When Middle Earth Becomes Reality…

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Fear does not have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can make you kind. -Doctor Who

“To fear is to have more faith in your antagonist than in Christ.”
D.L. Moody, The Overcoming Life

Lately, I feel that my dreams have finally come true. And in a way of sorts, they have. Here I live, in my comfortable heated home, in a beautiful part of the countryside, with the ability to sit by my fire and smoke my pipe, and if it weren’t for the fact that I lack hair growing between the toes of my nonexistent tough-skinned feet, my life could nearly pass for the complacent, comfortable, unadventurous life of a Hobbit.

Middle Earth at last.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I am afraid that that basically sums up so many of us out there. So many of us Christians. Paralyzed by fear. Swallowed up with doubt. Empty as a clanging-gong or cymbal. Wholly without love or care. Or eyes that see and feel.

We are so privileged to live without fear of death or rape or hunger or pain. But of course, many will argue that we have many things to fear. And yes, we do. There is always the possibility of a horrible car crash, that vaccines will kill us, that non-organic food will cause our sudden demise. But really. We are so privileged, to be burdened by fear that in the perspective of the larger world, seem so trivial and mundane.

People are dying out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And no one seems to care.

I literally don’t get it.

How have our Western Christian hearts become so callous? Truly it blows my mind.

We have forgotten to feel. We have allowed our hearts to become stone, and fallen prey to the Devil’s lie that it could never happen to us…and that it shouldn’t.

As if we are simply too good to ever experience the horror of what so many others live day in and day out.

I get it. We have issues of our own. We have homeless people, and veterans who probably deserve more. Our education system is hugely flawed. Our politicians largely selfish. Our food system may or may not be healthy. The Mexicans keep crossing the border. We have too many taxes, not enough money, we work too much, sleep too little, we never have enough time. We have problems of our own.

We are Hobbits.

Plain folk, who have no use for adventures. Who care not one bit for those who live elsewhere. With our heads in the sand, and our hearts guarded by stone. We care not and do nothing.

But still, we fear.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.

And the ache in my heart has been fully reawakened by the recent issue surrounding refugees from Syria that has become such a hot topic lately.

My first reaction to my fellow Christians is completely less than wholesome – they’re f***ing refugees for Gods sake!

Refugee noun someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons; :  one that flees; especially :  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

And I don’t care if our of the 1000 of them are hurting women and children and one belongs to that infamous terrorist group who I won’t give the satisfaction of naming.

We can’t just ignore what is happening in the rest of the world.

With every chance we have to help, and every choice we make to do nothing, we only allow our hearts to be overtaken by stone.

In this highly political issue, I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I am not saying that we allow them into our homes. Although I am not saying that we should not.

I only urge my fellow Christians to look at these people as Jesus would. To see the hurt and the pain, to acknowledge the sin and the shame, but ultimately to love and treat with care and respect.

Whatever that means for us.

“Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.” 

I urge you to prayerfully consider what it is that God would have us to do. Because I cannot believe for one second that He simply wants us to turn our eyes, blind to the reality that could have been ours.

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The fact is staring us in the face. And something has to be done.

And in my heart, I feel that the end is nearing.

As a child, the thought of the world ending or the though of dying was just too much for me. I have lived under the oppression of anxiety of these things for so long.

But it is amazing how God gives you what you need.

In one of my psychology classes I learned that normal development prepares you for death. And that the majority of people are truly ready to die when the time comes. I was very comforted by this. Death has scared me since I was young. And it is comforting to know that God has designed us to die, and die well.

I never thought that at 27 I would be alright with the thought that the end times are more than likely here.

A year or so ago, my pastor showed a video of a woman and her family who were being persecuted in some country somewhere. The family had the chance to leave the country, but chose to stay and share His love with whoever they could. The video told of the woman giving her life, literally, to the hands of the Lord. Then her husband, then her children. Through prayer, they committed themselves. And decided that if they were to die, their last words would speak of forgiveness to their killers.

I really struggled with this.

I made myself imagine being in this situation.

And it was hell.

But it is amazing how God’s word speaks.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. ~ Hebrews 13:6

This is the meaning of Azrielle’s name. Her name literally means the Lord is my helper. And this is her verse.

I always wanted my children to have names full of meaning…and sometimes I wonder if there is so much more awaiting them because of it.

And now I have peace. Because this woman- I wish I knew her name, and the rest of her story – has helped me to know with every part of my heart that no matter what is going on around me, no matter how He chooses to use my life and the life of those I love, He will be enough. He will give me what I need.

And I refuse to live in fear. 

And I will see people.

And I will do whatever it takes to allow my life to be the difference, to exude the love, and tell the story that gives Life to all.

Whatever it takes.

And so Kreade and Ellie…

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up!”

In this world full of so many things – decisions and choices, hatred and persecution, right and wrong and everything in between…never loose heart.

Because if it is the end, we have a job to do.

We must be the faithful church. The ones who persevere. The ones who overcome. The ones who keep His word.

We must be great and do great as we allow ourselves to be filled with His love.

And never loose heart.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

Do not allow your hearts to become stone. Even if we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And when that day comes, I will see you when all things are made new.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John 3:17

 

 

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When Again I Wish I Were An Elf: Thoughts On This Sad and Broken World

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.”
― Albert Camus

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”
― Jim Henson

Work lately has been…well honestly it has been depressing. I wish that I could share all of the stories of my students. But believe me when I say, this year has been full of heartbreaking stories of the lives of children Ellie’s age.

This world is so full of sadness. It is so full of pain. It is so full of evil and heartbreak and rage. It is sad and broken. And sometimes…sometimes I just feel so worn down by all of the negativity and sorrow. And I wonder what God’s purpose could be in all of it.

Why is this child experiencing abuse? Why is this woman the victim of domestic violence? Why is he choosing to drink his life away? Why, why, why? Why is there so much sadness, so much brokenness, and so much pain?

Halfway through this year I experienced a staffing change and had a new teacher join me in my classroom. It has been a rough spring. As I said before, it has really been quite depressing. These kids come to school, having experienced so much of the sadness and brokenness that the world has to offer. And what can you do? They’re full of anger and most days it just seems like you’re never enough. Friday morning my co-teacher and I were talking about this. She told me a story about driving home the other day after picking her daughter up…she witnessed some sort of domestic dispute involving a man and woman and less than savory words. After telling me this story she threw a thought out there…

This world is so full of hate. There is so many bad things going on. And what are we supposed to do? It’s just so depressing…

And it’s true. This world is an awful place. It is filled with awful people, and awful things.

And what can you do? It doesn’t take long until you begin to feel dragged down by all of the hurt and all of the pain that you see happening all around you. And your mind kind of begins to just shrink into itself and try to forget the world…there is safety inside yourself. Or maybe instead of withdrawing, you just harden your heart and stop feeling. Your heart can’t handle all of the brokenness and sadness…and you slowly develop a sort of immunity towards the pain in this world.

I’ve been in both of these places before. Working as a Head Start teacher I’ve seen so much pain and so much brokenness. And among children so young at that. And sometimes when it starts to be too much I’ve found my mind retreating and my hard turning to stone.

How is a person supposed to handle it all?

How are we really supposed to be surrounded by all of the horribleness of this world we live in and be able to feel? How are we supposed to see the pain and yet live on? How are we supposed to feel the sadness and yet thrive? It just doesn’t make sense. So we allow ourselves to become depressed. And we mentally and emotionally withdraw from the world, and maybe even from the people around us. Because the truth is, the world is sad and broken.

But we’ve got it all wrong.

When my co-teacher threw that question out there my heart immediately responded. I realized that I had been withdrawing into that safe place, amidst all of the chaos and brokenness my class has been experiencing. So I told her the only thing that I have ever experienced to have made a difference in combating the harsh realities of this world.

I pray. 

The only thing I’ve ever found to help in situations that seem just too unbearable is prayer. Because sometimes everything we do is not enough; but prayer is. A while ago I had a child who had witnessed their father shoot their mother. Obviously, this had quite an affect on this little one. Every nap time this child would kick and scream and fight…and I would sit there rubbing their back, trying to soothe. But it never helped. No toy, no amount of rubbing, nothing ever helped. And one day out of desperation I began to pray…and like the flip of a switch the child calmed, and drifted off to sleep. I did this every nap time until the child went of to Kindergarten. It was then that I realized just how powerful praying in the name of Jesus is.

Reality it, this world is a sad and broken place. But the truth is, we don’t have to be sad and broken about its sad and brokenness.

God calls us to have hope.

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

We are supposed to face this world, along with all its sadness and brokenness with hope.

I know I’m wicked nerdy…but I can’t help but visualize one of my all time favorites here. And no wonder I have claimed that J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Lord of The Rings changed my life.

The battle of Helm’s Deep. Please tell me you all have seen it!

The Elves part of the wall, of course, will suffice for this illustration.

It was a battle doomed from the start. The “good” guys were far outnumbered. There was no way that they could win. Yet they faced their enemy, remembering the words of the Wise one…”at dawn, look to the east.” Even when the battle wore on, and it seemed as if defeat would occur momentarily. Still, the “good” guys held on to the hope contained in those words. Though they did not know exactly what this hope was made of, they held the hope nonetheless…despite the sorrow, tragedy, and despair of their world in the midst of that battle. And at dawn, their hope came. Turning the tides of the battle and chalking up one win for the “good” guys.

Sometimes I wish that life was more like LOTR. It often seems that physical battle might be easier than the mental, heartfelt battle that we experiences again hopelessness in our reality. But sadly, I will never be an elf.

Though I can hold on to hope as these literary creatures did.

Because God calls us to be hopeful. Despite the sadness and brokenness that surrounds us.

And what is this hope?

It’s the hope that I can face any tragedy and know that I am not alone. It’s the hope that I can combat sadness and brokenness with prayer. It’s the hope that despite it all of this suffering, God has a plan. And it’s the hope that someday…someday we will be free of this world and all of its sorrows.

And we will live forever with the One that has loved us despite it all. The one who loved us enough he allowed his physical body to be broken, and his human heart to feel all of the sadness of everyone who ever lived. But the sadness and brokenness he bore through His death resulted in life.

And it ended with Hope for all of us.

So Ellie and Kreade, I hope that you learn to face this world despite all of this brokenness and sadness with hope in your heart. Yes, this world is a tragic place. But the hope in our heart causes us to fix our eyes on Him. And on living forevermore in the presence of His glory.

Blessings

Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes. ~ Nightcrawler

I haven’t been able to get these words out of my head all week long.

It all began last Sunday, with molten chocolate lava cakes and an X-Men movie marathon with some awesome people while Baby K munched his snacks and played with his toys and Ellie enjoyed a marathon of Doc McStuffins. There is no doubt; I am a huge science-fiction fan. Fantasy, science-fiction…that’s the way to go; call me nerdy, but I love it! And when a totally profound statement such as this is gleaned from a movie as entertaining as X-Men is…it makes my inner nerd go crazy!

But seriously…that dark skinned, tattooed mutant’s words have been stuck in my head all week long…

Most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.

And I know that he is right.

Our eyes have a way of seeing without feeling. Of seeing without acknowledging. And they tend to turn away from anything that is less-than-pleasing.

We like to focus on the good things. The blessed things. You know, how all of your friends are “-feeling so blessed”. That little end note tacked on to the end of what seems like every status. Blessed that it is sunny. Blessed that the baby slept. Blessed that their husband works so hard. Blessed that they got a new car. Blessed that they had an awesome day out shopping with friends. Blessed by the sunrise at the beach. The blessings go on and on…everyday our eyes see nothing but our own blessed lives.

While your next door neighbors kids just witnessed their mom assault their dad. And that new family at your church has been eating Cheerios all week because that is all that they can afford. And the little girl down the road is running around bare foot on a cold and dirty floor with her mother yelling at her to “just quiet down”. A young boy has what you would avert your eyes and call a tantrum, spending a half hour screaming, kicking, spitting, and crying when his mom drops him off at school…when really all he needs is a hug. The lady in front of you at the grocery store check out is frowning at you (while what she really needs is a smile to encourage her – because little do you know she is a victim of domestic violence).

And the children. So many children affected by so many things.Children experience poverty with their hands, minds and hearts. Living in an environment that provides little stimulation or emotional support to children, on the other hand, can remove many of the positive effects of growing up (UNICEF,2015). And it doesn’t matter why or how or whose fault it is…but 32.2 percent of children are living below the poverty line. And I’m not talking about somewhere far away. I’m talking about right here. Right now. In your community. And that simple statistic puts those sweet little children at risk for so many things…and a life full of so much heartbreak and not much hope.

And yet we don’t even see. We are so focused on our blessings that we fail to see the curses that haunt those around us.

And I know that Nightcrawler had it right…most people will never see. Because they choose not to.

Oh…but what am I going to be able to do? I don’t have money to give…I don’t have time…

Maybe all you have to do is look beyond what you see. Look beyond yourself and your blessings, and see the need that is much closer than you may have thought.

Volunteer at a local school or after school program. Donate your kid’s old clothes to a community agency. Smile at the mom who looks stressed out in the grocery store. Say a prayer for that little kid whose mom is saying demeaning, negative things to him in the Dollar Tree.

Don’t hide in your safe little world, admiring all of your blessings. See the world and be a blessing for it. And your blessings will seem even sweeter, because you will know just how much you have.

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
.

Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

-Brandon Heath