Blind

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

John 9:1-3

I wish I knew more of the blind man’s background. What was he like growing up? Was he shunned? Did he have friends? Were his parents ousted from their society because of the perceived sin that made their child blind? Were they angry? Hurt? Were they confused?

I wish I knew the blind man’s heart. Wish I knew if he wondered, like I often do in hard times, “Why did this happen to me?” “Where did I go wrong?” “What did I do to bring this upon myself?” “Why am I going through this pain???”

Yet, Jesus said that this had come upon him, not because of sin, but because God might be glorified through him. I wonder if he had known growing up that his story would be retold for forever, I wonder if it would have made a difference, made his suffering easier. I wonder if he had known what God’s plan for him was… if the pain would have been less. His pain was not wasted. Yet the story of this man who lived two thousand years ago is used to glorify the Lord today.

His plan is perfect.

Lord, help me to not be blind in my circumstances.

The Leap

Today is a hard day. One of the hardest I’ve had in a very long time.

But He’s whispering… trust me

“Lord, I am so thankful that I have a High Priest who understands. No one would ever be able to completely comprehend the stirring in my heart. But You do. No one could know the hurt and confusion, the joy, the fullness, the never-ceasing battle to choose Your will over mine, the feelings of rejection, when I feel unloved, unworthy and vulnerable. No human could understand any of it. Oh but Lord, You do! You not only understand but you are feeling it with me. Abba, draw near.” -My journal, August 14, 2011

Trust me…. trust me….

“You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

Trust me, beloved…

“Everyday the choice will be the same: will God reign in my life or will my desires win out? . . . Each day brings the question, will you obey no matter the cost?” Francine Rivers, Unafraid

And still He echos in my head... trust me, trust me

“Here I am face to face with Jesus in the dirt and all I have to do is choose to see, accept the grace offered freely. His compassion and His mercy, this Grace, it never fails. Each moment, each breath, is a gift simply and only because I get to spend it with Him. . . ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ Lamenations 3:22-23. . . Whatever He wants. And I am thankful.” –Kisses from Katie

Whatever He wants.

Ashley, trust me…

 

Places

‎”The hardest places to leave are the places God leads us to. Because those are the places where you are shaped and molded into a new person. Those are the places where your heart expands, your minds open to new perspectives, and your eyes begin to really see.” –Environments of Grace

My focus was so narrow before Iraq, I wasn’t able to see how much bigger the world was than my itty bitty bubble of a life. My world centered around me, my private school education, my “faith” based pedastool and my yearning to be perceived as a “good” Christian girl. I had no idea my perspective was so off. I loved the Lord; I loved people; I loved serving. I really thought I had it figured out. I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian; I thought I truly knew what it meant to follow after Him.

But I didn’t.

I made things so complicated when it came to Faith. I was a Pharisee, putting so many rules and restrictions on what being a Christian was suppose to look like. In my naivety, a person of faith was suppose to look a certain way, walk and talk a certain way. I condemned those, though not realizing it, for not fitting into my guidelines. The qualities I attributed as necessities of walking with Christ had WAY more to do with my West Texas-itty bitty bubble of a culture and WAY less to do with what it means to follow Christ. It’s like a veil was taken off my eyes and I realized how much more complicated I was making things than what God had intended.

Living overseas taught me how to love people better, even when they’re difficult to love. It taught me how to live in community instead of pushing away when things get difficult. It made me realize that others think and view things completely different based on where they’ve been. And that understanding the way a person thinks and views life is the key to helping them understand the love of Christ. It made me not want to settle into a normal life living the American dream. And it made the old aspirations of what I thought I wanted in life dim in comparison to how HE could use my life. Living in Iraq made me realize how crucial it is to depend on the Lord and yearn after Him and how scary it is when you don’t.

I DEFINITELY haven’t arrived. If anything I’ve realized now how much I will never completely understand about the Lord this side of heaven. How much I have to be dependent on Him because I know absolutely nothing.

There are days I miss that country so much I can barely breathe. My six months in Iraq were HARD. That time was exhausting. Painful. Draining. Stretching. Uncomfortable. Maturing. Humbling. Joyful. Exciting. Revealing. And full.   I’m humbled that God was so incredibly gracious enough to me to take me half way around the world to shape and mold me into a new person, expand my mind to new perspectives, and open my eyes so that I may see. How great is the Father’s love that He would take me halfway around the world so that I can know Him better?!?

Simply amazing.

Radical

Photo by Joshua Gigliotti

Photo by Joshua Gigliotti

‎”There is never going to be a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’ I’m confident that God will take care of me.”

David Platt

 

Open our eyes

“I try to avoid seeing pictures of those starving people. It’s too depressing. I would rather see the pictures of safari animals.”

A good friend of mine recently took a trip to Kenya and Uganda. Yesterday at work, I sat on my computer sifting through pictures of her recent trip. My heart aching at the sight of these orphans – hungry for food and love. Wishing with everything in me I knew how to teleport so I could hold them for a while. Love on this one and that one. Put hope in his beautiful chocolate eyes. Tickle them relentlessly just to hear joy in their laughter. Shower her with kisses and tell her of One who will never leave nor forsake – no matter who in her past has done just that.

At one point a co-worker passed by my desk and made the off the cuff statement at the top of this post. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it – she is a sweet and good-natured person. But it took everything in me to not explode at that moment. I was fuming inside. ‘What do you mean you try to avoid them?  What if that was your son – your mother – your sister???  What if that was you?!?’

Why do we close our eyes from the difficult? Why do we choose not to see? Is it easier to look the other way? Less uncomfortable? Does it seem too overwhelming?

Yes.

Does choosing to open our eyes cause us pain? Does it stretch us? Require us to spend ourselves for someone else?

Yes.

Is it too much to handle? Is there too much hurt? Is it impossible to make a difference?

Absolutely not.

I think we have this whole thing backwards. Maybe we are afraid to pour ourselves out because in doing so we believe we won’t have enough for us. But what if the very act of taking on someone else’s burden and giving away is the exact thing that fills our cup to overflowing? That brings us joy? What if giving away is the key to contentment?

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  -Isaiah 58:10-12

Friends. Let us open our eyes. Let us choose to see.

 The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Famine has been declared in parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water. World Vision has launched an emergency response to the drought and food crisis, working to provide life-saving essentials to the most vulnerable children and families . . .Thanks to government grants, your gift today can multiply up to 5 times in impact to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families in need.

C.S. Lewis

This man is one of my FAVORITE authors of all times. (Hence why one of his quotes is depicted at the top of my blog.) The way he speaks truth so simply, so easy to understand. Complex theological ideas made into dialogue in a fairy tale story. I adore it.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
— C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
— C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.
“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”
“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.
“It doesn’t matter.”
— C.S. Lewis

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”
— C.S. Lewis

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
— C.S. Lewis

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
— C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
— C.S. Lewis

Cha-Ching

Spoiler alert: This post might be offensive. Seems like talking about money almost always is. I would apologize but in all honesty, I’m not really that sorry. Just know I’m also preaching to myself  as I write this. I am, however, sorry for the length of this post …

I guess it all started with my trip to Iraq. Seeing how much I live with and how little I truly need. Seeing how little people live with in another country – even those who are not considered poor. Living out of one (under 50 lb) suitcase for six months makes you realize all those things you can do without (and there is A. L.O.T. I can do without).

I came home after Iraq infuriated with the waste in the American culture – especially the Christians in our American culture. Thoughts like “Really?!? You are going to pay someone to park your car?!? Do you realize a family of 10 in a third world country could eat off of that for a week!?!” or “Seriously? You are really trying to convince me that you deserve those $200 boots??? That would almost pay for the airfare of a child in Iraq to get life-saving heart surgery in Turkey!!!” and “What the crap? Our church in no way needs a new 2 million dollar building!!! And they are asking me to pray for it?”

I wish I could say that my anger was righteous. I’m not sure that it was. The way my heart was changed to view money and to be a good steward that there of was a good thing, but the way I let it make me critical (hateful even) toward others was not.

It’s funny how easy it is to drift back into old ways. How easy it is to blend back into one’s culture. It’s one thing to be ignorant of life outside the US and not to have seen what real poverty looks like. It’s one thing to not know how filthy rich our country is because of never experiencing anything else. It’s an entirely different story to have experienced it, lived it, breathed it and chosen to forget. I am ashamed to say I am the latter.

It snuck up on me. Surprised me. My critical spirit toward how Christians spend their money did not change and yet I began to convince myself of things I needed. I was blinded. “Gap’s having a sale! I have to buy clothes at these prices!” “I am way to exhausted to cook this week. I deserve to eat out.” “Everyone has a new Iphone!!! It would make life SO much easier. MUST get one! I can’t survive without it” “Only 80 channels?!? They call this cable!?! What are we going to do without such and such channel???” and on and on and on…

The past few weeks God has taken the blinders off. To say I’ve been humbled would be the understatement OF THE YEAR. Thank you, Jesus. Sometimes I need a good smack on the head – metaphorically speaking.

In Bible study a few weeks ago: We were asked to choose something to pray for in our culture. My prayer was that Christians in America would be able to focus on the needs in the world instead of being so inwardly focused. (At this point I am still critical of others and am clueless to my own selfishness. Sometimes I think I’m so holy that it’s nauseating. Forgive my evil heart, Lord.)

That same Sunday at church: The sermon was on missions. The pastor spoke on how selfish we are as Christians – so content in our American bubble. Blatantly oblivious to the suffering in the world. We skip over the parts of the Bible where God commands us to look after widows and orphans and feed the poor. We nod our head in agreement when Jesus tells us to go out into all the nations thinking that doesn’t specifically mean that I have to go. It should not be radical for someone to devote their life to being a missionary… we should ALL be missionaries wherever our address. It should be radical to be a Christian and NOT be one. (At this point I should have heard my wake up call. Instead I think, “Yes, Lord! This sermon is an answer to my prayer from Bible study! You and I, God, we are going to fix this thing!” Ha! Little did I know that I’M the one He’s talking to.)

The next week is when things start to change…

We get rid of the cable. Good start. I stumble across PLC’s website and think, “Why have I not been supporting this organization that I’ve loved and rallied for these past 3 years?!?” Then, I’m at work and stumble across the World Vision site and a sweet little girl from Uganda stares back at me: I am the orphan – care for me. I am the poor – feed me. I am the least of these – love me. 

I was driving to work the other day and decided to listen to a random sermon. It shouldn’t surprise you that I picked one (at random mind you) entitle ‘Money: a gift or a god?’ About how God gives to us so that we can give away. How we need to be better stewards to what he entrusts us with because that just it… it’s not ours!

And here is the kicker… yesterday I was reading one of my very favorite blogs and this is what I read…

“It is easy to look to God and ask, ‘Why is there so much poverty in the world? Why is there so much hurt, so much inequality and unfairness, so much destitution?’ I bet He would ask us the same thing.”

And He says to me…

Ashley, why is there so much poverty? Why is there so much hurt? Why are there so many orphans unloved and so many poor not cared for? My sweet daughter I’ve entrusted you with SO much. What are you doing with it?

My life needs to radically change.

Does yours?

‘No Eating’

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began yesterday. To be honest, I knew little about this holiday before spending 1/2 a year in a Muslim country. To me the holiday meant no food… a month of not eating during the day.

But I came to find out there is much more to this month than not eating during daylight.

What do you know about Ramadan? Did you know Muslims not only abstain from food, but water also? Did you know Sunnis and Shi’ites break their fast at different times?

For more things you might not know about this celebrated month, read the TIME magazine article, Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ramadan.

So, which one surprised you the most?

“We Will Not Stop”

This video is of Estrella Rosenberg, the founder of Big Love Little Hearts  – an organization founded to bridge the gap in the congenital heart defect community – the overwhelming number of children in developing countries who needed heart surgery to live and weren’t able to find it.

It’s people like this who make real change. Those with the perfect mixture of passion and unrelenting, unstoppable hard work. Those who refuse to quit.