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Monthly Archives: June 2016
Well, I’m not really even sure where to begin. It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it. It’s times like these when blogging gets complicated for me. I can’t just go on writing about my life as if three terrible tragedies didn’t just occur in Orlando. But I don’t feel like I have adequate words to discuss what has happened. I don’t even know how to process what has happened in my own heart, how to respond individually, how to respond as a Christian.
None of these tragedies has touched my life personally. I have no direct connection to any of them. And yet, like everyone in this country, they have touched my life, burdened my heart. Either of those shootings could have happened anywhere, and still could. The loss of lives, of friends, of family members, of community members, is unthinkable. And that little boy, that sweet little boy who is the exact same age as my little boy, as a parent I have no words. I wake up thinking about it. I go to sleep thinking about it. I look at my son and imagine what that would be like, what his parents must be going through, how utterly devastated they must be. What kind of words help in situations like these?
We have so many words these days, all of us. It begins with the first words about the tragedy. It’s the authorities, with their carefully chosen words, releasing only what they can, what they want to. And the news channels, grabbing on to these words, furiously trying to come up with their own words to fill the hours and days following the events. Speculative words, questioning words, unsure words, encouraging words, repetitive words, alarmist words, accusatory words, politicized words. And then the politicians, with their self-serving words. Their carefully chosen words that will appeal to their constituents, that will make them look better than their opponents, that make them look sympathetic enough and tough enough and presidential enough and democrat enough and republican enough. The activists, the experts, the people who think they are experts, they all have so many words.
And then the Facebook statuses, the Twitter feeds. Everyone has a voice, everyone has a platform. Do I say something, and if so what? Do I politicize it? Do I use it to push my agenda? Do I use my words to show the world (i.e. my 500 Facebook friends and 75 Twitter followers) how loving I am, how Christian I am in my response? If I remain silent, what will people think of me? If I am capable of saying words in response to what has happened, and I don’t, does that make me indifferent?
But when I think of the victims, the people who have been directly affected by these tragedies, all I can come back to is that for them, there are no words. I imagine what I would say if I were sitting in front of someone who was in that night club, or the parents of Christina Grimmie or that little boy, and I cannot for the life of me think of what I would say that would make any of it better.
The only words I know to use, the only words I know will help, are those of prayer. My words are so useless when they are spouted out to others, when they are thrown around as advice or condolences or stances. But when they are given to God, when in desperation I have nothing else to do, nothing else to say but “Lord, have mercy,” those words gain power. Infinite power.
Recently I’ve given fresh eyes to the phrase “All we can do is pray.” I don’t know where this came from, but I feel like it is so misguided, so dismissive of the power of prayer. All we can do is pray? All we can do is enter the presence of the sovereign God of the universe, praise Him, worship Him, ask Him for his presence and comfort for those who are hurting? It’s as if prayer should be a last resort, rather than the first thing we do in all situations. What if every time I thought of using my words to do something powerful in a worldly sense, I first used them to do something powerful in a heavenly sense? How would our words look different, if they were first and foremost given to God?
There are times for words, and then there are times that there are no words. At least no words that we can say to one another or that we can put out into the world that will help. But at all times, in all situations, our words can be used powerfully and fruitfully in prayer. Even when the only words we can think of to say are “Lord, have mercy.”
“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” (Psalm 17:6-7)
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
A couple months ago, I mentioned to my Bible study girls that I was feeling convicted about finding a way to live within our family’s means. We had been struggling with our budget, and I was trying to find ways to keep up with our spending, when all of a sudden it dawned on me that I was going about things all wrong. I really felt like I needed to learn to live with what we had before I started trying to make more money so we could spend more.
Our fearless leader Lauren recommended I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” According to her website, “7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.” It was a great book, especially since Jen Hatmaker is absolutely hilarious and completely truthful about her triumphs and struggles during the experiment. But she also weaves in a lot of great observations and research about the excess that most of us live with.
She eats only seven foods for an entire month, gives away seven things a day for a month, spends money at only seven establishments, does seven things to minimize waste, wears only seven pieces of clothing, cuts out all media, and observes the seven sacred pauses for the last month. Some months are easier than others, but all of them are transformative for her family in one way or another.
I know you might think I’m crazy, but I sort of want to do it. I’m at this place where I’m sick of all the stuff around me, but I’m not bold enough to just give it all away or get rid of all my electronics and start living off the land. I don’t think that’s realistic for me, either. But I do see something appealing about intentionally taking time away from certain excesses in my life and giving myself the time and space to evaluate what can stay and what needs to go.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what is going on around me, to live my life as a reaction to what’s happening to me rather than being intentional about the way I live. Every once in a while I stop and think to myself, “how did I get here?” My life is too busy, my house is too cluttered, my budget is shot and I’m a ball of stress.
Especially with spending, it’s easy to quickly pick something up off of the shelf at the grocery or click on something on Amazon before really evaluating whether I need it. The more I’ve tried to budget, the more I’ve realized that being intentional is absolutely necessary. Even stopping to think for one second, “do I really need this?” can make such a huge difference. And I rarely do it.
There are so many things in my life I do without thinking, without evaluating why I do them or whether I even should be doing them. I just do something because I’ve always done it, or because somewhere along the way someone told me I should do it, or because well, everyone else does it, so shouldn’t I? And I don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t think I’m called as a Christian to live my life like that.
The Bible makes it clear that we are called, as followers of Christ, to live intentionally. We are called to do things that don’t just come naturally to us. We are called to love God and love others, to live holy lives and work toward sanctification. All of these require a certain discipline—an ability to look at something and say “this is something that is good for me” or “this is something that is bad for me.” More often than not, it’s the little things that keep me from living the way I want to live, the things that easily go unnoticed or seem inconsequential. The devil is in the details, as they say.
So I’m actually considering an abridged version of Jen Hatmaker’s experiment. It could be a great opportunity to take an intentional look at a lot of the little things that characterize my life. Lauren has done it before and said she would do it again with me, so I’ll be sure to let you know if we end up doing it. I think it could be an eye opening experience.