and giggled plenty over the years at his obsessions and demands. How deeply I regret my frustrated sighs that he has taken to mimicking!

But as Jaden himself has matured, and become quite a bit less chaotic than the “Taz” he used to be, we too have been shaped and refined by him.

Jaden is a gift.

Boys

Special needs are not easy to deal with. But they are a gift.

Receive God’s gift to you, in whatever form, with an open heart and be ready for the blessings to pour out.

_____

I’d like to dedicate this blog to my precious neighbors who are raising their three autistic children with the grace and joy of Jesus. You are a blessing to all who know you.

_____

*If you are on the sidelines, watching a friend raise a special needs child, here is a great article by Gillian Marchenko: 10 Special Needs of Special Needs Parents
For further encouragement, visit Gillian Marchenko’s website: gillianmarchenko.com

 

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