As I drove by the many car dealerships lining the interstate the day after the Dallas shooting, I saw all their giant American flags at half mast and I was really bothered by it.
As this watery rock rolls into
shadow, I welcome the ensuing
amnesia, eager for the bright
recollection of grace.
This was the last Sunday of Advent, the day we celebrate that the arduous wait is over and God has finally come to us.
But in our little church community, as we shared our “Prouds and Sorrys” together, there was a lot of pain. Lost loved ones, broken relationships, physical and material needs, injustices.
This whole concept that the Kingdom of God is “now, but not yet” is so very tangible.
How do we live by the law of love when there’s so much hate? How do we practice forgiveness when we’re entangled in systemic wrongs? How do we go about bringing good things to life amidst all this destruction?
O Jesus, come.
We cling to the hope of the second advent of God. We await its arrival in active anticipation. We abide in The Source—the only connection to unending Life. We struggle forward. Together.
Jesus is here. God in flesh among us.
Liberia was very good for me. You see, my heart longs for Africa. I love it there. I feel myself come alive when I am there. This is the third time I’ve been on her soil and each time the feeling is the same, even though I’ve been to a different country each time I’ve gone.
Africa has a rhythm: a pulse and you can feel when you step off the plane. This time, the humid coastal air changed it for me slightly but it was still Africa. Usually the fiscal contrast bothers me; you know, the grand resort right next to great poverty. This time this separation didn’t bother me as much, all I could see was potential. Fabulous and amazing potential.
Honestly, over the last few years I have become critical and cynical of many NGOs. I was unable to see the good they were doing. Only seeing areas that I, in theory, would do differently. Liberia allowed me to see into the lives of people that have been helped in substantial ways. I feel like God is using it to bring healing to me in an area I didn’t know I needed.
The Liberian people have been through so much in their lifetime; first a long civil war and now Ebola. Yet, the people are beautiful and tenacious.
They are loved and cherished by an amazing God who wants them to live abundant lives in Him.
I’m having a very hard time describing the hope I felt when I left. Hope that one day things WILL be better in Liberia. Maybe it was the fresh breath that Ebola was gone. (Although it reared it’s ugly head once I returned to the States.) Maybe it was how good I felt about what and how the Bullers are doing. I don’t know, it felt bigger than that, like God was moving and empowering His people (both expat and Liberian) to do something great to bring about more of His Kingdom.
First, I want to apologize for the delay in this post. I hope you followed my updates on Facebook and Instagram and got a good idea of how the trip went but I want to share in more detail. I really want to thank everyone who gave support for me to go. It was such an amazing trip!
I want to communicate what an amazing family the Bullers are. They are completely the real deal. You know, the ones that great missionary biographies should be written about, and they will hate that I just said that.
If you know Pam and Eric, this will not surprise you. They have a history of loving BIG and that has continued in their lives in Liberia. Liberia speaks English, well sort of, it’s what is called Pidgin English, and originates back to the 1800s when freed American slaves returned to Africa and founded Liberia. Most expats, or foreigners living abroad, don’t learn the national’s language because they can get by. The Bullers, all 6 of them, are fluent in this form of English. I was there a short time, and it took several days of listening to understand what the people were saying and I made several mistakes when speaking, I even accidentally called Eric Buller pregnant. Oops! The Bullers could also just get by but when the people hear them speak in a way that they can understand their eyes light up. They feel valued.
Pam and Eric have a large family, 4 biological children, and 5 Liberian children. They have also worked hard to include the extended families of their Liberian children into their family. They then cook double what the household needs in food for the day for those who will stop by. And they stop by. Every day people come to the Bullers. It may just be a friend from a previous place they have lived or a former employee. It may be one of the mommas that Pam is helping with formula, a school-aged child that they have been paying school fees for or someone from church. The people come hang out and are always offered a plate of food and conversation. Pam also has a few families that she goes and checks on. One is a widow raising her children as well as her nieces and nephews orphaned by Ebola. Pam and their Liberian daughter had taken the momma and her very low weight baby to the doctor right before we had arrived. The momma had been very sick. Pam took us back to deliver a bag of rice for the family. She showed such compassion, telling the momma she would be back but being cautious and smart to protect us and her children.
They are being the hands and feet of Jesus. They are showing His love and giving Him as the reason for what they are doing. They are in a culture which gives token praise to God, a lot like when we say “God bless you” when we sneeze. Pam and Eric are showing His love in both word and deed.
They have the desire to move out into the bush and be among an unreached people, several hours from where they are now. Eric is doing a small pastors’ bible study every Saturday in the region. He leaves Friday afternoon, spends the night in the village and then teaches for 6 hours on Saturday. He comes home and may be asked to preach at the national church they are attending. They are looking for the most strategic place for them to go in the bush. This takes time and relationship building, which they are doing. I am confident that God is already going before them and will open the doors when it is time.
I am so proud to call these people my friends. They make many sacrifices to do the work they are doing but isn’t that the way love works?
Tomorrow, I want to post about what this trip meant to me, so come back!
Lily came down ill this weekend so instead of our normal Sunday morning with a community of Jesus people, she and I stayed in and had breakfast together.
As we sat with our eggs, Lily brought up something to do with the typical kid prejudice about how boys are better than girls or girls are better than boys. I don’t even recall exactly how it started, because honestly, it didn’t seem all that significant at the time—just a childish conversation between a dad and his little girl. However, she soon moved on to related issues of race, sexual identity, religious identity and immigration. Now keep in mind, this was my 12-year-old daughter leading this conversation. I would interject a point or ask a question here and there, but she was my preacher this particular Sunday.
She continued to talk about how people of privilege tend to protect their privilege instead of leveraging it to help the disadvantaged and oppressed. She totally nailed it. Then she observed how often it seems to come from Christ-ians. Ouch, but is she right?
And what did the Christ actually do but set aside His privilege, identify with the broken to live, proclaim and establish a new law of selfless, “reckless” love, forgiveness and healing!
This up-and-coming generation isn’t seeing identity in traditional labels, they are instead finding it in actions and attitudes. Isn’t that what Jesus said he looks at?
Will we have the courage to allow our labels to be secondary in order to identify with Jesus? This cost him a great deal. Pursuing the ideals of peace, love, forgiveness, healing, unity and the like isn’t something that can be driven by warm, fuzzy, brainless, spineless sentiment. It requires the courage and deeply-held conviction which come from intimate relationship with the Author of Life.
Oh Lord, make us worth of our calling!
I’m taking a spiritual direction course which meets each Tuesday evening… on my way to class, I turned on the NPR station out of OSU and they happened to be broadcasting the memorial service for those killed by the driver of a car who crashed through a barricade and into the crowd during the homecoming parade in Stillwater on October 24.
I listened as a man read the names of those who were killed and expressed how they were valued community members. I began to feel the pain of their families and the pain of the one responsible for their deaths. There was a moment of silence during which I prayed for those affected and joined in as the crowd prayed along to the Lord’s prayer. As bagpipes played Amazing Grace, I teared up and sang the words to myself… I listened to the mayor’s words of encouragement and turned off the radio for the rest of the drive in silence.
When I got to class, we spent our time in lectio divina. The passage was from John’s gospel account of the raising of Lazarus (John11:33-44).
So… as I read the passage, I felt Jesus’ deep compassion as he entered the scene, then the rise of his own emotions as he confronted the loss of his dear friend. You know how it feels when you enter that funeral and you’re holding it together, and then you see your close mutual friend. You embrace. A lump forms in your throat, your eyes begin to sting and you begin to weep…
I really felt his presence there in that scene. He was not aloof to the situation, not somehow above it. He was there, down in it. “Jesus began to weep.”
Some of the apparently critical onlookers questioned why Jesus—who could heal the blind—couldn’t have prevented Lazarus’ death. But I wonder, does Jesus’ greatest work in us occur when it may feel like he failed to act? Those times when he doesn’t fix the obvious problem or change the current situation but rather chooses to work inside to give us the strength and power and confidence to make it through.
I think that Jesus wants me to know that his deepest power is revealed through time, as I allow his miracle to work inside of me, to bring life where there is only death and rotting stench. Lazarus died eventually, but the deep spiritual work of Christ is something that never comes to an end.
Perhaps the creator of the universe is tired of constantly being asked to do parlor tricks and is much more interested in being with me in my pain and failure, to show me what it means to be a human bearing the Divine Image.
Do I want Jesus to only fix my problems, or am I willing instead to allow him to do the deep work inside of me that may not get noticed, but will bring inner peace and inner healing that can be shared with others? This really is what I want, but it sometimes feels too arduous or frankly just that nothing is happening at all. These are the times for prayer.