When Helping Hurts: What’s In Your Hand?

“The Lord said to [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff” (Exodus 4:2).

So far, this book is not light reading for when you can’t sleep at night. It’s deep and challenging and (on occasion) causes my head to hurt.

I have a couple of takeaways.

One is that when dealing with impoverished communities, the best way to look at the poor is not from a needs-based analysis, i.e. what do you lack in terms of material resources, finances, education, mindset, etc., but from an assets-based one which asks, “What is that in your hand?” In other words, what skills and talents do you bring to the table? What knowledge of your own community could you give us to help better serve you?

Another is instead of implementing a one size fits all blueprint approach to every crises or problem involving poor communities, the better way is a learning process, where instead of “doing to” and “doing for” the people we serve, we are “doing with,” involving these people in the process and actually empowering them to be a part of the solution to their problems.

Above all, the goal is to see the innate image of God in the people we serve, distorted as it may be from the effects of sin and the fall. It’s not us coming down from on high to serve those who aren’t as good as us, but broken people serving other broken people with the ideal scenario being that both parties learn and grow and change and find healing in the process.

Doing ministry in this way takes longer and goes against our microwave, fast-food, quick-fix mentality, but is by far the better way in the long run.

There will be more of these updates as I continue to make my way through this book. Seriously, it’s a very good book, but it’s like one of those books that I read in seminary. It makes me have to use muscles in my brain that I haven’t used in a while, so I may have to read parts more than once to really grasp it.

But that’s a good thing. Exercise is good, even if it gives me a sore brain in the morning, right?

PS I’ve included a link to the amazon webpage for this book if you’re interested in learning more about it or purchasing it. I recommend it for anyone who is even remotely interested in pursuing either short-term or long-term missions.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Helping-Hurts-Alleviate-Yourself/dp/0802409989/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424978877&sr=1-1&keywords=when+helping+hurts

Forgiveness and Grace in January

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“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family” Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Have you royally messed up with a friend (or at least felt like you have)? Have you ever had someone “let you have it,” verbally blasting you with a post or a text?

Maybe you deserved it. Maybe not.

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Or maybe you’re the one who did the telling off. Maybe you got way upset with someone and spoke in pure anger and frustration. Maybe that person deserved it.

I have some questions for you and me.

1) Since when is the life of a believer about giving people what they deserve? Isn’t it supposed to be about giving those in your life the benefit of the doubt and extending grace?

Which leads to my second question:

2) Would I want Jesus treating me as I deserve? Would I even stand a chance?

I know the answers to the second question are: no, not long, and a snowball’s chance in hell.

Maybe I need to drop that stone in my hand and look in the mirror. I may look just like that person I intend to cast that proverbial first stone at. I may not struggle with the same sins, but my sins would make me just as guilty in the eyes of a holy God if not for grace and Jesus.

It’s one thing to call out a person in love when their actions don’t match their professed beliefs. It’s another to blast someone and assume sinful motives, which I’ve done too many times. And in this case, once is one time too many.

You will lose friendships through misundestandings. You will have “friends” who show their true colors when you act in the slightest unloving way or slip in the least. You will have those who will stick with you even when you yourself would have bailed on you.

I’m glad God doesn’t ever give me what I have coming to me or treat me as my sins deserve. Even on my best days, I’d still be in trouble. Because of my favorite word– grace– God looks at my filthy rags of good intentions and best efforts and sees the perfection of Jesus.

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Gosh, I do so love grace!

PS You will need to forgive yourself at some point. All of the above still applies if it’s you needing the forgiveness from yourself.

Joy in the Midst of Sadness

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I celebrated with the rest of the family as my niece turned 2. Finally, I can stop counting in months. I was seriously running out of fingers and toes to count on.

I loved seeing the pure unadulterated joy on her face when she saw her presents and the complete love and trust she has for her mommy and daddy and two big brothers. It did my heart good.

But I also remembered Adrian Peterson’s 2-year old son who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend. My heart hurts and I have questions I can’t answer.

Who does that to a 2-year old? For what possible reason?

I know we live in a broken world filled with broken people. Creation groans for deliverance and for everything to be made right. Too many defenseless and helpless children suffer, too many people go to bed hungry, too many marriages fall apart, and too many die way too young.

Then I remember how this story ends. I cheated and read the last page. It’s about God wiping away every tear from our eyes. It’s about a new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth where lambs lie safely next to lions, where others is no need for sun, moon, or stars because God is there.

I love what the guest pastor said. God didn’t want an only child, so He chose us to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus and become heirs with Jesus to all the promises of God.

I love this version of Romans 8:29-30: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

That’s what keeps me going in the midst of so much suffering and sadness. That’s why I can find joy in everything. Because ultimately Love does win.

Finding the Silver Lining

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After seeing Silver Linings Playbook, I’m 4 down and 5 to go in my quest to see all the best picture nominees for 2013. Hopefully, I can accomplish this quest in 2013. So far, it’s looking good.

But that movie resonated with me at a deep level. It’s about mental illness and broken people trying to fit the pieces back together again. The reason I could relate to it so very well is because I recognize the brokenness inside of me. In fact, I believe that everybody is fundamentally broken at some level. Some are just better at hiding the cracks and appearing normal. But face it, we’re messed up in one way or another.

So many times, we approach relationships with the mentality of “fix me” and “save me.” Maybe instead, we should have the attitude of “how can I make you better?” or “how can I bring out the best in you?’

Too many romantic relationships fail because one person tries to make another their world. No one person can be another’s world. It’s simply too much pressure and expectation. But that person can make the other’s world better. That person can make the other’s world a little brighter.

I still love how God has a heart for broken people like you and me. I love how gently he can bring together all the scattered pieces and put them back together to where you can’t see the cracks anymore. I don’t know how that all works, but I know that it does.

There’s no one better at loving broken people than someone who has embraced their brokenness and the healing that comes with it. There’s no one better at helping to pick up someone else’s broken pieces than someone who’s had their broken pieces fitted back together.

My goal shouldn’t be for you to complete me or fix me, but to see you become a whole person in Jesus, to see the image of God restored in you. So I look for the best in you and you look for the best in me and we help each other see not who we are but what we could be and– by God’s grace– will be one day.

 

Feelin’ the Love

I know Facebook can at times be a complete waste of time. I myself have spent too much time in the past growing virtual crops and selling virtual pigs and cows for (unfortunately) virtual profit. But on my birthday, Facebook shows its usefulness. I love each and every time I get a post wishing me a happy birthday. Every one makes me smile and makes my day.

Tonight, at Chick-fil-A, my birthday cake was a brownie with a lit match stuck in it. I loved it. I was feeling the love.

But what about all those facebook friends who didn’t send me birthday greetings? What about all those people out there who aren’t as easy to love? Those who are too broken to love back at all?

If you only are friends with those who friend you back, that’s expected. If you only love those who love you back, there’s nothing special about that. Even those who believe in nothing do that.

But when you love the unloveable, the unloved, and the loveless, you show yourself to be a true follower of Jesus. When you are friends with those people who are outcasts and uncool and misfits, you are loving with the love of Jesus.

When a husband loves his wife because she loves him back or when a friend loves another friend because of what the second friend does for the first, that’s not really love. That’s a contract. You do for me, I do for you. Love is a covenant.

Jesus loved us when we were outcasts, strangers from the Promise, without hope, alienated from God, and broken beyond repair. He didn’t wait until we loved him to love us; He loved us first. He showed us that His love was strong enough to take the most broken parts and make even those whole again.

We really and truly love not when we love out of a need to be loved or recognized. but when we are complete in Christ and filled with His love and that love spills out onto those around us. We really and truly love when our love isn’t feeling or wishing, but acting for the better of the other. When we do everything in our power, regardless of cost, to help the other person be all that Jesus meant for them to be.

I want to love like that. I hope and pray you do, too. I hope we move beyond love as a feeling and choose to love every day, whether we feel like it or not.

By the way, thanks for all the birthday love. If I knew it would be like this, I’d turn 40 every day.

Lies I have believed

Even now I still buy into the lie that says, “No one knows you or wants to know you. No one cares about you. You are not welcome or wanted. You are nothing but a shadow that will pass away and nothing will be different when you’re gone.” Even in the midst of those thoughts, when I am almost completely given over to despair and self-pity, Jesus still speaks freedom and truth into my life and against that lie. He illuminates the darkness and exposes what I have believed for the deception it really is.

When the lie says, “No one really knows you,” Jesus, You say, “I know you down to your innermost parts and I know the plans I have for you.”When the lie says, “No one cares about you,” You say, “I care. I loved you so much that while you were a sinner and hostile to me, I died for you. When the lie says, “You are not wanted,” You say, “Come and drink, you who are thirsty for love and come and eat, you who hunger for acceptance. Come to me and I will never cast you out.”

Jesus,  You say, “If you seek Me and not popularity or acceptance, you will not only find that I am your heart’s greatest desire, but you will also find yourself next to those whose hearts are also tuned in to Me. When you can no longer walk, you will findI have placed other in your path to be My hands to carry you. When you can no longer speak, they will be My voice to speak to you and for you. They will share your burdens, sorrows and joys.”

Jesus, take every lie that I have believed and show it to me through Your eyes as the deception it really is. Bind and rebuke the enemy from my mind and so fill my thoughts with You that there is no room for any other voices. Help me to believe the best about my family and friends and loved ones and never to give up on anyone because You never gave up on me– and never will!

Love Your people through me. May I never take it upon myself to determine who is or is not worthy of receiving Your love, but to remember that no one is worthy of Your love, but Your love made us worthy. Thank You for Your reckless, wild, unrestrained, passionate crazy love for me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Heal the dark and scarred and shameful places in me.

Captivate me so that I will only chase after You alone and not make idols out of the people or things or places You put in my path. You know that I am by nature prone to idolatry at times and practical atheism (living as though You didn’t exist). Capture my heart so that nothing else will ever matter next to knowing You and making You known.

Help me to remember that I am broken and part of a community of broken people. I belong to a body of believers who don’t have the future mapped out, but know the One who is the Way; who don’t have life figured out, but know the One who is the Life; and who don’t have the answers, but know the One who is the Truth. You are 100% completely in control and we are 100% completely dependent on You at all times for every single thing. You and you plus nothing else make a great Church. Only You are worth living for and only You are worthy of all the honor and glory and praise I can ever bring and a whole lot more. No one or nothing else. Only You.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Not a good weekend

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I’d have to say honestly that this was not a good weekend  for me. I relapsed into some old issues of co-dependency and lack of trust. I found out that I am not nearly as strong or wise or good as I once thought. I felt as though I were under spiritual attack all weekend.

I also found out that God can still use broken people. I was reminded that His grace covers all my weaknesses. I know that God is good and that He will never give up on me. One day I will  be who I’ve always dreamed and hoped and wished I’d be. I will be everything God has dreamed for me. In the meantime, I am still Abba’s child. He still loves me as if I always did what was right and loved people the way I should and lived out of hope and not fear.

The best part of the deal is that tomorrow is a clean slate. Every morning His mercies are new. Thank you God for a love that never gives up and for hope that never fails and for grace. Especially for grace.